This year John and Deanna, and the Haller family drove up to our house for Thanksgiving. Michael had come up earlier in the month to visit for a couple of days but had to work this weekend so couldn’t join us. Jeanine, Wade, Luke, and Olivia came up on Monday which gave us a chance to head for the San Francisco Zoo on Tuesday. Elizabeth and I had wanted to go since we watched a Netflix show that featured the animals there. They stayed the whole week and John and Deanna came up on Wednesday. On Thursday Sandy cooked an enormously delicious meal while we all took a car ride to the top of nearby Mount Diablo to give her some space. The ride down was fun since we did it in John’s rental car with the gas gauge on E the whole time. The dinner was fantastic and Jeanine added lots of sides to the turkey and ham we had. The next day everyone left and it was just the four of us again. Sad that they’re gone, but we know we’ll visit them down there again soon.
Our first morning in Long Beach woke up to ants in our hotel room followed by a very confusing “free breakfast” that ended up not being free at all. But the day got better when we went with the Hallers to see Pixar’s Planes at Disney’s El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. The movie was okay, actually kind of less than okay as it seemed the Pixar people just phoned this one in. But the theater tried to make up for it with a little bird show and a tiny little one room aviation museum in the basement. And the day got much much better when we all went to John and Deanna’s house for a back yard barbecue. There was lots of food, and lots of room for the kids and dogs to play in. It was a fun time and a nice change from all the eating out and running around we usually do when we visit.
We just got back from almost two weeks in Hawaii and we already want to go back. It was great hanging out with family, going to the beach, eating lots of wonderful food and playing tourist. We were there for Grandma’s birthday and started out the week going out to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate. The kids loved hanging out with Jordan and the three of them spent lots of time chasing the hundreds of lizards that thrive in Grandpa’s back yard. Dan got Jordan and Miles to play this new card game he got called Munchkin and ended up playing almost every night before bed time. There were trips to the beach, hiking, sightseeing, the Bishop Museum, the state Farm Fair and lots of shopping and eating. We spent one morning visiting the spot at Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery where Jeanine spread Mom’s ashes. It’s a beautiful spot with a great view that she would have loved and visiting it made us all miss her again. We spent our last day going over old pictures and then going to a fantastic buffet, full of foods that are hard to find at home. We can’t wait until our next visit. Scroll down for two albums full of more pictures.
On Easter morning I went to work and the kids woke Sandy up twice to go downstairs and see their Easter baskets. In her basket, Elizabeth got socks, paintable bunnies, fuzzy stickers, new pajamas, candy, and a bell for her bicycle. She also got bunnies and candy from Grandma and Grampa. Daniel got a basket full of socks, pajamas, a bike bell, and little pinball machine; and from Grandma and Grampa he got a Lego building set and more candy. Later they dyed Easter eggs and when I got home we had an Easter egg hunt. For dinner we had a yummy ham, with potatoes, asparagus and deviled eggs. It was a lot of fun.
My class and I went on a field trip to IN-N-OUT. We got our own hats and name tags. We also got a tour of their kitchen. Then it was time to order food. I ordered a grilled cheese with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles.
Its now a tradition ten years plus for us, even longer for our neighbors. To celebrate Independence Day we got together with the people on our block, drank, ate and set off hours worth of fireworks. It started out a little different this year. Mark and Yvonne, who live across the street from us, invited us to drinks at their brand new tiki bar beside their back yard pool. Awesome decor with lots of bamboo and palm fronds. They needed more talking flowers and parrots though. While we were lighting our safe-and-sane fireworks, some people down the street were launching some really massive, loud, awesome and probably very dangerous fireworks. No houses caught fire, but not for lack of trying.
We have been in the Washington DC area a week and have been on the go the whole time. The very first day after checking into our hotel, we headed to the White House for our scheduled tour. The security to get in was even more strict than to ride the plane here. Once inside though, we were excited to be there. The furnishings were beautiful and the building really felt like a part of history. We then checked out the Smithsonian and visited the Natural History Museum where we saw dioramas, dinosaurs, mummies, and (ugh) bugs. After that it was dinner at Chipotle which wasn’t very good and definitely not the quality we were used to from ours at home. On the way to Chipotle, we waited with lots of other people along a shut down intersection and watched President Obama’s motorcade speed past our hotel on his way home.
The next day was National Zoo day which is walking distance from our hotel. The highlight was pandas but there were lots of other unique animals too. The walk wasn’t long but it was a bit tiring so we just had an expensive room service meal at the hotel after spending some time in the pool.
The next day, we rented a car and visited the the National Cathedral which is an impressive gothic church with whimsical gargoyles carved along its edifices. We specifically went to look for the Darth Vader gargoyle that was put up as part of a kid’s contest in the 80′s. Could only see it with the zoom on the camera. I was surprised to learn that while the church is Roman Catholic, it is also used by the American Episcopal community too, with their bishop’s headquarters just next door. After a quick stop at the Iwo Jima US Marine Memorial we headed to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles airport which is about 25 miles east of D.C. It is a very large hangar with lots of historic aircraft and space craft including the actual Enola Gay and recently arrived space shuttle Discovery. For dinner we visited Georgetown and ate at a strangely decorated Thunder Burger, where the kids sat on couches and I had a very delicious hamburger/pulled pork sandwich.
The next day we took the car and headed some 150 miles south to Williamsburg. We stopped for a while intending to spend the day but the prices were very steep. Without paying any admission we were able to walk through town and get a bit of the history but didn’t get to go in the buildings or listen to the lectures of the tradespeople. But after walking though, it looked a bit boring so we didn’t mind. That afternoon we went to a maritime museum in Newport News, saw the recently salvaged turret from the ironclad Monitor, and the kids saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. Dan said it looks a lot like the Pacific. That night we had a great dinner at Bonefish Grill, a chain that we first tried on a Denver vacation a few years ago, and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express for the night. It was an awesome way to spend Father’s Day with my family. (They gave me my presents before I left, fitted ball caps for both the A’s and Dodgers.) The next day it was Busch Gardens amusement park, the drive home and dinner at a restaurant across from the Omni, Open City, which in my opinion is the best restaurant of the trip so far.
We had the rental car for one last day and used it to visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore. It’s one of the best aquariums I’ve been to, and we had lots of fun. It’s on par with the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we regularly have a membership. It has a very tall tank that the exhibits wind around, before you walk down through the center. Theres a gigantic glass structure with Australian wildlife in it that shouldn’t be missed. It was there that we watched trigger fish shoot live crickets off a branch that one of the workers held over the tank. There also have some dolphins which seemed happy enough despite being in an indoor tank with no real fresh air. Baltimore just had a Sail-abration, to commemorate bicentennial of the harbor’s role in the war of 1812 so there were some tall ships still there when we got there and we got to watch Mexico’s navy training ship leave. Really a sight to see with seamen manning the rails and standing on the crossbars across the sails. For dinner we tried a sushi place near our hotel. Dan stuck with gyoza but did eat some edamame.
Today we went to the Newseum. We weren’t expecting much and thought the kids would be a bit bored, but we spent the whole day there and didn’t even realize how fast time was flying. There’s lots of emphasis on how important journalism is to society and history, maybe too much, but I of course didn’t mind since I was a reporter before I became an air traffic controller. Lots of interactive stuff for the kids to do including games and a chance to be a reporter. For dinner we had some take out chinese from a restaurant close to the hotel. Lots of good food. Too much actually. Its really really hot here now. It wasn’t for must of the time up til now but it got close to if not over 100 degrees today, so because we didn’t want to be out there in direct sunlight, we went to the pool after dinner. Tomorrow its our appointment to tour the US Capitol building with our Representative Jerry McNerney.
Of course, we had to go to the beach on our last day in Hawaii. And as we were getting done swimming and playing in the waves we saw a fish jump out of the water just a little off shore which I guess made us hungry. So we piled into the car and headed over to Nicco’s fish market (recommended by Miles) and had some really yummy lunch. Dan skipped the fish and went for a burger and that was good too. While walking around the fishing piers near the restaurant, we were shocked to see a ray swim by that was nearly as big as a fishing boat. Then, on our way back to the house to pack, we stopped near Aloha Tower and watched some of the tropical fish that usually hang out there. We spent the night saying goodbye to Jordan and Miles and the next morning saying goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa. We got to the airport early and ate lunch and explored some nice gardens that we always knew were there, but had never visited before. Then it was home to the chilly Bay Area where we had to rush the kids to bed to get ready for school the next day.
We really packed in the Hawaii activities this weekend starting by going to a very crowded craft and food fair on Saturday with Grandma and Jordan. We saw tons of shirts and jewelry and other fashion items and tasted a thousand different types of food. We left with some trinkets, some li hing kettle corn, and some dead animals preserved in resin. Dan got an octopus and immediately named him Bobby Flay because he thought Bobby Flay might have made some good calimari with it if he had gotten the chance. Elizabeth got a gecko, which was appropriate since she’s been chasing lizards and geckos since we got here. Jordan got a hermit crab. We went to Sam Choy’s for lunch, and Miles joined us to watch Hawaii beat up on Tulane for dinner.
On Sunday we brought flowers to Punchbowl Cemetery where three of Sandy’s uncles are interred and where Jeanine had spread mom’s ashes. It is a very beautiful location.
After that we toured the grounds of Honolulu City Hall, Iolani Palace and the State Capitol. Then we went to the Arizona Memorial but were kept from actually going all the way to the site because high winds made it too hard for the boats to take us there. We still went through the museum and were able to look across Pearl Harbor to see the memorial and the battleship Missouri. Dan, Liz and I were impressed by this giant snail, but Jordan didn’t understand why since she sees them that size all the time.
We then drove out the new Aulani Disney Resort on the West side of Oahu. It was lacking in Disney-ness in lots of ways and while very pretty, it could have been a Hyatt or Marriott. Still Dan was impressed by the river pool and water playground and wants to stay there some day. This time we just ate at the hotel buffet which was very tasty but also very expensive. I still can’t get to sleep at 1:30 a.m. because I ate so much. Now I’ll have to tone down the eating for the rest of the vacation.
I got the weekend of the IndyCar race in Sonoma off work so I talked the family into going with me and staying in hotel up there. But then I realized that they only agreed to go to make me happy. So i surprised them and we went to Monterey instead, stopping at Gilroy Gardens on the way down. It was a fun weekend of rides, and food, and visiting the aquarium. Pictures of the trip are here. After we got home I watched the race on TV and it looked hot and boring, so it really worked out for the best.
The dinosaur exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History was pretty impressive. Lots of bones including a complete t-rex named Tommy. We couldn’t help but compare it to the Dinosaur Resource Center we visited a couple of years ago in Colorado. LA’s is much more elaborate and well laid out for display than the one in Colorado, but the one in Colorado really emphasized research, science and preservation of the fossil specimens over making them look pretty for visitors. The kids had lots of fun and were truly impressed, except for Olivia who seemed to prefer the pretty rocks in the geology section over the dinos.
After the museum we went back to our hotel where John, Deanna, Wade, Jeanine, Olivia and Luke joined us for ribs and chicken. There was far too much food and I’m still feeling full writing this a few hours after my last bite. It was wonderful to see so much of the family together again and we need to do things like that more often.
We tried deep fried everything almost at the Orange County Fair. Jeanine, Wade, Luke, Olivia, Tura, and joesandanliz all took the van to the fair where in addition to trying deep fried artichokes, butter, kool aid, corn dogs, cream cheese, bacon fries and potato skins, we also had popcorn, crepes, shrimp cocktail, a pickle and probably even more stuff that I forgot. We also looked at farm animals, took some turns trying to win prizes (Elizabeth got 5 stuffed animals, Daniel got 2), watched a motorhome demolition derby, rode ponies, looked at millions of exhibits and went down a big slide. The kids were so tired by the time we got home, but no where near as tired as the adults were. Lots of pictures are here.
The day started out with Luke and Dan going swimming at the hotel, then a trip to the Santa Barbara marina for a great lunch at Sushi Go Go, and winding up with an afternoon of shopping on State Street.
We stopped at Morro Bay on our way to Santa Barbara and got to have lunch and visit the aquarium while we were there. We ate sea food right next to the water and while it wasn’t the best food or the best restaurant, we did get to see boats and sea lions and pelicans while we ate. The tiny aquarium was interesting in that it was both charming and sad at the same time. Elizabeth and Daniel fed the rescued sea lions and seals there and that was fun and there were lots of fish, some we’ve never seen before. But, many of those fish had sores and eyes that were bulging out. They said it was mostly because of the pressure difference that happens when deep sea fish are brought to the surface and while that may be true, the same fish don’t look so sickly at other aquariums. We did some shopping in the touristy town, then finished our drive to Santa Barbara where we ended up with a wonderful ocean front room.