Monday, July 30, 2012

*Giveaway* 'ParaNorman' World Premiere

UPDATE: Congrats to Carol W. and Michael Bernadette, who each won 2 tickets to the premiere of ParaNorman! Please email me at with your first and last names, email address and cell phone numbers by 2 p.m. today. (I'll have to pick another winner if this info is not received.) Thanks to everyone who participated (and to for helping me choose).

Just in case you didn't get enough of the new Focus Features stop-motion animated film ParaNorman in my previous post, I have even more news!

The film, which will be hitting theaters Aug. 17, will be having its world premiere at an as-yet-undisclosed Hollywood theater on Sunday, Aug. 5, and I'm giving away 2 pairs of tickets.

So, for all you stop-motion fans, or Coraline fans (ParaNorman is from the same company, LAIKA), director Sam Fell (The Tale of Despereaux) fans, actress/mom Leslie Mann fans, or fans of misunderstood young boys who can see and talk to dead people, this giveaway is for you.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

To enter, please leave a comment below telling me why you'd like to go to the premiere. Please also include your email address for quick contact.

You must live in the Los Angeles area (No travel accommodations will be provided.). The details are:

ParaNorman World Premiere
Sunday, Aug. 5 @ 2 p.m.
Hollywood Theater (winners will receive more detailed info)

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 2 winners on Wednesday, Aug. 1! (You'll have to get back to me with your info before noon, or I'll pick another winner.)

Coming Attraction: 'ParaNorman'

Have you seen these posters and billboards around town? They're everywhere! They're from Focus Features' new stop-motion animated film ParaNorman, which opens Aug. 17.

I am in such awe of stop-motion animation. We're big fans of Wallace & Gromit movies, and CC and I enjoyed Coraline (in fact, everyone kept calling her that when the movie came out a few years ago). It's amazing the kind of patience those artists must have.

This new kids' movie is from the makers of Coraline and, once again, delves into some relatively eerie subject matter (eerie, that is, in a PG way, which is what the film is rated). Norman, according to press notes, is a misunderstood boy who can speak with the dead, and he takes on ghosts, zombies and (gasp!) grown-ups in order to save his town from a centuries-old curse.

Some famous voices in the cast include John Goodman, Leslie Mann, Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

Here's the trailer, and right below a little peek inside the stop-motion magic.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Coming Attraction: Disney Junior Teams Up with Story Pirates for Free Event

I always like sharing free "Coming Attractions," and this looks like a good one. I know it's in the O.C., but it would be worth the drive.

Disney Junior Story Magic is teaming up with CC fave the Story Pirates for a free event on Saturday, July 28 at Westminster Mall. The duo will host a live interactive sketch comedy performance that will spotlight kids' creativity and storytelling chops.

Not only will the Story Pirates weave kids' ideas into fun performances, but Disney Junior will be giving away Jake and the Never Land Pirates bandanas, too.

CC is a huge fan of Disney Junior's Jake as well as the Story Pirates. It's really amazing how much creativity goes into the latter's live shows. And to know that it's all kid-driven makes for twice the fun.

Here are the details:

Westminster Mall at Macy’s Court
1025 Westminster Mall
Westminster, CA 92683
11 a.m. and 1 p.m.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Martha Stewart's Cooking Again ... on PBS

Martha Stewart helps a press volunteer make an omelet at her PBS panel. (Photo credit: Rahoul Ghose/PBS)
Let me just say that Martha Stewart looks amazing. Seeing her rock an omelet while wearing heels at this weekend's PBS Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton, you wouldn't believe she's about to turn 71.

Some MomsLA friends and I were front and center at her panel, which offered a preview of her upcoming PBS show, Martha Stewart's Cooking School, debuting in October.

Her new program, inspired by her book of the same name, will focus on classic cooking basics and techniques -- something I could definitely use myself.

She was hilarious in the demo/panel -- and quick on her feet. When poor Todd VanDerWerff from The A.V. Club (pictured above) tried to make an omelet alongside Ms. Stewart, she deadpanned that she was afraid of what he was making.

When she was trying to think of the name of a historical figure, she finally sighed and said, "Ken Burns would know." The famous documentary filmmaker just happened to be sitting at one of the front tables in the audience and got a big laugh out of that one.

In true Martha Stewart fashion, she had everyone working -- not only the volunteers on stage but also the audience. She brought jars and ingredients for each of us to make our own vinaigrette -- something, she said, we should never buy in the store but instead make ourselves.

I'm looking forward to checking out the show. Ian and CC, I'm sure, would be happy for me to learn some new tricks when it comes to cooking.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood' Makes Appearance at PBS Press Tour

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood premieres on PBS Kids on Sept. 3. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood © 2011 The Fred Rogers Company)
This weekend's PBS Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton was a must-attend event for more reasons than one.

In addition to attending the fabulously funny Downton Abbey panel and reception, checking out Ken Burns' new documentary on the Dust Bowl and seeing Martha Stewart make an omelet in person, I also enjoyed a panel introducing a little tiger named Daniel, whose new show, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, was inspired by a famous character from my own childhood, Mister Rogers.

Did you get all of that? (I think I can promise that I won't write a longer sentence than the one above for a very long time.)

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which premieres on PBS Kids on Sept. 3, is a new series from the Fred Rogers Company, about 4-year-old tiger Daniel, who is the son of the original show's Daniel Striped Tiger. Through his family and friendships, Daniel shows preschoolers how to navigate the social-emotional issues that come with being a young child.

And he also does it in song!

I had the chance to chat with Angela Santomero, the series creator and executive producer, and executive producer Kevin Morrison after the panel (which also featured Mrs. Joanne Rogers, widow of Fred).

Angela Santomero, Kevin Morrison and Joanne Rogers at the PBS Kids panel. (Photo credit: Rahoul Ghose/PBS)
While Santomero noted just how much research went into the project, which she worked on with The Fred Rogers Company, I wanted to hear about the surprises that come along with any new show. (And besides, I already confident, given her amazing track record with shows such as Blue's Clues and Super Why!)

"The one that I think of is when we moved you to tears," Santomero said, referring to Morrison.

Morrison then reflected on getting teary-eyed when they were working on the closing song.

"It's interesting. I didn't ever meet Fred (Rogers)," said Morrison, who is based at the Fred Rogers Company in Pittsburgh, Penn. "I joined a company that had been working with Fred for most of the staff's lifetime. I was heard occasionally to accuse them of being a cult," he added, jokingly.

"And it wasn't that I didn't profoundly respect what Fred had done, because I did," Morrison said. "I had a huge respect for him, but I didn't think of him as a sort of holy person. The more you get into his work, the more you get to know him through the people that he influenced, the more you just think, this was a very special person."

"I'm not given to tears," he continued, "but we did just get to that point in post-production where we were looking at the final version of the end song, and I just thought, 'I'm all teary-eyed.'"

"We did 'It's Such a Good Feeling,' so it's a new version of Fred's original 'It's Such a Good Feeling' song," Santomero said, "and we see Daniel walking through the new neighborhood of make-believe, and he bumps into each one of the characters little by little as he's going down the street, so it's kind of our version of the 'Bonjour' song in Beauty and the Beast."

"Another (surprising moment) that I think that we tend to overlook, because it happened so organically," added Morrison, "was the development of each one of these characters to become real characters, and it's a combination of the work that goes into it by the artists, drawing those characters and then animating them, and you're seeing them moving around as real people, whereas they've just been sketches up until now, and the quite extraordinary voice talent..."

"And the wonderful writing," Santomero added.

"The characters suddenly come to life in a way that is just a constant joy," said Morrison.

"It is what sets us apart from all the other shows because we do tell these stories that are nicely intertwined, and then across the series you can appreciate it because you can watch the characters grow," Santomero said. "So I keep joking that it's Friends for preschoolers."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A 'Brave' New Playtime World for CC

CC gives a thumbs up to her 'Brave' Mattel toys.
UPDATE: Congrats to Noreen, who won the Brave goodies. Please email me at with your name and address. Thanks to everyone who participated (and

When CC and I saw Disney*Pixar's Brave in theaters last month, that wasn't the first my little munchkin had heard of the strong-willed main character, Merida. CC was a fan even before the animated Scottish princess hit multiplexes.

Besides billboards and posters, CC was mesmerized by the previews, which showed an independent girl who wanted to make her own decisions -- in spite of what her parents were suggesting. Yeah, that sounds a lot like my own little strong-willed girl.

As part of the Mattel Disney Insider program, we also had the chance to check out Mattel's new line of Brave toys, which includes the Brave Gem Styling Merida doll ($20.99) and the Brave Castle and Forest Playset ($26.99).

CC has been playing with both items for the past several weeks and has had such fun with both. The larger Merida doll sports her signature blue gown (which CC has in her own size!), as well as some awesome gladiator-style blue boots that CC loves to take on and off. What's also fun are the Velcro jewels that come with the doll to mix and match over her cape.

Merida has had a lot to share with CC's other princess dolls, Snow White and Cinderella. They all seem to be BFFs now, at least according to the conversations I sometimes overhear in CC's room.

The castle and forest playset have enjoyed countless hours of playtime. I love watching CC make up stories for the castle -- and especially for Merida's horse, Angus. In fact, while the smaller version of Merida, which comes with the set, has been making the rounds around CC's room, CC has placed a new tissue saddle on the mini horse while letting various other toys ride him.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm giving away 1 Brave Gem Styling Merida Doll and 1 Brave Castle and Forest Playset.

To enter, leave a comment below about your favorite part of Brave.

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 this post on Friday, July 27!

(Note: If there's no response in 48 hours, I'll pick another winner.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

*Giveaway* 'An American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars'

UPDATE: Congrats to MLRhino, who won the American Girl: McKenna Shoots for the Stars DVD! Please email me at with your address, and I'll send it right away. Thanks to everyone who participated!

CC hasn't yet joined (or really discovered) the American Girl craze, but I have a feeling my days are numbered on that one. Especially now that we've seen the latest American Girl DVD McKenna Shoots for the Stars, which hit shelves July 3 (SRP: $14.99) from Universal Home Entertainment.

We watched a review copy this weekend, and both CC and I thought this was great girl-friendly entertainment. Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Ian Ziering (Beverly Hills, 90210) and gymnast Cathy Rigby star in the movie, but it's really Jade Pettyjohn, as McKenna, who should get the most attention.

The story focuses on McKenna, a talented young gymnast who has her priorities a bit out of whack -- something every young girl faces when she's great at something. Of course, when you're in the fourth grade, it's really school that should take a front seat. Not so, in McKenna's eyes. For her, it's all about scoring a spot on the elite regional gymnastics team.

With her grades slipping, McKenna's teacher suggests she get a tutor, which makes McKenna feel embarrassed and, shall we say, less than scholarly. But when she takes a bad fall during practice and is stuck with crutches, she is given the opportunity to improve her grades -- while gymnastics takes a back seat.

McKenna Shoots for the Stars touches on a lot of issues that young girls -- and boys, for that matter -- have to deal with. Embarrassment, falling behind, having to make tough choices, and what that might do to friendships. The movie handles all of these issues with care, while empowering kids to make those tough choices and to let them know it's OK to ask for help -- something even grown-ups have a hard time doing sometimes.

I was happy to see the positive themes, while CC had fun watching the gymnastics and asking questions about the girls' feelings and friendships.

I would recommend this for any parent to watch with their child. I also appreciated that the movie stood on its own, rather than as an extension of a brand.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm giving away 1 copy of McKenna Shoots for the Stars on Blu-Ray + DVD (SRP: $14.99).

To enter, leave a comment below about your experience with American Girl -- or with how you've had to deal with a tough school issue.

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 this post on Monday, July 23!

(Note: If there's no response in 48 hours, I'll pick another winner.)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

CC Does Her Best Irish Jig at the Ford

A Gaelic Gathering performs at Big!World!Fun! at the Ford Amphitheatre. (Photo courtesy of Ford Theatres)
CC was literally dancing in the aisles at this lively performance from Irish music and dance troupe A Gaelic Gathering, which kicked off this year's Big!World!Fun! series at the Ford Amphitheatre.

The Los Angeles-based troupe, led by Maire Clerkin, entertained the ample audience with hard shoe jigs, soft shoe reels and lovely Irish songs sung by lead vocalist and accordion player Alice Ryan. The crowd was clapping and whistling, as a trio of dancers did things with their legs that seemed to defy the reality of human anatomy. (I'm assuming they really do have bones!). It was amazing.

So amazing that CC jumped out of her seat and started dancing, along with other little girls and boys in the crowd. It was fun watching them have such a great time, and it was also fun watching the performers on stage watching the girls! Everyone was loving it.

And that's what's so wonderful about this series. Big!World!Fun! introduces kids and families to different cultures through music, theater and dance, and they invite kids to enjoy it the way kids do -- moving, clapping, talking -- without the stress of having to tell them to sit down and be quiet.

Hope you get a chance to check it out this summer. Here's my post about this year's lineup and ticket info. And don't forget how wallet-friendly this outing is. Adults are $5, while kids are free, and parking is only $1.

[Note: Media tickets provided]

Monday, July 9, 2012

Books and Cookies ... and Meeting Diana Ross

Chudney Ross reads from her book, Lone Bean, at Books and Cookies.
A couple of weekends ago, CC and I visited the adorable Santa Monica bookstore Books and Cookies to hear the owner, Chudney Ross, read from her new children's book, Lone Bean.

We love visiting the light, bright and colorful shop just off Main Street. In addition to reading various books around the store -- and devouring a cookie or two -- we heard an excerpt from Ross's book, about a little girl who has a rough start to third grade. Not only does she have m-e-a-n older sisters, she also finds out that her best friend has found a new best friend.

It was definitely a party. Lots of visitors, goodies and face paint. (CC opted for the rainbow.)

But perhaps the biggest surprise was meeting Chudney Ross's mom, the uber-famous Diana Ross, who was there to cheer on her daughter. In fact, Chudney had dedicated the book to her mom. It was pretty cute. Just before Chudney read, she sang "If You're Happy and You Know It" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" with the kids. I had a starstruck moment as I was sitting next to Diana Ross, who was singing "Twinkle Twinkle!" Crazy!

CC and Diana Ross
While CC might not have known exactly who she was sitting next to, I was thrilled that she'll be able to look back on this and say she sat next to a legend.

Be sure to check out the book. I bought a copy and had Chudney sign it for CC. Can't wait to read it to her -- or, by the looks of it, she might be reading it to herself very soon!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Coming Attraction: SummerSounds at the Hollywood Bowl

Summer for kids is just getting started at the Hollywood Bowl, and the music-friendly venue is ready to introduce little Angelenos to reggae, Filipino and Latin music with its annual SummerSounds program, kicking off July 9.

CC and I haven't checked out this program yet, but it sounds really fun and exposes kids to so many cultures. Not only that, but in addition to hearing live music they also get to make arts and crafts.

SummerSounds music and art workshops are held every weekday, twice a day -- at 10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. The music performance is $7 per person, and the art workshops are $5 per child (must be at least 3 years old).

The first two weeks, July 9-20, will spotlight reggae music with leader David Kirton. Kids will learn about the music genre's roots, which started in Barbados.

Weeks three and four, July 23-Aug. 3, will focus on Filipino music from the Philippines with Dulce Capadocia. The interactive dance will include the fable "A Crocodile's Tale," a story about trust and gratitude.

The final two weeks, Aug. 6-17, will close out the season with Latin music. Trio Ellas will lead the kids in mariachi music with an L.A. twist. Kids will learn about the musical combo of guitar, violin and guitarron.

This sounds like such a great time. If you and your kids check it out, let me know how it goes!

Hollywood Bowl
Musical performance tickets: $7 each
Art workshop tickets: $5 per child (must be at least 3 years old)
Parking: Free
To purchase tickets for more information visit  or call  323.850.2000

Friday, July 6, 2012

'Your Picks Your Place' Sweepstakes from Apartment Guide *Sponsored*

This is a Sponsored Post from Apartment Guide, written by an Apartment Guide representative.

Is your place in need of a style update? Apartment Guide has partnered with TV host and design expert Kim Myles for the second annual Apartment Guide “Your Picks. Your Place.” Sweepstakes.

From now until August 14, visit to vote once per day for your preferred room design, showcasing furniture and home décor items selected by featured bloggers. The site will feature four different room designs every two weeks. By voting, you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $10,000 grand prize or one of eight $250 weekly prizes to go towards your own selections for your home. While you’re on the site, you can find design and décor tips from Kim Myles, Apartment Guide and featured bloggers to help you design a room that’s uniquely you.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Sweepstakes ends @ 9:00 PM on 8/14/12, subject to Entry Periods outlined in Official Rules. Must be a US legal resident of the 50 US or DC and 18 years of age or older. Sweepstakes subject to full Official Rules available at Void where prohibited.

(Disclosure Statement: Apartment Guide and owner Consumer Source, Inc. partner with bloggers such as me to participate in blogger programs. As part of that program, I received compensation. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any products and believe that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Consumer Source’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendation.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July! Hope you and your family have an awesome day.

We're definitely planning some outdoor time, as well as dinner with friends. Yay!

If you need to whip up a fun dessert for tonight's dinner party, check out these colorful recipes from The editors and designers worked on each recipe (I made the stained glass Jell-O), and it was a true labor of love!

Whatever you do today, be safe and have fun!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Coming Attraction: Big!World!Fun! at Ford Amphitheatre

It looks like another fun summer lineup, as Big!World!Fun! kicks off another season at Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday, July 7.

This family-friendly -- and wallet-friendly -- outing is such a great way to get kids moving to the sound of international beats. The Saturday-morning programs feature live music, dance and theater performances representing cultures from all over the world. The hour-long shows are geared toward kids ages 4-10.

This will be the third year we've taken CC to see a show, and I can't wait. The atmosphere is so happy and laid-back, and the music and dancing has always been reliably fantastic.

What's more is that in addition to the show itself, there are pre-show activities before each performance. (Last year, CC touched petrified dino poo, courtesy of Kidspace Children's Museum!) Kids will have the opportunity to craft Celtic trees of life for this weekend's Irish music and dance performance.

Jung Im Lee Korean Dance Academy
Here's a rundown of the season, which is scheduled for Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. through Sept. 1.

 July 7 -- A Gaelic Gathering: Irish Music and Dance -- "Fiddles and flutes accompany hard shoe jigs and hornpipes, soft shoe reels and slipjigs."

July 14 -- Contra-Tiempo -- "Contra-Tiempo fuses salsa, Afro-Cuban and contemporary dance to create an invigorating urban dance theater experience."

July 28 -- Shakti Dance Company -- "Shakti Dance Company presents classical Indian dance by masterful performers."

Aug. 4 -- Kilohana Performing Arts Company -- This company "presents 'Hopoe, the Dancing Stone,' a Hawaiian musical play."

Aug. 11 -- La Santa Cecilia -- La Santa Cecilia combines up-tempo South American rhythms, with bolero, tango and more.

Aug. 18 -- Jung Im Lee Korean Dance Academy, Hikari Taiko and Yen Yen Dance Group -- "Dancing and drumming from Korea, Japan and China offer families a dynamic exploration of traditional Asian music and culture."

Aug. 25 -- The Dustbowl Revival -- This Venice-based roots and jazz collective "merges old-school bluegrass, gospel, jug-band and swamp blues with the hot swing of the 1930s."

Sept. 1 -- Viver Brasil -- "Viver Brasil's music and dance brings to life lively stories of West African Yoruba spiritual deities."

John Anson Ford Amphitheatre
2580 Cahuenga Blvd., East
Hollywood, CA 90068

Big!World!Fun! (Saturdays at 10 a.m.; pre-show starts at 9 a.m.)
Adults ($5) Children (Free)
Parking: $1

Monday, July 2, 2012

I've Got More News!

Yes, it's true! Ian and I are going to have a Baby Clark 2.0! And it's a boy!

We're so excited! Despite what the pic above looks like, I'm actually 25+ weeks along, and I'm due in October. (That dress is hiding a lot! Magic?)

I meant to write about this several weeks ago, but time has gotten away from me. This pregnancy is definitely going faster -- maybe because I already have a little munchkin that I'm chasing around.

And speaking of that munchkin, she's very excited to be a big sister. It wasn't always like that, though. When she found out -- I accidentally slipped -- she got so upset. I think it just took her by surprise. But after I told her all the things she could do with a little brother (dress him up, put on shows for him) and what an amazing big sister she would be, she got a lot happier.

Now, she's talking -- more like shouting -- at my stomach and into my mouth, "Baby! Baby!"

It's cute to see.

I'll keep you posted on how things are going, so stay tuned!


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