Thursday, December 5, 2019

Look at the Hills!

While taking Fina to her Praise Dance Team performance, we thought the Air Force Academy buildings had been all lit up for Christmas. Turns out, there were no Christmas lights hung there. It was reflection of the sunrise on all the glass and metal. Stunning. Because Papa was driving we couldn't get a photo there, but when we got to the performance venue, this is what the hills looked like! The Praise Dance Team did a performance at a school early morning and then another after school at a senior home.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Carnegie Hall and NYC

Nana and Papa's trip to New York City turned out to be a dream come true that we didn't even know we were dreaming of. The Chancel Choir of the First United Methodist Church of Arroyo Grande, CA invited us to go to New York with them and sing at Carnegie Hall. What? Wait. Yes! Jamie directed that church choir from 1997 to 2007. Julie Burns took over then and is the current director.

"Is this really happening?" as we  walked onto that stage with over 200 other choir members (representing about 20 different choirs) and a full orchestra under the direction of our favorite choral music composer/arranger, Mark Hayes. And when the echos of the final song ended, the entire audience (nearly a full house!) popped to their feet in a standing ovation. Wow. To say it was a thrill might be the understatement of all time.

The event was produced/organized by Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY). They have this down, and working with Carnegie Hall is not a simple thing, apparently. We had two rehearsals at outside venues, one run-through on stage that afternoon, and then the performance at 7pm that night, December 2, 2019 in the Stern Auditorium (seats 2,800) on the Perelman Stage. Following the concert 200+ of us gathered at Rosie O'Grady's Saloon for a buffet dinner, drinks, and to let down our hair. Rosie's was right across the street from where we stayed, the Sheraton New York Times Square.

And the review is in... From New York Concert Review, Inc. - click here.

For a list of our repertoire and links to where you can hear the pieces (not recordings of our performance), click here.

Of course, while we were in NYC, we managed to do much other fun stuff as well. The Sheraton was perfectly located for walking access to lots of iconic sites. Here are some of the places we visited:

9/11 Memorial Museum and the underground mall next door. This was the only visit for which we needed a cab.

Playwright Celtic Pub where we met Kaza's friend, Danny.

Times Square.

Patsy's Italian Restaurant.

Frozen at the St. James Theatre.

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse.

Park Cafe in the Wellington Hotel.

Rockefeller Center. While we had breakfast we watched them setting up for the Christmas Tree lighting which was scheduled for the next evening.

St. Patrick's Cathedral.

A stroll along 5th Avenue with Saks, Cartier, Tiffany, and lots of fabulous window displays.

Central Park.

Beetlejuice at the Winter Garden Theatre.

All the photos are here. A few photos are below.

9/11 Memorial Museum

Our concert badges.

Frozen curtain call (they said it was OK to photo)

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse

Jamie's view during the afternoon rehearsal in Carnegie Hall.

In the green room before the concert.

Rockefeller Center

St. Patrick's Cathedral

A shop window on 5th Avenue

Central Park


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving: With How Many Kids?!

Yvette: "The big family thanksgiving with our matching family friends LOL. The first picture does my heart good - kids from just two families and there are actually quite a few kids missing from the picture (we have 15 between the two of us). They all get along so well. The meal was the best I can remember in a long time and stepping outside our introverted box on a holiday, was a huge step for us but will become one of my favorite memories. We lost many family and friends when we adopted - our needs changed, our kids can be hard, our parenting has changed. There were many lonely years. In the end God redeemed mightily. ( I only share this because so many are still in the lonely and all I can say - it will come. Mourn the loss but anticipate the marvelous.) Then onto Black Friday with some kids while the daddies cleaned respective kitchens!"

Grandma's Rolls and Rainbow Jello.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Pre-NYC at the Gaylord Rockies

Nana and Papa spent the afternoon and night before leaving for New York City at the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center. They had a fun, very-Christmasy, little time there. It's right by the airport. The resort had a big ICE thing going on for the holidays with the main attraction being the Rudolph story told in life-size ice sculpture. It was pretty cool (9 degrees in the sculpture area, actually, and not much warmer outside)! All the photos are here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Frozen 2

And it's not even Thanksgiving yet! Second big snow in less than a week. Our neighbors have measured as much as 14" and it's still coming down. Heavily. So we're planning to see Frozen 2 this afternoon, assuming we've shoveled our way out by then.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Snow Play at the Park, and Railroading

There was still plenty of snow on the ground this morning for some great snow play. The four littles had a great time! Later, AJ did some rock climbing at CityROCK and then he and Papa dropped in on PikeMasters Model Railroad Club. Papa went through "The Cave" at CityROCK with AJ having no idea what to expect. It was tight.

Friday, November 22, 2019

A White Thanksgiving?!

We woke up to snow. About 6" of it, and it's still coming down. It took Matt twice as long as normal to get to the airport today.

Good a time as any to crack a Champagne from G. Tribaut.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Donation Day

Tracy: They barely made the cut off to donate, but they did it. A year and a half of growth. (Thank the Lord, because mom was done with long hair). Jamie: This all started with a St. Baldrick Foundation event at their school our first year here in Colorado: story.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Me llama es a Decoration

Tracy found it at Target the other day. What has gotten into her?! Olaf and Spider Man wanted you to know they approve. Oh, and watch out, Spider Man is flinging some silk right atchya.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Strike up the Band

Matteo had his first band concert tonight! Short and sweet at 20 minutes long, but they were sharp.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Happy Birthday, Matteo!

We've got birthday breakfast down pat! Lexi and Matt were the only two to really try the Star Wars cereal. They said it wasn't bad. The rest of the gang stuck with old favorites like Lucky Charms and Trix.

At Vaqueros a few days later.

Two donuts!

Happy Birthday, dear Matteooooooooo!

"It's all about youuuuuuuuuuu."

Meanwhile, in the back yard...

Thursday, November 7, 2019

What the Dickens?!

Look what Tracy and Fina did while Nana and Papa were out. All along the top of the kitchen cupboards. Fantabulous!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Northern Mediterranean and Champagne Trip

Here's an index to the port-by-port posts of Jamie and Lynn's European adventure this Fall. On October 8th, Nana and Papa hopped on a plane headed for Barcelona, Spain to start a northern Mediterranean cruise on Oceania Cruises (M/S Sirena) followed by a week in the Champagne region of France.

The cruise was the brain child of some Kansas City folks including my sister Vickie and our friends the Hess family. We ended up being a party of 16: three Hess brothers and their wives, Fosters, Siscos, Underwoods, Durkoses, and Schraders.

Each port listing below is a clickable link to its respective blog post. Each of the posts starts with some narrative about what we did/saw at that port, including links to more information about some of the highlights. The narrative is followed by a few representative photos. Lastly, each post will have a sentence something like "All the day's photos are here" where the word "here" is a link to the gallery of all photos for that port.

One other general comment about restaurants and cafes. You won't find much coverage about that in these blog posts. But, they were an important element of the trip. Seek out interesting little spots as best you can for meals, snacks, drinks, whatever, particularly if there's outdoor seating for people watching. Select local stuff to try. We enjoyed them all in every location.


Barcelona, Spain
Provence, France
Cannes, France
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Florence and Pisa, Italy
Rome, Italy
Naples and Pompeii, Italy
Sicily, Italy
Corfu, Greece
Kotor, Montenegro
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Venice, Italy
Champagne region of France

A note about photos... For the last couple of decades, I'm usually seen on outings with a nice DSLR camera and a very handy wide/zoom lens. As cell phone camera technology has gotten pretty good, I decided to leave all the gear at home and use only my cell phone (Galaxy S9). While I missed the zoom a few times, I was quite pleased with the results. If you're interested in doing the same, click here for a good starter article.

The whole group at the Tuscan Steakhouse for dinner (on M/S Sirena).

M/S Sirena docked at Dubrovnik, Croatia.


Not the bubbly... Well, yes, the bubbly... But the post's title mainly refers to the Champagne region of France where THE bubbly is made and where we'll be the next 5 days or so. The overnight train from Venice to Paris got us in just before noon, a couple hours late. Without too much trouble, we found our connecting train to Valle-de-Marne/Chessy station (right by Disneyland) which was a short cab ride away from our final destination, a Marriott Vacation Resort in Bailly-Romainvilliers.

Our villa was a short walk from town so we got quite accustom to pastries, groceries, and lattes from the small town's little shops. And as if the resort wasn't interesting enough, their grounds included a reconstruction of Monet's gardens in Giverney.

We took two classes at the resort: Cocktail Making and Crepe Making. Both were great fun! We made tequila sunrises and cosmopolitans at the cocktail class and various crepe flavors (Nutella, jams, plain sugar) at the cooking class.

So, let's get serious. We're here for Champagne. Since our villa was about an hour's drive from the Champagne region, we weren't quite sure how to approach it. So, the first thing we did was take an all-day guided tour to Reims and Epernay (October 26). Very good investment! We not only enjoyed that tour immensely, but also got our bearings for setting out on our own Monday and Tuesday (October 28 and 29).

Our first stop on the guided tour was the Reims Cathedral, mostly known as the traditional location for the coronation of the kings of France. We also visited a nearby pastry shop for a little something to eat and drink.

Then we headed on down (south-ish) to Epernay where the real fun was to be had. Our first stop was Moet & Chandon, which is also the home of Dom Perignon these days (under same ownership now). This was a "big boy" in the world of champagne. As Mommy Savidge would say, "it just screamed money." The tour was fantastic, and as you might imagine, the tasting was fun, too. Needless to say, we picked up a bottle or two to enjoy during evenings in the villa.

We continued through the vine-laden countryside to a small champagne producer, Egrot. Another cellar tour and tasting, much more homey. Delightful.

Sunday was rainy, and many champagne places are not open, so this turned into a stay-at-home-and-relax day except for a little journey - to the Disney Village at Disneyland. It was kind of fun seeing something wildly familiar. It was great for a little shopping for the grands and lunch.

Monday morning Jamie Uber'd over to the Hertz rental place to pick up a car for two days. That's right, a bit of international driving! He did get his International Driving Permit at our local AAA before leaving the U.S. And after pastries and coffee (of course) we headed off for Epernay. Surely we'd bump into a couple of the 3100 champagne producers in the region. Problem was, many of them are very small. "Every other house in some villages (like Epernay and environs) is a champagne producer," quipped our guide the other day. And he wasn't far off.

Granzamy was our first stop. It was the "Pere et Fils" (Father and Son) on the sign that caught our eye. We pulled into their very narrow driveway and knocked on the door. After finding out they were indeed open and that it was OK to park in their driveway (blocking everything), in we went! The gal running the place spoke about as much English as I spoke French, so we charaded ourselves through a wonderful little visit that included tasting, touring the cellar, and some purchasing.

As a side, we should note that it was because of this week in Champagne that we ended up not missing Fall colors altogether. Colorado basically did not have a Fall this year, went straight from Summer to Winter. But here in France, the grape vines provided all manner of Fall colors. It was glorious.

During our hunt for the next winery and maybe a place to eat, you'll never guess what we stumbled onto. The holy grail of champagne! Dom Perignon's tomb at Eglise Abbatiale in Hautvillers. Ground zero, baby! He lived 1639-1715. He didn't really invent sparkling wine, but he did make contributions to the process.

G. Tribaut was our final champagne stop. Maybe not quite as big as Moet & Chandon, but certainly bigger than Egrot and Granzamy. Gorgeous facilities with an even better view of the vineyards below. Big enough to export to the U.S., so we had them do a little of that for us! We made our way back to our villa via country roads, not autoroutes. Took almost twice as long, but very enjoyable.

We ventured out again on Tuesday, this time to Meaux. There were several options of sites to see, but we started with the La Maison du Brie de Meaux (Brie Museum). Everything you ever want to know about brie production. And as chance would have it, the museum turned out to be in the courtyard of the Meaux Cathedral!

We got back to Bailly in time for dinner at Bistronome which turned out to be quite nice, and busy. We tried to go to Au Bon Petit but they were booked; next time. We also hit our favorite pastry place, Boulangerie Laird, for one final goodness hit.

Wednesday morning we arose early and headed for the train station to catch the TGV (high speed train) to the airport. The last Euros we spent were at the gift shop and coffee shop right next to our gate at the airport - some cool French scarves and chocolate croissants.

All the Champagne photos are here.

"Monet's Giverney" at the villa.

Cocktail making class

Reims Cathedral

Near Epernay

A good fraction of the fruit is left on the vine
as they can only make so much and therefor
pick only the best.

Cellars at Moet & Chandon


Our villa's back patio

Crepe making class


Where Dom Perignon is buried

G. Tribaut

Brie Museum

Meaux Cathedral

Getting on the high-speed train to the airport