Tuesday, February 7, 2017

That Time CC Got Starstruck While Meeting the 'Odd Squad' Cast

CC meeting the talented kids from PBS Kids series "Odd Squad."
PBS Kids had big news to share at this year's Television Critics Association event at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena.

Starting January 16, the kid-friendly channel went 24/7 all over the country. Before, it was only part of the regular PBS programming, but the organization wanted to reach out to families whose kids thrived on access to the channel in the later weekday hours (when it was usually back to adult programming).

That's especially great for young children who don't have access to high-quality preschool and need that extra boost from educational shows like "Sesame Street" or "Odd Squad."

Speaking of "Odd Squad," I had the chance to interview the kids from the show for Mom.me (where I'm the senior editor), and I was able to bring CC, too. Honestly, that kind of blew her mind.

We talked to Ms. O (Millie Davis), Olympia (Anna Cathcart) and Otis (Isaac Kragten) during a Facebook Live broadcast and learned everything from their favorite episodes to what they dream about becoming when they grow up.

But before that, when CC and I got to the hotel, we happened to arrive at the registration desk at the same time as the "Odd Squad" trio, and CC let out an audible gasp. She almost couldn't speak, which is very rare for her.

Luckily, I was able to snap this adorable picture of the four of them! What a memory.

Check out our interview on Mom.me's Facebook page.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Ditching the Strip in Las Vegas

CC, Will and I took a trip to Vegas and saw the Seven Magic Mountains.
Wow, it's been a while, right?! I've got lots to catch you up on, so let's start here.

Over Christmas break near the end of 2016, CC, Will and I took a road trip to Las Vegas to visit a couple of our cousins. One of our cousins, who was basically my mom's BFF growing up, lives there, and her daughter was visiting.

We had the time (Ian was working), and I've been trying to make a point of seeing more family since we don't really have that in Los Angeles.

Well, we had such a great time, and we didn't even hit the Strip. Not once. We drove past it coming and going, but we didn't even catch a single fountain show at the Bellagio!

It was all about family and exploring nature — which is surprisingly pretty easy to do in Vegas.

In addition to the Seven Magic Mountains sculpture, which I'd been dying to see, the kids, my cousin and I hiked around Lone Mountain, which is basically a very large hill that you can hike around and to the top.

Hiking Lone Mountain.
What I loved was that the kids were able to jump out of the car and go exploring. They were able to get their hands dirty and touch rocks and cacti on parched desert trails. Of course I had to remind them to not throw rocks at each other(!), but I loved watching them make their own trails and see what the landscape had to offer.

On our way out of town, about 20-30 minutes from the Strip, we pulled off the 15 and visited the colorful rock sculpture Seven Magic Mountains, created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.

Techicolor totems rising from the ground, the seven rock sculptures are meant to be a symbol of the natural and the artificial coming together — kind of like Vegas itself. There's the natural desert landscape mingled with the artificial creation of a booming U.S. city and all of the (sometimes neon) accoutrements that come with it.

The sculptures, which you can see from the highway, are beautiful and accessible. Parking is easy, and don't forget water (just a good idea no matter where you are in the desert.) And they'll only be at their location until spring 2018!

Here's info from the site about getting there:

From Los Angeles: Drive north on I-15 to Jean, NV (exit 12).  Turn right (east) on NV-161 toward Las Vegas Blvd. Drive approximately 5 miles north on Las Vegas Blvd. and the artwork will appear on your right (east).
Please park in the onsite parking lot. Street parking is discouraged. No public transportation is available to the installation site.
It's definitely worth seeing!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

It's Snowing at Discovery Cube Los Angeles

Will enjoys the snow slide at Discovery Cube LA's Winter Wonderfest.
Who says there's no snow in L.A.?

Discovery Cube Los Angeles is bringing a winter wonderland to SoCal from now until January 8, 2017!

Be sure to bundle up and get there early, because the science center's "Winter Wonderfest" has four different slides and even an area where kids can make their own snowballs.

CC, Will and I had the chance to visit last weekend, and they had the best time. (Honestly, I should have bundled them up more — they wore sweatshirts and jeans — because it really does get chilly.)

In addition to the snowy playground, there are two sledding areas for kids. One is for younger kiddos (see above), and one is slightly larger for kids ages 6+.

There's also a 75-foot tubing tower that CC and I raced down. Check out the video below!

Plus, enjoy daily holiday themed movies:
Frosty the Snowman 10:30am, 12:30pm, 2:30pm, 4:30pm
Toy Story that Time Forgot 11:00am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm,
Rugrats Chanukah 11:30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm
How the Grinch Stole Christmas 12:00pm, 2:00pm, 4:00pm
Don't forget to check out the annual Science of Gingerbread exhibit (through January 1) and the cookie-decorating station! (Will, who's a sweet tooth, especially loved those.)

11800 Foothill Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 91342
Tickets: $12.95 for general admission (adults and kids — online price). Kids ages 2 and under are free. Winter Wonderfest is an additional $7 per person (non-member) or $5 (member).

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Coming Attraction: Cheryl Burke and Brian White Host the 57th Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration

I have to admit, I'm so excited for this time of year! One of the major L.A. events that makes Christmas and the holidays especially fantastic is the annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration, which takes place on Christmas Eve at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

The 57th annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration will feature Cheryl Burke of "Dancing With the Stars" fame and actor Brian White ("Scandal") as hosts, and once again the lineup of multicultural performers from around the county looks like a must-see.

CC and I have visited a few of the rehearsals from past celebrations and attended the actual performance a few years ago. We had so much fun every time — especially getting a sneak peek of what's to come.

This year's lineup looks just as wonderful. Not only that, but the three-hour performance featuring more than 21 acts is completely free. Parking is even free! For those unable to attend, PBS SoCal will be airing the celebration live as well as multiple times after that (check info below).

Performers include Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company with a folkl√≥rico dance from the region of Tabasco, Mexico; Harmonic Bronze Handbell Ensemble, performing classical handbell repertoire that celebrates Christmas and Hanukkah; QVLN (Q-Violin), bringing his “Brazil meets Jimi Hendrix on an electric violin” stylings to the Christmas classic “Little Drummer Boy”; Latin jazz band Cuba L.A., performing selections from their Christmas CD, “Navidad Cubana”; Kayamanan Ng Lahi Philippine Folk Arts, with festive dances from the provincial lowland/coastal region of the Philippines; and much more.

The event has been sponsored by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors every year since 1959. What a tradition!

Both admission and parking are free (first come, first seated). Entertainment on the Music Center Plaza begins at 12:30 p.m., and doors open at 2:30 p.m. For more information, visit HolidayCelebration.org.

Saturday, December 24, 2016
3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Admission is FREE
No reservations or tickets; first come, first seated.
Doors open at 2:30 PM.
Entertainment on the plaza begins at 12:30 PM.
You may come and go throughout the three-hour performance.
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at The Music Center135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Parking is FREE
PBS SoCal KOCE:December 24 at 3:00 PM - LIVE
December 24 at 9:00 PM
December 25 at noon
PBS SoCal Plus:
December 25 at 3:00 AM
December 25 at 6:00 AM
December 25 at 7:00 PM
December 26 at 11:00 AM

Monday, December 19, 2016

Coming Attraction: 'Sing' Has Lots of Heart — and Soul

CC got her groove on at the "Sing" stage at Universal Studios Hollywood.
CC has been waiting for "Sing" to hit the big screen for months now, and last week we got to catch a screening of the sassy sing-along movie that hits theaters December 21. Let's just say this family-friendly movie has a lot of heart—and soul.

If you don't know the story, "Sing" centers on a good-natured showman of a koala named Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) whose theater has fallen on hard times, so he launches a singing contest to help revive his venue and career.

All kinds of animals flock to the auditions, and we get to hear all sorts of fun tunes in the process — everything from rap to pop to big band.

Buster then narrows the roster down to six contestants: Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a dapper mouse who's also got an attitude and something up his sleeve; Meena (Tori Kelly), a shy teen elephant who has a fantastic voice; Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), an overburdened mother with 25 little piglets; her partner, Gunther (Nick Kroll), a German-sounding pig who is sassy, sequined and hilarious; Johnny (Taron Egerton), a young gangster gorilla who's trying to get out of the family business; and Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a punk porcupine who's having more than a few issues with her self-centered boyfriend.

The PG-rated movie is both rousing and heartwarming. Right from the beginning, when Jennifer Hudson as a former star of Buster's theater belts out a kickass cover of the Beatles' "Golden Slumbers," CC (who's a huge Beatles fan) and I knew this was something special.

The story itself is inspiring, and don't be surprised if you find yourself singing along, too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Coming Attraction: Au Fudge + Platform Host Roller Disco Party

Who can pass up roller skates and pizza at Platform in Culver City?

Join Au Fudge for their Winter Wonderland Roller Disco hosted by Platform on Saturday, December 17.

The rink will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You won’t want to miss Roberta's Pizza, Morrow Soft Goods, Lucy Michael Ceramics, Local & Lejos and more! 

CC, Will, Ian and I had such a great time at the Au Fudge pumpkin patch at Platform back in October. Can't wait to check out their latest joint event.

WhenSaturday, December 17
Where: 8850 Washington Blvd., Culver City
Time: 10AM - 5PM

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Celebrating CC's 10th Birthday Harry Potter-Style at Universal Studios Hollywood

Birthday fun at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
Harry Potter, Hogwarts and Hogsmeade were popular topics on Sunday, as CC and I celebrated her 10th birthday mother-daughter style at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The Boy Wizard has been a popular theme around our house after I finally convinced CC to start reading the series this summer. It took some convincing—she was a little gun shy (wand shy?) after having caught a glimpse of the first movie a few years ago and getting pretty scared.

My trick? I just started reading it to her at night, and about 30 pages in, she was like, "Ok, Mom. I've got this. I'll take it from here." Now, she's already on Book 6, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

(And yep, I am patting myself on the back right now.)

So after her blow-out Harry Potter birthday party on Saturday with Will, our neighbors and kids from her class, I surprised her with a trip to Universal—and we loved it!

Honeydukes for candy

Our first stop was Honeydukes, the adorable candy shop that offers everything from chocolate frogs, jelly slugs, Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, chocolate wands and butterbeer fudge. Yes and yes. What a magical little shop! Let's just say, we didn't leave empty-handed.

Next, it was off to Hogwarts to check out Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey! The ride is beyond cool, but waiting in line has never been so bearable. As you wait to board, you're taken through a tour of Hogwarts that includes Dumbledore's office, the Gryffindor lounge and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. With talking portraits and moving books, you feel completely immersed in the Hogwarts world.

The ride itself is like nothing I've ever experienced. (I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but it's true.) You sit in a pod of four seats, which takes you flying over Hogwarts, narrowly escaping dragons, dementors and a huge whomping willow. Not only that, but as you watch larger-than-life screens, you feel as if you're actually flying over the school of witchcraft and wizardry. It's amazing!

CC and the Frog Choir
While we wandered around Hogsmeade afterward, we came upon the Frog Choir, featuring singers from each house (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin and CC's own Hufflepuff), and CC was completely smitten by the singing frogs. I mean, who wouldn't be? And we had to get a pic.

We had such a fantastic day, and we can't wait to go back. And, as an L.A. resident it's especially easy. I bought the California Neighbor Pass ($119 per ticket online), which allows us to come back as many times as we want for the next nine months! Amazing! (Of course, blackout dates apply.)

And trust me, we'll definitely be going back.

Universal Studios Hollywood
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, Calif. 91608
Tickets: $99 and up


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