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.

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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.

Relaxing Sea Days

Italian Mickey

Italian Mickey

Recap of our Mediterranean cruise Days 8 & 9

It’s been hard for me to write this post. I think because it was the end of our cruise and we didn’t really do much except relax, which is nice but boring to write about. The ship was headed back to Venice and we had a full day at sea. We visited with some characters, spent a lot of time at the pool and then Colette went to the club for awhile so Jeran and I went to the spa. We also did a lot of washing and packing since the cruise part of our trip was almost over. See pretty boring.

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Waiting for the show to begin

That night we went to Animator’s Palate, our waiters had told us to come early so that we wouldn’t miss the show. When we got there they gave us placemats and told us to draw something, the only rules were that it had to fit within a basic stick figure outline. They collected everyone’s creations and soon the show began. On the screens around the room you saw everyone’s animations come to life. It was fun trying to find our characters and see them move around on screen. Once dinner was over Colette went to the kids club and got her face painted. We went to see the fireworks, since they couldn’t do it at the pirate party. Colette doesn’t really enjoy fireworks so Jeran and I went up to the coffee shop and enjoyed the quiet and then the fireworks when they started.

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The next day we were headed back to Venice. Once the ship docked which was late afternoon, people could come and go as they please into the city. A few people left the ship at this time. Since we had already spent some time there we stayed on board. We took Colette to get her nails done in the spa, they have packages for little kids and she really needed her nails cleaned up by then, and I didn’t bring any clippers with us. She had a great time and I enjoyed the view as we sat and relaxed in the salon.

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Then she wanted to go show off her manicure at the club. Soon we got a text on the Wave Phones that she was going to be in Friendship Rocks!

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This is a little show the club puts on. The kids get a t-shirt and get to go on the stage and sing with Mickey and Minnie. They were all excited to be on the big stage and it’s a nice way to close out their club experience. Before we knew it it was time for our last dinner. Our waiters made us silly hats

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Jasmine hat

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Goofy ears

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Minnie bow

 

 

 

And then we headed down to the lobby for the masquerade party, we didn’t get to see it all but it was filled with traditional Italian musicians, jugglers and pantalone actors. When they were done the actors danced with the audience and Colette danced with “Casa Nova” for awhile. We didn’t stay to dance very much Colette wanted to go back to the club one more time and we used that time to finish packing. It was weird spending the night in port. It should have been just like a hotel but it felt different, maybe it was just because this part of our journey was coming to an end.

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Dancing with Gondolier Donald

A Wedding, Disneyland and Mickeys Halloween Party, I’m Exhausted

 

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My sister just got married! It was a beautiful wedding with a lot of special touches that were uniquely Sarah & Mike. We had so much fun we decided to celebrate some more, we went to Disneyland! This was an exciting trip because it was my niece & nephews first time to the park. They are only a year old and love all things Mickey and Minnie, they are definitely part of our Disney crazy family. The whole family went, even the newlyweds met us there for one day, they have season tickets and are Disney crazy too, they have to be to spend part of their Honeymoon with all of us.

We're going to Disneyland!

We’re going to Disneyland!

Going at the end of September was great. The crowds were small, the fall decor is fun and we could usually find spaces to fit all of us together at meal times. My daughter had a great time showing Disneyland to her cousins. She wanted to make sure they got to see Toon Town and Bug’s Life. Those are some of her favorite things in the parks. Our first full day in the park was short, since it’s fall, but that was ok because we had little ones with us. We did stay to see World of Color. There didn’t seem to be a lot of people around but they all showed up to World of Color. We’ve seen it a few times but Colette has only seen it once before. That time we only got part way because it started to pour and my husband wasn’t feeling well, so we ran back to the hotel as fast as possible. This time the weather was perfect but the area was packed. If we want to watch it again we’ll be fast passing it or eating at one of the restaurants and getting preferred seating. It was just too many people.

She always takes cute pictures with Dale

She always takes cute pictures with Dale

The next day we got up early and went to have breakfast at the Plaza with Minnie. Doing the character breakfast when you don’t have a magical morning (early entry) is great because you still get in early. My sister was a little worried about this experience because the babies hadn’t been this close to the characters yet. They had seen them far away the day before but this is a little different. My nephew did great, he met them all. My niece wasn’t so sure about any of the characters and we tried to keep her distracted when they came by. The characters and handlers are wonderful though and know how to see those who are interested but still getaway fast enough from the little ones who aren’t so sure about everything.

This trip was a little different for my girl because she tried rides she would never do before. She’s definitely not a baby any more and can ride almost any ride in the park. She still loves the non ride activities though like the petting zoo. If you’ve never been back where the petting zoo is you should go. A lot of people don’t know about it and its a nice chance to get out of the crowds. During different seasons they theme it and have games and activities. Right now it’s decorated for fall, they have a pumpkin carver, a couple simple carnival games, a mask coloring station, a fortune teller and a magic show. You can also just sit and have a snack and relax. That night was Mickey’s Halloween Party. I’d brought costumes to change into but we were having so much fun we never made it back to our room to change. It was ok, we wore our Halloween shirts that day and were ready for some spooky fun. I think it would be great to dress up though. If we do it again we’ll have to do it in costume. There’s a good mix, some really dressed up people and those ready for any park day. If you dress up though and still want to do the rides keep that in mind, we saw some outfits you wouldn’t be able to maneuver into the rides cars.

 

Haunted Rivers of America

Haunted Rivers of America

When you enter you get a wrist band and a trick or treat bag. The bag is not large and if your goal is to hit all the trick or treat trails you may want to bring your own or buy one in the park. They had some really cute light up Mickey jack-o-lanterns, they weren’t very big but some little party goers had them and they were perfect for Halloween. Everyone can collect candy even adults so get ready for a sugar high. When the event first starts there’s still a lot of people leaving the park that didn’t pay for the event. To get them all out there are Cast Members with signs that light up saying what the event is. I heard a few people asking them what was going on and why they had to leave. It must be a nightmare trying to switch over to this while the regular park hours are going on. During this time we had to flash our wristbands to the sign holders every time we entered a different area of the park to show we belonged.

 

Waiting for the parade

Waiting for the parade

We wandered a few Trick or Treat trails and ate candy along the way. We easily jumped on a few rides since the lines were short and then watched the Halloween fireworks. It was of course packed on Main Street but the show was great. I think next time though I might watch the fireworks by Small World. They projected on that building too and I’m sure it wasn’t as busy over there. Then we hung around till the parade. This time we did head over to Small World it was a lot less busy. We waited for awhile and then the Anna & Elsa pre-parade came by. It was really just 1 float with the sisters on it. My husband was upset because he thought we waited for that and wasted precious ride time. I tried to tell him it was just the pre-show but I don’t think he believed me. Soon the actual parade came through. It was ok. I was expecting a little bit more, there weren’t even any villains, it was definitely not so scary. Then it was time to go, but not before we hit the Main Street stores for our last minute souvenirs. It was fun and I’d do it again but I’m still exhausted.

A Pirates Life for Me in Mykonos

 

The way to beach I didn't have to bring a single thing

The way to beach
I didn’t have to bring a single thing

Recap of our Mediterranean cruise Day 7

We were headed to Mykonos, and we didn’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn. It was great, we slept in a little, had a relaxing breakfast at Lumiere’s, instead of the busy buffet, and then headed out for a day at the beach. We got on a bus and headed to Elia Beach. We didn’t get to see any of old town but we got to see a lot of the famous white square buildings as we drove, and soon we’d be relaxing. The excursion included 2 beach loungers with an umbrella and lunch. This was perfect, I didn’t need to bring my whole house to the beach like we normally do. We got to just relax and splash in the Mediterranean, because how can you go all the way to Greece and not get in the beautiful blue water?

Swimming in the Med

Swimming in the Med

While cruising we had noticed the different shades of blue. In Italy the lagoon was more green, Turkey seemed turquoise and Greece was a dark blue. It was gorgeous to look out and watch the waves ripple like satin as we sailed by. Colette loves the beach and couldn’t wait to splash in the sea. The sand was surprisingly rocky near the water so we didn’t make any sand castles but that was ok, we spent most of the time in the water. While Jeran and Colette swam I ordered our last frappes and Greek Cokes of the trip and then got in the buffet line. We had cheese pies, meatballs and Greek salad. Once I had our lunch Jeran and Colette came in for a break from swimming. Colette again wouldn’t eat the pies so I got those (I was ok with that) and she ate the meatballs. Jeran got salad since he couldn’t eat anything else but it was pretty tasty. Then it was my turn to go in with Colette. She thought this was great because usually mommy doesn’t go in the ocean, it’s too cold, but the water was perfect and we splashed and laughed and soon it was time to head back to our chairs.

Laughing really hard because I slipped again

Laughing really hard because I slipped, again

I kept getting stuck in the rocky sand and it hurt, but it was more funny than anything since I kept falling over. Before we knew it we had to go back to the ship, it left at 2:45 pm so we didn’t get much time in Mykonos. Once back on board we went to the pizza bar, which was a favorite with all the kids. We didn’t learn till the end of the cruise that they have gluten free pizza on request. It takes awhile but it’s nice that they have it available. It’s just a frozen pizza with sauce and cheese but they’ll add anything you want to it.

Pirate Princesses

Pirate Princesses

It was Pirate Night so we went to get ready and Colette had the pirate make over in the store. Since we didn’t bring costumes this time it was a nice surprise for her. Colette’s friend also showed up there and got the mermaid make over. They were supper excited and ready to party like pirates. Dinner that night was pirate themed and there was a lot of seafood, not Jeran’s favorite night but I loved it. Towards the end of dinner the waiters danced through the tables and brought out diners to conga and limbo. The kids had a great time dancing. The girls wanted to go to the club for a pirate party but Colette also wanted to see the acrobats that were performing that night. So she went for a little bit and then we headed over to the show. It was a lot of the same thing and Colette got bored, so did I. We didn’t want to just walk out, but we were at the back of the theater and were thinking about it. Soon other families with kids were leaving so we went too. We headed up to the deck and there was a cute video game taking place on Funnel Vision, and ran into our dinner friends again, they had also escaped the boring show. The girls played and then it was time for the Pirates in the Carribean/Mediterranean party. We had a great spot and danced and had a good time till there was some pushing a shoving by the boys next to us. Colette was ready to go anyway so I took her back to the cabin, and Jeran went to the buffet to check out the late night desserts they had for party night. There was also a taco bar and other things they don’t normally have in the buffet, it doesn’t usually stay open very late like other cruise lines. He brought back a few things and then we fell asleep. We were tired, beach days are always exhausting and partying like a pirate wipes you out. We were ready for a relaxing sea day.

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Knights of Rhodes

Outside the Knights Hosptial

Outside the Knights Hospital

Recap of our Mediterranean cruise Day 6

We were off to see a medieval walled city with knights and palaces. I was excited about this excursion because it was different from our other experiences, no ancient ruins this time. We walked straight off the ship and into the town with our guide, passed the temple of Aphrodite and up a cobblestone path to the Knights Hospital. Here we learned about the Knights of Rhodes and looked at different Greek artifacts since now it houses the The Archaeological Museum of Rhodes.

Inside the Knights Hospital

Inside the Knights Hospital

After exploring the hospital we headed to the Grand Masters Palace. At this point the kids activities leaders from the ship took the children to a room in the palace and had an art project for them. The adults toured the museum. The kids had a great time creating their own crests, Colette chose a fire breathing dragon. Once our tour was over we went to pick up the kids and take them to a surprise.

Brave Knights

Brave Knights and a curious dog

As we were about to leave the palace gates a knight rode up on horse back. The kids were all excited and everyone got to pose with the knight for pictures. Then our excursion was over and we had time to check out old town. As we were looking around for a place to have lunch we ran into our friedns from dinner.

Surprise Meeting in Old Town

Surprise Meeting in Old Town

The girls caught up on what they had seen and then we were off for lunch. We found  Socratous Garden a cute restaurant with a beautiful patio and we settled in to try some real Greek food. Colette and I shared a pot pie style dish. It was really good but she was more interested in her Coca Cola. Jeran got a pork gyro that he really enjoyed. After relaxing and texting our family, they had free wi-fi, we headed off to do some shopping. Colette really wanted an evil eye so we looked around for a bracelet and found a nice one, we also got an evil eye to hang outside on our patio. Then before you knew it we had to go. I would really have liked to explore Rhodes more, we didn’t have a lot of time. It would be a great place to go and relax. Apparently a lot of university students like to go there for their Spring and Summer holidays. There are a lot of flights in, the airplanes went over a lot, and you’d see tourists dragging their bags through the streets. Even thought it’s a busy young tourist town, I’d go back again. I was glad to head back to the ship, because once the tour was over and we were on our own,Colette wouldn’t stop asking if it was time to go back. She was worried it would leave without us. Once back on the ship Colette headed for the kids club again and Jeran and I went to the spa. After dinner that night Colette wanted to go play marshmallow olympics at the kids club and Jeran and I went to the Dreams Goes On show. It’s about the life of Walt Disney. It was ok, the songs were great, it was just a little boring, so Jeran fell asleep. Obviously it was time to head back to our stateroom and get ready for Mykonos tomorow.

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Surprised by Kusadasi

Sailing away from Turkey

Sailing away from Turkey

Recap of our Mediterranean cruise Day 6

I have to say I didn’t know what to expect when we went to Turkey. Most people I know who have done the Mediterranean never went to Turkey. They lovingly talk about Greece or Italy but that’s it. My husband went to Turkey as a kid. All he seems to remember is eating kabob from a street vendor and his grandma getting stuck in the elevator at their hotel. Even though I didn’t know what to expect, the excursion we planned was one of the ones I was looking forward to the most.

 

St. John's

St. John’s

We were to visit St. John’s Basilica and meet an eccentric professor and help him solve a mystery. We borded our bus and were on our way. It took a little while but it was a nice drive and familiar. The area looked a lot like California. The dry hills, similar plants. Now when I read the New Testament I’ll know what some of the locations looked like, the foothills. We got to St. John’s and were greeted by storks. They were nesting around the area and flying everywhere. Our guide told us that we were lucky because they have a saying that if you see a stork in it’s nest you will not travel that year, but if you see it flying, you will travel a lot. we saw a bunch of storks flying so I guess we’ll be on the go. We had a brief tour of the ruins and a chance to wander on our own, but soon the mystery began. We were introduced to the archaeologists (actors) working the site and told that they had found some clues but couldn’t figure them out, and needed help from all the kids to solve them. We were put into teams and sent off on a scavenger hunt. Everyone was running around looking for the next clues and every once in awhile you’d come up on another tour. They were definitely missing out on the fun with just a plain tour.

 

About to solve the mystery

About to solve the mystery

We found the last clue and brought it back to the professor. He assembled everything the groups had found and it made a mosaic with an ichthus (fish) inside. Later we would see the ichthus carved into the stones in Ephesus, showing that Christians were there. It was a lot of fun. The Disney excursions with kids activities are really great. The children love them and you get to interact with the location in a more meaningful way. Next we were headed to Ephesus. No special kids stuff here but it didn’t need it. I don’t really know how to describe it.

 

The library of Ephesus

The library of Ephesus

It was amazing that they could have built such grandeur long ago, still beautiful in it’s ruined state. I could really imagine how it had been with people everywhere living and working there. It’s really wonderful to see something you’ve only read about in the Bible. Soon we left and went to Ephesus Park. It’s a recreation of what the towns would have been like long ago. They have a silly production with Cleopatra, dancing girls and a brief gladiator fight. I wish we hadn’t watched it because we didn’t have a lot of time there. We did get to eat some kabob. I wanted to try the Turkish coffee shop but it was so hot, I couldn’t do it. I really think Disney should add to their excursions a coffee experience. They should have a guide well versed in coffee take you to the best places in Venice, the Greek Isles and Kusadasi to try the local specialties and learn more. People are so coffee crazy I think it would be fun. After lunch we ran to the shop to try and find some souvenirs but we did’t have a lot of time. We did by a pottery cat. There were so many cats in Ephesus that it was a perfect reminder of this part of our trip. We took so long shopping the guide had to come get us because it was time to leave. I’m glad we chose excursions that showed the history of each location but we didn’t have much chance to do any shopping. Every excursion was so long. A lot of the European families on board, including our dinner companions, didn’t take these long trips. Many of the cruisers had been to these places, or they just came for the beach and the sun. We learned that Kusadasi is a very popular resort town and people come from all over to vacation there. But, how could you pass up these experiences, although relaxing would be fun.

 

Colette trying to make a knot

Colette trying to make a knot

On the way back to the ship our guide took us to see rugs being made. This wasn’t part of the tour but most of the group went. It was interesting and we got to experience Turkish hospitality. They gave us cheese pies and we tried raki, looked at tons of beautiful rugs and almost bought one. The ones I really liked were way too big for our house and because of that, way out of our price range. The sales men are good though, they kept saying its a great investment for our daughter, she can have it forever and take it into her marriage one day. I’m for a nice hope chest but we’ll start out smaller, I’m teaching her how to embroider tea towels right now.

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We finally got back to the ship and got ready for Prince & Princess night. Colette wore her Elsa dress and we went see “Twice Charmed” it was a cute Cinderella show and then bed. It had been a long day, but I had been pleasantly surprised by Turkey. I would really enjoy going back again, and maybe relaxing a little more this time.

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