Why FBT’s Nutcracker is the Mother Ginger of them all! Shows Dec. 12-24.

Before you know it, Festival Ballet Theatre’s Gingersnaps will be popping out from Mother Ginger’s skirt, a bevy of Snow will be elegantly dancing across stage, and the iconic white-gowned Clara will be dreaming of her Nutcracker Prince.

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FBT truly does the Nutcracker like no other in OC. Perhaps I’m biased, as my girl has been in the show the past four years and she returns this year as a Russian (Zoe seen below), but it is OC’s biggest holiday ballet by far with box-office setting records.


The grand production charms OC audiences of all ages with two weeks of shows held at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.


“We are so very excited for this season,” said Salwa Rizkalla, artistic director and founder of Festival Ballet. “We have the best dancers, a gorgeous set, the beautiful Barclay stage, and the show is such a tradition for so many in Orange County. We always sell out—all 15 shows! We’re blessed to be a favorite way that families celebrate the holidays together.”

Art and opulent sensation collide as the countless festive roles present themselves to the audience. “Everyone has their favorite character from the Toy Soldiers and adorable young Angels to the poetic Snow Queen and fierce Mouse King,” noted Rizkalla with warm regard.


I’ve personally seen what goes on backstage with all the different dancers coming and going, and it’s of epic coordination proportions. “Audiences would indeed be amazed at the happenings behind the curtain! There is an awesome, energetic buzz, as we coordinate so many different characters of The Nutcracker ensemble dancing and darting off stage. It’s a lot of fun. Immense practice goes into the performances, plus we’ve been doing it for so many years that we’re quite good at it. Everyone knows their places.”

The full-length show is always in demand for the acclaimed talent it brings to Orange County. FBT performs this enchanted ballet with spectacular guest artists from American Ballet Theatre, Jeffrey Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet, along with their very talented professional company dancers and exceptional young talent from across the Southern California, including FBT’s partner school Southland Ballet Academy that Pointe Magazine named as one of the top 7 ballet schools nationwide.


Set to the timeless music of Peter Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker is the perfect way to embrace the wonder of the season. Tickets for this family-friendly, affordable show start at $40 (visit barclay.org or festivalballet.org. Don your holiday attire, and enjoy the show!

You’ll see my cute Russian in several of the shows, and you can ‘t miss me as I’ll be the proud mom beaming with my iPhone in hand and roses for Zoe. Happy holidays!


Free Jr. Chef classes for kids at Williams-Sonoma Crystal Cove

My daughter, Zoe, and I started a new chapter in our lives–cooking! We’ve embraced it wholeheartedly, but just as the love affair with better eating began, things stopped abruptly recently when our sweet potato chili was interrupted with a visit to urgent care–Zoe cut her finger wide open. The deep gash healed, but my confidence dived, so that was it for us until Zoe got some pro lessons. Enter Chef Jackie at the Williams-Sonoma Crystal Cove store.


Did you know the store offers a Junior Chef program for kids of all ages? I only stumbled upon it when calling around. Chef Jackie was great–she gave Zoe and her friend an hour lesson on all the insider tricks of proper cutting and safety. I was wildly relieved to see Zoe being schooled properly (as you know Mom Guilt is long-lived and takes a lot to get over).


The girls had such a great time chopping away like a real chef making a delicious mac-n-cheese complete with carrots, peppers and onions. There really was mounds of chopping involved.



Zoe had so much fun cooking right in the store. We are certain to return for The Junior Chef program, where kids are invited to visit the store Saturday mornings for complimentary classes at 10 am.

(You can also host an intimate birthday party lesson for your child and a few friends for a charge–great gift idea!).

Jr. Chef Classes at Williams-Sonoma include cooking mashed potatoes, soup, decorating pies and more.

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And December 7th, the Williams-Sonoma Crystal Cove store is hosting a Gingerbread House class (a special fee of $30 for the materials).

I’m so glad I found out about this program–a great plus for our OC community.


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For good measure, Zoe gave Chef Jackie’s knife lessons and her mac-n-cheese recipe a go at home already :)


For more on Williams-Sonoma Jr Chef classes, click here and visit the store at: 8032 Pacific Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, CA 92657, 949-464-2168. Ask for Chef Jackie Rovere

More ahead from me here, or keep up with me at DebbieintheOC.com, on Facebook and Twitter.

Also look for my stories each month in the OC Register Family Magazine.


New to Etnies shoes? Check out breathable Etnies Scout.

Somehow, we’ve never tried Etnies. I know, crazy, right? Maybe you’re like me and have heard of the popular Lake Forest line, but have never got your kids into the sporty kicks. My three kids gave the Etnies Scout styles a go, and so did I.

My youngest, Fox, is the cutest thing in his little Etnies. The fresh, fun look brings smiles each time I see him coming. As you know, little kids have serious “challenges” to keep their kicks smelling good, and these seemed to work the trick while he plays outdoors for hours. The Scout Kids boasts breathability with a special mesh fabric, and there’s all kinds of comfort with their STI Evolution Foam.

The biggest trial testers were my older kids. Zoe and Ty spend all day in them at school and I’m happy to report that they love them. We’ve had them quite some time now; Ty has already given his a true lived-in look (literally wearing them every day of school), while Zoe has kept hers in new condition, as she wears them mostly for games and wears her many other fashionista looks throughout the week, as girls do you know.

Both kids dig the support and I dig that you don’t instantly know when someone has taken their shoes off (by simply having the ‘aroma’ waft your way). I also am on board with Etnies “Buy a Shoe, Plant a Tree reforestation program, it’s eco/green good stuff. So we’re all in with Etnies now.

As mentioned, I even gave the Etnies Scout for womens shoes a try. I’ve worn them to all the major theme parks in the area and gave them the full-day test. Quite simply, they were great. (Forgive the black socks with the pink Etnies here–it was Halloween, so fashion is forgiven, right?)

Want to try a pair for your kids? Hop over to the Etnies Kids Facebook page, where they’re hosting a Fall giveaway right now. If you don’t win this time, there’s always next time–many giveaways from the Etnies folks.

Good luck, and you can learn more about the latest Etnies looks on their website at Etnies.com

Dana Point, Ocean Institute and Reef Check–inspired outings for OC families.

If you have kids with sea legs and big hearts for all things oceanic, you’ll be inspired by Ocean Institute‘s latest event. This past weekend, we were invited to Dana Point to tag along as Reef Check joined forces with Ocean Institute to monitor our local Salt Creek Reef. It was a rare eecological exploration to preserve the Salt Creek Reef and the fascinating marine life that lives there.

The event marked the first time “citizen scientists” and public guests were invited to the “Dive In.” Now, my kids and I didn’t personally suit up of course, but we watched in all go down in real reef time. As guests, we were on a secondary boat equipped with an underwater camera for a first-hand look into surveying the rocky reef and its colorful array of inhabitants.

As divers jumped in, we watched them venture down and take all measurements of the reef below us. They used an ROV and images were shown on our Ocean Institute boat. It was wild to watch the forces unite and come together for the good of our ocean.

Reef Check is doing great work out there, up and down the coast of California. The organization trains volunteers to carry out reef check surveys and details the results. It’s a wonderful group of goodwilled-people.

It’s also worth noting that the Resorts of Dana Point is one of the founding partners of the Reef Check Adopt-A-Reef Program. Proactive community programs just like this reinforce how Dana Point is committed to conservation and sustaining its rich marine life.

The kids got to talk with the divers and soak in all the on-the-job duties, such as seeing their waterproof chart that takes all measurements while below.

A bonus of the trip was an array of wildlife sightings, which you can see if you join Ocean Institute on their weekend boat rides, which takes folks out for local whale watching and more. We spotted seals and many dolphins swam with us alongside our boat. We even saw a humpback whale!


If you haven’t spent much time in Dana Point, the marina area is such a wonderful spot for families. Now that Ocean Institute is on our radar, we may even be checking out their summer camps and other regular happenings.


More about Ocean Institue:

The Ocean Institute has become nationally known for its hands-on marine science, environmental and ocean education and maritime history programs. More than 115,000 K-12 students and 8,000 teachers annually participate in the Institute’s 61 award-winning, immersion style programs. To learn about ocean facts, sea creatures, oceanography, science, and California history, students voyage onto the ocean, study in labs and live aboard tall ships or in the chaparral. On weekends, they open their doors to the public. Ocean Institute, 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA

More about Reef Check:

Funded in 1996 by marine ecologist Dr. Gregor Hodgson, the Reef Check Foundation is an international non-profit organization dedicated to conservation of two ecosystems: tropical coral reefs and California rocky reefs. With headquarters in Los Angeles and volunteer teams in more than 90 countries and territories, Reef Check works to create partnerships among community volunteers, government agencies, businesses, universities and other non-profits. 


Our family of minions menaced at Legoland’s Brick or Treat Halloween nights

Have you heard of Legoland’s Brick or Treat nights? They’ve only been doing it a few years now, so it’s a fun new find for families looking for some October thrills. This upcoming weekend is your last chance to get in on the Legoland’s Brick or Treat action.

We were just a bit excited to go, as my crew ran out for outfits before our big night out at the park. Our little guy is obsessed with minions, so we supported his path of mayhem.

From 5 to 9 p.m. during the event nights, the Park transforms into a not-too-spooky Halloween celebration. Brick-or-Treat Party Nights is a special event and admission can be purchased for as low as $30 if purchased online in advance. Special event ticket holders can enjoy costume contests, nighttime trick-or-treating for children 12 and under at 12 treat stations throughout LEGOLAND California Resort where kids can gather goodies, tasty treats and other surprises.

We hit the park for the full day and got our ride-fill before the night’s friendly frights.

Mid day we changed into our minion-wear, and the kids had fun running around Legoland in character.

A nice part of the night is that the event is evenly paced, not too crazy for the kids, there’s room to venture around the park and the candy is mostly nutritious treats.

Be sure to look out for include Hubble Bubble’s Ultimate Dance Party, mingling with the “Boo Crew” including Silly Scarecrow, tap dancing skeletons, Dr. Hyde’s percussion cart plus the interactive show, “Mail Order Monsters.”

Special event guests can also enjoy entertainment from the “Witchettes,” a splash artist creating Halloween-themed paintings to music and master ventriloquist Kevin Johnson returns to the stage at LEGOLAND.

For exclusive savings and more information on Brick-or Treat and Brick-or Treat Party Nights, visit www.BRICKORTREAT.com or call 760-918-5346.

Finally, don’t leave before the fireworks. The animated light show “Spirits of Halloween” makes a bang to cap off the night at 9 p.m.

A look at Disneyland’s special HalloweenTime fun for families

The spooky fun is in full swing for families at Disneyland through October 31st. It’s a great time of the year to visit the park with special treats and surprises during HalloweenTime.

We just visited and got our pumpkin-fill of fun from taking in the seasonal decor and riding the Halloween-themed attractions.

Just strolling down Main Street, U.S.A. is a treat, as it’s transformed into a Pumpkin Festival with literally hundreds of hand-carved pumpkins on display—and no two alike.

Jack’s back at the Haunted Mansion Holiday. Jack Skellington, from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and his resident pals of Halloween Town are a must-see during the season.

There are also the intense thrills of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, if you dare. Nothing like a good Halloween scream to get you seriously in the mood.

Throughout the park, you’ll see favorite Disney Characters outfitted in their Halloween costumes. My youngest got a kick out of meeting Minnie–so crazy cute (even gave her a kiss).

At the Halloween Carnival at Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland, you can meet some Disney villains as well. And don’t miss Halloween crafting and activities for kids also at Halloween Carnival at Big Thunder Ranch.

My girl and I braved Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, and at the last minute, my 9-year-old son, Ty, joined us as a Space Mountain newbie. He never opened his eyes, but I’m pretty sure he’ll tell all his friends that he saw everything;) This was big for Ty, as we’ve been trying to get him on the ride for years.

Looking for more Halloween park fun? Also check out these other happenings:

  • Dia de los Muertos with a traditional skeleton display in Frontierland.
  • The Mad T Party at Disney California Adventure Park is a very fun dance spot.
  • The Disney’s Happiest Haunts Tour takes you on adventures through both parks.

We couldn’t leave without some Cars Land fun at California Adventure–guys and cars, you know. My little guy loved all the picture opps and my big kids were all about Radiator Springs Racers in Disney California Adventure Park.

Have a great Halloween season and enjoy all the special seasonal activities going on throughout the end of the month! Click for tickets if you’re planning an October HalloweenTime adventure.

See FBT’s Alice in Wonderland ballet this weekend at the Irvine Barclay!

It’s sure to be a delightful ballet this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. The famed Festival Ballet Theatre takes stage with Alice in Wonderland & Mixed Repertoire at The Barclay in Irvine. Expect a heart-racing adventure as Lewis Carroll’s classic tale comes magically to life with beloved characters, including  the lovable White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the infamous Queen of Hearts.

Take a journey down the Rabbit Hole, into Wonderland Garden and through the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, all adorned with whimsical sets, wildly realistic masks and colorful costumes. Choreographed by Emmy Award-winning choreographer Robert Sund to Jean Sibelius’ lyrical melodies, Alice in Wonderland is an enchanting adventure that will delight children and adults alike.

The sumptuous program of dance also includes Balanchine’s Serenade (First Movement)and Valse-Fantaisie and a new work by choreographer Josie Walsh.

Click for tickets to FBT’s Alice in Wonderland show

 $42 Adult, $38 children 12 and under; $38 Seniors 55+

Saturday, October 4, 2014 @ 7:00 PM
Sunday, October 5, 2014 @ 2:00 PM

More about FBT

Under the direction of Salwa Rizkalla since its founding in 1988, Festival Ballet Theatre has become one of Southern California’s most vibrant and accomplished professional ballet companies. Celebrating 25 years of artistic service to Orange County, FBT is dedicated to presenting works that epitomize the artistry of professional-quality ballet, offering cultural awareness of dance through educational programs, and nurturing a creative environment for some of our county’s most talented dancers. Boasting a roster of impressive, up-and-coming talent, the company’s productions feature internationally acclaimed guest artists from prestigious companies, such as American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Ballet, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Scottish Ballet.

Seize the end of summer with a beach picnic basket from Sessions

As summer winds down, seize the dreamy beach weather and plan a beach picnic in Newport Beach with the gourmet grub of Sessions West Coast Deli, new to OC.

To celebrate the least week of summer, Sessions has assembled a promotion for its Newport Beach Peninsula customers and beyond for those aiming to soak up surf, sand and some charmed family time together. From Aug. 25 through Aug. 29, Sessions West Coast Deli will offer a “Last Week of Summer Sandwich Special” beach picnic basket for $35 (a retail value $75), to serve four people.

Surfers as well as grab-and-go sunbathers have made Session Sandwiches a locals’ favorite, with the restaurant’s unique combinations of flavors, highest quality foods, farm-fresh produce and preservative-free bread baked fresh and delivered daily.

The beach picnic basket will features fans’ favorites including:
  • Meddock Melee sandwich
  • Summer Zephyr sandwich
  • Greatfella sandwich
  • Pirate Coast sandwich
  • Cucumber Salad
  • Potato Salad
  • Pasta Salad
  • Shaka Spuds
  • Any four fountain drinks

Learn more about these menu items at http://sessionssandwiches.com/index.php/menu
Sessions is located at:
2823 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, CA 92663
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Indian food anyone? A vegetarian look at Tamarind of London.

Crystal Cove’s Tamarind of London is one of the most exquisite Indian cuisine kitchens in Southern California. The location’s Michelin Star Chef Alred Prasad offers an array of flavorful find for vegetarians. I’m not sure why, but I never thought to stop in this upscale eatery–perhaps I was intimidated by unfamiliar dishes or just hadn’t fallen in love with Indian before. I’m so glad my husband and I popped in for this divine Indian food experience.

Walking into the restaurant is inviting indeed. You’re met with cheerful, energetic and contemporary shades of red and burnt orange. It’s a lovely ambiance with indoor seating and alfresco dining. I started out the without-kids night out with a refreshing Tower of London cocktail–a light libation of cucumber, basil, gin and more.

From there, we began a sampling of much on the menu, including dishes of black and yellow lentils, okra tossed in a tangy tomato paste and Aldo Gobi, a potato and cauliflower cuisine with onion-tomato Masala and Cashews.

The dedicated, authentic culture of Indian traditions were a delight to experience and the flavors were rich with authenticity but not overbearing in any regard. Dishes were prepared table side with fun finishings.

And everything had a special sauce that made the dish. All of which made for a fresh new find, with an array of flavors and options for fellow Vegetarians.

Tamarind of London’s food is cooked in these unique tandoori ovens (large red ovens pictured below) in their open kitchen, for healthy food and hearty taste.

Our evening ended with a sweet sampling of desserts of rice puddings and more.

Tamarind of London is a refined night out for a gathering with girlfriends, a date night or even an outing with adventurous kids. You’ll see a few multi generations of Indian families who are seeking out the eatery for its traditional authenticity–a nice sight.

Why settle for the same ole-same ole all the time. Get out there and live a little.

Also look for a new array of wine offerings on the horizon. Simplified vino choices that perfectly complement the restaurant’s menu.

More on Tamarind of London’s Chef Prasad:

Chef Prasad is the youngest Indian chef to receive a Michelin Star (retained for the 11th year). He holds the the title of Executive Chef of the Tamarind Collection, which has four locations in London and one in Newport Beach. Celebrating the immense diversity of India through his cooking, Chef Prasad has shared his sensory dishes with celebrities and public figures including the royal family, Tom Cruise, and Rihanna, to name a few. Some other notable accolades included being named one of Restaurant Magazine’s top twenty ‘Movers and Shakers’,  ‘Rising Star’ in Delicious Magazine, and voted ‘Chef of the year’ at the English Curry Awards.

Tamarind of London
7862 E Coast Hwy
Newport Beach, California 92657
(949) 715-8338
Mon – Sat: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Sun: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Pacific Symphony outdoor concerts, Fantasia to Labor Day’s Tchaikovsky

Disney “Fantasia” Live in Concert show last weekend was such a perfectly engaging evening under the stars. And good news, another show hits Labor Day weekend!

With the almost-Supermoon shining during a classic repertoire from the original 1940 version and “Fantasia 2000” being performed live, heart-warming Disney footage appeared bigger than life on the big screen.

Fantasia music included “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 and Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” Suite—we particularly loved the Nutcracker pieces since my daughter dances to it each December with FBT.

The place was packed at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. Several times throughout the night, I looked around and tried to appreciate the moment: my kids immersed in classical brilliance, the perfect summer SoCal temps, grown adults laughing to silly and beautiful animated imagery–all amongst a full-house crowd who there all in appreciation of the arts. It was perfect, really.

(An example of the fun on-screen footage during the Fantasia concert.)

If you get a chance, definitely consider going to the final concert of the season (complete with real cannons and fireworks!) It’s August 30 (details below). If you plan to go, plan on a picnic. We started our Fantasia night with a picnic on the lawn (picked up from Veggie Grill). The kids love eating and running about the lawn (it also helps them get the wiggles out before a show).

So you might wonder how kids do at a symphony? Well, I can tell you my little guy, Fox, is 2 years old and he’s been to four shows already since born. Fox was wildly engaged by the on-screen Disney antics and had a blast. My older children, Zoe and Ty, could appreciate the talents and notes, as they take piano lessons and definitely had their eye on the conductor as he led the orchestra to sync PSO’s sounds to the visuals on the conductor’s laptop before him. Everything working together was true magic.

In addition to a picnic dinner, parents can of course bring some vino. I picked OC’s own Red Siren from the Purple Corduroy folks. It was a fitting choice of classical sound waves and the waves of the Pacific Ocean. (The Purple Corduroy guys are a trio of epic surfer dudes; fyi, you can now buy Purple Corduroy at SoCo’s new LCA store.)

More details here on the upcoming show you won’t want to miss …

Tchaikovsky Spectacular

with fireworks & cannons

August 30, 8:00 p.m.Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

The traditional end to Pacific Symphony’s Summer Festival, includes the thrilling climax of thundering cannons and spectacular fireworks in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Led by Music Director Carl St.Clair, the concert opens with some of Tchaikovsky’s incomparable dance music, the Waltz and Polonaise from “Eugene Onegin.” The evening concludes in grand tradition with the dramatic finale of fireworks and 16 cannon shots in Tchaikovsky’s victorious “1812” Overture, featuring the Huntington Beach Concert Band, which also provides pre-concert entertainment. This aural and visual spectacle takes place Saturday, Aug. 30, at 8 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine. Click to buy tickets. 

Here we are (above) at July 4th Big Bad Voodoo Daddy PSO summer concert this year that we enjoyed with lawn seats, and you can bet we’ll be at the Tchaikovsky Spectacular too! We’re huge fans of PSO!