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Nothing kicks off the holiday season like a trip to Disneyland. Disneyland is decked out from top to bottom for the holidays and it truly takes Disney Magic to a whole new level! So what should you make sure you do at the Disney Parks this holiday season? This is my can’t-miss list for visiting the Disney parks during the holidays.

10 Things Not to Miss for Disney Holidays

10 Things for your Disneyland holiday checklist
1. Arrive at the park as soon as it opens

After talking to a Disney staff member, we learned that it is fairly normal to only have 5-minute wait lines on Saturday and Sunday mornings before 10 a.m. Yes, please! Getting to the park early is definitely worth it!

2. Take a photo with the Disneyland Christmas tree

Do it as soon as you get there. It won’t be long before there are crowds of people taking photos… and it will be impossible to get your kids to make the stop after you’ve hit some rides.

Disneyland Holiday Must-Visit Attractions

3. Make time for A Small World

A Small World takes holiday festivities to an unimaginable level. It is all lit up, festive holiday music replaces the typical songs and it is like riding through a childhood holiday dream. Now the pictures don’t so it justice, but it is simply beautiful and a must-do.

Don’t miss Veena’s Facebook Live coverage of holidays at Disneyland!

4. Ride the Jingle Cruise

You should definitely take a fun ride to see how the jungle celebrates their first Noel. This is a perfect ride for all ages, too.

5. Festival of Holidays in California Adventure

Happening now through January 8, 2017, this festival is inspired by cultural traditions around the world. There are craft tables for Hanukkah and Diwali, as well as specialty foods and beverages from around the world in the Festive Foods Marketplace. Not to mention cool performances by different cultures that makes the trip special and memorable.

10 Things Not to Skip at Disney for the Holidays

6. Take a family photo at the entrance of Cars Land

We waited in line for the amazing photo opp, but had to jump out because our Fast Passes for Radiator Springs Racers was expiring (priorities!), so we missed out, but I am definitely coming back for a holiday card moment.

7. Disney ¡Viva Navidad!

This is one of my favorite holiday festivities at Disney. Between one of our many rides at Goofy’s Sky School at California Adventure, we always stop and dance to the Latin beat of this festive performance. All the classic Disney characters are out on floats, people are dancing in the streets and the music will make your hips shake.

8. Visit Santa at Redwood Challenge Trail

This is a great place for kids to run around and challenge themselves to rock climbing, slides, zip lines and more, but during the holidays, they can also get a picture with Santa (before December 25th) or Santa Goofy (between December 26th and January 8th) at the Ahwahnee Camp Circle. Sign Santa’s “nice” list and you will get your secret elf name!

9. Stay up late for the World of Color’s Season of Lights

It’s the most beautiful choreography of lights, Christmas music, fire and animation. It is truly unrivaled and a must-do. Make sure your kids stay up late enough to catch it!

Your Guide to Disney Holiday Events

10. Last, but not least, the Christmas Fantasy Parade

The top of the list for a Disneyland holiday must. All the characters, princesses and more come out in full holiday spirit.

There is no more magical way to celebrate the holidays than at Disneyland and California Adventure Park. This will definitely become an annual holiday excursion for us and we hope your family will make it part of your holiday traditions, too. Make sure you visit the park for all these fun festivities by January 8th, 2017!

This post was contributed by Veena Crownholm. Veena was Miss California 2004 and forth runner-up to Miss America. Since then, she has worked extensively in the non­-profit industry specializing in special event fundraising and program development. After giving birth to her son in late 2010, Veena began contributing to lifestyle media outlets. She has made appearances on national television programs including HLN, Raising America, Inside Edition, The Insider, CBS/KCAL9 and Huffington Post Live, as well as being featured in the Los Angeles Times, Kids in the House and Randi Zuckerberg’s Dot Complicated. You can find more from Veena Instagram and Twitter.

 
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This past week, I was lucky enough to spend the morning with Buzz Lightyear, my family and a whole cast of other Pixar characters at the California Science Center’s new The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition. I’ve been a longtime fan of animated features (who isn’t?!) and especially of Pixar’s cinematic, computer-animated masterpieces. Toy Story was the first of its kind for Pixar back in 1995 and it set the tone for not only the dozens of feature films that came after it, but for the entire Pixar animation process.

The brand new exhibition at the California Science Center delves into the details of that complex process from the first inkling of an idea to its movie theater release. The exhibition has tons of interactive stations that bring the job of an animator to life. And while my 16-month-old was fascinated by the characters and many of the tactile stations, older kids — I’d say about ages 5 to 15 — would probably get a lot more out of the experience.

California Science Center

 

Toy Story sketch

The Pixar process

From modeling and rigging to sets and lighting, the Science Behind Pixar Exhibition takes guests on a chronological journey through each stage of the animation process with interactive stations to understand the seemingly endless details and decisions that Pixar artists and scientists must make along the way. You can learn how they created Merida’s wild, curly hair in Brave or all about the many varieties of background robots in Wall-E and so much more!

The Science Behind Pixar

Pixar Exhibition

The Science Behind Pixar Workstation

Behind the scenes

The exhibition experience begins with a video chronicling the flow of an idea at the Pixar offices in Emeryville, California. This behind-the-scenes peek continues throughout the exhibition where various stations feature short, interview-style videos of real Pixar employees discussing their job descriptions. This added bonus might not be relevant for your little one, but it sure would be fascinating for an older kid to see where an interest in art, computers, and film could take you one day.

The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition

The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition

The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition

The swag

It is key to take home a little souvenir from any great experience and luckily the exhibition ends with a glorious gift shop that has everything your little Pixar-loving heart could imagine. From t-shirts and stickers to plush toys and silly hats!

Pixar gift shop

Pixar gift shop

The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition is on now at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Due to the popularity of this exhibition, they strongly recommend purchasing tickets in advance. The exhibit will be at the California Science Center through April 2017.

I was invited to experience The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition, all opinions are my own.

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The changing seasons are sometimes difficult to discern in LA with that famous year-round sunshine, but true Angelenos can feel the subtle shift with the back-to-school hustle and bustle, those dark early mornings and, if we’re lucky, a little sweater weather. And while those splash pad days of summer are now behind us, we are still blessed with the ongoing opportunity to explore the great outdoors (and indoors) with our families all autumn long. Here are some favorite, affordable (or free!) kid-friendly activities to keep your little ones occupied and inspired this season!

LA pumpkin patches

There’s nothing more classic fall than visiting a pumpkin patch with the whole fam. It’s the perfect place for kids to explore the great outdoors, learn about the seasonal harvest and, of course, stage a beautiful autumnal photo shoot! There are a handful of patches around the city, each one with their own additional activities including pony rides, face painting and pumpkin carving demonstrations!

Mr. Bones Pumpkin Patch (Culver City, open October 1-30)
Shawn’s Pumpkin Patch (Hollywood and West LA, open October 1-31)
Tina’s Pumpkin Patch (Sherman Oaks, opens October 1)

Morning Mommy Movies

When the weather gets a little chilly and gloomy, it might be time to settle in for a new release. Haven’t gotten to the movie theater since your little one was born? No problem! Pacific Theaters offers Monday Morning Mommy Movies at 11 a.m. each week at their various locations across the city. They keep the lights up in the theaters and anything goes in terms of crying, breastfeeding, and all things baby and kids.

Library Story Time

Library story time (Free!)

There’s perhaps nothing cozier than curling up with a good book. And luckily, public libraries across the city offer up tons of great kid-friendly events throughout the week — just check out their full calendar of events! A real treat for babies and toddlers is story time — a mix of reading and music by local librarians. Each library branch follows its own schedule and all are excellent, but both the West Hollywood and Beverly Hills branches are extremely popular so make sure to show up a little early!

The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns

Ring in the season and hype your little ones up for Halloween with the jaw-dropping spectacle of 5,000 hand-carved, illuminated pumpkins set along a winding walking path. Take a spooky stroll and watch talented artists work on their pumpkin masterpieces in person!

The RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns, LA Convention Center, October 13-16

Griffith Observatory (Free!)

With those hazy summer days making way for clearer autumn skies, now is a great time to take your kiddos big and small to check out the gorgeous views at the Griffith Observatory. Check out their calendar of events and consider joining the Sunset Walk and Talk on October 11, led by park rangers through the winding hiking paths of Griffith Park. Parking and admission to the grounds are always free, and the Samuel Oschin Planetarium is not to be missed!

LA Zoo

Boo at the LA Zoo

The LA Zoo is a guaranteed blast at any time of year, but their special Halloween-themed events for the month of October are sure to keep even regular zoo visitors delighted. With caves, mazes, and up close and personal encounters with slithering creatures, it’ll give your little ones the creepy crawly feeling of the season. Add to that musical entertainment, daily animal feedings and strolling characters for photo ops, and you’ve got yourself the perfect weekend outing at the zoo!

Boo at the Zoo, October 1 – 31

The Grove Kids Club

The Grove Kids Club (Free!)

From now until the end of October, The Grove offers free weekly programming for kids with no age restriction. Each week offers up a new musical or entertainment performance. Bring a blanket, snacks and a thermos of hot cocoa and sit on the grassy area at the east end of The Grove to enjoy a couple of hours where your kids are actually encouraged to jump, scream and shout! And when you’re done with the scheduled program, hop on The Grove Trolley for a quick ride around the grounds or grab a snack at one of the many stalls at the world famous Farmer’s Market, which is hosting a fall festival of their own on October 15-16.

(The Grove, Every Thursday at 11 a.m. through October 30)

Apple picking

The warm weather may be lingering through fall here in LA, but that’s no reason not to pile in the car for a crisp weekend drive to an enchanting apple orchard for a little pick-your-own family fun! At Willowbrook Apple Farm, just under two-hours from LA, you can spend the day picking the perfect apples, sampling delicious seasonal delicacies, visiting farm animals, and enjoying the great outdoors.

Open for u-pick apples Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting October 1

Underwood Family Farms Fall Harvest Festival

Check out everything farm life has to offer at Underwood Family Farms. Just a quick jaunt northwest of the city, this working farm has everything from fruits and veggies, to barnyard animals, and even train rides! Their 19th annual Fall Harvest Festival takes place all month and includes games, activities, live entertainment and a giant pumpkin contest for good measure. Each weekend of October offers something new, so make sure to check the schedule before planning your visit.

Duck ponds (Free!)

Is there a kid (or parent!) alive that doesn’t get a kick out of a duck feeding frenzy? Give your kiddos a close encounter with nature at one of the many duck ponds around the city. Stroll by the water, feed the ducks, and watch them glide elegantly for each dropped breadcrumb.

Franklin Canyon Park (Beverly Hills)
Feed the ducks at Heavenly Pond and then wander the winding walking paths of Franklin Canyon. On your way out, visit Coldwater Canyon Park at the base of Franklin Canyon for a swing at the playground and a splash in the man-made stream.

Canal Park (Venice)
Make a day of it! Take a peaceful family stroll around the charming Venice Canals, stop off to say hello to the ducks at Linnie Canal, then wander over to the hip shops and restaurants on Abbot Kinney Blvd.

Echo Park Lake (Echo Park)
Take in views of downtown LA, bring snacks for the ducks, have a picnic, or rent pedal boats for a cruise around the lake!

Hailing from the vibrant (if wintery) city of Toronto, Ali Maldoff now lives in sunny LA where she explores everything beachy and beautiful with her husband and baby daughter. She is a freelance writer, social media manager, and founder of the minty fresh food/lifestyle/DIY blog, Mint Sprinkles.

Instagram: @alimaldoff
Twitter: @alimaldoff

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New Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California

Already planning your summer travels? Or just looking for a fun family getaway this spring? Then pack a swimsuit and prepare to earn some major parenting points with a stay at the new Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California!

In February, Great Wolf Lodge resort opened their 13th location in Garden Grove, the brand’s first in California. Here are three reasons you’ll want to check it out with your family.Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California

Reason No. 1: The water slides

Let’s start with the obvious — there are water slides in the hotel! Exclusive for resort guests, the indoor water park boasts 105,000-square feet of watery fun. There are five pools, 12 different water slides, a lazy river, a kiddie play area, a wave pool, an obstacle course, basketball hoops, a watery jungle gym, and a surf-able continuous wave. My kids were fans of the Mountain Edge Raceway where four people can race head-to-head on the water track for victory, and River Canyon Run, a nearly 500-foot long family raft ride.

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The Wolf Rider Wipeout was also a hit! You can boogie board, knee board or even attempt to surf the continuous wave.

Whether you want to get doused by hundreds of gallons of water by the Fort Mackenzie bucket, conquer your fears on the 360° Wolf Tail (complete with a vertical plunge through a trapdoor!), or relax in a tube on the Crooked Creek lazy river, there is something for everyone to enjoy. wolf-den-suite-1-img7935-1200x500

 Reason No. 2: The rooms

As a family of five, one of the things I appreciate most about the Great Wolf Lodge is the number of sleeping arrangements they have for large families or groups. While the Queen and King Suites only sleep up to four, all the other rooms sleep six or more people, with some rooms sleeping up to eight! You can also get adjoining suites to sleep more than that. Whether you’re bringing all the cousins, your brother’s family with you, or you’ve splurged on an overnight birthday party for your tween, the Great Wolf Lodge has rooms that can accommodate you.

Which Room Should You Choose at Great Wolf Lodge?

We stayed in one of the themed KidCabin Suites that has a queen bed, a sofa sleeper and a special nook with a bunk bed and a twin bed for my little cubs to hibernate for the night. The themed suites offer fun, kid-friendly decor featuring the GWL Animal Friends and interactive elements that can be activated with a MagiQuest wand or Clubhouse Crew Animal (more on those below!).Bear

Reason No. 3: MagiQuest and Clubhouse Crew

One of the other fun features of the Great Wolf Lodge are two interactive scavenger hunt games. MagiQuest is designed for older kids who can read (or who can get help from a parent) while the Clubhouse Crew is perfect for younger kids. To play, you’ll need to buy either a wand or a Clubhouse Crew friend. You register the wand or plush animal with your name and then you’re off! Throughout the resort, you’ll be on the hunt for these stations to interact with.

MagiQuest

For MagiQuest, there are three different challenges you can choose from, each with their own missions. Depending on which one you choose, the game can take from 30 minutes up to 3 hours , making it a great option if you are staying for multiple days. Parents be warned: The wands activate things everywhere throughout the resort — in the lobby, in the halls, in the Loose Moose restaurant — there are kids everywhere waving their wands and making things talk, jingle, chime, and move. In other words, this is not the place to go if you want a quiet getaway.

Creation Station

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For the Clubhouse Crew, you start by building your own animal friend (think Build-A-Bear). You can choose from a handful of different forest creatures and an outfit of your choice. One your plush animal is stuffed, dressed, and activated, you’re off to follow the clues to solve your mystery. The kids really do get involved with the scavenger hunt activity and get to take home their wand or animal. Plus, both will remember what you’ve already accomplished so the next time you return to the GWL, you can pick up where you left off.

IMG_478913919

There are also tons of non-water related activities at Great Wolf Lodge from bowling and mini golf, to an arcade and a mini spa — so many more reasons to love the Great Wolf Lodge… you’ll just have to visit and explore on your own!

Visit the Great Wolf Lodge website to book your stay at the new California location or any of their other locations around the U.S.

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Los Angeles is a pretty magical place. I was born and raised in this fine city, and now I’m raising a family of my own here. So, it’s been great visiting places that I went as a kid, now with two of my own. Of course we’ve found some new favorites along the way, so narrowing this list down to just 10 places to take kids in Los Angeles was quite the chore. Whether you live here already or are thinking of visiting, here are my top picks on where to take the kids in Los Angeles.

10 Places to take kids in LA: Descanso Gardens1. Descano Gardens

We found Descanso Gardens  by accident after visiting some college friends in Montrose. It’s literally an oasis in the middle of the city where kids are allowed to run free and smell the roses — literally and figuratively. The park is divided into different types of California native foliage: Walk under the shade of the Redwood Grove, stroll amongst the roses in the Rose Garden and visit the bonsai in the Japanese Tea Garden. Don’t forget to visit the turtles and the gigantic koi fish in the main pond. If you’re lucky you see dragonflies too.

10 Places to take kids in LA: Farmer's Market
2. Original Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax

Every time we go out to dinner with the boys, we’re kind of sorry that we just didn’t head to the Farmer’s Market instead. The Farmer’s Market is like an oasis of food — all the foods from every region of this great wide world. And truthfully, it’s very representative of the city’s vast heritage. And it’s that cultural diversity that I love so much. You can literally get a bowl of gumbo, a plate of sushi, a shwarma sandwich and wash it all down with a Belgian beer, all in one stop. The kids can be as loud and as messy as they want because you’re outside. We like bringing board games. Friday nights bring live music and you can stay as long as you want. Be sure to hit Bennett’s ice cream after dinner, or else you’ll really be missing out.

10 Places to take kids in LA: Churro Borough Ice Cream Parlor
4. Churro Borough Ice Cream Parlor

Two of my favorite things combined into one at Churro Borough Ice Cream Parlor – churros and ice cream. The line is usually out the door at this place, so be sure to go at off hours. Round, crunchy, sugar coated churro disks sandwich artisan ice cream for the best treat ever. We can’t get enough. Seriously, it’s kind of becoming a problem. My favorite flavor ice cream is the spicy Mexican hot chocolate and the kids love the creamy vanilla. They’re purists, what can I say.

10 Places to take kids in LA: The Last Bookstore
5. The Last Bookstore Downtown Los Angeles

Stepping into the Last Bookstore in downtown LA is kind of like walking onto a movie set. There are books as far as they eyes can see, and art everywhere. Plus the people watching is fantastic. You can literally get lost in there for hours. There’s dollar book section, a color coordinate book wall, a tunnel made completely of books, and an upstairs artisan gallery. We’ve picked up a few good art prints there, some of which are currently hanging in our living room. And it’s great to show our kids, that books are still relevant, that there’s nothing quite like holding a book as apposed to reading it on a kindle. How old school right? Tip: One of the best taco joints in town is right around the corner – Guisados. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

10 Places to take kids in LA: The Hollywood Bowl
6. The Hollywood Bowl

Okay, here’s a super well kept secret. Ready? During the summer months, you can go and watch the Hollywood Bowl orchestra practice for FREE on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Practices run from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Settle in and get ready for a treat. It’s a truly unique experience as is going to an actual show where you can pack a picnic dinner complete with wine (for you) and juice boxes (for the kids).

7. LACMA Concert Series

Nothing says summer more than chilling out at a Latin Jazz concert at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It’s a great way to expose the kids to music, and you can let them run and be crazy, and they crash before you even get home from the outing meaning that you have the rest of the night free! If you’re not into the concert scene, you can always visit the museum. Kids 18 and under, plus one adult can get in for free if you sign up for the LACMA NexGen program. Now, that’s a good deal.

8. Olvera Street

Olvera Street is one of Los Angeles’ oldest historic locations, and is often referred to as the birthplace of the city. Walk up and down the storefronts, and grab some Mexican candy or a hand-stitched purse and maracas for the kids. There are a handful of sit down restaurants but grabbing tacos or taquitos from one of the take out joints is where it’s at. You really can’t beat the price – or the taste. You’ll be back for more. Check the event’s calendar for a chance to watch traditional Spanish dancers. Halloween brings the famous Day of the Dead parade, which is a unique experience in and of itself.

9. Chinatown

Have a craving for dim sum? Thinking of taking the family out for a fun night of karaoke? Chinatown is the place to visit. And if you have a karate fan in the house, paying homage to the Bruce Lee statue is a must. If you’ve never seen a Chinese Dragon Dance, then add that of your list of things to do – now! The self-guided walking tours are also great for first timers. The kids can partake in a scavenger hunt!

10. Griffith Park Merry Go Round

We’ve been to the Griffith Park Merry Go Round more times than we can count. It gives off a pretty nostalgic vibe, of what Los Angeles used to be many years ago. It runs every weekend and during the weekdays as well during the summer. We even had a friend have a circus themed birthday party at the park, with free rides for the kids, but that’s the kind of over the top birthday party you’d come to expect from living in Los Angeles.
10 Places to take kids in LA: The Los Angeles Zoo
11. LA Zoo

Okay we could not leave this one off the list – so there is actually 11.

Are your little monkeys driving you batty? You see where I’m going here? Yeah, the LA Zoo has all the animals. Every one that your little one wants to see. Plus there’s a new reptile exhibit (that gives me the creeps but keeps the kids coming back for more). There’s also a petting zoo and a pretty expansive play ground with misters for hot days – and there are plenty of them in Los Angeles. I recommend grabbing a frozen lemonade at the stand near the giraffe exhibit and watching them for while because those guys are awesome.

 

Moms, where are your favorite Los Angeles places to take your kids?
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We have had quite a start to 2015! We were invited to the BodyLab Launch on Tuesday (January 6) in Santa Monica. We sat down with Jennifer Lopez and her partners, Chantelle Daines and Dr. Amy Heaton who showed us a look into their new lifestyle and fitness brand. Lopez looked absolutely flawless, wearing a Brunello Cucinelli champagne-colored low plunge sweater, with a Enza Costa tan wrap skirt that had a thigh-high slit paired with nude Louboutin pumps.

photo (11)

“I want to inspire women to be the best and happiest versions of themselves,” she said with excitement. J.Lo does it all and she wants to share her secret with woman to help them to become “the girl of their dreams!”

“Yes, I’m an entertainer and I’m a dancer,” Lopez explains, “But ladies, we’re all athletes. We all have that in us. We do things for our men, our children, our families, our careers. What we have to do, it’s like a marathon daily. Every single day.”

photo (10)

The 45-year-old (yes 45!) is the face and founder of the lifestyle and fitness brand, tailored for women. “I joined the BodyLab family not only because of their commitment to creating great health and fitness products for women, by women, but also because of their approach to the holistic lifestyle. It’s not a solution-in-a-bottle. It’s not a fad diet. It’s part of a health regimen that makes your metabolism work as hard as you do. It’s a way to love your body.”

We would have to agree with Lopez when she says “It’s like a marathon daily,” but it was relaxing to spend a few hours at the gorgeous Annenberg Beach House surrounded by inspiring woman drinking yummy protein smoothies! Lopez’s favorite is the chocolate protein!

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BodyLab is available in stores now. To learn more, visit www.BodyLab.com.

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The Voice - Season 7 Photo by Trae Patton/NBC

Last week I got to represent Savvy Sassy Moms at a live recording of the hit show The Voice at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. My mother was visiting from Connecticut for the holidays and it was a perfect outing for us – music, stars, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the action, and we were even caught on camera at the beginning of the show, clapping and laughing and having the time of our lives. Not only did we have a wonderful time at The Voice, but we also got to drive there in style, thanks to Nissan’s little gift of a 2015 Versa Note for me to drive for the week.

THE CAR

As a sponsor of The Voice, Nissan wanted us to arrive in style. I told them I’d like to try the Versa Note because it’s the tiniest car they make, and I wondered what it would be like to zip around Los Angeles, a car-centric city, in such a small vehicle. The car they sent is a 2015 Versa Note SR in Metallic Peacock.

Look how cute:

2015 versa noteInside its kicky exterior, it’s a pretty basic car. The engine is loud and takes a few seconds to pick up speed. But it gets great gas mileage with a combined city/highway 35 miles per gallon. I’ve been driving it for 6 days all around my normal places and I’ve only used half a tank of gas. Despite the Versa Note’s small size, which allows me to squeeze into small parking spaces without fear of bumping other cars, it has a comfortable roomy interior. It seats five people without crowding, which I discovered when I drove my parents and my 2 kids out to dinner one night. On the other hand, the cargo space with all those people is limited. One load of groceries for my food-vacuum family required me to push the back seats down. It’s a perfect car for getting from point A to point B, and this actual car with all of its extras costs just over $19,000.

THE SHOW

The Voice - Season 7 Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC

The Versa Note got us from point A to point The Voice just fine thank you very much. I appreciated the modern sound system, which is a departure for me because I drive a 10-year-old sedan with a CD player that was broken long ago by my children and doesn’t have an iPhone hookup or Bluetooth connection. So in the Versa Note my mom and I got to play some tunes on the way to the show.

You can get free tickets to the Voice live shows just by going through NBC’s website. We were lucky to have VIP passes, so we were whisked directly to our seats – which were amazing – by friendly staffers. The whole process was fascinating. On the day we were present, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell taped a special performance of “Spark the Fire” complete with sparklers and torches and dancers and glow sticks for everyone in the audience to wave. They did three full performances of the song, then the producers edited a package together and played it during a later segment of the live show.

Let me tell you something. I am pretty sure that rocking out with my mom to a live Gwen Stefani performance wasn’t ever on my list of things to do, but I am definitely glad that it happened! We loved Stefani’s unique fashion choices – who else can pull off rock’n’roll pajamas and make that look cool?

As if that wasn’t awesome enough, then there was the whole episode of The Voice to experience. As audience members we had a very important job: applause. This was serious business. We had to stand up and applaud and cheer before every segment began, and stand during every performance. We were grateful for our awesome seats which were to Adam Levine’s left and level with the stage. The poor folks who stand down below stage level had to stand there for three hours! At least we got to sit down during commercial breaks and while the judges were talking with the contestants.

I was glad I picked something cute to wear, because as it turned out, our seats were right where the top 8 were headed at the end of their opening song, “Geronimo.” I couldn’t believe it when Craig and Damien danced and sang their way right up to where I was standing. That was when I wished I had taken the time to do my hair. We show up around 3:50 in the episode on the NBC website here.

on the voice

thevoice2The show was so much fun in person. The sound was excellent, all the performers sang their hearts out, and it was fun to watch the judges joke and goof around during breaks. Nick Jonas performed during this show and the audience went nuts. I hadn’t watched the Voice before but being there for this episode definitely made me invested in the outcome!

The Voice - Season 7Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC

After the show, a staffer drove us back to the parking garage in a 2015 Nissan Murano. That’s more the style of car for my family, but I liked both driving experiences. We stayed at Universal for dinner at City Walk and then finally went home to show the DVR’ed episode to my family. What a day! My mom has a great story about her trip to Los Angeles and I got my face on network television for a nanosecond. Not too shabby. (Also, now I really want a new car.)

Nissan gave me a car to drive for the week and 2 VIP passes to a taping of the Voice. All opinions are my own. Or my mom’s.

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Halloween at Disneyland

Halloween, like only Disneyland can do it

A visit to Disneyland Resort is pretty special any time of the year; however Halloween at Disneyland Resort is an especially spectacular time to visit. Every Fall, (September 12 to October 31, 2014) the Disneyland Resort is transformed for the Halloween season with magnificent decorations, special “spooky” attractions and Halloween sweets galore at every sweets shoppe. We were invited to Disneyland as members of the media, all opinions are our own. Halloween is magically celebrated at Disneyland Resort like only Disney can do it.

Disneyland HalloweenTime Candy Corn Cotton Candy

Candy Corn Cotton Candy

It’s all about the Sweets

The Disneyland Resort is becoming quickly infamous for their culinary delights, from the Mickey-shaped pretzels to the gumbo bread bowl at the Royal Street Veranda (and so much in between), the Halloween Time sweets at Disneyland are no exception. Found in any sweets shoppe in California Adventure or the Disneyland Resort, the Halloween Time sweets are stunning works of art. I stopped in to several shoppe’s to get a glance at them and without fail, I drooled every time. I got to personally taste the candy corn cotton candy, Mickey Pumpkin Cupcake, apple twist, pizza twist, Mint Julep and Gibson Girl ice cream in a Halloween waffle cone. I have heard very good and yummy things about the pumpkin Mickey beignets from Café Orleans and the piping hot banana fritters from Royal Street Veranda.

Disneyland Halloween Time Sweets and Treats Special Halloween Time Attractions

Without question, the quintessential icon of the Halloween season is the Haunted Mansion Holiday. The 2014 Halloween Time Haunted Mansion Holiday is decorated inspired by Jack Skellington, from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and the spooky residents of Halloween Town. I snapped the picture below of the Haunted Mansion Holiday during sunset, giving the Mansion an extra spooky glow. We didn’t get to ride the Haunted Mansion Holiday this year (my kids are too little and are easy frightened!) but I have heard the entire ride is decorated for Halloween. Space Mountain becomes Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy during Halloween Time at Disneyland. Although the queue time is a bit longer to ride during Halloween Time it is worth it. Pick up a fast pass so you won’t have to queue too long! Haunted Mansion at Disneyland during Halloween

More Halloween Time Special Attractions

Big Thunder Ranch, which is known as the Halloween Carnival during Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort offers several special events during the Halloween season. Meet your favorite Disney characters in special Halloween garb, see the amazing hand carved pumpkins that are true works of art, the kiddies can do some Halloween crafts and catch a glimpse of popular Disney villains. Observe Dia de los Muertos with a traditional skeleton display in Frontierland too! Halloween Time at Disneyland Media Reception with Jack and Sally

Magical Holidays at a Magical Place

A visit to Disneyland is always special however, the ability to celebrate a holiday at the happiest place on earth is made even more magical due to the unique attention to detail Disneyland can do. My older children and I had the best day ever at Disneyland, my kids loved the special decorations, the special treats and most especially the Halloween Time sweets. It was a magical, happy day. I mean, just look at these faces:

Happy Kids at Disneyland

My kids

Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort is every day now until October 31st, 2014. Head on over to Disneyland to purchase Halloween Time tickets now.

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The Headquarters at Seaport Village

The Headquarters at San Diego’s Seaport District is giving new life to the historic waterfront. This gorgeous outdoor venue features specialty shops, restaurants and a piece of San Diego history.

A slice of San Diego’s past

San Diego’s Police Headquarters was built in 1939 to serve as the first police facility in the world to incorporate all police operations under one roof. A 274-bed jail, five courtrooms, an emergency hospital, an indoor shooting range, a law library and a large 17,000 square-foot automotive maintenance garage. It also served as an espionage command center during WWII, and its emergency hospital was one of the first trauma-style units on the west coast.

By the mid-1950s the police department had outgrown the 100,000 square-foot space and it was abandoned in 1987. In 1998, the National Register of Historic Places recognized Old Police Headquarters for its civic contributions. The prestigious listing made the Old Police Headquarters only the twenty-fifth police facility in the U.S. — and only the second in California — to ever be recognized as a national landmark.

Bringing it into the future

In May 2008, Terramar Retail Centers began the rehabilitation of the Old Police Headquarters into a vibrant shopping, dining and entertainment destination. David Marshall, an historic architect and president of Heritage Architecture & Planning, identified elements like carved wooden doors, ironwork, light fixtures, ceramic wall tiles, windows and skylights and they were restored and reused to ensure the historic integrity of the Old Police Headquarters. Even the old cell block doors that marked the entrance to the tunnel where prisoners were escorted to their cells have been restored and the area now serves as an onsite museum that includes several of the jail cells.

The Headquarters San Diego is a piece of local history that now provides a home for local retailers and restaurants.

Puesto, The Headquarters, San Diego

What used to be the filing room is now home to Puesto which serves up gourmet Mexican dishes and hand-crafted cocktails using fresh fruit and organic juices.

Seasons 52, located in the former garage, is a fresh grill restaurant offering an upscale, healthy lifestyle cuisine. Nothing on the menu is over 475 calories!

Dallmann Fine Chocolate Boutique, The Headquarters, San Diego

Dallmann Fine Chocolate Boutique specializes in exquisite artisan chocolates. Their chocolate pairing boxes — Wine And Chocolate, Chocolate and Cheese, and “Chocolate and Beer” — make perfect gifts.

Venissimo Cheese sells all of the the best cheese from all over the world. They will put together unique cheese platters for parties.

Madison, The Headquarters, San Diego

Madison San Diego has a great selection of fine leather goods and fashion accessories for men and women.

I really loved the beach inspired fashion, accessories and gifts at Urban Beach House.

Simply Local is a like an indoor farmer’s market featuring over 50 local merchants and artists.

The Aaron Chang Ocean Art Gallery features mediums and large format photographs by the world-renowned surfing photographer.

For more information about The Headquarters visit www.theheadquarters.com. You can like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

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Where Lil' Foodies Eat in LA

Where Lil’ Foodies Eat in LA

Dining with kids in Los Angeles

There is a new wave of dining with kids in LA. The culinary scene in LA is exploding and I can’t think of a better reason your foodie-in-training shouldn’t carpe diem. From food trucks to fine-dining, LA eateries and top chefs are focusing more and more on pint-sized diners and families. Gone are the days of fried chicken fingers, personal pizzas and mac & cheese. Now? Expect Mary’s Farm chicken with root vegetables, flatbreads and homemade macaroni and cheese with treasures like black truffles and chunks of fresh lobster mixed in.

Been there.

The Fat Cow. So you and your tyke are at The Grove, ready to grab some grub, hoping not to have to do The Cheesecake Factory and American Place Cafe (again). Enter Gordon Ramsay. The star of Master Chefs Junior and Hell’s Kitchen has opened The Fat Cow and serves up a variety of stone baked pizzas, gourmet comfort food and The Moo Bar with desserts that will pack on the lbs. just by ready the descriptions. The Fat Cow // 189 The Grove Drive – Los Angeles, CA (323) 965-1020 www.thefatcow.com

The Fat Cow // The Grove

The Fat Cow // The Grove

What is my lil’ foodie eating? The Smoked Salmon Pizza with caramelized onions and Cookie Milk Ice Cream Sundae.

Done that.

WP24. When visiting LA Live downtown for a show or Laker’s game, things can get cray-cray. Especially, when you are with the fam-dam. Well what would you say if I told you about a magical place, above the chaos, high above the neon lights, where they served foods that even the little bitties are excited to try? OK, so maybe they aren’t ready for Wolfgang Puck’s signature Angry Lobster, but they will be delighted with the Shanghai Noodles. WP24 // 900 W Olympic Blvd – Los Angeles, CA (213) 743-8824 www.wolfgangpuck.com

WP24 // LA Live

WP24 // LA Live

What is my lil’ foodie eating? The Chinese Crystal Dumplings and Crispy Pain d’ Espice with caramel braised apple, spiced donuts, miso butterscotch and cider sorbet.

And this.

Montage Beverly Hills. Afternoon tea might only sound like a light snack; however the tower of goodness they present at your table is abundant. Families are embraced during this mid-day tradition at Montage Beverly Hills where dad’s are offered a proper Gentlemen’s Tea (pie and scotch,) mom’s can toast Veuve with the Royal Tea, and tots are presented with the Royal Kid’s Tea served with a “champagne mocktail,”  bite sized Nutella, PB&J and grilled cheese sandwiches. Montage Beverly Hills // 225 N Canon Drive – Beverly Hills, CA 90210 www.montagebeverlyhills.com

Montage Beverly Hills // Afternoon Tea

Montage Beverly Hills // Afternoon Tea

What is my lil’ foodie eating? Nutella sandwiches, delicious scones, dad’s sliders and Tisane Passionberry Fruit tea.

Bought the t-shirt.

Still not entirely convinced that Lil’ Johnny is ready for Octopus a la Plancha? That’s OK, I hear you. Sometimes even adults are hoping for some fun some alternatives that are different, or maybe your limited on time. Have you heard of Lemonade? Spread out throughout Southern California, Lemonade is proof Chef Alan Jackson has redefined the fast casual dining experience. And it’s in a cafeteria setting — no joke. Grab a tray, choose one of the buffets filled with flavorful foods and enjoy a different type of fast food with the fam. To find a Lemonade nearest you, please visit www.lemonadela.com

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