Archive | May, 2011

A Quickie in Portsmouth, NH

30 May Portsmouth, NH

After the final whistle at Will’s soccer game, we kissed the kids, checked our watches, and all but ran to the car.

Portsmouth, NHWe were on our way to Portsmouth, NH, for a quick anniversary get-away. We had 24 hours. Our anniversary lands in early fall, the high season for sports in our house; football and soccer were in full swing. But with lots of finagling, and help from Scott’s parents, we managed to squeeze in a short get-away to celebrate.

Stay: The Sise Inn

This gorgeous Victorian is the perfect alternative to a bed and breakfast. Our large corner room reminded me of my grandmother’s house–in a good way. The furniture was antique, the bedspread was white and nubby, the lamps were brass, and everything was clean, clean, clean. The Sise Inn has 34 rooms hidden away in its interesting maze of hallways and stairwells. Just blocks away from bustling Congress Street, we felt secluded but not isolated. A lovely spot. After we checked in and dropped our bag, we went into town.

Visit: Strawberry Banke Museum

This living history museum, a la Plimouth Plantation, is dotted with historic homes and pretty gardens. By the time we stumbled upon the museum, it was closing time, so we explored the outer gardens. It is a very romantic spot (though I know the kids would dig it, too). We  walked away holding hands, ready for a drink.

The Green Monkey

Enjoying a martini at The Green Monkey in Portsmouth, NH.

Drink: The Green Monkey

Scott and I are the best of drinking buddies. So naturally, we bar hopped around town before and after dinner. Of all the places we stopped, this was our favorite spot. I’d never had an honest to goodness martini (I figure the frou-frou appletinis don’t count), so I decided to give it a try. It arrived dirty, lots of olives, with a small monkey hanging off the side. Yum.

Shop: Marco Polo

Let me just say, post-martini shopping is the best. And there are so many fun shops all over Portsmouth’s Market and Congress streets. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but Scott and I had the best time in Marco Polo. Silly novelties of the Fred Flare variety (think bacon band-aids and Life is Crap mugs) kept us laughing–and buying. Another favorite, for girly goods: Serendipity.

Dinner: The Black Trumpet

When we finally made our way to dinner, we were starving. The Black Trumpet was ready for us with delicious food and an atmosphere to match. The two-levelled restaurant is tucked away in small alley by the water. The dark wood and exposed brick interior made us feel cozy on one of the first chilly nights of fall. We were lucky to get a window looking out at the tug boats (request one if you visit). It was the perfect spot for an anniversary dinner for two sometimes-foodies.

Breakfast: The Friendly Toast

After a night of the three Ds (dinner, dancing, and debauchery) we needed a good breakfast. We slid into a 1950’s era kitchenette at The Friendly Toast, and ordered off a menu filled with homemade breads, specialty teas, and a wide selection of omelets and breakfast burritos. This kitschy breakfast spot came highly recommended, and we loved the circus-esque memorabilia and old-time advertisements that filled the place. Bellies and hearts full, it was the perfect finish to a happy 24 hours in Portsmouth.


The Accidental Bird Watcher

25 May

It’s amazing the things that we become interested in because of our kids. I know the Pokemon theme song by heart and even have a favorite character (Caterpie). I’ve bought Webkins, Crocs, and Sillybandz–for myself. We have the entire Star Wars epic on dvd and have worn out two of the discs.

Though I may have been a Star Wars fan well before my boys became obsessed with Darth Maul and General Grevous, the point is that many of their passions have become my passions. When your children fall in love with something–a sports team, a computer game, a book series–it’s hard not to fall in love right along with them.

One of the interests that I have picked up from my oldest son, Samuel, is a love of birds.

It’s possible that Sam’s affection for birds started when a parrot bit his brother in a pet store. Maybe Sam thought he and the bird kingdom had a common annoyance.

No matter how it began, Sam’s enthusiasm for bird spotting became infectious. Soon we had a membership to the Audubon Society and bought a Sibley Field Guide. We outfitted the backyard with all types of feeders and a bird bath. My husband and I would delight in every new bird Sam helped us to identify.

A chance encounter with a Stellar's Jay along the Pacific Coast Highway.

And then came California.

Minutes after our arrival in San Diego, I knew our family vacation would be for the birds. Hummingbirds were everywhere. Sam was enthralled, and so was I. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t attract these tiny quick-winged creatures to our home back in Rhode Island. But in California, they were zipping overhead en mass.

At the San Diego Zoo, we saw birds of amazing variety in a collection of exhibits that, admittedly, I would have skipped over in the past. A not-to-miss birds of prey section featured the once nearly extinct California Condor and a Harpy Eagle with a massive 7-foot wing span that she kindly displayed for us.

Our trip took us up the coast along US 101 where we saw more exciting bird species. At the Andree Clark Bird refuge in Santa Barbara, we saw huge pelicans swooping down into the water, all types of egrets, wood ducks, and more hummingbirds. A stop at the Point Lobos State Reserve afforded me the chance to get a great picture of a silly looking Stellar’s Jay. We ended our trip in San Francisco, where out in a row-boat at Golden Gate Park, we attracted the attention of coots and cormorants with a bag of popcorn.

Our trip was a few years ago now. Like YuGiOh cards and Jibbitz, Sam’s affection for bird watching has waned. I have to nag him to fill the backyard feeders, and our Audubon membership lapsed.

But birds are part of our family story now; they are a big slice of the collective memories we share about an unforgettable trip to California.

For that, I am eternally grateful to a little boy who taught me to look at the skies in a new way. Now if I could only feel the same way about his soda can collection.