Another Trip to LA: Minefaire and Chinatown

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It seems like ages ago we went to LA for Minefaire. It was snoresville but we did have a great time in Los Angeles afterwards. I always love a day in LA for adventure. Traffic not so much but adventure, yes. Everything there is charmingly different from Orange County and it always feels like an infusion of much needed variety.

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We don’t have graffiti where we live. If so much as the tiniest tag goes up on a wall or a fence it is gone the next day, no questions asked. I guess that is a good thing but I do love street art, especially really good street art. Sometimes I just want to paint my house purple in rebellion but I’m all hot air.

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Minefair and Minecon are not the same thing at all. Payam bought these tickets for the girls a long time ago before we even knew there was a difference. I’m sure to die-hard gamers it was pretty cool but to me it was just a giant conference room  filled with computers where kids were zoning out. We can do that at home. The store was pretty cool I guess. If you need another stuffed creeper, which we don’t. I did find a reason to have a pumpkin headed snowman of course. Gotta throw that in for seasonal decorations.

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The funny part was that we went to Minefair ON Payam’s birthday. Driving to LA in horrible traffic and then hanging out with gamers is not exactly his favorite thing to do but I guess he loves his girls. I add myself into that group because of how much I love adventure in LA, even if it does include a lame convention for a game that I’m not that into.

Bug is into Minecraft and she’s really good at creating these really cool houses and buildings. She’s thinking she might want to be an architect when she grows up and I am heartily encouraging that. I wanted to be an architect too way back in the day but I got discouraged by all the math.

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The best part of Minefair was going outside and eating street food. I love fresh tacos made on an industrial-sized cookie sheet over a propane tank. I am ever amazed at how ingenious street vendors are. And to think I wouldn’t rent an apartment because it had a hot plate and not a real stove! I should have taken some lessons from these guys.

I especially love the fresh fruit in cups. Coconut, mangos, cantaloupe, cucumbers…a squeeze of lime and some chili powder–yum! I always worry about getting food poisoning because surely things can’t be that clean but we never do. Street germs are good I guess.

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After our lunch in the street we decided we weren’t ready to go home yet so we took a quick trip to Chinatown. We love ducking into the little shops and discovering new things.

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I feel privileged that I get to follow Bug and Joon around and take pictures. They are getting prettier and prettier every day. I feel like I have my own models constantly walking around with me just asking me to take their picture. I need to take my real camera out more often. Whenever I do I always have such a good time with it.

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After Chinatown we rushed home to go to a violin concert that Bug’s new violin teacher was starring in. Her teacher is really really good. Like ripping up the violin in a floor-length red velvet dress good. The girls sat there mesmerized, not even bored at all.  Sadly I have no photos of that. I wish I could have but I was shy to take my camera into the theatre.

I didn’t even tell you that we hired a private tutor for violin lessons for Bug. She’s getting serious about violin and unfortunately her class at school is kinda stuck and not progressing so she’s forging on ahead with private lessons. I’m really proud of her. Of course getting her to practice regularly is a challenge but that’s really what this whole thing is about anyway. I’m really happy that she is not giving up on something that she is good at.

After the concert the girls and I stopped by a grocery store and bought Payam a cake. He didn’t go to the concert so it was our little surprise.

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Which he wholeheartedly deserved.

Joon’s Amazing Harry Potter Pool Party!

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As you probably know, Joon celebrated her tenth birthday this last Sunday and it was a splash and a half. Actually, make that five-thousand smashing splashes and a half because it went off like no other pool party I have ever planned.

Have I ever planned a pool party before? No, I don’t think so. But that’s beside the point.

A little back-story on this party: It was cold and rainy on Monday. Payam and I even had a fire in the fireplace on the Friday before so the fact that Sunday rolled around to be a scorching 83 degrees Fahrenheit was downright providential. It was the PERFECT day to have a party at the pool. In fact, I doubt we could stand being anywhere else.Harry-Potter-Birthday-Pool-Party-Friends

Pool parties are easy. You know why? Because you don’t really have to do anything. Just throw in some pool toys, order a few pizzas and maybe bring a cake. That’s really all you need to do and at the end of the party all the kids will go home sun-kissed and exhausted.

But of course that’s not how we roll. We go big or go home!

We made pool noodle brooms, aka The Aqua Nimbus 2000: They are very good at hovering over water and then bucking you off into a big belly flop of a splash. The kids had a blast with them, and then afterwards used them to mop the deck. (Just kidding. There was no mopping.)

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We made butter beer (skipping the sweetened condensed milk in favor of whipped cream out of a can, because come-on, who’s gonna deal with that sticky mess at the pool?). It was a huge hit. It looked nasty like a pot of kombucha or something but that didn’t stop the kids from sucking it down in their miniature plastic beer steins (aka coffee cups ordered from Party City that I customized with a Joon’s Butter Beer Pub logo.)

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And of course edible wands (cookie sticks) and Levitating Lemonade (aka regular old lemonade in a neon green cooler that broke half an hour into the party. Note to anyone planning a party like this: Do not buy this model of a cooler from Party City. Do not be tempted by the el cheapo $16 price tag. It is junk and you will rue the day. The knob broke off the top the minute I touched it and the spigot broke during the party, leaving everyone to ladle lemonade out of the top with a paper cup. It was super messy and super stupid.)

Don’t you love a good back-story? Here’s some more:

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How did we make the giant snitch piñata? With paper maché of course! I did it very much the same way I created the giant cat toy piñata for Bug’s black-cat-themed seventh birthday party but this time I took my time and applied FOUR coats of newspaper and flour-water paste over the span of a week.

It was so much more solid than the cat toy. Awesomely solid in fact. I could have rolled it down the street if I wanted to and it would have held up. But it was also very big so in order to make it strong enough to hold the 20 pounds of candy and prizes we needed to stuff the piñata with, we had to create a macrame holder from string. Otherwise the pure weight of the piñata would have busted off it’s top.

Payam and I worked very hard on this thing. We haggled over how to make the wings for hours. We tried all kinds of wire (you should have seen Payam stripping tv coax cable which unfortunately didn’t work either) before we finally found the right gauge combined with a small piece of a wire clothes-hanger to keep it just stiff enough. Then I covered the wings with gold tissue paper and cut the feathery bottom. We sprayed the whole thing with gold spray paint.

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I also made some baby snitches (or actual-size snitches) for anybody who might want to play quidditch in the water. Those were made from ping pong balls, wings cut from duct tape and hot glue, of course. Hot glue is my spirit animal.

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SMASHING SUCCESS! That thing was so satisfying to smash. It broke just the right way, like smashing a big hardboiled egg. Everyone got a good thwack and then the birthday girl got a second turn to really whale on it before all the candy rained down on their heads.

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Joon’s mom made a really cool Harry Potter cake with a chocolate fondant sorting hat, broom, glasses and even a tiny, super-cute, red-and-yellow stripped Gryffindor scarf.

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I think this kid is loved. Don’t you?

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Joon is TEN!!! Can you believe it?!!  This is the best age. I used to worry that Payam and I rushed into living together too soon but when I look at our girls and how they get along so well most of the time (while bracing for the hormone-riddled teenage years) I am so thankful. These are the best years. I love this family that we have created so much! Sorry to gush, but you know how I feel. It’s just probably been the best twisty turn I’ve ever taken.

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And last but not least, I leave you with a closing shot of Joon giving Payam a rotten egg-flavored Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour jelly bean. Yes, we totally re-posed that shot because I wasn’t quick enough to catch the original but let me tell you, that belly laugh is real.

Love you Joon!