Destination: Carlsbad

The Sheraton Carlsbad is located on Grand Pacific Drive off of Cannon Road in Carlsbad, near Legoland. If you are looking for a staycation destination, look no further than San Diego County. Just an hour drive from Orange County, Carlsbad is ideal! My family recently spent an overnighter at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa and had a great weekend there. We’ve gone to Legoland many times on day trips, and stopped at Carlsbad en route to San Diego many times. But making Carlsbad THE destination – that was kind of new to us.

The hotel itself offers a private entrance into Legoland. Discount tickets are available at the concierge desk. If you opt to skip Legoland like we did, you can lounge by the pool and just chill, or work out at one of the most state-of-the-art hotel fitness facilities I’ve ever seen. Then book an exquisite massage at the Ocean Pearl Spa.

Sheraton Carlsbad PoolSide1

If you have kids, then chilling out at a hotel, even if it is the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa, may not be their style and so I give you the TOP FIVE FAMILY-FRIENDLY PLACES TO VISIT IN CARLSBAD.

Carlsbad State Beach
7201 Carlsbad Blvd., Carlsbad, CA 92008
Recently named one of America’s best beaches, you can swim, surf, scuba dive, fish or play in the soft sand at Carlsbad State Beach. There are restrooms and shower facilities available along this beach.

San Diego Coastline with Pacific Ocean Waves

Carlsbad Lagoon
4215 Harrison St., Carlsbad, CA 92008

This was the find of our recent stay! This private aquatic center is a mecca for water sports. You can rent kayaks, wave runners, boats, stand up paddle boards and aqua cycles at reasonable rates and spend the day in the calm, un-crowded waters of the lagoon. You can also go wakeboarding or waterskiing. On land, they have decks overlooking the lagoon, where you can have a small gathering and barbecue or picnic.

carlsbadlagoon

Legoland California
1 Legoland Dr., Carlsbad, CA 92008
Over 60 rides, shows, and attractions all built around everyone’s favorite snappable brick toy – LEGOS! Everything is awesome.

Museum of Making Music
5790 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008

There is a permanent display of vintage instruments, audio and video clips, and an interactive area. The museum hosts many musical performances and events geared towards children.

The Flower Fields
5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Opening March 1st this year, the Flower Fields are home to over 50 acres devoted to raising the beautiful Tecolote Giant Ranunculus flowers.

Keegan Allen of PLL: Book Signing at The Grove

True confession. I’m a big fan of the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars. And I do not even have teenage daughters! But I am an even bigger fan of the actor who plays the moody and sensitive Toby, Keegan Allen. I’ve been following him on Instagram, which he not only uses to post behind-the-scenes shots of his show and films he’s working on, but also to share his creative projects, his art and poetry.

lifelovebeauty

Lately his feed is filled with shots of fans on stops from his book tour for his debut life.love.beauty, a photographic journal of his life thus far. Let me tell you, the book isn’t the usual actor’s vanity project. It does, in fact, have substance. It is a moving look into a young man’s life. In the book, he writes about his childhood, his ambition, his parents, an actor and an artist, growing up in California and more. A section of the book is dedicated to his co-stars on Pretty Little Liars, so fans will be happy about that.

OC Fans, would you like to meet Keegan in person? He will be at Barnes and Noble at The Grove in LA on Tuesday, February 10th for a book signing.

KeeganAllen

WHEN: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 7:00pm
WHERE: Barnes & Noble, The Grove – 189 The Grove Dr. Los Angeles, CA 90036

Music, Art, Imagination Combine in Gustafer Yellowgold at SCFTA

Back in the early aughts, we were all about the kid rock. We lived on the East Coast and my boys were really into the likes of Dan Zanes and Laurie Berkner. We even watched Dan Zanes at an intimate tock concert venue and had a grand old time. We were also starting to listen to a newcomer named Gustafer Yellowgold. What was great about their music was that it wasn’t patronizing, corny, annoying children’s music. The songs were in fact tunes that grown-ups didn’t mind listening and singing along to as well. From these kinds of songs, my boys grew into an appreciation of music by the Flaming Lips, They Might be Giants and David Bowie.

Gustafer Yellowgold

I’ve always wondered what happened to that kids’ music scene since neither Nickelodeon nor Disney play any of Dan or Laurie or Gustafer’s music. But I’m glad to know that they are still around (just not on TV, you could try the non-Radio Disney Children’s music channel on Satellite Radio.)
In fact, Gustafer Yellowgold, the alien from the sun living out an explorer’s life ina slightly psychedelic version of the Minnesota woods, a.k.a Morgan Taylor, will be performing at the Segerstrom Center For the Arts in Costa Mesa, as part of their Family Series, on February 21-22, 2015. Part pop rock concert, part animated picture book, the show will be a fun interactive multimedia experience.

Acclaimed by The New York Times as “A cross between ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Dr. Seuss.” Gustafer Yellowgold has some really whimsical, catchy songs. In a recent phone interview with the artist, singer/songwriter behind Gustafer, he revealed that it all started out with a yellow doodle and a song that he had already written for his rock band that they didn’t use.

This is the first song that got me and my family into Gustafer:

Here’s a peek into what a Gustafer Yellowgold live show is like:

You can purchase tickets to Gustafer Yellowgold at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts here. For more information, visit scfta.org and gustaferyellowgold.com

Family Values Come Alive in “The Book of Life” Movie

It is always such a treat to speak with the creator of a work of art. The movie “Book of Life” is not just another kids’ animated movie, in fact, it IS a work of art! So it was with pleasure that I interviewed the artist behind this opus, the genius who created the beloved characters, the gorgeous visuals and most importantly, the heartwarming story of Manolo, Joaquin and Maria in “The Book of Life.” His name is Jorge Gutierrez. “The Book of Life,” is his feature directorial debut.

Book_of_Life_3DBD_Oring

The movie was originally released around Halloween, because the movie’s setting is the Day of the Dead (Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos). But far from being a dark and scary film, it is actually, a colorful, positive and uplifting story about three friends and their devotion to each other, their families and to love! The visuals are unlike any animation we’ve seen in a while – they are vivid and detailed!

Jorge was the artist behind Nickelodeon’s show “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera,” the WB’s “Mucha Lucha” etc. “I wanted to bring some of the things I had done in TV animation to film,” Jorge revealed. “I wanted something that looked unique.” He draws inspiration for his distinctive style from Mexican folklore, Japanese animation, Picasso and other artists.

Without giving anything away, the movie is a classic love triangle. Manolo the reluctant bullfighter-with-a-soul-of-a-singer and Joaquin the soldier, vie for the heart of the pretty and smart Maria. Woven through the tale are generations of families, Mexican beliefs, and Mariachi versions of rock songs!
But enough of my thoughts, you really should just go out and see it. Better yet, buy the DVD.

Jorge’s vision for the “Book of Life” was brought to life with help from composer Gustavo Santaollala and producer Guillermo del Toro. The movie features an all-star voice cast – Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ron Perlman, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube and Kate del Castillo.

Now comes the fun part, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment gave us a special “Book of Life” prize pack for one of our lucky OC FAMILY readers! The prize pack includes:
• The Book of Life Stencils
• The Book of Life Stationery
• The Book of Life Backpack
• The Book of Life Blu-ray
• Crayola Sketchpad
• Crayola Crayons

For a chance to win, simply name one of the stars in the movie in the comments below.

Knott’s for the Cure

Let’s face it, cancer is scary and painful and sad. It can be all these NEGATIVE things but put in perspective by people like the amazing Jaime Jenkins, it can be more than that. It can be something life affirming. Recently, I attended an event at Knott’s Berry Farm that launched “Knott’s for the Cure,” in partnership with Susan G. Komen Orange County. Knott’s and Komen are working together to raise money for breast cancer awareness, services and research by offering a special “Pink Ticket” and limited edition specially designed “pink” merchandise until March 27.

During the launch event, we honored fellow blogger, Jaime Jenkins of Polka Dots on Parade, who’s currently fighting breast cancer and is not letting it get in the way of living her life to the fullest. Her strength and bright spirit has inspired many of us online. She is a wonderful mom and an all around amazing woman! She gave a short speech at Knott’s telling us all to be positive. She shared the importance of the work that Komen does. Other Komen representatives shared more about what it is they do to help in this big fight against breast cancer.

ChoosePink

Komen Orange County is working to better the lives of those facing breast cancer in the local community. Through events like the Knotts for the Cure and Komen Orange County Race for the Cure®, Komen Orange County has invested more than $35 million in community breast health programs in Orange County and has helped contribute to the more than $800 million invested globally in research.

I attended the Knott’s for the Cure event with a dear friend of mine, Marie Walker Riddle, who is also battling for her life. Despite the light rain that morning, we had a blast and even went on the Jaguar ride twice!

Knotts for the Cure

The three month long promotion will provide guests with the opportunity to enjoy Knott’s world class entertainment, attractions and specially-themed “pink” décor, while supporting a great cause. The famous Calico Mine Ride, Knott’s Berry Farm Main Gate and the Camp Snoopy waterfall will all glow pink in honor of the campaign. From now till March 27, guests can purchase “Pink Tickets” for theme park admission only online at knotts.com. A portion of the “Pink Tickets” proceeds will benefit Komen Orange County.

TV Host Kit Hoover Talks About ASPCA and How You Can Help

I had the opportunity to chat with Kit Hoover, Billy Bush’s co-host on Access Hollywood Live, and a correspondent for Access Hollywood. She was very lively and friendly during our phone interview. We talked about her show, her work and animals. Yes, animals. She is currently involved with the ASPCA and wanted to let OC FAMILY readers know that you can help The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals by shopping online! That’s right, the ASPCA has partnered with We-Care.com, an online shopping portal that raises funds for nonprofit organizations.

Kit Hoover | ASPCA

Easy enough right? Simply sign up for a We-Care account (it’s free!) and you even get the chance to win a visit to the set of Access Hollywood with Kit Hoover! Here’s the link: https://aspca.we-care.com/kithoover
But wait, you wanted to read about my conversation with Kit. Actually, the phone interview was with me and two other bloggers, one from Maryland and the other from Idaho. (Gotta love technology!) Here are some highlights:

You and co-host Billy Bush have such great chemistry working together on Access Hollywood, what’s the secret?

You know, what’s funny is that so many people want to know about the chemistry and it’s one of those things you can’t define, but when it’s right it’s just right. It was instant from the moment we met. Nobody makes me laugh harder. He probably gives me a full on belly laugh every day! We’re truly friends off the air too.

That’s probably the secret, you’re friends.

Yeah. We go out with our [spouses] all the time. He loves hanging out with my husband, I love hanging out with his wife. We have fun together, we love to laugh. I have fun sitting beside him every day.

You’re now working with the ASPCA, so let’s talk animals. Do you have pets at home?

When we moved out here (to California) from Connecticut, we were told we couldn’t have a dog [where we lived] so we rescued two cats, a guinea pig and a bunny. They said “No dog.” They didn’t mention the others.

Do your kids help with them?

I was emphatic about having animals for my children. My kids are 12, 11 and 7. Pets are so important. They teach kids so much. We had a rescue kitty named Daisy that died from leukemia and that was [my kids] first experience with loss. They cried so hard, but I think that’s an important part of life. With the bunny, they’re in charge of cleaning the cage, feeding the bunny and cleaning it. In school, all their creative stories are about the animals.

Did you grow up with animals yourself?

My parents rescued German shepherds. We’d always house them until we found homes for them. We took pride in finding great homes for the ones we would bring in. I think that taught my brother and I a lot. My [parents] were big into animals. They were always rescuing them, or when someone would move they knew to come to the Hoovers first if an animal needed a home.

Finally, tell us how your involvement with ASPCA came about.

I was so excited when they came to me. In this job, you get asked to be part of a lot of charities, and this one is really close to my heart. What is cool is they partnered with WeCare.com and I love this aspect: You can shop online and the proceeds go to ASPCA. It helps with rescue animals; it helps to protect animals from cruelty, any at risk animals. I love it. It is really an honor.

And anyone who logs onto to WeCare.com is entered to win to come out to California, see the show and hang with me. So you should all enter, that would be fun!

*Hoover is currently featured on a special We-Care/ASPCA page at https://aspca.we-care.com/kithoover. Every time shoppers make purchases from their favorite retailers via We-Care.com, a portion of their purchases will be donated to the ASPCA at no cost to the consumer. The We-Care/ASPCA page also features an opportunity to win a visit to the set of Access Hollywood Live, where the winner will meet Kit and view a taping of the TV show from behind the scenes.

Mind and Body Cleanse from Paleta

Mid-January, new year. I thought I’d check in to see how you were all doing on those resolutions. You know the ones – eat less, lose weight, exercise more. Yes, the same ones we make every year, right? (I know I wrote about New Year’s Resolutions last time too.) But I’m here to confess I cheated. I had a head start on changing the way I eat in 2015.

You see, before the holidays, I did the 5-day PALETA Mind and Body Cleanse. It’s not a juice cleanse. In fact, it does incorporate food – yummy food! Everything you need to eat is delivered fresh to your home. PALETA, after all, is a farm to table meal delivery service.

Paleta Mind and Body Cleanse | OC FAMILY | Marcie Taylor

Source: paleta.com

According to the literature, the Mind & Body CLEANSE is designed to cleanse your liver by eliminating inflammatory, allergenic foods from your diet while providing your body with ample nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. In addition to cleansing you of environmental toxins, it will also serve to help you identify how your body responds to certain typical allergenic foods that a large part of the population have intolerance to and may not even know it!

I don’t know about all that but I will tell you that I made it through the cleanse and I ended up feeling better inside and out. It felt like I had re-trained my body. I know it’ll take more than 5 days but it’s a start, right?

My inspiration is the PALETA founder herself, Chef Kelly. I met her in Santa Monica when I was working on a story for OC FAMILY Magazine.

Changing the way she ate, literally saved her life.

Basically the Mind & Body CLEANSE specifically eliminates all dairy, animal protein, sugar, caffeine, soy, gluten, corn and, of course, alcohol, tobacco and processed foods. For me, it made me more conscious of everything I ate. The best part – it affected my family too. I’ve become more conscious of the food I prepare for my husband and kids.

I haven’t lost any significant amount of weight. I know it’s a process and I also have to exercise. But it’s definitely a start.

If you want to give the Mind and Body Cleanse a try, the good folks at PALETA are offering OC FAMILY readers some discount codes.

Visit paleta.com and use code OCFAMILY15 for 15% off initial orders of any meal program, or OCFAMILY10 for 10% off initial orders of either any Mind and Body Cleanse program or Pressed Detox program.

Sisterhood of the Yoga Pants

New Year’s Resolution: No more yoga pants except when doing yoga. Who’s with me?

Don’t you sometimes wish you could wear your yoga pants everywhere? I know I do (and have)! I’m no fashionista but I suppose it’s pretty acceptable in the (mother)hood to wear them at school pick-up and drop-off even if you haven’t actually gone to the yoga studio. But what about those times you have to dress grow-up and say, have to attend a meeting or go into the office? Well, I found the perfect pants for those occasions. They’re called “SlimSation” pants, which combine comfort, trend and function. Call them the “unyoga” pants or call them perfect. I’m in love with the pair I own right now that contours my waist, and slims the lower tummy and even shapes my hips.

Here’s how it looks in real life:

That's me at the Living Desert Zoo, Palm Springs.

That’s me at the Living Desert Zoo, Palm Springs.

Here’s how the pants look on a model:
slimsation

Designed by John Bourgeois, SlimSation fills the void for the comfy yet trendy pant in the women’s wear market and provides a staple wardrobe piece at an affordable price point.

I am not a spokesperson or anything but when I discover something cool, it makes me a fan. So when I started raving about the pants, the good people at SlimSation offered YOU, OC FAMILY readers, a special discount code. Shop slimsation.com and USE CODE: OCFAMILY for 10% Off total purchase. Active now thru Feb 28, 2015

HAPPY NEW YEAR. NEW PANTS!

Renaissance Club Aliso Viejo Hosts Kids in the Kitchen

My boys participated in a “Kids in the Kitchen” cooking event at the Renaissance ClubSport in Aliso Viejo. They made apple turnovers and chocolate chip cookies with the help of the club’s executive and sous chefs! The treats turned out really tasty and the kids had fun. This class is offered as a part of the club’s Kids’ World Facility – which we were lucky enough to tour after the baking activity. Let me tell you, it’s definitely a safe and fun childcare environment.

kids in kitchen

Renaissance Club Aliso Viejo | Kids in the Kitchen

More than a health club, Renaissance ClubSport Aliso Viejo is also a hotel with many family-friendly events year-round.

Kids World

On December 21, they will be hosting a “Breakfast with Santa Event.” Call 949.643.6700 for more information.

Pacific Symphony’s ‘Nutcracker for Kids’ – a magical musical morning

The holidays are here and that means fun events for the family! One of our favorite holiday events is catching “The Nutcracker Ballet.” We’ve seen school productions and other variations but perhaps our favorite is the Pacific Symphony and Festival Ballet Theater’s (FBT) “Nutracker for Kids,” part of Family Musical Mornings presented by Farmers and Merchants Bank.
Nutcracker-630x185

The orchestra, led by Assistant Conductor Alejandro Gutiérrez, shares the stage with the enchanted ballerinas from FBT, led by Artistic Director Salwa Rizkalla. Together, they bring this beloved Christmas tale of the prince and Clara to life, along with the classic battle between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s memorable music, performed live, fills the air with wonder. What’s cool about the “Nutcracker for Kids,” it was created especially for children ages 5-11, and runs only 45-minutes. This version of the ballet is adapted by Bree Burgess Rosen, and features narrator Charlotte Rubino, age 11, making it entertaining for the whole family.

Guess what? There’s more …to end the concert on an even more festive note, Santa Claus arrives to spread holiday cheer. Nutcracker for Kids will be staged on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Children are also invited to participate in a Musical Carnival at 9 a.m. (for the 10 a.m. concert) and 12:15 p.m. (for the 11:30 a.m. concert). Tickets are $35-$60; for more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit PacificSymphony.org.

I encourage you all to check out the Pacific Symphony’s Family Musical Mornings as a way to introduce your children to the orchestra and more classical entertainment, throughout the year. In January, they will be presenting “Cinderella, An Opera for Kids.”