Rhythm and melody

Apparently it’s the coldest Boston January on record. One of our school mum friends hates the cold, saying we get to experience this kind of weather as a novelty, they have to deal with it every year. A neighbour complains about the snow to her husband then thinks of the Aussies who live across the road, and how much fun we’re having, and that perhaps they should change their outlook.

We spent Australia Day with friends from Darwin and a heap of other internationals. We had fairy bread, sausage rolls with dead horse, cheese and vegemite on toast and I made my first pav. Of course I forgot to take a photo. It worked out well as all Stephanie Alexander recipes do, and I topped it with kiwifruit, tipping my hat to my NZ heritage. I relayed the story of Anna Pavlova and her trip down under a few times, just so everyone understood the heritage of the dessert is slightly contentious. One of the American guests thought Australian food was quite 1950s which perhaps it is, but to be honest, none of us are contestants on MasterChef, and if I had to list what I’d expect to be considered American cuisine it would be slow cooked meat, pizza and hot dogs. Not exactly 5 star dining. I don’t think she meant to offend and I wasn’t really, just surprised at what she may have been expecting.

Hutch has had a very relaxed January, he did one class for a couple of weeks that was very light on, so went to the gym every day, wore lots and lots of layers and ran outside whenever the temp got above zero. Classes are back in full swing this week and he’s quite excited about what is coming up. He tries to tell me about the content, but my eyes glaze over when I hear covariant and regression and matricies  – totally foreign language to me.

The boys have started some after school activities, Woo is doing Mad Science which is fantastic, he’s learnt about electricity, taste, and yesterday was heat. I didn’t realise that the US was the only country that uses Fahrenheit. He’s loved it. Skets missed out on his first preference of indoor soccer, but is with his best buddy doing Outdoor Explorers and is learning about hibernating animals and gets to run around outside.

My social life is getting quite busy. I was out for dinner last week with four other mums who are all American but newish to Brookline, and have plans tonight and Hutch and I have a Harvard dinner on Saturday.

Meema plays beautifully with some of our friends especially those her age, but is getting just a little bit bossy of the smaller kids. Trying to pick up toddlers who are quite capable of walking themselves, and hugs that squeeze so tight everyone falls over. I think she will definitely need to go back to day care when we get home, she’s spent far too much time with me and Hutch on her own.

Our weeks have a good rhythm to them now, and the push to get the kids ready in the morning has lessened.

Our flights home are now booked, and although it’s months away I find my mind wandering to things that we want to do when we get back. I also drift toward websites with bigger cars, and check out what the school uniform requirements are like for the boys when they get back. I need to remind myself that we’ve got quite a busy few months ahead with lots of visitors and there is still lots to do here. My sister arrives in a couple of weeks with a long list of things she wants to do and see so I’ll have to dust off my tourist hat and plan some adventures. I think because it’s been so cold and we have stayed fairly close to home we’re in a bit of hibernation mode. I’m sure once the weather gets warmer we’ll be out more.

I’ve done one of those photobooks for 2013 through iphoto and it’s done and ready to be printed, but do you think I can get the system to change my postal address? No of course not. That may just stay on the computer until we get back and I can do it then.

The only issue we have at the moment is that we have a little family of mickey and minnies living in the kitchen. We’ve caught a couple and tried all the humane ways to get rid of them, but I think it’s time to call in the experts. They’re a hell of a lot better than cockroaches though, yuck!

Thanksgiving

We hosted Thanksgiving, as you do when you’ve got no idea what’s required. A good hour trawling through Martha Stewart gave me some clues; pretty much the same meal we’d do for Christmas without the ham but plus the pumpkin pie.

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The advantage of home delivery shopping and not working meant the pumpkin and apple soup and the cranberry and pomegranate relish were done on Tuesday, and the stuffing prep all done on Wednesday. Getting the bird in the oven first thing in the morning Thursday and with Hutch pottering around tidying the house, we actually had time to go and see a football game, apparently a very traditional thing to do on Thanksgiving day. Our team got spanked – not sure if they actually scored any points at all. They had a good crowd though, cheerleaders, drummers and lots of rah rah. The game itself escaped me, seemed to be a lot of guys on the sidelines and not much flow of play.

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Guests arrived at midday and after a couple of glasses of bubbles, I in my dorkdom made everyone around the table say what they are thankful for in 2013. Put us all on the spot a bit, but confirmed to me that all of life is about relationships. We were thankful for new friends, new opportunities and all glad we had settled in so well. One of the great things about Boston is the itinerant population, so many people are from out of town that friendships are easily formed. Understandably Bostonians aren’t as keen to invest in friendships with us as we’re going to leave them eventually, but we now have people around the world to visit.

I bought an apple pie through school as a fundraiser and it was way better than I’d hoped. We also had pumpkin and pecan pies both very tasty, and cake pops, gorgeous little angry bird style turkeys and little orange pumpkins.

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The leftover cake pops have taunted the kids for the past few days, there was far too much fussiness at Thanksgiving for my liking so we’ve been using them as incentive for vegetable and fruit consumption. Poor Skets has never been very good at his fruit or veg but will happily drink green smoothies. So we’ve made a bit of a chart with everyone’s targets- Meema has to have 2 veg and 1 fruit, the boys are 4/1 and Hutch and I are 5/2. The first day was horrendous. Woo’s tantrum was beyond, he felt quite out of control in the whole process so we eventually got him calm enough to discuss day two and he agreed to eat his veg so long as they were raw. Fine with me. Skets never thought he’d make it to four veg, but with a smoothie full of spinach and a roast dinner with me helping him eat peas and corn he got over the line on day three with the final incentive of calling Dinks. He got there, only gagging twice, and we are all so proud. I bet that cake pop tasted like heaven.

Now we’re in December and all the blogs I read talk about getting ready for Christmas and I’m not feeling it at all. Christmas for us is usually hot, and at the end of the year with lots of counting down to the holidays and the beach. This year it feels like we’re only at the beginning of the year, it’s cold and with a massive meal for Thanksgiving over and done with, I imagine Christmas with the five of us will be very low key. Perhaps with some snowball fights 🙂

Our village

Three months in and the Hutchies are in a good rhythm. Hutch does the school drop off, Meema and I catch up with friends and take advantage of the activities of our neighbourhood, and I eventually get around to vacumming the stairs. (Note to self, never put dark carpet on stairs, they are a nightmare to get clean.)

Slowly slowly we’re becoming part of the community. Margie is the local lollipop lady who looks out for all three kids every day and loves to hear what they’re up to. Hutch has found his favourite coffee place in all of Boston, and we visit it most weekends so we’re nearly at the stage when they know what we want before we order it.

Choosing not to have a car here has worked out well so far. The school is a three minute walk away, Hutch’s uni is a mile away and the supermarket delivery is top notch. We haven’t got to the depths of winter yet, so I’m not sure how Meema and I will go wandering/scooting the streets on icy footpaths but we’ll give it a go.

Saying that, I rented a car today to go across town to buy some Wilton’s food colouring. Of course my data allowance had run out so I had to figure out how to get there without a map. Total first world problem I know, but I was pretty proud of myself for getting there without getting lost. You see so much more of the town when you go somewhere new and as much as I love our local shops, we need to do a little more exploring. It was fantastic to get an afternoon kid free to check out AC Moore, an arts and crafts store that has an amazing range. I was thinking of my sister and cousin’s wife the whole time I was in there, Presh is right into crafting and quilting, MT is an amazing cake decorator and I could imagine her with an overflowing trolley. I’ve bought the first few Christmas pressies and some crafty activities for the kids to do when the snow keeps us stuck inside.

We’re hosting Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks, and with only one American guest I’m glad no one will have high expectations! I’ll do the turkey, and have already been on marthastewart.com looking up stuffing recipes, and I’ll allocate the rest to the guests. It’s pretty much a Christmas dinner without the presents isn’t it?

Yoo Nork

I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in New York, (or Yoo Nork if you ask Meema) with a friend from back home, TP. She and her family have been travelling around the US for a couple of months and planned to come and stay with us at the end of October. She and Hutch organised to send me to NY on the train while Pato and the kids came up to Boston to have a dads and kids weekend. Hutch is not great at keeping secrets from me, and accidentally sent me the Amtrak reservation a week before we were due to leave. Whoops. I was happy to know in advance, it meant I could spend the week getting excited about 48 hours kid free time in a most amazing city.

TP is a very organised person so by the time I got to Penn Station she’d booked dinner for both nights and brunch on Saturday. I must say it made things so much easier not having to decide what to do.

Friday night we wandered up to the Met in Central Park to go up to the rooftop and look over the city. Did you know you don’t actually have to pay the $25 entrance fee to the Met if you say you’re going up to the rooftop? We made a very small donation and took our time going up to the top floor. Unfortunately the bar was shut but the view was still spectacular. If only I had a decent camera and actually had some skill in photography I’d have a great shot to show you.

TP had some new shoes on, bought in a bit of a hurry which turned out to be were way too big so we took our time strolling down 5th Avenue to Tao for dinner. Vibe was amazing. A busy friday night, loud music, huge restaurant and great food. It’s asian fusion, so a little bit of this and a little bit of that. TP had the Ginger scallion broth with kobe beef that came with its own hot stone and candle so we could dip the beef in the broth to cook it lightly, fondue style. I finished off with the biggest fortune cookie I’ve ever seen, filled with dark and white chocolate mousse.

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We crashed pretty quickly, both enjoying having a bed to ourselves with no small people needing a cuddle in the middle of the night.

Brunch the next morning was at Pastis, in the meatpacking district. Think busy French Bistro in a funky part of town. With much better shoes we decided we needed to walk off a big eggy meal so we wandered across the Highline, an old freight railway track that runs down the east side of Manhattan about four storeys above ground. I had my first celebrity spotting moment when I saw Emily Mortimer, an English actress currently starring in The Newsroom. I heard her before I saw her, the accent stood out a mile. Back across town to ground zero which was understandably busy with other tourists. The Freedom Tower is nearly done but the rest of the development is still a few years away. I left New York on September 9 2001 and was at the top of the twin towers on the 8th. I remember seeing the towers go down on TV and feeling so lucky that I’d left the USA. TP and Pato were living in NYC at the time of the attack and knew people who were affected, it really doesn’t seem that long ago. I don’t know if I’d want to work in that building, it seems like it’s tempting fate a little.

After ground zero we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, the day was cold and windy but sunny and the view of Manhattan from Brooklyn is pretty good. We’d been talking solidly the whole day, TP and I have known each other since our sons were born, so we filled in the pre-kids stuff, you know, what we did in our twenties, how we got engaged, married and all that jazz. That kind of conversation doesn’t really happen when you’re pushing kids on a swing, or making sure they’re not running onto a road.

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Catching the subway back to Manhattan we had the obligatory visit to Victoria’s Secret, half an hour shopping was enough for both of us. Dinner that night was early – 6pm  – so we headed straight to La Esquina in Little Italy. First impressions were not great. It looks like a diner attached to a building, a few bar stools and a taco truck type kitchen. TP had been recommended it by a few people so was a little confused that it had come so highly regarded. We were told to queue by the door and wait.

So we did.

At 6 on the dot an internal door opened and a harried looking lady with a walkie talkie greeted us and ticked us off her list. We were sent down stairs, through the kitchen where we saw the chefs mincing meat and prepping for the night’s service. Handing our belongings in at the coat room we were directed around another corner and came out in an underground cave. I’m not sure if it’s an old subway tunnel or sewer but it’s amazing. A fantastic bar with a million types of tequila, and seating below a row of corona buckets suspended from the ceiling. We left the ordering of our food to the waiter and shared five different meals. I must say the food wasn’t brilliant, quite a few of the dishes felt like they’d been in the fridge too long and what should have been room temperature was a little too cold. Saying that, as far as a cool New York experience goes it was impressive.

Because we’d had such an early reservation we were done by 730 and TP had one more place to show me. Off to Pravda we went. A Russian vodka bar, beneath Lafayette St. Barely sign posted, with a red light at the top of a staircase you had to know what you were looking for. A few cocktails here, we stayed a few hours trying a variety of flavours (I don’t recommend the horseradish vodka) and we stumbled above ground in a very jovial mood. (Can I just interrupt for a moment, both Tao and Pravda try to be tricky in their bathrooms, Tao is marked Yin and Yang and Pravda is written in Russian. How’s a girl to know which one to use???)

The Red Sox were playing in the World Series finals, not something to be mentioned in Yankee town but I was keen to know the score. We got back to the hotel and saw the last five minutes of the game and fell into a slumber. I woke up the next morning regretting not having a glass of water by my bed and quite a manly voice which cleared up after the first coffee.

Sunday’s plan was fairly fluid, a late breakfast and a wander up to MOMA before catching the train back to Boston. MOMA didn’t thrill me this time and I’m a big fan of modern art, it was just a bit too full of interpretive dance and art critic wankery. My last visit five years ago was much better. I do like a bit of Lichtenstein though.

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We sat very happily on the train with Kindles and devices in hand and occasionally looked out the window to see the gorgeous country side.  Autumn is truly a glorious time of year to be in the North East.

The dads had a great weekend, we were all glad to be back together and get ready for the excitement of Halloween.

Brookline Day

Last weekend I woke up to the sound of a major storm. Normally not an issue, but three boys had signed up for a fun run at 9am on Sunday. The event was being run at Larz Anderson Park, not easy to get to with public transport so I thought we’d catch a cab to get there, then the shuttle bus back home. We got ourselves organised, packing a change of clothes just in case. Our taxi driver ripped us off; turning back after a wrong turn and going quite a convoluted way. Annoying, but not the end of the world. We were dropped off at the wrong part of the park (our fault, not the driver’s) so had to walk quite quickly to get to the start line for the kids’ race.

I rushed to get the bib numbers but wasn’t quite fast enough and the starter’s gun went. Woo shot off, ready to race but Skets got stage fright and refused to run. Poor Hutch who was in the adults race after that, jogged with Meema, who was sure she should be competing too, and then raced off to catch up with Woo once I got to the start. Skets ran off into the trees, quite annoyed with himself I think, and by then Woo had disappeared around the bend. As soon as I saw them coming back I started cheering. A good friend of mine who competes in lots of fun runs has taught me how helpful a good cheer can be for the participants. I must say I was bursting with pride as Woo came down the hill, lots of yelling from me and Meema he came down with a big smile on his face. I gave him a big hug and told him how thrilled I was and how proud, and he went over to talk to Skets and ask why he didn’t join in. Skets was still grumpy so wanted to poke Woo with a stick, and Woo said, “Why didn’t you run? I came last and I don’t care I ran my best, even though I walked a little bit”. How cool can kids be?

We then got ready for Hutch’s race and got our ‘go daddy go’ cheer warmed up as he took off. The route was quite hilly but very picturesque apparently. While he’s was running, the kids got face painting and balloon hats – always fun.

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I set myself up near the finish line, I must say it seemed strange that no one was cheering on the other racers, so I cheered everyone! Hutch came 10th in his age group, happy with that.

We then went to spend the rest of the afternoon at Brookline day, the local festival. The rain had cleared to a gloriously sunny day so we wandered around checking out all the stalls. Two new yoga studios are opening up in the next month so I’ve picked up some brochures from them, the usual police officers, food trucks and six amazing jumping castles all free.

The return shuttle wasn’t great, over 45 minutes late, but it was on an all American yellow school bus 🙂

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Lovely day all round. And I only had to yell about 45 times.

High heels, red lipstick and a glass of sangria

A beep on my phone from one of my Irish friends suggesting drinks on a Saturday night made me smile for about an hour. You know life is good when you feel like you’re settling in, not just observing like a tourist. Hutch decided to stay home and finish some homework so I could have a girls night.

I got dressed up in high heels and bright red lipstick, jammed the earbuds in my ear, cranked up Scissor Sisters and strutted my way to the T station. I’d left plenty of time to get there so I could have a sneaky trip to Sephora on the way in and it was well worth it. I bought a few things and of those that are stocked in Australia, I paid nearly $30 less. It’s crazy how much more  expensive makeup is back home and Sephora doesn’t ship internationally.

A lovely stroll to the spanish bar where we were all meeting was really rejuvenating, time on my own, good tunes in my ear and generally feeling more than a mother who screeches at her kids to stop fighting or to leave her alone.

A dodgy photo of the walk I took – iphones aren’t great at night time shots. It was about 18 degrees at 9pm, perfect. It didn’t even occur to me to take a selfie all dressed up, clearly I’m too old!

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There ended up being about 15 people at the bar that I met, I was the only Australian in a crowd of Irish (what’s the collective noun for Irish I wonder?) and it was great fun. Drinks on a saturday night? I’ll do that again for sure.