Friday, August 28, 2009

Vacay 2009: Newport

Earlier in the year, Ryan won the Manager of the Year award at his site. Along with a nice little plaque and the admiration of family, friends, and coworkers; he won a week stay anywhere we wanted. I wanted Hawaii. Our finances dictated that six airline tickets would mean that we would be eating Top Ramen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next six months. I tried and tried and cried and cried and pleaded. Nope. Ryan is obviously the more financially cautious in this relationship.

So where could we go that is totally cool AND drivable? Hel----lo, Newport.

We made all our plans including activities and menus. The Marriott Vacation Clubs have kitchens so we were committed to eating in for breakfast and lunch each day. We contacted friends and family and put together a loose schedule. Ryan's brother Matt and his family decided it would be fun to come out for a couple days to join us.

We arrived on Friday afternoon with a car loaded with food, luggage and fun. We stopped at Costco and literally piled our purchases on top of laps and all around us. Ryan was the only one immune to this, because he was driving.

We had a perfect place for our group. The little kids' park was right outside our door, the MAZE (which is the fun activity center) was one building away, the pool was just past that and up the stairs. On the other side, just up some stairs was the sports' park and fire pit. Since this was our first time spending the whole week there, it was nice to be at a place so centrally located so we could take advantage of all the great facilities and programs and activities.

We got all settled in, went for a swim, and checked out everything. We started to make dinner (tacos & quesadillas) and it was ready just as Matt & Meagan & Stirling & Gwenyth pulled in. We helped get them settled. Then it got fun playing with the cousins. Off to bed and get ready for the next day.

The next day we started with a little breakfast and then we were off to the beach. We ventured to Crystal Cove which is a little secluded little section of beach. It is usually not too crowded and has good beach access and a little tide pool action. We rented some sand toys, a chair, and headed out. The water was warm enough (we ARE talking about Southern Cali beaches) and the girls got in a little body surfing. Maya and Monterey built sandcastles, which Sterling had fun knocking down. It was Sterling's first time to the beach (at least really going in the waves) and he loved it. Maya still has not been converted to how fun sand and surf is ... she hates it. We forced her out thinking that if she experienced it, she would love it. She freaked out at the seaweed as it gathered around her ankles. Ryan and I told her she had to stay out with us until she loved it. She immediately proclaimed that she loved it. The little liar. Smart, but nonetheless, a liar. Life is difficult when everyone loves the beach and you have one in the family who just hates it. Oh well, there are worse trials in life.

After the beach, we went back for sandwiches and then met up with Ryan's Uncle Jack and his two sons Jake and Luke. We had lots of fun in the pool. Afterwards Jack took us all to a great little Mexican restaurant - El Ranchito. They are all over the OC, but each one is run by a different member of the family. This one had incredible guacamole. I like to eat guacamole that is for avocado lovers. (Sometimes there are so many other ingredients and flavors that the avocado is simply the binding agent. Avocado is such a subtle flavor that you really need to be careful how much of the other stuff you add. I am a purist and do not even add lime or lemon juice to mine. It saves the color, but destroys the flavor.) This was really awesome guacamole.

The next day was Sunday and after a dinner of Tri-Tip (have you tried Costco's? It is to die for) and PGA Tournament watching, Matt and his group left and our stuff exploded all over the entire suite.

We did a lot of the MAZE Activities. Here is a list:
Sunset Serenades - we loved the live music poolside.
Princess Tea Party
Poolside Tie-Dye
Natural Bracelet
Iron Chef competition - the secret ingredient was chipotle chilies. We won best tasting, but it wasn't pretty enough. Our entry was Chipotle Chilaquiles.
Snow Cones
The Amazing Race - we finished third. (And no, there were not three participants.)
Jellybean Taste-Off

The MAZE crew gave us the name of "The Fun Family" whenever they saw us.

More beach action.

Lots of Pool action.

Some nice naps with the sliding doors open and cool ocean breezes blowing and waves crashing in the background.

A few secret poolside smoothies (Ryan will only find out if he actually reads this. It is a test. They were hidden deep in the overall bill. Sorry babe.)

A couple of nights on the town.

Shopping. We got a lot of the school stuff checked off thanks to Nordstrom Rack.

A Dodger Game (that was for me. It was a blast. The girls are totally re-converted to the Dodgers and Dodger Stadium. I am so relieved. And Dodger Dogs ARE so much better than the other parks.)

The Beachcomber for breakfast - a Newport tradition; with friends Anthony and Kim and buddies and babies.

Temperatures between 70 and 78 degrees the entire time: morning, noon, and night.

Three visits to Sprinkles.


I finally finished "The Count of Monte Cristo."

Cabazon on the way home. We checked off several more school shopping items. Ryan was just loving waiting for us as we purchased our feminine unmentionables.

The house was a toasty 96 degrees.

Welcome home baby.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vacay 2009: Monterey

From San Francisco, we headed south to Monterey.

Ryan and I disagree on many things: I like Thai food, he hates it. I like NYC thin crust, he likes Chicago thick. He likes mustard on hamburgers, I don't (that one has a story attached to it that I will share another time.) He likes hot, hot, hot and hates the cold. I love soup weather, Santa Barbara, Hawaii: 72 degrees all the time and I can tolerate the cold much better than heat. He loves a good spa, I love a good opera. One thing we absolutely agree on: Monterey. On our two separate lists of where we would want to live: Monterey is number one for both of us. (We do agree on many other things - important things - other than that, by the way.)

We got engaged in Monterey, vacation in Monterey, celebrated our anniversary last year, and even named our youngest daughter after our beloved little city. We have our dream house picked out. We love the scenery and the weather. It has beach and mountains and trees - gorgeous trees. It has water and golf and green. It has seventeen-mile drive - one of the most scenic drives in America. It has great communities all around - rich in history, culture, entertainment. Anyway, the point I am trying to make, and probably overstated by now, is that we love it. Last year when we were here for our anniversary, we decided we had to bring the girls back for our vacation this year.

We spent lots of time at the aquarium - two days.

They took out the jelly fish exhibit (so sad, I loved it) but they have a knew seahorse one (so happy, I loved it.) I always thought that seahorses were really tiny, like under an inch. Turns out that there are super tiny ones and larger ones, some that we saw were maybe five or six inches tall. They still are not as big as I wanted: I always wanted to ride one like Aquaman did. We learned a lot about them. We spent most of our first day with the seahorses. I loved watching their fins propel them around the water similar to a hummingbird. I loved seeing how their tails would wrap around the plant life to stabilize their body so they could eat. I love how the female deposits the eggs in the male and he is pregnant and gets to deliver the babies. Of course producing eggs is a full time job for the female and her eggs account for one-third of her body weight before she either releases her eggs into the male or dumps them on the sea floor (kind of like a period?) anyway, I don't think having your weight go from, like, 100 lbs to 150 lbs every month before your period would be fun either. Talk about your "fat clothes." Enough of the science lesson.

Everyone loved the aquarium. They do such a good job with all their exhibits and have so much for young children. The little ones always had something to do or make or climb on or slide down or touch. Maya got a beautiful stuffed-animal seahorse, pink, of course. Monterey picked a cute sea otter with a matching purse ( she named it Bella, after Bella Valdez, not Twilight.) McKayla and Madison both got shirts. Yes, the gift shop was one of our favorite parts.

We went to Seventeen-Mile Drive. This is truly a sacred place .... for Ryan. It is home to some of the best golf in the world. It is sacred to me too: the scenery and greenery are some of God's most beautiful creations. We visit Pebble Beach and every time we are in awe of such beauty.

We drove through all the beautiful sights and homes and beachfront and trees.

We went to Spanish Bay to enjoy a little peaceful evening. We all sat around the fire pits and had some beverages. Maya and I had hot chocolates. We ordered some appetizers from Roy's: calamari, lobster potstickers, and ahi sushi rolls. As we enjoyed our treats and beverages we listened to the soft rolling waves, the crackling of the fire and silence. Soon, just over the hills, we heard the bagpiper. He is the symbol of Spanish Bay. He walks up from the beach to the clubhouse every evening just before sunset. By the time he gets to us, it is quite thrilling. It is seriously one of the most relaxing and neatest thing to do. Ryan and I had done it before, but we wanted to share it with our girls.

The whole time we were in Monterey, our Monterey walked around like she was the queen of the city. And, of course, we did not try to convince her it wasn't true. Every time she saw her name she got all excited. Even in Jamba Juice, she felt like everyone was there just to honor her. We had to buy lots of things with her name: jackets, key chains, mugs ... you know, the standard touristy stuff. But for us it was a little different. We were not just buying stuff to help us remember the beautiful city, but to stock up on stuff that Monterey usually cannot find with her name on it.

We went to Carmel-by-the-Sea. This is one of my favorite beaches, definitely in my top five (hmmm ... Waimea in Oahu, Kenting in Taiwan, that beach by the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas) yes, definitely in my top five. I love the sand: pure white powder. No rocks or shells pieces. I love the cypress trees. The rough waves. The wind. The views. I love it.

We left Monterey and drove to Solvang. We ate pea soup at Andersons'. We had aebleskivers for breakfast. We purchased our pastries from our favorite bakery. We swam. The older girls and I went to see Harry Potter 6.

From there we drove home. But not until we stopped for lunch at the State Historic Landmark: Bob's Big Boy. There are other Bob's around. This one is the original and is always packed with the die-hard fans. People who eat here grew up on Bob's and love it. Because of its location in Toluca Lake, it attracts many people in the industry. It is rare that you go for lunch during the week and do not see someone famous. We came, we saw, we feasted.

We returned to hundred and teens (that is 110-119 degrees for people who are not used to it.) It is such a treat for us to get to wear sweatshirts in July. Ryan had turned off the air conditioning and all my chocolate chips were destroyed. Someday ... someday ... Monterey.