Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Mom Blog Event as Big as the Ritz


It was an evening of bonding, basking and babysitting -- well, someone else, thankfully, was doing the latter for me -- last Sunday at the Silicon Valley Moms Group Coupon and Product Event at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.

Not only did I have the opportunity to meet up with my fellow LA Moms Blog contributors as well as contributors from the upcoming Orange County Moms Blog, but I also got to meet the founders of our blogger network -- thanks again, Jill, Beth, Linsey and Tekla! It was rockin' event that offered up lots of goodies on the menu.

After driving down to Laguna Niguel with CC -- who got to hang out at the Ritz-Carlton pool for a few hours with a sitter from the local service MollyCoddlers -- I first enjoyed a group discussion with bloggers, publicists and companies about the business (and joy) of blogging.

After that, it was a cocktail reception that featured family-friendly companies highlighting products geared toward parents and kids. (And, full disclosure, we were all given products, coupons and/or samples without any stipulation to blog about their wares.)

And while there were 24 sponsors in all -- including BitDefender, Whole Foods and Pretend City Children's Museum, which I'm looking forward to visiting with CC -- I wanted to touch on a few that stood out for me:

* First off, who knew Jessica Simpson was designing children's shoes? She's now the latest designer for stride rite, and I have to say, they're pretty cute. Girly and sweet (top right of photo collage), her designs are both fun and feminine. (I've actually caught myself wanting a pair or two of her women's shoes, but I haven't yet taken the plunge.)

* Cinnamon-roll extraordinaire Cinnabon is now offering cupcakes! (You knew something cakey and sweet would get my attention.) Flavors are 24-Carrot Cake, Vanilla Bliss, Chocolate Passion and the Cinnacake Classic, which I tried. It was amazing. A-mazing. They also look lovely and sport great packaging -- much better than regular store-bought cupcakes.

* A great gadget on display was the iGo green Charge Anywhere, an eco-friendly charger that can charge two devices at once while being plugged or unplugged. So cool. You can actually take it with you and charge your BlackBerry (and something else) on the go. Will definitely be putting this guy to good use.

* The litl Webbook is another neat gadget that functions as an uncomplicated home computer. Its focus is the Internet and getting a great experience from photos and online viewing. There is no hard drive or even a caps lock. Who needs to "all caps" anything when you're just going online, anyway? There's also a remote, and the screen flips all the way around to stand upright, "like an easel." Pretty nifty.

It was a great night, and CC had a blast, too. The ocean views were gorgeous, the company was great, and sometimes it's just nice to get out of the city.

Photo credit: Carla Duharte-Razura of

LA Moms Blog: How do you explain death to a little one?

Please check out my latest LA Moms Blog post, "How do you explain death to a preschooler?"

With the recent passing of Ian's uncle, I struggled with the proper way to explain this to CC. What would she understand? How do you, as a parent, introduce a concept that must be so foreign to a child?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Coming Attraction: REDCAT International Children's Film Festival

Speaking of children's film festivals, downtown arts center REDCAT is hosting its fifth annual festival this weekend and next.

Kicking off Saturday, Feb. 27, and running over five days, the REDCAT International Children's Film Festival features movies for all ages from all over the world.

In addition to the global kids' offerings, there will also be a Nickelodeon Family Fun Day (Feb. 28), showcasing upcoming programming from Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon. Word on the street is that SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick, Dora the Explorer and Diego characters will also be on hand.

And on March 1, four feature-length highlights from Belfast's Cinemagic International Film & Television Festival for Young People will be available for viewing.

The REDCAT festival continues the following weekend, March 6-7, with more international films. Tickets are $5 per event.

For more info, click here.

REDCAT International Children's Film Festival

631 W. 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Feb. 27-March 1; March 6-7
Tickets: $5

Thursday, February 25, 2010

California Pizza Kitchen is big on Small Cravings

White corn guacamole and chips from CPK's Small Cravings menu

Sometimes, even at restaurants with well-stocked menus, you just want to snack. A lot. And kudos to the kid-friendly California Pizza Kitchen for dipping their chips into that concept.

A few weeks ago, CC, Ian and I -- along with other mom bloggers -- had the opportunity to stop by CPK to try out their new Small Cravings menu (they also have a new Wine Cravings menu that offers half-glasses, but it was the afternoon, and raining, and, well, we did have to get home in one piece. Next time, though.)

The offerings, which include my favorites White Corn Guacamole and Chips (above), Sweet Corn Tamale and Ravioli and Crispy Artichoke Hearts, are smaller than CPK's regular appetizer plates and range in price from $3.99-$6.49.

And I'm going to put "small" in quotes. These actually seemed to be the perfect appetizer size, instead of a plate that looks as if it's an entire meal. And because they looked so manageable, there was an incentive to order more and share, a la tapas.

Having created the new menu to encourage guests to explore CPK offerings, Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax, co-founders and co-CEOs of California Pizza Kitchen, also added: "We thought moms would enjoy the variety and value in our new Small Cravings."

CC, of course, was more picky than Ian or me. She stuck to the white corn guacamole, when she wasn't trying to rearrange all the salt and pepper shakers on nearby tables.

And that's really the main thing -- going to a family-friendly restaurant where kids are welcome is a definite plus. And when you don't have to sit down to a complete meal -- because you don't have time, or you don't want to spend the money -- that's even better.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Coming Attraction: Free 'How to Train Your Dragon' Screening

Just found out about a great opportunity, courtesy of the Los Angeles International Children's Film Festival, which will host its sixth incarnation in October.

On Thursday, Feb. 25 (yes, tomorrow) at 7:30 p.m., there will be a free screening of upcoming DreamWorks' 3D animated movie "How to Train Your Dragon" at the Mann Chinese Theaters in Hollywood.

To attend this screening, RSVP by sending your name and the number of guests to

Hitting theaters March 26, "How to Train Your Dragon" is the story of a Viking teenager named Hiccup, who doesn't fit in with his tribe's traditional line of heroic dragon slayers. He's in for a surprise when he meets a dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from a different point of view.

The Los Angeles International Children's Film Festival is set to screen more than 200 films from around the world at venues including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (aka LACMA) and the Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium in Santa Monica. Screenings are free for everyone.

Stay tuned for more info.

Coming Attraction: 'Supercalifragilistic -- An Evening with Richard M. Sherman' at the El Capitan

If you have ever sung "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" with your little ones, you might have to grab your magical umbrella and fly over to the El Capitan this Friday and Saturday to hear that famous "Mary Poppins" tune from the songwriter himself, Richard M. Sherman.

Sherman, one-half of the famous Sherman Brothers duo and an Academy Award winner, is also the man behind such popular songs as "It's a Small World," "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

Joining him on stage will be Jo Anne Worley, and he will also offer up tunes from his latest musical project, "Pazzazz!"

Special offer for L.A. Story readers: Receive $10 off the $45 orchestra seats by calling 818-845-3110 and mentioning the promotion code DCPUB.

El Capitan Theater
6838 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Friday, Feb. 26 (7 p.m.)
Saturday, Feb. 27 (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.)
Tickets: $35-$50

Monday, February 22, 2010

Giveaway: 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' DVDs

Combining clever stop-motion animation with a family-friendly story from Roald Dahl, director Wes Anderson puts his signature wit on his latest film, "Fantastic Mr. Fox," to fantastic effect.

A voice cast including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, along with Anderson faves Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, adds to the foxy fun.

And the DVD and Blu-ray discs from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment are on their way, hitting shelves March 23.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox" tells the story of Mr. Fox (Clooney), a clever husband and father who aims to take his family life above ground -- literally and figuratively. He decides to move his wife and son from their fox hole to a glorious tree with views of an autumny vista.

After promising his pregnant wife, Mrs. Fox (Streep), that he will no longer hunt for chickens after they narrowly escape certain death in a fox trap, it's a test of the will when, years later, their new tree home sits so close to a trio of grumpy farmers -- Boggis, Bunce and Bean.

Let the chicken games begin!

In the meantime, zen-tastic Fox nephew Kristopherson comes to visit the family because his father is suffering from double pneumonia. Mr. and Mrs. Fox's son, Ash (Schwartzman), who is always trying to impress his athletic father to minimal effect, becomes jealous of the lithe and limber Kristopherson and hopes he'll go back home when his dad gets down to a mere "single pneumonia."

The movie is humorous and understated, and the voice actors deliver their lines with appropriate skepticism and dry wit.

Underlying everything is Mr. Fox's existential question: Who am I? Can he, in fact, be happy without a chicken in his teeth, he wonders.

And while Mrs. Fox was able to rein in her wildness after the birth of Ash, Mr. Fox is itching for one last big job. From there, the foxy hijinks ensue.

When I was offered the chance to review the DVD, I was immediately on board since I had missed out on the film in theaters last fall. So, I gathered up Ian and CC, some movie goodies and settled in. The movie is brisk, less than 90 minutes, which is great when you have a restless toddler who has all of her toys at her disposal.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox" is definitely child- and family-friendly. It tackles themes of human, er, fox, nature; rivalry; and jealousy with humor and wit. The story is simple, but the details really shine.


I'm giving away 3 "Fantastic Mr. Fox" DVDs from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Just leave a comment below, describing your "foxiest" moment, and I'll announce the winners Monday, March 8.

In the meantime, enjoy the trio of embedded "Fantastic Mr. Fox" activity sheets.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Does my preschooler really need an iPhone?

iXL; photo courtesy of Mattel via LA Times

What a difference a year makes.

Last year about this time, when CC was a mere 2, I was pondering whether my baby really needed a BlackBerry. The tyke's version, that is.

This year, as CC has turned a more mature 3, I wonder if she really needs a Baby iPhone -- aka Mattel/Fisher-Price's iXL, an app-based handheld device for kids ages 3 and up that was unveiled last week at the American International Toy Fair in New York.

According to Mattel, the touch-screen gadget, which will hit stores in June for $79.99, features six applications -- Story Book, Game Player, Note Book, Art Studio, Music Player and Photo Album. Kids can even add their own tunes and photos.

Whoa. That's more than my BlackBerry does.

In this year alone, CC has become a lot more savvy on the computer. In fact, I was astonished when she said out of the blue one day, "I want to go to PBSKids dot org!"

We've played a few online games, and her fine motor skills are improving at a rapid pace. She can work a mouse like nobody's business.

So, as younger kids get more exposed to technology that mirrors what their parents are using, is that a good thing? Or something "Gattaca"-like and terrifying?

I'm a gadget-loving mom -- in our household, we have an iTouch, a BlackBerry and an Amazon Kindle. So I get kind of excited about my child learning how to use these as well, especially considering computers are being introduced in the classroom in kindergarten, if not before.

I want her to be techno-fluent and unafraid of new devices, which seem to hit online store shelves faster than you can say Steve Jobs. But I also want her to know the joy of playing with blocks or just pretending she's "Pirate Baby," as she's called herself once or twice.

But, above all, I just want her to have fun and be interested in learning. And she seems to be doing great at that both online and off.

And as to the day my child starts correcting me on my technological know-how ... well, that could come sooner than I think.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Harlem Globetrotters a slam dunk for CC

Basketball took center court on Monday, as CC and I trekked to the Inland Empire to watch the Harlem Globetrotters in action at Ontario's Citizens Business Bank Arena.

In addition to the game, we also got a backstage invitation to meet players Prince (above left) and Dizzy. Talk about feeling small. CC and I could have been mistaken for members of the Lollipop Guild.

It was a fun day overall, full of colorful hijinks and a humorous take on the sport. CC's never been to an NBA game, so she might be expecting various pranks and silliness when she finally goes.

"Mommy, why aren't the Lakers throwing water on the audience like the Globetrotters?" I imagine she'll ask one day. "And why aren't the Lakers pulling down the other team's shorts?"

The Globetrotters were playing against longtime foe the Washington Generals, the coach of which came out booing the players and the audience -- something that definitely did not endear him to the crowd.

But it was the Globetrotters' Big Easy Lofton and Flight Time Lang -- who also teamed on a season of "The Amazing Race" -- who offered the biggest fun.

From athletic loop-dee-loops and a passing game that could have been a gymnastics act at the Olympics, the players were truly entertaining. That's including the taunts to and from the other team.

"I want to play basketball," CC said at one point. She actually wanted to get on the court right then.

But aside from the players, CC laughed the most at the performance of the Globetrotters' mascot, Globie. He showed off some smooth moves, impersonating the likes of Prince, Elvis and Kanye West (with a nod to the latter's Taylor Swift faux pas). Every time he left the court, CC asked, "Where's Globie? Where's Globie?"

It was great introducing her to something that made a few of my childhood birthdays that much more special.

The Globetrotters aren't planning a return to SoCal in the near future, but click here for their upcoming schedule that includes Northern California.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Best of Women Owned Businesses Tour in L.A. features bizzy moms

The day before Valentine's Day, Chevrolet -- together with CraveLA -- showed some love to femme-owned businesses around Los Angeles with its Best of Women Owned Businesses Tour of L.A.

I was happy to hop on board this event to check out not only some creative and top-flight local businesses, but also to meet some inspiring "mompreneurs" -- mothers who are living the dream by owning their own companies while still keeping their kids No. 1.

CraveLA, a city guidebook and champion of local businesses, arranged visits to designer boutique Calleen Cordero, luxury style shop Studio BeautyMix at Fred Segal, blowout salon drybar and chocolatier Valerie Confections.

Together with an eclectic bunch of bloggers and writers -- including food blogger e*starLA, Sandra of SoyFashionista and Nicole from CraveLA -- I rode in a Chevy Equinox (pictured above, and my mom pick of the bunch for its roominess, comfort and view), an Avalanche, Malibu and Camaro, as we were shuttled around the city to watch these women in action.

First Stop: Calleen Cordero

Designer and mom of two Calleen Cordero owns an upscale boutique on Beverly Boulevard that features beautifully handcrafted Italian leather shoes and accessories. Her factory in North Hollywood employs about 45 artisans who create pieces that also use sustainable alder wood and studded metal artwork.

On our visit, Calleen talked about her business and chatted with me about balancing work and motherhood.

Second Stop: Studio BeautyMix at Fred Segal

Beauty-obsessed shoppers will be in cosmetics heaven in this Fred Segal shop. From custom, "bespoke" fragrances (Memoire Liquide) to Tokyo Milk lipsticks -- not to mention 100% Pure Organic Kids lotions and bubble bath -- this boutique turned all of us into giddy little girls.

Studio BeautyMix is the well-appointed brainchild of Robin Coe-Hutsching and her sister Jennifer Coe-Bakewell. They launched the store at Fred Segal in Santa Monica in 1984.

The store manager, Rosie, guided us through the luxurious islands and counters at the shop, as lithe women glided through to demonstrate products. The goody bags alone were amazing.

Third Stop: drybar

The just-opened drybar in Brentwood specializes in blowouts only. As the sign says: "No cuts. No color. Just blowouts. Only $35." But that doesn't mean style is off the menu. Hair stylist and mom of two, Alli Webb created a salon that offers blow-drys with a cocktail menu of options. From the Mai Tai ("messy and beachy") to the Manhattan ("sleek and smooth"), it's not your basic wash and go.

When we arrived, the shop was buzzing with clients. Alli was gracious enough to chat with me about business and mommyhood.

Fourth Stop: Valerie Confections

Launched in 2004, partners Valerie Gordon and Stan Weightman Jr. created Valerie Confections, a Los Angeles-based artisanal confectioner. All of their chocolates are handmade and molded.

While we were there, we tasted a Champagne truffle -- "a boozy truffle," as Valerie called it -- as well as their signature almond fleur de sel toffee that blends salty and sweet. They were all fantastically delicious.

Valerie chatted with me about taking her toddler son, August, around Los Angeles, as well as keeping his sweet tooth at bay.

I had a great time meeting all the writers/bloggers and learning more about L.A. businesswomen. It was totally inspiring and a great project for Chevrolet and CraveLA.

Coming Attraction: 'Fantasia 2000' at the El Capitan plus filmmakers' panel

"Fantasia 2000"; photo credit: (c) Disney

Hollywood's El Capitan Theater is hosting a limited engagement of "Fantasia 2000" beginning tomorrow, Feb. 17, in honor of the Walt Disney movie's 10th anniversary, and opening night is set to be incredibly special.

In addition to the main attraction, a filmmakers' panel will join in the festivities tomorrow at 7 p.m.

From the release:

Included in the panel will be producers, art directors and writers from "Fantasia 2000." Learn about the making of the film from the artists who created it, plus the history behind the short film "Destino," a rare and unique short film done as collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. Both the film "Fantasia 2000" and the short film "Destino" will be shown following the panel that evening.

As an added bonus: L.A. Story readers can receive discounted tickets to the opening night event. Purchase adult tickets for only $8 by calling 818-845-3110 and providing the code DCPUB.

"Fantasia 2000," the music of which was conducted by James Levine and performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, will play at the El Capitan through Feb. 27.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Plush Beauty Bar: A Treat for Moms

As I've written before, it's rare that I get the chance to indulge in a mani/pedi. When I'm not working -- teaching my journalism class or writing on the computer -- it's usually all CC all the time.

So when I heard about the just-opened Plush Beauty Bar for Moms at Santa Monica and Fairfax, it didn't take long -- less than 24 hours, actually -- for me to make an appointment.

That's because Plush welcomes children in their new space, offering toys, videos, emergency diapers and even a changing table in the restroom. Not only that, but they only work with low-fume, low-toxic products -- and no acrylics -- so you don't feel as if you're suffocating or destroying your child's brain cells while getting a little break for yourself.

Co-founder Jennifer Paige, an Aveda-trained esthetician, was super-friendly and incredibly patient as CC tried out every toy, asked her to play and moved in and out of the enclosed play space multiple times.

The mani/pedi itself, complete with complimentary tea, was a nice respite from the constant running around that comes with parenting. The staff is also friendly and actually enjoys children.

(I can't tell you how many times I've gotten the requisite dirty looks or even nasty comments for bringing my toddler out in public. It's really frustrating and disheartening when people have zero compassion for already-frazzled parents.)

So it was great to find a place that encourages moms to feel comfortable while indulging a little. CC could play or even sit by me if she wanted, and I didn't have to worry about defending myself for not hiring a babysitter for a couple of hours.

That's worth a lot, and we'll definitely be going back.

Plush Beauty Bar for Moms
7879 Santa Monica Blvd. (next to Whole Foods)
West Hollywood, CA 90046

Photo courtesy of Plush Beauty Bar for Moms. (I brought my camera, but my memory card was at home. Hello, mom brain.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hollywood Sign: The potty-training edition

Forget "Sollywood" or even "Sallywood." As of late Friday morning, the Hollywood Sign read: "Saveypood."

Yesterday afternoon, City Councilman Tom LaBonge was on hand as representatives from The Trust for Public Land began work on covering up the legendary L.A. landmark with a message that will ultimately read: Save the Peak.

The peak in question is Cahuenga Peak, "the 138 acres of land behind and to the left of the sign," according to the Save Cahuenga Peak Web site. It is set to be developed into luxury housing if enough money isn't raised by April 14 to preserve the land and add it to Griffith Park.

The land, of course, has its own Hollywood story. According to reports in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, Howard Hughes purchased the peak in 1940 to build a home for his love, Ginger Rogers. The relationship eventually ended without any love nest to speak of, and the land lay dormant until 2002, when Hughes' estate sold it to Chicago investors for $1.7 million.

Fast forward to today, when the Chicago investors are willing to sell it to the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land for about $12 million, if they can come up with the money by April.

Hence the sign coverage. So far, about half of the money has been raised, but the organization wants to increase awareness of the predicament and encourage Angelenos to donate.

With all the hub-bub, I wanted to show CC the sign, since it's never really been on her radar -- and why should it be?

As we drove up the twists and turns of Beachwood Drive, she squealed, "Letters! Look at the letters!"

Then, after a moment, CC changed her tone.

"Who put those letters on that hill?" she demanded.

That's a long story, kid.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gustafer Yellowgold has hold over tykes

CC and I already thought Gustafer Yellowgold was charming on his latest DVD/CD set "Mellow Fever," but I'm not sure we were completely prepared for how awesome it was seeing him in person -- er, in sun creature.

We were invited this past weekend to a Gustafer concert at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, and CC couldn't take her eyes off the show, headlined by Gustafer illustrator/songwriter Morgan Taylor.

As I wrote in a previous post, Gustafer is the creation of Taylor, who has a 2-year-old son of his own. Taylor combined his love of drawing and music to create this friendly, Earth-loving creature from the sun who leaves his family to make his home in the chilly woods of Minnesota.

It's there where he becomes friends with a pterodactyl named Forrest Applecrumbie and an eel named Slim.

Taylor is a laid-back musician whose music is a clever dose of mellow kid rock.

In fact, when he first appeared at the mic, Taylor raised his fist to the crowd of shorties and their parents and said, "Are you ready to soft rock!"

Indeed they were.

The set list itself is connected to the short videos that appear on screen. These are the same videos we saw on the DVD, but Taylor injects much more presence on stage. He interacts with the kiddos and riffs on random quips from the audience. You can tell he loves the feedback, which is always positive.

"Anyone have any pets out there?" he asked before a song about Gustafer's eel, Slim.

"I have a zebra!" CC yelled. "At the zoo!"

(That's right, zoo security, that zebra is hers!)

Taylor even got a kick out of one toddler who stood next to him and pointed at the above screen during one or two songs.

"That's my brother," shouted the boy's older sibling. I wasn't sure if he was embarrassed by his little brother or just identifying a culprit who happened to be related to him.

It was a great time, and CC didn't want to leave. She even talked me into getting her a plush Gustafer doll (above right).

You know you've hit a home run when you get in the car with your child and she already wants to see the show again.

Hope to see you again soon, Gustafer!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

'America I Am: The African American Imprint' doesn't flinch at our history

The "America I Am" exhibit at the California Science Center celebrating the African-American imprint on our nation is enlightening, heart-wrenching, terrifying and hopeful.

Don't think you'll leave this exhibit unaffected.

CC and I were invited this past weekend to "America I Am," a Tavis Smiley presentation that takes up 15,000 square feet of the building's third floor, for a special blogger's day event.

With the election of our first African-American president, the exhibit -- running through May 2 at the Science Center -- examines a question first posed by writer W.E.B Du Bois: Would America have been America without her Negro people?

"America I Am" tackles that question -- and not lightly -- with more than 200 artifacts from over 500 years of history.

There are clothes from the slim Frederick Douglass as well as the towering Thurgood Marshall, dresses from Aretha Franklin and Serena Williams' signed shoes.

But it was the slave shackles; the "Doors of No Return," from Cape Coast Castle in Ghana where slaves were held while awaiting crowded ships to the Americas; the whips; and, finally, the blindingly white KKK costume that seemed to peer down menacingly from its glass case that took my breath away.

When CC walked over to that pointed hood and stared for what seemed like minutes, I was torn.

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

Should I let her see this? Should I run away with her right now? It was difficult. I scooped her up, told her that bad people used to wear those outfits to scare others, and then I took her to the other side of the room, which showed one of Jesse Owens' Olympic medals. (Nothing like distraction when it comes to avoiding terrifying American history.)

But that gallery proved too much for one African-American father accompanying his undaunted 9-year-old daughter.

"No, let's go," I heard him say.

"But I want to stay!" she said, stomping her foot.

And then they left.

And, truthfully, I didn't blame him. I can't imagine what that must have felt like for him. I kind of wanted to bolt, too, given the heart-breaking images. But CC and I continued through the remainder of the exhibit on our own, after listening to the knowledgeable and obviously affected docents discuss each gallery.

Although I was impressed by their overall expertise of the subject matter and ability to make it interesting and involving to the parents as well as the children, I was disappointed in one comment that seemed borderline irresponsible.

When discussing the massively overcrowded slave ships that traveled from Africa to America, one of the docents explained the Triangle Trade route and said that these slave ships "were America's biggest business -- just like today's jails are America's biggest business."

The first part of that statement -- that slaves were big business in colonial America -- is an unfortunate fact of our history. However, equating that horror with today's jail system is an unfair comparison that undermines what slaves endured hundreds of years ago.

That said, when CC and I left the exhibit, I had to catch my breath. There was so much in my head -- being confronted by a horrible history; introducing my daughter to that history; and watching as descendants of that history sought to educate and remind visitors of what is an indelible part of our American fabric. That history belongs to all of us.

And as we were walking out, I ran into the father and daughter who had left earlier.

I told him I was writing a post for my blog and wondered if he liked the exhibit and (perhaps nosily) asked why he left.

"I know it was just a moment in time," he said, raising his hands to his chest. "But it really gets you right there."

"America I Am: The African American Imprint"
California Science Center
Exposition Park
39th Street & Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90037

Tickets: Adults ($9.50), Youth 13-17 ($8.50) Children 4-12 ($6)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Inside The Jim Henson Company for 'Wilson & Ditch: Digging America'

The Jim Henson Company
and PBS have teamed up once again, this time to launch the kid-friendly "Wilson & Ditch: Digging America," short webisodes on about a pair of gopher brothers (aka Go Bros.) exploring the nation by van.

The three to four-minute webisodes have Wilson and Ditch visiting such cities as Nashville, Tenn., and Philadelphia, Pa. For Nashville, the brothers explore the Country Music Hall of Fame, where they take a look at Elvis Presley's car, as well as the Grand Ole Opry.

Wilson and Ditch (performed by Brian Henson, in above video, and Paul Rugg) are endearingly goofy and, combined with their kooky Eastern Euro-sounding accents, make for an unconventional way for kids to virtually visit the country.

It reminds me of all the road trips I used to take with my mom or dad. The endlessly long drives, off-the-beaten path stops, the changes of scenery. From the Hershey plant in Hershey, Pa., to the gorgeous mountain views in Estes Park, Colo., it was pretty amazing.

So far, there's been only one destination for our road trips with CC -- Las Vegas, of all places -- although one of those trips included a Ghost Town experience. Now I feel inspired to jump in the car with her and see the California sights outside of L.A.

Speaking of Los Angeles, Jim Henson Company CEO Lisa Henson said at a press conference held at the company's HQ -- the Charlie Chaplin lot on La Brea -- that Wilson and Ditch won't be visiting the Hollywood area anytime soon.

"We picked destinations that kids know less about," she said. "A mixture of rural and urban, East and West."

There are 10 destinations set for the current batch of webisodes, but the Henson Co. is hoping to continue the series and make more. Lisa also said that all 10 make for good family trips.

On the site itself, kids can play games, watch videos and read Wilson's blog and Ditch's comic strip.

In addition to getting a glimpse of the webisodes, I also had the opportunity to watch Henson chairman Brian Henson in action, working his Wilson magic at the Digital Puppetry Studio.

While chatting about how everything works, he also talked about other projects, the art of puppetry as well as his famous dad, Jim Henson.

Stay tuned for more video of the event.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rainy day L.A.

We're getting a little too used to the rain here in Los Angeles.

Sometimes, though, it really is nice to get out and splash in the puddles -- especially if you're a 3-year-old who lives in a metropolitan desert.

So that's what CC and I did this morning. She was itching to wear her new bunny rain boots from Grandma and shield herself from the tiny droplets with her slick, over-sized rain poncho.

It's the little things, really.

For more rainy day toddler activities, click here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

CC rides into the Baby & Kidz Expo

Last weekend, CC got to practice her pony-riding skills at the California Baby & Kidz Expo in Pasadena.

The event, which offered a small petting zoo, jumpies as well as kid-focused stage presentations (toddler derby race!), was truly an expo at heart. Booths featuring everything from kid gymnastics to home security systems filled the better part of Exhibition Hall B at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Despite weaving in and around helpful (Emma's Children) and not-so-helpful booths (American Laser -- really?! really?! Is that the message you want to send stressed-out parents?), we spent most of our time with the animals. CC also got to play the drums, revisit Sid the Science Kid (right) and sample a Polkatots Cupcake.

And although she loved feeding the little sheep and mini horse, she wasn't crazy about one hungry little lamb following her for food.

CC's answer: Dump the food pellets and run. Nice strategy, kid.

More pics below:

Rockin' out with Baby in Bliss

Sheep! Run for your lives!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Coming Attraction: Harlem Globetrotters visit Staples Center

The Harlem Globetrotters are dribbling, dunking and bouncing into Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 14 at the Staples Center downtown.

Players including Big Easy Lofton, Flight Time Lang, Handles Franklin and Hi Rise Brown will be showing their stuff on the court for the team's 2010 "Magical Memories" World Tour.

The famous dunkers -- the franchise is currently in its 84th consecutive season -- do things on the court that the NBA only dreams of -- awesome loop-dee-loops and leaps that seem to defy gravity.

If you notice a nostalgic tone, it's because I was a huge fan of the Globetrotters as a tyke in Oklahoma City. In fact, tickets to one of these tours was tops on my birthday wish list when I was 9 or 10. Seeing them in person was so fun -- they truly are entertainers.

And if your kids are basketball fans anyway, this should definitely be on the to-do list.

The Globetrotters will be traveling through the Southland Feb. 13-15. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.

Metro riders can save $5 on their tickets to the 6 p.m. Staples Center game. Just bring your Metro pass or use the promo code METRO online.

Harlem Globetrotters
Saturday, Feb. 13 -- Honda Center, Anaheim (1 p.m. and 7 p.m.)
Sunday, Feb. 14 -- Staples Center, Los Angeles (1 p.m. and 6 p.m.)
Monday, Feb. 15 -- Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario (1 p.m.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Moshi Monsters invade Los Angeles Zoo

It was a new kind of monster mash at the Los Angeles Zoo last week, when CC and I had the chance to check out online kids' game Moshi Monsters.

The free, Web-only pet adoption game from U.K. game developer Mind Candy, features lively creatures that children can customize and guide around Monstro City.

The little monsters themselves look cute but mischievous -- an adorable franken-zombie, anyone? -- and the game definitely does not shy away from gross-out offerings -- eye pie for lunch? Ewwww.

But the games themselves allow kids to get creative with little guys that want to interact with them. There are levels such as happiness and health that players must maintain. (Don't want to have a morose monster on your hands.)

CC had fun picking out her Cousin It-like monster Furi's colors and traipsing around Monstro City trying to find him some hairspray for his unruly mane. (She was actually a big fan of the eye pie. Ewwww, again.)

The game also offers some educational elements, such as Daily Challenges, where kids can pick the correct number of objects on the screen, as well as choose the corresponding word for whatever is on display. That's definitely a plus for the little ones.

One of the representatives on hand mentioned over lunch that the game isn't meant to be something kids want to spend hours playing. It focuses on shorter bursts and time-saver challenges.

For older kids, there's a social element to the game, where kids can network online through Monster blogs, pin boards and buddy lists.

For me, and I'm sure a lot of other parents, this presents a bit of a red flag (although CC is definitely too young to work her "baby network.") However, kids can block unwanted "friend" requests, and parents can exert however much control they want. (Click here for more info.)

And while game-playing is free, you do have to provide an email address to get started.

All in all, CC found the little guys entertaining and refers to them as "Mochi" Monsters -- she loves those Japanese desserts! She also had fun running around the zoo for a bit and digging into a goody bag filled with posters, pins and key chains.

I guess I just need to get used to the eye pie. (Ewww.)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Habla Blah Blah speaks to CC

Move over, Dora. CC had the chance to explore a new way to learn Spanish, courtesy of music- and play-based language program habla blah blah.

And did she love it? In a word: .

Habla blah blah offers classes to children ages 9 months to 5 years in the Los Angeles area. The philosophy behind the program is to introduce young minds to a new language and expand their horizons through words, music and play. Español becomes fun instead of something forced or boring.

CC had a great time singing and dancing to songs such as "Familia de Leones" (above photo), "Agua," "Mira Mira" and "Te Amo."

She was even giving high-5's to the other tots during the song "Cinco."

The complimentary class we attended was held in the studio area of Los Feliz boutique Dragonfly DuLou, an adorable kids' clothing shop that also boasts a courtyard with toys and a toddler-friendly trampoline.

Our instructor, Laura, guided the bilingual class -- which consisted of young children with their mom or dad -- through songs from the habla blah blah CD. There was also chatting, dancing and a snack, which they serve every week to introduce a new word. This week is was pan, or bread.

In the beginning, both CC and I were a little nervous. Neither one of us speaks Spanish, yet the rest of the children seemed to be somewhat familiar with the language. (This would have been absolutely perfect when Stephani was with us. Guess CC has forgotten all the Spanish she used to hear on a daily basis.)

That nervousness totally disappeared as the class continued. Laura always anchored everything in English, as well as offered pictures, movement, repetition and description, making a different language much more accessible.

The class is great for kids who speak Spanish at home as well as for families who are dedicated to introducing it at some point in their child's lives. That familiarity, in and of itself is good, too, since we live in such a multilingual city.

We'll definitely keep it on the list for potential extracurricular options.

For more information on Winter Session classes, click here.


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