Friday, October 30, 2009

Coming Up: Dia de los Muertos SF activities

The SF Library presents a Dia de Los Muertos: Creating An Altar project with Bay Area artist Anita De Lucio. She'll lead an interactive workshop celebrating the Day of the Dead, and kids will learn about the importance of the holiday while helping create a traditional altar celebrating the lives of lost loved ones.

When: Monday, November 2nd at 4:30
Where: Ingleside Branch Library, (1298 Ocean Ave at Plymouth, SF)
Cost: Free

Also on the same day - a Day of the Dead Celebration with stories and crafts.
Where: Ocean View Branch Library, 345 Randolph Street (at Ramsell)
When: Monday, November 2nd at 3:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coming up: Choosing an SF Public School

Can there be a more confusing, stressful process for getting your kids into public school than San Francisco's?

The SF library is hosting an event to help you. Join Parents for Public School-SF for a presentation on choosing the right elementary school. You'll hear firsthand experience from parents about their public school choices, and from those who recently went through the SFUSD enrollment process. You'll get tips and advice on key information and resources.

What: Public Schools 101: Choosing an Elementary School
Where: Western Addition Branch Library, 45 Leland Avenue (near Bayshore)
When: Tuesday, November 3rd at 4 pm.
For whom: adults: parents/guardians

What: Parents for Public Schools presentation: Going public: Parents talk about choosing and improving public schools for their kids.
Where: Portola Branch Library, 380 Bacon Street (at Goettingen)
When: Wednesday, November 4th at 6:30 p.m.
For whom: parents/guardians of kids ready to enroll in kindergarten.

Related posts:
Amy Graff's K Files and getting into SF public schools.
http://www.friscokids.net/2009/01/review-ivy-chronicles-and-bunch-of.html

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Coming Up: Harvest Festival at Allied Arts Guild Saturday

Get a break from all the scary witches, and head to the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park this Saturday. If you haven't been there before, you're in for a treat. It's a gorgeous Spanish-style estate with gardens and artisan shops.

This Halloween, they're having a Harvest Festival complete with beer tasting AND kids events/arts & crafts. That's my type of event!

They'll feature local micro-breweries like Steelhead Brewery of Burlingame, Faultline Brewery of Sunnyvale, and Tied House Brewery of Mountain View.

While you're there, check out my favorite Italian shop, La Bottega. Run by two Italian moms with the most wonderful accents (and the best hostesses ever), they have great gift items at a range of prices. I like them so much I wrote about them for Spaces Bay Area. I was just checking out their website and drooling over their leather handbags and Murano glass.

So go to the Harvest Festival and post here after and let me know YOUR favorite store there. And tell me how gorgeous their gardens are.

Where: Allied Arts Guild,
Cost: $20 for adults, $5 for kids
Includes: food, drinks and commemorative glass
Tickets: Reservations requested

Coming Up: SFSU Halloween Day on Friday - Free

One more Halloween event to post. I never realized that San Francisco State University had a museum studies program, or a museum. Apparently they have both. And they invite you, Frisco Kids readers, to their museum on Friday for San Francisco Family Day: Halloween at the Museum.

What will you see? Real Egyptian mummies. Plus your kids can prepare their interactive mummy for eternal life too.

Get a sneak preview of their upcoming exhibition, "Lost Cities of North Africa" (which opens November 2nd), and partake in storytime, complete with cider and cookies. They invite you to come in costume, or regular clothes.

When: Friday, October 30, 2-4 pm
Where: Museum of Ancient Civilizations, Humanities Bldg., Room 510 (on Tapia Drive @ Font Blvd)
Cost: Free

Get 'Yer Tickets - Golden State Warriors Tix $12

Travelzoo is offering Golden State Warrior basketball tickets for $12.

When: Friday, November 6th against the L.A. Clippers
What: upper level seats are $12 (lower level are $50)
Where: Oracle Areana, Oakland
Tickets: click here and use code WARRIORS

Trapeze Class in Oakland for $25


When I was in Club Med, I tried the trapeze. It wasn't a pretty sight for anyone watching, but it was a thrill to do. You might have seen the trapeze episode on Sex in the City - and thought "I want to do that."


Well now's your chance. Trapze Arts in Oakland is one of the country's only circus schools, and they're offering $25 class coupons today on Groupon. Classes are normally $40 for the 90 minute program. You need to purchase the coupon today, good through April, 2010. They allow 2 Groupon coupons per class (8 in a class), so you should schedule in advance.
This would be a fun holiday gift to share with your spouse!
To get your coupon, click here.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Photo of the Day - The Class on Prophecy has been Cancelled due to Unforseen Circumstances

photo copyright: Debbie Abrams Kaplan

$5 for a dozen bagels & cream cheese - today only

I used to live around the corner from House of Bagels - so this Groupon ad interested me. Get a coupon for a dozen bagels and 8 oz of cream cheese for $5. You get a year to use the coupon, and you can only use one at a time (purchase 2 coupons max). Voted best bagel by SF Weekly in 2008.

If interested, click here.

Coming Up: Halloween Pumpkin Drop

I missed this event on the Halloween happenings post, so here's another fun idea!

Hiller's Halloween Event and Helicopter Pumpkin Drop. Hiller's flying witch arrives each day by helicopter and drops a pumpkin "to get things off to a smashing start."

Check out the Halloween Haunted Hangar, and the Museum's Gallery which has "hidden haunts." You can build a creepy craft, join the games at the Aerial Carnival, or take off on a moonlight mission in the Flight Sim Zone in a festive celebration of Halloween Flight. Candy, prizes and spooky surprises! Go in costume.

When:
Friday, October 30th, 5 PM - 8 PM
Helicopter Arrives at 6:30 PM

Saturday, October 31st, 12 PM - 3 PM
Helicopter Arrives at 1 PM

Cost: free with admission.

Where: Hiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos

If you haven't yet carved your pumpkin, check out these free pumpkin carving stencils.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Coming Up: Whale Watching for $35

We went whale watching in Mexico earlier this year, so I highly recommend a trip with the kids. Groupon is offering $35 tickets today (normally $70), and they don't expire til 4/29/10. The tickets are only good Monday-Friday, so that may be a hitch for you. But they guarantee you'll see a whale on this five hour trip, or the next trip is FREE.

You'll ride on a catamaran, and you can bring your own snacks and wine/beer. In addition to looking for whales, you'll get a sight-seeing tour of Fort Cronkite, Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, Bolinas and the Golden Gate Bridge. The boat also has an enclosed heated cabin (as well as a sun deck).

As for the whales, you should spot them in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, with a bonus of spotting elephant seals, dolphins, and porpoises too.

Tours begin December 1st, and you can buy up to six tickets with this deal.

For more info on the Groupon $35 whale watching deal, click here.

Coming Up: Special Needs Day of Learning

Coming up: the Special Needs Day of Learning

This event will give families with special needs children, Jewish educators, lay leaders and interested community members the opportunity to come together to learn, share, and build relationships by providing a multi-track conference.

The conference features workshops on: recognizing red flags in development, estate planning, the grieving process, finding your spirit, training sessions to become volunteer classroom aides to individual children.

When: Sunday, November 1, 2009, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Where: Congregation Beth Jacob, 1550 Alameda de las Pulgas, Redwood City

Admission: Please call for info. 650.349.1523 - North Peninsula Region. northpen@sfjcf.org Register online

Sponsored by: Temple Beth Jacob, Peninsula Temple Sholom, Peninsula Temple Beth El, Peninsula Sinai Congregation, North Peninsula Region, Jewish Family & Children's Services.

The North Peninsula Special Needs Initiative is a collaboration of 10 partnering organizations and synagogues, including: Bureau of Jewish Education; Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Jewish Family and Children's Services; Peninsula Jewish Community Center; Congregation Beth Jacob; Peninsula Temple Beth El; Peninsula Sinai Congregation; Peninsula Temple Beth El; Chabad of the North Peninsula; and Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School. The Special Needs Awareness Shabbat is presented with the support of the Union of Reform Judaism/Jewish Family Concerns.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Coming Up: Wicked at Zeum

The Wicked Witch of the West comes to Zeum this Halloween!

The hands-on, multimedia arts and technology experience for kids in SF is hosting Oz-some festivities.

What to expect?
11am - 12pm -- "Go Green" Emerald City Citizens Costume Contest at the Zeum Carousel with *honorary* guest judges: Patty Duke, who stars as Madame Morrible, and other WICKED cast members. The winner of the best all-green costume gets a pair of tickets to WICKED and a sneak peek backstage!

11am - 5pm – Throughout the day, kids and families can check out WICKED-infused exhibits and hands-on activities at Zeum

Zeum's Animators Studio – Create WICKED animations with clay characters: Elphaba, Glinda, Wizard of Oz… and bring them to life with stop-motion animation

Zeum's Music Production Lab – Make an original music video with lyrics from WICKED
WICKED family workshops with make-and-take craft projects

Check out costume and set design showcase from WICKED

When: October 31, 11 a.m .to 5 p.m.
Where; Zeum (221 4th Street in Yerba Buena Center, SF)
Cost: free with admission ($10/adults, $8/kids)
Free carousel ride for kids 12 and under from 11 a.m. to noon with paid admission

Baby Einstein offers refund for Baby Einstein DVDs

If you bought a Baby Einstein DVD in the past 5 years and want a refund, now's your chance. Due to controversy over whether Baby Einstein DVDs are in fact educational, and due to lobbying by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), Disney (the corporate owner of Baby Einstein) is offering refunds or exchanges of the DVDs.

Basically, if you purchased a DVD between June 5, 2004 and September 4, 2009 you're entitled to one of the following:
-1 Baby Einstein book of your choice
-1 Baby Einstein CD of your choice
-1 coupon for 25% off purchase of a Little Einstein product through DisneyStore.com
-refund (maximum of 4) of $15.99 per DVD

Find complete rules and a downloadable form here.

-For more on the controversy over the Baby Einstein DVD, see this Wikipedia article.
-CCFC published this fact sheet on infants, toddlers and screen-time.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Two days: $50 off spa treatment and $18 Golden State Warriors Tickets

Found two great deals for you on Groupon, a site that offers daily deals. You need to purchase these today or tomorrow if you want them, though you have longer to cash them in.

Get a $100 gift certificate for $50 at Cocoon Urban Day Spa (on First St in San Francisco). The logo looks a bit like ladies ta-tas, but the spa looks modern and hip. Choose from waxing, massage, mani/pedi, tanning or facials. And drink sparkling wine (or herb-infused water) while you're there. Open evenings, so the hubbies can watch the kids while you're getting pampered.

Also on Groupon today, get Golden State Warriors tickets for $18 (instead of $40) to games on November 4th, November 9th or November 30th.

To get these deals, click here.

Coming Up: Mask Making Demo at Michael's

This craft demo is for the adults. I'm sure you'll need a costume for trick-or-treating (or at least the school Halloween party) too. Get some ideas on how to make an "adult" mask - which I think is G rated. I'm sure Michael's will have plenty of supplies for purchase after.

When: October 25 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Michael's (store locator button is at the top of the page
Cost: Free

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Coming Up: Hiller Aviation Jet Pack demo


Space age Jet Packs! Check them out at Hiller Aviation Museum

This Hiller Jet Pack Show will be two days of personal vertical flying machines including Jet Packs and Rocket Packs, Ducted Fan flying machines and other various flying machines related to personal vertical flight – James Bond style.

Schedule:

12:30 Flying the Jet Pack Simulator – learn how to fly a Jet Pack

1:00 Andy Filo – Inventor and Jet Pack Expert

1:45 Bill Suitor – Original Jet Pack Pilot presenting his new book "Rocketbelt Pilot's Manual". Book signing after the presentation.

When: October 24-25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cost: Free with admission


More Shutterfly coupon codes

A few new coupon codes to share from Shutterfly.
-Buy 50 cards, get 25 free (no code - put 75 in your cart, you'll get the 25 free - S&H apply)
-Buy one photo book, get one at 50% off (no code)

-Free shipping on orders of $30+ in U.s.
Promo code: SHIP30

Deals end October 28th.

Coming Up: Kindergarten Readiness Teleconference

Is your child ready for kindergarten? Many things to think about, so check out this free event/teleconference and find get all the info you can. Though sponsored by a private day school and preschool, you don't need to be part of these schools to join in.

What: In this teleconference you'll learn: what specific skills a four year old program focuses on for Kindergarten readiness, how to know if your child is ready for Kindergarten for next year, what is expected in a Kindergarten class & children's developmental stages during the Kindergarten year.

Experts speaking include Foster City's Wornick School (head of school, head of middle school & general studies), PJCC Early Childhood Education Director and Bay Area Psychologist Dr. Jessica Rosenbaum, a leading specialist in learning development strategies.

RSVP online or by calling (call for location if joining in person). Ask for Judy Thalheimer, Director of Admission at 650-378-2635 or email jthalheimer@wornickjds.org. You can attend via teleconference.

When: Friday, October 30th from 9:30 - 10:30 am

Handbag sale this weekend - great deals

Normally I don't post shopping things, but this is one awesome annual handbag sale. I've gotten some great deals and great bags the past few years at this sale, and all proceeds go to charity.
Bags are 40% and more below retail prices, with brands like Fossil, Le Sportsac, Juicy Couture, the Sak and more. I can't remember all the hip brands they usually feature, but the buyer for this sale worked at Macy's and is very well connected.

The sale also includes jewelry, men's accessories and sunglasses. Stock up on presents for the holidays!

When: Friday, October 23rd from 1-5 pm
Saturday, October 24th 7 - 10 pm
Sunday, October 25th 1 -5 pm
Where: private home - 199 Ridgeway, Hillsborough

Bring a checkbook or cash - I'm not sure if they take credit cards.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Free Blockbuster kiosk movie rental

I've posted a bunch about Redbox kiosk $1 movie rentals, and found out that Blockbuster is getting in the game, as Blockbuster Express. Until November 11, you can get a free movie rental from the Blockbuster movie kiosk. There are several locations in the Bay Area, including South San Franicsco, Belmont, Oakland, Hayward, Union City, El Cerrito...basically anywhere there's a Dollar Tree.

The coupon code is GER9A2, good nationally through November 11th. Find a location near you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Get 'yer Tickets: Dia de los Muertos Family Concert

Take the kids to the San Francisco Symphony for the family concert for Day of the Dead. Come early for pre-concert kids activities, displays and refreshments.

What: Dia de los Muertos Family Concert
When: Sunday, November 1st, at 2 p.m.
Where: Davies Symphony Hall
Cost: $15 and up (half price for kids 17 and under)
Tickets: http://www.sfsymphony.org/ or (415) 864-6000

Friday, October 16, 2009

Get 'Yer Tickets: Laurie Berkner in Oakland

I love Laurie Berkner and her catchy, cute music. She's coming to Oakland's Paramount Theater on November 27th.


She and the Laurie Berkner Band will perform in the pajamas, and encourage kids to come dressed that way too. They'll also be collecting new kids' pajamas and children's books to donate to the Pajama Program, which provides them to kids in need (many of them entering foster care).


Check out some of her videos here .


When: November 27th at 11 a.m.
Where: Oakland's Paramount Theater
Tickets: $25-$35 in person at the box office, or through ticketmaster.

Coming Up: Stories from the Nutcracker

Come here stories from the Nutcracker. The Mark Foehringer Dance Project SF brings excerpts from this season classic. A storyteller and costumed dancers will tell the stories and show some of the dances.

When: Saturday, November 21st at 3 p.m.
Where: Richmond Branch Library, 350 10th Avenue (near Clement)
Cost: Free
For: kids 5 and older

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Coming Up: Circus Bella in SF - FREE

What: Circus Bella - one-ring circus
When: Sunday, October 18, noon AND 2:00
Where: Yerba Buena Center in SF (Marina Blvd and Buchanan)
Cost: Free (thanks to Yerba Buena Gardens Festival and Target)

Bring the kids for a free, outdoor one-ring circus! Circus Bella is performing its full-length show DOINK! on Sunday, October 18th in San Francisco.

If you remember Pickle Family Circus and Make*A*Circus, you'll love this home-grown circus show. Circus Bella is a one-year old Bay Area circus, run though the San Francisco Circus Center. Enjoy original music (performed by live musicians), trapeze and other aerial artistry, clowns, contortionists, jugglers and more.

And since the show runs about an hour, the kids should be able to sit through it.

Coming Up: Kite Festival in San Mateo


Mark took the kids to this last year, and they had fun.

What: 4th Annual Hillsdale Kite Festival
Date: Saturday, October 17th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Hillsdale High School Soccer Fields, near the corner of 31st and Alameda De Las Pulgas (San Mateo)
Cost: $5-10 (you pay for activities)

Inspired by the book The Kite Runner, Hillsdale High School juniors put on this annual festival/carnival geared toward pre-school and elementary age kids. Activites include kite-making, arts and crafts, food, carnival games, a bouncy house and big kids reading books to little kids to promote literacy.
Funds raised go to support a school for girls in Afghanistan through the non-profit organization Afghans4Tomorrow. This year's festival coincides with the The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and is part of the entire student body's participation in the International Stand-Up Against Poverty Campaign.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Coming Up: Free Target Museum Days

This weekend, October 18th, free Target Family day in Yerba Buena Gardens. Free admission to 5 museums downtown. Here are the details.

Free admission with special art activities and performances for children and families at
--San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) (151 Third Street, between Mission & Howard)
--Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission Street (between Third & Fourth)
--Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) (685 Mission Street, @ Third)
--Zeum: San Francisco¹s Children's Museum (221 Fourth Street (@ Howard)
--Yerba Buena Gardens Festival ­ Mission Street (between Third & Fourth)

When: Sunday, October 18, 2009
Time: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free

Coming Up: the Bubble Lady

The Bubble Lady takes your kids on a journey through Bubble Land with a variety of amusing bubble sculptures. Aimed at kids one and older.

When: November 18th at 4 p.m.
Where: Mission Bay Branch Library (960 Fourth St, at Berry)
Cost: Free

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Coming Up: Michael's Fun with Beads Event - free

Michael's is sponsoring a Fun with Beads event this Saturday, October 17 from 1 -4 p.m. Each half hour is a different make-it, take-it or demo.

1-1:30 - Elegance swirl and stone dangling earings (make it/take it)
1:30-2 - Bead Gallery - pearl and shell necklace demo
2-2:30 - Darice seed bead spinner (make it/take it)
3-3:30 - Beadalon chain tassel (demo)
3:30-4 - bead hoop earrings (make it/take it)

Find a Michael's near you (click store locator at top right).

Snapfish & Shutterfly coupons - free shipping and free cards

New coupon codes for Shutterfly and Snapfish.

Snapfish: This is the code I wait for each year to buy my holiday cards. I know, it's only October and yes, I can't believe the Christmas decorations have been up in the mall for a month already. But take advantage of this if you order photo cards for the holidays. FREE SHIPPING is huge! And you check the item off your "to-do" list. Order your Snapfish card and use SLIMSHIP in the code box. Good until October 31st.

---other offers - 35% off a 12x12 calendar. Use code 35CAL12 before October 18th.
---send a free card to someone for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Use code SHARETOCARE by October 31st. (You still pay taxes/shipping, which comes out to $1.50+ for one card)

Shutterfly: Three codes:
--Free standard shipping on orders $40+. Enter code: SHIP40
--3 free 5x7 folded greeting cards. Enter code: 3FREECARDS - good through November 4th (I did this - you have to pay taxes/shipping, which came out to $1.06 total for the three cards)
--Buy 50 Greeting cards, Get 25 more Greeting Cards free (no code needed)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review: Canyon Ranch Spa Las Vegas

I’m a big fan of spa days, and going with my mom and sister to the spa is a tradition. So when we went to Vegas for a girls’ getaway, the spa was high on the list. Trying to choose a spa in Vegas is like trying to pick a restaurant. There are so many amazing choices it’s hard to know where to start looking. So we went with the convenience of the spa in our hotel, and the known factor – Canyon Ranch.


We stayed at the Venetian (read my review here), and the spa is between there and the adjoining Palazzo hotel (with all those hallways it’s hard to tell). The exercise area is at one entrance (near the Venetian’s pool), and the actual spa entrance is in the Palazzo. Trying to find your way there, with blistered feet, is a feat in itself.

As spa guests, we could use the exercise facilities for an additional fee. They have an indoor climbing wall (photo on right), exercise classes and machines. But I think we literally walked a mile between the two entrances, negating any need to pay for fitness. The other upside to the walk was viewing Canyon Ranch’s art collection in the hallway.

Before we get to the massage portion, I’ll cover the highlights of the day spa. It was enormous, with single-sex waiting rooms, a “conservatory” for both sexes, a wave room, salt grotto, and the spa area.

Highlights of the rooms:
Conservatory – when I think about a room called the Conservatory, I can’t help thinking of the game Clue. As in Professor Mustard in the Conservatory with the Rope. The conservatory is open to all spa guests – i.e. if you come to the spa with your heterosexual partner you can hang out in there together, drinking water, tea and eating fruit.

Salt Grotto – we called this the salt lick. The mosaic tiled room is off the Conservatory. Half the room is a tiled bench (supposedly heated), where you sit back and get misted ever so slightly with salt water. Or nothing happens if the nozzles are plugged, like they were in the area we sat. You face a trickling fountain and tiny lights on the ceiling change colors. We sat in there for a few minutes and then said “now what?” We didn’t get the point of the room.

Wave Room – this one is also off the Conservatory. It’s a circular room with individual recliners. The middle is a raised pool of water, reflecting onto the domed ceiling. You sit back in your chair and meditate on the reflections. This room was awesome, unless you get motion sick. Part of the fun is watching others try to get out of the chairs once they’re reclined. There’s a trick to it, and if you haven’t figured out the trick, you’re good for a few laughs. But you’re supposed to be quiet in there, so don’t laugh out loud. We liked this room a lot, especially when others started snoring.

Canyon Ranch features Aquavana, a "European-inspired aquathermal oasis" with an igloo, herbal laconium, experiential rains and more. When you enter, you’ll get a brochure on how to take advantage of these (the order, timing etc.) and if you commit it to memory, you’ll get stressed out. Instead, we just hopped between them to check them all out. In no particular order:

Igloo – this room has three “arctic mist experiences enhanced by twinkling fiber optic lights.” Basically it’s a slightly large blue-hued shower that’s supposed to snow on you, but instead just mists you with cold water.

Herbal Laconium – (picture on left) this small, tiled room has a few seating areas, where you sit your body is “gently warmed” through warm herbal-infused steam. Didn’t do anything for us.

Finnish Sauna – this dry heat sauna “lit by colored light refracted by crystals” (looked like Lite Brite to me), was the most exposed sauna I’ve ever seen. Instead of small door leading in, the entire front was glass, making me feel like I was in a zoo.

Crystal Steam Room – yes, Canyon Ranch is into the crystal thing. This sauna had a crystal in the corner that was usually hidden by the steam. You can meditate on it, or just look at the Lite Brite pin pricks in the ceiling which changed color. Those were cool.

Experiential Rains – (photo on left) This was our favorite, if for nothing else than the novelty factor. Two shower areas (you can fit 2-3 people in there), and you choose what kind of rain shower you want. Complete with thunder and multi-color “lightening,” warm and cold rain, hard driving rain, and mist. The surprise factor is the best part, and throughout the day we would hear yelps and screams from those pelted with cold water when it was least expected.

Hydrospa – otherwise known as a hot tub. For a day spa with 80 massage rooms and additional facial/treatment rooms, this was the smallest hot tub I’ve ever seen (photo is at top of blog post - with a guy in it - there's a reason they only put one person in for the photo - it makes it look bigger). You could squeeze six people in there if they were good friends. Otherwise you probably want to wait til the soakers move on so you don’t violate their space. Plus the jets didn’t go all the way around. Half the spa had a reclining area (near the steps) where you lie down. The area features some egg-shaped heated loungers which looked comfortable.

Canyon Ranch Grill
We had lunch in the Canyon Ranch Grill, which was nothing to write home about. But I’ll cover it here. Unlike most Canyon Ranch facilities, this one serves alcohol (the new Miami Beach Canyon Ranch does too – but it’s a different spa concept). Of course in Vegas you have to serve alcohol, and they have their own bar. Unfortunately for the diners, there was an obnoxious loud guy at the bar waiting for his food, and the staff did little about getting him to quiet down – in spite of all the diners complaining about him.

Canyon Ranch justifies the liquor and soda service by using organic liquor and pure cane sugar soda. We indulged (drinks were yummy) and realized later why it’s a bad idea to drink at the spa. Headache and light headedness in the steam room is not a good thing. The food here was fine, but service was slow and the food slightly overpriced.
Plus we were wearing our robes (as were other diners) but the restaurant is open to the public, which made me feel a little naked.
Back to the spa:
The waiting area for treatments was lovely, however the items served between there and the Conservatory were inconsistent. One was stocked with soy milk for the tea/coffee, one wasn’t. One had bananas, the other only oranges and apples. The coffee wasn’t labeled as decaf or regular.
Massage
My massage was fantastic. As with any massage place, the quality depends on the individual therapist. Mine was Alissa, and she was among the best I’ve ever experienced. Which is good because massages at Canyon Ranch are $3 a minute. Alissa looked like was about to give birth at any minute, so by the time you read this, she should be back to work (though very tired from lack of sleep). My mom and sister had good (not great) massages, and were brought to the Canyon Ranch store after by the therapist, who tried to sell them products.

At the end of a massage, the therapist lets you pick a random card (pick a card – any card). The card has a Daily Action with Stuart Smiley type sayings like “Moderation in all things – even moderation.” Or “Exercise – walk if you do nothing else.” Or "Laughter relaxes and energizes. Find something to laugh about every day." I think I just found it!

If you’re at Canyon Ranch Las Vegas, walk you will because there are more than 80 massage rooms (yes, just the massage rooms). Walking from the waiting area to the massage room took what seemed like 5-10 minutes.

Overall, we enjoyed our day at Canyon Ranch. Having been to Canyon Ranch Tucson, however, this one didn’t measure up. It seemed inconsistent, and the Aquavana “oasis” was more show than substance. The restaurant experience wasn’t memorable. Next time in Vegas we'll check out a different spa.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Coming Up: Halloween Fun in the Bay Area

Here are some fun ideas to celebrate Halloween in the Bay area:

Bay Area Discovery Museum (Sausalito) - Annual Goblin Jamboree
Come in costume, and see the museum transformed into a haunted wonderland complete with games, attractions, and live entertainment. Enroll in the witches' school, take a train or pony ride, visit the petting zoo andenjoy a full brew of games, activities and live entertainment.

When: Saturday, October 17 & Sunday, October 18, 2009
Time: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Where: Bay Area Discovery Museum (Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito
Tickets: available at the door. All activities are included. Members $12; General $14. Children under age 1 are free.




Trick or Treat at the SPCA - East Bay
Two events:
Sunday, October 25, 2009, 3 pm – 5 pm
East Bay SPCA, Tri-Valley
4651 Gleason Drive, Dublin

Saturday, October 31, 2009, 3 pm – 5 pm
East Bay SPCA, Oakland
8323 Baldwin Street, Oakland

These SPCA Trick or Treating events are geared toward grade school-aged children accompanied by an adult (but all ages are welcome).

More info: call (510) 569-0702 or (925) 479-9670 or check the website

Michael's Arts and Crafts - two mostly free craft events
Sunday, October 25 from 1-3 pm. - buy a t-shirt and decorate it for free using Michael's paint supplies.

Saturday, October 31 from 10 a.m. to noon - come by for a free trick-or-treat pail. Plus they'll hve coloring activities, a free Crayola pencil topper demo using Model Magic Fusion, and a make it/take it Halloween frame. Plus free balloon and candy.

Halloween Haunt at Great America
Through Halloween, on Friday and Saturdays in October (and Sunday, October 25) from 7 p.m. to midnight, you can experience 6 haunted mazes, 4 themed scare zones, 4 head-turning live stage shows, plus the park's rides.

Halloween Haunt is a special ticketed event and requires a separate ticket. Admission to Great America's Halloween Haunt is free for 2009 & 2010 Gold and Platinum Pass holders. Season Pass holders receive discounted admission. Kids must be 13+.

Boo at the Zoo
Dress in costume (but no rubber masks - too scary for the animals). Visitors can watch zookeepers provide the animals with tasty holiday-themed treats, and check out the haunting adventures on the Zoo’s Haunted Nature Trail. Also, visit candy stations throughout the zoo, do take-home crafts, enjoy puppet shows and live entertainment.
When: Saturday and Sunday, October 24-25
Time: 10:30-3:30
Where: SF Zoo
Cost: Free with admission

P.S. The Oakland Zoo has a similar event on October 24-25 and October 31. And kids in costume get a free train ride.


Halloween Trick-or-Treating at Serramonte Center
When: Saturday, October 31st
Time: 1-4 p.m. – Spook Parade and Costume Contest
4-6 p.m. – Trick-or-Treating inside participating stores
Plus, Grandpa Kevin's pumpkin patch in the Target parking lot has bouncy slides, a jump-house and pumpkins for sale.

Other Events
A member of CityMommy posted this fabulous list of Halloween events. I have not verified any of these.

· Scare on the Square - Redwood City, October 3 & 10
·Pumpkins in the Park - San Jose, October 10
·Western Railway Museum Pumpkin Patch Festival - Suisun, October 10-25
·Haunted Railroad at Ardenwood - Fremont, October 17-25
· Jelly Belly Haunted Swamp - Fairfield, October 21-31
· Ghost Train at Roaring Camp - Felton, October 23-24
· Oktoberfest and Pumpkin Patch at Dunsmuir - Oakland, October 24
· PartyKidz Halloween Family Event - San Francisco, October 24
· Halloween Spooktakular - Redwood City, October 24
· Jackolantern Jamboree at Fairyland - Oakland, October 24-25
· Halloween Cabaret Carnival - Berkeley, October 25
· Gamble Garden Halloween Haunted House - Palo Alto, October 25
· Pumpkin Pandemonium at Pier 39 - San Francisco, October 25
· Halloween Camp Out at Gilroy Gardens - Gilroy, October 30-31
· Halloween Parade - Suisun City, October 31
· Not Too Spooky Halloween at Habitot - Berkeley, October 31
· Gardens Halloween Costume Walk - San Francisco, October 31
· Halloween on the Wharf - Santa Cruz, October 31
· Halloween Stomp with the Timeouts - Sausalito, October 31
· Munchkin Masquerade Parade - Fairfield, October 31
· The Haunted Presidio - San Francisco, October 31
· Halloween Haunted Hangar at Hiller - San Carlos, October 31-November 1

Friday, October 9, 2009

Coming Up: LEGO Star Wars Party at Kepler's Books

"On Saturday October 10th, Kepler's will become an occupied territory. A squad of stormtroopers from Darth Vader's own 501st Legion is planning to invade the store. We must not let evil prevail . . . The LEGO Star Wars Party must go on!"

This in from Kepler's! Don a Star Wars or LEGO costume and join in the celebration of the LEGO Star Wars Visual Dictionary book release. This book is called the definitive guide to the LEGO Star Wars universe.

There will be prizes for the best costumes, exciting raffles, and a LEGO building station.

Kepler's says: "In true DK style, LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary is sure to elucidate, illuminate, and excite even the most discerning LEGO and Star Wars fans around the world. Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Yoda, Luke Skywalker, and more are brought to life with dozens of little-known facts and hundreds of photos, as are accessories, vehicles, weapons, and even the Death Star! Learn about the history, manufacture, and construction of the minifigures of the "Star Wars" galaxy, and come away a LEGO Jedi Master. "

The party is free at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park.
Saturday, October 10, 2:00 p.m.

Coming Up: More Harvest Festivals in the Bay Area

Lydie at Travel is More Fun with Kids has another great blog post we're featuring here. Thank you to Lydie for letting us share it, and please check out her awesome site!

From Lydie:
I selected some great events happening in the Bay Area. I have discovered a very useful resources called Haunted Bay. This site is amazing and allow you to browse pumpkins patches, harvest festivals, haunted houses in the Bay Area. If you can not find something that you like in my post, feel free to browse their lists.

South Bay
October 10 and 11
NorCal Renaissance Fair Oktober Fest, Hollister
Every week-end has a different theme. On October 10 and 11, the Germans are here to assist the Queen in selecting the new Brewmaster of Willington. Home brewers may bring a home brewed bottle for submission in our contest. Her Majesty, Elizabeth will award the Grand Champion.. Read my review on going to the Renaissance Fair with children
Admission fee.

October 10 & 11
Felton Roaring Camp
Celebrate Harvest Time and Halloween. View demonstrations on quilting, knitting, embroidery, fashion design and candy making at the Craft Faire presented by the Twisted Stitchers. Quilts will be for sale. Be creative with hands-on crafts activities for adults and kids. Make and take your own scarecrow. Free pumpkin for each child holding a steam train ticket.

Saturday, October 17, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Earthbound Farm Harvest Festival
Bring the whole family to our grand harvest celebration! The Farm Stand becomes a pumpkin-packed wonderland for a great fun-filled day of games, pumpkin carving demos, squash and pumpkin tastings, live music by the Money Duo, farm tours, train and hay rides, and more! General admission is free.

Peninsula
October 17 and 18 - 9 AM to 5 PM

The one and unique Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival Halloween arts and crafts, specialty foods, blockbuster entertainment, a Great Pumpkin Parade, a haunted house, the giant weigh-off of champion pumpkins, and contests for pie-eating, carving and costume.
Admission is free.

East Bay
October 10 and 11

Ardenwood Historic Farm Harvest Festival, Fremont
You will be able to pick pumpkins, play some games, and enjoy all the perks from Ardenwood farm. The perks include cooking demonstration, touring the farms (do not forget to pick your tickets at the entrance), feeding the animals, cider pressing and much more.This is definitely one of our family’s favorite place to visit in the Bay Area.
Regular Park admission

October 24, 11 am to 4 pm
Dusmuir House Oktoberfest and Pumpkin Patch, Oakland
A family event with old-fashioned games, crafts, hay rides, pumpkin carving, cider, and doughnuts. There will be some suds and sausages for the grown up crowd and Oompah music. The event will be held in and around the Carriage House at Covington Gate.
Admission: $5

October 25 10 am – 2 pm
Moraga Halloween Carnival
It's the 33rd Annual Halloween Carnival sponsored by the Moraga Juniors. Come in costume for games, including “Oscar” and “Spiderman” with prizes for all; take your picture at the photo booth and decorate your own frame; bring your own trick or treat bag and receive three free game tickets; try your luck at the ever popular cake and toy walks; and purchase lunch, snacks, drinks, and various ghoulish goodies!

North Bay
October 17-18 – 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Goblin Gymboree at the Bay Kids Museum, Sausalito
Kids and their families are invited to come in costume and explore the Bay Area Discovery Museum, transformed into a haunted wonderland complete with games, attractions, and live entertainment. Ride a train and ponies, enroll in the witches’ school, visit the petting zoo, and enjoy a full brew of games, activities, and live entertainment.

October 24 11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Harvest Festival at Connolly Ranch, Napa You will enjoy meeting farm animals (geese, ducks, Olivia the Pig, miniature horse, and chickens), face paintings and free pumpkins,
October 24 11:00 am to 2:00 pm

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coming Up: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Party and Author Book Signing


For those in the know, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days (book 4) is coming up next week (October 12th, if you must know). Have you preordered your copy?


Kepler's is hosting an ice-cream social on the book release day, October 12th from 4:30-6:00.


Author Jeff Kinney will be appearing at the Menlo Park Library for just one night Tuesday, October 20th, in a signing only. There will be no formal presentation.


Entrance to the signing line will require a free ticket, available only at Kepler's Books.


On Sunday, October 18th Keplers will begin handing out regular signing-line tickets at the bookstore from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. These will be handed out by the store on a first-come, first-served basis and will have your line-up time on them. After 4 p.m. on October 20th, tickets will be handed out at the Menlo Park library by order of arrival.


Priority Signing Line at 5PM


Regular Signing Line begins at 5:30PM


Special Priority Signing Line Hall Passes: Anyone who pre-purchases Dog Days at Kepler's before the release date of October 12th will receive a Hall Pass which can be exchanged for a copy of the book anytime after 9AM on October 12 AND a Priority Hall Pass that will give you access to the first signing groups at 5PM on October 20th.


It's all very confusing, so please check out Kepler's event page for more information.

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, October 11th is the date.

Coming Up: SHARKtober at Aquarium of the Bay - including a Sleepover

Providing a final and affirmative answer to the age-old question, “Are there really sharks in the San Francisco Bay?” Aquarium of the Bay doing a monthlong SHARKtober celebration.

SHARKtober will star San Francisco Bay sharks (so yes, that answers the question): the Sevengill, Soupfin, Leopard, Brown Smoothhound and Spiny Dogfish, as well as others which live just outside the Golden Gate, including Swells and Angel Sharks.

Here's a list of events, including a sleepover in the shark tank! Well, almost.

SHARKtober Family Sleepover
When: October 17, 2009, 7:30 p.m. (ending at 9 a.m. October 18)
Sleep in the Aquarium’s crystal clear tunnels, just inches away from more than 70 sharks and thousands of other aquatic animals. You'll get guided tours of the Aquarium, shark-related activities and trivia from the Aquarium naturalists, hands-on meeting and greeting with select animals, evening snacks, paid overnight parking and a continental breakfast.

Cost: $60 per person; $50 for Aquarium of the Bay members.
Info: www.aquariumofthebay.org
Reservations: tracye@aquariumofthebay.org or (415) 623-5326

SHARKtober Daily Events
When: daily, October 1-31, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Shark-related scavenger hunt, live shark touching, shark hats, shark talks and shark films. Special shark feeding presentations on Thursdays and Sundays only at 1:30 pm.
Cost: free with Aquarium admission

SHARKtoberFest
When: Friday, October 16, 2009, 6:30 – 10 p.m.
SHARKtoberFest is a festive fundraiser benefiting Aquarium of the Bay’s landmark Sevengill Shark research and education projects. The evening takes place throughout the Aquarium, featuring more than 70 sharks from the San Francisco Bay and surrounding waters. Guests will enjoy live entertainment by the Ukulele Friends Ohana Hawaiian Strings Band, food and drinks, a silent auction and a presentation of the first SharkSaver award, granted to Sherman’s Lagoon creator Jim Toomey. Toomey will be onsite to receive the award, recognizing the important role that he has played in increasing the public’s awareness for issues facing sharks, including shark finning.
Cost: $25
Tickets: www.aquariumofthebay.org or 415-623-5326

SHARKtober FilmFest
When: Saturday, October 17, 2009, 1-5pm
Dive deeper into the underwater world of sharks to learn more about these animals and their importance to a healthy San Francisco Bay. The event is co-sponsored by the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival and features films by local and international filmmakers. Between screenings, renowned shark experts and scientists will share their insight during presentations and panel discussions.
Cost: $17 (includes Aquarium admission)
Info: www.aquariumofthebay.org or 415-623-5326

Coming Up: Tricycle Music Fest in SF - free

This Saturday take the kids for a free concert! Tricycle Music Fest West features entertainment from the coolest "kindie" rock bands in the Bay Area at a rollicking block party and music fest on the Fulton Street side of the Main Library.

Additional Tricycle Music Fest West performances are scheduled at San Francisco branch libraries this month. Click here for that schedule.

WHAT: Tricycle Music Fest West, the biggest little music fest in San Francisco
WHEN: 10 a.m.- 2:30 p.m., Saturday, October 10
WHERE: Fulton Street steps of Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, San Francisco
WHO: Performances by:
· Charity and the JAMband
· Frances England
· The Devil-Ettes and Pip Squeak a Go Go
· The Hipwaders
· The Time Outs

Coming Up: Pumpkin craft at Michael's

This Saturday, Michael's craft program The Knack is hosting a 'create your own craft pumpkin' event.

When: Saturday, October 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cost: $5/pumpkin (includes supplies)
Where: Michael's - store locator button is at the top of the page

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

King Tut Tickets 50% off in San Francisco

(Click here for King Tut in NYC Times Square tickets, coupon codes, discounts and information) (Click here for a review of NYC Tut with Kids)

This in from Travelzoo - King Tut tickets are 50% off when purchased in pairs..

Admission is for entrance after 2 p.m. on Tuesdays-Thursdays, October 6 - 29th at the de Young Museum.

In this National Geographic exhibit, you'll see 130 ancient artifacts, including many from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Read my King Tut review here.

If the pair of tickets doesn't work for you, you can buy an individual ticket for $20.60 with a free audio tour on any date and time in October (you'll save $13 over the same combo full price). You'll pay fees of $3.25-$3.75 per ticket and $3.50 per order are additional, which you'd have to pay ordering online anyway.

Get 'Yer Tickets - Justin Roberts - singer




Brief synopsis: rare West Coast performance. Sing along together to tunes like Meltdown, My Brother Did It, Taking off my Training Wheels and Stay at Home Dad. Listen to tunes here. See video here. Tickets are only $13 in advance (it benefits the Mountain View Parent Nursery School). Who isn't behind a preschool education?


We went last year - mucho divertido! (much fun)


When: Sunday, November 15 at 11 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. (each show is one hour)

Where: Foothill College’s Smithwick Theater (12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos)

Cost: $13 each in advance, $15 at door. Buy tickets here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Free Pumpkin Carving Stencils

My friends at Madison on the Cheap posted about free pumpkin carving stencils available online at Better Homes and Gardens. Check it out, if for nothing else, than the cute photo of the matching Chihuahua and dog-stenciled pumpkin.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Eight Top Organizing Tools For Your Sanity

I have an obsession with organizing tools, which is odd considering my desk looks like this.

But in honor of the upcoming school year, I’ve vowed to stop buying organizer tools, and actually USE them.

Here's my list of eight top organizing tools you need for your sanity

#1. Mouse Pad “To Do” List:
This mouse pad is actually a pad of paper with 60 pages (sealed on two sides), with 5 days worth of slots on each page for the “to do” list. It’s from Pier 1 and cost $9.95 (I couldn’t find a link to it online, but I bought there in August). I can note my things to do and write down any other little thoughts, and not lose the piece of paper.

#2 Car Pad
For my car, I got a tri-part notebook with 3 sets of sheets for “do” “call” and “buy.” I bought this at Marshall’s for $8. It’s helpful to jot down notes in the car, and to have another list to look at when I’m running errands.






#3 - Calendar
For years I used a bulky Franklin Planner, which in theory is a fabulous system. But I didn’t use it effectively and mine was too bulky to carry around. What I really like is a 2-page per month calendar, with some individual page space later on for the days. momAgenda sent me this calendar to try out, and so far I like it. It’s small enough to fit into my purses (Mom-size purse that is), and it has some other helpful pages too (like the reference pages with national 800 numbers for many hotels and airlines, helpful websites, pages for gift records etc.)

#4 - To-Do Pads
Michael’s craft stores often has pads of paper (with magnets on the back) and helpful list makers in their dollar section. They're not online, however.
momAgenda also sent me this fun “Honey Please Do” pad – which is fun to fill out and give to Mark with my list of his proposed projects.
Download Forms
For those who want to print out some helpful tools and list pages, I recommend these:

#5 - Mommy Track’d free download sheets, including a week at a glance calendar, a work/home “to do” list, a menu/grocery planner, party planning sheets, and a week-at-a-glance calendar.

#6 - Mommy Track'd also has some cool organizing pads and tools for sale –
- use the code “2009” to save 15%.

#7 - Simple Mom has some great free downloads too – a big selection including a “daily docket,” Christmas budgeting sheet, preschooler chore chart, monthly calendar and a master weekly checklist.

#8 - I need to spend some more time at DIY Planner – a free website where you can create your own planner from their templates.

So check these out and let me know what you think!

We have a winner! Leapfrog Tag Reading System Giveaway

We have a winner (chosen by random.org) for the Leapfrog tag Reading System Giveaway.

It's Fogbythesea, who commented: "I have been looking at these as a way to help my autistic son learn how to read. The pen looks like it may also help with fine motor skills."

I wish I had more to give away, since there was obviously a lot of interest. Thank you to everyone who entered, and I hope to have some other great contests coming up soon.

Coming Up: Hiller Aviation Museum programs

This in from Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos:

Flight Explorers Half-Day Programs
Join an exploration into the world of flight with our popular Flight Explorers programs. Three different topics are offered on select weekends and holidays this fall. Each program features a hands-on model aircraft construction project, an exclusive Gallery Tour, and a special flight simulation mission in the Museum's Flight Sim Zone.

For: Kids Grades 1-6
When: Saturday Programs on October 3rd, November 7th, November 28th & December 5th
Holiday Programs November 11th and November 27th
Time: 1 PM-- 4 PM


After-School Aviators Afternoon Programs
Launch a four-week after-school adventure for young aviation enthusiasts! Programs meet one day per week for four consecutive weeks at the Hiller Aviation Museum and provide an in-depth investigation into a particular area of aviation. Fabulous Flight students build and fly model aircraft, and Test Pilot Lab participants pursue a challenging series of flight simulations using a variety of aircraft under increasingly difficult conditions.

For Kids Grades 1-8
When:
--Fabulous Flight (Grades 1-5) Wednesdays 1:30-3 PM
October 7th & 28th
--Test Pilot Lab (Grades 4-8) Thursdays 3:30-5 PM
October 15th & November 4th

RSVP:
Space for all programs is limited and advanced registration is required.
Call (650) 654-0200 or visit website here for additional information or to download a registration form.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: Disney Family Museum

Thank you to Lydie at Travel is More Fun with Kids for graciously allowing Frisco Kids to use this post! Please visit her website for more great reviews of cultural activities in San Francisco and abroad.

We were fortunate enough to get a peek inside the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco a week ago Sunday. The museum opens on Thursday October 1st and is located in the Presidio.

Before going, I made sure that my two daughters (7 3/4 and 11) knew that this was not a walk in Disneyland but an insider view on the life of the man behind the company. If you do not want to risk disappointment, your family needs to be aware of this.

What we liked
Learning about the personal and professional life of Walt Disney through videos, family pictures. It is the whole purpose of the museum and it is a success. My youngest daughter's reaction after a couple of galleries was priceless: 'Oh no, his real name is Disney! He gave his own name to his company. How funny, his real name is Walt Disney!' We had told the children about it but for some reason, that detail got lost on the youngest child. And this is the main purpose of the creation of this museum: Diana Disney, his daughter, was afraid that the general public will forget about her father and the man behind the mouse.

There is too much to tell and it was such a pleasure to discover the museum that I do not want to give too much away but you will discover the original drawings (it was interesting to see the original Mickey Mouse sketches), the Alice series, the awards, especially the Oscar(s) received for Snow White (you will locate the award right away), the process behind the music, the sounds, the colors, the cartoons, the movies, etc, there is so much to learn and enjoy about the achievement of Walt Disney. Make sure that you make your child notice the lack of colors and the lack of sound in the first cartoons.

You think that you know so much about the man, well, think again, unless you are a die hard fan, I am sure you will spend a lot of time in the first two galleries discovering his life before creating Mickey Mouse. .

The interactive screens: my daughters played some game of pairing some music and characters. Lots of kids had fun playing that game. There were also some synchronizing images and sounds activities.

My 11 year old really enjoyed seeing the drawings come to life and particularly enjoyed the galleries where you can see movies on the upper side of the walls, you can watch side by side the colorless drawings and and the actual cartoons.

My 7 year old liked all the photos and drawings, especially the ones where she could actually discover who Walt Disney was.

Meeting people passionate about the life of Walt Disney and sharing additional knowledge. We talked with a book writer who wrote several books about Disney and the artists who knew him and enjoyed sharing insight with a visitor who is a Disney fanatic.

The view going before entering the last set of galleries: you are in front of a glass wall with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background: breathtaking.

We did not get to try
The theater. It will open on the actual opening day. To start: Fantasia, October 30 and 31 will see Halloween themed Disney stories (The skeleton dance, the Mad Pluto, Pluto’s Judgment Day, and more), later you will get Christmas stories. In November, Sleeping Beauty will be showed.

We got to meet our friends from Trekaroo at the visit. We trusted Brennan’s advice and skipped the food at the cafe. Our kids grabbed some cookies and apples: can not go wrong with this.

I was surprised by
The Gift Store: I thought the quality of the items is really high. Nothing plasticky as we often see in the Disney store. A lot of Art items are available.

What we did not like so much
My children lost interest at the Disneyland Park gallery. They liked the model of the park but for some reasons, this area did not touch them the same way the previous galleries did. They were more familiar with that part and instant of exploring the gallery,decided that they would rather whine about how they never get to go to Disneyland (even though their uncle took them to Disneyland Paris last summer!)

The Timed-entry. You have a window of 15 minutes to show up at the entrance with your printed ticket. My GPS sent us first to Montgomery Street in Downtown San Francisco and we arrived 5 minutes before scanning time even though we left really early. If you arrive after your window expired, they will try to get you in as soon as there is an opening or a slowdown in entrance. And if it never happens, you will have to come back another day. Well, you do not want this to happen, so plan accordingly.The galleries are not big and pacing out entries make complete sense. There were a lot of people in the museum but we never felt it was overcrowded so obviously it works.


Know before you go
--No strollers allowed
--Do not go with children under 7. I doubt they would like more than the cartoons in some of the galleries.
--Buy your tickets before you go, it is a timed-entry, make sure you do not leave in a hurry. You can buy the tickets 60 days in advance.

Is the the ticket price worth it?:
Adult: $20

Child: $12.50

The tickets are not cheap. We stayed almost three hours in the museum and really had a nice time. I am highly recommending it if your children can read and are big enough to process all the information. I definitely do not recommend it with toddlers.

MUSEUM INFORMATION

The Walt Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery Street, The Presidio in San Francisco (415) 345-6800
--Open Wednesday-Monday: 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Closed every Tuesday

The small print: The Disney Family Museum gave Lydie's family free tickets, but no other compensation, with no requirement to express a particular point of view.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review: Tao Las Vegas

.
This post is part 3 in an occasional series about Las Vegas. If you can get a sitter and want a night or two away with your honey (or a girlfriend's getaway), here's an idea where to dine.

It’s a restaurant! It’s a nightclub! It’s a beach (okay a pool)! Welcome to Tao.

If you’re a reader of People Magazine (or any rag covering celebrities), you’ve heard of Tao Las Vegas. As in the restaurant that rakes in more money than any other U.S. dining establishment, to the tune of $68.4 million last year alone.

After years of reading about all the celebrities at Tao in my People mag (with parties attended or hosted by the likes of Lauren Conrad, Riahnna, Kevin Federline, Ellen Pompeo, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Kid Cudi, Holly Madison, Khloe & Kourtney Kardashian, Madonna, and Rumer Willis, who celebrated her 21st birthday there this summer), we had to eat there on a recent Las Vegas trip.

I had my secret weapon – my sister, who lives in Los Angeles and is much better at celebrity sightings than I’ll ever be.

Our cell phones were quick on the draw. However when you eat dinner at 5:00 in the main dining area (rather than a private room with the stars), you’ll be left taking cell phone pictures of your sister instead. Plus we were at the restaurant, not the club.

We preferred to think of our early dining experience as the pre-show meal (hey – we had 7:00 and 10:00 shows to catch), but eating dinner at 5:00 did feel like we were catching the early bird special. That’s when the restaurant opens, so the early birds (most of whom looked decidedly like sneaker-wearing retired folks from Iowa) stood in line behind the velvet rope waiting to get in.

Located in the Venetian Hotel (read my Venetian review here), Tao joins the rank of other restaurants with its own store (think Hard Rock CafĂ©, but a smaller store). Lest you try to pronounce Tao the Chinese way (dao), think again. Try that at the restaurant and you’ll be corrected. It’s “tao” with a "t."

It may have been bright and sunny outside that late afternoon, but getting into Tao was a dark, exotic experience. The entrance is like entering a telescoping stone tunnel, with bathtubs on each side - the tubs were candle-lit and filled with flowers.

The club (which we didn’t see – I guess it’s not open at 5 p.m. – go figure) holds 1,000 partiers. The restaurant holds 450 diners, but it didn’t seem quite that big. It is certainly atmospheric. Ceilings went up at least two stories, and the main room is dominated by a 16 foot tall Buddha “floating” above a pool with Japanese carp. The Buddha sits in front of a wall of candles recessed in cubbies (we tried to figure out how they’d light all those candles before realizing they just flipped a switch - they’re electric). On the brick walls upstairs, we could see large photos of monks and other Asians, which were striking.
Like many restaurants in Vegas, this one has its on DJ spinning tunes for your dining pleasure.

Okay, the food. The stylized menu is organized by “noble treasures from the sea,” “from the sky,” “from the land,” “from the sides” (which I thought was funny), and some other categories including sushi, rice/noodles, tempura, special dishes, etc. The menu was extensive and if you can’t find something you like there, you should never eat at a pan-Asian restaurant again.
We started with the trio of sashimi, which was topped with jalapeno, cucumbers and tomato. It was delicious, but the jalapeno seems rather trendy (we had a similar dish at Lavo the night before complete with jalapeno). To die for was the seabass skewer with asparagus, glazed in miso teriyaki ($15). Ironically we also had miso teriyaki-glazed seabass at Lavo, though the Tao version was beyond compare. My companions and I were fighting over the last bites and who got to lick the dish.

As for entrees/sides, we ate spicy eggplant ($9) and pad Thai noodles ($16) which were good, but nothing special. We enjoyed the grilled Yellowfin rare tuna ($29) and red snapper with peanut sauce.

For dessert, we split the Fuji apple spring roll with Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream ($8) and chocolate raspberry won tons with the same ice cream ($9). Again, they were good, but not outstanding. I think the titles and presentation surpassed the taste.

Highlights for us were the cocktails and the service. The Tao-tini ($10), made with Absolut Mandarin, Stoli Raspberry, Malibu rum, cranberry & lime juices, was superb. I loved the Tiger Lily ($12), made with vodka, Chambord and pineapple juice. That one was served with a piece of sugarcane, which was yummy to chew on.

As for prices, you’ll pay for the atmosphere and Tao name. Kung pao chicken is $24. Pad Thai is $16. ‘Nuff said. The restaurant boasts of “spiritual eating” which we took as “holy sh*t – contemplate this $240 bill!”
Our server was excellent - she knew we had a show to catch and was attentive but didn’t rush us.

What I remember most about that meal is the image of the main dining area – the red hues, the big Buddha, the great drinks and the warm, exotic vibe. The restaurant has style and we enjoyed that style immensely.

Maybe next year Rumer will invite us to eat there with her next year - for her 22nd birthday.

(If you're going to Vegas with kids, you must read this first. And if you're doing Canyon Ranch Las Vegas, read this review)

Friday, October 2, 2009

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 (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 17-18 from 9-5
Where: Main Street (just off Highway 92), Half Moon Bay
Cost: free (though you’ll pay $5-10 for parking)

Coming Up: Great Glass Pumpkin Patch in Palo Alto

I love my glass pumpkins, so this upcoming weekend's sale strikes excitement in my wallet.

Get out your calendars for the 14th 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, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can wander through the patch and watch glass blowing demonstrations at various times during the day. 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 2 for viewing and glass blowing demos (10-4)
October 3-4, Saturday & Sunday 10-5, sale
Where: Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto
Cost: Free

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, October 3-4 is it. Okay, so are November 7-8, December 5-6, 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

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Coming Up: Preschool Preview Night in SF

Not sure where to send your little ones for preschool?

Head over to Preschool Preview Night 2009, where more than 100 preschools will have information to hand out, and questions to answer.

This information fair is sponsored by JFCS' Parents Place, Bay Area Parent magazine & First 5 San Francisco

When: Wednesday, October 21, 5:30 – 8:00 pm

Where: San Francisco County Fair Building (9th & Lincoln entrance to Golden Gate Park)

Cost: $5 (free refreshments!)

Register: call (415) 359-2455 or go to Parents Place online.

Coming Up: Harvest Festivals in the Bay Area

Just a quick note...check out Frog Mom in California's post about Harvest Festivals in the
Bay Area. She's got some great info there!

While you're there, check out the rest of Laure's blog posts - she writes comprehensively about some great outings to do with kids.