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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bay Area Halloween Highlights


Don’t want to take the kids trick-or-treating this Friday? Here are some other options!

Palace of Frights at the Exploratorium
From 6 – 9 p.m.

--Sugar Skull-Making demo with artist Irma Ortiz
--Performances
--Energy from Death Exhibit
--Treats disguised by sodium-vapor lights
--Try out a coffin!
--Check out real leeches!

Hillsdale Mall’s "Spooktacular" Annual Event


Friday, October 31st
Trick or Treating 5-6 pm only - look for the Trick or Treating signs in the windows of participating merchants
Hillsdale and El Camino Real, San Mateo


Special Events 5:00-6:30 pm includes: bizarre balloon making, mystifying magic shows, the Mad Science Slime Booth and pumpkin decorating.

Habitot's 11th Annual Not-Too-Spooky Halloween - for those celebrating Halloween on the earlier side: dress up for , for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Concoct witch's brew and explore creepy crawlers in the "Apothecary". Make slime in our "MadScientists' "Laboratory." Play miniature golf in the graveyard, make ghost kites to fly in the "Wind Tunnel".
9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on October 31.

Habitot Children's Museum, 2065 Kittredge St, Berkeley. 510-647-1111

Halloween Happenings at the King Community Center in San Mateo from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Family event: costume contest, game booths, prizes and candy. $1 for the haunted house, but the event is otherwise free!

725 Monte Diablo, San Mateo. 650-522-7470

Halloween at the Firehouse — 5:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 31. Contra Costa County Fire District Hosts a childrens' event for grades Pre-K through fifth. Fire-safety games and activities, treats, and Sparky the Firedog. Station 82, 196 Bluerock Drive, Antioch; Station 11, 6500 Center St., Clayton. 925-941-3505.

For a more complete list of kid-friendly events

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Get 'Yer Tickets - Just So - Pied Piper Players


Get 'yer tickets now for the Pied Piper Players' musical Just So, based on Rudyard Kipling's stories for children.

The shows are very well done, and we've watched a bunch of them in the past few years. This community youth theater program features kids as young as 5 or 6, up through high school (and a few adults as needed as well). The costumes and sets are all built by volunteers and they do a fabulous job.

So, get your tickets. Enjoy the show. And support community theater!


What: Just So, by Pied Piper Players

When: Fridays-Sundays, Nov 9-16
Where: Bayside Performing Arts Center, 2025 Kehoe Ave., San Mateo

Time: Evening shows are at 7:30 p.m., matinees are at 2:00 p.m. On Sunday, 11/9, there's a "talkback" show and backstage tour. Here's your chance to ask questions of the actors and director, and to see what happens on the stage after the show.

Cost: $16/adult, $10/seniors & kids under 13

Tickets: 650-992-PIED or http://www.piedpiperplayers.org/

Monday, October 27, 2008

Coming Up: Dia de los Muertos concert - SF Symphony


Here’s something a little different – the San Francisco Symphony is sponsoring a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) family concert on Sunday, November 2. The theme is Latin culture (shocking!), and conductor Enrique Arturo Diemecke will lead violinist Danielle Belen Nesmith and bandeneon player Peter Soave in works by Ravel, Gamboa, Piazzolla, Moncayo and more.

Before the show, enjoy 17 traditional artistic Altares de Muertos (altars), Aztec dancers, traditional refreshments and free face painting.

What: Dia de los Muertos concert - San Francisco Symphony
When: Sunday, November 2 at 2:00
Where: Davies Symphony Hall
Cost: Tickets start at $15 (half price for kids under age 17)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bay Area Birthday Party Locations & Ideas


***Check out Frisco Kids' new Birthday Party page with more complete listings of Bay Area Birthday Parties - separated by region***


Junior’s birthday is coming up and you’re trying to think of something fun to do. It's getting colder out. What if it rains? A party at your home? Definitely possible. But in case you want to do something else, here’s what you need to know for planning:


-Book as far in advance as possible, especially for weekend parties


-Most party places include set-up and clean-up, and you often get an attendant to help out during the party. But find out in case they don’t.

-Ask what food you can bring in and what you have to purchase from them

-Prices may be cheaper (or you get free add-ons like tokens, more time or goody bags) if you book at less popular times.

Here’s a list of ideas. It is NOT complete by any means. Feel free to add to the list through your comments. Most of the ideas cater to the peninsula.

Pump it Up – Since exploding on the scene a few years ago, Pump it Up has Bay Area locations in Sunnyvale, Belmont, Pleasanton, Union City, Oakland, Morgan Hill and San Francisco (coming soon). They book up months in advance, with weekend parties starting every 45 minutes. Parties range from around $180-$280, for a 1.5 to 2 hours, including a private party room. You pay extra for food, balloons and party favors.

CuriOdyssey – At this San Mateo environmental museum, you’ll get a private party room, museum entrance for all guests and free parking (normally a $5 fee per car to enter the park), Complete a form which you can get online, and mail or fax it in. Parties start at $275.

Build-a-Bear – The kids love picking out their own animal and helping it come to life.
If the party has more than six kids, you’ll get a party leader to keep the kids entertained, an autograph bear for the birthday kid and party favors. The downside is that there’s usually no place in the store to serve cake, so you’ll have to head elsewhere to continue the celebration. Packages range from $10 to $25 a kid (plus optional animal outfits).

Bowling: Bowling is a fun way for kids to spend an hour. Kids can get the bumpers raised so their balls won’t end up in the alley. At Bel Mateo Bowl in San Mateo, parties including bowling time for an hour, shoe rental and lanes. The next hour is in the party room, where kids get pizza, cake and drinks, goody bags and more, before moving into the arcade. Prices start at $12 per guest without food, $17 with pizza and cake.

Junior Gym – Justin and his crew are available for parties too! Parties last 90 minutes, on Friday afternoons and weekends, in the 4,600 square foot facility in downtown San Mateo. The package includes 15 kids up to age 10. Prices start at $200 for Junior Gym members (nonmembers pay $25 more).

Chuck E. Cheese - Most parents hate this place, but the kids eat it up. Weekends can be a nightmare – if you’re flexible and can do a weekday or weekend morning, it will be tolerable. Your party includes 90 minutes with a reserved table, pizza and drinks for the kids, a small cake (you’ll probably need to supplement this with your own), tokens, a show with a Chuck E. Cheese and his employee friends. Goody bags are extra. Expect to pay $12 a kid minimum (plus extra for tokens and pizza for the adults).

Fairy Land – This miniature Oakland playland is adorable for pint-sized kids. You get an hour in the seated party area, park admission for one kid and an accompanying adult, ice cream cake and punch and paper goods and a few other perks. Fees start at $16 a kid for a catered party, minimum of 10 kids.

Pixieland - Another East Bay kiddie amusement park, Pixieland in Concord offers parties starting at $199 for 10 "riding guests" plus the birthday kid. This buys you 90 minutes of unlimited rides and a party table. Pizza and goody bags are extra, though you can bring your own non-pizza food and drinks.

Lego Store – Since kids love playing here during the day, consider going there for a fun party before the mall opens. $10 a kid (maximum 10 kids) buys you an hour in the store, 45 minutes of it building mosaics or racing Lego cars. Then the kids pick out a party favor, valued at up to $10, which is included in the party price. Have your cake elsewhere. Kids need to all be six or older.

Peninsula Gymnastics. Get the kids running around on the weekend with an hour of instructor-led gymnastics and activities including parachute, foam filled pit and trapeze, and 30 minutes in a party room. Prices are $130-$250, for kids ages 3-12, and you bring your own food. And they don’t help you set up or clean up. San Mateo location.

The Little Gym – Another way to get the kiddies active, at this 90 minute party on Saturdays and Sundays. Fee includes invitations mailed for you, paper goods and drinks. Cost is $245 for members, $275 for nonmembers for 15 kids (including birthday kid).

Safari Run – This San Mateo facility is fun, but not cheap. Kids ages 4-12 enjoy an hour of playtime, followed by 40 minutes in party room. Cost includes paper goods and tokens for 50 minutes in arcade. Invite up to 20 kids, over age one. No outside heated food or any drinks are allowed – they cater the food, which isn’t included in the price. You can bring cake and two side dishes. Prices start at $350.

Bounce U in San Carlos (opened in 2009) and Pleasanton offer birthday party packages starting
at $235 (flat rate weekdays) to $399 (all inclusive). Like Pump it Up, the 2 hour party features time in two different bouncy rooms, and your own party space for 45 minutes. You can have 25 kids max, and the best minimum age is 3 (younger kids are allowed).

Aqua Adventure- This new outdoor water park in Fremont would be a great place to celebrate Junior’s birthday. The packages include all-day admission for all guests, a birthday hut for lunch, food, goody bags and more. Packages run $175-$528.

Silliman Aquatic Center – In addition to the lure of the indoor waterslides and play structure, the community center's party rooms have Wii and Xbox game systems. Minimum party costs start at $10/person ($8 for residents) for swim fee and room use. They go up to $19/person for longer room rental, goody bags, future swim passes and more. Pizza packages are extra.

Randall Museum – Choose an art project and/or animal talk for your party at this popular San Francisco children's museum. They’ll provide the room, an assistant and a project, you provide everything else (decorations, food, paper products). Parties start at $275 (but are partly tax-deductible!) and can only be scheduled on Sundays.

Playland-not-at-the-beach - Enjoy a three hour party with 30 free pinball machines, free juke box, attractions and exhibits, plus a basic magic show (or upgrade for a nicer one). Bring your own food and drinks. Parties run $150-350 for 10-20 people, and the location is El Cerrito.

A few more thoughts:
-Bay Area kid museums (like the Children's Discovery Museum in San Jose, MOCHA (Museum of Children's Art) in OaklandZeum, Bay Area Discovery Museum also host parties, as do the zoos.
-Check out a local pool or swim school for party plans.
-Karate studios also host parties. And indoor climbing structure places like The Jungle in San Jose and Daly City Party Playhouse.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Coming Up: Boo at the Zoo


Go wild with both Oakland and SF zoos “boo at the zoo” programs this weekend, October 25 & 26. Here are some details from each:

San Francisco Zoo: Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Don’t worry – it won’t be too scary for the tots. Get the kids costumed up for animal encounters, a Haunted Nature Trail, a Creepy Crawley Critters exhibit at the Insect Zoo, a Stomp & Chomp animal program where gorillas, lions, meerkats and others devour pumpkin-filled treats. Plus trick or treating stations throughout the zoo.

Oakland Zoo: Saturday & Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Get set for a spooky scavenger hunt, the “boo choo-choo”, trick or treating, face painting, animal feedings (with pumpkins), help make Halloween treats for the animals, a costume parade led by Roosevelt the Alligator (mascot, not real), and dancing at Flamingo Plaza. And if your kids wear costumes, they’ll get a free rides ticket (excluding the Skyride).
What: Boo at the Zoo
Where: San Francisco and Oakland ZoosWhen: October 25-26; 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m
When: 10 a.m to 4:00 p.m. (SF), and to 3 p.m. (Oakland)
Cost: Free with regular zoo admission

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Halloween Costumes on the Cheap


A recent Sally Forth cartoon featured fall on the cheap – making your own Halloween costume. After Ted (the dad) suggested a random costume idea for daughter Hilary, Sally replies “or you could just wear yellow sheets and go as a jaundiced ghost.” I laughed out loud. Partly imagining the costume. But partly because I’ve come up with random ideas for my daughter too.

There was Dori’s first Halloween, when all the moms in the mom’s group dressed their kids up in adorable outfits they bought online. You know the ones – like the pea in the pod, where the baby’s head is one of the peas. They thought I was insane, because I brought Dori to the Halloween party dressed as “denim girl.” She wore a denim dress and denim hat. It was entirely lame, but I really didn’t care.

The next year Dori went as Javanese girl, in an Indonesian boy’s outfit I bought for $1 while traveling pre-kids. And Zack went as Javanese boy when he fit into it a few year’s later. Nobody knew what the kids were dressed up as. And at the annual mom’s group Halloween party, the other moms just rolled their eyes at my costume selection. Again.

We’ve gotten a little more progressive with the Halloween costumes since then. Last year, Dori wanted to go as a bee, and to make her own costume. I think she did pretty well. Zack wants to go as a live backpack this year. Don’t ask me what that is, but he plans to wear his backpack on his front, and use it for candy. I’m sure it will look better than when I was in grade school and dressed up as a computer, using an entire roll of tin foil to cover a large box that I put around me. I’m still getting teased about that one.

If you want something homemade, but that actually looks good, Family Fun magazine is always good for creative ideas.

And if all else fails, go to Target on November 1st. The costumes are all 50% off and you can stock up for next year.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Coming Up: Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic


If you haven’t heard of this ice show yet, you haven’t read the newspaper in three months. Okay, granted for this target audience, that is a distinct possibility. But now you know.
This remake of the 2001 show (which I didn’t see) is expanded. It features Mickey Mouse narrating through 18 stories and 65 characters. You’ll know them all – Snow White, Buzz Lightyear, Nemo, the Lion King and the rest of them.

What: Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic
When: October 22-26 in San Jose
Where: San Jose’s HP Pavillion
Tickets: $15-65 at ticketmaster

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bay Area Pumpkin Patches


We usually make a trip each October to one of the more scenic pumpkin patches, like in Half Moon Bay or Perry Farms (aka Ardenwood Farms in Fremont). Sadly Perry Farms doesn’t have a pumpkin patch this year. We’ve had fun on the hay ride through the vegetable fields, and the big climbing hay stack.

Instead this year we went to the world’s saddest pumpkin patch, one of those parking lot corners which sells Christmas trees come November. They had bounce houses ($5 for 15 minutes) and a sad lady working there who appears to live in a trailer on site. It just didn’t have the same feel as going out to the actual pumpkin patch where they grow things other than concrete. I’m feeling like a very bad mother right now.

So hopefully you’ll make it to a great pumpkin patch. I was going to put a list here, but found a great list already online. No reason to reinvent the wheel, especially since this website has a comprehensive list by county:

http://www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/CApsanfran.php

Review: Leonardo Exhibit at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose


After reading about the Tech’s new exhibit, Leonardo 500 Years Into the Future, I was excited to check it out. After all, the exhibit is based on the guy who painted the Mona Lisa. And the Last Supper. Making its only U.S. appearance, the exhibit stays on until January 4, 2009.

Let me start off by saying that this is NOT a kid-friendly exhibit. My kids were dying of boredom. I hate to say that given that I love the Tech, but it’s true.

The exhibit is divided into two sections:

The first focuses on a series of Italian artists/engineers from the first half of the 15th century. These were Leonardo’s role models. This is to show that the brilliance of Leonardo, with his inventions, drawings of machines and well known paintings, was not an isolated phenomenon. This first exhibit showed some of the inventions from the time, including a model of a Florence cathedral dome designed by Brunelleschi, and lots of machines powered by water or other manpower. These included models of a column lifter, mud extractor, paddle boat, pile driver and hydraulic saw mill.

If you’re an engineer, or your kid’s name is Jared (I’m referring to a specific Jared here), you’d love this part. If your name is Kaplan, you might be a little bored, even if you really do appreciate the genius of these machines. And you know that if you lived in the 15th century, you’d never figure these out yourself.

Many of the large models had small metal models encased in a plastic box that you could crank yourself. This was the part Zachary liked, even though not much happened when you turned the crank.

As for the Leonardo portion, there were three highlights. The exhibit had a display of his notebooks. Actual notebooks he wrote in, with the pages open for viewing. That was pretty cool (for the adults). We couldn’t read his writing (he did write backwards in a “mirror” reflection after all), and I don’t read Italian either. Two strikes. But the drawings were so precise and beautiful – even the machines and parts.

The second highlight was the Sforza horse and movie about how it was made. The horse is exhibited outside the museum – you don’t need to pay to see it. It’s enormous – something like 24 feet high and cast in bronze (or rather, supposed to be cast in bronze – this one is fiberglass and steel). Leonardo designed it and made a clay mold, but never actually cast it. Sforza is the last name of the person who commissioned the horse, larger than anything of its kind in those days. The 70 tons of bronze designated for the sculpture was instead used for cannons during a France/Italy war in 1494. The project was abandoned in 1499.

The movie showed how the sculpture was to be cast, using Leonardo’s original plans. Lots of contraptions to hoist, transport and lower the cast into the ground, and more contraptions with the smelting system, including a pyrotechnic sensor to regulate the flow of molten bronze into the channels.

My third favorite part was the movie on the Vitruvian Man. You’ve seen this drawing before – a circle with a naked man standing spread eagle. My kids didn’t even point out his private part. I was impressed. The movie goes through the geometric and mathematical patterns of the body, circle and square. Ten of his hands make of the man’s height. Seven of his feet equal his height, as do eight heads. The ear is 1/3 the size of the face. It goes on, showing various mathematical properties between heights, circumferences etc. Math isn’t my strong suit, especially when my children are hanging on my legs begging to leave, but I still appreciated Leonardo’s calculations.

On the way out of the exhibit it actually got a little more interactive, but by this time we just had to leave. There was one perspective part, showing a man, painted half on a flat, segmented surface, half on a curved surface. At a certain angle, looking through a peephole, it was lined up. Pretty cool.

I’m embarrassed to say this, but I wondered why they kept referring to the artist as Leonardo throughout the exhibit, instead of by his last name, da Vinci. Well, it turns out he really has only one name – like Madonna. Only he comes from (from is “da” – or rather “duh!”) Vinci, a Tuscan town I’ve not heard of in spite of visiting Italy twice. Ah, well I’ve never been to Tuscany. Perhaps some publicist will read this, take pity and send my family there to see it.

Downstairs in the main Tech museum, there were a handful of hands-on Leonardo exhibits for the kids. I talk about the mirror writing one and the perspective drawing in this blog post.

But there are more we didn’t see, including:
--Leonardo's White Water Adventure (devise a lifesaving device to keep the Leonardo action figure afloat)
--What Would Leonardo Do? (devise and transport a box of parts to a stranded helicopter)
--Leonardo's Parachute (sketch and build your own)
--The Da Vinci Dilemma: Moving the Master (a play)

So we’ll head back to the Tech to check those out in the near future.

What: Leonardo 500 Year into the Future
Where: the Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose
When: now until January 4, 2009
Tickets: timed tickets area available online or via phone (service fee charged) or onsite at the admission counter (we had no problems getting tickets on a Saturday afternoon at 1:00, timed for when we got there)
Cost: $25/adult, $15/kid (museum members get a discount) – includes admission to the Tech as well

Friday, October 17, 2008

Coming Up: Kite Festival

Inspired by Khaled Hosseini’s book the Kite Runner, students from Hillsdale High School in San Mateo annually stage this festival/carnival for kids ages 3-9. Here you can make kites, do arts and crafts, play carnival games, jump in a bouncy house and more. Hillsdale students are promoting literacy and raising funds for Afghani schools through Afghans4Tomorrow.com.

What: Kite Festival
Where: Hillsdale High School, 31st Avenue & Alameda de las Pulgas in San Mateo
When: October 18-19 from 10 am. to 4:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Coming Up: SF Yerba Buena area museums are free – Target Family Day

I love free museum days!

This Saturday, October 19, five SF cultural “destinations” including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the new Contemporary Jewish Museum, Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), Zeum and Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, are teaming up to offer families a free day of art and discovery. They’ll have free admission, hands-on art projects and family-friendly performances. It’s underwritten by Target.

When: October 19, 2008 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Yerba Buena area (between 3rd and 4th Streets, and either side of Mission)
Cost: FREE

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Coming Up: Trolley Dances in SF – free


I haven’t done this before, but it just sounds so different I had to post. Epiphany Dance is putting on its 5th annual Trolley Dances: “A Freewheeling Festival of Modern Dance” in San Francisco on October 18-19. (Thank you Relli for the tip).

Hop on the MUNI T-line and take a roundtrip tour between the Mission Bay area and Bay View Hunter’s Point. Along the way, you’ll stop a few times, to get off the bus and watch site-specific modern dances. There’s some walking required to reach the sits (they’re wheelchair and presumably stroller accessible).

When: October 18-19
Where: begins at the new Mission Bay branch of the SF public library, 960 Fourth Street, at Berry.
What: 2 hour guided tours leave every 15 minutes, starting at 11 a.m., with 6 performances over the two days (11, 11:45, 12:30, 1:15, 2, 2:45).
Cost: $1.50 for MUNI fare, or free with MUNI Fast Pass Info: (415) 226-1139

Coming Up: Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival


The Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival is one of the better street fairs, in my opinion. Maybe because it involves pumpkins. But get there early or you’ll be stuck in traffic for a long time.
Lots of kid-friendly events, including free pumpkin carving for the kiddies on Sunday from 10-1 (pumpkins are provided). Also, a pumpkin pie eating contest for kids under 12, a parade, pumpkin weighing contest (it’s fun to see the winners), a costume contest and more.
In addition to the usual carnival rides ($$), there are some fun stage shows including pumpkin carver Farmer Mike and magicians, a haunted barn ($5) and more.
Usually giveaways abound, with tons of businesses giving away freebies (it’s usually good quality stuff with lots of snack food). Plus there’s a mini farmer’s market on Main Street, just outside the festival (closer to Hwy 92).

Don’t miss the baked goods just before you enter the festival. I think it’s the Moonside Bakery on Main Street – they have an outdoor booth set up with delicious pumpkin breads, cookies and pastries (and coffee). A great stop if you get to the festival on the early side.

Don’t forget to bring layers and sunscreen – you never know if you’ll bake or freeze there.

What: Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival
When: October 18-19 from 9-5
Where: Main Street (just off Highway 92), Half Moon Bay
Cost: free (though you’ll pay $5-10 for parking)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Coming Up: Red Bull Soapbox Race


A new event for San Francisco: the Red Bull Soapbox Race! This Saturday, October 18 looks to be a goofy, fun day.

According to the website, “every year auto amateurs, gear heads and adrenaline junkies construct eccentric non-motorized carts to compete head to head in a downhill battle.”

They’ll “speed down Dolores Street in their homemade, human-powered vehicles in a race against the clock.” Teams are judged on speed, car creativity, showmanship and quality of their starting line performance (each of the 39 teams perform to music of their choice on stage at the starting line).

Vendor booths will sell food and drinks. You’re not allowed to bring in your own food, glass containers or large bags. Seating is first-come, first-served.

What: Red Bull Soapbox Race
When: October 18, gates open at 11. First race is at 1:00. Awards are at 3:30.
Where: Dolores Park, San Francisco
Cost: Free

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Candy-Free Halloween

Two years ago, Mark thought our house would be egged. After all, I bought mini Play-Doh to hand out to trick-or-treaters, instead of candy. I thought they were cute and what kid doesn’t love Play-Doh?

The doorbell rang and I nervously opened the door. Teenagers. They looked into the bowl and shouted “COOL! Play-Doh! I haven’t used this stuff since I was a kid!” After closing the door I smirked at Mark. No egging this Halloween.

Last year I still had leftover Play-Doh. That’s what you get for buying a pack of 80 at Costco. But I also found glow sticks at the dollar section of Target (Michael’s craft store also sometimes carries them in their dollar section – a package of 15 bracelets). But wait! There's more! After ordering birthday party supplies from Oriental Trading Company, I stocked up on Halloween glittery temporary tattoos . It was another popular year for trick-or-treating at the Kaplan house.

(By the way, Oriental Trading Company has a few Halloween promotions right now, including $5 off a $60 order, or free shipping today (until midnight) using code WC97382 for orders over $49. Use the search engine for other coupon codes, or look for them on the OTC website.)

There’s still time to give out something different. Trust me, I love candy and am the first to raid my kids’ plastic pumpkins when they go to bed. But it’s not hard to get creative with the goods, especially with dollar sections offering non-edible treats like themed pencils (10 for $1) and stickers. The kids are excited at the novelty.

Happy trick-or-treating!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Coming Up: “Nick or Treat” at Great America

Spend a bundle and trick-or-treat for free at Great America the next three weekends, October 11-12, 18-19 and 25-26. Trick-or-treating is from 12-4 at five stations in Nickelodean Central. Kids must be 12 or under.

What: Nick or Treat at Great America
Where: Great America – Santa Clara
When: October 11-12, 18-19 and 25-26 from 12-4
Cost: $54 for adults, or kids over 48”; $35 for kids 3+ who are 48” or less

Friday, October 10, 2008

Coming Up: San Carlos Art & Wine Faire


Unless it's the Renaissance Faire, what's the deal with spelling Fair "Faire"?


Okay, so San Carlos is throwing its 18th annual "faire" this weekend, October 11-12. What to expect? Wine tasting, microbreweries, Italian street painting, family fun zone, live entertainment on 3 stages, and food booths. Also, 290 artists represented.



Where: downtown Laurel Street & San Carlos Ave., San Carlos

When: October 11-12 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Cost: free


Coming Up: Free 2nd Sunday at the Tech Museum of Innovation


This Sunday (and every 2nd Sunday) is free at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. We went last weekend for the Leonardo exhibit (see this blog post for a review) and spent a few hours after wandering through the hands-on exhibits.

Some of our favorites: the bobsled, where you try to steer a bobsled down a racing course. I love the bobsled, and got to ride a wheeled one down the Olympic course in Park City. So this one isn’t quite so exciting – it doesn’t really move, but it’s fun to steer it and see how you did on the track. All the entry tickets have bar codes, so you can scan your bar code and get readouts or photos at various stations.

The wheelchair race is another favorite. Though the wheelchair is stationery, but the wheels do move, so you get a great arm workout. (My husband and I are very competitive – he always wins this one, though I do beat my kids at this race),

Downstairs, there’s a fun Leonardo’s Workshop set up, in conjunction with the Leonardo exhibit. This one is open to everyone, even if you didn’t pay extra for the Leonardo exhibit. In the workshop, kids learn about perspective, creating a drawing on vellum, while looking through a peephole. They then trace this onto paper to take home. They also practice writing their names backwards (“mirror writing”), like Leonardo did, and they can see their writing looking normal in the mirrors there.

We spent a lot of time at the MPG Marathon driving station, where you try to maximize your tank of gas by choosing the size of car, number of cylinders, and then racing a course to see how far you get on the tank of gas. To my kids, it was just a fun driving game, though we did try to teach them how each choice affected the gas usage. Again, my husband and I raced (he won).

This was part of a “green” exhibit, where kids learned how to use solar, wind and hydro power to “power the tower” – a tower with light rings. The more energy they created with these sources, the more light created. They arranged solar discs on magnets to hit the solar panel in just the right way, and learned how to create the best wind turbine using a combination of blades. Zachary liked powering up an alternative type of battery to make a car zoom uphill. The kids loved taking turns riding a stationery bike to light up incandescent and LED light bulbs, seeing how much less power it took for the LED bulbs.


Before leaving, we promised Dori we’d go to Mr. Potato Head, her favorite exhibit. By using logic sentences like “light or voice equals television,” Dori could make things happen in Mr. Potato Head’s universe. This area brings back memories of college logic class, that I took only because I was going to be a philosophy major. That phase passed after I got a D in logic (I was glad I passed). Maybe there’s hope for my daughter, though.

Parking here is a little bit of a pain – on weekends, there is free parking in the lots on 2nd/San Carlos, and on weekdays you get your parking ticket validated (so it costs $5 max).

Coming Up: Pumpkins in the Park - San Jose


San Jose's Discovery Meadow turns into a pumpkin patch this Saturday, October 11 at Pumpkins in the Park. The fun includes: apple cider tasting, pumpkin decorating, puppet shows, fire trucks, music by the Babana Slug String Band, Zun Zun and Andy Z.



Where: San Jose's Discovery Meadow (Woz Way and San Carlos St)

When: Saturday, October 11 from 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Cost: free

Coming Up: Fleet Week and Blue Angels


I love the Blue Angels – in my pre-kid days when I lived in San Francisco and worked downtown, the corner office came in very handy during Fleet Week. I’d feel the room shake, before hearing thundering noises and finally seeing the Blue Angels zip past during practice. Yeah, like I needed another excuse to look out the window instead of working!

The Blue Angels will perform Friday through Sunday as part of Fleet Week, from 3-4 each of those days, over the Bay. My favorite place to watch: the Golden Gate Bridge or Crissy Field. Or find a rich friend with a yacht to take you out onto the water.

We went last year near the Ferry Plaza. Apparently you can watch from the Ferry Plaza roof, but we didn’t know that. We were on the street further north, and did see the planes whizzing by, but our views weren’t great.

On Saturday there’s a parade of ships from 11:30-12:30. If you’re interested in touring the big ships, get in line early on Sunday. The wait can be 90 minutes or more. Ship tours are Sunday from 11-4. Don’t arrive at 2:00 and think you’ll get on (the gates will be closed already because of the line). Air show practices starting around 12:30, so even if you miss the real show, you can still enjoy the practice.

What: Fleet Week – Blue Angels show
When: Friday-Sunday, October 10-12
Where: San Francisco Bay
Cost: Free

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Coming Up: Nick Barone puppet show (free) at Cheeky Monkey Toys


I posted in the past about Cheeky Monkey toy store, but I wanted to mention that puppeteer Nick Barone will perform “Puss in Boots” there this weekend. The 30 minute show is a “comic retelling of the classic tale,” according to Nick’s website. You’ll see 15 puppets in medieval costumes, as Nick expertly does his thing.

To learn more about the story, click here. I've seen one of Nick's puppet shows before - he's good. And memorable - I went into labor that night with my son (not because of the show, though).

Where: Cheeky Monkey Toys, 640 Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park
What: Andy Barone puppet show of “Puss in Boots” Saturday, October 11 at 11 a.m.
Cost: free

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Review: Great Medieval Projects You Can Do Yourself plus Coming Up: Northern California Renaissance Faire


I’ve never been to the Renaissance Faire, but castles, knights and all things medieval are a part of our daily life. Along with pirates, Hot Wheels, My Littlest Pet Shop and Webkinz.

So I’ll start first with a review of Great Medieval Projects You Can Build Yourself, written by the incredibly creative and talented Kris Bordessa (a Northern California resident). When I first hear the title, I thought “hmmm…we’re going to learn how to build a guillotine and pour boiling oil on the mailman from the top floor of our house?” Uh, no.

Instead, we learned about medieval beliefs, life in monasteries, the makings of a medieval feast and lots on warfare (a favorite topic among 5 year old boys). We also learned interesting facts like:

--The word medieval comes from the Latin words for middle age. Hey – I’m medieval!

--Many peasants in the army didn’t have conventional weapons. As farmers, they used farm tools like hayforks, axes and sickles as weapons.
--Stirrups were first used in Europe around the 8th century. No not for gynecological exams, but to keep riders on their horses.
--After medieval patients peed in a cup for testing, there weren’t lab technicians to run the results. Instead, doctors tested it by tasting it! Yum!
--And it was good to relearn the story of King Arthur. In my sophomore college dorm, I shared the floor with Arthur and Lancelot (roommates), with Gwennyth across the hall. I kid you not! (only Lancelot went by the nickname “Lance.”).
This Nomad press book is aimed at kids 9-12, much older than my kids. But that just means we read 2 pages at a time, instead of reading it cover to cover. Some fun projects in the book:

--Make your own insect repellant (using essential oils)
--Make your own butter (by shaking a jar of whipping cream)
--Make your own marshmallow cannon (using PVC pipes)
--Make your own shield (using cardboard and “cadency” marks like the fleur-de-lis)
Maybe it will inspire you to attend the Northern California Renaissance Faire, ending October 12. Enjoy entertainment including swordplay, theater, jesters, royalty (unfortunately not hunky Princes William and Harry), a marketplace and a costume rental shop so you can go in character. And don’t forget to buy a turkey leg for lunch!

What: Northern California Renaissance Faire
When: this weekend, October 11-12 – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Casa de Fruta
Cost: $25 for adults, $10 for kids ages 5-12

Monday, October 6, 2008

Contest! Win the Imagination Movers’ CD – Juice Box Heroes


You’ve seen the TV show. You’ve read my review. You love their sidekick Nina. Now win a brand-new shrink-wrapped CD of Juice Box Heroes, with songs like “Clean My Room,” “What’s in the Fridge?” and “My Favorite Snack.”

How?
Leave a comment with the name of three new song titles you think the Imagination Movers should write. And do it by midnight Wednesday, October 8 to be eligible to win. I'll need your email address to send you the prize. If you don't want to leave it on your post, email me at blog@friscokids.net (but you still need to post the comment below - just let me know which entry is yours).

Good luck!


Book reviews: You Think It’s Easy Being the Tooth Fairy and My Wobbly Tooth Must Not Ever Never Fall Out

We’re all about the tooth fairy in our house these days. Dori lost six teeth in the past year or so, and her mouth is a jumble of gaps, emerging teeth and a general orthodontic nightmare.

But the fun in having kids is being the tooth fairy (I hope she doesn’t read my blog). She claims to believe in the tooth fairy even though she told her friend quite loudly while I was in the next room, that she saw me bring the money in for tooth #5. She added that she knows there’s no tooth fairy, but she fakes it so she can get the money. Smart girl.
Of course for tooth #2 she fully believed. So much so that when the tooth fell down the drain as she washed the blood off it, she cried and cried. We sent her downstairs to calm down, while I quickly retrieved her first tooth from my sock drawer. Daddy looked like a hero, as he “pulled” it from the drain. Our adoring daughter has no idea how unhandy her father really is with plumbing.

Which brings me to two fun tooth fairy books (aside from Throw Your Tooth on the Roof, which I reviewed earlier – read that one here).



The first, You Think It’s Easy Being the Tooth Fairy? I reviewed for Family Fun Magazine (and it’s out this month). But I’ll say that the lovely and talented Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt wrote an adorable book, aptly illustrated by David Slonim. The cute little tooth fairy is bug sized, with a mop of red hair. She’s tough, action oriented, inventive and she has a sense of humor. She’s no Cinderella, as she says herself.



The other book I like is My Wobbly Tooth Must Not Ever Never Fall Out (that’s a mouthful) by Lauren Child. Totally different book than the other two. Here, Lola has a wiggly tooth that she wants to keep until she realizes that she’ll get money for it, enough money to buy a giraffe for her toy farm. That tooth comes out pretty quickly after that (and like Dori, she loses the tooth after losing it, if you get what I mean, but the tooth fairy comes anyway).

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Free crafts, storytelling, bugs and more - Africa theme


In a previous blog post, I mentioned the One Community One World program through the San Mateo County Library System. The book is Dave Egger’s What is the What, a story of a Sudanese “lost boy” who left his home during the civil war to walk thousands of miles to Ethiopia.

The library program has a slew of kids programming based on the book themes, and I’ve reprinted the enormous list of free kids’ programs below.

African Folktales

Storyteller Yolanda Rhodes decorates folktales and stories from Sudan and Africa with song, miming and the evocation of characters through movement.

Monday, October 6, 4:00 PM – Atherton Library

Saturday, October 11, 2:00 PM – San Mateo Main Library

Thursday, October 16, 4:30 PM – East Palo Alto Library

African Village Celebration

African drummer Onye Onyemaechi of Village Rhythms takes participants on a tour of African drumming, including the drumming culture of Southern Sudan. Includes group dances and songs.

Friday, October 3, 10:30 AM – Belmont Library

Friday, October 3, 7:00 PM – Half Moon Bay Library

Saturday, October 4, 11:00 AM – Redwood City Downtown Library

Saturday, October 4, 2:00 PM – San Mateo Main Library

Wednesday, October 8, 4:00 PM – East Palo Alto Library

Wednesday, October 8, 7:00 PM – Millbrae Library

Wednesday, October 15, 7:00 PM – San Bruno Public Library

Thursday, October 16, 4:00 PM – Portola Valley Library

Thursday, October 16, 7:00 PM – Daly City Library Bayshore Branch

Monday, October 20, 7:00 PM – Menlo Park Library

Insect Discovery Lab

African Insects Enter Insect Discovery Lab – the leading education outreach facility in the San Francisco Bay Area for hands-on learning about invertebrates and their conservation worldwide. African bugs, including a giant African millipede and a Madagascar hissing cockroach, will be featured guests.

Wednesday, October 15, 11:00 AM – Redwood City Downtown Library

Saturday, October 18, 12 Noon – Menlo Park Library

Sudanese Mask Making

Artists from Bay Area cooperative Art in Action lead children in a colorful, mask-making project. Sign-ups are required. Call location listed.

Monday, October 6, 7:00 PM – San Bruno Public Library

Wednesday, October 8, 1:00 PM – Brisbane Elementary School

Tuesday, October 14, 5:00 PM – Redwood City Library, Fair Oaks Branch

Thursday, October 16, 6:30 PM – Redwood City Library, Redwood Shores Branch

Monday, October 20, 4:00 PM – Atherton Library

Thursday, October 23, 2:00 PM – Redwood City Library, Schaberg Branch

Friday, October 24, 4:30 PM – Foster City Library

Monday, October 27, 4:00 PM – Woodside Library

Tuesday, October 28, 4:00 PM – San Carlos Library

San Bruno Public Library (650) 616-7078

Brisbane Elementary School (415) 467-0120

Redwood City Library, Fair Oaks Branch (650) 780-7261

Redwood City Library, Redwood Shores Branch (650) 780-7026

Atherton Library (650) 328-2422

Redwood City Library, Schaberg Branch (650) 780-7010

Foster City Library (650) 574-4842

Woodside Library (650) 851-0147

San Carlos Library (650) 591-0341

Working Motherhood - New Formulas for Success


What we can learn from other working moms? Read on and see how seven fabulous, top-of-their-game moms do it.



This past Thursday I went to a program, Working Motherhood: New Formulas for Success, in San Francisco. It was put on by Flexperience Consulting (I’m part of their “talent” base, but haven’t actually worked with them yet), and mommy track’d. Here, 500 women came together to socialize and figure how we can do “life” better – better in our career, and better for our families.


A bonus was that the VP debates were the same night, and we watched as a group for the first hour. Nothing like 500 women booing Sarah Palin’s refusal to actually answer the questions posed. Well, maybe it was only 499 women booing, as one brave woman in the room acknowledged that she’s a Republican (maybe the same woman who said on the news that night that she’s not voting for McCain/Palin. Hmmm).

Here are some words of wisdom from the panelists and keynote speaker.

Lisa Belkin – Keynote speaker, from the New York Times. Take home message: You’re doing a great job, think about what you accomplished today. Also, you can carve your own career path, but you need to ask for what you want and figure out a way to do it. And it’s not likely to be a direct path.


Tina Sharkey – CEO of babycenter.com. Take home messages: “Balance is bunk.” And “don’t sweat the small stuff. It will go away.” She definitely has her personal philosophies down, and it was a pleasure to listen to her. While she’s busy running her company, she agreed to be room parent this year (admittedly a job I’ve turned down more years than I’ve said yes). She’s not going to worry about how others have done it in the past, “I’ll contribute in a way that’s joyful. I’m going to do it the way I can do it.” She’ll play to her strengths and recruit others to help, as she does in business.


Tina said she also teaches her staff to play to their strengths, and not to focus on weaknesses, and does the same in her personal life. When report cards come home and your kids get several “A”s and a “C” – don’t get on them for the “C” but celebrate their “A”s. If something needs fixing with the “C,” work on it, but focus on your child’s strengths.


When looking for flexible work, Julie stressed that it’s important to sell yourself first, then work out how do it flexibly. You need to show what you bring to the job, what you can do for them. It’s not all about you working from home – it’s about doing your job well.


Tina says her mantra is to “be present where I am right now.” This means limiting her Blackberry use and spending focused time on whatever she’s doing, whether in a meeting or with her kids. Interestingly, during the debate, she got an email noting that her kids have lice. After moving away from the other panelists and laughing, she said she had fired off a series of emails to move the ball into others’ court, like giving instructions to her nanny and informing her husband who was traveling. Then she got back to her “present” moment.

Julie Bornstein – SVP Sephora Direct. Take home message: “Feel comfortable saying no.” Limit your external demands. She also recommends giving up the notion of having a family dinner when your kids are very young. By the time you get home from work, the kids are starving and can’t sit for a dinner with lengthy conversation anyway. Have the nanny feed them before you get home (when they’re hungry), so that you can spend quality time with them without rushing around to fix dinner. (Of course this assumes you have a nanny).


As in business, Julie uses the concept of “buying in” with her family to get them on board with family issues. They had their first family meeting recently to get suggestions on how to get ready more quickly in the morning. By getting buy-in from her kids, they’re more likely to follow through.


Gretchen Libby – Executive Producer, Lucasfilm. Gretchen is a divorced mom, whose son finished chemotherapy a year ago for leukemia. Take home message: “Community is key – you need people to help you.” (and of course, you need to be there to help them too)

She also said “remember your accomplishments today. Little victories add up.” Think about what equity you have with your employer, because it might enable you to ask for different work arrangements and more flexibility.

Valerie Taglio – VP, Hewlett Packard. Valerie made it to the VP level while job sharing and working part time. About going back to work after having kids, she said “don’t feel like you’re making a lifelong decision. You’re making the best decision you can at the moment.”


Wilma Wallace – VP/Deputy General Council, Gap Inc. Take home message: “You have to know when enough is enough.” If something has to give, it’s okay to say no to evening activities or school volunteer work. She also noted that her life tends to go in six month increments, with her kids schedules changing at about that frequency.


With three boys of her own, Wilma said “it’s liberating to know – this is hard. If a 16 year old welfare mom can do this, I can too.”


Moderator Diane Dwyer, Weekend anchor and reporter for KRON-NBC, did a great job with her questions and follow-ups, and told some hilarious stories as well. Including ones about lice patrol in her school. (At least when my kids get infested, I’ll know they’re in good company). And about interviewing a death row inmate just after returning from maternity leave (that wasn't the funny part). San Quintin doesn’t allow bras with underwire through security – even if you’re a nursing mom. I’ll leave it at that.

Interestingly, a number of the women said that they got promotions when they least expected them– when they though they were contributing less than normal. This is why they stressed the importance of making sure others at work recognize your accomplishments, so you can get that promotion when it comes up, you’ve earned it and they recognize that.


This was a third annual event, and I can’t wait to go next year – especially with the fabulous gift bags we got – over $150 worth of goodies including a Plantronics Blue Tooth ear piece, HP flash drive, Karen Neuburger socks, Peet’s coffee, Ghirardelli chocolate, gift certificates for free stuff at Mabel’s Labels (online) and Peet’s. Plus a one month Equinox membership with perks. This is the closest I’ll come to getting an Oscar-like bag. Woo hoo!


Friday, October 3, 2008

Coming Up: Free family programs at SFMOMA


October 5 & 19

The last time I brought my kids to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) was maybe a year ago. We met up with my friend Mimi and her family. Her son was 2, and the best behaved child in the museum (okay, just the best behaved child period). My children were terrors, stepping past the lines in front of the artwork. Pushing elevator buttons. Trying to touch the sculptures.


We hurried through the special exhibit that cost extra to get into (and for the life of me I can’t even recall what it was, but I really really really wanted to see it). The most memorable part (or at least the least stressful) was the cafĂ©. I remember that chocolate chip cookie (it was good).


I guess we’re not banned from the museum, since the PR person emailed me about some upcoming events and even expressed satisfaction that we might come. Perhaps she didn’t get a good look at the picture of my kids on the blog.

That said, I’m eager to try it again (just like I was eager to have a second kid after 3 days of labor and an ineffective epidural). I have... memories of my mother, a lifelong museum docent, dragging me into galleries and asking “what do you see in this art work?” Now it’s my turn.

Okay, now for the real reason you’re reading this post. SFMOMA is hosting twice monthly free family programs (with free admission for up to 4 adults). This month, the dates are October 5 and 19. The programs include a gallery tour, hands-on art project and special book reading or screening. Stay an hour. Stay the day. They don’t care. Just come. (But if too many of you come, you will be turned away, since there's a limit).

What: SFMOMA’s free family programs
When: October 5 (Flash! Science and Photography) and October 19 (The Speed of Light)
Time: Tour starts at 1:00, special presentation at 2:00
Who: kids ages 4-11 and up to 4 accompanying adults.
Where: Koret Visitor Education Center
Cost: Free

Coming Up: San Francisco Botanical Garden story time & family walk

Twice a month, the San Francisco Botanical Garden offers a children’s story time and family walk. This month it’s on Sunday October 5 and 19 at 10:30.

Where: Meet at the Helen Crocker Russell Library at the Botanical Garden (9th Ave at Lincoln Way in Golden Gate Park)
When: Sunday, October 5 at 10:30 a.m. (story time), followed by the family walk at 11:00.
Cost: Free

Coming Up: Great Glass Pumpkin Patch in Palo Alto


It always strikes me that California glass collectors are a hopeful bunch. With the threat of earthquakes looming, these aficionados buying glass objects in spite of their fragility.

That said, this weekend marks the 13th annual Great Glass Pumpkin Patch in Palo Alto. I went several years ago and bought my own little pumpkin (which now has a sister from the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival). It’s a beautiful sight, with various colored glass pumpkins and gourds decorating the grassy patch.
Today, you can wander through the patch and watch glass blowing demonstrations at various times during the day, from 10-4. Get a 10% off coupon off your purchase by filling out a survey on this website.

The pumpkins go on sale THIS WEEKEND, from 10-5 both days. Children are welcome (though my personal recommendation is to bring a stroller to contain your child if he/she is apt to wander around and break things).

When: Friday, October 3 for viewing and glass blowing demos (10-4)
October 4-5, Saturday & Sunday 10-5, sale
Where: Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto
Cost: Free

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Coming Up: Foster City Fire & Police Dept. Open House


For all you boys and girls out there who think firemen are hot, now’s your chance to meet them and see how they work. Every year, Foster City hosts a gala open house, and if you have kiddies who love this stuff, you can spend hours there. It's this Saturday, October 4, from 10 to 2.

Zack and I went last year (and may go again – look for us and say hi!). Lots to do and see at this open house. Let junior learn how to crawl through a smoky house (okay, it’s a trailer) and climb out the window (again and again and again…). “Drive” the firetrucks and actually put out a fire with the full size hose. Climb on backcountry fire clearing equipment with really big tires. Tour the police station and sit behind bars in the police station. Sit in a fire boat. Tour the fire station (after going on at least six tours during preschool alone, I think I can GIVE the tour).

And get FREE HOT DOGS and chips. This is every little boy’s dream day, so don’t miss out.


When: Saturday, October 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Foster City Fire/Police Depts – 1040 E. Hillsdale Blvd.
Cost: Free

Coming Up: Prusch Farm Park Multicultural Harvest Festival & Exposition


Well, if that isn’t the longest name for a festival. This Sunday, at Emma Prusch Farm Park is a county-fair like festival, with a pumpkin patch, fresh apple juice tasting, pumpkin decorating, pony rides, a petting zoo, cooking classes, kids’ programming and more.

The local 4-H club is sponsoring an exposition including woodworking, entomology (bugs), sewing, photography, robotics and food preservation.

Pumpkins, crafts and plants and farmers’ market items will be for sale

When: Sunday, October 4, 2008 from 10:00 to 4:30
Where: Prusch Farm Park, 647 South King Road in San Jose (near 280/680 and 101)
Cost: free admission and parking

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Easy Birthday Cake Ideas (Cars) for Boys


I’m not much of a baker. A few months after my son was born, I made my husband a birthday cake – using a boxed mix. Only it came out flat and dense. I forgot to add the water - oops!

Three added ingredients: eggs, water and oil. Even without the sleep deprivation, I still often forget one of them.

Which is why my friends and family are amazed when my birthday cakes actually DO turn out and look good. My trick? Use easy decorating ideas. Here are two that worked for me:

Zack’s 4th birthday party had a Cars theme. Original, huh? I made this car cake with two Pyrex dishes – one was 9x9 and the other 9x11 or so. After baking the cakes (and adding water to the mix!), I let them cool and mixed up some blue food dye in the store-bought frosting.



I frosted the top of the larger cake, then set the smaller one on top. Then I cut an angled piece of cake off the top for the windshield. Frosting that wasn’t easy, without getting crumbs in (I suppose if I thought of it ahead of time I could have frozen the cake and then frosted it).

I frosted the windshield white, and the rest blue. Then I piped on Wilton’s ready to use black frosting (which comes with 4 tips and is incredibly easy to use - $5 at Safeway) for the details, adding marshmallows for the wheels. Voila! A cake my son loved. Professional looking? No. But I also only spent a few hours on it, versus staying up all night trying to make the perfect creation.

For his fifth birthday, we again had a car theme, but this one was Hot Wheels. It was even easier, since I made cupcakes (actually Zack and my husband made the cupcakes and I decorated). I took a big board (left over from our cabinet refinishing project) and covered it with tin foil. I added painters’ tape lines for the road, and taped on some plastic trees from Zack’s dinosaur set, and stop signs from his Thomas the Train set.

After frosting the cupcakes in white, I added black road stripes to half the cupcakes (remember that Wilton frosting? I reused it). For the other cupcakes, I bought small cars at Target ($3 for 6, in the party goods section – they’re a goody bag stuffer there). To avoid getting frosting on the wheels, I cup up labels, and stuck the cars to the sticky side, putting the flat side on the cupcake. The labels soaked up the frosting oil, but the cars were perfectly clean when the kids removed them to take home.

And the board was a fun toy for a few days after the party.