Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cupcake Debacle

I expected a million things to fall apart yesterday as I prepped for Kyle's party, but I can honestly say that as I walked in to our local Albertson's to pick up the order I placed (in person) for 40 green cupcakes earlier this week, was one if the last things I expected to be screwed up!

They couldn't even find my order slip! The woman remembered taking my order but couldn't find it. (Note to people re: customer service... When your coworker remembers taking the order and the customer has already said they placed the order in person, please don't butt in and say "Are you sure you didn't order at another Albertsons?" Chances are the customer is already annoyed that their custom order is MIA and I can tell you that comment won't gain you any bonus points.)

Major kudos to the manager for the totally unexpected 50% discount on my cupcakes after a 15 minute wait for them to quickly get my green cupcake order put together (thank heaven it wasn't a custom elaborate cake order!). In this economy customer service will make or break a retail store and in a close knit community like the one we live in, people WILL talk and mistakes can make or break a bottom line. This manager did shock me by solving the situation in the way he did. Little did he know I would be blogging about it! Shhhhhh. :)

Anyway, my green cupcakes have now been transformed in to Dinosaur cupcakes (thanks to the small inexpensive dinosaurs from the party store - $6 for 24) and Kyle now has custom cupcakes for a very inexpensive price!



Lessons learned:
-Don't worry about being a pest... Just call the bakery the night before to ensure you are on track for the proper pick-up time!

-When life hands you lemons... Take a really deep breath to clear your mind and figure out how to turn in to lemonade!

What speed bumps have you run in to with kids birthday parties and how did you turn them around?

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Party Favor Time!

As I sit here basking in the glory of twenty four finished party favors for Kyle's 6th Birthday party... I am part proud and part embarrassed. As I am sure you may have already noticed from the picture (see below)... We get far too much pop corn in the souvenir buckets from Disneyland! ($5.50 each x 24 ... Let's just not go there!)

It's become a bit of a tradition to collect the souvenir buckets throughout the year and use them for party favor containers. It's cool, it's fun and always a conversation starter! My biggest headache each time us figuring out how to fill the buckets with enough favors so that they don't look empty yet not break the bank when filling 24 of them and to not fill them with those cheap plastic toys that I despise!

This time I am rather proud of what I've fillem them with! I've only spent a couple if dollars on each one!

The enclosures this time are:
-1 coloring/activity book ($6 for 24 at the party store)
-1 mini tootsie pop ($2 for 30 at the party store)
-1 pretzle bag ($3.99 for 30 at Target- Halloween special)
-1 colored plastic frog ($6 for 24 at the party store)
-1 goldfish cracker bag ($9 for 24 from grocery store)
-1 pencil ($4 for 30 at the party store)

The expression of excitement on Kyle's face when he saw them all... Priceless!

Feeling a little like SuperMom at this point and LOVIN' that!!!

What things have you done for your kids parties that make you feel like the most awesome Mom around?







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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Passion for Donating and Sharing That with Your Kids

Last night I was able to pass on and share an important virtue on to my boys – donating to charity. It has always been a constant in my life. I don’t think I can remember a time when I went more than a couple months without donating at least a couple bags of used clothes to Goodwill and I am proud of that.

After my mother passed away, I took great pride in donating the vast majority of her almost new clothes to an abused women’s shelter. She had recently purchased the new clothes in hopes of turning a new corner in her life that unfortunately she was never able to do. Giving those very clothes to women who needed them most made it much easier to let go of those clothes for me. I will never forget pulling away from the curb and watching the women beginning to look through the bags of clothes. It’s so important to me to share that spirit of giving with my children and I think I’ve finally done it!

We’ve replaced a couple TV’s in our house recently (moved to more energy efficient ones) and decided to do what we normally do – donate the old ones to Goodwill. But last night was different because we had to go later in the evening and weren’t able to go to the normal truck drop-off point we go to, we had to go to one of the stores (that also accepts donations after 5pm). This was the first time that my boys really made the connection as to what we were doing. I think it was because they saw the store and saw people immediately starting to look through the bags of toys and books we also brought for donation.

“Do you have to pay them to take the TV’s Mom?”

Nope.

“Do they give you money for the TV’s?”

Nope.

“Well, why do we take them there?”


I explained… “We do because there are other families who can’t go out and buy new TV’s like us. There are kids who don’t have all the toys and clothes like you guys. Both Dad and I feel it’s super important to share things we don’t need any more with people who can’t afford to buy things.”

And with that, my boys were quiet the rest of the way home lost in thought. I was proud as can be.


Are you passionate about volunteering or donating? How have you started to share that passion with your children?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Me vs. Legos

Man, I’m really kicking myself about this one. I really thought I’d learned my lesson last year, but I just got lazy. I admit it. 
Legos became popular around our house a couple years ago and during the last holiday season I did something I NEVER thought I’d do… yup, you guessed it – I glued each and every single piece together as we assembled the play sets. Could you blame me? We literally spent the entire vacation week assembling the massive sets the boys had gotten for Christmas (think ten 500-1000 piece sets…). Yes, my husband thought I was crazy when I stocked up on glue, but he was soon making runs to the store to get more.  The sets he put together were coming apart in hours and the kids were coming to me asking me to glue them! There are very few things that frustrate me more than trying to reverse engineer these Lego ships and get the glue in the high stress points!

We are currently celebrating the birthday month for Kyle (we turn birthdays in to a series of birthday things throughout their birth months – Disneyland, dinners, parties, etc.). Lego is the toy of choice currently and Kyle was adamant that he wanted this Lego City garage structure for his birthday. Kyle’s enthusiasm for getting it built left me forgetting to have enough glue handy we dove in and started building. Tonight I am just kicking myself because literally less than 2 hours after completing it, it was falling apart! Yup, I dug out the crazy glue and started doing my reverse engineering and trying to get all the major stress points and COATING it in glue. It is currently drying in the playroom before I’ll let them play with it!

I’m thinking I ought to buy Krazy Glue stock soon because Kyle’s party is still to come later this month (he’s conveniently told all his friends he wants Legos…) and the holidays are coming. Someone please save me from this sea of Legos…

Anyone else willing to admit gluing Legos or other play sets together for your own sanity? Please tell me I’m not alone in this… or that you're at least getting a good laugh!

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Viva Pinata a Great Video Game for Kids

With two rough and tumble boys around our house, the Xbox gets plenty of use. It has always been important to me to not just let the boys “zone out” and play violent video games. When we found the series of Lego (I'll be doing a series about these since there are now so many of them) & Viva Piñata video games a couple years back – they were a lifesaver, almost literally! Brett was super sick with Bronchitis and it was really important to keep him relaxed and get him to take it as easy as possible. A good friend of ours had given the boys Viva Piñata for the Xbox for Christmas and it was perfect timing because less than a week after Brett was diagnosed with Bronchitis, I was too! We were quite the pair and soon found ourselves spending hours on end learning how to play and progressing in the levels. What I LOVE about the game is that it is all about building and creating a garden full of colorful animals and plants. The most violent aspect of the game is when the animals fight with each other (which is a lot of confetti throwing)! If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend it, but keep these cheat codes and walk thru’s on hand if you feel a little lost.



Click here for our favorite site for Viva Piñata cheat codes.


Buy it from Amazon if you don’t have the game yet (because it has been out for awhile you can get it at a great price brand new!).





Have you tried Viva Piñata? Love it or hate it?

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hyatt Recency Huntington Beach Spa Discounts for Beach Clean-up

One of the biggest draws of people here in California is its’ beaches. But unfortunately from time to time people forget that the beach doesn’t clean itself! I can’t tell you how many beach clean-ups I have participated in over the years (I started waaaay back in Middle School!). It’s always been something I loved doing (any excuse to go to the beach!) but am always saddened to see the junk that people leave at the beach. Kinda leaves you wondering if people forget what the garbage cans are there for! I’ve personally found everything from syringes to wrappers to hundreds of cigarette butts to let’s just not mention… Gross!!!


When I found out that the Pacific Waters Spa at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach Resort & Spa would be offering fantastic discounts to participants in the upcoming OC Coastal Clean-up Day on September 19th, I knew I had to share it! Volunteers who take advantage of the Pacific Waters Spa discount will have access to the resort’s 20,000 square foot spa that includes a full-service beauty spa, 24 hour health club, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauns, outdoor co-ed relaxation garden with waterfall and a spa retail store! They are offering a drastically discounted rate of $99 (normally $145!!!) for the Pure Results Facial for participants in the Coastal Clean-up effort! What a deal!! To get your coupon click here and for more information about the Coastal Clean-up click here.


Get your kids started in volunteering early and teach them some great personal responsibility at the same time!

For more information about the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach click here.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

What I'll Teach My Children About September 11th

September 11, 2001 changed every American’s life. It touched everyone in a different way and has caused a shift in thinking for most of us. I’d love to hear how it has changed your life. As a parent, I do more than just hold my children a little bit closer at night, give them extra kisses to be sure they know how much I love them. My children are still so young I hope they will never understand or experience what us as their parents experienced that day.



For weeks, there was no way to argue that life had changed here in South Orange County. People were different. I saw a different side of people, one rarely seen. Everyone’s thoughts were with the brave First Responders who helped to pick up the pieces of the World Trade Center and it showed. I saw more polite drivers on the road, people less rushed and more courteous. I saw people aimlessly wandering the stores almost unsure what to do. I saw neighbors for the first time standing out in front of their homes, truly taking the time to learn about each other and finding common ground. The skies were quiet with the occasional roar of a fighter jet above as a painful reminder of why no planes were flying. Yes America had changed in just an instant.


Slowly over the next few weeks life went back to the way it was at least visibly. Planes flew, road rage was back and people were again appearing to only focus on themselves. But now I know that Americans will drop everything in a time of need and take care of each other. I’m proud of that.


And how will I be remembering the lives lost on September 11th, 2001? I’ll be an extra courteous driver again, give a few extra warm smiles to strangers, participate in a couple random acts of kindness and look to find a way to give back to my community today. This is what I’ll teach my children that September 11th is all about. How about you?

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Taco(ish) Salad

I had to share my latest creation - Taco (ish) Salad

I was making this nacho recipe for the kids but was really craving salad for myself so I decided to take the raw ingredients of what I was cooking for the kids, add it on top of fresh cut romaine leaves to come up with this... (sorry the image is a little blurry due to my iPhone and my inability to hold still enough...)

Ingredients:
-Romaine lettuce
-Cooked ground meat
-Tabasco Chipotle sauce
-Barbeque sauce (about 1 tablespoon mixed for Nacho meat and salad meat)
-Handful of chopped cucumber
-Handful of chopped sweet red peppers
-Shredded cheese
-Spoonful of light sour cream
-4 Grape tomatoes cut in half
-1 Tablespoon of your favorite salad dressing (balsamic w/oil works well also)
Directions:
Again, I made this primarily with what I already had on hand for the Nachos.  To make the nacho meat, I took one package of ground meat and sauteed it until well cooked.  Then in a bowl I mixed it with 1 tablespoon of barbeque sauce.  I took out about 1/2 cup of the meat and mixed in the Chipotle Tabasco sauce in to it to add kick (knowing the kids wouldn't like it in the nacho meat).  I added all of the above ingredients on top of fresh chopped romaine lettuce and added about 1 tablespoon of my favorite salad dressing (which happens to be Chinese Chicken Salad dressing by Girard's).
The salad came out amazing and the kids loved the nachos!  Perfect way to satisfy the kids and allow me to eat healthily without feeling like I cooked two separate meals! 

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

San Diego Wild Animal Park - Part 3


Part 3



(You can find part 1 here and part 2 here)

What I found most complicated about the San Diego Wild Animal Park (& Zoo actually) was it was really hard to figure out what is included in the cost of your ticket and what you had to pay extra for. The Wild Animal Park in particular has a large amount of extra cost adventures you can take that can add a ton of cost to your day (Segway Tours for example can add an additional $70 per person, but also have age minimums). There is the Flightline (Zipline ride), Wilderness Ridge Mule Ride, Savanna Safari and Ride on the Wild Side, Roar & Snore (overnight onsite camping), Balloon Safari and Zoowerks – The Ride. All of these cost extra and will definitely enhance your day, but quickly add up. If you’re interested in any of these activities, you can research them on the website and do be aware that many do have age minimums as well. Also feel free to ask at the Safari Booking Station (at the entry) for any tips about what adventures would be right for your family. They are very friendly and happy to help you.


This time we came prepared! I’d checked the weather forecast, grabbed several water bottles, the kids had our water spray fans (picked up at one of our many Disneyland trips), tons of sunscreen, everyone had sunglasses, ultra light clothing and a plan.


We arrived at the park at about 9:30 am and headed straight for the Journey into Africa tram. A ticket is required for this, but if you paid regular admission to the park or have a membership (great value especially because you also get membership to the San Diego Zoo!), it is included. Doing this first in the morning was great timing because it wasn’t too hot and all the animals were still active. The views are awe inspiring and leave you with the feeling you have truly just been on an African Safari!


After the Safari ride, we mostly followed the Kilimanjaro Safari Walk for the rest of the day. The Jameson Research Island was another cool stop on our walk. There are several feeding dispensers (bring quarters!) and you can feed the birds along the floating bridges. The birds definitely knew what was up and as soon as they heard the dispenser, they began coming towards us. The boys loved feeding the birds! There’s also a misting station for the kids to get wet and a Dino Dig area.


Instead of following the Kilimanjaro Tour to the left (west) of the Lagoon, we went to the right wanting to see the Lemurs again. As we were walking past Lemur Island, I saw one of the Zookeepers parking her cart and pulling a large bucket out of the back, I knew it had to be feeding time for something. We followed her to the overlook area just in time to see her feeding small fish to all of the birds. That was really neat because we got to see a lot of the birds come up close to us and it was just plain entertaining watching the birds steal from each other and do fly-bys! I’d highly recommend taking note of which animals are being fed when and making the effort to watch. In the couple of times we have gone to the Wild Animal Park now, we’ve seen several different feeding times and have always really enjoyed them.


Our family’s favorite find of the day without a doubt was the Animal Care Center. My kids could have spent hours there alone! Three baby cheetahs were running around the playrooms having a ton of fun. They were hilarious to watch and so cute!


If it’s your first time at the park, I’d highly recommend taking the “Kilimanjaro Safari Walk” as your main route for the day (veer up to check out the Tigers if you’re ambitious and it’s not a hot day). Due note that The Kilimanjaro Safari Walk is a 2 mile walk, but the park is quite accommodating for strollers and joggers, so if you have you have kids under 5 I’d highly recommend bring something for them to sit in!


I can’t emphasize enough how much easier it makes your day to arrive at the park early… when we arrived we were able to park at one of the first few aisles, but as we left the park (just before 2pm), people were still arriving and they were parking at the bottom of the hill! The Wild Animal Park handles crowds very well. We were actually really surprised to see how many cars had arrived after us because the park just didn’t feel that busy. Taking a few minutes to prep ahead of time made our day FANTASTIC!


Have you been to the San Diego Wild Animal Park? Any tips I missed?

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Christmas in September?

I don’t know about you, but this streak of super hot weather in Southern California is starting to get to me! The holidays are my favorite time of year and I am proud to report that last night, it sure felt like them around here, smells and all. Yup, you read that right. I made breakfast for dinner (complete with bacon and eggs) and used a specialty pancake mix from Daddy Cakes called Glamorous Gingerbread and they tasted just like Gingerbread cookies! No kidding! Even my kids were complimenting me on “The BEST pancakes EVER!!!”


With every bite I swear I almost forgot how hot it was outside. There were extras (surprising I know) so this morning I had the privilege of snacking on the cold pancakes for breakfast. Yum! Now after reviewing their website my head is swimming with all the yummy varieties.  Sinful Cinnamon, Criminal Chocolate Chip, Sensuous Strawberry Sensations... the list goes on!


So take a second and pop over to their website ( www.daddycakesbakery.com ) and order a mix package - I’m anxious to hear if anyone else has tried them and what your favorites are!

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Murphy the Dragon at Disneyland Fantasmic! is a Go!

Amid much fanfare, Murphy the dragon has made a successful appearance at the Fantasmic! show at Disneyland.  It's too bad that it has taken all Summer to get him working and ready for the show, but I must admit after seeing the video, he is pretty cool!  Check it out:



Will you be planning a trip to Disneyland to see Murphy the Dragon now that he is confirmed to be working? (we are!)  :)

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tide Pooling Times for 9/2/09 - 9/9/09

Here are some of the photos from our last time tide pooling (at Aliso Creek State Beach) and the high/low tides for the next week (including the best times to go tide pooling here in Orange County, CA). Be sure to pop back on and post a comment if you did go tide pooling during one of these times and how it was! A quick reminder that the best time for tide pooling is when the tide is going out after a particularly high tide. You want to catch it before the new tide starts to come in.


There are some great ones over the next week, all of them falling in the afternoon to early evening. I’m highlighting & staring the best times to go tide pooling because there are so many of them! Click here for a post about our favorite beach to go Tide Pooling – Crystal Cove State Beach, Newport Beach, CA.


9/2/09
High 9:15 am & 8:41 pm
Low 3:01 am & 2:36 pm*


9/3/09
High 9:35 am & 9:12 pm
Low 3:23 pm & 3:06 pm*


9/4/09
High 9:55 am & 9:43 pm
Low 3:44 am & 3:38 pm*

9/5/09
High 10:17 am & 10:16 pm
Low 4:05 am & 4:12 pm*


9/6/09
High 10:40 am & 10:52 Pm
Low 4:26 am & 4:49 pm*


9/7/09
High 11:06 am & 11:32 pm
Low 4:47 am & 5:31 pm*


9/8/09
High 11:35 am
Low 5:08 am & 6:21 pm*


9/9/09
High 12:23 am & 12:11 pm
Low 5:30 am & 7:25 pm

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