100th Post: Five of Heart’s Buccaneer Birthday

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There were silk scarves and doubloons galore as Five of Hearts celebrated her 6th birthday this past week. We all got our fill of swashbuckling and skullduggery as we decorated pirate pictures, watched several of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and sang “Happy Birthday” with a few more “ARRRR”s than usual.

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After a scrumptious breakfast and presents, we headed to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey.  The four floors of exhibits were quite impressive. We started with the traveling Animation center and tried out the many components of cartoons from mouth position to moving backgrounds.

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Every one of us, from youngest to oldest, could have spent hours exploring and experiencing the magic of animation. We also loved the many energy exhibits, where we got to do everything from power a radio with a bicycle to drive a solar-powered remote-controlled car.

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We eventually returned home for some serious pirate pampering. A few exotic lotions, creams, and cucumber slices later, we were finally ready for the coconut ice cream cake. When the smoke finally cleared from the candles, Five of Hearts was five no more.

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New York City at Christmas: Rockefeller Center

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We’re super thrilled to have the opportunity to spend our Christmas in New York City.  Our first day in Manhattan brought us to the impressive Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall.

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Tree at Rockefeller Center

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Rockefeller Center Tree with 5 Miles of Lights

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View of Central Park from Top of the Rock

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Five of Hearts, Five Ball, and Lower Manhattan from Top of the Rock

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Lobby of Radio City Music Hall

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Santa Warming Up the Crowd for the Rockettes

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The One, the Only, the Rockettes

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Nutcracker on Avenue of the Americas

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View of Manhattan from New Jersey

Traveling in Sandy’s Wake

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We pushed up our departure day leaving Maine ahead of Hurricane Sandy. We were able to visit a very deserted Boston on Sunday and arrive in Connecticut with plenty of time to settle in with relatives and wait out the storm. As we received reports that our house back in Maine was being quickly advanced upon by the rising tide we watched the high winds in awe. By Tuesday morning the highway was reopened and we had a very somber drive towards New York City as we surveyed Sandy’s destruction. With the George Washington closed down we re-routed to the Tapenze and crossed the river just as a bit of sun produced a rainbow. Our New Jersey hotel had electricity even though it was just blocks away from badly hit areas. As we looked across at the skyline of New York City our thoughts were with all those who suffered from the storm.

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Changing Lanes

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Leaving Jersey city we not only found ourselves in the middle of a heat wave but also found ourselves in some fast flowing traffic. Up until this point Route 1 had either meandered through the country or had been stop and go through busy city streets. Now however we found ourselves flying along on a virtual express lane that was at times four lanes wide. Back in Maine this would be considered a super highway but through New Jersey and Pennsylvania this seemed to be the norm. As we skirted downtown Philadelphia Route 1 even seperated into local and express lanes.

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Route 1 wasn’t the only thing that changed as the kids got their first look at huge tracts of row houses and supermarkets that they had never heard of before. Even Five String was surprised at how much the area had built up as he pointed out one of the houses where he used to live. Now that we have crossed the Mason Dixon line we are all excited to see what new changes will be waiting for us down Route 1.

Fives on the 4th

For months now we’ve had our Fourth of July plans set: apple pie and Chinese food. Since reading Apple Pie 4th of July about the lessons a Chinese-American family learns about cultural differences and what it means to be an American, we’ve wanted to celebrate the many cultures that make America what it is. And what better place to do that than New York City?

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After putting on our red, white, and blue, we set out for Jersey City’s Liberty State Park. The park gets its name from its prime location on the Hudson River just across from both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The views of both were amazing as we walked the wonderful riverfront trail. The park seemed to offer many recreational activities from walking paths to playgrounds to green spaces, but we had to catch a ferry and didn’t have time to explore as much as we would have liked.

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The ferry to the World Financial Center in Manhattan left right from the marina in the park, which made parking and commuting to the city a breeze. We have traveled by bus and train so far, so we were excited finally to take to the water. The ride didn’t take much time at all, but we were still treated to some spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline along the way.

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As we started walking to the closest subway station, it was hard to ignore the somber atmosphere as we traveled past the World Trade Center and the reconstruction happening there. People from all walks of life had come out on the 4th to photograph, converse, and remember. It was hard to comprehend, and even harded to explain to the kids, how this area of such a bustling city could be so quiet.

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Entering the subway station, we had no idea how bad our transportation luck was about to get. We found two possible routes to Chinatown only to discover that one entire line was closed for the holiday and the other was only running express trains that would have sped past our intended stop. After standing in stuffy, sweltering air waiting in vain for a local train, we gave up and took to the streets where the temperature had hit 100. We walked many, many blocks and missed our street as the one unmarked cross street happened to be ours. We should have figured as much.

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Nonetheless, the walk to Wild Ginger was well worth it. The vegan bistro offered so many appetizing dishes that it made ordering quite a challenge. The younger Fives enjoyed soba soup with spinach and other fresh vegetables, while Five Spice and Five String sampled sizzling soy cutlets with spicy black bean sauce and basil infused tofu. This will definitely be a place we return to the next time we pass by. From there, our hopes to find apple pie at the vegan bakery we chose were dashed as the only offerings were pumpkin pie and cheese cake. After a dessert picnic in a nearby park, we took the ferry back to Jersey just as the crowds staking out a place to view the fireworks were pouring into the city.

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Five Spice was not about to let our quest for apple pie go unfulfilled, so we stopped at a grocery store to pick up ingredients for an Apple Pie Parfait. Back in the climate-controlled comfort of our hotel room we enjoyed delicious layers of granola, sliced apples, and coconut sorbet with cinnamon sprinkled on top. We ended the evening by watching the fireworks on television, though we could hear the rumbles and see the sky light up from our hotel window. This 4th not only gave us all a greater appreciation of the wonderful diversity and determination that is America, it helped us see how workable seeing the big city can be by making the Jersey side our base camp.