Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Feels Like The First Time: Holidays at Disneyland

Last weekend we were invited to experience Holidays at Disneyland, where Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure are transformed for the holidays. We've been lucky enough to have been guests at the park during this magical time before, but as I've mentioned my kids never, ever get tired of it and squeal at the spectacle as if it's their first time. If only they could bottle that emotion and apply it chores – I'd love to see that enthusiasm when I ask them to empty the dishwasher.

So if my girls get that excited after seeing it a few times, imagine how fun it was this trip when we took one of my daughter's friends for his first ever trip to Disneyland. I KNOW. My older daughter couldn't make it, so it was my 13-year-old, her BFF (another Disneyland veteran) and their first-timer friend on this trip. Seeing someone take their first Disneyland adventure is exciting – it was like watching one of my babies take their first steps, except this time I didn't cry and scream at anyone to grab a camera. Well, maybe only a few times.

Who doesn't get goosebumps when you walk in and see the giant Christmas tree on Main Street? I tried to get a picture of all the kids in front of it, but they had already taken off running to the Haunted Mansion. Which of course has been given a Christmas makeover and is now Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas with Jack Skellington and his crew. The first-timer (for lack of a better moniker) loved this one, although he admitted it wasn't as scary as he thought it was going to be. I told him the real terror was coming up, when I left him alone with the two 13-year-old girls and I took off to get some dinner. (At the Wine Country Trattoria, of course.)

Taking his first ride on It's A Small World would have been special enough during any other time of the year, but it was that much more enchanting when the ride has been transformed for the holidays. Although, being a 13-year-old boy, he wasn't going to get as excited about this ride as *some of us*. But I know he was screaming inside.


I don't think anything sums up the magic that is Disneyland like Sleeping Beauty's Castle, and especially when it's lit up for the holidays. The three of them just stood and stared at this for awhile, and you now it's mesmerizing when it holds the attention of three teenagers and they're oblivious to the cart full of churros and Cokes just a few feet away.


The Believe In Holiday Magic fireworks are one of my favorite parts of the day, but unfortunately they were cancelled on this night because of the severe winds we'd been experiencing for a few days. They did go on with the famous snowfall on Main Street, though, and I got to see the excitement from my place in the line at the coffee cart. (There is something so ironic and metaphoric about that last sentence, my life going by as I wait to buy yet another cup of coffee. Oprah, call me please.)


Aside from some of the rides being transformed for the holidays, the entire park is decorated and the shops are stocked with seasonal items. My daughters wear their Santa hats with the Mickey ears every Christmas – like their time at Disneyland, they seem new every year. As for the first timer - he declared his first trip to the Magic Kingdom "THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!" I know he meant it, too.


Holidays At Disneyland will be going on until January 8, 2012 – check the website for park hours and special activities.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

See ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED for FREE

My teenagers are too old for this movie, but I know many of you out there with younger kids are going to have to give in to the begging, do your parental duty and take your little charges to see ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED. 

So why not see it for FREE? 20th Century Fox has provided 50 guaranteed seats for my readers at an advanced screening of the film this Saturday, December 10. Use the code below to download your passes and you'll be on your way. But hurry – it's first come, first served and you don't want to miss the boat. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.) 


Screening info: 
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED
Saturday, December 10 @ 11am
AMC Burbank 16 
125 E. Palm Ave.
Burbank, CA

Click on gofobo.com/RSVP and enter code SWPMX5WV to download your passes. 

Have fun, Chipmunk fans!



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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

With the Nintendo 3DS, in her next film you'll be able to taste the pancakes

My 13-year-old and her friend made this cute little stop-motion film about making pancakes. Why pancakes? Because pancakes are awesome and tasty.



They used a still camera, painstakingly moving their props around in small increments and then shooting it frame by frame. It took them forever, much longer than it would take you to make a batch of pancakes in regular time. I think they even ate those pancakes, in spite of the fact that they had been touched and prodded for hours. Because you should never waste a good batch of pancakes. Why? Because pancakes are awesome and tasty.

But her next stop-motion film will be much, much easier because she'll be shooting it on her Nintendo 3DS. Sometime this month, Nintendo will be releasing a system update that will include video-capture options, allowing users to shoot up to 10 minutes of 3-D video using the 3DS, and create stop-motion video projects using the system’s camera. Which means next time, those pancakes are going to look like they're sitting right on your table. Awesome. Tasty.

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Also included in the update will be new features for StreetPass and a sequel to the “Find Mii” mini-game. And don't forget that Hulu Plus will soon be coming to the Nintendo 3DS as well. Between that and the new camera features, the teenagers will be busy for awhile.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Good Pointe: The Joffrey Ballet's 'Nutcracker'

I was invited to the opening night of The Joffrey Ballet's 'The Nutcracker' at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. And that's where I was last night, with my two teenagers in tow. When I first got the invite I knew I wanted to take my girls – it's one of those holiday traditions I always dreamed of doing with my kids but never had the opportunity. I have however, managed to keep up a tradition of family bingo nights where we watch grandma take all of our money. Hey, not all culture is highbrow.

But to be honest, I wasn't sure how interested my girls would be. Even though they both attend performing arts schools and are knee-deep in dance classes and voice lessons and theater productions, they've both been lukewarm towards ballet. And then my 13-year-old said this when I mentioned I had taken them both to a performance of The Nutcracker at a junior college many years ago.

"Really? The only one I remember is 'Barbie In The Nutcracker.'

What.

Oh no. She din'nt.

I knew then that we were in a cultural abyss and needed to start digging ourselves out. The ballet was just what we needed – I made them turn off Sister Wives, put down the People magazine and we headed out the door.

And it was a magical night.

I knew it would be spectacular but it surpassed all of my expectations. The dancing, the music (performed live by LA Opera's Orchestra), the costumes, just the sheer scale of the sets was breathtaking. I don't think my girls sat back in their seats once - they were just as mesmerized as I was. Although I have to admit, the reason for my 13-year-olds enthusiasm may have been a little dubious judging by this breathless review during intermission: "Man, those guys have nice butts."

That's okay – better to have visions of men in tight leotards embedded in her brain rather than Barbie and Ken performing the Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy.

But seriously, I literally had goosebumps throughout the show, and I know my girls were pretty speechless by the time it was over. I felt like we had just seen something so incredibly special and important and moving, and I was so grateful to have experienced it with them. In fact, we've become a little obsessed with it – we're talking about making it an annual tradition. Maybe we can talk grandma into putting down her bingo marker and coming with us.


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An added bonus: It's a great time to visit the Music Center – the plaza is gorgeous, centered around a huge Christmas tree. Get a glass of wine for yourself, some hot cocoa for the kids and sit at one of the outdoor tables – that's worth a trip in itself.

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The Joffrey Ballet "The Nutcracker"
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center
135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012    

Performance Schedule:
December 1 - 7:30pm
December 2 - 2:00pm and 7:30pm
December 3 - 2:00pm and 7:30pm
December 4 - 2:00pm
$34 - $125  

Purchase Tickets In Person:
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Box Office
135 N Grand Ave. at Temple St. Los Angeles, CA 90012    

Online:
http://musiccenter.org/events/dance_1112_joffrey.html  

By Phone:
Music Center Dance Information Line (213) 972-0711  

Group Sales:
10 or more, call (213) 972-8555 or email MCgroupsales@musiccenter.org 

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

They Make It Easy Bein' Green: 'The Muppets' at the El Capitan Theatre

I realize I'm probably the last person on the planet to see 'The Muppets'. We had an invitation to see it a couple of weeks ago, but alas life and turkey preparations got in the way. My 13-year-old has already seen the movie and loved it and is determined to get the rest of the family on board, so we'll be going in the next week or so if she has her way. Which she always does – how is it that 13-year-olds always get their way? I must learn their secret so I can use it the next time the phone company says I'll have to wait for a whole week for service.

When we do finally go and see 'The Muppets', it will be at the El Capitan Theatre. Not only is the theater itself plush and comfortable, but there is a Sing-a-long with Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy before each movie. You won't get that at your local multiplex, only a guy in an ill-fitting uniform telling you to turn your cellphone off and to stop talking. So much less fun.

And to add to the Muppet mania, on select days the El Capitan is offering a chance to attend Disney’s Most Sensational Muppet Party before or after the movie at Disney’s Soda Fountain & Studio Store. There's food and cupcake decorating, a special gift and a commemorative photo for each guest. And don't forget that anything you order at the Soda Fountain can be brought into the theater to be enjoyed during the movie. Although, out of respect for Miss Piggy you might want to skip the BLT. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

The Muppets is at the El Capitan Theater from Nov. 23 - Jan. 8. Go here for tickets. The Most Sensational Muppet Party is only offered on select days, so check the website for availability or call 818-845-3110.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hats off (and on) to Super Mario 3D Land

This is going to date me, but the first game I remember playing on a home gaming system was Super Mario Brothers. I'm talking about the original one that came out back in 1985, the one that you played on a system the size of a small car. I'd sit down, adjust my fanny pack and my leg warmers and settle in for a few hours trying to get Mario to collect those coins and mushrooms. Times were simpler back then – all I had to worry about was getting off the couch to flip over my Lionel Richie cassette.

To refresh your memory – if you were alive back then –here's what the original game looked like. And no, this isn't a cave painting:


Times have changed. We just received Super Mario 3D Land from the awesome people at Nintendo. It has all the things you love about the Super Mario games, but with new game-play strategies utilizing the Nintendo 3DS system's 3D visuals. In other words, if this were the Super Mario from my day, I could see that mushroom coming RIGHT AT ME.

To get us in the mood, they sent over these hats that are being modeled by modern-day lifeforms:


In case you're wondering, the hat on the right represents Mario once he changes into his famous Tanooki suit. If you don't know what the hat on the left is, well, I'm not sure there's anything we can do for you.

Here's a trailer to give you an idea of what Super Mario 3D Land looks like. I'm going to turn down my Lionel Richie cassette and watch it with you:



Oh, what the hell – here's some Lionel for you too:



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Monday, November 14, 2011

Listening To: Lady Antebellum's Own The Night

I'm not a big fan of country music. And when my 15-year-old daughter – a fan of everything from the most indie of bands to the most mainstream – started begging me to take her to a Lady Antebellum concert at the Troubadour a couple of months back, I may have made a snarky comment about them on Facebook. That prompted a few of my friends to suggest that I give the band a chance, with many of them starting off with, "I'm not a country music fan either, BUT..." and then launching into the reasons I was wrong. Although they did fall silent when I suggested they take my daughter to the concert. Hmmm.

So when I was offered a chance to review their new album "Own The Night", I took it as a sign to take my friends' (and my daughter's) advice and give the band a listen. I'm glad I did – although it won't turn me into a die-hard country music fan, it did give me a new appreciation for the band and their musicianship.

And I'm not entirely sure if Lady Antebellum is a country band anyway, or more of a rock band with a country tinge to it. And maybe that's its appeal for me – I find it much more palatable than traditional country music songs, many of them with themes I have a hard time relating to. I've learned my lesson, though - I won't be making any snarky comments about that on Facebook.

"We Owned The Night," the second single released from the album is my favorite, while I can't seem to stop humming "Love I've Found In You." (Which is probably one of the songs on the disc that does sound most like a traditional country tune. What is happening to me?) I'm less of a fan of the ballads on the album, with the exception being the first single, "Just A Kiss." But the catchy, breezy "Singing Me Home" reminds me of something I might have listened to over and over again on my turntable when I was a high schooler, sipping a Tab and drawing hearts on my notebook.

Speaking of high school, here's a review of the album from my 15-year-old, the true Lady A fan in the family. (Note: My husband ended up taking her to that show at the Troubadour, and even he came away more impressed than he thought he'd be.)
After winning five Grammys with their smash hit album, 'Need You  Now,' Lady Antebellum wows us again with their third album, 'Own the  Night.' This album has a song for any kind of mood, from the upbeat party anthem 'Friday Night' to a reminiscent love song, 'Dancing Away With My Heart.' The album also features heartbreaking love ballads like 'Cold As Stone' and 'As You Turn Away,' which really show the  amazing vocal talent of lead singers Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, and of course, the fantastic piano and guitar skills of Dave Haywood.
The album has a sense of nostalgia to it, bringing you back to the carefree days of young love with songs like 'We Owned the Night.' And as usual, Lady Antebellum delivers their songs with perfect harmonies and beautiful instrumentals. Whether you want to curl up with your loved one or just have a good old time with your friends, 'Own the Night' has a song just for you. Also, if you want to experience the music live, the trio begins their very first arena headlining 'Own the Night' tour tonight, which is traveling all over the country. Check if they're coming to your city; it's definitely not something you want to miss!



Lady Antebellum is currently on their 'Own The Night' 2012 World Tour. Check here for tour dates and tickets.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Wanna Be Your Superhero: Kirby's Helping Kids

I'm totally suspicious of people knocking on my door. I automatically think it's either an axe murderer or a rug salesman, both of those being equally scary and equally unwelcome. Most people who want to get in touch with me would either text me or email me and would never dream of knocking on the door. Man, I guess I just gave permission to all the axe murderers and rug salesman to email me now.

But recently I opened the door to find this:


It didn't look scary at all, so I opened it up. Then my paranoia took over and I thought of Pandora's Box and was certain that I had just unleashed evil on the world, but then I saw this:


Kirby's Return To Dream Land! And Kirby CAKE POPS! Not scary or evil in the least bit. In fact, the total opposite of scary and evil – cute and delicious. Although that one cake pop in the top left does look like a rug salesman that came by once.

Here's a trailer for the game:



This was yet another awesome gift I received as a Nintendo Ambassador. It was sent to give my girls and I a chance to check out Kirby's new game, but more importantly to announce Nintendo's partnership with the Starlight Children's Foundation – a foundation committed to improving the quality of life for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and injuries by providing entertainment, education and family activities.

And they've come up with a clever way to get your kids involved: Just as Kirby uses his 'Super Abilities' in the game to help his friends, Nintendo is asking kids all over the country what 'Super Ability' they'd like to have to help others. They can go to the Super Ability microsite to download a coloring sheet and describe their 'Super Ability' – it might get posted on the Nintendo site!

And as a total non-sequitur and because ever since I heard the words 'Super Ability' I couldn't get the Entourage theme song out of my head, here it is so you can have it stuck in yours. Hey, it beats listening to the doorbell ring.



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Monday, November 7, 2011

Winnie the Pooh (and Breakfast, Too!) at the El Capitan Theatre

Who knew my teenagers would be so excited to meet Winnie-The-Pooh? I was invited to a screening of Disney's new Winnie the Pooh movie at the El Capitan Theater as well as a pre-show character breakfast at the Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store and I had initially thought I would pass it up – while my girls are still very much into Disneyland, I thought they'd roll their eyes at seeing an animated movie and the prospect of meeting a big, sweet bear in a red shirt.

Boy, was I wrong.

The last time I saw them this excited was when they discovered that the local high school's boy's cross country team runs right through our neighborhood, shirtless. They didn't even balk when I told them we'd have to get up early on a Saturday in order to make it to the breakfast by 9:15. Who knew that Winnie the Pooh was such a chick magnet?

Seriously, when they saw him appear in the doorway, they started squealing like a couple of - well, girls. It was as if they'd spotted the boy's cross country team running behind him.

Hipper than the average bear.
The pre-show Breakfast With Pooh was a huge hit with my girls. Along with getting their famous Mickey Mouse Belgium Waffle, they were genuinely excited when Pooh came around to our table and greeted them personally. I'm not kidding, my 13-year-old said, with all sincerity, "This is better than the time I met Miley Cyrus." Sorry, Miley, but you've been trumped by a bear.

Here's the menu – I had the scrambled eggs and bacon. Confession: I couldn't decide between the bacon and sausage so I had my 15-year-old, who doesn't eat meat, order the sausage and then I took it. Stop looking at me like that.

Bacon or sausage? It was like Sophie's Choice.

Here's an added bonus: According to our waitress, anything you order from the Disney Soda Fountain can be taken into the El Capitan Theater. So of course I had my coffee refill put into a to-go cup. I would have done the same with the waffle but it was gone shortly after I snapped this photo.

Get yer coffee and Mickey Waffle to go.
Seeing any movie at the El Capitan is a unique experience, and this was no different. It started off with an organist playing a medley of Disney tunes followed by a little pre-show by that stud himself, Winnie-The-Pooh.

I'm telling you, he's got the teenage girls wrapped around his paw.
The movie itself is sweet and lovely to look at, just what you'd expect from a story about Christopher Robin and all his friends in the Hundred-Acre-Wood. This is a brand-new movie that will have a limited run at the El Capitan and is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

And here's the kicker – as if my teens needed yet another reason to love it - it features the music of their absolute favorite person, Zooey Deschanel. I know, right? So now my girls are hooked on the song, 'So Long' that Zooey sings in the closing credits. Man, now Pooh's a teen dream and has indie cred. Put a hoodie on him and next he'll be headlining at Coachella.



This was a great experience all around. While it's perfect for families with younger kids, I was excited to find something I could do with my teens that was fun for them and nostalgic for me. It once again proves how timeless Disney is, and I have to give them kudos for providing entertainment that's wholesome while still managing to pique the interest of older kids. And for proving a silly old bear can even hold his own against Hannah Montana. And maybe even a pack of sprinting, skinny high school boys.

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Winnie The Pooh is at the El Capitan Theater from Nov. 4 - Nov. 20. The pre-show Breakfast With Pooh is only offered on select days, so check the website for availability (I found it fairly confusing to figure out the breakfast/movie tickets on the website – you might be better off calling the box office at 818-845-3110.)

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Teenage Scream: Hulu Plus Is Coming to Nintendo 3DS and Wii

Hear that? It's the sound of my teenagers jumping up and down and screaming. Oh look – now they're hugging the Wii and gazing at their Nintendo 3DS and saying, "OMIGOD can you BE any more awesome?"

What's the reason for this love fest? Nintendo has announced that you'll soon be able to access Hulu Plus through the Wii and Nintendo 3DS consoles. So not only will my girls be able to watch (and re-watch) their beloved Glee through the Wii on our TV (instead of the computer) anytime they want, they can watch Modern Family on their 3DS while sitting in Starbucks. Can their lives get any more perfect?

Here's the skinny from Nintendo:
With Hulu Plus, you’ll be able to instantly stream thousands of TV episodes – including the entire current seasons of popular shows like Modern Family, Glee, Dancing with the Stars, The Biggest Loser, House and Grey’s Anatomy – from premium content partners like ABC, Comedy Central, FOX, NBC, MTV and many more. Hulu Plus also offers access to classic TV favorites like Lost, Battlestar Galactica, The Hills and hundreds of popular and award-winning movies. Hulu Plus is available through a separate subscription fee of $7.99 per month with limited advertising. 
I've said it before and it's true – there are few things from my girls' childhood that they haven't lost interest in, and their Nintendo devices are among them. I have to admit that the Wii gets much more action than their 3DS and DSi these days, but I think that's about to change – knowing that Darren Criss' Glee performances will soon be at their beck and call has renewed sudden interest in their handheld devices. And I know more than a few parents that have held off on buying the Nintendo 3DS who will certainly be snapping one up now, if only for themselves – the thought that they'll be able to watch House and Lost while waiting in line at the bank? Priceless.

Hulu Plus will be available on Wii and Nintendo 3DS by the end of 2011. Or as my teens put it, "Not soon enough."

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Teenage Dream: Extra Dessert Delights

Did you know that teenagers love gum? Did you know that for a teenager, a pack of gum is like a secret weapon – if you pull out a pack of gum at school, not only will you have more friends than you can count, but a stick of gum can be traded for all sorts of wonderful things; paper, pencils, even entire lunches, according to my 13-year-old, who swears she doesn't know this information first hand.

(Yes, it's true that gum-chewing is against school rules, but – surprise! - ALL teenagers do it anyway. They also have friends on Facebook they've never met in person, say they don't have homework when they do, and occasionally pretend they didn't get your text.)

But yes, GUM. I can't go through the grocery checkout without both my teenagers throwing a couple of packs into my cart, and the choosing of the gum is a complex process in itself, requiring great concentration and thought. I let them take their time while I catch up with my tabloid reading, hoping they make a choice by the time the cashier starts ringing up my groceries. A few months ago they found this:

 
How crazy is that? A gum that tastes exactly like Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream! Apparently just crazy enough that it became my teens' favorite, and pretty popular with their friends, too. Word has it that just one stick of these bad boys was worth TWO lunches.

Then I happened to get asked to try out some new Extra Dessert Delights flavors, and my teens jumped at the chance. Personally, I'm more of an old-school spearmint fan, so I turned over the tasting to my girls. That's right, I ASKED them to chew more gum. Here are their thoughts:

Root Beer Float – Hands down my teens' favorite. Didn't hurt that they all love root beer floats - and who doesn't? A couple of the 13-year-old's friends tried it, and they too agreed it was the best - really tasted like an actual root beer float! I wonder how it would taste with french fries?

Bananas Foster – Right off the bat they all remarked that the gum had an odd smell, and I had to agree. They couldn't get past that, and didn't care much for the gum. I'm thinking it might go over better if it was tweaked to taste like a Banana Split instead. Or maybe take a cue from Elvis and make a Banana-Peanut-Butter-Sandwich gum? Maybe not.
 
Lemon Square - Their second favorite flavor, and I liked this one too. As I mentioned, I'm more of a spearmint fan, but this was the only one out of the three that wasn't overly sweet. I think a lemon-flavored gum is a natural fit – sort of a refreshing citrus taste to clear your palate.

The final verdict? They'll definitely be picking up a pack of Extra Dessert Delights Root Beer Float gum when it hits the shelves, although chances are they wouldn't turn down any of the flavors if it was offered to them during history class – after all, we're talking about GUM. Now if only I could get them to answer my texts during lunch.

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And guess what? Only ONE of these flavors will be produced in 2012, and you can help decide which one by voting. So do your civic duty, even if it is only for gum by clicking here and casting your vote. (Vote for Root Beer Float. This biased message was paid for by teenagers who chew a lot of gum.)






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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween By The Numbers and Chocolate By The Book

As you may know by now, I hate Halloween. I don't like putting on a costume, I don't like going to Halloween parties and I'm not a huge fan of candy corn – so really, what is there left for me? But my kids (and to a certain degree my husband) are waaay into it, so every year I do my best to take part. I help with the costumes, I buy the candy, I throw up a few decorations – sure I complain incessantly while I'm doing it, but everything has a price. I even carve a really mean pumpkin if I must say so myself:

Something to go along with my chocolate
To get me in the Halloween spirit, the people at Mars offered to send me some TWIX bars, which went over VERY big in this house. TWIX happens to be my girls' favorite candy, and I'm not just saying that because they offered to send me a box. Look, I've got enough candy laying around the house so if someone offered to send me, say, a box of wax lips or a bag of Tootsie Rolls I would politely decline. Well, maybe not the wax lips since I could always melt those down and make a big candle.

A huge box of TWIX. My teenagers refer to it as "a two day supply."
And here's another reason we are digging our TWIX bars: In the controversy surrounding some chocolate manufacturers' unfair labor practices (including the use of child labor on their farms), Mars is one of the few companies who are taking steps toward using only cocoa that is produced in an ethical and sustainable way. The company is partnering with certification organizations like Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance and has pledged to certify 100% of its cocoa as sustainably produced by 2020.

On a lighter note, they also sent along an amusing survey pertaining to Halloween candy, and it certainly rings true, especially the item about hiding candy from a loved one. How else would I ever get to enjoy those twenty mini-Snickers bars if I didn't stash them away in the video cabinet? 
  • The 30 year-old trick-or-treater: Nearly 7 out of 10 adults (69 percent) ages 18 to 24, and half of adults ages 25 to 34 said they would do it if they could. Trick-or-treating, that is. The only thing holding them back is dirty looks from the neighbors.
  • Hide and seek: More than half of all adults surveyed (52 percent) admit to hiding a treat from their loved ones to keep the treat for themselves. Most hide their treat stash in their room (41 percent) or in another “super-secret place” (41 percent).
  • Fruit-flavored non-chocolate Halloween treats get no respect: Only 3 percent of all adults surveyed listed fruit-flavored non-chocolate treats as their Halloween favorite. The winning treat combination? Chocolate with peanuts or peanut butter topped the list at 39 percent, followed by a chocolate and caramel combination as a close second (30 percent).
  • Men seek the crunch; the ladies prefer something they can chew on: When it comes to treats, women prefer chewy treats more than men do (42 percent to 33 percent), while more men than women seek out treats with a crunch (33 percent to 23 percent).
  • Taking candy from a baby: One quarter of all adults surveyed (26 percent) admit to taking candy from their child’s Halloween stash or a friend’s or co-worker’s candy dish and denying it.
  • Sweets are social: Two out of three adults (64 percent) would rather enjoy treats with others than alone.
Any of these statistics sound like you? Don't be afraid to speak up - we're all friends here, and besides I've already told you where I hide my candy.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cody Simpson Is In Da House! And Probably In Your Living Room

I have to admit that when I first got the invitation to the Cody Simpson concert at the House Of Blues in Downtown Disney last month I had no idea who he was. Was he another Disney protege? A Nickelodeon star? One of my daughter's friends having an elaborate birthday party? Which is why I initially ignored it, until I asked my 13-year-old if she wanted to go and she let out one of those little gasps that's usually reserved for the premiere of a new Harry Potter movie or when I let her get the grande size at Starbucks.

My daughter describes Cody as the "Australian Justin Bieber" and I think that's pretty accurate. And judging by the fawning crowd of teenagers gathered outside, it looks like he might be on his way to honing in on some of the Biebs' action.

Waitin' on Cody
(In fact, Bieber's manager Scooter Braun was at the show and attracted a fair amount of attention on his own. Was he checking out the competition?)

Cody's music seems to be straight-ahead teen pop; catchy choruses, simple beats and slick choreography - perfect for the legions of tween and teen girls screaming and professing their love. It was hard to fathom that the object of all this attention is only 14-years-old, a fact that the older girls behind me – who appeared to be 17 or 18-years-old – didn't seem to mind. (I believe I heard my daughter refer to them as 'Cody Cougars.')

You should have heard the screaming
The show started much later than they had said on the invite, which I know was a problem for some of the other parents there who had younger kids. However, for my teen and her friend it was nothing but excitement – besides, they remarked, they often stayed up much later than that just doing homework. Plus, they were extra amped because they managed to score a couple of seats near Cody's entourage and chatted up a couple of his friends. I think I heard the words 'hot' and 'awesome' mentioned. They sure were disappointed when I had the sudden urge to sit right between them and start talking about homework.

The 'Meet and Greet' that was promised afterward turned out to be disappointing, a long wait and then a rushed photo with Cody while standing in front of a backdrop. There was also a stern warning not to take any of our own photos, which was confusing since one of the staff just previously had told us we could take a quick shot if we used our camera phones. Overall I think his staff could have been a little friendlier and a little less militant, especially in light of the fact that some of these kids had been waiting for hours for this moment.

In the end, the late start and their rushed Cody moment didn't seem to dampen the spirits of my daughter and her friend, who thought that going to a concert at Downtown Disney on a school night was pretty cool, and hey – a hug from Cody Simpson is a HUG FROM CODY SIMPSON. There'd be a lot to talk about on the 8th grade lawn the next day for sure.

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The concert was sponsored by Dove Go Fresh and the 'Don't Fret the Sweat' campaign. I received two passes to the concert and transportation was provided to and from the venue. No restrictions were placed on the content of my review nor was the posting of a review required as part of my participation in this event. All opinions are 100% mine. 

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Friday, October 21, 2011

HalloweenTime at Disneyland: Teenagers Unleashed Edition

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure to check out the park in all it's Halloween Time glory. I've said this before, but Disneyland is one of those places that my teenage daughters, 13 and 15, still get as excited about as when they were 3 and 5. What is it about this place that makes them squeal like a couple of toddlers in an all-you-can-eat ice cream store? And here's the true test: A trip to Disneyland still works as an effective bribe, even on a couple of jaded teens. Just one mention of, "Clean up the living room or we're not going to Disneyland" and I practically had to hold them back from shining the hardwood floors with their tongues.

But on our visit this time, my husband and I decided to try something new. With him completely wiped out from grueling couple of weeks at work and me nursing a sprained foot, we decided to let the teens loose on their own, and we would meet up with them periodically to eat and ride a few rides together.

(I realize "let the teens loose" sounds like we were releasing a couple of animals into the wild, but don't worry – we put bells on them so they wouldn't startle the old people.)

And trust me - they certainly didn't mind being on their own as evidenced by how quickly they took off once we said our goodbyes. I was barely finished with my "Don't talk to weirdos" speech before i was looking at their backs running off down Main Street. Plus they were able to get on twice as many rides as they would've if we were with them, holding them back with our slow walk and our refusal to stand in any line that isn't completely in the shade.
They couldn't get away fast enough
And then there's the food. Did you know that teenagers can last an entire day on a churro and a Coke? And who knew they actually don't like sitting down and eating a meal and listening to their parents discuss the wine list while the screams and laughter of the Matterhorn called to them in the background.

But my husband and I had to eat, and we had a relaxing, leisurely lunch at the Uva Bar in Downtown Disney while the girls hit Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Indiana Jones and Buzz Lightyear, all before I had even taken the first bite of my chicken wing. We rode my favorite ride of all time, Soarin' Over California, and then sat on the patio of La Brea Bakery sipping espresso before meeting up with the girls.
We deserve it, after waiting in line for Dumbo all those years
Although we were there to see Disneyland in all its Halloween glory – the scary Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, the awesome Haunted Mansion Holiday (beautifully inspired by Tim Burton and still one of my girls' favorites), the Tower Of Terror (populated with phantom patrons in honor of Halloween) – my girls would still be just as mad-crazy over the place without all the extra ghoulish and spooky touches. In fact, they could be given a math quiz before every ride and that wouldn't dampen their enthusiasm. (Note to Disney: Don't try it, though.)

The rest of the day we spent together - the girls insisted I ride Ariel's Undersea Adventure with them for our first time (my husband opted out of that one)(Newsflash: Men aren't as nostalgic about The Little Mermaid as women are). We were disappointed that California Screamin' was closed for the day, though - that is traditionally a ride that my husband and daughters ride together, while I get to park myself on a bench on the Boardwalk and fantasize about getting a tattoo.

I admit it - I teared up a little hearing my teenagers singing along.
All in all, the unleashing of the teenagers was a huge success, an idea that we've enthusiastically shared with many of friends who have older kids. While we are absolutely not suggesting you let your younger kids run free in the park (can you imagine HOW many churros a 5-year-old would eat if left to their own devices) I think it's possible to have a uniquely adult experience while giving your older kids some (safe) independent time.

At the end of the night my husband and I made a last minute decision to check out the revamped Star Tours ride right before it closed, and we got a text message while we were in line, one that made us laugh  – it was from our girls, telling us to hurry because they were tired and waiting for us by the front gate.

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HalloweenTime is at Disneyland and California Adventure until October 31. (But since when did you need an excuse to go to Disneyland?)

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Monday, October 17, 2011

'Sing Your Song': HBO Documentary on Harry Belafonte Will Make Your Day-O

Recently I was invited to a screening of 'Sing Your Song,' the HBO documentary about Harry Belafonte that is airing tonight. Like me, you're probably most familiar with him because of the song 'Day-O.' You can listen to it here. Trust me, you'll be singing, "Daylight come and me wanna go home," for the rest of the day. You're welcome.

But what I didn't know about Belafonte was what a passionate activist and dedicated humanitarian he is. He's been a hands-on participant in political and social movements since the Civil Rights Movement and was a close friend and confidant of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as being one of the earliest figures to rally the support of celebrities to support causes he fought for, such as fighting apartheid in South Africa and the fight against AIDS in Africa. He also coordinated Nelson Mandela’s first visit to the United States after his release from prison.



One of the most moving moments in the evening came before the screening started and filmmaker Susanne Rostock relayed a conversation she had with Belafonte. He said to her, with tears in his eyes, "I'm so worried that I'm not going to be passing the baton." It gave such a vivid portrait of the actor and his dedication to his fight for equality and social justice not just for himself and his peers, but for generations to come.

The documentary contains moving footage of Belafonte with King and John F. Kennedy among others, and also interviews with friends including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Tony Bennett, Sidney Poitier and Quincey Jones. But the documentary also touches on the actor's shortcomings as a husband and a father, and he talks openly about his two failed marriages and he voices his regret at being an absentee father.

I loved getting this glimpse of the active and dedicated, yet modest life of Harry Belafonte and I have such admiration for his dedication to fighting for social causes that continues to this day - he recently lent his support to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

And, as my friend and I remarked to each other at the screening - we forget that Belafonte was – and is – so suave and such a stunner. Check out this video of him singing the title song from his 1957 movie 'Island In The Sun.' Take a lesson in class, all you 20-year-old hipsters on MTV:




Watch 'Sing Your Song' on HBO tonight (Monday, October 17) at 10pm.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Real Deal! Real Steel Giveaway

Have you seen Dreamworks' Real Steel yet, the new movie starring the beautiful Hugh Jackman and an equally stunning robot? I have to admit, I'm a little partial because my husband worked on the ad campaign and had been raving about it for awhile. So I knew it was going to be good and apparently everyone else agrees – it just opened and is already number one, taking in $27.3 million this past weekend. Man, that's a lot of change in Hugh's wallet – I wonder how much the robot made? Here, check out a clip from the movie:



And in case you're waiting to see it until you have something awesome to wear, you've come to the right place. I'm giving away this fly t-shirt, along with a prize pack that includes some other Real Steel merch like stickers, a bottle opener and temporary tattoos. Just leave me a comment here by midnight on Monday, October 17 and I'll use random.org to pick a winner. Or maybe I'll get my robot to do it.

(One comment per person, and make sure you leave me a valid email address. Sorry, only US and Canada, please.)

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How 'A Widow Of No Importance' Got Her Groove Back

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to see the premiere of 'A Widow Of No Importance' at East West Players. I have to admit, the title of the play didn't exactly draw me in at first glance. Widow? No importance? Look, if I wanted to hear a story about someone sad with self-esteem issues I'd just record one of my talks I have with myself in the mirror.

But I was wrong. 'A Widow Of No Importance' is funny. Really funny. With a great cast, snappy writing and filled with laugh-out-loud moments. A cougar love story, but not in a creepy way – more of a seize-life-by-the-arms-and-shake-it kind of way. You'll love Lina Patel as the repressed widow Deepa who finds love and gets her groove back with her much-younger neighbor Vinod (Sunil Malhotra.) Bonus: He's easy on the eyes. Bonus-Bonus: Bollywood music and dance scenes! Here's the official synopsis:
Deepa has been a widow for two years. Her only desire now is to see her daughter married so that she can die in peace. But when her recently divorced neighbor, also her son's best friend, professes his love for her, her inner-cougar emerges to break tradition and start living again. A smart and sexy comedy about carving new paths and leaping for the stars.
Absolutely, positively go and see 'A Widow Of No Importance.' You'll find she's anything but.

Playing through October 9 so get over there!

8pm Wednesdays thru Saturdays, 2pm. Sundays. Click here for more info and to purchase tickets.

David Henry Hwang Theater
at the Union Center for the Arts
(Little Tokyo, downtown L.A.)
120 Judge John Aiso Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Cirque du Soleil's Iris: See It NOW! (Ten Years Will Just Fly By)


A couple of months ago I was invited to preview Iris, the new Cirque du Soleil show that premiered last night and will be taking up permanent residence at the beautiful Kodak Theatre in the Hollywood & Highland complex. I've written before about my love for Cirque du Soleil, and the fact that it will be in one place for an extended period of time (I hear the lease is for ten years) is good news for someone like me, who usually decides to order tickets just as a show is ending its run (I'm shaking my fist at you, Rock Of Ages.)

This latest installment of the successful Cirque franchise is being billed as 'A Journey Through The World Of Cinema.'

From the Iris website:
This new production from Cirque du Soleil is a lyrical, fanciful, kinetic foray into the seventh art. Bringing together dance, acrobatics, live video, filmed sequences and animation, the show takes spectators on a fantastic voyage through the history of cinema and its genres, taking them into the heart of the movie-making process. From illustration to animation, black and white to colour, silent films to talkies, fixed shots to swooping camera movements, spectators witness the poetic construction/deconstruction of this art as an object and as a way of transcending reality.
The portions of the show we were treated to were amazing and reminded me of my very favorite Cirque du Soleil production – the Beatles' LOVE show in Las Vegas. They use every inch of the stage and the I especially loved the rooftops sequence that's included in this clip –  it takes place in an old Hollywood neighborhood and cleverly utilizes hidden trampolines. No smartass remarks, please, about them leaving out the hookers and panhandlers:



For anyone who's seen a Cirque Du Soleil performance before I don't think you'll need any convincing to see Iris – you already know what unique, breathtaking experience all of their shows are. But for you Cirque virgins out there, I highly recommend going to see Iris during its run at the Kodak – you'll be glad you did. Plus, you have plenty of time to order tickets – don't tell me you can't carve out a few hours away from your computer in the next ten years.


Buy tickets at the Kodak Theatre box office, 6801 Hollywood Blvd. Located at Hollywood & Highland Complex on the 1st floor. or click here to order tickets online.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

House and Senate Both Agree: Nintendo 3DS Price Drop Is Awesome

Tired of hearing about debt ceilings and deficits and defaults? Why not take a break, kick back with a non-partisan beer and play a few games on your Nintendo 3DS. Haven't had a chance to pick one of these beauties up? Well, this is your lucky day - Nintendo just announced they're dropping the suggested retail price for the Nintendo 3DS™ system to $169.99 (from $249.99.)

This bill will no doubt be swiftly passed by all parties in your house.

The price drop, effective August 12, obviously makes the Nintendo 3DS an even better value, and it comes just as some of the most popular video game franchises head to the system – these include Super Mario™ 3D Land in November, Mario Kart™ 7 in December and Kid Icarus™: Uprising during the holiday season.

Also, check out these new features to the system:

The new Nintendo Video™ service, automatically delivering short 3D videos from the worlds of music, comedy, animation and Hollywood.

The Nintendo eShop, a recently opened digital store for Nintendo 3DS owners that provides access to a wide variety of downloadable content, such as original 3D software, classic games that have been re-mastered in 3D called 3D Classics, Game Boy™ and Game Boy Color “Virtual Console” games in their original 2D glory, and more than 350 Nintendo DSiWare™ games.

And don't kick yourself if you purchased a Nintendo 3DS before the price drop – us early devotees will be rewarded with 20 free downloadable games from the Nintendo eShop. These free games are available to anyone who owns a Nintendo 3DS system and uses a wireless broadband Internet signal to connect to the Nintendo eShop at least once before 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Aug. 11. Huzzah!

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I'm very fond of my Nintendo 3DS - you can read all about the beginning of our love affair:

Party Like a Game Star: Nintendo 3DS Launch in Seattle

Nintendo 3DS Launch in New York City

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chillin' At The Got Milk Event

A few weeks ago the fantastic Got Milk? people invited me to a Summer Drinks event to share some of their favorite recipes for cool warm-weather drinks you can mix-up using milk. If you don't think milk is refreshing, then obviously you haven't tried this:


That there is a Red Velvet Frappé, and yes it tastes as amazing as it looks. In fact, when I asked my daughter if she thought it tasted like a red velvet cupcake she said, "No. It tastes BETTER." 

On hand to show us the fine art of summer drink mixing was Heather Perry, who is the two-time United States Barista Champion and who also holds a Guinness Book Record for building the world’s largest espresso machine. Can you imagine what you could do with the world's largest espresso machine? But enough of my deep dark fantasies.

Of course, no Got Milk event would be complete without an awesome spread of food. Here's just a sampling: their clever Chicken Finger BLT Sliders and some cones filled with delicious Spiced Nuts & Popcorn. I may or may not have eaten more than my share.


As they have done at other events, they had these ingenious drink stations set up where you could mix up your own frappés and smoothies. They supplied the ingredients and the recipes and you provided the muscle. Or, in my case my daughters' muscles.


I think I've mentioned before that the Got Milk events always take place at the coolest locations. This one was held at Art Works studio in Larchmont Village. So that while we were sipping on our refreshing concoctions we got to enjoy this as well:


Here's another delicious drink I had, gulped down so quickly I don't even remember what was in it. Some sort of combination of coffee, milk, cinnamon and a few other things that made me glad to be alive.


And because even just writing about these delectable beverages has put me in a generous, giving mood, I'm going to share a couple of recipes we sampled that day.

Red Velvet Frappé
Ingredients:
2 oz espresso or strongly brewed coffee
5 oz milk
1 tbsp cocoa
1 oz red food coloring
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 cup ice
whipped cream to taste

Directions:
Combine espresso and cocoa, stirring until cocoa is dissolved. Put mixture in blender along with ice cream, ice, milk, and food coloring. Blend until smooth. Pour into tall glasses and top with whipped cream.


Bananas Fosters Frappé 
Ingredients:
2 oz espresso or strongly brewed coffee
5 oz milk
1 tsp butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 banana
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
1 cup ice

Directions:
Mix espresso, butter and brown sugar until they are thoroughly combined. Put in blender and add remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy. Top with whipped cream, a sprinkle of brown sugar and a slice of banana.

(These two drinks were my girls' favorites. And since they're their mother's daughters [and teenagers] they love coffee. But you can find coffee-free versions of all the drinks on the Got Milk website. Click on 'Recipes.')

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Road Trip 2011: Now With Less Napkins

This post is part of a partnership with Allstate.

One of my most vivid memories of a road trip with my kids happened over ten years ago while on a drive up to San Francisco. My husband and I had stopped for our fiftieth cup of coffee and we had gotten the girls, around five and three at the time, a couple of cookies. For some reason the two of them started bickering when we got back in the car and a few minutes later it had turned into a full-blown fight. Not over the cookies, but OVER A NAPKIN. My husband immediately pulled over to the side of the road, stopped the car and took the napkin away, resulting in the two of them sobbing uncontrollably. OVER A NAPKIN.

Road trips are a lot different now that they're teenagers. Usually they're both plugged into their iPods, only occasionally taking their earphones off to inquire when we're stopping to eat or to confer with each other on the hotness of the boys in the car next to us. Don't get me wrong – I enjoy the quiet and the ability to have a conversation with my husband while we're driving, but sometimes I almost miss the bickering.

On our next trip, I'm thinking of throwing a napkin back there just to see what happens.

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One thing for certain: we have many more road trips in our future, and always at issue is safety while we're traveling. Here's something that has helped eased my mind – a new program from Allstate called Good Hands Roadside Assistance that offers pay-as-you-go roadside assistance. And you can sign up right here:


With Good Hands Roadside Assistance:
  • You do not need to have Allstate insurance to use this service
  • You only pay when you use it, there are no monthly fees
  • Pre-registering for Good Hands Roadside Assistance provides faster service at time of need on the road. Those that pre-register will also receive welcome kit in the mail containing a wallet card, key fob and window cling with the phone number for roadside help.
  • You can register for up to 5 users on your account

From now on, the Good Hands Roadside Assistance number will always be in my glove compartment before leaving on any road trip. Along with a few extra napkins. 

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I was compensated for my participation in this program, but no restrictions were placed on the content of my review. All opinions are solely my own. 

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