Jelly Belly Factory Tour

If you love candy, factories, or just want something fun to do if you’re in northern California, you should stop by and see the Jelly Belly factory in Vallejo. I’ve been on the Jelly Belly tour four or five times in as many years, and I never get tired of it. We went recently with my sister and nephew who were visiting from out of town and I was once again impressed. The tours are well organized, informative and fun, and you get free candy at the end. Try to go on a weekday when the factory is in production. … Continue reading

Cool Summer Games

Cool off with the kids by joining in some fun water games. Sponge Tag Blindfold one person and give him a bucket of wet sponges. Everyone else form a circle around him. Players have to stay in the circle and make noises. You could sing a song or make animal noises, or call out a name. The blindfolded person throws the sponges and tries to hit one of the players. When a player is hit, she becomes the person in the middle. If the person in the middle runs out of sponges without hitting anyone, he has to stay there … Continue reading

Real Pizza

There’s a new guy where I work who comes in about 10:30 a.m. “Tomorrow I’m bringing in pizza for breakfast,” he announced at the end of his shift one day. I eat breakfast around 7:00, and since I’m like a baby and need to eat every two or three hours, that sounded wonderful to me. I was especially excited because in my brief conversations with Bryan, I knew he was a food lover like me. I mentioned how much I loved mushrooms when he said it would be a mushroom pizza. I told him about a meal I had at … Continue reading

Ten Summer Boredom Busters

Ten Summer Boredom Busters Only a few weeks left before school starts, and for some kids (or their parents!) it’s not soon enough. Even kids who aren’t anxious to return to school might find the long, lazy days of summer wearing a bit thin in August. But you can bust that boredom with some of these ideas, perfect for the hot afternoons in August. 1. Play water games. Turn on the sprinklers, get the hose running, or just find a couple of buckets and sponges and you’re ready to go. 2. Visit the zoo or aquarium. This one takes some … Continue reading

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

I just finished the former New York Times restaurant critic’s book, Garlic and Sapphires, and found myself craving a fine dining experience. Although I’ll skip the foie gras, Reichl’s book had me pining for a three-hour, seven course tasting menu full of exotic foods. Reichl’s book is full of her dining experiences in New York, where she never judged a restaurant unless she visited it at least three times, usually more. Her gift for helping the reader experience a meal is unbeatable, and I appreciated her fair reviews of smaller, ethnic places ignored by her predecessor. The heat she took … Continue reading

Pancake Toppings

When my husband is out of town (which he is at least once a week) the kids and I frequently make pancakes for dinner. It’s quick and easy, and we don’t get tired of them because there are many ways to top them. Maple syrup is, of course, a great standard topping, but getting creative is half the fun of our pancake dinners. Here are a couple of recipes I love and some ideas for easy, no-fuss toppings that your kids might find just as tasty as syrup. These toppings are all just as tasty on waffles. Frozen waffles popped … Continue reading


I did it. I finished a triathlon on Saturday, and I didn’t come in last, which were my initial two goals. I am someone who, six months ago when I signed up, couldn’t even run a mile, got winded after a few laps in the pool and had just decent bike skills, so this was quite an accomplishment for me. As the event drew nearer and I gained confidence that I could finish the triathlon, I set another goal, and that was to finish in less than 2 hours, which would put me somewhere in the middle of my age … Continue reading

Preschool Rhymes Glove Puppet

I learned this craft from a preschool teacher who made one to entertain her class, but you can make one at home for a lot of fun with your own preschooler. What you do is take a garden glove or other heavy cloth glove and attach Velcro to each of the five fingers. Now make five little pom pom animals with felt and googly eyes to match several preschool rhymes, such as monkeys, bees and frogs for the following rhymes. Attach the other part of the Velcro to each pom pom puppet. Then you can take them on and off … Continue reading

Tool Organizer for Dad

When we were kids, my dad was a stickler for keeping his tools where they belonged. When he went to find his hammer, he wanted to find it in its place. When he wanted his screwdriver, he didn’t want to have to search through all the drawers in the house. These days, with his cat less likely to run off with the tape measure than me or my sister, things tend to stay put a little better, but let’s face it, tools and such do have a way of wandering around. To help out dad this Father’s Day, why not … Continue reading

Pesto Recipes

No pasta sauce captures the fresh tastes of summer quite like pesto. I never crave pesto in the cold months–bring on the hearty tomato sauce–but come summer, pesto is what I want. Fresh basil is key, and so is good quality olive oil. Beyond that, pesto is surprisingly versatile in what ingredients you can use. If you can’t find pine nuts, walnuts make a good substitution. Asiago cheese is a stronger alternative to mild parmesan for a pesto with bite. Here are three of my favorite recipes, but use them as a starting point for your own pesto concoction. Of … Continue reading