Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Life in Bermuda

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Dear Ms. Robin's class,

I'm very excited to show you a small slice of what our life here in Bermuda looks like.  We (Sadaf, Jeff, Jordan - 9 and Mina - 7)  have been living here for about 3 and a half years now, after moving from New Jersey. 



We came here because my husband was offered a very special job working for one of the large insurance companies on the island.

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Bermuda is a small group of islands located in the north Atlantic, right off the coast of North Carolina.  It is easy to get to by plane - about two hours from JFK, Boston or Philadelphia.  We travel back and forth a lot, so we know!

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Because the island is so small (21 square miles.), families are usually limited to one car per household. But you can own as many motorcycles (or bikes, as they are called) as you want.  When tourists come to visit, they aren't allowed to rent cars, only bikes.  The roads are very narrow and windy, so people worry they will get hurt.

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Bermuda is an independent island with its own government, headed by a Premiere and a Parliament. However, it used to be owned by England (now a part of the United Kingdom) and today is considered a UK protectorate. That means, England protects the island in case someone attacked it and Bermudian citizens have a right to travel and work in the UK.

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These are the old stockades, where criminals were punished in public for crimes like stealing. Now it's just a tourist picture spot in the town of St. Georges.

Because of its British roots, Bermuda retains a lot of English customs - certain language, expressions, judicial systems, habits, and dress.

Speaking of dress, have you ever seen shorts like these?

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They are called Bermuda shorts - long shorts for boys and men, worn with long socks and dress shoes. The boys here wear them as part of their uniform to school, and grown men also wear them to work in the warm weather. Don't forget the long socks though - without them, they're just shorts.  Bermuda shorts are considered appropriate dress for all work and formal occasions.  People here wear them to weddings and to fancy restaurants too - with a blazer and tie, of course.

The Bermuda flag also incorporates the "Union Jack," which is the British flag. You can see a bit of it on this picture below.

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Golf is a popular sport on the island.  So is cricket and "football."  Back home, we call it soccer.  Cricket is such a big sport here, they have a special holiday called "Cup Match Day," where the island basically shuts down for three days, families camp out and spectators attend a three day cricket festival where rival teams from the east end of the island play those from the west end.

The holiday is properly called "Emancipation Day," which was the day slavery was outlawed on the island.  But people still call it Cup Match.  No one goes to work, and families enjoy the day together.  It's kind of like the 4th of July and Memorial Day all rolled into one.

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We usually like to be on the water then, as it is so hot in July!

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This was our backyard last July during Mina's birthday party. Having a pool is one way to beat the heat!

Christmas is a another big holiday on the island.  One of the things they like to do here is hold a boat parade at night, where sailors deck up their boats in lights and sail along the harbor in Hamilton.

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They also have another annual tradition, called the "Santa Parade" where floats go down the street and kids get candy from the performers.

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They like that a lot.

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The Gombeys usually come out to all the major events too. These are a group of dancers who perform to the beat of a drum and reflect some of the island's African and Caribbean influences.

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Speaking of holidays, Easter is another big one here. For Good Friday, people head to the beach to fly kites. They bring along hot cross buns and special fried fish cakes and meet friends and family. 

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There's something pretty special about spending a day on the beach in April, especially if you are used to snow and cold.

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We don't have any of this in Bermuda! That's Jeff plowing the driveway at Grandma's house in Pennsylvania.

I don't miss the snow. I'm more of a beach person anyway.

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So is our dog, Oscar.

We hope you enjoyed our story. Thanks for stopping by in beautiful Bermuda. As we say, "Cheers!"

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Bermuda Easter 2014

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One of the projects I promised to do was put together a snapshot of Bermuda pics and traditions for a friend for her school class.  I immediately thought of this when I looked at our pictures from this past Easter.  Bermuda has its own traditions when it comes to Easter.  Kite flying on Good Friday is one of them.

I just love the idea of enjoying the beach and the serenity of those aquamarine seas on an April day.  I promise I did not edit that pic for color.  This was Elbow Beach.

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Kite flying can be hard work.  Look at the worry on this face.

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Of course, once it's up in the air - pure glee.

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We also still do the same things we used to do back in the USA - an Easter egg hunt with friends..

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A full basket of candy for me to inspect.

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Getting dressed up for a big meal - one I did not have to cook.. yay!  As much as I love drooling over what everyone else makes for this holiday, and admiring all the beautiful table settings and desserts, I did not have it in me to do anything except hit the brunch at one of the restaurants on the island.  This pregnancy is really doing a number on me.  I am wiped out. 

Four more months to go!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring Break 2014 - Cruising on the Disney Fantasy

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We bit the bullet this year and splurged on a Disney cruise.  Since three out of the four of us have never been on a cruise before, Disney was definitely the right way to start.  Once you force yourself to forget about the cost, and let Disney work its charm, it becomes a pretty amazing adventure.

Disney makes everything so easy!  We were originally supposed to fly into Tampa, rent a car and drive to Port Canaveral, where the Fantasy docks.  However, the Tampa flight was cancelled, as we sat there in the airport.  We scrambled for alternate options that would get us there before the ship left, and wound up taking a flight to Orlando instead.

There, we found the Disney cruise buses, which conveniently pull up and whisk you away to the boat.  Yes, they charge, but they were so incredibly efficient about organizing your bags, getting you in the right lines, and transitioning you to the boat, it was easy to shell out the money.  Coming from Bermuda, where it sometimes seems like everything is a hassle for tourists and natives alike, Jeff and I kept shaking our heads at the efficiency of the Disney tourist machine. 

What we could learn!

Here the kids pose in line while a Disney cast member photobombs the background.  Gotta love it.

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Embarking on a cruise is a bit of work, and line-standing, but again, Disney breezes you through it.  They had a pre-registration station for the Oceaneer's Club - the on board Disney kids club for our age group.  They kids got their electronic bracelets affixed to their wrists (hostages!) and we went through the process of confirming any allergies, who could pick them up, whether they were allowed to leave the club by themselves (heck no).


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Jordan proudly declared he was allergic to grapefruit, which is completely untrue (grapefruit is not recommended when you take cyclosporine as it interferes with the absorption of the drug he takes for his heart.  I've explained this to him many times, but in his mind it's easier to translate it into an allergy.  Of course then it becomes a competition and Mina needs something to be allergic to as well.  The closest thing she can find is a body lotion that once made her break out into a rash.  So, for the record, she is allergic to Eucerin cream.)

But the staff took him seriously and added the information to his check in so there would be no mistaken grapefruit servings during his time on the boat.  And no one would dare slather Eucerin on either of them either.

Despite the self-imposed ban on grapefruit,  the boat did not lack an abundance of food.  When Jordan realized that I wasn't going to limit his dessert options, the glee on his face was akin to the proverbial kid in a candy shop.  Then he discovered the free, unlimited soft serve ice cream stand near the pools on Deck 11.  Jeff counted one day - four servings for him alone.

We also noted that one week on the cruise and Jordan gained two pounds.  To put this into context, you have to realize that it typically takes a year for Jordan to gain one pound.  I will decline noting how much I gained.

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There is no shortage of activities on the boat.  In preparation for the trip, I spent a long time researching the message boards on a site called cruisecritic.com.  The section devoted to the Disney Fantasy was very helpful for someone like me - with no cruise background.  I got to see what other families did each step of the way, what to pack, what activities to pre- register for, what port adventures were worth the money, what little things we could look forward too, how the restaurant rotation worked, what we could bring on board with us, etc.

There are three main restaurants on the ship - The Enchanted Garden, The Animator's Palate, and The Royal Court.  You rotate through each of them and you are assigned either an early seating (5:45) or later one (8:15) .  We got the later one, which I actually appreciated because it gave us more time during the day and I didn't feel rushed to get to dinner. 


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The kids were tired, definitely, (see pic above) as they are used to eating around 6 and typically in bed by 8.  But, we were on vacation, so most of the rules went out the window.

There are also two restaurants on board exclusively for adults - Remy (high end French) and Palo (Italian).  We went to Remy and it was impressive.  Having been lucky enough to eat at some very fancy restaurants over the years, I thought Remy did a good job of aspiring to that caliber of dining  - attentive staff, exceptionally prepared food, attention to detail, wine pairings, ambiance, and catering to the concept of dinner as an experience.

Apart from restaurants, there's also fast dining options close to the pool - Cabanas is a buffet style restaurant where we typically ate breakfast. They also had lunch.  There's also quickie food stations on the same deck for hamburgers, hot dogs, Paninis, wraps, pizza and salads.

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Animator's Palate is awesome.  The kids loved it.  You get a chance to doodle a drawing on your place mat, which your waiter then whisks away.  Later in the meal, the animation comes to life on the screens surrounding the restaurant.  The kids were also big fans of our waiters, who stay with you through each of your rotations.  I think they loved best was that once the waiters figured out the kids loved chocolate milk, there was a big cup of it waiting at the table each night when we arrived.  With their names on it.  Magic. 

Obviously, I can't take those away.

One of the things I noticed on the message boards was the commentary about the unlimited free drinks.  This is true - on Deck 11, they had stations where you could fill up to your heart's content on free soft drinks, water, lemonade, coffee or juices.  People kept saying you should bring the big water bottles so you could carry around your water or soda all day.  I guess I just don't get this.  I definitely pushed for hydrating all day, especially when we hit the warmer climate zones, but I was surprised to see kids and adults juggling around these monster sodas at 9:00 in the morning. 

That's the kind of thing that wouldn't rank on my list if I was putting a message board post up. I did appreciate that Disney allows you to bring your own alcohol on the ship.  We didn't as I'm pregnant and Jeff couldn't be bothered.  But if we were to do it again, I would.  That to me is a bigger cost savings option.  There's plenty on board, of course, but I'm not a big fruity cocktail with wee umbrella drinker.  Just give me a crisp glass of Sancerre and I am fine.


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I did love the message boards for the commentary on port excursions.  We did the seven day cruise and stopped at several ports - Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Disney's Castaway Cay.  At each of those ports, you can sign up for adventures off ship.  Once you're registered for the cruise, you can sign up online, which I recommend.  You can and should sign up for amenities like beach cabanas as well since those go really fast.  We didn't get one, and it wasn't the end of the world.  The kids played happily on the beach and I relaxed in the shade anyway.

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The kids did all the ports - climbed ruins in Costa Maya, played on the beach in Grand Cayman, watched the dolphins frolic in Cozumel and snorkeled with the stingrays in Castaway Cay.

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I can't think of anything negative about the cruise.  Apart from the cost, of course.  But for us, vacations are the one thing we're willing to spend money on. 

My favorite parts of the experience were giving the kids the freedom to explore the boat on their own under the guise of solving the Muppets Mystery Adventure, the Disney live shows in the Broadway theater, dining at Remy, feeding the sting rays, and indulging in feeling of not having to cook or clean or stress about anything for a week while being indulged every day.    Being such a germaphobe, I loved how hyper sanitizing the staff was.  People were cleaning all day long, and every time you walked into a restaurant, a staff member handed you a hand sanitizing wipe to use immediately. 

Ahh...

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The kids would say they loved the ice cream.  And the "sleepy chocolates" they left on the pillows every night. 

Priorities, people.

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Royals.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Santa was extra generous this year.

Not too many parents can document the night of their child's conception.  Apparently, I can. 

As of today, I am going into my 16th week.  Calculating it back, Jeff and I were able to figure out when the magic happened.  Suffice it to say, we will no longer be attending his office Christmas parties.

Baby boy Trimarchi is expected to arrive on or about August 31, 2014. 



Surprise!

As a seasoned veteran of the mommy brigade, I pretty much knew about three weeks into it that something was off.  I tried to tell myself that my new found massive cleavage and all day nausea were just signs of aging.. pre-menopause.  Yeah, that's it. 

Even as my chest got bigger, and denial grew stronger, we still managed to head off on our Christmas break to NYC, during which time I happily splurged on a Christmas gift to myself - two pairs of Rag+Bone skinny jeans which are now gathering dust on the top shelf of my closet. Oh the irony.  To have been diligently working out for months and months to fit comfortably into those jeans...

It's also come to my attention that other moms on this island have found themselves in this situation,  as a direct result of said Christmas party.  I don't know what to say to this, other than I'm thinking class action for child support. 

Just kidding!!  I'm kidding, said company!!!

Jordan and Mina are very excited about the whole thing.

 
Anyway, I'm hanging in there, even in the face of a rapidly diminishing wardrobe.  Yoga pants and baggy hoodies are my new best friends.  It's also a little surprising how much earlier you pop out with the third one - a fact the kids never fail to point out.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Year in Review - 2013

One of the best parts about keeping a blog is using it to recap the highlights of the past year. Although we're well into February, I'd like to recall 2013 before I completely forget.



January always starts with a bang because we celebrate Jordan's birthday!  He turned 8 years old, and we had an art party at Kaleidoscope Arts Center - bird themed this year. Bird cutout sandwiches, bird cake pops, and hand crafted bird paper take-aways.  Lots of art too.. lots of messy art that was thankfully, not in my home!


January was also a milestone because it was the first time I challenged myself to run the "Bermuda Triangle."  This is a three day series of races that consist of a mile, a 10k and a half-marathon.  Rising to the occasion were dear friends who knew me when.. from back in the day, who traveled all the way from ~~NYC.  Go girls!

February - while the chilly winds blew through Bermuda, we celebrated Valentine's Day, family style, at our favorite local Italian place - Portofino's.  Yes, that's Jordan's hand photo bombing my shot.




March - the weather's beautiful in BDA, which means it's time for Sports Day! 



It's also my birthday, and Jordan designed the best birthday gift I've ever received.  He created a scavenger hunt which led me to the basement, and to the picture on the wall.  We drew that together one rainy afternoon.  I just about melted.



April  - time for the extended Spring Break!  We hightailed it back to the US, and discovered how much we love Florida.  And Disney.



And our dear friends, who happily shared their kids and Easter with us!



Uncle Osman joined us at Busch Gardens, a/k/a "not Disney" for some fun adventure park times.  I also blacked out and lost a year of my life on a roller coaster known as "Shiekra."



Climbing to great heights in Tampa.



May - I'm trying to recall how me managed to escape again to the US in May, but somehow we did.  We discovered a fabulous oyster place in lower Manhattan..



And also got to get gussied up and hang out with these fabulous people!  Look - no kids amongst the lot of us!!



Back to reality - May is yet another Sports Day - this one for Mina.  Despite her cries of protest in the weeks leading up to it, she came in 2nd place in two different events.



Jordan also had a chance to perform on the piano at his class' school assembly.



June 2013 - slightly bittersweet moment as I realize Mina is graduating from the lower primary school, Cavendish, and moving up to join her big brother at the "big kid school."



June is the perfect time of the year in BDA - enjoying the harbor outside the Fairmount Hamilton Princess, during a dinner break.



July was a whirlwind of celebrating - starting with a over the top 4th of July celebration at Tucker's Resort.



July was also about birthdays - Jeff and Mina both had what felt like a month of celebrating.



Turning 40 is not so bad!



Especially when you're surrounded by family and friends from near and far.



.. and surprise parties!



I'll drink to that!



The parties continued into the back yard for Mina's 7th.



Life is good.



August - we spent most of the month off-island, on a grand tour of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Pennsylvania, and Florida.  We crammed in as much as we could in three weeks and four suitcases.



The best part was catching up with friends.



Sharing stories...



And splashing the days away..



In September, the kids had their last hurrah when Uncle Ciccio came to visit them in BDA.



And then it was back to school!  YES!!!


Every year has it's ups and downs, but if hard pressed, I'd say I can only think of one incident that struck a bad note for me. That was in September when I got infected with MRSA. Fabulous nursing from family and friends, and a gashing scar later, I'm over it.



In October, my brother Osman finally crossed the pond and visited us on our tiny speck of land.  This is how we do fall in BDA.



We also celebrated my favorite holiday of the year - Halloween!



In November, Jordan completed a successful biopsy, and we all breathed a sigh of relief!

And Miss Mina did her family proud with her excellent academic citations.



That's my girl!



November also brought out the ninja stylings of Jordan, who helped raise over $400 dollars towards his team's gymnastics program.  Here he shows off at city hall.



December - time to fatten up for the winter!  This month was so full of activities, between school, work an friends.  It was amazing. 


After fully enjoying the Christmas swing in BDA, we arrived in NYC on December 26, ready to end the year on a bang.



2013 was a fantastic year for Team Trimarchi.  I have full faith the next one will be equally memorable.  May the road rise to meet you, and the wind be at your back!  Cheers!