Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mid-Summer Movie Mania Part I-GIVEAWAY

CONGRATULATIONS NUMBERS 14, 12, 4, 8, AND 19. DVD titles will be assigned in the order you respond to my email! Thanks to everyone who entered. Another fun giveaway will be going up tomorrow.

If you're an at-home parent, summer nights are perfect for watching movies when your kids are out of school both with and without your kids. If you are watching with your kids, it's not a school night so you don't have to worry about homework, getting to bed early, etc. If you're watching after the kids have gone to bed, you don't have to worry about making lunches or going to sleep early yourself so you can get them to school the next day. I was up late last night watching yet another Korean drama on Since H is out of preschool for the summer, I knew that I could sleep in if they did (my gamble paid off and they slept till 8 this morning!). Next month I'll have some more enjoyable late nights watching three upcoming new releases. FIVE Random Mommy readers will be able to watch the films at the same time as I do by winning a DVD copy of the following movies:

1) One Random Mommy reader will win Diary of a Wimpy Kid arriving on Blu-ray and DVD August 3 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. If you don’t know much about the movie it follows the life of pre-teen Greg Heffley through his trials and tabulations of life in junior high school. We can all relate to Greg Heffeley’s character because we know what it’s like being an adolescent trying to navigate our way through the social etiquette of junior high.

2) One Random Mommy reader will win Date Night coming out on Blu-ray and DVD on August 10 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. I think any married person will enjoy this comedy of a couple trying to spice things up and find that they get themselves into more trouble then they ever thought possible. Stewart and I don't get many date nights but I never thought it was such a weird thing that we didn't since our parents never had date nights. Even those few times we've gone out, I've always been worried about what the boys were doing to the babysitter. I think we'll definitely be ready in a couple of years but till then we can live vicariously through this movie!

3) Three Random Mommy readers will win Letters to God arriving on DVD on August 10 from Possibility Pictures and Vivendi Entertainment. It is the heartfelt and inspiring story of what happens when one boy’s journey touches the lives of his family, friends and community. An intimate, moving and often funny story, the film follows the path of a young child with a terminal illness who through his battle becomes a warrior for hope and a champion to everyone around him. I know already that this film will make me realize yet again how lucky Stewart and I are to have two healthy boys. 

HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:  Contest period runs from Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 11:01 PM (Pacific) until Sunday, August 8, 2010 at 11:59 PM (Pacific). Enter by leaving the name of your favorite summer blockbuster film, and leave your e-mail address OR sign in to comments using your Blogger ID, making sure your Blogger profile is public and includes your e-mail address.

Bonus Entries (leave a separate comment for each entry, it counts if you've done any of these so leave a comment for each one)
1) Follow me on Twitter
2) Tweet this contest ( and leave the tweet url
3) Follow my blog with Google Friend Connect by clicking on the sidebar

If you don't leave a qualifying comment and your e-mail address or public Blogger profile, your entry will be disqualified. I reserve the right to extend the contest period. At the end of the contest period, I will utilize to randomly choose the winners. The winners will be contacted by e-mail and will have 72 hours to respond to my e-mail with their order of preference for the movies. Movies will be allocated based on order of response to the e-mail. If the winners do not respond within 72 hours, the prizes will go to the next place winners as decided by This contest is open for US Residents only. A huge thank you and much appreciation to my friends at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Vivendi Entertainment for their generosity! Good luck!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I will receive product samples to facilitate my review of these films.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Great American Family Road Trip-Portland Seattle Recap

When Stewart first asked me at the beginning of summer if I wanted to do a road trip to the Pacific Northwest, I said, "NO WAY!" After all, whose idea of fun is sitting in a sedan for 18 hours with two kids in the back screaming that they want to get out? Not mine. I thought the topic was closed but then two things happened: 1) another family in our church made the drive with their THREE kids and they took 101 (the scenic route), making the trip even longer, and told Stewart how "not bad" it was, and (2) I read about Sharlene Earnshaw (Double the Adventure), the mother of 3-yr old twins who did a 24-day road trip last summer, most of it as a single parent since her husband had to work. Ok, so that kind of shamed me into green lighting the long trip.

It was a ten-day trip, four of which were spent driving. The drive up was uneventful. We spent the night in Sacramento and made it from Sacramento to Portland in nine hours. Stewart has a lot of extended family members in Portland and his cousin opened up her home to us to use as home base. H&R had been eagerly anticipating playing with six-year old second cousin C for the weeks leading up to the trip. When we left Sacramento H wouldn't even eat breakfast because he didn't want to waste time when we could be on our way to see C. I was a little worried that such high expectations would lead to disappointment, but the three of them had such fun during the entire visit, it really made me wish they lived closer (like next door).

My first full day in Portland, I spent some quality time with my good friend Minah and her daughter E in downtown Portland doing some shopping and walking through Yoshida's Sand in the City. Stewart and the boys accompanied his cousin to church and then to lunch at the Old Wives' Tales restaurant, described as being for "young, liberal-minded families" (Frommers Portable Portland). I thought it was more than fate that made me miss that particular lunch. Instead Minah treated me to lunch at Urban Farmer in the Nines hotel, definitely a place the boys would have destroyed. Thanks so much Minah!

Some of the very fun things the kids enjoyed in Portland were: Elephant Park near the Portland Zoo, Out of This World (definitely check this place out if you are ever in Portland with young kids), and blueberry picking. But the most fun was had at the fountain in Jamison Square. The water spills from in between tiered steps until it fills a pool, drains out and repeats the process all day long. The result is that kids have a constantly fresh supply of water to wade and play in and adults can sit on the steps and visit while watching their kids. There is also a lawn area for picnics form which the action is all visible. R usually shows trepidation when faced with something new, but he could have stayed here all day. He loved going up and down the steps, collecting water in a cup and then dumping it out. We sat on the grass and he would come back every so often to get a snack and then go back out there. The park is surrounded by a great bakery, ice cream shop, pizza shop, and other stores in the Pearl District (like Powells, the largest and best physical bookstore in the world!) making it the perfect weekend family destination. We were there on a weekday, so it wasn't as crowded and we were lucky enough to get a shaded parking spot. Score! I wish we had something like this in SoCal.

Mid-week we made the drive to Seattle to visit my friend Rayray. I've known Rayray ever since freshman year in college and sometimes it's amazing to me that we are still good friends since we have both moved all around the globe (Rayray was a peace corps volunteer in Africa!) every few years. This visit was the first time I met her son, MR. I was amazed at how much love I felt towards this little guy. It might have been because he was so friendly and cute or maybe it was because I knew all the crazy things that Rayray has experienced to get to the point to be his mom. We were all really sad when we had to say good-bye.

Since we were in Seattle, we had to do some Seattle touristy things. We walked down to the Pike Street Market (where H lost a shoe and thus had to be carried the rest of the afternoon) and took the Monorail to the Space Needle. At the Pike Street Market, we had the best mac and cheese in the world at Beecher's Handmade Cheese. A small cup was $5 but it fed both boys till they were full. It was so rich and flavorful even a small serving will satisfy. I definitely need to find that recipe online somewhere. I'm sure someone has cracked the secret. We also did the obligatory walk past the first Starbucks (Isn't it hilarious that the Starbucks employee is posing for our photo?). We ate at the Crab Pot because it had looked so good when Adam Richman had eaten there in Man v. Food. It was tasty but the food looked better on television--isn't that always the case?

Our trip to the Space Needle turned into a "more than we had hoped for" experience. The boys loved the ride on the Monorail to get there but weren't really enjoying the observation deck because it was overcast at the time and the view wasn't as great as it could have been. Just as we were about to take a photo and leave, we ran into another family with two boys. They were leaving Seattle and gave us the rest of their city passes to use during our trip. Sometimes it takes the kindness of strangers to remind me that people are fundamentally decent. Their generosity made it possible for us to visit the Experience Music Project and go an Argosy Cruise. H&R loved the EMP because they were able to try instruments and make as much noise as they wanted. We even went on stage to perform as a rock band. H was really mad about this when he realized that we weren't going to perform before a real audience. He was so upset he stopped playing midway through the song we picked, "Twist and Shout."

R had cried the entire ten minutes before going into the room with the stage, but once he got in there he loved it. I've learned with him that he has a lot of anxiety when faced with the unknown, but will be fine once you give him the initial push. That's why when he cried and screamed bloody murder before we got on the boat tour and then after we were on but before the boat left dock, I knew he would be fine once the boat started moving. And he was. He loved climbing all around the boat and seeing the jellyfish in the water. As parents, sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to push them to go out of their comfort zone. If not, they might not develop and grow to their full potential. That's something that I've learned applies to myself as well. I find that if I'm not challenged or learning something, I can become depressed. I didn't want R to miss out on having fun because of his initial fears. I'm glad it worked out, though, because if he didn't stop crying on the boat I wouldn't have been able to swim with him to shore!

The week went by quickly with lots of quality time spent with family and I'm so glad we did it. I don't know if we'll ever do it again, at least not until we buy a minivan because I spent most of the time sitting between the two car seats in the back seat and my behind was sore by the time we got back to Los Angeles. Coming back, we made the mistake of taking 101 part of the way, not knowing that the Gilroy Garlic Festival was in full swing. Never again--I-5 might not have anything worth seeing but at least it will get you home quickly! If you decide to visit the Pacific Northwest, these are two great guidebooks we read before the trip: 1) Frommer's Oregon, and 2) Best Places Northwest. You can also find extensive information online at for Portland and Seattle.

Hope you and your family have a great vacation this summer!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Skin Protection

During the summer, I definitely think about skin care a lot more because of increased exposure to two elements--sun and water. I definitely think the jury is still out on how much sunscreen actually protects skin, but when your arm starts to hurt because of the intensity of the sun, you know you have to do something. I've been wearing my driving gloves and making sure I have extra hats in the car wherever I go, but still, it's hard to know if I'm doing anything to help my skin since I'm still brown all over. Sometimes when I'm in the passenger seat I will plaster the window with random sheets of paper so that only the space for the side view mirror is exposed. Not safe driving conditions I'm sure but Stewart says he prefers that I don't end up a shriveled-up prune like so many SoCal residents when I get older.

Summer also means increased exposure to water because (1) you swim more (at least my family does) and for longer periods at a time, and (2) you're taking more frequent showers because of the heat. I've found that too much exposure to water leads to dry, itchy skin. H is especially prone to it and if I don't cover him with anti-itch lotion from head to toe after his nightly shower (I know, people with dry skin should shower less frequently but when you've literally been rolling around in the mud, that really isn't an option), he gets so itchy that he will itch in his sleep and break skin. I've tried many different kinds of lotion and have found that all-purpose moisture lotions aren't good enough.

Curél Itch Defense Skin Balancing Moisture Lotion for Dry Itchy Skin seems to work well for the winner of my previous Curél giveaway, Amy Anderson (who blogs at Funny Yellow Mom). Amy says, "The Curél Itch Defense lotion that we tried out was very useful for us. My daughter is 3 years old and has had persistent eczema on her hands and arm folds for over a year and a half. While I used the Curél lotion in addition to another OTC lotion, it definitely seemed to help soothe her skin and keep the eczema under control." I guess that's why the Curél Itch Defense lotion was awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance. The Itch Defense lotion "rebalances" skin in 4 ways, restoring its barrier function and ability to retain moisture, boosting moisturization and emollients to leave skin feeling protected, returning the pH balance to healthy levels and smoothing the skin's surface to minimize dryness and flakiness. Curél Itch Defense lotion is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin - including children's, having been clinically proven to help heal the symptoms of eczema on children as young as 6 months!

I will definitely be trying Curél Itch Defense lotion to help soothe H's dry, itchy skin as well as my own. After all, H inherited his sensitive skin from his mama. Hopefully using the lotion combined with the sun evasion techniques I've employed will help my skin avoid the reality of so many SoCal residents' bodies--looking old before its time!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I will receive a product sample to facilitate a future review. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010


CONGRATULATIONS TO NUMBER 14 AS CHOSEN BY RANDOM.ORG! Please respond to my email within 72 hours to claim your prize. Thanks very much to everyone who entered!
I am always on the lookout for ways to replace my hodgepodge of post-college Ikea pressed wood and fiberboard with real furniture and home furnishings. Sometimes when I look at my living room, I just want to take these fake wood things outside and chop them up for firewood (but maybe they're so fake they won't even burn?).

Stewart says we need to wait until the boys stop destroying the furniture and we move to our next place. I finally got him to agree to buy a dining table (which I covered with two tablecloths so H&R wouldn't destroy it), but I understand the reasoning why we should wait to get other pieces. Then I can actually use the bank account marked "Furniture" instead of letting it sit pitifully collecting 1% interest. In the meanwhile, I'm doing a lot of window shopping, mostly online. One great place to find everything from a snazzy new table lamp to dressers to carpets is the CSN Stores. Actually it's not just one place but 200+ online stores for everything you could need in your home. These are some things I'd love to get when I finally buy some real things:

But you don't need to wait. My friends at the CSN Stores will give one lucky Random Mommy reader a $60 gift certificate to use on any one of the many webstores that make up the CSN Stores. The gift certificate does not cover shipping, but there are thousands of products that ship for free.

HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:  Contest period runs from Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 11:01 AM (Pacific) until Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 11:59 PM (Pacific). Enter by leaving a comment on what new item of furniture you'd like for your home, and leave your e-mail address OR sign in to comments using your Blogger ID, making sure your Blogger profile is public and includes your e-mail address.

Bonus Entries (leave a separate comment for each entry, it counts if you've done any of these so leave a comment for each one)
1) Follow me on Twitter
2) Follow my blog with Google Friend Connect by clicking on the sidebar

If you don't leave a qualifying comment and your e-mail address or public Blogger profile, your entry will be disqualified. I reserve the right to extend the contest period. At the end of the contest period, I will utilize to randomly choose the winner. The winner will be contacted by e-mail and will have 72 hours to respond to my e-mail. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, the prize will go to the next place winner as decided by This contest is open for US and Canadian Residents only. A huge thank you and much appreciation to CSN Stores for its generosity! Good luck!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I was given the opportunity to share with my readers and took it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

How to Have a Successful Summer Pool Party with Toddlers in SoCal

One of the benefits of having a pool accessible is you can schedule playdates where your house doesn't get overrun with toddlers. Sometimes it doesn't work out, like last summer when H's birthday pool party was sabotaged by maintenance work to comply with California's new drainage regulations, but this year we've been more lucky. So far this summer we've had three pool parties and each time I think I'm getting the hang of it a little better. My top ten tips so far:

10) Pray for sunshine. For some reason, July hasn't gotten the message that June gloom is over. We're lucky if we have a couple of hours of sunshine a day. It's not right when you live in SoCal and your kids are wearing FLEECE in July.

9) Tell everyone in advance that there is NO EATING in the pool. It's amazing how quickly a chocolate chip cookie will disintegrate once it hits water.

8) Stake out your table when the pool opens. Our complex pool is located conveniently in front of our unit so I can easily get out there at 8 AM to reserve the one table that still has its original glass top.

7) Serve finger foods. No kids will sit there with a dish of macaroni and cheese and eat it with a spoon when they can stuff a chicken nugget in their mouth and jump back into the pool.

6) Get a water table and other toys for kids that don't want to go in the water. Ever since a near-drowning incident (see no. 1 below), R has decided he'd rather play outside the water. For the moment, I'm not pushing it because it means I don't have to put on my swim suit.

5) Apply sunscreen early enough so it will be absorbed otherwise it will get washed off the second they enter the water. It's pretty gross when the hot tub water is no longer clear but oily because of all the sunscreen.

4) Wear a hat if you have black hair, otherwise an hour into the party you will feel light headed and need to sit down.

3) Maintain a sense of humor and use kickboards to shield yourself from kids shooting you with waterguns.

2) At the end of the party, incentivize kids to dry off and put on their clothes by offering treats to those who can get it done. This is a good way to get rid of all the extra favor toys that you end up with at the end of every birthday party.

1) Invite a mom who is a certified lifeguard, ready to jump into the pool in her regular clothes to rescue your son while you are not paying attention. Thank you very much KE!

Hope your summer is going as swimmingly as ours!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

More Summer Activities in SoCal-Fresh & Easy Barbeques, Bowling at 300 Anaheim

It's amazing how many things in life are available for FREE, at least nominally. Obviously if a company is giving you something for FREE, it's not really free, it's because they want you to come and try out their products. I think that's a fair exchange, they give you something you want and you give them something they want. Here are just a couple of the free experiences this summer in SoCal:

1) Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market: Free Barbeques throughout SoCal in July

Palm Springs on Friday July 9th from 4:00-6:00 PM
San Diego Camino Santa Fe & Mira Mesa location on Friday July 16th from 5:00-7:00 PM
San Diego Catalina & Canon location on Saturday July 17th from 4:00-6:00 PM 
Laguna Hills on Friday July 23, 5:00-7:00 PM

I have been going to Fresh & Easy for a while now, long before I was a blogger. A supermarket focused on quality instead of gimmicks and whose private labels are 99% free of high fructose corn syrup were only a couple of the aspects of the British import that appealed to me. The best part is that you don't pay high prices for the quality, in fact the store's prices are usually lower than sale prices at VONS or Ralphs. Can't beat that! In celebration of the summer grilling season, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market has once again partnered with Neil Strawder, a.k.a. Bigmista, an award-winning grilling expert, to barbeque for its customers at various stores throughout the summer. He’ll be grilling the fresh&easy Grill Pack, which consists of chicken, Italian pork sausages and quarter-pound beef patties, and serving high-quality fresh&easy sides to customers all free of charge. If you live anywhere in the area, once you've been to this event, you'll understand why I like Fresh & Easy so much. If I told you that all the meat in the Grill Pack (almost 5 lbs of meat) on sale during the 4th of July weekend for $5.99 (tomorrow it goes back up to $9.99 still a tremendous deal), would you believe me? The value is just unbelievable! At the moment, stores are located only in AZ, CA and NV, so I'm going to buy out the store before we head on our great American family road trip later this summer. I know our relatives and friends in the Pacific Northwest will love these products (like sun-dried tomato pesto in a jar!) as much as I do.

2. Anaheim/Pasadena FREE Bowling for kids 12 and under

If you're looking for some inexpensive ways to keep your kids busy this summer, 300 Anaheim and 300 Pasadena have the solution for you, and it’s free. Plus, it’s indoors and parents can also get in on the fun too. From now until September 7, kids 12 and under can join 300’s Summer Kids Club program at no charge, and every Sunday through Friday before 4pm, kids get one free game and free shoe rental. If you want to join your kids on the bowling alleys, you can get $20 off bowling and shoes on your next visit by signing up for the email list for 300 Pasadena here and 300 Anaheim here.

300 Pasadena:  General Manager Serkan Ozeken
Located just minutes from the Rose Bowl.
3545 E. Foothill Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107

300 Anaheim:  General Manager Theron Lewis
Located in the Anaheim GardenWalk 
321 W. Katella Ave. Anaheim, CA 92802

Unfortunately Random Mommy and kids live too far from these locations to take advantage of this offer, but I definitely wanted to share the information with my readers. Happy bowling!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I did receive a gift card and products from Fresh & Easy to try their summer grilling line.