Dec 23, 2014

Global Winter Wonderland

Let the fun begin!

My parents arrived into town on Friday evening. The girls are so excited to have their grandparents here for the Christmas festivities. And we started the fun Saturday night by honoring my dad's ancestors and celebrating Chanukah. I made my first ever Kugel, which turned out pretty good and was amazingly quick and easy, while my mom went to task making Latkes! They were, of course, delicious. And while I helped the girls light the candles, my dad was kind enough to say the blessing. While we're not religious in our house, I do want the girls to be exposed to the history of our family, and from my dad's side, this is part of it. I grew up celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas. And one thing I love about Chanukah is the food. 

The fun continued Sunday, when Vicki joined us and we all headed out to Sacramento's Fair grounds, known as Cal Expo to take in the lights and sights of Global Winter Wonderland. It was quite amazing. The set up covers 17 acres, uses 100 tons of steel, more than 2 millions LED lights and 200,000 feet of silk to create global iconic structures, such as the Tower Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, the Kremlin, Chichen Itza, the Golden Gate bridge and the White House.This display was started in 2011 and only visits 1 city a year. I'm so glad Sacramento was selected!

It took us about 2 hours to make our way around to see all the displays. I was quite struck by the use of everyday materials to add depth to the pieces, such as this tree that used parisols and empty plastic water bottles for the tree leaves: 

Or the KingTut statue that was made up of tiny glass bottles full of colored water:

And the dragons' scales were made CDs!: 

We also made sure to take pictures of the girls in front of icons from "their" cities. 

London in front of London's Tower Bridge: 

And Sydney in front of the Sydney Opera House: 

There was also a Dinosaur Maze. Sydney wasn't too sure about the Stegosaurus, but she eventually warmed up to him. 

I also learned something - each set up had a sign explaining what it was of. I learned from reading the sign of London's Parliament building, the one that houses Big Ben within the Elizabeth Tower, that the building is actually called the Palace of Westminster.  

Here are some more photos of this display.

This was Sydney's favorite display

This was our favorite tree - it was more blue in person.

Dec 17, 2014

A Great On Hold Recording

We've been busy getting ready for the holidays. That's why I have been so MIA. But I do have a funny story to tell you. Last week we were running errands over the course of 2 evenings. On the second night, while at Walgreen's to purchase our Christmas cards my credit card was declined. This has happened a few times due to the fraud protection program. The company flags the card and puts a hold on it when there is unusual activity on. 

While I finished making the purchase with another credit card, Cameron was out in the car waiting for me - and received a call from an unknown 800 number. It was the credit card company calling to check up on our activity and follow up on the suspected fraud. The problem was, Cameron didn't yet know the card had been declined and when he answered, there was no answer. The system is actually automated so he hung up before it recognized the call had been picked up. 

I mentioned to Cameron the card being declined as we drove to the girls daycare to pick them up. While in the middle of pick up, my phone rang. And the automated system got through to me. But I had issues with my phone and the system recognizing my selections while I tried to approve all the transactions. The good news is that there was no fraud. But using the automated system with my phone acting up made it difficult to clear the issue up. We were able to get it to recognize that we wanted to speak to an actual person but just sat on hold. 

Half way home, we hung up and dialed the number on the back of our card. We immediately got a hold of a representative who then said she would transfer us to an actual person in the fraud department. And we sat on hold, again, for quite a while. But this time we were fine with sitting on hold. The messages being played were hilarious! We actually commented on them when we did finally get through to the fraud specialist and cleared up the card hold. 

Here's just some of what we learned: 

The harmonica is the number one purchased instrument

The Beach Boys was originally named Carl & The Passions

It is important to end an interview for employment with the proper follow up questions such as when the company plans to have the position filled and to close with a firm handshake, just as you would start it. 

Something about work physics and being able to pass it along. 

It's important to purchase items made of recycled products

I know there was more, but this is all I can remember right now. As mentioned, we were on hold for a while. But we were cracking up so it was worth the wait!

Dec 5, 2014

Sydney's Big Girl Bed

I was able to grab a picture of the finish line just before I crossed it. Over 30,000 people participated in the 5 & 10Ks that morning and over $900,000 was raised for the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services

Apparently, we don't actually know how to relax. Thanksgiving was exactly spent lounging around the house in our sweatpants all day. Don't get me wrong, the girls never got out of their PJs, and Cameron and I spent the day in sweats, but we weren't exactly sitting around. 
Waiting for the race to start.

Of course, I started the day out with my run. I expected it to be cold, so I came prepared with gloves, ear muffs and a jacket over my long sleeved shirt. By the time I got to Sac State and parked, I decided I really didn't need the gloves. Before the race started, my jacket was off and tied around my waste. After the first mile the ear muffs were off. And by the 5th mile, I kinda wished I was wearing capris instead of pants! Not that I am complaining. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. I just wish the forecast had been a bit more accurate. 

Just after the finish line

And I finally got a mimosa, back at home

And while I passed on several opportunities along the run to grab a Mimosa being handed out by the people that live in the neighborhoods we were running through, I did pour myself one as soon as I got home. And I should have relaxed. Instead I got to work disassembling Sydney's crib. We'd decided that Thanksgiving was the day to set up Sydney's new big girl bed. 

Green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and marinated brussels sprouts. This was only about half of what we had food-wise. Missing is the mashed potatoes, gravy, two types of stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes, dinner rolls and pumpkin pies! And yes, it was just the 4 of us.

We figured a long weekend would be best, in case she had a hard time adjusting to the change. What we didn't take into account was that we would need to stop the assembly of the bed midway through to attend to our Thanksgiving dinner. Which meant Sydney didn't have a bed to nap in afterward. We tried to put the girls down for a nap together in London's bed, but that failed miserably. 

We did get the bed put together, minus the drawers that go underneath it, in time for an early bed time. Sydney was so tired, she had no issues crawling into her new bed. She didn't even have an issue with me taking down her crib. Basically, she's never looked back and is loving her new big girl bed. I got the drawers built in under a 1/2 hour a few days later, so it's put together completely now. 

Dec 3, 2014

The Painted Cork

I'll admit I did get into the Christmas spirit a little early this year. Usually I am strict about honoring Turkey day, but about 10 days before Thanksgiving, I broke that rule, for about an hour or two, while my girlfriend, Lynde, and I had a girls night out. We went to one of my favorite places, The Painted Cork, where we enjoyed some wine and wine-appropriate snacks while we followed instructions to make a Christmas Cottage painting over the course of 4 hours. 

It was one of the longer classes I have participated in and we actually stayed an extra 1/2 hour to finish up our paintings as it was one that allowed for a lot of improvisations and creativity. While I wasn't too thrilled with my final version that night, the next morning I was much more satisfied with it. And we only listened to Christmas music for the first half of the class, then the instructor took executive action to change the music we listened to - I got the distinct impression she's not a fan of Christmas music. 

I adhered to my no-Christmas music before Thanksgiving the rest of the way - all the way until Black Friday. 

And as promised, we did head out on Black Friday to get a Christmas tree, which is almost decorated. Still working on the rest of the house as well. We did stop in at Walmart for some random cleaning items, after noon on Black Friday. It was quiet by then and we still scored on some good deals. We purchased small-room electric space heaters with thermostats for the girls' rooms for only $39 each!

That night I headed back out for another session at the Painted Cork with Lynde again. This time our girlfriends Christina, Alyssa, Torie and Amy joined up as well as a few other friends of Torie's. This time we painted a Santa silhouette against a big, full moon. I loved how this one turned out! I placed it on the wall next to our TV so I can look at it all season long for long periods of time - we have Christmas movies going almost non-stop right now when we are home. 

I especially liked my clouds

We also scouted out the painted we will be on the look out to do next year - we're thinking this will be becoming a nice little Christmas tradition for us ladies all while we get to add our creations to our decorations each year.