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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Coming Up: Free Museum Admission this Weekend

Okay, the blog title was slightly misleading, but if you're a Bank of America customer, YOU can gain entry for free to many SF and San Jose museums this holiday weekend. On the first full weekend of every month, B of A offers its cardholders free entry into select museums.

This Saturday and Sunday, January 2-3 is it! Where to go?

San Francisco
the Museum of the African Diaspora
deYoung Museum
Contemporary Jewish Museum
Legion of Honor

San Jose
San Jose Musem of Art
the Tech Museum of Innovation

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Review: Scottevest Pack Windbreaker

Now that the presents are open, it’s time to figure out how to carry those new gadgets! Return the loser gifts and get what you really wanted.

I’m not a huge techie, but I do appreciate something that lets me hold my cell phone and iPod, along with other important mommy supplies (like keys, water, glasses, tissues, candy, Chapstick and anything else I carry with me when I don’t bring my purse).

Scottevest sent me a Pack Windbreaker to review. It’s part of their Technology Enabled Clothing (TEC) line (more on that later). Like other windbreakers, this one has a hood that rolls up under the back collar, and it folds up into a little self-contained pouch that you can clip onto your backpack or rope into your belt. My backpacking days are over (okay I only had one backpacking trip ever), but I still take day hikes when the kids don’t complain too much.

What makes the jacket unique is that it has a LOT of pockets. 17 to be exact (though I haven't found them all yet). See a funky x-ray view here. It even has two little Velcro pen-holders. I feel a bit like 007 wearing this – each specialized pocket has some distinct purpose. One pocket has a stretchy thing with a roach clip on one end. It’s clamped to a glasses cleaning cloth. That’s in the glasses pocket.

Fortunately, each pocket held a little card describing what it’s for. I feel a bit like an idiot actually needing instructions for a windbreaker, but so be it. On most of the interior pockets, there’s a little tag sewn in showing the function, like a pair of glasses, an MP3 player, or a cell phone.

On the inside of the right and left sides are see-through plastic windows for the MP3 player and cell phone respectively. The jacket has a wire-management system so you can have your iPod wires nestled into the jacket so they don’t get tripped up while you’re wearing it. The website has wiring instructions, which is good because I’m not sure I would figure it out on my own. Like I said, I’m not a techie.

The pockets where your hands go are deep. And one even has an elastic strap to keep your water bottle upright. Which is good because some of mine leak.

Scottevest claims the pockets are “no bulge” however when I put a water bottle in mine, it understandably did not sit flat on me. And the phone/MP3 player basically sits over my female chest anatomy. So an uneven bulge there too. If a flat-chested man wore it, I suppose those chest pockets would look pretty flat.

And considering the jacket is only offered in men's sizes, that's probably why. The jacket sells for $75 on their website.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Review: Your Kids are Your Own Fault

I don’t review a lot of books, because frankly – if I have time to read, I want it to be something on my current reading list. But the title of this book, Your Kids are Your Own Fault – A Guide for Raising Responsible, Productive Adults, got to me. It’s snarky and I like that.

The book was sent to me by the publisher – if I saw it in the bookstore – I’m not sure I would buy it. Why? I love the title. But the author’s picture is on the front. And you if you judge a book by its cover, I’d have to say he doesn’t look like the kind of guy I’d take parenting advice from. The stern-looking author, Larry Winget, is wearing a fancy cowboy shirt. He’s bald with small hoop earrings, and has facial hair on his chin and jaw only.

The author has built a publishing empire writing books encouraging his readers to take responsibility for themselves. He wrote You’re Broke Because You Want to Be. He wrote Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life. And tellingly – No Time for Tact.

Even his testimonials come from people I don’t think I’d trust. Here’s one: “He’s overwrought with righteous awesomeness.” Huh? And another. “You freaking rock, Larry!!!”

So you’ve been warned.

That said, Winget’s message is a good one. Your kids aren’t going to raise themselves to be good adults without you stepping in and guiding them. Not being their friend, but teaching them responsibility.

He includes some worksheets so you can spend some time detailing what you want to pass on to your kids – the values, what you want to teach your child, information your child needs to become the type of adult you hope them to be. Whether or not you do the worksheets, it gives you pause to consider your parenting philosophy.

One area Winget covers is self-esteem, and I like his approach. Your child gains self-esteem from doing and accomplishing, not from being told by you that he or she is fabulous.

Which brings me to one other approach the author takes. Your child is not special. To you, yes – your child is the greatest thing on earth and should know that at home. But if you let your child think he’s special outside the home, the kid will expect to be treated that way by others, and feel entitled to success and everything else good in life. That needs to be earned.

The book spouts a no-nonsense approach I like. But perhaps he’s preaching to the choir with me. He reminds me of some of my friends' blue-collar right-wing husbands. Guys who hunt and fish and watch Fox news religiously. We won't sit down and sip lattes together, but I can appreciate that they're good husbands and fathers.
I think the beauty of a book like this being written by a non-child rearing expert is that it will reach a different audience. An audience who maybe doesn’t read parenting books or magazines and will say as one of his fans said “Like a bucket of cold water, I needed that.”

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coming Up: Make a party hat for New Year's Eve - free!

Looking for something to do the day AFTER Christmas? You know, because hitting the malls is so much fun that day. Head over to Michael's Arts & Crafts. I'm sure you can score some half priced holiday decorations, but the real reason to go is:

Free Demo: Party Hats & Treat Cones!

From 1-3 p.m., you'll learn how to take a simple hat and make it a wearable celebration. PLUS, you'll see demonstrations on making great treat holders for your New Year's Eve party.

Now doesn't that sound like fun?

Find a Michael's location here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Three Great Cake Shops in San Francisco

A good dessert and a cup of coffee is the perfect ending to any day. Or the perfect breakfast. Or even the perfect afternoon tea — minus the actual tea. Luckily San Francisco’s patisseries don’t disappoint at any hour, so when your sweet tooth starts tingling, head to one of these shops. These are only three - I'd love to do more posts on this in the future - so send along your favorites via the comment section!

Citizen Cake: The goods are as good as the name at this Hayes Valley bakery. Signature cakes include Mocha Mi Su, with cocoa genoise cake and dripping with buttercream, mousse, and ganache. Or try the more bite-size cupcakes like Joe Cool Chocolate Mint, or Persian Love, with rose buttercream filling, saffron punch and rose confectioner’s glaze.
My ex-boyfriend always insisted that the meal came before dessert – which is why we broke up. But if you want some food before the sugar, Citizen Cake obliges with a full-service restaurant. Find it at 399 Grove Street.

Miette Cakes: With three San Francisco locations, you’re never too far from a cake with your name on it. Not literally, of course: The cakes at Miette are too pretty to clutter up with anything other than their candy rose decorations. We indulged in one when my in-laws were visiting, taking home a Scharffen Berger masterpiece from the Ferry Plaza location. Stop by Miette at the Ferry Plaza, Marina or Hayes Valley Locations.

Kara’s Cupcakes: Kara has quite the reputation in San Francisco for fresh, tasty cupcakes. When you visit the shop in Ghirardelli Square, you might ask yourself whether you should indulge in a cupcake, or in a hot fudge sundae across the way at the Ghirardelli chocolate and ice cream shop. The answer is that life is short. You should do both. As for cupcakes, try a sweet vanilla, with Madagascar bourbon vanilla frosting, or a seasonal pumpkin spice number. And in spite of the “cupcake” in the store name, Kara makes six-inch cakes too. In addition to Ghirardelli Square, look for Kara's in the Marina, Palo Alto's Town & Country Village, San Jose's Santana Row and Napa's Oxbow Market.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What to do on Christmas in the Bay Area

I posted recently on things to do on Christmas in the Bay Area. My friends at Bay Area on the Cheap posted an excellent list of additional ideas. Check them out!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

San Francisco New Year's Eve wiith Kids - 2009

Ring in the new year...with your kids.

Here are some family-friendly options for celebrating the 2009-2010 new year in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Bay Area Discovery Museum - Sausalito

What: Noon Year's Eve
When: December 31 from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. (Museum closes at 2 p.m.)
Details: First annual count down to New Year's. Celebrate the clock striking 12 noon and create your own noisemakers and party hats as the ball drops.
RSVP: Drop-in.

Asian Art Museum - San Francisco
What: Strike a Japanese temple bell to ring in the new year
When: December 31st. 9:30-11 a.m. bell ringing for museum members. 11 a.m. bell ringing for everyone. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. art activites while you wait your turn to ring the bell.
Details: Good explanation of Japanese bell ringing tradition here.
RSVP: none. Children 12 and under get in free. Get your numbered tickets at the front desk.

Hiller Aviation Museum - San Carlos
What: Noon Year's Eve Celebration
When: December 31st, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Details: Face painting, Tree Frog Treks petting zoo, games, bounce house, climbing wall, flight simulation game, live entertainment, balloon drop
RSVP: none. Event free with admission.

Children's Discovery Museum - San Jose

What: Balloon Drop

When: December 31, noon, 1:00, 2:00. Museum closes at 4 p.m. that day.

Details: create a noisemaker, a party hat and "countdown to noon across the time zones"

RSVP: none.

Oakland Zoolights

What: Zoolights

When: through January 3rd, 2010, 5:30-9 p.m.

Details: This isn't a special New Year's Eve program, but if you're looking to do something fun that night, check out the Zoolights.

RSVP: none

Embarcadero Fireworks

I found several mentions of this midnight fireworks display online, but couldn't find an official looking website to point you to. The fireworks happened in the past, near the Ferry Plaza. Here are two links, for a kayak tour plus a nightclub event with up-close viewing. Neither of these are appropriate for young kids, but if fireworks were a must-see, you could head to hte Embarcadero and just watch outdoors.

I'm sure there's more happening - please comment with more ideas!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Get 'Yer Tickets - Smuckers Stars on Ice - with discount coupon code

I’m no stranger to Stars on Ice. I went years ago (probably 17 years ago) at the Cow Palace, and again in Wisconsin. The latter I managed to snag free tickets, thanks to my friend who worked for the corporate sponsor . She even gave me a black commemorative fleece covered with the logo in the back. I can’t take the logo off, because that IS the back. So I only wear it camping. So no one throws tomatoes at me. It's warm, but a little embarassing, if you know what I mean. Not that I'm known for my fashion sense, but...

That said, if you love ice skating and you love campy shows, this one is for you. It’s a production, and you can’t expect Olympic level skating, even though there are Olympicans in the show. Hey – they don’t want to injure themselves.

So who is in it? 2009 Men’s World Champion Evan Lysacek, 2006 Olympic Silver Medalists Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto, 2006 Olympic Silver Medalist Sasha Cohen, World Champion and 6-Time National Champion Todd Eldredge, 2-Time World Bronze Medalist and 3-Time National Champion Michael Weiss. Plus some skaters who will have just finished competing at the 2010 Olympics.

Discount! Get kids' tickets for 50% off, using the Stars on Ice Discount. Order an adult full-priced tickets, and kids 12 and under get 50% off (of tickets $55 or less). Only 2 kids' tickets per adult ticket. This coupon code is thanks to Bay Area on the Cheap.

When: May 23, 2010 at 4:00 pm.
Where: HP Pavillion, San Jose
Cost: $25-$140

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coming Up: Jingle Jolly on the Trolly

Okay, so the name is a mouthful: Jingle Jolly on the Trolly. And it sounds a little illicit, but it's kid-friendly - I promise!

The Market Street Railway (the nonprofit preservation partner of SF Muni), is rolling out the red-and-green welcome mat for families in its first annual “Jingle Jolly on the Trolley” event. You can ride on one of two specially decorated streetcars, including No. 952, the original 1924 New Orleans car featured in “Streetcar Named Desire.” You'll go (nonstop) from the museum to Pier 39 and back, with seasonal music playing.

Santa will be there, and you'll get a "special momento" too.

When: Saturday, December 19th, from 1-4 p.m.
Where: San Francisco Railway Museum (77 Steuart Street across from the Ferry Building)
Cost: $5/person

Three San Franciso Museums with Family Programming

As a parent with young kids, the days of leisurely, intellectual museum visits are over. But some museums ARE doing a fair amount to attract families. Get the parents in the door AND teach the kiddies something about art.

Contemporary Jewish Museum: The CJM has several ways to get the kids thinking about (and creating) art at this museum south of Market. Every Sunday, the museum offers drop-in art making, with topics relating to current museum exhibits, traditions, architecture, and holidays. The second Sunday of the month, the CJM opens early for preschoolers and their families, with interactive, kid-friendly ways to explore the museum.

If you show up with the kiddos any other day, just ask for a free Family Art Pack, with age-appropriate activities to engage the kids in the exhibits. Entry for kids at the CJM is always free, and you don’t need to be Jewish to participate or enjoy the museum.

As mentioned previously, the CJM is open on December 25th for free (thanks Target!) - with family activities. 151 Third Street.

de Young Museum: This Golden Gate Park masterpiece reopened a few years ago, housed in a modern and architecturally interesting structure — but the kids probably won’t care much about that. Instead, they’ll go for the kid-friendly tour and studio workshops, where they’ll create their own art. These programs, aimed at kids ages 4-12, run each Saturday, with morning or afternoon sessions.

Or register for a free, weekday after-school program for elementary/middle schoolage kids. Those classes meet twice. Programs are free after paid admission. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive.

SFMOMA: Kids may tour museums via school field trips, but that’s no fun for the parents left behind. Twice monthly family programs at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) lets Mom and Dad — and even the grandparents — tag along. Family Sundays include free admission for kids under age 12, and they’ll be treated to a family tour, hands-on art projects, book readings, and movie screenings. Each month sports a different theme. 151 Third Street.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Coming Up: Family Sundays at SFMOMA

It's been awhile since I posted about these free Sunday family tours and hands-on activities at SFMOMA. Kids 12 and under get in free (adults don't). Family tour (aimed at ages 4-11) starts at 1:00, with special programs starting at 2:00. Generally, the day (which runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) includes the tour, hands-on art creation and other programming like movies, book readings and more. You need to RSVP since space is limited.

Here's what's coming up:

December 20 - Winter Whites - One Color Works
According to SFMOMA: "What does an all-white artwork look like? This month, families will create their own all-white works inspired by pieces in SFMOMA's collection. Step into Anna's world as she visits an art museum and discovers works by Salvador DalĂ­, Pablo Picasso, and Jackson Pollock in a reading of Anna's Art Adventure, by Bjorn Sortland and illustrated by Lars Elling."

January 3 - Taking it to the Street
Travel through time to investigate the sites and styles of an evolving San Francisco landscape. Think architecture, street photography, Robert Bechtle, and Eadweard Muybridge.

February 7 & 21 - License to Steal
According to SFMOMA: "Clever artists—Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, and Sherrie Levine spring to mind—purposely seek out treasures that are there for the taking (in) and reinvent these works as their very own."

March 7 & 21 - Might as well JUMP
According to SFMOMA: "Art is active! Dance through space and time. Groove to the beat. Be the star of your own kinetic art show as you investigate the media of visual freestylers like Pipilotti Rist, Christian Marclay, and Bruce Nauman"

April 4 & 18 - Less is Best
According to SFMOMA: "Appreciate the choice of a small gesture, the art of taking away. Minimalism aptly demonstrates that less can be more. The short list? Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, and Robert Ryman."

May 2 - The Joy of Junk
According to SFMOMA: "Any artist knows that someone's junk is another's treasure. Collect all you can. Spiff it up. Anything can be art, according to junk connoisseur Robert Rauschenberg."

June 6 & 20 - Focus on BLUR
According to SFMOMA: "What is it? It's playing with focus and light. It's using photography tricks to alter perception. It's the artist's visual truth. That's what. Picture Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and Sigmar Polke, for a start."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Coming Up: Free holiday movie nights in San Francisco

Coming up! Free Holiday Movie Nights this Thursday and Friday at Serramonte.

When: December 17 & 18 at 5:30 pm
Where: the former Mervyn's Store (near the Target in Serramonte)

Thursday, December 17 - Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Friday, December 18 - The Polar Express

Thanks to Diane at San Francisco CityMommy for the tip!

Monday, December 14, 2009

One (Baker's) Dozen Things to do in the San Francisco area over the holiday break

Now that the holidays are near, and kids are getting out school for break, you’re probably thinking: “what am I going to do with the kids during the holiday break?” Well, Frisco Kids to the rescue! Here's my baker's dozen of ideas.

1. Visit the Golden Gate Express Train Exhibit at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.

2. Check out the SF Library’s Holiday Train Exhibit – it’s free!

3. Waste some gas looking at holiday lights. Here’s a good one in Novato, from Frog Mom in California.
4. Go to the Oakland Zoo for Zoolights, through January 3rd. Using LED-lights (those are the efficient ones, by the way), you’ll see animals, candy canes and Santa Clause, shaped by lights. There’s a train ride (Snowball Express), Santa’s workshop, and light show in the meadow. Get half-priced tickets here, while they last. http

5. Make some gingerbread houses at Habitot in Berkeley.

6. Gilroy Gardens has nightly weekend light shows, ice skating and rides.

7. Make some crafts! A sock-snowman, an edible snowman , rock candy or chocolate dipped pretzels

8. Visit a museum you’ve never been to – look at my museum list on the right side and pick one! Favorites include Zeum, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Lawrence Hall of Science, the Tech Museum of Innovation, the California Academy of Sciences , the SF Museum of Modern Art & the Randall Museum.

9. Go ice skating. Here are several options for ice skating in the Bay Area:

10. Kiddie Amusement parks! Try Children’s Fairyland in Oakland or , Pixieland in Concord

11. These Bay Area birthday party locations often have open hours – especially bounce house places like Bounce U and Pump it Up.

12. Go swimming – indoors at Silliman Aquatic Center. Their indoor play structure, slides and Jacuzzi are just thing for cold days. Pool reopens 12/18 after cleaning. Check out this discount coupon for a family-four pack at Silliman. Swim for $20!

13. See some classic holiday films at the San Jose Retrodome (It's a Wonderful Life, an Americal Tail, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, Scrooged and more). Or check out the live mad-cap family-friendly theater production, Santastic.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

O - The Oprah Magazine - $5 this week only

If I didn't already have a 4 year subscription to Oprah (which cost much more than this deal), I'd jump on it.

O - the Oprah Magazine - for $5 until December 19th at Amazon. You can order it as a gift or for yourself.

Magazine ships free - so no shipping issues, and the purchase helps you qualify for free super saver shipping on other items.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Coming Up: Free Shipping Day

If you haven't bought everything on your holiday list yet, you still have time - with free shipping on Free Shipping Day.

Already, 450 retailers are signed on for December 17th, the last day gifts are guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas Eve.

So far, these retailers are on board: Toys R Us, Babies R Us, FAO Schwartz, eToys, Baby Universe, Avon,, Borders, Footwear Etc., Kmart, Leapfrog, Land of Nod, Macy's, Nordstrom, Petsmart, Ritz Cameras, Sears, Dell, Discover Store, Disney Store, Ebags, Apple Store, American Eagle, and more.

For a list of participating retailers, click here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Great Holiday Gift - Charity Gift Cards

Not sure what to get that special someone? The crossing guard? The neighbor?

How about the gift of charity. The Good Card and TisBest Charity Gift Cards are like regular gift cards, only the recipient can choose the charity to donate to.

The Good Card lets your recipient choose from 1.8 million charities.
TisBest lets you choose from 250 charities and organizations.

You purchase the gift card (depending on gift card organization, it can be delivered via email, your computer or via plastic card). The recipient chooses where the money will go - on his/her own time.

There are small fees associated with each (read the fine print), but they look reasonable to me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Movies at the Retrodome plus SANTASTIC - live theater

The Retrodome, a cool movie and live theater in San Jose, has a holiday film line-up that looks awesome! And they have free parking. (Plus the live show Santastic - noted at the bottom).

Here's the schedulw:

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and Chanukah Candle Lightings
December 11-13
Fri: 7 pm, Sat: 7 pm, Sun: 7 pm

December 12-13
Sat: 1 pm, Sun: 1 pm

December 18-22
Fri: 7pm
Sun: 1 pm & 4 pm, Tues: 8 pm

December 19-23
Sat: 1 pm & 7 pm, Wed: 8 pm

December 22-27
Tues: 3 pm, Wed: 3 pm, Sat: 1 pm, Sun: 1 pm

December 25-27
Fri: 4 pm & 7 pm, Sat: 7 pm, Sun: 4 pm

Preorder tickets and save $1. Online tickets are $6 (kids), and $9 (adults). Their concession stand is not the usual popcorn and candy. They have seasonal treats and PB&J sandwiches. Unfortunately, the website, even with its cool graphics, is a little clunky. So click around.

They also have a live action show - Santastic. See a review at Travel Savvy Mom.

According to the Retrodome, it's got "mad-cap merriment, audience participation, and non-stop energy of the powerhouse six-member ensemble."

Good seats still available - show runs through 12/27.
Tickets are $24-36 - get them here (the link won't take you to the ticket page, but to the main website - see I told you it was clunky).

Free Second Sunday at the Tech Museum in San Jose

Cool museum for free! Visit the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose the second Sunday of each month, for free!

This Sunday, December 13th is the date.

Music For Families - coupon code

We're a big fan of the San Francisco Symphony's Music for Families series. So we were very excited to see a coupon code for $20 off an adult ticket, on Bay Area on the Cheap's website.

This ticket code is good for the December 19th show in Cupertino, where they'll play Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Hoedown, Rossini’s William Tell Overture, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, and Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite.

See Bay Area on the Cheap for more info. We've taken our kids to the concerts, and with the bribe of treats during "halftime" you can usually get even the wiggliest 5 year old to sit still during the concert.

Coming Up: Free holiday movie nights in San Francisco

Coming up! Free Holiday Movie Nights the next two Thursdays and Fridays at Serramonte.

When: December 10, 11, 17 & 18 at 5:30 pm

Where: the former Mervyn's Store (near the Target in Serramonte)


Thursday, December 10 - A Christmas Story

Friday, December 11 - Elf

Thursday, December 17 - Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Friday, December 18 - The Polar Express

Thanks to Diane at San Francisco CityMommy for the tip!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Things to do on Christmas in the Bay Area

For a subset of the general population, Christmas is not all "family, church, ham, gifts and Santa" day.

If you're looking for something to do in the San Francisco Bay Area on Christmas, here are two options:

Breakfast with the Characters

No, it's not Disneyland, but get your tickets now before they sell out. The Peninsula Jewish Community Center is hosting this breakfast, with Elmo, Mickey, Minnie,Bob Bob the Builder and Santa (just kidding about that last one). Included are crafts and carnival games, plus food!

Where: PJCC in Foster City
When: December 25 from 9:30-11:30
Cost: $15-20/person

Contemporary Jewish Museum - Target Family Day

We went last year to this Deceber 25 free museum day. We saw lots of friends, did some crafts, shopped at the store, and checked out the exhibits. Plus caught a few children's entertainers doing their thing. Oh - Dori lost her retainer there (outside), so if you see it - let us know. The CJM has several exhibits running now, including one on Maurice Sendak, Jews on Vinyl and As it is Written: 304, 805.

Where: Contemporary Jewish Museum, Mission between 3rd & 4th in SF
When: December 25, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free

Crafts: Edible snowmen

Last year one of the mom's in Zack's class did this craft with her kids, and then passed out the results as holiday gifts. So cute!

You need: marshmallows, stick pretzels, sticks (popsicle or lollypop sticks - you can get those at Michael's Arts & Crafts), markers using edible ink (you can buy those at the grocery store in the baking section), and Fruit by the Foot.

Put two marshmallows on the stick. Poke the pretzels into the bottom marshmallow as arms. Tie a "scarf" of Fruit by the Foot between the two marshmallows. Draw on buttons and a face. Use a tiny bit of rolled up Fruit by the Foot for the nose.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Greg Mortenson - Three Cups of Tea Author in Bay Area

You've probably seen the book Three Cups of Tea at the bookstore. It's on my reading list. More importantly I've been a financial supporter of his Central Asia Institute, which builds schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, mostly for girls. He figures if you educate girls, you educate whole community.

Mortenson is doing a book tour for his new tome, Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Come by, hear him speak, and get your book signed here:

Friday, December 11 at 7 p.m.
Where: Smithwick Theater/Foothill College (2345 El Monte Road, Los Altos)
Cost: Tickets are $30 and include a copy of the book. You can get one $15 companion ticket when you purchase the regular ticket.
Tickets, call 650-324-4321 or come by their store (1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park)
Saturday, December 12 at noon
Where: Costco Danville (3150 Fostoria Way)
Cost: Booksigning only
Saturday, December 12 at 7 p.m.
Where: Santa Rosa High School (1235 Mendocino Avenue)
Cost: $20, or $10 with book purchase
Tickets: available at book store,
Free teacher/student event from 5-6:00 at different location. Check links above for more info.
Sunday, December 13 at 2 p.m.
Borders Books & Music (call for details at 916-564-0168)
Where: Tsakopoulos Library Galleria (828 I Street, Sacramento)
No further info known at this time. Call above number for details.

Coming Up: Gingerbread activities at Habitot - some are free

Habitot in Berkeley has lots of gingerbread activities coming up.

Make your own gingerbread house, with icing, candy and other sweets.

When: Daily - December 11-17 at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Register: Call Liz at (510) 647-1111 x 17.
Cost: $22 for members and $29 for non-members (price includes admission for one child and one adult).

Decorate a giant gingerbread house at Habitot Children’s Museum in Berkeley! Using tons of candies, cookies and sprinkles, kids can go wild. (The completed house will be donated later to an organization serving battered women and children in the Bay Area).

After decorating, play in the Wind Tunnel as candy “sprinkles” fly in a magical storm of sweets. And then head to the Art Studio, building giant candies.

When: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 from From 9:30 – 12.30
Who: Preschool age kids
Where: Habitot - 2065 Kittredge Street in Berkeley
Cost: Free (thanks to Wells Fargo)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Gifts for Soldiers and Kids

Thought I'd post two places you and your kids could donate this holiday season. These are great ways to involve your kids in the holiday spirit and it's not a financial burden.

Operation Gratitude
Send personal letters or care packages to soldiers serving abroad. In the care packages, you can include things like Halloween candy, small stuffed animals (for the soldiers to give to kids in the countries they're serving), scarves (they're looking for 60,000 of them), cookies (also good to give out to local kids).

Items and letters are sent to a California, so shipping is not expensive.

Send new or used DVDs to troops oversees. The organization is collecting them through December 15th. You can send donations for shipping as well - $5 sends a box of 35 DVDs.

Winter holiday crafts - snowmen

Dori made this cute holiday craft snowman last year.

You need a men's tube sock, pom-poms for the eyes, buttons, some fabric for the scarf, something for the carrot nose, a glue gun, rubber bands and some beans.

Fill the tube sock with beans. Cinch it three places - making a bottom snowball, a mid-section snowball, and the head. At the top of the head, turn the sock opening down to make a hat.

Use a glue gun to put on the pom pom eyes, carrot nose and buttons on the body. Cut the fabric for the scarf and tie it on.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bay Area Hanukkah Happenings

The festival of lights is coming! Here's what you can do to celebrate with the whole community.

At the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco (JCCSF):

Daily candle lighting in the atrium
December 11-18 at 4:30 p.m.
It's free!

Hanukkah Fun Day

Work as a family through a series of games and challenges to discover the secrets of the miracle behind this holiday - just like Judah Maccabee! Create a family shield to take home. Stay for the community candle lighting and dreidel tournament. It's free!

Sunday, December 18 from 2-5:00
It's free!

At the Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC):

This annual Hanukkah celebration is a lot of fun! Entertainment includes local Jazz ensemble, Ben Brussll's Klezmania for adults and kids. Kids (and their parents/grandparents) will have fun with crafts and games. Other activities include adult learning, oil and wine tasting (not together), children's storytime and of course potato latkes! Cap off the afternoon with a community sing-a-long and start the third night of Hanukkah in style

Sunday, December 13 from 1-4:00 p.m. in the Early Childhood Education's Multi-Purpose Room at the PJCC
It's free!

Hanukkiah lighting daily
December 14 - 18 at 3:00 pm at the PJCC lobby

At the Osher Marin JCC:

Festival of Lights Hanukkah Party

Book fair, holiday marketplace, comedy magicians the Flying Calamari Brothers (doesn't sound kosher), adult Jewish learning, bounce house, make your own candles...

Sunday, December 6 - goes on most of the day. For the complete schedule/timing, click here and look for the button on the right with the menorah. It's a PDF.
It's free!

SF Chabad Menorah Lighting

Dec. 11-19, 2009
Chabad Menorah Candle Lighting Ceremony at San Francisco Union Square

Here's the schedule (thanks to Travel is More Fun with Kids)

Friday, December 11
Lighting the first candle 3–4 pm

Saturday, December 12
Lighting the second candle 7:30- 8:30 pm

Sunday, December 13
Lighting the third Candle
Festival of Lights event with music 3-6 pm
Ceremony/dignitaries 4:30
Lighting the Menorah 5 pm

Monday, December 14 - Friday December 18th
Candle lighting each night 5– 6 pm

North Peninsula Chabad Menorah Lighting

Bring your pennies for the first Penny Menorah. Your change will be added to others' in the community, with the menorah monies donated to the poor. Also at the lighting, a glass blower and free latkes!

Tuesday, December 15 from 6-7:30 p.m.
It's at Washington Park in Burlingame, across the street from the train station
It's free!

Yet more $5 magazine subscriptions at Amazon

This company is going to drown me in magazines. I have no control. During their last deal I ordered four new subscriptions - on top of the $5 Sunset deal they offered earlier last month.

From December 6-12th, they're offering these magazines for $5 yearly subscription:

Good Housekeeping
House Beautiful
Popular Mechanics
Smart Money
Country Living
Marie Claire
Town & Country

You can order for yourself or someone on your holiday list. Order them here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Coming Up: Special Needs Jewish Kids Cooking Workshop

Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo will be hosting Special Needs Cooking Workshops on December 16th, from 10:00 – noon.

The themes will be Jewish cooking and Jewish Special Needs.

Jewish parents and their kids with special needs will have the opportunity to meet other families and to cook with their children. Children ages 5+ with physical, developmental, or cognitive issues and their parents are encouraged to join in the temple kitchen. Kids should be kitchen safe, since they will be cooking.

RSVPs preferred, so organizers can plan around food allergy issues.

Where: Peninsula Temple Beth El (1700 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo).
When: December 16th from 10 a.m. to noon
RSVP: to PTBE at 650-341-7701
Who: kids ages 5+ with parent/s

Free Holiday Train Exhibit at SF Library

Now through January 7th, the San Francisco Public Library is presenting a magical winter wonderland, All Aboard: San Francisco Public Library Holiday Train, an interactive display of beloved trains from children’s literature.

Now in its fourth year, the electric toy train layout features the Polar Express, from the book by Chris Van Allsburg, and Thomas the Tank Engine, from the book series by W. Awdry, and the Hogwart's Express, from...well, you know. Harry Potter. The trains will be on display in front of the Fisher Children’s Center, Main Library, second floor, through January 7, 2010.

Visitors can power the interactive exhibit by pushing the buttons that activate each train along the 35-foot-track. Buttons also activate ski gondolas, a Ferris wheel, animated sledders and village lights inside the glass-enclosed exhibit.

Large buttons, with easy-to-read signage, make the display readily accessible to young children.

The holiday train display is the work of Roberto Lombardi, the Library’s Facilities Director, and his staff from the Facilities Engineering Unit. The six-car Polar Express and Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends Clarabel and Annie are all Lionel O scale replicas.

After pushing the buttons, young train enthusiasts can also visit the Children’s Center and check out books about trains.

Where: 100 Larkin Street (at Grove)
When: December 5, 2009 - January 7, 2010
Hours: vary - click here for San Francisco Public Library hours
Cost: Free

Friday, December 4, 2009

Coming Up: Gilroy Gardens Nights of Fire - $10

We went to Gilroy Gardens last winter for a holiday/winter evening like this one. We had a lot of fun (though it was extremely cold that night and we weren't entirely prepared for that). Lots of pretty light displays, an ice skating rink, rides and a Charlie Brown Show. More on that later.

This year the event features Nights of Fire: A Laser Light & Fireworks Spectacular, running nightly during Gilroy Gardens 17 Nights of Holiday Lights. They'll have Laser Lights and Fireworks choreographed to a soundtrack, at Coyote Lake.

Viewing is included with admission, and is standing room only for the 15 minute attraction.

You can also meet the Peanuts gang in “A Charlie Brown Christmas" from Knott’s Merry Farm at the Lakeside Amphitheater. We saw a Peanuts show near the carousel last year. I had a hard time getting over Charlie Brown being adult size and bald, with an enormous head. The kids didn't seem freaked out by it, but the Peanuts characters were freaky to me.

What: Gilroy Gardens Holiday Lights Nights of Fire: A Laser Light & Fireworks Spectacular

When: December 4-6, 11-13, 18-23, 26-30 from 4 p.m. -9 p.m.

Cost: $9.99 for season ticket holders (or $19.99 with dinner buffet). Free entrance with 2010 10th anniversary membership. Otherwise $29.99. All pricing options here.

Easy Hanukkah Crafts for Kids

Hanukkah is coming up in one week!

Here's one of our favorite easy Hanukkah crafts - the edible dreidel. You'll need a Hershey's Kiss, regular size marshmallow, icing or peanut butter, pretzel stick (small or large), and markers using edible ink (you can find those in the grocery store baking section).

"Glue" the flat side of a Herhey's Kiss to the marshmallow, and stick the pretzel in the other end of the marshmallow. I prefer the small pretzel sticks, but you can use the thicker ones and bite it down to size. Put the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hay and shin on the round part of the marshmallow. Find those letters here.

How to Play Dreidel

With Hanukkah only a week away, my kids have already found the dreidels and begun playing with them. Break out the pennies and M&Ms!

If you don't have a dreidel, you can usually find them in a grocery store (in the Hanukkah section which will be quite small). Safeway and Mollie Stone's carry them. Many synagogue/temple gift shops will carry them and many are open on Sunday mornings during the next few weeks. If that fails, ask a Jewish friend where to find one. Likely that person will be happy to share one of their child's dozen dreidels from home.

Here's how to play dreidel:

-Each player starts out with an equal number of tokens (pennies, M&Ms, chocolate gold coins, etc.)

-Everyone antes up one token into the center.

(the photo on the left has a purple shin and a red hay. The photo on the right has a green gimmel and a blue nun).
-One person spins the dreidel. Depending on where it lands, the spinner will:
  • nun - do nothing
  • hay - take half the pot
  • shin - put one in
  • gimmel - take the pot
Everyone antes in again after a gimmel. Play until you're bankrupt (I've been playing a bit too much Monopoly lately), or until you're bored.
Here's a good explanation of the origin of the game.

Coming Up: Willy Wonka at Pied Piper Players

Starting this weekend: Willy Wonka, the musical based on Roald Dahl's book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The show is put on by Pied Piper Players, a youth theater group performing in San Mateo. We usually take the kids to each of their two yearly shows.

When: Friday-Sunday, December 4-6 and 11-12

Tickets: $16/adults, $10 for kids/seniors- available online, by phone (650) 992-7433 or at the door (they do sometimes sell out).

Where: Bayside Performing Arts Center, 2025 Kehoe Ave, San Mateo

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Santa Comes to Hiller this Saturday

Santa arrives by helicopter at Hiller Aviation Museum this Saturday, December 5th at 10 a.m.

Hiller's doors open at 9:30, and admission is free. Join along in Christmas Carols with the San Carlos Community Band, and munch on cookies, candy canes and soda. Then make your kids run around for awhile before you try to get them back in the car.
Santa's lap is available for short term rental from 10 a.m. to noon - kids only. The event is sponsored by the San Carlos Chamber of Commerce.
When: Saturday, December 5th - 10 a.m. to noon
Where: Hiller Aviation Museum, 601 Skyway Road, San Carlos
Cost: Free

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Coming Up: Free Museum Admission this Weekend

Okay, the blog title was slightly misleading, but if you're a Bank of America customer, YOU can gain entry for free to many SF and San Jose museums this weekend. On the first full weekend of every month, B of A offers its cardholders free entry into select museums. This Saturday and Sunday December 5-6, is your lucky weekend. Okay, so is and January 2-3.

Where to go?
San Francisco
the Museum of the African Diaspora
deYoung Museum
Contemporary Jewish Museum
Legion of Honor

San Jose
San Jose Musem of Art
the Tech Museum of Innovation

Giveaway Each Day through 12/15

A group of travel blogger colleagues are giving away prizes daily, through December 15th, as part of the Travel Bloggers' Caravan & Giveaway.

Win items like a stay at Napa's Westin, digital cameras, hotel gift cards, luggage and more.

To win, visit Luxury Cruise Bible daily, and you'll hear about the latest giveaway, and see some great travel blogs too.

Coming Up: Santa at Lake Tahoe

Tahoe Kids Guide let us publish this list of soon-to-be Santa sightings at Lake Tahoe. If you're heading up there, check out the big guy in the red suit. Here's where you'll find him:

--December 3rd from 5 pm to 8 pm at The Village at Northstar. Enjoy smores by the fire, free ice skating, hot cocoa, shopping specials, holiday carolers, photos with Santa and more. This Noel Night will include our annual tree lighting ceremony.

--December 5th from 11 am to 3 pm at Heritage Plaza, Downtown Tahoe City. Pictures with Santa in Heritage Plaza. $15 sitting fee of each family/group. Custom prints and holiday cards available through Barifot Mountain Photography.

--December 5th from 2 pm to 5 pm. at Lake Tahoe Holidays located at 4000 Lake Tahoe Blvd. South Lake Tahoe, CA (530) 544-8684. Free of charge. Bring your own camera for a fun experience and a great holiday picture.

--December 5th beginning at 6 pm. in Downtown Tahoe City. The tree lighting will take place at dusk. Get in the spirit of the season and see Tahoe City's beautiful new 15' tree at the annual town lighting ceremony at Heritage Plaza. Refreshments and fun for all. Hot cocoa, caroling around the fire and join Santa as he turns on the lights on new town Christmas Tree.

--December 10th from 5 pm to 8 pm at The Village at Northstar. Enjoy smores by the fire, free ice skating, hot cocoa, shopping specials, holiday carolers, photos with Santa and more. This Noel Night will include our annual tree lighting ceremony.

--December 17th from 5 pm to 8 pm at The Village at Northstar. Enjoy smores by the fire, free ice skating, hot cocoa, shopping specials, holiday carolers, photos with Santa and more. This Noel Night will include our annual tree lighting ceremony.

--December 19th through 24th from 12 pm to 2:30 pm each day at The Village at Northstar. live music in the Village and Santa will be in a different Village location each day from 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm to take pictures with kids. His locations are:

December 19th Ambassador Toys

December 20th Ritz-Carlton Destination Club

December 21st Farrah Rale, 22nd Villager

Check out Tahoe Kids Guide for lots more info on traveling to Tahoe with kids.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holiday Happenings in the Bay Area

Children's Holiday Party at Allied Arts Guild

What: Puppet show, casual food, table games, and a visit with Santa. For children ages 4-8 accompanied by adults. Allied Arts Guild is a beautiful Menlo Park historic garden and shopping area that looks like a Spanish square, with artists studios and cafe, which benefits sick kids at Lucille Packard Children's Hospital.
When: December 6, 2009 at 3:00
Cost: $25 per person
RSVP: (650) 322-2405

San Francisco Family Travel Tips

Children's Fairyland Winter Celebration
What: Fairy Winter Wonderland featuring live performances celebrating holidays from many cultures, daily Santa appearances, decorations & thousands of twinkling lights, rides, puppet shows, arts and crafts, free holiday treats, cider and hot cocoa, and more
When: December 11-20, noon to 7:00
Cost: free with admission ($7/person over age 1)

What: Children's Theater Holiday Program - whether you're celebrating Christmas, the Solstice, Chanukah, Diwali, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, or the Chinese New Year, the Fairyland Children's Theatre Program sends out a message of peace, joy and light in its annual holiday show.
When: December 6th, 12:30pm & 3:00pm
Cost: free with admission ($7/person over age 1)

Hillsdale Shopping Center - Multiple Events
What: Tree Lighting Ceremony (plus performance by Masterworks Chorale of San Mateo, crafts for kids and a visit from Santa. Children will also receive free jingle bells to help ring in the festivities)
When: Friday, November 20, at 6:30 p.m.

What: Photos with Santa (photos for purchase, plus free gift just for visiting Santa). Mondays-Tuesdays nights, 6-8 p.m., kids get a free cookie from Mrs. Field's while visiting Santa.
When: Saturday, November 21 – Thursday, December 24

What: Pet photos with Santa - or adopt a cat/dog.
When: November 25 – December 16 (Wed & Sun) from 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Where: Hillsdale Shopping Center, 60 31st Ave., San Mateo

Bay Area Discovery Museum
What: 14th Annual Gingerbread Architecture Extravaganza
--Weekends December 5 & 6, 12 & 13, 19 & 20
--Weekdays December 21, 22 & 23
11 a.m., noon & 1 p.m.
Cost: $25 per gingerbread kit. Pre-registration required.

What: Holiday concert with Tim Cain, Miss Kitty, Cindy Cohen and Christopher Smith
When: Saturday, December 19 at 11:30 a.m.
Cost: Members $7; General Child $12; General Adult $14 (includes Museum admission)
RSVP: online
What: Annual Kwanzaa Celebration (art projects, theater and more)
When: Saturday, December 26 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Cost: Free! Includes museum admission & performances

Help Others this Holiday Season in the Bay Area

It’s easy to get caught up in the holidays - finding those perfect gifts, visiting freinds and family, and the cooking and traveling. Take some time this holiday season to help those less fortunate celebrate the holiday.

One group I like to support is the Shelter Network, which provides housing and support services to help homeless families and individuals to “re-establish self-sufficiency and to return to permanent homes of their own.”

Some giving opportunities at the Shelter Network include:

Adopt-a-Family or Adopt-a-Resident: purchase items from a specific wish list so someone less fortunate can have something new this holiday season.

Host a holiday party: Bring friends, coworkers or family and put on a party at one of the shelters

Hold a holiday gift drive: whether you get a list of items to pass out, or put “wishes” on a Christmas tree, this is a great way to involve a large group of people much pressure or sacrifice on your part. (We did this with my son's preschool class one year)

Attend a gift wrapping party: help wrap gifts for the residents at several sites, from Daly City to Menlo Park. These are on Monday 12/21, and start around 6 p.m. - so you can bring the whole family. Donations of gift wrap items are also appreciated.

Create a holiday dinner basket: you know the drill – buy some items for your dinner, and some items for someone else’s.

Serve holiday dinner: the Maple Street shelter for single adults needs servers for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Donation: cash always accepted, in honor or memory of someone. For more info, contact them online and click on the “holiday programs” button. Or call 650-685-5880

Don't forget to enter Frisco Kids' LeapFrog Tag Jr. giveaway contest!