Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Road to Los Angeles

Thus far, my travel dispatches have not described a very "warillever" vacation.

You know, the warilevers that set out to see Grand Rapids, but came back from Des Moines with a new car. Or the warillevers that drove accross the country with a Subaru station wagon, two boxes of cereal, and $100.

Don't you worry -- our vacation did not end at the Ritz.

As soon as the conference ended, we picked up a rental car and drove down the coast. Well, not really the coast, since the coast was on fire. And the Pacific Coast Highway was closed. So we started down the coast (to check out the 87 foot whale skeleton), then headed inland and saw this:

...for hours on end. Beautiful!

We took a little break in Soledad to stretch our legs and tour Mission Nuestra SeƱora de la Soledad. The name means "Our Lady of Solitude." The statue of Mary in black dress startled Agent 004 and led to an interesting conversation about Jesus' sacrifice.

We also stopped by the Mission San Miguel Arcangel, which is still an active parish. Ironically the 300 year old church was damaged in a recent earthquake and masses are now held in the parish hall.

After dinner in Grover Beach, we spent the night in San Luis Obispo and attended Mass at the Old mission there. We made a quick stop at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, then on to our friends' house outside Los Angeles.

We spent two low-key days catching up with the D's. Their children are now 4, 2 and 9 months, so the Agents had a splendid time riding bikes and splashing in the wading pool with them. We caught a view of the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Park Observatory,then let the children loose at Travel Town.

Our visit came to an end much too quickly, but we were very excited to set off on our desert adventure nonetheless.

And that shall be the subject of another post.

The Eagerly Anticipated Vacation Post

A map of our travels:

View Larger Map
Days 1-3: San Francisco
Days 4-8:Conference
Days 9-10: Drive to Los Angeles with stops
Days 10-11: Visiting friends in LA
Day 12-14: Desert Tour
Day 14-16: Yosemite

Stay tuned for a few more posts about aspects of the trip, including my impression of the desert and tips for travel with children. Grover has promised to help me out with a few more posts as well.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Dose of Humility

It was a doozy of a week. Not only was I immobile for three days, but two of the kids were sick and my sister-in-law was visiting with her family.

But it was wonderful. Pain is a humbling thing, you know. It made me realize how much my parents do on a daily basis, even when I think that I am "doing it all." My cousin came through, spending an entire day chasing after the children on her own wobbly knee (which, by the way, was operated on on Friday, so her service was truly self-sacrificial). My down-time gave the children the opportunity to show me what they are capable of. Agent 004 made dinner last Monday on her own initiative. It may have been cold cereal served with milk, but it was a nutritious meal lovingly prepared, and isn't that exactly what we need every evening?

I never got the chance to prepare the house for my sister-in-law's arrival, but their visit was probably the better for it. Instead of stressing the details, I got to sit back and enjoy the time they had with us. I watched my nephew play with his cousins and and played cards with the grown ups. I didn't make any fancy meals (in fact we ordered out both nights) or plan any activities. We had a grand ol' time together -- not because of anything I did, but just because we were together.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Guest Post: Grover Beach

I am honored to have a real television and internet star as my guest blogger today. In addition to his fantabulous blog (Grover's Travels), he has been known to save kittens from trees and dry the tears from babies' cheeks. Welcome, Super Grover!
Between dazzling rescues and filmings of my hit television show I frequently spend some downtime with the warillevers. They are fun, and they travel to amazing places.

This past month, they took me along to Grover Beach, California.

I enjoyed the sunset:

and really appreciated it when they let me drive the rental car

Since this is a family-friendly blog, I won't tell you about all of my adventures, but I will leave you with a teaser photo....

Up and Running!

...well not running exactly, but I am vertical!

Stay tuned for a guest post this afternoon from an old friend.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back Out of Commision

Sorry that I have been away so long. I miss y'all.

Threw out my back.

Very painful.

My hubby and parents are great. Taking care of everything.

I will finally post Death Valley and Yosemite pics once I can sit up straight again.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Backyard Paradise

My Dad was busy while we were gone.
Thanks, Grampy!

Always Making Memories

There is more to making good memories than a good memory.

Vacation is over, but we have been trying to keep on making summer memories. We spent yesterday lazing beside Grammy's wading pool, the day before romping in the yard, and Tuesday finishing up the swingset.

And today? After getting the last of those pesky suitcases unpacked, we turned on the sprinkler.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Never said Tomorrow

...the precise term was "tomorrowish."

My vacation posts are being delayed by life. As usual.

Here is a sneak preview of what I have been working on:

View Larger Map

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Great trip.

Lots of pictures.

Lots of laundry.

Need to catch up on sleep.

More tomorrowish.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Value of Luxury

After three days San Francisco,we headed on down the coast to a luxurious resort for mr warillever’s conference.

Mr warillever and I have stayed in a few nice hotels in our day, but never one quite so lavish as this one -- freshly cut flowers in each guest room, fluffy bath robes, a marble-tiled bathroom with an extra-deep bathtub, down pillows, twice-daily housekeeping, ocean and golf-course views from our room.

It is very nice. The staff is incredible friendly and helpful, and the beds are so soft… but if I actually had the $500 a night to stay here, would I?

Not on your life.

For one, most of the “luxuries” do not add value to my stay. Who needs three telephones in a single 200 square foot room? Or ten pillows for two beds? Or a maid to turn down the sheets every evening? It also oddly lacks the conveniences of a highway motel like breakfast or free internet service in the rooms.

Secondly, the opulence is wasted on us. My children would prefer to watch trains and cars from our window rather than the waves crashing onto the shore. The lap pool is not quite so much fun as our backyard wading pool. The children do not enjoy being shushed in the halls or cautioned to avoid spills at meals. In fact, if we had come out only for the conference, it probably would have been a waste of a trip for the three of us.*

Most of all, I wonder why anyone would spend this much on lodging. To reward oneself for a job well done? To celebrate an anniversary? To clinch a business deal? Aren’t there treats of more appropriate scale? Aren’t there less wasteful ways to while away a vacation?

That being said, it is awfully nice to be pampered. Let me get back to enjoying this for one more day. Then it is back to warillever-style adventures as we spend the next week exploring California at our own pace.

*The trip is NOT wasted for mr warillever, whose conference has been amazing. If he allows me to share, I will do so in a separate post.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Even Laundry can be an Adventure

Anyone who has traveled with (or lived with) children knows that they go through clothing quickly. No matter how well you have packed your suitcase, you will soon run out of clean clothing for the smallest members of your entourage. Days filled with messy play, food spills, toilet accidents, and swimming necessitate several changes of clothing for each person.

The resort has a laundry service, but it charges by the item – to clean a shirt costs $8, a pair of underwear $3.50. A dress (if I had one) would cost $14 dollars. I figured that at these rates, my children go through $144.50 in laundry daily*.

Fortunately the hotel offers free car service into town, enabling us to bring a suitcase packed with grimy garments to the local coin-op laundromat. And so the adventure began.

My suburbanite children were in awe of the spinning, whirring, wooshing, foaming machines. The jangling change machines, the magical detergent vending machines and the squeaky-wheeled carts were all part of the magic. And dropping change into the timered dryers? -- The treat of a lifetime. Only for small children is laundry a treasured vacation memory.

Gregarious Agent 002 chatted up the other customers, oblivious that not a single one spoke English natively. He managed to make friends too -- sharing carrot sticks and peanut butter dip made a very shy boy open up to him. Agent 004 hid behind my leg whenever a stranger looked at her, but one elderly woman engaged her in a vicious game of peekaboo that nearly ripped the pants off of my waist.

With all of this fun I lost track of time. As the sole person left on the planet without a cell phone, I had set an appointed time to meet the hotel car, which we missed by a quarter of an hour.

We ambled around town until we found a pay phone outside of the public library. The phone was out of service, but I noticed that the contractors across the street were cleaning up for lunch. Lugging the children and the bag of laundry across the street, I offered them the fifty cents that the pay phone would have cost if I could use a cell phone. A stone mason graciously allowed me to place a call on his phone.

The hotel car arrived moments later, transporting us out of our laundry adventure. Which leaves us with the question -- what shall we do after nap???????

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Home Cooking on the Road

I love the occasional restaurant meal. It is so refreshing to sit back and let someone else prepare a meal, to have the liberty to have an actual conversation at the table instead of jumping up every ninety seconds to fill someone's plate or clean a spill.

But eating out for two straight weeks? Not so much fun. Especially not so much fun on a limited budget or while traveling with small children who despise sitting still.

So I prepare as many of our meals as possible, saving our restaurant money for quality meals that we all will enjoy. Seven days into our trip, we have eaten at three restaurants -- for fresh seafood on the wharf, Thai noodles, and pancakes at IHOP.

We have been eating cold cereal for breakfast along with mini-bar refrigerated soy milk and fresh fruit. I have "cooked" lunch and dinner using shelf stable ingredients. These recipes can easily be accompanied by couscous or ramen noodles if you have access to hot water from a coffee maker.

In addition to washable plastic flatware, we also brought along 6 bowls that store nested inside of each other -- two mixing/serving bowls as well as four cereal bowls. Our kitchen tools are minimal -- a thin cutting board, a paring knife, a vegetable peeler, and a large spoon.

The recipes are old family staples as well as new family favorites culled from the disaster recipes at Busy Cooks.

Mango and Bean Salad
can black beans, rinsed and drained
can corn with peppers, drained
can mango slices, cubed (we used one whole fresh mango)
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup oil and vinegar salad dressing

14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 red onion, chopped
11 oz. can corn, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
3 cups vegetable cocktail juice
6 oz. can tiny shrimp, drained
1 cup garlic croutons

Combine all ingredients except croutons. If possible, refrigerate before serving. Top with croutons.

Bean Salad
1 can kidney beans
1 can green beans
1 can chick peas
½ cup oil
½ cup vinegar
¼ cup sugar
dill or other spice

Mix sauce, pour over beans.


2 cans tuna
1 stalk celery
½ onion
saltines or bread

Mix first four ingredients; use as sandwich filling or as a dip with crackers.

Carrot Salad

3-4 cups freshly grated carrots
½-1 cup raisins
1 large apple, cored and chopped
¼ to 1/3 cup mayonnaise (or yogurt if refrigeration is available)

Combine all ingredients . If possible, refrigerate before serving.