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Archive for December, 2008

HOLIDAY Countdown: DIY Menorahs

Menorah  (D. Ross Cameron/Oakland Tribune)
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, starts at sundown on Dec. 21, but our colleague Jessica Yadegaran, who writes the Corkheads wine blog, has been on a mission to find new DIY ideas for menorahs. So she went to the queens of DIY and recycled crafts, the editors of Berkeley’s Ready Made magazine – that’s Editor-In-Chief Shoshana Berger above, placing the final candle on a homemade menorah made from a fallen tree branch. Read on for instructions for making your own kid-friendly menorah out of baby food jars (!). There’s more at that link, including menorahs out of wine bottles and the branch pictured above, but first we’re dying to know: have you made your own menorah before? What did you use?
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Posted on Sunday, December 14th, 2008
Under: Crafts | 1 Comment »


Airline gameTraveling for the holidays? We’ve got great advice for you from Donna Airoldi at TravelMuse, in answer to questions you guys sent in.

Q: When are the best dates to fly around the holidays, especially with younger children? And what are some tricks for maintaining sanity if you are delayed? Does SFO or Oakland airport offer something to keep the little ones occupied?
— Walnut Creek mom of triplets

A: The holidays are always busy times, with the day before any holiday usually being the busiest—although this year the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was surprisingly easygoing for most travelers. If you can fly a couple days before the majority of holiday fliers take off, that would be ideal. Next best is the day of the holiday, such as the morning of Dec. 25, if being somewhere for Christmas Eve isn’t that important.
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Posted on Saturday, December 13th, 2008
Under: Family Travel | No Comments »

HOLIDAY Countdown #2: Fleece Navidad

Fleece Hat & Scarf (Cindi Christie/CC Times)Holiday gift-making doesn’t get much easier than these snuggly, fleecy accessories. It will take you more time to drive to the fabric store and pick out adorable fabric, than to whip up these softly fringed scarves or tasseled toppers. Read on for instructions for the scarf and hat, then follow this link for more ideas.

Fleece scarf
For each scarf, cut a piece of fleece from selvage to selvage, and 10-12 inches wide. Trim off the salvages and cut a fringe of 1/2″ wide by 3 or 4″ long strips into the ends. Yes, it’s just that easy. (Cost $1-$3 each. Time: 20 minutes.)
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Posted on Saturday, December 13th, 2008
Under: Babies & Tots, Christmas, Crafts | No Comments »

SCHOOL NEWS: Coyotes, Red Ink & Involuntary Summer

School signThese are bizarre times for schools. Down in San Ramon, they’re fretting over coyote sightings. One was spotted sleeping under the marquee at Pine Valley Middle School (perhaps he missed the bus). Others have been seen at Bollinger Canyon, Live Oak and Quail Run elementary schools, and in the parking lot at California High. Ya know, they probably heard about San Ramon’s high test scores and were checking out interdistrict transfers for the pups.

Meanwhile, West Contra trustees are proceeding with their plans to shutter underenrolled schools, despite, says reporter Kimberly Wetzel, “impassioned and sometimes hostile pleas from hundreds of people asking members to reconsider.” According to Richmond police, some 600 to 800 people showed up at a public hearing Wednesday night – and very very early Thursday morning – to plead their schools’ cases, even though the board has not released a closure list yet. They’re expected to release a list of as many as seven schools – five elementaries, two middle or high schools or any combination thereof – next week. But many attendees were irate because the closure discussions only occurred after Measure D, a school tax, had passed. “Now that you got your Measure D,” one Pinole Valley teen said, “you don’t care about us anymore.”
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Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008
Under: Schools | No Comments »


Cookie Carolers (Courtesy
It’s the first day of our holiday countdown and we’re wondering … thinking of doing a little caroling this holiday season? Then you’ll need some snacks: a little hot cocoa, some cookies that look like you, perhaps? The nice folks over at, the Better Homes & Gardens site, are sharing their Sugar Cookie Carolers with us. How cute are those?? We’ll get to the recipe in a moment, but we wanted to mention their other great idea first. After you’ve done the neighborhood singing rounds, sung “Frosty” and gotten frosty yourselves, you might want to do a post-caroling supper too. Follow the link to their ideas for hearty soups, gumbo, cassoulet and other warming fare. OK, on to the cookies…
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Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008
Under: Christmas, Cuisine | No Comments »

WORRIED About Leaded Toys?

Recalled toy wagonThe Center for Environmental Health is giving Santa a hand this season with a series of “Safe Santa Lead Testing” events in the East Bay. They use an x-ray fluorescence analyzer to get instant readings on lead and other potential hazards in toys and children’s products. Depending on the line, they’ll test two toys per person – more, if there aren’t people waiting. Upcoming dates include:

  • Thursday, Dec. 11 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Fruitvale Village / BART Station, E. 12th St. and 34th Ave, Oakland

  • Friday, Dec. 12 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Lincoln Square Recreation Center, 250 10th St. (at Harrison) in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood.
  • Saturday, Dec. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market Holiday Crafts Fair, Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park, Center St. and MLK, Jr. Way, Berkeley
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Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
Under: Toy Recalls | No Comments »

YOU BOUGHT ME WHAT? Useless holiday gifts

Every year, someone gives us the gift we instantly plop into the box for the next “White Elephant” party. You know — the ceramic buffalo, the his and her matching slippers, the annoying stuffed animal that sings…and sings…and sings. But there are some folks out there who have come up with some truly useless (and in some cases flat out stupid) gifts. Here are five that blew us away:

cookiecutter1) Fetus cookie cutter — no, this is not an alien. It’s someone’s idea of “cute” — anyone can have a bun in the oven. Frankly, it’s disturbing on way too many levels to even attempt as a joke.

chicken2) Screaming rubber chicken — As if the squeaking rubber chicken wasn’t bad enough, someone actually thought it was a good idea to make a rubber chicken scream. Yes, really ear-piercing scream.

pottyputter3) Potty Putter — I admit it: I have a weakness for As Seen on TV products. But practicing your putting while taking care of potty business, whoa! Make your former teachers proud, and go back to reading magazines. We’d settle for just looking at the pictures.

fruitcake4) Inflatable fruit cake — This is not your typical fruit cake. It’s inflatable. As in blow it up and send it to Aunt Gertrude. As a joke, maybe this works. But in tough economic times like these, just send the real deal for laughs.

petcam5) Kids pet cam — National Geographic came out with this one. You clip the camera onto your dog or cat’s collar and set it to take pictures every 1, 5 or 15 minutes. You get to see what your pet sees. No offense, but I’ve seen where most dogs are looking (especially in the company of other dogs). I really don’t need a picture of that.

Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
Under: Just Bizarre | No Comments »

FAB EIGHT for the Weekend

Christmas Revels1. The Christmas Revels return to Oakland’s Scottish Rite Theater this weekend with special guest, clown extraordinaire and Broadway star Geoff Hoyle. Join the fun Dec. 12–14 and 19–21. ($15-$50)

2. Then venture over to Lafayette when the inter-active Bethlehem Experience comes to life and the Lafayette United Methodist Church is transformed into a Bethlehem marketplace, too-full inns and all. It runs Friday through Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. (Tickets $3 per person or $10 per family)

3. ODC Dance Company’s annual production of “The Velveteen Rabbit” takes over the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this weekend with a couple of family friendly matinees that include free Italian ices after Saturday’s 4 p.m. and Sunday’s 2 p.m. matinees. ($12-$45)
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Posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
Under: Family Entertainment, Family Outings | No Comments »

12 DAY Holiday Countdown

The gift (Charlotte Observer/MCT) We had so much fun counting down to Halloween and other holidays, we’re going to do it again. Join us on Friday as we start our 12 day countdown to the big winter holidays! We’ve got recipes, cookie ideas, crafts and gift ideas for Christmas, Hanukkah and … OK, not Festivus, but the other ones.

Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

DEAR Santa…

Macys Believe MeterThis is sweet. Children across the country are invited to drop off their letters – stamped and addressed to Santa At The North Pole – at any Macy’s store in the Santa Mail letterbox. And while we can’t promise that Santa and the elves will grant every wish, Macy’s is granting some wishes of its own. It has pledged to donate up to $1 million – $1 per letter – to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Donder, Blitzen and the gang would approve.

Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
Under: Christmas | No Comments »