November 30, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

We got back to Santa Barbara in the late afternoon yesterday so we could start decorating my house for Christmas. Brett had packed up the stuff before we left and it was sitting in his truck in my garage.

He got up on the roof and started with the lights. He had something like 7000 of them to work with, and got right to work. He did that, while I worked on the inside.

He looked like Santa up there...and it was so great!! I've never been involved in putting lights up somewhere that I lived, so this was a lot of fun!!

Isn't he cute? :)

I worked on the inside while Brett worked out in the cold. I unpacked all my boxes marked "Christmas" and set everything out so it could find its way to the right spot. Lots of Santas and Snowmen!

Brett put some of the lights in the house on the floor...and it seemed that Molly was intrigued!! She really liked we quickly put them away before she went and electrocuted herself!

I really love the way the tree turned out. I had a few ornaments and put them up first. Afterwards, I put the rest of the ones from my childhood up there too. Last Christmas my Mom split up the Christmas ornaments from when we grew up and put them all on small trees for me and my sisters. I put all of those on the tree too...and it looks so wonderful! :)

November 29, 2009

Bright Lights in the Big City

After packing up and saying our goodbyes in Sacramento, we headed over towards Berkley and San Francisco for the afternoon and evening.

When I realized that we'd be going through the area on our way home a few weeks ago, I got in touch with Patrick to see if his family would be in town for the holiday weekend. I was in luck, and so the planning began. My parents and Patrick's parents have known each other since before I was born. There are pictures of me, Patrick, and his older sister, Jennifer, all as kids in Iran back when I was just a few months old. I remember our family visiting theirs one time in Florida when I was in JR High. Small worlds collided when both of our families moved to Katy in 1991. I ended up at the same college as PJ too. Our Moms are still the best of friends after all of these years. Well, I hadn't seen Kim and Patrick since before they had their first daughter, so it was a treat to not only catch up with them, but meet both of their girls too!

We got to the Berkley area a little early and took a quick drive through campus. I have no idea what this building is used for, but it was my favorite. I loved the big C on the campus lawn in front of this one.

We got a tour of Patrick and Kim's place and then headed over to a local pizza joint that they raved about for some lunch. It ended up being all the rave, and we downed the slices. Sydney was an absolute sweetheart and Sam was all smiles!!!

So great to be able to catch up with one of my oldest family friends. We reminisced about old stories and new. Fun times!!

Brett and I paid the toll to get on the congested bridge to get us over to San Francisco. I found us a sweet deal on a hotel right in the Union Square district on the way over (thank goodness for WiFi) and we were on our way to being all set.

Turns out that Union Square is the craziest place to shop.....ever!! It seems that everyone was out doing some Christmas shopping in this block. Insane!!

The lights in the mall were incredible. Brett and I went up every escalator, to the very top, and looking over the edge was a little crazy!

We found a few more spots where the lights in SF shone super bright. The Macy's Christmas Tree was beautiful and so was the night in SF just walking around with Brett. We went out with intentions of doing some Christmas shopping but ended up not buying a single thing, and instead just enjoying each other and the city.

We had a little sushi for dinner at Sakana before calling it a night!! It was a wonderful weekend, but I'm anxious to get back because we can now officially start setting up the place for Christmas!! Ho ho ho!!

November 27, 2009

Running on Turkey Fumes the Day After

On Friday we met up with everyone over at Barb's and took a quick trip up to Nevada City for the afternoon. The street was lined with all sorts of cute shops and restaurants. I got a few cute Christmas ornaments, while Grandma Jan tried on a nice warm fur coat!

We stopped in at The Beach Hut for a bite to eat. Grandpa must have gotten so used to holding Grandma's purse over the years....he looked so natural in this pose. :)

Their hot chocolate looked so good!! I thought this quick shot was so adorable of Jan and John. If they were sending out a photo card, I'd vote this to be the image! :)

After cleaning up a bit, we met back up again at Brad and David's for some evening conversations and dinner. They cooked us up some yummy French Dip sandwiches.

We had a great time hanging out by the fireplace and enjoying each other's company.

Last night, Grandpa reminded me that he was still mad at me for beating him at Cribbage last year. It was my 2nd time playing ever, and I ended up winning. Chalk it up to beginner's luck. Brett and I played a few times at the beginning of this year, but when I agreed to a rematch, I had to have him remind me of how the game went. I honestly had forgotten already.

So, we started our game and Grandpa was headed off to a good score. He pegged 24 points in the first round to my 17....and it was my crib! Nice round!! The game was back and forth up until the last hand. It was Grandpa's turn, so he had 3 turns to count to my one. He was only 9 points from winning, and I was about 20 behind. It looked like the fate of the game was already sealed.

Until......I don't recall every move....but Grandpa ended up not scoring a single point in the first part of the round, and I pegged a few. Then, he counted up 8 points. EIGHT! One short of the end. Then it was my turn to count, and some how, I ended up getting right at 121.

We couldn't believe it. It's the closest game that Grandpa has ever seen in all his years of playing Cribbage. I beat him by ONE point! None of us could believe it.

Brett played a round so Grandpa could have his win. He beat Brett by 6 points. It was another close one, but he pulled out the W.

Another great night with the family here in Sacramento!! Looking forward to our next visit soon!

November 26, 2009

Giving all sorts of Happy Thanks!!

We arrived in Sacramento last night after a quick 6 hour drive up the 5 to visit Brett's family for Thanksgiving. Grandpa John and Grandma Jan were so excited to see us!! It's great to be up here visiting with them again. It's been almost a year since we were here!

We were told that Barb was expecting us around 11am and we'd be going for a hike. Luckily Brett gave me a heads up on this so I knew to pack my tennis shoes.

Shortly after we arrived, Brett, Tom, Jessica, Kevin, Ashlee and I took off out the back door gate into the reserve behind the house. I think that everyone else would have called this a nature walk, but it was a good old fashioned hike to me. I even got winded near the top....but that might have been because I was having such a great conversation learning about Ashlee and Kevin's exciting traveling life.

At the top, we got a great view of Folsom Lake.

The hikers....I was all prepared for it to be cold up North....but I had worked up quite a sweat by the time that we got to the top. I really had wished that I had on a short sleeved shirt like Brett. :)

We stumbled across a lake of glass.

Brett tried his hand at skipping rocks!

We got off the path and picked up the walk back home through the neighborhood. We saw this kitty chasing a squirrel, and after he lost that battle, he thought to follow us for a bit. He followed us all the way to Barb's house, meowing and purring the whole time. He was so cute, and I loved his coloring. He looked like a little mini bengal tiger or something like that.

But when we got back to the house.....that is where the real wildlife was hanging out. Turns out that there is a wild peacock that hangs out in their neighborhood and makes appearances in their yard from time to time.

He sat on the rock outside the window and showed his stuff. Brett went out the backdoor to try getting a closer look...but he jumped the fence to get away.

But then.....Barb let us know that the bird was in the front. Brett went out there, and the chase ensued. Here is what happened. It's pretty funny....check it out. :)

Back at the casa, we snacked until it was time to chow on the real meal!! It all smelled so yummy. Grandpa had the honor of carving the bird. Evidently, Tom has managed to avoid doing this for something like 20+ years. So funny.

All the food was amazingly good!!! I went back for seconds and cleared both of my plates. Yup, yup....oink, oink....I know!!! We had such a great time at dinner too. I've never laughed so much at the dinner table.

Brett had a little bit too much fun with the serving spoons after dinner.

We had a great time together for Thanksgiving 2009!

November 21, 2009

Losing Symbols

Passed out last night watching TV around 930. Guess it was a long week and I was really ready to relax.

I woke up this morning around 7am and couldn't sleep any more, so I picked up the book and started to read. Brett read this one when we were in CR and I took it from him when we parted ways in Houston. I started it on the way back home, and it's a fast read. I picked it back up this morning and read until around 3.

Brett decided to do a little searching online about the book and found the Dan Brown site that had a fun symbol game! He played it for a while until he finished it....only to realize that by solving it, he learned that there were puzzles hidden in the book....which he then stole back from me to solve those too! :)

We hung out and watched the rest of Season 4 of How I Met Your Mother.

It was a wonderfully relaxing Saturday. Exactly what I needed. :)

November 19, 2009

McGriddle anyone?

So, Santa Barbara doesn't have Chic Fil A, and so when trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast this morning, I had visions of one of their warm chicken biscuits with honey all over it. We had tried to find the Chic Fil A that showed on the GPS the day before and failed miserably, but thought we'd give it one more shot.

As we were doing circles in the mall parking lot, not seeing a Chic Fil A anywhere in sight, it dawned us that it was probably INSIDE the mall. DOH!!

We were on our way out of the parking lot, and thank goodness it was early and there wasn't anyone there to witness us, clearly out of towners, as we stopped for the geese to walk across the street in front of us. Sometimes you gotta just take time out to enjoy the small joys in life. We smiled as we watched the gaggle move onto their next destination.

We ended up at McDonald's....yeah, yeah, I know...not local AT all....but it was close, it was open, and the Sausage, Egg and Cheese McGriddle was calling my name!!

The main reason that we were in Atlanta was to be part of the Atlanta NARPM Chapter Trade Show. Michael showed up with his nice camera and snapped this fun picture of me and Albert at our booth. (PS. Albert is totally busted with this picture. If you look closely you can see the empty box of DOTS in his hand.)

After all was said and done for the show, it was off to the airport. I am headed home, after 9 days being away. Poor Albert had to catch 3 different planes out to ATL, and then get in a rental and drive for an hour to be in Hartford, CT for tomorrow. I am glad to be headed home.

November 18, 2009

Day Two in the ATL

Another morning in the ATL. The weather this morning was a little less than wonderful....chillier with some moisture in the air. Albert laughed at me as I told him I'd wait under cover until the doors were unlocked in the car before I would quickly make my little joggity jog to get in without getting my hair wet.

My breakfast search from the other night turned up a place called The Flying Biscuit, which Albert had remembered from his days of living in Atlanta. What a gem of a find it was!!

The restaurant was full of fun decor, the menu filled with healthy but tasty choices, and free wifi. Score.

I went with the choice that included one of the infamous flying biscuits, and I was NOT dissapointed. The apple/raspberry jam that came as a side to my sugar topped fluffy biscuit tasted just like Christmas. Yummm!! I asked our waitress for some brown sugar for my grits as I did yesterday. She kind of looked at me funny. In the meantime, I tried the "creamy dreamy" grits, and realized why. Oh my gosh....they were heavenly, and didn't need a drop of butter OR sugar. I told her about my discovery as she returned and she fessed up to her reaction. They were filled with a few kinds of cheese and cream. Whatever it was, it was awesome. Again, Albert tricked himself into thinking that his breakfast was healthy by adding fruit to his pancakes. :)

Our morning meeting was almost 5 hours. It was a great meeting....but man, this job is HARD work!! As much as I dislike traveling and being away from home, I couldn't enjoy traveling with my boss any more than I do. I have so much to learn from him, and he's really pretty funny, so it's all good. :)

November 17, 2009

Day One in Atlanta

I woke up in Atlanta this morning, and one of my favorite first things to do when I stay in hotel rooms, is to open the blinds as soon as I get out of bed. I love natural light when I get ready in the morning. I do this at home too, but it's usually dark when I get up, the view isn't that great, I don't have any curtains and since I'm on the ground floor, if anyone walks through my backyard by chance, they can see right into my room.

So...anyways....besides the main part of my view being the hotel parking garage and the spaghetti junction, I LOVED seeing all the leaves on the trees. All the brilliant shades of green, orange and red is what I always miss about the seasons.

Since our first appointments on both days were at 10am, I knew that we'd have time to stop for some breakfast on our way out to Marietta. I did a little search online last night for some good local spots so we didn't end up at an IHOP. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with IHOP, or Denny's for that matter, I just like to enjoy local spots when I travel instead of the same ole stuff I can get anywhere.

I learned about JChristopher's, and even sought confirmation on the spot from a former coworker that now lives in Atlanta. He recommended to get the Eggs Christopher...and after looking to see what it was....that was what I decided to get.

Not before Albert and I both had our share of caffeinated beverages though. My dish was their version of Eggs Benny, complete with tomato and bacon too!! I asked for a big side of brown sugar to put in my grits and it was delicious!! Anything is tasty when you add that much sugar to it! :) Albert is trying to eat healthier, so he opted for lots of fruit on top of this waffles.

We had a really great meeting with the awesome folks at McCreary. I'd met Michael at the show in Orlando and learned that we were both photogs, so I knew that we'd get along. All great people at their office.

After another visit, and some more driving all around Atlanta, we headed back to the hotel to get a little work done. It was almost 8 when Albert sent me a text asking if I was hungry for some dinner.

Across the street at the Perimeter Mall, there were several dining options. In staying with the theme of not going somewhere that I could go at home, we ended up at Maggiano's. Albert cracks me up because work never stops for him, so on our way into the restaurant, all through our wait, and for a while after we sat down, he was on the phone. I love to give Albert a hard time, and so I snapped this picture of him still working as we are sitting down to enjoy a little dindin.

Another day tomorrow of meetings in Atlanta. Really enjoying the little bit of cold and crisp weather here! Next time we're here it might be snowing and I won't be able to say the same thing, so I'll enjoy it while I can! :)

November 16, 2009

On our way back....

430am. That is what time I got up this morning so we could be ready for our 530am pickup at the front lobby. It's so sad to be leaving paradise....but luckily it's pretty much paradise at home too. :) I don't ever get to relax the same way that I have while in CR at home, but maybe I'll start to do something about that when I get back.

We made it to Houston and through Immigration. I got randomly stopped on the way through Customs and it was the craziest experience. The guard told me to go through this door for a 5 minute survey. Well, almost 20 minutes later I came out of the secluded area and man, it was not as easy as a survey. The guy back there started to ask me the most random questions, that I was so confused by, and I tell you what....I came out of there, knowing that I hadn't done a single thing wrong, but feeling so guilty as if I had. As I was leaving, I asked him if there was any reason I should be concerned for the next time I travel....and he said "Nope, just random checking". I then said, "Well, I guess I should feel special then as I was the one picked", and he agreed. Either way, I don't really want to have that happen again. :)

Brett and I had a little over 2 hours before our separate flights to our next spot. Brett was headed back to LAX and I was on my way to ATL for work.

We ate a little food, and found a nice spot to chill for the time that we had.

I got to ATL a little after Albert did and met up with him to get the rental. He was so proud of his score and landed us rooms at the Westin for less than $60 per night. I was thrilled too....and I can't wait to climb into the Heavenly Bed for a good night's rest!

November 15, 2009

Soaking it all up in Costa Rica

After a long night of dancing and celebrating, Brett and I met up with the crew for a little breakfast, and then decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing.

We found the perfect spot in the shade, under the huts, near the quiet pool, and settled in for a wonderfully boring Sunday afternoon. We'd both picked up books at the airport and thought it was the best thing to do....ALL day!!

I can't remember the last time that I spent almost the entire day reading, and it was wonderful!! We drank smoothies and enjoyed the shade and our books!!

For our last night in CR, we joined the gang once more for a little din din at the resort. We chose the fancy restaurant, and it was pretty tasty.

The girls did a little shopping and the boys went to watch the New England Patriots game. It was another fun night, and great evening with friends!! I'm sad to be leaving tomorrow to head home. Wish I could just take them all with me.

November 14, 2009

Mel and Chris' Wedded Bliss

Happy Wedding Day to Melissa and Chris!! We decided to start the festivities for the day off with a little ATV tour!

We were picked up at the hotel and taken right down the street to where we met up with our guide for the day, Cesar.

Our tour took us all over the place. We started out in the countryside, went through Santa Rica, saw all sorts of people, wildlife and plants.

We were fortunate enough to happen upon some howler monkeys. Cesar stopped the ATVs after we'd heard this low pitched rumble. Turns out that was the monkeys. We got a bunch of neat videos from the day that I'm sure I'll post at some point....but again, for now, pictures!

We got to go through some pretty awesome water spots....complete with lots of splashes! The cool water felt great on our legs since it was a pretty warm day!

At the end of the tour we were completely covered in dirt, dust, and a little soggy too...but it was all completely worth it!!

I went straight to the quiet pool to meet up with the girls after the tour. The boys were being kept at the other pool as to not mingle with the bride on her wedding day!

It was great getting to catch up with Melissa and the other girls while it wasn't so crazy and hectic for a little bit.

Then, it was off to get ready! After we all were all dolled up, it was time to go meet the bride and help her with the final preparation for her big night!! Melissa looked beautiful and so happy!! I can't believe that this day was finally here!!

A quick shot with the Austin gals before heading down to meet up with her dad. We took the shuttle down, and put Mel in the front as to not get her hair all wind blown on the drive!

The ceremony was on the beach, right at sunset. It was a beautiful ceremony filled with much emotion. To be there to see Chris and Melissa tie the knot was just wonderful. They are so much in love, and so happy, and it's just perfectly evident in these two!! I couldn't be more happy for my friend!!

We made it up to the reception area that was setup so beautifully by the pool.

The hotel did an amazing job of turning the resort into the perfect spot for their wedding celebration. The food was delicious and the decorations were so pretty!

The dinner was one of the best buffets that I have ever had at a wedding. There was every kind of meat that you could want, and it was all tasty!! I am still bummed that I didn't make it back for seconds!

After the first dance, the music didn't slow back down all night. If there is anything to know about Mel and Chris, it's that they love to dance. And dance the night away is what they, and all of the guests, did!

We had a great time at our first wedding together. There was love in the air and fun times celebrating Mel and Chris' new life together as husband and wife!!

November 13, 2009

Zip, zip, zooray!!

Chris and Melissa set it up for anyone that wanted to, could join the group for a Canopy Tour through the jungle in Costa Rica. I had done the zip line a few times before and so I was all ready for another adventure with zipping!!

We boarded the bus with the other 40 people or so, and we were on our way to the Congo Trail Zip Line!

Safety is of the utmost importance and so we got all suited up with our harnesses! We were all set and ready to go!! (Side note....with all the prep that I did with packing, I forgot to pack some shorts that were appropriate for the zip line. Luckily Brett brought an extra pair and I was able to snag them from that is why I look a little ridiculous!).

Yup, we all look awesome!! Ready to ZIP!!!

Melissa was the first to go.....WHEEEEE!!!!

This is Tito. He was so adorable, and followed us all the way through the ziplines. Brett even got to pet him since he was wearing the zipline gloves. :)

The guide went to the front of the line to get to the next zipline and asked "Who wants to go upside down?". Before he even finished the sentence, I was saying "I do!". I had no idea what was in store....but this is me being prepped for the ride. Yes, those are my feet in the air.

On the next one, we all got the option to go upside down....and it was so much fun!!!

Brett had a great time too....he got some great video that I might do something with one day, but for right now, we got pictures!

We all had a SUPER time on the zip line....and thanks SO much to Mel and Chris for treating us to such a fun morning!!

After getting back to the resort, we hung out by the pool and the ocean. Brett and I took the fun up a notch and decided to take a little jetski outing too! We went out for about half an hour in the bay. We both took turns driving, and neither of us threw the other off. :) The water was super calm, so we did our best to make some waves of our own. That wasn't super successful, but we did see a school of fish jumping. It was so cool!!

A small group of us went into Coco Beach for dinner. We ate SO good!!

Afterwards, while we waited for Bernardo to come back and get us, we took a little walk around downtown Coco Beach. I bought myself a pair of earrings, of course, and then we went to wait a bit at one of the local spots. A little puppy named Milo quickly became my new BFF and followed me all around. He was super cute!

Great night, good food, and fun friends!!