Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Festivities

This year, I finally saw It's a Wonderful Life and White Christmas for the first time with Anna. (Both great!) It really set the tone for this holiday season that started in early December with the H&P Christmas Party. A group of us took the train up to San Juan Capistrano on the 4th where we had drinks at the Swallows Inn before meeting everyone else for dinner at the El Adobe De Capistrano. The downtown was super festive for the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony that evening. Back down in Carlsbad, we continued the party with more pitchers of beer at Pizza Port.

Drinks at Swallows Inn in San Juan Capistrano
Dinner at El Adobe De Capistrano
Taking the train back from San Juan Capistrano
On December 14th, I visited the Holiday of Lights at the Del Mar Fairgrounds with Anna. Driving my Jeep around the race track, covered with interlocking rubber tiles, we checked out the colorful light displays and listened to the holiday music broadcast over the radio. Afterwards, we had a nice dinner at Sbicca (gnocchi) in Del Mar. After one dinner party left, we had the back room with the fireplace all to ourselves.

Tunnel of Light at Del Mar Fairgrounds
Elves playing Volleyball at Holiday of Lights.
Anna in my Jeep driving around the race track at Del Mar
I drank a lot at the 8th Annual Kegger Claus party on December 23rd. At least 5 different types of liquor were poured down the Ice Luge into my mouth. (Tequila, Schnapps, Whiskey, etc...) Some couldn't handle the fast-flowing alcohol. Ha! I have a great picture of Chad falling over to the side mid-pour. I received an Honorable Mention for my ugly Christmas Sweater in the costume contest. The grand finale was the burning of the Christmas Tree loaded with firecrackers and a Roman candle. It started out as a dud when the fire just fizzled, but the thrown bucket of gasoline sent everyone leaping back as the the flames roared into the sky.

Noah and Chad preparing for some Ice Luge.
Cold Tequila down the Ice Luge.
The flaming Christmas tree loaded down with firecrackers.
I haven't been to a Christmas Eve Mass in a long, long time. I went with Anna and her family to the Immaculata Church at the University of San Diego. I forgot how many rituals the Catholic Church has. (Lots of repeated standing, kneeling, sitting and singing with the heavy scent of burning incense in the air.) The young woman who led the hymns had a very beautiful voice. A Bishop in his red skullcap gave the sermon in place of the church's regular priest. Afterwards, we checked out the nearby Founder's Chapel with the dark mahogany walls, white marble altar and towering gold altarpiece surrounding the crucifix.

Immaculata Church at University of San Diego
New Year's Eve service at University of San Diego.
Nativity Scene outside Immaculata Church at USD
This is the first year that I have spent Christmas at my Mother's house. Normally, we all go to my Grandma's house in Santa Ana, but she has passed on the tradition. We spent Christmas morning watching my nephews open their presents while eating bacon and pancakes before driving up to Riverside. There was tons of food and two cakes this year for my birthday. Once again, I was in charge of the gift exchange. It is fun, but so hectic!

Ryder jumping for joy on Christmas morning.
Playing dinosaurs on Christmas Day.
Upside-down Christmas Tree at my mother's house

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Halloween Weekend

With the upcoming mid-term elections, I dressed up as Uncle Sam for Halloween. We always have a good costume turnout at work.

Halloween Group Shot at Work
Suzie the Glowing Jelly Fish
I went with Chad down to University Heights for our pub crawl version of the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. We started at the Small Bar with some friends before cruising down the road waving our signs. We had dinner at Mama Testa.

Noah, the Wishy Washy Uncle Sam
I Have A Sign! 2+2=4!
Chad the Unfeeling Hippy
I wrapped up Halloween playing in costume on Monday night with my kickball team. The opposing team had a cool theme, everyone in different superhero outfits. No wonder we lost. Yeah, right!

Halloween Kickball Game

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pink Party at the House of Blues

Chad and I went downtown Saturday night for the Pink Party, an annual fundraiser for Breast Cancer. It was my first time at the House of Blues. We arrived around 9 where we met up with some friends from my kickball team and ended up staying till 1:30 am.

One of The Hoop Unit
Runway Fashion at the Pink Party
We had a good time. The stage was busy with different performance groups like The Hoop Unit and Fire n Ice who danced with hoops, wings and umbrellas. An acrobatic couple displayed some impressive balancing tricks and we saw several fashion collections walking up and down the center runway. During the night, DJ's took turns providing music between the entertainment.

Noah with Fire n Ice dancers
Chad at the Pink Party
All night, a huge drum wall dominated the back of the stage. It belonged to the electronic band, Soul in the Machine, who performed around midnight. One of the members played a tall laser harp, interrupting the green beams with his gloved hands to activate the notes. Pretty interesting. I think one of the other instruments was a xylophone but I'm not positive.

Soul in the Machine
Cute Girls jumped on stage at the end of night to dance.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Treehouse and Waterfalls

I went to the coolest house on Friday night for Nicole's birthday party. It felt like the set of the Swiss Family Robinson movie with a four foot iguana to boot. Dominating the backyard was a giant tree house with a rope swing. Three ladders winding up the truck led to the first level where beds and a small TV decorated the stained-glassed interior. I was surprised to find another ladder leading even higher.

Underneath the first level of the treehouse
Extending out from its roof, there was a moving platform suspended by ropes and pulleys. It scared the crap out of me when I first stepped out on it and it started swaying around. I thought the branch it rested on was about to snap. I wish I had a regular camera with a flash because the top two levels were too dark to shoot with my phone. A swinging suspension bridge crossed over to another tree containing an even higher platform. About 60 feet above the ground, it had a great view of Leucadia and the party below.

Ascending the tree house
I spent most of the night in the crowded hot tub heated by a wood burning fire pit. Blackened copper tubing coiled over red hot coals kept the water nice and hot. The only drawback is that the water carried a strong aroma of burning wood that I can still smell on my skin after two showers. Flip a switch and a powerful waterfall would drop from six feet into the center of the tub. The pounding water felt great on my neck and shoulders, but I had to keep my thumb over my beer to keep the spray out everytime we turned it on. It was nice to be able to switch between chatting outside in front of the fire and soaking in the water.

Firepit that heated the Hot Tub Time Machine
The constant supply of alcohol was my downfall, sitting in the hot water made the cold beers go down too easily. I have a quite a hangover today.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

My Dad in Norway

My dad travels to Sjkolden in Norway every couple years in the summer. It is the village at the far end (127 miles inland) of the Sognefjord, the longest and deepest fjord in Norway. He does volunteer construction work for a small hostel in the village, this year building a new sauna.

View of the Lustrafjord arm of the Sognefjorden, the longest and deepest fjord in Norway.
In the picture you can see my dad overlooking the Lustrafjord arm of the Sognefjord with the village of Sjkolden visible in the lower right hand corner.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Soak City Water Park

I took Chad to Knott's Soak City water park on Friday for his birthday. We really stood out. I think we were the only guys over 20 that weren't there with their children. The best ride of the day was one I have never tried before, the Pacific Spin. I prefer to call it the Toilet Bowl. It is a short two person raft slide, but we caught air launching off the last drop. I don't know what was scarier, being able to observe the steep drop below us or going over backwards like Chad. Our weight and momentum took us high up the walls before we flushed out the bottom. It was a blast.

Noah in front of Pacific Spin at Soak City
Noah on Dropoff at Soak City
Noah on Dropoff at Soak City
The four high-speed slides at Soak City don't compare to the freaky seven-story Drop Out slide at Raging Waters, but they are still fun. Banzai and Pipeline whip you around in pitch darkness at high speeds before spitting you out the bottom. Emerging into the blinding light, I banged my elbow hard against the side of the tight chute, thinking I was about to land in a splash pool. Dropoff is the closest to the slide in San Dimas with a single steep drop, while Straight Shot is the fastest with two combined shorter drops. Gaining so much speed, I was afraid I wouldn't stop at the end. All four slides are excellent wedgie machines.

Noah on Straight Shot at Soak City
Noah on Straight Shot at Soak City
Noah on Straight Shot at Soak City

Monday, July 19, 2010

San Dieguito High School - 20 Year Reunion (Class of 1990)

The 10 years between graduation and my first high school reunion seemed to flow at a normal pace, but time really flew up to the 20th. This time, the 20 Year Reunion for the 1990 Class of San Dieguito High School was held at the Bristol Hotel in Downtown San Diego on July 17th.

Get together at Yogi's the night before the 20 Year Reunion.
Chad came with me to Yogi's the night before the reunion for an unofficial get together with others from school. It was a nice group. It was fun hanging out with everyone and playing pool with Julie and Megan. I ended up drinking too much tequila. My hangover lasted till 3pm on Saturday, recovering in time for the reunion at 7. A delicious omelet for breakfast at The Little Moore helped.

Noah, Tara, Julie & Joel at San Dieguito High School 20 Year Reunion
Group Shot from the San Dieguito High School 20 Year Reunion
I must admit, I preferred the location of the 10 Year Reunion at the Berkeley Ferry on the harbor instead of the Bristol Hotel. It got pretty hot inside the hotel ballroom with over 200 alumni and it got very echoey, making it hard to hear conversations sometimes. It was a big improvement when the roof slid open after the group photo. It was great hearing what everyone was up to these days and I had a blast out on the dance floor during the last hour.

Raising the Roof!
Smiling Megan on the dance floor!
After the reunion ended at midnight, I walked with a big group over to the Yard House for more drinks till 2 am. We first tried the Star Bar in the Gaslamp Quarter, but they wouldn't let such a big group enter all at once. Maybe because of the heavy police presence right outside. A fight had just ended and they were loading a handcuffed man into the back of a paddy wagon. He had the #*@% kicked out of him, his face all black and blue.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Colorado River - 4th of July Camping Trip

I went out to the Colorado River for the 4th of July weekend. I love it out there but it has been three years since I've been camping at Picacho State Park. Chad and I drove out Friday night to meet up with the rest of the group. When we finally got on the 18 mile dirt road at 10 pm, we spotted a vehicle chasing us down. It turned out to be a Ranger warning us to slow down because of soft road conditions up ahead. After we arrived, we all walked down to the river for a night swim. I got to sleep around 3 am, but Chad and a couple others stayed up till dawn talking around the campfire.

Chad on the drive out to the Colorado River.  You guys are awesome... except you... with the texting, I am watching you!
Sunset over Imperial County.
Saturday morning, I went out with Blayne and Clint to wakeboard on the empty river while the water was still flat. We had the largest yellow dragonfly land on the boat. They are so cool. The river level was high, so we set up our beach camp on one of the few exposed sandbars. Normally, that makes them crowded, but we lucked out and only had to share it with one other group the entire weekend. We had a great inflatable raft with a hole in the center to relax on in the river. At the end of the day, we floated down to the campgrounds dock with it.

Clint wakeboarding on the Colorado River.
Noah wakeboarding while the water is still flat in the morning.
The campgrounds were practically empty this trip. I have never been to Picacho in the middle of summer before. It was hot, but not too bad because of the cool breezes. The water was very nice, 78 degrees, and I didn't see or hear one buzzing mosquito the entire time. At night, we would sit out in the dark, away from the campfire and look at the stars. They are so bright out there. I like how I could easily see the dense band of stars pointing to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. You can also hear the wild burros braying at night, but I have never spotted one on any of my trips.

Hanging out on the Colorado River.
Noah on the Colorado River.
On Sunday, Lenny and I decided to paddle the kayaks up river from the North Dock to our beach instead of taking a boat. It turned out to be pretty brutal, so much paddling as the landscape barely moves. You can't stop to rest either because the river will pull back all your forward progress. I am glad I did it though. I spent more time in the sun the second day, only got burned a tiny bit. I am bummed because I lost my favorite sunglasses to the river. The wind caught them and blew them overboard.

The sun rising over Arizona across the Colorado River.
Picacho Campsite.
Blayne had his new boat out at the river. It's bigger with a bimini cover for shade and a nice step on the back to get in and out of the water. We did some more wakeboarding in the afternoon. The water was very choppy because of the constant flow of boats up and down the river. I had to take shorter pulls because all the bumps make it harder on the quadriceps. It took a few tries, but Chad got up on the wakeboard. I wish I got a picture of him pulling the perfect faceplant. Heh!

Chad wakeboarding during the afternoon.
Chad after wakeboarding.
Driving home, Chad and I stopped at Cracker Barrel across the border in Arizona. They need one of those restaurants in San Diego. The food is so good.