Friday, November 5, 2010


Yes, what a silly name for a city, but that's where we live, and it's better than our Northern neighbor, Weehawken. I thought ya'll might like a little info about our new city. (By the way, I'm having a very hard time not saying, "ya'll," but I'll have to stop because I'm getting pretty tired of repeating myself. One "ya'll" in a sentence and everyone acts like they didn't understand a thing I just said.)

Hoboken has about 40,000 people stuffed into one square mile, right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. The streets are fairly wide, room enough for four cars across, but most of the streets are one-way. So, there are two lanes of parking on the outsides, one lane of double-parking (which can be on either side and sometimes causes problems), and hopefully one lane is left open for moving cars. The major two-way street in town, Washington, can fit six lanes of cars, so each side has parking, double-parking, and hopefully some moving traffic.

Theoretically, Hoboken is easy to navigate. All streets are in a grid, and the numbered streets (1-14) run East-West. Unfortunately, all the one-ways and buildings that take up 2-3 blocks make it a bit of a maze. So, we've started to opt more and more for walking, but we'll see how long we hold out, since the winter weather will probably make the car increasingly tempting.

The first officially recorded game of baseball in US history was in Hoboken in 1846 between the New York Nine and the Knickerbocker Club. (Guys, seriously? You're just asking to get your pansy knickerbockers knocked off. I don't know who won, though.)

Frank Sinatra is from Hoboken, and every year, there is a sound-a-like competition in Sinatra Park.

Carlo's Bakery of the Cake Boss TV show is in Hoboken, and on the weekends, there's a line 2 blocks long to get into the tiny shop.

In the Northern part of town, I've even seen a warehouse full of giant plaster animals and vegetation, which I assume will either be part of the Macy's Day parade or a giant's lawn decoration collection. --In fact, I just looked up Hoboken in Wikipedia, and yes, Hoboken is home to the Macy's Day Parade Studio! Because why would Manhattan waste space on plaster sculptures bigger than a $800,000 condo? Send those things to New Jersey.--

As late as the 1960s, though, Hoboken was actually a cruddy industrial port with slum-like housing. In the 1970s, NJ built a new port in Newark and an Interstate that connected NJ to NY, bypassing Hoboken and leaving the little town obsolete. It wasn't really until the 1990s that NJ started to reclaim the waterfront, build open park spaces facing the NYC skyline, and encourage commercial real estate. Now, Hoboken is considered a "bedroom community" of Manhattan, since most of its residents sleep here but basically live in Manhattan. You can get to Manhattan by subway (called the PATH train), ferry, or bus in 25-45 minutes.

I will say that Hoboken is growing a bit of its own downtown entertainment, though. It has a cute main street, lined with small shops, Italian restaurants, and a few Starbucks. There are even a couple bars that do live music and such. And there is a brand new movie theater! Five screens, that's right.

I hope you all (ugh, takes too long to type) enjoyed getting to know more about Hoboken.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Moving, Goin' to a Wedding, and Pumpkin Hunting

We've moved to New Jersey! We're 30 minutes from Chad's job in Manhattan but in a less dense urban area, so it's a good compromise. Cora has enjoyed the moving process much more than we have. Boxes, books, clothes, shoes, and all sorts of grown-up things have been scattered across the floor (first the Nashville floor, now the NJ floor) for weeks, giving her a make-shift playground. She's crawling, pulling herself up to standing, gnawing the bindings off books, and grabbing every sharp-looking object she can reach.
Since we'd sold much of our furniture in Nashville, we first made a stop to Ikea up here. Actually, we made several stops to Ikea and ate a delicious meal every time. After probably 15 hours of driving to, shopping at, and eating in Ikea, we built a table, a desk, and a wall of bookshelf/cabinets. Before and after:

We're not quite finished. We'll mount the TV to the wall and put two glass shelves above it to make the height even across. Of course, Cora was quite helpful in the building phase.

 After we'd been at our new place for all of 10 days, we jetted off off to Texas for the wedding! It was awesome to see family and to not have to worry about unpacking and such. Cora was, unfortunately, a little grump right before and during the wedding. I suppose it's my fault, since I've trained her so well to take naps throughout the day, and her screams echoing off the church walls was just her way of saying, "I didn't get my nap today!" Well, she was only loud for about 10 seconds, but to the mom of a screaming baby, it always sounds louder and lasts longer. Really, everyone said she was quite cute and content. And she loves it when you blow in her face!

We went from 80 degree Texas heat to 55 degree New Jersey fall weather with an icy breeze. Nothing makes you want apple cider and pumpkin pie more than gray, chilly air. So, we found a farm further into NJ that lets you pick your own pumpkins, and off we went! We let Cora crawl around in the pumpkin patch to find her own. Well, we actually rolled one to her, and she grabbed on to it with a smile. It sure seemed like that was the one she wanted.
Now we have three pumpkins on our balcony, awaiting the carving knife!

Thursday, September 23, 2010


So, then there was Prague!
Prague was beautiful. I'd heard that before, but I was still surprised. There weren't really any areas of town that didn't have gorgeous 4-6 story gothic or renaissance-style buildings on the sides of the comfortably wide streets. (Well, there was the one sketch dark alley way that Kathy led us down, but we'll overlook that moment.) It was, however, amazing that there were no crazy tiny streets, all were plenty wide enough for pedestrians and traffic! The main square was, of course, pedestrian only.
The first day, we did a city tour with our favorite tour group, Free Europe. They have native English speaking guides that do free tours of major cities throughout Europe every day. It was a good introduction to the city in 4 hours.
The three next days, we tried to plan our own activities. For our time at the city castle and cathedral, we rented one audioguide for the four of us and had Kathy's super informative guidebook photocopies, so we passed along information and Cora between us. We went to the lovely Strahov Monastery on a hill, overlooking the city. It had a library, famous for it's floor-to-ceiling shelves of ancient texts. As a nice surprise, the monastery also has had a brewery since the 1400s, and they still brew an excellent dunkel! So, we just had to partake...
Lest you think all we did on this trip was drink beer, we did take a day trip to the nearby Karlstejn Castle, which was lovely and even authentic enough to have defended itself against two sieges! At this point, we discovered that Cora really did not like tours, since the tour guide lady basically asked me to keep our kid quite or leave. Heh...

--> Baby travel note: Even when Cora was only a little grumpy, she was too loud for most indoor tours. City walking tours we could do just fine with her in her Kelty backpack, but if we wanted any chance of being in a museum, castle, etc, we had to bring the baby bjorn and plan on being able to leave the room if she squirmed too much.

We also spent a day in the Jewish quarter and visited a synagogue given to the Jewish residents by the Andalusians in Spain, so it had beautiful, geometric, hand-painted designs covering the interior. (Sadly, no pictures allowed.) We generally did a fair amount of just wandering the streets, which were really scenic everywhere we went.

The only negatives to Prague were that it was not as cheap as we had hoped, and restaurants stop serving dinner around 10pm. We typically tried to go back to the hostel for a late afternoon nap, but that meant we'd nap from like 5-7, then feed Cora, then try to find a place to eat. By 9 or 9:30, restaurants stopped accepting new customers, so several times we found ourselves begging the waiter to take pity on a poor pregnant lady and get the cook to make us a pizza. It generally worked, but we must have looked pretty desperate. Oh, and these conversations took place in English, since obviously I know zero Czech. Prague was touristy enough that English was prevalent.

So, all-in-all, a fabulous destination, and even after 5 nights there, we felt like we'd just barely seen most of the city. But, it was time to move on to Krakow!
The Charles Bridge and Prague Castle at twilight.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A weekend to myself

That's right. This weekend, Chad and Cora are in Texas, and by some fluke, I was not scheduled to work at Starbucks. I had many plans to spend the full 48 hours scrapbooking, but when I went to look at the desk that was heaped with mail, cords for who knows what sort of electronics, and, yes, scrapbook paper, I realized that I could do nothing creative until I'd cleaned the house.

Lame, yes, husband and baby gone, no work, and I clean the house. Well, first I went for a jaunt on the elliptical machine at the Y - since I never have time for that anymore - then, I felt energized for an afternoon of intense cleaning. A mere four hours of vacuuming, washing, drying, Lysoling, scrubbing, and mopping later, and I sat on my couch, beer in hand, admiring my clean handiwork. Okay, I was ready to scrapbook. Oh, wait, I need a little inspiration first. I pulled out my new copy of "clean & simple scrapbooking" by Cathy Zielske and immediately felt the rays of creative energy seeping from the pages.

One paragraph in particular really stopped me: "It seems there is an underground travel agency that preys on new scrapbookers. They sell them advance tickets to a place called Caught Up. Geographically speaking, I have no idea where Caught Up is, but here's what I've managed to piece together. Most scrapbookers who buy their tickets never actually take the trip. And the few who do manage to board that plane to this imaginary land of milk and Hermafix discover the following: a sterile hotel with rooms of completed albums carefully lined up on numerous shelves - and that's it...It's very quiet there. And from what I hear, insanely boring...So if you've already bough that ticket, return it. Be a person who never stops exploring the process. Finish pages and be proud of what you've created. Don't lose joy to the notion that you should be somewhere called Caught Up, and that lots of other people are there, having the time of there lives. Remember these two words - insanely boring. Or at least that's what I've heard."

I'm not really the type of person who takes advice merely because it's handed to me, but I do think this advice is worthwhile, and likely not only for scrapbookers. Many people are looking for the land of Caught Up. Well, I'm attempting to let go of this fantasy land. I'm going to enjoy a quiet moment of scrapbook inspiration with Miss Cathy Zielske and Shiner Bock, then I'm going out to dinner with friends, and maybe later tonight, I'll spend some time just enjoying the presence of my mountain of beautiful scrapbook paper, not rushed to cut it all up and cover it with paste, but eager to begin another journey with it, a journey of Munich and Prague and Krakow. We'll take it a bit at a time.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


We met our law school friends and former neighbors, Kathy & Adam, in Munchen (aka "Munich"). Since they'd already been there a couple of days, they toured us around the major sights.

Here we all are in front of the Rathaus. As you can see, the baby backpack was fully operational, and little Cora was even protected from the dreary Deutsche drizzle.

-->Baby travel note: In the case that other parents have found this blog with such desperate search terms as "baby Europe backpack how to?!" (which I myself used only a month ago), I'll be posting these baby travel notes. Here you see Cora (7 months, 17 pounds) in the Kelty backpack. We tried on several brands, and this was the only one that fit both of us and Cora. So, before you spend all night reading amazon reviews (like I did), go try them out with your baby to see if there is even more than one option. In here, we stored all of her daily needs: diapers, wipes, bags, several bottles, spare formula in a tupperware container, toys, pacifier wipes, burp cloths, and blankets, as well as Chad's sweatshirt and hat.

Cora very much enjoyed being able to see the sights from her backpack, and she could take short 10-30 minute naps when she was completely exhausted, but she did miss her regular nap times.

That afternoon, uncle Curtis came in from Bonn to meet Cora for the first time! We also introduced Cora to the beautiful combination of beer and pretzels. (Do note that this is a joke. Cora did not drink any beer. She did, however, munch on some pretzel, although it took us a few minutes of Cora's sickened facial expressions to figure out that we should scrape off the giant grains of salt.)

As much as we love Germany, we were off to the Czech Republic. We rented a car (+car seat and GPS) and drove to Prague. I'll opt not to relive the rest of the evening, since it involved attempting to find a castle, getting utterly lost, having no Euros with which to buy dinner, starving ourselves (even pregnant Kathy!) until we finally reached Czech and could stop for a midnight kebab, and finding a place to park the car at 3am in Prague. Upcoming in the next post: the more pleasant experience of Prague.

Packing for Europe with Baby

We've just come back from three weeks in Europe with 7-month-old Cora, and, yes, it was mildly absurd. We'd decided years ago that after Chad finished the bar exam, we'd take a trip to Europe to celebrate. There's nothing absurd about that, it's tradition for most law school grads. After Cora came into the picture, we decided that we weren't going to let a little baby put a halt to our plans, and, besides, she might like traveling Europe. I'll soon post about Munich, Prague, Krakow, Bonn, Berlin, Moscow, Inverness, and Edinburgh, but for now, here's a list of what we packed for Cora:

120 diapers
2 large packages of wipes (88 in each)
150 diaper trash bags
6 bottles (3 large, 3 small)
70 oz of formula (3 large Enfamil bags)
12 onsies
3 pants
1 sweater
12 socks
1 pair of sandals
5 toys
2 books
3 pacifiers
pacifier wipes
Travel bottles of shampoo, bubble bath, lotion, sunscreen
Thermometer, Children's Tylenol, Children's Benadryl
Fingernail clippers
6 blankets
30-40 burp cloths
A pop-up tent, complete with air mattress
An inflatable bathtub
A baby bjorn
A baby-carrying backpack

-->The one item I really wish I'd brought: A hat!

We made it almost the entire 22 days with the allotted formula and diapers, but we had to restock in Inverness to cover the last 2 days. We didn't want to buy supplies in Eastern Europe or Russia, so we figured we'd just attempt to use our own for the whole trip, which I think was good because her system didn't end up reacting well to the UK formula, and it was more expensive there anyway.

Before Cora, Chad and I would travel through Europe with one backpack each. For this trip, we had one backpacking backpack, a baby backpack, two rolling bags, and a small duffel. I suppose that's not too bad, but it certainly felt bulky when we were moving from place to place every couple of days.

More about the actual travel tomorrow!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Cora was born on January 8, 2010 (although not named until January 10, ha). I posted some photos of our new miniature family member on picassa. If any of you have seen my facebook album, these are the same.

Her birth went better than I had even hoped, and our two days in the hospital were actually quite nice. The nurses would bring her to our room every four hours so I could feed her. We'd play with her, listen to music with her, contemplate what to name here, and so on until she went to sleep or pooped. Then, Chad would stroll her on down to the nursery, where she'd get changed and rocked back to sleep until the next feeding. Wonderful. We were convinced we could manage a baby like this, no problem.

Then, they sent us home. The first four hours were an endless loop of us putting her in her crib (or car seat or swing) until she cried. We'd give her a pacifier, pick her up, calm her down, and try again. There's nothing like incessant crying to fray your nerves. Finally, we broke down, called my family to come over, and passed her into their patient arms while we took a nap. The first week pretty much went like that. There was little sleep, a lot of crying, and much gratitude toward family for being there to hold Cora while we took a nap. Chad got used to walking into the nursery to find Cora and I both crying hysterically at each other. Not my proudest moments!

Eventually, we figured out how to feed her, put her to bed, and get some sleep without the help of family. We learned to tune out the crying too, so our frayed nerves are now numb. Five weeks later, and Chad and I are both working at our computers with dinner in the oven and Cora asleep in her swing. (Oops, she spit her pacifier out...Put it back in and return to typing...) At night, we sleep in three-hour chunks, but we're grateful for that. Cora can lift her head pretty well, coordinate her arm movements, hold her weight on her legs, and follow objects with her eyes. Chad's also teaching her to conduct and to dance. We expect those to have slower progress. We read to her from the Wall Street Journal, Tom Clancy, and the Robin Hobb novel I'm currently reading. She also watches 24 or trashy Telemundo shows with Chad late at night. All-in-all, we're doing quite well these days. Look for more pictures and updates soon! (And, yes, I'll still be posting Argentina things, sorry for yet another delay.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Estancia (1st weekend of October)

Family, holidays, and preparing for the baby have occupied most of my time for a bit, but everything's on track now, so onward with the Argentina stories!

The asado lunch described in the October 9th post was at an estancia just outside of Buenos Aires. Estancias are traditionally cattle ranches with large houses that have been passed on from generation to generation in the same family. These days, though, they serve as bed and breakfasts for tourists who want to see the rural side of Argentina. Often, they're still working ranches, but much of their business becomes maintaining guest rooms, serving meals, and offering some sort of "authentic" entertainment (like horse-back riding).

Chad and I went to a family-owned estancia. The hour-long bus ride to the nearest town (Lujan) and the cab ride out to the property were less than thrilling, but they were worth it when we stepped out onto the grounds.
The main house was original construction from the 1800s, with stucco walls and vaulted ceilings inside. There they had the kitchen, the dining room, a bedroom for guests, and a room with a long conference table for guests who needed a meeting space. If you peaked into the green doors at the corner there, you could almost always find the owners, the cook, the cook's toddler daughter, and the four dogs relaxing.

Right across from the main building was a guest building that was added later, but it was still from the late 1800s - early 1900s. It had the same stucco walls, even higher vaulted ceilings, and it was decorated with all sorts of family heirloom nicknacks everywhere.

Antique mate mugs, crucifixes, lace needlepoint, silver bowls, dried flowers, and black and white photos were in every corner, so you almost felt like you were sleeping in some family member's bedroom. They kept a fire going in the fireplace the whole time we were there. Even though it was late spring in Argentina, the big stucco rooms were actually a little cold, so the fireplace was a great place for reading and warming our feet.
But the coolest room in the whole place? The library! The main library room was lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that held antique Spanish classics, and there was a beautiful wooden rolling ladder - that they don't allow guests to play on... The entire library wing held over 40,000 books, most of them extremely valuable editions. The owner said the books were worth more than the rest of the estancia put together.

After the tour of the property, they served us asado (we were the only guests staying that weekend, so we had our own private lunch, as you saw in the October 9th post), and then we wandered the grounds a bit. The craziest thing - you know the calla lilies that we pay like $8-12 a piece for? They grow wild in Argentina! The estancia's sheep grazed on grass and calla lilies. Well, I think they were sheep. They kind of moved like a cross between a sheep and a dog...

Then we rode horses - yes, imagine a 6 month pregnant girl on a horse. Well, you'll have to imagine because we don't have any pictures, but Chad and I did indeed ride horses. It took a little convincing for them to hand the reigns over to me, but we described our experience with horses, that we had both ridden from young ages and such, and they let us out onto the ranch property by ourselves. We rode (mostly walking) through the cattle, and the dogs tagged along with us. The only bad part was that Argentine pastures have shallow ponds of standing water in them, which means they're giant breeding grounds for mosquitos. So, you had us, arms exposed, around dusk, walking our horses through mosquito land. There were definitely times we had to trot just to try to outrun the mosquitos, but in the end, we probably had 4-5 dozen bites each. It's a good thing we didn't get malaria or something. But it was fun. =)

Sadly, it turns out that Chad was massively allergic to something in those fields. By the time we were back in our room, he was pretty much dying, except not from the deliciousness of homemade dulce de leche this time, from blocked sinuses and a thumping headache. I gave him sudafed and allegra, but it was too late, and he was down and out for the rest of the evening. So, I ate dinner in the main house with the kindle. The owners and cook pretty much left me to myself because they didn't speak much English, and I didn't speak much Spanish. Then, the kindle and I spent a few hours by the fire and went to bed.

We left mid-morning the next day, so we had a little time to eat breakfast (tea, coffee, little toasts, and homemade jelly) and walk through the woods behind the house before heading back into town.