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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Coming Up: New Year's Concerts - free

The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra will make your new year's resolution for more culture come true. They're offering three FREE concerts around the new year. 

These star Jon Nakamatsu (Van Cliburn gold medalist) on piano, and this season's debut artist, 17-year old double bassist Jared Pabilona in:   

     Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro 
     Giovanni Bottesini: Double Bass Concerto No. 2 in B minor 
     Camille Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor 

According to the SFCO, "Mozart, Bottesini and Saint-Saëns were great virtuosi, writing themselves solo works to promote their double careers as composers and performing artists. Bottesini was considered the Paganini of the double bass, bringing that unwieldy instrument a measure of respect."

Concert dates: 
Dec 29 • Sunday at 3:00 • Nourse Theater, San Francisco
Dec 31 • Tueday at 8:00 • First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Jan 1 • Wedmesday at 3:00 • First Palo Alto United Methodist Church

Friday, December 13, 2013

Holiday gifts: The Gift of an Experience

There's a huge focus this time of year on buying gifts. We wanted to include some ideas that are the gift of experience, not just things.

Unclutterer has a good list of experience gifts, including San Francisco city tours.

I'm a big fan of museum and attraction memberships as gifts. Then you have fun together while experiencing something new. Frisco Kids has a list of most Bay Area museums on the right side of the blog. Like going to amusement parks or the boardwalk? Either buy a season pass, get a gift certificate or just make your own, so you can go together.

Entertainment - get tickets to a show! We have a list of discounted tickets you can get for mostly holiday shows here. Goldstar has a lot of shows at good deals year-round. (affiliate link)

Don't want to do any gifts? You're not a grinch. Read my friend Heather Greenwood Davis' take on why they're not doing Christmas gifts for two years running.

As a gift for your spouse or better half, get a gift through Howaboutwe for couples. Unfortunately you do have to sign up to see the offerings, but you can choose experiences (shows, tours, massages, meals, etc.)

Don't forget the other posts in this series:
-Helping others this holiday season
-Frisco Kids guide to holiday entertainment

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Coming Up: Two Holiday Christmas Concerts - SF Symphony

It's not too late to get tickets for holiday San Francisco Symphony shows.
What: Peter and the Wolf with John Lithgow and the San Francisco Youth Orchestra
When: Saturday, December 14 at 1 and 4 p.m.
Where: Davies Symphony Hall
The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (SFSYO) performs Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf with special guest narrator actor John Lithgow in his San Francisco Symphony debut. Well-known for his work as a Tony, Emmy, and Academy Award-nominated stage and film actor, Lithgow has performed children’s concerts with the Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, San Diego and Pittsburgh Symphonies. His acting credits include roles in the movies The World According to Garp and Terms of Endearment,plus the role of the alien High Commander on TV’s 3rd Rock from the Sun. He recorded a1999 album of children's music, Singin' in the Bathtub, and has written poetry and short stories for children. In this concert the Youth Orchestra will also perform a work Lithgow wrote with Bill Elliott entitled The Bandshell Right Next to the Zoo as well as festive holiday songs for the whole family to sing along to. SFSYO Music Director and conductor Donato Cabrera conducts.
What: 'Twas the Night (carols and sing-alongs with SF Symphony Chorus members and brass section)
When: Sunday, December 22 at 4, and Monday December 23 at 8 p.m., Tuesday, December 24 at 11 a.m.
Where: Davies Symphony Hall
This special Christmas concert offers conductor and SF Symphony Chorus Director Ragnar Bohlin leading soprano Lisa Vroman, pianist Joan Cifarelli, organist Robert Huw Morgan, members of the San Francisco Symphony, and members of the SFS Chorus in beloved Christmas carols and favorite childhood Christmas songs, plus audience sing-alongs.
Tickets: here

Christmas Craft Links

Looking for some fun Christmas crafts? Here's our list:

Star Wars Snow flakes - 19 free downloadable templates, from Matters of Grey

Make a keepsake hand print tile, thanks to our friends at Attainable Sustainable.
Okay, this is not a picture of the tile, but it is a picture of hand prints and I could use the photo without getting into copyright trouble.

Elf on the Shelf calendar - so I'm a little late with this one, but if you're looking for help with your Elf on the Shelf placement, and you can laugh at yourself and the whole concept, this is awesome, from People I Want to Punch in the Throat.

Color on your own marshmallows - this is a great one if you have leftover edible markers from those nasty cookies you can color. Use them to decorate marshmallows! This is from Got Chocolate, and the pictures are very cute.

Holiday desktop wallpaper for your computer from Apartment Therapy.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Santa for Kids with Special Needs - Sunday 12/7

Sorry to get this out so late, but here's a call-out to families with kids who have special needs. Stanford Shopping Center's Caring Santa program is tomorrow (Sunday 12/7) from 9:30-11 a.m. in the Center Pavilion. They host the event when the mall is closed to provide a more sensory friendly environment.

Caring Santa provides a more subdued environment to visit Santa and get photos taken. In addition to the mall being closed, they turn off in-mall music, dim the lights and shut down the fountains during the events. They use a numbering system to avoid queue lines. While you wait, there are special activities and stories geared toward the kids, to help them understand what will occur during the visit.

Please RSVP if you can at Learn more about the event on this YouTube video.

To learn more about the event you can also watch this short YouTube video

Gingerbread House Activities in the Bay Area 2013

My kids are begging me for a gingerbread house kit again this year, but every year they start and don't finish it. And then they don't clean up. So I'm looking into other options. Fortunately the Bay Area has many.


The Mandarin Oriental is hosting "ho-ho-ho homes for the holiday" on Saturday, December 14, which includes gingerbread house making from 2-4. Kids get their own aprons and chef hats, decorating gingerbread houses and sugar cookies. For drinking, there's hot chocolate and spiced cider (parents can hit the bar on their own dime). Cost is $60/kid. RSVP at or call (415) 986-2020.

Westin St. Francisco castle
Not for your own making, but check out the Westin St. Francis' sugar castle, one of the country's largest. It's in the lobby through January 3. It resembles a French medieval city and weighs more than 1,300 pounds. It has more than 20 grand circular towers, around 30 rooms, glowing windows and a running train. Not that the kids will care, but you might like that they added the century's past top news makers throughout the castle. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Coming Up: Story time with Rosemary Wells

Fans of Rosemary Wells books should head to Kepler's in Menlo Park on Sunday morning, for a reading of a Max and Ruby book by the author herself. She'll be reading from Max & Ruby's Treasure Hunt and Max's Christmas

When: Sunday, December 8 at 10:30
Where: Kepler's Books at 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
Cost: Free

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Coming Up: Free Kids' Workshop at The Home Depot - Tic Tac Toe Game

This Saturday, The Home Depot offers its free monthly kids' hands-on workshop. They'll be making a tic-tac-toe game. You'll get a free kit to make, and they'll teach the kids how to do it safely. They'll also get a Home Depot workshop apron and certificate of achievement. 

Who: Kids ages 5-12
When: first Saturday of the month (December 7, 2013) - 9 a.m. to noon (don't come early!) - first come, first served
Where: your local Home Depot
Cost: Free
RSVP: recommended - register here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Give Back Tuesday - Helping Others this Holiday Season 2013

Today is "Give back Tuesday," a national movement following the Thanksgiving spending rush, and a chance to help the less fortunate.

I'll have a few more posts about ways you can give back, through donations this holiday season. But here are some volunteer ideas in which you can involve the kids.

Many opportunities to adopt a family for the holidays, providing them with gifts, funds, or something else to make their lives easier. The Shelter Network is an organization my family volunteered with before (on many occasions) and they have many opportunities to help. Plan a gift drive. Adopt an individual or family. Serve meals. Donate a holiday dinner basket. Learn how to help and sign up here.

Frisco Kids Guide to Holiday Entertainment

There's a ton of great holiday entertainment options out there. I'll do a few posts of holiday entertainment, starting with this one.

Look for holiday shows on Goldstar, where you'll save 50% on ticket prices.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

When: December 11-15
They have early start times (7 or 7:30 p.m.) and several matinees
Where: Curran Theater, SF
Tickets: here - $45-160 (Goldstar tickets are $60)
Info:  "An international cast of multi-talented and brilliantly costumed artists come to life and perform astonishing feats of disbelief: experience gingerbread men flipping mid-air, toy soldiers marching on thin wires, snowmen daringly balancing, icemen powerfully sculpting, penguins spinning, puppets dancing and reindeer soaring high above a landscape of holiday wonderment.  An original music score and some seasonal favorites accompany hundreds of astonishing costumes and holiday dreams in a setting of gigantic gifts, colossal candy canes and 30-foot towering soldiers, creating a wonderland of spectacle."

Beach Blanket Babylon Holiday Show
When: Wednesdays through Sundays, through December 31, 2013
Where: 678 Green Street, San Francisco
Tickets: get tickets here or by calling (415) 421-4817. Cost is $25-150 depending on location. Most tickets are $25-$56. The higher price are for premium seats.
Info: 21 and over only for evening shows. The holiday show features a chorus line of tap dancing Christmas trees, parodies of traditional Christmas carols, and a huge Yuletide hat.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast

When: December 21-January 5
They have early start times (7 or 7:30 p.m.) and several matinees
Where: Curran Theater, SF
Tickets: here - $45-160
Info: The classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress.  If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity. It features the  animated film’s Academy Award®-winning score.

Some additional discounted shows and entertainment on Goldstar:
Skate Under the Stars - San Jose outdoor rink - $7.50 
San Francisco Nutcracker Ballet - $28-35
San Jose Youth Ballet in the Nutcracker - $10
Cinderella - A Holiday Musical - SF - $10-25
The Muppets Christmas Carol Live Screening - SF - $5
The Snowman and and the Snowdog - Live Screening - SF - $5
The Velveteen Rabbit - SF - $30
The Holiday - "Duck the Halls" Duck tour - SF - $17.50
ACT's A Christmas Carol - $15-78
Disney on Ice - Rockin Ever After - $12.50-39.50 (these are for February to March)
XXMas Smuin Ballet's Holiday Show - $27.50-35.50
A Christmas Carol at San Jose's Olinder Theater - $11
It's a Wonderful Life - Live Radio Play in San Jose - $16.50-22.50
The Snow Queen - in San Jose - $23.50-27

Monday, December 2, 2013

Free Shipping Day

If you haven't bought everything on your holiday list yet, you still have time - with free shipping on Free Shipping Day, December 18th. To participate, companies have to offer free shipping with no minimum order. 

More than 1,000 retailers are expected to sign on for the free shipping day, with gifts guaranteed to arrive in time for Christmas Eve. 

Some companies participating in the past were:: Toys R Us, Babies R Us, FAO Schwartz, eToys, Baby Universe, Avon,, Borders, Footwear Etc., Kmart, Leapfrog, Land of Nod, Macy's, Nordstrom, Petsmart, Ritz Cameras, Sears, Dell, Discover Store, Disney Store, Ebags, Apple Store, American Eagle, and more. 

For a full list of participating retailers, click here.

Frisco Kids Holiday Gift Guide 2013

We' ve been having fun-looking gift ideas for our Frisco Kids' Gift Guide this year.

Personalized sheets - my son recently asked if a company made design-your-own sheets, because he wanted to put a certain song's lyrics on it. I said no company made these. Then I thought about it. What a brilliant idea for a product! Headed over to Google and not surprisingly, I had spoken too soon. You CAN design your own sheets. While I probably won't tell my son this (he has enough sheets already), if you think this is a good idea, here is one company that does it. Many other companies will put photos on sheets or let you design sheets using their patterns and colors.

You may have seen this great commercial from GoldieBlox that went viral online (and recently pulled the Beastie Boys song/lyrics from its ad). It's an awesome ad, and did a great job promoting its toys to encourage girls to be engineers. So here is the GoldieBlox toy, GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine. It comes with a book and construction set. Read more about the background of GoldieBlox toys.

Unclutterer has a great list of kids' gifts that help them become better organized. And they're fun too. Like a t-shirt that helps kids learn how to fold by making great designs on the back as they do so. A chalkboard laptop, swoop bag for cleaning up toys, doodle tablecloth, and crayon ammo belt.

They Draw and Travel maps are adorable and a great way to teach your kids about different places. Their new book Maaaps has 19 hand-drawn maps by Aunyarat Watanab, including 18 international cities or countries and one of Mars. If you look through the website, you'll see maps from all kinds of places made by various artists. You can buy maps printed in various sizes and the artists get 50% of the sales price. Here are some maps of San Francisco by various artists. I love this one below of Big Sur by Nate Padavick. Obviously they are not just for kids!

PRESENTS FOR ADULTS OR KIDS, check out this awesome jewelry my daughter is making, with all proceeds going to Breaking the Chain through Education. The organization is freeing child slaves in Ghana. The kids are sold into slavery by parents who can't afford to educate them and feed them, and think the kids will be getting just that. Instead, the kids are worked really hard (and often in dangerous jobs), getting very little to eat and little to no education. The group has already rescued 30 child slaves, and sent them back to their families, with continued support with food and social work assistance.

Not all the jewelry shown here is available on the Dori Jewelry Etsy site currently, but it can be ordered with quick shipping by email (dorijewelry (at) gmail (dot) com). She's doing a holiday fair this week so some items haven't yet been added to the site in anticipation of the fair. She makes necklaces, earrings, beaded bracelets, chip bag bracelets, and eyeglass chains. She will do custom pieces at no additional charge. Shipping is $3.50 for up to three items.

I have a list of mostly quirky gifts that looked like fun. Like these Star Wars Darth Vader cuff links

And these Star Wars Storm Trooper cuff links.

They have a lot more Star Wars cuff links designs.

I recently bought this exact Nespresso machine and I LOVE it. I don't have the frother that you can buy with it (it's extra) but do use a $3 IKEA immersion frother I got a a few years ago. The espresso and espresso drinks I make with it are SO good and so easy too.

Williams Sonoma is offering a mushroom log where you can grow your own shitake mushrooms. It caught my eye.

For the person who has everything, or a foodie who loves Instagram, check out these Instagram photo marshmallows! Here's the Boomf company link.

Bed Bath and Beyond is selling awesome state-shaped cutting boards for $19.99. The California one is available at California stores, but you can other states online. I couldn't easily copy the California photo, so you're stuck with New Jersey at right. But here's the link to the California shaped bamboo cutting board from Bed Bath and Beyond.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Frisco Kids Holiday Book Gift Guide for 2013

We're big book lovers in our family, so we thought we'd share some favorites to consider for this year's gifts - not just for the kids too!

We recently reviewed Exploralab, which is created by the Exploratorium. This would be a great gift for those kids who like experimenting and have a sense of curiosity about the world. The book is aimed at kids and has things to pull out and use during the experiments. Read more of the Exploralab review here.

For the comic lovers, consider Justice Angel Comic, especially since its heroine is a Chinese girl.

LEGO Space Book - My kid loves LEGOs so much, he has (and built himself) the LEGO Death Star. So I was excited to get a copy of LEGO Space to review. This is not an official LEGO book, but authors Reid and Goddard make intricate custom LEGO models and use them to tell a story of exploration and intrigue. They go on a voyage form Sputnik to a future space-faring civilization.

In addition to the model pictures, it also includes building instructions so you can make some of them at home. LEGO is also going to produce (and sell) the Exo Suit which is featured in the book, in 2014. This is only the 6th fan-created model the company has created. The book came out in November. It's a beautiful, big colorful book.

LEGO Adventure Book - This one looks really good too.

If you're looking for puzzle books, check out the Rich Rollo Number Cross Puzzles. I reviewed it here, along with the Ballpark Mystery series by David Kelly. There's even one set in San Francisco. Read my son's reviews of the Ballpark Mysteries here. Ballpark Mysteries is good for the 9 and under crowd.

We've become big fans of Dan Gutman's Genius Files books. And while we read the first Templeton Twins book, Templeton Twins Have an Idea, we're eagerly anticipating the next one, The Templeton Twins Make a Scene. I see it came out in October! My 10 year old loved these books, and to be honest, I did too.


I just got Allison Winn Scotch's latest novel The Theory of Opposites on my new Kindle. I've reviewed her books before (here's another review) and interviewed her here. Her latest was just optioned by Jennifer Garner's production company. It's getting great press and I can't wait to read it. It's a novel, if you haven't figured that out already.

My travel writing friend Mara Gorman recently published The Family Traveler's Handbook, with lots of stories from parents about how to successfully travel with kids, how to plan for your trip and making the most of road trips. She looks at camping, choosing hotels and resorts, the best ways to plan an itinerary, maintaining kids' routines on the road, eating out with the kids, safety issues, challenges for different stages kids are in and how to deal with them, and a huge resource section with tons of valuable tools for family travel.

Another family travel writer, Collen Lanin of Travel Mamas, also published a travel guide this year - The Travel Mamas' Guide: How to vacation with babies and children...and stay sane. We're quoted in there! It has lots of tips and helpful hints from real-world parents about airplane travel with kids, road trip activities for keeping kids engaged on the road, the types of toys to pack, and more.

For new or expecting parents, this is a thought-provoking book about Read my review of The Business of Baby here. It's a thoroughly researched book that looks into vaccines, pregnancy diets, fetal monitoring, ultrasounds and other testing, C-sections, circumcision, potty training and many more issues important to a child's early life. I don't necessarily agree with all of Margulis's conclusions, but it made me think and question more than I have before, and that to me is a sign of a good book.
Read an interview with author Jennifer Margulis here.

If you're a fan of Chronicle Books, they're having an online friends and family sale (you're included) with 35% off and free shipping through December 5. Use code FRIENDS.

Whiskey Women - The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey by Fred Minnick. Doesn't the title alone make you want to read this book, even if you're not a drinker? The book looks at specific women involved in the business, and is getting rave reviews from the likes of Esquire and American Way magazine, as well as those in the industry.

Coming Up: Local Holiday Crafts at the San Francisco Bazaar

I love quality quality craft fairs, and the SF Bazaar looks like a good one. It's one of the longest running craft fairs in the Bay Area. More than 200 designers, crafters, artists and food companies will sell their handmade goods. This one features only local Bay Area artists, plus some nonprofits like La Cocina, the SF Public Library, SF Youth Employment Coalition and others.

What will you see: clothing, jewelry, paper goods, bath/body products, fine art, ceramics, housewards and food. See pictures of what's for sale here. And a full vendor list here.

Plus, there's a DIY section where you can make cards, jewelry, screen print and wrap presents. If you're one of the first 200 people in the door either day, you'll get a tote bag with goodies and a limited edition print.

When: December 7-8 from 11-6
Where: Concourse Exhibition Center - East Hall (620 Seventh Street, at Brannan)
Cost: free

For photos of products that will be sold at the show visit our flickr page: 
A full list of vendors is available here: 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hanukkah crafts and links

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 25, 2013

Target Ugly Sweaters

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

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

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

Coming Up: Patchwork Show at Jack Lopndon Square

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Coming Up: Nutcracker Under the Dome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About those events mentioned above, here are some details:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miracle on 34th Street, the Musical

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

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

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

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

Treasure Island Flea Market - Holiday Fun

Holiday Fun Begins At The Treasure Island Flea

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

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

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

Coming Up: San Francisco Chamber Orchestra Free Family Concerts

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Advice for a Disneyland and California Adventure Newbie

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

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

To buy a park hopper?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: Cars Land at Disneyland

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

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

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