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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hanukkah crafts and links

Hanukkah starts on Wednesday night. I wanted to share a few Hanukkah links to get you in the mood.

Check out this gingerbread menorah from Sweet Thrills Bakeshop started by two Bay Area moms. Unfortunately they're sold out right now (I should have posted sooner!) but maybe you can try making your own this year, and get on their email list for next year.

Manischewitz got into the gingerbread house game this year, making a Chanukah House out of vanilla cookies. You can decorate it to look Jewish. They're $18 at Amazon.

Looking for some Hanukkah printables? Look at this gorgeous Hanukkah dreidel box. Get the printable for free on Snapfish, at the bottom of the page.

Coming Up: Hanuakkah Events and Menorah Lightings in the San Francisco Bay Area 2013

With Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coinciding so early this year, I have to admit I'm behind on my Hanukkah posts! Cooking a big batch of latkes Wednesday night, and big Thanksgiving dinner Thursday. So I'm throwing together this list of Hanukkah celebrations. It may be missing some events. Feel free to add them in the comments!

Bill Graham's menorah lights Union Square. They'll be out there lighting it for the public every day, but there are three celebrations planned. Lighting times are below.

On Sunday, December 1st, the festival starts at 3 with kids' crafts and a special appearance by Frog. There will be a Klezmer group performing, perhaps around the 4:30 lighting time.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Target Ugly Sweaters

I love getting paid to write about fun things. So I'll put it up front. Target is paying me to write about their ugly sweaters. I don't really get the whole ugly sweater thing. I didn't grow up with it. I posted about ugly sweaters on one of my other blogs two years ago.

Now, my husband does own three ugly ties. I'm not sure why he bought these (at a garage sale), and I'm also not sure if he's ever worn them. Especially since he wears a tie about 6 times a year. The one in the middle doesn't technically qualify as a joke tie, but it looks very Christmasy and the fabric is awful.

Target decided to sell ugly Christmas sweaters this year and they're trying to get the word out. Since I'm in Target every week anyway, this assignment was a perfect match for me.

What do you think? These are from the men's collection. Ugly? I do think they're ugly, but they're not as tacky as they could be. I think they should work on tackier for next year. The material is also kind of thin. Not the best look on most men. Here are two more.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum with Kids

JFK library
Today is the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. I thought I’d commemorate the date with a look at his legacy, or at least his library. I visited the JFK Presidential Library and Museumfollow last summer on my Boston trip (you can see more Boston posts here).
JFK library1
The library opened in 1979, in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. If it’s not on the University of Massachusetts Boston campus, it’s in the same area, and the bus takes you through the campus to get there. Originally it was supposed to be on the Harvard campus, but for a variety of reasons (including Cambridge residents not wanting in there!) they changed the location. The library was in planning from when JFK was president. At that time there were only 4 other presidential libraries.
The area had been used as a landfill for appliances, and they needed to add 15 feet of top soil and dirt because of all the garbage. More than 30 million people contributed funds to build it. The location is beautiful, with a view of Boston. You can see Kennedy’s personal sailboat Victura, which is on display May through October.
JFK library2
You start off inside watching a 17 minute video about his life and presidency (it was good). Here’s a link to the permanent exhibits.

Coming Up: Patchwork Show at Jack Lopndon Square

This Saturday, Jack London Square hosts Patchwork Indie Art & Craft Fest. There will be more than 140 local artists, crafters and designers exhibiting handmade goods like art, knits, clothing, paper goods, accessories and housewares.

Plus, music and food, and a DIY craft station, DIY gift wrap booth and DIY jewelry workshop. No one can resist the DIY veggie fermentation workshop (sign me up! Okay, not really for that last part).

When: Saturday, November 24, 11-5
Where: Jack Longdon Square, 55 Harrison Street, Oakland
Cost: Free

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Coming Up: Nutcracker Under the Dome

Nutcracker Under the Dome kicks off its 3D light show inspired by the San Francisco Ballet on Thursday night, November 21st. If you go on opening night, they'll have a special appearance by the San Francisco Ballet dancers and Beach Blanket Babylon carolers. The Westfield San Francisco Centre is the host.

Each night, the new 3D light show, with a new format each year. it's inspired by the ballet's Nutcracker production, and includes performance footage in the show. Apparently the San Francisco Ballet was the first American company to perform the full Nutcracker, in 1944 (I didn't know that!) and it later started a tradition world-wide. I checked those facts on the scholarly Wikipedia, and it turns out that the story is accurate. The history is a little more complicated, and kind of interesting. Read it here.

The Nutcracker under the Dome show takes place in the center's 1908 glass dome, which is used as a screen and theater.

San Francisco Ballet trainees perform at 4:30, along with a special appearance by principal dancers Maria Kochetkova and Davit Karapetyan at 5:00, at the premiere of the light show.

In addition to the nightly light show, the mall will host a ballet pop-up shop, holiday Sugar Plum Fairy breakfasts with Santa, a Hanukkah celebration with the Bill Graham Menorah Project, and additional caroling by Beach Blanket Babylon (details below).

You can see Nutcracker Under the Dome nightly from November 21 through December 31. It runs every half hour from 5 p.m. until closing. Holiday hours vary. The show is six minutes long, and is on level four. No tickets needed - just show up. It's free.

If you're there earlier, you can watch Illuminique Under the Dome at noon. It's an animated story set in a 19th century toymaker's workshop. Read more about it here.

About those events mentioned above, here are some details:

SF Ballet Activities: I don't have the times, but shoppers can meet the dancers, take photos, get autographs and buy stuff - that's what the pop-up shop sells. At the pop-up shop, you can also get Nutcracker ballet tickets, music, DVDs and more stuff. It's open Thursdays through Sundays, November 21-December 29 from 5-9 p.m.

Sugar Plum Fairy Breakfasts with Santa: Breakfasts are December 7, 14 and 21 from 8-9 a.m. (ooh - early!). You need tickets. There will be a Sugar Plum Fairy appearance, private VIP showing of the light show, meet and greet with Santa, one commemorative photo per kid, breakfast from La Boulange du Dome, and a Nutcracker gift. Please consider bringing an unwrapped toy for South of Market Child Car, Inc. Tickets are $25/each and you can get them here.  It appears tickets are available (I checked).

Beach Blanket Babylon Carolers: Carolers begin on Friday, November 29 from 12-2 on level 4, under the dome, and continue Saturdays from November 30 through December 21 from 1-3. I assume they'll be doing songs from their holiday show.

Santa Photos with Kids/Pets: Santa will hold court November 23-December 24. Monday through Saturdays from 11-8, Sundays 11-6, and Christmas eve from 10-4. Bring your pets (4 legs, no fish) for photos on December 5, 12 and 19 from 5-8.

Hanukkah: It's early this year! Join them for the Bill Graham Menorah Project lighting on Wednesday, December 4 at 6 p.m. For those keeping track, this is the last night of Hanukkah. The lighting will be on level 4, under the dome, with Rabbi Langer of Chabad of Pacific Heights. They'll have treats, crafts, dreidels, and music. And it's free.

Coming Up: This Weekend - Miracle on 34th Street the Musical, Holiday Fun at Treasure Island Flea Market, The Little Mermaid

Looking for some activities for the weekend? Here are three:

Miracle on 34th Street, the Musical

Pied Piper Players puts on this musical adaptation of the popular holiday favorite. The theater company is made up primarily of kids, and it's a good company with quality shows. As for the production, you'll see a man claiming to be the real Santa Claus who spreads a wave of love throughout New York City. You'll recognize  songs like “Pinecones and Hollyberries,” “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” and “My State, My Kansas.” 

Tickets are $13/adults, $13/seniors and children. If you order online, there's an additional $1 fee. Shows are: 

Friday, November 22,  7 pm
Saturday, November 23,  2 pm
Sunday, November 24,  2 pm
Where: Bayside Performing Arts Center, 2025 Kehoe Avenue, San Mateo

Journey "under the sea" with Ariel and her aquatic friends in Disney's The Little Mermaid Jr. In a magical underwater kingdom, the beautiful young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her ocean home - and her fins - behind and live in the world above. But first, she'll have to defy her father King Triton, make a deal with the evil sea witch Ursula, and convince the handsome Prince Eric that she's the girl whose enchanting voice he's been seeking.
The show is put on by Crocker Middle School: 
Thursday, November 21, 7 pm
Friday, November 22, 7 pm
Saturday, November 23, 7 pm
Sunday, November 24, 2 pm 
Get tickets here, $10/each. The show is at Crocker Middle School, 2600 Ralston Ave., Hillsborough CA.

Treasure Island Flea Market - Holiday Fun

Holiday Fun Begins At The Treasure Island Flea

When: November 23 - 24, 2013  10am - 4pm

They'll have snow on Treasure Island this weekend. Plus the San Francisco Firefighters will be there to collect donations for their toy drive. 

Admission is $3, and kids 12 and under get in free. The event is dog-friendly, and parking is free.
As always, there will be fabulous vendors, both items and food/drink. As for the toy drive, this is the city's largest, where they collect more than 200,000 toys for 40,000 disadvantaged kids. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Coming Up: Po Bronson talks about new book Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing

If you're a fan of Po Bronson, he'll be talking about his book Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing tomorrow night, November 18th in SF. This book and his other (NutureShock: The New Thinking About Children) will be available for sale, and presumably signing.

You can get tickets in advance here at Eventbrite, or at the door.

Where: Lowell High School (101 Eucalyptus Drive, SF)    
When: Tuesday, November 18 from 7:30-9 p.m.
Cost: $10 for nonmember schools, $5 for member schools (member schools include: Bay School, Drew School, International High School, Jewish Community High School, Lick-Wilmerding, lowell, SF Waldorf School, University High School and Urban School)
By: Sponsored by Parents' Coalition of Bay Area High Schools

Coming Up: San Francisco Chamber Orchestra Free Family Concerts

This weekend, November 23-24, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra is offering free family-friendly concerts for its Family Concert series, in San Francisco, San Mateo and Oakland. They're designed to introduce the kids to the instruments that make up the orchestra, and the concerts last 45 minutes. This concert is High Low Fast Slow with Circus Bella. That's right, the circus! They'll have acrobats, jugglers and clowns in addition to the music.

WhenSaturday, November 23 (2 and 3:30)
Where: 199 Museum Way, San Francisco (the Randall Museum)

When: Sunday, November 24 (noon)
Where: 388 9th Street, Oakland (Oakland Asian Cultural Center

When: Sunday, November 24 (3:30)
Where: (College of San Mateo Theater) directions here

The concerts are free, and doors open 30 minutes before the performance.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Advice for a Disneyland and California Adventure Newbie

My friend asked me for advice on going to Disneyland and California Adventure for the first time. A newbie! She's finally braving the parks with her 10 year old and didn't know where to start. After giving her all the links at the bottom to read (from my Disney series), I gave her this advice. Now keep in mind, her son is 10. We're not talking toddler here.

How much time to spend at Disneyland and California Adventure?
Two days is enough, if you want to see a lot and you're willing to spend the entire day there. I'm a maximalist, so I'm the type who gets to the park at (preferably before) opening, and stays until the end (yes, midnight). Though when travelling with my husband, we have to leave earlier, because he may divorce me otherwise. I insist on staying until after fireworks, no matter how crabby everyone is. The fireworks are a highlight. If you have leisurely time, enough money, and want to go back and forth from your hotel and maybe sleep in, then go for three days. But don't take me with you. We'd strangle each other. 

To buy a park hopper?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: Cars Land at Disneyland

This is long overdue from my Disneyland series, but better late than never! I wanted to give Cars Land at California Adventure its own post. I have to say, Cars Land was ADORABLE. They did a fabulous job recreating the scenes from the movie and making them come to life.

The Cars Land sign is at the entrance to Cars Land, not surprisingly. Notice the barrel cacti below - the landscaping was authentic.

As I mentioned in my Disney tips page, the Radiator Springs lines were out of control. I thought I knew what to expect, having done a lot of reading ahead of time. But I was not prepared to

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Holiday Shopping and Gifts

This is the first in a series of gift giving ideas for the season. Some interesting shopping ideas this holiday season. - the SF online art store (as in fine art, not supplies), launches a three month pop-up store that opened November 7. They have works of art from high profile artists, rotating exhibitions, galleries, decor vignettes featuring room ideas, art for kids' rooms, custom framing and other features. They'll be selling art for your walls, home decor, personal accessories, kids' toys, books and more.

They'll also have a family ornament collage workshop on December 7th, a family-friendly event where you can hand make ornaments. More info on that later. The pop-up store is at 117 Post Street (at Kearny), San Francisco. Sorry, no website to share at present time.

Skipping Christmas? My friend and fellow travel writer Heather Greenwood Davis talks about taking the gifts out of Christmas for the second year in a row, and focusing on family time together. Would you do this?

Logic Eye Glass Cases - normally I would not recommend eye glass cases as gifts, however my daughter recently got glasses and requested this, as her friend has one. The case is truly awesome. There's no hinge to break, or rather no hinge at all. You roll the round/back sides of the case together, and the colors/ribbons change to a different color as it turns - it's like it turns inside out. Sounds like magic, but when you play with enough, you can see how it works. In any case, it's artful and cute, and not expensive. They come in different colors. The link above is for them at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. They're cheaper at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, but when I ordered from there, their selection wasn't broad (they were out of some). To save you some research, the MoMA case is $15 with $6.95 flat shipping. At Corcoran, I ordered two ($10.50 each) and shipping was about $10.

If you're looking for gaming headsets for the kids or other loved ones this holiday season, please check out the link from our sponsor.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to help those in the Philippines

I was going to comb through and find organizations you can donate to assist those in the Philippines affected by the typhoon. But the The New York Times beat me to it and did a more comprehensive job too. Please donate! CNN has a page of resources as well.

Two more to add:
The American Jewish World Service
The American Joint Distribution Committee

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coming Up: Movie Sing-Alongs and Events

Some fun movie singalongs and quote-alongs...and events. These are at the Retrodome in San Jose (Century 21).

November 15-17 - Pirate Party Event
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Disney's Peter Pan - Pirate Party Event

November 22-24
2001: A Space Odyssey - on the big screen
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
(tickets this weekend are $9)

November 29-December 1
Toy Story Quote-along and Holiday Toy Drive

December 6-8
The Godfather Quote-Along
Sing-Along with Disney's Cinderella

December 13-15
An American in Paris Sing-Along
Sing-Along with Disney's the Hunchback of Notre Dame

December 20-22
The Sound of Music - Sing-Along

December 27-29
Moulin Rouge Sing-Along
Wizard of Oz - Sing-Along

How to Help Our Veterans - and a few Veterans Day Activities Today

Today is Veterans' Day. Whether you know a veteran or not, there are ways you can those those who served our country, whether back in World War II, or in more recent battles in the mid-East.

Parade Magazine has a list of 11 ways to help veterans (with links), including paying to upgrade a soldier's helmet with cushioning, throwing a baby shower or sending a gift for a deployed soldier's wife, mailing a care package, helping soldiers transition show by supporting their volunteer work with worthy organizations, transferring your hotel points so military families can use them when accompanying their loved ones for medical treatment, donate toys/art supplies for soldiers to give kids in Afghanistan, send holiday cards, or teach a class to returned veterans to help them learn business skills.

Operation Finally Home builds houses for injured vets. Read more in this People Magazine story and donate if interested.

The big San Francisco Veterans Day parade was this weekend, but there are some celebrations in the East Bay today.

You can visit a military cemetery, like the one in the Presidio, to pay your respects.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Coming Up: Wizard School Scavenger Hunt - SF

If your kids like scavenger hunts, this one looks fun. It's run by Watson Adventures and is called the Wizard School Scavenger Hunt. You'll follow in the footsteps of young wizards on a field trip to the Legion of Honor, looking for art that echoes the characters, places and enchanted objects in Harry Potter series. Items may be serpents, swords, Dumbledore look-alikes, tropies, eerie figures like Death Eaters, Dementors and other unusual creatures. It's for kids and adults to do together.

When: Saturday, November 16 at 2 p.m.
Where: Legion of Honor (34th Avenue and Clement, SF)
Ages: 10-17
Cost: $16/kid, $19/adults plus museum admission
Tickets: buy them here

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: Books I've Been Reading: Finding Gossamyr, Sleep, Cockpit Confidential & Making Your Own Energy Bars

In addition to my pleasure reading (I'm trying to make my way through the third in the Stieg Larsson Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy - while remembering who all the characters are in this complex book with a lot of Swedish names), I've been reviewing some other books you may be interested in.

Power Hungry by Camilla Sulsbury - If you're interested in saving money on snack bars or you want to control what ingredients your kids eat, this is a great book. There are tons of recipes for snack bars, energy bars, performance bars and nutrition bars. You can mix and match ingredients and work off the templates she gives. I haven't tried the recipes yet, but now I'm tempted. Most of the recipes are gluten-free, and the author gives ideas how to make them vegan, nut-free, or other variations you might be interested in. I don't want to say too much more about the book, since I'm writing an article about this for another publication, but there's a lot in it to like.

Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith - I'm still making my way through this nonfiction book, but after
reading more than half, I can definitely recommend it. It's written by a commercial pilot who in essay form, answers those questions you have but maybe have never asked. Questions like: how does the plane fly and not drop out of the sky, what is turbulence and should I be scared, how much training do pilots have on different aircraft, how do runways work, what are all the pilot designations (first pilot, copilot), how do the regional airplanes affect traffic and pricing, why can't you use a cell phone in-flight, how to make boarding better, why and when do planes jettison fuel, how do they know how much fuel to carry, how does pressurization work...and many many many more. The book is written in small chunks, so you can pick up and leave off whenever, and not worry about forgetting what you're reading!

Sleep: What Every Parent Needs to Know - by Rachel Y. Moon, MD - American Academy of Pediatrics - I was eager to read this book, since one of my kids has problems falling asleep. I was concerned it would only be about babies/infants, but it actually goes into the teen years. It's not the most exciting read, especially when you're in bed and the Dragon Tattoo girl is calling. But it's organized in a way where you can flip to the chapters of interest. While I wasn't interested in learning how to get a baby to sleep (been there, done that), I was interested in learning about how hormones affect sleep, sleep problems and issues in adolescence, insomnia, how much sleep kids need at different ages, and other topics. We still haven't solved the sleep issue at home, but at least I'm better informed. If your child has any issue with sleep, I recommend getting a book like this to give you more information and ammunition.

Finding Gossamyr - Volume 1 - I was interested in reviewing this book because it's a graphic novel and it involves
math - two things my son is very into. The cover of our book looks different than the one on the right. Same characters, but different coloring and composition. It's not a series I'm familiar with.

The description; "In the world of Gossamyr, power is as simple as comprehension (of math theorems). Denny's unique gift allows him to solve theorems that would drive anyone else insane... He can only solve problems, not consider the appropriate answer for a situation. Fortunately, the children are befriended by allies who strive to send the stranded siblings home before dark forces can use the boy's power for evil."

My son didn't like the book, so I read it. I have to say I found it confusing. The drawings are beautiful. The protagonist Denny is a boy who is likely on the autism spectrum. I say that with all seriousness. He's a math genius, but he has to do things his way and has his rituals and routines. Deviate from those, and you get a tantrum. I like having a boy like Denny for a hero - it's a good message to send to kids who might be a little different and who have their own issues, and message that his caretaker sister should listen to him, because he holds more power than she gives him credit for. That said, I really couldn't understand all the story, which takes place in another world, with alien type characters with more confusing names (it's hard enough with the Swedish names in the Dragon books!).

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: Exploralab

Hopefully you saw our recent post on the new Exploratorium and our visit. Soon after we went there, we got  the Exploralab book to review.

by The Exploratorium (Weldon Owen, September 2013)

Exploralab, by the Exploratorium (Weldon Owen, September 2013) is a beautiful book with different 150 experiments and ways to explore science and the world. It's a fun read, and the graphic style makes it accessible for kids. There are some "tools" your kid can use, inside the book - like a magnifying glass, a wheel and a window shade, that make it kind of like the board books the younger ones use. They definitely enhance the experience.

As you can see from the page below, the graphics make the book fun for the kids to follow. There's a page in the front showing you how to use the book, like looking at the the yellow lab number in the left corner. The black circle on the right corner lists what's needed. The white circle in the middle giving info on the scientific facts in a light way.

You'll recognize some of the concepts from visiting the Exploratorium,

Monday, November 4, 2013

Link Love: Sweet Riot Chocolate, Stars Wars and Thomas Kinkade, Tree-Climbing Goats, Ohio State Marching Band

Some fun things I've been seeing online:

----Too much Halloween candy? Not us! But if you want to get rid of some, here are some candy buy-back options from Red Tricycle.

----Tree-climbing goats. No kidding! Your kids will love these pictures of goats who climb trees to get food. They're hooves are adapted for it. I found this because I follow I F*&^ing Love Science on Facebook.
Here's what she says in her FB post: "Found in Morocco, they climb these Argan tree in search of food. It's hard to imagine that animals with hooves could be so adept at climbing but these images are 100% real. Food is fairly sparse in this area, so they have to grab it when they can - even if it's high up in a tree!

The secret to their ability to climb lies in the shape of their hooves. The keratin reinforced hoof wall adds strength, while the soft textured sole provides traction and grip. It's also capable of deforming inwards to counter irregularities in the terrain. Their toes are capable of operating independently giving them more of a "grip".

These hooves evolved to allow the goats to climb rocky, mountainous areas - but they've shifted ecosystems to the trees!"

----If you like to support new projects/new products, check out this one from Sweet Riot on IndieGoGo. They are a NYC-based chocolate shop specializing in organic, fair-trade chocolate that features new artists on their labels. I'm a sucker for artists' work on products (see my Tcho post - also an awesome chocolate place that uses great artwork on their chocolate). They're raising funds to market their 100 calorie chocolate line. You'll get some chocolate in exchange for your donation, just like I'm getting some chocolate for posting this. Win-win!

----10 Mega Corporations Make Almost Everything You Buy - an interesting and scary infographic and story

----15 Things to Make out of Cardboard - for play - from Apartment Therapy

----Common clutter-clearing myths from Gretchen Rubin. Great stuff!

----I'm not a Thomas Kinkade fan, but these pictures where Star Wars figures and vehicles are inserted into the photos is hilarious.

----Have you seen the video from the Ohio State Marching Band's recent half-time show? They do some AMAZING formations that seriously will blow your mind. This is the Hollywood Blockbuster Show. A must-watch.

----You may not want to watch the entire thing, but this Empire State Building Halloween Light Show is fun.

Coming Up: A Year with Frog and Toad - Musical

Inline image 1

A Year with Frog and Toad is coming to the Bay Area. This 2003 Tony award winning musical will play around the Bay Area. It was adapted from the Arnold Lobel Frog and Toad stories, and is put on the Bay Area Children's Theater. Get tickets here. Tickets are $16-20.

Shows are:

Berkeley: November 17-December 14
San Ramon: December 21-22
San Francisco: December 28-January 5
Mill Valley: January 11-19

Friday, November 1, 2013

Get 'yer Tickets: Gilt City Warehouse Sale - In Person

You probably know the flash sale site Gilt City. They're having a warehouse sale in San Francisco (1270 Sutter Street) on Saturday, November 23, featuring  designer brands, including men's and women's fashions, home accessories, kids goods and more. Prices are up to 90% off retail.

Sadly, you have to pay to enter! Cost is $10, but you do get some drinks (cocktails!) and snacks (by Special K) with that, plus live music to get you in the mood, and a DJ. Also sadly (or not) - you can't bring the kids. But you'll only get entrance for two hours, so babysitting (or spouse sitting) shouldn't set you back much. And don't forget your credit card. Your cash is no good with them.

Get tickets ahead of time, and choose mid-morning, afternoon or late afternoon shopping. They replenish the racks in between sessions, so don't worry about getting a late one. Let me know what you buy!