Friday, July 30, 2010

Get Uncommon!

Check out the cool iPhone case PlanetClaire ordered! It was made on After you log on to you can download any .jpg image to design your own iPhone case. I had my husband create a collage of a bunch of different .jpgs in Illustrator, then flatten/save the collage as a single .jpg image. Then I uploaded my collage image on the site, manipulated the size/positioning of my image, and ordered my case. Super easy. The cost is $39.95 plus shipping.

My case arrived today and it's fantastic. It's a very hard plastic material that fits the iPhone snugly. The Uncommon case is way better than my pink Kate Spade rubber case, which stretched out after using it for a only a few months. Boo Kate Spade! Yeah Uncommon!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Texas geocaching

We Huffmans do love to geocache. Here are some pics from our geocaching adventures during our Texas vacation....

Pic 1 and 2: Geobug hotel in downtown Dallas!
Pic 3: Geocache hidden in plain sight!
Pic 4: Geocoins and travel bugs found!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Deep in the heart of...

By Jennifer Huffman | Monday, July 26, 2010|
Napa Valley Register.

“The stars at night are big and bright …” clap clap clap clap!

Guess where we went on our family vacation this summer?

You got it. In early July, mom, dad, three girls and exactly 150 pounds of allotted luggage hurtled our way across the Southwest on a seven-day whirlwind family reunion/vacation to the Lone Star State.

We Huffmans are Californians by birth but we happen to have Texas relatives spread out all over the state. So a one-two punch with stops in Dallas and San Antonio seemed like a good way to get reacquainted with a whole bunch of family in one coordinated invasion.

Californians think we’re so tough because we live on earthquake faults. Try living in the sauna of a Texas summer. The day we arrived in Dallas, we stopped at a burger drive-in for lunch. I noticed everyone was eating in their cars with the windows up and air conditioning on. What a waste of gas, I thought. Why, in easy, breezy California we sit outside in the fresh air and eat our lunch. We don’t hide in our cars because it’s a little warm.

We’ll sit outside and eat, I told the family.

I quickly learned you do not attempt this in Texas on a 90-degree day with 90 percent humidity. Us rookie Texas visitors were practically gasping for oxygen. The girls wilted. I felt like I was being sucked to the ground. That was our first lesson of the trip. Air conditioning must be on at all times during a Texas summer. It is not optional.

Swimming pools are another must-have in Texas. And unlike in California, you definitely don’t need a heater for a Texas pool. If anything you need a cooler. The water stays warm all day and night. On our first day in Dallas, the girls swam at my aunt’s pool all afternoon and into the evening, even after dark. You would have thought they had died and gone to heaven, a Texas heaven where there is no bedtime and you never have to get out of the pool. At another aunt’s pool the girls were endlessly amused by a pool slide. First they tried the slide sitting up. Then they got adventurous and slid down on their stomachs. Then lying down. Then sideways. Then backwards. I could only get them to come out when a thunderstorm rolled through in the late afternoon, which caused me to make all kinds of dire predictions about electrocution and lightning zapping children in swimming pools.

They say everything’s big in Texas and that includes the weather. One night at dinner at a restaurant called Pappadeaux’s, which serves huge platters of New Orleans/Cajun style food, it started to rain. Hard. Then the lightning and thunder started. The lights started flickering. We sat at our table, stunned by the downpour. This went on for over an hour. To us Californians this was a biblical rain that would surely lead to mass havoc and flooding. The girls ran between their seats and the windows, videotaping each other discussing the storm while snacking on a plate of fried alligator. “It’s like eating at the Pirates of the Caribbean,” said one daughter. Meanwhile, the Texans around us barely looked up from their meals. Storm? What storm?

With all that humidity and rain, Texas in summer is wonderfully green and lush compared to a brown and dry California. No need for drought tolerant landscaping in Texas. And talk about grass. This is the grass that children, squirrels and lawn care business owners dream of. There’s grass everywhere — acres of green lawn, surrounding office buildings, homes and hotels. If you want to see some serious grass, check out Texas.

I’ve never been to a more patriotic state than Texas. Texans fly their flag everywhere and put their Lone Star on everything including clothing, shot glasses, business signs, street signs, front doors, grocery stores and even highway overpasses. After this dose of Texas-style patriotism, I now believe that Californians have greatly underutilized our own state star. The bear on our flag is nice, but a star really pops out at you. Nothing says “spirit” like a star. California could be doing way more with our star, for sure.

“I want to sound like a Texan,” said the youngest Huffman, so she decided to use “y’all” as often as possible during the trip. Like an amateur sociologist, she studied the accents of our relatives, practicing her new lingo in the car. “Do y’all want to get a snack?” she’d ask her sisters.

She tried using “y’all” as many times as she could in one sentence. “Do y’all want to watch a movie y’all?” She started drawling her words a bit more for effect. They say speech patterns and accents are cemented before age 10. It’s not too late to turn her into a real Texan.

Besides reconnecting with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents, our Texas trip had another, unexpected benefit. I have discovered the key to keeping three girls ages 10 to 16 from bickering during a family vacation. It’s easy: keep them so busy and occupied they don’t have time to fight.

Is your sister annoying you? Look, it’s the Alamo!

Bored? Check out that giant Texas flag!

Grumpy? Look, a dead armadillo on the highway!

We were constantly on the go, and never saw the same thing twice. In fact, the seven days we spent in Texas added up to be the most conflict-free week our family has had in months, even years. For that reason alone, this trip will go down in Huffman Family History as one of our most successful family vacations.

Thanks y’all.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Roses are red...

Diane at work go the hugest most ginourmous bouquet of red roses for her anniversary! Not one but TWO dozen! We ladies in the newsroom were of course a puddle of jealousness. Her husband wrote an sentimental card to accompany the flowers that included the word "love" and other such sweetisms (yes, we peeked at the card, but no, it was not still in the envelope). The arrangement is so big that Diane had a hard time reaching her desk around them. Diane is an awfully nice person, and a very good EA (Editorial Assistant), so I really can't stay jealous for long. She deserves them.

P.S. That's Diane and her husband on her computer screen on her desk. I think she should keep him.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Waco Mammoth Site

More from Texas...
On our way from Dallas to Boerne (near San Antonio) we stopped in Waco. A colleague had recommended we visit the Waco Mammoth Site. The story is that about 68,000 years ago some Columbian Mammoths and their babies had been trapped in a gorge or gulley during a flood or some such event. They were preserved for thousands of years before their bones were discovered near Waco in 1978.

Today, the City of Waco and Baylor University run the park, which only opened to the public six months ago. It features a welcome center, walking paths, and huge building that contains a dig site featuring only some of the many Mammoth bones found. The museum is on track to become a national park, and it already looks like one. Everything about it is first class, from the maps to trails and displays. If you are anywhere near Waco, you have to check out the Waco Mammoth Site.

I've also attached some strictly amateur video from our visit:

Monday in Surrendering to Motherhood on Planet Claire:
The Texas Trip

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lucky 13.

Allie and her friend Ellen both turned 13 last week, and to celebrate the two girls and us two moms took off to San Francisco for an overnight birthday party. Because Ellen's dad works for the Westin, we were invited to stay at the St. Francis, right on Union Square. Arriving at the hotel, we were shown to what we expected to be a typical two bedroom suite. To our amazement, we found ourselves staying in the London Suite of the St. Francis -- all 2,000 square feet of it. Yes, folks, that is bigger than my entire house. Wow! I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate a 13th birthday!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Everything in its place.

Surrendering to Motherhood

Napa Valley Register
By Jennifer Huffman
Monday, July 12, 2010

Here at the Huffman house, I like to live by my personal philosophy: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

I admit it — I’m an organizational freak. I like stuff to be put away — and in the same place, every time. The concept is so simple: If you know where the scissors/tape/car keys go, and you put them away after you use them, you’ll never waste time looking for them. You can avoid any frantic rummaging, tossing of couch cushions or gnashing of teeth over lost items. Tasks can be performed quickly and effectively with the needed objects at your fingertips. Such efficiency would be bliss, if only the rest of the Huffman family would get on board the Organizational Train.

The Huffman Cubby System is a key component of my master plan. Like those cute little preschool cubbies for lunches and hooks for bags and jackets, we have a set of cubby shelves near our entryway. Everyone has a box (I admit, I have two) for his or her stuff. Backpacks go on the hooks. Shoes go in the shoe cubbies. Or so they should.

When I walk in the door, the first thing I do is put my keys, sunglasses and work ID into my cubby. That way the next time I need them — and this is the amazing part — they are right where I left them. I tell you, it’s like magic, every time.

I think my husband appreciates the cubby idea, but he’s not a true believer. He tosses his keys down on any table, couch or seat. He drops his jacket on a nearby chair. His glasses go one place, his spare change another. He may or may not leave his watch on the kitchen counter, sofa or bed. He’s even been known to leave his keys in the door lock itself.

If I find my husband’s things scattered around, I pick them up and put them in his cubby.

“Where’s my watch?” he’ll ask. Check your cubby, I say. Have you seen my keys? Check your cubby. Did you pick up my (insert name of missing object here)? Yes, and I put it in your cubby. Repeat after me: cubby, cubby, cubby.

Naturally, the girls are completely oblivious. No matter how many times I tell them to put stuff back where they found it, they don’t. It’s like they live on some other planet where everything pops out of thin air right when you need it.

Many times in their rush to devour an after-school snack they leave a Hansel and Gretel-like breadcrumb trail of backpacks, shoes, sweaters and lunchboxes in their wake. The system has been known to completely break down on Friday afternoons when the pressure of nightly homework is gone and all thoughts turn to Sponge Bob and Super Poke Pets.

God help the person who abandons or even temporarily loses track of an old homework assignment, school flyer or piece of mail. Before you can even notice it’s gone, I have picked it up, filed it, tossed it or recycled it. There are no homeless scraps of paper in our house.

Oh sure, a single piece of paper looks so innocent. It’s when they start multiplying and collecting around the home that the trouble begins. If you leave one, next thing you know there’s another, and then another. I’m convinced we’re only one step away from that TV show Hoarders. If there was no organizing or sorting going on, we’d be buried by junk mail and old homework assignments within a week. And what happens when everything is not in its place? Chaos. Pure chaos. And chaos in the house drives this mom crazy.

The “everything in its place” philosophy is a 24/7 job, meaning I’m constantly on the prowl for suspect items. Shoes by the couch? Alert the owner for relocation to shoe cubby. Scrapbook supplies left out on dining room table? Page the suspect and direct clean-up efforts. Hair bows, clips or headbands left on stairs? Request immediate pickup. I have been known to go too far in my clean-up patrol. Once I threw away a homework assignment that someone was still working on and then I had to sort through the recycling bin to find it. Sorry, kid.

Some people I live with might say I’m relentless. My husband knows he can’t leave anything out of place for more than 30 minutes before I swoop down to collect it. His only safe areas are his desk and dresser. I am happy to let him pile all the papers and junk he wants there, just as long as nothing escapes his designated zone. If it does, it’s fair game.

I got so sick of asking that clothes be picked up off the floor or picking up clothes from the floor that I instituted a new rule at the house. Whatever I find on the floor, I pick up, put in a plastic trash bag and keep for a week. After establishing this new rule, I soon accumulated a whole sack full of abandoned clothing.

Where are my pants, one daughter asked me. Don’t worry, they haven’t gone far, I said.

You know that book “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”? Well, it’s like that, only I call it the Motherhood of the Traveling Pants.

Your pants will be back next week.

I lied.

I lied when I posted the two Texas pictures from last week. We were still in Texas when I posted them... but I wrote the blog entry as if we were back in Napa already. Sneaky, eh? I didn't want the burglars to know we weren't at home, even though we had a house sitter. So sorry for that little white lie.

We really are back home now. And we had the best Texas trip ever. Fun, fun, fun. Visited tons of family on both sides and made the most of those seven days we were gone. Below are a few pics, more to come.

You know they say everything is big in Texas. And it's true. Big state. Big trucks. Big weather (hot, humid, sticky). But it was also big in family. Wish we could have stayed longer for more "big love" in Texas!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More from Texas...

Visited the Alamo during our stay in "San Antone" as Opa calls it. After a quick walk thru, the girls begged us to visit the Guinness Book of World Records "museum" which happens to be across the street. Wonder what Davy Crocket would think of it now.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Spot Reserved.

Ava created this setup on our bed the other day. She wanted to make sure a prime TV watching and mommy cuddling spot was reserved just for her after she finished her shower. It includes her favorite blanket and stuffed animals. Ava writes a lot of little notes, including this one, that I usually save. What a lovey girl she is.

Friday, July 02, 2010

One morning in wine country...

A colleague and I made our way to Bouchon Bakery in Yountville for a little cup-a-joe and treat. I neglected to take a photo of Thomas Keller's ingenious, low tech and earth friendly device to keep the birds from pooping on the well-heeled patio diners. He installed hundreds of feet of invisible fishing line over the patio, criss-crossing the area so birds have a tough time swooping down for a snack. Well done, as always, TK.