Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cool New Year's Eve Fashion for Kids from Red Wagon Baby

Noa Gold Dot Dress from Red Wagon Baby
When it comes to New Year's Eve fashion, Los Angeles-based clothing company Red Wagon Baby is a great place to start looking. And that goes for just about any party attire—not just New Year's.

CC had the chance to check out the Noa Gold Dot Dress ($52) from the company, as well as the Foil Leggings ($30) in red, and let's just say she was ready to get her 1st grade groove on!
Red Foil Leggings
The clothes are so festive and colorful. She even wore the red leggings to the MomsLA holiday party at Moonlight Rollerway roller rink in Glendale. Everyone was asking where she got the cool duds.

CC rocks red foil leggings at Moonlight Rollerway.
What's also great about the clothing company? The clothes are eco-friendly and machine washable. Not only that, but Red Wagon Baby was founded by a mom. So she knows all about wanting kids' clothes to last—even after the party's over.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Hope You Had a Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! (The awesome twinkles are courtesy of Google+)
Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas! I actually meant to post this last week, on Christmas Day, but we were so caught up in gift-giving and other kid-friendly merriment, I just let the holiday take over, and, here we are now!

It was great spending a week at home with the family -- not having to drive to work or deal with the morning rush. And while CC had a tummy bug, which wasn't fun, we did end up having a nice week.

We even went to the beach! That's SoCal for you! :)

I have a few pictures here, but check out more on my Instagram feed.

Santa came through with a Pomeranian. :)

Baby Will opted for "Turbo" head gear.
At the Venice Pier on December 26.

Here's to having a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 23, 2013

'Disney on Ice' Rocks Out at Staples Center

'Disney on Ice: Rockin' Ever After' at Staples Center

Finding Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Merida (from Brave) and Rapunzel (from Tangled) in the same place is quite a feat -- even if you're headed to Disneyland.

CC and I got the chance to check out those characters and more at Disney on Ice: Rockin' Ever After, at the Staples Center earlier this month.

And thanks to Verizon Wireless, I was able to take along a Samsung Galaxy Camera -- with an amazing 21x optical-zoom lens and social-media sharing capabilities.

Both CC and I love ice skating, and it was fun seeing the characters dance and skate to familiar tunes. In fact, I realized that CC has yet to see Beauty and the Beast, a Disney classic that we might have to rent while she's on Christmas vacation.

We also enjoyed seeing new favorites, like Merida (and her silly brothers) and Rapunzel (with Flynn, of course).

It was a perfect winter outing in L.A., as the trees down at L.A. Live, where the Staples Center is, are covered in white Christmas lights. Some even look as if glowing ice is dripping from their leaves.

Getting to use the Samsung Galaxy was an unexpected treat. Right now, I have an iPhone 4 and the camera doesn't have that powerful of a zoom lens. This guy was amazing. We were sitting in one of the suites, and I was able to zoom all the way down to the ice! And the picture was still clear!

CC at "Disney on Ice"
What was even better was that I could share the images via Instagram, Twitter, email and any other apps that I downloaded to the camera.

Right now, we're checking out the different settings -- there's action freeze (great for fast-moving toddlers), party/indoor (great for dim lighting) and food (great for food bloggers :). That's in addition to dawn, snow, macro, sunset and more.

And what's (arguably) even better than taking the pictures -- especially when you're a non-pro like me? Being able to edit in Photo Wizard, right on the camera itself!

(Note: Media tickets provided; the Samsung Galaxy Camera is a loaner)

Friday, December 20, 2013

'Walking with Dinosaurs' Roars into Theaters

For most kids, dinosaurs are where it's at. They're larger than life, ferocious, fascinating -- and, sadly for some kids, including my own -- no longer with us. (I'm actually OK with that last part, to tell you the truth.)

Lucky for dino-loving kids, there's Walking with Dinosaurs, a new 3D-animated movie from 20th Century Fox that does an amazing job of re-creating what life must have been like during the prehistoric era.

Filmed with live-action settings in Alaska and New Zealand, Walking with Dinosaurs combines animation with real-life wilderness to make you feel as if these animals could actually exist now -- but in some uncharted part of the world.

CC loved it and immediately wanted to see the movie again after it finished.

Featuring the voice of Justin Long as Patchi, the runt in a litter of Pachyrhinos, Walking with Dinosaurs follows the Pachyrhino herd as they make their way south for the winter.

The herd faces all sorts of treacherous obstacles, from predatory dinos to natural disasters to dangerous terrain. And while the likable and adventurous Patchi seems content to play second fiddle to older brother Scowler, eventually he has learn to assert himself and find out what being a hero is all about.

It's a great underdog story—and one that highlights the fact that you can still be who you are and be a leader, too.

The 3D imagery is also tops. The animation really immerses you in the experience, as the herd travels over rivers and through forests to get to their summer home. The texture of the dinosaurs' plates and skin and horns and claws is realistic enough to make you forget that they actually don't exist anymore.

While the PG-rated movie doesn't shy away from dino violence (Parents: keep in mind that there is some peril as well as heartbreak involving a parent), Walking with Dinosaurs isn't grim. And most kids who love dinosaurs know how treacherous they can be. I was worried that it might freak CC out, but she was engaged and ready for more.

John Leguizamo as the voice of Alex the Alexornis bird adds a nice comic touch to the movie, infusing this prehistoric flyer with heart as he guides audiences through the late Cretacious period.

What's also helpful is that, as new dinos are introduced, the movie pauses to explain their names and what they eat.

So kids and dino-friendly parents, get ready for a seriously fun—and educational—creature feature.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Julianne Moore Talks Apps and Hiking in Los Angeles

Freckleface Strawberry 'Dreamtime Playtime' app
When actress Julianne Moore isn't starring in movies like the upcoming Mockingjay in The Hunger Games franchise, she's creating an entertaining and ultra kid-friendly world with her Freckleface Strawberry book and app series.

CC has read each of the three Freckleface Strawberry books countless times with us and with my mother-in-law, and she went crazy making monsters with Moore's first monster-making app. (Let's just say the voices are amazing!)

Well, Ms. Moore—who's also mom to 11-year-old Liv and 16-year-old Caleb—has a new app that's available for kiddos—Dreamtime Playtime, which really focuses on basic math skills for kids. Yes, the monster is still there, but this time he's helping little ones sort, count, all while having fun at the same time.

Moore chatted with me about her new app, which hit iTunes this month. She also gave me the lowdown on her favorite places to visit in Los Angeles, when she's here. And her favorite memory from when her own kiddos were 7 (like Freckleface Strawberry—and CC, too)? Read on to find out!

Congrats on the new app! This one is a lot more learning-focused. What inspired that decision after your first Freckleface Strawberry monster-making app?

I wanted [Freckleface Strawberry] to be a regular girl and very relatable and educational too—not sort of “hit you over the head” educational, because that can be grim for kids, but something that’s just fun.

The voices are so fun, especially the noises the monster makes when he eats the coins.

Those noises are me! I recorded those. My daughter is the voice of Freckleface Strawberry, and I do the monster.

There's a big push these days to encourage girls to stick with math. Your app really touches on that. Is that something that’s important to you, especially since you have a daughter?

I just think education is important in general, and I think for girls. Anything you can do to encourage them—all kids, honestly. That’s why I wanted to fold in an educational component into these apps. And they’re in the stories, as well.

You've just secured a five-book deal with Random House. Where will Freckleface Strawberry go from here?

We’re bringing her into early readers, which is really exciting for me, because those are the books where you’re reaching kids directly because often they’re in the classroom. There will be a lot more stories about her and her experience at school and her friends. There will be more picture books, too.

Where do you like to take your kids in L.A.? Is there a meaningful spot here for you and your family?

I love to hike—that’s one of my favorite things to do in L.A. The fact that you can have these amazing hiking experiences in an urban environment is amazing. So I would go to Temescal, if we’re staying on the Westside. And if we’re in Hollywood, I go to (Fryman Canyon). My kids love Santa Monica, too, and they love to go to the Pier, even though it’s not my favorite place. They love it. We like to go to Venice and get fake tattoos. My kids think L.A. is paradise.

Freckleface Strawberry is 7 and reflects you as a kid. Do you have a favorite memory from when your kids were 7?

It might be all the tooth-losing. My kids, they both lost their front teeth when they were 7. It’s when they start to leave babyhood in an interesting way. They start leaning out and stuff. I have an 11-year-old and a 16-year-old, so I’m like, 'What happened at 7?' It’s all good. All of it is just great.

(Photo credit: The Hunger Games wiki)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Coming Attraction: The 54th Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration

CC watches rehearsals for the L.A. Holiday Celebration at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Break out the Champers! It's that time of year again.

The 54th annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration will be making its (free) yearly appearance again at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Christmas Eve from 3 p.m.-6 p.m.

CC and I were lucky enough to catch rehearsals last week, and wow, did we see quite a show -- and that was only a few of the acts that will be performing in the three-hour extravaganza.

The live celebration will feature more than 20 music ensembles, dance companies and choirs from around Los Angeles County. What's great is that the performances spotlight the different cultures that call L.A. home. (The show will also be broadcast live on KCET, if you can't make it to the actual event.)

Sarah Reich and the Tap Music Project
The acts that we caught during rehearsals included: The South Bay Children's Choir; Sarah Reich and Tap Music Project (CC loved this group!); gospel group Praizum; and ARC Hand Bell Choir.

I was literally brought to tears watching the hand bell choir, which is made up of people with developmental disabilities.

ARC Hand Bell Choir
From the organization's site:

"Each adult and child bell ringer plays at least two English hand bells. The hand bell instrument enables this developmentally disabled group to learn how to play musical notes via a color-coded system. The performers are accompanied by a keyboardist while they follow the musical director's lead. They view their notes from a scroll on the director's podium in front of the bell choir."

As a parent, I was so moved. It was amazing to see just how well the group worked together -- and how happy they were once they had finished the piece. And most of all -- how appreciated they were.

At one point, one of the women walked away and didn't want to perform. But everyone cheered her on -- even the show's producers, director and sound crew -- by chanting her name.

It was inspiring to watch -- especially when she came back to perform beautifully.

And I love that CC saw the whole thing.

The 54th Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration
Tuesday, Dec. 24 (3 p.m.-6 p.m.)
Tickets: Free
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at The Music Center
135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles 90012

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Finds: Minted

"Baby Allegoria" from Minted (in CC's bathroom)
When it comes to decorating CC and Will's room and bathroom, I love finding unique and colorful little prints.

Animals are basically what I gravitate toward, so I was happy to discover Minted, an online shop that spotlights indie designers. In addition to children's art prints, they also have party decor, birth announcements and other stationery. Score!

The company sent over a few prints that were absolutely beautiful. One of them, Baby Allegoria, from designer Bonjour Paper, is hanging in CC's lovely pink bathroom.

Here are two more that are clean, modern and whimsical additions to our place.

Foxy (starts at $29 with frame)

Love (starts at $20 without a frame)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas DVD Giveaway from NCircle Entertainment

UPDATE: Congrats to karenmed409, who won the 3 DVDs from NCircle Entertainment! Please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com with your contact info. Thanks to everyone who participated, and Merry (early) Christmas!

It's almost Christmas, and what's better than cuddling up on the couch with the fam with a good movie and some hot chocolate? In fact, I want to do that right now!

Well, here's your chance. I'm teaming up with NCircle Entertainment to give away a trio of Christmas-themed DVDs for the kiddos.

The first is The Snowman and the Snowdog (SRP: $9.99), the sequel to The Snowman, based on the children's book by Raymond Briggs.

When a boy and his mom move into a new house, the little boy discovers a box hidden in his bedroom. He finds out that it's a snowman-making kit. So when it starts to snow later that day, the little boy builds and snowman and a snowdog, who come to life and take him on a great adventure!

The next adorable holiday DVD is Mike the Knight: Mike's Christmas Surprise! (SRP: $12.99). In this jam-packed DVD, Mike goes on five different adventures, with a bonus episode(!). When the royal family decides to play a game, Evie's magic causes Christmas chaos. Check out that story and more -- interactive games and a music video for starters! CC is a big fan of Mike the Knight, so his adventures plus Christmas is pretty awesome for her.

Lastly, speaking of awesome, adorable kids' show Yo Gabba Gabba has its own holiday DVD: A Very Awesome Yo Gabba Gabba Christmas ($12.99). There are a pair of fun stories in this DVD. In the first, DJ Lance places a gingerbread house in Gabba Land. Our Gabba friends are excited to meet their new neighbors and exchange gifts, but what can they get for Santa? In the second, the gang learns that giving can be a lot more fun than receiving.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm giving away one copy of each DVD (3 total), courtesy of NCircle Entertainment!

To enter leave a comment below, telling me about your child's favorite part of Christmas.

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 and share the giveaway.

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

Good luck, and I will announce the winner on Friday, Dec. 13!

Friday, December 6, 2013

CC Creates 'Frozen' Play Space *Giveaway*

CC rebuilds the "Frozen" landscape.
UPDATE: Congrats to Mami2jcn, who won the Frozen doll! She was in it to win it! Please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com with your contact info. And thanks to everyone who participated. I really loved reading these stories. Kids are so brave and really have to deal with so much! Hope everyone has a happy holiday!

Ever since we saw Disney's latest animated film Frozen, CC has been talking about sisters Elsa and Anna, Sven the reindeer and Olaf the snowman.

Let's just say, it made an impact. She already wants to see the film again. (You can check out our video review of the movie here.)

So when we had the chance to participate in Mattel's Disney Insider program, which gave CC a sneak peek at an assortment of Disney dolls -- Elsa, Anna and Kristoff (SRP: $19.99) -- she was thrilled! (She even took Anna to the Frozen screening.)

What was even better was when she used her amazingly vibrant imagination (yes, I'm her mom; I brag sometimes) to re-create the icy snowscape from the movie during play time.

She gathered up her wooden blocks and built the town of Arendelle, where the sisters are from, and placed one of Will's white blankets on top of a step stool to make Elsa's ice castle.

It was pretty creative, I have to say. She even built a makeshift sleigh with a little Sven made of wooden blocks!
Princess Anna sits in CC's makeshift sleigh.
She's been playing with the dolls so much since we received them, taking their clothes on and off, of course. I've talked her into keeping their tiaras on -- but that will only last so long. Every girl I've ever known loves to take those off and play with their hair.

When I talked to CC about the movie -- and how brave and persistent the characters were -- I asked her if she's ever been scared of something that she later overcame (not in those exact words, but you know).

"When I had my first spelling test," she said. (That was this year in 1st grade.)

"And what did you do to keep going, even though you were nervous?" I asked.

"I just did it. Now it's really easy."

Just like Anna, trekking up that mountain with Kristoff and Sven. She just did it.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm giving away a Disney Frozen doll, courtesy of Mattel.

To enter, leave a comment below, telling me how your child has overcome something, or how you helped him/her overcome something scary.

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 and share the giveaway.

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

Good luck, and I will announce the winner on Friday, Dec. 13!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dress Up a Twinkie Like a Minion! *Sponsored*

Let's just say it. Twinkies are already cute in their own right.

But throw some goggles and overalls on those golden guys, and you've got a pretty awesome treat.

Hostess Twinkies and summer hit Despicable Me 2 have paired up to celebrate the release of the movie's release on Blu-ray DVD, hitting shelves Dec. 10, and they're inviting fans to get creative and dress up these yummy creme-filled treats. Fans can even win daily prizes, including a copy of the movie itself.

Good luck, and feel free to share any Twinkie/minion pics here, too.

And, while I'm at it, feel free to share any Twinkies with me. :)

Contest Details:
Now through January 5, 2014, Hostess lovers can make the season a little brighter by visiting  https://www.facebook.com/Hostess and https://www.Facebook.com/Hostess/app_170621563134175 to download a collection of Minion accessories, and make their own Twinkie Minion.  Fans can then upload pictures of their creations to enter to win a daily instant prize, which includes a Despicable Me 2 Blu-ray™ and special offers from Hostess, or the grand prize, which includes a Home Theater System, a collection of 30 Blu-rays and a year’s supply of Hostess treats.

(While this is a sponsored post, for which I will be compensated, opinions about Twinkies and their tasty cuteness are my own.)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, CC! You're 7!

CC at the California Science Center -- not a disco
Happy Birthday, my favorite little girl!

I can't believe you're 7! I know I say that every year, but each year it gets harder and harder for me to believe that you aren't that newborn I met in the hospital, or that curly-haired toddler who was constantly curious, or even that adventurous preschooler who accompanied me across the globe.

You are a brilliant and sweet 1st grader, who is fearless and whip smart. You're also a pretty cool big sister now—you make Will laugh constantly.

I can't wait to see how this year goes, how you'll grow and what you'll—what we'll—see together.

I love you!

Monday, December 2, 2013

'The Rose Tree' Welcomes All Kids

While CC and I have been focused on movies lately (see what she said about Disney's Frozen!), we also had the chance to catch a workshop production of a play from a local writer.

The Rose Tree, written by Angela Berliner, is a kid-friendly play about "a sheltered but brave 12-year-old heiress named Sarah who wants to find her missing father by means of the Rose Tree, a magical place in the forest that sends lost girls to their true homes."

The play, whose workshop production was on stage at Artworks Theatre in Hollywood, was a whimsical fairy tale that really appealed to kids' (and adults') sense of belonging.

I loved that the lead character was a girl (who happened to be way more practical and thoughtful than her scrappy traveling companion, Hanzi) and that the story offered a kind of refuge for kids with all sorts of personalities.

And speaking of personalities, CC's favorite character was by far a girl named Astrid, an orphan who seemed reminiscent of Pippi Longstocking. She was funny and load and carried around a plunger -- always good for laughs.

You might remember Berliner from our outings to other plays from L'Enfant Terrible. Remember the kid-friendly Shakespeare adaptations King O'Leary (a CC fave) and Hamlet, Prince of Puddles?

While I did enjoy the play, what I especially loved was the fact that there is kid-friendly theater here in Los Angeles. And, although the production is still in the works, I hope to see the fully produced version of The Rose Tree in our city soon.


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