Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
I don't know what it is with the kids and Walgreens - they love the Walgreens! And chance they get, they want to go to the Walgreens. Probably because they can get lots of goodies there - you know - gum and candy.
Scott and I ventured out on this rainy night to take the car to the shop to have some repairs done. Brian came along for the ride, just because he knew we would pass by the Walgreens. And we stopped and he bought some gum.
Ah, gotta love the Walgreens......
Sunday, November 28, 2010
The local newspaper prints submissions from readers for their Travel pages. The article I wrote on the Cinque Terre was published this morning, along with several photos from that portion of the trip.
Since I never blogged about our Cinque Terre hike between all five villages, I am including it here. With more pictures as a bonus.
Along the Ligurian coast of Italy, the Cinque Terre offers travelers a respite from the museums and historical attractions of the main cities in Italy. The Cinque Terre consists of five villages, all built into the rugged coastline. The area surrounding the villages is part of the Cinque Terre National Park. To reach the Cinque Terre, you have two main avenues – by car or by train. The train from La Spezia services all five villages and if you have a car, you can park at the La Spezia station. If you plan to drive, be prepared for steep and narrow roads as well as hairpin turns that seem to take you over a cliff. Once you reach your destination, you’ll have to park the car, as most roads are limited to pedestrian traffic.
The main attractions in the Cinque Terre include beaches, breathtaking coastal scenery, and the network of hiking trails along the coast and up through vineyards and olive groves. During our visit, we chose to hike the Blue Path, or “Sentiero Azzurro”, which allowed us to experience each of the five villages. To gain access the hiking trails you must purchase a Cinque Terre Card, available at each of the train stations in the villages. A basic day pass costs 5 Euro, and multi-day passes are available. The entire Blue Path can be traversed in one day, or in portions spread over two or more days if you prefer a more leisurely pace.
Perhaps the most famous portion of the Blue Path is called the Via Dell’Amore (Lover’s Walk) and takes you between the southernmost village, Riomaggiore, to its sister village of Manarola. Along the paved walk, locks and graffiti adorn the fence line, even the rocks. Couples write their initials on the locks, along with a date (maybe an anniversary, maybe the current date), in order to represent "locking" their love forever. This trail only takes half an hour to complete, and at the height of tourist season is extremely crowded.
Locks of Love Along the Via Dell'Amore
From Manarola, it’s a leisurely 90 minute walk along the path (portions are paved), winding you along the coastline towards Corniglia, smallest and quietest of the Five Lands. But before you think you have arrived, you must climb the Lardarina, or series of stairs, comprised of 382 steps. Alternatively you can take the bus instead of the stairs.
The Walkway to Corniglia
The Rugged Coastline
After Corniglia, the hiking trail becomes much more challenging. The trail to Vernazza takes you away from the coast and up through olive groves and vineyards. The path is un-paved, uneven and rocky and takes you up and well above the villages. Be sure to look back at Corniglia because the view back is as stunning as the view going forward. After two hours you will be rewarded as Vernazza reveals itself from behind the trees.
Looking Back at Corniglia
Overlooking Vernazza. We're Pretty Tired at This Point, but Push On towards Monterosso
The final leg between Vernazza and Monterosso will take another two hours, up and down through the lush forest and then through more vineyards. The trail includes steep stone stairs and narrow paths, but is less rocky than the previous leg. Once you reach Monterosso, you can dip your tired feet in the turquoise waters of its large, sandy beach front.
Scott and Dave Pose Among the Grapes
Our Last Look at the Hiking Path once in Monterosso. Can You Tell the Sun is Setting? I think we arrived back around 7pm. The hike took us over 8 hours!
In between each leg of the Blue Path, we took time to rest and explore each village. The villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola are a delight to wander through, with narrow, winding alleys, colorful Italian buildings and boat filled marinas. In quiet Corniglia, we enjoyed lunch at an outdoor café in the small piazza. Vernazza’s main plaza opens up to a small beach and harbor. Two towers flank the town – the clock tower of the Church of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia and the Doria Castle. Of the five villages, the northern most Monterosso Al Mare feels more resort-like and touristy. Monterosso boasts a large sandy beach and numerous modern hotels - perhaps not as quaint as the other villages, but with plenty to see and do.
The Beach in Monterosso
Rooms rates during the summer range from $100 for basic accommodations to upwards of $250 for a three star hotel. Off season rates will be lower, and the area less crowded with tourists.
With so much natural beauty, the Cinque Terre is a beautiful diversion to enjoy. Even if hiking isn’t your thing, you can still relax on the beach, eat delicious seafood, pasta and gelato – all with a beautiful view of the sea.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Tradition - to pick out our tree the day after Thanksgiving. We started this tradition eight years ago, being new to the area, just having moved into the house. So this will be the ninth time getting our tree. We go to the same tree nursery, and on the ride back home, we stress about that tree tied to the roof of the truck, fearful that it will come off. Because it nearly did eight years ago and we haven't forgotten about it - seeing the tree out the side view mirror of the truck, something one should never see.
I think the tree place changed their policies around securing the tree to the roof of vehicles, because in the past, they had always helped with the rope and the weaving of that rope through the tree trunk and branches. Not this year - they give you some twine and you are on your own. They must have had other customers experience what happened to us, eight years ago - and maybe even lost the tree to the pavement. I shudder to think about that!
But enough about tying the tree to the car - here we are with this year's tree:
And the start of the decorating:
We were so lucky to have a beautiful, sunny day today, after yesterday's rain, sleet and sprinkling of snow. But a bit on the cold side, so we only got the indoor decorations up. And unpacked some of our favorite holiday friends:
We finished up the day with a trip to the movies to catch the latest Harry Potter movie. A great post-Thanksgiving day.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
From our house to yours.
We didn't include Rascal in the picture - too much work.
And some of pictures leading up to the whole family:
On this cold, rainy Thanksgiving, we are so thankful for our friends, family, our warm home and so much more.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Yup, this morning, completely out of the blue.
Because it was 75 degF on Monday, I think we were caught off guard.
After all, I ran outside in shorts on Monday. Today, I'm bundled up in my winter coat with a hood and I was still cold.
Fortunately, the temperatures have warmed up since this morning and the sheeting of ice that covered the cars at work. But it's still cold and rainy out there, so please slow down on the roads when traveling tonight!
We love the comic strip, Pickles (does that mean we are getting old and can relate?) and I love the show, Glee, so imagine my delight when the two are paired up today.
Ah, so much fun. I wish life could be as fun as Glee sometimes, breaking out into full song, with a full orchestra accompaniment.
Monday, November 22, 2010
The first of the Holiday decorations to be displayed at our house.
I generally don't want any Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving, but Scott saw Snoopy and Charlie Brown at the Walgreens and couldn't resist. [But somehow he resists buying a Sham-Wow - go figure]
But that's it until Friday.....
Sunday, November 21, 2010
We assembled at a local restaurant - an informal gathering to celebrate Jill's birthday. Jill didn't want any gifts, but Heather couldn't resist these funky rain boots.
Too bad we didn't have them two weeks ago. Oh, except it rarely rains in Vegas. I guess that's why they are sold here instead.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
This morning's fog didn't burn off until almost noon and made for a very peaceful morning run.
I drove back to this spot, along the golf course. Much of the fog had burned off by then, but not along the water here.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Jill's kids have a great sense of adventure and humor. Example - Jill set up an Indian Village scene off her kitchen to commemorate Thanksgiving. While we were in Vegas, it appears the boys rearranged thing in the village - the animals revolted and attacked the villagers. From the raccoon to the bear - all the animals can now be found on top of a person in the village. Even the turtle was found on top of a papoose.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
It was reading night at Brian's school tonight. Several classrooms were set up with readers - teachers and athletes from the university. There was a classroom set up with fifth graders - Brian and other fifth graders signed up in shifts to read "The Ugly Duckling".
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Here are some of the ingredients for tonight's dinner - Pad Thai.
Mainly purchased at the Asian market, but I have found the Sweet chili sauce at our big grocery store. The Pad Thai Sauce is a must and is so cheap at the Asian market. And then you can pick up the rice noodle there, too.
I ended up adding a "tiny amount" of Red Curry paste. I didn't think it rendered the sauce too spicy, but my daughter, with her sensitive palate nearly revolted. I guess next time, I'll leave it out.
But tonight, no bean sprouts - the ones at the market were nasty - there was one bag left and they looked slimy. I like the crunch they add.
I'll be back to post the recipe. Gotta run for now!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
When Brian re-started TaeKwonDo classes last week, I was intrigued by another class going on on the opposite end of the TKD facility. Two of my friends, Chris and Amber, were in the class, beating up on these heavy bags. It looked like fun.
It turns out it was a Cage Fitness class and is available for people outside the TaeKwonDo program. Chris invited me to try out a class on Thursday and I signed up for a 8-week session tonight.
And after my normal morning workout of kick boxing DVD and 3+ mile run, my legs are in serious pain now. But in a good way. The bonus - I take the class while Brian is in his TKD class and I have plenty of time for extra stretching afterward (something I always seem to skip in the rush of the morning).
My intent is to take the class at least twice a week, and maybe three times.
Monday, November 15, 2010
This year’s school pictures – I am amazed how grown up they are getting. The funny fact about Brian’s picture – he is wearing the same shirt he wore last year. The difference this year – no braces! This year, Erica put a lot of thought into what she wore and how she did her hair (straightened that morning). A sign of the times…..
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
The kids have been clamoring about these “energy drinks”. I read where the younger generation prefers these beverages over coffee. So Scott bought some Monster and some Red Bull. I tried the Red Bull – it was OK.
I once tried some diet Monster and have to say, it was disgusting, so I didn't try this new Monster....
The kids were allowed to have some over the weekend - I don't think they were super-wowed about the drinks but you know how it is with these kids - if it's something new, they'll want more.
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
After a three month break, Brian is back at Tae Kwon Do. Three months away isn’t a lot of time, but the TKD academy has made many changes – the most notable being that they moved locations. They moved only two blocks from their original space, but the new facility couldn’t be more different. A ton of floor space, separate waiting area and cool punching bags that are suspended from the ceiling. Winches bring the punching bags down when in use and back up out of the way when done. It’s like starting new at a new academy. I think Brian is glad to be back kicking and punching.
Monday, November 08, 2010
It’s back home and back to reality, but the weather couldn’t be nicer – highs in the 60s today and into the 70s the rest of the week. Some trees are still holding onto their leaves – I took this picture in the park across from Erica’s school – I picked her up after she stayed afters chool to perform some community service.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
A last view from our hotel room at the Aria:
I'm Leaving Las Vegas
Lights so bright
Palm sweat, blackjack
On a Saturday night
Leaving Las Vegas
Time to get back to our normal lives.....
You can't go to Vegas with a group of people and not take a group photo.
I had the group pose outside the hotel, in front of the water wall.
And as Scott can attest, I can't just take one picture - there has to be multiple ones. That applies even if I'm not taking the picture. I asked an unsuspecting Asian man to take our picture. After he agreed, he didn't know what hit him - I looped the camera strap over his head and instructed him on how to take the shot.
"You see the rectangle in the viewfinder? I need you to place the rectangle on the man in the orange shirt.... Yup, just push that button..."
After the shutter was actuated, I said "Wait!" (Scott predicted this and muttered to our friends "look, she's going to make him take the picture again").
I had the nice man take the picture again. This was the result:
And the 2nd shot was much better than the first.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
After a full Friday, much of Saturday was spent relaxing. All the ladies indulged at the Aria Spa in the morning - I had an hour long massage, then soaked in the hot tub, then the steam room before jumping in the cold jacuzzi.
I had never experienced a cold jacuzzi - it's like an jetted ice bath! The ice cold right after a hot steam really gives you a jolt. I think my pores have never been so confused!
In the afternoon I walked South of the Aria, taking in the daytime sights:
The M&M Store
Part of NYC
Our home for the weekend - City Center and Aria
We enjoyed dinner at Sensi in the Bellagio, and took advantage of the lovely Bellagio decor, taking pictures:
I had the sea bass - prepared with Tuscan beans:
After dinner, we walked over to the Mirage and took in the Cirque Du Soleil show, Love, which features songs by the Beatles.
Lisa and Jeff managed to snap their picture in front of the Love sign, but Amy and Dan are just about to get busted by security in this picture.
The show, as expected was fabulous. I wish I could take pictures during the performance, but I understand why that isn't allowed. I was just happy they let me bring my camera into the theatre.
And some more Vegas neon from our evening:
I'm a sucker for the older establishments. A Total Classic.
Harrah's next to the Flamingo