August 2015

Isabella came back from summer camp on August 15 and very much enjoyed a couple of weeks in Portola, CA together with new friends as well as the ones she made last year. 2015 was the last year she could participate so small traces of sadness but some of them are also off to boarding school, so we’re sure they will stay in contact and compare notes.

Once back Libby had organized an little party for Isabella and quite a few of her Saint Catherine’s friends showed up for some pizza and to catch up with what had happened over summer. All but Isabella were back in school and the little group of 36 students that followed each other for years are now spread all over the peninsula including San Francisco.

Olivia and John took Adriana to Las Vegas early August for her to experience all the craziness. She (obviously) loved every minute of it. Olivia and Adriana went to see Le Rêve at Wynn and fully enjoyed the show while John was busy taking a light painting class in Nelson 40 miles outside Las Vegas. Of other highlights that week was the High Roller observation wheel. It stands 550 feet (168 meter) tall and it’s 30 later by the time you get back down to the platform.

Pia is having a good time at Burlingame High School and on the cheer team. They performed this past Friday during the football game – as did Bella’s team – and Pia is enjoying it. Bella is currently delivering the news broadcast at the school. We uploaded the inaugurate newscast to our Vimeo account.

John and Ella spent the past weekend in Hong Kong getting a little time together before school starts. It’s a such a great place and although compact it still offers lots of diversity. They spent a couple of days in and around the city and made it Lantau to see Big Buddha – one of the largest outdoor buddhas in the world as well of Temple of 10,000 buddhas. What was meant to be a hike turned into a bus ride when heavy rain got in the way. They purchased a couple of umbrellas and continued semi-dry while the monks making their way up to the buddha got absolutely soaked.

The weekend prior to Hong Kong Olivia, Adriana and John spent a couple of days in Carmel Valley. It remains one of their favorite places on the planet. A Sunday morning hike brought sightings of 20+ whales feeding very close to the shore and the short hike ended up taking almost three hours with all the stops.

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Return to Oahu

Isabella invited a couple of friends – Katie and Hannah – to Carmel this weekend. After spending Saturday morning at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and eating shrimp at Bubba Gump they spent the afternoon at Del Monte Mall buying little things for the closets at home. Nothing like resting in the hot tub after a day of shopping. It all got topped off with s’mores at Carmel Valley Ranch.

John and Olivia took off for Hawaii Friday February 20 and enjoyed five nights at the condominium there before they (sadly) had to return. Not too many activities planned – pure relaxation but they did madk it around the island. Lunch at Seven Brothers Burgers – definitely worth a stop if you’re heading that way. Olivia got a massage at the Kalaha Hotel while John made it to the top of Koko Head Crater – only 1,000 steps but still a hard climb.

John got stuck in New York only a few days later. Heavy snow fall made it impossible for planes to take off and he had to spend a vey short night in Times Square before finally making it out Monday morning.

Tough weeks for the school teams in Basketball. Both Burlingame High School and Saint Catherine’s are out after making it to the quarterfinals. So no more cheer this season except for Adriana who’s still going strong with her Premier team.

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.

Whale watching in Monterey Bay

On Friday Bella took off for her annual Cheer camp in Santa Cruz – there was a total of 18 teams there. It’s hard work from early morning to late in the day. The Burlingame High School team got a Spirit award for the first time in four years. Congratulations! The whole thing is over Monday shortly after noon with a performance. All the rest of the females of our household will be in watching while John is on the East Coast.

The rest of us spent the weekend at Casa Bellamia in beautiful weather and surroundings. We went on a Monterey-based whale watching trip Saturday morning and saw more humpback whales than the guide could keep up with. They are very impressive animals but it would be so cool to see more than the 5% they seem comfortable occasionally keeping above the waterline. Maybe they are just shy given their size… Lots of sea lions and lots of dolphins. The water was fairly calm but some people still felt the need to refund their breakfast into the ocean. The five of us did great and other than occasionally feeling a little cold and getting a bit too much sun we had a great time.

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We made quick stops at Stevenson’s and Santa Catalina High Schools on the way back. Isabella is considering a boarding high school and while no decisions have been made, it might make sense to have her close enough that we would actually see her once in a while. She’s recuperating well since her oral surgery and have regained normal speech and the feeling in the tip of her tongue. Olivia took her for a checkup on Thursday and all looked well.

We had dinner at Carmel Valley Ranch Saturday evening. Beautiful place that we don’t visit often enough. Delicious local salmon and ditto deserts. John bumped into the Marketing Manager from the ranch a few weeks back and we were treated as VIPs all evening – Adriana is still trying to make sense of what that means but didn’t mind the attention.

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On Tuesday John, Olivia and our neighbor Kasey saw Lyle Lovett and his Large Band perform at the Mountain Vinery. Good show and surprisingly good food but it got very cold past sunset. We didn’t get back until 11:30 at night and had almost regained normal temperature after 45 minutes in the car. Adriana probably had the busiest week with gymnastics and summer camp. She’s got stung by a bee last week and a bit stayed inside the finger. Bella fished it out just before the it would have been necessary to go see a doctor.

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The last few weeks of 2012

Bella and her cheer team was part of the Burlingame Christmas Parade December 7. The grownups took advantage of a kid’s slumber party and took of for Casa Bellamia and sadly missed the parade. It all tuned out alright, Santa showed up and the cheer season was closed down properly.

The Carmel Valley visit was just for a couple of nights. These days we’ll take what we can get. It coincided with a visit from AT&T. They estimated two hours to install U-verse. Three weeks, four visits and countless hours later… It’s woking (yay!) and we feel in touch with the online world again while visiting the valley. We were excited to to hook up with Allison for a “sundowner” – our first chance to see our wonderful wedding coordinator. We ended up talking past our dinner reservation but the AT&T technician made it impossible to leave anyway (visit two of four…)

All the Christmas events at school started on December 14 with the older grades performing “A Christmas story”. It was good entertainment and very well put together. A bit of a somber mood after the Newtown tragedy that had taken place earlier in the day, but the many mentions of the Red Ryder BB gun still got a laugh and a smile.

We celebrated Adrian and Penny on December 16 – one day after the actual anniversary date. Their 50th wedding anniversary was partly why we went to Africa during the summer and David (Olivia’s brother) had put together a beautiful book with lost of photos from the two weeks in Kenya and Tanzania. Browsing through it we were all ready to go back. Our hats off to their commitment!

The four girls were all involved in the Saint Catherine Christmas performance. Even Bella who probably thought she was done reading in front of the congregation. Later on Adriana was rocking while Isabella and Pia this year – and for the next two years – dedicated their time to the nativity play. Baby Jesus enjoyed the spotlight and the whole thing was a great start to the Christmas days of 2012. We went back for the Christmas evening mass on December 24 accompanied by out neighbors. Isabella and Pia were liturgical dancers and Adrian got to speak to the congregation together with a couple of her (very loud) class mates. Following the performance we had a small family dinner at Ecca in Burlingame. Ran into the Liberty’s who’s celebrated their 22nd Christmas dinner at the restaurant. Quite an achievement. We had not seen them since our wedding – good to catch up.

Adriana and Pia arrived Christmas morning and the race to open the most presents in the shortest amount of time was immediately on. All got great gifts and no lumps of coal were spotted. Or expected, we should add. We spent the afternoon making dessert for the family dinner at Hillsborough a little later in the evening. Chris, Kara, Chloe and Colton were “stuck” in Oahu but the rest of us watched the kids exchange secret santa gifts and enjoyed a hearty meal afterwards.

December is not a quiet month for any of us. Year-end, finals, concerts and much more. Oh, and of course the shopping although some of us managed to set foot in only one Christmas shopping store in all of December. Hurrah for online shopping!

Last post of 2012. We wish all of our readers a happy 2013!

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