Historic Downtown Charleston

Lucas and I stayed an extra day at the CCSA Convention in order to see Historic Downtown Charleston.  A bus ride from the hotel was provided and there were two busses with about 50 people on each bus.  So 100 of our good friends from other studios all over the world.  It was a ton of fun and I enjoyed the building architecture.  Big surprise there, right?

Georgia Day Trip

So, it is Doug’s birthday and we had a nice day planned to go to a surprise destination on a road trip. Since I have known Doug, I have never been disappointed by riding around with him to see the sights. Even though I didn’t know where we were going, I knew it was going to be wonderful.

We headed out around 11am after he took some people up to Unicoi Gap. We started out on a twisting, turning road with nice scenery on each side. We took a quick detour to cross over a creek and take a couple of photos.

We then continued on and, after a while, came upon a super awesome place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and turned in. It was amazing and full of troll and gnome houses, chimes, and other decor.  I ended up buying a super cute frog windchime and some fairy dust.  The place is Sleepy Hollow in Blairsville.

We continued on our journey and stopped in Blairsville to get a bite to eat.  We found an interesting looking restaurant right in the downtown square called Hole In The Wall.  The sign said it had been there since 1931.  We decided that this seemed like the kind of quaint restaurant we were looking for.  We decided to dine upstairs and we were the only ones up there with a view out into the downtown square.  We ordered drinks and some fried pickles and then the Hole Burger.  While waiting for our burgers to arrive, I began to give Doug his birthday gifts one by one.    I had accumulated a collection of five gifts over the past several weeks that I was so excited and anxious to give to him.   It was so fun watching his reactions to them all!  After we ate, the waitresses came with cake and ice cream with a candle in it and sang happy birthday.  That was super cool.  I like that he enjoys sweets (although the cake was huge and he took some home for later).

We then continued on our journey and I still wasn’t entirely sure where we were going.  Soon, though, we ended up in a town that is actually one town, two cities and in two states.  McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee.  There is actually a blue line through the town that separates the two states and it goes right through the buildings.  Even the river has a different name as you cross it from one state to the other.  We stopped in to a local bottle bar to have a drink and, although the place was pretty much empty, it ended up being very entertaining.  A lady at the end of the bar was quite the talker and QUITE the redneck.  She went on and on about all sorts of topics and goings-on and she was not shy at all about her vulgarities!   Doug and I both said that it felt like we were in a movie.

We hung out in this twin city town for a bit and took some photos and then headed on to Blue Ridge, Georgia to get a hotel and spend the night.  After checking in, we went downtown to the Whistle Stop Grill where we heard they were doing Karaoke.  After sitting down and ordering a drink, Doug grabbed the song book and picked a song to put in.  He ended up singing three songs while we were there.  We once again met a very interesting, and very drunk, older woman who was also not shy with her vulgarities and somewhat aggressive flirtations.  She was funny and as she apologized to me for coming on to Doug a bit, she reassured me I had nothing to worry about by saying, “Honey, my parts are so closed up you probably couldn’t get a finger up there”.   It was a good thing I hadn’t just taken a sip of my beer as I didn’t quite expect her to say that and I just choked and laughed.

We headed back to the hotel, hung out for a few hours talking and other fun stuff, and then got up the next morning to shower and head back to Helen.  On the way, we did some sight-seeing and stopped at a few places.  It was a spectacular time and I hope it is the first of many wonderful birthdays that Doug and I share together.


Japan Trip

Several months ago, my brother, Anthony, announced that he had asked Nana to marry him and that they were planning the wedding in Japan.  Last week, we were in Japan for the wedding and it was fantastic and beautiful.  Mom and I had never been to Japan and weren’t quite sure what to expect.  We flew out on Monday from Phoenix to Los Angeles and then on to Korea for a five hour layover where we discovered Soju at 7am when the bars opened.  Soju is a Japanese distilled beverage which is sort of like vodka.  I then bought an Asahi to help wash the Soju down, but it still was a bit too harsh to drink at 7am.  We then went from Korea to Osaka (about a two hour flight) and the whirlwind really began.  Nana and her brother picked us up from the airport after we made our way through customs.  Riding in the car to our hotel was about an hour drive and we took in all of the visuals along the way.  Once we arrived at our hotel and settled in, we went out for a walk around and found shops everywhere.  What we found throughout the week is the amazing plethora of shops above and below ground and it seems everyone in Osaka (maybe all of Japan) has really mastered the art of shopping!

Later that first night, we went out to dinner with my brother and Nana and her family.  The restaurant was on the 38th floor overlooking downtown Osaka and the Osaka Castle.  It was a wonderful dinner and mom started to learn how to use chopsticks.  Nana’s family does not speak English, but Anthony and Nana translated for us.   The food was amazing as was the atmosphere.  Getting to meet Nana’s family and seeing their mannerisms and the intro to their personalities was something I found to be very enjoyable.

The next day, we left early in the morning for breakfast and then all went to Kyoto to see the temples and had a VERY long walk through the city of Kyoto.  The temples and scenery were all very beautiful.  We had a very nice dinner after and then all sang in a karaoke room.   It was definitely a jam packed day of activity and we were pretty exhausted by the time we arrived back at the hotel which I think was around midnight or so.

The wedding day was breathtaking and beautiful. I think everything about it was perfect and as soon as Nana started walking down the aisle toward my brother, the tears just started to flow heavy from my eyes and down my cheeks and I don’t think they stopped until we were into the reception.  The food was amazing and while we ate, we enjoyed listening to the various speeches and toasts.  Anthony’s best friend gave a speech while his wife translated in Japanese.  Anthony’s former boss gave a speech that was also very impressive and talked about Anthony’s dedication, hard work, attitude, loyalty, etc.  Hearing that speech and knowing my brother, I was filled with pride.  Halfway through the reception dinner, Anthony and Nana left for a while and then came back dressed in komonos and again were just breathtaking.

On our last full day in Japan, we all took a trip out to Nara to see the temples and deer in Nara park.  The scenery was perfect as was the weather and Nana’s nephews enjoyed petting the deer.

We left on Monday afternoon for the long journey home.  Although the total travel time was 27 hours, we arrived home Monday night in Phoenix (due to the time difference).

It took me quite a while to sift through the hundreds of photos that we took during this trip and pick out a subset to include in this blog entry.  Be sure to click the link to view with PicLens to easily scroll through them, or click on each thumbnail individually to view full size as many are very beautiful.   I hope you all enjoy them. 😉


Chicago To Phoenix Trip

We left early Monday morning from Chicago.  It has been a wonderful visit with family and friends.  We have a couple days to get home before needing to be back at work, but there is time for some sight-seeing along the way and we so love exploring old Route 66.  We certainly didn’t get to see as much as we did when we had 10 full days to do Route 66 three years ago, but we ended up having a really great time and seeing a lot in the two days that we had.

We even found a cool old cemetery along the way just by chance after making a wrong turn in a small town.  Most of the graves were from the mid to late 1800s and what we found fascinating is that there were many adults who had been born in Ireland and many children who had died in infancy.   That seemed very sad and we wondered what could have caused so many infant deaths.  I so love exploring old cemeteries.

We made it home in 51 hours which included a couple of naps at the truck stop parking lots.

2011 Drive To Chicago

Mom and I headed out at 9pm on Monday night for our road trip to Chicago.  We had two days to get there, and time to do a little bit of sight-seeing along the way.  We stopped at a dinosaur museum, and several route 66 spots along the way.  We also had a great Italian meal in Clinton, Oklahoma and saw a cool collection of Route 66 memorabilia which we had never seen before in Fanning Missouri.

It took us a total of 46 hours from Chandler, AZ to Carol Stream, IL including a couple quick naps in truck stops.

Butterfly Exhibit @ Phoenix Botanical Gardens

Risa, Jeff, Mom, Lucas and I all spent the day that the Botanical Gardens in Phoenix.  The exhibit for this month is the Butterfly Exhibit and that was super cool.  Butterflies flew around everywhere and even landed on us.  The colors were amazing.  Afterward, we walked around the rest of the gardens and you know Mom and I were thinking of all of the cool things we wanted to do in our backyard.  So, of course, we took a ton of photos.  It was a nice family day for sure.

Indiana / Chicago Trip

I was sent on a business trip to a small town called Winamac, Indiana.  I flew into Chicago and drove to Winamac and spent a few days there.

While there, I saw the most awesome old buildings with the kind of architecture that I love.  I took a photo of the courthouse.

After my time in Indiana, I was able to spend an extra night in Chicago and spend some time with my wonderful friends Christine and Blake.  We had a nice dinner and laughs.