Happy birthday(s)

Bella turned 17 on January 6 and was celebrated by classmates and family. Isabella’s birthday is February 9 and the extended family had her birthday dinner at Benihana last night – a little early, but conflicting schedules moved the festivities up a bit. Adriana is next.

John spent a bit of time in Las Vegas from January 3rd. The Consumer Electronics Show seems to get bigger and bigger even though the announcements weren’t that significant this year. Through Akamai he hosted 120 people on January 5th and oversaw all of Akamai’s activities there.

Last Friday Pia and Isabella went to the Junior high dance at their school and danced from start to finish together with the sixth and seventh graders. The Drama activities are in full swing and the production of “Shrek” is already taking up some of the afternoons. Isabella will once again be active off stage.

With the exception of Santa Catalina (Monterey) All the high school applications as done and so are the entrance tests. Now it’s a waiting gaming until early March.

Adriana, Pia and Bella are all active with cheerleading – Bella and Pia are cheering for the boy’s basketball teams for their respective schools.

Happy New Year

As with the previous years Christmas really came around with the Christmas performance at School. Last performance with Pia and Isabella – from hereon onwards Adriana will have to carry the tradition; which she surely is happy to do. Much of the show repeated itself on December 24 when Olivia plus kids were part of the Christmas mass. There are some pictures from the school performance here.

We celebrated Christmas with the rest of the Bellamys on December 23 at Adrian and Penny’s house. There was a total of 20 of us this time and the kids had a blast exchanging Secret Santa gifts. Some family members were off to Hawaii the days after – some to London while the rest decided to weather out the Californian rain storm.

Santa did come around again in 2014 and left quite a mess downstairs drinking milk and eating cookies and lettuce. Apparently for the reindeers. He forgot his glasses (again!) and must have several pairs in the sleigh. Santa filled the stockings and also left three girls a new pair of boots and Adriana an American Girl doll.

New Year came and went again without much notice. The three older girls hung out with their friends while John, Olivia and Adriana relaxed at the house. The three started 2015 with a long walk in Half Moon Bay enjoying glorious weather.

Finishing this post off with a note we came across earlier today:

Welcome to 2015.

With resolutions or without, with ups and downs, joy and sorrow, successes and mistakes, friends founds, friends lost, with passion or without, it will be the year that you make, the year that you decide, the year that you want.

Much of the above will happen but only you can turn them into positive experiences.

Happy New Year : )

Back home

Isabella came back Saturday after two weeks of summer camp at Walton’s Grizzly Lodge. She had had a great time – no sign of missing anyone except maybe for the first day or two. Mosquito bites and scratches show signs of an outdoor life, but hail and rain kept the campers inside from time to time.

Many campers were from San Francisco and Marin. Some even from Hillsborough. Good friends made so she’ll probably be busy connecting online with some of them since the lack of electronics while at camp made that impossible. She sounds like she’s ready to go back, but we’ll have to see about that come 2015.

John flew up there to pick her up. It was a pleasure flying alongside highway 80. 22 minutes is all it took from San Francisco to Reno but by going slightly the opposite direction and with check-in and all, they actually spent as much of the day traveling, as we would have in driving.

Isabella received many cards from friends and family and was very appreciative. Getting mail was her favorite part of her day and she sends her heartfelt gratitude!

John spent part of the week at a company meeting in Napa at the Meritage Resort and Spa. Nice place and very easy to get to from San Francisco. Good beer can chicken at the Bounty Hunter and ditto lunch at the Fremont Diner. The downtown area of Napa is looking much better although it doesn’t quite have the charm of e.g. St. Helena. He missed Penny’s birthday at the Paul Martin Grill on Tuesday, but Bella, Pia, Adrian and Olivia all celebrated her.

Friday Adriana had to say goodbye to Garcelle – her trusted nanny all summer long. Garcelle is going back to college starting this week, so Adriana will act as Olivia’s assistant until Saint Catherine’s is open for business in a couple of weeks. John and Adriana went night swimming in Penny and Adrian’s pool last night. No one seems to know where the lights are located; so all the light in the backyard came from the stars above (or the sun if you will…). She quickly fell asleep afterwards watching the Disney Bears movie.

Bella is back in school as the first of the four. She’s active with Cheer and is now on the final half of her high school years. She was followed to the door but a raccoon last night, but and ideas of close contact came to a quick end when Bella decided to scream from the car to the drive way. Easy to hear around the neighborhood in the middle of the night but no-one was concerned enough to call the police. At least not that we know of.

Pia is “enjoying” the summer workbook from school, but has made a pretty good dent in it. So much so that wrapping it up before school start is a realistic goal. She’s good at taking a break to make sure there are no new videos on YouTube she has not watched.

Olivia and John spent the past weekend in Carmel sans kids. Delicious dinner at the Moulin Bistro in Monterey Friday evening. They ended up at Carmel Valley Ranch for appetizers and s’mores Saturday evening and all of a sudden found themselves driving back Sunday – seemed much too soon. They relived some of their younger years earlier in the week rocking to Toto at the Mountain Winery. Toto were (still) surprisingly good nd they had much of the audience standing for the majority of the set.

Burlingame sadly seems determined on turning half of our street into restricted parking. A city hall meeting on Wednesday and a signed petition didn’t change the mind of the council members. While it won’t affect us in terms of permits, people will surely start to park closer to our home. It remains to be seen how much of a problem it will be, but it’s already tight with three cars in our driveway or on the street in front of the house.

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Walton’s Grizzly Lodge Summer Camp

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Bella finished her cheer camp late Monday morning with a show. Olivia and the girls were there to watch and the bunch of them went back to Casa Bellamia right after. They had good friends over for the next couple of days and enjoyed the surrounding incl. a new Xbox with Just Dance 2014. They were back in Burlingame Wednesday evening while John got back from Boston Thursday evening.

Adrian went in for a bit of surgery Friday morning and got home over the weekend. He’s doing very well and impressed the hospital on several occasions with his threshold for pain and determination. Like we didn’t know…

Isabella and John left early Saturday morning and went straight to Tahoe once there was coffee onboard the little Golf. They made it up there in 3.5 hours and decided to try the mouth watering pulled pork sandwiches on the porch. Most delicious and a good starter before heading down to Northstar Village only to take a ski lift back up to the first of two hikes (Sawmill Lake). Good little hike through the forrest ending up by a lake where the bass are so plentyful, that you can see them by the shore (when little kids don’t throw rocks in the lake).

After replenishing their fluids John and Isabella took another lift up to Sunset Loop. (More loop than sunset). Isabella had so much fun on the chair lift that she insisted on another couple of rides. Very slow going down, as the resort won’t let you sit in the open, and there are only a couple of gondolas. 90% of the people going up in the lift, ride mountain bikes down and while it looked like a lot of fun and like a good adrenaline rush, the $141/rental was a little too steep. John and Isabella got back to the hotel at 5:00 p.m. and spent 30 minutes trying to get the original skin color to come back from a very respectable layer of dust. Quick dinner, quick rest and off they went to partake in the Lake Tahoe Star Tour put on by Tony Berendsen. It was very informative and educational. Always good to see Saturn’s rings up close (sort of) but the highlight was watching the International Space Station float across the sky. Couldn’t tell if they returned the big smiles.

Sunday came around soon after Isabella arrived at the camp site at 12:00. She had to check in with the nurse and take a swim test in the lake. She was assigned the Kodiak cabin with a bunch of other “first timers” – far the majority of the campers seemed like they had been there before, but that’s probably already forgotten. Odd not to have contact with her for two weeks (no electronics are allowed). We are going to have to rely on the pony express getting letters to and from and we will feel a whole lot better when we hear a sign of life and know that she made a couple of friends.

Adriana’s been gone most of the weekend hanging out with her dad. Pia’s therefore found herself with a unusual amount of motherly love; which even included a sleepover in the Master Bedroom. It’s all come to an abrupt and was a bit of cold turkey but with travel and activities it’s likely to happen again sometime soon.

We have started to look at summer plans for 2015. It’s quite exciting that we are likely heading to Africa again. We are truly fortunate to have Adrian and Penny in our lives and there’s early excitement of another family trip coming up. Including the planning.

Summer travel – 2013

The six of us left for Denmark on June 26 on the direct flight to Copenhagen. Had fantastic weather while we walked about town trying to stay up until it got at least a little bit darker. Walked through Tivoli and enjoyed sharwarma on “Strøget” before we took the Metro back to the hotel. Slept well and was ready to meet John’s mom in Tivoli for lunch the day after. Had a great lunch at Cafe Ultimo and it was good for the girls to finally meet that side of John’s family.

Friday evening was the day before John turned 40 (again…) and we celebrated it together with 30 other people at “Grøften” in Tivoli. Great times and it was good to see so many of our friends. Thanks to all that showed up! We eventually got kicked out around midnight and we were all very tired on the train ride back to the airport.

Left for Stockholm on June 29 and the group mushroomed into 20 people in just a few hours. Some left for their room, some for an early dinner, while Olivia and John snug away to celebrate a bit of birthday on their own.

We had a great guide from “Stockholm our way” taking us around the Swedish capital and we spent most of June 30 sightseeing. We visited the city hall, the old town, Djurgaarden, and of course Vasa – or the remains.

We boarded the Seven Seas Voyager on July 1 and set “sails” for Helsinki. Walked into town and saw the Lutheran Cathedral, the Uspenski Cathedral and the very impressive Rock Church. Still don’t understand much of what they say, but beautiful harbor front and once again the weather showed a very nice side of itself.

The longest stop on the trip was St. Petersburg – we stayed a total of three days, and as none of held Russian visas, we had to stay with the pre-arranged tours. St. Petersburg is an amazing place and the art collection and palaces are well worth a visit. John and Olivia had signed up for a Metro trip into the city and got to walk a bit around on the last day. First land-based cafe latte in days. Good stuff!

Tallinn was one of the biggest surprises of the trip. Very charming city and all had a great time in the old town. Some went walking – some took the mountain bike tour. We were there on a Saturday and really enjoyed the old stalls. Only John made it up in the church tower; which for many years were the tallest structure in the world. We passed the beautiful monument for the 852 people who died on September 28, 1994 when the Estonia ferry catastrophe happened.

We arrived in Riga the day after together with about 5,000 singers from all over Latvia and found ourselves in the middle of an event that only happens every five years. All the beautiful costumes and flowers really lit up the city and it was amazing to hear the choirs sing and celebrate mid-summer. Riga itself was very charming and we were once more very lucky with the weather.

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Gdansk was next on the list and with that a visit to a WWII concentration camp (Stuffhoff). Always a very somber experience but good for the kids to see. We spent a few hours in Gdansk itself and got to see St. Mary’s Church which can hold 25,000 people, and also got to see some of the shipyard sites where the Lech Walesa and many others changed Poland forever.

Short stop in Rønne which is the main city on Bornholm – an island belonging to Denmark. Not too much to see as the stop was relatively short by we found hotdogs, ice cream and beer. Walked the streets and bought some pottery – it’s the thing to do. The island is nicknamed “The Sunshine Island” and although the fog started rolling in just before takeoff, the morning was gorgeous.

From Bornholm to Warnemunde where we quickly jumped in a bus and drove to Berlin. We had only six hours there and they quickly disappeared by the time we have seen the Brandenburger Tor, Checkpoint Charlie and large sections of The Wall. Mixed success with the lunches but Haribo candy was a complete hit both coming and going.

We were back in Copenhagen July 11 and got picked up in a tiny bus that had no room for our luggage. But we made the best of it, and got dropped in the middle of Copenhagen. Made it up the Round Tower before rickshaws picked us up and took us sightseeing. Great lunch in the King’s Garden that was organized but Shout.dk. The kids loved being back on the shore and ran around until the very last minutes of the day. The first evening ended at Stick’n’Sushi.

Day two took us to Frederiksborg Castle – stunning and using funds from Carlsberg, the castle has been beautifully restored after a fire destroyed large parts of it. We had lunch at Restaurant Sletten in a small Danish harbor and gave everyone the afternoon off to relax or do a bit of shopping. We were lucky to get a private room at Cafe Ultimo for our last dinner together, and most of us stayed in Tivoli until the very end. Many left for San Francisco the following morning while the other half stayed behind for a few more days.

We so appreciate Adrian and Penny’s generosity and feel incredibly lucky that they let us experience the world together as a group.

Congratulations on making it to the end. There are pictures here.