Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Work and Play

This last weekend marked my first "real" business trip ("real" means I wasn't just staying at a hotel in Salt Lake City) - with many more to come. I joined the events team in August and I will be doing a lot more work-related travel in the coming months. Our first trip was to Anaheim, California where corporate put on a training session for the field distributors. We were staying at the Hilton Anaheim on Convention Way and the training sessions were held for 1300 people at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The wildfires in Hollywood and Montecito started sometime early Saturday. By lunchtime, the sky was full of thick brown smoke and ash was raining down on the walks outside. It didn't affect our work at all, though most of us had headaches by the afternoon due to the amount of smoke in the air. It was supposed to be 90 degrees that day, with 70+ mph winds. It didn't feel that hot, but it's possible that the slightly cooler weather was attributed to the smoky blanket that obscured the sunlight.

The Disney parks were completely covered, and when we went to California Adventure the next day, most of the indoor areas still smelled heavily of smoke. In the picture below, just to the right of Hollywood's Tower of Terror ride at California Adventure, you can see the orange glow that the fire reflected up into the smoke.

It's sad that such a tragedy had to occur, but in it's own way the smoke created an eerie kind of beauty. Below is a picture of the Anaheim Convention Center Arena... I have another meeting in February 2009 in that Arena.

I loved looking out at the Arena at night. I could see it well from my hotel room. I also got a great view of the Disney parks...

About 30 corporate employees went down to help out with the event. We all stayed at the Hilton Anaheim, which is probably one of the nicer hotels in Anaheim, excepting Disney's Grand California Hotel. I'd forgotten how many palm trees there are in southern California... and how pretty they are!

After four long, hard days of work, our company treated us to a short day at one of the Disney parks. Most of us went in to California Adventure. I think my favorite rides are Soaring Over California (I get really nostalgic... this ride is just a peaceful, happy ride!) and the Bugs' Life show. It's much smaller than Disneyland, but has a lot of really beautiful areas - including the backside of the GRR (Grizzly River Rapids); the waterfall there looks like something in the high Uintas!

I spent most of my day hanging out with my friends Roberth and Brandon. We had some good times touring the Mission and Boudins factorys - there was also some pretty serious competition on the new Toy Story ride... highly recommended!

Right before we left to go catch our airport shuttle at the hotel, we decided to do a little last-minute shopping. At one of the stores we stopped in we ran into Woody from Toy Story; he was working the cash-register scanners. Woody got his hands on a tape gun, and began holding people up with it. Brandon, unfortunately, got shot by the tape gun... but I succeeded in swiping the gun! (Truth: Woody did not nicely hand me be tape gun and motion for me to use it against him. Well... maybe...)

I wasn't going to buy anything... I'm going to Disneyworld with my family in a few days and I didn't think that I needed anything from California too. But then I saw this painting, by Joe Yakovetic and for some reason it really hit me. I love it! He has some others that are amazing too! I really love his Sleeping Beauty painting (see if you can find Philip kissing Aurora in the clouds... it's way cool!).

This is the wave fountain in the main courtyard at California Adventure. I'm a sucker for fountains and waterfalls and this one is really pretty.

The trip was a lot of fun, but I think everyone was really happy to be going home and sleeping in their own beds that night. The whole trip was also a learning experience for me - not just as far as event planning goes, but on the whole I learned a lot of things about people, about myself, and about how much I really miss certain parts of California and really don't miss a lot of others. I'm excited to have more opportunities to see different things as I travel with work... it's kind of a life-long dream, to travel and see new things, and I know that every trip will be a new adventure!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wilde Zoo Day

Laura and I had planned to meet and go to the Hogle Zoo before it got too cold this year. We met on October 18... one of the last warm days of the year. It was fun spending the day getting to know Brett, Sarah, and Jake better.

Ok, so it's no big secret that I love going to the zoo. This was my second weekend in a row to go to a zoo (Tucson and then Hogle) and yet I still think the animals are awesome and take tons of pictures. Below are a few of my favorites... We got to watch the elephants eating their afternoon snack. I think it's fun that they make them work for their food. :0)

It was lunch time at the giraffe compound too, so they all came inside to eat. We got some really nice views... They're a lot taller when you're standing 5 feet away!

Penguins make me happy - it's just part of what they are. At the risk of promoting it way too much, penguins make me much happier after reading Evil Penguins with Kimmy when she was out here in September. This was one of the few times I've actually seen penguins in the water... and not on TV. I posted this video below because they really look like they're flying under water. Way cool!

Around 4pm, Laura and her family needed to head back home. Jake and Sarah had completed their zoo trip on the playground near the entrance and then we all took a train ride right past the bison on the hill. We'd had a lot of fun! Thanks Laura for bringing your family to share such an exciting day!

After saying goodbyes, I wandered around the area for a bit longer; I wanted to see if I could catch a better glimpse of my favorite animals. As dusk was approaching, many of the animals were a lot more active than they had been earlier in the day. Below are some pictures I got of the snow leopard and the tiger. Pretty fun stuff!

Confession: I know that I've moved away from collecting as many wolf knick-knacks as I used to, but I still think that they are my favorite animal and probably always will be. I spent a lot of time outside the little area where a lone she-wolf lives. Not long after I got there, she came down and wandered around. This was a really cool experience for me because I'd never been really close to a live wolf and had really only seen them on TV. She even howled a little while I was there... It was so cool that I probably looked really weird just sitting out there by myself grinning like a little kid - no shame! I also got a neat video, but it was being weird loading... But this just shows you how close she was getting. :0)

More of my wanderings consisted of my visiting This is the Place / Heritage Park for the first time since I'd moved to Utah... if not ever. It was really cool and quite different from what I expected. The monument area felt a lot like a church park, but there was Halloween stuff everywhere. Two days later I got to come back with my ward for Family Home Evening to visit the Haunted Village located further up the hill. It was a lot of fun... and I was proud of myself for not screaming (tho I did get pretty freaked out by the hag that followed me around for a bit).

Another thing I was excited to see was the monument that was talked about in General Conference at the beginning of October, called Eyes Westward, which is a replica of the statue that stands in Nauvoo facing east over the Mississippi River. I think it's awesome that they put the same monument on this end of the Mormon Trail as they did on the Nauvoo end... the bookends to the journey west.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Trip to Arizona

The first week in October I made a rash decision and purchased a ticket to Tucson, Arizona. It had been WAY too long since I had seen Caylee, Julie, and Spencer... so I was off! I spent the better part of 4 days in Arizona having all kinds of fun, from learning Eden (awesome!), to teaching Killer Bunnies (and then playing it 3 times), to playing catch-up with Julie, and staking my claim on the title of "Favorite Aunt"!

On Friday, Julie and I took Caylee to JC Penny to get her first official portraits taken. This one was probably our favorite:

I'd not seen Caylee since June when we had our family reunion; it was so much fun to see the little person she was becoming. These are some of my favorites of the pictures I took when I was down there... She seriously has the best face ever!

This is probably my favorite of Caylee's smiles. I think I love it because she makes this "he hee" sound when she makes it. Loves it!!

One night for dinner we went over to Manuels (crazy-good Mexican restaurant). On our way to the car in front of the house, I looked down and saw the furry friend you'll see in the next picture. Julie didn't want it in the drive way, so she started throwing rocks at it. It curled its legs up and started angling toward where the rocks were coming from. It guessed slightly wrong (maybe I was throwing rocks too... I don't remember...) and booked it right at me. It moved so crazy-fast that I had to run to get out of the way, but the best part was that Julie let out this piercing scream when it started running. Spencer went to get a shovel to scoop up the spider while Julie and I put Caylee in the car across the street. When Spencer scooped up the spider, it started running up the handle towards Spencer... causing Julie to scream again. :0) Spencer threw the spider up in the air, and it landed so hard it was stunned. Spencer scooped up the spider and walked it to the end of the street to put it in the desert. I tell this story because it was so funny, and partly because I figured that kinda makes us even for the whole lizard thing (details will not follow... bwaha! :0). Anyway... it was definitely hilarious!! This is one reason I'm not chomping at the bit to move to Arizona (it probably spans about 6 inches):

Another day I was there, we went to In'n'Out for a burger. This was a "must-do" as I bleed Californian... I just need a good In'n'Out burger at least once every few months, and so if I'm in the area, the detour must be made! I think Caylee really likes it too! (French Fries!!)

While I was there, we took Caylee for her first trip to the zoo. Caylee loved to look and point at the animals. Because she pets Chloe (their cat) and says soft, she started saying soft as soon as we say the panthers. I think she would have just climbed in there to play with them if we'd let her! :0)

Along with the normal zoo animals, we also saw a giant anteater - which was basically the coolest animal I've ever seen... and slightly freaky looking - and a capybara, which is the world's largest rodent (about the size of a full-grown pot-bellied pig... maybe 50+ pounds!).

On our way home from the zoo, we stopped at Mission San Xavier, which was completed in 1797. It is currently under renovation, but was still really cool looking. You can see in this picture how one side just recently had a refurbish and the other side is ready to be worked on.

Arizona was a blast! Julie actually almost had me convinced to move down there! I totally wish we lived closer, but since we don't, I am definitely planning to visit more often! Thanks for the fun!!

Kimmy's Visit in September

Kimmy came to visit me in mid-September for the Brisingr book release. We had fun playing at the Clark Planetarium in downtown Salt Lake City, at the theaters watching Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D (recommended!!), reading one of my new favorite books (Evil Penguins), and generally just kicking it at my apartment. I just recently moved over from my Dell laptop to a MacBook... and we spent a LOT of time exploring the wonders in the Apple world, primarily PhotoBooth. I am officially addicted. I love a good PC, but my MacBook has provided ample opportunities for hilarity to be achieved. Below are some pictures exhibiting the good times that were had that completely awesome weekend.

I seriously LOVE this picture. Kimmy and I were the only ones to take this giant elevator built to fit and entire elementary school class... Opportune moment? We said yes...

Thanks for coming Kimmy!! We should do it again! Let's say... December? :0)