The day after Thanksgiving, we grabbed up most of the family and trucked up the 5 to take a free hot air balloon ride. Now this is not some crazy scary cruise over southern California, but a simple ride 500 feet up and down a tethered hot air balloon. Still, pretty cool – especially if you like to get a lay of the land from up above. The Orange County Great Park, which is in the very beginnings of construction, is offering free balloon rides until the end of 2007 as part of a publicity package bringing awareness to the new park. Kudos to the park planners, who are transforming the retired El Toro Marine Corps Air Base into a sustainable 1,357 acre park, which will include a wildlife corridor that will provide a route from nature preserves in the mountains to the sea. Five miles of runways and taxi ways (3.3 million tons) are being jackhammered and reused in the creation of the Great Park. Makes my insides feel pummeled to think of all that jack-hammering, but I’m glad it’s being done.


And last week we discovered another fun thing in our ‘hood: an ice skating rink! It’s called the Aliso Viejo Ice Palace and it’s a full size hockey rink with public sessions every day. When I picked up Bella and her friend after last Friday night’s public skate, their cheeks were glowing and cute teenage boys were good-naturedly yelling, “Good-bye Bella, Bella dressed in Yella!”

Having grown up on the east coast in the 80’s, roller and ice skating were a big part of my fun kid world (my thirteenth birthday party was at a roller rink!); now I’m thrilled to have a real rink only a couple miles from my house. On Wednesday nights, a paid admission includes a slice of pizza and a soda: definitely my next date request when my husband asks…