July 26, 2016 – Jon sings with PrimeTime

Jon has joined another group to sing with. It is a mixed group of 7 men and women called PrimeTime and they sing in a jazz and pop style. He will still be singing with Hookslide but he wanted to try something else as well.

Since Ryan and Leigh are out of town we take Nathan and Sam to the show at the Monkey House in Berkeley. They are super good and seem to enjoy the music. PrimeTime does a great job and we look forward to hearing them sing again. Yay, Jon!

Sam is ready to enjoy the show

Sam and Nathan are ready to enjoy the show

Jon singing in a subset of PrimeTime

Jon singing in a subset of PrimeTime

In a larger group

In a larger group

During intermission Nathan and Sam entertain themselves!

During intermission Nathan and Sam entertain themselves!

June 22, 2016 – Alameda County Fair

Today Sarah and I go to the Alameda County Fair. In the 23 years I have lived here I have only gone once before. Obviously I am not a big fan. But the fairgrounds are right here in town, John is at work today, and if you bring 4 canned goods you can get in for free (except for $10 parking!)

We had a great time and three hours of fair seems like just the right amount of time!

Here are some of the things we saw –

Quilts!

Quilts!

Landscaping

Landscaping

Bunnies!

Bunnies!

Parakeets (one looks like my childhood bird, Bert!)

Parakeets (one looks like my childhood bird, Bert!)

Sarah as a WWII icon!

Sarah as a WWII icon!

Sheep judging

Sheep judging

Sarah and Clydesdale

Sarah and Clydesdale

 

June 19, 2016 – Father’s Day

Yesterday Sarah and I went to the Farmer’s Market to get vegetables for our whole family cookout on Father’s Day to honor John and Jonathan. One thing we got was this beautiful Malabar spinach (which is not really spinach.) I plan to use it as a base under a beet, orange, and blue cheese salad.

Malabar spinach

Malabar spinach

But this morning I get a call that Nathan is sick and running a fever so Jonathan and family are not coming. Boo. I am sad that Nathan is sick and we cannot be all together.

What to do with all the food? Raise a toast to John and eat burgers, salads, and dessert for the rest of the week!

Roasted beet salad with blue cheese and oranges

Roasted beet salad with blue cheese and oranges

Festive meal

Festive meal

Happy Father’s Day, John!!

Sarah and John clinking bottles

Sarah and John clinking bottles

June 9 – 11, 2016 – Zion NP, pet bones, and Mesa Grill Part 3

We wake up early at Bryce Canyon NP to get on the road so that we can visit Zion NP before it gets too crowded and hot. The plan is to find some breakfast along the way. We stop at the Galaxy diner in Hatch, UT.  By this time Nathan and Sam have given up on  waffles and are totally into French toast.  This diner does not disappoint from a breakfast food standpoint. It does, however, have a very touch-y owner. The first time he comes by and touches me I think, “don’t touch me again!” That hope is to no avail. This guy must have touched me at least twenty-five times. Every time he walked by I got a shoulder graze or squeeze whether he was waiting on us or not. I am used to strangers talking to me since I have seem some sort of tractor beam drawing them in but it doesn’t usually get physical. This is pretty creepy. We finish up quickly and I try to get away with just a handshake which doesn’t work but I at least manage to avoid a full body hug.

Nathan outside the Galaxy Diner in Hatch, UT

Nathan outside the Galaxy Diner in Hatch, UT

We enter Zion NP from the East Entrance.  The park looks very different from this side. In the western section it is all towering red cliffs and in the east there are more conical white sandstone formation. We stop at Checkerboard Mesa and discuss the geology of the area with Nathan and Sam.

Nathan with Checkerboard Mesa behind him

Nathan with Checkerboard Mesa behind him

Nathan and Sam looking at Checkerboard Mesa

Nathan and Sam looking at Checkerboard Mesa

Our hope is to get to the Visitor Center and on the buses before the crowds and heat. We have arrived before 11 AM but have failed in both regards. We have to park outside the park entrance and walk in. Then we have to stand in a very long line to get on a bus.  Many buses fill up before it is our turn.

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

We get off at the farthest point in the canyon. We are going to walk along the Riverwalk Trail until it ends at the Virgin River. In one of our shopping outings I have bought water shoes for Jon, Nathan, and Sam. While we wait on the shore they can take a hike in the water.

Jon with Sam and Nathan (ahead) walking with a lot of other people on the Riverwalk Trail

Jon with Sam and Nathan (ahead) walking with a lot of other people on the Riverwalk Trail

By the time we get to the end of the trail Nathan has gotten a blister and decides not to go in the water.  Sam and Jonathan do go in and have a great time while Nathan plays in the sand at the river’s edge.

Eek, cold water!

Eek, cold water!

Daddy and Sam in the Virgin River

Daddy and Sam in the Virgin River

These pictures look like they are the only ones there but it is careful cropping

These pictures look like they are the only ones there but it is careful cropping

Nathan and Zayde discuss breaking stones along their weakest points to make edges

Nathan and Zayde discuss breaking stones along their weakest points to make edges

On Friday we spend the morning in the Entrada pool where Sam swims through the waterfall and sits on the bench behind it with me. He is so happy to have accomplished this.

Tonight we are cooking our fancy dinner. Jonathan has seen some marrow bones at the new Harmon’s and he and I have a shopping expedition while John, Nathan, and Sam have some quiet tech time. Here is a picture of the marrow bones in the meat case.

The marrow bones are labeld femur bones

The marrow bones are labeled femur bones

We go into a long explanation of how we want the bones cut longitudinally so the marrow will be easier to get at.  The butcher seems a little perplexed. Finally he says, “What kind of dog do you have?” Jonathan and I crack up and say that the bones are for us. He admits that he has never sold the bones for people before.  He gets us some fresh ones and cuts them to our specifications. When we check out, here is how they ring up –

Pet bones for our fancy dinner!

Pet bones for our fancy dinner!

We roast the bones, make a garlic and parsley sauce, and serve them with crusty bread. It is very good and we are barking with pleasure at the end.

Marrow bones with parsley garlic sauce and crusty bread

Marrow bones with parsley garlic sauce and crusty bread

The week has flown by. We have done more than I have pictures for –  movies, shopping, breakfast and lunches out, books, iPads, cards and games. On Saturday we must head down to Las Vegas so that Jon, Nathan and Sam can catch their plane home. We leave in enough time for a stop at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in the Caesar’s Palace Casino. At last we have found the much desired waffles! Nathan eats every bit on his plate plus a roll or two. Sam does a really good job as well. It is the perfect ending to a really fine trip.

Jonathan, Nathan, and Sam at Mesa Grill

Jonathan, Nathan, and Sam at Mesa Grill

June 8, 2016 – Bryce Canyon NP Part 2

I am really looking forward to this mini-trip to Bryce Canyon National Park. It ranks near the top of my favorite places to visit.  We leave St. George early and plan to stop for breakfast in Cedar City. I figure a couple of stops along the way will make the trip easier for everyone.

Our breakfast is at the All-American Diner. Although Nathan and Sam are looking forward to a waffle somewhere, they are won over by the French toast fingers. All the breakfasts are pretty filling and I am confident that we will make it to Bryce and be able to take a hike without starving! ( I do have jelly sandwiches along for just in case.)

Mary, Sam, Jonathan, and Nathan at the All-American Diner, Cedar City, UT

Mary, Sam, Jonathan, and Nathan at the All-American Diner, Cedar City, UT

The rest of our ride is a scenic drive with views of Cedar Breaks National Monument and a climb up to over 9700 feet. Nathan is handling the GPS and reports our exact elevation. At the summit with patches of snow still visible we get out to take in the view back towards Zion NP.

Stretching our legs at 9700 ft. Elevation

Stretching our legs at 9700 ft. elevation

We reach Bryce NP shortly before noon and park at the Best Western Ruby’s Inn. We have decided to take the bus into the park as we know from experience that there is very limited parking. Our bus drops us off at Sunset Point.

We will begin our hike at Sunset Point and do the Navajo Loop

We will begin our hike at Sunset Point and do the Navajo Loop

We walk out to the canyon edge and are overwhelmed by the beautiful scenery. The hoodoos look like sand castles and everywhere the colors are pink, orange, and ivory.

Nathan and Sam are pretty impressed with the view

Nathan and Sam are pretty impressed with the view

Jonathan is, too!

Jonathan is, too!

Thor's Hammer formation

Thor’s Hammer formation

We begin our hike down into the canyon. It is pretty hard for me with my gimpy knee but I am game. Nathan and Sam are like mountain goats having no trouble with the terrain at all. Occasionally everyone needs to stop to let Beeba catch up.

Mary, Jon, Nathan, and Sam on the way down into the canyon

Mary, Jon, Nathan, and Sam on the way down into the canyon

It is pretty hot and the air is thin so we make sure everyone stays well-hydrated. Finally we get to the bottom of the canyon – and turn right to start the trek back up.  For some reason I thought this would be easier. It is easier on my knee but the steepness and the thin air are taking its toll.  Jonathan, Nathan, and Sam scamper back up to the top but it takes Zayde and Beeba a long time and lots of rests to make it to the canyon rim.  There were times when I wasn’t sure whether I would make it!

Cozy cave and a break from the sun

Cozy cave and a break from the sun

We check into Ruby’s Inn and Jonathan and the boys go in search of lunch.  I need a little sit down for a while. Later they go swimming and we take a nap.

Big goings-on tonight, a rodeo! We head across the street to the Ruby’s Inn Rodeo and get ready to watch some roping, barrel slalom, bull riding and bronco riding.  We discover pretty quickly that rodeos are 8 seconds of terrifying action and then 10 minutes of nothing happening.  One bull rider gets kicked in the head. We decide we’ve had enough.

Rodeo!

Rodeo!

Nathan and Sam go to the gift shop to pick out a souvenir.  Sam immediately picks out the most expensive thing in the shop. They are 5 foot matching geodes which are $15,000!  Luckily he is just as happy with a much smaller geode.  Nathan selects polished rocks.

It has been an excellent day and everyone sleeps well.

Part 3 – Zion NP and brunch at Mesa Grill

June 4-6, 2016 – Jon, Nathan and Sam visit St. George Part 1

John and I arrive in St. George a few days early to prepare for Jonathan, Nathan, and Sam’s visit. We need to get the house ready by moving the furniture around and setting up the beds for the kids. We must stock the refrigerator and pantry with grandchildren-friendly foods. And of course, there is the general clean-up that needs to be done since we have not been in St. George since January.

John washes the back windows

John washes the back windows

The view through our newly clean windows looks great!

The view through our newly clean windows looks great!

We buy a big Boston butt to make carnitas

We buy a big Boston butt to make carnitas

Nathan and Sam's room is all set up and waiting for them

Nathan and Sam’s room is all set up and waiting for them

Clark and Lewis stay behind to be the welcoming committee

Clark and Lewis stay behind to be the welcoming committee

Finally it is time it is time to go to the airport and pick them up.  We are very excited. Spotting them coming down the escalator, I get in position to take a picture.

Yay! They've arrived!

Yay! They’ve arrived!

Our plans for the ride home was to stop at Cedar Pocket and have a picnic under one of the shaded tables. The Virgin River runs right through the park. It’s narrow and shallow at this point and I figured the kids would have fun throwing rocks in the river and hiking around. But as they say, the best laid plans…  The temperatures are soaring and there is no way anyone wants to sit outside when it is over 110F out. So we stop at McDonalds in Mesquite instead. The weather forecast this week is to be really hot. We are going to have to adjust.

On Sunday we get up early to play tennis. At 7 AM the temperature is only around 70F and the sun has not gotten above the cliffs.

Jonathan playing tennis

Jonathan playing tennis

John on the court

John on the court

We take Nathan and Sam over to the pool at Entrada. Nathan is totally water-safe now while Sam still has a ways to go.  Over the course of the week he will come along way. After swimming the boys enjoy Beeba’s mac ‘n cheese.

Mmmmm, mac 'n cheese

Mmmmm, mac ‘n cheese

On Monday we spend quite a while at the Sand Hollow Aquatic Center. The pool is huge and has a big slide and currents. Sam is really taking to the water now and is no longer afraid to put his head in the water. He is floating well and can propel himself forward on his stomach and backwards on his back.

Monday night we have tickets to Peter Pan at the Tuacahn Amphitheater. Even though the play starts late, Nathan and Sam stay awake through the whole thing.  They enjoy Peter Pan flying around, clap to keep Tinkerbell alive, and enjoy the short fireworks display. (As an aside, I never realized how creepy the story of Peter Pan is.)

Nathan and Sam enjoy frozen lemonade with Daddy

Nathan and Sam enjoy frozen lemonade at Tuacahn with Daddy

The set for Peter Pan

The set for Peter Pan

Everyone is happily anticipating the play

Everyone is happily anticipating the play

In Part 2, we go to Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park.