Friday, May 28, 2010

Bobby Flay Got All Up In My Grill (Book)

A couple of months ago I was invited to attend a taping of a commercial that chef Bobby Flay was doing for Hellmann's. I had to cancel the morning of the shoot because one of my kids was sick, but Kathleen, the coordinator, was nice enough to send me a copy of Flay's new book Bobby Flay's Burgers Fries and Shakes.

I'm just getting around to checking it out now because I wanted to get some grilling ideas for all those fabulous backyard parties I have planned for the summer, the ones where I fire up the Tiki torches, have my cabana boy bring me a martini and lounge by the pool. After I remembered I don't have a pool and the neighbors didn't like me asking their sons to fetch me my drinks, I got out the torches, opened up Flay's new book, and started looking for ideas. And this is what I found:

He autographed it! Now that Bobby Flay has touched my book I know for sure I'll have no problem cooking up the perfect burger or grilling the perfect kebab. Goodbye charred, blackened slabs of inedible flesh, hello succulent, delicious pieces of meat. (Insert inappropriate cabana boy reference here.)

(Wait -- is that really his signature or one of his staffers? Is he really sorry he missed me? Does he really use Hellmanns mayonnaise? These are the things that keep me up at night.)

I haven't had time to try out any of the grilling recipes yet, but I did whip up a batch of his Horseradish Mustard Mayonnaise the other day, and it was delicious. Dip your fries in this, pretend you're sitting by the pool and have the neighbor bring you a tall one.

Bobby Flay's Horseradish Mustard Mayonnaise
(Flay says this sauce is traditionally served alongside prime rib, but recommends it for burgers, too. I say it's probably good with everything.)

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons drained prepared horseradish
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: chopped fresh herbs such as chives, dill or tarragon. 

Whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard and horseradish in a small bowl and season withthe salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. The sauce can be prepared 1 day in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator. Makes 1/2 cup.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Turned Down Ashton Kutcher to Take The Road To Saigon and I'm Glad I Did

I almost didn't attend last week's opening night festivities of 'The Road to Saigon' at East West Players. I had gotten my dates mixed up and mistakenly agreed to attend a screening on that same night of 'Killers,' the upcoming thriller starring Ashton Kutcher. But while the chance to see Ashton shirtless was tempting, I did the right thing and decided to see 'The Road to Saigon' since that invitation had come in first. Also, my decision may have had something to do with the fact that they were serving homestyle barbecue at the 'Saigon' afterparty. I mean, Ashton's abs are hot but they're no match for a platter of succulent ribs in real life.

And I think I chose wisely. 'The Road to Saigon' is a clever, inspirational musical that chronicles the lives of three actresses who have played the role of Kim, the lead character in 'Miss Saigon' on Broadway and around the world. Through a mixture of monologues and musical numbers, Joan Almedilla, Jennifer Paz and Jenni Selma tell stories about their childhoods, families, professional travails and their auditions that landed them the coveted role. It's a little bit like 'A Chorus Line,' except there are only three characters and they're all Asian and female. Wait, I take that back -- this trio is so kickass it's more like 'Charlie's Angels.'

I brought along my 12-year-old daughter, and for me the best part was seeing how much she thoroughly enjoyed the show. She's an aspiring actress and drama student at her middle school, so the actress' stories were particularly relevant and inspirational. With the dearth of roles for Asians in the industry, it was great for her to see three performers who had broken through the barrier and achieved success. Equally important was that she got to hear about the hard work it takes to make it to the top -- hopefully she'll see that "more rehearsal time and less Facebook" is not just some annoying rule I made up.

As I mentioned, there was fabulous Asian-style barbecue at the afterparty and a bar serving a fantastic Lychee martini that is quickly replacing the Cosmo as my drink of choice (even if my daughter said those Lychees looked like eyeballs floating in my glass.) We ate, drank and mingled in the courtyard of the theater, which is a historic building -- the converted site of the former Union Church. A great night at the theater, wonderful food in a beautiful setting -- it was an amazing evening all around. And I didn't even think of Ashton Kutcher all night. Well, maybe just once.

'Road To Saigon' is playing through June 13

David Henry Hwang Theater
(Little Tokyo, downtown L.A.)
120 Judge John Aiso Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Click here for ticket information.

Here's a glowing review from The Los Angeles Times: "Road to Saigon is extremely specialized, virtually unclassifiable, and utterly enchanting. Don't miss it."

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More Fun Than Mom: The Natural History Museum

I've written before about my daughters' refusal to go to summer camp when they were younger. While most kids were spending their days learning about science or new soccer moves, mine were content to stay home and spend those long hot summer days watching me work. Although I can't say I blame them -- there is something magical about the way I hunch over my keyboard.

But all that changed one summer when they agreed to go to the Adventures in Nature camp at the Natural History Museum in LA. Who knew that learning about dinosaurs, birds and minerals could be more fun than watching your mom yell at the computer screen? Well, something about being in a class that took place inside the museum, and where they could get a behind-the-scenes glimpse reeled them right in -- they continued going to the camp for years until they outgrew it. And these were classes taught by people trained in the sciences -- no chance of showing up at class and realizing your friend's gross older brother was going to be telling you how to play dodgeball all summer.

Besides the camp, the museum has so much to offer and we go there several times a year as a family. I grew up going to the NHM and I'll continue to support them, and here's a great offer if you want to check it out: For a (very) limited time, you can buy a family membership for $60 -- that's UNLIMITED FREE admission for 2 adults and 4 children. But hurry -- the offer expires at midnight on Thursday, May 20.

And the best part -- the membership gives you a discount on the Adventures in Nature camp I was telling you about.

Here's what else you'll get:

  • UNLIMITED FREE admission for 2 adults and 4 children (ages 17 and under) to the Natural History Museum
  • UNLIMITED FREE admission to Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits and William S. Hart Ranch & Museum in Newhall
  • FREE admission to special exhibits and events including: Pavilion of Wings, Spider Pavilion, Bug Fair and First Fridays
  • 10% discount in the Museum Stores
  • Discounts on educational classes, camps and overnight adventures
  • 4 FREE guest passes valid at the Natural History Family of Museums ($36 Value)
And another bonus: 5% of every purchase will be donated to the Savvy Source Preschool Scholarship Fund for children in financial need

Click here to take advantage of the offer, and to find out more about the museum.

(You must purchase your membership through this link to get the special offer.)

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Monday, May 17, 2010

What To Eat At Disneyland

One of the most common complaints I hear about Disneyland is the lack of good, reasonably priced food. My answer is usually, "Hey, you don't go to Disneyland for the food, people. That's like saying you go to the beach for their clean bathrooms." Of course, there's always the one smartass that says why yes -- they actually do prefer the beach bathrooms to their one at home, but sometimes my daughter will say anything to get on my nerves.

But I have to agree that finding somewhere to have lunch and/or dinner is always difficult. The kids don't necessarily want to sit down and have a full meal when they could be riding Space Mountain or spending their parents' money on their six-hundredth Disney keychain. And the quicker options -- hamburgers or corn dogs -- aren't going to work for my vegetarian 14-year-old. Also, who actually eats those turkey legs?

But I was there on Saturday and discovered this:

These are grilled, bacon-wrapped asparagus kebobs from Bengal Barbecue, located across from the Indiana Jones ride in Adventureland. Did I mention two of my favorite foods, bacon and asparagus, together? On a stick? For only $3.79*? You'll still have plenty of cash leftover for keychains.

They also have chicken and beef kebabs that kids would love, and best of all -- an incredible vegetable kebab that my vegetarian daughter swooned over. How did I miss this place all these years? You'd think I would have smelled that bacon from way over in Tomorrowland.

*That's per kebab, but trust me -- you'll want two. Or five.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Get Off The Couch and Head to The Discovery Science Center

Summer's coming, and if your kids are anything like mine they're looking forward to spending an unhealthy amount of time sitting on the couch watching TV and eating Doritos. Well, they're going to have to fight me for a seat, but that's beside the point -- kids should be doing something constructive with their days, right? I say a visit to the Discovery Science Center to see a 4-D movie, or walk through a tornado would be a great idea. Besides, if I can get someone else to take them I can have the couch all to myself.

And now -- for a (very) limited time, you can buy a family membership for $70 -- that's $53 off their regular price of $123. But hurry -- the offer expires at midnight on Friday, May 14.

And another bonus: 5% of every purchase will be donated to the Savvy Source Preschool Scholarship Fund for children in financial need

Click here to take advantage of the offer, and to find out more about the museum.

(You must purchase your membership through this link to get the special offer.)

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Montage Laguna, You Complete Me

Last Saturday I was invited by Kimberly Clayton Blaine (TheGoToMom) along with six other bloggers to be guests of the Montage Laguna Beach for a little pre-Mother's Day pampering. I can barely type that without crying because it was such an amazing day I'm having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that it's over. It's like the lover that you leave behind and then end up begging for them to take you back and then when they don't you have to stalk them and kidnap their cat.

Montage Laguna, we had a beautiful thing.

Don't worry -- I won't really be kidnapping anyone's pet. But I am absolutely smitten with the Montage Laguna and all of its beauty and serenity. Our day started in the main lobby, where we were served Mimosas and champagne off of a silver platter and drank them on the balcony while looking out onto an amazing ocean view. If that doesn't sound like a love connection I don't know what does.

After that we were taken on a tour of the resort and numerous amenities. One of the main things they're showcasing is Paintbox, their club and babysitting service for kids that provides activities and supervision while parents can enjoy some romantic alone time. That's Montage Laguna, bringing sexy back.

And I was happy to hear they're debuting a program for teens over Memorial Day weekend called M-Teens. With activities like Dinner & Movie night and kayak excursions, I know my daughters would much rather join in on that action than watch my husband and I sip martinis seaside. Although I have to admit we do look rather stunning.

After that it was on to the Spa Montage, and this is where the real love affair begins. One look at the jacuzzi, saunas, lounge and all the amenities and I was ready to move in, change my last name and have its baby. And can you blame me?

Before our scheduled treatment of choice (massage or facial), we were treated to lunch poolside. I had what is probably one of the best cheeseburgers ever made, and a delicious decadent drink that I can't remember the name of. I do remember that I had two of them. Or was it three?

After that it was on to my hour-long massage, and it was sublime. I do have to confess, though, that I kept falling asleep and I'd suddenly wake myself up because I realized I was breathing really weird. My apologies to my masseuse if she thought I was dying.

And wait -- the day didn't end there. After a little more time to relax in the spa, we met in The Loft restaurant for a wine and cheese tasting led by their knowledgeable sommelier, Casey. I'm not much of a wine snob (I've mentioned before that I often choose wine by their nicely designed labels -- oh look, a nice font!) but this was the first time I found a sommelier interesting and accessible. All the wines were by women winemakers, and Casey told us the history behind all of the wineries, including her personal stories of meeting some of the vintners. Next to the massage, this was probably my favorite part of the day -- surprising for someone who usually doesn't care if her wine comes out of a box.

(See the yellow stuff next to the strawberry? Honeycomb! And it was delicious.)

It truly was a fantastic day, and I'm already planning and scheming a way to get back to the resort for a day or a weekend stay. Lookout Montage Laguna -- in the words of Frankie Valli, I'm working my way back to you, babe. And don't try to play hard to get or your cat might just disappear.

Here are the other bloggers that were part of the Montage love fest:

The Go To Mom
SoCal Mom
Los Angelista
Peace Love and Momminess
La Jolla Mom

Check out their sites for more coverage and photos!

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Blogger Luncheon at the Beach: It's a Tough Job But Somebody's Got To Do It

A few weeks ago I was invited to a blogger's luncheon hosted by Child's Play Communications. The event took place in the beautiful courtyard of the Shade Hotel in sunny Manhattan Beach, and while there we had to dine on a delicious buffet of amazing food, drink refreshing "Momosas" and then receive wonderful products from a variety of companies. I also had my makeup done and then ate ice cream. The torture was relentless I tell you.

All kidding aside, it was a fantastic event, and besides getting to hang out with some of my blogger friends I got to check out a host of interesting products. Many of them were for younger kids, but there were a few that were targeted towards the tweens and teens and a few that were just for the moms. Here are some that I especially liked:

Dyson: Maybe you have to be a parent to understand how anyone could lust after a vacuum cleaner, but if you heard the gasps and moans when the winner of the Dyson raffle was announced you'd get a pretty good idea. I think of Dyson as the George Clooney of household appliances, something totally hot and completely out of my league. Someday I'll have one and tame that bad boy. I'm going to stop here before I start making inappropriate references to hoses.

Pottery Barn Teens: I'm a big Pottery Barn fan, and they were there highlighting their bedding and accessories line for teens and tweens. Which is perfect since I'm planning on a major overhaul here during the summer -- my 12 & 14 year olds will be getting their own rooms. (Just thinking about it makes me want to dive under the covers, or in this case a tasteful duvet.) I love all of PB Teens' room themes -- nothing too overly 'girly' -- and I'm especially in love with these pillows.

Toyota: I had a Toyota Camry for years and never had it accelerate uncontrollably through a storefront, so I still believe in the brand. And with our Quest getting on in years we've been thinking about what to buy next. Unfortunately I missed out on the test drives the Toyota reps were giving, but I did pick up a brochure that has me crushing on a Sienna.

Pajama Jeans: They're jeans! They're pajamas! They're jeans! What they are is perfect for someone who calls herself sweatpantsmom, don't you think? They're soft, stretchable pants that look like jeans but feel like pajamas. And can totally be worn out in public, no matter what my husband says. And while they elicited some groans from my teenager when she saw them, I say they're the greatest invention since, well, sweatpants.

Backyard Safari Outfitters: Summit Toys was there to introduce their new line of outdoor-themed toys, and when they showed me one of them it was as if they had read my mind: A BUG VACUUM. How cool is this? Now I could get my kids actively involved in getting rid of spiders for me, and pass it off as 'fun'! I especially liked the two guys they sent to represent their company. They were dressed like Scout leaders and were truly enthusiastic about getting kids interested in the great outdoors. Many of their items could be used for kids to put together their own mini earthquake kits, particularly timely given all of the rumbling that's been going on.

Temptress: This beauty and skincare boutique in El Segundo sent over a couple of makeup artists to do some touch-ups on the brunching mom bloggers. What a FABULOUS idea! I wish more events would have lipstick and eyeshadow at the ready -- it would save me hours in prep time.

Coldstone Creamery: The ice cream chain brought along their newest creation, The Oreo Ice Cream Sandwich. Coldstone ice cream sandwiched between two gigantic Oreo cookies. Need I say more?

Shade Hotel: Last but not least, the scene of this lovely event, the modern, hip Shade Hotel. I've passed by the hotel several times and have dined at the nearby Le Pain Quotidien, but never stopped to look inside. I'm glad I finally got a chance to check it out, because it's definitely on my list of local hotels to explore. It's right in the middle of a cluster of trendy shops and restaurants, and best of all - walking distance from the beach.

Thanks to Child's Play Communications for a fun, relaxing amazing afternoon in the sun! You really know how to make a girl suffer.

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Kevin Jonas, Lunchables, Field Trips and Why I Can't Be Trusted With a Camera

Last week my daughters and I were invited to an event that combined three of their favorite things: Field trips, meeting celebrities, and getting out of school early. Technically the field trip wasn't theirs -- the event was to kick off Lunchables "Field Trips For All" program, and Kevin Jonas was the celebrity they got to meet. I had to pull them out of school an hour early in order to make the media check-in time, and if the attendance office lady at their school is reading this, yes this was the 'personal appointment' I was referring to. Also, as you can see I was totally joking when I said I was pulling them out early to visit their dad in prison.

The most unfortunate thing about this whole day was that I realized that all the high-tech gadgetry in the world can't save me if I'm put on the spot. Because even with my amazing camera that I used to get such awesome photos of Paul McCartney while seated a mile from the stage, this is the best I could do while standing a mere three feet away from Kevin Jonas and my daughters:

Also, I used the video feature on that same camera to capture their interview, but I must have *forgotten* to focus it, and/or adjust the light setting. And I don't know what's up with the sound being all muffled, but if you listen closely you might hear me banging my head against the wall at the end. This is right about when I'd be fired if I was actually getting paid to do this:

But thank goodness my 11-year-old had the camera for most of the event, and managed to get a bunch of great photos. A lucky second-grade class was there as part of an actual field trip, and Kevin did a few activities with them and then posed for a group shot. Notice how this one is in focus!

If any of you have kids in public schools you know how the number of field trips have dwindled significantly due to budget cuts. Where they used to have multiple excursions per year to museums, operas and college campuses, now it appears there is barely enough money for them to have even one. If this keeps up their outings might start consisting of walking tours of the nearest mini-mall. Although my kids would tell you a trip to Starbucks would be THE BEST FIELD TRIP EVER.

This is where the "Field Trips For All" program comes in. Part of Lunchables' new initiative called Project Potential, the program is dedicated to helping kids meet their potential by providing them with enriching experiences they might otherwise not have. And from now until June 1, you can go to and nominate a deserving classroom for a much-needed field trip and 50 classrooms will be selected to go on an educational outing. I say it's a great cause, and certainly better than having your kid come home and tell you all about how a caramel macchiato is made.

Small but important print I was not given any monetary compensation for attending this event nor was I required to write a review. I was given a Flip video camera which I will certainly use the next time I interview a Jonas brother so as to avoid the fiasco that you witnessed here. Amen.
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