Friday, May 19, 2017

friday morning catch ups.

I can't believe we are already half way through May. Time is just zooming by.

/1/ Earlier this month, we paid our last preschool tuition for the rest of our lives. That's huge. As people say, it's like getting a pay raise :) So now we have no mortgage and no school tuition...maybe it's time I consider retirement?

/2/ We attended Will's tumbling show at school. Omg, it was an absolute torture sitting through ONE HOUR of watching other kids before Will's class was finally up. Grrr...I was so annoyed (if I had known that his class would be last...), but it was good to see Will up there doing his thing. For the performance, he was designated the line leader, which I am pretty sure was a position earned and not given. He has done wonderfully at this preschool and we will miss it (although not the tuition!).
/3/ I promised a picture of Will at his soccer practice last time.
/4/ We accidentally found out that Mango loves to play with balloons! He's such a silly and playful little guy. We all still love having him around, although he has been into eating cicadas lately and it's messing up his digestive system.
/5/ Anna had her second piano recital! This year she played one song on her own (Ode to Joy) and one duet with her teacher (When the Saints Go Marching In). Last year I was so worried that she would chicken out the last minute and refuse to go up. This year I was less worried because she already had one year under her belt, AND I also promised her a “Beanie Boo” that she was really excited about so I knew she was motivated.
Well…she made one minuscule mistake which probably no one noticed except me, her teacher and herself, but otherwise did a superb job! I am so relieved that the recital is over and I can relax until next year. Truthfully, piano is a daily struggle for us because of Anna’s reluctance to practice. I am well aware that our evenings could be a lot more peaceful if I let piano go, but I am not. In fact, I am about to start Will on it too :)

/6/ My Mother’s Day cake from Wegmans :)
^^”Go big or go home,” hubs said when he placed the order.^^

It was vanilla cake with fruit filling and whipped icing....just what I requested.
^^My Mother's Day 2017 stash from the kids!^^
^^A nice outing to Meadowlark Gardens.^^

/7/ Lastly, my evenings have been overtaken by this new Taiwan show that I am currently hooked on. All the heart eyes for Chen Che, hahaha ;)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ode to Joy

by Guest
I've been meaning to post this for 2 years now, right after I bought my current car. But laziness has simply kept me from lifting a finger - same goes for my goal of losing weight or learning to play the guitar. It wasn't until my baby got hurt that I knew I should get off my butt and put these thoughts down. So here it is, a post to my darling car!

But first, a trip down memory lane... My very first car was a used 1988 Honda Accord coupe that my dad picked up for me back in the early 90s for $6k. I learned to drive in that baby. It was a base DX model with a maroon exterior, but it had friggin pop-up headlights! Best of all, it was a 5-speed manual! Sadly, affordable digicams had not been invented yet, so I have no pictures of her other than what's held in some neurons upstairs. Once I finished undergrad back in 1999, it was time to replace her. So what did I get? A brand new 1999 Honda Accord coupe, that's what! Of course, it too had a manual tranny, a beautiful 5-speed. She was a bump up in class because she had a moon roof, all for less than $20k! Luckily, I do have some pictures of her.

^^Never mind the fall foliage, look at that beautiful car!^^

^^No, that's not Mango, that's Pargo! And damn that's a big shifter, I don't remember it being so tall.^^

Anyways, other cars have come and gone in my life but my first two cars are the ones that I'll always cherish. Once the kids came into the picture, I tried to accept the world of 4-door automatics, but every day I drove around town, a little bit of me died. Seriously folks, my life-span has decreased from not having my shifter and clutch!

Several years later, I finally decided that my joy of life was more important than the comfort of my family. Is that being selfish? Not really, if I'm dead, who will be here to drive them around? So I started car shopping! But my oh my have times changed. Trying to find a used manual transmission car in the DC metro area is not that easy. Toss in the fact that car manufacturers have given consumers like me the middle finger, made the pickings even slimmer. There are countless stories online that cover this sad sad predicament, so I'll just link to them here and here and here.

Eventually, after a year of searching Autotrader and Craigslist, I finally found her, a used BMW F32 for $35k with a 6-speed stick! I was hesitant to make the move to the Germans from the bullet proof world of Honda, but one gets desperate after a year of searching. Plus, the whole CPO thing gave me some sort of comfort. Behold...the meaning of life!

^^I missed you so much!^^

^^My left foot now has a purpose!^^

And what goes best with a shifter? A proper handbrake! Seriously folks, I throw up in my mouth each time I see what's happening these days with those parking buttons.

^^Look ma, no buttons! Oh wait...^^

I completely forgot to snap a picture of the moon roof, but it's there. The kids don't seem to mind the two doors too much. It's nice and cozy compared to the cavernous minivan. Honestly, these simple little things are all I need in a car. I know the market isn't really there in the US and the car makers are in business to make money. So I'll keep trucking along in my little baby until she costs too much to run. By then, maybe I can just sit on my old fat ass and let the autonomous cars do all the work.

I guess that's all for now. Maybe after I get a heart-attack or lose my hearing, I'll chime in again on my weight and guitar.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Art Friday, No. 6

I will have a new catch ups post later this week, but I just found this Art Friday post in the draft folder that never got published. Obviously, it's not Friday yet, but here's to a happy Monday and a great week :) The weather is looking amazing!
Anna's Sketch
Anna's Sketch 3
Anna's Sketch 4
(by Anna : age 7)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

wednesday morning catch ups.

Picking up from where we left off...

/1/The week after Easter Sunday, Luke was in Atlanta for work for a couple of days. As usual, the kids slept with me on my bed, with Mango keeping watch.
This time, in addition to two kids, I had a dog to take care of too. I ended up leaving work a little early each day so I can come home first to let Mango out (and to clean up the mess) before doing school pick-ups. It all went fine :)
/2/ Anna's elementary school hosted a STEM Night and it really was a lot fun...not to mention a perfect way to kill some time while solo parenting. There were about 20 STEM activities for the kids to participate in. In addition to giving Anna an opportunity to hang out with her friends, my favorite part of the evening was this photo opportunity right when you walked in:
^^I know I am biased, but Will is so cute :) Oh, he's also all registered for Kinder!^^

/3/ Anna finally lost a top tooth and the Tooth Fairy visited!
/4/ Will started U5 soccer with Luke as the assistant coach. They are the Orange Crush, haha. I haven't been to a practice yet, but when do I will take a picture of him on the field :) Right now it isn't a huge time commitment because practice is only once a week. However, if we continue in the fall with U6, it will be practice on a weekday and a game on the weekend. Will loves soccer, but we will see if he likes playing in a league enough to continue.
/5/ We have been going to several birthday parties, and this one at the bowling alley was my favorite. One, it was a new experience since we have never gone bowling as a family, and two, Wegman's cake. Seriously, soooo good. I am counting down to Mother's Day because I am getting myself a cake from there!
/6/ Both kids just happened to tie dye shirts at school.
/7/ Luke's sister's family was in town for a visit and they stayed with us for two nights. Remember these babies? They are almost 10 months old now. Unfortunately we didn't get to hang out too much because they visited on a Monday and Tuesday and we still had school and work obligations. Still, it was nice to see the babies and we will be meeting again at the end of June.
/8/ The kids are back in the water and this time we signed them up for semi-private lessons. The plan (at least my plan) is for them to be comfortable in the water again in time for summer. This year they will have swim daily at camp, so hopefully lots of time to practice. The lessons is every Tuesday afternoon at 4:30pm, which means we are officially one of those families that I said I wouldn't want to become with kids activities after school. But with the potential of soccer (#4) in the future, we might as well start, right?
/9/ We renewed our Meadowlark Gardens membership. This time we had to get the more expensive option ("family" instead of "individual") because Anna is no longer free. So now we need to visit 4 times to get our money's worth. One down, three more to go.
/10/ Not even two weeks after Anna lost her first top tooth, she lost another one! Actually, Luke pulled it out. The tooth was hanging so loose that Anna was having trouble eating, so Luke made an executive decision to pull it out using a dental floss. It was traumatic, but I think the anticipation of it was worse than the actual process. Later Anna did say that she was happy that the tooth is finally out. I thought we would get a break with loose teeth, but now another one is wiggling...
/11/ It seems like I have been including the movies we watched in these catch ups posts, so the movie for this post is Homeward Bound. Kids loved it and now I remembered why I loved that movie too!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Spring Break 2017: KK Donuts, Route 11 Potato Chips, Burnside Farms

On the last day, just before we got on I-81 to leave Harrisonburg, we stopped by Krispy Kreme for some donuts. The kids have had plenty of Krispy Kreme donuts before, but this was only the second time they have been inside a KK store. The first time was at Myrtle Beach, but, of course, being 3 and 1 at that time, they don't remember a thing. The best thing about traveling as they get older is that they will actually have some sort of recollection of the trips now :)
There is nothing like warm fresh donuts. We got a dozen of them.
Our next stop is along I-81, Route 11 Potato Chips in Mount Jackson. It was fun for all of us to watch chips being made, sample all the flavors, and purchase snacks to take home. The staff members were super friendly and gave us a brief and informative tour of the viewing area.
Their best-seller is "Lightly Salted" and unfortunately, that's the only one I can recommend. The other flavors we bought, "Mama Zuma's Revenge" and "Sour Cream N Chive", were way too salty. Funny how they didn't taste that salty when we sampled them at the factory though. Nevertheless, this less-than-30-minute pit stop was worth our time and allowed us to stretch our legs before moving on.
Finally, our last stop was just 40 minutes away from home, Burnside Farms!

This was by far the most anticipated part of the entire trip for me. I found out about this little "Holland in Haymarket" a few weeks prior and was just dying to go. It worked out sooooo perfectly. I had been checking in daily on their FB page to see when they would be opening, and when they finally announced the date, it just happened to be the day we were passing it on the way home from our road trip! As I said, perfect.
Although timing worked out perfectly, the farm was subpar. Yes, tulips as far as eyes can see, but that's it...? Plus, there were some opening day glitches (biggest for me was that the dutch wooden shoe display was not set up yet -- missed photo op!)  that made the entire experience just OK. The admission was $6 per person (off-peak price) and the tulip was a dollar each, so not exactly a bargain. I limited the kids to two stems each :) I will say that the flowers lasted for a week after we got store tulips never last that long for me.
^^This is when I told the kids "no more pictures!" and they ran all the way to the bounce features (far left).^^

So this was our Spring Break 2017. Nothing warm and beachy, but at least we got away for a few days. Last year was similar -- we went to Roanoke Virginia. Maybe it's inadvertently becoming a tradition of ours to explore different parts of VA during Spring Break :) I don't mind. Small close-to-home trips are really just as good as those far-away ones.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Break 2017: Massanutten Resort

Living in Northern Virginia, there are places you hear over and over again as good places for kids. With Massanutten Resort being one of them, I was thrilled that we had the opportunity to go there during Spring Break. As I said in my previous post, Massanutten is just outside of Harrisonburg, which is about a two-hour drive for us. Now that the kids are older (7 and 5), short drives like this don't phase me anymore. I give them a tablet each and they are good to go.
We stayed at a large 2 bed/2 bath unit in Woodstone Meadows. It was honestly pretty big, with the living and dining area being much bigger than I expected. The kitchen had everything we needed to cook breakfast and simple dinner. The only thing we didn't realize was that toiletries were not provided. I always travel with my own shampoo and conditioner, but the ONE time I didn't bring them (because we were only staying 2 nights) was the one time I needed them.... Go figure! Other than that, I was really happy with everything else.
^^When we first arrived, waiting to check-in.^^

Prior to the trip, as I was doing research on the resort, I learned that nearly all resort activities cost extra. And not only were they expensive, but some really dumb too. Like, there was a workshop on how to take selfies using your phone. Umm...what? A class on tie-dye was $15, petting zoo was $7, tubing was $8. Basically the place charges an arm and a leg for everything, so we stuck with the free things - pool and playground - and just used the resort as a home base to explore Harrisonburg
^^Can you spot my two kids?^^
^^The view from our balcony.^^
^^One of the major attractions of Massanutten is probably their water-park. Kids really wanted to go, but they only made it this far :)^^

Now that I have been to Massanutten, I am still trying to figure out what's the major draw. Except for skiing in the winter, there is not a resort activity at Massanutten that can't be done at a cheaper price elsewhere. It's likely that we will never go again, but I am definitely not complaining that we got to experience it either. The kids, of course, loved it and were in heaven. They must have clocked in close to 3-4 hours of TV daily. Yikes.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Spring Break 2017: 5 Things To Do With Kids In Harrisonburg Virginia

Last week the kids were on Spring Break.

Actually, to be completely accurate, Anna was on Spring Break...Will's school was still in session, but since Anna was home, we just kept him home as well. We didn't plan to go anywhere originally, but we ended up finding ourselves about 2 hours away from home in Harrisonburg (Shenandoah Valley) for 2 nights/3 days. It was a very low key and inexpensive trip. The single most expensive thing we spent on was boarding the dog. Money aside though, we found Mango a very good pet sitter and it was great knowing that he was having fun while we were doing the same. Without further ado, here is a list of notable things we did in H'burg!

1. Harrisonburg Farmers Market
At this moment, the farmers market in downtown Harrisonburg is open twice a week, on Tuesday and Saturday, so we totally lucked out that our short stay included one of those days. The unfortunate part was that since it was still so early in the season, vendors were sparse. However, the most important one was there...a homemade lollipop stand :) The lollipops were 50 cents each and came in assorted shapes. Both kids got the bunny shape, and they behaved like angels for the rest of the day, just happily sucking on their lollipop as we drove around. Best dollar spent.

2. A Dream Come True Playground
This playground, just outside of JMU, is very similar to Clemyjontri up here in Northern VA. We spent about an hour here, enjoying the sunshine. After the kids got all hot and sweaty, we cooled down at...

3. Kline's Dairy Bar
^^"I have a brain freeze!"^^

When I was doing research on things to do in Harrisonburg, Kline's Dairy Bar kept on popping up, so I decided it was a must visit. Surprisingly, they only have 3 flavors available on any given day -- chocolate, vanilla and the special favor of the week. When we visited, it was strawberry. So, anyway, we got vanilla and strawberry. The ice cream was indeed very good, the kids scraped their cups clean, but turned out the lavender lemon ice cream we had later was even better. But, I want to remember that as we were eating our ice cream next to the parking lot, an old gentleman walked by and said to me, "You have nice kids."

4. White Oak Lavender Farm
For $3 per person, we got to enjoy more great outdoors in a beautiful surrounding. The lavenders were not in bloom yet (we were told not until June), but it was still a great visit. We saw some farm animals and the kids really liked chasing those ducks. Definitely one of the top memories from the entire trip.
By the way, if you ever find yourself at White Oak Lavender Farm, do not skip their homemade ice cream. We got the lavender lemon flavor and it was SO good. Lightly flavored, creamy and delicious! Yes we had a lot of ice cream on this trip!
5. Massanutten Resort
We stayed at Massanutten Resort, which is about 15-20 minutes away from Harrisonburg. This is probably not the best picture to depict Massanutten, but watching TV was what the kids did the most. And having a TV in their own room? Mind blown. I will elaborate on Massanutten in my next post.

Overall, we enjoyed our time in Harrisonburg. It wasn't overly exciting by any means, but it was nice to spend some slow quality time together away from work and school.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!