Spring Break in Southern California

After traveling a bit this winter to ski, we decided to stay local for Spring Break. We didn’t have any firm plans and after a great trip to Tahoe a few weeks ago, skiing was put on the table. However, the weather was a bit unpredictable, so we stayed with the original plan, which was to go to Southern California.

What didn’t go as planned was our departure. Grace arranged to have lunch with her parents, which would have meant about a 7am departure. Given that we don’t pack until the day of, our actual departure was about 11:30am. We only made it about 1 mile before our first stop for lunch. After that, we drove straight with no stops to meet Grace’s parents for dinner instead in Koreatown at Chosun Galbee (always). We continued another hour to Laguna Niguel.

Part of our trip was coordinated with Julie and Albert, who were originally going to stay at Monarch Beach. After they changed plans, we just decided to stay at Grace’s parents’ house, which was empty. The next best thing to staying at Pelican Hill is having your friends stay there and crash their party – for two straight days.

On Monday after swimming over there, we celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary at Monarch Beach Resort, which was formerly the St. Regis when we got married there. The decor is a little more modern and the restaurants are new. Bourbon Steak replaced the previous Michael Mina restaurant. I had informed them of our celebration and they took very good care of us for the evening. We’ve been to the resort a few times over the years, but hopefully this is a visit the kids will remember.

On Tuesday, the Lees had a setup at Crystal Cove beach and invited us over. The kids played for a while with the Lees and their cousins before retreating to the full-servicesness of the pool at the resort. Thanks to Julie and Albert for hosting us during our OC visit.

Tuesday evening we called an audible with Beth and Ryan, who live very close to Grace’s parents’ house in Laguna Niguel. We met up at 230 Forest in downtown Laguna Beach. It was great to catch up with them and see Sloane and Alex, who have grown so much since our last visit.

Wednesday we migrated back to LA with a stop in Manhattan Beach, where we stuck to the routine of Rock N’ Fish, beach and the creamery. The only thing we forgot were the beach chairs, but we bought a much needed umbrella from the same guy who was selling fruit every other time we saw him. Grace wanted to check out Venice Beach on the way up, but by the time we got there it was so windy that we didn’t want to get out of the car.

We had dinner at Century City, which was our new new home for the next couple days. We went to Rock Sugar for dinner on Wednesday and Toscanova for lunch on Thursday. Thursday afternoon, we went to Ann and Jeremy’s who were joining us for dinner with Grace’s family and Dave to celebrate her mom’s and Dave’s birthdays at Del Frisco’s in Santa Monica.

After completing some IT projects at the Westwood house, we met up with Dave and Grace’s parents back at Republique on La Brea, where we ate last year. There was no Fonzie sighting this year, but the food was just as good. Following lunch, we hit the road for home. We did have to make one quick stop for gas, but it was otherwise a non-stop trip to home. The only thing that saved me was trying out adaptive cruise control for the first time. I admit that I didn’t trust it at first to slow down, but after some testing, I realized it was life-changing. I can live with semi-autonomous cars for now.

Annual Tahoe Trip with the Moons

This past weekend we made our first trip to Tahoe for the season thanks to a late winter snow storm. We coordinated with the Moons and looked into renting a house or condo, but with Thando joining the family, we needed something dog friendly. Luckily the hotel was happy to have him.

We stopped at Il Fornaio in Roseville on Friday night and didn’t get into the hotel until about 10:30pm. Saturday morning we got a relatively early start (given we were on the mountain already). It snowed all day and most of the night, dumping about 9 inches on top of a recent storm that brought over five feet of much needed snow.

Their friends Elisa and Don were also at the resort, so we had dinner together on Saturday night. Each of us got a turn with the baby, Olivia being the most successful. On Sunday, we got out early again and skied hard for a few hours on the most and best snow of the season. The powder in the glades was the best. Lucas and Olivia made so much progress this season, which was proven on the same mogul run we did a couple seasons ago. Grace is also doing great on her form.

We thought this might be our last trip of the season, but now skiing is on the table for spring break. Who knows what will happen with the snow and weather between now and then. In any case, it was a great trip with the Moons  with some of the most memorable runs of the year.

Colorado Ski Trip with WB Guys

This past weekend Steve, Scott, Herb and I met again in Beaver Creek for our annual ski trip. We had a great time last year in Colorado, so we decided to head back again. We were missing some of our regulars, but four was still a great number on the slopes.

Friday was Steve’s birthday and although we didn’t convene until Saturday, his request was to watch the Michigan Basketball game. This year, we had a large suite at the Westin (where we usually stay). Rather than go out, we just watched the game in the room and ordered room service. It was a stressful game right up until Poole’s buzzer beater. We went nuts.

On Sunday, we skied at Beaver Creek. The conditions were a little firm, but the snow was infinitely better than it was back in December. We had dinner at Splendido, which I had been wanting to try for a while.

It snowed a lot starting Sunday afternoon and throughout the evening. Although it snowed 7″ in Beaver Creek, we opted to go to Vail, which received 5″ of fresh snow. We covered a lot of ground and had a great day on the mountain as it continued to snow. Sunday night, we had dinner at Grouse Mountain Grill, where we celebrated Nick’s birthday last year.

On Monday, we skied again at Beaver Creek, which receive another couple of inches overnight. We did some laps on Larkspur in the morning, which we hadn’t tried yet. The snow was amazing. Before lunch, Steve, Herb and I went up Grouse Mountain and skied Royal Elk Glade (at Eddie’s suggestion). It was the best run of the week – lots of run and everyone made it down safely. We met Scott for lunch before heading up again for one last run down Royal Elk Glade again.

Herb was staying an extra night, so Steve, Scott and I left around 3pm to get back to Denver for our flights. Another great trip is in the books. We’re already talking about next year and hope more of the team will join us.

Ski Week in Whistler and Vancouver

We’ve been dealing with drought off and on the past several years and have thus chosen to travel for the kids’ ski week vs. going to Tahoe (although last year was epic). After the debacle in Beaver Creek before the holidays, I kept a close eye on the snow report across the various ski resorts. It seemed that Whistler was the only resort having a “normal” winter in terms of snow fall.

After we made our plans, it seemed like Utah and Colorado caught up a bit, but we were still happy to be able to try a new mountain. We actually had traveled to Vancouver before for our Alaskan cruise with the Parks several years ago. Lucas was only 2, so he wouldn’t have remembered anything and even Olivia probably didn’t recall much.

Our flight to Vancouver was delayed a few hours, so we decided to eat in the city before heading up to Whistler. I made plans for us to go to an early dinner at Market by Jean-Georges. We ended up having a later dinner there instead. Lucas declared it one of his best meals ever. Although it was too dark to see the stunning drive Whistler, the roads were at least empty, which made it go by fast.

We skied Monday to Thursday together. We’re not really a first chair kind of family and somehow each day we got on the gondola later and later. On our last run on Tuesday, we went into the terrain park and I realized the day before we had gone through the “M” of S, M and L and lived to tell about it. I didn’t think too much of it the second time except I did scrub some speed off the first big jump and landed it fine right in front of Olivia. Feeling confident, I went for the second big jump and somehow did NOT make the landing.

In a split-second, I hit the top of the jump hard, double-ejected and face planted after falling forward about 135 degrees down the ramp. It would have been bad enough, but I was wearing my camera around my neck and basically body-slammed it into my ribcage. I could not breath, and when Olivia came down, she could not stop laughing. I was so wrecked. After I verified that I was still alive, Lucas came down and was trying to push my skis down to me when someone came and gave us an assist. He asked if I was okay because he saw the whole thing. I really wish there was video of it because it was so epic. I haven’t crashed like that in … well, ever.

On Wednesday, we met up with my POPSUGAR buddy, Chris. We got in one run together at the end of the day. Even though I said I retired from the terrain park, the kids made me go in there again to face my fears. I stuck to the “S” route and made it down safely. It wasn’t until Thursday that I really started to feel injured. I went to the top of Blackcomb by myself for the last run of the day and limped down the mountain as I had trouble breathing on my right side.

On Friday, I did pretty much get on the first gondola and went straight up and over to Blackcomb (“Do you guys want to go with me? No? Okay, see you later”). I got lucky as when I arrived at the Peak-to-Peak gondola, the glass-bottom car had just arrived. It was cool and terrifying at the same time. Unfortunately, the lift to the top was closed due to the weather, so I did a few laps until it finally opened. I took one last run from the top of 7th Heaven before we packed up and headed out.

We had planned to spend one night in Vancouver to check it out. We had a great dinner at Lupo near our hotel. On Saturday, Grace bought us tickets for some attraction at the same port where we got on the Disney cruise ship. It was “Fly Over Canada,” which was basically a light version of that Disney Avatar ride that wrecked me over Thanksgiving. I was destroyed, so Liv and I went back to the hotel while Lucas and Grace went to the park and Science Center.

We ate our last two meals in the hotel at Honey Salt, which was excellent. There’s one in Vegas, so we’ll have to check it out there. We had a late flight home, which was delayed a bit. After someone took one of our our ski bags by accident, we didn’t get home until about 1am. Everyone was very happy to be home, mostly to see Luna!

We’re definitely going to keep Whistler in the rotation for ski week if climate change continues to conspire against us in Tahoe.

Luna Joins Our Family

Olivia has been lobbying for a cat for quite some time. I’m an advocate for any kind of (furry) pet, though I am partial to dogs. It took the family a while to get over the passing of Snickers, especially Grace. But, the time had apparently come, as Grace told Olivia we could get a cat on her birthday.

We’ve been going to the local SPCA periodically, “just to look,” for quite a while. However, after we got back from our holiday travels, we went every weekend. There aren’t many kittens this time of year, and Grace and Olivia really wanted one.

On January 28th, we went on our weekly pilgrimage, and found they had a couple of young new arrivals. We met the first one, a beautiful gray cat, who was friendly, but very shy. We met a second cat briefly, as Lucas had to go to a birthday party, so after a quick deliberation, we decided on the gray cat. By the time I returned, Grace and Olivia had decided to take home the 2nd cat, as she was much friendlier and less shy. Snickers was pretty skittish, so I can understand the reluctance to get another cat that would hardly be seen.

The cat was a stray and guessed to be about a year old. She was found pregnant, but too malnourished to carry the kittens to term. She had a name when she arrived, but it was changed to Pomegranate. That was too much of a mouthful for us, so we were going to come up with our own name.

When she got home, it became clear we need to call her something, so we brainstormed some names. I started throwing out Harry Potter names: “Hermione,” “Belatrix,” “Luna Lovegood,” Luna actually seemed to fit, as she had similar coloring to Luna Lovegood and she did look a little like the moon. It stuck, even though Grace wasn’t convinced.

It didn’t initially strike us how beautiful Luna is. She came home with us because in a way, she chose us with her friendly personality. The first night was interesting, as Olivia was determined to have Luna sleep with her, but she was set on sleeping on/near her face, so that didn’t last at all. Instead, she slept on Grace’s and my face that first night.

She is so friendly to everyone, including strangers. Everyone is in love with her. We’re so glad she has joined our family. Welcome home, Luna!

Olivia’s 11th Birthday Party

Grace and Kate planned Olivia’s birthday party, which was after the holidays. The theme evolved into what ended up being cupcake wars. All the the teams worked hard on their creations and each enjoyed the fruits (cupcakes) of their labor.

The options for the movie screen were “IT” and “The Incredibles.” They chose the latter. The slumber party went smoothly (I guess I wouldn’t really know because I was sleeping). Olivia is lucky to have a great group of friends to celebrate with her.

Happy Birthday, Olivia!

Olivia’s 11th Birthday Celebration at Benihana in Michigan

Our last dinner together in Michigan was to celebrate Olivia’s 11th birthday. We don’t traditionally celebrate birthdays there, but it was what Olivia wanted. The number one thing Olivia has been asking for is a cat. I wasn’t a proponent of making a pet a Christmas or Birthday gift, but Grace had mentally committed to getting a new cat. Olivia was overjoyed to read the news that it was finally happening.

Happy Birthday, Olivia!

Christmas in Michigan with Rhees and Parks

For the first time in 8 years, we spent the Christmas holiday in Michigan at my parents’ house (and childhood home). The kids know it well from our summer trips, but they haven’t really experienced snow there as kids (and ironically there was a lot more of it than in Colorado). Addy and Charles were also in Michigan to visit Amy and Arnie’s family, and thus Grace’s parents and Dave also came to Michigan.

Everyone came over for Christmas Day and dinner. The kids had some daylight to play in the snow. I tried to buy some sleds, but there was nothing open. They improvised with cardboard and plastic. Grace improvised with the recycling container top. The Rhees (no relation) also joined us for dinner, which was prepared by my mom, Jen and Grace.

We spent time in Ann Arbor with Grace’s Hur side of the family. It was nice to see all the cousins. They each took turns kissing the ring (Dad Park).

We saw Melanie, Nick and the kids, who took us downtown for lunch and bowling at Punch Bowl Social. It was a nice excursion to my old work neighborhood. Detroit is coming along!

The holidays is also the time we celebrate my Dad’s birthday. We celebrated 82 with a great meal at Eddie V’s, which is new to Detroit. Happy Birthday, Dad!

We all love visiting Michigan at any time of year. Olivia and Lucas can’t get enough of the wide open spaces and my parents’ yard. Even though it was single digits, they never really complained about the cold, which encourages me that our California kids are tougher than we might think.