Monday, January 11, 2010
When actress, mom and "Dancing With the Stars" hot stepper Melissa Joan Hart plans a birthday party for one of her sons, you know she has a ton of options to choose from. After all, what Hollywood mom doesn't have the 411 on the best birthday spots around town?
Lucky for her eldest son, Mason, who just turned 4, party headquarters was at one of his favorite places this side of Disneyland -- his mom's own sweets shop, Sweetharts in Sherman Oaks.
And lucky for me, I got to be a fly on the wall for the festivities. Not only did I get to chat with Melissa about her family and Sweetharts for a second time, but she also gave me some great travel tips (they flew in from the East Coast) and a heads up about a pilot she just shot with Joey Lawrence called "Melissa & Joey." But more on that later.
"I have to juggle," Melissa said about party planning, as children flitted around her, waving candy and balloon animals. "Luckily, my mom's here" and husband Mark Wilkerson, she added. "It takes a village."
I could certainly relate as I watched her gently pull her younger son, Brady, away from a jar full of chocolate candy. That was while also greeting guests (including Joey & family, actress Kellie Martin & family), filling goodie bags and coordinating with her party planner.
It does take a village -- and maybe a little caffeine and sugar, too. You'd think that she'd be frantic, but no. Totally calm and in control.
If you've never been to Sweetharts (pictured above), it's a child's wonderland of gelato, frozen yogurt, jars upon jars of candy bars, baked goods and, thank God, coffee.
According to the shop's designer Lonni Paul (who was also featured on HGTV's latest "Design Star" alongside new business partner Dan Vickery), "Melissa really had a vision."
"We wanted to make it kind of fun and whimsical," she said. "The shop is decorated in a modern baroque style with funky chairs, purples and greens," as well as mod white chandeliers and translucent cafe tables designed by Lonni with candy treats suspended inside.
It's a place you might imagine Willy Wonka's younger, more socially adept sister would run.
Birthday celebrations include a party planner who can arrange face-painting, balloons and a jumpie outside, according to Melissa. "She gets things done and makes sure everything stays clean," she added.
And not only can kids partake of the goodies inside Sweetharts, but they can also make their own pizzas and have them baked at Vitello's Pizza next door. All of that in addition to make-your-own cupcakes, and the kids were in sugar-coated heaven.
Through it all, Melissa was the queen of calm, and you could see that she was having a lot of fun herself.
I asked her how it was flying from their new home on the East Coast and if she had any travel tips for taking kids on long flights.
"Each of the boys has a rolling backpack filled with diapers, toys, tricks and snacks," Melissa said. "My favorite -- they have iPod touches with really low gigs. They have songs, games -- they like to play the Itsy Bitsy Spider game, Frogger -- and movies."
"Traveling is really difficult," Melissa added, mentioning not only logistics but also missing out on seeing friends like BFF Kellie Martin. And she might be traveling a lot more depending on how her pilot "Melissa & Joey" shakes out.
In the show, Melissa stars as a woman who's taking care of her sister's kids when out-of-luck Wall Streeter Joey arrives and offers to help around the house.
"It's a romantic comedy," Joey Lawrence said about the show. "It's like 'Mad About You' on its head."
Joey was at the birthday party with his wife, 3 1/2-year-old daughter Charli and daughter to be.
"My wife is due in 6 1/2 weeks," he said. "It's another girl."
He's certainly had some practice. He was practically glowing when talking about Charli.
"We do everything together," he said. "She loves movies, the theater -- we saw 'The Grinch' and 'Mary Poppins.' I also took her to 'Avatar' in 3-D Imax. She loved it, she was grabbing at the screen."
The party looked like a giant success. It was truly lovely watching the birthday boy hug each of his friends when they arrived and seeing his younger brother playing peek-a-boo through some of his balloon animals. The bubbles that floated down from the Sweetharts rooftop was a nice touch.
In fact ... I might have to start thinking about reservations for next December.
13704 Ventura Blvd. (at Woodman Ave.)
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Photos courtesy of lonnipauldesign.com / projectnursery.com