Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer day

Today, Annika had her first popsicle. She was a natural at it.  She also went to her first "splash park" (basically, a playground with sprinklers that go on and off). She cautiously stood by the sidelines with a wary eye on the sprinklers, but I think she still had fun. She got a little wet, although that was mostly by accident.

I bought Annie a pair of flip-flops. They are a little too big, and she cries whenever I try to put them on her. She's put off by the thingy that goes between her toes. So she went barefoot, and had no problem with that.

We are getting ready for a big trip west, to Buffalo and Cleveland, for over a week. I always say I'm going to pack up in the days before we leave, but never really get to it until the morning that we leave. But it's always worked out OK. May the travel gods and the nap gods be with us for our trip ...

Sunday, June 27, 2010


And now a word from the baby ...

Go Red Sox!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Walmart and Target

Today I did something I vowed I'd never do again - I went shopping at the Walmart in Quincy.  I haven't been there in at least 7-8 years, but I just didn't feel like driving to Dorchester to Target when Walmart is literally about a 5-minute drive from our house, no highways or traffic involved.  But, despite its convenience, it was a mistake to go there.

I've occasionally pondered why I prefer Target to Walmart. They both are based on the same idea - rock bottom prices, big warehouse atmosphere, a little bit of everything you could possibly need in your life.  Jim used to joke that one of the reasons that shopping at Walmart was crazy was the checkout lines - because inevitably, you'd get behind the person who was purchasing a sofa and a bag of potato chips.

Anyway, I have reaffirmed my dislike of Walmart (at least the one in Quincy) and understand why I prefer Target over Walmart.  At Walmart, you walk in, and half the merchandise is on the floor. None of it is organized, and you can't find anything. For example, I was looking at baby clothes. The size listed on the hanger was almost always not the size of the article of clothing. The hanger would say "4T" but the onesie was actually a size 3/6 months. There was no rhyme or reason to the way the clothes were displayed - random clothes were hung up on random racks, all mixed in together, all different prices despite the price sign at the top of each rack.

Additionally, although Walmart has a little of everything, that doesn't mean that it has a good selection of the things you want. For example, I was looking for a board game suitable for a 5-year-old today. They had two appropriate choices, both games she already has. And these two choices were in different aisles, so I had to hunt through about 5 aisles of toys in order to find these two games.

I should say that these aren't problems that I only encountered today. I recall that the last time Jim and I were in Walmart was to shop for school supplies when I started law school (OK, so that gives you an idea about how long it's been since we've been there!). It looked like a tornado had hit the store. In fact, I recall leaving the cart in mid-aisle and running out of the store with Jim. We just couldn't take it any more. 

At Target, everything is relatively clean and always on the shelf. I've never had a problem where clothing was mis-sized or otherwise mis-marked. Target has a remarkable selection.  For example, there is a whole wall in the back of the store with board games, organized according to the appropriate age for the game. There is a section for board games, and a section for card games.  Plus, I sort of think that things might be slightly cheaper at Target, although maybe I was just dreaming.

I don't get it. You could make the argument that you get what you pay for, and that Walmart's lack of organization, sloppiness, and general chaos is the price you pay in return for a cut on the price of the product. Except that Target's prices are just as low (I think), and the whole shopping experience is so much better. 

I'm writing this all down now, so that I don't forget next time. Hopefully my memory will be fresh, at least for another 10 years or so! :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Down on the Farm

On our quest to entertain Annika with animals, today we visited the Weir River Farm in Hingham - about a 20-minute drive from our house. It's a beautiful, sunny day and we brought a picnic lunch. The farm was really beautiful. It's a working farm that is owned by a preservation group that buys at-risk properties all around Massachusetts, fixes them up, and opens them to the public. They grow crops and have livestock. I bought some turnips that had been grown on the farm - I'm going to try to make Lebanese turnip pickles. (Taste much better than they sound, although sort of an acquired taste).

Annie got to see several horses, chickens, goats, an Icelandic ram, two sleeping pigs, and four cows. Here she is, making friends with the four cows, who didn't know what to make of her.

They all lined up and just stared at her. But Annie loved it. She loves all animals. She also got kisses from a horse!

Hope everyone has a happy Father's Day! We'll hopefully be out on the boat tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Playgrounds and other people's kids and movies

Today Annie and I went to the mall, because I needed to pick up a couple of things for the weekend. The mall has a pretty nifty play area. Annie was enthralled. I think she mostly liked watching the bigger kids. Here she is, playing with one of the toys there:

But then this sort of shocking thing happened. Annie was standing up and holding onto one of the benches. Most of the older kids would either ignore her or try to talk to her a little, or sort of quietly play near her. But out of the blue, this little boy, not all that much bigger than Annie but much steadier on his feet, walks up to her, grabs her face, and then pushes her over.  She was very startled and started crying. The other child had absolutely no reaction! And when I came over and told him that it wasn't nice to push over little babies, he just stared at me with an empty expression. His parent was no where to be found.

This is at least the third time that this has happened over the last 6 months or so (the other two times were at a playgroup a few months ago). The other child's parents invariably either don't care or think it's cute. I'm pretty shocked. I would be totally angry and embarrassed if Annie ever did that to another kid. It seems to me that it's never too early to teach your child to be gentle with others.

In other news, I saw Sex and the City 2 last night at this new cinema in Dedham. It was the first movie I'd seen in the theaters since Annie was born.  The movie was disappointing. Really, they should've just stuck to the TV series instead of these painful movies that just emphasize how old all the actors are getting and how there's nothing left of a plot in their story. It was pretty sad. However, the cinematography was quite nice, there were at least 100 different costume changes during the movie, and there were some interesting cameo appearances, such as Liza Minelli.

The theater was an interesting concept - it has large seats, little tables that pull out from the seats, and a dinner menu. They serve the food during the movie. It had some pitfalls - like how they take your order while the movie is going on, and sort of block your view. And the service wasn't stellar. But it's kind of a nice concept. It's a brand new building, replacing the old Dedham Showcase Cinemas, which, from what I heard, was pretty ghetto.

I saw a preview for "Eat, Pray, Love," the movie. I read the book a couple of years ago, and just finished reading the author's second book. Both books were OK - the first was better than the second. It's funny that Julia Roberts is going to play the main character (who is also the author - the book was a true story, memoir type thing), and Javier Bardem is playing the love interest. Not a bad choice in actors.

Time to try being productive and getting things done before Annie wakes up from the nap!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

No green thumbs this year

So far, gardening has been a mixed bag this year.  I planted everything relatively late for me. While I could have put my cold-weather vegetables in at the end of March, I didn't actually get them in until early April. Similarly, I probably could have put the tomatoes and peppers and seeds in earlier than I did. Part of this was difficulties finding the time to do it. Part of this was the knowledge that planting things too early does not necessarily mean that you'll get to harvest early. A lot of times the plants get stunted if the soil is too cold or you get cold weather after planting. In past years, I've just been so eager to get out there and garden that I planted things very early. Although I was happy to get outside, the eagerness to start the garden just wasn't there, at least until I really started working the soil and getting things ready.

Cucumbers, which I've always had an easy time growing, have not been cooperating. Although I planted 12 seeds, only 2 germinated. When I went to put in a second planting, I noticed that many of the seeds did germinate, but the tops of the plants had been eaten. I don't know by whom. Two years ago, I engaged in a losing war with cucumber beetles, but I thought they attacked later, once the plants were more established. I suppose it could be an animal, except Solomon and the other cats on the street chase those animals within an inch of their life. Plus, the leaves are so small that I don't think most animals would be bothered with them. So I doubt it's an animal. The second planting went in about a week ago, and I think I spotted two plantlets, just breaking out above the surface. So we'll see how they do.

The zucchinis have not had stunning growth either, although they all have finally germinated. Zucchinis usually grow like crazy for me. I wonder how it'll be this year.

I'm trying cantaloupe again this year, although this time I bought plantlets instead of trying it from seed. They are still alive but don't seem to be getting any bigger. I've heard they have a long growing season so I hope they start growing! I don't think I've ever had fresh-picked cantaloupe.

Most of my lettuce failed to germinate, aside from some arugula, which has been delicious but has now completely gone to seed, with these pretty white flowers. I'm still waiting for the beets and carrots to come up. I seem to think they take a while to germinate.

The tomatoes and peppers seem to be well-established. There are even some flowers on the pepper plants. The parsley plant is not doing great and the basil seems a little shocked by its new surroundings. I think they'll do better once we get more warm weather.

I just started harvesting peas today. I really should have staked them or trained them on something. They are just all over the place, and it's hard to find the peas when you have to wade through all the stems. I opened up one of my tomato cages and put it next to the peas, so hopefully they'll start growing up that.

I haven't had to water nearly at all. I probably should have watered the lettuce more - I have a feeling that this is why it never came up. But I've been pretty good about watering since I put the rest of the garden in. It's just that I really haven't had to do much since it has rained a lot.

In flower land, all my sunflowers have germinated - I planted four varieties this year, all along the drive way.  One of the varieties, Mammoth, supposedly reaches 12 feet in height. I don't know if I believe that, but wouldn't that be cool? I planted a bed of pansies around the new hydrangea that we planted for Annika. They're doing quite well, as is the tiny hydrangea, which is blooming in purple this year. In between the pansies, I planted more sunflowers (the mammoth variety). I also re-potted my Chinese elm bonsai tree and it is looking much healthier. My lemon tree has a few flowers on it and lots of new growth. It's amazing how well it does once it's outside. It lost a big branch this winter, probably due to spider mites. But it's definitely making a come-back now.

I think it'll be an interesting gardening year, with hopefully some nice surprises and no cucumber beetles!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


We all seem to be getting the hang of boating again. Last Saturday, the boat went in the water after well over a year of being on dry ground. We pulled the boat out of the water in October 2008, and did not put it in last summer because we weren't going to use it with Annie being so little.  This year, we were somewhat apprehensive that there were going to be major mechanical issues with the boat that would require very costly repairs. There were some repairs needed, but nothing too bad. We can't forget that this boat is 22 years old, and while my parents took very, very good care of it, it's still very old and the salt water is much harder on it than the fresh water ever was.

So this spring I went through the usual bureaucratic hoop-jumping to get the boat registered - it's pretty amazing how many government agencies need to be involved in that. The boat and trailer are registered with separate agencies, then we have to pay excise tax to the city of Quincy, then we have to get a mooring permit from the Quincy Harbormaster, etc. etc. ... It was harder last time, when I had to get everything registered for the first time, but it's still quite remarkable. In addition, we had to pick out a life jacket for Annie, which wasn't as hard as I was expecting. On-line shopping is pretty cool. Finally, everything was ready.

Last Saturday we did the traditional "shakedown" ride in the boat. There was a tornado watch, but the weather seemed OK and was supposed to get worse as the weekend wore on, so we took it on Saturday morning. We just drove around in the Town River a bit. It is docked in the Town River, literally at the end of our street (we just have to cross Southern Artery to get there). We were happy to see that everything was running well.

Annika was not so happy in her new, yellow life jacket. It is quite bulky, and for safety reasons, covers a good part of her body, including a large strap that fits between her legs and a handle behind her head that would allow us to grab her if she fell in the water.
But she was a trooper and we didn't stay out so long that day.

On Wednesday, Jim decided to go into work late because he had worked late on Monday and Tuesday. The weather was beautiful, so we took our second boat trip.  Not long after we pushed off from the dock, Annie was already asleep and slept the entire boat ride, no matter how many waves we hit or how much I had to move her around. No one else was out on Wednesday and the water was incredibly smooth. We rode out to the Boston Light, which marks the beginning of the harbor.

This morning, we made our third trip, and rode into Boston Harbor and the cruise ship terminal. Annie slept for a good 45 minutes and then was awake and actually pretty happy. She was looking all around, managed to walk around a little even in her life jacket, and got to see a couple of huge ocean liners, a helicopter, several planes taking off from Logan Airport, ducks, and a large group of Canadian geese (including several baby geese). After we came in and were putting the cover on the boat, I felt a few raindrops - we got in just in time. It's been raining off-and-on since then.

So, all in all, a good start to the boating season. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010


This has been a weekend of "firsts" for Annie!

Swim at the beach (We went to Houghton's Pond yesterday)
Boat ride (Boat is out of storage and runs great!)
First time wearing a life jacket - she's not a fan.
First time standing up without pulling up
... and a few unassisted steps! (albeit somewhat accidental and resembling tripping more than walking really)

And tomorrow is the anniversary of the day that she got her first cousin.