Tag Archives: presents

Unexpected Birthday Present (or I Love Having Technology That Works!)

I was not planning on asking for anything for my birthday from my parents this year. They helped me get my car at the beginning of the year so I didn’t feel right asking for anything else. I still feel a bit guilty about my new car, but I know that they are happy to help me out. But there was no way I was going to tell my parents I wanted something for my birthday.

I usually get a check from my grandma for my birthday, so I was thinking about what I wanted to use it for (she prefers that I get something fun with it and not use it to pay bills). I was talking with my dad before my birthday and mentioned how my iPad was pretty much dead at that point. It was taking hours for it to turn on and for me to open an app could take close to 30 minutes. And that day, I couldn’t get it to turn on no matter what I did. I didn’t think my iPad was going to be usable anymore.

The iPad I had was about 5 years old, which is a pretty long time for a piece of technology. I used to use it much more often, but over the past 2 years I used it less because it was getting so slow and several apps that I like to use wouldn’t work anymore. But I didn’t want to get a new one because at that time I knew I’d spending a lot on a new laptop and technically my old one still worked.

I’m aware that this is totally a first world problem. I don’t need an iPad, but I like having it and it is something I do work on. But I think I also knew it wasn’t a necessity to get a new one so when my old one pretty much died on me I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get a new one for my birthday. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be the perfect thing to use my birthday check toward.

This call with my dad was just one of our usual phone calls and the iPad thing just happened to come up. And he agreed that getting one for my birthday would be a great thing to use my check for. I didn’t think much more about that conversation after we hung up. But then the next morning, I got an email from my dad with the subject “Birthday Surprise”. And my dad wrote that he and my mom had discussed it after he got off the phone with me and they wanted to get me my iPad for my birthday!

I was totally not expecting this and I even called my parents to tell them that I didn’t tell my dad about my old one dying to try to get them to buy me one. I kept asking if they were sure they wanted to get it for me because I was considering my car my birthday present (and I’m totally considering it my Hanukkah present for this year too). But my mom said that they wanted to do that for me and I couldn’t express how grateful I was for it!

I was originally going to get the new one before my birthday, but there were a few delays in me getting it. But the delays worked out well because I was able to make a decision on which one I wanted to get (after getting input from a friend who works for Apple and from my parents) and I realized that they had a back to school special for their educational discount (which I get for being a substitute teacher). Not only would I get the normal discount, which is about $20 off, I would get a free pair of wireless Beats headphones! So this past week, I headed over to the Apple Store near me to buy my new iPad!

It was a pretty fast purchase since I knew exactly what I wanted to get. I just had to decide on what color I wanted (I went with gray to match my laptop). And I’ve spent the past few days making sure I get everything set up on it before I try to erase all the data off of my old one (if I can get it to turn back on again). Just like with my laptop, it’s a crazy difference between the old one and the new one. Things are working again, I can get work done so much faster, and I know that it is going to make me more productive.

If I could figure out how to do all of my day job work from my iPad, I’d do that when I go out-of-town. But for right now, that’s not possible due to the phone calls I have to do for my box office job. But I think I might actually be able to run everything else from it which is a nice idea. The iPad can use a keyboard so if I figure out how to do it all (or if I don’t have to take phone calls for my box office job), I think it will be pretty easy to work with it and I think that will be a nice feature for me when I get to travel again.

This present was so unexpected but beyond appreciated. I am so grateful to my parents for wanting to get me this because they easily could have just gotten me nothing for my birthday which is exactly what I was expecting. And I love that now whenever I use my iPad I’m going to think about this awesome birthday this year and how amazing my parents are!

Grandpa Bears (or Our Thanksgiving Surprise)

When my grandpa passed away, my grandma immediately wanted us to remove his things from their apartment. I totally understood why she wanted us to do that and most of his things were either easy enough to get rid of or someone was going to take to their house (like his computer so we could get all important things off of it). But when we were in his closet, we weren’t 100% what we wanted to do with all of his clothes.

Some of the things we set aside for various family members to keep, but most of it was going to be donated to a charity. While I liked the idea of donating his clothes, I thought it might be nice to keep some of it for us to remember him by. My grandpa had some epic and colorful sweaters and didn’t want to donate those.

Grandpa Sweaters

Then I remembered seeing on a website at some point that people turn baby clothes into bears to have as keepsakes from when their kids were little. I figured if you could do that with baby clothes, we could do that with my grandpa’s clothes too. My mom and dad decided to help with the plan, and only my Aunt Cindy and Uncle Steve knew about it as well.

So I did some searching online and found several people who make memory bears. But the person who made the ones that looked best to me and my mom was Paula of Paula’s Bears. She totally understood that we had multiple sweaters and wanted to create mix and match patchwork bears. So everyone would have the same sweaters on their bear, but all the bears would look a little different. I also had some of my grandpa’s ties and Paula said we could use those for the hands and feet.

Paula was undertaking a big project for us, but fortunately we got her the sweaters and ties in April and we didn’t need the bears back until October. I had asked Paula if she could take pictures of the bears as they were being worked on because I knew we’d all love to see the process of making them.

Sweater PatternBuilding The Sweater

She cut each sweater into a bear and then mixed and matched the pieces. So each bear had a part of every sweater on it. Some had the same sweater in the same spot, but they were all a bit different.



Every time I got an update from Paula, I passed it on to my parents and we were all shocked and amazed at how the bears looked. We had no idea how they would look when they were in bear form, but Paula did such a great job making them all look perfect.

The bears were shipped to my parents house (my mom added various fraternity pins, boy scout things, and my grandpa’s dog tags to each bear to make them even more unique) and when they got the bears out of the box and lined up, we joked that we created a bear army.

Bear Army

We made enough bears for one for each single person or one for a couple to share (as an example, I get a bear but my parents will share a bear). I know that I will treasure this bear for forever and I hope that the rest of the family feels the same way about them.

Having Paula make these bears for us is such a nice way to remember someone by that doesn’t feel morbid or weird to keep in your house. I’m not totally sure where my bear will live in my house, but I know I’ll find the perfect spot for him.

If any of you are looking to have a memory or keepsake bear made, I highly recommend using Paula for them. She took so much care in making sure each bear was perfect and those touches really made all the difference. I know that tomorrow is Small Business Saturday and I really encourage you all to participate in that. Small businesses are sometimes just someone working out of their home and they can make the item you are buying even more special.

I know that having Paula was the perfect person to make these bears for my family and I’m so happy that I found her online. I know that for any future projects similar to the bears, I will be going back to her immediately. I’ve been wanting to tell you all about Paula and the bears for months, but I had to keep it a secret so that we could surprise the family. I’m glad that I can finally share her with you now!

Baby Shower Saturday (or Celebrating Baby Allen)

This past Saturday was the baby shower for my friends Jennifer and Andy. I met them through Marie and Chris, so I’ve known them for a while through all the parties that Marie and Chris throw. I don’t know them super well outside of the parties (and Facebook), so I was super honored to be invited to the baby shower!

They are having a baby boy in about a month, so the baby is almost here!

Mom-to-be and Dad-to-be

The party was held at Chris and Marie’s house, so that was easy enough for me to get to after work. The hostesses had set up a nice lunch table (which I totally forgot to get a picture of) and the present table was looking nice and full with all the gifts we brought for Baby Allen.

Baby Presents

After we all ate and caught up, it was time for some baby shower games! The first game was a twist on The Price Is Right. There was a list of about 10 different baby items and we had to guess how much they cost (everything was priced at Target). Then, we had to add up how much our entire list cost. The person closest to the total without going over wins!

I was not good at guessing the prices. There were a few that I was only a dollar off of, but most of them I was 5 or 10 dollars off! While I know that babies are expensive, how cheap some of the things were really surprised me (I guessed high on diapers and baby food).

After getting the total of everything, I was less than a dollar away from the grand total! And mom-to-be Jennifer was a penny closer to the total than I was! I thought that was pretty awesome! So Jennifer and I both won a prize for that game.

Next was baby shower bingo.

Baby Bingo

All the squares related to Jennifer and Andy or were baby necessities. While we all had a great time playing bingo, it took forever for someone to win! It was funny in the end how many squares we all had filled in before there was even a winner! I ended up getting 3rd place in bingo and got another prize (I felt a little silly taking home so many present for a baby shower that was for someone else).

After bingo we had a game of a word scramble and trivia. I’ve done a bunch of these word scrambles at baby showers and I really should write down the answers! I know that some of the scrambles this time were in games I had played before. I only got half of them right (although that actually really impressed me).

After all the games, it was time for Jennifer and Andy to open up the presents. I got them a sleeper outfit (that was on their registry) along with a matching hat and some baby shoes and sunglasses. I have to say that baby boy stuff has gotten much cuter over the years! I remember when my cousin had her first son and so much of the baby boy stuff was just generic or not cute at all.

The baby shower wrapped up with some cake and one final game.

Baby Cake

For the last game, we all wrote down name ideas for the baby since Jennifer and Andy haven’t picked out a name yet. There were several people who thought that Baby Allen should be named Alan Allen. I voted for Alf Allen. I guess we’ll have to see in about a month what they decide on!

As the evening set in, the fire pit in the backyard was lit and we all just got to hang out. It really was the perfect way to spend a Saturday after work!

And again, I am reminded how lucky I am to have this group of friends in my life!

First Half Of Thanksgiving (or Hanukkah Gifts And Birthdays)

Thanksgiving this year was held in San Diego. That’s where my grandparents live, and it’s easier for the rest of us to travel to them than for them to travel to another location. I only had Thanksgiving Day off from my box office job, but I had shortened hours the day before and after. So I figured I could work from the house that my mom rented for us and spend a couple of days with my family.

I started my drive right after my work shift ended on Tuesday. It should have been just before rush hour started, but the traffic was horrible the second I got onto the freeway.


What should have been a 2 hour drive ended up being over 4 hours (I have a history of that drive taking a long time). But I was better for me to be stuck in traffic but making progress than to be sitting at home waiting for the traffic to die down.

When I got to the rental house, my parents were there along with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle (my aunt, uncle, and cousin were also staying at the rental house with us). My brother arrived shortly after (he flew in to San Diego but my sister-in-law had to stay in San Francisco and work). We spent some time catching up as a family and then my aunt and uncle drove my grandparents back to their place.

While it was just my parents and my brother, I decided that it was the perfect time to give them the Hanukkah presents I brought with me. My brother got a gift that was from me, my parents, and my sister-in-law and my dad got a gift that was from me, my mom, my brother, and my sister-in-law. They both got awesome (and pricey) gifts so they were group gifts.

For my dad, we all chipped in and got him a custom chair and foot rest that is made from old skis. It’s being made right now and hopefully my dad will get it sometime this month. It’s going to be for Tahoe, and my mom had to do some spy work and measuring to make sure it would fit there. But it will and I can’t wait until it’s delivered so my dad can enjoy it!

And for my brother, we all chipped in and got him a GoPro. He loves to do videos while he is snowboarding and he usually makes my dad film him. But this way, he can do the videos himself. And from the look on his face when he opened the gift, I think he loves it.


As for my mom, I got her a gift certificate for Shutterfly. She’s going to be getting a new iPhone soon and she likes to make custom photo cases. I would have loved to have made a case for her, but I don’t know what phone she is getting. So this way, when she upgrades her phone, she can make the case that she wants.

After presents, we sat around and relaxed. I was trying to hang out with Tucker, but clearly he was missing my brother more than me and I was getting ignored.


I don’t mind too much. Ross gets to see Tucker pretty often where as I have only seen him a handful of times.

The next day was a relaxing family day. My cousin Adam arrived in San Diego and all of us spent most of the day hanging around the house and enjoying the view.


I had to work in the morning, but I set up my laptop and phone in the kitchen so I could still be a part of the conversation. Fortunately, it was a very quiet day at work. We also made a quick trip to the dog park for Tucker to burn off some of his energy.

That evening had such a wonderful sunset and we were spoiled with an amazing view.


And once the sun was down, it was time for us to head out to dinner. We celebrate my grandma’s birthday on the evening before Thanksgiving. We went to an Italian restaurant that we go to as a family often as they have a private room that is the perfect size for us.

At the restaurant, my other aunt and my cousin and her family were there. It was great to see my cousin, her husband, and her 3 kids again. I hadn’t seen them since last year and all of her kids are so much bigger! I got to sit next to her son, Dalton, at dinner. And he kept me pretty entertained with all of his stories and craziness.

And of course, there was cake for my grandma.


After dinner, we headed back to the rental house so we could get some sleep to be ready for Thanksgiving the next day. I can’t wait to share with you tomorrow how Thanksgiving went. It really has become one of my favorite family memories ever.

3 Cities 1 Day (or My Christmas Adventure)

Christmas ended up being a pretty busy day for me and my family. First, we had a nice breakfast at home. I made a bacon and cheese bread pudding (I’ll post the recipe soon) and it was delicious.

Then we headed up to San Francisco to see my brother, sister-in-law, and sister-in-law’s family. My brother and sister-in-law live about an hour away from my parents but since there was no traffic, we got there pretty quickly.

While my family doesn’t really celebrate Christmas, my sister-in-law’s family does. So we did give gifts to each other. I had already given my parents their gifts when they visited me for lunch, but I brought my brother and sister-in-law’s gifts with me. I got them each a SoulCycle gift card good for their first class (and shoe rental). SoulCycle just opened up a studio about 6 blocks away from their house. So I figured it would be something awesome to share with them. And they seemed to like it!

I got some gifts too! My brother and sister-in-law got me a SodaStream (it’s being shipped to my house and I should have it in a week). I’ve been wanting one for a while. Even though I haven’t had a soda in almost a year, I do enjoy sparkling water. But it gets expensive to keep buying them at the grocery store. So I’m excited to be able to make it at home soon! And my sister-in-law’s parents got me a really nice scented candle (I felt bad because I didn’t get them anything).

After presents, we took a walk down to the marina. It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco and was surprisingly warm.

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Before we knew it, we had to head home so I could catch my flight back to LA. We said goodbye to everyone and my parents and I started the drive back. We had just enough time to stop at my parents’ house for me to get all my stuff ready before I headed to the airport.

The airport and my flight were pretty crowded. I expected it to be empty since it was Christmas, but maybe that’s what everyone else thought too.

My flight was fine. I’m having an easier time flying now because I can keep myself distracted with my podcasts or e-reader during takeoff and landing (I’m so glad the ban on electronics during those parts of the flight ended).

Once I landed at LAX, I headed home in a cab and ordered some delivery Chinese food for dinner (it’s a Jewish tradition) while in the cab. Fortunately, the cab and I beat the delivery driver home, so the timing worked out perfectly.

I spent the rest of the evening enjoying my dinner and catching up on my DVR.

Overall, it was a pretty exciting day for me. Lots of fun and family and maybe we started some new traditions as well.

Mother’s Day (or Another Day Trip To San Diego)

The past few years I’ve been going to San Diego to see my grandparents for Mother’s Day. In the past, my dad did the Revlon 5K with me and then he and I would drive to San Diego together (my mom would drive while we were doing the 5K).

This year, my parents were on a trip and were already in San Diego on Mother’s Day. So on Sunday, I drove down alone to see my parents and grandparents.

My grandma has been doing really well since her hip surgery. The Friday before Mother’s Day she was able to leave the skilled nursing care and return home, so that was very exciting!

It took me exactly 2 hours to get from my house to my grandparents’ place, and it was actually a really nice drive.


Most of the day was spent visiting. My grandma got to FaceTime with my cousin’s brand new baby boy, Hudson.

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It was really cool to get to see the baby. I don’t know when I’m going to get to meet him in person, so FaceTime is a good substitute. I also got to talk with my cousin’s other two kids, who are super adorable (I didn’t get a chance to try to take screenshots then).

I gave my mom and grandma their presents. I got my mom a purse hook, but since I had to order it online, I printed a picture of it and put it in her card.

And I got my grandma some new slippers she could wear inside her house (so she doesn’t slip again).


My mom made a great brisket dinner. Seriously, I can never make brisket as good as she does. We also had homemade meringues with strawberries for dessert.

About 7 hours after I got there, I had to start my drive back home so I could go to bed at a decent hour. I’m not sure if I’m going to get to see my grandparents before Thanksgiving, but maybe when my work calms down in the fall I can do another day trip. I’ll be seeing my parents again in August when we celebrate my 30th birthday.

I’m so happy that I live close enough to my grandparents to see them a lot. I’ve now had the time to make the drive there and back 3 times in the past 3 months. That’s pretty awesome!

Gift Shopping (or For Me, It’s That Time of the Year)

I love buying gifts for people. I love getting big gifts like birthday or engagement ones, and I love buying little things like a bottle of wine for a friend who invited me over for dinner.

Maybe I’m selfish, but I love seeing how happy I can make people with a gift I give them.

This time of the year, there are a lot of family events. In a 3 day period, there is my parents’ anniversary, my cousin’s birthday, my cousin’s girlfriend’s birthday, and my birthday. And that’s not counting my birthday twins birthday or my acting coach’s birthday which happen then too. That’s a lot of gifts.

I’ve also got a dear friend of mine getting married this fall (her bridal shower was this past weekend), and my brother proposed to his girlfriend recently too. Again, that’s a lot of gifts.

So what is someone supposed to do when they are trying to save money to pay off debit but still wants to make everyone happy with gifts? I got creative.

For my friend getting married and my brother’s fiancee, I wanted to get them something cute but something that is more personal. I found these really nice personalized blue garters. They weren’t too expensive, personalization was free, and both of the recipients of the gift loved them (it helped them with their something blue too).

I can’t say what I’m getting my parents for their anniversary because my mom reads this blog. But I can say that my brother and I are teaming up for the gift so we can get them something really nice, but it won’t cost too much for each of us.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about giving gifts is sometimes it really is the smallest gesture that counts. That’s why, for every family and friend celebration, I seek out the perfect card. For my cousin and his girlfriend’s birthdays coming up, I don’t get them gifts (we don’t really do that in my family), but I do spend a lot of time picking out the perfect card for each of them. It’s nice to get something in the mail other than a bill.

So this week before I go to work, I’m off looking for the perfect cards for everyone (and carrying stamps in my purse so I can mail them all off in time).