7th Annual U of M Holiday Dinner and Gift Exchange

Although we’ve been gathering for years (odd, no football this year), by my count, we’ve been celebrating the holidays together for 7 straight years. This year, the Idemas graciously hosted at their beautiful home. I caught a glimpse of the shimmering new pool, but we won’t be wreaking havoc out there until next year.

Although Krista might be writing a letter to management about the seating arrangement, we ended up in two distinct dining areas. Dinner and desert were amazing, but the true main course is our gift exchange. You would think that with wisdom and experience, our gifts would become more age-appropriate. However, they’re only becoming more outlandish and yet strangely useful (my “Pocket Kim Wisdom” book excepted).

The photos are otherwise presented without commentary as they speak for themselves. A warning to all, if you pose for the photo, it’s definitely going to end up on the internet. I think you all look amazing.

Thank you, Idemas, for hosting another memorable event! Happy Holidays and GO BLUE!

Thanksgiving 2017 in Orlando with the Parks

We spent only our second destination Thanksgiving in Orlando, FL last week. Coincidentally, the first was with the Rhees in Miami Beach, FL five years ago. Our family and Elin went down a little early to spend a few days at Universal Studios. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, which was very close to the park.

The kids were most excited about Harry Potter, even though we already enjoyed the lite version in Hollywood over Spring Break. Orlando’s Diagon Alley did not disappoint. The weather was amazing the day we went. Our family lost steam around dinner time. We had dinner at Citywalk before heading back to the hotel. Elin, however, wanted to hit every ride and got most of them in by riding until closing time.

The next day, it was raining, but we still went to the pool anyway. It would have helped a bit if it was warmer, but the kids didn’t seem to mind too much. After swimming, we made a game time call to see Wonder. Afterwards, we had dinner across the street at The Portofino.

The third day we just had breakfast and packed up to move over to Disney. We went over to the Hilton next door to use their pool, which had a lazy river and a slide. Addy, Charles, the kids, and Dave all arrived and met us there. We tried to have dinner at Disney Springs with no reservation, but ended up just eating back at the hotel lobby.

On Thanksgiving, my plans to eat nothing until dinner was thwarted by a nice lunch at Eddie V’s. We hit the pool at our hotel in the afternoon, which had less amenities but was at least heated. We had Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel restaurant, which is not our style, but still a lot easier for those who usually cook and or clean. Our main motivation for visiting Orlando was to see Grace’s mom’s brother, Ben, who lives there. We were happy that he joined us for our family dinner. This was Elin’s first American Thanksgiving, which she hopefully enjoyed.

Black Friday was spent at Disney World. It was my first visit there since 1980, which was before Epcot was even built. We planned this part of the trip terribly, as we just bought our tickets and had virtually no fast passes reserved among our big group. Our plan to mitigate this was to catch the first shuttle to the Disney, which meant a pre-dawn wakeup.

The main attraction Charles wanted to ride was the new Avatar-themed Pandora attraction. We didn’t exactly elbow our way into the park or run to the ride. By the time we were in line, it was already a 3-hour wait. Oof. Thankfully, everyone was patient (including the Grandparents). I don’t do well on these 4D rides. It was pretty amazing, but I’m still queasy. The kids and Elin loved it. We took it a little easier in the Animal Kingdom and did some Safari ride. Because the damage was done, even the Dinosaur ride was painful to me. We did actually have 3pm fast passes for Pandora, so Elin, Addy, Olivia, Lucas and Cameron rode it again.

We all headed over to Epcot for dinner. It was my first visit there. We then rode the monorail back to the transit center. Olivia, Lucas and Grace’s parents were done at this point, so I took them back to the hotel. The rest of the group headed over to the Magic Kingdom to check it out and watch the grand finale. Everyone was impressed.

On our last full day together, we finally made it into Morimoto Asia for lunch. Afterwards, half the group went back to Disney World for another day and night at the park. Elin had a Fast Pass at 11:30pm at Space Mountain and didn’t make it home until late. The kids, Grace, Dave, Grace’s Dad and I went to the pool for a bit. We were back at Disney Springs for a healthy meal of fried everything at Art Smith’s.

Sunday, we packed up, and headed out of Disney for the last time. What we didn’t know was that our flight was going to be delayed about 4 hours, which made for a long rest at the Orlando airport. The one good thing about it was running into my long lost b-school buddy, Ted, who was on his way back to Austin.

As always, we have so much for which to be thankful and now this amazing trip  with family is also on the list.

Work Hiatus Golf in San Francisco and Las Vegas

For the first time ever, I took off a little time between jobs. By first time, I mean the first time when I voluntarily changed jobs vs. being laid off or unemployed. Somehow, I found myself quite busy during this time, as Grace gave me a big punch list of things to do around the house and for the family. Honestly, I didn’t knock it all out, but I did my best and made some progress. It also helped that I didn’t have a car to fix.

First, big shout out to my buddy Albert who took off several stealth days from work, including the first and last days of official time off to golf with me. We got in a round at Half Moon Bay on day 1 (Erich also joined that day) as well as a couple rounds at Harding Park in San Francisco. I also got in one solo round of contemplation during week one.

For the last hurrah, Eddie met me in Las Vegas for 5 days. I can’t tell you how relaxing it was relative to our normal itinerary, which usually involves break-of-dawn golf, pool with the kids, dinners, etc. (i.e., too tired to gamble). Aside from our morning tee times, we had no agenda. We got in four rounds of golf at Bear’s Best, Royal Links, Paiute Wolf and Coyote Springs. The weather was perfect for golf in the desert.

Each day we had lunch when we were done and dinner whenever we were hungry. We had great meals in the Encore/Wynn where we stayed and also ventured off the property to Carnevino (best lamb chops ever) and a romantic dinner outdoors at Mon Ami Gabi. We had some fun in between, but truthfully, we were in bed by 10pm on day one and got crushed on day three, also resulting in an early night. Although we see each other once and sometimes twice a year, we gathered that we haven’t traveled alone together in over two decades when he was single and still in medical school. It was QT with my ride or die.

Although I technically rolled right into a family vacation for Thanksgiving, my hiatus is all but over. I’m already having dreams about work. I’m very thankful for this time off, for the big pass Grace gave me, and for the time friends made for me.

I may never play golf again… (until ski season is over, that is).

Lucas’s 9th Birthday

Amid the chaos of our Halloween hangover, we celebrated Lucas’s 9th birthday on November 1st. The last single-digit birthday … sigh. We celebrated at Il Fornaio with uncle Dave and our new au pair, Elin! She’s been with us about a month and we’re so lucky to have her.

Lucas celebrated with a small group of friends last weekend. He opened his presents and cards from family and friends. I might be biased, but I think he was most grateful for his Pokemon cards from mom and dad. Thanks for everyone’s generosity.

Happy Birthday, Lucas. We love you!

Lucas’s 9th Birthday Party

We’ve gone guardrail to guardrail on Lucas’s birthday party the last couple years. Two years ago, there were too many kids (for the parents), and last year, there were two few kids (for Lucas). Hopefully, this year was just right.

Lucas requested a Minecraft-themed birthday party, as that is one of his favorite things to do on his device (among too many other things). Our friend Angie from school is a baker extraordinaire and made the Minecraft toppers for the cupcakes. Wow, is she talented.

Kate, as always, planned the rest of the party, including the decorations and activities. The most memorable activity might have been the Mentos-Coke explosion. Poor Grant bore the brunt of the fallout.

This special group of friends had a great time. Lucas is very lucky to have them. Hope you had a great time at your birthday party, Lucas!

Farewell, POPSUGAR

After 11 years, last week I said goodbye to my family and friends at POPSUGAR. I’ve chronicled many of our most memorable moments over the years here, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that leaving a company and people I love so much was very hard indeed. Nevertheless, I received the sweetest low-key sendoff over the last couple days thanks to the ever-thoughtful Krista.

Pizza lunch was fitting and the team printed some of our favorite snapshots from over the years. Somehow, I got roped into the weekly POPCAST, and even though I asked not to be put on the spot, James Lipton’s questions were being fired at me at the end. I was hardly prepared.

Neither was I fully prepared to finally say goodbye. Several friends indulged me in a few last buddy shots (except Brian). It was hard to break the news to my neighborhood friends, too, at Coffee Bar and Henry’s. Even though they fire my slice the minute they see me, I ghosted my friends a Giorgio’s all week. I hope they’ll understand.

11 years ago I joined a team who was already family and they’ll remain as such regardless of the hoodie I wear. Since that time, I’ve had the pleasure of working with hundreds of amazing people, many of whom I consider forever friends whether I see them daily or not. POPSUGAR will always be a huge part of my life.