Small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.



Who doesn't love Spring? I think it's the most universally enjoyed of all the seasons. Even here in California where the seasons are not as defined, the blooming of the trees and flowers is the most enjoyable time of the year. One of the best parts of Spring is Easter. Landon's literally been looking forward to it since Christmas was over and I don't blame him. Easter was always a great time of year for me when I was a kid and I've tried to make it just as enjoyable for him. While I always try to enforce the true reason behind religious holiday's, I have no problem letting my kid enjoy all the non-religious aspects of it too. 

I felt a little late to the game this year as it wasn't until the week before Easter that we started thinking about it. That's the weekend we got the decorations. We don't have a lot of Easter decorations, but we do have a lot of plastic eggs. I just pull them out and set them up around the house. It's a small, but festive way to decorate.

Landon took some and decorated his own room...

I put out our Easter pictures in our picture collages. I've been rotating pictures in these 5 frames for years now. I do it for holidays, special occasions, and visitors. Now that Landon is 5, I need more frames to share one picture from every year. I think I might work on a doing an entire gallery wall of exchangeable pictures. It's become a great tradition and it allows us to enjoy even more of our pictures from years gone by.

Next we decorated an Easter tree. I used to do this when I was little, but this was the first year we've done it. Landon loved it so we will be sure to add it to the list of traditions! Take some cheap ornaments from World Market and some branches from Trader Joe's and you have Easter decoration at it's best!

Monday, we decorated eggs together as a family. Landon of course loves this as well and it was amazing to see how much better he was than last year.

We got the metallic paint eggs, because Landon is all about coloring and painting right now. So after we dyed them the boys went to work hard on painting their masterpieces.

They were actually really pretty and added another fun element to the traditional dying of eggs.

Although Easter eggs are a fun craft, eventually we have to throw them away. We put them in a bowl to enjoy them while they last.

I like decorating each holiday with a piece of art that Landon made the year before. This usually comes from stuff he does at school, but this year I got a few things from the Target $1 bin. Tuesday night, Landon worked on painting a bunny and an egg and now we can enjoy these for many, many years to come.

Wednesday, his best buddy Haoyu came over for a play date. Landon had been telling him all about dying Easter Eggs and he wanted to do some too.  They were really excited!

Landon loved showing him exactly how to put the eggs into the cups and spin them around so they were completely covered. I made sure to have plenty of eggs and dyes because the last thing I wanted was two children fighting over cups of colored vinegar.

They did great though and after we dyed them I brought out stickers and markers and paint and just let them have a field day adding more decorations of their choice.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that many of the eggs ended up looking like this. These boys love anything superhero.

After a days of decorating, we switched gears and moved to another holiday tradition, baking. Landon loves to bake and we always make cookies, but now that Landon is a little older, I decided to try making chocolates too. My mother-in-law had given me a lot of her molds she used to use so I already had a number of Easter themed ones. However, I was at Michael's picking out stuff for Landon's Easter basket and found a cute bunny mold that looked perfect for Landon to use. I bought a bunch of candy melts and icing in fun Easter colors. It wasn't until I got home that it dawned me that since we don't have a microwave, it was going to be hard to melt any of this chocolate. A short google search later, and some advice from my best husband, and we created our own double boiler. Worked like a charm too, even if I had a microwave, this is the best way to melt and work with chocolates.

Once the chocolate was melted, Landon (with a little help from Mom) put the chocolate in the molds. When we ran out of the green, we did pink, and then white. He loved it, but putting them in the freezer and waiting for them to harden up was pure torture for the little guy.

After a bit in the freezer, it was time to pull them out and marvel at our masterpieces. He especially loved the fact that we made our own homemade chocolate lollipops. 

Then just for fun, I let him decorate the bunnies. Now I have three tupperware bins in my fridge of chocolates. Hopefully they will last awhile, because it's going to take him a long, long time to eat them all. 

Before bed, he collected all the plastic eggs around the house and put them in his Easter basket for the Easter bunny. He decided that like Santa, the Easter bunny should get a treat so he left him a few of his prized chocolates. He also wrote him a note that was supposed to say "I will listen to the Easter Bunny", but somehow he never finished the word Easter or bunny. Listening is a big thing in our house right now, so all week we hung the Easter bunny over his head for good behavior. He wanted the Easter Bunny to be sure to know he would continue to listen. 

He must have done a good job listening, because the next morning he woke up to a full basket.

Landon not being able to hunt Easter eggs outside really made me hate living in an apartment. We talked about one of us trying to go to a park to hide them and the other bringing him bu right after, but when you live in an area with 8 million other people, that just isn't easy. Reluctantly, we hid them all around the apartment and I know he didn't care, but it still broke my heart a little. Easter eggs should be hidden in flower pots and trees, not in bookcases. It didn't take him anytime to find all the eggs, then he opened all the eggs and spread out all his goodies.

After that basket, he had another basket from Grandma to open. Spoiled much?

Of course, he got a lot of candy, but also a lot of coloring stuff. He spent the next few hours coloring and drawing and trying to convince us to let him have another piece of candy. He's going to be eating candy until next Easter. We actually threw away the remaining items in his Halloween basket so he could store all his new candy. He had so much new yummy stuff, he didn't even mind.

But despite the candy overload, we had to finish our baking so after a few hours of coloring we made cookies.

The only good part about not having family around on holidays is not having to cook or eat big meals. It's a love/hate thing to spend all day in the kitchen cooking meals. While I miss a big spread at Thanksgiving or Christmas, I don't miss the cooking part. Landon and I spent a few hours in the kitchen on Easter, but it was doing fun stuff like decorating some awesome sugar cookies.

I gave up trying to be fancy and make my own icing last year. Now, I just buy a few bottles and we both go to town. It might not be the prettiest, but I guarantee they are delicious and we have a ton of fun doing it.

We have more sweets in our house right now than we ever have. So if anyone wants to come by for all you can eat candy, chocolate, or cookies, please do me a favor and assist us in getting these out of my house!  

When we were done baking, we cleaned up and went to church. Normally, we would have gone first thing in the morning, but we decided to wait and go to 5:30 mass. I missed the more traditional morning mass and choir, but the crowds were so much less which was really nice.

By Easter night, our tree was in full bloom. It seemed fitting that after a week the buds had  blossomed and showed themselves full of life on the very day that we celebrate the most joyous life of all, the eternal life. Easter is a joyous holiday and although much of it is beyond Landon's understanding I am glad we were able to teach him the love, celebration, and yes even fun that comes along with this special day.


Hearst Castle

Hearst surprised me. It enchanted me. It left me breathless around every corner and speechless room and after room. I've had it on the list of places to go since we moved to California, but I wasn't in a huge hurry to get there. Now I wish I had gone sooner and taken more visitors as well. I guess having to been some grand palaces and castles in Europe, I assumed I wouldn't be too impressed with anything in the US. I saw some bad reviews on tripadvisor too and thought it wouldn't be much more than a big house with a nice view. I couldn't have been more wrong! I think it's more beautiful than Versailles (granted I didn't see the fountains on ... and the Hall of Mirrors was more like the Hall of Scaffolding ...), more impressive than Windsor, and in a more beautiful setting than Leeds Castle. It reminded me of a toned-down version of the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portgual. The only difference is that Hearst is much more impressive on the inside. If you come to California (and you should!), and you drive down Hwy 1 (and you should!), Hearst Castle should be the number one stop along on the way. 

There's so much I could say and share about Hearst Castle, but I also took sooooo many pictures. This will probably be my most photo-heavy post ever, but just know I'm not even sharing half of them. I could have filled up my phone with pictures of this place and unfortunately Adam wasn't there to document it better. That just means we will have to go back! I think I could go back many times and still be just as impressed. There's so much to see it's almost too much to take in all at once.

My Dad and Step-mom came for a visit over my Dad's birthday and they decided they'd like to take a trip down Hwy 1 to Hearst Castle. We had a picture perfect day driving from San Francisco down to San Simeon. We stopped for lunch in Carmel-by-the-Sea and spent some time strolling around the adorable little town. We stopped for breathtaking views of the coast and made it to Seal Lookout just before dark to view the mass of seals along the road. It was a perfect day and I didn't think anything could compare, but the next day proved me wrong. We got up early to bipolar weather with heavy winds and sporadic downpours. After some breakfast, we headed over to Hearst Castle just down the road.

We arrived at the visitors center just of Hwy 1 and practically at sea level. There are three tours to choose from; (1) The grand rooms, (2) upstairs suites, and (3) the kitchen/cottages tour.  We decided to do the grand rooms and upstairs suites.  After getting our tickets, we hopped on a bus to take a 15 minute ride to the very top of the property where Hearst built his castle. As you curve up the road, Alex Trebek narrates some background of Hearst Castle and the famous man, William Hearst. Once you arrive and get off the bus, a myriad of stairs and fruit trees await you. You can't even see the house or much of anything else at this point. It's just that vast.

The first veranda brings you to the outdoor pool, also called the Neptune pool. This is where you start to get an idea of just how grand a place this is. The pool is currently and under construction (very European...), but it didn't take away from the awe of it. It is grand, elaborate and just plain stunning. Even the ceiling of the covered colonnades are ornate and grand up to every detail.

Walking up another level to the pool house, you get a view of the pool from above with the rolling hills in the background. Amazing!

We walked through the 16 room pool house, with the Men's and Women's sides. Full dressing rooms in green and pink were the first glimpse how perfectly everything was executed.

The next level takes you to the guest houses. Two separate guest houses overlook the pool. Of course they are each bigger than most normal houses. The decks alone on this Estate are just spectacular! I loved the statue lights that covered the entire property.

We didn't go inside the guest houses, but the outsides were gorgeous. If I had three words to explain the Castle it would be details, details, details. Every inch of every space was done to perfection, inside and out. There wasn't a single item on the property that was boring, plain, or even just normal.

This includes the flooring of the decks. Each level was different and just as stunning as the next.

We walked up to another level of deck and the main house finally came into view. It was spectacular!

You can probably see what I mean about how much it is to look at. The towers, the windows, the front...all were ornate and unique. It is eclectic, but tasteful. I just loved it all!

And did I mention the views?

The inside, held its own. It was a treasure trove of collectibles. From the carved fireplaces, to the panels lining the walls. The statues, the carpets, and tapestries hanging from the walls. Everywhere you looked there was something more spectacular than the last. All artifacts and antiques and every piece hand picked for their exact spot and space.

That includes the ceilings. From the living room to the dinning room, they were never plain and held their own among the treasure troves of amazing pieces in each room.

I think the dinning room gave this residence the right to be called a castle. It could  pass for a dinning room in an castle. 

Many of the rooms had fireplaces, but of course they were not your ordinary fireplaces. They were massive floor to ceiling carved works of stone that easily could have swallowed Landon whole.

As we continued through the house, every room was vastly different from the next. Pieces were brought in from all over the world and made to fit the walls, ceilings, and floors. It was like traveling to all of the museums of Europe all at once.

Our grand rooms tour concluded in the biggest room of the house, the theater room. Very much involved in the Hollywood scene, it was only fitting that he have such an elaborate theater room. These lady columned lights flanked the entire room along with crimson fabric walls. Then my favorite part of the tour, we sat down and watched some old home movies. They were silent and short, but it was such a special touch as the tour guide explained who and what we were watching right there, in the house, on the screen. It was really awesome to see.

We exited the house and strolled the property for a bit while we waited for our upstairs suites tour to start. I didn't think the suites could compare to the main rooms, but I was wrong again. The rooms were not large, but they were stunning!! Each one was different from the next and there were so many beautiful pieces in each that you didn't even know where to look. I could have spent hours in each room admiring every little detail.

A few times we passed from one room to the next via an outside hallway. Even these hallways were beautiful. And did I mention the views?

The main library was beautiful as well! A real book lovers dream. The shelves were topped with vases, many of them ancient. 

The master bedroom wasn't large, but felt almost spiritual with the most stunning ceiling in the entire house. 

This spiritual feeling continued into Hearst's private sitting area and the women's master bedroom. Although religious pieces were scattered all over the house, the fact that these personal quarters were overwhelmed with them really made it feel personal. I also think said it a lot about him. The lamp shades are made of hymns which I thought was an amazing touch. Details I would never have even dreamed of.

My favorite piece was this panel in one of the sitting areas.

His personal office/library was a beautiful oasis. After seeing his personal space, I don't know why he'd spend time anywhere else.

The two towers each have a bedroom at the top of them called the celestial rooms. Golden from top to bottom, I'm sure it was a celestial feeling staying in one of them.

And did I mention the views? From every window they are jaw dropping.

And when you are finally able to pull yourself away from the window, the furniture, the art, the rugs, the lamps, the statues, even the doors, the stairs and the trim are all perfectly formed and placed exactly right.

Outside their are more antique statues, canons, marble wells, and even ancient roman sarcophagi. It's insane really. 

And just when you think you've seen it all, on your way back to the bus, after passing the tennis courts, you walk underneath them to the indoor Roman pool and it's the most spectacular place you've ever seen. Bright, beautiful tiles line every single inch of this massive indoor oasis.  

As a pool lover, one thing that struck me where the marble ladders at both pools. Any other "fancy" pool would have simply put inlaid steps in the pools walls, but Hearst took it to the next level. He was a perfectionist and paired with his vast fortune makes for one amazing house!

We all had an amazing time at Hearst castle and I'm so happy my Dad and Step-Mom chose Hearst Castle. It was great getting to experience it and being with to explore a new place together. Paired with the day before, it was a great weekend together. One I think we will all always remember.

Landon did soooo well listening and not touching ANYTHING on both 60 minute tours so he got an extra special treat...he got to sit in the back of the bus going down! Kids get the biggest kicks from the littlest things, but whatever works.

And did I mention the views?

Hearst Castle is an experience, a sight to see and a true California gem. Their slogan is "A museum like no other", but it's really more than just that. A place like no other! After all these pictures, I'm sure youre thinking there's no need to go, I've seen it all. I guarantee you haven't and so much of the story, the history, the background I didn't even talk about. It is a fascinating place that even kids can enjoy. I think the best time of the year to go is probably April or May when the flowers are in full bloom. I'm hoping to steal away for a weekend to share this place with Adam. I'd like to see the kitchen and cottages to round out the full experience and be enchanted with this special place once again.