Friday, October 28, 2011

Arrivederci Monterosso

This week, we learned of the terrible news of one of the most beautiful places in the world. Cinque Terre, Italy, was destroyed in some areas from flash flooding from the hills.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/8850032/Villages-all-but-wiped-out-as-storms-batter-Italys-Cinque-Terre.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-27/floods-hit-italy/3602764

Here is a picture we took last year (http://www.chrisandkacey.com/Vacation/Italy-2010/Cinque-Terre/15072789_5TmPQs#1553956292_zJvZQ2V) and here is a picture of the same place now (http://www.abc.net.au/news/image/3603218-3x2-940x627.jpg)

Here is a link to all our pictures from our Cinque Terre visit in 2010 (www.chrisandkacey.com/Vacation/Italy-2010/Cinque-Terre/) and our pictures from 2006 (www.chrisandkacey.com/Vacation/Italy2006/CinqueTerre/).

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Monterosso in June 2010

Monterosso in October 2011


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Solvang and Santa Barbara

We searched around for a place to visit during the Labor Day three day weekend; a place that wouldn't have too many people visiting for the extended weekend.  A couple people had suggested Solvang, as it is a small, Danish town that might not attract too many people, and might appeal to our liking.  So Sunday morning, we got in the car and drove about 90 minutes to Solvang, CA!

Along the way, we drove through Los Padres National Forest.  This was a fun little mountain drive with a Vista lookout on the way back down.  It wasn't too great, but we were only 20 minutes from our hotel at that point.  We arrived in town right before lunch, so we parked the car at our hotel, the Royal Copenhagen Inn, and started walking around.  We walked by Olsen's Danish Village Bakery, which I had read was probably the best in town.  I saw a lot of tasty looking things, but I decided on something that looked unique and delicious called a Danish Waffle.  It was two long and narrow fried puff pastries made to look like a sandwich, with butter cream and raspberry filing.  It was awesome!  We walked around a few more minutes and since we weren't quite close enough to all the Danish restaurants, we ate lunch at a place called Succulent Cafe.  It had only been open a week, but the fare was pretty unique and good.  I got BBQ meatloaf, served as an open-face sandwich on a piece of cornbread, topped with thick bacon and melted cheese.  It also came with a side of olives, YUM!

After lunch we checked in our hotel, got the stroller, and started walking around town.  It is a cute, little Danish-inspired town, settled by Danes about 100 years ago.  We stopped in a fair amount of shops and bakeries.  We had some famous Aebleskivers, which were yummy.  I had interest in visiting the local museum, following Danish history.  I learned at 3pm that it would close at 4, so we headed down to the Elverhøj Museum.  It is suggested donation to enter, and a few ladies there giving out tidbits about the museum and the history of the town.  It was easy to see in 20-30 minutes, and had a lot of neat information.


After visiting the museum, we decided to walk to the hotel, ditch the stroller, and head to Hans Christian Anderson Park.  Along the way was the old church, so we stopped in to take a look.  The park was not quite as we imagined; we should have driven because it is rather large and not much close to the entrance we were near.  There was, though, a skate park and a small playground area, so Nolan played a little while we watched the skaters.  It was getting hot and we were starting to get hungry, so we headed to the hotel to clean up and figure out dinner.

I really wanted something Danish, but Kacey really didn’t care, as long as there was something she would like.  We were trying to decide between the Little Mermaid (we had heard good things) and Bit O’Denmark.  Since the later was one of the oldest things in town, we figured we would try that; and they had a fairly diverse menu.  I ordered the Combo plate with Frikadeller and Medisterpolse, with red cabbage and potatoes on the side.  Kacey got a large cheese plate and Nolan got pasta.  Nolan was starting to act up, probably because he was tired, so we paid up and headed back out to cruise the main street and head to our hotel.

By 8pm, the main street was dead.  Only a couple shops were left open, and while Kacey checked out a few, I took some pictures of the buildings lit up at night and found a place for Nolan to go potty (not easy).  On our way back, we walked by a fountain we had seen earlier that day.  I had previously seen that there were little lights all over it so during the day, I told Nolan we would come visit it again at night and it would have lights.  Sure enough, it did!  I took a few pictures of Nolan checking out the lit up fountain and by then, it was cold out so we headed across the street to our hotel.  We were pretty tired!

The next day we woke up ready to enjoy our Danish continental breakfast at the next door Mortensen’s Danish Bakery.  We were treated with a drink and a pastry.  I got a blueberry Danish, Nolan got a raspberry boat Danish, and Kacey got an apple turnover.  They were pretty tasty, but I was still hungry so I ordered a Danish Waffle from this place as well.  I think Olsen’s was better, but they were both very yummy.

Our itinerary for the day was to check out a yarn store and visit the Old Mission Santa Ines before getting on the road to visit Santa Barbara.  The Old Mission wasn’t that interesting, but it had a nice little tour, some old art from the region, and the church to walk through.  There was also a nice garden that Nolan ran around in for a while.  When leaving, there was a nice view overlooking a valley that kind of reminded me of what it looked like exiting a church in Tuscany.  We headed back to our hotel to retrieve the car, but not before Kacey stopped at the Olive Oil store to check it out.

It didn’t take too long to reach Santa Barbara.  We found a parking spot on the street, next to the beach, and next to the Santa Barbara Fish House.  Kacey was ready to eat, and it looked good, so we headed in.  Our food was pretty good, and reasonably priced, so it was a good decision.  We walked across the street to the beach area and walked around for a couple minutes.  There was a bike path with surreys, so we decided to get one for 30 minutes and ride up and down the beach.  It was a nice little ride, but we were tired and ready to fight the traffic to get home.

Pictures from Solvang

Pictures from Santa Barbara

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Nikon 18-200 VR Lens Experience

In case someone else out there is searching the web, as I did, trying to figure out why their front lens element is falling off their 18-200 VR lens from Nikon, I will share my experiences with this. I baby my lens, especially compared to my bro-in-law; I keep it dry, I don't throw it ever, things like that. But, I do use my light hood a lot when outside; and since my camera and lens will not fit in my bag with the light hood on, I frequently reverse it back on the lens to store it.

A few months ago, the lens stopped auto-focusing to infinity at 200mm. Eric was around when this happened, so we swapped lenses and learned that it was my lens, not my camera. I learned that I could still focus manually, so I sadly shrugged it off. Then, just about a month ago when hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, I noticed that I could not even manually focus to infinity at 200mm, and this really frustrated me. I also noticed that the front element felt a little loose. When I got home I inspected and saw that it was very loose!

I got online and started searching. I found a few threads around that indicated that their front element was coming loose and preventing focusing as mentioned above. Some people did not have the extended warranty I got for free, so they were fixing it themselves. I was still under warranty, so back to Nikon it went.

This was the best thread I found on this issue:
http://www.flickr.com/groups/72604026@N00/discuss/72157604812437107/

If this happened to you, good luck!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Big Thank You!

For a couple years now, I have often thought about all the people I need to thank; you see, the past couple years, many people have done us many favors during our life journey. Some did it out of love, or their belief in our dreams, or just a small favor that maybe they didn't realize how much we appreciated it.

Last week we visited a new church. While getting ready for church, I thought again about the big thank you I wanted to write. It was definitely timing prompted by the Holy Spirit as the sermon that day had to do with thanking people for the impact they have in our lives. I actually got to talk to the pastor about this! He said "Let me know what else you intend to blog about so I know what sermon to present next".

So... let's begin. These won't be in any order, which means keep reading :)

Nancy & Karl Hans - Kacey's aunt and uncle adopted our two kitties while we lived in Italy. This was actually one of the planning items I was most anxious about as we couldn't just stick them in storage with everything else. When Nancy heard about our anxiety, she said "Tell them not to worry about it, we can make it work". I was so relieved when I heard this! I know this was not an easy thing for them to do either; their two cats were known for being moody anyway. We are so blessed and thankful that the Hans watched our kitties for us and believed in our journey the way they did.

Noramay Cadena - Noramay, one of Kacey's classmates, did a couple things for us that really mattered. While we were getting ready to move to Italy, we needed to store 4 large suitcases and a stroller in Boston, but had no apartment. Even though Noramay was also getting ready to move across the country with her daughter, she gladly took our things AND even drove me and all our stuff back to our hotel before our flight to Europe. She went out of her way and it made our lives a lot easier, so thank you!

Eric Fetcho - Eric did many things. He helped us move out of our house AND took many of our belongings to store in his house for 2 years. He gave us a place to stay many, many times, even when he had things going on or maybe we wouldn't even get to really spend time with us. As we were preparing to leave for Italy, he drove to Indy to get us (after we stored our car) and brought us up to Ft. Wayne. Thanks for all your support, Eric!

Karen Phillips - Mom helped us several times while we were home from getting people together for get-togethers and spending time with Nolan. She helped try to make our trips to Indiana a little more comfortable. She also helped us with getting ready to leave Indiana, including car-sitting for us for a few months.

Todd Waldron, Chris Hopkins, and Cynthia Wilson - Three of Kacey's classmates who helped us move all our stuff twice! We had a lot of stuff in Boston, but they were willing and able to help us move it all to storage (when they all also had to do the same), and helped us move it all out of storage again upon returning to Boston (which they also had to do). Without their help, I really don't know how I would have done all that. Thanks guys!

Adam and Amanda Phillips - My brother and sis-in-law gave us a bed many times, even when they had plenty of other things going on in their lives. I know it wasn't easy to have us stay with them, but it really made our lives a lot easier! Adam also drove with me to Boston when we first moved there, and helped us unload the truck. Thank you Adam!

Mike and Maggie Fetcho - This one might be long, but they really supported us a lot! They helped us pack up our house, and took many, many things to store in their basement for 2 years! They gave us a home several times along the way, sometimes for a couple days, and once for almost 4 months! This couldn't have been easy on them and even though we tried to make it easier for them, they were just great along the way. Their support and belief of our journey made a lot of our lives a lot easier. Thanks memaw and papaw! Oh, and Mike drove with Kacey out to Boston when we first moved there, and helped Adam and I unload the truck!

Here is a list of folks I remember helping us load our moving truck in Greenwood in May 2009: Our CGPC family, all my Pike buddies (I will never forget your engineering efforts with my TV and treadmill, impressive), including Haycox who drove down from Chicago!, Adam and Sarah, my brothers and mom, Kacey's brother and parents, and I am sure I forgot someone. Thanks everyone!

My grandma and grandpa VanHook - When we needed to fly back to Indiana for a wedding in Ft. Wayne, they loaned us one of their vehicles for the weekend. This was very useful! They also let us stay at their house twice while they weren't there, once for 2 weeks while Kacey was away. This was a hard time on us, so it was nice being in a friendly location during that time.

Here is a list of folks that watched Nolan at some point, letting Kacey and I have time to ourselves once in a while: Chas (watched Nolan while I went for an interview), Christie, Karla, Cynthia, my mom, Maggie (so we could go to MBA Prom), Todd, and my mom and sis-in-law Amanda (so I could go to a Colts game with Adam).

Cynthia Wilson - Not only did Cynthia watch Nolan a couple times, and help us move, but she brought back some of our abandoned clothes from Italy. What a great friend, thanks!

Sharon and Vince Cullers - They gave us a place to stay for 5 days when we were visiting Indy before leaving for Italy. They opened their house and made us feel very welcome, even though we would be running in and out during that time.

I forgot one! Jack and Deb Snyder - They watched our cats for a month while we were between school and moving to California. Thanks!!!

I forgot two more!!
Carlos McGowan - Gave us a place to crash in Indy one weekend so we could visit family. Thanks bra!

Kendra and Kristen - Gave us a place to crash in Indy another weekend. Thanks Schmathas!

I have probably forgotten someone, which I said I wouldn't do.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Finding the Right Home

When we lived in Greenwood, we had a great small group at a wonderful church. But the time we were in Cambridge, we never found this. I know and can see the effect it had on my life. So moving to California, one of our main goals is searching for our church home. I know this will take time; visiting churches, then dating churches (Thanks Pastor Steve O!)... and you really only see one church a week. And, what if that church had several families on vacation that week? (We think we have experienced that some)

Luckily, we have a great guide. The Holy Spirit!

But it still takes effort on our part. And patience. And prayer. And research. And an open heart. We have some criteria we have in our minds we are looking for in this home, but realize we have to be open to each place we happen to visit. And all of this time leads to impatience as I really want to find a place soon, but I also know as long as we keep the right attitude and willingness to look and listen, it will happen in the correct time.

Years ago, Pastor Steve gave a great sermon (of which I still have the mp3 and notes) about dating churches. But, before we can really date a church, we have to find ones to visit. Does anyone know of any good tools or ideas for learning about a church before we show up? I mean, if there are no other 3 year olds at a particular church, I doubt it will become our home (as I feel our home has to really be right for Nolan).

So far we have visited 4 churches out here (we didn't plan ahead enough one week), and have a few more we want to visit. We connected really well with the pastor's son and wife at one church, so hopefully they don't feel bad that we are still visiting other churches.

Please pray for us in our search!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Big Transition Time

Life the past two years has been exciting and unpredictable. But tomorrow, I start a new chapter. Now that we have moved to Westlake Village, CA, I will be starting work at Amgen tomorrow morning. I haven't worked in a corporate job in over two years; staying home with Nolan has been my job. It will be similar to work I performed at Lilly, but a new culture, slightly new job, new patients, new medicines, and new coworkers. But, it won't be with my little boy and that makes me sad. But, it is time for both of us to start our new life chapter.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nolan Is 3!

Had lots of fun with my boy this year! Here is a post Kacey wrote about Nolan.

http://kaco1.tumblr.com/post/7522260405/nolanthird

And, most birthday pictures are posted here. http://www.chrisandkacey.com/Nolan/July-2011/

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Jamaica, Mon!

This past week Kacey and I took a little vacation, sans Nolan, to the Iberostar Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We almost went to Jamaica, with Nolan, over spring break this year but didn't ever get it worked out. Also, we have never been to an all-inclusive resort as we normally don't like to sit in one place for a long period of time on vacation, and we really enjoy eating at different restaurants in new places. But, we decided to pull the trigger to go relax for a few days somewhere warm before work.

And let me just say, it is great flying on your status airline for vacation... US Airways is my favorite airline to be status on. First class both ways! (And their upgrade process is better than United and American in my opinion) I think flying to a vacation spot helps as there are less business people getting upgrades on these flights.

So on Sunday night, we drove up to Detroit to stay at an airport hotel (and to leave the car there) as our flight left at 6:30am. I was quite pleased with the Quality Inn there and they have a cheap stay and park rate with 24 hour shuttle.

Monday morning at DTW we had to get there early due to our shuttle, so we checked out the Lufthansa Business Lounge. We had enough time to eat a little food and head back across the terminal to our flight. We had a short flight to Charlotte so we just relaxed and ate a few snacks. Once in Charlotte, we thought we would hand out in the lounge. To our surprise (and a little embarrassment), our first-class ticket to Montego Bay did not quality for the lounge. Oh well, we went to the gate and used the free internet for a few minutes before boarding.

Once we arrived in Montego Bay, we had to look for Desk #21 to coordinate our hotel transfer. We had pre-booked a bus ride and in the back of my mind I knew we would have to wait some. Unfortunately, we were the first on a big bus and we had to wait almost an hour for ~15 more people to join us. Then, we were the last drop-off hotel so we spent another 30 minutes on the bus. AND at one stop, some other guy tried to take our bag! So if you can afford to get a private ride or dare a taxi, DO IT!

Once we arrived, we were just happy to be there, but missing our boy. We weren't quite able to get in our room yet, but we put our wristbands on and went down for lunch at the buffet. We were pleasantly surprised! The selection was pretty good and while a few of the items weren't great, many were pretty good and creative. After lunch we got in our room and then headed to the pool for some relaxing.
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View from our balcony

During the rest of the week, we did some snorkeling, ocean kayaking, sailing, sand volleyball, beach aerobics, lots of lounging, archery, and a couple fancy dinners.
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We went to the cajun place called Jambalaya one night (not great) and the Japanese place another night (not great). We enjoyed the consistency and variety of the buffet. We also rented a car and ventured to Ocho Rios to see Dunn's River Falls. It was WAY more touristy than I ever imagined and there was no hiking.

We had a good time at this resort. Our expectations weren't super high, but the folks that worked there were nice and inviting. The only people that ever asked for a tip were at the snorkeling/scuba area (they had a tip jar). I felt our service was never really based on tips. It was nice not carrying money or wallets around the resort. We also got to enjoy lots of local fruits at the buffet; naseberry being my favorite local fruit (it was like a mix of cinnamon, pear, and fig). They also made a fried plantain salad that I thought was delicious! And of course, they had jerk chicken twice a day.

We took our new Sony Cyber-shot WX9, not the Nikon, so these pictures were took with it. It has a neat panoramic photo setting that we liked playing with. Check out all our pictures here!
http://www.chrisandkacey.com/Vacation/Jamaica/

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Toronto

Last week we visited Toronto. Maggie had been wanting to visit, and we had the time, so we all drove from Toledo for a short visit. On the way there, we took the Ambassador Bridge, which was pretty quick. The drive is pretty easy to Toronto. We arrived at the Ramada Plaza downtown around 2 and by 3:30, we were at the St. Lawrence Market. On Saturdays the north side opens up for a farmers market, but the south side is open every day. It is full of meat, cheese, fruit, fish, and other foods. This would be a nice place to live close to!

Next we walked toward the CN Tower. It was extremely foggy, so going up was out of the question for the first day. But, we wanted to see the area and let Nolan run around the park a little. We saw some display trains across the street so we walked over there for Nolan to check out; it was the old roundhouse. And the roundhouse has been converted to a furniture store and a brewery. We walked in the Steam Whistle Brewery to just check it out, and they were offering free samples, so I had a couple. While we were leaving, some guy/street entertainer approached us to make a balloon animal for Nolan. He was nice and funny. We started walking toward the hotel looking for food. We didn't find much and Kacey remembered passing two Thai places close to the hotel. We ate dinner at the Buppha Thai Restaurant. It was very good! That night, I took Nolan to the hotel pool for a few minutes for some fun.

On Thursday we slept in a little and first headed to Casa Loma. This castle wasn't quite as big or reasonably priced as a few things we have seen in Europe, but it did have a nice looking outside, large garden, and view of the city. We took the subway down to Union Station to walk along the waterfront. We ate lunch at Williams Cafe; the food was good, but it left me a little hungry. It was starting to rain so we headed for the PATH, the large underground mall. Our plan was to use this to make our way north toward the City Hall. By time we made it north, the rain had calmed. There was a mini car show going on inside the mall, and there was both a Chevy Volt and also a Tesla Roadster in attendance! I took a few pictures, of course.

I was hoping to find the Church of the Holy Trinity near the City Hall, but all we found was the Old City Hall. This is now just courtrooms. We walked to City Hall for a break for a few minutes. After this, we started walking to Chinatown to check it out. Kacey and Maggie hit up a few places and we ended up sitting in the Ding Dong Cafe for a few minutes to eat a little snack and wait out a little more rain. We then decided to walk to Little Italy to find some dinner.

The guide book we had only listed a couple Italian restaurants in Little Italy, but one review looked very good. Also, this place wasn't on our big city map, so we had to rely on the guide book map, which was to a much different scale. It took quite a while to walk to Pizzeria Libretto, but when we finally made it, it seemed we had made a good decision. This place was packed on a Thursday night. Luckily we only had to wait 5-10 minutes. The pizzas were pretty good, but not great. On our way back up the street car, we stopped at Crème for some gelato. This was the perfect end to lots of walking (~4 miles) and pizza.

The next day I woke up early and decided to walk back to the Church of the Holy Trinity. While it didn't open until 11am, I did get to see the outside of the little church, as well as the Eaton Centre. This church was smaller than I was expecting and has been pretty much surrounded by newer hotels and parking garages. To get back to the hotel by my 8:30am curfew, I decided to rent a bike. This was very easy to do and with tons of pickup and drop-off points, very convenient. While geared more for one day on/off, it worked just fine for a 10 minute one-way.

On our way out of town, we decided to get some food, and Kacey and I had been craving crepes. We found a place called Crêpes À GoGo. This was a small little bistro where French seemed to be the preferred language. They were very good! We also got a Nutella crepe to wrap up our meal and it was very tasty! But before we left town, we had to stop back in at the St. Lawrence market. After picking up a few more things, we hit the road for our trip back home.

Honestly, Canada seems a lot like America. The people aren't outstanding as being extremely nice and seem to be mostly in a hurry (especially when driving!). Toronto won't go down as one of my favorite places but it was good to visit.

Our pictures from Toronto can be found here (http://www.chrisandkacey.com/Vacation/Toronto/)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It's A Little Busy

Things are going well getting ready to move, but very busy. Once we settle in a new home, I look forward to sharing our adventures and our new home!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Boston Bucket List

I created a list in my mind a while back to try to complete. We checked off the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, including the Chihuly exhibit, so I thought I would share the pictures.

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Check out the rest here! (http://www.chrisandkacey.com/Boston/Museum-of-Fine-Arts/)

Items Recently Checked Off the List
Mr. Bartley's - This is a famous burger place at Harvard. I was waiting for Eric to come to town to enjoy, so we went last weekend. The burgers were decent, sweet potato fries were ok (needed to be left in the fryer more), onion rings needed a little salt (but after that good) and the atmosphere was lively and enjoyable.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - This museum is more famous for what it doesn't have; it was the victim of one of the biggest unsolved art robberies in the world. Going on one of the free tours here was great. We were shown many things and learned information that we would have never received had we wandered on our own. This is definitely a place to visit (combine for a full day with the Boston MFA, it is next door and you get a discount for both).

Upcoming Items
Prudential Skywalk - Part of the MIT Sloan graduation takes place here, and we are obviously going!

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation - Due to timing and limited seasons, we have not yet seen this. I am hoping to do this around graduation with the in-laws.

Trinity Church - While I have technically been in here, it was on Palm Sunday, so I took no pictures and did not do the tour.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Nolan and the Potty

FYI, if you don't want to read about pee and poop, stop reading now.

About the past 4-6 weeks, Nolan was been regularly pooping on the potty. This is mostly because he is predictable and I take him to the potty every morning and afternoon. It is nice not changing dirty diapers! Sometimes he will ask to go before I take him in, so he is learning.

Now pee has been a different story. We tried underpants for a day back in February and also a few weeks ago, but both times there were accidents. But after talking to a few daycare facilities where he might attend, most want kids potty trained at his age. So I decided to work with Nolan some more. I bought some more underpants the other day and yesterday we put some on. After a couple hours there was an accident, but I cleaned him up and put on new pants. He then had another accident a few hours later, but it was close to bedtime so he got a diaper.

Today has been different, and better. I put his underpants on after lunch and talked more to him about how kids at school have to pee in the potty. Three or four times already today, he has walked to the potty by himself, pulled down his pants, and went pee on the potty! So today has been a great day for Nolan! There will be more accidents, but we are definitely headed toward a diaper free Nolan.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Nolanisms

Just a few funny things recently

Mommy or daddy: "Whats that noise" or "Ugh, you're too heavy stop jumping on me" or "Who is jumping on the bed"
Nolan: "It's just Nolan!"

Mommy or daddy: "Time for bed, good night" as we leave his room.
Nolan: "I have a question. What's hot lava?"

In reference to many things mommy or daddy says or something Nolan sees: "How's that work" or "What's that do" or What's that called". (I suppose this is very typical, though)

Every morning
Daddy: "Nolan, do you want some coffee?"
Nolan: "No, its too hot."

While playing a game where I fake sleep on his bed
Nolan (melodically): "Daddy wants to hear looovely music"
(I have no idea where he picked up this lovely music phrase!)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Montreal

We took a couple trips during Spring Break this year. First we traveled to Bethlehem, PA to visit Kacey's family for a couple days and Nolan had lots of fun playing with Sophia, Kali and Brenna.

Then this past week we loaded up the car and headed towards Montreal! We found a place with an indoor pool so it would feel a little like Spring Break. On our way up on Wednesday, we stopped off at King Arthur's Flour. We bought some, you guessed it, flour, as well as lunch. And since we were there, we drove around Dartmouth for a few minutes. It was a nice stop, but we had another 3 hours of driving.

The first evening we were there we walked to the underground mall as we were pretty close. Well, a lot of it closes by 6pm and there isn't much food in the area. So after a brief walk, we decided to just eat at the hotel restaurant as we had a discount and Nolan ate free (we normally would never eat at the hotel).

Thursday we got up, got some free breakfast, and headed to the pool! It was a pretty good size heated indoor salt water pool and Nolan had lots of fun. After 30-45 minutes we headed up to change so we could head down to Old Montreal. Our first stop was Notre Dame and there was a tour right as we got there so we were able to enjoy that. This church was interesting and different than most we have seen. The colors were unique and the structure was wood with a stone facade. The wood structure allows for windows in the ceiling! We enjoyed our tour but were very hungry. We found a little Italian restaurant a couple blocks away so we ate at Da Franco Ristorante. The food was ok and the prices were reasonable (will Kacey and I ever find great Italian food again??).

Next we walked to the Centre de Céramique (ceramics gallery). Kacey looked around for a bit then we headed on our way. We walked down toward the river, walked by some shops, and headed for the Bonsecours Market. This place wasn't that lively, probably due to the time of year. We found some real maple syrup here to bring back home. Next we decided to just walk around more of Old Montreal to find a place to eat for dinner. Kacey spotted a store called Canadian Maple Delights, so we went in. I wanted to eat some maple stuff, so while I sampled a couple of their ice creams, I saw the ultimate dessert. It is called the Da Vinci. Two shots of espresso, two scoops of maple ice cream with maple chunks and whip cream on top. Nolan was asleep so I ventured downstairs to check out their Maple Museum. It was some interesting reading. We weren't super hungry but it was time to eat a little something. We spotted a Tapas place called Santos. The food was really good and it was good we weren't too hungry; it was expensive! After eating we headed back to the hotel to find some food for Nolan to eat and so we could rest for the night.

The next day we figured we would get in a little pool time before heading back to Old Montreal. Our goal was to go to the Centre d'histoire de Montréal. We walked to Old Montreal and found the museum pretty quick. It had a lot of great information on the history of Montreal and we enjoyed our visit. But, it was now time for lunch and it was time for crêpes! We found a place that wasn't too expensive called the Marché de la Villette. The food was really good; I got a crepe with ham and cheese and a little salad and Kacey got a three cheese crepe. Nolan even got a little one, but he didn't really eat it (so I did). Then the nice manager brought Nolan out a piece of Belgian waffle. But it was time for our next endeavor, Mount Royal. Parc du Mont-Royal is a large park on a hill (not a mountain) that overlooks Montreal. We drove up and parked near the Smith House so we could walk out to the scenic overlook at the Chalet. It wasn't too far of a hike, but with the bitter wind and slushy/icy walkway, it wasn't the nicest hike. The view from the lookout is not quite as grand as I expected, but it was still nice. The view is blocked by trees to the sides and in the middle the skyline is filled with the large buildings of Montreal (and you can only barely see the river). I can see how in the summer this park would be a great hangout for hiker, bikers, runners, and families.

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Panoramic view from the Chalet atop Mont Royal.

On our way down we stopped at the other overlook but this view isn't as great and looks toward a different part of Montreal. From here, though, you can see the Olympic Stadium.

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Panoramic view looking east toward Olympic Stadium.

The last thing to do for the day was find some dinner. While driving to the park we noticed a few restaurants in another direction than we had walked from the hotel, so we checked those out on foot. Unfortunately they didn't see like great options, but we did find Caffe & Cucina. We got our hopes up with Italian in the name so we checked out the menu. We decided to give it a try. Nolan and I got pizzas and Kacey got mussels. The food was pretty good! There may be better pizza somewhere else in Montreal but if you are in this area give it a try! Since we were on vacation we decided to treat ourselves to some chocolate cake that evening, which we seldom do. It was very tasty. But it was time for rest as we had a couple more places to visit the next day before driving back to Boston.

After our last free breakfast we packed up the car and headed out to Olympic Stadium (be weary of traffic signals, they are generally not hanging over the street and often hard to spot as they appear at more intersections than expected and blend in well; we almost ran a few). I wasn't sure if we would be able to get in or not, or whether we would maybe hit the Biodome. Well, we could do neither. I thought Biodome was free, but it was like $16/person, and small, and crowded, so no. The stadium we could walk in the ticket area, but you could only go in if you had tickets to an event. Oh well. Then we were hoping to find a grassy area to walk around but there was only some back near where we parked. No wonder the locals call this place the big mistake.

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Panoramic view of Olympic Stadium.

Our last stop was going to first be lunch somewhere and then a stop at St. Helen's Island on the way out of Montreal. We found a little diner called Miami Deli. This looked like a local favorite type place. I got another smoked meat sandwich (very similar to corned beef) and Kacey got fish n chips (looked so-so). We headed out to St. Helen's Island to drive around the Parc Jean-Drapeau. We didn't have a ton of time, but there also isn't much to do here other than walk around, and it was cold and snow covered. We drove to a parking lot near the water and got some nice pictures of Montreal. We found the Biosphere (this is what was free) but it didn't look that enticing. So we headed out on our journey back to Boston.

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Panoramic view of Montreal from St. Helen's Island.

On our way home, we had a stop or two we wanted to make. We wanted to stop in Burlington for a view of the town and Lake Champlain. This is a nice looking cozy little town. We stopped enough to stretch our legs and get some pictures of the lake and got back on the road (and filled up on gas as Canada is more expensive). As we were driving through Vermont Kacey found an advertisement for Ben & Jerry's; it was right off the interstate about 10 mines further down the road. So we called information and decided to stop in. While tours were done for the day and production was not up, it was still a cool little place to see and visit if only for a few minutes.

Check out our pictures here. S.V.P! (http://www.chrisandkacey.com/Vacation/Montreal/)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What's Nolan Doing?

I titled this after a question I get asked frequently by Nolan. Usually, he knows he is doing something peculiar when he asks me this.

So what is Nolan doing? Let me capture a few things, mostly for our benefit...

Legos
We have large and small lego blocks. The small ones were acquired from the Fetcho house a while back and we are just now playing with them. He enjoys building little trucks and adding new items to the trucks and giving them creative names. He also enjoys taking the little lego guys apart; I have used this opportunity to make some cyborgs. The bigger blocks are also used to make trucks. He recently learned how to make the big ones and little ones connect, so we will see what kinds of trucks he can make now!

Camera
For Christmas, Nolan got a VTech Kidizoom camera. We researched the few kids cameras on the market and this was the clear winner. Let me say that the reviews were correct. Not only was it cheaper, it is a good little camera. It has two games and you can edit photos right on the camera. It also has a flash! It is very easy to download pictures off the camera to your computer; no special software. See here for Nolan's pictures.

Computers
Nolan also got a VTech Kids Computer for Christmas. This toy is ok; he has done some learning and likes the toy. The screen is kinda bad, but oh well.

I say computers because lately Nolan has been loving to play with Kacey's tablet PC. His favorite site is TVOKids.com. With her touchscreen, he can select his own games and play with by himself. There are animal, science, and music games to name a few.

Cooking
Nolan loves to pretend cook food. To do this, though, he likes to use real utensils. This also means he likes to get in the utensil drawer (where knives and scissors are located) and reach around and take things out. He really likes mixing (and watching youtube videos of mixers, really) and grabbing things with tongs.

Cats
Nolan has learned that tormenting cats is fun. We don't know what else to do to get him to stop. The cats don't really run away from him all the time and let him pick them up and sit on them. Then they get mad that they didn't run away. We are just waiting for a big scratch to teach him, but that hasn't happened yet.

Ball
We play baseball (he swings and pitches), basketball, soccer, and catch. He is getting better at catch, but needs more practice. He pitches pretty well too!

Potty
Well, sometimes. He still doesn't want to use it a lot, but sometimes will ask. He still says he likes his diaper. We tried "big-boy pants" one day and that didn't work.

We have good times. I need to soak it all in now, as my time all day with him will soon come to an end. :(

Monday, January 31, 2011

The New ChrisandKacey.com!

Back in November, I started working on setting up our new photo web site. I searched for new providers and really loved the Power User account through Smugmug.com. It allowed me unlimited photo (and video) space, custom URL integration, a very loyal user base among photographers, and great customer service. (By the way, I can send invitations if you are interested). I have already uploaded 70 GB, and haven't even done most of our videos yet.

So, www.chrisandkacey.com is now all new! Check it out, let me know what you think (especially regarding finding pictures and galleries, we have struggled with how to set up the structure). I am loving it so far!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Getting Settled In

It has been a busy few weeks! The Holidays are over and we have moved back to Cambridge. Kacey's school sessions have begun and Nolan and I are remembering what it is like to stay at home. Of course, it is different now that he is older; we have talks and he tells me what I should be doing during the day. He is also remembering all of his old toys. It is quite funny; he walks up with an old toy and says "I remember this"!

We are looking forward to getting out to play in the snow this afternoon and maybe tomorrow too. There is, after all, about 3 feet of it outside. Boston does a pretty good job of keeping streets and sidewalks clear, and it appears quite hard with this much snow around. Too bad there are no good hills nearby for sledding.

Nolan and I have been playing with Legos and tractors a lot. Nolan got a couple new tractors for Christmas and now that we are reunited with our things, I have given Nolan a large amount of my tractor collection. He also got a little barn for the tractors for Christmas. We acquired part of Eric's Lego collection and have been playing with the pieces some. There are a few half-made firetrucks in there, surprise, surprise!

This semester we are living in Central Square, one T stop west of school. We got a great deal on a place here so while we are not a 10 minute walk to school, we are about a 10 minute walk/T ride to school. We still have a few boxes to unpack, and a lot of boxes we will not even attempt to go through. We are also living without cable. We could not secure a good deal with comcast for cable (we are doing internet only) and we can receive HD OTA stations through the cable wire system, so that will serve us just fine. There are only a few cable shows we watch, and they are available online for free.

I am hoping to experiment with lunches for Nolan and I; having sandwiches or easy things each day is getting boring. So, I am on the hunt for new ideas; I don't get inspired as easily as my wife. So please send me your ideas!