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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Unique Gingerbread Houses

Though I'm terrible at making and decorating gingerbread structures, I do love looking at them. We were in Tucson over the holiday break, and saw a wild west display at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. 

If you like gingerbread houses, you'll want to check out these houses on Red Tricycle and the gothic Notre Dame reconstruction, via the Star Ledger.

Tracks of candy and pulverized cookies. Fondant and candy decorations.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Year's with the Kids in the Bay Area 2012

What to do with the kids on New Year's Eve in the San Francisco Bay Area? Here are some family-friendly options. Goldstar is listing New Year's Eve events (at a discount!) here - some you may need a date for!

Bay Area Discovery Museum - Sausalito
What: Noon Year's Eve
When: December 31 from 9 a.m. to 2
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 $15 goody bag (order online) with bubbles, sunglasses, necklaces and more
RSVP: Drop-in. 

Asian Art Museum - San Francisco
What: Strike a Japanese temple bell to ring in the new year
When: Sunday, December 30. 

9-11 a.m. bell ringing for museum members. 
11 a.m. bell ringing ceremony for nonmembers
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. art activites
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. (balloon drop at noon)
Details: Face painting, magician, music, games, bounce house, climbing wall, flight simulation game, live entertainment, balloon drop
RSVP: none. Event free with admission.

Children's Discovery Museum - San Jose
What: Balloon Drop
When: December 31, from 10-4. In the past they've had a balloon drop at 12, 1 and 2, plus music, games and prizes. Not sure if they're doing it this year, but the museum is open 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 December 31, 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: $6-8 plus zoo admission for nonmembers has a list of things to do that day as well.

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What to do on Christmas in the Bay Area 2012

Don't want to be bored at home on Christmas? Here are some things to do in the Bay Area.
Goldstar has holiday event listings here.

Free on Christmas Day, thanks to Target Family Fun Days. It's the only SF museum open that day. This year, they have a family-friendly exhibition, The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats. There will be hands-on art activities for kids/families and peformances by Octopretzel.
When: Tuesday, December 25th, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission Street, between 3rd and 4th in SF)
Cost: Free
RSVP: none

The San Jose outdoor Downtown Ice Rink is open on Christmas from 2 p.m. until midnight. See their schedule here. The holiday rink at Union Square in San Francisco opens at 10 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. has a great list of ideas.

Spotivate always has great lists of ideas - you have to sign up but it's really quick and free.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Passports with Purpose Update

We wanted to thank all the Frisco Kids readers for their generosity in the Passports with Purpose fundraiser. The ambitious goal was to raise $100,000 to build 5 wells in Haiti. We actually raised $10,000 more than that! The PwP site has all the details, but know that the $10 donations made all the difference!

Thank you to for donating the GPS we hosted on this blog. The winner was very excited and generously expedited the delivery so she could have it before her vacation.

All winners have been notified by email (as of 12/18), but even if you didn't get a prize, you win the knowledge of helping 370 people PER WELL have access to fresh water.

Stay tuned for next year's project!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Movie/video news - Delhi Safari Review, and others

I had a few movie/video items so I thought I'd lump them together into one post.

I meant to post this earlier, while the filmmaker was still trying to raise funds to complete the project on Kickstarter. It came at the recommendation of a friend. It made the required money, so now I don't feel so guilty! Anyway, the movie Split is a film for (and by) kids of divorce. The film includes kids' drawings, videos and comments - and none from parents or experts. I haven't seen the movie, but will look for it in the future, when it comes out. You can still support the movie financially if you want. 

This independent animated movie first came out in India with Bollywood actor voices. The film is actually made in India, though it's being released in the U.S. with voices we'd recognize: Vanessa Williams, Jason Alexander, Christopher Lloyd and Jane Lynch. They say it's a PETA endorsed movie, which makes me laugh because it's animated, so obviously no animals were harmed during the movie. (yes, yes, I do understand other reasons PETA would endorse a movie). 

It was released on December 7, but I'm not sure when/where it's opening in the Bay Area because it's not out (via Fandango) today. In any case, we got a screening code to watch it online and review it, so the kids and I (ages 9 and 11) had a movie night last night to watch it. 

The plot: Animals in India are getting their land taken away from them by developers so they head to Delhi (or were they heading to Mumbai?) to state their case and stop the development. Mayhem ensues. To make the cause even more close to home, the baby cub's dad was shot by the developers (quite violently as depicted on screen - and not for any good reason) and so they're even more motivated.

My kids are probably a little old for the movie, but I thought I would share their comments.
11 year old: "Why does someone always die in kid animal movies?"

9 year old: "The bear has man boobs. It looks like coconuts on his chest."
11 year old: "Even for younger kids it might be scary"
9 year old: "They pointed out the obvious too much."
11 year old: "They're in India? I thought they were in Africa."

They did not love the movie.

My take: This movie wants to be the Lion King and there were many parts that seem to be taken directly from the Disney hit, like the lion cub standing with his (dead ghost) father overlooking the valley below - same shot. Hyenas are evil. Etc. It had a fair amount of violence for a kids' movie. You think Bambi being shot was horrific? How about watching the actual shooting - with additional flashbacks - of the dad lion being shot with a horrified look in his eyes and getting blasted into the air. Yeah. Not fun to watch. Especially after Newtown, CT. Not that they're related. The evil developers came through in machines that were reminiscent of those in the book Are You My Mother? I couldn't figure out why there were trying to chase/kill the lions when I thought they really just wanted to clear the land for housing. (below, just before the dad gets lifted backward in the air by the gun blast).

Okay, so there were a few adult jokes that were funny, and the Bollywood numbers were sort of entertaining (I definitely liked the flamingo one). But the songs were mostly annoying (the title song was kind of catchy) and the kids didn't like them either. They actually asked if we could skip through the songs when they came. The part with the bees was very clever (I don't want to spoil it) and was probably my favorite.

Would I recommend it? Not really. You can see a preview here. It's coming out in 3-D.

Okay, so this one is not for the kids, but here's a 60 Minute piece about a long-secret German archive that houses a treasure trove of information on 17.5 million Holocaust victims. From an email someone sent me: "The archive, located in the German town of Bad Arolsen, is massive (there are 16 miles of shelving containing 50 million pages of documents) and until recently, was off-limits to the public. But after the German government agreed earlier this year to open the archives, CBS News' Scott Pelley traveled there with three Jewish survivors who were able to see their own Holocaust records. It's an incredibly moving piece, all the more poignant in the wake of the meeting of Holocaust deniers in Iran and the denial speeches in the UN."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Almost Wordless Wednesday - My Favorite Holiday Things

Well, it's hard for me to be wordless. Even mostly wordless. Enjoy photos and descriptions of some of my favorite holiday things.

I save this one for the adults. It's not too sweet, and very rich. Yum. 

Nails by Sally Hansen. The stickers started chipping almost immediately. I don't recommend purchase, though they looked awesome while they lasted, and at a quick glance.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Creating Family Holiday Memories

My article on gifts that keep on giving just came out on (and it quotes a Bay Area local!). One of the reasons I wrote this article is because I love the gift of creating and sharing experiences, not clutter. Sharing events and activities is the reason I started Frisco Kids.

Creating memories is so important as we raise our kids, and it's something we can do without having to think too hard at it. You hear about an event on Frisco Kids or from your friends, and you go. Instant memory (hopefully a good one).

I've mentioned the website Spotivate before on Frisco Kids. It's a website that like ours, shares ideas of things to do together, whether it's crafts or activities. After logging into their site, you can bookmark or save activities that you want to do, and check things off your bucket list when you've done them (I love that feeling of accomplishment!). They offer "kudos" if you encourage others to sign up, in the form of gift cards or charitable donations. The weekly email they send with ideas is beautiful - gorgeous pictures and not too much text.

You can watch a video about Spotivate here to see what they're up to. I get their weekly emails and have fun poking through their site because it's so beautiful. And they have great ideas of things to do. To join Spotivate, click on the link and sign up in the upper right side of the page. It takes 20 seconds and it's free.

What are you doing to create family memories this holiday season? Did you read my bankrate article yet and get any ideas? Just a suggestion.

Not shocking: this post is sponsored by Spotivate.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fun New Toys this Season

The kids and I visited a toy show this weekend and got to test out some new products. I wanted to share our favorites with you.

I thought my kids were too old for play dough, but it turns out they're not. This Yummy Dough was a surprise hit. Combine the ideas of play dough with cookies, and you get an edible play dough (you can eat it raw or baked). It has no butter in it, and almost all natural coloring (the only color that isn't 100% natural is the blue, which has a few drops of dye). The other color comes from things like tumeric and beets. It's a German product being introduced in the U.S. by two parents. The dough is $12.95/container, and you mix it yourself to make it fresh. Each container carries 4 colors in separate packs - just add water. It's pricey enough you may want to give it as a gift or use for special play dates, though I have a buy one, get one free code good through January 7, 2013 if you buy from their Smarty Parents website. Use code BOGODOUGH at checkout. I've purchased color cookie dough before, and it tasted terrible. The Yummy Dough, while not something I'd choose to serve guests, tasted okay and the kids liked it. A neighbor sampled the leftovers that we brought home, and he thought it was great. 

I noticed the Kiddy Platter, which the kids were using as a tray to make their dough. The platter, BPA free, is a clear plastic tray (you can put flash cards, learning sheets below) with slip-resistant edges, and a container for crayons, silverware, etc. at the bottom. Use it for crafts or for meals - or both. It's dishwasher safe. Conceived of by two parents who I met staffing the table. They recommend it starting around 12-18 months, when kiddy graduates from the high chair into a booster. Cost: $30 from Smarty Parents. You can combine it with a container of Yummy Dough for $38.95.

LEGOS meets lights. With battery powered light packs, you can make light up creatures that blink. And mix and match with LEGOs.  Prices for Lite Brix start on Amazon at $20 and go up from there. They were just introduced this fall, and you may have seen TV ads for them. My 9 year old loves his, and has been busy building.

The kids tried out (and LOVED) the giant Hex Bugs, remote controlled. These run about $40 each. They can flip over and fight each other. And they use 3 AAA batteries (I asked). The company was also showing Hex Bug Warriors, which has a different stadium than traditional Hex Bugs (not a good thing for parents trying to reduce clutter) - the warriors are bigger than Hex Bugs. And also Tagamoto cars that look like Hot Wheels but are MUCH more advanced. They're only at Target until 2013, when they get expanded.

I'm not sure if these magic sets are so different than other ones - I haven't compared. We did have a chance to meet Ryan at the show and he demonstrated tricks from some of the sets, like from the magic hat, the full starter set, the lunch box set and others. Since Zack went to magic camp last summer, we spent quite a lot of time with Ryan, who was not only pleasant to look at, he was a really good magician! The kids got a couple of the smaller boxes to bring home.

The fun part of these Mystixx Vampire dolls, which are around Barbie size, is that you can take the hair off - and you have a two-faced doll! One side is a normal girl, and the other side is a (not so scary) vampire. The set comes with 2 wigs and 2 outfits. The doll on the right is obviously wigless, and you're seeing the "girl" side of the doll. The clothes are pretty funky too. They cost about $42 for the set, and there are 4 different dolls.

This updated version of an Etch a Sketch is the Boogie Board, an LCD screen using a watch battery they say never needs replacing. It can handle 50,000 erases. It's fun to write on, and with the push of a button, it erases. This would be great for a road trip or plane ride. Costs vary, but the cheapest one I found so far is $42. They come in several colors.

Disclosure: we got samples of some but not all of these products.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Coming Up: Fairytale Exhibit at BADM

There's a new exhibit coming up at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, that sounds like fun. It's called Once Upon a Time - Exploring the World of Fairy Tales. It's a nationally touring exhibit, so it should be high quality. It's interactive and hands-on, bringing multicultural fairy tales to life. Kids will enter the pages of 7 fairy tales. It's designed to share different cultures and windows into other times as well, being educational and showing how fairy tales are significant. Plus, they're not all well-known fairy tales in the U.S.


  • Anansi and the Talking Melon
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The Elves and the Shoemaker
  • Jack and the Beanstalk
  • Lon Po Po
  • Thumbelina

You might enter a jungle, as when you enter the African Anansi (a spider)'s world. You'll cross a wooden bridge, sit on the monkey king's throne and play interactive games that show how Anansi tricked his friends.

Those familar with Beauty and the Beast (ahem, everyone?) will recognize the Beast's palace when they enter, and the harpischord is available for strumming. Try on Belle's dresses in her dressing area.

And lots more to do and see. Sounds fabulous! You can see more pictures here.

When: starting December 15
Where: Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito
Who: Kids 3-10 (and parents)

Passports with Purpose - Last DAY!

Today is the last day to enter to win prizes from the Passports with Purpose fundraiser. Why should you care? Water is such an essential part of life, and one that we often take for granted. Of course in the Bay Area and California in general, there's always talk of drought and conservation. In third world countries like Haiti, accessing fresh water is a huge issue. That's where Passports with Purpose comes in. They're partnering with for this fundraiser, aiming to raise $100,000 to build five wells there. They've raised $80,000 so far, and today is the big push to get them over the top.

A sample of what you can win:
-a Kindle from Budget Travelers Sandbox ($120 value)
-a 3 night Kimpton hotel stay at any Kimpton, plus dinner for two from Mother of All Trips ($875 value)
-a 2 night stay at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort from Four Jandals ($1100 value)
-$1,000 voucher for HomeAway, to use at one of their 35,000 vacation rentals worldwide, from All over the Map
-an Amazon River Cruise for 2 (call in the grandparents!) from Green Global Travel ($5,000 value)

...and SO MUCH MORE. Electronics, travel gear, hotel stays, resort stays, tours, luxury goods.

Here are two past posts I did
-win cameras to dude ranch trips (for the family!)
-my initial post - win a Garmin Nuvi from - and background on the fundraiser

Donating and entering the contest is EASY. Click this link to the Passports with Purpose donate page. Put a number next to how many entries you want for each prize that looks good to you. At the bottom, it will tally up your donation - $10/entry. You'll be taken to a paypal page to securely make a donation directly to (it's fully tax deductible). On December 18, winners will be notified.

This is the third time I've promoted this amazing fundraiser, founded and run by fellow travel bloggers who want to give back. More than 150 bloggers are participating. Past fundraiser brought in enough money to build a school in Cambodia, a village in India and libraries in Zambia. All from $10 donations. And thank you to these sponsors: Expedia, Tripit, TBEX, HomeAway, Travellerspoint, HostelBookers, and GoWithOh.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Coming Up: Holiday Cookie Swap

In case you don't do a holiday cookie swap with friends or family, and want to get in on the action:

Seesaw is hosting a holiday cookie swap with A Little Yumminess. Bake some holiday treats and then share them with others (and take home a bigger variety baked by others).

When: Friday, December 14, from 4:30-6 p.m. Swapping starts around 5:15.
Where: Seesaw, 600 Octavia Street
Cost: $5/person (kids or adults) to participate. You get drinks (hot cocoa, coffee/tea)
Bring: your own containers to cart home your treats

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Link Love: Holiday Round-up

So many pretty pictures and great ideas for the holidays are coming out online. Here are some of my favorites.

Interesting Hanukkiot (menorahs) on Houzz and on Apartment Therapy

Hanukkah decorating ideas - something different - on Houzz (including spray painted dreidels used to hold flowers in place instead of marbles) and here (some overlap)

Easy Hanukkah crafts for toddlers

Hanukkah treat table ideas from Houzz


Elf Yourself! Upload your picture to and watch you (or whomever's photo you upload - or watch me as a hip hop elf or as a soul elf) to dance around in a holiday scene. After doing this, you can get a free year-at-a-view calendar with your elfed photos. After you upload the photo/s, click on Let's Dance, and then click on the "get calendar" link in the upper right corner. You'll get a promo code to redeem for the calendar at OfficeMax (you have to go there to get it). $7 value, one per customer. (Check me out below!)

Speaking of funny, have you tried the free Hungry Santa app? You move Santa around to catch the treats falling from the sky. He gains weight as he eats them. Watch out for falling broccoli! My family is obsessed. Here it is on iTunes and Android.

DIY Christmas decorations on Houzz (including inventive advent calendars)

Whimsical ornaments on Houzz, along with unique holiday wreaths

Do you do the Elf on the Shelf? Here's one mom who doesn't.

Unique ways to gift wrap - on Houzz

Favorite holiday treats

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hanukkah Happenings in the Bay Area - 2012

San Francisco's Chabad celebrates its 38th annual menorah lighting The Bill Graham Menorah Day is on Sunday, but they'll be lighting the menorah publicly every night. On Saturday, musician Matisyahu will light the first candle. The Sunday festival features games, dreidels, food, dancing and music.

When: Saturday, December 8 at 7
Sunday, December 9 at 3 - Bill Graham Menorah Festival starts, menorah lighting at 5
Monday-Thursday - candle lighting at 5. Friday the candle is lit at 3, and Saturday it will be lit at 7
Where: Union Square (Geary/Powell)
Cost: Free

Westfield San Francisco Centre and the Bill Graham Menorah Project have a special Hanukkah festival of lights celebration with treats, crafts and music.

When: Saturday, December 15 6:30-7:30
Where: Westfield San Francisco Centre, 2nd level (865 Market Street)
Cost: free

The Peninsula Jewish Community Center hosts their annual Latkepalooza this Sunday. It's a community-wide celebration with treats, games, crafts and more. It's a lot of fun - we've been. This year you can make your own candles, dreidels, gifts and sweet treats.

When: Sunday, December 9 from 1-4
Where: PJCC Main Building (800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City)
Cost: Free, but bring a can of food to donate to the Second Harvest Food Bank

Join Chabad of Sunnyvale for Chanukkah Wonderland. They'll have a giant menorah made of hundreds of cans of food. You help create it by bringing cans to donate. They'll have crafts, entertainment, music, lighting ceremony, food (latkes, sufganiyot, hot cider) and more.

When: Sunday, December 9 from 3:30-5:30
Where: South Peninsula Hebrew Day School (1030 Astoria Drive, Sunnyvale)
Cost: Free, but donations/sponsorships are welcome. Nominal charge for food/crafts.

Join North Peninsula Chabad for their annual menorah lighting celebration. They'll have a fire juggler, live music, hot latkes and more

When: Tuesday, December 11 from 6-7 (menorah lighting at 6:30)
Where: Burlingame (240 Park Rd, at corner of Burlingame Ave)
Cost: Free; sponsors welcome

Bring the kids for a candle lighting, games, crafts and food. Plus a concert with Isaac Zones and Melita Silberstein

When: Monday, December 10 from 5:30-7
Where: Palo Alto JCC (3921 Fabian Way)
Cost: Free, but nominal fee for crafts

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Kids

Everyone is doing round-ups of gift ideas right now, and of course I have throw in my 2 cents. These are TOTALLY random ideas. I have a solid list of tried-and-true board and card games here.

My latest love are these zipper bags. I just bought two zipper monster pencil bags for my friend's kids. The fun thing, aside from how cute they are, is that you can unzip the entire bag into one giant zipper, and then zip it up again. These bags are $10 (I paid $15 at a street fair). They have all different size and color purses and other totes as well (though I admit I bought a purse for my daughter on eBay, though she really wants one of the backpacks).

I got my kids a set of math and science books recently that are actually fun. There are 2 kinds of books: 101 Things Everyone Should Know about Science (ages 8-12) and 101 Things Everyone Should Know about Math, (ages 11-15) and the other set: One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries you Solve with Math (ages 11-15) and One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries you Solve with Science (ages 8-12). These are great for a car or plane ride (or bathroom reading) because you can read a short chunk at at time and you can make it fun for the family to figure out together.

My kids have way too many stuffed animals. But ones with germs? Can't get enough of them. Especially since my husband is a scientist and my daughter plan to be a marine biologist. While others may think stuffed cancer cells are creepy (as are pimple, diarrhea, rotavirus, swine flu and dozens of others), they're good teaching tools and would even be a good gift for that special science teacher in your life! This cancer cell from Giant Microbes can be cured, by reversing it and swallowing them up. Get a holiday wreath, stocking box or tree box with tree ornament miniature germs like white blood cells, salmonella, penicillin and dust mites.

This 500 piece puzzle just came out from the US Postal Service. The stamps were released in October (you get a sheet of them inside the box) and they feature landscapes as seen from the sky. The puzzle is $17.95 and you can get it at your post office or online here.

Okay, this one is for adults, to make for kids. The book Knitting for Kids has 40 patterns for cute kid clothing like sweaters, hats, dresses, vests and more. I need to learn to knit!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Coming Up: Latkepalooza

The Peninsula Jewish Community Center hosts their annual Latkepalooza this Sunday. It's a community-wide celebration with treats, games, crafts and more. It's a lot of fun - we've been.

This year you can make your own candles, dreidels, gifts and sweet treats.

When: Sunday, December 9 from 1-4
Where: PJCC Main Building (800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City)
Cost: Free, but bring a can of food to donate to the Second Harvest Food Bank
RSVP: requested 

Coming Up: Marine Science Sundays - free

The Marine Mammal Center has one more Marine Science Sundays coming up this year, and it's this weekend. These involve family-friendly tours, classroom activities and more, centered around a different theme each month. Docent-led tours will take you around the hospital showcasing some of the patients they care for, and you'll learn how the vets help the animals. Classroom presentations showcase the animals the Marine Mammal Center has cared for, focusing on interactive activities and multimedia that show easy, daily behaviors that you can do to help prevent ocean trash which harms the animals. This Sunday's theme is Seal and Sea Lion Superstars of 2012

WhereMarine Mammal Center (2000 Bunker Road, Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito)
When: December 9 from 10-5 
Cost: free
More information: here

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Passports with Purpose - Cameras to Dude Ranches - Win them!

As I mentioned in a prior post, Frisco Kids is participating in Passports with Purpose fundraiser, to help raise $100,000 to build wells for clean water in Haiti. This fundraiser, which raises money $10 at a time, allows you to win fabulous prizes, while the funds raised go directly to

Did you see the prize my sponsor is giving away? It's a Garmin Nuvi with free lifetime traffic and map updates - value $350.

I wanted to share some of the other prizes given away by fellow travel bloggers. (If you're a  Pinterest fan, look at all the photos there).

---Trekaroo is giving away a WEEK stay at a Montana dude ranch (Lone Mountain Ranch) - for the FAMILY. Dude! As if that's not enough (uh, $5,000 worth of vacation), they're also giving away a 3 day Big Sky, Montana adventure worth $2500.

---When we travel we don't always stay in hotels. That's why I love All Over the Map's giveaway - a $1,000 vacation rental voucher good anywhere! is giving away a package of an overnight stay in Nova Scotia at the historic DesBarres Manor Inn, along with craft beer tasting for two, lunch for two, full day kayak rental and round of golf for two. is giving away an Ergobaby carrier for hands-free travel with baby ($220 value).

---Fans of the Great Wolf Lodge in Ohio are thrilled to see that Adventures by Daddy is giving away a one night stay for 4 people, including meals.

---Some of my favorite Vacation Gals are giving away an awesome underwater Olympus camera.

I'll share more great prizes later, but please check out these blogs to see more about their giveaways and why they're participating in this great fundraiser. And check out descriptions of all prizes, and enter to win here. Each $10 donation gets you one entry!

See the write up Passports with Purpose got here at USA Today.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Coming Up: Chronicle Books Friends and Family Sale

Chronicle Books is having a warehouse clearance sale at their headquarters, and you're invited!!
You can save 80% on select titles, including some cook books, children's titles, lifestyle, home, arts/crafts, travel, pop culture, journals, stationary etc.

When: December 12-13 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and December 14 from 10-3
Where: 680 Second Street, SF

If you can't make it, they're still offering 35% off plus free ground shipping through December 4th (hurry!!!). Use code FRIENDS at checkout

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Velveteen Rabbit and Hurricane Sandy Fundraising Tea Party

The Velveteen Rabbit runs through December 9th. This production was created by ODC 26 years ago, and is in is 26th year now, having played to almost 350,000 people nationwide. The story is about the relationship between a boy and his stuffed rabbit (which I totally get because my daughter has a strong relationship with her stuffed rabbit!). It's about love and growing old, and it is a popular holiday performance. More about it in the video below. Get tickets here.

The St. Regis San Francisco is hosting a pre-performance tea party from 12-1:30 on Sunday, December 9th, as a fundraiser to the Robin Hood Foundation's Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. At the tea party, you'll get visited from the show's characters, before heading across the street for the 2:00 show. The show is at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Tickets for the tea party plus VIP Velveteen Rabbit seats are $100 each. To RSVP, call the Aficionado Coordinator at (415) 284-4070.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Helping Others This Holiday Season

In addition to thinking about our families and friends this holiday season, here are some ways to help others in the community - local and worldwide.

This is an easy and fun project to get the kids involved with - it's Holiday Mail for the Heroes - through December 7. Send cards of appreciation to members of the military and they'll be forwarded on to our troops. If your child's Cub Scout den/pack or Girl Scout troop is looking for a project in the next week, this one is perfect.

There are lots of "adopt a military family" programs where you can provide gifts and/or meals to support the families of troops serving. I don't have experience with any of them personally, but here are a few websites to get you started.

That seems to be a theme lately, so I wanted to include a few clean water donation resources.

Passports for Purpose is doing a fundraiser through December 11, and all funds will be donated to to build wells in Haiti. Each $10 donation buys you raffle ticket to get great prizes like trips, hotel stays, electronics, gift certificates and more. Frisco Kids is hosting the Garmin Nuvi GPS prize - with free lifetime traffic and map updates from The 80+ prizes are truly fabulous, some once-in-a-lifetime vacations. All donations are tax-deductible.

Water for People is another worthy organization providing clean water know-how in developing countries. Read more about them in an article I wrote for A Garden Life, a free iPad magazine that has great articles.

Whether you host a coat drive or just donate to it, the One Warm Coat organization provides the resources to get coats to the people who need them. Look up where coat drives are in your area.

I really like the Heifer organization, where you can donate an animal (or a share of an animal) to help those trying to improve themselves in other countries. Those families pass it on, when the animal gives birth - they give the babies to other families and teach them how to raise them. Heifer has ways to involve the kids in the process. Sarah the Goat Giving Experience lets you put in the child's name into the computer, and then the kids can watch a personalized animated video. Heifer started Heifer at Hanukkah this year to encourage donations as part of the holiday experience. And if your kids want to start a Read to Feed program (not necessarily at Hanukkah) here's how.

The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund is an organization I've contributed to . 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 26th anniversary this year.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Coming up: Bank of America's Museums on Us - this weekend

Bank of America's Museums on Us program runs this weekend, giving B of A cardholders (credit or debit) one free admission per card at participating museums. We've used this program and love it! It's this weekend, September 1-2 (some museums are only one day). The website won't let me give you an individual list of cities to click, so just check the main website and look for California in the pull-down menu. 

Participating museums in San Francisco:
·         Children's Creativity Museum (formerly Zeum)
·         Chabot Space & Science Center
·         Contemporary Jewish Museum
·         de Young Museum
·         Legion of Honor

Gingerbread House Activities in the Bay Area

Sadly, we never built our gingerbread house kit from last year, and the kids are balking about using a "stale" kit this year. Not that they ever eat the house (even the candy is nasty from current boxes). If you don't have a spare kit sitting around and want to do some gingerbread activities, here's where to go in the Bay Area.

The Conservatory of Flowers has its annual gingerbread decorating event on December 15.

The Mandarin Oriental is hosting "ho-ho-ho homes for the holiday" which includes gingerbread house making on December 2nd. Details here at Frisco Kids.

Join friends at Habitot to decorate a giant gingerbread house on Saturday, December 22 from 9:30-4:30. It's free admission, and the house will be donated to a local homeless shelter. You can make your own gingerbread house at a workshop during their December 15-21 schedule. Workshops are $22 for members, $29 for nonmembers and include admission.

Gingerbread Builders sells Gingerbread supplies. Make one on site (and you don't have to clean up), or they can make one for you. The Mill Valley site (Strawberry Village), is open for the season. Houses start at $29 including icing and some candy. You can buy additional candy as well. Go with your kids, or make it a party.

Ending soon (December 1) is the 9th Annual Gingerbread House competition. The houses are on display at the Ritz Carlton through Saturday, when the winner is announced at their tree lighting ceremony (4:30-6:30).

Enter your gingerbread house in the Westin Verasa Napa's Gingerbread House Contest, on November 16 from 12:30-2. They'll have separate amateur and professional contests. All proceeds go to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Napa Valley. You can win a monthly dinner for two at their French restaurant BANK Cafe and Bar plus a 2 night stay at the hotel.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Family-Friendly Board/Card Games for the Holidays

Our family is big into games. Board games, card games, you name it. So I'm bringing you some games to consider for the holidays. Whether you're giving them as gifts, or bringing them with you on a family trip, these are great.

Spot-it San Francisco
The Spot It deck has 55 cards with 8 pictures each. Any two card will have one image in common. While there are 5 ways you can play the game, basically they all involve matching one of the pictures on your card to one of the pictures on another card before another player finds a match from their card. Given our competitive family, the games are intense. Since there are 55 different images, it can be hard to remember the right description for every picture (we'd call out "boat" when really it was a houseboat, or "building" when it was really the Transamerica Pyramid). In some games it's easier for adults to win. In this one, the kids did equally well.
Made by a Bay Area game company (who sent the game to me for review), they make various versions like the San Francisco edition we got. I like that it's portable and small enough to play on an airplane.

You can play Spot It online and try it out.
Ages 7+. 2-8 players
Cost: $10-20 (different versions priced differently)
Portable: yes
Can play on an airplane? yes
Junior version? Yes

Reverse Charades
Instead of one person acting something out for a group, the group acts something out for one teammate. My kids loved this game (sent to us for review), where they got to act like dorks and watch us acting like dorks too, trying to act out as many words as possible within 60 seconds. My husband didn't love it - he's into more strategic games, but watching the kids laugh that much was worth it.

Ages/Players:  age 4+, 6 or more players
Cost: $17-24
Portable: yes (put everything in a gallon size Ziploc)
Can play on an airplane? No
Junior Version? Yes

This is my son's latest obsession. It's like a combination of Connect Four and Tic Tac Toe, only you can use your larger pieces to cover (or "gobble") up your opponent's pieces to prevent them from winning. It's a simple game to learn, but when you start playing, you realize that it's quite complicated and you need some strategy (hence my husband loves it too).

Ages/Players: ages 7+, 2 players
Cost: $20-32
Portable: yes
Can play on an airplane? maybe, but the box might take up too much room in your bag
Junior version? Yes

Settlers of Catan
This is my family's favorite game. Warning: it can be addictive, and learning it takes awhile. It's a strategy game and those who love it are cult-like in devotion. Games take about an hour each. It's for older kids. Mine (ages 9 and 11) are on the younger side but they've grown up watching us play and we are dedicated teachers. There are lots of spin-off games as well, none of which we found are as good as Settlers of Catan. Huzzah!

Ages/Players: 3-4 players (5-6 with expansion set), ages 10-14 +
Cost: $33-42
Portable: yes (we put everything in a gallon size Ziploc)
Can play on an airplane? No
Junior version? Yes

A great card game where you spot patterns, yelling SET when you find a group of 3. This is a good game for kids and adults, once you understand what constitutes a set (the rules show examples). We play a lot in my family. It's kind of like a more complicated version of Blink.

Ages/Players: 2+ players
Cost: $11-25
Portable: yes
Can play on an airplane? yes, but not really easily because you need to lay 9 cards out at a time.
Junior version? No

My sister just got us this game, and already I can't play it with my husband (because he always wins). It's like Connect Four, but with rotating sections. The goal is to get five discs in a row, but you are allowed to turn one of the nine boards 45 degrees after placing your disc. Your opponents can do the same. Therefore you need good spatial abilities to see where you (and your opponents) are going to connect when the boards are turned. I haven't tried it yet with four people, but that would be a very different game than with 2. You can also buy a 2 person game that looks a little different.

Ages/Players: ages 6-15; 2-4 players
Cost: $27-30
Portable: the smaller version is portable
Can you play on an airplane? yes, with the two-person or travel version, but I wouldn't want to lose the discs
Junior Version?