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.

What Did We Get in the Veggie Box?

I’ve been away from the blog for awhile. I wanted to post about our fun summer trips but they came and went and I never got around to it. So, I’m moving on and telling you about something we’re doing right now that has been more fun than I expected. Recently we joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group and get veggies once a week. My parents have been using the CSA for awhile. When my daughter was in preschool she loved it when Grandpa would go pick up the veggie box. She couldn’t wait to see what was inside. We eat pretty clean at our house, eating out is a different story, and buying all the veggies was getting expensive. So, we switched to the CSA, we pay about $16 a week and get what we get, so far, not too many fits. Colette seems to like the excitement of the veggie box, more than the veggies, but she tries them.

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Our first CSA box

I thought the food planning would be more stressful than it is but really it’s been fun. I get the list of what vegetables are expected to be in the box a week ahead, then I look around for ways to use them up. We’ve even tried some things we’ve never had before like ratatouille. My husband doesn’t like eggplant, but I thought I could get everyone to eat it, because it used up a lot of the fall veggies. Colette’s seen the Disney movie, so maybe she’d go for it. It was not a hit with my daughter, she pretty much just ate the pasta we had with it. Jeran did like it though, it’s always good to try new things. I’ve even tried my hand at changing a recipe. I usually stick to a recipe and don’t change it at all, I’m just not comfortable enough in the kitchen, but I got it in my head that I could convert a regular pumpkin persimmon bread into one made out of coconut flour and it worked! I used the pumpkin puree my mom made from Jeran’s Halloween pumpkin that broke in half before he could carve it. It was sad, but it made 5 cups of puree. My experiment worked and it made a really yummy breakfast bread that was gluten free. The other day we got way more zucchini than expected so we made zucchini bread, gluten free of course, but with a regular gluten free flour mix this time.

Besides being fun trying things out it’s saved me a lot of time grocery shopping. Now all I have to get is protein, any staples and possibly other side items, but we’re pretty low carb at our house since Jeran’s gluten free and the rice and gluten free pastas are only a couple times a week. If you’re interested in trying out a CSA, go for it! You can check out our local one here. And see my Fall CSA pinterest board for what I’ve been making so far.

Red Carpet Birthday Bash

My daughter just turned 8 and I think this year she was more excited than ever for her party. She’s finally got some good friends and couldn’t wait to have them over. When I asked her a few months ago what theme she wanted she said red carpet without hesitation. I don’t know where she got this idea, we don’t watch a lot of awards shows, but she knew what she wanted. So, I got to work checking out Pinterest and the party sites. I was really happy with how the decorations all came together. Here’s what we did:

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We got this backdrop from Party City and taped it to the outside of the window. It looked great and the light shown through a little bit and made it glow. It looked so much better than I expected. I went pretty traditional with the theme and kept everything black and gold with pops of red. The girls loved the fun martini glasses from Oriental Trading. They all wanted to take them home.

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Originally I was just going to do a popcorn bar as the favors but decided against it and just used it as a snack. I don’t like all the junk most kids get sent home with after a party. The girls loved the popcorn bar and they mixed everything in. We had chocolate, sprinkles, corn nuts (they were a favorite) and 3 kinds of popcorn. It was also good because even though I said it would just be cake and punch some girls still hadn’t had lunch and were hungry. We had to have a swag bag for our VIPs, but since I don’t like the normal loot bag junk, the girls got pens in the shape of lipsticks and a fancy note pad so they can sign their autographs for all their adoring fans. To really set the mood I found this great video on youtube that I played when everyone arrived. Full of great Hollywood music it really made it feel like an awards show and had a great backdrop for the tv.

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My sister made these amazing stanchions out of pipe and insulation. They look so real, it really made the theme. The red carpet looked like a good idea but it was thin and the girls shoes ripped it up. If I ever do this theme again I’ll look for a real carpet to rent.

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I wanted the girls to have a VIP backdrop to have their pictures taken in front of when they arrived. I found some great ones online but they were expensive. I then saw this idea for a picture backdrop made from dollar store tablecloths. I changed it up a little and put it on the garage door. It looked great and worked out well even though it rained all morning. No ruined paper backdrop. My sister also made the marquee letters. I could have never done this, they light up and everything. I think it really set the tone for the party.

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I always stress out about the cake. I want it to look great but most of the time it has problems. This time it worked, and stayed that way. No cake catastrophes. I found the award mold and made 8 to go around the cake, sprinkled them in luster dust, which you can’t really see in the picture, and added some edible stars for fun too. The girls were all excited to get a little chocolate man. I’ve only ever been really proud of 2 cakes I’ve made, and this is one of them.

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The stage was set and we were ready to party. The girls showed up, took pictures and then headed inside to learn how to walk the red carpet. We hired a modeling coach to teach the girls how to walk the runway and pose. They took awhile to warm up but I think they had fun, especially when we all turned into paparazzi and they heard all the cameras clicking. They all got chance to shine, and eat their popcorn while they watched. Then it was time for presents and cake. This year I took pictures of the presents being held by Colette and the friend that brought them. That way I didn’t have to write it all down and we got more pictures. Even though the party was short we still had some down time so the girls did karaoke and danced. I should have had another project planned, originally I did but thought it would be too stressful to get everything done, so I skipped it, but now I wish I hadn’t. Still the girls had a good time and we headed back out for more pictures where they really loosened up and were silly. It was nice to do a different party since everyone does the same thing all the time, and Colette was happy. That’s all this mom wanted.

Check out my Pinterest site to see where I got all our ideas.

“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.