Mazdas, Mazdas, Mazdas

For reasons known only to them, the good folks at Roger Beasley Mazda South (who’ve obviously never seen me try to parallel park) recently decided to let me drive their cars. For the past three weeks I’ve driven not one, not two, but three different Mazdas – one per week – with the understanding that I’d give an honest review of each, discuss my experiences on social media, and otherwise do what I could to help them get the word out about a very cool line of automobiles that seems to be getting overlooked.

Of course I immediately took them up on this offer, trying to keep my squees to a minimum and pretending to be a Very Responsible and Trustworthy Driver. You know, someone you wouldn’t think twice about loaning a brand new, lovely car for a week. Certainly NOT the kind of person who once forgot to renew her driver’s license for FIVE YEARS.*

(Ahem.)

Aaaaaanyway.

I’d originally planned to write a separate review for each car, posting something at the end of each week. It was a very responsible plan. But unfortunately for everyone, I’m Beej. And Beej + Any “Very Responsible Plan” = Totally Not Gonna Happen. With the holiday craziness and all kinds of shiny things around to distract me… well, you know. Do the math.

So now here we are. At the official last minute. And, in true Beej fashion, I will now completely half-ass this and write one post instead of three.

It’s just how I roll, y’all.

So here we go.

Mazda 3. mazda3 exteriorI started out with the Mazda 3 – a sporty little thing with a ton of zip, a fantastic Bose sound system and this crazy knob (NOT a euphemism) in the middle console that I kind of fell in love with. It controlled the entire audio/communication system, was easy to use and conveniently located, and it had this really satisfying little clicky-clicky feeling when you used it. (It’s the little things in life, people. Don’t judge me for loving the knob.)

knob Know what else I fell in love with? Keyless entry. Which is like, the best invention ever. As long as you have your key in a pocket or in your purse, all you have to do is press a button on your door handle and le voila! You’re in! Let me tell you, when you’re juggling coats, gloves, hats and Christmas presents, plus your purse and a cup of coffee, that keyless entry business is THE SHNIZZLE.

The car itself was really fun to drive – not exactly a practical size for me, given the amount of crap I’m constantly hauling around thanks to the six-year old, but if I was single and/or kidless I could be very happy whizzing around town in this spunky little number.

The gas mileage was fantastic, too – so fantastic that I was convinced I was reading the gauge wrong when I still had half a tank left after a week’s worth of running around. I actually made the hubs come outside (in the freezing rain) to confirm that it wasn’t broken. (This is true. He’s still a little pouty about it.)

Mazda CX-5.

mazdacx5

On week two I traded my sporty little 3 for the much more family-friendly CX-5. Of the three cars I drove, this one’s the most similar in terms of size and function to my own car (a 10-year old Ford Escape that I love dearly, despite its age and issues).

It wasn’t as zippy as the 3, and it wasn’t nearly as powerful as my Ford, but the CX-5 definitely had its own set of advantages. The gas mileage was, again, killer – especially for a car of this size. And it was very comfortable inside — nice and roomy, with plenty of space for all our junk in the trunk.

We got our Christmas trees with this car. We went to CostCo in this car. We picked people up from the airport in this car. It was all easy and fun and smooth, and through it all I only used about half the gas that I would have in the Ford.

mazda5christmasHey – did I mention the seat warmers? All three cars had these but I really put them to use in the 5, because a huge cold front came in that week and my butt needed some serious warming. The only drawback: never wanting to leave your seat once you reach your destination.

Mazda 6. mazda6 This was the last of the series for me, and by far the most swank. Totally tricked out with all the bells and whistles, including a sunroof, cruise control that senses and reacts if the car in front of you changes speed, and blind spot sensors that warn you of hazards when changing lanes.

(All three cars had the blind spot sensors, which I got used to very fast. Gonna be tough, having to swivel my neck again once I’m back in the old Ford. #spoiled #chiropractor)

The Bose speakers were back, and so was the magical knob – but surprisingly, I hardly used it at all this time around. I couldn’t really tell you why, but I can tell you that the whole phone/stereo/touchscreen system was a lot more problematic in this car than it was in the other two. To be fair, I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to figure it out – but I definitely preferred the interface that the 3 had to the built-in screen/interface of the 5 and 6.

SCREENS

Drive-wise, the 6 was very powerful and a super smooth ride, with plenty of interior room. It was a lot longer than it seemed, which could create some difficulties when parking (maybe only for the depth-perceptionally challenged, like me)… but once you get used to it, I suppose it’s no different than driving a larger car like a Cadillac or Town Car or something. Just takes a little adjusting.

(Also worth noting: All three cars had the reverse camera feature, which I quickly grew addicted to and now can’t live without. I’m seriously concerned about my ability to back out of any parking space without it now. Looks like I’m going to have to re-learn how to drive, old-school. Ah, technology. You giveth and then you taketh away.)

Other stuff you should know.

I cannot say enough about how fantastic the folks at Roger Beasley Mazda South have been. Everyone I’ve met there, from the receptionist to the owner, has been friendly, helpful, informative and just plain nice. The company’s also very active in the community, giving back through local charities that benefit children and animals like the Austin Humane Society and Hand to Hold, which scores big points with me.

They’re also genuinely open to suggestions from customers on ways they can improve the sales process and better spread the word about their brand; and they’re embracing the digital age like no other dealership I’ve seen, with a full team of online sales reps on staff and a web site that allows you to research, inquire, apply for financing and even schedule maintenance online. As a result their entire process, both pre- and post-sale, is made easier for consumers, and as a busy working mom who prefers to conduct as much of my business online as possible, I really appreciate that. 

My final word: If you’re car-shopping and haven’t yet considered a Mazda, I’d HIGHLY recommend adding the brand to your exploration list. All three cars were great, award-winning rides, viable options for just about any driver, and ALL of them are reasonably priced, with terrific gas mileage saving you even more down the road.

So, there you have it. It’s been an absolutely lovely three weeks of easy, smooth driving, and I’ve got those cool guys at Roger Beasley to thank for it. The next time I’m in the market for a new car, they’ll be my first stop — and if you’re smart, they’ll be yours, too.

Safe driving, y’all. See you somewhere down the road!

Beej

*For the record, I’m totally legal now. And I’ve got the squishy-faced license photo to prove it.

Posted in Transportation, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Peter Pan Mini-Golf

Let me just start out by saying: Miniature golf is awesome.

If you’re five.

Or possibly 25, and drunk.

When you’re pushing 40, hate crowds, came clothed for cooler weather AND have a truly terrible short game — miniature golf kind of sucks.

However. If you MUST get out for a local game of putt-putt, Peter Pan Mini-Golf is the place to go. An Austin institution, the giant statue of the Lost Boy from Neverland has been staring down passersby from its elevated position on the corner of Barton Springs and Lamar since the early 1900s or something.*

(Honestly, it really doesn’t look much like Peter, does it? It kind of reminds me of my high school BFF’s creepy older cousin Ben, but with a slight underbite and some kind of palsy. Somehow, though, that discrepancy just adds to its charm. This IS the ATX, after all.)

I remember attending birthday parties and play dates at Peter Pan when I was a kid, and it seemed like the natural order of things to bring my son here to enjoy it, too. So, on a sunny January afternoon, Partner-in-Crime Jen and I took the kids for a rousing round of putt putt.

First surprise suckage: CASH ONLY. If I’d done my homework before showing up, or if I wasn’t one of those assholes who just never have cash in general, this would have been a non-issue. But I didn’t, and I am, so it was. Luckily, my ever-responsible Partner-in-Crime came prepared and footed the bill, ignoring my wimpy promises to pay her back at some vague future date. And it should be noted that the prices were very reasonable. 6 bucks for an 18-hole round ($4 for kids 5 and under) is totally do-able, even for the Eternally Broke like me.

Surprise suckage #2: It was BEYOND crowded. Granted, we went late on a Saturday afternoon — prime time for birthday parties and family outings, and on a beautiful day, no less. We were practically BEGGING to wait in long lines. I can’t hold it against Peter Pan that it’s so popular everyone wants to go there on a sunny day. But still, the long waits were a downer, especially when we found ourselves stuck behind a gaggle of pre-teen girls who were cute but <pot-kettle> hopelessly inept at putt-putt </end pot-kettle>. There was a LOT of standing around, waiting. Not really a high-energy kind of sport, this one.

Waiting. Patiently. Sort of.

Third surprise of suckitude: It was hot. Too hot. The park is elevated from the street (which technically makes it closer to the sun, you know) and the courses proper offer no real shade. Even though it was the middle of January and a fairly cool Austin day (high 60s/low 70s) – boy, was that sun beating down on us. Of course, it didn’t help that I’d planned for more shady happenings, so I was in jeans and a sweater. (SWEAT being the operative part of that word.)

Surprise Number 4: I totally suck at putt-putt. I mean, like, REALLY REALLY A LOT. I couldn’t have made a hole-in-one if my ball had been a pit bull and that hole had been filled with bacon. Even the shitty pre-teens were laughing at me. And as much as I wish I didn’t care, the competitive jackass inside me wanted blood. So, okay, I *might* have cheated. A *little* bit. Maybe. I’m not admitting anything.

The four-year-old, playing better golf than me without cheating at all.
(You cannot see my ball here. Because I probably sliced it to another hole or something.)
(Slicing is a golf term, right? Isn’t that a thing?)

Huh. Upon review, I’m realizing that all of my complaints stem from my own personal failings as a human. Huh.

Well, anyway. Here’s the good stuff:

1. Both courses are really bright and diverse, with everything from creepy bunnies to dead animal skulls to castles and T-Rexes and turtles. You can see that a real sense of artistry went into all of this, and the bizarrity of it all fits beautifully into the wonderful weirdness of Austin.

Our children, climbing on a pretend dead animal skull. Only in Texas.

2. The one benefit of long waits is the people watching, and Peter Pan does not disappoint. FABULOUS people watching. A great diversity of people frequent this place – putt putt seems to be a universally beloved sport (which, ??)– so there’s a LOT to see, from all walks of life. This carries a lot of weight with me.

3. I know this is a popular spot for the under-25 late-night-boozing crowd and I get it, I totally get it. I’m actually a little shocked I never found myself on a bender here, back in the olden golden days before I became somebody’s mom and In-Bed-By-10 Syndrome kicked in. Somehow, I missed this gem of an experience, but if you’re a college kid looking for some new, ridiculous way to be drunk and stupid, Peter Pan fits the bill nicely. Translation for In-Bed-By-10 Moms Like Me: Keep the kiddos away after dusk, unless you want to be trampled by drunk and stupid twenty-somethings. Not that you’re out then, anyway.

Most importantly, the kids had a great time. Granted, they were a bit hot and bothered and did get annoyed by the long wait occasionally — but Jen and I are blessed with incredibly sweet, smart kids** and the bright colors and climb-upness of all the newly renovated obstacles kept them (mostly) entertained between putts.

Plus, a quick stop for fro-yo afterwards was a nice send-off for all of us.

So go forth and putt-putt, y’all. Just be sure to bring cash and dress for the weather. Second star to the right, and straight on till morning.

Beej

* Date estimated.

** Biased statement, yes, but fuck it.

Posted in Birthday Parties, Miniature Golf, Outdoors | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo

Yesterday I went to the Four Seasons for a brunch held by the super awesome folks at PBSKids (more on this later in the week) and got smacked in the face by the SXSW crowds. Once I was able to get out of downtown (which, believe me, was no small feat), I went home, picked up my boys, and spent the rest of the afternoon at the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo.

It was kind of like spending the morning on one planet, hopping a spaceship flight and spending the rest of the day on a completely different rock. I started my day on Planet Skinny Jeans, and ended it on Planet Wrangler.

SXSW is about technology. And celebrity. And being hip.

The rodeo? Totally not about any of that stuff.

The rodeo’s all about cowboys.

And meat.

And I don’t actually know what these things are, but it’s about these things.

It’s also a GIANT rip-off.  The big butt-screw started before we ever even got into the park – ten dollars for decidedly NON-rock star parking.

view from our car

Once you finally make it to the gates, it’s another $7 per adult ($4 for kids 3-12) to get into the fairgrounds. A grand total of $18 for the three of us to get into the park so we could spend a whole lot more on overpriced food and carny rides. Before we ever even walked in, we were nearly 30 bucks lighter. And our feet were already sore.

They make you pay for everything with tokens. Probably hoping those shiny gold coins will distract you from the fact that you’re handing someone nine dollars for a piece of pizza on a stick.

The only part of the fairgrounds that didn’t seem to cost the price of a small child was Kidstown — but that section was so smelly and depressing (with all those poor, miserable petting zoo animals and tired ponies) that I would have gladly paid someone to make it all just go away.

However.

Here are the pluses.

My boy LOVES a carnival.

The rides were fun and the kids had a blast.

And the people watching?  Well, that just doesn’t get any better anywhere else than the rodeo, folks. And that’s the god’s honest truth. Some of the people we saw were worth the price of admission alone.

Two children with glorious mullets

Could we have gone to a regular old carny – the Thomas carnival that just happens to be going on over at the Dell Diamond right now, perhaps – for less money, better parking, and similar entertainment?  Well, sure we could.

But we would have missed this:

Her pink t-shirt says, in huge white letters, “FUCK Y’ALL I’M FROM TEXAS.”
Yes, that’s her baby in the stroller.

And that would have just been unacceptable.

Posted in Carnivals, Outdoors, Special Events | Tagged | 5 Comments

Zilker Kite Festival

So, listen. I grew up in Austin and I’ve always loved it because it’s my hometown. But the truth is, I haven’t always LIKED it very much.

When I was a teenager it was okay but I didn’t really distinguish it from other places because Austin was all I knew. A tiny bit of wanderlust left me feeling trapped and unable to appreciate anything that was truly great about the city.

Later, after living in San Diego for a while and coming back home, the boiling hot summers, traffic and utter lack of Pacific Ocean made Austin seem harsh and oppressive by comparison. Jason moved here in the mid 90s and we had a few good years enjoying the social scene… but that grew stale after a while and eventually we started seriously exploring other places to spend the rest of our lives.  The time and the money were just never there, though, so we stayed. Reluctantly. Always with a plan to get out as soon as we could.

And then we had Sam.

Becoming a mom changes everything – anyone who’s done it will tell you that. I’ve changed in a million different ways since Sam came into my life – a million different ways.  But one of my favorite things about this mom gig is the fresh perspective it’s given me — particularly when it comes to my surroundings. Particularly when it comes to Austin. It’s not just MY hometown anymore – now it’s Sam’s, too. And seeing it with that new set of eyes has made me realize just low lucky we’ve both got it.

The reason I started this blog was to share this new perspective with you – to maybe remind you, if you live here, how lucky we all are to call this place home. It doesn’t matter who you are, what age, race, religion, sexual preference or walk of life – there’s ALWAYS something to do in Austin.  Live music. Festivals. Parks. Lakes. Shows. Dining. FUN. All you have to do is find it.

It’s not perfect – no place is. I still want to hide in my air-conditioned house for most of the summer and the traffic still drives me nuts. But for me, the balance on the scale has tipped and the good far, FAR outweighs the bad. I hope it does for you, too.

I was planning to write a big review of the Zilker Park Kite Festival, which we go to every year and had a wonderful time at this weekend – but honestly, I think the pictures speak for themselves. Scroll down a bit and see the day we had – and then tell me Austin’s not worth it.

The pure joy of laying on a blanket in the middle of Zilker Park, on a beautiful day, and looking up to see your son’s face with a huge smile, surrounded by THOUSANDS of kites in the air – well, for me, that’s Austin.

Take it from someone who knows. If you live in this city but don’t love it, you’re totally doing it wrong.

Love,

Beej

Posted in Festivals, Outdoors | Tagged | 3 Comments

Buescher State Park

Here are some things I like about camping:

  1. Spreading out and enjoying some privacy in the great outdoors
  2. Drinking beer
  3. Staying up late with friends after the kids have gone to sleep

Here are some things you CANNOT do at Buescher State Park:

  1. Spread out and enjoy any real privacy in the great outdoors
  2. Drink beer
  3. Stay up late with friends after the kids have gone to sleep

Seriously. This place was a total downer.

We decided last week that the weather and timing was right for camping, so we planned an overnight trip with our BCF (Best Couple Friends) Wally and Leigh and their kids. [begin understatement] Leigh and I aren’t big campers [end understatement] and have individual agreements in place with the men that if they want us to camp with them, they’re required to do all the heavy lifting and, well, WORK in general.  (This could possibly be considered an anti-feminist move but let me clarify: It’s not about man vs. woman so much as “person who likes camping” vs. “person who thinks camping is a bunch of unnecessary, crappy work” thing. I do not discriminate against anyone who wants to pack up my car, unpack it, put up the tent, and grill sausages for me.)

Turns out, there’s this silly thing called a burn ban going on throughout Central Texas right now, and finding a place to camp where we could have a fire was a bit of a challenge.  Since campfire s’mores are a dealbreaker for us, the menfolk searched until they found a spot that would allow fire – which is how we wound up at Buescher State Park, located off of FM 153 in Smithville and about an hour’s drive from home.  Which was fine. But then we got there and had to reserve a campsite (can’t just pick your own spot) and followed the map to a tight cul-de-sac of campsites, where our closest (and I mean SUPER CLOSE) neighbors were a group of 10 or so twenty-somethings with no kids, no dogs, basically nothing but tents.  Of course, WE showed up with three kids, three dogs, and a bunch of beer (which is prohibited in the park) – not sure they were too thrilled to see us.

I don’t know if you can see it, but there was a *slight* disparity in the sizes of our tents (not a euphemism)

There were some pretty cool things about the park itself. For starters, the facilities were AWESOME. Great bathrooms with roomy showers, which were really close to the campsites (are you getting the “close” theme here?). And lots of stuff to do – fishing, two large playgrounds with playscapes, hiking trails, etc. Also, the park is obviously well-kept and safe. All pluses.

Happy Campers, hamming it up for the camera

BUT. A few things.

  • Dogs are required to be leashed, which I understand given the close quarters, but we didn’t expect it and showed up with our wiener dog Napoleon in tow, sans leash. Napoleon doesn’t like leashes and has the Jaws of Life so he bites through them in (literally) two bites. We tried tying some rope to his collar but every time we turned around there he was, with a little nub of rope hanging from his collar and a really proud look on his face.

By the end of the trip he had a necklace of nubs. Kind of like in Vietnam when those guys would string up the ears of their kills.

  • Did I mention that public consumption of alcohol is prohibited? This means NO BEER. In case you were confused. (We sure as hell were.)
  • There was an unusually strong park ranger presence out there, which I guess is a good thing for safety’s sake but kind of sucks when you have (1) a dog who likes to chew through his leash and (2) BEER.
  • After we put the kids to bed, we sat around the campfire drinking… wait for it… BEER, and talking. Just before 10 pm, the park ranger came by and told us it was time to “quiet down.” We weren’t exactly sure what that meant so we continued talking and about an hour later Ranger McNofun showed up again and gave us our “third and final warning.” We’re not exactly sure when the second warning happened (could we have drunk THAT much beer? well, yes –yes we could) or the first one either, for that matter. And it’s not like we were shouting at each other and dancing naked around the fire — we were sitting in chairs, by the fire, talking. You know — CAMPING.

Maybe this kind of Big Brother camping experience works for other people, but it just was NOT our thing. Next time we’ll hit good ole Muleshoe or some other park where we can choose our own site, let the dogs roam around a little and drink our beer in peace. With all that said, though, it should be noted that the kids had a fabulous time. They played track ball and some kind of kids’ precursor to beer pong, fished, climbed on stuff, roasted marshmallows and slept like babies.  Wally and Leigh’s oldest created the most spectacular camping hors d’oerves I’ve ever seen.

A cheese puff bonded to a piece of cheese by squeeze cheese. This child is a genius.

And there was a paved driveway, which allowed my husband to attempt “skateboard skiing” and led to this video, which I can watch over and over and over again and never get tired of:

(note illegally freed wiener dog)

So the weekend wasn’t a total wash.

Posted in Camping, Outdoors, Overnight trips, Playgrounds | Tagged | 3 Comments

What CAN’T You Do in Austin This Weekend?

My friend Jen and I are headed down to Houston this weekend – taking the kids for visits to NASA, the Houston Aquarium, and a bunch of museums – but while we’re gone it looks like we’ll miss tons of stuff that’s going on around Austin.  Here are just a few ideas, if you’re looking…

(1)   Thomas Carnival – I’ve mentioned this earlier but the carnival is at Dell Diamond from now through March 20, at which point it will move south to Toney Burger Center. If you’re not really into the bull-riding-and-whatnot aspects of the rodeo but you’re still considering taking the kids to enjoy the carny rids and games, I’d recommend checking out the Thomas thing instead.  There’s no ugly $7 entrance fee and there should be plenty of free parking – a far cry from the 10-dollars-to-park-100-miles-from-the-fairgrounds slap in the face we found at the Star of Texas Rip-Off Rodeo.

(2)   SXSW Auditorium Shores Stage Concert Series – One quick glance at all the long, messy hair and torn jeans on Congress Avenue today and you’ll know – the music portion of SXSW has now begun.  Luckily, it’s not all about the badge – to honor those of us locals WITH kids and WITHOUT the almighty lanyard, the good folks at SXSW are putting on a free, family-friendly show at Auditorium Shores all day Saturday.  Gates open at 11 and MetroRail is running that day, too, so transport down there should be fairly easy (if a *little* crowded). If I was going to be in town, Sam and I would totally be doing this.

(3)  Texas Electric Flight Festival — I would never in a million years have looked this one up but a friend of mine told me about it and I’ve gotta admit, it sounds like fun.  I’m pretty sure I’d have a horrible crick in my neck the next day, but both Jason and Sam LOVE airplanes – any kind of radio-controlled “man stuff,” really — so they would probably have a blast. “Open flying” starts at Lester Field on Friday at 10, Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 9 – and admission is free. Maybe a fun thing to check out if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten (air)path.

Have fun, y’all!  See you on the flip side!

Posted in Carnivals, Music, Outdoors, Special Events, Transportation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Weekend Days and Deals

I’ve already talked about the Zilker Kite Festival coming up this Sunday (weather permitting) but there are a few other things worth mentioning before the weekend’s officially upon us:

(1) Texas Independence Day parade:

This isn’t a huge parade, but lemme tell ya –my boy LOVES a parade. It could be two weird dudes marching down the street with cymbals and batons, and Sam would still be all,

Freddie's Place - playscape

“HEY!!! IS THAT A PARADE??!! DAD’S SHOULDERS. STAT!”

It kicks off on Congress Avenue at 9:30 Saturday morning and will probably run an hour or so… pick a fun spot for an early lunch afterward (we’ll probably head over to Freddie’s Place, where we can bring Napoleon and let Sam run around while we hang out) and voila! Fantastic Saturday? Done, and DONE.

(2) Also, Saturday is UT’s annual on-campus open house, called ExploreUT. Obviously this is more geared toward older kids considering college, but there’ll also be a set-up for the little ones called the Children’s International Festival. Taken from their list of special attractions:

The Children’s International Festival will be at the heart of the Explore UT Cultural Crossroads on the South Mall. Visitors to the festival will have the opportunity to experience the cultures of South Asia, Russia, Mexico, South America and the Middle East.

Go back in time and craft a medieval shield or crown, delve into Russian folklore by creating a firebird pin or engage in the time-honored tradition of South Asian henna hand painting. Learn how to make a tambourine, sing using overtones in the tradition of Tibetan monks or dance to the rhythm of Salsa and other Latin dances. A world of experiences awaits explorers at the Children’s International Festival.

Medieval shields and crowns? I AM SO TOTALLY IN.

(3) LivingSocial.com is running a fantastic deal today — Two movie tickets through Fandango.com for only $9.  It’s only running through midnight tonight, so get going. If you don’t buy it now, you’ll be kicking yourself the next time it’s rainy and gross outside and a movie’s the best way to keep your kids entertained.

(4) If volunteerism is your thing, Saturday is also It’s My Park! Day. Put on by the Austin Parks Foundation, it’s an annual event where volunteers work to clean up our local parks. Not all of the projects are for families, but the Pease Park Rising project and Springdale Park Spruce Up are both listed as kid-friendly events. Put those kiddos to work!

(5) Amazon.com is running another $5 magazine subscription special… currently included in this weekend’s deal are Parenting (for both little ones and school-aged kids) and Working Mother.

******

      It’s shaping up to be a super-busy, super fun weekend, y’all! Let’s make it count!

      Posted in Deals, Dining, Education, Festivals, Movies, Outdoors, Special Events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

      Dr. Seuss Storytime at Target

      I’m a mom. With an almost four-year-old. Dr. Seuss is a major part of our lives. I can recite the entire texts of Oh, the Places You’ll Go, The Sneetches and The Cat in the Hat by memory, right this very second, without opening a single book.

      Best read-aloud story ever

      I’m a mom. On a budget. This means that I go to Target pretty much ALL. THE. TIME. It’s easy, it’s cheap and I can (usually) get everything in one shot.  The last time I went with my boys (both big and little) in tow, I had to guide Jason to the right checkout line. “No, not 13, that’s Yovonne – she’s slow as molasses. 9? Are you crazy? Raul is super nice but he can’t work that scanner to save his life! Hmm, let’s see… oh there’s Pat! She’s good! Head for #8, quick before someone else beats us there!”

      You know you spend too much time at Target when the checkout lady notices you had your roots done.

      This weekend, my great love for all things Seuss and my dedication to the red-and-white circles of Target are getting married and having a baby. That baby is called Dr. Seuss Storytime and it will take place from 9 to 11 this Saturday at EVERY Target location.

      Now, I’ve never been to a family event at Target and I’m not really sure how it will work exactly — but it’s free, easy, and falls right around the time that I’d probably be shopping at Target anyway, so it kind of feels like a must.

      Check out Target’s Read Across America site for event information, some fun Seuss activities (I took the “Which Dr. Seuss character are you?” quiz and was, appropriately, Sam-I-Am) and more details about the program itself.

      Happy reading, y’all!

      P.S. Even if you can’t make this particular event, it’s good to note that Target’s offering 2-for-$10 discounts on featured Dr. Seuss books through March 15. It’s a great chance to stock up for yourself or for someone else; we already own every Dr. Seuss story ever written but we’re almost certain to buy a couple anyway, and donate them to local charities. Any Baby Can and the Austin Children’s Shelter are a couple that come to mind.

      Posted in Grocery, Indoors, Shopping, Special Events, Storytime | Tagged , | 3 Comments

      Kites and Cake: Upcoming Events

      There are a few things coming up around town that I wanted to tell you about before you miss them. I recently added a Winter/Spring Calendar for some of the bigger events, but I’m not sure anyone knows (or cares) that it’s there and in the meantime if you’re one of the two people following this blog (hi, Mom. hi, Dad.) I wouldn’t want you to miss out on some fun stuff that’s about to happen.

      *****

      First up: This weekend will see the cake show/competition “That Takes the Cake” at the North Austin Event Center. I don’t actually know where the North Austin Event Center is but I’m guessing it’s someplace, well, north.

      Anyway, the event is sponsored by some cake decorating magazine I’ve never heard of (probably because my only real interest in cake is EATING it, not making it or decorating it), and will feature stuff like raffle prizes and a decorating competition with a comic book theme, which I’m betting my kid will think is SUPER COOL. And really, none of these details matter because all I can think ever since I heard about this thing is MMM. CAKE.

      If you’re interested and willing to brave the massive sugar highs that are sure to result from your child’s attendance, check out today’s deal on 365 Things To Do In Austin.  They’re offering a 50% discount on tickets — two one-day passes will only run you ten bucks.

      MMM. CAKE.

      *****

      Also, the Zilker Kite Festival is coming up in just a couple of weeks. It will be held at (surprise!) Zilker Park on Sunday, March 6, assuming the weather holds. (If it doesn’t, they’ll reschedule the event for the following Sunday, March 13.)  You can find out more information about the event on its web site, but all you really need to know is that it’s free, extremely fun and totally worth the crick in your neck you’re almost certain to leave with.

      Also, a quick tip: You do NOT have to be a Master Kite Ninja to enjoy this event, nor do you have to have a big, fancy kite. We made the mistake of buying a $30 kite one year and Jason spent almost the entire event pissed off because no matter how hard he tried (and believe me, he tried HARD), he could NOT get that sucker off the ground.

      A brief, scowl-free moment

      Of course, while Jason cursed and bitched his way through this fiasco, our smart friends happily flew the $2 kites they picked up at Walgreens on the way there.  This year, we’ve learned from our mistake. We’re all stocked up on those two-buckers (one for each of us!) and we’re ready to FLY.

      *****

      Lastly, if you’re like me and were all “YAY!” when Capital Metro announced its plans to build MetroRail but then were all “BOO” when it took them forever to get it right so we could actually ride it and then were all “DAMN YOU GUYS SUCK” when they decided to not run it on weekends, you might be in luck. It looks like they’ve decided to extend the service on Friday nights and also run it on a couple of Saturdays next month, in anticipation of SXSW traffic. (They’ll also offer Saturday service on May 7, for transit to/from the Pecan Street Festival.)

      I’m not planning to attend any SXSW events, especially with Sam (the crowds! OY VEY!) but it might be worth heading downtown one of those Saturdays to hit Austin Children’s Museum, which is just a few blocks from the Downtown Station (401 E. 4th Street) – or maybe Town Lake.

      Now if we can just get them to run MetroRail EVERY Saturday, we’ll finally be cookin’ with gas.

      *****

      Hope you find all this info helpful. Don’t forget that you can view a list of upcoming events on the Winter/Spring Calendar page.  If you have any questions or would like to add something, please feel free to leave a comment in the section below.  And hey – don’t be shy about sharing this site with your friends!  You can “like” us on Facebook, “follow” us on Twitter, or just email a link to someone you think might enjoy it.

      Thanks a bunch, y’all!  Happy Kidding Around!

      Beej

      Posted in Outdoors, Special Events, Transportation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

      Waterloo Ice House

      Our friends Jen and Brad called yesterday and asked if we’d like to meet up with the kids for an early dinner. The first place that came to mind was Waterloo Ice House — we’re all pretty far north and they have a location at Avery Ranch, with a playscape in the back for the kids to play. It’s not too expensive and hey – BEER – so it seemed like a no-brainer.

      We met up around 5:30 SPT (Standard Parent Time) and asked to be seated on the outside back patio. The playscape’s right there so we were able to hang out at the table with our friends while still keeping an eye on the little ones. And — Did I mention? — BEER.

      As far as the kids playing, here are the “cons”:  The playscape is pretty dinky, honestly, and it would be nice if the area was fenced in or otherwise enclosed somehow. I do LOVE a good “baby jail,” where I knew my kid’s trapped and don’t feel like I have to have an eyeball on him every second.  But then again, Sam’s old enough now that he understands me when I say “Stay where I can see you,” and it IS pretty well isolated, far from the parking lot, etc.  Besides, what the playscape lacks in size and fun, the large grassy area around it seems to make up for in both.  The kids really spent more time running around and chasing each other than anything else, and they were perfectly happy with that.

      Which brings me to the best “pro” of all: By the time we left that place, my kid might have been thoroughly sweaty and gross –but he was also completely worn out, and when you have an almost-four-year-old who’s 30 minutes out from bedtime? That is a GOOD THING.

      Jen and some chips. And - what? BEER.

      The food at Waterloo is pretty much your typical Austin restaurant/bar food — none of it made us jump out of our seats to cheer, but then, we didn’t expect it to. The beer was cold and flowed freely, the service was great and the check didn’t make us cry. The kids were entertained and we had a fun evening with friends, so I’m absolutely certain we’ll be back.

      Woo hoo, Waterloo!

      Posted in Dining, Outdoors, Playgrounds | Tagged | Leave a comment