Category Archives: Outdoors

Zoolights at Brookfield Zoo

We took a trip to Chicago to get some Chicago lights. We stopped at Jill and Jay’s and had some wine before we headed out into the cold. It was cold, but not unbareable. Taj and Jay road the train and we waited on line to see Santa (Taj’s only visit of the season). There pics came out horribly, but we did snap one (that was equally as horrible, but free):

Brookfield Zoo santa

We also headed to the Holiday Dose Market at Venue One on Randolph St. the next day. Jill was working with the fantastic maple syrup to the chefs man, Tim Burton of Burton’s Maplewood Farm. And seriously, that maple syrup aged in whiskey barrels was some of the best maple syrup I’ve ever had. Taj asked for multiple samples and Ethan brought a bottle home (not for use on frozen waffles).

Late night dueling boys on iphones


Jill and Jay were great Chicago hosts! We had a great time and Taj is already asking when we go back and see Jay.

Crucian boys in Chicago

We found a vintage playground

This year was our first real tree together as a family. We never got a real tree in St. Croix. It just didn’t feel right to pick a tree out of a refrigerated trailer that was shipped from the US and we knew of a dozen stories of them loosing needles immediately, etc. So, this year, our first real winter Christmas, we decided we wanted to cut down a tree. So, we did a little research and found Larson’s Family Farm in Yorkville. Although the trees were a little smaller than what we wanted the experience was exactly what we were looking for.

The best part of our tree cutting trip was the playground of Ethan and my era there. The old-fashioned see saws, springy horses and the push merry-go-round that could definitely decapitate you if used incorrectly. It was great fun to play with Taj on these. Being the little daredevil that he is, I now understand why they don’t have them around at all town parks these days.


springy playground horse

Martens Family Thanksgiving in Georgia

What an amazing weekend!

Ethan, Taj and I flew on the two busiest travel days of the year to go to and from Georgia. They must have ramped up for the holidays because it was a very uneventful flight each way. And how nice to fly for a weekend and it only be an hour and half flight each way, definitely not something we could do when we lived on an island.

Cooking together with my mom was perfect. She had everything provisioned and ready so when I arrived, we spent Thursday just getting the meal together for our party of 13. Only thing I wish I had was pictures of how perfect it was. My favorite part was Nonny and Taj coloring the placecards.

We did get a chance to take a couple of perfect family photos (sans Leah and Casey).

My favorite is this one:

Martens family photo 2014

Friday we did exactly what we were supposed to. Nothing. Well, besides eat leftovers and playing ball in the cul-de-sac, the alternative Black Friday for this family.

On Saturday, the Martens family took a road trip to Bishop ,GA to visit The Martins, great friends Mark and Shannon. Shannon’s family from Michigan were visiting and Ethan hadn’t seen them in years. Taj got to meet new friends his age and explore the outdoors.

Mark and Shannon have built a beautiful farm and its been amazing to watch the transformation over the past few years, each time we visit. It was also great to get our families together and spend some time with my step brothers Michael and Jamie (and Michael’s fiance Tito).

About The Farm:

Classic City Clydesdales currently has 45 Clydesdale horses, a donkey, a herd of Highland Cattle, pigs, rabbits, chickens, Guinea hens, turkeys and I’m sure I’m missing some other animals. The new barn is gorgeous, the grazing fields are magical, the back pond is serene. Did I mention it’s peaceful for the soul to visit this place?

Here are a few pictures from our adventures. Too bad my phone died midway through the day and again, no pic of Shannon and I together. Next time, I promise.

Michael, Tito and Jamie.


Driving with Uncle Mark.
Taj driving with Mark.


Farm tour.
Looking for fish in the back pond.


Highland cattle.
Highland Cattle grazing. There are three new calves.


Taj horseback riding
Taj riding Casey. I think Casey is the only non-Clyde at The Farm.


Cowboy Taj
Do cowboys ride cows? Taj does!


4 wheeling
Taj got to ride a four wheeler (not by himself of course).



We finished out our weekend with brunch at Nonny’s place. “Lots of bacon,” said Taj. And the two of them got along famously. What a great weekend!

Nonny Taj love.

Watched a House Burn to the Ground

It was a planned burn. This vacant house across the street from our favorite playground was up in flames just as I was on my way to pick Taj up at school. So, as a fun faalavelave (Samoan word for break from the ordinary routine), we stopped to watch the house burn with a crowd of other people.

The coolest part was the fire chief came over and let the kids ask questions. Taj was right there asking about how they protected the trees and why they were doing it. They did 8 practice drills with area fire fighters that day and we were watching them finally let it burn to the ground.

Taj has officially declared his latest grownup profession – firefighter.


The Endless Summer: Taj’s Ninja Turtle Themed 5th Birthday Pig Roast

We like to party. We also don’t like ordinary, so when Ethan said he wanted to roast a pig before the winter, we decided to combine his pig roast with Taj’s 5th birthday. We also wanted to get to know some neighbors and invite them, so we did.

Last weekend was 70, unfortunately it was 40 degrees the day of Taj’s party. We hosted the party in the barn. Ethan put the pig on by 8am as planned. By 11am, the bouncy house was up, the food was out and Taj was so happy to have all his friends over.

We asked that people bring canned goods instead of gifts and although I think Taj might have been too young to grasp this concept, our real goal was to let people know that they didn’t have to bring a gift to come. He got plenty of gifts and we’ll be dropping a good amount of canned goods to Green Harvest food pantry.

canned good birthday party drive


excited birthday boy with pinata

Taj was so excited for the pinata. Thanks to Reggie for making it go a little faster.


firepit and ethan's chairs

It was a chilly afternoon, but Ethan finished his adirondeck chairs last week, just in time for relaxing and warming up by the firepit.

In the barn, we had a few electric heaters going, some places for coloring, plenty of food and beverages.



barn party

Ninja turtle birthday cupcakes. Meijers did most of the work, I admit 🙂


work buddies

Ethan and some friends from work.

While cleaning up the next morning, we found cups with ice still in them. We giggled about this and Ethan got picked on for over buying ice. I guess we still aren’t used to stateside cold parties.



You know its a good party when stuff gets left behind. If you own any of these things, let us know and we’ll get them back to you.

Thanks everyone for coming! Taj had a great weekend.





Beware of the troll under the bridge and ghosts in the tree.

Halloween is my favorite time of year. From costumes to decorating the yard to Taj’s birthday, it is all one big whirl of fun.

We all know I miss living on an island, however I like to highlight the benefits of living in Suburbia and trick-or-treating and decorating your yard definitely ranks up there.

We are just starting to compile the decorations and this year, we added up lights on the tree and red lit graves. We also were in need of a bridge over the gut in our yard. When it rains, it gets a little muddy and we didn’t want trick-or-treaters to have to endure this. Besides our mailbox is over there. It became the troll bridge. Taj tells us they are make believe, but he does warn us that they live under there. Note the plastic bag ghosts in the tree.

homemade turtle shell costumehomemade Leo TMNT costume

This is the first year that Taj is totally ‘in’ to Halloween. He not only chose his costume, he got us to join along.

family ninja turtle costume

And the best part of Halloween is that it is Taj’s birthday next! It was a little more difficult to convince Taj to give up his candy for the pinata this year 🙂


40th Birthday Surprise Weekend to California

I’m overwhelmed and amazed at all the birthday wishes. As much as I’ve been steering clear of FB for a while, the birthday wishes are awesome.

My fabulous hubby surprised me with a trip to Cali for the weekend. Grandma Gayle came in for the weekend before heading to her highschool reunion in Virginia and we took our firest trip without Taj since well, since before he was born.

Taj even made a picture of us on the airplane to Cali in his birthday card.

#fortyandfabulous #bestbirthdayever


San Fran karaoke bar with island friends.

We got to spend some time with Rob and Tanya, then went to Napa and had brunch with Sam and Trint (fresh off the rock the week before) in Sonoma, then to San Fran with Kate and Russ and meeting Max and Dorie for dinner.

crucians in babylon

Brunch with Sam and Trint at Fremont Diner in Sonoma.


greetings from sonoma


cheese tasting with wine tasting

Tasting in Napa at Sterling Vineyards.




last boarding group on southwest flight

We had so much fun, we forgot to check in for our flight. And if you are flying Southwest, that means you get back of the plane and most likely not together.



Summer Road Trip 2014

My dad died in February. And he’s been very present in my life, even more since. When we moved to Illinois, we planned to take a New England trip to see him and Josh in Brattleboro. We wanted to keep good on that plan, hoping that Josh might appreciate having us around a bit too.

My Connecticut cousins were by Leah, Josh and my side and honestly, I don’t know how we could have made it through that week without them. Part of coming back east on this pilgrimage in Dad’s honor included getting to know these cousins as adults and not in crisis mode. I really was looking forward to our families and children of the same age getting together.

This trip came at the end of a fantastic month long visit with Grandma Gayle. As we dropped her off at Chicago Midway for her 7:30am flight, we just kept driving east. Like forever east. Stopping for lunch in Amherst, OH for mediocre Mexican food but at least there was a parking lot for Taj to ride his bike around for a bit. We went looking for a playground, but no go.

Back on the road, we made it as far as State College, PA. We did a quick Priceline hotel deal and wound up back near I-80 at a below subpar hotel with a heavily chlorinated pool, thank god. We had promised Taj a pool when we finally stopped. It was his reward for managing 14 hours on the road. What a trooper.

Tappen Zeeeeee bridge, we’re almost there.


With only 5 hours left, we left PA, headed through New Jersey and over the Tappen Z bridge through New York and into Connecticut. First stop, pick up Josh! Stop two lunch at the new organic natural food store in Huntington Center.

We made a special effort to be sure to see Adam and Allyson and Pam and Taj’s identical twin 2nd cousin before they headed out on their summer vaca.

twincuz2 identical twins

They cooked an amazing steak dinner complete with cake for Josh’s 16th birthday (a week late, but hey we’re restaurant people, dates are flexible for holidays).

raibow cake by Pam

We headed to Norwalk to stay with Amy and Ronnie and Henry and Lilah. Very comfortable to we took a nice sleep and caught up after the long trip out. Amy and Ronnie are perfect hosts! Taj and Henry had fun together and fought just like they were brothers. Taj and Lilah had some nice time together too.

kitchen bubbler



Amy and Ronnie hosted her summer Seafood Sunday at her house. It was great to get to know some of the Krom family better. Everyone brought a seafood dish and Amy supplied the lobsters.

seafood sunday

What a feast and then what better way to wrap the kid cousins cuddle up under blankets and watch Ice Age projected into the woods on a screen.

outdoor movie projection

We took the train to NYC with Josh and Taj. It was our intent to honor Dad with a Gray’s Papaya hotdog and drink. Jill met us in Grand Central Station and we took a moment to honor him so.

grand central station ceiling

Then a quick stop at FAO Schwartz and a walk through Central Park over to the Natural History Museum. We almost skipped the museum and it’s $22pp tickets, until we were told that that is just a suggested admission price. The museum docent (is the cashier a docent) was very kind and asked me what I’d like to pay? I paused counted our party at 5 including Taj and told her I’d like to pay $5pp and she ran my card and thanked me. I like this concept, I feel good about making a donation to the Museum and at the level I’m comfortable with.

natural history museum nyc dinosaur

We then headed home with one sleeping train Taj.

We dropped off Josh at his mom ‘s house, sad to go but with a newly found friendhip with a brother I’m so honored to be blessed with.

From there, Ethan did the math and decided we were to leave CT at 3;30 am to avoid NYC rushhour traffic. Bleck. We were out of NYC and stopped for breakfast during DC rush hour.

Auntie Leah! Dinner out with our Durham fam!

Leah and Casey were more than excited to see Tajimon, ok and us too. They made us so comfortable, took Taj for a ride on the four wheeler. They took us and Justin out to their favorite reastaurant, the Brazilian Steakhouse. Wow, I didn’t know it was humanly possible to eat that much meat! So yummy. It was nice to get to know Justin too. I hadn’t seen him in years and it great for he and Ethan to meet each other.

Off to Bishop, GA next for one night with Mark and Shannon and Macon before they head out to Indiana for a horse show. Taj always loves to see the horses and we were amazed at the new barn with all it’s cool features and functionality. Taj’s favorite thing was collecting chicken eggs.
Then to mom and Harrys. First stop Nonni’s for a swim in the pool.

Then sushi with the family at an awesome sushi place. Tito even has a roll named after her. That’s pretty cool.

And a Uhaul worth of stuff to drive home with. Mom and Harry purging equals ZDubs gaining new hand-me-down furniture. We got to see Crucian friends, Eileen and kids and Kelly. And Taj made great friends with the doggies.

crucian friends tajanddogs

It was a great trip!!! I wish it could last longer.

Thanks everyone for hosting us! It was a great trip.