First (and last) Big Family Road Trip

My work sends me on trips roughly 5 times per year, with all but one being out of state. Because of this, my family has had the privilege of tagging along to some places that normally we would never go. It's been a lot of fun showing Brielle around these big cities. She is at what I consider the best age to travel with. She's open to seeing/exploring just about anything, and we don't necessarily have to find "kid attractions/rides." She'll visit museums and take tours, and doesn't ask you to carry her when her legs get tired. It's awesome, really.

My travel schedule is published years in advance so we can look ahead and identify which trips they'll accompany me on. Last year, we saw that my November meetings would be held in San Fransisco. And San Fransisco is just a few short hours from Sacramento. And Sacramento is where is our very best friends now live, since they ditched us for a job that required them to leave Utah (no offense Sadie).

After some discussion, we decided that it would be best to drive ourselves, since flights and renting a car to get us to Sacramento would be highly expensive. We realized that the drive was 12+ hours, but we'd never done a family road trip before and with a new car that gets fairly decent gas mileage, we though "why the heck not?"

Sacramento - Visit with the Pierce Family
It was weird. Being at a house that was in fact theirs, but not the house we remember them living in. But it was also as if they'd never left. Don't you find with good friends, you just pick up exactly where you left off?

We spent two days just chilling with their family, letting them show us around Sacramento and taking us to their favorite restaurants. Brielle and Lindsey enjoyed quality time playing with their American Girl dolls and we even squeezed in a traditional Cheesy Holiday Party (something both families sorely miss since living so far apart).

We spent some time at Folsom Lake, with the lake half empty, just letting the kids explore, run around and have fun.

Since Lindsey's 8th and most special birthday was approaching soon, and we wouldn't be around to celebrate, we celebrated early. The girls helped me make Red Velvet Cupcakes (Lindsey's choice) which we enjoyed with our Cheesy Holiday Party.

San Fransisco - Meetings for Me, Fun for Them
Even though it's fun to have Chris and Brielle along on these trips, it's still all business for me. I don't get to spend the amount of time I'd like to with them, but that's the trade off.

Brielle and Chris paid a visit to Alcetraz. Brielle didn't say much about, but thought it was pretty cool and of course, brought back a souvenir. My little souvenir junky.

They spent plenty of time at Fisherman's Wharf, eating seafood, shopping and just walking around.

They drove across the Golden Gate Bridge.

And ate at Bubba Gumps - one of my personal favorites that I missed out on. This photo was texted to me. Rude, don't you think?

We visited the Ghiradella store (twice) for giant ice cream sundaes. Amazing! The Salted Caramel Sundae? To die for.

And of course, watched as the Sea Lions battled each other, pushed each other, and barked at each other. But mostly we just watched them sleep and be lazy.

I will say that my sweet girl gets a dose of reality each time we step outside Utah. The homeless are certainly more creative (and crude) with their signs in San Fransisco. 9 of 10 people smoke in San Fran, us being the 1 who didn't. That seemed to bother her the most. But really, walking behind a smoker is like smoking a cigarette yourself. Why don't they get that?

Driving home from San Fransisco was our biggest challenge. 13 hours, plus losing an hour in the time change made for 3 grumpy individuals. Even with music, movies on the iPad, homework to do, it just wasn't enough to help us enjoy the ride. We hated it. We're clearly the jet-setting type. This trip confirmed to us that we are not, at all, the road-tripping type.


Brag Post

Report card is in. Brielle clearly is smarter than she thinks (we're working on her confidence levels) and is obviously an excellent student. But I already knew all that...

Halloween - Movie Snack Ensemble

I have a new-found respect for my mother, who made most of our Halloween costumes growing up. Up until this point, I've purchase pre-made costumes for Brielle. But this year, Brielle wanted something different... something unique and creative, and something she could do with her friends. This resulted in 3 different costumes, for 3 cute girls, with the task being placed upon me.

We searched online and in the end, got super excited about a "Movie Snack's" ensemble -- Popcorn, Candy & a Drink.

Each costume presented its own set of challenges (Brielle's being the most difficult) but they turned out fantastic! Don't you think?

POPCORN: This costume required the right size box. If you use a box that is really tall, you end up trying to cut a hole for the head where the top folds over, and that doesn't work well. We found a box that was wide and long, but only about 10 inches tall. Like this...


By doing this, you can close the "top" using packing tape, stand it tall, then cut out the bottom panel, a hole on top for the head opening, and holes on the sides for arm openings.

We then covered the box in white crafting paper (that comes in rolls in the painting/art section of the craft store). The red stripes were made using red duct tape. The popcorn was made using yellow and white tissue paper, glued to the top of the box (around the head opening) using a glue gun. And finally, we embellished the front of the box with the "Popcorn" sign, which were just wooden letters painted blue.

TWIZZLERS: I got lucky with the Twizzlers costume and found giant plush pillows on Amazon.com. These pillows came in lots of different popular candies, including Reese's, Whoppers, M&M's, etc. I removed the stuffing, then cut & stitched openings for arms, head and feet. Because the pillows were about 28 inches tall by 18 inches wide, this costume worked best for a smaller child.

SODA CUP: This was my most challenging costume, so listen up... You'll appreciate my words of wisdom to avoid having to purchase 2 vinyl labels and 8 cans of spray paint (as opposed to 1 label and 4 cans).

Let's start with the easy. I purchased a garbage can with lid at Walmart, and had my husband cut off the entire bottom, as well as cut a hole in the lid for her head. The straw was made using the cardboard roll from the inside of a roll of wrapping paper. I then covered the roll in the same white paper used on the popcorn box, and using the left over red duct tape, made a spiral red stripe.

PRIME YOUR GARBAGE CAN. Do not skip this step. I know that on the red spray can, it says that the paint will adhere to plastic, but I assure you, it will not. Prime the lid - prime the can. You can purchase primer in a spray can to make it easier. Since the primer is white, your lid is done after priming. Once the primer dries on the can, spray it red. 

Because I skipped the priming step, my first vinyl coke label peeled of all the paint, requiring me to prime and paint again, and buy another vinyl coke label. And still, because I didn't first prime, the 2nd label also tried to peel off. Therefore, if you look closely in the picture, you'll notice that I didn't peel off the plastic cover on the 2nd label. PRIME people.

I found the vinyl coke label from several different vendors. There are plenty of people who make them on ebay and it literally cost less than $8.00. Because my first one peeled off with the paint, I took to facebook and found someone who does that sort of thing locally (also only $8.00).

Hot glue the lid to the can, tape the straw to the lid - and you have a coke cup. You'll also notice I didn't cut arm holes. Because the garbage can is big, I thought it would be uncomfortable. Instead, we left on the handles and attached her candy bag to the back side handle. All she had to do was say "Trick or Treat" and turn around.

There you have it. Their costumes were a hit with every house they visited, and they didn't run into any other children with the same costume. Will I ever spend the time or money to make costumes again? Right now the answer is absolutely not. Maybe as next Halloween gets closer, I'll forget about this years experience and say yes. Who knows. But seriously, look at their faces. Cutest faces -- and costumes -- ever.