Saturday, December 08, 2012

Toyota at the L.A. Auto Show: My Car Hunt Begins

Next we got to witness the unveiling of the brand new 2013 RAV4. I don't want to get too dramatic, but I have to say it was pretty exciting to be the first ones to lay eyes on this beauty as it rolled onto the stage, not unlike seeing your child being born. Okay, that's going too far – maybe just like seeing your friend's child being born.


A car is born.
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Friday, November 30, 2012

Pop-Up Pantry: So good no one will think you cooked it yourself

True story: When I was in my 20's, a friend and I were put in charge of dinner plans for a group of us celebrating a friend's birthday. We did what all normal twentysomethings would do: We concocted an elaborate hoax and a web of lies intended to fool those close to us.

Instead of cooking, we bought a ton of really good Chinese food and told everyone we'd made it ourselves. (Because who has time to cook when it's the 80's and you're busy trying to score Duran Duran tickets or searching for the perfect shoulder pads?) Behind closed doors, we emptied take-out cartons into skillets and woks, making sure they sizzled extra loud for added effect. We forbid anyone from entering the kitchen lest they lay eyes on us reheating wonton soup or catch a glimpse of the stack of empty containers outside the back door.

Years later when we came clean to our friends they pretended that they'd known all along that we hadn't cooked, because "That meal was way too good for you guys to pull off." We instantly regretted not having stirred the duck sauce with our feet.

But flash forward to now, and it's no longer a dirty secret to serve pre-prepared food to your guests. We're still busy, and realize it's perfectly fine to have a little help if we need to work or would rather hit the town. (Although how many times do you really need to see Duran Duran?)...Read More...

Get in mah belly, you crazy mushroom crostini and bastilla.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

ParaNorman: Zombie-Proof and Teen-Approved

It's not surprising that since my kids have morphed into teens, it's getting more and more difficult to find movies that we can all see together as a family. While I'm trying to talk them into seeing the latest PG offering they're begging me to buy them tickets to (and then sit five rows behind them) for Magic Mike.

By the way, their attempts to fool me into thinking that Channing Tatum plays a ballroom dancer in Magic Mike didn't work. Do they think I was born yesterday? Everyone knows it's about a magician.

But last weekend we were invited to a screening of a movie we all actually wanted to see – ParaNorman...Read more...

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Who says teenagers don't have their priorities straight?

Ah, October. The anticipation of fall is in the air, and the excitement of the upcoming holidays start to buzz around. Then there's Costco, busy as bees setting up their Valentine's Day display.

It's also homecoming time at the high school, and my girls were getting ready. They were both performing at the game and going to the dance the next day. To quote Katy Perry, they were livin' a teenage dream! To add to our festive mood, we received an invitation to check out HalloweenTime at Disneyland, which kicks off their holiday season in the park. But guess what – it happened to be on the very same day of the dance. If there was an emoticon to symbolize feelings of teenage conflict and angst, I'd insert it here.

Actually Kiyomi was pretty relieved – she'd been waffling about going for awhile, and finally reluctantly decided to go with a group of friends. This may have been because I sort of 'strongly suggested' she go in order to have a true 'high school experience.' I get like that a lot, trying to force my teenage memories on my kids. Someday I'll tell you about the time I made her get a perm, put on leg warmers and get disappointed by a cute boy. It was epic.

She wasted no time in cancelling her homecoming plans and whipping out the face paint. Something tells me she wasn't planning on going to that dance in the first place.

But Kira on the other hand was in full homecoming mode. Ironically, their theme was Disney, and she and some of her friends were going together and basing their outfits on Disney Princesses.

I need to just pause right here and address all of you out there with young girls who are hoping their daughters will someday outgrow their 'princess phase,' who might be dreaming of a time when you can stop buying those candy-colored puffy dresses: Sorry, but that day may never come, you'll just have to start buying them in bigger sizes and with lower necklines.

Kira found a billowy yellow dress, a pair of yellow shoes and some accessories shaped like red roses to put together her Belle-derivative outfit. (It all came from Forever 21, which is somewhere you know the Disney princesses would shop if they lived near a mall and had a fondness for knockoff dresses and dollar nail-polish.)

She was looking forward to an evening of mild-debauchery with her friends sullying the Disney Princess image, so you can imagine the conflict when I told her we'd been invited to Disneyland on the same day as the dance. Honestly, I thought she would have a flicker of disappointment, wish us a fun time and then go back to pondering lip glosses. She is 16, after all, and what could be more important than the homecoming soiree?

But apparently a trip to the Magic Kingdom is just more magical than a night in an overheated gymnasium pretending you're in the Magic Kingdom, and after a quick query with her friends on Facebook (who almost unanimously said, "Are you crazy, DISNEYLAND OF COURSE") she decided to blow off the dance. Anyone who thinks that teens have outgrown Disney would be mistaken – within hours of her decision she had sold her ticket and replaced her tiara with a pair of mouse ears.

But she's nothing if not resourceful – she wore her homecoming dress to Disneyland that day.

Find out more about HalloweenTime and our day at the park here.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

About to start talking to the lamp

It had been one of those days, an endless blur of errands and activities. Now I'd lost my keys and was frantic because we were headed out again. I finally found my keys in the sofa, whisked both girls outside and into the car. I took one last look in the back seat to make sure I hadn't forgotten one of the kids, because according to those Lifetime movies that sort of thing happens more than you might think.

But there was one problem. I COULDN'T REMEMBER WHERE WE WERE GOING. Honestly, for a few seconds (okay, maybe more) I could not figure out what it was that I'd been rushing around for. I glanced at what I had brought thinking it might provide a clue as to our activity/destination. Maybe a dance bag, a picnic lunch or a book on 'What To Do When You Meet Oprah' might jog my memory. Unfortunately the only thing in my hand was a hot cup of coffee, which was no help at all unless we were going to heaven which was highly unlikely.

I finally did remember where we were going (to meet another family at a movie.) And since the girls were so young, I was still able to use the "Damn kids stole my memory" excuse. In fact, when we arrived at the theater, my friend topped my story by recalling how she'd left the house in only her bra and yoga pants the day before. Instead of making me feel better it made me wish I'd exaggerated mine a little more by adding that I'd accidentally robbed a liquor store on the way over. That happened in a Lifetime movie, too.

My kids are older now. Teenagers don't require as much of my help getting ready, besides putting my purse where they can find it so they can fish out a twenty. There aren't as many activities that require my driving – they're experts at taking the Metro, and I've carefully trained them to ask their dad first.

But sadly my absent-mindedness has endured. Take yesterday – I'd been focusing on a prominent, thick white hair that seemed to have sprouted out of my scalp overnight. It taunted me with it's brightness, refusing to hide behind the other darker, younger, hotter-looking hairs.

When I finally did decide to yank it out, I was surprised to discover that it wasn't a white hair at all, but a thin string of cheese. Apparently I'd gotten more involved with my omelet that morning than I remember. I made a note to myself to go back to using utensils when eating.

But instead of being elated, I was shocked. Foodstuffs ending up on my body unbeknownst to me? I think this was a new low, much worse than the oatmeal-on-my-lapel that was so cute when you have babies to care for. I made light of it by making a humorous cheese-in-my-hair joke to myself, but I was secretly mortified to know that I was one step away from showing up at meetings with jam smeared all over the front of my colonial blouse.

I'm thinking it's all downhill from here. I'll start finding my purse in the freezer after having the family search for it all day. I'm going to start yelling because I can't control the TV with the remote, and the kids will have to gently tell me that I'm pointing my cell phone at the microwave. I'll wonder why my husband is ignoring me, and it'll be because I've been talking to the piano all morning.

But I can tell you one thing – I've never left the house in only my bra and yoga pants. Yet.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Party like a YouTube star

A couple of weeks ago Rigel and I were invited to a party and we took the girls with us. Not only that, but it was at a restaurant called Pink Taco, located on the Sunset Strip. You might be asking yourself, "What kind of crazy people take their teenagers to a party in the middle of Hollywood at a Mexican joint with a name that is slang for lady parts?" We asked ourselves this, too, but their tasty yet strong margaritas made it hard to answer our own questions.

But this wasn't just any party, it was a party being thrown by the awesome people at Nintendo, part of their sneak peek weekend to intro their upcoming Wii U system. But besides that and the excellent guacamole, there was another reason we had to come: there were a few celebrities Kiyomi wanted to stalk meet and Kira - well, she just likes a good party.

I've got to tip my hat to Nintendo, because they really do have a beat on the teen market. While other brands are busy catering to young kids, or adults with young kids, or babies still in the womb – Nintendo manages to get into the teenage brain, sort through all the Cheeto dust and find what they really want.

Case in point: The celebrities they had at this gatherings were YouTube stars, and if you know anything about anything you know that these young, talented, hip personalities are like superheros to teenagers and are going to take over the world someday. (Sorry, you old, tired celebrities that don't have YouTube channels.) When Kiyomi found out she was going to be in the same room with a few of these dudes, I believe her exact words were, "MY LIFE IS COMPLETE." I think the only time I've ever uttered those words was when I discovered I could buy Pringles at the gas station.

(Seriously, if you want to impress your teenager and up your hipness quotient without squeezing into a pair of skinny jeans and putting on a beret, memorize these names and check out their YouTube channels.)

Adam Robertson
Jimmy Wong
Joey Graceffa
Luke Canard
Alex Carpenter

There were more there, but these are Kiyomi's faves. She made cards for each of them, proving the apple doesn't fall far from the social media tree:

(This one was for Michael Aranda, who wasn't there that night. If you're reading this, Michael, your card's waiting for you.)

These guys were all so super sweet to my girls, taking the time to chat and take pictures.  But here's the thing about teenage girls who aren't yet YouTube stars – they don't like having their photos posted on the internet. So here's the only one I was allowed to show, Adam Robertson laughing along with Kiyomi's arms. We're hoping Adam makes a YouTube video of Kiyomi's arms and it goes viral and her arms become superstars:

One of her faves, Jimmy Wong, wasn't at the party but when he received his card (via the spectacular Justine Hanks) he sent Kiyomi an email and a photo. See? Super sweet.

Jimmy Wong has a special place in my heart because he made this video last year in response to that racist rant by that awful UCLA student. I wonder what she's doing now? I'll bet she's not partying with Nintendo. *evil laugh*

I asked Kiyomi to sum up her YouTube celeb encounters and this is what she said: "Meeting all those YouTube people was super cool!!! They were all really nice and friendly and THEY'RE A LOT TALLER IN PERSON WOW." There you have it. Nice AND tall – what more could you ask for?

The next morning we headed out to Siren Studios in Hollywood to actually try out the Wii U and a few of their new games. Sadly, the YouTube guys weren't there but there was still plenty of things for my girls to swoon over. You can read all about our day and our experience with the Wii U over here. Check it out before the Nintendo Wii U is released on November 18!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Emily Owens M.D.: Three Thumbs-Up (That's one adult & two teens)

One thing I've learned: teens and medical shows don't mix. I've tried before to get my 14 and 16-year-old daughters to check out past episodes of my favorite, ER, but to no avail – they prefer the world of glee clubs, mean girls, quirky twentysomethings and zombie apocalypses. I was even clueless enough to try and entice them with the George Clooney connection, to which my youngest crushed me with, "THAT old guy?" Right then I decided there was no way she was getting my Tony Bennett Live on VHS in the will, either.

So to be honest, when I got invited to a screening of the CW's new show, Emily Owens M.D. I didn't get my hopes up. (Although a big selling point was that the show's star Mamie Gummer is the daughter of Meryl Streep – one of my 16-year-old's faves.) But guess what? They loved it. And so did I...Read more...

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Friday, October 12, 2012

When Phones Attack

We have this thing at home called a landline. It's stupid. Not only is it connected to the biggest phone you've ever seen in your life, but you can't even check your email, or update your Facebook status on this thing. What kind of genius invented this phone that is only good for making calls? It doesn't even have a camera. Stupid phone.

I hardly even answer this phone anymore, because the only people who call on this number are people trying to sell me something or people who accidentally dial our number when they're looking for their pot dealer. A few weeks ago I answered it and someone asked for 'Cy' (or was it, 'Sigh'?) I told the guy he had the wrong number and then he became belligerent, like I was lying or trying to keep him from talking to Cy/Sigh and maybe cut in on his pot deal. He never actually said the words 'pot' or 'deal' – he just said, "Bitch!" and then hung up – but I know what he was thinking.

My mother also calls me on this number, which led to the single most ridiculous incident of 2012 (so far.) I recently recorded a new outgoing message with my voice, replacing the one of Rigel's voice that had been on there for the past few months. For some reason my mom thought this was a sign that we had gotten divorced, and I had to assure her that this was America in the 21st century and that women were allowed to have their voices represent the household, at least on a phone machine and as long as they ended the message with a high-pitched giggle and the words, "Husband is King!"

(I know everyone is getting rid of their landlines, but we're hanging on to ours since we figure if there's some sort of catastrophic cell outage, or a monster sun flare it will be good to have a landline handy. Unless there's a meteor, in which case we're screwed.)

But tonight was the last straw. Around seven o'clock the phone in my office started ringing, and I decided to answer it because, what sales person or druggie is going to call me that late? (Okay, maybe the druggie, but I didn't want to make any more enemies.) As I was bringing the receiver to my ear I accidentally whacked myself in the face with it, and after blaming Rigel and the kids (all of whom were out of the house at the time) I started yelling at the phone and cursed its mother. Luckily it was only a recording, but I think I made my point.

Anyway, I've decided to never, ever answer this phone again. So if you want to get in touch with us, call our cell or knock on our door. (Just kidding - don't ever, under any circumstances, come over unannounced.) I think we may even just change the number, which means the telemarketers and the pot dealers are going to have to work extra hard to find me. Cy/Sigh, I hope you're listening.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Los Angeles Times, I Just Can’t Quit You

I wrote this post for MomsLA. Rigel and I are scaling down our L.A. Times subscription, and I'm finding that my morning coffee doesn't taste nearly as good without the smell of newsprint.

I’ve been reading the Los Angeles Times for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I recall my parents bringing the paper in from the front porch and reading it every morning. I would wander in and go straight for the Calendar section, which back then was the size of a large magazine and as thick as the entire paper is now. I’d take it back to my room, sip a Cactus Cooler and circle all the concerts I wanted to go to. Elton John at Dodger Stadium. Earth Wind and Fire at the Forum. I’d sit in my room and calculate how many macrame belts I’d have to sell to afford a $15 loge seat. Read More...

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Can you believe I saw 'The Avengers'

Sometimes I like to shock my family by saying things like, "Wake me up early" or "No more coffee for me" or "Let's go see 'The Avengers!'" That last one really threw them for a loop, since it's obvious the movie wasn't my usual fare, which is a love story centering around a couple exploring their feelings, or best friends fighting over a man, or parents trying to find balance in their life while at the same time dealing with their daughter's first boyfriend in a bittersweet story of young love. Now you know why I've seen 'Love Actually' fifty-four times.

But I'd heard lots of good things about 'The Avengers', and I figured any movie that's already made a bazillion dollars must have some redeeming qualities. Also, any movie with Robert Downey Jr. was fine by me, even if he didn't spend half the movie exploring his feelings.

My honest opinion: I liked, but didn't love it. Rigel liked it a little more than me, but neither of us loved it as much as the girls, who spent the entire ride home discussing the abundance of 'hot guys' in the movie, and saying things like, "HIS FAAAACE!! Whyyyyy!" and talking passionately about the intensity of Jeremy Renner's eyes. (They seemed completely nonplussed when they googled his age and found out he was 41, which worries me.)

It was actually Kiyomi's third time seeing the film and she was still enthusiastic about it. She saw a rough cut a couple of months ago and then again at a screening a few weeks before the film was released, via her best friend's mom who works for Disney. She gave Kiyomi this jacket that got a lot of attention (from boys, of course) in the lobby at the ArcLight when we went to see the movie. As you can imagine she guards it with her life:

I think my underwhelming response to the movie is that I'm just not an action-film or superhero-film type of person. But I can see why everyone else loved it – the star power, the snappy dialogue, and even I was pretty excited when all those guys in weird costumes kicked the bad guys' ass. Now if they can just work in a bittersweet love story into 'Avengers 2', I'll be there.

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If you're one of the five people left on the planet who hasn't seen 'The Avengers' or would like to see it again, here's a coupon for a discount ticket to see it at the El Capitan Theatre on Father's Day.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Not what I thought it would be

I wrote the post below three years ago, right before Kira was about to turn thirteen. I just came across it again, and felt like I had to re-post it. At the time I was filled with dread, visions of a teenage apocalypse running through my brain. I thought I was about to fall into the abyss, plunging into a world of teen pregnancy, tongue piercings and secret boyfriends. I imagined my beautiful daughter suddenly morphing into a dark, sullen creature who spent days locked in her room scrawling Black Sabbath lyrics on her arm with a Sharpie while I curled up into a ball and sobbed in the hallway.

Well, none of that came true. (Except for the sobbing in the hallway part, that is, although that's usually due to my internet being down or my inability to find a lint roller.) Both my girls are teens now, and are happy, well-adjusted kids with tons of ambition and great friends. The teenage apocalypse never came, and although there's lots of time for things to take an unexpected turn, I truly feel we're on a good path. And besides - they don't even like Black Sabbath.

(And get this – a couple of years after I wrote this post Kiyomi ended up taking drama lessons from Evan Rachel Wood's mom. If that isn't a circle-of-life moment I don't know what is.)

Flung into the mosh pit of teendom 

Five years ago a friend and I went to see the movie Thirteen .  It starred Evan Rachel Wood as a seemingly well-adjusted thirteen-year-old who falls into the wrong crowd and is seduced by a world of drugs, sex and petty crime.  At the time, my oldest daughter was seven and my friend’s daughter was five, but we both sat hunched in the theater, watching most of the movie through our fingers and horrified at what certainly would be our future.  I think it was the first time ever that I didn’t finish my tub of popcorn, and we both sat frozen, occasionally turning to each other saying hysterical things like, “I’m totally going to check her for piercings!“ and “No sleepovers ever!”  Forget Saw, or Halloween or any of those other horror movies; this was hands down the scariest film I had ever seen.

As you can imagine the movie didn’t let up in its gloomy portrayal of teen life.  And as we all know, Wood went on to date Marilyn Manson, and then was recently seen locking lips with Mickey Rourke. Oh wait – that was in real life.  Doesn’t matter – by the end of the movie my friend and I were convinced that the only sane choice we had was to invest in a couple of sturdy chastity belts and lock our girls in the house until they turned 30. 

Fast forward  five years and here I am, with a daughter that is about to turn the big 1-3 in just two months.  I’m happy to say she didn’t turn out anything like the girl in the movie; she gets straight A’s, has a group of nice, loyal friends and her interests lie more in music and art than in boys and piercings.  But I can’t help but feel she’s on the brink of a huge change, one that I don’t feel my husband and I are quite ready for.  Looking back, every milestone up until now – learning to walk, starting kindergarten, graduating to middle school – while huge, didn’t seem to be as heavy with the prospect of upheaval as becoming a teenager does.  And no surprise, since everything tells us that the teen years are some of the most difficult to navigate.  We’ve all heard the phrase, “Just wait till they become teenagers!” since our kids were born, and every show we see on TV depicting teen life makes it seem as if they’re all a bunch of hormone-crazed, drugged-out, skateboarding miscreants who like nothing better than to make their parents’ lives a living hell.  Why, if I didn’t know any better I’d think it was perfectly common for your fifteen-year-old to come home and announce they were moving in with their 35-year-old gym teacher.

My husband and I keep saying to each other, “So far, so good,” but as it inches closer to her thirteenth birthday our words are beginning to sound more like a panicked question than a comforting thought.  In other words, it’s really sounding more like, “So far she hasn’t told us she hates us or gotten a secret tattoo or stolen our booze but who knows what’s going to happen next week?”  See what I mean? Not comforting at all.

But seeing as I never got around to inventing that time machine, and altering a birth certificate is a crime, there’s no avoiding our beautiful daughter’s leap into the teenage years.  We’ll have to try our best to keep her on the right path, and trust that our parenting up until now has prepared her to make the right choices in life.  We're going to strive to keep the open, respectful relationship we've worked hard at cultivating, and hopefully by the time she's entered adulthood my husband and I will still be able to turn to each other and say, “So far, so good.”  And maybe then we'll even think about unlocking that chastity belt.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

'The Hunger Games' – Let The Giveaway Begin

Read my review of The Hunger Games on Celebrity Teen Scoop.
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Maybe you've heard of this little movie coming out called The Hunger Games. Just a small film, based on a book that sold a gazzilion copies and now has people everywhere eagerly anticipating the movie's release on March 23. There will be a tiny crowd waiting outside, only in the trillions.

To be honest, I've never read the books the movie is based on, but my teenagers have and are going to be amongst that thronging crowd on opening night. We've already got our tickets for the 12:10 showing, and they've got their excuses lined up to tell their teachers the next day explaining why they had to miss first period that morning – they had a fever. Hunger Games fever.

To get you infected with the fever (it's not as painful as it sounds, and I promise there's no blisters involved) I'm giving away a Hunger Games prize package...Click here to enter

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Broke and in love? Bring your Valentine to Cirque du Soleil's OVO for FREE!

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to get invited to see Cirque du Soleil's latest production, OVO. I'm a big fan of Cirque du Soleil, but I have to admit to having a little bit of skepticism with each new show, wondering if they'll be able to top their previous production. Will the acrobats fly a little further, the jugglers juggle a little higher? I keep thinking the only way they'll outdo themselves is if they pick up the entire audience and hurl them into a huge waiting net in the parking lot, feed them dinner and then plunk them back into their seats.

Read more about the show and the FREE ticket here!

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Friday, February 03, 2012

Hollywood Swingin'

I've been humming Hollywood Swingin' – the old Kool And The Gang song – all night. I thought I'd share it just so there's someone else who has it embedded in their brain, compelling you to run out and buy a jumpsuit and a glitter headband. I'm assuming you know the song, or at least who Kool And The Gang is, but if not here's a video to school you. (Don't worry - I won't break into the story about how I saw them at the Greek Theater way back when and stood next to lead singer James 'JT' Taylor while I helped myself to some eggrolls in the green room. That story deserves its own post.)

But I'm getting off topic, because the main reason this song is running through my head is that when I got home this evening (after having dinner on Hollywood Boulevard) I saw the best news headline ever in the history of news headlines:

Cops hunt Catwoman, alien after Capt. Jack Sparrow hurt in Hollywood brawl


The story is that several of the costumed characters that hustle tourists on Hollywood Boulevard got into a brawl, and eventually a man dressed as "Pirates of the Caribbean" character Capt. Jack Sparrow got pepper-sprayed. The three that Sparrow was fighting with – Catwoman, an alien and a second pirate – fled the scene and were being sought by police.

You would think they'd be easy to find, but you'd be surprised how many people you see dressed as Catwoman, an alien or a pirate just walking down the street. This is Hollywood, after all. I once stood in line at Starbucks on Sunset Boulevard behind someone dressed as Batman from the waist up, and a cowboy from the waist down. I'm pretty sure the Caped Crusader never wore fringed chaps with a codpiece.

I'll have to check the news to see if they ever caught Catwoman, the alien and the second pirate. I'm betting someone's already putting together a YouTube video of the three of them throwing a few punches at Jack Sparrow.

Hey, hey hey – what ya got to say? Hollywood swingin'.

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