Random Thoughts

Well look at that. It’s time for a Random Thoughts post! I try to post one of these once a month, and it’s basically a compilation of whatever is on my mind at the moment. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

– Monday afternoons are currently my favorite. That’s when we get our weekly email from Ralph, who is on a mission in Colombia. And sometimes, if we’re online at the same time as him, we can message back and forth and it almost feels like a phone call.

Ralph is now with his third “companion” since he arrived in Colombia. The companion is assigned — they don’t get to pick — and changes up every couple of months or so. Ralph’s first companion was from Mexico, and he was at the end of his mission, so Ralph was his last partner. The second companion was from Argentina, and again, Ralph was the last partner before he finished his mission. Ralph’s third companion is from Panama, and he came to the mission a few weeks after Ralph, so Ralph won’t be sending him home. 

Ralph has been on a mission for over 6 months now, and he has been assigned to one area, a small town called Barbosa, since he arrived in Colombia. He feels like he knows the village super well at this point, and that he might be reassigned to a new area soon. He knows he’ll miss Barbosa.

Because he has had 3 native-Spanish-speaking partners, his own Spanish speaking has really improved quickly. He’s also getting familiar with lots of different Spanish accents.

I share Ralph’s weekly emails on a private blog. (If you’re a family friend and want to follow along, just let me know and I’ll send the link.)

– You may remember some of the artwork I picked up at the White Elephant Sale (I shared it in a FB live broadcast). Well, I’ve added to it, and picked up some frames, and I’m hard at work on a gallery wall in the master bedroom.

I’ve done some other custom framing in the room, but for this gallery, I’m thinking I’ll just stick with ready-made frames from IKEA. Otherwise, I’m afraid I’ll never get it done! My goal today is to make paper outlines of each frame and tape them on the wall so I can figure out the best hanging configuration.

I haven’t put together a gallery wall in ages. I’m having fun!

– Ben Blair came home with a carton of Old Fashioned Lemon Custard ice cream, just to try it out, and I’m legitimately obsessed. It’s just the store brand — Sunnyside Farms — from Lucky, a grocery store not too far from our house. At this point, we’re going through like 2 full-size cartons a week. It’s ridiculous.

Do you happen to have access to Sunnyside Farms? I need someone else to eat it and tell me that I’m not crazy and that it’s the best ice cream flavor ever.

– At the end of February, we sent a package to Paris for Maude’s birthday. We paid extra to make sure it arrived on time. And it did — sort of. A delivery attempt was made on February 27th — a week before her birthday — but no one was home. And then the package disappeared. Maude checked into every nearby post office to see if she could track it down, and I would look up the tracking number daily, but there were no updates.

And then suddenly, it was delivered today! Way too late for her birthday, but I’m glad it arrived all the same.

We’ve had issues sending packages to Ralph in Colombia too. It’s one of the drawbacks of having kids living internationally.

– Oh! And one more bit of news about Maude, she got into UC Santa Barbara! Her first choice school! She just found out yesterday. So now she needs to hear from one more school and then she can make her decision. In case you missed earlier updates, Maude applied to 6 schools and has been accepted to 5 so far — UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, BYU, BYU Hawaii — and she’ll hear from the last school at the end of this month.

So exciting!

– Other school news: Earlier this year Oscar told us he wanted to tryout for Oakland School of the Arts (OSA). It’s a public school downtown, grades 6 through 12, with a focus on performing arts. You have to audition to get in and it’s quite competitive. He said he liked his current school, but wanted to try out and consider another option. 

Then Betty said, if Oscar was trying out, she wanted to try out too (she heads to 6th grade next year). So they both practiced really hard — Oscar on trumpet, Betty on clarinet — then auditioned.

Since his audition, Oscar had pretty much concluded that he didn’t want to go to OSA and that he was already part of 3 different music programs at his current school, and that he’d rather stay where he is. Plus, he talked to a few kids who had tried OSA and hadn’t loved it, so he knew it wasn’t the right fit for everybody. We also told him that even if he got in, we might not be able to make it work, because we could be dealing with 4 different school drop-offs/pickups, and OSA is much farther from our house.

But we just found out they both got in! So now, we’re having some school discussions. Neither Betty nor Oscar is convinced about one school or the other; we’ll do some more research and then make a decision.

– I was doing some laundry this morning and realized that I LOVE our new washer and dryer. They are so good and so fast and get our laundry so clean. I feel like I have been totally on top of laundry ever since they arrived. I didn’t realize how slow and sad our old machines were.

In our whole marriage and parenting years, we’ve never had new machines. I had no idea how much of a difference they make. I’m feeling lucky.

– I’m thinking of hosting a big Easter Egg Hunt or Easter party at our house. We haven’t hosted a big event in ages. (Do you remember the Easter Egg Hunt we held in France? We were new in town and hardly spoke any French yet. It was so crazy! But gorgeous!)

It will only happen if I pick a date right away and send out invitations. Otherwise, I’ll just keep talking about it and putting it off and never actually make it happen. In addition to the egg hunt, maybe we can have some activity tables for dyeing eggs or other fun stuff.

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.

57 thoughts on “Random Thoughts”

  1. Last year, our oldest was a senior. Spring was really a nail biter-but boy was it exciting when those acceptances started to roll in. Our oldest got into her top school, and got a great merit scholarship-and now, mid way through her last semester of her first year: she’s so happy she’s there! Congrats to Maude!

  2. I love hearing updates about the kids! I’m currently living in Spain and considering a move to France next year to try to learn French, and it’s nice to hear about other people doing it too! So happy for Maude about UCSB, my good friend just finished her PHD there and wow is SB gorgeous. Has Ralph thought about college at all? He’s 25% through the mission, right?

    1. Yes, Ralph is 25% through the mission. As for college, he completed his first year before he left. So after his mission he’ll have some options. One path would be to do another year at Berkeley City College (one of the community colleges in the area) to finish his generals, and then transfer to a UC. Or he may want to do an internship or take a job before he jumps back in to school.

  3. I must say that I’m pleased to see that you are loving your washer and dryer. I had been eyeing Speed Queens for some time, but I didn’t bite the billet until I reviewed your washer dryer post. I love our washer, too. Jury’s still out on the dryer because we need to construct a dryer vent for it (the washer/dryer went into a new room designed for laundry, so it’s not quite finished).

    Congratulations on your kids’ multiple admissions to school! SFUSD just released their school assignment info, so even though my child is already in elementary school, I’m all caught up in other parents’ kindergarten results.

  4. Congrats to your daughter for getting accepted into UCSB! My husband and I both graduated from there. We loved going to school in Santa Barbara and living in Isla Vista. I know it has a party school reputation, but you cannot beat the quality of education. There are several previous and current faculty members that are Nobel Prize winners. Campus has changed so much since we graduated over 10 years ago. I hope she chooses to be a Gaucho. Good luck to her on choosing a college. It’s not an easy decision to make.

    1. When we visited campus, I hadn’t hear much of anything about UCSB, and was impressed with the banners they had on display featuring all the Nobel Prize winners on campus. It was only later, at the end of the tour, that I heard from our student tour guide it has had a party reputation. He was insistent that the party reputation was no longer accurate — but of course, that’s what visiting parents want to hear. : )

  5. International shipping is definitely a crazy adventure! Even worse if you/loved ones live in countries that don’t have the most normal post delivery situations. Here in Moldova, I’ve been lucky to receive most of my packages…eventually. I had a package that took over 4 months to get to me- my parents were convinced it was lost forever, but one day, it showed up. It was full of sweaters for winter, but arrived the last cold week we had! I’m still waiting on a package my sister sent me through UK’s amazon (so within the same continent at least!) in January. I’m fairly confident it’ll arrive someday, but not all packages do.

      1. No worries- until I found out I was being considered for a placement as a volunteer here, I’m not sure I’d ever even heard of Moldova and I certainly didn’t know anything about it! Interestingly, a lot of US government and American NGO aid goes here, and there is also a Fulbright program here.

  6. Congrats to Maude! Would you consider doing a post about what you think helped her be accepted to all of her choices so far? Grades, essay, SAT scores, extra curricular activities. I have a 9th grader who seems to be moving through high school at a record pace (days are the same length, but my reality seems altered :)) Thanks!

  7. You’re so right, new laundry machines are life-changing. We got ours about 5 years ago, right after my first of 3 kids was born and it’s been amazing! My husband thought I was crazy because I loved it so much when we first got it, but it made such a difference, fast, clean, and energy efficient. Love it!

    1. With our big family, you’d think I would have discovered how awesome new machines are years ago. But with all the moving and renting it just never happened. Life changing!

  8. I went to UCSB, too! :-) I was part of our college radio team (KCSB). If Maude decides to attend, she should definitely check out the Improv group that performs in Isla Vista (Improvability). The members have changed by now, but it was a weekly staple that kept me laughing and sane (especially during that first year). I eventually formed a group of floormates to tag along each Friday and we’d all share nachos at Freebirds afterwards. Some of my best memories! And once a year, they hold a 24 hour Improv show–which is exactly how it sounds–members perform an entire 24 hours worth of Improv and it is crazy and hilarious!

  9. I just got back from France (Normandy & Paris) and brought home some ceramic yogurt jars and salt from Brittany! I still can’t believe that they sell yogurt in those jars at any old grocery store. Thank you for the suggestions!

  10. We also had some big decisions to make (involving a big move across states) and we found that we kept getting lost in the details; we had great options on both sides. But looking at it long term: one decision was vastly better AND we are fortunate that if the change isn’t to our liking, we can move back to our old town and my husband can go back to the job he left. I’m wondering if your kids might be in that position: try it out, but go back to their regular school if it’s not what they were looking for.

  11. Tammy Mckissick

    My favorite ice cream when I lived I. The Bay Area was Loards lemon custard ice cream. So dang good. So creamy and delicious.

  12. Michelle Aller

    Gabby, I’m beaming reading this post. I am so happy for your family and for all the happy news with Ralph, Maude, Oscar and Betty. I really miss you all! I have no reason at all to feel proud of them but I’m beaming with pride for some silly reason. Hats off to the Blair’s!

    Also, that lemon ice cream sounds perfect! Have you ever tried Lemon Cookie by Three Twins?

    Sending love!!

    1. We miss you like crazy! Every time we drive by your old house we talk about how awesome the Allers are.

      P.S. — Thanks for the lemon ice cream recommendation. I’m on some sort of lemon kick.

    1. Our family friends in New York would host an annual Egg Hunt at their farm in Massachusetts. It was a whole day event and so much fun. I love traditions like that.

  13. this is all really fun to hear about, I love how random it is!

    having gone to a normal public school, I REALLY wish I’d gone to a magnet school… it would have encouraged me to pursue art more strongly and I feel like I would have had more exposure to the kinds of people I only ended up meeting years later. and long commutes are just a part of life in a big city in the US.

  14. So happy to hear that Maude got into her first choice! UCSB is my high school senior son’s first choice, too, and yesterday when he found out he was admitted, he teased me that I should check if “that blogger’s daughter” also got in. Apparently he listens when I ramble on about things I’ve read. 🤗

      1. I’ve been thinking about creating a gallery wall for the past several months but haven’t gotten around to it and have never done one before. (I have an awesome but clingy toddler who takes up a LOT of my time these days. :) ) If you can fit it in to your editorial calendar, would you consider doing a tutorial? Or suggestions & tips on how to do it?

  15. What a lovely time of life to have the older children at the precipice of adulthood and exploration and the younger children in the beautiful ages of innocent details, wonder and excitement! I’m watching so intently as we’ll be there in about 7 years. So exciting for Maude, congrats! I’m so curious to see what you decide on the younger children’s arts school. It’s intriguing! We’ve had a few various options for elementary schools here and ultimately decided to stay with a neighborhood schools and support the public cause, haha! I guess being raised by a public school teacher planted deeper roots in me than I realized. I also felt a pull toward a social/educational connection. They play in the neighborhoods with many of the same kids they meet in school. Maybe this is too sheltered, not sure? Having lived far away from extended family all our married lives, we’ve always felt the need to have friends and neighbors bridge that gap for us. Anywho, thanks for sharing! Always fun to connect!

    1. I was raised by a public school teacher too, so I hear you. And both of the schools my kids are looking at are public — which does not make our decision any easier. For us, it will come down to really looking at the programs and classes offered, thinking about end goals, and considering practical details like drop-off.

  16. Congratulations to our beautiful, brilliant, busy, buoyant, Maude! So proud of you and eager to know which university you’ll choose. Each one has its light and sparkle. You’ll add to its goodness, which ever one you choose!
    It’s a blessing to have all these choices! Praying for you and rooting for you!
    Grandma B

  17. Marissa M Lanterman

    I just got an LG High Efficiency washer dryer combo, after not having laundry in my apartment for 2.5 years. It has seriously been life changing. It’s been easier to keep my bedroom free of clutter, and I’m able to wash sheets and towels more often! I also switched to cloth napkins and rags for cleaning, so I’m using way less paper products! Having an efficient laundry set up feels so luxurious.

  18. When I go to your page and see “Random Thoughts” staring back at me, I get unreasonably happy! One of life’s “small pleasures” for sure. Thanks.

  19. giselle taminez

    Being Colombian, I have been curious about what Ralph’s experience has been like. Unfortunately, mail service is horrible but there are a lot of businesses that privately ship boxes and packages for for about 2 dollars per pound. That is how most Colombian’s do it when we want to send something home. Since I am in DC, I can’t recommend any one in Oakland but I bet that if you find a Colombian restaurant in your area, they could lead you to the right company. The deliverys is also very quick. This may be a good option for you.

  20. First off, congrats Maude!

    Now to the important stuff…ice cream. I jest. — Flavor aside, do you find Sunnyside’s ice cream texture to be a bit icy? If you make to the Santa Cruz, CA area before the insanity crowds descend in the warm weather, you should make a stop to a local favorite “Marianne’s Ice Cream”. (Different shops stock Marianne’s but go to the mothership for the most flavor choices.) They have really interesting flavors that you can’t find elsewhere like “2 am”, “cantaloupe” & “Heaven”. I once had a scoop or “Lemon Custard” and scoop of “Licorice”, so nice! http://mariannesicecream.com/flavors/#guide (scroll to the bottom of the list to see flavor descriptions)

    Easter egg dying: If you have gel food dye such as Ateco/Wilton https://www.amazon.com/Ateco-1112-12-Color-Coloring-Misc/dp/B00M0GBJN4 You can custom make very intense or very muted Easter egg dye with hot water and vinegar.

  21. I just tried that ice cream. It’s delicious! It’s like a frozen version of the Lemon Ice Box Pie my southern husband makes. I don’t usually shop at Lucky, but I’ll be back to try some of their crazy array of Sunnyside Ice creams. They have all kinds of kooky flavors. Who knew?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top