Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Who's having a good Halloween?

Witches. Pumpkins. Pint-sized Spidermen and Meridas running around the playground. What could it be but Halloween, everybody’s favorite holiday?

Independence Day has fireworks and Thanksgiving has that delicious turkey, but no holiday offers as much fun as Halloween. That’s because, more than any other, it is a holiday for the imagination. The vivid colors of Halloween- orange, black and green- are perfect for crafts and hand made decorations. The iconic images of the holiday are fun to play with, too. When else do you have the chance to wear a ghost, a cat and a jack-o-lantern on a bracelet, or have a stern but cute owl overlook your dining room?

Kids get into the spirit, decorating pumpkins and making masks and costumes for parties and trick-or-treating, while those of us a little too old for the door to door routine can have fun with scary movies new and vintage.

It’s the day when we can have fun with the things that scare us. Most of us would be unhappy to find a giant spider web in our front yard, but when we’re the ones putting it there, it’s a different story. Halloween lets us play with the monsters knowing that the worst that awaits us is a tummy ache and some TP in the trees.

Getting crafty with pumpkins at Disneyland.

For us, this Halloween season has been a little bittersweet. We got our Disneyland annual passes just in time to enjoy the park’s (slightly) spooky transformation, and we’ve had a good time watching the talented pumpkin carvers at the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree and posing with the giant Mickey-o-lantern on Main Street. Susan rode through the Ghost Galaxy on Space Mountain, and we were both enchanted by the way Jack Skellington took over the Haunted Mansion. Despite all the fun we’ve had, we know that we’ll enjoy it so much more as parents.

Happy Halloween from Disneyland!

Finally, Halloween marks the end of the mild part of the year. The clocks change right around Halloween, and the cheery and colorful part of fall gives way to shorter days, colder nights, and a drawing inward. Winter is right around the corner.

Jack's got the holiday spirit.

An ending is also a beginning. As we head toward Thanksgiving and Christmas, we are reminded of the good times we had in 2012, and look forward to the new adventures, new experiences and maybe a new member of the family in the months to come.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What ever happened to A is for Alligator?

It's been a while since we last wrote about Susan's cross-stitch project. Believe it or not, it's actually been 3 months! Our last post about the project was July 20, 2012. At that time it seemed like the cross-stitch was moving very quickly. It almost seemed progress was too rapid and Susan was concerned that she would finish the project long before our wait was over.

Of course, she needn't have worried. As with many worries, this one didn't come to pass. Not only are we still waiting to match, progress came to a halt as the summer progressed. The main reason was because Southern California was hit with a heat wave at the end of July soon after we wrote that post. It lasted right through the end of September and it was hard to get anything done on the cross-stitch with the heat. We also spent a lot of time enjoying as much of the summer as we could. The end of July and into August was spent having fun at the Orange County Fair and then we went on the 2012 Bead Shop Hop over three weekends in September.

Now it's almost the end of October. The cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours make for cozy evenings that are just right for cross-stitch and other craft projects. October also marks our 18th month of waiting to match. There are some new opportunities for us, including a chance to get extra help redesigning our adoption letter. We're looking forward to this process. While it's going to be work to update our letter, it is a great chance to include new photos and freshen the text.    

"A is for Alligator" is complete except for the detailing stitches.

It seems like a good time to take stock of the progress made both on the cross-stitch project and our efforts to match. You'll be glad to know Susan did finish the "A is for Alligator" block before the heat wave hit and she got a good start on the background for the number 4 block with the giraffe. It's hard to see all the progress because of all the white thread in the checkerboard, but she's about 40% done with this block. And now with the cooler weather, she's ready to finish it up and move on to another block.

The white stitches are hard to see, but the project is coming along.
Soon there will be a giraffe and the number four. 

Right now it's also hard to see the progress we've made in finding a match, but we know the progress is there. We're already hard at work on our letter rewrite and more people than ever are following our journey.  We are grateful to everyone who continues to keep us in mind and offers their good wishes and prayers. We are hopeful that it will happen for us and that it's only just a matter of time.

Stay tuned for more on the cross-stitch project and our adoption journey. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fall's here!

We know that fall officially started on September 21st, but it sure didn't feel that way with the heat wave we were having at the time. It finally started to cool off at the beginning of October, and the cooler air and earlier sunsets got us thinking about what this time of the year means to us.

It’s hard to pick a favorite season, especially here in Southern California with its (usually) mild weather, but autumn makes a strong case. Now it’s easier to spend time outside with the hottest weather behind us, whether we're hiking in the open spaces of Orange County or strolling through the historic downtown of Pasadena. 

We don’t get much in the way of fall foliage here, but we do get the crops and colors of the season. Pumpkins great and small are seen (and tasted!) We love the way the balloon at the Orange County Great Park becomes a pumpkin for Halloween. And who can resist a pumpkin spice latte or a slice of pumpkin pie? A short trip into the hills brings you to places like Julian, with its apple pies and flocks of turkeys walking through town, a sight we saw on our last visit to the tiny town during fall.

It's the Great Pumpkin!

Autumn is the time for Halloween, the holiday just about everybody loves. Witches, black cats, ghosts, and goblins run wild, bringing delight (and candy) to kids young and not-so-young, while our neighbors at Disneyland pull out all the stops with their decorations. Meanwhile, the LA Philharmonic will present its annual Halloween Silent Film, with live accompaniment on the Disney Concert Hall pipe organ. This year's film is The Cat and the Canary and we plan to see it.


We have a personal holiday to celebrate shortly after Halloween: November marks our fifth wedding anniversary. This by itself is enough to make fall our favorite time of year!

Finally, fall brings the holidays, with their messages of love and peace. We love getting together with our friends and families during this season, sharing a Thanksgiving meal, and exchanging Christmas presents.

Fall is a wonderful and happy time for us both, but we know how much more wonderful and happy it will be once we can share the joys of the season with our child.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

And The Bead Goes On...

Fair warning: This post is a follow on to the post about the 2012 Bead Shop Hop. It's really long blog post and contains a lot of information about the Southern California Bead Shop Hops. It's everything you might want to know, and probably a whole lot more. If you'd like just the short story, then we recommend reading our post on Bead Shop Hop 2012 and how it relates to adoption. If you're up for lots of details, then please feel free to read to the bottom of this post.

So how did this hop stuff start for us? The first Bead Shop Hop was in 2010 and it included 35 stores over 2 weekends (Thursday to Sunday). Several people (including Mitch) told Susan there was no way she could complete the whole thing, but she was curious (and a bit stubborn). So the first Saturday of the hop she set out for stores in the Southern region to see how far she could get. It was tricky. She was on her own without GPS and it was tough to follow directions printed from Google maps without a second person in the car.

Susan arrived at her first stop, Bead Island in Murietta, fairly close to when they opened and it was good start. However, the drive from Murietta to the next store in Julian was much more challenging than expected. There was a lot of traffic due to a motocross event at Pala Raceway. Susan got really turned around before she found the second store outside Julian. Then she got turned around again when trying to find the next stop in El Cajon.

The day was more challenging when she found that the area around The Black Bead in San Diego was packed with people due to a local festival and there was no parking. Sadly, after 45 minutes of driving around, Susan had to give up trying to find a parking space and move on. The day didn't work out the way she planned, but she still managed 8 stores which seemed pretty good for her first day of the first hop.

At that point, it really didn't seem possible to complete the whole thing. However, Susan decided to try visiting some of the stores closer to home. So on the second day she went to as many stores as she could. Despite traffic and getting lost again, she visited another 8 figuring that 16 stores was pretty good and she was content. Then we got talking and Mitch realized he could work it out to go with her the following Saturday (the 2nd to last day of the hop). So we visited nearly all the stores in the Northern region and had lots of fun trying to fit them all in that day.

Then came the final day of the 2010 hop. While it was tempting for Susan to try to finish, it also seemed impossible. Mitch couldn't go and there were 11 stores left, spread from Oceanside to Palm Desert (by way of San Diego, Vista, and Claremont). It was a lot of distance to cover in a short time, but Susan made it! She even had about 30 minutes to spare and to shop for the first time at Monica's Quilt and Bead Creations in Palm Desert. 

Even though some of the stamps came out faded, Susan did the whole thing!

We both looked forward to the hop in September 2011, especially Mitch who had enjoyed his one day of the 2010 hop and wanted to take on the whole thing. At that point we were just about going on 5 months of waiting to adopt. While we were still in basking in the happy glow of the newly waiting (yes, there is a happy time before the wait grows old), a road trip seemed like just the thing we needed. So we coordinated our work schedules and took 4 days off (Thursday through Sunday) to visit the 29 stores participating in the 2011 hop. Planning our route was fun and it helped keep us distracted. The 2011 hop also included a lanyard design contest which kept Susan busy beading. We didn't win, but Susan had a great time decorating our lanyards - Mitch's stitched with some dinosaurs and hers painstaking stitched with a floral border. 

Our lanyards for the 2011 hop. 

The 2011 hop was even better than the first. Experience makes a huge difference and Susan's knowledge of the stores from the previous year came in handy. It helped us create a list of stores we wanted to spend the most time in and allowed us to plan the timing of our route more carefully. The GPS Susan received as a gift from her parents was also a significant improvement over the printed directions from the year before. It helped to have 2 drivers, rather than 1 and to stay on the road rather than head back home each night. We stayed overnight the first night in Temecula, at home the second night, and in Lancaster the third night which made better use of the 4 days.

The 2011 trophy (gumball machine filled with beads) is behind Susan's left shoulder.

We had a great time! The stores were also more organized and much more welcoming than the first year. Susan didn't have much time to pause for anything on her mostly solo trip in 2010, but in 2011 there was more time to check out most of the stores and enjoy creating a few projects on the road. We even learned to work with metal clay silver at Beadiak in Agoura Hills, a first for both of us.

You probably know from our Bead Shop Hop 2012 post that we enjoyed a 3rd year of hopping, despite a bit of sadness that we still hadn't matched. It was hard for Susan to warm up to the idea of the 2012 hop, but we're really happy to have been part of 3 Bead Shop Hops. That said we are very much hoping that we won't be able go in 2013. While of course it would be fun, we're ready to adopt and take a few years off from beads and road trips. Bring on the sleepless nights and diaper changes!

If you're interested in more, we've got the 10 things we love about the Bead Shop Hops.

1. It's a giant road trip. (Need we say more?)

2. The unique environment and selection that each bead store offers. 

3. Shopping at small businesses (and supporting Southern California communities in the process).

4. Enjoying the variety of landscapes in Southern Califoria and the gorgeous views on the road (beaches, deserts, mountains, and more).

It's a lovely drive on the road to Julian.

5. Roadside attractions and curiosities. (Yay, Cabazon Dinosaurs!)

Mitch loves dinosaurs and big roadside dinosaurs are even better!

6. Classic candy. There's a good shop in Chino (The Candy Shoppe) and another in Lancaster (Charlie Brown Farms).

7. The fun (and challenge) of planning a route that gets the hop accomplished within the allotted time frame.

8. Inspiration from new selections, project samples, make & takes, demonstrations, and more at each store.

Mitch learned how to make a wire wrapped loop for a
make & take charm at CT's Beads N Things in Lancaster, CA.

9. The kindness and encouragement from store owners and employees.

10. The beads, of course! (Especially since there are usually vendor trunk shows and special deals during the hop.)

And, if you're interested in even  more, we put together YouTube presentations of pictures from the 2011 hop. They are about 2-3 minutes each so check them out if you'd like to see the hop "in action".

2011 Region 1 - Los Angeles & Ventura counties

2011 Region 2 - Orange, Riverside & San Bernadino counties

2011 Region 3 - Riverside & San Diego counties

Yay! You made it to the end. That's how we felt!!!

Bead Shop Hop 2012

This year we completed another Bead Shop Hop. What is this hop thing? It's numerous bead stores across Southern California participating together in an event for those who craft with beads. The hop has become an annual event put on by the Southern California Local Bead Store Association over 2 or 3 weekends in September. (It's similar to a quilt or scrapbooking run if you're familiar with those.)  This year's hop included 27 stores divided into 3 regions and happened over 3 weekends (Friday-Sunday). 

You participate on the hop by going to 1 or more stores and have the option to complete 1, 2, or even all 3 regions. Each participant keeps track of the progress made with a passport. You designate your home store on your passport (ours is Brea Bead Works) and the passport includes room for a stamp from each store. The stores have a token such as a small quantity of beads or a charm and you collect these as you go. Many stores have fun with the hop and offer demonstrations, make & takes, contests, and special deals. You are entered into a store prize drawing for each store you visit and a regional prize for each region you complete. There's also a chance to win big prizes if you finish the entire thing.

The 2012 hop map. Similar to last year's, but with a few variations. We live in region 2, a bit to the left from the C in Orange County. (Click on the picture to make it larger.)

This year the hop had a movie theme and each store offered a charm based on the movie of their choice. Many also had fun decorating their stores in the style of their movie. Some stores even went further with the theme and had employees dressed in costume and themed games or contests. The movies ranged from Audrey Hepburn classics (Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany's, My Fair Lady), to 80's movies (Back to the Future, The Goonies, Beetlejuice) to newer movies such as Avatar and the Twilight movies.

A very full (and heavy) bracelet with all the charms from the 2012 Bead Shop Hop. 

As with many things, the hop is what you choose to make of it. For us it's become an annual tradition because we enjoy the giant road trip and finishing the whole thing. Susan has completed it all 3 years and Mitch has completed the last 2 years. This year's hop covered 27 bead stores located in 6 counties across Southern California and made for just under 1,000 miles of driving.

So, what does all this hop stuff have to do with adoption?

At first Susan didn't want to go on the hop this year, but not because it wouldn't be fun. We had told ourselves in 2011 that there was no way we could do the hop in 2012 because we would have adopted and would be focused on parenting, not beads and road trips. When that didn't happen, Susan was disappointed and found it difficult to get excited about a trip that we didn't expect we could take. Luckily Mitch was determined we would go and persistent in making plans. It's a good thing he did. The hop was a welcome distraction from our wait both last year and this year. The change of scenery on the road and accomplishing our goal to finish the hop helped to refresh our outlook and keep us positive for the next part of our adoption journey.

This is also how part of how the hop relates to adoption. On both the hop and our adoption journey, we're in it together and our support for each other keeps us going through the tough times. Much like this year's hop, sometimes we find one of us is down, but the other keeps forging ahead and we keep going, stronger than ever. The hop has its share of difficulties, just as with our adoption journey. They are smaller challenges to be sure - traffic, limited parking, a store that closed early in 2011 (we'll keep the name to ourselves), etc. Sometimes our hop plan needed to be adjusted to overcome these obstacles, and this is true for our adoption plans too. The important thing is to stay on the road, and to enjoy the scenery whenever possible.

Yay! We did the whole thing, AGAIN! This year we finished at Bead Gallery in San Diego.

If you'd like more details about the Bead Shop Hop and our adventures with it, you can check out our longer post, "And The Bead Goes On".