Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bounce With Me, Bounce With Me


From bounce houses to hot dogs to inflatable slides, the annual Spring Wing Ding Game Day hosted by the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood was a blast.

Our fearless preschooler made a beeline for anything with "bounce" or "bouncy" in the description, even trying to shimmy her way into the "big kids bounce house." (Sorry, kid. For now, you'll have to stay behind that velvet rope.)

There were also tons of games, including a fishing station, where kids could cast their line over a small wall and an age-appropriate toy would "bite." Let's just say CC was eager to revisit that station. (I was worried someone would say, "Weren't you just here?" Luckily, we avoided that embarrassment.)

We visited last year and still marveled at how large the offerings were. In addition to the bouncy bonanza, there was also a silent auction, a police car on display and so much food.

And, no, I was not able to turn down goodies going for 25 cents apiece -- my small sacrifice for a good cause.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

And 'The Squeakquel' DVDs go to ...

"Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my "Alvin and the Chipmunks" DVD giveaway! Once again, I got some great feedback.

I loved reading how one reader had a crush on Alvin or that another reader loved Theodore because he was "short, cute, pudgy and cuddly!"

So after drawing names (and those of you who became L.A. Story Facebook fans were added twice!), the winners are: Pokie, Natalie A. and Mami2jcn!

Congrats, and, as always, thanks for reading!

Please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com with your mailing address.

WAT-AAH! Blames it on the Sug-aah!

While I was chatting with Bobby Flay last week about healthy and quick tips for feeding the kiddo, we also talked a little bit about school lunches and First Lady Michelle Obama's interest in curbing childhood obesity.

Flay mentioned that kids are learning more and more where their food is coming from, which gives them more of an interest in it. (He also mentioned British chef Jamie Oliver, who has a show coming out on ABC that tackles the subject called "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.")

That said, we also have to think about what our kids are drinking. While soda is not on CC's diet, she tends to veer more toward juice and milk rather than straight-up water.

So when beverage brand WAT-AAH! approached me about trying out their bottled water, I said I'd give it a shot. After all, who doesn't want their child to drink more H2O?

The beverage itself is just that, water, but it comes in four color-coded bottles: Body, Brain, Bones and Energy. Ingredients are either pure spring water (Body) or ultra-purified water, as well as added oxygen (Energy), electrolytes (Brain) or magnesium (Bones). None of the selections include sugar. That's a no-no.

Creator Rose Cameron founded WAT-AAH! with her young son in 2008, and the brand officially launches on the West Coast in Whole Foods and other organic markets on April 1.

On the WAT-AAH! Web site, Cameron says she noticed how all "kid-friendly" beverages contained sugar and colors to "hide the 'boring taste and unappealing look' of simple, pure water." Her mission: Focus on the marketing.

So she has created a product that is visually appealing to kids, in hopes that they will choose that over sugary drinks. She says on the site that WAT-AAH! is not here to displace water from the tap or the otherwise filtered varieties, but rather to displace soda.

When I opened the package, which contained all four bottles, CC was instantly intrigued.

"What's that, Mommy?" she asked.

She liked the colors and wanted to open each one. I asked her to choose a color, and she picked green first. (Of course, she chose Energy a mere hour before bedtime.) She drank a few sips and put the rest back for later.

Every day, she liked going to the refrigerator and picking out a color. (The bottles are 16.9 oz, so drinking one at a single sitting was not happening.)

"I like that water," she said once we got to the last bottle. A good sign.

Like I said, CC doesn't drink soda, but it's important that she not be somehow turned off by water just because it doesn't look as exciting as the other bottles. That's where Cameron was realistic. Make the packaging fun, and kids will be more attracted to it. But the main thing is to make it pure, drinkable and add elements that kids need for healthy bodies.

While pricier than tap water at $1-$1.50 per bottle, depending on where you get it and how many you buy, it could be a viable option for parents frustrated with how hard it is to get their kids to drink the stuff.

In any case, it's one of many options for keeping the kiddos well-hydrated and a viable option for keeping sugary drinks at bay.

For more info, visit www.drinkwataah.com. The company also offers sponsorship opportunities for school and community events.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ralph's World takes over Amoeba Music


Surrounded by posters of The Doors, System of a Down, Nine Inch Nails and Cher, Ralph's World took the stage yesterday to croon kids' tunes at Amoeba Music in Hollywood.

And, of course, CC was right there, ready to play the invisible keyboard on stage or just hop like a frog with the other half-pints. (Yes, I placed those wacky black bars over the other children's eyes to provide some sense of anonymity. They're not mine, after all.)

You could see they were all having a great time, singing and dancing to high-energy songs such as "The Coffee Song" (really a fun ode for the parents and one I could certainly relate to), "Abby's Alphabet Soup" and "Surfin' in My Imagination."

"Get your surfboards!" creator Ralph Covert said, raising both hands in the air.

"I recognize the irony," he then added, "of a guy from Chicago teaching L.A. kids how to surf."

We had a great time, and Ralph was a genuinely nice guy, greeting guests and telling parents, including me, that he was happy we were there.

He'll be in the L.A. area giving free performances through Friday. Click here for more info.

Friday, March 26, 2010

'Dragon' ships dock at Walmarts in L.A. and beyond

America Ferrera, who voices the character Astrid in "How to Train Your Dragon," holds up a toy dragon in New York's Times Square.

DreamWorks' 3D movie "How to Train Your Dragon" opens across the country today, and the studio has teamed with Walmart for a unique product partnership -- one that has Viking ships docking at Walmarts all across the country.

We had the opportunity to see the movie a few weeks ago, and CC loved it. She even wore the glasses, which was a coup for us. But every time she passes one of the dragon billboards or supergraphics around the city, she screams, "Dragon!" or "What's the dragon's name?!" or "What's the boy's name?!" (Toothless and Hiccup, if you were wondering.)

The big launch of the partnership was in Times Square earlier this week (above photo), complete with actress America Ferrera and a 40-foot Viking ship.

The ships coming to Walmarts won't be that big, but they will be the only places where you can find dragon goodies -- that's the unique part of the partnership.

While I worry that my own little Viking will leap into the Walmart ships and demand to take home every toy, I'd still like to check it out.

Either that, or go see the movie once again, which we'll probably do anyway.

And the 'Strawberry Shortcake' DVDs go to ...

"Strawberry Shortcake: The Berryfest Princess Movie," courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The responses to my "Strawberry Shortcake" DVD giveaway really brought back some fun memories!

I love how readers remembered the Purple Pie Man and baby Apple Dumpling! Nice job!

So, the first two DVDs go to Christina of Greg, Christina & Kaitlyn and to Cheryl. I'm impressed with your Strawberry Shortcake scholarship.

Because the other entries all praised Miss S.S. herself, I let Random.org pick the third winner, which is ... Crystal.

Congrats and thanks again for reading L.A. Story!

LA Moms Blog: All About Preschool



Please check out my latest LA Moms Blog post, "Preschool Panic."

We ran into this issue just over a year ago, when CC was just shy of her second birthday. Yes, I totally freaked out. Preschool? So early? But after lots of research and courting -- not to mention, time -- we've finally found our place.

So moms, it can be done.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Celeb chef Bobby Flay talks real food

It's times like these -- when I get the opportunity to meet and chat with famous chef Bobby Flay -- that I'm grateful for having a daughter who likes broccoli, carrots and peas.

Don't get me wrong. The kid is definitely a fan of the occasional Pinkberry or Babycakes treat, but when vegetables are on the table, she doesn't run to her room screaming in horror.

And, yes, I feel veeeery lucky about that.

Our challenges aren't so much getting her to eat, but getting her to eat what we're eating. We tend to make something for ourselves and something for her. Also, I'm not exactly BFF with my kitchen, so the easier the dish the better.

So having the chance to sit on the couch and get food therapy from Flay, who launched The Real Food Project with Hellmann's and Best Foods this week, was encouraging to this mom, who's always up for cooking shortcuts.

"Moms are always like, 'How do I get my family fed quickly and in a nutritious way, something that is easy for the whole family,' " Flay said. "A lot of times, people tend to make more than one meal -- there's the kids' meal, and then there's the adults' meal, and I never understood any of that."

"My daughter's now 13," he added, "but I always fed her what we were eating."

Flay recommends making roasted chicken, because it offers leftovers for the next day -- soups, salads, sandwiches. "Cook one time for something between two and three meals," he said.

Getting back to his teen daughter, Flay talked a little bit about what she liked to eat as a toddler. "At a very early age, she liked to eat shellfish. (That) was her thing, like mussels and clams, and she still does today."

"That's very sophisticated," I said.

"But see, that's the difference. I don't agree with you," he countered. "It's not sophisticated. It's just that you have to put it in front of them."

"When she was 2 years old," he added, "she didn't know a mussel was a sophisticated thing. Now she thinks she's cool when she eats it."

CC has tried sushi and exotic Thai dishes, but she's also a hamburgers and hot dogs kind of girl.

"Well, you don't want to take the fun out of it," Flay said. "But if it's a hamburger, why not make it a good hamburger instead of a fast-food hamburger? There's a complete difference."

I told Flay about how Ian cringes every time I slather a hot dog or cheeseburger in ketchup and mayo, and I wondered if there might be other unusual places to find the condiment.

"I think one of the coolest places that people find mayonnaise is actually in this French dish, like a bouillabaisse, or a seafood stew," he said, while also reminding me that Hellmann's and Best Foods use 100% cage-free eggs. "And they make something called rouille, which is actually a mayonnaise-flavored saffron and garlic. And you stir it into the broth while the broth is really hot, and it gives the broth a really creamy texture to it."

Flay also said that adding fresh lemon juice, lemon zest and mayo to paella when everything is done adds texture and brightens up the rice dish.

After chatting with Flay, I got the chance to peek in on a Web video taping for The Real Food Project. He and a mom of two teens hit the grill for a fun sandwich with eggplant and melted cheese.

While the actual taping took a while, the grilling was fast and easy. Something I convinced myself I could do, too.

Flay also signed a cookbook for me, one that is right up my alley: "Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries & Shakes."

Now that I can handle. Just bring on the ketchup and mayo!

(Click here to access recipes and short videos -- one featuring fellow L.A. mom blogger Elizabeth Peterson from Traded My BMW for a Minivan.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Standing up for Mommy Bloggers


Please check out my post on TheWrap.com, "In Defense of Mommy Bloggers."

It's in response to a recent article in the New York Times headlined, "Honey, Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Too Busy Building My Brand."

The Times article itself sets out to address a real issue: mommy bloggers and their relationship with marketers and companies. But the snide tone and condescension in addition to the whole Big Media vs. New Media debate was something I couldn't ignore.

That, and the headline was curiously similar to my post on LA Moms Blog, "Don't Bother Me, Honey. I'm Too Busy Blogging About You."

Oh yeah, I went there.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coming Attraction: Ralph's World free performances



Grammy-nominated kids' rock band -- and Potty Dance extraordinaire -- Ralph's World will be heading to Los Angeles this weekend for free tyke-friendly performances.

The band, headlined by indie rocker Ralph Covert, offers up songs such as "Surfin' in my Imagination," "Belly Button" and "All About Bob," the last of which can be found on the band's latest CD, "All Around Ralph's World" (Bar/None).

The music is rock-friendly but also light-hearted and really dance-able. And CC *loves* to dance. (Yes, even in front of strangers.)

There will be several performances this weekend and throughout next week. Check out the schedule below:

* Saturday, March 27: 11 a.m.; Long Beach, CA; ­ Fingerprints
* Sunday, March 28: noon; Los Angeles, CA; Amoeba
* Tuesday, March 30: 10:30 a.m.; Borders; Northridge, CA
* Wednesday, March 31: 7 p.m.; Borders; Torrance, CA
* Thursday, April 1: 11:30 a.m.; Borders; Carmel Mountain, CA
* Friday, April 2: 10:30 a.m.; Borders; Sherman Oaks, CA

Click here for a free MP3 of song "All About Bob."

Coming Attraction: Spring Wing Ding Game Day


Yes, it's that time of year again. Goodbye, rainy winter. Hello, Spring Wing Ding -- still the best name for a kids' event, hands down.

The First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood is hosting its annual free family fun day, complete with cake walks, games and tasty treats, on Saturday, March 27. And if it's anything like last year, when CC almost set up residence in the bouncy house, it should be an exciting day.

In addition to the kid-friendly goodies, there also will be a silent auction to benefit MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), an organization within the church.

First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood
1760 N. Gower St.
Hollywood, CA 90028

Admission: Free

Monday, March 22, 2010

Heritage Square Museum models vintage fashion

The Carriage Barn at the Heritage Square Museum

Elizabethan couture shared a catwalk with 1700s-era California cowboy gear this Saturday at the Heritage Square Museum's Vintage Fashion Show and Tea.

The presentation, which showcased men's, women's and children's clothing, covered roughly 400 years of fashion and, in the process, offered up a bit of cheeky humor, courtesy of mistress of ceremonies Mitzi March Mogul.

Brace yourselves, gentlemen, she told the mostly female crowd when a model wearing an 1890s bicycling outfit hit the stage, "she's showing a bit of leg."

Luckily, Mogul added, "she's also wearing a pair of high-top boots to cover them up a little."

The focus of the show was on the silhouette, and it was fascinating to see how the actual size of a woman seemed to shrink over the years. Lots of fluff in the beginning transformed into the revealing and more fitted fashion we see today, or at least the 1960s, which is the era that concluded the show.

CC and I had never been to the museum before we were invited to Saturday's event. We've passed it many times, though, driving north on the 110 on our way to Pasadena. Heritage Square is nestled off to the side of the freeway (the Avenue 43 exit), and you can catch a glimpse of the Victorian-era village from the road -- albeit at 55-plus miles per hour.

Saturday was a gorgeous day, and CC was able to explore the grounds while also taking in the pretty dresses and yummy tea that followed. The eight structures that make up the museum were constructed in the late 19th century and offer a glimpse into Southern California's past. Facing demolition, according to the museum Web site, the buildings were saved in 1969 by prominent Angelenos, who banded together with the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board to create Heritage Square.

It's a lovely area and a place that's also child-friendly. The open spaces allow for running and exploring, and the buildings themselves are inviting. CC even encountered a resident rooster and his Heritage companion, a quick, black hen.

After tea, catered by Mary Suzanne Martinez and The Loose Teas Cafe, we had to head back home for nap time, so we weren't able to go inside and visit the Vintage Fashion Display inside the William Perry Mansion.

We will definitely be back, however. The museum is a real hidden delight.

Upcoming events include:

* L.A. Heritage Day (Sunday, April 11, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.) Historical societies and museums from all over Southern California present their communities and Los Angeles' heritage.

* A Child's Friend: A Look at Vintage Dolls (Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, April 23-May 23, 12 p.m.-4 p.m.) The history of doll-making during the Victorian era.

Heritage Square Museum
3800 Homer St.
Los Angeles, CA 90031
323-225-2700

Admission: Adults ($10); Seniors 65+ ($8); Children ($5); Children under age 6 (Free)




Friday, March 19, 2010

LA Moms Blog: Potty-training madness



Please check out my latest LA Moms Blog post, "Potty training is a pain in the, well, you know."

You can guess what it's about. But, just so you know, the whole process is about to kill me. We're almost there, but I'd like to make it over the last hump, and pronto.

If you have any helpful tips, please pass them along.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Giveaway: 'Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel'


CC and I 'munked out this week at Fox Studios in honor of the upcoming release of "Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" DVD, hitting shelves March 30.

We actually saw "The Squeakquel" at the theater -- a rarity for us -- while Ian was next door checking out James Cameron's "Avatar."

CC was riveted by the movie and sat in her seat the entire time -- another rarity -- watching the chipmunk trio and the Chipettes vocally duke it out for high school singing glory.

Now, this isn't your '80s or even '60s Chipmunks. I haven't seen the 2007 original in this new series, but the second installment offers a mix of live action and CG animation, which has had some entertainment reporters asking if the movie even belongs in the "animated category" for awards shows.

Not only that, but the next installment in the series will be in 3-D, which seems to be the latest trend for all movies, not just a franchise's third big-screen outing.

"The Squeakquel," which boasts Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Anna Faris and Amy Poehler in voice roles, has Alvin & Co. enrolling at a new high school while Dave is held up with injuries abroad. His videogame-geek nephew (Zachary Levi) is put in charge, as the boys get up to their usual hijinks. When they're asked to save the school's music program by competing in a battle of the bands, they get some unexpected competition from The Chipettes.

After I watched CC hang out and take the stage with other kiddos (all of whom received goodie bags), I had the chance to talk with director Betty Thomas and producers Ross Bagdasarian Jr. (whose father created The Chipmunks) and his wife, Janice Karman, who conceived of the Chipettes.

"Hill Street Blues" alum Thomas explained that most of the shots had to be created before any animation was in place. And because of that, she had to get creative with her directorial handy work -- which meant going back to her acting roots.

"They said, 'You have to turn in that shot now,' so you have to make those decisions," she said, "and the best thing for me, having been an actor at one time in my life, was to just act out the scenes and play every character, which was kind of fun when you think about it. Or crazy or something."

She also mentioned that her first album as a child was The Chipmunks. "It was a Christmas album, and I remembered that," Thomas said. "It was so nostalgic for me, and I tried to not let that take over and find fresh ways of looking at them."

Bagdasarian and Karman also were looking for new ways to approach the classic Chipmunk trio. So they invested in CG artists who could really focus on the nuances of everything from facial expressions to movement.

"It's all about performance for us," Bagdasarian said. "Are they doing something in a way that's like 'Oh My God, what a great' ... (something) that's so selling that attitude."

"As long as we also kept their emotional life, because that never changes with people," Karman added, when talking about keeping the characters current yet still not dating them. "You still get your feelings hurt, you still cross the line and you have to be accountable, you still have sibling rivalry, so those things don't change, and that's real important for Ross and for me to keep those emotions alive. Otherwise, we're talking animals."


***GIVEAWAY***

I'm giving away three copies of "Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel." Leave me a comment below telling me your favorite chipmunk and why, or your favorite song they've sung over the years, and I'll throw your hat in the ring.

If you add yourself as a fan on the L.A. Story Facebook page, I'll add your name twice.

I'll announce winners Tuesday, March 30. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Preschooler picks a Pinkberry

Despite not being able to see my child's face in this photo, it still makes me smile. To me, she somehow looks like a mini leprechaun dancing her version of the Pinkberry jig.

Last week, we carved out some free time to explore The Shops at Concert Park in Playa Vista, where there was a Pinkberry offering complimentary cups of its newest flavor during Mad About Mango Happy Hour.

Pinkberry can be an acquired taste, although Ian has preferred not to acquire it. Sure it's more sour than your average ice-cream flavored frozen yogurt, but when mixed with real fruit, I think it's a real treat. CC, too.

She ordered her mini mango cup topped with freshly cut mango and blueberries, while I opted for yogurt chips and coconut. (Yes, my child is healthier than I am. No complaints here.)

Afterward we took a little walk outside, where CC danced on the stone sidewalk and darted around rose bush planters.

Then it was back home for broccoli, Brussels sprouts and beets. No, really.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Japanese American National Museum spotlights clothing


On Saturday, CC and I drove downtown (or "down-a-town," as she calls it) to visit the Japanese American National Museum, which was offering free admission courtesy of Target's Free Family Days.

In addition to complimentary access to museum exhibits such as "Textured Lives: Japanese Immigrant Clothing from the Plantations of Hawai'i," there were all sorts of clothing-related activities for the kiddos, including sock-puppet making, as well as a Shibori workshop for girls ages 9 and up.

CC was too young, but I bet she would have loved the Shibori class, a workshop that introduced three basic techniques for dyeing cloth: makiage (stitched and bound), itajime (fold and clamp) and arashi (pole wrapped).

Instead, CC made her own sock puppet, complete with pink hair and a beret, which she has been calling "Socky" all weekend. It's only funny to me, I think, that it sounds so much like the appropriately Japanese "sake."

There was also an origami corner and a clothing swap at the museum. We didn't make it to those, but we did get to see both exhibits, Textured Lives and Common Ground.

"Textured Lives" (Feb. 27-May 30) was amazing for all of the plantation clothing on display. Not only was there children's attire, but there were also re-fashioned kimonos that had to be altered to protect women's bodies from the Hawai'ian sun as well as the sharp sugarcane leaves.

Incredibly moving was the "Common Ground" exhibit (on display since 1999), which offered original artifacts including a partially reconstructed barracks, preserved from the concentration camp in Wyoming, where they placed Japanese men and women during World War II.

There was also a lovely and serene waterfall outside, where CC and I sat and grabbed a snack -- a nice way to spend a Saturday.

Japanese American National Museum

369 E. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-625-0414

Admission:
Adults $9.00
Seniors (62 and over) $5.00
Students (with ID) and Youth (6-17) $5.00
Children 5 and under and Museum Members, Free.
*Free general admission every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

CC goes on 'Math Adventure' for Pi Day

As math geeks all over the world celebrate Pi Day (3.14 ...), today seemed like the perfect day to revel in numbers-based fun with my little math-loving munchkin, courtesy of DVD "LeapFrog: Math Adventure to the Moon."

CC has gotten really comfortable with counting, navigating her way from 1-20 as often as she can. She's also good with shapes and sorting them.

"Triangle!" she says with glee. "Square!" I love that she finds joy in everyday objects.

So when I received a review copy of the DVD from Lionsgate, I was happy to see that LeapFrog makes the subject fun and engaging through storytelling and visually appealing graphics.

"Math Adventure to the Moon" has twins Tad and Lily searching for 10 items at home for a school math project. When they have trouble counting, their trusty and magical firefly friend, Edison, takes them on a rocket ship bound for lunar learning.

Their hope is to collect 10 moon rocks, but when they shoot past the moon itself, they find themselves on a whole new adventure. That adventure involves counting, sorting and discerning various shapes.

At a brisk 36 minutes, the DVD ($14.95) is a quick quest that reinforces preschool math concepts geared toward ages 3-6.

CC enjoyed the story and kept asking for the froggies' lightning bug friend. "What's his name, Mommy? What's his name?"

She also loved the sorting game, which is included in the extras portion of the DVD. She can name the shapes of crystals and put them in their proper place.

While we won't be breaking out the Champers or juice boxes to celebrate Pi Day, I will raise a glass -- er, coffee mug -- to toast my little math geek in training.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

L.A. Story is on Facebook!


L.A. Story now has an official Facebook fan page! Yay!

For readers who find it easier to connect that way, I'll be uploading blog posts and lots of photos to the page.

It's brand-new, so I'd love to hear any feedback. And lots of comments are, of course, always welcome.

Go ahead and click here to get to the page, where you can add yourself as a fan. Or click on the nifty little Facebook button to the left of this post under the heading "Connect With Me."

And, as always, thanks for reading!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Giveaway: 'Strawberry Shortcake' DVDs

Strawberry Shortcake has changed a lot since I was a kid in the '80s. Gone are the short hair and dowdy, Little House on the Prairie-esque clothes. Gone is the over-sized baby face.

Yes, Miss Shortcake has been tarted up for a new generation of kids, but the changes serve to make something that's already sweet into something modern and appealing to children older than 3.

My 3-year-old was smitten with the newly released DVD "Strawberry Shortcake: The Berryfest Princess Movie," from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

In fact, once the credits rolled, CC said, "I don't want it to be over." A good sign for Strawberry and her pals Lemon Meringue, Orange Blossom, Blueberry Muffin and Raspberry Tart.

The CGI-animated "Berryfest Princess Movie," which hit shelves March 2, tells the story of Berry Bitty City's annual Spring Festival preparations. This year, the village of delicious-sounding characters must choose a princess, and that makes life a little more complicated for the young girls.

When the election comes down to Orange Blossom and Strawberry Shortcake, things get a little tricky. How do the girls decide, considering they're all BFF? (No, not a frenemy in sight, except for maybe a pair of attention-hungry ladybugs.)

The story offers up the idea that being able to choose between two or more options is actually a good thing -- not something to fear.

After the election (and I won't spoil it for you, although the cover is pretty revealing), there is a whole other set of problems, including what it means to be a leader and how to manage a group of girls who are dedicated and excited but also interested mostly in their own contributions.

If anything, it shows how friendships -- even the best of them -- can be put to the test.

Ian was a little worried that the movie offered zero educational benefits, but I disagreed. Admittedly, there are no counting or alphabet games to speak of, but there are lots of lessons to be learned about sharing, compassion and compromise.

***GIVEAWAY***

I'm giving away a trio of "Strawberry Shortcake: The Berryfest Princess Movie" DVDs, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Just tell me (or tweet me; I'm @la_story) your favorite Strawberry Shortcake character and why.

I'll announce the three winners Friday, March 26. Good luck!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Betty White hits the Mother Lode on 'SNL'

Betty White; photo courtesy NBC.com

Betty White
's upcoming hosting gig on the May 8 edition of "Saturday Night Live" may be all the news today -- ah, the power of Facebook -- but let's not forget about what the episode will also highlight. Mother's Day!

In addition to the 88-year-old TV star, whose "SNL" popularity skyrocketed after she was seen being tackled in a Snickers commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, six former "SNL" performers who also happen to be moms will appear on the show: According to the New York Times, those mammas are Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon.

(I had the opportunity last year to chat up Amy Poehler at a theater opening downtown. She was gracious and happy to talk about her young son, Archie.)

Can't wait to see Betty and the Baby Mama gang!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Preschooler flips for My Gym


Who says birthday parties have to be all about empty calories -- as tasty as those empty calories are?

A couple weeks ago, CC and I visited My Gym children's fitness center on La Cienega Blvd. for a birthday party, and man, did we put those calories to work.

And by "we," I mean "she."

I've never taken CC to a My Gym location before, but I *have* been eyeing their classes for my little "Baby Taz." Besides hosting birthday parties for little ones, they also offer age-appropriate gymnastics classes to help the little tykes burn off some of that endless energy as well as improve coordination.

The birthday party was a little taste of that.

At first, I thought it would just be a free-play extravaganza for the 15 or so preschoolers running around like over-caffeinated wild chipmunks, but the two-hour event was structured and supervised.

Don't get me wrong. There was some free play, during which time CC dove into a plastic ball pit, slid down slides, swung on baby swings and bounced on a trampoline. But there was also singing and circle time and a safely supervised zip-cord run (right) that delighted the kiddos.

And, of course, there were cupcakes. But, for the first time in the history of my child's young life, those came second to the unfettered joy of belly flopping into a sea of colorful plastic balls.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Coming Attraction: Pinkberry's Mad About Mango Happy Hour

Get ready for the latest scoop -- er, swirl.

This Friday, March 12, from 5 p.m.-9 p.m., Pinkberry will host a Mad About Mango Happy Hour at stores nationwide to celebrate its new frozen yogurt flavor.

Festivities will include complimentary mini mango yogurt cups with toppings; in-store games; and giveaways.

CC is a big fan of Pinkberry -- we've dined on many Originals with strawberries, coconut and chocolate chips. The Los Feliz and Larchmont branches got to know us well.

Look forward to checking out the newest flavor.

CC applauds REDCAT Children's Film Festival

It was an hour of Latvian puppet-animation films that kept CC's eyes on the big screen this weekend at the REDCAT International Children's Film Festival.

CC and I -- and a couple hundred other parents and kiddos -- gathered in the downtown theater's main space to watch "Animation Brigade," a series of short films from the '90s and early '00s (or aughties, as I like to call our previous decade) created by Latvia's AB Studio.

Geared toward all ages, each of the eight short films was mischievous and entertaining, and the limited running time kept short attention spans happy.

The first three entries, all directed by Janis Cimermanis, followed a trio of hapless "helpers," who always seemed to be at the center of trouble. That batch included:

* "The Swan," which followed a theater production gone awry. Sets fall apart to comic effect, thanks to an avian costume that goes a bit off course.

* "The Tart," which was CC's favorite of them all. This film centers on an old man who, on his 100th birthday, wants a cake built to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Imagine the hijinks that can ensue from that premise. (I think CC enjoyed the whole messiness of it.)

One of the more mischievous films was "Magician," directed by Maris Brinkmanis, about a traveling magician (con man, er, con animal) that spirits away items and makes a break for it before village citizens knew what hit them.

"Where did it go?" CC asked every time an alarm clock or other household item disappeared. "Where did he put it?"

Eventually, of course, the magician comes around, seeing the error of his ways and all is well.

All of the entries were worthy films for tykes, and from what I saw all the kids felt at home in the theater. In fact, REDCAT representatives even said to grab a pillow and cozy up on the floor if there were no seats available. Some kids even walked right up to the screen -- much to CC's wonderment -- but there were no harsh words or scoldings, only a fun time for the little ones.

REDCAT is also conveniently located on the southwest corner of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, right, so CC and I got to have a look around before the program started.

It's a great space, complete with children's amphitheater and expansive views of downtown L.A. Complete with bright outdoor seating and greenery, this would be a nice place to grab lunch and relax with the kids.

Above photo of "Animals: Home Hole Horrors," courtesy of REDCAT

Monday, March 8, 2010

And the 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' DVDs go to ...

"Fantastic Mr. Fox," courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Wow, I really enjoyed all of the "foxy" comments everyone left for the "Fantastic Mr. Fox" DVD giveaway, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

It was a tough choice to pick just three -- in fact, I picked two and had to let Random.org choose the third one because there were so many fun contenders.

So, without further adieu, here are the winners:

* Jason -- That comment made me laugh out loud!

* Maria -- Fun advice for significant others!

* Lauren -- Be sure and let me know how you think the movie compares to the book!

Congratulations, and thanks for reading!

And the Girl World 2010 tickets go to ...


The two winners for the Girl World 2010 giveaway are Juvie and April! Congratulations!

Please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com with your name and your daughter's name, and I'll be sure to pass that info along for the Will Call list.

Enjoy, and please let me know how it goes! Thanks for participating!

UPDATE: One of the winners, unfortunately, won't be able to make it to the event, so I have one set of mother-daughter tickets available. If you are interested in going, please leave a comment or email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com. Thanks!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tweeting the Oscars ... again!

SayTweet badge

Will it be "Avatar" or "The Hurt Locker"? We'll find out soon.

Stay tuned! And, if there's an Oscar lull, feel free to check out CC singing "Jai Ho" from last year's Best Picture winner, "Slumdog Millionaire."

Dermalogica on Montana invites L.A. Story readers to spa event

As I prepare to watch as gorgeous men and women walk down the red carpet for their Oscar close-ups, I, of course, start thinking about how awesome it would be to get the glam treatment -- hair, makeup, shoes, dress, etc. -- for just one evening.

OK, there was my wedding, but that was awhile ago now.

Luckily, Dermalogica on Montana in Santa Monica is hosting a great event for women (hello, stressed-out moms!) on Thursday, March 11, from 5-8 p.m. that will feature:

*complementary 20-minute MicroZone treatments (yes, complementary)
* Face Mapping skin analysis
* Skin Bar skin lessons, and
* Fun prizes, including a free baby Daily Microfoliant and a Clarisonic Brush Head


I had an amazing time when I visited back in November, and I would definitely recommend this event if you'd like to check the place out.

All you need to do is RSVP to skincleanup@dermalogica.com, and you'll get at least a taste of Oscar-like pampering.

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

Friday, March 5, 2010

More for Moms: The Coupon Mom



Yes, today is all about Mama. And this post is about one of them -- The Coupon Mom.

I first heard about Coupon Mom when I was flipping through TV channels and saw her on a morning news program. I forget which one -- thank you, mom brain.

Anyway, she and the news correspondent were winding their way through a supermarket, throwing what seemed like mountains of food and goodies into the basket while chatting about this, that and how coupons -- you know, those pesky mailbox fillers and newspaper plumpers -- really do help.

Whatever, I thought. I'm OK about cutting out the occasional coupon, but I'm really (honestly) loath to sit down and devote time to going through all the useless coupon detritus to get to the good stuff.

Then Coupon Mom, aka Stephanie Nelson (who has a degree in finance, natch), and the correspondent arrived at the check-out line. I'm not kidding when I say that she got an $80-plus bill down to a measly quarter.

When she went for her wallet -- er, change purse -- the correspondent stopped her and said, "No, no, this one's on (insert major television news network here)."

I was stunned (and wondered if it might be staged, even a little), but then I got some more info and noticed that her tips really are helpful.

In the above video, she offers some nice advice on keeping the snack fund down to a minimum.

She didn't get her bill down to a coin you might find on the sidewalk, but her two cents' worth is something worth sharing.

Coming Attraction: SpaFinder.com Deal Days


OK, so this post is more for moms than for tykes, but, hey, sometimes you have to take a break and relax.

Next week, March 8-14, SpaFinder.com is bringing its deal days to the Los Angeles metro area, and spas including Yolanda Aguilar Beauty Institute and Spa, The Daily Zen Relaxation Studio, the Argyle Salon and Spa, as well as Creative Chakra in Marina Del Rey, will offer services for only $50.

It's kind of like Restaurant Week, when Angelenos can check out new eateries at a special price, but I'd like to think of spa visits as dessert-only experiences -- forget the obligatory protein and vegetables.

Sign up for free at SpaFinder.com to book your appointment and see what's available.

And, above all -- and I should take my own advice -- just relax.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We missed the "Pazzazz!"


It's pretty amazing being in the same room with a talent as huge as Richard M. Sherman, one-half of the famous Sherman Brothers songwriting team. Think "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "It's a Small World" and even the 1960 ditty "You're 16 (You're Beautiful You're Mine)."

What is not amazing, however, is being at a live performance when your preschooler decides she wants to go home -- loudly. Awk-ward.

Last week, CC and I were invited to attend the opening night performance of "Supercalifragilistic: An Evening with Richard M. Sherman" at the El Capitan in Hollywood.

The first act promised a medley of old favorites, including songs from "The Jungle Book" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," while the second act was scheduled to introduce songs from Sherman's upcoming musical comedy with Milt Larsen, "Pazzazz!"

Let's just say we didn't make it to the second half. (Boo.)

But I get it. It wasn't exactly toddler/preschooler territory. The show was an intimate performance of a tuxedo-clad Mr. Sherman singing his songs on a bare-bones stage that held a single piano. His voice, gravely with age, still had the enthusiasm and wonder even after all these years.

He talked about his time working for Walt Disney with his brother, and he shared anecdotes about being in Paris with Maurice Chevalier, who sang the Sherman-written title song of movie "The AristoCats." There were also videos with the likes of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke extolling the talents of the Shermans.

Richard Sherman was always humble and gracious while talking about his past successes, and seemed to still want to pinch himself for everything he's accomplished.

I was charmed; CC was coloring. (Thank you, El Capitan for providing crayons and coloring sheets.)

I'm still bummed we missed "Pazzazz!", but I'm hoping it will make its way to Hollywood again -- maybe next time at the Pantages?

Before we left, sadly just before intermission, CC got to check out some props at the El Capitan from the upcoming Tim Burton movie Alice in Wonderland -- a fun display that had a pizazz all its own.

Richard M. Sherman image courtesy of Davidson & Choy Publicity

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

'How to Train Your Dragon' fires up preschooler

"How to Train Your Dragon," courtesy of DreamWorks Animation LLC (c) 2010

CC, Ian and I enjoyed an early screening last week of DreamWorks' latest animated movie, "How to Train Your Dragon 3D."

Not knowing much about the movie other than the bare-bones plot -- a Viking teen who doesn't fit in with his dragon-slaying family and actually becomes friends with one of the feared creatures -- I wasn't sure what to expect. And I had no idea if CC would even keep the glasses on -- that's been a problem in the past.

But we were completely wowed. The story is adorable and accessible, and the 3D is perfect for dragon flights over seas and between mountains. At times, my senses were even tricked into thinking I was on some dragon-fueled roller coaster. Best part of all, CC kept the glasses on -- even though they seemed to be twice the size of her face.

The movie, hitting big screens nationwide on March 26, does feature some fight scenes between the Vikings and dragons, and I worried about the fear factor with my little one. She flinched a little bit, but she never turned away. She was in it for the long haul.

The voice cast was also fun, with Jay Baruchel as Viking teen Hiccup, Gerard Butler as burly dad Stoick and America Ferrera as the tough-as-nails Viking girl Astrid, among others. (My one quibble is that all the Viking adults had Scottish accents whereas the kids were American. I thought it made sense for Hiccup, because he was different, but for the rest of them? Maybe the brogue is just something you grow into.)

Visually, the film was amazing, and the Night Fury dragon Toothless gorgeously rendered and vulnerable, as were most of the dragons.

The story of a boy feeling different from the crowd -- and his own father -- and finding confidence and kinship through a seemingly terrifying yet loyal animal is a lovely story, and a movie we'd definitely see again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Giveaway: Girl World Tour 2010 for moms and daughters

CC's not a tween just yet, but I am looking forward to the days of mother-daughter bonding over school, clothes and friendships. (Boys, I'm a little more freaked out about.)

I want her to be a confident tween and teen, and in the looks-centric world of Los Angeles -- or anywhere, for that matter -- there are bound to be a few bumps in the road.

Rosalind Wiseman's Girl World Tour 2010 is tackling just those topics for moms and tween daughters. Wiseman knows a little something about the subject, being a mom herself, but she also wrote the popular "Queen Bees and Wannabes," which was the basis for the 2004 movie "Mean Girls," with Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams.

The Girl World Tour, which will arrive in the L.A. area (Lakewood) on March 15 from 7 p.m.-9 p.m., will feature Rosalind Wiseman hosting "an interactive discussion about confidence, friendships, sweat-inducing moments and other mother-daughter challenges," according to the release.

There will also be a book signing for Wiseman's debut young adult novel, "Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials."

***GIVEAWAY***

I am giving away 2 sets of tickets for 2 mother-daughter pairs to the Girl World Tour, courtesy of sponsor Dove go fresh Deodorant and Body Mists.

Just leave a comment below telling me why you'd love to take your daughter (age 8-14) to the event. I'll announce the two winners on Monday, March 8.

Good luck!

Rosalind Wiseman’s Girl World Tour is presented by Dove go fresh
Date: Monday, March 15
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Location: St. Joseph’s High School; Lakewood, CA
Tickets: $40 per mother-daughter pair
Event Details: http://rosalindwiseman.com/events/girl-world-tour/

UPDATE: One of the winners, unfortunately, won't be able to make it to the event, so I have a set of mother-daughter tickets available if anyone is interested. Just leave me a comment or email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com. Thanks!
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