What to pack: favorite beach products

Since Brent isn’t in kindergarten yet and most kids are still in school, Wednesdays have become our beach days. We’re lucky to be able to take advantage of this time before the beaches get more crowded. Newport Beach is the easiest beach to get to from our house and the kids and I have been loving playing in the sand, wading and running in the waves and finding seashells.

what to pack to the beach

what to pack to the beach

We usually try to get there a little before 11 to beat most of the crowd and find close parking. We pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, snacks and water bottles in this insulated lunch tote and bring our towels and sand toys in mesh beach bags which are perfect for collecting all the sandy toys and quickly dunking the entire bag in the water to rinse off. Mesh bags are also nice since they don’t hold sand and are easy to clean.

One of my most favorite items is our over-sized beach blanket that comes with stakes and fold up into a pocket sized pouch. This blanket is awesome because it’s easy to clean, folds up super small, lightweight, is huge so we can all sit on it and is also soft so you still feel like you’re laying on the sand. It comes with 6 plastic stakes to hold it down from the wind. It’s quite perfect!  best beach blanket compact with stakes lightweight zomakebest beach blanket compact with stakes lightweight zomake

I also always carry a cell phone waterproof pouch. This is the same pouch I took on our river tubing trip in Texas and found out it’s really waterproof!

We usually only stay about 2-3 hours and feel very lucky to live within an hour of the beach.

My swimsuits and coverups are from DownEast Outfitters and Target, my flip flops are super old rainbows (my long time favorite brand), the kids’ suits and flip flops from Ross and Old Navy. Sand toys from Target or the dollar store. And of course, we always wear and pack sunscreen (lotion and spray)!

what to pack to the beachwhat to pack to the beach

what to pack to the beach

what to pack to the beach

what to pack to the beach

what to pack to the beach for families and kids

Take me out to the ballgame

Some of my favorite childhood memories came at the ballpark. Growing up a Padres fan wasn’t anything glorious since they’re not a super wealthy or winning team ha, ha but it was always very fun to go as a family, eat a hot dog, learn about the game, and watch talented players come (and go).

Since then, Dave and I have loved going to baseball games together. We made a goal to see a game at every MLB ballpark. So far we’ve been to 19 out of 30 ballparks! Luckily we were able to see a lot when we drove to the east coast in 2009 and again in 2010. When we lived in DC in 2009, we adopted the Washington Nationals as our team together. They were a fairly new team to the area (having moved and re-branded from Montreal in 2005). This was before they had many big name players so tickets were pretty cheap and we were able to see a lot of games.

We haven’t been to a new ballpark basically since that time but we have plans to go to Seattle and see a Mariners’ game this summer for our 11th anniversary!

Dave found the website where I got this shirt (below) and I love it because it’s soft cotton, has Bryce Harper on it, and isn’t super girly. I kind of hate sports team apparel that is pink or glittery just because it’s marketed towards women. Many times I’d much rather have the same design as a men’s store just in a women’s size and fit!

take me out to the ballgame outfit

take me out to the ballgame outfit

shirt from Level500 / Old Navy flannel / Converse a million years old 😉

 

Current thoughts on being a mother

Every phase of Brent and Tessa’s lives have been so fun. When they were newborns, they were cuddly, adorable, growing and just so cute even if we were all sleep deprived the first few months. I loved the newborn baby stage. I loved seeing them learn to communicate, crawl, walk, laugh, explore the world, show interest in certain things, etc.

I love their closeness in age (a few days short of 2 years), when they talk and play together and that they get to do new things together. I know I’ll miss these days when they’re not in school full time and we get to spend most all day together.

Brent started preschool when we lived in Texas and it was fun watching him make friends, learn his letters etc. His current preschool is more of a Pre-K and his learning has really skyrocketed in this last few months. He’s doing so great with letters, sounds, numbers, writing, spelling, sounding out words, and basic addition.

Both the kids are at the age when they’re starting sports. As sports lovers, this has been so awesome for me and Dave to watch them learn the basics of various sports and play! They are currently participating in pee wee sports ‘camps’ through the city of Chino Hills. Brent did soccer last session and just started basketball and Tessa just started soccer. The camp is just 6 Saturdays but it’s one of the highlights of my week to watch them learn new skills.

^ gorgeous backdrop for basketball ^ one thing I really love about Chino Hills are, the hills! There are lots of hiking trails and open areas left undeveloped. The park (also the same park I play soccer at) is at the top of a hill and it’s hard to beat the view!

What’s in my bag?

What I carry outside the house has change significantly since having kids. When the kids were newborns, I felt like I carried a ton of stuff (so many diapers, bottles, blankets, snacks, toys, etc). Now that the kids are more kids/toddlers versus babies, I carry less items but still love a backpack style bag to have 2 available hands. I used to use a Petunia Pickle Bottom bag I got from their outlet and currently use this Freebird Collection backpack.

What's in my bag toddlers

Here’s what I currently carry:

  • First aid kit (similar to this)
  • Snacks!
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer (travel size)
  • Advil (travel size)
  • Lip product (usually a Clinique chubby lip crayon)
  • Tissues
  • Wallet (with coins for parking meters!)
  • Hair ties
  • Flashlight (mini size)
  • Feminine products
  • Hydro Flask water bottle

With toddlers I’ve learned never to be without snacks! With newborns and babies, we always needed diapers, formula, burp cloths and extra onesies. Now, if the kids are tired or getting impatient, a snack is what they need! They like fruit snacks, mostly because they don’t get to eat them at home so it’s more of a special ‘treat’. I received this applesauce pouch sample and Tessa loved it. It’s a great on the go snack that isn’t messy and is easy to eat.

motts applesauce pouch review

motts applesauce pouch review

The Perfect Weekend

One of my earlier memories is when I was probably 3 or 4, around Tessa’s age, and we were at the beach with my family. I was collecting seashells all afternoon and had a full bag. Right before we were about to go home, we noticed one shell was actually a little hermit crab. It was gross to me and I remember being so sad (and probably cried) that I had to dump out the entire bag. This memory may not be 100% accurate because why we didn’t just take the crab out of the bag we’ll never know, ha, ha! Anyway, even though we don’t live super close to the beach we are excited to be living a lot closer than before!

newport beach

CA newport beach

This weekend Brent didn’t have any Saturday sports (the pee wee sports he’s been doing through the city rec center) so we decided to check out Newport Beach (which only took us about 40 minutes). It was a little chilly at first which was actually perfect because the beach seemed less crowded and we found a front row parking spot. I underestimated how much the kids would want to play in the cold water so we didn’t dress them in their swimsuits but we still had fun wading in the water, watching surfers, and building sand castles. Neither of the kids had any interest in collecting shells but were very into the waves. The weather turned out to be perfect and it was fun to see the kids’ excitement since the last time we were at a beach was when Tessa was 6 months old.

newport beach

newport beach

CA newport beach

After the beach, we went to Hop Doddy, which is a gourmet burger place that we had tried in Austin. If I had to compare it, it would be similar to Shake Shack in price and restaurant vibe but like 10x better than Shake Shack. I like Hop Doddy’s quality of meat, variety of burgers, the basic fries are very flavorful and they also have shakes which I’ve heard are delicious. Luckily for us, there are a few locations outside of Texas including  Southern California (the one we went to was in Tustin).

hop doddy classic burger

Because of all the rain this winter, the wildflowers are in full bloom and everything is more vibrant and lush than normal. It is gorgeous in Chino Hills with all the rolling hills and the highways lined with yellow and purple wildflowers. We wish every Saturday could be like this!

CA wildflower bloom

 

Favorite family activity: flashlight walks

One of our favorite things to do as a family is nightly walks. It’s great exercise and we’ve found a way that makes it enjoyable for the kids too.  When we first got married we would go on an evening walk usually on Sundays since it’s a more relaxing day and a nice way to start the week, talk and enjoy nature. When we lived in Virginia and I was pregnant with Brent we walked a ton since it was supposed to help induce healthy labor. Plus we also had Bruce and it was good exercise for him, and us. When Tessa was a newborn we continued to do our daily walks even though it was winter in Utah. It was fun to bundle up and get out of the house (we would push Tessa in her stroller that had a zipped winter cover).

When we lived in Texas, we still wanted to do our walk and since it was so hot, we usually wouldn’t go until the sun went down and we had the kids bring their mini flashlights which they absolutely love! It makes it fun for them especially if we’re going for a long walk and they’re in the stroller. We’ve still been doing our favorite family activity with the flashlights and it’s still great to stretch your legs at the end of the day, relax, breathe fresh air and talk together. If you’re looking for a way to walk more, get more exercise and feel refreshed, adopt our evening walk tradition! 🙂

favorite family activity evening flashlight walks

favorite family activity evening flashlight walks

[mini flashlights from the dollar store, we love our BOB Sport Utility Duallie double jogging Stroller from my parents and I always wear my nerdy runner’s vest similar to this one with a blinking bike light in the safety vest pocket]

Bruce’s Best Pet Products (corgi edition)

Bruce has been part of out family now for 6 years! I still remember picking him up as a 6 week old puppy down on the farm in Virginia where his breeder lived. He was small enough to fit in a messenger bag. Dave grew up with a little dog and I always wanted one so Dave got Bruce as my birthday surprise!  I feel that owning a puppy and going through all the steps to train it is great preparation for becoming parents.  You learn to work together with your partner, house training, crate training, how to deal with different pet personalities, differences in ‘parenting’ styles, how to take care of an animal, scheduling (feeding, walking, etc) and the versatility you need as a parent when issues arrive with your pet like illness, chewing, social issues, etc. You go through a lot of trial and error with training pets, much of what happens when you are parents. Over the last six years, we’ve discovered some awesome dog products that are pretty essential to keeping the house clean and blatantly obvious that we have a dog.

bruces-best-pet-products welsh corgi

 

  1. FURminator – far and away my top pet item! This brush is designed to comb both the over and under coat of a dog. It’s pricier than regular brushes but 100 times more effective! Corgis shed quite a bit, especially during seasonal changes like winter to summer, and the furminator has been invaluable in reducing the amount of hairs that get shed in the house. It’s easy to use and doesn’t hurt the pet or cut the hairs. The metal brush pulls the hairs from both coats. We furminate Bruce maybe once a month depending on the season but corgis have so much fur, I feel like he could be furminated everyday sometimes! These brushes are sold for dogs and cats and different brushes depending on the size of your pet.
  2. Nature’s Miracle Stain & Odor Remover Spray – when house training a pet you’ll have accidents. This spray is great for eliminating odors and stains from carpet. We’ve found it to be very effective and have never had any stains on our carpets. It’s easy to use as well. After an accident (urine), soak up with a paper towel as much as you can, spray the Nature’s Miracle into the carpet and let it absorb. The carpet should be wet. Let the spray sit and absorb for approximately 20 minutes the blot it with a paper towel. The carpet won’t be completely dry and you can just let it air dry (no need for fans, etc).
  3. Lint Rollers in bulk (Scotch-Brite) – Lint rollers are pretty essential if you have a dog or cat breed that sheds. In addition to furminating Bruce and general cleaning the house, these lint rollers are great for couches, clothes, cars, blankets, etc. We like this brand because it does a good job  picking up stray hairs, is sold in bulk packages and the sheets are easy to tear.
  4. Harness Leash – for years we had a retractable leash because it was easy to use, hold and what we were used to since Bruce has a lot of energy when we go on walks. Our friend in Salt Lake, also a corgi owner, who used to dog sit Bruce suggested we get a harness leash so he doesn’t pull as much. Our current leash obviously isn’t as long as a retractable leash but he doesn’t pull at all when we leave the house to go on a walk.
  5. Food storage container – dog food can be pretty stinky and we love this container that we have to store his food. It has a lid that locks so prevent spilling if it ever tips and looks nice. The one we have isn’t specifically made for dog food (it’s basically a trash can with a locking lid).

corgi

FOUND! My new best Donut Friend (Los Angeles)

I love donuts but not all donuts. I’m particular with the taste, texture, flavor and toppings of donuts so a regular store bought or gas station donut doesn’t do it for me. I’m more into gourmet donuts if I’m going to consume that many calories. We’ve had a lot of delicious donuts in the various cities we’ve lived in or travelled to like Voodoo Donut and Blue Star Donut in Portland, Round Rock Donut outside of Austin, Gourdoughs’ in Austin and recently The Donut Man (LA). This last weekend we drove out to Highland Park (which is near Pasadena) based on a few recommendations to try Donut Friend. It is absolutely amazing and here’s why Donut Friend is my new top donut:

  • Taste – the dough was delicious and soft with a nice consistency.
  • Flavors – they have so many types of donuts, plus you can create your own with various fillings and toppings! Donut Friend was started by a music producer and a lot of the flavors are puns on band names. Check out their amazing menu!
  • Texture – the donuts were the perfect amount of dense and light. I also loved that the glaze wasn’t overly sweet or sticky. Like you could eat a donut and it wouldn’t leave glaze all over your fingers.
  • Unique – they have a lot of donut ‘sandwiches’ for example, a glaze donut cut in half with a cream or custard layer and then topped with glaze (vanilla, lemon, strawberry) or chocolate and then toppings.
  • Happiness – we had heard a lot about Donut Friend and read tons of positive reviews. The shop is small but everyone was so happy and the employees with fast and friendly. They also have an option to buy online and pick up later. This is especially key for me because nothings more disappointing than driving an hour to have your favorite donut sold out, ha, ha! So in the afternoon I bought online two apple fritters to pick up in the evening.

In addition to the apple fritter (which is called “Fritter Seems Forever”!) I also tried the Strawberry Lab which is a glaze donut cut in half, a layer of whipped cream and sliced strawberries, similar to a strawberry shortcake but with a delicious donut. Dave and the kids tried a few kinds including a peanut butter and jelly donut, butterfinger and some custard filled donuts. They also have a donut sundae called “Taking back Sundae” that I need to try!

strawberrylab donut friend LA

Donut Friend LA

donut friend apple fritter

Here is an interview with Mark Trombino, the former pop punk producer and founder of Donut Friend.

mark trombino donut friend

Triple Birthday

This year, we planned two birthday surprises for the kids. Tessa’s birthday is 3 days before my and Brent’s birthday and it’s always  a fun and busy time celebrating! Our kids have never been to Disneyland and now that we live so close we figured it would be a great opportunity to go. We spend most of the day in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland but also went to Pirates of the Caribbean and to get Dole Whips 🙂 Brent’s favorite ride was Star Tours and Tessa’s was the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. It was so fun to see them experience all the magic for the first time and we hope we can go back more!

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That same week, we went to a Monster Truck Jam (racing event) at Angel Stadium. I saw it on a Listserv for local moms and immediately knew Brent would love it! He has loved cars and trucks for a while, we have about 500 Hot Wheels cars around the house 😉 and recently has been loving the monster trucks also made by Hot Wheels that are modeled after the actual trucks that race in these events. He was so excited when the trucks drove out and he recognized some from his toys! The stadium was packed and it was a fun experience for all of us, and also nice that we are close to Anaheim.

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Fiesta Friday: links I love and things to celebrate

things to celebrate happy weekend links

Lots to celebrate today! –

Today is my and Brent’s birthday! I can’t believe he’s FIVE! His due date was I think 5 days after my birthday and it was a great surprise to have him born on my birthday –  love celebrating my birthday with my firstborn 🙂

We surprised for their birthdays with their first time at Disneyland and a Monster Truck Jam show (at the Angels Stadium)! It was so fun to experience those with them and for them to see the magic of Disneyland! It’s been a crazy and exhausting week but fun to have our 3 birthdays so close to each other!

Tomorrow I get to attend a baby shower for my best and most loyal friend! They’ve been actively waiting 7+ years for their little miracle baby.