Saturday, March 1, 2014

I'm Back

Dear Familia,

I know it's been WAY too long, but I am going to get back in the groove. One of my 30 b4 30 goals is to start blogging again and I only have a couple of months to make that happen. Eek! I figure if I manage 3-5 posts per week, it will be informative and manageable. An easy way to make that happen is to blog on my 30 b4 30. I lost my list somehow, but recently found it again. Obviously, some edits are in order (we jumped from needing to decorate our studio to having a whole house to decorate, ahhh).

  1. Break a bad habit
  2. 30 Books
  3. Floss more
  4. Try oil pulling
  5. Run a race
  6. Bring the kids to DC
  7. Get a job
  8. Start volunteering in DC
  9. Rekindle the blog
  10. Decorate the apt Do a DIY home improvement project
  11. Start a “tech free” tradition
  12. Skype/call the family regularly
  13. Vegan for 30 days 
  14. Start exercising regularly
  15. Buy a real suit
  16. Learn how to do my hair
  17. Build a capsule wardrobe
  18. Start donating 10% of my income
  19. Make a budget
  20. Plan for retirement
  21. Go camping
  22. Make a 10 year plan
  23. Take Zane to Tucson
  24. Go antiquing in Miami
  25. Fundraise $500 for March of Dimes
  26. Join the board of a non-profit
  27. Do a cleanse
  28. Make a plan to visit the Vatican
  29. Get family pictures
  30. Make a 40 b4 40 list

I'll keep you posted on my progress!


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Random of Pop Castle

Dear Familia,

I could probably write at least ten more posts about what we did at Pop Castle, but I still have all of the DC posts to do from the trip so I'll try to wrap it up here. One thing that we should have done more of: walks around the neighborhood. Pop Castle is located in White Stone, VA, which is a quaint little town on its own, but the house is nestled within a great walking neighborhood. The houses are really far apart but there are paved roads and barely any traffic. We only took one walk, but it was a good one.

Getting ready to head out. Gotta love the oyster walkway at Pop Castle. 
The GPR Gang
Checking out the real estate (all of the houses have names, I am a big fan)

Legit eagle's nest!

Abbi protecting Kiki during the pinecone fight. She looks fierce. 

Getting ready for the race. Zane had to give them a head start. 

Yep, it's a baby frog. Johnny cried when we had to put it back. 
One of our favorite rooms of the house was definitely the family room (makes sense). We watched a couple of movies [Funny story side note: We always had a hard time agreeing on a movie. One time we each put our movie choice on a slip of paper and then Johnny randomly chose a slip of paper. Even though 3 of the 7 papers said MI3, the One Direction movie Abbi picked ended up being the winner. Ask any of us about random One Direction trivia, we probably know it. Haha] Also, Zane made sure we played some board games. The Ramadan Family is definitely all about games, so I'm sure he would say that we needed to do more of this during our trip.

Family, books, tv, computer, Wii...

Cassi is clearly not happy...Kiki was eventually the winner!

We also did a lot of reading, napping, and eating (these of course making up the trifecta of pastimes of the Garcia Pattea family). I definitely should have taken advantage of reading in the hammock by the river...with a snack. Haha. PS In case you didn't realize, if you click the links it will take you to some other pics Abbi took and posted to her instagram

Reading in the yard. 

Mini ice cream sandwiches. These kids are obsessed with all things mini. 
Green smoothie anyone?
Madi peeking out from the hammock. Great views from this spot!
Ok, if I can figure out how to get the videos formatted then I will do one more post on Pop Castle. Then it's all about DC! Seriously, so fun. 


Cornhole, Crabs, Chocolate...and The Swing

Dear Familia, 

When not playing in the water we enjoyed a lot of other activities in and around the house. 

During the trip, Zane introduced the kids to a new game called Cornhole.  Zane's description  It is a 2 on 2 game in which each participant has three tries to throw a beanbag at a wooden stand about 20 feet away.  The stand has a hole in it and if the bag goes through the hole it is worth 3 points, if it misses the hole but stays on the board it is worth 1 point, and if it misses the board completely it is worth 0 points.  You and your teammate add up your scores after each round, and the first team to 21 points wins. All of the kids really got into's kinda hard not to get excited while you are playing. 

Johnny trying it out

Nice form Zane
Catching Crabs
One of the highlights of the trip was "catching crabs." The Ramadans have these big wire crab traps that you can load with bait and throw into the water. We were all impatient and tried to check the traps every few hours with no luck. After we let them sit for 48 hours straight we finally caught some. I have a ridiculously hilarious video of the crabs getting released. I will have to figure out how to get it on here so you can see. Most of the time people catch the crabs to eat, but the kids weren't really into that and Zane and I thought it best to just check them out and then let them go. 

Zane and his friends explaining everything to the kids 

Scurrying back to the water
Hot Chocolate and Star Gazing
During our trip to Boston, the girls and I bought a bag of Burdick's hot chocolate to use on a special occasion  The stuff is ridiculously expensive, but also delicious. On one of the clear nights we decided to make the hot chocolate, grab some blankets and flashlights, and head out to do some star gazing on the dock. This was by far my most favorite activity. We didn't have any star maps (found one later that we def could have used) and it got surprisingly cold, but I would do this again in a heart beat. The Ramadans keep a telescope at Pop Castle, but we couldn't figure it out in the dark. Next time for sure.

Burdick's Hot Chocolate
Bundled up on the dock

Another really fun Pop Castle accessory is the swing hanging from one of the giant trees in the backyard. It reminds me of the tire swing we used to play on at Mom M's house in Miami. Zane taught the kids how to twist it up so that you end up spinning around in circles. They really loved that one.

Cassi on the swing
Kiki on the swing
Those are just a few of the fun things we did at Pop Castle. More pics of our time at Pop Castle coming up later today.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Rappahannock River

Dear Familia,

Obviously, the main attraction at Pop Castle is the huge river right in the backyard. The Rappahannock River leads into the Chesapeak Bay and is pretty impressive. I knew that the kids were going to be amazed at the size of this thing since we are used to relatively tiny bodies of water like Salt River and Saguaro Lake. In fact, they kept calling Pop Castle the "lake house" because it seemed so big to them.

Jumping in on Day 1!

Although our first day was pretty cloudy, we ended up some amazingly sunny days! Regardless of rain or shine, we were down at the water every single day. We didn't do a lot of legitimate swimming because this was really their first extended experience in non-pool water. It's really weird to swim in water when you can't see the bottom. We managed to find some other fun activities though.

View on a sunny day :) 
Mud Fights 

One of the really fun things about the river is seeing all the different animals that make their home in river. We saw quite a few schools of small fish swimming around in the shallow AND we saw jellyfish! I was really worried about that, but Zane's friend Binns picked one up and it didn't do a thing to him.

Checking out the "wildlife"

We caught a few of the jellyfish to get a closeup view. Can you see them??
So ya, we loved the river. Next year we'll have to add kayaks to the list of activities. I'll have to get in shape first though!


Recap: Pop Castle

Dear Familia,

Spending the week at Pop Castle was amazing! We had so much spending time together, but also had the space to chill out on our own before getting stuffed into the studio in DC ;) We arrived on Monday June 3rd and stayed until Sunday June 9th. We definitely didn't get to everything on our to-do list, but we managed to get to quite a bit.

When we arrived it was raining and I thought we would spend most of our time chilling out in the house. I was wrong. Even before we had taken the bags in and explored the house, the kids jumped right into the river in their clothes!

View from the back porch to the river...amazing. 

Close up of the Osprey Nest! (You can kinda see it on the left in the last pic)

After we headed inside to dry off all the kids picked their rooms. They girls loved that they got their own room, but we of course all ended up in the same rooms most nights. The house is so big that having your own room actually makes you feel very isolated, especially at night! It was nice for them to have their own space though.

Madi's Room. Zane's Dad made that dollhouse by hand!

Rudy and Johnny's room. Ended up being the main sleeping room. Haha. 

Kiki's room. One of the best wake-up views in the house. 

Zane and I slept in the master bedroom. Notice the clown that had to be removed from one of the kid's rooms. They were terrified!

Abbi's room. She made it feel like home by putting up One Direction posters!

Our main eating area. Love the rustic table. 

All of the kids said that they wanted to go back next year. Hopefully we can make a tradition out of it! Stay tuned for posts on what we did all week.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Pop Castle

Dear Familia,

Zane, the kids, and I will be spending the next week hanging out at Pop Castle. We are extremely grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Ramadan for gifting us a week at their incredible house on the Rappahanock River.

View of Pop Castle from the Backyard

We plan to do all of these things over the course of our stay here:

Crab trap
Corn hole
Eagles nest 
Bike ride
Ping pong
Sand castles
Capture the flag
Campus golf
Dance party
Pillow fight
Hide and seek
Ice cream
Neighborhood walk
Hot chocolate
Star gazing
Breakfast at Rocket Billy's

I'll do some blog posts during our downtime, but follow Abbi (our little social media director) on instagram to get real-time updates:


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Officially a Master!

Dear Familia,

I cannot believe it's been two years since I first started at HKS. Side note: in October we will have been back from Peace Corps for three years, crazy. Time is moving at warp speed these days. Seriously.

The official graduation picture
I originally didn't want to even go to graduation. I wanted to either spend more time in AZ or head back to DC to prepare for the summer visit from the kids. Even after I decided to go, I really didn't want anyone to travel to Cambridge for the ceremony. Luckily, it worked out to bring a few of the girls back with me when I came from AZ. I am VERY happy that Zane and three of the girls were with me to celebrate. It was super emotional for me to look back and see them cheering me on as I received my diploma.

Walking through JFK Park after the ceremony

A big thank you to all of the family and friends, and especially my husband, that have loved me and helped me throughout the past two years. I know that I was perma-stressed, but I am so thankful for the experience. Now it's time to find a job! Will keep you all posted.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Dear Familia,

We have officially started our summer trip. First stop: Boston! Kiki, Abbi, Madi and I left to the airport at 3:30 am AZ time. Not fun. We had a layover in Houston before arriving at Logan Airport around 4 pm. This was Abbi and Madi's first flight (Madi flew when she was three, but obviously doesn't remember) and they were a little nervous in the air. But it all worked out and we arrived safely.
From the iPad: At Sky Harbor waiting to board

We had to make a quick pitstop at Harvard Health Services when we arrived because I had a major allergic reaction. We were in and out within 30 minutes prescription in hand and itching relieved. By the time we got to my apartment and had dinner the girls were exhausted. They ended up falling asleep by 8:30 pm and not waking up until after 9 am the next day.
These lovely hives were all over my body!
The girls especially loved riding the train. AZ is not known for their public transportation so the T was a grand adventure for everyone. It was probably good for them to have exposure to a system a little less hectic than DC's before we get there in a couple of weeks.
Alewife Station
Next stop: DC! We are all very excited.


Monday, May 27, 2013


Dear Familia,

I'm lucky enough to have a husband that loves family as much as I do. Since we don't live in the same cities as our families, we do quite a bit of traveling to see our loved ones. While Zane's family has been very smart about combining vacations with trips to visit family, we usually just travel to AZ when it comes time to see my side of the family. Recently, we've been trying to change that. The first Garcia/Pattea/Ramadan or "GPR" trip happened spur of the moment while we were in AZ for the holidays.

They all want to be like their big bro Zane ;)

On December 30th, we took a spontaneous road trip to San Francisco with my six younger siblings. We rented a van and Zane drove the 11 hours to get us into the city. It was great because we got to start the tradition of celebrating our anniversary in a new city every year AND we got to hang out with Dean!

1st Anniversary: San Francisco, CA

One of my 30 before 30 goals is to be able to bring my kids to the different cities I live throughout my life. None of them got to come to Guatemala, which I did not like. So this year they are coming to visit DC! Kiki, Abbi, and Madi are going to come to Boston and see me graduate. Then Cassi, Rudy, and Johnny will join us in Virginia for a week at Zane's parents house on the Rappahanock River. Then we'll head to DC for 10 days to check it all out. Very excited. We'll be sure to get some pics and such.


PS Sam get on board.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

2013: The Year of the Graduate

Dear Familia,

Wow, what a year for us! We had 4 graduates :) So proud of the commitment to education we have in our family.
These two both graduated from high school. Now they are off to conquer both coasts.
Nina in San Fran and Cassi in NYC!
Auntie D graduated with TWO associates degrees after raising 5 amazing children and a bunch of grandchildren.
Such an inspiration :)