Hometown online fashion favorites at Tobi.com

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Deal of the Day: $25 restaurant certificates for $1 -today only

I haven't posted about restaurant.com in awhile - but I'm still using their certificates. They have a great one-day deal today - get a $25 certificate for $1. I just bought one for a sushi restaurant and another for a local seafood place.

Look through the list today - and if you see any you like, use the code WOW to buy them 90% off. Click here.

Book Club: The Zeroes by Randall Lane, Escape by Carolyn Jessop and Disneyworld!

Since our last Frisco Kids book club, I've been busy plowing through more books. Thought I'd fill you in on the latest.

I'm going to start with the heavier hitters: The Zeroes: My Misadventures in the Decade Wall Street Went Crazy by Randall Lane. I know Randall from when we worked together at the college newspaper, so I was immediately interested in reading his book. The Zeroes covers one of his  magazine start-ups, where he and a partner targeted stock traders (Trader Monthly), writing a magazine for and about them. This was before the crash, of course, at the height of traders making hundreds of millions in bonuses. These individuals were highly sought after by luxury advertisers, making it seem a simple thing to cash in on them. And Randall did - growing Trader Monthly into a handful of other publications aimed at a narrow, rich niche (like Dealmaker and Private Air) and throwing decadent parties reviewed in the likes of the New York Times.

I'm not a financial type, and I don't follow traders. Yet the Zeroes was a page-turner for me because Randall is a great story teller. He weaves together the rise and fall of the stock market during the last decade, with the rise and fall of  his company. His observations are keen (and to keep his memory straight, he went through thousands of his emails from that time period, and interviewed sources as well). For financial types, there's a lot of name dropping and juicy tidibits which will mean more to them than it does to me. But in reading the book, I learned a lot about what happened in the last decade financially, and what it's like starting a business -particularly a magazine. Even to the mass public, it's a great read. Check out the excerpt of the book in Vanity Fair, where Randall makes a deal with the devil, er...artist Peter Max (I didn't like his art before, and I like it even less now). You'll see that his writing is beautiful and it's funny too.

After the Zeroes, I read Escape by Carolyn Jessop. This 2007 memoir follows one of the plural wives in the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-Day Saints) in Colorado City, Arizona. You might remember the name Warren Jeffs - the prophet/leader who ruled the sect from 2002-2007. Carolyn's husband Merrill took over as de-facto leader after Jeffs was jailed for marrying off underage women to men in the sect. You might remember the Texas raid by the government's Child Protective Services, after a minor there allegedly complained of abuse (the complaint was later found to be a fraud, but a bunch of men were arrested for polygamy and sex with minors).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to make caramel apples

We got into the fall spirit last year and made caramel apples for the first time ever. It was simple - yet surprisingly hard.




The concept is easy. Put a stick in an apple. Melt some caramel and then dip an apple into it. Decorate it and let it harden.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pumpkin Cake

Last fall, Woman's Day magazine featured this cake on its cover.It was easy enough that even I could do it. Of course mine looks nothing like the one in the magazine (I can't find the photo online), but imagine if this was bigger and looked orange instead of salmon, and was shaped a little more like a pumpkin. Got the picture?




Here's how. Use a Bundt pan and make two cakes. You can use the big Bundt pan, or make mini pumpkins with the small Bundt pans (like I did). I used regular cake mix or gingerbread mix (I can't remember). You can make any kind of cake.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Free Ice Cream September 30

It's time for Cold Stone Creamery's 9th annual free ice cream social. They'll be giving away 3 ounce scoops of Kate's Creation (caramel apple ice cream with chocolate shavings, graham cracker pie crust and apple pie filling). Not my cup of tea (or ice cream), but it sounds better than the crappy mixture Zachary usually orders there (and then eats two bites of and becomes "full").

You'll get your free ice cream by making a $1 donation to Make-a-Wish - that's why there

When: September 30th from 5-8 p.m.

Find a Cold Stone by clicking here and finding the "find a store" button on the bottom right.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Coming Up: Brandi Chastain Testimonial Soccer Game - and Clinic!

If your kids love soccer, get tickets to a testimonial soccer game honoring Brandi Chastain. The event raises money for her Reach Up Foundation. It celebrates the end of Brandi's playing career.


Celebrity players include Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Tisha Venturini , Kristine Lilly, Eric Wynalda, Leslie Osborne, Aly Wagner, Tony Meola, Brent Jones, Bode Miller, Cindy Parlow , Normar Garciaparra, Tab Ramos, Marcelo Balboa, Eric Lagopoulos, Tiffeny Milbrett, Lisa Leslie and others.


There's a pregame clinic where the kids can play WITH Brandi and other soccer celebrities for an hour. The fee is $50. You can sign up here




When: October, 2, 2010
Times:
3:00 - family friendly activities
4:00 - soccer clinic
6:00 - game
Where: Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara
Tickets: $20 (general admission), $50 (reserved seating



Thursday, September 23, 2010

My birthday cake

My daughter inherited my love of baking cakes. Here's what she made me for my birthday.
Words can't describe its taste. You can't see it, but there's lots of red and yellow gel icing on the cake, where the sprinkles are adhering. The middle splotch is a blob of cream cheese frosting - colored bruisy-purple. I now need to stock up on food coloring. I let the kids cut into any part of the cake they wanted. Here's what it looked like after 4 kids chose their pieces (and cut slices for my hubby and me).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Coming Up: KidAroo Music Festival (Sippy Cups and more) in SF

This Saturday, head to the KidAroo Festival at Marina Green. In addition to the music, look forward to face painting, balloon animals, food, reptiles and a fire department truck.There's also music workshops for kids


WHAT: KidAroo Music Festival with Sippy Cups, Ralph's World and Choo Choo Soul!

WHEN: Saturday, September 25 at 11-5 pm
SCHEDULE: Sippy Cups at 12 noon, Ralph's World at 1:30, Choo Choo Soul at 3:30.  
WHERE: The Little Marina Green in San Francisco. 800 Marina Blvd.
TICKETS are $60 for a family 4-pack and $20 for individuals. Babes in arms are free.Get tickets here.
The concert benefits Yick Wo Elementary School

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mom Blogger of the Week

This week (or rather last week) I was the About.com's Stay at Home Mom Blogger of the week.
Check it out.

And shhh.....I'm not just a stay-at-home mom - I'm a journalist too.

Join us on Facebook.

Edible sukkah and other Sukkot craft projects

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot is upon us - it starts tomorrow night. It's a harvest festival where Jews build "huts" in their yards, and eat there (and sometimes sleep there) for a week. It's one of my favorite holidays - and the kids' too.

If you want to try some Sukkot crafts, one of my favorites is the edible sukkah. It uses graham crackers, pretzels, cereal and frosting - all yummy treats. Learn how to make an edible sukkah here.

Here are some other Sukkot crafts, from A Mother in Israel.

We just decorated ours this weekend. This is just the start. We now have the roof on and the rest of the decorations up too. Just no picture yet...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Coming Up: NY-SF International Children's Film Festival

Film festivals aren't just for adults. The NY-SF International Children's Film Festival is coming up September 24-26 at Landmark Embarcadero Center's theater. The films are for kids ages 3-18 (plus families, of course). Filmmaker guests will attend and there will special outreach programs, interactive workshops and an opening night party.


For more details, click here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Coming Up: Kids World Events at Serramonte Center

Come to Serramonte Center for "KidsWorld," a free, fun and educational after school monthly program.

According to Serramonte, "KidsWorld events include festive, interactive performances with singing, dancing, games, crafts and fun learning opportunities. Each event teaches students a variety of topics including music, culture, art and even etiquette. The after school program also provides a place for kids to come and socialize in a fun, safe and educational environment. Each monthly event is themed and filled with arts and crafts activities, hands-on fun, festive music and more."

Here's the schedule:
Tuesday, September 21, at 5:30 p.m. – Spanish Heritage
Tuesday, October 19, at 5:30 p.m. – Halloween

Membership is free, and is good for discounts throughout the shopping center, entry into free monthly events and more.

The event is at the Serramonte Center, between the Elephant Bar and Starbucks (formerly the Mervyn's wing)



























Come to Serramonte Center for "KidsWorld," a free, fun and educational after school monthly program.










According to Serramonte, "KidsWorld events include festive, interactive performances with singing, dancing, games, crafts and fun learning opportunities. Each event teaches students a variety of topics including music, culture, art and even etiquette. The after school program also provides a place for kids to come and socialize in a fun, safe and educational environment. Each monthly event is themed and filled with arts and crafts activities, hands-on fun, festive music and more."







Here's the schedule:



Tuesday, August 17, at 5:30 p.m. – Back to School



Tuesday, September 21, at 5:30 p.m. – Spanish Heritage



Tuesday, October 19, at 5:30 p.m. – Halloween







Membership is free, and is good for discounts throughout the shopping center, entry into free monthly events and more.







The event is at the Serramonte Center, between the Elephant Bar and Starbucks (formerly the Mervyn's wing)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Coming Up: Renaissance Fair

I've never been to the Renaissance Fair before. It starts this weekend in Hollister. It runs through October 17th (weekends only). Check out Travel is More Fun with Kids intro to the event - they have lots of great information and some discounts too.

Find Frisco Kids on Facebook.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Art in Action - the home-based version

I'm a big supporter of Art in Action, a Bay Area based arts program. Volunteers with no art background use materials and books supplied by Art in Action to teach kids about important works of art. Art in Action provides training and excellent resource book, where they lay out the discussion points and terminology in a way that any person can understand (and lead). Then they come up with great art projects for kids to do.

I taught the program for three years at my kids' school and found it to be the most rewarding volunteer work. Why? The kids LOVED it. When I'd walk into the room they'd get excited and say "are you here for Art in Action?" The kids said the projects and program were the best part of the school year. Plus they didn't get formal art programming otherwise (thanks, budget cuts!) so this way they still go something.

Art in Action recently launched a home-based version. I've been meaning to check it out but I've been very busy with other projects. Luckily, homeschooling mom and blogger TerriAnn at Cookies & Clogs IS trying out the program and just posted her first lesson online. Check it out!

If you're not homeschooling and your school isn't yet using Art in Action, I highly recommend you get the program into your school.

The photos are my kids posing in front of some of their favorite Art in Action projects that year.

Coming Up: East Bay Kids' Stuff Swap

The  nonprofit organization, peace. love. swap. is hosting a kids' swap this Sunday, September 19th. No, don't swap your kids. Swap their stuff. Clothes, high chairs. Strollers. Come and bring your stuff. It's like a giant garage sale where everything is free! Bring/get stuff for ages 0-14, plus maternity clothes.
Anything not taken will be donated to charity afterwards.

Whatpeace. love. swap - see their website for more info and FAQ on how it works
Where: Head over Heels Gymnast
ics, 
4701 Doyle Street, Building F, Emeryville (no parking in that lot - see website for parking info)
When: Sunday, September 19, 2010. Drop off between 11 a.m. & noon. The swap is 12:30 p.m. to 1:30.
Cost: $5 (free for volunteers) - plus your stuff. There's open play for the kids for $5.






Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Coming Up: Sunday Streets

There's a popular San Francisco Sunday Streets this Sunday, September 19th!

Get out and walk, run, bike, skate - all without cars on the road. Check out the schedule here.

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: Western Addition
Cost: free

Future Sunday Streets:
October 24 - Civic Center, Tenderloin

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Deal of the Day: Bay Area Discovery Museum - 5 tix for $25

Occasionally, Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito runs a great deal on discounted tickets to the museum. Now is one of those times.

The deal for the next few days: you can get 5 tickets to the Bay Area Discovery Museum for $25. You can start using the tickets September 20, 2010.  The tickets have to be during one visit. Even if you don't use all 5 though, it's still a good deal, since tickets normally cost $10 for adults, and $8 for kids. 


Get the deal through Savvy Source here.
Publish Post
If you haven't been to the hands-on museum before, read my review of BADM at Family Fun Magazine.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Frushi

When my kids made Frushi on a playdate, I thought it was quite clever. Imitation sushi made with fruit. I didn't realize it was a real thing. They heard about it through the playdate's sister's American Girl magazine - from the library. But it turns out American Girl didn't make it up at all.

 The kids wrapped a banana chunk with seaweed, and covered with with chocolate sauce and nonpareils. Instead of fake, plastic grass, they used real grass. And instead of ginger, a slice of strawberry. As for wasabi? It's cream cheese mixed with food coloring and covered in green sprinkles. I know, you're all licking your lips.
The boys actually ate it.

Massages at a discount

Did our previous entry on Spa Week or Massage for the Cure pique your interest? Today I'm over at Suddenly Frugal talking about how to get a discounted massage or other body work. Suddenly Frugal is a great (national) blog with lots of info on deals, discounts and ways to get more for less. I also reviewed the book Suddenly Frugal (same author) some time back. You can read the review here.


Did anyone else sign up for the Massage for the Cure or Spa Week?


Find Frisco Kids on Facebook!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Transformative Travel with Kids - Q&A with Judith Fein

I recently started reading the book Life is a Trip: The Transformational Magic of Travel. It's written by one of my travel colleagues, Judith Fein, a book of wonderful essays showing what she learned on 14 different journeys. It appeals to me because at its heart, travel has the ability to transform your life and show you a new world - literally and figuratively.

Now that I have kids, traveling with them doesn't have that same magic. Sure, it's fun to see things through their eyes. But I'm often so focused on making sure we don't lose our luggage, and making sure we have a snack handy that they'll eat, that I miss what's going on around me. It's harder to be present and open to new experiences when my kids are whining that they're tired and bored.

So Judith answered some questions for me on how to make experiential travel possible with kids in tow.

Q:  How can you think about transformational travel when you are worrying about finding bathrooms for the kids and wondering if the hotel has a pool?


A:  Let me take a deep breath before I answer this. Long before you became a parent, you were a whole person with needs, dreams and desires. Even though you may be frazzled and pulled in twenty directions, that person has not disappeared. And that person still needs to be nurtured. One of the ways you can do this is by sharing with your children what is important to you. I am not talking about table manners or saying "please" and "thank you" (which of course are important), but about how you navigate life and what feeds your soul. Your children are wonderful sponges for stories about other countries and cultures.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

San Bruno fire - how you can help

My heart goes out to those families who lost their homes, family members or were injured in the San Bruno fire. I'm posting a few ways to help and invite you to put suggestions as well, in the comments section below.

HELP a MOTHER OUT
I've featured Help a Mother Out before - the organiztion donates diapers and other items to mom in need. Until September 20th, they're conducting a mini-drive to help out the affected San Bruno families. They're looking for:

* Diapers and Pull Ups (all sizes)
* New underwear (children, women, men)
* New travel toiletries
* Baby formula
* Clean towels
* Feminine hygiene products
* Gently used, freshly laundered children's clothing (ages 0-5 especially), women and men's clothing. Please ONLY donate clothing items that you would use personally for yourself or your family. No stains or rips, please.

Deliver at the drop-off station in San Francisco. (Drop off donations c/o HAMO at: Natural Resources: 1367 Valencia St. (at 25th St.), San Francisco, CA 94110 Contact: lisa (at) helpamotherout.org)  They're working on getting a drop-off site set up on the Peninsula. Check back on their website if you can't do the drop-off in the city, or look below for the San Bruno Rec Center info.

DONATE BLOOD
Blood Centers of the Pacific seeks your blood. You may hate needles, but think of the people you can help. Lots of locations to donate.

DONATE GOODS
My sources tell me that you can drop off diapers, blankets, shoes, towels and children's clothing at the San Bruno Recreation Center at 251 City Park Way in San Bruno. The Red Cross and Salvation Army are also set up at Bayhill Shopping Center, 851 Cherry Avenue San Bruno, to provide victim assistance.

DONATE MONEY
I'm sure many organizations are collecting money for the victims - I'll highlight this one because it's in my inbox and I trust the organization. The Jewish Community Federation is setting up an emergency fund - the online donation link will be live by Monday. JCF says "donations will be directly distributed to the most effective service providers in the Jewish and general communities." Check the website for donation information, or mail a check the Jewish Community Federation - San Bruno Emergency Fund, 121 Steuart Street, San Francisco, CA 94105.

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation also set up a special fund. The first $100,000 donated will be matched by the SVCF. Donate here.

Bay Area: get rid of Rx meds, e-waste, shred docs, giveaway old suits

The DEA is sponsoring a National Take-Back initiative on September 25th. If you have unused prescription medicines or controlled substances, don't dump them in the garbage or drain - they can leach into the public water supply. This take-back program accepts over-the-counter and prescription meds, but won't take IV solutions or needles. The take-back program operates from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 25th. Find a drop-off location here.

The Men's Warehouse is holding a National Suit Drive. Have any of the man's suits in the closet? Perhaps you/he is no longer work for a stuffy accounting firm, but are now in start-up mode. Silicon Valley and SF isn't known for suits (except maybe Mayor Gavin's). Those suits can be used for men in crisis - needing suits and nice clothes for interviews. The suit drive is also collecting ties, dress shoes, separates and outerwear. Find a location here. The suit drive goes through September 30th.

(Thank you to Unclutterer for the info)

There's always a drive going on at Career Closet - which collects business clothes for women in need. They have two locations - San Jose and Foster City.

Free shredding and e-waste collection! If you have old tax documents, bank records, investment records and the like - don't just toss them in recycling. Have you heard of identity theft? And don't burn out your little shredder that only takes 3 pages a a time. Bring your three banker boxes (that's the max) to shred to Foster City on Saturday, September 18th and get it done for free. More details here from June the Bay Area organizer. The event goes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and they'll be collecting e-waste as well.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Coming up: Smithsonian Free Museum Day - 9/25

We had a great day at the Exploratorium - for free! Smithsonian Magazine's Museum Day made is possible, and they are doing it again on Saturday, September 25th. Download an admission card here, and get into museums like Hiller Aviation Museum, Coyote Point Museum, the Exploratorium, Cartoon Art Museum, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Bedford Gallery, Blackhawk Museum, Chabot Space & Science Center, and others.

The card is good for you and one guest - one card per household. Participating Bay Area museums are listed here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coming Up: Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival

While temping years and years ago, I worked in the Ghirardelli Square management office. I got to decorate their basement office Christmas tree and had to keep myself away from the large box of leftover chocolate squares from the official tree lighting. Admittedly, I failed at staying away from those (they now cost anywhere from 45-99 cents each depending on where you buy them). My friends received envelopes of them in the mail. Shhh...don't tell anyone.

Do yourself a favor, and head over to the Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival this weekend (September 11-12, 2010). It's free, but if you want to taste, tickets are $20.

At the festival, you can watch chefs making chocoalte desserts, and the kids can participate in an ice cream eating contest. There's also live music. Here's the schedule.

Here are some more photos to get you in the mood:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happy New Year to my Jewish readers - plus crafts!

If you're not Jewish, the holiday of Rosh Hashana may be something of a mystery. It's the Jewish new year! Instead of blowing party horns, we blow the shofar, a ram's horn, to wake us all up and make us look at our lives and how we are living them. It's a time for reflection and change - for the better.

Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, we're supposed to be introspective and figure out how we want to improve ourselves. We give more charity. We ask others for their forgiveness for anything we've done wrong in the past year. We start the year with a clean slate and part of that is making sure we've worked out any issues with other humans.

Rosh Hashana is a joyous holiday, known for apples and honey. We dip apples - a fall fruit - in honey, symbolizing the sweetness. Challah, the tranditional egg braid, is not served in a braided twist, but rather in a circle - symbolizing the circle of life. It often has raisins baked into it - for sweetness.

We spend the holiday in services and eating festive meals. Kids don't go to school and adults don't work on the holiday. Rosh Hashana begins Wednesday at sundown, and goes through Friday night (though many Jews just celebrate through Thursday night).

I want to wish my Jewish readers a Shana Tova - a happy new year. May you be inscribed for a blessing in the book of life.

If you want to do some simple Rosh Hashana crafts, here are some links:
Rosh Hashana coloring pages and apple print cards (it's traditional to send new year's greetings)

More cards and coloring

Make a fragrant apple or beeswax candles

"Ecocrafts" like a paper shofar, napkin ring and foam apple core (not sure how a foam apple is an eco thing, but...)

Coming Up: Family Fun events at Hillsdale

Hillsdale Shopping Center has some fun upcoming family events this month.

Saturday, September 11, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. – Hawaiian Dance Music & Lessons


Saturday, September 18, from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. – “Happy Birds” Performing Parrot Show

Sunday, September 19, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. – Rock Steady Clown Juggling Comedy, Juggling, Magic and More.

Saturday, September 25, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. – Peter Pan & Tink’s Neverland Adventure Flying Lessons and Treasure Hunt

Sunday, September 26, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. – Hula Hopper “Glitter Girl”

Where: Hillsdale Shopping Center (60 31st Ave, San Mateo)
Cost: Free

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chinatown Kitch

This is my third in a series about a few fun places to explore in Chinatown (we also featured the San Francisco Chinatown Fortune Cookie Factory and Vital Leaf Tea shop).

Just across from the Vital Leaf Tea shop at 1044 Grant Avenue, is a Hello Kitty type store that sells little toys, Pokemon cards, knick-knacks and stationary. The kids loved it. I was more entranced by some funny products that had awesome English translations.


This fragrance above says "Natural Spa - it is a fragrance that makes you relaxed as if you enjoy SPA."



This car fragrance was my favorite. It says "New car fragrance that not is before." And the scent (you can't read it in the photo) is SEXY RICH.


This coin bank says: "Honey - Fall in love with..."


Huh???? Fall in love with money? Fall in love with the bank?

This next one was part of a pair. This one says: "Husband I love you" - because nothing says love like a pile of pennies, apparently. The unintended humor (in case you miss it) is the hand-written sign on the bank that says "please handle with care." It's only on the Husband bank. Hmm....

The matching bank is pink and says "Wife I love you too." I guess he loves her enough to let her collect her own pile of pennies.

And last (this wasn't from the Hello Kittty type shop, but rather in one of the generic souvenier shops)...

This is The Original Jesus Saves bank, "the bank you can trust." Just put some coins in his crotch, and you're good.


Here's a little bible verse on the side of the box, in case you're not totally convinced to buy it. "He who gathers money, little by little, makes it grow." From Proverbs.

(by the way, the Jewish joke is that Jesus saves, but Moses invests...)

Also in Chinatown:
Fortune Cookie Factory - free!
Vital Leaf Tea tastings - free!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Coming Up: Star Wars the Clone Wars weekend at Zeum


For all you Star Wars fans out there, you won't want to miss this event at Zeum. They're partnering with Lucasfilm (yes, Lucasfilm) so kids and familes can create their own intergalactic adventure at Zeum. Haven't been to Zeum? It's San Francisco’s hands-on, multimedia arts and technology museum - and it's awesome.

What can you do there?
--Lightsaber Training - Jedi Masters will show you how to wield a glowing lightsaber and control the Force

--Movie-making - You can build clay models of your favorite Star Wars™ characters and bring the adventure to life with stop-motion animation in the Animators Studio
--Green Screen Special Effects - Write a script and direct our own The Clone Wars episode
--Take pictures with Star Wars: The Clone Wars characters and special guests


When: Saturday, September 11, 2010 & Sunday, September 12, 2010 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Zeum, 221 Fourth Street, San Francisco
Cost: $8 for kids (ages 3-18) and $10 for adults. Free for Zeum members


Friday, September 3, 2010

What to do with Kids Labor Day weekend in San Francisco

I planned to write a long post with lots of ideas for fun family events in San Francisco this Labor Day weekend. But I've been swamped with other work. So I'm going to refer you to Bay Area on the Cheap, one of my colleague's sites, because they list some great family-friendly ideas, like:

--Bank of America "Museums on Us" program (fee museum membership for B of A customers)
--McLaren Park (SF) free BBQ with DJ, hot dogs, hamburgers and veggie items
--Free Shakespere in the Park (SF) - Two Gentlemen of Verona
--Yerba Buena Gardens Festival  - free
--Coyote Point free first Sunday (San Mateo - there's a fabulous Magic Mountain playground in the park there)
--SFMOMA Family Sunday program

Find Frisco Kids on Facebook!

Chinatown: Fortune Cookie Factory

While I have memories of visiting the fortune cookie factory on a family vacation 30 years ago, I had never taken my kids. So we headed out in search of San Francisco's Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. Zachary really wanted a tour, though I kept telling him I didn't think there was an actual tour. My memory was of a dark room with women folding the warm cookies by hand. Enough to see, but not much to tour.

The sign says the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory has been around since 1962, but it looks much older.

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie "factory" is at 56 Ross Alley, between Jackson and Washington, Stockton and Grant. An old man sat out front eagerly inviting us inside. Once in the door, one of the employees greeted us with round samples of flat cookies that never made it to fortune cookie status. I took a photo of her handing them out, and she said loudly "50 cents a photo." So this blog post cost me $1, in addition to the cookies I bought. (I didn't pay for the photo above since it was outside the factory).


Inside you'll see three women sitting in a line (not facing each other so they can talk easily), each by a cookie machine. The batter automatically pours into a mold (you can see it behind the woman in the photo below), and goes around in a circle, getting cooked. They peel off the warm cookies, insert the fortune, and fold them into shape. It's hard to believe they're still doing this by hand. It was very hot that day, and the women sat there with long sleeves folding cookie after cookie. I felt sorry for them and wondered if they ever develop carpal tunnel syndrome.


Not surprisingly, you can buy bags of cookies (plain, or chocolate and plain mixed) for $4.75. They also sell "adult' versions which I was anxious to try, but not with the kids around. You can also buy almond cookies for $3.75, but I didn't think they were very good.

You can see a pile of cash sitting atop the cookie machine in the photo. The old man selling us the cookies just grabbed change from up there. Not very official. No cash register, no wallet, no documentation of money paid. No taxes? Hmmmm...
I told my mom about the factory and how it looked a little different than I remember. It turns out the factory we visited in my youth was in Oakland. Ah, now that explains it.

If you go:
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory has no website (what do you expect for a factory where three women hand-fold cookies?)
Where: 56 Ross Alley, San Francisco (between Jackson and Washington, Stockton and Grant)
Cost: free (but photos are 50 cents each)

Also fun in Chinatown: Vital Leaf Tea tastings - just around the corner. A beautiful shop where you can learn about different teas - for free!

And - my friend June says there's a fabulous vegan restaurant on Ross Alley, near the fortune cookie factory, if you're hungry. I don't have the address, but the alley is only one block long

Find Frisco Kids on Facebook!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Deal of the Day: Silliman Aquatic Center 50% off

I've posted before about Silliman Aquatic Center in Newark. It's a great indoor water park good for toddlers up to teens. Read Frisco Kids' review of Silliman Aquatic Center here. There's a kiddie play area (see below)

plus a lazy river, plus water slides for kids and adults over a certain height. And there's a hot tub and lap poool as well. We've been several times and love it there.
.
Mamapedia is offering 4 admissions for $15 (50% off) - you can use it this weekend. Get the deal here. The deal is offered for the next three days, and it's good through September 11, 2011. The place is open in winter, so if you want to swim in winter - here's a good option!

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Chinatown: Tea Tastings at Vital Tea Leaf

It had been a long time since I wandered through Chinatown. So we headed over there one day in search of the Fortune Cookie Factory. We found it (written up in a separate post), but we also found a few other fun stores to share with you.

Vital Tea Leaf was one of them. The clean and modern tea tasting salon is modern and inviting. There's a long tea tasting bar, with seats, fortune cookies and beautiful displays of tea. Tastings are free.

The walls are lined with jars of different teas - available for sale. The staff there can help you pick out whatever you're looking for - whether it's something to soothe your digestive system, or a pick-me-up.


Plus in the back you'll find other specialy teas, like bricks of tea (apparently tea used to be packaged this way and you'd just break a chunk off to boil into the beverage).



If you're a tea lover, you must read Sarah Rose's book For All the Tea in China. I mentioned it on the blog once before, but it's a fascinating story about how the English stole seedlings and trade secrets from China to grow their own tea empire.

Vital Tea Leaf has three Chinatown locations - the one we feature here is at 1044 Grant Avenue. There's also one on Pacific Avenue (at Jones Street). Admittedly, we did not do the tea tasting. With 4 kids and only 2 adults on this excursion, it was a bit too much to ask of our kids, none of whom like tea. Sigh. I'll have to go back without them.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Coming Up: Free National Park Entrance

Vaationing at a National Park has to be one of the best bargains around. But the national park service is offering free entrance several times in 2010. So mark your calendars and make your plans. About 100 national parks are included in the list, with 12 from California. Those include Lava Beds National Monument, San Francisco's Maritime National Historical Park, Muir Woods, and Yosemite. You can see the entire list of 100 free parks here.:


--September 25, 2010 (Public Lands Day)
--November 11, 2010 (Veterans Day)

You still might need to pony up for camping reservations, but the entrance fee will be waived.