10 Reasons to Fly out of San Jose Mineta Airport.

Remember the days when you could show up at the airport 10 minutes before your flight left and still make it on board? 9/11 put an end to those days forever, but lately it seems like we're being asked to get to the airport earlier and earlier.

For weeks we've been hearing horror stories about long TSA lines at airports causing travelers to miss their flights. Airports have been updating their websites,masking passengers to allow extra time to check in. So when I began planning a business trip to LA, I decided to err on the side of caution.  I planned to arrive at the airport 2.5 hours before my flight departure time -- for a 1-hour flight! 

I shouldn't have worried -- I was flying out of San Jose. The security line took me only 15 minutes to get through! I was much too early, but at least I spent most of my time relaxing in a comfy chair instead of stressing out in line.

Any time I have a choice, I fly out of San Jose Mineta Airport (SJC). I like it so much better than the Bay Area's major airport, San Francisco airport (SFO)! For one thing, it's closer to us than the San Francisco airport is. Also. Alfie's office is a 3-minute walk from the airport, so we can park in his office garage and save on parking fees. Obviously these don't apply to most people, but there are many other reasons to choose SJC over SFO. Here are ten of them:

1) It's a smaller airport, so it takes less time to get to your gate.

2) Less people fly through SJC so it means thinner crowds and shorter lines.

3) All the seats in their waiting lounges have outlets,Mao you don't have to crouch on the floor or fight to gain access to the only outlet in some obscure corner.


4) They have comfy seats with wide armrests for your coffee, along with power outlets and USB charging ports.


5) They even have a business lounge that any traveler can use. In addition to the usual chairs with outlets, the lounge has tables and cubicles so people don't have to balance their laptops on their laps.

6)  They have a water bottle refill station. Way to go green, SJC!


7) Their restroom stalls have enough space for parents and kids to be in the same stall.


8) There's even enough space in the stalls for luggage!


9) They have nursing rooms so moms who don't feel comfortable nursing in public don't have to feed their baby in a toilet stall.

10) Last but definitely not least, they have a Smashburger!! 'Nuff said!

The only disadvantage I can see is that fewer flights go out of SJC, especially international flights -- but British Airways has just begun a new service from SJC to Heathrow, so that's half of our international flights taken care of! If only they had flights to the Philippines as well... At least the smaller number of flights means that I can still enjoy SJC as the undiscovered gem that it is.






Preparing for the teenage years and underage drinking

Don't worry, dear reader; that's sparkling apple juice in the kids'  champagne flutes!

One of the most wonderful things about seeing kids grow is seeing how they change their minds. That ability to adapt is how they end up discovering favorite new foods, taking up new hobbies, and making new friends.  Of course, that ability to adapt can also be challenging for parents as kids get exposed to ideas and habits that clash with the values that we as parents are trying to instill.

Take drinking, for instance. The Pea is 15, and she tells me, "Mom, I hate the taste of alcohol! You don't ever have to worry about me drinking!".  That could well be true, but given her recent turnarounds, I'm not going to take that as gospel truth:

Two years ago: I hate jeans. I can't move in them and I can't breathe in them.
Two days ago: I need more jeans. They're all I wear!

Two years ago: I can't drive an Autopia car without crashing into the rails! I'm a terrible driver and I'm never driving, ever.
Two weeks ago: I'll be old enough to get my driver's permit in 6 months! I can't wait!



Two weeks ago: Mom, I hate the taste of alcohol! You don't ever have to worry about me drinking!
Two years from now: ????

She's a freshman, and already some of the parties that her friends have been invited to have featured alcohol. What's it going to be like when she goes to prom in just a few years?  I think it's never too early to start talking to your kids about topics like alcohol, underage drinking, or drinking and driving.  Want some tips to get your conversation started? Check out the Prom Drinking Guide that I wrote in partnership with SheKnows and Anheuser-Busch, and check out Anheuser-Busch's Family Talk About Drinking initiative on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Disclosure: this is a compensated post.

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Packing list for a Color Run

Color Me Rad color run in San Jose

I've been wanting to go on a fun run with 3Po and Jammy for a while now, A color run -- fun runs inspired by the Indian celebration of Holi, where runners are showered in color -- seemed like the perfect way to start. With their crazy soccer schedule, however, it always seemed like they had a soccer game conflicting with a run I was interested in, so it took a long time before the stars finally aligned and we were able to find a free weekend that coincided with Color Me Rad in San Jose. To our delight, Alfie and The Pea decided to join us, so the run turned into a family affair.


We had an amazing time (head over to Bonggamom Finds for a detailed description of the Color Me Rad race). 3Po and Jammy ran the 5k with hardly any effort whatsoever (probably not surprising since they're training 3 times per week on a competitive soccer team), and we ran at an easy pace. Volunteers plastered us with color at 4 stations along the way and at the finish line. To make things even messier, it had been raining every day for a week, so parts of the course turned into a "bonus" Mud Run!

By the time we finished the race, we were covered in colored powder, colored gel, mud, sweat, and rain. Fortunately, I put on my planning hat ahead of time and figured out ways to minimize the amount of mess we brought home with us. Here are 10 things I recommend for everyone to have (some things need to be with you during the run and other should be left in your car) for any color run:

The right attitude

Many runners get annoyed when they're forced to slow down, so set your expectations of what this run is all about.  This is not a race where you're likely to achieve a personal record. There will be lots of walkers and lots of kids, so be prepared to dodge a lot of slow-goers and even a stroller or two. The operative word is "fun", so focus on enjoying the moment and getting covered in color!
Color Me Rad color run in San Jose

White tshirt

Color shows up better on a white tshirt! Wear a white tshirt that you don't care about, because the color may not wash off completely. The shirts may not come out of the wash completely white; they might end up stained a very light pink or orange. For some reason, the free tshirt included in the Color Me Rad registration packet was grey, not white, so we decided to bring the grey shirts and keep them in the car, to change into after the race.  Alfie, The Pea, and I wore old white shirts we no longer cared about, and for the boys, I bought a 4-pack of Hanes white tees at HomeGoods for just $5!
Color Me Rad color run in San Jose


Plastic garbage bag cover-up

A friend taught me this trick a long time ago -- if you don't want to wear a long-sleeved jacked to your race but are concerned about feeling cold at the beginning, wear a garbage bag to stay warm! Tear out neck and arm holes, and wear it like a t-shirt. Once you start feeling warm, you can tear the garbage bag off and stuff it in the nearest trash can!
Color Me Rad color run in San Jose

Sunglasses

None of us wanted colored powder in our eyes, so we all wore cheap plastic shades while running. Color Me Rad sells plastic sunglasses at packet pick-up and on race day. They cost just $5, so it's worth buying a pair and sparing your nice designer shades from getting doused in dye.
Color Me Rad color run in San Jose

Caps

Unlike sunglasses, I think caps are entirely optional, but worth mentioning. Whether you want to wear a cap or not depends on whether you're okay with getting your hair covered in color. The Pea wanted her hair colored, so she didn't wear a cap. I've read reports of people with light hair having more trouble washing the color out of their hair, but The Pea (who is blond) didn't have that problem.
Color Me Rad color run in San Jose

Bandana

The dyed cornstarch powder used to coat the participants in color is non-toxic, and it's supposed to be safe when inhaled in small amounts -- but when you're running and gasping for air, the last thing you want is to breathe in a whole lot of powder! Many people bring bandanas and pull them up over their mouths and noses as they run or walk through the color stations. If you don't have a bandana, try holding your breath as you run or walk through the color stations.
Color Me Rad color run in San Jose


Baby wipes

After the run, you are sure to be covered in color, both powder and liquid. We had color literally running down our faces, necks, arms, legs, and clothing. You're going to want to wipe at least some of that color off before you get into your car! The race venues will probably have hand washing stations near the porta-potty area, or maybe even actual restrooms, but in case you don't have access to a lot of running water and paper towels, it's a good idea to have a large pack of baby wipes in the car.
Color Me Rad color run in San Jose

Extra tshirts

After the run, your shirt is sure to be saturated in wet, slimy, or powdery color. If it's a cold day, the last thing you want is to drive home feeling cold and clammy, so don't forget to have an extra shirt on hand in the car. There's nothing like changing into a clean, dry shirt!
Color Me Rad color run in San Jose

Plastic bags

You'll need a bag to dump all the layers that you peel off! You can pack an extra garbage bag in your car, or even better, pack a reusable cloth bag -- you can throw the bag into your washing machine along with all your other stained clothes.

Towels

Even after peeling off your tshirts and jackets and caps, even after you've wiped off your face and your hands, there's still a good chance that parts of your body will be stained with color -- I'm talking shoes, socks, legs, arms, hair, neck, shorts, pants, etc.. Bring 1 towel for each person to sit on for the ride home, so the color doesn't stain your car seats!

Color Me Rad color run in San Jose



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Tips for making the perfect Lebanese Garlic Sauce

photo: KCET Los Angeles
Lately, we've been obsessed with toum, or Lebanese Garlic Sauce. I found a recipe video online (actually, it found me; it just appeared on my Facebook feed one day). The instructions seemed really simple: mince garlic in a food processor, then slowly add oil and lemon juice until the mixture reaches a fluffy consistency.

Our first batch ended up an oily, soupy mess. It turns out that there's more to making toum than just throwing things together (my preferred method of making just about anything). to making sure this sauce emulsifies properly (i.e. doesn't separate into oils and solids).

My Family Creed: Our Ten Commandments for living


Most companies and organizations have a mission statement. Not only does a clear, shared mission help define the values of a company and its employees, it also helps guide the behaviour of all employees. So why don't families have something similar?

My favorite Super Bowl 50 Ads

Super Bowl 50
It's kind of surprising that Super Bowl 50 would be the event that dragged me out of my blogging rut, given that it was probably the most boring Super Bowl I've watched in many years. I'm the first to admit that I don't watch many football games, but I don't think I've ever seen more uncompleted downs (is that the correct term?) in any game. This time around, I don't think anyone could argue that the highlights of the event were Lady Gaga singing the Star Spangled Banner (those nails! those eyes!), the halftime show (and all the Coldplay memes that followed!), and the ads.
Lady Gaga Super Bowl 50


Once again, this year's ads were a mix of good (funny! celebrities you don't usually see in ads! heartwarming!), bad (boring! everyday, run-of-the-mill!), and ugly (bad CG! dumb humor!). Here's a list of my best and worst:

Winners

Taco Bell: Bigger Than...

In this ad, Taco Bell compares their latest product, the Quesalupa, to some of the hottest trends around, like man buns, drones, and hoverboards. The best part is when they say the Quesalupa is going to be bigger than football.... then show Neymar kicking a soccer ball, closing with, "The Real Football". BURN! Neymar in an American football ad!

NFL: Super Bowl Babies

I thought it was adorable when the first ad showed babies presumably conceived on Super Bowl night (dressed in fan gear of the winning Superbowl team), but it got even better with their follow-up ads, where the "babies" got older and older, showing how fans "celebrated" Super Bowl wins over the past 50 years! The final ad was the best, because you got to see 50 years of Super Bowl Babies being serenaded by Seal.


Jeep: Portraits

I'm a sucker for a cool vehicle, gorgeous portraits, and a "through the years" theme! Jeep is celebrating their 75th year, so their ad tied in perfectly with Super Bowl 50's milestone celebration. The ad featured photos of Jeeps through history and the people who drove them (including famous faces like Marilyn Monroe, Jeff Goldblum, BB King and Aretha Franklin).


Heinz: Weiner Stampede

I'm not an animal lover, but even I couldn't help melting at the sight of all those daschunds dressed as hot dogs, scampering (is there anything cuter/funnier than daschunds running?) towards the Ketchup Family (a family dressed in Heinz products costumes). Best of all was the adorable little girl dressed as a ketcup packet!!  Aaaargh! Cuteness overload!!


Intuit: Never A Sellout

I thought it was brilliant that Intuit managed to get the great actor Anthony Hopkins to star in their ad, and even more brilliant that they got him to poke fun at himself for "selling out", by insisting that he wasn't selling out even as he plastered himself (and his dog) with Intuit ads!  


Funny story: when I took to Twitter praising the ad, they gave me a throw pillow! I swear, I liked the ad even before I won and that's not why I'm including it here. I don't even like the pillow, but I'm going to tell myself this pillow was one used in the Anthony Hopkins ad.


Honorable Mention:

Snickers: Marilyn

Because Willem Dafoe was dressed as Marilyn Monroe.

Hyundai: Ryanville

Because Ryan Reynolds was in it... playing pretty much everyone (#eyecandy). Actually, all the Hyundai ads were pretty good!

T-Mobile: Drop the Balls

Because  Steve Harvey poked fun at his Miss Universe announcement disaster.

Coca-Cola: Hulk vs Ant-Man

Because I'm a sucker for Marvel's Avengers. If only Mark Ruffalo and Paul Rudd were actually in it!

Audi: Commander

Because it was a tribute to fathers and sons, and to David Bowie.

Losers

Mountain Dew: Puppymonkeybaby

That Puppymonkeybaby was just hideous. Call me an old fogey, but it was just plain dumb. The CG was really bad, with the baby's legs looking all wrong. It looked like I could have done a better job pasting the creature together... with Microsoft Paint.

Acura, Quickenloans, BMW

I don't even remember what went on in these ads. You know why? Because they looked like ads we see on the TV every day.

Doritos: Ultrasound

The rest of the family loved this, but I thought it was horrible. Seeing a fetus acting like a trained dog, salivating over a Doritos chip -- and seeing the dad treating his kid like one -- was just distasteful.


Which Super Bowl 50 ads did you like? Which ones did you hate?

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Ten Ways American Girl promotes inclusiveness and celebrates diversity

American Girl
One of my clients is a nonprofit organization for the type 1 diabetes community, so when word got out late last year that American Girl was going to start selling a diabetes care kit for American Girl dolls, you can bet I took notice. I already love American Girl dolls, and the fact that they are helping kids with diabetes create an American Girl doll experience that is uniquely tailored to them makes me love them even more.

Ten Tips for Surviving Braces

braces
The start of a perfect smile

3Po and Jammy have begun a rite of passage affecting teens and tweens all over the world. No, I'm not talking about their first crush (already happened). I'm not talking about smoking (never going to happen). I'm talking about braces. For the next 18-24 months they'll be visiting the orthodontist, craving popcorn, and slowly but surely, developing a killer smile. It's going to suck, and at times it's going to really suck, but the results will be worth it. I know, because I had braces myself.

Why we travel with our kids (even if they don't remember any of it)

family travel

One of our winter break highlights was a family trip to Vegas with Alfie's parents. With teens, tweens, and pensioners coming along, there were no strip clubs, poker, or night clubs on the itinerary, but we had a fabulous time anyway -- Vegas is amazing like that! My in-laws renewed their wedding vows, celebrating their 61st wedding anniversary in the same chapel that they celebrated their 51st anniversary 10 years ago. We also had a great time reintroducing the kids to the lavish hotel displays, decadent buffets, and spectacular shows.

I say "reintroducing the kids" because this is actually the boys' third trip to Vegas, and The Pea's fourth. Our last family trip to Vegas was in 2008, when they were ages 7, 4, and 4. They only remember flashes of that trip, and nothing of the previous trips, so it was like they were seeing Vegas for the first time.

12 Must-See Movies for 2016

movie releases 2016

It's a new year, and there are new movies to watch!  I've picked out 12 movies that I absolutely must see (that's one per month!). I think they're all worth the price of movie tickets, and I'll be making every effort to see them within a week or two or coming out. Even if I don't get to see them in theaters, I'll be the first one to sign up once they're available to rent.  Here are the movies (and their release dates) that I most want to see in 2016: