Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nature At Its Best - The Children's Nature Institute

One night my husband and I sat up talking about our lives and what events or places had the biggest impacts on us.  As we talked we noticed a common thread through them all, Nature.  It's hard to beat.  Certainly playing an Xbox doesn't compare.  Watching the Idiot Box (as my father affectionately calls it) doesn't measure up.  There is nothing quite as wonderful as getting outside, feeling the breeze, soaking up the sun, taking in all the sights and sounds that nature has to offer.  My kids LOVE being outside - ALL kids love being outside.  This is why I was thrilled when my girlfriend Carol sent me a link the other day to The Children's Nature Institute.  Originally I was checking them out for their family nature walks (which I definitely plan on doing!) but I found out that they are so much more.  They open young minds to the living world by providing hands-on educational programs tailored specifically for the children of Los Angeles.  They've reached more than 15,000 kids a year and under served youth at over 100 inner-city schools and shelters.  That's AMAZING!  Imagine being a child and never catching a glimpse of an animal running around in the forest, or seeing the waves on the ocean, feeling the crisp mountain air on a hike....this is the unfortunate reality of most of The Children's Nature Institute's Outreach Discovery Program's students.  There are many ways we can get involved - become a Docent to lead an Outreach Nature Walk, make a donation, volunteer at their office, or attend one of their many festivals, garden planting, nature walks, or community events.   I plan on attending the Crecent Moon Stroll Sat, Jan 8th in Malibu to learn more.  I hope you'll join me!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ariel Tramway Palm Springs

 Palm Springs DiningWell folks, winter is just about upon us.  It's time to shake things up a bit and get these kids to the snow!!  I'm a snow bunny at heart.  Living in California is very difficult for me this time of year because I LOVE the white stuff.  I grew up in Michigan where we I would drive up north with my girlfriends to hit the slopes (well, snow covered land fills - but it was a BLAST), and later I spent a few years in Park City, Utah (BEST snow on earth!) where I would either strap my board on to race down the mountain with my girls or slap on my snowshoes to hike with my furry companion (the most beautiful lab known to man).  Now, a decade later, I find myself longing for the powder like it's a long lost love.   This year I'll head to the snow in one of the most unlikely spots - Palm Springs.  Yes, you heard it right - Palm Springs.  Just hop aboard the Ariel Tramway and ascend 2 1/2 miles to pristine wilderness at above 8,000 feet.  There are plenty of Winter activities to keep you busy:  cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and even snow camping.  Equipment is available for rental at their Adventure Center.  Just be sure to call ahead as their hours are affected by the weather.  There is even a full cocktail bar and 2 restaurants (one fine dining and one cafeteria style) at the top!  If you're able to make it this weekend, on Saturday the 18th, Santa will be paying a visit from 1-3pm and the Jurupa High School students will be caroling.  Here are some pictures of our last trip up the Tram:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mammoth Mountain Is Off To A Great Start!

Looking for something to do over winter break??  Why not head to the mountains?   Mammoth Mountain to be exact - and get in the holiday mood with 9 FEET OF SNOW!!!!!  If you get your act together fast you'll make it there just in time for the Night Of Lights.  This event, taking place on December 18th, began almost 2 decades ago so you know they've got it down by now and put on a spectacular show.  Hop on the Village Gondola for a beautiful ride to Canyon Village where you'll see an appearance by the Red Bull Air Force skydiving team, live music by Donavon Frankenreiter,  a torchlight parade and a firework show all to help celebrate the magic of the holiday season.  Ahhh.......
Looking for something more romantic?  Take part in a Full Moon Winemaker Dinner.  Just load the gondola and soon enough you'll be enjoying a lovely five course meal beneath the full moon and stars.  That'll impress your lady love!   If you have the kids in tow and you're looking for something to thrill the little ones, take them on a snowcat tour.  You'll enjoy the sights and sounds of the backcountry in the heated comfort of a luxury snowcat (who knew there was such a thing!?)  Evening dinners and gourmet picnic lunches are available....
Once you actually get your board strapped on (or your skis, if your one of THOSE) you'll encounter something new to the mountain - Roving Mammoths!!  That's right, the food truck craze has been taken to new heights, literally.  These state-of -the-art snowcats will be riding around the mountain serving burritos, churros and fresh baked calzones!!  This is the first ever on-mountain, snowcat food truck in North America!  All I have to say is call me when they have the Bloody Mary Roving Mammoth, that's when I'll be impressed... just sayin'...
Bet let's get serious, the real reason you trekked all the way to the summit wasn't for  the lights, dinners, snowcat tours or burritos - it's for the SNOW and there is 9 luscious feet of it - so what are you waiting for?  Get movin'!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Newport Beach Holiday Cruise

Time for the Boat Parade!  The Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade that is!  Every year I talk about going to this and every year I miss it!!  It looks amazing - something my kids would marvel at.  It started Wednesday, December 15th but will continue through Sunday December 19th - so, there is still time to fit it in to your busy schedule.  One million people throughout Southern California view it each year, and if you ask me, One million people can't be wrong, it must be faboosh!  To book your spot on a boat for the parade click here or here.  Have fun!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Time To Get Your Ostrich On in OstrichLand!

 Driving through the Santa Ynez mountains through Solvang heading for Los Olivos, my friend and I caught a glimpse of this little guy over the fence and we realized.........

 It was time to GET OUR OSTRICH ON!  OstrichLand is one of those quirky little places that you come across on your travels that you can't pass up because who knows if you'll ever have this opportunity again!  It's fabulous - for $4 admission ad $1 for a bowl of food you can get up close and feed these giant creatures along with their adorable friends - the Emus!  I mean, after all, it's not every day you get to feed an Ostrich right?
There are lots of Ostrich related gifts too!  Feather dusters, feather jewelry, Ostrich oil....I got the kids some Ostrich marionettes (cute stocking stuffer!).
It's an experience you won't want to miss if you happen to be in Solvang!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One Voice

In what must seem like a lifetime ago, the Goodfellows donation truck would pull up to my husbands door (when he was a young boy) and him and his brother would know that that year, they were the lucky recipients of someones generosity.  They would be able to gather around the Christmas table and enjoy a wonderful meal, something that, for most of us is "a given" instead of given.  Without the kindness of others this would not have been possible.  Now, years later, it's time for us to teach our children to extend that kindness to someone else that needs it.  Each year, One Voice, puts together a Holiday Food Program to provide Christmas food baskets, toys and books to 2,500 families (that is over 12,500 people) living in poverty in the Los Angeles area.  Over 2,000 volunteers come together to make this happen.   The Holiday Food Program lasts for 4 days and nights, beginning this Thursday, December 16th.  The first night is a fun and festive evening at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica to sort food from 7:30pm-11pm.  It's a great night  for families to celebrate coming together to help others in need.  The second night is filling food boxes and loading boxes and bags onto trucks, on Saturday volunteers unload everything at the distribution centers and Sunday is the actual giveaway day.  If you are unable to give the gift of your time this year, there are other ways you can help too.  One Voice has gift cards available which you can give as presents to your friends, family and business associates.  In their name, each card provides one low income family within our community with a basket of food for Christmas.  To learn more about this fabulous event, schedules and ways to give click here.  This Christmas, my husband won't be waiting by the window for the truck, instead he'll take great pride in knowing that he and his children packed it up and sent it on it's way to someone else who needs it this time around.  Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jolly Happy Soul!

The other night my girlfriend and I threw a needlefelting party to benefit our kids school at Urban Craft Center in Santa Monica.  The party was a huge success and a blast to boot - lots of wine, cheese and wool!  Wool??!!  To keep warm??  NO - to needlefelt into an adorable snowman!  Check out all the adorable guys we created!  Each one reflects their maker in one way or another - they were all AMAZING!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Las Posadas on Olvera Street

Traditions are a beautiful thing.  Now that the lighting of the Menorah, making of Latkes and spinning of the dreidel has come and gone wth the passing of Hanukkah, it's time to introduce the kids to something new, Las Posadas.  In Spanish, Las Posadas means "inns" or "shelters" and represents the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem and their search for shelter.  Since the 1930's this lovely ceremony has been celebrated on Olvera Street in California.  For nine nights, beginning December 16th, a candlelit procession winds through Olvera Street with the merchants leading the group singing traditional hymns and holiday songs (in both English and Spanish) stopping at different shops, each representing a posada where the group asks for shelter.  Time and time again they are turned away, until finally the doors of their final stop are swung open and the pilgrims are allowed to enter singing.  At that point, it's pan dulce and hot chocolate for all; pinatas are broken and music plays.  What a wonderful event!!  Processions start at the Avila Adobe at 7:30pm - don't be late!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Origami Whales Project with Peggy Oki!

 Driving through the small town of Carpinteria the other day I was compelled to stop at PORCH, a beautiful boutique home and garden shop.  I couldn't be happier that I did because I got the chance to meet and speak with Peggy Oki.  Peggy was the only female member of the legendary Zepher Skate Team in the 1970's and that makes her a hero in our house!  I can't even count the number of times my kids have watched Dog town and Z boys absolutely enthralled that a woman could skate and hang with the boys the way Peggy did- she is a true inspiration to my 5 year old daughter!  Little did I know that Peggy is a hero to many others for other reasons as well....

Peggy is an environmental activist who displays an inspiring amount of dedication to protecting all ocean life.  Surrounded by like minded individuals on this day, she was busy making garlands of whales for her international campaign: The Origami Whales Project.  Based on Japans 1,000 origami cranes tradition, Peggy and her cohorts worked to memorialize the 34,000 and counting whales officially killed since 1986, when such hunting was banned outright.  Her original origami curtain, consisting of 30,000 Origami Whales was first exhibited in late May 2007 at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts during the 59th annual International Whaling Commission Meetings.  Each origami whale, made by thousands of children and adults of all ages, from all nations, represents a whale killed in 21 years since they were supposed to be protected.  As the whaling continues, 2,000 Origami Whales are added each year to reflect the most recent estimate of whales slaughtered.  When you see these curtains in person it's hard to imagine that this many whales have been killed - it's a wake up call, seriously moving.  This visual she has created is a very powerful tool and I believe is truly making a difference in raising awareness.  You can help to!  Find out how, here!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Night Of 100 PocketPeople!

I haven't wanted a doll for a long, long time .... but just look at that face!  How can you resist such a face!  I'm in Love with PocketPeople.  There is such a feeling of whimsy in these dolls and yet a deep feeling of meaning and purpose.  My daughter found mine in a bag I brought home from shopping and begged me for it, but this doll is Mommy's!  I think she is the most wonderful little thing and I'm not letting go. You see, I met an angel out shopping (you know who you are!) who gave me my own little pocket person as a gift, and since that day I have been obsessed!   I've been in touch with Rita Ross, the artist behind these adorable creatures and I think what she's doing is beautiful - she developed PocketPeople to remind us to embrace the joy we often lack in our lives.  Because of her own experience with Cancer, Rita decided to create and donate dozens of PocketPeople to Mattel Children's Hospital to bring comfort, humor and laughter to the Children.  What a wonderful feeling!  She hasn't stopped there either: this Saturday, December 11th, 6-9pm the Art District Gallery (located at 729 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica) has partnered with Rita to host the "Night of 100 Pocket People" to benefit Mattel Children's Hospital once again.  Rita will put 100 of her one-of-a-kind PocketPeople made from recycled socks, fabric scraps, lint, used buttons and other small, found objects up for adoption with 50% of the evening's proceeds being donated directly to the hospital.  How can you resist?   In addition, Blue Plate Restaurant is generously donating snacks and Dogwod Cellars is contributing a selection of their wines.  Sounds like a fabulous evening where you can pick up an enchanting gift for that special person while helping out the lovely children at Mattel Children's Hospital.  Can't make it to the opening on Saturday?  Head over to West Elm on 4th street in Santa Monica to see more of Rita's Pocketpeople on display through December 12th.  She's joined forces with West Elm in their wonderful charity event for St. Jude's Children's Hospital.  Feel free to make a donation and you'll be able to take home your own little bundle of joy!  Lucky you!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Down Home Hanukkah

In our family, we celebrate Christmas, however we like to teach our children about all religions.  We have a menorah in our house, we are sure to play dreidel and love to make latkes.  So, it stands to reason that our kids would enjoy a good ole Down Home Hanukkah celebration.  Fortunately for us, there is one taking place on Sunday, December 5th at the Skirball Cultural Center!  With  live music, hands-on arts and crafts projects, circus arts and tasty Hanukkah treats who can resist??  You can get your tickets to this fun filled event here!  Enjoy and Happy Hanukkah everyone!

The Glitterati Are Here!

I know, I know - it's scary how crafty things are getting around here lately but hey - it's the holidays!  I bought some little deer at Michaels and painted glue and glitter on them and BAM - the Glitterati have arrived!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Adopt a Living Christmas Tree This Year!

If you're anything like me, then you still haven't gotten out to pick up your Christmas Tree!  Well, we're in luck because we can have a beautiful,  living tree delivered right to our door (and picked up after Christmas to boot!).  Here's how it works, you go to The Living Christmas Co, choose one of their varieties of locally-grown trees and they'll deliver it.  After Christmas they will pick up your tree and return it to their nursery until next year.  You can even watch your tree grow as your family grows by adopting the same tree year-after-year!!  Wow, that's service (and environmentally friendly too!)!  Happy Holidays!

The Art of Ancient Greek Theatre - Family Festival At Getty Villa

The Art of Ancient Greek Theater

Are you already getting burned out from all the Holiday hoopla and need to take a break from the twinkling lights, gift shopping and fa la la-ing?  It seems to come earlier and earlier every year!  Take a break and head to the Family Festival at the Getty Villa December 5th, 10-5pm.  They will be celebrating The Art of Ancient Greek Theatre during the daylong festival of learning, crafts and performance.  Children can create their own Greek theatre masks, dress up as an ancient actor and watch kid-friendly adaptations of the great Greek dramas.  Reservations are required so call fast as I'm sure space is running out for this wonderful event - get your tickets here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Homemade Holiday!

During our Thanksgiving Holiday in Paso Robles, the kids and I went for a walk and collected bits and pieces of trees, nuts and so forth that we found on the ground to bring home and create something for Christmas.  The above wreath is the product of this time spent together.  The feathers are the actual feathers plucked off the turkey we ate for Thanksgiving!  Some of the nuts we dipped in glitter and some we painted gold.  It always feels so good to recycle items and make found objects into something beautiful!  Happy Holidays!

Simon Says: Go To The Electric Lodge!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Topless Summer Love Girls

Looking for the perfect gift for that special man in your life?  Good luck!  I've found the perfect one for his buddy - it's a book titled "Topless Summer Love Girls" - can you guess what it's about?  Topless - Summer - Love - Girls.  It's being hocked as "A Gentleman's guide to women, relationships, and breasts".   It's informative, visually stimulating and hilarious!!  Topless Summer Love Girls is a pop culture commentary about growing up male in the era of Playboy, feminism, and swimsuit editions.  It's a serious mix of satire, wild theories, dirty pictures and art from some of the best illustrators and cartoonists of yesterday and today.  Want to make that gift extra special?  Head over to La Luz De Jesus Gallery Saturday, December 4th 6-9pm - for a book signing with Author Leslie Cabarga celebrating the launch of his R-rated, literary tour de force.  The fun won't end there!  Western swing band Will Ryan & the Cactus County Cowboys will be performing along with a burlesque show and gratis margaritas!  Happy Holidays Gentlemen.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Olde Fashioned Christmas in Los Olivos!

Los Olivos is one of those special places that feels like it's your own little secret.  It's nestled in the hills of the San Ynez Valley among Santa Barbara's 50 wineries and horse ranches.  There are only 1,000 residents in beautiful Los Olivos, many of whom are artists.  The downtown and residential buildings date back over 100 years and give this small Victorian town it's quaint charm.  You'll love spending the day here wine tasting with friends, shopping in the various galleries and antique shops then dining in one of the epicurean restaurants.  There are very few opportunities to spend the day like this, be sure to take time out from your busy life and visit if you get the chance - you are sure to enjoy it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Style!

Over 150 of the finest Indie-craft talents will be setting up shop at the 1st ever Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale in Los Angeles!  This event takes place on December 11 and 12th from 10am-5pm at Los Angeles State Historic park.  You are sure to find something at this DIY spectacular and it's FREE to attend.   There will be workshops for the kiddies by Super Duper Arts Camp, workshops for you by Silver Lake's ReForm School and Santa Monica's Urban Craft Center, DJ's from KXLU spinning your favorite tunes, yummy food and beverages for purchase as well as delicious Wintertime libations!  I'm a HUGE fan of Renegade Handmade - you will be too after this event!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Elf On The Shelf Showed Up!

Well, well, well, look who finally showed up!  Elf On The Shelf!  My kids wait all year for their Elf to visit and he's arrived!  If you are not familiar with this adorable tradition, let me give you some background.  Each year around Thanksgiving, Santa sends out a Scout Elf to be his eyes and ears.  Each night, while the kids are sleeping, our little Scout Elf will fly back to the North Pole and report to St. Nick all that he has seen, when he returns he chooses a new spot to sit and watch.  The kids wake up each morning and have the greatest time running around trying to find their Elf.  They talk tirelessly to him about what they would like from Santa and really try hard to behave so they will get a good report (are you seeing why this is a win-win situation?!).  On Christmas Eve, the Elf will make his final flight of the year back to Santa, not to be seen again until next Thanksgiving.  You can order your own Elf On The Shelf here or find him in your local bookstore!  Happy Holidays!

Westside Ballet's The Nutcracker

The magical tree
Waltz of the Flowers
 This is finally the year to  take my daughter to The Nutcracker.  I feel she is old enough to not only sit still through it, but enjoy it as well.  We have tickets to the Westside Ballet's production at the Wadsworth Theatre in Brentwood.  Not only is this the longest running Nutcracker production in Los Angeles history, it's the closest to George Balanchine's original version in quality, integrity and musicality.  You see, although I love trying out new things, I also adore tradition.   There are only 8 productions, beginning December 4th - you can order your tickets online from Ticketmaster.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Being away from home during the holidays is difficult to say the least.  Luckily, we are fortunate enough to have beautiful friends that made Thanksgiving magical this year.  The Cherry's live in Paso Robles and own Villa Creek Restaurant and Winery.  There are lovely, lovely people with the most fantastic children, friends, family and home.  This year they invited us to Paso to share the Holiday with them and it was WONDERFUL!  We pulled into their house among the vines and walnut trees hot off the heels of their last guest Kevin West.  Kevin is the former Editor of  Europe's W magazine and author of the amazing blog  Saving The Season. He and JoAnn (mama Cherry) made fresh quince paste, quince jam, grape  jam and other goodies (all from her personal garden) just days before we arrived.  In addition,  Kevin left behind some of his Scotch Marmalade (delicious!!!!) from his West Sweet Preserves line (you can purchase a jar exclusively via his site - believe me, you won't be disappointed!).
The morning began with a tour of the grounds - greeting all the animals and taking a ride on the ATV's - Daddy and son had a BLAST!  They saw wild turkeys and deer among the vines, not to mention a HUGE snake on the trail that was unfortunate enough to get run over (thankfully he was fine!).
Next, we settled in for the Lions game!  When halftime arrived and the bloody Marys were finished, it was time to take the kids to the winery and put them to work!  After all, the wine doesn't make itself!  During this fermentation phase, Chris (papa Cherry) must press the grapes to extract the luscious juice and wine 3 times a day!  The kids were more than happy to help out!

 Friends and Family arrived from Santa Monica, Half Moon Bay, and Thousand Oaks ready to get their hands dirty preparing the Thanksgiving meal.  The ladies got glitter painted on their eyes, JoAnn picked pomegranates from their trees, brought out some of her fresh quince paste, fantastic cheeses, just-pressed Olive Oil from Pasolivo, fresh bread and amazing wines and the festivities began!

First up was the cracking of the fresh crabs brought down by Laura and Eric from Half Moon Bay - they were a fantastic beginning to what was going to be one of the best meals I've ever had.

The Turkeys came courtesy of a local farm, fresh and alive (but not for long!).  They were phenomenal - Chris prepared one on the rotisserie slathered in an herb butter and Joanne prepared another in the oven basted with her homemade grape and quince syrup!  They were sooooo juicy and delicious - not like the frozen butterballs of Thanksgiving past!  
Pumpkins were roasted for pumpkin pie, a scrumptious pecan pie was made by Joanne and Chris's daughter, their son prepared the most amazing creamed corn bread pudding, Joanne's mother brought her famous cranberry orange relish, salads, I could go on and on...... the outcome?  One of the most delightful dinners of my life!

As I said, this Thanksgiving was magical.  We made new friends, saw old friends, and made memories that will last a lifetime.  Thank you to the Cherry's - they are a truly wonderful family with such warmth and charm - they made us feel like we were home for the holidays!  "Cheers!"