Scandinavian Adventure 2015 – An Overview

Wow, our month in Europe went by so fast, we did not have time to blog about it. So I’ll be doing that in the next month, and wanted to write up an overview, to help keep me on blogtrack.

1 month, 4 countries, 4 European capitals (5 actually, counting a layover in Copenhagen), 11 different flight segments, 1305 km driving in Iceland, train rides, bus rides, ferry/cruise/boat rides, funicular rides, snowmobiles and kayaks. Everything but bicycles, odd for Scandinavia.

We spent our first week in a villa in Greece on the Evian Bay (Greek does not translate well in Google Earth, so don’t bother looking this up) about 1 ½ hours northeast of Athens with Michelle’s work colleagues. Ok, this is not exactly Scandinavia, but was still part of our trip. Super fun, and very chill for me (Michelle did have to work some, so not quite as chill for her). We made sure to spend plenty of money while we were there, in order to support the Greek economy. At least that’s what we told ourselves as we ordered another round of beers!

Chillin at the villa

Chillin at the villa 

The Grecian Goddesses

The Grecian Goddesses


Week 2 found us in Norway, visiting our friends in Sandefjord, Ian and Michele, and then visiting Oslo with them, so good to see my old San Francisco friends. After that, we took a 3  day cruise on the Hurtigruten line up the west coast of Norway to Boudo, which is north of the Arctic Circle. Truly spectacular.

Ian and Michele and Adam and Michelle

A beautiful sunset on the Hurtigruten cruise.

A beautiful sunset on the Hurtigruten cruise.


Michelle and the Liljekvists.

Week 3 we were in Sweden, visiting the family Michelle lived with for a year as an exchange student and visiting with her best friend from her Swedish high school. Michelle makes a strong impression on all of those she touches, and her Swedish family was no exception, as they were truly excited to see her. We also got to spend a couple of days in Stockholm, which is a beautiful, old and modern European city, and one I expect to visit again. Ironic that these Bay Area residents were in Stockholm for the Gay Pride celebration – the parade went on for something like 5 hours, pretty crazy.

We were on our own in Iceland for the last week of this adventure. Iceland is an extraordinary place with glaciers, lava fields, hot springs, waterfalls, black sand beaches and an incredible array of landforms and natural features that kept this geologist enthralled for the entire trip. 5 days of driving from Reykjavik to Hofn and back again, we saw some amazing things, took some great hikes, soaked in some memorable hot springs ate great food and generally had our minds blown with the incredible beauty of this volcanic island. Oh, and of course we were in Reykjavik for the Icelandic Gay Pride celebration. We painted the town in rainbows!

Adam and Michelle feeling it at Jokulsarlon. Jokull!

Adam and Michelle feeling it at Jokulsarlon. Jokull!

I hope this little taste of our trip will wet your appetite for more – stay tuned for future posts about our Epic Life Tour 2015 Scandinavian Adventure.

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I Snapped Today

Greetings. It has been quite a while since we have posted in this blog, but we’ve dusted off the keyboards and have a lot of pent-up writings that are screaming to get out, so here goes, we hope you will enjoy

I snapped today. I’ve been in Europe for two weeks now, mostly in Greece and Norway, with a quick little trip to Denmark, and I’ve concluded that Europeans are rude. Maybe it’s just that their cultural norms are very different than America’s in one particular area – lines. Lining up for anything in Europe is a contact sport. People seem to have no sense of personal space, have absolutely no problem bumping into you, pushing you, squeezing you out, just to get ahead. And to me, this is just plain rude.

So today I snapped. On the way to the Oslo airport, I got aggressive. I’m an American, home to football, the most violent team sport in the world. On top of that I’m a born and raised New Yorker. I can push and shove with the best of them, and be rude with deadly force. I’m proud that I’ve overcome these natural tendencies during the past quarter decade I have lived on the West Coast, becoming a kinder, gentler person. All part of my personal growth. But today I snapped. When Michelle and I were maneuvering through the Oslo train station to get a ticket to the airport train, I was ruthless, ready to run over kids with my 50-lb. bag (actually only 20 kilos) and trip old ladies if it meant I could get to the elevator before someone else. Getting off the train at the airport, little kids were crawling over Michelle’s luggage to get off the train ahead of her. Doesn’t anyone teach these kids manners?!?!

That was it – game on. We got a luggage cart, loaded our 4 bags onto the cart, and set off in search of an elevator. Finding one, along with several people waiting for the elevator, I maneuvered as close as I could to the cart in front of us. I was pushing through this mosh pit, getting on that elevator, and no one was cutting in front of us. Same story once we were in the airport – I was James Bond and Ethan Hunt all in one, spinning the cart, wheeling it, backing up, going forward, no one was getting ahead of me. Line at the ticket counter – no problem, find the seam in the line like a punt returner, go through it with no hesitation and zip, we are at the ticket machine. People coming up from behind and I’m Charles Barkley, boxing out for a rebound. I was ready to start throwing elbows if necessary. Same story at the baggage drop, security and the line to get on the airplane. I’m taking advantage of every opening, sliding through as if I’m half my size in a teflon suit. Watch out kids it’s Deathrace 2000, and you’re each worth about a 1,000 points.

Now that I’m on the plane, I’m a little calmer. I’m happy to let the people in front of me get out of the plane ahead of me, the way polite Americans do every day in the United States. You want a piece of me grandma? Fine, but your dentures better be glued in tight, because I’m an awful lot to choke down.

My first attempt to tag my own luggage - Norwegian Air, discount airline

My first attempt to tag my own luggage – Norwegian Air, discount airline

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2012 – The Year in Review

It was fun to write this post and chronicle the highlights of 2012. So many trips and adventures to be grateful for!

JANUARY – The year is off to a warm start with 5 days on Maui – a trip I won for being Christian Mickelsen’s #1 JV Partner for one of his big launches. Adam and I loved Maui – great snorkeling and whale watching. It was also super fun to spend time with my friend Christian, his wife Chelsa and daughter Nala.

January is an excellent time for Maui whale watching. Underwater picture of a mother and 2 calves.

FEBRUARY – Spent 4 days in San Diego attending Brendon Burchard’s Empire Group Mastermind Event. I’ve learned and grown so much by being in this program and have met amazing people. Here’s a bunch of us after enjoying an “Unforgettable Feast” facilitated by Clint Arthur.

The Unforgettable Feast with Empire Group Friends

MARCH – Adam joined me (and was chief videographer) for my speaking engagement at the Denver coaching chapter – a gig that was strategically booked during ski season! We met up with my good friend Alie who totally hooked us up with a condo and ski passes. Adam’s friend David also joined us. We love skiing in Colorado and spending time with our friends there.

Skiing at Copper Mountain

APRIL – Hosting Passover Seder has become an annual tradition at the Kleinel house and this year I added a new twist: Easter Egg Hunt in our Japanese Garden. It was a hit! The next day I was off to NYC for a business event (10XEMPIRE). Stayed in NY for an extra day and randomly got a free ticket to go to the taping of a Dave Letterman show.

The Easter Egg Hunt

MAY – We enjoyed a quick trip to Massachusettes for Sophia’s 1st Communion (my niece and goddaughter). Wonderful to connect with the family and also be able to visit my dear friend Nancy and her kids. We were also able to attend my grandfather’s funeral in Vermont which I so appreciated being timed with our East Coast trip so Adam and I could attend.

Sophia’s First Communion

JUNE – The beginning of “The Summer of Fun.” A weekend trip to Johanna & Tom’s Cabin kicked things off with hiking, swimming and a big ass bonfire. Next was AMUA Camp where our 14 year old twin nieces came out from NY for a week of fun and adventure with Aunt Michelle Uncle Adam. We packed in a lot, including: a day in San Francisco and going to the California Academy of Sciences, camping and hiking in Yosemite and white water rafting the Toulumne River. We all had so much fun!

White water rafting the scenic and wild Toulumne River

JULY – This was the first 4th of July since Adam and I have been together that we were not at the High Sierra Music Festival. The reason? A two-week trip to Costa Rica instead. Muchas gracias to Stuart, Andrea, Paloma and Marlin for opening up their Costa Rican home to us and being the inspiration for our trip. We had an amazing time and loved our Costa Rican adventure.

Zip Line Canopy Tour in Costa Rica

AUGUST – Did I mention “The Summer of Fun”? One of the things I love about my business is that it gives me the freedom and flexibility to take time off to travel and visit my family. So when my brother invited me to join him and his family for a week in Kaui, I couldn’t turn it down. It was awesome having so much “Aunt Michelle Time” with Sophia and Milo. We had a lot of fun swimming, playing in the sand, jumping in the waves, hiking, checking out waterfalls, doing a zodiac tour of the Nepali Coast and visiting Waimea Canyon.

Sophia and Milo hiking and hanging loose on Kaui.

SEPTEMBER –Being a good shiksa wife, I enjoy going to temple with Adam for the High Holy Days. We’ve gotten to know a number of the other members including our neighbors Amy and Steve. We felt so in the mix being invited over to their house for lunch after Rosh Hashanah and hanging with the Rabbi and his wife.

We get some spectacular sunsets in the fall at our house.

OCTOBER – Brought Adam as my guest to Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Academy. It was an excellent training for us to go to together and inspired us to take on JJ Virgin’s 21 Day Elimination Diet Challenge. Read more about this on Adam’s Clean Food post. Of course we were seriously bummed about the demise of the Yankees in the playoffs and Jeter’s fractured ankle. Fortunately we had the rally by our hometown Oakland A’s, the Giants journey to their World Series victory to distract us and the Ghost Ship Halloween Party to distract us.

Apacolypse Ghost Ship Halloween Party

NOVEMBER – We celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary with a wonderful weekend getaway to Harbin Hot Springs. Morning yoga followed by a soak in the pools and then reading on the sundeck. Can you say relaxing? This month we also got into a groove regarding our new food plan. The best part: we now split the cooking shopping duties 50/50. One week Adam shops and cooks. And the next week I shop and cook. Love it!

So warm and sunny we ate Thanksgiving Dinner out on the back deck at Lesley’s in Santa Cruz.

DECEMBER – We enjoyed hosting our annual “Friends in The Hood” Holiday Party and saw a lot of good music. However the highlight this month was an epic 2 day Tahoe run right after the Christmas storm dropped several feet of fresh powder. We had a bluebird powder day at Kirkwood, went for a soak at Grover Hot Springs, stayed in South Lake Tahoe and then had a full day at Heavenly. The snow was so good!

The road to any epic bluebird day of skiing fresh powder at Kirkwood.

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Clean Food, Clean Food, where have I heard that term before? I’m at Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Academy, a 4-day training that blends information about psychology, physiology, productivity and persuasion to help you perform at your highest level. Brendon is saying that he likes to eat the cleanest food he can find, all organic, no additives, synthetics, or genetically engineered (GE) food, so that it can burn clean like rocket fuel, and now I can’t get that phrase out of my mind. Where have I heard it before?

The prior day of the training, we heard from J.J. Virgin, an exercise guru/nutritionist/media star and author, who described her “Virgin Diet – Drop 7 Foods for 7 Days and Lose 7 Pounds”.  I’m so impressed with her presentation, I’ve mentally committed to her 21-day challenge, which requires that you drop the 7 foods (gluten, soy, corn, eggs, dairy, peanuts and sugar) for 21 days. The goal is to cleanse your body of these things and eliminate the effects of any food allergies or toxins from these foods, and you will lose weight in the process. You also need to eat lean protein and a lot of greens for this to work and it’s a little more involved than I’m describing, but it sounds like win-win for me, so I’m going for it. Besides, I’ve been slowly eliminating gluten-containing foods, I eat mostly organic and not too much sugar, so this shouldn’t be too hard. J.J. also mentions clean food, and that nagging voice in the back of my head is activated saying Where Have You Heard This Before?

It’s now one day after the High Performance Academy, and Michelle and I are committed to the 21-day challenge. We’ve thrown out a bunch of our wheat products and I’ve gone shopping to buy the foods we need, foods that eliminate the 7 things that J.J. mentioned, good, healthy organic foods. So, instead of dairy, we are going to use almond milk or coconut milk/water. Except that when I’m in the store, all of the coconut water has a lot of sugar. So I get unsweetened coconut milk, but that has something called carrageenan, a food solidifier made from processed seaweed, which may cause gastrointestinal problems, so I’m having a hard time going completely clean. Similarly, I buy some almond butter to replace the peanut butter in our house, but that too has sugar in it, not a lot, but some. I’m not buying any fruit juice, and very little fruit, because that contains fructose, a type of sugar. But GE (or genetically modified organisms (GMO) food) is not labeled, so finding “Clean Food” is turning out to be a little more difficult than I thought it would be. And I still can’t remember where I first heard that phrase.

After shopping, I’m online researching JJ’s diet, food additives and GE/GMO food. One of the central premises of JJ’s diet and Brendon’s philosophy is that a lot of food is GE/GMO, so we need to get rid of that as part of the cleansing process. GE/GMO food has been in the news a lot lately, because California’s Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of GE/GMO food, is on the ballot for this November’s election.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, (how much more objective can you get than that?), the risks of GE/GMO crops include 1) new allergens in the food supply, 2) antibiotic resistance, 3) production of new toxins and 4) concentration of toxic metals. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 88% (by acreage) of all corn planted in the United States in 2012 was a variety of GE corn, and 96% of all soybeans was a GE variety. WHAT!?!?!?!?

This isn’t the claim of some radical, wacko group, this is the government’s own statistics! One of the biggest reasons for creating GE/GMO foods is pesticide resistance. The goal is to create varieties of crops that are resistant to pesticides, so the fields can be sprayed with more pesticide, and the corn or soybean plant won’t die. So, as more people are discovering the benefits of organic food to their health, our government and the chemical companies are trying to come up with ways to spray more pesticides on more of our foods.

I realize this is some serious stuff that has been going on under my nose and then it hits me. The phrase “Clean Food” came from the movie “Fight Club”, starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter. The movie is from the mid-90’s and is basically about dissatisfaction with a comfortable life, the paradigm of getting a job, acquiring material things, and generally living in a fog. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt organize a group of men to have fights (actual fistfights), in order to feel more alive. Fight Club grows into a national, underground movement, and members of the Fight Club are integrated into society, office workers, police, waiters, etc. The group eventually begins to commit acts of sabotage and subversion to shake people out of their fog, things like blowing up corporate statues, causing fights in public, or pissing and shitting in food in fancy restaurants and serving it to the patrons. Near the end of the movie, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter are sitting in a restaurant and they begin to order some food. Edward Norton knows the waiter is a Fight Club member, and he says to the waiter, “Clean Food please”. The waiter says “In that case, sir, may I advise against the lady eating clam chowder?”. And now I can see that Fight Club and Clean Food are a metaphor for our agricultural system. The government and corporate agricultural interests have been pissing and shitting in our food, and then serving it to us. They are sabotaging us and subverting our efforts to have a healthier lifestyle. And the vast majority of Americans have been living in a fog, with little knowledge of what is really going on.

In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration (part of the USDA) came up with a ruling that GMO foods did not require special labeling: “FDA has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.” In 2001, the agency released draft guidance suggesting food producers MIGHT WANT to voluntarily label food as being bioengineered. Check it out here.

On November 6, 2012, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, which REQUIRES the labeling of genetically engineered food. Many people who support this proposition acknowledge that it has some shortcomings and inconsistencies, and the ads that advocate against the proposition point out all of these problems. But I think we have to start somewhere, that we need to tell the government that we do have the right to know what we are putting in our bodies, that contrary to the FDA’s findings in 1992, GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS ARE MATERIALLY DIFFERENT from foods developed by traditional plant breeding, and that we the people need to stand up to our government’s absurd policies and take back control of our lives and the food we eat. As one woman at the High Performance Academy said to me about Proposition 37, “the whole country is watching what you are going to do. California has led the way on many progressive issues, and we need you to led the way on this one.” So I urge all of you to show the rest of the country what real leadership is, and VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 37.

FOOTNOTE: Literally, the day I wrote this, before I posted it, a friend of mine (thanks Andrea!) sent me this link to an amazing movie on youtube about GE/GMO foods. It’s worth checking out.



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Reflections of a Baseball Fan

Well, the baseball season is coming to a close, and after countless hours of either watching or listening to my Yankees, my mood determined by whether they win or lose, I feel compelled to put down a few random thoughts about baseball.

Why is baseball considered our national sport? Here are some possible reasons:

  • It’s the oldest organized major league in the US, having been started sometime in the 1890’s;
  • There are so many games (162 for each team), the teams develop their own personalities, the fans bond with the teams, and by the end of the season we live and die with the fortunes of our team;
  • There are so many players (25 on the active roster for each team), and different niches a player can fill (utility infielder, lefty specialist out of the bullpen, closer, all-star 5-tool player, etc.), there’s always someone we can relate to.. While there are some amazing physical specimens playing baseball, there are also some overweight guys, some short guys and some guys who generally look out of shape, so maybe we think we could be that guy.

    Adam making friends in the preseason in Phoenix

Last year I came across a band called The Baseball Project, that writes and performs songs about baseball. Really. It’s a real band, featuring serious musicians like Peter Buck of REM fame and Steve Wynn, a guitarist from a band called The Dream Syndicate. You can download a bunch of their songs for free from ESPN here, or check them out on My Space. Pretty basic, but fun stuff.

This has been an amazing baseball season and postseason so far. Going in to the last weekend of the season, none of the 5 playoff positions in the American League had been decided. The Oakland Athletics (of Moneyball fame and our home team) went from being the lowest seed (#5) in the American League playoffs to the winner of the Western Division, by sweeping the Texas Rangers (last year’s American League champions) in a three game series to end the season. They were in first place for only one day of the season, the last day (way to make it count!). The A’s have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, and the four pitchers they started in the postseason are all rookies, yet they defeated the Texas Rangers, who have one of the highest payrolls in the game. At the beginning of the year, many “experts” predicted the A’s could lose 100 games. Instead, they won almost 100 games.

Michelle at a cold night game in Oakland.

The two other Cinderella stories of the season are the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles. Washington has a history of teams leaving the area (one team became the Minnesota Twins, another team became the Texas Rangers), but the current team moved there from Montreal in 2005, when the Expos were in danger of being the first victim of downsizing in baseball. In any case, Washington has not hosted a playoff game since 1933, so this year, when the Nationals wound up with the best record in baseball and won the National League East Division, it was a pretty big deal. As one announcer said, DC now stands for Division Champs. Likewise, Baltimore has a long, storied history of baseball with great players like Cal Ripken, Frank and Brooks Robinson and the legendary manager, Earl Weaver. This was the first year Baltimore had a winning record since 1997.

Of course, reality has set in, and these three young, exciting teams lost their first round series to more storied franchises. In fact, the last three teams to win the World Series (the St. Louis Cardinals, the SF Giants and the New York Yankees) all made it to the League Championship Series round, along with the Detroit Tigers, who were last in the World Series in 2006, when they lost to the Cardinals. But the Nats, A’s and Orioles will all learn from this fantastic year, and may make it back in the postseason next year.

Speaking of the Yankees, here is a clip of me and Michelle from a baseball game. Andy Warhol said that in the future, everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame, so Michelle and I have used up 7 seconds of our 15 minutes.  We were featured on the YES network during a Yankees vs. Oakland A’s game last year, when we held up our sign proclaiming “Enter Sandman”, as the Yankees’ closer, Mariano Rivera (whose theme song is Enter Sandman by Metallica) came in to close out the game in the 9th inning. The clip was recorded by our cousins in NY as they watched the game (“hey, isn’t that Adam and Michelle!!!”).  We show up at around 33 seconds in the clip, after the Land Rover ad.

So as this baseball season roars to a climax, all those fans who no longer have their team to root for can take solace in the old adage, “that’s okay, we’ll get them next year”. And of course, on opening day next year, remember that your team will be in first place.

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Costa Rica Pura Vida

Wow – we just spent two weeks in Costa Rica and had an amazing time. We’ve actually been back in the States for two weeks, but are still processing our experiences (along with the photos and videos).  Costa Rica is an amazing, beautiful country, lush, verdant rain forest, dramatic volcanic mountains, gorgeous beaches and tons of wildlife.

One of the very cool things about Costa Rica is that there is a strong conservation/preservation/environmental ethic, part of which came from the Quakers, who established the town of Monteverde in the 1950’s. The Quakers decided that the forests should be preserved, instead of cut down for agriculture, and in the 1970’s established the Monteverde Cloud Forest preserve. Twenty years later eco-tourism went pop in the country, and now tourism is the #1 industry in the country. So awesome that land was preserved in the name of god, and now it provides the citizens with a better living than if they had slashed and burned it. Maybe we could learn something from that here in the United States…

We hit a lot of the major tourist spots in Costa Rica, including Arenal Volcano, Monteverde Cloud Forest, Pacquare River, Oso Peninsula/Drake’s Bay and the Corcovado National Park and Quepos/Manuel Antonio National park.  Definitely not one of those kick back and relax vacations, but so much fun. Now that we’ve overcome the inertia of writing about our trip, we’ll be posting stories about each of our stops, so stay tuned…

Sunset at Las Caletas Lodge in Drake’s Bay


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Introduction: This past week we flew out to sunny San Francisco, California from New York by ourselves to visit our super cool aunt and uncle. Little did we know that it would be the trip of a lifetime, and we would have so much fun that we plan to go back next year.

Day 1 pt. 1(Saturday): Getting to the flight gate is race against time to arrive there precisely two hours before the flight, get through security, and find the correct gate. The morning got off to a rocky start, as our airline did not do a very thorough job of instructing unaccompanied minors where to go. The computer crashed, we did not have boarding passes, and our patience wore thin. Eventually, we made it to security and flew through it without any problems. We sprinted to the gate so our mother could beg the flight attendant to give us seats together only to discover that we were in first class immediately spoiling us.

Day 1 pt. 2: We landed at SFO and waited to be escorted off the plane by one of the flight attendants. As we were walking, the flight attendant turns to us and says, “Aw, you have a sign!” Our bewildered stares turned to delighted expressions when we saw the words “Welcome Alison and Lauren to AMUA Camp” written in bold letters and two glittery hearts on either side and a balloon on top. We ran into the welcoming arms of our aunt and uncle, and from there we went to the beach, where we took off our shoes and walked in the sand. Afterwards, we had dinner, drove home, and attempted to go to the Chabot Space and Science center to look through the telescopes, but it was too cloudy. Although we were disappointed, we held our heads up high and went home.

Day 2 (Sunday): The next day was a “chill day” at the Kleinel household, and we woke up bright and early to go to the farmers’ market in Montclair. There we taste-tested everything from Indian food to mustard. When we had tired of the market, we went to Peet’s Coffee, which as east coasters, we never knew existed. Later we visited UC Berkeley home to numerous bear statues to the chagrin of Ali who is “bear-phobic.” We then walked around the town of Berkeley: home to a crazy hat store and many tie-dye stands. Then, after stopping at the Apple Store and See’s Candy, we returned home to a scrumptious home-cooked meal of salmon, corn, tofu, baby bok choi, carrots, cucumbers, and stuffed squash blossoms. Luckily we captured a few pictures from the historical moment with our Yankee cups in hand.

Baby ostriches at the California Academy of Sciences

Day 3 (Monday): Monday brought us to the California Academy of Sciences in the “city” (not New York City—it’s a common mistake). That day my aunt and uncle became members of the museum, earning us stickers with ostriches on them. It’s a gorgeous museum with aquariums, indoor rainforests, earthquake simulations, and…baby ostriches! We had the privilege of seeing one-day to six-week old ostriches running around in a fenced area outside the museum. It was definitely a highlight of the trip. We also met a penguin named Pierre who was the former owner of a wetsuit due to his baldness (which he eventually recovered from). Shazam! We had a wonderful time, and the fun continued when we went to a restaurant to see our mother’s best friends. Later we went to her friend’s apartment, which had a great view of San Francisco, and told each other stories of both old and new adventures.

Day 3 (Tuesday): The Kleinels prepared to embark on a four-day adventure to Yosemite

I'll have a double-double, protein style please!

National Park. We gathered our last minute supplies, slathered on sunscreen, and climbed in the unbelievably packed car. We were very impressed by our aunt and uncle’s ability to cram all the necessary materials and more needed for camping while still being able to fit all four of us. Seaweed snacks in hand, we drove in pursuit of finding an iPhone car charger. After stopping four times, we finally found one, which proved to be essential to the trip. We also stopped at In-N-Out Burger, which made us sorry that we don’t have one in New York.

Rafting on the Tuolumne

Day 4 (Wednesday): We survived the first night! After congratulating each other, we got into our bathing suits and put on our sunglasses to go white water rafting. It was thirty minutes from our campsite, and we spent the car ride listening to March Fourth’s upbeat, catchy marching album. Once we arrived, we put on our wetsuits and paddle jackets, both of which were too big for us. We climbed in the bus and set off for the Tuolumne River. The road we took there was probably more scary than the rafting itself: filled with sharp turns, unpaved, and carved out on a cliff, we were holding on for dear life. We finally arrived at the put-in (the fancy name for the place where we start our rafting trip) and received a safety talk that consisted of one of the guides telling us the many different ways to survive an “out-of-boat experience.” One of us was scared out of her mind, but the others could not wait. We met our cool guide, Phil, and practiced paddling forward, backward, and crouching in the middle of the raft (a move called James Brown, because “James Brown liked to get down”). We soon got the hang of the movements and began our trip, going down rapids and navigating our way through rocks and other obstacles.

This ain't no disco

While it was close at times, none of us fell out of the boat, though we did get the occasional mouthful of water. We all grinned from ear-to-ear, including Phil, especially when we would “paddle high-five” each other and shout, “AMUA!” Around lunch we pulled onto a beach and had a delicious lunch of wraps and cookies. We even got to float in the river! Eventually we were ready to resume our journey. We girls


sat in front, and Aunt Michelle and Uncle Adam sat in the back. Some of the rapids were long and hard, but we pushed through and succeeded. At one point we came across a cliff that was 20ft tall! Phil persuaded us to jump off of it, and the four of us all decided to give it a shot. It was terrifying to look down, but it was amazing when we jumped off and even more amazing when we realized what we had accomplished. Overall, we saw ducks, a bald eagle, and a bob cat. Although we saw no bears, some of us were not dissuaded from continuing to talk about them. After we had exhausted the rapids (and after one of us got pulled under the boat), we said our good-byes to Phil and to the Tuolumne River. We got back on the scary road (though parts of it were paved this time) and returned to our original location. We purchased pictures in which all of us were smiling and left for the Crane Flat campsite. We ate our meal of steak and potatoes (we earned it!) and went to bed.

Day 4 (Thursday): Thursday morning we woke up and prepared for our 8-mile hike on the Mist Trail. We had never gone on a hike that long, so we could not wait. We arrived in Yosemite Valley and were immediately captivated by the stunning view of Half Dome (which Aunt Michelle and Uncle Adam have hiked up). We paused to take pictures and

Hanging loose at Vernal Falls

then resumed our trip. Once we arrived, we parked in a great spot and began. We were not alone on our hike to Vernal Falls: many people also walked along the paved road to the top of the waterfall. The first part of our hike was almost all uphill, but we were only slightly fazed. We kept going and took occasional water breaks, with some of us taking more breaks than others. The idea of being able to stand at the top of the waterfall and know how hard we worked to get there was our motivation. Once we got to the top of Vernal Falls, we knew we had to power on to the top of Nevada if only for the bragging rights. After a hardy meal of coconut juice and the best turkey sandwiches, we took out our handy inclinometer app, topographic map, and used our handy trigonometric ratios to calculate

Top of Vernal Falls - We're not scared to look down!!!

the distance between where we were sitting and the nearest notable peeks, which were Broderick (named after our favorite school skipper?) and Liberty Cap like any recent ninth grade geometry grad would. After deducing that the distance between the emerald pool we sat by and Liberty Cap was approximately 423 feet. We then embarked on the second part of our journey. Now that we did not have to step over and around tons of people on a narrow path, we became calmer and began to have more fun with the hike. Before we knew it, we had reached the top of Nevada falls. Looking over the side, it was difficult to grasp the magnitude of the falls yet still understand that it is only a pinprick in comparison to the entire range of the rock formations Yosemite is comprised of. Sitting on top of the giant 6000 ft. rock, we dipped our feet into the cool river that inevitably became a part of the falls, and ate our Luna power bars. After a long break, we started on the John Mur trail, which eventually took us to the start of the trail. After a long day of hiking, it was definitely time for a well-deserved camp-cooked meal and smores. It was not long before we were sound asleep in our tents.

We should have hiked Half-Dome!

Day 5 (Friday): The day began with breakfast and packing up camp. Learning how to foldup tents was not as difficult as we initially thought. After packing up camp, we decided to check out the major sights of Yosemite, which included Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls, and Half Dome. Although Yosemite Falls is touted as allowing visitors to feel the mist from far away, going late in the season and the poor snow fall prevented us from feeling any mist at all. Either way, it was

Bridal Veil Falls

an amazing sight to see. By the middle of the day we had grown hungry so we stretched out a larger tie-dye tarp and ate a lunch consisting of turkey

El Capitan - Can you see the climbers near the top?

sandwiches, more coconut water, and pretzels. Soon afterwards we knew it was time to leave so we cleaned up and hopped in the car. As we drove by, we said good bye to Yosemite, though, we are sure we will try to see it again. While driving back to Oakland, Uncle Adam announced that he was “lost.” Luckily, we saw a Ghirardelli store, which we used to ease our worries. The hot fudge sundaes definitely helped. After our quick stop, we hurried back on the road and made it back to Oakland in time for dinner, which consisted of pizza. Then, we packed up and prepared to leave California.

Day 6 (Last day in California): Dreading having to go home after such an amazing time, we through on our tie-dye from Berkley and headed to the airport. Luckily, we got to the gate 2 hours early, which we had never experienced before. We all settled down and played and intense couple of games of rummy. It was soon time to board, so we waved good-bye and prepared for our five and half hours of flying. The flight was fine, but all we could think about was next summer and Camp AMUA 2013!

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The Epic Life Tour is Perfect…at least for One Night

I saw perfection tonight. I mean, my wife is perfect – beautiful, intelligent, fun and sexy, and I get to see her every night. But that’s just my opinion. Tonight I saw Matt Cain pitch a perfect game for the San Francisco Giants. 27 Astros came to bat, and 27 Astros made an out. That is perfection in everyone’s mind, not just mine. It was the first perfect game in Giants’ history, and I had a ringside seat in back of home plate with my buddy Scott (way to pick the seats, bud!).

Of course, not all outs are created equal. Matty had 14 strikeouts, a career high. So over half of the outs were strikeouts, impressive in and of itself. But Melky Cabrera’s catch of a fly ball against the Budweiser sign in left field in the sixth inning was awesome – I thought it was out of the park for a home run. And Gregor Blanco’s diving catch in the seventh inning was jaw-dropping – everyone in the park thought it would drop for a double. And Joaquin Arias’ handling of a tough ground ball in the ninth inning, and strong throw across the diamond for the final out was nerve-wracking – the ball handcuffed him, but he stayed with it and made the play.

Giants fans are knowledgeable, and we knew history was taking place before our eyes. Beginning with the sixth inning, the entire stadium was on its’ feet, cheering every out the Giants would record. Being knowledgeable fans, no one was talking about the perfect game – bad juju, we didn’t want to jinx it, but we all knew it was happening (except for the three youngsters in back of us who were having the time of their lives with Lou Seal, the Giants’ mascot). AT&T park was still full to capacity in the ninth inning, and we were all rewarded with our own slice of baseball ecstasy.

Hilary Clinton said it takes a village, and she was right – none of the 22 perfect games in the 24,000+ games in the history of baseball (rough calculation on my part here) were perfect entirely because of the pitcher – there are usually a couple of outstanding plays in the field or some questionable calls by the umpires. But Matt Cain was THE MAN tonight, as he has been so often for the Giants. And I was lucky enough to be there. The Epic Life Tour rocks, an E-ticket ride. And tonight, it was perfect.

Matt Cain pitching in the 8th inning, enroute to el perfecto numero uno por los Gigantes


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2011 – The Year in Review

Looking back and reflecting on the past year I feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation for another awesome year. Here are some of the highlights:

JANUARY – Ringing in 2011 at a party on a coffee estate with our good friend Arun, his family and friends. Getting to spend our last week in India with Arun was definitely a highlight of our month-long adventure there.

Afternoon Chai at the Coffee Estate

Afternoon Chai at the Coffee Estate

FEBRUARY – Continuing our fascination with India by taking a Bollywood dance class at the local YWCA, learning to cook some pretty yummy Indian food, and hosting an Indian theme party at our house for nearly 70 people.

India Party

The India Party

MARCH – Celebrating my brother Raymond’s 40th birthday with a week long ski trip to Telluride Colorado and epic day of heli-skiing in a foot of fresh powder. Like I said in the blog below, the most dangerous thing about helicopter skiing is the price tag and the fact that I might get addicted to it.

The Heli-Skiing Gang at 11,000'+

APRIL – Spent a lot of time creating a free online video training series to promote my Group Coaching Success Home Study Product. Somewhat painful, but totally worth. During the first 2 months we had 5,400 unique visitors from 94 different countries!

MAY – 48 Hours in Yosemite National Park – one of my all-time favorite places on the planet and first trip there with Adam. EPIC day rafting the Merced.

Yosemite National Park

Rafting the Merced River - Yosemite

JUNE – Speaking in Chicago at the vibrant Chicago Coach Federation Chapter and getting to make it a long weekend visiting the Goldberger clan and experiencing what it’s like to go tubing when you have an amateur race car driver steering the boat!

Holding on for dear life!

JULY – So much fun during this month including the 10th time that I’ve attended the High Sierra Music Festival, going indoor skydiving as part of a business networking event I attended in Las Vegas and taking our nephew David camping in Kings Canyon National Park.

David and Adam in Kings Canyon

AUGUST – Love going back east in the summer and had a ball spending time with lots of family and friends. Had a couple of action-packed days in NYC going to a Dave Matthews band at Governors Island and attending the historic three grand slams Yankee home run day at Yankee stadium.

We got to the stadium early enough to visit Monument Park. I was in heaven!

SEPTEMBER – After a few false starts, and more time and money than I’d like to admit, finally launched the new website. Whew!

OCTOBER – The Occupy Oakland encampment is literally right outside Adam’s office in downtown Oakland. Every day when he gets home from work I get the latest update and although we’re not part of the 1%, sure am grateful for all we have as part of the 99%.

Occupy Oakland

NOVEMBER – A lot of business travel and events for me in 2011. This month I had 3 different trips – including one that took me away for Adam & my 4 year wedding anniversary… I think I’m finally out of the dog house for that one.

Empire Group Mastermind Dinner

DECEMBER – Back to New York for a family wedding on Long Island. So wonderful to connect with so many relatives on my mom’s side at the wedding. As an added bonus we also got to see my dad and spend time with the nieces and get a tour of Horace Mann in NYC.

Adam and the nieces at Horace Mann School in NYC

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Aunt Michelle & Uncle Adam Camp

Adam & David at the General Grant Tree

We love being Aunt Michelle and Uncle Adam, so we were psyched when Adam’s nephew David decided to visit this summer. David lives in Florida and has been to San Francisco a number of times. He hadn’t been out to the mountains though, so we decided to do a long weekend camping trip at Kings Canyon National Park.

Kings Canyon is a GREAT National Park. One of the perks is that you can actually get a really nice camping spot in the park on a weekend in the middle of the sumer without a reservation.

We stayed in the Cedar Grove Area at the last campground before the road (180) ends. The campsite was beautiful – right next to the river and with great views of the surrounding mountains.

We hiked the Mist Fall Trail, saw the General Grant Tree (the 2nd largest tree in the world) and had fun toasting marshmallows around the campfire.

It was so awesome having David visit and be able to share with him some of our favorite California places!

Aunt Michelle, David and Uncle Adam at Kings Canyon National Park


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