Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving turkeys CC made from Kiwi Crate
Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you and your family enjoy the holiday! Be safe and eat lots. :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Keurig Brews Up Family Fun

Keurig K65 Brewing System
You don't usually think of "fun" when you think of coffee makers, but now that we have a Keurig brewing system in our kitchen I'm beginning to change my mind on that.

Granted, I love coffee (as you can see from my Krups coffee/espresso machine in the background), but this new machine ($99.99-$179.99) is great for a number of reasons -- mainly because it can make more than coffee.

Full disclosure: Keurig sent me the machine completely unprompted, and I was eager to try it out.

What I didn't expect, however, was how much Ian and CC would love it, too.

Besides coffee, the Keurig's K-Cups come in tea, hot chocolate, apple cider and more. And to brew one cup takes only about a minute.

Not only can my strictly tea-drinking husband brew a cup with the machine, CC can make hot chocolate on her own -- something she couldn't do before, what with steaming hot tea kettles and all.

And she loves placing the K-Cup in the machine, pulling down the handle and pushing the buttons. I'm sure they weren't thinking of kid-friendly fun with the whole process, but it's a handy bonus!

While I still have my coffee maker -- the K-Cups can be a little pricey, depending on where you shop (something to consider) -- we're still getting daily use out of the Keurig.

And it looks like we'll be brewing coffee, tea, hot chocolate and maybe even hot apple cider for months to come -- and it will be way easier than before.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gearapalooza Gives Moms Close-Up Look at Baby Products

Gearapalooza at Bel Bambini
Moms and moms-to-be got their gear on earlier this month, as event company Bump Club and Beyond hosted Gearapalooza at Bel Bamini in West Hollywood.

Brands including Ergobaby, Bugaboo and Orbit Baby were on hand to answer questions about all sorts of baby gear, from car seats to strollers to carriers.

Not only that, but Jamie Grayson (aka, The Baby Guy, pictured right) sat down and talked with parents about the most important gear info parents need to know before baby arrives. What are the most important items for new parents: diapers, breast pumps, mattresses, baby carriers, car seats and cribs.

Even though Will is already 13 months (eek, how did that happen so fast?!), I'm still keeping my eye on fun and helpful products.

A couple of items that caught my eye were:

The Ergobaby Designer Baby Carrier -- Winter Edition ($195) -- Not only was this cozy-looking baby carrier easy on the eyes, the Ergobaby winter white carrier with sheepskin trim looked especially comfortable for toting little guys and girls. There's even a removable quilted muff to keep hands warm in the cold.

When Will was smaller, we used a Baby Bjorn, but all of my new-mom friends swore by the Ergobaby, saying all the time how comfortable it was on their backs. This super-stylish edition definitely adds a nice, fashionable touch.

Ergobaby Winter Edition
Orbit Baby Infant Car Seat and Base ($440) -- This car seat had me at "dock and rotate." Parents out there know just how back-wrenching it can be to put a car seat into the back seat of your car -- the middle part of the back seat, no less. The Orbit Baby infant car seat allows you to place the car seat on the base (while baby's facing you), and then rotate it so baby is facing backward. Genius! No more twisting and turning your body. Just rotate the car seat, and put baby in and out. And the accompanying stroller folds up with one hand!

Orbit Baby car seat

While the items might make your wallet shake just a little, it's so great to know how quickly technology is changing on the baby-safety front. It's so different from when CC was a baby, just about seven years ago.

Oh, and while I was there, I picked up this adorable whale faucet cover from Skip Hop ($13). That makes me feel so much better now that Will is starting to move to the big bath!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dunkin' Donuts + Hungry Girl = Amazing Coffee Recipes

Lisa Lillien (aka Hungry Girl) and I enjoy Dunkin' Donuts coffee.
Happy Monday! If you haven't had your morning coffee yet, do I have some good news for you!

First off, I love donuts (as you may know) and I love coffee, so when Dunkin' Donuts invited me to taste their new Bakery Series flavored coffee line, let's just say they didn't have to twist my arm.

When I found out that Hungry Girl creator Lisa Lillien was also on board, I was even more in—if that's possible.

A few other bloggers and I met up at Hungry Girl HQ in LA and tasted coffee flavors, including Apple Pie, Blueberry Muffin and Glazed Chocolate Donut. Yes, you heard that right.

To be honest, I wasn't sure how I'd like mixing fruit flavors with coffee, but I was especially surprised by the Blueberry Muffin flavor, which was doubly good with milk and sugar. Yum. It really tasted as if I'd taken a bite of muffin and a sip of coffee at the same time.

While we were there, Hungry Girl shared some fun (and low-calorie!) recipes for yummy coffee drinks.

Here's my favorite. Enjoy!

Hungry Girl's Turtle Donut Blended Coffee

  • 1 tbsp. sugar-free French vanilla powdered creamer
  • 1 no-calorie sweetener packet
  • 6 oz. prepared and chilled Dunkin Donuts® Chocolate Glazed Donut
  • 1 tbsp. sugar-free calorie-free caramel syrup (like the kind by Torani)
  • 1 1/2 cup crushed ice or 8 - 12 ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup fat-free whipped topping (from a can, not a tub)
  • 1 tsp. Smucker's ® Caramel Sugar Free Sundae Syrup
  • 1 tsp. crushed pecans 
  • In a tall glass, combine creamer with sweetener. Add 2 tbsp. hot water, and stir to dissolve.
  • Transfer mixture to a blender. Add chilled coffee, calorie-free caramel syrup, and ice. Blend at high speed until smooth.
  • Pour and top with whipped topping. Drizzle with caramel sundae syrup, and sprinkle with pecans!  
Entire recipe: 75 calories, 4g fat, 35mg sodium, 9.5g carbs, 1g sugars

Recipe courtesy of Hungry Girl.  Sign up for the free daily emails at 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Coming Attraction: HGTV Takes Over Santa Monica Place

Love HGTV, and I'm so excited to hear that the network will be taking over Santa Monica Place starting Saturday, Nov. 23.

Kicking off the festivities on Saturday (6 p.m.) is HGTV host Carter Oosterhouse, with a special performance by the Grammy-nominated Il Volo (8 p.m.).

Throughout the holidays, HGTV will host nightly light shows, free demos and other activities, as well as appearances by HGTV stars.

HGTV is building a modern, life-size gingerbread Holiday House at the shopping center—a great place for Santa to hang out—and it will be there until Jan. 1.

There will also be a pop-up showroom featuring the HGTV Home furniture line.

I can't wait to check it out. I'm such an HGTV and David Bromstad fan! I know where I'll be this holiday season!

·    Nov. 28 - Nov. 30John GiddingCurb Appeal
·    Dec. 7 & 8David BromstadHGTV Star & Color Splash
·    Dec. 14Sara Peterson, Editor, HGTV Magazine
·    Dec. 15Casey NobleDesign on a Dime
·    Dec. 21 & 22Josh TempleHouse Crashers
·    Dec. 28 & 29- Genevieve GorderHGTV Star

Santa Monica Place
Center Plaza
395 Santa Monica Pl.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Monday, November 18, 2013

Kiwi Crate Unlocks CC's Imagination

CC gets her Kiwi Crate in the mail. Excitement ensues.
Let's face it. Getting something in the mail is always exciting (OK, bills, not so much). But for CC—and I'm sure every other kid out there—envelopes, cards, magazines and (best of all) packages can bring on everything from wide eyes to ear-blasting screams of happiness.

That's why I was instantly onboard to try out Kiwi Crate, a subscription service for kids ages 3-8 that sends a neatly packaged box full of themed activities each month. (Subscriptions start at $19.95.) Not only are there a few hands-on activities for kids to try (that focus on everything from storytelling to modern art), Kiwi Crate also packs in tools such as markers, scissors and crayons to make sure kids have everything they need.

CC checks out the storytelling activities.
CC loved just unpacking her storytelling-themed Kiwi Crate box, which was stuffed to the brim with goodies. From a small stage that she folded and built with a little help from mom and dad to an animal puppet complete with a fuzzy pipe cleaner body and a beaded neck, the crate gave CC hours of fun time.

For the stage, CC drew on long sheets of paper that she would then pull through openings on the side. She even let me in on the drawing action. She would tell me what her story would be about (animals were key, just fyi), and we'd color and add stickers to make it come alive.

CC loved sharing her story about animals that go to school.
She even performed the story for Ian and me once she was finished. And she was so proud.

Immediately after she was done, CC asked to dive into another Kiwi Crate. She just loved creating, and I was happy that the service gave her all the tools. But it also let her use her imagination and gave her options for decorating.

And because even almost-7-year-olds still need a little help, CC and I got some nice mother-daughter time in the process—something that's hard with iPhones and iPads. But that's another story.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

'The Book Thief' Author Markus Zusak Says His Parents' Stories Taught Him 'How to Write'

"The Book Thief" stars Sophie Nelisse, Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush
The Book Thief, a film about a young girl (Sophie Nelisse) living in Nazi Germany, began as a book written by Australian author and father Markus Zusak.

The young adult novel, which follows young Liesel as she moves in with a foster family and develops meaningful friendships as the country is falling apart around her, was inspired by stories Zusak heard from his own parents, who are from Germany and Austria.

I had the chance to talk with Zusak and the film's director, Brian Percival, at a press round table recently, and they touched on what it was like to film in Berlin and the importance of the stories our parents tell us. (For my interview with Geoffrey Rush, click here.)

"To me, it all started with my childhood, growing up in Sydney, beautiful sunshine," Zusak said. "And then you come in, and it's as if a piece of Europe came into our house, and my parents told their stories and they're amazing stories about cities that were burning, kids who were giving bread to prisoners on their way to camps and getting whipped for it and so on. I grew up hearing these stories over and over again."

And as much as we sometimes chuckle at our own parents, whose stories seem to be on repeat, Zusak said that it was these stories from his mom, a house cleaner, and his dad, a house painter, that informed his future.

"There they were telling me their stories of growing up, and I realized they weren't only telling me about their lives. They were teaching me how to write. Talk about, you would never imagine that people in those professions would give you a career in literature, but that's exactly how I grew up," he said.

Filming in Germany, and Berlin in particular, was also a testament to how generations have changed since World War II.

"One of the most powerful moments during the film, I think, is when we did the [Deutschland ueber Alles scene] -- we had about 450 extras," Percival said of the Nazi-era song. "We had to teach them two versions to the song because it's banned. It's been banned since 1946, and none of that crowd knew what those words were...."

And as we move further away from that time, how do writers and directors create these stories that can also appeal to today's kids? After all, The Book Thief is a young adult novel.

"I thought, you know, there's a whole generation now that knows so little about what went on in those times," Percival said. "What I thought was that if a younger audience gets to watch this film, and maybe they think Liesel's cool or maybe they think [Liesel's friend] Rudy's cute or whatever or Max [a young Jewish man in hiding], and in the meantime they'll go, 'Well, what was that all about?'"

Zusak ultimately had to trust his readers—and himself.

"You're imagining these people [aka, readers], and you're trying to hold their hands through it," Zusak said. "That's when the book comes to life -- it is when you go, 'All right, now if you want to be in this, you've got to come with me.'"

Monday, November 11, 2013

Club MomMe's Family Fall Fest Brings Moms, Babies to Bel Air Bay Club

Club MomMe Fall Fest at the Bel Air Bay Club (Photo courtesy of Club MomMe)
Moms from Los Angeles and beyond got a special treat last weekend, as Club MomMe hosted its first Family Fall Festival at the Bel Air Bay Club on Nov. 3.

Baby Will and I took a short drive up the PCH to check out the festival, and it was great mingling with fellow moms, getting a hands-on look at brands such as joovy, Lansinoh and dapple.

While Will seemed a little overwhelmed by all the brands and goodies that filled the club's rooms and courtyard, my little guy really came into his own out on the lawn that overlooked the ocean.

A lot of it had to do with Super Soccer Stars -- who were on hand with kid-sized soccer balls and goals,
which Will loved!

Some fun products I noticed at the event were the Foocot ($70), from joovy, which is a portable toddler/kid cot for when they're away from home. It's easy to set up and is small enough so little ones don't feel swallowed up in a strange bed.

Also, I found this out the hard way. I was balancing so much in my arms that I spilled some coffee (not hot) on Will's sleeve. Luckily, dapple was on hand to provide a quick spritz of stain remover. A big plus: it's non-toxic! Even better? The stain (mostly) came out while we were walking around.

A really amazing product that I saw was the belly bowl from Belli Vita. All you need are your belly measurements from when you were pregnant, plus pictures (that is, if you're not pregnant right now), and they can craft a beautiful blown-glass bowl for you. They look gorgeous!

It was such a beautiful November day, and I was so happy to bring my own little baby along for the (kid-friendly) ride.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Coming Attraction: AFI Fest Presented by Audi 2013

"Saving Mr. Banks," starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, opens AFI Fest.
AFI Fest presented by Audi kicks off Nov. 7 in Hollywood with a family-friendly bang this year, as it screens the North American premiere of Disney film Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.

The story centers on Walt Disney (Hanks) and his quest to talk Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Thompson) into turning her book into that now-famous film.

And while AFI Fest (Nov. 7-14) is known for its edgy offerings, Saving Mr. Banks isn't the only film on the lineup that could also work for families—or parents who are interested in thought-provoking pics about that fascinating challenge we call parenting.

Here's a quick rundown of highlights from the festival (descriptions are from the festival site). For those interested in attending, tickets are free and can be found online here. The films will be playing at the TCL Chinese Theater, Chinese 6 Theaters and the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.

For more info about the film guide and schedule, click here.

"The Wind Rises"
* The Wind Rises (Nov. 8) -- The latest animated wonder from Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of the legendary Studio Ghibli, is the master’s first directorial effort in five years, and quite sadly, may very well be his last. Eschewing his typically fictional characters ensconced in a fantasy world, the skilled animator instead brings to life the story of Jiro Horikoshi, visionary designer of one of history’s most beautiful airplanes – the prototype for the Zero WWII fighter – in a fictionalized story based on very real figures who lived and loved in troubled times. 

"The Rocket"
* The Rocket (Nov. 8, 11) -- This Australian film  begins with the birth of twin boys in rural Laos. Local superstition dictates that one is blessed, while the other is cursed, and the only way to return balance to the village is to get rid of them both. But when the second baby emerges stillborn, the young mother hides the truth – and raises her “cursed” child Ahlo without the knowledge of his possible destiny.

"We Are Mari Pepa"
* We Are Mari Pepa (Nov. 10, 11) -- Alex has big plans for his summer in Guadalajara. He hopes to get a girlfriend, make money with a new job, learn a new song with his band, Mari Pepa, and win the upcoming ”battle of the bands” concert.  His summer expectations quickly become impossible to fulfill as he realizes everything in his life is shifting. 

"Like Father, Like Son"
* Like Father, Like Son (Nov. 9, 10) -- This Japanese film won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year. It tells the story of two families who learn that their six-year-old sons were switched at birth.

"The Selfish Giant"
* The Selfish Giant (Nov. 9, 10) -- Inspired by the children she met in Bradford in northern England when researching her previous acclaimed documentary, THE ARBOR, Clio Barnard creates a moving tale that combines fairytale with contemporary reality. Arbor is a feisty menace who rejects his meds and roams the streets with his mellow best friend, Swifty. After a fight at school, the duo is expelled and seems as forsaken as the desolate countryside surrounding them.

There are too many films and presentations to list here, but check out the website below for more updates.

AFI Fest presented by Audi
Nov. 7-14
TCL Chinese Theater, Chinese 6 Theaters, Egyptian Theater (Hollywood)


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