Posted on: Monday, May 19, 2014

 I never grew up watching Disney movies (shocking I know! but part of being a foreigner?) and the only time I have visited Disneyland was when I was 22 and already married. So suffice it to say that I never quite understood people's romanticizing views about the films, the characters, and all things Disney. But that all changed drastically when a little toddler I know became obsessed with "Frozen" the latest princess movie and my life will never be the same. If you are not familiar with the movie, I highly recommend you watch it and if I am endorsing it (the anti-Disney lady) then you know it is something special. It is a wonderful story about sister love and also overcoming fears and accepting who you are as a person. And as cheesy as that sounds, it truly is a magical message. And then the best part about's a musical, with really good catchy songs by the same song writers that created "The Book of Mormon". 
I won't tell you how many times we watched it in the movie theatres because it is quite embarrasing, but I will tell you about the best way to watch a movie like this. 
A Sing-a-Long showing at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco was one of the most special things we have done as a family. I had heard about this theatre in the city and the Sing-a-Longs they did on the weekends, but when they announced that they would have "Frozen" I knew we had to make our way over there. The price is slightly higher than your average movie theatre ticket, but the experience they create makes up for it. First of all, they have a costume contest. They encourage everyone to come in costume and before the movie they do a big costume parade where they let each kid (or adult) in costume go up to the stage and receive an applause for their ensemble. Secondly, the theatre itself is a rare gem. It has been conserved superbly and you will spend most of the time before the movie admiring all the details. The best part is the Wurlitzer Organ, which rises from underneath the stage to play a mini concert before each showing. 
Lastly, when they say "sing along" they really do mean for you to sing at the top of your lungs all the songs throughout the movie. And if you don't know the exact words, you don't need to worry because the lyrics appear on the big screen throughout each musical number. When you first enter the theatre you receive a goodie bag that contains a gold paper crown, a glow stick, bubbles, and a few confetti poppers. And right before the movie begins, everyone puts on their gold crown and receives instructions as to how to use the props throughout the film. It makes for an incredibly interactive experience!
Watching my daughter sing "Let it Go" at the top of her lungs along with a few hundred people is a memory that I will never forget and it is the moment that I became a Disney enthusiast (well played Walt, well played).

Some tips and info for your visit to the Castro Theatre :

* Make sure to purchase your tickets prior to the movie. These Sing-a-Longs sell out almost every showing!
* If you don't have kids, don't worry. They do Sing-a-Longs for more adult films too. We also have gone to see "Mary Poppins" (highlight was popping the confetti during Admiral Bloom's canons) and they have done them for "Grease", "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", "Beauty and the Beast", "Sound of Music" and "The Little Mermaid".
*Do try the popcorn! (organic and delicious)


Posted on: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Our local professional hockey team, the San Jose Sharks, is on the brink of completing a sweep of their regional rivals the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs! On top of that add a dose of NBA basketball playoffs (Go Warriors! Who are also battling an LA team) and the start of baseball season and what you have is the fact that the Bay Area is the hotspot of sports right now. Besides the obvious fact that Northern California >> Southern California.

A few months ago we were lucky enough to attend our first San Jose Sharks hockey game with my uncle and cousin and it was by far one of the most fun sporting events I have attended. First of all, it gets very loud in the "tank" (the popular nickname for the SAP Center), which is perfect when you have a toddler because then you don't feel guilty about disrupting your fellow attendees' experience. Second, the fans are crazy in a good way. They have all these crazy, funny chants throughout the game which were hard to follow at first, but once we got the hang of them it was extremely fun to cheer alongside the other 17,000 fans. Third, the hockey is intense (this video  might give you an idea). These guys are skating forward and backwards at ridiculous speeds and they are chasing around this tiny little black puck, not to mention banging into each other at every opportunity. But even though it was my first time I still felt that I got the hang of the game and what was going on, even if I didn't always know where the actual puck was. The most exhilarating part was that the game ended in a shootout, which is when they are still tied after regular time and over time and the teams take turns attempting to score one on one against the goalies, much like in soccer. 

If you get the chance to attend a Sharks game in the future here are some tips that helped make our experience better:

1. Get there early!
 We planned to be there with enough time to have dinner before in one of the restaurants a few blocks away from the SAP Center. With a toddler, it was nice to sit down and eat before entering the venue filled with all the tempting treats. It also gave us enough time to find our seats and find the nearest bathrooms to them, which made for a relaxed mom throughout the game.

2. Parking
We looked up parking options prior to the game so that we wouldn't be stressed or hurried when we got there. If the game is during the week, the traffic can get a little hectic around the SAP Center, so it is best to know exactly where you are going once you get off of the freeway. The SAP Center has a section detailing their Parking Lots that was very useful, we parked in Lot D and it was a comfortable walk to dinner and back to the "tank". It was also easy to get out after the game was done.

3. Public Transportation
If you would rather skip the driving and parking part, the Amtrak railroad station is across the street from the SAP Center. One thing to consider is the fact that the hockey games don't have a scheduled ending time so you might want to make sure there are multiple return train options.

artBeast! Studio

Posted on: Monday, April 21, 2014

In the quest for toddler approved outings, I found out about artBEAST Studio in midtown Sacramento. It is a converted house that was created to offer a space for kids (primarily those under 6 years old) to explore different kinds of art projects. Most of the time, when you enroll in an art course or class, you will only be exposed to a specific medium (ie. paint, ballet, clay, etc.) This studio aims to offer multiple mediums at a minimal price so that young minds can be exposed to all sorts of practices. Additionally, all the proceeds go to Tubman House which is a residential program that offers housing and support for homeless families, youth and children.
The house is divided into three levels and an outdoor space.The first level is composed of stations for easel painting, wall painting, clay work, recycled materials crafts, and a room housing an indoor tree house that also doubles as "doggy doctor headquarters". The second level has areas for younger babies and also a space that can be used for artful birthday parties. The basement houses their "make believe" section, complete with spaceship, camping house, boat, and a stage with many costumes to try on!
The outside space has a picnic table and chairs to take a break from all the painting and singing. They also had a water pump, but it wasn't working when we visited. Also outside was the old sink/stove section where kids can pretend to cook with sand, but it seemed to me that this was the only area that could use some repairs. However, baby O had a blast making me mud cupcakes and birthday cakes. But my favorite part was the private concert I experienced:


If you live in the area and have young kids, I highly recommend visiting this art studio! We went on a Saturday mid-morning and although busy, we still felt like we were able to play with all the stations without having to wait. All the cleanup and guidance is done by the parents and I was pleasantly surprised to see that all the other parents were very mindful of this. We were lucky to find street parking very easily and on the weekends it is free. And since it is located in midtown, you have some great nearby restaurants to choose from for that fuel you will need after such a fun day!

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