Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mission Accomplished: Christmas Cards Sent Thanks to MyPublisher!

Everyone knows the third kid gets slighted. I remember the episode of Roseanne where DJ finds out that he doesn't have a Baby Book. Sad to say, neither does Princess E, yet. For both H&R, I made a photo album for their first birthday party chronicling the first year of their lives. In this day and age, nobody prints out photos. It has become especially difficult because you take 20 or 30 or 100 photos a time on any particular occasion because you can. The digital camera, the SLR, and now the super fast speed of the iPhone 5. So the thought of sifting through all the photos was so daunting, I couldn't bring myself to do it. Sorry E!

Boys are not amused
I thought, ok, I don't have a photo album from her first year, but I'll make a photo album out of all the great photos that will come out of her first birthday party. It was a great party but E was so exhausted she slept for 60% of it. The rest of the time, brothers H&R were jealous of all the attention E was getting so they were not cooperative with regards to photos. So no pretty photo album from her first birthday party.

What does all of this have to do with Christmas Cards? Well, I got it in my head that if I had a professional photographer (Christine Szeto, check her out!) take photos of our family, she would be able to get smiles out of my kids and some great shots which I could use for our Christmas Cards and to make a photo book for E, finally. The first time we scheduled the shoot was for the day before we were to drive 12 hours to Portland in August. I don't know what I was thinking! The day before the shoot, I called Christine begging her if we could postpone because I had a million things to take care of before our trip. Thankfully she understood and we agreed to rebook after we got back from Portland. We got back from Portland and, with Back to School activities and some crazy family drama, it was November before I got back in touch with Christine. The only date she had left was November 17th. November 17th-the Saturday before Thanksgiving. If you know that I was head manager of our college football team, then you understand what that morning means to me. The Game-the one game played by my alma mater that is televised every year, the Bulldogs vs. our hated rivals, the Cantabs. Anyway, I digress. I gave up watching The Game this year for the sake of the family Christmas photos.  I know, what a sacrifice!

My heels are covered in mud! Photo credit: Christine Szeto
Oh, but it gets better. It's raining. Just a few drops at first, but then downpour. Hey, I missed The Game for this, we are doing it! We're standing in the rain, smiling and praying that none of the kids slips in mud. Luckily Christine is standing under an awning surrounding our complex clubhouse so she doesn't get her $$$$$ camera wet. If the awning weren't there she would have had to turn back since a wet camera doesn't take very good pictures! But she's a pro and manages it. She got some great shots and we have the photos for our Christmas photo. Ok, the hard part should be over, right? No! Now I had to figure out where to get the cards done. There are so many online card services now and some of them have upwards of 200 different designs. Sometimes, more is not better. Especially when that increased choice means increased cost.

I finally decided to go with MyPublisher because it was one of the few that could get our card turned around within a week and because the prices of the individual cards were lower than that of the company we went with in the past.

Using MyPublisher was really easy, I picked the template that would go best with the photos I had in mind, uploaded the photos and then placed the photos into the card. When you place the photo you can crop and edit to make it what you want it to be. I really liked the fact that you could choose whether it would be a glossy photo or a matte card, which seems to be the trend these days. I don't know of any other site that gives you a choice per design.

MyPublisher My Projects View
I ordered the card on Monday, we received it on Saturday. We had one hour for Stewart and the boys to assemble everything and get it to the post office before it closed. So if you get a card from us before Christmas, please know that a LOT went into this card. If you don't get a card from us until afterwards or you don't get one, we were in a rush to get the addresses on so we may have missed you or made a mistake with your address, sorry! MyPublisher does offer the option to send them for you, but I knew that there were some that I needed to add things to (like H's 1st grade photo and R's drawing of a camel party) so that wouldn't work for me this time.

I'll be using MyPublisher to take the remaining photos from our family photo shoot and turn them into a memory book. I had asked Christine to take extra photos of E so she would know later that we did this mainly for her. Hopefully that will make up for the fact that she doesn't have a baby book! If you are looking for a site to create a 2012 yearbook for your family, MyPublisher currently has a promotion for new customers offering 2 for the price of 1. If you have a mother with a birthday in January like me, that might come in handy!   

I did not receive compensation for this post. I did use a coupon from MyPublisher that I received at BlogHer 2012 to facilitate my review. Founded in 1994, MyPublisher was the inventor and first marketer of high quality, single-copy, custom books at an affordable price. Since then, MyPublisher has evolved as a leading internet retailer of personalized Photo Applications to enable consumers to creatively customize, share, print, and preserve digital photographs.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Laundry Love Initiative: Christmas Gift

I asked my friend Charles Lee if I could reprint his blog post about Laundry Love, and his affirmative response is the explanation of what is below. I just wanted to share my two cents on this as well.

Do you like smelly people? Do you like homeless smelly people? Probably not. You want to get away from them as quickly as you can, as the saying goes, "smell ya later." If you think about it, yes homeless people can go to homeless shelters where they may be able to take a shower. But where can they go to do their laundry free of charge? I'm sure you don't like wearing dirty clothes. When my kids throw up on me, the first thing I want to do is change my clothes. Think about how you would feel about yourself if you had to go around smelling like that without a way to do something about it. Helping that homeless person feel confident by not having to worry about turning off people by his smell can make the difference of whether that person eventually stops being homeless.

Another story of a family that was greatly helped by Laundry Love was that of a family whose primary breadwinner lost his job. While he was searching for work, some weeks it was pay for food for a day or pay for laundry. If you haven't been to a laundromat lately, it can be pretty pricey. I was shocked when our washer broke and I had to go to the laundromat to do laundry. It was $3 for one load! (Drying was less but since our dryer wasn't broken, I don't remember exactly how much.) A family of five can easily pay $12-20 to do 4 loads of laundry. So if you have any capacity in this holiday season to give to a worthy cause that is easily overlooked, please consider donating to Laundry Love. You will really be helping Laundry Love become a force to help those who need it desperately.

Here is the text of Charles' post below (references to I = references to Charles):

A few years ago, a good friend of mine (Greg Russinger) and I launched a new organization called JustOne. It was designed to be an idea-generating organization for initiatives that would spark tangible acts of human care. One of these initiatives is called Laundry Love.

Laundry Love (LL) is an initiative of JustOne in partnership with individuals, groups and local laundromats throughout the U.S. The LL initiative helps to wash the clothes and bedding of individuals and/or families living in poverty. From the infant to the aged, and across a broad spectrum of ethnicity, culture and personal story, LL seeks to nurture the health, hygiene, economic, and relational well being of each person through intentional networking and friendship.

This Christmas season we are launching our 1st ever financial campaign for Laundry Love nationally. With the growing number of Laundry Love efforts to help resource (over 130 currently) with tools and support, we are in need of updating and expanding our web platforms so more and more people living in poverty can find a local Laundry Love effort closest to them.

We will do this by updating our mapping option on the website, but also designing and launching, a national website strictly focusing on the laundry love efforts throughout the U.S. Also, we hope to add a “laundry love app” for mobile devices in 2013.

We know that you have many charitable options this Christmas Season, we do hope you would consider partnering with Laundry Love, allowing more people to have access to clean clothes. It’s amazing to see how this simple act of providing resources for clean clothes can change the outlook, demeanor, and sense of self-dignity in the lives those who benefit from our efforts.

We hope to reach $5,000 by Christmas morning, please join us in supporting Laundry Love by clicking here.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Have a Good Play Kitchen Rec?

I thought I was pretty good about being non-gender specific about toys. I got my boys a doll stroller pretty early on and traded one of their little toy cars for a baby doll. They loved the stroller, more as a racing vehicle than anything else. The baby doll, not so much, they ripped off her clothes and I had to put it away so it wouldn't lose its head. The one thing they really love that is not cars or trains is pretend play with food. They would play supermarket, they would restaurant, they would do tea party, you name it. But I didn't take the plunge and buy them a play kitchen.

Now that I think about it, I really don't know why I didn't. Maybe the fact that the train table took up half the room so there really wasn't space for it. Maybe subconsciously I thought that was a "girl" thing and didn't even seriously consider it. But now that I have a little girl, I am bit ashamed of myself for depriving my boys years of play because I'm going to buy one for Toddler E. I'm sure they will all enjoy it and have fun playing chef and everything else.

If you would help me by recommending your favorite play kitchen set, I'd really appreciate it. As you know, I've been working with Wikets for over a year now. I've really enjoyed sharing the things that I love with the community and finding great things that others recommend that I never would have discovered otherwise. My boys still devour the National Geographic 2013 Kids Almanac every night. They love finding out new facts and looking things up on the phone through QR codes. I'd never even have thought to get it if I didn't see another Wikets user rec it. Wikets has just come out with a new web feature so that even if you don't have an iOS device, you can still recommend things for your friends. If you click on my wiket widget on my sidebar, you can share with me what you think would be the best play kitchen for my kiddos. You do have to join Wikets to make the recommendation but the process is easy and secure!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Fire of the Raging Dragon

It's been hard being a Republican. It's a choice I made based on financial reasons when I was 21 and an investment banking analyst. I couldn't understand why I had to pay 50% on my bonus when I felt like I had worked like a dog for that money. Most days I worked 15 hours a day and I considered it a miracle when I went home the same day I came in to work. Sometimes I worked 24, 48 hours in a row, no sleep, no showers, but still plodding through and working, working, working. So I could give half of it away to someone on welfare. Whatever your politics are, that's the reason I made my choice. And it's been hard. Because I've lived in New York, DC, LA, and now the Bay Area, all places where being a Republican will get you public ridicule (if you consider FB a public forum). There was a brief period when Stewart was recalled to Iraq when I became an Independent, but really I still believed what I believed.

Now since the election (I voted for Roseanne Barr, but that's another blog post), all I seem to hear about is the fiscal cliff and how we should all just move to Australia. What is all this leading to? Well, sometimes the only thing that will make me lift my spirits when politics gets me down is when I read a great flag-waving book. Luckily, my friends over at Zondervan must have picked up on what I needed because they sent me a review copy of Dan Brown's new book, Fire of the Raging Dragon. In this second book in bestselling author Don Brown’s Pacific Rim Series---Stephanie Surber is stationed on board a submarine tender in the South China Sea when a naval war breaks out. After a gruesome discovery escalates America’s involvement, Stephanie’s father, U.S. President Douglas Surber, must choose to take a stand against evil … or save the life of his daughter.

It's scary to think how the book is spot on about how much America owes China. I don't think most Americans know how many trillions of Treasuries China owns and how our country would be completely bankrupt if China started a sell-off. But in the world created by Don Brown, we are still a nation of morals and a belief that some crimes are too horrific for us to countenance. By the end of the book I was proud (again) to be an American. I really believe that we would act the same way the characters did in the book if we were presented with such a situation. I can't say more than that without giving away spoilers. If you are looking for something to read on the plane to wherever you are going for the holidays or when you get there or a book to gift, you may want to include Fire of the Raging Dragon on your short list.

USA! USA! America-home of the brave and land of the free!!!!!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I did receive a copy to facilitate my review.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Emergency Preparedness: GET READY NOW!

As Hurricane Sandy has reminded us, we all need to be prepared for natural disasters. But how many of us actually have emergency kits ready? I know in our house we have some canned goods and water in case of earthquake, but we are nowhere near ready if we needed to grab one bag and go. Are you? The basic disaster supplies kit recommended by FEMA is as follows:

Basic Disaster Supplies Kit

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Of course, in winter, if you live in a place with seasons, another essential item would be to have several reliable sources of fire. If your house loses power for a week (like I know some people did in the East Coast) and you have a fireplace in your house, at least you will have the option of burning wood and staying in your own home. My friends at Zippo recently provided me with a Emergency Fire Starter Kit to test for our family's disaster supply kit.

The Emergency Fire Starter Kit doesn't rely on a flame to start a fire. It uses a simple flint wheet to spark water-resistant, waxed tinder sticks that store in a waterproof case. In emergencies, where matches or lighters are unavailable, this kit can start a fire almost instantly and may save lives. Some of the outdoors' top people think so, too. It was awarded the Seal of Approval by the North American Hunting Club.

I recruited my favorite Eagle Scout to assist me in testing the Emergency Fire Starter Kit. Stewart opened it up and in no time at all had the tinder stick lit. He stated it was "pretty fast." Considering it lit up in less than a second, I would have to agree. Originally I had planned to couple the test with a marshmallow roast over an outdoor fire pit, but the weather has not cooperated. First it was 90 degree temperatures earlier in October, then rain, then back to hot weather. So no marshmallows, but we did have a successful fire start test. Goes to show, Zippo doesn't just make lighters anymore. They do have an entire product line dedicated to the outdoors. If you are looking for a fire starter kit for your emergency preparedness bag, the Zippo Emergency Fire Starter Kit seems like a great choice.

If you are on the East Coast, our prayers are with you for things to get back to normal, or as normal as they can be after a natural disaster of this magnitude. As my Eagle Scout always says, "Be prepared." Let's hope we all will be for the next big thing.

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

iPieces Game Review: Air Hockey and Game of Goose

If you're a parent of young kids, you probably have more than a couple board games. And I bet those board games have cards and pieces that get lost and roam all around the house. I find play money and game pieces that are in various stages of decay all over the place. Stewart has fallen down the stairs after stepping on a chess piece! So when I got the opportunity to review some iPad games from Pressman Toys with the boys, I jumped on it! iPieces are games that you can play on iPads with game pieces made from special patent-pending conductive plastic. The age range is 4+ and all games are multi player.

The first game the boys reviewed on was iPieces Air Hockey. You turn your iPad into an on-the-go air hockey table! When the buzzer sounds, you move your iPieces striker, go for the animated puck, and try to score a goal in your opponent’s net. Each player can represent a country of their choice to compete in a variety of fun and exciting tournaments.  The game includes two iPieces air hockey strikers and free downloadable app for iPad. This was really exciting for the boys because they always want to play the game when we go to the bowling alley. But who wants to pay $2 each time to play? Not this mom. Now I can tell them they have it on their iPad so they can play it at home! R's favorite part of the game is the randomly floating +2, which gives you an extra point if you make the goal.  

Another game that the boys love and have already destroyed is a certain sweet confection game that leads you to the end of a rainbow path. I find the cards for this game everywhere and I was definitely ready try a similar game without the cards and gingerbread men pieces in random corners of the house. To play the iPieces Game of Goose you choose a goose-shaped iPiece, tap the virtual die to “roll,” and move around the interactive game board.  You can see how the real goose iPieces unlock fantastic visual and sound animations, as virtual geese fly across the game board or get stuck in a well.  The game includes six goose iPieces and free downloadable app for iPad. R loves to play this game by himself, so he can finally get a turn at winning. H has issues with letting anyone else win and R strangely lets H win most of the time. Brotherly love?

These are definitely games we will be playing during our cross-country flight this Thanksgiving. If you want more information, Pressman Toys has uploaded videos to Youtube for iPieces Air Hockey and iPieces Game of Goose. Let's play!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I received product samples to facilitate my review.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Operation Christmas Child

All year long I talk to my boys about the poor kids. I know in this day and age, calling someone "poor" is practically an insult. But there was no other way that I could readily reference children less fortunate than H&R than by saying "poor kids" when I started talking about it with them a few years ago, when R was 2 1/2. I want them to grow up knowing that they are lucky and they are blessed and with such blessing comes the responsibility to share. We save things for the poor kids whenever we have a party or event and there are little toys that can go into the boxes. I challenge them to give things they don't need to children who would appreciate finding those items inside their boxes. What are these boxes?

There is an organization called Samaritan's Purse that ships shoeboxes filled with toys and gifts for Christmas presents for children around the world who desperately need them. I've been doing it with my church for the past ten years, but it has become more meaningful in the past few years when I have been filling shoeboxes with H&R. I have them watch the video with me so they can understand that these children really have nothing. Many of them live in garbage dumps. The year the Haitian earthquake happened, I showed them the video of the kids living in the rubble. They remember the kids who live on the rocks.

If you would like to do something this holiday season that could become a miracle, please consider participating in Operation Christmas Child. You can change the life of one child in a foreign country that otherwise would not have school supplies to go to school that year (it's amazing how valuable a single pencil can be). Your message of hope might save that child from entering a life of crime or prostitution. There are so many stories of young children who were so touched by the fact that someone across the world cares--that it has made all the difference in how they live their lives.

You might wonder why I'm talking about Christmas when it's not even past Halloween. Well, in order for these shoeboxes to get to the children by Christmas, they are collected November 12-19 (find locations here). Which gives you a month to put some boxes together! My boys already know that all of their Halloween candy is going into the shoeboxes. I've heard of some moms who just throw it all out the day after Halloween. If this is you and you live close to me, please let me know and I will pick up that candy and anything else from you to donate to OCC. If you don't live local to me, there is definitely a location close to you where you can donate items, even if you don't want to put together a box yourself.

These are some other items you could put into a box:

If you are a busy ER doctor who can't find the time to pack your own box (you know who you are), you can sponsor someone else's box here. Share in the joy of Operation Christmas Child. From packing your own box, to spreading the word of how others can get involved, discover the many ways you can help change a child's life with this incredible program. Find out more at

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bay Area Geek Girl Dinner: BOX

Last week I attended my first ever Bay Area Geek Girl Dinner. I had never been able to go previously because of scheduling and the fact that they became waitlist only after the first few minutes of tickets being opened up every month. My mom is visiting me so for the first time I could sign up freely, without wondering whether Stewart would be able to get off work in time or even be in town that night! The dinner that night was at Box. If you haven't downloaded it already, whip out your brand new iPhone 5 and download Box. For a limited time, Box is offering users who sign up through iOS 10 GB + sync FREE. If you rely on the other major cloud sharing app that offers 2 GB free, you know this is a great deal!

Back to the dinner. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!!!!! First, I loved it because everyone who walked in there was self-selecting so nobody had to preface anything they said with things like, "oh, this is for you out there who are interested in tech" or assume that we wouldn't be able to understand and thus dumb down the language. The presentations started with a talk by Tamar Bercovici, Senior Software Engineer at Box, on Scaling MySQL for the Web. My brain must have been starving for knowledge because I could not stop nodding my head and smiling when she was talking about sharding and ways to segregate information across servers. Now that I've been working at Wikets for over a year, this was really interested and made me want to contact our engineers and ask them how we were doing it at Wikets, vertical or horizontal scaling.

Second, the energy in the room was palpable. I know people write that a lot but really, if you were there, you would have agreed that is the best way to put it. SMART WOMEN!!!! Lots of them!!! And most of them young, in their 20s and early 30s with no kids. I could feel the ambition, the quest for global domination, the hanging on every word of the next talk, when Kimber Lockhart, the DIRECTOR of Engineering at Box, revealed 10 Ways to Become an Engineering Leader. Not being on the engineering side of things, I devoted more attention to dessert than to the talk but it was still fascinating. One thing that stuck with me was "Take Out the Trash." If you want to succeed, you have to be willing to do anything and everything, a mantra by which I've lived my entire life.  

I hope to be able to go to more of these dinners. It's definitely a different scene from mom blogger events. Even though many of these women were working crazy hours, they had an energy that a mom of three just can't muster. One woman literally had sparkling eyes. I have not seen that since my analyst training in investment banking. She was so excited to talk to me and network. She asked if I knew a good Dev Ops Lead because her company was hiring. So if you are a good Dev Ops Lead and live in the Bay Area, let me know and I will connect you. Another woman I met was confident enough to say about herself, "I'm brilliant and I'm hot." I can't divulge the context but it was awesome to encounter such confidence from a software engineer. LOVE IT!!!!

I'm a geek and proud of it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

9-11 Then and Now

Emotionally draining weekend past week and tomorrow won't be better. 9-11, it's still fresh to me like it was yesterday. The tears and grief hit me every time. People who weren't there just don't understand. At the time my sister and I lived in D.C. She was working and I was attending law school. I didn't know where my sister was, and since she worked next door to the White House at the time, I was a complete mess freaking out because I couldn't reach her. It started when I walked into my part-time job at the Georgetown Law Alumni Office and my co-worker said, "a plane just went into the World Trade Center." I thought she meant one of those little bi-planes that celebrities fly. In my wildest imagination I never thought it could be a 747 that would bring the entire complex down. Then I heard about the plane that hit the Pentagon and the one that was headed for the White House. When I finally heard from my sister, I was relieved to hear that she was with someone who would really take care of her. They're married now, and I don't doubt that having shared that experience brought them together closer.

When all of that happened, people in the U.S. appreciated being Americans and having such great freedom that others would attack us for it. It seems like when the economy went South, people forgot that and just focused on how they weren't achieving the mythical American dream. We can argue day and night about who's responsible for the housing market foreclosure debacles, but the point is that we can argue about it and anything else we want. Maybe we can't all live in 4500 sq.ft. houses built on nothing, but we all still have the freedom to think the way we want, to say what we want, and to take charge of our lives in a way that most other people in the world can't even begin to fathom. Having essentially grown up in this country, I embrace American ideals of freedom and liberty and justice for all. I even became a lawyer so that I could make the law my livelihood.

So when I hear of people in America committing atrocities because that's the way it was/is done in the old country, that just makes me sick. If you are going to act like that, then just leave. Don't give your daughters in arranged marriages when they are 3 years old. Don't buy girls through smugglers so you can use them as household servants or sex slaves. Don't beat your sons with baseball bats so they will get straight As in school. If you are here, then really be HERE and not try to re-create some sort of social enclave that only includes everyone that is from your country of origin. If you don't like it, again, just leave. Obviously I'm very bitter over something that has happened to my family recently with the excuse of it being culturally acceptable in the ancestral homeland. Well, I'm an American citizen and an officer of the court in New York and California and I am not going to excuse it, accept it, or condone it even a little bit. There are all sorts of terrorists--some fly planes into the World Trade Center and some terrorize members of their own family. Neither of these are acceptable. Zero-tolerance policy for terrorism! 9-11, never forget!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to School Time at Ross: Review and Giveaway



R went back to school last week and H is going back next Wednesday. I was a bit surprised at R because he cried when I left him there. He had asked to go to this preschool since H had gone there and finally after two other preschools, it was his turn! Apparently he tried to hit his head on the ground repeatedly so that the teachers would call me, but instead they told him that was a fruitless endeavor that would only lead to his own suffering. Nice, finally a non-touchy feely school that understands how to be firm with kids. I remembered from H's experience that the teachers keep the kids in line, which is exactly what I need to feel secure that no one will attack R like they did in his old preschool.

H goes to 1st grade this week. Since 1st grade is "real school," we all decided to head to the Ross Dress For Less Back to School sales while we were in Oregon last week. It was an instant 10% discount on top of Ross's great prices because there is no sales tax in Oregon. Score! H is pretty set in terms of clothes because he grew into his size 6 and 7 clothes a couple of months ago. But what he really needed was pajamas. In the summer, it's fine to sleep in boxers but I know that in a few weeks he will need to get something more substantial. I was able to find two sets for him for less than $20 total for name brand items (unfortunately I can't tell which ones because of the agreement Ross has with the retailers). I know when E grows up we will be there frequently to buy all the cute things and stuffies (what my 7 year old sister would call all her treasures) that girls need. I noticed all the things that would be perfect for a college dorm room. You can check it out for yourself! My friends at Ross will give one Random Mommy reader a $25 giftcard to see all the fabulous Back To School specials that are available this season!

HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:  Contest period runs from Monday, September 3rd at 12:01 AM (Pacific) until Monday, September 10 at 11:59 PM (Pacific). Enter by leaving the name of your favorite school supplies, 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 (once per day)
3) Like Ross Dress for Less on Facebook

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 Residents only. A huge thank you and much appreciation to my friends at Ross Dress for Less for their generosity! Good luck!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I received a gift card to facilitate my review. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

BlogHer 2012 in Pictures

My friend Gleester with the Lorax! The Lorax speaks for trees!
BADGLEY & MISCHKA in person at the Iconix party. First time I've seen a real designer (other than my fabulous wedding dress designer Mika Inatome) up close and personal!

Snoopy and me at the Iconix party, the line was shorter for Snoopy!

Hello cans of Kahlua Iced Coffee at the fabulous SocialLuxe Lounge, you had me at Hello. That plus the massage and makeup refresher made my night! And the Dreyer's/Edy's ice cream! Right now if you upload a photo of you eating Dreyer's to Facebook, they will donate $5 for each photo to Operation Smile. The goal is to capture over 25,000 smiles, which will amazingly allow Operation Smile to complete more than 500 reconstructive surgeries on children with cleft palates, cleft lips, and other facial deformities. If that's not enough of an incentive, they will also send you a coupon for a free cup of ice cream for yourself!

Had to take a photo with the Kikko-wo-man! Soy Sauce ice cream, anyone?

Cake at Sparklecorn!


That's Kate Gosselin, who was there representing CouponCabin. You might not recognize her without her 8 kids!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

BlogHer Update of Sorts: Verizon Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Review

Last weekend at this time I was at BlogHer 2012 in NYC. It was a glorious four days of catching up with friends, catching up with my city, and catching up with the Blogosphere. I was already in my mind planning all of my fun recap posts. But then on the way to Newark, I got some really bad news about a good friend. The C-word. I was sobbing all the way to the airport, with nothing to wipe up my tears except a free bib I had snagged for E. Obviously when I got back, I felt like there was something very inappropriate about my shouting to the world about how much fun I had and what great insights, companies, and products I discovered when my friend and her family were going through something so difficult. I'm still conflicted as to whether I go on with my blog or if I should spend that time to pray and do things for my friend.

The photo I took and sent to Stewart when I won!
So today's post will be guest-written by my DH Stewart about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 I won at the BlogHer 2012 Expo from Verizon. I decided to give it to Stewart for watching our 3 kids solo for 4 days (taking 2 days off work!). Without further ado, Stewart's review of the tablet:

I’m a proud owner of both an Apple iPad 1 and 2.  They are both excellent devices that “just work”, as Steve Jobs often used to say about his best selling creations.  I really never thought I’d need another portable device, since after all, the iPad pretty much filled every function that I’d need it for.  When I got my hands on the Samsung Galaxy 7.7, it quickly filled a niche that I never knew was even missing.  
First, let’s talk about portability, as these are “mobile” devices.  The Galaxy is just so much easier to tote around.  I can throw it in my pants pocket without that much of an issue.  With its small size, I’ve found myself carrying it around to many more places than I ever did with my iPad.  Its 12-ounce weight also makes it very easy to hold in one hand for extended periods of time.  I cannot say that same thing about the iPad.  I can hold it in one had for about 10 minutes before I start experiencing carpel tunnel like symptoms in my wrist.  Another bonus is that the small size actually makes the camera somewhat functional.  Taking pictures of video on my iPad2 is just ridiculous.  Perhaps that is why there are all these rumors swirling around about a potential iPad-mini.  The size truly does make a difference.  

Another big plus for the Galaxy is the amazing super-AMOLED screen which is amazingly clear and sharp.  It has wonderful HD resolution and makes webpages look vibrant. If there is one downside, it’s the lack of the latest operating system.  Alas, it comes with Android 3.2 Honeycomb and not 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.  Although Samsung and Verizon have both stated that it will come out, that’s about all they’ve said.   It’s been eight months now, and still, nothing. That said, the Galaxy is a wonderful device that fills needs that my iPad cannot.  Keep up the good work Samsung. THANK YOU VERIZON!

Specifications for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 include the following:

  • 7.7 inch Super AMOLED Plus display at 1280 x 800 pixels resolution
  • 1.4GHz dual core processor
  • Android 3.2 Honeycomb
  • CDMA and LTE
  • 16GB internal memory, microSD card expansion capability
  • 1GB RAM
  • 3.2 megapixel rear camera with LED flash and 1080p video recording capability
  • 2 megapixel front facing camera
  • Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, and GPS
  • Dimensions: 7.74 x 5.24 x 0.31 inches and 12 ounces

  • Monday, July 30, 2012

    VeggieTales: The Penniless Princess DVD Review

    When I was growing up I wanted to be a princess. Not a fairy tale princess but a real princess, preferably of England. So naturally I was a huge fan of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Sara Crewe is as rich as a princess and is treated like one, but then her father dies and leaves her penniless. She continues to act like a princess, however, in her manners and her deportment. Eventually the happy ending comes about that the diamond mines were real and she is even richer than ever. Maybe I wanted to believe that if I lived well I too would become a princess in the end.

    When I was contacted recently to review an advance copy (available August 14th) of Big Idea Entertainment's newest DVD VeggieTales: The Penniless Princess-God's Little Girl, I signed up right away. Now that I have a daughter, I need to start building a library of fun movies for her apart from her brothers' cars and trains DVDs. My kids have other VeggieTales DVDs but I really like the recently released titles that send a special message to little girls. In this Veggie-version of A Little Princess, Larry the Cucumber stars as Captain Crewe and helps to teach an important lesson about knowing your own true worth as well as trusting God, no matter what happens in life, based on Romans 8:39.

    I was really impressed that the movie stays so true to the book. There are some lines that are straight from the book, like when Sara tells her father, "I know you by heart." Having watched three different non-animated versions of A Little Princess, I know how drastically wrong the movies can turn. I was really happy that VeggieTales was able to to take a story that was close to my heart and make it into something wholesome that would inspire kids to look inside themselves for their worth.

    One of the best features of the DVD was the new Silly Song, "Best Friends Forever." If you're a parent that doesn't know what BFFNMW or YCMU means, this funny song is a tutorial in texting that will make you LOL and even ROFL. Watch it here:

    Other bonus features include a special tour of London with the popular French Peas characters (especially timely with all the Olympics the kiddos have been watching), a hilarious look at the history of the Teddy Bear, a discussion guide for parents and behind the scenes clips. This is definitely one I'll be watching again with E as she grows up. 

    I did not receive compensation for this post. I received a product sample to facilitate my review.

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Vacation with Cousins in San Francisco-Day 1!

    View from our hotel room
     Earlier this week, Stewart's cousin M and her daughter C were visiting from Portland. We wanted to maximize our time with them so I decided to take the kids with me and stay in a hotel for one night in San Francisco. We wanted to get a room in a hotel with a pool, but those are few and far between in San Francisco. The Palace Hotel pool looks really great, though, so if there is a next time we'll definitely try to book it early (it was sold out by the time I made the reservation). We ended up at the Westin San Francisco Market Street, which is right by one of our favorite areas in SF, the Yerba Buena Gardens. The location is perfect, close enough to all the touristy things and to public transport, and to Beard Papa, which unfortunately was closed by the time we were ready for dessert that night.

    Knowing we had a great place to rest that night, we were ready to explore the city. We started out after lunch with our first stop at Bi-Rite Creamery. Whenever we go on the weekend, the line is out the door to the corner of Dolores Street so we end up getting soft serve or the ice cream sandwich. Today we had perfect timing. Someone was leaving so we got a parking spot without having to circle the block. After several attempts, I parallel parked the minivan and we walked up to the ice cream hot spot. No line!!!! Amazing! I tried several of the flavors before choosing white chocolate with raspberry swirl, something I could share with E. R got his usual strawberry and H got his chocolate. Cousin C doesn't like ice cream so she chose the handmade pistachio caramel corn, delicious! Right after we arrived, though, a line had started forming and it was out the door and a few steps down. Such good luck!

    Then it was on to Lombard Street. I had never driven on the street before, only climbed up the steps a decade ago. The drive up the road to go down the street was pretty steep. I thought we would flip over and fall off. Because of the long line of cars, it was stop and go and we started sliding backwards several times. Cousin M asked me if I had been doing it to thrill the kiddos, but no. Thank goodness I haven't worn out the brakes on the swagger wagon! R was scared to go down the street so he and Cousin M walked down. They walked faster than we drove. I put the car into 1st gear so we would go as slowly as possible. I'm not even sure that's right but it made me feel better. If you go, remember it's only one way beginning at Hyde St.

    Pretending to be sorry for throwing his water bottle
    Our final tourist destination of the day--the Golden Gate Bridge! I've driven over several times but I've never actually walked on it. If you go to the parking lot right next to the bridge and find it full, don't be dismayed! There is a bigger parking lot if you drive down a bit. The walk was a lot of fun. We made sure to wear our jackets because it does get very windy up there. Cousin M spotted quite a few dolphins, and Cousin C said she saw a shark. Maybe it was wishful thinking on C's part but I'm not about to go in the water to find out. Something of ours did go into the water, however. R couldn't resist the temptation to throw something over from such a high place. Of course, he chose his stainless steel water bottle. I know it was deliberate, because I had bought H&E new ones last week. Previously he had been the only one with a cool stainless steel one, but now it wasn't *new*. I had done something similar when I was a child. In kindergarten I wanted a new sketch pad so I put a line on every page of my old one so I could tell the teacher I was done. She saw right through that trick and made me keep the one I had. So R will go back to drinking from a plastic water bottle until he learns he can't be rewarded for bad behavior!

    After the bridge, we made our way to the hotel. I had checked the yelp reviews and the first one said that parking at the Hearst Building across the street was $25/day, which is a steal compared to the Westin's $59/day. No brainer. When we walked out of the parking lot, we saw there was a California Pizza Kitchen on the ground floor. Again, no brainer. Mac&cheese and pasta for the kids, Korean beef taco for me. I would have preferred to go to Super Duper or Amber (Indian) but I knew the kids wouldn't eat much there. One thing that irked me at CPK was that, after we had walked in and the hostess grabbed menus for us, a couple came in. She decided to seat the couple first, I guess because she thought it would be quicker and less of a hassle for her. Not cool young lady, one day you will have kids too and being treated like a second class citizen because you have them will make you feel terrible!

    Then nighttime at the hotel. 12 hours in one room with 3 kids. Imagine what you will.

    To be continued with Day 2 in my next post.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    Happy First Birthday Toddler E!

    My last baby is no longer a baby! My Fourth of July baby celebrated her first birthday. It's taken since then for me to recover enough to write this post. Never ever have an event birthday party at a place other than a restaurant. You don't save money in the end and you're so busy running around during the party, you can't actually enjoy the party yourself. But I had to do it, she's my GIRL! I hope one day she will look at the photos and appreciate it. I think other people did enjoy it, though, although H&R seemed a little jealous of all the attention on E. It was very difficult to get them to take photos, and even when they did, their faces told exactly what they were feeling.

    I was so busy with everything from food to balloons to favors that I couldn't even take the time to put on any make-up. Hence I will not be posting any photos of me where you can really look at my face. It was so awesome how people pitched in to help, though, otherwise it never would have come together the way it did. My sister and her husband were planning to come early to help but the erratic Bart schedule forced them to rent a car, which wasn't available until an hour before the party. They had come all the way from Philadelphia and it was ironic that it was the local transport that delayed them. Thankfully they stayed until the end of the way helping us clean and organize. Thank you Shinyoung Eemo and Uncle K! Stewart's side was just as well represented with his parents and cousins helping out. We're so lucky to have relatives nearby.

    E was pretty overwhelmed. It's really interesting how I have to learn every day that every child is different. H&R did not mind the big crowds at their first birthday parties. E couldn't handle the pressure and promptly fell asleep for over half the party, then I had to wake her up so she could do the doljabhe. The Korean custom is for the child to pick her fortune on her first birthday. The traditional things laid out are rice (your storehouses will always be full of rice, thus you will never lack for anything), money (you will be rich!), pencil (scholar), and thread (long life). H picked the pencil. These days people have updated the custom and put out other things. When it was R's turn, we put out things like instruments and sports equipment in addition to the traditional items. R picked the orange golf ball. E was reluctant to pick anything. She mostly cried. She was reaching for the rice when the crowd started to ooh and ahh and she quickly drew back her hand. Then refused to do anything. So we're going to say she went for the rice!

    It's really strange but everyone says that once your baby reaches her first birthday, it seems like there is an ascertainable difference. I think so. E seems older somehow. Maybe I'm just projecting. Hopefully she will grow up as sweet and nice and she is now. Or maybe the craziness is about to start. The day after her first birthday she figured out how to climb on chairs. And fall off. Must go now before she really hurts herself! Oh, and if anyone needs a crib, we have one to give away!

    Sunday, June 24, 2012

    Exhaustion--Can School Start Again Soon?

    Summer vacation for kids, exhaustion for SAHMs and SAHDs. The driving. The camps. The WHINING. One week is enough--I'm ready for them to go back to school. I'm too exhausted to write a funny, witty blog post so here is just a litany of the things we did last week.
    Monday: R&E-MOPS playdate. H-Sports camp. Total driving time 1 1/2 hours.
    Tuesday-Friday: R-summer camp. H-sports camp. Why couldn't they have been located in the same city? Total driving time 3-5 hours per day.
    Saturday: trip to Santa Cruz. Total driving time 3 hours.

    Somewhere in there we went to Party City 2x and Target to get supplies for E's first birthday party, Costco to prepare for our church group's Saturday outing to Santa Cruz, the supermarket, a shopping mall to get boxer shorts for H, H's piano lesson, the library, the dry cleaners, and the gym for swimming.

    • Target's prices on party supplies are actually better than Party City, even with Party City's "50% off," but you won't find a Hello Kitty pinata at Target. 
    • Being alone with your kids during summer break while your husband is on a business trip makes you not care about calories in chocolate. 
    • Sending your 4 year old to all day camp after he has taken a month off from school will result in crankiness and delirium. R has had fever and vomiting since Thursday. Somehow I don't think he can handle going to school for 10 hours a day if I get a job.
    • If they give you slips of paper at sports camp at the end of each day, you should probably read them and make your child do the homework otherwise he won't get entered in the raffle for prizes at the end of the week.
    • Beaches in SoCal are 1000% better than beaches in NorCal. I miss you my former Strand beaches; Torrance, Redondo, Manhattan! 
    Photos to make up for my lack of wit (although this required my having to learn how to upload from iPhoto to Blogger, so give me credit for that!):

    Next week promises to be a little better. Although Stewart will once again be heading up north for a work trip, at least H&R will be attending the same camp all week. Hopefully I can think of some ways to be funny so you will want to come back and read my blog! Have a great week!