Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Our Trip to Fernando Ortega's Concert and Santa Cruz

Just a warning, this blog will be inundated with posts this week. It's one of those weeks where I have so much to share, I'm going to have to do multiple posts. Hope you guys won't mind. ;)

Warning number two: this post is super long. Feel free to skim it or skip it if you want. ;)


I wanted to share a bit about my past weekend getaway with Hubby. :) We went to Mount Hermon to see Fernando Ortega in concert, and then explored the Santa Cruz area a bit on our way home. Since our anniversary is on the 29th, and Hubby won't have time off then, we decided to treat this as an early anniversary celebration. :)  

We dropped the two youngest girls off with my parents. Oldest Gal was picked up by Hubby's parents and taken to our church's Family Camp for the day. Hubby had just worked a night shift (driving all the way to Richmond, CA and back), so I drove first while he slept.

I thought I'd change things up a bit for this trip and do a traveling unicorn instead of a traveling Zelf. Little M came with us (his name is a secret, as he's named after the unicorn in my book). ;) Here he is at our first stop, the Pilot in Dunnigan. After this, Hubby took over at the wheel, which I must confess was a relief for me. I'm much happier in the passenger seat, especially when it comes to city driving. ;)

The day was beautiful and sunny.

We stopped for lunch in Fairfield (basically because I wanted to go to the mall), and had lunch at Panera. I did a half sandwich and half salad, which were DELICIOUS. :)

Hubby did a half sandwich, a roll...

...and a pecan roll. ;) 

After lunch, we headed over to the mall.

Hubby and Little M. ;D

Our first stop was the Disney Store. (Sorry Little M is so took me a while to get the focus thing figured out.) ;)

As usual, I took a few pictures of the inside, just for fun. :)

There was quite a large "Finding Dory" section, of course, since it's the current movie in theaters.

There was a good-sized Star Wars display, too.

The Disney Princess section. :D

Disney Animator's Collection dolls.

This was my first time seeing Lilo in person. She's so adorable! :D

Mini DACs.

It was also my first time seeing mini Alice. Isn't she the cutest?

My favorite part of this store is this display. It just makes me happy to look at it. :) (I've probably already said that in previous posts...sorry for the repetitiveness.) ;)

The Alice: Through the Looking Glass dolls were there, too. While I'm not a huge Alice fan, I thought I'd take some pics for those of you who are. All of these dolls were on sale for $29.99 instead of the $40 or so they were originally. I just checked the website to try and find their original price, but they're not on there anymore.

Okay, I'm sorry, but this is pretty much the creepiest thing I've ever seen. :{ His eyeballs. *Shudder* 

Alice, the White Queen, and Time.

Time actually has a really good face.

The White Queen isn't too bad, but doesn't look enough like Anne Hathaway to me. I think her eyes need to be bigger.

Adorable plushies.

Of course, there was also lots of Frozen merchandise:

It's funny, I saw this Elsa there and guessed that she was from the new Classic line since she had Olaf with her. As you all know, I found out my assumption was correct on Monday. I'm so bummed that I missed seeing all of the new Princess dolls by a mere couple of days! (P.S. Olaf is absolutely darling in person.)

Frozen charm bracelet set.
I love these little Snowgie erasers. :D

I was tempted by the Captain America Civil War and Star Wars reusable shopping bags.

And also by the Zootopia action figures on sale.

In the end, though, I walked out without purchasing anything. Which is pretty amazing for me. Had the new Classic dolls been there, it would have been a different story. ;)


Our next stop was Build-A-Bear. I had $20 in gift cards there, but didn't end up purchasing anything in that store, either. I tried to convince Hubby that we should build an animal together, but he was not all that thrilled with the idea. They also had about ten little girls making animals there, so it wasn't good timing.

We finished at the mall and continued on our way. Our next stop was the Safeway in Scotts Valley to pick up a few snacks for the night.

And then it was on to Mount Hermon for the concert! :D


Just to give you a little context of how exciting this was for me, Fernando Ortega has been one of my favorite Christian artists since I was in college seventeen years ago. (Has it seriously been that long since I was in college? Man, do I feel old!) He has this amazing blend of sounds and styles that make his recordings so unique. What I love most about his music, though, is the depth of the words. I've used so many of his songs for special music in church just because I want to share the message of the words. Some of his songs are original compositions, some are classic hymns and songs written by others. But everything he sings get to the heart of the message of the Gospel or tell stories of people and experiences near to his heart. 

In college, I wasn't a fan of super contemporary Christian music, and Fernando was one of the few that wasn't going that direction. My tastes have broadened a bit since then, but I still have a deep love for hymns and the types of songs he sings.

So it was with barely controlled, fangirl excitement that I made my way to dinner at Mount Hermon and eagerly awaited the concert. 

Before dinner, Hubby and I tried to check into our room at Mount Hermon, but had to wait for a while. Apparently one of the family camp groups hadn't left as early as expected, so a whole building was still being prepared. It wasn't more than a ten minute wait, if that. When we got to our room, we discovered it hadn't been cleaned. There were blankets heaped up on the bed and wet, used towels on the bathroom floor. We went back and explained the situation. The poor staff members were super apologetic and sent us on to dinner while they prepared our room.

Dinner was just as delicious as I knew it would be. A full salad bar, several different veggies and side dishes, and a choice between chicken, fresh salmon, and either pork or tri-tip...I can't remember which. Hubby and I sat at a full table and had a fun discussion with those there. I even made a new online friend! :D Get this: she makes custom Disney dresses for girls. I mean, what are the odds that I'd end up next to another Disney fan? ;D You can see her fabulous website HERE and her Facebook page HERE. It was such a joy to talk to a fellow believer, mom, and lover of Disney.

By the time dinner was over, I was roasting hot, and people were already lining up for seats at the concert. I really wanted to get a good seat, but we also wanted to get our room situation figured out. So we went back to registration, where one of the staff apologized deeply once again for our unprepared room. Because of the mix up, they upgraded us to a deluxe room and also gave us two free ice cream vouchers for the ice cream shop. We felt bad, as it really wasn't that big of a deal to us, but everything was already arranged. (Little did we know what an important part those ice cream vouchers would play that evening.) 

Here are a few quick pictures of our room (taken after the concert):

We got a few things to our room, Nathan parked the truck, I did a quick makeup, toothbrush, and deodarant fix, and then we hurried down to the auditorium to line up for the concert.

They were already seating people when we got there. Even though the line was long, there were amazingly good seats left on the right side of the auditorium. What made this special, aside from our close proximity to the stage, was that this side of the auditorium was my traditional spot of choice at the Mount Hermon Writers Conference. :)

Here's how far back we were from the stage! :D

Our program. I love the way they describe his music here. It's a perfect explanation of his sound. It's funny, he looks a bit different in person. He's changed his hairstyle and he has a little goatee.

And this was the only picture I got of the concert. I didn't want to be too distracting to others around me, and I just wanted to enjoy the music. It was so incredible to be close enough to see facial expressions on the musicians. :D

Fernando had several special guests join him for the concert. His adorable young daughter Ruby was there to watch and listen. In the middle of the concert, she went on stage and gave him a Father's Day gift. An amazing professional cellist and friend of Fernando's, Cameron Stone, accompanied on his cello. I couldn't find any official site or social media for Cameron, but I did find THIS YouTube interview which tells a bit about him and all the people he's played with. Fernando was also joined by his friends Andy and Leslie Cook. Andy played guitar, and both of them sang the harmony parts of the songs. Andy's Twitter page is HERE. And even though I already did this in an earlier post, I feel like I should link to Fernando Ortega's official site, too, since I'm linking to everyone else. You can see it HERE.

The concert was everything I expected and more. Fernando is so down to earth and gracious. The night felt more like a comfortable get-together between friends than a concert. Fernando shared some of the stories behind songs I'd been listening to for seventeen years. It was so fun to hear how they came about. His music was beautiful, lifting our hearts to the Savior. He was having problems hearing the music through his earpiece in one ear, which led to a mix up on the lyrics of one of his songs. But he just stopped everyone, laughed it off, and started over again. 

I couldn't help quietly singing along to some of the songs, and when we were asked to sing a congregational hymn together, I sang with all my heart.

When the concert was through, he and the other artists left through a side door and everyone was dismissed.

I'd been hoping for a chance to meet him in person and thank him for the blessing his music had been to me over the years. I also kind of hoped to get a picture with him. (I actually prayed about meeting him before the concert, kind of a "it would be really nice if this worked out, but I understand if it doesn't" sort of prayer.) When no mention was made of a "meet and greet" of any kind, I just figured I was out of luck. 

Hubby and I headed back to our room and finished unpacking. He was tired, but okay with staying up a bit, and we did have those free ice cream vouchers. Not that either of us needed ice cream...

The thing was, I knew I'd always play the "what if" game if we just stayed in our room. "What if I'd wandered back to the auditorium and an opportunity came up to say hi?" "What if we walked around and bumped into him by chance?" I would always wonder and regret not trying a little harder to find that opportunity.

Okay, I know that sounds really fangirly. I tend to be that way about my favorite musicians and authors. Just ask Sarah. ;) ("Robin Jones Gunn is sitting at that table right there!") I also knew from experience at the writers conference that sometimes meeting someone is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

So Hubby and I, still undecided about ice cream, wandered down towards the auditorium. Fernando was there, talking to a couple of people, but I couldn't tell if they were staff or just regular concert attendees. So I asked Hubby if we could sit in the outdoor seats for a while and see what happened. (He was so incredibly patient with me throughout this whole thing.) ;) 

The conversation ended, but then the Mount Hermon director guided Fernando and company through the side door once again. They were headed in the general direction of the ice cream shop (or I was pretty sure they were), so I thought maybe we could head that way, too, and at least look at the ice cream and decide if we wanted any.

We got to the shop, and he was at the door, talking to another fan. Then he went inside and got in line...and we got in line for ice cream right after him. :D

What followed was about a fifteen minute conversation between Hubby, Fernando, and I, in which I hopefully didn't ramble on too long or make too much of an idiot of myself. (Hubby says I did fine.) 

I thanked Fernando for his music, and told him I'd been listening to it since I was in college, when my brother first introduced it to me. Fernando told me I looked like I was still in college. (These types of comments used to bother, me, but now that I'm older, I'm cool with looking younger than I am.) ;) I told him I was in my thirties and had three little girls. 

His daughter Ruby was pretty wound up and having fun playing with her daddy. He was so sweet with her. I talked to Ruby a bit and asked her how old she was. She said she was seven and a half, and I told her my daughters were just a little older than she was. 

I don't remember all of the particulars past that. I know we talked about his version of "My Song is Love Unknown," one of my favorites of his recordings. I shared how I'd sung it at church the previous Sunday, but couldn't find his arrangement, and how I preferred his arrangement because of the phrasing and the way it allowed the listener to focus on the words. He felt the same way.

I think I mentioned that our youth pastor was disappointed to miss out on the concert. Disney came up, but only because the ice cream shop was playing Disney songs. He mentioned that his friend Cameron (who, sadly, was not at the ice cream shop) had played cello on Frozen and many other Disney movies.

It was the most amazing, wonderful, surreal experience. He was so humble and "normal," for lack of a better term. It felt like a random conversation with any other parent/musician we'd just met. And then I would remember who I was talking to and try not to completely freak out. :D

We did end up getting ice cream. (And really, who am I kidding? Since when have I said no to free ice cream?) ;) We probably wouldn't have without the vouchers. So thank you, whoever it was who forgot to clean our room. You gave me the chance to meet Fernando Ortega. ;)

After I got my ice cream, I went to grab my spoon, but hesitated. There were long spoons in a utensil holder, and next to them was a big jar that said "clean," full of short spoons that...kind of looked like they'd been deposited there after use. So were they clean, or spoons that needed to be cleaned? As I stood there, debating which spoon to take, Andy Cook came up and faced the same dilemma. We laughed about it and both opted for long spoons instead of the ones from the "clean" jar. I was able to thank him for his music as well, and he thanked me, and mentioned that he'd seen us singing out there, and he loved seeing that. 

In full, glowing fangirl mode, I took my yummy ice cream and sat with Hubby.

We played a game of Sorry while we ate. He won. I'm not great at Sorry anyway, and I was slightly dazed and distracted after my awesome conversation. ;)

I managed to get a picture of Hubby, even though he was moving around to avoid the camera. Silly guy. ;)

Shortly after that, Fernando and his friends left the shop. He waved at our table specifically before he left, which was super cool. 

On our way back to our room, I took a few pictures of the beautiful flowers, with some lighting help from Hubby. :)

I saw Fernando and Ruby one last time that night. Hubby and I were just about to our room, and we'd passed Fernando and Ruby on our way, talking to another fan. I might possibly have walked a little slowly. And then I conveniently remembered that I needed to get our water jug and snack bars out of our truck. 

I think I was acting a bit too much like Jane Austen's Emma for Hubby, so he shook his head, rolled his eyes good-naturedly, and went up to our room. 

Just as I was getting things out of the truck, Fernando and Ruby came up, heading to the floor below ours. I said goodnight and told Ruby I hoped she slept well. And then, feeling just a little bit sheepish and stalker-y, but mostly fangirly-happy, I headed up to our room.

I didn't get a picture with him. The timing wasn't right, especially when he and Ruby were heading to their room after a long day. Even in the ice cream shop, it just didn't seem appropriate. I'm so thankful, though, that he took the time to talk after a long day and a long concert. He has my utmost respect, and I wish him and his family all the best in the years to come.   


It had been a really long day for us, too, so Hubby and I both slept like logs that night. 

The next morning, we got ready to go. Since it always takes me longer to get ready, Hubby enjoyed the lovely view from our balcony while he waited.

Little M seemed right at home, too: 

A final view of our cabin, as we headed down to check out. We stayed in the "Laurel" building.

The scenery, as always, was beautiful: 

Once we'd checked out, we headed to McDonald's for breakfast, and then made our way to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz. I had such a fun time there when Sarah and I visited in March, so Hubby and I decided to go together this time.


Here's another look at the pirate-themed miniature golf at Neptune's Kingdom: 

Hubby and I on the Boardwalk. :)

And, of course, I had to take another picture of the lovely carousel: 

We walked the entire length of the boardwalk and looked at all the rides. It was much more crowded than when Sarah and I went there, with it being summertime and all. Hubby and I didn't ride any of the rides, but would like to go back sometime with the girls and try some of them. 

After the Boarwalk, we headed out on the Wharf.

Little M at the Wharf, overlooking the beach and the Boardwalk. 

Hubby and I at the Wharf.

We split an order of the same shrimp and fries I'd ordered in March.

We sat at a park bench to eat and shared this view. :)


After the Boardwalk, Hubby was interested in driving around his childhood neighborhood in El Sobrante, which was fine with me. 

On the way, we found a Toys R Us. :D

There were several of the larger Squinkies 'do Drops sets there:
The smaller sets were $5.99...

...and the larger sets were $9.99. Like I'd guessed, the blind bag sets were $2.99 instead of the $4.95 I paid at Justice. I didn't end up buying any Squinkies this time around, but I was sure tempted to! ;)

Cute Disney-themed lip gloss sets. Isn't Max adorable?

I've always loved this sweet toddler version of the live-action Cinderella.

Since I'd just taken pics of the Disney Store Alice: Through the Looking Glass dolls, I decided it would be fun to take some of the Toys R Us dolls. I believe these ones are by Jakks Pacific, but I forgot to check. :}

The Red Queen. I think she's the best of the dolls.

Alice and the Mad Hatter. Alice looks a little severe. I think the Disney Store dolls capture her a little better.

Here she is in her blue dress. 

I definitely prefer this Hatter face to the Disney Store version, though.

And in some ways, I almost prefer this White Queen to the Disney Store's...I think. I'd have to see them next to each other to decide.

Time definitely looks better in the Disney Store version.

An exciting NEW find on this trip was the latest offering from Moose Toys: the Twozies. These are just starting to show up in online reviews and in stores, but I think they're going to be every bit as big as Shopkins. The Twozies are matching sets of babies with animal hats and little baby animals. However, the pairs have been separated, so you have to try and find their matches. Brilliant marketing on Moose Toys' part. ;)

They come in two-pack blind boxes for $2.99 each...

...sets of three babies and three animals for $5.99...

...and sets of six babies and six animals for $9.99. These sets come with one matching pair.

There are also two special playsets for $14.99 with two exclusive matching babies and animals. 

I will have a review up of the Twozies, hopefully tomorrow. I ended up purchasing one of the sets of three babies and three animals for the girls to share, but my mom and aunt ended up buying some sets afterwards, so we'll have a few to look at. :)


After Toys R Us, it was time for a dinner break. Hubby did some research...

...and found a nice little Indian restaurant called "Flavor of India."

The food was excellent. We ordered lamb curry, chicken tikka masala...

...and garlic naan. Yummy! :) 


After dinner, we drove to El Sobrante, where Hubby showed me his childhood home, church, and the school his sisters attended. It was fun to see this earlier part of his life. We're both thankful his parents decided to move when he was young. Otherwise, we might not have met each other!

On our way home, we found a Krispy Kreme with the hot light on.

There is nothing better than fresh, hot donuts from Krispy Kreme. :D

After a quick stop by Hubby's workplace in Richmond (so he could show me where he works), we started the long drive home.  

The moon was beautiful...

...and the sky was painted with the most gorgeous pastel colors.

We made it home quite late, exhausted from our trip but full of happy memories. It was a great way to celebrate our anniversary.

I hope you guys enjoyed taking this trip with us in pictures. :) 

Stay tuned for lots more bloggy fun this week. :)


Karina (@mia.kate.andco) said...

Wow! It sounds as though you had a very memorable trip! =) I'm happy for you, that you got to do something you've wanted to do for a long time! I enjoyed all the pictures in this post, as well! =)

Hannah Prewett (beastsbelle) said...

Thanks, Karina! We had such a great time. :) Glad you enjoyed the post!

Mark Patraw said...

I'm glad to read that you and your husband had an enjoyable anniversary trip/celebration, and it was cool that you got to see one of your musical inspirations/heroes perform live and meet and talk with him afterwards like that. I'd never heard of Fernando Ortega myself until reading this; the only contemporary Christian music group that I can remember ever taking a liking to was DC Talk (and their "Supernatural" song in particular).

That new Alice mini DAC looks fabulous (the expression on the raging Red Queen accessory figure is hilarious)! I love the 1951 Disney animated film, but I wasn't that crazy about Tim Burton's update, so, I'm not sure if I'm going to ever watch the sequel (even though Burton didn't direct) or get any dolls/toys from it. I generally like Johnny Depp, but I don't care for his portrayal of the Mad Hatter, and I agree that the eyes on the Disney Store doll are nightmare-inducing.