Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Coming Attraction: 'Family Game Night' & 'The Game of Life' on The Hub

"Twister Lights Out" on The Hub's "Family Game Night."

When I was younger, I used to play games like Monopoly and dominoes with my dad, and Yahtzee and The Game of Life with friends and friends' parents. When we had friends in from New York last month, Ian and I whipped out our game of Balderdash. And that's not even mentioning how many games we play with CC -- from Candy Land to Five Little Monkeys.

Needless to say, we love games.

That's why I think it's so cool that kid-friendly channel The Hub will be kicking off its second season of "Family Game Night" on Friday, Sept. 2. (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT). Hosted by Todd Newton, "Family Game Night" brings games we all know and love -- including Hasbro's Connect 4, Operation and Trouble -- from the board to the small screen.

Because The Hub is a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Hasbro, they're able to tap into a wide variety of family-friendly faves.

"The Game of Life" on The Hub

When viewers tune into "Family Game Night" on Friday, they'll also get a sneak peek of new original Hub half-hour series "The Game of Life," premiering Saturday, Sept. 17 (6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT).

Earlier this spring I had the chance to visit "The Game of Life" set, where producers were on hand -- and very excited -- to share how they have brought this game to ... well ... life. There's that wonderful spinning wheel that makes the same clicking sound as the game. And families hop in a car to start their adventures.

Placed in front of a huge screen that presents them with questions and varying roads, families huddle together to decide their game-show fate.

What producers stressed was the idea of family. It's not just about the kids -- although they're great, of course -- but bringing moms, dads, grandparents and the kiddos together.

(Photo credits: The Hub)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

NASA Astronauts (and CC) Visit Walt Disney Studios

NASA Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus and CC at Walt Disney Studios.

It's not every day that you get to hear from NASA astronauts how they can now dine on shrimp cocktail while floating 250 miles above the Earth. But CC and I heard that fun fact and a whole lot more when we visited The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank last week.

Four members of NASA's final space shuttle mission -- Commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus and Mission Specialist Rex J. Walheim -- met with kiddos from the East Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club as well as some other lucky little ones, including CC.

They were on hand to talk to kids about space travel, provide encouragement to budding scientists and explain exactly what it feels like to float in space. (Fun, but no shoes allowed. Nobody wants a swift kick in the noggin.)

Special guests Mickey and Minnie made the morning extra special.


Disney was also previewing an upcoming episode -- "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Space Adventure," airing on the Disney Channel Monday, Sept. 12 at 9 a.m. ET/PT. In this episode of one of CC's favorite shows, Mickey, Minnie and the gang head to outer space in search of buried treasure.

Before the screening, the astronauts shared a video of some of their own space adventures and answered questions from the kids. In addition to describing what it's like to be in space and what kinds of food they can eat -- M&Ms for dessert! -- they also quizzed the audience with questions like, "What is the closest planet to Earth?" (Venus), and "Is the sun a star?" (Yes!).

It was amazing to see these inspiring people -- They've been to space! Space! -- and I was especially happy to snap a true Girl Power pic, with CC and Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Weekly Deal: $10 for 1 General Admission Ticket to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST or THE LION KING in Disney Digital 3D® at the El Capitan Theatre ($16 value)


$10 for 1 General Admission Ticket to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST or THE LION KING in Disney Digital 3D® at the El Capitan Theatre ($16 value)

Acclaimed and treasured like no other, Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was the first animated feature film in the history of the Oscars® nominated for Best Picture (1991), and is now brilliantly transformed to a new level of entertainment through the magic of Disney Digital 3D™. The beloved classic follows the adventures of Belle, a bright and beautiful young woman who finds escape from her ordinary life by reading books. Meanwhile, off in a castle in the distance, a cruel young prince is cast under a spell that turns him into a tormented beast, and his servants into animated household objects. In order to remove the curse, the Beast must discover a true love who will return his affection.

From September 16th - October 6th, the El Capitan Theatre will showcase the Oscar®- and Golden Globe®-winning film, THE LION KING on the big screen in Disney Digital 3D™ for the first time ever. The Circle of Life takes on a new dimension as Simba, Mufasa, Nala, Timon and Pumbaa grace the screen once again, this time in breathtaking 3D; originally released in 1994, THE LION KING remains one of the most successful animated films of all time.

Click here to get this deal!


(Sponsored Post from FamilyFinds.com)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Alltop Welcomes L.A. Story

Alltop, all the cool kids (and me)

Just got word that popular online news aggregator Alltop -- whose co-founder, Guy Kawasaki, is a serious force on Twitter -- has included the blog you're reading right now on its dedicated Los Angeles topic page. Yay!

That's right -- yours truly will be joining the likes of local news orgs including the LA Times, LA Weekly and popular blogs such as LA Observed and Blogging.LA on a Web page dedicated to updates about the City of Angels.

Check it out here, and stay tuned for upcoming posts about NASA astronauts at Walt Disney Studios, a "Dolphin Tale" screening at Warner Bros. Studios and an update on The Hub's Family Game Night!

Thanks, Alltop!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gladstones Says Yes to Kids

CC asks for a kitty from the face painter at Gladstones.

It's really tough to find restaurants in Los Angeles that are just as fun for adults as they are for the kiddos. You usually have to make some sort of trade-off -- basically an indoor play space with food or a family-friendly chain restaurant that's been schooled in patience-building.

Enter Gladstones, which just received a million-dollar renovation to its ocean-side locale from corporate parent SBE.

Ian, CC and I had the chance to check out its new outdoor digs -- complete with a kid magnet of a sandbox -- at a special event for mom bloggers.

We've visited before, last time with Ian's mom, but this time it was all about the kids. In addition to the sandbox, Gladstones offers children's birthday party options like build-your-own pizza, face-painting and kite-flying. After all, they are just steps from the beach.

Build-Your-Own Pizza (CC chose pineapple and cheese.)

We also sampled some yummy adult fare -- cups of chowder, seafood ceviche, macadamia rock shrimp (pictured below) -- along with lemonade, tea and cranberry juice. Very refreshing for a sunny August day.

Macadamia rock shrimp

One of the best parts, though, was heading down to the beach after the party came to a close. It's so nice to just slip off your shoes and watch the kiddos play in the sand. And you don't even have to move your car to do it!


Gladstones
17300 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades, CA 90265
310-454-3474 (restaurant) or 323-525-2400 (events)
Click here for the menu and prices.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Weekend To-do: Big!World!Fun! at Ford Amphitheatre

Lisa Haley of Lisa Haley & the Zydekats (Photo credit: Helene Barbara)

Saturday marks the close of this season's Big!World!Fun! Family Series at the Ford Amphitheatre, and if you're free, make sure to stop by.

Lisa Haley & the Zydekats
will be performing Cajun/zydeco tunes, and if it's anything like the performance CC and I caught at the beginning of the season, the kiddos will be clapping their hands and maybe even dancing in the aisles.

Ballet Folclorico do Brasil at Ford Amphitheatre

Dancers and musicians from Ballet Folclorico do Brasil took the stage in early July to show off their martial-arts-based capoeira dance skills. Leaping off small walls, doing flips, all to the beats of various drums, the troupe definitely had the audience cheering.

The hourlong performance is just long enough to be interesting while still holding little ones' attention spans. All of the shows are interactive and engage the audience in fun, multicultural questions.

Before the show, CC got her hands on petrified dinosaur poo, courtesy of Kidspace Children's Museum. Not joking!

Every week before each performance, kids can participate in free, hands-on fun. Kidspace brought dinosaur excavating kits and even provided a bit a real-life wonder with the hardened dino do-do. (While I let CC hold it, I took a pass on that one.)


This week's pre-show activity is puppet-making from Art 2 Go.

The price is just right, too -- adults are only $5, while children ages 12 and younger are free. Parking is $1.

Big!World!Fun! Family Series

Saturday, Aug. 27 at 10 a.m.
Ford Amphitheatre
2580 Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90068
Tickets and info: 323-461-3673

Weekly Deal: $12 for children's haircut at Little Rockstar Children’s Salon ($23 value)

No need to settle for a bowl cut or battle tears as you attempt to cut your kids' hair yourself. Instead, bring your little rock stars to a salon designed just for them -- Little Rockstar Children’s Salon.

Little Rockstar in Sherman Oaks is a magical place created with a lot of love and imagination. Kids get a rockin’ haircut ($23 and up before discount) from a topnotch stylist with tons of experience keeping little ones entertained while they get a new 'do in custom-made airplane, luxury car or fairy chairs.

They can even get a kids' mani-pedi ($25 and up) in dazzling specially designed butterfly chairs!

Great for the whole family and nominated for Parents Picks 2010 Best Hair Salon on parentsconnect.com, Little Rockstar provides services all the way from baby’s first cut to a cut ($35 and up before discount) and color ($40 and up before discount) for Mom.

Even better, you don’t have to use your voucher only on one child or all at one time. Plan a beauty day and sign your kid up for a mani-pedi and an updo ($30 and up before discount), or try a haircut this time and ribbon braids ($15 and up before discount) with a glitter tattoo ($5 before discount) the next. You decide – you’re the star!

Click here to get this deal!

(Sponsored Post from FamilyFinds.com)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Disney Baby Fun at BlogHer '11 + Giveaway

Disney Baby party at BlogHer '11 (Photo credit: (c) Disney)

UPDATE: Congrats to Katrina and Barbara, who won the Baby Einstein Discovery Kits! (Sorry for the delay. :) Please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com with your address, and I'll send it right away!

CC would have loved this. At BlogHer '11, I had the chance to visit an adorable Disney Baby party, complete with snuggly baby bodysuits and ... drum roll, please! ... Winnie the Pooh!

Checking out Disney's Cuddly Bodysuit collection, I got so nostalgic for CC's pre-potty-trained days. I remember picking out fun onesies and stretching them over her puffy diapers. (Not that I'm complaining that she can do this all on her own now.)

It's funny, too, how quickly baby things get better over time. For instance, Disney designers have added a second row of "grow with me" snaps so that parents don't have to rush out and buy the next-sized set when baby grows in length. Check out the designs here.

What's also amazing is that Disney is donating bodysuits to Operation Shower, an organization that provides baby showers to military families.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

At the brunch, I received a pair of Baby Einstein Discovery Kits that I would like to share with readers.

Each of the kits -- "Baby Lullaby Discovery Kit" and "Neptune's Oceans Discovery Kit" -- comes with a DVD, book or discovery cards and CD.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me which Discovery Kit you would like and why. (There will be two winners, one for each kit.)
For more chances to win, follow me on Twitter and retweet this giveaway. I'm at @la_story. Or you can "Like" the L.A. Story Facebook page.

Just be sure to leave extra comments telling me you did so.

Good luck, and I will announce the 2 winners (on this post, not a separate one) on Monday, September 5!

Friday, August 19, 2011

BlogHer '11 -- Exploring San Diego & the Expo Floor (Part 2)

MomsLA/FamilyFinds.com party at Airr Supper Club & Night Club.

One of the things I loved about my first BlogHer conference was meeting up with friends at super-cool San Diego hot spots like Airr Supper Club & Night Club.

Just a short walk from my hotel at the waterfront San Diego Marriott, this cool venue -- with vibrant single-hued rooms like the one pictured above -- played host to the MomsLA/FamilyFinds.com party.

Meeting fellow moms over cocktails and conversation was a welcome break from the day-to-day -- and from all the goings-on at the convention center.

What I also loved was the walk over, where I got to sample some of the scenery in the historic Gaslamp Quarter.


That said, I spent a lot of the second day checking out the Expo floor, where brands set up fun, interactive booths, as well as a panel on freelance writing with editors from Parenting magazine and Tecca.com. (I even scored an assignment out of the deal! Woo-hoo!)

While there are too many fun Expo-floor experiences to talk about here (I actually took a much-needed break on one of these), I wanted to share a few pics from the family-friendly side of things.


I got the chance to meet up with Ruby from "Ruby's Studio," a DVD collection from L.A.-based The Mother Company that teaches children to verbalize their feelings.


I also stumbled upon these squeezable snacks from Ella's Kitchen. Many of them are for babies, but some are perfect for preschool lunches. CC loved the samples I brought home. (I also found them at Target! Yay!)

I also made this fun photo, courtesy of Hallmark. Conference-goers were decorating T-shirts, noting their special moments. I picked "Making CC's Lunch" because I never knew what joy I would get from doing something so simple. Believe it or not (and in my single, parentless days, I would have veered toward the latter), I love it.

We're also loving this organic bubble bath for kids.

Stay tuned for a post about the fun Disney Baby party I attended, complete with Winnie the Pooh pics and a giveaway!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

FamilyFinds.com Deal: $119 for One Hour Studio Session + More from The Pod Photography ($247.50 Value)


$119 for One Hour Studio Session, Disc with Top 5 Photos, and Online Viewing Gallery from The Pod Photography ($247.50 Value)

Capture your family's unique style with a one hour photo session from The Pod Photography. Your voucher also includes a medium-resolution disc with five of your favorite photos and access to an easy to use online gallery.

Choose from several backdrops and sets for the ultimate session. And if you need props to complete your theme, The Pod Photography has a large stock of anything you can come up with and more. So, whether they are photographing maternity, baby, kid or family photos, you can be sure that the final result will reflect the fun you had in studio!

The Pod Photography is a full-service portrait studio offering custom designed wall art, framing, holiday cards & birth announcements as well as heirloom albums, "brag" books and a variety of kids albums, fine art canvas prints, and re-touching.

Click here to get this deal!

(Sponsored Post)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Coming Attraction: Disney's D23 Expo at Anaheim Convention Center


It's been almost two years since its incredibly popular debut, and Disney's D23 Expo: The Ultimate Disney Fan Event looks ready to wow Mickey and Minnie fans once again. The fan-friendly expo hits the Anaheim Convention Center August 19-21, and the schedule is super-packed.

CC, Ian and I had a fantastic time at the inaugural D23 event in 2009. While I thrilled at seeing Johnny Depp in full-on Capt. Jack Sparrow regalia, CC and Ian had fun exploring the expo floor and posing with Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse.

This year promises just as much action. From celebrity appearances (Jennifer Garner! Kermit the Frog!) to special panels to archival exhibits to advance screenings ("The Muppets"! "Brave"!), Disney is again offering visitors a variety of sessions that should have fans busy drinking in all things Disney for three straight days.

Tickets for the event range from $32-$106 for children and $40-$136 for adults. (D23 members receive a discount. Visit www.D23Expo.com for more info.)

Mickey Mouse at the first D23 Expo (Photo credit: Disney)

While I can't list everything that's on the schedule (trust me, it's a lot), here's a selection of fun things to do on each day.

Friday, Aug. 19:

* Jake and the Never Land Pirates, 10 a.m. Character appearances by Disney Channel’s Jake, Captain Hook, and Mr. Smee.

* Christmas in August, 12:45 p.m. The world premiere screening of Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice with the creative team.

* Special Announcement and Storytelling Event, 1:00 p.m. Meet authors Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, as well as David Arquette, for story time.

* Rock Out with Rock Star Mickey, 1:00 p.m. Join us for a performance with Rock Star Mickey and American Idol's Constantine Maroulis.

* Dick Van Dyke & The Vantastix, 8:15 p.m. Hear songs from Dick Van Dyke’s varied entertainment career and various Disney classic songs.

Saturday, Aug. 20:

* Phineas and Ferb, 10:00 a.m. Character appearances by Phineas, Ferb, and Perry, too!

* Disney Living Meet and Greet, 10:00 a.m. Meet Disney Store Princess Designer Collection artists.

* D23 Expo Talent Round-Up, 11:40 a.m. Join us for a meet and greet with ABC Family's Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence.

* A Conversation with the Pixar Creative Team, 2:30 p.m. Join us for a rare opportunity to spend time with the key figures responsible for Pixar’s moviemaking magic.

Sunday, Aug. 21:

* Handy Manny, 10:00 a.m. Meet the voice of Manny, Wilmer Valderrama, with character appearances from the show.

* Special Agent Oso, 11:15 a.m. Meet the voice of Oso, Sean Astin, with character appearances from the show.

* The Art of Brave, 11:30 a.m. Join us for an afternoon of conversation and art with Steve Pilcher and Tia Kratter as we uncover the secrets behind Pixar's detailed process.

* Radiator Springs Reality, 1:30 p.m. Pixar's John Lasseter and Roger Gould join Imagineers for a sneak peek look at Cars Land.

Have a great time!

D23 Expo (The number 23 represents 1923, when Disney got started)
Aug. 19-21, 2011

The Anaheim Convention Center
800 W. Katella Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92802
Tickets can be purchased here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Weekly Deal: 51% Off One-Month Membership to Sittercity.com


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Click here to get this deal!


(Sponsored Post)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bye-Bye, Oklahoma!


We had a great time visiting family in Oklahoma this past week -- as well as checking out rural landscapes like this one.

Even though I grew up in Oklahoma City, for some reason it was important for me to show CC the rural parts of the state. Driving from OKC to Tulsa with her, I found myself pointing out farms, horses, cows, ponds -- essentially competing with iPhone apps. I got a kick out of her shouting, "Cows!" and "Does that one cow have friends?"

She doesn't get to see that part of the country very often -- she's definitely a California girl -- and I want to at least try to make it stick, if even for a week.

It's funny how important your roots become once you're a parent.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Jessica Alba Talks 'Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D' + Giveaway

Jessica Alba in "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D"
(Photo credit: Rico Torres/Dimension Films)


"Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D" will be hitting theaters a week from today, and I had the chance to join a conference call and chat with star Jessica Alba, who plays a retired spy and busy mom.

When she's not saving the world from the likes of Time Keeper, aka Jeremy Piven, she's balancing life with husband Cash Warren, 3-year-old daughter Honor and a new baby on the way.

(Plus, check out the L.A. Story Facebook page for a Spy Kids giveaway!)

In "Spy Kids" you balance a lot of things as the (spy!) mom of 2 stepkids and a baby. What are some of your tricks for balancing things in real life?
Jessica Alba: I don't work as much as I used to, so that definitely helps for me as far as prioritizing my time. And on the weekends, my husband and I have made an agreement that when we're with our daughter, and when she's not sleeping, of course, it's just pure family time, so no BlackBerrys, no emails, no texting. We're really trying to give her as much attention as humanly possible.

In the movie, you play a strong mom. Who in your life has inspired you as a mom role model?
JA: My mother and my grandmother were my examples growing up. They always made us kids feel like we were a priority and No. 1 no matter if they were working or busy. My mom, especially in my life before I started acting, she would have three jobs sometimes at a time, but always managed to make my brother and I feel like we were No. 1 in her life and that she was doing everything for us.

I think whether you have a job where you can stay at home or if you have a job where you can't, and you have to be away and travel a lot, just take time to check in with your kids and remind them that they're a priority.

Alexa Vega, Jessica Alba and Daryl Sabara in "Spy Kids 4." (Photo courtesy Dimension Films)

How did it feel to have made your first 4D film, and what can we expect to experience from it?
JA: *Laughs* We didn't really know it was going to be 4D when we were shooting it, so that sort of came after the fact. I think it's a great, really fun element to add to the film for kids. It's a kids' movie, and we all know that our kids are used to interacting with their entertainment, especially with iPhones and iPads and things like that. So this is for that next-generation kid that's used to that interaction. And they can participate in the film in a way that you never could before.

Eight times during the film there's a number that pops up, and they have a scratch-and-sniff card, and the kids can scratch and smell what we're smelling in the movie and feel even more a part of the experience.

What do you like to do for fun as a family?
JA: We're pretty boring. We don't go on adventures like saving the world or anything. We like to go swimming, go to the park. We'll do whatever my daughter wants to do. So if she's like, 'Let's play dress-up,' we'll play dress-up.

What was your favorite scene to film in the movie?
JA: I liked the scenes where I was going into labor because in the film I play a spy and I'm hiding it from my husband. I'm on my last mission, and I go into labor, and I think that was the funnest. I got to do a little bit of action, which I haven't done since I did "Dark Angel," and I miss doing action. But then there was also a lot of comedy in it because I was obviously supposed to have contractions during the sequence, and that was just funny and fun to play.

How are you feeling with your pregnancy now, and how is it different from your first pregnancy?
JA: I have this fierce, insatiable craving for watermelon, which I didn't really have with my first. I'm moving around a lot more, but I feel like everything sort of ... like my belly popped much quicker, and I feel pains differently. I don't remember feeling these pains before. And my doctor just said that your body has done this before, so it's doing everything in rapid motion, where it slowly took 9 1/2 or 10 months for it to happen with the first, with the second, it's sort of like, 'Oh, yeah, I've done this.'

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Guess Where We Are ...


Yes, we're back in Oklahoma visiting the fam. I snapped this photo -- effects courtesy of Camera + -- on a little drive out west of Oklahoma City.

It's amazing what's still standing from the "Grapes of Wrath" days. This abandoned house, which is basically just weathered boards next to a windmill, is across the street from the future site of a convenience store, a la 7-11.

That blows my mind.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Weekly Deal: $20 for 2 Personalized Kid's Music CDs from Name Your Tune


What’s in a name? Everything, if you’re a child! Babies, toddlers and big kids love hearing their names repeated over and over, and they’ll get just that with Name Your Tune and Name Your Tune 2 – made-to-order children’s CDs that feature your child’s name sung more than 160 times in 26 songs.

Everyone can sing along with the songs that are both old and new all at the same time -- classics like "Old MacDonald Had A Farm E-I-E-I-O" become "Little Hannah Had A Farm E-I-E-I-O." Your children will love rocking out to Name Your Tune ... and so will you.

Order yours today!

(Sponsored Post)

Monday, August 8, 2011

BlogHer '11 -- Laid-Back Bonding (Part 1)


Being a newbie at BlogHer -- the annual femme-dominated blogging conference -- isn't such a bad thing.

Checking out the vast Expo Hall -- where this year in San Diego you could catch everything from the Statue of Liberty made out of Twizzlers to a replica of the Sesame Street stoop featuring Cookie Monster and Elmo -- was thrilling. And the panels that I attended were definitely inspiring. (It's impossible to balance it all, apparently. Whew!)

But what was especially wonderful about the conference was meeting up with my fellow bloggers and bonding over common interests (motherhood, working, chocolate!) in the laid-back atmosphere of sunny San Diego.

I had heard that last year's BlogHer in New York (where it will be held next year, too) was a little on the frenetic, crazy side, but this year was mostly calm, and I was all about taking it easy while also learning a thing or two.

Oh, and the view from my hotel room didn't hurt, either.


Even though I've been blogging for almost 3 years, there was still new stuff to learn. On a panel called "Success on Our Own Terms," which featured a discussion among high-powered women moderated by Huffington Post editor Lori Leibovich, I heard from Trendera CEO Jane Buckingham, The Hollywood Reporter Editor Janice Min, Huffington Post BlackVoices Editor Christina Norman, HuffPo's Parenting contributor Susan Stiffleman and motivational speaker (and sister to Arianna Huffington) Agapi Stassinopoulos.

"People are so hard on themselves," Min said about the parenting/work balance, "and we have to let some of that go."

Norman added that we as women (who tend to worry about stepping on others on the path to our own success) don't have to view success as coming at the expense of someone else's failure. We have our own path and our own unique accomplishments.

For me, something Stiffleman said rang especially true: "We're modeling for our kids what it's like to be engaged, and a lot of that is only half-way." Eek.

Not that I've ever been like that before. *cough*

There were also fun parties (yay MomsLA, FamilyFinds and Disney Baby, just to name a few!) and lots of fun products to check out.

But more on that later ...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Giveaway: 'On the Go' Treats from Lawry's *Sponsored*


UPDATE: Congrats to Jessica T., who won the trio of Lawry's seasonings! Please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com with your address, and I'll make sure they're sent your way. Thanks again to everyone who participated.

It's prime summer vacation time, and that usually means road trips, plane rides or picnics at the park. (Or, sometimes, all of the above.) What's always important, though -- no matter where you go -- is to have food available for hungry travelers.

That's why I was more than happy to meet up with some fellow mom-blogger friends (in my case, virtually, via Twitter) for a tasty get-together, featuring Lawry's marinades and seasoned salt.

Our mission: Team up to create three recipes that would be perfect for "on the go" activities.

Because we're competing with several other teams for additional prizes, we really stepped it up when it came to our recipes -- Polynesian & "Your Signature" Sliders, Sesame Ginger Chicken Salad and Mexican Potato Salad!

I'm also giving away a trio of Lawry's items:

* 16 oz. Seasoned Salt
* Balsamic Herb Marinade
* Seasoned Salt Marinade

Check out how to enter after the recipes.

Made by L.A. Story (Mommy of a Monster used Lawry's recipe for "Your Signature" Sliders -- not pictured.)

Ingredients:
* 1 pound lean ground beef
* 1/2 cup Lawry’s Teriyaki Marinade With Pineapple Juice, divided
* 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
* 4 pineapple slices
* Lettuce leaves (as needed)
* 10 mini hamburger rolls, toasted

Directions:

1. Mix ground beef, 1/4 cup of the marinade and red bell pepper in medium bowl until well blended. Shape into 10 rounded slider patties.
2. Broil or grill over medium heat 4 to 6 minutes per side or until sliders are cooked through (internal temperature reaches 160°F). Meanwhile, broil or grill pineapple slices 1 to 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Brush sliders and pineapple slices with remaining 1/4 cup marinade while cooking.
3. Serve sliders on toasted rolls with pineapple slices and lettuce leaves.


Ingredients:
* 2 lbs. of boneless chicken breast.
* 1 cup of Lawry’s Ginger Sesame Marinade.
* 1 pack of your favorite fresh Green Salad
* 1 fruit cup of Mandarin Oranges
* Whole Baby tomatoes to taste
* Slivered Almonds to taste
* 1/4 cup of Sesame Ginger Salad Dressing
* Shredded Carrots to taste

Directions:
In a resealable plastic bag, marinated chicken in Lawry’s Ginger Sesame Marinade in the refrigerator for 30 mins. Then cook on grill. Once cooked, slice chicken into cubes and add to fresh greens. Top with mandarin orange slices, whole baby tomatoes, shredded carrots, slivered almonds and top with your favorite Sesame Ginger Salad Dressing.


Ingredients:
* 5 lbs. of Potatoes
* 1 package of Chorizo, cooked and drain from oil
* 1 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped (separated some for toppings)
* 10 hard boiled eggs, chopped
* 1 finely chopped onion
* 1/2 cup of mayo
* Lawry’s Seasoned Salt to taste.
* Pepper to taste

Directions:
Peel and chop (into small sized cubes) potatoes and boil in water for about 15 mins. I added a teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoned salt to add a tiny bit of flavor. Once boiled, drain and place potatoes to cool in the fridge for at least 1 hour. In a mixing bowl, combine cooled potatoes, mayo, eggs, cilantro, chorizo, onions and mix till all ingredients are well mixed. Add Lawry’s Seasoned Salt to taste.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm giving away a package of Lawry's 16 oz. Seasoned Salt, Balsamic Herb Marinade and Seasoned Salt Marinade.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me your favorite Lawry's marinade OR your favorite "on the go" recipe. (You also must be a U.S. resident.)

For more chances to win, follow me on Twitter and retweet this giveaway. I'm at @la_story. Or you can "Like" the L.A. Story Facebook page.

Just be sure to leave extra comments telling me you did so.

Good luck, and I will announce the winner (on this post, not a separate one) on Thursday, August 18!

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, for which I was compensated. In partnership with The Motherhood, Lawry's provided me with seasoned salt, marinades and ingredients to make my recipe, along with a stipend.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Countdown to BlogHer '11!

Come Talk to Me at BlogHer '11!

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I heard the news that the massive women's (and a few brave guys') blogging conference BlogHer would be popping up in San Diego this year.

Now, it's upon us -- we're driving down eeeearly Friday morning (I already feel like I need more coffee) -- and I'm excited to experience this amazing, overwhelming and jam-packed conference with my blogger friends. It'll be my first time. (eek!)

I'll be checking out the panels -- and the parties -- and meeting up with my fellow L.A. moms and bloggers, as well as bloggers/readers I've chatted with only online.

If you're going to be there, too, please say hi! I'd love to meet you in person. And if you have any tips for this BlogHer newbie, please feel free to share. :)

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Parents' Night Out: 'Crazy Stupid Love' + Steve Carell Interview


Ian and I are big Steve Carell fans. And after "Despicable Me," CC is too.

So when I got the chance to join a conference call and ask Carell a few questions about his new movie, "Crazy Stupid Love," now in theaters, I jumped at the chance.

It wasn't just a knee-jerk reaction (OK, it mostly was), but I was also happy to put the film on my Parents' Night Out list. After all, it's about a long-married couple (Carell and Julianne Moore) with kids who are both in for a few surprises after Moore's character, Emily, announces she wants a divorce. Enter Ryan Gosling, makeovers and lots of awkward moments. In the end, though, where will their hearts actually lead them?

But enough about relationship drama, Carell wanted to chat about co-star Gosling's abs -- a topic that came up more than once.

Q: What did you enjoy most about making this movie?


Steve Carell: Ryan Gosling's abs. ... I can't tell you how many questions I've received about his body, which, frankly, makes me feel terrible. I get a lot of this: 'When are we going to see your abs in a movie?' and clearly they're just making fun of me.

Honestly, the most fun I had was working with Ryan and Julianne, specifically, because I had most of my scenes with the two of them. They're wonderful actors, and I hadn't worked with either of them before.

Q: What attracted you to this movie?

SC: I thought that it was very human and that it had real characters going through interesting life experiences, and ultimately I thought it was all very funny.

There were a lot of twists and turns in the movie that I did not see coming. And if you see the movie, within the first couple of minutes my character finds out that his wife wants a divorce and he jumps out of a car. I think reading that part where he jumps out of the car really piqued my interest because I'd never seen anything like that in a movie. And it said so much about that guy -- that he's unwilling to engage with this woman, really to the point where he would rather risk life and limb to get away from even discussing that.

Q: Is there anything you learned from the movie that you would apply to your marriage or own life?

SC: That I will never jump out of a car if my wife wants to discuss something serious with me. You know what, it's funny. I think it was sort of reversed. I think I take and apply things that I've learned in my life and apply them to scripts in movies or TV just in order to make them feel as real as possible.

And I certainly haven't gone through this scenario with my wife (Nancy Carell), but from what I've observed in life and my experience with relationships, it was important to me that -- one specific element of the script is that a couple is on the brink of divorce -- there's generally culpability on both sides of the equation, and that was really important to me -- that there is, generally speaking, not a villain in the scenario. There's usually fault and movement to be had on both sides. And I think that's something that I've learned throughout my life that I tried to apply to the movie and to the script.

And my own life? I'll tell you again, my learning stuff goes back to Ryan Gosling's abs.

Q: Would you say "Crazy Stupid Love" is a good movie for parents to see as a date night film, and can you speak to how important it is for parents to take time out for themselves in addition to spending time with their kids?


SC: I think it's an excellent date-night movie. And I completely agree. I think that to be the best parent and to be the best spouse, you have to have your own life that is different and separate than your other lives.

*laughs* I'm not saying have a secret life, but I'm saying you have to have your own interests, and ultimately a person has to feel good about themselves to be a good parent, to be a good spouse.

And this is definitely something my wife and I have learned raising our kids, that if you concentrate -- and the impulse is to put every effort into your children because that's the most important thing in your life -- but if you forget to take care of yourself, if you forget to take care of your spouse and your relationship, then you're not going to be as good a parent because you're not going to be as happy.

Q: How do you keep your kids (ages 10 & 7) grounded in L.A., and do your kids think you're as funny as we do?

SC: I think my kids are much funnier than I am. Sometimes they say things that are so funny, my wife and I don't want them to know that they've necessarily said something funny. I don't know if that makes sense, but sometimes they inadvertently say things that are ridiculous, and I don't want them to understand that that was a funny thing to say so they'll continue to say things like that.

They just think of me as their dad. I think I'm a fun dad, but I'm not a comedian dad, I'm not a performer father, and I just want to be a fun dad. I want to really define that relationship with them. Because they have their buddies at school who are their age or their cousins when they come home, but I want to have a different relationship with my children than that.

And as far as being grounded in Los Angeles, I think the toughest part of that equation is when you drive by a billboard with your face on it, and they look quizzically at it and don't really understand why there is a picture of you on the side of a bus or the side of a building, and I just don't want that to interfere with my relationship with them and to taint it in any way. Again, I just want them to think of us as their parents and what I do as a job and have it not define me, or define them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Long Weekend Break


Last week, we hosted a couple of friends from New York. It was a lot of fun -- tons of catching up and laughing about old memories (we're old enough for old memories!).

While I'm now catching up on posts -- which will include an interview with Steve Carell! Yes, THE Steve Carell, who's starring in "Crazy Stupid Love" -- I wanted to share this photo of CC I took at the Aquarium of the Pacific yesterday in Long Beach.

It really shows just how kid-friendly this local attraction is. And CC wasn't the only one who loved getting up close and personal with the fish and turtles. Little ones of all ages enjoyed pressing their little fingers and noses against the glass -- not to mention petting stingrays and mini sharks

(Updated with new, less grainy pic.)
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