Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring Break 2010

A great perk about being a teacher is the ten week break called 'summer vacation.' A student last year gave me a plaque that said '3 Reasons for Teaching: June, July, and August.' I didn't quite know how to respond to that considering it came from a student (nor where I was supposed to hang it - certainly not in my classroom).

However, besides the 10 week long summer break, there are 4 additional weeks of vacation that come in the course of the year. One of those is the greatly awaited Spring Break! March always seems to be one of the longest months of the school year because it is the only month that we get NO days off. I know, sounds ridiculous because in every 'real' job that is a reality for almost every month of the year. But, I think that teachers need days off because the students need days off. When the kids don't get a break, they start going crazy...especially when Spring hits.

All to say, I was definitely ready for Spring Break this year and eagerly awaiting my 9 days off of teaching. Last year I spent my Spring Break in Taiwan.

While that was a great trip (but no, I don't need to be going back to Asia anytime soon), it was also somewhat exhausting due to the long hours of traveling (and being in a completely different time zone). This Spring Break, I was excited to stay local. And, I had a lot of fun things planned. Here are my Spring Break 2010 highlights.

1. Easter Tradition Resurrected - Ever since I can remember, we spent our Easter with a handful of close family friends from our church. It was something that I always looked forward to. Unfortunately, that tradition took a three year hiatus from 2007-2009. But, we officially resurrected the tradition this year, and it was so fun to celebrate Easter with great family friends.

2. Pebble Beach at the Valdez House - My dad has a connection to a house in Pebble Beach, which we spent time at during my 2008 Thanksgiving Break and this past July. We went back again last week for two nights, and it was a great get away. I LOVE this house! It is right off of 17 Mile Drive and just a few minutes walk down to the beach. The house itself is adorable, with an amazing backyard. I would love to live in this house if I could! Here are some pictures from our time in Pebble Beach.

With my niece Kate (above), niece Claire (right), and Jason (below).

3. Monterey Bay Aquarium - See my post about this. Of course I'm all about checking another item off my '30 Things Before 30' list.

4. A's Game - While I'm no huge A's fan, Jason's mom has AMAZING season tickets. We literally sat in the two best seats in the stadium - no two seats are closer to home plate. It was incredible. We were directly behind the A's dugout. You can practically hear their conversations. Too bad I'm not a bigger fan (I'm more of a Giants fan, but the A's are one of the only sports teams that Jason and I at least both somewhat like. He's a Dodgers, Cowboys, and Lakers fan. Seriously?)

The pictures above are from Rajai Davis' home run hit.

Picture taken at our seats - practically on the field!

5. Jason's brother's wedding - I finally got to meet a majority of Jason's extended family. They are great, and we both had a lot of fun at the wedding - apart from the BRIGHT red vest Jason had to wear as a groomsman...

While Spring Break 2010 was great and I was a bit sad to go back to work, I only have 37 more days of teaching until Summer Break!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Monterey Bay Aquarium

I definitely was not a deprived child growing up and my parents did a lot of fun things with us when we were younger (Tahoe, Grand Canyon, Hawaii, DC, New York, The Olympics...I could go on). However, one thing my parents neglected to expose me to was anything involving animals. Let's just say we're not huge animal lovers in the Cartmell family. The first time I ever went to the zoo was when I was 13. And my parents didn't even take me. My sister Elyse took me to the zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico while we were there for our sister Mel's soccer tournament. So, it is no surprise that at the age of 26, I still had never been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (despite living only an hour and half away from it my whole life).

Well, that all changed yesterday! Because my sister Mel and I are both teachers, we're pretty good at getting the rest of our family to take vacations during our long holiday breaks. My dad has a connection to a house in Pebble Beach, so we spent Monday-Wednesday of Spring Break down there. I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to check the aquarium off my list since we were just a few miles away.

Jason came down to Pebble Beach, too, so he agreed to come with me (even though he has been many times and the great white shark exhibit was no longer there...). After planning our route (he is so perfect for me), we started off in the Kelp Forrest. The leopard shark was totally my highlight here - they were totally cool. We then saw 'The Giant Pacific Octopus'. I couldn't 'flash the octopus', so I wasn't able to get a picture, but that thing was unreal. Huge. Kinda gross. But definitely cool. We then ventured to the pools and saw some more leopard sharks and some sting rays. I refused to put my hands in the touch pools. I prefer to experience with sight, not touch. Jason was a little more adventurous than me, but definitely still 'purell-ed' after.

Leopard Shark!

Next up were the sea otters. These were one of my favorites! They were so adorable. I felt like (and probably looked like) one of the little kids pressed up against the glass staring at the otters. They were like little puppies swimming around. I took lots of pictures of them (this is probably where I killed most of my battery).

Look at him rubbing up against the window - I think he's trying to say hi to me.

Little guys playing with each other.

Next were the jelly fish - another highlight for sure! Jelly fish are so cool to look at. I was captivated.

Moon Jelly - look at the cool flower design on them!

Wouldn't want to be in that tank! That's an invitation for death. Ouch.

We then visited the Outer Layer - a tank full of huge fish (I never knew how big tuna fish could get), and also with hammerhead sharks. This tank was one of Jason's highlights! I tried to get a picture of a hammerhead. Not too successful.

Finally we arrived at one of the exhibits I was so excited to see - The Hot Pink Flamingos! No, they are no great white shark, but I thought they were pretty fun!

And how cute are these penguins. I've always thought penguins are adorable. My mom used to wrap our Christmas presents in penguin wrapping paper because she thought they were pretty darling. I guess she passed it on to me... These two little guys bellow were hysterical. They guy on the right (Salsa), really had no personality and just stood there. He looked dead standing up. But the guy on the left (Dulce) was all about his life behind a glass wall. At one point they started scratching each other's ears for one another. What great little buddies. I tried to get a picture of it, but my camera died right as I went to take the pic (Note to self - If you bring a spare battery, don't leave it in the car...)

Dulce and Salsa: Buddies for Life.

Tango out for a little swim.

My battery was dead for the sea horse exhibit, but truthfully, I wasn't thoroughly impressed with the sea horses. I think that the sea horses that I've seen in pictures were a lot cooler than the ones they had there. Or maybe I just had high expectations or am hard to please. We also saw some more penguins (African, opposed the the Brazilian ones above).

All in all, it was a great visit to the aquarium. I am excited to go back when I have kids (unlike my parents, I will take my children to the aquarium), but I don't think I'll be back before then...