Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Most "Joy"ous Occasion...

We just returned yesterday from a whirlwind of a weekend in Southern California! We have had this trip planned for many months so that we could attend the wedding of Joy, one of Ron's really close cousins. This was Ron's first time back to Southern California since we moved over two years ago and most definitely Lia's first time ever to the Golden State. We packed in a TON during our four days there and had a fabulous time and returned home exhausted. The weather was in the mid 80s the entire time and we were able to visit many favorite spots and favorite people. It was so wonderful to revisit the place where Ron and I met and introduce Lia to a corner of the world that we love so much! Here is a day-by-day break-down of our busy weekend...

September 25th

Here is Lia on her second plane-trip ever. She was one wiggly worm the first 1.5 hours of the flight and Ron bore the brunt of most of that. Lucky him. Fortunately, Lia crashed the last few minutes of the flight and got in a 30-minute nap before we had to wake her to exit the plane. This was one of only a few, short naps that our little one got over the next four days. Like always, she dealt with it like a trooper, never getting cranky and "hitting a wall." Why don't they make all toddlers like this?!

Stop #1: After landing in Long Beach and getting our rental car, our first stop was OF COURSE "Open Sesame." This was one of our all-time favorite restaurants on 2nd Street in Long Beach that we rode our beach cruisers to many times as newly weds. Here we are about to gorge on mouth-watering Lebanese food with Lia watching at our sides.

I just had to take a snapshot to capture my favorite Lebanese dish of kafta, basmati rice, hummus, and fattoush salad before devouring it entirely. If only I could eat this on a weekly basis, my life would be perfect.

Stop #2: Ron and I crossed 2nd Street to pay our respects to the best American bakery we have ever known: Sweet Jill's. If only I could bottle the smell one finds upon walking into this shop and take it home with me! This place is mouth watering! The portions are HUGE and the taste is unbelievable. Ron purchased his traditional choice of carrot cake and I purchased mine of the red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting on top. Until we meet again, sweet Jill.

Stop #3: After lunch, we decided to burn off some calories by taking Lia on a walk in our favorite Long Beach neighborhood of Naples. Naples really should be called Venice as it is this peaceful, unbelievably quaint, and very affluent neighborhood built on three different islands in Alamitos Bay. As a result, all of the homes overlook a series of canals and all of the locals have Duffy boats, kayaks, or beautiful sailboats tied up out front. As a nonresident, you can wander up and down the walkways outside the homes allowing you to stare right into their living rooms. Being the nosey person that I am, I love it! Here I am with Lia wandering around La Bella Fountain found in the community park in the center of Naples.

Crossing one of the bridges over a canal in Naples.

Stop #4: After our walk, we headed over to our beloved Hill Classical Middle School where Ron and I met and where we taught for several years. We were able to visit with many of our former co-workers in the library after school let out. I loved working at this place! We had to take this picture with Lia as the library was the place where we first saw each other. It all started here...
(Cheesy, I know)

Stop #5: After visiting our school, we made our last stop of the day for dinner at the home of Erich and Takiko. Erich was one of a few good friends that Ron made while teaching English in Yokkaichi, Japan for two years. Erich actually met his wife while living there and they now reside in Orange County with their darling girl, Maika. We ended the day by driving back to Huntington Beach where we collapsed in an exhausted and confused state at my friend, Emily's, house (who hosted us for the weekend). We were one tired group by the end of that day!

September 26th

Stop #1: Saturday kicked off the first of three wedding festivities for the weekend. We got up and headed over to the city of Orange (yes, there is actually a town named that in Orange County. Silly, I know.) to attend the "rehearsal brunch" for Joy and Steve at the glorious Orange Hill Restaurant. I had only eaten at this restaurant once during my stint in CA and, boy, is it something. It is this swanky, posh restaurant that sits atop a hill and boasts a stunning view of the city below. Needless to say, I was very tickled when I got the invitation to this breakfast and learned where we would be eating. (Remember, I have a relationship with food). Anyways, we were able to meet up with all the various members of Ron's family who were in town for the wedding and dine on an unbelievable line-up of buffet food!
Here we are pictured above out on the patio overlooking the city of Orange and some lovely, morning, California smog.

Little Lia on the patio.

Stop #2: Although we should have driven back to Emily's in order for Lia to get a decent nap before the evening's festivities, I insisited on dragging my little familia to my all-time favorite beach, "Thousand Steps," in Laguna for the afternoon. The weather was splendid and so was the water! I didn't even flinch when I walked into the surf to go swimming. Oh, how I love the ocean and this beach! Here is Ron and Lia walking down the thousand steps.

I just love this picture. Lia and the blue Pacific.

Since Lia is now an expert on all things sand, she spent some time inspecting the quality of the sand that "Thousand Steps" has to offer. It passed her test.

Mother and daughter.

This is one of those memories that I will just never forget...introducing my daughter to the ocean surf. I took Lia out to the water's edge so that she could feel the water as it came rushing up the shoreline. Every time a wave would crash and send water up, I would say, "Here it comes!" Lia loved swirling around in the bubbly, fast-moving water so much that she stared yelling, "Come!" over and over again! Priceless memory.

Here it comes!

Three things I love: Lia, the sun, and the ocean. This picture just captures it all.

Stop #3: After dashing back to HB for some quick de-sanding in the showers, we headed off to Arlene's, the sister of the bride, for a family-only dinner. Being true to their Orange County roots, Arlene and Jack spared no expense in hosting this little shin-dig complete with a catered taco bar. Yummy! Here is Lia with her Lola during dinner.

Four Generations. Lia with her father, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

Posing with Joy, the bride-to-be, before her big day!

September 27th

The wedding was held at this unbelievable, Spanish-style ranch located in the hills inland of Laguna Beach. The architecture, the tile-work, the gardens, the fountains, the animals (yes, even Bengal tigers and zebras were part of the fun), the wedding party, the ceremony, the food, the cake, the dancing, the attention to details....it was all amazing! I love weddings, most especially, big, fancy ones. And, I rarely have the chance to go to the latter of the two...so, this was a treat from beginning to end for me. Joy most definitely planned the wedding of a lifetime!
Here Ron and I are before the ceremony began.

With Lola down in the courtyard where the wedding took place.

Joy and Steve exchanging rings during the ceremony.

Instead of lighting a unity candle, Joy and Steve poured two different colors of sand into a vase as part of the concluding rights of the ceremony.

The glowing couple just newly married!

I thought this was too cute...the flower girl and ring bearer playing around in one of the fountains while waiting for dinner to start.

Ron's entire Filipino family present for the wedding, plus the photographer's hand and camera. To tweak the Sesame Street song, "A few of these things are not like the others," (referring to me and a few of the other spouses). :-)

As I mentioned previously, Joy payed attention to every detail. This reception hall was incredible and all decked out in the wedding colors of orange, pink, and silver. Here is the ice sculpture (it's hard to see, but their initials are at the very top) and wedding cake.

One of the many incredible flower arrangements found on the dinner tables and the place setting and menu found waiting for us. Oh, the food was devine! Highlights included angus tri-tip and mahi mahi.

The floral "B" found on the wall above the wedding-party table. As I said, no detail was overlooked. :-)

Ron and I taking a break at the dinner table (you have to pace yourself at these kind of eating events, you know).

September 28th
Last Stop: Disneyland. No trip to So. California with my little one would be right without a visit to The Magic Kingdom! As much as it exhausted her, we spent our last day in California at the happiest place on earth before flying out at 6:30 pm. It was so much fun to share a place I grew to love so much with Lia. She was in awe the entire day.

The Two L's...Lia and Lisa.

Quintessential Disneyland Pose #1

Quintessential Disneyland Pose #2

Lia loved riding the horsey on the carousol.

She was a fan of the flying Dumbo ride, too. She kept on making the elephant trumpet noise that her papa taught her.

Lia acting as tour-guide for Ron inside the "It's a Small World" ride. Isn't that too cute?

Stopping for a photo after her tour-guide responsiblities had come to an end.

Lia and papa scouring the reef for Bruce during the "Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage" ride. (Remember Lia's current fettish with sharks?)

My facial expression should tell you exactly what I think about my favorite ride being closed while I am at Disneyland!

A very sweaty Lia trying to find some sort of reprieve from the heat in Toon Town.

Last, but not least, a final stop at my favorite, little corner of Disneyland: Le Court des Anges. This means "Court of the Angels" en francais and is this tiny, quaint courtyard tucked behind the Blue Bayou restaurant and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride. I used to love to go back here to just sit for a few minutes with my friend, Emily. It's one of the few places in the park where you can find a quiet, private place to just take a breather. It's also where I accidentally stumbled upon the secret entrance to the exclusive Club 33. Whoopsies! (If you have no idea what Club 33 is, you better google it).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Three Generations...

of applesauce makers.

Thanks to the master, my mother, and my apprentice, Lia, we made and canned 24 quarts of applesauce today for my food storage.
Thank you very much.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

19-Month Summary...

Well, another month of Lia's life rolled around today. She's officially nineteen months old. She's growing too fast! She is truly such a little miss busy body these days. She doesn't stop moving or talking all day long...except when she's sleeping! Here are a few highlights of this past month!

1. She requests to touch everything! One of her new favorite words is "touchie" and she says it a guhzillion times a day. The cute thing is she will often times request to touch something that she is already holding or a piece of food on her plate that she is supposed to eat. Silly girl.
2. This touching fascination has most definitely permeated into our walks. We don't just go on walks in the neighborhood anymore, we go on "interactive walks" in the neighborhood. She points out a plethora of things she sees and recognizes (bird, dog, tree, leaf, flower, car, truck, bike, etc) and then asks to touch them all. So, you can often times find me picking flowers and pulling leaves off of branches as I am cruising past a stranger's house. Hope they don't mind.
3. Ron and baby invented this favorite past-time of Lia's this month and I love, love, love it. We call it the "ABC Dance" for obvious reasons. Ron and I (and whoever else is present and willing) will sing the ABC song while Lia just goes crazy dancing. She totally gets into it with her feet, legs, arms, head, anything! She dances through the entire song and after we sing "Y," we pause, and then she shouts out, "Z!" at the top of her lungs. So cute!
4. Lia has successfully made it through her first four Sundays in nursery at church. We have stayed in their the first of the two hours , but she has made it through the second hour on her own every single time. She cried a little bit the first two times we left, but now doesn't even notice when we slip out. She just loves the toys...especially the bubble machine. Anytime we now pass the nursery room (it's usually on our "walks" during sacrament meeting), she will start saying bubble over and over again.
5. Her vocabulary development is ON FIRE! She is talking so much. It almost was a part-time job this past month recording all of the new words that she learned. And, it's not only that. Lia has now become this little parrot that will copy the last word in most sentences that we say. It's so funny! In fact, we were in the fabric store yesterday, and some lady in the next aisle said, "I'm sorry" to a woman she bumped into. Without missing a beat, Lia repeats "I'm sorry" with perfect clarity! She had most definitely never said that before...a real sentence complete with a subject and verb. *sniff* The former-English-teacher/mother-in-me is getting a little choked up. :-) Okay, here are the newest members of Lia's word family in no particular order:
back, girl, boy, ribbit (for the sound a frog makes), jama (for pajama), water, all done, all fini (for all finished), sharkie (for shark), she also chomps like a shark (for the "noise" it makes), dolly, sleeping, pillow, stick, sticker, whale, pelican, truck, leaf, tree, hand, knife, fork, spoon, suit (for swimsuit), swimming, pumpkin, shower, grandma, touchie, camel, diaper, peach (or peachie), cup, hair, shell, ockie (for octopus), bread, sauce (for applesauce), booger, jacket, puzzle, church, Jesus, toy, play, hippo, puppy, blanket (but for some reason she says "gimme"), block, house, home, door, tower, open, up, down, clown, hat, egg, phone, head, ride, penguin, eyes, nose, arms, table, chair, bib, cup, gobble gobble (for the turkey noise), eeeow (for the noise a donkey makes), clock, and she howls like a wolf. Feeeeyoooooh! I think I got them all!
6. Lia now will identify words that she sees on store signs or on cereal boxes or where ever by saying "ABC." She also has gotten really good at counting with us as we go up or down the stairs counting each step. She will either say the next number (I say "one" and she says "two") or she will repeat all fourteen numbers with perfect clarity (there are fourteen steps on our stairs).
7. The nurturing mothering side of her is starting to come out. Besides kissing things all the time (she started doing this last month), Lia will now tuck things in bed by laying a blanket over them and saying "night night." She's almost ready to start babysitting! :-)
8. She has become obsessed with sharks. I know, of all the things! Although she still loves her "munny" (stuffed bunny), sharks are currently giving munny some stiff competition. This all started with a little, shark bath toy that we have and Ron teaching her how to chomp like a shark while in the tub. She now cannot get enough of her little Finding Nemo books (that have several pictures of Bruce) and the scene in the movie where Bruce and his buddies bring Marlin and Dorie to their "Sharkaholics Anonymous" meeting in the sunken submarine. Please do not pass judgement on me when you read that I actually pulled out Spielberg's Jaws I movie yesterday so that I could show Lia certain, select scenes. Yes, I know....that shark is a bit more violent than Bruce, but I was running out of new shark material!
9. Lia is getting quite playful. She is now starting to play her own version of hide-and-go-seek. Often times when we are upstairs and I call out for her, she will run to some random corner of some room to hide from me. Another little game she now plays is intentionally lifting her feet up into the air for me to kiss after I place her in the crib. I have been kissing her feet ever since she was a newborn, but now she is helping me in the process. I just love this! She also has learned that she can get "rides" from me by either asking for them or hopping on my back when I am sitting or kneeling on the floor. Before you know it, we are running through the house...Lia the rider and me the horse. Good grief. Where has all my dignity gone?
10. She has also started the habit of just saying my name over and over again...often times when I am right next to her. I don't know if it's a security thing for her or if she is just messing with me. Regardless, she's got me wrapped around her little finger as I always respond.

I just love my Lia!

Here are some pics from this past week....

When Lola was here this past month, she bought Lia a little stroller with a dolly included. Lia LOVES this stroller and can be found strolling all over the house at any given time of the day. She doesn't even need the dolly in it...it can be empty or carrying blocks! As long as she can cruise it around the house, she is happy!

Lia has been in love with books for many months now. But, it was just recently that she discovered the art of laying down and reading a book! I caught her on the couch this past Sunday doing this. Isn't that so funny?!

Lia has finally found some uses of the "clubhouse" in our backyard and is starting to understand the concept of play cooking with the kitchenette and play eating/drinking at the little table (that Ron made, thank you very much). She will take one of us out there and we can play for hours. Here is my little pumpkin drinking her "hot cocoa."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Do the Puyallup!

Although I grew up in a town only 45 minutes from Puyallup, I never had a reason to come down to the town I currently live in...except maybe once or twice to "Do the Puyallup." If you have no idea what I'm talking about, let me educate you on the Puyallup Fair. My little town proudly boasts the sixth largest fair in the nation and hosts it for three weeks every September. From rides to cotton candy to 4-H competitions to scores of strange looking people, the Puyallup Fair has it all. Now, Ron and I dubbed it the "Puyallup Unfair" our first year living here after discovering how ridiculously overpriced everything is. If it weren't for the free educators' passes that we get every fall, we would probably never go. I mean, who wants to pay $8 for a cookie or $17 for an elephant ear (slight exaggeration made for emphasis)?! However, as a result of our free passes, we ended up at the fair grounds today with Lia to grab some overpriced lunch (for us) and take a gander at the animals (for Lia). Several thousand calories later, we left the fair satisfied that we did the Puyallup. Can't wait till next year...

Heifer Row.

Just couldn't pass this picture up. These "dump"sters are all over the grounds. As you can see, the Puyallup Fair is the epitome of class.

Ogling at the goats.

Lia trying to figure out whether the petting zoo is friend or foe.

Lia learned the word, bubble, in nursery at church the first Sunday in there due to a bubble-making machine they pull out in the second hour. She has been fascinated with them ever since. As a result, we just couldn't pass up the kiosk selling electronic, bubble guns for Lia's benefit (where do they come up with this stuff?!).

What fairs are all about...