An Unforgettable Visit to the North Pole

Toward the end of November, my family drove to Sacramento for a long-awaited, magical journey to the North Pole on the Polar Express.

This annual Christmas season offering from the California State Railroad Museum is what memories are made of and the tickets sell out in a hot second. This year, after taking out a membership to the museum, Mateo was savvy enough to jump on-line at just the right time to secure four tickets for our family.

We arrived at the Sacramento train station in the early afternoon and after retrieving our tickets from will-call, all we had to do was look for families with pajama-clad children walking toward a classic steam train waiting expectantly on the tracks. We purchased a pair of Polar Express PJ’s for Sadie (Caleb was apparently way too cool to put on a pair), then we eagerly waited in line. Volunteers in classic railroad costume greeted and welcomed us, truly setting the tone for the fantasy journey ahead. Caleb and Sadie were all smiles and just over-the-moon when the time had come to board the train.

We quickly found our seats and then the train exited the station. On our way to the North Pole, we were greeted by a conductor who stamped our tickets, and then entertained by a hobo and a cast of other actors who reenacted scenes from the movie. Dancing up and down the aisle with hot chocolate and cookies, we eventually were offered our own individual Polar Express branded mugs with piping hot (and perfectly mediocre) hot chocolate, along with soft, fresh-baked cookies. The train rode along side the Sacramento river, making a gorgeous backdrop to this unforgettable excursion. The kiddos were in heaven and Mateo and I were feeling triumphant as parents who aim to make lasting, positive memories.

Eventually, our train arrived at its destination: the North Pole. Santa and his elves (several hot chicks in costume) were at the station outside the train, waiving at us, while packing and arranging Christmas gifts for the children of the world. Most of the kids on the train ran to the window to wave back at Santa and his crew. Once the train moved on, a very special visitor came on board and greeted each of the children – Santa himself. I was tickled by all of the thought they put into this exceptional train experience, which was bound to make perfect lifelong memories for our children.

The efforts by the volunteers dressed up in period costume, the crazy hobo who kept running up and down our car, the hot chocolate and fresh cookies, having the book read to us by a grandfatherly voice over the speaker system – all of this was just extraordinary. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m so glad we made this a part of our holiday plans this year – a wonderful way to end the year.

Happy Holidays from the Soltero Family!


Chinese Food and a Movie!

I just can’t seem to stay away from Chinese food around Christmas time! I’m Jewish…it’s in my DNA!

We are in the middle of a family vacation from work and school. Yesterday, Caleb and I were in much need of some ‘us time’, so we grabbed our coats, jumped in the car and headed for College Avenue in Berkeley.

First, we enjoyed a tasty lunch at Shen Hua, where we feasted on pork buns, poststickers, and har gao (steamed shrimp dumplings). While delighting in our delicious dim sum, we sipped on ginger ale and gabbed about our favorite activities so far on our vacation, which has been full of cool plans such as a Christmas trip to Reno to see family, ice skating in San Francisco, a trip to Saul’s Deli to eat latkes for Chanukah, fun cooking experiments, trips to Lawrence Hall of Science, etc.

I savor this time with Caleb. Normally, the four of us hang out, involved in a fun family activity. Apart from our cooking adventures, Caleb and I rarely get time to just hold hands, be silly, and catch up.

Once we cleared our plates, we skipped and ran hand-in-hand over to the Elmwood Movie Theater where we watched the Muppets. Caleb sat on my lap for much of the movie, while we ate Raisinettes (Caleb’s first time eating them and he kept calling them “raisin-nuts”) and popcorn. I sat there spending more time hugging and nuzzling him, and enjoying the moment. The movie was fun too. Ask Caleb about Fozzie Bear and the ‘fart shoes’ and he won’t stop laughing!

If you haven’t already caught on, I’m huge on making memories for our kids. I want them to look back at their childhood and site the many memorable and delicious adventures they went on. One day, perhaps, they’ll take their kids on a ‘Chinese food and a movie’ adventure and tell them how fun it was to do the same with me when they were little.

We’ll follow up soon with homemade ice cream. Stay tuned!