Six months on

In March of this year, we embarked on an adventure — we moved from California, the only place my husband and my boys have ever lived in, and started a road trip that would take us to our new home in Wisconsin.

That morning, we said goodbye to friends and family, and to the home we’d lived in for 10 years.

We drove mostly along route 66, seeing places like Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, discovering new foods like fry bread (which Alexander loved!), and driving through long stretches of road that seemed to go on forever. We saw bits and pieces of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois, before arriving in our new home state of Wisconsin.

We lucked out in that we arrived just as the snow was almost gone. On the boys’ first day of school, there were barely any traces of it, and so we escaped the worst of winter. Speaking of school, we couldn’t be happier. The difference in school budgets is clear (even though Governor Walker has done his best to cut funding, he hasn’t wrecked the budgets to California level) – and the resources that my boys can enjoy are amazing.

Our home – what can I say about our beautiful new home?

We have plans for the landscaping, and the exterior paint, although the latter might not happen for a couple of years due to budget constraints. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s beautiful, and a house we could never have lived in back in California. It’s three times the size (without including the basement) and it still cost significantly less than our house in San Jose.

I keep being told to “just wait” until I go through my first winter here. People are probably right and it will be much more difficult than I imagine, but I am sure as heck enjoying the fall weather right now. Today’s high temp will be 64. That’s my kind of weather. True, the humidity is kind of icky, but not having entire weeks of 100-degree weather is a relief to me.

On a personal level, I am making some good friendships here, meeting wonderful people. Our neighbors are delightful and one is about to have a baby girl. I get to shop in the pink aisle! 😀 I am also currently in a lot of pain because of an aerial yoga class I took two days ago. Oh, so worth it. I loved it. There is so much to do here, lots of it family-friendly, including scenic drives (picture courtesy Travel Wisconsin):

Six months have gone by so quickly, we arrived with the promise of spring and now the leaves are changing color. Thank you, Wisconsin, for welcoming us with so much kindness and beauty.

The guilt, it’s green

We had our lawn serviced for the first time yesterday.

It’s not just our lawn. There is so much gorgeous green around here — as I type, I am staring out at fields, acres of gorgeous green, grass and trees and plants and flowers. It’s 78 degrees today but it’s been sprinkling and we expect heavier rain this weekend.

But it was not long ago that we were living in the middle of a severe drought. The before and after pics of what’s been happening in my beloved California for the last few years are simply shocking. You have the mayor of my former hometown of San Jose drinking recycled sewage to show it’s a viable option to tap water. I posted one of the above pics on my personal Facebook and a friend in San Jose wrote “Your lawn is a different color than mine.”

We have lots of plans for gardening next year. Beginning with all the cold-weather crops we couldn’t get to grow in San Jose. The lettuce and spinach would start making little leaves and nope, they were out of there, bolting like nobody’s business. We miss our avocado tree and our grapevines — here there is the possibility not only of salad greens, but apple trees, cranberries and cherries? We’re so there. Hydrangeas remind me of my dear friend Kat, who had them at her house, but I could never grow them in our super sunny backyard, maybe here I can get them to bloom without scorching.

This year, however, we are enjoying all this lovely green, but tempering out enjoyment with just a little bit of guilt.

We are moving to . . .

No, not France. I wish. But no. Although it will be an equally dairy-friendly land.

Uh-oh. This Niners fan is going to be a little out of place, although right now I am very angry with the Forty-Niners front office for letting Coach Harbaugh go. But, Coach will now be just across the lake, and I will be cheering for the Michigan Wolverines.

You know what this means . . .

Hello Wisconsin!!!

That’s right. The big adventure of 2015 for our family will be our move from California to Wisconsin, or as I call it, from Sunny California to North of the Wall (GoT reference).

My husband is starting a new job after a horrific year and a half in a situation where our family was impacted financially, emotionally, my husband’s health was suffering, etc. We are looking forward to living in the midwest, to new experiences, to making new friends, to having white Christmases. Yes, it will be difficult to leave friends and family behind, to leave the house our boys came home to after being born, to leave the only lifestyle we’ve known, to live in the snow, but we’re determined to make a good life for ourselves, and of course, I will be sharing our transformation from Californians to Wisconsinites here.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Chester road trip

Recently, my mom had eye surgery and I decided to visit her. She lives in Chester, about 5 hours from me, not too bad of a drive. I told her I’d get there on Friday and leave Sunday morning. What I did not tell her was that I was bringing the boys with me ;D My sister and her husband live in the same apartment building, and they were all super surprised to see the three of us arrive.

Chester is a very small town that supports the local tourism (to Lassen volcano) and although I did bring some technology for the boys, I wanted them to also enjoy the outdoors and hang out with the family.

Of course, the highlight of the trip was that my sister baked a cake. They were not able to make it to Aidan’s birthday, and will probably not make it to Alexander’s birthday in July, so they chose to celebrate both boys while we were all together – isn’t that sweet?

My boys are vanilla/vanilla fanatics – vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, so the cake was decorated half for them and half for the ones of us who like chocolate frosting:

Then it was Happy Birthday singing time!

The size of the slices was the subject of a lot of negotiation.

My youngest also had a lot of fun drawing and coloring, something he’s really into right now, bringing stories to life. It was a lovely, albeit brief visit, and we were blessed with outstanding weather both in Chester and back home.

We do have another, longer, road trip planned in a few months, but we have a lot of good memories to last us until the next time we visit Chester!

CuriOdyssey & Cupcakes

The boys and I had some adventuring to do yesterday – we went to a local animal/science place called CuriOdyssey. It was a gorgeous morning in the Bay Area and although the whole thing was geared to kids a little younger than my oldest, he was a rock star and both boys enjoyed themselves.

The animals at CuriOdyssey are rescues or unable to be released back into their natural habitats, there were otters, snakes, frogs, birds, all sorts of lovely local flora and fauna, as well as hands-on experiences. After a 10-minute stop at their gift shop, we headed back down 101 to get some cupcakes.

I got Cookies & Cream for my husband, the Oreo lover, Chocolate Paradise for me, and their take on a “vanilla with vanilla”, which is all my boys eat.

I am sorry to say the cupcakes were a disappointment. I won’t name the bakery but they won an episode of Cupcake Wars so we thought we’d give them a try. My chocolate paradise cake, which I had been “warned” was not recommended for kids as it had a very strong chocolate flavor, failed to deliver. The cake itself was on the dry side and the frosting was so oily that I couldn’t taste any actual flavor. My husband’s cupcake was so dry it flaked off all over and the frosting was goopy. My oldest said his vanilla/vanilla cupcake was ok, but that he’s “had better cupcakes”. My little one ate about a third of his and said he wanted no more. All in all, none of us were impressed and I don’t plan on going back.

So we won some and lost some, but our Friday was nice overall. Now we are enjoying time with Steve’s parents who are back from a trip, and I am avoiding the outdoors because it’s over 90 degrees out there.

To all my fellow Francophiles, have a wonderful Bastille Day tomorrow!

Sunset mag Weekend Celebration

My sweet friend M. invited me to go to the Sunset Magazine Celebration Weekend this past Saturday – we had such a good time!

The Sunset Home exhibit was interesting – the style reminded me of Mad Men and wasn’t something I’d replicate at home but there were some gorgeous touches such as this light fixture, which I want in my home. Now. Immediately.

I would LOVE a reading nook looking out onto the backyard and I have the perfect place for it. Unfortunately, that is where my children play ;D so, not happening for now.

Loved the idea of having a lit up map of California!

How sweet is this little stool with its nail head detailing? Also, need one stat, please!

What I really, truly, absolutely wanted to bring home with me were these two beauties:

Seriously, how gorgeous are they?

This lovely lady shared some of Susan Feniger’s AMAZING pork tacos. Holy crackers, those were so good. We also got a recipe card so both M and I will be attempting to recreate them.

How about THIS for a true glamping experience?

This company sets up these divine tents for your enjoyment – I’d like one in my backyard, please!

The food truck selection was amazing – including my favorite, Peruvian food truck Sanguchon – both M and I enjoyed our lunch there, even though it was a little spicy.

There was also a booth for a truck that only does Creme Brulee, my husband’s favorite! So M and I bought three, because she came over for dinner that night 😀

Putting the final touches on mine!

This being a Sunset magazine event, there were some lovely displays of plants and I got a lot of ideas for plants that will do well in our environment.

This tree basil was adorable! And yummy 😀

Of course, we partook of some wine tasting – these lovely ladies from Lola Kay had a great, easy-to-drink red wine that I loved:

I am so glad M called me to go to this event, and I am also glad my husband was able to hang out with the boys so us girls could bond over wine and window treatments and pretty plants. Lots of great ideas and now my project list is about 7 items longer!

Playing in Petaluma

After nearly two weeks of being sick with the plague, and with the weather warming up the days a bit, we decided to take a little drive up north to the lovely town of Petaluma. We stopped by the seed store — closed on a Saturday?? boo! — and had some yummy pizza, but it was the stop in between that was my boys’ favorite.

Powell’s Sweet Shoppe is a kid’s dream come true. All sorts of candy line the walls, fill drawers in the armoires, and stand ready to fill plastic bags for you to take home.

My little man looks a little overwhelmed, doesn’t he?

I might get this when they start their US History lessons ;D

Love all the old-fashioned sodas!

This is where my husband and I stopped – the truffles were so good!

I had the Milk Chocolate, Chocolate Decandence, and Chocolate on Chocolate – yum!

And look, they had LEGO versions of my Niners!

The boys stocked up on gummies and some other goodies before deciding it was time for lunch. After our pizza, we drove home and started working on cleaning up the backyard. We continued on Sunday and things are looking much nicer although my hamstrings are killing me!

And for the record — no spoilers — but this is where I drew the line for Downton Abbey when I found out a couple of months ago. It was bad enough that they killed off my favorite female character a few eps back, but really? According to writer Julian Fellowes, he had no choice but to do what was done in last night’s episode. Sorry, Jule, you are a WRITER, you should be able to come up with better ideas than that. I think Mr. Fellowes is brilliant at writing things like Gosford Park, where it’s a couple of hours and he can weave his magic, but he fails miserably at long-term character development and plot pacing, two key elements in a series. Another one that is on the verge of losing me is Once Upon a Time, but that’s best left for another day – hope your week is a wonderful one!

Meeting the YHL peeps

A few days ago I was thrilled to go to the Young House Love book signing in Palo Alto, California. My sweet friend J went with me and was not only lovely company but also at times, was my “stuff holder” and “photo taker”.

Having worked at a bookstore long ago and being a voracious reader, I have seen my share of book signings and I have to say, this one was very well put together. First, and most importantly, people in line were fed. It was 90 minutes or so we waited in line so let me say that this was super important:

J holding some cookies for her psycho friend to photograph.

These were so YUMMY, although J was more taken by the adorable little cups. I snuck around while J held my place in line to take some pics of John & Sherry – can I say she has the most perfect skin?

I also caught sight of these STACKABLE little bottles. Aren’t they perfect?

Ninety minutes later, it was my turn. I’ve tweeted John & Sherry before to say I think that I think Sherry looks just like Emilia Clarke, the actress who plays Daenerys on Game of Thrones – yay or nay?

Sherry agreed and John mentioned she’s playing Holly Golightly on Broadway, which I didn’t know.

I also brought a little something for Miss Clara:

Got my book signed and then hit up a Chinese restaurant for lunch with J. Then we wrapped up the afternoon by going to IKEA ;D A fabulous day with a wonderful friend and lots of yummy goodness!

Fifty Shades of Brown

We had a blast on our camping trip – but let’s face it, there were less-than-glamorous aspects that we had to contend with for four days. The first one was the aforementioned wasps; they got a couple of the kids, so we had to designate off-limits areas. The second one, or rather, uh, number two, was a most odorous situation. Meaning, no-flush toilets. Our friend P, who, along with my husband, decided to aim their headlight down the long-drop toilet to have a look, christened it Fifty Shades of Brown. That’s boys for ya, because I used those toilets as much as they did and not once, NOT ONCE, did I feel the compulsion to aim my headlight so I could see better. Bleargh.

ANYWAY, on to better things now.

The man tackling the wasp situation

The day before we came home we went to a river, it was such fun – the boys busied themselves with building a dam.

Friendly river duck 😀

Our youngest enjoys a jam session with our friend J:

See? This is proof that I was cleaning those boys up whenever I could ;D

The next morning, it was time to pack up and head home:

“Thank you very much, good night!”

And that was our four-day adventure at Yosemite. The boys love camping, playing around in the woods, and being manly men with their buddies. We love hanging out with friends and family and having great food. And wine. Wine is good.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Camping in Yosemite

We spent a fabulous four-day weekend camping in Yosemite — it was the boys’ second time camping and they had as much fun as the first time, which is to say, A LOT!

Our day started early on Thursday, I think our oldest could have used a couple more hours’ worth of sleep 😀

Our youngest got right into the spirit of the thing and started carrying manly amounts of fire wood:

He also loved helping daddy set up our tent:

Dinner that first evening was basic camping goodness:

With one twist:

Dear auntie L. had a birthday so we got her favorite cake – German chocolate!!!

Friday was Dirt Day. Or Filthy Friday. Or Messy Monkey Day. Or something.

I swear I wiped them down about 56 times that day, but five seconds later they were filthy again.

It was a losing battle.

But the food was awesome.

Breakfast rocked — hot and fluffy pancakes, yummy fresh fruit, and bacon, lovely bacon.

Dinner was delicious flank steak, asparagus, salad, and baked potato (I didn’t have one).

The squirrels were in love with our food:

Even diving into the trash can to retrieve bits of it!

Our friend K made the most stunning, the most amazing (yes, I love MasterChef!) the most refreshing gazpacho. Seriously, it took all my willpower not to grab her plastic container and run with it into the woods:

But the tracker jacke–, I mean, the wasps, were kinda scary.

Lovely port.

Don’t remember much after this shot ;D

More camping adventures later this week!