How to throw a fuss-free Indoor Soccer Party -- Jammy's 11th birthday celebration

When I asked Jammy what kind of party he wanted to throw for his 11th birthday, his answer was immediate: a soccer party at Sports House, and indoor soccer venue.

"Okay," I asked.  "Let me get this straight.  You play soccer with your friends Every. Single. Day.  And for your birthday, you want to play..... More Soccer".



"Anyway, it's different. I want indoor soccer.  The ball just bounces off the walls, so it never goes out of bounds."

"Ahhhhh.... I get it".

Actually, I don't get it.  But it's his party, and  I tell my kids they get to alternate between "splurge" parties and "home" parties.  This year is a splurge party, so if indoor soccer is what he wants, that's what he gets.

To be honest, I like "splurge" party years because it means less work and less mess for me.  The party place takes care of the food, the entertainment, plates, the cups, utensils, napkins, goody bags. They do everything... well, not quite.  Hey, I'm still going to put a personal spin on it!

Disney DIY: How To Make a Mickey Paintball Bandana

Mickey paintball bandana

When you sign up for a paintball birthday party, you'll probably be told that the paint is washable, but you probably don't want to be wearing your best clothes. Recommended clothing includes long sleeved shirts, long sleeved shorts, close-toed shoes, and bandanas.

Since 3Po was celebrating his 11th birthday with a paintball party, I thought it would be fun to make bandanas for all his guests. And since we were giving the party a Disney theme, I decided to add a Mickey silhouette to the bandanas!  I bought 4 yards of plain white cloth, cut them into 20-inch squares, and hemmed the edges.  Then I stenciled the designs on with freezer paper.  Freezer paper stencil designs are so easy to do and the produce such great results.  I used freezer paper stencils to make Mickey shirts for last year's DisneySide party, and the project went so well, it was pretty much a given that I'd use the technique again this year.  Here's how I did it:

My 2015 Reading List

I love reading Young Adult novels.  I think it's my favorite literary genre (well, maybe fantasy is my favorite, but the two can definitely overlap!).  Some of the best books I've read over the past several years are ones recommended by The Pea (I've recommended more than few of my own favorites to her, but she is stubborn, and I'm pretty sure I've read more of her recommendations than she has read of mine). I still enjoy reading books from my childhood, and there are so many great YA novels that come out every year, there's always a huge list of books for me to read!  I haven't even finished reading all of the books on my 2014 To-Read List (although I've read many more that were not on that list, such as the Mortal Instruments series, the Blackwell Pages series, the Vampire Academy series -- yes, I succumbed -- and the Bloodlines Series), and I've already got a list for 2015!

This year, I'm using Time Magazine's list of the 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time as inspiration for my own To-Read list.  I know lists are always subjective, but based on the books on that list that I've already read (41 of them!), I'm going to trust their recommendations. Besides, many of the books on this list are ones that I've been meaning to read anyway!  Check out the list -- which ones have you read?  Which ones do you want to read? Do you agree these are the top 100 YA books of all time?

Ghirardelli Square Ice Cream Fountain

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square is one of those tourist places that you know are touristy but you just have to visit.  After all, Ghirardelli Chocolate is as much as a culinary symbol of San Francisco as sourdough bread and clam chowder. Yes, it's touristy -- but that doesn't mean it isn't good!

Holiday Greetings from American Girl's Samantha

American Girl Samantha holiday card 2014

My annual American Girl holiday card is late -- but better late than never! This year's card features the newest member of our AG family, the adorable Samantha, who made a much-welcome comeback to the historical doll line in 2014. Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season!!

Check out my American Girl holiday card for 2013
Check out my American Girl holiday card for 2012

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Easy Holiday Stocking Stuffers

Today is Boxing Day, and after all the craziness of Christmas Day, you finally have some time to take a deep breath and do everything you meant to do before December 25, but didn't have the time for!  Here are 3 fun holiday crafts you can do with your kids -- and you can gift the results at your next holiday party!  (where I come from, the holiday parties last all the way till January, so it's totally not too late!).

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to one and all!!

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Wordless Wednesday: Christmas Past

This is our family photo from ten years ago, in 2004.  How time flies!  Hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas Eve!

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Perfect macarons on the very first try!

chocolate macarons

I love macarons, but I've always been too intimidated to try baking them myself.  Every recipe I've found for macarons has a caveat: these delicate little pastries are notoriously temperamental, and it takes a lot of practice.  You'd think that macarons would be easy to make; after all, you only need four ingredients -- almond flour, egg whites, granulated sugar and powdered sugar.  But looking at photo after photo of flat, cracked, raw, misshapen macarons, it's pretty obvious that there's a reason macarons are ridiculously expensive (anywhere from $2.50 - $4.00 per teeny-tiny piece!).

A perfect macaron is small and circular, slightly puffed up, with a firm, smooth, dome on the top of the cookie and crinkly "feet" at the bottom.  It's crunchy on the outside, chewy and moist on the inside.  And it turns out there are a few tips and tricks to help you bake the perfect macaron.  Every recipe seems to have a different set of tips -- but I found the ones that worked for me at, and online learning site where you can sign up for video lessons for as little as 99 cents per lesson.  Thanks to the tips and tricks in's French Macaron Cookies lesson, The Pea and I were able to create these perfect little beauties on our first try!

chocolate macarons

Unlike the usual YouTube video tutorial, features actual teachers, instructors, or experts on a particular subject matter.'s video lessons are segmented into steps, so you can do the lesson right along with the video and easily fast forward to the step you want to view or review. You can ask questions, and the teacher will get back to you. There are assignments you can complete, which the teacher will check and provide feedback on.  Once you purchase a lesson or course (made up of several lessons), you can view it forever.  And that's just about how long I intend to be making these macarons!

Disclosure: I received a credit on so I could sign up for some of their courses and try for myself
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Turkeys, Motorcycles, and Running Shoes: The Mazda Raceway Turkey Trot

The idea of running a race on Thanksgiving has always appealed to me -- do something active and healthy before stuffing your face! -- but I've never actually done it until this year.  Alfie found out that one of his favorite motorcycle racetracks, the Mazda Raceway in Laguna Seca, CA, was hosting their second annual Turkey Trot.  It's the ideal race for us, because it's not actually a race; there's no official start time, no one is timed, and there's no pressure to finish at a certain pace.  All you have to do is show up between 7am and 11am, and you can run, walk, skip, crawl, dance, or hop the 2.238-mile circuit.  Wild horses couldn't drag The Pea to an actual race and force her to run, but since everyone could go at their own pace, she willingly came along.   Alfie was beyond excited at the chance to set foot on the actual track where motorcycle legends like Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner race their bikes.  Even better, the $10 fee (just $10, the cheapest ever!) all went to benefit the Food Bank of Monterey.