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As we’ve now done every other since 2008, the Cleaver clan (now expanded!) took our bi-annual trip down to Southern California for Thanksgiving. It’s a long trip cobbled together on buses to/from Boston and long plane flights, but the travel is worth it to see my now-distant family.

A few nights before we left Mr. Cleaver and I tried to figure out how many times we had done this Thanksgiving trip (this was the 4th): there was the year I have memorialized in a photo on my desk, when my mom  and her mom came and my cousin Preston was there and my grandmother Leota was still alive and there was only one wee member of the next generation.

Then there was the year my grandfather, now a widower, had my brother and I cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner two days before Thanksgiving and when we visited my Great Aunt Betty at her house and she gave me a little brass bird to take with me to look at and think of her. She’s since moved to a senior living community and I haven’t seen her since.

Then most recently, the year we met my little red-headed first cousin once removed, while I was pregnant with my own little red-headed girl, and we stayed with my Aunt and Uncle and went to Disneyland.

This year there was one less member of the eldest generation and two more members of the youngest.  All reminders of why its so important to make the trip, if only every other year. My uncle said it best this year  – “traditions like this don’t just happen, you have to put in the work and everyone has to pitch in.”

I’ll admit that this year, with LMC as part of the group, made for a very different experience for me – not to say she was trouble – she was spectacular on the all the travel and in adjusting to the new people and surroundings, but it really struck me how much more your attention is divided when you’re the parent of a small child. When a half an hour conversation turns into 10 minutes because she needs you in another room, or the shift in times from up late and sleeping in to early to bed, early to rise. But I loved seeing LMC read a book with her Great Aunt, or sit in her Great-Uncle’s lap to watch the Polar Express or for her to play kitchen with her cousin and try to be like the big girl. Not to mention her first experiences seeing a baby hippo, chowing down on In-N-Out fries, or taking her first pass at big-ball bowling.

To some extent, visits to my family during the Holidays have always felt a little bit nostalgic – going back to the places I loved as kid and remembering all the things we did in those backyards and houses, but this year I was reminded how great families (and I have some great family), allow you to change and grow and love you all the more for it.

And for that, I’m thankful.

Lent 2011 Day #14

Whenever I log into WordPress to update this blog, it shows me a list of the most frequent/recent search terms people used to find my blog. The list usually looks something like this: ms cleaver chronicles, ms cleaver, chocolate chip cookie ingredients, abercrombie and stitch, chicken satay, s’more pie, smore pie, ms cleavers chronicles. (You’d think I post way more about cooking than I actually do – though if you’re interested in that see the Recipes page.)

One time the list included the following: “knitters who love pinball”

I have no idea who searched that, but I wish they’d left a comment, because I’d love to know who they are, and why they were searching it (presumably they are also a knitter who loves pinball).

In any case, I’m an accurate return for that search query and proven by this post on a trip to FunSpot last year.

Since Mr. Cleaver’s currently on spring break we took a return trip yesterday.

The drive out to New Hampshire was lovely, as all the trees were heavy with the previous evening’s snow.

Hwy 25

Though the initial “wow” from the previous trip had worn off, FunSpot is still a lot of, well fun. Even if both Mr. Cleaver’s and I favorite machines were out of order.

PinballI got in a variety of pinball action.

TetrisMr. Cleaver played a lot of Tetris.

George's Diner

Mid-day we took a break and ate lunch at George’s Diner down the road in Meredith. My burger was okay, but the onion rings were delicious and the fries tasted exactly like In-N-Out fries. I got a few “you’re not from around here” looks entering the diner, presumably because the folks in Meredith don’t typically sport magenta nylons.

Lent Day #14

But if you’re not going to wear magenta nylons to spend a day playing at an arcade, when are you?

Praying Mantis Tee: local artist, purchased at Ferdinand in 2005.

Purple Tank: Gap outlet

Skirt: Ann Taylor Loft, gift

Tights: Target

Boots: Naturalizers, Macys.

Focuses

At work I get a “floating spring holiday” that I can take whenever I want, so on a sunny Thursday last week, I played hooky from work and drove with Mr. Cleaver to New Hampshire to play pinball. Because that’s what you do when you play hooky. Obviously.

Funspot!

I may have mention it before, but I have a thing for pinbal, and this place?

Pinball Heaven!

Pinball heaven.

Over 35 different pinball machines, my favorites of which were the 1979 Superman machine seen above and the 1986 PinBot.

Dig Dug

Mr. Cleaver spent most of his tokens relishing in DigDug from his youth.

We also played some good old Skee-Ball,

Three Tickets!

Tried a few rounds on the machine from King of Kong (which if you like video games in the tiniest bit you need to see, because it is an awesome documentary),

King of Kong

We also tried our hand at some newer games, including this Star Wars number that made me feel like a real Jedi. 🙂

Battling Boba Fett

Don’t worry, we didn’t stay inside all day, we also enjoyed the beautiful shores of Lake Winnipesaukee:

Wiers Beach

Mount Docks Here

All in all, it was a good day of playing hooky, and thanks to some coupons we have so many leftover tokens we’ll have to take a return trip someday!

As if the Common Ground Fair on Sunday wasn’t enough, this Thursday I skipped work an hour early and Mr.Cleaver and I headed to the Cumberland County Fair.

There were cute kids on rides (check out the tongue action on this “Biker Chick”):

Biker

Up to the Super Slide

Fair Food for Dinner:
Fry Lover

Prize Winners:
Handspun Winners

Baked Goods

Cute Animals:
My Egg

Please Release Me

Supper Time

Pancake the Cow

4-H Pig Races (worth the price of admission alone):
Aaaand they're off!!

Snack Break

an International Ox Pull
Ox Pull

and sneaking it all in before it started to rain.

Ominous Winds

With a rainy Saturday, the Mr. and I took a trip over to Westbrook for Candlepin Bowling and $2.25 worth of Pinball:

Maine is Candlepin Country

Down the Center Line

Focusing