Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Still Have It in Me

It has been a long time since I stayed up (willingly) until 3 in the morning.  This past Saturday was our annual Labor Day picnic.  We normally invite all of our neighbors and friends.  It is a chance for everyone to get together before school officially begins.

The job of inviting everyone falls to me.  I just use Evite.  It makes it easier since guests respond directly on the site and its free.  Usually the party falls on Labor Day weekend. In case you didn't know, Labor Day falls on the first Monday in September.   When I scheduled the party, I had just glanced at the calendar and saw the last weekend in August and planned the party then.

Apparently, I need to go back to school to learn how to read a calendar.  Today is a Monday but it isn't Labor Day nor is it the first of September.  It is August 31st.  It all worked out though since many people who couldn't normally come were able to.  In fact, many of our guests seemed to prefer having it before Labor Day weekend.  It is officially an End of Summer Barbecue now rather than a Labor Day Weekend Barbeque.

I did many things I don't try to do to often including staying up to three am, eating all kinds of gluttonous food (okay, I have been indulging a little more than usual considering this is our third party in the span of one week), talking for hours about things other than my children (although they sometimes were featured prominently in the conversation), and being a little wild and crazy.

Wild and crazy?  Me.  Okay, I wasn't that wild and crazy seeing as how I didn't willingly jump into a freezing cold pool fully clothed at midnight.  No, I had my husband to thank for pushing me in at the encouragement of everyone else.    Of course, I did push him in first.  It was our next door neighbor who was the first to cannonball in.  It just escalated from there.  People were joking about jumping in.  Most of the adults didn't have swimsuits though so they just jumped in with their clothes on. 

It may have seemed like a good idea at the time but after the first 10 seconds, teeth were chattering.  It has started cooling down here at night to around 50 degrees.  Amazingly, I didn't lose my flip flops when I hit the water.  I was completely soaked (including my sweatshirt since I was already cold) since I went underwater when I first got thrown in.  It was a good thing it was in the shallow end since I am not a good swimmer.

The rest of the party was by the fire pit since most of us were soaked.  It didn't break up until three am.  I don't think I stayed up that late in years just talking and having fun.  No little ones with fevers, vomiting, teething, or tempers to soothe in the night.  No, they were sound asleep in their beds upstairs while all the shenanigans were going on outside.

It was a little thing, a midnight swim, maybe a little irresponsible but it was oh, so funny. It has been awhile since I have laughed quite so hard.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Party Party

On Friday, Emmy's little playgroup friends and some of my friends and their little ones arrived to help celebrate Emmy's birthday.

I really did keep it simple but simple with the final total being fourteen kids and seven moms really wasn't so simple. 

The party was moved outside so the kids could run and play with bubbles, my daughter's Jeep, her little toy house and all the other myriad toys that make up her plastic jungle in the backyard.

When my friends arrived one by one I introduced them to my mommy friends from playgroup.  Then, I proceeded to introduce my mommy playgroup friends to each other.  Not that they needed any introductions.  We all had a good laugh over that one.  This is what happens when your mind is going in four different directions at once.  Who is still not here?  Have I introduced everyone?  Where did my daughter go?  Did I get all of the snacks out?

Thanks goodness for the pool.  It helped cool off the little ones and there was nary a temper tantrum.  Did I just say that out loud?  Fourteen kids and not one grouchy little munchkin.  Is that possible?

I even figured out the tip for the pizza guy in my head when he arrived carrying four piping hot pizzas and he asked me how much change I wanted back after I had handed him his money. 

Of course Emmy didn't eat her pizza.  She was to excited (and not to mention she had ate her fill of strawberries and blueberries). She and one of her little friends did have a pretend picnic on the lawn.  She pretended to eat while her little friend heartily ate her lunch. 

 Cupcakes sprinkled with fairy dust (white sugar crystals)

 Emmy blowing out the candle on her cupcake

It was so funny how most of the kids just ate the icing on the cupcakes and left the cake on their plates.  

It is all about the balloons!

Emmy's favorite thing to do besides a craft (involving foamies) was to run around with her Tinker Bell balloon.  Unfortunately, her little Tinker Bell balloon ended up being released into the great blue yonder accidentally by one of her little friends.  It was bound to happen.  I just told her that Tink flew away.  She was free to fly away to Never Never Land.  Emmy just looked at me and incredulously yelled, "She flew away!".  Not a tear was shed (thank goodness). 

 Stick the Princess in Her Window Game

Before the little ones left, we played stick the princess in her window (kind of like pin the tale on the donkey but for princesses) and they dug for gold coins in a Tupperware container filled with rice.  They then exchanged the coins for goody bags.  

Princess Paper Dolls

The goody bags had wands, frogs, paper dolls (princesses and mermaids for the girls and knights for the boys), coloring sheets, lollipops, and other little goodies.

All in all, it was a great party since I always count a party as successful depending on how long my children nap afterwards!  They both slept for about 2 1/2 hours.  It was perfect, just perfect.

On Sunday, we had a small family party with our immediate families.  We just had some snacks, cupcakes and an ice cream cake. 

Toffee Ice Cream Cake (adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe)

Oreo cookie crust
Layer the following: caramel ice cream (bottom), crushed Heath bars, chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, and freeze overnight (use light ice cream and whipped cream to lower the calories)

This was a hit!  More people ate the ice cream cake than the cupcakes.

Emily's favorite present?  

Em & her favorite present

A bag of M&Ms from her aunt that was opened as soon as she pulled it out of the gift bag.   Yes, she commenced with her humming.

The good news:  next year we get to skip the parties (no milestone birthdays next year) and just let the girls pick what they would like to do for the day.  Their parties will just be small family gatherings with their choice of dinner and cake and ice cream. And pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm Still Cleaning

It was a wonderful weekend filled with lots of yummy calorie-laden food, friends, family, and laughter. 


Friday was Emmy's playgroup party, Saturday was my hubby's fishing tournament, and Sunday was Emmy's family party.  We also went to a baseball game knowing the season is drawing ever closer to its end.


I should have added some relaxation time into the weekend.  "Take a nap" was missing from the list.

So this morning I am sleeping in and then going to the gym to work off all of those calories I consumed.

And I will be visiting and getting caught up on my favorite reads (and the over a hundred emails I neglected over the weekend) today.

I will have Emmy's birthday post tomorrow.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Party Planning Overload

I have been juggling so many balls up in the air lately that one was likely to fall, roll away, and not be retrieved until necessary (or until someone fell over it).

The ball that got dropped?  Emmy's birthday party.  With my husband's work and some major changes possibly taking place, the when and who wasn't answered until last week when I realized I HAD to make a decision.  No more procrastinating.

I decided to have a little party with Emmy's playgroup friends and some of my other mommy friends and their little ones during the time we used to have playgroup.  This caused some confusion among my other mommy friends who were not in our playgroup.  I probably should have sent emails explaining why I was having a birthday party on a Friday morning.  It does seem a little odd, huh?

One set of invites was mailed late because my daughter who has a penchant for hiding things when I am not looking hid them behind the couch cushions.  I only found them because I was looking for the remote control. Then, I proceeded to put 10pm-1 pm on the invites.  This went unnoticed by me even after I proofread them. Reminder: Don't proofread your own writing.

I am the queen of lists and have several different lists and post-its all over my desk and the kitchen island. I love this craziness. 

I can't have just one list.  Oh, no.

My lists include:
  • a decoration list
  • a favor idea list
  • a guest list
  • a food list
  • an activity list/schedule for the party

Seventeen kids (10 toddlers, 3 babies, and 4 school age children) and 8 mommies.  This was my small party.  Yet, it is a simple party.  Food, a craft, a game, music and hopefully lots and lots of laughter. Really it is just a themed play date.

All of her little friends have had parties in the last year and Emmy gets so excited over the words cake and balloons.  That is really all it takes.  She has been talking about her birthday party for months (at least about the cake and balloons).

This will be the first year where she really gets what a birthday even is.

We are having a family get-together over the weekend just for cake and ice cream to.  THAT will be a low-key affair.

The theme, you ask?   A Fairy Tale Dance Party!

Only a soon-to-be-three year old girly girl would choose that theme.

Tonight I have a date with my Cricket machine to do the decorations and craft for the favor bag.  Yes, I am putting a craft (knight and princess paper dolls with their respective outfits) in the favor bag along with lollipops and stickers.

Tomorrow is cooking/baking day and cleaning day.

Friday is decorating day. 

If I can stay awake myself while the girls nap, I will blog about it Friday afternoon but it looks like the next 24 hours are going to revolve around me getting myself ready for the sheer crazy yet fun chaos that will ensue Friday morning!

 How do you prepare for birthday party madness? Do you bother?

*This post was written Wednesday night.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fascinated By Sea Dragons

If you could be any animal, what would you be?

I am fascinated by sea dragons.  

They glide through the water doing an underwater ballet.  They are beautiful in an exotic and unique way.

This picture was taken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in CA.

For more Wordless Wednesday, visit here, and 5 Minutes for Mom and wordful Wednesday can be found at Seven Clown Circus.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Party Animals and Food Poisoning (I hope)


Earn $ For Your School & $25 Safeway Gift Card Giveaway

Safeway stores (which include Pavillions, Dominick´s, Tom Thumb, Randalls, Vons, and Genuardi´s) is promoting their "2 Ways to Earn" campaign with Box Tops For Education and their "10% Goes Back to Schools" program.

Click here for the full list of products with the Box Tops For Education labels to clip for your school.  There are also new products that have been added to the list such as Progresso Soups.  Some of the products also have bonus Box Tops and they have included a list of which ones. 

You can also earn Box Tops by shopping over 100 stores (such as Lands End, Gap, and Sears) on the online Box Top Marketplace.  First time shoppers will earn 5 EXTRA Box Tops for their school.  If you shop Barnes & Noble and place an order of $40 or more, your school will earn 5 Box Tops and 6% cash back for your school.  

Box Tops has given away over $300 millions dollars already.  Over sixty-nine thousand schools have participated and reaped the rewards. 

At your local Safeway stores, look for the "10% Goes Back to Schools" school bus tags on products from now until September 14th.  At check out, when you purchase these products and use your Safeway Club card, your school will get 10% of the purchase price of the products.  The total will be printed on your receipt during the time of the promotion and redemption codes will be printed at the bottom of your receipt for three weeks starting September 18th.  Visit backtoschools.escrip.com  before October 13th to redeem your code and make the donation to your local school.

Enter the Safeway Bonus Box Tops Sweepstakes for a chance to win 1,000 Bonus Box Tops for the participating school of your choice! 

Win a $25 Safeway gift card 
Bonus Box Tops certificate (equivalent of 50 Box Tops)

MANDATORY ENTRY (If you do not complete this entry all other entries will be void): Comment on which products you´ll be looking out for with the Safeway "10% Back to Schools" yellow school bus tags.  (1 entry)

To receive additional entries:
Don't forget to leave a separate comment for each entry & to include your email if it is not on your Blogger profile.

*Become a follower or a subscriber of The Practical Mom Guide and if you already do so just leave a comment stating that you already follow (1 entry)

*Follow TPMG on twitter (1 entry each)

*Become a fan of TPMG &/or Box Tops For Education on Facebook (1 entry each)

*Tweet (maximum of once daily) about this giveaway
Copy and paste:  $25 Safeway Gift Card & Bonus Box Top Certificate (50 Box Tops) Giveaway @ #TPMG. http://bit.ly/aoAwmx . Please RT.  (1 entry per tweet)

*Add The Practical Mom Guide to your blogroll or display our button (5 entries)

*Post about this giveaway on your blog (5 entries)

This giveaway will end on Tuesday, August 31, 2010. I will announce the winner on September 1st here at The Practical Mom Guide. If I am unable to contact the winner or they do not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

*I agreed to write about this promotion because this campaign is something I strongly believe in.  It is a great way to give back to our local schools who are also facing budget cuts.  In order to facilitate this post I was sent a Safeway gift card and a Bonus Box Tops Certificate through Safeway, General Mills, and MyBlogSpark.  Safeway, General Mills, and MyBlogSpark are also providing the items to be given away to one lucky reader.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Little Quirks: Beeswax and Humming

We all have them.  Those little quirks that define who we are. Quirks that may annoy others, embarrass us, or may even be endearing.

When I was going away the other week, I typed out a list of instructions and information for my mother-in-law who was watching the girls.  Most of the information she already knew but I figured it would be a good idea to have all the information on hand in case we ever needed a babysitter outside of the family.  This way all the information about the girls, their schedule, and where everything is is at the ready.  Just in case.

I made sure to list some of the girls' quirks (especially those at bedtime) which my mother-in-law may not have yet been witness to such as...

...Emmy's beeswax issues.  Emmy will talk about bees buzzing in her ears and how she has bees in her ears. This usually occurs after she has had her bath.  Translation: She wants her ears cleaned.  When we had visited our local science center, they had a hive of bees on display so children could see how bees live.  Emmy was fascinated with the wax and the honey and she made the connection of beeswax and wax in her ears and now it is all jumbled.

...flying projectiles.  Madison has discovered that once her plate is empty or she is done eating, her plate makes a good frisbee.  Hysterical giggles will ensure.  Boy, that kid has an arm.  We need to keep an eye on her.

...any stuffed animals that Emmy has brought downstairs after she has awakened in the morning or at naptime MUST be found and returned to their proper places (her bed) before she is tucked in.

...Monster and dinosaur hugs and kisses must be dispensed before you leave the room for the night.  It is all about the growling and roaring.  Practice makes perfect.  Emmy will instruct you if you are not doing it correctly.

Everyone's personal favorite seems to be... 
...the fact that Emmy still hums when she eats.  If she isn't humming when she eats, she doesn't like what she is eating.  Her latest habit is to spit out food she doesn't like (usually things that were once her favorite food) and proclaiming that it "tastes yucky". 

What are your quirks?

I always sleep on my left side.  That is the only way I can fall asleep.

I also hate to be awakened when I am asleep.  Of course, this isn't the case when it is one of the girls, only my husband or the ringing telephone. My husband hates when I fall asleep downstairs on the couch because I never wake up if I do.  He used to nudge me awake (usually I don't remember him doing so) and I would be extremely grouchy refusing to budge when he would tell me to go to sleep upstairs. 

I save everything from our vacations and day trip travels including receipts, brochures, ticket stubs, anything and everything.  I put everything in our family photo album or scrapbook. 

If I have a question, I need it answered immediately.  If there is no one around to answer my question, I rely on the internet.  Otherwise, it will drive me crazy.  It becomes one more thing on my to-do list.  Hence, my fascination with the internet.

No quirks of your own?   What about your husband's or your children's?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Baby Took Her First Step

Even though all of Madison's firsts are the same things I first experienced with my first daughter, they are still just as exciting.  Maybe not to our family members who have to listen to our exclamations about all that Madison can do when they ask "And how are the girls?".  Every little milestone,  an indicator of how fast she is changing, fills me with excitement.  It is all because these are her milestones, part of who she is and who she is becoming-a little girl not so much a baby anymore but a toddler. 

She is showing her independence.  Pointing with her whole hand and body and reaching for whatever object holds her fascination, she knows what she wants and when-NOW.

She giggles hysterically when you tickle her armpit.  I admit this is how I keep her from sleeping in the car on the short drive from the grocery store. I will reach back, squeal "giggle monster", and attack her armpits.  Even as she is nodding off to the land of slumber, she awakens enough to launch into peels of laughter.  Emily usually joins in the fun making silly faces at Madison to help keep her awake.

Not a fan of baby food, she steadfastly refused to eat it and began eating table food at about 10 months.  Now she is a human garbage disposal (or so my husband says since she will eat her food and any leftovers from her sister's plate).  My MIL marvels on how she has never seen a baby girl eat so much.  Lunch today was 1 3/4 bowls of raviolis and a cup of strawberries and blueberries.  Before her nap 11/2 hours later she ate a handful of graham cracker bunnies. 

She loves balls and playing with Little People.   She is her own little person. 

Today, for the first time she took a step all by herself.  Just one small step before she landed on her bottom with a clap of her hands and an expectant look at me.  Even she knew she had done something amazing.

One small step for my baby.  One giant step towards becoming a toddler.  I hope I am ready for this.  It seems she is.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Be My Guest

I was honored to be asked to be a guest blogger on mom of 7, author, and tv personality Hannah Keely's blog recently.

If you haven't checked her site out yet please do so, she has some great practical advice for all of us moms (including some great printables) and I love her sense of humor.

My post was about Creating Unique Family Traditions.

Please visit and share some of your favorite family traditions!

Check out mom expert Hannah Keeley's Website

Monday, August 9, 2010

Time for Mom to Go Hunting

Stop.  Right.  There.

I am not referring to hurting little or big fuzzy creatures. 

I cried at Bambi and there is no way I would ever hunt (unless my life depended on it due to lack of food which would only happen if things in this world really got crazy).

In the southeastern area of PA that I grew up in, we traditionally always had off of school the Monday after Thanksgiving because it was the start of deer hunting season.  Never mind that the majority of kids did NOT hunt.  It was a tradition that no one trifled with. 

I grew up in an area that until I was in college really didn't have much in the way of shopping or fast food.

That has since changed as things often do (even if it is just the opening of a Walmart).

A Cabela's sprouted up seemingly overnight a few years ago.  My husband now looked forward to my visits home because that meant he could stop to shop on the way back to our home.  Fast food of every variety has also since set up shop.  Other specialty stores have also opened their doors.

Recently on a trip to visit my family, I saw a billboard that made me chuckle.  It advertised a hunting store for women. Seriously?

Uh, not a shop I would be interested in visiting, thank you very much.  Until I saw who had put up the ad-a jewelry store.  It was located right across the highway from Cabela's and they recently opened up another one closer to where we live in a shopping mall. They are geniuses.

If your husband is like mine, when he goes into a store that caters to his hobby(ies), he usually ends up spending a small fortune. I occasionally give him a hard time-jokingly.  Now women can shop for jewelry while their men shop for hunting/fishing/camping gear.  Everyone is happy.

Genius.  Pure genius.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Honey, I'm Home

It has been an entire month without...

...anybody stealing my covers or nudging me to roll over so I stop snoring.
...anyone filling up the DVR with their shows and all of which start at the same time so MY shows don't record.
...anyone complaining that I have been spending more time blogging than with them.
...anyone saying "I don't know, whatever you feel like making" when I ask what they would like for dinner.
...an alarm going off (other than the house alarm which I forget I've set and walk downstairs to set the alarms blaring-sorry, neighbors).
...having someone to talk to whenever I feel the need.  At least someone who answers back in something other than toddlerese.
...having a partner-in-crime by my side.
...sleep because I am hypersensitive to every little noise that I hear at night.

...my husband

Today, he returns home. 

I couldn't be happier.

Madison now stands for a few seconds at a time.  Emmy can open the refrigerator (which I have learned is a very bad thing when she took out the ranch dressing to eat for a snack).  The two of them will have conversations with Emmy talking to her little sister in her big girl voice and Madison just babbling away happily. Madison more than ever wants to do whatever her big sister is doing.

I was happy about these things but in all honesty, a little melancholy to in my heart.  Whenever I relayed our day and all the new things they were learning and doing to my husband over the phone or face to face on Skype, I could feel my heart hurt for him.  He wasn't there to see these things.  Hearing and seeing them over the phone or through a webcam just wasn't the same as being there and being able to reach out to them to hug them or to exclaim over their achievements in person.

There were days where all I could think about was how tired I was or how much work there was to do on my own around the house.  There wasn't a lot of free time to just sit and relax especially when Madison was up at night teething or when the stomach bug paraded through our house.  I can't forget when I left a gel ink pen in the living room when I was doing bills late one night and the girls found it and decided to decorate the ottoman and chair with their artistic flair.

Yet, I realized how much harder the separation was on my husband.  A hundred times harder.  Yes, he had a great opportunity with his work, a chance to help get where he wanted to go in his career. The nice hotel room, the nice dinners, and the quiet weren't home.  I had the comfort and familiarity of our house-our space.  I had our daughters to hug and laugh with. I got to see them continue to grow and they did in such a short time. I was the lucky one. 

Emmy excitedly told her grandmother yesterday that her Daddy was coming home from Cal-e-forn-ne-yay. Later, she told me he was bringing her a dolphin carriage and gummy bears.

Uh...I hope he knows that. If not, I think she will forgive him.

All that I want him to bring me home?  Just himself.

Have you ever been away from your spouse for an extended period? 
How did you cope?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hiding Rocks in My Pocket

I had visited a marine reserve in CA the other week.  We had gone to check out the tide pools. 

My husband is very into nature from the depths of the ocean to the cosmos.  Our DVR has countless episodes of nature shows that my husband has watched.

I like to explore and check out things.  I prefer to see and touch and just experience, whereas my husband needs to know the whys and the hows.    

My daughter is very much like my husband in the sense that she loves nature.  She is also a collector of leaves, flowers, grass, and yes, even inanimate things like rocks.  She also has a fascination with bugs.  Creepy crawlies, bees, flies, you name it she probably knows what it is.  She tries to catch the flies that find their way into our house and when she catches... ahem, kills them (not intentionally, of course since their reflexes seem to slow down after extended periods in our house) she MUST put them in their new home.

Their new home is the flower pot outside our kitchen sliding door.  In reality, it is a graveyard but she thinks it is a playground and home of flies who have been released from our home.

The rocks that line the landscaping around our pool find their way into our daughter's sandbox or her water table and sometimes even her pockets as she smuggles them into the house.

When we were at the marine reserve, I couldn't help picking up rocks and shells that I thought our daughter would enjoy.  In truth, they were things that I found fascinating to.  They were little mementos of our trip which were more precious than anything I could buy in a touristy overpriced shop. 

My husband picked up an interesting rock and showed it to me.  It looked like it had been molded out of clay and it had holes in it, not jagged holes, but smooth holes. I oohed and awed and held it in my hand before handing him his treasure back.  Into the water it went with a flick of his hand.

I was upset and looked at him accusingly.  "Why did you do that!?!?"

He looked at me puzzled. "You wanted that?"

I did.  So much that he stepped over the slippery rocks to fish it back out of the water so I could tuck it into my pocket for safe keeping.

Peeking into the pools at anemones, starfish, crabs, and fish, I kept my eye out for more little treasures.  My pockets were full as we left the beach.

As we were walking to the car, my husband glanced at me and said, "and you wonder where Emmy gets her need to collect rocks."

When I emptied my pockets that was mostly what I had collected. 

But they were so pretty.  Once they dried, their surfaces were not so shiny and glossy, but I remembered how they looked in the water and I was content. Happy even.

I will confess some of the shells I found and one of the holey rocks would be perfect for jewelry.  If I knew how to make my own jewelry anyway.  One day I may learn.  Some day.

Emmy oohed and awed and they filled her pockets for several days after I came home.  They also were sprinkled on the floor of my car because she had to take them out and hold them as we drove around running errands.

Many of them now sit in my husband's fish tank in his office.  According to Emmy, it is so the fish can enjoy them to. 

I guess it reminds them of  home.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Down in the Valley

Silicon Valley that is. 

My mommycation began two Thursdays ago when I went to visit my husband in CA.  It lasted four nights and five days. A brief time in my 1,070 days of mommyhood. Even though I was away from the girls that didn't mean I stopped being a mom and missing or calling-repeatedly, I might add-just to check up on the girls, to talk to them, or to see their smiles on Skype.

My first night in San Jose we had to have dinner at Chevy's.  I had joked with my husband that that was a stipulation for me to fly to CA.  We had eaten there the last time I had been out to CA.  The chicken flautas with jalapeno jelly and the shrimp and sweet corn tamalitos made my mouth water.  My husband and I shared the fried ice cream for dessert.  It was the story of dueling spoons.  We clunked spoons laughing and fighting for the last bite. 

There were so many silly, lighthearted moments that night.  I miss those the most when my husband is away. I also miss those comfortable moments of silence where you don't feel the need to talk.  Just sitting near each other is enough.

Since he had to work on Friday I had the entire day to explore San Jose (after sleeping in) by myself. No schedules, no routine, no to-do list. 

I am known for getting lost and I felt some trepidation driving around San Jose on my own in a rental car but I am glad that I did.  The whole area had such a relaxed and laid back vibe.  The surrounding hills looked like they had been molded out of gingerbread dough.

The people are very proud of their heritage and really tried to preserve it without reeling you in with touristy showmanship like you sometimes find in other areas.  They were very respectful of their past.

I visited Kelley Park which had a zoo, a Japanese Friendship Garden (modeled after the Korakuen Park in Okayama), and a Historic Park.

The Friendship Garden was tranquil.   There was a young couple who seemed newly in love smooching and whispering on a bench by the water.  They were looking at each other as though they wanted to memorize each other's every look.  I almost wanted to snap a picture of them.  They made me remember those first feelings of  new love where you get those fluttery feelings in your stomach and you feel giddy in your chest and you feel as though you are not really connected to the ground.  Remember those?

Historic Park contained original and reproduction buildings from the area's past and was charming.  There was no one walking around the site which was set up like a small town. None of the buildings were open or so I thought.  I found out later that the hotel actually was and housed an exhibit and store. The streets were deserted except for some workers.  It almost looked like the lot of an abandoned tv set.  I had wondered if I was even supposed to be there until I saw another man, presumably a tourist, meandering around.

I think there is something fascinating about old buildings and history in general.  I love thinking that the buildings and artifacts of our past have endured.  Real people who loved and lived and felt the same emotions as us once walked through those doors or handled those objects and it comes alive for me.  Forget the peeling paint or the rust or the dust that has settled through the years. There is something about the pieces of what we leave behind that reassures me that the past is never really gone. 

I didn't visit the zoo in Kelley Park but I did meet some local wildlife.

Meet Slithering and Rinaldo:
Slithering was much more cooperative of having his picture taken than Rinaldo.

I thought Rinaldo was pretty cute running circles around the rim of the garbage can chattering away.  Around here squirrels run away from humans, but not Rinaldo.  In fact, he was pretty territorial about that garbage can and seemed to be staking his claim when I tried to take his picture.  At one point, I swear he bared his teeth at me and it was NOT in a smile.  He wasn't so cute at that precise moment.

Ever think about what heaven would smell like?  I hope it smells like the San Jose Municipal Rose Gardens. 

I also visited Mission San Jose and walked around the museum, church, and grounds before picking my husband up from work.

The Franciscan mission had been founded in 1797 at an Ohlone Indian village.  The 1868 earthquake had destroyed many of the mission's buildings including the church which was rebuilt in the 1980s.  The  tombstone pictured aroused my curiousity because the woman who died was 19 (and married) and the bottom of the tombstone read:
To us for Eleven months
Her Pleasant smile was given
And then she bade farewell to earth
And went to live in Heaven.
I assumed she must have only been at the mission for eleven months.  It was a puzzle.  It made me wonder more about her.  How long was she married?  Did she have children?  What did she die of?

I had to leave to pick up my husband and never stopped to ask and it has been gnawing at me ever since. 

I was actually late picking up my husband from work anyway because I got lost.  By the time I arrived, he was a solitary figure standing outside of his office building. Getting in the car, he just shook his head and smiled. 

I can't believe how many things I saw and how many memories I made my first day.  I saw all of this with no rushing to see the sites-just lazily wandered around.  My husband had planned the rest of the trip as far as what we were going to do and see so I just got to sit back and enjoy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

First-Class All the Way

I *heart* our credit card airline bonus miles.

When my husband called me with my flight reservation information, he said he had good news and bad news.  He asked me which I wanted first.

When someone asks you that question, how do you respond?

I always choose to have the bad news first.  My thinking is that hearing the good news last will make you less likely to have a bad taste in your mouth after the conversation is over.  Maybe that is just a glass half-full mentality rather than a glass half-empty mentality.

The bad news: we had to cash in 50,000 frequent flyer miles rather than 25,000 since they didn't have any available seats open for people redeeming their bonus miles.

The good news: I had the option of a seat in first-class or coach.

We flew first-class from Mexico for our honeymoon several years ago.  We had tried to fly out first-class but they overbooked and had to change our reservation after telling us we could upgrade.  Coming home, I was expecting this extravagant experience.  All we got that was different from coach was free alcohol and more leg room.  That was it.  I couldn't justify the extra money we spent.  That was my first and last time flying first-class. I have always been completely content with coach.  I am not a picky person.
I was pretty nonchalant about the "good news".

The day I flew out to CA in style, I certainly wasn't complaining especially after a glass or two of wine. 

First-class comes repleat with entertainment. There had been two guys who were chatting up the flight attendant who was regaling them with stories about men who are touchy (complete with gestures).  This was after one of them touched her arm to ask her a question and I heard her say loudly, "don't touch me".  I thought she was going to haul back and slug the man.  That wasn't the case apparently since they were laughing uproarously within minutes.  They bonded over the five or so beers the one man had.  (I should note that I'm not judging.  I thought they were entertaining in all honesty.  I was pretty hard up for something to do since my ipod and the book I had taken just weren't cutting it.)

Normally, when I fly I am seated next to a "Chatty Cathy".  Not this time.  It was as though everyone had an invisible wall erected around them courtesy of their USA Todays and laptops (and designer duds).  The man next to me was busy scribbling in his notebook at a frantic pace.  I was inclined to pull out my little black book and started jotting down ideas for a guest post I was working on.

I will admit though that I was rather thankful for my pasta and white chocolate and macadamia nut cookie (and the wine) in first-class when I saw one of the flight attendants taking a $3 container of ramen noodles to the back of the plane. Those ramen noodles brought back memories of my college days when we lived on bagels, ramen noodles, and pizza. 

Would I fly first-class again?  Probably not.  Not unless it was "good news" again courtesy of our airline bonus miles. 

This week I promise to have more about my trip out west and the fun adventure I had with my husband.

*Photo credit