Things to do in Sacramento and Beyond

The Bee's guide to events, activities, arts and entertainment

June 30, 2009
Bernie Madoff on line 1!

I just got an e-mail from a company in New York that's pitching's ringtones that pretty much sum up the predicament - make that a 150-year prison stint - that Bernie Madoff is facing. The mobile music site has pulled together a list of 12 tones perfect for anyone wanting to put the financial schemer in his proper place - and in their ears!

What's cool is you can edit up to 30 seconds of your favorite tone, and you don't have to download what the carrier pre-selected.

Like I said, there are 12, but get creative and make up your own tone!

Here's what recommends:

* "For the Rest of My Life" - Dionne Warwick
* "Jailhouse Rock" - Elvis
* "Folsom Prison Blues" - Johnny Cash
* "Cell Block B" - Survival of the Fittest
* "You Had It Coming" - June
* "Locked Up" - Akon
* "Solitary Confinement" - The Weirdos (my personal favorite)
* "Apologize" - OneRepublic
* "What You Deserve" - De/Vision
* "When Goodbye Means Forever" - I Killed the Prom Queen
* "Seasons of Love" - Soundtrack from "Rent"
* This Is How I Disappear" - My Chemical Romance

For more information, click here.

June 26, 2009
The magic of Michael Jackson

There's famous and there's infamous, and Michael Jackson, over the past several years, had become the latter.

A tabloid fixture better known for his wacky fashions, surgically altered features and Peter Pan complex than his music, Jackson's odd life had, at age 50, almost eclipsed his extraordinary career.

But no matter what one thought of the epaulets on his shoulders, the self-bestowed "King of Pop" title or the 2005 child-molestation trial (he was acquitted), there was no denying the pure magic of Jackson the performer.

From the time he first fronted the Jackson 5 as a boy, he showed he could sing beautifully and dance like a dream, transforming songs such as "ABC" from irresistible to unforgettable.

But he had something else, something extra, that even the very famous rarely possess. When you saw Jackson spin on stage as an 11-year-old or moon-walk as a 24-year-old or heard his high register on "Billie Jean," he induced chills. And not just the first time you saw the video or heard the song. Every time.

In his preternatural abundance of what is called "star quality," Jackson was rivaled only by Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, both of whom, not coincidentally, died too young.

Jackson's death, at 50, from a suspected cardiac arrest makes you wonder whether performers as special as he - people touched by some force none of us really understands - ever can enjoy normal lives.

June 26, 2009
"Got milk?" Then get a mustache too!


A tall glass of chilled milk probably will taste good when the temps heat up this weekend. Good timing for the Milk Mustache Mobile "Drink Well, Live Well" tour, which heads to Sactown for a short stint starting Saturday.

The tour does have a purpose: To educate folks about the benefits of gulping milk. While on tour, the "milk" team will offer free health assessments, five-minute massages (who couldn't use this?) and free lowfat and fat-free milk samples.

Quick factoid: Did you know that more than 250 celebrities/athletes have endorsed milk, and that includes those infamous "Got Milk?" mustache ads. Models Christie Brinkley and Naomi Campbell launched the original campaign. And you've probably seen other faces like Brooke Shields, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and Heidi Klum. Even Britney Spears (pictured) got on board - nine years ago - before she opted for alternative beverages (natch).

Now, Sacramento folks can hop on the milk wellness wagon and pose for their own souvenir "Milk Mustache" photos at any of the events listed below.

Here's the sked:

* 11 a.m. to 1 p.m Saturday: Nugget Market, 7101 Elk Grove Blvd. in Elk Grove
* 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday: Raley's, 4900 Elk Grove Blvd. in Elk Grove
* 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday: Viva Market, 4211 Norwood Ave., Sacramento
* 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday: Target, 2505 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento

June 26, 2009
Tomorrow: More music than you can shake a (drum)stick at

If you've been remotely conscious over the past couple of months, you know that SAMMIES fever is in the air. If you've been musically conscious over the past couple of months, you've probably gone to check out some pretty spectacular performances by Sacramento's best local bands.

Like a pimple that's come to a head, the culmination of SAMMIES season is about to pop, rock and jam at the Sacramento News & Review Music Fest, unfolding from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow, June 27 at Cesar Chavez Park in downtown Sacramento.

Fourteen SAMMIE-nominated bands are scheduled to perform live on two stages at this free, all-ages event, so there's no good excuse not to go. Think of it as an investment for your Sacram-intellectualism: In one fell swoop, you can bring yourself up to speed on the rock stars of the local music scene. You'll kill it at cocktail parties this year.

Here's the lineup: Justin Farren, Sol Peligro, Agent Ribbons, Arden Park Roots, Light Rail, Righteous Movement, Category 7, Dog Party, Be Brave Bold Robot, Alak, The Other Poets, Sister Crayon, Silver Darling and DJ Shaun Slaughter.

In addition to music, there will be a beer and wine garden and a giant inflatable slide (Those things go together like peanut butter and jelly.), art and fashion vendors, a dunk tank "stocked" with Sacred City Derby Girls, a petting zoo, and misters for all you summertime vampires.

After the show, check out the after party at Marilyn's, featuring City State, Live Manikins and DJ Whores.

To find out what else is going on this weekend, don't forget to check out "Seven Things to Do This Weekend."

June 26, 2009
Music in Murphys, all summer long

Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys (Calaveras County) kicks off its Summer Concert season on July 18 with a magnificent double bill: Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers) and Boz Scaggs. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Here's the lineup for the rest of a star-studded season at Ironstone Amphitheatre:

July 24 - The Moody Blues and Dave Mason

Aug. 7- Alan Jackson

Aug. 16 - Diana Krall with Dave Koz and Brian Culbertson

Aug. 28- Jason Mraz and Raphael Saadiq

Sept. 6 - Chris Isaak with Brian Setzer & Nashvillains

Sept. 18 - Lynyrd Skynyrd and Los Lonely Boys

Sept. 19 - Crosby, Stills & Nash

For ticket prices and purchases, call (800) 745-3000 or go to

Ironstone Vineyards is at 1894 Six Mile Road, Murphys. For more info: (209) 728-1251,

- Dixie Reid

June 25, 2009
35,000 year old flute find underscores music's importance


Yesterday, it was announced that archeologists have discovered a flute dated at 35,000 years old.

The announcement, which was published online by the journal Nature, couldn't be more timely.

Why is that, do you say?

Because it states the case that music was an important and integrated part of the lives of primitive humans, and even Neanderthals.

The flute, whose discovery was led by archeologist Nicholas Conrad from the University of Tuebingen, was found in the Hohle Fels cave area of Southern Germany.

The flute was made from griffon vulture bone. Initially, 12 pieces were scattered in the cave, prompting Conrad to rebuild a replica of the flute.

The replica proved eminently playable.

Other artistic artifacts were also discovered in the cave, suggesting that artistic endeavors were no minor concern at the time.

For times like ours, where orchestras and opera companies are cutting back seasons or shuttering doors for good, this discovery speaks volumes about why we should value the arts in dark economic times.

It can be argued that if valuing music was important to early humans and Neanderthals, shouldn't it be doubly important for the "enlightened" homo sapien of the 21st century?

But you wouldn't know it by looking at the state's public school music programs or the scant funds the U.S. government allocates to the arts in the NEA budget.

And that suggests this troubling thought: perhaps we're not nearly as evolved as we think we are.

June 24, 2009
'American Idol' auditions coming to L.A.

It's a trek - by plane, train or automobile - but talented folks in Northern California shouldn't pass up the opportunity to be the next "American Idol." Auditions for Season 9 (can you believe it!) are already under way. They've made a stop in Chicago.

Next Tuesday, the "Idol" auditions head to Los Angeles with pre-registration Sunday and Monday at the Rose Bowl, which actually is in Pasadena.

Here's how it works: On the pre-registration days, wristbands will be distributed to auditioners once the tables open at 7 a.m. Camera crews will be hanging around, so feel free to sing at will - if you've got the pipes! But we know there will be those who just hope for their three seconds of fame.

On audition day, registered auditioners can start lining up at 5 a.m. For those "Idol" watchers wondering why we see snippets of their family and friends once the show airs next January, this is when all that stuff is filmed. Contestants who do make it through to the next round can't - I repeat can't - sing for the cameras after their audition. Those who don't make it through can show how generally upset and distraught and angry they are at being dissed. We'll see that, too, next year.

Let's hope someone from Sactown makes it through!

June 24, 2009
Tranformers 2 turns into cash machine

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is selling eight tickets per second across the country, according to the online ticket sales site Fandango.

In Sacramento, you don't want to try going to the 9 p.m. showing at Century Plaza Downtown tonight. Fandango already shows the film, also known as Transformers 2, sold out at that hour and some other times. The film sold out its midnight showings in some markets, and followed that up with sell-outs of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. shows.

The Megan Fox/Shia LaBeouf film is racking up viewers, despite reviews that are less than stellar. The Bee's review can bee seen at and a trailer for the film is at

For information on which shows are sold out, see

June 23, 2009
Mark your calendars for fashion and beauty events

This week - and heading into the weekend - we found some events worth checking out:

  • Nordstrom Arden Fair will host a trunk show from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to preview the exclusive fall Gucci ready-to-wear women's collection. A representative from the fashion line will be in the in-store Gucci boutique (second floor) to answer questions and assist customers. There will be informal modeling. For more information: (916) 646-2400, ext. 1350.
  • Total Beauty Experience (2929 Arden Way) will host two Jane Iredale makeup classes at 3 and 6 p.m. Thursday at the store. Celebrity artist Brian Lorenz will conduct the demos and teach the classes. Guests will get tips on makeup application to suit their daily routines. Following the demos, guests can actually apply their own makeup - assisted by the Jane Iredale team. Brian's background includes lots of face time with celebrities for the stage and the red carpet. You might have caught him on TV. If so, you know he's got a big personality and is fun to work with. There will be gifts with purchase and refreshments during each class. Reservations are a must because each demo is limited to 20 people. A non-refundable $25 reservation fee is required and can be redeemed in Jane Iredale products on Thursday. For more information: (916) 481-7994.
June 22, 2009
Roger looks bright in white at Wimbledon


Unlike the other Grand Slam tournaments, the esteemed Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London always create some ripple of a fashion buzz. Mostly because the players - by rule - have to come up with couture apparel that's white.

Last year, it was the Williams sisters and their take on white raincoats. Serena Williams also played today and took the court in a white skirt and a long-sleeve, double-breasted jacket.

But all fashion eyes were on favored men's player Roger Federer of Switzerland who wowed the crowd with his opening-match ensemble, which included a tuxedo jacket with epaulettes, pockets on the sleeve and a gold zipper. (Gold is not taboo!) A white fitted vest and shirt were underneath, accompanied by long white trousers (white shorts underneath) and specially made Nikes with a gold "swoosh." His initials were also spotted on the jacket.

According to the Associated Press, Roger said of his clothing: "It's a little bit more modern look."

Federer, who is known to hang with fashion gal pal and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, probably didn't get any complaints from fans in the stand. Who did we spot? Actors Jude Law and Jonny Lee Miller were cheering the first-round match, which Federer won 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.

Check out The Bee's sport section on Tuesday for all the tennis results.

June 22, 2009
North Sacramento Design and Music Festival

Launch - a festival with live bands, djs, a fashion show and vendors with indie and vintage wares - will take place July 25 in North Sacramento.

The event, expected to draw as many as 2,000 people to the Greens Hotel, is the work of VHCLE, an online arts and culture magazine.

Musicians include: LA Riots, Dances With White Girls, Wallpaper, Love Like Fire, Tycho, Dusty Brown, Sister Crayon, DJ Gregg J, Must.Not.Die, The Robot & JJ, Mike Diamond, DJ Rockbottom.

The event will be from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., starting on July 25 at the hotel, 1700 Del Paso Boulevard. General admission tickets are $20, plus a service charge.

For more information, check out the Web site at As befits a design event, it's a pretty attractive site.

June 19, 2009
Sign kids up now for History Camp in Old Sac

The luckiest kids in town get to spend part of their summer at Old Sacramento History Camp.

This year's day-camp sessions are July 13-17, July 20-24 and July 27-31.

To learn more about the sessions, call Janessa West, public programs manager for the Historic Old Sacramento Foundation at (916) 808-4980, or e-mail her at

Camp fees are $175 per week. Extended care - 7:30-9 a.m. and 4-5:30 p.m. - is available for an additional fee.

History Camp focuses on California between the years 1848 and 1860.

Campers will visit museums in Old Sacramento and other historic sites, pan for gold, create currency, make a time capsule, play old-fashioned games, ride in a horse-drawn carriage, and go on a scavenger hunt.

Registration is under way now.

- Dixie Reid

June 19, 2009
Catch a fun event for Father's Day in Roseville

OK, so Dad's been hinting that fly fishing might be something he'd love to pursue.

Now, what to do?

Well, you're in luck if he's ready to cast off. The Fountains at Roseville - along with Orvis - will host a Father's Day Fly Fishing Demo, complete with casting lessons and several contests.

The two-demo event is this Sunday (Father's Day). The first demo is from 10 a.m to noon; the second from 2 to 4 p.m.. Both are at the "pond" at the shopping center. Dads and kids can learn to fish together courtesy of Orvis' trained guides. Winners of the fly fishing contests will receive Fountains VIP coupon books and gift cards to Orvis.

There also will be a contest to name the new pond. Those interested can submit their entries during either event. The winner will receive a $100 Fountains at Roseville gift card.

The shopping center pond is next to McCormick & Schmicks at the corner of East Roseville Parkway and Galleria Boulevard in Roseville.

Catch a big one!

June 19, 2009
Mumbo Gumbo celebrates the arts in concert next Friday

Mumbo Gumbo, one of Sacramento's most beloved bands, will play a free concert downtown next Friday, June 26.

The band's appearance at the always popular "Concerts in the Park" is sponsored by the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission (SMAC) and Downtown Sacramento Partnership as a celebration of the arts.

Some 25 local arts groups will be represented, and music-lovers can make donations to support the arts, as well as arts education, in our community.

The event is 5-9 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park, 10th and J streets.

For more

- Dixie Reid

June 18, 2009
Bret Michaels cancels this weekend's Cache Creek show

Bret Michaels, lead singer of Poison, was the talk of this year's Tony Awards show after he crashed into a stage prop while performing "Nothin' But a Good Time" with the cast of "Rock of Ages."

A nose fracture and busted lip kept Michaels from enjoying the rest of the June 7 show. And it will keep anyone from seeing him this weekend at Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks.

Michaels was scheduled to perform Saturday at the casino's Club 88.

"We were just informed this afternoon," says Cean Burgeson, casino spokeswoman. "We apologize to those who have previously purchased tickets."

Michaels' Cache Creek show has been rescheduled for Dec. 5, and tickets purchased for Saturday's performance will be honored then.

Those who can't attend the December show can get a refund wherever they purchased tickets.

Michaels wrote on his MySpace blog: "In hindsight, there is no doubt I got my bell rung, unfortunately it has been posted (on YouTube) and perhaps (is) funny to watch, but I can assure you it has been painful to experience."

- Dixie Reid
June 18, 2009
Governor's Mansion looking for history-minded volunteers

Saturday is the deadline to apply as a volunteer at the Governor's Mansion State Historic Park.

The next nine-week training class begins in July. Interested volunteers will be interviewed in advance. Minimum age to volunteer is 18.

For more information, contact Kendra Dillard at (916) 323-2500 or by e-mail at

The Governor's Mansion is an 1877 Victorian that housed 13 California governors and their families. It's at 16th and H streets in midtown Sacramento, with tours on the hour 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.

For more info: (916) 323-3047.

- Dixie Reid
June 18, 2009
Free movies at Gibson Ranch regional park

Grab a blanket, load the family into the car, and make it out to Elverta for Gibson Ranch Movie Nights this Friday and next.

This week's feature film is "The Sandlot" (1993), the story of boys, summertime and a dog. It stars Denis Leary, Karen Allen and a bunch of baseball-playing youngsters.

On June 26, it's "Hotel for Dogs" (2009), a comedy about children who secretly care for nine stray dogs in a vacant house. Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin and Don Cheadle star.

The gates open at 7:30 p.m. Showtime is at dusk.

The movies are free. Admission to the park is $6 per car. Concessions - hot dogs, cotton candy, snowcones and popcorn - are each $1.

Gibson Ranch, a Sacramento County regional park, is at 8556 Gibson Ranch Road, Elverta.

For more info on the two movie nights: (916) 875-6336,

- Dixie Reid
June 18, 2009
"Disney's A Christmas Carol" Train Tour comes to town Friday-Sunday

Hollywood has hit the rails. "Disney's A Christmas Carol" Train Tour is on a 40-city, 16,000-mile whistlestop trip - and will be in Old Sacramento this weekend.

The free, family event includes a sneak peek of the digital 3-D "Disney's A Christmas Carol," which opens nationwide on Nov. 6. It'll be shown in a huge inflatable, traveling theater.

Meanwhile, snow will be falling, carolers will be singing and the decorations will be hung as if it were already the holiday season.

Inside the Amtrak train cars, visitors can see artifacts from the Charles Dickens Museum in London, including a first edition of Dickens' book "A Christmas Carol." They can play an interactive game to "visit" Dickens' London and can morph their face into characters from "Disney's A Christmas Carol."

The Disney train will sit near the California State Railroad Museum, 111 I St., Old Sacramento, and will be open to the public 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

"Disney's A Christmas Carol" stars Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge and was directed by Robert Zemeckis. When it opens this fall, the film will be shown in both Disney Digital 3-D and IMAX 3D.

For more information, on the train tour go to

The California State Railroad Museum is offering extended hours and a great admission deal just for this weekend.

Hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. A coupon from the information booth in front of the museum is good for 2-for-1 admission. For more information:

- Dixie Reid
June 18, 2009
I'm Embedded with Erratica

The good people of the cast and crew of Capital Stage's upcoming production of "Erratica: An Academic Farce" are letting me drop in on their rehearsals. I'll be blogging a couple times a week about the production process leading up to the July 17 opening night. The play is a world premiere by Reina Hardy and supported by a new works production grant by The James Irvine Foundation. I thank everyone involved especially Ms. Hardy and director Michael Stevenson for allowing me this unique opportunity.

The first day of rehearsal on Tuesday included introductions, a bunch of paper work (actors had to sign contracts), and a table reading of the script. The play was selected by Capital Stage from nearly a hundred submissions from around the country. Reina Hardy is from Chicago and young but already an accomplished writer (there will be more about her later).

From the table reading (actors sitting at a table reading their parts) I can see Reina's intent on improving the work and rewriting during rehearsals.
As I was leaving after the reading Reina and Michael were huddled together talking about changes she wanted to make to the last sequence of scenes.

June 17, 2009
Tonight: Book Release Party

Hey there, literati. What are you guys doing tonight? Oh, you're reading books, you say. Shocking...Well, here's an idea. Why don't you put down that copy of McSweeney's and come support your own locally based, admirably smug, notably fantastic literary mag?

Tonight at 9 p.m., Flatmancrooked and Bistro 33 in Davis are hosting a release party for the new book "The Anthology of Great New Writing Done During an Economic Depression".

With a title so forthright and purposefully long-winded, we can only hope the evening's events will unfold on a dissimilar echelon of motivation. Come enjoy readings by Peter Grandbois (author of "The Gravedigger") and James Kaelan (his novel, "Brute", is scheduled to be released next year), with a special performance tribute by Executive Editor Elijah Jenkins to host Andy Jones.

If you're one of the first 50 attendees, you can score a complimentary drink ticket, plus some street cred from some very brainy people. Purchase the latest Flatmancrooked anthology (and why wouldn't you? It's local!) and receive a second drink ticket. After schmoozing and achieving inspiration by listening to some excellent readings, you can go home and brood accordingly until you're motivated enough to write your own story.

Who knows? It could win the 2009 Flatmancrooked Prize for Excellent Writing Done During a Period of Great Fiscal Renewal

For more information, visit . Or just show up at 226 F Street in Davis tonight at 9 p.m..

June 17, 2009
Calling all experienced singers...


If your musical desires are of the vocal kind, and you're an experienced singer, then the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra may be interested in hearing from you.

That's because the SCSO is conducting singer auditions for its 2009-10 season.

If you make the grade with the SCSO you will be offered the heady experience of singing in a choral group that boasts over 170 singers.

Interested singers must be experienced singers and must have good music reading skills to audition. Auditions will be conducted by appointment.

The chorus, which will celebrate its 14th year, rehearses September through May on Monday evenings from 7 - 9:30 PM at Sacramento State University.

Performances are at the Mondavi Center for the Arts and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento.

For audition appointments and information call the SCSO at (916) 536-9065 (leave name and return number), or email

June 17, 2009
Extravaganza? You got it in midtown on Saturday

Can you stay up late this Saturday night?

If so, head to Faces in midtown (2000 K St.) for an "extravagant" evening that will feature a movie, a fashion show and something outrageous called "The New York Invasion Mini-Ball."

The evening showcases Sacramento Pride Weekend.

Festivities start at 9:30 p.m. with the 2006 movie, "How Do I Look," which sought to capture the Harlem "Drag Ball" traditions that originated in the 1970s. (If you saw the classic 1990 film "Paris Is Burning," you'll want to catch this flick.) The movie is being hosted by one of its stars, Carmen Xtravaganza, along with "The Grandfather," Hector Xtravaganza.

At 11 p.m., local designer Richard Hallmarq and Johnathan Kayne (pictured), who was successful on Season 3 of "Project Runway," will present A Fashion Xtravaganza fashion show hosted by Bobby Trendy, who is in town for the show from Los Angeles. Music is by DJ Alex T.

Then, at midnight, the Xtravaganzas will host "The New York Invasion Mini-Ball," which is a runway competition open to anyone interested in competing in these categories: vogue, runway and high-fashion photo shoot. Participants can sign up Saturday night at the club.

Kayne, who operates his fashion design studio from his home in Norman, Okla., called to say he was extremely excited about participating in Saturday's show.

"My brand new evening collection features some custom-made, one-of-a-kind pieces," he said from Atlanta, where he is weeding out the samples he'll bring to Sacramento. "It's definitely red-carpet evening attire.

"I want everyone to see some of the latest cutting-edge fashions that will be rocking runways and parties for next year in formal wear. We'll definitely make it a show!"

Tickets are $12, and this is a 21-and-over event. For more info check out

June 17, 2009
David Cook includes Sactown on tour list


David Cook, winner of Season 7 of "American Idol," is extending his first-ever solo tour - "The Declaration Tour" - through October and Sacramento is scheduled to host his show Aug. 21 as part of this summer's California State Fair.

Since hitting the road in February to promote his debut, self-titled album, "David Cook," the "Idol" favorite has been mostly playing college venues.

Cook, who appeared on this season's show several times - once to receive a plaque for his album going platinum and on the finale to honor his brother, Adam, who passed away from brain cancer in early May - announced the tour would be extended the other night on "Larry King Live." And he says that, afterward, he hopes to start work on his second album.

For tour info, click here.

June 16, 2009
What's on your feet?

We're just getting into the heat of flip-flop season, but shoe designers have moved well into next year's looks. So a sneak peek at fall 2009 is not totally out of step.

Pavilions Salon Shoes (in Pavilions shopping center off Fair Oaks Boulevard) will offer a preview of its Taryn Rose women's shoe collection from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday in the store. A rep from the company will be available to answer questions.

Also, if your fancy turns to a couple pair of shoes, there is incentive to buy: Purchase one pair of shoes at full price and get 25 percent off all additional pairs of equal or lesser value. For more info: (916) 923-5114.

June 15, 2009
Bang-up Fourth coming to Dixon

Dixon still holds fast to its small-town roots even as surrounding farm fields yield new suburban houses, not crops. And nothing is more gloriously small town than a July 4th extravaganza.

Dixon's second annual Fourth of July celebration will be held on the grounds of the Dixon May Fair, 655 S. First St., on, of course, July 4.

Admission is free, except for the demolition derby ( $15 per seat, or $30 for a box seat.) Parking is $5.

The day kicks off at 11 a.m. when food booths open for business. Live music begins at noon, with "classic games" - including a watermelon-eating contest - under way at 1 p.m. The demolition derby is set for 6 p.m. Fireworks are at 9 p.m.

The event is sponsored by Friends of Dixon May Fair. For more information:

Dixon is 20 miles west of Sacramento, off Interstate 80.

- Dixie Reid

June 12, 2009
Mayor picks arts liaison

Sharon Gerber[1].JPG

To hear him tell it, Mayor Kevin Johnson is deeply committed to the arts.

At least that was his gist when he unveiled his "Arts Initiative" today to roughly 100 local arts leaders, inside a TV studio at KVIE.

And central to that initiative was his announcement that Sharon Gerber has been selected as his arts liaison.

Gerber is founder of the local event planning firm Six Degreez, Inc., and also sits on the board of KVIE and the Sacramento Hotel Corporation. Gerber, a Land Park resident, has also worked for Wells Fargo for 16 years in a variety of entrepreneurial positions.

"She will play a critical role in helping me facilitate relationships over the next year on how we can position ourselves to do critical things," said Johnson.

Johnson said he expects to meet regularly with arts leaders to formulate a plan on how to make his initiatives a reality. He expects that effort to go a long way to supporting arts activity locally while enhancing the profile of the arts in the region.

"I'm a Democrat who believes that we have to put our resources, no matter how limited they may be, in the areas that we value," said Johnson. "And art has to be part of that dialog."

June 12, 2009
Art, fashion, food, yoga - It's Second Saturday!


This will be one of the busiest Second Saturdays Sac has experienced and, hopefully, the weather will be nice because many of the events are set up for outdoors.

As it did in May, The Bee will open its courtyard for Second Saturday visitors to enjoy art and photographs by Bee staffers. From 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., art, sculpture and jewelry, along with staff photographs and cartoons by political cartoonist Rex Babin, will be on display. Rex will also be present - laptop and sketch pad in hand. There will be musical entertainment starting at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be available for purchase from Old Soul Co. bakery and Baskin Robbins.

Down from The Bee, at 911 20th St., the 20th Street Art Gallery presents its just-opened exhibit "Spring Color," featuring colorful works from local artists, including The Bee's own Sue Ballenger. Her watercolor, India ink and oil paintings are one-of-a-kind, like "Brussels Sprouts" (pictured). The gallery is open from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

Most midtown boutiques have plenty of pre-summer sales going, so check that out if your wardrobe could use sprucing up. And, I'm loving the yoga classes at It's All Yoga (2405 21st St.) On Saturday, the studio will celebrate its fourth birthday with special classes and other fun events. Check out the Web site by clicking here.

June 10, 2009
'Give From the Sole' event to benefit Yolo Hospice

If you're out and about in Woodland this weekend, check out the "Give From the Sole" event being hosted by Terry's Hallmark at 375 W. Main St. (next to Raley's).

The event will benefit Yolo Hospice, which has been providing their services to families in the community for more than 30 years.

Here's how it works: Terry's will donate $1 from the sale of each pair of SwitchFlops sold. Terry's also will be collecting gently used women's shoes for donation to the hospice - and also kick in another $1 for each pair given.

If you've never heard of SwitchFlops, they're really cute flip flops and sandals with interchangeable straps. You can switch from a casual to a formal look in seconds! They're the brainchild of the mother/daughter team Liz and Lindsay Phillips. In fact, Lindsay Phillips will be in the store to answer questions from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday.

The rest of the schedule looks like this: "Give From the Sole" runs from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information: (530) 666-4431. Check out the Yolo Hospice by clicking here.

June 10, 2009
IADT will donate to Shriners Hospitals for Children

The Sacramento-based International Academy of Design & Technology is gearing up to give back this Friday. And it couldn't be to a more worthy cause: the local Shriners Hospitals for Children.

This is in response to the deadly fire at a day-care center in Mexico that sent several children to the local burn hospital for treatment.

IADT will present a $1,000 check to the hospital from the proceeds of the design school's annual IMAGINE fashion show. Students previously presented pediatric gowns for Shriners patients and will participate in the cereony Friday at the school.

The event is at 12:30 p.m. at IADT, 2450 Del Paso Road, Suite 250. For more information: (916) 285-9468 or to learn more about the school, click here.

June 9, 2009
New stores coming - in a range of price points

Shopping for luxury minus the wallet remorse is on everyone's mind these days. And, even though it's a drive, the Vacaville Premium Outlets is worth the fuel when you can save on clothing and items for the home.

The outlets will open yet another store on Friday. Gucci will join the 120-store center that also includes Burberry, Calvin Klein and Tommy Bahama. Coming soon? Aeropostale, Sketchers and New Balance Factory. Kenneth Cole and Columbia Sportswear Co. will open stores in August.

And there actually is a way to cut down on driving if you plan to shop the outlets. Greyhound Bus Lines run Monday through Saturday with stops in Vacaville. For more info on schedules and tickets, click here.

On June 17, the Galleria at Roseville welcomes Ilori, a boutique that specializes in high-end sunglasses. (Check them out at The grand opening is from 7 to 9 p.m at the mall, 1151 Galleria Blvd. in Roseville.

June 8, 2009
Van Cliburn winners are young and from Far East


One need not look further than the 2009 Van Cliburn International Competition to see where the future of classical music is happening.

This year's Van Cliburn is the first time since the competition's inception in1962 that all three top prizes were awarded to pianists from the Far East.

The top Gold Medal prize was awarded as a tie between Nobuyuki Tsujii, 20, of Japan and Haochen Zhang, 19 of China. Tsujii and Zhang were also the two youngest pianists in the 2009 Competition. Yeol Eum Son, 23, of South Korea won the Bronze medal award.

Tsujii has been blind since birth and was a clear crowd favorite at the competition. He learned the piano repertoire, including the Chopin E minor Piano Concerto, the piece he made a big impression with, entirely by ear.

So... how did pianists from the U.S. fare at the competition?

No competitor from the U.S. made it past the preliminary round.

The awards culminate a grueling 17 days of competition where hundreds of pianists vie for one of the most prestigious prizes in classical music.

The Gold Medal prize includes a cash award of $20,000, as well as international and national concert tours for the three seasons, and a CD recording on the Harmonia Mundi label.

Pianists Jeffrey Kahane, Olga Kern, and Radu Lupu are among past winners of the Van Cliburn.

The competition was started by a group of Fort Worth music teachers and private citizens who were inspired by Van Cliburn winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow on April 14, 1958.

June 8, 2009
Statuesque star in Sacramento area for filming

Brigitte Nielsen, known for marrying Sylvester Stallone and acting opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Red Sonja," is in the Sacramento region today, filming for the "Nite Tales" series by Deon Taylor.

Nielsen is filming one series episode in a private Elk Grove home, according to the publicist for Deon Taylor Enterprises. Taylor is a Folsom resident.

"Nite Tales" is described as an eerie and funny series, hosted by rapper Flavor Flave, which Taylor hopes to sell to cable television. It is filming in the area through Tuesday.

June 8, 2009
'Virtual fridge' helps save homes from artwork overload

It's a common dilemma for many parents: your child bring homes scads of finger-painted pieces of construction paper, festooned with sequins and sticky thumbprints that belie what they ate for lunch that day.

You hang it on the refrigerator, too proud of them and too afraid to squash their artistic spirit to even think of pitching it in the trash.

But after a while that fridge can start to look a little, well, crowded.

So what's a parent to do?

Yahoo! experts say make a "virtual fridge."

Heather Cabot, a Yahoo! Web Life editor, said parents have several options when it comes to electronically storing their children's artwork.

Here's an e-mail Q&A session Cabot recently had with The Bee:

Q: What do you think is the best method of storing kids' artwork online?

A: I think the easiest and fastest way to preserve artwork is to just snap a photo on your digital camera and upload it to Flickr or another photo sharing site. Even technophobes can pretty easily create a photo stream and you can do it directly from your camera or Smartphone, too. Some people even put a bunch of different paintings or drawings up on a bulletin board and take a photo of a group of artwork each month ...

You can get your kids in the act by having them pose with their artwork, too and even make a short video of them describing their project and then post that on your Flickr stream ... a fun way for Grandma and Grandpa to see what (the kids) are doing in school.

Another idea is to create a screen saver or a slide show of your child's favorite artwork with the images you've uploaded. Cozi, a fairly new organizational tool for busy families, offers an application to do this. You can also create a very beautiful hard copy photo album of all of your child's artwork. How Fast They Grow offers lovely templates for layout and text.

Q: Do you think this is going to be the wave of the future? Are the days of refrigerators covered in kids' artwork a thing of the past?

A: Kids will always take special pride in seeing their creations mounted in the kitchen - even for a few days or weeks. But what I do think will eventually fall by the wayside are kitchen counters, closets, garages and attics cluttered with piles of finger painting masterpieces and clay sculptures.

Q: Do you think digitally saving kids' artwork will help alleviate the guilt parents feel about throwing those little paint splattered pieces of paper away?

A: I do think it can alleviate guilt and also save space in your home. But I am not advocating throwing away everything. There will always be special pieces you'll want to save and will cherish later on life.

Q: Do children think it's cool?

A: I think older kids will think it is cool. Not sure the preschool set will fully understand and may be upset if they know you are throwing things away.

Maybe you don't want to tell young children exactly what you're doing with the artwork and just involve them in the photo shoot and show them the Flickr stream.

June 5, 2009
Movies on a Different Screen

Movies on a Big Screen, the two-times-a-week film series I wrote about in April, no longer will be showing films on Friday nights at a former union hall in West Sacramento. (These things can happen with do-it-yourself endeavors).

MOBS founders Robert McKeown and DeeAnn Little will continue to show films on Sunday nights at the Guild Theatre in Oak Park, and have found temporary digs for Friday shows at 2014 P St. in Sacramento, in the space just above Minnick Web Services.

At 7 and 9:30 p.m. tonight and at 7 p.m. Sunday, MOBS will show "Remix Manifesto," a look at issues pertaining to copyrights in the Internet age.

Cost is $5, and since the P Street venue offers metal folding chairs as seating, viewers can bring their own cushions -- or even their own chairs.

For information on Movies on a Big Screen, go to the series' Web site.

June 5, 2009
Quartet opens Music in the Mountains

quartetto high res1[1].jpg

Music in the Mountains puts a fresh face on its 2009 SummerFest with Quartetto Gelato as its opening act.

And that's fitting given that 2009 is a crucial year for Music in the Mountains. This summer it will choose its new conductor from two candidates - Stephen Prutsman and Gregory Vajda. Both are conducting this summer.

So change is in the air for this festival, and kicking it off with Quartetto Gelato means that patrons should expect a provocative evening of music with an edgy ensemble whose repertoire spans everything from the classical masterworks to operatic arias, tango, as well as gypsy and folk songs.

One of the more unusual things about this quartet is that it boasts tenor Peter DeSotto, who also plays violin and mandolin. He will be joined by cellist Carina Reeves and accordionist-pianist Alexander Sevastian and Kornel Wolak on clarinet.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Amaral Family Festival Center, Nevada City Fairgrounds, Grass Valley
Tickets: $15-$35
Information: (530) 265-6124 or (800) 218-2188

June 4, 2009
Nighttime shoot for 'Nite Tales'

Parking garages are creepy, in life and on screen. So it's no wonder the parking garage at 15th and H streets is part of a shoot for local filmmaker Deon Taylor's series "Nite Tales."

The shoot, which Taylor says will start around 6 p.m. and go into the wee hours, starts on the front porch of 1320 D St., where Essence Atkins ("Dance Flick") and Lauren DeLong (the red-haired actress from the Microsoft commercial who says she is "just not cool enough to be a Mac person") will act out a scene from an episode called "Dark Heart."

The D Street house is supposed to belong to a psychic consulted by the two women. But the parking parking structure is where the horror-movie magic happens, in the form of a chase.

Let's just hope, for the sake of bystanders, that this parking-garage confrontation isn't quite as nasty as the one in "Drag Me to Hell."

Taylor said he expects new episodes of "Nite Tales" -- a Flavor Flav-hosted anthology series that began with a two-episode movie that aired on BET last Halloween, to air in August on cable super station WGN.

June 4, 2009
Radio advertisers pull spots over Rob, Arnie & Dawn comments.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation announced that three corporate sponsors - Sonic, Snapple and Chipotle - had pulled advertising from KRXQ as a result of "Rob, Arnie & Dawn" segment last week, in which hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States denigrated transgender people and joked about hitting kids for transgender behaviors.

"It was a very easy decision," said Greg Artkop, director of corporate communications of the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, in confirming the advertising decision. He said he had listened to the program segment and follow up comments and found them hard to defend.

GLAAD posted responses from the three companies on their blog here.

"I know of some cancellations," said Jim Fox, KXRQ station manager, who said he could not speak about station actions in response to the cancellations.

"We're just going to work behind the scenes and come up with a plan," he said.

June 4, 2009
French Film Festival: What's not to love?

There are so many reasons to love the Sacramento French Film Festival, which this year runs June 19-21 and June 27-28 at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento:

1) It shows current and classic French films that otherwise might never be shown in Sacramento;
2) It offers post-films discussions, led by academics, that always make one feel just a bit more civilized;
3) It shows erotic and/or terrifying midnight movies, followed by pastries and coffee in the Crest lobby!

For more reasons to love the SFFS, see the helpful video above. And for information on the festival, which opens with "Paris," a new romantic drama from Cedric Klapisch ("Russian Dolls") that features Juliette Binoche and "Tell No One" star Francois Cluzet , go to the festival Web site.

June 4, 2009
Study Finds Choral Singing Good For You...


Everyone knows that singing is good for you.

This is confirmed by a recently released report by Chorus America, the national advocacy organization for choruses and choral music.

The 2009 Chorus Impact Study states that singing in a community chorus, or a school or church choir, strongly correlates with qualities associated with success throughout life. Some of those qualities are defined as greater civic involvement, discipline and teamwork.

To establish this, Chorus America evaluated the benefits of choral singing and its impact on communities through the use of an online survey of more than 2,000 singers in choruses of all kinds, 500 members of the general public, 500 parents, and 300 K-12 educators from throughout the United States.

The Chorus America research supports its earlier findings that choral singers exhibit increased social skills, civic involvement, volunteerism and philanthropy. It also established that choristers are likely to support other art forms, when compared with nonsingers.

Driving home the point that music, and singing in particular, builds character is always an important one, especially when many music programs have been gutted at most schools.

The results are no small matter given the huge numbers of people singing in choruses. Chorus America estimates that 32.5 million U.S. adults regularly sing in choruses (up from 23.5 million estimated singers in 2003). And when children are factored in, there are 42.6 million Americans singing in choruses in 2009.

And because more than one in five households have at least one singing family member, choral singing is considered the most popular form of participation in the performing arts for both adults and children.

The full report and executive summary are available online at

June 3, 2009
Casting call for June fashion show

If you're a model and don't feel the urge to audition for "Make Me a Supermodel," why not check out Saturday's local casting call for an upcoming fashion show featuring local designer Richard Hallmarq and Season 3 "Project Runway" contestant Johnathan Kayne?

They are looking for models for a show to be held June 20 in Sacramento.

The particulars for this Saturday?

The open call is from noon to 2 p.m. at Head Hunters, 1930 K St. in midtown Sacramento. Male and female models interested should be from 18 to 25 years old. Female models should be 5'9 to 6 feet in height and size 0 to 6. Guys should be 5'11 to 6'2 and size 30 to 33 in the waist.

Pictures and/or portfolios are welcome but not required. If you plan to attend, come wearing little or no makeup and in casual attire.

If selected, models need to be available the entire day on June 20 for fashion show preparation and pre-production.

Questions? E-mail

June 3, 2009
Radio hosts defend controversial segment. Criticism continues

What had been termed an on-air clarification of controversial statements by KXRQ radio host Arnie States turned out to be more of a defense.

"I didn't do anything wrong here," States said on the "Rob, Arnie & Dawn" morning show today, in reference to remarks he made last week denigrating transgender people and saying he would throw a shoe at his son if he wore high heels.

The show, owned by co-host Rob Williams, airs in Sacramento and Reno. The station is owned by Entercom.

"I have never advocated for parents to beat their children," States said, in reference to his comments last week.

His statement that he would hit his kid with a shoe? "That's a joke," he said on air. "Our listeners get our show," Williams said.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a statement in response, acknowledging the hosts' disclaimer of advocating abuse.

However, GLAAD's Rashad Robinson was quoted in the statement as saying, "They ultimately failed to take responsibility for using dehumanizing and defamatory words to describe transgender children on last week's show."

Robinson called on listeners to continue to voice their concerns about the show.

In 2004, the show was target of a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission that resulted in a $55,000 fine against the station for indecency.

June 3, 2009
Great sneezes win big prizes

We know a woman whose sneezes come in rapid, high-pitched succession, and a guy who announces his approaching nasal explosion with a very loud "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

Sneezing is one of the funniest things we humans do. And now it's time for competitive sneezing.

The Side-Splitting Sneeze Contest, sponsored by the makers of Chloraseptic and Little Allergies Allergen Block, involves you making a one-minute video of your own or someone else's silly sneeze.

You'll find the official entry form and instructions for uploading your entry at

Entry deadline is Aug. 30. The contest is open to ages 18 and older.

The voting public will chose the winners. Grand prize is a spa weekend for two, and three finalists will receive $100 American Express Gift Cheques.

By the way, one trick to trigger a sneeze is to tickle the inside of your nose with a tissue.

- Dixie Reid
June 3, 2009
Roseville shopping center launches summer concert series

Fountains at Roseville is launching a summer entertainment series, with the first of the free events commencing tonight.

Shoppers and music lovers can enjoy free concerts and other entertainment Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights until Sept. 30.

The series is modeled after a "tremendously" successful Saturday night concert series held at the shopping center last summer, Heather Atherton, a spokeswoman for the Fountains, said in an e-mail.

The Wednesday night concerts will feature bands, trios and duos from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday night entertainment includes a street fair, farmers market, strolling performers, sidewalk sales and car show from 6 to 9 p.m. Main street will be open only to pedestrian traffic.

Saturday night concerts begin at 7 p.m. and are located on the main stage.

Concert-goers are asked to bring folding chairs or blankets to enjoy the entertainment, she said.

Fountains also is hosting a kids club complete with entertainment, crafts and activities for children every second Saturday of the month throughout 2009. The first children's event will be held June 13 and will have a Father's Day theme.

Here's a lineup of the summer entertainment, listed by date and name:

Wednesday: Rhythm Vandals

Friday: DJ/Latin dance lessons

Saturday: Chicago Tribute Authority

June 10: Frankie Soul & No Control

June 12: Rising Star Karaoke

June 13: Cold Shot

June 17: Bayou Boys

June 19: DJ/Beach Party

June 20: The Movement

June 24: California Beach Band

June 26: DJ/50's Rock 'n' Roll

June 27: GG Amos

Fountains at Roseville is located at the corner of Roseville Parkway and Galleria Boulevard in Roseville.
The shopping center has adjusted its hours for the summer as follows: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

June 2, 2009
One million miles (and then some)...We did it!

Last month, citizens of the Sacramento Area were put to a challenge: to ditch their cars and ride their bikes as much as they possibly could for an entire month, with a collective target of one million bicycle miles being the ultimate goal.

Community events were organized throughout the region, teams were formed by local businesses, schools and organizations, and commuters and casual cruisers alike logged all of their miles online. It was a veritable 31 days of grease, sweat and gears, and those who participated are surely now enjoying their newly svelte calf muscles--just in time for summer.

Although the official results won't be made available until tomorrow (so procrastinators can log the remainder of their miles in time for the tally), It's simply too exciting not to jump the gun. For the second year in a row, we succeeded (easily!), with a total of 1,280,585 bicycle miles (as of today) logged at

According to SMAQMD, "The current number of commute and errand miles ridden has saved 457,364 pounds of global-warming CO2 and 6,354 pounds of other air pollution from our atmosphere. The cyclists also saved 23,526 gallons of gasoline, worth about $55,991.06."

Way to go, Sacramento!

P.S. According to the MIBM website, there's some free swag up for grabs at local bike shops. If supplies are still available (they could very well be gone by now), you may be able to get your hands on a t-shirt at one of these three locations (Only Ls, XLs and 2XLs remain):

-Bicycle Chef, 3184 N Street, Sacramento
-City Bicycle Works, 2419 K Street, Sacramento
-Mikes Bikes, 1411 I Street, Sacramento

June 2, 2009
Radio segment on transgender kids raises hackles

A segment last week on transgender children that aired on the Rob, Arnie & Dawn morning show (KRXQ 98.5) has sparked e-mails, phone calls and a demand for an apology from the group Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

In the segment, hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States dismissed transgender people as "freaks" and said if a son wore women's shoes he would throw a shoe at him.

Their co-host Dawn Rossi attempted to counter their often-hostile statements and apologized on-air.

The segment prompted an alert from GLAAD, saying, "the two hosts spent more than 30 minutes explicitly promoting child abuse of and making cruel, dehumanizing and defamatory comments toward transgender children."

"We hope that KRXQ holds hosts Rob Williams and Ernie (sic) States accountable for their defamatory remarks that encouraged violence against transgender children," said Rashad Robinson, senior director of media programs at GLAAD. "Their claims about transgender people were cruel and dehumanizing and showed a lack of standards that we hope the station will work to immediately rectify."

Station manager Jim Fox said the hosts would talk about the shoe-throwing issue on air Wednesday. "I think there definitely needs to be some clarification there," Fox said. "They never meant to advocate any form of abuse."

The comments about "freaks," however, fell within the bounds of opinion for the show, which is owned by host Williams, Fox said.

Fox has received some calls and e-mails from as far away as New Mexico, he said.

The entire segment can be heard online by clicking here.

June 1, 2009
It's Casino Night down on the river

Want to go back in time? I mean waaaay back!

Then you won't want to miss Friday night's Riverboat Casino Night on board the Delta King riverboat in Old Sacramento. The night's festivities - from 6 to 9 p.m. - are sponsored by (and will benefit) the Historic Old Sacramento Foundation/Sacramento History Museum. That includes its educational programs and exhibits.

The evening will feature 1850s style gaming, including Chuck-A-Luck, Monte and Shut the Box. There will be a silent auction, live music (with period entertainment and dancing) and historical fashions. And get set for tasty food and a no-host bar.

Tickets are $45 for members, $50 non members. For info: (916) 264-7059. This is a 21-and-over event.

June 1, 2009
Online auction for summer camp to raise money for schools

Four California summer camps are auctioning camp sessions at discounted prices and offering parents a chance to raise money for their school.

The new group, called Camps for a Cause, is auctioning the summer camp sessions on eBay until Sunday, a news release states.

Participating camps include Gold Arrow Camp, Shaffer's High Sierra Camp, Catalina Island Camps and Kennolyn Camps.

The camps set each session's reserve price and some are up to 30 percent lower than regular price.

The camps are holding the auction in an effort to attract potential new campers as a fundraising endeavor for schools, the release states.

If the bids for the session surpass the reserve price, the difference will be donated to the winning bidder's public or private school.

"Children really need the opportunities that camp offers," Steve Monke, director of Gold Arrow Camps, said in a written statement. "The chance to really connect with people and our natural world is a vital stage in a child's development and camp allows children to explore these relationships in a fun and caring environment."

To bid on the sessions, search "summer camp" within eBay or search under the camps' names. Bidding closes Sunday.

June 1, 2009
Summer doesn't have to dry up fountain of knowledge for youth

School may be out for summer, but that doesn't mean knowledge gained during the year need be lost forever.

Summer brain drain is a real phenomenon and a lurking threat for school age children, experts say.

According to the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University's School of Education, most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills over the summer months.

Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than the same tests taken at the beginning of the summer months, the center's Web site states.

But parents can help prevent their kids from losing lessons learned by making a few simple changes to their summer activities, said Susan Canizares, publisher for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's K-12 division.

It's important not to change the summer months into a school environment either, she said.

Rather, one of the best practices is to take activities the family is doing anyway and find lessons within them.

"We all play, we all shop, we all eat," she said during a phone interview from her Austin office. "It's about how you can take some of those activities and get some educational value out of them."

Canizares, who has a doctorate in language and literacy development from Fordham University, provided the following ideas for parents:

• Follow a favorite sports team - Help children track scores and favorite player statistics. Keep a chart with each family member's prediction on scores and game outcomes and at the end of the season, analyze to show who had the highest percentage of winning predictions.

• Plant a garden - Children can research what grows best in the neighborhood, chart growth and experiment with different watering cycles.

• Go shopping - Challenge kids to buy food to feed the whole family lunch or dinner for $12 and have them try to decorate the table for under $2.

• Get cooking - Have children find recipes in cookbooks or online and have them plan a family dinner where they'd have to double or triple the recipe.

• Read aloud - It's a myth that some children are too old to be read to, Canizares said. Even children in middle school like hearing a story from a parent. "To listen to someone read to you is a relaxing, enjoyable experience," she said. Hit the library for new-to-you children's books.

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