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This holiday break, we headed to Tahoe for Sunshine’s first ski vacation. It was an awesome trip. The mountains were blanketed in white. It was a winter wonderland. The family we stayed with was super fun and easy going. It was a magical 7 days filled with skiing, sledding, good food, and company.

Sunshine took 1 1/2 days of private lessons with his friends. Then on another day, I took him for half a morning. That morning, we started with green runs then he kept begging me to take him on the blue runs. I was very hesitant. To be honest, I was worried that he might have a fall and/or difficult time which could lead him to not like skiing. After asking me a few times,  I caved in. I figured we could do it for our last run. If it failed, we could just head home. He surprised me. He took the blue run and just went for it. We did two more blue runs afterwards. He later told his buddy at dinner, “I was scared because when I looked over the mountain cliff, I couldn’t see anything.” I was proud but at the same time a little amazed. This kid has some guts! I asked him what it felt like to go down. He said, “I just went down. I liked it and wanted to do it again.” Just as I heard his words, I realized this kid loves skiing. It is in his blood.  Skiing is not only about having good balance but it is also about controlling your fear. It was amazing to me that Sunshine at such a young age could be so fearless.

Sunshine hitting the slopes of Tahoe Donner. Look at that precious smile.

Sunshine hitting the slopes of Tahoe Donner. Look at that precious smile.

first ski lesson

They kids on their first ski lesson. Putting on their skis to go on the fun magic carpet.

Aren't the kids looking cool with their teacher.

The kids looking cool with their teacher.

The kids checking the ski map to prepare for their first green run, the mile run (yup, it's a mile). They had just come up on their first chair lift. So many fun firsts.

The kids checking the ski map to prepare for their first green run, the mile run (yup, it’s a mile). They had just come up on their first chair lift. So many fun firsts.

This trip wasn’t only great for Sunshine. It was a confident booster for the both of us. On this trip, I conquered my fear of getting back onto skis after a 10 year hiatus. I almost chickened out but pushed myself. I’m so glad that I did. It felt liberating to do so. I remembered why I loved skiing and I was able to confidently take Sunshine on the slopes. Have you taken any chances lately? It’s normal to get into your regular routine and lose sight of trying new things. We take heart in Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “Do one thing every day that scares you” and Jimmy Carter’s quote “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.”

In case you are wondering, the ski runs are categorized by bunny, green, blue, black diamonds, then double blacks. The main difference is the steepness of the mountains. We stayed in Truckee and skied at Tahoe Donner which was family friendly and pretty inexpensive. I bought Sunshine’s skis and boots at Ann Mountain because they have a great trade-in program and we don’t need to wait in the rental lines. Ski clothes were from Lands Ends. Some must – hat, gloves, hand & foot warmers, and helmet. Everyone had a helmet. 10 years ago, no one did. If you need more tips on how to go skiing, leave a comment.

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Hey Friends,

It’s been a long time since my last post. We had a busy summer then start of school and all its madness. Now, things are settling down and I’m back with lots of updates.

The last few months has been full of Sunshine’s firsts including his first camping trip. It was soooo much fun.

During our morning hike, the kids had a blast exploring this cool tree.  They kept saying, “let’ go back to the HOME tree.”

I grew up camping but had never camped with kids. It was a little more work but worthwhile. Some tips for the next one. These are not your typical checklists. i.e. firewood, tent, cooking utentils. Instead, these are practical tips that I wish I knew before we went.

1) If you using a new tent, pitch it the day before so you know how the poles go in.  It didn’t dawn on me till I was struggling in the dark to find directions and telling the kids, “PLEASE Don’t play with the tent sticks! We need those.” Yeah, big lesson.

2) Headlights are essentials. You will not look like a geek. Instead you will be grateful. Those are the best inventions on earth. It is worth getting the more expensive ones as they are brighter and in the dark woods, the brightness comes in handy. REI and Amazon have them. They are great for emergencies i.e. Earthquakes.

3) Ikea blue bags are great for lugging all your gear. They are big and waterproof. Sleeping bags, tents, clothes, etc all can fit into 2-3 of those big plastic bags. A friend suggested them instead of getting an expensive duffel bag and boy was she right.

4) Camping chairs are on my shopping list. Growing up, we didn’t have them but with kids, they are nice to have. We were able to huddle around roasting marshmallows and listening to our friend play the guitar.

Thank goodness that Uncle Andy was a pro at starting the fire. Don’t the kids look cute with their headlights?

5) Put all the kids on one tent. More fun with the kids and the adults get more sleep. Hmm, not sure it will really work but worth trying.

6) Hoodies for the kids. Everyone slept with hats but I quickly realize that the hat kept slipping off so I spent part of the night checking if Sunshine’s hat was on. So, in the morning, I was a tiny bit tired. A hoodie would be perfect for the night, no slipping off.

7) Keep food simple. Best to precook dinner if arriving late. Keep breakfast easy. I was too ambitious and griddle 30+ buttermilk pancakes after our first night. Next time, bacon and eggs. Much simpler.
8) Lantern is a good thing. I thought the headlights would be enough but soon realize that the lantern are good with kids. It serves as a homebase in the darkness. So, this is on my camping wishlist!

Some memorable memories from this trip. As we were pitching our tents, raccoons invade our friend’s car and opened a candy wrappers and left a trail of paw prints. Yeah, yuck! Then as we were enjoying the fire, more raccoons snatched our Safeway shopping bags full of smore ingredients. Seriously, it was crazy to watch these little raccoons stealing our desserts. The kids and adults were yelling and running after them. It was comical. Even with these crazy raccoons, we still plan to go camping again. It was fun for the kids to just run around in the woods and enjoy nature. Can’t wait till our next trip.

It has been a dry winter and they say allergy season will be bad this year. And, it has been. Most people and kids I know have been rubbing their red eyes or having sinus headaches. Many people say their kids never had allergies but now due.

A few weeks ago, we had a little scary moment, Sunshine couldn’t hear out of his left ear. The doctor said is was due to allergies. His congestion had clogged the canal between his nose and ear. Scary, huh? I have never heard of such a thing. She suggested we do a nasal rinse and if this did not help, we could try over the counter Claritin for Kids. We already had dust mites covers, air purifier, no animals, and hardwood floors.

I had heard of nasal rinses and neti pots but hadn’t tried. Well, I’m now a believer. It is amazing. To encourage Sunshine to do it, I decided to join him. The first time I did it, I could breathe. Seriously, I could breathe. Sunshine really liked it too. He said he could breathe.  We do it 2x a day, morning and night because the allergies are in full force now. To be honest, I’m shocked by had come out of Sunshine’s nose. I’m so glad that we are able to flush it out. It seems his body creates congestion and it goes into his lungs. Now, I’m thinking he doesn’t have asthma. Since, we have doing the neti pot, we have not used the inhaler and he doesn’t cough a night due to allergies.

There are a couple of tricks for the neti pots, you need sterile warm water. So, we use our hot water dispenser. It is a lifesaver when we want hot water for tea and now for our allergies. I seriously don’t know how we live without this gadget.

We love Neti Pots!

My friend Christine suggested the Nutribiotic Nasal Spray. It’s all natural made of grapefruit seed extract so I feel safe giving it to Sunshine. I use it almost every night and I have noticed a decrease in mucus generated. On the days, I don’t he does seem to have more. So, it seems to be working.

I do have to admit, the novelty for Sunshine has worn off. He says, he doesn’t like the neti pot. For a couple of days, I made it mandatory but it was not fun for the both of us. Then, I changed tactics, I explained to him that he was helping me with my allergies. If it wasn’t for him, my allergies would be really bad. He was helping me. It was all because of him. This line of reasoning seemed to work for him. He doesn’t fit me on the neti pot. It has been a week. Let’s see how long it will last 🙂

Hope this inspires you to try the Neti Pot for your kids. It’s a natural and safe way to fight allergies. Do you have any suggestions for how you fight allergies? Love to hear your ideas.

So, we need to get a new car soon and I wasn’t sure what car we should get. I have couple of requirements (can fit 3 carseats for carpool), not too big (we have a tiny tiny garage), good safety ratings, etc. I read some of the car reviews but it was hard to tell what will work for us. I like to feel and try things out especially when it is going to last me a while. Maybe some of you are like that too?

Since, Sunshine loves cars, he was so excited when I suggested we spend one afternoon testing driving the new Mini Cooper 4 door car, the CountryMan. Have you seen it? It just came out in Feb 2012 and we are starting to see more of them on the road and especially in San Francisco where parking spaces are tiny. I love the look of the Mini Cooper but it’s not too practical for me. It’s small, loud, and quite low to the ground so I don’t feel safe. So, I was excited about the new 4 door since the reviews said it was higher up from the ground and was the size of VW Jetta.

Mommy, I like this car.

We had a blast looking at the different Mini Coopers (2 door, convertibles, 4 door Country Man) as well as all the different colors and sticker patterns for the Mini Coopers.

Nice but not Kid friendly. Maybe when I’m kid-free 🙂

So, am I getting the CountryMan? No, not right now. I love the size and the silver one is pretty cute but I didn’t love the inside of the car and even with the option of putting a row for three seat, the back was pretty small for 3 car seats.

I think we might have to get a smaller SUV because of space needs. With the options on the CountryMan, it is around $35K out the door. Because the car is new, the preset packages are not cheap.

If you are interested, this is a super cute commercial. Also, you can check out this video of the CountryMan off roading

We liked this one 🙂

The good news is Sunshine loves testing driving the cars so I can see us visiting a few more dealers in the coming months. All you need is child that loves cars and can fit in a booster seat and 🙂

Try it out next time, it is a pretty fun way to spend the afternoon. The best part is it is free.

Growing up, I had fond memories of things my family did together. Those memories often were things we did often i.e. camping during the summers and having pancakes on Sundays.

Traditions are fun for the family especially the kids. Traditions allow you to spend time with your child and thus wonderful memories are created. They create and provide stability, something that is familiar and has routine. It is nice to start traditions when children are young because they are so eager and interested in spending time with you. When they are teenagers, they start having their own lives and sometimes this time can be a very confusing time for them. If you have traditions of talking at dinner or before bedtime, you may have an easier time getting them to talk to you about their problems because they have a habit of already sharing with you.

Some of the things we already do can be considered a tradition. For example, at our house, we eat dinner together and read books and say gratitude (what we are thankful) before going to bed. For fun, every year, we spend time together planning his birthday party. We talk about the theme, what activities we will have, what will the goody bags will have inside, and how we might decorate. It is something that we both enjoy and it is fun to talk about together. Last year, we had a Lego theme.

A new tradition, we started is having upside day. Have you done this? We have dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. We invited Sunshine’s school friends over for dinner and they loved it. It was so American, they said! If you are interested, this pancake is delicious. We took it one step further so he started having breakfast for lunch. Fun, right??

Breakfast for lunch! Yummy.

If you are interested in creating your own traditions, read what DocJennifer has to say about traditions. Feel Connected’s recommends the book Got Traditions. And, Enough Time Moms gives lots of good advice on how to create traditions.

What traditions do you have with your kids? Love to hear what you do.

Have you had  Hot Pot? It is really popular in Asia (China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore…) Growing up in US, my family loved Chinese hot pot as it reminded my parents of their home. We had it at home and restaurants. It is quite healthy as there is no frying only boiling.  Hot pot is literally a large pot where you boil veggies, meat, tofu, etc. The pots are a little different because they have a plug so you can cook while you eat. You find the pots online.

The prep work is not too bad but you do need lots of ingredients. You can cook any veggies you like.  Meat is best if thinly sliced. In many of the Asian supermarkets (i.e. Marina Foods or Ranch 99), you can find premade hot pot packages.

I recently inherited a hot pot pan from my parents and we started having it at our house . Sunshine loves it and I’m so glad to share with him this part of Chinese culture. It is fun to pick what you like to eat,  watch it boil, scoop it out, then dip and eat. It is particularly good on a cold and rainy day. On this particular night, we had spinach, Chinese cabbage, tofu, lots of different fish cakes (from the premade packages), fish balls, and Enokitake mushrooms.  The key to a good hot pot is to always have broth in the pot so the goodies can cook quickly. And, once it boils and you aren’t ready to add anything else, turn down the heat. When you do add new goodies, turn the heat up.

Ready for Hot Pot.

We use a chicken soup base for our hot pot but you can use salt or plain water for your base.

My family makes a Taiwanese style dipping sauce. Raw egg, soy sauce, and green onions and a little garlic. The raw egg is key but make sure it is fresh. It may sound a little weird but when the hot pot item is dipped, the sauce is so yummy. My friends loves to make a spicy version with chilli sauce! HOT.

We end the hot pot meal by cooking vermicelli noodles in the broth. The noodles taste the best because of the veggies and meat flavors have simmered into the broth.

See how they eat hot pot in Beijing at Red Hibiscus or how Japanese and Chinese hot pot are different at the Pixel Diaries.

Hope you have a chance to try it someday and maybe it will allow you to experience of little bit of Asia. Food does that for me.

Our friend Jenny took us to Tilden Park for an afternoon train ride. I remember going there as a kid and it was fun to relive the memories with Sunshine.  We had a great time with our friends and recommend going if you have a chance. The park is beautiful and there are numerous trails to explore. On the ride to and from Tilden Park, we saw the most beautiful clouds hovering the Berkeley mountains.

Sunshine loved ringing the bell on the steam train.

Beautiful day for a train ride. They kids had the best seat in the house.

The kids look so cute covering their ears when the steam train let out steam.

Quick. Quick. Cover your ears!!

If you have a chance, check out A Nature’s Mom post about the Botanic Garden at Tilden Park. And, at Natural History Wanderings, you can see what flowers are in bloom. I think next time, we are going to the hike Trail Hiker took.

Can’t wait to go back again.