blogspot stats

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy holidays from Frisco Kids

Wishing all who celebrate, a Happy Hanukkah!

Wishing all who celebrate Christmas, a Merry Christmas.

And wishing everyone a happy, healthy New Year! (Here's the Frisco Kids list of what to do with kids in the Bay Area on New Year's Eve?

We'll be posting again in January. Enjoy the break!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Touring the White House with Kids

This is part of a series on Washington D.C. with kidsLet’s just say that preparing to go to the White House is worse than flying a plane these days. Not that our president should be unsafe, but…

If you’re planning a trip to Washington D.C., you probably want to go to the White House. It’s free, historical and exclusive! It’s hard to get in.

The Front? The Back? Nah, just one side.
I thought my kids would be SO excited to go into the White House. In the end, they were bored. BORED! What’s wrong with them? When we entered, they gave us a Junior Ranger activity guide, which the kids promptly handed to me and made me hold. But there's lots of good stuff in there, including things they can look for inside the White House, and lots of trivia. And puzzles where you need the pencil/pen you're not allowed to bring in.

Tour: When I was a kid, we took an actual tour. Now it’s self-guided. You walk through the ground floor, peeking into the library, Vermeilrom and China room (which holds…White House china designed for the various presidents). 

You then go upstairs into the East Room, the largest in the White House. It was used to hang laundry during the Adams administration, but has held weddings (Alice Roosevelt, Luci Johnson). This room holds performances and a painting of George Washington that was saved from the fire that burned down the White House in 1814.

We went through the Green, Blue and Red room, so creatively named. If you look at those links you can see that President Obama has actually spent time in the rooms, though he's allowed to walk on the rugs and sit on the furniture, and you're not. Though there are no tour guides, the guards are quite informed and share their knowledge with you. About the wallpaper. About who redecorated, when and who paid for it. About furniture that was sold and then repurchased later from across the country.

The last major room is the State Dining Room, where they can seat 140, at round tables. According to this map, the family dining room is just behind it! Lots of famous people have eaten here. From there it’s into two halls, and out the door you go.

after exiting the White House we were allowed to take photos
What the kids thought: they thought they’d get see the president’s bowling alley and movie theater. They thought everything was really old and not interesting. They were bummed they didn’t get to see Bo the dog. They didn't really care that famous people they've never heard of had eaten in the State Dining Room.

Bo - not available for our petting pleasure
 I tried to get them interested in White House facts, like:
-it has 26 fireplaces and 3 elevators. I think we saw an elevator and maybe a few fireplaces.
-there are 15 bedrooms and 35 restrooms. None of which you get to see.
-There’s even a dental office and medical clinic. That you don't get to see.
-There are 4 dining rooms (state, family, president and staff). You get to see one.
-There’s no front or back to the White House, only a north and south side.

I told the kids there were snipers on the White House roof, but they didn't believe me. I started to doubt myself (I didn't tell the kids that) but did see snipers on the White House roof on YouTube, so it must be true.

White House Visitor’s Center: This is located across the street in the National Press Building, not in the park area. I went in without the kids. The kids would have been BORED. There is a coloring area and some kid books on the White House. They have a fun little gift shop.

Souvenir photos: There’s a souvenir store across the street from the White House called White House Gifts, where you can get your picture taken for free in a fake Oval office or at a presidential podium used for press conferences. That's free with a $5 purchase. It's at 701 15th Street NW.

Getting tickets: Check the White House site . You should contact your senator or member of congress for tickets the second you book your flight or trip. We went in November and managed to get tickets in less than 2 months. But in the summer? You’re looking at 6 months. Our senator said he needed a minimum of 40 days. Be prepared to provide social security numbers and other information.

Details: there’s a lengthy list of what you cannot bring into the White House – or even into the security area. That includes food, water, pens, backpacks, fanny packs, purses, (handbags/pocketbooks included), cameras, explosive devices, firearms, strollers, etc. You can bring a phone that takes pictures, but if you take a picture or answer the phone, they will kill you. Just kidding. They may take your phone away, which to some is akin to death. They have no lockers, so be prepared to go without much that day (other than a wallet that fits in your pocket and a phone). I ended up making a trip back to the hotel to get my backpack for the rest of the day - sending the rest of the family off to the Smithsonian.

Security: you will go through hefty security, reminiscent of getting into the Statue of Liberty. Which if you haven't been, is worse than the airport. Though leave your shoes on.

Check out my other posts on Washington D.C. with kids including:
Join Frisco Kids on Facebook.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Coming Up: Holiday Celebration for Special Needs Kids

Habitot, a hands-on toddler museum in Berkeley, has a free holiday event for special needs kids and their family. The kids will have the museum to themselves during that time.

WHEN: Wednesday, December 28 from 3-7 p.m.
WHERE: Habitot (2065 Kittredge Street, Berkeley)
COST: Free

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Favorite Treats

At holiday time it's fun to sample the seasonal foods. By seasonal, I mean variations on chocolate, cookies and peppermint. So here are a few of my favorites. I do hope you'll weigh in (pun intended) with your favorites!

We just got a few sample bags of Pretzel Crisp's new dark chocolate and peppermint snacks. Yum! We also got to try the white chocolate version. I prefer dark chocolate, but the kids prefer the white. They dark chocolate bag is now hidden in my pantry where only I can find it. The downside is the bag only contains 4 official servings, so it's not very big. They're only out this time of year.
Trader Joe's. So many wonderful holiday foods at Trader Joe's. My favorites:

Trader Joe's chocolate-covered shortbread star cookies. Love these. Also hidden from my family. My TJs was sold out very early this year - I'm expecting a mailed shipment from a friend.

Trader Joe's chocolate-covered candy cane Joe-Os. So imagine a candy cane cream Oreo, covered in chocolate. Yep, that's it. They have their own Facebook page.
And this year, a box of 4 favorite seasonal covered Joe-Os. Includes ginger, peanut butter and double chocolate, in addition to peppermint. Yep, you guessed it. Hidden from the family.

Melting Moment Cookies with Icing - these have neither chocolate or peppermint, but I associate them with Hanukkah. I haven't made them as an adult, but I remember them from growing up. I can't guarantee this is the same Melting Moment recipe but it looked close. Make the icing with a cup of powdered sugar and a little bit of lemon juice (if you like tart) or milk. Add food coloring to the icing. It's just not the same if you use powdered sugar and no icing. They look more like these, but use color.

Check out these really cute North Pole cupcakes and peppermint popcorn from Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons. Her stuff always looks amazing!

And last, but certainly not least, we got some homemade Irish Cream from my dear friend Cheryl. It's so delicious. I don't have her recipe, but this homemade Irish Cream recipe has similar ingredients that she mentioned to me (she didn't say anything about almond extract).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: Suite Hotels near Washington D.C.

This is part of a series on Washington D.C. with kids. Most of the attractions in Washington D.C. are free, making a trip like this much less expensive than trips elsewhere (after factoring in hotel costs!).

After two trips to Washington D.C. in two years, I feel like a hotel search expert. I spent hours trying to find the right combination of things I wanted for our meager budget. If you can get a hotel that works for you in Washington D.C., by all means go for it. When we went the rates were too high (not to mention parking costs). We opted for Arlington, VA, which is very easy (and quick) to get to on the Metro system.
Here was our criteria for a hotel:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

14 Things to Do Over Winter Break

Are you crawling the walls yet? Here are 14 things to do over winter break in the Bay Area. Add your own favorites in the comments section!

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

2. While you're at Golden Gate Park, check out the Academy of Sciences' Tis the Season for Science, through January 16. Get your fill of snow - indoors, see some live reindeer, learn about how holiday symbols connect with the natural world, see where cinnamon comes from, and find out if partidges really live in pear trees.  

3. Curiodyssey in San Mateo has Winter Explorer Days 12/20-23 from 10-3. Changing drop-in daily science activities - free with admission.

4. Visit the Marine Mammal Center in Marin, and check out the seals and sea lions getting rehabilitated. Open daily except Christmas and New Year's Day. Free admission and no reservations needed.

5. Waste some gas looking at holiday lights. Here’s a list of light displays in the Bay Area.

6. Go to the Oakland Zoo for Zoolights, through January 1st. Using LED-lights (those are the efficient ones, by the way), you’ll see animals, candy canes and Santa Clause, shaped by lights. There’s a train ride (Snowball Express), Santa’s workshop, and light show in the meadow. 

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

8. Make some crafts and homemade treats! A sock-snowman, an edible snowman, easy Hanukkah crafts, caramel chocolate popcornrock candy, or chocolate dipped pretzels 

9. See a show. Xanadu in San Francisco through January 13. Cats in San Jose December 27 through January  1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas in SF December 21-31. A Christmas Carol in San Jose through December 24. There are still a few Nutcracker shows left. The San Francisco Symphony has holiday shows.

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

11. Go ice skating. Here are several options for outdoor holiday ice skating in the Bay Area:

12. Kiddie Amusement parks! Try Children’s Fairyland in Oakland.

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

14. Go swimming – indoors at Silliman Aquatic Center. Their indoor play structure, slides and Jacuzzi are just thing for cold days. 

Join Frisco Kids on Facebook.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Link Love Cooking and Holiday Things

This is the season for eating, so here are some great links about cooking and eating - plus some craft ideas.

If you wonder what the campus dining plan is like at the Culinary Institute of America, check it out here. You'll be drooling.

How to host a kid-friendly cookie swap - by a Little Yumminess

Cheese plate play date - also by a Little Yumminess. The title is pure awesomeness, but it's a great idea for kids too!

Last minute homemade gift ideas - by my friend Kris at Attainable Sustainable.

I love all things miniature, so this post by Frog Mom about Leafcutter Designs, about little packages and little letters (and kits to make your own) caught my attention.

Transform recycled jars into holiday art. This one looks awesome - cute and easy from Attainable Sustainable.

Another Frog Mom post...this one on Hakone Gardens in Saratoga.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011 New Year's Eve with Kids in San Francisco Bay Area

What to do with the kids on New Year's Eve in the San Francisco Bay Area? Here are some family-friendly options.
(here's the 2012 New Year's Eve with Kids post)

Bay Area Discovery Museu- Sausalito
What: Noon Year's Eve
When: December 31 from 9 a.m. to noon (Museum closes at 2 p.m.)
Details: Count down to New Year's. Celebrate the clock striking 12 noon and create your own noisemakers and party hats as the ball drops.

Cost: $11 for admission. Optional $12 goody bag (order online) with bubbles, sunglasses, necklaces and moreRSVP: Drop-in. 

Asian Art Museum - San Francisco
What: Strike a Japanese temple bell to ring in the new year
When: December 31st. 

9:30-11:30 a.m. bell ringing for museum members. 
11:30 a.m. bell ringing ceremony for nonmembers
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. art activites
Details: Good explanation of Japanese bell ringing tradition here.
RSVP: none. Children 12 and under get in free. Get your numbered tickets at the front desk.
Cost: Free with admission

Hiller Aviation Museum - San Carlos
What: Noon Year's Eve Celebration
When: December 31st, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Details: Face painting, Lizard Lady, For Goodness Snakes, puppets, music, games, bounce house, climbing wall, flight simulation game, live entertainment, balloon drop
RSVP: none. Event free with admission.

What: Balloon Drop
When: December 31, with ball drops between noon at 2:05. Radio Disney will be there from 12:30-2 with games, music and prizes. Museum closes at 4 p.m. that day.
Details: create a noisemaker, a party hat, other crafts and "countdown to noon across the time zones"
RSVP: none.
Cost: free with admission

Oakland Zoolights
What: Zoolights - holiday decorations, lights and music - at night!
When: through January 3rd, 2010, 5:30-9 p.m. on 12/31
Details: This isn't a special New Year's Eve program, but if you're looking to do something fun that night, check out the Zoolights.
RSVP: none
Cost: $5.50-$7.50 zoo admission for nonmembers
Embarcadero Fireworks
Bundle up for fireworks near the Ferry Plaza. Head to the Embarcadero and watch outdoors - they start at midnight. has a list of things to do that day as well.

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dedicated Post: Biscotti Warehouse and Sample Sale - Designer Girl's Apparel

Don't miss the Biscotti Warehouse and Sample Sale this Friday and Saturday, December 16 and 17. Save up to 75% off wholesale - items as low as $10! Doors open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Designer girl's apparel brands include Biscotti, Kate Mack and baby biscotti. The sale is at Biscotti Inc. headquarters, 5601 San Leandro Street (2nd floor) in Oakland, one mile north of the Oakland Coliseum. Cash or credit only. Questions or inquiries? Email or call (510) 434-9122.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Great Places to Donate this Holiday Season

Of course there are many many worthy organizations and places to donate this holiday season. I'll highlight a few here:

One Warm Coat organizes coat drives around the country. You can organize your own or search for one near you.

The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund is an organization I've contributed to yearly. The fund provides one-time donations to families in need for specific purposes. If you read the SF Chronicle, you've probably seen stories they write about some of the recipients. Each year the fund helps more than 5,000 Bay Area families encountering an unexpected crisis. It's one of the largest private sources of emergency financial assistance in the area. The fund is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

If you looked at the right side of my blog lately, you'll notice the large green Passports with Purpose ad. This fundraiser, organized by travel bloggers, is raising $80,000 in small donations to build libraries in Zambia (in past years, the organization built a rural school in Cambodia).

To encourage you to donate, bloggers solicited amazing prizes like hotel stays in Los Cabos, British Columbia or Kauai, Disneyland Park Hopper tickets, grandstand seats for the Tournament of Roses parade, Costa Rica tours, travel gear, Amazon Kindles, Kindle Fires, and gift certificates for all kinds of things. You can see the full list of prizes here along with the blog hosting the prize, and list of participating travel bloggers here (we're one). You can also donate without entering to win a prize.

The fundraising ends on December 16th, with prize winners announced on December 23rd. How to enter? You get one entry for every $10 donation. In the "# of entries" spot on the right, put in how many entries you want for each prize you're interested in, and then give them your email address at the bottom. Easy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Light and Other Displays in the Bay Area

The holidays are so well known for dark nights and bright lights, I thought we'd do a round-up of some fun Bay Area light displays.

The Hyatt Regency San Francisco (Embarcadero) has thrice daily snowfalls in its atrium lobby, along with thousands of holiday lights and a 30 foot tree. Look for it through December 31st. Get there at 1, 6 and 8 p.m. daily for the show. 

The Westfield Shopping Centre in San Francisco has a new 3-D holiday light spectacular this year. It starts at 5 p.m. nightly, when the mall's dome turns into a multi-media surround theater, with lights and a holiday story harkening back to a 19th century toy shop. It's call Illuminique Under the Dome and runs for four minutes every half hour from 6 to 8:30 through December 31st (Sundays the mall closes at 8). Get a preview here.

The Niles Canyon (East Bay) Train of Lights has holiday runs through December 29th. The Santa Cruz Holiday Lights train runs through December 23rd.

When shopping in Union Square, stop by the Westin St. Francis to see their pastry chef's sugar castle resembling a French chateau. It weighs more than 1,200 pounds and is completely edible, with 20 circular towers and 30 rooms. Kids will also love the train that circles around it. Look for it through January 3, 2012.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is zoo lights, where the zoos light up at night with themed light displays. The Oakland Zoo has a light show open nightly (except 12/24 and 12/25), train rides, other rides and other activities.

The Gilroy Gardens Holiday Lights Symphony of Lasers and fireworks runs through December 30 (see here for dates). It's free with admission and a lot of fun (we've been in the past). Plus, there's outdoor ice skating, a Santa's Workshop, a Charlie Brown Christmas show and rides. Get $30 tickets here that include a buffet dinner. If you buy the same deal at the gate, it's $40. I assume you can buy tickets without the dinner at the gate too, but those prices weren't online.

Check out the holiday displays and lights at Fisherman's Wharf. The Boat Parade is on December 16th starting at 6 p.m., when several of the area's boating clubs have a parade of lighted boats. Details here.



Saturday, December 10, 2011

Coming Up: Emil of Lonneberga Puppet Musical

Just opening this weekend, Emil of Lonneberga (English-language premiere) at the Bay Area Children's Theatre. By the time this posts, you'll just miss the opening of the show (sorry!). But it's running through December 22, so not to worry. It's the story of an angelic-looking 5 year old farm boy who can't stay out of trouble. It's set in Sweden a century ago by Astrid Lindgren (the name is familiar, yes? Pippi Longstocking). See a clip here. It's done with puppeters who appear on stage, and there are live musicians as well performing music from the Smaland region (familiar? Ikea).

WHERE: Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley.
WHEN: weekends through 12/22
TICKETS: $20/adult, $15/kid

Free Stuff this Holiday Season

After spending so much money this season, there are a few things that are free...

Get free photos with Santa at the Westfield San Francisco Centre Mall, sponsored by Windows (Microsoft). You an get free family holiday photos (and on some days, photos with pets), choosing from photos with Santa or just a winter backdrop. You can edit and print the photos for free under the dome in the mall, through December 24th. They're also doing the free photos in 21 airports (including SFO).

I haven't tried this yet, but another blogger pointed me to this free holiday card site which plays holiday music. We may use if we run out of printed holiday cards!

FREE HOLIDAY CRAFT AND GIFT IDEAS has a bunch of fun holiday craft and gift ideas here.

Get free photos with Santa at House of Air (indoor trampoline place) at Chrissy Field on Tuesday, December 13 (2-5 p.m.) and Tuesday, December 20 (noon to 3)

Free museum days in San Francisco - find them here at Travel is More Fun with Kids.

What else is free? Leave a G-rated comment or idea below.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Three Museums not to miss in Washington D.C.

This is part of a series on Washington D.C. with kids. Most of the attractions in Washington D.C. are free, making a trip like this much less expensive than trips elsewhere (after factoring in hotel costs!). Here are three free museums you shouldn’t miss (Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the National American History Museum and the Postal Museum):

During the tour, you’ll walk above the printing floor, watching the workers. They have a sense of humor, posting signs like “tomorrow only: free samples” and “just think how I feel – I printed my lifetime salary in a few minutes.” You’ll see the printers (which we saw getting jammed), sheets of bills then getting cut and trimmed, computers that inspected the currency (at ½ second per sheet), carousels/trays of money moving through the packaging process, $400,000 bricks of money (and $100 billion in one room alone). The exhibit before the tour is interesting as well, with the history of the bills and printing.

a million dollars in $10 notes. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
 Lots of interesting facts, like:
-the Bureau is the largest producer of currency and security documents in the world
-in 1962, President Lincoln signed the bill laying the foundation for printing money
-Texas was the first printing operation outside of D.C. Texas prints 38 million bank notes a day
-the Bureau has 2,500 employees, and they print 24 hours a day.
-the Federal Reserve’s order is placed yearly, and printing is divided evenly between D.C. and Texas
-currency designers work in D.C. and apprentice for years
-they can print 14 colors total (7 on each side) but currently print only 3 colors
-every scrap of paper there is accounted for, and they know where every single bill is shipped

money, money, money. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Kids’ Opinion: While I thought the Bureau was fascinating, the kids surprisingly didn’t. Maybe your kids will like it more. they can buy shredded money in the gift shop.
FunnyWe liked that there was  an ATM outside the building. We also like the Bureau’s url:
Details: Since you can’t get tickets ahead of time, get there early and wait. Even in off season. Admission is free. Get Bureau of Engraving and Printing tour details here. You buy shredded money in the gift shop.

How tall are you in $100 notes? Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
This is a huge museum and was probably our favorite.
SparkLab: The ground floor has several interactive galleries the kids loved, including the interactive SparkLab, where they did experiments, games and learned about invention.

The outside of SparkLab. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Julia Child’s kitchen – worth a peek through this recreation of her kitchen, with her original cookwear. You can also watch some of her shows, but that was boring for my kids.

Julia Child's Kitchen - copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Star Spangled Banner – This 30 x 34 foot flag from 1795-1828 flew at Fort McHenry. It inspired the Francis Scott Key song after a night battle. Learn the history at the exhibit and see the flag, which originally had 15 stars and 15 stripes. Mary Pickersgill was paid $405.90 to make it, which is more than most in Baltimore would earn in a year at that time. She had help: her daughter, two nieces and one indentured servant.Read all about the flag and its history (with quizzes!) here.

It's not easy being green. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
 Pop Culture – see Dorothy’s ruby red shoes (size 5, and one of several pairs worn in the Wizard of Oz) as well as Archie Bunker’s chair and Kermit the Frog, Farah Fawcett’s swimsuit, Michael Jackson’s hat, Apolo Ohno’s skates.

There's no place like home. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Carts – we learned how the cotton gin works through a traveling cart and educator. The kids got to separate seeds from cotton and take home what they did (okay, so I wasn’t so excited to have a loose bag of cotton in my purse, but it could be worse). Check out a list of daily events before you go.
Details: The museum is part of the Smithsonian and is free. Here’s a self-guided tour with kids for up to age 5. Tips on taking the kids to the museum. If you need a break in winter, the hot chocolate in the cafĂ© was delicious ($3 for a 20 oz cup). They also serve ice cream.
We only went here because it was by Union Station where we were meeting someone. Turned out to be a fantastic museum that I’d like to return to, because it had so much to do with the development of the country. You wouldn’t think postal issues would be so important, but they have a lot to do with the spread of information and freedom (or lack of).

mailboxes from around the world. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
There was plenty for the kids to like, including the interactive computer program where they figured out the best postal routes overland. They also liked the hands-on fraud area, and the Wells Fargo Wagon. They could go on an early American postal route, which was experiential in its presentation.

Various methods of mail delivery. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Fun facts:
-zip codes were introduced in 1963
-in 1890, 65% of the population is rural; by 1990, about 75% population was urban
-1901 there were 76,845 post offices, which later decreases because of home delivery
-Since 1912, postal carriers have gone to the bottom of Grand Canyon for delivery. This is the last mule delivery route in the U.S. They also deliver eggs, fruit and Christmas trees there.
-early postal carriers were contractors with their own insurance and methods of transport.
-Benjamin Franklin was made postmaster by the British Crown in 1737
-postal issues caused huge debates in early American government, because of freedom of the press, personal privacy and national interests.
-delivery of newspapers and mail helped expand and develop the nation

The handcuffs used on the Unabomber, and a package mock-up that postmasters used to try to recognize his packages.
You can also see the handcuffs used on the Unabomber (sorry the photo is blurry). Also tied into our Newseum trip, where we saw his cabin where he lived for 20 years. As you probably remember, the Unabomber sent his bombs through the mail, in packages like the one pictured here.
Don’t miss a single Frisco Kids post! Subscribe by email, and join us on Facebook.

They had a fun exhibit of mailboxes. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan