Monday, October 19, 2015

Planning a Trip to Disney World

Okay I promised you the Jamestowne Settlement, Williamsburg, and more about Washington DC, but as you can see again my efforts have been thwarted by my blog writing time deficient life.  So on I go, onto the next attempt at planning a family trip.
The kids had been bugging us for a while now to go back to Disney World.  The last time we went , we took my oldest daughter, now in tenth grade, out of third grade for a week to enjoy a less crowded time in the park.  My 11 year old son was five the last time we went, which actually was his third
time, but evenso, he barely remembers anything about our vacations there. 
The problem lies in when to go.  There is no way I am going to go across the country in the middle of the summer and fight crowds and heat and there is also no way that we can take the kids out of school for a week anymore.  So February break was the option.  I told the kids that this was an expensive trip and that there would be no skiing this year.  They said 'fine.'  That was the end of the discussion.

A trip to Disney World requires a lot of planning and a lot of advanced reservation.  The hottest tickets in town fill up 180 days in advance.  We are today about four months from the start date of our week long vacation and so far I have already experienced some shut down.  So let's get to planning!!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

August 2015 Four Lump-in-your-Throat Experiences in Washington DC

Oh, I think I spend the first few sentences of every post lamenting about not being able to write, but oh, with school starting and a generally jam-packed life, how hard it is to get to this computer and just GO!

My family and I spent the last six nights of our two week vacation in our nation's capitol, Washington DC.  I had not been to this area since I was nine, so most of my memories are muddled at best, some jogged by old grainy photos taken on lousy cameras of my chubby self with a Dorothy Hamill haircut, my scrawny sister, and my parents dressed like Mike and Carol Brady.

Friday, June 12, 2015

U Pick a Lotta Berries: Webb Ranch, Portola Valley, CA June 10, 2015

Well, the days of summer are upon us and I always find myself trying to come up with some clever way to entertain my children.  Summertime is a really precious time with your kids.  They are only home for 11 weeks.  It is super easy for that time to fly by having them sleep too late, watch TV, and play computer games indoors, while I spend my time sitting at my computer, cooking, and cleaning.  Since I work two days a week, I make sure that on the other three days I plan some kind of fun activity for my kids..something to get them out of the house and hopefully into the sunshine and breathing fresh air.  One fun, quick, and relatively inexpensive option is to pick fruit on a local farm and bring it home for your own enjoyment, more commonly referred to as "U-Pick."

There are plenty of U-Pick Farms within an hours drive of Santa Clara County.  Information about all local U-Pick farms can be found on one website,   Most are located over the mountains in the Watsonville area.  Fruit availability is very seasonal I hear, though I have never tried to go any time but early June, when berries, berries, berries--are the order of the day!  Even so, every year the seasons are different, and "specific berry availability" can be limited to a very narrow window of days to weeks. As a matter of fact, I saw one farm advertise that boysenberry picking was going to be unavailable this year!   Hours and open days vary, so it is important to check the farms websites to get the details.  And remember, these are farmers, not techies, so farm websites can tend to be a little simple, short on details, and even out of date.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

AT & T Park vs. Comcast Bay Area..Is the ball park really worth it?

Everyone who reads this blog knows I love the San Francisco Giants.  I have been an on and off fan
since I was ten years old, when I would listen to each and every game on an Oscar the Grouch AM radio on KNBR 680.  The radio broadcast was listed in the "Sporting Green" of the San Francisco Chronicle delivered to my parents' doorstep, and if I was lucky, the game might be broadcast on television on KTVU Channel 2, and if I was VERY lucky, I might be around to watch it, as there were no DVR's when I was ten.
If you wanted to go to Candlestick Park then and watch the Giants you could go for under 20 dollars, and this would get you a lower level seat.  But, my readers, the Giants sucked then.  They really did. In 1985 they lost 100 games and finished 33 games out of first place. Cripes!  It wasn't until 1987 that the SF Giants finished in first place in the National League West, winning 90 games and reaching 1.9 million in attendance at Candlestick, which is still only about 55% of last year's attendance at AT&T, a considerably smaller ballpark.  There have been some lame years since then, but in general the Giants have been contenders.  They have moved into their own ballpark and have three World Series Championships.  The only seat under 20$ now is standing room only, and that is not for a day game against the Dodgers, in that case you will pay 30$ stand.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Back to Beautiful Bend February 16-20, 2015

Another drought year had fallen upon the state of California, and again my GoFamily packed up our minivan and made the 9 hour drive to "fairer snows," the city of Bend and Mount Bachelor Ski Area.

The drive to Bend is not an easy one.  We left our home in San Jose at precisely 536 AM and pulled into Bend at about 245 PM.  Though the drive takes you by majestic mountains and thorough forested lands, most of the points of interest are a variety of rest areas, all of which look exactly the same, and forlorn boarded up small an interesting collection of movies, books and other occupations is a must.  Also the last portion of the drive is two lanes and is shared with 18 wheelers coming at you from the opposite direction, so driving that portion in the daylight is the best choice.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Santa Clara Paintball January 16, 2015

Ready for action
I've been planning birthday parties for about 15 years now.  Like most parents I would imagine, I determined very quickly that the whole process is far less painful when you throw money at someone and have them do the work and even more so, by taking the party out of your house and hosting it on someone else's turf.

We've experienced it all--mini-golf, inflatables, trampolines, bowling, laser tag, kids' kitchen, ceramic painting, you name it.  Every year, and at every age, there seems to be the "it" thing that everyone's doing for their birthday.  Right now, it's paintball.  This is what my daughter wanted to do for her 15th birthday party, and as we hadn't been able to plan a party for her in several years, into paintball planning mode I went.

Paintball, by Wikipedia definition, is a sport in which players compete, in teams or individually, to eliminate opponents by tagging them with capsules containing water-soluble dye and featuring a gelatin outer shell (referred to as paintballs) propelled from a device called a paintball marker (commonly referred to as a paintball gun). It's not like there are paintball places on every corner in Santa Clara County.  The place that everyone seems to plan their parties is Santa Clara Paintball, located at 2542 Monterey Road in San Jose, not Santa Clara.  The place is a large outdoor venue consisting of a series of cages with a bunch of wooden boxes and other obstacles in them.  There's a trailer for registration, some picnic tables, some porta-potties, and a gravel covered parking lot.  The set up is so simple it is almost comic.

Here's how it works.  First you call and book a reservation.  You can either play laser tag (i.e. no paint), Splatball (recommended for kids 12 and under because, well, I think it hurts less), or traditional paintball.  There is an exorbitant admission fee, but I purchased my 12
Getting geared up....
admissions with an Amazon Daily Deal at an incredible discount for $55.  The admission fee covers, well, admission and safety gear, but does not include ammunition.  The minimum amount of ammunition one can buy is 500 rounds per person for $25 each, with prices going up from there.  Of course within your group some will fire more and some will fire less---so you may have to watch for an ammo hog in your bunch--as once your are out of ammo, you are done. 500 rounds of ammo per person allows a group of 10 to play about 90 minutes.  At check in,  you can chose to pay $5 more per person and have a private party, which gives you your own referee and means you will only play against those in your own party.  Though I nearly cuffed up the credit card, as $45 didn't seem so bad, I learned you needed a 10 person minimum and I didn't want to pay for the extra person, so that ended that.

They encourage you to get there 30 minutes before your reservation time to check in, get your equipment and have a safety briefing.  Don't forget to get those waivers signed ahead of time!  No one warned me about this and I just managed to remember that I had done this for my son when he went to a party here a month ago.  Luckily it is a very simple online form that parents can fill out in about 90 seconds.

Well we got there, checked in and got our gear.  Everyone gets a chest and a back protector, a helmet with a full face mask, an airgun and ammunition.  The group gathers on the bleachers for a short safety briefing and some general instructions and then it was time to play.

So if you don't have a private party, who are you looking at in terms of opponents?  Well, this I can guarantee, the place is certainly not full of 15 year old girls!  Most who paintball appear to be college age men, many of who, look like they have done this before, decked in Ninja gear from head to toe.  Among the groups were 2-3 parties of 10-12 year old boys, mostly playing Splatball, and one group entirely of male Google software engineers.  What?  You're asking I know they were Google software engineers??

Speaking of getting decked out, it's not in your best interest to wear your finery to paintball.  The paint is washable but the activity is athletic and dirty in general.  The astroturf on the ground is nasty and being on your knees or shooting from your belly from the ground can occur.  Though I did not see a specific requirement regarding footwear, wear closed athletic shoes.  Leave your UGGS and flip flops at home.

The games run between different "cages" and are different in nature and length.  One game , "Ultimate Respond" is seven minutes long and requires you to go to the back of the box before you can come out shooting again if you get shot.  In "Zombies"  humans run from Zombies who can turn them into Zombies too!  In some you have only one life.  In some you are teammates with your group, in others you are not.  You get the picture.  The referee describes the rules before each game.
Snack break!
Paintballers get hungry, and there is no food sold on the premises, except for some snack shack type candy and whatever you can get out of the rickety vending machines.  There is a picnic area and you can bring in whatever food you like.  There are several pizza vendors in the area that will deliver to the location.  Alcoholic beverages are not allowed.  The tables are not particularly clean so tablecloths are not a bad idea, and neither is hand sanitizer--as the facilities for hand washing to leave much to be desired.  The picnic area is lit, but there are no heat lamps, so having a sweatshirt during the cooler months is a good choice.

And now for some pictures!!

Vamping with the airguns is always a fun part of a day of paintballing.

These guys are done.  Look at how dirty they are!!

Okay, this is my son's friends party--but don't these 11 year olds look tough??
(Actually, I think they're adorable)

Can you believe I just got a post done and it hasn't even been three weeks since this happened?? Wonders never cease.  Well, been to a wine party in Napa since then and soon returning to Bend, OR, so we will see what I have in store!


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