Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Glorious Vancouver Day

We're picking up friends at YVR tomorrow morning and depositing them at the cruise ship terminal to start a voyage to Australia. We thought we deserved a trip too.

The Westin Wall Centre YVR was offering a good room rate that even included parking so we grabbed it. No upgrade like our last visit here but a perfectly nice room...

We could have driven to the Skytrain Bridgeport Station in a couple of minutes, but the glorious day persuaded us to walk the 10 minutes instead. For $1.75 each (senior rate), we rode all the way to the waterfront, walked along a new (to us) waterfront path nearly to the Westin Bayshore, and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

We ate appetizers for dinner at a restaurant pub near the waterfront terminal before riding back.

Once there, we wandered over to the last Richmond Night Market of the season. it looks much like markets we've visited in Thailand and Singapore with one difference: It wasn't nearly as crowded.

We ate a couple of snacks there before walking back to the hotel. We'll load some photos once we're back home. The Westin is a nice hotel but they have a slow DSL-type connection that reminds us of the old dial-up days.

Once we've dropped our friends off at the cruise ship terminal tomorrow afternoon, it'll be back home for us, but we picked a beautiful day to be tourists in Vancouver.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Foggy Mornings

We've continued to enjoy a run of good weather. The sunny days have followed some early-morning thick fogs.

Carl Sandburg famously described the fog as slipping in and out on "little cat feet," and the Bellingham Herald recently ran a time-lapse video of the phenomenon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Birch Bay Sunrise

We heard on the radio that it'll be cloudy today - maybe we'll even see some drizzle - but the sun supposedly returns tomorrow for another five days. 60 of the past 61 days in Seattle have been dry and Birch Bay has been just as good.

This is more than making up for a rainy Spring.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Soccer Saturday In Abbotsford

A last-minute invitation Saturday morning resulted in a quick drive up through Sumas and into Abbotsford to watch Jake and Taegan play soccer.

Since they were playing at schools ten minutes of driving away from each other, we also got to help out by driving Jake back to Taegan's second game after his was finished.

The weather held and we enjoyed watching the action. Taegan's soccer skills have really improved since the last time we saw her play.

Jake played defense in the first half. We caught the last few minutes after driving over from Taegan's game.

Jake went into goal in the second half of his game and had the chance to make some good saves - their team won 2-0.

Another great day to be a grandparent.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bad Press For American Airlines: "Book Away"

We keep an eye on American Airlines. We haven't flown them all that much over the years but they got our attention a few months ago.

In the midst of bankruptcy, they offered a great status-match to United Airlines elite members dissatisfied with the changes made to that program, and thousands of United customers took advantage of the offer.

It turns out American isn't out of the woods yet; their pilots are very unhappy with the status of negotiations.

It has gotten to the point that some industry experts are advising travelers to "book away" from American.

One notable example is Scott McCartney in his latest Middle Seat column, Book Away From American This Fall; Pilot Feud Has Made Airline Too Unreliable

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birch Bay Bunnies, Bird, Boats, Beaches And Benches

On a fine September afternoon we walk the block or so from our house to Lighthouse Park, adjacent to the marina. We have the place all to ourselves, if you don't count the wildlife.

What a relaxing place...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Getting The Best Coach Seat

We read through "Johnny Jet's" Six Ways to Get the Best Coach Seat on an Airplane.

The best suggestion - and the one we'll remind you of every time?

Keep Checking

If you book a ticket at the last-minute (like I usually do), chances are that the golden seats will be gone. But don't fret, because the good seats will open up—I can almost guarantee it. The trick is to keep checking your reservation and the flight's seat chart every hour or so. The best seats are usually being reserved by frequent flyers, and they will either be upgraded to business class or at least one of them will cancel at the last minute.

I usually begin checking a few days before departure until I get the seat I want. For example, I was just able to get an exit-row window seat a few days before a flight. But I prefer an aisle seat. I know beggars can't be choosers, but instead of printing my boarding pass 24 hours in advance, I waited until just a few hours ahead of departure. Once you check in, you can't change your seat until you get to the airport—and I had a feeling the aisle might open up. You know what? It did, and that's where I'm writing this post to you from right now.

The cringe-worthy suggestion?

Be Friendly

One of the best ways to get a great coach seat for free is to be super friendly to the gate agents—I usually bring them a box of chocolates—and kindly request a plush coach seat if they upgrade any frequent flyers to first class. The vacated seats in coach are usually in the exit row or bulkhead.

An Interview With The Author of "Up In The Air"

We just noticed it in USA Today. It's a short and interesting read...

Inside the quintessential frequent flyer

Friday, September 14, 2012

Another Birch Bay Sunset

We said our goodbyes to our newest grandchild, Jace, as well to sister Riley and brother Blane, and drove back home to water the plants and pick up a few days of mail that had accumulated.

Our last night in Mt. Vernon was a lot of fun, since cousins Jake and Taegan drove down from B.C. with their mom for a first look at their youngest cousin.

Everything looks fine here in Birch Bay, and it's also amazingly quiet. It was great for us to feel we can still help out, and Jace's mommy and daddy have some home-made food in the freezer to help out on the busier days.

Update: Our first draft featured Jace's name misspelled. A good night's sleep should improve our spelling immensely.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Feeling Useful

It's fun to feel useful. We've been able to help out as Kim and John welcome young Jace to their household.

He's a strong and feisty young fellow with a hearty appetite. That keeps Kim busy a fair amount. We've helped drive Riley and Blane to their first days of pre-school and have also enjoyed taking a turn entertaining them.

The weather has been beautiful. It's great to have a sunny first day of school as Riley and Blane both did. Both of them are enjoying the experience so far, and Grandma and Grandpa are enjoying hanging around feeling like we're helping out.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

September 9 2012: Welcome Jace Brian Hildenbrand

How fortunate we are to welcome our eighth grandchild and third grandson, Jace Brian Hildenbrand, all 8 pounds 14 ounces of him, into the world.

Blane and Riley are fascinated by their new baby brother.

Mommy Kim is happy to be back home from the birthing center, just a few hours after Jace's arrival.

Riley is going to be a great big sister. She's experienced at that.

It'll be an interesting adjustment for Blane being the big brother all of a sudden, but he'll do fine.

And two prouder and happier grandparents you'll never find...

Waiting In Mt. Vernon WA

If you're looking for a nice place to wait for a grandchild to be born, Mt. Vernon Washington fills the bill nicely.

The weather has been good, and the first day of Saturday morning soccer revealed that Riley will have some positive coaches, who also don't mind if Blane kicks the ball around in one corner.

We've also learned that Curious George is currently Riley's favorite show, and that Blane finds the funny parts quite hilarious.

And Grandpa Brian is now up early watching an episode with Riley while Blane still snoozes and Grandma Kathy and Riley's parents are occupied elsewhere.

Today could well be the day.

Friday, September 7, 2012

That Credit Card Mileage Game

Quite a few expert travel bloggers push the idea of earning miles via the extravagant bonuses offered by signing up for some new credit cards.

We already have more credit cards than we need, and don't have the desire to use the strategy that some describe as churning.

Still, anybody trying to earn miles without actually flying should read articles and blogs and then make your own decision.

You can get a start in the Seattle Times with How to rack up airline miles without flying and by following Gary Leff's View from the Wing blog.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

TSA Drink Testers At the Airport

We admit we're not fans of the TSA, or more specifically what we see as systematic over-reach - to the point of being ludicrous - in their policies and procedures.

It seems odd to us that their mandate includes testing drinks that passengers have bought in the supposedly secure airport waiting areas.

Best to think of other things, though, as the common reaction will probably be shrugs, or more comments along the lines of "anything that makes me feel safe."


Monday, September 3, 2012

Seven Reasons For Our Great Labor Day Weekend

Hot tub time to warm up after a few hours at the nearby waterslides...

Lily says Cheeese...

Jake and Blane stick together...

Taegan and Avery chat...

Kathy shares an early-morning cuddle with Peyton and Riley...

When Kathy announced she was placing them all in a pyramid, there was some murmuring from nervous parents, but it all worked out...