Friday, September 25, 2009

Note to Self...

* never put a soda in the freezer...

especially if it's in a glass bottle.

* If your daughter trys to make "cookies" on her own don't get mad...make it into a Family Home Evening lesson...

explain that using the same ingredients as cookies don't make cookies if you don't follow the recipe or the directions...

...just relate it to goals like mission and temple and so on and try not to think about all the ingredients she just wasted.

* When using a daughters creation to illustrate a point during Family Home Evening. DO NOT make older brothers really eat a little bit of their sister's version of cookies and compare it to mom's version.

It will only foster teasing and hurt feelings and lots of attempts to console the young chef that her "creation" was a valuable contribution to Family Home Evening even though no body wants to actually eat it.

* Never let Taylor get a cold during hot dry seasons or you will wake up every
morning to a trash can that looks like this...

plus he will spend at least 2 class periods a day dealing with more bloody noses.

* Make sure to teach my boys proper missionary etiquette. When they happen to end up celebrating a birthday while eating at a member's home...

A. Try not to look too uncomfortable having to sing Happy Birthday to someone you might not know very well. She doesn't really care how bad or good you sing.

B. When she offers you a piece of her favorite Grandmother's special recipe homemade Oatmeal cake that she spent all afternoon least TRY it.

* Take more pictures of Taylor.

When he had to have a recent picture of himself for a school I had nothing recent of just him so we had take this picture quick and print it in black and white.

* and finally marshmallow cream DOES NOT make a good substitute for marshmallows when making rice crispy treats!

After failing the family dessert test I think these are taking a trip over to the teacher's lounge.

(Not to worry there is nothing wrong with them they just don't taste the "same" as my normal ones so the kids don't like them but I don't want to end up eating any more of them thinking I have to not waste them:)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our trip to Bermuda

We started our travels to Bermuda about 6:00 in the evening with a drive into LAX. All packed up complete with neck pillows, eye patches and ear plugs we were ready for our trip. We started our 10:45 red-eye to Newark on the "family row" in the back of the plane. We slept through most of our flight after a dose of Bendadryl serenaded by the plane engines and toilets flushing. Jeff was so appreciative of being rocked to sleep by passengers nudging him every time they walked by to go to the bathrooms.

Night ended quickly as we flew into Newark at sunrise only 5 hours later with the sun coming up behind Manhattan in the distance. After a layover and breakfast in the airport we tried to snooze some more while we flew the 2 more hours to Bermuda. Luckily we just missed the Hurricane weather. (Last time New York life tried to have a conference in Bermuda a hurricane did so much damage to the hotel they had to move it to Palm Springs.) As we were landing we couldn't believe the color of the water, it was the most unique shade of green.

When we flew in we descended out of the plane into full midday sunshine. It was hot and humid enough to fog up my camera as I tried to get a picture of Ashley coming out of the plane. (the airport worker quickly informed me I wasn't allowed to take pictures :)

We hopped in a taxi and started the trip across the island to our hotel. There is no option to rent cars on Bermuda everything is taxi, ferry or bus. You can rent a "bike" which is a motor scooter but every single Bermudian who we talked to told us they strongly recommended us not to rent one. They probably saw one too many tourists getting into accidents. They drive on the left hand side of the road and the roads are narrow, windy and plenty of drivers don't follow the low speed limit.

We loved talking to our taxi drivers and finding out as much as we could about life in Bermuda. Most people had 2 or 3 jobs just to live there for example. The average house price is 1.2 million dollars, cars cost 150% over their price (so my car would've cost $75,000!) and food is outrageous because it all has to be shipped in. Because cars were so expensive we had all kinds of taxis in various states of disrepair. Most of them didn't even have working seat belts in the back (the law only said you had to have one in the front).

My favorite taxi was the one that was falling apart in my hands while the taxi driver was trying to blame me for it. It was a van and he told Taylor to climb in the back seat so I tried pulling the seat up and the handle immediately came off in my hand (obviously it was broken). The taxi driver stopped what he was doing, stared at me and and gasped and said "You broke it!?!?" as if I took the whole door off. I so obviously didn't break it, it was already broken. He repeated himself 3 times or so, probably hoping that I would take some sort of ownership and offer to pay him for it but when I ignored him he gave up. I noticed that before I had ever touched it he had opened the back hatch and was directing Taylor to crawl in through the back and over the seats to get in. Then when we got in the car it was blazing hot and his window was down so I started rolling down my window and he barked at me "DON'T ROLL THAT DOWN IT WILL COME OFF THE TRACKS" I sat in my seat the rest of the drive and didn't touch anything.

Don't get me wrong most of the taxi drivers were very nice and we learned a lot about Bermuda from them...

Like... the island is small and narrow (only one mile wide at it's widest point). It's shaped like a fish hook and is full of islands and bays.

... Bermuda has more churches per capita than anywhere.

... the island is made out of worn down coral reefs that grew on top of an eroded volcano and because of that there is 10 miles of shallow waters surrounding the island which caused the majority of the shipwrecks. the past Bermuda pirates would light fires on the cliffs to lure ships to the coral reefs. Once they would shipwreck they would pillage the ship and then rescue the people. They made quite a living from it.

...all the roofs of the buildings are bright white. We found out that there isn't freshwater sources on the island so everyone had to collect rainwater from their roofs. Each house had a water tank and they had to use for drinking, washing and anything else you use water for. The tanks are great unless their isn't enough rain and people have to buy their water from water trucks or frogs and "other things" get into the tanks and they have to pay to have someone come and clean them out. Bermudians know how to conserve water and I found myself being very conscious of it while we were there.

So here's our hotel the Fairmount Southampton. It was the biggest hotel on the island and the only major one on the side of the island that we were staying on.

So we unloaded our stuff in our room and then headed out to find something to eat.

Right away we learned how fast things could get expensive. There was the $10.00 taxi ride for a restaurant about 1.2 miles away...

then there was the $60.00+ lunch at a local Mexican?/Italian? hole in the wall for one pizza, one sandwich and one salad that we all shared (18% gratuity included). Then of course the taxi drive back because there wasn't sidewalks to walk back on and we didn't want to get lost =) Luckily the food was good and the waiters were interesting to talk to (from Russia and Iran).

The kids were fine after the flight but Jeff and I had to take a nap that afternoon. We checked out the pools both inside and out and relaxed that first day. We took a trip down to the beach but it was closed due to the Hurricane. They felt that the water was too rough and had riptides but it looked much calmer than anything I had seen in Newport to me.

The next day we woke up and were ready to explore as much of the island we could before the New York Life meetings started. We had scoped out what we wanted to do on the Internet before we got in and went from there.

Our first stop was the Aquarium/Zoo/Museum on the other side of the island.

It actually wasn't priced to bad but we made the mistake of thinking we could pick up breakfast on the way there. There is no fast food so we were directed to the snack bar, no real food till lunch.

Taylor thought he was going to have some kind of attack from a lack of food but we made due with apple and orange juice and leftover airplane snacks.

So we loved the mini-zoo if only for the fact that there was hardly nobody there so we felt like we had the place to ourselves. All The animals were active and were close enough to reach out and touch. Some you really could've reached over the wall and touched and there was only a little sign telling you not to. Definitely different than San Diego Zoo.

We loved watching these giant tortoises eating during feeding time. We got to talk to the Australian zoo keeper and hear stories about the tortoises getting stuck upside down and having to have 4 people flip them over so they don't die that way

The aquarium had fish that were Native to Bermuda. We ended up seeing quite a few on the island but they weren't nearly as colorful as Hawaii's fish.

After that we took a taxi over the Crystal Caves. We had seen them on the internet and thought it would be a great way for the kids to see caves without hiking. It was a pretty penny to get in but it ended up being one of the kids favorite adventures during the trip.

We started our tour going down a long, slippery stairway to the bottom of the cave receiving "cave kisses" (drips) the whole way down. Our guide told us how the caves were discovered by two boys who were playing cricket and lost their ball. They lowered themselves with ropes and found this cave. They never found their ball.

We saw stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws and every kind of formation caves have. Each stalactite takes 100 years to form 1 cubit inch and we saw some huge ones so that give us an idea of how long it had been around!

Part of the cave was partially submerged so they had errected a floating bridge to walk to the end of the cave and back.

The bridge rose and fell with the tides so we all had to duck our heads in certain spots...well not all of us.

The tour guide told us the history of the caves, a little about how the island was formed and then spent the rest of the tour telling what some of the formations looked like to him. He would point them out and we would squint and stare and try and see what he saw. Some were easier than others.

Some formations were pretty obvious dirty snow...a shark's head...the New York skyline...

And others were a little harder to see. Do you see Martha Washington? Suposedly she's in her somewhere.

On the way back from the caves we thought we would try taking a bus back. One thing that is really nice about visiting Bermuda is our money is interchangable with theirs. They take dollars and give back Bermuda money in change or vice versa. They are both worth the same. That along with everyone speaking English it has to be one of the easiest countries to visit. After a long, hot, crowded bus ride back we were ready to hit the beach for the first time.

We went to the resort's private beach at the bottom of the hill (we have to take a shuttle to it) and hung out until the New York Life people started closing every thing down for that night's dinner.

We raced back and did speed showers to get ready for dinner and then took the shuttle back to be greeted by drums and Gombey dancers jumping around with their whistles, mock weapons and huge colorful costumes. They are the only native cultural representation on the island and they date back to slavery times. Their dancers were completely covered to be hidden to their masters and though they appeared to represent Biblical stories they were statements about freedom.

The food was great as always with freshly grilled steak and lobster tails. They even had a "kid friendly" section as well.

It was fun to hook up with New York Life friends again. Ashley kept asking me how people knew who I was but it was from all the times that I've been with Jeff at New York Life events or speaking engagements :)

While we were there Ashley scoped out the face painting booth. I was glad because every time we've been to an amusement park or zoo the last few times she wants her face painted and I tell her "no we'll do it later." So now she had her chance.

Here's the finished product along with balloon creation as big as her.

The face painting lasted as long as it took to get to the hotel because she had a meltdown and her tears ran down her face ruining her make up, and then she wanted it all off. I was glad I hadn't paid for it :) Regardless it was a long but nice day.

We came back to our "gift" from New York Life for making it to Chairmans counsel. Last year we got a gift anyone would love, a flip camera. This year it was more specialized to the alcoholic in all of us. Along with pictures, we recieved rum and ginger beer, some nuts and a rum cake. The kids said "what can we have?" "Nuts" we said. The rest we brought back for Jeff's secretaries husband. (I have to say it was weird having to declare rum at customs.)

We found that our eye masks from the airplane came in handy when we wanted to put the kids to bed but Jeff and I wanted to watch TV.

Jeff was up early the next morning bright and early. We got to sleep in and eat breakfast a little bit later in the day.

Oh what to do, what to do while Jeff is in meetings. Let's hang out by the pool with the kids and talk to other New York Life moms...

Fortunately we almost always found someone for the kids to play with whether they were from New York Life, locals just making use of the pool or English families on vacation (met a lot of those).

After Jeff got done with his meetings we headed over to the beach again and then decided to check out Horshoe beach. It was full of seaweed from the storm so we didn't swim in it but we did find this cove. Ashley loved it because there wasn't any waves.

I forgot to mention that Bermuda kept boasting of pink sand beaches. I didn't really see pink but it did look very white to me. Sometimes I could see a little blush of pink as the sand was piled all over the bathroom floor though.

At this cove Ashley found a couple of pieces of coral and some cool shells and we put them in our bag to bring home.

After meetings we took the free ferry to Hamilton which is the capital of Bermuda.

Once we got there we saw some multistory buildings, slightly more traffic, some shopping and restaurants but it still had a smaller town feel.

We were trying to last until the open air market in the evening but in the end we never made it because it was so dang hot, and we ended up being so tired.

The stores were a break from the heat so we had to have a little fun in them...

Here's our Rasta children.

Shopping for souveniers was interesting. We bought t-shirts for the kids but we were laughing later because Taylor's had surf boards on it (there isn't any surfing there), Jacob's had geckos (no geckos either thay are in Hawaii) and one we were looking at one for Ashley that had Hula girls on them.

We heard that there was an old church of England cathedral in town so we thought that it would be fun to check it out. We get there and it's open but there isn't a sole in it. We found through the trip that it was pretty common to have something open and nobody attending to it (like museums, churches and historical buildings) either they were really trusting or nobody wanted to sit around all day doing nothing but sit in a building.

The church was pretty but blazing hot inside. There was a basket of paper fans next to the door so you could wave the hot air back and forth in front of your face to try and cool off but I couldn't imagine sitting through a sermon in there it would be miserable!

I saw these statues along the back wall and assumed it would be the 12 apostles and then when I got closer I realized there was too many of them. They were statues of a bunch of random saints instead. At least Christ was in there.

Here is Taylor preparing a sermon for us...

Now lets here one from Jacob.

Once place we had seen before and heard would be a good place to visit was the Underwater Exploration Institute. People kept directing us to it and we walked further and further and further until we finally found it.

It was 1 hour before it closed by the time we got there and we found out that didn't have any fish on display it was only about the vehicles that explore underwater and artifacts of shipwrecks and the largest collection of shells. We debated paying the admission fees for one hour there but it was so hot outside and we had walked such a long way we just bit the bullet and stayed.

It actually wasn't a bad place to visit. They had a "dive experience" that was really an elevator that took us to the bottom floor that was cool and the kids likeds some of the exibits there. We had to go through quick since it was closing but we were glad we did it.

After we got done there we realized that pretty much the whole town closes down at 5:00 except for some restaurants. We tried going to this City Hall building but of course it was now closed when we got there.

We happened to meet a lady who was one of the 20 or so members of the church on the island. She was trying to rescue a pigeon with a broken wing out of the fountain. This kids wondered what ever happened to it.

Since there wasn't anywhere to hang out for 2 hours until the market started we ate at KFC instead which is the only franchise on the island, and pretty much the only fast food I saw as well. I guess franchises are illegal there but KFC snuck through on a technicality years ago so it's stayed. After that we took the ferry back to our room to relax.

The next day while Jeff was in meetings New York Life took us on a glass bottom boat tour. They took us around and told us about the island and then we ended up at a shipwreck that had turned into quite a coral reef so we could check out the fish.

One the way back the guide told us horror stories of the people that were fined 10,000 and could be put into jail for taking a piece of coral with them. I guess there is NO taking sand shells, coral or anything from the beaches. Soooo....Ashley insisted we take back all our finds to the beach when we got back. Good girl.

Right after Jeff got done with his meetings we went back to the harbor for a jet skiing tour that we booked the day before. We had talked to another family who had done it and they said it was a lot of fun. Jeff took the two boys and I had Ashley. I felt comfortable because it was a guided tour and we were going out with 6 jet skis so it wasn't like we were wandering around on our own going places we shouldn't :)

We started off slow in the no wake zone and then the quide took out full throttle and we struggled to keep up with him. I was wondering how Ashley would do because she had never been on a jet ski before. She whooped and hollered when we started going fast until she felt the bumps and then she cried "slow down! slow down!". All in all she was very brave but she never did get completely comfortable with all the bumbs.

The guide took us around to the shipwreck again and we got to feed the fish, and he took us under the smallest drawbridge in the world (it only opens up 18 inches which is enough to let the mast of a sailboat through).

Here are the kids from the other New York life family that happened to be on the tour with us. The other jetski held an Italian couple that Jeff had fun speaking Italian to.

That night was the final dinner for the official meeting with New York Life.

Jacob and Taylor and Ashley were happy because each place setting had a new mag light at it. So the whole dinner the kids were playing with their new flashlights.

We were escorted into the dining hall with a bagpipe band and watched Irish dancers and had a man dressed up in Old English regala introduce the courses of dinner.

That's one thing about the island. There was never any native population so whatever culture was there is adopted from England or from the immigrants who live there which pretty much adopted a lot of the English way of life. It was a very religious and conservative island (which I didn't mind at all).

That night's entertainment was the guys that played in Beatlemania in New York. They were very fun to listen to. At first I wondered if they were playing with a recording but then I realized quickly that they were really singing accompanied by a full orchestra.

I thought this guy looked eerily close to the orginal!

Let me introduce you to Ben Stein. Pretty sweet deal to get flown to Bermuda to speak for and hour and get paid if you ask me. Jeff said all he kept thinking was Bueller....Bueller...Bueller...

While over 1/2 of the New York Life people left the next morning we stayed on an extra day so Jeff could got to an extra investment portion of the meeting.

After Jeff's meetings we thought we'd head up to the lighthouse. It's the highest point on the island and everyone else we talked to had seen it...and we'd seen about everything else we wanted to we had to go up too.

It was hot and muggy walking up alllll those stairs but once we got to the top there was a good breeze and a better view.

I was so proud of Ashley she walked up all those steps by herself.

Since we were pretty close to the hotel we thought we'd walk back. After making a wrong turn we decided to cut through the hotel's golf course. We found 3 little ducks that were following us and we thought they were cute so we started making duck calls. Sure enough we round the corner and a whole flock of them come out quacking and looking for a hand out! All we could do was laugh.

I rummaged through our bag and pulled out some snacks and we started feeding the ducks potato chips and crackers.

They followed us for most of the way back :)

After all the New York Life stuff was over we moved to a new hotel over to the other side of the island, closer to the airport. We got the tip from someone who was leaving off the island and we were glad we did.

What we gave up in room comfort we gained in location. The best part about this hotel was how close it was to the water and the cove that had a million fish you could feed and swim with.

We went to check out the beaches and found that the hotel had it's own private caves that you could walk in any time during daylight hours.

None of them were manned so we could explore on our own. And best of all it was free. Sweet!

They even had a place where you could swim in the cave water. We heard it was pretty chilly but we were contemplating the bribes to get the kids to experience it anyway...but in the end Jacob only got to put his feet in because we never had time to get back down to the caves.

After that we went over to check out the fish. The snack bar gave us some bread to give them and we had fun dropping them into the water.

That was fun but it was even more fun to get into the water and have them surrounding you as you fed them :) When we were done with the bread we had to fish out the potato chips from our bag to keep them coming.

The funnest part was finally busting out the snorkle gear and having some fish to swim with since we didn't really have them much on the other side of the island.

After hanging out with the fish for awhile we went over to the beach side and swam in the water. It was calm because it was on the side of the island without all the wind. We had just left pre-hurricane weather on one side of the island with whitecaps and stronger surf to smooth as glass bay water that was perfect for swimming.

After we had our fill of the water we decided to head over the the historic City Georgetown to check it out and to find some dinner. It was pretty dead when we got there even though it was a Saturday night. It was after 4 so of course everything except for the 4 or 5 were closed of course. Maybe everyone drives taxis in the evening (wouldn't be surprised).

We slipped into the historic city hall before they shut the doors. Of course there was nobody inside manning it.

So we admired the fake replicas of the crown jewels,

So we watched the judge and jury...

And here are your consequences...

And yours...

And yours...well maybe we'll have to rethink your punishment since it looks like you can slip right out of there.

Here is a sampling of the narrow streets in Georgetown...

And here is the oldest church in the Western Hemespere....Ta dah.....

of course we couldn't go inside because it was after 4:00.

This is like the main statue in Georgetown representing the first person to discover/found the island. He looked like some guy having some kind of physcotic episode in a wind storm. I didn't get it.

We have the statue of liberty and they have this guy...

Here is a replica of the boat that Bermudian's took to help save our Jamestown settlement from starvation.

Did you know that they also broke into the powder stores of the English to smuggle it to us during the revelutionary war so we could win the war and start shipping them food again.

During the French and Indian war England confiscated all the Bermudian's ships because this time they didn't trust them to not help us again.

After our sightseeing we enjoyed a really nice dinner right next to the water. It was our last night before real life started again and we relaxed and enjoyed it as a family glad for the time that we had to spend together before life got hectic.

The flight home was pretty nice. We were glad to get a continental plane that had individual TVs on the back of every seat with videos and game on demand for the longer leg of our trip. We were all happy to have our own entertainment to keep us occupied of course the boys always carry their entertainment with them...

So here are the things I won't miss from Bermuda...

* Having to be driven everywhere

* The humidity

* Paying an arm and a leg and through the nose for everything :)

* the compulsory gratuties from 18% to "whatever I feel like".
for example... our restaurant bills with 18% tip inluded, our hotel bills with mandatory $33.00 a day tip for the staff (on top of the per person occupancy taxes) and our last taxi driver charging us a $9.00 tip over the cab meter price...just because.

Things I will miss from Bermuda

* The accents! I loved them!

* The night time sounds, it was deafening and come to find out they were just croaking frogs.

* Meeting new friends like Sam and his wife and hearing about their religion and arranged marriage! They seemed to take to us and we had a lot of conversations with them, and admired their new baby.

I also loved meeting a lot of nice people from Europe and the east coast relaxing on vacation.

* The slower pace of life, though not much slower for us because we were trying to pack it all in.

* The colorful buildings!

* The nice and friendly people there and the small town feel.

* The crazy signs. I learned that ....

... "whilst" is a word

... I read from 8 to 12 times that I am financially responsible for whatever damage my children or children in my charge cause to the one KFC on the island, it made me wonder how much damage children have caused in the past!

... I will become famous and have my picture paraded in front of all my friends in the neighborhood to make my mother proud if I shoplift in the grocery store

... either "R" is a word or "Wer" is a word I can't figure out which.

* The kids miss the jet skis, the fish and staying in a hotel

* I miss the beach!