Monday, October 29, 2012

Apples and Kits, Red Ribbons and Young Womens

Playing catch up on the blog.... so rewind before our trip I went with a group of ladies up to Oak Glen to do some apple picking. I have a friend with a connection and we can pick a laundry basket full of apples for $10.00. Thats a great deal. 

So we loaded up in the morning after kids were at school (Ashley was sad that she didn't get to go) and I got to pick lots of apples. There were plenty of moms that had their crew of younger kids "helping" them, I think I had an easier job. 

These apples were all organic...meaning none of them have been sprayed...

which means we had to look for worm holes and birds that had eaten them. 

I was very happy with all our yummy apples...

Even though I missed a few bird pecked ones. 

My dilemma was that we were leaving for the Bahamas and I didn't have time to process them all before we left. So I cleaned out the fridge and filled it full of apples. 

When I got back I decided I'd better do something with them. Some went to friends, and I donated 24 for the young women to make caramel apples and I canned the rest. 

My new favorite toy is our apple slicer/peeler/corer. This is a must when you are canning apples! I picked it up at Bed Bath and Beyond and was so happy at how easy it was to get the apple ready for the jar. 

Ashley loved our slinky apples...Jeff was pretty impressed too :)

Great for getting uniform slices. 

Amy Stubbs let me come over to her house and we processed 14 jars of apple pie filling together (last year I did something wrong and all my jars overflowed and turned to vinegar)  

At home I filled up the rest of my jars with homemade applesauce. So far I'm the only one eating the applesauce but that's OK because at least I like it.

Last Thursday Taylor went to feed the chinchillas and WHOA he saw something dark and little running around.

Momma had babies again! She had 2 kits, one larger and one really little one.  

So we separated everyone and rearranged the cage even though it was the middle of the night. Then I put the older babies on Craigs list at 12:30 in the morning. We had been meaning to sell the kits for awhile but I just hadn't gotten around to it...this pushed me into action. 

There was a chance we were going to be out of town that weekend so we were glad that plans didn't work out and we were there when the babies were born!

It's now been a week and the really little kit is doing great and they are both similar size now. 

Mini-chimi has found a new home with a really sweet college student who has another chinchilla. She lives in an apartments of 4 college girls who come home and love to play with the chinchilla, now they'll have two. I'm sure he'll get spoiled. 

I knew when she drove from Irvine in Friday traffic and then came in our house with a specially made chinchilla carrying case/backpack that she had just bought that day to bring him home in, he would be well taken care of. 

Mini churro went to another sweet family who also has another chinchilla, so he'll have a buddy. Their chinchilla is a female though so he might be having a family of his own!

The same weekend I went to Stake Conference and was given a new calling. (Another good reason I wasn't out of town that weekend).  I was called to be the Stake Relief Society Secretary. 

I am sad to be leaving the Young Women's program, but I'm happy with the women I will be working with and the new challenges ahead. 

People comment that I get moved around a lot with my callings. Ha ha. I don't know if thats a good thing or a bad thing ;)  I just go with whatever I've been asked to do and hope I do my best. 

One thing I got to enjoy was the Young Women's sleep over/Standards night. I have to admit I didn't actually sleep over, but I had fun participating with the girls and staying over late with them. 

We made foil dinners...

Mine was a little overdone but edible

The girls put up their own tent, thanks to Nina Rioux's expertise (lots of family campouts) they were able to get it up and ready to sleep in. 

Jeff spoke to the girls and then Tara Turley and I did a little class with them. They made Personal Progress books and I had an insert that I made up for goals and to make a list of attributes they would like in a future husband. Our Young women leaders did that for us when we were young and its fun to look back at your 12 year old self and the things you thought were important in a husband. 

The final activity was the girls picked women in the ward that represents each young woman value and then we heart attacked their house. 

It was fun to see some of the people whose house they decorated thank them over facebook and be touched that they were thought of. 

I'll miss the girls but I guess I'll be there to welcome them into Relief Society when they get there!

The week we got back from our trip it was parent teacher conference for the boys. I can't believe they just had a week off and then they got another day off. What was good that I was able to go over with the teachers the things the boys still needed to make up because of our trip. 

Parent teacher conference is set up in the gym with all the teachers. You wait in line to talk to the teachers but you don't have to go to each classroom which is nice but it still took me 3 hours to get through all 12 teachers and I heard it from Ashley because I was 5 minutes late picking her up because of it. 

The next day was the Powder Puff game at the high school, Ashley was excited to go. 

The girls play football and the boys are the cheerleaders. None of the boys wanted to go so Ashley asked a friend and we picked up Maia and went to the game. 

The funnest part to watch was the cheer-leading. I have to say the 1/2 time show was worth the price of admission alone. 

These guys just didn't stand there clapping and throwing some pom-poms around they were doing stunts and  lifts and all kinds of stuff. It was fun and even the girls got a couple of touchdowns. 

This year I finally stepped up and decided to chair something for PTA at the school. I don't mind helping but I never wanted to be in charge of anything because I'm usually busy doing all kinds of other things. This year I said I would do Red Ribbon Week, which is one week then you are done. I was basically given a budget and was told "Go for it". 

Anything I wanted to do, just do. 

So I started ordering and collecting stuff for Red Ribbon week at least a month before. 

Jeff was patient with my messy preparation. 

Friday after school we got a committee of students together to help decorate the school for the coming week.  (Ashley did not want to be part of the picture)

The student council were helpers throughout the week too. 

I liked having the students help because they had a lot more energy tying all the ribbons everywhere and they were very excited about it. 

All week they got to do things like have pajama day, twin day, wear red, sports day and crazy hair. 

Each day you participate you got a raffle ticket and at the end of the week we drew the tickets for prizes. 

Ashley only let me take a picture of her crazy hair. 

All in all I think it went good and I wouldn't mind doing it again next year. The day I cleaned up the ribbons off the poles and trees...I made and executive decision not to reuse the ribbons. I got tired of trying to untie the tedious knots on the frayed ribbons and the ones on the trees had bird poop and ants covering them. I cut those ones off quickly!

This last week Taylor got his driver's permit!

It took him about 5 minutes to take the test and it took them about 45 minutes before they graded it. Even with an appointment the DMV trip took over and hour and 1/2. 

We were both glad he passed it on his first try!

He'll start his behind the wheel training in a couple of weeks.

Before our trip I was asked to help paint some backgrounds for a stake activity.

I thought I would be too busy this month and I asked if she could see if anyone else could help her. 

Since our out of town plans fell through I now had a bit of extra time so I repented and offered to help. 

So this week I painted 5 backdrops (she got someone else to do the other 4) 

Jeff has a part to play on the actual night. Its some sort of mystery and dinner that she is concocting so I can't wait to see what she has come up with. 

Oh and we're getting ready for Halloween over here. 

Real costume pictures to follow soon.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Our trip to Atlantis

This year Jeff's council trip for New York Life was at the Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas. 

We haven't brought the kids to a council trip for a couple of years but there was no way we were going to get away with not taking them to this one!

I never realized how many commercials they have for this place all the time until we were planning a trip there!

Getting there meant a red eye, a 2 hour layover and then getting to the Bahamas to start our day. 

Being able to travel during the middle of the night has it's advantages like being able to jump right into our day of fun...but it made for a sleepy family the next day too. It takes a good nights sleep to recover because sleeping on the plane never quite cuts it!

We were very lucky that our room was ready when we got in at 10:30. We arrived a couple of days before the convention so we didn't hit the New York Life rush. 

Our early arrival was 
A. so Jeff could actually enjoy a couple of days of the place.
B. It was a couple of hundred dollars cheaper per ticket to fly Thursday to Thursday.  

Here is our hotel room.

This was our view from our hotel room!

The whole place had a mythical, whimsical but impressive feel to it. 

Heading out to the pool in perfect weather. 

Every day was warm enough to want to be swimming and the couple of times it rained a bit it was quick and didn't cool things off enough to be uncomfortable. 

It was like stepping right back into summer.

We found out that every day we had to get wristbands to prove we belonged there. There were tons of people that would come from cruise ships every day and they had to pay a pretty penny (I heard up to $160.00 per person) for the day and we all had to show our wristbands to prove that we belonged there. 

Lots of people were just wristband bouncers around the hotel!

Ashley was able to learn to swim better with a week at the pool and I was very happy to have her custom made ear plugs to keep her ears dry the whole time. I was very glad she didn't have any ear problems when we were there!

After swimming a bit we decided to head into Nassau to do a bit of shopping...because Jacob didn't pack any flip flops! Who goes to the Bahamas and doesn't pack flip flops ;)

So we went and bought some. We found out that our family got a lot of attention in town, especially Ashley. 

For some reason on the island everyone thought we were on a show on TV. We said we were on one show but we didn't have a show. 

I couldn't figure out what show they were thinking we were on when someone would walk by and say "I love your show"    Ha ha, I would of loved to ask who they thought we were.  

Jeff did get a couple of people who called him Shorty (from Pit Boss)

After flip flop buying we wanted to head to a place that the locals hang out to have some dinner. The place was called The Fish Fry and it was a collection of restaurants that sold local food but it was about a mile and 1/2 away so we decided to take a Taxi. 

Jeff found a guy and we started walking towards his car. The first red flag to me was that this guy was hanging around outside a bar drinking out of a can covered in paper...then the paper comes off and I see that he's drinking a beer. As we're walking to the car I'm getting more uncomfortable because he seems slow to answer when Jeff is talking to him.  

"Jeff," I urgently whisper "Why are we getting in a car with a drunk guy!?"  

Jeff didn't think he was drunk. 

I pointed out the open beer that he was drinking and said I think he was. 

Jeff wasn't worried and said it was only a little over a mile away. 

It took Jeff only a minute or two in the car to realize I was right.

By some miracle he got us there OK, but in the mean time he couldn't carry a conversation well, he kept turning the radio really loud, and then off and could figure out which he wanted, he stopped in the middle of the street and tried talking to a police officer (I wish he would've stopped him) until the officer told him to carry on and move his car, and he got mad at Jeff for Jeff asking if people spoke languages other than English on the island. Oh and he ran over a huge pothole and tried to blame it on Jeff for distracting him by asking him about the English question.

Chalk one up for "You should've listened to your wife"

Ashley was afraid we would get a drunk taxi driver again...we didn't have any more problems the rest of the time. We had a lot of good and friendly drivers. 

At the restaurant we tried conch fritters, local fish and fruity drinks 
(even though the kids just ordered burgers)

One thing that we tried which was recommended by a local was Bahamas Goombay Punch. 

It was delicious and it was everyone's favorite on the island, so we were glad we tried it the first day. 

It tasted some like Cactus Cooler but with more pineapple flavor. 

I looked at the label and it has 41 grams of sugar! If we drank it I would just take a sip or two. 

After a sober taxi drive back we were happy to get a good nights sleep!

The Atlantis is pretty much like a city. We had to walk far for everything but there was tons to see at the same time. 

Pretty much to get to all the meetings we had to walk through the casino. 

The casino had some amazing glass sculptures in it. 

This one looked like the sun and I heard that it cost a million dollars!

We passed by this crystal/glass sculpture all the time. They were close enough to touch but I was afraid to break anything. 

Pretty much anything extra in the resort cost money but one thing was free, the movies in the movie theater. 

While we were there we watched a couple of free movies. 

Another thing that was free and very cool was the aquariums. We were staying  in the Royal towers and the lobby housed The Dig which was a main aquarium that a lot of the visitors came to see. 

It was a great exhibit. One of the things that was interesting was the lion fish which is actually an invasive species in the area and is being noted for eating all the reef fish. 

Local chefs are trying to put them on the menu at restaurants so it will keep populations down. 

The jellyfish are always fascinating to watch. 

But this giant Grouper was interesting too. I think he was big enough to swallow Ashley!

We found out that they replaced all the water in the aquariums 4 times a day with ocean water. A great way to keep everything healthy. 

There were a lot of sting rays on the property but the most impressive were the giant Manta Rays. They dwarfed anything else in the water and always made an impression as they swam by. 

These two are 14 feet across but they can get up to 26 feet across. 

They get so big that they have to be airlifted out by helicopter and returned to the ocean when they can't fit in the exhibit any more. 

The last one they tagged after they released it and the tag was off the coast of Atlanta Georgia 4 months later when it fell off!

The last free day Jeff had before the meetings started we decided to book an excursion. 

We booked a snorkel dive on the other side of the island. It came with transportation so we didn't have to worry about getting there on our own. 

We got to see some of the island. Here is a monument to Christopher Columbus. 

He did some great things...but he did some awful things too! We never learned about his enslavement, exploitation, rape and massacre of the native people of the islands in our history books. 

Waiting for our boat to be ready. 

We signed all our waivers, even the shark one (Yikes) and are ready to go!

The snorkeling was great! The water is beautiful and clear and is as warm as bathwater. You don't even have to think about being cold when you jump in. 

All the kids got in and enjoyed the snorkeling. Ashley and Jacob didn't last very long in the water so then I had more time to enjoy it myself. 

Ashley was brave and did all the dives. 

When she was younger she wouldn't put her head in the water.  She would have her snorkel and mask on but wouldn't put her face in. She would say "I can see the fish from up here"

This time she put her head in the whole time. 

At our second dive site there was a submerged airplane that had been used in a movie. We got to snorkel over the top of that and enjoy feeding the fish with the fish food we bought. 

Taylor was crazy in the water. He dove under the water with his snorkel more than he was on top of the water! He would go way deep and feed the fish and enjoy them and then come up for air.

I think he would enjoy scuba classes some time!

On the way to our last dive site they took us past this really rich guys estate. He was the creator of the women's fashion 9 West.   He had his own private section of he island with a man made beach that has to have sand replaced every few days and then it had a fire and was damaged. 

I guess it's in a bunch of legal battles because his neighbor is feuding with him and won't allow him access to his land to rebuild. Wow the problems of the rich and famous. ;)

Our last dive site was the highlight of the trip. 

We got to swim with sharks!

They weren't great whites or anything, they were Carribbean Reef Sharks but still they had teeth and were dangerous and the guy kind of freaked us out with all the warnings before we got into the water. 

When we were in the water the bait box of food was underneath the boat to keep the sharks down low. After we were all back in the boat they brought them to the surface. 


The scuba dive master that just moved to the Bahamas from Italy. 

On this side of the island we got to see some of the pricier houses. 

Driving back from a great afternoon of snorkeling....

it was challenging to get back to the hotel because it happened to be the day of the Youth Parade. Streets were closed down, and cars lined up everywhere getting stuck waiting for the parade. 

We asked how long the parade would go. Our driver said "Until night"

So he would go down back alleys trying to find a way around it. 

We got stuck with a bunch of cars down one alley. When he knew we were stuck he got out of the bus and told all the cars behind him to back out of the alley. Then he proceeded to back the tour bus out slowly down the narrow alley so we could try a different way. 

Our fearless driver. 

Eventually we got past the parade and made it back to the hotel just in time to get ready for our first New York Life dinner. 

Once the New York life meetings started we learned just how far apart things were. We walked and walked and walked to get to our meals. 

The family breakfasts were even farther. It took us literally 20 minutes of walking to get there!

On Tuesday the kids and I hung out at the pool, came back for lunch and then spent a little more time at the pool before Jeff and I got ready for the formal honor dinner and the kids got to go to the teen party. 

They were eating kid friendly food and hanging out at the teen club while we got the formal dinner and got to chat with some New York Life friends. 

Glad to be here with my hubby and the family. 

Tuesday we had a free afternoon and evening and it was a great time to enjoy the waterpark again. 

I have to say it was hard getting the kids to do homework when this was outside our window. Ashley loved standing on the balcony and watching the sting rays and sharks swim around below her. 

I could get an hour tops before everyone was ready to get out of the room. 

So down to the waterpark we go passing by the sharks and sting rays...

Passing buy the flying fish fountain and the bridge room that connects the East and West towers. 

We found out to rent that room cost $25,000 a night!

I loved passing by the costume winner of the Jankanoo Parade Celebration.

It was called "Atlantis Rising" which is probably why it was displayed. It was pretty fantastic. 

While we had Jeff with us the boys decided to conquer the "Leap of Faith" slide.  

The slide is a straight drop that brings you into a shark tank.  

You come out of the shark tank into the water. 

Here is Jeff trying it...

then Jacob (almost at the bottom)

And Taylor. 

While I was taking the pictures I heard some guys talking about why they had a fence around the slide. I guess at one time one of the sharks jumped from the tank onto the slide. 

I bet that would've been quite the ride for whoever was going down the slide!

The boys actually got me to go on it too. We like to watch the Amazing Race and one of the races had a girl that was too scared to go on this slide and thereby disqualifying herself. It was her last challenge too!  I had to do it after seeing that :)

That night we were on our own for dinner. 

We took a walk to the Marina shops to Johnney Rockets. 

Ashley was tired of walking by this point in the trip so I did quite a bit of carrying. 

We had 4 hamburgers, 1 shake and a drink all only for $85.00

(Did I tell you that food was expensive here)

The next day was our last one. Ashley and I attended the one activity New York Life had planned for the families, and it was a presentation and scavenger hunt. 

We learned about how they take care of the aquariums, and about sharks. 

And we even got to pet this 3 month old Caribbean Reef Shark, then we were sent on a scavenger hunt. 

We worked on the hunt for about an hour and a half but the clues were complicated and when we got to the next spot more times than not we couldn't figure out what they wanted. 

At a certain point our team had to give up and turn our paper in because I had to meet Jeff for lunch.  I was hoping they would have a participation prize for the kids but they only had a prize for the winning team.

I found out later that pretty much everyone gave up on the scavenger hunt and the winning team only got 1/2 of them right as it was. Crazy and this was geared for kids!  Ha ha ha! 

Once we escaped the last lunch we hit the beach for the first time. (We tried to go the day before but it was closed to due to the wind). 

The beach was great. If we could transfer this warm water to our California coast and combine it with our waves I think we'd have the perfect beach ;)

After a last round of swimming it was time to get ready for our final dinner. 

Here's some more girls dressed up in Junkanoo costumes. 

Ashley came home with her own mask, cowbell and whistle. I guess we can have our own Junkanoo parade here at home now!

The next morning we got packed up and prepared for a whole day of traveling. 

Before it was time to go to the airport we had some time to enjoy the aquariums a little bit more. 

I took the boys to the predator reef that only Ashley and I had seen earlier. 

WE all walked on the rope bridge and checked out...

The hammerhead sharks. 

We'll miss Atlantis. 

On our trip to the airport our driver took us through a little bit of a tour. 

We saw cemeteries, parks, monuments, old churches and formerly popular  hotels. 

I'll never forget the Bahamas flag. 

The blue is for the water, the yellow for the sun and the black for the people, all united. 

Back to California. After hours of flying and a 3 hour layover we arrived back in LA in the middle of the night. 

This weekend was spend finishing all the homework that wasn't done while we were on our trip!