Our summer visit to CA

This year marked our 4th annual 4th of July visit to B & G’s (aka Papa and Gigi).  I’m not really sure how this trip became a tradition, but it’s something we have looked forward to every year (even if it isn’t our only CA trip of the year).  There are always the simple, “traditional” things we do each time – pool, beaches, parks, walk to Mag’s Donuts, clam chowder at Sabatino’s, Farmer’s Market, fireworks show from the balcony… And then we always add something new to the trip – keep things lively.  This year we visited the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.  It was D’s first visit to an aquarium and she quickly discovered her favorite animals – sting rays and sea otters.  I, personally, would second the sea otters and add jelly fish to the top of my list – especially the jellies that have lights.  Nature sure is amazing and I’m convinced that tropical fish were designed by Crayola.

Besides the aquarium, this trip’s highlights were celebrating B & G’s 50th wedding anniversary, a little early, with a nice dinner at Gulfstream in Newport Beach; watching D’s confidence in swimming grow stronger each day in the pool; watching the strong surf at the Wedge and playing in the sand, seaweed and tidal pools in Little Corona.  So fun!

Here are some highlight photos from the trip:


Jumping in is the best part


She swam the entire length of the pool with her trusty kick board


Laughing at the seagulls running in the waves


Building sand castles at the Wedge


Watching a penguin swim from below


Admiring the color palettes with Gigi in the Tropical exhibit


With Papa and the Penguins


Getting a close up view of the sting rays


Family photo at Newport Beach Civic Center



Celebrating B & G’s 50th Anniversary


Someone loves her Papa


Somehow, chores are more fun on vacation



Filed under Family, Travels

A Playhouse

Last week we celebrated our little girl’s 4th birthday.  There was a birthday party with many friends at the park, Grandpa and Grandma’s traditional birthday visit and, of course, the late night building, painting and finishing touches on her gift – a cedar playhouse.  We had our eyes on this house since it made its debut at Costco before the holidays.  With her love of playing “family”, “restaurant” and general pretend, we knew she was the perfect age (and kid) for it.  I’m thankful to have a handy husband who loves to build and can easily envision the final results because he certainly put his personal touch on it.  Here’s a photo of the actual playhouse from the company website…

$_35…and here’s our house (model included)…


Birthday morning surprise


Added the flower boxes


Serving window side – replaced the chalkboard with a hanging plant


A silly welcome


Inside – just need to add chairs and a rug


A happy homeowner

With pretend food, a shopping cart and mom to check her out at the grocery store, this house has already provided hours of entertainment for this little one.  She’s in it every day.  And with the hot weather now here, T even installed an “indoor” light so she can play in it in the cooler evening hours.  Well worth the time and money to make it our own and keep the play outside.



Filed under Celebrations, Creations, Home

True Food’s “The Natural” Ginger Soda


True Food Kitchen Website

One of my favorite places to eat here in the Phoenix area is True Food Kitchen.  They embody my three favorite things in a restaurant – healthy, delicious and relaxing.  Sitting out on the wrap-around porch, sipping “The Natural” and enjoying light fare puts me in a perpetual summer mood, whether it’s August or February.  You know, that feeling of being on vacation with only thoughts of “I have no place to be, I may as well stay here and have another”.


True Food Kitchen Website

Well, you can only imagine my excitement when I found I could bring a little piece of that bliss home with me.  No, not the wrap-around porch, although that would be my preference.  I’m referring to their delicious ginger soda drink called “The Natural”.  It’s refreshing, yummy and easy to make.  I found the recipe on the Phoenix New Times website after a quick Google search and I was very pleased with the outcome.  I make it one glass at a time instead of by the pitcher since the Club Soda will lose its fizz quickly – just a word of caution.  If you like ginger, this drink is for you!


½ cup Agave Nectar
1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finally chopped
1 cup Sparkling Water

Ginger Soda (pitcher)
½ Cup Ginger Syrup
3 Cups Sparkling Water
Ice Cubs


1. To make the syrup first peel the ginger
2. Next grate the ginger on a cheese grater
3. Measure out the Agave nectar (1/2 cup)
4. Measure out the Sparkling Water (1 cup)​
5. Place the agave nectar, ginger, and sparkling water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until your house fills with a strong smell of ginger, about 1 hour. Let cool. ​
6. NOTE: you can refrigerate this mixture for up to 1 week​
7. To make the soda: By the pitcher, combine ½ cup syrup with the soda water. By the glass, combine 2 teaspoons of the syrup with soda water​
8. Pour over ice and serve cold

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Lessons from D

Lessons.  New lessons, old lessons, lessons that bear repeating.  Lessons that come from my nearly 4 year old daughter.  I think these are the lessons I love the most.  Those that come without judgment or purpose; those that come from just living and observing.  Just this past week alone, I’ve put into practice two lessons that I learned from watching my daughter:

D running in grass

Take off your shoes and run barefoot through the grass.
We are lucky (and invested) desert-dwellers who have nice soft grass in our backyard.  D has repeatedly walked through the door after school this week, taken off her shoes and socks and run free-willing around the yard yelling, “wahoo!”  The other day she said, “mommy, take off your shoes and run in the backyard with me.”  How can I pass that up after a day inside in heels?  What a simple, yet relaxing way to start off the evening!  We ran around for about 5 minutes waving our arms and being goofy.  It was the best 5 minutes of my day.

Look forward to the simple things.
D is a child who likes to know what to expect.  In the morning during breakfast, we usually talk about what we’re going to do after school.  I’m always so delighted to see her excitement when I pick her up and she asks, “can we go to the park now?” or “are we going to the library?”, after having been to both a zillion times.  Last night, T and D had a rare night at home without mama and it was planned that they would go to McDonald’s for dinner.  The minute she walked in the door at school, she told all her teachers and friends about her plans and how excited she was to have chicken nuggets (it’s a rare treat, indeed).  She had a great day filled with anticipation.  I loved that about being a child – getting excited over the little things.  My little thing now?  I get to come home and spend time in my child’s world for a while.  A world that’s simple and very present.

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Filed under Musings, Random Epiphanies

A Trip to the Mall

DSC01570Remember the Chore Chart we created back in September?  Well, I’m proud to say that household chores have become a regular routine now for one 3.5 year old.  Tahoe’s food bowl is overflowing most of the time, and the table gets set with utensils and napkins on a regular basis – ok, sometimes I have to ask twice, but it gets done.

Let me reiterate how great the Chore Chart is when you’re introducing household responsibilities to your children.  We used it for a few weeks and it quickly became routine.  The stickers were the initial motivator, followed by the allowance at the end of the week and, ultimately, the trip to buy a gift with our savings.

We had been to the Disney Store a couple times to check out the inventory so D could understand how much she needed to save for her favorite item.  When we saved up $12.00, we went back and she darted right for the princess dolls and chose Belle – her yellow dress is beautiful, after all.  With our bag of money, we picked a patient cashier to count out all the quarters so D could see and understand her money being spent.  And, with change still in our pocket and Belle clenched tight to our chest, we left the store very proud of our accomplishments.

That night, D and Rapunzel introduced Belle to all her stuffy friends and Belle had a birthday party.  She’s been the constant companion of the week

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Filed under Kid Stuff, Uncategorized

Happy Valentine’s Day

Poor D has been sick most of this week, fighting a terrible cold and cough and, ultimately, missing her classroom Valentine’s party.  However, we weren’t about to allow the party to go on completely without us.  We still made our special Valentines and dropped them off so her friends could receive a little D love.  My mom sent me this idea and I thought it was so cute.  I also liked that it didn’t involve candy.  Everyone can use a cute pencil, right?!  I found this template over at Bits of Everything  and printed it on construction paper.  Easy and something a little different – everything a working mama can love.


This year, instead of a count down chain, we made and decorated 14 paper hearts and hung them up garland style (see our Thanksgiving garland).  Last night, I took all the removed hearts and decorated D’s door so she would see them when she woke up in the morning.  Through blurry eyes and a running nose, she smiled – my Valentine’s Day is complete.


Enjoy your day of love!

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Filed under Celebrations, Family, Uncategorized

What season is it again?


While a lot of the country is experiencing record setting snow storms, power outages and closed airports, we here in the Valley of the Sun are experiencing record warmth.  Now, before you take my words as gloating, I will add that we could really use some rain, and although I prefer my shorts and flip flops to sweaters and coats, a little cold spell here and there gives me a sense of the true season which is short in these parts.

Right now, this week, the season is spring.  Therefore, last weekend we did what we love to do in the spring – play outdoors.  A nice morning walk to the coffee shop for breakfast, followed by a family bike ride around the neighborhood, ending with an evening around the fire in the backyard.  D brought out her books and a flashlight to read at the fire.  She even chose two outdoor-themed books for the occasion – Going on a Lion Hunt and Just Me and My Dad Little Critter.

This weekend is showing to be another warm one.  Good thing the bike tires are pumped and ready to go.  What’s the weather like where you are and how are you rolling with the season?

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Filed under Musings, Weekending