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Monday, September 15, 2014

Baby gift 1/7

We welcomed a whole bevy of babies the past few months! 3 of my cousins had (or are having) babies, as well as 2 sister-in-laws, 1 of Everett's teachers, and 1 blog friend. Thought we were in the clear for a bit, but just "liked" two pregnancy announcements on Facebook today!

Congratulations to all the happy parents-to-be -- and so glad to not be in your shoes!

I will try and get through a little mini post on each of the presents this month. This is no small feat, as:

1 gift is languishing on my sewing table

1 has not even been planned

1 is planned, and I am negotiating with an etsy seller to have her to custom make something I likely could make myself if I sat down to figure it out

and 1 has a part of it circling 'round and 'round the southern states with apparently no interest to make its way to California.


This is the present for the teacher at Everett's school. I have a whopping $200 credit (I know, right?) at Overstock.com due to a politely worded email just informing them about (versus complaining about) some of the service issues I experienced with the freight company they used to deliver the boys' bunkbed  -- which I also hope to show you soon. Thought I would get a coupon at best, but never would have expected something so generous. That credit is burning a hole in my...computer?


Anyway -- I think about various "needs," only to go an find out good old Overstock doesn't have what I am looking for. I had fun shopping for some baby items, though, for some of these gifts. The teacher is due on the 25th of this month, and I feel so bad for her in this heat, and having to deal with a bunch of snotty needy toddlers all day. If that doesn't serve as birth control, nothing will!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Vacation All I Ever Wanted

This was a busy summer for us! We did a lot of fun things, and made lots of memories.

Hank was here -- just camera shy first thing in the a.m.
Back in May, we finally made it to Disneyland with Everett! Some family members, already on summer break, asked if wanted to go (we had to ditch a day of school). We were able to get them by purchasing a deal that was available in spring for southern California residents, and we used one of our connections to get in for free :)


Was fun to get a pair of ears for Everett, and let him experience both Disneyland and California Adventure (the tickets we get through our Silver pass holder friends are one day park hoppers). We were bummed that two of our favorite rides -- It's a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean -- were both closed, but that just means we'll have to go back soon. Still can't get over how cool the Radiator Springs area of California Adventure is to experience.


The best souvenirs in the park -- $10 hand cut silhouette (you actually get two cut at the same time -- souvenir for Nana!) Hank's (to the right) was done at his first trip.


Unfortunately we forgot to get Everett a button indicating it was his first trip -- will grab one next time.


Next up was a beach camping trip on Memorial Day weekend. I remember posting on Facebook as we headed out for the trip that though I have gone on (at least) 100 camping trips in my life, I had not been beach camping before this trip. We went to Jalama Beach in Santa Barbara County (~2 1/2 hour drive). I don't know what it is about this place, but it just seemed so perfect to me -- despite having horse corrals for camping spots


and unrelenting strong wind pretty much all day and night. The positives were having a snack shack and store that had a cool surfer vibe, finding tons of cool shells,


having dunes and estuaries to explore, feeling safe to leave your stuff on the beach for a period of time and walk to the store or back to your site for lunch, and there was even a choo choo for the train loving toddler, lol.


Definitely hope we can make this an annual tradition -- just hope we choose a less windy time weekend next time.


I think the next trip was BT's annual trip with the guys to Vegas. Then it was my turn. I typically haven't done overnight trips on my own post kids (other than for work), but this year I had two girls' weekends! The first was meeting up with my oldest friend that I still keep in touch with (outside of Facebook). We have known each other since middle school, but didn't become close until college. This is Natasha's mom, btw.


We mulled over going to Kansas City, but instead decided on Chicago. We had so much fun! I of course missed the family, but it was so nice to have a weekend free to try all the food places I mapped out without having to worry about kids making a mess or complaining about the food.

Rick Bayless's Xoco
The weekend was very food oriented, in fact. I also managed to convince Joy to go to a local tiki bar, and she was savvy enough to get us in without reservations.

Flipper says hi!
We stayed in a fab hotel if you are planning a trip to the Windy City. Chicago is a great place to visit!


Mid-August was Tiki Oasis. You know this is typically a family event for us. This year, based on the trip you'll read about next, we had decided not to go. As it turned out, though, my pal Barb was renting a room for the weekend. I sent her a note that I would like to crash for one night, if that was ok. We had so much fun! I brought Barb a little giftie -- some fixings for an in room drink, and a tiki fondue pot.


The sub-theme this year for Tiki Oasis was "Beat-tiki." As always, it is hard enough to explain to folks what tiki is, and then how that relates to beatniks -- not a chance. I racked my brain for clothing options, and was so proud of my outfits. For Saturday day, I wore a long tiki dress with a woven vest, felt hat, and pendant.


Barb was also wearing a crocheted vest, so we looked like we planned our outfits together!


That night I wore the standard beatnik black and white striped shirt (had to do major surgery to fix this shirt -- the bands would shift, and would make it an instant peep show!), black fitted jeans, and ballet flats. Barb had found some fun inflatable bongos. I have no idea why I look like Snooty McSnootersons here (three sheets and a dash to the wind, I suspect).


The next day I put together a "beachnik" outfit. Weeks prior to the event, people were posting pictures of record albums, novel covers, and vintage pictures showing examples of beatnik and beach/surf culture melded together. The problem was -- they were always pictures of guys! I used those photos as inspiration to imagine what the girl counterparts would have worn. I found the striped shorts on etsy (vintage -- but 1990s, lol), my felt hat again, another pendant, and a blue sleeveless mock turtleneck. Again -- had a great time, but know from now on that Tiki Oasis can only be experienced with my tiki dude.


The following week, Hank's school was closed. We had a special trip planned for the first two days of the week -- Legoland! Actually, the really special part was staying at the new Legoland Hotel. Everybody who knows we went wants to know if it was worth it, considering the cost for one night is more than twice the amount that I personally had ever paid for a hotel before this trip. I answer with a resounding yes. The hotel makes the Legoland experience complete. We had gone before when Hank was almost 3, and it was kind of a let down. I guess that element should be put out first for folks who have not been -- the theme park itself is geared towards an age range of 4-10. There is nothing here you would have interest to do if you did not have kids with you, except view the minilands and see this room with the Master Builders at work.


Otherwise -- every ride is for kids, and they are all basically the same rides with slight deviations. It is hard to see this as a successful business model, so I am sure Legoland is the first theme park to rub its greedy little yellow claw hands together when there is news of a baby boom.

This was cool, too -- actual set from The Lego Movie
The park is a little shabby. The Legos do not weather well, and some of the elements that weren't working during out last visit (i.e. some of the displays in a walk-through tour of a mock Lego factory) still were not working. But, focus on the fun was my motto, and I was not as bummed out by these elements this visit. Also -- the ticket prices have come down since our last visit, and we were able to get a park hopper ticket (covering the main park, water park, and a cute aquarium) for 2 days for the price we paid last time for one day just at Legoland.


I'm sure that price change is intentional so you decide to stay at the hotel.


The hotel is also totally geared towards little kids. There is a Lego pit in the lobby, a giant play castle, the restaurant has a kid line for the buffet, there is a giant step on whoopie cushion next to the elevator, and the elevator itself turns into a disco party when the door closes.

The rooms are on three floors -- each with a theme: castle, pirates, and adventure. We stayed in a pirate room. There is a separate nook for the kids with bunk beds and a trundle bed.



There are Lego figures throughout the room (and a sign indicating how much you will pay if you decide to nab one). Some of the extras accounted for in your room cost -- a treasure chest that the kids find clues for in the lobby and get to keep the contents (a set of Legos for each kid, chocolate coins, and a magazine),


a couple of complimentary bottles of water and juice,


and entertainment -- several shows in the lobby in the evening, and a movie by the pool.


What made it worth it was how excited Hank was. This is the kid who is pretty nonplussed about things most kids get excited about. I had to come up with a very complicated plan to get him to go on the Disneyland trip this post opened with, for example. He was giddy with excitement the whole visit to Legoland, but especially in relation to the hotel. I suppose we will save our pennies to make a trip with Everett when he is 4 or 5 and old enough to enjoy it more than this time (and Hank will still be within the magic age range!)


Our final trip was to Safari Park in San Diego. We did this trip with my parents. I grew up going to this park, then called the Wild Animal Park. It was a super hot day, but fun to see the animals and spend time with Nana and Grandpa.


Still 100 degrees here, so feels like summer is still in full force -- just not doing as much fun stuff...

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

1st day kindergarten

So many emotions, questions, and concerns today as Hank started Kindergarten, but not going to muck your brain space up with all of my brain muck.


Here is his blurry back to school pic


and here is a little 1st day gift for the teacher -- an eye mask and lotion in a cute mini bucket from Target.


The mask says "serenity," and on the back of the tag I wrote -- Hope you find your moments of serenity this year."

I also made some back to school cupcakes


Wishing and hoping for a good year despite my initial reservations!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Schultuete

In celebration of Hank's first day of Kindergarten, I made him a Schultuete, or "school cone" (more about school cones here, and a blog post by my pal Barb about them). The big day is tomorrow, and though he technically does not need any supplies, I was too excited to wait another year to make him one of these.


I made the cone from a piece of poster board, and crazily decided to use hand cut fringe crepe paper to cover the thing. This step took much longer than expected, but so happy with how it turned out. I taped two colors of tissue paper to the inside to make the top, and added store bought stars and a mini chalkboard to finish it off.


Inside were a mix of fun items and a few practicalities. My boy, who is flesh of his father and already practicing his man skills, didn't realize a few of these things were items we already had.


The Plants vs. Zombies folders (Target) and Grow a Zombie toy (Dollar Tree) were the hit items. I was especially taken with the drumstick pencil toppers (Target), cheap washi tape (Dollar Tree) and owl latch on hand sanitizer (Dollar Tree). The ninja bubbles (you guessed it -- Dollar Tree) fit nicely in the point of the cone.


I considered making Everett a mini cone, but decided to wait until he, too, starts kindergarten to share this special tradition. He didn't care a bit about the contents of the cone, but couldn't wait to get his hands on the cone itself to do this.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Front hallway re-do

For those of you keeping track, we have made very little progress fixing up our little fixer upper home. There have been some behind the scenes modifications, such as updating the electrical panel and replacing the wall heater (the one that was charring wood in the attic and vented carbon monoxide directly back into the house), but even these upgrades will likely not be appreciated by the next owners -- the new circuit box is functional, but looks like shit, and they will curse us daily for not putting in central heat and air in our little sauna.


What is that about next owners? Well, we have decided to throw in the towel on our little Cracker Jack box, and focus on buying our dream home. Instead of a planned 5 more years here, we are looking to sell in a year and a half. This will give us some time to save more money towards a down payment, and do a spit shine on our current house. Instead of modern cement siding, she'll be getting another rotten paint job that will fry off in 5 years and make the new owners hate us even more (our house currently looks post apocalyptic due to how bad the last paint job weathered). If by chance we get stuck here, i.e. another housing bubble, we will have made the place liveable again. But -- then I'm going to for sure need that new kitchen :)

Our spirits are renewed under this new plan, and hopefully we will get on track with both indoor and outdoor projects. The indoor ones we outlined are kind of fun. We even thought of a Designed to Sell level upgrade for our craptastic bathroom that will give visual wow, but won't cost too much money.

Our most recent project was a re-do really, as we had already addressed the front hallway area to some degree. This time the impetus was to hang up a coat rack in anticipation of kindergarten starting this week for Hank. The key holder/ mail holder was already located here.


BT also refinished the front closet door and replaced the molding. He has been doing these two upgrades as he addresses each room. The doors are all custom, and hand-routed. Back in 1948, somebody likely would have thought the fabricator of these doors did a lousy job, as the routed lines are barely straight. By today's standards, they are considered well made and worth preserving. In addition to general touch ups on the doors, BT needs to rebuild the area around the door handle, as a chunk of each door was removed to put in the handle. He also replaces the hinges. It takes him a weekend to re-do a door. We are down to just 2 more to do -- yeah!


This door has a deadbolt instead of a handle. This was the way the door was when we moved in. We heard the previous owner keep guns in here. The utility of leaving it this way is two-fold, though both reasons are totally ghetto. One, if this door had a handle, it would compete with the handle of the front door if both were open. Also -- this is our safe closet. Anything of value (and only one non-working classic gun) is locked up in here in case the house gets broken into again. So, yeah -- the new owners will likely think we were weird and swap out the handle, but perhaps with time they will realize why we had it this way.


The light fixture was also something we had had changed early on, but I cleaned out all the dead bugs.


I also cleaned out the closet. The shopaholic in me wants to buy all new hip and coordinated boxes, but the environmentalist in me knows it is best to use what I have. This closet truly holds a hodge-podge of junk. What -- don't you have an Oktoberfest box, too?


The only remaining project for this area is the front door. BT just wants to refinish the one we have, but I have had my eye on some modern made alternatives. Will keep you posted on who wins that battle and additional progress!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Everett's first trip to The Bowl

We were excited to take Everett to the Hollywood Bowl for the first time


The show was similar to the Hank's first show. Instead of Pixar movies, however, the show we saw this year was based on animated movies from DreamWorks. We admittedly had not seen all of the movies featured in the show, but there were a few favorites such as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, and Madagascar.


The show was very well put together. Jack Black was the host, and kept everybody laughing. There were many executives from DreamWorks there -- in fact I think the only one missing was Steven Spielberg, lol.

For our pre-show picnic, I put together a meat and cheese platter


and used some clearance items from Target


to put together picnic baskets containing wraps for the grown ups


and Kung Fu Panda shaped sandwiches for the kids.


It was a great show. The majority of people at The Bowl are nice and down to earth. But -- there are definitely a few that like to flaunt their Bowl worthiness -- making a point to state that they are season ticket holders, that they have been coming to The Bowl for decades, etc. One of these types was sitting behind us. She made an assessment of every kid around her, including ours. Overall she didn't like the extra noise, and thought it was too late for kids. If this is how late all of the parents attending last night's event normally kept their kids out, there would be a problem -- but most kids can handle one late night. The lady thought Everett was passed out (What's the point of bringing a baby, she said, or something along those lines), but he was actually laying still as could be while the music was playing, eyes wide open, taking it all in. At one point both boys were laying across me with their heads on top of each other -- wish I could have gotten a picture of that.

I am the first one to call my kids out as monsters if they are acting up in public. The Bowl is magical, though. It shows how deeply we all are affected by music. Despite showing scenes from popular movies, there is hardly any noise at all when the orchestra is playing. If the music was softer to allow the movie dialog to be heard, or if somebody on stage was talking, then you heard kids making a little noise. As soon as the music took center stage -- it was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. I enjoyed whispering to Hank about the instruments and making sure he understood how the different people introduced assist with making movies. Yep - everything was great until on our walk down the big hill, Everett projectile vomited all over me, Hank, and a couple of young women. He did it again on the bus ride home (which I was prepared for -- as much as one can be to deflect barf). Even that experience and our cranky seat mate could not hamper how much fun I had cultivating a love of music in my two boys out under the glow of a few stars and the famous Hollywood sign.