Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kristie & Eric's California Adventure!

After weeks of planning, Eric and I packed up the dog and our luggage and hit the road to California! It was his first time there since we got married in August 2010 and it was our plan to make the most of this trip. Bailey (the dog) stayed at my mom's house while we were there and we settled into our luxurious room at the Best Western in Pasadena.

You know you're in CA when Mount Shasta makes its appearance!

We did the drive in 2 days each direction--1000 miles each way.

It was great to see family and very reassuring to see my brother looking so good after his horrible health scare 4 months ago. He's back to work as an RN, will be driving again soon, and he and his wife and kids just took their first family vacation. All good things!

The night Eric and I pulled into the ol' neighborhood, we rounded up Jonathan's family and all met for sushi at Zono Sushi, our favorite place to eat in Pasadena. It was a little chaotic and we were tired after being on the road for 10 hours that day, but it was fun to see the kids and eat something other than fast food, which is our only option while on the road with a dog!

The next day was Christmas Eve, and, believe it or not, I didn't get any pictures that night! What was I thinking?! We had it at my mom's house and enjoyed watching my niece, nephew, and little cousin open their gifts. We're still adjusting to new traditions on Christmas Eve after years of always having it at my grandparents' house. It's hard to believe that this is our 4th Christmas without them.

On Christmas Day, Eric and I decided to go to DISNEYLAND! It was Christmas, so no one will be there, right??? Wrong. We got there at around 10am and stayed for about 12 hours on one of the busiest days I've ever seen at the Magic Kingdom. I'm actually surprised that we accomplished as much as we did, because that park was jam-packed!! Live and learn! Now we know.

The next day, the 26th, we had a Christmas morning and breakfast with my mom and Jonathan, Quyen and the kids. They had spent Christmas Day with her family, which is why we postponed it a day. But you know? In the right setting and with the right people, Christmas can really be on any day you want. We had a nice time and then they took off on their family vacation to San Diego. That afternoon, Eric, my mom and I had another sushi lunch with a friend and made it an early night.

On the 27th we had a pretty open day, so we decided to go to our beloved Arboretum. On December 1st, a fierce and unexpected wind storm swept through Arcadia, Temple City, Pasadena, San Gabriel, San Marino, and Alhambra and a few other local cities and a lot of people went without power for days. There was debris everywhere and we still saw a lot of the results of the storm while we were there. There was a lot of damage at the Arboretum.

We have such a special feeling towards the Arboretum because my mom used to take us there when my brother and I were kids (and it was free admission!) The day we went was only the 2nd day it had opened since the storm and there were crew workers everywhere.
Sitting on the veranda of the Queen Anne's Cottage (Site of the show Fantasy Island.)

See the worker up on the waterfall? He was one of several who was clearing away accumulated debris by hand. Eric and I have a soft spot for this waterfall, as it is the site of one of our first pictures together during his CA trip in December of 2009.

Lots of workers, lots of chainsaws grinding away at the hundreds of trees that sustained damage from the heavy winds. We also noticed very little wildlife that day. Only a few peacocks, and most of them were not even in the Arboretum grounds, but loitering around outside the entrance. Could be that the noises from the saws scared them. Both big fountains were empty and closed too. A sad sight to see.

So, even though it wasn't the most fruitful Arboretum trip, it was interesting to see what had survived the storm and what didn't. Clearly, the cleanup is going to take months.

While on our way out, Eric had the idea to buy some of their little cacti. Yesterday he came up with this little arrangement. Pretty creative, I think!

That evening Eric stayed at the hotel to relax, my mom went and did her weekly receptionist job at Weight Watchers, and I spruced up a little to join some ladies for dinner at Mimi's Cafe in Monrovia. It was a mini Girl Scout Troop 498 reunion and there were only 3 of us! There are 12 of us on Facebook that have found each other, but 6 now (including myself) live out of state.

We were hoping to have at least 6-7 of us that night, but circumstances prevented it from being so. Despite the small size, Becky, Cathy (who was one of my closest friends growing up) and I had a nice time. Becky left at 8:30 to go and care for her baby and Cathy and I kept on chatting until 10pm. We've known each other since we were 5 years old, so there is a lot of history there!

Becky, Cathy, and me

Where are we now? Wednesday, the 28th! That is the day we went and saw my cute grandma, who turns 94 in June. She's still as sharp as ever, though! Eric, my mom, and I drove out to see her in San Dimas and went out to lunch at The Peppertree (lots of eating out on vacation.) Again, I didn't get any pictures. Just imagine a cute grandma fawning over my cute husband and you'll get the idea!

That night Eric and I went to Starbucks (I got their over caloric peppermint hot chocolate) and then I took him up into Hastings Ranch in Sierra Madre where the neighborhoods get together to put on some pretty great Christmas light displays.

Then the trip took an unexpected turn that night.... (cue ominous music...)

We don't know if it was the Starbucks, the Taco Bell we had at the end of the night, a flu bug or what, but Eric started getting sick around 11pm and was miserable in every way for the rest of the night and the entire next day. We had planned to go spend the day in Long Beach, but that was definitely not going to happen. Poor baby. He was really, really sick.

I went and did laundry at my mom's and did a little shopping at the mall (it is amazing how living in a small town for a year has made me less and less happy to be around hoards of people.) Every few hours I would check in at the hotel room and just see my poor husband sleeping fitfully and not feeling well.

He continued to be sick the next day, but vastly improved. I felt like I could leave him for longer stretches of time and didn't want to lose another day, so, after Googling "Things to do alone in Pasadena," I decided to visit The Gamble House.

The Gamble House was built by the son of "that" Gamble of Proctor & Gamble.

It was perfect outing for those circumstances. I had a tour time for 12:45, which I waited for about half an hour. The weather was ideal, so I just sat on the porch with my Kindle and enjoyed the sun and relaxed.

The house itself is a sprawling 9000 square feet, but not ostentatious and luxurious. Everything, including the furniture is practically original and done in the craftsman style of the 1920's. No pictures allowed inside, but here's one I snagged off the web of the inside view towards the front door:
Very pretty! I love the craftsman style of architecture.

The next day was Saturday, New Year's Eve! Guess who felt sick that day?! ME.

I was supposed to take my nephew to Kidspace that morning and I woke up feeling so, so lousy. I felt bad having to cancel. Eric was actually feeling a lot better, but still needed another recovery day. So we pretty much had the most uneventful New Year's Eve ever! I slept all day long and still slept that night. My symptoms were not as bad as his, thank goodness!

On New Year's Day we decided that we had to go out and do something together. It had been 4 days since we'd been out at the same time, thanks to that lovely bug we caught. So we decided to drive to the Rose Bowl so that Eric could see it and also see a few of the Rose Parade floats that were being finished up for the parade the next day.
Eric in front of the Rose Bowl. Is that a California shot, or what?

Me in front of the one of the floats. Good day to wear a bright color!

The float that caught our attention the most was the one dedicated to the memory of old time western star, Roy Rogers. It was Eric who first said, "That looks like a real horse!" He was right. Roy Rogers famously had his horse, Trigger, and his dog, Bullet, stuffed, and they were actually ON the float. There used to be a Roy Rogers Museum outside of Los Angeles, but I heard it shut down. I'm not sure how I feel about seeing his stuffed horse and dog on the float, but it was certainly original. And the float rules do say that everything has to be covered in natural materials. I guess these qualify! Ugh.
After staying at the Rose Bowl for about an hour, the 2 sickies (us) were ready to bring our post-bug adventure to a close. After all, the parade was the next day and that was going to take a lot of energy!!

Rain or shine, my mom goes to the Rose Parade every...single...year. She doesn't care if she has someone to go with or not, she goes. Of course the Rose Parade is partly famous for the thousands of people who camp out overnight (sometimes days ahead of time.) I've camped out one time and vowed never to do it again. You end of with loads of stuff to haul. You're dirty, exhausted, and have to walk blocks and blocks to the car. No thanks, not for me.

The thing is, it is easy to see the parade without camping out and without paying $90 for a bleacher seat. The parade starts at 8:10am and goes for 5 1/2 miles, so if you park a few blocks south of Colorado Blvd (the street on the route) and set up at the end of the route, you're good. We got to my mom's at 7:30am, caravaned to a street about 3/4 mile from the route and walked the rest. We walked until we found a family in chairs and just stood behind them. There were bleachers behind us, but the seats are so high up that we didn't block anyone.

It was fun! Eric had never seen the parade before, not even on TV, so this was a momentous occasion for him. We had also followed the past season of Dancing With the Stars (first time ever) and it was cool to see JR Martinez as the Grand Marshal. He was a ham in person too! We also saw Kenny G and Dick Van Patten (Mr. Bradford from Eight is Enough,) and some of the hosts from HGTV, don't ask me their names!

The opening of the Rose Parade

Kenny G

Grand Marshal, DWTS champion and veteran JR Martinez
We like him!

This float was very touching. It was dedicated to organ donation. Each of the faces on the float is someone who lost their life but donated their organs and gave the gift of life to someone else. Many of the people riding the float are alive because of organ donation. There were also the parents of the little 9 year old girl who was shot and killed the day Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was attacked. She was also an organ donor. Eric and I are both big supporters of organ donation and really loved this float.

This was a beautiful float by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth Taylor with the words "Our Champion."

Here are a few other random floats from the parade. And can I just say, "Look at that gorgeous blue sky?!" We almost always get incredible weather for the parade:

And, I didn't take a lot of videos this trip, but I had to take a video of this marching band from Japan. Definitely the hardest-working band I have ever seen!

I'm so happy with the way the colors turned out on the parade pictures! The colors that day, including the blue of the sky, really were that bright and vibrant. It was a tiring day, but fun. Eric and I ended up having lunch at Claim Jumper (I was dying for a salad and some lemonade! The temperature was a record-breaking high for parade day,) and then took it easy for the rest of the day.

The plan was to leave the next day, but after watching the sun set and thinking about the days we lost because of illness, we decided to extend by one more day. We would cap off our trip by going to Long Beach and visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific and enjoying the gorgeous weather for an extra 24 hours.

I hadn't been to the Aquarium since they first opened around 12 years ago and was pleasantly surprised at the way it has evolved into a very neat place to visit. We bought a ticket to the aquarium and for their 45 minute harbor cruise. The weather was perfect and we had a wonderful day!

The Aquarium of the Pacific (Jan. 3, 2012)

View of downtown Long Beach from our boat during the harbor cruise. A very relaxing 45 minutes!

The lovely Queen Mary. I look forward to taking Eric there on another trip.

Two buddies hanging out on a buoy in the middle of the harbor

And there's my sweet husband and travel buddy! We ate at Bubba Gump's after the harbor cruise. Cute place, good service, cool gift shop.....very over-priced and unspectacular food! You're pretty much paying to say you ate at Bubba Gump.

I took a ton of pictures at the aquarium but, let's face it, you had to be there to really appreciate it. Here are some of the best of the bunch:
This spider crab was enormous. Probably 4-5 feet from tip to tip.

I think I see Nemo!

The Aquarium is very kid-friendly and not so big that you get lost. This was a cool Q&A that we saw with one of their divers. She was hooked up to a microphone and would take the kids' questions.

See the seahorse? Isn't nature amazing? I think I'm more fascinated by undersea creatures than the ones who walk above ground!

A little known fact about me...I love sharks. I think they are one of the coolest creatures. When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to read about was sharks.

Another favorite undersea creature is the jellyfish. I love watching the way they pulsate and pump their incredible bodies through the water. How do they do that when they have no brains or eyes?

I am SO glad that we extended our trip by one day. I really have to thank Eric for that one, because he knew it meant a lot to me and I knew that he was giving up a day to relax at home before having to return to work. The day we spent at Long Beach was ideal and the perfect way to cap off our vacation.

What a great, great day!!
The next day we headed back to Washington! We picked up a grateful Bailey who was very ready to go home after 2 weeks. Maybe he was just excited to go in the car, who knows?

We said goodbye to my mom, our hotel room, the warm weather and hit the road once again.

Some great shots of Mount Shasta on our way home:

Somewhere in Oregon we were greeted by a double rainbow:

We had to laugh, because the sunny weather changed to gloom and overcast almost IMMEDIATELY after we crossed the border from California to Oregon. We were definitely back in the Pacific Northwest!
Still, we felt very lucky that the weather was very kind to us during our drive. We never ran into any major issues, the snow chains were not needed, and the car functioned 100% all the way.

We had a great trip! And it is good to be home.


Sally said...

My family had that flu, too. It took almost 3 weeks to make its rounds through all seven of us. I have several other friends whose Christmas vacations were marred by the flu. Ugh. I'm glad you guys were able to kick it pretty quickly and still enjoy your vacation. Sunny California looks like a perfect place for Christmas to me!

Kristie said...

3 weeks?? Suddenly our 3 days feels like nothing. Thanks for visiting, Sally, and it was great talking with you on the phone yesterday!

Alyssa said...

Sounds like a wonderful getaway... well, all except that flu part. =) I hate being sick on vacation! You guys still managed to pack alot in, though. I bet your mom was excited to have you around, too!

salindr said...

This was a delightful walk of the home turf. Loved hearing Lucie commenting about the Japanese band. Beautiful pictures, but that is Southern California. You two give your mom and I hope, maybe!

MOM said...

Honey, I got caught up and read all your last few! They're are an incredible writer! Love your pictures. Glad your attitude is glass half-full. So happy you could make the most of your time, in-spite of sick days. Loved reading it all...Sorry we didn't get to see each other more...I also took no pics on 24th!!! Are we slipping up? No pics of my beautiful table either!

Kristie said...

Mom, I think we were just caught up in enjoying the moments, and sometimes that can be detracted when you're there with a camera. I didn't take pictures of Christmas Eve or during the visit wit Grandma, but I sure enjoyed both of them!