Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Visit

With our trip to California drawing to a close, I'm sitting in our hotel room in Cambria, catching the ever fading glimpses of the ocean fade to blackness, and smiling.

It's been a great visit.

If nothing else, this trip has solidified a very solid truth for Ed and me - we are Californians at heart and, someday, we'll be back. It's not that we're unhappy in Arizona or with our choice to move there. It was the right decision at the right time and is a place we'll live comfortably for many years.

But? It doesn't have the family and beauty we feel certain we need in our life in a significant way.

It the interim, though, these family visits are the perfect way to help us appreciate the best of both worlds.

We started with a trip to my parents in Southern California, to begin the holidays. This part of the holidays is always a bit more crammed, more full of last minute shopping, and with visiting of family and friends,

with very few minutes (it seems) to spare.

But, worth every minute.

While all of it was wonderful, one of the highlights was definitely spending time with our always growing, changing and being amazing niece.

Even though we'd just seen her at Thanksgiving, it seemed like she was even more talkative, animated, and imaginative than before. Many a wonderful moment was spent singing, reading and playing with her.

Christmas itself was much like always, as our family lives by our traditions and stick pretty religiously to them every year. We shook things up a little, watching Miracle on 34th Street instead of It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve, but still stuck with Christmas morning stockings,

 yummy breakfast,

 and relaxed present opening. 

Of course, Amelia ended up with the most presents, everything from books (of course),

to play food and puzzles.

Inevitably, at the end of the night, though, she spent an hour playing with a sock monkey she already had, and the armchair covers from my parents' couch, putting her monkey to sleep again and again while singing to him, while her shiny new toys sat unused. She followed up by having Ed lie down and putting him to sleep under that same armchair cover and with the same goodnight song. So, so cute. She'll surely get lots of fun out of her new toys eventually :).

Early on the 26th, we headed off for phase two of our Christmas trip, up the central coast to Cambria, where my mother-in-law lives. We made the excellent decision, in light of a very crowded house, to rent a room at the Castle Inn, right off the beach, which made this both a vacation and a family trip.

The scenery in Cambria is really unparalleled anywhere and has to be one of my favorite parts of this state and probably the world. The match of ragged coastline with rolling hills seems to match my preferences perfectly, and looked all the sweeter when comparing them to our flat, arid desert. 

One of the highlights was definitely the hike we did up to Bishop's Peak in San Luis Obispo. While Tom and Irma decided on shopping instead, the rest of us headed out on a hike (after a morning spent opening stockings and presents). It was definitely challenging at times, so Noemi and Sabine did a short loop instead, while Keven, Ed and I headed for the top. It was so nice to be on "regular" trails again, devoid of the harsh landscape I'd been experiencing lately.  

We were reveling in the amazing views and landscape as we climbed. 

In a little less than an hour, we were standing at the top, feeling wonderful.

Of course, Ed had to get himself just a little bit higher :). 

Afterwards, we hurried down, doing some running when it wasn't too rocky (I especially loved the ending section that had these sort of speed bumps interspersed on the downhill, launching myself off each one. Apparently, Ed did the same thing. Something about California trails make me feel like a little kid when I'm running, in the best possible sense. It was just so much fun.

Afterwards, we headed into town for lunch at California Pizza Kitchen and a little shopping, and then had a low key evening.

Today, most of us started off with another walk along the boardwalk (right off of where our room is). Ed left way earlier for a 20 miler (his marathon is in less than a month!), and we actually ran into him while we were out there.

(ignore the photo quality - at least you can see the beautiful day and my lovely sister-in-law, Irma). 

Afterwards, we headed out for another wonderful California experience - wine tasting! We hit up three wineries on this quite cold December day, and had a great time. It brought back lots of memories of Italy for Ed and me with the rolling landscape. 

The best tasting room was this New Zealand inspired winery that we loved.

 Especially because of the roaring fire they had going inside. 

The final winery also served lunch, so we ate there, which was perfect and then headed back. Ed and I then spent this lovely afternoon reading, enjoying the view from our room of the ocean, and then going on one last walk along the bluffs, taking in this beautiful state. With good friends coming to visit soon and a lovely house and life to head back to, we aren't necessarily sad to be heading home, but we certainly will think back with appreciation on this beautiful and wonderful trip.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


(I meant to post this Sunday, but felt like I couldn't say anything without commenting on the pall cast over the weekend, and this week, by the horrible tragedy. But, there really isn't anything to say that can in any shape help anything, so I think I'll just leave it at that)

It's finally winter here in Arizona. Like, really, truly, justifiably winter. It rained all day yesterday - our first sustained rain since we moved. It was in the 50s, overcast, and wet. Ed and I couldn't have been happier! It's just nice to curl up in front of the fireplace, with the rain falling outside, with a nice, warm blanket. Of course, I was plenty happy to see our blue skies back today, especially since our temperature still was hanging out in the low 60s and felt very crisp. I'm looking forward to a wonderful weekend of weather.

Our work had our holiday party Friday at a local restaurant, and it was really nice to get to spend time with my coworkers in a social setting. Saturday was an all day training (my last hoop to jump through before I can get my regular teaching credential) about teaching English Language Learners. While it's wouldn't have been my choice way to spend an entire Saturday, I still appreciated being in a room with a bunch of other teachers who were in the same shoes. A number of us talked about just how different it is here than _______ state. Our instructors were very open to tangents, which was both good and bad - we spend a good 40 minutes talking about where exactly funding comes from for education in this state, and why it is that it's so low. I'll be curious to see where our next classes take us, but am appreciating this opportunity, even if it will be for 4 more Saturdays.

Today was all about shopping. Up to this point, we hadn't really started, so it was certainly busy trying to get gifts for our increasingly growing list, but it was pretty productive. This afternoon has been all cleaning, gift wrapping, and holiday card mailing (finally!), with not a piece of work in sight. I decided one day of weekend work was more than enough.

Now that  we're in the midst of the work week, I can't help but be counting down to the weekend. The kids are definitely feeling anxious for the break, too. Only 3 more days.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cars and lights

It's certainly been a tumultuous week. With my kids in the midst of testing (in a state where scores affect keeping your job) and my big evaluation, it's been stressful to say the least. Add in some very restless students ready to be on break, and you have a teacher counting down the days until December 21st.

Today was a decent day, though, despite everything. Things had the opportunity to go really badly when Ed picked me up from work (his car is still in the shop) and my car wouldn't start. A google search and a pair of jumper cables later, we made our way to a mechanic who quickly replaced our battery and sent us on our way. The thought of being without either car was pretty scary, so I'm so thankful it was an easy fix.

The rest of tonight has been really nice. I worked on our Christmas letter (yes, we're behind, but we'll hopefully send it out Saturday). We also took a long walk exploring our neighborhood and enjoying all the pretty lights.

I think I'm almost able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It sure looks nice.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Final thanks

Okay, so I know November is over, and I should be done with these, but today was a trying day. And in days like that, focusing on the good is sometimes all you can do to try to rescue the day.

So, here is what I'm thankful for.

First, I am thankful for the safety of my husband. Yesterday, Ed had a very unfortunate run in with a deer in his way to his run. It literally jumped right in front of him, giving him no time to react. His first concern was of course to the deer, whom his car had hit pretty hard. It figures that in all his years driving through redwood forests where deer abound he never had any issues, but driving through the desert this happens. He didn't think about his car until hours later (after he had told the park about the deer so the sheriff could be contacted to help the deer), which'll need a decent amount if work. And he never thought of himself. Having heard of people in similar situations who got hurt or even died in such accidents, I am so thankful that Ed is completely fine and that he handled this so well. Hopefully the Prius will recover.

I am thankful I have a job. With mostly wonderful students who are lovely and sweet and who brighten my day.

I am also thankful for holiday decorations, as It was about the one thing that lifted my spirits when I got home. You can't help but smile at Christmas lights. Especially when you have put them up yourself (with your wonderful husband).

So here's my beautiful fireplace that is warming my spirits, if not our home ( gas fireplaces aren't very warm). May tomorrow be one of those days that lifts the spirits.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I'm Back! And in the Christmas Spirit

After a little hemming and hawing, I finally bit the bullet and handed over my credit card info so that I can continue to post pictures on my blog. It really isn't that expensive, and I didn't want to have to give up posting on these great blogs. 

So, here is what we've been up to this weekend!

First up was getting our trees and lights. Believe it or not, we were able to fit our 7-8 foot tree easily in the Prius with the trunk closed! It helped that it was netted by the lovely people at Home Depot. While I wanted the whole tree lot experience, the lots here in Arizona aren't all that picturesque, and it was quite easy to pick up our lights and tree all in one trip. 

Once we got home, it was time to tackle hanging up the lights. For out first experience, it wasn't too bad! We opted for retro white around our arch, icicles around the garage (I pretty much insisted on these - I love icicle lights), and retro colored lights around our big juniper. 

The result? So, so pretty :). We love how you can see the tree from outside. I may or may not have earned myself questionable impressions from my neighbors as I kept running out of the house to take pictures of it. 

I've been busy decorating inside of the house, too. 

I'm such a kid when it comes to lights and looked to put them wherever I could. with the candles and fireplace going, it feels so cozy and warm. 

This evening, we finally decorated our tree! With Christmas music playing and cups full of eggnog (with a healthy dose of Frangelicos), we dressed our tree up in its finest.

In my family, for the last 10 years or so, we've done an ornament exchange, and it's so fun to remember those ornaments, and who gave them to me. 

Once we finished lighting the tree, it was time to just sit and relax and enjoy the festive beauty. This is one of my favorite times of year and I know I'll be spending a lot of time over the next month enjoying all the decorations. 

All in all, a wonderful weekend.