Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Great Adventure Part 1!

The task of recording all the details of this most amazing adventure is extremely daunting, but it must be done!  It was easily one of the most exciting and thrilling things I have ever done.  I checked off probably half of my bucket list and experienced things that I only dreamed about in my childhood.  Fortunately I kept a handy little notebook on hand and recorded everything we did every day, so I can give you a more concise report of the fun.

It all started with Drew, Julie & Jill (Jeff's mum) flying in on the same day.  Since we only had one day to spend in DC with everyone before we left, we tried to hit up all the best sites.  We hopped on the Metro with Jeff and headed toward the Smithsonian.

It was a perfect day for seeing the sites, especially compared to the grueling heat and humidity of the summer. 

Also, apparently blue eyed, blonde-haired children are as much of a sight to see as the Lincoln Memorial to Asian tourists!

We made our final preparations that evening, saying very tearful prayers and goodbyes to Pen and woke up at 5am the next morning in order to catch our 6:15 bus at the Greenbelt Station.

Jeff bought lots of travel and language books which came in handy several times.

When we arrived in NYC, we pulled our luggage around to pass the time until our flight at JFK.

We ate some sandwiches in Central Park! (Julie, I had no idea they left such an impression!  That Wegman's potato bread WAS delicious.)

This is the first of SEVERAL jumping pictures you will see.

We finally made it to the airport via Subway. We had some time to kill in the airport.

We said our final goodbyes to Pen and Grandma.
While we were waiting for our flight, Jeff remarked how he always wished it would be HIS name that the attendants called to the front desk before the flight.  No less than 5 minutes later, they actually called MY name!  Ha!  Apparently there was something wrong with the TV on the seat I was assigned, so they offered to move us (I was hoping for one of those posh beds in first class!) which turned out to be much better, because we were able to move Drew and Julie on the same row as us!  Yay!

We enjoyed some fine Indian cuisine and cheesecake for dinner.  Call me crazy, but I'm not that repulsed by airplane food!
It was hard to decide between sleeping and partaking of the vast selection of new releases and tv shows on my personal tv. 

When we arrived in London late, we had less than an hour to make our connection, which was probably the most stressful hour in my entire life. We got help up at security as Jeff forgot he had refilled his water bottle, which obviously was a matter of national security.  We were so angry and stressed out, and we barely made the tram to the tarmac.  I breathed a huge sign of relief once we were sitting on our connection to Spain, and spent the rest of the flight running out my battery on my ipod playing Bloons Tower Defense 4. 

Part Two: Barcelona coming sooooon!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Boston in the Fall

Before I tackle the impossible task of documenting our trip overseas, I thought I should get a little post about Thanksgiving up, as to not get pushed further and further away.

Jeff's brother Ryan is currently living in Boston doing a year-long program at Harvard before he begins his fourth year of medical school.  I could attempt to explain that, as it was explained to me several times, but I am afraid I will just mess it up or say the wrong things, so I'll just leave it at that.  The point is, Ryan & Gaylynn are in the East Coast for a year!  (Which means all the Ribeira grandkids are now on the opposite side of the country... sorry, Poppa and Grandma!)

We thought we'd take advantage of having Jeff's family so close, and take a little road trip to spend Thanksgiving with them. They graciously let us stay in their home, and made us feel very comfortable.  I know it can be stressful having house guests, especially around the holidays, especially right after a big move, so it was very kind of them to put us up.

7 hours and nearly $30 in tolls later, we made it!  Pen was awesome the whole drive, sleeping a good chunk of it (we left at 2 in the morning).  Penny and Jonah picked up right where they left off, and played so well together.  Penny even proclaimed, "You're my BEST friend!!!"  She was also very impressed with the adorable baby Brooke (not so much a baby anymore, she was walking all over the place!).

Shortly after we arrived, Ryan and Jeff took the kids to play at the most awesome part a block away from the house *super jealous* and then to the Natural History Museum at Harvard.  Us moms stayed home and prepped for dinner and Thanksgiving over pleasant conversation.  Gaylynn prepared a delicious meal of Stromboli, and we were so tired, we fell right to sleep.

The next morning, Gaylynn and I had signed up for a Thanksgiving 5k close by, so we headed there around 8:30. Gaylynn was nice and stuck with me for the 3/4 of a mile, but then I fell back and took a much slower pace.  Taking a month off of working out really took a toll on me, and my asthma was acting up really terribly.  But I made it in about 32 minutes, so I didn't do SO terribly.  My average is normally around a half hour. My goal was to beat the 80 year old man who was wheezing his way along just ahead of me, and I did that :)

Penny had some of the snacks and cheeses.

Getting ready!  Gaylynn is wearing the race shirt.

We're off!  Can you spy us?

The very end.  I was literally seconds away from barfing.

In serious pain.

Gaylynn did awesome and came in well under 30 minutes.  Awesome job!

Victory jump!

Our support team. Adorable!

So cute!
 The shirts were great and we got some cool swag, though the stale, unsliced bagels left much to be desired. I was mostly glad I was able to burn some calories before I stuffed myself later that day.

There was so kind of miracle that took place that all four of us adults were able to dance around that kitchen to prepare all our dishes.  Major props to Gaylynn for remaining completely calm while getting everything pulled together!

We all helped and had our special dishes to prepare.  I was in charge of rolls, and per Jeff's request I made (for the first time) Texas Roadhouse rolls, which actually turned out nearly perfectly, I would say!

Everything tasted amazing, and there were delicious additions to the traditional fare, such as a beet citrus salad. I had what was probably my favorite stuffing ever, which was more of a bread pudding style, I also made some brown butter mashed potatoes based off a recipe Gaylynn gave me, and boy were they delicious.  The green bean casserol was satisfying as always, as were the sweet potatoes.  I had made the Red, but it hadn't set by dinner time, so we enjoyed that for the next several days. And of course, the turkey was cooked to perfection and the homemade gravy was to die for.

Gaylynn made these adorable little pilgrim hats for the kids.

Sooooooooo gooooood.

 But the best part was enjoying the french silk cheesecake pie that Gaylynn made... no words can describe how delicious it was.  It put the Amish Shoofly pie I bought to shame.  We lounged around that night, letting our full bellies digest.

The next morning we walked the Freedom Trail, a three mile marked trail that takes you past all the major histo
rical sites of Boston.  We walked it backwards, started at the Battle of Bunker Hill Memorial, and saw the Uss Constitution, the oldest surviving US battleship.  They had a pretty awesome museum here with lots of fun things for kids to do.

The security to see the boat was nothing short of airport security.  Belts and boots were coming off!

Inside the ship!  Lol to the photobomer in the back.

Bombs away!

This was inside the museum.  Those sailors didn't have it so bad, these were pretty comfortable!

We stopped at the North Church.  Two if by sea!!
 We found a very picturesque spot for some family pictures.  I won't put Ryan and Gaylynn's pictures up, I will let them do the big reveal of those.

Our family picture

Awesome, colorful leaves.

Pen doing a little photobomb.


Jeff channeling Paul Revere.

A tad redundant, no?

PR's house!

Little Italy.  It felt like the REAL thing! ...not really...

Bostom Skyline.

Lots of Declaration signers were in this graveyard.

It was $1 night at the Boston Children's Museum (a much better price than the normal $14 per person!) so we couldn't resist!  This place was AWESOME.  As an adult, I thought it was amazing so I'm pretty sure this place is kid heaven to a child.  There were 3 floors with room after room of so many activities, games, toys and experiments. The most exciting part was the "Peep" room, featuring Penny's favorite TV show, Peep and the Big Wide World.  It had one of the most impressive water and sand tables I have ever seen, with multi-layer waterfalls and tunnels and computer games.  Penny was SO excited to see her favorite character, Quack, in the flesh.  We spent many hours happily playing here.  It absolutely wore these kids out.

Penny started climbing on this structure, but freaked out on the 3rd platform, as she couldn't figure out how to get out.


This was a room filled with cool things to do with golf balls.


Sand Table in Peep Land!

A small section of the water tables.

Peep's can!!!

She's just the right size.



The next day we took a short drive to the historic town of Salem.  You may recall the witch trials that occurred there.  Turns out besides the hokey, tourist-trappy type witchcraft and psychic store fronts, there is the fantastic Peabody Essex Museum. We enjoyed immersing ourselves in all the fine arts, and there was an awesome hands-on children's exhibit too.  My favorite was the temporary exhibit of "HATS: An anthology by Stephen Jones."  They had hats from every time period, and some CRAZY hats from current times, they were all very inspiring and artistic.  I wish I could have taken pictures of all of them, and designed dresses to go with them.

After the museum, we froze our very butts off walking around old sites and graveyards of witch trial significance. We decided to head home before we froze to death, and ate some awesome dinner at a BBQ joint near Ryan and Gaylynn's house.  I attempted to shop at Buffalo Exchange, but was very surprised to have a bad case of sticker shock (there was hardly anything for less than $20, and I saw some things for $100!!  Bad form, Buffalo Exchange Boston!) and then we enjoyed more pie as usual and went to bed.

It's always fun having Pen sleep in our room because then we can see how cute she looks while sleeping.
The next day, we attended church and heard Ryan and Gaylynn give very true and appropriate talks on gratitude, went home and made left over Thanksgiving dinner empanadas (best way to use left overs EVER!) and said a sad goodbye around 8pm.  Jonah and Penny were SO sad to part ways, and hugged and kissed each other quite a bit.  Kissing cousins indeed.  We made it home around 4am, singing duets at the top of our lungs the whole way while Penny slept.

We had such an awesome time, and it was SO very kind of the Ribeiras to put us up in their lovely apartment.  I know how it can be stressful at times to have house guests, especially around the holidays, especially when you have to give talks on Sunday, and especially with lots of little kids, so we hopefully weren't too much of a burden, and certainly felt their kind hospitality.  Thanks ever so, and we'd be happy to have you at our place any time!