Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Snow, Snow and More Snow

We spent much of last week up in Lake Tahoe at Northstar for our annual ski trip. This time, due to some one-time only circumstances, we were staying in the largest and most luxurious accommodations that Northstar Village had to offer - the Great Bear Lodge 4 BR condo. At a whopping 2,700 square feet of space for 4 adults and 4 kids, we were living in the lap of luxury!

The first pleasant surprise was that the lift from the parking lot opened directly into our unit. The second surprise was that the unit was HUGE, with lots of living space and an attached bathroom for each bedroom, plus a guest lav as well.

There was also a simply enormous central fireplace, and large decks overlooking the central ice skating rink.

Now we go up there every year, and this year, I think we've finally figured out the perfect algorithm. We booked 3 full days of private lessons and alternated the lessons between the two pairs of kids. And boy did they get better in just a few days! The two older girls skied a black run and I'm sure they will all surpass me within a year or two.

There's a bit of a building boom at Northstar with the new Ritz Carlton residences going up mid-mountain (target opening is Nov 2009) and a Hyatt Residence Club next to the Village. And a new Japanese sushi place called Mikuni has opened up, adding to our dining selection. In fact, we did not leave the Village once for a meal the whole time.

A huge snowstorm delayed our departure by a day but the girls made good use of their time by constructing a huge snow fort!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Welcome Baby Wiggle!

I'm an Auntie! My sister had her baby late on Tuesday night - a little peanut girl of 7lbs 1 oz. Baby Wiggle, as she is currently known, was extremely considerate in arriving slight ahead of schedule this week and ensuring that I didn't have to drive down from our long-planned ski trip in Tahoe next week for her arrival!

Here's my sis with Baby Wiggle in utero - rocking out to Guitar Hero.

And here is Baby Wiggle with her favorite Auntie!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Working with a Travel Agent

So who uses travel agents these days?! Most people I know tend to conduct research on the internet and do their bookings directly with airlines and hotels, using the hotel concierge for additional touring needs when they reach their destination.

I can't recall the last time I worked with a travel agent on a big trip like this. Actually the last time may have been a big DisneyWorld trip that involved a Disney Cruise and an add-on stay at Cocoa Beach to visit Cape Canaveral.

I have done much less travel planning than usual, and only have 1 guidebook that I purchased (which is a record low for me, especially with my addiction to travel books). Now I've balanced that with multiple books by Naguib Mahfouz (the Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian author), various kids' books on Ancient Egypt (Ms. Frizzle being the current favorite) and other history books on the region. Plus an Egyptian Arabic phrase book for good measure.

The reason we went with a travel agent is due to our total unfamiliarity with the region, and our need to cover a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of time. I could see doing the same thing when we finally get that safari scheduled....

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My Fascination with Egypt

I can trace my fascination with Egypt back to a book that I borrowed from the library when I was in 7th grade at the International School of Amsterdam. For years, I thought the book was called something like "Queen for a Day" but never remembered the author's name. The book was a fictionalized account of the life of Ankhsenamen, Tutankhamen's queen. It captured my imagination tremendously, with all of its intricate details of life in ancient times, and I went on to read Howard Carter's accounts of finding the boy king's tomb in 1922, plus countless other books on Egyptology.

Over the years, I searched for the book in passing but never laid my hands on it.

Last Sunday, we were at the Menlo Park Children's Library and I saw a book on the recent returns shelf, "The Lost Queen of Egypt" by Lucille Morrison. I picked it up and saw a very familiar cover. I quickly scanned the front flap then turned to the last page of the book. I had found it! This was the book that I remembered from 25+ years ago!

I eagerly checked it out and when I got home, went on Amazon to look for it. Of course it was out of print. But there were 43 reviews on the book - and a large proportion of the reviews were very similar to my own experience. Many people had loved this book as children, "lost" the book and discovered it again.

It's out of print now, and a few used copies were available from dealers on Amazon. After a moment's hesitation, I went ahead and bought myself one. Didn't want to lose it yet again...