Category Archives: Life Near Boston

Castle Hill

One of the places that I wanted to visit during my week of vacation was Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich.

Though we had previously been to nearby Crane Beach (one of the best/most expensive beaches to visit in MA, if you have a chance), none of us had been to Castle Hill. I had seen photos of its beauty, and was quite excited to visit. It didn’t disappoint me.

We hiked up a steep hill, and explored the remains of a once-grand vegetable garden.

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

We continued hiking, up to the main house. It looked like something out of Downton Abbey, and indeed was designed after an English country house.

Front of the house

Front of the house

After admiring the front, we hiked through the woods to the back of the house, where we came to my favorite part of the visit. While the entire grounds of Castle Hill are beautiful, the centerpiece in my opinion is the Grand Allee, a beautifully landscaped hill rolling down toward the ocean. It blows my mind. Just think: at one time, this was somebody’s backyard. I walk out onto my back deck and see a swingset, some trees, some grass. These people could take a morning stroll out to their back porch and see THIS.

Esme stands on the Grand Allée

Esme stands on the Grand Allée

Nice. Here’s a Photosynth embedded Panorama I created, showing the view from the top (let me know if it doesn’t work for you):

I highly recommend a visit to Castle Hill if you can make it there. You can see all of our photos from this beautiful place here.

“Two if by train…,” to the Museum of Science

Since Catherine and I had a chance to take a train ride in to Boston earlier in the week, we decided that Esme should have a chance, too. We also wanted to go to the Museum of Science as a family. So we decided that Esme and I would take the train in, and Rebecca and Catherine would drive in.

Rebecca dropped Esme and I off at the Beverly Depot commuter rail station to catch an 8:15am train.

Esme at Beverly Depot

Esme at Beverly Depot

Esme and I had an extremely smooth trip in, unlike the trip Catherine and I took earlier. We even ran into our friends Chris and Kylie, who commute together to their jobs in the city. It was fun to chat with them as we all rode in to the city.

Chris and Kylie

Chris and Kylie

After arriving at North Station, Esme and I got breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts, and then we took a pleasant stroll along the Esplanade (or at least the Nashua Street Park section of it) to the MoS.

Rawr.

Rawr.

Even though we’ve been to the MoS many times, it seems that we see or learn something new almost every time we visit. For example, Objet was demonstrating their 3-D printing technology, with which they had created a scale model of Fenway Park to commemorate its 100th anniversary. This company’s printers are used by companies such as Speck, to make prototypes of their cases, and Specialized, to model parts for their bikes. Also, I think they have a very clever name.

Objet

Objet

But the highlight of the MoS visit was the Butterfly Garden. We all loved looking around at the flowers and the colorful butterflies and moths flitting back and forth. I even had a butterfly land on me… but it was on my back, so I didn’t get to see it. The girls had a great time in this room. Catherine had hoped that a butterfly would land on her since she was wearing a flowered dress, but it was not to be.

The butterfly garden

The butterfly garden

When we were finished at the museum, we all drove back together, but stopped for lunch at Kowloon, a Chinese restaurant in Saugus. The girls and I had never been there, but Catherine had seen it on her favorite TV show, Fetch with Ruff Ruffman, as one of the locations where the contestants go to perform a task. The food was nothing to write home about, but the girls did enjoy the fountains throughout.

Admiring the fountains at Kowloon

Admiring the fountains at Kowloon

See all of our photos from the day here.

Wright’s Tower

Our outing of choice for today was a hike to Wright’s Tower in Medford, MA. This tower is in the southern part of the Middlesex Fells Reservation. The Fells were one of my go-to places for hikes when I lived in Woburn, as it was pretty easy to get to. I’d never hiked to Wright’s Tower, however.

I picked this hike for today because it is a fairly short hike, and the view from the top is pretty rewarding. The hike starts next to Bellvue Pond, where we saw some ducks and geese.

Bellvue Pond

Bellvue Pond

We walked along a fire road for a bit before turning off onto the Skyline Trail. This makes a fairly steep cut up Pine Hill towards Wright’s Tower.

Esme points the way up the hill

Esme points the way up the hill

Once at the top, you’re treated to some amazing views – both from the top of the hill itself, and from the top of Wright’s Tower.

 

View of Boston from the top of the hill

View of Boston from the top of the hill

 

View of Boston from Wright's Tower

View of Boston from Wright's Tower

As an added bonus, at the top of the hill, we also met another family with two kids who were relatively close to Catherine and Esme’s age. Catherine was her usual outgoing self, walked right up and introduced herself to the kids, and before long they were all playing together and building a fairy house up at the top of the tower. I stayed up at the top of the tower while Rebecca was at the bottom with the kids’ mom, and the kids showed enormous resolve in trudging up and down the stairs carrying sticks, stones, grass, and other things to build the house.

Catherine, Esme and friends building their fairy house

Catherine, Esme and friends building their fairy house

Catherine got some scraped knees when she tripped on the way back down (later tonight, she took off the band-aid and declared: “It’s healed!”), which soured her mood, but other than that, everyone had a terrific time!

I’d highly recommend this easy hike for anybody who lives near Boston and wants some great views of the Boston skyline!

You can see all of my photos here.

The great outdoors

We are fortunate to have such a great variety of natural beauty here in our area, most of it just a short drive away.

Yesterday, we took a walk at Strawberry Hill in Ipswich. This is a great country walk that takes you up and down a hill, across a causeway, and up onto an island. The island has some great rocky beaches and a big grassy clearing. Our girls love the rocks, sticks, and straw that you can find all over the place.

The girls at Strawberry Hill

The girls at Strawberry Hill

More photos from Strawberry Hill.

Today we spent the afternoon at Wingaersheek Beach in Ipswich. It’s one of our favorite  beaches – when we can get to it! During the summer we only go after 5pm, when they stop collecting a parking fee, but off-season they don’t charge for parking. The parking lots were understandably full today, given that it’s Patriot’s Day and the start of the local school vacation week. Many people were out enjoying the vast expanses of shallow water and sandy beaches, and terrific collections of rocks for climbing and hopping. Our girls love digging in the sand, climbing the rocks, and splashing in the tidal pools. I love it for the wide open space in which we can walk around, relax, and enjoy the outdoors.

Rocks at Wingaersheek

Rocks at Wingaersheek

See more photos from Wingaersheek.

Epic Picnic Fail!

There were signs that maybe this evening’s picnic at Dane Street Beach wasn’t meant to happen. It could have been when we arrived at the beach and were greeted with a chilly breeze. Maybe it was when Esme flung an entire shovelful of sand onto our picnic blanket while we were eating our egg salad sandwiches, coating Rebecca’s with sand. But if those signs weren’t enough, we knew the picnic was doomed when “Rambo,” someone’s unleashed Boston Terrier, ran all over our picnic while we were still trying to eat the remains of our meal, kicking sand into everything, ate a bite of my sandwich, stole one of the girls’ sand shovels, ran across our blanket two or three more times, all while his owners did little or nothing to rein him in. At this point we just had to laugh about our misfortune, and agreed that it was time to pack it in. To add insult to injury, as we were packing up, one of the dog’s owners started smoking and blew a cloud of second-hand smoke towards us from upwind. Here’s to knowing when enough is enough!

Of course, despite our misfortune, I managed to get some photos of the outing, showing that in the midst of the ‘fail,’ there was still some ‘win’ to be had.

Lynch Park, Independence Park, Dane Street Beach, it doesn't matter... great view of the power plant from all!

Lynch Park, Independence Park, Dane Street Beach, it doesn't matter... great view of the Salem Power Plant from all!

See the rest o’ the photos in our gallery.

24 Y Street- Our Home, not too far from Home

By Lantern Light

I have a small dream. I dream that our little family will fall in love with camping. And that we become skilled and efficient campers who breeze into a campsite and effortlessly set up camp. Then we go off to frolic in the waves or hike a mountain or ride our bikes to the camp store to buy bubblegum.

My family camped when I was young, but not so much from kindergarten on. I did a couple weekish long backpacking trips in college and Peter and I have spent a handful of nights under the stars, but I wouldn’t say that we are avid campers, yet. This summer we spent a few days camping in the Finger Lakes and we have just returned home from a long weekend at Salisbury Beach State Reservation.

Watching at the Boat Ramp

It seems the only way to get to ‘easy living camping’ is to just get out there and practice. We’re in a funny place somewhere in between having all sorts of great camping gear and knowledge and not having either at all. We’ve cobbled together some new gear, some hand-me-down stuff and a bunch of memories of camping. Add to that some tips from the internet and advice from Mom and Dad and you have a couple of ambitious, but somewhat clueless tent pitchers. We’re learning quickly, though, and have had a good time spying on the other campers to see what gear they have and how they do things.

Driftwood Girls

Despite our novice camper status we had a fantastic weekend. The weather was cooperative, we cooked some meals on the grill, did some swimming, beach walking and lots of digging in the sand. We brought a crate of books, art supplies and notebooks and they were much loved during our stay at 24 Y Street. We also set our tent up atop a medium size rock (which, luckily, didn’t end up disturbing our sleep), fumbled with the charcoal grill (making the wait for meals far too long) and, yet again, found ourselves without a working flashlight.

In the waves

Each experience was a lesson. A lesson in exploring the world, being a family, being observant, learning to buy quality, and enjoying life. We had wonderful conversations with Catherine that were sparked by the many new things and people she was seeing. She learned what a ‘striper’ is. She made new friends. She dug a ‘car’ in the sand, complete with shifter, and drove herself and her Papa to the ice cream stand. Esme was thrilled to the core each time a sea gull flew over head or dove close to the ground. She happily followed her sister around camp desperately trying to learn the ways of the ‘big girl’. Both girls sat fascinated on the dock watching the fishing boats being towed out of the water on their trailers. Everyone fell fast asleep quickly at night.

Home Away From Home

As with so many things in life, this journey has its own allure separate from the destination. As we hone our camping skills (in pursuit of the ‘expert camper’ title) we’ll enjoy the togetherness that comes with the territory. We’ll make each new site our own, starting here with site Y24.

[all our photos from the weekend can be found here in our gallery]

Myopia Sled Dog Races

Just last week I had heard via Twitter that there would be sled dog races taking place in South Hamilton. Interested in this unique type of event, I made plans with the family to head up and see them.

On Saturday we drove up to South Hamilton for the 9am start of the race, and found a parking spot near one of the spectating points. Catherine became busy in exploring the surrounding area, made friends with some other kids who were building tunnels in the snow, made some snow angels, and took some walks with me while we waited to see the dogs.

Papa and Catherine

Papa and Catherine

We waited for a while, hanging near the volunteers who were getting updates on the progress of the race. It seems that the start of the first race was delayed. We watched as snowmobiles raced back and forth along the track, volunteers groomed and cleared snow, and some cross-country skiers came through. The crowd continued to grow as we waited. At long last (about an hour and a half after we arrived) the first dogs ran past!

Skijoring

Skijoring

The first race was one with which we were unfamiliar, Skijoring. This race is essentially dog-assisted cross-country skiing. I was a bit surprised when they came around the corner and there was no sled. Since that was my only exposure to “sled dog racing,” that’s what I had been expecting. In any case, there were three or four competitors in the race, and they raced out past us and then came back. Some of the dogs raced wildly off the track, while others seemed a bit more controlled.

Beautiful Dogs

Beautiful Dogs

By the time the Skijorn finished, the girls were getting pretty antsy and cold and hungry, and Rebecca had an appointment to keep, so we sadly had to depart the race. Perhaps next year the race won’t start quite as late, or maybe they could provide text messaging updates on the morning of the race as to when it was actually going to start.

We have many photos from the race in our gallery, including quite a few of Catherine’s adventures along the track. 🙂

31

Thanks to some wonderful friends from church (hi Tina, Susie, Lizzie and Ben!) Peter and I found ourselves with an entire afternoon to ourselves. Unbeknownst to me, Peter had been planning an outing for us in true pre-girls Wood form.

After we dropped the girls off, I rode patiently in the passenger seat unaware of our final destination. Each turn revealed new clues as to where we were going. Peter pulled into the parking lot at the Wonderland T station and I worried that I hadn’t dressed appropriately for a walk around Boston. I was assured that just my coat would be enough.

We rode the blue line just a few stops and commented on how new the Airport station looked. The train stopped, the doors opened and Peter gave me a little nudge and said, “this is our stop!” For my 31st birthday we were going to take a bus and walking tour of the terminals of Logan Airport!

We took the airport shuttle to Terminal A and started our self guided tour around the airport. Highlights include:

  • Learning that A was the first LEED certified terminal in world
  • Visiting the 9/11 Memorial
  • The juxtaposition of the “Sunless Tanning Convention” which was located next to the “American Association of Jewish Clergymen”
  • Lunch at Currito in Terminal C
  • Stumbling across an old, unused baggage carousel
  • Checking out the European fashions in Terminal E (for International Flights)

We had a great time walking around, people watching, reminiscing about our past travels and daydreaming about trips yet to come. There is just something magical about an airport and it was fun to be there without having to rush to a gate or waiting in a security line. My 31st year is over, bring on 32!

We didn’t get many pictures today, but what is a post without a photo? I’ll end with this pic of Catherine giving me a birthday kiss during dinner at Mandarin Danvers. The other birthday pics can be found here.

Christmases of Old

Did you happen to get a look at the dress that Catherine was wearing in the photos in Peter’s last post? I’ll refresh your memory:

Isn’t it sweet? My Mom sewed the dress and smocked the pinafore! But Catherine wasn’t the original recipient! Mom made the dress for me 27ish years ago. It was loaned out and hand-me-downed and both pieces managed to find their way back to Mom just in time for Catherine to fit in them this year! I spent a good part of the 26th looking through photos trying to find one of me wearing it, but the search was unsuccessful. Maybe I’ll be able to find it by the time Esme is big enough to wear it!

In other Christmases Past news: On the suggestion of a friend, I took the girls to see the Enchanted Village at Jordan’s furniture in Avon today. We were in the neighborhood shopping at Ikea and hopped next door to take a look. I hadn’t expected a line, but we ended up waiting about 30-40 minutes before we got in the door. Luckily there was a family with little kids behind us and they and Catherine became fast playmates.

The Village was just as I remembered it, having seen it at the old Jordan Marsh store in Downtown Crossing when I was in High School. The Christmas music, festive decor and real snow falling from the ceiling put me right back in the Christmas spirit, even if the animatronic kids and animals were kind of creepy.

The girls seemed to have a good time. Catherine studied each vignette intently and would point out one or two things to me before we’d move on. “Look, Mama! That bear has a pickle!” “I see a boy on a bicycle.” “That one is the Papa Bear because he is playing a cello.”

[There are more (not great) photos from the Enchanted Village here]