Archive for the ‘vacations’ Category

This was the first Thanksgiving that I’ve ever traveled, and what a whirlwind trip it was.  My uncle recently purchased a house in Niles, Michigan, and we wanted to go out and visit him before the weather turned too cold for us wimpy Californians.

His house is so cool, especially the 2-acre grounds.  I imagined huge garden parties in the summer, my nieces running with wild abandon in the backyard, and sipping cocktails in lounge chairs.  At least, that’s what I’d do with the place if I had it.  Not sure if my uncle has those same plans, but maybe I can convince him.

The city of Niles, Michigan is very quaint, especially the downtown area, which is peppered with funky stores, antique “malls,” and old-time businesses.  They city is so much smaller than the one we’re from, so it was very interesting.  My uncle seems to be making some friends which is good.  The main thing that I noticed is that the people are much more conservative there than they are in the Bay Area.  Then again, I think most small towns in middle America are much more conservative than the Bay Area.  😉  The one example I have is that we went to a converted mansion in South Bend, IN for Thanksgiving dinner.  When we arrived in the dining room we ordered two bottles of wine – one white and one red – for the table of four of us.  You should have seen the stares!  The woman at the table next to us nudged her husband and sat there agape, as if we were slugging back wine by the gallon.  I looked around and saw that every other table in the room had either iced tea or water – no alcohol of any kind. So weird!

After a day and a half in Niles, we left for Chicago.  I had seen pictures, heard stories, but nothing compares to actually being there.  Chicago is a stunning, immaculate, architecturally gorgeous city!  I still think San Francisco is more beautiful, but I do love Chicago.  I wish we had more than two days in this fun, lively city.  I’ll definitely be back.

I could fill many more paragraphs with all of our adventures in the two day trip, but for now, I think I’ll let my 200+ photos speak for themselves.  I tried to get some artsy shots, so I hope you enjoy them.

Thanksgiving 2009 – Michigan & Chicago

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Lately, I’ve been hearing that question a lot.  This is the first summer where I haven’t signed up to work, and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m looking forward to actually getting one of the full benefits of teaching – an entire 2-month period of time off.

My mom in particular is worried that I’ll get bored.  She knows me too well, because when I get bored, I start to spend money.  What better way to ebb boredom than to go shopping, right?  Well, not this summer.

This summer I plan to do nothing.

And by “nothing,” I mean that the plan is no plan. Nothing too specific. Mornings spent reading the newspaper while sipping coffee. Walking. Working out. Swimming. Biking. Lots if activity & focus on weight loss. Keeping the house super clean and organized. Feeling like every day is a Saturday, even when it’s Tuesday.  Thursday morning WW meetings. Seeing friends. Buying produce and flowers from the farmers market every Friday. Overusing my Netflix queue. Music in the Park. Cooking healthy, delicious meals for myself every day. Laying in the sun reading a captivating book. Shopping, but trying not to spend too much $.  Starlight Cinema.  Buying a new car in August when my current lease is up.  (I’m thinking a VW Beetle convertible would suit me perfectly).  A tiny bit if tweaking my current curriculum. And lots and lots of writing on this blog and BellaOnTheBeach.

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

— Henry James

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It’s been a fun few days in Bellaland.  Lots of present giving and receiving, great food, good times, and a moment or two to realize how lucky I am.  Truly, very lucky.

I have amazing family and friends who love me and are always there to offer support, encouragement, and a kick in the ass, if necessary.  My life would be nothing without them. And as cliched as that sounds, that really is the best gift of all.

I’m looking forward to going to my great uncle’s house for dinner with all of the extended family – there are going to be over 50 of us there this year, and it will be so much fun to catch up with all those relatives I haven’t seen in a couple of years.

The rest of this week and the next is spread out before me, and I can’t wait to see what I make of it.  It’s so nice to have 2 weeks off with nothing in particular planned.  This way, it gives me the chance to do some things I’ve been wanting to do, but without a strict schedule.  Freedom!

Merry Christmas to All!!


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The past two weeks have been really busy for me.  I’m always busy at school, but the two weeks before break were CRAZY.

It just so happened that I had a journalism deadline AND a yearbook deadline within days of each other.  I’m really strict with my students about meeting the deadlines, no matter what.  In this case, “no matter what” meant staying in my room for the past two weeks, staying at school until 6:30 last Friday (Dec. 12), and going a little nuts when we ran into some technical difficulties.  But, I’m happy to report that both the newspaper and the yearbook deadline were met.  We got rave reviews on the paper, which always makes us feel good.

Couple these deadlines with the fact that I had a set of essays and 2 sets of research papers (think essays, but longer) to grade.  I was determined that I was going to grade these papers before I left for Christmas Break – no matter what.  There’s that phrase again.  This time “no matter what” meant staying up until 2:30AM on Thursday night, waking up at 5AM to continue grading, and still not finishing.  So, I stayed on Friday evening until 5;30 to get them done.  I may have been the last car in the parking lot (teachers clear out early when we have a long break like that), but I am so proud of myself for completely finishing all of the work I wanted to.

Which means I have two weeks off and ABSOLUTELY NO GRADING OR SCHOOL WORK OF ANY KIND TO DO!  (Ok, sorry for the ALL CAPS, but unless you teach high school English, I don’t think you can imagine the feeling of elation I have right now).

So, what am I going to do with myself?

  • Read books. For pleasure!  Books like Sundays at Tiffany’s, Pledged: The Secret Lives of Sororities, and A Lion Among Men.  Looking at those titles, I know they sound like quite an eclectic mix, and they are.  Recent books I’ve checked out of the library.  I’m a voracious reader even when life is hectic, but especially when I have some time on my hands.  To see more books that I’ve been reading, you can click on my Good Reads Shelf to the right.
  • Catch up on the stacks of magazines that are threatening to overtake my living room. That might be overstating it a bit, since the mags are all neatly placed in a magazine rack, but when I see 4 months worth of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Self, Real Simple, Prevention, and Women’s Health in front of me, I know it’s time to do some light reading.
  • Workout or “be active” everyday. Today’s activity was cleaning the house from top to bottom (electric broom and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors, empty the dishwasher, do two loads of laundry, change sheets, clean the bathroom, and vacuum the whole place).  Whew!  I know I probably didn’t burn too many calories, but I did all of that in under 3 hours, and I am sort of sore as I sit here tonight writing this.  It’s been cold and rainy here, so I’m afraid that most of my working out will have to take me to the gym, but that’s ok.  It gives me a chance to catch up on my elliptical and treadmill time.  I am going to start Couch to 5K and see how it goes.  I have a few other activities planned for the new year, but I’ll discuss that more on my weight loss blog.
  • Go to the movies. I love movies, but don’t find myself going to many lately.  I think part of it is that my schedule is so busy that I have to pick and choose which movies I have time to see.  There are two movies that I think look very interesting that I’m definitely making time for this vacation: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Seven Pounds Seven Pounds hasn’t gotten great reviews, but it intrigues me, and I think it’ll be worth $10 to find out what it’s about.
  • Spend time with family and friends. There are so many people I can’t wait to see and spend time with.  I’m sure I’ll post about all the fun ahead.
  • Go through my cookbooks. I have lots of healthy cookbooks that I’ve bought or been given in recent years, yet I find myself making my tried and true recipes more often than not.  I want to go through these cookbooks and mark several new recipes to try out in the new year.  I’m hoping to make at least one new recipe a week, just to keep things interesting.

So, there you have it.  Some rough plans for how I want to spend my Christmas Break.  I look forward to this 2-week vacation every year, and yet it always seems to fly by without very much getting accomplished.  I’m hoping that this year, I’ll make it a vacation to remember.

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I got home at 2am on Thursday night/Friday morning, and I was too tired to think.  I was so happy that I had spent all that time cleaning the house before I left, because there’s nothing better than coming home from a trip to a spotless house.

I dragged all my bags into the house and was about to get changed for bed, when a thought occurred to me.  I was about to get into a welcoming bed with wonderfully clean sheets, and I was feeling less than fresh.  Spending more than 13 hours in airports and on planes can do that to you.  So, at 2:30am, I decided to take a shower and wash the day away.

It was the best decision I could’ve made.  As I crawled into my clean bed at 3am, I knew I was going to have a wonderful night’s sleep.  And I did.


As much fun as I had on my 10-day trip, I am so happy to be back home.  It’s so nice to be surrounded by the familiar comforts of home after being gone for an extended period of time.  I spent most of Friday and Saturday unpacking, doing load after load of laundry, and uploading over 450 vacation photos.  Oh, and blogging about the last part of my trip.

I had an amazing time on vacation, but it’s always nice to be back home.

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What trip would be complete without a tale or two of problems with flights?

CBCB arrived at Logan Airport in Boston around 1:30, in plenty of time to make our 2:35 flight, since we had checked in online. When we got to the counter to check our bags, I was overjoyed that my bag was 49 pounds – no overweight charges on this leg of the trip. Plus, because we had booked our flight back in March, we were allowed two checked items of luggage, so I wasn’t charged the $20 fee for my second piece of luggage. I thought we were off to a stellar start. Oh, how wrong I was.

We boarded the plane in Logan and would have a quick flight over to JFK before heading back home. As we got comfortable in our seats, the pilot came on the loudspeaker and announced that we would have to remain on the runway for a while, because of thunderstorms at JFK. We sat there, on the plane, for an hour. It was miserable and uncomfortable, but just a small prelude to what we would find at JFK.

We got to JFK, and I quickly went outside to have a smoke. I knew we had an hour and a half layover and then a 5 1/2 hour flight home. If only I had seen a bit into the future, I would’ve had another couple of smokes.

I went through security to get back to the terminal without any problems. I met up with CBCB at our gate, and again, no problems. Until we heard a clap of thunder and the heavens opened into a full on storm. Great. An announcement was made that our flight would be delayed due to the lightning and thunder and the storms. Inconvenient, but not a problem. At least we could walk around, get food, and go to the bathroom while we were in the airport. Ah, but this situation was going to go from inconvenient to terrible in a matter of minutes.

We were told we had to board the plane, even though the flight was not cleared for takeoff. What? We’d have to wait on the plane? Trapped like rats for who knows how long? Ugh. The pilot explained that we were “in line” for takeoff, as soon as we were cleared and our turn came up.

We were on the plane for 3 1/2 hours without moving on the tarmac. I can’t tell you how awful this was. Unless you’ve experienced it for yourself, you have no idea. It was hot, stuffy, and utterly claustrophobic. Not to mention the fact that when we finally did take off, I knew we’d have another 5 1/2 hours in the air before we got home.

The upside? I finished an entire book. The downside? My poor dad had to pick us up at 1:45am. We were both tired, and speaking for myself, not in the best of moods. Oh and the icing on this very bitter cake? I broke two nails getting the bags from the luggage carousel. Perfect.

Still, at least we made it home safely, and I knew that my own bed was waiting for me.

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All good things must come to and end.  On Thursday, August 14th, our last day of vacation, CBCB and I had to catch a flight from Logan airport at 2:35pm.  Which meant we needed to be at the airport by 1:30, since we had already checked in online.

With some time to kill, we left The Cape around 9:30, with the thought of going to Salem to see a couple of exhibits at The Peabody Museum.  As we were driving and hit a bit of traffic, CBCB and I looked at each other and realized we probably wouldn’t make it.  It would take us at least 2 hours to get to Salem, which didn’t leave us much time to see the museum.

We decided to stop at a Starbucks along the way, and saw a sign for The Christmas Tree Shops.  We changed our itinerary on the spot.  If you’ve never been to a Christmas Tree Shop. I highly recommend it.  This one, in Shrewsbury, MA would be the third one we’d hit on our trip (we’d also been to the locations in Falmouth and Hyannis).  Each one is a little bit different, and although the main merchandise is the same, each store has different offerings, depending on where it’s located.  I picked up a new lunch bag (and one for my sister) and a Cape Cod t-shirt, although if these were in CA, I would’ve bought a lot more.  They have a lot of great deals on all kinds of home decorating items.

After shopping, CBCB suggested we head into Boston and try to go on a Swan Boat tour of the Boston Public Garden. It was one of the things we hadn’t done yet on our trip.  Sounded like a plan to me.

Once we got in the general vicinity of the Public Garden, we immediately found rockstar parking!   Plus, the weather was gorgeous, so we knew this was a sign that we were meant to go.

The Public Gardens are beautiful.  Majestic trees, a lagoon filled with ducks and swans, and fantastic vistas of Boston.  A perfect way to end our stay in one of the best cities in the country.

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