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.


Can you see the castle on the hill?


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.


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


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!


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


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



Our tour guide was an amazing fount of knowledge.



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



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





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”.




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.


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.


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


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


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.

Father's Day

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.

Father's Day

We also poked around the rooftop garden area.

Father's Day

Father's Day

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!

#circusvargas #ocgreatpark

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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.


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


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

#circusvargas #ocgreatpark

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

#circusvargas #ocgreatpark

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

#circusvargas #ocgreatpark

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#circusvargas #ocgreatpark

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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.



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!


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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Fullerton Arboretum & Mr. Katsu

Last month n’s Cub Scout den had a field to Fullerton Arboretum on the Cal State Fullerton campus.



We split up into two groups and went on a tour led by volunteers.









There were turtles and a koi fish in the pond.


Afterwards we stopped by Mr. Katsu, which is just down the street.  Love that cute mustachioed cat character!


The restaurant is quite small.  We placed our order to go.


We shared an original pork tonkatsu sandwich (and brought some home for D).  This was SO good!  n said it was the best sandwich ever, which is high praise from someone who usually does not care too much about food.  We will have to return to try the potato puffs.


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