Monday, January 30, 2017

Rate Your Restaurants: Round 2 (6-10)

Between June 2016 and June 2017 the four Ferri plan to dine at each of Spoons University's "45 Places to Eat in College Station Before You Die". Which meal we eat will depend on each restaurant's specialties, meaning we won't visit a steakhouse for breakfast or a donut shop for dinner. We (Tom, Will, and I) have committed to choosing menu items on which the restaurant earned its reputation, meaning we won't order a hamburger at a seafood restaurant or chicken fingers at an Italian restaurant. 

We plan to individually rate each of the restaurants on food, service, and atmosphere. We have no experience as food or restaurant critics, but we'll do our best and hopefully give BCS readers a little insight into where they can get great food but also enjoy a meal with the family in tow.

If you missed the "Meet the Reviewers" post, check it out here before reading the reviews below - they'll make a lot more sense with a bit of background information!

A quick update:

As soon as school started last fall it became apparent we wouldn't make it to all 45 restaurants as a foursome. We don't eat out often enough, and as creatures of habit, we have a few favorite restaurants from which we "have" to order food at least once every three weeks. Additionally, a few of the restaurants on the list cost too much for us to justify purchasing food for Picky McPickerson. As a result, the primary scores below are the average of the scores given by those who dined on that day, which wasn't necessarily all four Ferri. When the only diner was me (I decided not to ask everyone who eats out with me to rate their experience), the average is the same as my score.

And now, on to our second group of five restaurants!

6. Cafe Capri
"Holy Cannoli! If you’re on the quest to find a good cannoli in the BCS area, all arrows point to Caffe Capri. This cute little Italian restaurant also has the classics you crave, such as lasagna and chicken parmesan, to new favorites like their Cajun tortellini."

Food: 6 (Erin 6, Tom 6)
Service: 6 (Erin 5, Tom 6)
Atmosphere: 5 (Erin 5, Tom 5)

Cafe Capri was my biggest disappointment thus far. Tom and I visited the restaurant for a friend's birthday, and knowing we had a large group, we called ahead of time. Cafe Capri doesn't take reservations, so we simply shared with the hostess our anticipated arrival time and group size. When friends started arriving, despite the fact that a large table in the center of the restaurant sat vacant and unreserved, the wait staff refused to seat us until our entire party (16 or so people) had arrived. As we stood in the front entry, waiting for a couple of stragglers (the POURING rain and difficulty finding parking delayed a few people), the hostess asked - no, told - us repeatedly to get out of her way, but we had no where to go since she wouldn't let us sit down...

While my food tasted fine, it didn't live up to my expectations given this specialty restaurant's popularity. And with regard to the atmosphere, the noise level - created from just normal restaurant conversation and dining - reached a volume so high I could barely converse with the person sitting right next to me. I can honestly say that I won't return unless for a special event like a birthday or work party.

7. Shish Kabob
"This quaint little family run restaurant is serving up some bomb Eastern Mediterranean food. Kabobs, falafel, and the most luxurious hummus, there is seriously nothing bad on their menu."

Food: 7.75 (Erin 8, Tom 6, Will 9, Hallie 8)
Service: 5.75 (Erin 6, Tom 6, Will 6, Hallie 5)
Atmosphere: 6.75 (Erin 6, Tom 5, Will 8, Hallie 8)

Shish Kabob surprised me. I had low expectations when we arrived, and while I found the service and the atmosphere underwhelming (I would describe the counter staff as unfriendly and the atmosphere as drab), the large portions of simple but tasty hummus, falafel, chicken, and beef went over well with three of the four of us. Tom pointed out that while he's glad a Mediterranean restaurant has taken hold in College Station, the flavor of its food pales in comparison to what he enjoyed at the Mediterranean restaurants in our last "hometown". He appreciates spice - and lots of it - in everything he consumes, and Shish Kabob's food might be considered bland my some...which is probably why it went over so well with both Will and Hallie.

Also worth noting, Will and Hallie's gave Shish Kabob high atmosphere scores because there's a fountain inside and I gave them each a penny to make a wish.

8. Messina Hof
"Forget traveling to Napa, our own little wine country is right here at Messina Hof! Treat yourself to brunch or dinner at their Village House restaurant, or snack on a cheese board while drinking a glass of your favorite wine (or bottle, we won’t judge)."

Food: 8 (Erin 8)
Service: 8 (Erin 8)
Atmosphere: 9 (Erin 9)

Having wined and dined at Messina Hof a handful of times, I feel confident in my rankings as a true assessment - rather than a one-time shot in the dark - of the venue's food, service, and atmosphere. The appetizers and main dishes have all pleased my palate, the service has always impressed me, and the atmosphere, from the private tasting room to the bar to the dining room, feels consistently warm and inviting. And it certainly doesn't hurt when Paul Bonarrigo stops by your table to say hello.

9. The Village Cafe
"This hip cafe offers locally sourced cuisine right from the area. They offer healthy and fun breakfast options as well as tons of unique sandwiches. Enjoy the local art that they promote on the walls as well as the live music on the weekends."

Food: 7 (Erin 7)
Service: 7 (Erin 7)
Atmosphere: 7 (Erin 7)

After many recommendations, I visited The Village for brunch with a couple of friends. We arrived too early in the day to order a pitcher of their famous mimosas (at least at first - we purposely hung around long enough to try them) so I started off on a disappointed note. My food - a slice of quiche, roasted potatoes, and a cinnamon roll - tasted as they should, but didn't knock my socks off as I'd hoped they might. The strawberry mimosas, however, made the entire brunch worth it and almost made up for the employee sweeping right next to our table as we ate.

10. Harvey Washbangers
"This is college- you have an overflowing pile of dirty laundry and no food in your refrigerator. Don’t panic, get it all done at Harvey Washbangers. Part launderette, part damn good food and craft beer. Try their porkaholic cheese fries- pulled pork, cheese, jalapenos, BBQ sauce, and bacon. Yum!"

Food: 8 (Erin 8)
Service: 7 (Erin 7)
Atmosphere: 7 (Erin 7)

Though my crowd may have had 10-15 years on the majority of Harvey Washbangers' college student drinkers, diners, and laundry washers, we enjoyed our drinks and LOVED Harvey's porkaholic cheese fries and chips and queso. I may not visit this establishment for its laundry services, but would return for another round of appetizers and to try some of the delicious sounding burgers!

There you have it - 10 restaurants down, 35 left to go!  

Friday, January 27, 2017

High Five for Friday (1.27.17)

1. Last Thursday I attended an informational meeting about and went on a tour of the classrooms associated with our high schools' Career and Technology Education Departments. I generally feel pretty good about the school district our children attend, but holy cow, folks - the opportunities and facilities available to our kids with regard to middle and high school electives blew my mind. I feel so grateful that our teachers and administrators devote such tremendous time, energy, and money to making sure our students graduate not just with a grasp on reading, writing, and arithmetic, but with the skills needed to succeed in a career or in higher education.

2. Speaking of school, last Thursday night I attended the meeting for (HOW DID WE GET HERE?!) parents of students graduating from elementary and moving on to intermediate school. The meeting went more smoothly and there were fewer decisions to make with regard to electives than I expected, so my mom friends and I shared high fives on the way out...and glasses of wine shortly thereafter.

3. On Saturday night I visited my favorite painting studio for a friend's birthday celebration. For the first time we painted on wood rather than canvas, and the finished product is my favorite painting creation thus far!

4. Speaking of painting (stay with me - I'll get there), about a month ago we misplaced our favorite green umbrella. Hallie and I looked EVERYWHERE - house, yard, cars, school, soccer fields, dance studios, library - but had no luck. Then on Saturday night I walked into the painting studio and...TA DA...there it stood, all by its lonesome in the corner near the purse storage shelf. Turns out Hallie took it with her to a friend's painting birthday party midway through December and left it there. I was ridiculously happy to have this accessory back at home...just in time for weeks on end of sunny days.

5. I babysat this sweet little boy - who I have had the privilege of knowing since his birth - last Monday. He wouldn't nap in his crib, so I settled down with him on the couch and he fell fast asleep for more than an hour. When his mom returned home he woke up, climbed down, and snuggled with her for a couple of minutes, but then he returned to my lap for another round of hugs. What a great way to kick off a week!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Crazy Cat Lady

Perhaps you've heard this story before:

Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

I have always loved this story and the message it conveys, which is why my sister sent me a card on which a new version had been written.

"...and where there is only one set of footprints?"

The Lord replied, " That's when you were talking about your cat."

Best laugh I've had in ages.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Rise Up

On Friday afternoon, as I scrolled through my Facebook feed looking for a specific article I wanted to reference for a future post, a video passed quickly from the bottom of my screen to the top. Nearly a full minute later, something made me reverse direction until the video came into focus on my screen.

I rarely watch videos on Facebook. I read the titles and occasionally add my own "like" or "wow" (dangerous, I know, given my lack of knowledge about the videos' content), but then I move on. I can't say for certain why I decided on this one - it wasn't the title, that I know for certain. Perhaps it was the fact that I had had an "Alexander"* kind of day and thought the video might lift my spirits. Perhaps it was that the speaker looked around Will's age, or that behind the young man sat an interesting collection of adults (an elderly black woman dressed in her Sunday best, a younger black woman in a suit, a middle-aged white priest, and Bernie Sanders). Whatever the case, I clicked, I watched, and two minutes later I began crying slow, dolloping tears onto my computer keyboard.

My tears rose from a complicated place. A place where churning uncertainty, anxiety, and sorrow clashed with overwhelming hope for our country's future, and from which this cacophony of emotion erupted. As I sat back and let myself work through this cacophony of emotion, I came to one conclusion: though the responsibility should not fall on their shoulders, I have faith in our children's ability - guided by young people such as the speaker in this video - to make this world a better place.

But...I have to do my part as well. I must carry the torch as far as possible, so that when their turn comes, my children will know I made every effort to make less daunting and treacherous their journey carrying that same torch.

So today, instead of what I had originally planned and as a follow up to last Monday's MLK Jr. Day post, I am sharing a link to this video. (Feel free to start at 1:30 in if you find yourself pressed for time, but then make sure you watch all the way until the end.) This act is a small one, but is hopefully a step in the right direction.

*Remember Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? I channeled young Alexander last Friday.

Friday, January 20, 2017

High Five for Friday (1.20.17)

1. Last Thursday (too late to be included in last week's High Five for Friday post), Will participated in the Texas University Interscholastic League's Chess Puzzles competition. This competition, which marked the end of nearly four months of training, pitted (in a friendly, encouraging way) the top three fourth grade qualifiers from each of the district's nine elementary schools against each other to determine the who would wear the Chess Puzzles crown.

Will took this competition incredibly seriously, training diligently with his two teammates and their coach. And on Thursday evening, these three hard-working kiddos learned that their hard work had paid off: they earned the third, second, AND first place ribbons. And my boy...he won. I wish I had captured in a photo the look on Will's face when they announced his name, but I am also thrilled to have seen his shock turn to jubilation in "real life" and not through the lens of my phone's camera. I will never forget his face in that moment.

Will's victory made the evening an incredible one for all of us, but the icing on the cake was watching our elementary school's kids support one another. They cheered, high-fived, hugged, and offered encouraging words to each other, even when the results weren't what they had hoped for. I wore my Rock Prairie 'Wrangler "badge" proudly that evening.

2. On Saturday we finished our back patio makeover by building/making a hanging station for our towels. No, it wasn't rocket science, but it did involve a trip to Lowe's, sanding, staining, attaching hooks, and drilling into brick and mortar, which was something we'd never done before. I am beyond excited to finally have a place - other than the patio furniture - on which Tom and the kids can hang their swimsuits and towels. I guess it looks like the hot tub is here to stay...

3. Also on Saturday afternoon, Hallie crushed her first "job" as a hat model. I doubt she has a future in modeling (fine by me), but she sure enjoyed sporting this awesome ponytail/messy bun hat by The Stitch & Hook. Check them out here!

4. I hesitate to publicly celebrate this, given the state in which we live and our friends' fandom, but last Sunday my Green Bay Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys (in what was the most intense and exciting NFL game I've seen all season) to move on to the NFC Championship Game! Next up, the Atlanta Falcons!
Tom grilled chicken wings, Tom and the kids took a dip in the hot tub, and
we all cozied up on the back patio to enjoy the cooler temperatures and stay
shielded from the light rain. Yes, we could have gone inside and watched the
game in our climate controlled living or family room and on a bigger TV
screen, but there was something special about our outdoor viewing area.  
Note: We regularly root for the Cowboys and the Texans, but when either team plays the Pack, all bets are off. 

5. A couple of months ago I caved and added a pic collage app to my phone. (I try to only download apps I want or need to use daily or, at a minimum, a few times a week. Pic collage, at least at first, hardly fit that description.) I started putting it to good use this week, and I feel a new flashback series coming on...

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The American (Girl) Dream

In keeping with this week's dream theme...

My sister and I grew up playing with American Girl dolls. Their creator - Pleasant Rowland - lived just outside of Madison, so the dolls debuted in our neck of the woods before they made their way across the rest of the United States. We had first edition Kirsten and Molly dolls, both of which have been discontinued, and back then we shopped for their furniture and accessories through a catalog and/or at the annual American Girl sale in the company's warehouse.

Though Rowland eventually sold her Pleasant Company to Mattel, the brand has continued to grow and is even more popular today than when my sister and I first fell in love with our dolls. When Hallie and Lily began asking for dolls of their own two years ago, Sara and I decided to simply (but secretly) gift them our dolls. This worked out well for two reasons: first, my doll looks a lot like Hallie and Sara's doll looks a lot like Lily, and second, anyone who has ever browsed the catalog or visited the website knows the dolls are PRICEY. Our girls are none the least until they someday read the Chasing Roots archives.

More than five years ago I wrote a blog post about my plans to one day, perhaps at the ages of seven and five, take Hallie and Lily on a dream shopping trip to the flagship American Girl Place in Chicago. (Sara and I had - shockingly, given Madison's proximity to Chicago - never visited the store, primarily because it opened after we had begun to outgrow our dolls.) We wanted to experience the magic through Hallie and Lily's eyes, so over Christmas vacation we finally made it happen.

We had a bit of a rough start to our road trip and Lily threw up (poor girl "inherited" my motion sickness) as we drove around downtown Chicago in search of a parking spot, but once we stepped out into the bright morning sunlight and felt the brisk lakeside air on our cheeks, our day improved tremendously.

While we chose the best time of year to visit American Girl Place in terms of sales, we chose the worst time of year to visit American Girl Place in terms of crowds. Every little girl in a five state radius had chosen that morning - midway through winter break and just a few days after the holidays for which they had received an American Girl doll - to converge on Michigan Avenue.

Thankfully we already had lunch reservations, and because we arrived just as the store opened, and were were able to make hair appointments for the dolls in under 10 minutes. We spent the first hour browsing the store, oohing and aahing at the adorable outfits and accessories and trying out all of the interactive displays. We then took a break from the chaos to have lunch in the on-site restaurant. Every part of the dining experience - a beautifully and whimsically decorated space, delightful accommodations for little girls and their dolls, bubbly waiters and waitresses, and perfectly chosen and prepared food - exceeded my expectations. We received a plate of miniature cinnamon rolls immediately upon seating, and within two minutes a server arrived to take drink orders and drop off an appetizer platter of veggies, dip, hummus, bruschetta, and miniature pigs in blankets. After our entrees, the American Girl restaurant guaranteed our positive review by bringing out miniature candy cane sugar cookies and chocolate mousse served in miniature flower pots. Did you catch the miniature theme? Almost everything was little and adorable and made us say, "oh my goodness - that's so cute!"

The dolls'  hair and ear piercing appointments went smoothly - "they didn't cry at all!", reported our stylist when she brought the dolls back after getting their ears pierced - and then we made our final decisions. Thanks to Grandma Brenda, Hallie and Lily each brought home two accessory sets as well as ice skating and ballet outfits for their dolls. Both girls walked out of the store with wings on their feet and smiles on their faces.

I have no plans to visit American Girl Place - in Chicago or anywhere else - in the near future, as I think shopping at stores like these should be reserved for special occasions. But should Hallie and Lily love their dolls as much two years from now as they do now, I anticipate another road trip to Michigan Avenue for the girls...and another walk down memory lane for their moms.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Still Dreaming

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

I write about this National Holiday each January, and in preparation for doing so, I reread my previous years' MLK Jr. Day posts. I then take bits and pieces of what I have written in the past - the words and stories that still resonate - and create around them a new post, one that aligns with what I have read about, witnessed, and experienced over the course of the previous year. Of the words below, some are old, some are new, and all were written with the singular goal of making progress toward peace and equality.

Recognized as one of America's greatest leaders, King believed that all people - regardless of the color of their skin - should be awarded equal rights and access under our nation's laws. All human beings, simply because they live and breath, should have the right to work and earn an honest living for themselves and their families, the right to vote, the right to a quality education, and the right to use all public places.

I too believe that all people - regardless of the color of their skin - should be awarded equal rights and access under our nation's laws.

I believe that all people should be evaluated by their words and actions, and that they in turn should use words and actions to form opinions of others.

And I believe that our differences - from the color of our skin to our religion to our sexuality - are actually what unify us as a people. For while we are all different, it it our differences that make us essentially the same: we are all unique individuals, worthy and deserving of respect and kindness from our fellow human beings. Our differences should be celebrated instead of ignored, or worse, used to justify discrimination.

My personal beliefs and the words I use to describe them aren't perfect, or complete, but they adequately express what I desperately want our world to look and feel like and what I want my children to understand about Dr. King's contributions to mankind.

In 1963, while speaking to 250,000 Civil Rights supporters on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. made history.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. 

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

I wish I could end this post on a positive note, but I just can't. The events of last two years have highlighted for me just how great the distance we have yet to travel on our quest to reach Dr. King's goals of empowerment, equality, and peace. Why, almost 54 years later, is this still a dream?

Friday, January 13, 2017

High Five for Friday (1.13.17)

1. On Tuesday Tom and I celebrated 13 years of marriage, 15 years as a couple, and 17.5 years of friendship with a day date: lunch at Salata and a bit of shopping at Hobby Lobby, Tom's new favorite store. We went on a formal date - to dinner at Paolo's and to see Passengers in the theater - last Friday night, and while we had a delightful evening, I had just as much fun grabbing a salad and shopping for paintbrushes, bandana napkins, and eucalyptus sprigs with Tom. I suppose that's what we all want in a life partner...someone who makes salad feel like a date, and with whom you can hold hands as you laugh your way through the Texas decor aisle at Hobby Lobby.

2. Last weekend, on what was the and will probably retain the title of coldest day of the year, we decided to revamp our back porch. Tom has started using the patio table as his light suit work station, and his supplies and tools - along with the hot tub equipment, toys, and towels - had begun taking over our outdoor space. One trip to Home Depot, a few hours in the cold assembling a gigantic "toy box", and a massive clean-out later, we had our porch back, complete with an outdoor football viewing area!

We have a little more work to do on the opposite side, but the space looks vastly improved!

3. On a related note, Tom gave me a leaf blower for Christmas. Yes, I wanted one, as I knew it would allow me to more quickly clean up/corral the thousands of leaves, buds, and clusters of pollen that accumulate daily on our back patio. Turns out Hallie wanted a leaf blower too...

My leaf blowing days were over about 40 minutes after they started.

4. My Packers survived their first playoff game! (Unfortunately wide receiver Jordy Nelson - one of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets - didn't fare as well...he's out for the season with a broken rib, collapsed lung, and lacerated spleen.) Bring it on, Dallas Cowboys!

5. Happiness Highlights:
Every morning this little buddy waits for me in front of the
fireplace. He's heartbroken when I won't turn it on - Mother
Nature has forgotten that it's winter - but when he realizes
he won't get a fire, he snuggles with me instead.
I love that we fill - overflowing to the point that Will
and Hallie have to jump around in it to compress the
contents - our recycling bin rather than our trash can. 
The kids are getting back in shape - Will for soccer and
Hallie for...chasing her brother - with daily jogs around the
block. I love it when she takes the lead, especially when she
does it wearing a sparking, sequined fancy dress and tights.
Hallie made Tom this "keyter" shirt. It's
probably our favorite art project of hers EVER.
Apparently I like to "coke" for fun. Yikes.
This boy...I am so proud of his confidence.
Will got a new, high quality chess board for Christmas and it
now lives on our coffee table. We can play chess ALLLLL the time.
"Family birthday" (anniversary) coconut cupcakes!
Last but not least, over the weekend we found Will's doppleganger.

Happy Friday, Chasing Roots!

Linking up with High Five for Friday here:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Adulting 101

Back in December I came across this article. In a nutshell, The Adulting School in Maine holds live and online classes to teach millennials the basic skills - think budgeting, paying bills, meal planning, sewing, and simple "making" and "fixing" - needed to survive and thrive as adults. The founders of The Adulting School reference changes in school curriculum, family dynamics, and the pace of society as contributors factors to the need for this special kind of education, and to be honest, I get it. Sadly, I regularly hear from Tom (a college professor) about, read stories about, and witness for myself circumstances in which young adults don't actually know how to behave and/or take care of themselves like adults. I certainly didn't have it all together when I moved away from home for college - or even when I started my first job after graduation - but thanks to my mom's hard work, I knew how to do my own laundry, cook a meal, and put together an Ikea shelf.*

This past year I started making my New Year's Resolutions in August/September rather than January, so what I've outlined below is less of a resolution and more of a development plan for me, my kids, and their evolving roles within our family.

Throughout 2017 I will intentionally begin to prepare my children (10 and seven-and-a-half years old) - for adulthood. They're already on the right track, as I require them to regularly clean and vacuum their rooms, unload the dishwasher, and take out the trash and recycling. Additionally, Hallie knows how to bake and both kids can (kind of) use a hammer and a screwdriver, set a basic table, make simple meals (sandwiches, hotdogs, cereal, oatmeal, toast, fruits/veggies that don't require cutting), and write thank you notes. But they have a long way to go...

Here's what I hope to teach them in 2017.

In the Kitchen
  • Cut an apple
  • Scramble an egg
  • Cook pasta
  • Make tacos

Around the House
  • Wet and dry dust furniture
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Sort laundry
  • Wash dishes
  • Set a holiday table

  • Sew on a button
  • Mend a small hole
  • Change a flat tire**
  • Jumpstart a car**

  • Open a bank account
  • Create a budget/plan for a purchase
  • Make a financial donation
  • Calculate a tip

Brush Up On
  • Writing thank you notes
  • Hammering nails
  • Screwing in screws
  • Shaking hands
  • Table manners
  • Making small talk

Anything else you would add?

Based on my past experiences with bucket lists and plans of the sort, I doubt we'll make it through all of the bullet points above. We might make it halfway though, which I would consider a success. (And  then the tasks we don't accomplish can serve as the foundation for our 2018 Adulting List.) Midway through the year I'll report back on what we've/they've learned, and perhaps by next December they can invite you over for a dinner they've made, served at a table they've set, in a house they've cleaned!

* Lots of college students and young adults DO have it together, and I tip my hat to these men and women...and their parents!

** I plan to sit in when Tom teaches these lessons to the kids. I have witnessed both before and could get the job done if absolutely necessary, but I would like to feel more confident and therefore need to practice alongside Will and Hallie.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Meanwhile, Up in Snowy Wisconsin...

Every December since moving to Texas six years ago (?!?!) we have traveled north for Christmas. We make the journey to visit and spend the holidays with our families and friends, but I admit that the opportunity to experience a true winter brings out the kid in me...and in the kids. (Tom, on the other hand, has decided he would prefer to live the rest of his life in temperatures at or above 65 degrees.)

On occasion, Mother Nature teases us with dustings of snow, cold rain/sleet/hail, or worst of all, no snow at all, but this year she came through with multiple inches prior to our arrival and then a couple of additional inches during our visit. Knowing we wouldn't see snow again for at least another year, we took full advantage of her gift.

My dad built a snow slide in my parents' backyard. The slide started off the top of the deck, cruised across the yard, and then slowed on the driveway. The kids rode their tubes down that slide for hours every day until a warming trend at the end of December caused it to start melting.

Tom and I went on a walk to the zoo (separate from our Zoo Lights trip), and enjoyed both having the zoo almost entirely to ourselves and watching the polar bears delight in the snow that had recently fallen.

We went sledding multiple times at increasingly larger and taller hills, buried each other in the snow, ate snow (though we forgot to make a batch of snow ice cream), and built countless snowmen and snow forts. Oh, and Tom, my mom, and I built an amazing snow Tyrannosaurus Rex for Carter.

And of course, last but not least, we made snow angels in our swimsuits.

Round one: Tom, Will, and me in the front yard. It seems my voice 
goes up a full octave when I run around in the snow in my swimsuit.

Round two: Tom, Will, Lily, and me in the backyard.  
Round three: Will and Lily went on their own and
I carried/quasi-carried nervous Carter and Hallie.
Round four: Tom took Hallie out just the two of them. That's him,
on his back in the snow, with her on his stomach as she thought about
whether or not she would go in the snow herself. He deserved a medal.
Round four continues: eventually Hallie stopped
crying and sat in the snow. We're calling that a victory.
This year was particularly painful, not because of the temperature outside (it was in the mid-20s, which for this kind of activity is considered fairly warm), but because the snow had melted slightly and then refrozen with a crusty layer on top. It hurt our feet horribly, and contributed to a few tears from our youngest participants. Note: I never have nor will I ever force our kids to participate in this activity. They are welcome to join me, but they have to make that choice for themselves.

If you'd like to read more about how this tradition began and why I keep it alive, click here for a link to last year's post and here for the background story.

Happy winter, Chasing Roots!