Jelly Belly Factory Tour

Jelly Belly Fairfield factory tour

We've done the Jelly Belly Factory tour in Fairfield many times, but knowing practically every twist and turn of the tour doesn't stop us from visiting once a year or two.  It's fun, it's free, and it's less than a 90 minute drive from where we live.  Plus, they give out free jelly beans!  What's not to love?

Inexpensive ways to store Disney trading pins

We are buzzing with excitement over our upcoming Disneyland trip!  We don't leave for several days yet, but I'm already thinking about all the things we have to pack: the basics like clothes and toiletries, plus all the special Disney items like Mickey ears, lanyards, and trading pins!

How to make a Mickey or Minnie ears baseball cap

One of the most useful items clothing to wear at a Disney park is a cap or hat to keep your face protected from the sun.  Anaheim and Orlando are probably two of the sunniest cities in the mainland US, and you'll be spending a LOT of time outdoors, so caps and hats are a Must-Pack item whenever we go to Disneyland.

Unfortunately, Mickey ears or Minnie headbands are also a Must-Pack item for a Disney vacation.  It's so much fun to wear Mickey ears when you're at a Disney park -- but those ears don't exactly shade your face.  I've searched long and hard for sun hats or baseball caps with Mickey ears -- in the parks, in the stores, online at, on fan sites, and on eBay.  I've seen these for babies, but nothing for kids or adults.  The closest I've found is a Mickey ears top hat, a Mickey ears safari hat, and a Mickey ears gardener hat.   None are readily available... so after years of waiting and hoping that Disney would begin selling one, I finally decided to make my own.  Here's how I did it:

Coloma Outdoor Discovery School, Day 3

We had some surprise visitors on the morning of Day 3!  Click to read about what happened on Day 1 and Day 2.

I couldn't believe it when Joanna and I woke up on Day 3 of our Coloma adventure:  it was almost 7:00 a.m.!  The girls were so tired that they had actually slept in! We spent the early morning packing up our sleeping bags and things, and cleaning up our dorm. The girls were determined to win the Golden Dustpan Award (a glittery gold bead for their pouch), so they made sure all their trash was thrown away, and swept the floors till they gleamed.  Once everyone was packed up and ready to leave, we had breakfast (bacon, eggs, and biscuits -- The Pea was right when she told me three years ago that I should definitely volunteer to chaperone the boys to Coloma because the food was so good!).

What's in my runDisney playlist

Finishing a runDisney 5k, 10k, or half-marathon is a big Must-Do item on my bucket list.  Who wouldn't want to put on a running tutu (note to SELF magazine, tutus aren't lame -- you are) or Disney-inspired outfit and race through a Disney park?  However, at this point in time I just can't justify the cost, so I'm really excited about doing the next-best thing: a special runDisney 2-mile fun run at the Disney Social Media Moms conference.

Naturally, since it's a Disney event, I've made a Disney song playlist to run to!  I've been running to these songs for years (other than Let It Go, which I added in November), but they were always part of other playlists, not in a Disney playlist of their own.  Here are the songs on my Disney playlist:

  • Let It Go (Frozen, 3:43)
  • Touch The Sky (Brave, 2:31)
  • Strangers Like Me (Tarzan, 3:00)
  • Son of Man (Tarzan, 2:44)
  • I'll Make a Man Out of You (Mulan, 3:21)
  • I Just Can't Wait to Be King (Lion King, 2:50)
  • Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride (Lilo & Stitch, 3:27)
  • Burning Love (Lilo & Stitch, 2:51)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Theme Song (Pirates of the Caribbean, 2:09)

(Note, this playlist only has 9 songs and totals 26.6 minutes, so I'm still looking for 1 last song to bring it to 30 minutes.  Many people like Go The Distance from Hercules (which, at 3:14, brings the playlist to just under 30 minutes), but I'm not a big fan, mainly because the tempo is so slow.  For now, to bring the playlist to just over 30 minutes, I've added the Let It Go Karaoke version).

I love running to these songs because they're all uptempo, heavy on the beat, and high on the energy.  While I'm running, I can pretend I'm running through the African serengeti, the Scottish highlands, the beaches of Hawaii, the Great Wall of China, and all the other amazing locations these movies are set in.  When my energy levels falter, I think of Mulan racing towards the Imperial City, trying to outrun the Huns; I think of Elsa, realizing that she's not just running away from her past, she's running toward her freedom; I think of Merida, running because she's so happy to be free from duty and tradition. If those gals can run, so can I! And just like that, my spirits begin to lift, and I truly feel like I can "Chase the wind and Touch The Sky".

Do you have a Disney running playlist?  What Disney songs do you like to run to?

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Coloma Outdoor Discovery School, Day 2


Day 2 was Hiking Day for the students of the Coloma Discovery School (see what we did on Day 1 here!).  We woke up bright and early at 7:00 a.m.  (actually, the girls in our dorm woke up at 6:00 am because they were so excited, much to the dismay of my dorm parent partner Joanna and I) and fueled up with a delicious breakfast of eggs, sausage, and french toast.  We filled our backpacks with water, sunscreen, snacks, and lunch, met up with the members of our town, and set off to explore the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park and the Monroe Ridge.  The whole camp spent the day outdoors, with each town starting at a different landmark so we wouldn't all crowd into the same location.

Things that suck (and rock) about being tall


Dear Pea

Yesterday I posted a photo of you on Facebook; it was taken yesterday at your dance concert.  I was so proud of your grace, your beauty and your height.... but I know being tall isn't something you're particularly enjoying at this moment in your life.  I know you hate being the tallest in your dance class, being as tall or taller than the 15, 16, 17 year olds at age not-quite-thirteen.  I know you wish you were tiny and petite like your friends, instead of big and gigantic (as you put it).

Believe me, I know.  You get your height from me, remember?  I was 12 once.  To make matters worse for a 5 feet, six inch adolescent (who eventually grew to reach 5' 8"), I grew up in the Philippines, where the average height for males is 5 feet, 4 1/2 inches, and the average height for females is 4 feet, 11 inches.  Back then, I felt just like you do now.

Coloma Outdoor Discovery School, Day 1

American River, Coloma CA

Fourth Grade seems to be the time when the schoolwork starts getting serious:  the colorful carpets are gone, the cute room decorations are kept to a minimum, the books and binders come out more frequently than the crayons and glue.  Fortunately, the big kids still get to play: Fourth Graders at our school get to take a 3-day field trip to Gold Rush country as part of their California history unit.  The Coloma field trip is something every kid looks forward to (those with older siblings wait for this trip for years!). The Pea went to Coloma 3 years ago; this year, it was 3Po's and Jammy's turn -- and mine as well.  I was chosen as a parent chaperone, so I got to experience the whole thing!

Letter to my sons, March 20 2014

vintage letters and photos at Coloma Outdoor Discovery School

Today is Day 2 of 3Po's and Jammy's 3-day school field trip to the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School.  The boys and I (I'm chaperoning them!) will be traveling back in time to 1849, going on hikes, panning for gold, and participating in all kinds of hands-on activities designed to teach kids about life during the California Gold Rush.  They'll have read the letter I wrote to them last night, and tonight they'll be reading the letter that Alfie wrote to them, written as though we were living in the Gold Rush era and they were away seeking their fortune.  I went the extra mile to make the letters look old, staining the paper with tea and using a vintage font (Yes, I printed the letters -- no way I'm going to hand write them!  My desire for authenticity only goes so far!).  I found a vintage postmark and stamp online and printed them on the envelopes.  I even printed out the vintage photo that we had taken in Virginia City in December.

I doubt if the boys will be feeling homesick at this point.  They'll be having too much fun, and besides, they'll have the comfort of knowing that I'm close by (even though I won't be assigned to their dorm or to their classes, so I won't really be seeing them much).  But I hope these letters remind them that we're still thinking about them and cheering them on as they have fun and learn.

Virginia City gold rush saloon vintage sepia family photo

Letter to my sons, March 19 1849

California gold rush of 1849

I can't believe it has been three years since we sent The Pea off on her first overnight class field trip!  She was in 4th grade when she attended the Coloma Outdoor Discovery School to learn about life during the California Gold Rush -- and now, 3Po and Jammy are going on the same trip.  This time, I'm coming along as a chaperone!  I didn't volunteer to chaperone The Pea's class because I had to stay and take care of the boys.  I'll admit, I also didn't want to give up my smart phone and internet connection for three whole days.  But The Pea had so much fun that I regretted not going, so I resolved to volunteer when the boys' turn came.  This time around, The Pea is old enough to get herself to and from school, and I've arranged for her transportation to and from her dance classes.