Ten Tips for Staying at the Crystal Cove Cottages

Our family has been trying to snag a coveted cottage at Crystal Cove for over two years. Booking one of these historic homes turns out to be a mix of planning, persistence and dumb luck. Over the Christmas break we were able to stay at Cottage #19A with friends staying in two other cottages. Now that we have our first vacation there in the books I feel obligated to share some tips on how to get a cottage and then how to make the best of your stay.

1.) Booking the cottage Because the cottages are state owned you need to book yours through Reserve America six months in advanced. If you miss that window try to keep your eye out for cancellations (72 hrs in advance) by checking the website or better yet, set a request on the Reserve America’s website that will notify you when a cottage becomes available during the preset times you select. Also, when the forecast says rain, you’re more than likely to find 1-2 cancellations. Keep in mind in California, the rain never lasts more than a few hours.

2.) Ruby’s Shake Shack offers packed lunches “To Go.” The Shake Shack is perched right above the cottages and offers a specular view if you want to eat there, but we took our lunch “To Go.” The nice people at Ruby’s pack up our lunches into individual lunch bags for easy dining on the beach.

3.) Bring games. There is no Wi-Fi at the cottages and no TVs in the rooms. It’s the perfect place to unplug and play some old-fashioned board games or beach games like corn hole or smash ball. Don’t forget your football!

4.) Rent a bonfire from the Beachcomber. The only way to have a fire on the beach at Crystal Cove is to rent one from the Beachcomber. They will set it up — even the chairs  for up to 12 people– and get it roaring for your group. For more info on the go to their website –>> here.

5.) The coffee situation in the morning. If you’re like my husband and me, you need to know in advance the coffee situation on any trip. There is a small coffee maker in the room but you can go to the check-in counter in the morning and get a carafe filled with coffee — free of charge — to take to your room or if you’re lucky enough to have a patio, enjoy your java there. You can also grab a coffee from Ruby’s or the Tiki Bar at Beachcomber. Lots of options so you’re good.

6.) Bring extra blankets. There are extra blankets in the rooms but it gets chilly at night at the beach. Each of us brought our own throw blanket to take outside and cuddle in and then use on top of the bed. We ALL used them.

7.) Heaven for sea glass collectors. Crystal Cove offers some of the most beautiful sea glass in SoCal. You ARE allowed to collect: sea glass, driftwood (up to 50lbs.) but keep in mind you ARE NOT allowed to collect shells, sand, rocks, any living creatures, or anything out of the tide pools.

8.) Hit Trader Joe’s before checking in. The Crystal Cove Trader Joe’s is just minutes from the Crystal Cove Cottages. Some of the cottages have kitchens — a few have stoves — but all have refrigerators. Grab pre-made salads, supplies for sandwiches and healthy snacks at TJ’s. But keep in mind whatever you bring you’ll have to carry to your cottage (or load on a cart).

9.) Pack simply. I can’t stress this enough. Your should not only embrace the laid-back vibe at the cottages but for practical reasons: simplicity is the key to packing for a stay at the cottages. Wear jeans more than once. Wear your hair in a ponytail. Don’t bring a massive amounts of makeup. Pack small meals and snacks. Also, don’t have a lot of loose items. Pack everything into bags or suitcases. You’ll either need to transfer them onto the cart that takes you to your cabin or walk your things down from the parking lot. Either way, you want it all to be concise and secured.

10.) Become an advocate for The Crystal Cove Alliance. Their mission is to renovate and preserve for future generations the Historic District’s unique cultural, natural and historic resources and to make these values available for the enjoyment and education of all. There is a wealth of information on their website –>> here.  This is a must-read before your trip!



Pirate Coast Paddle Company Kids Camp + 10 % off coupon

Pirate Coast Paddle Company and I go way back! I have been going there with the kids since they opened. What keeps us coming back is the friendly staff and the location + the great family sport of standup paddleboarding. My kids even appeared on a magazine cover with the owner … *ahem* … I mean with Santa.

Pirate Coast Cover Magazine Moshenko

But we’re talking summer today. Pirate Coast Paddle Company offers a 5-day summer camp for kids ages 7 – 12. It’s a morning filled with summer fun from 9 am – 12:30 pm. Kids don’t have to have any SUP experience to come to the camp. So don’t worry if you’re little one has never stepped foot on a SUP.  Newport Dunes is a perfect place to learn the sport and provides a sunny beachy playground for the other activities offered at the camp. If you’re like me you want to know exactly what you’re getting in a camp. Here’s a detailed look at the schedule and let me assure you the staff supercharges the fun:


9am-9:30 Registration/Check in
9:30-10am Rules, Dunes tour, Pirate beach tour
10-10:30 Beginners paddle lesson
10:30-11:30 Paddle inside the Dunes practicing turns, technique, etc./Water games
11:30-11:45 SNACK (must bring own snack food)
11:45-12:15 Supsquatch/Free Paddle
12:30 Pick up

9am-9:15 Check in/Welcome
9:15-9:30 Warm up/Stretch/Quick Activity
9:30-10:45 Back Bay Science Center
10:45 SNACK
11am Paddle to Dunes Lagoona Area
11am-12pm Play on Whale/ Beach Games/swim/paddle
12pm-12:15 Paddle back to Pirate beach
12:30 Pick up

9am-9:15 Check in/Welcome
9:15-9:30 Camp Picture
9:30-10:30 SupSquatch/Lily Pad in Dunes area
10:30-10:45 SNACK
10:45-11:45 Nature Walk on Back Bay Nature Trail
11:45-12:15 Ice Cream at Snack Bar at Dunes (must bring own money)
12:30 Pick up

9am-9:15 Check in/Welcome
9:15-9:30 Paddle Tricks lesson & Kayak Intro
9:30-10:30 Tricks paddle around Dunes/Water games
10:30-10:45 SNACK
10:45-11:00 Paddle to Floats (must bring $8 for floats)
11:00-12:00 Play on Floats or Free swim
12:00-12:15 Paddle back to Pirate
12:30 Pick up

9am-9:15 Check in/Welcome
9:15-9:30 Warm up
9:30-10:30 Paddle around Dunes
10:30-11:00 Photo Scavenger Hunt around dunes
11:00-12:00 Kayak Trip to Bayside Village Beach/ Sand Castle contest
12pm-12:30 Awards ceremony at Pirate Coast Beach

If you want more information on the camp and on Pirate Coast Paddle you can find it, here.

I’m offering 10 % off the price of your camp so please take advantage of the offer when you sign your child up.Pirate Coast Kids Paddle

Just enter the code: 10offCamp. When you enter that code 10 % will be taken off your camp fee. You can register online, here.

We recently headed down to Pirate Coast Paddle with the family for a day out on the water with some other blogger families.


Follow me on Snapchat –>> Suzmoshenko

Getting to Pirate Coast Paddle easy from anywhere in Orange County. It’s located inside Newport Dunes.

Right about now

When we arrived the kids received their orientation and boarded the “Pirate Ship.” That is Pirate Coasts new super-sized SUP. It hold up to 20 people and the kids wasted no time loading up and with a heave-ho they were off! Kind of think of it like a kids version of water UBER. The instructors paddled them around the harbor and through the bridge. Aye a good time was had by all.

Pirate Coast Paddle Kids 8

Pirate Coast Paddle Kids 9

The great thing about Pirate Coast is that even when you’re not out paddling they have created a beach area that is just downright fun to hang out at with family and friends.

Pirate Coast Paddle Kids

Pirate Coast Paddle Kids 2


Pirate Coast Paddle Kids 7

We went out for a girls-only paddle around the harbor side. One reason I like SUP is that you can still chat and laugh together while doing it. It’s not SOOOO strenuous or competitive that you miss out on the chill factor.

Pirate Coast Paddle kids 3

New to the whole experience of Pirate Coast Paddle is the introduction of the Newport Dunes Barefoot Bar at Pirate Coast Beach. This popup fully stocked bar is open Fridays and Saturdays 3 pm -8 pm starting late June. What a great idea, no? Their special is a very serious coconut Mai Tai with lots of cherries. They also offer an array of beers, wines and other mixed cocktails. Follow Newport Dunes on Instagram for all the happenings this summer.

NewDunes Barefoot Bar

Barefoot Bar at Newport Dunes

Pirate Coast Paddle Kids 6

This summer we are going to try their SUP Night Glow Paddles. Each board is equipped with waterproof LED lights on the bottom. As you tour beautiful Newport Harbor the water beneath you is lit-up giving you a front row seat to the marine life along the way. I know! Totally adding this to our summer to do list.


 Check out this video of the SUP Glow Tour:

Pirate Coast Paddle also offers parties (See the “Pirate Boat” above) for birthdays or special events. We celebrated my daughter’s birthday there (three years ago) and a good time was had by all! For information on their party packages, go here.

Pirate Coast Paddle Company kinda has it all this summer. Make sure to take advantage of the discount if you’re going to camp running these weeks this summer:

Session 1: June 20th through June 24th

Session 2: June 27th through July 1st

Session 3: July 11th through July 15th

Session 4: July 18th through July 22nd

Session 5: July 25th through July 29th

Session 6: August 1st through August 5th

Session 7: August 8th through August 12th

Session 8: August 15th through August 19th

You can register, here.  The discount code again is: 10offcamp



Hometown Stay at the Hyatt Huntington Beach


You’ve probably heard the famous quote about traveling attributed to St. Augustine: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page.” I then suppose that my kids and I traveling 17 miles from Orange to my hometown of Huntington Beach to stay at the Hyatt Regency would be like reading a book’s “About the author” page.

I live for years behind the Hyatt – long before it was there – so I’m well versed in area around the resort. I remember watching it go up, hoping for a spot that locals could enjoy with our families. I believe they have achieved it!
My daughter, age 13 and son, age 11, and I stayed two nights and spent three activity-filled days at the resort. The casual Spanish architecture with a piazza-like courtyard has kid-friendly restaurants, shops, a market that serves fresh sandwiches, salads and Starbuck’s coffee and, in the middle, a fire pit lit at night for s’mores time.
Our suite was a good size for our family, complete with large soaking tub and a king-size bed for us to cuddle up in and watch a movie after a day at the beach or pool.
So let’s talk about that. The kid pool area is called Slyder’s Waterpark. It has three slides and a long pool down the middle with lots of spots to set up for a day of soaking up the sun. We scored a cabana and spent an entire day at the pool playing cards, eating lunch and enjoying our time together.
The next day we spent down on the beach. It was a short walk over the bridge to collect our complimentary beach chairs, towels and umbrella. We first hit Surf City Grocers and they packed up a nice picnic lunch in a cooler for us (with wheels!).

The unique advantage of staying in town for vacation is that you can rendezvous with local friends and family while you’re “away.” We all met down at the beach, and when our friends packed up to go home, we packed up and headed back to our room – but not before hitting the Jacuzzi – and showered up before having a nice dinner at Pete’s Sunset Grill while watching the sunset.
A few things for the kids that make the Hyatt a great family spot:
* Hyatt HB does offer a kids club. So if you want to spend some time in the resort’s world-class spa, Pacific Waters, or head to the well-equipped on-site gym (choices, choices), the kids won’t mind.
* You can purchase s’more kits at Surf City Grocers and use them at one of the many fire pits around the property.
* Enjoy Cosmic Sliding; Saturday nights at Sylder’s Water Playground features a laser light show.
* Rent bikes at Toes to the Nose in the courtyard piazza and take a ride down the path next to the beach.
* Enjoy Dive in Movies at Sylder’s Water Playground, Friday night at 7 p.m.
* On Tuesday nights in the summer, Main Street hosts Surf City Nights. It’s fun to check out the Farmers Market, and be sure to take advantage of dinner specials in the local restaurants then. They offer a kids zone, too!

If you’re planning a stay-cation this summer, The Hyatt Regency should be on your short list of options. It sits on miles and miles of family-friendly beaches, and guests with kids get the feeling they are welcome there – which makes a parent’s stay all the more enjoyable.


Put a bow on it! Hosting a baby shower for Monica

 One fun part about being editor of OC Family magazine is I'm offered the opportunity to work with some of the most inspirational, talented women in Orange County. 

On such person is our Art Director, Monica Garrett. I was lucky enough to host her baby shower at my home AND work with designer Lindye Galloway on the design of the shower. The results were a wonderful feature story in the April issue of OC Family magazine. 

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Some of my favorite photos didn't make it into the story, but thought I'd give a peek here on my blog. All the photos were taken by the uber talented Ryan Haack


My daughter posing with our rabbit, Peter

We handmade the tassels for the large round balloons. I bought a six-pack of the balloons at Party City and then we cut the tassels and tied them to the strings. They turned out perfect!



Tasseled extra large balloons

For the recipe for this Puppy Chow, click here.



Strawberry Lemon Puppy Chow made with Essential Oil



The backdrop was handmade by Lyndie and was the perfect touch.



The cake was provided by Sweet and Saucy

You can order one of these or any other custimized cake at their website, Sweet and Saucy Shop, 

Aloha from Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii

When I got the invite to come and cover the opening of the new section of the Aulani Resort in Hawaii, I knew I couldn’t come without my kids. I had covered the opening of Aulani (see the coverage here) and PROMISED my kids I wouldn’t come again without them.

I kept my promise.


The kids are here with me along with my big brother, Rob. We are having a blast and taking in every Hawaiian moment before we have to head back home tomorrow.


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Test Drive: Look at that Cadillac


I didn’t even realize I was a Caddie Girl until General Motors asked me what kind of car I wanted to test drive for a week. “Pick any car you want!” They told me. I had an Escalade that I loved, but traded down to a smaller 2005 Cadillac SRX about a year ago. Man I love that car. Zippy and with the raddest license plate ever.

Right? (I’m a little bit of an Anaheim Ducks fan) So I thought I’d give the new 2011 Cadillac SRX a spin. I made the right choice. With its V6 turbo pick up, in blue frost metallic and soft leather seats it quickly drove itself right up to the top of my “next car” list. Equipped with a GPS that allowed me to simply key in “Ruby’s” and it pulled up the address and sent me right there. I love that! We drove it up to stay at The Georgian in Santa Monica. My kids loved the DVD system and I loved that the whole trip–OC to LA and back–didn’t even take a whole tank of gas. We even drove around Los Angeles, hitting the Skirball Center, Mel’s Diner and The Grove. Watch the video for the play by play of that trip.


After the week was up all five of the blogger spent one last morning with our cars shooting this video in Newport Beach. We all loved our cars and when the cameras stopped rolling, we schemed together on ways we could keep them for longer. We had a blast shooting this and check out Marcy’s trip in the opening sequence. Classic.

Dude Ranch at Kay El Bar

We just got in tonight from Kay El Bar and even though I was exhausted, dusty and I'm pretty sure smelly, I couldn't wait to make this video from our trip. It's set to the tune of Plain White T's 1,2,3,4, which matches perfectly the mellow, happy-go-lucky feel of the ranch. Even the cowboys got into the act on this one…


Photos are on their way. Hope you all had a wonderful Easter!

I’m sorta sad to hear J.D. Salinger died today




“I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.” 


Holden Caulfield

Twenty five years after reading this from the pages of my brother’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” I still remember it.  How do you like that?  I had to look up the exact wording and all, but for the most part, it’s  stamped on my mind forever.  I don’t even know why exactly, maybe it is that voice, the way it was irreverent, bitchy, sad and rambling all at the same time–the way J.D Salinger told a story resonated with me like no other author.   

“The Catcher in the Rye” was the first book I ever fell in love with; that I carried around with me everywhere; that I underlined phrases and remarks in order to memorized them so I could use them later on my friends as my own; that inspired me write stories down and relentlessly staple them to my “real” homework and turn them in to hapless English teacher.  

J.D Salinger died today at the age of 91-freakin’ years old. Not bad. Leave it to The Onion to write this in his honor “Bunch of Phonies Mourn J.D. Salinger.”  Seems appropriate. 

(Image from The Changing Hands Bookstore.)


RIP John Hughes. We won’t forget about you.

John Hughes

When I heard the news (on Twitter) that legendary writer and director John Hughes had died I immediately went on YouTube to watch clips and montages from the enormous amount of movies he is responsible for making.

I laughed as I watched them and I began to realize the impact his creative genius has had on my life from a young age – Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink- and on through adulthood — Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Mr. Mom, She’s Having a Baby. Hughes’ list of classic movies is as long as your brother’s mullet in high school, and each is, if this is even possible, even more entertaining.

Starting with the perilous and often nauseating genre of teen movies, he was able to show us everything that was right about being a teenager. Everything that was fun, painful, weird, but ultimately good. Ultimately hopeful. His movies made us feel it was OK to be who we were because we saw a little bit of ourselves and our friends in his characters.


From The Breakfast Club:
Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us … In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case,a princess, and a criminal.
Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours,

The Breakfast Club.
Hughes mastered the nearly impossible task of writing for teenagers without coming across like, “Hey, kids, look at me. I’m ‘Cool’ just like you.” Like in high school when your mom said you should buy a dress because it was “funky.” (OK, thanks Mom, but “funky?” Nice try.) He never resorted to frat house raunchiness or lewd pranks, but frankly portrayed the undeniable truth that teenagers think and talk about, and sometimes even have, sex.
His movies felt authentic. From the dialogue ( “I’m not THAT pristine.” “You mess with the bull you’ll get the horns.”) to the wardrobe (Judd Nelson’s trench coat and gloves; Anthony Hall’s yellow button-down shirt) to the music (Simple Minds, Kate Bush, Psychedelic Furs), it all felt real and spoke to us as teenagers.
In Hughes’ movies that traipsed around the land of grown-ups, he continued to glint sweet little moments of life as he took on adult lives with the same honesty. Optimistic and funny, he had a knack for telling stories about people who were far from perfect, but find their way to happiness — usually in a “What I was looking for was right here in front of me the whole time” epiphany.
One of my favorite scenes ever, is from the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” The tension, humor, and hostility in it makes it almost uncomfortable to watch. I love John Candy, and his portrayal of Del, the (secretly) widowed shower

curtain ring salesman is heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time — not an easy feat to write.
(This video is from one of my YouTube Channels. I copied it and uploaded it last year a few times because it is one of my favorites, but Paramount keeps taking it down. Watch it while you can.)

Now, looking back on the spectrum of his work, I feel a surprising loss personally , but I also feel a great gratitude to have been the generation he shined his brilliant, hopeful light on.
We won’t forget about you, John Hughes.

Other things out there written about John Hughes:

“We’ll know when we get there” wrote “Sincerely, John Hughes.”

Dan Taylor wrote this on his blog.

This is a quick montage of his movies: John Hughes “Teenage Wasteland.”

Music critic Ben Wener about his impact on pop.