Road Trip: Cherbourg & Beaches of Normandy

June is always a busy but special month for me. Liv’s birthday is at the beginning of the month, then Father’s Day and ends with Antz birthday. I rented a car and we drove to Cherbourg for a weekend trip for Antz birthday. I have wanted to visit Cherbourg ever since I saw the French musical “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” Since Cherbourg is near the beaches of Normandy, we spent the day visiting Sainte-Mère-Église village, the Omaha Beach Memorial and the American Cemetery. The drive was over five hours and even though I normally would be able to drive longer than that in LA (I drove for eleven hours for our road trip to Portland) something about the French highways seems to lull me to sleep. I drove the first three hours and then Antz took over for the last two.

 

There were many tolls heading west towards Cherbourg. We also noticed livestock on the sides of the highway. At first we thought we were looking at sheep but with a closer look, they were golden cows! They were so pretty we pulled over and tried to snap a photo with some of the cows. The countryside is insanely pretty.

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I was surprised at how small Cherbourg was. Our hotel was just across the street from the harbor.

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We went for a walk around the town looking for a place to eat for lunch. Of course it was after 3 so we missed lunch and nothing was open until after 7pm.

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We found this gorgeous fish market but they didn’t cook the food. Liv bought a bag of apricots, Antz and I got crepes to tide us over.

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Les parapluies were everywhere. I only recently saw the French musical in the last few years although I have always been a big Catherine Deneuve fan. I also discovered that the guy who directed The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of Liv’s friend’s from school grandfather! How rad is that?!!

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We walked around for an hour then hung out in our hotel room. By 7pm, we were starving so we went to the first restaurant we found that was open. We ordered a plateau de fruits de mer for Antz birthday dinner. To our surprise, shellfish is served cold and there’s no melted butter to dip. Sadly, no matter how many times we have tried, we don’t like oysters. As fancy as the meal looked, we really missed our annual seafood meal from Duke’s in Malibu.

We drove around town looking for the Cherbourg sign. Oddly, we could find it’s location on Google Maps so I relied on photos from Pinterest and my intuition. Finally, just as I was about to give up I drove right past it on a steep hill! Since the sign was so big, one of us had to run into the street to get a photo. We waited forever for someone to get a photo of all of us but it’s an isolated area. This selfie has made me want to travel with a reliable tripod. I just don’t see where we could have set one up since there were cars passing in the street.

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The next day we grabbed breakfast at our hotel and headed out early.

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I had to take a photo with my umbrella by the harbor before we left. Our first stop was Sainte-Mere-Eglise. We learned the heroic story of Private John Marvin Steele. As the 82nd Airborne soldiers parachuted into the village, they were under heavy attack by Germans. John survived the jump but his parachute got caught in the spinnet of the church. He hung there limp, playing dead for two hours before he was taken prisoner. He later escaped and captured 30 Germans. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his valor. He is featured in the classic film The Longest Day.

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Miraculously, it didn’t rain. The sun actually came out as we headed towards the American cemetery. I spent hours explaining the D-day invasion to Liv and she listened intently. I was surprised to see how interested in history an eight year old was. I think it hit her the most when I told her how many men were drafted into the war and how her Dad would have most likely been sent to fight if we were alive during that time. During the summer of 1944 over 100,000 total men died.

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This was the most incredible experience for our family. France has always been a romantic place for us but visiting these sites where close to 10,000 people lost their lives felt very somber. We visited the memorial and watched a short film about World War II.
Below is Omaha beach.

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Our last stop wasn’t planned but Liv was asking what happened to the German soldiers so we stopped at La Cambe German war cemetery. It definitely had a different vibe to it. There were very few people there. Over 21,000 German soldiers are buried there. The cemetery has 1,200 maple trees as a gift of peace.

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If you are a history buff, I strongly recommend making this trip. Normandy Discovery Tours offers a tour by French locals. We saw a group of school children at the Omaha beach memorial. I really think that the difference between American children and European is our approach to the past. I feel like Americans shield their kids from the dark side of history but I believe that is doing them a disservice. They lack empathy and may grow up to make the same mistakes of bigotry and complacency. I talk to Olivia about everything, not to frighten her but to open her eyes to the world she lives in. She is a multiracial child so she doesn’t have the privilege to ignore the past suffering of her ancestors. Every accomplishment she makes in her life, she has many generations of proud Mexican and Black people cheering her on.

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Joyeux Anniversaire Olivia!

Every year I am aghast by how fast our kid is growing up. This is her eighth year and she is lovely, polite, smart, kind, funny, clever, creative, sometimes annoying but overall rad.

I can’t believe she is so big now. Liv wears size 10/12 in clothes and size 4 in shoes. I bought her a pair of New Balance sneakers in size 3.5 when we first arrived in Paris and she already outgrew them! She definitely takes after me and is part giant. She’s the tallest kid in her class and one of three kids who speak English. She is stoked that during English class she is the teacher’s assistant and she helps her classmates with their pronunciation. Liv has made quite a few friends here in Paris so I asked her what did she want to do for her birthday. She wanted her closest friend (our former neighbor) Alix to come for a sleepover at our apartment. Antz and I secretly ordered a rad unicorn cake from our neighbor who is an amazing wedding cake artist/baker. I didn’t find out until after we demolished the cake, it was completely sugar-free!! I honestly couldn’t tell.

We also collaborated on designing a custom Merrilee Liddard doll for her birthday gift. I was super worried it wouldn’t arrive on time from Utah but luckily we were home when le Poste rang our door buzzer. We have had terrible luck with mail coming from the US through the post office. Her Godparents sent her a birthday package and we tried to hunt it down everyday for two weeks but it’s lost. We were heartbroken we couldn’t track it down.

This is Lulu (named after my Grandma Louise which is my middle name). She only speaks French and she is an avid traveler. She will join us on our travels and can be followed on Instagram using the hashtag #voyagesdepoupéeLulu

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When we left LA, I couldn’t fit Liv’s dress-up clothes in our luggage so I promised I’d find her a Marie Antoinette style dress. She asked me when I would get her a gown almost everyday since we landed. Luckily, the Versailles gift shop had the perfect one in her size.

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I invited her other good friend (she is also named Alix) from school to come over for cake and we went for tea and snacks at the Cat Cafe. We began her birthday weekend celebration by taking Friday off school since Antz is getting every other Friday off work for summer Fridays (his job is awesome beyond words!) so we spent the day at the Science Center. Liv is obsessed with VR games and back in LA she was too young to try the VR demos but here she could play them. She watched a VR film about the South Pole and space exploration and she played VR games. It was an €18 fee for about an hour of playing. She had a weekend full of awesome!

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This globe would connect to different voices around the world speaking in their native language.

How creepy/hilarious are these mirror illusions?

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The kid wants to be a scientist when she grows up…or a spy.

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Liv and the two Alixes! This kid wants to live in a cat cafe.

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Sadly, I couldn’t fit her large Totoro plush in our luggage but I did squeeze in our mini Totoro so she could take her yearly birthday photo. I’m sad because after taking her photo with Totoro in her brown chair, we decided we needed the space for a desk so I dropped off the chair to my Mom’s house. So this year she took her annual photo in her bedroom in Paris.

 

Liv Year 8

Here are her previous photos.

Joyeux Anniversaire ma fille!

La Cité des Sciences et de L’industrie
30 Avenue Corentin Cariou
75019 Paris France

Open 10:00 am – 6 pm Closed Mondays

Le Cafe des Chats
9 Rue Sedaine
75011 Paris, France

Open 12:00 pm – 10:30 pm Closed Mondays

 

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Liv’s Wonderland

These are the beautiful photos Jennifer took at Olivia’s Alice in Wonderland party. It was a very merry unbirthday!

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Ching Ching stole the show!

 

I am in love with these photos. Jennifer is so talented. I love the way she captures Olivia’s spirit. Thank you Jennifer!

I also am so happy with everyone at Alice’s Traveling Tea Party. They went above and beyond to make Olivia’s party rad.

Olivia’s Wonderland UnBirthday Tea Party

Our kid turned five this week. Every year feels bittersweet. Liv is growing up so fast and I miss my four year old already!

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We threw her very first unbirthday party last Sunday at Vincent Lugo Park. Since we are used to spending her birthday out of town celebrating on a small scale, we needed to hire someone to help us plan and organize la fête. We wanted a fantastic experience for Liv and her guests but also to be able to hang out with the adults (and keep our sanity) while the kids were entertained. I found Alice’s Traveling Tea Party on Pinterest. Of all the Disney films, I’ve always loved Alice for it’s silliness and whimsical characters. Of course Liv is all about the princesses, particularly of the Frozen variety but every single birthday party we’ve been to has done that theme. Alice is rad for so many reasons, she’s able to solve her problems, remembers to be polite and lets her imagination soar. I mean, she’s not perfect but I love her sense of curiosity and adventure. So I began searching for the perfect Alice costume for Liv and was surprised to come up empty at the Disney store. I wasn’t fond of the cheap polyester costumes on Amazon so I was stoked to find a custom made dress and eyelet petticoat on eBay. I was a week from it being shipped when I got an email from the seller telling me she tripped on her ironing board and possibly broke her wrist. Just my luck, she had to cancel the order and I had one week to scramble to find something. I took a gamble buying an Alice costume I found online. I ordered a small based on the reviews of the dress sizing larger but sheesh.

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Looks too sister-wives, right?

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We took Liv to my dry cleaners and had the dress, petticoat and apron altered (which cost as much as the costume!) I was relived to see the result and the total cost ended being less than the original eBay dress. So my next task was finding a photographer. I was going to use the photographer recommended by the party planners but she was unavailable for the date of our party. Luckily I had an ace up my sleeve. I met lovely Jennifer Young back in 2013 when I was at Jihan’s studio picking up my birthday balloon. She shot Liv for Jihan’s party supply shop and she took these gorgeous shots at the Los Angeles Diner en Blanc. I have been a huge fan of her Instagram feed so I asked if she would shoot Liv’s party. I was so excited to hear she was available and able to come down to LA! Lastly, I had my heart set on having a photo booth backdrop. I liked this one I found on Pinterest and commissioned my Superhubs to build it for me.

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He bought a piece of plywood from Home Depot and the frames, topiary/roses were from Michaels

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Antz version is on the left

I love how amazing it turned out!! Antz is such a crafting genius. Next he made the Alice themed photo booth props and I ordered some party favors. Off went the invitations which are included in the party package.

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The party included food and cupcakes so I wasn’t planning on getting a cake but as I was at Porto’s ordering snacks for the adults, I couldn’t resist ordering a small last minute cake for ma fille. Antz put together this rad cosplay photo of our Alice. The morning of the party was a bit hectic for us but I managed to take some shots of the set up. Once the party got started, I was so busy passing out name tags and chatting with guests, I hardly took any pictures. Luckily my BFF Aimee and my friends took photos with their phones. I am so excited to see the photos Jennifer took next week.

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I can’t even with this little girl! She loves to get into character.

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The party looked incredible!
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All the guests signed this sheet that I will add our group photo and frame.

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The photo booth was quite popular with the big kids!

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I love this photo taken by Terry of Liv jumping for joy!
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Thanks Alice & the Mad Hatter
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Ching Ching had some cake too!

34d13-dsc_1081aba86-dsc_10809fe71-dsc_10724d1a7-dsc_1074102ac-dsc_1078 No more parties until you turn sixteen kiddo!!

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Bon anniversaire lovely Olivia!

Mon trente- huit Anniversaire

My birthday was pretty rad! Aside from spending the day with my best friend in the city I love, I also went to an art show I have been wanting to see and had an awesome birthday dinner. I am so full of gratitude to my husband for giving me this incredible gift. I drank until I was dizzy and laughed so hard I cried.

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Uncle Terry is a gross, little Midwestern perv but Aimee and I enjoy his photography. My favorite of his work is his shots of Marilyn Manson and his Daddy.

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His show is totally out of place in Paris but I love how vulgar his art is.

Aimee wanted to pick up a gift for a friend so we walked to Le BHV Marais.

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As fate would have it, I spent my birthday at my favorite store

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I love this nerd!

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Our waiter at Cafe Charlot was the cutest!

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I’ve always wanted to try creme brûlée!
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I am such a lucky girl!

Olivia’s 4th Birthday at Disneyland Paris

We had a small birthday party for Liv at our apartment and then surprised her with a trip to Disneyland Paris. I booked it through Viator so we were picked up in a coach and driven right to Disneyland’s front entrance. Since we were getting picked up by the company, we spent twelve hours at Disneyland. It wasn’t even close to dark when we left! I think it’s safe to say she enjoyed her fourth birthday in Paris.

We celebrated with a sparkler candle I bought from Urbanic and tart au fraise from the local patisserie
Antz made a brilliant wrapping paper solution
I am sure this is going to be a birthday she never forgets. *I won’t let her!*
These crazy eyes are super excited
I always head to City Hall to get a badge before we begin
She spoke very little English but I understood Joyeux anniversaire, Olivia
She got a special birthday call from Mickey in French
If I had more room in our luggage, I would have bought this Snow White doll
Olivia is so thrilled to get this Blanche-Neige dress
Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant
Liv would not let go of the sides of her dress. She transformed into a princess
Who’s the Fairest of them all?
The Snow White ride was much scarier than the California version, the French really enjoy scaring kids
Liv was accidentally mistaken for Snow White
Alice’s Curious Labyrinth
This way Daddy!
OFF WITH HER HEAD!
Liv finally got us out of that Shining-like maze
She told every single cast member it was her birthday
This was worth everything to see her face light up!
Tweddledum was trying to freak me!
This was Liv during the entire ride. The Phantom Manor is much more scarier than the tame California one
Gorgeous shot Antz
We finally found a place to eat that wasn’t a buffet. Who goes to an all-you-can eat buffet at an amusement park?
Okay, last time I saw Captian EO was the late eighties, I couldn’t believe they had it here
Olivia was so excited when she saw the poster, but sadly the ride has been closed for years, BOO!
Since she told the crew it was her birthday, she got VIP front of the line treatment
Every single ride was a five minute wait, except to see the Mouse

 

Waiting for the parade
The long sought after Elsa plush. I should have bought ten and sold them on the Frozen black market!
All the kids went ape shit for this float
Happy birthday kiddo! We love you!!

Four Years Old

I am in utter denial. It can’t believe it has already been four incredible years with this child. She was just in my tummy. We were just finding out that she would be a girl. We were just putting together her nursery. We just had our bebe shower. She was just born. She was just breastfeeding. She just started preschool. How can this be? Time is warp speed at the moment. I can see her growing and changing everyday. She is losing her adorable toddler lisp. She no longer uses sippy cups or her little potty. She does everything herself. She is fiercely independent. She tells me she wants to live in Japan when she grows up. She wants to chew gum *I won’t let her*. She can write her own name and buckle her shoes. She is growing up too fast for me. I want to live in this moment everyday for the rest of my life. I hope she remembers this trip fondly and will develop a love for travel, taking adventures and continue to be fearless at trying new things.

Olivia, I am so happy you are now four but please, stay little!

It’s crazy how easy it is for her to take the Totoro picture now. When she was a tiny bebe, I had to prop her up and take the photo as quickly as I could. Then she was a toddler and she would never keep still so it took ages to get a good shot. Now I say it’s picture time and she knows exactly what to do. I have such a wonderful kid.

//player.vimeo.com/video/97101469 Olivia grows from sunkissis on Vimeo.
This song makes me simultaneously happy and sad. I know our time together is limited. I love her so much at this age. Everyday feels like a carnival. It is inevitable that one day she will be on her cell phone all the time, always choosing to be with her friends, she won’t find my jokes funny anymore and then I will have to let her be a teenager. It will rip my heart in half but I will have to patiently wait for her, just like my Mom waited for me. This mother-daughter love is some real shit. I love you kid, I cherish every second we spend together.

Karen sent Liv this amazing dress! Olivia is obsessed with her lollipop dress.

Here is a video I made of highlights of the last year. Please let me know if you want to know the name of any of the songs I used.

//player.vimeo.com/video/97097590 Olivia’s 3rd Year from sunkissis on Vimeo.
Happy Fourth Birthday Olivia Lily!!We are going to Disneyland Paris and hopefully we will find that Elsa chick that Liv likes so much.

Homegirl has a fierce cat walk!

Happy Birthday Lizzie!

My birthday is always a whirlwind of radness, drinks and fun. My birthday also coincides with the first day of Spring and International day of Happiness. We took a pre-birthday trip to the beach on Wednesday. The weather was nice but the water was ice cold. Of course that didn’t stop our beach babe from running in.

Showing off her new boogie board

Antz took the day off on Thursday and took me to see Grand Budapest Hotel.

Wes Anderson is my favorite modern day director. His distinct style is visually beautiful. I’m so happy Grand Budapest Hotel came out the week of my birthday because it was such a treat to see. I highly recommend seeing it at Hollywood Arclight so you can check out the incredible model of the hotel in the lobby. Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola and P.T. Anderson are so talented and amazing. I know they are pretty formulaic in their films and he often uses the same cast but it never bores me. I fell in love with Grand Budapest, bravo!

So, we picked up the kid from school and stopped by the W hotel in Hollywood.

We had a pose off
It was too early for drinks but we will return
W Hollywood rooftop pool
The friggen queen of Sheba
Thanks Liv & Antz for making my birthday so rad!
Wait, lemme check out this fabulous face first! #supermodel

So after that we went for a yummy lunch and headed home for a nap. That evening Aimee came over with birthday cake, a lovely gift and champagne.

My favorite ice cream cake!!
My BFF is rad!! I love you Aimee
My pretty Crosley record player

I’ve been wanting this beauty for months! Antz wasn’t so thrilled about me putting it on this tiny table as it teetered over the side so he surprised me today with a proper place to keep it. My next project is collecting my favorite artists on vinyl. So far I have;

Björk – Biophilia
Lana del Rey – Born to Die
Radiohead – In Rainbows

I am hoping to add;

Björk – Greatest Hits
Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
Michael Jackson – Thriller *for Liv*
Joanna Newsom – Milk Eyed Mender

I’ll show you the rest of the room once we finished putting everything away. Needless to say, I’m a one happy happy thirty-something!!

Kieran’s Auto-rama Birthday Party

We braved the torrential rain storm to attend Liv’s good friend Kieran’s 4th birthday party. Luckily, it was indoors and we had a blast racing Matchbox and Hot Wheels. Liv brought her vintage Matchbox “Brown Betty”

The Coxwell’s always make the raddest invitations
Another amazing cake made by Kieran’s Grandmother
Our cute check flag girl
The awesome timed racetrack
Brown Betty vs Morgan’s Yellow Mini
All the guests parked their car at the cake. So cute!
Terry and her mini me, Finn
Handing out the trophies
Liv was quite pleased with her medal
Happy 4th Birthday Kieran!

Antz Birthday Weekend Wrap Up

We have been on a sabbatical for the past four days. My lovely husband turned 38 and we celebrated and hiked the desert hills.

Don’t worry folks, he doesn’t have a mohawk, this photo was taken years ago

His old fridge in his office at work needed replacing so we bought him a bigger version for keeping his favorite drinks *Diet peach Snapple* cold.

I love his butt birthday card *I’m butt #3*

We had a delish home cooked birthday feast.

Thank God for air conditioning since it was super hot. My Mom, Liv and I got in the hot tub which even though it was 80 degrees, felt great. Liv is learning how to blow bubbles in the water now. So that’s as close to a pool as I got.

All my outdoor fun plans *beach, picnic at the Silverlake meadow* went out the window when it was close to 100 degrees. Antz was stationed under the air conditioning vents. We managed to take Liv to the movies. I had to snap this photo of the adorable little Mike Wazowski *don’t worry, I was sitting in the last row and turned my brightness all the way down, nothing irritates me more than when someone is on their bright phone during a movie*

I noticed by the thousands of photos of this exact same image on Instagram, I’m not the only one who had this idea. Monsters University was really good, I highly recommend it. I also bought The Great & Powerful Oz on DVD for Liv. We took her to see it at the movies and even though I was concerned it would be too scary for her, she LOVED it. Antz even made her a paper version of Glinda’s crown and wand *after she begged us to buy her one everyday*

*I’m not even joking, she wears her Cinderella dress and glass slippers all day, every day!*

Antz and I saw World War Z last week and it was entertaining. There are parts, particularly the ending that will disappoint, but anything with Brad Pitt keeps my attention *I like his greybeard stoner face*

I was hoping to have a BBQ for the 4th of July but now we don’t think it’s gonna happen. We took our cat Lola to the vet and she had an unexplainable accident that ended up with her getting stitches on her leg. Now she is on two medications that we have to give her 4 times a day. If you have ever given meds to a cat orally, you’ll know how miserable we all are. Seeing her limp around the house is sadders but we have to keep her inside until she heals so she cries to go out all the time. It sucks, my poor Lola in her cone of shame.

I haven’t been so happy happy either, I have been working on Liv’s 3rd scrapbook on Shutterfly. Her first 2 books were a breeze to make but for some weird reason when I used the editing tools on Firefox *which is my preferred browser* it kept crashing. So I open it in Safari, it works but I can’t upload photos from my Instagram account, d’oh! So let’s just say, I am having a hard time finishing it. Then I have 550 photos to edit and of course I want to use every single one of them but the book has only 45 pages and I’m trying to condense. You guys know how I’m all about quantity and not so consistent with quality!

Well, since I’m on nurse duty this week, I may not be able to blog often. Just know I’m here, thinking of completing my Summer Bucket List.

  1. As always, Beach days!!
  2. Last year we didn’t make it to a concert at the Hollywood bowl, so I’m super stoked to see Björk at the Bowl June 11th!! *Björk was AMAZING!!*
  3. Attend Liv’s school Summer Masquerade Serenade *We had a wonderful time*
  4. Grill this!!     
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Rosemary and beef kebabs

    5.  Have a family BBQ *Possibly Maybe soon?*
    6.  Braid my hair *Done.

Before


After, Very Fancy!

        7. Go to Disneyland *for Liv’s 3rd Birthday*

         8.  Have dinner at Knotts Berry Farm.  *I love their biscuits with Knott’s jam*
         9.  Attend Tom & Jess’s beach wedding in July.

        10. Attend the Renegade Craft Fair *one of my favorite summer events*
        11. Have a friends BBQ *and make a signature cocktail*
        12. Cook at least 5 recipes from my Pinterest board *and use my new crock pot*
        13. Take Olivia to see Monster’s University
        14. Stage an intervention for Amanduh Bynes *we’re all concerned*
        15. Buy this adorable sun hat for me, a Mexican dress for Olivia and Antz could use
              new sunglasses too!

Kate Spade Hello Sunshine raffia sun hat *it’s sold out at Nordstrom 🙁
      16.  Go bike riding on the Strand

      Bonus: Swim/tan as often as possible!!