Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Simple Way to Help Children in Africa

**Update! As of Nov 27th Ilyse has gathered more than 100 pairs of shoes! Stay tuned for info on a meeting place we might set up for a final drop of where you can still donate. Thanks!! **

A mom from our playgroup, Ilyse Collett, was moved by the message a friend of her cousin's sent following a recent trip to Mozambique and Zimbabwe, where the inflation rate is 231 million percent and children live without the most basic needs like shoes.

As she wrote: "Throughout the many countries and schools that we visited, we noticed that the majority of the children do not wear shoes because their families simply cannot afford to buy them. We also learned that the lack of shoes severely impacts children's lives in many ways. Under the hot sun, shoes allow children to walk long distances (sometimes 1 -2 hours) to school while those without shoes must remain at home. Shoes protect their feet from cuts that not only are the source of infectious diseases but more severe health problems such as HIV and Aids. What we take for granted can make the difference between a child benefiting from an education or falling victim to poverty or illness. "

So Ilyse decided to gather new or used children's shoes from ANYONE willing to donate to this cause. As long as they are still in good shape, they will be greatly appreciated. You can email her at and she will send you her Carlsbad address where you can drop the shoes off -- I'm taking some of my boys shoes there this weekend.

THE TIP: The photo below is from a Habitat trip I took to South Africa in 1998 and it was stunning to see how families could survive with so little... the family that I stayed with only had one lighbulb in their tiny house. They unscrewed the bulb from the sitting area to give me light in my room when I needed to get ready for bed.

Look around your home and try to imagine raising your family only being able to afford one lightbulb, or not being able to afford even shoes for your little ones. I hope that you will all help in this simple but important way!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Congratulations Ali & Brian!

Our closest friends Ali and Brian were married this weekend in San Diego - it was a truly "urban wedding" extravaganza filled with love, laughter and a tear here and there!

I also love the photo below, which is from their engagement party in August. We got them co-captain shirts to commemorate Brian's love of sports and their pending union. We love knowing that they are just starting on the most amazing path in life... congrats!!

THE TIP: "Expect Miracles"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Family Updates

Happy B-Day Evan - 4 years old!

The theme for the party started as "outer space" but once the invites went out
Evan wanted a "Praying Mantis" theme - his favorite bug.
So we ended up with "Bugs from Outer Space" - love how that just made sense to all the kids!!

The Astronaut (i.e. Steve) arrives.. upon opening the door there were horrified screams from the youngest guests but all of the kiddos thought it was amazing -- we had to keep them from running out front to see the space ship that surely was in the driveway! And Evan was just sad that Daddy didn't meet the astronaut ;)

The astronaut gave prizes to the kids and held a contest with Mommy to see who could blow up the biggest balloon (see the parents cracking up at this entertainment!)

Water balloons out back and a piƱata topped off the party... So much fun, we watched the sun go down and kids running around with sticky faces, soaking clothes and big grins!!

Before his party, Evan was at a karate tournament with his best pal Ryan. He won a trophy and was SO PROUD! (How do these kids have SO much energy??!!)

Other than our crazy Saturday, we have been keeping up with the cousins... Yoly and Ethan, he is 3 months old now and growing so fast :)

Nicolas ("Nico") was born just one month after Ethan to my other sister (Alejandra - "Handi") and his big sister Eva is the darling princess among her boy cousins! Eva will actually be the name of Mark's new restaurant

Cousin Ponchin also came to visit earlier this month, had a great time at the beach and Disneyland. And on July 15th we went with Poncho and Alicia to see the most amazing Coldplay concert (floor tickets - the most fun Steve and I have had in a while!)

Oh yeah - we also tok a roadtrip to Palm Springs in June, what could be more fun to our little guys than playing fort in the hotel room and jumping their little hearts out on the hotel bed?!

Much love from us and we hope to see you all soon,
Gaby, Steve, Evan & Alec

Monday, October 20, 2008

When Life Takes Us in a New Direction...

Last Fall while I was on maternity leave with my second baby, I experienced a difficult period of restlessness and isolation that led to more fun and inspiration than I could have imagined.

When my first son was born over three years ago, I committed to part-time work from home so that I only engaged in work activities when the baby was napping or with grandma. The time with Evan was blissful, but admittedly for a Type A personality like me, being in the house all day was a bit isolating. And I felt there was room for an additional project as long as my baby could be a part of it...

By creating
Friends With Class as a forum for unique classes I could not find elsewhere ("Photography With Your Toddler," and an affordable and not day-long CPR / Infant CPR / First Aid class), I also created an outlet for the professional drive I still had stirring within.

Unexpectedly, I also found some amazing people with whom we enjoy playdates as well as business meetings! Some of our most popular classes have been taught by moms in our playgroups. And whereas I felt somewhat isolated from the professional world, I now have a terrific network of professionals that teach our business classes.

Two classes that I want to highlight are being offered in November and are directly tied to taking steps in a new direction. Our November 1st
Career Workshop is taught by author Marcy Morrison of Careers With Wings and geared toward not just finding a new job but determining how to turn your passion into a career.

And our Nov 8th class
"A Tale of Two Websites" features how San Diego Bargain Mama founder, Stacey Ross, found success running an online business in just ine year along with the success San Diego Travel Tips founder, Julie, Gelfat, also found -- both on a shoestring budget.

I'm taking the class just to learn how the heck Stacey and Julie got their sites to rank so high on Google -- especially Julie for the keywords "San Diego travel" against sites like the SD Convention and Visitor's bureau, long-established San Diego hotesl, all sorts of SD tourism, etc.

See you there, as we all seek to chart a path onto an exciting direction :)

THE TIP: I'll post a tip from each of the classes once they take place, but for now, the best advice I can offer for anyone else who feels they are ready to take on a new career direction or even start a business is to just GET OUT THERE! You won't go anywhere sitting behind your computer.

Take the ideas and resolve that you have in your mind, put them out there and just get started. I networked with other moms that were running businesses, attended business classes and met so many interesting people that are now teaching classes me and my friends enjoy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hilton Head, SC

We took a week off in Hilton Head, SC last week at a beach house with Steve's college buddy John, his wife Becky and their adorable little girl. It rained for most of the week, but it was still warm outside -- even warmer in the pool and jacuzzi -- so while we didn't get too many beach days we still splashed around with the kids most of the time.

And being that we never get rain in San Diego, it was actually really nice having lazy days riding bikes on the beach with a drizzle or staying in to to hear the rain fall on the deck and have mid-day playtime and stories!

I have to admit, it was a bit surreal being in this stunning home (we were guests of another Villanova pal) while watching the equally stunning news of the crash on Wall Street. But we focused on collecting seashells and not checking the historic news too often...

THE TIP: As TV images showed the world "crashing," we realized nothing is more precious than just having time with those you love. And you don't need to be on vacation -- or in an up or down economy -- to find time to take walks, read stories together or enjoy jokes around the breakfast table!

Below is what my darling boys looked like in the morning watching the sun rise over the ocean and preparing for another day with no plans other than to be together :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

San Diego Family Fair is a Hit!

The San Diego Family Fair was held Sunday, October 5th at the Bernardo Winery and was just wonderful :)

The picture of Steve holding Evan up below is dark, but perfect for what I hoped to create when I agreed through a playgroup to take this on -- we wanted an event where kids would have a great time running around in open space, playing in a jumper, riding ponies and dancing to music while the community browsed tables of mom-run and family-friendly businesses to raise money for San Diego Habitat for Humanity.

Well, we raised over $650 with well over 100 families at the fair - our goal, as we were celebrating Habitat's 100th home in San Diego and giving 100% of the event proceeds to this great organization. Close to 30 businesses participated to make this a success, and the KidsKorp volunteers were fantastic -- everyone came together to make this a terrific event!

Click here to see photos from the fair and stay tuned for next year...

THE TIP: In addition to Friends With Class who coordinated the Fair, please support all of the wonderful businesses below that helped make it a success!

1. Lisa Leete of

2. Jeannine LaChance - Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - (858) 442-3179

3. The Picasso Kid - (760)942-4276


5. Janice O'Sullivan - Private Quarters, Silver Jewelry and & Jockey - - (858) 336-1052

6. Kristen Wright - Stretch-n-Grow of San Diego (619) 980-9552

7. Boutique for the Soul - Cristen Lebsack – - (877) 752.4463 -

8. Wanda Bass - Arbonne International - - - (619) 390-8696

9. Cookie Lee Jewelry - - (858) 212-3694

10. Discovery Toys - Michelle Adam (858) 449-5106,

11. Cradle2College Educational Resources, an Usborne Books at Home & School Consultant - Diana R~Rutz - 619-857-2821 -

12. Finders Key Purse - Christina Smith (760) 271-7441

13. Melaleuca - The Wellness Company - JaNell Robins (858) 673-7753

14. AmeriPlan - Mari Perez (760) 687-4973

15. Law Office of Daniel K. Printz - (858) 740-4370

16. Budget $ense - Chris Norita - (760)715-0452

17. Essential Baby Planner - Carrie Furet - (858) 405-1913

18. Caps for Kids - Rhonda and Ethan Epstein

19. Stacey Ross of San Diego Bargain Mama -

20. Superstars Photo Balls - Nancy Sticka (760) 519-2896

21. The Tea Cart - 619.659.5096

22. Elizabeth X Dang-Samuel - Ameriprise - (858) 795-2337

23. LaVonne Edwards - (760) 420-4512

26. Party Ponies Express (Pony rides) - (858) 486-1990

27. Abbie & TJ Productions (Jumper rental) - (858) 613-3989

28. Patty Hall's Jumpin Up Songs -

29. Semisi and the Fula Bula Band -

30. Bernardo Winery

Thank You to Kids Korps ( for wonderful volunteers and Vertical Print and Graphics ( 760-334-2004) for all of the event flyers!
And best of all San Diego Habitat for Humanity for the great work they do to help provide affordable housing for families in need (I was on their board for 8 years and can attest to what an outstanding affiliate we have here in San Diego!)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Friends With Class Live on Channel 6 "San Diego Living" Covering the Family Fair to Benefit Habitat for Humanity

We were on live TV news yesterday, Channel 6 "San Diego Living" program with host Joe Bauer, and it was so much fun!

Evan and Alec were there with me, Evan and grandpa on camera, along with some terrific people who are all participating in the San Diego Family Fair that we are putting on for the second year at the Bernardo Winery.

We were joined by Ken Kosman from Habitat for Humanity, Ethan the awesome 12 year old that started "Caps for Kids," the ladies from "The Picasso Kid" with Gabrielle's adorable 4-yr old little girl and Christina from "Finders Key Purse." Even Semisi and his son Keli from their band "Fula Bula" were there playing music to get ready for tomorrow :)

Click here to see photos from the TV interview, I'm trying to figure out how to upload the video so stay tuned for that... it was a 5-minute segment so a rather large file... (UPDATE: CLICK HERE TO SEE THE VIDEO ON YOUTUBE...) The Channel 6 staff was awesome -- they even gave Ethan a peek at the studio afterward. Thanks San Diego Living!

We want to also thank Jeff Frank, North County Times columnist, who did such an awesome job covering the fair last year and writing about it again in his Friday column to help get the word out (click here to see Jeff's Oct 3rd column). And we'll see you all tomorrow at the Fair!

THE TIP: I tried to draw upon my days working for CNN and KCBS to get ready for the live shoot yesterday, but I found it is actually a lot less stressful to be in front of the camera vs. behind the scenes making it all happen!

So the best advice I can give to anyone that is going to be on TV is to have your info well-prepared for the producer ahead of time and then just have fun with it once the cameras roll!