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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sprout Channel Hosts Magical Holiday Party at Universal Studios

The kiddos and I enjoy a little holiday time with Sprout at Universal Studios!
The snow was falling and the hot chocolate was flowing at Sprout's "Holidays Unwrapped" celebration at Universal Studios.

Just before Thanksgiving, the preschool-focused channel hosted an awesome shindig, complete with an indoor ice rink, live performances from Sprout friends Carly Ciarrocchi, Tim Kubart, and a special appearance from Chica!

Will goes crazy over the magical indoor snow.
The singing, dancing and crafting fun helped usher in a huge shout-out to Sprout's holiday programming, which features several new seasonal episodes of popular shows.

Will and I got to meet Chica and friends!
Check out what Sprout has planned for this holiday season!

"Terrific Trucks Save Christmas" — In this Sprout original holiday special, the Terrific Trucks are handed their biggest job yet. This live-action series finds the five trucks banding together to fight back against a bullish businessman who wants to ruin Christmas by preventing the local town’s hundred-year-old Christmas tree raising tradition.

"Nina's World: Hanukkah Adventure" — Nina and friends learn about Hanukkah and celebrate their first snow storm in the city. Actress Mayim Bialik plays Jennifer Goldstein, who leads Nina, Carlos and Chelsea in a city-wide search for oil to help make Hanukkah treats and to light the community menorah with while teaching the kids about the true story of Hanukkah.

"Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and Dave, a Christmas Adventure" — Ruff-Ruff, Tweet and Dave find Santa’s hat and set off to return it to him, to save Christmas Day. For without his hat, Santa can’t drive his sleigh and won’t be able to deliver anyone any presents. Along the way, they help their friends have a perfect Christmas, by singing them a special Christmas song and decorating their tree.

"Noddy Toyland Detective: The Case of the Snow Mystery" — How can Noddy make it snow in Toyland on Christmas Day? Noddy needs to investigate right away. "Noddy Toyland Detective: The Case of the Snow Mystery" was co-produced by DreamWorks Animation and Gaumont Animation.

"Dot.: The Holiday Tree" — Dot is horrified to discover she’s accidentally gotten rid of all the decorations for the town tree. She works round the clock to make new ones and discovers the joy that comes with giving and sharing. “A Song for Everyone”: Dot and her friends work together to write a song for the Winter Concert that will speak to the entire town, regardless of what holiday they celebrate, but their performance is threatened by a snow storm. "Dot." is a new original series based on the book by bestselling author Randi Zuckerberg, and is produced by Industrial Brothers in association with The Jim Henson Company and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Spooky Science Meets LEGO: Travel Adventure at Discovery Cube Los Angeles

CC and Will enjoy tractors, pumpkins and a hay maze at Discovery Cube LA.
Halloween is almost here, and there's lots of spooky fun happening at Discovery Cube Los Angeles!

Not only is the science center offering up hay-bale mazes and pumpkins, but the Cube also has animals on hand to observe and—sometimes—touch. You can find a snake, maybe hairless rats (if you're lucky ... or not so lucky, depending on how you look at it), snakeskin and turtle shells. The snake is off limits for touching, just FYI.

Happy Halloween!
CC and Will were eager to check out the pint-sized tractors and hay maze. There is even a little farmers' market with everything from wooden produce to a cute little stand.

The "Spooky Science" attraction, which runs on the weekends and on Halloween day, is accompanied by a the super-cool and interactive LEGO: Travel Adventure exhibit.

Kids can pretend to drive this awesome LEGO race car.

Running through January 16, the LEGO exhibit is a must-see for kids.

Not only can they build their own creations with barrels full of LEGO bricks, they can also pretend to drive in LEGO race cars. You can also catch cool LEGO re-creations of the Titanic and early Ford cars in display cases.

Will even built his own LEGO car to race down steep tracks.

Will races his LEGO car!
The kids will enjoy getting to stretch their imagination, and parents will love the LEGO-made hot rod photo op.

11800 Foothill Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 91342
Tickets: $17.95 for adults; $12.95 for kids. Kids ages 2 and under are free. 4D movie: $3 for adults and children; $2 for Discovery Cube members
SPECIAL ONLINE PRICE: $12.95 for adults and children

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Coming Attraction: The 2016 Rose Run 5K and Kids' 1K Fun Run

If you're looking for something family-friendly and fun that will also benefit a worthy cause, sign up for and/or donate to the 2016 Rose Run benefiting the Disney Family Cancer Center.

The race kicks off tomorrow, October 9, at 7:30 a.m.

Most of us have had some connection to cancer, whether it's a family member, a friend or even ourselves.

My friend and fellow blogger Jessica Cribbs, who runs Burbank Mom and co-created Expressing Motherhood, lost her mother to breast cancer in 2009. She then created the Strength of a Rose Foundation, named after her mother, to help benefit cancer research.

The proceeds from this year's Los Angeles Rose Run will go directly to the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center in Burbank to help with the purchase of one of three Tomography Machines for the center. The "Tomo" machine is a 3D imaging machine used for the early detection of breast cancer, with a 41% increase in breast cancer detection.

You can still sign up at!

WHAT: The Rose Run 5k Run/Walk & 1k Kids’ Fun Run
Trail run around the golf course in Griffith Park
Wellness Fair from 7:30am-10am 

WHEN:Sunday, October 9th, 2016 7:30am

WHERE:Crystal Springs Picnic Area, Griffith Park 

A Runner’s Circle, Moms In Motion, Providence Saint Joseph Foundation, 
Belmont Village Senior Living, Shakey’s Pizzaria, Logix Federal Credit Union, 
Run Kids Run LA , 

You can register as an individual or start/join a team. 
5k Run/Walk $35 ($40 Same Day)
1k Kids’ Run $15 ($20 Same Day) 
$2 team discount per registrant

Registration and all event information can be found at 

Twitter/Instagram @TheRoseRun
Facebook @TheRoseRunLA 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Coming Attraction: Boo at the L.A. Zoo

A gorilla checks out a pumpkin during Boo at the L.A. Zoo.
We've been looking forward to Halloween for quite a while now. Actually, my kids have been looking forward to it since last November, planning out Halloween costumes before they even took off the ones they were wearing!

That's why we're so excited about the annual Boo at the L.A. Zoo event, which kicks off October 1 and runs through Halloween.

Featuring spooky caves filled with projections of creepy-crawly spiders and snakes (projections being the key word here!) as well as a cornstalk maze, pumpkin-carving demos and a "Mad Science Fire and Ice" show, this year's Boo at the L.A. Zoo looks just as amazing as years before.

And we haven't even mentioned the animals yet!

Gorillas, hippos and other zoo residents will be dining on pumpkins, while the carnivores will dine on ... well, what carnivores dine on best ... so parental discretion is advised.

This year, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens also offers up:

On the weekends of October 22-23 and 29-30, the Zoo partners with Disney to add activities and giveaways previewing the upcoming release of the animated film Moana. Stations from KIND Healthy Snacks, the LA Federal Credit Union, and ScholarShare add to the Halloween happenings throughout the month.  BOO AT THE L.A. ZOO's Halloween bash concludes October 29-30, with traditional trick-or-treat stations throughout the grounds and special costume character meet-and-greets with PJ Masks and Peppa Pig.  

Be sure to scare up some fun!

"Boo at the L.A. Zoo"
The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Tickets: Adults ($20); Children 2-12 ($15); Children Under 2 (Free)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

That Time I Got Obsessed With 'Fixer Upper' and Traveled to Magnolia Market, aka the Silos, in Waco, Texas

More than 1,000 miles from Los Angeles.
It's almost as if I've been living under a rock, apparently, but I finally discovered the incredible phenomenon that is "Fixer Upper" earlier this year. And I've been hooked ever since.

Like, seriously hooked.

I have Pinterest to thank, actually. It all started when the ultimate vision board/social-media site recommended a photo of something called a "Barndominium," which turned out to be a renovated Texas barn given new life by the uber-talented construction-design duo Chip and Joanna Gaines.

Joanna and Chip Gaines (Photo credit: HGTV)

That's when my TV-viewing life as I knew it completely changed — and when I became even more obsessed with HGTV. (Who knew that was possible?) Not to mention, when I suddenly wanted to pack up and move to Waco. (There were real tears when I compared those home prices to the Los Angeles market.)

I quickly binge-watched the first two seasons of "Fixer Upper" on Netflix and then bought the third season on iTunes. Who was this charming, down-to-earth couple from Waco, Texas, with the hilarious husband, super-stylish wife and adorable kids? And those goats?! They kind of had me at the baby goats.

(Apparently, you can take the girl out of Oklahoma, send her to Massachusetts, Germany, New York and Los Angeles, but ...)

So when it came time to make our annual summer visit to Oklahoma, I decided to fly into Dallas, as I had done earlier this year when my mom passed away. Not only could I visit my BFF Barbara, I could also drive down to Waco and visit the Silos, aka Magnolia Market, the downtown Waco oasis that is the creative brainchild of my new TV BFFs, Chip and Jo.

The Silos at Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas.
Once we arrived, I have to admit I was stunned. What Chip and Jo (yes, I call them that even though we've never met) have built in this smallish Texas town is gorgeous and homey, aspirational and huge. It's simply stunning — a field of dreams come true before your very eyes.

That sounds like a lot of embellishment, but honestly it's not. Watching this adorable married couple renovate home after home while still trying to grow their dreams — and to see that come to fruition — it's pretty amazing.

There's a large green space that faces stage area (pictured above with the white tables) that is so inviting. There are swings and baskets of balls and frisbees for the kids. You might hear Harry Connick Jr. or Michael Buble on the overhead speakers. CC and Will could have stayed there for hours. And we practically did. But that was after we took a very special tour, shopped and indulged in a couple of decadent Magnolia cupcakes.

We even got the chance to check out Chip's office — and his oversized heads!

Trying these guys on for size!
Speaking of shopping, there is a lot of stuff to buy — I snagged this gorgeous bracelet + of course a #shiplap T-shirt — and there are a lot of people who want to buy it. Basically, it was packed.

We learned that there are, on average, about 25,000 visitors to the silos each week. Week! Sometimes that number climbs to 30,000. And they're from all over the world.

More cupcakes, please. Do you see that icing?!

Watching "Fixer Upper," which is about to kick off its fourth season, you feel as if you're growing alongside Chip and Jo, watching them take risks and succeed at every turn. It's truly inspiring.

Not only have they built this amazing downtown attraction — making Waco a destination city to people around the globe — they also have a book and a magazine coming out this fall. (Of course, I've already pre-ordered. Don't be ridiculous.) You also might know that Joanna now has a furniture line, rugs, a paint line and a wallpaper line.

And this woman has four kids! (That's one way to feel super lazy.)

So, as I not-so-patiently await season four, the book and the magazine, I really revel in our trip down to Waco — and hope to go again.

Because there's nothing like seeing a dream come true that makes you want to fulfill your own even faster.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Happy First Day of 4th Grade ... a Little Late

Ready for 4th grade!
Ok, so this is definitely a #laterpost. CC officially started 4th grade in late August, but it's been such a whirlwind I can barely keep up!

In fact, how is October just around the corner? Like days away!

CC had a fantastic summer, by the way. She went to Minecraft camp, soccer camp, Star Eco Station camp and her fave, Steve & Kate's camp. Wow — I got tired just writing all of that. Yes, summer is a juggle for us since both Ian and I work, but CC really was living the dream. Heck, I wanted to go to camp!

It was funny, though. CC was definitely ready to get back to her usual routine once summer had wound down. She was especially excited about school when she saw that her new teacher had decorated the classroom in all things Dory. (The kiddos loved "Finding Dory!") It's amazing what blue tang decor can do for your child's #BTS enthusiasm.

So far, so good!

I do have some fun news, which I'll post more about tomorrow. CC, Will and I visited the Magnolia Market Silos (of "Fixer Upper" fame) in Waco when we visited family and friends in Oklahoma and Texas this year.

We went for Labor Day weekend, and the Magnolia empire did not disappoint. You guys. I'm obsessed!

Stay tuned for more details about our trip tomorrow! (We actually got to tour Chip Gaines' office!)


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