Saturday, July 27, 2013

July trip to the States (plus a wedding!!)

For 3 weeks in July, Bobby and I got to visit my family in California and Pennsylvania. We started the trip in California, where Mom quickly whisked us away to the Central Coast for some wine tasting! We visited 3 different wineries in the Paso Robles area and we enjoyed them all.
A heat wave hit most of California, including LA and the Palm Desert area. My maternal grandparents, who live in Palm Desert, escaped the 115+ F/46+ C heat by renting a cabin in Big Bear. We escaped the 105F/40C weather in LA and visited them. It was so lovely to have time to catch up with Nana and Papa. It really is quite hard living so far away from family.
While in Big Bear, Papa took us fishing at Big Bear Lake. Bobby has a very unique way of casting off, and Papa was a bit fearful of losing his pole.
Bobby and Papa didn't have any luck fishing that day, but Mom caught a little catfish! She hasn't caught a fish in years! Even though the catfish was too small to keep, Mom was still quite excited and pleased with her catch.
Our time in Big Bear coincided with the American holiday Independence Day. Nana and Papa cooked us up a proper 4th of July BBQ: delicious spare ribs, baked beans, pasta salad, and potato salad. Thank you Nana and Papa for such a fun and tasty meal!
After a week in LA, Bobby and I boarded a plane to visit Dad and Gloria (and attend their wedding!!) in North East, Pennsylvania. We attended a picnic and concert at one of the local wineries in North East (fun fact: Welch, the company that makes grape juice and jam, has a huge factory in North East, so there are a ton of vineyards everywhere).
The picnic/concert area is surrounded on three sides by the vineyards, which due to heavy rain were already quite full of half-matured grapes.
Dad and Gloria live in North East for half the year. My older brother, Gregg, and his family also live in North East. We always have a blast hanging out with Gregg, Tracey, and their two awesome boys (my nephews) Mark and Brooks. Here is Brooks squeezed between Dad and Gloria. Brooks is a really good reader (he'll get through 500+ page books in a matter of days!) and has a really funny sense of humor. He is also a grand master at reading manual of all kinds.
Mark, who is 14 now and taller than Dad and Gregg (good thing, too, because we Townsends aren't know for our height), is also a great kid. He has been into trains his whole life and he volunteers at the local North East Train Museum. He gave us a long and detailed tour; I was amazed at how much he knew about all the different trains and their history. Mark is also a fine musician (a trumpet player like his Uncle Jordan), and was invited to play in the high school marching band when he was still in 8th grade!
One of the many nice things about Dad living so close to Gregg and his family is that Dad gets to do a lot of fun things with and for the boys. For instance, he and Mark built this huge mountain for Mark's train set! How cool is that? The boys go over to Dad's house a lot, and it was fun having them coming in and out during the time we were there.
As the wedding approached, more and more family members arrived from out of town. My Aunt Carolyn, Dad's older sister, arrived with her husband Uncle Ben. If you want to know where I get my crazy-loud sneezes and maniacal laugh from, look no further than Carolyn.
Dad had a whole week of events planned for all of the wedding guests. We spent one morning at Panama Rocks, a neat area with interesting rock formations, moss, and plenty of trees.
We also went kayaking at Presque Isle State Park. If you must know why Gloria is in the water and not in her kayak, long story short: Gloria tipped into the lagoon and I very bravely jumped into the shallow water to 'save' her. We are both still alive to exaggerate the story.
The whole group also went wine tasting at some of the local wineries, which mostly specialize in very sweet white wines (remember what I said about Welch's grape juice?). In this photo you can see some of Gloria's family members, including her daughter Stacy, plus Gloria's sister Sylvia and her two daughters Jackie and Elizabeth. It was fun getting to meet and hang out with Gloria's 'people.'
We also went to a minor league baseball game. Dad bought us tickets right behind home plate!
In the evenings, Dad and Gloria prepared big dinners at the house for everyone. They also set up a fire pit and a cornhole game! Here you can see Gregg throwing the corn-filled bags. Gloria, Stacy, and Carolyn were surprisingly good at the game! Not pictured are the ballet and brass band concerts we went to at the Chautauqua Institute in New York, a lot of breakfasts at various local joints, and many picnics that Dad and Gloria prepared for the whole gang. What a fun and busy week of activities!
Finally the wedding day came. The wedding itself was in the early evening, so we first got to enjoy the Cherry Festival. Mark marched in the Cherry Festival parade with his high school's marching band. I think he looks quite dapper in his marching outfit!
And then, the big moment. Gregg married Dad and Gloria in his church, the First Presbyterian Church of North East. The ceremony was very sweet and intimate, with only 22 people in attendance (including Dad and Gloria!). Congratulations to you both, Dad and Gloria!
After the ceremony we headed back to the house, where Dad surprised everyone with a catered event! With a flute and cello duo in the background, we sipped champagne and ate appetizers served to us by waiters in black ties. After the appetizers, we headed to the yard, where we enjoyed a catered dinner under the large tent Dad rented. We ended the wonderful night around the fire pit, watching Jordan, Mark, and Brooks set off fireworks. It was a lovely end to a romantic wedding day.

After our time in North East, Bobby and I parted ways: Bobby headed to San Jose to attend a conference, and I went back to LA to spend a few more days with my Mom before I headed back to CPH. Unfortunately, our camera battery had died and we only had a European charger, so I didn't get a chance to take any photos of my last few days. Mom and I took a girl's trip to the beach: we rented a hotel room for 2 nights and enjoyed beach and pool time, plus a lot of good eating, drinking, and shopping! The night before I left for CPH, Bobby arrived in LA and we all had a big BBQ with my Great Aunt Gwen, cousin Leslie and her partner Carol, and my good girlfriends Emily and Michelle. My flight to CPH was a red-eye, so Bobby, Emily, and I went surfing the morning before I left, followed by lunch at Wahoo's (there is something so wonderful about eating fish tacos after surfing). Mom, Bobby, and I had an early dinner at BCD Tofu House and then headed to the airport, where we all had a tearful goodbye. It was really hard to say goodbye to Mom and Bobby, and it was hard to see the end of such a wonderful trip home. Until next time!