Northern Cali Vacay

Last week, we went to visit Connie and Neal. They are our BFF’s, and we missed/miss them terribly. At least they moved to a beautiful place to visit instead of, like, Alabama or something.

Our trip in a nutshell: Beer. Wine. Food. Beer. Wine. Oh, and sushi.

Day 1: We flew into Oakland. Connie picked us up (Neal had to work), and we spent the day in San Fran. It was Phil’s first visit! We did all the usual touristy stuff. We ate at a great farm-to-table type place called Plow. I highly recommend it!

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Neal came up after work and met us for dinner at Saru (sushi). Then, we drove back to their place in San Jose.

Day 2: BEER!

We hit 3 breweries while working our way north. Moylan’s, Baeltane, and Lagunitas. Baeltane was our fave bc of their beer, and a game they had called “Cards Against Humanity”. It is played exactly like “Apples to Apples” except the cards are twisted, politically incorrect, hilarious. And just plain wrong! Example:

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And the beer was excellent (all Belgians!).

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We crashed at a hotel in Rohnert Park.

Day 3: WINE!! Calistoga wine tour ON BIKES!

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Our fave winery was Lava Vines. They were so laid back. We sat outside under a tree, and they would come out and say “Hey, I just found this open bottle of viogner in the fridge. Wanna try it?”. Or, “Want more?” The best was Pete. He came riding in on a scooter yelling, “I just got this at the junk yard for $2!!!”. He also played the banjo. We had a little jam sesh.

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And naps on benches.

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After we were done with the bikolas, we went to Berkley to check out this sour beer brewery. What? A place that only has SOUR BEER?!? Yes, please.

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Then back to San Jose to make dinner and drink some of the tasty wine we bought.

Day 4: San Jose

Just a chill day. NealCon took around to some of their fave places. We went to Santa Cruz for the afternoon and sat on a dog beach. Dinner was all you can eat sushi!

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As our final night came to a close, Connie and I did our favorite bestie past time:  SATC.

IMG_2550(Isn’t that the best screen shot of Carrie?).

It was so great seeing Neal and Connie. They are our best friends. We miss doing everything together. We will be back!

 

Aloha!

(*gasp* A new blog post?!?)

Matt and I traveled someplace totally lame and boring last week. Hawaii. Specifically, Molokai. I know, I know. Ugh. Well, actually, the whole story about our adventure getting there is very “ugh”. Short version: insanely long security lines at Sky Harbor -> missed flight -> new flight to Kona (big island) which was 7.5 hours and an hour delay on runway -> hopper flight to Honolulu ->  all this caused us to miss our flight to Molokai -> rescheduled us on two separate flights to get there -> finally arriving on Molokai.

But totally worth it because it was soooooo beautiful! We met up with Dad, Rae and Tim there. Miles and miles of undeveloped/uninhabited land. Tons of little beaches to explore that had only you as visitors. We snorkeled, we did some spear fishing. Well, the boys did. We fished. We stayed in a beautiful condo that had papaya trees and a rooster, peacock, and two turkeys that made their rounds each day. We saw beautiful coral, reef fish and sea turtles galore. Sometimes, we were the only car on the road. The town was teeny tiny.

Here are a few snippets. You can find all of them here.  

Those rocks were an excellent snorkel spotOur beach on day 1

Watch out, fishies!
Gonna spear me some fish!

It's been a long time since a sibling picturesibling pic

We're the only ones around except for a few people on a boatHarbor – day 2

All ready to snorkel!Ready to snorkel!

UntitledFinal beach – just explored the tide pools behind me because it was too rough to snorkel

So that was Molokai in a nutshell. Such a beautiful place.

We flew back to Oahu. Matt was flying home but not until 9pm. So he and I walked to his fave place – L & L’s bbq – to eat, and walked back. Then, we packed up and drove to a beach (all of us and the doggies) so Matt could try out surfing. He caught a few waves! Next, back to the house. Matt and I were still antsy, Tim and Dad were pooped. Rae was at work. So we went to do the Manoa Falls hike. I did it when Phil and I visited back in 2010, but Matt hadn’t done it before. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place.

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We finished it off with Hawaiian shaved ice. Then it was time for Matt to head to the airport. Aloha!

I stayed until Monday. We took it easy. I would take the moped down to Waikiki beach to catch some sun rays each day. I went to Kailua for a day to visit some shops I found last time. We went shell collecting. Ate lots of good food. Had a family dinner with Tim and his gf and Rae’s boys. Oh, and I got to swim with dolphins! I’ll have to do a separate post with those pictures.

I flew back Monday afternoon. As usual, I didn’t want to leave! But I’ll be back again soon.

A year ago …

Exactly 365 days ago, we were in China. Specifically in Jianjiagang. Meanwhile, back home, Beebop was suffering from major migraines. Communication back home was not often, and so we didn’t know what was going on. I think we found out she was getting an MRI towards the end of our trip. I think we got home the day after her MRI. We were in a haze of extreme jet lag when we found out about the tumor. It was world-stopping.

There was a waiting period (I don’t remember how long) before the surgery. Here are some pics from either during that time or while waiting for the results of the MRI.

 

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(Modeling their dresses from China. Yes, it’s blurry but it captures their happiness so perfectly).

 

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(Playing behind Nina’s couch.)

 

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(Except for some shadows under her eyes, who could tell?)

 

Well, fast forward through a major brain surgery; endless MRI’s; infections; multiple hospital stays; unbearable pain that she bore with strength, courage and grace; radiation therapy; months and months of nausea and headaches; missing many days of school and ballet rehearsal; and so much more that I couldn’t possibly understand.

It’s a year later. She is 9 years old, about to turn 10. The family attended her and Keek’s dance recital on May 18th. We sat with our jaws dropped as we watched her perform. She was AMAZING! Yes, we have family bias. But an unbiased opinion would still say she was the best in her group. She had, what I call, the triple threat.

1) She is a smartie. Beebop knew her dance routines to perfection. There was never a moment of hesitation. She anticipated every move.

2) She is a natural dancer. She has rhythm, poise and grace. That girl can shake her booty!

3) She is a performer. Anyone who knows Beebop knows she isn’t shy. She blossoms in attention. She had amazing stage presence.

 

Now, I have to give some praises to Keeks as well. She LOVES ballet with all her heart. She is graceful, and thoughtful. She performed beautifully with her shy, sweet smile. She was the most adorable person on stage in her little fru-fru, tu-tu costumes (ok, that was a biased statement). We could not stop squealing at her cuteness while she performed!

 

And after the concert, they both had the most beautiful glow. So did Mom and Dad.

This amazing family, living in the joy of the moment.

 

This amazing mama, who has endured what no mama should have to endure. This mama, who loves her girls to pieces.

 

This amazing dad, who has been the rock of his family. This dad, who has provided, withstood and sacrificed. Who shouldered the burdens of his family with strength.

 

This amazing sister, who is so silly sometimes it’s hard to get a focused shot! Who worried and prayed for her sister. Who sweetly and strongly stood by her sister. Who brought rays of sunshine into our dark days.

 

This amazing aunt, who provided solace to the family through her medical training, her love, and her thoughtfulness. Who took care of Keeks through all the hospital stays, and loved her as her own. All while taking care of her family too!

 

These amazing Grandparents, who spent endless hours at the hospital. Who did whatever they could to be there for the family. Who cheered up, soothed, comforted and spoiled Beebop and Keeks.

 

(unpictured: Aunt S, who was there but was camera shy! Snagged this pic from Aunt K’s blog post about the same thing!)

This amazing aunt, who was there for S, as only a sister could be. Who used her creativity and humor to console the family. Who loved on them with all her heart.

 

And this Aunt, who is SO proud of her nieces!

These were the family at the recital, but there are others equally important. Uncle Justin, Uncle Phil, Jeff, Mick, Dad, Rae, and Uncle Tim – who all loved and supported just as much from near or far.

We face the future with faith, hope and love. We got each other’s backs!

More adorable pics here.

Roman Holiday: Day 1

A loooooong day of travel. Tuscon to Denver. Four hour layover. Denver to Munich. Three hour layover. Munich to Rome. About 24 hours of total travel time.

Our layover in Frankfurt:

Very tired.

But on to Rome. We arrived at the airport. Retrieved our luggage. Bought a bus ticket to get to Rome. Waited for the bus. Fought to get on the bus. Rode the bus for 45 minutes to the Termini. Took the metro to our stop. Walked 10 minutes (with luggage!) to our place. Met our host, Giovanni. Settled in. Left to explore!

First we ate. SO HUNGRY! We really didn’t know where to eat, so it was a gamble. We lucked out!

SO. GOOD.

Then we went to the Fontana de Trevi. It was so beautiful at night!!

If you toss a coin in you are ensured to return to Rome. Done.

Then we found the Spanish Steps and Triniti dei Monti. Very cool at night, also!

We found our way back to a metro station, and called it a night.

More pics here.

 

 

 

Caribbean Cruise: Part 2

Day 5: St. Bart’s

This island is very small, French, and very ritzy/expensive. Fancy shops lined the streets (Louis Vitton, Cartier, etc), and everything was in Euro, which is not cheaper than the dollar.

We had to tender in (aka, take a small shuttle boat). Huge cruise ships cannot even get close enough to tender. I had fun exploring by myself in the morning. I got to try out some (very basic) French, and snap tons of beautiful pictures.

Just your average street …

 

Pretty foliage

 

The shutters on windows were one of my favorite things to look at on every island.

 

Wandered up a hill, and got a stunning view of the harbor.

 

Went back to the ship, ate lunch, dragged Phil out, walked to Shell Beach.

 

It’s called Shell Beach because …

There are (tumbled and smooth) shells everywhere!

That pile to my left is all shells.

More photos of St. Bart’s here.

Day 6: St. Kitt’s

Happy Thanksgiving! I had to spend it alone until the BBQ dinner later that night. Phil was suuuuper busy getting everything set up for it.

So I wandered out on my own …

Did some shopping …

Wandered around Basseterre …

 

Went back to the ship, ate lunch with Phil, then caught a taxi with a Swedish couple from the ship to South Friar’s Bay. It was … alright. I was actually quite disappointed because it looked like a California beach, not a Caribbean beach. There was tons of seaweed. And there was a tractor digging over on one side so it wasn’t even peaceful. I know, I know … I shouldn’t complain. But I’m just being honest!

 

I headed back to the ship around sunset. I watched the most gorgeous sunset from the ship!

 

During this they were preparing for the Thanksgiving BBQ. They set up tables all over the pool deck.

Phil and his tech crew were busy doing sound checks.

I was quite busy myself …

Let the festivities begin!

The musicians put on a show. I became good friends with that cute little lady in the middle, Amanda.

Our friends, John and Bridgette, from Denmark, joined us at our table.

Then it turned into a dance party!

Happy Thanksgiving!

All pics from St. Kitt’s here.

 

Next up – Antigua and St. Lucia!

 

 

Caribbean Cruise: Part 1

Well, we have been back to reality for about a week and a half now. It was definitely a vacation I did not want to end! For Phil, it wasn’t so much a vacation. He worked most of the time. However, I was able to drag him out from time to time.

All in all, we visited 7 gorgeous islands – Tortola, St. Barts, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, and Barbados. Neither of us had ever been on a cruise, and neither of us had been to the Caribbean. Check that off the bucket list!

Here are some highlights:

Day 1: We fly Tucson -> Dallas -> Ft. Lauderdale. We board the ship, and then the muster drill begins!

Then there was a little soiree on the pool deck.

That was pretty much it for our first day/night. A few more photos here.

Day 2: Sailing, sailing. And sea sickness. It’s a small ship (only 400 people), and so did not have the stabilizers that the huge ones do.

I lounged by the pool all day.

There were various activities scheduled all day, too. I tried out the pilates, a few lectures, and the Captain’s Welcome. More pics from day 2 here.

Day 3: More sailing.

I discover breakfast room service (EVERYTHING on this cruise is free).

Another day at the pool. I tried a yoga class, exercised on the treadmill, ate and drank a lot. That night was “Informal” night. A jacket is required.

Phil had to work, so I hung out at the bar on the pool deck. As it turns out, it’s a great place to make new (European) friends! Phil was able to join us later. Meet Axel and Monica from Germany.

I’d say more pics here, but these are all the pics from this day.

Day 4: Tortola, British Virgin Islands. A beautiful and quaint little island. Phil had to work, so I explored, shopped and then took a taxi to the beach. He was able to get out for about a half hour later in the day, so we walked around a smidge.

Main Street

Taxi ride to the beach

Cane Garden Bay

I came back to the ship and got Phil.

Then back to the ship for another formal night.

More beautiful pics of the island here.

To be continued!

 

Our Adventures Around the World Continue

I’ve been sitting on some exciting news, waiting for it to all be officia before officially announcing it to the world. Well, I think everything is official enough. And plenty of friends know already.

Phil will be doing several contract jobs for Silversea cruise line over the next year(ish) to install and program new sound equipment on their ships. Why is this so exciting, you may wonder? Because it will be done while the ship is cruising! They have multiple shows and venues on each ship, and he will need to program the new equipment for each one. And why am I so excited for this new (temp, side) job of Phil’s? Because I get to go with him! We are a package deal, y’all!

Our first trip is in November. We will be cruising around …

 

The Caribbean!

 

That’s right. Phil gets to work while cruising around Caribbean Islands. And I get to play, errrr … help him. Just like in China :)

 

It’s a 9 day cruise. We’ll leave from Ft. Lauderdale and visit the British Virgin Islands, St. Barts, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Grenada, and Barbados.

A HUGE thanks to the awesome, most wonderful person ever, Don Fox, for referring Phil for this job. Don was the Lighting Tech on the China tour.

I’ve been trying to think of a name for our new travels for when I blog. For China, it was “Adventures in China”. This time it will be adventures in many parts of the world. So …. how about “Where in the World is Team Cain?”. Too cheezy? I’ll keep thinking on it :)

T-minus 15 days until our cruise!

Adventures in China: Day 32

Day 32 and Technically Day 33: Traveling to Beijing, Wondrous Sightseeing, and then Getting Kicked Out of Our Hotel

 

As I left off in my previous post, call was at midnight. We were taking a bus overnight to Beijing. We were doing this so that we would get there in the early morning and have all day to sight see. If we took a flight, we would waste half a day getting there. So the bus it was. We were told it would be a 6 hour trip.

Four pit stops at the grossest toilets ever and TEN HOURS LATER, we arrive at our hotel in Beijing. Yes, you read that right. We were told 6, and it was actually 10. I do not understand how that miscommunication happened. In case you didn’t know, trying to sleep on a bus, even a nice charter one with reclining seats, is more uncomfortable than sleeping on an airplane, imo. So we barely slept. Dozed is more accurate.

But we arrived! We checked in, were told our rooms may not be clean because they weren’t ready for us yet (wth?), and had 45 minutes before we had to be back on the bus for sightseeing. I took a quick shower. We were starving. We had missed breakfast because well, we arrived at 10:30 instead of 6. So back on the bus we go, heading to the Great Wall! It was an hour bus ride.

P.S. I never want to ride in a bus again. EVER.

But, we were very thankful to have this bus for the whole day to take around sightseeing. Seriously, it was really great to not worry about transportation from place to place.

We started spotting the Great Wall about 45 minutes later. It was very exciting!

 

And we arrived and there’s so many pictures that I’m doing to direct you to my Great Wall set on Flickr. You can browse to your heart’s content

It was an amazing experience. A very good workout too!!!

Then back on the bus we go, heading back into the city for the Forbidden City. With afternoon traffic it took us 2 hours to get back. Oy. Here is my Flickr set of Random Sights Along the Way. Many beautiful structures that I have no information on what they were lol.

 

Then we arrive at the Forbidden City, but it was 4:15 and they close at 4. I was super bummed. I really wanted to walk around. But we knew it was a whirlwind sightseeing day, and so just had to be thankful for what we could see. Here are the pictures we snapped from the outside (sadly looking in).

Forbidden City Flickr Set

 

After that, it was back on the bus and head to the Silk Market. Not a ton of pics from there, so I’ll just show them on here.

First of all, we were STARVING! After 31 days of Chinese food, Subway never looked (or tasted) so good.

I was so busy and distracted shopping that I didn’t even think to take pictures of the actual market. Bummer. It was really neat. Despite what you may think when you hear the word “market”, it’s not an outdoor one. It’s all indoors, with five floors, escalators, and shops all along. Basically like a mall. I did manage to snap one picture …

Heehee.

We spent hours in there, and it still wasn’t enough to look at/buy everything I just had to have ;) We were supposed to meet back at the bus at 9:30pm.

Here we are, exhausted but happy.

We head back to the hotel. Dinner was on our own, so we headed over to a noodle place down the street. They spoke no English, and we spoke no Chinese, so it was interesting trying to order vegetarian. Especially when there concept of vegetarian is just “oh you want so vegetables in this lovely meat dish”. They brought us out a meat dish, and we somehow then were able to communicate that we didn’t want meat. They were so nice and brought us out something else, no charge. We’re pretty sure it still had meat stock or some meat in it, but we were sooo exhausted we didn’t care. And we weren’t going to make a fuss again and give Americans a bad rep.

So we slurped up our noodles.

Then we went back to the hotel with the intent of showering and passing out for a few hours. We had to be in the lobby at 5am for the airport. We. Were. So. Exhausted. But as we were going to our room, we were told that the hotel was asking all of us to leave because of our visas. Whaaaa? Yeah, our visas clearly state that they are good for 30 days, but we were on day 32. The hotels check these things. So we sadly gave up on our hopes for a shower and sleep, and instead packed up our bags (which were barely unpacked anyway). It took a couple of hours to round everyone up, and get all 100+ bags to the lobby.

Then we had to just sit around and wait. I think for the bus to take us to the airport. I think it was about 11:30 pm by now. Well, this could have turned into a huge bitch fest. But instead it turned into such a fun party. Everyone just made a run to the convenient store, bought beverages of choice, and sat around having a great time.

Everyone’s attitude just turned what could of been a stressful situation into such a fun, relaxing, great end to our adventures.

The bus finally arrived, and took us to the airport (about a 45 minute drive). I think it was about 1:30am by now?? I was so, utterly, beyond exhausted that even the cold, tile floor looked inviting. And I wasn’t the only one who thought so.

I guess Phil snuck pics while I was passed out.

 

And that’s what we did. We’re technically on Day 33 now. We just slept there until we could check in for our flight. About 6am I think. As you know by now, that takes awhile. Our flight was for 8am. But we were not bound for home yet. It was  3 hour flight to Hong Kong. I barely remember it. I was pretty much like this the whole time.

Then we transfered flights at Hong Kong airport. Not really a layover. Just had to get off, go through security (again) and then wait to board our next flight to L.A

Then we board and our finally on our way home!

Errr, to LA, that is. We had a 9 hour layover. Ugh. So we went to the beach.

We got pizza and rootbeer, ate it on the beach, took a nap, then went back to the airport to finally fly home.

And that, folks, was the Great American Dance Tour.

 

 

 

Adventures in China: Day 31

Day 31: Our Last Show

Phil went to the theater. Ellie and I headed out to explore.

We found an interesting statue …

 

A dog with the most awesome haircut ever …

 

And a legit market!

 

Our goal was to find suitcases, which we did, and were even able to bargain. Then we found some loose-leaf tea, and had quite the experience communicating to the person helping us. We also found the grossest food item yet:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuvhLKYhiO4[/youtube]

 

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. What. The heck. What are those even used for? I’m so confused.

 

Then we went back to the hotel for lunch with plans to return to this shopping-haven after we ate. We shared our find with others, ate lunch, and headed back with a group of eager shoppers. Here’s some pics along the way there:

 

We all kind of went our separate ways, but I spent several hours there finding a good chunk of the gifts and items I wanted to bring back. And bargaining for all of it. It was fun! And good practice for the silk market.

Then I went back to the hotel to freshen up and rest before the show. Some interesting details about this hotel …

It looks like any other hotel we’ve stayed in.

But then you enter and have to take an elevator up to the 4th floor, because that’s where the lobby is. I have no idea what’s on the floors in between. Then you go through this awesome hallway/entrance/walkway thingy.

I did not photoshop or instagram-hipster-vintagefy this photo. This was really how it was in the daytime!

Then, you get to the lobby.

This is where we were hanging out the night before drinking wine.

Then you take a different elevator up to your floor. Not the most efficient system.

Anyway, on to the last show! The theater was way cool! We were in another port city, so they made it all ocean-y.

They also really loved the LED lights. I felt like I was walking down Candy Cane Lane.

See what I mean? It was so cool. I wish I would’ve had more time to walk around and enjoy it. But I was really rushed bc I barely remembered to go outside and take pictures, and then I got locked out of the theater bc it was after the show and they were closing up shop. I’m doing this out of order. Sorry.

Here’s the lobby:

 

Here’s the house:

 

Here’s Phil’s sound board:

 

And his view of the stage:

 

The last show was a lot of fun. There was tons of energy from the dancers in every song. Everyone was being silly backstage. Lots of pictures and videos were being taken. My role that night was photographer instead of stage mom. I took pictures for anyone who wanted on their camera. It was just a lot of fun, and a great last show!

After the show, (and after I ran outside to get pictures, got locked out and begged to get let back in) we went back to the hotel for dinner and packing. We were leaving right after dinner for Beijing. Yep, call was at midnight. This is the start of the most exhausting experience we have ever had. To be continued in Day 32, because technically midnight starts the next day, in case you didn’t know.

 

Adventures in China: Day 30

Day 30: Second to Last City

Crazy. Only two more cities left. Yinkou and Beijing. And the last show is in Yinkou. This trip has flown by! We had a full day for travel, and it was only flying. A short flight. From an airport in the actual city we were in. Heavenly. (My, how my expectations have changed!). Oh, and we didn’t have to leave until after lunch. Which meant we got to eat two more meals at the awesome hotel buffet. Yummmm.

So, off we go to the airport where we see the cutest kid ever (except for Dragon Plum, of course) pulling around a suitcase for entertainment.

The mom (she’s the one in pink) was actually walking around in circles so that he/she (I still can’t tell) would follow. Adorable!

Anyway, we do the airport thing – check in 46 people, and then wait in a long line for security.

Ken blended right in with all those Asians.

We fly like 2 hours or something. Then land.

Oh my, we are starting to blend right in! I have super squinty eyes and Phil has the classic Asian pose. (Yes, I know that statement was not politically correct. But if was funny, admit it).

Saw some more funny Chinglish signs …

What that is, I don’t even …

We arrive at the hotel and have dinner. There was a vegetarian table ready for us. Woohoo!

Actually, this is a pic of the carnivore table that I sat at before I knew there was an herbivore table.

We go up to our tiny, but very nice, clean and functional room.

 

The night view of the city was beautiful!

 

It was pouring rain, but we needed to make a convenient store run for water. So we trudged through the puddles with Ellie, got our wine .. err … water… (same difference!), and came back to the hotel lobby to just hang out. I went upstairs to get our slippers since our shoes were soaking wet. They totally fit Phil perfectly!

Haha!

And we then we went to bed.