Illuminating Stella

Archive of ‘Day Trips’ category

The rest of 2016 and a resolution to post more in 2017

Well 2016 ended on a high-note and we are into 2017 at this point, but I wanted to log in a few photos to document the end of the year. I decided today (the final day of winter break) was my deadline. HA! This Fall Stella started a new preschool, right nearby our home and we are very happy with the change and all love her new school. I especially enjoy being able to walk her to school. She also started Jamboree Soccer which was pretty adorable and took a Hip Hop Class at her dance studio. We had a wonderful Halloween where she was Princess Sofia the First, a beautiful Thanksgiving and a lovely little Christmas/New Year’s break with family and friends. Over the break we were able to take a few fun trips to Temecula Wine Country, the Getty Villa and Disneyland. Promising to blog more in 2017 and stay more up to date.

First Day of School, she said she wants to be a Dance Teacher, love it.



We had beach weather till the end of November.


Jamboree Soccer, such a great time and met some really nice families!






Aquarium visits.



John’s Garden and a nice big pumpkin he grew for Stella. I’ve been so proud of my Urban Farmer Husband and all his hard work with our plot at the Community Gardens. It’s been incredible what he’s been able to grow, it’s so exciting to be eating fruits and vegetables from the garden. I’m including a picture from the end of summer here too. Here it is replanted for late Fall.




Halloween, as you can see we are still way into princesses around here.

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Election Day……..big sigh. Don’t get me started on this nightmare. One day I can tell Stella that she helped me cast my vote for the first female presidential candidate.



First Haircut……..sigh. Our stylist cut like two more inches than we discussed, but Stella loved it, so I guess there you go. All the baby blond ringlets gone in a flash.


Park Days and birthday parties are our favorite.





Somebody still loves a good dress-up play date.




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Thanksgiving was delicious as per usual. It was a great evening and holiday weekend. We also took the girls to see Moana which everyone loved! My cousin and I got in a quick visit with our friend Joe and picked up some pies from Cake Monkey Bakery in LA (also an old friend) that were delectable.

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Welcome to our newest family member…..Benjamin the rescue cat.


School days, miss her so much when I am at work, but she is so happy to go. Stella is still such a gregarious, active girl with a lot of passion for the world and being with other kids.


Hip Hop Dance Class Holiday Show. She had a blast.


Christmas Season. I could really do a whole blog post about Christmas, we did so much. Highlights were the Holiday Lights Tour on the double-decker bus, annual lighting of the floating Christmas Trees in the Lagoon, Belmont Shore Christmas Parade, the Marionette Show in Lakewood, a handmade Pocahontas Costume (thanks Grandma!) and lots of family time. This year one of my favorite memories was having Stella do some chores to earn money to buy Christmas Presents for the family. We went to Daiso (the Japanese $1.50 per item store) and she picked out gifts for everyone. It was very heart-warming to discuss each person and then she would pick out something really thoughtful based on each person’s interests. I want her to be a giver and I think she has the spirit.





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For New Year’s Fun, we went to two parties, first a Hanukkah/NYE Party and then a New Year’s Party where Stella actually stayed up till midnight and even got to enjoy fireworks from a treehouse. She passed out literally the minute we strapped her into her car seat. On New Year’s Day we met up with My Sister and family for a hike/scooter ride at the park. Beautiful California New Years Day!





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Wine Tasting in Temecula. It was mid 70’s and just gorgeous.





Getty Villa followed by lunch at Malibu Seafood. Stella shocked us with some very grown-up behavior and pretty much followed the entire garden tour wearing headphones. The tour guide called her his little mascot and she really was.


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We are ready for a new year!


A Year of Disneyland


In October we finished off a year of passholder trips to Disneyland and California Adventure. We debated renewing and even adding in a pass for John but ultimately decided (after they announced another price hike, especially for parking) to take a break. We had a lot of fun at Disneyland and will undoubtedly be missing our trips to the park in time. Stella thoroughly enjoyed meeting characters and we spent a lot of time doing just that. The Fantasy Fair Princess Meet and Greet was usually the best bet, as you waited in line but got to meet 3 Princesses back to back. I think we hit this spot almost every visit. She was so darn cute and so thrilled, every time. I know someday that kind of magic will be gone and I definitely wanted to soak up every minute.

We loved the parades, which are phenomenal. The new Paint the Night Parade is actually phenomenal plus plus. No words to describe it, I’ll just say watching your three year old take it in, your heart will explode a little bit. There are also lots of great shows in both parks, some favorites were Mickey and Magical Map, Bugs Life, Disney Junior, Aladdin and the Frozen Sing-a-Long and the classic Tiki Room. The evening shows World of Color and Fantasia are incredible. We enjoyed lots of treats, my favorites being the Matterhorn Macaroon, Dole Whip and the Lobster Roll at Harbor Galley. I read a few blogs about Disney Food and tried a handful of the must eats, which was more for fun than an actual real culinary experience. John loved the corn dogs, supposedly the best in the world. So many of the rides are just out of this world too. The parks are clean and beautiful (especially at night under millions of twinkling lights). I definitely enjoyed a few Mom’s Night Out’s and one date night with John at the parks. Being there without a toddler to enjoy some adult beverages, bigger thrill rides and not having to manage a stroller and bundle of attitude was quite a treat. Cathay Circle in California Adventure has the best cocktails and appetizers in such a beautiful atmosphere. The Baby Care Centers are amazing and incredibly thoughtful. We also enjoyed many trips with my Mom friends and Stella most loves the parks holding hands with another kid, dressed in one of her princess dresses. I hesitated letting her do that till the end of our year and kind of regret that. I thought it would slow us down, create issues getting on rides and the dress would get too thrashed (which did sort of happen). But Disney seems to kick it up a notch when your kid is dressed in costume, every where we went the “castmembers” would make a special fuss about her, which was very fun. I will also miss the holiday spirit, we got to enjoy Halloween before our pass ran out, but Christmastime at the parks is pretty great, lots of special decorations and a parade with Santa.

Things I won’t miss would be the crowds, most days there are super long lines for EVERYTHING and just walking with a stroller feels like an advanced level game of Frogger. The parking costs and big schlep in and out of the park were grueling, not to mention the occasional toddler tantrum that meant doing that long trip back to the car with a screaming kid. When I parked in Downtown Disney I tried to think of it as cardio, but sometimes by the time we got thru the front gate, after going thru security and then ticketing I had a splitting headache. I will not miss trying to corral Stella to stand in line instead of climb everywhere and touch everything in sight. I will not miss dirty looks from the people standing in front and behind us in line.  I will not miss sweating through all of that under the hot sun. I will also not miss some of the Disney super fans, especially the adults without kids (who often openly loathe kids). I have to say watching an extremely gracious Cinderella chat it up in full character for a photo op with adults just never sat right with me. Perhaps I am a grinch, but what’s going on there??? That said, those Character players are some of the most talented people, so generous and happy to make it special for each and every guest. Alrighty then, now I’ll Iphoto dump some of the best moments to balance out some of that negativity above. LOL.

This is her face watching the Paint the Night Parade, really says it all. BTW, no filter on this photo, I swear.


Riding the monorail in the front car for the first time.


Meeting Daisy Duck, she tried to copy Daisy, like it was a normal greeting. It was pretty cute.


Meeting Anna and Elsa. She was all about Anna at the time and ran in for a huge hug.


Meeting Mary Poppins and Bert. The day after we watched the movie. She was awe struck.


Meeting “Allyson Wonderland” and the Mad Hatter. She was dressed as Cinderalla and they congratulated her for not losing her shoes that day. She was totally confused, I was laughing.


Princess meet and greet with Belle. Loved the way she posed here, melts my heart.


We stopped for lunch one day in New Orleans Square, this jazz band was performing and Stella just marched up to the band and started dancing. The singer started talking and singing to Stella and just basically incorporated her into the entire number. Kept calling her “my friend Jessie the Cowgirl”. Stella of course just acted totally natural as if she’s in the band. The video is priceless.


Sleeping Beauty, the inspiration for her Halloween Costume. I think it’s really all about the pink dress because she has yet to watch the movie past the arrival of Maleficent.

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The couple times John joined us were just great. I loved watching them on the rides.


Meeting Olaf, they had a whole love fest. This was our last trip to the park and by then Stella was a total pro at the meet and greet thing. One day she might just have to get a job at Disneyland!


Dancing in the street in Carsland. Guess who is always ready for a dance party?


My pretty Princess at Minnie’s house.


So many ride ussies that we texted to John. It really was a fun year, I’ll always be grateful for!


Pretend City Children’s Museum

I took Stella to Pretend City in Irvine recently and she had the best time. We met up with some friends and just let the girls explore the whole place. The concept is basically a full city of kid size places to visit. There is a Marina, Beach, Post Office, Grocery Store, Diner, Dentist Office, Doctor’s Office, a Farm, Construction Zone, Two-Bedroom home, Art Studio, Gas Station, Theater and more and more. Each station offered suitable activities, costumes and props to play with. It’s just a perfect place for a toddler, they can touch everything. There is also room for growth for future visits as the concepts start to click for your child. It’s really well done, organized and clean. We only stopped for a few minutes to enjoy a packed lunch and Stella was right back at it. She did not want to leave. This place is definitely going to warrant a return visit soon, we may even have to consider a membership. They also offer free health and developmental screenings on certain days which is really cool. My only snicker was for the red BMW convertible for the kids to “drive”. I guess in Irvine they start marketing to the very, very young to desire that requisite Beemer! LOL.  Sorry for the blurry iPhone photos.


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