Archives for category: Travel

OMG! OMG! OMG! The Beast is flying out here this FRIDAY and I am so EXCITED!!!

When we first got the Beast

He has been staying with my friend A in CA the past few months. I am beyond grateful for her generosity in opening her house to a 70+ lb labrador. She already has three kids, so it’s not exactly as if she didn’t have other things going on.

So, how exactly does one fly a labrador across the country? Well, it turns out that there are multiple options, including working directly with an airline, pet relocation services, pet airline services, and even ground transportation services. We decided to work directly with United Airlines for several reasons; they have a dedicated PetSafe desk with a live 24/7 800 number, we could fly him direct from SFO to JFK, and he’ll fly cargo, so he will be the last thing loaded and the first thing unloaded.

Beast and his new travel kennel

At first I was a little concerned about the whole flying as cargo part of it. But after talking with United’s reps, it does seem that is a better route for him. Since he’s flying as cargo, he’s basically another revenue stream from cabin passengers (and their checked luggage) which means he is of a higher concern than a piece of checked luggage. Also, United will have an agent in charge of the cargo for the Beast’s flight and will ensure that he is put in the plane right side up (eek!) and is not left on the tarmac with the luggage until the handlers are ready to load the plane. Honestly, while I’m a little soothed, I’m still pretty nervous.

I have tried to do most of the coordinating from my side. I have to say, each of my conversations with United’s PetSafe Program were very helpful and reassuring. I really appreciate the fact that they have a dedicated desk to pets. A has graciously stepped in and helped with several important items. Namely, the travel kennel and the drop-off. I seriously owe A and her family something HUGE and AMAZING! Any ideas?

Keep the Beast in your thoughts as he flies over the country on Friday! I am one excited and anxious puppy mama!!

Beast at the beach





P recently had a birthday and I surprised him with a morning of kayaking in the Monterey Bay. He thought we were going horseback riding.

The Monterey Bay is home to all kinds of animals, including sea lions, seals, and otters. In the center of the Bay is the Monterey Canyon, which has a bottom 2 miles below the ocean’s surface. To give some perspective, the Grand Canyon is about 1 mile deep. Our kayaking guide from Monterey Bay Kayaks told us that this canyon helps to support the seal and sea lion populations because they don’t have to go too far to get their food, which is usually at deeper points in the ocean.


Otter in Monterey Bay, CA

I signed us up for the Monterey Bay Natural History Tour, which gives us about 3 hours of guided kayaking around the Bay. The great part about having a guide is that he knew where to go to see some of the truly unique to Monterey Bay sites, like the “otter raft”. The otter raft is a kelp forest not far from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in which the otter will tie themselves up so they can eat, sleep, and just hang out.

Sea Lions

Sea lions at Monterey Bay, CA

One of the otters’ co-Bay-habiters are the sea lions. These guys are MASSIVE, reaching up to over 800 pounds. And they are loud. Most of all, I thought they were super cute and reminded me of the Beast. If the Beast had to become a marine animal, he’d be a sea lion. The sea lions were friendly and curious and swam right by our kayaks several times.

Sea lion and bird, Monterey Bay, CA

After checking out the otters and the sea lions, we kayaked over to Seal Harbor, where the more peaceful and quieter seals liked to hang out. Our guide surprised us by bringing some of the ocean into our kayaks.

Sea star, Monterey Bay, CA

I had always called them starfish, but our guide said he preferred calling them sea star, as they aren’t really a fish. Either way, these stars of the sea are pretty fascinating. Each leg has its own set of organs and can recreate itself into another sea star if it were ever cut off.

We wrapped up the tour and kayaked back to the beach. It was such a great day to be out that we decided to walk around the wharf and grab some clam chowder. I hope P enjoyed his birthday!



P has spent the last few summers teaching at Stanford. It’s a nice gig with interesting students and beautiful surroundings. At the end of the session, the program hosts a graduation ceremony for the students. This year it was held in The New Guinea Sculpture Garden, which houses some beautiful carvings from New Guinea carvers.

The ThinkerStanford and the Papua New Guinea artists in-residence collaborated on the carvings and the overall aesthetic of the garden. The focus was on a combination of traditional Papua New Guinea art in a western landscape. The combination of the Northern California landscape with the New Guinea traditional art makes for a peaceful and quiet retreat on campus.

It’s like taking a little vacation while strolling around campus. If you’re ever at Stanford, I recommend grabbing a cup of tea from the union and then strolling over and checking it out.

I might argue that one of the benefits of being in a long-term relationship is that you have more free places to stay via your partner’s family. For example, P’s sister lives in San Diego, which gives us not only a reason to visit San Diego, but the above mentioned free place to stay as well!

We flew down on Southwest. I have to take a second here and acknowledge how awesome Southwest has been for us for flying. We have flown between Illinois and California and Colorado with Monster several times and we have always been treated well and, knock on wood, have arrived with all of our luggage. And you still get free pretzels, albeit teeny tiny bags of pretzels, but they are still free! So, thanks Southwest! Monster, P, and I appreciate it!

We started off our visit with the standard family dinner. P’s sister has three kids and a husband, so obviously they were all there. We were also joined by P’s uncle, aunt, cousin, and cousin’s wife. I love family gatherings, and it was so great to introduce Monster to everyone. Friday morning we took Monster to visit P’s grandmother with P’s uncle, four generations in one room! A beautiful memory.

Saturday we were treated to crêpes made by our 12 year old nephew. Very impressive, I must say! I must also say that his mom did the actual cooking of the crêpes, but he did the conversions (we were a larger group than what the recipe could serve), measuring, mixing, etc. After herding the cats gathering the family into one minivan and one CRV, we headed out to San Diego’s Chicano Park to see the murals. P had read an article about it in the New York Times and thought it would be cool to go see.

Chicano Park

The park is underneath the 5 freeway and the bridge that goes to Coronado Island. Many of the murals are painted on the overpass support pillars and depict stories and images from Hispanic and Latino cultures.

Virgin Mary

Earth Goddess

Earth Goddess, Chicano Park

The Park, which is in the Barrio Logan, has a rich history involving several take-overs and disputes over who got to do what with the land. A young student named Mario Solis is credited with rallying the community to organize and demand that a park be put in instead of a police parking log. Ultimately, the Barrio Logan community residents won and the park was created. ( The murals are stunning and reflective, expressing Chicano history and stories.

Of course, Monster managed to get some swing time in at the playground in the park. (That adorable half face you see there is my niece.)

Monster on swings

After getting our art and culture fix, we headed to a nearby Mexican restaurant we found on yelp, Las Cuatro Milpas. There was a line, but it was worth the wait. The menu was small, the decor was lacking, and the food was straightforward and simple. And it was all good. Classic P&J, we ordered just about everything, including a pork burrito, two tamales, side of rice and beans (with chorizo, of course), and a taco. And we ate it all.

Since we had been artistically and culturally fed by the murals and then physically fed by Las Cuatro Milpas, we headed over to Coronado Island to get our outside (and fro-yo) fix. A nice stroll along the beach on the island was just what we needed to wake ourselves from our food coma and feel revived from our weekend of family and fun in San Diego.

Coronado Island