Celebrations!

I love celebrations and vacations. I love the dreaming, planning, list making (and checking things off), packing and prepping. It’s wonderful to have something to look forward to. Recently we’ve had two celebrations, my nephews first trip to Disneyland and an Ordination Service at our church.

Headed off to find the littlest cousin and share Disneyland with him

Since my family is Disney crazy we all jumped at the chance to go on Nathaniel’s first trip. You never know how a 1 year old is going to react to the characters, noise and all the people, but he seemed to love every minute of it. The cousins loved showing him all their favorite rides and treats. Planning a first time trip is really exciting and planning a big family group can be a little much if you’ve never done it before. Here are just a few of my thoughts.

  1. Wear matching shirts or have a theme. For our first day we had a pirate theme. Themes are great for the big group picture and if you’ve lost track of your group you know what to look for in a crowd.
  2. Have a printed schedule so everyone knows what the important things are and when to show up, hand this out in advance so people aren’t surprised day of. Don’t schedule your whole day just the important parts that you want everyone to be a part of. This way everyone still has some freedom but knows what’s expected too.
  3. Make at least 1 restaurant reservation per day. It’s good to know you’ll all get to sit down at one point in the day and have a decent meal. The rest of the day can be churros and dole whips, or whatever your favorite Disney treat is. Arguing over what to eat is taken away too because you made the decision on where to eat before your trip. If you have any food allergies/sensitivities like our group does, the sit down restaurants are the best option and they make sure you can have a safe dining experience.
  4. Disneyland will be a crazy mess. Too many people go expecting it to be perfect and magical. I’ve found that when I go expecting it to be really busy and I don’t hope for any extra Disney magic, I find the magic anyway. You can’t make your kids have a magical time, even if the cast members constantly tell you “Have a magical day!” Enjoy the crazy and the magical, it’s all part of the experience.

After we got back from our last trip to Disneyland my dad and I had to start planning an Ordination Service for one of the women who grew up in the church. She completed her seminary training and Ordination Council. It takes a long time to become and American Baptist pastor and it seems even harder for women, even though our denomination welcomes women as pastors and leaders. It was time to celebrate the hard work and devotion it took to get to this place in her life, and the exciting new plans God has for her. Pastoral Relations got things rolling and I ended up figuring out decor. I couldn’t find much help online with ideas for a reception after the service so I wanted to make sure what we came up with was online for anyone trying to come up with ideas for a similar event. Since we are a Chinese Baptist Church and the new Reverend will be a missionary to Japan soon, we went with a modern Asian feel. It all came together beautifully and it was a wonderful day to celebrate all the hard work it took to get to this point and support her as she travels the path God has for her and her family.

 

Took a picture during set up to make sure the photo op looked good.

All set just ready for the food

I don’t have any big celebrations to start planning right now. But I should probably start making my lists for Christmas soon. Then my 40th won’t be far away. Time to start dreaming up some more ideas, I can’t wait to see what they will be.

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Summer’s Over

I’ve been away from my little blog for awhile, ok a long time, but I’m ready to start telling you what’s going on with my family again. We’ve been super busy and enjoying summer so I thought I’d recap what we did.

We’d been at the theater for awhile.

Colette finished 4th grade with great grades, lots of awards and a wonderful job at recital. She had a really good year.

Really good hamburgers in San Juan Bautista

The Monarch Cove Inn is really nice

We love Shadowbrook and even took their vintage taxi there

We went to Capitola for vacation and had a really nice relaxing trip. Usually our trips are pretty structured but we just relaxed and Colette slept a lot, we all did. Colette also found a love for Pizza My Heart and they have gluten free pizza now so we could all enjoy it. She would have eaten there every day.

Colette found filters on my Instagram

We found a great place that has gluten free cones

Colette loves seafood & Jeran loves the portrait option on his iphone

After a few days in Capitola we went over to Monterey and relaxed some more. We went to the aquarium and ate more ice cream, we ate way too much ice cream on this trip. But it was nice to take it slow and just spend time together.

Kool-Aid died hair

We’ve celebrate a bunch of family birthdays and did crazy things like dye my daughters hair red. She’s been wanting to do this for a couple years and I finally gave in since she really needed a hair cut anyway.

Rockets at VBS

Even on vacation Jeran worked on his dissertation

We had VBS and dance intensive the same week, and then more dance the next week too. But the week of VBS was crazy. Jeran was at Google for a mapping training and then he came home for a day and then headed to LA to defend his dissertation. We survived though and Jeran was almost done with his paper.

My crock pot died so I upgraded

One day my crock pot just decided to not turn on, it was dead. So, during Prime Day I got an Instant Pot. I’ve only made 1 thing so far but it was pretty good and I’m sure with this busy school year coming it’ll get a lot of use.

Waiting for Superior Dairy to open

We made a family trip to Hanford to eat ice cream. Last year when we tried to go it was so busy we gave up. This year we went super early and the kids played outside while we waited.

17th Anniversary

My little wizard at Universal

My parents wanted to take Colette to Universal since she likes the Harry Potter series now. They had a great time and spoiled her a lot. This girl is so lucky she got chose by the Dragon Heart and got to pick her wand out at Olivander’s. I think I’ll ask Colette if she’d write a post about the trip. While they were in LA we went up to Napa to celebrate our anniversary. We had a great time and really enjoyed our tour at Schramsberg winery.

1st day of 5th grade

School started today and I’m sad to get back to the schedule. I like the lazy summer days with nowhere to rush. But I know this will be an exciting year. Jeran’s almost done with his dissertation, it needs to get published, and then he’ll be Dr. Ott. Colette has a lot of dance and we’ll be off to celebrate my nephews first trip to Disneyland soon. We’re having some Disney withdrawls, last year we had a pass and went 22 days. It was a little crazy and we stayed away for the summer but I have a feeling it’ll be a Disney year again, we just can’t stay way too long. I don’t think we’ll go that many times again. So that’s what we did this summer. I hope you had a great one too.

What Have We Been Up To?

It seems we’ve had something going on every week since my daughter’s birthday. So, I thought I’d just recap what we’ve been up to.

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We went to Disneyland for Colette’s 9th. The whole family came, aunties, uncles, grandmas and grandpas, from both sides and of course the cousins. She loved having everyone at Disneyland with her. Colette loves Tsum Tsums so I decorated our room with a tsum banner and made he a little birthday surprise bag full of tsum tsum treats. We also made favor bags for everyone that came and delivered them the night we got into town, of course they had a tsum tsum theme too.

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Jeran and I tried out the Old Town Clovis Wine Walk. It was fun, a little warm though. If you every do a wine walk wear flats and bring a tote bag. I saw a lot of women with really sore feet at the end of the night. The bag would be nice to carry the papers around that get punched at each location, plus you might want to pick up some info on a winery and you need somewhere to put all that stuff.

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Colette gave her first presentation at school. They had to do a report on a family member, that as recent as possible, immigrated to America. They did Google slides about the country they are from (Colette did Portugal) and had a show and tell about their family. It was a lot of work for a 3rd grader but she loved setting up her slides and she presented so well, I was really proud of her.

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We threw my sister a baby shower. It was a Neverland theme. So we had Pirate, Indian and Mermaid tables. It came out really cute and I got to make the dream catcher for my centerpiece. We weren’t sure if she’d be able to attend since she’s on bed rest. So, we set up a hammock and Sarah got to recline through the event. It was a nice chance for her to get out of the house, besides doctors appointments.

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We took off to Morro Bay for a 1 day trip just to get out of town for a little while. We went to the aquarium, had lunch then ice cream and headed back home. We hit horrible traffic, because of that we actually stopped at Jack’s Cafe. We always talk about stopping there. It’s just an old roadside restaurant (the James Dean memorial is there too) but it was a perfect stop for us, we needed to get out, and the food wasn’t bad.

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Last weekend Colette auditioned for her studios mini competition team. She’s been part of the Jumpstart teams that stay local and anyone can join, but they’re starting some mini groups that travel and her teacher wanted her to try out. We’ll soon see if she made the team.

So we’ve been a little busy, but it’s been fun too.

Velocity Convention

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A little while ago a few of the younger dance teams at our studio were invited to come along with the big girls to a dance convention. Usually the younger girls stay local for competitions, but this was different. The Elite teams were going to compete but the younger girls were just going along for the experience and the convention. This would be 2 days of dancing. Colette was lucky, she would be in an age bracket that only danced half day. It was a good introduction to the experience, but still 4 straight hours of dancing is a lot, I wanted to make sure she really wanted to do this.  Needless to say she was ecstatic to be invited and insisted we go. We booked our room at the Anaheim Hilton and started researching dance conventions. I found there isn’t a lot of information out there about dance conventions so here’s what I learned this first time around.

  1. Book your room at the convention site. We did this just because we weren’t sure what to expect but this really is the best.  You can get to the early call times easy and also get your tired dancer back to the room fast when the day is done. Our team didn’t compete but for the ones that did it’s a really long day with classes in the morning and competition in the evening. It’s just easier to be close to your room, and dance supplies.
  2. Dress for success. I got Colette a couple new outfits, she needed them anyway since she’s grown since the beginning of the school year. I let her pick out something that made her feel confident. And she rocked her black and hot pink outfits all weekend.
  3. Be consistent. Everything I did find online about conventions mentioned keeping a similar look the whole time. This way the teachers remember you. So Colette had a color scheme and a hairdo that was always the same. She had double dutch braids that kept her hair out of her face but also was different. Most girls didn’t wear braids so she stood out a little more.
  4. Be comfortable. Wear something you can sit on the floor in. Since Colette was in the mini sessions, most moms stick around and watch, and there are not enough chairs in the room. Just camp out on the floor, you’ll probably get a better spot this way too.
  5. Bring snacks. Your dancer will be hungry and only get minutes between sessions. So, bring drinks and easy things to munch.
  6. Pack a picnic. Another thing I learned before hand was lunch at conventions are a nightmare. They don’t get a lot of time and the options are not the best. We could have done without this since Colette’s classes only went to noon the first day at 1 pm the second but I think the picnic was the best idea I had. My husband is gluten intolerant and Colette should stay away from dairy so I packed 2 picnics. The first day we had a Mediterranean chicken picnic with a rotisserie chicken, hummus, olives, tomatoes and pita chips or gluten free matzo. The second day we did a charcuterie platter with cured meats, olives, pickles and gluten free baguettes. It was really simple and it didn’t require much refrigeration, we did have a fridge at the hotel otherwise this would have been hard to do. It was also nice to know what we were going to eat. All we had to do was find a space for our lunch. No arguing over where to eat and no waiting,which was great because Colette was starving.
  7. Have Fun! Since Colette had half days we got to spend some time across the street at Disney and got Annual Passes since we’ll be in Anaheim a few times this year. You’ll probably see a lot more Disney posts because of the AP. We also hung out at Downtown Disney with Colette’s best dance friend, eating junk food and buying tsum tsums.

It was an adventure and we all enjoyed it so I’m sure we’ll be doing it again next year.

How Not to Feel Old on Your Birthday

Every year when my birthday comes around my Grandma asks, “Do you feel older?” I usually say not really, but this year I can say I feel younger.

Early birthday dinner at the School House in Sanger

Early birthday dinner at the School House in Sanger

The Monday before my birthday my daughter and husband didn’t have school/work and Jeran decided we should go skiing. We haven’t been since before Colette was born, probably 9 to 10 years ago. I wasn’t very good then so I was pretty worried I’d be awful now. But Jeran was excited, he’s a great skier even though he doesn’t think so. We left Superbowl Sunday to head up to China Peak. This is a great day to travel if you don’t mind missing the commercials, I mean the game. No one was on the road and the resort wasn’t full of people. I’ve only ever been there on Saturdays before when everyone else is trying to fit it in too. We checked into our room and were surprised to find out we got an economy room, that meant we had to share a bathroom like it was camp. Colette was really confused by this but eventually thought it was fun. The only problem was she got up in the middle of the night and I had to take her across the hall. If we had had a bathroom I could have slept all night. That night we had dinner at the lodge. It was nice and everyone who was at the resort was either eating dinner too or at the bar watching the game. After dinner we got some s’mores kits at reception and headed outside for our treats. I think Colette ate more marshmallows than ever before.

 

Monday we got up early and headed to the day lodge for breakfast. We would soon find out that the Monday after the Superbowl is the day to go skiing. Just families with little kids seemed to be there, even in the hotel. The ski classes were packed in the morning. Colette took a 2 hour beginners class and did great. We watched her as I went up and down the longer beginners hill. I was starting to have fun and thought I didn’t forget too much. Soon it was lunch and then Colette was back for another 1 hour class. This time the classes were much smaller and almost everyone who showed up for one had a private lesson. We took this chance to get on a lift and actually try to ski. Well I stink at it. I was worried the whole time and certain parts were really icy. It took me forever to get back down. I wish I was better, Jeran has so much fun, I think I just need more practice 8+ years is too long. We finally made it back and we picked up a tired Colette ready to call it a day. We sent Jeran up to actually ski a little while we packed up our stuff and got out of the sun. We were tired and ready to come home.

Ready to hit the bunny hill

Ready to hit the bunny hill

The next day we all woke up tired and sore. Colette of course bounced back right away, she complained he legs were a little sore, but she was proud of how well she had done and the aches weren’t much. Jeran and I on the other hand took a few days to get back to normal, but, when my birthday came I felt great! So, I’ve learned how to not feel old on my birthday. Go skiing, or some other exhausting sport, 3 days before your birthday. Have fun, play hard then go home and feel like a really old woman. But, right before your birthday the aches and pains will go away, you’ll just remember that you can still (insert crazy activity here) and you’ll feel younger than ever, or at least younger than you felt a couple days ago.

 

Cautiously Courageously Yours,

Liz

On Our Way Back Home

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Recap of our Mediterranean Cruise & Trip to Switzerland Day 13

This is the last post about our trip. I don’t have too much to say so I’m going to put a few days together and finish it up.

We left Interlaken and headed toward Lucerne. We would stay the night there so we were closer to the airport. Also Jeran wanted to visit the transportation museum. He’d been there before and was excited to share it with Colette. We went straight there and found that the museum is near a lot of fun family activities, mini golf, swimming, etc. This seemed like a really fun spot for kids.

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The museum is great and you get to explore all kinds of transportation hands on. Different buildings focus on specific transportation and in the center is a play space for all the kids. If you have a kid obsessed with things that move, you need to go here. We explored everything and then headed to our last hotel for this trip. We stayed at the Renaissance Marriot. We stay at Marriot’s a lot and used some of our hotel points to book this stay. It’s been recently redone and very nice. We get to our room and I see we have a Nescafe single cup coffee maker. Since I couldn’t seem to get the one we had in Interlaken to work I was excited to see if I could use it here. I couldn’t. I don’t know what I was doing wrong but apparently I’m only allowed to use regular coffee makers. A fact about my husband is that he gets the best parking spots. I don’t know why he’s lucky in this way he just is. We happened to park right in front of the hotel and figured we’d move the car after check in. No, they give you a sign to put in your window that allows you to park in the temporary parking around the buildings. So, we never moved the car. We didn’t need to any way we walked this final portion of our trip and enjoyed Lucerne. We asked the lady at the front desk if she had any suggestions for gluten free dining in the area she gave us a map and some ideas and we were off. Our first stop of was to the model train shop. Jeran remembered going the last time he was there and he found it right away. It was a cute little shop with train things everywhere. Colette loved all the miniatures and wanted to buy Grandpa Roger everything for his train room. After that we were headed off to hit the shopping streets. They were packed! People were buying like crazy. We just tried to find some last minute gifts but it was a little overwhelming.

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Soon Colette sees McDonald’s and they have balloons. She wanted one so bad. We were thirsty anyway so we got a drink and a balloon. As we were leaving I noticed the had an actual McCafe store inside the McDonald’s. I’ve never seen this anywhere else, I wonder if other countries have McCafe’s too. We were ready for dinner and went in search of some of the places they suggested at the hotel. We ended up at Pfistern. Colette had schnitzel and Jeran and I shared fondue. They had gluten free bread and made sure everything was safe. It was a really nice relaxing meal and then we went back to the hotel. I couldn’t sleep well I don’t know if it was because we had to get on a plane the next day or I just wasn’t tired, but I stayed up really late watching So You Think You Can Dance in German and then some crazy Indonesian game show with kids. I could never figure out what was going on and had to make myself turn it off. Before I knew it we were headed to the airport and on our way home. We flew home on Swiss Air. It was not great. It was an older plane and the tvs didn’t work well, they kept shutting off, which really irritated Colette. It was cramped, there were lots of issues but we were headed home and getting there safe was all that mattered. We made it to LAX which was crazy. Customs was a mess and then we had to walk outside of the terminal to where the little plane would get us back to Fresno. I’m glad we had this experience on our way back, it might have started our trip off on the wrong foot otherwise. Because of this we’ve decided that if we have a choice we won’t use LAX and we love Lufthansa.

While on this trip I kept list of little things I though were interesting

1. There is a lot of smoking everywhere, living in California you forget what it used to be like.

2. When you look up what to wear in Europe it always says no shorts. But, in Switzerland I saw a lot of people, mostly men wearing shorts, yes this was usually around outdoor activities but you would see it other places too.

3. We brought travel clothes for our excursions but most people looked uncomfortable and about to get sun burnt. But, not in Switzerland, everyone looked like they shopped at REI. I was very happy we all had our hiking pants, shirts and hats, they kept us pale and healthy the whole trip.

4. If you use a toilet, it will probably not have a seat. This wasn’t the case in our hotel stays but everywhere else we went, no seats.

5. Interlaken is full of travelers from all over but mostly Asian, Lebanese and American.

6. There will be no washcloths in the hotel room.

7. Most people speak English.

8. The tunnels in Switzerland are REALLY long. If you have kids who freak out with tunnels, be prepared.

9. Brush up on Italian road signs before you drive there. We had no idea what they said and it would have been nice to have an idea. The GPS was necessary for us.

10. Women seemed to wear a lot more skirts than in America. I was really happy with my clothing choices because I always looked appropriate and was super comfortable.

11. We love Lufthansa, it’s great for families.

12. We saw the high schoolers and college age kids on the cruise ship all having fun. It was nice to know that all ages were having a great time and we could see us going on Disney Ships for a long time.

13. The Bubble Bum car seat is great!

“BOND”ing in the Alps

Riding the gondola up to Piz Gloria

Riding the gondola up to Piz Gloria

Recap of our Mediterranean Cruise & Trip to Switzerland Day 12

We were ready to make our trek up the mountain. We checked the view on our tv to see if it was a clear morning. One of the stations showed the mountain webcams so you could see if it was a good time to make the trip up. You don’t want to make it all the way up and not be able to see the amazing view. We had chosen to go to Piz Gloria, it’s not the tallest mountain, but that was one of the reasons we decided on this location. I wasn’t sure how Colette would do just looking at the scenery. I had a feeling she’d hate the gondola ride up and then be bored once we got to the top. So, Piz Gloria was perfect. At the top is a revolving restaurant. I thought we’d get up there and once she was bored we’d have a snack and still be able to enjoy our time there. You’ve probably seen this restaurant if you’ve ever watch James Bond. It’s the building on the very top of a mountain in “On Her Majesties Secret Service”. There’s also a Bond museum there too.

Colette shocked me, she loved the gondola ride. She enjoyed looking out and I enjoyed it more too because she was having such a good time, I really don’t like heights. I shouldn’t have been surprised, we learned on this trip that Colette loves flying, not the food though, she tells everyone that, so a gondola was  no big deal.

We made it to the top!

We made it to the top!

We took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed the cool air and then made our way to the Bond museum. Jeran and I had a good time, Colette was bored though, she’s never seen James Bond, she knows that daddy likes the series but that’s about it. She did enjoy all the things you got to play with but she was ready to go and check out the gift shop as soon as possible. So, we went up to the gift shop looked in at the restaurant, we weren’t hungry yet, and headed back to the gondola to ride down to Murren. Turns out the gondola was broken. I wasn’t too worried, which is sort of weird for me, but it stressed Jeran out a bit. He was worried how he was going to get us back down safely. We couldn’t make the hike down, some people did take that option though. All we could do was wait. At least we were stuck on the top of this mountain that has a restaurant, store, museum and bathrooms. I think that’s why I was ok with it. People work up there all the time and there must be safety measures, we would be ok. So, I convinced Jeran we needed a snack in the restaurant and we relaxed. But once the announcement came that the gondola was working again Jeran stuffed us into the gondola with all the other anxious passengers. I was smashed into that thing and my feet weren’t even flat on the ground,there was no personal space on this ride down. The gondola was maxed out but we made it to Murren.

 

Exploring a mountain town

Exploring a mountain town

We didn’t get to stay in Murren long but we did get Colette her first pocket knife. It is a beautiful little town. Before we knew it it was time to ride the gondola all the way back down. We made it safely and then took a ride around the lake to visit St. Beatus cave. Colette did great on the gondola trip, but not so good with a cave. Apparently the girl likes to be up high and not deep in a mountain.

 

On our walk up to the cave entrance

On our walk up to the cave entrance

We made our way up to the cave and took way too many pictures, it was gorgeous. It was pretty busy and we had to wait for a tour. They have German, French and English tours. The guy who sold us tickets said they translate all the tours into English so we could go on the next one. Well, that wasn’t true we ended up learning about the cave in German and French, we didn’t get much out of it but it was still nice to see. Actually this is how I expected most of the trip to go. I didn’t expect everyone to speak English everywhere. I was glad they did, but if we had had a harder time communicating our trip still would have been great. Actually once we got to Switzerland it was harder to communicate with most people, because they would speak in German first, when we didn’t answer right away they would cock their heads and try French, we’d then say we speak English and they’d stop for a moment and then switch to English. I guess we looked like we belonged. Colette hated the cave she complained the whole time, but once we were done she headed to the play area and had a great time. This was the only thing Colette really complained about the whole trip. So we won’t be doing any more caves for awhile.

 

Jeran was really happy with his meal

Jeran was really happy with his meal

We had way too much ice cream on this trip

We had way too much ice cream on this trip

I had done some research on a nice traditional Swiss restaurant the was gluten free sensitive. We found Hotel Oberland in Lauterbrunnen. Jeran was in heaven. He loved everything and then we had to had the movenpick ice cream, because for some reason we couldn’t stop eating ice cream on this trip. The restaurant is great, but busy, we didn’t have reservations but lucked out. Reservations are definitely recommended. It was a great way to end our day of exploring.