Thursday, December 8, 2016

Yosemite 2016

We had such a nice Yosemite trip this October (yup, I'm definitely behind on this blog).  It was much wetter than years past, but we actually really enjoyed all the rain because it made for such dramatic scenery with the waterfalls flowing higher than we have ever seen them, even during springtime visits.  We even had a nice hike to the bridge below Vernal Falls in the rain one day where we all just carried umbrellas.  It was fun!  

We got to the park early enough on Thursday morning to do the short, easy hike to Lower Yosemite Falls.  We saw deer, the girls climbed on boulders with their cousins, Elizabeth & Robert (Bobby & Holly's kids who came with Holly), and enjoyed a picnic lunch of egg salad sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, and Cheetos.  The park felt practically deserted most of the time we were there, probably because of all the rain that had been forecast and the timing since we were there the weekend before Halloween, which is later than we have gone in previous years.  

After lunch we walked to the museum and the Miwok & Ahwahneechee replica structures in Yosemite Village.  Rose was so happy to have her little yellow polka dot umbrella to carry around with her.

It rained heavily overnight between Thursday and Friday and when we went outside on Friday morning we could hear Yosemite Falls absolutely thundering with all the water.  It was unbelievably loud - totally unlike anything we have ever heard from it before - and it was pretty fascinating to witness how much water was gushing over the falls.

We attempted some family pics with the tripod but none of them really turned out.  This is the best of the bunch but it's not that great (I'm picky - the picture is fine, I guess, just not the setting and colors and level of photography I wanted.  Tripod self-portraits are so hard!).  

We rode buses, which the girls loved.

And Paul and I even did a couple of little "date" walks while the girls were playing in the room with Grandma Nash doing crafts and games and such.

It's hard to convey with these pics but the lighting was so intense the whole time.  The clouds would part and sunlight would stream through and then the wet weather would sock back in.  It was beautiful and fascinating.

We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon hiking up around Mirror Lake, which actually had water in it for once!  Usually this is where we play in a bone dry, sandy lake bed (more like a pond since it is so small) but since there was so much water it was completely full and we couldn't access the rocks that we normally climb on.  Instead, the kids hauled small rocks or chunks of tree bark to chuck into the water.

We also found a little area tucked off the main trail where park visitors have set up dozens of cairns.  It was such a neat place and the girls enjoyed climbing around stacking rocks to recreate their own little cairns.    

On Saturday morning we attempted family photos yet again.  This time I was more deliberate in our attire and in choosing a setting that I liked for backlighting purposes.  Paul modeled for me while I messed with settings.  He's the cutest.

Much better, right?  Focus still isn't what I would like it to be and the lighting was still hard to work with because of the tripod and the super strong sunlight I was shooting into (even though the trees provided some filter).  And the steam rising off the ground from the early morning sun and the wet rain-soaked earth didn't exactly help (although I kind of like the effect anyway).  The girls were good sports, especially since it was chilly and I made everybody take their jackets off for pictures.

Bob & Donna and Holly, Elizabeth & Robert were on this walk with us (we mostly just meandered around the meadows) and I thought this was a cute picture of Clara and Robert posing for Grandpa Nash.

Paul spotted a cool setting for pics near one of the buildings tucked off in a patch of trees so we set up the tripod and attempted a few more photos there.  I was kept tickling Rose and she was hamming it up for the camera.  That girl.

It's so hard to get really good family pictures of everybody and I've told Paul that next year I want to hire a real photographer (you know, once my braces are off) because we have only ever done that once (using a ridiculously cheap Groupon years ago for some photographer who was clearly trying to get his business off the ground and wasn't actually that good).  But for tripod pics, I'm fairly happy with what we got.

I don't have pictures of some of the other things we did this trip like breakfast at the Ahwahnee, which is always fun, or eating pizza at the Curry Village Pizza Patio (another favorite activity), or playing Bingo in Grandpa & Grandma's room.  But it was such an enjoyable vacation.  It's the first time that both girls have done all the hiking entirely on their own.  Clara still had a few complaints about hikes being "too long" or wanting to be done, but she did so much better than she has in the past.  And Rose just held my hand and trooped along, even when I could tell she was starting to fatigue on our Vernal Falls hike.  But we didn't even have to coax or bribe the girls along this time, which was heavenly.

If I can get my act together, Paul and I took a few video clips that I have been meaning to edit into a video and if I do, I will post that as well.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Halloween 2016

For months, Clara had been telling me that she wanted to be a skeleton for Halloween.  But then we finished reading "The Wizard of Oz" and she started mentioning being a witch for Halloween.  And then we started watching "Hocus Pocus" and it really sealed the deal that the girls wanted to be witches.  Even Rose got into it and would go around announcing, "I a WITCH!" which was the cutest thing ever.  

I didn't make the girls' costumes this year, which I would feel sad about except I just didn't feel inspired to pull out my sewing machine and I absolutely adore the costumes I put together for them anyway.  Instead of going with a one piece witch dress from a costume store, I ordered the girls some black, long sleeve leotards and black child-size flamenco dancer ballroom practice skirts (which I had to hem because they were too long - so I guess I kind of sewed their costumes, or altered at least).  The hats were just cheap ones from Target.  Then I got some thick black ribbon with a black velvet pattern on it for a waistband and bow in the back, just to finish off the look.

Clara loved twirling the full skirt.  And Rose would daintily hold up her skirt with her hands like a little princess and sway with it.  I took them to the historic cemetery near our home to snap a few photos on Halloween afternoon on our way to swimming lessons.  This was literally a 5-minute photo shoot and I have to admit that it felt slightly scandalous to be dancing around a graveyard dressed as witches on All Hallow's Eve.  

No family shot this year.  Paul was going to dress up as a skeleton still but we got rained out on the days that might have worked for a family shot and he didn't make it home from work until dark on Halloween night, just in time for trick-or-treating.  I wore my costume all day long since I helped in Clara's classroom for their Halloween party and figured, why not? I set the camera on an interval timer to jump in for at least a couple of shots with the girls that aren't in focus (self-portraits are so hard!  I have no idea how to get focus right in a self-portrait).  So you can see that all three of us were witches.  My skirt was just the adult size of theirs and I wore a cool black lace top that I found at Ann Taylor Loft (which is awesome because I can totally wear it in real life too!)  And my slouchy witches hat was also a Target special.  It reminds me of the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter and I love it.

Clara's school Halloween party was a lot of fun.  A friend of mine watched Rose so I could spend the morning helping out in Clara's classroom as Room Mom.  First there was the parade, which was made extra insane by the announcements of the school Jaws-A-Thon results.  The parents were asked to stand in the field and line the track so the kids could parade around.  Clara wasn't too happy about the fact that I didn't get to walk with her so she was kind of grumpy about it.  She loves Kindergarten and does fine when I'm just dropping her off, but on the days that I go to help, she has been pretty clingy.  But she did okay.  

All of the Kindergarten teachers dressed as the fish from Dr. Seuss's "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish".  Mrs. Johnson, Clara's Kindergarten teacher, was "Old Fish", lol.  She is a sweet lady who was a principal for 15 years before retiring and only came back to teach last year after her husband passed away.  Clara really likes her a lot.

Once the parade was over, we started the class party.  I don't have pics from outside but we split the kids into small groups and rotated between outdoor games of ring toss onto witches hats (small plastic black traffic cones), a running game to fetch all 12 pieces of a skeleton and assemble it on the ground, and Halloween tic-tac-toe on two large felt pumpkin and ghost boards I picked up at Target that I keep in our Halloween boxes for our annual Halloween party.  

Inside the classroom, we had the children dip their own caramel apples for a craft/take-home treat.  I brought pretzels, marshmallows, M&M's, sprinkles and candy corn for the kids to press into the caramel of their apples to make faces or designs and they all seemed to love it.  I made 3 batches of caramel to fill up the crockpot so dipping would be really easy and bought small apples from the grocery store instead of the huge Costco ones.  And I have found that tongue depressors are easier to use than popsicle sticks when making caramel apples because it gives more of a handle to hold onto.  

I was a little worried how the kids would do with sticky caramel but they were all really focused and kept their apples over the caramel so I could scrape off excess caramel before they placed their apples on their plates that we had set up with names and wax paper in advance.  The whole process went off seamlessly and since we had plenty of extra, all of the other adult helpers got in on the caramel action too.  And the room smelled heavenly.  Mrs. Johnson said that she had never had a caramel apple before, which I found really surprising!  I would totally do this again if I am ever in charge of another school Halloween party.

After all the activities, the kids had a short recess while the parents who were helping cleaned up.  There were 6 of us there - Clara's class has lots of really involved adults - so that was quick.  Then when the kids got back in they snacked on mandarin oranges with Jack-O-Lantern faces drawn on them in Sharpie thanks to Paul and chips & individual cups of guac, with cupcakes for dessert while I read "The Ugly Pumpkin" and "Ten Timid Ghosts" to them, which they were all super attentive for.  The other room parent took this picture for me while I was reading.  After snacks & story time, we played Halloween Bingo and all the kids "won" Halloween pencils and glow sticks.  It was a lot of fun!

The rest of our day was pretty normal with swimming lessons and hanging out at home, but just before trick-or-treating we went over to Rich & Claudia's house (Paul's uncle & aunt) because they always invite us over for pre-trick-or-treating festivities including the Donuts-on-a-String game.  Clara really got into it this year and was determined not to touch her donut with her hands.  Rose, on the other hand, took one look at the bigger kids chasing after their donuts with open mouths and grabbed her donut and started eating all the sprinkles off of it.  The boys were all so serious about it, but Clara was laughing so hard that it made it difficult for her to get a lock on her donut target.  All the adults were cracking up too because it is such a funny game to watch.  Here are way too many of practically the same photo showing how the game progressed.

We made a quick stop back at the house to pick up trick-or-treat baskets and Clara cautiously told me that she had decided she wanted to be the Wicked Witch after all.  I had picked up a tube of green face paint, just in case, so we went into my bathroom and quickly applied it all over her face and down her neck, but she specifically told me that she did NOT want me to do her hands.  I missed her ears and the back of her neck too, but it was so cute nonetheless.  I didn't even attempt to put some on Rose.

Trick-or-treating itself went pretty well.  The girls lasted much longer than last year and it was our first time doing it without a stroller.  Rose kept saying "let's do a-nudder one!" after each house and wanting to run to the next.  It was Clara who tired out first and started saying she was ready to go home and neither girl asked to be carried.  There were some technical glitches with witch hats flying off thanks to a little bit of wind and it started sprinkling on us right at the end, but all-in-all it was a really fun night!

We are already making plans for family costumes in 2017 so hopefully we will be better and more on top of it next year as far as a group picture goes!