Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Legoland- My take

Last week for Mari and Ben's third birthday we decided to had over to Legoland. We live less than an hour away from the park and had never been, mostly because of the cost. I figured that we better go while I could get the kids in for free or else we might never go.  I searched the web for cheaper tickets (which were still expensive) and found a deal at Costco that allowed us to go to the park and the aquarium for $55 per person. I cringed and made the purchase. At least I was getting a separate trip to  the aquarium out of it, right?

Lucky for us, the day we went the park was not very crowded. We were able to wait less than 5 minutes for most rides. The rides seemed to be mostly geared towards kids 6 and under. They were cute but I wouldn't say they were anywhere close to the caliber of rides available at Disneyland. The Lego creations were very impressive and truly the highlight of most rides.

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I absolutely loved Miniland. Seeing an accurate portrayal of San Francisco in Lego block form was such a treat. It made me feel homesick for one of my favorite cities.

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The kids loved racing the cars on the miniature Daytona racetrack. I loved all the details from the RVs camped out in the center of the track to the crowd full of onlookers.

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There were so many incredible places created with Legos, from the New York City skyline to Las Vegas theme hotels to a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.

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The water play areas were a highlight of our visit as well. Legoland does a great job at providing a variety of water attractions that appealed to every age group.

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  Overall, we had a fun time at Legoland but I am not sure that we will be returning if we have to pay $55 per person. That is over $200 for a family of four and a bit too rich for my blood. I personally feel Legoland is overpriced and with an annual pass to Disneyland in my pocket, I am much more likely to spend my theme park time there.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cookies for Cancer in Tuesday's Honor

This past Saturday I had the honor of participating in a bake sale through Cookies for Kids Cancer, a wonderful organization that helps individuals make a difference in the effort to raise money for pediatric cancer research. A bloggy friend of mine, Samantha, who I met because she was truly touched by Tuesday's story, put the bake sale together and asked me to join her. I was very excited to finally meet her in person and so happy to be able to do something in Tuesday's honor during Pediatric Cancer Awareness month. We set up shop at the city of Brea's Health and Wellness Festival and nervously hoped for about $250 in donations.

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At first things were a bit slow. We didn't set prices on the baked goods and let people donate whatever they saw fit. Some people seemed to think the point was to get a good deal on their cupcake and dropped a measly 50 cents in the bowl. Others made up for the lack of generosity and gave $5  for their cookie. It warmed our hearts to see most people truly just want to give. Of course we had a few people who we wanted to just kick in the shins like the man who told us this bake sale wouldn't make a difference because it we wouldn't raise enough money. He went on and on about his wealthy friends and how much they donate to the City of Hope and then left a dollar in our bowl after taking two cookies. For a wealthy man, he was certainly cheap. There was also a man wearing a purple wolf shirt and a fanny pack who told us there was already a cure for pediatric cancer out there (evidently involving brown algae) and all we were doing was lining the pockets of researchers and doctors. Luckily people like them were far outnumbered by people who had nothing but positive things to say about our efforts. We even ran into someone who read's Tuesday's mom's blog! What a small world.

In the end we made over $400!!!! We were so thrilled with our success and we hope to do another bake sale in the future. I encourage everyone to check out Cookies for Kids Cancer here and set up a little fundraiser of your own. You truly can make a difference and it feels so good! I want to thank Samantha once again for putting this all together and letting me be a part of it. She is awesome!

me and sam

(PS- Yes I am that tall and yes she is that short. )

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pretend City

I am not sure who is more in  love with Pretend City, me or my kids. The newly opened children's museum in Irvine allows children to  live, play, and work in a town of their own complete with a grocery store, farm, bank, beach, marina, art studio, doctor's office, fire station, and restaurant. The town is not only a fun and safe environment for  kids to play, but is also very educational.

Take the grocery store for example. Kids can either shop in the store, work as stock clerks, or be cashiers. They can make pretend sandwiches in the pretend deli or sell produce that they have picked from the pretend farm behind the store. In exchange for the produce (or lobster and fish they "catch" in the marina), children receive play money that they can use to buy things in the store or restaurant.

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At the pretend restaurant kids can take their parents order's for pretend sushi or dumplings or noodles. Then they can go back in the kitchen and prepare the meal, serve it, and take the payment using the pretend cash register. The kids had an absolute blast serving their parents and I think it was my kids favorite spot in the whole Pretend City.


In the center of town there is a stage complete with microphones, costumes, music, and lights for the kids to perform with. There is even a pretend sound board for the kids to find their inner mix master.


In the play house kids can help prepare meals on the pretend stove, put babies to bed in the pint sized crib, or  give the babies a bath in the pretend bathtub. Everything is built in child sized proportions from the height of the pretend sink to the length of the pretend bed. They can also help put on an addition to the house with toy tools, plumbing parts, and shingles.



Kids have a blast driving the toddler sized cars on the pretend roads all through town. They can even stop at the gas station.


In the doctor's office kids can check out xrays, give baby a well check including weight and temperature, and check out their own heights. Its a great place to help doctor shy kids become more comfortable with the medical field.


The marina is like a water table on steroids. Kids can build and sail their own boats, learn about currents and wind, and just have a great time splashing.


The art studio is a great place for little ones to discover their inner artist and express themselves. Plus it gives them a nice little souvenir to take home with them and place on the refrigerator.


3 hours after we entered, I had to drag the kids out of there. They had an absolute blast. I highly recommend Pretend City for the toddlers and primary graders. If you would like more information on Pretend City click here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park

As many of you know, the California's State Parks are in serious trouble due to budget cuts. In an attempt to bring attention to all the wonderful state parks California has to offer, I will be featuring a different CA State Park every week. I hope to bring attention to these treasures to increase awareness of what the state park system has to offer and encourage others to stand up and help protect these important places . 

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One of the most important moments in California history was when a man by the name of James Marshall found some gold flecks in the tailrace of a sawmill he was building for himself and John Sutter. This discovery lead to an influx of settlers seeking fortune in the form of shiny golden rocks and the establishment of the state of California.  The original mill was destroyed by flooding but a replica now stands in it place along with over 20 historic buildings in the old mining town of Coloma.  A trip to Gold Country is a must for any California native and a great stop for any tourist who wants to catch a glimpse of the oak covered hills where the 49ers set up camp in search of treasure. There are still opportunities to pan for gold and plenty of places to dive into history.



The Marshall Gold Discovery Historic Site is located in the town of  Coloma between Placerville and Auburn on historic Highway 49. If you would like more information on this State Park click here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My Vancouver article is up on Travel Savvy Mom

Check it out here:

Road Trip Day 15- Waterton Lakes National Park

The day had come. It was time to pack up and head back across the border. Canada had thrown alot of rain at us but she also overwhelmed us with her beauty. Luckily, she still had one more trick up her sleeve on the US/Canada border: Waterton Lakes National Park.

We reached Waterton Lakes just as the clouds broke and the rain stopped. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Obviously, there would be lakes. I did not, however, expect bison. I could barely contain my excitement as we drove in to the bison paddock and started our search for North America's large mammal. We drove along the gravel road and craned our necks as we searched the hills for signs of the herd. Just when I was about to give up, I spotted them. We were completely overtaken with excitement. I ignored my better judgement, jumped out the car,  and started snapping pictures. Luckily I had enough sense to keep my children's safety in mind and they were plenty excited to watch the bison graze from inside the car. Yes, we would continue on to other parks and see hoards of bison but there is nothing like your first time...  

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Waterton is where the prairie meets the Rockies.  It is striking to see rolling hills colored with greens, reds, browns and yellows suddenly shoot up into the air and take on deeper greens, gray, blues and whites. It was so peaceful to watch the grass blow through the breeze and a fly fisherman knee deep trying to catch dinner.

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Of course the most obvious stunners at Waterton Lakes are the lakes themselves.


Never have the lakes looked more stunning than with my babies posing for pictures in the foreground (okay, I may be a tad biased).



Another landmark of Waterton is the Prince of Wales Hotel. I can only imagine what it must be like to wake up to the breathtaking views that its windows hold.  The hotel is just as gorgeous as the landscape that surrounds it.

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One of the great side trips in Waterton Lakes is Red Rock Canyon. It almost seems like Disney snuck into Waterton and carefully placed a brightly colored canyon in the most unlikely of places.

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While we were exploring the canyon, the clouds began to gather once again. It was Canada's way of telling us that our time exploring her treasures was up and that we better find our way back across the border. But in true Canada fashion, she couldn't let us leave without giving us one more gift; a bear foraging near the road. I didn't get the best shot but I promise you, he was there and we were thankful  to be given one last gift.


To see more gorgeous photos check out Delicious Baby's Photo Friday here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Road Trip Day 13- Heritage Park

I am a sucker for historical villages. Dress up in period costume, throw in some old buildings, line the streets with stores that sell jam and turn of the century wooden toys, throw in a butter churning demonstration, and I am there. I think my love for all things old fashioned started around the same time as my obsession with Little House on the Prairie.  Along with the majority of girls who grew up in the late seventies and early eighties, my dream was to grow up in Walnut Grove and be Laura Ingalls. Since we had an actual grove of walnut trees across the street from my neighborhood (which has since been plowed and replaced by tract homes), it wasn't hard for my imagination to get the best of itself. Unlike the average child of that time, I never grew out of my love affair with the Ingalls and their days on the prairie. I spent a large portion of my pregnancy watching LHOP reruns and daydreaming about raising my little ones in a little house out in the country. As we all know, Orange County is about as far away from prairie life as anyone can get so I have to find other ways to fulfill my inner pioneer. A day at Heritage Park did just that.

The first building we came across was the Gasoline Alley Museum. It was filled with old gas pumps and cars. I am not really a car person but I absolutely loved this museum. The kids got to sit in some early 20th century automobiles and I fell in love with the old Shell Gasoline tanker truck. It was so cute. The old pumps make you yearn for the days when there was more beauty at the filling station. We loved peering into the old camping trailer to see what things were like when Grandma took trips across country as a kid. And what's not to love about a tricycle track for the little ones?

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From the museum we hurried to catch the steam train for a trip around the park. The kids loved every moment on the train and we could ride it for as long as we wanted since the ride was included in the price (which was incredibly reasonable). Riding on the train and looking out at the historical buildings that we passed truly made me feel like I was coming out West to settle.

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There were  plenty of old fashioned carnival rides for the kids to get their thrills on. The viking ship swings were so fun and unlike anything I had seen before. Ben got a really big thrill out of riding a early version of the "vomit rides" we see at the fair today.

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No historical village tour is complete without a wagon ride. The man who gave us the tour has a special connection with Heritage Park. The little red schoolhouse on display at the park is the exact schoolhouse his grandmother went to in rural Saskatchewan when she was child. Eventually the town needed more than one room so the school was put on a truck and move to the park. He must feel so proud to have such a special connection with the park.


We finished our day with a trip to the old fashioned toy store. The kids each got a wooden train whistle and happily made their own "choo choo" sounds for the remainder of the trip. Just as we started to head to the car, the rain came. Canada had given us a great day in the sun but decided it couldn't spoil us rotten.

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If you are visiting the Calgary area, I highly recommend Heritage Park. You can find more info here.       

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Muir Woods

It was our very first hike as a walking family. Ben was the newest to join the clan of the upright and he needed a good place to practice. February was handing us cold day after cold day so we decided to head to the coast in search of a little more warmth. Muir Woods National Monument was our destination. I had never been to Muir Woods and was amazed at how close a redwood forest was to San Francisco. I had heard stories of busloads of tourists crowding the monument but on this brisk day in February, we had most of the forest to ourselves. It was lush, green, and beautiful.  I had seen redwoods many times before but being able to walk amongst them with my little ones for the first time was a moment I will always treasure. 




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If you are visiting the San Francisco area and want to spend a few hours amongst giants (which you should) then check out the Muir Woods website for directions and hours here


Check out Twinfatuation to see others participating in Way Back When-sday.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Road Trip Day 12- Car Trouble

Waking up in another country knowing your car isn't working properly just plain sucks. Luckily I was in Canada (which is essentially USA North) and not Mexico so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. And even more lucky, the shop was open on Saturday. I took it in, begged and pleaded with God for it to be nothing major, and then took the bus home. Today was gonna be a lazy day which was probably what we all needed anyways. The kids played in the backyard with their friend and tried to distract myself the best I could as I waited for the call from the mechanic. It didn't take long before a Canadian number popped up on my cell phone (a cell phone which got charged with $137 of roaming charges even after I called and signed up for an international plan for the month specifically to avoid roaming charges. You will be getting a very angry phone call very soon Verizon Wireless!!!!!) and I got the verdict. Evidently the undercarriage of my car was caked in mud. Probably from going from dusty roads to severe rainstorms so quickly. And somehow the muddy water got into my engine and caused it to stall. He suggested I get an engine shampoo when I get home (which I still haven't done a month later) and that was it. What? No new parts? No emminant engine explosions? It was that easy? Yes, it was! Of course finding out there was nothing really wrong cost me about $150 but hey, I'll take it. 

That night, we decided to take advantage of the light (It stayed light until about 10:30!!!) and go for a walk with the kids. Their sleeping schedule had been thrown completely off by the extended daylight and I wasn't about to try and fight it. We walked down to the bluffs above the Bow River and enjoyed the view. Calgary really is a very nice place. The geography reminds me alot of Denver. Its just on the edge of the Rockies so there are some hills but to the east there is nothing but flat prairie. If only it wasn't so cold... Here are some pictures from our walk:


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(Pet bunnies that had be released and left to fend for themselves. Not cool people, not cool)

And just because Ben looks's so silly and cute in his Canadian jester hat...

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After the kids finally went to bed Jess and I decided to finish our day with a drink. I had received a can of Clamato as a free sample at the Stampede because evidently, Clamato and vodka is the unofficial drink of Canada. It sounded absolutely disgusting but I insisted that we try it.

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It was even more disgusting than I could have ever imagined! What is wrong with you Canadians?????!!!!! What about clam juice, tomato, and vodka makes you say "I'll have another please!"? Never again! Then we moved on to absinthe because its legal in Canada and I really have never had it.


 (Note the sippy cup and memory card in the background. Very odd)

It tasted basically like drinking mouthwash but was much more tolerable. Still, I think I'll stick to beer....