Monday, August 28, 2006

Last Day in the Western World

Tonight was our last night of our home leave to the US and UK. We had a stressful, but great 7 weeks of traveling. We really enjoyed catching up with our friends and family and look forward to doing it again next year except a more organized and less scomplicated version.

I have to give a special shout out to some of the fabulous friends and family that put us up while we were traveling. The Barkats and Galloways in Arizona, my parents in Nebraska, Roy and Annie Porter of Bangor, Northern Ireland, and Gareth and Clare Dallas & Kate and Joe of Limavady, Northern Ireland. That you for opening your homes to us and for your hosipitality.

We are in England still and will be driving down to London Heathrow tomorrow to catch our mid-afternoon flight to China. We had a nice time in Lichfield, especially at Quincy and Ali's wedding. I hope to post pictures next week of the exciting event. We had such a fabulous time!

Anyway, stay tuned for more Chengdus and Don'ts China style. September will be a busy month for us getting settled and Gemma into her school routine. I will also be traveling quite a bit around China this next month, so stay tuned for more pictures from China.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Lichfield, England

We have arrived in Lichfield for the wedding of Jonny's friend Steven Quinn. We are so happy to be in this sleepy little town. It is so quaint! I have a bit of internet access, so if I get a chance I will try and post pictures from the wedding. The reception is being held at the bride's house in a marquee. It reminds me of some of the wedding from Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Traveling Woman

I have limited internet access from Ireland, so I am just writing to say that we arrived safe and sound in Northern Ireland on Friday the 11th. Unfortunately due to all of the security issues at Heathrow Jonny missed his connecting flight on the 12th, but we were able to reunite with him on the 13th. Things are great and we are very happy to be a family again. The kids are just so happy to be with their daddy and for some reason Angus has stopped his aggressive behavior. Interesting....

Anyway, I am currently in Dublin, Ireland with my parents. I haven't been here for 12 years and I am very happy about the improvements this city has made. We are having a great time and have really enjoyed the city.

I will post our pictures from our trip when we return to China at the end of the month as I am sure I will need something to do during my jetleg.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Day 25-27: Fun in the sun and old friends


Isaac, Angus and Gemma at the Ronin Pool in Fremont.

Friday my parents both had to work, so it was me, my nephew Isaac and my to kids for the day. I decided we needed to head to town to go swimming at one of the public pools I used to frequent as a kid. We stopped in to see my Mom at work and she just happen to ask where I was taking the kids swimming. I told her the Memorial Pool and she then went to tell me it is now an ice skating rink! I was so disappointed as I had visions of taking Gemma and Angus swimming there like I used to do, but luckily they still had the Ronin Pool. I took the kids swimming and my Arizona babies didn't really like the cool water, but after a while it was quite refreshing and they got used to it. We had a nice time splashing around and I was quite impressed with the condition of the pool after all these years! I don't think I have been there for over 25 years!

Friday night I went to meet my girlfriend from high school, Paula. Paula is my oldest friend, we have known each other since we were 6 years old and she was my maid of honor in our wedding. We went to the same college and she even lived up in Minneapolis a summer with me. After all these years, me living far away and her the successful career woman we were able to pick up where we left off last. Paula wanted to head out for the evening sans husband and child. Paula had her first baby, Cassie about 2 weeks after Angus was born. I was able to meet Miss Cassie and she looks just like her mom.

I think the funniest thing Paula said Friday evening was when we headed into a bar and it ended up being kind of smoky and crowded she said to me "It's kind of an older crowd.". I looked at the people in the bar and I said to Paula "Um, they don't look any older than we do!" We both got a good laugh out of that. I guess we are now the older crowd!


Me and Paula at the Marquee

We settled at a new martini bar in Omaha called the Marquee. It was quite trendy looking place with comfy seating. We also had the pleasure of meeting up with our dear friend Brian. Brian is one of my closest friends from my days in Minneapolis. Brian and I went to college together, but were just acquaintances and then we ran into each other in Minneapolis and became the best of friends. Brian even moved down to Phoenix for a few years and hung out with us. Brian now lives in Kansas City and came up to see me and the kids for the week-end.


Brian, Me and Paula


Brian and Me

It was great catching up with Paula and Brian. We made plans for the rest of the week-end and headed home.

Saturday the kids were begging to go swimming in the lake. My mom, me and the kids got suited up and my dad sat on his beach chair with his sun umbrella and watched us and took tons of pictures. The kids had a ball and Angus was not one bit scared of the lake water.


Angus walked from the shore to this depth. Notice the top of his head! What a crazy kid!


Here we are enjoying the water.


There were quite a few boats on the lake, so the kids felt like they were in the ocean with all the waves.


After splashing for a while we took a break and enjoyed the coolness of the water.

That evening my sister had a few friends over and BBQ. I invited Brian down to see Gemma and meet Angus for the first time. We had a nice time chatting and eating. I think the burger I had was the best burger I have ever eaten. My brother-in-law Will can really grill a mean burger!


Here is Angus enjoying his dessert!


Brian and the kids

After dinner Brian and I headed out to Omaha to go to the Cox Classic 19th hole party. We picked up Paula and met one of Brian's sisters at the tent. There were hundreds of people there and we all made a bet that the first person who saw someone we went to college with would win. We were there until the end of the night and we saw no one we went to college with, so needless to say we were all feeling a bit old. I did however run into to two of my 30 year-old sister Becky's classmates who recognized me, but I had no clue who they were. I think that was good thing, but I am not quite sure...

Today I went into to Omaha to Brian's sister's house to see the Colgan Clan. I had forgotten to give Brian his gift from China and it was a great opportunity to see Brian's parents, sisters, brother-in-laws, and nieces. Brian's niece Anna is 3 and Gemma and Angus had a ball playing with her while I got caught up with the Colgans. It is always such a pleasure to be around the Colgan family, they really remind me of Jonny's family with there stories of the days when the kids were little and their great sense of humor.


Anna and Gemma

After the Colgan's I took the kids to do a little shopping. I needed yet another suitcase, so I decided to head to T.J. Maxx. I have to sing the praises of T.J. Maxx because they always have great luggage at discounted prices and they have my favorite work-out apparel for much cheaper than I would pay at Nordstrom. I was even able to score a matching piece of Samsonite luggage to the piece I bough at the T.J. Maxx in Arizona.

After my very successful trip to T.J. Maxx we headed over to my brother's new house in LaVista. I have never been to LaVista before, but I was able to find their new abode with no problems. We were really excited to see them because they also have a new addition to their family that we haven't met. Gabe was a year in June and he is adorable! I was telling my parent's tonight that Aiden, Gabe, and Angus will be quite the lady killers when they get older. They are all going to be gorgeous boys! We only stayed for an hour or so because my brother had to go to work and the kids were needing dinner.


Gabe and Angus


Gabe saying "cheez" for the camera. He is such a cutie and quite the bruiser! We look forward to seeing them all again on Tuesday!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Day 23 & 24: Rest at last!

We arrived around 11 pm into Omaha on probably the worst flight in the history of me flying. We all slept in on Wednesday and all of us slept through the night, which was the first time that has happened since arriving in the U.S. 3 weeks prior. My dad had the day off work on Wednesday and both of my sisters and their kids came down to my parent's house to visit us. We had a great day meeting the new cousins and hanging out. Gemma and her cousin Isaac are only 2 months apart in age, so they had a great time together.


Here is Gemma, Angus, Isaac, and Aiden in the baby pool.


Here we are on a family walk.

On Thursday we had big plans to go the the Saunders County Fair and Parade in Wahoo, Nebraska. We loaded up the kids and headed to Wahoo to find prime spots on the parade route. We had dinner in the park put on my the local beef association and ate while we waited for the parade to start. Now I don't know about you, but when I was little and we attended these types of parades my siblings and I were lucky to get one handful of candy, but the amount of candy that was throw was absolutely ridiculous! It got so out of hand my dad started throwing candy back in the street. The parade lasted about 1 1/2 hours and it was filled with bands, tractors, horses, geese, politicians, fire trucks, etc. Here are a few snapshots of the fun!


Angus trying to eat gum through the wrapper. I quickly spoiled his fun.


Here were the geese that their trainer was herding through the parade.


My alma mater! The Cedar Bluffs High School Band!


Angus absolutely loved the parade!


We also saw my Grandma Rose at the parade. Here are the kids with their Great Grandma!

After the parade we headed the the fair to check out the animals and midway. We also ran into my Uncle Allan. He and my dad are spitting imagines of each other.


Uncle Allan and Dad


Angus and his cousin Aiden


Gemma and Isaac in a tractor tire.


We were able to go on a few rides on the midway. Here is Gemma and Isaac on the motorcycles. I have to say I love going to the fairs in Nebraska. I think the Nebraska State Fair has to be the best fair in the U.S! If you ever get a chance to go to a Midwestern fair I highly recommend it!

Day 21- 23: Our last few days in Arizona

After our fairly calm Girl's Night Out on Saturday we had a fairly relaxing Sunday. We met the Barkats for lunch and spent the evening with the Galloways.

On Monday I went to the gym for my last work-out at my very nice and plush gym. I am going to miss it so much. It gave me a nice break from the kids, but it was such a nice relaxing and clean environment it really helped motivate me to work-out. After our work-out Annette and I had Michelle come and watch the kids while we had a fabulous lunch at my favorite place to eat in Phoenix, Postino. We had their bruchetta and then split a salad. I think it was one of the best salads that I have ever had there. After our fab lunch we went to Scottsdale to do a little last minute shopping before I head out to Nebraska. The shopping was good and the mall keeps evolving. I have never been a big Scottsdale shopper, but the mall seems to have everything now.


Annette, Me and Angus


Ella, Angus, and Gemma


Annette and Ella with the kids

Monday night we had dinner and then a few of our friends stopped by to say good-bye. It was nice to see everyone one last time before we took off. It is just so hard for me to believe that I won't get to see my friends for another year. Who knows, maybe we will be back before next June???

Tuesday I set out with the kids to do some last minute errands. We went over to the house to have a new window installed in our kitchen and took a dip in the pool. We also were able to spend time with our dog Clark. After our errands we went back to Casa Galloway to finish our last minute packing. We met Jill at our storage facility and parked the van. I am actually not really into cars, to me there are just something to get you from point a to point b, but I am really going to miss driving my mini-van.

Jill and her kids took us to the airport and it was a very tearful good-bye. I am really going to miss my girlfriends. There is just something so comforting about old friends.

Until next year Arizona....

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Day 20: Girls Night Out

The last Saturday we had breakfast plans with our friends Dan and Madeline. I had the good fortune of seeing Dan this past fall in Chengdu, so it was really great to see him and catch with everything that had gone on between then and now. What I didn't know until our email exchange was they had had a new baby less than 3 month prior to our breakfast meeting, so it was a great chance to meet their new addition.


Madeline and Liliane


Dan and Angus


All of us

We had a lovely breakfast and it was so great to catch up with them. I hope that Dan will make it over to Chengdu in the next year, so we can give him more of a tour of our city. I also found out that Madeline Dan's wife has read both my old blog and my China blog in full. I have really been impressed on this trip on how many people actually read my blog. I didn't realize I had so many people read it. I really appreciate everyone's interest as I really enjoying writing it.

Saturday night we had a nice girl's night out for dinner, shopping and a little hookah smoking. We started off at my most favorite Chandler eatery, Cyclo. If you haven't been to this most delicious place, you are definitely missing out. Here is a photo of the girls out at dinner.


After dinner we headed out to do a little shopping and then on to Sinbad's for some hookah smoking. I have never smoked a hookah before, but it was quite tasty. From what I was told by my hookah smoking friends is that their is very little nicotine in the hookah tobacco and they come in all types of desserty flavors. We opted for the fruit cocktail flavor and it was quite delicious. I thought it would be like smoking a cigarette, but not at all. It was very mild and tasty.


Pam, Annette, Me, Tracy, Jill and Jeanette


The Hookah


Pam and Annette enjoying the hookah.


Tracy and her hookah


Jill and her hookah


There was also some great belly dancers. I have to say they were way better than the belly dancer at Tandoor in Chengdu (I think my China friends will understand). We had a great night and I am really going to miss my girls now that I am gone. There is nothing like old friends! Love you girls!

Update on Jonny's Summer Part II

Jonny took another week-end trip to a city called Jiuzhaigou, located 450 km north of Chengdu in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Prefecture. We had met a guy named Andrew Scanlon in Chengdu, who is originally from Dublin, Ireland that lives and works in Jiuzhaigou, so Jonny thought he would pay him a visit. Here are some of the pictures that I received so far from Jonny. I know there are more to come of the National Park that he visited there. These photos are more of the Tibetan family he visited while he was there.

Jonny will be traveling again this week-end to a Tibetan area, so I should have more pictures of another beautiful area in China.