Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fresh & Easy: I'm Stalking Your Cranberry Walnut Loaf

I got a box full of Holiday goodness from Fresh & Easy the other day. My 12-year-old insisted on staging a full-on photo shoot before we touched anything. It took awhile because the pine cones kept insisting we only shoot their 'good side.'

We haven't had a chance to sample the Pumpkin Pecan Waffle & Pancake Mix yet, but the Hot Chocolate Bittersweet Chocolate Shavings were put to immediate use topping off some homemade mochas. They can also be used to make a rich hot chocolate, or eaten straight out of the can with a spoon and a grin on your face. That last suggestion isn't on the can, by the way.

But let me tell you about my new best friend, the Cranberry Walnut Loaf. It's made by Il Fornaio especially for Fresh & Easy. The label says it's got cranberries, walnuts, raisins, citrus and pecans in it, but I think there are also diamonds, gold shavings and ground-up  leprechaun in there somewhere. It's magically delicious. (Sorry.)

We sliced it up, toasted it and spread a little butter on it and it was amazing. We finished the entire loaf within a couple of days, which says a lot since bread usually goes stale around here before we get around to eating it. We'll say, "Oh, let's make a sandwich," and then reach into the bread box to find something resembling a loaf of bread except it's covered in green spores and has grown some limbs. Don't worry – before we serve it to guests we scrape all of the fur off.

I've gotten a little obsessed with the Cranberry Walnut Loaf. In fact, I went to Fresh & Easy and bought all of the loaves they had left, because I'm going to give it away at my family gathering on Christmas day. Here, I'll prove it to you:

They only had four left, and I may or may not have had to push an old lady with a walker out of the way to score these (sorry, mom.) And since I have like 300 people in my family I'm planning to go back and buy some more. My husband is getting a little concerned with my obsession with the CWL (I've even given it an acronym – true love.) He's even started referring to it as "Your Bread," as in, "Would you like some of your bread with your coffee?" He says it in a slightly sarcastic tone, like he doesn't see its magical powers.

If you're on my gift list, you might be getting a loaf of my new best friend. If you decide to buy a loaf of your own, be prepared to fight me for it.

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I've talked about my love for Fresh & Easy before – here are some other products I recommend. Don't worry – it's a totally natural, harmonious kind of love.

Fresh & Easy Wine Tasting: Don't Make Me Drink Alone

Summertime And The Livin' Is (Fresh &) Easy

eatwell: Fresh & Easy's New Line of Healthy Meals Inspires My Terrible Taglines

Fresh & Easy Market: Be My Valentine

Hello Friend! Fresh & Easy On My Doorstep

Fresh & Easy: My New BFF

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Disneyland For The Holidays

This was originally posted on Since there are only a few weeks left to see Disneyland in all its holiday splendor, it bears repeating.

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Okay, call me sappy, but one of the things that truly gets me in the seasonal mood is visiting Disneyland when they’re all decked out for the holidays. Well, that and my mom’s lime-green Jell-O, but that’s not for everyone.

If there’s one thing Disneyland knows how to do it’s decorate. I’m wondering how many trips to Target their light technician had to make in order to get enough strings of lights to deck out It’s A Small World and Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle? Not to mention all of the work put in to decorating the floats for the Christmas Fantasy parade – I can’t even get my husband to nail up a wreath and a few boughs of holly without complaining.

And I might be alone here, but I say it’s never too early for holiday music, and there’s plenty of that wafting through the air at Disneyland this time of year. (Note: I’m one of those people that sets the car radio to the holiday station the day after Thanksgiving, and it stays there through December 25. I say don’t carpool with me unless you don’t   mind hearing ‘Sleigh Bells’ every five minutes.)

Kids can even get the chance to see real reindeer at the Reindeer Round-Up. I like to take them here to commune with nature, even if it is in the shadow of a roller coaster and a churro cart. If your kids are like mine, they’ve grown up thinking reindeer are always either animated and named Rudolph, or made out of lights and standing in someone’s front  yard. So to see a real reindeer is a real treat, and you’ll understand if my daughter keeps trying to plug it into an electrical socket.

The best part though, is the Holiday Magic fireworks show. I’ve always thought Disneyland had the best fireworks show around, and  this special presentation always gets me sentimental. Let’s just say  that by the time the snow is falling on Main Street and ‘White  Christmas’ is playing over the speakers I’m a blubbering mess, hugging everyone around me and inviting them back to my place for shortbread and rum. 

I know it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet, but if you want to get a headstart on the holidays and infuse yourself with some seasonal cheer, check out the sights at Disneyland. Then come on over to my place and I’ll put on some Christmas music.

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Got Eggnog? I Do Now!

A couple of weeks ago the lovely people at Got Milk? invited me to a Shake Up Holiday Cocktails With Milk event. While there I was introduced to someone who I think has what is possibly the best job on the planet: Professional mixologist Duggan McDonnell. Duggan travels around to various events partying and inventing cocktails. I'm sure it's more complicated than that but this is what I surmised after having a couple a couple of his Cinnamon Sake Horchatas. After a rum-filled Frothy Vanillanog I think I started calling him Sir Mixalot and trying to give him a soul shake but it's all a blur.

The event was held at the awesomely trendy Bar Lubitsch. (The phrase 'awesomely trendy'? SO awesomely trendy.) 

Duggan was there to show us how milk can be incorporated into many holiday cocktails, and boy did he ever. One of my favorite things was learning how to make eggnog from scratch to use in the Vanillanog. I'm not an eggnog fan, and I consider that one carton I buy every December for my husband an act of pure love. But this eggnog was light and frothy, and I think the mixture of cinnamon and spicy chile delicately dusted over it at the end was pure genius. Looks like my local grocer will only have to stock three cartons this year instead of four.

Along with the eggnog and the Horchata mentioned above I also had a Caribbean Milk Punch and a PB&J Granita. That last one isn't as scary as it sounds, although I'd rather eat my peanut butter than drink it. But I loved the individual mix stations the Got Milk reps had set up to make our own PB&J's:

The Got Milk people sent us home with our own cocktail shakers and recipes for all of the drinks we sampled. This one is small and perfect to carry in my glove compartment. Not that I would do that. Who shakes up cocktails in the car? That's dangerous, and besides I'm too busy talking on the phone to Ryan Seacrest.

Here is the recipe for the Frothy Vanillanog, otherwise known as the Only Eggnog I'll Drink. (Ours had rum in it. Of course.) You can find the rest of the recipes for the drinks we sampled that night on the Got Milk site. The best part is – they are to be made in a large quantity in a punch bowl, so you don't have to play bartender all night. The last time I had to do that at one of my parties I got really cranky and started putting my finger in everyone's drink. Just so you know.

Frothy Vanillanog
Serves 8

1 quart milk
8 egg whites
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
Cinnamon powder to taste
Spicy chile powder to taste

Whisk thoroughly in a punch bowl until all ingredients are thoroughly integrated.  Spike with an alcoholic elixir if so desired, add ice and dust with a blend of cinnamon an spicy chile powder.

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Duggan McDonnell was named one of the best mixologists in the country by Food & Wine Magazine. He's the owner of Cantina Bar in San Francisco.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Healthy Hook-Up: Nintendo & The American Heart Association

One of the first times I realized that the Nintendo Wii was more than just a gaming system was when my oldest daughter's middle school started assigning P.E. homework. Intended to prepare them for the standardized testing for physical education that the district will implement soon, they're required to do a certain amount of cardio, strength training and stretching every week. She got permission from her teacher to use the Wii Fit Plus' yoga and step programs to fulfill part of those requirements and soon we forgot a time when all we all we used the Wii for was to fly Kirby around and blow things up.

So it didn't surprise me when Nintendo announced a partnership with the American Heart Association in order to get people to healthy-up their lifestyles through active play. Nintendo introduced the Wii as a way of getting gamers off their couches, and together with the AHA they're furthering their commitment to helping people find ways to fit physical activity into their busy lifestyles. Whether you're a overworked mom like me or a middle-schooler doing her homework.

I was lucky enough to be asked by Nintendo to co-host a party at the W Hotel in Hollywood to get the word out about their new alliance with the AHA. If it sounds like a great day, it was. Here, let me show you:

The event started off with a spread of healthy food - granola, fresh fruit, organic teas. Also, the key ingredient - unlimited coffee. I can't help but think that it was provided for the 'health' of others, since without my coffee I could pose a danger to those around me.

Then we had some time to play. Here are two of my friends in action on the Wii Fit Plus. I think I may have been socializing a little too much to get any Balance Board action in myself, but I was a good cheerleader. Also it's hard to exercise when you're holding a mug of coffee. Did I mention I like coffee?

Then, because Nintendo's new partnership aims to motivate people to “Get Informed,” “Get Empowered” and “Get Active," they had a program planned that did just that. First up was a presentation by author and former ad man, Hank Wasiak. I don't want to call him a motivational speaker because for me that has a slightly negative connotation - it brings to mind a sweaty, sputtering slightly hysterical person barking orders to love yourself, or conquer your enemies, or to get in touch with your inner care bear. Who needs that?

Hank was more of an inspirational speaker, and his theory of asset-based thinking – or simply seeing the glass half-full – was more encouraging than preachy. He said something that my husband and I repeat often, "Look at it as your best problem ever," meaning to find the lesson in your obstacles. Even if we sometimes use it in an ironic or sarcastic way, we still think it's a valuable way of thinking.

(Hank wrote a book based on the concept of asset-based thinking called 'Change The Way You See Everything' and everyone got to take a copy home.)

Next we had a presentation by the American Heart Association, and they gave us some valuable heart-healthy tips, things like shopping in the outer aisles of the supermarket where all the fresh and non-processed food is, and the symptoms to look for that might indicate a heart attack or stroke. Also, they scared the daylights out of me with this little tidbit: If you eat one donut a day for a year, you'll gain 15 pounds. Man, am I glad I didn't put that bear claw in my purse before I left the house.

Finally, because the Nintendo people are a kind people, they ended the day with some dessert and some awesome gifts bags. In addition to Hank's book, my friends and I all took home hoodies and a copy of Wii Sports Resort. Even their swag is healthy! I left there feeling rejuvenated and inspired, and I know my friends did too. And I definitely started to see my coffee cup as being half-full.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's On Like Donkey Kong

This arrived on my doorstep on the day before Thanksgiving, and in my frenzy of preparing for 26 people to descend on my house the next day I completely forgot to tell you about it. As usual, the people at Nintendo completely outdid themselves:

To introduce their new Donkey Kong Country Returns, they sent over a copy of the game, boxed up in a miniature crate and surrounded by rubber bananas. Being a former art director, I had to take a few minutes to marvel at their promotion prowess and packaging ingenuity. My kids, however, took one look at the shiny Wii logo and immediately snatched the game out of the box and headed for their controllers. Then they started throwing the bananas at each other. At this point they weren't even listening to my lecture on the fine points of advertising and marketing strategy.

If you're old like me you'll remember the classic Donkey Kong arcade game from the '80's. Here, let me refresh your memory:

Can't you just see me standing in front of this in my leg warmers and shoulder-padded blazer? I'm pretty sure my boyfriend was standing next to me humming a Flock Of Seagulls song.

Donkey Kong was one of the few video games I remember playing, and I always liked the humor of that big ape tossing barrels around. The game has come a long way since then, but I'm glad they've managed to keep Donkey Kong alive. The new game still stars that familiar ape, but according to my 12-year-old is pretty challenging and apparently beyond her mom's Donkey Kong 80's abilities. I'd like to see her try and play while you're balancing a stack of quarters and a can of Cactus Cooler on your knee. 

I'll have a full review from that 12-year-old, who hasn't had a chance to write it because of a full homework load. Kids these days and their priorities.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Pure Poetry: Crimes Of The Heart

You’ve heard me talk about Crimes Of The Heart before, the East West Players production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. I’ve Twittered about it, raved about it on Facebook, maybe I even called you up on the phone to tell you about it. You probably didn’t answer when your caller ID told you who it was, but that’s beside the point.

The show ends this weekend, so for those of you who haven’t seen it what’s it going to take to convince you to go? I thought about it, and the only way is to bring out the big guns. 

That’s right – I’m talking haiku. Shall we?
This winter evening
Doesn’t have to suck if you
See Crimes Of The Heart
Hey, I never claimed to be Shakespeare.

Here’s a bonus – tonight is Wine Down Friday, so enjoy complimentary wine before the performance and during intermission. That’s such a great deal I feel another seventeen syllables coming on:

At Crimes Of The Heart
Cold outside but I don’t care
Wine I love you so
Seriously, I could go on all day, so unless you’d like to see me further butcher this treasured form of Japanese poetry you’ll buy a ticket already.

Which reminds me:

Half-hour before
the show...rush hour begins
Get some cheap tickets!
What can I say, I’m on fire.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Marie Callender's New Baked Meals: I'll eat that

I have to confess right up front here that I'm not a big fan of frozen meals. The preservatives and artificial ingredients have always scared me - something is just not right if a chicken breast can stay in your freezer longer than that chicken was actually alive.

That said, certain circumstances have made frozen food indispensable over the past year – an increased workload for both my husband and I, busier school schedules, and probably the biggest change - my oldest daughter stopped eating red meat. Since the rest of the family are still enthusiastic carnivores, I very often had to make two separate versions of our dinner (beef and vegetarian chili for example) and as you can imagine that got old really fast. You think I'm cranky when I have to cook one meal at the end of a crazy day – try telling me I have to cook TWO.

What I started doing was buying some frozen options for my daughter to have on those nights that the rest of us were eating meat. I tended to only buy them from stores like Trader Joes or Fresh & Easy, though, since their products tended to be healthier and with less artificial ingredients. My daughter figured out quickly which frozen items she liked best and which ones she'd avoid in the future - the soy cheese enchilada sounded like a bad idea from the start.

So when I was asked to test drive the new multi-serve baked meals from Marie Callender's I thought it'd be a good chance to broaden my frozen food horizons. I'm a big fan of the Marie Callender's restaurant (their chicken pot pie owns me) so the brand already had some clout with me. These new meals are 'family size' meals as opposed to individual serving portions that make up most of their line.

I set out to my friendly neighborhood grocer to pick up some items to sample. Before I left I let my family look over the options and pick out which ones they'd like – we decided on the Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese and the Chicken, Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna. Unfortunately when I got to the store I found that they only carried three varieties – Scalloped Potatoes & Ham, Southwestern Chipotle Chicken Bake and the Three Meat & Four Cheese Lasagna. (And they were very difficult to find, pushed to the very edge of the freezer case.) I picked up one of each, and a pint of coffee ice cream. The ice cream had absolutely nothing to do with this review, but I wanted to make the most out of my frozen aisle experience.

We decided on the Chipotle Chicken Bake and the Meat Lasagna. The meals can be cooked in either the microwave or the oven - I cooked them 3/4 of the way in the microwave and then popped them in the oven to finish off, just to make it seem like I was actually cooking a meal. (While they are intended for multi-servings, the containers are fairly small and fit easily inside a standard microwave.)

Us flesh-eaters started in on the lasagna, and I have to say I was immediately impressed with the 'fresh' taste of it, and how you could really taste the sausage and the ricotta. The sauce had just the right amount of tang to it, and wasn't overly sweet like a lot of prepared sauces are. We gave it a thumbs up, and agreed it was something we'd buy again in the future.

My older daughter wasn't as excited about the Chipotle Chicken. (To be fair, I think she had her heart set on that Mac & Cheese, and you know how it is when you're looking forward to something and then get something else.) I think the mixture of the chicken, the corn and the black beans were fine, but the rice was too soggy and had an odd taste to it. (Then again, I'm pretty picky about my rice - hey I'm Asian, people.) I think that omitting the rice and then serving the rest of the ingredients inside a flour burrito with a little salsa would be FANTASTIC - back to the test kitchen!

(We haven't tried the Scalloped Potatoes yet, but I'm thinking it might be really good in the morning, served with some croissants and coffee. Now I don't have to cook breakfast, either.)

Here's a chance for you to check out these meals for yourself. I've got two coupons good for a free Marie Calender's Baked Meal ($5.69 value) and I'll include a $2 coupon for a Marie Callender's Frozen Pie. Mmmmm - pie.

Just leave a comment here by 11:59pm on Monday, November 29. I'll use to pick a winner.

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I received coupons for free Marie Callender's Meals to purchase my test items, plus extra coupons for purposes of a giveaway. I also received a stipend for my participation in this program, but no restrictions were placed on the content of my review. All opinions are 100% mine. 

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Listening To the 'Band On The Run' Reissue & flashing back to detention

42 years ago today The Beatles released The White Album. While I sing Happy Birthday and go bake a cake, I'm going to listen to the recently reissued, remastered Band on the Run CD I received a few weeks back. For those of you not familiar with the third album from Paul McCartney and Wings, Rolling Stone named it one of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. TAKE THAT JUSTIN BEAVER.

I'm going to totally date myself here, but I remember seeing Wings at the Los Angeles Forum many years ago. Probably right after electricity was discovered, and somebody said, "Let's put on one of them newfangled rock and roll gitups!" I remember it being an amazing night, and it's further etched in my memory because in order to get tickets, a historic event took place – I ditched school for the very first time. And guess what? I GOT CAUGHT. (Note to Sir Paul McCartney: I got detention for you, man.)

And now all these years later my 12-year-old is a big Beatles fan. We saw McCartney's show at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this year and it definitely ranks as one of the best concerts I've seen. And to get tickets nobody got caught trying to hand in a forged absence note written by their science lab partner, either.

Here's some great footage on the band:

This new reissue was personally supervised by Paul McCartney and the remastering work was done at Abbey Road studios. It's 2 CDs with nine bonus tracks, plus a DVD with some great behind-the-scenes footage. We are all loving it over here.

Here are the tracks on the CD:

"Band on the Run"
"Mrs Vandebilt"
"Let Me Roll It"
"No Words"
"Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)"
"Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five"

Bonus Audio Tracks
"Helen Wheels"
"Country Dreamer"
"Bluebird" [from One Hand Clapping]
"Jet" [from One Hand Clapping]
"Let Me Roll It" [from One Hand Clapping]
"Band on the Run" [from One Hand Clapping]
"Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" [from One Hand Clapping]
"Country Dreamer" [from One Hand Clapping]
"Zoo Gang"

"Band on the Run" Music Video
"Mamunia" Music Video
Album Promo
"Helen Wheels" Music Video
Wings In Lagos
Osterley Park
One Hand Clapping

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The Children Speak: I interview my daughters about texting, sexting and safety

This is sponsored content from
BlogHer and LG Text Ed

If you remember from my post a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that as part of my ongoing participation in the LG Text-Ed program I would be interviewing my daughters, ages 12 and 14, about their views on cell phone usage and safety. Lo and behold, the children were interviewed and it wasn't as painful as I thought.

While their answers were pretty much what I expected, I was surprised to see that fights via text and online are fairly common and something both my girls had experienced. I was also a little taken aback by how my 12-year-old was less than willing to tell us, her parents, about certain issues. And for the record I don't ever ask her about things in a "bad cheesy voice" and then write about it on my blog. Oh, alright maybe sometimes. Well, maybe kind of often. On a related note she's grounded for five months.

To start things off, relax, kick back, grab some popcorn and watch this intro video my 12-year-old made:

The Interview:

(I'll be referring to the girls as TWELVE and FOURTEEN. Don't worry – those aren't their real names. In real life they go by FIVE and SEVEN.)

Q: How many texts do you send in a day? Receive?

TWELVE: I send and receive around 30 texts a day. But each text isn't a long, droning conversation – it's more like "Hey" or "sup"

FOURTEEN: I probably send maybe ten texts per day and receive around fifty texts per day, majority of them being from Twitter.

Q: Do you only text people you know well?

TWELVE: I usually text my good friends most often, but I do text some people I don't know for homework questions or for some other reason.

FOURTEEN: I only text people I know well.  If I don't know them enough to trust them, they wouldn't have my phone number and I wouldn't have theirs.

Q: If you had something extremely important/personal to share with a close friend how would you contact them and why that way? (In person, on the phone, text, or all three?) 

TWELVE: It depends where I am and how important it is. If I'm at school I'd usually tell them there, but if I'm home I'd just text them if it's important. But if the text is personal then I'd probably just wait till school to tell them, or tell them to delete the text after since some of my friend's moms check their texts.

And I NEVER use the phone because my parents can hear in the other room, so if it's personal I wouldn't really want them overhearing. If I did my mom would say "So who's your friend you were talking to?" in a bad cheesy voice, as well as making little comments after, then write about all of it on her blog. No offense mom! *nervous laughing*

[Editor's note: Hahahahaha! See 'grounded' joke above.]

FOURTEEN: I would probably call them unless I knew I was going to be meeting them in person very soon for another reason. If there's a lot to say and I have the chance to call them and talk to them on the phone I'd rather do that than through text messages.

Q: Have you ever been bullied or harassed through a text? If so, how did you respond? Did you tell your parents about it?

TWELVE: Well my friends and I joke a lot, so I don't think that counts. But I usually don't go up to bullies and give them my number so I haven't really been harrassed by text.

FOURTEEN: I don't remember ever being bullied or harassed through text messages. But if I ever was, I probably would tell my parents about it.

Q: Have you ever had a fight or argument via text or online?

TWELVE: YES. YES. YES. YES. That actually happens quite often.

FOURTEEN:  I've gotten into "heated arguments" via text I suppose, but I've only gotten into "fights" online, I would say. 

Q: If so, how was it resolved? 

TWELVE: Well, it depends who's fault the fight is. If it's their fault I kinda guilt them into saying sorry. But if it's my fault, I'd probably say let's just forget it and move on, and then we're friends again. And If it's a small fight then I'd usually solve it over the interwebs, but if it's big and involves grudges, I'd probably solve it at school.

[Editor's note: TWELVE, please see me after the interview for tips on how to say, "I'm sorry."]

FOURTEEN: The online "fights" usually just died down quickly, since most of them took place when I was much younger.  We pretty much would just ignore one another.  I remember once, my close friends stepped in on the fight online and stood up for me, which made a big difference.

Q: Do you ever send texts to your friends that are of an extremely private nature, meaning it would be HORRIBLE if it was leaked to your friends? 

TWELVE: Sometimes, like texts about people we know. But now I've gotten into the habit of using code-names so that if anyone saw it that's not in my circle of close friends no one would know who we were talking about. But even if we used their real names and  the wrong people saw the texts, it wouldn't be HORRIBLE more like embarrassing or awkward. If it's really that HORRIBLE I'd rather just tell them in person.

FOURTEEN: Yes, I do send private texts to friends, but nothing too drastic. Just things like maybe crushes or saying something about someone. It would be kind of bad for it to be leaked, though.

Q: If you knew that one of your friends was sending inappropriate photos of him/her self to someone, would you say something to them? Would you tell your parents? 

TWELVE: Yeah, if it was one of my good friends. I'm not sure I'd tell my parents though because it's not really any of their business, plus that'd just be a weird, awkward discussion. But I'd make sure they'd stop, I can usually talk my friends out of almost anything if I care enough.

[Editor's note: IT IS SO OUR BUSINESS.]

FOURTEEN: I would DEFINITELY say something to them. I don't think I'd be able to live with the fact that one of my friends was doing that. If they didn't stop even after I had told them to several times, I would possibly tell my parents since it could turn into a serious issue.

[Editor's note: FOURTEEN, listen to your sister.]

Q: Would YOU ever send an inappropriate or intimate picture of yourself to someone via text? If yes, how would you feel if they shared it with someone else - or many someone elses, including lots of people you do know, and lots of people you don't know?

TWELVE: No, ew! That'd be weird. And slutty.

FOURTEEN: I would never even THINK about sending an inappropriate photo of myself to someone else, even if they were my HUSBAND.  I know how that stuff usually ends.

[Editor's note: Hahahahaha! Looks like everyone is TRYING TO GET GROUNDED TODAY.]

Q: If you were giving advice to a younger sibling or a younger friend who was just starting to text, what kind of warnings would you give him/her about being safe and smart?

TWELVE: I'd say not to text alot, and then freak them out by telling about this thumb disease you can get from texting too much. And that you shouldn't text random strangers, and not to text when driving your big wheel.

FOURTEEN: I would tell them to only give their phone numbers to people who they trust, obviously not to "sext," and to not text or respond to texts from anyone they do not know or do not know well.

Q: Here's a question for FOURTEEN only, who will driving in two short years. [Interviewer stops to dry her eyes.] What do you think it would take for you to stop texting/checking email/dialing the phone WHILE driving? Money? A written contract w/Parents? A pact between friends? Etc?  

FOURTEEN: I don't think it would take much for me NOT to do that. I don't think I would be texting or e-mailing while driving, anyway. Calling, MAYBE, but only if it's using a hands-free device. If I had to stop talking on the phone at ALL while driving, I would probably need some sort of alert that would go off when I tried to call someone or receive a call while driving, reminding me NOT to do it.

Can we got to Starbucks now?

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Have you had a conversation with your teen or tween about texting, sexting and safety? If not, what's holding you back?

As before, BlogHer will match LG’s donation of .50 to for every comment on this post, so please leave a comment with your thoughts on this topic – will get $1.00 for each and every one.

You can see a roundup of other participating bloggers' posts on the BlogHer/LG Text-Ed page.

Thanks to everyone who left a comment with a question suggestion on my last post, not only for helping me out but for helping out as well! 

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Don't make me drink alone

Hey winos! I mean wine connoisseurs! I'll be participating in a Fresh & Easy Wine Tasting on Twitter tonight at 7pm pst. Fresh & Easy has provided me with three holiday wines to sample, and I'll be talking about them in real time on TasteLive.

You're probably thinking, "Who would want your opinion on wine? It's like asking a cat's opinion on seafood." Well, maybe so, but would a cat be able to say things like, "This is tasty and I'm going to hide a bottle in my church purse." Well, okay then.

If you'd like to participate, head on over to Fresh & Easy, pick up some wine, and join the conversation. You can find instructions on how to join by clicking here.

Here are the bottles we'll be tasting, with a short description from the wine expert at Fresh & Easy:

• La Gioiosa Prosecco – From the Veneto region of Italy, this crisp sparkling wine is perfect for toasting your friends and family with this holiday season.

• Hilltown Chardonnay - Offering a true taste of the magic of California's Monterey Country, this award-winning wine pairs well with that juicy holiday turkey.

• Castillo Rioja – From the Rioja Alavesa region of Spain, this full-bodied red is elegant and packed with fruit flavors. For those red-meat lovers, this wine will complement your holiday roast.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Teens, Texting, Cell Phones & Other Catastrophes

This is sponsored content from
BlogHer and LG Text Ed
Because I'm channeling my inner school teacher today, I'm going to start this post off with a little quiz. Then I'm going to ask your help with something. It's like being in biology class and then being asked to pound the chalkboard erasers.

First the quiz:

According to recent studies, 75% of kids from ages 12-17 own this:

A. Justin Bieber backpack
B. Spare key to parent's liquor cabinet
C. Cell phone
D. Combination Partridge Family/Brady Bunch Sand Painting Kit

If you guessed 'D' you're incorrect but I can tell you share my vision of utopia.

Obviously the answer if 'C.' Although, 'B' could also be correct, in which case parents – I suggest you conduct a thorough search of your kids Bieber backpack.

With all these tweens and teens owning cell phones, the topic of cell phone safety is a big issue right now: sexting, texting while driving and cyberbullying are all things we should be discussing with our kids. As part of my ongoing participation in the LG Text-Ed program, I'm going to be interviewing my daughters, ages 12 and 14, about their views on cell phone usage and safety. I'm going to require them to put down their cell phones while I interview them - that way they can't text things to their friends like, "omg my mom interviewing me so lame."

Now, here's where I need your help. Leave a comment below giving me a suggestion for a question to ask my teen and tween daughters regarding texting, sexting, texting while driving, cyberbullying or anything else relating to cell phone usage or online safety. 

(Sorry, but you'll have to save your questions on raves and Forever 21 deals for another time.)

But here's the best part: BlogHer will match LG’s donation of .50 to for every comment on this post, so please leave a comment with a suggestion – will get $1.00 for each and every one

So PLEASE – ask away. And don't be shy – unlike biology class you won't be graded.

You can see a roundup of other participating bloggers' posts on the BlogHer/LG Text-Ed page.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

This 'Peter Pan' Will Make You Believe In threesixty° Theater

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to view a performance of threesixty° theatre's production of Peter Pan at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. This isn't just any play, though - the show combines actors with CGI technology, puppetry and a cleverly transforming stage into a theater-in-the round experience. In fact, it doesn't even take place inside the theater, but in a custom-built circus tent just outside the main building.

But I'm going to stop right here for a second and tell you a story about my daughter's phone that she dropped in the toilet at the theater after the show. It was my old iPhone I'd given to her and she'd had it for all of one week. Why am I telling you this tragic story? Because unfortunately it's colored her entire experience of the show and in case you ask her about it she's likely to say it was the worst night of her life when in fact up until that point she and her friend had a great time and were totally mesmerized by the whole thing.

Now, back to Peter Pan.

I wonder if Peter Pan has a cell phone? Never mind.

For me, the staging and the technology were the real stars of this show. The story of Peter Pan is one I've heard (and read to my kids) no fewer than 5000 times, so that wasn't really the reason I was drawn to this particular staging of it. They do stick closer to JM Barrie's original story (not the Disney version) so the story is a bit darker but for the most part it follows the narrative that we've all grown up hearing. The actors all did a fantastic job (I didn't even mind that the Darling children were all played by adults) but again, the most unique aspect is the amazing staging by threesixty°. Here, take a look:

(Also, check out this fascinating interactive graphic explaining how the whole thing works. They even have a video showing how the tent and stage were set up. Thanks, LA Times!)

Another detail to look out for: their clever use of ordinary items to create their props. Their fantastical 'alligator' was created with the help of wooden clothes hangers and clothespins. Also, my daughter's sharp-eyed friend saw what she thinks was a football being used as the body of one of the puppets.

There was a lot of talk about the Tinkerbell character and how she was much sassier and strong willed, but she was one of my least favorite characters. I thought her way of communicating - with a series of grunts and whines – started to get really annoying after a few minutes and it kept reminding me of a poor Gilda Radner imitation. Sorry, Tink. But I still do believe in fairies!

Aside from that, I loved everything about this Peter Pan experience and I would wholeheartedly recommend you go see it. And lucky for you - they've extended the show's run through January 2. Just remember to keep an eye on your kid's cell phone.

(They also offer an 'Into Neverland Behind-The-Scenes Tour' on Saturdays that looks intriguing. See the website for details.)

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Tranquilli Regali Jewelry: Not Your Momma's Keepsakes

When my oldest daughter was born, a friend's aunt gave me a 'mother's locket.' It was a gold-plated, oval-shaped pendant with 'MOM' spelled out in curlique letters and small pearls surrounding a space to put a photo of my baby. It was a keepsake of the miraculous birth of my first child.

It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen.

Of course I never told her that, and I did keep the pendant. In a drawer.

Which is why I was so excited when my friend Michele came out with her own line of jewelry, Tranquilli Regali, and among them keepsake items that I would actually wear. In fact, she'll be making me one using a photo of my two daughters, now 12 and 14, but she told me first she needs a photo of the two of them really close together. After she said that we both just laughed and laughed and realized how impossible that would be and I told her she would just have to make me two separate pendants.

I've known Michele for a long time. Her husband and mine have known each other since high school and are in a band together, and they were one of the first of my husband's friends I met when we were dating. Obviously he ignored their advice to 'get out while you still can.'

Michele spent 21 years at Disney in event planning before starting her own jewelry line, and moms everywhere should breath a sigh of relief – keepsake jewelry that you can actually wear.

Here's her business in a nutshell, in her own words:

As a mom, I always found it hard to find custom personal jewelry pieces that represented my children. It was rare to find anything other than engraved pieces, and I could never find jewelry that would incorporate their photo. So after all these years of purchasing overpriced, mediocre personalized jewelry, I decided to start my own line. School spirit is huge at my son's school among the parents, so in the line I also incorporated custom pendants and key chains with the school crest, the student's sport and jersey number.

I've had a love affair with jewelry most of my life. My maternal grandmother loved jewelry and always wore a lot of lovely pieces. Even as she got older, she was always decked out in her jewels. To this day I still think of her whenever I hear the tinkle of a charm bracelet .
The unusual, hard to remember name: 'Tranquilli' Regali Fatti a Mano, came from 'Tranquilli', my maiden name, and 'Regali fatti a mano' meaning 'Handmade Presents' in Italian. 
But mom keepsake jewelry doesn't make up the entire line – there are some beautiful vintage-inspired pieces and as she mentioned, a line of pieces to show your school spirit. She even has – and I can hear some of my friends squealing now - keepsakes of your pet. Me, I refuse to get a piece of jewelry with a photo of my cat until the lazy bum learns how to bury his own poop.

The holidays are fast approaching, so check out Tranquilli Regali and give your friends the gift that keeps on giving. And that won't end up in a drawer. Also, place your order in October and a portion of your purchase will go to Breast Cancer Research.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Wendy's Pick 2 Menu: Do the math and win a prize!

Last week I was invited to try out Wendy's new Pick 2, a new menu they're featuring that pairs one of their gourmet half-sized salads with your choice of one seven other menu items for $4.99. I agreed to check it out, mainly because I like food, and also it was a great chance to hang out with my friends Amy and Bernadette. They like food, too. They also like piña coladas and walks in the rain, but that's a sordid tale for another day.

(If you're against the consuming of fast food, you may want to stop reading right here. If you're like me and feel it's fine in moderation, then pull up a french-fry caked chair and join me, won't you? Sorry about the ketchup stain on your pants.)

The idea behind the new menu is not only value, but encouraging the consumer to make salad a part of their meal. Also, the salad is 1/2 the size of their regular offering, so portion control is also addressed. By choosing one of the seven other menu items 28 combinations are possible giving the consumer many options, with 18 of them being 600 calories or less.

It's sort of like Garanimals, but with food. Wendy's, you have my permission to use that as your new tagline.

So, to break it down, you have your choice of one of four salads: BLT Cobb, Spicy Chicken Caesar, Baja, and Apple Pecan Chicken, and then get to pair it with one of seven of their other menu items: Jr. bacon cheeseburger, chili, baked potato, Chicken Go Wrap, a small Frosty, Dasani water, or any other small beverage. (To me the cheeseburger or the Frosty don't necessarily do much for the 'healthy' image of the menu, but who am I to judge - I once had bacon-wrapped pork belly.)

That makes two items for $4.99. I used my abacus for that one.

I decided to try the BLT Cobb, since it had bacon on it and that makes me happy. I paired it with their chili, which I've had before and is one of my favorites – it really does taste homemade, isn't overly sweet like many restaurant chilis are. If I had my choice I'd spice it up a little, but I guess that's what the bottle of Tabasco in my purse is for.

The salad was really good, and I appreciate them using something other than big chunks of iceberg lettuce and carrot shreds. Although half-size, I found the portion more than adequate - I'm having a hard time imagining what the full-size looks like. There was a couple of slices of actual bacon (no bacon bits here), a generous portion of grilled chicken, chunks of bleu cheese and other veggies on top of a green salad. I ate the whole damn thing. Here, look:

Overall I'd say it was a good meal, and one of the better fast-food meals I've had in a long time.

Then again, I could be lying, which is why I'm offering to buy you your own Wendy's Pick 2 meal so you can judge for yourself. Just leave me a comment before midnight Wednesday, October 27 telling me what your combo of choice would be, and I'll use pick a winner on Thursday, October 28 for a Wendy's giftcard. You can count on your fingers if you need to.

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I received a stipend, lunch and giftcards for participating in this program.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Baby you can drive my car, but put your phone down first

This is sponsored content from
BlogHer and LG Text Ed
I admit it – my kids text and drive. Well, at least they text while I drive. If I have a message I HAVE to get out while I'm at the wheel, I hand them my phone and dictate what I want the text message to say. It's my new method during those times when I'm running five minutes late (very often) or need directions (rarely) or forget to tell my husband to make that cappuccino a double (with alarming frequency.)

My two daughters are 12 and 14, too young to drive (thank goodness) but not too young to hear about the dangers of texting and driving. They know it's against the law, and they do know that before that law was passed they saw their mom occasionally read or send a text at a stoplight. Only once or twice. Okay, maybe five times max.

What does worry me are other parents who text while driving, other parents who at some point may have my kids in their car while they're driving and doing said texting. That scares me, as while I appreciate the “im going 2 b late but im bringing donuts” message I don't want to get it while they're rolling down the freeway at 65 miles per hour. So I've instructed my kids to speak out if they see someone texting while driving – nothing accusatory, more like, "Hey, Ms. B how about I send that text for you so you DON'T GET A TICKET (and we don’t die)" kind of thing. And I will certainly think twice before ever letting my kids get in that car again. Free donuts be damned.

Let's face it – texting is here to stay. And unless they come up with some sort of mind-melding communication device to replace it, texting while driving will definitely be an issue in 1-1/2 years when my oldest daughter gets her learner's permit. Or as my husband and I like to call it – 'All Cars Off The Road' Day.

What have you told your kids about texting and driving? Have they ever seen you text while at the wheel?

Give me your thoughts on these questions. For every comment left on this post a donation of 50 cents will be made to, up to $5000.

And for goodness sakes please do not text your comment in while driving.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Secretariat: It's No 'MacGruber' And That's a Good Thing

Let me tell you a funny story. Well, it was funny at the time.

Earlier this year my 14-year-old daughter and her friend, both big Saturday Night Live fans, talked my husband into taking them to see "MacGruber", the "MacGyver" parody that started off as an SNL skit and then inexplicably was stretched into a full-length feature film. Even though the movie was rated 'R' we had seen the skits and figured the movie probably just had some foul language and a fair share of bathroom humor. What harm could it do?

Let's just say you know something is truly inappropriate when the first words out of your kids' mouths after the movie are, "OMIGOD I AM SO SCARRED FOR LIFE." Also, it's never a good sign when you see your husband walking out of the theater, all the color drained from his face and he's mumbling something about having reached 'a new low in parenting.' Apparently there was a harrowing scene involving a stalk of celery. Use your imagination.

So I was relieved when I got an opportunity to redeem our parental standing when a few weeks later I was invited to a screening of Disney's "Secretariat." I hate using the overused label 'family film,' but that's what it is, and only in the best sense of the word. It's a thoroughly enjoyable film for adults, but one that's also wholly appropriate for kids as well. I took my 12-year-old, and despite her insistence that she is "not down with horse racing yo" she - and even more so I - really enjoyed it. And because I am horrible with summarizing, here is the plot via a little publication I read occasionally called The Los Angeles Times:
While the horse plays a central role in the movie, which was directed by [Braveheart writer Randall] Wallace and written by Mike Rich, "Secretariat" ultimately focuses on Penny Chenery, a Denver mother of four who against some family members' wishes took over her late father's Meadow Farm stable and bred and raced Secretariat. "Big Red," as the horse was popularly known, not only became the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown and also set records in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes that still stand today.
(Also, the film stars Diane Lane as Penny Chenery, so there's enough of a reason to go right there.)

As my kids get older I'm finding it harder to find movies that are appropriate for them yet not painfully saccharine for the adults. "Secretariat" fits that bill – it's not a groundbreaking movie, but enjoyable and also one that presents some valuable lessons that I think could make an impact on older kids and teens. The main one being that through a lot of hard work, belief in yourself and a healthy dose of respect for those around you, you could come out a winner.

Also, I should point out that the celery in this movie was fed only to the horses. Through their mouths.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Your Last Chance To Get Some 'Skin'

By now you've already heard me talk, chat, post and Twitter about Mysterious Skin, the amazing, haunting play that is on stage at East West Players. You also know by now that the production stars my nephew as a young man who is convinced he was abducted by aliens as an 8-year-old boy, only to discover that his memories are actually tied to a devastating incident from his childhood.

(I should add that the performers effectively portray some horrific occurrences in a searingly raw, honest and gritty way and the production is intended for mature audiences only. Which is why when my 89-year-old mom asked to come see her grandson on stage we had to make sure she had some activities down at the senior center to keep her busy for the duration of the play's run.)

In fact, the only thing you might not know is what I wore to opening night, or that a few scenes in the play were so intense that a couple of elderly women next to me were audibly gasping, or that before the show I sat next to George Takei at a sushi restaurant around the corner from the theater. Yes, I was chowing on a spicy tuna roll in the presence of Sulu. I'm not even a Star Trek fan, but my husband had to stop me from interrupting George's dinner with the Vulcan salute.

But now all you need to know is that this is the very last week that Mysterious Skin will be on stage, so get your theater-supporting selves over there NOW. There are all levels of pricing – only $5 will get you a ticket this Thursday, and on Friday you'll even get free wine. Although I can't guarantee you'll get to sip your chardonnay next to George Takei.

Thursday, October 7
Tickets go on sale one hour prior to performance time.
$5 suggested

Post Show Discussion:
Wednesday, October 6

Auditioning at EWP!
Hear the directors of this season, Tim Dang, Leslie Ishii, and Jeff Liu speak about what they look for in actors during the audition process, and hear the cast of MYSTERIOUS SKIN speak about their own audition process.

Performance Runs:
Through October 10, 2010
Wednesday - Saturday @ 8:00 p.m.
Sundays @ 2 p.m.

Regular Performances:
Single Tickets $25 - $35
Senior & student discounts available.

Wine Down Fridays:
Join us on Fridays @ 7:00 p.m. and enjoy complimentary glasses of white or red wine served before the production.
(Must be 21 years of age)

Rush Tickets:
Arrive 30 minutes prior to any regular performance.
Student Rush Tickets $15 (Wed & Thur); $20 (Fri - Sun)
General Rush Tickets $20 (Wed & Thur); $25 (Fri - Sun)

Half-price tickets if you show your SAG, AFTRA, or AEA union card

Union Center for the Arts
120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Halloween at Disneyland Is Just Around The Freaking Riverbend

This title comes courtesy of my 14-year-old, whose Facebook status after our trip to Disneyland on Saturday read:

Had fun at Disneyland yesterday :) I just have to say that anyone born in the 90's MUST see World of Color at California Adventure. Was pathetically tearing up in every other scene. COME ON, THEY WERE PLAYING ALADDIN AND THE LION KING, AND JUST AROUND THE FREAKING RIVERBEND.
Is that the sequel to Pocahontas – 'Just Around The Freaking Riverbend'? Because it totally should be.

Anyway, backing up a little, last week just about killed me. In a freak of nature never to be repeated again, my husband and I went out THREE nights in a row (more about that later) without the kids. These three events, while fun, required me to actually dress up, put on makeup and wear heels, and by the time I got to bed Friday night my feet hurt, my back was killing me and I may or may not have realized that in my sleepy haze I had accidentally brushed my teeth with hand cream.

Either way, my teeth are really soft and supple now.

So of course Saturday morning we got up and did what all sane people do when they're delirious with exhaustion and shuffling around like a couple of dazed senior citizens at a rave - we took the kids to Disneyland! (Add to that the fact that my husband got his backpack stolen the night before so on top of delirium we have anger and fist-shaking at the world. More on that later, too.)

Did I tell you how smooth and young my teeth feel? 

We weren't about to pass up this Disneyland visit, though, since it was the annual bloggers event to kick off Halloween Time, their seasonal celebration (September 17 to October 31) where several attractions are transformed with 'haunted' themes – Space Mountain becomes Ghost Galaxy and the Haunted Mansion gets its 'Nightmare Before Christmas' makeover – and guests are able to trick-or-treat at the resort at Mickey's Halloween Party. (Note: In addition to having a new name, this separate-ticketed event is at Disneyland this year and not California Adventure. See details here.)
 If you haven't been to Disneyland during the Halloween season, you really should check it out. Personally, I'm not a big fan of Halloween (I know, I know) but this event almost makes me want to embrace the holiday a little bit more. I said almost.

After our jam-packed day of checking out all the Halloween attractions we headed to dinner at the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ, which for a carnivore like me is HEAVEN. Buckets (yes, real buckets) of ribs, chicken and sausage served with buckets (more buckets) of beans and corn. I'll have to do a separate review of this place someday, because it really is that good. In fact, I've decided to start serving dinner at home 'Big Thunder Ranch BBQ' style – although Bucket Of Ramen might not have the same effect.

The evening ended with a viewing of World Of Color. I had seen it before, but it was the first time for my husband and kids and as you can tell they loved it. In fact, I liked it better this second time around, and I think that it was because of the fact I was seeing it with my kids – who knew seeing all those Disney classics would make them cry? I guess it's the same way i feel when I see that 'Best Of' montage on The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.

After 10 hours at Disneyland my husband and I were considering riding the Monorail over and over again just so we could take a nap, but the kids were still running around like a couple of crazed mice on speed. At 12 and 14 my girls have long grown tired of other things from their childhood (including their parents) but Disneyland is the one place they still get excited about.

Check out these videos and see if you don't want to hop in your car and head over. this weekend. After all, Halloween is just around the freaking riverbend.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

My Daughter Takes On 'Dragon Quest' and Wins

A few weeks ago Nintendo sent over the new Dragon Quest game for the DS and as usual I just opened the package and handed the whole thing over to my 12-year-old. I can't even begin to understand these video games – it may as well have been a box filled with parts to build a pony. Although at least with a pony I could point out things I recognized, like 'ear' and 'bladder' before my daughter stepped in and said, "You're doing it wrong, mom."

This time Nintendo sent over several copies of the game so that my daughter could have her friends try it out, too, and it just so happens the package arrived the day before she was having a slumber party. How perfect is that? Unfortunately her friends all think that they'll get a new DS game every time they sleep over, and now they're just hanging out on our front porch till all hours just waiting for me to invite them in. Funny, they were never this enthusiastic when I handed out my pizza rolls.

(I will say this, though – those girls played this game for hours on end, nonstop that weekend. I woke up at 4am to find them all awake in the living room, their little DS screens glowing. There were also empty soda cans and potato chips strewn about – it was a tween girls' version of a frat party.)

The people at Nintendo wanted some sort of video reaction to their game, so not only did my daughter write an eloquent review but she put together this video with her best friend. We had just seen 'Inception' so it's a sort of homage to that, as much as a homage as two tween girls could muster after staying up till 4am and getting hopped up on root beer and Cheetos.

Here is the review my daughter wrote. It's a 100% her. Please read through to the end for the important life lessons she gleamed from this.

As I’ve heard, the Dragon Quest games are quite popular in Japan, as well many other role-playing action games. Although I’m not a big fan of action games as much as I like a game with a story-line, Dragon Quest quite generously balances them both.

When you first start off, you get to create your character known as a Celestrian. You can pick out the eyes, the hair, etc., either way creating an adorable hero to represent you through the game. Celestrians are basically angels, that are guardians to the many towns in the game. They go through the town and help people, gathering benevolessence, otherwise known as gratitude gained from helping the mortals in your town.

Your oh-so-adorable Celestrian hero guards over the small (But big in heart!) city of Angel Falls, where you invisibly float around listening to the many “Oh no he didn’t!"s and collecting benevolessence that you give to the great tree, Yggdrasil. The tree eventually bears magical, golden fruit, known as Fyggs, that can make the consumer’s desire come true. The bearing of the fruit also means the Starlight Express will arrive and take the Celestrians to the world of the Almighty. But, when the Yggdrasil finally bears fruit that’s when it all goes wrong. Right when The Starlight Express arrives, purple blasts of light shoot up, followed by many “Oh snap!"s as you plummet to the ground (Along with the Fyggs) without your wings or halo.

For all of the adventures, I think the stories that go along with it are very interesting, although sad, and make the game interesting and fun. The downside of the stories is that each one usually involves a death and creepy ghosts wandering around.

I’ve also found defeating the many monsters extremely difficult, in which some take days to defeat. Of course nothing is impossible, so after many tiring days of sitting on the couch fighting fictional monsters, I eventually defeat them.

I think one of my favorite things from the game is the clothes. You can explore different towns for their clothes and decorate your characters to match their personality. Cause I mean, when you’re fighting to your death, you might as well die fashionable.

Overall, I think the game is very creative, and while the entire story is quote confusing, the smaller stories are sweet, and give important messages as in: “Don’t eat magical Golden fruits from strangers.” and “Don’t go fighting Dragons after dark.”
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

See 'Mysterious Skin' And Meet My Nephew At The Same Time

What if you had strange, unsettling dreams that eventually led you to the bizarre delusion that you had been abducted by aliens? And what if that delusion led you to the painful realization that you had suffered an unspeakable childhood trauma?

And what if someone wrote a play about it, and then cast my nephew as one of the two leads? I would ask you to go see it, of course. And then, if I was so inclined, I might just call you repeatedly over the next week or so to see if you had bought your tickets.

East West Players 

Mysterious Skin 

In association with the
L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and
Center for the Pacific Asian Family.

David Huynh
Scott Keiji Takeda (<- that's him!)

Premieres on September 15 and runs through October 10
at the Henry Hwang Theater in downtown L.A.

For more information and to purchase tickets please click HERE.

Come out and see a powerful play, support local theater and see my nephew in his L.A. stage debut. Don't make me call you.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Snowcreek Resort at Mammoth Lakes: The Best Anniversary Gift

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by Snowcreek Resort to check out their properties and enjoy a weekend in Mammoth Lakes. The timing was perfect – it would be right around my anniversary, and what an awesome gift - the opportunity for my husband and I to celebrate our 17th year of marriage amongst the majestic Sierras and towering pines. Besides, the official gift for the 17th anniversary is furniture, which doesn't sound very romantic to me. It's like, "Happy anniversary! I love you, and here's a desk to show you how much."

I grew up going to Mammoth Mountain to ski – it's only a five hour drive from Los Angeles – but they offer lots of warm-weather activities as well like hiking, biking and fishing. Sure, you wouldn't describe me as an outdoorsy person, but I do love getting away to the mountains and especially taking my kids there. It's great to get out into nature and feel the fresh air and hear the birds sing. So what if that singing is often interrupted by the clicking of my 14-year-old text messaging or the faint strains of 'Beat It' coming out of my 12-year-old's iPod – we're getting out into the great outdoors and that's all that matters, and I've got the iPhone pictures, the Flip video and my Twitter posts to prove it.

Snowcreek is a development that's actually been around since the '70's, but they've been developing it in stages. We stayed in a home that is part of a newer area called The Lodges. I love the architecture and design – a beautiful, clever combination of rustic with modern touches, which defies the whole image of the mountain condo. You won't any find orange shag carpeting, oppressive wood paneling or musty old sofa beds filled with pork rind crumbs here.

Our house was a 3-bedroom (plus loft), 3.5 bathroom house with a huge living room with fireplace, dining room and two balconies that overlooked the 18-hole golf course. Also, a state-of-the-art kitchen that made me want to cry with its beauty. (It was the first time that I actually wanted to cook and do the dishes while on vacation. Well, sort of.)

My girls were especially thrilled with the flat-screen TVs in every room, and of course the free WiFi – because it was important to be able to watch Hulu and update their Facebook status while taking in this view:

(Another huge perk – anyone staying at Snowcreek gets free access to their impressvie Snowcreek Athletic Club with tennis and racquetball courts, two pools, fully-equipped weight rooms, classes like yoga and spinning and a day spa [for a fee] that includes massages, facials and manicures. Perk!)

While we really hated to leave the comforts of our luxurious home, we were also given tickets for a gondola ride, so we headed out to the Mammoth Adventure Center located acorss from the main lodge at the ski area. Here you can try a little zip lining or practice your climbing on their rock wall, or do what we did - take a breathtaking gondola ride up the mountain and take in the amazing views. Many mountain bikers and hikers use the gondola to access the numerous trails available, which you can check out here. There was snow at the top of the mountain when we got there, which thrilled my 12-year-old to no end – she even put down her iTouch long enough to make a snowman.

Another event we were invited to was the Children's Fishing Festival, which takes place at Snowcreek Ponds, right on the Snowcreek property. The pond is stocked for the event, they provide reels and supplies for the kids and experts are there to give instruction and guidance. Unfortunately, it was the day we had to check out and leave to get to our next vacation destination so we didn't get to fish, but we stopped by to check it out. As expected, my jaded tween and teen were more interested in scoping out the food truck and hitting us up for Diet Coke money, but it looks like a great event for kids.

We were treated to a couple of great meals while we were there – lunch at an inventive, locally-owned place called Publik Square, and an amazing upscale eatery called Petra's that was to die for. Our dinner at Petra's was the night before our anniversary, but we consider it our official dinner since it was so fabulous and Sonny Carter was there. You can find out who that is, and read my reviews of Publik Squre and Petra's HERE.

We're planning on coming back soon to Snowcreek – my family of 30 gets together every other year or so for a big vacation getaway and I'm going to talk them into making Mammoth our destination. Besides, next year's our 18th anniversary and the official gift is porcelain, and I'd rather splurge on a Snowcreek getaway than a new toilet.

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