Spring Break 2017 in Los Angeles

After a lot of skiing this winter, we decided to road trip to Los Angeles for spring break. The main motivation was because Grace was convinced her mom was turning 75 and wanted to have a surprise party for her. Then Addy and Charles changed their plans to meet us in LA, and Dave came down, too.

We drove down on Saturday and stayed in Westwood. We were going to go to Santa Monica, but decided to go to Century City for dinner instead. While there, we decided to see a movie. The nice thing about taking your kids to a 9:30pm movie is that no other parents bring their kids to a 9:30pm movie. I stayed awake for all of Boss Baby. They loved it.

When Grace was planning her mom’s dinner, she mentioned it was going to be on April 9th. Ummm, that’s our anniversary… No matter – it’s her 75th! We celebrated our anniversary at lunch instead with the kids at Bouchon. Lucas was very leery of French food, but found the donuts to his liking. We did some shopping for Grace’s mom in the afternoon.

The kids wanted to visit with Emme and Elsen before dinner even though we didn’t have much time. I took the opportunity to catch up very briefly with my long lost friend from home, Joanne, who also lives in Santa Monica. Our visit was too short, but still long overdue. So great to see her and meet her sons.

Sometime before all the family arrived at the restaurant for Grace’s mom’s surprise, we determined that it was actually her 76th birthday. Surprise! She deserved a big party anyway, so it was all good. Awesome to see all the Park cousins.

On Monday, we met up with the family at République in Los Angeles. It is a beautiful building, which used to be Charlie Chaplin’s estate. When I got there, I looked up and saw someone familiar. My instinct was to say hello and his instinct was to say hello back. It was Henry Winkler. Who is more familiar than the Fonz? That was one of the highlights of my trip year.

Grace went with her mom and sister to the spa, so I took the kids to the Grove to get out of the house (i.e., off their devices). We went to a real book store, which had real books (each kid got 2). We had more donuts, ice cream, and people-watching. Afterwards, we went to Slurpin’ Ramen Bar to celebrate Dave’s birthday a little early.

On Tuesday, we went to Universal Studios, which was the 2nd big reason for our LA spring break: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Ann and Emme joined us (Elsen had no idea what he was missing). The kids have been wanting to do this for a while and were so excited. I had no idea about the rides, but we all (adults) got so wrecked by the Forbidden Journey. I took more than one for the team and rode that one twice (worse the 2nd time because it broke down the first time and I didn’t have to suffer through Quidditch). By the time we got on the Minions ride, I learned to just keep my eyes closed the entire time. I’m still sick.

Everyone enjoyed the studio tour. Seeing animatronic Jaws made the kids feel a little better about sharks after I screened Jaws for them a few weeks ago. We were all traumatized by it when we were kids; I didn’t see why they shouldn’t be, too.

Wednesday was a very routine beach day in Manhattan Beach. By routine, I mean lunch at Rock’n Fish, beach, Starbuck’s, and the Creamery. Every. Single. Time. That evening we had dinner with Ann and Jeremy at Katsuya in Brentwood.

Thursday, we had lunch with Grace’s parents in Westwood after I upgraded them from 0 MB DSL service, which was killing me, but was the only thing instilling grit in the kids on this trip. We walked to the other end of Westwood and back and then loaded up the car to drive home.

My spring break officially started on Friday with the first round of golf in a long while with Charles and Albert in Half Moon Bay. We spend the rest of the weekend with Addy and Charles, who left early on Sunday. Our nice break ended with Easter brunch at the Crowthers’ and dinner with Jeanah and Christine at our house.

Rhonda, Ky and Malia Visit from Seattle

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Vu clan. They’ve been busy traveling the world with Malia. Ky had a conference in SF and brought the family a couple weeks ago and we’re thankful they decided to stay with us for a couple days. It’s also been a while since we’ve seen the Kellogg gang, so we had everyone over for dinner on Friday, March 31st.

Esther, Jon and Ellie were the first to arrive. Esther is a trouper as she’s about to drop anchor on baby Cho #2. Natalie hauled all the way from Marin, but the boys had fevers so they and Noah stayed home. Likewise, Amanda wasn’t well, so only Ben and Matthew were able to make it (missed you, Dora). The Rantas get the award for living the closest but seeing us the least (need to fix that). Erich, Dali, Tony and Allison rounded out the crew.

The kids had a great time with Malia and hope she and her parents come to visit again soon.

Spring Skiing in Tahoe with Kimuras and Lees

We’ve been trying to get to Tahoe with the Kimuras and Lees for a few years now. This year, we finally made it happen. We rented a great house in Northstar last weekend, which was perfect for all the families. The Lees were only planning to ski one day, and unfortunately their Olivia stubbed her toe in the morning and fractured it! Bummer.

We had some great home-cooked meals thanks to Torsten and Grace. We had some fresh snow and generally very spring-like conditions. The kids just don’t care and I was pleased they were eager to go down the hardest trail (for Northstar). Lucas might have bitten off more than he could chew, but he made it without complaint.

Next year, I think we’re going to try to go somewhere out of state. Wherever we end up, it will be fun with this crew.

Colorado Ski Trip with WB Guys

After missing our annual ski trip last year, the WB guys reconvened in Colorado last weekend. This was the first time we’ve been to Colorado together since Chris was living there a couple decades ago. We’ve been going to Utah for several years. Steve graciously hosted us in a couple of his timeshare units in Beaver Creek.

We’ve been asking Nick to join us for years and he’s always politely declined. This year, I conspired with an influential person (Melanie), who surprised him with a plane ticket to join us over his birthday weekend (surprise!). Both of us were a little worried about the fallout, but he was a good sport about it.

I think Nick’s hesitation might have come from the misunderstanding that this was a hard-core ski trip. It didn’t take him long to realize the truth about old-man skiing is that the entire trip is planned around eating. Each day, we get up later and later and go to bed earlier and earlier. The trip is measured in calories vs. vertical feet.

On Thursday night when we got in, we headed over to Vail for dinner at La Bottega. Friday, we skied over at Vail in very Spring-like conditions. Friday was also Nick’s birthday. To celebrate, we had an amazing dinner together at Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek. I’ve been wanting to go there for a while, but we were never able to get in on our family trips. Melanie very thoughtfully arranged for some champagne and appetizers and every person in the restaurant seemed to know it was Nick’s birthday. The evening (and possibly the trip) culminated when the resident musician came over with his accordion to lead a rousing “Happy Birthday” to Nick. All this was topped off with bread pudding for dessert.

One other thing that Nick and Chris might not have bargained for was the Big 10 basketball tournament. Every day, lunch was planned around catching the end of the Michigan basketball game, which really meant the 2nd half (and sometimes included half time). They were good sports and cheered along with us Wolverines as we won every game including the championship.

We all skied Beaver Creek together on Saturday, followed by dinner at Maya at the Westin where we usually stay. Nick and Herb were both leaving on Sunday morning, so the rest of us didn’t get on the mountain until close to noon. Monday was the only day we got up early. Steve, Scott and I were there as the lifts opened as Chris had to work.

Everyone really seemed to enjoy Beaver Creek, so I expect we’ll return again. There’s already talk about going back to Whistler, where this trip all began over 10 years ago. I don’t think it matters much where we go as it’s always a good time, with good food and great friends. Until next time, fellas.

Ski Week in Tahoe with Moons and Uncle Dave

The last couple of ski weeks, we went to Colorado in search of snow. However, this year’s wet weather gave us more confidence that Tahoe would work out and we got even more than we bargained for. We rented a house with the Moons in Martis Camp. Their brother, Ed, joined us and then Dave came up for the second half of the week. We ran into friends from home and school, including Mrs. Zirelli, who was both kids’ first grade teacher, and Mrs. Lawson, Olivia’s teacher this year.

We arrived on Saturday just as a storm was coming in. It started snowing and basically didn’t stop for the week we were there. The first couple days it was dumping heavy, wet snow. It cooled down after that and the snow turned light and powdery. It was the most powder I’ve skied just about anywhere. The first day was a little tough for Olivia and Lucas, but when the snow lightened up, they got the hang of it.

We skied six days straight, which is a record for us. By the end of the week, Olivia was crushing some legit black diamonds and skiing the glades. On the last couple days, Lucas also opted for some real black diamonds. He struggled a bit with a full steep mogul run, but got back on his fast groomer and skied about a third of his last run through the glades.

Grace cooked a lot during the week, so we only made it into the village on the last night. Everyone was pretty tired, but Lucas got hooked on Settlers of Catan and really wanted to play. He stayed up until 12:15am to crush me and was quite pleased with his domination (with Grace). We had a great time together with our friends and look forward to our next adventure together.

Skiing in Beaver Creek Before Christmas

Grace has pushed all in with family skiing, which is great. This year, everyone got a pass again, which finally makes sense as the kids have hustled their way out of ski school. The kids were off the entire week before Christmas so we took advantage of their time off to stop in Colorado on the way to the East Coast for the holidays.

We have things pretty dialed-in now at Beaver Creek, so we headed there again. We usually stay on California time whenever we travel and without the rush of ski school in the morning, there are no first tracks for this family. I’d say we were more than leisurely on this trip, but having passes makes it less of an issue to pack it all in every day.

On day 3, Grace gave the kids an out because she had to work in the morning and they took full advantage of it to sit in the tub for several hours watching their iPads. I took the opportunity to ski by myself and hit some terrain I had never explored before. It was very efficient. Eventually we met up for a late lunch and they rallied with all their gear. We went up the lift at the base and got on the mid-mountain lift 5 minutes before it closed to get in one run from top to bottom together.

Everyone is making great progress, especially Grace. Olivia opted to hit some black diamonds with me and was fearless. More importantly, she’s my best student and very actively does the things I ask her to do to promote good habits. Lucas is still a work in progress, but he’s not afraid of speed, which is awesome. Grace will need to keep up with him.

On day 4, we went over to Vail for a change of scenery. The snow seemed a lot better over there. Arthur was now in town and graciously invited us to park at his place which was a huge help in terms of logistics. He was deep on the other side of the mountain by the time we were heading up, but we eventually met for a late lunch. After skiing, we stopped by to say hi to Heidi, the girls, and his sister’s family.

One other nice coincidence on this trip was that my friends Judy and Danny were staying at the same resort. Grace hadn’t met them yet, but Judy and I had the honor of being maid of honor and best man in Jea and Eddie’s wedding over twenty years ago. The one and only time we had skied together was at Beaver Creek and Vail over a couple decades ago. And, Danny is Eddie’s business partner. The last time we hung out was at Ed’s surprise 40th. It was fun catching up and having the kids spend time together. Hopefully, we’ll all meet again.

Celebrating Jen’s 50th in Las Vegas

This past weekend, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Jen’s 40th in Las Vegas in … Las Vegas! A lot of the same crew was there, including Jen’s childhood friends from WB, NY friends, Chicago friends and her favorite brother. After a decade of going to Wynn/Encore, we decided to change it up and go to the Cosmopolitan.

Most people got in on Friday. We met for drinks and a snack and a short gambling sesh before dinner at Jaleo, which was a delicious Spanish tapas/paella restaurant at the Cosmo. Although she shouldn’t have, Jen treated everyone to dinner that night.

On Saturday, Grace and I met Jen for an early breakfast. A lot of the crew went on an excursion downtown to a Detroit-themed hotel and casino, called “The D.” Grace and I met up with Jea and Eddie and headed over to the Encore because we’re creatures of habit. The ladies did a little shopping while Eddie and I made the rounds to greet our casino friends.

Saturday evening, we had a super fun dinner at STK, where they were spinning some awesome 80s music. The food was awesome, Sherri finished her ribeye on the bone, and Kim sang convincingly into her wine glass. Friday was an early night for most, which could be blamed on the time change, but really it was because we got the beat down. Saturday, we got our revenge. Jen and I were up late with Grace, who hasn’t gambled in years.

On Sunday, Ray made a super effort and came in for a day trip. There was a lot of football betting and watching, which isn’t really my forté, so I stuck with what I know. Grace and I had one last nice lunch together before heading out. Some of the Chicago crew got snowed in and others were staying until Monday, so we wished them luck and went on our way.

Jen’s birthday celebration is continuing in Cabo this week. We wished we could have joined that trip, too, but Olivia and Lucas were already pissed about being left behind and our party pass expired.

Happy Birthday, Jen! We all love you so much and had a great time celebrating your big Five-O.

Annual U of M Holiday Dinner in SF

Posse got the ball rolling on our annual holiday party with the Michigan crew. Morgan and Greg graciously invited everyone over to their house in the city. Posse, being the planner, arranged high-class transportation for all the Peninsula couples.

We met at Tam and Ben’s for a little pre-party while the Menlo Park crew we’re on their way north. Our little party bus was beyond expectations, replete with diamond-quilted seating, which is a far-off dream of mine. Now I want one.

We arrived at Morgan and Greg gorgeous home in San Francisco and rolled right into cocktail hour(s). Our holiday parties have alternated between homes and restaurants over the years. One really nice thing about this year was the chance to meaningfully connect with old friends. All of dinner was delicious, but the standout effort was Morgan having the caterer recreate their take on the Pizza House Chipati. It was a stroke of genius.

The highlight of every party is our gift exchange. This year was a little less contentious only because the early pickers had some unfortunate choices that did not warrant a steal. As always, hilarity ensued. Unexpectedly, the gift exchange paused when Guns ‘n Roses came on. Grace and I always get shit for going home with our own presents, but when you buy awesome presents, that’s what happens. Our hostess was only getting started just as the Ubers were summoned to take us back to the suburbs.

Thanks, Posse, for making all the arrangements. Thanks, Thornes, for hosting us all. Thanks, crew, for decades of friendships and laughter. Happy Holidays to all!