Decorating our very own mini house just in time for the holidays

quattro-gingerbread-house-decorating6

 

My family was back decorating gingerbread houses at the Four Seasons this past Sunday. What a blast we had!

The best part about the experience was to witness the fun, intensity, and maturity my kids developed since their last experience, a year ago. They were so excited about decorating, that they were strategizing for weeks what candy they would use for different parts of their houses. My eleven-year-old was especially excited since he has developed the tradition of bringing his decorated gingerbread house to his classroom. This year he decided to go a step further and personalized it with his school’s name. My daughter, on the other hand, wanted to create something that she and her siblings can snack on until, well it’s gone.

Unfortunately, this year Stew was not able to join us since he had to leave town on a business trip to the East Coast, but nonetheless, we had fun.The kids brought a friend and, my dear friend and photog Charu, joined us with her daughter. We had a great group.

 

 

This year the crowd was definitely bigger. There was an ecliptic mix of people and interesting teams. There were the girlfriends, the co-workers, the neighbors, the older couples, a fraternity of men with beards, many young families, I even ran into a few families from my younger son’s school. Everyone was just excited as we were to attend this amazing workshop.

 

 

Once again, Executive Pastry Chef Eric Keppler did not disappoint with his step by step tutorial, on how to decorate your Quattro Perfect House: on creating the roof, icicles and hardscape for the gingerbread house. Then he went around giving feedback to each table. He starts preparing for this event right after summer, to make sure that he leaves no stones unturned to create a memorable experience for all.

 

 

 

With the help of a design team, the team at Quattro created a very festive atmosphere. This year the candy bar was circular with miniature houses and a winterscape in the center, and this layout created more of an intimate feel while the snacks and drinks were on an adjacent table. The bar this year was in the same room.

 

The Four Seasons Quattro restaurant team was there every step of the way to guide folks and to supply extra icing, drinks, or to extend compliments to everyone while they worked on their masterpieces. What a fantastic experience!

My children would not allow me to skip this event next year, so again we will be decorating our very own mini Palo Alto house just in time for the Holidays.

Ten Great Gift Ideas for Teachers – thoughtful and for any budget!

gift ideas for teachers

 

Ten Great Gift Ideas for Teachers – thoughtful and for any budget!

 

The end of the school year is often marked by the graduations, promotions, saying goodbye, the anticipation of summer, and of course the presentation of teacher’s gifts. It is almost here, and before we take off on the lovely family vacation or make our abode guest-ready, we need to spend some time to help our children pick out thoughtful gifts for their teachers . Teachers have a demanding, yet rewarding job, and we want to show our appreciation by offering an end of year gift that will be thoughtful and carefully selected.

 

There are quite a variety of options, although sometimes it is challenging to figure out what is just right for your child’s teacher.  Take a look at ten of our ideas and don’t forget to involve the kids!

 

Cup or water bottle:

There are many kinds of cups and water bottles so it should be easy to find the perfect fit for the teacher. If you are on a budget, Target sells some inexpensive ones (as low as $6). They come in all shapes and sizes. If you want a sturdy, long lasting cup you can get a Tervis Tumbler. They run from $9 and up – they have tons of themes. If you want to personalize the cup, try Etsy. They have many sleek designs and can be customized, but that takes a little longer. A cup can be enough, however, it is always awesome to put some small things in the cup: lemonade packets, straws, gift cards, chapstick, candy.

 

Grill kit:

What a great idea! It’s good for those hard to think of male gifts. Get a bucket – inexpensive ones at a dollar store, or a sturdy one at any store that has a solid home and garden center. Add some sauces, a new spatula, a pair of tongs, some rubs, and a towel. Make it really personal with a favorite summer-time recipe.

 

Movie kit:

Who doesn’t like a movie? This one is a real winner because it encourages relaxing. Get a popcorn bowl or basket.  Your favorite craft store usually has plastic ones, or you can even try dollar stores. Get a movie theatre gift card or even a Redbox gift card at www.redbox.com/gifts.  Add a bag of popcorn and a box of Skittles or another favorite candy.

 

School supplies:

Not supplies for the classroom, but for the teacher. Give them a pack of their favorite pens or markers. If the teacher is the creative, colorful type, visit any craft store and get some colorful binder clips, pens, and paperclips. Get a practical or fun container to hold the supplies. If you want to add a personal touch, there are plenty of DIY projects for supply holders.

 

Personalized planners or notebooks:

You don’t have to splurge and spend $50 on a Graphic Image Planner for your teacher, but there are other ways to get a notebook or planner and have it personalized. It can be a small to-do notebook from any dollar bins at most of your craft stores. You can stencil, paint, or use stickers to put the teacher’s name.  She or he will love the personal touch that your child will put into creating this special gift.

 

Coffee Gift Certificate:

Buy a mug, from the Dollar Store or the local pottery shop, fill it with a Starbucks gift card that fits your budget. Don’t worry, if you give a teacher this gift and they don’t drink coffee, Starbucks sells a lot of other yummy treats. They’ll use it for sure!

 

Flower pot DIY: 

Buy a terracotta pot (any size will do). Have your son or daughter paint it – finger paint, sponge paint or with a design – you name it. Then, help them write the teacher’s name on it. Make a butterfly out of your child’s feet or hands. If you are really crafty, paint it yourself and have your son or daughter pot the plant! You can do inexpensive petunias or impatiens that tend to do better in the hot summer. Use waterproof paint if you want the design to endure.  

 

DIY photo gifts: 

Let your child pick out one of their favorite pictures of themselves and send it off to Walgreens or Walmart or Shutterfly.com to get an ornament (Of course it is not the Holidays yet). Or have your child make a frame out of popsicle sticks or paint a wooden one from the craft store ($1). The effort a kid puts in touches a teacher’s heart.

 

Summer themed bucket:

This is a great idea that you can tailor to your teacher’s personality. Here are some ideas of things you can put in the bucket: a book (your local library probably has some for sale), gum or mints, a towel, sunscreen, fun sunglasses, a magazine they might like, their favorite drink, small gift cards, candy (but not a lot). The options are endless.

 

Inspirational decorations/a personal message:

Teachers need motivation! You can buy frames and signs and key chains, bookmarks or anything similar with inspirational quotes. If you love DIY, try painting a canvas or a frame and use Modge Podge to secure the quote. Teachers also really personal notes from their students. Many teachers keep boxes or folders of notes from kids. They are some of the most cherished gifts for a lot of teachers.

 

Our first encounter with Palo Alto Police Department

agent green palo alto police
Agent DuJuan Green

 

A few weeks ago some Palo Alto schools enforced code blue lockdown, due to a manhunt for a suspect. The students had received training or drills on code blue and code red, and staff and students knew exactly what to do in either circumstance. For code blue, all doors in and out of the classrooms and school are locked, and teaching continues in the classrooms.  Students are encouraged to continue with what they are doing until it was safe for them to go outside. Code red is a bit more serious, and children are directed to hide in their classrooms, curtains and blinds closed, lights out, all doors are locked and listen to instructions on when it is safe or free from active danger.

 

During the recent code blue lockdown, it seems that everyone at my children’s school were very composed and kept calm, except maybe for one little girl who was crying quietly at her desk, hearing police sirens and helicopters and she thought that whoever was near may soon come to her classroom.  That little girl was my dear 8 year old daughter. She would later tell me how scared she felt and she thought that she was in danger.  My heart sank to my feet. The principal had sent an email on the incident so we knew some of the details. I still felt helpless as I tried to reassure her that whoever the officers were looking for, was now in police custody and that she had nothing to fear.

 

The next day she refused to go to school and nothing I said would convince her to go. I attempted to put her at ease by saying that this was an isolated incident and that everything would be fine when she goes back to school and that her teacher who was away would be back. She still insisted that she was not going.  So after trying to negotiate to no avail, I told her that I had alerted her teacher that she would not be coming in for the day, and I would try to take her out and get her mind off the incident.

 

I was thinking on a whim and trying to figure out what to do to get her back to school soon, before too much time went by, and she would develop a fear of school. My plan for the day was also to reach out to the Palo Alto Police Department and see if they would allow her come by and speak to one of the officers, who can let her know that the suspect was caught, he is not a threat to our community and that if there was something more serious at school they would have implemented a code red.

 

So I called the Police Department and a lovely lady answered the phone. I told her about my unusual request to come by and she tried to transfer my call, but the officer that she was putting me through to was not at his/her desk, so she indicated that she will have someone contact me.  Within 5 minutes, an officer identified himself as Agent Green; that he is a School Resource Officer; and works with the schools during code drills and other community outreach programs, and he was here to listen to my request and see how he could help.

 

I went through the story with him, he listened.  He had the most comforting voice. He also gave me a briefing on code blue procedures, mentioned that they could be used for any eminent danger that needed to be contained, including gas leaks, a bob cat on the run, a very serious accident near school, etc.

 

It felt remarkably outstanding that this officer was taking his time to explain how I should handle the situation: how I should talk to my daughter, what I should say to her. It was a trying moment for me, as I wanted to be sensitive to the way she felt, at the same time I did not want her to dislike her home away from home.  Agent Green also gave me his direct mobile contact and said that I can contact him if I needed more help with the situation, or if there is anything he can do to help, please reach out.

 

I put on my brave mommy face, met my daughter in the playroom and did just as Agent Green indicated.  She was very attentive, and her attitude changed immediately. After a brief moment, she said that she would go to school under one circumstance.  So when she requested that Agent Green meet her at school, I did not know how the request would have been received, but Agent Green happily obliged, and we drove into the school together just before lunch. He met with her for a brief moment, she smiled because she recognized him from her drills.  He gave her a badge for being a very brave girl, a few stickers and reassured her that everything will be ok. He would later contact me to find out how her day went and was pleased to hear that she was happy to be back at school again.

 

I was just blown away by how compassionate and considerate Agent Green was, and how he helped me with a very challenging situation, taking time away from his busy schedule.  With all the recent negativity that surrounds police departments within the US, it was so amazing to attest that our experience with Palo Alto Police Department and Agent Green in particular has been exceptional.   It is obvious that Agent Green’s training and personality and the culture that surrounds our Police Department allowed him to use his judgement and make a great effort to show empathy, compassion and a great sense of community.  Thank you Agent Green, for taking the time to help make a difference in our lives.

Summer camps hosted at Palo Alto public schools

PALO ALTO

Summer camps hosted at Palo Alto public schools

 

It always seems to be a challenge choosing the right summer camp for our children. With so many options, it is even more challenging knowing where to start.  This year we tried to identify some of the camps that are going to be hosted at Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) locations to make the decision a bit easier.  Some people are set on their favorites camps no matter where they are located, but for those of you having a hard time deciding,  hopefully the benefits can help you make up your mind.

There are several benefits in choosing a camp at your child’s school: your child may know someone who is also attending the camp (a best friend or classmate) or it may be closer to home, (a neighborhood school). In addition, familiarity with the location takes out the stress of camp anxiety in your child. Some camps may even offer discounts to local families or they may offer the possibility to negotiate a group discount.

We researched the camps, and here is a list of camps located in PAUSD schools:

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Please don’t call my preschooler a Stanford guinea pig: Here is why we love Bing Nursery School

 

bing nursery school 9a

 

So, last Fall we were at a family dinner party, and my husband and I were conversing with this other couple we had previously met but had not gotten the chance to chat with. When the topic of where our kids went to school came up, we told them where our older children went, and when we mentioned that our little guy is at Bing, the husband all of a sudden started making one comment after another as he tried to paint a very negative picture of Bing. He told us that our son is just a guinea pig, that he is being used as a lab rat by Stanford, that all they really do is get dirty playing in mud.  Then adding that he is happy that his daughter’s name never got off the Bing wait list. We felt that the gentleman totally disqualified our Bing experience, making it hard for us to have a dialogue on the topic, and try to explain why we think that Bing is a fantastic nursery school.

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Unique birthday party places for kids in Palo Alto

unique birthday party palo alto

 

Year after year, it is always nerve racking for me to come up with unique kids birthday party ideas. I have done tea party, lady bug party, spa, park, golf, just to name a few. So I understand how challenging this can be for many busy parents. Would you like to plan a unique Birthday Party for your daughter or son but you find it difficult to decide what to do or what is available? Here are some unique birthday party places for kids, in Palo Alto, where you can host a stress-free, memorable birthday party that your kid and his or her guests will surely remember for a long time to come.

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Renting in Palo Alto: Our personal story

Rent (1)

 

Renting in Palo Alto: Our personal story

There are quite a few reasons why Palo Alto is considered one of the best places to live. The abundance of parks, protected open space areas, smart people, great restaurants, fantastic public and private schools, a myriad of city resources, and a culturally diverse environment are only some of the fantastic reasons that tempt people from all over the world to make Palo Alto their home. Not to mention that Palo Alto is situated in the heart of Silicon Valley’s tech industry, with Stanford University as a backdrop. Unfortunately, for many people this lifestyle comes at a price that escalates with each new resident that is born or moves here and with each existing resident that lives longer and decides not to move away for their retirement.

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