Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

Christmas Eve is the one time every year that the whole extended family is invited to my house. Last year we were snowed out but this year we had a lot of family.

There were 7 Sirrines, 4 Walshes, 11 VanderHoevens, 6 Lutzes, 3 Livelys, 4 Keenans, 2 Dukas and 1 Ojeda, so 37 people, not to mention 2 dogs.

No VanderHoeven family party is complete unless there is a ton of food this was no exception.

My family was especially blessed because we had all 5 of our kids and our 3 grandsons over. We even had Olga, Jared and Emily's exchange student who has become part of the family (dang it, is that lamp crooked?).

Emily played the piano and this year we sang Silent Night in English, Spanish, German and Dutch (my favorite part of the night)

Then there was the white elephant gift exchange with some very clever gifts. The rule was that whatever you ended up with, you had to take home. That rule was obeyed with a few exceptions. Let's just say violators will be prosecuted.

Patricia was pretty happy with her "Hander-pants" and she couldn't be convinced to trade.

I got an assortment of products from a Japanese store including a package of freeze-dried fish. They turned out to be a highlight of our Christmas the next day but I'll let someone else tell that story.

Donkey Dancing 2009

I would have to say that as a mother Jacki is above average, although once in a while she can be pretty cruel.
Last night during our Christmas Eve party, a lady bug landed on Connor. He was not amused and he jumped up and danced around saying "get it off, get it off". Instead of being the kind sympathetic mother helping her child, Jacki lost control laughing. I have to admit it was pretty funny.

Connor on the other hand was not amused.

Happy Birthday Bob!

I suppose I should update my blog every 2 months, although in this case I am late. Sorry for the same lame post for so long.
Yesterday was Christmas Eve and unfortunately for Bob, also his birthday. He gets overlooked sometime but on the other hand, there is always a party and a lot of company.
When we came home from our usual walk at the dog park Bob was greeted by Heather, Jason and Brooks with poppers and silly string, lots of silly string.
It's great having the kids home.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

14 Things About New York City

I have spent nearly as much time on the road these days as I do at home. This week I'm in New York City. I took the picture below on my cell phone from the conference room where I spent my day today. Now before you think it's glamorous I want you to know that I got here in the center seat at the back of an airplane that left Seattle at 7:00 am on Wednesday. I'm here for 2 days of business meetings and tomorrow I am back on an airplane for 6 hours (it always takes longer going west). For the most part I have almost no time to do anything while traveling except for work more hours in my hotel room to make up for the time I lose in the air. This time, I can't resist. Last night and again tonight I left my hotel room about 6:00 pm and just started walking.
My hotel is on 5th Avenue in the swankiest part of town, which leads me to my #1 thing about New York.

1. You can get a heck of a deal if you book on Expedia. No, this is not a commercial but I got a rate at the Peninsula Hotel at half of what the published rate is.
Even at 1/2 the price I could never afford it but when the driver from the airport dropped me off he told me I was staying at the movie star hotel.

2. Avenues run North and South and streets run East and West. There is a lot more distance between Avenues than between Streets. It's good to know if you are walking. The good stuff is on the Avenues.

3. Don't bother bringing "sensible shoes" nobody wears them. I will spare you a picture of my blistered feet but everyone must have blisters. They don't wear jeans either. Everyone is dressed up. I brought my dressier work clothes with me and I'm underdressed for business meetings. I don't own anything dressy enough.

4. Don't bother trying to find the Cash Cab. There are 13,000 taxis in the city and most of them are full. It's not easy to get one but you have to step out into the street and wave until one shows up. It's easier to walk.

5. Speaking of taxis, what are you supposed to tip them? I took a taxi from Macy's to my hotel last night and the fare was $8. I gave him a $5 tip and the cabbie, a NY cabbie said "Wow, you are a good tipper".

6. Which brings me to my next point. It's a lot easier to visit NY if you can expense everything. I'm not sure my budget will ever be able to afford a trip here on my own dollar, although I would love to come here with Jacki and Heather.

7. The top of the Chrysler building really does shine but the Empire State Building is not as tall as I used to think it is.

8. I wouldn't drive in NYC to save my life. People honk just for atmosphere. The locals know when it's safe to cross the street before the light goes green but the tourists don't. Yikes!!

9. It's amazingly safe to walk around. They say Gulliani took the city from 50,000 police officers to 150,000. They are on every corner and a local I talked to said there are twice as many in plain clothes than in uniform.

10. It's awkward to cheer for the Twins against the Yankees when you are having dinner at the ESPN Zone restaurant. The food is good and I ended up eating there both nights. In fact the seating host recognized me. It figures, millions of people in NYC and I get recognized. It has an amazing view of Times Square. Yesterday I was eating and the whole place was full of Yankees fans. When the Twins scored 2 runs I sort of applauded just a little bit. Sheesh...I got some stares. It's all in fun though.

11. Macy's has really cool escalators. The whole store is cool. They have a whole floor devoted to the fat lady section.

12. Bob would hate it. It's everything he doesn't like.

13. Bring a camera. Cell phones take lousy pictures.
14. People smoke here. Lots of them smoke. I would imagine it's a stressful place to live, especially wearing those shoes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Never Win Anything

Well, almost never. Two Saturday's ago Bob's company had a family day at the mill. Bob was a tour guide and I joined him on the first tour, which was really interesting. For the next couple of tours I hung around some of the booths. One booth was a raffle for the United Way. Of course I pitched in $5 and bought 5 tickets.
It turned out we won the grand prize. I invite you all to make toilet paper jokes but don't be surprised if for the gag gift exchange this Christmas, there is a big box from the Lutz family. Now we just need to find someplace to put it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere..But Where is the Fun?

So here I sit in beautiful Fort Lauderdale. I love it here. The minute I got here yesterday a lot of great memories came flooding back. Bob and I have been here many times and we always have so much fun. Of course we are typically getting on or off of a cruise ship.

Today I'm here to work. I spent all day yesterday flying and got here around midnight. I am staying at a nice Marriott resort on the beach but I have barely had a chance to walk out to the beach. I did get up around 6:00 am this morning and took a little walk. I picked up a couple of nice shells and ended up in a hammock watching the sun come up.

Then it was back to my room, where I have been working.

I was going to go to one of my favorite restaurants, Smokey Bones for lunch but it's on the other side of town. I decided to walk out to the beach again to see if I could find a place to have lunch on the beach.
It turns out the hotel serves burgers and drinks there.
I love Fort Lauderdale.

Tomorrow I will visit a customer but I hope to have the evening to myself so I can goof off. Is it worth the 8+ hours of travel each way? Yeah, probably.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Busy Summer!

I know I have not posted a blog in a while. Ok, a long while. It was Brian's birthday and it was 1/4 of a year ago. It's been a very busy summer with a lot of travel. Here are some of the places I have been since my last blog post.

First there was San Francisco. I got to see a view that looked a lot like this but for the most part, all I got to see was the inside of a taxi, a hotel and a conference room.

One of my favorite trips of the summer was Adrian's wedding in the Twin Falls Temple. I almost didn't get on a flight but I was glad I did. We drove from Boise to Twin Falls and had a really good time. I suppose it had something to do with the company since a lot of the family was on that trip. We had a great time taking over the Wingate Hotel and we swam until late into the night.

Then there was Chicago. I can't remember if that was before or after the trip to Idaho, but it was somewhere around then. Chicago was fun because I got to visit Bob's brother Chuck and his wife Judy. Their son Jeffrey was a teen ager last time I saw him and now he is a grown man with a beautiful wife and daughter. It was nice to see them.

Sometime in early August there was Washington DC trip #1.

I thought I could fly across the country, meet with a customer and fly home in 24 hours. Washington DC is pretty hot in August and it was miserable. The highlight of that trip was the first class seat I happened to get on United Airlines.

I have never been on a 5 hour flight when I was disappointed to arrive, but this seat was amazing. 6 hours in coach on the return was not nearly as fun.

After I got back from Washington DC it was time to take Heather and Brooks and little Brooks to Pullman. That was fun too. We drove our pickup truck to Pullman, spent the afternoon helping unpack and then we spent the night in Spokane. We miss having them at our house but they have a great townhouse in Pullman and we know Brooks will do well in school. I think they are going to miss BYU football but I'm sure they will make a lot of new friends.

Then it was back to Washington DC, but this time I wanted to see some of the sites. I scheduled 2 nights and after visiting the customer, I took a tour bus around town. It was fun because you could jump off or get on at about 30 different stops in town. I got to see areas of DC that I had never been before.

I love the Smithsonian Museums so I took advantage of being there. At the American History Museum I was able to see the fully restored Star Spangled Banner.

It was awesome. It was behind glass in a darkened room with only the slightest light on it. I also got to see things like Lincoln's top hat and jacket, Archie Bunker's chair, the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz and a lot of other random historical stuff. Pretty cool.

Next there was the Natural History Museum. I have always wanted to see the dinosaur fossils and it is amazing to see how big they really are. Apparently the Hope Diamond was also on display but I missed that.

Then this past week was the longest trip of the summer and I was away for 5 nights. I started out with a trip to Rochester, NY. I was excited about that one because I knew I could go to Palmyra and see church history sites.

It was only about 20 miles from my hotel to the Hill Cumorah and the Smith Cabin and Farm House as well as the Sacred Grove.

It was different than ever before because this trip I had the entire Hill Cumorah to myself and there were very few tourists at the other sites.

After New York, I went right to Los Angeles to a town called San Gabriel not far from Pasadena. You would never know by the name or even the location but it was in the heart of the largest Chinese community outside of China. All of the signs on buildings were in Chinese as well as in English. It was a nicely maintained and prosperous community.

What would you do if you were in a huge Chinese neighborhood with a couple of hours to kill? Of course my colleague (Jolin) and I had our toenails done.

We would have had a foot massage if we had more time.

Finally, when we were done with our customer meetings, 3 of us got into the rental car and drove around Hollywood. Jolin had never been there and she had high expectations of seeing high end shops, movie stars and movie studios. Instead we saw lots of porn shops, homeless people and pawn shops.

I got back home on Thursday night and Bob wanted to get away from home for a day. On Saturday we drove over 400 miles around the state of Washington. We took the North Cascades Highway and were amazed at how beautiful it was in the mountains. There were unexpected lakes and rivers all around.
Next stop, Toronto later this week??

Monday, June 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Brian!!

Today is Brian's 31st birthday.

Yes, it's true that I actually have children my own age these days.

Some things you should know about Brian:

1. He doesn't really need glasses, he just wears them to look smart.

2. He has always been interested in how things work and he still loves hanging out with his Dad.

3. He wanted to ride motorcycles at a young age, but his feet and arms didn't reach the controls so he gave it up.

4. Fish taste better if you catch them yourself.

5. He has always studied to get his sense of humor (it's not really natural).

6. He cleans up real pretty...especially when he uses hair gel or when Jason is around to give him some fashion tips.

But let's face it, more often his hair looks like this.

7. He likes celebrating birthdays, so let's celebrate his!

Happy Birthday Brian. We love you!!!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Happy Ernesta Week!!!

I love Ernesta week. It brings back lots of good memories of the kids growing up. We raised a bunch of nuts! Even better, I have an entire week where I don't have to think about what to eat for dinner? Hot dogs anyone?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Doh! Not Even Close

OK, we have all done embarrassing things and as hard as it may be for you to believe, I am no exception.

We take our dogs to the Marymoor dog park twice a day. Our dogs are spoiled. Today I was sitting in my home office and Bob was ready to go. I stuck my feet under my desk, my favorite place for my shoes, and put my toes into my flip flops. I didn't think another thing about it until we were at the furthest point away from the car. I looked down and saw that not only was I wearing 2 different shoes, but I wasn't even close (sorry about the dusty feet in the picture).

All I wanted to do was scramble for the exit, but on a beautiful sunny day, you have no choice but to pass about 100 people, all looking down at the ground. Bob was no help, he immediately started dialing the phone so he could let Heather and Jacki know about my predicament.

Oh well, I could either be embarrassed or laugh at myself. I choose the later.

What was the most embarrassing thing you have ever done? By the way, this was not my most embarrassing moment.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Weekend With the Grand-boys

I looked forward to this weekend for a while. Jacki and Terence celebrated their anniversary by going to a Mariners / Red Sox game and spending the night in Bellevue. Connor and Corey spent their first night ever away from their parents.
I have to say, it was a lot of fun. Their first project was to take every toy out of the basket and spread them throughout the upstairs. We watched Monsters Inc. about 5 times and made it through Annie once. Those guys are certainly high energy. They both did a great job sleeping in unfamiliar beds. After a good night's sleep, I fixed them a delicious scrambled egg and toast breakfast.

After 10 minutes of not touching their food, they were both much happier with a bowl of banana nut Cheerios.

Grandpa and Uncle Jared were replacing a clutch for someone and the best place to do that is the barn, where Jared has even more tools than Bob has.

We figured that was where the action is so we went to the farm to play.

Corey played for hours and had a great time, but I went home to pick up my camera and he fell asleep in the car. Once again, no Corey pictures.

Connor loves tractors, as long as they are not on.

In another 15 years, he is likely to be mowing soccer fields in the summer to make some money.

I thought it was funny that Connor wanted to know how to fasten the seatbelt before he would drive.

We found some toy motorcycles at Ross, and Connor loved them. Any part that could be broken, was broken within the first hour.

Jared gave each of the boys their own brand new soccer ball, so we went out to the field to kick the ball into to goals. Will Connor be a great soccer player someday? Maybe, with all of that positive encouragement he gets from his grandma.

On the other hand, maybe he will be a dancer?

By the end of the day, we were all exhausted. I like this Sears Photo Studio-like pose on the Goodyear mechanic's stool with all kids of tools and things in the background. I promise, this picture was completely unposed.

Next's going to be all about my buddy Corey!