Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rainy Day Reindeer Romp at the LA Zoo


Things always seem a little sad in Los Angeles when it rains. After all, it's chilly and damp -- two things that appall Angelenos more than "C's" in restaurant windows and "no turn on red" signs.

So I thought it might be fun to lift our spirits at the Los Angeles Zoo, where they're hosting Reindeer Romp, with Santa's furry holiday helpers on hand for the kiddos until Jan. 3.

I second-guessed my decision the minute I loaded CC into the car and turned on the wipers. I mean, would the reindeer even be out at all? Or would they be nestled by some warm, dry fire with egg nog telling embarrassing Santa stories?

But, as Ian said, a reindeer in L.A. has a lot of nerve being cold and grumpy.

Once we got there, the zoo was pretty sparsely attended, as expected on a day like today. But that didn't stop CC from having fun, yelling "HIIIIII REIIINNNNDEEERRRR!!!!" to the lounging animals and leaping onto a large, photo-ready stage filled with cutouts of penguins and polar bears.

She even tried to dive into the meerkat digs -- and one of those meerkats was looking pretty freaked out at the idea of that.

We also got to check out the gorillas, flamingos, lions and giraffes. (Next time, we'll have to see the newborn Kikuyu colobus monkey and the snow leopard cubs.)

Yes, our hair got a little damp and our fingers a little frosty, but the rain itself was no match for my child's enthusiasm.

And who doesn't love a reindeer? Or a freaked-out meerkat?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmastime, CC style

Besides trimming the tree, singing Christmas carols and diving into a mountain of presents -- thanks to generous grandparents and the wallet-friendly decision to stay in town this year -- CC also decided to do a little role-playing with our wreath.

"I'm a lion, Mommy," she said. "Roooooaaaaarrrrr!"

That's "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" in, er, lion.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Hope everyone has a wonderful day with family and friends.

And if your Christmas was a little whiter than you expected, remember to be safe on those icy roads.

Photo courtesy of Fotolia.com

Thursday, December 24, 2009

LADWP Holiday Light Festival is magical

Last night, Ian, CC and I took a drive through Griffith Park to check out the 14th annual LADWP Holiday Light Festival, and, man, was it worth the wait.

Yes, wait. Close to an hour, to be perfectly honest. But, like I said, the mile-long road of displays coupled with the Christmas music playing over loud speakers made the holiday that much more special.

CC thrilled to the tunnel of lights that leads cars and pedestrians into the wonderland of holiday light scenes. From glowing replicas of Griffith Observatory (above) to the Hollywood Sign to the Statue of Liberty, the scenes are eye-catching and fun.

Next year, we might bring thermoses of hot chocolate, leave the car in the parking lot and gaze at the displays on foot. However, sitting in the car with the window down and listening to CC ooh and ahh from the backseat still made for a magical evening.

LADWP Holiday Light Festival
4730 Crystal Springs Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
213-367-1255
Dec. 3-30; 5 p.m.-10 p.m.

(Note: Excuse the grainy pic above. Took it from my BlackBerry.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

And the eBay gift card winners are ...



Thanks to everyone who participated in the eBay gift card giveaway, via blog comments or Twitter!

The lucky winners are April, Peter, Dariela, @LuckyRadish and @michellewoo! Please send me an email at losangelesstory@gmail.com letting me know where to send the card.

Merry Christmas!

'Disney on Ice' skates into Los Angeles

Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy

Staples Center hosted an icy wonderland of fairies, lions and race cars last week with the arrival of Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy.

Ian, CC and I were invited to attend opening night, which thrilled CC and fueled her new desire to ice skate.

Characters from Disney/Pixar's "Cars" -- real cars driving around on ice! (Don't people usually do their best to avoid that?) -- Disney's "The Lion King," "Tinker Bell" and "The Little Mermaid" joined the frozen stage alongside CC faves Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy.
Although she's never seen the movie, CC kept asking, "Where'd the cars go?" every time Lightning McQueen and Mater drove backstage.

I wasn't sure how Disney would combine so many shows into one larger production, but it was basically broken up into separate, super-condensed stories with a little interaction between "Cars" and the Mickey Mouse mobile. (I guess it was the four-wheel bonding.)

The structure was a nice touch, avoiding any confusion of finding Simba, Timon and Pumbaa in Pixie Hollow rather than the Savannah.

Outside the Staples Center, after the show, we happened upon yet another ice rink at L.A. Live. It was jam-packed and added to the festive downtown atmosphere, which included lighted icicles hanging from the trees, and small toy trains chugging around large planters (right).

Disney on Ice Presents Worlds of Fantasy heads to the Honda Center in Orange County Dec. 22-27, then to the Inland Empire's Citizens Business Bank Arena Dec. 30-Jan. 3 before stopping at the Long Beach Arena Jan. 6-10, 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Giveaway: 'Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas' DVD


The holidays might have me overwhelmed, but when my child starts singing "Our Christmas Monkey," all seems right with the world.

A couple weeks ago, I received for review a Curious George party kit, which included a DVD of the recent holiday special "Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas", a CD of music from the movie, the book "Curious George: Christmas Countdown," a puzzle and popcorn to really make it a monkey of a party.

Although the festivities included only Ian, CC and me, we still had lots of fun. As is the case with most toddlers, they're big fans of repetition. So you can bet we've watched the movie, played the CD, read the book and put together the puzzle more than just once. The popcorn we haven't broken into, but shhh. Don't tell.

The movie itself is adorable. Our little Curious George is anxious for Christmas to arrive and wakes up every morning hoping today's the day. While he checks off each day until December 25, George gets caught up in plenty of adventure, from tree havoc to squished tomato madness.

But Curious George and The Man With the Yellow Hat have a big puzzle to solve -- what to get the other one for Christmas. Some of the scenes are silly, yes, but it really touches on the poignant idea of connection and how we sometimes feel as if we might have lost it -- even with those closest to us.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

As CC, Ian and I will no doubt be watching this movie every day until Christmas, I'm offering another copy of the DVD for you and your family to enjoy during the holidays.

Just leave a comment below, or follow me on Twitter (I'm la_story). If you do both, I'll enter your name twice. Just be sure to let me know via comment or direct message.

Good luck, and I'll announce the winner Tuesday, Dec. 22 ... and I'll do my best to make sure you get it by Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

eBay Mobile Boutique arrives in Los Angeles

eBay Mobile Boutique


Online auction site eBay is bringing some holiday goodies to Hollywood in the form of its Mobile Boutique, setting up shop at Hollywood & Highland today and tomorrow.

The eBay Mobile Boutique took its show on the road, with eight stops including Chicago, and it's now here in Los Angeles to offer interactive shopping kiosks, holiday merchandise, virtual windows with live auctions as well as personal shoppers.

The mobile marketplace will be at Hollywood & Highland from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

To give you a financial boost with that last-minute shopping, I'm giving away 5 eBay gift cards worth $25 each.

Just leave a comment below or follow me on Twitter (I'm la_story). If you leave a comment AND follow me on Twitter, I'll enter your name twice!

Good luck, and I'll announce winners Monday, Dec. 21!

UPDATE: Congrats to April, Peter, Dariela, @LuckyRadish and @michellewoo! They won the eBay gift cards! Woo-hoo!

Please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com with the address where the card should be sent!

eBay Mobile Boutique
Hollywood & Highland
6834 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Dec. 17-18; 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Coming Attraction: Merry Merry Movie 'The Polar Express'



If you and the fam are looking to add more gratis Christmas spirit to this lovely yet potentially pricey holiday, visit Pasadena's Laemmle Playhouse 7 on Sat., Dec. 19 for Merry Merry Movie, a free screening of "The Polar Express" followed by an outdoor holiday concert by St. Lucy's Big Christmas Band.

This year marks the third annual Merry Merry Movie event, organized by Pasadena's Playhouse District Association. And in addition to the movie screening and the concert, holiday treats and surprises will also be on hand for moviegoers.

Keep in mind that seats are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive early. Festivities are scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m.

Merry Christmas!

Laemmle's Playhouse 7 Theaters
673 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101
Saturday, Dec. 19; 10:30 a.m.
Cost: Free

Monday, December 14, 2009

Treehouse Social Club helps a mother out

The Treehouse Social Club


Helping a mother out has never been so much fun.

Yesterday, CC and I made our way over to The Treehouse Social Club on Robertson Blvd. and joined a packed playgroup of L.A.-area moms and their little ones for a holiday diaper haul.

And when I say packed, I mean it. Moms and dads were weaving gingerly in between little feet and hands, as the kids darted here, there and everywhere. They really had the run of the place.

The holiday playdate helped benefit Help A Mother Out, a California-based organization dedicated to providing diapers to families in need. And credit must be given to fellow mom blogger Kim Tracy Prince for making it all happen.

The Treehouse Social Club itself is a clever use of limited kid-friendly space. While it doesn't have the expanse of a place like AdventurePlex, what it does have is a cozy atmosphere and lots of options for young children.

Kids can move around freely among the titular treehouse, which includes a superfast slide, as well as space up top and below for monkeying around; a toddler room with lots of toys; a grocery, with plastic fruit and veggies and a kid-sized cart (above); an arts & crafts room (right); a computer room; and an open room for kicking a ball around.

There's also a cafe area, which serves everything from pancakes to panini. Last night, some of the staff was offering Beef Wellington in small phylo pockets and fried peanut butter and jelly donuts. Yum. Seriously.

And let's not forget the band area, where various artists were stretching their pipes.

It was a great time, and it was fun seeing fellow L.A. Moms Blog contributors including Mar Vista Mom, Elise's Ramblings, Yvonne in LA (who contributed her gluten-free goodies)April from It's All About Balance and Jeannine Chanin, who is managing partner of the Treehouse.
I also took home a TCM gift basket as part of a raffle. Icing on the gluten-free cupcake!

The Treehouse Social Club
426 S. Robertson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Open play: $9

Friday, December 11, 2009

C is for Cookie Song

While I was putting CC down for a nap this afternoon, she started singing her now famous "Cookie Song" as a way to procrastinate on snoozing.

It's a simple little ditty and one she has invited her parents to sing as well.

The trick, however, much like the Chinese language, is intonation. You start out with your regular voice and get louder as the song continues. Notice the above video. "Cookie song, cookie song, cookie SONG!"

Well, today when I offered my feeble efforts, turning up the requisite volume at the end, CC stopped me and showed me how it was supposed to be sung.

"Cookie song, cookie song, cookie SSOOOAAAAOOOOONNNNGGG!!!" she shrieked like a mad chipmunk. "Like that."

Oh. My bad.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

C'mon, Hannah Montana

All I can say is, "C'mon!"

CC loves rocking out to this plastic $1 mic I found at Target. And, in light of Ms. Cyrus' catchy new tune, "Party in the USA," I thought this video was totally appropriate.

"Noddin' my head like yeah ... movin' my hips like yeah ..."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Momversations on the Street

Please check out my new video Momversations on the Street, which I filmed over the weekend for MomsLikeMe.com.

Another mom and I visited a Kidrockers concert in Echo Park, and I had the opportunity to chat with fellow mamas about music and the holidays.

Take a look, and there might be more to come!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Under the Sea makes a splash


Nothing like Under the Sea and its ocean of mermaids, plastic cars, motorcycles and a bounce house to liven up your life on land.

That's exactly where CC and I met a few friends last week, and it was a total hit. Of course, this was before the stitches fiasco of "aught-nine," so I wasn't as freaked out as I would have been, say, now.


CC had a great time, hangin' with a pair of other toddlers -- zooming around on four tiny wheels, climbing into the indoor playtime adventure that is the Southern California specialty.

If you've never been there, which I hadn't before last week, it's a definite must-see. The underwater-themed kiddo extravaganza
offers lots of space and lots of toys.

A couple of other moms and I met with our little ones on a Monday, and the place was totally empty. I'm talking not even the trace of some random Cheerio. If underwater cities had ghost towns, well, you get the point.

But, hey, it was great for the kids. They had the run of the place. And I'm sure the celebration HQ more than makes up for it on the weekends, with pizza parties and birthday bonanzas.

In our case, it was nice. The whole "sharing" issue was a lot more manageable with three kids instead of, say, a sea of them.

Click here for locations.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Disneyland: Still the happiest place on Earth

After the horror of having to take our child to the emergency room on her birthday, it was heartening to watch her rock out at Disneyland.

From the above picture, as CC is spinning in the Mad Hatter's teacups with Ian and me, you wouldn't know that she'd just had nine stitches placed in her chin.

My little daredevil was up for anything -- the roller coaster in Mickey's Toontown, the Winnie the Pooh ride, the Jungle Cruise and lots more. She even got up close and personal with Tigger, Winnie the Pooh and Goofy.

All the activity was a great distraction from what could have been a particularly sad way to start Birthday No. 3.

Luckily, the day ended on the happiest of notes, courtesy of the happiest place on Earth.

Also, remember that Disneyland is free on your birthday -- something that helped to cheer CC's parents as well.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Happy 3rd Birthday, CC!

Happy Birthday, my darling daughter.

I can't believe she's already 3. Of course I had to replay in my head the day I gave birth -- the contractions; the nurse who didn't think I was really in labor; refusing the epidural, then begging for the epidural; and finally, feeling the most incredible sense of peace in the world once my child entered it.

Does every mom do this?

Unfortunately, today didn't go exactly as planned. After opening presents and singing "Happy Birthday," we had to make a mad dash to the emergency room after CC face-planted in the kitchen.

Talk about a nightmare. Everything's OK now -- nine stitches later -- but it was really scary there for a while.

Luckily, we were still able to take her to Disneyland, and she loved every minute.

Special thanks to Goofy, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. They helped my daughter forget that she literally took one on the chin -- and on her birthday of all days.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mar Vista Farmers' Market offers Yvonne's Gluten-Free Goodies


As you can tell from the above photo, my child is indulging in a little chocolate-y goodness. What you might not know is that brownie she's downing is gluten-free, courtesy of my friend and fellow LA Moms Blog contributor Yvonne in LA.

CC and I visited the Mar Vista Farmers' Market last weekend, and, lucky for us, Yvonne had a lot of yummy goodies in stock. We picked up a brownie and a milk chocolate chip cookie, which helped make our Sunday afternoon a little sweeter. Literally.

Yvonne offers lots of desserts on her gluten-free menu, including pumpkin cranberry muffins, cupcakes and mixed berry pie with almond streusel topping.

And -- also lucky for us and L.A. denizens -- she's a regular at the Mar Vista Farmers' Market. We'll definitely be back. Just have to check her schedule.

Mar Vista Farmers' Market

Venice Blvd. and Grand View

Sundays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Coming Attraction: 'Mary Poppins' lands at The Grove

(L to R) Abigail Droeger, Ashley Brown, Gavin Lee and Justin Hall in "Mary Poppins"

Four performers from the West Coast premiere of "Mary Poppins," now on stage at the Ahmanson Theatre downtown, will appear at The Grove on Friday, Dec. 4 at 3 p.m.

Company members Gail Bennett and Dominic Roberts will be portraying Mary Poppins and Bert, respectively. Katie Balen and Carter Thomas, who play Jane and Michael Banks, will join them.

In addition to the performance, the actors will answer questions from Mark Wallengren of KOST (103.5 FM).

"Mary Poppins" is playing at the Ahmanson through Feb. 7.

Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious! (Yeah, had to do it.)

Photo courtesy Center Theatre Group; (c) 2006 Disney/CML; Photo by Joan Marcus

Giveaway: Putumayo at The Grammy Museum

Putumayo's Johnny Bregar


You might recall when a certain toddler got so caught up in a rockin' Milkshake concert at The Grammy Museum that she performed a spontaneous somersault.

Well, that concert was one in a series offered by the downtown museum as part of a family program called Musical Explorations, during which parents and kiddos can learn about music in a tyke-friendly environment.

Next up, on Saturday, Dec. 12, is Holidays Around the World featuring Putumayo's "A Family Christmas" artist Johnny Bregar.

According to The Grammy Museum website, Bregar "will fill the Sound Stage with upbeat songs that explore cultural diversity as well as celebrate the season."

After the concert, the museum will offer musical arts and crafts, as well as refreshments on the Target Terrace.
*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm offering a family four-pack of tickets to this concert, which kicks off at 10 a.m. on Dec. 12.

Just leave a comment below, telling me your favorite holiday song. OR, if you want to get really creative, write a haiku about the upcoming holidays. (I was inspired to do this by one of my readers.)

Good luck, and I'll announce the winner Monday, Dec. 7.
UPDATE: Congrats, Marcela! You won! Have a great time, and thanks for participating. Please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com, and I'll give you the deets.


The Grammy Museum at L.A. Live

800 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite A245

Los Angeles, CA 90015

Holidays Around the World Admission: $8

Concert reservations: 213-765-6800, ext. 6

Monday, November 30, 2009

Help A Mother Out at The Treehouse Social Club


It's not often you *and* your kids can attend a rockin' holiday party while also doing a lot of good for fellow moms.

Well, wake up from your egg nog haze, because this year you're invited to one.

My friend and fellow LA Moms Blog contributor Kim Tracy Prince has organized an amazing holiday playdate at the posh children's space The Treehouse Social Club on Dec. 13 to benefit Help A Mother Out, a California-based organization dedicated to providing diapers to families in need.

The price of admission is a mere pack of diapers, and you'll be able to hang with other L.A.-area moms while the kiddos explore the indoor playground and giant treehouse.

The Great Recession has hit a lot of families hard, and many of them are unable to purchase diapers for their children. The diapers donated at this party will go to PATH Achieve Glendale and Ocean Park Community Center in Santa Monica.

For more information, click here.

Hope to see you there!

RSVP to kim@helpamotherout.org or 818-317-5507

Holiday Playdate
Dec. 13; 3 p.m.-6 p.m.
The Treehouse Social Club
426 S. Robertson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

The Dermalogica MicroZone Treatment goes to ...

Dariela is the big winner of the MicroZone treatment from Dermalogica on Montana. Congrats!

For this giveaway, as is my usual M.O., I used Random.org because I know all of you deserve a little pampering. However, I love the idea of a haiku.

Thanks for the inspiration, Jen. That will definitely be how I run my next giveaway.

Have a great day, and thanks again for checking out L.A. Story.

photo courtesy: Dermalogica

Saturday, November 28, 2009

LA Moms Blog: How Camp Snoopy Almost Killed Me


Please check out my latest LA Moms Blog post: "How Camp Snoopy Almost Killed Me."

Yesterday I got a little taste of fear when Ian, CC and I drove down to the O.C. to visit Knott's Berry Farm. The amusement park's Camp Snoopy corner offers rides for the littlest of tykes, but I still got nervous for my little girl.

It's funny, because I used to be a daredevil myself. What happened?

Friday, November 27, 2009

ICE at Santa Monica lures tykes with Tot Spot

As I wrote in an earlier post, ice skating is in full effect here in L.A., and last week we gathered our cool-weather gear as well as our courage and headed to ICE at Santa Monica.

It was CC's first encounter with the sport -- a word I use almost ironically when it comes to us. We were a little shaky in our skates, but she loved it.

In addition to the large ice rink at the corner of 5th and Arizona, ICE also sports an adjacent mini ice rink called Tot Spot, which is for tykes 48" and under -- perfect for my little munchkin.

Ian and I laced her up in the most adorable baby skates and dove -- well, glided -- right in. We each took turns taking CC onto the ice, and each time she tried to lose us. Seriously. The fact that it was her first time out made no difference to her; she wanted to go it alone, often refusing to take Ian's or my hand.

Don't think so, kiddo.

At one point, when she said she wanted to exit the Tot Spot, I thought she just wanted to sit down and take a break. Not even. She grabbed my hand and instead led me over to the "big rink" and said she wanted to go on that one.

That's my little daredevil. "Maybe next time," I told her, wondering if I was lying.

My dad was also in town for a short visit, but he decided to hang on the sidelines. He said watching CC brought back memories of when I took ice-skating lessons at the Williams Center in Tulsa when I was about her age. Ah, the '70s.

It was adorable watching her go. She was even wearing the big baby skates -- ICE also offers metal strap-on skates with two blades instead of one for first-timers.

Yes, it might be Southern California, but as our toddler learned -- you don't have to have seen snow to get up close and personal with ice.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!


Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! Hope you have a safe and wonderful holiday.
In addition to being thankful for family, friends and pumpkin pie, I'm thankful that I have such great L.A. Story readers!
Take care!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Coming Attraction: Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy

'Tis the season for ice skating -- yes, even in Southern California -- and Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy will be whirling and twirling downtown at Staples Center in December.

The show will feature characters from such animated films as Disney/Pixar's "Cars," Disney's "Tinker Bell," "The Lion King" and "The Little Mermaid." Can't wait to see Pumbaa rock out on ice skates.

Not only that, but a Disney Princess Pre-show will greet families who arrive early. Kids and parents can take a look at various ball gowns and mementos from the Disney princess stories, and they'll even be able to mingle with a Disney Princess, as well. (No word on which one just yet.)

Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy will be at Staples Center Dec. 17-20 before heading to Orange County, the Inland Empire and Long Beach.

L.A. Story readers can receive a four-pack of tickets for $44 (Mon.-Fri. matinees) or $4 off single weekend tickets by entering the coupon code MOM on www.ticketmaster.com.

Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy
Staples Center
Thursday, Dec. 17 -- 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 18 -- 11 a.m.; 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 19 -- 12 p.m.; 3:30 p.m.; 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 20 -- 12 p.m.; 3:30 p.m.; 7:30 p.m.

Giveaway: Dermalogica on Montana Spa Treatment


As a woman who used to get her nails done every couple weeks -- and had a manicure when she gave birth -- I know what it's like to want to pamper yourself once in a while.

But that was before I had CC.

Now, if I even have polish on my nails it's miraculous.

So when I was invited to an event at Dermalogica on Montana Spa in Santa Monica a few weeks ago, I was more than bummed that I couldn't attend. After all, who couldn't use a little extra attention in the facial department?

Lucky for me -- and an L.A. Story reader -- they invited me back to see what the spa has to offer.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but the atmosphere was a down-to-earth, mod, Sporty Spice take on a traditional spa. And I liked it.

They offer several treatments, including touch therapies, back treatment as well as facials. But what they also offer are MicroZone services that treat specific areas in 20 minutes. Hello, lunch break!

Flash exfoliation, extractions, eye revitalization are available as pop-ins. And for only 25 bucks. Nice.

Skin therapists are on hand at the Skin Bar to evaluate your epidermis -- that's not to say, tell you how terrible you look -- and give you tips on how to manage those needs. That's about 10 minutes, it's free, and they offer Dermalogica skin care samples.

I had a really nice experience. No pressure, no Judgy Judgerson snark about how you've abused your face. Just straightforward guidance and, oh yeah, the pampering.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

As motherhood and the upcoming holidays are no doubt wreaking havoc on your psyche, I'd like to offer a certificate for a MicroZone treatment at Dermalogica on Montana.

Believe me, it's a nice break.

Just leave a comment below. Good luck, and I'll announce the winner Monday, Nov. 30.

Dermalogica on Montana
1022 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
310-260-8682

Monday, November 23, 2009

And the 'Sesame Street' DVD winner is ...

Thank you to all who participated in the "Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days" DVD giveaway.

Maggie is the lucky winner, courtesy of Random.org! Congrats, Maggie! Murray and Elmo definitely rock.

I appreciated all your comments. All of them really brought back memories!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

'Access Hollywood' spotlights CC

'Access Hollywood' captured CC on film when we joined Ronald McDonald in McHappy Day celebrations.

Friday, November 20, 2009

CC gets a taste of reading, Konami-style

Last week, CC and I headed over to Konami's HQ in El Segundo to check out what kinds of video games they had on offer for kids.


It was a fun outing and a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at a prominent game developer.


CC's still young -- almost 3 -- and hasn't wrapped her mind completely around games that come with accessories such as a dance pad and an external controller ... that is, unless it's a microphone. She definitely knows what that is.


Most of the games were too advanced for CC's age right now, but she really enjoyed a game called "Storybook Workshop" (below). I was a fan, too.


The game, which hits stores Dec. 1, tells stories such as "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Ugly Duckling" and "Be Kind to the Earth."


The great thing is that kids have a microphone and can read along with the story. The even greater thing? You can choose which voice you want. CC loved that one. She was a fan of saying her name into the mic in robot voice and gnome voice. It was pretty funny -- for everyone.


But parents can record stories in their own voices and play them back for children at a later date. Also, the words appear on screen, which fosters reading practice. There are also games associated with literacy and games just for fun.


I'm still exploring this video world for CC and getting an idea of what's out there for kids that can also be educational. So I'll keep an eye on "Storybook Workshop."


Anything that has my daughter learning to read while saying adorable things in a robot voice, for me, is definitely something to consider.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Princess Tiana greets kids at Disney Store


On Saturday, CC joined what seemed like millions of kids at the Disney Store grand opening at Westfield Culver City Mall.

Princess Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog" was on hand with a big smile and a Southern drawl to welcome the kiddos. CC was a little shy, which is rare, but I think she was a tad overwhelmed. The turnout was pretty amazing.

I talked to one mother-daughter duo, who were the first ones in line and arrived at the store at 6:45 a.m. That's Disney dedication!

I also chatted with the Redondo Beach Disney Store manager Barbara Williams, who estimated the turnout to be anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000.

She also told me about the upcoming Pajama Party at Disney Stores nationwide on Friday, Nov. 20. Beginning at 5:30 p.m., kids can arrive at the store in their pajamas and join in games, goodies and story time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Giveaway: 'Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days'

There is nothing quite so special to a 2-year-old as getting serenaded by Sesame Street's Elmo.

CC got to experience that firsthand last week, when Elmo (along with longtime "Sesame Street" performer Kevin Clash) called to sing "CC's World."

It was adorable and made my toddler's day. She was already a fan of the furry little red monster -- he's stiff competition to her parents -- but this sealed the muppet deal, and she's been talking about it ever since.

"Sesame Street" is celebrating 40 years on the air this season and has not only updated the program with format tweaks and CGI elements, but the show is also offering a DVD that highlights the past 40 years.

I received a copy of "Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days," and it's pretty amazing ... and pretty poignant.

I love seeing the shaggy hair and bell bottoms from the early years, and I got a little choked up during the episode when the Street friends have to explain to Big Bird that Mr. Hooper isn't coming back.

The extras are great, too. Lots of behind-the-scenes action showing how puppets are designed and how the episodes are filmed. Seeing performers like Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Caroll Spinney in action is truly fascinating.

The most compelling part to me is how "Sesame Street" has stayed relevant and interesting all these years.

"We're a mirror image of what's going on in the world," said Kevin Clash. He added that the research department works hard to replicate what kids are learning, particularly in the sciences.

As I said before, to share a part of my childhood with my daughter -- granted, a hipper "Mad Men"-infused version of it -- is magical.


*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm offering 1 copy of "Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days" to an L.A. Story reader. Just leave a comment below telling me your favorite "Sesame" character or moment of the show.

Good luck, and I'll announce the winner Monday, Nov. 23.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Happy McHappy Day!

CC buys a McDonald's "Give a Hand" for $1 from Billy Bush.

When CC and I visited the Ronald McDonald House in Hollywood last week, I didn't want to leave.

That must sound strange, I know, considering it was our first time there and it wasn't, you know, our house. But watching my toddler daughter play on toys with other children and decorate sugar cookies with kids whose siblings were being treated in a nearby hospital was nothing short of heartbreaking ... in a good way.

A few other fellow mom bloggers and I had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Ronald McDonald House Charities Thursday over dinner and Friday to learn more about McHappy Day, a series of days really -- Nov. 10-20 -- during which participating McDonald's restaurants offer "Give a Hand" cards for $1.

These donations go toward raising funds for local Ronald McDonald House chapters, as well as Mickey D-related programs around the world. Not only are there the houses themselves, which provide room and board to families that need to be close to a hospitalized child, but there are also camps, health-care mobiles and scholarships for children.

On Friday after our tour, we joined Access Hollywood's Billy Bush and former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres at a local McDonald's, where CC was able to contribute $1 for her own "Give a Hand."

I chatted with both Billy and Dayanara (left) about their experience with the Charity.

"I'm very guilty. I'm a very guilty person, and I feel like it's shameful that I have what I have," Billy said. "I'm a blessed, blessed guy. I've got healthy kids, and if something, God forbid, happened to one of my children, I'd be able to at least pay for the best possible chance at surviving and beating it, and without Ronald McDonald a lot of families wouldn't."

"I'm a mom," said Dayanara.
"I would never like to leave my kid, not even for a night," she added, talking about the House itself and what it has to offer families. "I'll sleep on a chair if I have to, so (Ronald McDonald House Charities) is just a wonderful organization, and I wanted to be a part of it."

It was an amazing, touching couple of days, but what I loved most was helping my child give back. It was only $1, but she walked up to the counter and let it go all by herself.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sayonara, Hello Kitty!

Yesterday marked the last day of the Hello Kitty Three Apples exhibit at Royal/T in Culver City, and it was so packed.

(How packed was it, you ask gamely?)

Well, it was so packed I almost resorted to bribing the hostess so she would squeeze us in for the Hello Kitty tea. Otherwise, the wait was a mere two hours. I also was secretly hoping for big CC tears, but no such luck.

In case you haven't heard the news, Hello Kitty is celebrating 35 years, and art gallery/cafe Royal/T hosted parties, a gallery exhibit and a shopping area all dedicated to the Japanese icon.

Although we didn't get to experience brunch or tea service, Ian, CC and I walked around the exhibit and even climbed into a colorful Hello Kitty balloon. On our way out, a friendly employee handed CC an HK puzzle key chain and an adorable pink notebook.

Here are more pics from the exhibit:









Friday, November 13, 2009

'Night at the Museum' monkeys around





Yes, I'm a sucker for a monkey, especially one that responds to "gimme five!"

This week, I had the opportunity to meet Crystal the monkey, one of the stars of "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," on the Fox Studios lot in Century City.

She and her trainer, Anthony Suffredini, joined the film's director, Shawn Levy, to tout the upcoming DVD, which hits stores Dec. 1.

And in crafting that DVD, said Levy, "we have lots of bonus features."

He also said that while the movie offered "escapist entertainment," he also wanted to pair that with an "educational feel."

That's where Amelia Earhart (played by Amy Adams), Abraham Lincoln (Hank Azaria) and Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams) come in.

Those actors, whom Levy noted offered lots of improv hilarity, give wacky life to historical figures on screen.

But don't forget about the marble naked babies -- aka the cherubs, played by The Jonas Brothers.

All of those characters appear on the DVD in various features, including "Phinding Pharaoh With Hank Azaria," "Curators of Comedy: Behind the Scenes With Ben Stiller" and "Cherub Bootcamp" -- the "grueling training" Levy said he put the Jo Bros through to become the cherub trio.

There's also a downloadable feature called FoxPop, right, which allows viewers to sync up the movie with the computer/iPhone application and see facts and trivia pop up on the computer or iPhone screen.

But, as Levy said, "For most viewers under 10, it's all about the monkeys."

A second DVD, "Monkey Mischief," is also available and includes deleted scenes and a gag reel.

And no, the above video -- graciously filmed by Linda Perry of Peachhead fame -- is not included.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nikki Reed enters 'Style Lab' with middle schoolers

"Twilight's" Nikki Reed, right, and a Vista Middle School student check out Nintendo DS.

Video games are showing off their girly side, and "Twilight's" Nikki Reed was at Panorama City's Vista Middle School on Monday to take part in some femme bonding, Nintendo-style.

Ubisoft this week launched two new games for the Nintendo DS aimed at tween girls -- "Style Lab: Jewelry Design" and "Style Lab: Makeover." And they brought those games straight to the people who would love them most -- middle-school girls.

The event was in connection with After-School All-Stars, an enrichment program founded by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2002 to provide educational activities to tweens and teens as an alternative to riskier options.

CC and I were on hand as well to check out the games and the program. ... Well, CC was really focused on the ice cream and a super-friendly publicity account executive. (Thank you, Esther!)

I could see the games really appealing to young girls. It brought me back to my sleepover days, when I'd invite friends over and play with mom's blue eye shadow and crazy necklaces.

With "Style Lab: Makeover," players can create an avatar of themselves and trick out their virtual faces and hair with whatever styles they can think of. Eyeshadow? check. Highlights? check. Blue highlights? Oh, yeah. The great thing -- at least for parents -- is that all of this ends up on the screen instead of in tears.

"Style Lab: Jewelry Design" allows players to create their own pendants, necklaces, bracelets and earrings. They can then order their designs online from Artbeads.com.

What's also great for parents is that Ubisoft offers a Parent's Corner, where moms and dads can get a better feel for the games their kids are playing. There are frequently asked questions, forums and basic info that describes the games and the ratings.

Parents can even check out a version of the games online -- you know, if you're dying to see what you might look like with blue highlights.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Coming Attraction: Princess Tiana at Disney Store Grand Opening


Princess Tiana of the upcoming Disney animated film "The Princess and the Frog" will be on hand Saturday, Nov. 14, to celebrate the opening of the newest Disney Store, at Westfield Culver City Mall.

The festivities kick off at 10 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and the first 100 kids through the door can pick up a complementary pair of Mickey Mouse ears.

From 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the mall's center court, kids are invited to meet Princess Tiana. Radio Disney's Road Crew will also be there for music and games.

"The Princess and the Frog," a twist on the classic frog-kissing tale, is set in New Orleans and the bayous of Louisiana. The film opens in Los Angeles and New York Nov. 25, and nationwide on Dec. 11.

Disney Store
Westfield Culver City Mall
6000 Sepulveda Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90230

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Electronic Arts hosts Winter Wonderland

I might be feeding a potential obsession for my daughter. You guessed it -- the video game.

Last week, Ian, CC and I headed over to Electronic Arts' HQ in Playa Vista to visit their Winter Wonderland of new game demos.

If I were still a teen or even a tween, I might never have left. (Let's just say there are many hours of my life I can't get back after being sucked into "Super Mario Bros." and "The Legend of Zelda.") Luckily, at almost 3, CC has more will power.

Don't get me wrong. She had her two faves -- "Littlest Pet Shop Friends," which allows players to create adorable, wide-eyed pets and play games with them; and, somewhat surprisingly, "Boom Blox Bash Party," developed in collaboration with Steven Spielberg. Yeah, that one.

While tween boys took turns destroying blocks with their Wii controllers, CC stood by, rapt with attention. Could her inner toddler destroyer relate closely to "Boom Blox"?

It was cute to watch her hangin' with the big boys. But it was even cuter watching her play near the waterfall of the EA plaza as the sun set over the nearby ocean.

Even though there was a party inside, she was doing what toddlers do best -- running around outside, in the brisk November air, oblivious to her natural baby charm.

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