Just a few pics from my trip so far…
I mean, sure, we’ve done other stuff than eat, but man the food is good here!
Just a few pics from my trip so far…
I mean, sure, we’ve done other stuff than eat, but man the food is good here!
Considering the number of pina coladas I ingested over the course of the week, it’s likely this recap will be somewhat incomplete. But I’ll give it a try.
Sunday: Get on board!
We boarded the ship. Got checked in to our cabin (thank god we were able to score a cheap upgrade from a
coffin windowless inside cabin to one with a balcony) and went off to explore the ship and meet up with the other dozen family members aboard. We boarded fairly late, so it wasn’t too long until the ship left the dock.
It’s pretty great that our neighborhood is across the river from the cruise terminal, so my friends Jenn and Heather went onto the levee, and waved goodbye. I mean, okay, I couldn’t really see them but they turned on the flashlights on their phones and waved them around, which I could see. I waved back with my phone. Exciting stuff!
Couldn’t find Oliver, though. Oh well. There were only 14 decks he could get lost on, I figured he’d turn up at some point. (He did, but this was an ongoing theme for the week.)
When I unpacked later, I realized I only packed one pair of shorts. I left a pile with four or five more pairs on my dresser. Ugh.
Had dinner, some wine, sailed down the Mississippi.
Monday: Day at Sea
Hmm. There was definitely some lying in the sun that day. Definitely a bloody mary at the beginning of the day. Then some other tropical adult beverages throughout. Lunch in the Garden Cafe, which is the giant buffet where the boys preferred to eat as often as possible. Eventually it was simply called #garden, because we are all dorks.
Had dinner together as an entire massive family that night.
Oh yeah, that morning, my sister and I went to work out, and I realized I also left one running shoe at home. Sigh.
Tuesday: Cozumel and THE MAGIC FABRIC STORE
Disembarked. Went in some of the shops. Met up with my siblings and their families, and they took the boys back to the boat so George and I could wander off alone. He had scoped out a cigar bar and I had a fabric store in mind if it wasn’t too far away.
Had margaritas and George had a cigar, and then I discovered that the fabric store was only a block away! Wheeee! I went to check it out and was immediately confused and overwhelmed. I realized I had data on my phone in Mexico so I texted my friend Terry to ask what to do. (I knew she had bought fabric in Mexico the day before, coincidentally, for her daughter’s upcoming quinceanera.)
The store was not necessarily huge, but it definitely wasn’t catering to tourists. No signs were in English, and the prices were all in pesos. I was doing a quick calculation in my head but was pretty sure the margarita was messing with my math skills because surely…these fabrics weren’t $2-3 a meter?!?!?
BUT THEY WERE.
I figured out that algodón = cotton and poliéster was pretty obvious. As usual, I was paralyzed by indecision so didn’t buy a million meters of fabric like I would have liked. Plus, I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t see a cutting table anywhere, but there did seem to be a lot of clerks wandering around. And then there were two glassed-in booths. One seemed to be a cashier, but I wasn’t sure what the other one was for. I tried to watch to see what other people did, but the store just wasn’t very busy.
Fortunately, Terry came to the rescue! She told me that the clerks walking around would measure the fabric right off the roll with the meter sticks they carried around. So I found a young man who worked there, and would point to the fabric I wanted and would use my elementary Spanish to ask for “tres” of each. I would have bought more, but I felt like I was taking up the clerk’s time too much (so dumb of me) so I only bought five different fabrics. (Three polyester Christmas prints meant for tablecloths, some black cotton/lycra blend, and a dark teal twill that unfortunately was only a remnant, so not enough for the teal twill Cashmerette trench coat pattern I covet.
I wandered over to the threads, and again, used my basic skills to get thread – whatever colors I could remember. 😀 It was 8 pesos! That’s under 50 cents a spool! I’m kicking myself not for not buying more – it was the same brand I buy here!
All in all, I walked out of the store with 16 meters of fabric and a half a dozen spools of thread for under $35.
Later, we…ate dinner again. Maybe George and I went out for our “date night”? I can’t actually remember.
Wednesday: Belize City
We went to Belize City on the previous cruise, and I knew I didn’t want to get off again. There just wasn’t much to see right there at the port, and getting there involved a 30 minute tender. NO THANKS. I spent the day going down water slides and drinking more pina coladas than should be allowed. I took a nap in the middle of the day and hit my head on the bunk bed before lying down, so I was pretty sure I wasn’t ever going to wake up. (Spoiler alert: I did.)
That evening, we had a little birthday party for the boys. Mostly so my brother and sister could give them the Mexico soccer jerseys they’d bought for them the day before. Cake!
Thursday: Harvest Caye, Belize and Thanksgiving!
This was a new stop for us – a private “island” which of course was like Disney Belize, but there was a little shopping village and daiquiris and tons of chairs on the beach and a splash pad and a pool, so it was delightful. I hung out with my stepbrother and his girlfriend, and the boys played with her son, Beau (as they did all day every day on the boat.)
They collected over 100 shells, which they had to throw back. It’s slightly possible a few shells were smuggled back onboard. But probably not. We would never.
Thanksgiving dinner was…interesting. We were split up into two tables, not quite next to each other, the kids at one, the adults at another (as it should be.) There was some drama when the kids were apparently being rambunctious by going around the table saying what they were thankful for (how dare they?) and some woman from the next table yelled at them to be quiet, then came and yelled at us for parenting such heathens, then went and yelled at them again.
Delightful! I mean, otherwise, it was a nice meal for most of us. I had pumpkin for every course – pumpkin soup, followed by some kind of pasta dish involving a pumpkin cream sauce, and then of course, pumpkin cheesecake. Yay, no turkey for me! Oliver actually ordered and ate some pumpkin cheesecake, he told me later!!!
After dinner, we hit the ice bar on the ship where our thin Southern blood gave up after 20 minutes. It was 17 degrees! I had on a skirt! Well, my brother in law is from New Jersey, he probably could have stayed there all night. Anyway, it was pretty cool. (GET IT?)
Friday: Costa Maya, Mexico – Pam is a sucker!
By this point, handwashing my one pair of shorts in the sink was getting old, so I decided I’d get off the boat and buy a dress or a skirt or something in one of the shops. I also needed to get Linus a souvenir. In one shop, I found an undoubtedly authentic Mayan mask with the Real Madrid logo carved into it. I even haggled the price down five bucks. Perfect! And then I saw a cute cotton embroidered dress. Perfect! The man who was helping me brought it up to the register and told the cashier “$20 for the mask, $85 for the dress, so $105.”
I started hyperventilating. EIGHTY FIVE DOLLARS for a cotton dress and the seams weren’t even finished?!?!? The sewist in me was appalled. So I told the guy, “no, I’m sorry, I can’t, I can’t, I just can’t, I can’t, I’ll buy the mask, but I can’t get the dress.” I was freaking out. But I suppose he thought I was being a shrewd negotiator and knocked the price down to $60.
Well, I mean, I guess I could have kept on freaking out, but whatever. It’s my souvenir of Mexico, but hopefully I can do something to finish the seams. I also hemmed it by hand on the boat because it was a bit too long, so I need to do that properly as well, now that I’m home.
Upshot is, I asked Terry how much she pays for those dresses, and she said, “$15-20 in Mexico City or El Paso.” Blargh.
But it’s cute!
Saturday: Day at sea
My sister in law and I created a scavenger hunt for the kids for that day. It was fun. I spent a lot of the day sitting in this one spot on the boat that was pretty peaceful (until the bars out there opened.) It was on the 8th deck, and there were big comfy chairs and sofas and I’d sit there and sew (I brought stuff to hand sew scrunchies) or read. Or maybe have a cocktail.
Family photos came later, but ours will be on Christmas cards, so not posting them yet.
Sunday: Time to go home!
We missed Ziggy.
Okay there’s actually a lot more to the cruise. Like, there was a ropes course! It was fun and not too scary, even the part that went out over the water. I was up there when we were leaving Belize, I think. I had to borrow my brother in law’s running shoes because as noted before, I left one of mine at home. Derp.
And a rock climbing wall! The harness does ugly things to your bottom half in photos, but I’m pretty happy with how high I got. And I like to pause the video to see the muscles in my legs. But MAN it’s hard on your hands!
The boys spent 90% of their time either on the sports court where they played soccer (are you surprised?) or in the #garden where they ate ice cream. Or were in the room watching soccer, because we got some channel that showed soccer 24/7 (or so it seemed.)
Some random pics:
And some more:
Just a couple more:
Before too much time passes, I have to blog about this year’s Grand Meetup! It was my fifth, can you believe it? (In a way, it’s my sixth at Automattic, but I didn’t go to the 2013 one – but I was on trial and I sure did work my butt off while it happened.)
I hate to say it, but I wasn’t as excited about the GM this year as I have been in the past. I mean, Orlando? It’s hot, whine, whine. One of the greatest things about the GM for the past four years has been the weather. Actual fall weather! In the mountains! And the forecast for Orlando was hotter than New Orleans, bleh. And the only mountain around was Space Mountain, and I wasn’t going to be going near that. And I wouldn’t go on it even if I could (THANKS DAD FOR SCARRING ME FOR LIFE.)
On the bright side, the flight was under two hours and direct! That almost made up for the weather. I mean, not having to take two long flights to Vancouver and then sit on a bus for two hours to get to a (granted, gorgeous, luxurious mountain) resort was amazing. And I did sew all of the clothes I wore (with the exception of my bathing suit and workout clothes and one team t-shirt) so that was
But once I got to the airport in Orlando and started seeing friends, and then to the hotel, well, you know, it was awesome. The whole thing.
We arrived on Saturday and the opening party was around the pool at the hotel. We got fancy water bottles and fun buttons to attach to our lanyards. Needless to say, there was plenty of food and drink and lots of people to catch up with. Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, the boys were at a soccer game, and Miles scored his first goal of competitive soccer! This mama got pretty weepy at having missed it. (Thanks beer!) Sigh. But still, a great night.
Work started the next day – we spent it with our team. Actually, I spent the whole week working with my team, but some people spent other days in classes or working on projects. And then we did have some downtime for socializing. Like in the party suites. And at Disney Springs. Even went to Orangetheory one day.
But the VERY BEST PART of the whole week (erm, aside from, you know, uh, hanging out with my amazing colleagues) was Tuesday night.
Dinner at Harry Potter World!
After hours – so we had that section of Universal to ourselves! It was seriously magical. Of course, I had special outfits for the entire day. My day outfit was my Harry Potter t-shirt with a pinafore, and my evening outfit for HP World was a Harry Potter skirt. We got to ride the rides and there was food and drinks and we could get free ice cream and wander around Diagon Alley and eeeek, it was so awesome. Words can’t really describe. Fortunately, I took pics. Natch.
One of the best parts about the GM for me (and the most nerve-wracking) is meeting all of the people I’d interviewed and/or hired over the past year. One of the days we had a Happiness Hour, where all of the Happiness team got together and did some activities (like writing cards that were delivered throughout the GM) and got t-shirts and hung out. The crazy thing is that Happiness is now the size (or maybe bigger) than the whole company was when I joined. Insane!
Sadly, I had to leave a day early because of the boys’ soccer tournament in Pensacola (yes, also Florida) but that’s a post for another day….
The subject of King’s Dominion theme park came up this morning in conversation at work and so, as I do, I went to my blog to illustrate the conversation with photos, and *gasp* I realized I hadn’t really blogged about our trip that day! And it was a really fun day! I posted a bunch of pictures on social media, but that’s not good enough. So I hope you don’t mind a little trip down memory lane. Kristina and the boys might have to fill in some gaps for me later, though.
(I know it was 1 year and 2 days ago, thanks to FB reminding me Saturday.)
So let’s see…we were visiting Kiki at that point in our trip to Virginia, so we left Woodbridge and headed to wherever King’s Dominion is. I remember we stopped at a rest area and saw something on the news. Oh yeah, the flooding in New Orleans. 😦 Anyway, we got there and it was pretty empty, which was awesome! I think it was some day in the middle of the week, I guess that’s why.
I was excited to see that King’s Dominion was basically Peanut-themed! SO MANY LINUS PICTURES!
Anyway, we rode lots of roller coasters…that’s a lie. Kiki and the boys got me on ONE roller coaster and after that evil ride, I was like NO THANKS and stuck to things like the swings that go in slow circles and kid rides instead. Much better.
Later, we headed to the water park area, where Linus impressed the hell out of me by going on this terrifying water slide where you stand on a platform and the floor drops out from under you and you fall down this tube and well no thanks, but I can’t believe one of MY children did that. (Also Kiki did, but she is super brave and makes me sit in the back car of roller coasters so I’m not surprised.)
Also there was a water slide where we all sat in a huge round tube together and that was really fun but sadly, no pics from the water park because my phone was in the locker and I didn’t bring my waterproof camera. DANGIT.
Anyway, we rode more rides after, and there was a cute part later where the kids got to drive around a tiny little town with roads and traffic lights and stuff. And then they got their caricatures, and then Miles kept falling down, and was getting really pissed, so we decided it was probably time to go, so we did. But it was a great day! Yay! And I’m glad it’s now been recorded on my blog.
This may come as a surprise, but I didn’t go to Portland solely to shop for fabric. The main reason I went was to give a workshop at SD Expo, a conference for support professionals.
My former coworker and current friend Andrea Badgley now works for Support Driven, the company that puts on SD Expo, and I was excited to hear that our flights arrived at about the same time. We took the train from the airport into the city together, and then met up with Denise, another Automattician for lunch at Deschutes Brewery. It was so great to see them again!
Later, we went to the AirBNB offices and met up with some of the conference attendees and also toured the offices. Sounds weird, right? I was a bit skeptical about touring offices, but they were actually pretty cool.
The next day, we were up bright and early for the expo, which was held at an arena on the campus of Portland State University. Automattic was also a sponsor, so we set up our booth and I freaked out about my workshop, which was that morning.
My workshop was meant to help customer support agents get to the bottom of confusing questions from users. It happens. It was charmingly titled “I’m sorry, can you repeat the question? Getting to the bottom of what the customer is really asking”.
I didn’t finish polishing it until the night before I left for Portland. I work best on a deadline, and I know this, but nevertheless, I probably could have done without the stress. And I was also determined to tailor a couple of WordPress t-shirts to wear, but they weren’t getting delivered until that day. So yeah. Time management skills are definitely not my forte.
Since I was running a workshop and not just giving a talk, I needed an activity. I had a basic idea of what I was going to do (use low-tech scenarios to have people role-play customer and support agent) but I wasn’t sure how to execute it. I just couldn’t make it gel. But finally, about a week before, it came to me in a flash.
Fast forward to Thursday at about 10:45am. I’m walking towards the workshop room with my colleague Ainslie, who volunteered to help me demonstrate and keep things moving. There was a crowd of people waiting outside the room.
No, surely these people weren’t waiting to get into the room for my talk. Surely they were just…waiting in line for the bathroom? Or just chatting? Or were lost? Alas, my dream of having a half-full room for my workshop (just enough to not feel pathetic, but not too many to be overwhelmed) was shot down when all 48 seats at the tables were taken and another dozen or so people sat in chairs along the walls.
nervously confidently got started, and fortunately, only had to talk for about ten minutes before the fun part started – the activity.
nervous confident in the shirt I tailored (I can’t not talk about sewing a little.)
And also looking just like the nerd emoji. 🤓
The workshop part went like this…everyone divided into pairs. One person was the customer, and the other was the support agent. They were given an envelope with two sealed cards. The customer’s card detailed a problem they were having with a company’s product. The support agent’s card only said what the company was. The agent had to guess what the problem was, using techniques I’d discussed in my talk.
In the demo, I was the customer, and Ainslie was the support agent.
Her card simply said “You are a support agent for ACME BOOKSELLERS”
I started out saying “I got a book to read to my kid, but I can’t read it!” She asked, “is there anything wrong with the book?” I clarified that no, the book itself was fine, the pages weren’t torn or anything. But I just couldn’t read the words. And YES, I can read.
After a few probing questions, she thought to ask me to spell a few of the words to her.
“B-O-N J-O-U-R”, I said. And voila! She figured out the problem.
The rest of the scenarios were similar, and you can download the set here, if you like.
The discussion was lively, and people ran through several scenarios in the time we had. The room got loud! So loud we had to borrow one of the participants to whistle for us.
There were still about ten minutes left, so I opened the floor to let people talk about their experiences either at the workshop or in real life, or if they had questions. Naturally I expected dead silence, but I was happy that we had a lively discussion with people asking questions and hands being raised and I got to call on people and pretend like I was a teacher and everything. It was fantastic.
But the best part of all was after. The people who came up to me to tell me how great it was, and how much they got out of it. It really made all of the stress worth it. But maybe next time I’ll start earlier. (Yeah right.)
I can’t talk about SD Expo, though, without talking about my colleagues’ talks. Denise gave a workshop on weekend scheduling that gave me a profound respect for the work she does at Automattic. Maureen talked about the concierge support we give to our Business-level users, and we got to do a fun Mad Libs activity. And Kathryn talked about her experiences in the WordPress community forums, which she’s been involved with for many years.
I also got to talk to potential Happiness Engineer candidates (you know we’re hiring, right?), pick the brains of other people who hire support teams for their companies, eat amazing doughnuts, meet some famous cats, and fly home first class. Not bad!
I went to Portland a couple of weeks back for work. I really should be blogging about that part, but I’ll save that for the next post. This time, I want to talk about the fabric stores I visited! (Also what I made with my bounty so far.)
I had a few free hours here and there, and when possible, I snuck away to one of the zillions of sewing stores in the area. The first one I went to was Mill End. I had to take a Lyft there and back, which wasn’t cheap, but I’m still glad I went.
But it was overwhelming. Probably a good thing for my wallet, because I could have spent thousands in there. There was so much fabric! And types that I just can’t buy in person here. Knits and swim fabric and linens and silks and sequins and on and on and on.
As I mentioned before, most of our time in Singapore was spent working, so I don’t have a ton of pics or anything, but I do want to wrap up my recaps so I can post about sewing again. 🙂
Mostly it’s gonna be a bunch of pictures again. Sorry.
Food and beverages. [Not pictured: The cheapest bottle of wine I could find at the only store I could find with wine and that was $23 (SG which is $17USD but tasted like $3USD wine) but had a corkscrew and we were staying at a hotel that didn’t serve alcohol so I tried to dig out the cork with a housekey but that only bent my key but turns out this hotel was quite nice so even though they don’t serve booze they do have corkscrews. Whew!]
Fabric shopping! We had one free day to do stuff, and you already saw my flower pics, so now you have to see where I dragged Karen and Deborah. Continue reading
Yesterday we had our team activity day and one of the things we did was go to Gardens by the Bay. If this place was in the US I’d probably think it was super touristy and be sniffy about it. But the fact is, it was gorgeous and amazing and I don’t care if it is considered touristy.
I took a bunch of pictures (shocker) but the surprising thing is that I didn’t bring my DSLR on this trip. 😬 And I didn’t even regret it! I did have the lenses for my phone that George gave me for Christmas though and I especially had fun with the macro lens. Oh, and none of these photos were edited!
And some non-macro shots of the flowers and the Cloud Forest dome that we visited next, which was lush and jaw-droppingly gorgeous:
Okay, maybe I took too many pictures of flowers.
The other thing about this beautiful setting is that we couldn’t resist taking a bunch of selfies and pictures of each other. So many nice backgrounds!
Okay, I suppose that’s enough photos for today. Tomorrow (well, to be honest, some other time) I will blog about the other adventures we had yesterday!
Oh, and in these pictures I’m wearing a dress I made by elongating a Seamwork Akita. Not perfect (in fact, definitely too big, and the pattern on the fabric not bold enough so the overall effect is a bit hospital gown, but it’s comfy and cool and soft, so whatever.)
After 28 hours of travel (which included maybe 20 minutes of sleep) I finally made it to Singapore late Tuesday/early Wednesday (I left New Orleans Monday at 7am for context.) And then we only had about 5 hours to sleep before we had to get up to work Wednesday morning. Thank goodness the hotel has a magic coffee machine in the restaurant so all you have to do is press a button and caffeine comes out.
We haven’t been anywhere except the hotel and the coworking place so far (and they’re only about 500 meters apart) so I don’t have much of an impression of Singapore yet but tomorrow we’re going to do fun stuff.
Some photos so far, mostly from airports.
After the one hour flight to Houston, I had a 13-hour flight to Tokyo. I watched lots of movies on that flight. Then I had a four-hour layover where I met up with Karen and Deborah, and we walked around the terminal pretty much the entire time. We had some delicious ramen, I bought the boys some manga in Japanese (obvs more for funsies than anything) and I got my Starbucks mug. But I was so, so, so tired. Deborah and I got on the flight to Singapore (Karen was on a different one) where I slept a little, watched a couple more movies (it was a seven hour flight) and ate a little bit of a real Japanese meal (this leg was on All Nippon Airlines.) The airplane also had the fancy bidet toilet seat too. (I keep wanting to say “I was tickled that the airplane had the fancy bidet toilet seat” or similar, but it just comes out all wrong so I’ll leave that out.)
Anyway, we got to Singapore after midnight, met up with Karen again, got an Uber to the hotel, passed out in our rooms, and basically worked all day yesterday, passed out last night, and are finally feeling a bit rested today. Oh, and so you don’t think I’ve completely forgotten about sewing, I wore a Cashmerette Concord shirt I made last week that I’m really happy with, and I made Karen take a picture of me wearing it.
My new shirt!
Look how cute we are!!
Hopefully my next post will have more actual photos of, you know, Singapore.
Years that end in 7s have typically been pretty eventful for me. Well, at least two of them have. I spent a good chunk of 1997 in London, which was life-changing for me. And 2007 brought a trio of little clones into our lives. So I expected 2017 to be equally eventful for me personally. I mean, hey, it was also the year I was 42, so expectations were high.
But it didn’t end up being particularly noteworthy, at least not for me. In fact, generally speaking, I’d say it was not a great year overall. But for our family, it was fine. Let’s recap. Continue reading
The boys and I are visiting Kristina and Mike, and I was reminiscing about the first time we all visited when I realized it was six years ago tonight that Mike made the boys giggle like crazy by laying on the floor in the kitchen, pretending to be hurt.
Because we’re all six years older, I didn’t make Mike recreate one of those pics, but instead one where everyone is standing up.
August 7, 2011:
August 7, 2017:
Look how short they were 6 years ago! So teeny!
At George’s request, I took the boys to a cavern today so we could go underground. (The man was a mole in a former life, I have no doubt.) So we met up with my friend Emily and her three adorable children at Inner Space Cavern north of Austin.
The boys were enthralled (every day I realize how much they take after George and how little they take after me) and had a great time. I had a nice time, but they really loved it. I told them Daddy will take them on a more adventurous cave tour when they’re older. A boys trip. Sounds great to me!