Thursday, February 20, 2014

Highlights of 2013

It's once again time for our annual "highlights" blog. Our main highlight, our trip to Hawaii, is covered in a separate blog, so this will briefly cover everything else. I think it is obvious from our pictures that Jeff had a very, very good year in 2013.

In January, Jeff and his friend Kevin went on a trip to the Rose Bowl football game in California.  On the way, they stopped in Las Vegas.  Jeff was extremely excited because he got to see a concert by one of his favorite bands, The Killers.

Jeff and Kevin did a lot of fun things in California.  They went to a USC basketball game, and even hit up Disneyland.  Unfortunately, Disneyland was extremely crowded, but it was all decorated for the holidays so that was fun.

And of course, they went to the football game.  The Rose Bowl teams were Wisconsin and Stanford, and Jeff became a Stanford fan for the day.
In March, Jeff and I took a weekend trip to Sun Valley.  I hadn't skied there since I was in high school, so I was really looking forward to skiing at the world-class resort.  Jeff and I stayed in the Sun Valley Lodge, which is where a lot of celebrities have stayed.  Jeff and I joked the whole time, asking where our "butler" was.

Unfortunately, the snow was not very good at Sun Valley that day.  There were a few good runs, but not too many.  I still had fun though, and tired my legs out by the end of the day.  After skiing I relaxed on the deck of the lodge and enjoyed a snack in the sun.  It was a good day.
In June, Jeff went on a business trip to San Antonio, Texas.  I had never been there, and when we researched San Antonio and found out how many fun things there were to do there, we decided to make a vacation out of it.  It was hot and humid, which was hard for me but didn't bother Jeff at all. 

We of course had to visit the Alamo.  I watched a movie on the story of the Alamo before going, which made it so much more interesting.
We also went to Sea World - did you know there is one in Texas? 
We went to a world-famous waterpark called Schlitterbahn.  The waterpark was absolutely fantastic - very big with long, fun rides.  Unfortunately, we made the mistake of going there on a Saturday, and the lines were ridiculous.  We were there all day and only got to go on 5 rides.
We also went on a tour of an amazing cavern system near San Antonio.  This was actually our favorite thing we did on the trip.  After walking around in the cavern system and admiring all the formations, we even tried our hand at panning for gems.
In July, my sister had her baby boy, Grant Thatcher.  I now have a niece and a nephew! I love being an aunt.  I don't have any good pictures of Grant from when he was first born, so below is a picture that was taken in December.  He is so cute!
Also in July, I had a big change in my life.  After doing public accounting for 9 years, and being with my last company for 7 years, I took a job in the tax department of URS Corporation.  It's a big change for me, but so far I am so happy with it.  I enjoy my work a lot more, and the work/life balance will be so much better.

In August, Jeff and his two hiking buddies (Steve and Scott from his work), hiked Kings Peak in Utah.  Kings Peak is the highest point in Utah, so Jeff was excited to be able to mark it off his list.  It was a long hike, about 30 miles.

Jeff did a lot of hiking in 2013.  He put in a ton of miles!  Below are highlights of some of his hiking trips.

The following pictures are from the Baron's Lake hike, once again done with Steve and Scott.

The pictures below are from the Coffee Cup hike, which is outside of McCall.  I was actually with Jeff for this one - and the scenery was beautiful.

One of Jeff's all-time favorite hikes was one he did with Steve and Scott in Oregon, called Eagle Creek.  The hiking was fairly easy, and the scenery was gorgeous.  They encountered multiple waterfalls along the way.

Jeff also hiked a loop in a mountain range in Idaho called the Seven Devils.  It was a more strenuous hike because there were lots of fallen trees to make your way around.

Another activity Jeff got very involved in during 2013 was fishing.  He was a late bloomer this year, as he really didn't get into it until Labor Day weekend.  But once he got started and discovered how fun the fishing was at the Payette River in Cascade, he was addicted.  He went to Cascade as often as he could during the fall, and fished, and fished, and fished...

He caught a lot of big fish.  He even got two of his fish mounted by a taxidermist.

My niece Holland "caught" a perch on Labor Day weekend (my dad caught it and then let Holland reel it in).  She was very excited.

Jeff's mom came to visit in September.  We took her to a Boise State football game, and then to Cascade for the rest of the weekend.  She also likes fishing so that was fun for Jeff.
In December, Jeff and I had another Christmas party.  It's hard for me to tell as the host, but I think everyone had fun.  I made some yummy food and we played a party game called "Wits and Wagers".  But of course most of the party was focused on getting quality time chatting with good friends.

And finally, I am so glad to live near my family.  It is great to be able to spend time with them.  In May or June, Jeff and I went to Holland's first-ever ballet recital.
I had a mother-daughter weekend in Cascade, which was great.  I am so lucky to have such a fun mom, who I consider one of my best friends.  I have just as much fun, if not more, doing things with her as I do with any of my girl-friends.  The picture below is us doing the Goose Creek Falls hike near McCall.
During Labor Day weekend, my parents, my sister, and my sister's kids came to Cascade.  There was lots of fishing (of course).  We also had a fun dinner at the park model.  Jeff, my dad and I went on Goose Creek Falls hike.
During Christmastime, my mom and I decided to have a baking day.  My sister and her kids stopped by.

Of course, there were many other fun times with my family, I just don't have the time or room to talk about them all. :)

Thanks for the memories, 2013!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Big Island - April 2013

In April 2013, Jeff and I were lucky enough to go on a vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii.  We had such a great time!  We both felt that it was our favorite vacation so far (with Maui in 2008 being a close second).  We were there for nine nights, and still didn't want to leave and were sad when we had to go.
When we were at the Boise airport getting ready to leave, we took a picture of me by the Hawaii sign for nostalgia purposes.  We took a picture by that sign back in 2008 when we went to Maui.

This picture is when we were trying to get everything from our rental car to our hotel the first night.  We got to our hotel fairly late, and since we were so tired we tried to make at few trips as possible.  We had gone grocery shopping before checking in, and tried to consolidate things as much as we could to carry in one trip.  Instead, our bags broke and things spilled everywhere.  I got grumpy (after all, it was 4 AM Boise time), but Jeff kept a good attitude.
The island is big enough that it has a variety of climates.  In general, there is a sunny side of the island that isn't quite as tropical (it is mostly fields of black lava) but has great weather.  Then there is the rainy side of the island that is cooler but is more jungle-y.  Our hotel, the Hilton Waikoloa, was on the sunny side of the island.  Although the natural landscape was black lava, our hotel was very festive and lush.  It was so big that you could have stayed at the hotel for a week and never left.  Another interesting thing about the hotel was that it was a bird sanctuary.  At night and in the morning the birds were shockingly loud, but we fortunately couldn't really hear it from our room.
Our hotel had a big pool area with waterfalls and a waterslide, a smaller pool area with another waterslide, and an adults-only pool.  My favorite part was the man-made lagoon.  It was fed by ocean water and got lots of sea life (we saw at least 8 sea turtles and lots of tropical fish), but the water was always calm.  I really enjoyed floating around in the water, and Jeff did some snorkeling.
Although our hotel was very fun, we of course had to explore the island.  A couple of times we rented cruiser bikes from our hotel and rode around the area.  We rode to a nearby beach as well as around the hotels in the area.
One very interesting thing we did was an astronomy tour.  The Big Island is a world-class astronomy site - in fact, several countries have built large telescopes there.  The reason is that from the top of its highest point (Mauna Kea), 100% of the northern hemisphere and 80% of the southern hemisphere is visible.  We had a guide drive us to near the summit of Mauna Kea for the sunset, and Jeff and I did the 10-minute walk to the actual summit.  You would have never guessed we were in Hawaii - it was around 30 degrees and windy!  Then the guides drove us a little bit down the mountain and got out there telescopes and showed us some things in the sky.
We also went to Volcanoes National Park, which was about a 3-hour drive from our hotel. 
Volcanoes National Park was really neat.  We did some hiking.  Our first hike was in a "lava lake" where a volcano had erupted in the 1950s.  The lava lake still had active steam vents.  Near the lava lake, we got to walk through a lava tube.  The second hike we went on had some interesting geological features and then took you up a hill from which you could see the entire park.
In Volcanoes National Park, we also went to an area that had a lava flow in 2003.  You could see the road covered with lava, including street signs.  In the distance you could see steam from where lava was entering the ocean. 

We also splurged on ourselves one evening and went to a spa.  It was very tranquil and private.  When we first got there we used a two-person hot tub that looked like you were sitting in a big half-barrel.  Then we each got a hot stone massage.  I think that was one of the most relaxed I've ever been. 
We did a lot of driving around and exploring the island, including driving up to the north side of the island, where there were some gorgeous beaches with really warm, vibrant-colored water.

There are some beautiful waterfalls on the Big Island.  The pictures below are of Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls.

Of course we did some hiking (but not too much on this trip).

I celebrated my birthday on the island.  Jeff was very sweet and set up a celebration on our room's lanai (balcony).
Like always in Hawaii, we saw some beautiful sunsets.
Here are some random pictures from our trip.

Going on a trip like that just makes us want to go to Hawaii again.  It was very relaxing and we had a lot of fun.