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Showing posts from 2009

Winter Wonderland escape

The first part of our holiday trip was a quick visit to the Colorado mountains for a friend's wedding. We spent 2 days in a small resort surrounded by mountains, a ranch and wonderful snow. We were very lucky with the weather: snow had just fallen a few days before, and we were greeted by bright sunshine. Besides the wedding (beautiful and fun), we were able to enjoy the mountain, and Daniel had the best time. The first part of our program included a sleigh ride in the ranch, to visit all herd of horses, an ox, 2 donkeys and a mule. Daniel enjoyed seeing the animals closeby and he loved the motion of the sleigh (especially the bounce every time we started again). The horses were so big compared with the ones we see around here. They are used to working outside all year around. It was great to feel like we were closer to nature (although there was nothing green to be seen, everything was covered in white). On the second day, we let Daniel try cross-country skiing. We were not exp

The quest for fleece pajamas and bad, really bad customer service at Sears

Heading into the winter, I have been trying to find affordable 2-piece fleece pajamas for Daniel. This turned out to be more challenging than I thought: I either found nice but very expensive pajamas (not worth the price given that Daniel will probably outgrow them in 2 months) or cheap ugly ones. I ended up finding a few that seemed to be nice alternatives at Sears, so despite low expectations, I gave them a try. It turns out that the sizing was a little bit off... not a big deal, I thought: Daniel is hard to dress right now, so it can happen. However, I got the worst customer experience when trying to return them. Here is how it went. I first realized that there was no return label included in the package, and I couldn't get one automatically online (First FAIL!). So I emailed asking for one. Me: "I would like to get a return label for my package as the clothes are too big." Sears response: "Here is the link to our return policy." - Second FAIL. Me: "I

Tinyprints Holiday cards are here

The Holiday season is quickly approaching and I wanted to write a quick article about what Tinyprints has to offer in terms of Holiday cards and gifts. This year, Tinyprints really offers a lot of unique and exciting products, from custom photo cards to pop-up cards or even photo montage cards . And since Holiday is also about gathering and parties, this discount can also be used for Holiday party invitations , and many more great products. All these cards, whether standard or more innovative formats, go through the same level of internal review before they are printed and shipped, to ensure the highest satisfaction. I encourage you to browse Tinyprints to find out for yourselves which card or which collection will work for you this Holiday season. Tinyprints ships to the US and Europe too. If you are interested for a 30% coupon code, email me at isabelle AT isabelles DOT net for specific information.

Bear Gulch Cave, Pinnacles National Monument

My in-laws visited us from Germany for about a week, which was great. We hadn't seen them since May, and we enjoyed catching up. Plus, they took good care of Daniel, introducing him to new places, bringing a lot of toys (probably not necessary, though) and teaching him a lot of new German words. They also did the shopping for us and cooked dinner every night... It felt like a vacation! As a result, we felt well rested over the weekend to do a "big" excursion, to Pinnacles National Monument. The park is well know for the rock formations and cliffs (very popular with climbers) and some caves. We decided to take the short trail (about 1 mile each way) to visit Bear Gulch cave, which is one of the biggest caves in the park. Due to a misunderstanding with my husband, we had forgotten the baby backpack at home. At 21 months, Daniel is actually a good walker, and he didn't seem to mind hiking, even as we climbed up the mountain. The issue, though, is that he loves to exp

14 days of Gratitude Challenge and...

... I love it! It hasn't completely changed my world, and I haven't discovered a completely new wisdom for my life. But I like having the daily reminders to see the positive in all situations, good or bad, and appreciate what I have. It's so refreshing. What has become clear is that I cherish the time with my family and friends more than anything else. Even when I complain about Daniel starting to show signs of the Terrible 2 phase, or when I think my husband could do more to help, I know this is nothing against the joy I have to spend my life with them. And when I get distracted from calling my friends because of some trivial reason, I am reminded that they are important too, and that I should keep in touch. Everything else can wait. So, here is to 2 weeks of Gratitude Challenge. I look forward to week 3 and what I will discover/be reminded off in the last stretch.

Grateful for all 5 senses

Today's Gratitude Challenge task is to focus on one of the 5 senses and be grateful for it. I thought it would be an easy task. I am so happy to be able to see the world, and witness beautiful things with my own eyes: sunset by the beach, the fall colors on the trees, beautiful card designs from Tinyprints , my son smiling and happy , etc... However, upon further thought, I realized that I appreciate all my senses equally, and I can't really isolate one from the others. They are all so important to me, and I am so grateful to be able to enjoy them all. Take hearing for example. I enjoy listening to music a lot and I definitely think music enriches my life. As my readers already know, I am so excited to witness my son's language development . And then, there are the random sounds of the rain falling on trees, waves by the ocean, birds singing in the early morning, laughter of friends, etc... I can't imagine what life could be without hearing. So here, I am grateful for

Grateful for the positive and negative

In this post, I am capturing Day 3 and Day 4 of the Gratitude Challenge. The goal for Day 3 is: write about something you feel grateful for today. Day 4's focus is on: Give thanks for something negative in your life. Apparently, these 2 goals conflict with each other, but it turns out that they don't, really. Let me explain... Yesterday (Day 3) was Wednesday, and one thing stood out in terms of what I was grateful for: being able to attend my weekly yoga class at night. The rest of the day was pretty good too: interesting work, playing with Daniel, connecting with friends, etc... And I am obviously grateful to have a great job, the most precious kid (OK, I am biased!) and a network of good friends. But I am really glad that, as a busy working mom, I am able to regularly add to my schedule 1.5 hour for myself, where I can unwind and take care of myself. I know this is not a given... And I am particularly thankful for - my husband for diligently keeping his Wednesdays nights

ABC of Gratitude

As part of the Gratitude Challenge I am participating in for the next 21 days, I have been asked to put together an alphabet of Gratitude. It was an interesting exercise of introspection and a good way to revisit my knowledge of English (how many good words do I know, that start with "I"?). Here is my list: A irplane: A great invention, that allows us to visit so much of the world and stay in touch with far-away friends and family in so little time. B arcelona: A great city from many standpoints (lively, beach, food, culture), and where my husband and I met. Fond memories! C alifornia: The place we have made our home for now. Far from family, but attractive enough for us to stay. D aniel: My precious son who added so much to my life in just 20 months. E urope: Where my roots and family are (especially France, where I grew up, and Germany, which is almost my second home). I love the European culture and I miss it here. F amily/ F riends/ F acebook: How convenient all these wor

Honoring World Gratitude Day

Today is September 21, World Gratitude Day. I am lucky to work in a company that recognizes the importance of being grateful and of seeing the positive side of life. After all, this is what Tinyprints delivers every day: nice, customized cards, that allow people to share their happiest moments with their friends and families. Tinyprints started the Gratitude Challenge movement in August, with 30 bloggers who were asked to take note of the brighter side of life for 21 days. The stories were powerful, and the video below captures some of the highlights. Now it's my turn to start the challenge. So for 21 days (and hopefully beyond), I will be paying -more- attention to the little things that make life so worth living. Stay tuned, and feel free to join the challenge too! What I hope to achieve during this challenge is a little bit more awareness for the positive things in my life, big and small. It's very easy to get caught up in the stress of work, the difficulties in balanci

Our last-minute vacation in Yellowstone National Park

As I unexpectedly got a week off in the middle of the summer (due to changing jobs), my husband and I decided to take a quick vacation to a place we had wanted to visit for a long time: Yellowstone National Park. We started planning one week before our trip, in the middle of the summer vacation time, so we were concerned about the logistics. Fortunately, we were still able to find accommodation in the park itself, although this meant we had to change hotel every day. This turned out to be a good solution, as it allowed us to visit all parts of the park without having to backtrack to the same corner every night. Also, once we were there, we learned of the major roadworks between Grand Teton and Yellowstone. We were glad we didn't go with the solution of staying in Grand Teton for the whole time and "commuting" to Yellowstone, which we had considered at some point. (even without the roadworks, I wouldn't recommend) Booking flights and rental car turned out not to be

Yellowstone vacation, Day 4-5

Our final day in Yellowstone was focused on visiting the geysers between Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful. We woke up early to visit the Mammoth terraces before the crowds (but also before the sun came out, unfortunately). Still, we were impressed. They look so fragile, yet so powerful and steady (they have obviously been around for many years!). The combination of colors and forms, and the steam coming out give the terraces a surreal look. Very unique. Mammoth terraces After a late brunch, we headed back South. Our first stop was at the Sheepeater Cliff, a cliff with interesting rock formations. However, the main attraction for us (particularly Daniel) was the river closeby. He enjoyed playing in it, walking, throwing stones, etc... Daniel playing in the river at Sheapeater Cliff After at least 30 minutes, we somehow managed to get him back in the car with limited complaining, and drove to the Norris Geyser basin. It was great timing for Daniel's nap, and once again, our

Yellowstone vacation, Day 3

Our plans for Day 3 in Yellowstone included a lot of driving, with the aim to spend the night at Mammoth Hot Springs to the very north of the park. We left early, stopping quickly at the Visitor Center in Fishing Bridge and letting Daniel play in the lake for a few minutes (although he would have loved to stay there all day, I think). On the way North, we drove by a plain where over 100 bisons had gathered, including a lot of young ones. We decided to try to get closer to the herd, and we ended up hiking for 30 minutes and watching the bison activities along the way. A herd of bisons by Yellowstone Canyon It really felt like we were in the movie "Dance with wolfes". The plain really looked like in the movie, and we were almost on our own in the wilderness (we can really close to a bison in his way to reunite with the herd). As we came back to the car, it was Daniel's nap time and he fell asleep right away. We continued our way North. We first visited the North Rim of

Yellowstone vacation, Day 2

Our second day at Yellowstone started with a hearty breakfast at our hotel, the Old Faithful Inn (large, old, wooden building... beautiful), and an encounter with a bison. One of many during this trip. Old Faithful Inn We then proceeded with a 1.5-hour hike along the geysers in Old Faithful, a very interesting collection of various geological formations: big, small, active, dormant, predictable, irregular, etc... Hike around Old faithful geysers By the late morning, we started our drive to the Lake Area via Madison and the Canyon. Daniel fell asleep in the car per his regular nap schedule, and we were able to do some sightseeing from the car. Daniel was well refreshed when we arrived at the Canyon section (although I inadvertently woke him up a few miles before when I spotted a bison by the road). Bison by the road So we went to visit the South section of the Canyon. The sights from the Artists Point at the very end are fantastic: a big waterfall in the distance, yellow shade

Yellowstone vacation, Day 1

Our first travel day started early, with a flight at 7:30am. We (parents) had to wake up before our 18-month old baby, which we are not used to anymore. We left home somewhat late and had some frustrations when checking-in . But we made the flight. Our flight plan included a stop-over in Salt Lake City. Our first flight went very well. We were able to entertain Daniel with breakfast, watching take-off and landing, and reading the airline magazine (at his age, he now knows enough words to recognize a lot of pictures in travel magazines.. very convenient). In Salt Lake City, our 2nd flight was delayed and we ended up seeing more of the airport than we wanted. Fortunately, Daniel did great during this whole time, despite the fact that it spanned past his regular nap time: he enjoyed watching the planes come and go, and all the activity preparing for take-off. Then, he fell asleep before we even took off the second time, happy and excited. Upon arrival in Jackson, WY, we started our drive

Delta Airlines needs to rethink their check-in line strategy

For our trip to Yellowstone National Park , we flew with Delta Airlines from San Francisco to Jackson, WY via Salt Lake City, UT. This was the most convenient and a somewhat cheap flight, so we took it, even though we usually fly with United Airlines. We have flown with our now 18-month old baby on lap many times over the last year and a half, and we thought we had gotten the routine down: check in at the counter, ask for an extra ticket for the baby on lap, done... Easy enough. However, our experience with Delta Airlines this time was nothing short of easy or efficient. They should re-think their check-in strategy if they want to keep happy customers. The flight was early in the morning, and we were a little late arriving at the airport. My husband dropped Daniel and me in the check-in area, and went to park the car. In the meantime, I was going to get our tickets. Seeing that the line for the check-in counter was quite long, I thought I should be able to get our flight tickets (at

Do coupon code boxes deter online shoppers?

I shop a lot, especially online, and I would describe myself as a methodical shopper who likes good deals. In most cases, I start shopping with a specific goal in mind, and I only put something in my cart when I find the exact product that corresponds to my needs. Then, if I hear that I just need to add another item to be eligible for a discount/free shipping/etc... I might respond to this promo and check if there is something else I might like. But I will only buy a product that I deem useful enough. Lately, I have started to be really annoyed when going through the check-out process of some online retailers. And it's too bad, as I might not include them in my list next time I look for a product they carry. Here is the scenario: after spending several hours browsing retail sites, comparing prices, reading reviews, I have finally made up my mind for what I want to buy. I found the right item at the right price. Thinking "finally, almost done", I enter my password, take

Resources to teach American kids French

UPDATE: I discovered an online store that sells books and DVDs in a variety of foreign languages (DVDs coded for region 1). It's World of Reading . Among others, they have a lot of Dora DVDs in French, and they are a hit with our 18-month toddler. They require toddler participation in speaking, dancing and pointing at objects, which he enjoys a lot. Although they look like a small company, customer service was great and shipping was fast. Highly recommended. -------------------------------- Recently, I was at a park with our baby, and I met a mom who was fascinated by the fact that Daniel is learning 3 languages. She heard me speak to him in French and him respond in French and/or English and/or German (yes, it's still a little bit random at this age), and she thought it was exciting. As I have written in previous articles , raising a trilingual kid isn't an easy task every day. But the expectation is that Daniel will be able to sort out the languages eventually and find h

Happy 25th Anniversary, Children's Pre-School Center

A few weeks ago, Daniel's daycare ( The Children's Pre-School Center in Palo Alto) celebrated its 25th anniversary. It was a great milestone: a daycare welcomes quite a number of children in 25 years and some of them are already adults by now! But the main reason why this was a significant event is that the school's founder, Rachel Samoff, is still the director - and a great one- after 25 years. What a dedication to taking care of children over the years! The celebrations included well-deserved recognition for her fantastic work and achievements. Daniel joined CPSC in October 2008, at 9 months. Since then, he has been thriving: looking forward to daycare every morning (eager to leave the house as soon as he wakes up!), and learning a lot. He loves his teachers: they really spend time with the children, and offer activities/learning opportunities that fit each kid's development stage. At the end of each day, the teachers can tell me a lot about Daniel's day: his n

Why the Bay Area is great to raise multi-cultural kids

As a parent who speaks exclusively French to my baby Daniel while living in the US, I often feel unsure when talking to him in public places. I always wonder if other parents are thinking that this is strange or even worse, that this represents a lack of respect for the country I live in. It's true that it makes things more difficult: people around us don't understand what I tell Daniel, so they don't know if I am suggesting him to play with the other kids and be gentle, or to do something completely different. How can they know of my and my baby's good intentions if they don't understand what I say to him? After 17 months however, my brain has gotten so used to speaking French with Daniel, that I can't speak with him in English even if I try hard. Words will come in French, that's all. Today was a typical Sunday for us: brunch with friends, visit at the playground. Nothing special, but plenty of time spent with other people. This could have brought a lot of

United Airlines Premier status at 24 months: a frequent flyer baby

Our recent trip to Turkey and France included 6 flights across the US, Germany, Turkey and France. As my husband and I were carrying our luggage and baby through the Frankfurt airport, we reflected about how happy we were that our 16-month old toddler was usually so good with flying. Especially at this age, he was so excited about vehicles, and airplanes in particular, that he was eager to fly. He loved airplanes so much, that he had to blow several kisses to one of our planes to say "good bye" after we got off. (At another time, he also threw a tantrum as he wanted to run to the plane even though the gates hadn't been opened yet... fortunately, they opened soon and we ended up the first ones to "rush" to the plane). Another thought that occurred to us was that Daniel would probably become a United Airlines Premier member before he turned 2: two annual return trips to Europe and a few domestic flights would make him a frequent flyer baby. Overall, since birth

Enjoying great landscapes and old man-made caves in Cappadocia

Located in the middle of Turkey, Cappadocia is a great stop in any Turkey trip. The landscapes are fantastic, the underground cities are amazing and Goereme, the center of the region is a great place to stay. The unique features from Cappadocia come from its caves, carved in the chimneys or cliffs that shape Cappadocia’s landscapes by populations throughout the last 30+ centuries. The sights are somewhat reminiscent of Utah or Arizona national parks (think Grand Canyon), but the countless homes or churches carved in the rock add a historical twist to the visit. We were very impressed by the frescoes that decorate some of the churches: very elaborate and well preserved. Frescoes in the Black Church in Goereme A great way to visit Cappadocia is to explore the various canyons on foot. There are several around Goereme, all between 4 and 10 km long. Some paths are a little bit challenging (long dark tunnels and wood ladders). But we managed well despite having a baby in a baby backpack

Turkey travel with toddler - a good idea after all

After 10 days traveling in Turkey with our 16-month old son, we found that going to far-away countries with a toddler is not as difficult as many people believe. Yes, we also had our own concerns, and we had set our expectations that we might have a rough time. Yet, we had decided that it would be worth the effort since we were very eager to visit Turkey. As it turns out, most of our concerns weren’t justified, and we found that Daniel had a great time in Turkey. Below are a few things we have learned in our trip. • Jetlag : Interestingly enough, it was easier for Daniel to adjust after this complex trip than after a “simple” journey to Germany. After a 26-hour journey (2 flights and one 2.5 hour car drive) and a jump of 10 time zones, internal rhythm is typically quite upset for everyone, big and small. We flew with the night flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt, so Daniel had a good night of sleep behind him when we landed in Germany. From then, we paced his naps until the follo