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The past year has been the biggest, most important of my life.  In November of 2012, Marco and I found out we were expecting a baby.  We had been working with a doctor for a few months, and on October 29th, we had some help.  Anyone who has questioned their own fertility knows how difficult those doctor’s visits can be, and they said I had a 5-20% chance of getting pregnant.  My age was a big factor, because I was already 35.  Anyway, I was nauseous all day on November 12th, and I finally tested on November 16th.  Positive!!  I laid out the test and a special Darth/Godfather onesie I had purchased to surprise Marco.  Our adventure had begun!

I’m not sure what worked for us.  Maybe it was acupuncture, or modern science, timing, or a wonderful trip to New York in September that did it, or maybe a combination of all of those things.  No doubt we owe a great deal of gratitude to the Kaiser Garden Grove Infertility Department, and to Profound Youth Acupuncture in Corona, but the New York trip really helped us relax and forget about trying to have a baby for a little while.

Times Square  Empire State Building  The best dinner!

These photos really tell the story.  We had the time of our lives!  We may have spent a little too much money, but it didn’t matter.  We saw the sights, and we were able to have dinner with our friends at the famous Momofuku Ssäm Bar.  We called it “pork and cocktails,” and it was one of the best dinners we have ever had.

At 6 weeks, we went for an ultrasound, and there it was!  A tiny heartbeat in the middle of a grainy peanut on the black and white screen.  Only one, thank goodness, because the doctor said we could have had four.  Four!  Maybe we could have had our own TV show??  Marco instantly said he was “going public,” and started posting on Facebook.  He was one happy father-to-be.

6 Weeks

And thus began our “Babymoon.”  We headed to New Orleans for a work conference for me in December, and Marco spent the three days wandering the French Quarter and taking photos.  He even got to attend a Saints game while I was in a workshop.  Our evenings were delightful there, and we will definitely be going back.  Perhaps the most wonderful thing about NOLA is that there are people playing brass instruments on street corners, at all hours of the day.  Brass!  Not just a guitar or drums, but brass!

The art and colors of the city are just beautiful, also.  Here are a couple of photos Marco took on his walks:

NOLA joy NOLA bikes

But if you are traveling to NOLA, the best thing, really the BEST thing, is the food.  The art, music and spirit of the city are all combined in the food.  We had some great meals, like gumbo and jambalaya, but the most delicious were the oysters that were grilled with a butter, garlic, and parmesan crust.  To die for.

One of the things I decided during my pregnancy was that I would enjoy it.  I was lucky, and I only experienced a few days of nausea, and my main complaints were increased sensitivity to smells (taking out the garbage really turned my stomach) and I couldn’t stand the taste of chicken.  I had no strange cravings…just a lot of ground beef!  I followed Princess Kate and Kim Kardashian…both got pregnant about a week before me.  I felt so bad for Kate…so sick and uncomfortable!  And Kim gained so much weight…made me feel good about myself!

In April, we found out we were expecting a boy.  In that instant, everything changed.  Marco, teary-eyed and excited, couldn’t wait to announce it.  I was more reserved.  I was happy, but I had just spent a few days holding two  baby girls, and getting a little attached to them.  It was time to adjust my expectations, and start getting excited about holding a little boy!  From the ultrasound, it looked like he had his dad’s nose and hands.


We started doing pictures of my belly, but I was reluctant to do the bare-belly pics at first.

This was a photo shoot with Marco at 22 weeks:

22 Weeks

At 26 weeks, I took 3rd place in a pool tournament at a friend’s birthday party (I had a bye, and two of my opponents scratched on the 8 ball…I am not a good pool shark!):

26 Weeks

This is another friend’s birthday party at 27 weeks.  That’s a special, sparkly, non-alcoholic drink they found for the pregnant girl:

27 Weeks

Here’s a shot from another photo shoot with Marco at 27 weeks, at the Great Park in Irvine:

27 Weeks Photo Shoot

At 28 weeks, we traveled to Montana for my cousin’s wedding.  It was beautiful, and we had a wonderful time!

28 WeeksMontana 28 weeks Montana wedding

I wore my regular clothes as long as I could, but eventually the belly forced its way out.  At 30 weeks, Marco took this:

30 Weeks

At 33 weeks, I had my first of 3 baby showers:

33 Weeks

And at 34 weeks, we had another photo shoot (yes, that is a broken cement deer in our front yard):

34 Weeks

At 36 weeks, we went to Disneyland to celebrate my birthday.  We stuck to slow rides and the Tiki Room, but it was very fun!  Here’s a video Marco took as I ate the ice cream he bought me: 

Remembering a Summer Road Trip

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As the summer ends, I find myself seeking out the heat.  There’s something so familiar and nostalgic about September heat in California.  It’s not humid and sticky like Savannah, or oppressive like Laughlin.  It’s a dry, blazing heat in the afternoon that cools off in the evening.  It’s  beaches and driving with the windows down and midnight bonfires.  It’s Bon Jovi and Tim McGraw and stolen kisses.

Summer is a time for vacations, and I’m reminded of some of the best times with family and friends.  In 2003 (the year I met Marco), my best friend Amy and I took a road trip from LA to Savannah.  We set out in my Ford Taurus with only three known goals: 1. visit Roswell, NM; 2. get to New Orleans in time for our hotel reservation; 3. make it to Savannah to stay with my aunt and uncle.  I recommend a trip like this to anyone who has the time to do it!

We made it to the Grand Canyon on the first day.  Amy is a camper, and I am not, but I agreed to camp to save money.  It turned out to be awesome!  We stayed two nights in a tent near the rim of the Grand Canyon.  We did not have a flashlight, so once our campfire was out, we couldn’t see anything.  Except for the millions of beautiful stars between the pine trees.  Yeah, there’s a reason there aren’t any lampposts.  While we were there, we attended an evening nature talk, and we did a sunrise photo walk with a guide.

We headed out toward Roswell, but the car’s transmission did something strange in Winslow, AZ.  We ended up waiting outside of a car repair shop for a few hours.  Amy was not pleased with me.  She was right…I should have had the car checked before we left.

The best thing about Winslow is the souvenirs everywhere that say “standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.”  Here’s the famous corner:

We finally made it to Roswell.  Oh my gosh…go to Roswell.  No, really, GO.  It is another world.  Everyone, and I mean everyone we talked to, told us a story of their personal experience being abducted by aliens.  Many of them moved to Roswell because of their experiences, but many of them were raised in Roswell.  We went through the museum, and Amy was getting pretty convinced that aliens had landed, but I was still skeptical.  I mean, something landed, but why couldn’t it be something from this world?  A crazy science experiment sounds more plausible to me than aliens.

Our next stop was Dallas.  We found a campground just outside of town and as we were getting things moved into the tent, I spotted my first firefly.  I had never seen them before, and they are truly wondrous creatures.  Amy and I decided to follow it, and we soon saw many of them around the campground.  They blinked on and off, leading us through a field toward a stream.  I am not a religious person, but I think I’m spiritual, and there are times when the “spiritual force,” or God, seems to give us glimpses of magic in the world.  If we are able to stop and appreciate these magical moments, our hearts are filled.  I know what you’re thinking…I don’t believe in aliens, but I believe in the force.

Until next time…

may the Force be with you…

LA Hipster Day

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Last Sunday was another LA day for us, but we weren’t just stopping on our way through town.  Sunday was normal at our house, with Marco editing photos and me working in the yard.  Then he suggested a drive to Los Angeles and visiting places we’ve never been.  Our first stop was the Brewery Arts Complex.  It’s downtown on Main Street, and it’s a live/work complex for artists.  Some studios are open to the public, but most of them are private residences.  Since we were there on Sunday, most were closed.  But it’s worth walking around anyway!  The area is a collection of old industrial buildings, including the old Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery, Paradox Iron, and the Edison building.

I loved the Paradox Iron building because it’s so rusted…it fits its name.

We thought the old buildings were so cool!  We had to pose.

The complex has been refurbished by the artists who live and work there.    There is a small park in the middle, with decor fashioned from old parts of machines.  I am amazed at how artists can take everyday objects and turn them into things of beauty.

It was very nice to walk around and see how the artists have turned a barren, forgotten space into individual homes.  The majority of them have brilliant gardens and gates serving as their entrances.

After our look around the Brewery, we stopped at the nearby San Antonio Winery.  We picked up a bottle of their Cardinale for my mom…it’s a very sweet red made from Concord grapes.  We found out that the winery’s grapes come from Napa, Monterey, and Paso Robles (my hometown).  They recently opened a new tasting room in Paso, too.

After looking around their tasting room, we made our way through downtown, and we noticed some very cool bridges.  We had to stop and take some photos.

From downtown, we headed to Silverlake.  We  love the little shops in this area, and one of Marco’s favorite Mexican seafood restaurants, 7 Mares, is there on Sunset.  We stopped for some shrimp tacos.

We continued on down Sunset and turned onto Hollywood Boulevard, and I introduced Marco to Wacko/Soap Plant.  This is a crazy store with books, toys, gifts, accessories, and work by many artists.  On Sunday, they had a taxidermy display.  Definitely worth a visit, and we’ll have to go back.  They closed shortly after we walked in, but it was enough to see how fun it is.

Loving LA

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The song “I Love LA” may sound silly, but it is true.  When you have lived in LA, you know the love someone can feel for the city.  Like a west coast disciple of Carrie Bradshaw, I spend time in the city whenever I get the chance.  In the last couple of weeks, Marco and I made a few stops around LA, and we have a renewed excitement for being tourists in our own corner of the world.  One interesting place we stopped was a consignment store called Nick Metropolis.  It’s a vintage Hollywood store, and they have tons of furniture and accessories that all look like movie props.  They rent out their merchandise for films and parties, also.

Some of my favorite items were the neon letters.  They had so many!

Marco and I also liked a couple of quirky things, like the shoe chairs and the bike mower.

This place is a lot of fun.  We asked about buying some furniture, but everything we liked was a little too expensive.  I’ve read that other people found great deals, though.  It’s definitely worth a stop to have a look around!  Places like this reinforce what a fun city this is.

If you feel like exploring, wander down the alley behind the store.  Nick’s is on La Brea near Wilshire, which is a great place to shop.  There are some wonderful furniture and accessory shops with a modern, urban feel.

We also wandered into a restaurant and decided to eat there.  It’s called Tinga, and it’s on the same block as Nick’s.

We went in the back way, but the restaurant is gorgeous inside.  It’s simple and artistic.  And they served wonderful food!  We shared a plate of pork loin tacos, cooked with peppers and in a wonderful sauce, served in hand made tortillas.  So yummy!  Marco had a watermelon juice, and I had a Mexican Coke.

Marco told me I had to see the bathroom, and he was right!  Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture, but the bathroom is all black and white murals, almost like Shel Silverstein.  I looked it up, and the urban dictionary says that the word “tinga” means toilet or urinal in the Shamananalan language.  So maybe this is why their bathrooms are so special!  However, the closest thing Google can find to Shamananalan is M. Night Shyamalan.  So maybe it’s a language created by the quirky director.  Hollywood, again!  Gotta love LA.

A Quick Stop at Pyramid Lake

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Anyone who drives on I5 north of Los Angeles has probably noticed Pyramid Lake.  Just as a weary driver begins to be hypnotized by the barren hills of the Grapevine (even though it’s called Angeles National Forest!), a glimpse of blue water appears on the west side, and a pyramid seems to be carved out of the mountain on the far side.  After 17 years of driving along I5, I finally visited this landmark when we were on our way back from Bakersfield last weekend.  Marco and I debated about spending the $11 to park, but we saved so much money on our Bakersfield trip that we felt comfortable with it.  And what a nice excursion!  The lake winds around and looks different from different angles.  We parked near a narrow portion of the lake and walked along it taking photos.

I had my little red Canon, but Marco brought out the big camera to capture the scenery.  Here he is taking a picture of me from up above.  You can see the gazebos behind him for barbecues.

The lake has some nice features.  There is a big, open boat launch area (bigger than other lakes), and it was very busy on this sunny day.

We wandered along the lake until we found the swimming beach.  It is protected from the boats, and it’s not too long of a walk, but it’s better to drive there.  The walk was hot in the bright sun!

This little guy climbed the stairs in front of us, jumping up each step.  He finally found his way onto the railing and out of danger.

The stairs took us up to more barbecue areas, and a great view of the lake.  The swimming beach is tucked in a corner on the left side of the photo.

The swimming beach is a bit small, but roomy enough for a family to take a swim.

As we wandered back along the lake, we noticed fishermen perched on rocks.  It was such an idyllic setting!  Absolutely beautiful.

I love his hat!

There were some beautiful natural elements all along the lake.  I loved the pattern and texture of these roots.

There was a great tree along the bank.  We took a rest in its shade, and I crawled down to water’s edge to dip my feet.

I took this picture of us!  So proud of my smile, instead of the apprehensive look I usually have when I’m holding the camera. 

If you’re in Southern California, this is a fun day trip!  Pack a lunch and bring your swimwear.

Weekend in Bakersfield

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Our busy month of May continues!  Last weekend we headed to lovely Bakersfield for a wedding.

The groom is a friend of Marco’s from USC, and during the reception, the USC fans cheered the groom with Trojan football signs and the fight song.  It’s always a bit awkward for me, being the lone Bruin in the room, but Marco loves it.  This time, he was the voice leading the “Southern California” cheer.  “A house divided” is a theme in our lives together, and it’s one we have fun with.

Bakersfield turned out to be pretty fun!  Our Best Western Hotel was next to the Buck Owens Crystal Palace, and the first night, there were horses in a corral outside.  There is a bar near our house with a corral, and locals ride their horses there and back.  I wonder if that’s what the corral was for at the Palace?

The bar in our hotel was a lot of fun, but a bit too well-lit, as I mentioned in an earlier post.  But the karaoke was a very fun mix.  Some classic country songs, and some Michael Jackson songs were among the ones we heard.


The hotel was on Buck Owens Boulevard, and it had a very central location.  Also, it had a diner attached that served complimentary full breakfasts to the guests.  It was a great classic diner, and a very nice surprise.


On the wall behind the cash register (which seemed unnecessary, as all the food was complimentary!) were photos of celebrities who had dined there.  I would assume these are people who performed at the Crystal Palace.  I found a picture of Buck Owens on an old episode of “Hee Haw.”  If you’ve never seen the show, you should check it out!  It’s a mix of music and sketch comedy, with a country theme.


We (of course) forgot the invitation at home, so we had to rely on my faulty memory for the address of the church.  Thank goodness for GPS!  The church was located at 1515 Baker Street in Bakersfield, which I only remembered because it reminded me of 15 Yemen Road, Yemen, from “Friends.”  Anybody else remember that episode?

The church was St. Joseph Catholic church, where the groom attended as a child.  It was beautiful inside and out.


I think it’s fun to look at what people wear to weddings.  I loved this girl’s hair and dress.

And doesn’t Marco look cute with his new hair cut and blue shirt?  

I saw him taking this photo of himself from across the room.

The drive to Bakersfield only took about two hours from Corona, and even though we left home after 8, we made it to the hotel before 11.  We made some stops on the way home, which made it a full, fun weekend.  But all this travel has made us pretty tired!  It will be nice to spend some time at home this weekend.

Best Western in Bakersfield

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Marco and I are more than willing to stay in old, funky hotels.  So this weekend we are in Bakersfield for a wedding, and we got a great price on a room at the Best Western. But what a surprise! The room is big!


And the bathroom has two dressing areas.


Downstairs is the Junction, which is a funny bar with too much lighting, but the karaoke is great! It’s a combination of classic country, disco, 80s and 90s.

Not a bad place, and it’s next to the Buck Owens Crystal Palace.

RAW Artists Riverside

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Last night Marco and I attended the RAW Artists event in downtown Riverside.  We were on a list, so we got in free, but admission costs $15.  It was at a very cool bar called Sevilla.  It was  a collection of different types of artists, including photographers, painters, sculptors, and jewelry makers.

These drawings caught my eye, and I loved that she added flowers to her display.

I love paintings, and I know how hard it is, because I have tried it and failed…and these were so great!

A cute way to display photos.

Marco behind his camera.

Marco had a lot of fun taking photos, because the setting, colors, and displays were all so perfect!  One girl had a display of sculptures she had made out of scavenged manzanita wood from a burned tree.

She makes walking sticks, canes, and mobiles.

One make-up artist was there with her Renaissance zombie models.   

These are really fun events!  There was a band playing when we got there.  At one point, there were models walking the catwalk wearing hand-made jewelry.  

All the art was displayed on easy-to-assemble racks made out of pipes, and they were just as easily torn down at the end of the night.  I think this is an excellent idea for showing off Marco’s work at future events.  The only funny thing was that the invitation asked everyone to dress fashionably, and it was painfully obvious that everyone was doing their best, but the girls seemed to be more in costumes than in comfortable artsy clothes.  I went 80s for the night.

Another fun night in So Cal with my hubby!

Big Bear Lake

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Marco and I attended a wedding in Big Bear last weekend.  I haven’t been to Big Bear since I was a child, and I was so happy to be there as an adult!  The mountains are always beautiful, but if you’re like me, you don’t think of going there in the spring or summer.  I love the snow, and I only think of visiting the mountains for skiing and sledding.  But last weekend, the weather was gorgeous, and the mountains were the perfect setting for a great couple to tie the knot.

The ceremony took place overlooking the lake, and there was a lovely breeze to cool us down from the warm sun.

The wedding was a lot of fun, but the best part was hearing the bride’s three kids speak about their love for their mom and their new stepfather.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the place!

We enjoyed some “after-party” time at Chad’s Place in Big Bear, which was walking distance from our hotel.  Chad’s Place is a fun bar with a dance floor, and there was a great band playing that night.  The band is called Slingshot, and they cover a lot of fun classic rock songs.  I highly recommend it, if you’re looking for some small-town fun up in Big Bear!

We stayed at the Robinhood Resort, which is across the street from the lake.

Our section was called the Wishing Well.

It’s a funky, old place that looks like it is a collection of 3 or 4 motels.  We had the upstairs corner room right behind the tree in the photo.  It was a typical motel, with old, used furniture and carpet that feels full of chemicals.  But we’ve definitely stayed in worse places, and it was a short walk to the wedding and to the bar, for a very good price!  I think we paid around $90 for the night on

One of the best things about our room was the room key.  I love an old-fashioned key!

When we checked in, we were delighted by the lobby.  It’s very rustic, with some funny twists.

This little outhouse/go-cart sits in front of the hotel.

Celebrities slept here!

Marco and I found some time to wander around the lake on Sunday before heading home.  It was so nice to be in a beautiful place on such a perfect day.


All in all, a great mini vacation with my husband!

I love the lavender shirt!


The San Miguel Mission

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My family lives in central California.  That means they’re halfway between San Francisco and LA.  When my childhood best friend and I started at UCLA, an announcer at one of the myriad welcoming assemblies asked for cheers from people hailing from Southern California, Northern California, other states, and other countries.  We sat, silently, waiting for the acknowledgement that would not come.  That was our first clue that we were from “nowhere.”

But the central coast of California is one of the most perfect places in the world.  Beautiful, temperate, and not too crowded (yet).  With beaches, farmland, wineries, and cattle ranches, it is a mediterranean lifestyle that inspires art and innovation.

Last weekend, Marco and I ventured to my family’s ranch to attend my niece’s 5th birthday party.  While we were there, we decided to go for a walk around the San Miguel Mission.

Mission San Miguel Arcangel is just off Highway 101 in San Miguel, CA. Very easy to find!

It’s one of the original missions in California, and it has recently been restored.  All the California missions are beautiful, and very photogenic.  Marco has done many shoots here, including family photos for my sister.

A view of the church from across the street. It was recently restored, thanks to huge local fundraising efforts. The state does not maintain it, because it is an active Catholic church.

Inside the mission’s Catholic church. The altar came from Spain in the 1800s, and the frescoes are recently restored.

Less than a mile away is another historic landmark, called Rios Caledonia.  It’s an old adobe hotel and stagecoach stop.

The sign reads “Caledonia Hotel, Stage Stop and Saloon”

I picked up a brochure, and we learned that it was purchased illegally from Governor Pio Pico, who later had to flee the area, by a man named Rios.  It was then purchased by a man named Blanchart, who decided to call it the Caledonia Hotel, because of his love for Scotland (called Caledonia by the Romans).  And thus, a little outpost in California came to use an ancient Roman name.  Incidentally, Pico Boulevard in LA is named after Governor Pio Pico.  Love history!

The front of the two story hotel, from down on the street. It was originally a residence for the Rios family.

So if you’re headed to the central coast, or just driving up Highway 101,

“Be sure to visit the mission, 1/2 block ahead. Visitors welcome.”

I couldn’t say it better myself!

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