Thursday Thoughts #21

Thursday Thoughts

My mom has been dying to do the “touristy” things ever since we moved out to SoCal one year ago.

The idea of driving around to look at famous people’s homes on a giant bus doesn’t appeal to me too much, but I’ll do it with her eventually. Before we leave this duty station anyway.

Update: I’ve been corrected. Mom wants to do a Studio Tour, not a bus tour. (Phew!) I don’t think kids are allowed on studio tours so that will be logistically more challenging to arrange. 

Seeing the Hollywood Stars might be kinda cool, if it weren’t just so darn crowded, and from what I hear, dirty. But again, I’ll make that trek with her. Maybe the next visit, Mom.

Seeing the Hollywood sign was a little more doable and an excursion I was simply waiting for the right time to do it. I did a tiny bit of research and asked a couple of friends if they’d gone with children.

So when my mom was here last week, off we went to Griffith Observatory to catch a glimpse of the iconic Hollywood sign.

IMG_3061

Finding information about the sign was easy. A quick browser search came up with this incredible website where we found great information regarding trail options based on your difficulty desire.

Reading that the trails run through snake territory, I knew that I wanted to be in long pants (in addition to closed toed shoes). My mind had me picturing narrow trails with a lot of foliage where snakes could take shelter.

Maybe the more strenuous paths would be that way, but the easy path we took at the Charlie Turner Trailhead was fairly smooth and quite wide. Strollers would have been easy enough to use on the path, too. A bit of a push uphill, but definitely doable.

There’s zero shade on the trails so be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, water, and hats.

But wait, Lauren, your kids aren’t wearing hats in any of these pictures!

You’re right, they’re not. Both of my boys have hated hats since the beginning of their time. We swore when Treat came around we would get him to like hats being a winter baby in Ohio. No such luck. There might be hope in our future though! We gave them baseball caps at the LA Galaxy game last weekend and Firecracker liked it and Treat was iffy on it, but it did last longer than any other thing that’d been placed on his head in the previous 17 months!

I am quite glad I took the opportunity to check out the Hollywood sign this spring. I couldn’t imagine doing this hike in the summer. At least not with little children. I immediately regretted putting them in pants.

IMG_3085We spent about two hours on the trail. We didn’t get too far in that first hour going at the pace of a 17 month old, but we did make it to a great viewing area before turning around.

The kids were a little bit all over the place. Want to know how to get kids to keep moving when all they want to do is play in the dirt? Goldfish!

IMG_3114We had packed a lunch and enjoyed it at the Berlin Forest. An area with a few trees providing shade and a couple of picnic tables and benches. As it’s near the start of the trail, we left the “picnic basket” in the car and it was simple enough for my mom to get some “extra steps” down to the car to bring up our lunch (and the stroller!).

Mentioning the car brings me to my next point.

Parking.

The website I referenced earlier stated that parking at the observatory was free. Maybe it was at one point, but it isn’t still. It costs $4/hr and you have to pre-pay.

There’s plenty of free parking available further down the mountain, but as we really weren’t sure where we were going we opted for convenience. With the kids, it was definitely a good idea!

The parking lot as a splendid view of the sign, so if that’s all you’re really after, just do a drive by. (See the first photo of this post.)

IMG_3079IMG_3082IMG_3086IMG_3087IMG_3089

 

#SundaySupper: Recipes with Coffee

Over Labor Day weekend we traveled to Northern California, Santa Cruz to be exact, to celebrate my cousin’s wedding.

The wedding was one we will never forget. They got married standing underneath exquisite Redwoods with the sun peaking through the massive trees.

To reach the ceremony site, we hopped aboard a narrow gauge train and traveled uphill for about 25 minutes. Following the beautiful exchange of vows we climbed back on the train to return to the reception location. The entire experience was simply breathtaking.

To say my train obsessed toddler was in heaven is an understatement!

felton-wedding

We spent the long weekend in Santa Cruz with my parents and uncle at a vacation rental home on the water. We enjoyed exploring the area and discovering the differences between that beach city and the one we’re living in now.

Chocolate Chip Mocha Smoothie for #SundaySupper from Sew You Think You Can Cook (1)Because we staying in a “hotel house,” as we described it to my toddler, I had the luxury of being able to cook! I made Chicken Chorizo Meatballs (a variation of this recipe) for the rehearsal party at my aunt’s “hotel house,” a beautiful cheese platter for dinner one night, and coffee smoothies to accompany some local pastries for breakfast one morning!

I was counting on making my recipe for this week’s Sunday Supper over the wedding weekend so I packed my chocolate chips and chocolate sauce. Doesn’t everyone travel with chocolate chips in tow?!

Thankfully the vacation home had a blender! I hadn’t considered that I may not have one before hitting the grocery store to pick up yogurt and whipped cream.

This smoothie was met with mixed reviews. My dad was not a fan, but sweet coffee drinks are not his thing. My uncle and I enjoyed our glasses, though. That being said, I have some suggestions for changes I’d make next time:

  • The tang from Greek yogurt was a little too much to pair with the coffee, so I’d switch to regular yogurt (or you know, ice cream but then we can’t call it breakfast can we?)
  • To balance out the sweetness level, I’d add a touch of vanilla extract

Chocolate Chip Mocha Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 C ice
  • 3/4 C vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 C cooled coffee
  • 1/4 C chocolate chips
  • 1/4 C chocolate syrup

Steps:

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Garnish, if desired, with whipped cream and extra chocolate syrup.

*This recipe is adapted from Jacqui at http://www.dishingdelish.com/chocolate-chip-mocha-breakfast-smoothie/*

Chocolate Chip Mocha Smoothie for #SundaySupper from Sew You Think You Can Cook (2)

Beverages

Breakfast

Main

Sides

Dessert

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out ourPinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Cherry Whole Wheat Scones

Apparently the thing to do in Southern California on Memorial Weekend is go cherry picking. Cherries have a very short season, only about a month! Through the connectivity of Facebook, I found out about a U-Pick Cherry Farm an hour and a half north of us. We decided it’d be a fun thing to do on our 6th wedding anniversary.

There were notifications on the farm’s website about a smaller crop yield this season and that their Memorial Day weekend hours would be shortened. We made an effort to leave first thing in the morning. That “first thing in the morning” didn’t quite happen and we arrived at the farm at 11am. (Their hours for the day were to be closed at 1pm, so still plenty of time.) The traffic halted about a mile and a half from the gate and people were parking on the side of the road. We found a spot to park a mile away and started to unload. We noticed however a ton of people returning to their vehicles empty handed. Stuart asked someone and she said the farm was closed but that there were other orchards further down the road.

cherry picking 1

Down the road we went. We joined another mass of people and waited in line for almost an hour to get into this smaller orchard. They grow 6 varieties of cherries but two of them had already seen the end of their season. Predominately Bing and Rainier were the varieties ripe and ready to pick, though we did snag a small handful of Brooks and Utah Giants. Don’t ask me which are those latter two out of our three pound bag though!

Cherry Picking 2

Unlike our first choice orchard, this one didn’t have a picnic area. We instead ate our packed lunch in the back of the van when we returned from our harvesting adventure.

picnic in the car

Next year we will be more prepared and arrive when they open so we can check out the largest cherry orchard in Southern California. While still satisfied with our yield, the day ended up not being the one I’d envisioned. Fruit picking in California is quite different than in Ohio; way more people and a little more stress. But, now we know. Time to look for other fruit picking opportunities!

I will do my best to share my cherry creations while cherry season is still on. First up: scones.

When I told my mom we were making scones she immediately had to whip up her Blueberry Scones. I watched her make the dough via FaceTime and realized that her recipe looked a lot like the one I’d just made for the cherries. The only variations: whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose and heavy cream in place of milk, oh, and obviously cherries instead of blueberries.

Cherry Whole Wheat Scones (prep)

Cherry Whole Wheat Scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick cold butter, cubed
  • 2/3 – 3/4 C heavy cream
  • 1 C chopped fresh cherries

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the cubes of butter until it looks like crumbs.
  3. Add the cream and mix with a fork until combined. Fold in cherries.
  4. Form (“mush” is the term my mom used) dough into a disk and place on a baking sheet. Cut into 6-8 wedges. Spread wedges apart slightly if you want crispy edges or leave touching for soft edges.
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown on the edge/top. Scones will be done when  toothpick inserted comes out cleanly.

*This recipe is adapted from Amy at http://www.wholesomelicious.com/cherry-pie-scones/*

Cherry Whole Wheat Scones  Sew You Think You Can Cook

Thursday Thoughts #18

Thursday Thoughts

This move to California was our second real military move. (Our first from Auburn to FL hardly counts as we had very little inventory to relocate and the distance was only 200 miles.) You can read about our move to Ohio here.

We left a small home in Ohio and were expecting something even smaller out in the Los Angeles area. In preparation for that we gave some of our furniture to my brother-in-law who just purchased a home with his fiancé, and my in-laws were more than generous in offering to store some other items until we return to the East coast. I begrudgingly left the majority of my fabric, quilting and scrapbooking supplies, and Monopoly collection behind with them. Stuart and I had many conversations about the “must-haves” in a new home and a third bedroom for an office/craft space was simply a “nice-to-have” as my free time with two little ones is quite limited and this blog is my hobby priority number one.

Unlike the previous move, this one was not a “door-to-door” move, meaning we did not have a destination address. With two boys under two and a husband in a grueling Masters program there simply wasn’t any time to take a trip to California to house hunt ahead of time. So, we booked a stay in Temporary Housing and used the 8 days provided upon reporting to find a place to live. As a result, we knew our items would end up being held in a storage facility until we could provide the moving company with our final address.

The moving company we were assigned to this move was incredible. A crew of three guys came the Monday after Easter to pack up everything. They were punctual, friendly, patient, and very courteous. They worked quickly and efficiently and while the team lead was inventorying every box, the other guys started to move everything into the garage to make loading day go smoothly. The same crew returned the following day to disassemble furniture, and along with the driver load the moving truck. We provided Subway for lunch on day one and tipped them on day two. Having the same crew for both days really helped things go smoothly.

We had a bedroom marked off as a “do not pack” room containing anything and everything that would be traveling across the country in the van. My parents came to attend Stuart’s graduation and while here, they helped us pack the other vehicle before the movers arrived. That car was loaded down with my grandmother’s antique secretary desk, quilts, and scrapbooks, along with all important documentation.

When there are young children involved, I highly recommend dropping them off with a friend while the movers are packing your home. Unfortunately that wasn’t an available option for us, but luckily my mom planned to stay and help us with the cross country drive. My mom and I were able to keep the boys occupied in the “do not pack” room and run errands. We handled the weighing of the van and returning of cable equipment to keep out of the way while my husband stayed at the house. We also handled the lunch pick-up and delivery.

That same piece of advice is even more important when the movers are unloading your belongings into your new home. This time we had my mother-in-law who flew out to California to help. She was able to keep Firecracker out of the house and at the park almost the entire day! I was able to wear Treat during his nap and keep him more easily contained as he was much less mobile. 

While our delivery crew didn’t start out as personable as our packing crew, they were quite competent and earned both the taco lunch and a tip for having to deal with our inconvenient location and countless stairs.

Because my mother-in-law stayed for the first week in our new place, I was able unpack our boxes myself instead of allowing the movers to do it. I had learned from our previous experience, when the movers unpack the boxes they essentially dump everything out on the floor, which I knew wouldn’t work well with two curious boys. There were a few exceptions to what we had them unpack – we wanted them to open up all of our wedding china and stemware and art boxes to ensure they weren’t damaged during delivery.

Unfortunately, a few boxes didn’t make it all the way to California including our bin of snowboarding gear and one box of our wedding stemware. At first inspection my husband’s weight plates didn’t make it either, but the team lead called the storage facility and they were found. He returned the next day with the weights and took away all of the boxes and packing paper that we had gotten through on that first night, which was over half of them!

One bookshelf, a desk, and our Keurig ended up in the “RIP” category.

Overall I am happy with our moving experience.

We moved many essential things ourselves because of the length of our trip and the unknown amount of time we’d be living in a hotel. Here are some of the things I wish we had added to our long list: vacuum cleaner, tape measure, scissors and/or exacto knife.

I’m going to reiterate: The biggest piece of advice I have for anyone moving with children – get help! My mom helped us get out of Ohio and traveled with us all the way to California. Having a third set of hands was invaluable. My mother-in-law was able to fly out to California the week of our delivery and she was able to take Firecracker to the park and on walks while the movers were unloading the truck. My sister-in-law came down the day after delivery and was a huge help with both boys keeping them entertained while we did a lot of unpacking and organizing of our home. She and my mother-in-law were able to share the brunt of the kids’ energy, too. If they weren’t able to provide so much help I know that I’d still be living in a house of brown cardboard boxes over one month later. I look forward to their next visits when things aren’t quite as hectic and more valuable time can be spent with them. I know their presence was much appreciated by the boys too, if their behavior after their departure is any indication!

Thursday Thoughts #17

Thursday Thoughts

Now that you’ve read about the toys and gadgets that got us through a cross country road trip, I’m going to share the more exciting story of our journey, with lots of pictures!

Because we were moving two vehicles and two children my mom more than generously volunteered to help us. If she weren’t with us I have no doubt that the timeline you see below would have had another day or two added to it, and a whole lot more frustration. Being able to have two people in the car with the boys was amazing.

We planned the general idea of our route from Ohio to California but the details of each day’s drive weren’t hammered out until the night before. I was hesitant to book hotel rooms in advance because, truth be told, there wasn’t any way to predict how the boys would handle the long stretches of driving or how long 6 hours would actually take. We knew we wanted to start out on the North route to see friends from Auburn located in Omaha and Denver. After that we knew we wanted to stop at the Grand Canyon and I wanted to add a second detour to the Four Corners.

Day 0

Our movers showed up on the Monday after Easter to pack up our belongings and on Tuesday they loaded everything onto the moving truck. (I’ll do another Thursday Thoughts on handling the move later.) We knew we wanted to turn in our house keys that day and get started on the drive.

Day 1

To our surprise, loading day took under 5 hours and we were on the road a little before 3 pm ET after having grabbed lunch at a diner in town. After the boys napped for 2.5 and 3.5 hours we stopped at a Pilot for gas, bathroom breaks, diaper changes, and water. We let Firecracker run around in a grassy area and he had a blast running races against Daddy. Cross Country Move (1)

Another two hours later, at 8 pm CT, and we stopped for dinner in Bloomington, IL. We picked a pizza bar, Lucca’s, but almost had to search for something else. This place was the kind of restaurant where you need reservations. Not because it’s fancy, but because it’s that good. To our luck the reserved table of 6 dwindled down to a party of 2 so we were given their table and the two gentlemen sat at the bar. When we walked in I was surprised to see a fair number of children! They had highchairs, but no changing tables. Firecracker was provided two coloring books and a cup of crayons for use while we waited on our order. The pizza was incredible – thin crust, crispy, and cut into square, as all good Illinois pizza should be! Their sausage was easily the best I’ve ever had.

While at dinner we looked ahead at the map and called a couple of hotels less than an hour away. We ended up spending the night in Morton, IL. Both kids fell asleep after dinner but only Treat transferred to the Rock ‘n Play Sleeper without waking up, and he slept through the night! Firecracker ended up waking up on the walk into the hotel and picked up a burst of energy. He did not end up in the port-a-crib and instead had to be pinned down between us in the king size bed, where he did eventually sleep through the night.

Day 2

WDE 5 monthsBefore getting started back on the road I had to take Treat’s 5 month photos in the hotel room!

IMG_0742We got going at 9:45 am CT and drove until noon for lunch and gas in Iowa City. There was a big hill by the parking lot and Firecracker got out some energy running up and down it. Our next break was a rest area just outside of Des Moines where there was a small playground! Firecracker preferred to play with the rocks and mulch while I nursed Treat.

The early evening drive was fairly smooth; almost every toy was pulled out, and Scout
was a favorite. But, nearing our destination, Firecracker let out some crying outbursts of “Dada!” Thanks to the wonderful technology of Bluetooth, I was able to give Daddy a call and have his voice broadcast through the van’s speakers. It worked beautifully and we made it to Omaha a little after 5:30 pm CT.

We had a great visit with one of my best friends from college and his wife. Firecracker loved playing fetch with their dogs before we went to dinner where conversation was flowing as if 2.5 years hadn’t gone by without seeing each other.

Both boys again fell asleep after dinner and this time they both stayed asleep. Our hotel room had two queen beds this time and we put Firecracker in the center of one surrounded by pillows. He slept all night. Treat woke up around 2 am and stayed awake for 2.5 hours.

Day 3

We got a little bit of a late start owing to the need to give the boys baths. At 10 am CT we started the drive, this time Stuart joined me in the van and my mom drove our other vehicle. There weren’t a lot of opportunities to stop, and with 7-10 miles between exits every child meltdown got harder to stop. Around lunch time Firecracker really wanted a turn behind the wheel so after a very loud 5 minutes we took a break at 1:40 to eat.

IMG_0784

IMG_0794It was my turn for a meltdown when we missed the Welcome to Colorado sign. We pulled off at the Welcome Center rest stop so I could calm down and decide if I was actually going to turn us around so we could cross the state line again. Thankfully they had the same signage at the Welcome Center and backtracking was not necessary. This Welcome Center was insanely hospitable, there were countless pamphlets for what seemed every city in the state and we were given a free state map. The volunteer staff tried to help us plan our route to the Four Corners, too. We spent an frighteningly long break at this rest stop.

Middle of Nowhere Emergency Diaper ChangeAbout an hour outside of Denver, Treat had a major diaper blow out. We literally stopped in the middle of nowhere to make a diaper and wardrobe change. I was quite thankful for the bed pad I’d put down. I was also quite thankful for deodorized diaper disposal bags!

We got to Denver around 7:30 pm MT.

The hotel had a full sized fridge in the room and I was able to completely refreeze the breast milk I was hoping to transport to California with us. (Spoiler alert, it didn’t survive…) Staying in the city meant our vehicles had to be valeted during our stay. I felt the pressure to unload the 50 million items we need each night quickly, I absolutely hate holding people up. Unfortunately in my rushed state I failed to grab food for Firecracker. Before we walked to dinner we had to ask the valet to bring the van back around so I could make him a sandwich. We met up with another friend from college and we got to meet his fiancé. We’re looking forward to seeing him some more, as we were stationed in FL together. His job sends him out our way every now and then and my husband’s his way. And of course we’ll see him for their wedding in the Fall!

Day 4

IMG_0789

The night was really rough. The time difference really got to Firecracker and he was overly tired, which meant next-to-no sleep. I woke up with him at 5:30 am MT and we took a quiet stroll down the hall until breakfast was served at 6.

We booked a hotel for the night and got an early start and walked to Starbucks before leaving Denver at 9 am MT. Firecracker absolutely loved riding on each and every luggage cart we needed to use.

The stunning drive took us through mountains and plains and very few places to stop. Good thing my boys (husband included) took long naps! It was an interesting drive leaving Denver – there were stretches of road where I was in the only lane headed West with three lanes of traffic heading East – and no median! Down mountains! I would have loved for Mom to have been the lead vehicle at that moment.

IMG_0846With stomachs growling we stopped in the tiny town of Saguache, CO. The diner where we ate was a great find. All of the food was fantastic. Mom got a BLT on homemade jalapeno cheddar bread. After tasting hers I regretted not doing the same. With breakfast served all day Firecracker enjoyed the fluffiest blueberry pancakes ever and I had French toast (because who can resist homemade bread!?). I don’t recall what they named the dish that Stuart ordered, but it was a flour tortilla topped with refried beans, potatoes, onions, cheese, a gravy-type sauce, and sour cream. I loved it! Mom also got a slice of homemade mixed berry pie.

Overall, we took a two hour driving break and did some walking down the main street and popped our head in some of the shops. They actually had a working paper press for their local newspaper which was neat to see!

IMG_0848

We made it to Cortez, CO at 7:30 pm MT. We did laundry and went to bed.

Day 5

Today was a fun day. Our first stop was to the Four Corners! I was the only person excited about this pit stop on the drive, but by the time we left everyone was wishing we’d had more time and can’t wait to go back. We had a lot of fun taking pictures at the corner and we even got to do a little hiking nearby.

Four Corners Monument            Four Corners Hiking

At the Four Corners there are local vendors selling lots of jewelry and pottery. I got an ornament to commemorate our trip. There was also a stand selling fry bread. This pastry was delicious! We tried a few different toppings: apple butter, honey, and cinnamon sugar. (You can probably guess which one was mine!)

Fry Bread

We weren’t entirely sure how long it would take us to get to the Grand Canyon and at one point we pulled off on the side of the road to double check the maps. My car’s GPS was taking us to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which would have been closed at this time of year. Thankfully we thought something was fishy about how long it was supposed to take us and we re-consulted with Google. We needed the East Rim, cutting 3 hours off the travel time! There weren’t any good places to stay along the way past the Grand Canyon so our options were to spend the money in the tourist area or backtrack to Flagstaff. We called a Holiday Inn Express at the Grand Canyon and they had one room available, and at a decent rate. My mom was going to have to bunk with our family of four for the night.

As we approached the Grand Canyon we saw a sign that said $30 per vehicle. Well, we had 2 vehicles! I started to fret over the price and convinced myself that instead of thinking of it as a “per vehicle” cost, to divide that number amongst our party and look at it as “$20 per person and kids are free” which seemed much more reasonable.

Upon arriving at the entrance to the Grand Canyon I was reminded that as an active duty military member, we get access to all National Parks for free!

Both Stuart and I had been to the Grand Canyon as children with our families, but it was a whole new experience going as adults. Pictures can’t illustrate the sense of awe and wonderment that one feels looking at the expanse, seeing the reds, oranges, and browns. If the boys were older we would have planned to spend much more time at the Grand Canyon, but our couple hour visit was well worth it and we can’t wait to go back. I don’t know if we’d ever camp in the canyon, but we’d definitely love to do some actual hiking. Firecracker kept wanting to go “down” and I definitely watched my husband’s hold on him tighten the closer they got to the edge.

Grand Canyon National Park

Day 6

Somewhere still in Arizona (I believe Seligman), Firecracker got to watch his first real life train at one of our stops. There were a lot of train sightings along the way and he had fun spotting them from the car window.

This final day of driving was the hardest on me. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the expanse of desert after crossing the California border and there were only a handful of places to stop on I-40. Time seemed to stand still while we drove on a never ending highway of sand.

Day 7 & 8


We spent our first two nights in Los Angeles in a hotel by the airport while we waiting for our temporary housing to be available. Firecracker loved watching the airplanes land and take-off. My mom flew back to Florida on day 8. There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to indicate how much we appreciated her taking so much time out of her hectic schedule to help ours.

Days 9 – 22IMG_0995

Two weeks were spent living in temporary housing while we explored the area and did some house hunting. The small space was equipped with a little kitchen, in which I made my Cali inspired Fish Tacos. While the boys learned how to share a room in hotels on the drive, they really started their co-habitation in our temporary living quarters. Firecracker discovered the joys of a community laundry facility and had great fun pushing the baskets across the room and being pushed in the baskets. Treat even learned how to roll over during our stay! The location of the temporary housing was 30 minutes south of where we ended up finding a home in which to live, and my boys definitely became less than enthusiastic about the traffic. Firecracker learned the phrase “slow traffic” from the van’s GPS.

I am grateful for the availability of temporary housing and the permissive time off provided to Stuart for house hunting. We were able to explore the surrounding neighborhoods and find the perfect fit for our family.

On day 24 the movers delivered {almost} all of our belongings. Stay tuned for that grand adventure next week (or the next chance I get to use internet)!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.