Oh, the Places You could Play (videogames, that is)

One of the great things about portable videogame systems like the PSP is just that: they're portable, and kids can take them anywhere. With thanks (or apologies?) to Dr. Seuss, here's what my kids would say if they were asked to wax poetic about the places they could use the PSP:

That PSP!
That PSP!
I do so like that PSP!

My sweet mother,
My sweet mommy
Please, may I play on the PSP?

Where would I play on the PSP?
There are so many places, you see!

First, I would play it on a boat.
Then I would play it with a goat.
And I would play it in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
The PSP's such fun, you see!
So I would play it in a box.
And I would play it with a fox.
And I would play it in my house.
And I would play it with a moust.
And I would play it here and there.
Say! I would play it ANYWHERE!
I do so like the PSP
Please let me play it, sweet mommy?

Am I the next Dr. Seuss or just a copycat (in the hat)? Any comment you leave here counts as an extra entry into my $50 PlayStation Network gift card giveaway!

Disclosure: I am participating in Sony's PSP Summer Family Fun blogger program; I received a "Summer Fun" kit which included a Sony Playstation Portable (PSP-3000) , an assortment of content (games and movies) for the PSP, as well as a journal and videocamera to capture our summer adventures. I have not been paid or required to review the product or give my opinions. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

A crazy-great giveaway

Alfie couldn't believe it when I told him I was hosting a $1,000 giveaway on BlogHer. He asked me again why I wasn't blogging about motorcycles so BMW could send us a bike to review or give away?

I know, it's hard to believe. Who gives away $1,000? And for nothing but leaving a comment! Usually you have to do all kinds of things to enter a contest with that kind of prize, like tap dance or submit videos of yourself doing stupid things. It was certainly a total surprise (and honor) to have been chosen to write the posts on the main offer page, and I've been having lots of fun talking about watering your body, and feeding your soul, in the summertime. This week I don't have a new post, which turned out to be a good thing, since we're leaving for the UK soon and I'm busy tying up all the loose ends before our trip. I'll be back with a new Crystal Light post at the beginning of next week.

Click here to go to the BlogHer/Crystal Light Water Your Body series of posts (hosted by yours truly!) and enter to win $1,000.

World Cup Fever

We're now in the early stages of Round 2 in the FIFA World Cup 2010, and things are more interesting than ever. What with the Jabulani and the vuvuzelas, the Italians and the French, the referree blunders and sore-loser coaches, this World Cup is turning out to be just like a soap opera. And then there are the matches, the nail-biting, nerve-shredding roller-coaster matches that truly showcase the beautiful game at its best. No wonder we can't look away. Here are some signs to show that our family, kids and adults alike, are truly hooked on this World Cup:

10) We've been eating dinner in front of the tv while we watch games that were Tivo'd earlier in the day.

9) We try to sleep early so we can get up in time for the next day's 7:00AM game.

8) 3Po and Jammy no longer play Webkinz Ninja Fighting games with their Webkinz stuffed animals -- they play Webkinz Soccer.

7) Jammy wants to meet Landon Donovan.

6) The Pea gets the off-side rule -- and has been seen screaming at the TV when she thinks there was daylight between the attacker and the defender.

5) 3Po went to bed the other night sobbing, all because USA had lost to Ghana.

4) The kids can recognize the flags of Uruguay, Paraguay, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ghana, South Africa, and other nations that they didn't even know about until this World Cup.

3) The kids can draw the flags of Uruguay, Paraguay, Mexico, Serbia, and all those flags with the complicated crests in the design.

2) The kids can even pronounce Uruguay and Paraguay without missing a beat.

And the number-one sign that we've caught World Cup Fever:

1) We timed our flight to the UK to make sure we wouldn't miss any matches -- we leave for the UK a couple of hours after one quarterfinal (Match 58) and arrive at Heathrow the next day with just enough time to grab our bags, pick up a rental car, drive to Alfie's parents' place, pour out a cup of tea and settle down to watch the next quarterfinal (Match 59).

Viva la beautiful game!

Early Lessons in Online Safety

The Pea recently had a rude introduction to the importance of online safety -- her Webkinz account was hacked, and she lost quite a bit of Webkinz cash, furniture, clothing and food. For those of you unfamiliar with Webkinz, they are real stuffed animals that come with codes that unlock virtual versions of those pets on Webkinz World's online virtual world. Every time you "adopt" a pet (i.e. buy one in a store and enter their code), you get Webkinz cash, an item of furniture, and a virtual room on Webkinz World. You can play online games to earn more cash, which you spend on food, clothing and furniture. You can also make friends with other people on Webkinz world, and send each other messages and presents.

The point of my lengthy description was not to show you how much I know about Webkinz (and I really do know more about it than I should --and that's a subject for more than a few future posts!). It's to point out that everything The Pea lost was virtual. We never really shelled out any money for it -- but she did spend a lot of time collecting that stuff, and it was still quite a sad loss for her.

Even sadder, she thinks a friend of hers may be the culprit. The Pea had logged on to Webkinz World while on a playdate with her friend, and although she claims she tried to type in her password secretly, her friend deliberately leaned over to watch her and found out her password. About a week later, a huge amount of cash, furniture, clothing and food was missing from her Webkinz account. Someone had logged on to The Pea's Webkinz account, used her Kinz Cash to buy lots of Webkinz stuff, added his/her Webkinz account to The Pea's Webkinz friend list, and sent all the stuff he/she bought

We have no proof, so I've told The Pea we can't go accusing anyone, least of all her so-called friend. And we may have made a terrible mistake; hers is not the first Webkinz account to get hacked, and her password was certainly not a strong password. I've tried to make light of the situation and tell her that she can always earn more Kinz Cash to replace what she has lost, and fortunately, she's not as into it as she used to be, so she doesn't log on to Webkinz World as frequently.

So, rather than accusing her friend of something she may or may not have done, I've told The Pea to take this experience as a sad example of what can happen on the internet if you don't take precautions, and to learn from it rather than waste time and energy dwelling on her loss. And I think The Pea has really taken it to heart. We changed her password to a secure one (a mix of characters and numbers, and not anything that can be easily guessed, like a name or a birthday). She knows not to share her password with any of her friends, and she's wary of logging onto the internet at other people's computers. She doesn't make friends on Webkinz with anyone we don't know in real life. And she's extended her newfound caution to her email account as well.

It's a hard lesson for a kid to learn, but The Pea learned it well -- and but since she did have to learn it, then I'm happy she did so at this young age, and in a relatively harmless circumstance, with minimal loss.

This post was inspired by the Yahoo! Motherboard's topic of the month for June: online safety.

Aloha Friday - Must-See Summer Movies

About Aloha Friday: Aloha Friday is a fun, simple meme from Kailani at An Island Life. Every Friday she asks a simple question on her blog, invites participants to answer her question in the comments section, then invites participants to ask a question of their own on their own blogs. Every day feels like a summer Friday over in Hawaii, so I'm making Aloha Friday one of my summer blogging goals -- to join the meme every Friday until school starts!

Our trip to the UK is getting nearer and nearer, and I'm starting to think about loading up our new Sony PSP with movies to keep the kids occupied during the 10-hour flight. Most international flights have a decent selection of movies in the on-demand video system on the backs of people's seats, but only 1 or 2 of those are kid-friendly. So it would be nice to have a movie or two on the PSP as a backup for them to watch. And since it's an overnight flight, Alfie and I might even get a shot at the PSP once the kids fall asleep, so we ought to choose a couple of movies for ourselves as well. There are so many movies that we meant to catch at the movie theaters, but never got around to -- and by the time they got onto DVD, we had already forgotten them.

Today's Aloha Friday Question: What must-see movies have you missed on the big screen?

Here are three movies that we kept saying we'd catch on DVD or Pay-Per-View:

1) Avatar
2) Up in the Air
3) Precious

I sometimes wonder whether I ought to try watching one of the Twilight movies, but I'm not sure I want to get (pardon the pun) sucked into them. Besides, if Alfie sees Twilight or New Moon on the PSP, he might divorce me out of sheer scorn.

And for the kids:

1) Planet 51
2) Fantastic Mr. Fox
3) Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel

What do you think? Which movies should we load up onto our PSP? Any comment you leave here counts as an extra entry into my $50 PlayStation Network gift card giveaway!

Disclosure: I am participating in Sony's PSP Summer Family Fun blogger program; I received a "Summer Fun" kit which included a Sony Playstation Portable (PSP-3000) , an assortment of content (games and movies) for the PSP, as well as a journal and videocamera to capture our summer adventures. I have not been paid or required to review the product or give my opinions. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

Purple is the Color of Mourning

Not that I'm mourning or anything, but when I saw this week's Photo Hunters theme I decided to dig up as many photos as I could of The Pea wearing purple. She has had tons of purple outfits over the years -- I can see them in my mind, but most of them didn't make it into our photo archive. Here's one of the earliest I found of her in a sweet, light purple onesie.

How can such an ugly monster be so cute?

The Pea still likes wearing this Mickey Mouse shirt, but it won't be long before we have to give it away.

These days, The Pea's taste runs to tank tops, not puff-sleeved blouses or patterned dresses. She looks far too grown-up in these tank tops -- they even have a little shelf bra for the rare occasion that the tween actually has something to put in them. She informed me this was a great thing so that when she started developing, I wouldn't have to spend any money to buy her bras. Sorry kid, you are most definitely wearing bras with these tank tops, and hopefully a sweater to go with it.

It all happened far too quickly!

I guess maybe I am mourning, just a little bit, after all.

This photo was inspired by the Photo Hunt theme of the week. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more purple things, click here.

You're Invited to a White Fence Twitter Party

Party alert for all my tweeps out there! I'm hosting the WhiteFence Summer Savings Twitter Party, and there will be fabulous prizes, including 3 $25 Target gift certificates, a $50 Best Buy gift certificate, and the Grand Prize: a $250 Amazon.com gift certificate!

What: a WhiteFence.com Summer Savings Twitter Party
Why: To share ideas on summer fun and summer savings -- and win great prizes!
When: Thursday, June 24th 7:00-8:00pm EST (4:00-5:00pm PST)
Where: on Twitter, follow the #wfparty hashtag

Click here for more party details and to RSVP. You'll even be entered to win another $25 Target gift certificate on Bonggamom Finds! Hope to see you at the party!

Staying Positive

What a great way to start the day -- seeing both England and the USA make it out of their group and advance to the second round of the World Cup tournament! It was a must-win for both teams, and both games were nail-biters all the way. I'm particularly impressed with Team USA's performance -- Landon Donovan's 91st-minute goal was like a fairytale come true. From "no chance to advance" to actually coming out top in their group, they are on fiyah! They play Ghana next, and although I'm really happy an African nation made it to the second round, I'd be even happier if the USA made it to the quarterfinals -- I'm hoping the team's success will help promote The Beautiful Game in the USA (read my rant about the shameful lack of World Cup 2010 coverage in the US media, on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog), so the further they advance in the tournament, the better it will be for soccer in the US. Things are looking good!

On days like this, it's easy to stay positive, but on other days when I'm feeling depressed, I have to become my own cheerleader and do what I can to lift my spirits. Here are 3 things I like to do:

1) I run
2) I blog
3) I celebrate

You can read more about my self-motivating strategies on my latest BlogHer post. Leave a comment there and you'll be entered to win $1000!

Speaking of BlogHer and winning loads of cash, my final BlogHer Tropicana Juicy Insiders Post is up on Bonggamom Finds -- leave a comment there and you'll be entered to win $50!

Which brings me to one more thing I like to do to stay positive: enter lots of giveaways and fantasize about winning them all :)

At the Airport

When you've got an hour and a half delay at the airport, watching planes for 90 more minutes just ain't gonna cut it. Thank goodness Sony sent us this PSP to review!

This is my Wordless Wednesday post. For more WW posts, click here.

The camera does not make the photographer

These days, with the advent of digital cameras and photo editing software, it seems like anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a photographer. Just ask a professional what equipment he's using, buy the same thing, and you're all set.

I know better. It's like buying the same typewriter as Hemingway and expecting to write a literary masterpiece, or buying a racecar just like Mario Andretti's and expecting to race around a track as fast as he can . The equipment does not make the artist. We have a digital SLR and a decent macro lens, but I cannot create a decent bokeh effect to save my life. I can take dozens of photos of the same thing and hope that one photo will luck out and turn out halfway decent, while a true photographer can take one photo of the same subject, using a point-and-shoot camera, and end up with a far better result.

Some people just have it, and by some I'm talking about Anna Mayer. She's a fellow writer for the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, and she recently invited some of the SV Moms writers to pose for family portraits. We met for our session in Mountain View's Cuesta Park, but Anna led us away from the park, past the parking lot, and into an abandoned field with wild grasses and a gnarled old tree at the center. Everything looked yellow and dusty, the sun was high in the sky and if I had been taking the photos, they would have all come out with an overexposed background and shadowed faces.

But then, I'm not Anna Mayer.

Under her eye and her lens, the tree turned into something graceful, and the hot, bright sunlight became golden and warm.

I don't remember those grasses looking so green, and I could have sworn we were in a field just beside a parking lot, in the middle of suburban Silicon Valley, not in a lush, green paradise in some untouched countryside . I saw an abandoned field, but Anna saw the perfect photo shoot location.

I would probably have cropped both The Pea's and my faces off in this photo, or enlarged it so that all of our faces were part of it. But an artist knows which elements to include in her work, and which ones to take away, in order to convey the emotion or story that she sees when she captures it. She also knows the perfect words to describe what she has captured: Loved.

As I said, the camera does not make the photographer.

Click here to see more photos from our Anna Mayer session and read more about what I thought of the whole experience!

Aloha Friday - the Verdict on Videogames

About Aloha Friday: Aloha Friday is a fun, simple meme from Kailani at An Island Life. Every Friday she asks a simple question on her blog, invites participants to answer her question in the comments section, then invites participants to ask a question of their own on their own blogs. Every day feels like a summer Friday over in Hawaii, so I'm making Aloha Friday one of my summer blogging goals -- to join the meme every Friday until school starts!

This week I began a six-week series of posts as part of Sony's PSP Summer Family Fun blogger program. I'll be blogging about how video gaming (and the PSP in particular) is (or isn't) becoming a part of our summer lifestyle. Since I'm also making it a goal to post an Ahola Friday meme every week this summer, I thought it might be fun to combine some of my PSP posts with my Aloha Friday questions (or infuse some of my Aloha Friday questions with PSP / video gaming themes, however you want to look at it). I'd also love to know how video games are (or aren't) a part of your family's entertainment.

Today's Aloha Friday Question: How do you feel about kids and videogames?

I've blogged at length about my constant struggle with this question. I swore I'd never let my kids sit in front of a videogame console all day long.

Well, that's like me swearing I'd never let my kids eat at McDonalds. Or eat candy as a snack. Or watch tv with (gasp!) commercials. Or all those other things I swore I'd never let my kids do -- before I actually had kids.

Needless to say, I've lightened up. I've learned that not all videogames are bad and violent. Some are actually educational -- for example, you can get Scrabble, Uno, and chess for the PSP. And they're a GREAT way for kids to pass the time in the car or on an airplane. Yes, I do see that it's all too easy for kids to get stuck in front of a videogame screen. But I like to think I'm the parent and I can be in control. We don't do violent videogames, we set limits on videogame use, I try to ensure they engage in physical, literary and creative activities. And they always put their consoles down when I ask them to.

Besides, these devices are not just videogames anymore; the PSP lets you watch movies and listen to music in addition to playing games. Music doesn't count -- I remember listening to my Sony Walkman day and night (boy did I think I was cool) and I don't have any problem with having my daughter plug into her PSP to listen to her favorite tunes all day long (as long as she can still hear me when I yell for her).

What do you think? Are videogames the Devil Incarnate or a Godsend? Any comment you leave here counts as an extra entry into my $50 PlayStation Network gift card giveaway!

Disclosure: I am participating in Sony's PSP Summer Family Fun blogger program; I received a "Summer Fun" kit which included a Sony Playstation Portable (PSP-3000) , an assortment of content (games and movies) for the PSP, as well as a journal and videocamera to capture our summer adventures. I have not been paid or required to review the product or give my opinions. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.


3Po and Jammy will be six years and six months old at the end of this month! I can't believe how fast time flies. Pretty soon it'll be sixteen, then twenty-six, then their own kids will turn six. It's enough to make my heart six, I mean sick.

This photo was inspired by the Photo Hunt theme of the week. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more sixes, click here.

How do *you* unwind in the summer?

It's week 2 of the Water Your Body series of posts on BlogHer, hosted by yours truly, and it's a (pun definitely intended) hot topic for stressed-out moms! Summer is supposed to be a laid-back, relaxing time of the year, but staying on top of summer camps, preparing for swim lessons and herding everyone off on day trips can be as stressful as a school day.

Here are some things I do to relax:
  1. Listen to classical music
  2. Go shopping at the mall
  3. Watch a movie
  4. Go on a picnic dinner with my family

Read my post on BlogHer for more details
-- and don't forget, if you leave a comment on the post and share how you unwind in the summer, you'll be entered to win $1000!

On the Plane

Since we didn't have preassigned seats for today's flight to Chicago, I had to sit several rows away from the kids. The airline rep managed to get them all seats in the same row, so they didn't care. It was actually great to be able to say, "Sorry kids, you'll have to sort all your squabbles by yourselves, I'm all the way up here and I can't get past the line to the bathroom"! They were good as gold, keeping themselves busy with their activity books and the PSP:

It looks like some other parents had the same idea -- the 3 boys seated across the aisle from my kids were flying solo, and each of them had a PSP!

This is my Wordless Wednesday post. For more WW posts, click here.

When Just a Spoonful of Sugar Isn't Enough

Remember my post a couple of days ago about Jammy's first day of camp? To recap, he woke up with pains in his legs and didn't want to start summer camp. I diagnosed nervousness, gave him some mints medicine and let the excitement of camp work its magic on him. I was feeling all wise and smug and Mary Poppins and all, happy that I got him to forget his pain.

Boy, when you're wrong, you're wrong. He woke up the next day with even more pain, unable to walk normally, hobbling around like a ninety-year old cowboy. I kept asking him to point and flex his toes, convinced that he probably just had some kind of bad strain. But I took him to the doctor anyway, because what 6-year old wakes up one day unable to walk?

Turns out, a 6-year old with benign acute childhood myositis. The symptoms fit like JLo's Versace outfit -- he had just gotten over a viral illness, had stiffness in his calves and pain while walking or flexing his feet. Which is exactly what I was forcing him to do in order to "walk away the pain". Oops. Hello, mommy guilt, you are here to stay, aren't you?

So much for placebo pills. Next time I'll leave the faith healing to the shamans.

PSP Summer Family Fun

I'm thrilled to have been selected by Sony Corporate Entertainment America to participate in their PSP Summer Family Fun blogger program! They have generously provided my family with a PSP-3000 and some games to load on it so we can try the PSP out and make it a part of our summer. Our Summer Family Fun package arrived a few weeks ago, and it was like Christmas all over again. Check out the smiles on their faces:

Over the next six weeks I'll be sharing thoughts, photos and videos about how the PSP is helping to fill all the "Are-We-There-Yet" time that's sure to crop up on our summer travels to Chicago, England and France. Since they're on summer vacation, I'm letting them have more videogame time, but I also want to share my thoughts on how to balance onscreen time (not just time on video games but also tv and computer). Once we get the hang of this system I'll post a review of the PSP on my review blog, Bonggamom Finds. But for now, here's a great giveaway to get the program started -- I'm giving away a $50 PlayStation Network gift card over on Bonggamom Finds!

First Day of Camp

Jammy hasn't been feeling well all weekend, so he was overjoyed last night when I pronounced him fever-free for 24 hours and gave the green light to attend summer camp. So I was slightly surprised to find him subdued and tearful this morning. I took his temperature and all was normal, but he said his leg hurt. Alfie and I assured him that he had probably cramped up in the night from sleeping in one of his weird positions and the pain would go away.

He hobbled downstairs for breakfast and insisted that he was still in pain. He was somber and his voice quavered, and after a number of comments I began to suspect what was really ailing him:

Maybe I should skip this first day of camp and rest my leg.
What if I can't run around during recess and lunch?

What if I don't have any fun?

Can you come to camp with me?

So I did what any parent would do. I medicated him.

Here you go, Jammy. Here's some medicine that will take away the pain. It might take 30 minutes or so for the pain to go away but by the time we sign in to camp your leg will be fine.

When he said goodbye to Alfie, Alfie asked how his leg was, and Jammy replied that it still hurt, but mama had given him medicine. Alfie looked at me with raised eyebrows and asked, What medicine? I told him (with Jammy listening),

I gave him a placebo pill, you know the one I keep in the cabinet for stuff like this? It's got a nice minty taste so Jammy didn't have any problem chewing it.

On the drive to camp, Jammy said his leg was feeling better, but he was still a bit worried. As we arrived and lined up to register, we saw a grownup wearing a chicken hat. I could see the gears in his mind cranking, thinking, reevaluating. When he saw his and his brother's nametags on the table, he perked up, and when he saw his friend's nametag on the same table he began to grin.

By the time the camp counselor gathered them together for an aerial tour of the campgrounds, Jammy had forgotten all about the pain in his leg.

Looks like those placebo pills did work after all.

Aloha Friday - Summer Edition

Yahoo, school's out! It's the first day of summer and I'm so ready to chill. I'm looking forward to long, lazy days when I can let the kids out to play while I plant myself in front of the computer and blog to my heart's content.... but I know that's not going to happen. I have a feeling that between visits to the pool and the library and day trips to the beach or the museum, not to mention summer travel and summer camps, my blog is going to be sadly neglected. So I'm taking charge and making sure I don't let it happen! And just like I join exercise classes to help keep my fitness goals on track, I'm going to make an effort to join some blog memes to keep my blogging goals on track.

And since it's summertime, what better meme to join than Aloha Friday? Aloha Friday is a fun, simple meme from Kailani at An Island Life. Every Friday she asks a simple question on her blog, invites participants to answer her question in the comments section, then invites participants to ask a question of their own on their own blogs. Every day feels like a summer Friday over in Hawaii, so I'm making Aloha Friday one of my summer blogging goals -- to join the meme every Friday until school starts!

My first Aloha Friday question: What are your big summer plans?

This summer is going to be crazy-busy. I've signed the kids up for just a couple of weeks of summer camp, but I bought a family membership to the Oakland Zoo and to Gilroy Gardens so we can visit both places as often as we want. And we have a trip to the UK in the works! While we're there, Alfie and I will sneak away for some couple time in Amsterdam, we're driving down to Paris with the kids, and we're all touring the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. And let's not forget the BlogHer conference in New York! Hmmm, I wonder if we have time to squeeze in a camping trip before school starts....

What about you? Any vacations on the horizon? Any road trips? Will your kids be in the pool or summer school? What are your plans?

The last time I had a bubble bath

When I found out that this week's theme for the Photo Hunt was bubbles, I knew exactly which photo I wanted to use. What shocked me is that I found it in my 2006 folder. Has it really been FOUR YEARS since I last had a bubble bath? And I had to go all the way to Calistoga for that one!

When Alfie and I were dating, we'd have bubble baths all the time. We had large jars of bath salts in several different fragrances and candles all ready to burn around the tub. But it seems to be one of those things that slid down the drain once the kids were born. The kids have had numerous bubble baths, but not me. No wonder I'm still looking for Bongga Mom. She's hidden underneath a layer of dry, scaly dishpan-skin, waiting to be pampered and soaked and slathered with beauty products. Now that the kids are older I need to start taking care of myself more!

This photo was inspired by the Photo Hunt theme of the week. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more bubbly things, click here.

American Girl Place, LA

When my sister and I went to LA for the American Idol finals at the end of May, we had a free day to see the sights and hang out. I told my sister there were only two things I was really interested in hitting given the limited time we had: Grauman's Chinese Theater and American Girl Place. Not exactly the stuff that fills up travelogues, but I've already been to the AG Places in Chicago and New York, so I figured I'd round it out and get an American Girl Place hat trick (if you don't know what that means, brush up on it because you might be hearing that phrase a lot during the upcoming World Cup 2010).

I think the American Girl Place in LA might be my favorite of the Big Three. The inside of the store is similar to the other two, but the store is located in The Grove, an outdoor shopping center that screams of chic, relaxed SoCal lifestyle. Walking around is an absolute pleasure, and when you see the familiar red awning, you know you've arrived at little girl heaven.

American Girl Place Los Angeles
The front facade is not all that different from the other two stores I've been to.

American Girl Place Los Angeles
But the outdoor veranda is what makes this place unique. The American Girl cafe is on the second floor, and looks out onto The Grove. It all looks so luxurious and special, I can only imagine what it must be like sitting down to lunch or tea or dinner up on that balcony.

American Girl Place Los Angeles
Sadly, they are no longer running any American Girl productions. The theater was closed, and who knows when it will open again. It would have been fun to take The Pea to one of their shows (hmmm, maybe I ought to focus on taking The Pea to the actual store first).

American Girl Place Los Angeles
I quickly stuck my head into the cafe and snapped a photo. I love the black, white and pink decor! Note the French doors that open up onto that lovely veranda.

American Girl Place Los Angeles
I don't remember seeing a Girl of The Year display in Chicago or New York. I really enjoyed seeing all the dolls for each year lined up, from 2003 (Lindsey) to 2009 (Chrissa). I wonder how much those dolls are worth now.

American Girl Place Los Angeles
One corner had a Lainie poster with a small flowerbed in front of it so little girls -- and, in my case, big girls -- could stand and pose with 2010's Girl of the Year.

American Girl Place Los Angeles
Even my sister got into the cute AG Place LA souvenirs (not that she needs much excuse to shop -- I think it's in our blood). She got some caps for her girls and I got a floppy sunhat for The Pea -- they only cost $15, which is quite reasonable for any kind of hat, let alone a hat from American Girl -- and now our girls have a nice souvenir of when their moms went crazy at American Girl Place in LA.

Now I have to figure out an excuse to visit Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, and Minneapolis. And start a petition to get an American Girl store out here in San Francisco (Hello, American Girl! Why are you not in the Bay Area yet? Do you know how many dot-com millionaires there are in Silicon Valley just dying to spend their money on their darling daughters??). Hopefully I'll get to cross some of those off my list before The Pea outgrows American Girl. Oh, well, there's always the grandkids.

For more photos of the American Girl Place in LA, check out my American Girl photoset on Flickr.

Wordless Wednesday: Click herefor more Wordless Wednesday entries. Feel free to leave the link to your WW post below, I promise I'll drop by!

Sparkle and shimmer versus glassy and bright

Bonggamom's 38th
I don't normally like sparkly chandeliers, but this one at Roux Louisiana Kitchen, a New Orleans style restaurant where Alfie and I dined on my birthday, looks gorgeous in its surroundings. What I might see as tacky in any other setting looks luxurious and decadent amidst the red walls, velvet curtains and beads draped across chairs and gilded frames. It just goes to show you two things:

1) Always keep an open mind.

2) I'm no interior decorator.

This photo was inspired by the Photo Hunt theme of the week. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more sparkly things, click here.

Learning a few lessons from my son

Yesterday I did a mean thing: I spilled one of 3Po's secrets. I told The Pea about something funny that happened to 3Po a couple of months back. In my defense, I didn't think it was embarrassing at all, just cute, and I wanted to share it with her (in fact, it's so cute I'm dying to blog about it, but I won't because I'm in enough trouble already from telling The Pea). And even though he protested and asked me not to tell her, he was laughing as he said it, so I was dismayed to see him dissolve into tears after I told her.

In hindsight, it was a stupid thing to do and I shouldn't have done it. I apologized as best as I could and both The Pea and I swore not to tell anyone, not even Alfie. Not surprisingly, he said he didn't trust either of us -- so I came up with a guarantee.

Have a heart, have a sole -- It's National Barefoot Week

Today I published a post on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog griping about how I can never find cute and comfy shoes to wear. It's meant to be humorous, but the truth is that people all over the world don't even have enough money to buy one pair of shoes, let alone worry about whether they look chic or not. In fact, almost 1.5 billion people in this world (and over 300 million of them are children) don't have shoes!

This week Nashville-based charity Soles4Souls is celebrating National Barefoot Week to raise awareness of how easily we can help put shoes on the feet of people in need. From June 1-7 all kinds of events will be held, including shoe drives, fun runs & walkathons, retail trade-in events, concerts, festivals and more.

FYI, if you don't know what Soles4Souls is, they distribute donations of gently used shoes to people in need. Since 2005, they've given away over 7 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes (currently donating one pair every 9 seconds.) The shoes have been distributed to people in over 125 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States.

I think initiatives like this are fabulous. Everyone has unused pairs of shoes rotting in their closet, and parents of growing kids always have a pair that needs to be put aside since their kid has outgrown them before they've had a chance to wear out. Soles4Souls gives you an earth-friendly, humanitarian way to dispose of your shoes -- donate them to a person who needs them. You can visit their website for more information and drop-off locations. I found one less than 3 miles from home, so this week I'll be getting rid of some soles and gaining some soul!

How else can you get involved?

* Clean out your own closets and donate your gently used shoes (visit Soles4Souls for drop-off locations).

* Blog about National Barefoot Week to raise awareness of the initiative among your readers.

* Go barefoot around the blogosphere -- post your barefoot photo on your blog, Facebook or Twitter profile! Here's mine:

Have fun going barefoot this week!