Sunday, March 15, 2015

Winter Break 2015

In the middle of February we took our annual school winter break trip to Arizona and California to visit the grandparents.

We had a little more than four days in Tucson with Carol's parents. We have some activities we always try to do, including visiting the go-kart track. Every couple of years we also visit Kartchner Caverns, which are fascinating and have an inspiring story.

Temperatures were in the 70s, which is just a little cool for swimming. But that never stops the girls. They made several trips per day to the pool.

We were joined at Kartchner Caverns by two of my longest-term friends: Barry and Rabih. I met Barry in my first professional job at Boeing in 1983 and I met Rabih a year later. 32 years we've known each other! It's one of those great friendships where we can go a few years without seeing each other and still pick up right where we left off. Something to be treasured.

Barry recently retired from Boeing after something like 35 years and they moved to Las Cruces, NM. That's only a four hour drive from Tucson, so we made plans last summer to meet during this trip. After the caverns we had a great lunch in nearby Benson, AZ. Then we made our way back to Tucson and just a few hours later had a great dinner at our favorite Tucson restaurant: Cafe Poca Cosa. It was wonderful to see them, and Grandpa Dennis and Grandma Mary and Barry and Rabih all enjoyed each other's company.

On Wednesday we departed Tucson after breakfast to drive to Palm Desert. We often drive on Interstate 10, which directly connects the two cities, but this time we opted for different scenery and took Interstate 8. It's much more remote. Then at Desert Center we turned north to pass by the Salton Sea before arriving in Palm Desert.

Both of my sisters were in Palm Desert when we arrived. We only overlapped with Tricia for one day but it was great to see her and congratulate her on her new job. Aunt Betsy is always at my parents' the same time as us during this trip. Aunt Betsy and Grandma Kay and Grandpa Doug told Carol and me to get lost for a couple days so we went to lots of movies and enjoyed time alone together. Grandma Kay and Aunt Betsy took the girls shopping.

We also celebrated both girls' birthdays again on different evenings. Grandma Kay made them each a cake and each girl got to choose her favorite grandma dinner menu. We also made our annual pilgramage to The Old Spaghetti Factory - a Seattle tradition that now has a restaurant near Palm Desert.

Last year we went horseback riding and really enjoyed it so this year we did it again. We only go for an hour ride but it's scenic and fun.

On Monday it was time to drive back to Phoenix where our flight back to Boston departed first thing Tuesday morning. We had decided to splurge on a nice hotel for our last night and stayed at the Hyatt Regency. Dennis and Mary decided to join us to celebrate their anniversary.

When we checked in we were given a room with a very unattractive view of the roof of part of the hotel. I went back to registration and asked very politely for a different room and the manager moved us to a very deluxe, remodeled top floor room with a very fancy bathroom with a humongous shower. The girls loved that. A good lesson in asking (politely) for what you want.

We all had a lovely dinner in the rotating restaurant on top of the hotel, the Compass Arizona Grill. It was a very pleasant end to the trip.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Geography Le$$on

Audrey discovered the roll of foreign currency that's been on my dresser forever. In the 90s I travelled a lot for business and then used the miles I earned to travel even more for pleasure and adventure. Looking at the bills provides a good geography lesson (and a trip down Memory Lane).

Inventory:

  • Asia: China, Hong Kong, Kazakstan, Korea, Macau, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand
  • >
  • Europe: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland
  • North America: Canada and Mexico.

I've also been to Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Chile, England, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain but apparently didn't keep any bills from those countries. I have a large jar of foreign coins that probably contains money from several of them.

I'm very excited for the girls' first overseas trip coming up in just a few weeks!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Picacho Peak Hike

We're on our annual February trip to the southwest to visit all the grandparents.

Next to I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson there is a very distinctive landmark named Picacho Peak. It has very steep sides and doesn't look like you could hike to the top. Last year, however, I got curious and looked it up. it turns out there is a popular hiking trail to the top. I vowed to do it this year.

We went on Sunday afternoon. Temperatures have been in the mid-70s during our visit which is quite pleasant for hiking. The girls took off up the trail like a couple of rabbits, leaving Grandpa Dennis in the dust. He told us not to wait.

The girls did great up to the saddle, which is the midway point. Charlotte was getting tired, though. And after the saddle the trail gets more dangerous, traveling along cliff edges with cables to hang on to. Charlotte wanted to go home.

Audrey was very disappointed as she had peak fever. I consoled her, and we decided to come back on Monday and go to the top.

Monday was another very pleasant day. Audrey said, "We'll go really fast back to the saddle, and then take it carefully from there." Ha!

We did, in fact, get back to the saddle pretty quickly. Then the fun began. The trail descends quite steeply from the saddle for about 400 vertical feet, along the base of (and often *under* the base of) the cliff. Then it turns around the end of a spur and begins climbing again toward the summit.

There are several very steep sections of rock with cables and one place with a "bridge" that allows you to traverse about eight feet across the face of a cliff. It's very adventurous! Audrey was a little nervous, but loved it.

Charlotte was sad not to get to make it to the top. But the hike was so fun that I'm pretty sure we'll make it a regular feature of our annual visits from no on, so she'll get to the top next year.

Click on the picture to go to the video, or click here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Snow Day #6

They build five snow days into the school calendar. Today is number 6 in Melrose. I think Boston is on 8 or 9. So far it just means they'll go one extra day in the summer. Our girls don't care because they'll be at circus camp by then.

Charlotte's friend Jillian is over. They just finished their Science Fair Project: they extracted DNA from strawberries.

The snow is fun, but we're looking forward to flying away from it soon.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Productive Weekend

Yesterday we went to Home Depot to buy paint for the kitchen. We ended up renovating the attached powder room.

Also, the kitchen got painted.