Sunday, March 13, 2016


On February 29, I had the pleasure of guest lecturing for the Product Management 102 class at Harvard Business School. I spoke about Project Management with a former colleague, Ben Foster, who covered materials on Roadmapping. Because the class was in the evening and I had to spend the night anyway, I decided to extend my trip and see a little bit of Boston the next day. It turned out to be a really good trip.

2-29-16 - Harvard Yard
After I flew in on Monday, I dropped by bag off at the hotel and took a Harvard campus tour. I wasn't originally going to take an official tour, but I got frustrated by not knowing which buildings I was looking at and happened to be in the right place at the right time to join a tour.

Memorial Hall

Widener Library goes five floors into the ground and was built to memorialize a kid killed on the Titanic.
"John Harvard"
After lunch, I spent the afternoon sitting in or teaching classes. I got to listen to a class debate the Opower Case Study, which was really interesting. I also spoke with the Tech MBAs about Agile Software Development before Ben and I taught our class in the evening. I had dinner near Harvard Square at Russell House and had some deliciously unorthodox Clam Pizza.

Harvard Business School is much nicer than the main Harvard campus.
The next day I got up bright and early to walk along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile long, well-marked trail that takes tourists past 16 historical sites. I LOVED my day on the Freedom Trail. To be honest, my favorite site was the Granary Burial Ground (that's right, a cemetery). But it was the BEST cemetery ever, with its stereotypical old haunted gravestones with ornate designs and the occasional famous person like John Hancock and Paul Revere. It was so cool!!

3-1-16 - Massachusetts State House (as seen from Boston Common)
Robert Gould Shaw Monument
Park Street Church
Boston Common
Granary Burying Ground
John Hancock's Grave
Paul Revere's Tomb

Random Grave - Look how cool these are!

After a couple churches and graveyards, I stopped at the Omni Parker Hotel, the place that invented the Boston Cream Pie, and got one in a little to-go box for later. I really enjoyed the Old Statehouse and learning about the Boston Massacre. For lunch I stopped at Neptune Oyster and ordered a Lobster Roll. It may be the world's most expensive sandwich ($30), but it was maybe the best sandwich I've ever had. After lunch I got a cannoli and then continued on to Paul Revere's house.

King's Chapel & Burial Ground
Ben Franklin Statue
Old Schoolhouse Mosaic
Boston Cream Pie
Old South Meeting House
Site of the Boston Massacre
Faneuil Hall
The Great Hall in Faneuil Hall
Lobster Roll
My first, but certainly not last cannoli!
I entertained a lonely interpreter at Paul Revere's house and helped the woman at the ticket booth get a bird out of her hut. Later in the afternoon, I stopped at the very-nicely-done USS Constituion Museum. The ship looked really sad because it is being refurbished and I couldn't go aboard, but I did get to sign my name on the copper that will be used to line the ship for the next 20 years.

Paul Revere's House
Old North Church
Inside Old North Church
A Really Skinny House
Copp's Hill Burying Ground
USS Constitution
That's going on the ship!
My last stop was the Bunker Hill Memorial. I talked to a lovely English man at the bottom for quite some time (by the way, England wants Bernie Sanders to win) and then I made my way up to the memorial. It's like a short Washington Monument and there are 294 stairs to the top. I had my carry-on bag with me and the Park Rangers wouldn't watch it, but I really wanted to see Boston from the top. So, I tucked it away and hoped no one would steal it while I literally ran to the top of the stairs and snapped a few pictures. Then I ran down. That was OK. My lungs hurt a little due to the cold air, but I was fine. I caught my plane on time and made it home by 9pm.

Bunker Hill
View from the Top


My English Friend
The next day I woke up and found that I couldn't get out of bed. My legs have never been so sore. They were cripplingly sore for 5 days. I guess that's what I get for rushing through a lovely city. I had a lot of fun and I'm sure I'll be back soon.

Boston from the Water Taxi back from the USS Constitution

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Disney World

In January, we had our first, real family vacation since Maddie was born and we went to Disney World! We flew down on January 16th and stayed in a Little Mermaid Room at the Art of Animation Resort. It was an exciting place to stay if you like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, or Cars because the buildings and walkways of the different sections were themed with all your favorite characters and scenes. The girls had a blast. Most of the week was too cold to swim, but we managed to fit in a dip at the Flippin' Fins pool on our first night.

1-16-16 - First Night!

On Sunday, we drove to the Kennedy Space Center! We wandered through a garden of rockets, took a bus tour to see the Vehicle Assembly Building and launchpads, learned about how we're planning to get to Mars, and saw the space shuttle Atlantis. (The Atlantis unveiling at the end of the walking tour was pretty cool!) We finished the day at a delicious Mexican restaurant.

1-17-16 - Kennedy Space Center

Vehicle Assembly Building

Maddie & a Launchpad

Another Launchpad


Saturn V Rocket

On Monday, we did one of my favorite things the entire trip! We went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and visited Harry Potter World!! The tour of Hogwarts was really neat and the kids liked the Hippogriff ride (Maddie was just tall enough to go on this little roller coaster). I found the candy shop most delightful as they've taken every single type of candy mentioned in the books and have brought them to life (well, in a manner of speaking, the chocolate frogs didn't actually jump). The kids bought Berty Bots Every Flavor Beans, which was a bag of jelly beans that included disgusting flavors such as earthworm and earwax. Alison wasn't very happy about the nasty flavors, but Maddie didn't seem to mind. In fact, a few weeks later when we were finishing up the bag and only bad flavors were left, Maddie finished them all off without making a face.

1-18-16 - Hogwarts!
The windows of the shops in Hogsmeade were delightful.
I was pretty happy with Harry Potter World.
Berty Bots Every Flavor Beans
Hogsmeade @ Night
 Maddie's favorite thing the whole trip was the Fish Ride in Dr. Seussland. I also thought this area was delightful. They had a carousel with creatures from the Dr. Seuss books, a whimsical train, a cat-in-the-hat ride and a bunch of buildings that looked like they were from the books. The other areas in the park were also pretty good, but these two "islands" were definitely our favorites.

Maddie rides her favorite animal, an elephant, on the Dr. Seuss Carousel.

Maddie's favorite ride. She rode it at least 10 times.

Maddie touched an animatronic dinosaur in Jurassic Park! Alison was too scared.
Dr. Seussland


On Tuesday, we went to Epcot, Nathan's favorite park. We arrived early to make breakfast reservations for a Princess Breakfast in Akershus Castle in Norway. The girls met Belle, Ariel, Aurora, Snow White, and Cinderella. The food wasn't bad either (Nathan loves the pickled herring) and the waiters (who were all from Norway) weren't all that bad to look at for the moms. Then, we rode the Mission Space and Nemo rides and enjoyed the Crush Turtle Talk. We circled back for Test Track and ate lunch in Japan. This is where the kids discovered the Kid-cot activity. Epcot will give you a little bear on a stick that you can color and at every country you collect a stamp and a little drawing. That became a driving factor for the rest of our day. Not only did we stop in every country, but we explored them far more than we ever had before because the Kid-cot stops were sometimes hidden in a store in the back. This is how we found the sit-down restaurant in Morocco (which probably has the best food in the park). We had a lovely dinner while listening to a Moroccan band and watching a Moroccan dancer. That was my highlight! We stayed for the fireworks at 9pm and then everyone went home exhausted.

1-19-16 - Epcot!

Waiting for Breakfast


Princess Aurora


Snow White is Maddie's favorite princess.

Ariel is MY favorite princess (for nostalgic reasons)!

Traditional Shark Photo!

Alison - June 2011

Alison - October 2012
Test Track - Alison and Nathan's favorite ride at Epcot

Alison met Alice (after she had been Alice in Wonderland for Halloween)!

Wednesday was our day off from the parks and it was a lovely day. We drove about an hour North to a park called Blue Springs State Park. Here, hundreds of manatees spend the winter playing in the warmer springs. They have a nice boardwalk where we saw at least 60 manatees!! There is also a playground a little snack shack that has really good sandwiches. It was the perfect low-key way to spend a beautiful day! This was my favorite thing we did the entire trip!

Wednesday was also the day when reports of a huge blizzard set to hit DC came streaming in. It was supposed to arrive Friday and Saturday and we had a flight home Saturday. So, we made the smart decision to change our flight to Sunday and stay an extra day. We were pretty excited about it.

On Thursday, we went to the Magic Kingdom. What an awesome park! We started the day by getting a pair of haircuts. Maddie got her first haircut there and was rewarded with Mickey Ears and both girls got pixie dust, which stayed in their hair for a couple weeks. We did all the classics (Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise), but there was also a whole new section with the Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride (Alison's very favorite ride of the whole vacation), a Little Mermaid ride, and an interactive experience with Belle. I could have spent a couple more days there. The highlight for the kids was probably meeting Elsa and Anna, the hardest ticket in the park to get. The line was 90 minutes long, but we had a FastPass because I set my alarm and got up at Midnight on the first day I could to reserve a slot. It was worth it. Maddie really enjoyed the Winnie the Pooh ride too.

1-21-16 - Magic Kingdom
Alison enjoys her favorite ride: The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

She rode it with Dad, too!

The girls meet Elsa!

Anna & Anna!

Oh yeah, and my camera broke at Epcot, so all I have are these official Disney photos, which is why I'm posting so many.

On Friday, we went to the Animal Kingdom. It's a smaller park and we were very happy to have done it that day because this was the only day it rained on our trip. I rode my favorite ride, Everest, four times. While we were enjoying the Festival of the Lion King show, a downpour started. We got absolutely soaked. We sat, soaked, outdoors and ate some delicious Nepalese food and made the best of it. It wasn't cold, just inconvenient. Eventually we made it over to the Finding Nemo musical, which was surprisingly good and went home a bit earlier than normal because we had seen everything and wanted to change. It was either today or the day before that we randomly found a Pollo Tropical for dinner. Yum!

1-22-16 - Animal Kingdom

Maddie meets Goofy & Pluto

Alison did not like the Everest ride.

Alison makes a friend.
On Saturday (our bonus day!), we went to Hollywood Studios. This is the park with Tower of Terror and Star Tours. Though it wasn't originally on our itinerary, it was a fantastic park and I'm glad we got a chance to do it! My very favorite thing here was a new Frozen Sing-A-Long. The characters were hilarious and although I've heard those songs a thousand times, it was still fun to belt them out with a bunch of strangers. The Toy Story ride was great too and the Indiana Jones Stunt Show hasn't changed a bit. Classic! Toward the end of the day, we found out our flight on Sunday was completely canceled due to the snow storm. I waited on the phone for 90 minutes and eventually was booked on the next available flight home: Tuesday.

Aerosmith's Rockin' Rollercoaster

Tower of Terror

So, we're stuck in Florida, watching news stories of the blizzard back home and, quite frankly, getting a little sick of the experience. Luckily, Disney was really helpful. They let us extend our tickets another day (only $10/pp at this point since we'd been there so long) and helped us find a new hotel for a change of scenery. We moved to the Port Orleans French Quarter and love, love, loved that hotel. It had a nice pool, it had a boat to Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney), and it had beignets in the dining hall. It was also a step up from our other hotel. We were very happy with the move.

On Sunday, we went back to Epcot. It's a family favorite mostly due to the amazing food and drink options. I spent so much time in that park that I can tell you with certainty that the sangria in Mexico is way better than the sangria in Italy, neither of which should have sangria. We ate in Mexico for lunch and then wandered over to watch the acrobats in China. I honestly can't even remember what we had for dinner, but I'm sure it was delicious. This was our last day in the parks and we were done.

On Monday, we decided to take it easy and hang out at our hotel. We played on the playground, then took the boat to Disney Springs and ate a late lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. I'd always wanted to do that and now I have (and don't have to again). We also braved the pool, despite the fact that it was only in the 60s.

We did, indeed, make it back home on Tuesday. DC had gotten two feet of snow and we had a fun time carrying our bags across our unplowed driveway to get them inside. At the time, I was really glad to be home, but, a week later when I asked who was ready to go back to Florida, everyone replied with an enthusiastic, "Me!"