Sunday, October 28, 2007

Farmer John's Pumpkin Patch, HMB

Every year we go to Farmer John's Pumpkin Patch in Half-Moon Bay. No one else really has a pumpkin patch; they all buy their pumpkins and lay them around. Farmer John actually grows them out in the field and you can go out and pick them off the vine.

This, of course, was Simon's first trip to the pumpkin patch and he had a lot of fun.

Jared and Becca were there along with the Tanners. Here's Jared taking our catch from the vines back to the front lot.

Simon picking out pumpkins with Susie. He's wearing socks his Grandma Ning made for him.

Simon's first kiss is with a pumpkin

Gap Casting Call

So, we've decided to test how cute our baby boy is. We have entered these pictures into the Gap Casting Call competition which you can read about here.

Here are the pictures submitted.

If Simon wins the first round of judging, then he'll be up for public voting. At which point, we will let everyone interested in voting for him know so that we can get some extra help. :)

We think he's the cutest.

The Ning's Eastern European Vacation

So, it’s been awhile, but it took us…I mean Simon, a little while to actually get adjusted back to the right time zone. Otherwise, he’s been a real trooper thru all the places that we took him. We had an incredible trip visiting 4 countries in 14 days.

Day 1-3: Budapest, Hungary
We arrived on Sunday. It was interesting in Budapest. The taxi driver was INSANE!! It was almost as if he was trying to impress us by how fast he could drive. We met the Salters just in time to watch them go to church. Jared had to give a talk and Kelli had to teach a class lesson. It gave us enough time to set-up a blow-up bed in their living room and crash for several hours. Kelli was nice enough to make us a roast for dinner and that was our first day.
The next day we went with Kelli (Jared was at work) to the market. It looks like a train station but it was a planned building for this type of commerce. We also walked down one of their fancy shopping streets.
On Tuesday, we went across the Danube and checked out Castle Hill. There really wasn’t a big castle up there, but there were some ruins of some and a long history of Castles being built there. Simon enjoyed the view.
Day 4-8: Istanbul, Turkey
Kelli found this cool hotel in Istanbul. It was so small, the ride from the airport, which comes with the hotel, didn’t know how to get there. It was at the bottom of one of the hills (Istanbul is founded on 7 hills, like Rome). Unfortunately, to get to all of the sites, we pretty much needed to get up to the top of the hill to get to anywhere. After the first day, it got easier and easier.This was the entrance to the Topkapi Palace. This was the home of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1853. The Grand Sultan would hang the remains of those executed for not conforming to his views at this entrance.

One of the courtyards build for the Harem, which means forbidden…meaning forbidden for others to see.

From this vantage point, during Ramadan, the Sultan would wait for the sunset.
The Grand Bazaar. I didn’t think it was going to be this nice. I don't think anyone really thought we would spend more than half a day there. We spun around there looking at great antiques and handcrafts. We haggled our way thru and spent several a little bit of time there each day looking for better deals on specific items.

It was nice having the Salter's there. Jared is ruthless when it comes to haggling. We also were able to get group deals when we were both looking for similar items.

The Egyptian Bazaar had a lot of great spices there. Oddly enough, it was a lot harder to haggle on prices there.

The Hagia Sophia was the largest enclosed building in the world for nearly 1000 yrs. It’s the 3rd largest dome currently. Originally constructed in 537 as a Christian Cathedral until 1453 when Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and it was converted to a mosque.

It's hard to portray the imensity of the edifice. We tried to imagine what types of ancient Christian services could have been held here with such a large building.
The architecture was ornate, and very detailed. The amount of work involved to put this together was amazing to imagine. The age of the building also amazed us because of how well preserved and maintained it is. Simon enjoyed all of it.

The Blue Mosque is located across the street. We were all immediately identified as Americans, and a Turkish Rug salesman helped us beat the lines into the Mosque and guilted us into walking over to his shop to get a hard Sales Pitch. The only good thing about that was that he walked us by the remains of the horse stables of what used to be the Hippodrome of Istanbul.

Halfway thru the trip to Istanbul, we found ourselves doing laundry in our bathroom. I thought this picture pretty much portrayed how it was traveling with a 5 mo old baby. We used purified water to clean out all of our bottles as well.

Beneath the city was carved out a giant fresh water Cistern. When it was re-discovered, it was drained and became a great relic to the engineering history.

On our last day, we took a taxi further down the Bosporus River to city of Ortakoy. There was a hand craft market there. We took a quick family portrait at the port among the fisherman.

Day 9: Recovery in Hungary
We came back to Hungary for a day. Basically it was to do laundry. Oddly enough, the Salter's building was going under some gas-pipeline upgrades during the exact time period that we were visiting. So, in the meantime, their hot water was not available. One of Jared's good friends, 2 stops away, was going to be on vacation in Germany. We were able to stay there a night and do laundry. Everyone eventually went there to get hot showers.

Day 10-11: Vienna, Austria
We had a couple of days to spare so we took a train ride north to Vienna. We were constantly amazed that in a 3 hour journey, you can find yourself in such a different place. Vienna was one of most favorite spots during this trip. There were a lot of reasons why we liked it: the H&M store was like the US Banana Republic, the city was clean, and the place felt like it was frozen in time from the Renaissance.

We stayed at the Marriott in downtown (great hotel) and started off to the Schonbrunn Palace. We didn’t do any tours of the inside, but we did walk the grounds and do the maze. Simon enjoyed the view from the back of the property overlooking the palace and the city. Before heading back to Budapest on the train, we made a quick stop to the Hofmann Palace as well. We definitely need to come back to this place.

Simon enjoys a bit of CNN in the morning

The train ride home was fun for Simon. He enjoyed looking out the window and smiling at the border patrol as they came into the cabin.

Day 12: Pecs, Hungary
We decided to spend this day trying to save a little bit of money and buy some leather bags from their factory in Pecs. Our final destination was western Slovenia and we thought we had this plan down pat. Roads ran slowly and the store had the bags that we wanted but they were at the same price as the ones in Budapest. Jared did some haggling and finally got a hold of the owner of the factory and had them sell us a couple of bags at wholesale prices using Jared’s personal business name.

After a very long drive, we ended up in the beautiful lake resort town of Bled, located in the north west corner of Slovenia. Looking back, we probably should have checked a bit on the weather and dressed warmer. We all could have had another layer.

Lake Bled is famous for its cliff-hanging castle overlooking a small island with a church on it. It was rainy but we toured the castle and took a boat ride out to the island. I insisted on having one of the locals row us out on a traditional boat to the island. That was great until on the way back, it took twice as long because of the headwind and the rain which was dumping down on us. Others on the boat lent us their umbrellas to cover the kids.

Day 15: Heading Home
It was a great trip…great to see the Salters and to see so much of Europe. Simon slept most of the way which made it tough to get him adjusted to the time zone shift again, but it was more pleasant for everyone else on the flight.