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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

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!

Birthday Trip

I had a nice birthday today. I’d debated going up to San Francisco to Cal Academy, but I didn’t really feel like getting up early to get there before the holiday crowds rolled in.

So instead we got up at our usual time, and Debbi made scones. Somehow I forgot to open my presents in the morning – Debbi thought I was just waiting until this evening, but no, I just forgot. Blackjack and Newton were happily lying in the sun in the family room. A nice lazy morning.

Late in the morning we drove down to Santa Cruz for the day. We had lunch and did some shopping downtown. Then we stopped at the surfing museum (Flash required, lamely enough) – it’s fun enough, but we were mainly there for the views of the ocean:

Then we went to Natural Bridges State Beach. It’s one of several stopovers for monarch butterflies migrating through California, and I’d hoped we’d seen a bunch of them. We were disappointed to only see a few; perhaps February is better for swarms. We did have a nice walk around the park and a visit to the beach to see the natural bridge for which the park is named:

Did you know Santa Cruz has a natural history museum? I didn’t. But we didn’t visit it this time; maybe next time.

We had dinner at FJL, and are wrapping it up watching the premiere of Alcatraz, which is okay. I rather wonder what any of the last inmates of the prison back in 1963 – if any are still alive – think of the premise, that they all disappeared and are coming back in the present day. The show greatly exaggerates the conditions on the Rock, from what I understand, too.

A pretty nice birthday, really. Way too short, though!

Holy Traffic, Batman!

Saturday Debbi and I drove down to Santa Cruz, more-or-less on a whim. I thought it would be fun to go to the Beach Boardwalk to play mini golf on their indoor course (which we’d never played before).

Unfortunately, everyone else decided to go to Santa Cruz on the beautiful sunny day, too.

For the most part this wasn’t a problem: We hit a little traffic heading out of Silicon Valley, and some more when we reached Route 1 in Santa Cruz, but it was entirely bearable. Then we bludgeoned our way through the city to the waterfront.

And stopped completely a mere two blocks from the parking lot.

Now it’s not that the parking lot was full, in fact when we finally got there there were several spaces available, and we got a good one. No, the problem is that it too twenty-five minutes to drive those last two blocks, from one end of the lot to the entrance at the other end. I think it was the cross-traffic driving along the edge of the beach that was slowing things down, not letting people in from our direction. It was nuts. I was able to force my way around the last corner and then we finally got to the lot and parked, thank goodness.

Sheesh, next time we’ll leave in the morning, rather than after lunch. Or better yet, wait for an overcast day.

Once there, we had a good time. We did play mini golf: It’s a fun course, with three holes indoors with glow-in-the-dark decor. The course had more twists and turns than the other courses I’ve played around here, reminding me more of the courses I played with my Dad around the Boston area. I liked it.

We bought soft serve ice cream, then walked along the boardwalk and gawked. We didn’t feel like going on any rides, but we enjoyed the sun and also bought a funnel cake (a.k.a. “fried dough” as I always think of it) and some shaved ice (one of the few things I miss from my days in New Orleans, and yet another motivation to want to return to Hawaii). Somehow we completely forgot to play video games in the arcasde. On the other hand, I don’t really need further evidence of how far my Robotron skills have fallen.

A nice jaunt, all in all, but man, that traffic!