TOCA Soccer Training Center Opens in Costa Mesa

Let me start off by saying I am not a big sports fan, but when my kids are playing a sport, I become the biggest fan! This year, I became a full fledged soccer mom when my younger son joined an AYSO soccer team. It’s been a blast! I admit I too went gaga over the World Cup this year.

So, when I heard about this soccer event, I thought I’d share it with all of you fellow futbol fans and soccer moms.

There are thousands of soccer players in Orange County, from AYSO to renowned clubs, high school, collegiate and even adult leagues. The first-ever TOCA Training Center is opening in Costa Mesa next Monday. Former Pro and World Cup player Eddie Lewis founded the center, which is exclusively dedicated to the TOCA Touch Trainer, a ball delivery system that allows players to improve their skills with increased “touches” to the ball, all of which can be programmed with an iPad. Think of an automated batting cage for baseball players.

Soccer TOCA Training Center

The 10,000 square foot flagship TOCA Training Center will feature five interactive soccer studios, each equipped with a TOCA Touch Trainer, a customizable ball delivery system created to improve training by increasing touches for soccer players. Retractable netting will also allow for a 100 by 45 foot turf field for team training or futsal games.

Featuring smart technology unavailable anywhere else, the TOCA Touch Trainer is able to precisely deliver soccer balls at specified speeds, locations and intervals for a unique and accelerated training experience. The Touch Trainer can be controlled by any iOS mobile device. Coaches, trainers and players can design their training sessions through the Training Center’s iPads or by downloading TOCA’s free app to their own iOS-enabled devices. Tracking the amount of quality touches and the results from training exercises will give each player a new way to assess and improve their skill level.

The TOCA Training Center will offer memberships, multi-session packages, group and team training programs appropriate for every level player. TOCA players have the ability to execute 10 games worth of quality touches in a 50-minute session with a TOCA Trainer. The TOCA training staff is headed by Dan Tobias, an award-winning Division I and professional soccer coach.

“The foundation for every soccer skill is a good first touch,” said Eddie Lewis. “The TOCA Trainer allows soccer players at every level to practice their touches and in turn, improve their technique and elevate their games.”

The TOCA Training Center is located at 2777 Bristol Street in Costa Mesa, off the 405 and 55 Freeways. They will be having an opening reception on Saturday 18th from 3-5 p.m. For more information, call (714) 361-8990 or visit

#TravelTuesday: Big Bear Family Getaway

We only usually think of Big Bear as soon as winter begins, when Southern Californians like us are looking for a place to hit the slopes. But the truth is, Big Bear is a great staycation destination year round.

We headed out to Big Bear Lake for a quick weekend overnight getaway recently and had such a blast that we hope to visit again soon even before snow starts to fall. From Orange County, it’s supposed to take about two hours up the mountain but delays on the 210 made our trip longer. (However, other routes to consider are Hwy. 38 (through Redlands) or Hwy. 18 (through Crestline), which is only five miles difference from Hwy. 330.)

Heading up the curvy mountain roads we rocked out to music, as we marveled at the scenery. The trees and elevation were so inspiring that my boys even dropped their digital devices to look outside!

When we got to Big Bear, our first stop was the Scenic Sky Chair at Snow Summit, where we had lunch. It wasn’t anything fancy but it was pretty good and the view was not too shabby. From the chairlifts, we watched mountain bikers navigate the terrain. At Snow Summit, we checked out the BMW Motorcycle Festival Powered by MotoQuest to the delight of my motorcycle-loving husband. Big Bear is an ideal destination for adventure riders! We passed so many motorcyclists along the way. My kids who weren’t as interested in the bikes, ended up geo-cacheing in the area with success.

Our accommodations for the night were courtesy of Gold Rush Resort Rental, which pays homage to Big Bear’s gold mining history! The Chipmunk Cabin was our home for the night and it was awesome. It was very spacious and clean (with 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, it can sleep up to 15 people!) My kids loved the décor! (Yes, they were REAL stuffed animals.)

But what was even more exciting to them were the Mining Adventures at the front office next to the gift shop. Basically, the kids get to crack open geodes and pan for gold and other precious rocks and minerals. Gold Rush Resort Rentals/Mining Adventures/Gift Shop, is located at 40016 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake, Ca. 92315

One of the family-friendliest spots in Big Bear is the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain! It’s basically a small amusement park, the main attraction being the alpine slide luge track. We all enjoyed it so much that my boys went down the luge track several times. We also played mini golf and raced go-karts. Another family-friendly place is the Big Bear Funplex.

By the time the sun began to set, we were hungry for dinner so we headed into the village and strolled along the quaint streets. There were fireplaces along the street and singers on street corners. It was a lovely evening. We ended up having dinner at Teddy Bear Restaurant, with its laid-back atmosphere and home-style comfort food.
The next day, we visited the Big Bear Alpine Zoo, which actually started as a rehab center for injured animals. Today, the zoo is still a rehab facility for injured, orphaned and imprinted animals and a home for those who cannot be released back into the wild to care for themselves.We viewed an arctic fox, some bald eagles, black bears, bobcats and even a pack of wolves! The Big Bear Alpine Zoo is located at 43285 Goldmine Dr., Big Bear Lake, CA.

For the grand finale of what had turned out to be a totally awesome Big Bear getaway, we sailed Big Bear Lake aboard a pirate ship! The 16th century galleon ship replica (named “Time Bandit”), the wench (!) and pirate captain lent to the atmosphere, which the kids aboard the ship loved! Grown-ups, on the other hand, appreciated the cold beverages on the ship, the good humor and the history of the Lake, as narrated by our Captain.

The tour was about 90 minutes long but it went by fast as it was pretty relaxing sailing on Big Bear Lake on a fall day. Current rates are $22 for adults and $14 for kids 12 and under.

Before long it was time to head back home. But we promise to visit Big Bear Lake again, maybe even go fishing and hiking, before the snow starts to fall.

Young the Giant Surprises Local High School

Two things I love. Good music and a good cause. When I heard that a favorite indie rock band of mine, Young the Giant, were making a surprise appearance at a local high school, I was all over it! Taco Bell Foundation for Teens had arranged for the “surprise” at Godinez High School in Santa Ana, as part of its Graduate for Más™ program. Through the program, the foundation is committed to inspiring and enabling America’s teens to graduate and accomplish great things through its programs, partnership, and direct financial assistance.
The Godinez High School band had been praciting Young the Giant’s new single, “Mind Over Matter,” for weeks and had no idea that they would actually get to perform with the band. In addition to the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Taco Bell Foundation for Teens made a $20,000 donation to the school in the band’s name.

Young the Giant | Godinez HS | Taco Bell Foundation for Teens

The members of Young the Giant all went to Irvine schools and member Eric Cannata’s dad is a beloved teacher at Godinez High. After the performance, the students got to ask the band questions and it was a treat to see their curiosity. They asked about where each of the band members went to college and about how they knew that music was what they wanted to pursue. “We took a leap of faith,” lead singer Sameer Gadhia said. The kids then asked about what colleges Young the Giant attended, and about their first jobs. “You know, whether its Stanford or community college, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you want to go to college and when you get there, you make the most out of it,” said Sameer, who went to Stanford.

Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes This Saturday

My grandmother had diabetes so I am familiar with the disease. I had a friend in grade school who carried an insulin pen with her everyday. These days there is a rise in cases of diabetes. Federal health statistics show that 12.3% of Americans 20 and older have diabetes, either diagnosed or undiagnosed. Another 37% have pre-diabetes, a condition marked by higher-than-normal blood sugar. (Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Promotion and Health Promotion, 2014 Statistics Report) That’s why it’s important to support organizations like the American Diabetes Association, that set out to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all those affected by the disease.

The 2014 Orange County Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes will take place at Knott’s Berry Farm, this Saturday, October 11th! The 3 mile walk will go through the scenic grounds of the park (and Soak City) before it opens to the public. The event is set to raise $370,000. Registration is free and people walk together to join the movement to Stop Diabetes.
Step Out is the American Diabetes Association signature fundraising walk. The event has taken place in 125 cities nationwide for over 20 years, and has raised more than $175 million. Last year the Orange County Step Out raised $350,000.

There will be 5,000 participants, including corporate team sponsors; UnitedHealthcare, OPTUM Rx, Consolidated Fire Protection, Jackson Hewitt, Sanofi US, Walgreens, Walmart, Fountain Valley Regional Hospital & Medical Center, PIMCO, Corner Bakery, and Newport Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. Entertainment will include Emcee Maria Hall Brown: Executive Producer for Arts and Culture programming on PBS SoCal and current producer and host of the weekly program LAaRT, live entertainment from Union Hobos, Innovations Dance Academy, Katella High School’s Spirit Squad, The Laker Girls, Angel’s Strike Force, and Jack F.M.

Here are the details:
WHAT: Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes
WHERE: Independence Hall at Knott’s Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, CA 90620
WHEN: Saturday, October 11, 2014
Check-In begins at 6:30 a.m.
Walk begins at 7:45 a.m.

To learn more about the American Diabetes Association of Orange County, click here.

Schoolhouse Rock Live! Comes to Costa Mesa

Once in a while, I like to take the kids to the theater (hear it with a snobby British accent). It is sometimes a challenge to find theater fare that both my kids and I would enjoy. Thankfully, there’s the Family Series at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.  This weekend is extra-special as they present something many of you parents are sure to remember fondly.

Here’s a clue:


You got it! This weekend, the cartoon Schoolhouse Rock comes to life on stage at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Presented by Childsplay, Inc., Schoolhouse Rock Live! will literally rock the Samueli Theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa on October 3 and 4, as part of the Center’s Family Series. How can you forget the TV show that taught a generation about history, grammar and math through songs like “Conjunction Junction” and “Just a Bill?” The songs have been updated and there will also be multimedia elements during the show giving the classic cartoon-come-to-life a modern vibe that kids and their parents will definitely enjoy.

Schoolhouse Rock Live

There will be free pre-show creative play activities beginning one hour before each performance. Schoolhouse Rock Live! is recommended for children ages 4-8. Tickets are $20. For more info, visit or call (714) 556-2787

Here’s one more for the road:

Because Knowledge is Power!

Wyland National Ocean Art Challenge kicks off at Aquarium of Pacific

One of our favorite places to visit in Laguna Beach is Wyland’s Art Gallery. So when we heard that Wyland was launching an art challenge, we were all over it.  Recently, the Aquarium of the Pacific played host to ocean scientist Dr. Sylvia Earle and marine life artist Wyland for the launch of the “Water is Life” art challenge. The event had presentations and live group painting activities with area elementary school students.

Wyland | Aquarium of the Pacific

Courtesy of Aquarium of the Pacific

The annual Wyland National “Water Is Life” Art Challenge, Sept. 25-Nov. 25, fosters ocean appreciation and encourages students to study ocean issues and create individual and large-scale art projects based on this year’s “Ocean” theme. The free art program is open to all 48 million elementary and secondary students in the nation, grades k-12. Last year, students in 45 states took part. The foundation will also be providing free art supplies, including canvases, paints, and teacher lesson plans, to schools in 100 cities. Learn more about the challenge at

Nintendo Play Tour This Weekend at Irvine Spectrum

Plugged In is my monthly column in the print edition of OC Register Family.  I feature all forms of digital entertainment for children – the latest games, apps and electronic toys. Here are two fun events that take the gameplay off line. From August 29, Friday to September 1, Sunday, the “Play Nintendo Tour” will be at Irvine Spectrum. The event will bring a giant video game playground to life and give attendees the opportunity to play popular Nintendo 2DS games, featuring their favorite characters like Kirby, Yoshi, Pokémon and Mario. Costumed Nintendo characters will also be at the event.


Here are the details.


Friday, Aug.29-Sat. Aug. 30: 10am to 10pm

Sunday, Aug. 31: 10am to 8pm

Monday, Sept. 1: 10am to 9pm


Irvine Spectrum Center (Orange County)

71 Fortune Drive

Irvine, CA  92618

 Featured Games:




Next weekend, retired pro soccer player Mia Hamm will host “Fit Made Fun Day” in Santa Monica. At the event presented by the LeapBand activity tracker (From the makers of LeapFrog), more than 300 children will attempt to become GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® holders for three active play records: Most people hopping on one foot simultaneously, Most people creating sand angels simultaneously, and the Largest swim dance.

Here are the details:


Saturday, September 6th
, 2014
1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Santa Monica Beach


Bacon Burger Bonanza with Ingredients from Winder Farms

Receiving a Winder Farms delivery feels like Christmas.  The insulated bag filled with groceries is left at your doorstep in the early morning (depending on your area and regularly scheduled delivery times) and you receive local farm-fresh products, without having to make a trip to the store. 

The challenge:

Order ingredients from and create a Gourmet Burger

Disclosure: I am not a gourmet cook or even a grill master but I do love food!

Behold, My Bacon Burger Bonanza

The recipe:


1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 lb Winder Farms ground beef

½ lb Winder Farms applewood smoked bacon (chopped into small pieces but not too small) and leave two strips to top the burger

Salt and pepper to taste

Winder Farms Colby Jack Cheese

Udi’s Gluten Free buns

Taylor Farms Organic Romaine Lettuce


Sriracha Sauce

The directions:

Combine onions, bacon and ground beef – form into patties.  (I kind of smooshed the bacon bits onto the outer surface of the burger so that I was sure it would cook)

Season with salt and pepper to taste

Grill patties

Fry bacon strips or try grilling them too

The Assembly:

On the Udi’s Gluten Free bun, I topped the patty with a few drops of Sriracha sauce, those bacon strips,  a slice of Colby Jack Cheese, a slice of avocado, and lettuce.

The verdict:

“Pretty good, mom but maybe next time let’s use a King’s Hawaiian Sweet Roll.”  I’d say that’s a pretty successful burger!

Note: All ingredients except Sriracha sauce available from Winder Farms.




NOTE: I interviewed Kari Byron of Mythbusters for an article in the July print edition of OC FAMILY magazine. You still have time to catch the Mythbusters exhibit at the Discovery Cube until September 7th.

“I’m trying to figure out how to make an invisible plane for my daughter’s Wonder Woman birthday party,” Kari shares.  And I’m not surprised, she is, after all, best known as the MythBusters’ lone female host on popular science program MythBusters (on the Discovery Science Channel) and the spin-off, Head Rush (on the Science Channel).  She wasn’t too keen on the princess stories and characters that young children are often introduced to during their preschool years and sought a stronger character. “So I remembered the old Justice League and there was Wonder Woman, who happened to be a superhero AND a princess too!” Kari says.

As if that’s not  enough to earn Kari cool mom points, I find out that she and her daughter have created “manners monsters” sculptures that help express feelings and correct kids’ bad behaviors (like picking their noses, saying please and thank you etc.)  With MythBusters on a production break, Kari’s been enjoying motherhood to the hilt.  She’s spending a lot of time with her daughter and she also works on her art in her backyard studio, which her daughter calls the “Mom Fort.”  Kari has also been attending some cool events like the White House Science Fair, where she says she was “Humbled and Inspired by all the students.  They were building robots and one student had many patents to his name already.”

If there were one thing that MythBusters has achieved, it is introducing science as cool to a whole new generation.  Kari remembers that back in the day, there was this image of “what a scientist looks like” – typically white, male, socially awkward, wearing glasses. But now, thanks to the show (and others like it) children can envision themselves as scientists – male, female, different ethnicities, and you don’t even have to wear glasses! 

Kari was always interested in science, though she is an artist at heart. Her bio says:  “(she) has trained to be on MythBusters since she was a child. By the age of 5 she was experimenting on her sister and using dolls as crash test dummies.” But the truth is, Kari says, “It wasn’t until MythBusters that I saw how EXPERIENTIAL and VISCERAL SCIENCE could be!  It is exciting.” She adds:  “I think art and science are similar in that they foster a natural curiosity (about the world we live in).”

And that’s why exhibits like “MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition” at the Discovery Science Center are important. They allow children to explore and experience SCIENCE.  “My daughter really loves the ‘Running in the rain’ experiment in the exhibit.”

It is certainly cool to see young people who enjoy learning about science and taking it to the next level. There is hope for the future yet.

See how Kari does vs. a Zombie Horde



What’s In Your Purse?

This is what’s inside my purse right now – minus the sand that I had to shake off.



I am writing to tell you how sad I feel that summer’s nearly come to an end, and I feel that I have not done nearly enough “fun stuff” with my kids.  We went to the Festival of the Arts and took the Laguna Beach trolley which was fun (and we keep saying we want to ride the trolley again one of these weekends and stop at Woods Cove or something but of course, we haven’t done that yet).  And we ended up going to the OC FAIR finally on its last weekend.   It is such a challenge for working moms to “do things” while on summer vacation. But enough of that. 

What I’m really supposed to be doing in this post is reviewing a product that was sent to me for , well, obviously, review.  That’s those colorful packets in the middle of the photo – they are b4 single use hand sanitizers.  

So here’s my review.  In a nutshell, these hand sanitizers are convenient for anyone on the go, especially with kids.  I’ve been able to use them in the car, on the beach – anywhere where I require the kids to “wash their hands” before eating, touching digital device, or anything white.  I also think that having the b4 single use packets would be great to take on a plane because of their packaging.  They do also come in hand pump and wall pump versions according to their site,

Get this, I also read that they give 50% of their profits from sales to children-focused causes.  It’s always good to know that you’re using a product that gives back.

Here are some other highlights on b4 Products:  The b4 hand sanitizer is specially formulated to kill 99.9% germs and bacteria, b4 moisturizes hands with Vitamin E and aloe, all b4 products are made in the USA and b4 is a triclosan-free hand sanitizer.

What’s in YOUR purse?

Disclosure: *I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.*