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January 1, 2008,  Lake Tahoe

Tahoe_07-55.jpg (80567 bytes)Tahoe_07-16.jpg (136329 bytes)Where did 2007 go?  Acceleration of time must be a phenomenon of the aging process.  Today may be the most beautiful day in the history of Lake Tahoe.  Margaret and Mark got someone to take their picture at the top of Diamond Peak.  With the Lake Tahoe in the background, this photo looks like a post card.  Andy continues to ride down the slopes on a snowboard.  

 

December 31, Lake Tahoe

Tahoe_07-47.jpg (96965 bytes)Tahoe_07-12.jpg (180941 bytes)Following another family tradition, everyone dons silly paper hats and drinks champagne.  Johnny decided to be a non-conformist and removed his hat before posing for the family portrait.  We have had a series of spectacular sunsets this week and tonight was no exception.

 

 

December 30, Lake Tahoe

Tahoe_07-11.jpg (92838 bytes)Tahoe_07-53.jpg (91725 bytes)The weather is perfect for skiing, gambling and watching football on TV.  Of course the weather is always perfect for gambling and watching football.  Margaret, Mark, Andy, and the grandchildren are hitting the slopes every day.  Katie has been promoted to Chinstrap Penguin while Johnny has been promoted to Advance Intermediate. Click here to see Katie winning an exciting downhill race:

 

 

 

December 28, Lake Tahoe

Tahoe_07-7.jpg (98622 bytes)We are gathered at the lake for our annual end-of-year family gathering.  Keeping up with inflation the stakes were raised in the card game competitions.  Defending Texas Hold'em champion Andy was roundly defeated by Monica who had an amazing run of winning on the river card.  Six players entered the double elimination cribbage playoff.  Andy came up through the losers bracket to come away with the top prize.

 

December 17, Houston

fall.jpg (49077 bytes)Pat went for a walk this morning .  Unfortunately a short distance from the condominium she tripped and fell.  Instead of using her hands to break the fall she used her jaw.  She is giving new meaning to the phrase "take it on the chin".  There is always a bright side.  Many of Pat's friends have commented how well purple complements her natural skin tone.  I think she will be in the market for a new wardrobe next year.

 

November 21, Houston

leopard1.jpg (84658 bytes)We're back after a great visit  to Africa.  Our original plan was to spend a couple of days in Frankfurt to break up the trip home, but Pat was feeling well and the prospect of spending two days in freezing Frankfurt was not appealing. In a few days the trip photos will available on this website.  The theory of digital photography is take take a lot of shots and throw most of them away.  Easier said than done.  I have about 600 photos to sort through and my goal is to bring the total down to about 100.  The leopard on the left is a teaser.  We were so close that Pat was afraid it was going to jump in her lap.

 

November 3, Houston

We are getting ready to leave tomorrow on a trip to Southern Africa by way of Frankfurt, Germany.  We will be spending a few days in Cape Town and Johannesburg before heading off to Botswana where we will be staying in bush camps hoping to encounter exotic animals.  You will get a complete report soon after  we return on Thanksgiving day. 

October 6, Houston

poker1.jpg (412646 bytes)poker2.jpg (387744 bytes)It's Saturday night and the clan has gathered for a session of winner-take-all Texas Hold 'em.  Mark, Margaret, Johnny, and Katie came from Harker Heights, Andy from Plano, and Robyn and Will from Jersey Village.  Pat and your reporter were the other participants.  Andy (Old Neverfold) started slowly as you can see by the size of his stack (see picture on left). However there is a suspicion that he recruited Johnny to give him a signal if anyone was bluffing and he wound up with all the money (see picture on right).

September 27, Houston

Pat is coming home from a trip to the West Coast tomorrow.  Time to do the dishes and put down the toilet seats.

September 17, Houston

SA Regional.jpg (194387 bytes)The bimonthly Texas area bridge report came out and photogenic Pat's picture appeared with her partner Jolie Hess after they won the Open Pairs event at the July 4 Regional in San Antonio.  Your reporter came in second but they only take pictures of the winners.

 

September 17, Houston

It's been a little over a month since Pat's surgery and she is doing remarkably well.  She has returned to the bridge wars and is once again winning with regularity.  Although she is not able to perform many of her usual household tasks, this recovery period has enabled her to sharpen up her managerial skills.  

September 3, Los Angeles

One of Kelly and Ross' clients is a soccer player on the U.S. team competing for the World Cup in Shanghai.  She posts a blog and in the current edition gives a plug to Kelly's Pet Care.  Click here to see it. 

August 12, Houston

pat_in_hospital.jpg (67393 bytes)Pat had surgery yesterday to remove a nodule from her left lung.  Although this was a very serious operation, her lower left lobe was removed, the prognosis is excellent according to her doctors, and her recovery is underway.  She is out of intensive care and ready to get back in the email circuit.  Pat appreciates the thoughts and prayers of her many friends and relatives.

August 10, Houston

travis 2.jpg (90631 bytes)travis 1.jpg (82706 bytes)travis 3.jpg (81209 bytes)We just completed a very pleasant week in Lago Vista where we rented a house on Lake Travis.  Mark, Andy, Margaret, Johnny, and Katie stayed for the week.  Pat's brother Dick, son Patrick and wife Jann joined us for Saturday night dinner.  The house was great, the water warm, and the weather was good.  Mark and Andy dazzled everyone with a water-skiing exhibition.  We rented a boat for the skiing and for a tour of the north end of the lake.  The house came with a paddle boat, which was more our speed, but very hard work.  There was a neighborhood herd of deer which paid us a daily visit.  The deer were so tame that Katie and Johnny were able to hand feed them.  I think visiting with the deer was the kids' highlight of the week.

July 23, Houston

spout.jpg (35687 bytes)Just in town briefly after a quick trip to Akumal, a quaint little village on the Mexican Riviera.  This place is an oasis in an overdeveloped Yucatan peninsula.  We did a lot of snorkeling and ate in some very good local restaurants.  On our last day we witnessed an impressive waterspout from the patio.  Fortunately it did not make a landfall and turn into a tornado.

 

July 8, Houston

Otis.jpg (168437 bytes)We had a great time at a birthday party for a couple of friends at Blanco's, an authentic Texas honky-tonk.  There was shuffleboard, sawdust on the floor, beer on tap and a dance band that looked and sounded a lot like Otis Day and the Nights from Animal House.  Well at least the lead singer looked like Otis.  The real name of the band was the Grateful Geezers and they were very good despite being a little long in the tooth.

July 7, San Antonio

We're here for a Regional Bridge tournament and a District Board meeting.  It was a banner day for the Levy family as Pat and her partner finished first overall in the Flight A Open Pairs and Lew and his partner came in second.

June 23, Killeen

Harker_07_06 (13).jpg (88991 bytes)Harker_07_06 (11).jpg (88476 bytes)Harker_07_06 (7).jpg (72611 bytes)A quick trip to see the grandchildren led us to the local Outback where we gorged on bloomin' onions and other healthy fare.  Mark and Margaret studied the menu while Uncle Andy looked after his niece and nephew.  Meanwhile back at the ranch, Pat and her grandchildren played a variety of what we used to call Twister.

 

June 15, Greenville, SC

Greenville07 (1).jpg (133149 bytes)Greenville07 (23).jpg (85970 bytes)Greenville07 (26).jpg (124546 bytes)We are in one of our favorite small cities in the US, Greenville, South Carolina, for a bridge tournament.  Greenville has a tree-lined Main Street with great restaurants and shops, and a great downtown park at the Reedy River falls, which is used by the people for picnics and just relaxing.  It has a new off-set walking suspension bridge and lots of grass, lawns and sculptures.

 

June 11, Houston

IMG_0268.jpg (69707 bytes)The years are flying by.  Pat and your blogger celebrated 24 years of marriage with a nice dinner at Bice Restaurant in the Galeria.  Food and drinks were good, but the dessert was the highlight.

 

 

June 1, Valley Glen, CA

buddy.jpg (87365 bytes)Buddy2.jpg (44286 bytes)A sad note - Ross and Kelly had to say goodbye to Buddy, their 13 year old Malamute.  The good thing was that he out-lived almost all others of his breed.  Buddy was a sweet dog who had an affinity for Pat.  When we visited, Buddy would not leaved her side.

 

May 5, Louisville

Derby (33).JPG (110572 bytes)Derby (45).JPG (72685 bytes)Derby (55).JPG (79880 bytes)The Kentucky Derby is more than a horse race, but it truly is the most exciting two  minutes in sports.  We had seats near the starting line so saw the horse come by twice.  After more or less breaking even on the undercard races, we had the winning exacta and trifecta tickets for the big race.  What a thrill.  Queen Elizabeth was in attendance, but was not in our section of the bleachers.  We didn't see the Queen, but did see a lot of very interesting hats.  Other than Churchill Downs, the unique attraction in this part of Kentucky is the Louisville Slugger bat factory.  This is a fun place where you can see the bats being made and also visit a hands-on museum where, among other things you can take ten swings at a ball thrown by a pitching machine at 40 mph.  What would have been a weak grounder to the shortstop was my best effort.  It is hard to imagine even making contact with a ball thrown more than twice as fast as the machine's pitches

May 2, St. Louis

KC-STL (83).JPG (38978 bytes)KC-STL (93).JPG (95266 bytes)We were greeted by  a driving rainstorm which made it almost impossible to drive.  We were booked into the downtown Hilton, a great old hotel restored to its former glory, so we didn't mind eating in the hotel's restaurant and avoiding the bad weather.  No visit to St. Louis is complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch, so despite the inclement weather we made our way to the river and ascended the 602 feet to the top.  The ride to the top is in a five seat capsule which is suspended like a Ferris wheel to accommodate the curvature of the structure.  There are narrow windows at the top and you can see Busch Stadium across the street.  At night we went to BB's Jazz, Blues, and Soups.  Good beer, good music, but we didn't try the soup.

April 30, Kansas City

KC-STL (80).JPG (105418 bytes)KC-STL (33).jpg (104418 bytes)KC-STL (53).JPG (77272 bytes)This is the start of a week-long road trip through the Midwest with our friends the Maxwell's.  KC is one of America's best cities despite the lack of a major league hockey franchise.  It has great museums, friendly people and the tastiest barbeque in the country.  We went right from the airport to the Nelson-Atkins Museum, where there is an outstang collection of oriental art.  A highlight was a visit to Ewing Kaufmann Stadium with fraternity brother Mike Herman to see the KC Royals take on the Angels of Anaheim.  We had great seats and it was a beautiful night so thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  Another highlight was a visit to the steamship Arabia museum.  A group of local hobbyists discovered a cargo ship that sank over a hundred years ago and had its cargo preserved by encapsulating mud.  This is a time capsule trip into the past.  We also visited the Truman library and museum in Independence.

April 21, Houston

myka.jpg (94073 bytes)While Pat is off on another Girls Gone Wild adventure, this time with her sorority sisters from the University of Alabama, Lew remains in Houston totally immersed in hockey's Stanley Cup playoffs.  French Polynesia redux!  One of the friends we made on the Paul Gauguin sent along this picture from the Marquesas.  The dock on one of the islands we visited was too small for the tenders so we traveled by zodiac between ship and shore.  When the winds picked up the trip to the ship got exciting.

 

April 10, High Island

HighIsland (8).jpg (55071 bytes)HighIsland (14).jpg (53674 bytes)HighIsland (32).jpg (129378 bytes)HighIsland (28).jpg (29704 bytes)Situated about 90 minutes southeast of Houston, High Island is one of the prime migratory bird viewing sites in the country.  Armed with binoculars and a camera with telephoto lens, we spent several hours looking for and taking pictures of some beautiful birds.  This yellow bird posed for some good close in shots.  We have no idea what kind of bird this is.  Some expert birders found this falcon, a merlin, in a tree about a hundred yards away.  The telephoto lens was needed here.  The pink bird with the odd beak is a roseate spoonbill, while the six foot gator is waiting for a chick to fall out of a nest.

April 8, Austin

Easter_07 (69).JPG (158667 bytes)Easter_07 (63).JPG (98971 bytes)Easter_07 (33).jpg (83388 bytes)Sister-in-law Jann Brown once again exceeded her own high standards for Easter meals.  Extended family members from all over the state were undeterred by record low temperatures and brought their kids to the Easter egg hunt.  Johnny and Katie were among the most successful hunter/gatherers.  Brother Dick entertained with his rendition of the Barry Manilow songbook on his new Steinway grand.

March 31, Houston

mfah.jpg (19941 bytes)After two weeks we've gotten over our jet lag and settled into our normal routine (planning the next trip).  Today we went to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to see a magnificent exhibition of French paintings from 1800 - 1920.  The Metropolitan Museum of New York is undergoing a major renovation so has loaned over 130 of its most well-known paintings from this period to our local museum for a limited time.  The collection includes Renoir, Monet, Seurat, Manet, Van Gogh, Picasso, etc.  We even saw two original works by Gauguin which is two more than we saw in French Polynesia.

March 25, Honolulu

obama.jpg (249978 bytes)The New York Times ran a story about Senator Barak Obama's fifth grade class at Punahou.  The class picture shows Obama in the back row and Mark Solomons in the front.  Mark looks pretty much the same today except his hair is shorter.  The Senator has slimmed down.  Note the lack of footwear.

 

March 15, Moorea

1603 034.jpg (60548 bytes)Moorea (15).jpg (52785 bytes)It's a good thing that Moorea is the last stop on our itinerary.  Had it been first, everything else would have suffered by comparison.  The island has beautiful mountain scenery, lots of flowers, clear water and friendly people.  In the morning we did an underwater walk with diving helmets where we encountered sting rays and a variety of colorful fish, then we rented a car and drove around the island in the afternoon.  Gasoline was going for about $7.00 per gallon so driving a small car is a good idea here. 

 

March 15, Taha'a

Tahaa7.jpg (80998 bytes)After two sea days we have returned to the Society Islands.  There were a few excursions on Taha'a proper, but we opted to go directly to the motu, a private beach on a small island where the cruise lines holds a barbeque.  The water is warm and clear, making it a spectacular snorkeling site.  Liquid refreshments are available from a wading bartender.  Poisson cru, a local delicacy made with raw tuna, and hamburgers were the featured lunch items.

 

March 12, Nuku Hiva

Melville.jpg (72054 bytes)survivoriv.jpg (119464 bytes)The largest island in the Marquesas, in size and population, Nuku Hiva has been the scene of two culturally significant events.  Herman Melville was captured here by cannibals, but escaped to write about his experience in his book Typee (we visited the Taipivai valley where the book takes place).  The other cultural event was the filming of Survivor IV by CBS.  We were told  that the contestants were taken off the site every night to prevent them from  being attacked by sand flies.  

March 11, Ua Huka

Ua Huka (51).JPG (342074 bytes)There are more  goats  than people on Ua Huka and more wild horses than goats.  We signed up for a tour of the island as part of a caravan of four wheel drive vehicles.  Unfortunately there was no tour leader and the drivers kept stopping an craft markets.  The tour company gave everyone a full refund, but honestly there wasn't much to see here beyond the wild horses.

March 10, Hiva Oa

gauguingrave.jpg (164345 bytes)brelgrave.jpg (141407 bytes)Hiva Oa (20).jpg (149225 bytes)Paul Gauguin was this island's most famous resident.  He came  here on his second trip to French Polynesia and never left.  He died here in 1903.  There is a well-known play named "Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living  in Paris".  Not true.  He is in Hiva Oa and is buried near Gauguin.  We visited an ancient ceremonial site where cannibalism was practiced well into the 20th century.  French restaurant here took on a new meaning.  The site features a well-preserved tiki.

March 9, Fatu Hiva

FATU1.jpg (74012 bytes)FATU2.jpg (74265 bytes)This is our first day in the Marquesas.  The seas were quite rough so we were not able to go ashore until late in the morning, but it was worth the wait.  This must be one of the most beautiful spots on earth.  Steep mountains plunge into the ocean, similar to the north coast of Kauai but even more dramatic.  The Bay of Virgins features a rock formation that looks like a large woman.  There are two villages on this island with about 250 residents each.  My guess is that there are no psychiatrists on the island.

March 7, at sea

We are en route from Rangiroa to the Marquesas.  A word about the cruise ship is in order.  Regent Cruise lines has made this an open bar trip.  First class wines, beer and liquor is available 24 hours per day at no charge.  Needless to say the passengers are in a semi-euphoric state most of the time.  The ship itself is about ten years old but looks like it is on its maiden voyage.  There are almost as many crew members as guests so service is luxurious.  The food is the best we have ever experienced.  With very limited opportunities for provisioning, it is nothing short of a miracle that they produce a variety of quality meals three times a day.  If you're thinking that it has something to do with the flow of liquid refreshments, how do you explain breakfast?

March 6, Rangiroa

shark.jpg (24052 bytes)Rangiroa lies about 200 miles north of Bora Bora.  This is in the Tuamoto Island group, one of the lesser known regions of French Polynesia.  The water is warm and crystal clear in this atoll, the world's second largest.  Snorkeling here is like swimming in an aquarium.  We went on a glass-bottom boat, but got a little bored and jumped in with our snorkeling gear.  The area is full of white-tipped and black-tipped sharks.  It's a little unnerving to have these guys swim right up to you, but we took the guide's word that they are harmless and they were right.  Unless you are a keen diver, Rangiroa is not the place for your next two week vacation.

 

March 5, Bora Bora

Bora Bora35.jpg (91929 bytes)Bora Bora65.jpg (63460 bytes)Bora Bora60.jpg (108425 bytes)We arrived in Bora  Bora today and spent the afternoon at a private island, and then took a sunset cruise (so-so) and followed up the next day with an off-road adventure in a Land Rover (a highlight)  A four-wheel drive is a requirement to reach the top of some hills where you can see the amazing color variations in the water.  Some of the "roads" were steep and muddy.  One in particular took three tries to negotiate.  It might be fun to return here and spend a few nights in one of the above water bungalows.  A highlight was a stop at the original Bloody Mary's bar.  The sand floor is unique and the eponymous drink was excellent.

March 3, Papeete

Pap3.jpg (77418 bytes)pap22.jpg (78240 bytes)Papeete_ (23).jpg (223821 bytes)After a day and a half at a very nice hotel in Papeete, we boarded the M/S Paul Gauguin for a two week cruise of the South Pacific islands.  Our room at the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort opened up to the beach with a spectacular view of Moorea.  Who knew it was so close!  The city of Papeete does not have much to offer unless you are in the market for an overpriced pareo.  There is a Paul Gauguin museum 50 km out of town that contains exactly zero of his paintings.  Hinano, the local brew, is quite tasty.

February 24, Harker Heights

IMGP0087.JPG (99516 bytes)IMGP0093.JPG (74184 bytes)IMGP0079.jpg (49382 bytes)One last trip to see the grandchildren before heading to the South Pacific.  Saturday is soccer day in Harker Heights, so off we went to the field where about ten games were in progress.  Johnny and Katie had two games each.  Johnny kicked the ball down the field several times, while Katie performed a decoy function for her team.  Later, Katie showed off her Bella Ballerina steps.  The picture of Katie in her ballet outfit is somewhat of an optical illusion.  Despite appearances, she still has only two legs.

February 15, Bradenton, FL

Margeurite and PatJill and PatDannyPat continues on a genealogical mission to track her scattered relatives.  We visited with Marguerite Dye, a first cousin of Pat's father.  She is delightful, an author and musician.  We joined up with Marguerite's daughter Jill and her husband Duane at a new restaurant called The Bottle Shop on St. Armand's Circle, a trendy spot in Lido Key.  Marguerite's grandson is the sous chef.  The moules e frites (mussels and fries) were the best we ever tried.  Worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood.

February 15, Long Boat Key, FL

Pat and HermaBob Perez in Longboat KeyManatee at Mote AquariumWe spent the day with Lew's cousin Herma and her husband Bob.  By strange coincidence, Herma and Bob lived in São Paulo at the same time we did.  It was great to see them again.  We went to the Mote Aquarium where they had a nice manatee exhibit.  We had dinner in Sarasota with Herma and Bob's daughter's in-laws.  Turns out the father went to Rensselaer a few years after Lew.

 

February 13, Anna Maria Island, FL

John and Norma Green with Pat and LewPat between Valerie and JeanValentine's Day.  We stopped in Bonita Bay to visit friends Norma and John Green.  After a pleasant lunch with them, we drove through the charming town of Naples.  Then north to this little island near Bradenton.  We had dinner with Valerie Tileli, Mark's mother-in-law, and her sister Jean at a great outdoor restaurant called the Sandbar in Holmes Beach.  The restaurant sits right on the water's edge.

 

February 13, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Aunt Ruth at WillowwoodAunt Claire and Uncle PhilWe are in Florida to visit some friends and family.  We have seen Lew's  Aunts Ruth and Claire, and Uncle Phil in Fort Lauderdale.  Aunt Ruth is living at Willowwood and doing well as she approaches her 90th birthday.  We tried to get in a round of golf with Uncle Phil but the skies opened up and we got soaked.  The men got in 9 holes, but the women decided to move to higher ground.  Tomorrow we will drive across Alligator Alley to the west coast of the state. 

February 11, Houston

An exciting annual Houston regional bridge tournament has just ended.  In the six major pairs events, Pat had a high finish in three, garnering a second, fifth, and sixth.  Lew finished second in one.  Lew also received the Texas Star award for service to the unit and was elected Executive Treasurer of the District (Texas and Mexico).

January 18, Costa Maya, Mexico

CostaMaya3.JPG (321624 bytes)CostaMaya.JPG (191351 bytes)Pat and her friends are in the Yucatan auditioning for the latest Girls Gone Wild video.  No word on how it went, but watch out for a late night television ad.  In any event, the weather is sunny and warm while Houston is rainy and cold.    In the picture on the right, Pat looks completely relaxed at the beach bar.

 

January 15, Houston

We got home from Lake Tahoe just in time for a week long bridge tournament.  Pat and Lew were winners on different days.  Speaking of bridge, Pat and 15 other bridge playing lady friends are off on a five day cruise to Mexico.  Just in time to avoid a week of freezing temperatures in Texas.  They are forecasting mid 20's tonight so yours truly will just throw another virtual log on the fire and settle in for some serious basketball viewing.

 

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