Thursday, December 25, 2008

Disneyland at Christmas

08 - WWYC_LOGO I still can't believe how much fun we had at Disneyland! Disneyland and California Adventure are really amazing places to visit during the holiday season. I had the opportunity to visit the parks with Chip and Lulu on three different days this month. We started out at an event for Mom Bloggers at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. This was the first time I'd been in the hotel and I was really impressed. It is beautiful and reminds me of a big craftsman-style lodge. There were Christmas Carolers all dressed in costume in the lobby and Chip got a real kick out of it. At the Mom Blogger event, Chip and Lulu got to spend quality time with Mickey Mouse and Goofy all decked out in their Christmas Sweaters. It was a fabulous event and I learned a lot about what the park has to offer at Christmas and what the plans are for 2009. I can't wait to tell you all about it!

Immediately following the blogger event, we were escorted into Disneyland! It was the first time I had been to Disneyland during the holidays. Wow, it is so amazing. The Christmas tree at the start of Main Street is amazing. The lights and decorations are spectacular. Sleeping Beauty's Castle is lit up in a lilac/icicle extravaganza that is impossible to describe. So please check out the videos below to see for yourself! At the end of Main Street, we were brought to a private viewing area for the bloggers where we were in prime position to view the fireworks display. It is one of the best fireworks displays I have ever seen. The sky totally lights up just above the castle. Be sure to get into position early as people start looking for good spots about 45 minutes before the show actually begins. That night we also had the chance to take a ride on Autopia which is Chip's favorite. It was such a blast to drive through the cool December air in our car as we made our way around the track. Reality hit that I needed to get the babies home to bed so we headed out looking forward to our next visit.

We returned the following week with my friend Heather and her daughter Bella, age 4 and son Harrison, 20 months. This was the best day at Disneyland EVER! We did and saw so much. We started out on Pirate's of the Caribbean which is one of my favorite rides. Chip is on a big pirate kick lately, so this was a dream come true for him. Next we headed over to Santa's Reindeer Round-up at Big Thunder Ranch. We ended up hanging out here for quite a while because it was so much fun. In here you can visit Santa in his house and check out all his reindeer in their corral. Chip and Bella stood on bales of hay at the fence and got such a kick out of the reindeer. Further into the Round-up is a large picnic table area and stage. There are various shows throughout the day. Also in that area is a cookie decorating stand. Chip and Bella both chose Christmas Tree shaped cookies to decorate. The kit comes with frosting in two colors, sprinkles, miniature candy canes and M & M's. They both had such a blast working on their creations. Also in that area were cast members coordinating all kinds of kid activities including coloring projects.

The best part for me was that the costumed characters entered and exited right near our table. We got to meet: Santa, Mrs. Claus, Pluto, Chip & Dale and Clarabelle Cow. Chip (my son) ended up totally hanging out with Pluto for quite a while because there weren't many other people around trying to meet him. Chip (the chipmunk) & Dale are my favorite characters. I finally learned how to tell them apart! Chip has a brown nose and Dale has a red nose. A cast member gave me a tip to remember who is who: Chip has a chocolate chip nose. We next headed over to catch "A Christmas Fantasy" Parade which is held daily at 3:30pm and 6:30pm. We staked out a prime location near "It's a Small World". The parade is absolutely amazing! Every character is in it and the music and dancing is magical. I learned some fun facts about the parade: Each performance of “A Christmas Fantasy” features 105 performers, 18 float drivers and 12 musicians, costumed as toy soldiers from the Disney movie “Babes in Toyland.” In all, approximately 200 performers appear in the parade. Lately, Chip has been really fascinated with Gingerbread Men. The parade featured a bunch of Gingerbread Men dancing which caused Chip to hoot and holler and jump up and down. So funny to watch him. Following the parade we headed straight over to "It's a Small World". The ride has just been refurbished and is better than ever. For the holidays, the ride is transformed into a worldwide celebration of the season. You can't help smiling for the whole ride. Lulu absolutely loved it proving that even an 11 month old has fun at Disneyland.

Next we went over to the Disney Princess Fantasy Faire where you can meet real live Disney Princesses! This was so exciting for Bella, she got to meet Mulan, Belle and Aurora. To be honest, I didn't know any of them, but got to up to speed very quickly. You get to spend time with each princess and have your picture taken with them. You can take your own picture as well as have the Disney photographer take it. They have a new Photopass program that is really neat. Every time you get your picture taken by a Disney photographer, you hand them a card that is linked to your account. They scan it and your pictures are uploaded to the Disney Photopass website. You log into the site and can view your pictures, order prints, e-mail pictures to your friends and family, and make things like cups and calendars. I made a holiday e-card that I believe is viewable for 30 days. We were excited to learn about the reopening of Sleeping Beauty's Castle after being closed for the past 7 years. You can walk through the castle and see Sleeping Beauty's story updated with new special effects. We next headed over to New Orleans Square for dinner at my favorite restaurant, The French Market. Chip and I shared a yummy chicken, mashed potatoes and veggies plate. After a long day with 3 toddlers and a baby, Heather and I headed home agreeing that we had such a great day and couldn't wait to come back.

We still had one day left on our Park Hopper tickets so we headed back this past Friday for our final visit. Park Hopper tickets allow you to "hop" back and forth between Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure Park. This trip, we were accompanied by Chip and Lulu's babysitter, Jessica, who was home from school for winter break. We arrived in the early afternoon and could tell the place was hopping. We ended up parking on the roof of the Mickey and Friends parking structure which is higher than I've ever had to park! Undaunted we entered Disneyland and went on The Astro Orbitor in Tomorrowland, per Chip's request. Jessica and Chip went in one rocket and Lulu and I grabbed another. That's the great thing about Disneyland, babies can go on most of the rides. Since we loved the "A Christmas Fantasy" Parade so much the last time, we strolled over to "It's a Small World" to stake out a good spot. Following the parade, we went right over to Disney's California Adventure Park just in time to catch the "Pixar Play" Parade. This parade is so fun, it includes all the Pixar characters from Disney films such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Ratatouille! Next we took a couple of rides on King Triton's Carousel and visited "A Bug's Land" which is the perfect area for babies and toddlers. I really love the food choices over at California Adventure, we had yummy chocolate chip cookies and coffee drinks at Baker's Field Bakery and really good pizza at Pizza Oom Mow Mow. To end our day, we walked over to Downtown Disney to do some Christmas shopping.

Coming up in 2009, Disney is offering for the first time: Come to a Disney park on your birthday and get in free! For birthday celebrations, they have cakes in pink jewelry boxes for girls and in blue treasure chests for boys. You can request that this be added to your meal.

Whew! What an amazing time we had at Disneyland this month. The Holiday Celebration continues through January 4, 2009 so there is still plenty of time to visit! Here are a couple of videos to help you plan your trip:



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Friday, December 19, 2008

My First Easy Bake Oven

My mother wouldn't let me have an Easy Bake Oven when I was a kid.  The exact reason why is now fuzzy.  As I've gotten older I've met many others who were similarly denied.  It's what makes us American:  Your mother wouldn't let you have an Easy Bake Oven when you were a kid.  Sure, sure, some girls must have had Easy Bake Ovens, because they remained on the market.  Someone must have been buying them.  Probably space aliens, because I know a lot of people and no one I know EVER had one.  If you were shot down in your YEARNING for an Easy Bake Oven.  You belong.  You are one of us.

The Easy Bake Oven of my childhood looks like this:2629984985_f2e58cc85d

All orange as things were back then--unless they were avocado green or harvest gold.....

Every kid has had their parent say to them, "When you are grown up and have your own money you can do/have/go to ________."  So now that I'm grown up (that's subjective) and have my own Surfer Guy's money, I got an Easy Bake Oven.  Yes.  I.  Did.  Because I can.

Gleefully, I set it up and called Chip (2.5)  and Lulu (11 mos) over.  They smiled at me, but clearly didn't understand the magnitude of the moment.  Undaunted, I proceeded to make my first cake, 35 years in the making, literally.  Yellow cake (included), mixed it up, put it in the pan and into the oven.  This is what my oven looks like:EasyBakeOven&SnackCenterTEAL

And I walked away, eager to pull my golden, delicious morsel out.  I returned 15 minutes later to my creation.  A lovely, tiny, cake.  Next I whipped up the chocolate frosting (included) and frosted my cake!  Chip was excited about the frosting part and actually helped.  Coincidentally it was Surfer Guy's birthday the next day so we called him in and belted out our rendition of Happy Birthday.  We all had a bite, including Lulu.  It was quite tasty, but left us all wanting more. 

As I researched this piece, I learned that it is the 45th Anniversary of the Easy Bake Oven.  In honor of this, the oven is returning to its original aqua color.  In addition, Hasbro, the makers of Easy Bake has launched a search for "Baker of the Year".  The contest allows kids and their adult "assistant" to enter their favorite recipe.  One winner per month will be chosen through February 2009 and all winners will be invited to Walt Disney World for a final baking challenge to be held in May.  For complete info check out www.easybake.com

I most assuredly recommend this Easy Bake Oven but think it is best suited to kids in the 7-12 year old age range.  In fact, I'm passing mine along to the 8 year old daughter of a friend who is dying to have it.  So, for a brief, shining moment, I did finally have my Easy Bake Oven.  Funny how you feel when you get something you always wanted, y'know?  It only seems right to pay it forward.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas 2008 Toy Review

I love a good toy, a toy you really want to play with. I've got a few of the offerings for 2008 reviewed below for you. With only a few days left until Christmas, let me help narrow your choices down.

Tonka Toughest Mighty Dump Truck

TonkaToughestMightyDumpTruck I loved my Tonka trucks when I was a kid and I love them even more now that I have kids. Tonka is one of the few brands that I can say is JUST as good as when I was a kid. Redesigned for 2008, The Toughest Mighty Dump Truck now has even bigger wheels and a steel front grill. This is one solid toy. Chip and Lulu both love it--including riding in it! They take turns pushing each other around the living room. Sometimes Lulu just gets in and hangs out in it. Chip has a pile of plastic "boulders" that he puts in the steel dump bed and lifts the handle and they all dump out. This truck is a huge hit with all the kids at the park, they all want to play with it. It's oversized, yet compact. It's easy to carry, put in the car and have as a park toy. It's really indestructible and guaranteed for life. We've even left it outside in the rain, hosed it off and it's brand new again. I highly recommend this dump truck. A durable toy that won't crap out on you. I put a link in above to one of the few places I could find that still has them in stock, so if you want one for this holiday season, hurry!

Tonka Lil' Gas Pump

TonkaLilGasPump Chip is always fascinated when I pump gas for my minivan, so I thought this would be a good toy for him. the pump and hose are easily unhooked and you can "fill up" all your vehicles very easily. You press the green buttons to select the "fuel" type and when the tank is full you use the Tonka "charge card" to pay. Lulu actually seems to play with the gas pump more than Chip. She likes the shapes sorter and push buttons on the top, you put the shapes in and push the buttons and they fall to the bottom of the pump. She also really likes the "credit card" and keeps taking off with it. I'm wondering if I have a future shop-a-holic on my hands! Although we don't have this, the Tonka Scoot n Scoop 3-in-1 Ride On truck matches up directly with the Lil' Gas Pump. I definitely recommend this toy for all your kid's refueling needs.

Nerf Peyton Manning Rocket Pass Football

PeytonManningRocketPass This is another toy that brings back memories. I'm a jock with my varsity letter jacket to prove it. Back in elementary school, we were ONLY allowed to bring Nerf balls onto the playground. I remember my mother wrote my name in sharpie on the ball and I dutifully carried it to school and back everyday. So I was excited to get this 21st century version, that lights up. The nose of the football lights up when a tight spiral is thrown, it is supposed to also help the receiver make the catch. Well, back in the OLD DAYS we didn't need lights to catch our balls and we walked to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. Anyway, this newfangled Nerf football is definitely cool and a fun addition to our sporting goods collection. Truth be told, Chip is still a little young at age 2 to play with it to it's fullest potential. However, I've taught him to "go deep" for the reception and sent him around the coffee table (tackler) and behind the loveseat to the end zone. I'm confident he will actually catch it sometime in the new year. Maybe it will even be a Hail Mary catch as he runs away from Lulu? My only comment is perhaps based in nostalgia. While the ball is "soft", it's definitely not as soft as the Nerfs of my youth. I don't think you'd get hurt if this hit you, but it's not as spongy as mine were as a kid. I definitely recommend this Nerf football.

Helmet Heroes

HelmetHeroespoliceofficer This is a truly interactive toy. It allows the child (or mom) to pretend that they are racing to the rescue. The helmet and motorcycle handlebars act together sending the user on over 30 different missions. All the missions have "theme music" that adds to the drama. There is a siren, horns, and motorcycle revving among other sounds. I must say, it's not the least bit annoying for a toy that makes sounds. The mission phrases include: "search and rescue in progress", "hot pursuit", and "set up roadblock!" It includes a microphone so you can hear yourself broadcasting your adventure. I was a bit confused trying to get it to work at first. The directions that come with it are VERY basic--too basic. I ended up calling Playskool customer service for help. They were extremely helpful and straightened me out. I actually like this toy and the fact that it has lights and sounds and a flip up visor. I have "taken it for a spin" and gotten a kick out of it. Definitely something I would have wanted when I was a kid. We had a 4 year old friend over last week and he really liked it and played with it quite a bit. I would definitely recommend it for 4 years and up.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Win a Simmons Pearl Stroller!

Thank you to everyone who entered the Simmons Pearl Stroller Giveaway. http://www.random.org/ has selected the winner: #77. Congratulations to Renee of California!
Your Simmons Pearl is on its way! Happy Holidays!!!!

With an infant and a toddler, I love having a stroller that either one of my kids can use. My quest has ended with the Simmons Pearl Stroller. Simmons, the same company that makes the mattresses and kids furniture is now making strollers. The Pearl comes in two colors: Bahama Blue and Orange. Orange is actually one of my favorite colors and I like the fact that it is good for both my boy and my girl! I've used the stroller for over a week and really put it through its paces. What I really love about it is the fact that the seat can face in either direction. For example, Lulu likes to face me, so with her in it, I have her "riding backwards" looking at me as I push. Chip would rather see where is he is going, so the seat easily reverses so he can be forward facing. The Pearl is easy to fold and fairly lightweight at 18 lbs. It has a telescoping handle that easily adjusts which is convenient for Surfer Guy who is 6' 1".


The underbasket is generous and easy to access. The ride is smooth and I am able to steer with one hand easily. Maneuverability is a dream. The Simmons Pearl Stroller is really three strollers in one. It converts to hold a Graco Snugride carseat. It also fully reclines so that your baby is laying flat, bassinet style. It also has two other recline positions and a multi-position footrest. The stroller comes with a foot cover which I haven't tried but I'm sure would be very useful in colder climates. It can accommodate a child up to 40 lbs which will take you quite a ways into toddlerhood. Both Chip and Lulu were very comfortable sitting in it for long walks. The brakes are easy to use and the 5-point harness adds to the safety.

My only complaints are that the sunshade isn't as ample as I'd like, especially important here in sunny Southern California. I also wish it came with cupholders, I dream of cupholders. However, most strollers don't come with them, and you can always add them on.
You can purchase this stroller from many fine retailers including HERE

Simmons, a division of Delta Children's Products has generously offered to giveaway a Simmons Pearl Stroller in orange to one of my lucky readers! Just in time for the holidays. So here is how you enter: The contest begins at 12:01 am PST on Friday, December 12 and will end at midnight on Thursday, December 18*. During the contest period, please enter a comment below, your comment needs to include where in the world you would most want to push the Simmons Pearl and why. You must also include your e-mail address. One entry per person. Failure to complete all three requirements of the comment and/or multiple entries will be cause for disqualification. The winner will be selected by Random.org and I will notify the winner via e-mail. The folks at Simmons will ship the winner their new stroller! Note: Winner must have an address in the United States. Easy and fun, the way holidays and babies should be ;)

*blog owner reserves the right to extend the contest period

Monday, December 8, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere!

Late this afternoon Surfer Guy came in from the front yard and calmly said, "We have a problem." I immediately figured Chip had done something like rip his face open on the driveway. I looked up from the computer to see Surfer Guy completely drenched. His t-shirt and shorts were dripping water. I grabbed Lulu and followed Surfer Guy out the door and was met with quite a sight. A horizontal geyser of water was shooting out of the front of the house to the street. The street was filling with water and it was starting to head down hill and pool at the intersection. "What the the???" I asked. Surfer Guy answers, "I was changing the faucet on the spigot. I turned off the water on the side of the house, I don't know what happened."

Who to call? And, of course it's Sunday! I tried to reach our next door neighbor who owns about 20 apartment buildings and knows how to fix everything: voicemail. I next called our contractor who called our plumber. Our plumber actually lives a couple of blocks away, so I thought that he could just come over. My contractor calls back and says he reached the plumber at his beach house in the Mexican Riviera and he says to call the water company. I hunt for a water bill and reflect for a moment on the fact that my plumber has a house in the Mexican Riviera. Find bill, call company. I head outside, cordless, and hand phone to Surfer Guy. Surfer Guy is now sprawled on his stomach halfway down the pseudo-manhole-water-turnoff by the sidewalk. He's trying to turn the water off at the street. He grabs the phone, gives some details. Gets up and says, "He's sending someone, he says they are close by." I nod. Chip is going absolutely nuts. Running around the front lawn all fired up, chortling as only a 2 year old could.

Surfer Guy, Chip, Lulu and I retreat to high ground on our front porch. We partially hide in the lengthening shadows. Chip assumes a position of prominence waving at the neighbors who walk and drive by looking curiously at the GEYSER shooting at them. No one stops. In the distance we hear a siren. It sounds like it's getting closer. I ask Surfer Guy, "Did he say he was sending the fire department?" Surfer Guy responds with a terse, "No." Sirens get closer, the honking sound can now be heard and it's all getting louder. Then into view comes a HONKING BIG hook and ladder. Y'know the kind that has a fireman actually sitting behind a steering wheel up in the back. Surfer Guy and I have a simultaneous "Oh, crap!" moment. Then, miraculously, the fire truck continues whipping past us and up the street. Surfer Guy and I exchange looks of relief, Chip is hooting and hollering. Lulu is clamped onto my hip for dear life. Then it happens.

The fire truck comes to a sudden halt and starts to back up down the hill. Yup, they are comin' for us. The hook and ladder parks squarely in front of our house. Surfer Guy ambles out to greet the nine firemen who emerge. Chip, Lulu and I walk down to the edge of the driveway. It takes three (3) properly equipped firemen to turn off the water at the street. Then they come up and figure out that due to some bizarre construction scenario, the house is actually on two "circuits" for water. Surfer Guy turned off the water to "most" of the house. Fire Captain Guy says he's seen this problem before in our area. Whew, we don't look like losers. I charmingly inquire about whether this is a billable call and joke about "not wanting to be a nuisance." Fire Captain Guy gives me a toothy grin and says, "You've already paid for it." Ah, our tax dollars at work.

Nice fireman walks over and gives Chip a sticker badge. I ask why the big truck. He says on the weekends the water company sends the fire dept. They never know what they will face and this hook and ladder has the best equipment for water problems. The firemen are so nice they actually let Surfer Guy replace the faucet handle, like he wanted to in the first place. Meanwhile, another neighbor who is in the construction business comes over to see what's going on. He heads over to his truck and whips open his built in toolbox. As Jeff Spicoli would say, "He's got an ultimate set of tools." Neighbor proceeds to put faucet handle on for Surfer Guy. Firemen all hang out and have some chit chat with Surfer Guy, neighbor and Chip. I thank our city's finest and head back in with Lulu and get back to what I was doing before I was interrupted.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Win a Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit!!!

Thank you to everyone who entered the Wii Fit giveaway! Random.org has selected a winner: #164, Mandie from Illinois. Congratulations Mandie, your Wii & Wii Fit are on their way to be put in your "family room since it has the most room to work out in!" I hope you love them as much as I do.

Stay tuned for my next giveaway, later today!

Just in time for the holidays. You know how cutthroat it is out there trying to hunt down a Wii console. Stay home and win one instead. It's FREE and EASY to enter. Keep reading...

Beginning Monday, December 1, 2008 I am running a giveaway of one (1) Nintendo Wii and one (1)Wii Fit with Balance Board to be awarded together. The contest will run through Wednesday, December 10, 2008* at which time a winner will be chosen by Random.org


I love the Wii and Wii Fit and am totally hooked. I love it so much that I'm totally excited to give someone else the opportunity to win one as well! Wii and Wii Fit are like no other video game experience. This is nothing like the videogames of my childhood! Wii is not just a video game console, it's a reason to get together with your family and friends and have fun. It is so easy and interactive, it really is a video game for EVERYONE. Now they have added the Wii Fit, a combination of fitness and fun. With Wii Fit you can do yoga, balance games, strength training and aerobics. Maybe one day I feel like snowboarding, the next yoga and the next boxing. It's so great to always be able to mix it up. With Chip and Lulu, getting regular exercise is tough. With the Wii Fit, I can actually sneak some extra fitness time into my day.

So now you totally want them, right? How do you enter? Here's how: enter a comment below telling me WHICH ROOM in your home you would put your Wii Fit in and WHY? Make sure you INCLUDE your e-mail address in your comment. Failure to complete all 3 requirements for your comment will disqualify you. I can't stand it when people don't follow directions....
Oh, and only enter one time, if you would be so kind? Multiple entries will be disqualified. Let's give everyone a fair chance?

At the end of the contest time, I will utilize the services of Random.org to select the winner. You will be notified by me via e-mail at which point I will gather all necessary info for the folks at Nintendo to ship you your GRAND PRIZE the Wii Console AND Wii Fit!

*Contest end time may be extended at blog owner's discretion.