Saturday, September 18, 2010

Labor Day Pool Party 2010

Labor Day Pool Party 015

As is customary on a holiday weekend, I invited over our friends and family for a BBQ and pool party! We had a great turn out this year, with all my sisters and their significant others, my parents, The Alvars, The Kings, and my friend Josh. It was great to hang out, watch the kids play in the pool (Sammy, my goddaughter, even let me pull her around using only a noodle and she would kick-pretty good for only being 2!!).

Labor Day Pool Party 005

Hey, this doll is bigger than I am!!

Zander was as friendly as ever, his face lighting up when he caught sight of the other kids and rushing right over to Elizabeth when he walked in the door: "Hi, I'm Zander, what's your name? Are you here to be my friend? Come see my baby and my daddy!!" All in one breath; he's definitely not shy!

Hey, this doll is bigger than I am!!
My parents brought over the new puppy, so between Buddy the lab and Zoey the baby girl, there was plenty of cuteness.

Labor Day Pool Party 016

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A trip to the old home town . . .

My parents grew up in Hillsdale, Illinois, a small town in the Quad Cities area of the state, near the Iowa border. My dad's mom lives in Bloomington/Normal with my Aunt Christine, her husband Lyndon, and my Uncle Bill, so my parents and I decided to take a long weekend (well, they decided and I invited myself along) to visit my grandma, their old hometown, and some other friends and relatives. We planned our trip for the weekend of August 27th-30th.

We arrived in Peoria early Friday morning, rented a car, and hit the road for Hillsdale. Even after 32 years of marriage, my mom still gets nervous as a passenger, especially when my dad's playing tour guide as he drives. I, however, loved riding around with my dad pointing out farms where he used to work, the meat packing plant (formerly Illini Meat Packing Plant, now a Tyson Farms plant) houses my maternal grandfather built, the river shack he grew up in, and the house where I spent the first four years of my life. It was an interesting tour; a lot of the places look like they haven't c
hanged much in the 25 years since we moved and the 14 years since my last visit.

Illinois Family trip August 2010 001
Illinois Family trip August 2010 003Illinois Family trip August 2010 005
We stopped by to visit my dad's aunt Doris, who still lives in the same house she lived in when my dad was a kid. Her daughter and daughter's family live there as well, and we got to meet the whole bunch. That was the first time I had met that particular set of cousins.

After that, we tried to visit my dad's Aunt Donna & Uncle John, but they weren't home. They are in their mid 80's and still active and social. We found out later that Friday is their night out on the town. They called and we arranged to go back the following morning. Donna & John live in East Moline, which is also the World Headquarters of the John Deere Corporation (my dad worked for John Deere in the early 80's, he was laid off, and we moved to Arizona). We drove by the old factory where my dad worked, which is still there,
although the building he worked in has been torn down, and also visited the World Headquarters, which has a free small museum right inside the entrance. The headquarters are situated on several hundred acres that is kept up as a park, and is beautifully maintained.

We arrived at 10 to 5, so only had a brief tour of the museum. Did you know John Deere started out building bikes?

Illinois Family trip August 2010 008
Illinois Family trip August 2010 006
After that, we headed into Moline to have dinner at Frank's Pizzeria, a local treasure, and some of the best homemade sausage I've ever had. My parents said it hasn't changed at all since they went on dates here during High School. We tried to get ice cream at The Ice Cream Palace just down the road, my dad talked about how when he was a kid they served cones with two heads so you could have double the ice cream. We were disappointed though; they may still be named The Ice Cream Palace, but guess what they DON'T serve?? That's right; they now only serve Mexican food as a sit-down restaurant. I didn't realize that signage was that expensive to replace. . . .

Still full from pizza, we decided the lack of ice cream was probably better for us, and headed to Viola to try and visit Paula Lundquist, my mom's best friend from high school. We were in luck, because even though we didn't have a working phone number, she happened to be home and she put us up for the night.

Illinois Family trip August 2010 009
The next morning we woke up and visited with Paula's husband Doug (he had been working the night shift when we showed up, and Paula left for work early Saturday morning), then headed out to find some breakfast and back to Donna and John's house. We succeeded in both. I even bought some crafts that my great-aunt Donna had made, for my niece Zoey. (pictured here upon return from IL)

We did find ice cream after leaving John & Donna's, we stopped at Whitey's, a Quad City treasure. You can order it online and have it shipped, but $80 is a little pricey for me. I'll just have to go back for more. Finally we were on the road to Grandmother's house, quite literally over the river and through the woods. I hadn't seen my Grandma in over a decade, since she moved away from Arizona, and it was great to visit. Since I was just an annoying know-it-all teenager when my grandma had lived with us, I hadn't really taken the time to get to know her, or her stories. I spent the two days we visited catching up on everything I'd never asked before, and learned quite a bit. My grandma is a tough lady; she is currently undergoing dialysis 3 times per week, but her mind and memory as still sharp as a tack. My uncle Bill is working with my Grandma to develop a family tree and the stories to go along with it; and by memory she can go 4 generations back for both her family and my Grandpa Don's family. My grandfather passed away a few years ago from prostate cancer.

It was a great weekend. I hadn't seen Christine and Lyndon since my last trip to Illinois 14 years ago, and it had been about 9 years since I'd seen Bill, so it was nice to catch up with everyone. On Sunday we went to a town fair in Lincoln, then Bill made fantastic fajitas for dinner; and I impressed even Lyndon with my homemade salsa.

Illinois Family trip August 2010 010
I'm looking forward to visiting again soon; this spring when the snow melts. Hey, I'm a desert dweller now!! I've posted pictures from the trip; as I review them I realize I didn't take nearly as many as I should have, but I was trying to take in everything and pay attention to my dad's stories, so forgive me for not having my camera always at the ready.

Seattle Weekend-Meeting Lili

Pete & Jill decided to adopt, and after a year of classes, background checks, home visits and other preparations they received a call asking if they'd like to foster a little 7 year old girl, right around my Aunt Jill's birthday in October. After several months of fostering, and miles of red tape, they were finally able to legally adopt her just in time for 4th of July. Matt & I timed our visit to coincide with the Red Sox being in town, and got to meet our newest cousin.

It was a great weekend, nice to catch up with Pete & Jill, escape the 115 degree weather in Phoenix (although there was a massive heat wave in Seattle the temperature hit 80!!), and just relax. Lili had left us the most adorable welcome card on our bed, since we arrived after her bedtime. She wanted to know if we had pets, did we like to play the Wii (she bought one for the family with her own money) and what color our eyeballs were!! Too cute.

When we woke the next morning, Lili had already left for day camp, so the adults took advantage of being childless, and after a leisurely breakfast we headed out the door for vodka, wine, and beer tasting! (It was after 11am, no need to panic). From where Pete & Jill live in Bothell, we were able to hit Softail Spirits (vodka made from apples), The Columbia Winery, and then the Red Hook Brewery for lunch and a tour.
July 2010 023
We made our way back to the house, Pete grilled dinner (steaks and king crab legs) and we hung out with Lili. She is an adorable little girl, and the three of them make a happy family.

After Lili went to bed we continued to drink wine and played cards, Shanghai. I refrained from throwing my cards at Jill during this game. It may seem silly, but sitting around, having dinner, talking, laughing, and playing cards is my favorite part of vacationing with family.

The next day we laid low, just hung around the house in the morning and early afternoon, Jill cooked breakfast, and Matt played Lili's tiny red guitar. She was quite impressed.
July 2010 026
Afterwards, we headed into Seattle to eat at the World Famous Duke's Chowder House. I love Chowder, and the day was again beautiful. We took an after-meal stroll around the lake, then headed to Safeco field for the Mariners-Red Sox game (Lili's first ball game). Safeco field looked more like Fenway with all the Red Sox fans.

July 2010 033 July 2010 044
Sunday, our last full day in town, was devoted to a whale watching tour. It was an amazing day, with Minke whales, Killer whales, seals, salmon, bald eagles, and amazing scenery. The captain said it was one of the best wildlife days in memory.

July 2010 061

July 2010 119

All in all it was a fantastic trip, and I was sad to leave my family and the beautiful Pacific Northwest. but we will be back.

Family Dinner Night July 9, 2010

My mom's dad, my Grandpa Jeff, lives in Maricopa, and we don't get to see a whole lot of him unless we make the drive to Maricopa. However, with the new great-granddaughter, my grandpa agreed to come to my parents' house for dinner. My aunt Cindy, her boyfriend, and kids also cam over for dinner. It had been a long time since we had gotten together, so it was a fun evening. It was also the first time my Grandpa had met Matt, and they seemed to hit it off. My grandpa was a fisherman in Alaska, and he always has lots of good stories to tell.

It's always good to get together; and we can be quite the rowdy bunch. Luckily we (my sisters and I) have not scared off our significant others yet. . . We all took turns handing around Zoey, who is still adorable as ever. Even Danielle, who swore she wouldn't hold the baby until she was at least 3 months old, didn't panic when Meghan handed her over.

Friday, September 3, 2010

High Sierra Music Festival-June 29th-July 4th

As a special treat, I bought Matt & I tickets to go see the High Sierra Music Fest in Quincy, CA over the Independence Day Weekend. This was the longest road trip we have taken together. On the way out, we stopped in Las Vegas to have dinner with my friend Roni. We ate at Trevi, my very favorite Italian restaurant in Vegas, and Matt & Roni hit it off immediately. After dinner, we went back to our hotel, where I played the large Wheel of Fortune game, winning $100 when I spun the wheel!

Early the next morning we started our trek to Quincy. I chose the Nevada route because it would have less traffic than California highways. I didn't realize how much less though; there is very little between Vegas and Reno besides abandoned mining towns and military installations. We made good time on the highway, passing by an Amish man piloting a horse drawn carriage.
We arrived in Quincy and stayed at the Lariat Lodge, run by an amiable old hippy. We met up with people from the Las Vegas Jam Band Society, who had been going to the festival for years. They gave Matt & I great advice, and saved us a great camping space the next morning.
The weekend passed too quickly, and it was nice to feel so relaxed up in the mountains. Widespread Panic put on a great show, and I saw Railroad Earth and the Black Crowes for the first time in person.

The HSMF is one of the best run festivals out there. The camping is on site, and there are many artist playshops during the day that give the fans a chance to get closer to their favorite performers. My favorite playshop was the Horn of Plenty, with Karl Denson, Trombone Shorty, and Chris Littlefield. We will definitely be back for next year's High Sierra Music Fest!

Father's Day June 20, 2010

With Zoey only 4 days old, my family gathered at my parents' house for dinner and celebrating Father's Day; My dad's 29th, Ron's 1st. To see the really cool geek gift I got my dad, go here.

We took turns passing around the baby, Matt played with Zander, and we all had a great time.

As I get older, I realize how important even these small get-togethers are in keeping our family close. I'm glad we all still live nearby and can make time for each other.

Day Glo Red plays in New River

Matt's band is still playing on the Northwest side of town, so I bribed my friends Josh and Becky into making the trek to New River with me so I didn't have to drive alone at 3am. We had dinner at Kid Chilleen's Kick-Ass BBQ. I have looked at that place to the east of I-17 for many years, and finally had an excuse to have dinner there! After dinner, we headed to Gavilan Peak Sports bar, and watched the guys rock out. Unfortunately, there were only about 20 people there, but everyone enjoyed the music.

Welcome Baby Zoey!! June 16, 2010

After delaying her original arrival date by a week, my niece Zoey finally made an appearance.

She was beautiful, even at less than a day old (these pictures are from 6/17/10, around 5 in the evening. She was born at 10:30pm, 6/16/10).

My mom is thrilled to have a granddaughter to spoil and dress up. Even Zander doesn't seem to mind sharing the spotlight with his new little sister.

See you next year, Phoenix Comicon!

Becky & I woke to our third and final day at Comicon. We made our way over to the exhibitor hall, and waited for Aaron Douglas to arrive. While waiting for Aaron, Levar Burton showed up so I paid the $30 to have him autograph a poster for my mom's boss. Levar seems like a very nice person, and I understand that the money the celebrities' make at these shows is mostly due to what they sell and the charging for autographs. That being said, there was a small 11 year old girl with a Reading Rainbow shirt, but no money. Levar's handler told this girl (with Levar sitting right there) that he would be unable to sign the shirt without the payment. I thought this was bad form on his part. The other people at the show were more than happy to sign things, pose for impromptu pics and chat. He seemed removed from the process.

Aaron finally showed up (very handsome in person), and signed a picture for Becky that she purchased, posed for a picture, and chatted with us about hockey, Battlestar Galactica, and beer until more people realized he was there and got in line for autographs. Thanks for being cool Aaron!

The last part of our day was watching Spike Lee's question and answer session. Thank god for Mr. Lee. He is funny, intelligent, and realizes that his characters, while entertaining, are his creation.

I had a great time at the con. Kudos to all the workers and volunteers who make the show possible, and to the actors, authors, artists, and everyone else who shows up to contribute.