Thanksgiving Point

This past week me, Drew and Ellie met up with Rachel and her kids and G’ma Jan and went to the Tulip Festival at Thanksgiving Point. Due to my hectic schedule it wasn’t perfect timing for me and honestly I wasn’t really thrilled to be going. However, it turned out to be a near perfect outing.

The weather was great, the kids were pretty good, and the tulips were amazing! I also really enjoyed looking at the new “I Am the Light of the World Sculpture Garden” that displayed bronze sculptures of Christ (and other biblical scenes). By the time I loaded up the kids and headed home I realized how grateful I was that I went. I am glad I didn’t pass up the chance for a little family fun and a lot of great scenery.


Drew & Ellie


G’ma Jan and some of the grandkids.


Me, Drew & Ellie


Ellie Bellie

Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun!

This past weekend we decided to turn a quick trip into a girl’s five-day getaway. Seth’s brother, Matt and his finance Jasmine (who we all love) decided to tie the knot in San Francisco. With only a few day’s notice, mom thought it might be fun for the girl’s to head down and surprise them at the courthouse.

We left Wednesday morning and drove 12 hours to San Francisco. Thankfully Jan, Seth’s Mom, had a friend who had an apartment in Redwood City and we were able to bunk there since her husband was out of town on business. We arrived in time to eat dinner and come back to the apartment for TV and sleep. The next morning we got up and went downtown for some shopping. Boy was that an experience! Honestly, I was a little uncomfortable and kept my mace and sharp end of my umbrella in hand for quick use if necessary. There were so many homeless people on the streets and sadly a lot of crazy people yelling about random things. I found it a little depressing, but I will admit that it didn’t take long to get used to it. We did some shopping and then had lunch at the cafe in Nordstrom. Of all places we ate, this was one of my favorites. The food was so good and the bread pudding was to die for. Yum!

After lunch we wrapped things up at the mall and headed toward the Courthouse. Of course with all the rain and humidity, my hair was a nightmare! I felt a little unkempt for a wedding! 🙂 The wedding was supposed to start at 3:00 so we arrived a little early. Jasmine looked beautiful and Matt just as handsome. They were so happy. Luckily they were able to get married out by the big stairs so we could all watch (instead of one of the tiny courthouse rooms). It was so fun to be there and support Matt and Jasmine. After the wedding we met up with them and Jasmine’s family at the Ferry Building. We shopped at the shops, visited, and finished off the night by having grilled cheese sandwiches (amazing!!) at the Cowgirl Creamery.


The girls at the ferry building with the ferry’s in the background


Here’s my lovely hair and my umbrella which I was always carting around with me.

The next morning we woke up and went to Stacks for breakfast with Matt, Jasmine and some of her family. The food was again so good! Rach and I shared an omelet and strawberry waffles. Did I mention how good the food was on this trip?! After breakfast we pulled out our umbrellas and braved the wet streets. It was pouring!


Jan, me, and Abby

It didn’t take long to realize we didn’t want to be walking in this weather. We headed back to the car and basically viewed all of San Francisco (probably several times) through the car windows. We drove and drove and drove and drove… This was the best view I got of the Golden Gate Bridge.

After a lot of driving we decided to once again brave the rain and we headed to China Town. We spent the rest of the evening there buying souvenirs for the kids back home. We finished the night off by eating at R & J Lounge, which came highly recommended by one of the locals at a nearby shop. The prices were outrageous, but we got to eat loads of seafood, even a deep fried crab, also highly recommended (but in my opinion wasn’t all that great). Other than being herded in like cattle and forced to eat and run, we quite enjoyed our food there.


China Town


R & J Lounge…we all shared! Yikes, that is a lot of food!

The last day, we decided to hit Fisherman’s Wharf, the Pier, Alcatraz, Ghirardelli Square, and other areas down by the water. This was a favorite day for me. We had a blast! Our first stop was Lombard Street. There is one section of the street in which the roadway has eight sharp turns (or switchbacks) that have earned the street the distinction of being the crookedest street in the world. We took pictures and then drove down it. The speed limit is only 5 mph, but it was a fun, and a little frightening adventure!


You can see Lombard Street in the background.

Next, we headed to Boudin Bakery on the Pier for a bowl of clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Unfortunately, the clam chowder was a let down (it doesn’t hold a candle to the clam chowder at Market Street grill), but the bread was quite delicious. We then began hitting the shops on the pier and enjoying a day without much rain. Of course the lack of rain was too good to be true and as we made our way up to Ghirardelli’s the hail hit and we ran for cover in their shop and sipped on some yummy hot chocolate.

After more shopping, browsing and such we eventually headed back down to the Wharf. Unfortunately, the tickets for Alcatraz were sold out. Instead Rachel and I opted for a boat ride out around Alcatraz. Mom and Abby chose to do some more browsing while we went (probably a really smart idea). The wind was blowing and the ship was rocking. Water was sloshing up on the boat and it seemed we were almost completely sideways at times. Both Rach and I were a little nervous, but in the end we made it back safe. I got a few shots of Alcatraz, but I still would like to go back and get a real tour someday.


Me with San Francisco in the background.


As close as we ever got to Alcatraz.

Afterward we met up with Mom and Abby and spent quite some time at an old time arcade on the Wharf. It was pretty funny. We had our fortunes read, took our pictures in a photo booth, played an old-school wack-a-mole and listened to old-time pianos. It was fun!


Us being goofy with one of the games in the background.

We ate dinner at a seafood joint by the water. Of course, seafood is delicious and so fresh in California so we ate far more than our share this weekend. And of course we did more walking, shopping, and hot chocolate before we headed home. It was a great day!

I had such a fun time with those girls. It is a necessity to get out and have fun laughing, relaxing and playing with girls. Things were a little rocky on the home front and Seth felt that five days was a little too long to be away. I can understand how hard it can be with six kids so I will sympathize a little. 🙂 Due to weather over Donner’s Pass our trip was pushed out another day, but I went ahead and flew home on Sunday so Seth could make it to work the next day and have a little time-off from being the “mom”. Thanks hon for letting me go. I had a great time!


Jan, Abby, and I in front of a cable car

Caribbean Cruise (Part 2)

Monday, February 13

After a rough night at sea, Monday’s weather forecast promised improvement. A little cooler than usual thanks to the cold front from the day before that had caused the winds, but in the Caribbean that means its 75° instead of 81°.

We got up early and packed for a beach day at Princess Cays, a private playground on the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas. With no dock, we had to be shuttled on smaller boats to the island. Once there, we carved out a spot, grabbed some beach chairs and enjoyed the sun for a while.

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Manina and I left most our beach stuff back on the ship, but Greg and Emily brought along snorkeling gear. So, everyone took turns going out into the water swimming with the fish. I waited until after lunch, where I overheard someone saying to take out some food to feed the fish. So, I grabbed an extra banana and saved it in my pocket.

After lunch I went geocaching with Manina, Ben, and Greg. We walked off the Princess property about a half mile away in search of a cache (GC2NV7E). We were off the beaten path for sure, but as we got close to the cache, we noticed a guy putting something into a tree. He was a fellow geocacher and ended up spoiling the hide, but it wouldn’t have been too hard to find anyway. We signed the log, enjoyed the view, took a few pictures, and then headed back to our spot on the beach.

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When we returned, I found it was my time to check out the snorkeling gear out with Greg. We quickly found out the fish loved the banana. I was swarmed by hundreds of fish every time I would smash the banana into little pieces in my hands. I easily could have caught several by hand. It was pretty fun.

When we swam back to our little cay, the girls were out floating in these cheap blow-up pools that we had purchased in Ft. Lauderdale for $5. I think it cost double that to rent them from Princess Cays for an hour, so definitely a good investment. We all spent an hour or so just floating, hanging out in the ocean, chatting about everything, and watching drunk people stumble over themselves on the beach.

We were having a great time on the beach, so we procrastinated our trip back to the boat as long as possible.

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Like I said in our earlier post, dinner was a great time as usual, and Emily Francis planned for us all to go dancing later that night. Manina and I aren’t a dancing couple, but we went along and hung out for the evening.

Tuesday, February 14

Valentines Day was spent at sea as we cruised from Princess Cays to our next stop, St. Martin.

Manina and I got up early and went to Deck 15 Forward, the gym. They were just getting ready to start a yoga class when we got there, so we joined. The ship was still moving quite a bit, making some of the balance poses impossible, but it was still a good little workout.

While the rest of our group was doing zumba (dance/aerobics) and then a line-dancing/flash mob class, I thought it would be much more fun to play in the doubles table tennis tourney. We walked up right as they were getting started, and they needed just one more player so Manina was more than happy to step aside and let me play. The ping-pong table was in a strange corner of the ship, outside, and the winds just swirled. It made for some extremely crazy ping-pong shots that even the Taiwan national team hasn’t ever seen. My partner and I lost two straight matches, and it was over. It was pretty fun though (much better than zumba, for sure).

We didn’t have a whole lot else to do, so Manina and I found a couple lounge chairs and read while laying in the sun for much of the afternoon.

That night was a designated formal evening, so we had to get dressed up. Manina looked stunningly beautiful as we went to dinner. We ate, laughed way too much (again), and took several photos. Event planner Emily once again had plans for the evening, so we joined her for the Newlywed Game.

Valentines Day Dinner

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Tony and Emily were picked to play in the Newlywed game and now we know way too much about our next-door neighbors. We laughed and laughed, but were also quite flummoxed by some of the things we heard. I had to leave early to go reserve seats for some theater show, but later found out that they won the game.

Reserving the seats to the theater show was a bad idea. The show was beyond awful. So bad, in fact, that I won’t bother even discussing  it other than by saying this: I would have to be at sea for much more than a week to find myself enjoying cruise ship entertainment.

We played cards until late, but had a big day in St. Martin coming up.

Caribbean Cruise (Part 1)

I don’t really like reading or even hearing about other people’s travels — it just makes me jealous. When a post like this one comes up on someone else’s blog, I don’t even bother reading it. So, I can’t really be upset if you don’t read this one. However, I feel like I have to make a record so I can remember what a wonderful time we had.

First, let me explain that Manina and I hadn’t been on a real vacation for about 7 years. In 2005, we went to St. Lucia for a week for a wedding, but since then, we haven’t been able to get away for longer than a quick weekend. Sure, we’ve done cool things as a family, but just Manina and me? Nope. Not with six young kids.

So, when the stars aligned and Grandma volunteered to babysit (what a trooper!), we took the plunge and bought the tickets. We were going on a Caribbean cruise. Several other couples joined us: my Uncle Greg and Aunt Emily (who live in our neighborhood), our next door neighbors Tony and Emily, and neighborhood friends Ben and Marianne. It turned out to be a good mix.

We left early on Saturday, February 11 with Greg and Emily. We basically spent the day in airports and airplanes, from SLC to Houston, then Houston to Fort Lauderdale. We took pictures for the kids in most locations, hoping they’d sync up via the iCloud PhotoStream service. Unfortunately it required WiFi access, so our kids were mildly disappointed (the photos weren’t that great anyway).

Sunday, February 12

We couldn’t get on the boat until noon, so we looked for a church meeting to attend in the morning. The only nearby ward that met at 9am was a Spanish-speaking ward. We got a cab, got to the meetinghouse and sat through a meeting of which we didn’t understand a single word.

The best part was getting a ride home from Milson (not Milton, not Wilson, but Milson) and having him tell us about some miracles he’s seen in his life as a church member. In broken English, he told us about his construction cleaning company had been in a lot of trouble, but after some prayers and struggles found a niche that allowed him to thrive. He was obviously grateful for these blessings from heaven, and you could really feel his faith. A very cool guy.

We got on the ship at about 2pm, went straight up to the buffet, and then immediately got put through a safety drill. After that, it was up onto the top deck for the going away party. It was cool to see the giant ship navigate out of port and into the Atlantic Ocean. A cold front came in on Sunday morning, so the weather was cold (for Florida anyway) and windy. This made for a very interesting first few hours. We tried to play a round of mini-golf, but the ship was rocking way too much. Manina felt nervous and off (but not sick) from all the movement.

We met all of our friends for dinner that night after unpacking our stuff. Dinners turned out to be a great tradition. Our waiter Saravan from India took very good care of us, and we usually sat at the table and laughed for about 2 hours each night, ordering multiples of whatever the highlight was from the night (usually desserts).

After dinner we went to a quick show in the theater, followed by karaoke. Marianne signed all four girls to go up and sing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” but not all the girls were having fun. Manina wasn’t happy at all to be volunteered. I wisely stayed far away from any involvement. So when their names were called, Manina reluctantly went up and sang with Aunt Emily. Let’s just say it wasn’t the highlight of the trip.

The best was yet to come.