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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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hospitals Report Rise in Gut-Punch Injuries As Financial Aid Letters Arrive

Los Angeles, CA – Hospitals are reporting a rise in the number of patients, specifically parents of college-bound children, being admitted after complaining of pain in the abdomen area after receiving letters informing them of their financial aid status.

“It feels like some guy sitting behind a desk in the financial aid office just punched me in the gut,” said Brad Toller, after finding out he would be receiving a measly $5000 from his son’s Ivy League dream school. “It starts with a dull ache when you open the letter, and then all of a sudden you’re writhing in pain begging your kid to go to community college.”

Children are being traumatized as well, as they watch their parents deteriorate before their very eyes. “Dude, first my dad started cussing like crazy, and then my mom drank an entire bottle of wine,” said Mandy Taylor, a 17-year-old high school senior who was with her parents when they opened her financial aid packet from the prestigious Ojai Fine Arts Institute. “Next thing I know they’re both on the floor. I freaked and called my BFF Heather and her parents were sick, too! So, like, then we had an Uber take us all to urgent care.”

“It was horrible watching my parents go through that,” said Mandy, who was only awarded $1500 towards her $55,000 yearly tuition in Experimental Paper Maché studies. But the teen says the worst part of the hospital visit was talking to 30-year-old hot resident Todd Majors, who told her he was still paying off $150,000 in student loan debt and was reduced to living above his parents garage and buying his clothes at Ross. “That’s when it really became serious for me,” Mandy said solemnly. “I hurled all over my iPad.”

Doctors at East Hollywood Memorial Hospital say they are treating their patients with a combination of Xanax and a list of famous people who didn’t go to expensive colleges but turned out just fine. “Once they see that Oprah and Steven Spielberg seem to be doing reasonably well without having gone to an Ivy League school, they appear to have a significant reduction in their symptoms,” says Dr. Tom Rettig.

Along with their gut-punch cases, doctors at Hollywood Memorial Hospital are reporting seeing parents with other serious injuries related to the financial aid situation, mainly those complaining about losing an arm and a leg to their children’s intended colleges.

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Pollinator Garden at the Natural History Museum is worth a trip or five

When was the last time you went to Natural History Museum in L.A.? If you're like most people, this is probably the last thing you remember seeing, along with the sound of your second grade teacher screaming your name:


For most of us trips to the museum were usually courtesy of elementary school field trips. I gained a new appreciation for the place when my kids started going to the summer camp there (which is excellent, by the way. More on this later). I would spend many solo hours exploring the grounds and got to know every nook and cranny pretty well – the sprawling Rose Garden is not a bad place to hang out while you wait for your kids. After camp my girls and I would spend another couple of hours checking out the exhibits and end with a visit to the gift shop. We have a pretty hefty collection of NHM pencils.

But a couple of weeks ago I was invited to the opening of the new Pollinator Garden, the last component of their new (well, new to me) 3-1/2 acre Nature Gardens and I was completely taken by surprise – the entire garden attraction has completely transformed the space, and once again it's taken on a whole new appeal for me.


After I parked my car, I was directed up a gorgeous trail – one of several – and over a pedestrian bridge. (The one on the right leads you to the Edible Gardens.)


What was once a parking lot now looks like this:


The Pollinator Garden is located in the northeast corner of the new outdoor garden space, and was created to attract wildlife and demonstrate the relationship between flowers and pollinators. It will be in bloom every month of the year.


But wait – I can't resist showing you the other parts of the garden too. Check out these 'trumpets' along the path where you can listen to the roots:


No, not these Roots, although that would be kind of awesome.


Look at these beautiful areas to climb into and under. These are part of the Get Dirty Zone. I know just the sound of that gives some parents the dry heaves, but it was one of my favorite parts of the garden and seemed to be the most popular with all the young kids, too.


Last but not least, the designer in me could not get over these gorgeous hand-made signs. They're everywhere. I plan on a special trip back just to photograph all of them. That's after my special trip just to hang out in the garden with a picnic. That's a lot of trips.


Getting back to those girls of mine, they're teenagers in high school now but are still fans of the museum, and are eager for a visit after they saw my pictures of the new Nature Gardens. They also want to see the newly remodeled gift shop. I guess you can never have enough pencils.

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Natural History Museum of LA County
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Phone: (213) 763-DINO

Hours: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm daily

Check the NHM website for ticket info. 

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Everybody cleanse now

*This chart is a lie, since we actually spent 0% of the time doing the juice cleanse, but the pie chart program wouldn't let me do a slice that small. Even science is disappointed in us.
A few months ago I managed to convince Rigel to do a Costco run with me (he considers it on par with other hideously unpleasant activities, like cleaning the catbox or watching 'Sex In The City' reruns) and while we were there we decided to buy one of those pre-packaged juice cleanses. We had been talking about wanting to "get healthy," and it sort of made us feel less guilty about that five-gallon drum of beef jerky, oversized bricks of cheese and pallet of beer we already had in our cart. By the time we left the store we were feeling so hopeful, visualizing ourselves as glowing, wholesome beings living life anew with cleansed bodies outfitted in expensive yoga pants and tight tank tops.

We decided to do the cleanse over a weekend since it would be easier to coordinate our meals, and we could be there to comfort each other as we went through the horror of doing without caffeine and alcohol. And as cleanses go, this one sounded reasonable – only three days, and it was more of a supplement to a healthy diet that they carefully outlined in their instruction booklet.

At least I think that's what was in the instruction booklet, since we never got around to really reading it. In fact, the only thing we managed to do was pay for the cleanse and put it in the refrigerator because this is the conversation we had when we got home.

Rigel: So let's start this cleanse on Friday.

Me: Well, we have that dinner party that night. I am definitely going to want to pig out and have a cocktail.

Rigel: Right. So let's start on Saturday.

Me: What?! You can't expect me to wake up on Saturday morning and not have a cup of coffee. Or bacon. Let's start on Sunday.

Rigel: No way, I have rehearsal that night, and I'm going to want to have a beer with the guys. Next weekend it is.

The next weekend rolled around, and of course there were parties and events with our girls that we just knew prohibited healthy living, so we pushed the cleanse back to the next weekend. We figured it wouldn't kill us if those toxins and liver deposits hung around in our bodies for just seven more days, and besides the date on the cleanse said it didn't expire for another three months. Renewed with our excitement over a robust, fit future, we poured ourselves a scotch and toasted our good judgement.

Slowly those bottles of cleanse moved to the back of the refrigerator, barely visible behind the jugs of lemonade, Chipotle leftovers and that hubcap-sized disc of brie I picked up at Costco. We tried not to look at those vessels of good health beckoning to us from the back row, because they just reminded us of disappointment and failure. Occasionally when we'd open the refrigerator we'd feign interest in making another attempt.

Rigel: We should really do that cleanse this weekend.

Me: Can you move, I'm trying to get to the leftover Chipotle guac.

As you can guess, those three months rolled around pretty quickly and we eventually just poured it all down the drain, the entire time promising ourselves we'd buy some new bottles and begin anew. I think we also spent some time making fun of people who were so obsessed with being healthy and who did juice cleanses, and agreed that they were just trying to cover up for other problems like not being able to enjoy life or appreciate a monstrous wheel of really good cheese.

We made a pact right there at the sink that we wouldn't turn into those people, congratulated each other on our ability to admit defeat and sliced open a package of jerky to celebrate.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Holidays At Disneyland: Our Night Of 5 Firsts

How many times have you been to Disneyland? I don't have an exact count, but if I had to guess I'd say we've been there close to a hundred million times. It never, ever gets old – especially for my girls – but we do tend to do a lot of the same things whenever we visit, whether it's visiting the same attractions or eating the same foods. For example, I always clap loudly and embarrassingly whenever I get on my favorite ride.

Last weekend we were there for Holidays At Disneyland – where the entire resort gets transformed for the holidays – and we did some things we hadn't done before. Here they are – see if you can make it through the entire post without singing Foreigner's 'Feels Like The First Time' in your head.

1) We rode the first-ever holiday version of the Jungle Cruise – the Jingle Cruise!
For the first time, the Jungle Cruise gets transformed for the holidays! I'm not going to lie, this is one of my favorite rides and my girls', too, and I was ridiculously excited to ride this new version. The dock has been decked out in lights, and the skippers have added some holiday humor to their comedy routines – don't judge, but we actually love all of their slightly corny jokes. Which leads me to another first – for the first time ever I followed a Disneyland ride on Twitter. And you should, too because then you can read things like this:

2) For the first time, someone else besides me took the photos
We just bought Kiyomi a new camera, so she was happy to document our visit. She did an amazing job and took all the photos you see here (except for the pics accompanying item numbers 3 and 4. Those slightly blurry, over-filtered Instagram pics are all mine.)

She did a photo essay of Kira and her Santa hat throughout the park. Here are a few:


I highly suggest this idea of putting your kids to work documenting stuff so you don't have to. It helps you to see things through their eyes, and also frees you up to enjoy things, like bacon-wrapped asparagus. (See next item.)

3) I ate bacon-wrapped asparagus skewers at Bengal Barbecue
That's a big lie. This is the eightieth time I've eaten these, not the first. But I have to keep mentioning them because some of you out there haven't tried them yet, and I won't stop until every man, woman and child has tasted one of these amazing pairings of meat and vegetable. (However, in keeping with the spirit of the 'firsts' theme of this post, I will say it's the first time I left without wishing I had another one – this is the first time I ordered TWO skewers.)

4) I rode the Red Car Trolley in California Adventure
I'm used to having people yell at me to get out of the way as this thing comes at me while I'm texting in the middle of the street. So this was a much more pleasant experience. The trolley takes you for a short tour through the park – starting in Carthay Circle, up Buena Vista Street, through Hollywood Land and ending at the Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror. Along the way the nice conductors (that's one of them there) tell you stories about the the park and Hollywood, including the history of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, the basis for the Tower Of Terror ride. Want to hear the story? You'll have to ride the Trolley yourself. (See how I did that?)

5) For the first time, we did NOT ride 'It's A Small World'
One of our Disneyland mottos is, "No visit is complete without a ride on 'It's A Small World,' especially during the holidays when it's transformed into 'It's A Small World Holiday.' (Our other motto is, 'Don't eat the corn dog until after you ride the Teacups.') Usually our tactic is to wait until later in the evening when the line is shorter, but this time the wait was estimated at 90 minutes. After we were done cursing everyone who had stolen our tactic, we decided to move on. But not until we had stood in awe for a few minutes and snapped some pics of the gorgeous facade, of course.

Holidays At The Disneyland Resort runs through January 6, 2014.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A plea for help made of gifs from 'Fight Club' and one from 'Grease'

A few days ago I appealed for help for my daughters' school but apparently no one heard me. So now, you leave me no choice but to re-tell my story and plea for funds using jerky moving pictures and movie captions.

Apparently the first rule of fundraising is YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FUNDRAISING.

Let me break it down for you.


A few months ago the kids had to watch their beloved performing arts department get wiped out. 

It hasn't been an easy year. Everyone is carrying on but we know how they feel inside.

Now, because of a lack of funding, it's looking like the Senior Class of 2014 will be the first class in the high school's history NOT to graduate at the Hollywood Bowl.

GO AHEAD, KICK US WHEN WE'RE DOWN, UNIVERSE.

It doesn't feel good. It fact it hurts like a mutha.

Now everyone is stressing out trying to figure out how to come up with the down payment.

All of our appeals are falling on deaf ears. It's like we're the Amway salesman of high schools.

If we don't come up with the balance of the down payment, the kids won't get to graduate at the Hollywood Bowl, something they've been looking forward to for FOUR YEARS.

I KNOW I KNOW THERE ARE BIGGER PROBLEMS TO WORRY ABOUT.

But these kids have been through a lot this year, and man, you don't know how happy they would be with a great sendoff on their last day of school. 

If you or someone you know would like to help sponsor the Hollywood High Class of 2013, please leave your contact info here or email me at marsha_tm@yahoo.com.

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