Year Round Family Fun with California's Great America

California's Great America

Summer may be over, but the fun continues at California's Great America! All this month the park has been celebrating Halloween with Trick or Treating with Snoopy for the little ones and Halloween Haunt for older kids and adults. (Check out my post about Halloween Haunt 2016 on Bonggamom Finds!). Here are a few Halloween Haunt photos to get you in the mood:

Then, in December, the holidays are coming to the park with their first-ever WinterFest celebration. I can't wait to celebrate the holidays at California's Great America!

California's Great America

If you have never visited California's Great America, you're missing out! Located in Santa Clara, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley and at the edge of the San Francisco Bay, California's Great America is the Bay Area's best entertainment value. With more than 70 rides, slides, shows and attractions on 100 acres, California's Great America truly has something for everyone.

California's Great America

New for 2016
California's Great America and Electronic Arts (EA) have teamed up to create a first-of-its-kind guest experience at Great America. This dynamic new attraction features settings and characters from EA's critically acclaimed Mass Effect videogame series developed by BioWare.

Riders climb aboard motion-based seating and wear 3D glasses as they are taken on a thrilling adventure. A live performer curates the journey and appears to interact seamlessly with the next generation 3D visuals. These elements are integrated with motion seating, high tech sound and other 4D effects to create a truly compelling and immersive attraction. Guests travel through space to a distant planet, face off against bigger than life adversaries and ultimately help save the day.

California's Great America

My Readers can Save $23 off Tickets at California's Great America Theme Park #greatamerica use code: BLOG4CGA

Disclosure: I will be receiving free tickets to California's Great America courtesy of US Family Guide. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Holiday Card Checklist -- what to do to ensure the perfect family holiday card


The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming! It's time to start planning your annual holiday cards! Here's a checklist of things to do in the next 3 weeks or so:

  1. If you haven't had your family holiday photos taken, now is the time. Book a photographer or set up a tripod and do it on your own. 
  2. Go through last year's card list. Make sure all mailing addresses are current. Don't forget to add all the new friends you've made in the last year!
  3. Family newsletter: yes or no? Some people love 'em, some hate 'em, but if you're on the love side it's time to start thinking about what you want to include.
  4. Buy holiday stamps at the post office before the rush begins
  5. Print out holiday address labels or order personalized ones online.
  6. Last but not least, choose your holiday card designs!

Speaking of holiday card designs, check out AdoramaPix's  AdoramaPix's holiday collection. Choose from a wide range of stunning designs and paper options. Then, upload your photo and customize any holiday card with your own personal touches. Holiday snail mail has never looked so good!

Shop Now: 40% off greeting cards. Use code:. PXUSFAM40 Sale ends 12/20/2016 11:59 PM EST

Disclosure: I will be receiving sample cards from AdoramaPix for review.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Telemedicine: treating patients in the 21st century

One of the best things about living in the 21st century is the ability to connect with friends and family even when they are far away. Inexpensive phones and data plans as well as numerous software makes it easy for people like me who live apart from extended family. Without email, instant messaging, and Facebook, I'd never know what was going on halfway around the world!

The ability to communicate over long distances doesn't just help families stay together. It helps businesses and educational institutions collaborate with partners to share knowledge and information. And when applies to the field of medicine, it even helps save lives! There's even a term for it: Telemedicine.

Telemedicine, or the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide healthcare from a distance, is a growing phenomenon. There are so many areas in the world where doctors are scarce, so what better use is there for modern tech than to bring more medical expertise to rural communities and other disadvantaged areas? For example, a community may have trained midwives to deliver babies, which is adequate in 99% of all birthing situations, but for rare medical emergencies I can totally see midwives using telemedicine to consult with neonatal experts.  As another example, many patients travel hundreds of miles to see specialists and have procedures done. In many cases, the specialists could monitor the patients as they recuperate from home, eliminating the need for them to travel back to the doctor for a routine follow-up visit.

Telemedicine doesn't just help patients in developing countries or rural communities. Even suburban moms will find that telemedicine helps streamline their busy lives! I can't tell you how many times my kids have had a cough or a rash and I've had to make room in my schedule for a doctor's visit, only to have the doctor say it's just a viral rash/common cold/postnasal drip due to allergies, then prescribe rest and fluids. You don't want to ignore the problem, but you don't want to waste everyone's time either -- and consulting Dr. Google is definitely not a viable option! Having an option of videoconferencing with a qualified doctor would be so much easier and more efficient for everyone involved.

I know I'm not the only mom who feels this way. Click on the infographic above to see how women feel about combining technology and health management!

That's where telemedicine companies like Live Health Online come in. LiveHealth Online uses two way video to connect you with U.S. based board certified doctors. And since it’s an online experience, it’s quick, easy and always on your terms. But convenience also comes with excellent service. Doctors using LiveHealth Online can answer your questions, assess your condition and even provide prescriptions, if needed. For more information, check out Live Health Online's Facebook Page and Twitter feed.

Of course, telemedicine needs to be used carefully. Sometimes a doctor needs to be physically present. Data connections need to be impeccable, otherwise information can be transmitted inaccurately (i.e. blurry images due to poor lighting or grainy cameras). Safeguards need to be in place so that information does not get lost or stolen. However, I firmly believe the pros outweigh the cons. We live in a global, connected world, and telemedicine is just another manifestation of that fact. Telemedicine has the potential to save many lives and spread information all around the world.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions 2016 features Final Five

Kelloggs tour of gymnastics champions

Do you wish you could have gone to the Rio 2016 Olympics and seen the Final Five compete? Gymnastics fans all around the US will get their wish, because gymnasts Simone Biles, Gabby Dougls, Laurie Hernandez, Aly Raisman, and Madison Kocian will be performing all around the country with Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions! They will be at SAP Center this weekend and I can't wait to see them.

The Final Five won hearts all over the world this summer when they won a treasure trove of medals: gold in team, gold in women's all-around (Biles), gold in vault (Biles), gold and silver in floor (Biles & Raisman), silver in uneven parallel bars (Kocian), and silver and bronze in balance beam (Hernandez & Biles).

Other gymnasts on the tour include Nastia Liukin (2008 all-around women's gymnastics Olympic gold medalist), Shawn Johnson (2008 all-around silver medalist), Jordyn Wieber (2012 US gymnastics team member and gold team medalist), the 2016 US men's gymnastics team, and more. I'm really keeping my fingers crossed that we get to see all these athletes, especially the Final Five, because the cast varies from stop to stop.

There are still tickets available for this weekend's show, so head on over to the SAP Center website to purchase! If you're not from the Bay Area, check out the tour website for locations and dates.

Disclosure: I received tickets to attend the event with my family. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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The most durable name labels ever: Kidecals

Labor Day has come and gone and the kids are back in school! So, have your kids lost any lunch boxes yet? I work at an elementary school so I see first hand how many lunch boxes, jackets, and caps are left outside every single day! My kids have lost more than their fair share of stuff, so I've learned my lesson, and I now slap labels on anything and everything that my kids own. I can't tell you how many times the parent volunteer in charge of our lost-and-found closet has called me to say one of my kids has left an item behind, just before it gets sorted into a donation bin!

Labeling works -- but the labels have to be durable enough to withstand the sun, multiple trips to the dishwasher/washing machine, and everyday wear (i.e. getting scuffed on the playground, getting spilled on, etc...).  I recently tried out Kidecals labels, and I have to say, they are probably the most durable labels out there! They feel almost like heavy duty car bumper stickers that can withstand grease, mud, and the elements.

kidecals labels bonggamom review

My Kidecals label value pack was super easy to order and customize. They have over 300 designs to choose from -- not just cutesy kiddie designs, but modern and chic designs that teens and adults would be proud to display.

The basic labels come in 2 sizes, 2"x5" and 1"x 0.25"; combo packs also include round labels (1" and 2" diameter) as well as rectangular labels in different sizes. The labels are printed on large sheets, which I'm not crazy about -- I wish they were in little booklets or packs to make them easier to store, and they are somewhat difficult to remove from the backing, but once the labels are on, they STAY PUT.  They're waterproof, dishwasher safe, microwave safe, and laundry safe. They're also BPA free!

kidecals labels bonggamom review

If you think you don't need Kidecals because you don't have kids, think again. Think about all those phones, car keys, ipads, sunglasses cases, and work coffee mugs you've lost!  Kidecals also makes chalkboard labels, luggage tags, keyboard stickers, gift labels, canning labels, and allergy alert labels. Their usefulness goes far beyond school stuff!

kidecals labels bonggamom review

Check out Kidecals online, and save 15% with discount code: summersavings

Disclosure: I received samples to facilitate my review. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey: This circus show is Out Of This World!

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

A few weeks ago I wrote about all the things I was looking forward to seeing at Out Of This World, the new show from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. Out Of This World is the first circus show to have a storyline; it also does away with the traditional 3-ring format, and several acts are performed on ice! Those are just a few of the fresh and exciting new things about Out Of This World -- to fully understand just how enjoyable the show is, you absolutely have to watch it.

From the moment the show started, we knew this was not the usual compilation of circus acts that everyone comes to expect. Instead of a tightrope walker we were treated to moonwalkers balancing, walking, and biking on a rotating wheel (the Simet Wheel).
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

The entire show was based on the story of ringmaster Jonathan and his sidekick Starseeker, traveling through space, trying to gather all the best circus acts in the galaxy before the evil Queen Tatiana does. Will they manage to save the circus?  Obviously the grownups know the answer, but the little ones will enjoy the battle of good versus evil (especially since the forces of evil come in the guise of a troupe of bumbling clowns)!
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

A special video projection screen changes with each act; a variety of images like stars and snowflakes and terrain are also projected onto the ice to really make the scenery look great.
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Yes, you heard that right, I said "ice"!  Out Of This World features quite a few performers on ice skates! They turned the entire stage into an ice rink and covered up the center part, so that the skaters can glide in and out, but all the other performers can enter and exit and perform safely.
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

There were so so so many amazing acts! I was delighted to see my favorite motorcycle act, where 7 or 8 bikers ride inside a small metal cage. I cannot believe how skilled these riders are, riding around and around and upside down without crashing into anyone.
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

No elephants this time, but there were many other animal acts, including dogs, pigs, llamas, alpacas, and a kangaroo! The dogs looked like they were having so much fun, and they were so cute.
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

I love how affectionate the tiger trainer is with his cats, and their tricks are impressive, but to be honest I would prefer to see these tigers running wild in their natural habitat. All the other animal acts featured domesticated animals.
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

I was happy to see that the focus of this horse performance was actually the humans, not the horses; it was more about showcasing their skills as acrobats as opposed to horse trainers.  This was actually one of my favorite acts. Just seeing a horse galloping is a majestic sight, and when you add people running and tumbling on the horses, that just adds to the excitement.
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

More ice skating acrobatics; this one included trampolines, aerial flips, and fire jugglers on Segway scooters!
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Here are a few more photos from our Out Of This World experience! They are performing in many more cities, so make sure you check out their schedule, because this is one circus not to be missed!
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Out Of This World circus

Out Of This World Dates and Locations

Out Of This World will be in 4 California cities through mid-September. For more dates and locations, check out the Ringling Bros tickets and schedules page.

  • Oakland, CA August 18, 2016 - August 22, 2016
  • San Jose, CA August 25, 2016 - September 05, 2016
  • Bakersfield, CA September 09, 2016 - September 11, 2016
  • Sacramento, CA September 15, 2016 - September 18, 2016

Disclosure: I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post. I received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. Product information (in italics) is provided by the featured company/product. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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A Day of Fun at Great Mall

Feeling sad that summer is ending? Don't worry, you can still plan a great weekend staycation! And there's no better way to spend the day than at  Great Mall in Milpitas, CA. It's within a short driving distance from practically any city in the Bay Area, and it has everything you need to spend the day out with the family -- great stores (with great bargains!), fun things to do for the kids and for grownups, and delicious places to grab a snack or a meal. There's something for everyone!

The Great Mall was the first outlet center I visited when I came the US in 1994 as a graduate student, and I was blown away by the size of the mall (it's like a giant football field with over 200 stores!) and the variety of shops. I've loved it ever since, and my kids have grown up shopping at Great Mall!

A few weeks ago I took the boys out for a day of fun at Great Mall (courtesy of Great Mall and Simon Malls). It was just before school started, so it was the perfect opportunity to go back to school shopping and have one last hurrah before summer vacation ended. Here are all the things we did that day at Great Mall:

Great Mall is the perfect place to find a bargain! They have great outlet stores and retail stores for men, women, teens, kids, and home.  Whether you need to stock up on back to school supplies and outfits or buy a holiday present for everyone on your list, you don't have to go any further than Great Mall.

Great Mall offers plenty of delicious ways to refuel. Their food court has all kinds of fast food cuisine, from Indian to Japanese to Mediterranean, and more. There are snack carts and kiosks scattered all around the mall, featuring favorites like Wetzels Pretzels, Dippin Dots, Starbucks, Mrs. Fields, Cold Stone Creamery, and more. Yum!
Food Court at Great Mall

You don't have to be a shopaholic to enjoy the Great Mall. There are entertainment options for everyone!

There are several meeting places where families can meet and rest their feet. My favorite one has a fountain where the little ones love to play.

You really don't have to worry about young kids getting antsy, because there are lots of rides spaced around the mall, including a mini railroad, carousel, and bungee jump.

Don't worry, there are games for grown-ups too. Dave & Buster's has a ton of arcade games and video games, along with a bar and restaurant with giant sports screens showing the live sports matches.

You can even go to the movies! Century Theatres has 20 screens including 3D and XD options, a game arcade, and the all-important concession stands with popcorn, sodas and other snacks.

One of the boys' favorite things to do is hang out at Game Stop and play video games.

That's a lot of stuff to do! If you're all tired out, look for the coin-operated massage chairs so you can give your aching body a break!

We had a great day out and can't wait to go back!

Here's a list of some of our favorite stores (I limited it to three per category, otherwise the list would go on and on!). You can find a complete list of Great Mall stores on their website.

Favorite place to shop: UGG, Victoria's Secret, The Body Shop
Favorite place to eat: Red Ribbon Bake Shop, Mrs. Field's
Favorite place to hang out: Century Cinema

Favorite place to shop: J. Crew Factory, Calvin Klein, Clark's
Favorite place to eat: Anderson's Bakery, Starbucks
Favorite place to hang out: Century Cinema, Dave & Buster's

The Pea:
Favorite place to shop: Uniqlo, Bath & Body Works, Forever 21
Favorite place to eat: Wetzel's Pretzels, Chipotle
Favorite place to hang out: Century Cinema

Favorite place to shop: Adidas Outlet Store
Favorite place to eat: Dippin Dots, Jollibee
Favorite place to hang out: Dave & Buster's, Game Stop

Favorite place to shop: Nike Outlet Store
Favorite place to eat: Cinnabon, Subway
Favorite place to hang out: Dave & Buster's, Game Stop

Disclosure: I received a Simon Mall gift bag including gift cards to help us enjoy our day out at Great Mall. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Today is $1 Short Stack Day at IHOP !

Today is $1 Short Stack Day at IHOP!  From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today, you can get a short stack of pancakes at IHOP for just $1.  Not only do you get a short stack of their yummy pancakes for a crazy price -- for every $1 short stack purchased, IHOP will donate $1 to the No Kid Hungry campaign! What a delicious way to help feed the kids who need it the most!  They're aiming to serve one million pancakes today, so get on over to IHOP, ASAP.

Find an IHOP near you.

Disclosure: I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post. . The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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