Your Summer Sneak Peak at Knott’s Berry Farm

Thank you Knott’s Berry Farm and Giga Savvy for inviting my family to experience Knott’s Berry Farm this summer. #KnottsIronReef #NewatKnotts

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Confession Time: I’ve lived in California for almost 28 years and I have never been to Knott’s Berry Farm. I know… shocking, right? I don’t really know why other than when I moved out here I was pretty much surrounded by friends who were transplants as well and none of us ever thought to go. Now that I have the kids, I thought it was high time we made a trip down to Buena Park and check it out. This summer is a great time to visit since they have so many great new attractions.

I thought I’d give you a taste of what we’ll be enjoying in a few weeks when we visit.

Voyage to the Iron Reef

This 4-D adventure just recently opened beneath the Boardwalk. Guests climb into a 4-person submarine-inspired vehicle and embark on a 4-minute adventure into the Iron Reef. Guests will be equipped with interactive freeze rays in order to aim at ballooning puffer fish, iron clad octopus, and other 3-D creatures in an attempt to blast the most sea life and save Knott’s from a watery doom. There are 600 feet of track and 11 scenes that feature hundreds of media-based creatures and life action special effects. Take a look at the preview.

Blockbuster Beagle!…on ice  – Charles M. Schulz Theatre

Now I know the entire theme at Knott’s is all about Snoopy and Peanuts, but this is pretty cool… literally and figuratively… Snoopy on Ice! This new ice show will feature Snoopy as well as World-class ice skating starts. I love figure skating… used to take lessons back in the day of Dorothy Hamill. I loved going to ice shows so this is something I am really excited about. Shows run June 13 – August 23 (except on Wednesdays).

Vertical Impact & Vertical Impact Geared Up Show

So these two shows sound pretty unbelievable. Vertical Impact blends extreme stunts with high flying acrobats for a show that is one of a kind. After dark, you’ll get to see Vertical Impact, Geared Up! This high energy show is set to some of today’s most popular songs and combines trampoline stunts, BMX bikes, skaters, dancers, and aerialists. Holy smokes!

Each show will end with an informal meet & greet so you can visit the entire cast on stage. These sound like they will have your heart pumping in no time. Shows run June 13 – August 23 (no shows on Mondays & Tuesdays).

Timber Mountain Log Ride

My favorite ride? I’m making a beeline for the Timber Mountain Log Ride. Water rides are my absolute favorites. I don’t even care if I get drenched (which I always do).

I can pretty much guarantee the kids will be doing the Coast Rider. They are way more adventurous than I am.

Coast Rider

So, I’m going through the Knott’s website to find out what else I want to see and do and OMG, why didn’t anyone tell me there is a Ghost Town? I’m a sucker for that kind of Western stuff. There is a Ghost Town Streetmosphere with Old West townsfolk (Daily from June 14 – September 7) – I am SO there!

There are also a ton of other shows that look really fun.

Charlie Brown’s Happy Campers (June 14 – September 1)
Big Band Swingin’ Sundays (Sunday evenings June 14 – August 30)
Boardwalk Dance Party (Monday & Tuesday evenings June 15 – August 25 & Sept. 7)
Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies (Fridays thru Mondays June 13 – August 23, except 6/19 & 8/6 & 29)
The Ghost Town Miners (Tuesday thru Thursday, June 16 – August 20)

Plus… you might even catch some of the Peanuts gang at Camp Snoopy.

Peanuts Characters in Camp Snoopy

Are you planning a trip to Knott’s this summer? What is your favorite attraction?

The opinions in this article are my own. I do not work for, or with, any brand mentioned in this article, nor do I have any official relationship with them.  I have a relationship with GigaSavvy, for whom I create original editorial content.

Welcome to the New and Improved California Pizza Kitchen (CPK)

Thank you to California Pizza Kitchen for the complimentary dinner showcasing some of the new menu items. All opinions and photos are my own.

CPK

You don’t have to sell ME on CPK. I was a fan from way back when. I moved to Los Angeles back in 1987, but by then CPK had already broken out with their innovative pizza concept. My first exposure to the restaurant was at the Brentwood, CA location where I would spend way too many dinners eating gourmet pizza and my favorite chopped Italian salad. This year, CPK is celebrating their 30th anniversary and they are doing it in a big way: new menu items, new decor, and a new way of ushering in the next 30 years.

The restaurant that is known for it’s BBQ Chicken Pizza (OMG still so so so good) has kept the favorites and added some really amazing new dishes you wouldn’t normally think would appear on a pizza menu. But, really, we all know that CPK is WAY more than just pizza. I think this new menu will prove that CPK is a going to be a big competitor in the fine dining category.

I wanted to give you an idea of what I tried when I took my family to dinner as part of our Family Date Night last weekend.

We are really lucky that none of my kids are very picky eaters. We exposed them to a lot of different types of foods at an early age and they all are big foodies and love to try new things. We had the option to order on our own or experience a taste of what the chef and manager wanted to share with us. We went with doing a tasting menu and I am SO glad we did. Many of the items might not have been ones we would have chosen, but honestly… we didn’t have a bad dish in the mix. They were all fabulous!

First, we started with some cocktails. David had the Executive Decision and I had the California Roots. Both were amazing and probably ones we wouldn’t normally have ordered. The California Roots would have turned me off originally because who thinks of putting avocado in a cocktail? Honestly, I would go back to CPK just to order this drink. It was THAT good.

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Casamigos Tequila Blanco • Muddled Mint • FreshAgave Sour •
Monin Organic Agave Nectar • Fresh Lime
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Svedka Vodka • Fresh Avocado & Mint •
Fresh Agave Sour • Fennel Salt Rim
We don’t normally order appetizers when we go out to dinner because the main course is usually enough for us. So glad that Jared, the CPK Manager, suggested we try some of the appetizers. As soon as I saw the Maine Lobster Flatbread I was all over it. You don’t get the opportunity to have lobster very often and this just looked too good to pass up.

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The kids were anxious to try the Ham & Swiss Flatbread, which was like a grown up, sophisticated version of a ham & cheese. With goat cheese and caramelized onions, it was pretty fab.

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And we also had to try the Avocado Club Egg Rolls. It’s like a club sandwich rolled into a crunchy wonton, really a meal in itself. This with one of the cocktails would be perfect. Mmmmmm….

eggroll

So, main course time. We are definitely fish lovers, but when I walk into a CPK I would not think to order a fish dish. We were prodded to try one of the new bestselling items, the Hearth Roasted Halibut. What makes this extra special is that the fish is actually roasted on a cedar plank in the pizza oven. It sits on a bed of butternut squash farro & baby kale and comes with asparagus (which was cooked perfectly, I might add… nobody every cooks asparagus perfectly). The fish was out of this world. So amazing and I don’t even know if I’ve ever really had halibut before. David and I polished this off in no time (the kids even thought it was good) and it is definitely going to be at the top of our list to order the next time we visit.

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As soon as Temera (my teen chef of a daughter) heard about the California Club Pizza (because how can you go to CPK and not order a pizza?) she was hooked. Basically this has all of your favorite things topped on a pizza crust. Bacon, chicken, mozzarella, avocado, arugula, basil and romaine tossed in a lemon-pepper mayo that is crazy good. New favorite for sure!

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After appetizers and meals, we were STUFFED! But apparently not stuffed enough to pass up dessert. These desserts were unbelievable! Seriously unbelievable. We started off with the Strawberry Shortcake. To. Die. For. Instead of actual shortcake, this is made with a fresh, homemade biscuit that CPK makes every morning. It’s topped with ice cream, whipped cream and strawberry sauce… and to finish it off, they add some sugared lemon zest.

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I can’t even begin to tell you about this next dessert. It’s simply called Butter Cake, but there is nothing simple about it. I can’t describe it… but you MUST order it. MUST MUST MUST! I am going to CPK and order JUST dessert because I don’t think I’ve ever had something this good. Seriously… just order it. You won’t regret it.

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So, we rarely order one dessert, much less three… but how can you resist a cup full of S’mores? This is almost like a rich, dark chocolate pudding with graham crackers and melted marshmallows. Definitely an adult version of the campfire favorite.

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Before we even left the restaurant, everyone was asking when we could go back. But the menu isn’t the only thing that’s been updated. To celebrate their 30th anniversary, the 280 restaurants are undergoing a transformation to create a more relaxed, fresh and inviting atmosphere. With walls, tables and doors all made from reclaimed wood, counter tops of natural store, and living herb gardens, the restaurant takes on a very warm, comforting feel. It’s almost like being at home in your own dining room. Artwork will be slightly different at each location to reflect local landmarks and give each site it’s own personality.

Although CPK is a chain restaurant, they have worked really hard to not feel like a chain restaurant. From the management to the staff to the food and decor, I’m loving the new CPK. Check it out yourself and tell me what your favorite menu item is. And by the way… they still have their famous BBQ Chicken and Chopped Salad that I love.

For more information on California Pizza Kitchen visit cpk.com. Follow us on Twitter @calpizzakitchen, like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/californiapizzakitchen and stay connected through http://instagram.com/californiapizzakitchen.


No Plan B

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I was skimming through my twitter feed the other day and came across a link to this post written by Anderson Cooper. I probably never would have bothered to click on the link and read the entire article, expect that someone I really admire had posted it. As I read Anderson’s story, I couldn’t help but think back to when I was young and was trying to figure out my own career path.

I always knew I wanted to be an interior designer. There was never a Plan B. I applied to 5 colleges, all having some kind of interior design program, but Drexel University was my “reach” school. It was really the only one I wanted to attend. They had a first class interior design program (one of the best in the Country at the time – early 80’s) and I loved the course selections they offered. It was a tough major to get into, they only selected a handful of students each year. There were no summer breaks except for the first year… I would have to work “in my field” at two internships before I was allowed to graduate. It was intense, but I wanted it.

I’m not sure how I got into the school, exactly. My grades were meh and although I did well on my SAT’s, I didn’t do that well. Honestly, what I think it all came down to was the fact that I ventured all the way to Philadelphia in the middle of a blizzard to meet with the admissions people and they saw that I had dedication. Had I waited a year before applying, as my parents had urged me to do (take a year off, get some work experience), I would never have been accepted. The year after I got in, the school raised all their entrance requirements. I would have been rejected for sure.

So I went to my first choice college. Yay me. I never had a Plan B. My safety school was a small local Connecticut college. I knew that if that was the only school I got into, I probably would have passed up college altogether.

Drexel was hard. Much harder than I thought it would be. I wasn’t putting pretty colors together like I thought… I was learning to draft by hand (no CAD back in the day), had to study world architecture, and I was immersed in all-nighters a little too often. I had my work critiqued… something I HATE! In one of my first design classes as a freshman, I had a professor who gave me a horrible critique on a project. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Are you SURE this is what you want to do with your life?” I felt deflated… and scared. Of course it was what I wanted to do. I had no Plan B.

I went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Interior Design after so many of my classmates dropped out or changed majors. I never wanted to do anything else.

After graduation, I moved to California. Something else that was never a doubt in my mind. After visiting the State when I was 16, I knew this was where I wanted to live. I had no money, no job, no place to live… but I got on a plane and moved anyway. While the parent-me can look back and be terrified for that 21 year old girl, the girl back in 1987 was strong and gutsy and had vision… she also had no Plan B.

I did work as an interior designer for many, many years. I was good at what I did and I still loved it. I’ve been out of the profession for many years and while I don’t ever want to work as a designer again… I’m glad I had that experience. I’m glad I didn’t give up. I’m glad I didn’t have a Plan B.

I think all too often we listen to parents, friends, and even our inner selves, when they tell us to have a fallback plan. We’re supposed to have a safety school, a backup job offer, a way of making it that won’t be so hard or take so much out of us. You know… in case we fail. It’s not like I haven’t failed at anything. In fact, I’ve failed at a lot. But not failing doesn’t teach you anything. It doesn’t steer you in other directions, and it certainly doesn’t make you try harder for what you want. My whole life I never had a Plan B. Neither did Anderson Cooper. Neither should you.

Take your dreams and your goals and your visions and don’t give up on them. Even when people tell you they are dumb, stupid or they take too much money. Even when you have no experience and no prospects. Most people won’t understand. Most people will think you are crazy. So what? Show me someone who is happy with their “Plan B” and I’ll show you someone who has regrets. Lots of them.

I have no regrets. I always did what I wanted, when I wanted, and how I wanted. Sure, my plans have changed over the years, but I never let anyone tell me I couldn’t do something… or shouldn’t do something. For me, it’s been Plan A all along.


The Downside of Having a Large Family

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Don’t get me wrong… I love having 3 kids. I didn’t always, but as they got older, I started to embrace the beauty of having 3 daughters. It’s part arguing, a pinch of drama here and there, and a whole lot of love. Still… there are some things I will never like about having a large family.

Traveling

Traveling basically sucks when you have more than 2 children. Not only are airline tickets unimaginably expensive, there really is no good way to configure your seating arrangements on an airplane. There might be a 3-seat row across from a 2-seat row, but in my experience that isn’t the norm. Someone usually has to either sit alone or with strangers and we all know that strangers on a plane aren’t always eager to sit near kids. We would love to be able to take the girls traveling. I say… bring back the child fare. Anyone under 18 should be half price!

Hotels are NOT family-friendly. The maximum amount of people they allow in a hotel room is 4. When you have more than 2 kids, you basically are forced to lie. Yep… we lie because my kids are not only too young to have their own hotel room, paying for 2 rooms is completely out of our budget. We try and reserve two queen beds and then we bring an air mattress. Kind of sucks. Come on hotel industry… this is fixable. Do it. Say YES to big families!

Restaurants. Most restaurants have the deuce (2 seat table) or the 4-top. If you have an extra kid, they will be happy to pull over an extra chair, but that means that someone always has to get the lone end seat. It’s usually Dad because nobody wants to sit at the end of the table. Never mind that the table is actually made for 4 people and there is never enough room for 5 plates, glasses, utencils, bread basket, and salt & pepper shakers. More restaurants should have kids eat free. Just saying.

And don’t get me started on those giveaways or contests where you can actually win a trip. I don’t even enter those anymore. The trip is ALWAYS for a family of 4. I feel discriminated against. What am I supposed to do with the 3rd kid? Leave her at home?

Schools

There is no good way around this. When they are all young and in the same elementary school, you have to make some serious decisions. Do you volunteer in all 3 (or 4 or 5) classrooms, or do you just do one, ultimately disappointing a few kids. On Back-to-School nights and Open House, you kind of have to race around so you can hit all the classrooms in the one hour allotted time frame. You never have enough time to talk to any one teacher, so you just kind of pile up the handouts and art projects and hope you can figure out whose is whose when you get home. Or you toss it all before you even enter the house. You can’t possibly hold on to all that paper. Fire hazard, you know.

As they get older, you might find yourself with kids in multiple schools. Mine are in elementary, junior high, and high school. Of course, nobody coordinates with each other and you will most likely find yourself having to choose between Open House at one school and a Banquet at another. Cloning would be a really great idea.

For some reason, the schools all start and end around the same time. Luckily, my high schooler is close enough to walk to school. The other two both start around 7:45 so one of them ends up getting to school too early. Staggered start and end times… what a concept! How about syncing the minimum days/vacation weeks/last day of school?

Extra-Curricular Activities

Take a deep breath and be happy if your kids want to do nothing but hang around the house all the time. When they all want to do activities after school and on weekends, good luck with trying to fit in anything remotely geared toward you and your interests. Try figuring out how to get Child A to soccer at the same time Child B has to be at tennis at the same time Child C needs to be picked up from study group.

Clothes

When the kids were small, I was forever in debt to hand-me-downs from friends and family. We went through so many clothes (kids grow up fast, ya know!) and I couldn’t possibly keep up with the laundry. Try figuring out which pair of underwear goes with which kid… especially when they kind of all fit the same size. Now that they are older there are no hand-me-downs… and they wouldn’t dare wear each other’s. Have you ever tried shopping with 3 daughters? Don’t. Just don’t.

Food

Someone is always hungry at every given moment. Trying to keep food in the house for all those kids is a full-time job. One likes apples while the other will only eat grapes. They all like bananas, but one will only eat them cut up with milk. Which one doesn’t like mushrooms? Oh right… that’s me. The oldest doesn’t like her sandwiches smashed up in her lunch box, but the middle one doesn’t care. Are they too old for a juice box? There is something to be said for Lunchables.

I have trouble enough with 3 kids and I have friends with 4, 5 and 6 children. I don’t get it… it seems less businesses are family friends these days. Having a large family shouldn’t be such a challenge.

Those of you with large families, what have been your biggest challenges?


Helicopter Parents – a Guest Post

helicopterMom

This was an essay that my 12 year old daughter, Amanda, did for extra credit for one of her junior high classes. She got an A.

Is your parent overprotective? Are your parents overly concerned with your safety? If so, then chances are, you have a helicopter parent. A helicopter parent is a parent who is way over protective; a parent who won’t let you do anything without them or a trusted person. Do you think it is good or bad to have a helicopter parent?

It’s understandable for a parent to want their child safe. No parent wants anything bad to happen to their child. Some parents go too far in protecting their child. Some children need a lot of protecting, and some need their space. The metaphor started from a book written by Dr. Haim Ginott. In the book a teen complains that her mother hovers over her like a helicopter, meaning that her mother never lets her do what she wants and is always looking after her.

It’s not that great to have a helicopter parent. When you have this type of parent, you won’t be able to do a lot of things that other kids can. Your life will revolve around your parents. If you have a helicopter parent when you are younger, it will effect your future. In the future you might not be able to make your own choices because you never learned how to as a kid. The president of Frost State University, Jonathan Gibralter, has gone through situations where parents call his office about their child’s roommate. He has said, “rather than telling their son or daughter to talk to a [resident assistant] or [resident director], parents will immediately call my office. And that I consider to be a little over the top.” The parents who have called were all helicopter parents to their child when they were younger.

Yes, being a helicopter parent to a child can prevent your child from getting hurt, or from not making mistakes, but making mistakes is healthy. If you never make mistakes or get things wrong, you will never learn. You can’t learn how to problem solve if your parents are always problem solving for you. If you never get hurt you won’t know what to do or how to react when you do get hurt. If your child doesn’t have a bump or a bruise once in a while they won’t know that it’s no big deal. Parents can hurt their child with helicopter parenting more than they would get hurt without it.

In conclusion, being a helicopter parent can damage your kids future and live. Kids won’t be able to do things on their own. A lot of children just need their space. By making sure you don’t get hurt you aren’t learning anything new. Just remember, next time you want to hang out with your friends or want to go to a school dance, tell your parents, “Don’t be overprotective, don’t be so worried, don’t be a helicopter parent.”

 

I have to say… I do NOT consider myself a helicopter parent. At all. From my kids’ perspective… they might see things a little differently. We all think our parent’s hover too much. Just part of being a kid.