Monday, August 16, 2010

Redding, CA

We recently visited Redding, CA where we stayed at Ramada Limited. We were there to attend my Dad's and Bett's wedding reception while having a ton of fun crammed into a few days. This will be a little photo heavy.
entering California (one of my favorite signs)
We left really early in the morning and arrived in Redding in time to go swimming at Bett's sisters house. We had a marvelous time and I enjoyed playing in the water with the kids (rather than sitting on the sides taking photos). We spent time teaching our kids how to dive and do a proper cannonball.

On Friday, we went to Turtle Bay Museum. It was hot out already, but the kids (and adults) had a great time playing in the water features, enjoying the fast blowing air in the butterfly garden and the indoor exhibits showcasing the local landscape and history. The museum was putting on a special exhibit about old time games and the kids had a blast throwing hoops and relaxing in the air conditioned building.

Scott, Jamie, Heather, Marc, Betts, Chrissy, Dad
playing in the water - trying to stay cool
butterfly garden (Miss R tried so hard to get one to land on her)
Miss M playing a game - throwing hoops

On Saturday, we spent the day talking and playing while getting ready for the wedding reception. Of course this is the day that it decides to be 108F!! My Dad's friend hosted all of us at his house and luckily he had a pool. I believe the kids spent the entire time in the water. I also think they enjoyed it even more when the adults started throwing each other in.

It starts innocent enough. My SIL, Robin, has been bugging Marc all day. He picks her up and carries her to the pool. We yell that she has a phone in her pocket and my brother, Bryan, takes it out of her pocket and says Carry On. Marc walks to the edge of the pool with her (I know he won't throw her in. He's not that mean), but my brother, Scott, runs up behind them and pushes them both in. Now it's on. I hear the other guests say it's time to go, but I hope they enjoyed all our antics. My other SIL, Jamie goes in (let me tell you, she put up a good fight). Maria and I stick together and have found a great reason to not lose weight. The boys won't be able to pick us up. I finally relent to the pressure and let the 10 and 11 year old girls "drag" me to the pool and push me in. The it was time to crown our new step-sister into our family. Scott and I find Chrissy and proceed to recruit help to pick her up (she's tall and light) and toss her in. Clothes and all. Welcome to the family!!

Sunday is our last day of fun before we head off on our separate adventures. And we have some serious fun planned with a float trip down the Sacramento River. We reserved 4 rafts for 24 people at Redding Raft Rentals. The company gave us all our waivers to sign our lives away and an instructional of how to avoid obstacles and the bushes on the edges. We load up our rafts and paddle hard to the middle of the river.

Each raft was given a water cannon to shoot the other rafters and shoot we did. Let me tell you, that water was pure snow melt. It was so cold, but it felt so wonderful to float along and have a great time. We spent lots of time splashing and shooting and passing kids between rafts. At one point, Marc and I were the only ones left in our raft, while my brother had 8 kids. It's really hard to paddle these rafts when there are only 2 people!

the splashing starts early

Mr C and Miss M helped guide our raft down the river

my Dad getting ready to give me a cannon-full

the view as you float from Redding to Anderson

We finished our float trip much too quick and were an exhausted crew. But never too tired to swim. Once we had some lunch, we drove down to Sacramento, CA to my brother Bryan's house to visit with some friends before we embarked on the next half of our California vacation.

Miss R has proven her fearlessness by doing handstands in the lake and front flips into the pool

Mr C is working on cannonballs
 And my final photo before we leave the Redding area to drive to San Diego - a warning sign for rattlesnakes that is posted at the rest stops along I-5. My kids were nervous and excited by these. Luckily, we never saw one.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"What's in a Word?" - a book review

If you can tell by looking at my left side bar, I am an avid reader. I have always been. I can remember climbing up into the front yard tree with my book, mini boom box and blanket to curl up in the cradle of branches and read for hours (while listening to the radio). My Mom would take me to the used book store to pickup paperback novels for a quarter ($0.25).

I put reading books on the back burner when I started having kids. Mostly I read lots of magazines. After a few years, I started feeling like I was having attention problems. Anything longer than a column of words was too much. I started to skip around. I moved on to reading the newspaper. At least it was relevant. Then I picked up my first book in forever. Sadly, it was Twilight.

It was like herion to me. I couldn't get enough. I needed more. I needed to read the rest. And when I was done, I felt depressed. It wasn't so much the writing, but the whole story. That first consuming love. I loved it and I was hooked. I spent all of 2009 reading everything I could.

At first, I went to the local bookstore and picked up any books that looked interesting. I joined a website called "goodreads" and added my friend, Rachel, and read through her reviews and added books to my "to read" shelf. Finally, as my then 9 year old daughter became more of a voracious reader, I went down to the local library and got us some library cards. Now I go on the libraries website and put any book I want for myself or my daughter on "hold". When the book comes in I pick it up and thumb through it while my youngest two look through the children's section and pick out books for themselves.

I feel like I'm encouraging my kids to be great readers by always reading myself. I love that at the end of the day, I can find my Mr C and Miss M laying in her bed reading their own books. They like to read together and Mr C's reading has grown by leaps and bounds by reading next to Miss M. Last night, I found Miss R curled up on Miss M's bed reading her own book along side Mr C and Miss M. Miss R can't read yet, but she was loving this alone time and I'm proud of my little readers.


Now, back to my book review. I found a website called BookSneeze where they send any blogger a free book of their choice to read and review. The only requirement is to write a blog about my review and post my review on a public site like Amazon.

I received "What's in a Word?" by Webb Garrison quite awhile ago. The following is my opinion on the book:

The little things we say in society, even more so when you travel to different regions of the USA have always fascinated me. My great grandma always says, “for crying out loud”. Now my Dad and daughter say this. But when asked, they don’t know why, except that my Nana says it. Where does this word come from? Why do people say it?

That’s when I came across the book, “What’s in a Word?” It’s a book of short entries separated by categories. I found that it was slightly outdated (with the computer genre). I’m sure most of us aren’t very interested in where the word “floppy disk” came from. Many of us don’t even remember what a floppy disk is! I did find the stories fun to read if you jumped around and read random passages. It was interesting to learn the history of common phrases we use.

When I first started to read this book, I tried to read it like a novel - entry after entry in the same category. I found this mind numbing and boring. But for some fun facts and random trivia, grab this book and skip around. Find something that catches your attention and read on. It’s a great book to keep by the couch, bedside or in the bathroom.

Friday, August 6, 2010

trying something new

MannLand5 has created a "Follow me Chickadee Friday" with 3 of her super friends, Stash Mamathe adventures of goober grape & monkey man, and the life of a sippy cup mom.

So I'm trying this out and finding some fantastic new blogs to follow. Take a look and link up (by following the rules, of course).

Happy Friday!!

Here's the details direct from MannLand5's blog:

Each week, simply stop by at any of these four blogs for a chance to link up and meet new and exciting bloggers out on the interwebz! 

All we ask is that you follow a few simple guidelines:
  • Add a main link to your blog each week (Linky will open every Thursday night at 11 p.m. EST and close at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday mornings EST).
  • Follow the first four blogs in the # 1, 2, 3, 4 spots.
  • Visit the blog above and below your listing and leave a *meaningful* comment.  Something nice and shiny to make them smile.  But make sure to tell them that you found them from Follow Me, Chickadee!
  • You don't have to follow every blog that follows you...but make sure that you follow the blogs that really interest you!
  • If you want to put the blog hop code or the Chickadee button on your Friday post on your blog, we welcome it!
  • Family friendly sites ONLY.  The linky list will be monitored and anything not family friendly *will* be deleted.  We don't want to see random naughty bits or something that would make our families cringe.
  • And the most important guideline?  HAVE FUN!  Make new friends, but keep the is silver and the other's...ack, Girl Scouts memories shining through.  Oh, and have a Happy Friday!

kicking the addiction

I have an addiction. I've never realized it was an addiction, but it is. It's not smoking or drinking. It's not even drugs.

It's Starbucks coffee. A grande or venti mocha to be exact. Sometimes I add peppermint or an extra shot. Sometimes I do nonfat or 2% milk. It hasn't made a difference to my weight one way or the other.

I love the socializing with the barista, who hates that I change up my order everyday because he can't predict me. We have 6 Starbucks within 2 miles of my house. My favorite pimp drive through is the one up the hill on the way to the freeway or the kids school.

I finally realized that like my parents smoking or drinking (which they quit), I am an addict. I was driving up the hill and pulled into the turn lane without thinking. I waited for the green arrow to turn and realized that I was going to Starbucks driving while asleep maybe. I wasn't even thinking, but what a great idea. I used to go everyday (even though I make a pot of coffee at home) just for the socialization. To talk to another adult. Even for 2 minutes. Then if I was stressed out, I would pile the kids in the car and go get another fix grande. That first sip is so smooth and calming. I can feel the zen like atmosphere invade my body and all the stresses wash away calgon has nothing on mochas. 

So, like weight loss, I make a commitment to quit (lose weight) and fail. If I have a bad day, I need some Starbucks. If I stayed awake too late and am so tired, I need some Starbucks. I am such an addict!!

But, here comes the rehab. I spent $2400 last year at Starbucks (not including the times coffee was bought for me or I used cash). That's almost enough for a great vacation. It's enough for a mini vacation. Did I kick the habit? No!! So, after our vacation (which I need to blog about), Marc and I made a bet. A bet to give up Starbucks and win a great prize.

Here's the details:
If I can give up Starbucks and lose 50 pounds, I can join my Aunt and fly to Italy for one week. My cousin just moved to Naples and we want to take the kids to visit. I claim that if I go with my Aunt in December, I can scout the area and know what to be aware of when we take 4 kids with us. Ugh - that flight. If Marc loses 50 pounds first, well - you don't want to know what he wins. I actually can't remember what I agreed to. I figure if I keep buying lots of bread and pasta (his weakness) then I'll win and it doesn't matter.

So, how am I doing? I have not bought Starbucks since Sunday. Today I used my free card to pick up a venti mocha. I still have $3.75 on my gift card and am 2 drinks away from earning another free one. So, I'm relaxing with my well deserved reward, but am ready to kick this habit, lose the weight and drink some delicious house wine in Italy.

I'll keep you posted as I continue down my path towards a Starbucks free life.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hotel Review - Redding, CA

I have never done a review before, but we just finished our vacation and had to tell you about this hotel. I paid for my trip and did not tell the hotel that I would be writing about them after I stayed there. Is this enough of a disclaimer?

Marc and I took the family on vacation to California. We started our vacation in Redding, CA to attend my Dad's wedding reception (to the most lovely lady). We usually stay with my Dad, but chose to stay in a hotel this time.

My brother and his family (5), plus my stepsister and her daughters (3) were staying at Dad's and Betts (2), we thought we could use an extra cold hotel room with our own bathroom.

To begin, my brother (different brother) was going to book a room at the Super 8 down the street from my Dad's. I went on Priceline to see the cost and reviews. It was $75/night and the first (most recent) review said "sticky floors". I don't know about you, but I'm not staying where there are sticky floors. I wasn't planning on getting a hotel (I was going to use Bett's sister's trailer outside their house), but I called my brother and we did some research online. I decided I would like our own room to spread out and shower and agreed to bid on a hotel.

I've tried bidding once before and it turned out great. I looked at all the 2 star and 3 star hotels in Redding. Since I wasn't planning on getting a hotel to start, I decided to stick with the 2 star hotels. They ranged from $129-169 a night. The Ramada Limited was on sale for $62. I was pretty guaranteed that this would be the winning hotel because of my low bid. I looked at the pictures.

I could live with this room for 3 nights. So, I bid $60 and *surprise* *surprise* I won a room at the Ramada Limited. This hotel is at the other end of town from my Dad's, but even with traffic, it only takes 10 minutes to take the freeway to his house. My brother and his friend both bid on the same hotel, same price and won too.

So, I'm into details, can you tell. And I tell you every step, next time I'll try and just review.

We arrived at the hotel at 4pm. The lobby is nice and desk clerk, not so much. I ask for a room with 2 beds and she informs me that it will be an extra $20 a night plus tax. I tell her a King room is just fine (we can put the kids on an air mattress). She tells me about breakfast and that the lobby is the only way in and out (safety). I thank her and leave.

When we get back again, Marc goes up to the room with 2 kids and tries to take the elevator. The people that get off the elevator say "good luck. we were just stuck in there for 5 minutes". We decide to take the stairs for our entire stay. I was aware there was an elevator problem from the reviews on Priceline, but I would have thought it would have been fixed in the last 30 days. Nope!!

My brother texts me to say he is in a room 2 down from me. I knock on his door and he's not there. I text him to see where he is and he replies "stuck in the elevator". I'm laughing and go to the elevator to press up and down before I go to the front desk. I can hear he and his friend yelling. The elevator opens and they are not happy. We laugh now and everyone takes the stairs.

Breakfast smelled great, but we went to Betts each morning for breakfast, so I never sampled it. It was free and included, so that was good. When you are a family of 6 traveling, saving costs help. Marc usually goes down and grabs food for everyone and then brings it to the room for us to eat as we get ready. I am hyper aware that I have 6 people in a room (my kids are still little), so I clean as we go and make the room nice before I leave. All trash is where it belongs and everything is put away. We try to keep it clean and easy for the housekeeper.

The bathroom was very 2 star. The sink was in the main area and the toilet/shower where in the bathroom. I like this (at times) because I can get ready while everyone else takes their showers. They had moved the shower rod out and replaced it with a bowed rod. I like this, but they didn't patch the holes and there was mold growing there (no where else, just there). I'm assuming it's because there was no fan in the bathroom.

The room looked like this:

not terribly different than the photo, but a lot plainer than we expected. There was enough room for the air mattress (which we rolled up and put in a bag every morning). 

Overall, it was ok for $60, but the elevator is definitely a problem. The mold in the bathroom didn't make me feel well. And the staff could have been a lot more friendly. Not put out if you asked a question. Breakfast looked great. If you were driving through and needed a quick place to stay, it was clean and safe. But I would not stay here again. 

2 out of 5 stars.

As a local from Redding, I would recommend to never stay at one of the 1 star hotels. Most of them are fairly seedy (drugs, women). The 2 stars (apart from the Ramada Limited) are fairly decent and in more populated areas (near the mall and restaurants).