Saturday, December 19, 2015

Universal Studios Special Effects Show - Revamped

Author: Jose G. Barr

The Special Effects Stage was closed in October of this year to begin the process of revamping the show that had been running since 2010.  Gone is the campy shtick and the goofy third host along with much of the audience participation.  In its place Universal has brought in an amazing stunt team and, as far as I am concerned, one very cool effect involving them (which I wont spoil for you).

Projector used to demonstrate the begining of "moving pictures"
So, other than my favorite element of the show, how is it? Well, in one word, Great! The show is driven by the two hosts who bring the magic of the movies to life with wit and humor.  They give the audience a peak behind the curtain and reveal some of Hollywood's oldest tricks as well as some used in the movie industry today.  While movie aficionados wont see anything that they don't already know about, what is presented is still pretty cool.  The show still uses audience volunteers to demonstrate some key effects. Compared to the past show, this is a significant improvement.

I wholeheartedly recommend this new show for new guests and seasoned visitors alike. This show is better than its predecessor, giving the audience a compelling look at the magic of Hollywood including the invaluable work done by the stunt professionals. This is one show that will entertain the entire family. My eight year old son Joseph spellbound and focused for the entire performance. He and I give this two thumbs up!

Until next time my friends, love your kids,
Cherish your family.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Good Dinosaur - A Disney/Pixar Film

Author: Jose G. Barr

Disney Pixar has done it again with another great film. The Good Dinosaur was directed by Peter Sohn and written by Meg LeFauve. Peter Sohn has worked his magic on his latest effort for Pixar. While this is much darker than his other work, it is well balanced.

The story begins with the meteor that caused the extinction of giant dinosaurs missing earth completely.  The resulting world is very different from the one we know. This is an animated story that appears to have been seamlessly placed in the real world. Kudos to the animation team for such an amazing piece of work. It will be a hit with fans of all ages.

The main character is Arlo, an Apatosaurus, who is the runt of the family. He wants to be like his poppa, but cant seem to find the courage to make his mark, running away in fear from the chickens he must feed each day.  When Arlo is given the job of killing the critter that is eating their winter food, he fully intends to do the job and make his mark. But when he traps the critter, he finds that it is a small human and, rather than kill it, he lets him go free.  Poppa is incensed and sets out, with Arlo at his side, to find and kill the critter. Heartbreak comes early in the film as a sudden flash flood takes the life of poppa.  Arlo is sick with grief, knowing that by letting the critter go, he caused his poppas's death.

The adventure to get back home is laced with darkness, death lurking around every corner. Arlo and Spot (the critter turned companion) journey through storms and past dangerous creatures, facing death many times before the end of the story. The movie is also full of wonderful moments and plenty of laughs. One of the funniest moments comes when the duo eat rotten fruit that have psychedelic properties and has them hallucinating. They learn a valuable lesson in the hangover they suffer soon after.

My son loved the movie while my wife found it a bit slow in places. I enjoyed it and believe that it is worthy of joining the other Pixar hits in their library. The bottom line is that it is a good film worth taking the kids to see it.

Until next time my friends, love your kids,
Cherish your family.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

GizmoGadget - A Fathers Review of New Kid Tech

Author: Jose G. Barr

Several months ago I reviewed the GizmoPal GPS tracking device that we purchased for my son.  My son thought it was the best thing ever, especially since he was able to call mom and dad whenever he needed to or wanted.  As he got used to it, we started to hear the grumbling. He is almost 8 years old and the GizmoPal looks like a little kids watch.  There was nothing I could really say to him about that, the original GizmoPal was designed for younger children and is very limited.

With the introduction of the GizmoPal 2 and GizmoGadget by LG, Verizon has introduced the next generation of cool and functional tech for the kids.  Each device is designed for a specific age range, with the GizmoPal 2 being for the younger kids (ages 3 to 7) and the GizmoGadget (for kids 8 and up).

The gizmoPal 2 is the next generation of the original. It does not have a screen, but LG added LED's to allow the kids to know when a call or message is incoming.  A new feature for the little ones is the ability to record their voices and play them back as a silly voice. The device keeps its original functionality, allow parents to set geo-fencing and alerts when their child leaves a specified area. It allows the kids to call one of 4 programmed as well as receive calls from those numbers. phone numbers Parents can access all the functionality through the GizmoHub App available at the App Store and Google Play Store.

The GizmoGadget is the kids version of mom and dads smart watch. It features a 1.3 inch touch screen with various watch face themes built in. The kids will be able to send pre-programmed text messages and emoji's. The GizmoGadget allows for up to 10 numbers to be programmed into the watch, giving your older children more choices on who to call or message.  Just like its little brother, the GizmoGadget allows parents to set a geo-fence around a specific area and receive alerts if their child goes beyond those boundaries (through the GizmoHub).

We have picked up the new watch for our son for his 8th birthday in a few weeks.  He will be excited to be receiving a real big boy watch like mom and dad.  This is one purchase that was not difficult for us, its fun for our son and allows us to know our sons location when he is not with or near us.

The GizmoPal 2 retails for about $80 and the GizmoGadget $159 and require a $5 monthly service fee on your Verizon account.

Until next time my friends, love your kids,
Cherish your family.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Peanuts Movie

Author: Jose G. Barr

The last time a Peanuts movie was released was May 30, 1980. With the release of "The Peanuts Movie" there are now five movies in all. What sets this one apart from the rest is that it was meant for the big screen, and the quality of shines.  20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios got it right. They kept the movie simple and adorable, in tune with the qualities that Peanuts fans have come to love from the comic strip by Charles M. Schulz.

I remember being a child and watching the Peanuts holiday specials. My sister and I never missed a chance to watch the Peanuts gang during the holidays.  "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" is the one that always comes to mind for me.  This latest installment in the Peanuts TV programs and movies took me back to my childhood. I sat with my wife and son and felt like a kid again.

Whats truly interesting is the message that is a significant part of the movie. My son has been learning about making ethical choices as part of his religious education. The movie delves into some interesting dilemmas for Charlie Brown, and how he handles them. It is truly heartwarming when he chooses to do something nice for someone else, even though it will not be good for him.

Joseph with The Gang
When the Little Red-Haired Girl moves into the neighborhood, Charlie Brown is smitten with her and is determined to make a good impression. Having grown up with the Peanuts gang, I expected to see the same results, but I was happily surprised to see the gang do something different, not a departure from who they have always been, but a natural progression of what we have come to love.

Snoopy The Ace WW1 Pilot
One of the most iconic characters in gang is Snoopy. He spends most of the movie writing a book about a World War 1 Ace who battles the Red Baron, in this case for the love of Fifi, a French poodle pilot taken prisoner by the Red Baron.

Overall this is one for the entire family. The kids will fall in love with the characters and the adults will, at least for 92 minutes, be taken back to their childhood. This is one of those movies that makes you feel good and connects adults and children by its lovable characters and simple theme.

Until next time my friends, love your kids,
Cherish your family.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Halloween - When Scary is Fun

Author: Jose G. Barr

Halloween has been one of my favorite holidays since I can remember. Growing up, my Dad would ask me what I wanted to be and we would make my costume.  I can still remember my favorite one of all, the robot.  He and I spent a few weeks working on it to get it just right.  Today, that costume means so very much to me because of the time and memories that my Dad and I spent together brainstorming ideas and then making the costume. Even though my Dad has been gone for over 20 years, these and many other memories keep him alive all year long in my mind and heart.  AS a father I want to give my little boy these same memories, of the two of us working together, doing something fun, that will live on in him long after the good Lord has called me home.
Rice crispy treat dipped in chocolate, finished
with a yellow chocolate drizzle

Wrapped and ready for his classmates
One of the activities that Joseph loves is pumpkin carving. We've got two pumpkins sitting in our patio, one is decorated as a mummy (with white gauze wrapped around it) and the other counting down to them moment when it meets its fate at the hands of the carver. Joseph wanted to make a special treat for his classmates, so we made some rice crispy treats for them to enjoy before Halloween.  Each treat was dipped in dark chocolate and them finished with a yellow chocolate drizzle.  The best part about these treats was the fun that we all had making them. Family moments like these are what make this holiday so special for us. Spending time together as a family is worth more than you could ever imagine.

This year we will be taking Joseph out to Redlands, Ca. Where Cajon and Olive Streets are closed for several blocks in each direction by the city and transformed into a trick-or-treaters paradise. Last year the police estimated that over 14,000 people came out for the fun. The residents of these two streets go all out decorating their homes and passing out candy to the kids. Along with the treats, the local churches sponsor bands, face painting and other fun activities for the kids to enjoy.

When the nights is finished we will bid farewell until next year to the ghosts and ghoulies that have graced our yards. The end of the holiday is always a bittersweet time because the time has passed and will not be back for another year, yet there is more fun just a few weeks away.

Until next time my friends, love your kids,
Cherish your family.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Halloween Brain Cake

Author: Jose G. Barr

A few years ago, after my 4th or 5th knee surgery, while I was recovering I tool an interest in baking. I started with cupcakes and worked my way into cakes and using fondant.  Baking and decorating cakes is a time for me to reflect and think about the day or week. This past week, after having watched the beginning of season 6 of The Walking Dead, and reading Yolanda Gampps article on the brain cake (kudos on an amazing cake), I decided to try my hand at it as well. 

First things first, you will need to bake a red velvet cake in a round bowl. My favorite is from The Food Networks Chef Alton Browns red velvet cake recipe. For this cake you will not need the cream cheese filling. Prepare the cake batter as instructed and pour into a round metal or glass bowl for baking. This will give you the basic shape to begin carving your brain.

While you cake cools, make some simple syrup to give your cake some moisture.  Making a simple syrup is easy. Place 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Some recipes direct you to bring it to a boil and then turn it off and let it cool, I like to let the syrup boil for about 3 to 4 minutes to give it a slightly thicker consistency. How you make it is completely up to you. Let the syrup cool to room temperature and place in a container. 

Once the cake has cooled, place the cake on a good work surface and start carving the cake until your have the basic shape of a brain. Pull up a picture of a brain on your phone or tablet to give you a general idea of what you want it to look like. When you are done, you will take the simple syrup you made earlier and drizzle it over your cake, use enough to give it some moisture, but not so much that it gets soggy.  

Next comes the crumb coat.  What is a crumb coat? Well, the best way to describe it is like a primer coat when painting something. The primer coat allows for a smoother, better looking finish.  In cake decorating, the crumb coat is the first layer of frosting placed on a cake, often picking up crumbs from the carved cake along the way.  you want your frosting to be a thinner consistency than what you would normally use, this allows you to spread it on the cake without doing any damage.  Once you have finished your crumb coat place the cake in the refrigerator for about an hour to allow the crumb coat to set.  

When the crumb coat has set you can begin work on the brain itself. For this I used Wilton's decorator Preferred Fondant. It is easy to work with and has a good taste to it. There are others on the market that are not as tasty and are much stiffer and difficult to work with.  Take the fondant out of its package and begin working with small amounts of it, rolling it into ropy lengths about as thick around as your pinky finger and 2 to 3 inches long. You will use these to simulate the folds of the brain. remember that every brain looks different and the patterns are different. Remember to separate the left and right hemispheres of the brain when you are placing the fondant.  Begin at the bottom, working your way up each side, pressing the fondant onto the cake firmly, but not so much that you take away from the cylindrical shape of the folds.  Once this is done, you will take the remainder of the your fondant to make the cerebellum at the rear bottom of the brain.   

For the bloody color I used raspberry jam as suggested by Ms. Yolanda Gampp, but I diluted the jam with the remaining simple syrup to make it easier to work with. I used a decorators bottle to drizzle the bloody ooze all over the cake. Next time I do this cake I will use a decorating brush to brush the color on rather than drizzle it.  
In the end my friends, making this cake was a fun way to relieve stress and spend some time with my beautiful wife who helped me with rolling the fondant.

Until next time my friends, love your kids,
Cherish your family.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fall Activities

Author: Jose G. Barr

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and what a few weeks they have been.  The new school year is under way as well as the scouting year.  As the holidays get closer the pace of activities picks up significantly.  From scouting and school events to office and family parties, there is a lot to do within a very short amount of time. 

As with the beginning of any new school year, the school is a beehive of activity.  This coming Saturday is one of my favorite events of the year, the school “Stir”.  What you may ask is the Stir? It’s the annual fund raiser for our son’s school. Think live auction with dinner and a dance.  Each year there is a new theme, this year being Rock and Roll!

It just a few days I will also be having a total knee replacement revision.  It’s been 4 and a half year since I had my right knee replaced and here we are again. The knee was never anywhere near 100% and it limited me to a significant degree. This revision will incorporate a much more functional knee, hopefully allowing me to recover some of the extension and flexion that I lost with the original replacement. The doctor says that the revision will reduce the amount of pain I am in, but that with each revision, the knee gets a bit worse.  I guess only time will tell on the results. What I do know is that rehab will be a long and painful process.  
My son will be going camping without me two weeks after my surgery. I would give anything to be there with him. It’s our Cub Scout districts annual Halloween overnight. The boys spend the night on a Boy Scout reservation, enjoying scary stories at a great campfire before they go trick or treating at the haunted campsites.  Sunday morning there is breakfast before they head home.  I really hate being out of commission and not being able to go with my son and my Cub Scouts.

Halloween is one of my all-time favorite holidays. It’s one of those holidays where wearing a costume is cool and scaring people is expected.  If I can do it, I will be doing the Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights. Keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to go. If I do, look here for the review of this year’s haunt.

Thanksgiving Will once again be a celebration of our family. We enjoy spending time with them on this days of thanks, where we thank God for his many blessings in our lives. One of the many blessing is the wonderful food that is prepared on this day.  In my next post I will include my recipe for a brine that will make your turkey the hit og the dinner.

Until next time my friends, love your kids,
Cherish your family.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Adventure Begins - The New Cub Scout Program

Author: Jose G. Barr

The new Cub Scout program officially started in June of this year. For many packs, the start of the school year is the launch of the program. Regardless, this new program promises to be an exciting step forward for cub scouting. The last several months leading up to the new program have been full of rumored changes, some true and many others false. Here are some of the facts on the changes that have occurred and my impressions of the new program.

What is Staying the Same?

The cub scout program that my son began last year as a Tiger Cub, was almost identical to the one that I was a part of when I was his age. The new program will not be changing the structure of the packs or dens, nor the age and gender requirements (there are rumors of a Lion rank for kindergarten). the most significant change is to the way a scout earns their rank and exemplifies the ideals of scouting.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

End of Summer - Back to School TIme

 Author: Jose G. Barr

 It is hard to believe that we are at the end of the summer and, at least for Joseph, school is about to start.  Where has the time gone?  It seems like just yesterday he was cleaning up his desk in 1st grade and getting ready to begin his vacation.

Over the past 3 months we have done some fun stuff together as a family and as part of the cub scouts.  We have tried to make the summer as fun as possible for Joseph, letting him have fun while still learning something new. While he was not in school, he still had his math and reading program (Kumon) that kept his skills sharp for the coming year.  The scouting activities included the Rain Gutter Regatta, where they learned about how wind moves a vessel across a body of water, and attending the Boy Scouts of America NOVA program.  We also went bowling several times, improving our skills with each game we played. Overall I believe that it was a great summer for my little buddy.

Kumon was started by Toru Kumon who, in 1954, designed math worksheets to allow his son to improve his math skills.  It was a fathers love for his son that gave birth to the program that Joseph attends today. The basic principle is to allow students to work at their own level, allowing them to grow their abilities at their own pace. Not only do they grow their abilities in mathematics and reading, they are also growing their confidence, knowing that they can learn and solve problems on their own.  For Ruby and me it was an easy decision to enroll Joseph in Kumon. We want him to succeed in all he does, and this is providing the foundation for his future endeavors.
Universal Studios - Summer 2015

The Boy Scouts of America Nova Awards program was started to foster the love of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in scouts.  There are 3 different programs, for cub scouts, boy scouts and Venture scouts.  The complexity of the program increases with the age of the children. For the cub scouts its all about simple, fun science experiments that foster their love of learning.  During the Saturday class the boys performed an experiment on candy. They used different liquids to see the effects they had on candy. Imagine my surprise when nail polish remover did nothing what so ever to an M&M.  It was a truly fun day for Joseph and Nicholas, learning and having fun together.

Bowling has been one of my favorite sports since I was in high school. At first it seems like such a simple thing to do, roll the ball and knock down some pins at the end of the lane. Simple right? Well, anyone who has ever bowled knows that its not that simple.  The ball seems to take on a life of its own once you release it, never quite going where you want it to go.  The more you play, the more you begin to learn how best to release the ball to get it to do what you want. Bowling alleys today include automated bumpers that rise into place for the younger players. This allows them a better opportunity to score while developing their bowling skills. Joseph enjoyed having his cousins Alyssa and Aileen as well as his Aunt and Uncle Ricardo and Sandra with him for the fun.

From Kumon to bowling and scouting, this summer has been one to remember. Joseph had a full, fun filled learning adventure with family and friends. The memories that we made will last a lifetime. We have loved and laughed, we have made the most of each and every day together because time is precious.  As a father I sometimes despair at the thought that my little boy is growing up.  He is so much more independent now and becoming more so with each day.  Next summer will present all new adventures four our little family. Ones that will be different from this past summer, but still a part of the fabric of who we are.
With his Cousin - Summer 2015
Aboard the USS Iowa, Summer 2015

Making Senior Green Belt (with Master John Park), Summer 2015
4th of July - Summer 2015
4th of July Fun - Summer 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Podcast - Old Time Radio Drama for the 21st Century

Author:  Jose G. Barr

The development of the radio in the early 1900’s allowed new, free entertainment opportunities to be developed for the public. By the 1930’s, and with the depression in full swing, these radio broadcasts were a way for people to escape from the reality of their lives, even if only for an hour or so.  Families would gather around the radio in anticipation of the nights broadcast, whether it was a drama, comedy or the news it did not matter, it was good entertainment for free.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cub Scouts Rain Gutter Regatta

Author: Jose G. Barr

The new cub scout year is off to a great start for our pack here in Redlands, California.  The boys all brought their best catamaran boats out for a fun afternoon of racing and friendly competition.  Being that this was Josephs first regatta, we didn't do to bad.  There were a few lessons learned as well as some design consideration that we observed on the other boats in the regatta.

One of the greatest lessons learned is that you can put together a winning catamaran within a few hours.  My good friend Frank and his son Nicholas left no doubt that this is possible, they placed first in the pack regatta. Congratulations my friends. Joseph and I spent a few hours the day before shaping, painting and assembling his catamaran. Most of the boats were built along similar timelines from a few hours to a few days.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

10 Tips to Make your Universal Studios Hollywood Visit Amazing

Author: Jose G. Barr

Universal Studios is one of my favorite locations in Southern California. We enjoy going there for the day, often ending the day at Universal Citywalk for dinner and a movie. Below are my top ten tips to make your visit to Universal Studios Hollywood amazing for both you and the kids.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

10 Things You Need To Know To Make Your Disneyland Visit Amazing!

Author: Jose G. Barr

Image result for disneyland california logo flickr

A family visit to Disneyland is a time to get away from every day life and enjoy the amazing world that Walt Disney created for all of us. Its a time to enjoy yourself and forget the every day worries of the real world.  Every time we have go as a family, we go to feel like kids again and enjoy the magic.  Joseph loves being able to interact with his favorite characters from Cars and Toy Story, while Ruby and I enjoy the cheerful and friendly atmosphere.

These tips will help you to enjoy Disneyland and Disney California Adventure just a bit more, whether you are returning again or visiting for the first time. Read the tips below and enjoy your visit to the Magic Kingdom.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Summer Time Homework: A Father and Son Activity

Author: Jose G. Barr

Its Saturday morning and I am sitting here with my little boy while he does his homework.  It hasn't always been as easy to get him to do his homework as it is today.  There are days that he does not want to do it and will sit, refusing to do anything. As I start to get frustrated I wonder what I can do to change his behavior?

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Family Dinner at Chili's Grill & Bar

Author: Jose G. Barr

The first lunch date that my wife and I went on was to Chili's Grill and Bar. It's been over 23 wonderful years since that first date and we are still avid customers. We have always enjoyed the food and the atmosphere.  Our son Joseph is now a big fan of Chili's,  but it's not necessarily just for the food, he loves their new Ziosk system.

Since the introduction of the Ziosk, Joseph has asked to go their to eat often. He loves the games that are available and can spend the entire time playing. From a father's perspective,  it gives us time to relax and enjoy our meal without him getting bored and constantly asking when we are leaving.  For the adult customers it is an amazing bit of technology. The Ziosk is a tablet like device that allows us to enhance our visit by taking food and drink orders when we are ready. Chili's still has their amazing servers to enhance the overall experience. It's up to you which way you order your meal. We like to place our initial order with the server and then Joseph places the dessert order via the Ziosk. At the end of the evening I use it to pay the check. It has really simplified the dining experience and made it more fun.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sunday Family Gathering

Author: Jose G. Barr

The family gather at our home yesterday to enjoy some good food, laughs and enjoy the company of family. We don't gather like this often enough and it is nice when we can.  I know that my father-in-law wishes that we did this more often and I agree wholeheartedly with him.  We have an opportunity to catch up and tell some great stories about work, life and everything in between.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Too Young For a Knee Replacement

Author: Jose G. Barr

Too Young For Knee Replacement

I was 42 when I had a full knee replacement. The journey to replacement was one that was full of different surgeries and treatments. My doctors way back had told me that I would eventually need to have it done. That journey from my first arthroscopic procedure to the replacement was about 10 years. Read More

Saturday, July 25, 2015

"Mary Poppins" at the Redlands Bowl

Author: Jose G. Barr


Mary Poppins has flown into Redlands with her magical umbrella for the 92nd Redlands Summer Music Festival and it is a magical experience.  The musical is running through this Sunday July 27, 2015 (all performances are begin at 8:15 PM). Ruby, Joseph and I had the pleasure of attending Friday night performance with our good friends (visit her blog at Mama Noticias). We had a wonderful picnic dinner and snacks before the performance an snacks throughout the evening.

The bowl was overflowing with people (over 6,000  in attendance) ready for a great show, and the cast and crew did not disappoint.  Jonathan Briggs is wonderful as the main storyteller Bert the Chimney Sweep, and sometimes artist. He takes us back to England in 1910 for a visit with the Banks family. Mary Poppins enters their life when they most need her, the whole family benefiting from her wisdom and magic. Hannah Jeanette Briggs is amazing as Mary Poppins, drawing us into the musical with her performance.

We will be coming back to the Redlands Bowl for more amazing performances throughout the summer.  If you should happen to be in the area, come out and join us for an evening of entertainment that does not disappoint.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Night Terrors - A Fathers Own Nightmare

Author: Jose G. Barr

I remember the first time my son had a night terror. It happened one evening over 2 years ago.  Joseph had been asleep for about 2 hours when it happened.  I had just turned out the lights when we heard our little boy screaming in fear.  I rushed to his bed where he was sitting up and staring into the distance, his hair plastered in sweat, his teethe chattering uncontrollably.  I spent the next 10 minutes holding him as he worked through the night terror he was having.  At the time I had no idea what he was going through. I spent much of that time trying unsuccessfully to comfort and assure him he was safe.  His cries for help were extremely lucid and very terrifying because of it.  He would cry out over and over "Daddy, Help! Daddy, please me help!"

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Illumination Entertainment's "Minions"

Image result for minions movie

The prequel to the "Despicable Me" movies by Illumination Entertainment gives us a glimpse into the world of the minions before they served Gru. Read More

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Patience is Not Just a Virtue, It's an Absolute Necessity

Growing up I always wondered how my father could be so patient with my sister and me.  There were days that I was sure that he would get mad when we had done something wrong, yet he would just smile and sit down to talk to me about what I had done. This stood in stark contrast to what I had seen other father's do to their children. All too often they would lose control, yelling and screaming at their children. The terror visible in their children's eyes.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Infertility and Fatherhood

Author:     Jose G. Barr

When Ruby and I first got married, our dream was to have 3 children to fill our home and hearts with love.  About a year later we got the good news from her doctor, we were going to be parents!  Six weeks later, as we were driving back from a trip to Mexico she started having very bad cramps.  They were so bad that I rushed her to the emergency room at the local hospital.  A few hours later we received the devastating news, we had lost the baby to a miscarriage.  We were grief stricken, Ruby had heard our babies heartbeat just a few days before and now there was nothing but silence and an emptiness where our baby had been.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Family Portraits with A Story in Time Photography... Amazing person, Amazing Artist

Author: Jose G. Barr

About a year ago, Ruby started asking about doing our family portraits again, it had been over 3 years since our last session.  One thing that we are big on is capturing special moments in our lives, whether its with our phone camera, an SLR camera or hiring a professional photographer. It seems like just yesterday I was holding my little boy in my arms and now he is a senior green belt in Tae Kwan Do. Time flies and capturing these moments in time is important.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Adoption and Fatherhood

What is fatherhood? The dictionary defines it as the state of having one or more children.  

This definition is a very simple one, yet so very true in what it does not say.  Fatherhood is not about biology, but about a mans spirit, his heart and soul.  Being a father does not mean that you must share 50% of their DNA. Joseph and I do not have DNA in common, yet you would never know it, he and I are alike in so many ways, right down to our little quirks, that there is no doubt that he is my son.  

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Universal Studios Fast & Furious - Supercharged

Fast Furious Supercharged Dwayne Johnson image Fast & Furious—Supercharged Universal Ride Brings in Franchise Cast

Today Ruby, Joseph and I spent the day at Universal Studios Hollywood to experience the new finale of the studio tour, Fast and Furious - Supercharged.  We arrived bright and early to beat the heat and the crowds (Universal is open at 8 am for Fast and Furious - Supercharged until August 16, 2015) and met up with family (Thank you Ricardo, Sandra, Vanessa and Eileen for joining us) for a day filled with fun and adventure.

Because we arrived early, we made good time through the Studio Tour line and boarded a tram in about 20 minutes.  The tour began as usual, with the tour guide offering up little gems of information about the studios history. Even after all these years I still enjoy the tour, learning more about the studio, new television programs or upcoming new movies.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Annex - A Father and Son Story

US Space Shuttle Enterprise, OV-101
I remember very clearly a trip that my Father and I took in 1977. We headed North from Los Angeles to Edwards Air Force Base. Here we would witness the Space Shuttle Enterprise land for the first time. It was an exciting time and one of the many memories that I have of my Father.  We arrived very early in the morning to find a good viewing spot. We got lucky and found a place to park the car in the front row, about as close as any spectators were going to be allowed. My Father had brought his ever present thermos of hot coffee, 2 sets of binoculars, some lunch and plenty of water.  I can still feel the excitement that was in the air, thousands of people, all there to witness history in the making.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New Adventures Coming to Universal Studios

I have many fond childhood memories of my father taking us to Universal Studios. We would board the tram and head out into the back lot of a working movie studio. Back then the tour took us through a flash flood in a Mexican village, crossing the red sea and through the ice tunnel (always got me dizzy, with its spinning walls). In 1979 they added the “Battle of Galactica” tram experience. That was one of my favorite parts of the tour; sadly it was taken out in 1992 to make way for the ¼ mile of escalators that were put in to open up the lower lot.

Today I have continued to walk in my father’s footsteps and have taken my son to Universal Studios several times since returning to California in 2012. It’s definitely an exciting time to be an annual pass member with Universal studios. The Universal Studio of today is a very different and much more exciting experience than the one I grew up with. 

 “Transformers the Ride: 3D”, a recent addition to the park showcases the level of effort Universal is committing to making the studio an amazing destination for families all year round. Joseph loves this ride so much that we have to ride it each time we are at Universal Studios. It is a thrill packed adventure that puts you in the middle of a mini Transformer movie. The Autobot that you are riding in is called EVAC. He takes you on a high speed adventure through various scenes that combine live studio sets and 3D imagery. This mix is a key factor that contributes to the success of this ride. Universal outdid themselves with this ride, making it a must for all visitors. 
Entrance to Gru's home and Minion Madness 

Minion Mayhem, which opened last summer is the cornerstone attraction of the new minions area of the studio. It opened last summer and has been a runaway hit with the younger visitors, especially my son. Gru has developed a process to turn ordinary humans into minions. You volunteer to become one of his minions and enter the lab to begin your transformation. Once you are transformed you take a wild motion simulator ride through his lab. 

 After the ride, the kids can have some fun at the Minion dance party before heading back outside to what I believe is one of the best parts of the Minion area, the Super Silly Funland! Here the younger kids can run around getting wet in a minion themed water park. There are changing rooms available so make sure to bring swim trunks and a towel for the kids. Aqua socks are mandatory; no barefoot children will be allowed to enter the area so make sure to bring appropriate footwear. For adults the amount of detail that Universal has put into this area is a must see.    

Located next to the Minions area is one of my favorite places in the park. One street transports you to Great Britain and the other to France.  Each area is built to resemble a quaint area in their respective countries country. Here you will also find themed food establishments where you can buy fish and chips to fresh salads and pastries.

Just down the street from these areas is one of the newest remodels that Universal has created. Here you will find Springfield, USA, home to the Simpsons. Universal has added locations from the cartoon including the nuclear power plant that Homer works at (Universal has hidden a cool Easter egg here, look for a large button that you can press and wait for the surprise). Here you can also visit Mo's Tavern and have a real glass of Duff beer. Across the street from Mo's is Lard Lad Donuts where you can feast on giant donuts and enjoy some pretty good coffee to wash it down.  there are several more places to eat right out of the Simpsons, but I will leave those for you to discover.

If you continue through Springfield and past the Kwik-E Mart you will arrive at the Studios original attraction, the Studio Tram Tour. I've taken the tour dozens of times over the years and it never gets old.  This newest version includes an introduction ongoing commentary Comedian by Jimmy Fallon. As a quick side note, Jimmy Fallon did a similar introduction for the Gyrosphere ride. Just as he does in the studio tour, he talks about the safety of the  Gyrosphere and points out that the glass can stop a 50 caliber bullet and the poisonous spit of a Dilophosaurus. Stay tuned for my review of the studio tour and the newest ride attraction "Fast and Furious - Supercharged" later this week.
Minions Water Park
Super Silly Funland
More Water Features for the kids