Author Archives: Nichole S.

The “C” Word Plain Old Sucks

Cancer.

Sadly, I’m not sure how many of us have not been somehow touched by at least one form of this nasty disease, and surely no one needs me to try to wax poetically about how wretched it is.

So, I’ll try to keep this short.

Someone who once meant the world to me lost his battle with cancer back in May.  His fight was sadly, and yet thankfully, all too brief and he was gone, I believe, before many were able to completely wrap their heads around the fact that they may lose him.  I felt his loss in weird ways…and kind of lonely ways.  It had been many years since we were close and, having gone in slightly different directions, I didn’t really have anyone to share my memories of him with after he was gone.  Much of my sadness was actually for the MANY friends and loved ones who were still fiercely close to him and who had to feel the sudden loss of him from their immediate lives….as opposed to a life that they shared a number of years earlier, like mine. I couldn’t help but lay awake at night and hurt for his family, his girlfriend, his teammates, and his incredibly close circle of friends. The thought of his dog not understanding where he was stung me significantly.   But, I missed him too…even though it felt selfish.

But this post isn’t intended to be about me….or even solely about him….it is about everyone who has had cancer detonate their world.  You know what, this post is actually for anyone who hasn’t been rocked by the “c” word also.

This weekend, August 2nd (what would have been his 45th birthday) and August 3rd mark this year’s Pan-Mass Challenge.  The PMC has been raising money for the fight against cancer since 1980 and, in those three plus decades, riders have raised over $400 million.  As they say, “Closer By the Mile” towards a cure.  I have had the honor of photographing the PMC for the Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox organization has had its own team of riders, Team 9, out riding for a cure for many years. They are also unwavering supporters of Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund.  Being witness to such camaraderie during the course of the 2 day ride has been beyond moving.

I have donated, in very modest ways, since 2004.  Not every year, but most years.  Each year, in the hopes of being able to donate more the following year. This year I have sponsored 3 amazing, dedicated, and humble riders.  Three riders who are riding to celebrate loved ones and to be proactive in the fight against this heinous disease.  Three riders who I am incredibly motivated by and proud of.  If you do not know anyone riding this year, you can still donate.

So, if you’ve been thinking that you’d like to be charitable…or more charitable as the case probably is for many of you…there is still time.

The Pan Mass Challenge

 

Way to be, Jack Ass!

I guess for someone, stealing is easier than working for it.  And from kids nonetheless. Allow me to explain.

If you’ve browsed any of my previous posts here on GMG, you’ve probably come to know a few things about me.  You probably know that I’m long winded (does that actually apply to writing?) and you’ve probably gotten to “know” my two young boys….and maybe you’ve learned that they love the ocean.  More than loving it, they work hard at being budding little lobstermen, and they’re pretty passionate about it.

If you haven’t seen it yet, maybe this will help paint the picture

Young and Salty

My boys, along with their three great friends…on our friends’ boat, go lobstering typically twice per week all summer long.  With only ten traps, they certainly don’t do it to make money….they do it because they love it.  And, they do it for Lobsterfest!  Once each summer (maybe twice if we’re lucky)… we gather our families and some of our local friends, and we have a feast to end all feasts. More importantly, we have laugh after laugh, in one of the most picturesque towns I know.  It is, without a doubt, one of our favorite evenings of the entire summer.

We check the tide chart….we check our busy summer schedules…and we pick a day.  This summer…that day was Saturday.

The kids feel tremendous pride that their hard work supplies the Stars of the Show:  The Rockport Harbor Lobsters!  They feel tremendous pride that our guests….friends who have watched them grow, learn, laugh, and cry…gather to enjoy a quintessential summer evening and “oooh and ahhhh” over their bounty! They feel tremendous pride in being such a huge part of such a special tradition.

So, maybe you can imagine our shock and dismay to discover that THE lobsters had been stolen from the water on Friday night.  Holding tank and all.  Gone.  As a friend put it, “It’s like losing your uniform the night before the Big Game.”  The night before Lobsterfest.

I get that maybe the thief wasn’t aware that those lobsters had been slowly gathered by a group of dedicated children…and their two amazing dads.  Two dads who take the time to show those kids how to haul and set their gear.  Two dads who, while they love lobstering with the kids, may actually prefer to cast a few rods, set an anchor at the beach, or play a round of golf on a few more occasions, rather than continuously tend to the traps.  Or maybe they wouldn’t rather do those things, either way, that isn’t the point.

The point is, Stealing is wrong…and I’m pissed.

“The children must be crushed!” you may be thinking.  Well, actually, the children don’t know.  Luckily, those two amazing dads also had the wherewithal to not let the children know that someone had stolen their lobsters.  They would have been beyond devastated.  They would have been hurt.  They probably would have been confused.

Those two amazing dads also didn’t want our guests to know that they had to scramble and buy lobsters in the eleventh hour.  They certainly didn’t want any guests to run out and purchase lobsters themselves….not that any of those guests would have minded!  Lucky also is that Cape Ann is the type of community where friends rally for each other.  Lucky also is that, having lived here forever, those two amazing dads have people who were happy to help them and that getting enough lobsters to feed our friends was possible.

So, Lobsterfest was a giant success.  Those little “lobsterkids” are none the wiser and, while we’re still mad, it would take more than a small time thief (Jack Ass) to ruin a wonderful summer evening with such amazing friends.  Still, shame on them.

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Life is Gooood

Live Buggin’! Quintessential Summer!

Great Wolf Lodge…Pretty Great For Sure

We went way over the bridge this week and took a quick getaway to the brand new Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg.  Prior to the onslaught of some heavy duty advertising recently, you may not have heard of the Great Wolf Lodges, but I’d been hoping to get to one of their other locations for quite some time now for a short family vacation.  Last year I was psyched to hear that they were planning on building a lodge here in Massachusetts!

So, they opened in June and we booked during a promo offer back in March.  It did not disappoint.  The boys were psyched and even my husband made it through the 24 hours of Triple F (forced family fun….for those of you not in the know) unscathed….and happy.  We packed a cooler.

Because it is new…it is spotless.  They definitely pay attention to detail and they definitely cater to family fun.  From the wolf ears that they hand out upon check-in (that families oddly wear during their entire stay…ummm, but not us because we can’t pull off that type of crap off) to the “Have a Wolftastic Day” greeting that they offer even before you can drink a cup of morning coffee, to the door openers who never fail to beat you to the punch and are unbelievably eager to welcome you in and out of every single space with unwavering enthusiasm.  A vacation destination built for kids this is.  Cheesy sure.  But, a good cheesy, if this is the type of vacation that you went ahead and booked for your kids.  I, personally, wouldn’t have had it any other way.  Little Finn feel in love with Violet the Wolf and while Thatcher tried to be too cool for story and song time, I caught him singing along and doing the Wolf Lodge Howl with the best of them!

Our family suite overlooked the main lodge welcome area…which was odd and yet cool all at the same time.  The wrist bands that they give you upon check-in also serve as your room key….which, as a none-purse-carrying type of girl, I LOVED.  You could also just scan your wristband anywhere throughout the lodge and your purchases would simply get charged to your room. Bonus…albeit dangerous I suppose.  For the record…they don’t put those in the kids’ wristbands….that would be silly.

They have six pretty awesome water slides.  Four for kids 42″ and taller and two for anyone over 48″.  One is the the type where they put you in a little booth, count down from 5, and drop the floor out beneath you to propel you straight down into the unknown.  Crazy!  I, for the record, sat that one out. Fortunately, I can blame Finn as he was just a bit too short and someone “had” to stay with him.  My husband and Thatcher braved it eagerly….and loved it.

The lodge also has two water playgrounds, a pretty rad wave pool, a hot tub, a small lazy river, water basketball, an excellent ropes course high up in the air, some little mall-type rides, mini golf, a Magi Quest interactive game to be played throughout your stay, a 6D little movie theater ride, a super fun arcade (and I don’t normally love arcades so that’s saying something), a restaurant, a cafe, a Dunkin’ Donuts, an ice cream joint, a little day spa for the girls, and more!

Pretty cool too is that, while check-in is @ 4:00, they allow you to use the water park beginning at 1:00.  Even more cool is that, while check out is 11:00 a.m., they allow you to use the water park all the way up to closing (9:00 p.m.) that day.  They have lockers and showers so that once you put your luggage in the car you can still enjoy some fun, shower, change, and get ready for the ride home.  That being the case, if you live close enough, one night is a good enough stay.  More than two nights, in my humble opinion, would be too long.

Good, clean, family fun less than two hours from Cape Ann.  I’m guessing that come the long and abyssmal winter months this place will be jammin’!

See the Great Wolf Lodge

 

Take Yourself Out to the Ball Game (and maybe bring the family)

Absolutely… spending a day at Fenway Park is one of the best ways to enjoy a day here in the Boston area, but, let’s be honest, it is not always that easy to score tickets that are affordable.  And…if you have young children, you can’t guarantee they’ll care much about the game.  I’ve seen more grumpy moms and dads grudgingly leave the ballpark because their young child was “done.”  OR….you spend a gazillion dollars on ice cream, popcorn, peanuts, cotton candy, big foam fingers, Wallys, inflatable bats, and other souvenirs as tokens of hush money….all to no avail.  3rd inning…out the door.

I’ll never recover from a day a few years ago when I brought Thatcher onto the field with me pre game to take photos of the players warming up.  He was a super cute 4 year old at the time and was wearing a “Pedroia” shirt. We walked past the dugout and Kevin Youkilis started to raz Thatch for not wearing his # instead. Within a minute Thatcher had the attention of Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Josh Beckett.  They were all chatting him up and joking with him and I couldn’t have been happier.  Thatch?….you may ask.  Over the moon?…you may assume. Well, not exactly. After a minute of tolerating the attention, he turned to me and said, “Can we go back to our seats before Finn eats all the popcorn?”  Alrightly then.  Bye guys.

So, while my boys are now old enough to love Red Sox games, and they get through a whole 9 innings or more with only a little bit of bribing, it is still something that we can really only pull off a couple of times each summer.

The solution??   Three words.  Minor League Games!   My boys are almost just as happy to head to the Lowell Spinners, the Pawtucket Red Sox (PawSox), and, hopefully soon, the Portland Sea Dogs.  The venues are incredibly family friendly, affordable, and FUN.  The children get much closer access to the players and can often times score themselves a run around the bases, an autograph opportunity, or a chance to catch something chucked into the stands in between innings.

I, just a moment ago, received an email from the Spinners reminding me of the Family Sleepover.  Come on….talk about fun for kids!   You go to the game, head back to the car for a minute, grab your tent and gear, set up shop, watch a movie on the scoreboard, and spend the night sleeping on the field.

If you have a budding baseball fan in the family and haven’t taken advantage of the minor league teams in our area, you’re missing out.  I highly recommend looking into tickets….and, might I add, there really isn’t bad seat in any of those houses!

Play Ball my friends!

Family Sleep Over at the Lowell Spinners

The Lowell Spinners

The Pawtucket Red Sox

The Portland Sea Dogs

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While There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Beach….

Yesterday, during a miraculous 30 minute session of sitting still at the beach, I fired off this short little post about Beach Pros and Cons….as I was contemplating which beach is “best” for my boys (ummm….and me).

http://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/does-size-really-matter/

So, today, I invite you to participate in this little summer poll

 

Please comment with additional answers if you’d like as it is impossible to adequately include all kinds of beach experiences!

 

 

 

Does Size Really Matter?

Our sleepy little slice of heaven! As I sit here and watch the boys play in the water, I’m getting sad because I’m guessing that our long days at this little beach are probably numbered. I’m thinking that by next summer they’ll want to be at a bigger, and maybe more action-packed beach, and I’m wondering, while both have absolute pros and cons, which one is “better.” “Better” obviously being subjective and not a very fair word.

Little Beach Pros = We can walk to this beach and it is incredibly easy to keep an eye on both boys. They can walk from end to end and I can still see them. They can go rock climbing, tidal pooling, and swimming….and sometimes, like now, I can actually stay in my chair for 15 minutes straight. My favorite part, you may ask, is that the view is second to none.

Little Beach Cons = sadly, it may soon seem boring and too small for my ever growing boys.

Big Beach Pros = Well, more excitement for sure. Probably bigger waves too. And, for me, pretty excellent people watching.

Big Beach Cons = The parking, the dragging of beach crap for long distances, and long stretches of beach, blanketed by people, that make it harder to keep track of my super fast children. I would be remiss to not add, that inevitably, we sit next to the blowholes who use increasingly loud and foul language and blast their not-so-soothing music each time we rally to go.

Those cons having been said, gosh knows our big beaches on Cape Ann are undeniably gorgeous!

Maybe tonight I will create a poll of which type of beach is “better.” The age-old question of “Does size really matter?”

Divots, Chukkers, and Mallets….Oh My!

It being Sunday and all, I thought I’d remind you of a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon during the summer.  Polo.

I know as much as anyone that it is hard to tear yourself away from the beach, boat, deck, or backyard BBQ on a sunny afternoon during the precious and all too fleeting summer months, but, if you’re up for something a tiny bit different, taking in a Polo match is really quite fun!

I’d like to add, however, that better than simply doing it….is doing it right!

The best way to do it is to gather a bunch of your friends, grab a chunk of tailgate space on the sidelines, pack the picnic of all picnics, stuff a cooler to capacity and have a lovely afternoon.  Despite popular belief, holding your pinky up while drinking is actually optional.  The polo crowd is quite mixed and quite lovely.  Ummm….and to any single ladies who happen to be reading….you could probably find a less attractive bunch of athletes elsewhere. Just saying. I should add that there are some pretty rad female players too.  I, for one, would LOVE to learn the game.

My boys enjoy walking around and meeting the players and ponies before the match begins.  I’ve yet to meet a player who wasn’t friendly and more than happy to let the boys ask questions and meet the horses.  They also get a kick out of replacing the divots in-between chukkers….often times barefoot. (Insert mild shutter….horse poop and all).

Myopia Polo

Do your homework here…if you care to.

Zimbabwe? Zimbabwe.

I was talking with a friend the other day about how our young children are like little sponges and we shared stories about the crazy amounts of information that they are able to learn…and I remembered this little video.

I count my blessings every day that Thatcher and Finn are in love with learning and that they appreciate all that is being introduced to them at the Harborlight-Stoneridge Montessori School.

Thatcher took this video of Finn practicing a song that he learned to remember all of the countries in Africa….and then it leads into his actual performance with his Preschool class….during which, he clearly needs to pee and it appears he is breaking a sweat trying to remember the words.  He is also busting out some of his father’s mad dance moves :)   Undeniably my husband’s child.

And…along those same lines…

Here is a link about the epic failure of Americans to label a map of Europe and, likewise, of Brits to label a map of the United States.

 

Does it Get Any Better?

I can imagine that it may get old listening to me drone on about how unbelievably awesome it is to live here on Cape Ann, but forgive me, because I’m about to do it again.

Last night, onboard the Lannon, I had the pleasure of meeting some people throughout the evening that I had never met before and whom I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with.  There was the “always trust a Burnham” friend who insisted that my super moon photos are inaccurate (whom I hope to prove wrong with a photo of the moon near the Annisquam Yacht Club that I’ll attach in a minute)…the “excuse me ma’am” friend who, while he made me feel like I was 90 years old, also made me smile each time he walked by…..a possible new dentist….a really nice gentleman and FOB who used to live in the same home on Pebble Beach that my husband grew up in, etc.  I love meeting new people and each of those conversations enhanced an evening that was already pretty phenomenal because of the company of existing friends, a gorgeous evening, and an amazing venue.  Ummm….and a rum drink in a coconut.  Come on, really!  Several people asked me the same question…”What do you write about for GMG?”  I found myself at a loss for a decent answer at first, but at the end of the night, I found myself saying, “I cheerlead for how crazy cool Cape Ann is.”  Seemed like a good enough answer.

So, for kicks, allow me to recap the last seven days….as if anyone really needs me to highlight how crazy awesome this community is.

In 7 days’ time, we have gotten up close and personal with no fewer than 20 humpback whales (both on the Hurricane from Cape Ann Whale Watch and a smallish center console boat courtesy of some very good friends). We spent a super fun evening with those same friends to celebrate my husband’s birthday, took their boat around the backshore (some of the most beautiful coastline in the world if you ask me), had lots of delicious food and drinks at The Studio, stopped at the Mile Marker, and saw an incredible sunset over Thacher’s Island on the way home.  Two days later the kids joined us as we all enjoyed a day that took us out of Rockport Harbor, around the backshore again, into Gloucester Harbor, out to Stellwagen Bank, to the Cape Ann Brewery, down the Annisquam River, for a evening swim at Wingaersheek Beach, a “meet and greet” with Tyler on the Pin Wheel from Wicked Tuna (who came over because he thought we were having boat trouble when he saw the kids waving to him…How nice is that?!), around Halibut Point, and back home into Rockport.  My boys have hauled lobster traps with “Uncle Dave”. We have spent time at what the boys call “our beach” right at the end of our road.  Meeting friends at Old Garden Beach is always one of our favorite types of summer day and never gets old.  To see my boys growing up alongside the children of good friends and playing with them summer after summer…all carefree and sandy is too good for words.  We have gone on the Gloucester Harbor Water Shuttle…twice….with two different groups of friends…and the boys were thrilled to help impart a bit of their knowledge of the waterfront.  Both of those harbor tours ended with fun meals and laughs on outdoor decks.  Does it get any better?  We spent an afternoon at Capt. Carlos and another one at the Studio (which will never get old).  We had a play date at Maritime Gloucester for probably the thirtieth time… and loved it as if it was the 1st.  We’ve ordered smoothies and simply driven around town…because, for some reason, that NEVER gets old for the boys.  We’ve watched boats unload and watched fisherman mend gear.  We’ve walked through Rockport, hung out with United States Navy, had a few ice creams along the way, bought cupcakes at Rockin’ Cupcakes on Bearskin Neck for Freddy’s b-day, and sat by our new fire pit at night.  Oh, and of course, took an incredible evening sail on the Thomas Lannon.  For real…quite a week.

I write this not to bore you with a-week-in-the-life-of-the-Schraffts, but rather to demonstrate how a completely normal week can unfold with ease in one of the world’s best communities.

Go get your summer on, peeps.  Embrace this place for all it has to offer!

Maritime Glouceter

The Lannon

Rockin’ Cupcakes

The Studio Restaurant

Gloucester Water Shuttle

Mile Marker

Capt. Carlos

Cape Ann Whale Watch

 

 

 

Live Blogging from the Lannon

Cigar and Rum Cruise on the Lannon

Kickin’ It in Rockport!

What a ball!   On Saturday morning men and women from the United States Navy joined forces with some young and eager kickball stars from Rockport.  The results were a mad game of Kickball!  The Midshipmen (trust me when I say I did some research to figure out the correct terms to use for these awesome men and women…but, since they were out of uniform, I’m at a loss) were unbelievable with the kids and, while the game was competitive, it was also hysterical to watch.  Children 6 years old and older were welcome to register in advance for the opportunity to play with and against the Navy.  At the end of the game they game some younger children (including the Finnster) a chance to kick and run the bases as well.

Thanks to all of those involved!  Lasting memories for these young kids for sure.

Live from Cape Ann Brewery

This is what happens when the fire alarm goes off in the middle of dinner and drinks.

Looking For A New Place to Visit?

If you’re like me, and you have young children or grandchildren, you’ve probably exhausted most short day trip venues.  Don’t get me wrong, there are so many tremendous places to visit around this area and I feel incredibly fortunate to have such fun, educational, and diverse opportunities for summer fun at our doorstep! We certainly have our favorite stomping grounds that never get old, and that we’ll visit time and time again, but every once in a while, we plain ole want something new.  I feel compelled to add that the boys have also had plenty of down-time by just hitting the beach, riding bikes, and playing in the yard….but, we like to throw a day trip into the mix once a week.

With a seek and conquer attitude, we hit the road on Monday morning, determined to visit someplace we’ve never been.

Destination:  Kimball Farm, Westford.

Just a mere few minutes over an hour away….and loads of fun.  Oh, and clean! Our choice was a big success!

Kimball Farm has a bit of everything.  Bumper Boats, mini golf, a driving range, Pitch and Putt golf, an indoor arcade, batting cages, a small animal experience highlighting some rescued and orphaned animals, a seafood shack, and, of course, ice cream!

I chose Monday because I had to head “up the line” to Danvers for an errand anyway…so, it was really only a 40 minute drive.  Once there, we spent about 3 hours having outdoor fun.  We could have easily stayed longer, but we love the driving range and batting cages at Richardson’s Dairy so we skipped those options and focused our fun elsewhere…promising them another trip to Richardson’s soon.

The Bumper Boats were the obvious winner for the boys.  I gave the win to the fact that the place was well-cared for, clean, and nicely landscaped and decorated.  A big family win all around!  Check it out for sure if you don’t mind a short drive!

Kimball Farm

 

As if Rockport Isn’t Gorgeous Enough!

Add some beautiful sailboats with nautical flags a flappin’ and some pretty easy on the eyes cadets all dressed in navy and khaki and Rockport just got even prettier!

Welcome back to town to the United States Navy!

See the full schedule of events for Rockport’s Navy Weekend here.

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Live Blogging From the Hubby’s Birthday

Nothing like a trip around the Cape on a flat ass calm evening with friends. Happy Birthday to my husband and to the new drink we just created, The Rockport Harbor. Triple 8 Blueberry, lemonade, and a splash of soda. Ahhhh….The Studio. Bring on the sushi!

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