My baby girl turned 2 years old on Halloween!!!  I know this post is embarrassingly late but I wanted to document and share this special occasion, mostly in case Zoey wants to read this blog years down the line.  I know it doesn’t mean much to anyone else, but as her parents, her birthday was a big moment for Jeff and I.  We praise God for 2 years of her life and the honor of being her parents!

Zoey’s been asking for an “icecream pie” ever since she overheard some older kids say it once over the summer at the playground at Golden Gate park.   I don’t think she really knew what it was, but she’s been randomly saying “icecream pie, icecream pie” for months since.  For her birthday, I had to make her dream come true!  I had no idea what a real icecream pie was either, I’ve never really had one, but I figured it couldn’t be too hard to concoct, right?  You can’t go wrong with icecream and pie all smushed together in one delicious, candlelit dessert.  Its a brilliant, winning combination!  My Zozo may be only 2 years old but a real genius I tell ya!  ;)

For this “pie”, I made a no-bake oreo cookie crust.  I blended 20 oreo cookies in a food processor, combined the crumbs with ¼ cup of butter and and pressed the mixture into a pie pan.  Then I refrigerated it for half an hour before filling. (Recipe found here)  I forgot to take a picture while I was making the crust but here is a picture right as I started filling the pie:


As the pie crust was chilling, I took out a half gallon of Dreyers Soft Churned vanilla bean icecream out of the freezer to soften on the counter top.  When the pie crust was nice and chilled, the ice-cream was soft enough to spread over the hardened crust:


I spread the ice-cream as evenly as I could with a spatula and put it all back in the freezer to harden for a couple hours:icecreampie3

Once the ice-cream had hardened, I decorated the top with some whip cream flowers and spelled her name out with pink-tinted white chocolate:

Pretty easy, fast and affordable icecream pie for my birthday girl!! Zoey was happy as could be with her birthday surprise!  icecreampie5


But totally terrified of the lit candles:icecreampie8

It should be noted that all this icecream was consumed right after an evening of trick-or-treating and this already hyper-active little girl was bouncing off the walls!


Happy birthday to our spunky little 2 year old!!!  We love you THIS MUCH, Zoey!!

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Zoey’s Going To Be A Big Sister!

by ilene on October 8, 2014 · 5 comments

in baby


Hi friends!!! Jeff and I are thrilled to announce that Zoey is going to be a BIG SISTER!!   That’s right, we’re expecting another baby!!!  I’m a little more than halfway through this pregnancy and due February 2015.  (I’m hoping for a Valentine’s baby since Zozo was born on Halloween.)  So far my pregnancy is going well and the baby is healthy, which we are really grateful for.


We found out recently that we’re having another baby girl!   I’m over the moon because I’ve always wanted a house full of little girls and I wanted to give Zoey a sister.  There is something so special about the sister relationship, my sister and I are best friends and talk everyday.  I’m glad Zoey will get to experience the sisterly sweetness and have a lifelong best friend, too.

Zoey’s going to be the BEST big sister!

We are so happy to share the news with you all!!

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Zoey’s 18 Month Update

by ilene on June 20, 2014 · 1 comment

in Zoey's First Year




A year and a half!!   This post is a little late (Zoey is actually 19 months old now), but I wanted to document and share how she’s growing so fast!  I mourned a lot on this blog when my baby turned 1, but I have to say, I’m really loving this toddler stage.   Every day, I see more and more of her fun personality shine through.  What a joy it is to see our little Zozo grow into this spunky, silly, quirky, independent little person.  She can throw away her own diapers, take off her shoes, tell me what she wants to eat for breakfast, brush her teeth and even pick out clothes to wear.  It’s been pretty fun seeing her learn new life skills.  The best part about her personality, though, is her emerging sense of humor.   She loves to play peek-a-boo at the funniest times and look at me with the most devilish grin when she runs off with things of mine.  She cracks her father and I up all the time with the silliest and unexpected things that she does.

One of the most obvious changes is that she has become quite the CHATTERBOX.  Girl knows over 150 words already.  I keep a growing list of the words that she knows on my phone  (I only count the words that she says on her own unprompted) and it seems like every day I am adding to it.   Of course most of the words she utters are imperatives because she is quite the bossy one…or animals.  She loves her animals.  Girl can name most of the animals at the SF Zoo and the sounds they make.  Though her favorite words still are:  UP!! milk, Elmo, Abby (Cadabby), ALL DONE, bubbles, and NO.   “NO” is uttered a gazillion times a day around here and its usually followed with a lot of chasing around the house.




Other updates:

  • Weight: 20lbs 5oz(3%),  Height: 32 inches (50%), Head size: 45.3cm (20%) at her 18 month checkup
  • 16 teeth!
  • Can finally wear her hair in pigtails, though she usually tears them out in a matter of minutes
  • Got her first pet- a red and blue beta fish named “Fishy”
  • Starting to string two words together.  Her first sentence was “We’re home!!”  She can also say “Come on!” and “Bye bye, Dada! Bye bye, Fishy!”
  • Officially down to one nap during the day
  • Enrolled in her first dance class, where she quickly took center stage
  • Completed 25 flights
  • New hobbies: riding her red tricycle, digging in the sand, coloring, climbing stairs, building blocks
  • Favorite foods: noodles, rice, grapes, craisins, soup, peas, sweet potato fries, peaches, dumplings, and pizza




Zoey’s been super fun, extra silly and all around a joy to be around.  Every day I am amazed at how fast she learns new things.  I’m relishing this sweet, sweet stage of her life.   Before I know it, my sweet baby girl will be turning TWO!!! And then I will really weep.

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Zoey just completed her 25th airplane ride!  Not bad for a 18 month old.  Girl is one well travelled child. I’m not saying that she is good on planes, in fact, she is pretty terrible onboard.  She’s just been on a lot of them.   Her first plane ride was at 11 weeks old (she was awesome, I was scared out of my mind) and since then, we’ve kept on taking off.  Her longest plane ride was either to Hawaii or to North Carolina and she’s even flown internationally (Cabo).   Jeff and I are both avid travelers so we are adamant that having children would not stop us from enjoying one of our favorite hobbies.  Our hope is that we will pass this travel bug onto Zoey!   I want her to be able to experience new places, new cultures, meet new people and create wonderful memories.  Fear of flying with a baby will not stop us from seeing the world!   We have a couple more cross-country flights and another trip to Hawaii planned for this summer, trying to squeeze in as many flights as we can before Zoey hits two.  By the time fall hits, she will have flown over 30 times!

Traveling with an infant and now active toddler, though we believe worth the stress, is definitely not easy.   There is the actual time spent away, which we no longer call “vacationing” since its actually MORE work than just hanging out at home.  We just call it a “trip” now since it  often doesn’t feel like a relaxed vacation.  And then there is the whole preparations/packing part before the trip even starts which I will go in further detail in this post.  I remember the days pre-kids when I could pack for a flight in less than 20 minutes and everything I needed all fit in one small carryon bag.  Now the preparations start days, even weeks, before our day of departure and the amount of stuff we bring when we travel is borderline ridiculous.  Here is a picture of Jeff and all the gear we brought with us on our trip to Oahu last fall:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.15.33 PM

Ridiculous, much? It’s laughable how much stuff we had to bring for one week of vacation! And this is for ONE child!  Can you imagine if we had two?!   I give all the respect to parents who travel with multiple small children!  That giant orange bag covers Zoey’s carseat.  Every trip now starts with a discussion on should/shouldn’t we bring a car seat and  if so, which one should we bring.  You have no idea how cumbersome and heavy a carseat is until you are dragging it across terminals and up/down rental car shuttles.

I’m no expert on air travel with kids, but I’ve done it a lot, mostly solo without Jeff’s help.  I’ve had my fair share of airport meltdowns, but I thought I’d share a few tips on how I pack for plane rides in case there any nervous mamas out there needing some help preparing for their summer vacations.   The key for me is to be prepared and organized.  And by this, I mean to anticipate what I’ll need and keep everything in its proper place.  Everything I pack has its own compartment and if I take it out, I have to put it back in its initial spot.  Often times when I am out and about, I’ll be in a hurry and will stick objects that I just took out into random places which I forget about when I try to retrieve it again.  This is how things get lost, which only adds to the stress.  When I know that I am prepared and organized prior to boarding my flight, I am a much more calm traveler and thus, a much more pleasant person shepherding Zoey and lugging my suitcases through congested airports.  This is better for everyone I come in contact with that day.

Below is how I pack for air travel. This is what I find works for me.  Let me know if you have other tips! I would love to hear in the comments below!


Ok, so let’s first talk about  carryon bags.  I check most of my stuff when I travel so that I’m not encumbered with heavy suitcases but I still need a large bag to carry Zoey’s essentials that I need on the flight.   For a small kid, she needs a lot of stuff! For my one allowed carryon bag,  I use this large Quiksilver Daddy Day bag aka my survival bag (by the way, this post is not in any way sponsored by Quiksilver, I just really like this backpack):


I ditched my sorry Skiphop diaper bag long ago in favor of a bigger, sturdier backpack.  Initially, I tried to get by with one of Jeff’s old  northface backpacks but it really did not have enough compartments or storage space, so I checked out a bunch of dad backpacks designed for carrying kid essentials. Dad backpacks are awesome because they look pretty cool compared to a flowery diaper bag and your husband can’t object to carrying the diaper bag!  hehehe.   I also like being able to wear a bag pack when I am on the go so that my hands are free and there is less strain on my shoulders.   I bought a couple of daddy diaper backpacks (tried the DadGear version that my sister has and the Okkatots Baby Travel Depot) before settling on the Quiksilver Daddy Day bag for its size and style.  (It’s on sale now, too!)   The bag looks a little ridiculous on me but its not my everyday bag so I don’t mind carrying it every once in awhile.   Here I am, toting it around in Vegas on my 5’2″ frame:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.16.10 PM

Even though this backpack is huge, the size is a plus when I travel because there is really room for everything!  Here is how I stuff it to the brim with all the necessities for traveling with a toddler:


The key is to keep everything compartmentalized so you know exactly where things are.  The large compartment keeps diapers, change of clothes, Zoey’s lovey, books, toys and other forms of entertainment (like this portable chalkboard).  If you ever traveling with toddlers, then you know that having a ton of food/snacks is crucial for your sanity so I devote the entire  middle compartment to her feeding supplies like bibs, burp clothes, nursing cover, utensils and lots of non-refriderated snacks.  The insulated compartment in the front holds food that needs to be kept chilled.  It will usually stay cool long enough if its a shorter flight.

The two side pockets carry an empty water bottle that I fill at a drinking fountain after I pass thru security and an unopened carton of milk:


TSA regulations actually allow parents traveling with young children to bring water, milk, breast milk and food on planes as long as its in reasonable amounts.  If the container is opened, security will ask to open the lid and do a vapor check, but   I’ve never had a problem bringing liquids for my daughter on the plane.

When I’m sitting in a tight spot on the airplane I don’t want to be fumbling and looking for things so everything that I carry in the compartments of my backpack is further compartmentalized, too, so I can find it easily and pull it right out quickly.   For example, I use these waterproof wet bags from Pottery Barn Kids to hold my diapers and change of clothes:


I got my wet bags on sale last summer and they are some of my favorite purchases.  In the pink bag, I put in all my diapering supplies like wet wipes, travel-size diaper rash cream and enough diapers to last a full day:


This bag is perfect when I need to change Zoey, because I can just grab the whole bag out of my backpack and have everything I need instead of rummaging through a huge bag for supplies.  I can also transfer it easily from one diaper bag to another whenever I switch bags.  It also doubles as a wet bag when things go horribly wrong and I need a place to store soiled clothes.   The blue bag houses a change of clothes for Zoey and an extra t-shirt for me when things go even more horribly awry.

For Zoey’s feeding supplies, I keep all the essentials (bib, utensil and plate) in a large ziploc bag like this:


When its time to eat, I can just take out the entire ziploc bag and I have everything that I need right there. When she’s done with her meal, I can put the dirty plate, along with any trash, back into the ziploc bag until I can wash it later.  No mess.  I also carry her utensils in a travel case for toothbrushes for the same reason.  I don’t want the dirtied utensil just floating around loose in a back pack.

I’ve also found it useful to carry disposable bibs, utensils and table toppers, too, especially for long trips where I know I will not have access to laundering facilities or a kitchen.  We use the Learning Curve Take  & Toss Flatware, the Pampers Bibsters and the Neat Solutions Table Toppers:


The table toppers were awesome when Zoey was into finger foods. I could tape down a table topper over the entire flight tray and put all her food directly on top of it and she could pick them off the tray. When she was done, I could roll the mess up and toss it away.


While I carry all of Zoey’s stuff in the backpack, I put all MY personal stuff in a big purse.  For my one personal item to carry on the plane, I carry a large Longchamp tote:


This Longchamp bag is my favorite traveling bag – lightweight, waterproof and spacious.  It’s so big, on my last flight, I fit in a whole pizza box!   It can really fit a lot of stuff:


Shall we have a look inside?  This is what I carry in my tote when I fly:


In my tote, I carry ANOTHER purse.  This may seem redundant and unnecessary, but I like to have a smaller crossbody bag when I am on vacation for days I don’t want to be carrying a huge backpack or tote.  In my crossbody bag, I put all my most important things like my wallet, keys, iPhone and passport.  I don’t like having things loose and swimming in the abyss of a giant tote, so its nice to have all of those important things contained in one place.  Like my backpack, everything in my tote is further compartmentalized.  I carry a folder with important travel docs like a copy of Zoey’s birth certificate (for proof of age as a lap child), airplane tickets, luggage stubs and hotel info.   A quart-sized clear ziploc holds all the 3oz liquids. In another small zippered pouch, I put my phone and iPad chargers, as well as headphones so that the cords don’t get all tangled.  I have a sunglass case since I  never leave the house without a pair, but I don’t want them sitting on top of my head the entire flight.  I also can fit my laptop and iPad in the tote.  I also carry reading material like a magazine and kindle in the rare opportunity that I might actually get a chance to sit and read quietly.  This rarely happens but every time I board a flight, I naively think that this might be THE flight that I can kick back and enjoy some leisurely reading!  One can hope!  Lastly, I carry extra wet-wipes because every traveling mom can never have enough of those. I put them everywhere so that I can easily find one when I need it!



Lastly, this is how I pack my suitcase:


Everything is in its own bag and organized.   The shoes are in a shoe bag, jewelry in a jewelry pouch, makeup in a makeup bag and toiletries in a ziploc bag.    And all the clothes are folded and sorted  in colored-coded packing cubes:


Can we stop for a moment so that I tell you how much I love packing cubes?! They have changed the way I travel!   I am a huge fan. They save space by keeping my clothes compact so I can fit in twice as much clothes and they keep everything tidy and orderly.   I will put Zoey’s play clothes in one cube, her nicer clothes in another, my shirts in another, etc.   I don’t like loose items floating around in my suitcase because they can easily get lost during inspection so I will also stuff loose items into the top of a packing cube.  They are also great when we get to our destination because I can take out my cube of shirts and put the whole thing in one drawer and my underwear cube in the next.  When its time to pack up, I consolidate all the dirty clothes into one packing cube and that will be the one I toss in the laundry when I get back home.   I believe in packing cubes so much, everyone in my family got a set for Christmas one year.  I was a packing cube missionary, spreading the good news and telling everyone that they must have it in their lives!!    I will never travel again without my trusty packing cubes!!!

Besides my backpack, tote bag, luggage and Zoey, I am usually also lugging a camera bag with our DSLR, our Becco Gemini carrier, Uppababy Glite umbrella stroller, sometimes our Baby Bjorn travel crib depending on the destination and maybe a jacket and some food.  I am a mule.

If we are flying to the grandparents’ house, where we visit often, we keep there an extra crib, high chair, carseat, feeding supplies and even diapers/wipes so that we don’t have to bring any of those items back and forth.


Whew!!!   This was one long post! Hopefully this was helpful to other traveling parents out there!  If you are feeling nervous about an upcoming flight, remind yourself that if you don’t go on this trip, the alternative is being stuck at home  doing the same monotonous stuff over and over and, frankly, that does not sound that appealing either. If you have any other air travel tips, feel free to share in the comments below!  Good luck to all the parents traveling this summer! YOU CAN DO IT!!!

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Reupholstered Bench Makeover

by ilene on June 3, 2014 · 3 comments

in decor, wood


So we’ve  had this lovely brown leather bench in our entryway for the last couple of years:


The bench was a wedding gift and one of the few pieces of furniture we kept when we moved from Cambridge, MA to San Francisco, CA three summers ago.   Its from Crate and Barrel and has served us well the past few years.  Not only do we sit on it to put on shoes, it also doubles as a coatrack and dumping spot for a my purses, diaper bag, groceries and whatever random things I’m carrying when I walk through the front door.  (The above photo is probably the barest its ever been.  Picture lots of junk on top and beneath it on a daily basis.)  The bench also, unfortunately, held a bag of all our recycling and one day, something sticky leaked on it, which made the bag stick to the bench and tore off a spot of leather with it:bench2

I can’t describe how maddening it was to see this little white spot taunting me every time I walked through the front door!   I thought about trying to color it in with a brown marker just to make it less glaring, but I decided to cover up the whole brown leather top with a lighter fabric instead.   We used to have a lot of brown leather in our old place, but my tastes of have changed since then and I wanted a fresh new look.  The brown leather felt really dark and heavy  in that corner.  Originally, I wanted to cover the top with a light linen fabric but when I went fabric shopping at Joann’s fabric, I fell in love with this stone-colored upholstery fabric with a circular design.  I loved the texture and color!   The fabric was nice and sturdy, too, so I knew it would hold up well over time.  Just one yard of fabric was enough to cover the top of the bench.

Luckily, the legs of the bench came off easily with a hex wrench, so all I had to do was wrap the top like it was a birthday present:


I laid the fabric front side down on the ground  and put the bench top on top of it.  Then, I wrapped the fabric around and stapled it in place:


This project definitely goes by much faster and smoother with two pairs of hands. Luckily, since this was a quick project, Jeff did not object to helping me out.  One of us would hold the fabric taut while the other one stapled.

Naively, I thought I could use a regular office stapler, but the wood was way too hard and the staples would bend instead of go through the wood:


A trip to the hardware store and I returned with my first staple gun.  (I ended up buying this staple gun. It was only $17 and said that it was great for upholstery on the front of the box.  I figured a staple gun is one of those basic tools I should have in my toolbox.)  I have to admit though, I was a little scared pulling the trigger on the gun, its pretty powerful and loud.  My hands also were a little small to handle it, so Jeff did most of the stapling while I held the fabric smooth and tight:bench7

The process went pretty quickly but the corners were a little tricky. Then I had to cut out some of the corner fabric so that I could stick the bench legs back in:


After I screwed on the legs, I flipped the bench over and this is what I had:



I had planned to glue faux nailhead trip all around the bottom perimeter of the bench, but Jeff, who became more vested in this project the more he stapled, vetoed the idea.  He said that he thinks the nailhead trim would make the bench look too old, so I left it as it is.

Pretty easy transformation, right?
The total cost was $17 for the staple gun (which I justify I can use for future projects) and $25 for the upholstery fabric. This one small little change has totally brightened up our little entry way.  If I get bored of the fabric (or another accident happens), I can easily swap out the fabric and staple on something new!

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