Monday, May 12, 2014

Schooling at Home

Happy New Year!

That's right, it's been THAT long.

It's gotten to the point that my dad is asking if I'm ever going to blog again.

Personally, I blame the company I work for.  Shortly after I started they put a block up on blogger, making it impossible for me to write at lunchtime.  Because I swear, that was the only time of day I would ever post during the workday.  I swear. 

Please disregard the tic in my right eye.

That meant that blogging could only take place during the evenings or my sleepless nights, and I'm happy to say I haven't been having those.  (Sleepless nights, not evenings.)  Evenings are typically taken up with cooking, cleaning up and homework.  By the time Russ and I get to crash on the couch for some Game of Thrones or Silicon Valley, I'm falling asleep and missing everything. 

To blog or not to blog?  *snore*

Another new time taker is that I'm officially a Home school mom.  Yes, I finally (what took me so long??) pulled Charlie out of that horrible situation at school and started him on the home school program.  It took him some time to start recovering from the damage that the bullying caused, but little by little he's coming out of that emotional wreckage and enjoying life a lot more.  I still haven't quite figured out what action I'm going to take in the advancement of anti-bullying, but I know it's going to be more than just the ridiculous repeating of "Always remember to just be nice" by the principal on the loudspeaker every morning.  I don't want to be another one of the adults at that school, claiming I don't tolerate bullying, and then not doing jack squat about it.

I could really continue on with this, but I think I'll save that for another post.

So how am I finding the time now?  Well, we're actually all sitting here at the dining room table as a family, doing home work or helping with homework, etc.  Russ is Noelle's math tutor and I'm letting Charlie work on his science.  Nothing like the Musculoskeletal System to keep someone busy!  The dogs are here, too.  A mutt and a chewed up Husky.  (Again, another post to come.)

One big happy family.  And I love it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Friends & Family 2013

I feel like doing a blog catch up, and I feel like doing it with pictures.

So here's some insight into our lives these last few months.  Enjoy!

In August we celebrated Charlie's 12th with friends, food and video games.  They were happy.



In September we celebrated Noelle's 10th with a swim party at my cousin's house.  My cousin is wonderful -- she even disappeared with her husband for hours so we could have the run of the place.  Not too shabby.


In October Noelle and I escaped for a girls getaway weekend.  We scrapbooked, slept in a little cabin-like room and took walks to see redwood trees and deer.  We loved it so much that we're going back in April!


A few weeks later, Russ and I headed to his home state of Wisconsin to see family, his old digs and most importantly -- the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field!!  That was a dream come true.




Naturally we brought home goodies for the kids.  They weren't too excited.  ;o)


And then of course there's Halloween...


In November I turned 38 and managed to have the 3rd annual birthday celebration with my cousin, who is one year and a few weeks younger than me.  We've been close since we were kids and I love that we still spend time together when we can.  Aren't we cute?



Another favorite gathering that month was meeting up with my best friends since high school and their son for a day at the aquarium.  You'd think I would have taken pictures of the sea life, but instead I got a lot of pictures of the hugs that were happily doled out.  I love this about our little "family."


November is also the month of giving thanks, which as you know we happily did in Monterey on Cannery Row.  The food was pretty good, but the company was better.  After our delicious filling meal we went back to our home town and saw "Catching Fire."  It was a perfect day.


Don't be misled by Russes unhappy face in our picture.  What you can't tell is that he's thrilled to have me next to him, and not in fact grossed out.  I swear.

And now here we are in December and we're NOWHERE on pictures.  My company party took place this last weekend, and after Russ and I got all dolled up, we took zero pics.  Genius.  Our plan for this weekend is take a family photo near a Christmas tree so that I can attempt to get a Christmas card out in the mail before Christmas is actually over.  We also hope to get decorations up and a tree in the house before New Years. 

I know, I set the bar high.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks for the Week Ahead

Thanksgiving is approaching, and there is so much going on in our lives right now!

Currently, even literally as I type this, my wonderful fiancé is packing up his life's belongings to make the final move over to my house full time.  It's been an easy transition, doing a little at a time, but now we're in the final week and it's getting busy.  With a four day weekend approaching, it just made good sense to us to use that time to complete the transition and get him settled in.  Hence, we pick up a big moving truck later this week and will be trekking back and forth from his town to mine.  That part will be exhausting but worth it, and I look forward to having the satisfaction of a job well done.

Of course, this throws a wrench into Turkey day with the family.  My folks were wonderful about it when it finally dawned on me that trying to host the family and cook a big meal right in the middle of this move would have been CUH-RAZY.  I would have lost my mind, and in that scenario nobody wins.  In the end, my folks understood (thanks Mom and Dad!) and are spending the holiday eating out with some friends, instead.

That left us with the dilemma of "what should we eat and where?" when Thursday arrives.  I couldn't see skipping the holiday altogether, but I knew there was no way we'd be cooking anything, either.  So I did a little research and found a few places that are serving meals as usual, or that are doing a fancier buffet.  It didn't take long to lean towards the buffet for multiple reasons.

1. I loved going to the Officers Club on Thanksgiving when I was growing up -- they always had an incredible dinner and dessert buffet that was delicious and totally satisfying.

2. Charlie's not a lover of restaurants, at which you have to do a lot of waiting.  While he has improved and we do eat out a little more often with him, I know that being able to walk in and grab a plate will be appealing to him.  To be honest, it's appealing to me, too -- after moving furniture and boxes most of the day, I'll be famished and ready to EAT.

3. Who wouldn't want to have their Thanksgiving dinner on Cannery Row in Monterey??  Nobody, that's who.

I'll miss our usual turkey dinner with my grandmother's stuffing, but the consolation is that I'll get to enjoy it at Christmas when my brother is flying in from Hawaii and we can all be together again for the first time in a year.  I've missed having him close by after a lifetime of never being more than an hour from him.  I think it will feel like old times, which all of us needs right now.

In case you don't hear from me, have a Happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones!
Blessings,
Merrie

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hunger Games -- Catching Fire GIVEAWAY!

As you may already know, we're fans of The Hunger Games at our house.

I've even blogged about the books and first movie here.

So when I was asked to participate in a Hunger Games: Catching Fire giveaway, it was easy to say YES!

If you're living under a rock and not familiar already with Catching Fire, check out the trailer here:
http://www.thehungergamesexplorer.com/us/epk/catching-fire/videos/catching-fire-final-trailer

I don't know about you, but I'M EXCITED!  We're all planning to be there the weekend it comes out to see more of the beautiful Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdean.

On to the giveaway...



I have one Catching Fire prize pack for you, which includes

- One (1) movie poster
- One (1) official movie T-shirt with Mockingjay logo
- Two (2) wristbands 
- One (1) iPhone cleaner
- One (1) iPhone dot
 



 
 
To enter, leave me a comment with your email address, and if you feel like mentioning why you love the Hunger Games, go right ahead.  One entry per person, please.
 
 --> Contest ends November 20, 2013 at midnight PT. You must include your email address or your entry will not be counted.  Winner will be contacted and have 24 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen.

Good luck!
The giveaway is open only to U.S. and Canada residents, ages 18+.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween and What Not


We're coming up on Halloween, and the new company I'm working for --

 -- what's that?

A job?  Why yes, I do have a job!  Thanks for asking! 

Okay, okay, I haven't exactly been on top of the "big news in my life" category recently.  But can you blame me?  112 followers, and not one word or comment of "congrats!" when I note that I'm actually ENGAGED.  To be married.  In a wedding.  You know, "I Do?" 

Anyway, the other news of late to share is that I have started a fabulous new job at a fabulous new company that is actually closer to my home town than any job I've ever had.  Less commute time makes this girl happy.  I've also discovered that, like the other construction type company I've worked for in the past, they like to enjoy the holidays.  I think it has something to do with being an older company run by a lot of the same people, and sticking to old values and traditions.

One tradition that I'm enjoying is the upcoming Halloween celebration this week.  There is a whole hoopla of events scheduled, and people can participate in multiple ways.  Our group is fantastically doing a fun theme that will include decorations, costumes and even a dance.  That's right!  It's going to be interesting.  I will hold off on sharing additional input for now, but rest assured there will be pictures coming.

The kids have had fun putting costumes together this year.  Charlie was a little unsure of the direction he was going to go until he found a bright green hoodie sweatshirt that goes ever so perfectly with a Minecraft creeper mask that he'd had his eye on.  There was some drama surrounding getting our hands on one after they sold out at our Target, but it didn't take me long to track one down elsewhere.  Mom's are good that way.  Unfortunately his first experience wearing it, to the junior high dance, ended badly when the bullies we've been dealing with were right there at the entrance and couldn't wait to start taking shots at him.  He left immediately and wouldn't go back.  Can you blame him?  Some of these kids have been knocking him to the ground and yet there they are at the dance with no consequence at a social function of any kind.  No, I'm not happy.  Yes, I am taking steps to escalate this above and beyond the principal.  This mama bear has had ENOUGH.

Noelle's costume is a bit more unique -- she has fun finding bits and pieces here and there to come up with something completely different than everyone else, which I totally dig about her.  I always call her my little Carrie Bradshaw.  Her taste in clothes is wild and eclectic, and even when she puts things together that I would never even consider, she pulls it off and looks amazing.  She definitely does not get that from me!

What's everyone else's plans for Halloween?  Are you dressing up?  Do you have a family theme or decoration you love?  Share or link to your blog and I'll check it out!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Life Changing News!

See if you can figure out the news from the picture below.


Still with me?

Yes, I’m getting married!! Russ proposed when we were in Napa, California for our anniversary weekend. It was a sweet moment that happened atop a castle tower on a beautiful day, and I couldn’t be happier about it.



We’re planning a June wedding that is already underway. Originally I was in no hurry, but once I realized that dates next year were going to book up, I suggested we get that part out of the way. It wasn’t hard to find a venue once we did some research, and after just a couple of visits to a lovely winery (one of which included seeing a dear friend get married there), we were decided. I love it when things come together so easily. All the other details will follow over time. We’ll taste cakes and see flowers and shop for dresses here and there. For now, I just want to enjoy this time of celebrating our future. It’s not often one is engaged – at least you hope. I’m finding joy in using the word fiancé and having fun seeing how things unfold for us. Overall, we are so blessed to have found one another, and I’m grateful for that every day.

A happily engaged Merrie

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Little Mermaid -- GIVEAWAY!

Wonderful news for all you Disney fans out there...

"The Little Mermaid" is being released on Diamond Edition Blu-ray 3D, Blu-Ray and Digital formats on October 1, 2013!




""The Little Mermaid" tells the magical tale of the mermaid princess Ariel and her lovable underwater friends, Sebastian and Flounder.  Now, viewers can experience Ariel's adventures like never before with sparkling high definition picture and sound, then explore the making of this modern family classic with all-new bonus treasures."

Some of the bonuses include the "Part of Your World" Music video performed by Carly Rae Jepsen, Disney Intermission (Crab-E-OKE Sing-Along) and an intro to a deleted character, Harold the Merman.  These are all bonuses I know I'll be checking out with my daughter.  There's also a great deal of behind the scenes footage that I'm looking forward to watching.



I personally loved seeing The Little Mermaid back when it was released in theaters in November of 1989.  I was a high school freshman, and I fell in love with all of the characters in the movie.  Well, perhaps not Ursula the Sea Witch, but she was still well respected as a Disney villain!  I can't wait to see the new release in all its glory.



More details can be found at the official website, which includes clips, activities and games.
http://movies.disney.com/the-little-mermaid

Right now, on my website, you can win a copy of THE LITTLE MERMAID Diamond Edition 2-Disc Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack with Digital Copy!


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * G I V E A W A Y * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 To Enter:

Leave a comment on my blog and share with me your favorite character from The Little Mermaid, and be sure to include your email address.

** For an additional entry, follow my blog and leave a 2nd comment verifying that you did.


 --> Contest ends October 1, 2013 at midnight PT. You must include your email address or your entry will not be counted.  Winner will be contacted and have 24 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen.

Good luck!
The giveaway is open only to U.S. and Canada residents, ages 18+.

I received a copy of the movie in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Holman Ranch - Carmel Valley, CA

Last week I was the luckiest blogger I know, and it was all thanks to The Mom Reviews and the fabulous people at Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, CA.
 
We had the opportunity to travel out to their beautiful site and experience a little bit of what they have to offer.

 
 
 
"Holman Ranch: Where the Past is Always Present. Tucked away in the rolling hills of Carmel Valley, historic Holman Ranch provides a unique and memorable setting for weddings, special events, family gatherings, corporate retreats, and team-building events. With its charming gardens, stunning mountain views and serenity, this private estate affords old-world charm while providing modern day conveniences. This impressive property includes a fully restored stone hacienda, overnight guest rooms, vineyards, olive grove, horse stables and a tasting room where guests can sample our wines."
 
When we arrived in Carmel Valley, our first stop was their Holman Ranch Tasting Room.  It was conveniently located near several others right on Carmel Valley Road, making it a lovely place to stop whenever you're in the area.  Inside the beautifully decorated tasting room we met Pete, who was extremely knowledgeable and friendly when it came to talking about their wines -- or anything, for that matter!  He's absolutely the kind of person you want to chat with in a tasting room, especially when you want some insight on the wine your tasting.
 
 
Jen and I differ in our tasting, with her leaning towards whites and me preferring reds, but we're both always intrigued to try new things, and we both advise the other if we think the other is missing out on something great.  I would happily sample wines with her any day of the week!  On this particular day, she stayed on the white side and tried their Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.  She enjoyed both, while I partook of their different Pinot Noirs.  One is called Hunter's Cuvée, and the other is called Heather's Hill.  Both had a delicious flavor and aftertaste, without being either dull or overwhelming.  I don't know if I can say one was better than the other -- I loved them both!  One fun opportunity we had was to try some of their freshly harvested pinot grapes as we drank the pinot noir.  A very nice before and after experience!
 
 
The last wine we tasted was their Rosé of Pinot Noir Blushing Bride.  I don't think I've ever tasted a Rosé from a Pinot grape, and I appreciated the unique taste.  It was also lovely and refreshing on a warm afternoon.  I could imagine myself in a lush garden on a sunshine filled day with a glass of that to relax with. 
 
Once our tasting was through, it was on to the Ranch.  Just a few curves up the road was the entrance, which was easy to locate.  As we climbed up into the Carmel Valley hills, we once again appreciated how blessed we are to live so close to this part of California.  The views were phenomenal on this clear summer day, and will continue to be the majority of the year.
 
 
Getting settled into our room wasn't too difficult.  There aren't a lot of rooms onsite, making it an intimate setting for wedding or event guests.  There are several cabins laid out, with each containing several rooms.  Jen and I found ours and were happy to find very comfortable and spacious accommodations.  The beds were comfortable, the views incredible and I truly appreciated that they had water bottles ready to use and take with you if you wanted to go for a hike. 
 
 
After we were settled, we met up with Nick Elliott, one of the proprietors and coordinators for Holman Ranch.  If you're having any kind of event at Holman, Nick and his wife, Hunter Lowder, are the ones who will be coordinating it.  And you're glad for that, because not only are they experienced in event planning and hospitality, but they're also knowledgeable about the ranch and dearly love it -- you can tell.  Hunter was under the weather, so we didn't get to meet her, but Nick was there and happy to show us their setup.
 
When you first walk into the event area, right in front of you is a large courtyard filled with flowers and greenery, with a barn for dancing on your right, and straight ahead of you, this:
 

If you're at Holman for a big wedding, chances are you'll see chairs set up on the beautiful green lawn, and enjoy the opportunity of watching a wedding take place on that stone veranda that overlooks the valley.  Not too shabby, right?


Once the tour of the outside and inside of the hacienda was complete, we were lucky enough to be served a delicious dinner, compliments of Michael’s Catering in Marina, CA.  Everything was delicious and served beautifully.  Another moment that knocked me out was when Nick offered us a glass of their Holman Chardonnay, which I took with the hope that I would actually like it enough to drink it.  (I'm NEVER a Chardonnay girl.  NEVER.)  And shock of all shocks, I liked it!  It was fruity and crisp and cool -- the perfect combo for a white that I rarely find.  Well done, Holman Winery!
 

After dinner, during which we enjoyed the company of other writers and Nick, Jen and I took advantage of what was left of the sunlight and ventured out to see what else we could see.  Right before we left our room, though, I managed to drop my iPhone on a wooden chest in front of my bed, and it was sadly killed.  Therefore, no more pictures for the rest of the trip.  :(
 
We found the pool and fitness center, which are right next to fields of vineyards that have paths to walk through, etc.  We thought it all looked amazing under the bright full moon, but we decided it wasn't worth running into some curious or wild creatures in the process, so we went back to our room to relax...and check in on our social media pages.  No, I didn't have a phone anymore, but my iPad was fine!
 
The next morning, after a fine night of sleep, we enjoyed some complimentary breakfast in the game room, and then took a quick ride with Nick and the others to get a close up view of their olive grove.  Set high up in the hills above the ranch, they have approximately 100 olive trees that were re-planted for Holman in 2007.  Walking around near them you could actually smell the olives.  We had the opportunity to taste the olive oil they press back at the tasting room, and I can tell you -- it's fantastic! 

 
 
Thank you to Holman Ranch and to Nick for allowing us to enjoy their incredible location and what it has to offer.  The next time I'm working on a corporate event, or who knows, maybe even a wedding, I'm absolutely considering them as a possibility.  They know their stuff, they treat their guests and their vendors well, and they do it all with a smile.  And wine.  What's not to love??


Thursday, August 29, 2013

5th Grade and 7th Grade!

We're nine days in, and I'd say we're doing pretty well! 

Sure, we've had a few hiccups.  Some bad blood between Charlie and a non-friend...some poorly spent money at the book fair by Noelle...and I discovered another mom has me blocked on Facebook for some reason or another.  But beyond that, the kids are loving their schools and Charlie is rocking it as a Junior High kid.  I met his principal this morning and she's wonderful -- seriously, I could hang out with her!  We definitely see eye to eye on Charlie, and hopefully it'll help the year flow well with him knowing she's on his team.  After last year's nightmare principal, this is a gift like no other.

Everyone out there has the cutest pictures of their kids on the first day of school, so I tried to be clever, too.  I decorated our very cool fridge chalkboard (thanks for the inspiration, Kari!) to note the date.  Never mind that I never thought to note the actual date and the grades of the kids.  *sigh*  Still learning!

Now the thing to note before looking at the picture is that Noelle was suffering with a terrible toothache that decided to show itself the day before.  I had hoped that it was just a little "nothing" that would fade away, but by the time she woke up on the first day of school, she was crying from the pain.  Any other day I might have kept her home until we could see the dentist, but it was the FIRST DAY -- what can you do?  So I drugged her up with painkillers and told her to smile for the camera.  This was the best she could muster.


Is that the saddest face you've ever seen?  Yeah, me too.  Thankfully we got her into the dentist right after school, and she was on antibiotics by that evening.  Life continued.

One clever project that I took on in the midst of school starting (like 3 days before) was re-doing Noelle's room.  She had a few too many "kid things" going on in there, like a toy bin and mini-dresser that I had put together for her about 8 or 9 years ago.  Wanting to make it a little more grown up, we went into attack mode and got rid of about half the space-takers in her room.  After that we moved some furniture around, and then I built a desk.  I did have a few hands to help me when dealing with the heavy pieces that require multiple people, but I otherwise built it myself.  Here are the final results, which include a happy girl.

 
 
 
Not a bad deal for an on sale item at Staples.  If she takes care of it, I figure it can last her through at least high school.  So far she's done her homework there nearly every day, which makes the sore muscles I had from all the screw driving totally worth it.
 
This weekend I'll be ditching the children with their kind and loving grandparents for an anniversary getaway with the beau.  We're heading to wine country for tasting and eating and relaxing.  I feel like we've earned it, with an entire year of a great relationship behind us.  Who knows what the future holds, but I suspect it will be a good one.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nine Down, One to Go

I am sad to report that we are winding down the summer and prepping for school to start in five days.  Thankfully, it was a good summer with a lot of action and travel, which we love.  Here are a few pictorial highlights.

MONTANA








YELLOWSTONE
Which for some reason I called "Yosemite" about 893 times.


 
 
COUSIN TIME
Noelle flew (alone!) to Oregon for a visit to her aunt and cousin.  The cousin then drove Noelle all the way to California, where we had a great visit up at my parent's house for our annual berry picking / jam making / river swimming trip. 
 
 
 




Now the backpacks are bought and filled with new binders and paper and pencils.  There's much enthusiasm that it will be a great year for everyone, and we have high hopes for wonderful experiences.

Check back with me in a few weeks to see if any of that has worked out.