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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coming Up: Gustafer Yellowgold Performance - Free

The small, yellow, cone-headed fellow from the sun will be doing some performances during his winter tour. He'll be in San Francisco on March 1st, and it's free.

This live performance will feature new songs and videos from the new DVD/CD set “Gustafer Yellowgold's Wisdom Tooth of Wisdom,” along with plenty of fan favorites from the five previous Gustafer Yellowgold releases, as well as the Sirius/XM Kids’ radio smash single, "Cakenstein."

Gustafer Yellowgold is reportedly unlike anything in family entertainment. Morgan Taylor’s story-songs about Gustafer and his pals is performed against a backdrop of large-screen animations done up with karaoke-style subtitles, and creates a world as deep and original as it is beautiful. It’s equal parts pop rock concert and minimally animated movie, but mellow.

What: Gustafer Yellowgold’s Show
Where: San Francisco Public Library - Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco
When: Sunday, March 1st - 3:00
Tickets: Admission is free
Info: (415) 557-4400,

Monday, February 23, 2015

Coming Up: Carnival of the Animals - Concert, Ballet, Crafts

The Palo Alto JCC is putting on a concert great for kids and adults, Camille Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals.” Each movement represents different beasts of land, sea, and sky, and will be accompanied by a lively ballet performance. In addition to a concert, there will be animal mask making and instrument "petting zoo" for the kids.

Symphony Napa Valley Assistant Conductor Derek Tam conducts the two performances featuring a string ensemble and two grand pianos (read more about the work at the bottom). Bay Pointe Ballet is a professional ballet company serving the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

When: Sunday March 1 at 10 a.m. and noon (2 concerts)
Where: Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto (3921 Fabian Way)
Tickets: $15-20 online or by calling (650) 223-8664. $15 is for members and kids ages 3-12. $18 general admission in advance. $20 tickets at the door.

From the JCC: "One of Camille Saint-Saens’ best-known works, “Carnival of the Animals” was first written in the wake of a failed concert tour of Germany. Embarrassed by his failure, Saint-Saens turned his sights on something more lighthearted and became immersed in writing this charming musical suite, declaring “mais c’est si amusant!” (“but this is such fun!”). The choruses of wild creatures are infused with comedic allusions to more serious fare, running the gamut from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld to Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust. “Carnival of the Animals” premiered in 1886 at a private concert in Paris and has since become a favorite in children’s repertoire for both small ensembles and full string orchestras."

Coming Up: Box Project at Asian Art Museum - Free

The Asian Art Museum is hosting a box building day, where you can build a cardboard world with childhood educator Nancy Gapasin Gnass and local artist Eliza Gregory. The Box Project is a workshop for parents and kids. Participants alter and play with cardboard boxes as they would at home, but on an unusually grand scale. Materials include reused cardboard donated by local businesses, which are recycled at the end of the day.

Professional parenting educator Nancy curates information about parenting and creativity for participants to take home, and is on hand to answer questions and provide an intellectual framework for the experience. The Box Project celebrates acts of creativity that take place in the home by temporarily placing them in a museum context to catalyze a conversation about creativity, parenting and the gallery space as a creative hub. The project asks: Can we teach creativity? What does that look like? When is parenting itself fundamentally about creativity? How can we become better parents by acknowledging those times? And how can the museum support families in this endeavor?

When: Sunday, March 1 from 11-2.
Where: Asian Art Museum
Admission: Free, courtesy of Target

Photo courtesy of Eliza Gregory

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Newsies Opens in San Francisco

The Broadway musical Newsies just opened last night in SF, and it's totally a family-friendly show. Read a Newsies review here. Those who loved the show tell me they were most impressed with the choreography and dancing, and that the male cast was so strong for a musical and dancing show. Traditionally a lot of dancing is done by women in these shows, so this is a great example to set for boys interested in theater and dance. Of course girls will enjoy that too!

When: February 18 - March 15, 2015 (includes matinees at 2 on Saturdays and Sundays)
Where: SHN Orpheum Theatre, SF
Tickets:  online or via phone (888) 746-1799

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Budget Travel for Families - a Q&A with Author Cynthia Drake

As a travel writer, I'm always on the hunt for books to share which encourage families to do more traveling. Budget Travel for the Genius by Cynthia J. Drake was just published, and I'm excited to share a Q&A I did with her about the book. I think you'll find a lot of helpful hints for your own travels, and I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book!

Frisco Kids: Can you share some frugal travel tips for traveling with kids?

Cynthia Drake: My favorite tip for traveling with kids is to bring your family museum and zoo memberships from home. Check to see if there are zoos, museums, science or art centers that participate in a reciprocal membership program with your home institution. If they do, it will save you a ton of money on admission.

While we're talking about admission prices, beware of "bundling," which is what a lot of attractions do to upsell visitors by combining things like 3-D movies, petting zoos and other extras on top of the base price of the ticket. If you're visiting an attraction for the first time, chances are there will be plenty for you to do and see without buying these extras.

Finally, set some ground rules for souvenirs. Your strategy will vary depending on your kids' ages, but perhaps you set a spending limit or institute a "one souvenir rule." This will hopefully help your kids put some thought into what they would really value or use. Another idea to try is "free souvenirs" — challenge your kids instead to take photos, keep journals, collect rocks or seashells.

How do you do frugal in a big city?

One of the things I love most about big cities is the prevalence of cheap public transportation. In my book, I strongly advocate for using subways, trains and buses to save not only on the cost of renting a car, but all the related costs, such as parking, not to mention the stress of driving in a big city. Plus, kids who aren't used to riding on buses and subways tend to think there's a cool factor there.

As for where you stay, look for hotels just outside of the city limits for the best deals — these hotels can go for half the price of more centrally located ones. Plus, you'll probably enjoy added amenities such as complimentary breakfast, wi-fi and parking when you stay on the outskirts.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Coming Up: Lunar New Year Celebration and Kids' Activities at SF Botanical Garden - Free for Residents

There's a free Lunar New Year celebration at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. There are special performances and hands-on activities to celebrate the Year of the Sheep and the many magnolias from China blooming in the Garden. Performances by the White Crane Lion Dancers, lively folk dances by The San Francisco Sunset Recreation Center Dance Troupe, tai chi performances with dazzling sword forms by Jing Cai Tai Chi Team and more.

Family-friendly children’s activities include garden crafts and special story times in the library with Oliver Chin that celebrate the customs, traditions, food and lore of the Lunar New Year. See the full schedule here.

When: February 21 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Performances and activities take place in and around the County Fair Building near the Garden entrance at 9th Ave and Lincoln Way.
Cost: free with admission to the garden (garden entrance is free for SF residents with proof of residency). Nonresidents: $7 general, $5 youth 12-17 and seniors; $2 children 5-11; children 4 and under free. Families of 2 adults and one or more child pay just $15

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day - Movies at Home

Nothing planned for Valentine's Day with your loved ones? How bout a movie night! Here are some Valentine's Day flicks you can see from the comfort of your couch on Netflix.

I Hate Valentine's Day - yup, that's me! This is a PG-13 movie and romantic comedy with Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

Every Day is Valentine - a Chinese romantic comedy

Before Valentine - a Thai movie (they celebrate Valentine's Day there too?) about 4 couples in various stages of a relationship, and how they celebrate that special day.

Of course there are plenty of romantic movies without the word Valentine in them. Like Dirty Dancing, Pretty in Pink, Romancing the Stone, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love (with that Goop lady), a Room with a View...I could go on.

What are your favorite romantic movies?

I am a Netflix Stream Team member.

Friday, February 13, 2015

See Dave Barry Live for $20

I love Dave Barry! he's coming to Kepler's Books in Menlo Park and you can see him for $20, or $40 including his book: Dave Barry: Live Right and Find Happiness: Although Beer Is Much Faster.

Here's why he's in town: "In brilliant, brand-new, never-before-published pieces, Dave passes on home truths to his new grandson and to his daughter Sophie, who will be getting her learner's permit in 2015 ("So you're about to start driving! How exciting! I'm going to kill myself"). He explores the hometown of his youth, where the grown-ups were supposed to be uptight fifties conformists, but seemed to have a lot of un"Mad Men"like fun, unlike Dave's own Baby Boomer generation, which was supposed to be wild and crazy, but somehow turned into neurotic hover-parents.

He dives into everything from the inanity of cable news and the benefits of Google Glass ("You will look like a douchebag") to the loneliness of high school nerds ("You will never hear a high school girl say about a boy, in a dreamy voice, 'He's so sarcastic!'"), from the perils of home repair to firsthand accounts of the soccer craziness of Brazil and the just plain crazy craziness of Vladimir Putin's Russia ("He stares at the camera with the expression of a man who relaxes by strangling small furry animals"), and a lot more besides."

When: Tuesday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m. (you can enter at 6:30 to find good seating)
Where: Kepler's Books, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
Tickets: here

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Upcoming Bay Area Theater Shows for Kids

Time to get tickets for two upcoming Bay Area Children's Theater shows performed around the Bay.

What: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT)
"When Edward, an elegant china rabbit, is snatched from the arms of the little girl who adores him, his easy existence becomes an epic, sometimes painful journey that touches the lives of everyone he meets—from an old fisherman to a hobo to a little boy protecting his sister."
For: Kids 8+
Tickets: $22/adult, $20/senior, $18/kids, $13/groups (minimum 15). Box office online or
(510) 296-4433

When: February 21 - March 22
Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with additional Friday evening performances on March 6, 13, and 20 at 7 p.m
Where: Berkeley - Osher Studio (2055 Center Street)

When: March 28 - April 12
Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Where: Children's Creativity Museum, 221 4th Street, San Francisco

What: Three Little Birds, A New Reggae Children’s Musical by Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT)
"The music of the legendary songwriter-singer-guitarist Bob Marley evokes the spirit of Jamaica in this modern-day fairytale, based on stories by Marley’s daughter, Cedella Marley. When timid Ziggy’s tricky friend Nansi lures him out of the house in his Caribbean village, the two children are in for an unexpected test of their courage, ingenuity and friendship."
For: Kids 4+
When: February 21 - March 1
Weekends at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m.
The performance then moves to Mill Valley, and San Ramon.
Where: Children's Creativity Museum, 221 4th Street, San Francisco
Tickets: $22/adults, $20/seniors, $18/children, $13/groups (minimum 15). Buy at box office or     (510) 296-4433

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ski Week at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

Do you get off for Ski Week next week? If so, check out Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows' 6th Annual Kid-O-Rama. This annual week-long celebration runs February 14-21.

Events include:
--Big Truck Day - on both mountains. From snowcats to snowmobiles to snowplows, kids can get behind the wheel themselves -- no drivers license required. Big Truck Day is February 16 and 19 from 3-5 p.m. in The Village at Squaw Valley. At Alpine Meadows, Big Truck Day is Saturday, February 14 from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

--Light Up the Night takes over the SnoVentures Activity Zone on February 14 and 21 from 4-7 p.m., featuring snow tubing and mini-snowmobiling under the stars, plus glow sticks for all.

--CLIF® Kid Climbing Wall will be open all week at at Squaw Valley's SnoVentures from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

--Other events include a cookie decorating party, a kids Deck Party with jams from DJ Treez, Hula Hoop Challenge, and a kids photo booth.

Click here for a full schedule of Kid-O-Rama. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Coming Up: Lunar New Year Concert - SF Symphony

The San Francisco Symphony has a Lunar New Year Concert and Celebration that's family friendly. There's a free festival reception with lion dancers, arts and crafts, and refreshments before the concert. It includeschildren’s arts and crafts, lion dancing, and Chinese calligraphy, as well as complimentary food, desserts, and tea bars. The 3:00 concert celebrates the Lunar New Year, with a combination of traditional Asian music alongside orchestral works influenced by both Eastern and Western musical traditions.

When: Saturday, February 21. Festival begins at 2, concert at 3.
What: Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director of the Memphis Symphony and of the Chicago Sinfonietta, leads the San Francisco Symphony in a concert with soloist Su Chang on guzheng
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, SF
Tickets: $30-74

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Humble Brainiac Ebook Bundle - Name Your Price

Want some Humble Brainiac books for your kids at a price you choose? No Starch Press is offering a Humble Brainiac electronic book bundle through February 18 at 2 p.m. EST, where you can decide what you pay.

What you can get:
--Ruby Wizardry: An Introduction to Programming for Kids
--Lauren Ipsum: A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things
--The Manga Guide to Electricity
--Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred: Seriously Geeky Stuff to Make with Your Kids
--The LEGO Adventure Book, Volume 1: Cars, Castles, Dinosaurs and More!

If you pay more than the average user (currently $13.46), you'll also get:
--LEGO Space: Building the Future
--The Manga Guide to Physics
--Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming
--Incredible LEGO Technic: Cars, Trucks, Robots and More!
--Build Your Own Website: A Comic Guide to HTML, CSS, and WordPress

If you pay $15+, you'll get the above plus:
--Steampunk LEGO
--JavaScript for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming
--The LEGO Neighborhood Book: Build Your Own Town!

You will also decide how much of your money goes to the publisher, Humble Bundle, and charity. The two charities supported by this bundle are the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Coming Up: Museums on Us - Free this Weekend for Some

Bank of America's Museums on Us program runs this weekend, giving B of A cardholders and Merrill Lynch card holders (credit or debit) one free admission per card at participating museums. We've used this program and love it! It's this weekend, February 7-8 (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 and San Jose area:
·         The Tech Museum of Innovation           The San Jose Museum of Art·         Chabot Space & Science Center·         Contemporary Jewish Museum·         de Young Museum·         Legion of Honor

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

LearnStorm through Khan Academy - 3 Month Bay Area Math Challenge - Free!

I've been meaning to check out the Khan Academy, a website with free video instruction on subjects like math, biology, art history, programming and more.

They're offering a three-month pilot challenge for Bay Area students to master skills in math on Khan Academy, through its LearnStorm. Participating students accumulate points on leaderboards to compete for monthly cups and awards, including a celebratory finals event in May.

The challenge is designed to emphasize school spirit, collaboration and perseverance around learning, similar to how schools currently engage with their sports teams, encouraging students of all abilities to get excited about and to master their math level or higher. This initiative comes out of Khan Academy research done in collaboration with Dr Carol Dweck and others who advocate the ‘growth mindset’; the ability to cultivate a new, positive attitude toward learning. In the press release, project lead James Tynan said, “Our hope is that LearnStorm helps students not only to get excited about math, but to cultivate meta-cognitive skills about learning that will permeate other life challenges, too. We know that the more you grapple with something, the more your capacity expands."

LearnStorm is for kids in all math levels, for kids in 3rd-12th grade in ten Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma (they hope to expand to other areas in the future). The challenge pilot will begin on February 9.

There's a lot of information on the website that I encourage you to check out, as it's kind of a complex process. But I'm signing my son up!