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


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: 
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.'


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    


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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