Sunday, September 30, 2012

The "Lads" of Soccer

For a week this past summer we had the opportunity to host soccer coaches from the UK.  They were here to run a soccer camp through AYSO that Lola and Jackson were both attending.  We are used to having people not in our immediate family in our house so I thought why not?  One coach for one week won't be so bad!  Ryan may have thought differently, but I didn't give him the chance because I didn't tell him about it until after I had committed! ;)

We ended up with two coaches.  Both of the lads were from the UK.  One of them was 23 (soon to be 24) and the other one was 27. 

The kids and our two coaches, David and Lee
They coached in the morning and then we tried to take them places in the afternoon so they would have a chance to experience summer in Michigan.  We went to Grand Haven Beach were we hung out on the beach and ate ice cream, Silver Lake Sand Dunes where we took a trip in a buggy over the dunes, Little Sable Point Lighthouse where we swam and they buried each other in the sand and ran down sand dunes, our local pool where they relaxed and swam, and up to my parents' home where they swam and did all things water related!  It was a busy week, but I have to say it was a blast!

I think my past experiences gives me a good perspective on what an ideal house guest truly is.  These two were ideal house guests in every sense of the word!  You could tell they were used to being in other people's homes by the way they interacted with us, cleaned up after themselves, and asked about rules of the house.  They were courteous, polite, and acted like they really wanted to hang out with the family!  They seemed at ease with us which made us feel all that more comfortable with them! 

We really enjoyed sitting down and finding out about their lives.  I also just loved listening to them talk.  Their accents are great, although it was sometimes difficult for me to understand them if there was a lot of background noise!  When the lads from Scotland were around I had to really really concentrate!!

Buried in the sand!
I have to say that if you get a chance to host a coach through AYSO - do it!  I can't promise you they will be as awesome as the two we had in our home, but chances are they will be close!  They have their own transportation so you don't have to cart them around if you don't want to, they are adults so you don't have to be responsible for their behavior, and it is their job to work with kids and they like it so they are used to mass chaos and know how to handle it! 

Playing with a snake the neighbor kids caught!

Having an in depth conversation on the beach

On our way to the lake - they all had to sit in back and watch Goonies! 

Coach Greg from Scotland paling around with Tyce

Wrestling on the water trampoline

Going for a boat ride!

The kids, my sister, and I had lots of fun watching their diving competition

The last day at soccer camp!  Water Fight!!
Lola made sure Coach Brandon was super safe at the pool

Coach David got a make-over
Gorgeous!  What a good sport!

Of course we had to go get ice cream at our local ice cream shop!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The writing on the wall!!

It was a nice Sunday afternoon.  The sun was out, it was a bit brisk outside, but the kids were playing in the basement and I was catching up on things around the house.  As I walked by the main floor bathroom I smelled something quite unpleasant.

This is not the first time that the bathroom has smelled like urine.  I have two young boys who often do not hit the mark or dribble around on the toilet or floor.  I noticed some dribbles on the toilet seat cover, but cleaned the entire toilet and left it at that.

I should have known better.  The smell was just too strong.  Later on I passed the bathroom again and could still smell urine!  I went in and started sniffing around.  Literally, I got on my hands and knees and began to sniff!  I reached the trash can and BINGO!  As I looked inside I could see the contents were wet.  I picked up the trash and it began to drip urine!  Upon closer inspection I found the walls and floor to be decorated with streams of pee as well!

When I confronted the artist I was greeted with a huge grin, widening of the eyes, and meekly bowed head.  The stinker thought it would be fun to see where he could pee!

Only boys!!!  I guess I should be thankful he did this in private in our home bathroom!  This experiment could have taken a much worse turn!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sonoma Wine Country

On our first official full day in San Francisco we ventured into Sonoma Wine Country.  The landscape of rolling hills and valleys with lush green fields of grapes was so differnent from what we came from that morning.  The sun was out, the temperature was high (about 90), and we were ready to taste some wine!

Our first stop was Benzinger Family Winery.  It is a family owned and operated winery that uses certified Biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming methods.  They have gardens throughout the vineyard that attract certain good bugs to kill the bad bugs.  It is a very interesting method of farming and one that seems to really work because not only was their winery gorgeous with all of it's gardens intermixed with the rows of vines, but the wine that came from those particular fields were my favorites!
An entrance to one of the caves
The wagon ride up the hill into the vineyards
Inside the caves

The gardens surrounded by rows and rows of grapes

If you have a chance to go to this winery, the experience is unlike any other I have had.  We went through caves where they store their wine and rode on wagons through the winery before we tasted the wines.  The guides were so passionate about what they did at the winery that I wanted to buy the wines before I even tasted them!

Our second stop was to Chateau St. Jean.  Again this winery was beautiful!  Because of our large group we sat on their expansive lawn surrounded by vineyards at tables and were served various wines.  We were also served lunch at this location and had a fabulous spread served with wine of course!

Our final stop of the day was Imagery Estate Winery.  This winery is also unique in that it has an art gallery.  They change their wine labels frequently and have artists submit works of art to use as their labels.  The only requirement is that they depict somewhere in their piece the Imagery logo.  It was a fun change of pace to see the labels displayed on their canvases before they were shrunk down to to fit on the bottles hanging on the walls while we sipped wine.  I felt as if I were part of "high society"!

All of the wine from the night before and a full day of it along with the heat had us tired out so we did something I have never ever done in my life and we ordered room service that night!  I was excited that it was presented to us just the way I see in movies with the covers over the food and the table cloth and decorated table!  Of couse this is the real world and not a movie so as the gentleman pushed the cart in the room it hit something and water spilled all over our suitcase and the table.  We weren't too fazed by this as our clothes were still in the sealable ziplock bags, but the gentleman was very upset!   We later recieved a call asking if we would like cookies to make up for the spill.  Of course I wanted cookies!! :)  Not necessary, but it felt like how things should go at the Ritz...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair....

We woke up to the sound of waves and a fog horn in Half Moon Bay. I wished we had had some time to explore the area, as our room was phenominal and the town appeared to have much to offer!

The sitting area
We stayed at The Beach House. Each room is set up as a suite and has a view of the ocean. We were double upgraded when we arrived so we had two balconies with ocean views in a corner suite! It had a king bed, a huge bathroom with a separate tub and shower, a kitchenette, a fireplace, and a separate sitting and eating area! Ryan was a little annoyed that the mini bar was not stocked, but we distracted ourselves by sitting in the outdoor hot tub next to the ocean the night before.

The view from our room

Look how close we are to the ocean!

The Ritz
After some business calls we hit the road once more. We headed for our next hotel, The Ritz Carlton of San Francisco, where Ryan's conference would be held. It wasn't check in time yet, but of course the Ritz was happy to take our bags for us until our room was ready. We dropped off the rental car and then jumped on a double decker bus!

Lots of means of transportion in the city!  These are super cool!!

On top of the bus!

Another way to get around!  The famous Trolley!

Yes, we took the tourist route with the hundreds of other people with the video cameras and fanny packs. I know that some people think taking little tours like these are corny, but I LOVE them! I really do! I even like the corney jokes! It was the fastest and easiest way to learn about a new place and its inhabitants. We were able to jump on and off the bus at different stops. The top was open so that was the best place to sit. If you get stuck on the bottom of the bus you can't see much especially if your bus has windows that look like they have screens in them. If you wait for a popular stop like Chinatown you can skirt up to the top for a new open air seat!

Be aware that San Francisco has the lowest average yearly temperature in the United States! The warmest month is September but while we were there it was in the mid 60s. With the wind coming off the ocean this makes it very chilly, especially when you are the top of a moving bus on the San Francisco bridge with no sun! Be sure to bring warm clothing!!! Our entire group was not prepared for the weather and everyone ended up wearing matching sweatshirts with a San Francisco logo on it!

On our tour we saw Lombard Street, Chinatown, Golden Gate Bridge, Japanese Tea Garden, The Wharf, Pier 39, Postcard Row, and much more! We learned which neighborhoods to stay away from, where to shop, and where to eat. I loved the city! It was jam packed full of people and buildings which all seemed to be right on top of one another! Everyone was going somewhere and it was never quiet! I always felt safe and never out of place as the combination of people in this city is fantastic! It feels like the entire world is represented in a few small blocks!
The Painted Ladies

The skyline by the Painted Ladies
It is cold on the bridge on top of a bus!!

Golden Gate Bridge


Yummy sushi in Chinatown!  They came by on little boats!

Shark fins anyone?  I have no idea what else is in there!
An alley in Chinatown

The the end of Pier 39


The sea lions at Pier 39

Fisherman's Wharf

Yummy food down at the Wharf

A few quick hints about the city:
  1.  If you want to see the massive sea lions on Pier 39 instead of going right down the middle of the pier where all of the shops are go to the left side and walk down.  You will have the shops on your right and the boats on your left.  The seals are all the way down at the end past the boats laying on the docks.  They are smelly, but fun to watch! 
  2.  For the best prices on souvenirs do your shopping in Chinatown!  This is especially true if you are looking for things for your kids.  I ended up buying a few things to give at Christmas time as well because the prices were so great!  There are a ton of shops everywhere.  The items in the shop on Alcatraz are different from the items in the shop on Pier 39 that is called Alcatraz.
  3. Union Hill has a lot of shopping as well, but it isn't a "touristy" place with trinkets.  It has stores like Gap. 
  4. If you go to Postcard Row or the Painted Ladies, (these are the victorian style houses seen on the opening of Full House) be sure to walk up the hill in the park across the street.  You will then be able to see the San Francisco skyline above the house which makes for a great photo shoot! (I didn't realize this until it was too late!)
  5. Take a tour!  This city is jam packed full of things to see and do and you can spend months in it and never know about what was around the corner!  Once you get the lay of the land you can pick what to go back to and explore more in depth. 
  6. Go for comfort over fashion.  You can walk everywhere, but you will have to do some walking uphill - dress for that.  Dress in layers.  In the sun it can be warm, but even if the forecast calls for sunny and in the 70s you will get that breeze off of the ocean and lots of fog so you can feel chilly easily!

We found our way back to our hotel by walking up hill. I have never experienced streets quite so steep before! We were out of breath by the time we reached our hotel. The Ritz is all it is cracked up to be. You know you have made it when you visit their public restroom and find soft hand towels to dry your hands instead of hand dryers or throw away towels! It also says something when you wake up one morning with a bomb squad and police patroling the building because George W. Bush has checked in! (Unfortunately, we didn't see him, but two men in our group were able to shake his hand in the lobby!) Ryan was most excited about the stocked mini bar. (This was before George W. was in the hotel.) I liked the view we had of Chinatown which was a few blocks away.

What I like best about the city!!  All of the people and organized chaos!!
Our night ended after a welcome reception with Ryan's business associates and some time spent in the hotel bar. We only see most of these people once or twice a year for very brief periods of time, but when everyone is together we all pick up where we left off and I always walk away with a sore face and gut from laughing so hard!