Monday, January 13, 2014

Family vacation: Road trip from Southern California to Portland with kids

It took us quite a few years to make this trip happen. Considering the long hours on the road and traveling with two small kids make it a bit more challenging. Hubee and I have wanted to visit Oregon before winter to witness the glory of its fall foliage and of course the beauty of nature outside sunny California.

Just looking at our itinerary a day before the trip looked excruciating enough. Twenty-eight hours at least on the road is not a joke so I packed all the stuffs that our toddlers would be needing inside the van to prevent or at least minimize boredom that might lead to the dreaded tantrums. Fully-charged iPads, coloring books, DVDs, snacks, you name it we got it. It wasn't bad though for more than a day of road trip, we had a number of stop overs. We stop, take some few walks, breathe fresh air, and shoot pictures. The girls loved it as much as we did. The sceneries were simply breathtaking! I suddenly remembered our trip to New Zealand four years ago. Now thinking it's been a while maybe a plan to visit middle-earth again wouldn't be such a bad idea. Going back, I don't regret traveling by road for more than a thousand miles away from home for it was truly worth it.

Our first stop was at  Redwood National Park. I thought I've seen the tallest trees in Yosemite until we came upon Crescent City. Being in this forest had a slight creepy feel that a bunch of giants do live in this place. The trees are enormous and as old as time can tell. The girls stayed in the van too tired to go out and too overwhelmed to get in touch with nature. "Mommy, why are these trees so big? They don't look real anymore." Indeed they do.

We braved the drive-through Chandelier Tree which is about 2,400 years old. It's amazing how these trees survived time and witnessed the real life stories of people who have lived thousands of years ago. If I have the power to make the trees talk, I would be living half of the year in that forest just to listen to their stories without reading history books.

We left Orange County right after dinner and arrived Portland just in time for supper.  The weather was absolutely fantastic. They know we're coming so it did not rain at all! 3 nights and 4 days wasn't really enough but it was a good vacation to experience a bit of Portland.

The people were really nice. It was more like a laid back type of lifestyle and all you can see pretty much is nature. And as what we expected, golden leaves were everywhere! The girls were so thrilled to play with the maple leaves on the ground. We thought we were a bit late because some of the trees have fallen off their leaves on the ground.

The style of the houses were different from the kind of houses we have in Southern California. Most of the roofs were pointed and the garage is not attached to the main house. I have to say that I would keep on coming back to Portland for nature exploration. Who knows when the kids have grown up maybe the option of living in Portland is open.  Did I say Oregon is free of tax too? =)

On our first day we went to see the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge. Locals and tourists were everywhere but not nearly as full as what the visitor information staff claims during summer. It was in the middle of October when we came so the season was about to go low.

The Japanese Garden was amazing! The red and golden leaves together in one garden is just so fascinating. Skip the Rose Garden in early autumn or you will be disappointed. The roses are not in for the season so go straight to where the action is.

From the parking lot we had to ride the free shuttle bus all the way up to the Japanese Garden. We wanted to walk but we have kids and we did not bring the stroller with us so we took the easiest way up.

The next day we took the kids to Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, something the kids would enjoy more. They had fun exploring inventions and those colorful springs that pump water whatever they call it. The best part I love was the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition where everyone was invited to solve a mystery. Half the day we spent at Woodburn Premium Outlet. Ok, don't get me wrong but coming from California, tax-free on everything is something that we don't normally experience everyday or at all.

On our last day in Portland we went to The Grotto. We met a fellow Filipino who happened to be the parish priest. He was so warm, hospitable, and speaks fluent Italian. Outside the church was quite a big field with a center stage and some bench. They were beginning to put the Christmas lights and wreaths around the garden in an early preparation for the holiday season. Just few steps away from the stage is the elevator that took us up to the grotto. There we saw the monastery perfectly stood in the quiet and serene forest where the sound of the birds and the flowing stream are music to the ears.

We stayed at our favorite hotel Residence Inn for more comfort. Two bedroom suite with a day bed is big enough for everyone in this trip. On our way back home we took the I-5 and dwell on the road for about 18 hours. We just made our route back home shorter that going up. Portland is such a nice place with friendly faces. I am happy we finally made this trip happen and most of all with the people whom we share our common interests: Food, Travel, and Nature. =)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Product review: Sassy Grow Up Cup

My eldest daughter is turning 5 in a couple of months and my youngest will be 3. Kids just grow up so fast sometimes I am amazed that we are able to keep up with their growing years despite of how ruggedly busy this world is.

Three weeks ago, my kids were using Tommee Tippee and Nuke tumbler cups but now I switched them to Sassy Grow Up Cup thinking that it's time for my little girls to graduate from sippy cups and get used to real drinking glass. I have no problem with sippy cups really (hello, I'm a lover of sippy cups). It's just that I think maybe it's time for them to drink milk from the glass before leaving the house and going to bed at night. Just the idea of no more sippy cups to clean in the sink along with the dishes is another piece of heaven any parent wishes to graduate.

So, I tried (many times!) giving them the milk in a glass but they would  just not take it. I still wanted them to drink milk and it is a problem to me especially with my youngest who is presently going through potty training. In short, too much stress is not good either. Amazingly, there's an answer to everything (thank heavens!)

Presenting, the Sassy Grow Up Cup. Tadaaa! Yes, it is spoutless! And they can actually drink anywhere around the rim. I had a flashback then that Philips AVENT Natural Drinking Cup had the very similar cup couple of years ago (and they still do) because I had my youngest used them when she was less than a year old but for some reasons she didn't take it so we switched her to Tommee Tippee. 

It is easy to open and close the lid. You just have to hold the middle handle and twist. I observed my girls carefully when they drink their milk lying down. So far so good. These cups don't leak when being used however we discovered the issue of leaking when the cups are turned upside down. The reason is when the soft lid is being pushed or lightly pressed the liquid comes out. That's the mechanism of this cup. So always check if the cups are in the right position.

I find them easy to clean too just separate the soft lid from the hard one to evenly clean the milk residue. Sometimes I use toothpick to remove the stubborn milk residue around the rim. It is easier to clean them under running water.

I use my favorite Sassy No Scratch Bottle Brush to clean the cup.

Sassy Grow Up Cups are available in different colors and comes in pack of two. I bought mine at ToysRUs and they are also available at Amazon. From a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 9. It's not insulated which makes it a negative factor for me, but heck this one has no spout so I'm happy my kids were like drinking from a cup while putting themselves to sleep at night. :) 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Comic-Con International 2013 (with kids!)

My husband waited for years to attend the Comic-Con event (and his influential reasoning just got a space in my head as well). Badges are always sold out whenever we try to check the site but luckily this year has been good to us. A resale of badges happened and that's how we got in. Children under the age of 13 are free so I thought maybe pop culture enthusiasts like us who do not have a choice to leave their toddlers at home wouldn't be such a bad idea to bring them along. Since traveling with kids in all sorts of form has made us somewhat professional in planning ahead and what to expect, we brought the slimmest double stroller we have (Kinderwagon's Hop) and an umbrella stroller since we have three young kids who think they're old enough to read comic books.

The night before our adventure, the husband is already checking out status of parking lots. We needed to be there early to fall in line with the rest of the attendees and pick up the badges.  We were told that that's how it works. We left early like two hours before the said time we needed to be there. I used the parking app I have in my smartphone (Best Parking). I highly recommend it - it really works! When we reached the surrounding area and finally spotted a parking space the fee was a whopping flat rate of $30! And the best is yet to come. We can already see the line just few blocks away to the convention center. It was ridiculously long! They were not kidding when they said "come early." 

I was extremely impressed though when the line started to move. The organizers were fast and helpful we reached the hall in about 15 minutes. Of course they've been doing this for years so they know what to expect but I wasn't expecting to encounter people who literally breaks the line. There was this guy who casually talked while merging into our line. I didn't pay much attention to what he said I thought he was with the person in front of me but it turned out he came out of nowhere and suddenly became part of our line. I told my husband about it and told me to let it go. The last thing we wanted to happen is to become part of the problem made by someone else. And he was right. We have small kids! When we reached the security, the man who broke the line was not permitted to enter. Apparently, one of the staffs saw his pocket knife shining from his pocket. Told myself "Ha! Karma has its own way of walking to its target."

There were plenty of security staffs in every corner of the hall to guide all the attendees especially those with strollers and in wheelchairs. 

The line to get the badges was extremely fast.  There were also gazillions of operators (I am not sure what to call them) who release the badges to keep the line moving. The badges they gave me for the kids have my name and contact number in it. Our badges (my husband's and mine) will be used to purchase badges for next year's comic-con event. We are now part of the annual event wherein we get the chance to purchase the badges ahead of time. There goes the reason why it's always sold out!

The schedule was posted in the website prior to the event: who's coming and what time is the signing. They do not allow their artists/actors to have their pictures taken with you unless you buy a merchandise from their booth then you have the opportunity to have it signed as well. The San Diego Convention Center is really huge but not as big as the Comic-Con event. The organizers were right. They needed a bigger venue because the exhibit halls to some of the biggest shows on TV were already outside the convention center.  

There were a handful of activities and freebies for smaller kids like ours but it's really hard to go around with toddlers in strollers. People walk from left to right and the movement is unpredictable. Most of the people will halt in the hallway to admire the booths, get some freebies, confused where to go first, so imagine those who simply walk along the hallway. 

Restrooms were not a problem. There were plenty of them in every corner. Food was just fine. Food stalls available sell hotdogs, salads, sandwiches, fries, and other junk foods you can think of. There were some tables to sit on too but it's more on eat, drink, and then go. It's fast-paced really.

It was fun! We enjoyed it somehow. Not bad for the first-time attendees. We look forward to next year's Comic-Con but this time we plan to go there without kids and enjoy the rest of the day for ourselves. We stayed there for barely 4 hours (Boo!) Well let's see, the girls got tired, I changed diaper twice, and the girls wanted to go home. I knew it wasn't the kind of playful activity the girls were expecting so I didn't really feel bad. We are open to stay in a nearby hotel for convenience or since we're coming from the north, we can take the train instead bound to San Diego to save us time, gas, and goodness gracious parking rates! :)   

Sunday, May 12, 2013


CHEERS to all you gorgeous moms and moms-to-be. Motherhood is just one of nature's best gift to women. Seize the day!