April 20, 2021
by gwendolyn
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My First Texas Birthday

I cannot stress enough how strange it is to type out the title of this post. First off, I never envisioned myself living in Texas. Secondly, I never thought I would have a birthday where I didn’t have friends to celebrate with. Lastly, I surely didn’t think that we would still be in a world pandemic!

I mean, really, what a time to be alive. If you hate it, or are besides yourself, or just trying to manage; we certainly are living through a huge historic moment.

This year I turned 45. For some reason the years that end in zeros and fives seem to hold more weight. I’m not exactly sure why, but somehow in the middle of all the chaos of 2020 and 2021 I managed to have a great birthday.

The start of it was all thanks to Gil. He set me up with a massage at a day spa where I could relax and be pampered. I wore a mask and relaxed for more consecutive hours, by myself, than I probably ever have before.

It was something I never thought of doing before. But these are Covid times and we are all doing what we can to make it through. The least I could do was dive into a beautiful day of solo spa-ness, right?

I utilized the infinity pool, the healthy salad and juice options at the pool, the mineral pool, the mineral steam room and the outside quiet area. It was quite decadent and I couldn’t have been more thankful that Gil was so thoughtful and generous in the day he planned for me.

After that I got home to birthday decorations, a super sweet cake, homemade cards and a new burger option so I could try out one of the local grass fed burger places. Whataburger is good, but I was really hoping the kids would relent just this one Friday.

Luckily, the birthday girl got her way and we headed to Mr. Juicy. The surprised came when we got a text from the one family we know at the kid’s school saying they were just driving next to us! Say what??? We told them where we were headed and they couldn’t wait to hear our thoughts. Our Friday night Whataburger and family movie nights have become a popular topic for anyone the kids know and they knew we were angling for a new burger on this special occasion.

So after we ate, I took Domingo for a walk — figuring a walk was what I need because I really wanted cake, but my tummy was not ready after the huge burger and fried I took down! D and I headed out and we let our friends know that Mr. Juicy is super yum!

This is when I got the biggest shock — our new family friends then invited us over for beers because it was my birthday and it was a beautiful Texas night (warm and breezy in late January). I was so excited I almost fell over! Basically, I ran home to see what Gil thought and hoped he was down for it. When he said yes it was another super exciting moment, because it was already 8pm and normally the kids are in bed — BUT not on this night.

Instead we hoped in the car with the cake and headed out. We had the best time! The kids played and ran around, while Gil got to check out the local Bodega with superb beer options and we all got to chat until after midnight.

Most of us enjoyed cake.

We all had an amazing time!

And I didn’t take any photos. (Booo!)

But, I was so happy.

My friend, Shaira, referred to it as a birthday miracle and I think she coined it perfectly.

Good things are gonna happen this year. I can just feel it!

April 14, 2021
by gwendolyn
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Family Celebration for 2021

Alrighty, I am almost done catching everyone up on our holiday events! (I wrote this back in January – oops!) This one was most definitely a huge success. Like most things this past year, we didn’t have any plans for ringing in the new year, but I didn’t feel like just letting it slip on by, so we had ourselves a little family party!

The kids and I got “dressed up.” Set out treats to munch on. Then, settled in to watch the Avett Brothers streaming concert. The kids had no idea what a concert was, so I had to field a slew of questions about what we were watching, but after all of that we danced, sang along and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Dada joined us around 8:30pm, after work and quickly got into the celebratory mood! Which was essential since we not only had our first at home concert experience for the family, but also an indoor piñata to dominate.

And, dominate, we did!

It was so much fun to enjoy the evening together. After all of this big fun we all made it to midnight ringing in the new year together as a family. Then, we got the excited, yet tired, pair of kiddos off to bed.

Not long after, Gil and I called it, looking forward to what the new year would bring. Happy new year 2021 (in April)!

January 19, 2021
by gwendolyn
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Christmas, 2020

This year Christmas looked different for us, just like it did most of the world. We didn’t plan on much other than the regular stuff: presents, food with R&R. It ended up being a really wonderful day and I enjoyed the slow pace of it all.

Gil and I woke up before the kids. It was a surprise because typically kids get up at the butt crack of dawn on this momentous day from excitement. I fully expected a wake up at 5am, but it didn’t come. Sweet!

Seems the zoo did them in. Lucky us!

When the kids opened their eyes they were ready to open presents and so were we — coffee in hand and quiche in the oven. The kids took turns opening gifts and we all enjoyed watching. The one difference was that when they opened their gifts, they immediately wanted to play with them and we were cool with that.

So, unwrapping presents took H-O-U-R-S! We ate breakfast and then a Costco lasagna and mac-n-cheese all the while opening gifts and playing with them. It was absolutely lovely and relaxing.

After that, we watched the new movie Soul. Enjoyment for the whole family! I know Cecito would highly recommend it because he asked to watch it again, and then again for the next few following days.

I know this is really late, but I hope all of our friends and family were able to enjoy the day in such a relaxing manner. We definitely felt connected and together with our family of 4 (+1 for sweet Domingo).

Now that you have seen the uber fun part, here is a funny one:

LL got the horse to go along with her favorite doll, it’s exactly what she wanted, and was over the moon (photo above). Then, she opened the accessories that consisted of a wheelchair, cast, crutches, etc… Well, her Dad immediately said, “Oh good, now you can pretend your doll got bucked from the horse and she is all set with a wheelchair and cast.”

Everyone in the room LOL’d except for LL:

(giggle)

January 13, 2021
by gwendolyn
2 Comments

Traditional Tree Decorating

This year we were in a bit of a pickle with all things ‘Christmas Decor.’ You see, we do not have all of our belongings in San Antonio. Last spring we packed up two U-Boxes with approximately half our possessions before staging the condo for optimal sales tactics. Then, we packed up the rest in a moving truck and that is all that we have had since.

The two U-Boxes are still in San Diego and won’t arrive until we move into a permanent residence.

The plan was optimal for cost and we thought that we were packing the things we wouldn’t need for the next year, but there were some items we didn’t think about. Of course! At times it has been a source of stress and pain, but I think we have managed quite well, considering.

One of the things we didn’t include was holiday decor, but it’s good we didn’t because we packed that truck to the gills. The friends who helped us, on that busy day, ended up with a pile of “new possessions” and our neighbors got our beloved plants.

So, when it came time to decorate the tree we realized we didn’t have a thing! Gil got ornaments from Costco and I went to the dollar store and Target for the rest. It all worked out and we got our cozy decorated tree vibe for the season.

Next year when we finally get all of our things (fingers crossed!) we will have enough to decorate two trees. Guess there really can be a bonus in all situations!

January 12, 2021
by gwendolyn
2 Comments

Hello, Christmas Tree!

Alright everyone, let’s get real here. I’ve never had a ‘living’ Christmas tree before (well mostly, keep reading to see the one exception). Seemed throughout my whole childhood someone was allergic to every scent known to man; no scented flowers, no perfumes that have strong scents, no real Christmas tree…the list can go on. Also, I’m 100% sure as you are reading this my Mom is too, cursing my name over that rendition of my childhood.

As an adult I didn’t care either way until I moved to California. It was the first time I wasn’t going to be going home for Christmas so the traditions were on me. When I went to get my new artificial tree I was astonished at how much they cost. So that idea went out the window!

I needed a new plan. Luckily, I thought to go to the gardening area and found a small potted tree. It was thirty bucks and I was sure all my hand-made kid ornaments will fit. Done deal and I was thrilled!

Let’s fast forward a bit to when Gil and I moved in together. We went the route of an artificial tree that was pre-lit. Purchasing it last minute because we knew they would be on sale. We used that thing for 12 years! I loved that tall and thin apartment sized tree, even when there was only one string of lights that could still light up. But we sold it before we moved (you know, purge before you go kinda thing). It sure did live a good life, and I hope that it’s still making people smile each December.

This year, we ended up with a choice since we are in temporary digs. When Thanksgiving hit the kids were missing their friends and San Diego so much that we decided to do the most fun thing we could think of: pick out and cut down our very own real Christmas tree. So, that is just what we did!

We drove out to Texas Hill Country, to a place called Pipe Creek outside of Bandera, Texas. Walked around a bit learning about the different kind of trees you can get and then decided on one! Gil is not the dilly dally kind of shopper I am, so it was almost all business and we had our tree in no time.

Cutting it down was a fun novelty and we all got a hand at it. Daddy was the one that ended up making it go “timber!” While LL helped carry it out. We all enjoyed it. Even when we got it home and 2 of us got a mini headache for one day. Guess that allergy thing is real after all — you’re welcome, Mom.

As I mentioned in the last post we’ve been missing Daddy a lot since he started his new job, but this time he didn’t miss out on anything! It was a great time for us all to be together and get into the holiday spirit.

January 5, 2021
by gwendolyn
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Christmas Eve at the San Antonio Zoo

For the next few posts, we are going back in time. We had a lot of fun with holiday activities I want to share with you. It was difficult to reserve blogging time while the all of it was going on, so here we are. I now have time to share! Lucky you and even luckier, ME!

Christmas Eve is normally when families gather together, but we weren’t living remotely close to family. So we took this time as an opportunity to make our own tradition. We decided to do something outside of the home and outside of our normal activities. Visit a place that is typically super crowded, full of joy, and over the top with holiday decorations; only on this day, it would be less crowded. At least, that is what we were banking on — and we were RIGHT!

For the next several years this is what we did and we LOVED it! It was our chance to utilize the free veteran tickets for Sea World that we had or include a Legoland Hotel visit from our family Christmas gift list.

Only this year things were different. We were in a new city, COVID was on the rise, and Gil was scheduled to work. Keeping with our tradition, the kids and I planned our own adventure and set our sights on the San Antonio Zoo. We wore masks all day (even when outside), saw any of the animals that we could find, and experienced all that the zoo had to offer. Lights from Whataburger, and all!

We had the most lovely day together. It’s not the San Diego Zoo, but really, what is? That place holds a multitude of memories for all of us: the start of becoming a mom, refuge for a toddler and mom while her 9 week-old goes into surgery, many Outdoor Class sessions, countless Jungle Bells nights, December Nights on Skyfari, Nighttime Zoo during the summer and so many friend meet-ups that it became our beloved neighborhood playground.

There is a great history for us with the San Diego Zoo and I am hopeful that we will find the same with the San Antonio Zoo. It was a magical day and we are looking forward to going again, with Dada.

January 1, 2021
by gwendolyn
4 Comments

Goodbye, 2020

As I look back on the last year I can’t help but think about the old adage, “careful what you wish for.” My family had planned for a change. I wouldn’t say it is what we had wished for, but it was a well thought out path for our future. Even when a pandemic hit, we still managed to do our best and continue on that planned (and now rocky) path.

As that was happening voices were rising who have historically been held down. It was scary and inspiring. Plus, we were experiencing a brutal election. Complete civil unrest. Friends hating on friends. Complete strangers hating on each other. While all forms of media leading us down a path of separation. We were literally being told to stay home, all the while being fed news that made us dislike most of the outside world.

I believe that a lot of where our culture stands now started with greed. Greed that digs down to the urgency of power. We started with reality tv that damaged how we look at people, making them seem less human. They were now entertainment. Then, newspapers and media followed suit, giving us the biggest headlines because we weren’t reading it if it wasn’t easy entertainment or some kind of crazy car wreck situation. Everything bigger and more dumbed down, it now has to be eye-catching and skimmable. Corporations making loads of money for the least amount of effort and cost. All of this culminating in the boom of social media, making people we don’t know even less human. More divisiveness egged on so corporations can keep making more money and gaining more power.

Now, you don’t have to agree with me and there is WAY more that goes into all of this, on the surface level this is how I see it. This is what my mind thinks about too often to count. It’s cool if you don’t agree. We all have different perspectives and experiences. What I do hope for is that we remain as precious as our individualism makes us, but more and more of us strive to be a working-together society.

Collectively we are smart and can get on a more positive path if we demand it. The bottom line doesn’t have to be the most important. We don’t have to be a “cancel culture” and a “me society.” At least not in our own little corner of the world.

Even though not everyone planned on change for 2020, it’s what we got. What I glean from this last year is hope. Slowing down is something to be appreciated. Maybe you were able to reconnect with the people that mean the most to you because you had to make hard choices. It could be that you got more time with family, whether you wanted it or not; and if you are lucky, you now realize that’s what you needed. Possibly, you realized you possess great resilience that you hadn’t needed until now.

There are so many that have suffered and dealt with great loss, it is real sadness and anguish. I truly hope that one day the people who experienced loss and sadness will one day be able to look back at 2020 with new meaning.

We have no idea what comes next. That is the true excitement in a new year, for me. We don’t have to wait until the new year to have a different frame of mind, but we are here. Isn’t today a great day to aspire to something more?

December 18, 2020
by gwendolyn
8 Comments

November 14, 2020

As if 2020 wasn’t enough of a kicker we had a milestone birthday in our little family last month. Our very own, Dada, turned a pretty significant number!

Many of you know I am a huge fan of birthdays, so this one had been on my mind for quite some time. About two years ago, I casually started asking Gil about his 50th birthday but was still “planning” that month. Since this was such a big birthday, I was ready to go all out! Then, we decided we were going to relocate…then…the pandemic hit. Ugh.

What’s a gal to do when big celebrations or trips aren’t an option? I couldn’t let it pass by just like any other birthday. So I patiently waited to make sure Gil would be off work and slammed plans together. I must say, it all worked out very well. Gil doesn’t really care what he does for his birthdays, so I knew whatever was planned would be fine, but I wanted this one to be special. This is why it sat in the back of my head for several years waiting to be exceptional.

Starting the Day off Right: Gifts!

While Gil got ready for the day and took Domingo on a walk, the kids and I frantically put up all the decorations we could get on the walls. I let the kids pick out balloons and decorations I usually say no to, so we had lots of fun. It’s a wonderous thing to see how much decorations can feel magical to litle kids on a special occasion.

Below you can see how well the gift giving went:

Each of their gifts shows their personalities off in the most perfect way:

Next, breakfast tacos!

No more San Diego breakfast burritos, now we eat San Antonio breakfast tacos.

Then, Evening Announcement and Cousin Visit!

After breakfast, I told Gil that we were headed to Bourne, Texas for a much needed night away. Then, our little Cecito accidentally announced his next surprise was that his cousins were arriving soon for our first visit with them since we moved to Texas. It was cute and only a teeny bit disappointing because his facial reaction was super adorable when he realized what he had done.

When they arrived from Austin it was so wonderful to see familiar faces! I mean I knew I was excited but hadn’t realized how great it would feel to see people you have strong connections with during this pandemic thing. The visit was lovely and we couldn’t have been more thankful they were able to make a quick visit. Our conversation was mostly about all the things we will be able to do together once the pandemic is over. It lightened my heart quite a bit and left me feeling very grateful we are closer to family now.

Before We Hit the Road, There’s Cake!

While they were here we enjoyed a special cake that Gil requested. His inspiration came from a little show by the name of The Great British Bakeoff. If you didn’t know, he’s become quite a fan of this series! During one of the episodes, there was a traditional Sicilian birthday cake called Torta Setteveli that grabbed his attention. He asked if I could make it for his birthday and at first, I said yes; then I peeked at the recipe (you can see it here) and decided it was best to order it from a professional. For sure, it was the right decision:

After that deliciousness, we said our goodbyes and headed out the door to start the second half of our birthday fun! Dropped the kids off and set our GPS to The Ye Kendall Inn in Bourne.

A Night in Bourne

When we arrived we noticed there was a market closing up in the town square across the street from our hotel. It was so cute and elevated my excitement, plus eased my concern about choosing this unknown destination. We were definitely in the right place.

Everything at The Kendall was adorable. Plus, they offered us a complimentary bottle of champagne since we were celebrating a birthday. Score! My favorite decor elements were the cute sitting area outside of our room and the rolling door cover that had a barn door lock from the inside. See for yourself, below, just how super cute it is!

Dinner at Cibolo Creek Brewing Company

After settling into the room we went set out on foot to walk around town and grab dinner. Bourne is one of the most quaint towns! As we were walking around and eating dinner we kept discussing the possibility of buying a house there. Would we like to be this far away from the city? Is it more expensive out here? I wonder how the schools and neighbors are here? To say the least, we were taken by this little place.

Our dinner was good, but the beer was better. I thoroughly enjoyed two dark beers, eating slowly and rediscovering how fun it is to chat with my husband where we can focus on just us. We continued the evening with thae bottle of champagne I mentioned earlier and an uninterrupted movie. I’m now completely on board with the realization that bliss looks very different throughout all these stages of life.

The Next Day

The next morning we walked down the block for some super amazing coffee and breakfast at Dienger Trading Company. Afterwards, we walked around the market in the town square and got a few keepsakes to remind of us the nice night away we had for Gil’s 50th birthday in our new state.

Despite things feeling upside down in the world this birthday was a success. The night in Bourne was just what we needed to relax and reconnect. I’m looking forward to the next time we can make our way up there.

Below are the rest of the photos I took of our hotel grounds:

It felt like home to have my big camera out, again.

November 1, 2020
by gwendolyn
1 Comment

Halloween, 2020

After months of feeling pretty isolated, our second ‘holiday’ hit along with higher COVID-19 numbers. To say that everyone is tired of this pandemic mess is an understatement. For middle ground people like us, we weren’t sure what to do. So much talk of Halloween being canceled, some folks being flippant, others being very cautious; it’s difficult to know where the line is to walk for sanity and safety.

Luckily, the one family that we know here invited us over and we, very thankfully, accepted. Since we arrived we have slowly been getting to know Gil’s high school friend and his family, it’s been a respite that I desperately needed. They are a very welcoming and authentic family that comes with a young boy, a year younger than Cecito. The kids are figuring out how to be friends and even though they live a bit of a distance from us, we are managing get-togethers about once a month. They are the only people we occasionally hang out with, in our new city.

Security is not something that comes with a pandemic and even less when you leave a place and people you love dearly. Social media is truly a reminder of all the things you’re missing, but also one of the ways people rely on for communication; total double-edged sword kinda thing.

Even though, we were able to have a good time for Halloween. I’m sure others were feeling the strain, because of COVID-19. I know we are not the only ones I just wanted to share honestly with all of you.

Ok, onto Halloween … somehow we have the good fortune of our kids being a-ok with choosing costumes from their dress-up box—yes! One wanted to be Elsa and the other a butterfly. I agreed to get spray hair dye and it was a done deal. Little did I remember the mess that stuff makes! The blue hair and blue-winged butterfly made our apartment look like a smurf visited. I like to think that the clean up was worth the thrill of the first spray on his head.

I dressed as Rosie the Riveter since most of our things are sitting in storage boxes in San Diego. The last-minute dive into my closet was a success in my book. I was pleased to be dressing up with kids; it’s something I find great joy in and have lots of fun with.

For the event we drove to our destination, shared a meal with our friends, then headed out to get the loot! My kids were beyond themselves with excitement. Adorned with masks and pumpkin candy baskets my kiddos took flight, on foot. So much elation they could barely say words, mostly all that we could make out was shrill laughs of excitement.

There were tables at the end of driveways with candy bags, bowls at the end of walkways with reminder signs to share the wealth with all, long shoots to catch candy at the end, long rods with pinchers at the end to drop candy in a candy bin and so much more! We all had such a great time, I absolutely adored seeing the kids run around having fun.

The neighborhood we were in was new to us since Gil’s friends moved in last week. It’s even farther out in the suburbs than they were before, but we were in luck because that meant beer coolers and jello shots for parents. I was surprised and felt welcome, as did the other parent with me. She commented on how she thinks she’s going to really like this new neighborhood.

By the time full darkness hit the streets my kids were ready to go back to the house. They are afraid of the dark and without the mobs of people we were used to in North Park and their regular 15 kid trick-or-treating posse they called it a night when they realized it was full nighttime. This was good because I had overflowing pockets of candy from pumpkin baskets filled to the max.

We enjoyed the evening, but we were missing Dada; he had to work. His surprise was a hot to-go meal from his friend, who made it right before we hit the road to go home. Seriously, a super cool dude.

Disappointedly Gil missed the whole endeavor, but he was there for the 1:30 am puking session that Cecito came running into our room to announce. Guess Momma didn’t pay enough attention to how much candy he ate while we were going through his haul.

Don’t worry too much though, my little man was up bouncing around this morning, asking for candy after breakfast. Lessons are so hard to learn the first time around.

October 5, 2020
by gwendolyn
2 Comments

Tower of The Americas

The first time we ventured out in our new city it was July 4th. We were all very excited, but it still felt strange, as everything has been during the pandemic. COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down. While we are abiding by the rules, we are also slowly getting out to adventure in this vast new city of ours.

We are living downtown in an area called Lavaca; it’s urban, seems super hip and our apartment building is right across the street from the iconic Tower of The Americas. You can see it driving around the downtown area and most places we walk or bike to; since we live right next to it, we use it as a landmark to get around town. At first, it reminded me of Seattle’s Space Needle, but since living this close it ties back to my memories of the Twin Towers when they were standing tall in Manhattan.

There is a sense of pride in Texas history, I’ve heard about it my whole life (as I would think most people have). While I was reading the history boards displayed at the observations level of the tower I got a little taste of why that pride is so long-lasting. Reading those was something that I found to be enlightening and it brightened my mood on our relocation. So, just in that, it was a successful day.

We all really enjoyed getting out, too.