ShiftCon Inspired Me To Make A Shift

Last week I had the privilege of attending ShiftCon 2018.  I volunteered during the conference in exchange for an Influencer ticket, and the experience was definitely worth it.  The conference itself took place Thursday morning to Saturday evening at Hotel Irvine.

I have passed by this hotel countless times, but had never been inside.  After spending three days here, it was starting to feel like my second home.  Attending this conference was so convenient since it is less than 15 minutes away.  However, other attendees came from Canada and the east coast, so it was a real getaway for them.

I am grateful to have been able to take off two days of work to attend, as well as have my parents watch the kids while I was away.  It felt good to have some individual time and just soak in a lot of information.  It would have been nice if I knew someone else there, as I was completely out of my comfort zone.  I am not good at small talk like D is, but I managed to make some connections.  Volunteering actually helped me in meeting people.

My first job was to hand out the swag bags on Thursday morning.  I was actually supposed to help stuff the swag bags earlier in the week, but they were already done by the time I arrived.  This was a fun job because who isn’t happy to receive swag?  I plan to do reviews of some of the products we received, so be on the lookout for that.

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Inspired to Live Greener

There were so many inspiring speakers during the mealtimes.  One highlight was Ed Begley Jr who gave a keynote address entitled “Heal the Planet”.

After listening to his speech, I concluded that he is a great example of a Hollywood actor who is also a true environmentalist.  It seems that these days, many celebrities tout environmentalist causes mainly for the attention it can provide.  This is not the case with Mr. Begley, who has been living “green” before it was trendy.  He was very encouraging in urging all of us to start small, by doing things such as changing to LED light bulbs.  He also is a confessed cheapskate, which resonated with me–ha!  Although there is some truth to the Whole Foods = Whole Paycheck joke, being green can actually save you a lot of money too.  This is something I always knew in the back of my head, but now I am intrigued and inspired.  I hope to share some of the tips I find in my journey to living greener in future blog posts as well!

Inspired to Eat Healthier

The food that was served at the meals was also inspiring.  In a room full of people with dietary restrictions, it was quite impressive that the food still tasted delicious.  The organizer of the event said that the kitchen staff felt quite challenged by all of the high standards that ShiftCon had regarding the food.  The food was organic, local wherever possible, humanely raised, non-GMO, gluten-free, you name it!  Part of me was wondering where are the dinner rolls, but I realized that I needed to “shift” that expectation too.

Loved these centerpieces!

Loved the presentation!

Inspired, I made this rice/quinoa/ground turkey bowl for dinner the other night with the help of Revolution Foods.  Surprisingly, n ate everything, including the quinoa and spinach.  This was proof to me that our family can eat healthier, and that I need to branch out more in our food choices.

This was a glimpse of the Expo time, where several brands introduced their products to the influencers.  I volunteered a little bit during this time too.

Inspired to Learn

I recently hung a children’s poster by our kids’ desks that says “Try Something Challenging Today”.  I really like this motto, as too often I become complacent because it is easier or I feel like I am too busy with other things.  Going to ShiftCon helped me realize some ways in which I can challenge myself.  During the speeches and workshops, I realized how much I have to learn about the environment, our health, the chemicals that surround us everyday and how they all interact.  (There was one workshop on curing children’s nut allergies that was really eye-opening!)  I loved hearing from brands that have challenged the way their products have traditionally been produced and have found a better way.  I was also impressed by the pro-bloggers and influencers who have built their own businesses and have used blogging as a platform for their message to the world.  I left challenged to continue to develop this blog, to overcome the learning curve and to not become discouraged by roadblocks.

Before I attended this conference, I was not really sure it would be for me.  I do not do yoga/meditation, nor am I vegan, dairy-free or gluten-free.  When another attendee mentioned thoracic chakra and tapping, I had no idea what she was talking about.  However, there was so much that did speak to me directly: the importance of living green for our own health, our children’s lives, and for the planet.

Thank you, ShiftCon, for letting me be a part of your community even though I have a long way to go in living green, and for inspiring me to take the next steps on my green journey.

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Pre-Thanksgiving Visit to Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is one of those places that everyone who lives in California needs to visit once in their lifetime.  I had been multiple times, but never with D or the kids.  D’s family says he went he was a kid, but he did not remember it.

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Can you see the castle on the hill?

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You can buy tickets online in advance but I found their reservation fee outrageous so we waited until the day of our tour to buy tickets.  We arrived early and bought tickets for the first Grand Rooms tour of the day at 9:00 am with no problem. There is a bus that transports you up the hill to the castle while you listen to narration by Alex Trebek.

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Our tour began in front of one of the guesthouses.  There were tourists in our group from multiple countries, including Australia!

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Unfortunately, the famed Neptune Pool was being renovated–doh!  Apparently it was leaking 5,000 gallons of water everyday.  The tour guide said it was scheduled to be done by the end of the year, but I am pretty sure it will take longer than that!

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La Casa Grande!  It was interesting to learn about the corroboration between William Randolph Hearst and his architect, Julia Morgan (a Cal grad!).

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It was nice that they had already started decorating for Christmas.

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Our tour guide was an amazing fount of knowledge.

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The intricate detail that can be found everywhere is so amazing.

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After the tour, we were free to wander the grounds.

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When you are ready to leave, you go down to the indoor pool and catch a bus at what the tour guide called the “fanciest bus stop in America”.

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Walking on gold!

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ShiftCon Coming to Irvine, California!

This will be my first conference that I am attending as a blogger/influencer, and I am so excited!  For those of you wondering what ShiftCon is, I will quote directly from their website:

ShiftCon is an eco-wellness influencer conference focusing on food, wellness, health, sustainability and platform growth. Shifters are part of an online influencer community that seek healthier and more sustainable lives, promote brands that mirror their values, and help causes that speak to their soul. 

What I think is great about ShiftCon’s vision is that they embrace everyone on the green spectrum, not just hard-core crunchy granola types (and I use that description admiringly).  I would consider myself light-medium green on the spectrum, but I am seeking to take steps in a more green direction.

What does one do at an eco-wellness conference?  ShiftCon features various speakers, including keynote speaker Ed Begley, Jr.  (St. Elsewhere, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind).  I am especially looking forward to the workshops which address topics such as the food movement, wellness, science, social media and legislation.  For bloggers, there is an extra day of workshops dedicated to upping their blogging game.  There will also be an expo where attendees can make connections with over forty companies dedicated to transparency, health, and eco-friendly values.  I cannot wait to learn about their products and take home some samples.  If you know me, you know how I love samples and sharing samples with others!  Attendees also receive a swag bag full of goodies that looks amazing judging from the pictures I have seen from past conferences.

ShiftCon is an annual national event, and their last conference was in New Orleans.  I feel so lucky to have discovered ShiftCon just before it is scheduled to take place in Irvine, California, right in my neck of the woods.  As a local, I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to help volunteer at this conference and attend as a blogger.  I encourage my fellow Orange County bloggers to check out this conference, as well as those who live farther away.  There is a lot to see and do in Orange County–make it a fun getaway!  Registration information can be found here.  I hope to see you February 1-3, 2018!

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Mazda Family Day

Over the summer, D’s office moved to a fancy brand new building, just down the street.  A few weeks ago, they had a family day where employees could show off the new digs.

There was a photographer in the lobby so we could take a family picture.

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Blingy elevator

I was glad to see that one of the baristas was there and that the coffee bar was open.  We had a vanilla cold brew and an iced latte.  The kids had real hot chocolate (not the powdered stuff).  Unlimited free coffee drinks seems dangerous to me, but D is happy to take advantage of it while he can.

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Nice place to enjoy said coffee.  They are very close to the Irvine Spectrum, as you can see.

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Nice view of the urban sprawl that is Orange County.  n’s hands look really big in this picture!

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D whistling while he (pretends to) work.  They have flex workspaces, so employees do not have a cubicle to call their own. However, most people are creatures of habit, so they end up in the same space anyway.

This sign made me laugh.  We never had this at my law firm!

This is where D stores his lunch and heats it up if he brings it.

Loved all of the furniture.  I told D that they ever get rid of it, we’ll take it for our house!

Family Day was a nice opportunity for the kids (and me) to develop a better idea of where D spends the vast majority of his time during the week.  We also enjoyed the refreshments (pastries, fruit, etc.) and swag (hats, notebooks, travel mugs, etc.)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5th Not So Annual Small Group Camping Trip

The last weekend before school started, our family organized a camping trip with our small group at San Mateo Campground, near San Clemente Beach.  We were able to snag the group site, which ended up being huge!  We only had five families that were able to go, so there was plenty of space to spread out.

As mentioned in my Coola sunscreen post, we went to San Clemente Beach in the afternoon.

For dinner, we kept it simple with hot dogs and chili.  However, when we returned to our campsite, we discovered that some squirrels had eaten two hot dog buns and an ENTIRE package of King’s Hawaiian Rolls.

To go along with the large campsite, there was a huge grill!

In the morning, I had everyone try some Veggie-Go’s and Dave’s Killer Bread from my sampling opportunities.

We packed up, did a little shopping at the Rainbow Sandal Outlet, and then went to lunch at Hapa J’s in San Clemente.

This Loco Moco was ordered by someone else, but D wanted a picture of it.

D and I shared “Da Biggest Plate” and the kids shared a chicken katsu plate.

Everything was really good, and the restaurant was big enough to accommodate our large party.  Fun weekend!

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Building Homes in Baja

Last month, D and I had the privilege of going to Baja California, Mexico, for a home-building missions trip with our church.  This was my second time (last time was in 2013), and D’s seventh or so time (I have lost count).

The drive down takes about seven hours.  It is about the same as going to Northern California for us, but in the opposite direction of course.  At the border crossing, our van was subjected to a search.  The van was put through a giant x-ray machine of sorts and scanned, but nothing objectionable was found.  Phew.

Only D brought his phone on the trip, so I put him in charge of pictures.

We rode in separate vans.  D was the navigator for his van.

The group always stops for lunch at Costco in Ensenada.  Interesting that they have lasagna.  We stick to the pizza and hot dogs, and everything tastes exactly the same as in the U.S.

Our first dinner was at “Red Bowl” taco stand.

That is not its official name, but you can see how the nickname came about.

We ate very well during the week, and I am happy to report there were no gastrointestinal issues!

The firepit at the base camp was our gather place.  We had a devotional there every morning to remind us why we were there.

When we first arrived at the worksite, there was a concrete slab and lumber.  D and I were on different worksites, but they were fairly close together.  D was the roof supervisor for his house.

It is truly amazing to see how fast the house can go up with teamwork.

Mango paleta break!

When you see the living conditions of the families we build for, it is heartbreaking.

This family welcomed a new baby just a few days before we arrived!

My favorite day is dedication, where we make the house a home and present the keys to the families.

Notice the Mazda jacket on the bed?  D thought it would be a nice donation since it had the Mexico flag on one sleeve and the Japan flag on the other–haha.

During our free time, we went to the nearby beach.  It is amazing how access to the coast is free–no $15 parking fees!

We ate one of our dinners at Papa Ruben’s.

I was able to split a torta with D.  Bread tasted good after having so many tortillas!

We also visited IDT ministries and learned about all of the trade schools that are providing training and hope to the people in the area.  This is “The Dome”.

Going to Baja is always an eye-opening experience.  It is exciting to see God at work.  I cannot wait until k and n are old enough to go and we will be able to serve together as a family!

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Summer Is Here!

We had a fun first weekend of summer vacation.

It has become a tradition for me to save up some my winnings (and buy some additional small gifts) to give to the kids after their last day of school.  This should help keep them occupied!

Our last day of school coincided with Flip Flop day at Tropical Smoothie Café.  If you wear flip flops (or “slippers” as JAs like to say) to the store, you get a free smoothie.  Since flip flops are k and n’s preferred footwear, this is very easy for us to do.  We did make a small donation to Camp Sunshine, as well.

On Saturday we took a trip to downtown L.A. to visit The Broad museum.  I had made free reservations months in advance, crossing my fingers that nothing would come up in the meantime.  Luckily, that afternoon was still open for us.  We parked just across the street at the Walt Disney Concert Hall to save a few dollars, and because I had never checked it out before.  I used to pass this building when I went to court and was always curious about it.  The Frank Gehry-design is quite striking and a nice addition to the area.

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As we came out of the parking structure, we saw this interesting cloud sculpture.  All I could think about is how it looks like a giant dust magnet that would be really difficult to clean.

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We also poked around the rooftop garden area.

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I thought this fountain kind of clashed with the building, but to each his own.  Hopefully we will be able to attend a concert here one day!

 

 

 

 

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Circus Vargas Steam Cirque @ Irvine Great Park

The circus is back in town!

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I won ringside seats, so we went last Saturday.  We went last year also, but D was not able to go since he was travelling for work.  This year we were able to stay for the whole show since it was not a school night.  I thought they did a good job of changing up the show; it did not seem repetitive even though there were some common elements.  It was also not as stuffy as last year, so that was nice.

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As you can see, the venue is pretty small, so I do not think there were any “bad” seats in the house.

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We were close enough to see some of the “behind the scenes” preparation.

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The main clown was back.  His juggling skills are astounding!

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The trapeze was directly over our heads.  My neck was getting sore!

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These guys are crazy!

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k’s 1st Violin Experience

Only one more day of school, and I can hardly wait.  Summer vacation has taken on a whole new meaning now that I am working at k and n’s school!

Last month k played the violin with her class in a mini-recital.  They had one trimester each of keyboard, voice and violin.  It is nice to see that some sort of music education is still being offered in school.

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k was disappointed that the teacher did not let them use the bow during the performance; they only “plucked”.  Maybe next year!

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Mother’s Day @ Lucille’s BBQ

Before May slips away, I guess better post about Mother’s Day.

As you can see, we ate well!

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We had reservations, which I highly recommend.  It is nice that Costco sells discounted gift cards, too.  D and my dad planned it, but D is terrible at keeping things surprises.  I am so grateful for my mom and to be a mom to k and n!

 

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