Spending a week mostly solo is really pretty weird. Kate and I traveled together, and got to see each other a couple of times while we were there -- it turns out that her folks' condo on Ft. Myers Beach is close enough to my parents on Sanibel for each of us to visit the others' family once. But that's quite different from taking a vacation as a couple, which is what I've been doing for 25 years. Given that I don't sleep quite as well on my own, don't sleep quite as well when it's warm, and don't sleep quite as well on strange beds -- well, the multiplication there meant that I was kind of tired by the end.
That said, it was a broadly good trip, if deliberately unstructured and lazy. I rented a bicycle, and at least got back to the point where the 14 mile round trip to Pinocchio's (the island's ice cream shop) felt natural. Bicycle is how most residents get around Sanibel: only tourists (and some families) drive on-island. There are fine "shared use" paths along most of the major roads, dozens of miles of them, and the island is practically pancake-flat, so even the 7-speed bike I rented was largely overkill.
Of course, the paths are shared with lots of other things: pedestrians, but also various other contraptions, including Segways. (I got to introduce Kate to the island via Segway Tour, which I always find delightful.) Prize for strangest use goes to the guy in the falling-down thing: standing on a sort of triangle, with one foot on each of two corners, and a steering column attached to the front one, moving forward in a controlled fall as he swiveled side-to-side down the path.
I read many of the comics that I brought along, but got heavily side-tracked by deciding to get caught up with Girl Genius, in preparation for my GG LARP in May -- I wound up reading about a solid year's worth, to get myself back into the story, which probably took an entire day right there. Found that the game (which was written almost six years ago) is screamingly non-canon in at least two major respects, but it does look like I got a lot of the details right from early hints that the Foglios dropped.
The entire family was there -- that was fun, if occasionally a tad overwhelming for me. I can cope with eight adults for dinner, but when you add four children (ages 10, 7, 3 and 1) into the mix, and it got a bit -- boisterous. That said, the kids all seem to be growing up well, and are fairly well-behaved for their ages.
With all those kids, Christmas itself was of course all about the presents. There had apparently been some conspiracies that I'd missed (Legos for Joshua, American Girl for Riley), but my presents seem to have gone over well anyway: I got building toys for all of them. K'nex for Joshua and Riley (a big complex roller coaster for him, a ferris wheel for her), but the real hits turned out the be the Tinkertoys for Miles and Megablox for Parke -- all of the kids spent much of the following days playing with those. Lovely to see that the classics can still draw them in, even without lights and buzzers.
The big attraction for the trip was the new house, which was either 2 or 20 years in the making depending on how you look at it.
Dad and Sandy have been vacationing on Sanibel for a *long* time now -- not sure exactly how long, but "decades" is a fair characterization. After some years of paying a fortune to other people to rent condos for a week, they decided to switch places, bought a condo themselves, and have been using that largely as a rental property ever since. That worked out quite well, so some years ago Dad asked my sister and I whether he could take a chunk of our trust fund, and use that to buy another one. (Hence, I kinda-sorta technically own property on Sanibel.) Those have been their toys for a number of years, gradually remodeled into things of beauty -- good enough that they manage to find renters almost every week despite the current economy.
Anyway, a couple of years ago, they were down on the island, staying in our condos for a week or two. When their time was up (and they had to give it back to the renters), they saw that there was a blizzard up in NJ, so they decided to rent a place for another week or two. At the end of which there was *another* blizzard, so they decided to extend their stay yet further. At which point they realized that this was getting silly, and they may as well just admit that they wanted to move to Sanibel permanently. So that's been the big project for the two years since: finding a suitable empty property, designing the house (I think I saw a dozen-plus versions of the blueprints), going through *vast* amounts of red tape, building it and eventually moving in at the beginning of December.
The end results are really magnificent, well worth the effort. It's sort of two-story, but is really a sort of raised ranch: due to flood dangers, the main body of the house is the second story, set on top of mammoth pilings. It's a fairly open floor plan, with the main space being the living room, kitchen and dining room all flowing nicely together, making it feel big and airy despite none of the rooms being huge. Along the back of the house is a second-floor deck that *is* pretty huge, and the sliding doors to it run the entire length of the living room, so the living room and deck can just flow together if you open it all the way. That overlooks a full-sized pool, and the whole thing is surrounded by an enormous mosquito cage, so you can comfortably spend most of your time outside.
All in all, the place is just beautiful. The only weakness, by popular agreement, is a lighting system that only an engineer could love. Pretty much every light in the house is individually controllable, and there are wall plates festooned with buttons everywhere, with the result that figuring out which switches you want to use for what is actually pretty difficult. Dad and I spent a bit of time talking about that, and tossing some ideas back and forth about how to make it more usable; he's going to sit down and fiddle with the programming when he gets some time. (And I am very amused that my gradually developing UX experience proved actually useful.)
So another Christmas past. The plane rides were blessedly easy (Weds to Weds is a fine way to schedule a trip to Florida), and getting to snuggle with Kate on the plane made the time pass much more quickly. But I do think I'm going to sleep better now that I'm home...