Tag Archives: Vacation

Scrapbook: Visiting Jose & Lupe

6 Jul

Just as Isobel and I were settling in to my new job we realized that Anthony had a week’s worth of vacation coming up. Our plans consisted mostly of working on our yard and putting up a pergola, but we wanted to leave town at least once for an overnight visit to a friend who was willing to put us and our occasionally cranky toddler up for the night.

Our friends Jose and Lupe had been encouraging us to visit them for quite some time now so we decided to take them up on their generous offer and sleep on their floor.

It was such a wonderful trip all the way around: much shorter than driving to the city, San Jose is interesting and a great place to travel with a toddler, not the least reason being our visit to the Children’s Discovery Museum that I’ll be writing about later.

Jose is a good friend of ours from way back. He was in our wedding and procured two large, handmade pinatas for the reception. He is an exceptionally talented artist and funny and kind. He is engaged to the beautiful Lupe who has since become our good friend, too.

Jose and Lupe have a Chihuahua mix named Chibi who pretty much provided the entertainment. Isobel fell in deep BFF love with this dog and played with him from the moment we arrived till the moment we left. The only reason she fell asleep at night is because Jose put Chibi in his crate at bedtime. I tried to get photos of the cuteness that was them playing together, but they all turned out more or less like the photo above.

Isobel took a particular liking to Lupe who let her dig through her bracelets and jewelry like they were pieces of treasure. My kid somehow conned Lupe into giving her a bracelet covered in small jingle bells plus small zippered purse that Isobel now calls “my pocket.”

For breakfast Jose and Lupe took us to Cafe San Jose. I had the most amazing Redwood Eggs Benedict with pineapple and bacon and I kind of wanted to die all over my plate. Isobel had a minor meltdown while we waited for our food, and our friends got to see first-hand how fun parenting can be. Yay! After she calmed down, the Starfall app saved the day until her pancakes arrived.

We spent the late morning and the early afternoon walking around Willow Glen. Lupe took us to a favorite thrifting spot. It’s been my goal to hit up a thrift store in every new town we visit so I was very excited. This particular store was called The Thrift Box, which I found funny because I am twelve.

Just tell people you got it at “The Box.”

This daisy needlepoint was in the window and had I seen it while I was in the store you know I would have snapped it up immediately. I found several treasures there and now have a very good opinion of San Jose thrift stores in general.

After thrifting we went to an amazing children’s bookstore called Hicklebee’s.

Just look at the inside of this shop:

Needless to say, I now want a reading bathtub. And most of the contents of that store.

Hicklebee’s is a mecca for authors and illustrators of children’s books and sections of the store are covered in their autographs and drawings.

They also sold a small selection of fun toys. Like these nerd glasses I told Anthony he needed.

I don’t mean to turn this post into a glowing endorsement for Hicklebee’s, and it goes without saying that I’m not receiving compensation for writing about them, but they are just the kind of store I wish America had more of: a local business that fosters a joy of reading and wonder in children and adults alike.

After eating and wandering around town a bit we left for the museum and Jose and Lupe had to get back to their lives of moving and changing jobs and planning a wedding. You know, stress-free sorts of activities like that.

We had such a great time that even now Isobel comes up to me and says, “Mama, remember Lupe? Remember Chibi?”

Guest Post: What The Internet Is For

15 Jun

My friend Bri of Sarcasmically is amazing. She is completely able to rock you like a hurricane at a moment’s notice.  In fact, if she were to carry a business card, I’m pretty sure it all it would say would be “ROCKER OF HURRICANES, DEVOURER OF BACON.” If that won’t convince you, this guest post is all the confirmation you’ll need.

One day, I theoretically sat down at the computer and DM’d her on Twitter.

“Lordy, my hands are tired, what with the typing and photo editing and tweeting,” I probably said. “Blogging is hard.”

“Oh dear,” she may have replied, “I may have two kids and a job at a nonprofit and my duties as art director for IndieInk, all while I’m studying to achieve my nursing degree, but I’m weeping just thinking about your poor, fatigued little hands! I’ll fill in for you.”

Then I could have replied, “Ow! My ‘enter’ finger hurts.”

Today Bri is going to give a perfect example of  the true purpose of the internet. You know, after cat videos and porn.


I’m sure you came here expecting Carrie Anne and all her wonderful pictures, but I’m sorry, Carrie Anne apparently wants a vacation from HER OWN BLOG (slacker) and left me responsible for “quality content”, whatever that means.

So look, I don’t have pictures of grass or cute toddlers or hip vintage objects.  I know, UNBREAK YOUR HEART, AMIRITE?  But what I do have is a story, and since we’re kind of on the subject of vacations and all, I’d like to humiliate myself with a story about my most memorable summer vacation.  That’s what the internet is for, folks—Embarrassing yourself in public.

It was the summer of 1989 and I was about to turn six years old.  For my birthday/a summer vacation, my mom packed me, my younger brothers (twins), and my uncle (only ten years older than me) into her beat-ass Mazda 626 and drove us from Phoenix to San Diego to spend a week at the beach and SeaWorld.  It was a great time, even though this happened right before our eyes and yes I remember everything and yes we all got whale blood­-water on us and not that I’m happy that Kandu died but come on, that was a great story to take back to wide-eyed first-grade classmates, you know?  Totally knocked my cool factor +90 points.  BUT I DIGRESS.

So we are piled back into our tiny 17-horsepower chariot, making the drive back to Phoenix when the chariot breaks down on the highway in The Middle of Fucking Nowhere.  And it’s hot as hell outside and this is before cell phones were invented so we just get out and start walking east, thinking we have to find a phone to call the family and let them know to come get us.


… Eventually we reached this little shack of a gas station, and an ancient peg-legged shop owner in coveralls WITH A TARANTULA ON HIS SHOULDER (I am not making this shit up guys I swear) to greet us and I’m like, “Mom, we are going to die here today.” because even at six I knew that this is straight out of a goddamn horror movie and I can’t run that fast, Mom, so it was nice knowing you all and thanks for the dead whale birthday party.

ALAS!  The old guy– Herman, as it turns out– was really, really nice, which I can only assume was because my mom was a stone cold fox.  Herman kept seven pet tarantulas at his gas station and was thrilled to let my brothers, who were four at the time, hold them while we waited for our father to make the three-hour trek from Phoenix to The Middle of Fucking Nowhere to rescue us.  But ummm, excuse me, tarantulas?  GROSS.  Look.  LOOK AT IT.

So, yeah, I’m basically internally freaking out the whole time my brothers casually befriend goddamn insects that can probably kill horses, so when one of the twins goes, “…Uhhhh, you guys?  I can’t find my tawanchala,” I WANTED TO DIE.  I was a very dramatic little child.

The hunt for the missing tarantula was in full effect, and in addition to Herman and us five searching for it, a family of six (one of whom was a dreeeeeamy second-grader) that had stopped to stock up on Slim Jims was also assisting.

And then, you guys, I FELT IT ON MY LEG, under my dress, very high up near my girl parts.  GET READY FOR A BUNCH OF CAPS LOCK, FOLKS.


Mom:  “Okay, calm down, hold still, let’s just—“


Mom:  “Brianna.  Jesus God in Heaven, hold still.  BRIANNA ELYSE.”  She is chasing me around.  Everyone else is just staring, waiting for me to die of tarantula poisoning, thinking more Slim Jims for us!, probably.

ME:  Jumping.  Shaking.  Legs akimbo.  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THE SHRIEKING.


Finally, my mom catches me, sobbing and breathless, and preps herself to grab the tarantula from under my dress.  She counts with me.  One… two… three…

And then she yanks my dress over my head, in front of God and the vast desert and all the strangers and that second-grade McDreamy and the vulture on the cactus– and there it is, ON MY LEG:

A string, dangling from my “Tuesday” panties. A…


We never did find that tarantula.

Just Beachy

23 Oct

Given Isobel’s excitement at seeing the ocean for the first time I really looked forward to Isobel’s first trip to the beach. She is too young still for the traditional beach activities: wave chasing, sand castle building, etc, but since we were in the area for my cousin’s wedding, I wanted to, at the very least, formally introduce her to the Pacific.

We never intended on getting Isobel going swimming or even getting wet. It wasn’t a warm summer for the Pacific Coast by any means, and due to a deep ocean trench the constant temperature of our sea water is frigid at best. Not that this stops many children from playing in it or adults from surfing in it, but I don’t even like getting my feet wet.

I’ve only ever swam in the ocean once really, and that’s just if you count wading in ice cold water up to my thighs only to be knocked over at the first wave and nearly carried out to sea. I would be long gone if it weren’t for the fact that Stefanie was holding on to one arm and Anthony was holding on to the other. Stef is tall enough to stay upright in the waves and Anthony is strong enough. I, on the other hand, experienced full-body exfoliation from being drug along the sand. I remember a crab hitting Melynda. It was a wonderful yet terrifying experience. The waves at Half Moon Bay, our local coastside haunt, are no joke. They are powerful.

I’ve never liked the beach at the Board Walk. It is always dirty, littered with trash and packed with people. But it was the closest one to the hotel, and we weren’t planning on staying long. We found a small strip of beach next to the Boardwalk that didn’t look too bad and set off for the sea.

For Isobel, the sand itself was the most fascinating and infuriating part of the beach. It tripped her up constantly as she walked along, infuriating her, but she delighted in letting it run through her fingers. She loved it so much she ignored the ocean, no matter how many times we tried to coax her toward it. The crush of the waves could just not compete with the fine, warm sand.

Which is just as well because as we neared the water we saw signs up and down the beach saying that the water is contaminated and people should not come into contact with it.  Huh. Good to know. We were doubly sure to keep Isobel on the sand and away from the shore, despite the several dozen children splashing away in the water while their parents sat lazily by, sunning themselves on blankets.

I kept looking for my Santa Cruz friend Laura, just in case she happened to be on the most touristy beach in town, but no luck.

As on other trips we used the trunk to change her diaper, and it proved the perfect spot. It protected her from sun, wind, and the large lip of the trunk kept her safe from rolling out. I wish my trunk was on Yelp so I could give it a glowing review.

Before we left I tried to get a cuddly photo of just Anthony and me being all couple-y, but I didn’t realize it was still zoomed and so our photo was an EXTREME CLOSE UP!

In five years when I tell Isobel about her first trip to the beach I’m going to tell her, “Well at least you didn’t get hit by a crab.”

This Must Be Underwater Love…

27 Sep

I have been meaning to write this post since we got back from vacation, but all the craziness of starting back and work and getting into a new routine derailed it. Plus I had about a million photos to edit. You see, taking photos isn’t good enough for me anymore. I have to monkey around with them in Photoshop now, too. These are my precious memories of Isobel, and in 25 years I’m going to be able to look back and say “I’m so glad I adjusted that white balance.”

I had been looking forward to taking Isobel to the Monterey Bay Aquarium since she was born. Or really before that, to be honest. It was even on my Life List. I’m such an MBA fan girl. I would go there once a year if I could, but given that money is tight and the aquarium is far away, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to take Isobel this year. Fortunately, we were near Monterey for my cousin’s wedding so we were able to stop by right before I had to return to work.

Anthony was convinced Isobel would not get a whole lot out of the trip but he’s a nice enough guy to indulge his crazy wife’s request. (Also, he’s not stupid.) She’s too young to enjoy it, he said. This experience is going to be more for us than it is for her.

The aquarium was an hour’s drive away from our hotel so first thing in the morning, we set off. The previous day we had just gotten hopelessly lost in the woods and my nerves were still a bit raw from the experience but fortunately we just had to say on Highway 1 so it was easy.

On our way to the aquarium I passed by some beautifully healthy succulents, and, er, helped myself to a couple of their babies.

I’m going to hell, aren’t I? Whatevs.

We were ready to eat by the time we got there and I don’t regret eating at their restaurant at all. It was BY FAR the best museum/day trip/food on the road I’ve had EVER. I bought a selection of cheeses! And fruit! And fresh clam chowder in a bread bowl! Oh my god, I’m having flashbacks just thinking about it. Anthony had a fantastic-looking slice of pizza and something else but I can’t remember. The verdict? Nom. Nom nom nom. Isobel had a bit of everything we ordered and loved everything, too.

To our delight, Isobel LOVED the aquarium. L-O-V-E-D it. She interacted with the exhibits, watched the otters play, ran around the kid area, and said, “HI FISHIE!” about every ten seconds. It was PURE JOY to see her loving every minute.

At one point we took her outside to see the ocean for the first time.

Pure. Joy.

She was fascinated and could not stop staring at it.

We tried to get different family shots with the ocean in the background, but it was hard because she didn’t want her back to the ocean. She wanted to look at the majesty!

She also wanted to push her stroller around and around through crowds of people. Because we loaded her up in the car and drove four hours and paid several hundred dollars so she could push her stroller through a group of people in Monterey as opposed to at the park at home.

I can’t really complain. It was adorable.

I also tried getting some photos of her on my lap. Yeah, that didn’t work out well as she wanted to run around and play, Mom, not sit on your lap like a lump! You can see I’m totally miffed in this picture.

The part that was less than pure joy? The fact that she was just too stoked to sleep. We were there during her nap time and we brought the stroller for napping purposes. Usually, even if we are out, we can get her to nap in the stroller. She napped through the wedding reception like a champ. No amount of pachas or stroller time or mommy hugs could counteract the SUPER AQUARIUM FUNTIMES though, and she refused to sleep. She eventually slept in the car ride back to the motel, which was a blessing.

Refusing to nap, bitches!

I wanted to get a photo of her and Anthony under the “Devoted Dads” seahorse exhibit sign, but she was in the midst of a no-nap fuss and not having it. Of course, that may prove just how devoted of a Dad Anthony is.

I normally try to avoid gift shops because we don’t need any more crap, thank you very much, but it was Isobel’s first time at the aquarium and they totally make money off of parents like me because I convinced Anthony to get her not one but TWO stuffed sea creatures:

We named the jelly “Bloop Bloop,” after the noise they make when the float around, the octopus “Cthulhu” for obvious reasons. Our favorite game to play with the octopus is to put it on her face and yell CTHULHU! over and over. Surprisingly, she adores this game.

The best, the very, very best part of this visit happened outside. After she had gawked at the ocean for a half hour we decided to take her to the outside tidal pool tank that was covered in a “waves” every thirty seconds or so. The waves terrified her at first, but soon she realized there were fishies in the tank, and the wave itself was a fun game, and best of all, there was a special little nook just for her. We were probably in that area with her for an hour and she just loved it. She played with other kids, she danced in the ocean spray from the wave, she talked to the fishies… it was just heaven to watch her enjoy herself.

I may have taken a couple (hundred) photos.

(Waving to fishies)

I tried to let Anthony know how much I appreciated this trip. It meant a lot to me.

The Fair

7 Sep

Our town hosts the County Fair and each year the community braces for it. I have a friend who used to work at a discount food store. When the fair was in town they usually assigned him the same mind-numbing same every day for eight hours: stacking and unstacking pallets of dog food with a fork lift near the door. This strategically placed job was less about accomplishing anything and more about acting as a theft deterrent. When all the dog food pallets were stacked, it was his job to unstack them, and look busy about it. Give customers The Eye as they come in. And repeat.

This year marked Isobel’s first trip to the fair as she was finally old enough to appreciate live stock, fried food, and people watching. I was giddy with excitement. Judge away! I know I’m some sort of hick for admitting this, but I was really looking forward to sharing this with Isobel. After the fair, I was thinking about taking her cow tipping!

My bestie just happened to be working at a booth at the fair this year so our first stop was a giant, walk-through, anatomically correct heart, complete with whooshing sound. It was air conditioned making it easily the best booth at the fair. Afterward we took a few photos of Dr. Isobel and her buxom nurse, Anthony.

Isobel is quite familiar with horses because she has several that she likes to play with. We taught her the theme song to Bonanza and she gallops her horses across the coffee table. The thing is, she’d never seen a real live horse before so we head to the stables.

The first horses Isobel sees in her life are the largest ones possible, taller than most grown men with feet the diameter of dinner plates. The Budweiser Clydesdales. They were monstrous. And they were beautiful.

Isobel was so excited as soon as she saw them. She even whinnied a few times. I tried to get a video of her looking at them and neighing like a horse but of course stopped as soon as I pulled the camera out. She clammed up so all I recorded was a video of her with me in the background saying, “What does a horsey say? NEEEEEEEIIIIIIIGH! What does a horsey say? NEEEEEEEIIIIIIIGH! NEEEEEEEIIIIIIIGH!”

Basically that video will never see the light of day.

I’m deleting it as I type.

ZOMG that thing is a horse?!

Another thing she learned about horses is that they poop. And if they are Clydesdales, they POOP. They drop loads of epic proportions; it’s like dumping an entire bag of organic fertilizer on the ground at once. Which I suppose it kind of is. In fact they had someone whose sole job was to follow behind the Clydes wherever they go and clean up giant crap-piles with a giant snow shovel. That man was kept very busy.

After we saw the Clydes Isobel was very ho-hum about all the other horses. They were just not that exciting in comparison.

We wanted to get photo booth photos since we get them every year, but it was so hot outside the machines were malfunctioning. They had a company mechanic working on them but he said they were all overheating. It wasn’t even as hot as it usually is, probably only 96-97 degrees F. It could have been much worse. We went back later in the night when it had cooled off and took Isobel for her first photo booth experience. She was mesmerized by the flash.

The highlight of the trip was probably the petting zoo. Isobel called all the goats ‘chuchos’ and woofed at them to let them know she was their people. She got along with the goats as well as they got along with her: they tried to chew on her hair and shorts and she tried to pull on their horns. Basically they were each fascinated and curious about each other and not worried to get in each others’ faces. Neither seemed to mind.

I was thrilled that she got along with them so well because I’ve always had a soft spot for goats, and let’s not forget their role in the extinction of the dinosaurs.

"What shampoo do you use? It's delicious!"

While I was trying to get cute pictures of Isobel petting a goat another goat came up to my left arm and started licking it. I’m sure it was after salt as I was quite sweaty. It gave me this look like, “I totally love you!” for a bit then it resumed its licking. I had to move away from it because that goat did not want to stop licking me.

Love me

"You has a nom taste."

We didn’t bring our stroller because we knew there’d be masses of people and not a lot of space in some areas. We brought the sling and the fair was kind enough to let us borrow a simple umbrella loaner stroller provided we left them with Anthony’s driver’s license as collateral.

Remember the mushrooms from last year? I was super excited to see that they were at the fair again this year, along with last year’s rainforest theme.

The night ended with us returning the stroller and packing her up in the sling while she started falling asleep. I held her against me and rubbed her head as we walked and her eyelids drooped. Isobel may not remember her first trip to the fair, but Anthony and I always will.

We Survived: Our First Family Trip

2 Aug

This past weekend we packed up the kid an half our belongings and headed to the Santa Cruz mountains for a family wedding. This was not our first family trip technically, since we did drive to SF when Isobel was a few months old and met up with my Flickr buddy affectionately known around the net as Webchicken. I felt all hardcore and proud of myself for leaving the house for a day with the baby even though Chicken and David and nine month old baby B flew across the country with whatever gear they could fit in their suitcases. And contrary to what I thought back then, traveling with a nine month old is much more complicated than traveling with a small infant, who is content to lay in someone’s arms, look around occasionally, and sleep often. I truly appreciated Chicken’s heroic family trip after Isobel came to be nine months. All she wanted to do was walk around, find some new way to hurt or maim herself, and if she was in her car seat for an extended period of time, scream. Aside from one disastrous day tip, we did no traveling of any sort for a period of her development. It was just not worth it.

It was really a test of our intestinal fortitude to attempt this trip. Santa Cruz is farther away than SF and counting traffic usually takes at least three hours by car. But Anthony and I are the stupid sort, and we had been looking forward to my cousin’s wedding and all the family we’d get a chance to see there. One of my cousins was coming from Germany! Plus, staying a few days in Santa Cruz meant I could cross something off my life list: taking Isobel to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Monterrey is even further away than Santa Cruz and four hours in a car (both! ways!) with a toddler was just not something I could handle. Driving to Monterrey from Santa Cruz, however, was much more feasible.

We went, we drove, we brought our toddler. I have lots to say about this trip but for now I also have multiple loads of laundry that need attention, some dishes to wash, and a sleeping baby to watch over. Traveling with a toddler is definitely doable and the only bad parts about the trip were totally not baby-related. Isobel has come to a comfortable truce with riding in the car and it turns out all that worry about traveling with a toddler was worth seeing this:

All in all, it was wonderful to see family, we had an adventure in the redwoods, and adventure at the sea shore, visited the aquarium, ate sushi, visited thrift stores, and learned valuable lessons about baby-proofing a hotel room. I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Thank Goodness for Grandma

13 Jul

Yesterday Grandma Livia whisked Isobel off for an overnight trip full of splashing in the pool, eating Cap’n Crunch cereal, and basically letting Grandpa Doug grant her every wish. Which was great. I needed the break. You guys, babies are hard. There are few things I love more than spending time with Isobel, but I needed a break. I needed to recharge.

Fortunately, we had planned this overnight visit months ago as Grandma Livia was just starting her vacation, so it came at the perfect time.

While Isobel was away I spent a goodly portion of an hour just sitting on my bed fantasizing about the things I could do without my ever present barnacle-like beloved. I started thinking about my childless days. What did I even do with myself before I had Isobel? What do you do when you’re not constantly trying to prevent your baby from finding ways to kill and/or maim herself? It was magical just to be able to sit and think about these things. I swear, it was as refreshing as actually doing something.

I edited some photos but after awhile became restless. I started cleaning and reorganizing. I always do this whenever Olivia takes Isobel for some reason. I wonder if it’s the nesting instinct leftover from pregnancy. As soon as she’s gone I must know, at a biological level, that she could return any second and I must prepare things. It’s almost a compulsion.

Anyway, I love it and I spent a lot of time cleaning my closets. I cleared all the linen out of the linen closet to use as a storage area for my thrifted treasures. I don’t mean to brag, but I have a very large linen closet. I thought everything for the store would fit there nicely. Not a chance. I still have a bunch of stuff stored in the spare bedroom, a.k.a, my sister’s old room. I had really wanted to clean that place out because, ahem, at some point (don’t get any ideas, anybody, I’m not hinting at anything) we’re going to want to use it as a second nursery. Right now, however, it’s storing treasures for the Little Big Shop. Along with the linen closet. Seeing all my stuff at once like that alerted me to the necessity to hold off on any more thrifting till I make some more sales. Boo.

After some serious closet cleaning (where I found more stuff to giveaway–if anyone’s interested!), I started on a project I’m going to be working on in the coming days and, let’s be realistic here, weeks. I took a bunch of photos of the thrift store decor in my poorly-lit home in order to (hopefully) inspire the use of thrifted items in design. And to show off some cute areas of my house. My house is beginning to look cute. It’s taken five or so years, but it’s getting there. Before we bought the house we rented an adorable one bedroom apartment. It was a dream to decorate and we really made it into something special. I never took any pictures and I regret that fact daily. I didn’t want this to be the case with our house.

So, that was my yesterday: day dreaming, organizing closets, taking & editing photos. Presumably that’s what  I did before Isobel was born but I really don’t remember. As wonderful as it was (and boy, was it wonderful) it didn’t compare to the way I felt when I saw Isobel running to greet me when I picked her up, grinning up at me and saying, “Mama.”


I’m so excited people have entered my giveaway! I’ll be announcing the winner tomorrow amid much fanfare. (I’ll blow a vuvuzela or something.) Speaking of giveaways, I have exciting! news! I am also a winner of a fantastic giveaway! I entered a giveaway for a Snorg Tee on Knit in Public a few weeks back, and guess who’s Winner By Default? ME! That’s right! The original winner never claimed their prize (sucker)  so Windsor Grace drew a new winner and this time it was me! I’m thrilled. As if I needed another reason to love Knit in Public. Thanks, Whitney!