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Archive for July, 2009

Photo Friday: Dinner at the Blue Crab, Victoria British Columbia

July 31st, 2009 by bsmith | 7 Comments | Filed in Canada Adventures, Photo Friday
Dinner at the Blue Crab, Victoria BC

Dinner at the Blue Crab, Victoria BC

As I mentioned in a previous post, membership has its privileges.  Ken taught several classes at the Coast Hotel in Santa Cruz (now the Dream Inn) and accumulated guest reward points.  We never had enough for an overnight stay,but he did earn enough to pay for most of a luscious dinner at the Blue Crab Restaurant in Victoria British Columbia.  This romantic restaurant overlooks the bay and has amazing sea food.

Crab Dinner at the Blue Crab

Crab Dinner at the Blue Crab

Our meal included steak and crab as well as assorted clams and mussels.  The service was excellent.  As you can see we savored every bite of this outstanding meal.

Blue Crab Aftermath, Victoria, BC

Blue Crab Aftermath, Victoria, BC

 We finished just as the sun was setting and caught a water taxi back to the Empress Hotel.  It was a romantic ending to our culinary adventure.

Waiting for the Water Tax, Victoria Harbor

Waiting for the Water Taxi, Victoria Harbor

Happy Trails,
Bridget
PS Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Fridays.  Check out her amusing post about her Seattle “Heatcation” here.  Way to be creative, Debbie :) .
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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Counting the (Cell Phone) Minutes

July 28th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Travel Tips

Most of my readers out there probably pay for a decent cell phone plan with unlimited calling or minutes that carry over from month to month.  However, for those of you are a cheap like me and have an inexpensive basic calling plan this tip is for you.

This month I ended up on the road for three weeks.  Much of this travel was unexpected. Since we were visiting with family and friends the trip required alot of cell phone communication to set up visits, catch up with old friends, etc.  I was shocked to open my mail box and find a bill for almost six times the amount that I usually pay!  Doing some web research I discovered that previous to the bill being sent out, I could have purchased Sprint overage relief minutes for $25 per 100 minutes.  I found a customer service e-mail, did some fancy typing, and accomplished the impossible.  Sprint  retroactively sold me overage relief minutes and the bill was greatly reduced.

Here are the lessons learned from this experience:

  • Keep track of your minutes…Sprint offers ways you can do this using your phone or on line.
  • Know your cell companies policy about purchasing extra minutes.  I had never heard that this was an option.
  • Take advantage of free local phone calls if offered by your hotel.  (This would have saved me a bundle!)
  • Be persistant with cell phone company personnel.  The first representative I talked to told me the only solution would be to upgrade to a significantly more expensive plan.

Hope you are having a great summer full of family adventure.  Keeping track of cell phone use can save you money that can go to hotel rooms or ice cream instead!

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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In Memory of Deana Reynolds

July 27th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

My friend Deana passed away today.  She was a very special person, and I was lucky to know her.  She was a tireless advocate for adoption, mother to two beautiful boys, and a friend and mentor to all who knew her.  When I asked friends to help edit my book she was my first volunteer and did so in the hospital soon after she was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma.

I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts that her husband posted on her Caring Bridge website tonight.    They are important lessons learned from an amazing woman.

1.  Have blood or platelets?  Donate them.  There is no greater gift you can give another human, but a chance at life.

2.  Hug your family.  Do it often and for no reason at all.  You will all feel better.

3.  Family and friends are everything.  Without them one is lonely.  With them at your side, ALL things are possible.

4.  Never, ever quit.  No matter what, rise to the occassion.  It’s what makes life worth living.

Happy Trails, Deana. 

You  will be missed.

-Bridget

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Photo Friday: Lego Las Vegas

July 24th, 2009 by bsmith | 8 Comments | Filed in Las Vegas Adventures, Legoland, Photo Friday
Lego MGM Grand, Miniland Las Vegas

Lego MGM Grand, Miniland Las Vegas

Just got back from a trip from Vegas.  Since it was 112 degrees during most of our visit, I didn’t have a chance to snap many shots of the famous Strip.  Luckily Legoland has me covered.   Here is the Lego version of our Las Vegas adventures:

Lego Excalibur, Miniland Las Vegas

Lego Excalibur, Miniland Las Vegas

Lego New York New York, Miniland Las Vegas

Lego New York New York, Miniland Las Vegas

Lego Treasure Island, Miniland Las Vegas

Lego Treasure Island, Miniland Las Vegas

 We tried to see the Treasure Island sirens show when we were in Vegas.  The crowds were so huge we could only catch a glimpse.  Probably a good thing since this show is decidedly PG-18.  Those sirens wear some skimpy lingerie!  I think we will be sticking to viewing the Legoland version in the future.

I have a blog post about family friendly Las Vegas pools on Uptake this week.  Check it out.

Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Crime Happens

July 21st, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Las Vegas Adventures, Travel Tips

So sorry I missed State Park Sunday this week.  I’m really sick with a cold!  Sounds like 88% of the funding is restored, but some parks will still be closed at the Governor’s discretion no less.  I don’t think that the park closures are worth preserving the governor’s “No new taxes” philosophy.  A voluntary Park Access Pass fee would have gone a long way to keeping all the parks open and reducing the amount allocated from the general fund.

Anyway, on to Travel Tip Tuesday.  I am writing this post because our family has been victims of crime  on more than one occasion during our travels this year.  Here are three scenarios we have experienced.

Stolen Cell Phone

 On a spring trip to Las Vegas my husband lost his cell phone.  It may have dropped out of his pocket or his pocket was picked.  What scares me is that we were not together, and I continued to broadcast my location until the person who found it turned it off.  We spent an hour on the phone with Sprint, but we were able to block outgoing calls and re-route incoming calls to my cell phone.  When you travel make sure that your cell phone is secure.  As soon as you find out it is lost,  take immediate action.  Don’t expect to rely on some good Samaritan to return to phone.  It did not happen in our case.

Fraud

When we were in Santa Cruz I decided to order take out from my favorite Chinese restaurant.  When I Googled it’s name the first thing that came up was a site called Menu Station.  This site contained the restaurant menu and offered online ordering.  I decided that this sounded like a good alternative to calling the restaurant and placing a phone order.  I place my order, only to discover that Menu Station had not passed on the proceeds from online orders to the restaurant management for many months!  So far, no misuse of my credit card number, but inquiries have gone unanswered and I must now pursue a reverse charge with my credit card company…Bummer.  Kudos to the restaurant for comping me the bill.  I’ll post a review of this delicious venue at another time.

Auto Break-In

It seems that crime happens in Vegas.  My husband left our cheapo GPS in the rental car at a hotel parking lot.  Someone broke the car window and grabbed it.  There was onsite security, but somehow he wasn’t passing by at the right time.  Always take in your electronics…even if you don’t think they are valuable.  According to my discussions with the security guard, even the resale of something inexpensive can fund an addict’s next fix.

Ken paid for the rental with American Express so they are cheerfully covering repairs.  We’ll have to see if there is any further financial fallout from robbery for us.  We are out a GPS though. We purchased it with Master Card a while ago and don’t have the complete receipt.  Ken suggested that we find out where they were selling all those stolen electronics and buy a new to us GPS on our way out of town.  I nixed that idea, and we will be relying on Google Maps for the forseeable future.

Hope you have a summer of crime free vacations.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Photo Friday: Ethel M Chocolate Factory, Las Vegas

July 17th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Las Vegas Adventures, Uncategorized
Jared and his Green Friend

Jared and his Green Friend

It has been a hot week here in Las Vegas.  Before you think I was absolutely crazy to plan a trip out here this time of year (and perhaps I was!) my husband had a business trip so we decided to tag along. 

Enjoying Las Vegas in 112+ degree weather has required some creativity.  We spend more time just hanging out in our wonderful hotel room at the Desert Rose Resort in Las Vegas then we usually do on such adventures.  We swim in the evenings and spent a morning bowling in an air conditioned casino.

The first day of our trip I had the crazy idea to drive out to Henderson and take the Ethel M Chocolate Factory Tour.  The tour, frankly, was a bust.  Although we arrived at 1:30 the workers must have been home on break or gone for the day.  The factory was almost deserted.  I enjoyed seeing all the machinery and redeemed myself in the eyes of my children by buying overpriced chocolate bars.   They were delectible.

Chocolate Delights

Chocolate Delights

Here are some photos of the cactus garden.  I enjoyed it immensely despite the heat.  The kids were another story:

Lone Cactus

Lone Cactus

 

Happy Trails, Las Vegas

Happy Trails, Las Vegas

Some of my fellow travel bloggers are heading to TBEX and BlogHer in Las Vegas.  Sadly, my travels are mostly over for the summer, and I won’t be joining them.  If you are looking for some virtual travels, check out Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday  .

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Schick Intuition

July 14th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Travel Tips

OK.  This is more like a mommy travel tip, but it seemed worth sharing.  During a stay at the Holiday Inn Express at Monterey Bay in Seaside, California I found a free sample of the Schick Intuition Razor in my room.  I guess that Schick provided them to the hotel in the hopes of getting women hooked on their product.  Well, great marketing strategy it worked!

What makes this razor perfect for travel is that it is surrounded by a shaving soap that rubs against your skin.  No need to pack shaving cream which will make airline travel a wee bit easier.  I haven’t checked the price of refills, but may get some more considering that it would eliminate my need to buy shaving cream.  I’ve been using my Intuition razor since late June and it still has some soap left.  I’m guessing I will need to change blades about once a month during the summer.

Well, off on a Vegas adventure for the rest of this week.  I’ll try to post something on Friday. 

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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State Park Sunday: Letter from Our Governor

July 11th, 2009 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in State Park Sundays
Natural Bridges State Beach is one of Countless California State Beaches Threatened by the Budget Crisis

Natural Bridges State Beach is one of Countless California State Beaches Threatened by the Budget Crisis

Sorry to stray from the usual format, but I received an e-mail from Governor Schwarzenneger today. I wanted to share it with you along with my reply.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

Here’s what he wrote:

 

Thank you for writing to me about funding for our state parks system.  Your input is important to me during these challenging times. 

 

California’s natural beauty is renowned throughout the world, and I have made it my priority to protect our environment so future generations of Californians can continue to experience and enjoy what we have all come to love.  Our state parks provide a fantastic introduction to the California experience and help bring our residents and visitors closer to our landscapes.

 

Unfortunately, the state cannot continue to bear the costs of supporting every program.  Believe me when I say that these cuts have been the hardest decisions of my career as Governor, but we are in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Our revenues for the coming year are at least 27 percent below where they were projected to be just two short years ago.  We now face a shortfall that has grown to $26.3 billion, and the people of California have made their voice clear: they want the state to live within its means and solve its problems through spending cuts and not tax increases. 

 

To help manage our budget shortfall, I have proposed eliminating General Fund support for the Department of Parks and Recreation.  I understand that these cuts will impact not only the lives of our park employees but the millions of park visitors who visit these national treasurers every year.  In spite of these General Fund cuts, though, I will work to keep as many parks open as possible with funding from user fees.  It may require raising entry and camping fees, expanding partnerships with local government and non-profit groups, and seeking additional creative ways to support our system in the future.

 

As I work with my partners in the Legislature to find solutions to these problems, know I will keep your thoughts in mind.  Working together, I believe we can weather this storm and start the slow but steady march back toward prosperity.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

Here’s my reply:

 

Dear Governor,

 

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.  I want to reiterate that I believe that a vehicle license fee would be the user fee that would save the most state parks, while still freeing up money for the general fund.  As you are aware, they have been very successful in Montana with an optional fee.  Those who pay the fee get free day use and parking.  I presume that those who do not pay the same fees as out of state visitors. 

 

Please, please consider something similar.  I believe that this would save the parks and stimulate local economies.  Everyone I have talked to from State Park docents to my husband the Republican agrees that this would be an excellent solution.  I am sure that if you let the legislature know that you are open to such a bill, it would be passed by a majority.  As you have seen with the torrent of e-mail and postcards, the State Parks have many supporters here in California.

 

Thank you for your hard work during this budget crisis.  I have profound respect for you and the difficult choices that you must make on behalf of all Californians.

 

Regards,

 

Bridget Smith

 

 

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Photo Friday: Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

July 9th, 2009 by bsmith | 9 Comments | Filed in Museums
Build Your Own Arch, Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose

Build Your Own Arch, Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose

I am a huge fan of children’s museums for affordable family fun.  The Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose is one of the best I’ve ever visited.  My ten year old just couldn’t pick one favorite area.  Some of our top choices: a play pizza kitchen, real ambulances and fire trucks to ride, an amazing water play area and oodles of bubbles. 

Bubble Wall

Bubble Wall

 

Justin's Bubble Magic

Justin's Bubble Magic

What also sets this museum apart is that it has a fabulous enclosed play area called the Wonder Cabinet just for toddlers and preschoolers.   The Wonder Cabinet has it’s own art studio for preschool projects, a crawling space for the littlest visitors to explore, an amazing reading nook, and plenty of other goodies.

Here is the magnficent Discovery Museum Fire Truck:

Off to the Fire

Off to the Fire

Enjoying summer in San Diego and heading off for a hot week in Vegas.  Wish me luck!

Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Photo Friday.  Be sure to check out Delicious Baby’s mystery photo here along with lots of other great Photo Friday posts.

Happy Trails,
Bridget
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State Park Sunday: Independence Day at Wilder Ranch State Park

July 5th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

My dream of many years came true this 4th of July.  I had the opportunity to celebrate with family and friends at Wilder Ranch’s Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration.  We partied like it was 1909!  Here are some photos from this marvelous day.

suffragettes-ii

These Lovely Ladies Welcomed Us to the Park

jared-and-fan

Jared Shows Off The Fan He Made

Flag Raising

Flag Raising

Blacksmith, Wilder Ranch State Park

Blacksmith, Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch Ice Cream

Wilder Ranch Ice Cream

Wagon Ride, Wilder Ranch

Wagon Ride, Wilder Ranch

Wilder Ranch Independence Day Parade
Wilder Ranch Independence Day Parade
Wilder Ranch Bakers

Wilder Ranch Bakers

This post is part of a series called State Park Sundays here at Family Adventure Guidebooks.  Wilder Ranch, like many California State Parks may be closed due to budget cuts.  The California State Assembly is trying to get a State Access Pass billed passed.  This pass would give free park entry to all California drivers in exchange for a $15 license fee.  Almost every Californian I have spoken to thinks it’s a great idea, but the governor has threatened a veto and the Senate did not pass it. 

The baker lady featured above and I agreed that perhaps a voluntary State Park Access Pass might solve at least part of the budget short fall.  Under this plan, Californians could choose to pay the $15 fee and only those who paid the fee would receive unlimited state park access.  I’ve done some research and this strategy has been very successful in Montana.  A majority of Montana residents currently pay the fee.  For up to the minute information regarding the budget situation and California State Parks, please visit the California State Parks Foundation.

Wrapping up State Park Sunday’s Independence Day edition, I wanted to share these lovely young ladies who were eating homemade icecream and manning the Save Our State Parks booth.  We are fighting for these children’s future access to California’s State Parks.  Let’s keep the pressure on Sacramento!

Happy Trails,

Bridget

Save Our State Parks, Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz

Save Our State Parks, Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz

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