Celebrations…Kansas, Arizona & California 12.2008

Friday, December 19 

this page begins not with my own travels, but Sara's

she flew in Friday night from Orlando, landing in KC a little before midnight, to a wind-chill of below zero...what a Kansas welcome!

she's sooo great....loving her job, her friends and Florida (and it's winter warmth)

(here's just a little side note:  my good friend Sherri, whom I previously thought was a little nuts, because she's seen the movie "Mama Mia' about a billion times at the movies, gave me a copy of the afore-mentioned movie and a copy of the soundtrack tonight when my girlfriends group met for dinner prior to Sara arriving in KC.  I had seen the movie for the first time on Thursday night with Sherri and her girls....and LOVED IT!.....and so...begins a new addiction....thanks Sherri....I really do LOVE IT!)


Saturday, December 20 

we all slept in Saturday morning, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then headed in to KC to do a little Christmas shopping

(side note:  I woke up earlier than the others and watched all of "Mama Mia" for the second time...love it even more)

this evening we're headed to Jan's (my sister-in-law) home to CELEBRATE Brett's (my nephew) graduation from KU!!!!!! 

(I should have moved that box of crackers....the cake was really cool)

Brett and Andrea (congrats to Andrea too!  we attended her graduation party last weekend)

I hope they find careers and lives full of passion, meaning, love and have lots of fun along the way

the whole group...Frank, Kevin, Brett, Mike, Jan, Andrea, Amanda, Sara and (most of) Danny

the food and company were fantastic


Sunday, December 21 

(side note:  Sara and I watched "Mama Mia" together this morning....she kept saying "corny", but she smiled as she said it)

we made our way to Lawrence to shop a little more, but mostly to eat at our favorite, most fabulous brewery, Free State.  as always it was delicious, but walking outside, down brightly holiday-lit mass street, the wind-chill was bitter....about -15....eeek! 

we headed back to home to build a fire and to visit with Phyllis, Danny's mom, who'd arrived from the Lake of the Ozarks to spend the holidays

(side note:  as I tucked myself in bed for the night, I DID NOT watch the WHOLE "Mama Mia' movie again....I just watched the parts that are my favorites.....)


Monday, December 22 

today we did more shopping in KC, lots of popping in and out of stores.  Phyllis and Sara shoe shopped like crazy...but it was so much fun

we headed to Lawrence afterwards to meet Danny for dinner, at another of Sara's fav food spots, Wheatfields (they serve a super-great four cheese grilled cheese...ummm)

(side note:  called Sherri tonight and confessed my addiction...and a new idea which she titled a "Mama Mia" party....invite a bunch of girlfriends over, lots of wine and appetizers, learn all the dance steps to "Dancing Queen" and have a ball....then reality sunk in...we only wanted to do this if we could all truly jump into the Mediterranean off the coast of Greece at the end of the song!)


Tuesday, December 23 

time to get out of the shops and into the kitchen (boo!...I really, really hate to cook)

it seems like I baked all day....chocolate cheesecake, my three traditional christmas cookies, butterhorns and pecan-pie muffins, along with two different kinds of cheese balls and a marinated veggie salad...whew!  I think I've cooked enough and should take a hiatus from kitchen duty for another year...(well, that's my opinion anyway)

the weather turned icky, and wet, sleety, icy stuff fell all day....(Sara kept mentioning how she was going to sit by her pool when she got back to Orlando)

was I really expected to make lunch when I'd already been slaving in the kitchen all morning? so the four of us went out for lunch at "Mad Greek" another great eatery in Lawrence (Sara and I love the "feta dip")

Sara left in the evening to go meet a group of girlfriends from high school and enjoyed the rest of the evening with them

Danny and I traditionally exchange christmas cookies with a few special friends and neighbors...but this year was the year of "GELATO".  for Danny's birthday, last August, I gave him a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker....so easy and fun...this has become our new weekend activity.  so my freezer was filled with different flavors of the creamy, super rich, and delicious gelato...lime, lemon, espresso, chocolate, and eggnog....we had good time creating it all....and sampling it too, just to make sure it was good enough to give to our friends

so Tuesday evening, Phyllis, Danny and I went to deliver our first "christmas treats" to our friends the Roses....and boy, we were the one's who ended up with treats!  Larry, a fairly new brew maker, had just kegged his first batch of Porter...and it was wonderful.  we also sampled his cherry cider and took home a warm loaf of cherry walnut bread he had just baked that was super-good....(our friends have good hobbies too)

(side note:  at midnight, with still a little cooking and chores to do, I put in "Mama Mia".....I'm beginning to know all the dance moves...not a pretty site but it sure is fun and listening to music made all those chores less painful!....the addiction is getting worse)


Wednesday, December 24   Christmas Eve 

it snowed last night, leaving a beautiful layer of white over everything!  Kansas will definitely have a white christmas this year

no more shopping and no more baking...it's time to party! 

we had one last gelato delivery to make to our friends, the Perry's and then we headed into town

our tradition is to spend christmas eve day with Jan, Brett, Amanda and all the family.  Jan and Frank have new home in Overland Park and it's the perfect place for a CELEBRATION !!!!               

one happy Papa; Barrett and Paige tracking Santa on the computer


 what a beautiful group of ladies enjoying Jan's signature "bloody marys"

 a little KU fan and a KU alum;    the medical profession's best and brightest


 as always...there were gifts to open

we ate, laughed, hugged and said good night and headed home (it's finally getting a little warmer out....like 25 degrees)

Danny and Phyllis left for Lawrence to visit the Neverve family; while Sara and I headed back to the house.  I still had a long list of things to get done before we left town and wanted a peaceful and calm christmas eve-evening.  we built a fire, Sara read her new book, I finally finished my list and painted my toenails and drank my December bottle of chile beer

(side note: guess what we had in the dvd player while I did the above?)


Thursday, December 25   Christmas Day

okay...so I'm not allowed to post many pics of christmas morning...you know....no make up....bad hair...old pj's, but I'm sneaking this one in.  Sara is showing Danny his new toy I bought him for christmas...a bright green, teenie-weenie new nano...filled with his favorite music, photos, podcasts and a movie...way, way cool!

our morning was calm and peaceful, filled with opening gifts and enjoying coffee....then it went into warp-speed!!!!!!!!!!!! so we could all make our flights out of KC.  there was no traffic and no drama getting to the airport; check-in went smooth and we had time to sit and visit for about an hour before we boarded our flights 

Sara was flying to Jacksonville to spend a couple of days with Kevin before returning to the ER in Orlando on Monday 

Phyllis, Danny and I are headed west ...to Phoenix to visit his brother and CELEBRATE his nephew's wedding

we had such a good visit with Sara...she's so happy and loves her work.  she will be flying again soon, headed to Pittsburg, PA in early January to interview for a Fellowship in Critical Care and if not there, possibly Alabama...and if not there, possibly Indiana, but wherever the next "possibility" lies....I have a feeling she's become a "Floridian" and won't end up far from the sunshine state when all is said and done (she's probably at the pool now or walking along the beach, glad to have hung her Kansas coat back in the closet)

we're so thankful we got to see and visit with her!

the three of us landed in Phoenix...raining, cloudy and 56 degrees about 3:30. while we were waiting in the rental car line, Lucas called from California to wish us all a merry christmas

Shannon, Peter and Luke were all CELEBRATING christmas together, along with Sarah (Luke's girlfriend) and the other boys from Kansas....  they'd opened their gifts and were cooking up a big Pork Festival (or something like that)...with fresh crabs, bacon quiche, ham and other pork-stuff (I didn't pay attention to that detail, but Luke said it was going to be great).  he sounded wonderful and it was the best time spent waiting in line I've ever had

 we finally got the car and drove to David's (Danny's brother) in Scottsdale.  we shared christmas dinner with Linda's (David's wife) family at their home and the food and company were great

Peter called while we were there to wish us a merry christmas and we got to visit with him awhile (the pork-thing was a hit!).  the boys didn't have to work that night, but they were on their way to the casino to play in a poker tournament....hope they win big-time!

Sara phoned and all had gone well with her flights back to Florida...Kevin had picked her up and they were on their way to CELEBRATE their own christmas together

after dinner, we went back to David's  place and made centerpieces in preparation for the wedding festivities which begin tomorrow.  Leah (Danny's niece) escorted us to her house (just a few blocks away from David's) where we'll stay while in Scottsdale.  Danny and I unpacked, and tucked ourselves in, and said good night

(side note:  Danny hadn't yet seen "Mama Mia" so, with computer on the bed in-between us, we watched the movie, (yes, I'll admit it...I brought it with me)   until we began to nod-off, too tired to finish it tonight....but while sugarplums may have danced in other peoples heads tonight...Meryl Streep and her troupe of wonderful Greek women danced and sang in mine......)

it's been a wonderful christmas...

our kids are great, healthy and so very happy....

Phyllis is with us and doing well.....

it's good to see David and his family....

and .....TOTO....I'm not in Kansas anymore

(okay...I know that's not the sentimental ooey-gooey stuff...but it's so very, very true!  I'm happiest when I'm traveling....)


Friday, December 26 

okay....so get this....it's warmer in Lawrence, KS (67 degrees)  today than in Scottsdale, AZ (52 degrees)...can you believe that? 

really, I'm sooo happy for all of you back in Kansas....8 degrees last week was nasty...so enjoy! 

this morning kicked off the beginning of the wedding CELEBRATION activities        

it began with a brunch hosted by the grooms parents, David & Linda, at the Starfire restaurant at the Scottsdale County Club

the food was good and everyone enjoyed a slideshow of the couple....past and present

Lavi & Andrew....soon to be wed

after brunch, the wedding party had many day long plans, which left David, Danny, Phyllis and I free to take a little hike through some open space in Scottsdale.  David is very knowledgeable about the flora, fauna, cacti, wildlife and preservation issues in the area




this was my favorite vegetation we learned about

it's desert mistletoe (you know me...I wanted to go for the cheesy photograph with Danny and me kissing underneath it....but the moment seemed a little too serious for that!....would have been fun though)

anyway, this mistletoe gets spread by birds and then it grows only on this type of tree...sometimes to the point of actually killing it's host, but it was really cool


the desert mountains in the background


after our walk, we drove around touring a little, just seeing the sites.  we stopped at a park, that had this unusual, but very valuable cactus with the coolest looking "growth" (my term for lack of really knowing what it's called) attached to it....it was really beautiful 

natures art can be so magnificent!


as we were pulling into the parking lot, eagle-eye Danny spotted this bobcat....wayyyy coool!! they may a

lot of them around here, but I don't see very many.  it was just casually strolling by....the pic had to be cropped, but you get the idea...wildlife in the city

we strolled by more varieties of cactus and watched the sky grow to the neatest color of very, dark gray


our next item on the "wedding-activity-to-do" list was dinner at "Greasewood Flats".  this is an outdoor country-western bar with fire pits all around large picnic tables.  I'm sure it's a favorite on warm Arizona evenings and definitely a carnivores dream, but last night the temp at the restaurant was about 38 degrees...it was a little chilly and little smoky (if you sat by one of the fires when the breeze picked up)....but in spite of the temps, people were dancing and having a good time.  we didn't stay too long, and went back to David's house to say good night to everyone and get straight the times, places and plans for the big day tomorrow

since I'd passed on the dinner options (chili, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chili on burgers, chili dogs, etc) Danny and I went looking for a place to feed me...and we found the "Four Peaks Brewery".  I loved their Hefeweizen (really fruity and yummy) and their Oatmeal Stout (super chocolaty) and we shared some of their homemade Hummus and warm pita bread.  a visit with the waiter has left me wanting to try their Fish and Chips...it was more like a dare from the waiter to try it...he was bragging about how great it was and I was telling him that we have the BEST fish and chips in the entire midwest at Free State...so the challenge is on...I just need a window of time to sneak back there in between all the wedding plans...

after our late dinner and beer, we headed back to Leah's to head to bed

(side note:  Dan finished watching "Mama Mia"; I however, crashed fast and hard...falling asleep without one tune going through my head.  Dan's verdict:  "It was good"...my man of few words....)


Saturday, December 27

the big, very very, big day

Lavi, the bride-to-be, is an event planner and eventually would like to be a wedding planner.  she began to plan this wedding 18 months ago, so it's going to be big, but super organized.  another fun fact about Lavi's family, she has 15 Aunts and Uncles...and they seem to be a very FUN group!

while the wedding party met early in the day, Danny and I took our time in the morning, and then went to David and Linda's to visit for a little bit.  we had an errand to run so took out on our own about 10:30 am.  this included (but only because it was next to the camera shop Danny was headed to) a brief stop at "Nordstroms Rack" (their outlet store)....fun, but I was a good girl...no purchases were made.  we needed to eat lunch before the big event, so we toured our way back to the "Four Peaks Brewery"....

(as we were driving down the busy road, I pointed and shouted "there's a Trader Joes" and Danny instinctively made a quick right into the parking lot....and said...do we need something from there?  no, I replied, it's just so "girlfriend-trip-ingrained" in my mind to ALWAYS be on the lookout for Trader Joes...it was just habit!. we pulled a U and went back towards finding our way towards the brewery).....

we enjoyed an early lunch of fish and chips; Danny had their "Hop Knot" and I had another Hefeweizen.  the new beer Danny tried was really, really, really, good

the conclusion on the fish and chips?  they were good, crisp, not greasy.....but not Free State!

they have a barley wine and a seasonal beer we'd kind of like to try....we'll see; it's definitely a place to revisit

then it was time to head back to the house, get all dressed up and head to the wedding CELEBRATION

David (wow! in a tux), Phyllis and Linda at the church; Phyllis and her boys


St. Patricks Church

the ceremony went off smoothly and the couple is now MARRIED!!!


the cocktail hour, dinner and reception were held at the Firesky, a beautiful resort in Scottsdale.  the building was decorated in kind of a modern-retro way....super neat!


cocktail hour was held outside; which was landscaped with blooming flowers, waterfalls, pools, and lots of lush greenery...and, thank goodness, many of those freestanding heaters....it's still really cold here!


I love this great little decoration hung on the pool gate....fun and festive


it was time for the cocktail hour to be done, and the party  inside to begin.  the room was decorated beautifully; the new husband and wife danced their first dance


and then after several toasts, dinner, and more toasts....everyone danced!  the DJ was great and played so much fun music.  everyone (including me and Danny) was on the dance floor many times throughout the night....it was SOOO MUCH FUN!


there were three chocolate fountains (Andrew's request for white, dark and milk) and a super fun photo booth that everyone enjoyed...we all brought home pictures from the booth....Phyllis had about 4 different ones

Phyllis with Leah; and with the groom, Andrew



it was time to cut the cake, throw the bouquet and garter....


after hours of dancing and partying, it was time to call it a night (before it was the morning!)

this was one super-fun CELEBRATION 

if you ever know someone who needs a wedding planner in Scottsdale....I definitely know the perfect person to recommend

many happy thoughts and wishes go to Lavi and Andrew....here's to a great life!


Sunday, December 28

there were two more wedding events today...a brunch at the Scottsdale hotel in their restaurants called "Ceazars" and the opening of gifts 

there was a couple of hours of free time in between the two, so we went down to the arts district in downtown Scottsdale 

the weather was really nice today...sunny and no wind, so it was great to be outside walking around 


quite a few of the galleries were closed, but we found some beautiful glasswork in one of the galleries that was just amazing from the artist Thomas Kelley ...this is an example of his work that I copied from his website....really cool and very unusual

after the last event was over, it was time to head towards my cousin, Gary Ezzell's home.  I hadn't seen Gary and his wife, Ann,  for quite awhile and hadn't seen their two kids, Jacob and Leah since they were really little.  Gary and Ann live outside the city limits of Scottsdale, near Cave Creek in a very secluded area...it was so different from being in the city.  Ann's passion is riding her horses; they have an arena at their home and plenty of open space to go riding

these are Ann's three horses...the one on the left is a miniature horse


their lovely back yard


they cooked us dinner and we all enjoyed conversations about the past, the present, the family, and shared some memories.  Leah and Ken were married this past year, having a ceremonies in Texas and in Japan.  we watched the Japanese ceremony on video and learned about some of the traditions and customs of the Japanese culture.  Leah is in medical school in Texas and Jacob is a Pediatric nurse in Denver  

Gary and I have a passion in common....we both love to hike!  Gary has been all over the world trekking, hiking and backpacking, so it was wonderful to see his photographs and hear about his adventures

the Ezzell family:  Ann, Ken, Leah, Gary, Jacob and Elena (their expecting a baby in early April!!)

it was so great to visit with them all....I'm still smiling a couple of hours later


Monday, December 29 

we started this morning off hiking in a conservation area near Cave Creek.  David really enjoys this area because it has a stream, and running water in Arizona is really rare...the stream also allows deciduous trees to grow in this area and brings a lot of wildlife here too


I had definitely noticed that Arizona is very stark, browns and grays, and filled with cactus and brush...but I hadn't actually noticed that one of the many things MISSING, were the big, leafy trees.  but you really notice it in this area....the contrast between the trees and the cactus is really cool

it was amazing to see how much natural debris was all around from whenever the stream last overflowed


lots and lots of cactus...everywhere


and some really crazy looking ones too


this is what the inside of one of the dead ones looks like; it's kind of like a spongy-hardwood that soaks up any moisture that comes it's way.  these type of cactus can literally swell in size depending on the amount of water they take in


one of the trails we were hiking, was named after this type of rock which has formations created by the Native Americans grinding seeds into flour, etc.  it was really neat looking




this is a cactus fence someone has planted; rock-hopping across the stream; and a "sun-oasis"...water sanctuary for certain types of fish, frogs and fauna


I'm still working the kinks out of the whole "sunglass-reflection-photo" series (obviously, I have a ways to go)

after we completed our hikes, we stopped in Cave Creek for lunch and I went into one of the little tourist places looking for a book on growing sage for burning...no luck...maybe tomorrow

flowers growing on the back of David's house; his neighbors orange trees


we went back to David's place where Linda cooked up lots of veggies and rice and David grilled some steaks for dinner.  the guys watched some sports thing on TV and Leah and I concocted a plan for tomorrow....check back...it's going to be really, really cool

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