On the road through the years

Road tripAs I write this, we’re driving down to Washington DC to attend a wedding. Things sure have changed from the days of MapQuest and driving as a couple to today’s GPS and the boy seating in front and me relegated to the back.

I remember how we used to fight because I failed to prompt the turn or exit in time until I got the rhythm of reading the directions and calling them out. These days, any wrong turns are more because of the kid talking over the audio prompts or an outright miscalculation of the driver.

I still travel with my bag of “go-to” items… Paper towel, folded plastic bags, sanitizer, snacks, water, baby wipes. And there are the chargers, the various handhelds, the iPad, etc. the technology actually came in handy today as the boss started texting me early this morning. While I am happy he misses me, I worry that I’m out at the wrong time and day and start feeling guilty. I am lucky that he is generally very mindful of reaching out to me when I am out of the office, so when he does, I pay heed.

But back to being on the road.

I don’t know about you but I like visiting the rest areas. The ones in Maryland, in particular, have been recently renovated and Angelo says that they feel like you’re in an airport food court. I like browsing the convenience stores for postcards and other souvenirs. During the last trip, I got some wood-mounted postcards that were quite a find. We also got the tiniest snow globe magnet of New Jersey for my nephew, Art.

Each trip is different even if we have a familiar destination we’ve driven to and from before. This one’s been easier for the usually car sick 10-year-old this time around, thanks to his sea bands and meds. I let him sit in front and enjoy the drive with his Dad behind the wheel. I sit at the back and do my own thing.

We usually seek out the Cracker Barrel restaurants along the way, but we were in a rush to get going given all the traffic we hit, we’re postponing that for the trip back.

Flowers & butterflies in Williamsburg

DSCF8008

I finally uploaded the pictures to my Flicker account and you are welcome to browse anytime as all the photos are public.  I haven’t quite had the time to organize them under an album yet but they are there for sharing.

I got lucky with most of these shots although for every one you see, I probably discarded or deleted another one or two.  This is what I don’t get from the iPhone — a real tight macro shot and crisp photos even when the subject is in motion.  I guess you can say my camera and I are back together again.  I’m trying to plan a trip to Central Park one of these days, or before the summer is over.  Unfortunately for me, I just discovered that the Butterfly Conservatory at the American Museum of Natural History finished it’s run this June.

Flowers and Butterflies

There were so many butterflies that I manages some doubles — and there were quite a few.  The two shots here were taken at Busch Gardens (somewhere by France).

Flowers and Butterflies

The most striking, though, were the close ups of the beautiful butterflies.  The one above, though, was at the North Garden of the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg.

I even spied one or two which had damaged wings but which flew about from flower to flower with no worries or cares.  A simple reminder that no matter how your wings may get clipped or damaged, life goes on.
Flowers and Butterflies

I hope you enjoyed my photos.  I am going to use these in my ongoing Thank You Postcard Project (which, by the way, has it’s own blog.  Click on the link and it’ll take you to “The Project” page.)  And of course, a couple will land on my Instagram feed.

Just trying to spread the love and the wonders of nature… More about our vacation in Williamsburg coming soon.

Of roadtrips, etc.

Vacations are things I look forward to and dread at the same time.  It’s not so much the vacation per se but the getting there.  Sometimes we fly, sometimes we drive.  Last week’s vacation was a drive to Williamsburg, VA which was probably our fourth if not fifth trip there.

This year was different because the ten-year-old now chooses to travel comfy (translated: with a pillow and blankie) and he packs his own backpack now.  (I still pack his clothes in the suitcase, though.)  And while car sickness is still a problem despite his Sea-Band Acupressure Wrist Bands, it’s a little easier to manage.

I personally pack my go-to tote which contains my journals, art stuff to bring, magazines and other knickknacks.  The sanitizers and wipes go into either his backpack or my tote, but always INSIDE the car.

Things to remember before leaving the house:

1.  Pack your chargers and make sure all handhelds are fully charged.  (You only have so many plugs to charge into in the car.)

2.  Bring drinking water and other beverages to save you from buying at every stop.  If you travel with kids who drink from juice packs, freeze a few the night before and keep it in a cooler.  You won’t need any ice to go with the drinks because the individual packs will cool the container.

4.  Don’t forget snacks.  Kids often get hungry between rest stops and you don’t want to have to stop just for food.

5.  Pack a plastic bag specifically for trash in the car and discard at the next stop or when full.

6.  If your child tends to get car sick, fold and pack several good plastic shopping bags.  Make sure they have no holes so that you don’t have to scramble with gooey drips if you happen to have the kid throw up into a bag with holes.

7.  Pack ample napkins or a roll of paper towels if you can.  You never know if you will have to clean up.

Things to remember when in the car:

1.  Make sure the seats are comfy and that your child stays buckled up.

2.  Keep the drinks in cupholders where they will be upright and will prevent spills.

3.  Use the compartments behind the seats wisely by putting items that you might need to grab in a huff like napkins or barf bags.  Keep the maps, information sheets or ticket printouts there as well.  Avoid storing bulky items that might impede movement of the passengers.

I enjoyed this particular road trip.  It was relaxing even if I had to grab a bunch of motion sickness tablets an hour into the trip at a stop, and coax the boy to down the tablet.  The good news is that it worked almost instantaneously as promised!  We did our usual stops — finding one Cracker Barrel restaurant along the way for lunch. Browsing their country store is always a trip in itself and the food is reasonably priced and satisfying.

I had the seasonal Campfire Chicken Meal which came out wrapped like the left and unwrapped to a sumptuous feast on the right.
Cracker Barrel Campfire Chicken mealCracker Barrel Campfire Chicken meal

All for $9.99!  It’s always an enjoyable experience going around their stores and eyeing the decor in their restaurants which are, uncanniliy, almost perfect repiicas of one another.

Needless to say, we did another Cracker Barrel stop on the way back.  It’s now part of our road trip routine.  Cracker Barrel branches are located off of most high way stops all throughout the United States.  If you haven’t tried it yet, just going in is an experience that should make your trip worth it.

Washington DC in Snapshots

Out of order: Fire hydrant in Washington DC – good to know that this one is out of commission. #outoforder #firehydrant #washingtondc
Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC: Looking up #lookingup #hirschhornmuseumandsculpturegarden #washingtondc #sculpturegarden
Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC: Looking up #lookingup #hirschhornmuseumandsculpturegarden #washingtondc #sculpturegarden
Dusk. End of the day. Thankful that I’m still up on my feet. #thankful #treeline #dusk #lookingup
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC: Looking Up – We always have a grand time visiting here #Washingtondc #smithsoniannationalairandspacemuseum #lookingup #space #nasa #museum

My not so good Lake George experience with the Post Office

Saturday morning in Lake George
It’s a beautiful Saturday here in Lake George and Angelo and I are enjoying this view of the lake from the hill in lounging chairs in the shade. A lovely way to cap what has been a nice vacation in Lake George.

I’m also cooling my heels after a not-so-good experience at the local post office this morning. Although I refuse to let that ruin the experience, I feel very strongly about it because the postcard diary I was putting together for this trip was a special one, given the deliberate effort to gather the postcards and the special stamps I was using for this set. I had gathered some of my special stamps purchased from eBay and had carefully wet them and affixed them on the postcards. I thought it would be nice to have them hand-cancelled at the post office, and just get the postcards back instead of letting them get beat up in transit.

Besides, the post office was very “inviting” as we saw the sign below the couple of times we had walked past it while going around town the last couple of days.

Lake George Post Office sign: We appreciate your business - Really now?

I gathered my 13 postcards along with a few others I had hoped to mail, all duly stamped. It was a slow morning and I walked up to the window requesting for hand cancelling on the 13 as I explained I collected them. The lady on duty at the solitary window became obviously miffed when I made the request to hand-cancel, more so when she found out I had 13. She proceeded to hand-cancel the postcards but complained they normally don’t hand cancel as these are done by the machines, and I didn’t even get the chance to explain about the special stamps I had used. She gathered the postcards and some other mail I said didn’t need cancelling and she proceeded to dump them in the bin behind her. So there went the idea to get the postcards back.

I held it in and didn’t say a word, but I was upset at her attitude for several reasons.

1). I don’t think I asked for anything unusual in requesting that the postcards be hand-cancelled. This was part of a regular post office function. I had 13 postcards and not a hundred and thirteen.

2). There was no line and it was not a busy morning. 13 postcards meant 13 motions with her dater/canceller which required nominal effort.

3). I am a taxpayer who went into a government-service institution requesting for service expected of that office.

4). As a postal employee, I thought that she would understand the relevance of the local postmark to a collector. I guess not.

5). I thought that for a town with less than their usual volume of tourists at this time of the year, the town and its vendors –the post office included — would be more appreciative of the business — more so for a “store” that has that sign emblazoned on its door.

I guess not.

It’s such a disappointment considering people are beginning to find it more and more difficult to keep the postal service relevant. There are talks of canceling Saturday delivery altogether in the midst of post office closings. And if we go to the nitty gritty of customer service, this is a sore point for a tourist-oriented town.

No wonder my previous postcards were postmarked “Albany” — they were not postmarked by the local post office.

Maybe she was having a bad day — but for someone working in a service-related job, even that is not an excuse, more so when you have this sign. Take it off the door, I say, if you can’t deliver.

On the Road: Driving up to Lake George

An hour and a half away from Lake George, I picked up my first set of postcards from the Faber gift shop at the Walden Service Station in the Catskills area. My first postcard for my postcard diary for this trip is a map of the Catskills. The real catch were three lighthouse postcards I snapped up for my collection and for trading. (Will post about that separately.)

Lake George: Almost there

We’re driving up the New York State Thruway and it’s been a smooth ride with no hassles. No traffic, no construction to slow us down. This is one reason this is our third time in this area for a short break from the city — it’s not exactly a hop, skip and a jump away but it’s so easy to reach.

Finally arriving just after 2pm at the Fort William Henry Hotel and Convention Center, we headed to the Lookout Cafe to grab a bite. It’s a cloudy day but that helps keep the heat index down. The breeze blowing our way is cool and relaxing. My vacation has officially begun!
Lake George: My little guy enjoying his lemonade
Angelo had his usual burger (meat patty only, no bun) with french fries. I usually go for the seafood meat roll, and I spied a Cape Cod Crab and Shrimp Roll which was spicy hot but delicious!

Lake George: Lookout Cafe Cape Code Shrimp & Crab Salad Roll

Alan had the Cape Cod Clam Roll which had some deep-fried clam strips and tartar sauce. I’ll probably try out next time.

Lake George: Lookout Cafe Cape Cod Clam Strip Roll

We walked up and down McGillis Avenue and Canada Street. The townscape looks very different with a markedly thinner tourist crowd compared to the first time we roamed the streets during the Fourth of July weekend of 2010. There were many places that were just too crowded for us to make a stop at back then, and it wasn’t surprising that we walked into several shops and areas of the street we didn’t get to see before.

I took some breathtaking panoramic shots of the lake but I’m not going to be able to upload until I get back home.

We’re hoping there will be more sun tomorrow.

We’re right next to Fort William Henry of the “Last of the Mohicans” movie fame. This was where it actually happened. We toured the grounds and the museum in 2010 and it’s a little eerie imagining how crowded the fort had been with the wounded and the dying. There’s a reenactment this weekend of the Fort’s surrender, and we’re hoping to catch that one as a piece of a “live” history lesson.

One day down and I’m savoring every minute of it. Love my bed, love my pillow and tuning out of work. (I’m officially off!) No more work e-mail until next week.. now to go back to my postcards.. time to write the 2nd and so forth…

Baltimore on a cloudy day

Storm clouds over Baltimore

Saying goodbye to family is never a matter of hi and goodbye, so we ended up having lunch together which was a fitting way to end the gathering of the Gonzalez cousins.  It was short but fun, and it is always heartwarming to see Angelo getting to know his Uncles and cousins on either side.

It was well after lunch by the time we headed for Baltimore, and highway traffic caused us further delays.  When we finally drove up to the inner harbor, the clouds were threatening rain.

Pirates?

The boys went to Ripley’s Believe it or Not which I easily wiggled out of as I preferred to go window shopping rather than visit an exhibit I had seen more than once before in other parts of the country.  Angelo enjoyed it, primarily because Bumble Bee greeted him right at the entrance.
Grey skies over the Inner Harbor

We capped the day with a fancy dinner at Phillip’s Seafood and then headed on our way back to New York.  It was midnight by the time we got home and two days after, I am still exhausted.  I haven’t quite caught up with sleep yet, but I’m trying to keep going.

Dinner at Phillip's in Baltimore, MD

Summer isn’t quite done yet, so we’re making plans about what we will be doing in the coming days.  Another month to go!

Road trip: Fairfax, VA and Baltimore, MD tomorrow

We’re in the thick of summer and while we had hoped to do more, work and other priorities have forced us to scale down on trips. But we’re always open to doing something spontaneous like driving cousin G to cousin D’s place from New York to DC. It’s always good to see family even if only one night.

So I’m writing this in the kitchen in between treats and savories ranging from barbecued spare ribs to ceviche and kilawin. It’s my nephew, Chris’, graduation party, and the house is overflowing with his mom’s and dad’s friends. I’ve done the round of introductions to guests, photographed, uploaded and tagged people, and now I’m taking it easy just trying to sneak a post here.

Brownies

It’s a typical Filipino party with drinks and food aplenty. Laughter and reminiscing included. I can’t even remember when was the last time I heard “Hard Core Poetry”. (And I’m sure a lot of people younger than 40 will have a hard time placing the song.). Even I had to pause a while to try and remember the title of the song. “This is a song, not necessarily sweet…”. I guess my year or so in a radio station playing these songs sort of helped.

Yummy cupcakes by Charmaine

I’m stuffed. There’s finger turon a few inches away. I’m saying no to the alcohol, though, because we’re going to try and make it to Harbor Place in Baltimore tomorrow. The pancit got me full. And there was laughter going all around.
It has been over a decade since I last went to Baltimore. We want to show him the submarine and the lighthouse by the pier. Another day to look forward to then we drive back to New York.

Weekend at Great Wolf Lodge

We spent the weekend at Great Wolf Lodge Poconos and we’re heading back to New York this evening. The boy had a lot of fun which is the whole point of the trip, and while we wish we could’ve stayed an extra day, work awaits. We are planning to take a day or two off again (like Tuesday) and maybe catch The Bourne Legacy..
At Great Wolf Lodge Poconos, 19Aug2012
With summer almost over, we’re tryring to enjoy the warm weather. School begins first week of September and after that, we would have to rely on school breaks for any long vacations. This one proved to be quite an enjoyable one, with us finally getting to a Great Wolf Lodge resort between planning on their Poconos and Virginia locations. The food was great — fantastic seafood buffet — and their burger passed the “Angelo test”. The boy is getting to be the burger connoiseur between the burgers of Bobby Flay, The Counter and Pat LaFrieda’s gourmet burgers on Fresh Direct. And this one actually has a real Starbucks store in contrast with the regular hotel cafes which just “brew” Starbucks coffee.

While I have not completed any newspaper collage postcards, I haven’t forgotten them. I will catch up this coming week with Friday’s postcards and the weekend edition of The Wall Sreet Journal
which I’ll be getting tomorrow at work.

I am continuing to catalogue my postcard collection on Flickr, but the progress is slow. That is going to be one long-term project but I am in no rush. The good thing is that it’s helping me to put my postcards in order and get rid of the ones that aren’t really part of the collection.

And still on the postcards — like our previous trips, I’m sending home postcards for our travel diary, and I even got Angelo to write the dedication on one of them. Great Wolf Lodge Poconos had four postcards available but no local postcards, though. At least I’m sending out something which Angelo can look forward to receiving in the coming days.

I decided to sit out the swimming today and I’ve been relaxing on one of the pool deck chairs, standing guard. Did one “FACES” piece for my IUOMA group, and I learned that signpen ink doesn’t dry quickly when used on Gesso. So it got kind of messy, but I’m happy with the way it turned out all in all. (Chalking that up as one of those “I learn something new everyday” bits.)

I had worked over a color photocopy of a favorite face and had painted gesso on the background. This gives me another bright idea for using my own photographs for mail art and my Art Journal.

The water looks very inviting but I am staying put here and just enjoying the rest of the afternoon.

Summer Sunday

I think I’ve had an awesome weekend if only because I spent most of it resting at home.  Well, most of it.  (I can’t remember when was the last time I spent four hours napping on the living room couch.)  Yes, I was grumpy.  So I lay down and just dozed off.  The boys left me a grilled chicken snack wrap.  (I would’ve preferred a big mac or a chicken sandwich, but for some reason, the snack wrap satisfied me.)

The house is quiet at almost 7pm.  The boys went for tennis walling and I just got a  call that the tyke didn’t like the pan de sal from the nearer store.  Sigh.  I guess I’m going to have to trek down to Woodside sometime this week and pick up two bags.  I don’t hear any silverware klinking but I gave my mother-in-law dinner already and I opened her airconditioner just to cool her room down.  I’ve done my online grocery shopping (via FreshDirect) which I’m hoping to get tomorrow.  I just picked out a unique ice cream brand I think I ought to try — just as a treat.  So I unclicked the Magnum.  (This old body can only take so much calories at this age…)

Tomorrow starts another workweek.  Hmmmmm… Work is work.  Never changes.  I’m trying to plot when I’m going to take the ‘day off for me’ in August, more so since I might need to assist a peer of the boss when he’s out.  I was sort of torn between trying to make myself useful and just keeping my mouth zipped, but with the job situation prevailing here, you cannot NOT be proactive.  So I volunteered.  I think I ought to check what’s happening around Manhattan in the next couple of weeks and take a pick from there.

Meanwhile, it’s the last week of summer camp for the tyke.  (I am relieved only because he’s grown soooo dark despite the suntan lotion I patiently spray and slather on him every morning. )  He’s been trying to convince us not to send him to day camp next year — but keeping him at home the whole summer would be such a waste of precious time and the father wouldn’t hear of it.  So between now and the next summer, I’m going to research “other” things he might be enrolled in for next summer, and keep him busy at least the first four weeks or half of it.

We’re trying to plan another vacation. We’re thinking of returning to Williamsburg, Virginia which is a favorite vacation spot for us, usually alternating between years we head for Orlando and Mickey Mouse country.  Since we did Disneyworld last year, we’re thinking of taking the drive down through this historical area this time around, and maybe stopping by to visit another place or two along the way.

Can you believe that other than finishing my Art Journal Every Day entry posted below, I didn’t do any crafting at all?  Well, blame it partly on Batman.  Can I say how completely awesome The Dark Knight Rises happens to be?  I am probably partial because Gotham is New York and it’s MY New York I saw in great splendor throughout the two hours and forty-five minutes the movie played.  And ROBIN IS FINALLY HERE!  (Funny how Angelo was asking how come Robin wasn’t in the movie…then he got an answer straight from the screen towards the end.)  I guess we’ll just have to sit back and wait for the next installment and this time, with the dynamic duo together.

Well, the boys are back.  Time to take care of dinner.