If you’re a gung-ho skier, Mohawk Mountain probably doesn’t hold much attraction for you but if you have a family and just want a day or two skiing. It’s perfect.
There are about 7 runs, a couple black – although they were more like blues in Australia and the snow was newly made and the weather fine and clear. The forest is deciduous, which was different. I’m used to the snowgums at home. In Whistler there are pines everywhere and in Europe – a lot of bare open mountaintops with few trees. (this sounds like a lot of skiing but it is sprinkled over a lot of years… I’m an old chook you know!)
We booked the kids into a semi-private lesson having missed the group one and headed up to the summit. Our first run was black – which sounds extreme – but skiing is like riding a bike – your body remembers – and the blacks weren’t that challenging – about perfect level for me!
At lunchtime we collected the small fry and practiced for a while on the greens before proposing an adventure! I could not believe that these kids who have skied so few times – The Orchid Hunter only once before when he was 4 – were so brave. They hurtled down the hill in their snowplows! I only wish we were staying longer as I’m sure they would pick up parallel turns quickly.
The mountain was open until 6pm. It gets full dark at about 4.30 and as the light dimmed the whole mountain lit up as if covered in fairy lights. It was beautiful.
We may never want to leave.
But we have plans. We’re considering Times Square for New Year’s Eve – although that feels like a massive undertaking – and then we want to drive down the east coast to Florida and perhaps Disneyworld!
Today you find me on a rickety table in my sister’s bedroom at her holiday cabin in Goshen. The cabin is in fact a three story log house with stone fireplaces and rustic furniture. The snow is about a foot deep and the lake, just in front of the cabin is frozen. Or at least, mostly frozen. I’m sure I heard it crack when Junior Poshi stepped out onto it earlier today.
The virus that laid the Orchid Hunter low hit little Tee (my four year old nephew), my mum (should I say Mom now I’m here in the states?) and Junior Poshi. JP seems to have shaken it off in a couple of days but has been forced to take it easy. In the meantime The OH, Groover and I decided to take a little time-out from the mass family gathering for a side trip to the Hamptons. You may have heard of The Hamptons? That’s the beachfront hangout of the rich and the very rich on the east coast of Long Island.
The houses there are not shacks. Sleeping 20 people easily seems to be the standard and their perfectly manacured eight foot hedges hide perfectly manacured lawns and driveways that would give you a good workout should you choose to forgo the tennis court or 25 m pool for a casual stroll to the front gate and back.
We walked along the beach at Southampton, collecting pebbles Something’s Gotta Give style and cursing the icy wind off the Atlantic.
Overnight we stayed at The Huntting Inn in East Hampton, a charming oldy worldy English style Inn with all the American mod cons. Cable.
It was there, lying in the white cotton of our king-sized bed we heard the news of Benizir Bhutto’s assassination. Both of us sitting bolt upright and audibly gasping. It is immensly powerful hearing news as it happens. From “she’s okay”, to “her husband says she’s been shot in the neck and is being operated on” to “we have just heard that she is dead”. From then on the Christmas Day Tiger killing was not referred to as the wall-to-wall CNN coverage in Pakistan ramped up to a new level.
In the morning we drove up to Montauk, right at the tip of Long Island and joined a group of keen birdwatchers. They come several times a year to look for petrels and other sea loving birds and one kindly let us look through her very – it must be said – impressive telescope.
Then we drove to Port Jefferson to catch a ferry to the mainland for the trek up to Goshen.
I performed in the second Christmas play last night. The Curse of the Willy Willy. “Written” by my niece and daughter this play revolved around an evil Willy Willy (Aboriginal word for whirlwind) played by Junior Poshi, who steals the three stones of Happiness, Easy Going and Lovability. Our hero – The Pink and Grey Galah (played by my niece – Bear) and her companion Mrs Pumpkinhead (yes I was Mrs Pumpkinhead) travel to the castle in the sky where the Wise Wanjina (played by my mum) lives.
The Wanjina tells us where to find the stones. The stone of Happiness was in the Cliffs of the Grey Fields and we found it by finding out where we felt happiest, the stone of Easy Going was in Deep River and we found it by “Going with the flow”, the stone of Lovability was in the Dragon’s cave (the Dragon and Narrator played by the Orchid Hunter) and is recovered by us telling the dragon we love him.
I say wrote because once the concept was down we kind of made it up as we went along.
The highlight for the audience was the face paint. Observe:
While the other cousins have been sledding at Cranberry Hill nearly every day, my poor Orchid Hunter has been stuck inside feeling lousy. So when perchance we happened to notice it snowing outside yesterday we threw on as many clothes as possible and went outside!
And it was overwhelming in its American-ness! Apparently this is quite a famous store. The best thing IMHO was the Santa out the front with a REAL BEARD. Very impressive. The singing banana was okay too and the cow is called “Clover”.
Just in case you have any last minute shopping to do they keep the shops open til midnight. So last night at about nine my sister and I went shopping because – you guessed it – my Christmas shopping aint done yet – it’s okay – only the hard ones to get…
Mostly I went because I wanted to hang out with my sis. It’s a big ask having your whole family over to stay, over Christmas, when you’re in the middle of a very full on Montessori teaching course in another state.
Plus Americans take gift giving at Christmas – or at least my sister does – very seriously.
All gifts need a card – not just a gift tag. These are for presents that don’t go straight under the tree. You give presents to just about anyone who you have anything to do with you over the year. Yes, that includes the drycleaner and the postman. And of course the extended family, and in this case the extended family’s cleaner! It makes for rather stressful shopping especially when you’ve been working hard at your course.
She travels to Baltimore every Sunday night. Goes to lectures from 8 until 3 every day, then does about 6 hours of homework every night. Comes home late Friday night or Saturday morning. Does the full-on family thing for two days. No wonder she does a lot of shopping on the internet!
My sis is pretty amazing.
The course thankfully is only 9 months long and at the end, she’ll be a qualified Montessori teacher. Her plan is to home-school her kids. As she already has a teaching degree, she will be the best qualified home school teacher you will find! Long-term, she wants to set up her own school I think based on the Montessori method.
As I said she is impressive.
I’m helping in my own little way by colouring in some of her many materials. When I’m not shopping. Or blogging. 🙂
We went out to lunch yesterday at some restaurant whose name we can’t remember but was just outside Stamford mall – oh yes we went to a mall – and decided that Americans do do food well. Sure the portions are big but the service is great, the food is delicious and the restaurants cosy. On top of that it’s relatively cheap. Groover and I had meals yesterday that would have cost around $20 a plate in Perth for half that.
I can see weight gain could be an issue.
But as well as they do food well, the coffee is lousy.
Trying to explain to someone in Starbucks that what you want is a long expresso style coffee – impossible! Of course saying “a long black” which is what we call it in Australia is out of the question. I am missing my Saeco… 🙁
In the meantime we’ve experienced another aspect of American culture: The doctor’s surgery. My Orchid Hunter has a very nasty flu. Feverish, heavy cough, sleeping for nearly two days solid – he feels terrible and when you have a houseful of 12 people you want it sorted out quickly.
My sister has found this great doctor. Here’s how it works for her. He charges an annual fee of around US$1500 per child. For that fee you get a doctor who is prepared to see you anytime. This guy will come to their home. He will go with you to specialists. If your kid breaks his arm at school he’ll go to the school and sort it out. He only wants a maximum of 300 patients and that means he can really take care of your child when the child needs him.
For my sister, whose eldest daughter has had needed a lot of medical care, Dr Eric is their lifesaver. And the surgery is a delight! I wanted to be sick and a child again. Check out the photos of the different exam rooms filled with murals and fun lazer lights.
Hugamuga sat on a hippo couch while Dr Eric spoke to him and explained what he was doing. He was so engaging. He did a test for strep throat and told us how it worked – like a pregnancy test – in simple terms that made us understand without making us feel thick. An excellent experience. Brilliant.
Having the whole family in one house is lovely. The house is big enough that we have our own space – indeed my sister – Aussie to the core – calls out “Cooee” to find her kids, and it is nice to have time to make Christmas together.
The two girls and their Uncle – my bro – have already put on a Christmas play. My sister – must make up a name for her soon – has a little theatre in the basement, and as you can see in the photo below they went to some trouble with their costumes. Poshi Junior is Father Christmas, Bear – her cousin – is Rudolf and Uncle Banana is naughty Vixen.
The best bit was JP throwing her hands up and saying “Poof” whenever she wanted the scene to end. Hilarious. And “Poof” has become the new word of this Christmas.
Today we go to a foodstore where there are singing vegetables. You gotta love America!
I’ve discovered a new blogging term. The word is SLAB.
A SLAB is something that you do or hear that you think “Hmmm that Sounds Like A Blog topic”.
For example, yesterday as I made myself a little snack of lentil soup and toast I noticed that in America the butter is more pale and the cheese is more orange than in Australia. And Groover said… that sounds like a blog.
Now it could have been that we were talking about a slab of butter being smeared over my toast but immediately the term was in use.
“Yes”, I said grinning around my whole wheat toast, “I’ll slab it tomorrow.”
And now, whenever we see something of possible interest we say. “Hmmm what do you reckon? Slab?”
There is snow on the ground and the kids have spent every second since we arrived sledding. I decided to hang inside for a while and talk to you dear internet but you may see me skidding on the ice soon. Yes it rained after the snow and the top layer is hard and slippery.
Thai Airways was surprisingly good. We went Perth-Bangkok-New York. That’s about 6 hours to Bangkok and then 17 to New York. The food was great. My rule for aeroplane food is to always take the Asian option and I wasn’t disappointed. Rogan Josh lamb curry, Hokkein noodles with stir-fry pork, Chicken something or other.
Bangkok Airport is one year old. Some long name starting with ‘S’ my plane spotter son told me. It has the largest single terminal in the world and it is impressive. Walking down the moving sidewalks to the shopping areas feels like a science fiction movie. But already the cracks are starting to show literally in the flooring. It may look new but it lacks soul.
Perhaps I’m expecting too much but even JFK had some interesting artwork on the walls and of course Vancouver Airport is lovely. It’s not often you can say that about an airport! What did Douglas Adams say?
It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, ‘as pretty as an airport.’ Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort.
The other surprise, given that we bought the cheapest seats we could find, was the amount of leg room. Seriously good. The plane configuration was 2-4-2, and we managed to get window seats so we were “comfortable enough” down the back. We weren’t expecting much so we were happy.
And the 17 hour flight. Recommended. If there’s one thing I can’t stand is hanging around in airports and all that security checking they make you do these days. Sheesh.
Speaking of which, I don’t mind the putting your moisturiser in a plastic bag, the continual scanning of my handbag, the walking through metal detectors, even being patted down by a perfect stranger wearing a gun gives a little frisson to the journey… but what I really find irritating is this ban on water. Even water you’ve bought in an airport on the right side of security… take that to another airport and finished or not – in the bin it goes. The world has gone insane.
Back to the long flight, we had prepared. I asked my GP for some sleeping tablets so that we would definately sleep and they worked. Although Groover did manage to drop half of them. Note to self – next time get the bigger tablets. My sleep was a little fitful as I was terrified I’d needed to and had forgotton to get visas. What’s the worst that could happen – I thought to myself half-way to New York, trying to think positive – we could be turned around and sent right back! Luckily we didn’t need them – I’m sure the travel agent might have mentioned it if we had and after giving immigration our fingerprints and photo they let us through.
Driving to my sister’s house from JFK, Groover and I felt we were in a movie set. The images are so familiar. I half expected to see a high-speed car chase. They never show you the outcome of those chases do they? The mile long traffic jams caused by the wreckage left behind. Yes, we ended up in our first traffic jam.
We started a game of “numberplate bingo”. This is a lot more fun in the States where there are 50 states to get. So far we’ve sighted 13.
Today is a recovery day. We’re all determined to stay awake for as long as possible to try and force ourselves into this time zone. I’m feeling a bit dizzy as I type so I hope to last the distance. My brother and his girlfriend arrive late this afternoon and my sister and Mum and Dad will be here about 10pm. Christmas has begun.