Category Archives: Occasions

10 Year Anniversary Trip

Rebecca and I have just returned from a seven-day trip to Puerto Rico to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. It was supposed to be a five-day trip, but thanks to “Superstorm” Sandy, our flight home was canceled, the rebooked flight was canceled, and we ended up needing to stay two extra nights. We knew that the girls were fine staying at our house with my in-laws, but we missed getting to go home to them when planned.

Other than that, we had a great trip. I wanted to tell you a little bit about what we did, and share some of the photos that we took.

On Friday the 26th (our anniversary date), we flew US Airways from Boston to San Juan, Puerto Rico by way of Philadelphia. The trip was pretty smooth, except for the extra delay before our plane took off from Philadelphia, since they had to plot a route to get around Hurricane Sandy, which, at the time, was churning through the Caribbean. (pics of this leg of the trip: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Flight-to-Puerto-Rico/26307923_897XBq).

Flight to Puerto Rico

Flight to Puerto Rico

Once in Puerto Rico, we got our rental car at the airport and drove for about four hours from San Juan to Las Marias, a town in the middle of the eastern central mountains of Puerto Rico. Some of that time was due to rush hour traffic getting out of San Juan, but it also had to do with the winding, 25mph roads going through the mountains. They were quite challenging to drive, especially at night! By the end of the trip, though, I had become fairly proficient at navigating them.

Road near the guesthouse

Road near the guesthouse

We eventually reached our destination, Maravilla Mountain, after darkness had fallen. Maravilla Mountain is a vegan/vegetarian bed and breakfast in an incredibly remote location in the middle of the forest. We were the only people staying there at the time, so we had our bedroom, plus a sitting room and bathroom, all to ourselves for the duration of our stay. We had purchased their “all-inclusive DIY” meal plan, which meant that they prepared all of our meals ahead of time and refrigerated or froze them, and we simply heated them up whenever we were ready – breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hosts, Margo and Mark, were incredibly hospitable. Margo’s cooking was delicious and filling, Mark’s woodworking and decor was fascinating, and the house was very comfortable. It was particularly relaxing to sit on the porch hammock-swings at night, overlooking the forest. They also had a massive movie collection, which I learned that Margo had picked out herself, and a huge flatscreen TV, which was great for watching in the evenings. (pics, including photos of most of our meals: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Maravilla-Guesthouse-and/26307973_c487FW)

Journaling at the guesthouse

Journaling at the guesthouse

In general, each day of the trip followed a similar pattern: we would get up early to go out and do some adventuring, then return home in the mid-afternoon to relax, have dinner, and relax some more. 🙂

On Saturday, we drove southwest to Cabo Rojo, a town on the far southwest corner of the island. There, we hiked up to the Los Morillos lighthouse, and down to a small beach in a cove. The views of the Caribbean Sea and the cliffs of Cabo Rojo were incredible, and the beach was very nice. It even had natural cabanas – the beach was lined with shade trees that provided a place to change into swimsuits and sit when a shade break was needed. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Cabo-Rojo/26308166_D57zPR).

Cliffs of Cabo Rojo

Cliffs of Cabo Rojo

On Sunday, we drove northeast to Camuy and Arecibo. In Camuy, we visited the Rio Camuy Caverns, a massive cave system formed by an underground river. We took a tram ride deep down to the entrance to the cave, and had a guided tour around inside the cave. It was very hard to capture in photos, but it was incredible in size and variety of rock formations. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Rio-Camuy-Caverns/26308304_hRTszQ)

Rio Camuy Caverns

Rio Camuy Caverns

We then drove to Arecibo to visit the Arecibo Observatory, the world’s largest single-dish radiotelescope. You may recognize it from such movies as GoldenEye or Contact. It’s a massive structure built out in the middle of the hilly northern country (“Karst” country) of Puerto Rico – a huge reflector dish in the ground, three massive towers surrounding it, with cables holding up an array of instruments designed to receive radio signals reflected by the dish. There is a visitor center that explains much of the history and science behind the telescope, and an observation deck that allows visitors to have a good view of the telescope. As a science geek, it was definitely a must-see for me! (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Arecibo-Observatory/26308901_tnRc9b)

Arecibo Observatory

Arecibo Observatory

On Monday, we drove southeast to Guanica to visit the Guanica State Forest, a dry forest on the southern coast. After winding up a mountain road to a parking area, we took a hike down one of the trails. It started out looking much like our own forests and ended up looking more like a desert. At the bottom of the trail, we walked along a road and eventually came to a beach with a view of the Caribbean Sea. It was a sweltering day, and we ended up quite hot and sweaty, but we got to see some incredible plants and ocean views. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Guanica-State-Forest/26312477_BTvMwL)

Guanica State Forest

Guanica State Forest

After we left the forest, we headed back towards Las Marias and the guest house, but on the way, we stopped in Mayaguez to visit the USDA Tropical Agriculture Research Station (TARS). The TARS performs research and experiments in a variety of agricultural areas. They make a big point of saying that they are not a botanical garden, which basically means that the layout of their grounds was not chosen to be particularly aesthetically pleasing. It was still very cool to see all of the cataloged tropical plant species that they had. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/USDA-Tropical-Agriculture/26312520_kNJc74)

USDA TARS

USDA TARS

Monday night was our last night at Maravilla Mountain, but our rebooked flights were on Thursday, so we still had to fill up Tuesday and Wednesday with activities. On Tuesday morning, we drove to our hotel in San Juan. We had booked a room at the Borinquen Beach Inn, a small motel in the Isla Verde area of San Juan. It was the cheapest hotel we could find that was near the airport. It also happened to be close to the beach – just one or two minutes to walk there from our room. It was definitely not a fancy beach resort, but it had the basics that we needed. It was also right across the street from Taco Bell and Walgreens, so we had access to cheap food to help save money during this unplanned portion of our trip. 🙂 (pics of Isla Verde, the beach, and our hotel: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Isla-Verde/26312786_h829L7)

Borinquen Beach Inn

Borinquen Beach Inn

After checking in, we drove to Old San Juan to explore its historical sites. We visited Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a fort that was built by the Spanish in 1539 and occupied by them until it was won by the Americans in 1898. The views of the old city and the ocean from the fort are incredible. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Castillo-San-Felipe-del-Morro/26312569_bvczk5 ) We took a free tram from El Morro to Castillo de San Cristobal, another fortress in Old San Juan. Where El Morro was designed to protect against sea attacks, San Cristobal was built to protect from land attacks, right at the entrance to Old San Juan. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Castillo-de-San-Cristobal/26312618_WrqdMH)

El Morro

El Morro

We also walked around Old San Juan a bit, and had a meal at Cafe Berlin, a restaurant with Puerto Rican, international, and vegan/vegetarian cuisine. Rebecca had a veggie sandwich while I tried mofongo, a Puerto Rican specialty. It was tasty, although I probably wouldn’t choose to eat it often. (pics of Old San Juan: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/Old-San-Juan/26312743_5kQ3cj)

Street in Old San Juan

Street in Old San Juan

On Wednesday morning, we drove to El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the US national forest system. As the island goes, it’s a relatively small piece of land, but it seems pretty big when you’re driving through it. We went up an observation tower to get a great view of the forest, we hiked down a trail to a waterfall, where Rebecca took a dip in a natural pool, and we visited the El Portal Rain Forest Center, which had a video presentation narrated by Puerto Rico native Benicio del Toro. (pics: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/El-Yunque-National-Forest/26312825_cvGtw7)

Peter in El Yunque

Peter in El Yunque

On Wednesday afternoon, we went back to Old San Juan again, as I wanted to visit the Pablo Casals Museum. We first went to the location as listed in our travel guides, but found a sign saying that it had moved to another location (or, that’s what I thought it said). So we asked around and tried to find its new location. We were pointed in the general direction of another art gallery which this museum was said to have moved into, but after walking around in circles for a bit, we finally learned the truth – the museum was in the process of moving, and neither the old nor the new location was open. In any case, we had a nice walk around Old San Juan. The architecture of the art museums we walked around was beautiful, and I’m sure that the next time we have a chance to take a trip to Puerto Rico, the new location will be open.

Future Location of the Pablo Casals Museum

Future Location of the Pablo Casals Museum

On both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, and on Thursday morning before leaving, we spent time swimming, or rather trying to dodge huge waves, in the beach behind our hotel. The late afternoon was a nice, quiet, not too hot time to enjoy the warm Caribbean water.

The Beach

The Beach

At last, on Thursday morning, we drove to the airport, dropped off our rental car, and got ourselves to the gate for our flight. We had learned the previous day that our rebooked flight put us into first class, an experience that neither of us was accustomed to. We boarded the plane and sat in the first row (seats 1A and 1C), and enjoyed our first class experience… nice food, big comfortable seats, first on and off the plane… really nice, and at no extra charge, I assume due to the fact that we’d been bumped from our flights. (pics of the first class experience: http://gallery.prwdot.org/Travel/First-Class-Experience/26312992_vcNNrx)

Getting to know your first class seat

Getting to know your first class seat

We made a smooth connection in Philadelphia, had a quick flight to Boston (coach class, but still very comfortable), and zipped out of the airport, to our car, and drove home as quickly as possible. We arrived home to finally see our girls again, and to thank Nonni and Grandpa for hanging in there with the girls for two extra days.

Overall, it was a great trip and a great way to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

Expecting Christmas

Crafting up a storm

Crafting up a storm

We’re just a few short days from Christmas. The Wood household is busy with activity, particularly in the evenings when the little ones are asleep. Rebecca has made and mailed Christmas cards, knitted and sewn a plethora of gifts, wrapped and packed gifts for loved ones. I am usually busy getting the girls ready for bed, doing chores, and offering opinions on Rebecca’s creative endeavors where requested. Last weekend, I took the girls with me down to Somerville to visit my cousin Mark, and so that we could all be out of Rebecca’s hair for the day. She appreciated the chance to do some serious crafting with no interruptions.

At work we’re at the end of ‘Wind-Down Week,’ the last week before Christmas where the busy-ness of the season starts to slow down. The company spends the week showering us with free food, folks bring in treats to share, and everyone starts taking stock of the previous year and planning for a successful new one.

Nativity

Nativity

Our house is lightly but tastefully decorated for Christmas. One of my favorite decorations is the advent candle holder that Rebecca made from a slice of an old log. I also appreciate Catherine’s attempt to replace a ‘fallen angel’ from our nativity set with a doll from her dollhouse.

I’ve got one more day of work, then we’ll be spending part of Christmas Eve in Townsend with the Quitadamo family. We’ll come back for the Christmas Eve service at Dane Street, and on Christmas morning we’ll have a little Christmas at home, attend the Christmas Morning service at Dane Street, and then head out to Townsend again to spend the rest of Christmas day with Rebecca’s parents.

After Christmas, I’ll be working Tuesday and Wednesday, and Wednesday night we’ll begin our trek out to Ohio to visit my parents, sister and brother-in-law and niece. We’ll be out there for a whole week, and I’m looking forward to the road trip with Rebecca, Catherine and Esme, the visit with my family, and the break from work.

You can see a few more photos of Christmas decorations around our house.

I hope that you have a Merry Christmas, wherever you are!

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Today we’re attending Easter services at our home church, Dane Street Church in Beverly, MA. I’m playing the cello in a performance of Don Francisco’s “He Is Alive!” We’ve rehearsed quite a bit, and I think it is going to sound great, and hopefully send a great message to the many people I expect will be attending today.

After church, we’ll be heading out to Townsend to have Easter dinner with Rebecca’s parents. After that, we’ll be leaving on a road trip to Washington, D.C. My cousin, Kim, is getting married in the area next weekend, and we’re going to spend the preceding week doing some sightseeing. I’m really looking forward to the whole week.

Today also marks the end of my Lenten Challenge, where I had given up Facebook and Twitter for Lent. I succeeded in abstaining from both of those for the duration. However, I’ll be glad to get back on Facebook. While I do think that I’ll be more conscientious about my use, it’s too valuable for staying connected to my family and church life for me to consider giving it up entirely. Rebecca can attest to the number of times she’s had to relay important news and information to me that was only posted on Facebook.

Trick or Treat

Halloween was a bigger event for us in 2010 than previous years. There were weeks of costume anticipation, plenty of decor spotting while in the car and a couple of fun events to look forward to.

Catherine didn’t want to dress in costume last Halloween, but on November 1st she told me, “next Halloween I will wear a butterfly costume.” I nodded but figured she would change her mind by the time October rolled around again. She didn’t. She does make a cute butterfly, don’t you think?

Esme didn’t get a say in her costume choice. Mama wanted to knit a lamb hat, so that was that! I did try to coach her to answer “baa” when we asked her what a lamb said. Instead she kept answering “moo” !

Our Halloween festivities started on Thursday when we decked out Penelope the Subaru for Dane Street Church’s Trunk or Treat. We had a great time with our church friends and all the neighborhood kids that came through. Peter and I won a prize for our costumes (Dorothy and the Scarecrow) and our trunk won “Best Trunk”. Wow! [more photos here]

This might have been Esme’s second and Catherine’s 5th Halloween, but it was their first time trick or treating. Catherine hadn’t shown any interest in going out in past years and I’m so glad we took her lead. It was so heartwarming to watch her learn how to trick or treat and to see the excitement on her face with that first candy bar. She skipped from one house to the next in complete joy. Little sister followed along, happy enough to be carried along. [more Halloween photos here]

Father’s Day Weekend

It’s been a great but exhausting Father’s Day weekend! I have spent a ton of quality time with my family, doing all sorts of things!

Friday, after I got home from work, I went out and got some Thai food for dinner (Siam Delight, of course). After eating dinner, we drove up to Rockport to visit Halibut Point State Park. We had a nice, tiring time hiking around there and seeing the beautiful scenery.

The Girls

The Girls

You can view more photos of our adventure in the Halibut Point gallery.

On Saturday, after heroically rescuing Mama who had suffered a flat tire on her bike ride, Catherine and I went out to Home Depot and picked up some supplies I needed for a few projects around the house. One of the gutters had some spikes that had popped out, and I got a set of gutter screws and ferrules to replace them and create a better hold for the gutter. I also got a strip of metal to make a nice transition between the flooring in our laundry area and the flooring in our new family closet. When I got home, I worked on these projects (both successful) while the girls worked on making some strawberry jam and a strawberry rhubarb pie.

Saturday night, we ate dinner at Qdoba. They had provided a BOGO coupon for Father’s Day weekend, and while we’re much bigger fans of Chipotle, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for one free entree. At home we enjoyed the strawberry rhubarb pie that Rebecca had made. Mmmm… delicious.

Sunday morning, I received some great Father’s Day gifts! I got a Nikon DSLR Mode Dial decal for my MacBook Pro (by Suzie Automatic):

DSLR Decal

DSLR Decal

I also got a new tin of shaving soap (by Ethically Engineered):

Shaving Soap

Shaving Soap

And I got another book in the series of attempts to build up a library of children’s books that refer to fathers as “Papa:” “I Love You, Papa, In All Kinds Of Weather.” I have the sweetest and most thoughtful wife and kids! 🙂

Also in the “Papa” vein, I received a picture frame with “Papa’s Pride and Joy” printed on it, to be filled with a favorite photo of my favorite girls.

On Sunday after church, we drove up to Portsmouth, NH. We had lunch at Dos Amigos Burritos, a favorite of Rebecca’s from when she worked at Strawbery Banke. After lunch, we boarded the M/V Thomas Laighton of the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company for a Father’s Day cruise! The cruise lasted three hours, and took us around Portsmouth Harbor, and then nine miles out to sea to the Isles of Shoals, a group of small islands on the border of Maine and New Hampshire. We hadn’t been out to the Isles of Shoals before, so it was a very cool experience. The boat was somewhat similar to the Island Queen which we occasionally take to Martha’s Vineyard.

Isles of Shoals Lighthouse

Isles of Shoals Lighthouse

Of particular interest to me was Star Island, which is owned by the Star Island Corporation (which, frankly, sounds like something out of LOST or some other science fiction series). The corporation runs a conference center, mainly catering to religious groups such as the UCC and UU churches, but also open to other conferences (in particular, I noticed a digital photography workshop scheduled there later this year… hmm…).

You can see all of the photos from Portsmouth and the Isles of Shoals cruise.

It’s hard to believe, but this is my fifth Father’s Day! This has been the best one so far. I am so fortunate to have two great girls – funny, clever, creative, loving, caring. And to have a wife who is also a great mother and very supportive of my fathering. I’m looking forward to many more Father’s Days, and many more days, weeks, months and years with my family! I love you girls!

Papa, Catherine (and Esme!!)

Papa, Catherine (and Esme!!)

Memorial Day and Catherine’s Birthday

Over Memorial Day weekend, we visited Martha’s Vineyard and celebrated Catherine’s birthday. Rebecca’s parents have a cottage on the Vineyard, and having a celebration of Catherine’s birthday there has become a tradition.

While we were staying on the Vineyard, I did a lot of reading, Rebecca did a lot of bicycling, and Catherine and Esme did a lot of playing. I took the girls to the playground a few times, Rebecca and I went out for lunch at the Plane View Restaurant, we had some delicious home-cooked meals and enjoyed great hospitality thanks to Ken and Dianne.

The highlight of the weekend was Catherine’s birthday party on Sunday afternoon. We had some friends from the campground come over. There were balloon animals, rocket balloons, bubble wands and bubble guns, butterfly cake, and many laughs.

Catherine at her party

I also enjoyed a ‘digital vacation’ of sorts, thanks to inspiration from Leo Babauta of mnmlist.com. I didn’t access the internet at all while I was away, from Saturday morning through Monday evening. It made the weekend much more enjoyable – gave me more time to think, more time to take in my surroundings, and more time to relax and slow down. I’d definitely consider doing it again. I had decided to take this ‘digital vacation’ in advance of our trip, but it didn’t hurt that it just so happened the internet connectivity at the Lowes’ cottage wasn’t working while we were there…

To see all of the photos from our weekend, check out the gallery.

Four Years?

My, how time has flown. As of four years ago, Facebook was only available to college and high school students and Twitter hadn’t yet been opened to the public. We were still living in a basement apartment in downtown Beverly, MA, and we were wondering when we were going to have our baby. And then, Catherine came along. Things haven’t been the same since! Here is a photo montage of her first four years:

Watching her grow up has been the most amazing experience. She went from a little tiny thing who didn’t do much more than lay there to a girl who can ride a tricycle like lightning down the sidewalk. She is constantly dazzling us with her observations about the world, her memory of people, events, and places, her ability to read, her wide range of emotions and facial expressions, and her ability to love her friends and family. If you haven’t met Catherine, you’re really missing out on a treat!

We’re glad to be her parents, and we are looking forward to whatever the future holds for her! Happy fourth birthday, Catherine!

Easter

I’ve been trying to write about Easter Sunday, but I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. They are worth a thousand words, after all!

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.

Birthday Girl

Ok, so she’s not just a girl. She’s a hard-working woman. She’s a great wife and mama and deserves all kinds of congratulations for keeping our home running as smoothly as it is. So please join me in wishing Rebecca a Happy 31st birthday!

Hard-working Birthday Girl

Hard-working Birthday Girl