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Archive for September, 2009

BABIES at the Movies

Home Movies (Larry Strong/Contra Costa Times) Exhausted, date-deprived new parents rejoice! El Cerrito’s much beloved Baby Brigade is back with a new name and under new management. The cozy Rialto Cinemas Cerrito is launching “The Bringing Up Baby Show” on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. Catch a movie with your baby (under one year) on these specially designated evenings. Babies get in free, grownups are $9 each, and nobody scowls if your little one turns grumpy, because they’ve got their babies along too. The theater recommends that childless movie fans pick another showing. :-)

Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Under: Movies | No Comments »

SLEEPLESS in Text Land

Texting teens (Photo by Lezlie Sterling/Sacramento Bee) Between their crazy schedules and upside-down circadian rhythms, teens always have been somewhat sleep-deprived. Now technology is making it worse. Teens are not just texting, instant-messaging and surfing Facebook all day; they’re sleeping with their cell phones or laptops, too. Or rather, not sleeping. And doctors and parents, many of them raised in an era when phones were attached to walls, are concerned. The average teen sends 2,899 text messages a month – that’s 97 a day. And, according to a new study conducted in Belgium, some 44% of those kids are waking up in the middle of the night to answer their phone or send a text. We explored the issue in depth in yesterday’s Times and Trib, talked to experts and kids, and pulled up some suggestions for how parents can help their kids – including a very simple and practical suggestion from San Jose psychologist David Marcus on how to help your teen see that life’s better when you’re not exhausted.

Posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Under: Technology & Video Games, Teens | No Comments »

UNIVERSAL Unveils Harry Potter Theme Park Plans

Harry Potter Theme Park (Courtesy Universal Studios)
Oh! Oh! Oh! The new Harry Potter Theme Park opens at Universal Orlando next spring, but they’ve just released a sneak peek at some of the attractions. Among them:

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: A high-tech ride that takes happy fans whizzing through an immense Hogwarts Castle and its rooms.

  • Hogsmeade Station: The entrance to the park goes through the Hogsmeade railroad station.
  • The Dragon Challenge: A roller coaster thrill ride inspired by the Triwizard Tournament.
  • The Flight of the Hippogriff: A family-paced roller coaster.
  • And shops and eateries inspired by the books, including Honeydukes, Ollivander’s, Zonko’s and the Three Broomsticks. And yes, you can buy Quidditch supplies at Dervish and Banges.

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009
Under: Family Travel | 2 Comments »

DORM Cuisine: Bye-bye Ramen

Dorm Cuisine (Photo by Mark DuFrene/Contra Costa Times)
There’s more to the college experience than fascinating lectures, frat parties and pricey textbooks. There’s all that ramen, for one thing. So this morning’s Times, Trib and Merc food sections featured a piece on dorm cooking – easy cooking ideas that are equally at home at the big U or in harried non-college households, too. An egg-laced, flavorful Greek lemon soup and a simple Greek salad can be whipped up in short order, and require nothing more than a rice cooker (for the soup) and a chopping board and knife (for the salad). Make fluffy, cheesy scrambled eggs in a mug, or whip up microwaveable biscuits. And there’s more, including an Asian-inspired pasta salad with shredded chicken and vegetables (pictured), microwaved sweet potatoes with brown sugar, and more. Check it out!

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009
Under: Cuisine | No Comments »

WHAT Happens When Parents Die?

When Michael Jackson died in July, the custody battle for his three kids began. The situation raised a point that many of us don’t like to think about —if something terrible happened to us, who would take care of our kids? Times and Trib features writer Laura Casey is exploring the subject of guardianship, how it’s decided and what happens when the worst happens, for an upcoming story about naming someone to take care of the kids in the event that you can’t. If you’ve tackled this subject in your family and are willing to share your thoughts, please contact her at 925-952-2697 or

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009
Under: Parenting Issues | No Comments »

FAB Five for the Weekend

Strega Nona Five ideas for weekend family fun:
A Good Witch: One of Tomie de Paola’s most popular characters, Strega Nona, springs to life at Berkeley’s Julia Morgan Theater this weekend in this Active Arts Theatre for Young Audiences production for children. Sept. 19-Oct. 5 in Berkeley, Oct. 10-18 at San Ramon’s Front Row Theater; $11-$17.

Opera in the Ballpark: An evil count, a vengeful gypsy and garlic fries? It doesn’t get much more operatically exciting than watching Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” on the giant screen at AT&T Park. The San Francisco Opera production is this Saturday at 8 p.m. Free, but register at for early admission and a chance at the best seats.

Nostalgia trip: Remember “Big,” the movie about a boy who wishes he was, well, big? The movie was a charmer, and Tom Hanks has never been so loveable. This Saturday, you can relive the fun with your kids at El Cerrito’s Movies in the Park night. Grab a blanket and a picnic. The movie starts at dusk at Cerrito Vista Park. Free.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, September 16th, 2009
Under: Family Outings | No Comments »

The Intrepid Highams: A Globetrotting Family

"360 Degrees Longitude" Last year, we spent some time chatting with the Higham family – a rocket scientist, his wife and their two kids, who spent a year traveling around the world. Now they’ve got a book out about their wild adventures and lovely experiences – “360 Degrees Longitude: One Family’s Journey Around the World” – and a web site filled with advice, in case you’re contemplating an extended trip with your kids. And they’re doing talks at various Bay Area REI stores over the coming weeks:

  • Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at the San Carlos REI

  • Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Saratoga REI
  • Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Marina REI
  • Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley REI

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
Under: Family Travel | No Comments »

NEW Candy Land Game Board

Candy Land (Image courtesy of Hasbro)
Ahhh, Candy Land… One of the great joys of wandering through Powell’s Candy Store, besides the obvious, is gazing at the various Candy Land game boards adorning the walls. They’re part of the Willy Wonka-esque decor, which also includes giant beach balls, pressed tin ceilings and candy candy everywhere. Adorable. But it’s also fun to see how the Hasbro game, which debuted 50 years ago, has changed over the years. Those early versions had locations – the Molasses Swamp and Gumdrop Mountains – but no characters, no Grandma Nutt or Queen Frostine. (Wikipedia tells us that the character Plumpy got the boot in 2002, “presumably due to his obesity.” Man, that’s cold. The guy’s contract required him to live in Candy Land, surrounded by caloric temptation. That’s, like, entrapment.) And the ultimate goal was to reach “Home Sweet Home.” The Candy Castle ending only showed up in 1980.

New Candy Land (Courtesy Hasbro) Anyway, the point of all this is that Candy Land is coming out with a new game board, “Candy Land: Sweet Celebration Game,” with new destinations, hidden “sweet spots” and a free standing game path that comes apart and can be reconfigured to shorten or lengthen the game. Part of me thinks it sacrilegious to tinker with tradition, especially when you’re going to name one of the destinations the Chunky Chocolate Mountains. But the other new destination is Captain Kidd Cone’s ship, the SS Neapolitan. Neapolitan! What do you think? Look like fun?

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
Under: Kids & Tweens | 1 Comment »

NEW Mom Leaves with Wrong Baby

tears A new mom in North Dakota apparently went home with the wrong baby. Staffers at the Williston, ND hospital say the error was quickly caught and the mother and correct baby were soon together, but they’re trying to figure out how the mishap occurred. These cases pop up every so often and every time, I’m just flummoxed. Maybe the hospital where I gave birth was really proactive, but I kinda thought it was routine to tag the baby, tag the mother, and compare the tags over and over again, every time mother and child are separated and most certainly when they go home. Plus … they may be wrinkly and squashy, but even newborns look pretty distinctive. C’mon, confession time. Could you tell your baby apart from all the other ones in the nursery?

Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2009
Under: Just Bizarre | 1 Comment »

GASTROKID Cookbook Giveaway

The Gastrokid Cookbook In all the hustle and bustle of getting through the day, sometimes dinnertime gets short shrift. Or frozen/fast food/pizza shrift. So this week, we’re giving away a copy of “The Gastrokid Cookbook: Feeding a Foodie Family in a Fast-Food World.” It’s by two dads, Hugh Garvey – Bon Appetit magazine features editor – and Matthew Yeomans, and features such tasty fare as Mac & Cheese Maximus, the Gastrokid Burger and Zucchini Hummus. Very fun.

And it can be yours! Click “comments” and tell us, what’s your go-to supper dish when time is short and tummies are rumbly? We’ll pluck a winner’s name on Monday. (Congrats by the way to Judy, who won last week’s “Charlie & Lola” Halloween DVD giveaway!)

Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2009
Under: Contest, Cuisine | 5 Comments »