Sunday, December 21, 2014

It’s a Tradition: New Year’s Eve at Knott’s Berry Farm

The holidays are a time for family traditions. To be honest, our family traditions are rather ordinary: buying the tree, decorating the tree, putting up the decorations, the outdoor lights. The Elf on the Shelf. Y’know, the things everyone does. I always take notice of the traditions in other families that seem to stand out as being different. I have wanted to have a tradition that is a bit different. It turns out our family does have a tradition that is out of the ordinary: We go to Knott’s on New Year’s Eve! We have gone the past two years and we are going again this year. Three years in a row meets the requirement of a “tradition” in my book. And it can be your tradition too!

Knott’s solves the problem of finding a New Year’s celebration that is suitable for the whole family. I love Knott’s on New Year’s because it just feels like a celebration in every section of the park. All the rides and attractions are open and there is live entertainment such as salsa dancing in Fiesta Plaza, a dance party in Calico Square, a bluegrass band in The Birdcage Theater and comedy in Wagon Camp. The park is all decked out with holiday decorations and we always arrive in the evening when everything is perfectly lit up. Having grown up in New England, New Year’s feels more real to me when it’s cold out. The past two years have been chilly enough that we have actually needed to bundle up a bit! You will be fine with light jackets, fleece and maybe some gloves/mittens. There are lots of opportunities to go inside to warm up for a bit.

For dining options, the restaurants in the park are open. You just may have to wait to be seated so plan accordingly. At peak times it can be as much as a 45 minute wait. There is a New Year’s Eve Buffet in Spurs Restaurant from 4:00-9:00pm with prices of $26.99+tax for adults and $14.99+tax for kids ages 3-11. We haven’t done the buffet but maybe we will this year. If you want to maximize your time going on rides and participating in the live entertainment offerings, you might consider eating before you get to the park. This could also be a good plan with younger kids who may not be able to stay up late into the evening.There are plenty of places to get snacks and refreshments to keep you going through the night.  As our kids have gotten older we have been able to stay later, but we have yet to make it to midnight! If you do make it to midnight (the park is open until 1:00am) there is an awesome countdown with the Sky Cabin ride going up the K Tower with a special lighting effects show. When it reaches the top at the stroke of midnight, there is a big fireworks show.

For more information visit Ring In The New Year at Knott’s. On New Year’s Eve, Knott’s is open from 10:00am to 1:00am with the New Year’s Eve Celebration included with the regular daytime admission.

Disclosure: My family has received admission to Knott’s New Year’s Eve for my event coverage. All content and social media shares are original and my own opinions.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Making My Way Back

I am on my way back!

Thank you for your patience while I've been on hiatus. There is much to say and I shall be saying it here soon.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Safety 1st BoostAPak

BoostAPak1I love convenience. I love products that have more than one use. My latest review represents both of those qualities. Please allow me to introduce you to the Trunki BoostAPak by Safety 1st. The BoostAPak is a child booster seat that is also a backpack with storage. How cool, is that?

You may have noticed that safety is an important topic for me and one I cover regularly. Here in California, kids are required to be in booster seats until they are 8 years old. I looked at the Governor’s Highway Safety Association chart and see that 48 states and DC have booster seat laws. Unfortunately, I have noticed that a lot of my kids’ friends do not use booster seats. I don’t know if it’s just ignorance of the laws (the age was raised to 8 just a couple of years ago) or figuring it’s not necessary. Proper seatbelt positioning on a passenger’s body is very important. The extra “boost” the seats give equals a boost in safety! Chip and Lulu are very much on the circuit of having play dates, getting driven in carpools and just generally in other people’s cars. I also often have at least one kid in the minivan who does not belong to me. The BoostAPak is a super easy way to make sure my kids and their friends have a booster seat.

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When the booster arrived, Lulu could not wait to check it out. She uses it the most. When I first learned about the seat, I thought it would just be an “extra” booster to have on hand. It turns out that it is Lulu’s preferred everyday booster. She has managed the conversion since the first use. It’s really intuitive: Pull up the flap, flip up the green arms (which serve as seatbelt guides) and belt yourself in. The reverse is just as easy with the added step of pressing buttons to fold down the green arms. It just takes seconds to do which is really important when everyone is rushing into school at drop off!

Regular booster seats can be cumbersome for little kids to carry. The “hands free” backpack design just can’t be beat. The storage area is the space under the seat. I would describe it as a nice size space to put a few items. I don’t think it is big enough to double as a school backpack. As you can see the size is compact but is 51WCMl2ENmL._SX425_comfortable for my 6 and 7 year olds. Lulu is taking a plane trip next month and is excited to be able to bring her BoostAPak on the flight. It fits easily into a plane’s overhead compartment.

I definitely recommend this seat. The only drawback I see is the height limit versus the weight limit. It doesn’t really make sense to me. Chip is just about 52” and 52 lbs with Lulu a few pounds and a few inches behind him. Obviously, according to the specs (see below), they will both be out of the booster (due to height) before they are 8 years old. It would be great if they could add to the height limit especially because some kids need boosters even beyond the legal requirement. Safety first!

Price: I have seen the Trunki BoostAPak available online from $43-$75. It certainly makes sense to shop around.

Specifications: The BoostAPak is a backless booster for kids 40-80 pounds and 43"-52" in height. Made of a durable plastic shell with high visibility reflective trim, Removable cover for easy spot cleaning and an ID tag. Product weight is 3.4 lbs. Product dimensions are 14.0 x 12.0 x 18.28.

Disclosure: I was provided one Safety 1st BoostAPak for review purposes. All written content and opinions are my own.

Friday, February 7, 2014

New Swiffer Sweep & Trap

Swiffer Big CircleI constantly have my eyes open for products that will make my life easier. I’m already a fan of the Swiffer products so when I was asked if I’d would like to review the new Swiffer Sweep & Trap, I didn’t hesitate. The first thing that caught my attention is that it multitasks…As the name says, it “sweeps” and it “traps.” I love things that do double duty because, theoretically, that should mean I don’t have to buy two separate things. That in turn should mean: I’m saving money!

I opened up the box and assembled the the Sweep & Trap. There are four pieces that click together to make the handle which was easy to do and took about 15 seconds. The handle goes into the Sweep & Trap. You then attach a Swiffer Dry Cloth (two are included in the box) and off you go. To me, this is like a carpet sweeper but it’s for hard surface floors. Although I have plenty of messes around my house, Swiffer actually sent me two packs of test items. The first was a handful of wood shavings and the second was a few nuts and screws which I dumped on my hardwood floor. The Sweep & Trap made quick work of both messes. I then continued around my house a bit testing it out on some travertine and tile. It does what it’s supposed to do, “scoop up” and trap the bigger particles and sweep the floor with the dry cloth.

The great thing about this gadget is that you don’t need to plug it in and it’s quiet. In the past I might have gotten out the vacuum or tried the dustpan and broom method. This is easier and faster than either of those. It is also small which allows you to tuck it somewhere handy--yet out of sight. When you want to empty the trap, you just open it and shake out over the trash. Easy. The only thing you have to replace is the dry cloth. I’m keeping mine. I can’t imagine anyone not being able to use one of these. Go pick one up at Walmart, where they have just hit the shelves. You can connect with Swiffer on Twitter and Facebook.

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Swiffer. All content is my own.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jay Leno and me…We go way back

jay-leno-show_l2Tonight is Jay Leno’s final night of hosting The Tonight Show. Twenty-two years. As I start writing this post, I see it is nearing 11:30 on the East Coast. In honor of this occasion, I am going to tell you about my connection to Jay. This is something that I haven’t ever written about. Tonight seems the perfect time. So heeeeere’s my story! (Yeah, I know, wrong host. But Johnny passed the helm to Jay. Ok?)

The year was 1979. Maybe 1978, but I’m pretty sure it was 1979. I was down at the office of my elementary school, Bancroft School in Andover, MA. Mrs. Halbach, the school secretary asked me to take a man, who had just walked in, “up to your loft.” We called our grades “lofts” because they were large open classrooms…Like lofts. Our school was a really cool building. It looked like a modernist castle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t well suited to New England winters and the build up of snow caused the roof to leak in many, many places. As a result, there were a lot of construction workers around during that school year getting ready for a re-engineering project. I was sure the guy I was showing up to my loft was someone involved with the work. He had jeans and a plaid shirt on. I had him figured out. So up we went, I don’t think we talked. I brought him to Mr. Spencer, one of our teachers. All of us kids were called to the center of the loft and we sat on the floor.

Mr. Spencer proceeded to introduce this guy. He said, “This is my friend Jay Leno.” None of us knew who he was. But we soon learned that that he was “on TV” and lived in LA. He grew up in our town, Andover, MA and went to school with Mr. Spencer. He called Mr. Spencer “Billy” and we all thought that was a riot! This guy, Jay Leno, told us about himself, talked about growing up in our town and that his parents lived here. He answered lots of questions. Of course we all wanted to know when we could see him on TV. I can remember exactly what he told us, because I wrote it down and saved the paper for a long time. I’m sure that scrap of paper is still in with my stuff in my parent’s house. I wrote down, “Silver Bears,” Albert, “American Hotwax” and “Hollywood Squares” with two dates that coming July. Jay said he was in the movie “The Silver Bears” playing Albert, the movie “American Hotwax” and would be on the game show “Hollywood Squares” on two consecutive days in July. I asked him if he lived on Rodeo Drive and he laughed and said no. Rodeo Drive was pretty much the only thing I knew about LA at the time. Perhaps I knew Jay was going to make it big? He lives a stone’s throw from Rodeo Drive now! He signed autographs for each of us (about 75) kids. I was so excited to tell my parents I had met Jay Leno! They had no idea who he was. But they were really happy for me.

That summer, my mom allowed me to stay home from camp those two days to watch Jay Leno on The Hollywood Squares. Being that it was 1979, I knew I had a better chance of going to the moon than seeing those two movies he said he was in. But I kept an eye on the TV Guide. On the off chance, y’know?

From there our interactions with Jay were random but fairly constant over the next decade. He always remembered me. The next year or so, my mom and brother were at the McDonald’s in town and my brother spotted Jay. My mom thought it was a hoot because she still didn’t know who this guy was…That my brother and I knew. We would see Jay around town periodically. I got to high school in the late 80’s which coincided with the time he starting being a regular fill-in for Johnny Carson. Some of his teachers were still at Andover High and Jay would come in for visits. He was always such a genuinely nice guy. Joking around and reminiscing about his teenage shenanigans and being “Class Clown.” As his star was rising, local Boston TV stations would come out and do stories. Once I sat in on a staged study hall where he was interviewed sitting at a desk with the rest of us doing our homework. Andover High has a local access TV studio and during my years there, I hosted some shows. Jay would come by and say hi and sign autographs. Once we had a telethon and he called in from California with a very generous donation for the studio. I had friends who lived a couple of doors down from his parents. His mom and dad were super friendly.

In 1992, Jay became the permanent host of The Tonight Show. In 1994, my brother and I visited LA. I put a call in to the Tonight Show and said I knew Jay from Andover and was interested in getting tickets. I had no idea how it worked. It turned out my cluelessness got us put on a list at NBC Studios Guest Relations and meant we didn’t have to wait in line. I remember wearing an Andover T-shirt and wondering if Jay might spot it in the middle of the audience. Original idea, huh? In 1996 I ended up moving to LA. I worked at Disney Studios in Burbank and every day drove past NBC where the Tonight Show is taped. Over those next couple of years, I saw Jay a few times driving in one of his many cars. He was always in a good mood and waving to people. I met three people during those years who were helped by Jay when they were having car trouble. Jay is well known for pulling over to see if he can help someone. I marveled at the “small town Andover” way he lived his life in the huge city of LA. I think it was around 1998 when my friend Anna came out from Kentucky with her friend who had never been to LA. I called the Tonight Show and again said I was from Andover. Without hesitation, we got on the Guest Relations list. The next few times I went to The Tonight Show it was because I had a friend at NBC who got me tickets. I always went not knowing who the guest was going to be. I ended up attending two shows when Bridget Fonda was a guest. What are the odds? Once I went and David Bowie was the musical guest. I. About. Died. Huge fan. That made my year. You are probably wondering if I ever tried to connect with him in person. The first time we went, on the way out of the studio, we asked someone if Jay was around because we knew him from Andover. The guy seemed genuinely disappointed to say that he was leaving right away. Jay is a really hard worker and on many (most?) nights after he tapes a show, he goes and does a gig somewhere. Other than maybe a chance to connect with him after a taping, what was I going to do? Call him to do lunch? Ha, ha, ha! He’s such a nice guy, I bet he would’ve had lunch with me. I lived a few blocks from where he taped his “Jaywalking” segment on Melrose Avenue every week. My husband would drive past him on his way home from work. I meant to make it over there sometime. Life was busy and I never did.

The last ten years or so have been hectic. I got married, had two kids back to back. Time flies. Last year it was announced that Jay would be ending his run in February 2014. I felt sad because Jay’s career has been such a part of my life. He made it to the top. I cheered the whole way. Last Spring, my kids’ school was having their annual silent auction and I was working on auction items. I wondered if after all these years, could I call and say I’m so and so from Andover and get some tickets donated? I called and again, spoke to someone who was so nice. That’s the thing I always experienced when I called or when I was there. Every single person who works for Jay is so NICE! They arranged four VIP tickets and a VIP meet and greet after the show. Of course, they said they couldn’t guarantee the meet and greet because Jay may have to leave right after the show. I said, “Oh, I know. He might have a gig.” I felt that giving my “semi-inside knowledge” might help to legitimize my phone call. I asked his assistant if she would please express to Jay how grateful I was. And if you could tell him it’s Elizabeth and l listed off a bunch of ways we know each other. She was so nice and said she would. So, did I have an in with Jay? Do I still have an in with Jay? Or are they just so nice at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno? Who knows? What we all know though, is that Jay has been top of the ratings for over two decades and he is going out on top. Leaving on a high note as the class act he is.

Here we are. February 6, 2014. Jay already taped the show. It will be airing here shortly. The last show has already been seen in our hometown. I have a feeling Jay isn’t going into retirement. Maybe I could ask him to go to lunch? Maybe he has a little more time now? After all, Jay and me. We go way back.