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.
For our 21st, Sandy and I wanted to spend the weekend with the kids so we packed them up and headed to the Monterey Aquarium for the day. It isn’t nearly as massive or whale sharked as the Georgia Aquarium, but it beats it out on location. This aquarium is really on the ocean and the bay becomes part of the attraction, as the otters, seals and jellies we saw in the wild were as much fun to watch as anything in the tanks. After lunch on the water we stayed at a hotel in San Jose that was across from a Mitsuwa Marketplace. That night we ate Japanese food and the kids picked up some toys from the Japanese bookstore there.
The next day we headed to the Tech Museum in San Jose. Lucky for us it was a very slow day since almost all of the exhibits were hands on and it wouldn’t have been fun if we had to wait for crowds. We got to learn about computers and robots and even some genetics. Elizabeth took the time to grow bacteria in a lab that she got to observe online the next day. It was a great way to celebrate our anniversary.
We finally got a chance to go where Elizabeth chose for Girls Day back in March. Wade, Mike, Luke, and Olivia took us to the LA Natural History Museum to see dinosaurs. (Jeanine had to work that day.) In addition to the dinosaurs we saw lots of other stuffed animals, some living ones and lots of butterflies in a garden outside the museum. Afterwards we headed across town to see the Dodger game.
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.
The Hallers came up to visit on St. Patrick’s day weekend and brought their awesomely shiny bubbly new Airstream trailer with them. On St. Patrick’s Day Eve, while I was at work, Sandy and Elizabeth went to see the annual Dublin St. Patrick’s Day parade. Daniel had to stay home to put the final touches on his big fifth grade research paper on movies. That afternoon Wade, Jeanine, Luke and Olivia drove up in a gigantic van towing an even gigantic-er trailer. They spent most of the weekend with us and all of the kids had a great time playing with each other. On Sunday, we all hiked to the Dublin Library and spent a few hours eating and playing at the St. Patrick’s Day fair. There were rides for the kids but the lines were crazy long so we couldn’t ride anything. We were sad to see them go on Monday, and can’t wait to see them again.
Camp was the most fun thing I did in 5th grade. We did lots of outdoor activities like hiking Cresta Blanca and playing zombie tag. We also had fun playing indoors. In my cabin we played monkey in the middle and had pillow fights.
The food at camp Arroyo was delicious! I even ate the Teriyaki chicken. On the last day they served the best meal ever! We had pizza and they baked us brownies. Camp Arroyo is probably going to be something I remember forever!!!
We were early for our tour of the capitol this morning so we visited the Supreme Court first. There were lots of reporters there because they were hoping for a decision on whether Obamacare was legal or not, but they just decided some FCC rule making stuff, instead. Then we checked in at our Congressman Jerry McNerney’s office where one of his staff members gave us a personal tour of the Capitol building. It was cool because we walked right by the thousands of people waiting for the public tours. We sat in the House of Representatives gallery and saw the same view we see on CSPAN live. We visited the Capitol rotunda, the room under the dome, which is one of the most beautiful rooms anywhere. After that we went to the Library of Congress which looked a lot more like a church than a library. We finished up with the Smithsonian Postal Museum which made us think a lot about my mom who worked at the post office for most of her life. The kids really liked hearing about the Post Office mascot Owney, a stray dog that ended up riding the mail trains. We ended the day with a mediocre meal at a mediocre restaurant. Great day except for the part where I left the souvenirs I bought in the cab on the way home.
Our neighbor Yvonne came to our door to warn us about what seemed to be a sick or rabid racoon in front of our house. Poor thing could barely sit up and was being harassed by a whole bunch of squawking crows. I called animal control but when they got here, the animal had already gone to hiding in a storm drain. But, while we were talking, it came out again and was caught. They said it either has distemper or rabies and would have to be put down. Sad, but better than dying in the storm drain and stinking up the neighborhood I guess.
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 finally got to the beach yesterday after wanting to go since we got here but being too busy doing other stuff. First we went to WalMart to get some kick boards and slippers, then we spent a lot of the day at Ala Moana Beach Park, which is wave free and kid friendly (although you can still see waves breaking and surfers beyond the reef). For lunch we went to Grace’s Inn which is my favorite plate lunch place and had gigantic portions of chicken, beef, rice and macaroni salad. Dan had a hot dog, and Liz had some fried saimin.
The next day we and Grandma went to Ala Moana center and we were amazed how every time we go there it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. We got lunch from Shirokiya, the Japanese department store, and took it home to eat.
After that we headed up to the North Shore to try to see sea turtles that supposedly regularly sun themselves on the beach. But when we got there, there were 30 people all standing in the water and on the sand around a turtle that looked like he might have come ashore if wasn’t so crowded. But we got to see him swimming and got some pictures. Then we celebrated with some shave ice on the way home.
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.
Since we didn’t plan on doing any serious walking today, I decided to get up early and go exercise. The stationary bike at the Hyatt fitness center was broke, and rather than do one of the treadmills, I decided to run in the real world and see the sites instead. I followed a trail that took me up a cliff by the water that had great ocean views when I ran by this giant imposing gated driveway. The path went past the driveway and around the property. A little further along, there was this guy with like 17 cameras hanging off of him, snapping telephoto pictures over the back wall. It was comical because he had a two-step stool hanging off his backpack. When he saw me though, he quickly turned around and started taking pictures of the beach. I was so curious that on my way back I took some pictures over the wall with my iPhone. It was an impressive house which Zillow.com said was a 20,000 square foot single family residence with nine bedrooms worth 22 million dollars. Lots of internet speculation on who lives there but no one seems to know for sure.
Once I got back to the hotel, we hopped into the car and went to the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum. They were having a butterfly exhibit that even I enjoyed despite my intense dislike of insects. Also there were lots of dioramas of native animals and a section on the Chumash indian tribes that lived in the area and on the Channel Islands. After the museum we headed to Solvang where we had a Nordic lunch, shopped, and picked up some yummy Danish pastries. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at an awesome wooden-fort syle playground which Daniel and Elizabeth seemed to really have fun at.
For dinner we went to the Palace Cafe which had excellent Cajun faire and a great quirky atmosphere. I had crawfish stuffed filet mignon and Sandy had blackened redfish. We decided to share the two, and it was pretty awesome. The people who work there are amazingly friendly, and they even had the everyone in the restaurant singing “It’s a Wonderful World” together.
We went back to the room for the kids to wind down and Sandy and I to have drinks on our balcony when she noticed dolphins swimming just a few hundred feet from the shore. I tried to take pictures of them but they broke the surface so seldom, it was impossible to snap a picture before they were back under. We walked across the street to see if we could see them closer but they were hiding or gone by the time we got there, so instead we watched a sea lion and some pelicans, played in the surf and sand a little, and watched the sunset.
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.
I came up to the tower cab from a break at work today to find a 5 foot long gopher snake crawling around the floor. Despite lots of poking and prodding and ignoring of flying aircraft, we weren’t able to keep it from crawling under the counters to escape. Now there’s several snake-fearing air traffic controllers who refuse to work in the tower until the culprit is caught. Luckily there are two control towers at Oakland and the ones who are scared of snakes can just work in the other tower.