Category Archives: Vacation

Monopoly’s Iron Gets Burned By a Kitten

no iron

This week, the 78-year old game of Monopoly retired its iron game piece, replacing it with a cat.

From January 8th through February 5th of this year, Monopoly’s Facebook page held a “Save Your Token” contest to choose the game piece that would be retired and the token that would replace it. Apparently a tool manufacturer and Zappos raged campaigns to protect the potentially endangered wheelbarrow and boot, but no sweatshops spoke up for the antiquated 18th century iron. The remaining pieces include the thimble, the race car, the Scottie dog, the battleship and the top hat.monopoly-token-replacement-top630

Do you see a theme with these tokens? Neither do I.

I have a bone to pick about the Monopoly tokens. As much as my siblings and I used to fight about who gets the dog or the race car, there really is no rhyme or reason as to what these pewter shapes have to do with buying hotels, mortgaging houses, or getting financially wiped out just by landing in the wrong neighborhood.thumb

So you would think if Parker Brothers was making the effort to change the pieces, they’d choose ones that had something to do with vacation spots, refis, or evil landlords.

new-monopoly-pieces-2012Nope.

The runners-up for the new game pieces included a guitar, a diamond ring, a helicopter, and a robot.

The helicopter would have been consistent with the race car and battleship modes of transportation, but it’s still a bit of a stretch for a vacationing theme.

Without a flat surface, the guitar game piece would have been awkward to keep upright, and no one but unemployed musicians would have chosen the token. On the other hand, unemployed musicians are exactly the demographic that would have time to play three-day marathons of Monopoly.luxury

The diamond ring would have been a bit redundant since Monopoly already features a picture of a diamond ring on its Luxury Tax space. And for this 1934 board game, a robot is completely incongruous. The robot might be more comfortable in a 1960’s era game like Battleship, which would be the appropriate place to send both the robot and the battleship.

I’m not surprised the cat won the honor of newest game piece. I’m picturing millions of spinsters with their apartments full of cats spending endless hours playing Monopoly with other spinster cat lovers, writing fan mail to Parker Brothers and pressing the “Like” button multiple times on Facebook as they begged for the Monopoly moguls to ditch one of the original game pieces in favor of their precious Fluffy or Snowball.

catBut Monopoly already had a dog. And now there’s a cat. The game is moving further away from a hotel stay and closer to a trip on Noah’s Ark. Before you know it, they’ll have Facebook competitions with fans voting for alligators, baboons, and giant anacondas – all critters you’d rather not see when you check into your room in Marvin Gardens.monopoly_token_thimble

It’s ironic that Parker Brothers is retiring the iron, since that seems to be the most practical piece you would find in one of Monopoly’s hotels. Would someone really pay a whopping $400 to check into Boardwalk and ask the concierge for a thimble? Obviously someone who can afford that kind of cash during the Depression could certainly pay someone to hem a pair of trousers. boardwalk+monopoly+10+x+8Would they ever have use for a wheelbarrow? Not unless they’re checking into Park Place to have an affair with the groundskeeper.

If the great minds behind Monopoly actually put some thought into it, they’d keep the iron and expand the array of playing pieces to include other items you would ordinarily see in a Barbie Dream househotel. Perhaps a bed. It could double up as a piece of furniture for Barbie’s Dream House whenever Barbie has dwarves or elves as houseguests.

Maybe Monopoly could create one of those hotel desks that offers a complimentary pen and pad of insignia paper. After all, a desk has four legs and therefore would be a good sprinter in case a player drew the card: “Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.”

jailMy Monopoly game would also have a Gideon Bible game token. It would be a good piece to have if you are suffering from mixed emotions because your loved one landed on one of your hotels and doesn’t have enough cash to pay up. You’re not an evil landlord. You just have land and the Lord.

Although a nice flat screen tv might be a common item in some of the more affluent hotels in the Monopoly green and blue colored neighborhoods, its thin rectangular shape might be awkward to maneuver around the board. I would suggest an old fashioned box-like tv, complete with rabbit ears. It’s probably the current model you’d find in some of the no-tell motels you’d find when landing on the $2 a night spot on Mediterranean Avenue.Mediterranean+Avenue

The final Monopoly game piece I would add for my travels from hotel to hotel would be a suitcase. It would be large enough to take home all the complimentary hotel shampoos, soaps, shower cap, and bath towels.

I was just kidding about the bath towels. Kind of.

Be prepared for the next Facebook contest to remove one of the Chance cards in favor of the this updated instruction:

“Take Trip with Cat and Pay $50 Hotel Pet Deposit.”

article-1393521-0C6047E600000578-120_964x966

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Humor, Vacation

The Happiest Place on Earth Meets the Most Crowded Place on Earth

Our family in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Our family in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

In 2006 when my son Jake was born I invented a fantasy about Fantasyland. My dream was that in the year 2012 we would take the whole family to Disney World. By then, Jake would be 6, Mary aged 12 and Emily would be a ripe teenager of 16. It would be the perfect storm of kid’s ages to enjoy a week of amusement parks.

IMG_3141

The family posing in a Toon Town car

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. In my wildest dreams, short of winning lotto, there’s no way in hell that we could afford a flight to Orlando, a week-long stay at one of the Disney Resorts and 7 days at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Pleasure Island, Typhoon Lagoon, and of course my favorite – Epcot. The cost would total even more than the student loan I started repaying in 2010, and I have a hard time even paying that.

Instead, we decided that in lieu of Christmas presents, this year we would spend a day at Disneyland.

Our family posing in front of the Christmas tree at Main Street

Our family posing in front of the Christmas tree at Main Street

In high school and college I worked at Disneyland’s Hungry Bear Restaurant. Although the tasks and responsibilities were exactly the same as my previous job at Carl’s Jr. (take an order, upsell a dessert, take money, hand customer a burger and fries, move on to next customer), it was a really treat to work at the Happiest Place on Earth. I wore a costume, not a uniform, I was a cast member, not an employee, and the people paying for my slightly-above-minimum-wage salary were guests, not customers. This was before Tokyo Disneyland was built, so there were huge crowds of Japanese with cameras who loved having me pose with them in photos. I used to joke that I was mounted with a magnet on every refrigerator in Japan.

The famous shot of Walt Disney with a strategically-placed Mickey Mouse

The famous shot of Walt Disney with a strategically-placed Mickey Mouse

I still love Disneyland, which is exactly 41 miles southeast of our home. Tickets are now $87 for everyone 10 and over and $81 for ages 3-9. Parking is $15. So for my family, including my mother-in-law Lina (it’s our Christmas present to her), to just get into the park, we’d have to fork out $531. If you add gas at $3.69 a gallon and my minivan, which gets 14 miles to the gallon, you can tack on another $21.61. And if you really care about that, proceed to my previous blog post ($ ÷ Gallon) x (Miles ÷ Gallon) = LA Gasoline Anxiety.

I posted a request on Facebook asking if anyone knew of any good Disneyland deals. My friend Jeanne could get $6 off each ticket with her Disney Employee discount, but I would have to pay cash, and unfortunately we just don’t have it in the bank. I ended up getting about $3 off each ticket by being a member of the TV Academy, which would end up paying for the hot chocolate everyone enjoyed at around 10:00 pm on the day of our visit.

The crowd in New Orleans Square

The crowd in New Orleans Square

We decided to go to Disneyland on the Thursday between Christmas and New Year’s because the kids were off school and Tom and Lina were off work. I knew it would be busy, but I figured we’d stay until midnight when the park closed and it would just be a given that we would be spending a lot of time waiting.

We left at 8:15 am and arrived at the parking line at 9:30 am. One thing I love about Disneyland is its efficiency. There is an actual Disneyland exit from the 5 Freeway car pool lane that takes you directly to the parking garage. The line of cars was like a championship freeway series game between the Dodgers and the Angels – times about 10. I wish I had taken a photo for proof.

2 hour wait for Space Mountain

2 hour wait for Space Mountain

We entered the gates of Disneyland at about 10:45 am. All the medium and large lockers were taken, so we crammed all our jackets into two small lockers at $7 each. Jake’s now too big for the stroller, which used to serve as a large locker; mega-size if we stashed our loot in the seat of the stroller and made him walk.

I have never in my life seen Disneyland so crowded. Everywhere we went was like a wall of people. I felt sorry for anyone in a wheelchair or someone with a stroller – especially a double stroller. They were just stranded in place, as if they’d brought along Disney’s tar baby from The Song of the South.

160 minute wait time for Indiana Jones

160 minute wait time for Indiana Jones

The must-see ride on our list was Indiana Jones, so we migrated there first. The wait time was a staggering 160 minutes, which is mind boggling since the actual Indiana Jones movies aren’t even that long. We grabbed a fast pass which would allow us a short line, but we had to use it after 5:45.

I’ve heard that the unofficial maximum capacity of this 60 acre park is 85,000, and I would swear that on Thursday that number was exceeded. The mob became so dense the Disneyland employees (I mean cast members) were recruited for crowd control. They roped off sections of New Orleans Square and directed pedestrian traffic to the right and left, with no left turns allowed. Frankly I was expecting the crowd to riot, but everyone was surprisingly well behaved.

The wait time for the Jungle Cruise has a hand-written 60 minutes. The available cards only went to 50 minutes

The wait time for the Jungle Cruise has a hand-written 60 minutes. The available cards only went to 50 minutes

The Alice in Wonderland ride had a posted wait time of 60 minutes. We had been waiting for about a half hour when the ride stopped. The loudspeaker announced that due to technical difficulties, the ride would be closed for about 20 minutes. I expected a mass exodus but no – everyone continued to wait patiently in line. I thought there would be crying babies, wining toddlers, and bitchy parents, but apparently I was the only one. The Happiest Place on Earth was magically breeding happy customers (I mean guests).

I thought the crowd would die down once the children under 10 became tired and cranky, but they ended up being replaced by teenagers who arrived in the early evening.  It didn’t start thinning out until after 10:30 at night, but even then the lines for the prime E ticket rides were over an hour.

The shortest wait time in the park - 40 minutes for the Gadget's Go Coaster in Toon Town

The shortest wait time in the park – 40 minutes for the Gadget’s Go Coaster in Toon Town

We got in line for our last ride, Star Tours, just before midnight. After getting bounced around along with C3PO and R2D2, we joined the enormous throng at 12:30 am walking down Main Street and exiting the gates of Disneyland. We waited for three trams before it was our turn to board.

We didn’t get home until a quarter of two in the morning. Tom drove, and I fell asleep the moment we got on the 5 Freeway and didn’t awaken until we got off the freeway. My husband is a prince (see proof of it in my earlier post My Husband Loves Me More Than Your Husband Loves You.”)

Lina, Jake & Mary in Toon Town

Lina, Jake & Mary in Toon Town

The entire trip including food and a souvenir for each of the kids (two caps and a mug) probably totaled about $800, a little more than we would have spent on Christmas gifts for everyone, but well worth the price of the memories.

Every one of my children stayed awake until the very end – even my 6-year old Jake who not once complained about being tired, bored, or hungry. Mary was a little annoyed that we didn’t get to ride Space Mountain which had a 50 minute wait time at 11:55 pm. No yelling. No tantrum. But she stopped holding my hand. That’s how I knew she was mad. Throughout the day, Emily kept thanking me for the wonderful Christmas present. And of all the possible souvenirs she was able to pick out, the only thing she wanted was a Pirates mug.

I love my kids. Wherever I am, if my children are with me, that’s the Happiest Place on Earth.

The unhappiest place at the Happiest Place on Earth - the smoking area

The unhappiest place at the Happiest Place on Earth – the smoking area

2 Comments

Filed under Debt, Family, Holidays, Humor, Husband, Kids, Vacation

Be Prepared: Massacring the Boy Scout Motto on a Cub Scout Campout

Last week I went on my very first Cub Scout campout. More specifically, I went on my very first Cub Scout campout with my 5-year old son Jake, which makes it sound so much more legitimate than the singular “I,” which would have been really creepy. My daughters spent the weekend with my ex, so Jake and I brought along my current husband, mostly because he is also Jake’s dad. (I like saying “current” husband because it’s fun to watch the troubled look on people’s faces when I say it, and fortunately Tom’s got a great sense of humor so he doesn’t care).

Because I have been incredibly uptight for pretty much my entire life, I’ve been making a point of not taking life so seriously by not over-thinking everything. I tell myself this in retrospect, because the cold hard truth is, I didn’t spend as much time and thought as I should have on packing for this camping trip.

The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared,” so I figured that if I forgot anything, these responsible scouts would probably have it in spades. And they did turn out to be quite well stocked when it came to preparedness items like a first aid kit, fishing bait and new batteries for a dead flashlight. However, Camp Whitsett is a far cry from Motel 6, so if I thought that they might have something like a spare disposable shower cap, I was sadly mistaken. Fortunately for me, I didn’t take a shower the entire 3-day span. Unfortunately for my fellow campers, I didn’t take a shower the entire… you get the picture. Or at least you can picture the smell. By the last day, I literally felt like Charlie Brown’s buddy Pig Pen with a putrid path of stinky stench trailing my every step, followed by a tornado of flies.

Naturally a Native American or Aborigine can survive in the Mojave Desert or Australian Outback with just a spear and a loincloth, but I’m a 21st century woman with survival skills that don’t run past the BRAT diet or placing the Magic Mommy kiss on a boo boo, so my haphazard packing skills could actually affect the safety, well-being and comfort of the rest of my family. Here were some of my packing faux pas:

The first night, I unwrapped a sleeping bag from the plastic kitchen grocery bag I store it in and found that instead of grabbing the sleeping bag, I packed our 6-foot stuffed Frankenstein’s Monster from Halloween. Besides not being very functional, it’s really not the face you want to see late at night in your flashlight beam when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

I ended up stealing Tom’s sleeping bag and being the manly man that he is, he forged his bedding from a couple of bath towels. I also didn’t pack his toothbrush or a jacket, and I mistakenly brought Emily’s water shoes instead of his. On the other hand, my 16-year old’s feet may actually be bigger than my husband’s.

Because my summer attire traditionally consists of a camisole and yoga pants, that’s what I packed for clothes. The outfits came in a variety of colors, and I thought I was so fancy by bringing one extra combination in case of an emergency. However, I had no cover-up to protect my torso from the sun except for a hooded sweatshirt which would have been unbearably hot since the mercury hovered over 90 degrees every day. And it took only about two seconds of actual camping for me to realize that I really should have packed a pair of pants with some pockets. I went through my cargo pants stage only a few years ago, so you’d think I’d know better. Instead, I improvised by stashing bottled water, the camp itinerary, my camera, sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses and my hat in places like my socks, my waistband and my cleavage.

A few weeks ago my family and I spent three nights in Palm Springs and Tom, Mary and Jake had all purchased new sun tops in red, yellow, and blue respectively. I nicknamed this crew The Primary Colors, and when they traveled in a pack around the pool it was easy to spot them. For the camping trip I packed Tom’s and Jake’s shirts, but instead of grabbing Jake’s blue, I packed Mary’s yellow, so Jake spent the entire weekend in a sun shirt that stretched down to his knees.

One thing I deliberately didn’t pack was our tent since we were told that the camp contained not only tents, but also cots. It sounded so luxurious – as if Camp Whitsett would be like Lexus camping rather than VW Bug camping. It turned out to be more of the VW variety – and not like the recent Beetle model but rather more akin to the beater VW van that needs to be pushed down a slope and kicked into gear to get started. The tents were the Army reject variety with occasional holes, placed over punctured plywood. Their canvas bottom edges didn’t quite reach to the ground so any number of small creatures and giant insects could wander in and cozy up. The cots were made of metal springs that were so stretched by decades of overweight Den Leaders that it was like sleeping in a hammock. There was a thin ancient mattress over the cot, but it still didn’t keep me from lying down and having my butt immediately fall to within an inch of the floor. Fortunately the stuffed Frankenstein’s Monster came in handy. I shoved him under the mattress and it filled the gap made by the sagging cot. Almost. I couldn’t flatten Frankie out evenly, so it felt like I was sleeping on a pad covering several rolling anthills. And frankly, with the number of stray bugs in the tent, that might not have been far from the truth.

Overall it was great fun and a terrific learning experience about what to pack for our next camping trip which takes place in only a couple of months. The first week of November we’ll be roughing it at Catalina Island’s Emerald Bay. After hearing stories from the other Cub Scout parents about the choppy boat ride to the island, there’s only one thing I know I absolutely must be prepared to pack for that trip:

Dramamine.

10 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Family, Husband, Kids, Parenting, Vacation

SPF: Severe Pigment Fry

Ouch! Where’s the aloe vera?

As a kid, during the summer months my skin perpetually existed in three distinct states: burn; blister; or peel.

This was before suntan lotions had SPF ratings. SPF actually stands for Sun Protection Factor, a standard that really should more accurately be called I Wish I was Born an African American to Why Wasn’t I Born an Albino?

Growing up in sunny Orange County, we often spent the day at the beach. Even though there were four of us kids and we were just a year apart, my mom managed to coat us all with Coppertone to keep us from burning. Yet an 11:00 am to 5:00 pm shift of building sand castles and collecting shells in the hot Southern California sun turned us all into lobsters. It was a miserable trip home with all of us sweaty and sandy and feeling the effects of first degree burns covering 80 percent of our bodies.

Before the magical natural use of aloe vera, everyone used Solarcaine, which felt cool when it was sprayed on, but I’m not sure if it actually did anything.

We winced a lot and walked around with our arms partly outstretched, and it was difficult to fall asleep on sheets that suddenly seemed unbearably rough as sandpaper. We observed the places where blisters appeared – our noses, our backs, our bellies. Once when I was 13 and my bosoms were blossoming, a one-inch wide and two-inch tall sunburn blister appeared directly between the two larger sprouts. My mom nicknamed it my third boob.

Eventually the blisters would pop – either as a natural progression of healing, or more likely because we decided to pop them ourselves as a science experiment to see what lied underneath the bubble (always something gooey and gross).

In a few days, the neon red color would start to fade and our skin would begin to peel. This was my favorite part. And I don’t mean favorite as in a favorite stuffed animal or a favorite ice cream flavor. I was literally obsessed about peeling skin. As we watched television, we’d take turns sitting astride each other’s butts and peel our sibling’s backs. My brother and sisters and I would have contests on who could tear the longest peel. Sometimes we’d save the peel as if it was a prized souvenir. To this day I love to peel things – wallpaper, glue, hangnails. I really should look into a 12-step program for my peeling disorder.

Camping at the beach with my sister and the nieces

From May through September, my nose was one permanent scab. I wore zinc oxide, which for a short time seemed cool because that’s what the foxy lifeguards wore on their noses, but looking back, I think I more resembled a failed mime.

In my teens, I switched from Coppertone to Hawaiian Tropic in an effort to attain the perfect tan. It was an impossible dream. My Irish/Scotch/Finnish lineage guaranteed that the only thing brown on my skin would be my freckles. I dreamed that one day I’d get so many freckles that they’d blend together and become a true tan, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Emily with her porcelain skin

Hawaiian Tropic was later discarded for pure baby oil as I deliberately fried myself in the sun. Once I got past the burn-blister-peel cycle, I actually acquired an honest to goodness tan one summer, but it proved to be way too much work. It required riding the bus for an hour to Newport Beach and lying all day with my fingers outstretched so I would tan in between them, and turning every 20 minutes like a rotisserie chicken to maintain and even color. The bus ride back was an hour and a half, and an hour of it was standing room only with my bottoms full of sand, carrying my towel, beach chair and baby oil, and hoping that I wouldn’t blister.

Mary – my freckle-faced beauty

Thankfully I started a long line non-stop jobs and didn’t have the time to work so hard on my tan. Looking back, I am truly grateful for this calamity as it’s the principal reason my skin isn’t wrinkled like a prune today.

These days I wear sunglasses and a hat outdoors. My daily moisturizer and lip balm both have built-in sunscreens, and I coat my kids in SPF 70 whenever we’re outdoors for any extended period of time. My almost 16-year old Emily has beautiful porcelain skin, and she wants to keep it that way. My daughter Mary has the most adorable freckles, but any time her pediatrician sees them multiplying, the doctor reprimands me like a bad dog, so I try to keep her coated as well.

Jake – the Whitest Boy in America

My son Jake is so white he is nearly translucent. I don’t know if they make SPF 100, but if they do, it would be because they had Jake – the whitest boy in America – in mind when they created it.

Last week we went camping at the beach with my sister Tammie, who is to this day a bona fide sun worshipper. If she was matched with a Sherwin-Williams paint chip, she would be French Roast. Tammie wore her SPF 2 cooking oil while I plastered on the SPF 50-70 variety of creams, sprays and lotions. And yet, somehow I was burnt to a crisp. Not blister-burnt like the old days, thank goodness, but burnt enough to have it smart, and red enough to need regular coatings of aloe vera.

Tammie sun bathing

But now I have mixed emotions. I want my skin to heal and go back to my 21st century acceptable pale complexion.

On the other hand, I’m dying to peel my back.

Maybe I should look into those Peeler Anonymous meetings.

9 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Family, Humor, Kids, Parenting, Vacation

Vacationing Around the World Via Green Screen

Our family enjoying Splashtopia while we vacation at Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage.

I’m not much of a world traveler. My last passport expired in 1988 and I haven’t even been on a plane since before 9/11. But last Saturday at the Colfax World Fair, photographer Craig Damon gave me and my kids the opportunity to travel throughout the world without paying for airport parking or experiencing a minute of jetlag.

Jake and I walked over 5,000 miles along the Great Wall of China, but on the way back he said he was too tired, so I had to carry him.

Here Jake and I are at the Taj Mahal. I stopped him just in time before he drew a picture of SpongeBob in Sharpie on the mausoleum.

Mary and I traveled to Egypt to see the pyramids. She was very disappointed that there was no casino with an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Now we’re swimming with the fishes in the beautiful Caribbean. Pretty cool that our clothes never got wet.

Mary and I were amazed at the height of the Eiffel Tower. We tasted about 50 different kids of cheese and then the next day we were completely constipated.

Jake was really excited about visiting Mount Rushmore because he learned about it on an episode of Phineas and Ferb. Jake figured that they were the ones who took away the presidents’ bodies.

Being the teenager that she is, Emily didn’t really want to travel the world with her uncool mom, so I convinced her to join me on a trip to Titus – Saturn’s largest moon. Unfortunately Emily forgot to pack the lower half of her body. Either that or Phineas and Ferb stole it too, and are hiding it somewhere near Mount Rushmore.

You would think that with all this traveling I would have thought to bring a change of clothes.

Next year at the Colfax World Fair I’m hoping that Craig takes me on a trip to Tahiti. Maybe for that vacation I’ll take my husband and leave the kids at the fair.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Humor, Kids, Vacation