Thursday, December 24, 2009

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...


We had to get creative this year. 450 square feet doesn't exactly scream giant conifer.
And so, the Christmas Coat Rack.
Happy holidays, from the Rileys.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Perfect Storm

Monday Night.

Jazz versus Knicks.
$6.50 tickets.
Sounds like all the makings of a good Family Home Evening (taking liberties with "home," of course) for a frugal Utah gal like myself.
So we roped in a few of our favorite fellow Utah Staters and headed to the Garden for what proved to be an excellent way to spend three hours and a dozen bucks. Good night to be a Jazz fan.

Thanks for the photos, Jake and Dave!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Down Undah - The Venice Beach Chapter

Few things make a 20 hour flight more fun than a six hour layover. So we hatched an escape plan to the beach rather than spend six hours at Bradley International Terminal.

The shuttle was the more economical option, and you know me and economical. We waited at the curb with a really nice couple from Australia, chatted with them about their plans, realized we were all going to the same place and could split cab fare for a much better rate (I know, that has the makings of a thriller flick. But I wasn't alone and they weren't three men.). But things turned sour fast when our high-stress, super-pushy driver showed up and practically threw their bags in as we debated.

Things got sourer faster as we picked up the rest of the passengers, even less thrilled to be in the shuttle. It felt a little like a scene from a sitcom where people were saying whatever onery thing came to mind. Except that only the Rileys and the Aussies got the memo that it's actually super awkward to say everything you're thinking out loud. And hey - smelly emo boy, maybe you wouln't be so angry if your music wasn't screaming at you to do something drastic. See - I didn't say that out loud though, did I?

It all proved to be worth it when we hopped out of the shuttle, wished the Aussies an uphill U.S. experience from here and hit the beach just in time for the sunset.
We walked with the sand between our toes from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica Pier.
And then we caught a cab back to the airport.

Down Undah - The Riley Chapter

A nice vacation is one thing, but phenomenal hosts send "nice" to "amazing" like nothing else. There's a certain appeal to Australia, sure, but we really knew we had to go when Ben and Natalie moved their sweet fam to the southern hemisphere almost two years ago.

We've grown accustomed to hosting here in the city, but hospitality is relatively easy when your job consists of, "there's the subway. and be sure to get yourself a good map." It's a little different when you're the chauffeur, the chef and the tour guide - and your guests are hoping to visit, eh, an entire continent.

But visit {lots} of an entire continent we did. Seeing and revisiting a lot of places they have already seen (and being, or at least acting :), genuinely excited to see it again!), or driving hours and hours out of their way to visit new places.

Ben is Noah's oldest brother and one of my favorite people to be around. He's genuinely interested in others and as a result, I find myself talking a lot in his presence. My answers to his questions were probably a lot longer-winded than anticipated :). Ben's accomplished a lot and crammed a lot of living into not a lot of years - the type of person you'd like to be when you grow up. And then you realize he's not that much older than you and you might wanna get crackin' if that's really the plan. Natalie is the type that does it all and makes it all look easy. Beautiful home (our toiletries were beautifully placed on a silver platter {no lie} on a gorgeous runner on our bed when we arrived. I looked twice for the pillow mints.), tons of fun, uber-stylish, great mom, in killer shape... the list goes on and on. If any of you know Natalie, you know she and great food are pretty much BFFs. If you don't know Natalie, you'll probably want to be her BFF, but you should at least get to know her food. I don't think I had to eat for three days after we got home.
Laine and Gabe - tell me these aren't the sweetest kids. Laine had us wrapped around her finger and Gabe had us laughing the whole time.
Our favorite Gabe-ism was how he started each of his stories with, "when I was a boy..." The kid is three. Hilarious.
And we were treated like royalty at Laine's restaurant - "here's your glass of water. Here's a pitcher of more water when you run out." Impressed by the details there, babe.
We could not have asked for a better trip.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Down Undah - The Melbourne Chapter (Two)

By our third day in Melbourne, we pretty much felt like locals (and secretly, really wanted to be. If we run away in the next few months, I'll give you a hint... we probably went back to Melbourne.) so Noah took the wheel. Literally. On the right side of the car on the opposite side of the street. He mastered the art of opposite day driving by the time we got to the end of the driveway and we made our way to the southern stretch of the continent for a drive along the Great Ocean Road.
This drive along the Great Ocean Road was, for lack of more creative description, great. The drive afforded views and access to beaches, forested areas, farmland, cliffs - it really was breathtaking.

We had several wild koala sightings on the drive - but none that made us as proud as the one we spotted with only the aid of our own eyeballs (other times, the groups of Euro tourists pulled over on the side of the road were a dead giveaway).
The most famous destination along the GOR is the (are the...?) Twelve Apostles. A bit of a misnomer these days as 3-4 let the ocean get the best of them. But awe-inspiring, nonetheless.
While we were there, we took a picture for a family visiting from Germany. They asked where we were from and when we responded, they said, "oh! New York! That's where we started our trip two months ago."
So now I'm also running away to Germany. Check both places.
Our last few stops along the GOR were for these views at the Loch Ard Gorge.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Down Undah - The Melbourne Chapter (One)

Ahhh... we are so glad Ben and Natalie's plans allowed for the trip to Melbourne. So many of the trip's highlights were from the jaunt down south.

It was about this point where Melbourne secured a spot on our list of favorite cities.
And this was the point where I realized my feet tan better than my ankles and shins. That's special.
Natalie introduced us to Bread Top in Chinatown after I ate (and enjoyed! how 'bout that, Dad?!) kimchi.

The next day we swung by the beach before making our way to Phillip Island to hang out with 'roos, wallabies and emus. Those terrifying, terrifying giant birds.

Did I mention the terrifying giant birds?
Is this why we're not allowed in their cages in the U.S.?

Ah, poor Gabe. I understand. I amost cried.

That evening, we also saw the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island. I'll be honest, after the rave reviews, I was expecting penguins by the thousands to take over the beach. I guess there are a few thousand, but they come in approximately 7 at a time every 10 minutes. Thousands in sporadic groups of 7 are dramatically less, well, dramatic. But pretty cool to see nonetheless. You'll have to take my word for it, no photos allowed here.