Christmas in San Jose

This past Christmas we spent 9 days in San Jose, California with my family. It was a great trip that offered a lot of experiences with family. Ethan and Autumn had a lot of cousin time while I was able to see visit with my mom and brothers.

Day 1 (Sunday, Dec. 19): We were up at the crack of dawn, well actually before dawn, at 4am to catch our 6:40am flight to San Jose from Seattle. I’ll make recommendation to all families who fly, if you don’t know about the family line going through security then ask if one exists. It saved us a lot of time and hassle and made it a more flying enjoyable experience with the kids.

img_5684My mom picked us up at San Jose International Airport’s new Terminal B. This was our first time in it and we’re quite impressed. I only recommend adding an actual skywalk from the terminal to the parking light like every other airport in the country.

The rest of morning and afternoon were spent relaxing and hanging out. My brother Mike and his family joined us around 4pm. The Holt Brothers  then headed north to San Francisco where Mark treated Mike and I to a great evening at Smuggler’s Cove, a rum and tiki bar that offers an awesome atmosphere. It was well over a decade since the three of us had hung out together. We stayed until Mike and I said we had to head home so we could wake up early with the kids. Party poopers, I know.

img_9855Day 2 (Monday, Dec. 20): After a morning of playing around Grandma Lynda’s house, Santa Clause made a surprise visit to see Ethan and Autumn. Ethan was very excited to see him as he jumped all over the front room upon seeing Santa walk up to the house. Santa was very patient with the kids and brought Ethan a Heffalump doll (from Winnie the Pooh’s Heffalump Movie) and Autumn a new ball. After Santa headed back to the North Pole, the Holts gathered at Red Robin in Morgan Hill for a family dinner and then socialized at Mike and Olivia’s house. It was a good evening for all.

Day 3 (Tuesday, Dec. 21): Family photos were the topic of the morning. We all gathered at a nearby Country Club in Morgan Hill where we had professional photographs taken of the family. It has been years since we got these done so it was good to have them done. Autumn was a trooper and Ethan did his best.

img_5552In the late afternoon, we headed to Santa Cruz where we enjoyed dinner at Pizza My Heart in downtown Santa Cruz and a ride on the Santa Cruz Holiday Train. A couple Christmas’ ago Laura and I missed the train by a couple minutes while the rest of the family enjoyed it. Ethan didn’t mind then since he was only 1 years old. This time we made sure to make it on time. Ethan and Caitlynn, as well Laura and I, enjoyed the festivities. After the ride we spent time at Santa Cruz Boardwalk’s Neptune Kingdom where we had a free round of miniature golf and played arcade games. Ethan used his mad skills to dominate The Claw game and won a prize.

Day 4 (Wednesday, Dec. 22): The day was relaxing and spent at home.

Day 5 (Thursday, Dec. 23): Up early and headed north to Sausalito to enjoy the Bay Area Discovery Museum for children. After a fun morning at the museum, we headed back over the Golden Gate where we played tourist around Pier 39. We finished it off with dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.

img_0390Day 6 (Friday, Dec. 24): After a full day up in SF and north bay, we enjoyed a day around the house. Ethan and I headed over to Grandma’s Park (Edenvale Park) where he enjoyed swinging and playing on the playground. This area is full of my childhood memories. Growing up this park use to be Frontier Village, then cherry orchards. I mostly remember sneaking into the orchard with friends, climbing the trees and eating cherries. We always scared each other about the mystical farmer who would find us in the trees and shoot us. What silly kids we were.

We spent the evening at Mike and Olivia’s house where everyone contributed to a tasty dinner. The kids got to open one gift (a tradition I had growing up) and play, play, play. Mike and I did are annual Christmas Eve run. This is a tradition we have done for over 10 years.

img_0568Day 7 (Saturday, Dec. 25): Christmas Day. We opened gifts in the morning, ate, napped, and then  headed to Mark’s house in the evening. Ethan had a blast exploring the millions of things to see, do, and touch in his house.

Day 8 (Sunday, Dec. 26): We spent the day preparing to leave. We came with one bag to check in and a few carry ons and we were going home with one bag to check in and a few carry ons. With careful organizing and distribution of weight we succeeded. In the evening my Mom ordered delicious pizza from High Five Pizza for everyone. We then headed down to San Jose’s Christmas in the Park.

Day 9 (Monday, Dec. 27): We were once again awake at 4am to catch our 6:45am flight back to Seattle. We were fortunate that Autumn slept most of the way. I was stoked because she fell asleep on me the entire time. This was one of many times this past week that I had the joy of rocking her to sleep. Ethan did excellent on the plane as we enjoyed the views and played with his Chuggington trains. We arrived back at our house around 10am where we quickly turned on the heater and started the fire. 40 degrees was just a bit too cold for us.

Strudel & Bratwurst: Christmas Time in Chicago

Strudel and bratwurst…sounds like names for twins or a set of dogs. Or it’s the delicious meal I enjoyed at Chicago’s 15th Annual Christkindlmarket, a German Christmas festival nearby my hotel.  The festival attracts American, German, and other vendors from around the world as they offer an assortment of handcraft items. There are nice items to be viewed but I think the real treat here is the delicious food to eat. There were a number of food vendors offering an assortment of desserts, beer, and meats.

Chicago at night during ChristmasI’ve spent the past week in Chicago at the annual FEMA Risk Analysis Directorate conference. Our stay at The Drake Hotel brings in FEMA employees from headquarters and the regions along with FEMA contractors. This year the dialogue revolved around Risk MAP and how this program will be implemented throughout the nation. The days were filled with excellent discussions about identifying flood risk, collaborating with communities, developing strategies, and most importantly, implementing strategies in the community to reduce risk and save lives. This is much of my bread and butter of what I do with FEMA, though I usually focus on all natual hazards.

Skype photo of familyI’m looking forward to an early flight tomorrow to be back with Laura and my kids. Each evening we chat on Skype when I travel. It’s always an entertaining time trying to connect with everyone as Autumn wants to stand or eat, Ethan runs here and there, and Laura trys to orchestrate everything. Her and the kids have all been a little ill this week so I’m hoping to head home to give her much deserved rest.

Chicago Photos (Blackberry Camera)