SoCal and Disneyland Summer

bubble gum alley san luis obispo slo

Happy Monday, friends!

If you follow my blog, maybe you noticed that I’ve been on vacation? Maybe not…that’s okay too. I can barely find time to answer emails and follow the news, and I don’t expect you to either.  I should have left a note to say, “hello, I won’t be around for a few days,” but I’m not super thoughtful like that. Will you forgive me?

In case you’d like a peek at some of the cool business we were up to, I’ve got some photos for you of our recent trip to southern California.

We wanted to travel light, so everything here is snapped with my iPhone (please consider this my formal apology for the lackluster shots). However, I highly recommend traveling sans camera. There’s so much less to worry about and the memories are mostly all up in the ol’ noggin.

We ventured south on highway 101 toward Los Angeles (destination Disneyland! Woo-hoo), and first hit ground in one of my favorite weird California spotsBubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo. My kids were disgusted, but Scott and I think it’s rad. Local historians say that this sticky project started as far back as the 1950’s, and if you find yourself in the area you can add your bubblicious to the 1000’s of others that preceded you.

bubble gum alley san luis obispo slo

We spent a few days with my parents before heading down to California Adventure and Disneyland. While I practically grew up at Disneyland, it was our first visit to California Adventure. Whatever I think about Disney and princesses and commercialization, I have to admit that they do an amazing job at creating a rich immersive experience that makes me 100% present the whole time I’m there. Incredible.

We got there at the crack of early, and it was totally worth it to miss the summer crowds. My almost 3-year old’s favorite ride was Mickey’s Fun Wheel, which you can ride stationary or swinging.

We went for swinging…toddler’s choice.

I screamed every time it dropped and my little one thought that was hilarious.

My older daughter is a thrill-seeker and her vote went to the Radiator Springs Racers. Here’s a tip if you’re going: get in the Fast Pass line for this ride as soon as the park opens. The line may seem long, but it’s so much shorter than waiting two hours to get on the ride.

mickey's fun wheel ferris wheel california adventure

Another California Adventure highlight was the Animation Academy, where an artist walks you through the simple steps of drawing some of Disney’s most popular characters.

california adventure animation studio

The set-up is awesome, and I was surprised to see my 2-year old got in on the action (complete with a crown, of course).

drawing mickey mouse animation studio california adventure

The next day we ventured over to Disneyland and started our day on my little one’s favorite ride. The cuteness of it never wears thin…

dumbo ride at disneyland

N, my now five-year old, has slightly different tastes, and went on all the big rides more than once.

Tip for families with both little and big kids — if both parents want to go on the fast ride, but they have to also hang out with a child who’s too small for it, they’ll give you a “Rider Switch” pass.

And there we are: my 5-year old riding Splash Mountain for the second time and me holding on for dear life…

Screaming on Splash Mountain Disneyland

A trip to Disneyland is never complete without a visit to It’s a Small World. The clock tower opens up every 15 minutes, and the characters prance around on parade. Did you know that this ride was created for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair? 

It's a small world

We were in LA to celebrate N’s 5th birthday. If you happen to live in California or know anything about California kids birthdays, you might recognize what’s going on in this next photo. That’s my little brother, the U.S. Marine, making magic happen.

Any guesses? Leave them in a comment and I’ll congratulate you personally!

tree climbing pinata

When we visit Southern California, no trip is complete without a visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. My husband wanted to see the Stanley Kubrick and James Turrell exhibits, so while he was off learning and growing his brain cells, the girls and I revisited this favorite: Penetrable by Jesus Rafael Soto. 

lacma spaghetti art penetrable jesus rafael soto

After playing in the sea of yellow spaghetti for what could have been hours (I had to drag them out), we went to buy our museum tickets (yes, the spaghetti is free). But wait, our tickets were free too! I’m so excited to share (and maybe you already know this) that LACMA has an amazing new program for young museum visitors under age 18. It’s called NexGen, and all kids are eligible to receive a free museum membership until they turn 18…and the membership admits them and their adult.


With our free memberships in hand, we moseyed over to the Boone Children’s Gallery where an ongoing watercolor painting project was underway. The room was beautiful and truly honored the children who were creating in the space. I appreciated the simple decor inspired by the nearby Korean collection, sturdy wooden tables, high quality art materials, and patient staff who kept the space in elegant order.

We easily spent a full hour painting in here!

lacma boone childrens gallery

We met Scott for some yummy snacks at C & M (Coffee and Milk), and then headed over to check this piece out at the James Turrell show:

lacma james turrell

If you ever have a chance to see Turrell’s work, go! If you live in or near San Francisco, one of my favorite pieces by Turrell lives in the sculpture garden next to the De Young museum. And since it’s outside of the museum, it’s free!

And then, after all that fun, I returned home and got down to business sorting through the copy edits for my book.  In case you’re wondering, that Mint Mojito coffee from Philz works wonders for powering a gal through over 200 pages of edits. I’m sure this won’t be the first time I’ll say this, but major props go to my amazing editor, Jenn, for her overarching vision and linguistic clarity.

book copy edits

So, that should bring us up-to-speed!

I’m hoping to deliver more tinkering/maker/creative wonders in the upcoming weeks, but I know that you’ll understand if I slip away to enjoy the pool with my kids, visit our local museums and amusement parks, and work on the design of my book. I’m thinking about popping in with quick ideas and updates since I’m sure that you’re just as busy as me. If you’re still reading this, a million thanks.

And now I’ll expect you to get back to your summer.


Some questions for you…

What’s my brother up to in that tree?

Do you have a favorite Disneyland or Southern California destination?

And finally, what has been the highlight of your summer so far?


Creative Adventures: Tidepooling


 Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. - Edward de Bono, psychologist and writer

This post is something new for me. I usually write about our hands-on projects, but I thought it would be fun to take our creative thinking out into the great wide world. In reference to the quote above, not only am I breaking out of the pattern of my blog posts as I write this, but it’s experiences like the one I’m about to share that encourage children to look at things in a new way and help build their creative thinking skills.

As you read this, consider how you can break a pattern in order to look at things in a new way.

Can you believe this view? It’s a favorite beach about 45 minutes from my house…not too far, really…and here’s the pattern that we broke: this was the first time we’ve been there in over a year!  Sad, right? It’s an awesome spot called the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, located in Moss Beach, CA, just north of Half Moon Bay. And what makes it doubly amazing is that you can walk all over the fascinating tide pools and check out the sea life up close. A kids’ dream.

tidepool kids

The reason we haven’t been in ages because my youngest, Baby R, hasn’t been stable enough to handle the rocks on her own and I wasn’t sure of my own footing with her in the carrier.

Well, she’s hardly a baby anymore at 21 months, so there we were. I didn’t know how it would go with her, actually, but after holding my hands for a bit she wanted to brave the rocks by herself. She fell a couple times, nothing major, and seemed to enjoy the challenge of navigating the slippery, uneven terrain.

Creative adventure at the tide pool | TinkerLab

N is almost 4, and turned this into a jumping adventure. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my kids like to dress themselves. Who wears dresses and tights to the tidepools? Um, that would be my daughter.

tidepool kids

When I was a kid I loved discovering the squishy sea anemones that retract and squirt water when you touch them. So of course I had to introduce them to my little friends. They were hooked and would squeal with laughter when they found a colony of these little slippery creatures. This turned out to be a great bonding activity for these two.

beach lunch kids

We found the perfect spot to eat lunch and talk about the molting seals (they’re sitting on those far-off rocks), talk to the park ranger about sea stars, and take in the fresh air.

And without any extra effort on my part, this outing encouraged my kids to explore and follow their curiosities; building blocks of creative thinking. On the walk back to the car N asked when we could come back to see the sea stars that the ranger told us about. She wanted to know all about the harbor seals and how they’re different from ringed seals. And where do they go when the tide comes in? And she wanted to bring her dad back to introduce him to the tide pools.

Spending time in nature, outdoors, and in a new environment does wonders for the mind. These experiences can challenge, excite, and educate us.

So now I ask you: What can you do to break your established patterns in order to look at things in a different way? 

Favorite web spots for outdoor adventures

Go Explore Nature: Connecting with Kids and Nature. A beautifully written and photographed blog by Debi Huang, an LA-based mama of two boys. This is a must-read site if you live in California. I get all sorts of good tips for traveling with kids to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, not to mention anyone who can explore nature in LA gets major props in my book. She also has a fantastic list of nature-related resources. Not to be missed.

Let the Children Play. Written by Jenny, an Australian-based preschool teacher. Jenny’s child-raising point of view is play-based and project-oriented. You’ll often spot her little charges learning through play in their natural outdoor space, and her ideas often influence my own backyard transformations. She did some great leg-work and put together this useful list of Top 10 Outdoor Play Blogs