Friday, December 21, 2007

Colors of Christmas at San Francisco Symphony Hall

Nearly every year that I was in Boston, I attended the Boston Pops annual Holiday Concert. Last year was awesome because I saw the Barenaked Ladies perform with them. So, since I'm not in Boston, William and I went to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra's concert entitled "Colors of Christmas".

The night went off completely without a hitch- we were afraid of rush hour traffic, but had COMPLETELY smooth sailing up the 101 to the city- something that has NEVER happened before. We also found free parking on the street, just 2 blocks from the hall. Thus, we were early. But, I was so glad because we had time to look at all of the beautiful Christmas trees lining the hallways. Different elementary schools and businesses decorated over 20 trees. Here's just one side of the two floors of trees.

It was cute because the "green" recycled items was the theme for the kids so it was fun to see their creativity with pie tins and old cans. The funniest tree was one by See's Candy. We only saw red ribbons on the tree- which is really beautiful, but kind of bland. Then, we look up at the top section of the tree and see their lollipops hanging as ornaments. However, there was none on the bottom 2/3 of the tree. Upon closer inspection, we found that the lollipop holders were still on the tree and that people had just taken the lollipops that they could reach! We just thought that was so funny that people would take a "free" sample from off the tree. I thought that this was such a beautiful tree done by the Salvation Army, especially with the City Hall in the background.

I think that it is such a neat building- it kind of reminds me of Napoleon's tomb in Paris. Here are some close up pictures from the daytime.

And nighttime- there was this neat little outdoor balcony on the 3rd floor that no one was using. It provided this great photo op.
Here are a few general shots of the inside of the hall.

Isn't this a cool light fixture
And the inside of the hall- it reminded us of the interior of the Sydney Opera House concert we saw. I think its pretty unique in that there are seats BEHIND the stage too.

The concert itself was really fun. They had 5 different guest artists who not only sang Christmas music, but also their "greatest hits". It was an interesting combination to hear classics like "I'll Be Home For Christmas", "O Holy Night", and "Joy to the World" (to name a few) and then hear others like "Wedding Bell Blues", "Age of Aquarius", "Let the Sunshine In", and "Up, Up and Away." They are all really fun songs, but it was just so unique to hear them at a Christmas concert. I was really happy though to hear one song- "Beauty and the Beast" because it was sung by Peabo Bryson who sang the version with Celine Dion. Sadly, Celine wasn't there, but he did a great job. This was also the funniest part of the concert. So, they invited two twin boys to come up onstage and sing with them and then 5 other kids just come running up as well. So, they had all of them standing in a line while Peabo Bryson and Oleta Adams sang the song. It was so funny to watch the kids reactions as they were expected to "hold hands". And then some just stood there looking scared. Oleta was singing specifically to one of the little boys and he ended up plugging his ears! We were dying. And then this little girl sang the final word- "Beast". It was just so adorable and so funny to see these little kids up there.

The mass exodus after the concert to leave the building.
It was definitely one of the most unique Christmas concerts I've ever been to.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas at the Oakland Temple

I love the sky behind the beautiful Oakland Temple. This is my first Christmas season in a warm climate (don't worry- I will have a white Christmas in UT on Friday) and so I thought it was interesting some of the decorations that they had here at the temple grounds.

The nativity was placed over the water

A close up of the stable
I just thought that this was great- they placed additional lights on the tree to make it look even more like a palm tree :-) This shows how Christmas in a warmer climate differs

The nativity looks so beautiful all lit up. One evening, they also had a LIVE nativity in another area- they had people actually re-enacting the scene. Unfortunately, we got there just as it was ending so we didn't have time for a photo.

And the palm trees lining the walkway.
The Oakland temple has multiple concerts going on each night in each of the different buildings. We saw the oratorio "Gloria" by Lex de Azavedo. He actually was present at the performance and gave a discussion of it. We only heard the end because of an accident on the freeway. The performance got better as it progressed (the first two numbers were kind of off) and we were glad that we made the drive. The tenor who was the angel Gabriel was AMAZING. He had such an incredible voice- and fortunately, he had a fairly significant role so we heard from him more than once. I love the Christmas season for all of the holiday concerts and the lights.

Christmas Fun at Discovery Kingdom

I had really wanted to go to Disneyland to see it at Christmas time. Disneyland is one of my favorite places- I've been there so many times. However, it is quite far away from where we live and since William is already taking work off for Christmas, we couldn't go. So instead, William found that there were holiday decorations at another theme park much closer to us. Last Saturday, we drove up to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to not only visit the park, but also to see the World's Largest Christmas Tree. This tree is 125 feet tall, weighs 24,000 lbs, and is covered in 35,000 christmas lights. They drove the tree down from Oregon before using a helicopter to put it up. It is simply massive. Here's the tree in the daylight
We tried to include some actual people so that you would get a better feeling for the size of the tree.
Around the theme park were holiday characters and decorations. Here I am holding Frosty's hand. Frosty the Snowman was the first of many shows that I remember crying in when I was only 4 years old. Its good to see that he's looking so robust, especially here in CA where it is somewhat warm (50 degrees).
Check out the walking Gingerbread people- and that's nobody we know.

YUM. Candy cane- hey, this doesn't taste anything like peppermint! Good thing it isn't cold so my tongue wouldn't get stuck to it!
This is just part of the park normally, but it was so cute and colorful that we had to get a photo.
Choo choo!

So, Discovery Kingdom is a combination of both rides and animal shows. During the holiday season, not everything is open, but a good amount of things so that you are busy for the whole time. They also reduce the admission price, but only if you buy it online. We were there from 4-10 and saw most of the special animal water shows. Here is a slide show of a few of the best moments William was able to capture.

We also went on several of the rides, and our favorite was called Medusa. The line for this wasn't long at all- only about 15 minutes, so we rode on it 3 times. It is supposedly the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Northern California. What I love that is that it was SMOOTH. So many other roller coasters jerk and rattle you around making the ride more of a painful experience than a fun one. But this one had all the great drops, twists and turns, without the jerkiness. William is so funny and did a different pose for the photo each ride. One time he had his hands up, another he was meditating, and finally, sleeping. I would have loved to have shown each one side by side, but not enough to spend $20 for each one of them. Another of the fast rides, Kong, was HORRIBLY jittery- my head was banging around back and forth. At least this time I didn't get whiplash like on the Demon at Great America.

Besides Medusa and the Dolphin show, my favorite part was seeing the Christmas tree in all its splendor.
We took this shot to help show just how densely packed the tree is with lights.
We watched their holiday parade which was actually pretty lame. It was quite short- mainly just the characters that I will show you here. The toy soldier,
Bugs Bunny and Speedy Gonzales

Some reindeer
And no parade would be complete without an appearance from the big guy himself- SANTA! And he gave us the little candy canes so I did end up getting some peppermint in the end

Here's a view of the tree and some of the other rides/decorations reflected in the pond.

It was a great evening, with the exception that William wanted a pretzel and so we searched around the whole park, but they had run out of them, so he had to settle for some garlic fries.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Space Time: Out of This World!

So, when William got his official wrist bands for the Google Christmas Party, we were a little confused. They each said "Space Time!" on them. William thought that they might have just wanted to have something random so that no one could sneak in, but it actually turned out to be "Out of This World!" Yup, it was a SPACE themed party. And done with true Google flair. It was at Shoreline Amphitheater in this giant tent. When you walked into the tent, you were welcomed with this sign.
And this room is just one of the passageways connecting you to the 3 main rooms. Reminds me a bit of Alice in Wonderland with those hanging numbers.
The special photo green screen to place us on the moon, of course posting the Google flag.
The RED room. One of the 3 giant rooms was the red room. Hopefully, this photo gives you a glimpse of the size of the space :-)
One of the stations they had was this new age massage, with these ladies dressed up in weird costumes banging on gongs. I admit- it was fairly bizzare. We definitely did NOT try it.
Even the bar tenders were decked out with alien antennae.
They even had some of these neon glow necklaces! I thought these were the coolest when I was a kid- and I have to admit, they still are pretty fun, just as long as they are FREE. William let me wear his. What a nice husband.

See that giant globe behind me above? It actually opens up to reveal the DJ. It was slightly reminiscent of when U2 came out of the giant lemon at the PopMart Tour- but that was 5000 times cooler.

So, they had these virtual reality simulators and so William REALLY wanted to try it. An hour later, we finally got our ride on the space rollercoaster. We have photos of us experiencing the VR- we do look kind of look like we are flying a space craft- kind of sort of?

And there was FREE food and drinks- even sodas for us- and each room had different types of food. For the red room, it was italian, spanish tapas, chocolate mousse chocolate cups and creme brulee. The creme brulee wasn't very good though- but the rest was good.

Then, onto my favorite room- the BLUE EARTH room (as I call it). They had all these different globe shapes on the wall and they would flash scenes of the earth, or random light patterns in each one. Here's some of the cool light patterns
They even had fiber-optic centerpieces!

They had a live band and tons of people on the dance floor.
Here are a few different shots from several places in the room

But, my favorite part of the room was the old-school video arcade games! They had all of the classic space themed (or somewhat related) games like Centipede. We played Star Trek Pinball. Oh, and it was free to play them too.

William, intent on improving over my score (not hard to do)
This was the hallway joining the 3 rooms. Don't I kind of look like I'm from the Twilight Zone/
We wish this is us, but they are William's co-workers. Romance can happen, even in space.

The final room was the "quiet room" with no music. It was a 1950s retro themed and had giant screens on the walls and hanging from the ceiling, showing the really cheesy and lame early space flicks.

I was glad that not everything was "spaced themed". I didn't want to be eating "astronaut ice cream" and the other freeze dried foods, nor using a space toilet. All and all, it was one of the BEST Holiday Christmas parties I've EVER been to! The only thing that comes close is when I went to my old roommate from Boston, Sarah Roquiero (now DeTore), work party that was on the 50th floor of the Prudential Center overlooking Boston. They had little monuments of Boston all around that you could go MINIATURE golfing at! And then, tons of great food, besides the stunning view of the city. This was a great party too- mostly because Sarah and I had so much fun miniature golfing.

Anyways, the Google party was a great BLAST-OFF for the holiday season!