Sunday, July 31, 2011

Weekly Deal: $15 for 2.5-Hour Giant Blue Whale-Watching Cruise

$15 for 2.5-Hour Giant Blue Whale-Watching Cruise

Ready to set sail on a relaxing cruise that won’t break the bank or require luggage? For just $15, you can enjoy a 2.5-hour whale-watching sunset cruise. Kids are welcome!

The annual "Summer Giant Blue Whale Migration" brings thousands of blue whales each summer/fall to the waters off Newport Beach. Newport Beach is a world-class whale-watching destination, as the waters just outside of Newport Bay are considered to be some of the most fertile in California.

More than 1,000 whales were viewed last summer! In fact, there is a 96% viewing success rate -- and when no whale is viewed, a free pass for another whale-watching cruise is offered. All you need is your camera and your binoculars, and you’ve got yourself one fun family adventure!

Before you board, you can stroll along the fun and festive Balboa Boardwalk on the beautiful Newport Harbor. What a fun "staycation" activity!

Click here to get this deal!

(Sponsored Post)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Coming Attraction: Music in the L.A. Zoo -- Classic Rock

Ready to mix classic rock band The Eagles with, well, real ones?

That's what's happening tomorrow night at Music in the L.A. Zoo, an event that invites visitors to kick back with the animals after dark and hear a variety of tribute bands perform songs from groups including The Grateful Dead, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and, of course, The Eagles.

CC and I visited the musical event a couple of years ago (has it been that long?) and had a great time taking in a laid-back summer evening with fun international music. I even caught my then 2-year-old dancing to Paddy's Pig on video.

Music in the L.A. Zoo -- Classic Rock Night
Thursday, July 28; 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens
5333 Zoo Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Admission to "Music in the L.A. Zoo"
for GLAZA members is $13 for adults and $8 for children ages 6 to 15. Admission for non-members is $17 for adults and $11 for children ages 6 to 15. Children 5 and under are free.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Giveaway: Preschool DVD 6 Pack From NCircle Entertainment

UPDATE: Congrats to Amy, who won the 6-pack of preschool DVDs from NCircle Entertainment!Thanks, too, to, which helped make the decision for me. And, finally, thank you to everyone who participated! Stay tuned for more fun stuff!

I'm really excited about this giveaway, courtesy of NCircle Entertainment.

Up for grabs are six educational -- and fun! -- DVDs from several preschool-friendly shows. CC is a big fan of Sid the Science Kid, The Cat in the Hat, and "WordWorld," all featured on PBS. She also thinks Nick Jr.'s Pocoyo is pretty cute, too.

Here's the lowdown on each DVD, from the company, followed by details on how to win all six.

* Sid the Science Kid: Going, Going, Green! ($11.99) -- Sid the Science Kid is discovering that it takes care and conservation to protect the environment he lives in. He takes a special trip to The Science Center to discover cool facts about water, and when his toy robot breaks, he investigates how to recycle and reuse!

* The Cat in the Hat Know a Lot About That! Tales About Tails ($11.99) -- The ever-curious Cat in the Hat (voiced by Martin Short) returns for more lively adventures with his young friends, Nick and Sally, and makes learning about science fun. In this collection of episodes, the creative Cat meets a variety of animals with tails.

* WordWorld: The Train Escapade ($11.99) -- The WordWorld friends embark on four separate adventures, including "Duck's Hiccups," in which Duck drinks down a glass of water too quickly and gets the hiccups for the first time ever. In "Achoo," Pig is allergic to peaches. When Sheep brings Pig a big bag of peaches to make pies, Pig starts sneezing so much that he can't even tell Sheep what he really needs is a-a-apples.

* Dance, Pocoyo, Dance! ($11.99) -- Little Pocoyo gets moving (and shaking) with his friends Elly the elephant, Pato the duck and Loula the dog.

* Animal Atlas: Animal ABC's ($8.99) -- Preschoolers can practice the alphabet with this creature-friendly DVD that checks in on animals from around the world.

* Animal Atlas: Animal 123's ($8.99) -- Preschoolers can count on these animals -- from every continent -- to help them learn their numbers.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm giving away the above 6-pack of DVDs from NCircle Entertainment.

To enter, leave a comment below.

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

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

Good luck, and I will announce the winner (on this post, not a separate one) on Monday, August 8!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Free Screening: 'Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D'

"Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D" -- complete with "aroma-scope," in which viewers can smell the experience (!) -- is coming to the ArcLight Hollywood for a free advance screening on Thursday, July 28.

ArcLight Hollywood
6360 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
7:30 p.m.

Synopsis: The fourth installment in the series has Marissa Cortez Wilson (played by Jessica Alba) enjoying the retired secret agent life with her husband, Wilbur (Joel McHale), who doesn't know she was ever a spy; her new baby; and two stepkids. When the maniacal Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven) threatens to take over the world, Marissa is dragged back into spy madness.

You might recognize some familiar faces. Spy Kids Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) are joining in the action.

Here's how to score a Family Four Pack of tickets (which will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis).

* Send an email to with SPY KIDS in the subject line and the following information:

1) Include your name, address, number of guests and age of children in attendance.
2) Answer this question: "If you were a spy, what kind of gadget would you have?"

Remember, tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and seating is not guaranteed. Please arrive an hour before showtime.

Good luck -- and please let me know about the "aroma-scope!"

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feeding the Ducks at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area

We had such a wonderful time last weekend feeding the ducks at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, tucked on a hilltop above La Cienega in Baldwin Hills.

We especially loved this duck, dubbed "Toupee Duck!"

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area
4100 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90056
Parking: $6 per car

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CC Books Time With Scribble Press

Thanks to Scribble Press, the make-your-own-book store in Santa Monica, CC has now created her first hardcover tome. Its title? Drum roll please ... "The Pig Cat."

The adorably creative shop on Montana Boulevard offers lots of fun options for little artists and authors. While CC used a combination of markers, stamps and pencils to pen her 6-page masterpiece, kids can also choose to make calendars, bookmarks, place mats, among other options.

When we visited, on a laid-back weekday afternoon, Scribble Press was ours for exploring. (We had been invited by co-founder and CEO Anna Barber.) The shop itself is cozy yet spacious, and the work studio is a place where kids -- and parents -- can get their creative juices flowing.

Not only is there an awesome wall of markers -- design-friendly moms will go crazy for this! -- but there are also lots of fun stencils, stamps, paper products and caddies to tweak tykes' imaginations.

The shop part of Scribble Press had tons of fun artistically geared items for little ones -- from paper dolls to books to paints and marker sets. We bought at least 5 mini erasers shaped like pandas, hamsters and koala bears, as well as a cute and colorful animal stencil set.

The best part, though, was taking home a book made by CC (price range: $25-$29), complete with her photo on the back. Now, that's something we'll keep forever.

Scribble Press
1109 Montana Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90403

Most make-your-own items range from $15-$30, but click here for pricing details.

(Disclosure: We received a complimentary hardcover book made by CC.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Weekly Deal: Up to 50% off Kids Climb or Summer Camp at Rockreation!

Choose from a 2-hour climb for only $15 or a whole week of camp for only $150 at Rockreation!

Kids Climb classes are offered Monday and Wednesday at 4 p.m., and weekends at 3 p.m. You can drop the kids off, or stay to watch them have fun.

At up to 50% off for the kids to try something physical and new – it’s a perfect opportunity for a playdate, so buy a few as gifts! (Just remember that each child must be brought by a parent to sign the waiver liability form, so come with other parents, sign the forms and let the kids have a blast while you duck out for a coffee at the Coffee Bean just a block south.)

The facility itself offers over 9,000 square feet of sculpted climbing terrain, with areas suitable for everyone from beginners to experts. Rockreation also offers classes teaching the basic skills necessary to pass the safety check and start climbing, as well as more complex technique classes. Rock climbing is a great workout!

Click here to get this deal!

(Sponsored Post)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taking a Dip in Frito-Lay Goodness *Sponsored*

CC snacks on Tostitos Scoops.

While everyone else in greater Los Angeles was basking in what turned into "CarmaHeaven" (with so few cars on the road, the dreaded "Carmageddon" was about as terrifying as Y2K), CC and I were indulging in a little dip-friendly fun.

A few mom-blogger friends and I got together on Saturday in Orange County to try out a variety of tasty recipes and chips, all courtesy of Frito-Lay.

CC, Liz and Amy

Aracely, of Daytripping Mom fame, kindly hosted the shindig at her house, and each mom brought one fantastic dip -- and other goodies, including Amy's (aka Funny Yellow Mom) hamburger slider cupcakes. (Yes, cupcakes!)

The night before, CC helped me prepare my contribution, a Classic Spinach Artichoke Dip (see recipe below). She was all about pouring in the Romano cheese and sour cream. Stirring was also a big deal.

While I probably over-indulged in all of the yummy dips -- not to mention the cute yet practical Tostitos Scoops -- I had an amazing time catching up with moms I don't get a chance to see so often. I always love hearing about their different adventures.

And the 405 back home was a breeze to boot.

Classic Spinach Artichoke Dip


1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic gloves, minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a small oven-safe baking dish, mix together artichoke hearts, spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, Romano cheese, and garlic. Cover dish. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, warm or cool.

You can lighten up this recipe by using fat-free or reduced-fat mayonnaise and/or cream cheese in place of the mayonnaise and/or cream cheese. (This is what I did, along with light sour cream.)

Other recipes:

* Caryn, aka Rockin' Mama, made a mango salsa.

* Amy, aka Funny Yellow Mom, made a spicy black bean dip.

* Liz, aka Thoughts of a Mommy, made a cheese fundido dip.

* Aracely, aka Daytripping Mom, made pico de gallo.

* Katie, aka OC Mom Activities, made colorful bruschetta.

(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, for which I was compensated. In partnership with The Motherhood, Frito-Lay provided me with chips and ingredients to make my recipe, along with a stipend.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

'Shrek the Musical' Takes Over Hollywood

Someone was very excited to see "Shrek the Musical" on Tuesday!

We ventured over to the Pantages Theatre to catch opening night of the family-friendly show, and CC couldn't wait to get inside.

"Shrek" was lots of fun -- lively music, silly characters (CC loved Gingy, the sassy gingerbread man), and clever visual jokes (read: everything involving the diminutive Lord Farquaad).

(l to r) David F.M. Vaughn (as Lord Farquaad), Gingy, Guard. (Photo credit: (c) 2010 DreamWorks Theatricals/Joan Marcus)

Sitting in "The Social Swamp," aka the mezzanine, I was able to tweet and Facebook -- that is, until CC told me to put my phone away. (Telling her that we were in the "social swamp" didn't cut it, either.)

While we both enjoyed the show -- it's great for families! -- I would recommend showing your child the movie first, if he or she hasn't already seen it. For some reason, I took it for granted that CC already knew the story. (She didn't.) So there were lots of questions in the first act.

One more little hint: Stick around after the curtain call. You won't be sorry.

"Shrek the Musical"
July 12-31
Pantages Theatre
6233 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Tickets: $25-$90

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Giveaway: 'Early Lingo' Language DVD

UPDATE: Congrats to Marcela, who won the "Early Lingo" DVD! Please email me at with your mailing address. Thanks to everyone who participated, and stay tuned for more giveaways!

CC loves languages. And living in Los Angeles, she gets to hear a lot of them. In fact, she has friends in her preschool class who speak Spanish, Japanese and even Greek. It's pretty amazing.

That's why I was more than eager to review a copy of the "Early Lingo" language series, which offers children's DVDs in languages including Spanish, French, Mandarin and Italian ($19.99 each).

The series, created by L.A. mom Caryn Antonini and which recently received the Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) Winner's Seal of Approval, is a smart way to introduce kiddos as young as 6 months old to another language (or English as a second language).

The DVD I reviewed with CC, "Colors and Shapes in the Park" Part 1 (of 12) in Spanish, features two friendly, animated characters -- Jojo the monkey and Lulu the bird -- who take viewers on a vocabulary-filled journey through familiar territory -- in this case, the park.

Children are able to see and hear everyday words (colors, shapes, action verbs) and phrases spoken in another language by a cheerful native speaker.

And what's great about this roughly 25-minute DVD is that it's totally immersive. No English whatsoever. So it makes kids -- and parents -- work a little bit to put words with the images on screen. The DVD also repeats words and puts them into different contexts, such as adding color to, say, a boat or a car. It's not just "un coche" but also "un coche azul." (Translation: the blue car.)

While phrases like that were simple, figuring out that "jugar" means "to play" took a little more brain power, which is wonderful. We see children with tea sets, toys and in the sandbox, while Jojo repeats "jugar." The little monkey then asks questions, such as "What color is the car?" In Spanish, of course.

This series is a great way to enhance a child's second language skills or give her a head start on elementary school language classes.

And for kids who are immersed in a multicultural classroom -- and hometown -- it gives them one more way to connect with friends.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm giving away 1 copy of an "Early Lingo" language DVD.

To enter, check out Early Lingo's website, Facebook page and/or Twitter stream, and leave a comment below saying which DVD you would like and why. (Parts 1, 2 & 3 are available in French, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin and English as a Second Language.)

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

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

Good luck, and I will announce the winner (on this post, not a separate one) on Thursday, July 28!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coming Attraction: 'Carmageddon'

The 405 Freeway (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg)

Well, friends, the dreaded "Carmageddon" is coming this weekend. And it seems as if anyone who lives within honking distance of the 405 freeway -- which, for the uninitiated or those in denial, will be closed July 16-18 from the 10 to the 101 freeways -- is hunkering down.

However, there are several Los Angeles businesses that are greeting the closure with fun rather than fear.

Check out these "Carmageddon" escape plans:

* SLS at Beverly Hills "405 Staycation" Packages

- If you're looking for a luxe vacation at home in L.A., the SLS is offering room packages for 1 night's stay, breakfast for 2 at Tres, complimentary valet parking and a complimentary bag of SLS cookies for the ride home for $405. (Regular price: $500+).

- 30-minute scalp, neck and shoulder massage at Ciel Spa, complete with Ciel Spa CD, for $59. (Regular price: $65+); the 15-minute package is $40.50. (Clever price on the last one.)

* Westfield Culver City "Tailgate Party"

On July 16-17 from 12 p.m.-5 p.m., the Westfield Culver City mall is hosting a "tailgate party," complete with games, free snacks and store discounts.

* JetBlue "Flyover" from Long Beach to Burbank for $4

According to the L.A. Times, JetBlue Airlines is giving commuters the option of just flying over the 405 altogether -- literally. And for just $4. The offer is good on July 16 only.

Whatever your plans, good luck and be safe!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

L'Enfant Terrible Mines 'King Lear,' er, 'King O'Leary,' for Laughs

"King O'Leary" (Photo courtesy of L'Enfant Terrible)

You know you're going to be in for a lively -- and creative -- treat when actors on stage start mixing Shakespeare with Kanye West.

That's exactly what happened at L'Enfant Terrible's performance of "King O'Leary" at the Bootleg Theater on Sunday.

Part of the Fun Family Festival of Tragedy, "King O'Leary" is one of four re-imagined plays based on Shakespearean tragedies, in this case, "King Lear." This local theater troupe has turned the Bard on his head -- which, I'm betting he would have loved -- and offers a funny, family-friendly take on some of Will's saddest tales.

And, you know what? It works!

Set in an Old West burg called Boomtown, which has thrived on gold mining, "King O'Leary" tells the story of an aging king (played by Robert Williams) who wants to divide his land among his three daughters. But first, he wants to hear just how much each one loves him.

His eldest daughters (Laura Castle, Brian Allman) -- the equivalent of Cinderella's wicked stepsisters -- are eager to shower him with praise so they can get their hands on the gold. The youngest, cleverly named Cordelia-Mae (Angela Berliner), is too tongue-tied and can only utter "peep."

Because of that, she's banished to the outskirts of town, where there is only grass and .... buffalo! Insert a fun character here (Josh Zeller, above left) who utters noises that make him sound like a cousin of Chewbacca. (He was a definite CC fave. We cracked up every time he, uh, spoke.)

Angela Berliner and CC after the show.

Written by Berliner, who also plays Cordelia-Mae, "King O'Leary" is clever, funny, interactive and offers up colorful characters who get lots of laughs from the audience -- particularly a gentleman from Mexico (Eddie Bastino, played by Brian Kimmet), who's willing to marry any of the sisters for a stake in the fortune.

What's great for kids -- and parents -- is that all ends well in this hour-long show, unlike the original "King Lear."

And anyone who can work Kanye's "Gold Digger" into a re-thought Shakespearean play about a mining community gets two thumbs up from me.

For more information about the festival, which is offering four plays in repertory through July 31, click here. L'Enfant Terrible also gives audiences an inside peek at what goes on behind the scenes.

Fun Family Festival of Tragedy
"King O'Leary"
"Hamlet, Prince of Puddles"
"Macbeth and the Monster"
"Titus the Clownicus"

Written by Angela Berliner
Produced by Seth Compton
Directed by Justin Zsebe

Bootleg Theater
2220 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles
, CA 90057
Saturdays, Sundays

Tickets: $17, $10

(Note: Media tickets provided)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weekly Deal: $15 for $30 at

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Everything is better when it has your name on it! Just ask your kids.
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Check out their best-selling product, the "My Name Is ..." book, which teaches a child to spell their own name by displaying it in unique imagery, such as clouds in the sky, ladybugs on a leaf, pigeons in the park and more.

Click here to get this deal!

(Sponsored Post)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Giveaway: Hollywood Bowl Tickets to Michael Feinstein and the Singing Stars of Television

Michael Feinstein (Photo courtesy of the Hollywood Bowl)

UPDATE: Wow, this was one of the most interesting giveaways I've had in terms of comments! I had a lot of fun reading them -- and singing "The Brady Bunch" theme song. This was such a toughie, and I left the deciding to And the winner is ... Kelly! Congrats, Kelly, and happy anniversary! Please email me at, and I'll give you the details. Thanks again to everyone who participated, and stay tuned for more giveaways!

As promised, here's another fun giveaway, courtesy of the Hollywood Bowl!

I'm giving away a pair of tickets to see "LA Phil Presents Michael Feinstein and the Singing Stars of Television," performing at the Bowl July 29-30 at 8:30 p.m.

The performance will be hosted by Feinstein, who will also perform on piano and vocals. The Los Angeles Philharmonic will be front and center, along with special guest stars Wayne Brady, Florence Henderson (yay Mrs. Brady! -- not Mrs. Wayne Brady, though), Cheyenne Jackson and Dick Van Dyke.

Jack Everly will serve as conductor for the LA Philharmonic.

According to the Bowl, the famous faces will perform popular entries from the Great American Songbook -- from Gershwin and Berlin to New Orleans Jazz and Broadway.

Sounds like a great night out!

LA Phil Presents Michael Feinstein and the Singing Stars of Television
July 29-30 (8:30 p.m.)
Hollywood Bowl
2301 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90068

Tickets: $11-$158 (Click here to purchase and for more information.)

*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm giving away 2 tickets to see the Friday, July 29 (8:30 p.m.) presentation of Michael Feinstein and the Singing Stars of Television at the Hollywood Bowl. Seats are the in the first section behind the boxes -- aka, good ones!

To enter, simply leave a comment below saying why you'd like to have a night out at the Hollywood Bowl.

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

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

Good luck, and I will announce the winner (on this post, not a separate one) on Friday, July 22!

Art in the Streets: Little Artists Can Appreciate It, Too

To be honest, I had a small internal debate about taking my 4-year-old to the Art in the Streets exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. After all, street art is known for pushing boundaries, depicting sometimes crude images and being, well, graphic.

Don't get me wrong. I've been eager to check out this exhibit for myself -- especially after watching the intriguing documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop," which I'd definitely recommend.

But would this kind of art be appropriate for a preschooler?

Turns out, yes ... with a couple of caveats.

The exhibit, which runs through August 8, tracks the development of street art from the 1970s through today, focusing on cities such as New York, San Francisco, London and, of course, Los Angeles.

The images are bright, amazingly creative, painstakingly detailed and involve all sorts of mixed media -- painted cars, music, skateboard ramps. While some pieces tackle social issues, others demand notice for their artistry alone. And the idea that this is based on a basically forbidden practice makes it all the more intriguing.

That said, there were a few scenes that frightened CC at first glance -- and a few that gave me pause as the parent of a little girl.

First (pictured below), there was the life-like scene of two guys spray painting a wall in a down-and-out corner of a cityscape. While I thought it was a really cool set-up, there was loud music accompanying the display (notice where CC's hands are in the picture) and she didn't know what to make of those figures at first. There was also faux bush close by that had an arm sticking out of it, spray painting another wall. That gave CC a bit of a start, too. But, after a moment, she was OK and wanted to walk by again and again ... as long as I was holding her.

What gave me pause, meanwhile, were a few hyper-sexualized images of women that made me point CC in a different direction -- but not before she asked me why that woman had ice-cream cones there. (Let's just say they were very cold bra replacements.)

We had meandered over to the exhibit after visiting the Levi's Film Workshop, which is located at the museum's exit area. CC had spotted the graffiti-covered bus outside and was instantly smitten. And that made me happy.

She's been to LACMA and cultural museums, but not so many art museums. (I mean, she is 4.) But I'm a big fan of exposing her to visual art so that she can appreciate that kind of work and creativity. Obviously, I don't want her to be scarred by it, but I didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to show her different images -- and to give her the opportunity to ask questions about them, which she did.

Of course, I had asked the attendants upon entering the museum if it was OK to bring a 4-year-old inside. And it was. Then I spotted another mom with a little boy who was younger than CC, and then I breathed a bigger sigh of relief.

Art in the Streets (through Aug. 8)
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 N. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tickets: $10 (general admission); Free (children under 12)

Note: MOCA is free on Thursdays from 5 p.m.-8 p.m.; and this exhibit is free on Mondays, thanks to street artist and "Exit Through the Gift Shop" director Banksy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Paul Frank Kicks Off World Tour in WeHo

Paul Frank kicked off its monkey-tastic Academy of Awesome Tour 2011 at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood on June 25, and CC and I were there to help celebrate.

Traveling around the country in a new custom Winnebago (see above), Julius and the crew are hitting other cities, such as New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York. In addition to the decked-out RV, they're also bringing ping-pong tables, bouncy obstacle courses, a Battle of the Bands contest and a Puppy Prom.

CC had fun climbing up the giant inflatable slide with one of her friends, checking out built-in iPads in the Winnebago and getting a temporary tattoo of Julius the Monkey himself. (It was funny -- she kept asking me the difference between temporary and permanent, making sure the tattoo would eventually come off. It did.)

She also indulged in a fun ice-cream cookie sandwich from local food truck King Kone. Let's just say, sharing was a bit difficult.

For more info about the Academy of Awesome Tour, click here.

Here are some pics from the event. (Clockwise from top left: CC checking out the PF Winnebago; CC and a friend climbing the giant inflatable ladder to get to the giant inflatable slide; yummy ice cream cookie sandwich; adorable 3-month-old contestant in the Puppy Prom contest.)

Weekly Deal: 47% off a new-generation lunchbox from BrightBin

$9 for a new generation lunchbox from BrightBin ($17 value)

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Well, hello, Santa Barbara!

To celebrate the Fourth of July weekend -- and a few days off -- the three of us drove up to Santa Barbara for the day for a little R&R.

We hit the usual haunts -- State Street, Rusty's Pizza, The Andersens, the beach -- and we had such a wonderful, relaxing time. It's nice to get out of Los Angeles once in a while and just sit in the soft sand and watch as your preschooler tries to douse her father with ocean water.

Plus, the drive isn't too bad, if you avoid traffic. We decided to go on the 3rd, rather than the 4th, and made it up there in about 2 hours.

The weather was a bit overcast, which was nice -- not scorchingly hot -- and we spent most of the day walking, shopping and playing in the water.

Next time, though, I'm hoping to rent one of these great bikes (above). Santa Barbara is such a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly town that riding one of these is a must-do.

Hope you and your family/friends had a wonderful weekend!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Now that is a Fourth of July cake!

(Photo courtesy of Glorious Treats)

Happy 4th of July to you and your family! Today, I will attempt to make the above flag cake. (Get the recipe here.) How cute -- and challenging -- is that?!

CC is on board to help, although she requested a chocolate cake for America's birthday. Well, maybe next year for that one.

And because you can never have enough flag cakes, I picked up these adorable little petit fours at my fave bakery, The Andersens in Santa Barbara yesterday. (We took a day trip up there, but more on that later.)

Whatever kinds of treats you make today, have a safe and wonderful 4th of July!

And, happy birthday, America!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Levi's Film Workshop Inspires (Free) Filmmaking

CC with Levi's Film Workshop manager Kris Payne.

What better way to get little (and big!) Angelenos interested in their hometown industry than providing complimentary tools to make movies? The Levi's Film Workshop, nestled into the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Little Tokyo, has done just that.

CC and I checked out the space last week and were super impressed by what we found. Everything was accessible, hands-on and -- best of all for us -- kid-friendly. (Not only that, but CC's pic was even featured in a story about the Workshop in the L.A. Times.)

The Workshop pop-up shop, which sits just past the exit area of the museum, will be open through August 8 and provides amateur and expert filmmakers with camera and lighting rentals, editing suites, a giant green screen, classes, a stop-motion animation area and many other goodies all for free. Yes, free. As in nothing.

In a stroke of luck and helpful coincidence, the camera on my iPhone was acting wonky, so I borrowed a Canon digital camera from their rental area. (All the pics in this post are from that camera.) But the rental counter offers everything from Canon EOS 7D digital cameras to Super 8 video cameras to Flips to Sony TDR10 camcorders.

As per usual, CC felt right at home, and the Workshop attendants were more than patient -- and eager to show off their wares. CC placed inked animal stamps on film cells, posed in front of a green screen (above) and spun her My Little Pony around on a phonotrope (below).

All in the name of creativity. And access. According to a Levi's rep, the company wanted to make specialized equipment available to everyone -- inspiring visitors young and old, wealthy and not-so-much to go out and make something amazing.

Levi's Film Workshop
Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 N. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Monday & Friday); 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Thursday); 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (Saturday); 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Sunday); closed Tuesdays & Wednesdays

Martha & Friends launches online with projects for kids

"Martha & Friends"

Who wouldn't want a pint-sized Martha Stewart around the house, encouraging kids to get creative? just launched today with that very idea in mind.

In this incarnation, Martha is a 10-year-old girl, who takes the initiative on fun projects with a trio of friends and her two cute French bulldogs, Francesca and Sharkey. The episodes, which each run about 3 minutes, focus on creative yet manageable activities that children can work on with friends.

The first episode, "Spa Sleepover," has Martha making avocado facial masks and mood mists for her two girlfriends, Hannah and Lily. There's also a pooch-friendly episode, in which they make doggie treats and personalized water bowls.

While the girls (and boy, Kevin!) are all tweens, many of these projects look do-able for younger kids, too. CC might not be into mood mists, but I'm sure she'd love to make sun-print cards, which are featured in the longer episode, "Martha's Fourth," which airs on July 3 at 9 a.m. ET on the Hallmark Channel, in honor of July 4th festivities. (Time to set those DVRs, West Coasters.)

Best of all, in true Martha fashion, the site also offers step-by-step instructions for all of the featured projects.



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