The sweetest bribe, with sprinkles and icing

img_4708Just like the old punishments are not working anymore – my son scoffs at time-outs these days – the former perks of points and stickers don’t have the same motivating effect either, so our family has a new reward system. Donuts.

For each A grade, chore completed without asking, extra kind gesture to a family member or friend, it’s a donut of his choice at Dunkin Donuts. Considering my son has a weekly spelling and math quiz, along with random pop quizzes, and a list of weekly tasks around the house, his chances are good to bring home a cool half dozen to share with family and friends each week.

I had tried other bribes, even dollar bills, but when my son says things like, “It only cost a thousand dollars, get it!” the value of money is lost on him. Likewise, the dollar bins at Target have lost their appeal, as there’s only so many bags of marbles, sling shots, rubber balls and harmonicas that a boy wants.

Donuts are a special treat around our home, so this reward is something he is excited about, and since he can share his bounty with friends, he can be king among the neighborhood gang.  The other great thing about donuts is they go quickly, so he needs to earn them again.

Like most kids, half the fun of donuts is choosing them, so he relishes going to the shop to see all the varieties; and very sweetly he selects specific ones for me and his grandmother, since he knows our favorites are eclairs and cream filled varieties.

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Since we have a Dunkin Donuts near our house that we pass every time we go grocery shopping, it’s a constant reminder for him to do well in school and play nice. The other great thing is that local Dunkin Donuts shops are always doing something charitable, so it’s a great learning opportunity to see the displays and talk about giving back to the community.

At the recent opening of a new Dunkin’ Donuts in at 7203 Van Nuys Blvd., in Van Nuys, California, the company mascot, Cuppy, along with local dignitaries, presented a $1,000 check to Valley Family Center, a counseling and education services organization that helps local families in need. Now that’s a good deed worth at least a thousand donuts!

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Exploring nature, art and community at Sundance Mountain Resort – oh, yeah, and skiing

Sundance Mountain Resort offers year-round family friendly activities

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When most of us think of Sundance, we think of the film festival founded by Robert Redford in the 1980s. The indie filmmaker event moved many years ago to nearby Park City, Utah, but still today Sundance Mountain Resort remains a beacon for creatives and independent spirits, and it has become known as a wonderland for families, where they can spend quality time together and make lifelong memories.

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Purposefully kept small, true to Redford’s vision when he took over the former Timp Haven in 1968 and developed it to create this idyllic resort, Sundance prides itself as a sanctuary committed to the balance of art, nature and community.

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Many families we met at Sundance say they vacation year after year at the resort because of its smallness and the appeal of its family friendly offerings, such as a top-notch children’s snow sports school, art and pottery classes, wooded paths and mountain streams for exploring, and activities such as evening snowshoe hikes with owl spotters.

The wild, wild best

The resort sits on 5,000 acres of beauteous mountain land just outside of Provo, Utah, on the slopes of Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Range. Locals and those who return year after year to this best-kept secret in Utah ski country refer to it as Shangri-La.

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A true testament to an enterprise that is well-managed from the top down, the staff, from the hotel check-in clerks to the ski instructors, are impressively professional and enthusiastic about their work. And like a dedicated CEO and true believer in his mission, Redford himself skis at the resort at least a few times a season, ensuring the resort runs at peak level.

 

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Accommodations are limited to approximately 400 guests at the privately owned or leased 115 cabins and a dozen mountain homes at the resort. Our ski party of two adults and two kids stayed at one of the resort’s chalets nestled in the wooded property, which felt like a private retreat. Paths from the villas lead to the restaurants and other resort buildings, or guests can utilize the resort’s fleet of SUVs to shuttle around the resort.

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The chalets on the property speckle the woods of the hillsides, and in a heavy snow they are barely visible except for their rooftops and chimneys. After one snowy night we awoke to a fresh foot of powder on our doorstep, perfect for snow man making and a snowball fight in our front yard.

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Inside, the cabins are luxurious yet designer-rustic.  Each feature breathtaking views of the mountains, a private deck, expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, wood-paneled and slate stone walls, an open floor plan with a climb-up loft – a favorite with the kids, a kitchen, large fireplace, and rooms outfitted with alpine chic pine and leather furniture and hand braided rugs.

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Our cabin was also stocked with board games, which we played by the fire, until the tired kids passed out before 8 pm, after a day on the slopes.

Mountains of food

When it comes to dining, you can’t go wrong with any of the resort’s restaurants, which all have stellar reputations for their culinary excellence. The romantic candlelit Tree Room Restaurant is the most formal offering, yet the ambiance is comfortable and inviting. Décor includes Native American art from Redford’s personal collection.

For more casual and family friendly dining, the frontier-themed Foundry Grill features fresh hearty fare and pizza from its open kitchen. Après ski and into the night, the late crowd can enjoy drinks and live music at the Owl Bar, the site of the original Redwood Bar where Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang hung out. For quick pick-me-ups, the Creekside Café offers sandwiches and soups at the base of the mountain, and for the adventurous, the Bearclaw Café is a treat at the top of the back mountain, for skiers skilled enough to get there.

Snow, snow on the range

While the dining is superb, it’s the mountains that are the main attraction of Sundance.  For those old enough to remember the Redford classic “Jerimiah Johnson,” these are the mountains that provided the stunning backdrop for the film. Though quaint in size compared to other local resorts, such as Park City Mountain and Deer Valley, Sundance holds its own when it comes to the quality and variety of terrain for all levels of skiers and boarders, and the resort boasts four chair lifts and a beginner tow lift, with the newest quad lift, Reds, carrying 500 people uphill per hour.

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During our visit near the holidays, which is peak ski season, the staff remarked that the “crowds” were large, but not once did any of our party wait more than five minutes for a chair lift; and even during the busiest hours for renting and returning skis, we did not experience any long waits more than 20 minutes.

Heading for the hills

Sundance is easily accessible, about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City airport. Rather than brave the mountain roads after dark when we flew in at night, we opted to stay overnight at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. If we had not been so eager to get to the mountains, we would have certainly stayed longer at this gorgeous hotel, which offers the only five-star luxury accommodations in Salt Lake City and features one of the most beautiful displays of holiday lights and Christmas trees in the world during the holidays.

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Sundance’s proximity to the airport makes it an easy ski-in, ski-out resort, but its location lower on the mountain range, at about 12,000 feet, means the resort has a shorter snow season than its neighbors at higher elevations.

The compact season is a boon to the resort, as the resort hosts more guests after the snow melts. When other area resorts are winding down with dwindling crowds for spring skiing, Sundance is gearing up for its busiest time of year, when spring and summer vacationers come for horseback riding, mountain biking, zip tours, and, of course – for fans of Redford’s “A River Runs Through it” — fly fishing.

Like the plot of that film, the great outdoors and the notion of family is treated as sacred at Sundance. The resort’s fame may be born of its celebrity owner and the Hollywood-once-removed SWAG-circus festival that bears its name, but otherwise this serene retreat is an escape from city life, and a place where visitors can reconnect with nature, and their families.

Best states for familes

LA Parenting

2017-02-22-2For anyone considering a move out of state, here’s a ranking of 2017’s Best & Worst States to Raise a Family by WalletHub, a personal finance site.

In order to determine the best states in which to put down family roots, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on 40 key indicators of family-friendliness. Our data set ranges from “median family salary” to “housing affordability” to “unemployment rate.”

Best States for Families Worst States for Families
1 North Dakota 42 Alabama
2 New Hampshire 43 West Virginia
3 Vermont 44 Georgia
4 Minnesota 45 Arizona
5 Nebraska 46 Alaska
6 Massachusetts 47 Nevada
7 New Jersey 48 Louisiana
8 Iowa 49 District of Columbia
9 Connecticut 50 Mississippi
10 South Dakota 51 New Mexico

Best vs. Worst

  • Wyoming has the highest median family annual income (adjusted for cost of living), $79,732, which is 1.7 times…

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The portable battery that makes you smile when your phone dies

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If you or your kids’ phones run out of juice at the end of the day, this little fella will come to the rescue in style.  The Cheero FLOWERS Power Plus portable battery almost makes a low battery fun.

The brightly colored 10050 mAh mobile battery has a unique design of a cartoon face, with two round circles for eyes, and a triangle nose. Available in seven flower inspired colors, Cheero is ready to charge Apple and Android phones and tablets. The battery features two ports so it can charge more than one device at a time, and it is equipped with an AUTO-IC function, allowing the external battery to automatically recognize if a device is connected. The external battery optimizes the supplied power best suited for each device.

The most obvious appeal of this battery is its cute design is attractive to children and those who like cutesy things. It may encourage children to take a long their battery packs, so there’s no excuse for their phone dying when mom and dad are trying to call them coordinate a pick up at school.

Another advantage of its different look is that you won’t get it confused with everyone else’s black square of a battery pack, unless of course they also have Cheero.

The battery comes with a cute canvas carry bag, so you can keep the little fellow from getting scratched. It also comes with a short micro-USB to USB cable. Cheero is available at select Nordstrom and at Amazon Prime for $39.99 at Amazon.com.

Quick fix sink stopper repair, prevents clogs and jewelry down the drain

LA Parenting

Recently I pulled up the metal stopper in my sink, and it came out in my hand. After fiddling with it for about an hour I gave up. A plumber told me the entire assembly needed to be replaced, at a cost of $135.

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I decided to live with an open drain, but after a few close calls with Contacts and earrings falling into the sink and almost going into the drain, I decided I needed another option. I found out about A sink strainer and hair catcher called Sink Shroom. It gets it’s moniker from its mushroom shape, with a system that fits down into the drain with a top that rests outside the drain. It has two tabs that keep it from going to flush against the drain.

This little device is designed to catch hair before it goes…

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Advice for teen drivers heading for the mountains

LA Parenting

Tips for driving in snowy weather

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Snowboarding and skiing season is in full swing, and the kids are begging to go up to the slopes, but with snowy roads, parents worry about driving safety. Drivers who are inexperienced driving in snow can be a hazard to themselves, their passengers, and other motorists. Teens themselves are uncomfortable driving, but if they get stuck on snow- or ice-covered roads, share these tips with them to help them drive safely.

  • Take it slow. Teens are often overconfident in their driving abilities, which can cause them to drive too fast and too close to other drivers. Remind teens of the importance of taking it slow and keeping distance from other drivers in bad weather, especially when driving on winding roads, when approaching stops or during heavy traffic.
  • Avoid Distractions. According to Liberty Mutual and SADD, 73 percent of teens admit to having their phones nearby…

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Heading for cool, at The Shade Hotel in Redondo Beach

Looking to take a needed stay-cation nearby, where you can feel a world away from work, the kids and LA, but you’re close enough to bolt home if the babysitter needs you?  The Shade Hotel in Redondo Beach is just the escape.

shade-redondo-beach-exterior-41 The chic and modern hotel is so waterfront that peering out of the sliding glass doors of the guest rooms you would swear you are floating on a ship.  For a true feeling of communing with the sea, guests can enjoy the bird’s-eye view of the sail boats bouncing in the harbor below while soaking in their private outdoor tub, discreetly situated off the boudoir, on the balcony.

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Dining is conveniently at Sea Level restaurant, located at the hotel’s culinary building across a breezeway adjacent the lobby.  The restaurant serves a chef-driven menu of California coastal cuisine, including a raw bar of fresh oysters and craft cocktails to be enjoyed in the LA-lively bar inside or outside, under the stars, by the patio fire pits, along the spectacular seascape boasting views from Palos Verdes to Malibu.

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During the day, enjoy the quiet roof top pool, or grab a complementary cruiser bike and head to the beach path just a couple hundred feet from the hotel’s entrance.  Other hotel perks include day passes to the Bay Club fitness facility, a short walk across the neighboring parking lot of Bluewater Grill Seafood, and a partnership with Trilogy Day Spa for special treatment packages.

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The Redondo Beach locale is up-and-coming, and though the immediate neighborhood has a number of warehouses and visible smoke stacks across the skyline, the area continues to evolve into a hip and happening destination, with more restaurants and trendy shopping popping up, such as Riviera Village, featuring more than 300 boutiques, restaurants and galleries.

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While the term “boutique” generally connotes small, the rooms of this three-story, 54-room property are spacious, and each is fully equipped with mini-fridge, coffee maker, and other comfort amenities, and there are plenty of USB plug-ins and Wi-Fi to keep all manner of tech connected.  The rooms feature chromatherapy, whereby guests can tune the color of the neon accent lights in the room to set a particular mood.

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The hotel’s efficient service is on par with that of a grand hotel, yet the Shade delivers cool luxury with a laid-back feeling, beginning with check-in, when guest are guests are greeted with a glass of champagne.  Rooms start around $249 per night.

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