Outside the Orange Bubble

All Aboard for a Day Out with Thomas the Train! [Giveaway]

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Day Out with Thomas the Train

All aboard for a Day Out with Thomas the Train!  The beloved, famous and cheeky little Thomas the Train steam engine is coming to town NEXT MONTH. Mark your calendars for the Day Out with Thomas event in Perris, CA, and enter to win four FREE tickets in our giveaway below!

My son is obsessed with trains. Absolutely obsessed. Like, stuffs them in his pillowcase, under his mattress, behind his carseat, in drawers all over the house, obsessed.

Does anyone else walk around the house unconsciously humming, “They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re EIGHT….”?  You moms know what I’m talking about. This is why I am SO excited to take my little man to see THE Thomas the Train in person.  I mean, what could be better?

According to their website, here’s what you can expect: Day Out With Thomas the Train offers an opportunity for children and their grown-ups to take a 25 minute ride with Thomas the Tank Engine, and to have their picture taken with Sir Topham Hatt, the Superintendent of the Railroad. (I know my son will squeal in utter delight at this one!)

The event includes Thomas and Friends storytelling, a viewing station for Thomas and Friends videos, a petting zoo, entertainment by Jules Music 4 Kids, an Imagination Station and much more.  This is definitely an event meant to last several hours, so plan to accordingly, including sunscreen, hats, snacks, water bottles…and whatever else makes your little ones comfortable for a day out.

Also, make sure to arrive no later than one hour prior to your scheduled departure!

The Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA (close to Lake Elsinore) is a fantastic destination spot for any train lover in your family.  In addition to special events, like the Day Out with Thomas, you can also meander through their museum…their website calls it the West’s largest collection of railway locomotives, passenger and freight cars, streetcars, interurban electric cars, buildings, and other artifacts dating from the 1870s.

Buy Your Tickets Today!

Thomas the Tank Engine will be in Perris November 9, 2013 – November 11th, 2013 and November 16, 2013 – November 17, 2013.

Ticket pricing depends on time and date, starting at $19 per ticket, for ages 2 and older and may be purchased online from Ticket Web. For more information, please call the OERM office at 951-943-3020.

Hooray! It’s a Tiny Giveaway! 

Enter to win four FREE tickets to the Day Out with Thomas! One lucky winner will be chosen at random to receive four free tickets on their date of choice, exact boarding time will be determined for you (typically later afternoon). IMPORTANT: If winner has already purchased tickets, winner is eligible for a full refund and $10 gift certificate at the Thomas store, so if you want to go, don’t wait to purchase tickets because times will sell out! GOOD LUCK!

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[Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post. Media tickets will be provided.]

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Skating by the Sea at Hotel Del Coronado

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My family was in San Diego before Christmas and for the second year in a row, I took my oldest ice skating at the Skating by the Sea event at the Hotel Del Coronado.

The Hotel Del grounds in itself make for a tremendous day trip.

It is simply majestic and the surrounding beaches are really breathtaking.

Looking out at the ocean and then at the Hotel Del as we went around the rink is one memory I will never forget!

The rink is open January 2nd – 5th in case you want to check it out.

If not, keep this annual event on your holiday radar for next year.


Plus, a portion of the proceeds benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation San Diego.


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£10 and Scarpetta at Montage Beverly Hills

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In June my husband and I had the rare pleasure of visiting the Montage Beverly Hills property for an absolutely stellar overnight stay. After a deliriously great day at the rooftop pool, treatment at Spa Montage and blowout at Kim Vo Salon, we had reservations for a pre-dinner drink at £10 followed by dinner at their world renowned Italian restaurant, Scarpetta.

Feeling relaxed and happier than I had been in forever, we headed off hand in hand to £10. I had no idea what was in store and just the name intrigued me.

Hidden above Scarpetta in a private lounge area, this unique bar requires a host to let you in using a private key card ~ 007 style. Oozing with style, £10 invites true spirit connoisseurs to enjoy specialty cocktails and their selection of the world’s most precious whisky, The Macallan Single Malt.

[Photo credit: Montage]

This sort of place is right up my husband’s alley.

Once seated by our gracious and jovial bartender, we were educated on the history of the whisky, and told that every handcrafted cocktail is composed only of the freshest ingredients.

Not only do you get to select your drink of choice, but the drinks came with a choice of specialty ice spheres (translation ~ ice cubes.) But these are not your typical ice cubes that can melt and water down your drink, but ice spheres made from a special ice machine using imported Scottish water so that your sphere is made to fit perfectly in the glass and melt slowly. Pretty cool, right?

My husband opted for a glass of whisky, of course. He would typically not drink whisky on the rocks, but this was not any whisky, or any rocks, and it went down so smoothly he had to order a second.

[Photo credit: Montage]

Our drinks were hand poured table side by our bartender. I am not much of a hard alcohol drinker, but I do enjoy a good martini every now and then, so our  bartender asked me what kind of drinks I like, and custom made a specialty cocktail just for me.

I am not even sure of exactly what was in it, but I do know that there was a top shelf vodka, hint of pomegranate and rose, and other delicious yumminess served in a fabulous crystal glass.  The perfect start to an evening of fine dining.

If you have any spirit connoisseurs in your family, £10 would be their mecca. The perfect spot for a special ocassion or celebration.

Shhh….this is a hidden gem of a find, and has limited availability to those in the know. Open Tuesday – Saturday 5:00pm – 1:00am. Call 310.860.5808 for more info. Private events and Scotch tastings also available.

And then we were off to dinner at Scarpetta.

Selected as one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire magazine, Chef Scott Conant’s Italian cuisine is modern and made with fresh seasonal ingredients for a culinary experience to be remembered.

Located adjacent to the Beverly Canon Gardens, Scarpetta’s beautiful Mediterranean style patio is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer (or really year round with good heat lamps in So Cal!) is to be able to dine al fresco.

Our server promptly greeted us and when presented with menus, my first thought was, how am I going to pick what to get? Everything sounded so amazing. Then he told me about their special Chef’s tasting menu, where Chef Conant will guide us through our experience.


Their tasting menus come with the choice of a 4 course or 5 course tasting, and additional wine pairing can be added on as well, which he highly suggested.


Our experience started with a presentation of fluke crudo, artichokes, preserved lemon & osetra caviar and  tuna ‘susci’ marinated vegetables & preserved truffles.

The fluke was light and luscious and the caviar added a nutty, rich flavor to cap off each delicious bite.

And I have to be honest, I am not a raw tuna fan, probably the only one in Southern California who isn’t.  However, of course I had to try a bite of the Chef’s creation (my husband was proud of me since he is an avid sushi fan), and it was a-mazing. Never thought I would say that!

The crunch of the greens and flavor of the marinated vegetables were light and refreshing. Have I been converted? It was my husband’s favorite dish of the night. He was in heaven.

Next we were on to the second course, fiori di zucca fritti, ricotta stuffed zucchini flower & baby stewed tomatoes and creamy polenta, fricassee of truffled mushrooms.

The fiori di zucca fritti was rich and had a little hint of a sweet surprise at the bottom.

And the polenta. Oh, the polenta. Every bite just melted in your mouth. I thought, “I should stop now,” there are more courses coming, but I couldn’t help myself, it was so delicious.

Here’s the polenta.  I miss you sweet polenta.  When can we get together again?

Just when I thought my experience couldn’t get better I was introduced to Scarpetta’s famous tomato & basil spaghetti.

I was told by our bartender upstairs we had to get their signature dish, the spaghetti. I somewhat expected it to be some kind of fancy-schmancy spaghetti, but when it arrived for our third course, I was a little taken aback by its simplicity ~ tomato & basil.

I have had tomato & basil spaghetti a thousand times, so I wondered what made this spaghetti so special?  And then I tasted it.

In a word: perfection.

Flavorful and delicious, the texture of the impeccably cooked pasta combined with the garlicky tomato sauce and sweet basil was just, well, the best I have ever had.

I asked our server ~ what makes it THIS good?

Homemade fresh pasta made daily using Sicilian flour, amongst other things, and a little secret somethin’ ~ somethin’ Chef Conant must use to sprinkle it with sheer brilliance.

Please hear me on this: if you dine at Scarpetta ~ you MUST order the spaghetti. It is not negotiable. This dish is something every person should experience in their lifetime.

I ate the entire bowl, I didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t help it.

And we still had another course on the way, the jidori roasted chicken, english peas, peanut potatoes & morel ragu.

I wish I would have had more room to enjoy this dish to the fullest, but after devouring the spaghetti, I was only able to manage a few bites.  But again, a masterpiece of flavors. Moist, delicate and divine, our server also raved about this dish, and he was right.

I also highly recommend going with the wine pairings for the tasting menu. Every selection was a perfect complement to each dish, making the flavors stand out just that much more. The wine really rounded out each course by tying a pretty little bow on it.

Scarpetta is the perfect location to celebrate a special occasion, romantic date night or fun dinner out with friends. The sort of special place to experience with the special people in your life. Beautiful location, impeccable service and succulent cuisine. Salud!

Dinner is served Monday – Thursday ~ 6:00 – 10:00pm, Sunday 6:00 – 9:00pm, Friday/Saturday 6:00 – 10:30pm.

Sunday Brunch (I heard their brunch is off the charts!!) is served Sunday from 11:00am – 3:00pm with bottomless Mimosas & Bloody Marys for + $22.

The Scarpetta Bar is open from 4:00 – 11:30pm featuring a Giro D’ombra Happy Hour Celebration featuring $4 beers & $8 cocktails, wines and apps every Monday – Friday from 4:00 – 7:00pm. Happy hour menu.

Gnudi Gnite ~ Every Tuesday night Chef Conant brings his famous fluffy ‘gnudi’ dish. For $36pp, guests can share family-sized portions of salad, porchetta, gnudi parmigiano & a seasonal vegetable. See menu here.

Reservations advised, call 866.743.7559 to reserve your table. And please promise me you will order the spaghetti?

[Disclosure: Our spirits & culinary experience was provided complimentary by Montage Beverly Hills to facilitate a review. Thank you for an evening to remember!] 

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The New Children’s Museum in San Diego

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My daughter and I took a recent day trip down to San Diego to visit my in-laws, and on this particular trip we visited The New Children’s Museum downtown.  It’s amazing!    It is a one-of-a-kind museum that is combination gallery, studio and classroom with an emphasis on art and creativity.  There are exhibits for all ages, from toddler to teenager.   Every room and floor had  new and totally unique experiences.  There is almost too much to even write about!   The activities were endless…painting, clay, crafts, bubbles, a pillow fight room, rock wall, dress up area, puppet show activities, a tent city maze, and I could go on and on!  

San Diego is really not that far, and this would be a fun and easy day trip.  So, in case you are looking for something fun to do this long weekend, I guarantee your kids will have a blast.  

Adults and children $10  * Check website for hours and directions

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Giggles N’ Hugs

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I really love Orange County.  To get me to venture outside my Orange Bubble takes a lot.   But this place was worth the drive to LA!  One of my dearest girlfriends from college lives in LA, and we are lucky enough to have daughters 6 weeks apart, so we met them at Giggles N’Hugs for a play date and lunch.   We left at 10am on a Friday  from Costa Mesa and were there in just over 45 minutes.      

This restaurant is a kid’s wonderland!  There is a HUGE gated play area filled with everything you could imagine for little ones…cars, trains, dolls, stage with costumes, climbing toys, riding toys, tables and coloring items, girly kitchens and doll houses, and it goes on and on and on.    As a bonus, it is actually a REALLY good restaurant too!    You order at the counter, and we were served really quickly.  The food was healthy, delicious and kid-oriented.  If the kids want to dine and dash, you can finish your lunch and still see them from your table in the play area.  It is a great concept, and takes “family friendly”  to a new level!  I wish they had one in OC!  Hopefully it will be on it’s way down south soon.    In my opinion, totally worth the trip, especially if you live in North OC.   Of course, make sure to travel at non-traffic prone times.   Click here for hours and directions.

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