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Thursday, May 31, 2012

What I've been reading

The Song Remains the Same by Allison Winn Scotch - I've read all 4 of Allison's novels, and this one is my favorite. It's about a woman (late 20s) who survives a plane crash with no memory of her past life. Her husband, sister and mother try to help her remember, though selectively. They all have their own secrets and things to hide from her.

You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon. This was my contribution to Memorial Day. Fallon is a soldier's wife, and she writes short stories about the men fighting for the U.S., and the families they leave behind. It's a great look into the lives of the men and women of the military - their struggles, their hopes and fears, their daily lives.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I read all three and loved them. Still haven't seen the first movie, but I'll get to it. I convinced my 11 year old daughter to read them as well, and she's loving them. She doesn't understand everything in there, so there's some explaining to do, but I was glad to find a series that interests her and has a strong female character. Like most, I enjoyed the first two books more, but the third was interesting as well.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coming Up: Sunset Celebration Weekend

If you love Sunset Magazine, you shouldn't miss their Celebration Weekend. When do you have a chance to walk around beautiful grounds that serve as inspiration, testing, and production for the magazine (by production I mean kitchens as well as gardens).

This massive party/street fair is more upscale than most. Not the most kid-friendly place, but if you need to bring them along, there is usually something for them to do.

First - expect crowds. Huge crowds. And lines. If you're claustrophobic, don't go.

A few highlights:
-Featured Acts: that would be the chefs, garden gurus, home/design experts, entertainers and musicians. As in 10 celebrity chefs doing cooking demonstrations.
-The Sunset Modern Cottage - each year the celebration features a Sunset-designed (or at least commissioned) house. Long lines to get in.
-Wine Seminars - oh boy - get a babysitter!
-Event Sponsors and Community Booths - Sounds boring, but this is where the freebies are! Lots of samples. Bring a bag! And a wallet - in case you want to buy something from any of the hundred+ exhibitors.

In the past, the Celebration Weekend also had several free crafts to do (again, long lines). I didn't see that on the website, but I'm guessing they'll have that again. When I went there was lei-making and flower pot decorating. My kid-in-a-stroller didn't let me do anything, but now that the kids are older...

When: June 2-3, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
WhereSunset Magazine Headquarters (80 Willow Road - though you won't park there). Click the Sunset link for directions.
Cost: $16/adults, free for kids 12 and under. Get tickets here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Reading Programs

Summer doesn't need to be a brain drain. Programs abound to get the kids motivated to read. Here's a list of the county programs, plus one from Barnes & Noble.

San Francisco Summer Library
Sign up and log your reading here. Kids up to age 12 get a prize for every 10 hours they read, and can enter a raffle. Teens ages 13-18 get prizes for every 30 hours they read, plus raffle tickets for great prizes. Even adults can register. Adults who read 40 hours get a canvas tote bag, and for every 40 hours you read you get a virtual raffle entry to win a $30 Books Inc. credit.

The SF Library has reading lists here, organized by ethnicity (Chinese, Spanish, Russian etc.), nature, arts/music/recreation, neighborhood, etc.

The summer reading kick-off is outside the California Academy of Sciences on June 3, where they'll have their bookmobile, sidewalk chart art, face painting, entertainment, and a free day at the Academy (it's quarterly). Their new Earthquake exhibit is open then.

Marin County Summer Library Reading Program
Read 20 minutes or more per day, and get prizes:
5 days of reading - get a rainbow gel pen
10 days of reading - choose a magnetic book mark
15 days of reading - earn a Round Table pizza coupon
20 days of reading - take home a Dream Big, Read! t-shirt
Program runs June 9-August 11. See a children's librarian in the Marin County library system to sign up.

Santa Clara County Summer Reading Program
Sign up starting June 1

San Mateo County Summer Reading Program
Running June through August, you can sign up at your local branch library. You'll be eligible to win library prize drawings when you submit the title and brief comments about each book you read.

Alameda County Summer Reading Program
From June 11 to August 11, the Alameda County Summer program includes all ages, even adults, with the theme Reading is So Delicious. Use a game board they provide to track your reading time, and you can win books and other prizes, plus raffle tickets.

Contra Costa County Summer Reading Festival
Pick up a reading record starting June 9 at your local Contra Costa county library branch. Libraries like the Hercules branch have special festivities and give prizes for the first people to come in to sign up. Babies to adults welcome to join the festival. The program runs through August 18.

Barnes & Noble
Read 8 books (you don't need to purchase them from B&N), and write about it in your reading journal. Bring that to Barnes & Noble and you'll earn a free book. Sign up here.  At that link they also share staff picks based on the grade level.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Disney Pixar Classic Movies

If you're itching to get indoors for a movie this weekend, participating AMC theaters are running four Disney Pixar classics this weekend. Movies are $6/each and include some special features to start.

Sunday, May 27                                                                                Monday, May 28
10 a.m. – WALL-E                                                                             10 a.m. – Toy Story 3
12:20 p.m. – Toy Story 3                                                                12:25 p.m. – Ratatouille
2:45 p.m. – Ratatouille                                                                   3:00 p.m. – UP
5:20 p.m. – UP                                                                                   5:20 p.m. – WALL-E

Please visit for participating theaters or to buy tickets.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Winner: Mary Poppins tickets

Congratulations to Ramona, who won the 4-pack of Mary Poppins Broadway San Jose tickets. To those who did not win, take the kids to see show anyway! You'll all love it.

Coming Up: Golden Gate Bridge Anniversary Celebrations

Celebrate the awesome bridge that gives San Francisco its icon: the Golden Gate Bridge. Travel is More Fun with Kids has a good listing of all the events happening in celebration this Sunday!

Blue Star Museum Admissions

Memorial Day may be over, but military families can enjoy free museum entrance all summer long, starting on Memorial Day, ending on Labor Day (and some museums have special military entrance fees all year long). This partnership between museums and the National Endowment for the Arts, is in its second year, allowing free admission to more than 1,600 museums nationally.

Here are some of the the Bay Area participating museums (the list is not fully inclusive) - please confirm the museum you want to visit is on the official list.


Legion of Honor
Museum of Craft and Design
San Francisco Fire Department Museum
San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design
Walt Disney Family Museum
Zeum (Children's Creativity Museum)

Antioch Historical Society
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Forest Home Farms Historic Park and Glass House Museum
Habitot Children's Museum
Lawrence Hall of Science
Lindsay Wildlife Museum
McConaghy House Museum
MOCHA Museum of Children's Art
Museum of the San Ramon Valley
Oakland Museum of California
Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology
Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum

Bay Area Discovery Museum 

CuriOdyssey (formerly Coyote Point Museum)
Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo
San Jose Museum of Art

The Monterey Museum of Art
Filoli Gardens 

Click here for nationwide Blue Star Museum entrances.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Last Day to Enter - Mary Poppins Trivia Contest

Today is the last day to enter the contest to win tickets to Mary Poppins at Broadway San Jose. For more details, click here.

Coming Up: Earthquake Exhibit at California Academy of Sciences

Opening on May 26 is Earthquake - a new planetarium show and exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences. You'll walk through a model of the earth, see live baby ostriches (apparently there's a connection between them and earthquakes), try out an earthquake simulator that resembles an old Victorian house, and check out an interactive earthquake preparedness area. The planetarium show takes you above the earth (above the San Andreas fault), to the earth's interior, and you'll time travel to the 1906 earthquake as well as Pangea (uh, maybe 200 million years ago give or take a few).

After this, you might be ready to make your own earthquake preparedness kit if you don't have one already. I haven't tried this company's products, but some make kits you can just buy, like Prepare Us Today. I've also seen kits at Costco. FEMA has a list to read as well.

**Win a family 4-pack of tickets to the Mary Poppins musical**

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kitchen Organizing

(**Win a family 4-pack of tickets to the Mary Poppins musical**)

We recently completed a kitchen renovation. Those drawers and cabinets that were a mess before? They're all cleaned up now. I thought I'd share some of the organizational strategies I used.

For several of the drawers, I added Rationell drawer dividers from Ikea. A set is $12.99 and you can mix and match the sets. My cabinets are not Ikea, but the dividers still work pretty well. They hook onto the back of the drawer, and the hook is not as wide as I needed, so it doesn't sit perfectly flat. But it's good enough.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Molecular Mixology - the Mojito and the Screwdriver

I got a molecular mixology kit from one of the online deal companies. Have you heard of molecular mixology? Maybe not. But I bet you've heard of foams, emulsions, spherifications, gelifications, etc. used in molecular gastronomy. Imagine the same thing for drinks.

The kit comes with 5 different types of sachet packets with various powdered substances that you mix to create the various concoctions, plus a CD with recipes and instructions.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Family-Friendly Restaurants in the Bay Area

Finding a good family-friendly restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area is as important to locals as it is to tourists. I have a round-up of suggestions here. Please add your own!

Red Tricycle published a great list of family-friendly dining. Read it here.

(**Win a family 4-pack of tickets to the Mary Poppins musical**)

And they published a list of other dining options, including Kids Eat Free and Fancy Dining.

Kids eat free here in the Bay Area.

On one of the listserves I'm on, someone asked about the best family-friendly fancy restaurants in San Francisco and Marin. Here's the list. Agree? Disagree? Have your own recommendation - especially to add Peninsula/South Bay and East Bay options. Please comment!

San Francisco:

Foreign cinema

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Stern Grove 2012 Concerts and Kids' Days

Start planning your summer with the Stern Grove 2012 summer schedule. The concerts start Sunday, June 24, each Sunday through August 26. Appearing this season, Al Jarreau, the San Francisco Ballet, the Preservation Jazz Hall Band, Anita Baker, the San Francisco Symphony, and many others. This marks 75 years for Stern Grove! Concerts start at 2, but you'll want to get there early with a picnic, to stake out a spot.

(**Win a family 4-pack of tickets to the Mary Poppins musical**)

Stern Grove also offers kids' days which sell out. These are interactive arts education programs for kids ages 4-13. Your kids can attend one of each of the programs, which are from 11 a.m. to 1:30. They're free, but require preregistration. The schedule is below. Register here.

What:Kids Day with SFJazz
When:June 26th, 27th, 28th
Where:Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco
What:Kids Day with Magik*Magik Orchestra
When:July 10th, 11th, 12th
Where:Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco
What:Kids Day with Dance Mission
When:July 17th, 18th, 19th
Where:Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco
What:Kids Day with Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts instructors
When:July 31st, August 1st, 2nd
Where:Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Coming Up: Maker Faire

Check out the Maker Faire. Science. Technology. Craft. Art. Creativity. As one visitor calls it: "It's a bit like a family-rated, local Burning Man but not in the desert and without naked people.'

This annual event is sponsored by Make magazine, and it's a great place to take the kids. Lots of tinkerers sharing their innovations and creations. You can admire, you can learn and you can create.

The event features tons of kid-friendly activities - see the program guide here. Activities/demonstrations include the ubiquitous Coke/Mentos explosion, lock picking workshops, fire arts, solar vehicles, 3-D printers, robotics, mythbusters, urban farming, an electric giraffe, pedal cars and more. An app with the program is coming soon.

WhatMaker Faire
When: May 19-20, 2012 (Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Where: San Mateo County Event Center (near 92 and 101). Check here for directions and info on free parking lots.
Tickets: get them at the door for $30/adult, $15/kids 4-12, $20/students 13-20. Get them at participating stores at a discount by May 18. Here's a link to ticket info and participating stores (which include Ace Hardware, Whole Foods and the Exploratorium). Group and military discounts area available too.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stamp out Hunger Food Drive

The Annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive is this Saturday, May 12. Leave a bag of non-perishable food items by your mail box, and he/she will make sure the food gets to your local food pantry or food bank. Items to include might be: canned meat, canned fish, soup, juice, canned vegetables, pasta, cereal and rice. No glass containers or expired date items, please!

My kids and I just went to the local food bank yesterday to deliver the Gift of Caring Girl Scout cookies the troop sold. The food bank administrator was so grateful, and showed the kids the stacks of food (she said that people call in asking if they have any cookies on hand for when they pick up their food - a special treat). She said that their supplies were low right now, and that toward the end of each month, the requests pour in, from seniors on Social Security who just need a little extra to make it through, and families who are going through the same. She said that juice boxes are expensive for the families to buy, as is cereal, and that those are treasured by their customers. They need to provide a variety of foods to those in need, and use some of their cash to buy meat to supplement the non-perishables. They also repackage hot foods that are left over from events and donated. Their customers love these meals, so look into that next time you're having an event, and find out what your local food bank's policy is on cooked foods.

Whether you collect food from your own pantry or make a special food run, involve the kids in getting the food together.

Mother's Day Ideas for the Bay Area

For my first and second Mother's Day, I asked to be left alone so I could go to the library and read. I felt a little guilty, but since I spent every other day with my kid/s, I just wanted to be alone.

Whether or not you want to be alone this Mother's Day, here are some ideas to keep you (and maybe your family, maybe not) busy.

**Win a family 4-pack of tickets to the Mary Poppins musical**

Head to the Conservatory of Flowers for the Plantosaurus Rex and Prehistoric Plants exhibit at Golden Gate Park

Check out the pop-up large scale photography exhibit by the International Museum of Women about Making Mothers Visible. It will be at the San Francisco Public Library main building on Saturday, May 12. Installation starts at 10, and opening remarks and community celebration is at 2.

Spend Mother's Day in Oakland at Jack London Square. Activities include a family cycling festival, family bike ride, farmer's market, kayak/canoe tour of the Oakland estuary (fee), brunch, sailing lessons or boat expeditions (fee).

Attend a SCRAP workshop with or without your child, from 1-4 on May 12 ($25 fee, just reduced from $40). You'll make flowers from a variety of materials that you can display or wear on clothing.

Singalong with the movie at the Retrodome in San Jose. Showtimes are Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Take a mini retreat in San Francisco with the Delight for the Soul program, where you'll spend 2.5 hours (2:30-5) doing yoga/meditation, getting a mini massage, doing guided journaling and participating in a discussion, doing stone painting, having dinner (Kara's Cupcakes and champagne included) and more. It's in the Richmond district and costs $120.

Jump on trampolines at Sky High Sports. Moms jump for free on Mother's Day, at the Concord (1631 Challenge Drive) and Santa Clara (2880 Meade Avenue) locations.

The first 100 moms to enter the San Francisco Botanic Garden, Japanese Tea Garden and Conservatory of Flowers gets a free flower on Mother's Day.

Here's a list of ideas from last year - some might be happening again.


Uncluttered's gift ideas for Mother's Day

Make a donation in Mom's name (this is what my sister and I do every year). Room to Read, an organization I supported earlier this year in the Passports with Purpose campaign, is offering a matching grant through the end of May. Room to Read promotes girls' education through building classrooms, libraries and paying for school in countries like Cambodia, India and Nepal.

Here are 69 quotations that will make you feel great about being a mom.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Club: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I didn't plan to read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother after the media frenzy ensued about the book. But I saw it at the library and it wasn't a long read. If your head has been buried in sand, you might not know that author Amy Chua write about rears her Chinese/Jewish daughters using traditional Chinese methods (her words, not mine). This means hours of music practice and Chinese practice after school, before school, on weekends and even on vacations (she booked hotel ballrooms from 6-8 a.m. so her daughter could practice piano on holiday, so she wouldn't get beat out by the competition from lack of practice). Chua does not come across as sympathetic at any point in the book, and I could hardly figure out what her husband sees in her, other than a hard-driving, mean person intent on making everyone's lives miserable as they exceed academically and musically.

It did make me think about my own child-rearing philosophy, and made me realize that there's probably some middle ground (as long as I don't care if my children are musical virtuosos). Probably I do need to push them harder and make them study more, but she didn't make the Chinese method seem like something I'd want to do. Certainly the model is not unique, and living in the Bay Area, there are many who follow her philosophy (not all of them Chinese), and it does seem to work in raising kids who are intelligent, ambitious and excel in many areas. But it's not something I could do. If nothing else, it sheds light from an inside perspective of what it's like to be raised in that environment.

Have you read the book? What do you think?

**Win a family 4-pack of tickets to the Mary Poppins musical**

Monday, May 7, 2012

Zucchini Cake with Orange Glaze

I got this Zucchini Cake recipe from a Martha Stewart magazine. I decided to go for it, thinking that maybe mine would look as good and taste as good as hers. Did it? Read on.

This was one time consuming recipe (big shocker), partly because it took awhile to get the zucchini just right on top, and you also have to make an orange glaze. The pictures below show the zucchini cooking in the sugar water, to make candied zucchini strips. If you're wondering how they taste, I'll say they weren't fabulous. And mine never got crystalized like candy - they were always moist and goopy. And I ended up with way too many of them and had to throw most of them away.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Link Love - What I'm reading

Some link love - things I've enjoyed reading/viewing lately.

Furniture made from the Golden Gate Bridge? It's true!

10 National Parks to visit in 2012 - we are one of the featured contributors listed. Which park did we choose? What's your favorite?

Make your own maple peanut butter - if you like to cook with the kids (or just yourself)

The Tooth Fairy or the Truth Fairy? A funny view of our flying friend.

My friend Diane is sailing around the world with her husband and daughter, who is the same age as my daughter. She writes a poignant post about one of the issues that comes up when sailing (cruising) with a kid. What's that issue? Here it is.

Yodalicious snack - hilarious and adorable.

5 free iPhone apps that are perfect for road trips

I'm very into kitchen organizing tools these days (look for a post soon). In the meantime, have fun drooling over these organizing ideas.

10 photos you should keep in your phone. This is helpful!

Elevator shaft powder room - a toilet on top of a glass floor - over a 15 foot elevator shaft. Must see!

**Win a family 4-pack of tickets to the Mary Poppins musical**

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Coming Up: Sunday Streets

This Sunday is Sunday Streets in San Francisco. From 11-4, streets will be closed to traffic on Valencia Street from 14th to 24th Streets, and Valencia to Hampshire on 24th. There will be a kids' music festival, art projects, other live music, free bike repairs, dancers, free Zumba class, pet programming (some free services) and more. Read the entire schedule here.

**Win a family 4-pack of tickets to the Mary Poppins musical**

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mary Poppins Trivia - Win Tickets!

Everyone's favorite nanny is coming to the Bay Area. Bring the kids to see Mary Poppins at (see the first question) which opens on May 29. And answer at least 15 of the questions below correctly, and you can win a family 4-pack of tickets for May 29 or June 5. How to enter? Read at the bottom.

Local Information

1: In what theatre will Mary Poppins be playing in (City)?
A: (Name of Theatre).

2: How many performances will Mary Poppins play in (City)?
A: (Number of performances).


3: What are the names of the two Banks children?
a. Jane and Michael
b. Fred and Wilma
c. Donny and Marie
d. Cindy and Bobby

Coming Up: Home Depot Kids' Workshop

The first Saturday of every month, Home Depot offers free workshops for kids. This Saturday, May 5, they’ll be doing a Growums workshop. Kids will build their own planter box. The date in this picture is incorrect, and I'm not even sure this is what the box will look like, but it's an idea!

The workshops teach tool safety plus your kid gets to feel like Daddy or Mommy, making things and using real tools. Not only is the workshop free, but the kids get to take their project home, and get a kid-sized Home Depot apron as well.

Workshops are for kids ages 5-12 and are generally between 9 a.m. and noon. Check with your local Home Depot for more details.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Coming Up: Museums on Us this Weekend

This weekend (May 5-6) is Bank of America's monthlyMuseums on Us. With your B of A card, you can get one free entrance to the Chabot Space and Science Center, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, and the Children's Creativity Museum (aka Zeum). You may still need to pay for your kids (and tell your partner to bring his/her card to get in free as well). Of note, the CJM offers free entrance to kids anyway.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

3 Activities for Special Needs Kids in the Bay Area

I wanted to highlight a few resources for families of special needs kids.

Support For Families and the SF Park and Rec Department is hosting Access to Adventure, an outdoor sports festival, on Saturday, May 5, 2012. It's from noon to 3 at Golden Gate Park, and it's for kids and families to explore the recreation programs, camps and community organizations available. It's a free event.

Sky High Sports (a trampoline place) offers a discount for special needs kids on the first Tuesday of every month. From 2-5 p.m., you pay for the kids to jump, but there's no charge for caregivers. It's thought that the kids will benefit from the aerobics, balance and coordination in addition to developing confidence and social skills. The facility turns the music down or off to decrease unnecessary stimulation. You'll find Sky High Sports in Concord and Santa Clara.

AMC Theaters provides sensory-friendly films for children with autism and their caregivers every month.
Upcoming movies (at 11 a.m.) include:
-May 5: Pirates - Band of Misfits
-June 16: Madagascar 3
-June 30: Brave
-July 21: Ice Age - Continental Drift
-August 11: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Participating Bay Area AMC Theaters are in San Francisco (Van Ness), Cupertino, Deer Valley and Mercado 20.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


You may have noticed I haven't been around as much lately. I could list all the reasons why (life, kids, work...) but they're pretty much the same reasons we all have for being busy. In order to give myself a kick start and get some more posts out there, I am joining the Wordcount Blogathon, which is basically a group of bloggers getting together to motivate each other to post every day in the month of May. I have a backlog of ideas and events to post, so get ready!