Hometown online fashion favorites at Tobi.com

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Coming Up: 87th Annual May Fête Children’s Parade in Palo Alto

I love a small-town parade. And while Palo Alto may not be that small a town, the parade seems like just my thing.

The 87th Annual May Fête Children’s Parade on Saturday, May 2 in downtown Palo Alto. This is apparently Northern California’s oldest and largest children’s parade (though I wonder how much competition for that title there is...).

It begins at 10 a.m. at the corner of Emerson Street and University Avenue, and the theme is “Dream Green.” You can expect entertainment from local high school and junior high school marching bands, decorated hand-pulled floats, and thousands of children marching, skating, cycling, tumbling, and strolling through downtown Palo Alto.

After the parade, join Partners in Education for food, music, and games at the 7th Annual Partners Town Fair at Addison School until 1 p.m.

The parade is sponsored by the City of Palo Alto Recreation, the Palo Alto Weekly and the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Coming Up: Free Kids' Events at the Foster City Library

Fun happenings at the Foster City Library - starting TONIGHT!

Wednesday, April 29 at 7 p.m.
Children's Author & Puppeteer Lucia Gonzalez
Celebrate Day of the Books/ Day of the Children with stories shared by Ms. Gonzalez.
Great family program!

Friday, May 8 at 3:30 p.m.
Mother's Day Craft
Join us to make a special craft for your mom, just in time for Mother's Day.
Children ages 3 and older welcome.

Tuesday, May 12 at 10:30 a.m.
Mandarin- English Bilingual Storytime
A wonderful morning of bilingual stories for preschoolers.

Friday, June 5 from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Summer Reading Kick-Off Party
Come on in to sign up for the Summer Reading Club, do a craft and check out some books.

Monday, June 8 at 4:30 p.m.
Origami Workshop for Elementary School Children
Come watch Jeremy Shafer's origami demonstration. Jeremy will also show you how to do basic origami.
For children in elementary school.

Thursday, June 18 at 3:30 p.m.
Father's Day Craft
Join us to make a special craft for your mom, just in time for Mother's Day.
Children ages 3 and older welcome.

Tuesday, June 23 at 2:30 p.m.
Be Creative Craft Project #1
Join us for the first in a series of creative craft projects.
Perfect program for children 4 and older.

Thursday, July 2 at 3:30 p.m.
Fourth of July Craft
Learn about the Fourth of July and make a special craft.
Great craft program for children 4 and older.

The Foster City Library is at 1000 E. Hillsdale Blvd., in Foster City

Free Entrance to California Academy of Sciences for SF Neighborhoods

Bank of America, one of our favorite (former) local banks and TARP recipients, is giving back to locals with free admission to the California Academy of Sciences for San Francisco residents.

B of A is offering free Spring and Fall admission dates to the California Academy of Sciences based on zip code (bring your ID). The list is too long to reprint here, but the museum's website has all the details. The first neighborhoods up are the Mission and Bernal Heights, May 1-3.

Spring dates are in May and June and fall dates are September and October, and run Friday through Sunday.

As usual, the third Wednesday of every month is free, thanks to Wachovia.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Free movie Monday at Redbox

It's a little late in the day, but if you want to get a movie on the way home from work (or drag the kids out before dinner time...), Redbox's code for a free Monday movie is...

4CW33N

It expires tonight at 10:00 p.m. Pacific time. Find a Redbox kiosk near you.

Focus Groups - make up to $500 on these!

I got an email from Plaza Research in San Francisco about some upcoming focus groups. If you fit the bill for any of them - click on the link and fill out their information. If they want to hear more, they'll call you.

~CONSUMER PRODUCTS~WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29TH, 2 HOUR FOCUS GROUP DISCUSSION DURING AFTERNOON OR EVENING

Requirements: Males and females age 30-45

Incentive: $85.00-$100.00

If you are interested in the CONSUMER PRODUCTS study, please click on the link below and fill out the survey: http://tinyurl.com/crtgeh

~COMPUTERS~MONDAY, MAY 11TH & TUESDAY, MAY 12TH, 90 MINUTE FOCUS GROUP DISCUSSION DURING AFTERNOON AND EVENING

Requirements: Males and females age 18-65

Incentive: $85.00-$100.00

If you are interested in the COMPUTERS study, please click on the link below and fill out the survey: http://tinyurl.com/c6tu9l

~ADVERTISING & NEWS~FRIDAY, MAY 15TH - MONDAY, MAY 25TH, 5 HOUR IN HOME/IN OFFICE OR SCHOOL INTERVIEW

Requirements: Males and females age 18-55

Incentive: $150.00-$500.00 If you are interested in the ADVERTISING & NEWS study, please click on the link below and fill out the survey: http://tinyurl.com/cb9kgv

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Last Chance - Get ‘Yer Tickets by Wednesday for SF Giants v. Colorodo Rockies this WEEKEND


It's your last chance to get great tickets at AT&T Park for the San Francisco Giants v. Colorodo Rockies game, AND support the San Mateo - Foster City Education Foundation at the same time.

The game is Saturday, May 2, 2009, at 1:05 PM. Tickets are view level reserved, and cost only $18. The Giants will donate $8 for each ticket sold to the Foundation, to help preserve the district's 5th grade music program.

Three ways to get your tickets:

1. Visit the district office in Foster City (1170 Chess Drive, just off Hwy 92) through Wednesday.

2. Call 650-312-7235

3. Buy them online (though you'll pay service fees at this option).

Play ball!

Coming Up: Anne of Green Gables by Pied Piper Players

It’s time for Pied Piper’s spring show: Anne of Green Gables. According to the theater company,

"This family classic relives the poignant and funny story of Anne Shirley, the spunky, red-headed orphan who comes to Prince Edward Island hoping to find a happy home.

Freckled-faced Anne arrives at the Bright River Railway Station full of hope for a new life at the home of brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. She is devastated when she discovers that the elderly couple was expecting a boy and ecstatic when they decide to keep her! With her fiery temper, passion for melodrama and romance, and penchant for misadventures, Anne brings laughter, love and more than a little consternation to the village of Avonlea.”

The cast is mostly kids with a few adults thrown in for good measure. The shows are well done and fun to watch – especially with your kids!

When: May 1-10 (weekends)
Where: Bayside Performing Arts Center in San Mateo
Tickets: $16 for adults, $10 for kids. Call 650-992-7433 or click here to order online.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Coming Up: 31 cent scoop night at Baskin Robbins April 29, 2009


Ah, we have family memories of going to 31 cent scoop night at Baskin Robbins. A few years ago we went for our cheap cones and waited in line for probably an hour. It was a bit silly, and with two little kids, not too much fun. BUT, not all ice cream shops are as crazy as the one we visited.

That said, 31 cent scoop night is coming up on Wednesday, April 29th from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. The scoop night program donates $100,000 to the National Volunteer Fire Council National Junior Firefighter Program. Some locations will accept donations as well.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Coming Up: Free Mother's Day projects at Michael's

My favorite Mother's Day gifts are the ones the preschool teacher thought up - like the $1 wooden framed mirrors from IKEA that the kids painted, then gluing on treasures. And the necklace that I wore (on Mother's Day) of Fimo beads interspersed with shrink art quotes from my kids, like "My mom is this tall" and "my mom has blonde hair" (never did, never will). And "my mom does a lot of dishes and works on the computer."



Unfortunately, not eveyone has Teacher Carrie or Teacher Irene to help the kids create Mother's Day gifts for them. And as for Dad thinking these up? Yeah - good luck.


Fortunately, though, we have Michael's craft store, which is offering a week's worth of FREE Mother's Day crafts at their stores. Maybe Dad can bring the kids over there, or you can give the kids a nudge and bring them yourself.


While projects may change by store, here's a sample of their offerings:

Saturday, May 2 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. - decorate plate

Sunday, May 3 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. - t-shirt

Monday, May 4 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. - corsage

Tuesday, May 5 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. - paper flower bouquet

Wednesday, May 6 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. - personalized coupon book

Thursday, May 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. - card making

Friday, May 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m - wooden frame

Saturday, May 9 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. - beading

Sunday, May 10 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. - decorate a cookie WITH mom



What is your all-time favorite Mother's Day gift?

Coming Up: Free Day at Contemporary Jewish Museum

This Sunday, April 26, admission to the Contemporary Jewish Museum is free, thanks to a Family Target Day.

Join in special family activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (though the museum is open until 5:00). The fabulous Elana Jagoda (teacher Elana to many of us), along with the Zum Gali Band will perform. And storyteller Liora Brosbe will keep us entertained as well.

As for family activities, you'll make puppets out of freedom-inspired items and contribute to the museum's Chagall inspired murals (current exhibits include Chagall and Russian artists, Passover-themed art and Jews on vinyl).

And if you find Dori's pink retainer there, let me know. We lost it during the December Target Family Day. The $275 we spent on a new one (no, insurance didn't cover it), more than made up for the money we saved on admission.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bone Marrow Drive Friday and Saturday 4/24-4/25 - a painless way to save a life

I've been a registered bone marrow donor for several years and want to pass along this opportunity for you to possibly save a life. It's painless to register and you can it as a lesson to show your kids what really matters - helping others.

Julie Friedman, a mom of 2 boys in San Mateo, needs a bone marrow transplant and her friends are organizing the bone marrow registry drive this Friday and Saturday. Julie needs the transplant to battle AML, acute myeloid leukemia.

All you have to do is show up and get your cheek swabbed with a Q-tip. It takes a few minutes to fill out the paperwork. That's it! The costly drive is being underwritten by several donors, though they welcome donations to cover the cost (it costs $100 to add a donor to the registry).

If you can't make it to the marrow drive, you can register online (it will cost you $25, though the actual cost is $100, presumably also underwritten). Go to www.marrow.org to register online, and enter the promo code JUST4JULIE. The online drive goes through 5/14/09.

The local bone marrow drive is Friday April 24 and Saturday, April 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Highlands Recreation Center (1851 Lexington Ave, San Mateo, CA). For more information, call 510-301-9512.

I have additional contact information, if you want to contact the organizers to make a donation/volunteer to the drive. Email me at blog@friscokids.net if you want that.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Restaurant.com certificates 80% off - code here

Okay, restaurant.com is having yet another great promotion - 80% off their gift certificates. Buy a $25 gift certificate for only $2 (or a $10 certificate for forty cents). I've posted about this before (and just used a gift certificate this week). There are some restrictions (like maybe dining on Sunday to Thursday or buying at least 2 entrees), but if you find a restaurant you like or want to try - it's a great deal.

The sale is good through April 30, 2009 at midnight PST and you need to use the code LUCKY when you check out (it's above the cart order when you first start the check out process).

Happy dining!

Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's - April 21


Beating out Baskin Robbins by one week, Ben & Jerry's is offering free cone day on April 21st from noon til 8:00 pm. on Tuesday, April 21st. Ironically, they're celebrating their 31st year scooping ice cream. Find a scoop shop here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Take the Earth Day Pledge and win a free tote from Earthbound Farms

It's almost Earth Day and what are you doing to save the earth? Earthbound Farms is trying to help, giving away 10,000 reuseable shopping bags each week (according to my sources the weekly give-away starts on Monday). Be one of the first 10,000 entrants to take the Earth Day pledge and win a tote you can use for your grocery shopping. If you don't win the tote you still can get a $1 off coupon.

To take the pledge, click on this Earthbound Farms link and click "take the pledge." You'll go to a pretty kitchen photo. Learn about different ways to go green by clicking on the sunflowers. At the top of each pop-up box, you can click "add to my pledge" and that will take to the next step (of giving them your address, of course).

And even if you don't win, please bring your bags back to the store to use again! We have a trunk full of canvas shopping bags we collect from conferences etc. Mollie Stone's even sells them for a measly $1.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Health and Fitness Festival at Jose Ortega Elementary School in SF

Join with families from Jose Ortega Elementary School at a free Health and Fitness Festival on Saturday, April 18th.

There is such a thing as a free lunch (provided by Urban Lunch), kicking off the festival at noon.

Work off lunch with "get up and move" activities including yoga, an obstacle course, rhythm and movement jams, etc. Kids will have fun with face painting, a bubble station, prizes, freebies, etc.

The event is funded by a Family Convener's Family Action Grant.

What: Health and Fitness Festival
When: Saturday April 18th, from noon to 3:00
Where: .Jose Ortega Elementary School in San Francisco. (400 Sargent Street in the Ocean View/Merced Heights/Ingleside neighborhood).
Cost: Free

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Coming Up: Livin' Local in Palo Alto - Earth Day - Free!

Livin’ Local will be the theme of the City of Palo Alto’s fun-filled Earth Day celebration.

Bring the kids for children’s activities, live music, resources from local environmental groups, cooking and garden demonstrations, great food, a farmers market and more. You'll go home inspired to take a small step towards being a good caretaker of our planet.

What: www.cityofpaloalto.org/earthday
Where: Lucie Stern Community Center (1305 Middlefield Rd/Embarcadero - Palo Alto)
When: Saturday, April 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Info: 650-463-4921
Cost: FREE

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Q&A With Organizing Guru June Bell - Part 2 (and Win Something!)


Yesterday, organizing guru and family coach June Bell shared some helpful tips with us to organize our homes and lives. Today she answers some more burning questions! And at the end, post your own organizing tips to win a copy of the book Reclaim Your Life...and Get Organized for Good.


Any tips on dealing with my inbox? I just can’t keep up.

I know what you mean! Many time management experts, including the venerable Julie Morgenstern, recommend checking email only at preset times so you’re not bouncing between your work and your inbox. That’s a great idea.

It’s also helpful to delete yourself from mailing lists of groups that no longer interest you. The spam filter is your friend, and so is the phone.

What do I do with all the artwork coming home from school? I feel guilty throwing it out but I can’t keep everything.

I’m not surprised that you mentioned this. This is a familiar problem. I’m the mom of a prolific kindergartener, and every week there’s a new batch of masterpieces to ooh and aah over.

Here are few suggestions for art:
- Send creations in a care package to the grandparents.
- Use large paintings as wrapping paper or note cards.
- Rotate new pictures through a large art frame, which can also hold up to 50 other works. (Check out the ones at dynamicframes.com.)
- At the end of each school year, put your favorite two or three pieces in an expanding folder or file. (Personally, I’m a sucker for anything with a little handprint on it.)
- Scan the artwork and store the digital images on a CD. Bottom line: It’s OK – it really is – to toss the rest when your kid’s not around. Honest!


Toy management. Need I say more?

Less is definitely more. Buy better toys, but fewer. Swap with friends. Weed out the junk relentlessly and constantly. And make sure to insist on a nightly cleanup, even if it’s just tossing all the stray Legos into their designated plastic bin. (Check out June's article on this topic in Parenting Magazine)

How about kids’ clothes?

At least twice a year – before school starts and over winter break, if you can – set aside an hour to comb through drawers and closets to weed out clothing that no longer fits. (You’ll need to do this more often for babies, who grow even faster than school-age kids.)

Sort it into piles: save (for younger siblings), donate, discard/rag bag (for clothing that is badly stained, faded or torn beyond repair) and consign/craigslist/sell.

How do you charge?

I provide a free 20-minute phone “meeting” for prospective clients. We’ll discuss problem areas and how I can help them create the changes they want to see. If they’d like to move forward, we’ll schedule a three-hour session at their home or office.

During that time, I’ll train a client in how to separate trash from treasures and we’ll create a system for managing paper, time or things that works for them. I’ll show them how making these changes will benefit them in all sorts of ways – from saving time and money to feeling better about their space.

How long will it take?

Most clients are delighted to find that the process takes far less time than they’d thought, thanks to a professional organizer’s guidance and an extra pair of (skilled) hands.

Where in the Bay Area do you cover?

I’m based on the Peninsula and serve the entire Bay Area. My website, organizesf.com (under construction), reflects that San Francisco-area focus.

How can they contact you for more information?

junebell@me.com or 650.483.3824. Her website is here.

Thank you to June for your words of wisdom! Do blog readers have any organizing tips of their own to share? Post your tips and my favorite one will win organizing book Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Good...by Vicki Norris. Make sure you leave your email address in the blog post (or email it to me at blog@friscokids.net along with your tip - but you must also post the tip).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Q&A With Organizing Guru June Bell - Part 1


It's Spring Break for many, which may mean vacation...or it may mean spring cleaning. If you're in the latter camp (especially if your kids are IN camp), organizing guru and family coach June Bell's ideas can help you get your house (and life) in order.


This begins a two-part Q&A series with June (next part runs tomorrow...stay tuned).


How did you get started in organizing?

Even when I was a kid, I always enjoyed organizing my toys, clothes and papers. I was the student who never forgot my homework or pulled an all-nighter to finish a paper. I still get a lot of satisfaction from being able to quickly find what I need and know what I have.

Friends often compliment me on my organizing skills and have asked for advice. My background as a newspaper reporter and then a freelance writer has also helped, surprisingly. Both careers demand excellent management of time, paperwork and space.

What do you do for clients?

I teach them organizing skills that they can apply to their homes, offices and lives. I help them home in on what’s not working and then put in place systems to solve that problem.

There’s a misconception that an organizer will sweep into your cluttered garage or playroom, put everything in labeled bins and -- voila! – it’s organized. But that quick hit doesn’t get to the heart of the problem, and it won’t take long for the space to return to entropy.

Professional organizers also aren’t house cleaners; they’re really a hybrid of a consultant and coach. And tackling a problem with an organizer’s help makes it far less daunting than facing down your demons alone.

Can you give some examples?

I recently helped one client organize a crowded kitchen. I developed a system for evaluating which gadgets she used most often and which she no longer needed. Now she now has plenty of shelf space, and her kitchen feels much more spacious and appealing. We also rearranged her pantry, putting the cans and condiments she uses most often in the most convenient locations. And we winnowed a cookbook collection that was threatening the stability of some of her shelves.

I’ve helped other clients set up home filing systems tailored to their needs and personalities, and I’ve even helped a client reassess what she carries in her handbag.


I’m also working with several families on a whole-home purge, finding treasures hidden among accumulated and unwanted items in each room.

What is family coaching?

It definitely doesn’t involve team jerseys! As a family coach, I help families have happier lives by teaching them how to more efficiently manage their time, space and even finances. For some, that might mean coordinating a family activities calendar. Other families need help getting a handle on the “stuff” that inevitably comes with having kids.

There are so many activities, parties and events in our lives. What’s the best way to track things on a calendar, and what should we skip or attend?

Whether you prefer a calendar on the fridge or a BlackBerry, you need something to help you schedule sitters, date nights, vacations and days off. It doesn’t matter what you use as long as you faithfully use it.

For example, when your kids bring home a team sports schedule, transfer the practice dates and games into your calendar immediately. And have your child put the dates in his school planner too.

Teaching your children how to manage time when they’re young is a tremendous gift, one that will reap huge dividends for them in college and far beyond.

If your days are jam-packed with activities and you’re feeling overextended and resentful, by all means, start saying no. What are the activities that make your family happiest? Plan more of those.
How to set boundaries when working from home
(Since doing the Q&A, June was quoted in Forbes.com on how to set boundaries when working from home. See what she said here.)


TOMORROW: toy management, email inbox management, kids' art art art, and how much does it cost to hire an organizer?

To contact June and learn more about her services, email junebell@me.com or call her at (650)483.3824. Her website is here.
Do blog readers have any organizing tips of their own to share? Post your tips and my favorite one will win organizing book Reclaim Your Life and Get Organized for Good...by Vicki Norris. Make sure you leave your email address in the blog post (or email it to me at blog@friscokids.net along with your tip - but you must also post the tip).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Coming Up: Girls Night Out: Laurel Street Arts

Looking for some adult craft ideas after all those kiddie Easter bunnies and Passover plates of late?

Grab the gals and head to Laurel Street Arts in San Carlos on April 17th. Their Diva Night costs $15 a person ($10 by paying a day in advance), plus the cost of crafts. They'll supply the munchies - you bring the drinks.

Diva Night runs from 8:00 p.m. til midnight, and you can paint pottery, fuse glass, make a mosaic or craft silver jewelry.

Make reservations in advance, since you'll not only save money but guarantee the event will happen (they need six reservations or they'll cancel).

Laurel Street Arts is at 733 Laurel Street, San Carlos. Call them at 650-591-1005.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Enter the Chipper Earth Day Contest - through Sunday


It's not too late to enter the Chipper Earth Day Contest and win some cool DVDs, CDs, books and sun block! Just head over to the official entry page, and let Frisco Kids know what you're doing for Earth Day!

Coming Up: The Tech is Free on Sunday


It's ScholarShare Sunday at the Tech this weekend. Visit the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose at no charge this Sunday, April 12 (the second Sunday of each month).


See you there!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring Break Ideas for the Bay Area this April


I ran a post last month about Spring Break ideas for the San Francisco area, and it was quite popular. Given that so many are out next week, I thought I'd point you to it again.


What do you plan to do for spring break?

Giant Easter Egg Hunt Saturday in Redwood City - Free

This Saturday, April 11th, help your kids hunt for 25,000 Easter eggs (plastic, with non-meltable candy inside) at Red Morton Park in Redwood City. The city, along with several churches, planned this third annual free Easter event. They welcome kids 0-12, and separate the egg hunt into different age groups.

The event starts at 12:30. The egg hunt starts at 1:30. And Andy Z performs from 2:00-2:40. Enjoy free refreshments as well! See's Candy is one of the sponsors, making me wonder if there will be some See's treats as well...

For more information, click here http://www.hunt-rwc.org/

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Coming Up: SF Union Street Easter Parade - and check out new store Sprout

This Sunday is San Francisco's 18th annual Spring Celebration and Easter Parade on Union Street. Running from Gough to Fillmore (on Union Street), you'll find kids' activities like bounce houses, a climbing wall, arts/crafts, a petting zoo, pony rides, and musicians. There's also a wacky Easter parade (which starts at 2:00).

While you're there, stop by the new baby boutique Sprout, a store featuring natural & organic products on Union Street.

In addition to offering nursery items and clothing, non-toxic toys etc., Sprout aims to be a family resource center, and their schedule already includes classes like pre- and post-natal yoga. mom/baby playdates and more.

Sprout is at 1828 Union Street, San Francisco. Open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (leaving you plenty of time for brunch at the many fine eating establishments nearby).

Spa Week: $50 spa treatments

Find a sitter and take advantage of Spa Week's $50 treatments. Spa Week runs April 13-19th and has a number of Bay Area spas participating. You need to register on the site to find out which spas are participating (I thought it was confusing, but that's me).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Happy Passover


To my Jewish readers, I'd like to wish you a happy and meaningful Passover, which begins this evening.

Tahoe Ski Resort Close Dates - Updated!

I posted recently about Tahoe ski closing dates. Elizabeth from Tahoe Kids Guide let me know that Heavenly just extended its season into May.

Here's the latest in ski closing dates for Tahoe:
Diamond Peak closes April 12
Homewood closes April 12
Northstar-at-Tahoe closes April 19
Alpine Meadows closes April 19
Heavenly closes sometime in May
Squaw Valley closes May 10

For the latest in ski closings, plus deals in Tahoe, check with Tahoe Kids Guide.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Contest: Win Earth Day Kids CD, DVD, books and more!


Don't forget to enter the Chipper contest - deadline extended until Sunday! We're giving away some great earth-friendly kid stuff (CD, DVD, books, sun block). Perfect for Earth Day.
Contest now ends Sunday, April 12th. For all the rules, click here.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Review: LAVO Restaurant in Las Vegas

As you might remember from my recent review of the Venetian, I was lucky enough to get away for a girls’ weekend to Vegas this year. The trip was only 48 hours, but we managed to eat our way through several fabulous restaurants, see two shows and walk the strip.

In case you’re going to Vegas (without kids), here’s a restaurant to consider.

What: LAVO at the Palazzo Hotel. It just opened late last year, and is a sister restaurant to the wildly popular Tao.

Food/Chef: Mediterranean (mostly Greek and Italian) – chef Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre who came to LAVO from Los Angeles, where he won Mobil Travel Guide Five Star awards at both L’Orangerie and Bastide.



Interior: A beautiful design, going with the bath house theme (Lavo means ‘to bathe or cleanse’ in Latin). Decorated with Moroccan tables, a curved bar and some stunning chandeliers.

Seating: 180 in the main dining area, 100 on the hookah patio (a first for Vegas) and 20 in a private dining room.
View: I was hoping for some celebrity sightings because I keep reading in People Mag about all the celebs who eat here. Through the windows, we could see blasts of fire through at the Sirens of TI (Treasure Island) show across the street. In spite of the website picture, we couldn’t see any of the scantily clad sirens, though the LAVO hostess’ dress barely covered her tush.
Atmosphere: with the DJ spinning records and the acoustics, it was loud inside and difficult to have an intimate conversation.
Hits: The steak with fois gras and mushroom duxelle (a truffle wine reduction) was divine. I say this as someone who eats very little red meat and feels bad for the geese. The meat melted in my mouth and even one of my companions (a vegetarian) couldn’t help herself from picking at the sauce and mushrooms. My companions loved the sea bass marinated in a soy/miso glaze, served with sliced fennel and fried lemons. The plate was licked clean.

The desserts were also fabulous, especially the poached pear, served with honeycomb, panna cotta topped with arugula and olive oil. Yes, that’s one dessert. The other was the chocolate LAVO obsession, a chocolate cake with molten middle, with a vanilla (and lavender or citrus?) gelato and raspberry sauce. It also had a blob of pistachio sauce which looked like…puke. Admittedly it tasted fine, but I was the only one who would try it. Last, don’t skip the coffees. Our hands-down favorite was a shot-glass size Turkish coffee flavored with condensed milk and cardamom syrup. Yummy.
Misses: The cocktails were not spectacular. The white wine sangria was fine, as was the pink pomegranate lemonade. One companion had the house specialty drink in a martini glass – she liked it. The sweet potato fries were greasy, and not in a good way.

Décor: you can’t talk about a Vegas restaurant without mentioning the décor. It’s a beautiful restaurant with a bathhouse theme. I was dying to see the nightclub upstairs, but it hadn’t yet opened for the night. They wouldn’t let me in for a peek (even me! the journalist holding a press card!) to check it out while empty. Sigh. I had been entranced by pictures of the hall leading from the staircase to the nightclub, a glass and wood bridge flanked by basins pouring out water.
Cost: Our meal for three, including three cocktails, three appetizers, two entrees, three coffees and two desserts: around $220.

Bathroom: I can’t finish without mentioning the bathroom. Bathroom attendants are a pet peeve of mine, because it makes me feel self-conscious. Plus I don’t want to tip someone for handing me a towel. That said, many clubs do have bathroom attendants (at least that’s what I remember from my pre-kids clubbing days). The best part of the bathroom are the stone vessel sinks, that go from waist level almost down to the floor. The water pours out from the ceiling, activated by your foot pump. I felt like an idiot because I couldn’t figure out how it worked and the attendant had to show me. She then pumped soap into my hands, making me feel like a three year old. We definitely needed the towels, because the water poured down from 8 or so feet up, into the basin, splashing on my clothes as well as the mirror behind the sink. I’m sure the attendant is very busy wiping things up in there. I guess she would have earned her tip but we only had a $20 bill.
Bathroom Verdict: beautiful, unique bathroom design, but not functional.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Coming Up: Annie's Annuals Spring Party in Richmond


Here's a tip from Kate, the massage therapist I went to today at California Sports & Family Chiropractic today.


Annie's Annuals has its (annual) spring party this Saturday and Sunday, April 4 & 5, from 10 a.m. to 5:00. Free food, music, Easter egg hunt, face painting, balloon animals, other kid crafts and more. For the adults, there are free houry raffles and some wacky contests where you can win shopping sprees and other goodies.

Kate says it's a lot of fun, and people come in costume (costume contest winner gets $100 gift certificate). Here's the schedule.


Annie's Annuals is at 740 Market Avenue in Richmond. Find directions on their website.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Review: UV Skinz


My husband and kids know me as a sunblock czar. Getting a sunburn is a big no-no in our family. In spite of growing up in Arizona, I don’t tan, I burn (same with the kids). And several family members have already gotten skin cancer (fortunately nothing deadly) – I know I’m next.

So when planning our recent trip to Mexico, Mark finally mentioned that he needed to find a swim shirt – you know those shiny tight shirts that protect you from the sun? My kids have them. I have them. In the past, Mark’s refused even to put on sunblock (don’t get me started). BUT he wanted a shirt, so I was excited. And Dori’s was getting a little threadbare from too much use.

So they each got UV Skinz shirts. The brand was started by a mom of three kids, Rhonda Sparks whose husband died of…skin cancer. Actually melanoma. The Mercury News recently reported that the incidence of melanoma rose 5% annually among white folks during the study which ran from 1992-2004 (90% of melanoma sufferers are caucasian). And 65-90% of melanomas are caused by UV exposure via sunlight.

UV Skinz is a Bay Area company, and in fact Rhonda grew up in the town where I now live (but she doesn’t know Jeff my gym instructor, who grew up here too…I guess it’s not that small a world).
Marcia Cross, one of my favorite Desperate Housewives (who is even paler than me) bought the UV Skinz shirts for her twins, so hey – they’re good enough for me.

We went to Mexico (it was fabulous, thanks for asking. We went to Loreto on the Baja peninsula). And no, we didn't buy a timeshare.

I'm happy to say we did not get sunburned (or even get freckles) under our SPF 50 UV Skinz shirts. Woo hoo! We did, however, get several sunburns elsewhere (apparently you have to reapply that 50 SPF sunblock during the day, especially in the strong Mexico sun). Plus I didn’t wear my hat enough, so I now have major peeling which looks like dandruff. Gross!
We were told the shirts run true to size, but we got one size larger than Mark usually gets, and it fits him perfectly. Maybe it’s all those fish tacos and margaritas he consumed…

UV Skinz has lots of fun designs, and also has matching shorts and hats. Shirts start at $29 and go up depending on size and pattern.




Thursday, April 2, 2009

Coming Up: Aquarium of the Bay's Grand Opening of 3 New Exhibits

Our local wharf aquarium, Aquarium of the Bay, is opening three new permanent exhibits this weekend. Join them for the celebration! What's new? A Jellies exhibit, Giant Pacific Octopus exhibit and PG&E Bay Lab (an interactive climate change exhibit featuring land animals for the first time in the Aquarium’s history). While the Jellies and Octopi are two visitor favorites, the PG&E Bay Lab will introduce animals ranging from Blue Tongued Skinks to Pink Toed Tarantulas.

As for the Jellies exhibit, you can look forward to a 725-gallon cylinder tank full of moon jellies and a 740-gallon tank showcasing the graceful and beautiful brown sea nettles.

For the Giant Pacific Octopus exhibit, get cameras ready for an observation bubble where kids can pop up inside the tank.

For the grand opening, don't miss the live musical performances by the Banana Slug String Band in the Aquarium’s Farallon Room, at 11:30am and 1:30pm. Also, the interpretive naturalists will lead fun activities for the kids.

What: Grand opening of three new exhibits at Aquarium of the Bay

Where: Aquarium of the Bay (Embarcadero & Beach St., San Francisco)

When: Saturday, April 4, 2009, 10am – 8pm

Info: (415) 623-5300 or info@aquariumofthebay.org

Cost: Adults: $15.95, Children (3-11) $8 & Seniors (65+): $8

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tahoe Ski Resort Close Dates

With spring break coming up for many, just a newsflash that the season will be closing soon for many resorts. But head up there soon, since the snow is still good! Elizabeth Sedway of Tahoe Kids Guide reports these closing dates:

Diamond Peak closes April 12
Homewood closes April 12
Northstar-at-Tahoe closes April 19
Alpine Meadows closes April 19
Heavenly closes April 19
Squaw Valley closes May 10

Check Tahoe Kids Guide for deals like kids ski for $10 at Squaw Valley, and midweek adult tickets are only $39 for adults at Homewood.