Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pictures from Chanchamayo

I'm back from my trip and have a lot to write about. But, just have to find the
time!! Here are some pictures to satiate your appetites for now...

J. Riley

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Many apologies - I'm late!

I don't know why, but for some reason I've been really busy lately. I'm not even sure what I've been doing! Anyways, before I get too far behind, I gotta talk about last weekend! Or, rather the weekend before that. I conspired with Summer to drop in on my parents and the rest of the family on my nieces weekend. Everyone was supposed to be there (except Nana - who was in Hawaii - so I can't fault her for that!) - all four siblings, my niece, my aunt from San Diego, my grandpa, my grandma (all the way from next door :), plus a full truck load of cousins, second-cousins, and aunts from Manteca. It was my niece Elli's second birthday and was a chance for everyone to get together, so I figured I'd use some of my seriously depleted vacation time to drop in on everyone - in cognito!

Of course, my flight to get out there was delayed (typical), but I eventually arrived at around 1:00am on Friday night. Sum woke up and drove all the way up to San Fran to pick me up in the wee hours of the morning and I got home and crashed where there weren't any bodies - namely, the couch. I figured that with the plethora of visitors in town, I would add a little confusion and people would figure that I was someone else sleeping on the couch. Worked like a charm!

I woke up at 7:30 and, amazingly enough, nobody was awake yet so I covered up in my blankets and waited for the first crew to wake up. The first victims were Graham and Elli. Elli came running into the room and Graham told her to be quiet because Faryn was sleeping on the couch. Surprise! It was very cute that Elli remembered me and said something that Graham translated to "Uncle Justin" :) . Next up to the plate was dad, who was taking a shower and then came out and after seeing a body on the couch and trying to figure out who would be sleeping there, was fully caught off guard. Surprise! Brie, Faryn, my grandpa, and Aunt Jude were all in on it shortly after, leaving only my mom left to surprise. She was out of the shower and doing some laundry in the back so I waltzed back and said "Good Morning" and she turned, looked at me with a confused look on her face, and paused for a second before realizing who I was :o) . It was great!

The weekend flew by, but getting up early helped stretch it out as much as possible. After cleaning up and eating some fresh bagels, I was off with my dad to get my haircut by our favorite barber Lee who I hadn't seen for at least a year probably. We got back to the house and I got keys to my old car and went to say hi to my friend Stefan in his new house across town before he and I went jetting back in time to say hi to my aunts who had just arrived and see Elli going through her presents. There were two little boys there and I was trying to figure out which cousins they were (hey, it's been a while!) before finding out that they were just kids my sister was babysitting and that all my cousins and second-cousins weren't coming because of a nasty flu that was floating around the house, having infected several people already. The funny thing about my niece opening the presents was that she was most interested in the
John Deere tractors until she got the set of velcro'd together fruits that she could "cut up" with a plastic knife. Awesome gift idea for anyone with toddlers to buy gifts for!

After the gifts came the feast. I helped put together a couple loaves of garlic bread while bags and bags of spaghetti were being cooked and a big old salad tossed. Needless to say, there was ample amounts of food and I was very well stuffed by the binge eating outside on the patio where the sun was nice and comfortable, like a Fall day in California should be.

After lunch, the boys all lounged around and watched college football for a few hours with my brother's alma mater playing a big game up in Oregon. A few hours later my brother, sisters, and I went downtown to Los Gatos to have a snack of some burgers and sweet-potato fries while I got grilled about Erika from the girls (ahem - Brie :o), which is fine with me. Later we got a very very poor movie (Evan Almighty) that we chilled at home and watched until everyone was ready to pass out. It was quite a disappointing movie considering it had Steve Carell in it!

Sunday started early again with dad cooking up massive amounts of waffles. Because they had been driven out of their home from the fires in San Diego, my brother and his fam had come up earlier in the week and thus had to leave early to go back to work on Sunday, which cut short my visit unfortunately. After watching a little tiny bit of the play-by-play on the Liverpool v. Arsenal game (in which we were winning when I left in the 70th minute), I went down to the park with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece to meet up with some of my brother's friends, all of which had kids roughly the same age, and all of them having second kids in exactly the reverse order! Too funny :)

After bidding them all farewell and seeing off Graham and fam, my dad and I went for a hike in the hills surrounding Los Gatos and the valley in general. I had no idea this was the case, but several philanthropic funds set up by Silicon Valley legends like HP acquire land in the hills that they intend to keep as "Open Space" with hiking trails and just wilderness in general, which is great for residents that want to get out and stretch their legs for a bit. These Open Space areas almost form a whole circle around the SF Bay and is something that I think should be taken advantage of more often - as my dad does :). We had a nice tiring walk up to the base of Mt Uminum (sp.?) before heading back to the house for dinner. I definitely could feel that exercise in my legs by the end of the day!

Mom, Dad, and Jude made steaks and an orzo & shrimp dish for dinner which was awesome. The house sure was quiet now that everyone was gone except for my aunt and my sister Summer. At night dad introduced me to the show No Reservations which is an awesome show about a guy who goes around the world (NY included!) and eats crazy stuff, whether it's deep-fried hot dogs (not so crazy, but it is in Jersey!) or pan-fried cow brains (a bit extreme). After a dinner like that though, I was totally out by the time we got half-way through New Jersey.

Monday, my last day in town, I slept in a bit before getting up and making some oatmeal. Dad was coming home early from work to take me wine tasting in the area, so Mom and Aunt Jude and I took a road trip over to Santa Cruz - for coffee at Fins, which is a coffee shop run by friends of the family. It was another beautiful day and we took our time, went walking along a path next to the beach, and I got grilled again about Erika and our in-progress plans for the future :). Since it was getting late, we scrambled back over the mountains to get home just in time as my dad was home and cooking up leftovers from dinner for lunch.

After lunch, we headed up the hill in his old sports car and hit up a converted school-house-cum-winery up in the hills above Los Gatos. We were planning on hanging out there for a while but it turns out that it was closed during the week! Without any other real plans, we decided to head up to some other hills in the area to visit our family friend Frank, who manages and makes wine up on Bear Creek Road. Surprise! He couldn't believe that we were in the area and we got a personal tour from him of the winery and tasted a variety of wines of different age, including some freshly crushed grapes with oxygen and everything. That was interesting to learn about the wine-making process up close and personal.

After doing some more tasting there in the tasting room, we headed down the road to give David Bruce's winery a test as well. Wine is something that I should definitely be trying to drink more of because I certainly can't tell the good stuff from the bad yet, though I'd really like to. It took me a few years to figure out what beer I like, so I guess wine will take that much longer. Couple more trips to California a year and I should be good to go...

After heading back to town in the rain, we capped the night off with some Mexican food in downtown LG at Andales. It had been a pretty long weekend considering it was only three days and I was pretty beat, which always makes for a good red-eye flight back to the City - straight for work. Unfortunately, by the time I got on the plane I wasn't as tired so I didn't sleep all that well, which of course led to a lousy Tuesday :). But, I'll trade one bad day in for three wonderful days with my family any day - or three!!

J. Riley, this Friday, I head to Southern California for another three-day weekend. But don't tell Jeff. Surprise!

P.S. Last night I went to the gym and actually did some weights and was amazed at how much better my hands functioned after a little bit of muscle work. That's good news, and tomorrow is my EMG test by the neurologist, which hopefully will clear up my pessimism about having defective genes :)