Category Archives: Travel

Hurricanes displace people, and animals too!

When Ethan headed to St. Croix to help, Taj and I told him we were ready to have a dog in our family and we wanted a Crucian dog. We told him that any dog he wanted to bring home to us would be perfect. Yesterday, he met and bonded with Coco, a 6 month old female #Dachshund who was rescued from an abusive home on #StCroix and waiting for the perfect forever home, ours! Taj and I can’t wait for their arrival back in Chicago on Tuesday! . . .Want to help a Crucian pup too? Taj and I are starting a ‘Pet Supply Drive’ here in Plainfield to ship down to St. Croix. Items needed: foldable animal crates, collars and leashes, heartworm & flea/tick medication. We adopted Coco through Sunshine Foundation St Croix and we want to help St. Croix Animal Welfare Center get back up and running. Through the tireless work of the volunteers and staff of these organizations, they get dogs off the street, manage spay/neuter programs and help dogs like Coco find their forever home too.

Hurricanes displace people, and animals too! When Ethan headed to St. Croix to help, Taj and I told him we were ready to have a dog in our family and we wanted a Crucian dog. We told him that any dog he wanted to bring home to us would be perfect. Yesterday, he met and bonded with Coco, a 6 month old female #Dachshund who was rescued from an abusive home on #StCroix and waiting for the perfect forever home, ours! Taj and I can’t wait for their arrival back in Chicago on Tuesday! . . . Want to help a Crucian pup too? Taj and I are starting a ‘Pet Supply Drive’ here in Plainfield to ship down to St. Croix. Items needed: foldable animal crates, collars and leashes, heartworm & flea/tick medication. We adopted Coco through Sunshine Foundation St Croix and we want to help St. Croix Animal Welfare Center get back up and running. Through the tireless work of the volunteers and staff of these organizations, they get dogs off the street, manage spay/neuter programs and help dogs like Coco find their forever home too. #VIStrong #dachshundsofinstagram #dachshundpuppy #dachshundsunited #petsuppliesneeded

Photo taken at: Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

And then she made it to Chicago, where we ALL fell in love with her.

Dachshund rescue meets new human

CAPCA winter camping in Wisconsin

We joined a group of 68 individuals for winter camping in Wisconsin this weekend. And it was amazing!

camp vista RPCV trip

The Chicago Area Peace Corps volunteers do two camping trips twice a year to Camp Vista in Campbellsport, WI just near Kettle Morraine State Park. This was the 27th visit they’ve done and we are so lucky to be able to join this group. Finding Peace Corps-esque folks to chill with is amazing and we definitely plan to make this an annual event as long as we live in the Midwest.

We found out about it last year from some Dekalb friends that were also in Samoa and we are so glad that we finally decided to commit and do it. It was a relaxed comfortable weekend full of great conversations, tubing and some outside activities, cooking, getting to know like-minded folk and a great getaway. I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of our Samoan contingency which was strong with 5 volunteers plus our support team of spouses and children.

There were older people, younger childless couples, singles of all ages and families with children a plenty. Taj was the youngest, but only by a few months and he enjoyed the older girls’ company anyway. 🙂

The lodge offered a great commercial kitchen and with Steve bringing his chefs knives, this group really did plow through prep and dishes in no time. If the cooks need help, they simply announce to the fireplace room or the dining area that they need onion choppers or dishwashers and everyone gets up. Never a shortage of help and a great hierarchy of talent and culinary skills. As an skilled kitchen person, I helped and did as I was told, no control freak Sara showing her head during this trip. I really enjoyed the kitchen work, as I usually do.

Dinner was an amazing full Ethiopian spread with at least six dishes and homemade injera.

Ethiopian cuisine in Wisconsin

We voted for the next meal and Peruvian was chosen, which should be great fun and tasty too.

I do see myself helping organize a meal at some point after I spend a bit more time with the group. Maybe  Caribbean medley with mofongo, oxtail, conch salad, pates, rice and beans, etc. Samoan might be tough without an umu and I don’t think everyone wants boiled bananas in coconut cream. Then again, oven-based palusami might just work if I can find young taro leaves.

 

pile of camping shoes

Lots o shoes.

 

Wisconsin snow tubing at Sunburst

Snow tubing at Sunburst.

 

brunch in Beaver Dam

Then to end the weekend, we drove west to Beaver Dam to visit Tim, Stef and Lady Elaine for brunch. A short visit is better than no visit! Love these guys.

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

final-edited-family-wo
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.

Hayride.
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.

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.

 

friends!

 

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.

 

 

Look who we found? #cruciansinbabylon

Nothing like a little one day trip to NYC and reconnecting with Jilly Bean! Hi Jill!

Also in New York, a stop to honor Dad’s favorite place, Papaya King:

papaya king nyc

 

Grand Central Station ceiling:

grand central station ceiling

 

nhm nyc

We wanted to go to the Museum of Natural History to see the big dinosaurs, however we were a bit hesitant on the price considering the size of our group and the other expenses already incurred on the NYC day already. However, anyone is welcome to go, you choose how much you want to donate for entry. The ticket later also confirmed this and thanked me for the $5pp donation that we made on behalf of each person in our group. Affordable and educational!

 

natural history museum nyc dinosaur

 

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

dirtbike

lanternlighting

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.

 

Fourth of July in Grand Rapids

For the second year in a row, our friends Rob and Tracy hosted fourth of July at their house in Grand Rapids, MI. Their children were gracious enough to give up their beds for the large influx of visiting families. I think we had a total of eight kids and ten grownups. All of the guys and a few of the ladies had all gone to Ferris State together.

2014b Grand Rapids beach
2014 Kids on a Log (much colder and less sunny than 2013)
Throwback to 2013 - Kids on a log
Throwback to 2013 – Kids on a log
onboatkids
Kids in the boat on the bayou
Attack!
Attack of the little people!
Happy 4th of July.
Happy 4th from the Washburn family!
This is not St. Croix. It's Lake Michigan. Brrrrrrr.
Fun at the beach.
Sunset on the bayou.
Sunset on the Bayou.
Tracy and mini Tracy.
Tracy and mini Tracy.

We had a great time just hanging out, beaching it, making meals, swimming, boating and lighting things on fire.

Happy 4th of July from the other side of the Lake

We took a trip to the other side of Lake Michigan for our second annual trip to see Ethan’s college friends and their families at Tracy and Rob’s house. Great times with the kids, however a bit colder this year.

Happy 4th of July!

On the way there, we stopped at Marti and Warren’s home in Kalamazoo. Gayle spent the weekend sailing with them. This photo is called Hipster Taj on the sidewalk.

 

Saw this sign coming in when we stopped for blueberries.

 

Ah, boys in the bayou.

 

 

Madison with Tim and Steffie.

After camping, we met Tim and Stefie in Madison at Mickey’s Tavern for a fantastic Sunday morning brunch. Those bloody marys really were a meal in themselves. Served with a marinated salad on top and a PBR chaser on the side. Mmm.

Beautiful friends, beautiful people.

 

love in an adirondeck chair

Love in an adirondeck chair. Hey, Ethan, can you make us some of these chairs?

 

The Madison Thai Temple. Gorgeous and a fun afternoon visit.