Her First Spelling Bee

This past week, my daughter participated in her very first qualifying spelling bee. She was excited and nervous all at the same time! It was a written test and she was relieved when she didn't have to get up in front of a crowd. We watched Akeelah and The Bee on Netflix streaming over the summer and she instantly captivated by the story.

She has always been a naturally good speller, so I think she could relate to the main character.  And last year we missed the cut off to participate in our school's spelling bee. So this year I convinced her to give it a try. She studied hard. We poured over the spelling words in preparation. She made flashcards. We poured over the words together again.

Having never participated in a spelling bee or even a qualifying round myself, I didn't quite know what to expect for her. I might have been more nervous than she was!

She did so good, only missing two words! However there were other kids who had missed none. So, it was a mini-milestone that came and went rather quickly. She confessed that she was glad she didn't have to stand up in front of an audience. I told her that I was proud of her either way. She is excited to try again next year and cheer on her classmates at the school spelling bee later in the year!

I love that Netflix has T.V. Shows and movies to celebrate all of life's mini-milestones. I'm always finding hidden gems in their archives. Whether it's potty training, learning to ride a bike, a first pair of glasses, or a child's first sleepover...Netflix has dozens of titles to help celebrate.

You might also want to check out my list of Netflix streaming movies for tween girls. It's a great list for sleepovers or a girl's night in.

Disclosure: I excited to be a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and will be sharing a post a month for the next year on how my family is enjoying using our Netflix subscription. While Netflix has provided me with a complimentary year long Netflix Streaming subscription and a mini iPad to view said Netflix, my husband and I have been Netflix subscribers since 2002. That's 12 years! All opinions are my own and come from my authentic enjoyment of Netflix.


Muffin Tin Lunch

In this muffin tin lunch for kids, starting from the top left: red grapes, hawaiian roll, strawberries, carrots, pineapple slices, fish crackers, sausage, candy corn.


New Knott's Berry Farm Annual Passes - Upgrade To A Meal Pass!

Knott's Berry Farm is a such a fun and family friendly Southern California theme park. Our family loves it for the variety of fun rides and activities for kids. From Camp Snoopy to Ghost Town to my kid's favorite ride, Jaguar - There is plenty to for kids to do at Knott's. And I love sharing about what's new at Knott's Berry Farm for families with my readers.

Having fun at Camp Spooky last year!

Having been countless times since I was a little girl, I can't tell you how excited I am to share that the new 2015 Knott's Berry Farm Season Pass comes with a new optional upgrade meal pass. This is so fabulous. Now you can pay for 2 meals for every visit with a special "Season Pass Plus All Season Dining" to Knott's Berry Farm.  This is a huge savings for season pass holders and an unbelievable incentive to get 2015 season passes. Feeding kids at theme parks can be so expensive! And with the Knott's Dining Pass -Your food (well, 2 meals per day) is taken care of for the entire season.

Riding Jaguar like a boss in the front row!

Here's what you get with a Knott's Berry Farm Season Pass Plus All-Season Dining:

  • You get all the exclusive season benefits of a Season Passholder
  • Plus one lunch and one dinner at participating locations throughout the park every day you visit Knott's Berry Farm in 2015. Beverages are not included. However, we have purchased the large souvenir bottles that include free refills all day on the day of purchase
  • Plus, purchase before the end of 2014, and you'll get 1 visit per season pass in 2014 for FREE AND additional visits in 2014 are just 9.99 for season pass holders. 
  • Payment plans are available for all of the different Knott's Berry Farm Season Pass plans. 
If you have been thinking about passes to California's First Theme Park, I personally think this is a great time to buy. You can visit the Knott's Berry Farm Season Pass page to learn more about what all is included and how the All-Season Dining Pass works.

Disclosure: This blog post is published in partnership with GigaSavvy. No monetary compensation was provided. My family and I have been invited by GigaSavvy to visit Knott's daytime Halloween Event Camp Spooky. All opinions are 100% my own. I've loved Knott's for-ev-er. 


How To Make A Yarn Doll - Easy Yarn Doll Tutorial

We have been having fun crafting the last couple of days. I brought out a few skeins of yarn and I taught my daughter how to make a yarn doll. Yarn dolls are fun and easy to make. They are a great craft for kids and a great craft for rainy days (or snow days too). And it was a bit of a "light bulb" moment when I realized my corn husk doll tutorial would work great for this simple yarn doll craft.

Here's how to make a yarn doll:

Step 1: To make your yarn doll craft, start by unravelling a generous section of yarn, making sure to keep it separated. You can do this by wrapping it around a partner's open hands as shown below. We wrapped ours around about 75-100 times. If you don't have a partner to help you, you can also wrap it around the back of a chair. Or using your arm, you can wrap it around your arm, from your elbow to between your thumb and your index finger.

Step 2: The next step is to cut the wrapped yarn on one side, revealing a very long length of yarn sections. Find the mid point of the section of yarn and tie a piece of yarn around it in a tight knot (as shown below.)

Step 3: Flip one side over the other to  make what resembles Cousin It's (from the Addams Family) hair.

Step 4: The next step in making your yarn doll is to create the head. Tie off a generous section at top of the closed section that you just split. Tie into a knot, making sure it is nice and tight. You can snip off the excess yarn now or later. (I save it for later in case I make a mistake and have to start over).

Step 5: Pull out 6 strands of yarn from inside the body on each side to make the arms. braid the 6 pieces of yarn to your desired arm length.

Step 5: Tie off the braids with another piece of yarn and cut off the excess to make little hands.

Step 6: The next to last step in making your yarn doll craft is to tie off a waist. Tie off a section below the arms just as you did the neck. Make sure to make it a knot and tie it nice and tight.

Step 7: The final step is to make a skirt for your yarn doll by cutting the bottom. Use your judgement in how long your skirt should be. Ours is about 7.5 inches long from waist to end.

Optional: You can add a little scrap piece of fabric to your Yarn Doll to make an apron or skirt.

As you can see, depending on how long you wind your yarn in the beginning, your yarn doll craft can be different sizes!! Have fun and enjoy playing the yarn doll you handmade yourself!!


SeaWorld San Diego FREE for Kids in October

Sea World San Diego is one of San Diego's most popular attractions and things to do featuring a variety of sea life and interactive hands on experiences and shows. If you are planning a trip to Sea World soon, I highly recommend going in October as kids under 12 are FREE the entire month! That's an incredible savings!

Here are 5 things to do with kids at Sea World:

Feed The Bat Rays: Nestled in the waiting area outside of the Manta ride at Sea World is a low tank with Bat Rays (in the "ray family" with sting rays and manta rays). You can get up close with these mysterious and stealthy animals. Sea World allows a two finger touch along the animals backs. You can also feed these wondrous animals through the purchase of a $5 basket of fish and some instruction from one of Sea World's many animal ambassadors. There is also an attached deep tank to give the animals more room and underground viewing area of the deep tank see these stealthy animals in action.

See the Sea Lion and Otter Show: While other shows showcase the majesty and wonder of ocean animals, the Sea Lion show featuring Clyde the Sea Lion, is a great one for kids, with lots of slapstick humor. Fun tip - If you sit all the way at the top, you'll get a majestic view of Mission Bay.

Halloween Spooktacular: If you are looking for something fun to do in Southern California with your kids this Halloween, you won't want to miss Sea World San Diego's Halloween Spooktacular going on during the weekends in October. Fun games and music, trick-or-treat stations all through out the park, getting to have your picture taken with a mermaid, pumpkin cookie decorating (small fee), and much much more! It's a great time to come dressed up and get in on the all fun at the park. We had a chance to attend their preview event last Saturday and experience all the fun. My kids loved the trick-or-treating, the music and the cookie decorating. The park map will show you where the trick-or-treat stations are all through out the park!

Sesame Street Bay of Play: Planning on staying all day? Recharge mid afternoon in the Seasame Street Bay of Play area specifically designed for young kids (but older elementary kids will love the climbing area). It's filled with a large play space and smaller rides specifically designed for kids. Pick up a Pineapple whip (pineapple whipped frozen yogurt) on your way to the Bay of Play for an extra special treat.

Choose a one-of-a-kind Sea World San Diego experience: If budget allows, Sea World San Diego offers a variety of animal experiences. Because these experiences tend to fill up fast, it is recommended that you book in advance of your trip.

Five hot tips for things you don't want to miss:

  • Plan out which shows you want to see in Advance. The animal shows like the One Ocean Shamu show, the Dolphin show and the Sea Lion/Otter show are at only a handful of times throughout the day.  
  • Bring a bathing suit and/or a change of clothes for each family member. Trust me on this. Not only are there a variety of water rides, but almost all of the shows have some sort of "splash" moment where the audience has the potential to get wet. These can be a blast if you come prepared. Look for "splash zone" seating. And if you don't want to get wet, avoid these areas.
  • Go early. The park opens at 9:00am and it will pay off to experience the park when your kids are in their prime during the day.
  • Don't miss out on the food. The food at Sea world is unlike any theme park food I have ever experienced. It truly goes above and beyond. I have yet to regret spending money of the food here. Every place has options Plan on spending between $40-50 dollars per meal for a family of four.
  • Charging Stations - bring your smart phone chord because there are two charging stations located throughout the park to help you stay connected and able to share those special Sea World moments with friends and family.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected. the last time we were at Sea World San Diego, we saw the animal ambassador's walking through the park with a parade of flamingos!! It's just one of the many ways Sea World is allowing guests to experience the animals up close and personal!
To find out more visit Sea World online at Sea World San Diego

Disclosure: I was invited to experience the Halloween Spooktacular event at Sea World San Diego, but was not required in any way to write a post. My opinions are my own.


My Table Talk With Parentsware @Parentsware

I was recently asked to sit down with the fine folks at Parentsware to chat about some of my thoughts on parenting. I had a wonderful time and I am really looking forward to their upcoming mobile device app. Parentsware builds technology that helps parents monitor and guide their children through a safer internet experience so you can spend less time worrying about what your kids are doing online and more time with them.

In the table talk, I share one of the best piece of parenting advice I ever received.

You can connect with Parentware online:
Parentsware.com Where you can sign up for their parenting newsletter.
Parentware on Twitter
Parentsware on Facebook

Amazing Hooked On Phonics App Sale 99 cents

For the next four days, Hooked On Phonics is offering all of their Learn to Read Classroom edition mobile apps on both the iOS and Android platforms for just 99 cents!!! This deal starts today  Thursday, September 25th and runs until Sunday, September 28th.  These mobile apps have sold very well at $49.99 since their launch in January 2014, making this is an amazing offer. We currently own the Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Classroom Edition and we just started using it. So far, it is a great supplement to our homeschool learning.

Here's a little more directly from the company: 
"Hooked on Phonics is including in its $.99-Cent Promotion its brand-new iOS mobile app, Reading Pro Classroom (for struggling readers ages 7+). You can unlock the entire program for $.99 cents RIGHT NOW (a 95% discount from its regular $19.99 selling price) for 4 days, starting Thursday, September 25, ending on Sunday, September 28 on the iTunes Store."   

"Hooked on Phonics is  excited to offer this one-time, four-day deal to provide millions of aspiring and struggling learners with the tools needed to build strong, confident readers who can hone their skills—while having fun—anywhere and everywhere on their mobile devices. All of Hooked on Phonics mobile applications are correlated to National Common Core Standards. So whether you are a teacher , parent, or caregiver this is a can't miss deal."

You can download all units of the Classroom Edition apps for just 99 cents:
  • For the Learn to Read Classroom iOS Application CLICK HERE 
  • For the Learn to Read Classroom Google Play Application: CLICK HERE
  • For the Reading Pro Classroom iOS Application: CLICK HERE


12 Netflix Movies For Tween Girls

As a parent and a Netflix subscriber, I am always on the lookout for fun Netflix movies for kids that I can watch with them. Recently, my tween daughter and I have enjoyed curling up and watching romances. If you have a Netflix subscription and a tween girl, you might want to check out some of these fun movies on Netflix streaming (as of September 2014). We've seen most of these, although, some like Romancing the Stone and It Could Happen To You are still on our list.

Sabrina (PG) - This remake of the Audrey Hepburn original is a charming, winsome and dreamy romance and somewhat of a coming of age story for the lead character. Stars Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond. The Audrey Hepburn version is also on Netflix.

Romancing The Stone (PG - before the ratings change) An older movie that holds up over time. Has action, adventure and romance. Stars Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas

It Could Happen to YouA cop comes up short on pocket change for a tip and promises a waitress half of his potential winnings from a lottery ticket. Has a great message about what's important in life.

The Man From Snowy River An action romance set in the backdrop of the Australian countryside. It's   slower paced, so if your tween doesn't mind, it's a wonderful film. 

Stardust (PG-13) A romantic movie featuring, action, adventure, and magic. Be warned, there are several scary parts that may not be suitable for children under 11. Perfect for older tweens and early teens. 

Ever After (PG) An adaption of the classic Cinderella story. Angelica Houston really steals the show as the Evil Stepmother.

And here are 6 MORE Netflix movies for kids your tween might enjoy:

Freaky Friday - A great remake of the original.

From Time to Time - A british movie about a young boy who travels in time on his families estate to unlock mysteries of his family's past. He befriends a young girl along the way.

Akeelah and The Bee (PG)- A wonderful movie featuring a strong female lead who is striving to compete in a regional Spelling Bee.

The Perfect Game (PG) - Although it's centered around a boy's baseball team, the themes are important and relatable for all kids. 

Harriet The Spy - A fun movie featuring a strong independent female lead who learns some important life lessons under the guidance of her nanny.

Paulie The tale of a parrot who goes on a journey to reunite with his long lost owner. Heart-warming and

Updated to add even more!

Ella Enchanted: Great for younger girls too, this cinderella story with a twist is a fun and quirky comedy with an independent female lead and a positive message.

Parent Trap: A decent remake of the original. Although I am somewhat partial to the Haley Mills version, Natasha Richardson shines as the girls' mother.

Did we miss your favorite streaming Netflix movie for tween girls? What would you add to this list?


Donovan's Steak and Chop House: Tasting My Way Through San Diego Restaurant Week Part 3

San Diego Restaurant Week is continuing all this week. For my final outing, I chose one of San Diego's highest rated steak houses, Donovan's Steak and Chop House located in San Diego's famed Gaslamp district. San Diego Restaurant Week is a great way to experience one of San Diego's many restaurant's at a discounted price. I was so glad I decided to treat my husband to a night out at a place I knew he would love and it was a treat to experience San Diego Restaurant Week at one of San Diego's most highly regarded restaurants.

Donovan's Steak House

Donovan's is known for their intimate atmosphere. The walls are covered in rich and warm wood with classic detailing. There are several cozy seating areas as well as an ample bar area. It's private without being secluded. Donovan's is also very close to Petco Park, within walking distance in fact.

What We Ate
The Restaurant Week options at Donovan's offer your choice of a salad, entree and dessert. Warm bread is offered upon being seated. We both chose the caesar salad to start. My husband dined on the 4 oz. twin prime filet medallions topped with bleu cheese and a delicious port wine demi-glaze. He likes his steaks medium rare and he said this one did not disappoint. It had a perfect warm pink center. It was served with crisp seasonal vegetables and garlic smashed potatoes. I had the scottish loch salmon with maitre d' butter. It was deliciously buttery soft and flaky. I chose the seasonal vegetable and the garlic smashed potatoes. the vegetables were perfectly crisp without being underdone and the garlic smashed potatoes were piping hot and so good! Click over for the full San Diego Restaurant menu.

Good To Know
Expect unparalleled service at Donovan's Steak and Chop House . The server's work in teams of three with a lead server on point. This ensures you are never without anything you need during your meal, whether it's a refill on your water, your plate cleared or another glass of wine. Our server, Erik and his team truly went above and beyond to provide a first class experience.

San Diego Restaurant Week
San Diego Restaurant Week is an event that showcases the diverse and upcoming culinary world in San Diego County; with over 175 restaurants participating. While reservations are not required at , they are strongly encouraged. For more restaurant choices, including restaurants all over the San Diego County area, visit SanDiegoRestaurantWeek.com

Disclosure: I was invited to have a complimentary dining experience at Donovan's by the folks at San Diego Restaurant Week. My opinions are my own.