Monday, April 30, 2012

Inspirational Web Chat Wednesday on Otter 501 Documentary - Join us!

Being near the ocean has always been my "happy place".  My walls are covered with ocean art and I start to get antsy when it has been too long since I've been at the ocean. 

Our oceans are in trouble - there is no doubt about that.  They are under assault from everything from over-fishing to pollution.  If you listen you will hear countless news stories about the plights of the polar bears, the overfishing of this or that animal (harsh fishing restrictions are constantly implemented and is even currently being shown on the popular Deadliest Catch show on tv).  Some of the amazing sea creatures we have long since taken for granted are suffering. 

What do I think is the absolute most important thing we can do to help reverse this?  As parents we need to teach our children to have a love of the ocean and the creatures in it.  It all begins there.  Does that mean I'm a radical tree-hugger?  Not at all.  What I do have is an understanding of the circle of life.  We can't allow certain sections to disappear and not expect everything else to collapse!

I was asked to co-host a web chat on a documentary (watch for my review of the movie next week!) on Otter 501.  It's a powerful documentary that really drives home the plight of one species in trouble - the California Sea Otter.  It was filmed in one of my favorite places in the world - Monterey Bay.  Much of it set at the Monterey Bay Aquarium highlighting their conservation efforts. 

Please take a few minutes on May 2nd Wednesday morning (10 am pacific time/1 pm east coast time) to stop in and hear amazing insights in to the filming of this documentary, the messages behind the documentary and ways to get kids involved in science and conservation.  You can go here to participate and help us spread the word to everyone you know!  The web chat should last about 30 minutes.

Otter 501 will be released in select theaters in May 11th (you can find those here). 

Can't make the web chat?  Become a fan on their web page here or check out their web page here!

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Delicious Berry Muffins (Easy too!)

I feel like I'm always saying this, but life really has been crazy around our house recently. I'm finding myself looking for as many nutritional alternatives as possible to get us more healthy in the midst of what feels like chaos!

Snack type foods that aren't "junk" food is something I'm really focusing on these days.  With two growing boys (they are 10 and 8 now!), I'm noticing they are always wanting to graze on food.  If chips are around - they get inhaled.  So when I realized that they loved snacking on muffins I got to work on finding several easy go to recipes to have.  I use fresh berries, whole wheat flours and skim milks whenever possible.  Muffins freeze very easily, so every weekend I make a batch or two of whatever berry I pick up that week and they all seem to be gone by the next weekend!  And I'm totally ok with that since I know what has gone in to them.

My current favorite recipe is below.  I switch out the berries for whatever I have on hand (fresh strawberries work great in the recipe).  Cook up a batch and let me know what you think!

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • Lemon juice - fresh squeezed and zested

  • 3 cups of flour - whole wheat or unbleached
  • 1 cup of sugar (switch with brown sugar 1:1 if making strawberry or peach muffins)
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 2 cups of frozen or fresh berries (blueberries or strawberries work great, I have also used peach fruit cups with this recipe and they were amazing!)

In a large glass measuring cup - melt the butter.  Add milk, eggs, lemon juice, zest.

In mixer bowl - add all the dry ingredients.  Mix.  Then slowly add in the wet ingredients from the glass measuring cup.  Mix thoroughly.  Then add in the fruit you are using.

With an ice cream scoop, add to paper muffin cups in muffin tin.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Makes about 20 regular sized muffins.

Then enjoy!  They never last long around our house... 

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pirate Mickey Ears Birthday Cake!

I've had house guests for the last few days, it's been crazy but super fun!  Earlier this week was my godson's birthday so I took the chance to make him a themed fondant cake.

It's probably pretty obvious from my posts that we're pretty big Disneyland fans around our house and my godson shares this love of Disneyland.  He has also recently gotten in to the pin trading so my goal was to make a cake as similar to one of his favorite Mickey pins as I could.  This is what the pin looks like:



And this is how my cake turned out! 

What do you think?  (P.S. it was dark chocolate with Oreo cookie filling and it's actually about a foot in diameter!)  I handmade the fondant, cut the cake to the shapes and decorated it with shimmer edible color dust.  I'm pretty excited about how it turned out!

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Baby Steps to Go Green - Recycled Post-It Notes!

I don't claim to be super green.  What I try to do is make as many green choices as I can every chance I get.  Baby steps.

To celebrate Earth Day Post-It notes have released a new line of Post-It notes that  are made from 100% recycled material (30% is post-consumer material) and an adhesive made with plant based materials.  We go through a lot of Post-It notes in our house, so I'm super excited I have one more place I can make the green choice.

They are available in these cool new color collections...




Next time you're at the store picking up Post-It notes - make the greener choice and choose recycled Post-It notes!  It's an easy baby step to take!

Note:  I received samples of the product to facilitate my review (but we were already fans of Post-It notes in our house!!!)

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Chimpanzee Special Screenings at El Capitan in Hollywood

Looking for a fun and educational family adventure this weekend?  Head on over to Hollywood's El Capitan Theatre to see a special limited engagement of Chimpanzee (it will be running at the El Capitan from April 20-May 3). 

Chimpanzee is an inspiring movie about an adult male who raises a young Chimpanzee.  The movie is narrated by Tim Allen.  It's a movie sure to inspire your budding nature lovers and is a fantastic way spend Earth Day!  Teaching children to respect and appreciate the beauty this amazing planet of ours has to offer will help them grow to be responsible children.

Disneynature will be donating money to the Jane Goodall Institute for every movie ticket sold during the first week.  The Goodall institute was formed by Jane Goodall in 1977 and has earned the respect in the scientific community as well as the humanitarian community for its commitment to empowering people and making the world a place.


Each showing of Chimpanzee with be accompanied by a special showcase by the Wildlife Learning Center that will feature animals from around the world.

For more information and ticket information go here.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Free Hands On Driving Tips from Race Car Drivers and Jaguar!

From a very young age I had exposure to performance driving and sports cars. Those experiences have served me well as I've gotten older. Knowing how to maneuver vehicles in challenging situations is an invaluable experience! Simply knowing when to accelerate in a turn and when not to is one of my most favorite tips. It makes a huge difference in how much control over the vehicle you have. Also another tip I love is where your car should and shouldn't be in a turn to maximize your braking and accelerating!

Jaguar will be making a stop in Irvine as part of its' 18 city tour - The Jaguar ALIVE Driving Experience this weekend (April 20 - April 22nd) at the Verizon Amphitheater. It's free to attend and you'll be given the chance to test drive the entire Jaguar collection accompanied by processional race care drivers. The drivers will be able to offer tips and tricks to improve driving skills. If you're interested in attending go here to sign up.

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Free App for Finding the Perfect Outdoor Adventure!

Getting outside and enjoying nature has always been one of my favorite things to do.  Whether it's relaxing at the beach listening to the waves crash, walking on a trail through a forest listening to birds chirp or any of the other countless ways to enjoy nature - I love it!

Unfortunately it can be time consuming to track down the right trail or other outdoor adventure so the Sierra Club is now offering a FREE app on the iTunes store called Trail Explorer.  It's free and easy to find (type Sierra Club in the search bar and it should be one of the first two to come up).  There are over 40,000 trails listed.  

Allow it to use your current location and it will tell you how far you are from it, the types of recreation allowed, whether dogs are allowed, the features, popularity and other key information (like distances!).

I've been playing around with it and honestly think this is one of the coolest apps for outdoor adventures I have ever seen!

It will even track you by GPS and show you the distance you have traveled and where you are.

So head on over to iTunes, download it and get outside to explore something in celebration of Earth Day!  For more information about the Sierra Club you can head here.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pretend City Buy One Get One 50% off for Earth Day Fun!

Earth Day is this weekend and to celebrate - Pretend city is offering this Buy One Get One Half off coupon!  (print and take the coupon image above with you!)

Pretend City is a fantastic place for kids to explore and learn!  But on Sunday there will be even more fun for the kids to explore and learn!  There will be bee keepers on site and the following events (with times listed):


Science Spark (9:30 am & 1:30 pm): Spark your child’s interest in science and the environment! Mad Science, the world's leading provider of science enrichment for children, will present two classes to ensure that children of all ages have a chance to experience their environmental education classes. 

    • Bugs!  (9:30-10:30am) - This class is recommended for children ages preschool and up to help them learn about natural habitats and the bugs that live within these special environments. Children will study an assortment of bugs, their defenses and their role in our ecosystems. As an added bonus, children can take home ladybugs to add to their very own garden.
    • Earth Awareness (1:30 – 2:30pm) - Children five years of age and up will enjoy learning about the different factors affecting our Earth today. As their cognitive skills develop, they are better able to understand community functions and begin building an interest in the environmental aspects of the community. This class will build upon this interest as they discover how water can go from dirty to clean through a mock lake. 

Nature Works (10:30 am & 12:00 pm):

  • Busy Bee “Bees”-ness (10:30am):  Guerrilla Beekeepers will give us an inside look at honeybees and their importance to our health and our Earth! We will learn all about how honeybees tend to the hive, feed babies, make honeycomb and pollinate 80% of our produce. You’ll even get to see real bees! 
  • A Bug’s Life (2:30pm):  Dr. Sue, "The Bug Lady," gives her live bug presentation about insects and arthropods! Her insect program helps dispel myths and misconceptions about bugs and brings some love to our crawly creatures that share our planet with us!

Music and Movement (11:00am):

  • Come one, come all to a sing-a-long with the Kazoom Band! They will get your child movin’ and groovin’ to their earthly tunes. 
  • Good to Go Game: Beach Clean Up! Your children will enjoy this hands-on cause and effect scenario. They will learn the importance not only of putting trash in the garbage can, but also how important it is to recycle and reduce the amount of trash we create.
What a great way for kids to spend Earth Day!  For direction and hours you can go here.

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Dragonfly Shops and Gardens co-hosts a very special event with Cypress Church - an Ecuador Silent Auction

On any given day, the Dragonfly Shops and Gardens, a Victorian shop in the heart of old-town Orange specializing in collectibles, jewelry, and unique garden art, is a terrific place to visit. This coming Friday, April 20th from 6pm - 9pm, is an even better reason as the Dragonfly co-hosts a very special event with Cypress Church - an Ecuador Silent Auction. Admission is free!

Cypress Church is sending a short-term missions team to Ecuador this July to equip and partner to and with an indigenous people in the village of Zancudo and to the Waorani people. (All profits from the Silent Auction go toward this mission’s trip.)

A bit of history: Five missionaries were killed, speared to death, by the Waodani tribe in 1956. Their story made international headlines, including Life Magazine. The Waodani were once called savages and considered the most violent of all tribes, but God’s love has and continues to transform them. See their story in a movie called, End of the Spear.

Some of the most unique items to be sold include two, four foot-long blow guns (and darts) made by the Waodani tribe, plus jewelry, purses (called chigras), and plates, all made by the tribe. Other fantastic items to be auctioned include tickets to Magic Mountain, Medieval Times, Knott’s Berry Farm, Aquarium of the Pacific, and more; a stay at the Anaheim Doubletree Inn; Glen Ivy Spa gifts; meals at In-N-Out Burger, The Filling Station, Watson Drugs, and more; horseback riding; Wine Tasting and Making tours; exquisite jewelry; Waterford crystal; and much much more - something for everyone! There will also be a make-it-and-take-it craft to do for all ages.

Bring the family and join the fun while supporting a worthy cause this Friday, April 20 at 260 N. Glassell Street.

For more info, contact Susan Peterson at (562) 867-5223 or Susan (at) funplaces (dot) com

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Why Is Protein So Important During Pregnancy? - A guest post

When I was pregnant with my first son, I spent countless hours researching everything from what he looked like during the stages of development to what I should be eating. I'm excited to share the following guest post on why Protein is so important during pregnancy and ways to get enough!  If you have a guest post you'd like to share - email me!  I'd love to share everything from birth stories to tips for deliveries from moms!

Why Is Protein So Important During Pregnancy?


We all have heard about the importance of protein in our nutrition, but what makes it so important? Actually protein is made of amino acids and these are considered to be the building blocks of your body. This means that they also are the building blocks of the body of the little one.
You should really focus on the protein intake during the second and third trimester. This is because that is the period when the little one is developing at the fastest rate and so the demand of nutrients is at its peak.

 

How much?


Nutritional specialists say that during your pregnancy, your body requires about 70 grams of proteins on a daily basis. This is only 25 grams more than normally. The good news is that the majority of women consume more than they should, so most probably you won’t have problems with the protein intake.
Nonetheless in case you don’t have in your diet any meat, which is one of the major protein sources, you should make sure that you obtain the nutrient from another source.

 

Sources


There are numerous sources of protein, so you can make sure that you won’t get bored with eating the same thing all over again. These kinds of foods include beans, poultry, eggs, meat, milk, tofu, cheese and yogurt, among others. To make sure that you consume enough proteins daily, you should have 3-4 servings per day.

 

Nuts, beans and legumes


In order to get the amount of 20 grams of protein, you should consider consuming the following meals. One of these meals is made of tofu and you can eat about 1 cup of this protein source regardless that it is firm or soft. The same amount of nutrients can be found in 5-6 tablespoons of peanut butter or a handful of peanuts.
One and a half cups of cooked beans, the like of baked beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, refried beans, black beans, pinto beans or lentils. Another option you have is to drink three cups of vegan milk the likes of soy milk.

 

Dairy products


To get the 20 grams of protein per serving, consider consuming almost a cup of cottage cheese, two cups of yogurt, a few slices of cheddar, Swiss or other kinds of cheeses, 200 grams of parmesan cheese, three large eggs, or two and a half cups of milk. You should have these only in case the kind of diet that you have allows you to. As an example vegan people aren’t supposed to have any dairy products.

 

Fish and white or red meat


Having 3 oz. of meat, such as chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, veal or pork offers you the 20 grams of protein just like the servings that have been mentioned before. The same amount can be found in 3 oz. servings of trout, salmon and tilapia. You could also have 17 larger shrimps, or one and a half cups of baby shrimps. It is also healthy to have three and a half oz. of lobster, crab or thee oz. of canned clams. There are some fishes that you shouldn’t consume.


Author Bio: Liza is an avid blogger and freelance writer. She loves writing on health – women’s health and pregnancy, to be more specific. Don’t forget to check out her pregnancy week by week articles on ThePregnancyZone.com, where she writes on topics relating to preparing for pregnancy, pregnancy stages, labor & delivery, and pregnancy issues, among others.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Free Coffee At Seattle's Best on Tax Day!

Tax day is here.  Ugh.  Unfortunately it's just part of being an adult.  But to put a fun spin on the day Seattle's Best Coffee is offering the "Great American Coffee Refund" at participating locations on April 17th.  You can get your free 12 ounce cup of brewed coffee.  Head down to 14450 Culver Drive, Suite D, Irvine, CA 92604. 

Can't make it in to the Irvine location?  Head here to eFile (love that!) and get your "Coffee Refund" delivered to your box!

You can also head here for other Seattle's Best Coffee locations participating in the Great American Coffee Refund.


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Monday, April 9, 2012

Top 6 Spring Break Family Fun Ideas in Southern California - Our list

We've been busy enjoying the first week of spring break in our house.  I feel so lucky to have an entire two weeks with my boys this year for spring break.  This is the first time since the boys became school age that I have not been working and have been able to dive in to adventures!  So far we've been busy and have lots more planned for this next week but I wanted to share some of our favorite spring break adventures in Southern California! Adventures don't have to cost a fortune our list includes more expensive and easy on the wallet days!


1.  Beach Time!  

Our favorite spring break adventure is by far a trek to the beach!  We love tide pooling, wave chasing, sand castle building and other fun activities.  Our favorite beach by far is Crystal Cove State Beach in Newport Beach.  It's never busy and is great for tide pooling if you catch it as the tide is going out.  Only drawback is that parking costs a flat $15 and there is quite a trek down the stairs to get to the beach, but it is worth it!  The above picture was taken just yesterday on our beach day.  You can also check out my original post on it here.  Bring plenty of water and dose up on the sunscreen!  We also love going to Ruby's Shake Shack near the beach as an after beach treat!



2. Zoo Time!
Here in Southern California we are so lucky to have world class zoo's right in our own back yard.  Whether it's the LA Zoo, the Santa Ana Zoo, San Diego Zoo or San Diego Safari Park you know you can pack in an animal filled day that is easy on your wallet.  We have had passes to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park for the last few years (it's less than $200/year for the entire family and is tax deductible!).  We love going and every time see and learn something new.  Couple of tips for the Zoos, head there early as the animals are more active in the morning hours when it isn't so hot out.  Bring plenty of water to drink as the sun can be scorching.  And the above picture?  I snapped it on our recent trip to the San Diego Safari Park!



3. Disneyland Resort Time!
Yes, the crowds are crazy, but with a little advance planning you can still have an amazing magical day!  Plan on getting there when the park opens, have a plan for what rides/areas are most important to get done during the day and do those first.  Grab and fastpasses whenever possible.  And the most important piece of advice I have?  Don't leave home without the MouseWaits app on your phone.  It's free and has proven to be my favorite day planning tool for every Disneyland Resort trip we have made in the last couple of years.  It's pretty accurate and allows you to check wait times on all of your favorite attractions without having to schlep all around the park!  Love love love it!  If you don't have passes be sure to head here for special Southern California resident discounts.


4. Sea World San Diego Time!
We've never had a time where we didn't have an amazing time.  Whether you have a penguin lover, a polar bear lover or just want to touch the sea stars - you are sure to have an educational and fun filled day!  Yearly passes are very reasonable and there are frequently great discounts to be had.  Check their website here for current offers.




5. Hit the Trails!
Here in Southern California we have so many trails, parks and other outdoor playgrounds.  Park fees are normally very reasonable (and fees can be accessed on their website - even State Parks have websites these days!).   Google your city for the closest park to you or the area you want to hike in - we have so many options in So Cal, I can't list them all here!

Couple of tips I recommend when hiking with kids...
   -Bring several protein bars and be sure everyone has a good protein filled meal before hiking.  (This makes a HUGE impact on every one's energy level and can make or break the hike experience!).
   -Bring one full water bottle per person but don't hand them out until about halfway through the hike. 
   -Plan your route and know your limits. 
   -Know your kids.  For example on a recent hike I noticed my oldest was getting fatigued and it was causing him to walk slower and continuously ask how much longer.  In an effort to keep him distracted I got him talking about his favorite subject and kept asking follow-up questions.  He started walking normal speed and was shocked by how fast the last 15 minutes of the hike went!

6. Explore a Museum!
Here in Southern California we have countless museums to explore!  We love the California Science Museum.  Read more about it here.  Another favorite is the San Diego Natural History Museum.  For more information you can go here (or read my post about it here.)  We also love heading up to Griffiths Observatory in Los Angeles.

Whatever you do during Spring Break, have fun and enjoy the time!

What's on your agenda this week?  I'd love to feature any guest posts about your favorite adventure!




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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Butterfly Jungle at the San Diego Safari Park is back!

It's become a Spring Break tradition in our house to visit the Butterfly Jungle at the San Diego Safari Park (yes, they changed the name a bit back from the San Diego Wild Animal Park).  The Butterfly Jungle has been an annual event at the San Diego Safari Park for several decades and people fly in from all over the country just to experience the over 30 species and thousands of butterflies.

We've all had interactions with butterflies, but I can guarantee you've never been so up close and personal with so many before in your life!

It is recommended that you wear bright and vibrant colored shirts.  We've certainly seen this as the best way to attract the butterflies.

It runs now through Sunday April 15th, 2012.  This year it's a bit different in that you pick up a ticket (no extra cost) that gives you a time window to enter the jungle.  The number of people in the exhibit is restricted to a certain amount to ensure it doesn't get too busy inside.

My youngest has a new nickname - the Butterfly Whisperer.  He wore a mustard yellow shirt and was a magnet for the butterflies this year.  At one point he had four butterflies on him at one time!  My other son wore an orange shirt and he had tons of butterflies land on him!

I must have spent the entire time snapping pictures.  The thousands of beautiful butterflies were breathtaking!

Be sure to head over to the Oasis Cafe after visiting for one of these amazing (and delicious) butterfly cupcakes.

So if you haven't planned out your spring break - be sure to add the Butterfly Jungle at the San Diego Safari Park to your calendar!  For more information about the San Diego Safari Park or the San Diego Zoo you can go here.


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