Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top Celebrations of 2012

As the year winds down, it's a time for reflection on the past year.  I thought I'd share with you our family's best celebrations from 2012.

1.  Jori's Open Heart Surgery
Surgery as a celebration?  Well, there was an evite that went out.  Why it qualifies is it means that my sister is healthy.  That makes it the best day out of the whole year.

Jori had a congenital heart defect that went undiagnosed until this year.  The catalyst for her seeking medical help was running in the Disney 1/2 marathon with other members of our family.  We are so incredibly grateful that Jori's doctors took the time to do all of the tests to correctly diagnose her.  I mean, she's such a rock star that even with a mis-wired heart she could pass the stress test at the hospital.

2.  Moving Day
If you've been following along, you already know that less than a month ago we moved into our first house.  It's been an busy time for us, but we are getting settled in.  We knew the moment we first stepped in the front door that this was our home.  It just feels right, just feels like us.

3.  Matt's Graduation/Job Hunt
Matt had gone back to college and in 2012 he graduated with a degree in philosophy.  Starting from scratch, he had four years to complete.  There were semesters of 20+ units and lulls when the California education budget cuts prevented him from taking any classes at all.  Watching him walk at his graduation was a great moment for us to appreciate his dedication to improving his/our future.

 After the graduation ceremony, we had a fiesta!  So much fun!  Infused tequila, cactus decorations, and awesome prayer candles were just some of the features.  You can check out more of the party here.

We had mentally prepared ourselves for a long job hunt.  The unemployment rate news wasn't promising and considering he hadn't worked in four years would make it challenging to find a suitable position.  Fortunately, that wasn't the case.  His graduation was on a Saturday, and on Monday he interviewed for a job.  The position is at Cal State Fullerton, from where he had just graduated.

4.  Celebrating Mom's 70th Birthday
I adore my sisters, but with us living on both sides of the county it can be a challenge to get to spend any real time together.  That's why celebrating Mom's 70th birthday together was such a special event.  We went to Temecula, CA to hit up some wineries and spend some time together.

5.  Getting Ready for Lyla
2013 is bringing a new baby girl into our world.  We got to celebrate the momma-to-be with a super fun gender reveal party and a baby shower.  The happy parents filled black balloons.  Party guests stomped and stomped, trying to find the balloon holding the results.  Go Team Pink!

We can't wait to meet her and include baby Lyla into the parties for 2013!

6.  Harper's Birthday/4th of July
Harper was born on the 4th of July.  Since a lot of our family and friends are out of town for the holiday, we decided to have her party the weekend before.  At the suggestion of her aunt Honey, Harper had a "Rainbow Unicorn" birthday.  Here's the party overview.  I put everyone to work for this one, and am so grateful my their hard work.  I adored all of the felt crafts, like the hobby horse unicorns and personalized gold medals.

Of course, we couldn't let her actual birthday go unrecognized.  So we made reservations at Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel.  The buffet-style restaurant hosts a variety of characters who visit diners at their tables.  The birthday girl (and big sister) were so enchanted by Cinderella and the rest of their favorite Disney characters.

7.  Georgia's Scooby Doo Party
I said I wasn't going to go overboard for this one.  Whatever I got done was all that I could do.  Ironically, it was one of my favorite parties yet.  The birthday girl loooooves Scooby Doo.  I lucked out on decorations since Halloween is the same month as her birthday.  

The kiddos solved a case involving a disappearing cake, made Shrinky Dink dog tags, took photos in the Mystery Machine, and snacked on dogbone-shaped treats.  

It's been such a busy and exciting year.  I can't wait to see what's in store for 2013!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

House Update: Before & Extended Before

We've been in our new house for two weeks now.  Two weeks sounds like so much time, but we've just scratched the surface of moving in and making it ours.

The difference between our experience and what I would assume is the norm is that we're starting from scratch.  We had sold most of our furniture and, other than bedroom furniture, we needed everything.  When you add in we were superstitious about purchasing anything prior to getting the keys, our wallets have gotten quite a workout the past two weeks.

Realizing our house is almost 100 years old, we knew there would be issues.  We just didn't realize those issues would present themselves so immediately.  Whenever we did laundry, Matt smelled gas.  The gas company came out, inspected, and then turned off our gas.  Eek!  There were four (FOUR!!!!) different spots where the gas was leaking.  So for four days we had no hot water, dryer, or stove/oven.  It actually wasn't that bad.  My parents loaned us some space heaters and the use of their bath tub.  The laundry piled up, but when doesn't it???

Now, we're fully running with new gas pipes.  This weekend was super productive and we started putting things on the walls.  Despite the limited furnishings still keeping us in the "Before" category, things are coming together.  Delivery dates keep getting pushed back, so my girls have been camping out on the floor to watch cartoons.

I think by Christmas we'll be ready to have people come over and hang out with us.  That's good considering we're hosting Christmas Eve dinner for my husband's family!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

House Update!

I'm really super duper excited to share with you a house can look back and see the first post on the hunt here.  I'm skipping right over House #5.  It didn't really have a good nickname, and we got no response after our offer.  

On to House #6, Our House!

Matt, the girls, and I filled a Saturday with home viewings.  What a jackpot!  We found two properties that we really liked.  One was a condo with a ton of bedrooms and fun ammenities for the kiddos.  The next place we went to was a house literally two blocks from my parents' house and directly across the street from my mother's childhood home.

As cliche' as it sounds, it more than any other place felt like us.  It's quirky and fun and eclectic and adorable!  The house was built in 1919 (yes, I've already started planning the house's 100th birthday party).  The sweet little house has had a few upgrades in the past century though.  

The house features a finished attic, which you access from the second bedroom.  It's going to be such a fun space for the little girls.  Georgia's already planning sleepovers for her friends.  

Another fun benefit of the house is an un-attached bonus room.  It's going to be such a great space for hanging out during the warm California summer...or the warm California fall, winter, or spring.

We knew immediately that we needed to live in this house.  If the seller didn't accept our offer, not only would we be heart-broken, but I might have had to break in and steal the chandeliers.  It really was in both of our best interests that he accepted, and he did!

Nothing about the escrow process is a breeze.  Even with pre-approvals, there's always more paperwork to submit, more phone calls to make, more more more.  This is the first month ever that I've been notified that we were in danger of exceeding our cell phone minutes.  Not the final push of wedding planning, the arrival of our children, nothing has required as much time on the telephone.  Thankfully, Matt did most of it!

We are now less than two weeks away from moving day.  Expect tons of pictures of the house, my projects to turn it into our house, and my family living within it!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Walt Disney World Moms Round 3

Walt Disney World Moms Panel Update!!!!

I'm super excited to announce that I was notified that I've made it to the next round of the search for panelists for the Moms Panel!  

What happens next?  The final round is a telephone interview and then final decisions will be made.  Since the window for interviews is Eastern Standard Time, I'm going to have to get up super duper early so I can get it done before work.  Coffee pot, don't fail me now!

If selected, I'll be visiting Walt Disney World in the beginning of December.  All of you with your fingers crossed for me, I hope they aren't too horribly cramped because I'll need them crossed just a little longer! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

DIY Scooby Doo Dog Collars

If I had to pick the biggest hits from the Scooby Doo party, I would say the Case of the Disappearing Cake Mystery and these Scooby Doo dog collars.


To make your own, you'll need:
* Ribbon (I used blue 5/8 inch ribbon cut into approximately 13 inch pieces)
* Velcro dots (I used adhesive velcro dots that I let set for 24 hours)
* Metal rings (found in the jewelry section of my craft store)
* Shrinky Dinks (design your own, plain sheets found on Amazon)

I drew the logo from Scooby's collar using a black colored pencil.  It's two diamonds and the letters "S" and "D," so it was within my artistic ability.  I did leave some blank for kids who wanted to design their own.


Using colored pencils, the kiddos could color their tags.  Then we followed the package directions to "magically" shrink them in the oven.  Don't forget to punch a hole in the tag prior to placing them in the oven or you won't be able to put them on your collar!

Considering the party guests were five and under, this was their first experience with Shrinky Dinks.  It was so much fun for them (and their parents)!

Everyone was so happy with their finished product!


Friday, October 26, 2012

House Hunting

Perfect in time for Halloween is the spooky reality that is my life right now...House Hunting.  Spooky? Yup!

The backstory:  my husband came to the realization that the dream job (working for a record label) he had spent a decade working his butt off to get just wasn't so dreamy.  He was gone most nights, had a horrible commute, and there was a lot of instability in the industry.  Unfortunately, he was kind of limited with his very specialized resume.  This led to the realization that going back to school was the best option.  I whole heartedly supported the idea.

However, Matt going to school full-time and my teacher's salary weren't going to cover our expenses.  My parents were super amazing and agreed to let us move in with them.  Our then family of three (plus two pugs) packed up our stuff and moved back into my parents'.

Violet and me in Long Beach
That was four and a half years ago.  

Matt's now done with school and scored a job immediately after graduation working for the same university he had just graduated from.  We've been saving to finally move back out on our own and with the bank's go ahead, we started looking for houses.

Graduation Day!
In case you aren't shopping for homes right now, here's what is happening (at least in California):  interest rates are really low, but there is a very small supply of homes on the market.  Other than the low interest rates, we are at a big disadvantage.  Since we are working with a modest budget, we are competing with all of the investors who can quite easily pay cash for homes.  Of course, I don't begrudge them.  Score for them!  Suckage for me!

Some of our house options after the jump...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Walt Disney World Moms Panel 2013

Is 2013 the year?  We will see!  

I've made it to Round 2 of Walt Disney World's Mom Panel for 2013.  The moms (dads, aunts, grandmas are also eligible) are a blogging team who answer Disney travelers' questions.  Since I live in California, I'm crossing my fingers that I'm picked to represent the Disneyland Park.

Last year I made it to Round 2 also.  Round 2 involves more written responses with a 100-word limit.  My problem is I normally have way too much to say and spend hours editing it down.  Then I feel like I lost some of the meat of my message.  Guess that's the challenge!

The second part of this round is a 60-second video.  I totally blew it here last year.  I had a short window of time to film it and was really unsatisfied with the results.  Hoping this year's was better.

If selected, I'll be visiting Walt Disney World in December.  That means that everyone will be receiving Disney merchandise for Christmas!  Double win.  I'll let you know when I hear, but keep your fingers crossed until then!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Scooby Doo Party: What We Wore

A family that solves crimes together, stays together!  For the Scooby Doo party, we all dressed up as characters from Scooby Doo.

Here we are as Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy.  After three or four shots, we gave up on trying to get all of us to smile at the same time and let the kids go play.  If you want to admire our super awesome Mystery Machine, check out its creation here.

The birthday girl chose Daphne, most likely because of the purple outfit she wears.  My mother-in-law was kind enough to adapt a pattern to not only resemble the characters, but make it appropriate for partying.  

Daphne's signature tie was replaced with a lime green bow.  Since we've had such a warm October here in California, there's no way a tie would have lasted for more than a minute.  

Harper wore a dress modeled after Velma.  I adored the pleats in the front!  Her glasses were leftover 3-d glasses from a movie theater somewhere that I had popped the lenses out of.  She wore them for the family photo and then I never saw them again.  Literally, I haven't seen them again since.  

Our costumes couldn't have been easier to put together.  Matt found brown cords and a lime green shirt at Target.  He already owned Shaggy's exact shoes, Clark Wallabees.  I wore jeans, a white t-shirt, and a scrap of orange fabric pretending to be an ascot.  


We had such a good time as Mystery, Incorporated!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Scooby Doo Party: The Mystery

No Scooby Doo party would be complete with a mystery to solve!  For Georgia's 5th birthday, the clever party guests had quite a whopper: Scooby Doo and the Case of the Disappearing Cake!

Once it had been discovered that the cake was missing, each guest received a notebook, magnifying glass, and a pencil.  The notebooks came from an office supply store and were decorated with themed messages like "Jeepers."  I ordered the magnifying glasses online.  The Scooby Doo pencils they received came from the dollar spot at Target.

It was really sweet to see these pre-readers trying to scribble down the clues into their notebooks.

In place of the cake was the first clue, "Your cake I did take!  Bounce up or down, and I'll still have the best cake in town!"  Our crime-solvers ran to the jump house with a little help emphasizing the "bounce" part of the clue.

Next, they were told, "Follow my feet to find the next next clue to your sweet treat."  Stuck to the patio floor were footprints I had printed and cut out.  

These led them inside the house (not the roof like they had originally speculated).  Clue three read "Into the front yard.  Never put down your guard."  

Once they found the final clue, which said "It's no mirage...that's me behind the garage" they all raced back to the back yard.  Hiding in the back was the villain, Chris French.  I knew he'd be perfect for the role.  He didn't disappoint with his wig and beard disguise.  Earlier in the party, he made an appearance pretending to rake the yard.  It was very suspicious!

Cooper pulled off the wig to reveal his true identity while Chris spoke the famous Scooby Doo catch-phrase, "And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for your meddling kids." 

The cake was safely recovered.  Let's eat!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Scooby Doo Party: Mystery Machine

Georgia's Scooby Doo party was a huge success!  I'll be posting different elements from her party, but I'm starting with the photo op Mystery Machine we painted.  

Here are some of the photos from the party:
Don't miss the photo of the amazing uncle who served as a stool!  We hung the Mystery Machine from beams of the patio cover.  The lime green tablecloth were attached to the wall was $0.99.  Since I already had the paint, that makes the grand total spent was $0.99.  Can't beat that!

I started by free handing a Mystery Machine onto a voting booth I had been storing for the perfect occassion.  I naively thought that my children would sit back and observe me painting.  Ha!  It quickly turned into a group project (and an experiment to test my ability to let go).

Harper painting.

 The Mystery Machine about 3/4 complete.  It isn't quite what I had in mind, but it was perfect in the eyes of the birthday girl and that's what matters.

 Guess I should have used a drop cloth.  Whoops.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Georgia's Birthday Parties

Yesterday, my daughter Georgia turned five.  It sounds cliche', but it's so true.  The time really does go by so quickly.  To celebrate her five-ness and to give me an excuse to take a break from getting ready for her birthday party tomorrow, I'm sharing with you a review of her birthday parties thus far.

First Birthday: Halloween
Georgia and her cousin Cooper were born 15 days apart.  We celebrated their October birthdays with a Halloween-themed birthday party.  The sweet babies loved their spider cakes with licorice legs.  Georgia looks like a vampire after digging in to the smile first.  

Second Birthday: Tinkerbell
Fairies and pirates united for a day of fun when Georgia turned two.  I found fairy wings and coordinating tutus at the Dollar Tree for each of the little girls to wear.  Boys wore pirate hats and hooks.  My favorite elements of the party were the glittery fairy wands that lined the walkway.

Third Birthday: Alice in Wonderland
This may be my favorite party yet.  The treats were amazing, if I do say so myself.  Lollipop flamingos, marshmallow pops topped with red chocolate roses, "Eat Me" cookies, heart & blue dress cupcakes were just the start.  My mother-in-law sewed up a storm for this party with the custom Mad Hatter tablecloth and adorable Alice dress.

I used a projector to trace all of the characters also which filled the yard with Wonderland wonderfulness.  

Fourth Birthday: Rapunzel
Georgia loved Tangled, a Disney movie based on the story of Rapunzel.  Pictured plastic tablecloth flags bunting flags with paper flowers.  The party also featured handmade hair bows, mini-donut towers, and a diy piƱata.

The dining room became the Snuggly Duckling.  Since we were close to Halloween, I was able to find fake rats, axes, and gray cheesecloth to make it seem even more shady.

Fifth Birthday: Scooby Doo
The party's tomorrow, and I can't wait to share all the things that make Georgia say, "Jeepers!"

Friday, September 28, 2012

Simply Being Mommy

Horray!  I'm so super excited to say that I was selected to be a contributing writer for Simply Being Mommy.  The owner of the mom blog, Crystal, is in the second trimester of her fourth pregnancy.  You know how they say each pregnancy is different?  Well, this one is a first for sure as Crystal is a surrogate.  What a wonderful gift to be able to give!

Here's my introductory post:  Meet Melanie

I encourage you to check out the site for reviews and updates of our lives in mommy-dom.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My 25-pound Weight Loss

My sisters and I took our mom on a quick wine tasting getaway to celebrate her birthday.  It was so nice to spend the time together with just us girls.  When Carolyn, second from the left, posted pictures of our super awesome trip, I was appalled.  I just couldn't believe how big I had gotten.

Immediately after Harper, my second child, I had gotten to a pretty reasonable weight.  Somehow (I say somehow like eating dessert constantly and not exercising would warrant any other outcome) I gained ten pounds by the time she was 2 1/2.

I tried from Christmas until March to lose weight using what I remembered from Weight Watchers.  I lost three pounds.  That just wasn't going to work.

Jori, third from the left, was having a lot of her own success on a weight loss program, so I joined too.

On St. Patrick's Day, I began Take Shape for Life.  I quickly adjusted to the small meals eaten every few hours.  I never felt hungry or tired!  Also, I realized how little water I had been drinking once I really started downing 64 ounces a day.  Being a vegetarian, my veggie intake was already pretty high. However, I hadn't realized how high the carb content for my meat-replacement meals was.  Add in high carb veggies and it's no wonder I was losing weight.

The program says to expect an average of 2-5 pounds of weight loss a week; I was thrilled lost 25 pounds in two months.  

The tricky part is, of course, not gaining it all back.  I followed the plan set out by Take Shape for Life and my health coach and was able to stay at or below my goal weight.

When my brother-in-law decided to join us on the weight loss journey, my health coach asked if I'd be interested in becoming a health coach myself.  It's been such a fun experience sharing this program with my family and friends.  

I dreaded putting the before & after pictures online for anyone to see.  The after picture could be posted on street corners, and I'd be's just that before.  Ugh.  

But I realized how few pictures of myself I had taken when I was unhealthy.  If I went through my Facebook photos, they were all of my kids.  I was being erased from my family's memories because I was too embarrassed of how I looked.  I'm thrilled to say I'm happier and healthier.  You'll be seeing a lot more of less of me! 

If you are interested in more information, look at my coaching site Meals with Mel.