For Valentine's weekend, I booked Robert a romantic trip to the New Hampshire/Vermont border to attend an igloo-building seminar at the Montshire Museum, a local science museum. I got us a room for two nights in the Lebanon, New Hampshire Residence Inn, so we could have a comfortable suite with a separate sleeping area for the kids and a free hot breakfast every morning, and I reserved an all-wheel-drive Subaru Crosstrek from an underground Zipcar lot, and despite the amount of snow on the ground in Boston, we were good to go. We drove up Friday night, eating chicken legs and dumplings in the car on the way, and transferred two sleeping kids to bed in the room when we got there.
On Saturday we got to the museum at 10:00 when they opened, even though the igloo build didn't start until 10:30 on the grounds behind the museum. As it happened, Sarah and Sean had arranged to babysit the children of friends of theirs that weekend, and the friends happened to live ten minutes from the museum, so Sarah and Sean, with Henry (7), Stella (almost 5), and Abel (almost 3) in tow, met us at the museum and we had a fun time with the exhibits until it was time to go out back and learn about snow structures.
The guy talked about quinzhees (simple mounds of snow hollowed out to form a basic structure) vs. igloos, which are built with blocks arranged on top of one another in a spiral shape. He explained he'd been out preparing the snow field for cutting the snow blocks for the past few days, and he showed us his tools.
Sean and Robert set to work. Marcus and Henry, and some other random children from time to time, "helped," but Abel, Stella, and Samantha were too cold and not that interested, so Sarah and I took the littler kids inside.
They summoned us back out a couple hours later to see their handiwork--one of the best igloos around, as nearly all of the others had collapsed when putting on higher and higher blocks of snow. I think ours was also the only one that included an interior snow staircase, built after the basic structure was in place so Marcus and Henry could reach up to the ceiling and poke their head out.
Everyone admired their work, and Samantha, Stella, and Abel crawled inside too. The kids also had fun with a quinzhee nearby.
From the museum we drove just five minutes away to the King Arthur Flour headquarters in Norwich, Vermon, where we all had sandwiches, pizza, cocoa, and cookies for lunch. Marcus and Henry ground a lot of flour at the demonstation table, and Samantha gorged on free sample brownies.
Sarah took Stella and Abel home to bake cookies and (unsuccessfully) nap after lunch, but Sean took Henry and joined us back at the museum for some more fun (indoor, this time). When the museum closed, we picked up Sarah and all went out to dinner. The first place we tried, at 5:23 on Valentine's Day evening, saw Sarah and me poke our heads in the door and say "Hi, we're nine." A child, or two, or three, scooted in past us and started looking around. "Do you have a reservation?" the hostess asked, pretending to consult a list. "We're very busy." The restaurant was two-thirds empty behind her, but we got the message. Sean and Robert hadn't even gotten in the doorway yet, and we're pretty sure that woman didn't want Sarah and me with our seven children taking up a big table. She suggested we go to Big Fatty's BBQ a block away, and it turned out to be the best suggestion.
The owner welcomed us, told us that the big table for twelve in the middle of the room had our name all over it, filled up cups of water and brought them over, and showed the kids the box of toys he keeps next to the cash register. A guy started playing the guitar and alternately sang and played harmonica, and the food was excellent--we loved the pulled pork nachos and the catfish and hush puppy plate and the burnt ends especially.
The kids were so tired they were all really mellow, and Abel fell asleep on Sarah, and we had a great evening.
The next morning, we all met up again at Billings Farm. It was really, really cold, with negative some-crazy-number windchills, and Stella had chosen not to wear snowpants, so she was crying from the cold. We made it to see all the animals--and I made it out of the cow barn not assaulting the dairy farmer, who kept talking about mother-baby separations, the superiority of formula to mother's milk, and other obnoxious subjects. Sure, he was talking about cows, but still--those poor cows!
We spent some time in the main building doing Presidents' Day puzzles and crafts, warming up, and having hot cider and favorite presidential cookies before we called it a day at Billings. Marcus and Henry climbed up and slid down a giant mountain of snow in the parking lot, maybe twenty feet high, while I paced around it keeping myself warm and making sure they didn't slide into any cars.
For lunch we once again tried a place, and had to abort, but this time it was because Sarah and Sean's Zipcar minivan had terrible traction on the snow and couldn't make it into (and barely out of) the restaurant's parking lot. As we headed to our second choice lunch place, they nearly started sliding down another hill, but thankfully righted themselves and made it to lunch. The four kids (Marcus was riding with them), watching a movie in the back of the van, apparently never even noticed.
We had lunch at the Mountain Creamery in downtown Woodstock, Vermont (where Robert showed once again just how much not-a-New-Yorker he is by admitting he thought this was the Woodstock). The kids ate grilled cheese and burgers and we had tuna melts, monte cristos, a turkey and cranberry sandwich, and other classics, with, of course, ice cream for dessert.
In the afternoon, we played and talked at Henry, Stella, and Abel's house, with their parents--back now from their own romantic weekend away--and then we drove back to Boston in a caravan with Sarah and Sean, taking especial care of the blowing snow and crazy winds on the highways. Boston had gotten hit bad with eighteen inches of snow and another blizzard in our absence, but we made it down just fine, stopping for a late dinner at Mr. Mac's Macaroni and Cheese in Manchester--a counter-service place but very, very friendly, with really nice mac and cheese: we got a small kid's plate, a medium bacon-chicken-ranch, and a medium lobster. Yum! The service was wonderful and friendly, even at the very end of the day, and we'll be back if we're ever again in Manchester, New Hampshire. From there we drove to Boston, and after Robert had dropped the kids and me and our stuff off at home, he drove to Sean's Zipcar lot near North Station to pick them up and drive them home to Roslindale, since the T wasn't running. What a great weekend--true romance? Well, our idea of fun, apparently, is cheap good food, lots of snow play, lots of kids, and good friends.
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Created: 2/19/15. Last Modified: 2/19/15.