Thursday, June 30, 2011


So much to be grateful for and so much to blog after my work conference in Seattle this past week. Today, I feel most grateful for:
  • awesome family & friends
  • lots and lots of hugs and cuddles after being apart from El for 4 days
  • wonderful coworkers who know how to work hard and party hard
  • freshly scrubbed bathroom
  • summer dresses, capris, and flip flops
  • iced espresso drinks
  • sunshine with a light breeze
  • Couples Communication class
  • crying sessions that relieve stress
  • the anticipation of new beginnings...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Seattle Bound!

After years working in education, I now have a chance to attend a conference out-of-state and whadaya know, it has to be during summer vacation! But I won't complain for too long. I've very excited to be attending the American School Counselor Association conference in Seattle through Tuesday, 06.28. This means I'll be away from the fam but I'll be joined by my lovely colleagues who are already at the conference as I'm flying a day later.

It's been awhile since I've flown solo. I'm really looking forward to sleeping as I've had a rough couple nights with El. To Seattle I go!

I'll be drinking lots of coffee at this conference for sure!

Full flight ahead. Glad I'm boarding pass B11!

Friday, June 24, 2011


It's about 6pm right now and after a Friday full of eating, playing, and swimming in Lolo's "pool," the house is finally quiet!!!

Here's why:

First one down and about 2 hours late to naptime

2nd one down and normally doesn't nap during the day anymore

3rd one down and I don't think she really ever naps anymore

Sleepy and drowsy but still holding on to wakefulness!

Three out of four ain't bad!!!! But boy will this make for an interesting late night!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Today, I feel grateful for:
  • awesome family & friends
  • El sleeping through the entire night for the last couple of weeks
  • El completing changing my mood by interrupting me while I was going on a complaining rant to say "Mommy, mommy, I love you!" (Her first time every saying that to me unprompted. Brings tears to my eyes even as I type this!)
  • looking through my catalog of iPhone photos and seeing how much fun this last 1.5 years has been and how much the kids have grown
  • online printable coupons
  • freshly laundered clothes
  • customized drinks from Starbucks
  • massage vouchers through Napa Valley School of Massage
  • summer dresses & flip flops
  • Hubby's patience

Prune Juice and Ice Packs to the Rescue!

I think we've finally found a solution for El's constipation woes! We have been introducing her to more fruit and veggies each day but she can still be a finicky eater. I had heard all the great things about prune juice being an effective laxative but never had a chance to use it. After my first taste of it with our recent jug purchase, I knew El would totally reject it, even cut with water. So I tried about an ounce of it in one of her sippy cups of milk with a small squirt of chocolate syrup. I tasted that concoction and it wasn't the yummiest but was passable. El's reaction was one of slight surprise as she pulled the sippy away to look at it but she continued to drink it up. It has been a couple of weeks and I have started to put up to two oz. of prune juice into each sippy that she drinks and she has been much less upset when #2 time comes around.

8 oz. of organic whole milk + 2 oz. of prune juice + 1 squirt of chocolate syrup = a happy bum!

With the onset of summer and our constant "on-the-go" schedule, I've had to find a way to be sure I can make her sippy cups ahead of time and have them readily available during our car trips. I like to pack at least two sippy cups in a cooler bag and have at least one to leave in the fridge for when we get home. Here's how I pack them to keep them cool:

Take n' Toss Sippy Cups are awesome! They are BPA, PVC, and pthalate free and are spill proof, relatively easy to clean (as long as I use a cut up sponge to get in all the crevices of the spout), and come with a handy removable spout lid.

A Blue Ice Can Cooler keeps the drinks from spilling over. I also add in juice packs for the other kids.

Learned this tip from Hubby: Since heat rises, put an ice pack on top of the items you want cooled for more effective cooling.

All packed up!

Having to pack up like this each day and then wipe/wash everything after makes me long for the days of breastfeeding, for sure! Talk about the most convenient food/drink "to go!" =)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Beginning of Summer

It's day 7 of my vacation and officially the first week of summer. It's been heating up in the Bay Area the last few days and I've been keeping busy, watching El, my nephew Ev (4 y.o.), and my niece, R (7 y.o.), and nephew, B (10 y.o.), visiting from Oregon (having just emigrated from the Philippines). R & B will be staying with my parents through mid-August so the four will be spending lots of time together. Although taking care of the kiddos wasn't on my summer vacation list of "to-do's," I'm quite grateful to have companions for El and Ev, especially ones who are older and well behaved. They have been quite helpful in watching over the two. As much as I want to spend lots of Q.T. with El over the summer break, I love that she'll also be bonding with her cousins. Hopefully, this fosters greater independence in her and helps her get used to socializing with other kids besides cousin Ev. Seeing how well Ev and El interact with their older cousins makes me realize how much I want El to have a sibling to grow up with.

I've felt like soccer mom and camp counselor this past week, shuffling the kids around to various local events and kid places to keep them entertained. We also have swim lessons this week and next but only for the two younger ones since I didn't think to enroll the older ones before they arrived. My parents' house doesn't have air conditioning so I've tried to find as many things to do in "cooler" places, whether it be a shady park or indoors at the library. I've also made it a personal challenge to do as many kid-friendly, educational things that are free or cost next to nothing. I've been using our local recreation guides, local event calendar, my mommy & me "meet up" calendar, the library, bulletin boards around town, and as my resources. It's been crazy but fun!

Here are just a few of the activities we've done so far:

Shenandoah Park in American Canyon

Jeremy the Juggler, part of the JFK Library's Summer Program on Wednesdays at 10:30am

In Lolo and Lola's garage. The Plasma Car is the best purchase I've made recently, as it keeps all these kids entertained for hours! Purchased ours at Costco for $25!

Hubby and El during "Parent and Tot" swim lessons

The older kids and Lola, the weiner dog, not to be left out! Lolo rigged their own "swimming pool" and its heated to boot!

$1 kid movies every Tuesday and Wednesday! Kids 2 and under are free. =)

Playdough with Auntie R's kids across the street.

And even I had a chance to have lunch with my two nearest and dearest friends, J and R. Love them to pieces and must hang out more with them this summer!

Monday, June 20, 2011


Today, I feel grateful for:

Pirate Ship

  • having Father's Day off so we could spend time together as a family

The three of us =)

  • my nephew, B, and niece, R, staying with my parents over summer break and El enjoying their company so much
Ice cream and Starbucks break

  • One of my BFFs staying with her side of the fam this summer and hopefully the three of us BFFs being able to hang out more the next few weeks

  • Mizu in Natomas
  • Window fans
  • Redbox
  • being able to smell the fragrance from my dad's blooming garden as I pull into their driveway

Dad's beautiful garden

  • Catching up with great friends who also enjoy yummy food

With the Cards fam (Wish we had been able to include the "A" fam, who left before this photo was taken.)

Silly photo

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Today, I feel grateful for:
  • awesome family & friends
  • how engaging and educational iPad apps can be, especially for young ones
  • catching up on work at the newly renovated Starbucks with more chairs, tables, and electrical outlets
  • having lunch with "compare" (pronounced "com - pah - re") N and goddaugther N for some yummy BBQ at Rustler's Grill

BBQ rib meal and Kobe Beef Hotdog with everything
  • an impromptu "mommy & me" group meeting at J and J's house with N, A, and baby N

Shared freshly baked molten lava cake from Costco at J & J's house. Yum!
  • being able to relive the joy of our vow renewal through the beautiful photographs taken by Frank Amodo

I literally tear up each time I go through my wedding photos. =) Best day of my life!
  • flip flops
  • Signing Time DVDs borrowed from the library
  • cloth diapers
  • being able to sleep in
The face I get to wake up to each morning =)

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Today, I feel grateful for:
  • awesome family & friends
  • my new office with my new furniture and new organization system, courtesy of my colleague, R, retiring
  • Tapioca Express Jasmine Milk Tea and fried calamari
  • the USPS
  • receiving our wedding photos and my forgotten wedding dress yesterday
  • Hubby surprising me with a freshly washed car this morning
  • window fans
  • sunny days in the 70s
  • subtitles in DVDs
  • the start of SUMMER VACATION!!!!

Hubby, washing my car. =)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dine About Town

One great thing about living in the SF Bay Area is the bi-annual "Dine About Town" promo where you can partake in a pre-fixe 3 course dinner at some fine establishments for less than $35. Hubby and I used to take advantage of this deal at least once each year during January. I didn't realize the promotion runs in June, as well, until my BFF, R, invited us to join her, her hubby, D, and her older bro, J.

We headed to B44, a Spanish restaurant near Union Square. Our reservation was scheduled for 7pm but after we hopped on I-80 at almost quarter past 6, we realized that all the commuters were heading towards the city on Sunday night. Whoops! R changed the reservation to 7:30pm and J advised us to take an alternate route onto 680, which we hadn't done before. Although longer, this was a wise move that shaved about 20 minutes off the original route, highlighted in red in the traffic alerts. (Gotta love the iPhone and all the awesome apps!)


We found rockstar parking right in front of the alley that leads to the restaurant. It was pretty busy, especially for a Sunday evening, and we relaxed at the bar to wait a few minutes for our reservation. This gave us time to start on some drinks.

My cocktail - Lorca: Pear vodka, pear puree, St. Germaine elder flower, lemon juice, and pomegranate seeds. Served straight up! I loved it but Hubby hated it. I'm all about pears!

Cheers! Me with BFF R

After less than 10 minutes at the bar, we were directed to our table for 5. We sat close to the kitchen where we could see a display of Jamon Serrano, a type of cured "raw" ham. One of the servers saw us eyeing the ham and offered us a few slices to sample. It was delicious!

But we were there for the "Dine About Town" promo and didn't want to veer from the special menu. There were about 3-4 selections each for the first two courses. Hubby let me order for both of us since he says I always order better food than he. J decided we should order a couple more "tapas" to enjoy which was a good call as we were all starving and ended up clearing the dishes. The shrimp was so yummy we kept shoo-ing any servers who tried to take the skillet away as we continued to dip our bread in the yummy sauce.

Ceviche B44: white shrimp, octopus, scallop, tomato

Gambas Al A Jillo: white gulf of mexico shrimp sauteed with garlic and adobo

My first course: Fire Roasted Piquillo Peppers stuffed with dungeness crab meat. Probably my fave dish of the evening!

Hubby's First Course - Soup of the Day: Tomato & Basil Soup. Lycopene!

I must have eaten too much bread because by the time the main entree arrived, I was already feeling somewhat full. Of course, my eyes are way more eager than my stomach so I continued to indulge...

My Main Course - Paella B44: saffron rice, chorizo, chicken, shrimp, squid, mussels clams, vegetables. A little on the dry side but still pretty good.

Hubby's Main Course - Pork tenderloin with sauteed apple slices and potatoes. This was delicious and ended up being better than my own dish.

As stuffed as we were, we still had our choice of two desserts. We ordered both! It seems like many of the surrounding tables had finished dinner at the same time so dessert service was a little slow. That was okay by us as this gave our tummies some time to digest and allow us to chat some more.

Cream puffs. The ice cream filling had this delicate lemony flavor and paired well with the chocolate sauce. The puff itself was on the dry side.

CREMA CATALANA *2005 Dulce Cristal-li Moscatell
Toasted cinnamon and lemon infused custard
with caramelized crust. This dessert was SUPERB!!! Only one of the three that arrived on our table was this beautiful caramel color as the other two seemed to not have been torched long and evenly enough.

It was a great dinner with great friends, whom I consider our family. BFF R and I don't always get a chance to hang out for some "adult time" as if we are together, our activities center around the kids. As much as we'd like to be able to "dine about town" more, we actually decided to hunker down and make plans to work out together again and eat more healthy while she stays in town for the summer with her family. We'll trade in those cream puffs for salads, I suppose...


Today, I feel grateful for:
  • awesome family & friends
  • El's reaction whenever I return home from work or pick her up from her grandparent's
  • how customizable cloth diapers are (i.e. double stuffing a pocket diaper for extra absorbency at night)
  • Crystal Light iced tea and lemonade mixes
  • discovering, a way to view instagram photos online without a phone app
  • watching El "read" her books
  • whole grain toast
  • flip flops
  • how tall the tree in our front yard has grown
  • only 2 more days of work and being excused from jury duty today

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kite Flying

Yesterday, Hubby had no prior commitments. That's pretty rare for a Sunday in June, as free weekends become a "hot commodity" during wedding season. We took the opportunity to spend the day together as a family, especially with the nice weather. It might have been the first day this year in which we all wore shorts finally!

We ate lunch at Yo Sushi, our fave sushi spot in town. Afterwards, we decided to go the "Big Slide" park in the next town over. Since this park tends to be pretty windy, Hubby had the idea of kite flying there. The Safeway across the parking lot from the restaurant happened to sell them for $6 and I was pleased they were a nylon material rather than the cheap plastic ones I'm used to.

Upon sight, El quickly grew excited and signed the word "kite." It amazes me that she learned the sign when we were in Hawaii in January when we were at a very windy beach and hadn't used the sign since. It reminds me how much kid are really "sponges" at this age.

Our colorful kite from Safeway

It was only mildly windy but enough so that we were able to get the kite flying for a few minutes at a time. Other folks had the same idea and we saw 2-3 other families flying kites. When my kite flew higher than the rest of the kites, I couldn't help but yell "I'm the winner!," thinking I couldn't be heard over the wind. I was wrong. Hubby heard me and was slightly embarassed. Ha!

I had an advantage of height since I sat atop a slope when it was my turn to fly the kite.

El learning how to fly a kite for the first time, starting to show signs of her "sleepy face."

It was well into naptime after a few runs of the kite and El began making her sleepy face. She drank a sippy of milk and seemed drowsy enough to fall asleep. Boy would it have been nice to fall asleep on the grass together but she still was still too engaged in the park's activities.

Getting ready to nap, maybe

Resting with Daddy but not sleepy enough for a nap!

Eventually, we headed across the field to the playground where there were a couple of parties in the nearby picnic areas. She played for just a few minutes before become quite fussy. By the time we left, she was on the verge of a meltdown so we were quick to buckle her into her car seat. Just like magic, she was out once we had driven out of the parking lot. =)

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Today, I feel grateful for:
  • awesome family & friends
  • neighbors who are like family
  • fresh fruit

BFF R and her bro V's strawberry shortcake. Delish!
  • playgrounds and parks
  • the weekend
  • afternoon naps with El
  • Instagram
  • massages
  • perfectly warm and pleasant spring days
  • El's hairstyle: two buns

End-of-the-year Retirement Luncheon

To celebrate the end of the school year and honor the joint retirement of our colleague, R, and his lovely wife, J, the counseling department headed to Hurley's in Yountville. Besides yummy food and great decor, one big reason for selecting this restaurant is free corkage. That's not easy to find in the Napa Valley!

Each of us brought at least one bottle of wine and it was fun sampling each of them, mostly reds. I'm not a huge wine drinker so my palette isn't refined but I can tell when I'm drinking pretty good wine, which we certainly did yesterday!

Opolo and Mantra

Our food couldn't have come soon enough, as I hadn't eaten breakfast earlier and we had scheduled to meet for our luncheon at 2pm. For an appetizer, we split a couple platters of calamari, which were just the right amount of spiciness and had a unique crunch of cornmeal rather than the usual flour batter.

I opted for the special lunch menu which featured two courses for $20. My meal started with a hearty mushroom and barley soup. Even Hubby enjoyed it, which he called "healthy tasting but in a good way."

Mushroom and Barley Soup, with a garnish of goat cheese crouton

Hubby opted for the sirloin, which was excellent, and I chose the trout as my second course. It was delicious! I believe it was panko-encrusted and sat atop a fresh corn, tomato, and fava bean salad, with a garnish of leek and some herbs. Perfect for a warm spring day!


I was even able to convince Hubby to order a side of mac 'n cheese with his steak. Yum!

Mac 'n Cheese

For dessert, ordered creme brulee, a chocolate almond torte, strawberry shortcake, and an ice cream sandwich to pass around so we could each have a bite. I think the chocolate almond torte won the prize for tastiest dessert of the day.

Strawberry Shortcake

By the time we had finished dessert, we still had a couple bottles of red wine left and had yet to open up the bottle of Sinatra wine Hubby brought. We asked the servers if we could head out to their patio to enjoy the rest of our beverages and they kindly obliged. It was so nice to sit outside and continue to drink and chat leisurely.

wine glass

We couldn't leave Hurley's without taking at least one group photo. This one doesn't include Hubby, as he was the photographer, like always:

Most of the VHS Counseling Department plus J and J.

And I couldn't leave Yountville without picking up some giant macarons at Bouchon Bakery!

Some of the best french macarons ever!