Adventure Day

We've been talking for awhile about taking the little girls to the Santa Barbara Zoo via Amtrak. Christmas vacation, while they're both out of school, seemed like the perfect time.

Practicing her harmonica while we wait for the train.

So this morning, Leanne and I jumped on the train in Camarillo
picking up Mary and Leia as we passed through Ventura.
Pop drove alone to Santa Barbara and met us at the Amtrak station so we could continue our adventure.
Lunch on the pier turned into a spaghetti-slurping contest
when both girls initially turned up their noses at both linguini and chicken tenders.

A little ingenuity, a little bribery
and suddenly the noodles on both plates were all gone.

The weather forecast called for rain but the zoo had sunny skies and light breezes.
As always, the giraffes were first on our list. The line was long and slow,

but we eventually made it,
only to have Michael (the only male) turn up his nose
and walk away from the feeding station.
According to the zoo guys, he's "interested" in Audrey

so he followed her around until he got a chance to "test" her by drinking her urine - which we watched. Nothing else happened (that would have been interesting to explain to the littl girls . . .) so I'm guessing the "test" was negative. Life at the zoo is always interesting!
A lot of the animals were either up and swinging around (can you find both apes in the pic below?),
or asleep close to the exhibit windows, both of which the girls loved.
We even got to see the new baby aardvark, fast asleep and clinging to mom's back for all he's worth.
Guess who else fell fast asleep, as soon as we got on the freeway?
Great adventures can be so exhausting.


I Believe in Santa

I believe in Santa - and so do these two. (Thank goodness.)

Santa was on break when we got there - feeding the reindeer (ahem) - but the wait only heightened the girls' excitement. No tears, or fear, from Leanne this year. She gave a squeal of joy when she first saw Santa walking toward her and both girls climbed right up on his lap and started talking. Sure hope they get got what they asked for!


High Style Princess

Although she's only 8, Addy has physically outgrown the offerings of the Disney Store and its affiliates. But . . . she still wants to dress-up like a princess. What's a grandma to do??
  Addy's favorite dress.

Prom dresses to the rescue!
  What I thought would be Addy's fav dress; long, blue and sparkly.

I checked out some local thrift stores and found several dresses that fit the princess theme. 
Something brown.

And shoes - one Cinderella pair (ok, they were clear plastic, but looked like glass); one with high stiletto heels; a pair of sparkly, jeweled sandals. 
 Rachel found this little black dress.

Rachel added some fancy necklaces, and found a princess wardrobe on Craigslist to neatly hold all the treasure. 
And Addy's reaction Christmas morning?
 Twenty's flapper style.

Everything I'd hoped for, and more. So happy my little big princess can still play dress-up.


Oh Yes I Did

I really miss putting kids toys together on Christmas Eve*.

So this year I bought myself a dollhouse. And spent most of Christmas Eve putting it together.
Then watched Leanne's and Leia's eyes light up with joy when they saw it Christmas morning.

Even 13-year-old Naia enjoyed playing with it (I had to sneak this picture when she wasn't looking.)

It was magical. So, I wonder what I should buy myself next year . . .

*Yes, there was occasional swearing, but for the most part it was lots of fun. And oh so worth it on Christmas morning.


Christmas in Pictures

Merry Christmas!

We had a great day - no one was sick or grumpy; there was good food,
great presents, beautiful weather and happy kids.
Even my flowers cooperated and burst into bloom on Christmas Eve.
Queen Elsa ruled the day with dolls, games, costumes, watches and more,

but other gifts were big hits too.

Best of all, 

we were (almost) all together 

as a family,

having fun,

being silly,

making memories,


And that's what makes the very best Christmases.


Helicopter Santa

One of my very favorite Christmas traditions is watching "helicopter Santa" fly his reindeer over town on Christmas Eve.

I bet we've only missed seeing Santa 6 or 7 times in the 32 years Aspen Helicopters has been flying him around.

Of the grandkids, only Leanne got to go with us this year and she was super excited even before Santa came into view.
Once she actually saw him, she could hardly contain herself. So much happiness!
As tradition dictates, once Santa flew over our heads at the outlet mall, we raced over to a local church and waited for him to fly over us again as he swung out toward Santa Paula. Santa's a bit of a speed demon, so I'm glad at least one of my pics of him turned out to be more than a blur.
And with that, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


Holiday Spirit

Last Thursday, after Leia finished reading to Leanne (from the book she picked out for her cousin at the school book faire),
we set up
and decorated our Christmas tree,
complete with princess attire, 
costume changes,
and crossed eye practice. (Leanne is quite proud that she can cross her eyes; apparently she and her mother practice daily. It's their special "look". Leia was bummed that she couldn't perform this daring fete, so Leanne taught her how. Leia's parents will be so pleased.)
Hubby added a hot-air balloon Santa to this year's outdoor decor. It took him two days - and lots of swearing - to get it together. Which is probably the reason Santa resides in a place of honor in our living room, rather than outdoors with the other Christmas lights. 
Personally, I'm wondering how long it will take the cats and the princesses to knock Santa from his perch.
He'd probably be much safer outdoors.