Family Visit

Well I didn’t mean to disappear from here for the month – and I’d been doing so well at writing regularly in February and March, too. Oh well!

But my excuse is that last week my sister Katy and her clan visited. Katy visited once before back in 2008, as part of a trip for a conference out here, but this was a planned vacation. When I say “her clan”, I mean her boyfriend Andrew, her son I, and his daughter A. They flew in Sunday night, getting in around 10 pm – which was 1 am in their east coast time zone. I was surprised the kids were not totally asleep! We’d spent time on-and-off during the month getting ready for their visit, making sure we had sheets and blankets, and buying an air mattress for our study so we could use all of our bedrooms for them. We had everything set when they arrived, so we gave them a short tour of the house and let them crash.

We planned a pretty quiet first day: We had brunch at Hobees, then went to the Apple campus because I is a huge Apple fan and wanted to see the mothership. Then we met Debbi in downtown Mountain View to show them our stomping grounds.

We spent two days in San Francisco: Tuesday we went to California Academy of Sciences and Ghirardelli Square, and then Thursday we hit the Golden Gate Bridge, rode the cable cars (who surely have the most primitive web site of any major attraction in the nation), and went to Pier 39.

Andrew used to live in the area in the late 80s and he wanted to go down to Santa Cruz to see his old stomping grounds, which we did on Wednesday. I guess Pacific Ave is quite different now since they rebuilt much of it after Loma Prieta. We also went to the Beach Boardwalk and walked out the municipal wharf. We had gorgeous weather for this trip, and finished with a drive up the coast, turning in at Half Moon Bay.

Friday was not so nice, as we went back to Half Moon Bay and it was cloudy and chilly on the coast. That didn’t stop us from going to the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Then we went along Skyline Drive and took in some of the scenic views, as well as a walk at Russian Ridge.

This was not as packed a visit as I’ve had with some other folks, as we spent the mornings hanging around the house, and the late afternoons and early evenings in the back yard, where I, A and a mixture of adults kicked around a soccer ball and played with out bocce ball set. We did have the usual food-fest, eating quite a bit of Mexican and hitting some other favorite restaurants too.

It only took three-and-a-half decades for Katy and me to develop an adult relationship – we did not get along as kids, and didn’t interact a lot in our twenties. I guess the bright side of us dealing with our mother moving into assisted living and selling her house has been developing that relationship. I’d gotten to know Andrew during our trips to do all that, as he helped out with a bunch of stuff and was extremely helpful with the manual labor, and he’s a friendly, funny guy. The kids are great, too, and both had fun. I was a little worried that they’d be a bit bored by the visit since we don’t have a lot of experience entertaining kids of their ages at our home – most of our friends’ kids are much younger – but I was worried about nothing, I guess. We barely even turned on the television, except to watch some sports!

They all headed out Saturday morning to go home, which went smoothly too. Now we’ll have to go out to visit them sometime!

The Clan

Frogs & Flowers

Debbi and I took Tuesday off for a fun day in San Francisco. We spent the morning at California Academy of Sciences, where we renewed our memberships for the year. Sadly, their planetarium was closed for the day, and it’s one of the highlights of a visit there. But we had a good time otherwise. It was really quiet there, relatively speaking; I guess the end of February is not the busy season for SF museums! One nice benefit of this was we got some lengthy quality time with the penguins, who were happily swimming in their pond, and one of whom followed me back and forth through the window.

I took another panorama from the rooftop:

View from the Cal Academy rooftop

Debbi took a bunch of pictures and posted a few to Facebook having made collages out of them with Pic Stitch. I liked this one with the many small frogs we saw in the tropical rainforest:

Frogs

After five trips in the last year, I think the Academy needs to refresh some of their exhibits. The earthquake exhibit feels very stale at this point, and they haven’t had a good exhibit on the second floor in a while – they really need something like their Extreme Mammals exhibit from a few years ago.

Afterward we went to the Conservatory of Flowers, which I always think is one of the best-kept secrets in Golden Gate Park. We were pleased to see they had their butterfly exhibit in their rotating exhibit room, but I always enjoy seeing all their rooms. I got a panorama of the room with the large pond:

Conservatory of Flowers pond room

And Debbi made a collage of some pictures from our visit:

Flowers

Finally we went to Ghirardelli Square for sundaes, and then drove home.

We had a quiet rest of the day, but sadly we were both strangely wiped out by it all; Debbi took a nap in the afternoon, and I developed a headache later in the evening (though not the debilitating kind I occasionally get), so we went to bed early. A disappointing end to an otherwise fun day.

On the bright side, we’ve gotten some rain since then, which the state badly needs and which I always enjoy. And more coming in the next few days!

Vegas Long Weekend

Last weekend we went to Las Vegas for the first time in several years. (For those following along at home, due to the frail condition of our two cats Newton and Blackjack, we didn’t go away on vacation for several years. Both of them have since passed away, so we’ve been travelling again.)

Something about this trip didn’t feel quite right to me from the time we booked it. This isn’t foreshadowing, nothing bad happened on the trip; it just felt slightly off, like I couldn’t quite figure out why we were going. Vegas can be a bit of an odd trip for us, trying to figure out what we want to spend time doing, especially since we’ve seen most of the spectacle before several times. But walking around aimlessly is tiring and kind of pointless.

What we did do was book tickets to go see Cirque du Soleil’s “O”, which we saw the first time we went to Vegas about ten years ago. (We had wanted to see their new show, Zarkana, but it was dark during January.) We flew in Saturday afternoon and went to the show in the evening. It’s quite a spectacle, of course; it seemed like they’d changed it up a bit (in particular the closing piece was different from what I remembered).

We stayed at the MGM Grand, where we’ve stayed several times before. We liked them partly because they had a branch of Fat Tuesday in them, but also because they had a killer poker room, a large room with a variety of games. Sadly, their great room is no more, the space largely unused, and the remaining poker tables shoved into an alcove to one side of the casino. And they only seem to have 1/2 no-limit games anymore. Disappointing. Also, the room where they used to bring in lions from a nearby preserve has been remodeled into a night club. And it turns out that Fat Tuesday now has something like eight locations on the strip, so we could find daiquiris all kinds of places.

Anyway, I went to the site All Vegas Poker to check out rooms, and it seems that the collapse of on-line poker has hit poker rooms on the strip hard, with many of the downsizing or closing.

I struggle to have the courage to play no-limit poker; all my poker playing friends seem to play no-limit when they come to Vegas, and that’s what we play in our nickel-dime home games, at which I hold my own (and our home games are tough). But I feel more comfortable playing limit when I play for real money, so we went to the Flamingo, which still has a 2/4 game and I’ve enjoyed playing at before. It was a good choice: We visited several other poker rooms over the weekend and they were pretty consistently quiet, while the Flamingo’s room was active during the day and busy at night. I talked to several people I played with during the trip and they said the Flamingo was one of the better rooms on the strip for finding a game at all hours.

While I play poker Debbi usually goes to play a mix of pai-gow poker and video poker. I often feel guilty for separating from her for hours at a time to play poker, but she seems okay with it. This trip I tried to embrace her giving me the time to sit at the table for a lengthy session.

Well, the first couple of days it didn’t work out so well. Sunday in particular I spent the afternoon being dreadfully card-dead. Honestly the best I can say from the session was that I didn’t lose much more than I was going to lose, and I actually made some pretty good folds when I did have good (but losing) hands. Monday afternoon was more of the same, except I had the sense to order some coffee with Bailey’s to warm things up (or “add some variance to my game” as I joked).

Coffee and Chips

Monday night my luck finally changed and I was able to recoup most of my losses from the rest of the trip, winning some big hands and losing a few through bad luck. Overall I was pretty happy with how I played, which I guess means I need to figure out what the next step is to become a better player.

Monday night we also went to our usual dinner at Bally’s Steakhouse (Bally’s – another casino which has shoved its poker room into a corner of the casino). I was pleased to see they haven’t changed much – if anything they’ve improved a bit with the addition of a mixed drink menu (their Old Fashioned was well worth the price). Afterwards we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower replica at Paris, which was a bit over-priced but fun anyway. I got a couple of good pictures of the strip from up there, too:

Strip facing south
Strip facing north

We had a quiet morning Tuesday before flying out. It was, overall, a fun trip, but it felt slightly dreamlike at times. I’m not sure if I wasn’t quite mentally into it, or if the place has changed just enough in five years that I was thrown off. I do want to go back, though, and perhaps we’ll figure things out ahead of time a little better, now that we’re familiar with what’s changed.

Three Days at Disneyland

Last weekend we drove down to Disneyland and spent three days there. Other than our trip to Disney World in 2007, I think this is the longest we’ve spent at a Disney park. But, we haven’t been in several years (thanks to our vacation moratorium due to Newton and Blackjack’s conditions), and Debbi was missing it, so we added the extra day.

Unfortunately, on Saturday when we drove down, snow closed both the Grapevine into Los Angeles and its main alternate route. After lunch at Harris Ranch, we learned of the closure in time to reroute from I-5 through the central valley to Hwy 101 on the coast, but it added 2 or 3 hours to our trip. We had 6:30 reservations for dinner and were worried we wouldn’t make it, but we got to our hotel around 5:40 and made it to dinner in time – where we met Mark and Yvette, whom we hadn’t seen in a while. They introduced us to the bar & lounge at the Grand Californian hotel, which has some killer drinks and some good appetizers.

Disneyland Main Gate

A few rides were closed at the parks while we were there, but the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster was the only one we really missed. Otherwise we rode all of our favorite rides on Sunday, and went around the park in the railway train. In the evening we had reservations for dinner to get the preferred seating for the World of Color show, which was nice since it was getting pretty cold and a sit-down dinner was a good way to get out of the chill. (The restaurant also had the same drinks as at the bar Saturday night.)

Paradise Pier

One of the bummers at the park is that Starbucks is apparently taking over coffee services there. I don’t loathe Starbucks, but I do find them to be below-average coffee (especially drip coffee). They’ve replaced the old coffee ship on Main Street, which was wonderful, not just because you could get a free refill, but because the drip coffee was genuinely tasty. I realize that Disneyland’s relentless commercialism is just a part of the park, but this is definitely a big step backwards.

Monday was inexplicably cold and windy, which was awkward since this was the day we decided to try the Radiator Springs Racers, which is the hot new ride at California Adventure. We got a Fastpass for it and then stood in line for 90 minutes for an extra ride. And holy cow the main feed to the ride is the coldest spot in the park, and the staff don’t even have heaters to keep them warm! But we got to ride it twice. It’s a good ride, but not perhaps worth waiting that long for a go.

Radiator Springs

In the evening we had reservations at the Blue Bayou restaurant, and despite somehow having been forgotten about for a while after checking in, we ended up with a water-side table. The food was good as always. Just as we were finishing up and looking at the dessert menu, the manager of our section told us the fire alarm was going off and everyone had to evacuate. She told us since we were done we could just leave and not come back to pay. Strange! But surely a much smaller hassle than for people who were halfway through their dinner (especially since it was c-o-l-d outside).

Tuesday we had a “magic morning”, getting into Disneyland an hour before regular opening, so we went to ride several of the classic Fantasyland rides (which don’t have Fastpasses and are often jammed with long lines during regular hours). This was the warmest day of our trip, and of course we had brought warmer clothes on this day – oh well!

We rode Pirates of the Caribbean in the afternoon, and as our boat came up out of the underground ride we noticed that there was no line and the front doors had closed. Sure enough, the fire alarm had gone off as it had during dinner the night before – but we made it through the ride anyway! That building was having a rough weekend. As did the Indiana Jones ride, which was closed for most of Monday and Tuesday, so we only got to ride it once.

Somewhere along the way we went into Innoventions in Tomorrowland which I’d understood had been overhauled from the rather dated “future of the past” look from when we went 10 years ago. If anything, it’s actually worse than before. While there are a few vaguely interesting exhibits, some of it is a shambles: There’s currently an exhibit for Thor: The Dark World which we waited in for 20 minutes without much idea of what it was or how often it ran; eventually we gave up. (As best I could tell it was some sort of film presentation.) And the first floor is a sort of “house of the future”, but with an outside ring which is basically completely empty – it felt like we were trespassing backstage. Very bizarre. And the house exhibit itself was no nicer than the house we actually have! Innoventions has to be the place in Disneyland with the least imagination. Bizarre – and entirely skippable.

On the other hand, Star Tours, which I was also underwhelmed by when I rode it a decade ago, has been significantly refurbished and is a lot more fun. We only rode it once on this trip, but I’d certainly go again.

While we in the parks there I took some pictures and texted them to my nephew, which my sister had suggested I do after I sent her a picture on our first night. She says he enjoyed getting them; I haven’t seen him in a number of years, so I’m glad he did!

Haunted Mansion Holiday

After the fireworks show on Tuesday evening we did a couple more rides and then called it an early evening. Wednesday we drove back home, and fortunately hit no snags other than a couple of slowdowns on the LA freeways (and, honestly, “a couple of slowdowns” on the LA freeways is about the best you can hope for). Our kitties were happy to see us and very snuggly, and we were glad to collapse into our own bed.

Alas, Tuesday afternoon I started coming down with a cold, and driving home didn’t help it any, so today I stayed home sick. Still, a fun trip all-in-all.

At Long Last, a Vacation

It’s been a long time since Debbi and I went away on a vacation. Due to Blackjack and Newton’s conditions, we were reluctant to go away and leave them to a pet sitter for any length of time. (And, coincidentally, both of them passed away at times when we had been considering going away, so I guess that was a good call.) After Newton’s passing, we made plans to visit our families this month, and that’s what we did.

We took the JetBlue red-eye to Boston two weeks ago, arriving bleary-eyed as usual. We went down to visit Debbi’s family for part of the day, and then they drove me up to my Dad’s house. It was dreadfully hot the first day and a half, but then cooled off to just about perfect weather (with a couple of rainy days).

This is the first time I’ve actually spent vacation time with my parents since my Mom moved in to assisted living. It was very nice to not be working during the trip, since it got pretty exhausting to have to get up every morning and head over to take care of Mom’s affairs, or get her house ready for sale. Plus it got to be depressing to spend the waning hours of the day in the increasingly-empty house. Now that the house has sold, that’s no longer a concern.

Spending most of my time hanging around my Mom’s house and occasionally having dinner with Dad (or someone else) has now been changed to mostly hanging around my Dad’s house, but driving out to visit Mom every other day. I had sort of thought that we would spend afternoons sitting either in her apartment or on the complex’s back deck by the river reading (i.e., much like what we did at her house, but in a different place). Instead we mostly drove out for lunch, ran errands, did shopping, and did a few chores around her apartment. I didn’t mind doing it, but it made the trip somewhat busier than I had expected (or was used to). I’d also forgotten that driving between my parents’ homes is a bit of a trek, since the road of suburban Boston are both full of traffic and teeming with traffic lights.

I guess this will be the new normal when I go out to visit.

Balanced against that, Dad does live in a very convenient neighborhood, with a great independent bookstore, a comic book shop, and a number of very good restaurants, all within walking distance. Several of them have intriguing mixed drink menus, which I avail myself of whenever I can. And we went on a couple of shopping expeditions to comic and book stores.

Though we stayed with our respective families most of the time, Debbi and I did get together for a few days:

The first weekend I went down to visit Debbi and her family. They arranged for us to have an adventure at 5wits, where we did their espionage adventure. It’s definitely aimed at being kid- and family-friendly, but it was fun for us adults too. (It reminded me of Escape from the Mysterious Room, which a friend of mine has done.) We also watched one of the kids play a soccer game and otherwise hung around and enjoyed the nice not-quite-fall weather. Oh! And I got to meet Lucie, their 4-month-old kitten, who has their golden retrievers completely under her thumb, and is friendly and adorable to us monkeys, too.

In the middle of the week we reversed things and Debbi came up to stay at Dad’s for a couple of nights. We went to a couple of our favorite restaurants, and went out to visit Mom, where we went shopping at Frugal Fannie’s. Debbi and Mom found some stuff, while I mostly played games on my iPhone while they were shopping. I remarked that I’m much more patient with shopping expeditions that don’t interest me than I was when I was, say, 12. Unfortunately when we got back, we found that Mom had lost her apartment keys. We suspected that she dropped them when she was trying on clothes. Fortunately, Mom wanted to go back the next weekend, and we enquired at their service desk, and sure enough they had found them! So, all ended well.

Debbi’s stay at Dad’s culminated in us driving down to Cape Cod for a day. I’ve probably mentioned before that my parents have rented a cottage in Orleans, but it’s been close to 20 years since I joined them. Dad and I have driven down for day trips in the past, and I wanted to go down and show Debbi around.

We visited Orleans and Chatham, both of which are fun places to visit even in the offseason (which it was). We had lunch at Cooke’s and had some successful shopping expeditions before driving around. Then we drove up to Provincetown, which was less successful: I remember it has having many quirky stores with neat stuff to be found, but now it seems to be a collection of touristy stores, candy stores, and junk stores. Pretty disappointing. No doubt there’s still some good stuff there to find, but an hour’s walk down main street didn’t find it. (Well, with the exception of Puzzle Me This, which is an excellent casual game store, well worth a visit.)

We zipped back to Orleans to watch the sunset (which was better attended than the early afternoon beach), as it’s one of the two places on the east coast where I’ve seen the sun set over water (the other being over the Gulf of Mexico from Florida), and then went to dinner at Land Ho!, the one place we went on the trip which was wall-to-wall packed. Then I dropped Debbi off at her sister’s house and drove back to collapse into bed. It was a long day, but fun.

With all of that activity, the trip went by rather quickly. Suddenly it was time to head back.

We flew home last Sunday. Our flight was delayed an hour and a half, and we arrived an hour late. And on top of that, they lost my suitcase somehow (despite it being a direct flight). Fortunately it was just misplaced, and they delivered it the next day (6 minutes before the end of the window they gave us, amusingly enough). We took Monday off to reorient ourselves, and Tuesday it was back to work for both of us.

Since then we’ve been getting back into our routine. Debbi unfortunately has caught a cold, which I seem to have dodged (so far). The weather has been gorgeous – hard to believe it’s already fall.

Sunset at Skaket Beach

From Santa Cruz to Crate & Barrel

I’ve had four of the last six days off. Well, two of those were the weekend, of course, but I took Wednesday and Thursday off to both catch up on some things and to have a fun day off since I haven’t taken much vacation time this year.

Debbi took Wednesday off and we decided to drive down to Santa Cruz and then up the coast. We had breakfast at Stacks in Campbell, and then drove down to Santa Cruz. We passed to small traffic jams on the way, but otherwise it wasn’t too bad.

In Santa Cruz we went to the Museum of Natural History, which is small, but hard to beat for the $4 admission. Plus it’s near a nice beach which you can walk to while your parking pass is still good. Then we went into downtown for lunch, dropped in a couple of stores to shop, and visited The Penny Ice Creamery, which a cow-orker recommended and which was very tasty!

Our drive up the coast was uneventful, other than looking around to stop at the few beaches I wanted to drop in on. I remembered doing this same drive 13 years ago when I got my car, and stopping at several beaches which were clearly visible from Highway 1, and this time we stopped at some other ones. We particularly enjoyed seeing kitesurfers at one beach:

We also stopped at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and saw a couple of sea lions from a distance, and visited Pebble Beach (no, not the one with the famous golf course).

We should’ve brought some water bottles with us, but otherwise it was a nice drive along the coast seeing some sights we hadn’t seen before.

Debbi went back to work Thursday and I worked on stuff at home, such as mowing the lawn. I also took care of some of my Mom’s affairs – such as cancelling her cell phone contract, since she doesn’t even know where her cell phone is at this point; if she ever needs one again, a prepaid phone will probably be the way to go. I’m constantly surprised at how many details there are to take care of, yet how most of them are not too hard individually – they just add up over time. Managing my own affairs is hard enough!

I ran a couple of errands for my own, and left lunch a little too late, settling on buying stuff for PB&J sandwiches at home.

Friday I had a 1-day work week, and Debbi and I went to Cascal for dinner. Yum!

Over the weekend we worked on some home projects. It started with a trip to the vet with Blackjack, who has been breathing more audibly lately and one of his eyes has been getting gunked up. We got some drops for his eye, and some blood work done (which came back the same as his last tests). We’re always worrying that his next symptoms might be the other shoe dropping, but so far it’s all be pretty little stuff (though the vet visits get expensive). He and Newton have both been doing pretty well this summer.

We went by Crate & Barrel to buy some new drinking glasses, and ended up also buying some wine cabinets, which we’ve needed for a while. (The old Ikea bookcase currently holding our wine is not in great shape.) We also tried to go to Ikea, but couldn’t find a parking space! Or, rather, we could, but only a lo-o-ong way from the front door, so we gave up. We went back Sunday morning and bought some shelving for our dining room, to store knick-knacks and other things that don’t currently have a home. I put it together and then we unpacked two of the last boxes remaining from our move. Almost done! I think we have 3 or 4 boxes in the study yet to unpack, but at least 2 of those are old gaming materials that I can’t quite decide to get rid of.

So a pretty productive weekend all-in-all. We finished it by grilling steak & baked potatoes, and playing a round of lawn bowling.

It was back to work today. Hard to believe fall has arrived already!

Dad Visits Our New Home

Dad came for a visit last week. (And it’s getting hard to come up with entry titles that are just variations on “A Visit From Dad”.) He flew in on Thursday and left on Wednesday. By this time we’ve gone to see most of the things in the Bay Area I know about, so it was a visit mostly of re-runs and hanging out, although he did have a couple of new things he wanted to see.

This is the first time he’s seen our new house, which we’ve now been in (hard as it is for us to believe) for 11 months. Mom saw it on her visit a year ago, but that was before we’d even closed (we were doing a walk-through with the seller the day she arrived), so it almost feels like it doesn’t count, since it was completely empty. Dad had to wait a little longer, but he got the full experience, since it’s well lived-in by now.

The day he arrived we walked down to the nearby Safeway which has a Starbucks in it, as he has been in the habit of walking out in the morning on his visits to get coffee, and his previous place, the 7-11 near our old home, is rather farther from the new place. I think he walked there every morning but two during his stay.

One place he wanted to visit was the campus of University of California – Santa Cruz, because it’s on a list he saw of the 10 most beautiful college campuses in the world (I think he saw this one). Although I’ve been to Santa Cruz many times, this was my first trip to UCSC.

I gotta say, it’s a very unfriendly campus for visitors. Apparently you are supposed to buy a parking pass to park most places on campus, which isn’t a bad thing, but they don’t tell you this. I saw no signs driving in to this effect, the booth where you buy the passes is not marked at all, and none of the parking lots we drove by or through have any indication that this is so. We only figured this out because most of the cars in one lot had things hanging from their rear mirrors, and we asked some people and they confirmed this. It’s like it’s a big trap to issue tickets to the unwary. Bastards.

We didn’t buy a pass but rather just drove around to see the place. Is it stunningly beautiful? It’s not bad; the buildings set in the redwood forest are pretty. The regions in the nearby fields look a little more generic. The architecture didn’t seem especially noteworthy. (Then again, Stanford is also on the list, and its campus has never impressed me either.) The campus is very spread out and I bet students spend a lot of time on buses or bikes to get from place to place.

We also visited the arboretum, which is quite impressive, large and varied. It’s the place I’d suggest visiting if you go to the campus for the scenery.

Saturday we drove to Livermore wine country, having lunch at Garre (nice restaurant, but their wines are not our thing), and then dropped by a couple of wineries for tastings. In the evening we went to a new restaurant that I discovered through a cow-orker, Bistro Vida, which we all enjoyed.

We came home from dinner to find that the power had gone out. We lit some candles and Debbi and I walked around the neighborhood a bit; it was a failure that covered several blocks, and it didn’t come back on until after 11, by which time we’d gone to bed. Our neighbor Juan said the power goes out from time to time – I think it only went out twice in the 10 years I was in my townhouse, so hopefully it won’t go out much more often than that! Apparently it was because of a equipment problems rather than due to the heat we were having on Saturday.

Sunday morning we went to the Moss Beach Distillery for their Sunday champagne brunch, and were pretty disappointed compared to earlier visits. They weren’t playing the classical music that Dad remarked on at his last visit, and worse, they had taken both french toast and pancakes off their brunch menu! Since I don’t eat seafood or egg dishes, that left hardly anything on the menu I would eat. Fortunately they were willing to make pancakes (for Dad) and french toast (for me) as a special order, but they were pretty ordinary compared to the more elaborate forms they used to have. I don’t know what they’re thinking, how can it be brunch without at least pancakes? I guess they’re trying to go more upscale? But they’re likely to lose me as a patron if this is the way it’s going to be. Pity.

Sunday evening we drove to the east bay to have dinner with my cousins, both of whom live out here, but neither of whom I’ve seen much of. Cousin L and her husband have a very nice house, and cousin K came from the city to meet with us. We had a good few hours visiting with them, and perhaps when their parents come out to visit next we’ll have a chance to meet them, too.

Monday we had a pretty quiet day, mostly driving around the south bay. Tuesday was a little more ambitious: We dropped Blackjack off at the vet about his eye, then went for breakfast, and finally up to San Francisco. We went to SF MOMA, which sure enough is an art museum. (I’m not really into art museums.) Then off to Ghirardelli Square for ice cream sundaes, and finally to Golden Gate Park. Strybing Arboretum – formerly one of my favorite place to wander around in the park – is now charging non-residents for admission. If nothing else that will eliminate any motivation I might have for donating to them.

Along the way we also watched some episodes of classic Doctor Who that I’d bought on DVD (used, to avoid the ridiculous prices the BBC charges for them): “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”, “Pyramids of Mars” and “Logopolis”. “Talons” was better than I’d remembered, while the other two were not as good (though still enjoyable). In particular “Pyramids” seemed to suffer from the limited (though very good) cast.

Wednesday it was a morning drive to drop Dad off at the airport, followed by meeting Debbi at her workplace for coffee, and then an afternoon of chores around the house. As always, it was a nice visit with Dad – and the cats enjoyed his company, too!

Looking Back at 2011

2011 was a mixed bag for us, with some big highs and big lows.

The main high was buying our new house (as well as selling the townhouse, no small accomplishment in this economy). It took us about 3 months of looking, and no small amount of frustration (bidding on and not getting a house we liked, and seeing many other houses we didn’t like) before we found this one at their open house. Debbi is a believer in things that are “meant to be”, and I’m not, but this house is a strong circumstantial argument for such a thing: It’s really perfect for us in location and layout, it’s just what we wanted. And the move went smoothly, even though it took weeks after the move to get the last few items moved from the townhouse

The other high was Debbi’s sabbatical and our trip to Hawaii, where we went to Maui and the big island. This was a great trip which we’ll remember for a long time.

The low, of course, was learning that Blackjack has cancer (lymphoma). He spent 5 weeks getting radiation therapy, followed by 6 months of chemotherapy. He was a good boy through all of it, even though he hated going to the vet. He seemed to be doing pretty well, until we got back from Hawaii when we learned that he’s gone deaf, and he was very wobbly on his feet. That seems to have been the low point for him, and he’s improved since then, almost back to his old self. But we still worry.

Those were the big points of the year. We finished out 2011 with a week off from work (both our companies closed down for the holidays). We spent most of it quietly at home enjoying the house.

We’ve just about got the last room in the house, the dining room, set up. For a while it was just the room with the big tables and all the boxes we hadn’t yet unpacked. Actually it still has 2/3 of the boxes we haven’t unpacked (by which I mean “2 boxes”, the third one is upstairs in the study), but now it has a buffet tables filled with our board games, and we bought a rug for it on Saturday, so it’s looking pretty nice. The cats are enjoying the rug, since it gives them somewhere comfortable to lie where they can look into both the living room and the kitchen.

Blackjack has been doing better this week. We’ve both seen him moving around more swiftly and even starting trouble with Roulette. He’s getting more comfortable jumping, and this weekend he got a little more affection towards Debbi, which she loved since he’s her special cat. But he also likes to go into the smaller spaces in the house (the bathrooms and closets) and meow his head off. He’s always had a really pathetic meow, so when he started doing this we’d go find him to make sure he’s okay, but it seems he just likes to do it. I don’t know if he can hear himself meow, or if he has a bit of tinnitis or similar phenomenon which makes him want to meow, or if he’s just frustrated at his condition and does it to let out some frustration.

Newton, meanwhile, has a cold, and I need to get some meds for him.

Thursday we drove over to Half Moon Bay for breakfast and then went up to San Francisco for ice cream sundaes at Ghirardelli Square. We also went to Borderlands Books, but the cats were not in residence, since they’ve connected the bookstore and cafe and the cats can’t be there until they have a door between the two. Oh well!

We stayed up ’til Midnight on New Year’s, mostly watching the NCIS marathon on the USA network, including many episodes from last season I hadn’t seen. We got visits from two sets of neighbors from our dinner party wishing us a good one and saying how they were happy we’d moved to the neighborhood. We’re glad to be here, it’s nice to have friendly faces around to chat with when we step out the door.

I have a bonus day off today (Debbi’s back at work), and I plan to just take care of a few things around the house and figure out what to make for dinner. And then it’s back to work tomorrow, trying to put back together all the code I tore apart and rewrote during December. (Ahh, nice big code-rewriting projects, always fun and satisfying. But this one has been larger than any of us had anticipated.)

While I can’t say I’m looking forward to figuring out my income taxes this year after everything that went on last year (but hey, that’s why I have a CPA), I’m hoping that 2012 will be less momentous than 2011 was. On balance things are good right now, but I hope we can go a few more years without that sort of disruption again!

Well okay, another trip to Hawaii would be acceptable.

The First Day of the Rest of my Vacation

…by which I mean it’s actually the second day of my vacation. The company’s shut down for Christmas week, so I’ll be bumming around through January 2. Happily, Debbi has the week off too, to assist me in my slothfulness.

We’ve done all the grocery trips to have food for today and tomorrow. And last night we went to Sundance the Steakhouse for dinner. (We were a little bummed that they don’t give discounts for Passport cardholders anymore, but not nearly as bummed as the fact that we didn’t get seated until half an hour after our reservation time. At least the food and drinks were good as always.)

I also made a run to the comics shop yesterday to pick up some stuff, as Ryan was having a big sale this past week. (I picked up a few collections on Wednesday, too.) It occurs to me that I should have seen whether he had any old issues of Suicide Squad in stock, as I really enjoyed reading the From the Ashes collection and have a yen to read the original series (which I guess will never be completed since DC cancelled the second collection, much like they seem to have abandoned the Sandman Mystery Theatre collection series).

The NFL has shifted most of their games from tomorrow to today, so we’re sitting watching the Forty-Niners game, and I’ll probably bake cookies a little later on.

We don’t have much in the way of plans this week, though we’re thinking about one or two fun things we could go do while we’re lounging our week away. But mostly I expect we’ll just relax and keep the cats company.