Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight: Everybody panto now


Let me just start off by saying SLEEPING BEAUTY AND HER WINTER KNIGHT at the Pasadena Playhouse is not for everybody. If you like your theater and its music unadulterated and stick-to-the-script you might be better off seeking out a more traditional telling of this classic tale. The one where the princess gets her kiss, gets her prince, and then gets to sing that song.

However, if you're looking for an invigorating, unpredictable production that is a real kick-in-the-pants with catchy top-40 tunes, big doses of humor and some names your teens will swoon over – I suggest you definitely check out SLEEPING BEAUTY AND HER WINTER KNIGHT at the Pasadena Playhouse. Don't worry – the princess still gets the prince in the end of this production, too. She just gets to sing a John Legend song while it's happening.

From the production:
An updated version of the classic Grimm fairytale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto, SLEEPING BEAUTY and Her Winter Knight is a singing and soaring winter adventure that features family- friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with 'So You Think You Can Dance' alumni), interaction with the audience and contemporary music from Jessie J's 'Domino' to John Legend's 'All Of Me,' Pharrell Williams 'Happy' to Survivor's 'Eye of The Tiger' and more. 


I had my first introduction to panto last year at the Playhouse's Aladdin And His Winter Wish. It took a little getting used to, but I now see it's such a celebratory, exciting form of interactive theater. The audience – especially the kids - are so enthusiastic about participating with the actors on stage, and the contemporary music is especially enticing for tweens and teens. This production had a great cast – Disney Recording Artist Olivia Holt, Garret Clayton (Disney's Teen Beach Movie) and Tamyra Gray (American Idol) that my teens were familiar with. And while they described Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) as 'before their time,' they agreed she made a great Maleficent.


One of the things that makes this production special is the Winter Wonderland event that takes place in The Playhouse’s Engemann Family Courtyard before every performance. Guests and their families can enjoy – free of charge – crafts, activities, games, Santa Claus (on select dates) and photo opportunities. (There is also face painting for a nominal fee.) For the adults, there's a no-host bar in the courtyard provided by the adjacent restaurant, redwhite+bluezz – they'll even give you a cup with a lid so you can have a little wine with your panto.

If you want to take your family to a unique, family friendly, all ages show this holiday, definitely check out SLEEPING BEAUTY AND HER WINTER KNIGHT at the Pasadena Playhouse. Performances run through January 4 and you can click here to purchase tickets. There are also a couple of special experiences your kids can take part in, like Golden Tickets (a special on-stage sing-a-long experience during the show) and Character Breakfasts.

The Pasadena Playhouse
39 South El Molino Avenue,
Pasadena CA 91101

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Things to do besides shopping: SLEEPING BEAUTY AND HER WINTER KNIGHT at the Pasadena Playhouse

It's December so now you've shifted into holiday season overdrive, running yourself ragged with shopping and family obligations. You might already be decorating like a crazy person. You've definitely cried at least once.

Here's a suggestion: Take a break and head out for an evening of live theater. Statistics* show that people who attend live theater during the holiday season are 95% more likely to refrain from drinking too much and fighting with family at the annual holiday party.

(*I made that statistic up. Nothing can keep you from drinking too much and fighting with your family.)

To start you off, I have FREE tickets to give away to Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight at the Pasadena Playhouse. Great casting: Disney Recording Artist Olivia Holt, Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) and – for the teens and tweens in the audience – Garret Clayton (Disney's Teen Beach Movie).

See how peaceful she looks? She's finished with all her holiday shopping.
Even better – before every performance, all Playhouse guests and their families are invited to enjoy a 'Winter Wonderland' event in The Playhouse’s Engemann Family Courtyard free of charge, complete with crafts, activities, games, Santa Claus (on select dates) and photo opps.

I went to last year's holiday show at the Pasadena Playhouse and my girls and I loved it. The production was first rate, and the activities in the courtyard got us out of our funk and into the holiday spirit. (And that was before they met Neil Patrick Harris in the lobby.)

From the production: An updated version of the classic Grimm fairytale, in the style of a traditional British family Panto, SLEEPING BEAUTY and Her Winter Knight is a singing and soaring winter adventure that features family- friendly magic, with a comedic twist, dancing (with 'So You Think You Can Dance' alumni), interaction with the audience and contemporary music from Jessie J's 'Domino' to John Legend's 'All Of Me,' Pharrell Williams 'Happy' to Survivor's 'Eye of The Tiger' and more. 

So get out and see some live theater this holiday season – the mall will still be there when you're done.

What: 'Family PacK' of 4 tickets to Sleeping Beauty And Her Winter Knight for Wednesday, December 10 at 7:30pm.

How: Leave a comment here no later than 11:30pm Sunday night (December 7) telling me your favorite live performance you've seen. I'll use random.org to draw a winner from the entries. One comment per person, but you can share on Facebook or Twitter for additional entries. Please don't forget to leave a valid email address.

The Pasadena Playhouse
39 South El Molino Street, Pasadena
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things we're eating: Ramen Bar

One of our favorite meals around here is something I call Ramen Bar. All I have to do is call out, "Ramen Bar" around dinnertime, and everyone stops what they're doing and comes running. And by 'come running' I mean they actually put their cell phones down and make their way to the kitchen.

When I've mentioned to people that I'm making ramen for dinner, I've gotten some judgy questions: "Is a 25¢ block of noodles really a sufficient meal?" "What about all that sodium? " "You're Asian, isn't ramen for dinner just a cop-out and a cliché?"

Once I've given them some serious side-eye, I explain that this isn't your dorm-room ramen. These are fresh noodles that you purchase from an Asian market, and with a bunch of different toppings – all fresh ingredients – laid out that everyone can choose themselves. My teens and their friends seem to especially like this – it's about time we let them make their own decisions, and there's nothing like being the boss of your soup.


Start with fresh noodles - you can find these in the refrigerated section of most Asian markets. Each package has two servings. Or only one if you want a larger portion. Our local ramen shop offers a 'large order' that comes in a bowl the size of a child's wading pool.


They usually have three different flavors available: Shoyu (soy sauce), Miso and Spicy Sesame. The  flavor refers to the broth packet that comes in the package, but this isn't the usual powder that comes in a foil packet that comes with Top Ramen – it's a liquid, slightly oily paste that you mix with boiling water to make your broth. If you're a purist you can even make your own (here's a good recipe from momofuku) but honestly I've been-there-done-that and the broth that comes with these fresh noodles is really good, so why bother? Use the extra time for sipping some cold saké.

Sidenote: While you're at the Asian market you should really pick up some of these to reward yourelf for all of your hard work:


Back to our ramen: Next, lay out a bunch of toppings. I've used slices of chicken, hard-boiled or fried eggs, tofu, cilantro, basil, sliced jalapeño, shredded cabbage, green onions and lime. This is probably more of a ramen/pho mashup of toppings – more traditional ramen toppings would be bean sprouts, sliced shiitake mushrooms, spinach, nori (seaweed), kamaboko (fish cake) and char siu (barbecued pork.) Really, the sky's the limit – just don't do anything weird like french fries or Oreos because then I'll have to send the Asian police to your door.

The broth concentrate goes into your bowl and covered with boiling water. Meanwhile, cook your noodles for 2 minutes, drain, and serve up into the broth with the toppings nearby. Yell out, "Ramen Bar" and watch your hungry family stampede over. Sort of.


(Not to imply that those store-bought, hard bricks of noodles don't have their place. This video of Hayao Miyazaki making ramen for his staff is one of my favorites. If Top Ramen is good enough for the director of 'Totoro', it's good enough for me.)

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I signed up to do NaBloPoMo (short for National Blog Posting Month) which is an online event where bloggers are challenged to post every single day of the month. This is only my third post out of twelve days, which is bad no matter how you do the math.



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Friday, November 07, 2014

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

What's on my mind tonight? Fantasy vs. reality. Mainly, this big box of lies:


I bought this for one of the girls' sleepovers, because what could be more genius than food that comes in its own serving container? Can you imagine the possibilities? What if you could buy a big, juicy steak that came on its own plate and then after you were done stuffing your face with that big animal carcass you could just dump the whole thing in the trash? Isn't that the definition of heaven?

My illusions were shattered, though, when I popped up one of these lying liars and it came out like this:


When I followed the instructions and pulled off the top, the bag ripped and popcorn went flying. Also, if you look at the picture on the box the popcorn is bursting out the bowl, but in reality it is barely 1/3 full. They need to rename this Straight Up Lies Bowl.

Did I eat it? YOU BET YOUR BUTTER-SOAKED FINGERS I DID.



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I just signed up to do NaBloPoMo (short for National Blog Posting Month) which is an online event where bloggers are challenged to post every single day of the month. I started late, but I intend to finish. Only 23 more days to go! Grab some popcorn and pull up a chair.


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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Don't come at me with your technology fasts

Don't be frightened children – it's just a cellphone from the '90's.
A few days ago I was trying to send a photo to a friend via text, and my phone died. My phone is old so this has been happening a lot, and I proceeded to do what I do every other time this happened – curse at it, threaten to throw it out the window (because it feels threatened when I say this) and then eat a handful of potato chips to ease my suffering.

Of course, then I had my kumbaya moment where I realize how fortunate I am to be able to take a picture with my phone and then somehow miraculously send it through space to my friend's phone fifty miles away, and I took a step back and just praised science. Then I had another handful of potato chips to calm myself down.

Technology has been daunting to me lately – my phone dies, my computer crashes, my FitBit keeps telling me I'm a lazy bitch – and a friend suggested I join her in a tech fast that she was embarking on. This inhumane endeavor consisted of going three days – cold turkey – without any computer or phone use, except for work or essential activities. This meant no posting on Facebook, sharing pictures on Instagram, conversing on Twitter or texting photos of my cocktail to Rigel.

This sounded like a hell I wanted no part of. Who would validate my feelings about life if I couldn't share them on Facebook? How would I know about world events without my Twitter feed? And without photographing my lunch and then enhancing it with a pleasing filter, DOES FOOD EVEN EXIST AT ALL?

I politely declined to participate in this heinous exercise in self-torture, and it got me thinking about how we all love to demonize technology, although I think there are very few of us who could go without it. Is this just a fad? I can't imagine a farmer in the 1800's declaring that he was going to go on a plow fast, or our parents defiantly announcing that they would go without their toaster oven for an entire seventy-two hours. Come to think of it, I don't remember any one of my friends ever bemoaning the fact that they were becoming overly-dependent on their pager, either.

I'm still going to curse at my phone and threaten to cut my computer if it shows me that goddamn spinning beachball again, and yell – at no one in particular and on a daily basis – "They can put a man on the moon but I can't get a decent WiFi signal in my bathroom?!" But I won't be giving up my technology anytime soon. Come to think of it, not my potato chips, either.
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I just signed up to do NaBloPoMo (short for National Blog Posting Month) which is an online event where bloggers are challenged to post every single day of the month. I joined in around six days in, which means I've already failed before I even started. On the upside, you can come back here everyday for thrilling stories, like this one about my phone.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kill It: A Love Story

This story is 100% true*.

Last night our cat Milkshake started freaking out, doing this thing where he starts dashing around and leaping at air because he senses danger. To my horror I realized it was this: a humongous beast had appeared in one of the innocent decorations left over from Kiyomi's Sweet 16 party.

*Scale slightly exaggerated for artistic purposes
It was 3:30 in the morning.

First I got out a pair of binoculars so I could get a closer look. Because isn't that what binoculars are for? We aren't bird watchers so I don't know what they would be doing in our house otherwise.

*Size and facial expression slightly exaggerated for artistic purposes
It was more dire than I thought. It was huge, ugly and worst of all it was CRAWLING AROUND AND SHIT. I just knew it was planning to attack me and my family with its hairy arms and ugly feet.

I didn't know what to do. I considered lifting Milkshake up and letting him get at this asshole and eat him whole. After all, isn't that what he wanted? But then I couldn't figure out how to do it, because that would mean getting pretty close to this savage creature. Should I build a tower of pillows? Get a ladder? Do cats know how to climb ladders?

I decided I only had one choice.

No, it wasn't this.


I had to wake up my sleeping husband.

Sure he had to get up in a few short hours for work, but it was technically July 24, our 21st wedding anniversary. Wasn't there something in our vows about always being available to smash bugs and flush them down the toilet? There should be.

Me: There's a humongous creature in the living room! I can see his teeth.

Rigel: Well, of course this means you have to wake up your husband at 3:30 in the morning.

And with that, he got out of bed, made a few jokes and calmly grabbed a fly-swatter and knocked the predator out of his attack perch. He didn't even get angry when I was yelling, "It's still moving. KILL IT KILL IT," the entire time he went to fetch a paper towel.

One gets philosophical at 4am when your husband of 21 years saves your life, and at that moment I realized there was one piece of advice I wanted to give to my daughters about choosing the love of your life:

Find someone who is always happy to be there at 3:30am to kill the bugs.

Happy Anniversary Rigel! Thank you for slaying all the beasts for 21 years.

xxxxoooo

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Nintendo Kids Corner at E3 2014: Feels like she's livin' a Teenage Dream


We were lucky enough to attend E3 this year as guests of Nintendo, and even though the event was called Kids Corner my 15-year-old was crazy excited to attend. She'd been wanting to check out this mythical gaming mecca for years (attendees have to be at least 17 and affiliated with the industry) so just getting to set foot inside was a dream come true.

Also, she's been a gamer for years and the only system we've owned is Nintendo, so it was sort of like the mothership calling her home (cue the five-note sequence from 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind'!

Talk about standing out in a crowd
With the majority of marketing aimed at young kids and their parents, it's great to see brands paying attention to the teen market who – hello – make many buying decisions on their own, have their own money to spend, and maniacally share information with their friends via social media. Know any five-year-olds who have a Tumblr, Twitter, Vine, SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook account? I DIDN'T THINK SO.

Plus, teens do things like this without your help:



And who would've thought that with an entire convention center filled with teen boys and costumed video characters, the people she was most excited to see were these guys:

Reggie Fils-Aimé, President and CEO of Nintendo (who knew he was like a rockstar for hipster gamers?)


Tsunekazu Ishihara, CEO of the Pokémon company (standing here with his faithful employee.)


And then there was this holy-grail, meta moment - when she got to play Mario Maker with the creator of Mario (as well as Donkey Kong and Zelda), Shigeru Miyamoto! For us older folks who have a hard time grasping the enormity of this, imagine playing Operation with Milton Bradley himself.

Okay, Mr. Miyamoto – I'mma let you win.
Along with meeting all these gaming celebs, all the kids (and parents) got a chance to play a bunch of the newest Nintendo games that are about to be released. One of my daughter's favorites: Pokémon Art Academy, that teaches you how to draw all of your favorite Pokémon. Brilliant new video game, or genius method of scoping out future Nintendo employees? My kid's on board either way.

Then there was probably the highlight of her day - getting the chance to play the new Super Smash Bros. on the humongous screen at the Nintendo booth - and then winning a medal! She said, and I quote, "Best thing that's ever happened to me, and totally going on my college resumé."

Crushing you.
And if you doubt how seriously people take this game, check out this guy's attire:

RESPECT THE SATIN ROBE.
Another game that we both loved: Splatoon, that lets you use giant water guns to mark your turf and do battle. I liked that there was an aggressive way to play the game (taking down your opponents) and a passive way (marking your territory with your paint color.) I chose the passive way, because I'm a lover not a fighter (and because I have terrible aim and suck at shooting games.)

Not to take away its street cred, but this game is mom-approved.
I could go on, but I don't want to spoil the excitement for when these games hit the streets and you get to experience them for yourself. Here are the upcoming games, and their release dates. Get your satin robes ready, people.

Splatoon – 2015
Mario Maker – 2015
Pokémon Art Academy – October 2014
New Super Smash Bros. – October 2014
Mario Party 10 – 2015
Fossil Fighters Frontier – 2015
Mario vs Donkey Kong – 2015
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse – 2015
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker – 2014
Yoshi’s Woolly World – 2015
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I participated in the Nintendo Kids Corner event at E3 2014 as an invited guest of Nintendo. I received free product and access to the event, but was not otherwise compensated. All opinions, blurry photography and corny captions are my own.
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Monday, June 16, 2014

The Ford Theatre: The other theater under the stars

I've lived in Los Angeles my entire life (that's a lot of years) and drive past the Ford Theatre at least every other day, usually with a twinge of guilt because I've never set foot inside the venue. A few weeks ago I was invited to join them as they kicked off their Summer Season and I finally got to check out the grounds – it was like hearing my mom say, "Oh, so you finally decided to stop by and visit?" Suddenly I wish I'd brought some pie.

I admit I've been many, many times to the Hollywood Bowl (the other outdoor amphitheater that's located right across the freeway), but have never had the opportunity to attend a single show at the smaller, more intimate Ford. But after I saw how it offers so many of the same features that makes the Bowl so enticing (diverse artist lineup, open outdoor setting, picnic areas) I was eager to check out the summer schedule and see my first show at the theater.

And hey look! I saw that my cousin's band, Minyo Station is playing there for the Japanese Folk Dance event (tonight!), part of their free JAM Sessions at the Ford series. These are interactive shows that allow audience members (of all skill levels) to participate with ondo, samba, tap dance, ukulele, Bollywood, son jarocho and other artists and take place on stage on Monday evenings at 7:00 pm. (Did I mention they're FREE?) (And speaking of my mom, I'm taking her to this show!)
Minyo Station

Take a look at the Ford Theatre Summer Season – everything from film to dance to classical music to rock – and stop by for a relaxing evening under the stars! And don't forget to visit your mother.

Click HERE to see the Ford Theatre 2014 Season 

FORD THEATRES
2580 Cahuenga Blvd, East, Hollywood, CA 90068
323-461-3673
Click HERE to purchase tickets
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Friday, June 06, 2014

5 Reasons to see 'MALEFICENT' at the El Capitan Theatre

This is not a post to try and convince you to see 'MALEFICENT,' because I know you'll be seeing it anyway. The combination of Angelina Jolie, Angelina Jolie's cheekbones, a feminist plot twist and stunning visuals is impossible for anyone to resist. No, this is to convince you to make sure you see 'Maleficent' on the gorgeous screen at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Angelina Jolie's cheekbones will thank you.

The 5 Reasons to see 'Maleficent' at the El Capitan Theatre

1) The pre-movie magic show by acclaimed magician Greg Wilson. This isn't just your average magic show where you get to see a rabbit being pulled out of a hat (although he does that, too.) Prepare to see Wilson's dazzling assistants get shot out of a cannon (well, not really but how did she end up in that box in the corner of the theater?) sawed in half and in half again (seriously, I still don't know how that works) and levitated with the help of a magic rope. Hurry – this live stage show is only running until July 6.

2) An exhibit featuring props and costumes from 'Maleficent.' This is your chance to get up close and personal with Maleficent’s gown and horns and peek into an intricate model of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Getting tired? You can also check out Aurora's bedroom.

3) A live performance by the El Capitan's house organist, Rob Richards. I've seen this many, many times and it never gets old. How often do you get to see an almost 100-year-old Wurlitzer played live? Kudos to the El Capitan for realizing the importance and impact of live music and for bringing it to young audiences.

4) It's not in a mall. Sure, there's something to be said for your theater being steps away from Forever 21 and Panda Express, but do you really want to see a fight between Maleficent and King Stefan on a screen the size of a postage stamp? Once you've seen a film in the plush, gorgeous, ornate El Capitan you may never want to see a movie anywhere else again. Besides, there's a Forever 21 right across the street in the Hollywood/Highland center (which also provides validated parking for the theater.)

5) You can reserve your seats, buy your tickets online and print them out at home. Avoid the lines at the box office and cruise right into the theater. This gives you more time to ponder your popcorn and drink selection. Even easier - select the VIP ticket option and your refreshments are included in the price of your ticket!

MALEFICENT is playing at the El Capitan Theatre through July 17. To buy tickets call 1-800-DISNEY6

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Be Safe Out There: Bing In The Classroom

This is Little Brown Bunny, my now-teen daughter's first toy and prized possession. (That she still has, by the way, somewhere in her room underneath all of the teen girl clutter.) Years ago she decided to search for 'Little Brown Bunny' on the internet. We're not sure why – was she looking for his family lineage? His LinkedIn profile? All we know is, what she found instead was a movie from 2003 called 'The Brown Bunny,' and let's just say it definitely was not about a cuddly stuffed animal. (Go ahead, I'll wait – I know you're pulling up the IMDB page for that movie now.)

Luckily we were there to intervene, but we can't always be there to lunge in front of the screen and cover their eyes. Now there's a new program called Bing in the Classroom that provides ad-free, safe, private search in schools. A customized version of the Bing search engine for use by students (in grades K–12) Bing in the Classroom is ad-free and comes with enhanced privacy controls that allows teachers to utilize filters to block adult content and ad targeting.

In addition to the search engine features, Bing in the Classroom also offers:

An opportunity to earn tablets for your child's school. By joining Bing Rewards parents, friends and your community can donate earned points towards Surface tablets for your school of choice.

Free lesson plans. From the Bing homepage, teachers and educators can access lesson plans that promote digital literacy.

I realize we can't have control 100% of the time over our kids' online activities. But it would be encouraging to know that, at least while they're in school, there are steps being taken to limit their exposure to inappropriate or potentially dangerous content. After all, you never know when they'll go searching for info on their beloved toy bunny only to discover he's involved in some shady dealings on the side.

Here's more on Bing in the Classroom:


This post was created in partnership with Bing.
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Disclosure: I am being compensated for this post but all opinions and references to the sullying of beloved childhood icons and inappropriate movies are my own.  
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