Sunday, August 29, 2010

The difference between Macs and PCs, as explained to my mom

My mom is not the most techo savy person you will ever meet. She's 59 now, and the first time she picked up a mouse she literally picked it up and smacked it back down on the mouse pad. I had to restrain her from constantly picking it up to get it to move. When my son was 2, he had better computer skills than my mom has now (he really was amazing, and still is. He was downloading apps before his older brother, and I've trained him to look for the word 'free').

When it came time for my mom and dad to buy a computer, I was the one who did the research for her. She bought a PC from Best Buy. Well, essentially I bought the PC online and had it shipped to her. She managed to put it together.

Since that time, I have done many hours of tech support for my parents. I've done it with no prior knowledge of Windows Vista (which I can't stand, just by proxy), and I'm now more convinced than ever that older people should own a Mac.

My mom asked me why I thought Mac was better, and I began to rattle off about operating systems, system files, and those pesky cab files where viruses can hide on a Windows computer. Her reply?


So I guess I went over her head a bit there. Then it hit me, the easiest way to explain Mac's vs. PC's is to say this:

Imagine a pond. It's a clear pond, and you can see right to the bottom.

Imagine the pond is a Mac computer. All of the programs you install are shaped like leaves. Throw the leaves on the pond. See how they float? They never sink, and they just float along the surface of the pond.

Do you want to remove one of the programs? Ok, just pick up the leaf. Pick it up and toss it away. See, no more leaf, no more program. Nothing left over, its all just gone. Isn't your pond beautiful? And so easy to keep looking beautiful too! Such a lovely, high definition pond.

Now, imagine that the pond is a PC. Instead of leaves, the programs are tiny handfuls of rocks.

Throw the rocks in the pond. Watch them sink to the bottom. You can still see the rocks, right? And if you threw them in the same spot, most of them will be relatively close to each other.

Now try to remove a program. Get down into the bottom of that pond and dig for those rocks. You might think you had all of the rocks, but wait, there is another one over there. Stupid rocks flew all over the place when you threw them in. Dig under that pile of sand for the missing rock. Got it!

Oh oh, you took out an extra few rocks when you were digging. No, that wasn't just excess fish crap, that was an important rock. Now the pond is acting all wonky. Bubbles are coming up from under the sand, and those are some stinky, stinky bubbles.

Get the picture?

My mom sure did. I'm shopping online for her first Mac now.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel - My personal review

The year was 1978 and I was 7 years old. I had just flown (back when you could smoke on airplanes, I remember there was a haze the entire time!) from Saskatchewan in the dead of winter with my parents and brothers for a family trip to Disneyland.

I remember walking into the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel and just being awe struck. It seemed so huge, with its palm trees and pillars. We stayed in a bungalow off the pool area, and although my mom says that the pool was empty, I remember lying out on the chairs and suntanning. The trams would pull up right to the hotel, and you could see Disneyland from way across the parking lot. We took the monorail once, but my mom preferred the tram for some reason.

The pool area from one of the upper decks
I've been to Disneyland many, many times since then, but we never stayed in a hotel on site. It was always prohibitively expensive, and although I knew it would be amazing, I just couldn't reason out the expenditure. This time though, was different. To celebrate ten years of marriage, my wonderful husband gifted me with a 5 night stay at the Grand Californian Resort at Disneyland. (BTW, I was not given compensation for this review, although if there are any Disney execs out there that need a writer, I'm here!)

We had what was possibly our best trip there ever, despite the fact that I have four kids in tow, and the reason was entirely the hotel. Yes, there were nit picky little things that I could harp on, but the fact is you pay for the experience of being there, and that alone was worth it.

First off, the location is ridiculous. You walk out the private entrance straight into California Adventure. The Grizzy River Ride was right in front of my room, and I could see Soaring over California and the fireworks every night from my deck. Sitting on that deck, I felt like I was IN the park, even when I wasn't. Because you have a private entrance, you can get Fast Passes for the World Of Color before the general gates of the park open. Downtown Disney is just off the side entrance. We spent many nights just walking around there.

We took a day off and spent a lot of time in the hotel. One afternoon the kids went on a Scavenger hunt. At the end of it, the prize was a Mickey Cookie from the White Water Cafe. Every afternoon there is a story teller that reads bedtime stories to the kids in front of the fire, and there is a little waiting area for the kids to watch cartoons while you check in or out. If you were tucking your kids into bed each night, you can watch Disney TV and have a princess read a story to the kids. We saw an episode where Cinderella read, as well as one with Belle. They also have channels that go through each attraction one by one, as well as broadcast the fireworks music. 

Although the room itself was on the small side, there was a queen bed with super comfy linens and a bunk bed with a trundle bed at the bottom. The bunk will sleep three. The bathroom area was nice, with 2 sinks, but the tub was really tiny. Each room has a Pack n Play in the closet, in case you want to put baby in there (not in the closet, in the pack in play).

One of my favorite room touches was the lanterns flanking the bed. They had a dimmer switch, so each night we'd dim them enough to provide a night light. It was very cozy. I think I need a dimmer switch and wall sconces now. It felt like being in a log cabin. Every night before bed the housekeeping staff would come in and turn down the blankets, adding a pile of chocolate coins to our bed. The kids LOVED that.

When you stay in a Disney resort, you get a 'key' to Disneyland. Meaning, CHARGE IT!!! Everywhere they'd take a credit card, they'd take my card. Now if I could only do that without having to pay the bill at the end. Hmmmm....

Whenever they would address you on the phone or in person, they'd say "Welcome Home, Wutke family." Although it felt like being on an episode of Extreme Home Makeover, I just really liked that touch.

Wireless internet and self parking are included in your room fee. That's always nice, no matter where you stay. So many hotels on that strip charge parking AND internet.

Something that perhaps people don't know when staying in the Disney hotels. You can pool hop! We spent the afternoon at the Neverland Pool at the Disneyland hotel. I hadn't been back since I was a kid, and although it was completley different, it was very cool just to be there.

It was an amazing experience, and I only had a few, very minor issues. One, the pool was so crowded that it was unpleasant to be there. Its not like the hotel can control that, or the children who thought that diving and kicking me in the head was funny. They have comfy reclining chairs and a full valet/bar service.

I loved hearing the crowds at night and seeing the happy people while I was sitting on the deck. If you don't like noise, you might not like the park view rooms. I loved opening the doors in the middle of the night and just hearing nothing but the crickets (or the recording of crickets. They actually play recorded owls and insects when you walk their lit paths at night).

The baskets of linen outside our door
The blankets on the bunk beds were a bit worn. I expected a bit more plush bedding. As I said before, the rooms were a bit on the small side, but the closet was huge. I turned that into a small theater for the kids one night when I was trying to get the baby to sleep.

Staying on site let me find out if one of the 'urban myths' of Disney is true. I've heard that there are a ton of feral cats living at the resort, and that they are fed by the night staff. One night I opened the deck doors after the park had closed and I saw a bunch, probably about 5 or 6, of cats just sauntering down the road in front of the Grizzly River Ride. It was hilarious! I wish I had taken a picture.  

I truly feel as though this hotel was worth the money, because you pay for the location and the EXPERIENCE of it all. I don't think I can go back to staying in a strip hotel (sorry, honey!)

Next up on the blog, my list of the best places to feed baby in the park.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More vids

This one is with Woody and Jesse playing with the boys baby Buzz and Baby Woody. So funny.

Nico busts a move to California girls. Sorry for the sideways view, I had no idea what I was doing while taping. He was really getting into it.

A few videos

I took these with my iPhone, so they are narrow. This is, of course, before I figured out how to turn the camera SIDEWAYS to get the widest screen. Duh.

A clip of the beach on our way to San Francsico. This is why I say that everyone should take a road trip like this with their kids. We just pulled over and had an amazing time.

Some pics!

I haven't had time to even answer the email I have received over the past week, so no time for a real blog post, but here are a few pics of the trip!

Meeting Pluto on Main Street. Nico just loved him. He actually wrapped one of his ears around himself, but of course I didn't get a pic of that.

Character breakfast at the Plaza Inn on Main Street. Completely expensive but totally worth it.

Jedi training academy. Nate was picked out of the crowd due to the Clone Wars costume again, but this time he battled Darth Maul. He loved it.

Musical Chairs with Alice, Alice, and the boys. The Mad Hatter called them "The Siblings" and shunned everyone else who wanted autographs. He held Cam's hand all the way to the gate and posed for some great pics.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Family road trips: Now I understand

I declare this entire month to be #Disney month on my blog. Yes, I'm a huge Disney buff, but I just came back from a road trip with my family (all 6 of us, stuffed into my Pontiac Montana, for 45 hours total driving time), and I had a really great time. I can't believe I am saying that, but its true.

I'll be posting videos and pics as soon as I can get them off the phone and camera, as well as my reviews of the Grand Californian Resort where we stayed for 5 days.

We worked our way up the coast of Californian and even popped into San Francisco for an afternoon.

Yes, it was a long and crazy drive, and yes, it took on a Griswald quality occasionally. I think that when we stopped people thought we were living in our car, but I am so enthusiastic about the time I spent with my kids that I just feel good about it all.

I'll be back with pics.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Looking for moms for article I'm writing

I haven't had time to update the old blog lately. I've had a lot of copywriting assignments, and have been working on a few press kits. All with 4 kids under my feet as well.

I'm writing an article on spec and I'm looking for a few interesting moms who are working from home or just working in general. Specifically, I'm looking for women who have tried a bunch of different jobs/businesses, etc. on their way to finding something they enjoy and are passionate about.

The article is going to focus on the journey, not exactly the destination, and the pitfalls along the way.

If you are interested in being interviewed for this article (most likely via email so you can live anywhere) let me know.