Thursday, May 31, 2012

Charity BBQ event for the whole family to enjoy!

Summer in Orange County usually brings the hot weather, the busy beaches, and the late nights at the fair.  The OC Fair has become as much of a tradition during the hot weather to our family as our late night bond fires at Huntington.  However, it seems like every year it gets more and more expensive and we usually get overwhelmed with not only how crowded it has become but also the types of crowds that it often attracts.  This year there is an amazing alternative to the OC Fair, that not only saves you some money but all of the proceeds go to an great cause.

Kristie’s Kids, a local non-profit resource center in Southern California for families with a terminally ill or critically ill children, is holding their annual BBQ/Butterfly Celebration fundraiser.  This OC BBQ Festival event will be held on June 9th (10am-9:30pm) and June 10th (11am-4pm) and will offer many family-themed activities, such as:

Live Butterfly Release (Saturday at Noon)
Southern California's largest BBQ competition & cook-off
2-day Music Festival Beer and Wine Tasting
Premium Car Show (Saturday Only)
Amazing Kids Zone (petting zoo, face painting, inflatable’s, and much more!)
California's only Mr. BBQ Pageant!
Rib eating contest

Ticket prices are $15 for an adult, $10 for kids (includes full access to the “kids zone”) and $25 for a 2 day adult pass.  
One of the most memorable activities at the OC BBQ Festival Fundraiser is the Butterfly Celebration Release.  In memory of all kids that have passed away, and all the kids who are still fighting their fight, Kristie's Foundation releases live butterflies during the OC BBQ Festival at 12 noon on Saturday. You can purchase a butterfly online or at the event ($10 each) and release one in honor of someone you love… or as way to show support for a local family who is facing the most difficult challenges imaginable.

For further information, please check out Kristie’s Foundation website:

Teach your kids at an early age how to give back to those who need it most… while still having a great time with your family, on a relatively inexpensive budget.  

Dinner for Two... bring your wallet (filled with LOTS of cash)

My husband and I got a date night this evening; I think it’s been about 10 years since that has happened.  We took a few gift cards that have been collecting dust in our cabinet and decided to finally try out the Nirvana Grille in Mission Viejo.  The grapevine has been telling me for years how amazing the food is, so we were excited to have a nice meal that didn’t require me searching online for a coupon or cutting a coupon out of an Entertainment book.

When we got to the restaurant it was located in the run down shopping center I get my $5 pizzas from (Little Caesars) and my cheap fruit (Ranch Market); not super high class.  When we walked into the restaurant I was surprised by the décor.  I was warned that the food was very expensive so imagine my surprise when I walked into a pretty bare restaurant with not much of an “ambiance”.  The walls had a couple of small white mirrors and some mounted white plates (not quite minimalist but not quite Denny’s); would be cute for a start up Ma and Pa establishment; however most of the meals were about $25 each.

We ordered an appetizer, salad, main course and dessert.  The appetizer was their Wild Mushroom Ravioli ($11); though it tasted great there were only three small ravioli’s on the plate.  So needless to say, I’ve been given a larger appetizer serving at the last wedding I attended held at the local community center.  The salad was a mixture of beets and citrus with some goat cheese ($10).  The salad was very plain with little to no dressing and was not really worth ordering.  When our main courses came out, they looked great.  My husband ordered the sirloin ($27) and I had the filet ($32).  Both tasted great and were cooked perfectly.  I personally really liked the corn that came with my husband sirloin (poor guy, I ate most of it).  The part that made me laugh: I was using an Ikea steak knife to cut into my $32 filet.
Desert was an interesting salty caramel mouse on top of coconut almond crust ($12).  It was really good, however, it was a tiny slice and in typical Nirvana Grille fashion… overpriced.  Our bill totaled $106 plus tip.  Ouch.  Thankfully we had my mother babysitting, because paying for a sitter would have seriously spent my whole monthly entertainment budget!    

This restaurant obviously doesn’t fall in the category of “freshly squeezed budget” living and though the food was overall pretty good, the price just didn’t add up.  If the bill was half, I would tell everyone about this place.  If the restaurant was amazing inside, I would tell my husband to take clients there.  But sadly, Nirvana Grille didn’t think about our pathetic economy or an interior designer when they opened.

My take on this place:  save your money and go some place that accepts coupons!  And if you decide to “splurge”, than make sure it has a gorgeous ocean view or at the very least seat cushions that aren’t ripped.

Mom's say the Darndest Things

Do you ever scream something at your kid and then afterwards think, “Did I seriously just say that?”  Kids don’t only say the darndest things; they make their parents say the darndest things too. 

The odd and unusual things I have said to my children over the past week:

“You cannot lie about saying your prayers.”

“Stop peeing on your brother.”

“NO!  You cannot pee there; they have a restroom inside for a reason.”

“Yes, you are grounded.  You cannot say ‘You can’t change me’ to your Kindergarten teacher.”

“There is no such thing as a Booger Fairy.  Your nose is full of boogers because you have a cold.”

“Stop playing with and eating your boogers, go get a Kleenex.”

“You are right; I don’t know what it’s like to be 6 years old.  I’m sure it is very hard.”

“NO! You cannot fill the bathtub up with slime.”

And of course…

“Stop pulling your brother around the house.  He’s a BABY not a toy.”

Ice Cream Maker for Summer

Rumor has it that Costco is selling the Cuisinart 1 1/2 quart Ice Cream Maker (red) for $23.99 (currently selling on Amazon for $49.95- on sale).  I haven't checked out our local Costco to confirm, so if you stop by there for me... please let me know.

This would be a great present for Father's Day or for summer fun with the kids.  It would be an even better gift for yourself that you could hide away from everyone until they all go to bed, then you can shovel your freshly made ice cream into your mouth in peace and quite.  It could be your only personal vacation.  Play a C.D. with ocean waves in the background and for about 15 minutes you could actually pretend you were in Tahiti (can you tell I'm REALLY overdue for a vacation?).

And don't forget to pick up a cookbook with lots of ice cream recipes.  I recommend "Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home" which is currently on sale at Amazon for $13.18:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Way to go Kings!!  One game down, three more to go.  

With a family full of little hockey players who love the Kings our house tonight was filled with screaming, yelling, and a lot of smiles.  It's times like these that I don't mind being a hockey mom. It's the other times that I would rather not be; like when my kids are beating each other up with their hockey sticks, or when one of the boys pretends the other boy's head is a hockey puck, or of course the wonderful time when they poured water all over my kitchen floor so that they can slide around like an ice rink.  

The life of a real Orange County housewife... it's never boring.

Circus Vargas- Save up to 40%

Get it for even cheaper.  Plum District has tickets for $13 each bringing the total $52 for a family of 4!!

The circus is in town!  Wrangle up your kids, grab your camera, and enjoy a great night out with your family... at a discount price.

Circus Vargas will be doing shows in Orange County in Westminister, Santa Ana, and Irvine from now until June 24th (please check their website for times, dates, and location details).  Tickets are priced at up to 40% off (with an additional $1 service charge) and must be picked up in Santa Ana.  

To purchase your tickets, follow the link below and use the code "CIRCUS" at checkout.  I hope you and your family have a ton of fun... even on a freshly squeezed budget!

Ticket prices are $16 a ticket (down from $25) for bleacher seats and $25 a ticket (down from $35) for arena seats.  

Go to an Angels game- without the traffic or the high cost!

Anaheim Angels (I don’t care what their official name is, they are from ANAHEIM not Los Angeles) games are such a fun experience for the whole family, yet every time we go I actually dread driving to the stadium; From sitting in the traffic waiting to park, to paying for the parking, to fighting for a spot, to finally fighting to leave the game. 

Well, I no longer can use the traffic as an excuse to stay home from a weekday game.  Metrolink is offering round trip service from Mission Viejo/Laguna Niguel, Inland Empire, and Los Angeles to the stadium for every weekday home game at a discount price!

Ticket prices:
Adults: Round-trip $7
Seniors/Disabled: Round-trip $6
Youth (ages 6-18): Round-trip $4
Children ages 5 years and under can ride free with paying adult (up to 3 children). 

For more information and details, please check out the Metrolinks website:

And if you need tickets, don’t forget to check out StubHub.  If you wait to buy the day of, they tend to start slashing the prices (perfect for families on a budget).

Lastly, make sure you pack a picnic.  The Angel Stadium allows you to bring in your own food (no glass or alcohol and drinks, such as water bottles, have to be sealed shut) so grab some food from home or your favorite take out restaurant and throw it in a cooler.  And don’t forget some candy and peanuts.  You can’t watch a ball game without some great snacks.

So enjoy America's Pastime with the best team in the league & your family on a reasonable budget!

Sneak Peak... Craigslist find!

Recently I’ve decided to put my older boys into a bedroom together and keep one room open for their toys.  I thought that maybe if I nicely organized all their toys into one room they would no longer tell me that they were bored every fifteen minutes and cry that they have nothing to do and no toys to play with(this will probably still happen, but let me pretend it will work for at least a day).  

Their room was large enough for their separate twin beds, but it didn’t leave much room for their dressers.  The decision was made to buy the kids some bunk beds (scary since my kids end up in the ER at least once every couple of months on their own, without the addition of a bed six feet off the ground).

I went straight to Craigslist (one of my closest and dearest friends) and started to search… and search… and search.  I would check daily on the Orange County Craigslist, the LA one, the Inland Empire one, and even San Diego.  Every time one would post for under $400, it would sell immediately. 

Last night I finally found one for cheap!  They wanted $50 for a bunk bed set that needed a little TLC.  So here is what I picked up:

This is the picture from the Craigslist ad.
 Now, I’m off to break out the hairdryer to get rid of the stickers and some wood putty to fill in the carvings. 

What color should I paint it?  I’m think a navy blue or a dark grey or maybe even a bright retro green.

To be continued…

Add a little LOVE to your home

Our trash is picked up in front of our home every Thursday, so Thursday mornings I take the “long way” out of the neighborhood to check and see if anyone is throwing out something that I may be able to use.  I know, dumpster diving is not very glamorous but I’ve been able to find some very cool things.

A few months back I came across an old pallet and decided to take it home.  After seeing all the adorable pallet ideas on Pinterest I knew that I could turn this into something.  And I did!
So, from this:

I turned it into this:

I took two slats off the pallet and attached them in the back with two paint stir sticks ( the kind you get free from Home Depot- cut to fit) and some heavy duty wood glue.  I then nailed in a sawtooth hanger (purchased at Home Depot).  Here is an example of the back:

Once that was done, I went online and looked at some ideas on how to write out “love” (thank you Pinterest… again).  I found one that I liked and I tried to copy it in pencil onto my pallet.  After it looked about right, I used some old white paint, an old kids paint brush, and traced it.  I didn’t care if it looked perfect or not, I think the fading in some areas and the brush strokes adds to the charm.

Out of pocket I maybe paid $5, but the majority of the items used were found (the pallet) or already in my garage (the paint). 

So now it hangs on my wall, surrounded by pictures of our family.  I smile every time I see it. 

Our blog is new... but will soon be filled with not only great things to do in Orange County, but also some home crafts/decor.  So make sure to follow us and come back often! 

Teaching your kids to swim without going broke!

Do you ever find yourself surrounded by a group of moms that are talking about all of their kids extracurricular classes and wonder… HOW DO THEY AFFORD THEM?! 

I wish I could walk into a local swim school and pay $250+ for my two older kids to learn how to swim, but we can’t.  My husband, for some unknown reason, has decided that our mortgage payment is more important to make every month over my kids entertainment.  So this forces me to become creative.

Summer is here and my kids don’t know how to swim.  My oldest two boys are 6 and 4 years old and they literally sink in water.  A drowning rat has a better chance of survival if it fell into a pool over my kids.  Not a great plan since we live 15 minutes from the beach and every other house on our block has a pool.

So after a lot of thought and some late night internet searches, I came up with a few solutions to my problem:

1.      The YMCA offers free pool safety classes!  Now, your kids may not learn how to swim laps but they may learn enough to save their life if they happen to fall into a pool.  Here is the link for more information:

2.     Call your local college and ask them to post an ad on their community bulletin board (they usually have a board in the quad area offering jobs, rooms for rent, and items for sale) or contact their swim coach.  Usually, especially in the summer time, there will be at least one college student who is looking to make extra money by teaching swim classes.  They can come to your pool, neighborhood pool, or they may even have one at their parent’s house you can use. 

3.     Craigslist is filled with great people looking for some part time work.  I did a search on the Orange County Craigslist website for “swim lessons” and came across a local stay-at-home mom who was offering swim classes.  Her standard rate was $17 for a private lesson and $13 for a group class (3 students) and she will give discounts for referrals.  Once I heard about the discounts, my immediate response was to find other friends who wanted to save money.  After posting her ad on my Facebook page I found that we had a friend in common, making me feel even more comfortable with using her.  My kids will start their lessons with her when school gets out.   I will make sure to post a follow up review after our first week.

4.     Ask your friends or at least your Facebook friends (those people you went to high school with who you casually knew back then, but now know way too much about their personal drama- they can be helpful on top of entertaining)!  This is by far the best way of finding a great deal.  Maybe one of the moms from your son’s preschool uses her high school niece, or someone has a friend from church, or maybe one of your friends is looking for an extra job and will offer to help you out.  Either way, if you don’t ask you will never know.  So hurry up and run to Facebook and ask around.

Parenting in Orange County does not have to put you in bankruptcy court.  Your kids can have fun during the summer and you can stay within your budget… even if your budget isn’t very big. 

Costeau Park in Laguna Hills

Costeu Park In Laguna Hills- big kids playstructure
Now that summer is right around the corner, I’m always looking for new parks to take my kids to.   My major requirement for a park is that it has to be entertaining enough that I can sit down and play at least two rounds of Words with Friends or Scrabble with Friends (yes, I’m an addict) without being rudely interrupted by one of my kids crying that they are bored! 

I recently stumbled upon the newly renovated Costeau Park in Laguna Hills.  I stopped by Wendy’s to pick up a few chicken sandwiches for the kids (off their $1 menu) and drove up the street to the park to have a nice afternoon picnic.  Located off of Alicia Park, close to the 5 FWY, and Costeau (hence the name) this park is hidden inside a residential home track with a huge amount of green open space which is perfect to lay out a nice blanket and enjoy our beautiful weather.

The park has a tree house theme play structure meant for older children, and a small play house area for the toddlers.  There are two separate sets of swings (toddler & big kids), a couple of spinner cups (my kids & I fell in LOVE with these), and even a covered sandbox.   

The only issues I had with this park is the location is not far off of the busy Alicia Parkway, the playground is thankfully in a safe location but make sure you keep an eye on the older kids if they decide to wander.  There were also no restrooms, my biggest pet peeve!  They put in water fountains to keep the kids hydrated, but no place for them to go potty.  Very frustrating when your kid holds off telling you that he needs to go potty until he cannot hold it any longer, and your running to grab the other kids and throw them in a car, only to then drive quickly to find a location that will allow you to use their restroom without having to purchase something!  I’m sure you all know exactly what I’m talking about.

But if I put aside those two small issues then this park was a major hit.  My older kids enjoyed themselves for hours, literally… hours!  This equaled many rounds of cell phone games, Facebook browsing, and some Craigslist shopping.  It’s a small park with a lot of charm. 

Next week the kids & I will be heading out to Pioneer Park in Tustin.  I’ll be bringing their bathing suits, a camera, and a notepad… promise to come back and review!

Hobby Lobby open in OC

The new Hobby Lobby store in the MarketPlace of Laguna Niguel

Are you addicted to Pinterest like I am?  Do you ever click on an amazing DIY craft and think to yourself, “I just HAVE to make this” but then your excitement is quickly deflated when all of the cool items they found to make the craft were purchased at Hobby Lobby?  Well, deflate no more… Orange County is getting their first Hobby Lobby.

On June 4th, Hobby Lobby will be opening a store in the MarketPlace of Laguna Niguel on the corner of Pacific Park and Alicia. 

If you’ve never heard of Hobby Lobby then let me be the first to warn you that it is a huge arts and crafts store.  It’s that type of store that you go in expecting to spend $5 but end up spending $50.  The type of store that you tell your husband that you have to just “run real fast to” but end up spending hours there walking down every single aisle making sure to spend extra time at the clearance end caps (oh yes, you know exactly what store I’m referring to).  Well, now you have another store to enjoy.

The best part of this store is not the everyday prices, because if you are anything like me… you don’t pay full price.  Where this store becomes fun is when you search through their clearance items getting great ideas for new décor in your house.  And don’t forget, they have coupons!

Whether you live in north OC, or down far south, you will want to make the drive to Hobby Lobby.  And once you stop by, come back and leave us some feedback about your experience.