Friday, May 1, 2009

Vacation part 3

On Tuesday, Jonathan and Denise and I headed out to Monterey for the 17 mile drive. This is a famous scenic road through Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach, much of which hugs the coastline and passes famous golf courses and beautiful mansions. We stopped at different areas to see the beautiful coastline and take pictures. I even braved the frigid cold water and put my feet in the Pacific!! We learned why it was called "Pebble Beach", and saw the famous Lone Tree. This is a 250+ year old Cypress tree situated on it's own little island and has become the official symbol for Pebble Beach. We also got a look at the Ghost Tree, and old Cypress stump that resembles, you guessed it, a ghost. Our tour took us through the Cypress forest as well as into Carmel. There we had dinner at Pacific's Edge, a very fancy schmancy (and wonderfully tasty) restaurant that overlooked the Pacific. It was a wonderful end to a fabulous vacation.

I dropped my family off at the airport Wednesday morning at 5AM, and returned to work Wednesday evening. =( Almost done with Cali though, and looking forward to rejoining the South.

In other news, Jonathan found out yesterday that he passed the Bar!! We had no doubts he would, but you have to wait an incredibly long time to hear the official news, and yesterday was the day! We are super excited and looking forward to moving wherever school takes us so he can specialize in tax law.

Additionally, we booked our plane tickets last night for Europe!! We will be traveling to Ireland, England, France, and Italy June 10-July 2. So I guess it's a good thing I have a blog....I will have more things to add!

It's going to be one busy and exciting summer!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vacation, part 2!!

San Francisco is, I think, much windier than Chicago any day!

On Sunday we all went to church with Kyle and Erin. It was a fun morning, and apparently two of the teeneagers asked Kyle if Jonathan and I were their age or Kyle's age. Of course!

After church and lunch and a little bit of leisurely downtime and Kyle and Erin's house, Carolyn, Denise, Jonathan & I went to San Francisco. We had decided to stay in a hotel overnight to cut down on the amount of travel time we were spending. I drove through the very narrow and very steep streets of San Fran until we stumbled on a gas station (thankfully!). We googled a nearby hotel and unpacked our stuff at a Holiday Inn. On the way to the hotel I noticed an ad for the muscial Wicked that was playing at a nearby theater. As we settled in at the hotel, I began to call the box office to see if we could get tickets to Sunday's performance. Unfortunately, the phone and online box offices had closed, and we would have to just show up at the theater to see if tickets were available. Low and behold, the theater was actually across the street from the hotel!! We walked over, and just happened to get 10th row center tickets (they said...."hold on, I think we can release house tickets"!!! What are the chances? So finally, after 6 long years of waiting, I saw Wicked! And it was just as fabulous as I thought it would be (Patty Duke played Madame Morrible!).

On Monday, Kyle and Erin joined us for the Alcatraz tour. We took a ferry boat on about a 10 minute ride to The Rock. There we watched a short film explaining its history, and then walked to the audio tour entrance. They gave us each headphones and an MP3 player, and we each listened as a former inmate toured us through Alcatraz. It was very very cool. I took pictures of what the cell looked like, what D Block (the isolation block) looked like, and learned about the various escapes that had been attemped on the island. We saw their cafeteria (that was complete with the capability of releasing tear gas) library, showers, administration building, and the guard's living quarters. Ultimately the prison was shut down in the 60s due to rising costs of keeping it up. It was a great tour, but very cold and windy!!

More photos:
Prisoners' View

After leaving Alcatraz, we drove to see the Golden Gate Bridge. You know, it is a really big big bridge!! I, of course, was the driver, and that explains why I no longer have fingernails after visiting San Francisco. We ate dinner on the way back to Sacramento, and exhausted, fell asleep around midnight.

Golden Gate
Denise and Carolyn in McKinley

My family comes to visit!!

I have been on a posting hiatus because I've been too busy having fun with my family!! Last Friday, after a very long and yucky week at work, I picked Jonathan, Denise, and Kyle's mom Carolyn up from the Sac Airport. We began our visit by going to Old Sacramento and eating dinner on the river (although the service was awful and we had no view to speak of). But the real vacation started Saturday.On Saturday, Jonathan, Denise, and I drove to Yosemite National Park. It was about a 3 1/2 hour drive, and there would be pictures of the really scary hills I had to maneuver up the mountain, except that I was the driver, and it would have gotten us killed. I had to drive these hairpin turns with no guardrails at about 3000 feet elevation and climbing when the punishment for taking the turn too fast was a quick fall down the ravine. I was a nutcase! But we made it, and we justly rewarded. Yosemite was absolutely phenomenal. There were really big trees of course, and even more beautiful views. We decided to take a two hour tram tour around the park, and enjoyed every bit of it (except that it was freezing cold). Our tour guide was Ranger Phaedra, and she described to us how Yosemite National Park came to be, from the tectonic plates moving to create the mountains, the Gold Rush, and the formation of the National Park service. We passed by many different waterfalls, like Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite Falls, and Ribbon Falls. We also passed by El Capitain, a famous destination for rock climbers. Our tour took us to Yosemite Valley, where you can see how the water helped shape the cliffs. We learned about the famous Firefall--where the national park service used to push flaming debris off the cliff for fun. Jonathan was disappointed but not surprised that they lost their sense of humor after the 60s and stopped the practice. We saw some wildlife, but unfortunately no bears. =( We walked to the foot of Yosemite Falls, and we enjoyed comparing our heights to those of the massive Ponderosa Pine trees. I wish that we could've camped there, and of course I wish Dad could've flown out here for this. It was one of the most beautiful and breathtaking views and displays of God's creation I have ever seen. Here are some links to more photos:

a River
The Guins
Cold and Windblown
Foot of Yosemite Falls part 1
Foot, part 2
on the way home

Of course that wasn't the end of our vacation by any means, but I have to go to sleep now so I can go to work tonight. Up next: Alcatraz, San Francisco, Wicked, Monterey, 17 mile drive, and Carmel!

Have a happy Wednesday everyone!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This week in Cali. . .

I began by not sleeping much on Monday. I was off Sunday so  my sleep schedule was just off.  I went to Old Navy early Monday morning and what a funny story do I have for you all!  I was in the dressing room, and next door to me was a man and his 8 year old.  The kid was rather annoying, repeating over and over "I see London I see France, London! France! London! France! Which one is it Daddy, London or France?!" I was thinking to myself, "Please please let this kid stop soon."  And THEN do you know what the kid says?!  "Daddy, I can see the hairs on your scrotum." as if he was saying "Daddy the sky is a pretty blue today."  I had to bite my tongue to not roar with laughter. It truly made my day!!

Despite the fun, I went home and tried all that I could to go to sleep before work Monday night. No such luck. It was a long night and I was very excited when 7Am rolled around so I could go to sleep. So I come home Tuesday morning, take a shower, and I'm in bed by 8AM.  I wake up for work, feeling refreshed, only for that feeling to be replaced by panic as I discover it's 7:15PM and I'm 45 minutes late for work!!!  I called and went in, but of course felt terrible!!

It's now Thursday morning, and I just got off an extra 8 hour shift at Sutter General.  I'm waiting on the housecleaning lady to arrive and clean so I can sleep!

Hope you guys have a good day!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!!!

I just got off work, where I was floated over to Sutter General Hospital. This hospital is under the same umbrella as Sutter Memorial, and in fact Memorial will eventually move all of its contents over to General, as soon as the addition is built (like, years from now). I was assigned to a general ICU unit, much like UAB's MICU. It was nice, not too difficult, and generally faster paced than my home base at Memorial.

I just wanted to write to wish everyone a Happy Easter! I would rather be at University Church right now, or if I couldn't be there, at least working with my friends at UAB, but I guess I'll have to settle for sunny Sacramento. I am sad that I missed the sunrise service at my favorite park (McKinley...with the ducks and roses!).

On a brighter note, my family comes to see me next week! We have planned several days of fun to include a Dodgers vs. Giants game, Alcatraz, Yosemite, the Golden Gate Bridge, Monterray Bay, and the 11 mile drive (or however many miles it is). I am looking forward to exploring and seeing my hubby!! Only a week and a half to go. . .

Will check in with you all later, for it's night night time for the travel nurse.

All my love,

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Day of Mystery!

**Links actually checked and fixed now. Sorry guys!

I would just like to begin this post with the statement that I am absolutely awful at choosing local restaurants!!! A few days ago, I was craving Japanese Hibachi. Fried rice in a bad way. So I plug it into my Garmin and set off. An hour later and one restaurant entered that did not serve fried rice, I arrive at a local place and order, feeling pretty good with myself. $36 bucks later (just for me! ridiculous!) I am sitting in my hotel room eating maybe 4 bites because it was awful! I kind of thought that this was a one time thing, but it happened yet again when I wanted a gyro and hummus! And for a THIRD time, it occurred yesterday, as Erin and I set off in search for Mexican. I am cursed! After searching for over an hour, we gave up at went to the local mall, where we ate at The Cheesecake Factory. Yum!

That brings us to my mystery day! Yesterday morning, after being half on a day schedule and half on a night schedule, I awoke at 4am, went to the gym and showered, and drove to pick Erin up at her house in Brentwood, about an hour and a half away. We drove to San Jose, home of the famous Winchester Mystery House. Here's the website:
Now the story goes, that after the death of her daughter and husband, son of the famous Winchester rifle manufacturer/creator, Sarah went just a little crazy. She took the advice of a psychic in Boston and in 1884 moved to San Jose from her home in New Haven, Connecticut and bought a 6 room farmhouse. Sarah then hired a crew of more than 20 people to work 24/7 building onto her house, believing that as long as construction never stopped, the spirits of "the gun that won the West" would be appeased and leave her alone. Construction didn't stop until her death in 1922. The cost of construction of this mansion, styled in Victorian era architecture then was over 5 million dollars, and the home is comprised over over 160 rooms, 2,000 doors (some of which lead to nowhere---a sheer drop to the ground below), 10,000 windows, 40 stairways, 47 fireplaces-- but only 17 chimneys (some of which were unfinished), 13 bathrooms with only one shower designed for Sarah's small size, 6 kitchens, and over 20,000 gallons of paint are needed for the exterior.
Sarah even had a spirit room that she entered every night for her seances where she would get instructions on additional construction projects. Though there was just one entrance to the room, there were three exits, one of which if you took would drop you 8 feet into the kitchen sink of one of the kitchens! Frequently the number 13 occurs throughout the home. Many think this is related to Mrs. Winchester's superstitions about the spirits in the house. There are original Tiffany company glass windows with 13 panes or 13 stones, chandeliers with 13 sconces, closets with 13 hooks (the other 2 cabinets contain the rest of the hooks), etc.
Things that make the home even more bizarre include a staircase that ends at the ceiling, another called the 7/11 staircase descends 7 steps and then rises 11 to still remain on the 2nd floor. Due to Mrs. Winchester's arthritic condition, she had some staircases removed and replaced with "switchback staircase", which has seven flights rising about 9 feet and includes 44 steps only 2in. in height. There was even a window on the floor! Sarah only stood 4 feet 10 inches tall, so there are rooms with furniture to accomodate that, as well as doors that many of you would have to bend down to enter, Alice in Wonderland style. She loved daisies, and the daisy theme also appears throughout the home.
The Grand Ballroom was built at a cost of $9,000 (multiply than by a 100 for today's cost). In it was detail such as windows designed by Sarah and hardwoods that took over a month to lay by the crew. Unfortunately, the earthquake of 1906 damaged the house which originally stood 7 stories, and Mrs. Winchester believed this was a sign from the spirits to seal off the front portion of the house (including the Grand Ballroom). The front door of the mansion, made of exotic hardwoods and Tiffany glass, costs $3,000, and no one ever entered through them, they always used the servants' entrance. The smallest cabinet in the house is only 1/2 inch deep, and there are also cabinets that open into other rooms of the home. She spared no expense in the construction of her home, even having over 30 hardwoods imported for use on flooors, walls, furniture, etc. and wallpaper at the cost of over $17/foot.
Though Sarah certainly seemed cooky, there were things about this plantation that were absolutely brilliant. She had running water and indoor plumbing (courtesy of a 55 foot water tower), hydraulic powered elevators, gas lighting supplied by a Pierce gas engine in the Pump house, a sprinkler system (indoors and out), sloped countertops that drained water back into sinks, and floors that could be removed when plants were watered to drain water into an elaborate system which disposed of water into the many gardens that she had around the home. She also had a callsystem installed, so that her servants would know from which of the 160 rooms she summoned them from. Legend has it that she rang her belltower bell at noon and five for the servants, and at midnight for the spirits. Her estate included a fruit drying shed, which included an evaporator that dried fruit at a rate of 1 1/2 tons every 30 hours and supplied her with $1,000 a day income to support her construction (though she inherited 20 million when her husband died. I think she was good to go). She even had a Garage/Car Wash which enabled her to house and keep clean a 1909 French Renault and 1917 Pierce Arrow Limousine.
Erin and I had so much fun touring the home, during which we walked over a mile inside the house. We also went to the Arms Museum, where I got to see each and every firearm produced under the Winchester label, as well as a gingerbread replica of the home (not located in the arms museum).

After leaving the house, we went to the Guadelupe River Park, where we saw the largest permanent Monopoly board in the world (listed in the Guiness Book of World Records). It was actually smaller than we'd imagined, but cool nonetheless. There was also a few neat rocks and statues in the park.

On the hour drive back to Kyle and Erin's house, I was exceedingly tired after being up so long and had to get Starbucks to get me home. It didn't work very well, so I had to take an hour nap at Erin's house before finally making it back to the hotel around 11 and crashing into a very deep sleep.

It was a great day!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sacramento Explorer

I've had two days (*gasp*) off this week, and I spent this afternoon doing a little bit of sight seeing. I first went to Old Town Sacramento. It dates back to 1848 during the California Gold Rush days. People moved here in search of riches on the riverbanks. It's really a neat old town, complete with the terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad and the originination of the Pony Express!! It reminded me much of Downtown Northport but larger.

I then drove to the Capitol Building, although I arrived too late to tour it. However, I did spend much of my time pilling around the grounds of the Capitol, which had several different beautiful trees, including my first redwood to see up close!! They had the trees labeled as a "tree tour", but alas, I didn't have the brochure! They had lots of different plaques/statues around the grounds. I was excited at all of the orange trees around, and it reminded me of Soarin' at Disneyworld. The very large Capitol is much the same on all four sides, and is centered in the middle of downtown. Throughout the city are neigborhoods with houses reminiscent of New Orleans or Boston homes, only smaller.

You can tell that Sacramento is a very young-centered city. There are corners with coffeehouses, bistros, boutiques, and various bars. This is a city famous for its cycling culture, and people in their 20s and 30s would probably feel quite at home.

I enjoyed my little tour, but alas, work calls. I will be at the hospital Thursday-Sunday nights, and look forward to my next day off!