Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 4 - First Visitors from California

Another eventful week back here as we welcomed our first visitors from California, I traveled back to California, and we had our first apple picking experience.

Bubbe comes to town
On Wednesday night our mom and Bubbe arrived and the kids were over the top excited.  Even though we did not get back until nearly 9pm from the airport, there was no telling them to go to bed until they gave her a hug.  It reminds me of when my Grandma Ruthie used to visit us in LA from Philly.  While we miss being so close to all of our family, there is something special about out of town visitors.  She is in town for another week and we have more adventures planned.

Pizza lunch at school
Not much of a story here, but a great picture of Rachel and some of her new friends at school for hot lunch.  Beth, as everyone expects, volunteered and helped serve pizza to the kids.

Simchas Torah
This holiday always reminds me of the funny line from the little known movie Top Secret with a young Val Kilmer.  In any case, the family celebrated on Thursday night and Bubbe even got the honor or carrying a torah.  The kids got into the action as well.

City by the Bay
One of my clients is in San Francisco, so I hopped on a flight on Thursday to visit them. Definitely a strange feeling flying West for business as you end up spending a very, very long day due to the time change.  The upside is when you leave, you go East instead of South which provides a great view of both bridges, the city and Berkeley as you fly back home.  I had a chance to see Mark Graham for dinner on Friday which was a real treat and for the other Bay Area natives, there will be more trips.

Ian starts to read Hebrew
Ian came home from Hebrew School yesterday and was so excited as something clicked at school yesterday and he started to read Hebrew.  I have to admit that I was wondering when it would all start to come together after 3 years of Jewish Pre-School and 4+ years of Hebrew School, but I guess
everything is a process.  They loaned him a Siddur so he could practice and there is no better reading buddy than Bubbe, so they had a good time with that yesterday.  Pretty neat to watch the light go on and there was a funny moment when he was reading to a prayer and was trying to read the word Eloheynu.  He was truly reading it and Rachel said "Eloheynu" on queue because that is just the pattern she is used to hearing.  I guess it does sink in.

Party Bus & Great Wolf Lodge
Ian got invited to a birthday party for one of his new friends and they took a bus to the Poconos and went to an indoor water slide park.  The way Ian described it, it sounded like Hurricane Harbor condensed into an indoor facility.  He had the time of his life!!

Apple Picking
Thanks to Tim Roy, our local expert on everything to do in New Jersey, who pointed us in the direction of Masker's Orchards to go apple picking.  It was about an hour drive to the Northwest in Warrick County where it is located.  For those that have done this before, I am sure this is just a normal activity, but none of us have ever been to an apple orchard before.  The coolest parts were simply having the experience of picking an apple off a tree, giving it a little rub on your shirt and taking a bite.  We came back with a huge bag of Macintosh and Red Delicious apples.

Homemade Ice Cream
Another insider tip was to stop at the creamery on the way back.  I kept thinking to myself, "how will I know where it is?".  Hard to miss a line of 50 people snaking around a house with the words "Local = Good" on the side.

The best news of the day was they don't use eggs in their ice cream so Ian could enjoy it.  All flavors were big hits including Bellvue Bog which was chocolate with brownie bits and fudge swirl, but Bubbe loved her coffee ice cream and Beth went for a peanut butter concoction and Butter Pecan.  They sit on top of a hill overlooking Warrick Valley which is just the most amazing view you will ever see, especially on the clear day we had.  We can only imagine what that would look like when the trees start to turn.

Another great week in the books and we look forward to more fun next weekend with Bubbe after she returns from a side trip to Philly.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Solomons in Jersey - Week 3

Every day and every week we get a little more settled in and what we keep asking ourselves is "how long have we been here now?"  While last week marks the 3rd week, it seems like it has been so much longer than that.   The kids are into their new routines at school and they each have made a number of new friends so that is helping their sense of comfort.   We have still been getting the house together on weekends, so not too many adventures outside the area, but now that the house is pretty much done (including pictures are the walls) we hope to get back out and about next weekend.  Here is Rachel posing in her Pinkalicious Room and Ian taking full advantage of our backyard doing his best DeSean Jackson impression.  His "team" practices every day and that is the closest to a real football team he will see, but in his 9 year old mind he is on track to play wideout for the Eagles after college.

Back To School
We met the kids teachers at Back to School nights this past week and either the teachers at Dorchester are all great or we have beginner's luck.  Ian's teacher has a ton of gusto and passion and I see why Ian likes her so much.  We loved how she is stressing building independence and accountability in the classroom this year to get the kids ready for middle school in 2 years. Rachel's teacher seems like a great match for her personality and we are seeing her creativity thrive in the classroom.

This was our first full weekend of soccer.  Rachel's league does a 90 minute session every Saturday highlighted by 70 minutes of drills and a 20 minute scrimmage.  It is less about being on a team and more about building skills.  Rachel has really grown since last year and is showing a better nose for the ball.  She even scored a goal in the scrimmage which was very exciting.  Oh, and as you can see, she is having the time of her life laughing it up with Brooke, who is one of her new buddies that is also in her 1st grade classes at Dorchester and Hebrew School.

Ian finally got on the field for his new team, Arsenal.  They supposedly lost to the first place team 11-1 the prior week, but on Saturday they came away with a 1-0 win.  Ian is playing mainly defense on this team as they need someone to plug up the back line and he is doing that and then some.  He understands this team needs him there even though I think he prefers playing midfield.  We are really proud of how he has taken on this challenge.  Do you love his kicks or what???

Hag Sameach!  We love our new synagogue.  They did a Sukkah Social yesterday, which was a great way to meet more families out here and get to know the opportunities at the Temple Emanuel a little better.  There were arts and crafts and games for the kids plus a full on barbecue complete with hamburgers and hot dogs.  Rabbi Kanaz, who heads up the education, is one of a kind and has been so helpful in getting us connected with other families.  She has also been a great source of support and has a great spirit about her.

I was knee deep in sales training last week - all 5 days.  While I knew a great deal of the material, it is never bad to review all that Google does.  The week concluded with forming teams of 5 for a sales pitch competition - sort of like the Internship, but we did get to play Quidditch.  For all of you TSAers, I even got to take a new certification exam that I had not seen before which was kind of like the Google Mashup complete with questions about everything from AdWords to GDN to GA to YouTube.

The highlight continues to be food.  I ventured out to the "other side" last week and went Hemispheres, which features a Food Truck parked in the building (not sure how they got it there) and deck with a view of Midtown (which is the same view in my Google+ profile picture).  The food truck has two daily FroYo specials.  On Wednesday is was a concoction of vanilla, pomegranate, and a hint of mint. On Thursday is was pumpkin, graham cracker with a hint of nutmeg.  I didn't get a picture of the FroYo, so here is a sampling of the salads on Wednesday and the breakfast spread on Friday.  

Funny Signs
This was one Beth found that is just hysterical.  It is next to the hill of our synagogue pictured above. There is probably not a better hill for sledding in 3 counties, so the sign makes sense, but still cannot get my head around it snowing (but we will!).

We get to welcome our first visitor to our new home on Wednesday when my mom, affectionately known as Bubbe to our kids, comes to town.  We feel pretty set up and have a few adventures planned including a trip to the city and our first apple picking adventure, which everyone keeps telling us about.  Figure we better get outside before the weather starts to turn.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New Beginnings - Week 2

Week 2 in New Jersey was all about new beginnings. We all continue to settle into our new life and new surroundings and each of us is adapting to something new every day. 

To our great surprise we found out the movers were coming on Sunday the 8th, which as it turned out was great timing.  We cannot imagine what would have happened if it was mid-week when I was at work.  The kids were ecstatic to see their stuff arrive, kind of like our first guest arriving, it was good to see some familiarity.  The kids were super helpful in getting us set up.  Rachel started to organize her art supplies and Ian set about getting the Man Cave in order. Beth has been the quarterback of the move and as we all know this is one of many places she excels.  As we sit here a week later, all boxes have been unpacked and you would have no idea we just moved here except for a few pictures getting hung.  We slept in our new house on Wednesday and it was so nice to be home again!  She has a gift!

First Day of School
Talk about hitting the ground running, the kids had no hesitation about starting school. If anything I think they both were excited to go; maybe a little structure in their lives was something they subconsciously craved, or that is what Beth and I were channeling :-).   Rachel is in Mrs. Agovina's class and from everything we have seen and heard she is going to be amazing. Plus there are only 18 kids in class!  Ian has Mrs. Pepe (think Italian) and paid her the highest compliment comparing her favorably to Mrs. Alterman, his teacher from last year who he adored. High praise!  Rey both knew a few kids going into their first day which eased the transition.  The beauty of being 9 or 6 years old is how quick you make friends.  Ian also commented how great the school was, "when we have art or science we leave our classroom and they have a room setup for each of those."  

I am totally blown away that I now work at Google.  I am constantly amazed t the pace and culture of innovation. It helps when you are printing money, but there is nothing they touch that they don't appear to be trying to innovate, in addition to making a self driving car!  For those that are not familiar, I am what they call a Noogler (new Googler) for my first few months. There is so much going on here that everyone admits there is no way to know it all, but yo eventually learn enough to get around and do your job.  One other thing many of you might not know is that they feed us early and often. My office is located above Chelsea Market and we have three micro kitchens on my floor filled with cereal, snacks of all varieties, drinks, candy, nuts, fruit, etc., all free.  Then they have a cafeteria one floor below me where the serve breakfast and lunch with another 4 themed restaurants across the street.  All of this is gratis and the good is not sloppy joes, it is cuisine made by their staff of chefs.  I'm going to feature a few items each week, so this week I will highlight a few dishes to give you a flavor:
- maple glazed salmon
- spinach with garlic, lemon and petite raisins
- hangar steak with balsamic reduction sauce
- frittata with tomatoes, leeks, and asparagus (breakfast)
- desserts - s'mores pastry, pumpkin brûlée, chocolate-peanut butter fudge (this was yesterday)

They talk about the Google 15 but if you want to eat healthy there is a full salad bar at each lunch so I'm home free. 

So I'm getting plenty of experience being away from my car as I'm on trains about 140 minutes a day. Here is my home station.  

Our adventures have been somewhat limited but we got to Ridgewood and while it is a little bigger than other towns, it was still charming.  We found a great pizza place in town and look forward to going back to explore it a bit more. 

Fall is Starting
It's hard to believe we have only been here 2 weeks but we are feeling very settled in and looking forward to Fall weather complete with watching the Fall colors and experiencing apple picking. Here is a picture of Woodcliff Lake as a reference point, we cannot wait to see heat this looks like in another month. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Adventure in New Jersey Begins - Week 1

Our adventure is now a week old and I am finally getting around to start our family's adventure blog.  We found out today that our moving truck will show up on Sunday so we will have a busy weekend, the day before the kids start school and I start my new job.

Today, Rachel said "New Jersey now feels like my home."  I think that pretty much sums up how we are all feeling after a week here.  Slowly but surely we are getting adjusted and starting to explore the surrounding area.  Tonight we ate dinner in Westwood at a little place called The Iron Horse.  Good little burger joint and really charming town.  The thing we have noticed here is there are more mom and pops and fewer chains, which is such a nice departure from LA.

Here are some highlights since this is a big catch up blog post:

Airport - hanging out at Newark Airport last Friday night, which seems like a lifetime ago.  We learned all about Uber car on this trip and it is our new favorite service.

NYC Outing - we took our first trip to the city on Sunday and had lunch at Carnegie's Deli and then walked across town to Dylan's Candy Bar with stops at the Lego store, American Girl and the NBA Store.

Hillsdale - Rachel and I ventured out to Hillsdale on Monday and there are a few blocks of shops including a little butcher who makes good sandwiches and a hardware store.

Here we are eating the fruits of our labor in Hillsdale, our first meal at our new house in Woodcliff Lake on the front porch.  Finally, here is a picture of Rachel enjoying her new backyard which to her is like a playground.  She has a lot of grass area to roam around and the house came with a huge piece of playground equipment complete with a slide, climbing ropes and even a few swings (see below).

Tomorrow Rachel starts soccer and we hope to explore Ridgewood as our tour of local towns continue.  Ian will probably start soccer team after he practiced with two different teams this week and decided which team was a better fit for him.  

It is all slowly coming together and we cannot wait to spend a night in our new home - hoping for Wednesday night, which is the day Ian's new bed arrives.

For those that don't have it, our new address is: 28 Highview Avenue, Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677

Mike's new email address is: