Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Finds: Grammy-Nominated Jennifer Gasoi

Jennifer Gasoi
The Grammy Awards will air on Sunday, January 26, and one person to keep an eye out for is Jennifer Gasoi, whose Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well is nominated for Best Children's Album.

Gasoi, who hails from Canada, blends a variety of different styles on her album, exposing kids to doo-wop, gospel, bluegrass, klezmer and more.

Her lyrics are fun and engaging, asking kids to use their hands or dance moves to interact with the music.

Listen to snippets from her songs here.

Good luck, Jennifer!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

'Jason and the Argonauts' Has CC 'Greeking' Out at The Wallis

'Jason and the Argonauts' at The Wallis Center for Performing Arts
Picture this. A young man, who is the hidden son of a slain king, goes on a quest to take back the throne of his father while in the process slaying a dragon to nab a coveted golden fleece.

Now picture that with two guys, a muscled group of action figures and one extremely versatile wooden cart.

The result? A fun, laugh-out-loud mythological adventure that sparks the imagination and takes kids (and adults!) on a clever journey across a vast and ferocious sea.

That's what Jason and the Argonauts offers up at the new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

CC and I caught a performance of the kid-friendly (ages 8+) production from the Visible Fictions children's theater of Scotland at the new family-friendly theater.

It was amazing to see two talented actors (Tim Settle and Neil Tomas) take on so many roles -- and maintain an athletic flexibility at the same time. (Jumping up and down from that wooden cart must have burned a ton of calories!) They engaged the audience, took on a multitude of characters and generally took families on the sea voyage of a lifetime.

Before the show, CC and other kids were even invited to make their own paper boats, which added to the fun.

CC at The Wallis
Jason and the Argonauts runs through Feb. 2 at The Wallis, which has a very family-friendly lineup that includes performances of Baseball Swing with The Baseball All-Star Jazz Band and The Trumpet of the Swan.

While general admission tickets to Jason are $25, click here and use promotional code ARGO to buy tickets for just $12.50 for selected performances.

We will definitely be going back!

Jason and the Argonauts (Through Feb. 2)
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Tickets: $25.00 (General Admission) and performances are Thursday and Fridays at 7pm; Saturdays at 3pm and 7pm; Sundays at 2pm and 5pm. Recommended for ages 8+; running time is 65 minutes

[Media tickets provided]

Friday, January 17, 2014

Coming Attraction: 'Dinosaur Train: Nature Trackers Adventure Camp' on PBS Kids

CC has read and re-read lift-the-flap book 'Buddy and the Nature Trackers.'
Parents, it's time to start thinking about camp. And what better way to ease into it than with the upcoming Dinosaur Train special 1-hour episode, Nature Trackers Adventure Camp! It premieres on PBS Kids January 20 (check local listings).

We got a sneak peek of the episode and the accompanying lift-the-flap book, Buddy and the Nature Trackers, which lets kids check out facts in a fun way. What kid doesn't like interacting with hands-on books?

And what a great way for kids to learn about geology and paleontology -- as well as friendship and family with our Pteranodon pals -- before spring break even arrives!

Some of the dino adventures include rafting and ziplining, where Buddy, Tiny, Shiny and Don learn about rivers and erosion, as well as the different ecosystems within a mountain forest.

Check out the episode's descriptions below, and enjoy!

Buddy, Tiny, Shiny and Don go river rafting for the first time at Nature Adventure's Tracking Camp.  Their old pal Jess Hesperornis meets up with them and they all learn about erosion and the importance of rivers, before finishing up their adventure by cruising through some rapids!

For their second outing at Nature Trackers Adventure Camp, Buddy, Tiny, Shiny, Don and other friends learn about the tree line as they set out to hike up a mountain.  Shiny is determined to get to the top of mountain forest. Buddy wonders if they'll be able to see anything from the mountaintop, through the tall trees.  The kids are amazed that the higher they hike, the shorter trees and bushes get!  Then they reach the tree line – a certain point on the mountain, where trees are really small because they don't have enough air to breathe and the temperature is too cold.  In the end, Shiny and all the kids use teamwork to all reach the mountaintop together!

The Nature Trackers Adventure Campers are back for another adventure and this time they'll be travelling to a rainforest!  Once they arrive in the dense rainforest, the campers explore different levels of the ecosystem, including the forest floor and the canopy of leaves at the top of the forest.  After a hike through the rainforest, the campers' fun adventure culminates as each kid takes a ride on a zip line, where they all get a bird's eye view of the entire rainforest!

The Nature Trackers Adventure Campers are led by Mr. Conductor and Gilbert on a hike down a canyon, where they can see the different layers of the Mesozoic Era! At first Lily Lambeosaurus is reluctant to go, thinking that a new adventure sounds hard, but Don convinces her that a new adventure can be worth the effort. At the bottom of the canyon, the kids dig for fossils. Each Nature Tracker goes home with a "new" Ammonite fossil, and Lily is so glad she tried something new!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

'The Wind Rises' Review

'The Wind Rises,' a film by Hayao Miyazaki
Oscar nominations were announced today, and one of the selections for animated films was The Wind Rises, directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

I caught a screening of the film at AFI Fest 2013 in November, without CC, and I've thought a lot about the movie ever since.

If you've ever seen a Miyazaki film (CC loves the ones she's seen -- Ponyo and Howl's Moving Castle), you know how the Japanese director captures sounds and scenes so beautifully. In fact, the sound of wind moving through blades of grass is something of a signature for him. It's almost as if you're right there and you need to brush away a few windblown strands of hair from your face. He's that good.

So I was excited to catch The Wind Rises at the festival. The film, which reportedly will be his last before retirement, takes on a subject close to his heart -- aviation.

The story centers on real-life aerospace designer Jiro Horikoshi, who designed the prototype for the Zero WWII fighter. It's about his talent, ambition, as well as him falling in love.

While it's not a film for small children -- the English-language version coming out in February is rated PG-13, which is why I didn't write about it earlier -- it is a gorgeous film for teens and above.

What's particularly complicated is its journey through World War II Japan, Japan's uneasy ties with Nazi Germany, and the looming sense of the inevitable -- knowing that Japan will eventually attack the U.S.

That and its length (just over 2 hours) is why we'll have to wait several years for this one.

But it is a gorgeous glimpse of Japan in the 1940s and earlier. And a perfect name as well -- because not only do planes and dreams take flight, but also that beautiful wind, which you don't even have to see to believe.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Coming Attraction: SoCal Museums Free-for-All on January 25

Alfredo Ramos Martínez, La Pintora de Uruapan / Uruapan Painter Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of the P. D. McMillan Land Company, 1963.24. © Alfredo Ramos Martinez Research Project, reproduced by permission.
Who doesn't love "free" -- especially when that intoxicating word accompanies "admission" to cool places that families love to visit?

That's what's happening on Saturday, Jan. 25, with the Southern California Museums Free-for-All, when 20 museums in L.A. and Orange County open their doors for free. (Keep in mind that it's general admission only and excludes parking and special exhibits.)

Feel free (there's that word again!) to check out the Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martínez in California exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (pictured up top) or the Global Citizen exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center (a photo from which is pictured below).

All for -- you guessed it -- free.

Marina Bay Sands. View from water. Image by Timothy Hursley

Here's a complete list of participating museums:

Annenberg Space for Photography

Armory Center for the Arts

The Autry National Center of the American West

California African American Museum

California Science Center

Fowler Museum at UCLA

The Getty Center

The Getty Villa

 (Timed tickets are required. Visit

Hammer Museum

Japanese American National Museum

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

 (Offer valid for general admission only. Does not apply to specially ticketed exhibitions.)

Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial

 (Hollywood and San Pedro)

The Museum of Contemporary Art

Museum of Latin American Art

Orange County Museum of Art

The Paley Center for Media

Pasadena Museum of California Art

Santa Monica Museum of Art

Skirball Cultural Center

USC Pacific Asia Museum


Friday, January 10, 2014

Golden Globes, Sosie Bacon and Champagne Cocktails

Sosie Bacon, aka Miss Golden Globe 2014, at The Beverly Hilton
Yesterday I was two degrees away from Kevin Bacon.

The Golden Globe Awards, which will be airing on Sunday, Jan. 12, hosted a luncheon at The Beverly Hilton in honor of their newest Miss Golden Globe -- Sosie Bacon, daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick.

I was able to chat with her a little bit, along with other bloggers, as she made the rounds to the various tables. Not only is she down to earth (she said mom Kyra made sure she had as normal a childhood as possible), but she's also jazzed to meet Golden Globes co-hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. (Can you blame her?)

Have your parents given you any advice about the Golden Globes?

I’ve watched my mom get ready for the Globes, and for every awards show, so many times, so I’m kind of used to it. I’m excited for it to be me that’s getting ready, but she tries to stay calm, plays music, tries to chill out a little bit. I'm just walking in heels and finally getting more used to it.

Is there one thing in particular about The Globes you’re excited about?

I’m excited to meet Amy Poehler and Tina Fey and just to watch them onstage. I’ll probably get to meet a lot of people. I’m excited to eat at the after-parties.

What’s next for you?

I’m just going to continue auditioning and working out here. Pilot season is coming up.

Did you want to get into acting because your parents are so amazing at it?

Oh no, I wouldn’t do it because of that. I never wanted to do it before. I was so against it because I was trying to rebel, and then I was reluctantly like, “This is the only thing I want to do. I love it.” And I absolutely on my own want to do it. It has to do with them, of course, because it’s in my blood. But it’s much more about me and my passions.

Your mom took a lot of convincing for you to be in The Closer episode?

My mom had to be convinced because she wanted me to have a normal childhood and be able to be a kid and be in high school, which I did. But now I’m older and I’m ready to do it, with full force.

What are your favorite movies that your parents have done?

It’s funny because I don’t watch many of their movies because when I was little they were so inappropriate – lots of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – so I didn’t really want to watch them because it was weird. And now that I’m doing it myself, I’m kind of going back and watching a little bit.

I just saw Diner, which is incredible. I watched [Singles] a couple years ago because I was in a real '90s phase. My mom was like, 'I've got a '90s movie for you.'

The Moët Golden Night cocktail created by celebrity chef Aida Mollenkamp
If you're looking to make a signature cocktail for the night, the Moët Golden Night was pretty tasty!

Here's what you need:

Made to celebrate the glamour and glitz of the awards season, Moët Golden Night is a decidedly sophisticated cocktail of cardamom syrup, pear brandy, and Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut Champagne. Garnished with a “fan” of fresh pear slices, this cocktail is the perfect sipper to toast the festivities. 

Makes: 6 cocktails // Enough simple syrup mixture for 8 cocktails
Total Time: 25 minutes
Hands On Time: 5 minutes

1/4 cup unrefined granulated sugar               
1/4 cup water
20 whole cardamom pods, crushed using the back of a knife or a mortar and pestle
1/4 cup pear brandy
1 (750 ml) chilled Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut Champagne
2 small ripe Forelle or Seckel pears, for garnish

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, stir to dissolve the sugar, add the crushed cardamom pods and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer the simple syrup for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to steep and cool for 20 minutes.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the simple syrup, discard the seeds and pods, and place the simple syrup into a liquid measuring cup. Add the pear brandy and stir to combine. (The pear-cardamom simple syrup mixture can be made up to 2 days ahead and the Asian pears can be peeled up to 2 hours ahead.)

Just before serving, cut the pear off the core and slice pear lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices. (Separate slices into stacks of three and spread slightly to make a fan. If cutting slices ahead of serving time, coat them with a little lemon juice to prevent them from browning.)

To serve, add 1/2 ounce of the pear-cardamom simple syrup mixture to 6 white wine glasses or 6 Champagne coupes (this makes enough syrup for 8 cocktails). Add 4 ounces of chilled Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut Champagne to each glass, filling each glass about halfway. Garnish each glass with three pieces of fanned pear slices and serve.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chilling Out at The Queen Mary in Long Beach

CC at The Queen Mary in Long Beach
"SoCal" turned into "SoCold" for CC and me on Saturday, as we took a trip down to Long Beach to visit Chill at The Queen Mary, a kid-friendly wonderland with ice sculptures, ice skating and tubing.

Even if it wasn't exactly the Polar Vortex, temps in the dome next to the famous British-born ship, got down to a reported 9 degrees F -- chillier than any winter L.A. day.

Clara, from "The Nutcracker," carved out of ice.
Featuring an "Ice Kingdom" filled with ice sculptures of characters from The Nutcracker and a replica Queen Mary, complete with three ice slides, Chill is quite the event.

In addition to the icy, single-digit-degree kingdom, there's also ice skating, tubing and outdoor attractions, such as face painting and character meet-ups.

You can also visit The Queen Mary herself -- gratis with Chill admission.

While the events themselves are cool -- pardon the pun -- be prepared to wait ... and wait some more ... in lines. The timed Ice Kingdom tickets are helpful, but you still have to wait a bit once you arrive.

The Queen Mary made of ice, plus ice slides.
The tubing line is especially lengthy (we waited over an hour) -- but it's worth it. CC even said so. It's so fun flying down that iced-over slide on an inner tube! Plus, you get 5 turns on it.

Be sure to wear warm clothing, too!

We even squeezed in a trip to the Queen Mary ship, which CC loved! She even asked to visit again. We both enjoyed strolling down the long decks, checking out preserved sections that showed how the passenger ship once looked when it made trips across the ocean.

For a chilly staycation or day trip -- without the flight delays -- the Chill would make for a good one.

Chill at The Queen Mary
Through Jan. 12
Tickets: Adults ($19.95-$29.95 online); Children ($9.95-$19.95 online)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Goodbye, Sassy

CC took this pic of Sassy after placing a giant bow on her head.
Yesterday, we lost such a sweet, docile and loving part of our family. Sassy was 11 years old, and I can't believe she's gone.

I rescued her from an animal shelter in Burbank about five months after I moved to Los Angeles. It was actually my second trip to the shelter. I had come looking for a different cat, which had already been rescued, when I saw her. She kept walking up to the front of her cage, happily asking to be taken home and loved.

Ian had been there, too, and said, "What about this one?"

CC made this sign for Sassy before we had to let her go.
She was the sweetest cat I've ever known -- always ready to jump on my lap and purr anytime I sat down.

When CC came into the world, Sassy loved her instantly, forming an unbreakable bond that included indignities such as being sat on, climbed over, toted around and yes -- as you can see in the above pic -- even dressed and accessorized.

She was tolerant of Will's rowdiness, too. He would shout his baby screams in her face, pat her tummy just a little too hard (which we tried to correct), but he would also lay his head down on her body and smile. I wish I had gotten a pic of that just once, but he always moved before I could fumble around and get the camera.

Yesterday was so hard. Watching my daughter finally break down in tears after realizing what everything meant. Watching my loyal cat fade away.

It was a gorgeous, peaceful day, though. The sun was shining, sheets of sun rays sliding down in between buildings.

She is loved -- and will always be loved.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

CC lights up the night with a sparkler
DJ Will rocked New Year's Eve!


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