Wrapping Up California

The eve of Thing 1's birthday has arrived and with it I feel an aching need to tidy things up here on the blog and prepare for February.  I have a few random photos and thoughts I'd like to share from our California trip.  You are free to exit this page now if you're not interested.  If you are, or if your family, by all means keep reading.  

My "little" brother and his lovely wife, Corynn.

We visited Stone Brewery on one of our days in California and spent the afternoon taking in the gorgeous scenery, enjoying their craft brew and even taking a tour of the brewery.  Lest I forget, we also dined, under the pergola, on some fine food.  It was an adult afternoon so their littles were home with my bigs having way too much fun! We joined them for dinner at home, s'mores and games around the table.  It was a good day. 

Stuck - Hansons

One of about ten attempts to take a decent selfie of the two of us, 
I love my brother.

My two cousins, who are newly of age had never before been on a brewery tour.  Husband Jared insisted we tour together and I do think the boys enjoyed their educational field trip.  

Can you even stand this?  I can't.  Thing 4 entertained those girlies with his piano playing and his funny faces.  Those smiles are priceless.  

Thing 1 and this girlie had bubble time.  If only I would have captured her squeals.  Every single time that Thing 1 would put the wand to her mouth Olivia would start clapping and laughing.  A good belly laugh.  

Then we moved onto S'mores.  Or just graham crackers for Olivia.  
I jumped at any opportunity to snuggle with her. 

Gianna was mesmerized by the fire, and maybe the marshmallows! 

Thing 3 and Aunt Tree might had some fun too! 

There are so many pictures to share and even more memories, these were highlights, and with that I'd like to say thank you to these two for making the trip possible. I'm not sure how they feel about this picture but it was taken while we were all gathered around the fire pit, making s'mores and laughing and I do believe it says so much about them both.  By the way, totally digging the headband Nani!  

Poppi and Nani.  

One more post from 2014 regarding a few traditions and such and then on with 2015.  
Wowsa!  Stay tuned.  

New Year's Day 2015

New Year's Day is definitely deserving of it's own post.  For one, it is my Mom's birthday and the fact that we were all there to celebrate together was a gift for us all.  Secondly, it's the beginning of a new year.  Enough said.  

2015 began with a slow, lazy morning.  Nani sat with her coffee and read, Husband Jared and I piddled around the kitchen preparing breakfast, the parade was on and then proper football, Things and littles slowly woke.  One by one they found Nani and wished her a happy birthday and Gianna proceeded to bring her presents for her to open, or rather for Gianna to open for her.  Either way, Nani did not mind.  Shortly after presents and coffee cake, per family tradition, the Strands arrived for biscuits and gravy and more fun with the cousins.  The kiddos picked kumquats in the backyard, played games, explored the ice puddles and even went box sledding down the mini hill.  Could you ask for anything more? I think not.  It was a morning full of memories and so much sweetness my heart could have burst.

Nani and Gianna

Notice Nani's surprised face as Gianna opened her present for her!  Priceless.

Emme and Colin picking fruit

Duck-duck - goose, we explained to the family the phenomenon of living in MN where the game is called, duck, duck, grey duck.  I think?  

Tight rope walking, or maybe just follow the leader!

Gracie was very excited!  

Emme preparing to sled and Colin waiting his turn in the background.

The fun did not end there, more extended family and friends were arrving in the afternoon to celebrate the birthday girl and watch American football.  The Things set up holey board and corn hole once again, there were props for silly photos and lots of  family fun and food of course.  Thing 3 made special espresso cupcakes for Nani and we sang happy birthday and ended our last night together packing and feasting on In N Out.  All of us not wanting to mention the inevitable trip to the airport the next afternoon.  I'd say we rang in the New Year in the very best way, together!  

Nani with Margaret and Karen, friends since high school.

Husband Jared and I attempting to use the photo props and then a cutie photo bomber snuck up on us!

This one of my Uncle Joe may be my favorite, I don't think I have too many photos of him and the fact that he is holding a mustache makes it even better. 

If a picture ever had the ability to sum up a family this one does without a doubt.  No need for more words here. 

Framma with the Things.

Grandpa Sam and Grandma Sharon and Things.  
Apparently we are capable of taking a few normal photographs as well.  

New Year's Eve

On to the last of the adventures from Cal and in typical fashion, photos and short blurbs about our activities, the people in said photos, etc.  New Year's Eve we met the Strand family at Grandpa Royce and Grandma Lavonne's.  Royce and Lavonne instantly adopted us all when Ron and Mema were married many years ago.  They have been prayer warriors on our behalf and huge supporters of our family from day one.  It had been a few years since we've been able to spend time with them and as always they lovingly welcomed us and our last minute visit.  We caught up, hugged kiddos, ate lunch and Lavonne's famous chocolate cake.  Our time with them was so sweet. 
Thing 2 and Gracie reading and making up stories.

 The Things with Royce and Lavonne.

The Strand kiddos with Royce and Lavonne.
After being fueled by lunch we were all in need of some sunshine so we ran over to the park and played and ran and wrestled and jumped off the swings.  Then they did it all again.  The littles pulling their big cousins all over that playground. 

Thing 1 and Colin building in the sand.

Thing 2 and Gracie, love those smiles.
Thing 3 and Emme, no jumping off the swing here. 

The biggest kid of them all, Uncle Aaron.  Those lines in the sand you see were drawn by him.  Immediately after drawing said lines he challenged Thing 4 to a jumping contest.  Or maybe the other way around.  Whatever it was, we were all entertained. 

Thing 4 being launched by Uncle Aaron, I see a pattern here. 
We couldn't bare to say goodbye just yet to the Strands, so we invited them for biscuits and gravy New Years day.   This way we only had to say "see you tomorrow".  From there it was home to prep for family Bunco night at Poppi and Nani's house.  Poppi and Thing 4 made their famous white chocolate pretzel bark, we ate snacks gathered in the kitchen and then decided on dinner, sushi of course, we set the tables for the big game, instructions were given to the kiddos and the fun began, and it didn't stop until midnight.  Yes, we all made it to watch the ball drop, give our kisses, be the first ones to wish Nani a happy birthday and pop the poppers!  Yeah us!

Poppi and Thing 4 with the finished product.
Family photo, pre Bunco, notice how nice we are being to each other, let's just say that didn't last once the first dice were rolled.  We're all a tad competitive.  There may have been trash talking and loud whoops and hollers.  Maybe.
Preparing for the evening ahead.
These two won "most losses" for the Bunco night!  Losers, winners, whatever you call them they sure are cute!
 Poppi and Gianna trying desperately to hang on until midnight.  This little girl was the good luck charm for the night, helping out at each table and bringing wins wherever she went.
The other side of the room waiting for the New Year and Nani's birthday to begin.
Yay, Happy New Year!  Those blurs you see are the remnants from one of about a hundred poppers that were exploded in the living room that night.  We are nothing if not crazy fun, oh and dedicated to capturing just the right photograph, confetti flying, girls jumping.  You know the one!  Just imagine it here. 
At approximately 12:02 am we were all snuggled in bed and fast asleep, pleased with ourselves for staying awake into the wee hours of the morning.  Ha! 

Beach Days

This might be another post strictly for family and the preservation of our memories.  We had two beach days while in California.  The first was a field trip to Oceanside, a beach the Things had never visited before.  We walked the dock, saw a paddle boarder, watched the fishermen pull up a sand shark, saw a blanket of beautiful flowers floating in the sea and met a rather forward pelican.  

Mr. Pelican

The pier

Sand shark being reeled in.

The Things were laughing at me because this was about as close as I would get to featured pelican, the sign said he wasn't nice.  For the record, it felt as though I was a lot closer than it appears.

For nostalgia's sake I made Husband Jared drive slowly past this house that was featured in the movie Top Gun.  

Poppi, Nani and the Things, aren't they cute?

The Hanson Six.

We walked the blocks around the beach, had some interesting fodder for people watching and then decided this was not our scene and we drove over to San Clemente.  Fishermen's Wharf was calling the Things' names and it was the perfect place to watch the sunset and hear the waves crash.  We were seated for dinner and then a few of the Things and Poppi went to chase the sunset.  

San Clemente Pier.

Love, love, love this shot.

Poppi and Thing 2, just look at those smiles and the light.

Going, going, gone.  

They ran back to our table just in time for food.  We laughed and talked and watched the stars appear and then we walked around and had ice cream of course.  Two beaches, blue skies, a scripted sunset, tasty seafood, walking and shopping and for the finale, ice cream.  
The perfect ending to an already amazing day.  

A Thirteenth Birthday Party in Pictures

A thirteenth birthday celebration for this sweet boy, no not the bald guy, began with an early morning Boxing Day match of our Manchester United.  We were ready with our gear and a proper English breakfast.  Thankfully the Red Devils did not disappoint and another win went in the books for the birthday boy.
The boy was then whisked away to a surprise with his cousins, boys only.  Poppi arranged for an afternoon of go karting and Thing 4 couldn't have been more excited.  All of his grown up cousins, with the exception of one, were there to spend the afternoon racing around the track.  Not to mention Uncle J and Uncle Tony, and of course Husband Jared too.  From what I heard it was an afternoon to remember. 
Tucker, Cameron and Thing 4.

The go Karting gang.  From left to right, Tucker, Uncle J, Husband Jared, Thing 4, Cameron, Uncle Tony, Tristin and front and center, the one and only Poppi.

Birthday boy, ready to race!
After they were done at the track we had an early dinner of pizza and more fun and games at Poppi and Nani's house. 
The fam bam- eating birthday pizza.

Holey board and corn hole tournaments in the back yard, all day and into the night.

Then it was time to blow out the candles, everyone gathered round and watched the boy make a wish.  I do believe he felt rather special, as you can tell from his grin.  Lots of family spent the day celebrating Thing 4 with us.

These lovely grandmothers, Framma on the left and Grandma Sharon on the right.

Thing 3 and her godmother, Aunt Tree!

Thing 4 and her godmother, Aunt Robin.

Poppi and Thing 4, the only grandson.

Thing 4 and cousin Gianna.

Thing 2 and her godfather, Uncle Tony.  Wrapped up and cozy around the fire.
The party didn't end there, well it did but only for the night.  We couldn't forgo tradition and not have a birthday dinner for Thing 4 so a few nights later he chose the menu and the cake and we partied again. Fried chicken, onion strings, homemade mac and cheese, soft batch chocolate chip cookies and sunny delight were the birthday boy's choices.  We obliged.  And then we ate homemade strawberry cake and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.  A meal for champions.  After our feast there was a competitive game of Wits and Wagers where we all laughed too hard. 

Wits and Wagers

This is how Thing 1 cuts onions.  Her job in the making of the birthday meal.  She makes the best onion strings.

Birthday dinner for Thing 4. 
The birthday festivities came to a close and Thing 4 promptly started planning next year's party.