Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Half Moon Bay, More Reflections & Hot Chocolate, and Day-to-Day 365 stuff

We have been having such a busy, fun January!  One of my favorites on record actually, and I think it's because we have decided to beat the January blues by doing lots and lots of fun things.  The other week we decided to take the girls to Half Moon Bay to watch the winter surf, which is always amazing and powerful.  It was chilly and blustery as most of our January days have been, but still beautiful.  We had lunch at Sam's Chowder House afterwards.

Rose was scaring us with how adamant she was about climbing all over these huge rocks by herself.  She kept scaring herself too, though, and would call out for help one second while pushing away the next.

Her cheesy pose & smile for dad.

The girls shared some fish & chips and Paul and I each got a big bowl of clam chowder.  Which okay, okay, is not Whole30 compliant but we decided not to be ridiculously fastidious towards the end of our Whole30.  I would say we finished out at about 95% compliance (which I know according to the Whole30 "rules" would equal a fail and require a restart).  We justified it based on having already finished a real one and knowing we didn't have food allergies or issues to deal with - more just the sugar cravings and dysfunctional food relationships and we kept those under control (i.e., we didn't order desserts, stayed away from dairy & grain with small exceptions like this chowder, etc.) during this round.  Because everybody reading this needed to know all that...

After Half Moon Bay, we drove up through the Santa Cruz mountains.  We stopped for a little hike down to see this swollen creek, admire the giant fallen trees, and hunt for banana slugs.

I keep looking at 365 prompts but then doing my own thing based on what inspires me that day.  Like when I caught Rose after church one Sunday, hiding underneath our bed covers, dressed in a leotard and Cinderella skirt, eating stolen fruit snacks that she found while pawing through my blue church bag, scattering its contents everywhere.  I grabbed Paul so he could witness her naughtiness but not before I grabbed my camera first.

She was pretty pleased with herself.

Clara still loves gymnastics.  Rose loves sitting and watching the iPad while Clara practices.

Oh the messes these girls make!  I swear they pull out every single toy when they are playing and for the life of me I can't get the idea across that they need to put one toy away before getting another out.  At least Clara usually has a pretty good attitude about helping me clean up the mess at the end of the day.  Rose, not so much.  But we're working on it.

We went to the Oakland Zoo last Friday and I forgot my big camera.  It's the first day of my 365 project that I only have an iPhone picture, which is better than I thought I would be doing by now!  The otters and baboons were our favorites this time.  They were so playful and active!  But the elephants, lions, tigers, bears, alligators, macaws, chimpanzees and squirrel monkeys were all really active and moving around too, which was fun because so often they are all just sleeping when we go.

My P52 group's photo prompt for the week was "selfless selfie" where you take a picture of something that says something about you without actually including yourself in the image.  I actually ended up with something I like better but my first thought was to stack all of our travel books in a big pile.  I love browsing travel books and magazines and haven't done it in a long time.  Those little "Top 10" guides are actually some of my favorites and have come in handy for past trips.  I have been feeling antsy for a big trip again lately and flipping through some of these pages and feeling inspired by the images gets me excited about the possibilities of where we might go next (most likely Costa Rica this November over Thanksgiving).

This is my favorite reflection shot I took in January, when I was paying attention to opportunities to take pictures with reflections in them.  I saw somebody else take a picture and flip it on its head so the reflection stood out more as the subject, so it's not like I'm super creative in this.  But I am in love with her perfect pose, the dynamic sky behind her, and the centered composition.

Some other favorites from the same day...  We have an hour to kill on the playground every Monday while Clara is in Spanish class so Rose had plenty of time to play in the puddles and have the school equipment all to herself.

After Clara got done with class, I told her we could hang out for a little bit longer, thinking she would want to play on the equipment like the swings.  But instead, she just wanted to run around the track at school.  Run Club is every other Friday and it's probably Clara's favorite thing about Kindergarten.  

When we got home, I offered to make hot chocolate for the girls.  We haven't done this in a while and they absolutely loved it.  I made it barely warm and both girls guzzled it down with smacking lips and little groans of satisfaction.  They have been asking for it again most days since then, which is funny since they have never been huge hot chocolate drinkers until now.

I posted this on instagram, but when I was taking these photos, my heart was just melting over the little dimples in Rose's knuckles.  It reminds me of how little she still is with her baby-pudge hands, even though she seems so big most days in a lot of other respects.

Rose in her Valentine's Day dress.  We went to take some pictures and this is one of the outtakes.  It's also probably the best shot I got with dramatic lighting, even though I have some that I like even more of both girls when they were having fun playing.  It's so hard when you can't get your kids to play in the exact light you want them to, lol.  She loves her new dress from Grandma Cece and has been begging me to wear it ever since it arrived in the mail.  Now that we have taken pictures, I'm letting the girls wear their new outfits (we're close enough to Feb. 14th, right?) and they couldn't be happier about it.

My 365 picture from Inauguration Day.  Like pretty much everybody else, it seems, my heart is troubled over the state of our country lately.  It's not just our new president, but also the American people and the way everybody is acting and reacting that concerns me.  I'm basically trying to avoid social media as much as possible, not out of a desire to be an ostrich with my head stuck in the sand, but more to just avoid the negativity that is overrunning my feeds.

And lastly, a picture of laundry.  Actually, this is my other attempt at a "selfless selfie" and it's of three of my favorite cardigans.  I have had these for far too long and they are all showing a bit of wear.  They don't hold their shape like they used to and are a bit worse for the wear.  But they were still bright lying there in the sunshine and they are still so comfortable and enjoyable to wear.  They made me think of myself at this stage of life and feeling worn out and maybe a bit faded from what I once was, though still bright and colorful and hopefully reliable.  Anyone who knows me knows I wear a cardigan almost every day, even many days during the summer (CA summers are cool in the mornings and evenings so I can get away with it), so I just felt like this shot was appropriate and I love that it was unplanned, unlike the one I took with the travel books.  I just happened to notice them and the idea of the selfless selfie popped in my head.

And just like that, here we are at the last day of January!  I'm amazed that tomorrow is February 1st.  I have one more post about a trip to Tahoe that we did this past weekend, but I haven't had a chance to go through those pictures yet and this post is long enough already.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Rose's Snow White 3rd Birthday Party

Our little miss Rose had her third birthday this past week and what a celebration it was.  It was the first time we have ever thrown a birthday party for her (hashtag second child probs) but really this is the first year that she has even understood what a birthday is all about.  And oh man, now that she has it figured out this girl is birthday obsessed.  

Rose loves all the Disney princesses, but Snow White is definitely her favorite (followed closely by either Cinderella or Belle, I'm guessing).  So when we were trying to figure out what sort of party to throw for her, Snow White just made sense.  On her actual birthday, she woke up to traditional birthday balloons floating on her ceiling.  I heard both girls up around 6:15 but they stayed in their room chatting and playing with the balloons for half an hour until their alarm clock lit up and they knew it was okay for them to come out.  Normally it's more of a struggle than that so maybe we should do balloons more often, lol.   

Clara is our "maker" and is constantly crafting/drawing/writing/inventing things.  She grabbed a spare wooden scrap block from a project Paul has been working on in the garage and created a happy birthday sign for Rose, who loved it.  This picture gives me all the feels.

We had quite a few little dwarfs come to Rose's party to play with Snow White.  My mom sent this costume to Rose for her birthday and it was just too perfect.  Rose was thrilled.  Clara was incredibly jealous, but fortunately I showed her the costume a few days earlier before wrapping it for Rose and we had a good, long conversation about how somebody's birthday is THEIR special day, not Clara's special day.

Clara went through a bunch of ideas of how she could also get a Snow White costume and we could have two Snow Whites.  When that didn't work, she suggested being the Evil Queen.  I shot that down telling her that there would be little kids at the party and while she was big enough not to be afraid of the Evil Queen, they weren't and anyway, it was Rose's special day, not Clara's, and while she would get to play all the games and celebrate WITH Rose, it was not Clara's day and that her day would come on her birthday in May.  After a day or so to mull that over, Clara did awesome on the actual day of the party and really showered Rose with love and support in a way we don't always see so I could tell she really took the message to heart.

I came up with this idea to making "magic mirrors" when I saw super cheap paddleboards at Joann's that were 4 for $1.  I just cut off the elastic string and ball and Paul painted the paddles with some leftover spray paint, then I glued circular mirrors on each one (I think the mirrors were 5 for $1, so I had 2 leftover that I just glued onto small plates for circular mirrors).  Then we (really, my friend Christina who I knew would jump right in and help me) just put dots of glue all around the front of each paddle and the kids decorated them with a bunch of jewels that came in a huge bag.  The bag of jewels wasn't super cheap ($10 with a 50% off coupon at Joann's) but we only used about 1/4 of it and I'm sure we will use these in future craft projects for the girls (crowns, jewelry, picture frames, etc.).    I spread the jewels around the table as much for decoration as ease of access for little hands, and it worked well with the Seven Dwarves mining for jewels vibe that was part of some of our later activities.  After the magic mirrors dried, they went into each child's goodie bag to take home.

One of the Snow White party ideas I saw online was to get a bucket and a bunch of pennies to do a "Wishing Well".  The kids were so cute making wishes and trying to land their coins in the bucket.  They ended up playing this again at the end of the party when waiting for parents because it was so easy and fun for them!

After the wishing well game, we went back to the table to make Seven Dwarf beards.  We had foam beards cut out and the kids glue cotton balls on them.  It worked okay, except that we should have done this earlier so the glue could dry because we pretty much immediately put the beards on and kids started losing cotton balls.  So my execution wasn't great, but I still think the idea was cute.

Once the kids all had their beards (and not everybody elected to wear them), we went out front where we have a rock garden (which I hated when we first moved in but it has since grown on me to the point that I think we are going to keep it although it needs to be weeded and we need to rearrange rocks).  I had ordered a bag of 36 1" plastic jewels through Amazon for $8 and Paul had scattered them around the rocks to create a jewel mine.  The kids all saw it walking up to the door for the party, which was fine because it partially set the scene for the party but we also then "mined for jewels" easter egg hunt style, which took all of a few minutes, but the kids had fun with it.  They then got to put their jewels in their goodie bags along with their dwarf beards and magic mirrors to take home after the party.

We served lunch after the jewel mining.  I made a poisoned apple cake for Rose's birthday cake by cooking a doctored up chocolate cake mix in a medium-size glass oven safe pyrex bowl, which was kind of annoying because I only have one and it took almost an hour to cook each half of the sphere.  Then I stuck the two sphere halves together with frosting, frosted the outside and covered it with red sprinkles, and carved out a little spot to frost with white frosting to make it look like a bite had been taken out of it (I don't think that turned out as great as I hoped it would, but it was fine).  A cinnamon stick for a stem and a leaf that Clara collected from outside finished off the cake.

For the real party food, I did all small, finger food type things for "dwarf food".  We had beanie weinies (those tiny hot dog things), baby carrots, apple slices, chips & guacamole, and mini quesadillas made from wonton wrappers (which Christina made because she is the best).  Oh, and wishing well water that was just water with apple slices in it to make it look pretty.

I also made four different flavors/colors of Jell-O jigglers which I cut into small cubes and placed in clear plastic cups to look like jewels (again with the whole mining for jewels concept).  Those were a hit with the kids, which always baffles me because I think Jell-O jigglers are disgusting, but at least they got eaten!  I spread some decorative moss around the counter to make it look "enchanted foresty" and that was that.

This was our tablescape before the kids showed up.  Just plain yellow fabric for a tablecloth with a blue crushed velvet runner and Snow White colors for plates, napkins & utensils.

Snow White really dug into her cake.

We just let the kids play in the toy room for a bit after finishing lunch because so many of them kept sneaking back there in between earlier activities, but eventually we called them all back out to the living room to open presents.  Rose got so many nice things from her friends and just had a great time.  She said the sweetest little "thank you's!" when prompted.

This princess sticker book was a big hit with both Rose & Clara.  They sat side-by-side and looked through the whole thing (and it wasn't a small book!) exclaiming over each page and set of stickers or settings.

A quick picture of the goodie bags all lined up and ready to take home.

We waited to have Rose open the rest of her presents from grandparents, Aunts and us until her actual birthday, which was the day after her party.  I don't have pictures of the unwrapped presents but she got a toy cash register, a tea set, a Snow White doll, more Mag-former tile things, the Elefun game, some dress-up jewelry, and a sleeping bag for camping.

Since we did a big birthday cake the day of her party, for her birthday I just took her to Nothing Bundt Cakes to get her free Chocolate Chocolate Chip bundtlet (her favorite) and we sang to her and did candles after dinner that night.  

She is still talking about her birthday and already telling me that she thinks she wants a "Belle birthday" next (year, I'm guessing although I'm pretty sure she is convinced she ought to have another party next week).  

Happy 3rd Birthday, Rose!