Ireland, You Were Grand

October 21, 2015

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we had just gotten back from vacation. It was wonderful. Bill and I have talked about going to Ireland for years, and we decided to do it. Life is short so let’s make some memories. We went for 9 days, traveling around the southern part of the country. We really could have used one more day to have made it absolutely perfect, but now we know better for planning future trips.

We flew into Dublin on Saturday and had a day and a half to explore the city. Saturday, we explored by foot and on Sunday we took one of the Hop On, Hop Off buses. We got a lot of information from the guides, and got to get off and explore for as long as we wanted. A new bus came by every ten minutes which made it very convenient. One of those stops was at the Guinness Storehouse, the high point of the day for Bill.


Monday we picked up our car and started our drive to Killarney. It was our longest drive of the trip at 4.5 hours, but we stopped for lunch, stopped at Lough Gur, had a potty break so that meant we got to Kilkenny just in time for dinner. We stayed at a B&B about a kilometer from town and we were able to walk to dinner every night. I think you can enjoy your pint of Guinness (or cider, in my case) a bit more when you don’t have to worry about getting behind the wheel. Woodlawn House was our home base for three nights. The next day we drove the Dingle Peninsula. It was a glorious sunny day and the scenery was spectacular. We were essentially cone from 9:30 to 5:30 and most of that time was spent in the car. We stopped at Inch Beach and ran and played in the sand. Our next big stop was the town of Dingle. We walked through town, and then picked up some groceries at the supermarket and had a delightful picnic. We bought a loaf of french bread, some pesto and Irish cheddar cheese and found a pretty spot by the harbor to sit. It was delicious.  We walked around some more and then got back in the car. We made a bunch of stops at scenic pullouts and cut across the mountains to head back to Kilkenny.  It was a shortcut but I think it may have taken a few months off of Bill’s life expectancy as there were some super narrow, curvy roads where you were praying there were no oncoming cars.



Wednesday was our day to drive the Ring of Kerry. Another day in the car. Ugh. It was tough for all of us and this is where we really needed another day. One where we went for a hike, found a park and limited our time in the vehicle. But it was our last day in Kilkenny and we couldn’t miss the Ring of Kerry. In hindsight, I think we could have. It was pretty, but not our most fun day.



Thursday we departed for Cork. We had a 90 minute drive to Blarney Castle which is just outside of Cork. It was beautiful! It’s probably one of the most visited castles in Ireland, but for good reason. Aside from the Blarney stone, the gardens and grounds are lovely. We walked and explored and were there for over 2 hours. By the time we checked into our hotel around 5:30, we were too tired to find a pub for dinner so we ate in the hotel. Then we explored a little. It was dusk so we didn’t go too far, but walked to a church that didn’t look to far away. It was closed by we enjoyed the opportunity to stretch our legs.



The next morning we walked to the English Market to check it out and get our breakfast. There was a park across the street where we had a picnic, a “proper picnic” at that as we were told by a local who walked past us. We ended up walking back to the church from the previous night and this time it was open so we paid to go inside. It was beautiful. Joshua enjoyed the stained glass very much. We saw very little of Cork, which was ok with us. We were anxious to get to our next B&B in Kilkenny. First we had to stop at the home of Hedgehog Fibers, a hand dyed yarn and fiber studio in Cork. They gave us a tour and we saw the behind the scenes stuff. This was a highlight for me, and of course I left with some new acquisitions. They were lovely people and if you’re ever in the neighborhood, I recommend you pop in for a visit.



It was about 2 hours to Lawcus Farm Guest House, which was about 25 minutes outside of Kilkenny town. It was off the beaten path, and gorgeous. We arrived around 3 and settled into our room and then explored the priory which was a kilometer from the B&B. It was a pretty walk to the ruins and around some other local sights. Then we drove to Kilkenny for dinner. We didn’t explore the town except to find the pub that had been recommended for dinner.  Then it was back to the B&B for the night.



Saturday we had a wonderful breakfast. The kitchen was open to the dining room, and we were able to chat with the owner and 3 other guests while breakfast was made and eaten. It felt like we were having breakfast with family. The we were given a tour of the main house and the grounds, and Joshua got to help collect the eggs from the chickens. In the afternoon, we drove down to Hook Lighthouse, the oldest operating lighthouse in the world. It is 800 years old. We had a pleasant hour drive back to the B&B and we ate dinner at the pub in town.



And alas, the next day was Sunday and we were up early for breakfast and to head to the airport. So that’s our trip in a nutshell. It might not seem like it, but it was very chill. There were a few things we really wanted to do/see (Guinness Storehouse, Dingle Peninsula, Ring of Kerry, Blarney Castle, Hedgehog Fibers) but most of the trip we stopped for hot chocolate or lunch or photos when we felt like it, and went where the wind blew us. We had never heard of the lighthouse until it was recommended by the folks at Lawcus Farm Guesthouse and it ended up being a highlight of the trip. I’ve glossed over how friendly and nice the people were, and how beautiful a country it is, how delicious the food, how amazing the cheese… We’re already talking about going back. It was a really wonderful family vacation and we did make some wonderful memories together.


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Southern Comfort

July 12, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, we took a trip to South Carolina for a vacation and a friend’s wedding.  There is nothing like southern hospitality.  We spent two days in Charleston doing some sight-seeing.  Lots of walking.  The homes (mansions) are beautiful with their gardens and piazzas and gas lamps.  Being in the city made me think of Gone With The Wind, Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, hoop skirts, the Virginia Reel.  That is one of my all-time favorite books.  I recently read “Rhett Butler’s People” and I think he was from Charleston.  We toured the Calhoun Mansion where some of North and South was filmed (another of my favorite books).  The man who owns the house now is a collector (of everything) so you get lots of information on the history of the house and a lesson in world art and antiquities.  My in-laws drove down from Philly to join us too and when we met up with them we took a horse drawn carriage tour.  The city is divided into three zones and the zone you tour is decided randomly when you begin your tour (ball from a hat essentially).  It’s a system that keeps the residents happy because no zone gets overloaded.  We got to see zone 3 which worked out well for us because it was a part of the city we hadn’t seen at all.  The carriage ride was a nice way to see the city and get some background (and some shade and a break for our feet).







From Charleston we drove down to Kiawah Island for the wedding festivities.  There were activities for us from Thursday night – Sunday morning, with free time during the day.  We took advantage of the pool at the bride’s parent’s house to take Joshua swimming for the first time.  We also got some beach time.  There was plenty of time for me to walk.  And Bill’s parents babysat while we went to wedding stuff (a welcome cocktail part, rehearsal dinner, the wedding and reception).  My FIL also drove us everywhere so we didn’t have to work about drinking and driving.  That was awesome.  It was a beautiful island but a little more “dangerous” than I like my beach vacations.  Tons of deer which made me very nervous when in the car at night, and then there were alligators!  You don’t have to worry about alligators in Ocean City!







It was a lovely wedding.  It was held at The Ocean Course Golf Club (practically on the 18th hole).  With the sand and the water in the background it was just lovely.  It was so wonderful to see our friend so happy with his new wife.  We had an awesome evening of eating and dancing.  The food the whole weekend was Fantastic (yes, with a capital F!) and I have had a taste for shrimp and grits ever since we got back.  We just had so much fun with college friends we haven’t seen in years, with Bill’s parents, with our little guy.  My only complaint is that it just flew by.

After brunch on Sunday morning we took a ferry out to Fort Sumter.  It was Joshua’s first national park!!  It’s an interesting bit of our nation’s history, and smaller than I thought it would be.  Bill’s parent’s headed home after that and we took it easy that evening.



Monday morning we took a tour of Magnolia Plantation.  It’s sad that so few plantations survived the civil war.  The house on this property is not the original house, but the grounds are amazing and we got some insight into the lifestyle.






It was interesting that the beautiful tree-lined road leading up to the house went to the back of the house.  Most visitors would arrive by boat so the front of the house faced the river.


We toured by tram which was great because we didn’t have much time and it was raining.  After that we walked through the garden which was lovely, but mosquito filled.  And we didn’t have bug spray.  I was most concerned for the baby who I didn’t want to get bitten and thankfully he didn’t.  I don’t know how he didn’t, but I think I kept all the mosquitos busy.  The gardens were amazing (and big).

It was a really wonderful vacation.  I really like the South and need to do more touring there.

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All Is Well In The Windy City

May 30, 2012

We just got back from almost a week in Chicago.  It was fantastic and super busy!  We arrived on Thursday night and of course the first thing we did was have pizza!  Thin crust, sausage…oh so good.

Friday I woke up early and my dad and I went for a walk.  There are some great walking paths near his house in Mundelein.  Then I picked up my Grandma in the city, headed back to my dad’s and the five of us went north to visit my great aunt (Grandma’s sister).  I haven’t seen my great aunt in a long time and she’s having some health issues, but we were able to introduce her to Joshua who was a smiley, happy little guy.  We had a nice visit and I’m glad we were able to bring my Grandma who has only been able to visit her sister one other time in the last six months or so.  They used to live in the same housing complex so this new arrangement is a big adjustment.  On our way home we made a stop at the Brat Stop and had…bratwurst.   We drove back to my dad’s and hung out for a little while, then my dad dropped me off for a mani/pedi and he took my Grandma home.  It was such a treat to be pampered at Mario Tricoci, especially after having spent about 4 1/2 hours in the car.  (Here’s Joshua with his great grandma.)

joshua and his great grandma

Saturday we took it easy.    We took our time getting up, having breakfast.  I took Joshua for a walk and stopped by to visit with one of my aunts and uncles who live nearby.  We did some grocery shopping and then went for a walk at a nearby park.  It’s a beautiful space and the weather was perfect.

a family walk

Sunday morning Dad and I were up early to walk again.  Then we all got ready and headed to my Aunt Joanne’s for a family get-together.  Joshua got to meet almost all of my dad’s side of the family, including my almost 99 year old great aunt (my Grandma’s other sister).  We had such a nice time visiting and telling stories.  Joshua was an angel and sat in the middle of everyone and blew raspberries for almost 45 minutes.  Then he teased everyone with almost rolling over.   It was a really nice day.  (Here is Joshua with my aunts Judi, Carol, and Joanne  who is mid-story.)

Joshua with his aunts

Monday was Memorial Day and our trip to Wrigley Field with 4 generations of Young-Napiers.  It was pretty special.  The weather was hot but not humid and we were in the shade.  The Cubs had lost 12 in a row but we saw an offensive explosion and the Cubs broke their losing streak!  It was nice to see Wrigley decked out for Memorial Day, and they had Challenger the Eagle fly in during the national anthem.    Joshua was so well behaved at the game and a big hit with the people sitting around us.  We celebrated the win with stuffed pizza at Connie’s and then headed home to crash.  Another great day.

great grandma, grampy and joshua

4 generations

joshua is wiped out after a cubs win

Tuesday was our day of rest.  We relaxed and took it easy in the morning.  Dad and I walked again while Bill and Joshua took a nap (an arrangement that made everyone happy).  We watched the Cubs on tv (another win!) and then had a delicious meal at Bob Chinn’s.  A perfect way to end our vacation.

I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.


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I Do Not Miss Humidity

May 25, 2010


I just got back from a trip to Maryland and Virginia.  I spent a half day in DC, but that doesn’t really count although I did eat a meal there.  It was a trip to visit friends.  I can’t believe that it’s been a year since I moved away.  It was great to go back.  I do miss Maryland a little bit.  Mostly the people, but it is a beautiful state and we weren’t actively trying to leave the area, but when your husband gets a job at Google, you don’t have a choice.  Not much had changed; it was beautiful and green and lush.  And humid.

It was a relaxing, low-key trip.  The nice thing about having lived there is that I don’t feel compelled to do the touristy stuff.  Been to the Washington Monument, done the Lincoln Memorial.  I was able to relax and visit and hang out with friends.  I stayed with my friend Suzie, who just finished renovating her husband’s house.  It was beautiful!  It was a year-long project and my visit spurred them on to finish.  It was the motivation they needed to get it done and they did a fantastic job.  I helped her pick out flowers and plants for the front porch, we saw Just Wright (love Queen Latifah!), tried the local coffee place, rented An Education (interesting), cooked out, ate lunch with our old coworkers, shopped for shoes, watched Grey’s (wow!) and hung out.  I was also able to meet up with a friend in Silver Spring, and we tried out a new restaurant and visited.

After three days in Maryland, I metroed to DC and had lunch with another friend.  I just found out she’s pregnant with twins so we had a lot of catching up to do!  We ate at my favorite Chinese place, Mei Wah.  Yummm…  After that I met up with my dear friend, Claudia, and we headed to her place in Virginia.

Claudia had recently moved and it was fun to see her new place and give my (solicited) opinion on the decor and accessories.  We are soul sisters and had so much fun going over projects, and looking at her stash of material, and talking over things we want to do.  We keep in touch rather obsessively over email so we know what’s going on with each other, but there was tons of show and tell.  We went to most of my favorite places for meals, including Five Guys for the most delicious and juicy cheeseburger.  Yummmm…  And we had quite a few salte±as which are  Bolivian empanadas/pot pies.  More deliciousness!!  I even brought back 16 frozen salte±as to share with Bill.  Claudia was a good sport and let me watch my beloved Blackhawks who are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals!!!!!  We did girly stuff like getting our eyebrows done, and I went to my favorite bead store (Accent Beads), we met the girls for brunch, and the only disappointment of the weekend was our inability to find fabric for throw pillows for her couch. came to our rescue.  And we argued over the humidity.  She loves it, and I do not.  It makes for slightly curly, frizzy hair and a very shiny Margaret.  I have become spoiled during my year in California.

It was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but also a little easier this time because a year had passed and we were still in touch, still friends and there wasn’t the fear that it would be a final goodbye.

This trip also reaffirmed my love for my Kindle.  My flight out east was delayed by 90 minutes (and I was already at the gate 90 minutes before my flight).  I was ready to start a new book and it was so fantastic to have 73 options at my fingertips, not including the Kindle Store.  At that moment, I was in the mood for something on the lighter side, and who’s to say that’s what I would have packed had I had to choose only two actual books to bring on the trip.  Kindle, I heart you.

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So Sleepy…

May 10, 2010

I just returned from a ten day vacation.  You might think I am recharged and refreshed but I am exhausted.  Bill is happy to be returning to work so he can rest.  We had a fantastic trip, it was just wasn’t as relaxing as we thought it might be.


The reason for the trip was my Mom’s 60th birthday.  (Does my mom look 60?  She’s second from the right.)  Her husband took the family (eight of us total) on a Caribbean cruise.  Bill and I also took an extra day at the beginning and end of the trip to visit Bill’s family in Miami.  It was great to reconnect with family, especially because it’s been years since we’ve seen them (both Bill’s family and my family).


We had so much fun which is why I’m so tired.  We met almost every morning for breakfast, except for one because Bill and I had an early excursion.  Bill and I would get up early to get a little exercise before our morning meal.  We were busy during the days, especially in port either hitting the beach or doing an excursion.  On the days at sea we found comfortable chairs in the shade to sit and read and chat.  We ate dinner together every night, usually meeting for a pre-dinner cocktail, went to most of the shows, and usually hung out afterwards.   Bill and I didn’t stay up terribly late except for maybe two nights, but the constant activity throughout the day tired us out.  There was a lot to do on the ship, including a water slide.  They also had games.  Mom and I played The Match Game where couples are asked a question and you are trying to come up with the same answer as your partner.  Mom and I won and were given medals!


We stopped at four ports: Grand Cayman, Carnival’s private beach in Honduras, Belize and Cozumel.  The eight of us hit the beach in Grand Cayman and Honduras, and Bill and I went cave tubing in Belize and to Tulum in Mexico.  The beach in Grand Cayman was my favorite.  I think because it was the first stop, our first visit to a gorgeous beach, and we weren’t tired yet.  Cave tubing was interesting.  Basically we sat on inner tubes in a river that ran through caves were Mayan’s made sacrifices.  I’m glad I did it, but don’t see myself doing it again.  Tulum was beautiful, but a two and a half hour trip (one way) for a two hour visit to the site.  And it was HOT.  And HUMID.  If I look unhappy, it is because I am HOT.


The Mayans did do some pretty amazing things and the site was impressive.  The view was incredible, right off the most blue water.  It was just a long boat and bus ride and I generally like to spend more time at the site than it takes to get there.  Although it was hot and Bill and I felt we saw everything we wanted to see.  If we had more time, we would have gone to the beach, but we decided to have lunch instead.


We were on a Carnival ship, which I liked.  The focus is on having fun and I like that all age groups are represented.  The food was delicious, although we agreed that the sit down meals were better than the buffet food (although the buffet food was very good).  Carnival is known for making towel animals and I had my picture taken with our animal every day.  Our room steward even let us keep some of our animals.


The rooms are a nice size.  We had an ocean view room on the first deck, and had a lot of space for two people and three towel animals.  The service on board ship was excellent and you are really spoiled.  It is a bit of a shock to my system to be home and having to cook and clean myself.  I guess that is a small price to pay to sleep in my own bed and be with my furry babies (whom I missed terribly).

Because this is supposed to be mostly a craft blog, I will finish by letting you know that I made the teal blouse in the first picture.  My mom made the skirt I am wearing.  The skirt is made of brown/bronze (depending on the light) sequined fabric that we bought in NYC.  The blouse (which looked much better before I sat it in for two hours and stood up wrinkled) is made of Robert Kaufman Radiance fabric, which is a cotton/silk blend satin fabric.  It is fabulous material.  The pattern is Simplicity 3893, though I modified it to cross over in front and I did a pleat under the bust instead of gathers.  I wish the skirt had photographed better because it is stunning, and one of the best things my mom has sewn for me.  I also made my necklace (which is hard to see).  It is a large quartz focal gem.  I’m not sure exactly what kind of quartz, but it was practically made to be worn with the skirt.  (Here’s a picture where I’m slightly less wrinkled.)


Well, I’m impressed that I have managed to stay up until 10pm as I was ready to crash five hours ago.  Sabrina is snuggled up against me as I type and as much as I hate to disturb her, she is going to have to move because I am ready to sleep.  I guess we all should be so lucky to be exhausted after a wonderful ten days with family.

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Where Are My Pants?

April 19, 2010

I hope you all had a lovely weekend.  Bill and I went camping at Pinnacles National Monument.  It’s our second visit to this park, and it was a tad bit more pleasant in April than in August.  Being twenty-five degrees cooler can make life more comfortable. Also, the park was in bloom and lush from all the winter and early spring rain.  And there were frogs!  Lots of ribbiting going on.


This was definitely the best camping trip that Bill and I have taken.  It was my ideal version of how camping should be.  Lots of noise, but good noise. People having fun and laughing, children playing, frogs ribbiting, occasional yells of excitement or trying to get someone’s attention, the subtle hum of miscellaneous conversations, fires crackling, birds chirping, guitars being strummed. And most importantly, no radios.  I can tolerate almost any other noise in the outdoors except for a radio, even if it’s my kind of music.


We bought a new tent for this trip. We call it the Taj. It is huge. In fact, we can fit our old tent inside the new tent with lots of room to spare.  Actually, our air mattress doesn’t even fit inside our old tent. Well, it might but you’d have to put it in the tent uninflated  and then once it was inflated, you’d be about a foot from the top of the tent. The photo above is my favorite from the weekend, and it shows how dorky we are. That’s us in our old tent on top of our air mattress inside the new tent.


It was a relatively quiet and relaxing weekend.  We set up camp on Friday, made dinner, and went to bed. Boy did I sleep well, especially with a decent air mattress. The temperature did drop at night and at one point I woke up and my face was freezing!  So I flipped my sleeping back around so that my hood covered my face.  Problem solved.  It also made it very dark and I slept soundly until 8am.


Saturday, we hiked.  We almost didn’t hike as I started to pull out my clothes and realized that I never packed my pants.  I had the pants I wore the day before and my jeans.  Ack!  There are definitely worse things I could have forgotten, and it wasn’t a big deal, just about five seconds of panic.  After breakfast, we started on our  relaxing 8.9 mile jaunt, with a 1200 foot elevation gain in the first three miles.  It kicked my butt, but it was fun.  The view was beautiful and it was nice to see a lot of green and to admire the different wildflowers.  We took our time, tried to have fun and ignore the profuse amounts of sweat, heavy breathing, burning legs and unrelenting sun.  We had a nice break for lunch around the five mile mark and gave our legs a much needed rest. Then we continued on to the caves where the “excitement” began.


We’ve done the caves before, but it was more treacherous in the spring.  There’s water running in all the springs, and there’s a spring that runs through the caves.  Water tends to make rocks slippery.  Very slippery.  I took those sections on my butt and it still required a lot of concentration.  We were almost out of the caves when we heard this horrible crashing noise.  At the time, we didn’t realize what it was, until we saw the man sliding down the rocks.  He was able to stop himself so that Bill didn’t have to break his fall, but the man was in a lot of pain.  I’ve always wondered how I would react under pressure, and I’m pleased to report that both Bill and I were calm and efficient.  I have carried around first aid supplies for the three years I’ve been hiking and until now, I have never needed them.  We were able to give him a cold compress, clean his wounds, apply antiseptic, give him some ibuprofen, keep him company, and help him out of the cave.  It wasn’t the best first aid as there were a lot of things I didn’t do that I probably should have done, but he was ambulatory and most of his wounds appeared to be superficial. Our other “issue” was that there was no cell service, we were at least 1.5 miles from the ranger station, and his car and friends were in the opposite direction of our car.  I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him to walk back by himself, but I wasn’t sure that we could add an extra three miles to our hike.  At the trailhead where we would have parted ways, we tried to find some people that were heading back in his direction so they could keep an eye on him, but no such luck.  I was concerned about him going into shock or getting disoriented, even though the man thought he would be okay, but he was in pain.  We decided that I would wait at the trailhead with our packs, and Bill would start back with the wounded hiker and hopefully, we could find someone to take over for Bill.  If not, Bill felt confident that without his pack, he could make it all the way to the ranger station and back and still be able to make it back to our car.  My first thought  was “Damn, why did I leave my book in the tent.” As it turns out, Bill was back in twenty minutes after they had been overtaken by another couple who agreed to help. I’m sure there are plenty of things we could have or should have done differently, but I think we provided that man with some comfort in a scary situation.


I wish I could say the rest of the trip was uneventful.  The remainder of our hike was, except for the five itty bitty snakes we saw.  The rest of the excitement came the following morning when we went to start the car and the battery was dead.  We should have realized the potential for a problem when Bill had trouble starting the car after our hike, but we were too tired to notice.  With all the opening and closing and in and out of the car that evening, that was all it took. We had been planning on another hike before heading home, but those plans changed. Thankfully, a family across from us had jumper cables and was able to help us out.  How quickly the tables can turn, from helping to needing help.


While more “exciting” than we expected, it was a beautiful weekend.

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Viva Las Vegas

October 5, 2009

So guess where I??ve been? We drove to Vegas on Friday with my inlaws and flew back to California today. So much fun! Bill and I aren??t big gamblers, and we aren??t big show people either. But we do enjoy relaxing by the pool, penny and nickel slots, nickel video poker, and amazing buffets. We stayed at the Stratosphere hotel which was very nice. They have an amazing view of the strip from their tower. And crazy rides up there. For insane people.

The drive took us about 9 hours. I made some very good progress on Tessa. Saturday we rented a cabana for ultra white boy, I mean my husband. Bill parents got to enjoy partial shade and the Penn State game while Bill enjoyed full shade and his kindle. We had a nice dinner with his parents, dropped them at their show, and Bill and I headed to the Wynn. I love the Wynn. It is by the same guy who did the Bellagio and it is beautiful. I found my favorite slot machine at the Wynn, Dean Martin??s Wild Party. Dean Martin sang to me. ??C??mon and dance with me. Go, go, go, go?? It was very entertaining. And good to me on Saturday, but not as good to me on Sunday. Bill would walk past me and hear me say ??c??mon Dean Martin.? I played lots of other machines, but Dean Martin was my favorite. I turned my $20 into $54 on Saturday. Sunday, I made a donation to the Wynn, but it took me 6 hours to do it and I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process.

Sunday we had the Champagne Brunch Buffet at the Wynn. It was Amazing. With a capital ??A.? It had traditional breakfast/brunch stuff and prime rib and brisket, and sushi, and seafood, and then Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Indian dishes. And the dessert room! A whole room of desserts! Bill eventually rolled me out of there. It was definitely a premium buffet at $40 a person (with unlimited champagne), but that was our Sunday meal and our big splurge. So worth it!!

We played more machines at the Wynn. And had some free drinks. Yup, the drink ladies walked the penny slot areas. The highlight of the night was the guy who gave us a $120 slot voucher. He was having a good night and decided to share the wealth. He happened to walk past us, asked us what kind of night we were having and Bill responded with ??a good night.? They guy asked ??really good, or just okay? and Bill and answered with just okay. The guy??s response was ??here, have this? and he walked away. I asked Bill what he had been given and Bill showed me the $120 voucher. I went ??seriously?? They guy turned and came back and whispered that he was having a great night and up $64,000 and then he practically skipped away. Bill cashed out the $120 and we practically skipped away. It doesn??t hurt to be friendly.

Today was checkout day but we didn??t have to leave for the airport until 5. The weather was beautiful and we sat by the pool and read for the afternoon. It was comfortable in the sun, but a little cool so we didn??t swim. Then it was the airport and home.

As Dean Martin would sing, ??Don??t stop. Don??t stop. Just go, go, go, go, go??


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Vacation, The Dorky

September 14, 2009

Bill commented that he was taking a lot more photos of Claudia and I goofing off on this trip, and I think he was right. I think that the three of us were a lot sillier. Not sure why, not sure it matters.

One of the ways we goofed off was with my flip video camera. Last year, I had so much fun shooting little videos with our kodak camera, except that I had a great propensity to crash the camera. For Christmas, Bill bought me a flip recorder and I love it.

I made videos on all of our hikes which start “Hi, this is Margaret Napier, amateur hiker.” Or sometimes it was novice hiker. Or amateur novice hiker. I couldn’t really decide on a title.

There’s a video of me:
Almost at the top of North Dome
After finishing the North Dome hike
Almost at the top of Lembert Dome
After hiking to the top of Lembert Dome
Before hiking to Taft Point
At Taft Point

Check them out in HD, if you can. And the ones where Bill held the camera turned out better than the ones where I held the camera. I didn’t post the one where I was basically shooting my right eye because I had accidentally hit the zoom.

They are short; the longest is 52 seconds. I admit that I am a total dork. I also wish I could tell you that I was trying to be very dramatic, but it just happened. We laughed so hard after watching them. I think my “favorite” line is when I breathily say “the last bit was as hard as I thought it would be.”

There’s also a video of one of the fire fighting helicopters filling up its water tank. This one is a about 2 minutes, 20 seconds.

We had tons of fun on our trip. I’m proud of all the hiking I did. And a little less proud of my videos, but it was all about having a good time.

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Vacation, The Weird

September 2, 2009

We had a great vacation, but it was a really strange week. Looking back, it started on Saturday, August 15th when Claudia lost her wallet. Nothing like losing your credit and debit cards 4 days before leaving on vacation. Her bank told her she would get her cards the next day, so she was expecting them on Tuesday, at the latest. But they actually didn’t arrive until Thursday, after she was already in California.

The weirdness continued on Friday. When we got home from our Joann shopping spree and fun afternoon at Google, we found that my new hiking backpack, ordered from Amazon, had been stolen from my front porch. Someone opened up the box, left the box and packing materials, and took my new Camelback pack with the built in water pouch. As soon as I got in the house, I got on the phone with FedEx and Amazon. While on the phone, I had trouble getting on the internet from the desktop computers in the kitchen so I pulled out my laptop to work and talk in the living room. And then I noticed that the dog was outside and our screen door off the back patio was completely off the track. I finished up my phone call and was a little creeped out. I thought maybe Claudia had trouble with the door and was going to ask me to fix it. But that was not the case. I had left the back door open while we went out, a silly thing that I have done on several occasions. I checked the house for uninvited people and then called Bill. He asked if his laptop was still on the desk in the kitchen. It was not. And that’s when I noticed that my mac mini was pulled out a little and I remembered that I had straightened the PC monitor. Commence the freaking out. I called the police and they said they would send a car out. That was at 4:45. Of course I called my dad next. He made us realize that maybe the dog scared the crap out of the burglars. Our house is sort of L shaped with our bedroom in the top part of the L and the patio door where they entered in the bottom right part of the L. The dog tends to sleep in our bedroom and sometimes you can get to the elbow of the L (also known as the kitchen, where the laptop was) before she hears you. Bill was of the opinion that the burglars would probably not come back to a house where they knew there was a dog. I tried to do a mind meld with CJ to find out what happened, but it didn’t work. I dont’ think she was concentrating enough. It was all “where’s my treat for scaring away burglars” and not enough “let me tell you what happened”. Sabrina was useless, I don’t think she moved from the futon. I take that back, she may have yawned and stretched. We continued to get ready for vacation but I admit that I was pretty nervous that we would come home and find all our stuff gone.

The police arrived around 11:00pm. They were awesome! Very friendly, very thorough. They had little CSI kits and tried to get some fingerprints, took photos, took the info on Bill’s laptop. It was as pleasant an experience as you could expect. We think that after they took my backpack off the porch, they looked in the kitchen window and saw a laptop sitting on the desk, and tried to find a way to get in the house. Like the door I left open in the back. In looking at the positives, there was no damage done to the house because I left the door open. Maybe they would have been deterred by the locked door, maybe they would have broken it. We didn’t lose Bill’s kindle which was sitting on top of his laptop, but in a cute case (that I made) which probably made it unrecognizable. The kindle is likely worth more than his laptop. The other good news is that Amazon offered to ship my backpack to our hotel so that I had it to use on Tuesday. I am super thankful that we did not lose CJ. The fence door didn’t close all they way after the burglars made their escape and it would have been so easy for it to have blown open and for CJ to have run away.

Saturday morning, Bill was at the Home Depot buying extra security bars for our sliding glass doors and installing them before we left. (Sliding glass doors that I am super vigilant about closing and securing now). And I told one of our neighbors so that she would be on the lookout. She also knows everyone on the block so I figured she would be a good person to let others know to be careful.

The weirdness held off until Wednesday when we saw the fire. The three of us love nature and the national parks and it was really sad to see it burning. Maybe it was all the smoke, but for the last two days of our trip we were kinda blahsy. And there was the rock slide that we heard and kinda saw. They do happen, it was just an unusual experience for us.

We made it home on Friday and found that all our belongings were still in the house and the animals were fine. That night, around 11pm, we decided to check Claudia in for her flight. After a few very confusing minutes, we found that she had actually missed her flight which had been booked for that day. She was on the phone with American at 11:30 trying to figure out her options and was able to get on a flight Saturday, which was when she thought she was going home. She has no idea how that mistake was made and we were both kicking ourselves for not catching it. But she did get to stay for another two hours and we didn’t have to rush breakfast, and we even got in another trip to Joann.

So that was vacation, the weird stuff. It was more excitement than we needed, but it wasn’t anything really bad.

Tomorrow we will do Vacation, The Silly.


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Vacation, The Great

September 1, 2009

Vacation was fantastic. Every year, we take a hiking trip with our good friend, Claudia. She is my unofficially adopted Bolivian sister. A few people have thought it a little strange that our single friend would enjoy hanging out with two smug marrieds for over a week, but it??s worked out well for us. She and Bill get along, she and I get along, Bill and I usually get along. My biggest anxiety over traveling with her is that she is very fit and healthy, and I am not as much so. It leads me to worrying that I am holding her back on the hiking, but I think that??s just my issue.

Claudia kindly agreed to fly out to California from DC and spend a week at Yosemite. With my being out of work, it was great for us to be able to not have to spend money on airfare. We all saved money on not having to get a rental car and Bill and I agreed to cover all the gas and hiking beverages, snacks, and supplies. It balanced out, I think.

Claudia flew in on Thursday and we hung out. On Friday, we went to the big sale at Joann. Claudia is a great sewist and it was very fun to have a friend to fabric shop with. We saved so much money! Between the two of us, we spend $130 and saved $150 (roughly). The big savings came from patterns. We got 5 patterns for $5, and they normall cost about $15 apiece. They also had thread at 50% off, and a lot of fabrics at 50% off too. We didn??t pay full price for anything. We were having so much fun we lost track of time and almost missed out on lunch at Google.

We made lunch just in time, and it was delicious (pizza, brisket and mac and cheese and a banana cream dessert). Bill gave us a tour of the campus. We even took two bikes for a spin to get back to our car.

On Saturday we left for Yosemite. We stayed in Lee Vining for 3 nights, a town on the east side of the park. Sunday was our first day of hiking and it rained. The rain did not stop us though we weren??t thrilled about it. We hiked to Devil??s Postpile (a national monument) and to Rainbow Falls (which I have dubbed NonRainbow Falls since there wasn??t a rainbow in the rain). This area used to be part of Yosemite, but isn??t anymore. Devil??s Postpile was really cool, especially from the top where they were almost perfect hexagons. I hadn??t seen anything like it. The weather did clear up in the afternoon and it ended up being a nice day. We stopped for dinner and then went to see the Tufas (mineral formations in Mono Lake). We saw then at sunset and it was beautiful. I was obsessed with the angry clouds hanging over the mountain. We hiked 6 miles in total.

Monday was our first day in Yosemite. Our plan was to hike North Dome. We hiked about .73 miles trying to find the trailhead and ended up getting in the car and driving to a different spot where we picked up the trail right way. I noticed that we were heading downhill at the beginning of the hike and knew that was going to be extra tough on the way back. It was a beautiful hike, and we had the trail to ourselves for the most part. We got to the point we thought was North Dome and Claudia had taken off her backpack thinking it was time for lunch and then we saw we still had a half mile to go. It actually turned out to be a mile and was downhill. It took us about 40 minutes but was worth it. The view was spectacular. We sat and ate lunch. Took lots and lots of pictures. Rested. And then headed back. It was tough going. The very beginning was uphill and then was downhill for a good part until the final .7 miles which was uphill and very tough. The hike to North Dome was about 10.4 miles total, plus the .73 miles we spent looking for the trail. It was a long day on the legs and we were exhausted. That is the longest hike I??ve ever done.

Tuesday we checked out of our hotel to hike and then drive to the west side of the park where we would be spending our last three days. We did one more hike on the east side, Lembert Dome and Dog Lake. Once again, we thought that we had made it to the top of Lembert Dome only to find we still had another .5 miles, this time uphill. Steeply uphill. More like light rock climbing than hiking. I was determined to make it to the top though. I told Claudia that the last bit was hard for me on so many levels ?? mentally, physically, emotionally. My fear of heights wasn??t too bad because it was wide, but I was afraid of falling backwards and rolling off the dome. There was one part that I almost couldn??t do, but somehow I found the strength, got a handhold and made it. Claudia offered me her hand but I was afraid of pulling her off her perch and seeing her roll off the dome. Rolling off the dome was a BIG concern for me. But I made it. Bill??s vertigo kicked in and he stayed back from the final climb. After Lembert Dome, we hiked to Dog Lake. It was beautiful and we found a spot to have lunch and rest. Claudia and I put our feet in the water (brrrrrr?). It was pretty much all downhill on the way back and a pleasant day in all. This hike was a total of 6.6 miles.

Wednesday we spent our first day in Yosemite Valley. There were definitely more people and it was a little more crowded, but not too bad. We decided to do a strenuous hike of 7.4 miles and an elevation change of 2700 feet. We figured that we wouldn??t have a problem after all the other hiking we had done, and that it would be similar to a hike we did at the Grand Canyon. Ha! We definitely started strong, but it was truly a strenuous hike. It took us over 3 hours to get about 2.5 miles and 1900 feet up and I decided that I had gone far enough. I could tell I was getting tired as I made quite a few questionable foot placements and started thinking how easy it would be to break an ankle. I offered to wait for Claudia and Bill to make it to the top and back but they had enough too. We were at the perfect spot for lunch and a little rest and lots of pictures. While we were on our way up, we heard what sounded like thunder, or a low flying jet, and then a minute later saw a huge plume of dust. We figured it was a rock slide and it was as we saw on the news. Our trip downhill was very challenging. It was very rocky and required our full attention. We met up with some people with 1.2 miles left and they told us to be careful of a bear in the trail. We didn??t see the bear, which was a good thing though we were a little disappointed. It was an exhausting day, having hiked a total of 5 miles.

On the way out of the park, we saw a little light on El Capitan. It was people climbing El Cap. At night. In the dark. It was crazy. I wonder if it is less forboding at night when you can??t see how high up you are. Or how far down it is. A few miles and minutes later, we saw the fire. It was mesmerizing in the dark. The sky was orange and pink, and then we saw the flames. It would have been beautiful if we hadn??t known the devastation it was leaving. Last year, at Yellowstone, we saw an area that had been burned 30 years earlier, and it was still very obvious that there had been a forest fire. Even after 30 years.

Thursday we were heading into the park from El Portal when we came across a fire helicopter that was hovering and filling up its water tank. It was cool, but again sad because we knew what it meant. Our highlight of the day was the bear we saw! He was about 100 feet from the road, taking a walk in the woods. He looked young, maybe 1 or 2 years old. Not a cub, but not full sized. Unfortunately we didn??t get a good picture, but I have a picture in my head. We went to Wawona in the southern part of the park. We stopped at Glacier Point and had a great view of the valley. It filled up with smoke, but then cleared up 45 minutes later. While hiking, we did see two fighter jets in the sky, probably on maneuvers. Bill wondered if they were checking on the fire while they were out. We also saw other smaller airplanes dropping water and flame retardant on the fire. I think we spent more time watching fire related activities than we did hiking, but it was hard not to watch. We did a hike to Taft Point which triggered my vertigo. My stomach did somersaults the entire time we were up there. There were also these fissures, little cracks that had gotten really big and I couldn??t look at them. We did see a chipmunk who showed us his belly. I love the bellies. Before we headed back to the hotel, we stopped in Yosemite Valley to check out the Visitor Center, and we saw two fawns and a momma deer. I love the babies!! We hiked 3 miles in total.

Friday was our last day. We woke up to find ask on the car, and it was pretty smokey. The fire was about 2 miles east of us. We checked out of the hotel and drove into the park, again heading for Wawona. We stopped at a little Market and Gas Station where 9 fire fighting vehicles were stopped. Most of them were coming down from having fought the fire all night. Two were stationed there as backup. That team was from Los Banos and had gotten the call at 10pm, making it to El Portal by 3am. The helicopter was making faster rounds; it filled up 6 times while we were sitting having our bagels for breakfast. They were definitely trying to hit the fire hard. We did a short hike to Bridalveil Fall. It was very pretty and there were lots of people so we didn??t stay long. Then we got in the car and drove down to Mariposa Grove to see some Giant Sequoias. To say they were huge is an understatement. It was really amazing. They have bark that is 1 to 2 feet thick. I was a little disappointed that you couldn??t get close to them, but apparently they have fragile root systems. I do want them to be around for others to see so I got over my disappointment. And after that we got in the car and headed home. We ended up hiking about 3 miles in total.

So that was vacation, the great. We hiked almost 29 miles in the first 4 days, and then only 6 in the last two. A little unbalanced, but our feet were tired, and the smoke was bothering my asthma. We saw what we wanted to see, and left some things to see for future visits. It was really, really beautiful.

Tomorrow I will cover vacation, the weird.

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Welcome to my spot on the web where I talk about needlework, crafts, and [many] other random things.

A few tidbits about me: I met my husband in college, flirting over tuba letters in the Penn Band. Our dog, CJ, and our cat, Sabrina, round out our family. I'm a sewist, knitter and needlepointer, and an occasional scrapbooker. I love organizing, reading, making jewelry, and hiking. A Chicago girl at heart, I am an avid follower the Cubs, Bears, and Blackhawks.

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