Anna’s Colonial Day

This week at school, Anna’s class had their annual Colonial Trade Fair, when the kids dress in colonial garb and take on jobs they would have done in the old days. With a resident seamstress in the house, it’s only natural that Anna would have gravitated toward sewing and finery. Here she is with a classmate at the Milliner’s place of business:

Anna Colonial Trade Fair

How cute is that?

Anna made Chinese fans out of fabric and strips of wood to sell at the fair. That girl is wonderfully talented when it comes to crafts. I think she comes by that honestly, and it’s surely not from me!

Happy new year! 新年快乐!

The other night my folks hosted a Lunar New Year party at their house, inviting many folks from Dad’s office who have been involved in an exchange program for Chinese law students coming to the US for internships. Dad and I got to wear some traditional Chinese clothes and party hearty:

Lunar New Year John and Mike

Everybody had a ball, especially my Dad. He was very much in his element – 在他的世界里舒适的一个人!

In a New York Minute

I’ve been traveling to New York City pretty often for work over the last year or so. It’s been fun getting to know the city much better than I have before – I can get around pretty well in Manhattan, especially Midtown and around Greenwich Village. I’ve had some iconic experiences along the way, like attending an evening party on a rooftop overlooking the city, and riding the Staten Island Ferry, which I chronicled here last autumn.

Today I thought I’d share a couple of views from the place where I find myself most often when in New York – it’s the offices of my employer, in Midtown Manhattan near Bryant Park. The view is spectacular, and no one who visits the office can resist the urge to snap a few photos.

The view is impressive enough during the day, even under clouds:

NYC Daytime 2013-02-05

When you come around to sunset, though, it’s really special:

NYC Sunset 2013-02-05

And when those buildings light themselves up against the night sky, it’s downright magical:

NYC Night Skyline 2013-02-05

What a treat!

Florida: Last Looks


It was a grand trip, another for the ages. Here are a few last wistful looks, and then we’ll be back to our winter routine (but now mostly through February – hah!) next week.





Happy weekend, y’all!

Florida: Snorkeling Trip


This is the first and last picture we have from our snorkeling trip in the Keys, and I’ll tell you right now – it went downhill from here, and this was only about five minutes in. I got terribly seasick, and both Anna and Chelsea got stung by a Portuguese Man O’ War. (The stings were mild and both of them recovered quickly; Chelsea even got back in the water a little bit later.)

However: We all agreed that snorkeling in general is really cool, and we’d like to do it again. On this particular day, we had gone out to the Looe Key Reef, which is about a 45-minute boat ride offshore. The Florida Keys are essentially the above-water portion of a vast and wonderful coral reef that sits on the boundary between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The marine life we could see was amazing.

The seas were much rougher than we had expected, which didn’t help. All of us were rookies when it came to snorkeling, and it turned out everybody else on the boat was more experienced. Not a big deal – everybody was very kind and helpful – but it was an important clue that we had gone for the intermediate-level experience when we really needed something a little more basic to start. Snorkeling is obviously something that goes against your basic life instinct. You are sticking your face into the water and taking a deep breath. It probably stops being weird after a while, but definitely not on your first day.

I mention all of this because it’s important to say that not everything on a vacation is peaches and sunshine. We have our rough moments, and sometimes things don’t work out like we had hoped. I would like to believe that we learn something useful from those experiences, and even more important, we will try again when the time is right.

We have a long list of things we want to try, and places we want to see. Some of those things and places, frankly, will be duds. Doesn’t mean we won’t give ’em a shot!

We have also learned that a big trip will present some big challenges – especially in the early going. It’s almost like the trip itself is asking us, how badly do you want this? When we set out for the Badlands and Yellowstone in 2011, the ‘check engine’ light came on the first day of driving, a crucial part of our towing equipment failed the second day, we got pummeled by a freak hailstorm on the fourth day, and on the fifth day, Maria got violently sick to her stomach. While driving 500 miles (800 km) to Wyoming.

So maybe it won’t surprise you if I mention that on this trip, I failed to hook up the trailer properly when we started out, and the trailer came free of its hitch before we had even traveled ten minutes from home. I mean, off the hitch, tongue scraping on the ground, only the emergency chains holding it to the van. Smashed up the third wheel that sits on the tongue. I was rattled, for sure. But we got out of the van, heaved the trailer back into its proper position, and kept driving.

The trailer made it through another 3,000 miles (5,000 km) of trouble-free driving after that. We did okay.

There’s some kind of life lesson in there. Hmm.

Tomorrow: A few last looks at Florida.

Florida: Kayaking in the Mangroves

On our last full day in the Keys, Chelsea, Ginger, and Ginger’s younger daughter went out for a kayaking expedition on the far side of Big Pine Key, traveling over open water and through a stand of mangroves. I was not there myself – I was on kid duty back at the campsite – but my camera went along for the ride:




They tell me they had a good time, and from the pictures, I have every reason to believe them.

Florida: Sombrero Beach

(I’ll admit I am lingering over these pictures from the Keys… however, since it’s been blustery and snowy here in Philadelphia this winter, I hope you will understand.)

I think I mentioned in the playground post that we spent one of our last days on the Keys at Sombrero Beach in Marathon. It was absurdly picturesque there, and we had beautiful weather that day. As we often do, we took advantage of the ‘golden hour’ to snap some portraits of everybody:




I am not actually shorter than Nick yet, but it’s coming soon, and I am quite happy with the idea:


I like taking close-ups of the kids, especially when they are rocking the freckles like this:


My family has spots! Lots and lots of spots.

Waiting for Maria

Anna and I took a fancy picture of ourselves, waiting for Maria at ballet rehearsal:

Mike and Anna waiting for Maria

With the arrival of springtime, we will move into the busy season for ballet. So the dancers are getting ready! And the parents are spending long hours waiting in the hallway of the studio.

Florida: On the Playground

One of our last days in the Keys was spent whiling away several hours at the beach on Marathon, about 20 miles (32 km) north of our home base on Big Pine Key. Anna and I spent some quality time on one of the great playgrounds that always seem to be available on the edge of Florida beaches. Well done, Florida.


Anna got me good and dizzy on the combination merry-go-round/jungle gym, which was fantastic:


Of course, she was much better at climbing it than I was:


Happy Presidents Days weekend to you and yours!