A busy, busy day for Heather's birthday. School for the girls, of course. And work for me. Last year Heather had been a little disappointed at my treasure hunt. It was all very mental and she prefers to have some physical tasks as well. So this year was a mix of physical and mental challenges.
Once I was home from work (meaning I wrapped up my last meeting and could leave my closet) we let the games begin. Her presents had been locked up by some mischievous minion and only by completing her challenges and assembling clues could she possibly discover the code to unlock the box.
She started with the Strings of Despair! 7 strings criss-crossed the front yard connecting the numbers 1-7 to letters on the other side. Some went through the leaf pile that Corinne made last weekend.
With the mapping of numbers to letters in hand, she next had to cross the Chasm of Chaos! She must cross the bottomless pit via the rickety ladder, while collecting clues along the way. The rung wrapped in blue has broken off and fallen into the abyss and she must cross without it.
Aside: We got some great color on our tree this fall. Just look at it in the background there!
The clues from the Chasm of Chaos connected colors to numbers. Next she needed to use her assembled information to determine how to safely cross the Mines of Mystery!
Using the letter/number pairs from the Strings of Despair she was able to determine the safe path through the minefield and collect the color of the dud mines along the way. Next she needed to decode the colors of the mines into numbers using the information from the Chasm of Chaos. The decoded colors revealed the combination to the lock.
After presents it was time to go to gymnastics. After gymnastics we were going to pick up dinner from First Street Ale House to eat before cake. But Heather came stumbling back into the house in tears less than halfway through class. She had apparently injured her neck while doing a somersault and was in considerable pain. So we postponed our birthday dinner plans until the next night and grabbed McDonald's. After some ibuprofen, food, and rest she was up for cake.
Per Heather's request, Jess made a vanilla cake with chocolate-cream filling, chocolate frosting, and some crumbled Andes mints on top.
Jess' parents drove out and visited us from the 19th to the 24th. On Friday I took the day off of work and we drove down to Saratoga to visit the Hakone Japanese Gardens while the girls were in school. We thought it'd be nice to actually meander around rather than be dragged about with constant complaints of it being boring. We were right.
Jess and I had watched a Great Course on Japanese history and we both agreed we liked the aesthetics of the gardens and then found there are a handful of such gardens in the Bay Area (which has a pretty long history of Japanese immigration).
It was cloudy (it actually rained every day her parents were here, the only rain we've gotten in 10 months) so my pictures are rather muted, so nothing spectacular. But I still enjoyed the trip.
We sat in a waiting pavilion for a few minutes which had a large window (that's one of the pictures in the gallery). I went outside to try and get a picture of Jess with her parents sitting inside through the bamboo, but the dynamic range was too much for my camera and I couldn't keep it still well enough for an HDR shot, so this is what I have. Now just imagine all the bamboo is rich green instead of blown-out white.
I had intended to set up a group picture of all of us before they left, but it kept slipping my mind until it was too late.
The girls enjoyed their visit. They warmed up to "Papa" and "Bubbie" much more readily than we had expected. Corinne was super happy to have more playmates around and Heather happily showed them projects she's working on and read them things from books.
Before their visit we had asked Heather if she'd be comfortable with them visiting during her birthday. She was a little upset at that idea and asked that we keep her birthday to just us. So they scheduled their trip to move on to their next stop at the beginning of this week.
Their next stop was in Utah and they intended to drive highway 50, "The loneliest road in America." But the storm system made a mess of the Sierra Nevada passes. One was closed due to flooding and the others were covered in snow and ice. Traffic wasn't moving at all on them when they were leaving and there were chain requirements in effect. So instead they drove south through Las Vegas.
Two weeks after we picked up London from the shelter Jess brought home another kitten, Phoenix, that she couldn't live without.
She's a total scaredy cat. She hid behind the dryer in the laundry room for most of her first 48 hours at home. Then Jess used cardboard to block it off and forced her out into the rest of the house. It took several days, but she eventually became more comfortable in the house. She's still a scaredy cat though. She'll let Jess and me pet her if she's in the right mood, otherwise she'll bolt if anyone gets close. After the girls go to bed, and the house calms down a bit, she'll come sit next to one of us.
She and London had a difficult time at first. London was not interested in having a new cat in her territory. There was a lot of hissing and we've been keeping them separated to try and make the bulk of the house into neutral territory. And we seem to be making progress. London has switched to being more playful and less aggressive. Phoenix still mostly runs away though.
Here's each of them today after chasing each other around for a while: