Friday, December 18, 2009

The Got Milk Party Gave Me Six Good Reasons to Cheer Up About The Holidays

A couple of weeks ago my daughters and I were invited to the Got Milk Holiday Lattes party at one of my favorite places, La Pain Quotidien. (Don't worry - I can't pronounce it, either.) I have to admit I wasn't in the most festive mood - it had been a hectic workday and I was feeling the pressure of the holidays bearing down on me - the usual stress of too much to do and too little time. Oh, and too little money. And too many presents to wrap. And not enough wine.

But as I've said before, those Got Milk people know how to party, and as soon as I walked into their festive event I felt the holiday spirit come over me. Or was it the Eggnog Rum Latte? Either way, here are a few more reasons I may have cheered up a bit.

1) Nice people with trays of lattes that they gave to me. Anyone who knows me and my deep, unnatural, in-need-of-a-twelve-step-program obsession with coffee knows that for me, a room full of roving baristas dispensing free coffee is like putting cat in a box made entirely out of tuna and yarn balls.

2) They had trays of sublime pastries to go with those lattes. Again, like tuna and yarn balls - that's how happy I was.

(This latte was a Toffee Mocha that had bits of crushed toffee bar sprinkled on it. WIN.)

3) Our lovely hostess, Angelina.
You know one of those people who is always genuinely cheerful? That's Angelina. Even hosting a room full of rowdy bloggers, she managed to be in a good mood - I may need to bring her along Christmas shopping to keep me from going over the edge. (Don't tell the Got Milk people, but my girls actually call these get-togethers 'Angelina's Parties.')

4) Really, really nice crafts not the snow scene made out of cotton balls that I would have come up with. They had a professional scrapbooker giving instructions on how to make these amazing gift boxes. My 11-year-old sat down to make one as soon as we got there and was completely engrossed until we left almost two hours later. That's one-hour and fifty-five minutes longer than she stuck around the last time I suggested we make a Christmas tree out of post-its.

5) I now have an appreciation for eggnog. I don't drink eggnog - I put it in the same category as non-alcoholic beer and fat-free mayonnaise as things that sound great in theory but WHY BOTHER. But then one of those lovely baristas handed me an Eggnog Rum Latte and next thing I know I'm saying things like, "I'm going to marry you, eggnog" and "I live in the United States of Eggnog." Some say it was the rum talking, but I think they just don't know eggnog like I know eggnog. Here's the recipe so you can witness the power of eggnog for yourself. (They left out the rum, so at the end just write in, "Add rum.") I'm also including the recipe for the Toffee Mocha I had. You could probably write in, "Add rum" to the end of this one, too. (Click on the image to make it easier to read if the type is too small. Or if you've "Added too much rum.")

6) A good excuse to slow down and hang out with my girls. After the event my two daughters and I enjoyed a nice, relaxing al fresco dinner. I got that wine I was lacking, and we had the chance to sit and talk (really fast, I might add, after all those coffees.)

I definitely went home feeling much less cranky about the holidays and I have the Got Milk people to thank for that. I wonder how they'd feel about wrapping presents?

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blackberry Vs. iPhone: An Unfinished Duel Fueled By Fast Food

I was at a party a couple of weeks ago and had to interrupt a conversation to take a call on my iPhone from one of my daughters. They were staying home alone for the first time, so I wanted to make sure they hadn't set the house on fire or weren't having any wild parties. Or if they were having a party to remind them not to eat all the Fritos - I hate coming home from a night out and not having anything to go with my bean dip.

Right after I got off the phone the guy I was talking to whips out his iPhone and says, "What apps do you have?" I couldn't believe it - didn't he want to know how my kids were? Or finish hearing me tell my fascinating story about my trip to Costco earlier? But then I got caught up in the moment and the next thing I knew I was knocking back another martini and yelling, "Dude, I've got Service Bell" just a little too loudly.

My point? There is no love greater than the love between an iPhone and its owner.

Except for the love between a Blackberry and its owner, that is.

My three best girlfriends have Blackberries, and to hear them talk you'd think the things were magic, capable of cleaning their houses, giving them backrubs and shaving six inches off their thighs. Okay, so they can take clear pictures with the built-in flash, and their carriers give them better coverage than AT&T (the only one that you can use with an iPhone.) Aren't there more important things than being able to finish a phone conversation without being dropped? What about making a piece of toast and then pretending to eat it? Or helping me figure out if I can afford a Chalupa?

I was given a Blackberry Tour smartphone and free coverage for a month to see what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to use my Blackberry as much as I would have liked since that month happened to be when the kids took turns being sick, and also happened to be the weeks when I spent 90% of my waking hours trying to find a high school for my kid - not an ideal time to learn how to use and fully utilize a new device. So, in order to give the Blackberry a fair shake, I'm going to reinstate my Blackberry starting the week after Christmas at my own expense. That's when the kids will be home, the holiday rush will be over and I'll be laying around the house trying to figure out how to pay for everything. The perfect time to distract myself with a new toy!

But in my short experience with my Blackberry, here's what I found:

- I really missed having a touch-screen like I do on the iPhone. I can see that the Trackball and scrolling system would take a little getting used to, although my friends pointed out that it would really reduce the number of butt-calls they receive from me. Apparently they don't like it when I unknowingly phone them and they have to listen to an entire fifteen minutes of me placing an order at Popeyes Fried Chicken.

- As any iPhone owner will tell you - it's great for everything except for making calls. The clarity of calls made on the Blackberry is far superior to the iPhone, and though I didn't use it enough to experience any dropped calls from what I hear it's a rare occurrence. My iPhone drops calls with maddening frequency, though I'm not sure if it's due to the phone itself or the service with AT&T. But on the plus side - the "Sorry - you're breaking up" excuse really comes in handy when you can't possibly listen to any more details about your friend's hernia operation.

- I have to admit I'm extremely jealous of the built-in flash on the Blackberry. What up iPhone? You can turn my phone into a light saber but you can't get me a decent photo of my friends inside a club? Also, the Blackberry has a video camera which I don't have on my prehistoric 2G iPhone. Which means I can't get any footage of those same friends gettin' down gangsta style to Super Freak, either. Lucky them.

- When I first saw the tiny keyboard on the Blackberry I wondered whose miniscule hands it was made for - Munchkins? Kittens? I was trying to figure out how I was going to type out a text on the teeny keys when a kind friend gently informed me that "you use your nails, not the pads of your giant fingers, you moron." That made things much easier, but the jury's still out on this one. It may take a little practice, and I'll let you know in my next review if I ever master the fine art of nail typing.

That's all I've got for now. Join me next time as I use my Blackberry to surf the net, send an MMS and update my Facebook status. Oh, and email my lunch order to Popeyes.

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On the topic of phones and frazzled lives, I was given a few copies of The Blackberry Diaries by Kathy Buckworth to give away. Whether you're an iPhone user or a Blackberry devotee I'm sure you'll relate to this book about technology and motherhood. "Owning a Blackberry is a little like adding another child to your family. The device is constantly buzzing, poking and distracting its owner from whatever it is she's trying to acompish. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the uncooperative two-year-old hanging off Mom's leg at the Motor Vehicle Office."

To snag a copy for yourself, leave a comment here before 11:59pm on Sunday, December 20 and I'll use to pick two winners. (Entries from the continental U.S. only, please.) If you win I'll email you from one of my phones!

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Night Out With Dolby, The Black Crowes and a Digital Frame to Giveaway? Sounds Great!

Update: 12/16 - The winner has been picked! See below.

Last weekend we were invited by Dolby to check out their Surround Sound Truck and be their guests at the Black Crowes concert at Club Nokia. Hard to resist, especially since my husband and I have been eager to check out the scene at LA Live, the new entertainment complex adjacent to the Staples Center. A little Dolby demo, a little rock and roll and a date night without the kids - much better than the fast-food and laundry I had originally planned.

The Dolby Truck is touring the West Coast to show you what Dolby sound can do for your home theater, PC and even your cell phone. You're probably already familiar with Dolby sound at your local multi-plex, but Dolby in your home theater could do wonders for your cinema experience. Imagine seeing your favorite movie and hearing the guns firing right past your head! Or, in the case of the movies I've been seeing with my teen girls lately, hearing the sounds of true love brewing. Hey, you have your movie-going experience and I have mine.

The Dolby Truck, which we visited across from the Staples Center, is a mobile home theater outfitted with a huge screen and killer sound system - pretty much what every guy wishes he had on a camping trip! We were treated to a clip of Angelina Jolie's thriller, Wanted, and the sound was very impressive - so impressive in fact, that I rented the DVD last weekend after initially not wanting to see the movie at all. Although I have to say part of that reluctance is that I just figured it was about another kid that Angie and Brad wanted to adopt. Who knew it was about assassins?

We also saw what Dolby sound can do for your PC, since more and more people are watching movies and TV on their computers. I do - I'd much rather watch a Judd Apatow movie in my office through a pair of headphones than worry about turning down the volume every time I was afraid my daughters would hear a penis reference (which in his movies is around every 2.5 seconds. Yes, I timed it.) Unfortunately, I'm a die-hard Mac girl and the Dolby sound is currently only available on PC's, but hopefully someday in the future Apple and Dolby will join forces. Perhaps we'll need Clinton to broker that deal.

Something my husband and I were amazed by was the incredible sound that Dolby has managed to bring to the mobile phone. We listened to a Chocolate LG Touch through a pair of headphones and the sound blew us away - even better than what I'm able to get out of my iPod. Plug in a pair of headphones (I just used my ear buds) and listen to a demo featuring Ciara here. Switch the Dolby to 'on' and 'off' to hear the difference.

Again, sadly, the Dolby sound isn't available on the iPhone, my device of choice at the moment. Curse you superpowers and the forces that keep you apart!

After overstaying our welcome at their super truck (they're nice people, and didn't even ask us to leave after we'd watched the clip of Angelina taking out all the bad guys like fifty times) Dolby treated us to the Black Crowes concert at Club Nokia. Before heading over to the venue, my husband and I decided to splurge on a meal at one of our favorite sushi restaurants, Katsuya, one of the many places to eat in LA Live. Their food is sublime, and if they had made a movie of us eating and put it to Dolby sound the only thing you would have heard is us saying, "Can you believe how good this is?" over and over again. Well, that and "What the hell was Tiger Woods thinking?"

The concert itself was awesome - it was the first time seeing the Black Crowes live. Of course, since I spend a great deal of time writing about celebrities, I couldn't help wondering what exactly went wrong between Chris Robinson and Kate Hudson? And what does he think of Alex Rodriguez? I don't know why, but after all that, and after I mistook a peace sign on the stage for a Mercedes logo, my husband kept telling me to stop thinking out loud. Geez.

To top off our great evening, Dolby gave me a digital photo frame to give away to a lucky reader. This is one of those nifty things that you could maybe load up with lots of photos and music and give to a loved one as a gift to remind them of you. I was heading towards another Tiger Woods joke but I'll stop now.

If you want to win, leave a comment telling me where sound is most important to you - at the movies? In your home theater? On your PC? (Keep it clean - I don't want any references to those home movies you shot back on Spring Break.) Leave your comment before 11:59pm on Sunday, December 13 and I'll use to pick a winner. (Entries from the continental U.S. only, please.) Good luck! May the next sound you hear be my voice announcing you as the winner. In Dolby, of course.

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Update: 12/16: WINNER PICKED

I put all the entries into the random list generator and let it do its thing.


Congratulations to Bernadette Batts of Bern Baby Bern! Bernadette, please email me and let me know how to get your digital frame to you!

And thanks to everyone who entered - I have lots more giveaways coming up, including a really big one.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

The Holiday Celebration at Disneyland Saved My Family From A Day Of Angst

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving we were invited to Disneyland for the Holiday Celebration for Parent Bloggers. I know it sounds like a crazy time to go, but it actually worked in my favor since it prevented me from sitting around and obsessing about the 30 people that would be coming over to my house for turkey and the eight-pounds of mashed potatoes I was going to have to prepare.

Eight hours spent having fun instead of vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, barking at the kids to clean their room and nagging my husband to clean off the patio! I know they all missed that holiday tradition, but I got plenty of yelling in on Thanksgiving eve. Everyone wins!

This is our favorite time of year to go to Disneyland. Sure it's a little crowded, but it's worth it to see all the beautiful decorations and it really gets me into the holiday spirit. It's hard not to be festive when you're standing in front of a thousand-foot tree. This one is right at the entrance to Main Street, and there are tons of people in front of it posing and taking photos for their holiday cards. I tried to get my daughters to pose for one but they wouldn't, so I took a picture of some family from Iowa and they'll be on our card this year. I'm sure they won't mind.

Also, check out Sleeping Beauty's Castle that's all decked out for the holidays. It's even more breathtaking in person, and the best part is it's open for the walkthrough. This was the first time my daughters had been through it - the last time we were there the line was too long. Priceless Disneyland Tip That Makes Me Sound Like An Expert: Go towards the end of the evening, when Fantasyland seems to clear out.

We got a late start, mainly because we were exhausted from a party we threw at our house the night before. Have I told you we're insane? We like to plan multiple events, back-to-back, just to see if any of us will collapse from the frenzy. But it all worked out, because we had just enough time to ride a few rides before we headed on over to the banquet for the wonderful party the Disneyland people had put together for all of us. There was lots of amazing food, but I had to take a picture of the dessert tray. I'm not really even a big dessert fan, but I was fixated on these. After I took this picture I went over to the buffet table and had a huge slab of roast beef. I didn't take a picture of that.

I finally got to meet Allegra Gonzalez and her three beautiful daughters, the winners of my Disneyland VIP giveaway. A friend of mine knows Allegra, and she told me she knew we'd along and she was right. They're a great family, and it was good for me to see how cool, calm and collected someone with three teenagers can be - Allegra has 13-year-old twins and a 15-year-old. It gave me hope for my future after all.

One of the things my 11-year-old was the most excited about was a demonstration put on by Disneyland's pastry chef. I'm not kidding - she had talked about it ever since we got the invitation, and she probably would have gladly missed going into the park if that pastry demo had gone on all night. So you can imagine how excited she was when the chef invited her onstage to help make a yule log! Forget the Jonas Brothers - she was helping a real live pastry chef roll out dough. I'm sure this is how Rachael Ray got her start.

My girls were also treated to complimentary hair-makeovers at Studio 365. Twenty-five minutes, three packets of extensions and several gallons of hairspray later, they came out with truly glamorous, and big, hair. I had to break the news to them that not in a million years would I ever be able to re-create these hairstyles:

And what Disneyland visit would be complete without a ride on It's A Small World? It's been decorated inside and out for the holidays. Honestly, I never get tired of this ride, even though my girls insist it's only because it's air conditioned and I get to sit down for an extended period of time. Maybe so, but I seem to remember us all humming the theme song for the rest of the night.

The evening ended with one of Disneyland's impressive signature fireworks displays, and then 'snow' falling on Main Street as White Christmas played. What an awesome day. Thanks to Disneyland for treating my family and our guests to a magical, angst-free day! I didn't think once about those mashed potatoes.
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hello Friend! Fresh & Easy On My Doorstep

A couple of weeks ago I came home from running errands and found two big boxes on my doorstep. I've mentioned before about my paranoia and how I once mistook a package from Apple for an explosive device sent to me by an evil entity, so you can imagine my suspicion at discovering two mysterious parcels waiting for me. I had my iPhone at the ready, prepared to call 911 at a moment's notice. Actually, I was going to use my Bomb Diffuser 2.1. Yes, there's an app for that.

So you can imagine how relieved I was to discover the two boxes were actually from Fresh & Easy - they had come in peace, and were not an attempt on my life. I love it when my day starts off with a positive.

The nice people at Fresh & Easy had put together a sampling of some of their holiday products for me to try, so I changed out of my bullet-proof vest, called off the bomb-sniffing dogs and got down to business. Here are a few of my favorites:

Cranberry and Nut Popcorn Clusters - I'm not a huge fan of caramel corn. To me, most of it tastes like Cracker Jack but without the benefit of the toy. But this stuff has me hooked, probably because it's not as sticky-sweet as most others I've tried and the dried cranberries and nuts give it a nice twist. I wouldn't mind finding a toy buried at the bottom of the cylinder, though.

Gourmet Belgian Biscuit Collection - Somehow, calling these cookies 'biscuits' make them sound so much more civilized. And less fattening. And easier to eat several of them without getting that gluttonous, I-ate-too-many-cookies feeling. These are very good, and a nice accompaniment to my late-afternoon cappuccino and also a nice addition to my girls' lunchboxes. Although they call them cookies, not biscuits.

Chocolate Mint Thins - Okay, I have to admit I was a little disappointed when I bit into one of these and discovered they were not similar to the Girls Scout's Thin Mints like I was expecting. Instead of a minty wafer inside, they have a minty cream - think of a thin version of a Junior Mint. But leave it to the kids to save the day - my youngest sandwiched one of these between two graham crackers and created the most delicious little sandwich cookie invention, ever. They even came up with a name for it - the Minty S'More. I didn't have the heart to tell them it sounded like a stripper name.

I also received a nice bottle of Ogio Prosecco Spumante (champagne to you and me) that I gave away as a gift. The packages arrived shortly before we were leaving to see my nephew perform in a college production of Sweeney Todd, so I thought this would make the perfect after-performance gift. I forgot the campus was dry, though, which would explain why he looked in the bag and said, "Thanks for the cookies!" before hiding it under his coat. I'll have to ask him what he thought of the Prosecco - I just hope he didn't drink it out of a beer bong.

I loved getting the holiday gifts, but I do my everyday shopping at Fresh & Easy, too. Here are my staples I pick up there regularly:

  1. Parmesan and Garlic Pita Chips - My 13-year-old's favorite. Since going vegetarian, she often asks for these, some hummus and cut-up veggies in her lunch. It doesn't get any easier than that.
  2. Maple Pecan Granola Clusters - The. Best. Granola. Ever. Even for a non-granola person like me. I use mine to top my yogurt and my 11-year-old eats it straight out of the bag, like potato chips.
  3. Thick Sliced Bacon -BACON! THICK SLICES OF IT! That is all.
  4. Hummus - See #1.
  5. Fresh Mozzarella - I slice it up and use it to top roma tomatoes and basil for our favorite caprese salad. But I also eat it straight out of the carton, like potato chips. I'm sure you see the theme here.
  6. Restaurant Style Salsa - We eat chips and salsa at some point almost every day. Sometimes we'll go through two containers of this in a week. They call it restaurant-style, but I think it tastes even fresher than what you'll find in some restaurants. You know the ones.
I have to confess that ever since Fresh & Easy came on the scene I've been shopping less and less at Trader Joes. I suspect this will continue to be true through the holidays, since around this time the parking lot at Trader Joes gets pretty heated and intense, and I have no desire to die for a box of organic couscous. Also, the Fresh & Easy website has coupons ($6 off a $30 purchase!) and who doesn't want to save a few bucks during the holidays? Hey, those iPhone apps aren't going to buy themselves.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

EA Games Winter Gaming Wonderland: Our First Holiday Party of the Year!

A few weeks ago my daughters and I went to the EA Games Winter Gaming Wonderland event. This was the first holiday-themed party we were invited to, so the excitement level was high. Let's face it - once you have kids, the holidays and video games go hand-in-hand. Like juice boxes and pretzels. Know what else goes hand-in-hand once you have kids? Room cleaning and whining. Just thought I'd get that in there.

EA Games throws a great party - besides the huge room filled with numerous gaming stations and big screens, they have things to make the adults happy, too. Like food catered by Chipotle.

While my daughters and their friends battled each other in Harry Potter and Hasbro Family Game Night 2, I got to nosh on some tortilla chips and killer carnitas that I didn't have to cook. That never happens at home I can tell you that.

My youngest daughter and her friend spent almost the entire night playing Charm Girls Club, and after they were worn out they started hanging around the sno-cone cart.

A LOT. I told them twenty sno-cones was going to freeze their stomach solid and that seemed to scare them away for awhile. But then they drank a bunch of hot chocolate, which they argued had thawed their stomachs enough for more sno-cones. Damn them and their science!

The girls even made the local news that night, which was a huge thrill for everyone. Let's just say my youngest has learned the fine art of following the camera crew around and inserting herself into the shot. Is there a video game for that?

A couple of other games my girls and their friends liked were Littlest Pet Shop Friends and The Sims 3. I tried a little Harry Potter but it was too hard to play while balancing a burrito and a cup of coffee, and my daughter said I had to choose between eating and gaming. I told her that sustenance is necessary for skill, thereby throwing that science right back at them!

I lost the game, but I still had my awesome burrito. Everybody wins!

Thanks to EA Games for kicking off our holidays with a great event!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Momicillin: Who would have ever thought I'd be writing about anti-bacon?

I just wrote a guest post on Momicillin, a new site that features reviews and articles written by parents, intended to "help cure what ills the everyday (or any-day) Mom." I decided to write a review on something that has been saving my sanity at dinnertime lately, a line of meatless products. It's true - there was a time I considered a tofu hotdog sacrilegious, but I've had to change my tune ever since my 13-year-old turned against me and became a vegetarian. Please note, though - I will never, ever, not in a million years, buy a Tofurky.

So here’s the thing – I could never relate to those parents that complained about not getting their kids to eat, because my daughters, 11 and 13, will eat just about anything. And it’s always been that way - even when they were babies I remember friends and relatives coming over and it would almost be like a game. “Hey, let’s see if they’ll eat THIS,” they’d say, and then proceed to drop pieces of liver, or anchovies or cigarette butts onto my kids’ plates (Okay, I just made up the part about the cigarette butts, but you get the picture)...Read More...

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Bliss & Broads: My Nintendo Wii Fit Plus Yoga Party

I love throwing parties, but anyone who knows me is familiar with the torture I put myself through - the agonizing over detail, the hours of preparation - and that's just putting together the vegetable tray. So I was pretty excited when Nintendo and Brand About Town contacted me about throwing a yoga party and told me they'd be doing all the work - I told them that was a fabulous idea, but I still wanted to show up a couple of hours early to vacuum, scrub all the toilets and obsess about the placement of candles. Oh, and no party of mine would feel right unless I spent a few minutes yelling at my husband to go buy ice.

But I didn't have to worry, because they handled everything down to the last detail. I was able to invite twenty girlfriends to spend the evening with me getting to know the new Wii Fit Plus, the newest version of Wii Fit that features new strength and yoga exercises as well as new balance games. The location was a photo studio in Hollywood that was converted into a yoga studio for the night - check out this beautiful scene - just knowing I didn't have to Swiffer those floors makes me all choked up:

Upon arrival, everyone was greeted by the Nintendo staff and after a round of delicious smoothie shooters we were all invited to relax on the cushions and make ourselves at home (some of us were embarrassed to learn to that "at home" didn't mean laying down, loosening our pants and tuning the TV to CNN.) After a little socializing we sat down to watch a demo of the Wii Fit Plus by our Nintendo coach, the incredibly fit and energetic Natalie. Here is my group of amazing girlfriends, looking captivated - I can safely say I haven't seen a few of them look this enraptured since that time at the club where that guy did that thing with his whatchamacalit. You know who you are.

Earlier we were each given a stone with a word such as 'balance' or 'calm' inscribed on it and that determined who your partner was once we were let loose to try some of the exercises and games on our own. My partner was my friend Krista, who also taught both my daughters in elementary school. Needless to say I was on my best behavior. We spent some time going through a basic yoga routine on the Wii Fit Plus where I quickly discovered how uncoordinated I really am - I think I actually heard the virtual trainer snickering when I was attempting the Tree Pose. (But the great thing about the program is that it tells you when you're off balance, or not putting enough weight on one of your legs during the pose.) The only thing I was good at were the Torso Twists, and that was only because I told myself I was turning and bending to reach a bag of french fries that was just out of my reach.

After yoga we moved onto the Training Plus feature - Wii Fit Plus has some great new games including one called Obstacle Course, where you try to avoid being knocked into oblivion by a huge ball (me = dead) and my favorite, Perfect 10, where you use your hips and butt to hit bumpers that add up to 10. Not as easy as it sounds, since it requires some serious swiveling action while doing math - this game illustrates why my accountant friend Dan is such a lousy dancer.

Alas, no party post of mine would be complete without showing you the food. After all of our hard work they brought out trays of delicious sandwiches, cheese, hummus and fruit. For dessert there were cookies and strawberries, and glasses of wine. I know wine isn't considered part of any fitness routine, but I'm thinking my tree pose might have been more successful had it come post-cabernet.

The biggest surprise of the evening came when our hosts presented me with a brand-new Wii Fit Plus and Balance Board...and then gave one to every single one of my friends at the party! You should have heard the squealing - again, haven't heard anything like it since the guy did that thing - oh never mind.

This party was to kickoff my designation as an official Brand Enthusiast for Nintendo. What does that mean? I'm not exactly sure, but for the next year I'll be sharing with you - my friends, family and unsuspecting public - all the goodness that is Nintendo. And around our house, where the Wii is the most frequently used appliance (next to the espresso machine) that won't be hard to do. After the party I had quite a few people call to tell me they were already using their Wii Fit Plus daily, and two of my friends, who didn't have Wiis, went out that weekend and bought the consoles. I guess this means my hypnotizing powers as an Enthusiast are already doing their voodoo.

And stay tuned because I have an amazing giveaway coming up, courtesy of Nintendo. Hint: It's not one of my impressive vegetable trays.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Winner of the VIP Disneyland Trip Is...

Congratulations to the Gonzalez family - looking forward to meeting all of you! I'll be contacting you soon with details. Thanks to everyone who entered!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Disneyland VIP Trip Finalists!

Thanks to everyone for your entries! Here are the five finalists - I will now leave it up to the all-powerful to pick a winner tonight, and will announce the winner on my blog tomorrow morning. (Seriously, you all deserve to win so I'm glad it's not up to me!)

1) Scott, Christine and Malia Goldman
"Together we can show the world (well at the least the world within the Disneyland Resort gates) that half-Asian kids and their parents can do wholesome activities together that do not involve being launched in a Helium balloon."

2) Allegra, Casiana, Natalie, and Emma Gonzalez
"We have never been to Disneyland as a family...A day free from cares and being together having fun would do us a world of good. We could really use a day at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

3) Elise Crane Derby & Family
I have just completed a week locked in the house with a sick kid, with what may or may not be swine flu. All I have to look forward to is sleeping through the night...So please please please pick us. World hunger be damned!"

4) Kimberly Kauer & Family
"If lucky enough to be picked, we'll laugh at your jokes and won't embarrass you by walking around while eating those giant turkey legs (unless you are into those, then we'll tell you that the turkey leg look works for you)"

5) Benjamin Chory and his mom and dad
"I really want to win the tickets to Disneyland. I really love Disneyland so much. I will be really good at the party."

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Get Out Your Cameras: I'm Giving Away 4 VIP Passes To Disneyland.

DEADLINE EXTENDED! You now have until 11:59pm on Wednesday, October 28 to submit your entries!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a cool VIP trip I took to Disneyland where my family and I got to check out all of the Halloween attractions and activities going on at the park. Well, I must have made a really good impression because the people at Disneyland have invited me to another event on Saturday, November 21 to preview their Holiday Celebration.

And the best part? I get to invite one of my readers and their family (or friends) to come along.

What you'll win: Four passes to Disneyland plus a special holiday party and VIP activities. Also, you'll be hanging out with me and my family all day but don't let that dissuade you - just try and concentrate on the good things.

Here's four easy steps to enter:

1) Take a holiday picture of your family. If you don't have one, use an old one. If you don't have an old one, ask some strangers that look like you if you can use theirs (JUST KIDDING.) Make it creative! (However - be safe. This isn't Jackass, so no shots of your kids in red pajamas running through the snow with their hair on fire.)

And remember - it doesn't have to be Santa and candy canes. I'm an equal opportunity blog open to all sorts of holidays - Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah - I think there's even one where the plushie fetishists celebrate the birth of Elmo.

Also - maybe you don't want to bring your family. Maybe you want to bring along three friends, or three co-workers, or three strangers you've just met in line at Costco. If so, include them in your photo. Just remember - you have to spend the entire day with them, so at least make sure they aren't going to steal your wallet. Or your boyfriend.

2) Write a brief paragraph (300 words or less) why you should be chosen to win the Disneyland giveaway. Again, get creative! But stay real. Alluding to Nostradamus predicting your win or stories of crazy mole people stealing all your Christmas gifts will get you disqualified immediately, as will any entry containing the sentence, "...and that's how winning the trip to Disneyland will help me end world hunger."

3) Join the Sweatpantsmom Fan Page on Facebook. It's easy! Just click here and click on 'Become a Fan.'


If you're not on Facebook, don't panic - just subscribe to my blog instead.
Also, easy! Enter your email address in that little window to the left and hit 'Subscribe.' both if you'd like. Who am I to stop compulsion?

4) Send me your photo and your paragraph. Email it, along with your full name, email address and blog url (if you have one) to by 11:59pm PST on Wednesday, October 28, 2009. Please put your full name in the subject line. No 'anonymous' entries will be accepted.

(Yes, I know this doesn't give you much time to enter but I kept putting this off and forgot that the nice people at Disneyland needed the winner's name by October 27. So shoot me. But remember - if you shoot me, no one wins. In fact, if you shoot me, the terrorists might win.)

Here's the nitty gritty:

1) You don't have to be a Southern California resident to enter, but the winner and their guests must provide their own transportation to and from the park, plus arrange their own accommodations. You will receive a one-day parking pass as part of your prize package.

2) The winner and their guests must attend the actual event and be willing to remain with the group for the day/evening of November 21.

3) Entrants must consent to having their photos posted on Views From The Pants blog. The winner and their guests must give their consent to be photographed and/or filmed at the event by Disneyland Press Relations and/or me, and I don't carry any elaborate lighting or 'youth' gels with me.

4) This giveaway is non-transferable and may not be given, sold or donated to another party. In other words, don't try and give your tickets to the Heene family.

5) Leaving a comment on this blog does not count as an entry. You must complete all four steps above in order to be entered in the contest.

Once I have all your entries, I'm going to sit down with my kids, my husband and my cat and pick five finalists. Then I'm going to leave it up to to pick the final winner. I'll post the winner on Tuesday, October 27.

If you have any questions, you can ask it in comments here or email me prior to sending in your entry at

Good luck! And hurry up and enter!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Got Halloween?

Last week I was invited to am AMAZING party on the Paramount Studios lot put on by the people at Got Milk? Everyone knows how I'm not a big fan of Halloween, but this party may have turned me around. That is, if I could just get one of these on our street to set the mood:

Okay, I admit - at first I thought it was real and started to get out my giant can of Raid, but then my daughters pointed out that it had no web, so I was like, "Whew."

The party took place on the lot that looks like a New York City street and they had trick-or-treating along a row of houses, each of which was decorated differently. My girls and their friends loved it - the props were amazing and each 'house' featured a different treat. One of them gave out some delicious cookies shaped like milk bottles (made by Flour Pot) and if I had known they were going to be that good I would have grabbed one (or five) (okay, a dozen) for myself.

They also had carnival games and an old-fashioned photo booth where you could take a picture of yourself with a stuck-on milk mustache. I didn't do it because I told the guy there was no reason to put on a fake mustache when I had a real one I was trying to get rid of.

The event was to introduce Angie Harmon as the new Got Milk? spokesperson. (Here she is being interviewed, and I'm not sure whose arm got into the picture there but I like to call this The Photo Of Crooked Elbows.) Angie was beautiful in person, and I have to say her husband Jason Sehorn was not so bad looking, not bad looking at all if you know what I mean. I don't have a picture of him because it's hard to shoot when you're eyes are glazing over and you're panting.

Of course, not only do those Got Milk? people know how to party, they know how to eat. They had these crazy good chocolate-covered-brownies-on-a-stick that I couldn't stop nibbling on, and also some chocolate pudding in a cup that you dipped into with a pretzel. I ate so much chocolate that I had a dream that night where I was being chased by an Oompa Loompah who caught me, wrapped me in cellophane and put me in an Easter basket.

Thanks, to the Got Milk? people for making it such a fun and fabulous day for me and my kids. Oh, and for cheering me up a bit about the whole Halloween thing.

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tags: got milk | | | got milk halloween party

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Disneyland's Paradise Pier Hotel: Nice n' Easy

As part of our awesome Halloween Time event at Disneyland last month, a few of us bloggers were treated to a one-night stay at the Paradise Pier Hotel. This was my family's first time staying at any of the Disney properties, and we had a great stay; a nice room, and easy access to both parks. Hence my title, Nice n' Easy. Hey, you think it's easy being this clever?

Our room was very spacious, and we had a great view of California Adventure. Sure adults love looking out over a moonlit ocean or a spectacular lake, but there's nothing kids like more than peering out their window and seeing a huge Mickey ferris wheel! Or watching the cars on Mulholland Madness! My only complaint is that this makes it extremely difficult for the adults to sleep in, though, because how can you just lay there when there are rides to be ridden! And shows to see! And churros to eat!

We had a great breakfast at the hotel's Hawaiian-themed restaurant, and they had a whole Lilo & Stitch thing going on the whole time. At 11 and 13 my daughters work very hard to pretend they're not into that sort of thing, but for younger kids (and less jaded tweens and teens) it would be a fun treat with character greetings, sing alongs and games.

My girls however, were not above ooh-ing and ahh-ing when this arrived at our table. Just sayin'.

They have a great breakfast buffet which we didn't take advantage of since we weren't that hungry, and besides eating takes a long time and how can you sit there drinking your coffee when there are rides to be ridden! And shows to see! And churros to eat!

Another great feature is the arcade located in the lobby. Since we were there for only one night my girls didn't have time to hang out and blast asteroids or drive the grand prix, but we'll make sure and bring lots of quarters for our next visit. That may even buy us a couple hours of sleep in the morning next time, or some time alone in our room when we want to do something other than watch Gossip Girl. Oh, the plans we have!

Also, another great feature for the little ones: This adorable video-watching room located just off the lobby. Not sure if it's allowed, but next time I think I'll grab a Mai Tai from the bar and hang out there myself.

Okay, but here's THE BEST TIP EVER, if you already have your park tickets. This came to us courtesy of one of the workers who happened to be driving by us in one of their service carts and we asked him for the easiest route to the park. (We had just exited the hotel through their back entrance.) Earlier we had walked through the Grand Californian and through Downtown Disney, which proved to be a slightly longer walk than my city girls could handle without complaining. But this guy told us to follow the signs to Downtown Disney and it was a very short walk to the Monorail terminal. There you can use your ticket to go through security (a much shorter line than we encountered at the main entrance) hop on the Monorail and head into Tomorrowland. Easy! and nice! I'm getting a lot of mileage out of that title of mine.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Disney Interactive Party: I Came, I Saw, I Brought Home Gift Bags (Including One to Giveaway!)

Update: 10/21 - The winner has been picked! See below.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to a party thrown by Disney Interactive Studios to introduce some of their new games for Wii, Nintendo DS and PlayStation. I took my girls and a couple of their friends, since they're the real gamers and the ones whose opinions count - no one wants to hear me complain about how the game's going too fast! And hey - I swear I got a gazillion points so why is the score telling me I'm a loser? Better for everyone if I just kick back on one of the comfy couches, sample the food and shout encouragement.

No slouchers, these Disney people - they had their party at the ├╝ber hip Coco de Ville, where David and Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian have been known to party. They weren't there that night, but I'm sure if they were they would have hung out with me on the couches. Except for Posh - she looks like she might be able to kick ass on Toy Story Mania.

And speaking of one of our favorite games, Toy Story Mania for Wii is based on the ride of the same name at Disney's California Adventure. This is a really fun, fast-paced carnival-style game and one of the few that I can actually play without looking like a complete idiot. I played this at the party with one of the people from Disney Interactive who helped develop the game, though, and not surprisingly she beat me pretty badly. In fact, I think she may have had her eyes closed the whole time. And one of her hands tied behind her back. Okay, both hands.

I finally talked my girls into giving the new Sing It: Pop Hits a try, but only because I threatened to get up there and sing a Coldplay song by myself. Nothing gets kids motivated like the threat of being horribly embarrassed and they couldn't wait to get the microphone out of my hand. Once they started singing this ended up being their favorite game, and they loved that the song selection included some current artists like Duffy, OneRepublic, Maroon 5, Colbie Caillat and Taylor Swift. And they're going to die if any of their friends see this, but they even sang along (very well, I might say) to Miley Cyrus' The Climb.

I have to add that the food, provided by the adjacent restaurant STK, was amazing. There was fare for the kids (corn dogs, chicken fingers) and a cotton candy machine that was the highlight of the evening for my 11-year-old. For the adults there was tuna tartare, beef kebobs and salad sticks and what may be the best cheeseburger slider and fries I think I've ever had. Just to make sure I had three of them.

As is tradition whenever I take this group of girls out, we stopped at Starbucks on the way home, and as the gaggle enjoyed their mochas and lattes I overheard what passes for an enthusiastic endorsement from this jaded crowd. "Dude, I totally don't like karaoke but I'm going to have to buy that Disney Sing It." So thanks, Disney - I might get to warble along to that Coldplay song after all.

And leave it to Disney Interactive to send all of us home with not one, but two great swag bags - one to give away to one of my readers.

Here's what's in the bag: Toy Story Mania for Wii, Spectrobes Origins for Wii, a Tinkerbell Light-Up Projector flashlight, a Spectrobes Excavation Kit, a Jonas Brothers mouse pad and a set of Princess and the Frog measuring spoons.

Oh, and also? In keeping with my tradition, I'm personally throwing in a $5 Starbucks card so that you can get yourself a coffee after you've worn yourself out gaming.

So, if you'd like a chance to win here's how you can enter:

1) Leave a comment on this post, below. Or,
2) Leave a comment on my Facebook fan page (Sweatpantsmom)

You can enter once in either location (meaning two entries per person)

I'll be picking a winner from all the combined entries on Tuesday, October 20 using, which is, as the title suggests - random.

*Sorry - entries from the Continental U.S. only.

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Update: 10/21: WINNER PICKED

I put all the entries into the random list generator and let it do its thing.


Kirsten Pekrul Dominguez! Kirsten, send email me your address so I can ship you your swag bag! Congratulations!

And thanks to everyone who entered - I have lots more giveaways coming up!

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