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"And finally, above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art…" – Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Washington 2010 December 21, 2010

Filed under: Life,Personal,Photography,Travel — Lulu @ 4:16 pm

(WARNING: photo-heavy post. You can click on photos to see them slightly larger.)

 

We’re back from our annual trip to Washington to visit Fanless’ family. My inner clock has finally readjusted to being back on eastern time, and – surprisingly – I didn’t get sick this year. Yay! (However, Fanless did.) Anyway, it’s taken me a little bit to get my photos edited and have the brain capacity to finish this blog post (truth: I started this the day after we got back, but was too tired to finish it). I didn’t take as many pictures as I usually do (to quote Fanless, “they’re the same mountains you take pictures of every year!”), but still wanted to share some of my favorites. This year’s trip was super-mellow. No actual sightseeing, just visiting with family and friends, so these are mostly family photos.

 

It wasn’t really that cold this year. When Brandon (Fanless’ BFF) picked us up in Seattle it was in the high 50s (meanwhile, Miami Beach was in the 40s). We made a couple of quick stops in Bellevue – Top Pot donuts (of course), Trader Joe’s, and Taco Time (they are the only fast food place I’ve seen with fish tacos on the menu!) – before heading out on the three-hour drive east to West Richland.

 

We didn’t get as much snow on the pass as we have in previous years, but there was some piled up in Snoqualmie summit. We made our traditional stop there for coffee and photos. We stayed with Kim and Brandon and the girls for a couple of days at the start of the trip. Lili couldn’t get enough of her Uncle Fanless. She LOOOVES him! Later on, we were watching TV and Lili would run up to Fanless, put her head on his lap, kiss him on the belly and run away. People… I died!! It was just cuteness overload. 

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We didn’t get much sleep the night before we flew out from MIA (at the ungodly hour of 6:30AM), so by the time 8:30PM rolled around, I was fast asleep on the couch. We went to bed a little after 9PM and slept about 10 hours.

 

The next day, Brandon had to work, so we made a trip into “town” with Kim (town being Richland proper which was all of 5 minutes away) to go to Fred Meyer’s (think Kohl’s or JcPenney’s), then Spudnuts! Yes, more donuts. Don’t judge! The Pacific Northwest has the best donuts ever, and we’ve wanted to go to this place since we saw it on the Travel Channel months earlier.

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We also went to Skipper’s to get fish and chips for lunch (it’s like a Long John Silver’s, but they only have them in five states in the NW). While waiting for our food, Kim had to use the restroom. She went to hand Lili over to me, but no way. Lili was not having any part of that. So Kim turned around to where Fanless was sitting and Lili literally dove out of Kim’s arms to him! I’m telling you, love at first sight for this one!

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The following evening, Kim and Brandon drove us to Fanless’ grandparents’ farm in Othello (about an hour north). We had invited them and the girls and Kim’s mom (who was also visiting) to stay for pizza with the family, but Mia was too sad that we were leaving and wouldn’t stop crying so they had to head home right away. Mia and I have a pretty special bond, so I’m not even going to lie; seeing her cry made me start crying. It was truly pathetic. LOL! After we ate, Fanless played a Christmas movie for the little ones on his laptop.

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Pretty soon it was time to head into town (approximately 15 minutes away) to get some sleep at Uncle Dave’s brand-spankin’ new house.

 

On Friday, we went back to the farm for lunch, then headed back into town for the annual “Picking Out the Farm Tree” tradition. It was drizzling a bit, which made it much chillier that afternoon than it had been the previous days. Here’s Fanless and his cousin, Tiffany, waiting for the tree to be loaded up. They look cold, huh?

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After we got back to the farm, we kind of hung out for a while, before Uncle Tim informed us that Fanless and I were in charge of supervising the kids while they decorated the tree.

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Here’s Fanless supervising (he was in charge of putting the wire hooks on the ornaments, aka “hookers and balls”) and Uncle Tim helping his littlest place ornaments on the top portion of the tree. When they were done, the littles started playing Angry Birds on Fanless’ phone. They were obsessed with that game.

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The next day was the traditional Family Christmas lunch. This year, we changed things up and instead of cooking at the farm, we ate at Michael J’s Restaurant just up the road in the town of Connell, WA (pop. 3,500. Approximately.)

 

(L to R:) Grandma and Grandpa; Lisa, Dylan and Scott (Fanless’ cousin); Fanless and his mommy (I know. I swear he’s not adopted).

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(L to R:) Gma and Gpa with all eight of their kids. And with their 10 grandkids and 1 great-grandson. And finally, with the ENTIRE group. You can see why it takes almost an hour to get a group shot where everyone is looking in the same direction, smiling, eyes open and no heads cut off/blocked. Phew! 

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The finished tree, packed with gifts. Singing Christmas carols (for real!) prior to the gift exchange.

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We got some snow in town that night, so I was able to get a couple of shots of it on Sunday morning.

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We drove out to the farm to say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa because they were leaving to the warmer climates of Arizona (related to Grandpa’s current health situation but it’s not my place to talk about it here).

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We headed back to the house to pack up our luggage, before heading to Everett to spend a couple of days with Scott and Lisa. Before reaching the house, we stopped to have dinner at Famous Dave’s BBQ where we shared the family plate for four. OMG. SO good.

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Scott had to work on Monday, but he invited us to take a tour of his office and have lunch with him. Check out his workplace:

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I know, right??! Dylan is for sure going to be the most popular kid in school. When he gets old enough to go to school. =)  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the building (they have really strict privacy policies, even within departments; employees are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before accepting a job with them, and even people sitting across from each other don’t necessarily know what the other one is working on), but I can tell you it’s a new facility, it’s built to be “green", and it’s really nice inside. And they have an awesome cafeteria. =)   We did get a chance to shop at the onsite store where I picked up a cool coffee mug to add to my collection, a Yoshi notebook, a couple of logo pens and a new Wii game for Fanless. He got himself some Wii points (or Nintendo points? I dunno; I’m a girl) at a discount.

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After lunch we headed back to the house and chilled out, did some laundry, and packed our stuff. That night we met Scott for dinner at our favorite spot in Everett, Chang’s Mongolian Grill. Man, I love that place. The next morning Lisa drove us to the airport for our flight home.

 

So that’s that. The end.

 

Peace out, and happy holidays!

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Miami: See It Like A Tourist December 5, 2010

Filed under: Photography,Travel,Video — Lulu @ 5:46 pm

WARNING: Super photo heavy!

Yesterday Fanless and I had a chance to take the Original Miami and Everglades Eco Adventure tour with Miami Tour Company. Miami Tour Company is owned by Gus and Michelle Moore, of MiamiBeach411.com, with whom we are personally acquainted. We had heard great things about their tour company and they’ve received really great reviews from past guests. So we booked our tour several months ago and I was really looking forward to it. (As it turned out, our very friendly and knowledgeable guide, Jim Moore, was none other than Gus’ father, but we didn’t find that out until the very end of the tour).

Our tour began when we were picked up right on time (9:35AM) in front of the Avalon Hotel on Ocean Drive in South Beach. The weather has been really beautiful lately and perfect for enjoying this kind of activity.

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We were part of a small group – approximately 28 people – and we got to ride in a very comfortable air-conditioned bus, with large windows on both sides. The bus also had two video screens that would show live video of the road ahead as we were driving. After a quick stop at Joe’s Stone Crab to pick up a few other guests, we were on our way. First we drove down Washington Avenue in South Beach.

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We paused at the Holocaust Memorial for picture-taking…

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before making a stop at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.

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I had absolutely no idea this even existed, but it’s really lovely.

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We then exited the beach, via the 395 Causeway, and headed to Coconut Grove, where we saw the former homes of Madonna and Sylvester Stallone, along with a few other locations of note.

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We stopped for lunch in the Grove (Fanless and I made a beeline for Sandbar Grill and their delicious seafood tacos), and then drove around the Grove where we saw some interesting homes, the Bahamian Cemetery, and the Kampong Garden.

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From the Grove we headed to Coral Gables, viewing gorgeous homes along the way, prior to making a quick stop outside the Biltmore Hotel for a photo op.

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We headed down Calle Ocho into Little Havana, where we got to stop at Domino Park for a few minutes. Los viejos were so wrapped up in their games, I don’t even think they noticed the odd group of tourists taking their pictures.

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From Little Havana we headed back to downtown Miami to drop off a few guests that were taking a sightseeing cruise from Bayside.

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The rest of us continued on to Gator Park in the Everglades, where we took an airboat ride (check that off my bucket list).

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We saw a great blue heron just chilling out at the dock.

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We also saw a few gators – including a newborn! – and turtles.

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Our airboat guide was really nice and very funny, but I don’t remember his name.

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Following the airboat ride, we were treated to a live animal show where we got to see a really cute skunk named Paris…

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a not-so-cute alligator named Norman…

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and several wild peacocks.

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As that concluded the tour for us, we headed back downtown to pick up the guests from Bayside and start dropping everyone off at their respective hotels.

I think the only negative for us was just the fact that it was a really long day. We didn’t get back to the beach until about 530PM, so we were kind of beat by then. But all in all, we had a really enjoyable day. The tour went at a very relaxed pace and it was nice to just sit back and let someone else do the driving for once. It was also really informative, even for a native Miamian such as myself. There were several times when I found myself saying “I never knew that” to Fanless after a particular piece of information had been shared by either Jim or by the audio recording of the tour. For example, did you know that parts of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video were filmed in the Bahamian Cemetery? Yeah, me neither. It was little tidbits of info like that which kept the tour interesting for me.

I would definitely recommend this tour for out-of-town visitors, and even to locals that are looking for something fun and different to do.

(Oh, and here’s a video Fanless shot of the crazy animal guy sticking his hand in Norman’s mouth! Nutter!!)

Alright, that’s all. Peace out, yo!