Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

A lesser known gem of Santa Monica...head under the pier to find Heal the Bay's Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.  Home to sea creatures and plants with relatives in the Santa Monica Bay, this is a very small, but very fun aquarium that will delight your toddler (and maybe even you!).  Kids are able to get up close to jellyfish, octopus, sharks, fish, and all the touch tank delights.  One of our favorites is the eel tank.  There is also an area with a microscope to check some things out, a craft-of-the-day, and a puppet theatre for kids to put on a show about their favorite marine life.
This aquarium also has classes for little ones (sign up early, they fill up fast!) and is available for birthday parties.

On the beach level at the Santa Monica pier, directly under the carousel.

Tues.-Fri. 2:00-5:00 PM
Weekends 12:30-5:00 PM
Occasionally closed for private events.  Call before visitiing to verify hours.
(310) 393-6149

12 and under: FREE
13 and up: suggested donation $5 or a minimum entry fee of $3

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Membership Recommendations

As gift-giving season is gearing up to be in full swing, we thought we'd talk about memberships in case Grandma or Grandpa or Auntie or...ask for a gift suggestion for your kiddos.

We recommend families that like to explore and travel to consider a few annual memberships. This provides fun while at home and on the road. Lots of places have reciprocal privileges with similar establishments in other cities and states. Our family loves animals (this is actually an understatement), so we belong to the LA Zoo. With this membership, we can visit most zoos around the country for free or at a reduced price (We often use it at The Living Desert). We also are members of the Long Beach Aquarium. There are no reciprocal privileges for this particular membership, but we feel it is worthwhile, nonetheless, as we enjoy stopping by with some regularity. The other membership we highly recommend is one to your local children’s museum. Make sure to get the level of membership that provides reciprocal privileges to the member ACM museums if you plan on traveling (and, really, would you be reading this if you weren’t?). Some museum’s membership prices are more or less than others, so you can shop around. We joined at the Paso Robles Volunteer Firehouse Children’s Museum. We go there the most and it was one of the least expensive ones to join at the time we initially signed up. This membership has provided lots of opportunities for us to allow the kids to have some free time to play and use their energy, especially after long car rides, as there are children’s museums near many of our weekend destinations, like Morro Bay and The Living Desert and even near out of town family.

With memberships, I recommend not automatically renewing when your time is up.  For example, when our aquarium pass was up, I figured we wouldn't be going for at least a month or two because we were busy with other things at the time.  I didn't want to renew in January and have our year start then if we weren't going to be there for a couple of months and waste those months of membership.  So, I just renewed the next time we visited.  Some places will have incentives to renew before your pass expires and give you an extra month or two of validation.

Some places offer a buy a day, get a year free offer at certain times of the year.  Make sure you ask if you can combine it with other offers.  For example, SeaWorld let us use our AAA discount for the day and get the year free offer during the 2012 Christmas season.

For some places, they offer parking as an additional fee on memberships.  Some are worth it, some aren't.  For Disneyland, we go all the time, so we bought the parking benefit on my pass only, as I would always be in the car.  If we had put it on my husband's, we wouldn't have the benefit when I take the kids when Daddy is at work.  So, put the parking benefit on the family member's card who will always be there (for some families, that means putting it on the child's card).  For some places, the parking isn't worth it.  For example, we went to SeaWorld three days in a row over Christmas break, but our hotel had a shuttle, so we didn't have to pay for parking.  The next weekend, we went twice and had to pay to park as we stayed in a different hotel.  Still,  the parking benefit works out to about $70.  At $15/day to park, we would have to go about 5 times just to break even.  I don't think we will go much more than that, so we didn't pay for the parking upgrade.

I know of some families that like to rotate their memberships.  One year the zoo, one year the aquarium, one year a museum.....

We hope this helps in deciding what may be best for your family.  One last thought, memberships are great suggestions for grandparents to give for birthday or Christmas gifts!  Doesn't fill your house with a bunch of stuff and can be enjoyed all year!

Have fun and we'll be back on the blog next Monday! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Clothespin Nativity and St. Nicholas

So, this post isn't about an adventure for your family to go on, but gives you directions on how to make something that your little ones might enjoy on a long adventure, or a short one at that (church, waiting in the doctor's office, waiting for dinner to arrive at a restaurant...).  Being that St. Nicholas Day is fast approaching (Nov. 6), I thought I'd give you this in time to make your own little clothespin Nick before then!

Materials Needed:

  • doll clothespins
  • felt (light blue, white, tan, brown, red)
  • pipe cleaners (yellow or gold, brown or black)
  • hot glue gun (and hot glue sticks, or course!)
  • scissors
  • thin Sharpies (black and red)
  • Saw and sand paper if you want baby Jesus to be smaller than Mary and Joseph
  • flower lei (or some other thing to make angel wings from)
  • small pompom if you want for St. Nicholas
  • FREE patterns I made for your enjoyment 
  1. Cut out felt using patterns (blue for Mary's veil, white for Mary's robe and angel's dress, tan for Jesus' blanket, brown for Joseph's robe, red for St. Nicholas' robe and miter/hat)                                                                                        
  2. Saw off part of one clothespin to make it smaller for Baby Jesus and sand the new edges to keep little fingers from getting splinters (My Dad is so proud that I am using a saw and sandpaper for my crafting!).  If you don't have a saw, don't worry, just make Jesus full length.  My kids didn't seem to care last year when I left him long.  Use the corresponding size pattern for His blanket.                                                                                          
  3. Jesus - Hot glue blanket around Baby Jesus (you can glue it to Him if you don't want it removable or just glue the blanket to itself if you want to be able to take Jesus out).
  4. Mary - Glue clothespin to middle of white robe and then tuck corners around and glue together.  Glue center of one edge of the blue veil square to top of Mary's head and then glue down sides of that same edge to Mary's side and then glue down Mary's back and press veil down.                               
  5. Joseph - Glue clothespin to middle of brown robe and then tuck corners around and glue together (same process as May's robe).  Cut piece of pipe cleaner to circle around Joseph's waist and glue down.  Fold piece of pipe cleaner to look like a staff and glue to Joseph.                                                 
  6. Angel - Glue clothespin to middle of straight edge of white dress with just a little drop of glue to neck so that the dress stays in place.  Bring corners around and overlap slightly and glue together. Use two petal pieces from a lei and glue them to angel's back to create wings.  Use small piece of pipe cleaner to make halo and glue to top of head.                 
  7. St. Nicholas - Glue clothespin to middle of straight edge of red robe with just a little drop of glue to neck so that the robe stays in place.  Bring corners around and overlap slightly and glue together (same process as Angel's robe).  Glue on his mitre/cap by circling it around his head and then glueing the top together with a dot of glue.  If you want, glue a small pompom to top of St. Nicholas' hat (my oldest one wanted this!)  Fold a pipe cleaner to look like a staff and glue it to St. Nicholas.  Glue small V-shape of white felt to give him a beard.
  8. Give all your dolls some eyes and a mouth (my oldest also put hair on the back of St. Nicholas!)
  9. Have Fun!

Feel free to pin this or share on Facebook and come back for a new adventure next Monday!  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!  This was shared at Make It & Love It.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

The winner of the gift certificate for "lunch for 2" from Morro Bays' Giovanni's Fish Market & Galley is (according to random.org):
What a great excuse to drive up the coast - which is exactly what I'll tell friends when I share this via facebook. Thanks for all the info. I want to go now! (Also following via email!)

I know, I know, we don't even carve the Thanksgiving turkey for another week and a half, but I wanted to get this out to you so that you can plan on doing this exciting adventure before you just go to Home Depot and get your tree (as the hubby and I did before having kids).  Don't get me wrong, Home Depot has plenty of fun things to decorate your house, but the tree should be cut down with the kids' help!  My parents took us every year to cut our tree and it is still a memory I hold dear (& they still cut their tree down every year, even with no kids at home!  My parents ROCK!)  So for your next adventure...
Helping Daddy cut the tree
For a fun and festive Christmas experience, we highly recommend cutting down your Christmas tree.  We always go to the Santa Paula Christmas Tree Farm in Santa Paula (not far from Faulkner Farm Pumpkin Patch).  It is surrounded by mountains, allows your kids to wander through a forest of Christmas trees, has a petting zoo on the weekends, and even has a train with Santa Claus on it.  Pretty much kid heaven!  They grow Monterey Pine trees.

What a view!
Upon arriving, grab one of their saws and head out to wander, jump off of stumps, and choose the tree that will be given the honor of being your family tree.  (Trees vary in price depending on size.  Each tree has a tag on it to let you know the price.)  After you cut it down with the kids' help, have the kids push it over and yell "TIMBER!" and load it onto the tractor to take it to the front.  Have them put it in their "shakee" that will shake all of the loose needles out of the tree and then have them bag it with netting to make it easy to put on your car.  Don't forget to take a candy cane to complete the experience!
Fun at the Christmas tree farm!
If you are so inclined, the Fillmore and Western Railway Co. has a train you can ride to get your tree with appearances by the big man in red himself.  We have not tried this before, but sounds like a lot of fun, especially after seeing the "Polar Express" Experience at SeaWorld.  We have taken pictures with Santa when he came down from the train.

Santa Paula Christmas Tree Farm
18540 E. Telegraph Rd.
Santa Paula, CA 93060
(805) 933-9569

Fillmore and Western Railway Co.
364 Main St.
Fillmore, CA  93015
(805) 524-2546

Tune in next Monday for the next adventure!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Morro Bay (And a GIVEAWAY!)

Happy Veterans Day!  Thank you to all those who serve our country.

We have a tasty giveaway at the end of this post!
The famous rock (behind an adorable baby and her Daddy)
Sittin' by the rock of the bay...Okay, okay, wrong words, wrong city.  But, in all seriousness, Morro Bay is a great little town on the coast to stop.  Oftentimes, you can see otters in the bay and all the time (if our experience says anything) you can see sea lions.

Loving the sea lions
Our usual routine includes stopping at Giovanni's Fish Market & Galley and ordering a crab quesadilla and something with shrimp in it (our girls are shrimp addicts!) and sitting at one of the tables and watching the seagulls and the sea lions.  All the tables are outside to enjoy the view of the bay and Morro Rock.  But, beware, DO NOT turn your back on your food (or blink for longer than a second) or your food will become seagull food.  They are just waiting for someone to forget this rule and fill their bellies with the most delicious garlic fries you have ever encountered.  We have warned you!
Giovanni's Fish Market & Galley with Morro Rock behind it
Shrimp, crab, scallops, oysters, garlic fries...
Fun with the giant clam shell

Besides dining al fresco at Giovanni's, we also like to hit up the farmers' market on Saturdays between 3:00 and 6:00PM on Main St. and Harbor St., and also get salt water taffy at Crill's with a stroll along the water.

Some other local events to watch out for: Morro Bay Avocado & Margarita Festival, Oyster Festival, and Summer Art in the Park

Giovanni's Fish Market & Galley
1001 Front St.
Morro Bay, CA  93422
(805) 772-2123

Crill's (saltwater taffy)
1247 Embarcadero
Morro Bay, CA  93442
(805) 772-2615

Giovanni's Fish Market & Galley has generously offered a gift certificate for "Lunch for 2" including two free lunches and soft drinks!

To enter, post a separate comment for any/all of the following and be sure to leave a way for us to get ahold of you!  You will earn one chance to win for each thing you do (up to 3 chances!):

1. Leave a comment on this post in the comment section about a place you like to visit with your family.
2. "Follow by Email" in the top right corner of the blog and leave a comment here that you did.
3. Share this post on Facebook with the button below and leave a comment here that you did.

Good Luck!  Winner will be posted next Monday.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Valley Dance Theatre - Ballet With The Babes

This year's Nutcracker performances are as follows:
Saturday, Dec. 14 - 2PM & 7PM
Sunday, Dec. 15 - 2PM
Tuesday, Dec. 17 - two morning school performances for students, teachers, and chaperones
Friday, Dec. 20 - 7PM
Sat., Dec. 21 - 2PM & 7PM
Sun., Dec. 22 - 2PM & 7PM
Ready for the show with Grandma
Her favorite...the Candy Canes!
I know, I know, we just finished Halloween...but, I wanted to give you fair warning to plan for this wonderful adventure!
Do you have little ones who love to dance, twirl, whirl (there is a difference our oldest has educated us), and put on shows?  Well, here is the ballet company for you.  Every December, the Valley Dance Theatre, under the direction of Betsy Hausburg, puts on Tchaikovsky's full length Nutcracker with the Livermore-Amador Symphony that is fantastic!  The costumes are exquisite, the sets are wonderful, and the whole atmosphere is perfect for families.  We think it is the perfect introduction for kids to live ballet performances.  Little girls wear their Christmas dresses, one can purchase hot chocolate and treats during the intermission, and the kids can take pictures with their favorite characters and get autographs after the performance.  The shows include performers of all ages, which is fun for kids to see.  The mice and rosebuds, two of the parts performed by children, are absolutely adorable!
With the Candy Canes
With all the queens (Flower, Snow, Sugarplum)
As a fun disclaimer, this Mama performed in Valley Dance Theatre's Nutcracker for many years in a variety of roles, the longest running being Mother Gigogne (Mother Ginger, Mother Goose, etc.)

During May or June, the company puts on another performance that changes each year.  The 2012 performance included Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Ravel's Bolero, and Aaron Copeland's Rodeo.


Dates and times:
Nutcracker is usually on two weekends in December near Christmas.  Matinee and evening times are available.
Check the website for the Spring/Summer performance information.

Bankhead Theater
2400 First Street
Livermore, CA  94550

Purchase through the Bankhead Theater website at:
Or, purchase in person at the theater's box office

Tickets for Nutcracker range in price from about $18-$34.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Packing Lists

When packing for an adventure, here are some helpful lists for you.  We HIGHLY recommend packing as lightly as possible.  Remember, kids exist all over the world, which means you can usually find anything you might need just about anywhere you go!

Car Trip at 11 days old with Big Sissy!
Car Trips:
  1. Diapers/wipes
  2. Lovey
  3. Blankie
  4. Binkies
  5. Medications (Tylenol, Motrin, Mylicon, Benadryl)
  6. Clothes/Shoes (Don't go overboard, most places have some way of washing clothes if need be.)
  7. Swimsuit
  8. Bathroom/personal hygiene products
  9. Sling/Baby carrier
  10. Sunblock/Sunglasses
  11. Hats
  12. Cameras (still and video) and chargers
  13. Snacks/water
First plane trip with Big Sissy!
Plane Trips:
  1. Identification for lap-babies (airlines require this for lap-babies to prove their age)
  2. Identification for adults and any children that may need it / passports for all if traveling internationally
  3. Plane tickets and car rental/hotel information
  4. Diapers/wipes (just enough to get to your destination plus a couple more, just in case)
  5. Spare outfit for child (we usually pick an easy-to-squish pack outfit)
  6. Medications in a zip-lock
  7. Sling/Baby Carrier (you will have the baby in it!)
  8. Cameras (still and video) (NEVER check these in your baggage and risk them getting lost!)
  9. Binkies (for little ones to suck on during take-off and landing)
  10. Sucker (for older children to suck on during take-off and landing)
  11. Sippy cup (currently, you can take sippy cups filled with liquid through security, if not, the flight attendant can always give you a drink to fill it)
  12. Snacks
  13. Lovey (again, I would NEVER trust the airline with something that is irreplaceable)
  14. Toys to occupy time (Playdough is GREAT, small books, coloring, stickers, small toys/figures)
Checked Luggage:
  1. Clothes/Shoes
  2. Bathroom/Personal hygiene products/Sunblock
  3. Hats
  4. Swimsuits
  5. Sunglasses
  6. Car Seats

PLEASE feel free to share in the comments if you think there is something really important that I have left off the lists!