Friday, November 28, 2014

'Yo Gabba Gabba!', 'Octonauts' (and More) DVDs Celebrate the Holidays! *Giveaway*

UPDATE: Congrats to Erin Murphy, who won the NCircle DVD 4-pack! Erin, please email me at with your shipping address. Thanks to everyone who participated, and stay tuned for more giveaways!

With Thanksgiving now behind us and Christmas now officially on our radar, I wanted to share a few DVDs that will put your kiddos in the holiday spirit.

CC and Will went bananas when we received a quartet of DVDs from NCircle Entertainment. "Yo Gabba Gabba!" is one of Will's fave shows. (He calls it "Gabba Gabba," minus the "yo.") And my animal-obsessed daughter loves the "Octonauts."

These super kid-friendly DVDs are all about the holidays, so they're especially nice for lazy weekends like this one, when you'd like to indulge a bit with yummy leftover food and family time. So check out info below on how you can win these DVDs for your kiddos!

In "A Very Awesome Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! Holiday Show!" (SRP: $12.99), kids can join DJ Lance Rock, Brobee, Foofa, Muno, Plex and Toodee as they dance, sing and decorate the tree to prepare for the arrival of Santa Claus. Filmed live at New York City's Beacon Theatre, the colorful cast of characters sing their hits, including "It's Wintertime," "Every Snowflake's Different, Just Like You" and a holiday version of "Party in My Tummy."

In "Octonauts: The Very Vegimal Christmas" (SRP: $9.99), the Vegimals' plans for a Christmas feast are interrupted when the Octonauts become entangled in a gigantic blob of sea snot. Yuck! The holiday excitement continues when the Octonauts travel to Professor Inkling's childhood home, an undersea mountain, but soon discover that a rockslide has endangered the local creatures.

In "The Snowman" (SRP: $9.99), based on Raymond Briggs' book, a young boy wakes up one winter morning to find that a thick blanket of snow has covered the ground as far as the eye can see. Filled with excitement, the boy decides to build a snowman. Later that night, at the stroke of midnight, the snowman comes to life! The boy and the snowman then embark on a magical adventure that even takes them to the North Pole.

In "Caillou's Holiday Movie" (SRP: $9.99), the curious 4-year-old tackles all kinds of big-boy winter activities, like helping Daddy shovel snow, making holiday presents for his family and even discovering how little boys and girls all over the world celebrate the season!

*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm giving away all 4 of the above NCircle Entertainment DVDs for a fun family prize pack!

To enter, please:

1. Visit NCircle Entertainment and leave a comment below with your favorite DVD or franchise.

2. "Like" the NCircle Entertainment Facebook page.

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 Monday, December 8!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Will's first homemade turkey.
Hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Coming Attraction: L.A. Zoo Lights Shine for Holidays

Photo courtesy of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association
I love, love, love Christmas lights! When I was younger, I used to beg my parents to drive through countless neighborhoods on the seemingly countless days that led up to Christmas, just to look at the sometimes over-the-top light displays in people's yards.

Something about it -- like Christmas trees, hot chocolate and ice skating -- stirred up that otherwise dormant holiday spirit, and I was ready for Santa, presents and desserts (well, actually, that's every day of the year for me).

So I was excited to hear that the Los Angeles Zoo would be kicking off its inaugural light display, LA Zoo Lights, which will feature lasers, 3D projections and interactive sets in addition to the lights themselves.

From November 28-January 4, with the exception of December 24 and 25, these fabulous lights will be on display.

Grab the kiddos and head over! I know we will.

It's especially exciting because LADWP hosted an amazing light show for years in Griffith Park that unfortunately ended in 2009. Luckily, Ian and I got to take CC to see it, but I'm happy that Griffith Park will have lights to showcase once again. This time, Will can see them, too!

LA Zoo Lights
November 28-January 4 (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Tickets: Adults ($13); Kids 2-12 ($11)
Early Bird Discount: Purchase tickets online to attend during the first two weeks (November 28-December 11) for the online-only Early Bird Rate of $8 each.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

'Sofia the First: The Curse of Princess Ivy' Airs Tonight on Disney Junior

CC is a big fan of "Sofia the First" on Disney Junior -- and Will is a big fan of the storybook app! -- so they were more than excited to celebrate the premiere of "Sofia the First: The Curse of Princess Ivy," airing tonight at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Disney Junior.

With a specially themed party kit courtesy of Disney Junior, CC and Will donned paper crowns and made sticker scenes from the show. We're also inviting neighbors over for more "Sofia" fun!

CC adjusts Will's crown while he plays with stickers from "Sofia the First."
Be sure to tune in tonight. Here's the what the special episode is all about, according to Disney Junior:

In "The Curse of Princess Ivy," Amber discovers Sofia's amulet is magical and takes it without asking. By accident, she summons the evil Princess Ivy, who wants to take over the kingdom of Enchancia and turn everything black and white. No color!

There's even a special (animated) appearance by Rapunzel from Disney's "Tangled" (voiced by Mandy Moore). Anna Camp and John Michael Higgins -- both of whom starred in the must-watch "Pitch Perfect" -- join the "Sofia" cast, too.

Will and CC have fun with "Sofia the First" goodies!
Click on the video above for a sneak peek of the show!

Have fun with the kiddos!

"Sofia the First: The Curse of Princess Ivy"
Sunday, November 23 (7 p.m. ET/PT)
Disney Junior

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Finds: Annie for Target Band Jacket

You might have noticed a new line of kids' clothes making its limited-edition debut at Target. Annie for Target, a line created by "Annie" costume designer Renée Ehrlich Kalfus, boasts some adorable items in its little girl-centric closet.

While the red party dress and the tutu skirt are definitely on the must-have list, it's the girls' band jacket ($24.99) that caught my eye on a recent trip to the store.

Crafted from soft navy velour, the double-breasted jacket also sports silver metallic trim, shoulder epaulettes and emblem patches on the sleeves. It's a sassy jacket, and I think it would be perfect for CC.

In fact, if it came in my size, I would buy one for myself, too. (Shh, don't tell.)

For more info on the upcoming Sony Pictures re-imagining of movie-musical "Annie," opening December 19, check out the site here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Coming Attraction: 'Mia: A Dancer's Journey' on PBS SoCal 11/20

"Mia: A Dancer's Journey" airs on PBS SoCal Nov. 20 at 7 p.m.
Photo credit: Maurice Seymour
Mia Slavenska, Croatia's prima ballerina and a star on American stages in the mid-20th century, is a Southern California story in her own right -- having lived and taught dance here in Los Angeles for more than a dozen years.

CC and I had the chance to catch a sneak peek of the film "Mia: A Dancer's Journey," premiering on PBS SoCal on November 20 at 7 p.m., at St. Anthony's Croatian Catholic Church downtown this weekend, and it was amazing to see the enthusiasm surrounding this special film.

What first drew me to "Mia" was that it focused on a distinguished ballerina who had lived much of her life in the place we call home. Also, CC was so enamored of ballet for so many years that I thought she would have a connection to it as well.

What I didn't realize was that the film is also about a mother-daughter relationship, one in which Slavenska's daughter, Maria Neumann, seeks to keep her mother's memory alive. While Slavenska worked on her memoirs during the latter part of her life, they remained unpublished when she died in 2002.

This film was a way for Maria to bring her mother's story to modern audiences -- and it's fascinating.

Slavenska left Croatia at the age of 20, after having achieved prima ballerina status at the Zagreb Opera and won awards at the Berlin Dance Olympics, which coincided with the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Because of so much political unrest happening in Europe, Slavenska then emigrated to the United States at age 23 and performed with the prestigious Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. After years with that company, she formed her own, eventually performing Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" as a ballet. That was an especially modern concept at the time.

Mia Slavenska as Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire" as a ballet.
Photo credit: Marcus Blechman
The film itself is like opening a time capsule and allowing the past to speak for itself. Between the black-and-white footage of Mia dancing, to the interviews with her in her later years, to dance critics and ballerinas talking about Mia's life, to her daughter visiting her mother's homeland, "Mia: A Dancer's Journey" is such a vibrant film. (You might even recognize Blythe Danner's voice as Mia during parts of the narration.)

What I also loved about the experience was seeing the strong Croatian community in downtown Los Angeles. There were many supporters of the film that attended the screening, and it was amazing to see the connection between the audience and the woman on screen.

Judging by what we saw on Sunday, Mia Slavenska will most definitely not be forgotten.

"Mia: A Dancer's Journey" airs on PBS SoCal on Thursday, November 20 at 7 p.m.

Monday, November 17, 2014

CC Catches the Wave of Pepperdine Women's Soccer

CC says "Waaaaave" with the Pepperdine women's soccer mascot -- the Wave!
My little soccer girl and a few of her friends got together a couple of weekends ago to catch a women's soccer game at Pepperdine University's gorgeous Malibu campus.

The weather was perfect, as the girls watched the uber-talented college students show off their fierce skills on the soccer field. The Pepperdine Waves took on the LMU Lions, and it was seriously on.

It was amazing to watch these young women be so aggressive on the field. I'm so used to watching 7- and 8-year-olds play soccer that I forgot just how intense and fast-paced the game can be.

Not that elementary school soccer can't be intense! These women just kicked it up to college-level speed and skill.

The Pepperdine Waves take on the LMU Lions against the beautiful backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.
While the other moms and I watched in total awe, the girls seemed to take a more laid-back approach to the game. They enjoyed it, but they also wanted to play. I don't blame them. They're 7.

What I especially loved was that the women's soccer team lined up after the game, and all of the kids were able to grab a poster and have it signed by all the members of the team. Each of the young women asked the kids' names and if they played soccer. CC gave an enthusiastic yes.

CC gets her poster signed by a member of the Pepperdine Waves soccer team.
Look forward to the day when my little midfielder is giving other little girls tips on how to shine while playing the game!

CC at her last soccer game of the fall season.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Coming Attraction: 'Odd Squad' Sneak Peek at the Silent Movie Theater

CC is getting excited for the upcoming November 26th premiere of "Odd Squad" on PBS Kids, but if kids want to get a sneak peek of the clever and hilarious math-friendly series, families can head to the Cinefamily Silent Theater on Saturday for a free sneak peek.

PBS SoCal is hosting a family-friendly event to get kids excited about the TV series, about a group of pint-sized sleuths who investigate unusual happenings around their town, using math concepts along the way.

In addition to the screening, there will be snacks, a scavenger hunt and a chance to win prize packs!

Sounds like so much fun for the kiddos!

Get your free tickets here!

"Odd Squad" Sneak Peek
Cinefamily Silent Movie Theater
611 N. Fairfax
Los Angeles, CA 90034
10 a.m.-12 pm.
Tickets: Free

Monday, November 10, 2014

Coming Attraction: 'Matilda the Musical' at the Ahmanson Theatre!

Composer/lyricist Tim Minchin, host Barrett Foa and former Broadway "Matilda" Bailey Ryon join the chorus from the Colburn School at the "Matilda the Musical" preview at the Ahmanson Theatre.
Parents, get ready! Your kids are going to beg you to see the musical that will be hitting the Ahmanson Theatre next spring! "Matilda the Musical," the Tony-winning stage musical production based on the Roald Dahl book, has gotten lots of fanfare in London's West End and on Broadway, and it's now hitting Los Angeles on May 29, 2015.

Seriously. Can't. Wait.

I was able to catch a sneak preview at the Ahmanson that featured Australian composer/lyricist (and dad!) Tim Minchin. He took on a lively and hilarious Q&A with host Barrett Foa, whom you might know from "NCIS: Los Angeles."

Tim discussed his take on the musical and how he wanted to capture the inside of a brilliant child's mind -- and that he didn't want to make Matilda a "stagey" personality. She was the kind of kid who could process 1,000 thoughts before we could even finish one. She wasn't a showboat, but she was definitely special.

If you're unfamiliar with the story, Matilda is a genius child who is completely unappreciated by her family and by the headmistress of her school, Miss Trunchbull. So what does she do? She results to carrying out creative pranks. It's only the sweet teacher Miss Honey who encourages her enormous talents and helps her to thrive.

Former Broadway star of "Matilda" Bailey Ryon hit the stage to perform a couple of songs from the musical. And Tim Minchin himself played a touching ballad from the show.

For those of you who would like to snag tickets early (before they go on sale to the general public), I have a special URL for you. Go to:

Matilda the Musical
Ahmanson Theatre
May 29-July 12, 2015
Tickets ($30-$85):

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Berlin Wall: 25 Years Later, in Los Angeles

CC in front of the Berlin Wall segment on Wilshire Boulevard in 2009.
To commemorate today's 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I wanted to refresh some pics I've posted before about the historic structure from Los Angeles' German sister city.

You might have passed the above segment of the Berlin Wall if you've driven along Wilshire Boulevard's Miracle Mile. While these segments arrived in LA in 2009, as part of the 20th anniversary of the fall, they've changed a bit since then.

The white slabs have since been painted over with images of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and two more pieces have been added to make it the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany, according to KCRW. (Also, CC has gotten noticeably bigger in those 5 years. :)

I'm still so happy that I was able to take CC to Berlin in 2012 for the city's international film festival. What's also meaningful is that I found out I was pregnant with Will on the day we left -- which also happened to be my birthday. It was really special.

We can't wait to go back again.

CC in Berlin in 2012.


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