Outings Archives

January 15, 2007

Baby Loves Disco

Saturday, my family had the pleasure of attending Baby Loves Disco San Francisco, courtesy of The Parent Bloggers Network. I had heard of this phenomenon first a few months ago when some friends attended an event, bragging about how cool, innovative, and exciting their experience had been. Baby Loves Disco childproofs popular nightclubs, turning them into hip, family-friendly events with music, lights, food, and fun. I was intrigued, so pleased when The Parent Bloggers Network sent me to this month’s party...

Read the original review, posted to Kari's Couch

March 20, 2007

Blink... And It's Done!

The center console of my van has a bunch of fast-food napkins “just in case.” In the way-back, I have a roll of paper towels, a spray bottle of window-washing liquid, and a bunch of old plastic grocery bags. Plus, I have a bunch of baby wipes that I use for various things.

When the Cat goes to his OT appointment, I use that time to quickly clean the van. I usually have to remember to bring additional supplies, such as a paper bag for recycling or an extra tote in which to put random items. By the end of the chore, the van may technically be cleaner, but the cleaning products cause their own clutter...

Read the original review, posted to Kari's Couch

May 7, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Boys

When I think of “dangerous boys” I think of the thugs who stole Husband’s cell phone yesterday. But of course, "The Dangerous Book for Boys” that I received free-for-review from the Parent Bloggers Network is exactly the opposite: an opportunity to jump back into a time when the boys played stickball outside homes with stoops, or constructed batteries and go-carts with their own hands...

Read the original review, posted to Kari's Couch

June 28, 2007

Garage Sale America

I gave “Garage Sale America” to my dad for Father’s Day; it was the perfect gift. Many of my childhood memories include garage-sale finds. I remember my dad went off to a sale for knick-knacks and came home with a light blue convertible. Although my first bicycle was brand new, subsequent ones were from garage sales...

Read the original review, posted to Kari's Couch

July 2, 2007

Nozin: The Orange Germ-Killer

Husband used to be addicted to Diet Coke. Around the same time, he was also very enamored with “Emergen-C” and “Airborne.” He has since moved on to Propel vitamin-enhanced flavored water.

And so, when the Parent Bloggers Network gave me a free-for-review batch of Nozin, I had to laugh, since this is the sort of thing in which Husband would be very interested...

Read the original review, posted to Kari's Couch

September 30, 2007

Win Me a Roomba: Free Things from VocalPoint!

noodlenet.gifThe familiar orange-pink swirled envelope came in the mail last week. This time, enclosed within was a DVD offering a free trial of NoodleNet, a safe way for kids to browse the internet. Sometimes it will be a fabric softener sample, or a DVD of a new television show, such as when "Meerkat Manor" came out.

I still have fond memories of the show "Cover Shot," for which I voted on a "final shot" as one of the original VocalPoint members. I was in "the Club" so early in the game that I actually voted on the design of the envelopes in which VocalPoint sends their product samples, coupons, and announcements!

Why did I become a member?

Continue reading "Win Me a Roomba: Free Things from VocalPoint!" »

January 11, 2008

America's Giving Challenge

Parade Magazine is sponsoring "The America's Giving Challenge." The object of the challenge is to get as many people to donate to a specific cause as possible. It's not important how much is donated, just how many people actually donate. All donations are tax deductible.

The eight charities that receive the most donations (in number of contributions, not monetary amount) will receive a prize of $50,000 for their organization.

If you are interested in participating in this challenge, my cause of choice is The Find a Way/Habitot campaign to create an interactive museum for children of all abilities. I wrote about Find a Way when they were one of the top fifty finalists in the American Express Members' Project and when I created an iBakeSale for them.

In order for your donation to count towards the total, it must be through their Parade entry.

So why does the Find a Way / Habitot Campaign need money? Well, before they can proceed with further work on the museum itself, they need to pay $25,000 for a feasibility study as required by the city in which the museum is to be built.

When making a donation, it is important to specify it is for the "East County Museum Campaign" in the space provided. (This is because the organization sponsoring the entry is a broader one than just the museum for all-abilities as proposed by Find a Way.) The minimum donation is only $10, so even if Find a Way doesn't win the contest, if we can get 2500 people to donate just $10, we will have paid for the feasibility study!

May 6, 2008

Are Your Kids Safe?

safekids.jpgWhile I was at Camp Baby, I learned of two impressive programs that I would like to mention here.

Today I will profile Safe Kids USA. National "Safe Kids Week" was actually last week, so I missed the boat in announcing it week-of; however, the Safe Kids USA website has plenty of valuable material for parents.

Although some hospitals have carseat checks before the new parents are allowed out of the parking lot, and many police departments offer free carseat checks, many parents don't take them up on their offer. I remember traveling down the freeway when Splig's infant seat tipped over, despite being installed by several people who should have known what they were doing.

And then there is water-safety. (Pictured are Oscar winner actress Marcia Gay Harden and Charisse Nurnberg, mother of Matt, who drowned at the age of 3 - photo from Safe Kids USA) Unfortunately, I have a scary story to tell:

Continue reading "Are Your Kids Safe?" »

May 29, 2009

Don't Forget the Sunscreen!

As May comes to a close, so does "Skin Cancer Awareness Month," but that is no reason to forget about the sunscreen. Whether you wear UV protective clothes or slather on the lotion, make sure you are doing something to protect yourself outside.

SunglassesSunscreenSwimsuit.jpgSure, it may not quite feel like summer yet for some of you, but with school's dismissal, suddenly we're all going to be spending a lot more time outdoors.

Here's a secret: I've already gotten burned this year. I had my UPF 50+ protective jacket unzipped a bit in the neck area for the stylish look of it all (V-neck is so much more flattering for my body type) but didn't apply enough sunscreen in that area. (The neck area is frequently forgotten, and it is delicate, so important to remember!) The good news of this burn (and it isn't bad, really - just a tiny bit red) is that it showed me that the UPF 50+ protective wear from UVSkinz totally worked -- because the areas that were covered with the clothing weren't even a tad tanned or pink.

Luckily, I sprayed a bunch of sunscreen on my boys, so they were doubly-protected: they wore UV Skinz and had sunscreen on. We use both Neutrogena and KINeSYS sunscreen sprays. I also use the Neutrogena lotion (slathered it on my neck as soon as I realized I had damage: sunscreen provides healing, too.)

I know everyone knows this, but sunglasses don't just make you look cool. Sure, they help you see better in bright light (and help with fatigue in bright cloudy light) but their most important role is to protect against UV exposure. Many of those cheap-o sunglasses don't block both UV-A and UV-B light, so be sure to look on the label.

The one sun protection item I am lacking is a hat. I haven't found a "cute" one that I like just yet. Yes, I spray my head to avoid a sunburn in the part of my hair, but I know I need to be better protected. (And sunscreened-up hair is not so pretty, anyway.)

So, consider this brief "service announcement" a reminder to put your sunscreen out on your bathroom counter so you remember to put it on -- stash one in your car, at your desk at the office, in your diaper bag, and by the front door. Get a hat (yes, I need to take my own advice) and some great sunglasses (my dad has pairs littered all around, as does Husband - better to have a bunch in different places than to squint-n-burn because you can't find your sole pair.)

I received no compensation for this post -- just highlighting products I've reviewed in the past. I purchased the swimsuit pictured from dELiA*s (and got a beautiful one from Victoria's Secret as well. I learned last season that it is important to have more than one swimsuit, least my boys require that I put on a cold wet one when they want to go back in the hotel pool and hour later...) The sunglasses pictured are Fendi - but you can get UV-A + UV-B protection from less expensive brands (just not totally cheap-o.)

July 1, 2009

The Circus is Coming to Town!

UPDATE: We saw the circus! It was tons of fun -- please read on to find out how you can see the circus at a discount.


I saw the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus when I was young. I don't remember my brother being there, which means I was probably younger than five.

Zing_Zang_Zoom.gifI remember I was nervous. It was my first time in a large arena, there were animals I had never seen before in person, and I worried that I was the one who would have to perform. But I also remember once my nerves were calmed it made quite an impression.

Yes, I'm one of those folks who is freaked out by clowns, but I love the trapeze, high-wire acts, and all the animal acts. I have fond memories of being able to meet an elephant at Ringling Brothers when I was young, and some baby tigers when I was in the eighth grade. Getting close to animals I thought would be inaccessible was a real thrill.

I took "ownership" of my Ringling Brothers experience enough so that when a competitor came to town I scoffed, saying they were just "impostors." Surely they couldn't be as talented as the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Baily troupe!

Ringling_Bros_Barnum_Bailey.gifMy first circus experience was at "The Oakland Coliseum" which has since gone through several renamings to become "The Oracle Arena."

Now MY kids can experience their first circus experience in the exact same place with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, just as I did. Their latest show, Zing Zang Zoom, is coming to Northern California in August. And my family will be there!

Lucky me, I have a coupon code for fellow Bay Area residents to use when purchasing tickets for these shows, thanks to Mom Central:

Continue reading "The Circus is Coming to Town!" »

July 22, 2009

What a Woman Wants... in her Engine.

This experience is now over! Find out my impressions of the Ford event -- I was definitely surprised.

Last after BlogHer, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the Michelin Man (and associated staff plus professional race-car drivers) to learn about tire pressure. I experienced some "closed course" action. It was definitely exciting. I learned quite a lot and was thankful for the experience.

This year I am fortunate enough to go on a plant tour with Ford. I will have the opportunity to discuss "What Women Want" as it pertains to automobiles -- what are YOU looking for in a vehicle?

I know what I want and will be eager to share it with the Ford folks. But I'd really love to hear what your thoughts are as well. I'll be checking comments here, of course, but also tweeting with "#FordBlogHer" - so watch for us on Thursday if you are interested in finding out what we're discussing.

I grew up in one of those homes with a dad who was really in to cars. He loves to renovate old cars, but not the traditional "hot rod" types that some hobbyists lean towards. I learned a lot from him, but more about appreciation of the cars rather than mechanics. (I didn't like an old Porsche he had because I thought it was funny looking and smelled kinda funny - at the time, I didn't appreciate what it really was!)

My dad loves to buy and sell cars. He likes "just looking" even more. Some of my favorite outings with my dad were going to garage sales or testing out used cars. Last year at our school auction, I was one of the few women who really enjoyed that the auction was held at a car museum.

My husband first said "I love you" over the decision to purchase a Ford Escort. (It was purple. We called it "the Grape.") Although it has since moved on as our family has grown, I remember our Grape fondly.

I'll explain a little more about my car-buying history at the actual event - and will recap here.

In the meantime - please jump in with your thoughts and/or join us on Twitter to discuss What Women Want... in a vehicle.

What are YOU looking for in a vehicle?

July 29, 2009

Ford Fabulous

Last Wednesday night, I was in the Chicago Sheraton, feeling groggy. I stayed up late the night before to prepare for BlogHer, and ended up having to stay up late again to complete the work I couldn't while on the plane.

Ford EventI was eager to attend the Ford event, but not sure exactly what to expect. I feared my foggy brain might not be able to generate ideas appropriately, or my sleepy senses might not do so well if we were to attempt actually driving the vehicles.

Thankfully after a few hours of sleep I was regenerated, and successfully made it to the Ford-sponsored breakfast at 7:30am (which is 5:30 California time.) It was fabulous to see familiar faces, and meet new people.

Right off the bat, a woman pointed a flip camera towards me and asked me to give my impressions of Ford. I'm not sure exactly what I said, but I know I stammered about how I felt Ford is a "middle ground" brand. It isn't the most expensive, it isn't the cheapest, but I think of it as being a middle class car. Although I said many of my friends drive Fords, I then slipped in that many of them drive BMWs, Mercedes, and Lexuses. Although it was a single sentence, I was parsing the definition of "friend" because there are my college buddies from all over the U.S. who drive a variety of cars, my friends from my "old neighborhood" and the friends (who are more acquaintances, to be honest) in my new neighborhood.

Yes, back in our "old neighborhood" there were many Fords. Many of them were trucks. When I think of reliable work vehicles, I think of Ford. But when I think of what people drive around in my new neighborhood, BMW and Lexus top the list. Most "other mothers" at my sons' school drive SUVs, most of them the aforementioned brands. Those who drive sedans or convertibles drive Mercedes. Although I know of a couple people who drive Jaguars, I think of those as being an "older person" car. I drive a Honda Odyssey. There are several Odysseys and Toyota Siennas in the parking lot, too. My husband drives a Toyota Prius; and yes, there are some Priuses around our neighborhood as well. But I really don't notice the American-made cars.

FordCarHonestTruth.gifMy neighborhood is one of affluence. It is a brand-conscious community. There is a feeling that foreign is better. (Which may be why Ford is so popular in Europe!) Before my visit with Ford, I couldn't picture myself purchasing a brand new Ford because I'd want to show people "Hey, I can afford a Mercedes." Sad, but true. My assumption was that Ford would be a "basic car" whereas one of those "fancy" brands would have the upscale features that I'd expect from a prestigious label. (After all, I've found that designer jeans really do make my rear look better.)

What shocked me the most about my visit with Ford was that the features available in their cars are not only innovative but luxurious. I never thought I'd attach the word "luxury" to Ford, but it is the honest truth.

Continue reading "Ford Fabulous" »

August 2, 2009

Tim Gunn, Lifetime, Project Runway, BowlHer, and Me!

MeTimGunn.jpgI was really excited to meet Tim Gunn. Although I didn't win the "Style Consultation with Tim Gunn" contest with my BlogHer Fashion Haiku + Collage, meeting the man even for a few minutes was a thrill. As I stood in line with the hundreds of other fans, I thought about how I was the first to meet Carson Kressley, and yet how I essentially ran away after he signed my little How to Look Good in Photos postcard because I didn't know we were allowed to pose with him. The Tim Gunn extravaganza was much more organized: although we weren't allowed to snap photos with our own camera, a professional was on hand to make it work. (Photo shown at left courtesy of Tide Bounce Laundry Lounge)

What struck me about Tim Gunn was his calm demeanor. He spent time with each fan, chatting and signing autographs, posing for the photo, and really making each person feel special. I appreciated the way he treated us fans, and came away with quite a lot more respect for him (and I already had oodles.) It is so wonderful to experience celebrities who don't have a huge head.

I went off to BowlHer still high off the Tim Gunn experience. I put on my special outfit and prepared to walk the red carpet.

I didn't trip, though I probably made some funny faces. I was surprised that Mom TV was on hand, so flubbed a bit during my interview, particularly as I had been used to the "talk it all out and we'll edit it later" style of the Ford event, whereas it turns out this was LIVE TV. Ooops!

The venue itself was a blast. I loved the ambiance and loved just sinking into the sofas while the bartender brought me Bud Light in the shape of bowling pins.

bowl_her.jpgI loved my outfit because I could flounce around. The boas the hostesses gave out was an extra-special touch. (Photo shown at right courtesy of goportraits)

The shoes, while high, were surprisingly comfortable. I wasn't going to bowl in them, but my aim for the party was to enjoy myself by socializing and checking out folks like American Idol's Brooke White.

When the Design Challenge winners were announced, it was no surprise that Casey from Moosh in Indy won - her outfit was fabulous. But I ended up being the second winner!

Casey had the glamour down pat - but I had the quirky creativity.

Much to my shock and absolute excitement, I am off to New York City in a little over a month for a "private" party for Lifetime's Project Runway, put on by Marie Claire.

Thank you, thank you to all the folks involved in creating the BowlHer experience. The hostesses' shirts were amazing, the venue was perfect, the decor beautiful. The people were fun and the entertainment was fantastic. I am beyond excited that I have the opportunity to go to New York - and actually meet Tim Gunn a second time.

Of course, what the HECK am I going to wear?

(perhaps I should ask my son?)

Tim Gunn, Tide, BowlHer, the associated sponsors/producers of BowlHer, Lifetime, Project Runway, Marie Claire or any other individual or group relating to these events or design contest did not require me to write this post, nor was I compensated for writing this post. I chose to write this particular entry on my reviews blog because I mentioned specific brands and events, which conflicts with the advertising requirements on my main blog. As yet I am uncertain as to the requirements or restrictions regarding blogging about the actual New York City trip as it occurs. Of course I would love to share the details with my readers, but there may be limits to what we can reveal should we get an inkling of the finishing order of the Project Runway contestants or other related information. These words are my own. Future posts about this event will be my own, not edited by Project Runway, Marie Claire, or Lifetime, unless specifically noted.

August 13, 2009

Zing, Zang, Zoomed!

Me, Splig, and the ZINGMaster!Woooo.... check me out with Alex the ZINGMaster. Oh, and Splig, too. The Cat was too afraid to approach. Oh well. We had a blast at the circus (except for some initial hesitation from the Cat and then some interesting wardrobe malfunctions from that same son.)

Thank you to Mom Central, Feld Entertainment, and Ringling Bros. for the opportunity! it was through their generosity that my family received tickets to the show - plus a pre-show meet-n-greet with a few of the performers. No other compensation will arrive because I chose to post about this event. The thoughts/opinions above and on my main blog circus experience post are my own and representations of my boys' opinions.

As I announced earlier, YOU can go to the circus, too. Purchase a 4-pack of tickets for only $44 by logging onto and entering the coupon code: MOM. Please see my original post for details regarding the coupon code and dates.

September 1, 2009

My Ford Story: Why the 2010 Lincoln MKT?

Pretty 2010 Lincoln MKTAs you recall, before BlogHer I had the enjoyable opportunity to visit the Chicago Ford Plant and find out more about a company that I had previously thought was "middle of the line" and "dependable" but learned is actually "innovative" and even "luxurious." I learned quite a lot during my visit with Ford and was thrilled that they reached out to me last week to ask if I might be interested in test-driving a 2010 Lincoln MKT.

Of course!

During the driving portion of our pre-BlogHer visit, I had eyed the Lincoln MKT, noticing it had the third row of seating that is so valuable to me and my team-sport-playing kids. Several years ago we rented a van when my in-laws came into town so we could all travel in the same car. Shortly thereafter, we purchased a minvan, considering that it would be ridiculous to continually rent vans when we needed to transport more than just our family. At that time, I looked at both SUVs and minivans.

As my husband can attest, I really really wanted the prestige of some of those SUVs. I eyed them lovingly, but their poor gas mileage gave me pause. I checked out a high-end hybrid SUV but the reviews were poor, and the technology wasn't up to par yet, such that it's MPG wasn't very impressive. The safety and the gas mileage of the minivan I selected far surpassed those SUVs that just looked tough.

Continue reading "My Ford Story: Why the 2010 Lincoln MKT?" »

October 7, 2009

My Son Loves His Princesses

Disney_Princess_Classics_on_Ice.jpgA week from now our family will be going to see Disney's Princesses on Ice (officially "Princess Classics," but "Princesses on Ice" sounds kinda rad) thanks to Mom Central. This is a Very Good Thing, since Spliggle absolutely adores princesses and has been yelping, "Can we go!?" every time the Disney on Ice commercial comes on T.V. For "proof" see how he looks adoringly into Cinderella's eyes when she signed his autograph book during a Disney event two years ago.

Lucky me, I have a coupon code for fellow Bay Area residents to use when purchasing tickets for Disney on Ice: Princess Classics. Purchase a 4-pack of tickets for only $44 by logging onto and entering the coupon code: MOM.** If you'll recall, this is the exact same deal as when Zing Zang Zoom came to town. Lucky us!

Continue reading "My Son Loves His Princesses" »

November 20, 2009

Silicon Valley Moms Holiday Party: Generosity to the Gazillionth Power

Unfortunately, TinyPrints was purchased by a larger corporation. The way they operate is different than when I wrote the below review.

I had been a very loyal customer, and a big promoter of their company; however, they asked me to remove all links to them "ASAP" (without any compensation) as it was affecting their Google ranking. I am disappointed at their treatment of me and of other bloggers who had been so supportive of their company.

As it would hurt my own online integrity to unpublish my many posts about Tiny Prints, I am keeping them up, but with this warning attached.

More of my reaction to Tiny Prints

SV_Holiday_Coupon_Guide.jpgLast Sunday was my son's end-of-year soccer party. I was the "team photographer" and had lovingly created Blurb books of each player. I really wanted to see the families' reactions to my books, as well as to enjoy a slide show of the team. Plus, I welcomed a chance to socialize instead of just scurrying away post-game to another commitment.

But Jill Asher told me that the Silicon Valley Moms Holiday Party - sponsored by Chevy - was a not-to-miss event. Fellow SV Moms told me it would be worth it to skip the soccer party.

blurb_soccer_book.gifAnd oh yes, it was worth it.

Now, I'd like to think I'm not a completely greedy person, but let's just say my calm approach to the event turned into a surprised excitement along with that ooooh, I wonder if I can get me some of that.

And there was a lot of that to be had:

Continue reading "Silicon Valley Moms Holiday Party: Generosity to the Gazillionth Power" »

January 13, 2010

One Short (Night) in the Emerald City

Wicked: Behind the Emerald Curtain Wicked: Behind the Emerald Curtain Wicked: Behind the Emerald Curtain

Wicked: Behind the Emerald Curtain Wicked: Behind the Emerald Curtain

From left top: Kristin Chenoweth's "Glinda Bubble Dress", Elphaba baby prop, Madame Morrible dress. From left bottom: Nicolas Dromard (Fiyero), Jonathan Ritter (Swing) wearing Dr. Dillamond's mask)

Not really a Wordless Wednesday, since I could gush about it for hours... At the start of the holiday break, Husband and I went to see a behind-the-scenes presentation of the fabulous musical pictured above. Last night we actually saw the show. I had seen it before, a few years back - and had read the book (Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West ), the sequel (Son of a Witch), and have the fancy collector's book about the musical, "The Grimmerie." It was nice to see it again - and this time bring my husband. He was thrilled it actually had a plot (whereas he says Phantom does not, but he does love Rent) and he is actually interested in reading the book now. Go figure!

I love musical theater. It is just so magical to me, particularly as I remember what a thrill it was to be on a stage while I was a dancer. For awhile Phantom was my favorite. Then Rent. And sure I had that obsession with Cats many years ago, as the rest of the country did. (And yes, my dance company did a version.) But Wicked takes things to a whole new level. (I still have heavy allegiance towards Rent, which is a different animal, and moving in its own way.) I should probably admit that I've read Kristin Chenowith's biography, too, shouldn't I? (A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages)

After it was all over last night, I was really sad. It is such a treat to go to a show like this, and then such a letdown that we must leave all the glitter and song behind to go about our regular lives. It was a fabulous escape!

Disclaimer: the Amazon links give me a few cents if you happen to purchase something on Amazon after clicking on one of them. The books I mention I purchased with my own money years ago. The kind folks from Wicked gave me the tickets gratis, with no obligation to post, nor further compensation for doing so.

February 17, 2010

Disney on Ice: Worlds of Fantasy - Discount Code!

Disney_on_ice_logo.gifToday I might be co-Chairing the Science Fair, but my mind is on Fantasy. For the Fair, my youngest son did a project on "freezing and melting." He carefully tested different liquids' freezing and melting points (in a non-precise, Kindergarten-way, naturally.) A week from Saturday, we'll watch a show on ice -- and of course, ice-skating is possible because the blade melts the ice as the skater glides across the slick surface. But at that point, all my son will care about will be his favorite "cutey-cuties," glitter, and sparkles.

We had a blast when Mom Central and Feld Entertainment sent us to the Circus. And then my youngest son was completely smitten by Princesses on Ice. (My eldest son thought it was pretty cool, too, but he won't admit it.) And so, we are thrilled that we've now been invited to Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy.

This show includes scenes from Cars (wooo! cars on ice!), Little Mermaid, Lion King, Tinkerbell, and more!

Of course, like with the other shows, I'll report back after I have seen it. But, in the meantime, I have a special offer for YOU, my super-awesome readers:

Continue reading "Disney on Ice: Worlds of Fantasy - Discount Code!" »

March 12, 2010

March (Disney) Magic

tinkerbell_ice.gifOn Wednesday, March 3rd I took my boys to see Disney Worlds of Fantasy, courtesy of Feld Entertainment and Mom Central. Then a day later, I was on a plane to Orlando, FL where on Sunday, March 7th I successfully completed the "Tiarathon," otherwise known as the Disney Princess Half-Marathon. (I'll pause to brag that on February 7th I ran a half-marathon, too!)

As I sat watching the ice show, I couldn't help but become emotional because I knew what I was about to do just a few days later. After months of looking forward to running like a princess, it was almost here! Of course the show was magic - from the revved-up Cars, to my youngest son's favorite princess Ariel, to Tinkerbell's antics - and the kids loved their time. And then I was definitely caught up in it all, knowing that although Mickey and Minnie were on the ice, soon I'd be running right next to them.

Continue reading "March (Disney) Magic" »

May 6, 2010

Eat. Blog. Run. Thank. Sponsors.

GMCeatblogrun 018.jpgThis past weekend I went on an amazing whirlwind of an adventure in the form of participating in The Relay, a 199-mile run from Calistoga to Davenport (near Santa Cruz.)

Thanks to the fabulous connections of several members of my Eat Blog. Run team, we ended up with some pretty spiffy sponsors who made our trip that much sweeter. Thanks to them, we had transportation, nourishment, and rest.

therelay_arcadia_GM_vans.gifOur big sponsor was GM, who graciously provided us two "red jewel" Acadias for our trek. Three fabulous GM reps took us out to dinner the night before the race to carb-load and to learn more about both the Acadia and slightly-smaller-but-packed-with-features Terrain. Our team was easily the snazziest on the road. Most of those other teams rented white vans. Our team was definitely visible in our "red jewel tintcoat." Of course our crossovers were even more visible as we drew all over them, giving shouts out to our sponsors and providing tally marks for important things like U-turns, bathroom breaks, and number of compliments we received on our sparkle skirts.

Continue reading "Eat. Blog. Run. Thank. Sponsors." »

June 16, 2010

Summer Nightastic: A World of Color, Fantasmic, and Pure Magical Fun!

Spectrum_of_Reviews_Disney_World_of_Color_Fireworks.gifLast week I had the unbelievable, amazing opportunity to attend the premiere of Disney California Adventure's World of Color. Just from the preview video I knew I'd be captivated by this new attraction.

Many years ago, my brother and his friends entertained our family in the backyard with light shows. They strung lights everywhere and carefully synced the lights with music. Sometimes one of his friends would play the piano live while my brother made the lights dance to the music. Lights are magical, as is music. World of Color has both, plus fire, water, lasers, unique projection screens, and unexpected other features, such as a hidden bubble machine and synchronization of the show with lights on other attractions and the park street lamps.

Spectrum_of_Reviews_Disney_World_of_Color_Rainbow_Water_Ripple.gifIt is impossible to use mere words to describe World of Color because it is definitely more than a light show, or a water show. Just as when the black and white Disney cartoons burst into a new dimension once color was introduced, World of Color has created a new dimension in entertainment.

Both Disney parks participate in what has been dubbed "Summer Nightastic" the catch-all term to describe how the night lights up with color, music, fire, and water. CA Adventure has "Glow Fest" and "World of Color" while Disneyland has "Fantasmic" and of course the fireworks spectacular "Magical". "Pixie Hollow Enchantment" and "TLT Dance Club" also light up the nightlife at Disneyland.

Spectrum_of_Reviews_Disney_World_of_Color_Red_Glow_Lasers.gifPeople who have seen "Fantasmic" have been introduced in part to what "World of Color" entails. In "Fantasmic," for example, high-pressure water curtains create a projection screen for scenes from popular Disney films. But "World of Color" is even bigger. (Fantasmic has its own unique elements, such as Mickey vanquishing a large dragon, and some excellent entertainment on boats. The on-board stunts for Peter Pan are especially impressive.)

The colors in World of Color - of course, are spectacular. But it is the way the water bends and flows that creates even more magic. It is mind-blowing to consider how much effort was involved in choreographing the water to match the music to match what is being projected on the water.

Continue reading "Summer Nightastic: A World of Color, Fantasmic, and Pure Magical Fun!" »

July 20, 2010

Discount on the Greatest Show on Earth.

Ringling_Bros_Barnum_Baily_Fundundrum.JPGI have been very lucky as it comes to entertainment of late. Last year my boys and I enjoyed Zing Zang Zoom!, and I was later thrilled to see the "Zingmaster" in an episode of Biggest Loser. Then we struck gold again when Feld provided us tickets to see Disney Princesses on Ice last autumn, and Disney Fantasy on Ice at the end of this winter.

Well, we're off to the circus again - and this time it is Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents Barnum's FUNundrum! This show definitely looks FUN - and is a tribute to P.T. Barnum, who was born 200 years ago. The performance involves motorcycles in a spherical cage, trapeze artists, cowboys, mermaids, and even a strong man - "Mighty Meetal." From balancing to flipping to jumping through fire, these performers are likely to keep my jaw dropped. Apologies if I have to look away a few times from the contortionists!

Continue reading "Discount on the Greatest Show on Earth." »

July 22, 2010

Fly Away to Neverland

Peter_Pan_Show.gifMy family and I had the thrilling experience of witnessing the Peter Pan stage show yesterday afternoon. Sure, we had seen various movies based on JM Barrie's tale, experienced themed rides and such at amusement parks, and of course we have various toys, especially thanks to spin-offs like the various Tinkerbell shows. But, until yesterday, we hadn't experienced the magic live as a theater production.

Several months ago as my family drove through San Francisco, I saw the white tent taking form, and wondered what it was. A few weeks ago when Peter Pan PR emailed me about the show, I saw the now-familiar white tent on their website. Not only was the mystery solved, but I also became very excited!

After all, who hasn't wanted to fly?

Continue reading "Fly Away to Neverland" »

August 13, 2010

Circus for Me, Circus for You

Funundrum_2.jpgWe had the pleasure of attending Barnum's FUNundrum, a "retro-inspired" tribute to PT Barnum. As expected, the kids had a blast. We did the requisite "oooh!s" and "ahhhh!s" and my youngest son has determined that he'll join the circus someday.

If you are interested in bringing your family, I have a Fundundrum discount code for you.

Last year we saw Zing Zang Zoom. I wondered if our experience this year would be different.

It was.

[above left: my older son can't help but create chip-smiles out of his nachos. I swear my boys have decent table manners... at the table.]

Continue reading "Circus for Me, Circus for You" »

August 20, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty_and_the_Beast_embrace_small.jpgWhen I was in college I straddled the worlds of "Be a strong woman!" and "OMG, I really want to find a husband and have kids!" As part of my whole fantasy life, I joined a Disney movie-of-the-month club in order to gather up some of those old and new favorites in which princesses got their prince. These cartoons provided fun breaks amidst all the studying.

I don't know exactly when I purchased Beauty and the Beast or even if I owned it before I played it over and over again for my charges when I babysat. (I know I owned it in grad school as I had to bide the time between harvesting cell culture.) But I can say with certainty that the movie and its accompanying songs are engraved in my brain.

My husband and I had the fabulous opportunity to have a date night in which we attended the opening night of SHN SF's Beauty and the Beast, playing now through August 29th at the Golden Gate Theater. I am grateful to SHN SF for providing me press tickets for this event.

Continue reading "Beauty and the Beast" »

October 6, 2010

Icing My Knee the Moji Way

moji_knee_brace_on.gifWhen I was preparing for the excellent adventure that was The Relay, I read an post on the Moji Knee Brace with interest.

My right knee has been all "crinkly" ever since a car rear-ended me at a stoplight. (Instead of crashing into the car in front of me, I slammed on the brakes, thereby sacrificing my knee.) My HMO said it was just "sudden-onset arthritis" but I'm pretty sure something snapped in there. So it snaps, crackles, and pops. Sometimes it hurts, but mainly it just sounds funny. Still, after races, my knee is sore, so I often ice it.

Before learning of Moji, I used the traditional runner's bag-of-frozen-peas method. That is all well and good, but requires that I stay in one place, carefully balancing and repositioning the veggies as needed.

Continue reading "Icing My Knee the Moji Way" »

October 11, 2010

My Ultimate Family Vacation

Sponsored By

Cheerios® is giving you the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, your ultimate family vacation. As part of a paid promotion for their "Do What You Love" Sweepstakes, Cheerios® is sponsoring my post today about what my ultimate family vacation would be. Read mine, and then Enter the Sweepstakes for a chance to actually win your own fantasy family trip or one of a bunch of other great prizes.


My Ultimate Family Vacation would be part-private, part-people-watching. I'd want comfort, but then a little chaos. I'd want beautiful scenery, but also an opportunity to just sit in one place.

iStock_000004701539XSmall.jpgI'd love to have a luxurious pool all to myself and my family. The pool would have a swim-up bar, naturally. And of course it would need a waterfall and waterslide to entertain the kids. Yes, as much as it would be fun to have a "date vacation" with my hubby, I can't help but think my kids would adore time away from home as well. Perhaps the pool would have a little cave inside, but with a lifeguard carefully watching "just in case." Sure, we'd need a hot tub, although the regular pool temperature would already be warm. I'd love to have such an experience available to us at night. The pool would have plenty of tiny lights and other visual features.

Our hotel suite would include both sleeping quarters and a relaxation area. The reading nook would be far enough away from those asleep that lights or the sound of a computer beeping wouldn't be a distraction. In a truly "ultimate vacation" I'd be allowed to have a night (or five) without work; but knowing that such a thing is unlikely, I'd wish for reliable wireless internet that would enable me to get the deeds done as quickly as possible. No tiny circle table can contain the massive electronic needs of my family, so a booth-style long table or bar-type countertop easily accessible to an outlet (or power strip) would be a bonus. No uncomfortable chairs, please; we'd want cushions, preferably leather. (Mmm, I love the smell of leather...)

Continue reading "My Ultimate Family Vacation" »

October 14, 2010

Disney on Ice: Mickey and Minnie's Magical Adventure

Are you hoping to go to Mickey and Minnie's Magical Adventure in Northern CA while they are in town? I've got a Disney on Ice discount for you!

disney_on_ice_peter_pan_shadow.jpgWe got to see the Opening Night performance! My kids were pleased they were getting a mid-week treat. All their homework was done Tuesday night in anticipation of Wednesday's adventure. I was ready for a break, too. Both Monday and Tuesday had been pretty stressful, but Wednesday was productive in the morning and afternoon in anticipation of our evening outing.

The stars aligned, and traffic was light. I was relaxed. This was gooooood!

I had remembered to go to the ATM to have a twenty ready to hand over for parking. Except, it turned out parking had gone up to $25. Luckily I had more in my wallet. Whew!

The parking lot was nearly empty - we were early! - and I found a terrific spot. We walked towards the arena and my boys paid particular attention to the funny-looking porta-potties. That is, until they smelled them, yelped, and ran away. Diiii-sGUSTing!

They started making jokes as young boys do, but thankfully we reached the ticket office quickly. Even more thankfully, the lines were about nil, and will-call had my tickets right away. Excellent!

We ran into an interesting delay while trying to get food, but once we were seated, the excitement of the day resumed.

Continue reading "Disney on Ice: Mickey and Minnie's Magical Adventure" »

November 1, 2010

Tangled: Rapunzel Lets Loose

Tangled_right.jpgOne of my favorite storybook characters was Rapunzel. Sure, she did pretty much nothing, aside from sitting in a tower. But that hair was mighty impressive. I used to put stockings on my head to simulate super-long hair. In fact, I was pretty good at wearing two at once to create an impressive braid. My favorite pair of tights to use for this purpose was dark red. Oh, to have long red hair!

Years later I did have super-long hair, but it was blonde. And then later when it was short, I dyed it red. Oh well.

Yes, the Rapunzel of my youth was beautiful, but passive. Conversely, the new film Tangled comes out November 24th, and stars a spunky, very-capable gal attached to those locks. Hey, I'd love to be kick-booty and have fabulous golden hair! (Okay, well I do have blonde hair, and am a Warrior.)

Continue reading "Tangled: Rapunzel Lets Loose" »

November 11, 2010

zeum: The Creative Children's Museum for the Tech-Age

Outside zeumA few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending an event at zeum, an interactive computer, television, and animation space for children. (It is actually the San Francisco Children's Museum, morphed to keep up with technology.) I was there to learn about a computer game for preschoolers, but remained in only one room of the actual zeum facility. My boys were in school during that time, so didn't get a chance to see the space. Thankfully, we were invited back to actually delve into the zeum experience itself, so my boys and I spent the afternoon today on our zeum adventure.

At first my oldest was hesitant. He wanted to stay home on his vacation day to play video games. But, I explained that he'd be producing things on his own at zeum. He loves creating his own video game levels, so it made sense that he'd enjoy creating his own animation. Once he saw zeum, he agreed that the excursion was worth it. (He's even considering holding his birthday party there.)

My youngest was game from the beginning. I had told him about zeum right after I saw it in October, so he's been eager to go ever since. He's quite the "ham" so I knew he'd be interested in putting on a show.

Continue reading "zeum: The Creative Children's Museum for the Tech-Age" »

November 16, 2010

Tires, Tow-Trucks, and (no) Tears

Well, today I got a flat tire. So, it seems appropriate that today's product/company shout out is for the three organizations that got me safely from the side of the road to driving to pick up my boys from school:


My day could have been completely crushed if any of these companies failed to deliver. But they didn't fail. They succeeded, all with gold stars. Whew! Sure, it isn't fun to have a car problem, so it is definitely a relief when the pieces come together to get the problem fixed.

I would hate to have a job where I have to deal with problems all day. Can you imagine having to greet your customers when they are already irritated and inconvenienced? I imagine the folks at Progressive, American Tow, and Big-O have tons of upset and cranky people on their hands every single day. Their customers are primed for a fight, so even "service with a smile" can be returned with a grumpy frown. Kudos to you folks!

June 21, 2011

Going Cars 2 Crazy

Cars2_video_game.jpgI've been super-excited about the release of Cars 2 since even before the Cars 2 media event, but even more so during and afterwards. Thankfully the wait is nearly over, as the movie hits theaters this Friday, June 24th. Plus, I received a copy of the Cars 2 video game just a few days ago (and of course, the boys have been playing ever since.)

While my younger son had a bit of a learning curve to conquer, my older son picked it up quickly and soon taught his brother. Plus, the tutorial mode made it enjoyable for both to learn. They've enjoyed playing the various roles in the video game and are definitely eager to see the actual movie.

Don't miss a super-special event for folks in the Bay Area: Lightening McQueen, Mater, and Finn McMissle will be zooming on down to The Tech in SJ this Sat from 10am-4pm for their only Northern California public appearance. Imagine what a weekend it would be to take the kids to the movie on Friday and then let them actually see the life-sized cars on Saturday!


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the Cars 2 video game for free, and earlier attended a media event to preview the film and movie. I am am Amazon affiliate.

July 5, 2011

Back to the Circus

Fully_Charged _200.pngOr the circus is coming back.

Either way, my boys and I will be eager to see Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's next show. We've had a blast the other times we've gone, and the feel of the performances have been very different each time we go.

As a bonus, unlike past tours, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents Fully Charged will be playing at HP Pavilion at San Jose, Cow Palace in Daly City, and ORACLE Arena in Oakland: three weeks, three venues.

Of course, I have a discount code for you:

Continue reading "Back to the Circus" »

September 8, 2011

Fully Charged Missed, but a Treasure Trove Awaits

negrey_troupe_fullly_charged.jpgThursday night my boys and I were supposed to see Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents Fully Charged. I admit I was a little nervous about taking them out on a school night, but they love the circus, so figured I'd take my chances. But it wasn't the kids' homework, or fatigue, or anything like that that kept us from our date.

It was my crazy left eye.

During my youngest son's soccer practice, I noticed my eye was getting a bit irritated. I sort of swiped my contact in the hopes of re-positioning it to a more comfortable spot. As we drove to the ATM (because I realized I had forgotten cash for the parking fee) I realized my contact was wedged in the corner of my eye.

Not good. And certainly not good for driving to what I expected would be an electrifying performance.

Continue reading "Fully Charged Missed, but a Treasure Trove Awaits" »

July 11, 2011

Psyched for this - The Muppets

Get ready for Muppet Domination:

July 27, 2011

The Help Movie Trailer

In a little over a week I'm going to see a preview of DreamWorks Pictures' The Help. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I haven't yet finished the book, but I'm still eager to see the movie.

Disclaimer: I'm not receiving compensation for posting this trailer; however, I will be attending a special showing of the movie next weekend with the hope that I will provide some coverage about it. I will receive no monetary compensation, but they will feed me. (Food! is! Good!)

August 10, 2011

"The Help" Movie Needs No Assistance to Be Awesome

TheHelp One Sheet.jpgPart of the whirlwind that is the BlogHer Conference involved a very special screening of DreamWorks Pictures' The Help, which comes out TODAY, Wednesday, August 10th.

Get thee to a theater, stat!

Let me disclose something: I didn't finish the book before I saw the movie. I'm one of those people who traditionally shies away from the "popular" book, especially if marketed to women. So, I was a bit hesitant to pick up the book in the first place. I'm a visual person, so trying to keep the multitude of characters straight was a challenge. And for some reason, I just didn't get hooked in like those who raved about it.

So, I plodded through part of the book before switching to some different books that caught my eye.

When I was invited to go to The Help advanced screening, one might assume I'd be neutral on the whole thing, but I actually jumped at the chance. I figured that my visual preference might really be helped by a movie adaption, which would mean I'd be able to go back and enjoy the book.

Also, I figured as a "reluctant" reader of the tale, I might be a good test audience for the movie. Could it win me over?

Continue reading ""The Help" Movie Needs No Assistance to Be Awesome" »

August 24, 2011

I'm a Nutcase!

nutcase_bike_helmets.jpgI'm not going to lie and say I do a lot of bike-riding (although I did when I was younger!) But when I go out cycling I like to keep my noggin safe.

For years now I've been buying the helmets in the bike section of various all-purpose stores. We even got some free helmets once during a health event. But, these seemed to wear out really quickly, well before their time.

I first learned about Nutcase Helmets thanks to my teammates, the same folks who invented Sparkle Skirts. I visited the Nutcase site, and immediately ordered a pretty pink one for my head.

My youngest son was insanely jealous, so stole it for himself a couple times. Thanks to the adjustable pads, it can fit his head, too.

Otherwise, here are the helmets my boys have been wearing:

Continue reading "I'm a Nutcase!" »

November 17, 2011

Be a Savvy Shopper

savvy_logo.jpgOn Tuesday I had the pleasure of being introduced to a beta version of Savvy, a shopping app that will rock your world. The updated iPhone app launches today! (Android users, hold on because December 2nd will be your lucky day.)

Have you experienced either of these situations?

Scenario One: You see something you absolutely loooove, but the price is just a tad out of your budget. You promise yourself you'll keep checking to see if it goes on sale, but you forget, or don't have time to obsessively monitor it, so end up buying something later that isn't as fabulous as that first find.

Scenario Two: You buy something you adore, but then mere days later you see it for half-off, or your best friend gushes that she got the same item for way less than what you paid.

With Savvy in your pocket, you won't lose. Here's how:

Continue reading "Be a Savvy Shopper" »

December 22, 2011

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical!

Grinch_Max_Musical.jpgI adore musicals, so it was a no-brainer to accept when SHN asked if I wanted to bring the family to How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical.

The San Francisco show officially began last night and will run through 12/29.

The show clicks in at an hour and 20 minutes, which is completely do-able for kids. Since there is no intermission, there is none of that crazy trying to decide whether to use the restroom and potentially miss the start of the next portion of the show. Plus, an 80 minute show is shorter than most movies these days, so the kids won't have trouble sitting still.

Wreath_Grinch_Stole_Christmas_Musical.jpgThey also won't have trouble sitting still because they'll be so engrossed in the happenings on stage. After all, that is the point. I expected my sons to adore the show, but I didn't realize just how fabulous it would be. The cast was polished, the sets were delightfully whimsical, the tunes were catchy, and the script was divine. I found myself laughing aloud at the unexpected twists and touches.

grinch_and_son.jpgMy "cool" older son who was initially skeptical had a wide grin on his face the whole time, especially in response to a good helping of belching and farting humor, but also because of non-stinky physical humor, kazoos, and mice. He was also thrilled with the ode to green, his favorite color. The audience had opportunity to participate in the show, too, which really brings it alive for everyone. My youngest son was definitely smitten with the Grinch, and insisted on taking him home in stuffed-animal form.

After the show, we were lucky to meet with the star of the show himself, played by Stefan Karl, also known as Robbie Rotten in Lazy Town. My green-loving son of course was thrilled when the Grinch picked up on his clothing choice, "Ah-ha! You are wearing green, too! Smart man!" Alas, this son was too timid to pose with the Grinch, but his fearless younger brother (who was also wearing green) was happy to oblige this camera-happy mom. Afterwards, my oldest laughed, "Heheheh, I'm glad I didn't get my picture taken 'cause he gave YOU massive bunny fingers!"

grinch_poster.jpgHow the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical was definitely worth an afternoon of our time. Although it is in the San Francisco Bay Area this year, it might find its way to your place next year, so keep your eyes out.

Can't go to the show? There are some Grinch coloring pages and other fun things to do with your tripped-up-on-candy-canes kids, such as "Find the Grinch" or sending a Grinch-themed holiday card. These are all free and can be done from the comfort of your own holiday-hectic home!

Thank you to SHN and the cast and crew of How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical for putting us in the holiday spirit while letting us laugh off the pounds that we'll gain snacking on our holiday sweets!

Disclaimer: SHN gave my family a pack of tickets to see the show for free - wheeeee! On-stage photos above are from the website.

January 8, 2012

Tangled Ever After and Beauty and the Beast: Together

I loved Beauty and the Beast and own the DVD. About a week ago, the kids caught a showing of it and were excited to hear it is coming back in theaters, this time in 3D. Although I love a good cinema outing, I'm not sure exactly how the 3D is going to impact the whole deal. But, what has really caught my eye is the short occurring before the main event. Tangled Ever After picks up where Tangled left off. I love me a good Rapunzel story (did you catch the version on Grimm?) so a continuation of the Disney version is welcome:

Beauty and the Beast in 3D comes to theaters on January 13th.

January 16, 2012

Beauty and the Beast in 3D Opens Today

Today is the magic day! It is time to watch Beauty and the Beast in 3D and the accompanying short Tangled Ever After.

Here's a little preview of Beauty and the Beast to whet your appetite:

February 2, 2012

Another Hunger Games Trailer to Whet My Appetite

I just cannot wait.


As of 10:00 AM PST today, February 2, 2012, fans can search for #HungerGames50 on Twitter to be find the 50 websites participating in the ticket give-away for the World Premiere of the film, which will take place at LA's Nokia Theater in the LA Live complex on Monday, March 12th.

But for the rest of you - you'll have to wait until March 23rd. But take a look... it will be worth it:

March 1, 2012

Hunger Games Tickets are Available Now!


April 27, 2012

Santa Clara Disney Store Grand Opening!

Disney_Store_Logo.pngUp in Northern California we are just far enough away from Disneyland to not go all that often, and yet close enough so that we get a little envious when our fellow Californians seem to go every weekend. But, we NorCal folks have our own little mini-fantasy lands in our malls with the Disney Store. My local mall's version is pretty small, but tomorrow is the Grand Opening of a new Disney Store at the Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara. This is a new "concept store" that goes beyond the traditional stuff-on-a-shelf display cases. For example, the store includes a Disney Princess castle with a magic mirror, where children are encouraged to play and interact. Each time a child waves a magic wand in front of the mirror a Disney Princess will appear, bringing the fairytale to life. For those who aren't into princesses, there is an interactive CARS world. And don't miss the Disney Store Theatre.

princess_section.jpgThis new Disney Store includes elements that are unique to Santa Clara. Disney characters on the walls are placed in historic landmarks such as the Santa Clara Depot, the Santa Clara Interlocking Tower, Mission Santa Clara de Asis, the Harris-Lass Historic Museum, and much more. I know my son will get a kick out of seeing his favorite characters interacting with familiar local places. (See, Mickey, Belle, Aurora, Donald Duck, and Cinderella don't all just live down in Anaheim or Orlando!)

The official Grand Opening begins at 10am on Saturday, April 28. The first 500 guests to attend the grand opening celebration will receive a free gift. From noon to 4 p.m. a meet and greet with Mickey and Minnie Mouse will take place in the mall's center court, with an opportunity for guests to take photos with the characters.

Of course, the Disney Store hopes you'll buy some great goods while attending the Grand Opening; the Disney Store will donate 10 percent of grand opening day's sales to Make-A-Wish®. Sounds good: you can make both your child's and another child's wishes come true all in one day!

I'm eager to check it out for myself tomorrow!

Disclaimer: Disney Store logo, photo, and some descriptive text are from Disney Store North America. Although I was invited to a preview event, I was unable to attend. I hope to attend a small media walkthough tomorrow morning to experience the magic on my own. I received no compensation for this post; I'm posting because I enjoy Disney magic.

April 28, 2012

A Mickey Mouse Morning

IMG_20120428_093519.jpgMy Disney-crazy son and I awakened early this morning in order to go to the Santa Clara Disney Store grand opening at the Westfield Valley Fair. We both wore Disney attire, and were thrilled to go behind the scenes at the store before it was open to the public.

My son was particularly enthralled with a magic mirror in the princess castle display that played a movie clips from various Disney movies. Each piece of merchandise around the display (tiara or wand) played a different clip. So Cinderella's wand would play one clip, while Arial's tiara would play another one. Kids wave their favorite princess' tiara or wand in front of the magic mirror to activate it. (Tiara and wand each have their own separate clips per princess.) New and seasonal characters will activate the mirror from time to time, so each visit to the Disney Store might be different for your child.

I loved the pixie dust on the floor (embedded into the floor; don't worry about tripping!) and was thrilled to see a display for Brave the flick coming to theaters June 22nd featuring the fiery Princess Merida. I also got a kick out of seeing Toy Story cowgirl Jessie's very sparkly cowboy hat. My son loved the chandelier. Clearly, we like sparkle!

The stuffed animal tower is interactive: a tunnel beneath the tower provides a little hiding nook, while a button on the side creates wacky sounds. Twisting a lever prompts the tower's top to spin around. The Disney Theater is also interactive: it operates like a jukebox so kids can select their favorite clip to watch while Mom and Dad are in the check-out line.

My son called the new Santa Clara Disney Store the "best store ever" and wished to share his impressions with you:

Remember, the Disney Store will donate 10 percent of grand opening day's sales to Make-A-Wish® - so come on down!

Disclaimer: My son and I received a gift bag for visiting the store today; it was a privilege to walk through prior to the official Grand Opening. I will receive no further compensation or commission. We just love Disney and enjoy spreading the word!

September 25, 2012

Undead Dogs

Hmmm, so what is it about these undead dogs?

First, Vampire Dog comes out on DVD today, and then Frankenweenie is released in theaters a week from today, on October 2nd. There is just something about dead dogs come to life.

vampire_dog.jpg     frankenweenie.jpg

I suppose since dogs are a man's best friend, it follows that their companions would want them around as long as possible. And, what better time to test freaky-yet-enduring friendship than Halloween?

Continue reading "Undead Dogs" »

September 26, 2012

Free Entrance to National Parks

This Saturday, September 29th, all 397 national parks will offer free entrance for National Public Lands Day.

More than 170,000 volunteers are expected at more than 2,100 sites across the country on Saturday, September 29 to take part in the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands in the United States, National Public Lands Day (NPLD).


Other Federal agencies offering free admittance on September 29 include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Normally, 133 national parks charge entrance fees ranging from $3 to $25. The other 264 parks do not charge for admission. The National Park Service will also waive entrance fees from November 10-12 in commemoration of Veterans Day.

It is a great time to enjoy the outdoors before winter arrives. Fresh air, exercise, and community service: excellent!

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post; it is just something I wished to share since all too often we forget about our wonderful public parks.

November 8, 2012

The Lion King

IMG_1631.JPGLast night my family was fortunate enough to be SHN's guests at The Lion King, on stage at San Francisco's Orheum Theatre through January 13, 2012.

To say I was completely captivated is an understatement. I had seen the animated movie, two different "Disney on Ice" versions of the story, and a depiction of a crucial scene during CA Adventure's World of Color, but this was my first time seeing the musical.

In The Lion King's case, the word "musical" doesn't do the performance justice. This show's experience goes well beyond the music. From shadow-play to elaborate puppets; from towering sets that seem to appear and disappear with ease, to a simple prop that holds great symbolism, this experience is joyfully overwhelming. I enjoyed the artistry in both light and dark, and soaked in the scenes filled with vibrant colors.


I especially appreciated the actors' amazing command of their bodies. Most wore elaborate costumes that required simultaneous mastery of puppetry and dance. Some characters required sharp movements with precise isolations while others' gestures were fluid and ethereal. The animals looked like animals. The plants moved like plants in the wind. The water rippled.

Although the designs and choreography are sophisticated, my boys were just as captivated as I was. There are definitely moments of kid-level humor (fart jokes, anyone?) but my sons no doubt also enjoyed the visual effects, even if they may not have appreciated fully the strength and coordination necessary to achieve them.

Lion_King_Embrace.jpgOf course The Lion King's story is similarly both entertaining and more philosophical. There are frightening scenes that children under six may not tolerate well, but the "darker" parts give way to plenty of light and in some cases, whimsy. Kids need not understand the whole "Circle of Life" concept to come away from this performance changed because they have experienced something new to them.

I definitely came away from the show with a smile in my heart. I adore storytelling and expression through dance. The Lion King went well beyond my expectations, and I'm thrilled that I had an opportunity to witness it in person. My younger son was especially tickled that he got a chance to meet two of the performers!

Tickets for all performances of THE LION KING in San Francisco are on sale now and can be purchased at the SHN Orpheum Theatre Box Office, online at and by phone at SHN Audience Services at 888-746-1799. While you are there, consider purchasing tickets for other shows this season: rumor has it that Mary Poppins is phenomenal!

Disclaimer: SHN provided my family with our tickets in exchange for publicizing the show. I will receive no commission or further compensation should my readers choose to experience this fabulous event!

Top photo is my own; middle and bottom photographs are by Joan Marcus, courtesy of SHNSF.

December 10, 2012

Don't Get Lost on the Way to Grandmother's House

My son's first day of a video-game designing class happened to be a day of a major freeway detour. My ahead-of-time route planning was in vain. I quickly exited at the next possible opportunity, but found myself on a hill, surrounded by trees. I had both my tablet and smartphone, but neither received cell service. My son nearly started to cry because he definitely didn't want to be late. I pulled out my very old portable navigation system and hooked that up. After driving around awhile, the navigation kicked in and we thankfully made it to the class on time.

copilot_live_2.jpgMy panic probably could have been avoided if I had CoPilot Live at the time. One of their main features is that maps are stored on the device, so lack of cellphone service isn't a problem. I could have found the way to class. Even better, had I activated ActiveTraffic, my CoPilot would have directed me the fastest way based on traffic conditions.

The downside of housing the maps internally is that they take up space on your device; but better to have them available in the event of an emergency. Thankfully, each download is specific to your region; so only download what you require for your trip. If you need additional maps, download more! (And delete those you don't need.) CoPilot Live includes maps all over the world; so this navigation system isn't just for your local adventures.

The CoPilot Live people provided me a trial of their Premium membership for the purposes of review. Initially I had some difficulty downloading the app (through redemption of the review code; a problem which will not occur with the average consumer.) I was exceptionally impressed with those who assisted me in troubleshooting. Perusing their website, I see that customer service responds to user comments, which indicates that my positive experience with their assistance wasn't just because they knew I'd be writing about them.

I have two favorite features of CoPilot Live:

The first is that the search function is very easy, quickly locating exactly what I'm looking for. Although this includes standard categories like "food" or "gas," the general function is good for if you aren't sure what category your query actually belongs in. For example, in competitor's navigational systems, "Sid's Golf Funhouse" might be under "entertainment" or "golf." It can get frustrating to keep trying the same search, but switching categories. But in CoPilot Live, I can just type in "Sid's Golf Funhouse" and get directions immediately. For fun, I typed in "gymnastics" and my son's gym popped up; nice! Oh, and looking for a gas station? CoPilot Live will show you the nearest gas stations, but with a nifty add-on, it will also show you the nearby gas prices, so you'll get the best deal.

The second of my favorite features of CoPilot Live is the very clear map view with gigantic arrows showing the direction of the upcoming turn. Flat maps are sometimes difficult to follow, especially if they don't "rotate" with the vehicle, while completely "straight-ahead" maps are difficult to follow in their own way. (And then there are those fun-house mirror maps that appeared on the scene with the latest iOs "upgrade.")


CoPilot Live's maps are at a comfortable angle for viewing. The miles to the next turn, total miles left, and estimated time of arrival are all clearly listed at the bottom. Of course, the voice navigation (choose male or female) will keep your eyes on the road. But, we all know that sometimes we need to glance at the information about the next turn. Besides, such clear information at a glance makes it easy for a backseat driver to just read off the information to cue the driver with the desired information. (And, said backseat driver can answer her own question as to just how long it will be until "we get there.")

I did notice that it appeared the positioning was off at the beginning and end of the navigation (for example: the navigation thought I was on the street behind my house rather than my street,) but that might be a function of my aging tablet rather than a function of CoPilot Live. I tried out this app on a Galaxy Tab, but have recently obtained an iPad. CoPilot Live is available for iPhone, iPad 3G, and Android.

Don't get lost on your way to important destinations, particularly this holiday season!

Disclaimer: I was given a CoPilot Live subscription for purposes of review. My words are my own. I will receive no further compensation nor commission from CoPilot Live.

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Spectrum of Reviews in the Outings category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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