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!