Friday, January 8, 2016

2015 in Photos

5,625 photos for the year, down from 2014's photos by about 30,000. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Not feeling well. Pretty much the exact opposite day from my ultra productive day on Tuesday. I did post, a lazy recap of our first cruise day. Right now I'm going for the quantity habit, not the quality habit. :)
Still, hoping for a more exciting entry (and day!) tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Book recommendation


I'm a huge believer in the power of habit, but still haven't figured out how to kick all the bad habits or establish the good ones. I love that this book talks strategy for that, but only after an examination of personality differences that impact the way people make these changes.

I'm not writing a full review yet, because I'm still only about  halfway through, but I can already tell this will be one of those books that I evangelize. :)

Posting about it is conveniently allowing me to keep at least one habit going for yet another day...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Productivity Rock Star

Ha! This is so completely opposite of how I normally feel at the end of the day that I just had to blog about it. Generally I am very busy, but it's rare that I can actually pinpoint what I've accomplished at the end of a long tiring day. Today I didn't have anyplace I had to be and I hunkered down in my fleece sweats and got. things. done. Rob suggested that maybe I should wear sweats everyday...and mentioned that he needed a couple of things at Walmart as long as I was dressed for it. :)

Anyway, here's my list:

  • 5:30 a.m. weight lifting with Robbie
  • Made my bed
  • Listened to a productivity webinar
  • Figured out how to download transactions from credit card to budgeting software (HUGE, yes, welcome to this century :)
  • Assigned categories to nine months of transactions
  • Finally applied for marketplace health insurance (I have been totally dreading this! It wasn't nearly as painful as I expected it would be!)
  • Picked up bread at Great Harvest (It's definitely not Walmart, I was conspicuous in my sweats, but I did at least change out of my slippers before going...I do have some standards.  :)
  • Created a four-page agenda for YW presidency meeting + 2016 calendar (felt like a flight controller, figuring out so many schedules and details)
  • Signed the girls up for a sports camp
  • Confirmed reservations for Provo Temple open house
  • Deleted dozens of emails
  • Registered and synced the tile I got for Christmas
  • All this, plus showering (I might wear sweats occasionally, but I draw the line at personal hygiene), driving kids, doing two loads of dishes, four loads of laundry, fixing three meals and being somewhat attentive to Joey while he spent the day throwing up and/or sleeping...
Not to mention blogging for the fifth day in a row! Gold star day.




Monday, January 4, 2016

Back to Real Life

A rude awakening to reality, starting at 5:40 a.m. for the boys, and not much later for the rest of us. The kids were all thrilled to go back to school (where is the sarcasm font when you need it?), and Rob had a busy day working. I spent four hours madly cleaning, then hosted my Monday lunch group, which used to be called "Game On" for this healthy tracking game we started, but got re-named "Better Than Before" today, in honor of the Gretchen Rubin book I've been reading. I obviously haven't really gotten back into the daily photography/blogging habit, or there would be a photo of us (Shaaron, Char, Candy, Deyanne, Christianne, Helen, Katrina, Naomi and I) enjoying our always awesome potluck salad, brainstorming the future of our group and doing a fun "favorite things" while elephant exchange (I gave a copy of Better Than Before and got a recipe for lentil soup with all the ingredients to make it). Then more cleaning and busy work in the afternoon, school pick up, homework routine, the usual...

Until about 4:20, when we headed to St. Vincent's. I took a few photos before it started getting busy. 




Here is what Ellie wrote about this experience for her service learning assignment in English earlier this year:

Every month, usually, my family goes to a food kitchen for the homeless called St. Vincent’s. The night before we spend a few hours making sandwiches to serve to them as well as soup, desert, several appetizers, and a cup of milk, juice, or water. We each pick something to serve (out of the thing they are serving, which varies constantly), and put it on the tray, which we pass down a rack, to the person who hands it to the homeless people. To get their meal, the homeless people line up outside and the person at the door gives them a ticket. They then get inside and put their ticket in a jar, and the person at the end of the rack gives them a tray full of food. Once we gave a man a whole pie! Not only is it service, but it’s really fun to do!
Tonight was especially exciting, when Rob was threatened by a tough looking guy after he told him that blankets weren't allowed inside. Luckily no follow through on that. It sure makes me appreciate coming home to a good meal and warm home.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sandwich Sunday

A few years ago one of my friends mentioned that she and her family were wanting to serve once a month at St. Vincent's Dining Hall for the homeless, and wondered if we'd like to join them. It's been one of the best things we've done. We go the first Monday of every month with a few of our favorite families, and it is such a great opportunity to serve and to get some perspective on how blessed we are. 

Each month we make and take 600 sandwiches with us, to supplement the dinner that St. Vincent's provides. At first we gathered Monday afternoons before heading down to serve, but we've switched to doing it the evening before, and it is great. We've got it down to a system: each family takes a turn buying the supplies at Costco: 46 loaves of bread, 24 packages of ham, and 600 ziplock bags. Not the fanciest sandwiches, but they need soft bread and nothing too hard to chew. Everyone pitches in and it goes pretty fast...it took us about 45 minutes tonight. Luckily our friends the Brashers have the perfect set up for this with two giant islands, and they are always willing to have this crazy crowd.









St. Vincent's photos coming tomorrow...

Saturday, January 2, 2016

First Christmas Party of 2016

Luckily, my only reader isn't very discerning, and was excited enough about my boring posts yesterday to motivate me to post another one. Tonight we had my grandma's party, and the kids were excited to see their buddies from the cruise. I really think one of the secrets of close families is traveling together, I'm so grateful we could do that.

Check out my grandma, she's 96!

Probably playing "Under My Undies".

Photo bombers!

The kids each got a fun new game from Grandma.

Just a fraction of the great-grandkids.

Aw, group hug.

Hopefully I'll get back into the blogging groove and go beyond "when, where, what" posts, but that's all I've got right now. Thanks for reading, Ainsley!




Friday, January 1, 2016

2016—The Year to Bring Back the Blogging Habit?


Ainsley is probably the only person who is still interested in this blog, and she has begged me to start again, "but not only when we travel, just all the daily stuff." She reminded me that I'd better do a post to start the year off right. When I asked her what I should blog about, she told me to blog about the party we went to tonight. I told her that I forgot to take pictures, and she said that was okay, I could just write a paragraph. 

Rob's aunt Ginny and uncle Bill have a New Year's Day party every year and serve sauerkraut, which is supposed to bring good luck for the new year. The girls were skeptical of the sauerkraut (until they tried it and liked it) but it also happens to be one of two days a year that Ginny makes her famous rainbow jello, and since we were gone for Christmas, we missed the other day. Ainsley started doing a happy dance when Ginny offered to send the leftover jello home with her. She's not at all possessive about it either, as you can see. Anyway, it was great company and great food, and a nice start to 2016.

P.S. I always get a little over-ambitious in January, so in that spirit, I'm attempting to blog one current post, and one "make-up" post. I picked a pretty lame easy one today: see here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Long Way Home

Ellie still didn't feel great, so instead of heading out to see Houston before going to the airport, we stuck around the hotel until checkout time at noon, then had a long lunch at Pappasito's in Humble, near the airport (just okay, not the awesome Tex Mex we expected in Texas!) and sat around at the airport for a few hours:

We're all about making memories together.

Disney was right, it is, in fact, a small, small world. Robbie's EFY counselor and his family were on our flight going home. His name is Corbin, but they called him Skip. And his nickname for Robbie was Mick Jagger, which is hilarious.
Skip and Mick.

Photo bomber.
We got home around 9:30 p.m. and I had to make a grocery run. Long day, but good to be home!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Houston Space Center

We were excited to check out Johnson Space Center on our only full day in Houston. Unfortunately, so were thousands of other people. In spite of the crowds, it was pretty cool. We only took one of the four available tram tours because even though we mocked the local news for their "winter conditions" alert, we actually were totally unprepared for the cold wind as we left the museum and went to mission control. We saw the historic version, a re-creation of the room that supported the Apollo missions, including the famous Apollo 11 landing on the moon. The other available tours were to the current mission control room, the astronaut training center, and the swimming pool training facility (which is only open once a year, over Christmas break). But between the cold and the super long lines, we opted to check out other parts of the space center.

Re-staged mission control from the 1960's.

Rocket park is at the end of the tram tour.
Joey and the "Little Joe".


Photo fail...Ainsley needs to grow a few inches.

This looks deceptively small, it is actually a giant rocket, the Saturn V, over 36 stories tall.

The kids all loved the lunar rover simulators.
Everyone got a cool NASA t-shirt souvenir. We had planned on meeting Claudia and her family for dinner, but Ellie started feeling sick just as we were ready to leave and had to stay within bathroom distance. :( Less than optimal for the plane ride home.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Liz San Clan

We disembarked from our cruise on Sunday morning, and had planned on finding a church, but I was still not feeling great and we decided to spend the afternoon visiting my friend Claudia and her family in Katy, about an hour away from our hotel in Clear Lake. We had such a great time with them, I'm kicking myself for only taking one photo. We talked and played Pit, and Catch-Phrase, and Pictionary (in Spanish!), and we all tried Samuel's hover board. Rob and I narrowly avoided becoming one of those hover board fail hashtag people, and the kids picked it up pretty quickly and all now want one. We all remembered them telling us that fried ants are a Colombian delicacy, and this trip we all had the chance to try them...they tasted a bit like popcorn, but crunchier. We seriously had the best time and stayed way later than we'd planned, but just didn't want to leave! Una familia muy hermosa: Andres Sanchez, Claudia Lizcano, Samuel (14), Isabella (12) and Lucas (6).

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tulum

Our first port was Cozumel. I had originally booked the tour to Chichen Itza through the cruise, but changed it after realizing the travel time there and back would be most of our day. Instead, I booked a tour to Tulum with Alma's LDS Tours after several people recommended them. It was a good thing we switched...we ended up getting there a couple of hours later than expected, and the ship's tours were cancelled. Luckily we caught the ferry from Cozumel to Playa Del Carmen just as it was leaving.

We were all soaked in a quick downpour right after we disembarked, but no rain the rest of the afternoon.

Tulum overlooks some beautiful blue water.

One bonus of having a guide is that we had someone to take family photos.

So bright that every photo has someone with closed eyes.

Our guide, Alex, telling us about the descending God image on the fertility Goddess's Temple.

The Castillo in the background.


A white-sand Christmas.





It was warm. We had to remind ourselves not to complain about the heat, since that was exactly what we'd hoped for. Probably only in the 80's, but the humidity! At the end of our tour, we were provided with the authentic Mexican lunch of Subway sandwiches and returned to Playa Del Carmen to catch the ferry so we wouldn't miss the ship's sail time.







It turns out we didn't need to rush. There was one passenger who didn't make it back on time, and "in the spirit of Christmas" the captain waited for him almost two hours. Still, glad we didn't have that stress. A fun day!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Oh Ye That Embark...

Our ship had to be deep sanitized after the previous voyage, after an outbreak of norovirus, so it was late afternoon by the time we boarded.



We couldn't go to our rooms immediately, but we were okay lounging next to the pool.

Muster drill.

Sail away.

The first of many delicious dinners. So happy to hang out with our Simmons cousins.

Ellie & Ainsley's set up in our mini-suite. The boys were across the hall in their own room.