Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An Afternoon With Shawn Johnson Launched My Daughter's Show Biz Career

Last Wednesday my girls and I had the opportunity to meet Olympic Gold medalist and Dancing With the Stars finalist Shawn Johnson at an event sponsored by Lunchables and Camp Woodward. My 10-year-old daughter Kiyomi could hardly believe her luck - meeting a celebrity AND the possibility of snagging a free Pizza Lunchable.* Safe to say it was the best school day she'd had in a long time.

(*And yes, I do let my kids have the occasional pre-packaged lunch - my aversion to making school lunches is well known and I'm not above asking for a little help from the deli meat section of my local grocer. Now I'll pause a moment for my foodie friends to pass out, come to, and then cross my name out of their address books.)

Kiyomi's day then got even more awesome, as the organizers of the event agreed to let her interview Shawn. Seeing as my kid has high hopes of achieving fame and fortune in show business (we live in L.A. after all, where they come out of the womb asking for an agent) this was the big break she'd been waiting for! The proverbial 'foot in the door' that could possibly launch her wildly successful career in entertainment! Why, she was just steps away from her own talk show, lucrative product endorsements and a scandalous People cover!

Okay, maybe we were getting a little ahead of ourselves, but it was such an incredible, special opportunity and we're grateful to Shawn and the Lunchables team for making it happen. They even gave me a Flip video camera to record the whole thing, and if I was smarter I would have used it instead of my old video camera. (Hence the bad quality.) Luckily this was Kiyomi's first interview and she didn't know any better; I have a feeling a mistake like this on future gigs and she'll have me fired and replaced by one of the more competent, tech-savvy moms.

But my daughter's experience was perfect for the theme of Shawn's cross-country tour, which is to inspire kids to follow their dreams and achieve success. Shawn and the Lunchables crew are partnering with Camp Woodward, a sports, gymnastics, cheer and digital media camp that offers week-long summer sessions to kids ages seven to 17. With classes in unconventional activities like inline skating, skateboarding and BMX, this definitely ain't your daddy's camp. And there's more - Lunchables is currently running a promotion where 50 lucky kids could win an all expenses paid, VIP ticket to Camp Woodward. That's right - your son or daughter could be doing a wheelie or riding a half-pipe this summer instead of laying on the couch and fighting you for the remote control.

The whole event, which took place at a local gym, was a great experience for my girls. Shawn couldn't have been nicer and more accessible, and seeing her easy interaction with the young gymnasts showed why she's such a great choice to be a mentor to kids. (My daughters had a great time, but so did I - I got to hang out with two of my favorite bloggers, Donna and Tara.)

Here's a short video (shot with my brand spankin' new Flip Ultra) that shows how excited these young gymnasts were they first saw their idol Shawn. They had no idea she was going to be in that gym when they opened the door.

Oh, and Shawn - you definitely have our vote on Dancing With The Stars. And if it's not too much to ask, please keep Kiyomi in mind for your victory interview.

If you'd like to see some great demos on what Camp Woodward has to offer, check out these other stops on their tour (Shawn will be making an appearance in Chicago!):

  • May 7-9, Grand Rapids, Mich. at the Tulip Time Festival
  • May 14-16, Memphis, Tenn. at the Memphis in May Festival
  • May 21-23, Charlotte, N.C. at the Speed Street 600 Festival
  • May 29-31, Tampa, Fla. at the Taste of Pinellas Festival
  • June 4-7, Nashville, Tenn. at the Riverbend Festival
  • June 11-14, Chicago, Ill. at Navy Pier
  • July 2-5, Norfolk, Va. at the Norfolk Harborfest
  • July 11-12, Buffalo, N.Y. at the Taste of Buffalo
  • July 24-26, New York, N.Y. at the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning
  • July 30-Aug 2, Columbus, Ohio at the Ohio State Fair
  • Aug 6-9, Madison, Wis. at the Wisconsin State Fair
  • Aug 13-16, San Diego, Calif. at the San Diego Zoo
  • Aug 20-23, Sacramento, Calif. at the California State Fair
The tour is open to all ages and will be free of charge.

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tags: | | | lunchables

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Friday, May 15, 2009

We Went to an EA Games Party and I Brought Something Back For You

Last week I took the girls to the EA Games Summer Block Party held at the EA offices in Playa Del Rey. Let me just say the party started before we even walked into the event - this is one of those places that everyone dreams of working at. They have gaming centers everywhere, a beach-like pond in the middle and my favorite - a cafe in the lobby. Imagine not having to lie to your boss about an emergency and then sneaking out to get your afternoon caffeine and pastry fix.

The hedonism didn't stop there; as soon as we stepped in we were pointed towards the make-your-own sundae bar, the buffet table filled with fresh pizzas and the cotton candy and popcorn machines. All this surrounding a huge room with couches, huge screens and all the latest games from EA. The kids of course, went nuts. At one point I saw my 10-year-old with a Wii controller in one hand and a cotton candy in the other and I haven't seen her that happy since I told her she could skip flossing on Fridays.

The best part was, my girls and their friends got to game to their hearts content. Really great new Wii games, like Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, MySims Racing and a new version of Boom Blox, Bash Party. Me, I got a little taste of the new EA Sports Active for Wii, which I loved. That might be just the thing I need to work off all that pizza I ate at the party.

A few of the other games they featured were Tiger Woods PGA Tour (wanted to try this out but got intimidated by an eight-year-old) Sims 3, Madden NFL 10, G.I. Joe, Littlest Pet Shop Spring and video game versions of classic board games like Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit. I'm happy to see EA coming out with Wii games for adults - us grownups aren't just about blogging, Twitter and ordering housewares from Amazon.

And guess what? I brought something back for you: I have a copy of MySims Party for Wii to giveaway, and all you have to do is leave a comment below. I will then determine the winner in a random, reckless manner. Enter before midnight pst on Tuesday, May 19. (Sorry, U.S. entries only.) You may all skip flossing tonight.

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tags: | | |

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Monday, May 11, 2009

My Disney Weekend, Part One: Hugh Jackman, Mickey Hands and Tons of Bacon

I don't know about you, but having a hotel room to myself is one of the greatest pleasures on earth, right up there with all-you-can-eat buffets and gratuitous shots of Hugh Jackman bare-chested. So, throw in that hotel surrounded by a beach resort, amusement parks and a chance to meet some great bloggers from all over the U.S. (and a few from the U.K.) and you have my unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime trip to Orlando's Disney World last weekend. Hugh Jackman wasn't there, but I think it's safe to say I wouldn't have been willing to share my room even if he was. (But Hugh, don't be afraid to ask.)

I'm still thinking there was some mixup, that my name was mistaken for someone who could actually string together a few coherent sentences and that's how I got invited to the Walt Disney World Mom Blogger Mixer. How else to explain how I ended up with a beautiful room at the Disney Beach Resort, dining on exquisite escargot at the luxurious Chefs de France, enjoying the IllumiNations fireworks show from a private perch while being served hot coffee and an entire table of desserts? Did I mention that was just on the first day? But wait - this is what I came back to find in my room that night:

Can you believe that? Can you blame me for putting on those Mickey hands and dancing around the room for a few minutes in my underwear? See what I mean about the incoherent sentences?

(Before I go any further, here is the crew I got to hang out with on my crazy, decadent weekend. I spent a lot of time dodging their cameras, but I liked them anyways: Megan, Lindsay, Andrea, Beth, Amanda, Lisa, Dawn, Christine, Emily, Leanne, Laura and Maria. I'll write more later about this group of smart, funny, talented women who are all way more photogenic than me.)

I'd never been to Disney World (not to mention Florida) so this trip was exciting for me to say the least. Sure I was a little sad to be there without my husband and kids, but it was a great opportunity for me to check out the park and bond with some other great bloggers. (Also, see gushing references to 'private room' above.) I've always wanted to visit Epcot (what is IN that huge golf ball for gawds sake?) and I've had many people recommend the Disney Cruise, which leaves out of Port Canaveral, as a great first cruise to take the kids on. After my first day at the Disney Resort I was so convinced that it would be the ideal vacation for my family that I came back to my room and started looking up prices online for Disney's Land and Sea Packages. Sure it was hard typing with those big Mickey hands on, but I was caught up in the moment. And I was surprised to find out how truly affordable it really was - especially if you take advantage of their special deals, like the Free Dining plan. That's right - you could get some of that awesome, garlicky escargot for free.

For me, one of the most surprising things about Disney World was it's size. We were told that the properties take up an area larger than two Manhattans (the city, not the drink) and I could see how you could stay there for weeks and not see everything they had to offer. I loved the various resorts that were clustered around lake - I walked out the door of the Beach Club Resort and walked to the neighboring Boardwalk Resort and it's restaurants and shops. We were able to walk to Epcot, but you can also get their via one of their charming boats that will not only take you for a tour around the lake but will whisk you right into the park. This is one of the things I wish I'd had time for and will definitely do when I return, along with the clam bake and the waterslide in the pool. In fact, there are so many things I still want to do there that I'll definitely have to come back for another week. Or thirty.

We also got the opportunity to tour one of the resorts newest properties that is still under construction - the Bay Lake Tower. This place was unbelievable - the modern design was right up my alley and everything my dream home would be. I've never been tempted to steal hotel furniture (maybe just that velour headboard from Vegas) but I could see myself attempting to stuff every knob, door handle and chair in this place right into my suitcase. (Note to Disney management: I'm just joking! About the chair, anyways.) We weren't allowed to take any photos, but you can get a great virtual tour by clicking here. I know - it makes me cry, too.

I ate better (and more) last weekend than I can ever remember. Every meal seemed to be in a first-rate restaurant; from the eco and health-conscious Wave to the classic Hollywood eatery The Brown Derby. I had a wonderful meal on my first night at Spoodles, one of the restaurants on the Boardwalk and had the best olive tapenade I've ever had - and they even offered to email me the recipe. (I heard through the grapevine that Spoodles will be closing soon. Yes, this makes me sad, but it will be truly tragic if I don't get my recipe before then.) Even our breakfasts at the hotel were 'magical' - where else could you get Mickey-shaped hash browns? I meant to take a picture of them but I was too busy loading up my plate with the all-you-can-eat bacon. They don't call it the Happiest Place on Earth for nothing, people.

Check back for my next posts, where I talk about the American Idol Experience, my new blogger friends, doing the SouljaBoy, my daughter's favorite souvenir, and why my taste in rides would even bore your 90-year-old grandma.

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Thanks to Leanne and Laura at Disney and Maria Bailey for making my Disney weekend possible!

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tags: | epcot | |

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