Friday, August 1, 2014

Free Book Promotion Extended

Day Jobs and Dreams and other stories by cara Roberts will contine to be free to download for a few more days if you missed it when first announced. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Free Book from My Sponser

Day Jobs and Dreams and other stories
 by Cara Roberts, an ebook availble from, and a sponser of this blog, will be availble for free for one day only, tomorrow 7/27/14.

To be clear, Day Jobs and Dreams is not a childrens book, although there are a few cute stories that are about children that parents would enjoy.

Go grab yourself a free ebook, and have fun reading!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Outside the Bay: Circus Circus Reno

Outside the Bay: Circus Circus Reno

We recently took a road trip to Reno, and decided to stay at Circus Circus because we thought it would be the most fun for the kids. While the Circus Circus Midway and games were a huge hit with the kids, we had many other disappointments with the rest of the hotel.

The Pros:

The kids enjoyed the Circus Circus Midway games and short circus shows just as much if not more than we thought they would. I was additionally happily surprised with the cost of the games – none were more than $2 for a play, most were $1, and some were even less. There are competitive games, the sorts that players race by rolling balls to move their icon along, or squirt water into a clown mouth to see who can pop their balloon first, that had only one winner. Other games guaranteed a win every time. Still others were more challenging with rare winners. Even on the competitive games, my kids won regularly. While the quality of the prizes did vary somewhat, they also ended up with some nice plushes that they have been thrilled with well after the trip. There are also games for winning tickets that can be turned in for other prizes.

The circus shows in the midway were short but fun. We saw a group of performing dogs, a trampoline team and an acrobat. All were fun to watch. We would have preferred more frequent shows since they are so short, if you are not nearby at the right time it is easy to miss them.

We ate several times at Circus Circus’s Americana CafĂ©. Our kids are the kind that can be frustrating to dine out with since they usually don’t eat well in restaurants. However, both kids ate their whole dinner, and breakfast the next day. I ordered a simple sandwich, but it was very good. We also visited the sweet shop for breakfast sandwiches and donuts one morning, and we enjoyed it very much.


Most of the adults in our group found the beds uncomfortable and the blankets inadequate. We also had problems with a lot of noise from other guest late at night in the halls. It was amazing how well sound came into our room from out there. The kids slept happily the way only kids can do.

Circus Circus also has a strange policy for their internet connection. They only allow one device per room to use the internet connection for free. At check in, we were given a code to use to connect with for each day, with no further instruction on how to use it. In this day and age when every member of the family may have their own device, the one device only policy could be a problem for some. I understand that additional devices could be connected for an additional fee, but we were unwilling to pay extra considering how spotty and difficult the free connection was.

Overall, when we stay the weekend in Reno again, I would definitely take the kids back to spend a fun couple of hours in the midway, but we would choose to stay somewhere else to sleep. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose: The Star Wars Exhibit

The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose: The Star Wars Exhibit

The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose’s current special exhibit is Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination through the end of February. Star Wars themed things usually disappoint me, as a die-hard, and old school Star Wars fan, so I was happily impressed with this exhibit. There are lots of original models, costumes and props from the movies. The models are very impressive, even by our more modern standards. I could really get on a much deeper level than I did before why they had been so groundbreaking back in the 70’s and 80’s.

The hands on activities are a lot of fun too. We experimented with magnetic lego hovercrafts, droids that needed to move across uneven ground, and lots of others. There is also a real (although small) hovercraft to ride on. The exhibit was not very busy when we were there, our group was the first in of the day, and we still had to work our way in to a spot for some activities. I can easily imagine that on a crowded day it could be tough to get a turn, although I do believe they limit entrances to the special exhibits to keep crowds under control.

Within in the larger Star Wars exhibit there is what they call the Millennium Falcon experience. It is an additional small cost. Basically, you get to enter a wonderful replica of the bridge of the Millennium Falcon where you watch a 4 ½ minute video through the cockpit window about our real universe and all the planets and galaxies that have been discovered. The actual video wasn’t anything too thrilling, but the Millennium Falcon was fun. There were even some switches to flip, although most of the buttons were fake, and couldn’t be pushed, I found one that was pushable. And, most importantly, it does the jumping into hyperspace bit at the beginning of the video. Still, if getting to sit in the Falcon isn’t worth five bucks to you, then skip this extra bit. There is only seating for four inside, and it runs nearly five minutes. So you can imagine that could lead to quite a wait. For example, we were in the first group into the Star Wars exhibit, and had about a 40 minute wait for our turn in the Millennium Falcon. I do have to give kudos to the staff for their solution to the wait. You can leave a cell number and get a text when your turn is up. So you don’t have to stand in line the whole time.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The de Young Art Museum in San Francisco

The de Young Art Museum in San Francisco

The de Young Museum exhibits a combination of modern and ancient art from around the world. It is located in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco across from the California Academy of Science.

They are closed on Mondays, but admission is free on the first Tuesday of every month. Kids under 12 are always free. Active military and their families receive free admission from Memorial Day through Labor day. If there is a special exhibit with an additional fee, the free admissions do not include the special exhibit.
The day we visited the de Young Art Museum we spent a couple of hours there at best. While I might have enjoyed a more leisurely stroll through the exhibits, children have a different time table. Some areas sparked their interest and they looked at everything in the room, other areas seemed to overwhelm them and they moved more quickly through.

One tip we got before going did really seem to help engage the kids and keep them a little more focused than I’m sure they would have been otherwise. We went to the gift store first and each child picked out two postcards that featured art pieces in the museum. Then, one of their tasks as we walked around was to try to find the pieces on their postcards. It really did get them more invested in the tour. 

Also, I noticed again what I observed when we visited the Legion of Honor several years ago – the time periods or places that we had studied ahead of our visit were much more interesting to the kids than new things. The de Young website can help out with that. A tab at the top labeled ‘Education’ has resources to prepare for a visit.

One of the hits of the trip for my kids was the observation tower that offers a spectacular view. It’s worth the elevator ride up. A warning to those with fear of heights, the windows up there are floor to ceiling. It adds to the beauty of the view, but I couldn't make myself stand too near the edge, even knowing there was glass there to protect me.

Generally, the older the kids, the more they will likely appreciate the art, but there is such a variety, even younger children will find something interesting at the de Young Museum. With kids getting free admission, and free days offered monthly, it is worth the time to visit. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks - Book Review

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks - Book Review

Primated by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks tells the story of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas. Considering that each could only get a third of the book, I think their stories were well summarized.

I got this book mainly for myself, since I am a big fan of Fossey and Goodall. Birute Galdikas was new to me, and I was very interested to learn a little about her. My girls enjoyed to book as well, although I'm sure they are a little too young to appreciate how revolutionary these scientists were for their time.

My kids are big graphic novel fans, but I have never loved the format myself. That, in combination with the fact that I have already read a great deal about these women, at least two of them anyway, left me slightly disappointed at the lack of depth. But stepping back, I see that there is no way a book like this could include every wonderful and interesting thing about these researchers and their discoveries. This book does present an interesting introduction.

The artwork was poignant and silly in the right places for me, and open and fun enough to draw in my kids. 

I think this would be a great book for a child, or teen who is interested in this sort of research, or any of these scientists, but does not yet know much about them. I enjoyed the last section about Birute Galdikas the best; I suspect because I didn't already know anything about her, so could enjoy the story fresh. There is also a nice list of resources at the end if a child would like to learn more. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Audiobooks – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Audiobooks – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

We've been listening to audiobooks with our kids since the oldest was a toddler. Then we listened to things like "The Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum and "Catwings" by Ursula K. LeGuin. We spend more time driving around in the car than I care to think about, and listening to audiobooks makes all that time feel somewhat more productive.

Not every audiobook we've tried has been a winner. Sometimes the stories just don't capture the kids, sometimes the narrator is difficult to understand, or the kids just have other things on their minds and are daydreaming out the window instead of listening. That's why we now take breaks between books, and don't listen every single time we get in the car. Sometimes we need music, or just some quiet time for our own thoughts, but before long, we are all ready again for a new story.

Since we are all at the same place in the story, it is easy for us to talk about it together too.

Long road trips can be a great time to try out a family audiobook. Because they can be pricey, we usually borrow cds from the library.