Monday, June 30, 2008

We're Just Getting Started

I have to admit I'm really excited about this video that was sent out by the athletics department today. Football season is right around the corner!

While I'm super excited, I'm also really nervous. How can we possibly have another dream season for KU sports like we did last year? It was almost too good to be true. 2008 is going to be a hard year to top, but hopefully the Jayhawks will give it their best shot!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

California: Hotel Sofitel

This part of the California story should have gone with yesterday's post, but as my friend Tish says, I didn't want my readers to start bleeding from the eyeballs. That post was way too long already--but let's be honest, most of my posts are way too long already!

On the Thursday of our vacation, after we watched the Celtics game in San Jose, we headed up to our hotel in Redwood City, Hotel Sofitel. The lobby of this place was ultra modern and super swanky--all the pictures we'd seen online certainly didn't disappoint. Aside from the front desk, a hip little gift shop and the fitness room, the entire first floor appeared to be one big open bar and restaurant--and it was completely packed when we arrived. The website says "Baybar is one of the newest hot spots in the Bay Area. Signature drinks and perfect food selections make Baybar the place to be and be seen...." I don't think they were exaggerating. That place was loud and crazy! Thankfully, unlike the HOJO in Miami, we couldn't actually hear the noise from our room on the 7th floor!

Our room was pretty nice, but certainly not as spectacular as the rest of the hotel. However, there was one thing about the room that will keep us from going back to a Sofitel again. Our bed was the "signature" Sofitel feather bed with a luxurious down comforter, which looks and sounds very nice at first. The bummer about having such a crazy soft bed was that we both woke up with terrible back aches--but of course I won't fault the hotel for that. What I did fault the hotel for was the way they made their bed. Maybe this is some fancy French way of bed making that I know nothing about (which is entirely possible), but there was no set of normal sheets on the bed. There was was looked like a top sheet hanging down over the feather topper and mattress, instead of a fitted sheet, but it wasn't even tucked in at the corners. Then there was no top sheet at all--just the down comforter. At first we thought they'd just forgotten the top sheet on accident, but later we realized that no, they just don't make your bed with a sheet on it at all. Do you know how weird it felt to sleep with a comforter (that wasn't yours, especially) right up against your body? There was something very not right about it, and yet in all the reviews we read everyone raved about the Sofitel feather beads. No one else seemed to have a problem with that. Is it me? Call me unschooled in fancy European culture, but it's the one thing that would keep me from going back to that hotel in the future. It's too bad, since the rest of the hotel was very nice!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

California: 17-Mile Drive

Let me just start this post by saying that I'm complete aware that I'm taking entirely too long to talk about our trip to California. If you're sick of hearing about the vacation already, please feel free to skip this post! At this point, I'm treating my travel related posts more as a personal journal, since I'm probably the only one who cares about this many details. Maybe someday someone will Google some place I'm blogging about and then they'll find some helpful information for a trip or something. I try to think of my ramblings as providing some sort of a service to the community!

Before we left for California, I kept joking that I was going to eat hundreds of dollars worth of fresh fruit at our bed & breakfast in Carmel, so that we'd get our money's worth after paying so much for our suite. It probably wasn't a crazy amount by most people's standards, but it was definitely the most that we'd ever paid for one night of lodging, so we were all about getting the most out of the food. The funny thing was that we almost missed it! The breakfast was served until 10 a.m. so we didn't bother setting an alarm, since we haven't slept past 10:00 in ages. However, the morning after our anniversary, Chad sat straight up in bed at 9:40 a.m. and said, "Oh my gosh!! We're going to miss breakfast!" Oh, the irony.

Thankfully, we did get dressed and stumble to the dining room in time to chow down on muffins, tons of fruit, oatmeal, granola, juice and toast. We intentionally ate enough so that we'd be able to forgo lunch completely and just survive on snacks until dinner!

After getting showered and packed and checked out of our room, we headed to downtown Carmel to do a little shopping. The town is absolutely adorable, but I have to say there wasn't a ton of variety with regard to the shops. There were loads of jewelry stores and art galleries, neither of which interested us a ton. In fact, I'd say that like 85% percent of the stores downtown were art or jewelry! Although we didn't walk down every street, I saw only one clothing store the entire time! We did shop around in a cute toy store for the nephews and in an adorable dog boutique that had every frivolous thing you could ever possibly want for your dog!

After a little shopping we headed down to the beautiful beach at Carmel. Since the community is amazingly dog-friendly, we watched a bunch of adorable pups while we walked along the beach and took pictures. The area is so amazingly beautiful!

After our stroll we got back into the car and headed to the entrance of 17-Mile Drive. This scenic stretch of road is very touristy, but we thought the beautiful views were well worth the $10 it cost to drive through. There are 21 points of interest along the way (a few of which we didn't actually find that interesting) where you can view sea lions, rock formations, amazing shorelines, the famous Lone Cypress Tree (which really wasn't all that alone), and of course lots of golf courses! The Pebble Beach course is obviously the most famous in the area, but we also saw Spyglass Hill, Poppy Hills, and the Links at Spanish Bay on our tour. The crazy thing is, those are just four of the public courses in the area--there are at least two more private golf clubs in the area as well.

We stopped at the lodge at Pebble Beach, which is a beautiful place. Since it's a public course, anyone is welcome to hang out and play there, although the greens fees are $450 a round. I've also read that you have to stay at least one night at the hotel too, which means you'll spend about $1,000 a game. While I can't say that I'll probably ever play this course in my lifetime (especially the way I play golf), it was still fun to stand right next to the 18th green and take some amazing pictures! We thought about buying a t-shirt in one of the many shops there to commemorate the occasion, but I just couldn't justify spending $65 on a t-shirt because it said Pebble Beach! I know...I'm so cheap. We should have probably purchased some of the U.S. Open 2010 gear at the shop that sold items just for this upcoming event. Even though the regular golf shirts were like $120, they'll probably be way more expensive by the time 2010 rolls around. Chad is already trying to figure out how he can get tickets in two years!

The one thing that I found really amazing about 17-Mile Drive is that it's so public, and yet it's also the main thoroughfare through the very exclusive Pebble Beach neighborhood! I couldn't imagine spending that much money on a home only to have hundreds of tourists drive by my house on a daily basis. With that said, having annoying tourists frequent your backyard might be a small price to pay for having such a beautiful backdrop for your daily jog!

After leaving the Pebble Beach area, we headed north on our continuing journey to San Francisco. It was only a couple of hours to the south side of the bay, but since we left pretty late in the day Chad was panicking about not getting to see the Celtics play in game 1 of the NBA finals. We Googled "sports bars" in the San Jose area on Chad's Blackberry, found a few to choose from, got directions from Google maps and made it to a restaurant about 30 minutes before tipoff--but the place was so shady looking we didn't even go inside! We ended up at the chain restaurant Chevy's, which was absolutely packed because they had a bunch of happy hour specials going on. We had to stand and wait for a table in the bar because there were no other T.V.s in the restaurant, and since it was first come, first served, these young women who came in behind us asked if we'd be willing to share a 4 top table if it opened up before a table for two. It was kind of strange, but we ended up sitting with complete strangers while we ate our dinner and watched the game! They were very nice and gave us tips on what was good to order and which items were on sale during happy hour (the Cripsy Flautas were awesome, by the way--we about made ourselves sick on them!). Since they were engaged in conversation while we were focused on watching the game, the whole thing was totally fine and only slightly bizarre.

Of course by the end of the game, everyone in the bar knew we were Boston Celtic fans. We weren't too shy about cheering, and thankfully we got to do a lot of cheering since the Celtics ended up winning! I'm just glad we weren't still in the LA area during the game--cheering for the Celtics against the Lakers in LA might have caused a serious problem!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dear Celtic

Our eldest dog turns 11 years old today. I won't go into great detail about him, because I think it's obvious by the number of times that I've mentioned him on my blog (over 40) that he's an incredibly important part of our family. We love this little guy so darn much!

Last year, Celtic's birthday was bittersweet because it was the first birthday we celebrated without his brother (his actual littermate) Steeler. While I think Steeler's untimely death will always make Celtic's birthday a little difficult, this year I'm also feeling a little saddened because our sweet little Beaglish boy has slowed down so much in the last 6 months or so. While he seems pretty healthy overall, he's apparently developing arthritis in his hips, as he's having some difficulty doing stairs and jumping onto the bed and couch. Chad made him an awesome little set of steps to get on and off the bed a few months ago, but sometimes he's even reluctant to use those. Poor little guy--it seems like he's aging so quickly!

With that said, he has moments where he acts like he's 5 again. He's not nearly as fast as he used to be, but no matter how stiff and sore he is, he just can't resist a good game of chase in the backyard. On Monday evening, as he was thoroughly enjoying some rambunctious playtime with his siblings, I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures. In the last two in particular, Celtic looks like he's really flying!!

We hope he's romping around the backyard like this for many years to come! :)

Happy Birthday, Little Man!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I'm sure this will sound completely insane, but I've been thinking for quite some time now about starting a new blog. It's probably painfully obvious that I like blogging, but the fact that I'm a blog addict isn't really the reason I feel the need for another one. In actuality, I've just found that what I feel like talking about a lot of the time is related to one of my life's major passions--dog rescue. While I often post dog-related content to my personal blog, there are so many other dog-related articles, pictures, links and rants that I end up not posting, so as not to overwhelm my blog (and the few family members and friends who read it) with one particular subject. Obviously, not all of my friends and family members are as passionate as I am about saving dogs and educating the world about pet overpopulation. I don't want to bore my few loyal readers with articles and websites they don't care about or speeches they've heard from my soapbox a million other times.

With that said, I want to do everything I possibly can to save the dogs at our shelter and the thousands of other shelters around the country. I want to educate the public about the plight of shelter dogs and the problem of pet overpopulation. I want to provide resources for those wonderful people who choose to adopt dogs instead of buying from a breeder. I want to be an advocate in every way possible for dog rescue. While my personal blog might be semi-interesting to people who know and care about the Luces, it most certainly isn't going to attract any visitors outside of our family or friends. I need a forum that's appropriate for and accessible to the outside world. I need a dog blog.

My first step is picking out a name for my new blog. There were a lot of names I thought of (including that were actually already taken, but most don't actually have any content. It appears that several other people started dog blogs and then quit after just one or two posts. Hopefully my dog blog will continue on for many years to come!!

So here's how you can help me get my dog blog started: vote in the poll below for your favorite blog name! I've compiled a few that I came up with that are still available, all of which I'm hoping will convey the overall purpose of my blog--to save dogs!

Thanks so much for your vote!! :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

California: Carmel

When we left the California story last time Chad and I had just eaten at the Ragged Point Inn and were hitting Highway 1 once again. The drive from this point on was just amazing, from the standpoint of both the incredible views and the incredibly twisted and turning roads. The roads are narrow, sometimes steep, frequently warn of falling rocks, and often don't have a guardrail or a shoulder. That's why we were amazed to see at least 30 bicyclists riding up this road throughout the day!! Seriously, you would come around the corner and have a car coming towards you with a bicycle trying to share the lane with the car--it was so incredibly dangerous! Just one gust of wind (and believe me, this area is windy) or one small rock or one slightly inattentive driver could run a cyclist slightly off course and cause a horrific accident. I couldn't believe the cyclists would put themselves (and the drivers who often had to swerve to miss them) at such risk, all for the sake of completing a painfully grueling ride. Call me a chicken, but I really think the people who bike that road must be a little crazy!

We stopped at a few more scenic overlooks during this stretch of highway to take a few more pictures, and once to capture some video of the tame little ground squirrels who apparently live on tourist food. I just couldn't resist them!!

Our next major stop along Highway 1 was at a state park I'd read about in my online Big Sur travel guide called Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The guide said that this was the place that most people think of when they think of Big Sur, and also that the area had some good hiking trails. After being in the car most of the day, I was ready to get out and walk a little to stretch out my aching back. Chad would have preferred to just power on through to Carmel, but he was nice enough to stop anyway so that we could go hiking for a while. After paying the $10 entry fee to the park, we felt like we should at least hike to the end of the most popular trail, so we ventured up the Pfeiffer Falls trail. While the mile or so trail was pretty and scenic, Pfeiffer Falls left a little to be desired. We saw much better waterfalls while canoeing in Arkansas with our friends Heather & Grant (and Quillen) and while hiking in Ohio with my dad. This waterfall was a little anti-climatic.

Since the falls weren't so exciting, we veered off onto the Valley View trail, hoping that a spectacular view of the valley would make our stop worthwhile. After another mile or so we arrived at the summit, but the view definitely left something to be desired--the ocean! Because we were fairly far inland and there was a mountain on the other side of a valley (I guess that's sort of what makes it a valley in the first place), you couldn't see the ocean at all! I was so disappointed. We've hiked in much more beautiful mountain ranges in Colorado, so this was a bit of a letdown. Although it was nice to get out and stretch our legs for an hour or so, it's a stop we probably wouldn't make again if we had to do it all over!

About 3o winding miles north of the the state park, we made it to our destination for the night--Carmel! We checked into our adorable bed & breakfast, the Carmel Country Inn, around 5:3o or so. After some snacks in the the quaint little dining room we went and relaxed for a few hours in our lovely suite. We tried out the jacuzzi tub (and filled it with way too much bubble bath, resulting in bubbles all over the bathroom) and then lounged around in the plush bed until it was time to go to the restaurant we'd picked out for our anniversary dinner.

We went to Anton & Michel for the special occasion, which was only a few blocks away. We'd gotten the restaurant recommendation from the staff of our bed & breakfast a few weeks before, at which time we'd made a reservation. It was pretty silly that we even made a reservation at all, since when we walked in there were like three or four other parties in the entire place! This would have been fine except for that there was only one server, so we were seated right in between two of the other occupied tables! This made for a slightly awkward dinner, since we didn't feel like we could hardly speak above a whisper the entire evening without disturbing the other patrons!

While the food at Anton & Michel was very good, it's probably not a place that we'd go back to in the future. The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful, but the ambiance of the place was almost too nice for our tastes. It was hard to relax in a restaurant so fancy--it just wasn't really us. It was also incredibly pricey, which would have been fine except that the food was just very good and not spectacular. For what we spent that evening, I would expect something absolutely amazing!!

After dinner we tried watching the rest of Mission Impossible III, which we were excited to check out from the front desk after watching bits and pieces of it at my brother's the night before. Unfortunately, after a long day of driving, we fell asleep during the movie--for the second night in a row! :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Royals Night

Today I have to take another quick detour from California to share about our trip to the Royals game Friday night. Not that there's anything especially fantastic and exciting about going to a Royals game--I just hadn't been to one in a really long time. Chad and some friends actually went on opening day this year, but I chose not to take the day off to do so, and I ended up being very glad I didn't since everyone who went said it was miserably cold.

Last night the weather was pretty much perfect. We got to the stadium a little later than we originally intended, so by the time we fought traffic, parked, found the friends we were meeting, and then ate the amazing food our friend Danny provided, it was almost the 3rd inning. The only bummer about missing the beginning was that the Royals scored four runs the entire game, and three of them actually occurred while we were still in the parking lot!

The rest of the game wasn't super exciting. By the 9th inning the Royals were down 5 runs, so by the end there wasn't much hope left for a win. Even so, we still had a great time hanging out with our friends (Dan & Robyn, Mark & Laura, Nolan) and celebrating Dan's big birthday, which was actually last Wednesday. There was also a larger than normal fireworks show after the game, which I'm guessing would have been better had we actually stayed in the stadium instead of watching from the parking lot. It wasn't quite so spectacular from where we were sitting!

While I'm not a big enough fan of the Royals to actually want to go more than once or twice a year, it was still a fun evening. Kauffman is a beautiful stadium with gorgeous fountains and the largest HDTV in the United States (say some sources). The MLB atmosphere is always enjoyable! I took a few pictures if you want to check them out. I think they would have been really good had I actually brought my new camera!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

California: The Drive, Part 2

The other day when I said it might be July by the time I finish blogging about our vacation, I was kind of kidding. Now I'm thinking that's probably not so far off. I am so easily distracted! When things come up that I want to talk about, I just can't wait!

Tonight I'm really going to try to finish up talking about the second day of our vacation, but it's so late I know I'm not going to have time. I'll just try and chip away at the trip bit by bit!

When I finished my last California post, Chad and I were cutting back west from the 101 on Highway 46, which catches Highway 1 just to the south of the Big Sur Region. Let me first just say that almost every mile of Highway 1, which almost always runs right along the coast, is amazingly scenic. I just love seeing the mountains and the ocean at the same time. It was absolutely gorgeous!

The overwhelming beauty of it all made me want to stop at every scenic lookout and vista point, but the first place we actually stopped was a little lodge called the Ragged Point Inn. I'd discovered this place on a great website that I found about the Big Sur region. We got there just after lunch time, which was good timing since there aren't really too many restaurants along that stretch of highway. Since they were the only real restaurant for miles, they could pretty much charge anything they wanted for the meal, so it was ridiculously expensive. However, the food was pretty good and the ambiance was nice , except for the fact that the all glass dining room was practically like a greenhouse. We started sweating the second we sat down. Thankfully, there were some shady spots in the restaurant available, so we were able to move so that our food didn't get cooked a second time after it arrived at our table.

The whole resort area was really pretty cute. It had a little snack bar, a gift shop/gallery, a little convenience store, and even a couple of gas pumps. I'm glad we weren't running low at the time though, because the gas was $5.50 a gallon. As long as you didn't need to fill up, I think it would be a fun place to stay for the night if you were making a multi-day trip up the coast. The best part about Ragged Point, however, was the absolutely amazing view. It just doesn't get any better than this!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Cheer for the Champion Celtics!

Before I continue on with the story of our vacation, I need to take another quick detour to give a big shout out to the Boston Celtics!!! Woo hoo for the NBA CHAMPIONS!!!

As many of you may know, my hubby has always been a huge fan of the Celtics. Chad started loving Larry Bird in the early 80s and that love just never went away. Anyone who has known Chad for any amount of time knows this. In junior high and high school Chad wore out this goofy t-shirt with Larry Bird's picture on the front. You could spot Chad playing basketball on a playground from a mile away because of that t-shirt!

As you can imagine, Chad hasn't been too thrilled with the Celtics' seasons for...well...about the last 15 years. Regardless, Chad has continued to support them, watch them and cheer for them for all that time. The most convincing evidence of his unwavering loyalty is, of course, our almost 11 year old dog. When the Celtics were still horrible, we named our little man Celtic Bird Luce. As you can imagine, Celtic is pretty excited that the Celtics won as well! ;) We're very thankful that both Celtic and our late furry son Steeler were each able to see their team win it all during their lifetime!

In honor of Boston's wonderful season and awesome victory last night, this evening Chad put on the new shirt he bought while we were in San Francisco.

After many, many years, Chad can be proud to be a Celtic's fan once again!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Christian the Lion

Since I'm guessing my tens of readers need a break from hearing my long stories about California, tonight I want to share a video that our friend Mike sent me earlier this week. I found it so amazingly touching. However, being the skeptic that I am about most things that people send me via email, I've done about 100 Google searches in the last couple of days trying to verify that the description of this video is, in fact, true. I found many references to Christian the Lion our there on the Internets, and while there seem to be a few inconsistencies here and there, it appears that the description in the original video that I saw is fairly accurate.

This is actually a really old story (older than me even!) that I guess has had a recent resurgence after a related clip was posted on YouTube. I found an article in an online British newspaper dated May of 2007, but the original book about the events (events which actually started in the late 60s) was written back in 1971. Around that same time, a companion documentary was also released. This video might be a short clip from that documentary, or it might have actually happened a few years after the documentary was released, as the aforementioned article indicates. I'm hoping to watch the documentary soon to find out!

So here's the background story in a nutshell. Back in London in 1969, these two guys bought a lion cub, who they raised for the first year or so of his life. They named him Christian and treated him much like any other house pet. Obviously they were extremely attached to him, but they soon realized he was much too large to keep in the city. They took him to a refuge in Kenya, where he was to be reintroduced into the wild by a man named George Adamson, whose work rehabilitating lions was made famous in the movie Born Free. After a year or so of rehabilitation, Christian was visited by his previous owners John Rendall and Tony "Ace" Bourke (although several of the articles I found misidentified Tony as Ace "Berg" instead of Bourke). This is the video of their reunion. I warn you though, you need to turn off the sound. Someone set the whole thing to music, and the Aerosmith song is so cheesy it might ruin the whole experience! I just like this version of the video because it includes some pictures of Christian's "cubhood" that aren't included in the non-Aerosmith version!

There are several other articles and websites about Christian, and each has details that are slightly different, so I'm anxious to read the book and/or see the documentary to get the full story!

Monday, June 16, 2008

California: The Drive

When Chad proposed that we start our San Francisco vacation in LA and drive up the coast, I thought it sounded like a wonderful idea, but I also thought it sounded like something you would only want to do once in a lifetime. I thought it would be one of those "you've seen one coastline, you've seen them all" types of situations. I thought it would be a beautiful yet slightly tedious drive. I thought I would never have the urge to drive it again--and I was completely wrong.

I really think that next time we go to California I want to make that beautiful drive again. Chad might disagree, especially since he was the one doing all of the difficult driving on narrow, winding roads. It probably wasn't nearly as fun for him. I enjoyed the beautiful sights and scenery so much because I was just able to kick back and relax and take it all in!

Our morning drive started at about 7 a.m., so traffic wasn't too bad getting out of Los Angeles. We got on the 101 fairly quickly and were very lucky because most of the heavy traffic was headed into the city that we were leaving! We headed through the area just north of Malibu, and even though we were several miles away from the actual town on the coast, I could easily see why it's such a popular place. The area was full of rolling hills and beautiful vegetation. Someday I'd love to go back there and visit!

Our first actual stop was in Santa Barbara, which is about 2 hours away from LA. We parked near their cute little downtown and walked around looking for a local bakery of some sort where we could eat some breakfast. Unfortunately we didn't find anything quaint and local, so we ended up getting some muffins at Starbucks instead. So much for experiencing new and different things.

Just north of Santa Barbara was one of the most scenic places we saw that wasn't right along the ocean. We decided to head north on highway 154 instead of staying on the 101, just to cut a little time off the trip before we got to the most popular part of the coastal highway. I'm so glad we took this road instead of going on the 101 the whole way. This area was very mountainous, and about the time we got up into the higher elevations we came upon this beautiful lake nestled right in a little valley with a mountain right beside it. It was called Lake Chachuma, and there was a little recreation area and cabins and canoes out on the water. It was just so breathtaking I absolutely loved it! Someday I'd love to go back there and visit!

One thing I didn't know about this particular area of California is that it has it's own version of wine country. We passed vineyard after vineyard after vineyard and it was all so gorgeous. I don't know if the wine from that area is any good, but the landscapes are absolutely beautiful!

After hooking back into the 101 a few miles up the road, our plan was to veer off onto the coastal highway (Highway 1) at San Luis Obispo. However, in the preceding town we stopped off at the California visitor's center for map and some other brochures. I was so busy looking through the travel guides I completely missed our turn onto Highway 1, which I thought would be 10 miles or so up the road, but was apparently a lot sooner! I was so mad at myself for not paying attention (especially since my only job was navigator), but on our Highway 46 detour we stopped at the most beautiful scenic overlook that we would have totally missed otherwise. This place was absolutely gorgeous, with the most incredible view of a cattle-filled valley as well as the mountains and the ocean off in the distance. I guess my unintentional detour was well worth it in the end!

I'm guessing that half of my audience has probably dozed off during my riveting story about driving. Since I'm about to doze off myself, I guess I'd better stop babbling for the night! I promise I'll try to provide fewer details in the next chapter of our vacation. At this rate I won't get finished until July!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

California Vacation

Even though it's way too late at night to be blogging, I figure I better at least start talking about our vacation before so much time passes that I completely forget what we did. We flew out of KC very early in the morning on the 3rd, which put us into LA in the mid morning. We actually caught the shuttle to our rental car company without any problem (as opposed to our last out-of-town trip to Miami), picked up our dorky looking Dodge Caliber, and headed towards Long Beach. My brother was working on the ESPN show Jim Rome is Burning for the day, and since it's shot in Westminster, we decided to head that direction so that we'd be closer to him when he got finished with work. While we waited for Eric, we had our first meal at In-N-Out Burger, then made our first visit to Trader Joe's, which is another California institution that my brother has always talked very fondly of. Let me just say that I love that store! They have so many unique and slightly bizarre food items, and I wanted to try just about everything I saw! For some reason I'm such a sucker for trying weird food. All of their food is very organic and healthy looking too, so that just made it doubly interesting for me! I totally wish we could shop there! We ended up buying a bag of almonds and a bag of cashews there that we ended up snacking on the entire week!

Anyway, after leaving Trader Joe's we headed south some more, and decided to stop and enjoy the beach for a while since the weather was so beautiful. We picked a nice little dog beach and stopped to enjoy the view, the sand and the doggies! It was a great place to walk around and enjoy the weather, relax and take some of our first non-airplane pictures on the trip! We probably would have stayed their longer except that we didn't have any change for the parking meter!

After leaving this beach, we continued south towards Huntington Beach, where we stopped at the main pier and watched some incredible sand volleyball players, watched a bunch of surfers, and took a long walk out over the ocean. The weather was so nice--cool but very sunny. After our walk we did a little shopping, and then headed back towards Long Beach to meet my brother.

After consolidating vehicles, Chad and Eric and I drove around Long Beach trying to figure out what we wanted to do. We chatted and saw the sites of the area and finally decided to stop and eat an early dinner at a place called RockBottom Brewery. Since Chad and I had gotten up at 2 a.m. California time that morning, we decided just to head back to Eric's apartment and relax after dinner. It was about an hour drive to Eric's, and my very kind brother gave us the parking spot at his complex (and also gave up his bed later that night!) and then proceeded to drive around his neighborhood for 20 minutes trying to find a spot for himself. We hung out with Eric and his roommate Seth (who happens to be a roommate of Chad's from college as well) for a little while and watched part of Mission Impossible III, but we didn't even finish the movie because we were so tired. We wanted to get up early again the next morning to start our drive, so I think we were in bed by 9:00! The only bummer about going to bed so early was that I didn't get get to spend quite as much quality time with my brother as I would have liked! I cherish every minute I can get with him!

Friday, June 13, 2008

California Pictures, Take One

In case it wasn't obvious before, it most certainly will be now--I'm officially a picture addict. I just got finished describing the first batch of pictures from our trip, and after deleting some that were pretty worthless duplicates, there are still over 200 pictures in the batch! This was just the first 3 days of our trip. I'm totally out of control. I have so many pictures on my Picasa page (which is actually associated with Chad's Gmail account), even after deleting tons of pictures in the last several months, I still have so many on the site I can't upload any more with paying for extra storage. It's insane. I had to start using the picture space for my Gmail account instead since I'm way too cheap to actually pay for the service! I'm kind of thinking maybe I should have just posted them on Flickr since every picture I see on Flickr looks a million times more brilliant than mine do on Picasa! I just don't like way you navigate through pictures on Flickr--it feels backwards to me!

Anyway, as I was writing captions for all of these pictures I began to realize how utterly absurd it was that I'd taken so many. They're probably going to be so not exciting to anyone who wasn't there. So many pictures of the ocean look exactly the same! Regardless, I'm sure someday I'll appreciate having the descriptions of where we were and what we were doing, even if no one else appreciates it!

So if you're interested and have some time on your hands, here are the first group of pictures from our California trip! I will try to actually blog about the events tomorrow!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy Husband

I really thought that tonight I'd getting some blogging done about our vacation, but unfortunately I've only managed to get the pictures from the first couple of days uploaded onto Picasa. I'm trying to get them all label and will hopefully have them ready for viewing tomorrow!

One of the things that conspired against me this evening was the Celtics/Lakers game. I'm not a huge fan of the NBA (too much flopping, fouling and flailing), but I usually end up watching a little of the finals anyway because that's what my husband is watching. This year, I've watched a lot more NBA than normal and have watched most of the playoffs because Chad's beloved Celtics (and my favorite team too if I have to pick one) have been playing so well. Tonight it looked like they were going to lose game 4 of the finals when they were down by 24 points in the second quarter. In an amazing comeback, the Celtics ended up winning 97-91. It was incredible! Chad is so excited he's been on the phone with friends and family since the final buzzer!

By the way, the awesome PP picture is courtesy of Mark J. Terrill of the Associated Press! :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Recovery Mode

Today I was attempting to recover from our vacation. We returned home about 12:30 a.m. this morning, and after about 5 hours of sleep I got up and went to work. My day was rather unproductive and depressing. While we missed our doggies terribly, they were the only thing that made me glad to be home!

Tonight I've been working on getting all the pictures in order and enhanced for viewing, but I still have a long way to go. Hopefully I can have the first few days of pictures/captions finished by tomorrow. I want to write down what everything was while it's still fresh in my mind!

Until the whole ridiculously large batch is complete, I thought I'd share just a few more of my favorites from our last night in San Francisco, when we visited Alcatraz. It was so cool!!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Beautiful Bridge

Wow. What a day. Even though it's only about 9:45 California time, we're already in bed and ready to fall asleep. The day was wonderful but exhausting. Despite the fact that we took cable cars, street cars and buses around San Francisco today, we also managed to walk a total of 10 miles. Literally. We didn't bring the Garmin, but I did map our routes on Map My Run when we got back to the hotel, and the total was almost exactly 10 miles--10 very hilly miles. I am pooped.

Since I'm ready to fall asleep, I'll quit typing and just share a few more of my favorite pictures from the day. Enjoy!

Having a Wonderful Time!

Just a quick note to say that we are having a wonderful time on our vacation! There is so much to talk about I won't even start, but I will post a few of my favorite pictures from the first couple of days. We are loving the new camera!!

There are about 200 more pictures where these came from--so far! Tomorrow we're headed to the Golden Gate Bridge (which we drove over yesterday) so there will be many more photo opportunities, I'm sure! I can't wait!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Salina Festivities

Even though I'm sitting here hanging out with my brother in Los Angeles, I have to finish the post I started yesterday or else it will forever go unfinished. I just want to share a few pictures from our visit to Salina over Memorial Day weekend. Chad and I originally planned this quick trip when we found out Chad's cousin Steve was going to be in town for the holiday. Steve and his wife Paula and their two boys live in the DFW area and we don't get to see them often, so we try to take advantage of their visits to Kansas whenever possible.

A while after we'd made our Salina plans, Chad's brother called and asked if we'd be able to watch our nephews on the Saturday of the holiday weekend. Initially we said we couldn't since we were going to Salina, but then Chad realized we could just as easily take the boys to Salina with us to see our family as well. Mark was a little worried that this would be more adventure than we could handle, but Chad eventually convinced him that we would enjoy the challenge.
Honestly, it didn't turn out to be much of a challenge for us as all. The boys were very well behaved and we had a great time with them. There was so much to do at the farm (we still call it the farm even though Chad's parents don't actually farm any of the acreage) that the boys stayed very busy and had a terrific time.

The drive there was fairly relaxing, as the boys entertained themselves with movies and Nintendo DS. We arrived in Salina and stopped at Quizno's for lunch (where Miles ate like a champ; Quinn, not so much) before heading over to Grandma Decker's. There we visited with Chad's Uncle Jerry and his wife Anne, cousin (once removed) Patty, and Grandma Decker. Steve and Paula soon arrived with their boys John and Will, and the kids played for a while before we all headed out to the farm where Chad's parents Mark and Ginny were firing up the grill.

Out at the farm we ate some more grub (even though we'd just eaten lunch a couple of hours before), and the boys played with their cousins on the gravel pile for a while before we all headed down to the big pond for some fishing. Chad and Jerry both caught some great fish, and even though neither of the nephews caught anything, they both had a fun time reeling in "moss fish" over and over. The boys had tons of fun acting out Indiana Jones scenes on the gravel pile "island" and the truck bead "boat" and climbing all around in the old VW camper. Quinn and I spent some time "golfing" while everyone else hung out at the pond, and later in the evening Quinn and Miles and I hiked about a mile back down to the pond when they got bored up at the house (which was a great walk except for that part where Quinn fell into cow manure). I was so amazed by their endurance--they played so hard for so long that day! I thought they'd fall asleep so easily at bedtime, but they stayed up even later than normal giggling and being silly during their slumber party at Chad's parents!

We had such a fun time seeing family, but also just spending time with our little nephews. They are pretty cute little guys, as you can see from all the pictures I took during the trip. We definitely need to hang out with them more often!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

An Ode to Pregnancy

This weekend has been so busy with packing, planning and (dog) picture taking, I really haven't had time for blogging. However, I did want to share with everyone a hysterical email that a friend of mind sent me a few weeks ago. She is currently expecting her first baby and had sent out an update on the pregnancy to a bunch of her friends. It is too funny not to share, although for reasons which will be obvious after you read this, I'm not sharing her name. Enjoy. :)


Ah, pregnancy. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

1) My ankles -- if you can still call them that -- look like tree trunks. It's not even summer yet, and I have four and a half months to go.

2) Pooping has become an event. A bi-weekly event. Now, I've never been really certain whether "bi-weekly" refers to "twice per week" or "once every two weeks." In this case, it doesn't really matter because at any given point along the way, either could apply. It is such a special occasion that I have even developed a celebratory dance to commemorate it.

3) I swear my breasts weigh at least ten pounds. Apiece.

4) My varicose veins have bloomed to the point of resembling Rorschach ink blots. So far we've found Jesus and Gumby.

5) Sleep? What sleep? If I'm not making another trip to the bathroom, I'm trying to figure out how to position my body in a way that allows relaxation. And, it's exponentially harder to relax when I'm having fantasies of murdering my husband for making it clear how much this pregnancy is affecting him by snoring louder than ever.

6) My upper arms look like the turkey drumsticks available at a Renaissance Festival. Even my elbows have gained weight.

7) I spend many moments trying to decide whether to cry or puke.

8) All grooming of the nether regions has come to a halt. I can neither see nor reach the intended destination. It's a jungle down there.

9) My face is as round as a moon pie. I don't know what a moon pie is, but it sounds big and round, and that's my face.

10) If I had known how many times I was going to pee a day, I would have bought stock in Northern and Softsoap. Seriously... can there not be a balance between this and number 2 above? (Get it? "number 2"? Ha!)

11) One would think that having long since lost the firm tummy of my youth, I would not be nearly so traumatized by my ever-expanding belly. One would think. One would be wrong.

12) It's quite likely I will have this baby in jail if I hear one more woman say, "I loved being pregnant!" Ranks right up there with "I love to exercise" and "I forgot to eat lunch."

13) Who knew stretch marks were like bunnies?

14) My back hurts to the point that I spend a considerable amount of time in the evenings on all fours, trying to relieve some pressure. I have no doubt this is an attractive position, and I wish my husband could get some benefit from it. Please see numbers 1 through 13 for an explanation of why he doesn't and why he won't.

15) Did I mention I have four and a half months to go?


In the early hours of the morning, when I can feel our baby girl slowly stirring from sleep ... in the moments when my husband's scratchy old beard is tickling my tummy as he explains to his daughter how she needs to be a "good kid" like him and not a "bad kid" like me ... in the daily presence of such an amazing miracle, one I'm not sure I ever thought would really happen to me ... well, I guess pregnancy isn't so bad after all. :)


My personal favorite is #12. The thought of her having the baby in jail horrifies me and makes me laugh out loud at the same time.

I'm sure my friend won't mind that I'm sharing this with entire world, since some of her other friends forwarded it on to their friends without even stripping her name out of it. She ended up getting emails from people she didn't even know who had read the personal details about her "nether regions!" ACK!