Tuesday, September 27, 2016

That Time I Got Obsessed With 'Fixer Upper' and Traveled to Magnolia Market, aka the Silos, in Waco, Texas

More than 1,000 miles from Los Angeles.
It's almost as if I've been living under a rock, apparently, but I finally discovered the incredible phenomenon that is "Fixer Upper" earlier this year. And I've been hooked ever since.

Like, seriously hooked.

I have Pinterest to thank, actually. It all started when the ultimate vision board/social-media site recommended a photo of something called a "Barndominium," which turned out to be a renovated Texas barn given new life by the uber-talented construction-design duo Chip and Joanna Gaines.

Joanna and Chip Gaines (Photo credit: HGTV)

That's when my TV-viewing life as I knew it completely changed — and when I became even more obsessed with HGTV. (Who knew that was possible?) Not to mention, when I suddenly wanted to pack up and move to Waco. (There were real tears when I compared those home prices to the Los Angeles market.)

I quickly binge-watched the first two seasons of "Fixer Upper" on Netflix and then bought the third season on iTunes. Who was this charming, down-to-earth couple from Waco, Texas, with the hilarious husband, super-stylish wife and adorable kids? And those goats?! They kind of had me at the baby goats.

(Apparently, you can take the girl out of Oklahoma, send her to Massachusetts, Germany, New York and Los Angeles, but ...)

So when it came time to make our annual summer visit to Oklahoma, I decided to fly into Dallas, as I had done earlier this year when my mom passed away. Not only could I visit my BFF Barbara, I could also drive down to Waco and visit the Silos, aka Magnolia Market, the downtown Waco oasis that is the creative brainchild of my new TV BFFs, Chip and Jo.

The Silos at Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas.
Once we arrived, I have to admit I was stunned. What Chip and Jo (yes, I call them that even though we've never met) have built in this smallish Texas town is gorgeous and homey, aspirational and huge. It's simply stunning — a field of dreams come true before your very eyes.

That sounds like a lot of embellishment, but honestly it's not. Watching this adorable married couple renovate home after home while still trying to grow their dreams — and to see that come to fruition — it's pretty amazing.

There's a large green space that faces stage area (pictured above with the white tables) that is so inviting. There are swings and baskets of balls and frisbees for the kids. You might hear Harry Connick Jr. or Michael Buble on the overhead speakers. CC and Will could have stayed there for hours. And we practically did. But that was after we took a very special tour, shopped and indulged in a couple of decadent Magnolia cupcakes.

We even got the chance to check out Chip's office — and his oversized heads!

Trying these guys on for size!
Speaking of shopping, there is a lot of stuff to buy — I snagged this gorgeous bracelet + of course a #shiplap T-shirt — and there are a lot of people who want to buy it. Basically, it was packed.

We learned that there are, on average, about 25,000 visitors to the silos each week. Week! Sometimes that number climbs to 30,000. And they're from all over the world.

More cupcakes, please. Do you see that icing?!

Watching "Fixer Upper," which is about to kick off its fourth season, you feel as if you're growing alongside Chip and Jo, watching them take risks and succeed at every turn. It's truly inspiring.

Not only have they built this amazing downtown attraction — making Waco a destination city to people around the globe — they also have a book and a magazine coming out this fall. (Of course, I've already pre-ordered. Don't be ridiculous.) You also might know that Joanna now has a furniture line, rugs, a paint line and a wallpaper line.

And this woman has four kids! (That's one way to feel super lazy.)

So, as I not-so-patiently await season four, the book and the magazine, I really revel in our trip down to Waco — and hope to go again.

Because there's nothing like seeing a dream come true that makes you want to fulfill your own even faster.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Happy First Day of 4th Grade ... a Little Late

Ready for 4th grade!
Ok, so this is definitely a #laterpost. CC officially started 4th grade in late August, but it's been such a whirlwind I can barely keep up!

In fact, how is October just around the corner? Like days away!

CC had a fantastic summer, by the way. She went to Minecraft camp, soccer camp, Star Eco Station camp and her fave, Steve & Kate's camp. Wow — I got tired just writing all of that. Yes, summer is a juggle for us since both Ian and I work, but CC really was living the dream. Heck, I wanted to go to camp!

It was funny, though. CC was definitely ready to get back to her usual routine once summer had wound down. She was especially excited about school when she saw that her new teacher had decorated the classroom in all things Dory. (The kiddos loved "Finding Dory!") It's amazing what blue tang decor can do for your child's #BTS enthusiasm.

So far, so good!

I do have some fun news, which I'll post more about tomorrow. CC, Will and I visited the Magnolia Market Silos (of "Fixer Upper" fame) in Waco when we visited family and friends in Oklahoma and Texas this year.

We went for Labor Day weekend, and the Magnolia empire did not disappoint. You guys. I'm obsessed!

Stay tuned for more details about our trip tomorrow! (We actually got to tour Chip Gaines' office!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

'Turtle Vision 3D' Now Playing at Discovery Cube Los Angeles

'Turtle Vision 3D' is now playing at Discovery Cube LA's 4D theater.
If you want to give your kiddos an entertaining and eco-friendly taste of 3D fun, check out "Turtle Vision," now playing at Discovery Cube Los Angeles.

The 3D tale follows a sea turtle named Sammy and his adventures swimming all over the globe. Not only does he make new friends on his journey through places like Antarctica and the Amazon, but he also discovers what can happen when our oceans become polluted.

CC and Will check out what's on offer in DCLA's 4D theater.
Playing in Discovery Cube's 4D theater — which I learned means that the space is capable of offering extra effects like flashing lights and changes in temperature — "Turtle Vision" is such a perfect film to offer in 3D. First off, it's short — less than 30 minutes — so kiddos can get back to engaging in hands-on fun at the museum. Next, the visuals are so rich and colorful, both CC and Will were reaching out, trying to grab the on-screen fish.

"I'm touching him! I'm touching him!" Will yelled out a few times.

Not only that, but the theater is super kid-friendly, so you won't get any grumpy stares. All of the parents seem to get it. Shout-outs will happen!

3D glasses time!

"Turtle Vision" is also a positive film. While it does touch on issues such as devastating oil spills, it's also quick to point out just how helpful humans can be when they rescue animals like Sammy.

And on these hot SoCal days, the theater's air conditioning isn't bad, either!

11800 Foothill Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 91342
Tickets: $17.95 for adults; $12.95 for kids. Kids ages 2 and under are free. 4D movie: $3 for adults and children; $2 for Discovery Cube members

(Disclosure: I am being compensated for this post in my position as a #DiscoveryCubeMoms LA Ambassador. All opinions, however, are my own.)

Monday, August 29, 2016

We Got Our Vacay On in Cabo San Lucas at the Lovely Pueblo Bonito Blanco Resort

Taking a glass-bottom boat out to see the famous arch in Cabo San Lucas.

Well, hello, Cabo!

Ian, the kids and I took a family vacation down to Cabo San Lucas earlier this month, and it was the perfect getaway — short plane flight (two-ish hours from LAX), different country and culture, and a gorgeous, all-inclusive resort once we landed.

Everything was just as beautiful as we'd remembered — Ian and I went last year for our 10th anniversary — and the kids can't wait to go back.

Honestly, I'd been dying for a vacation. We hadn't really taken one since last year, and we were seriously due. The kids had been bummed when Ian and I went by ourselves last year, and we were eager to show them just how amazing Cabo can be.

The gorgeous Pueblo Bonito Blanco in Cabo San Lucas.
The short plane flight was perfect for our fidgety kiddos. While they did color and read, that only lasted about three minutes before sibling bickering and boredom set in. Two hours is really manageable for that.

Once we landed, we took a shuttle from the airport in San Jose del Cabo to our resort, the gorgeous Pueblo Bonito Blanco, in Cabo San Lucas. That took about 45 minutes, which was great for just relaxing, taking in the desert scenery (which CC compared to Palm Springs), and watching Will fall asleep.

Once we arrived at our Mediterranean-style digs just after noon, we were ready for our (all-inclusive) lunch, drinks and pool time. (What's great is that there's also pool-side pottery, so the kids were able to get creative and bring home gifts for family.)

We had stayed last year at sister resort Pueblo Bonito Pacifica (all-inclusive and adults only), and we knew we wanted to stay in the Pueblo Bonito family. The Blanco is right on the water, has fish and turtle ponds, and you can dine at the neighboring Pueblo Bonito Rose as part of your package. It was just too beautiful and easy to pass up.

CC admires the view — and the flamingos — from our balcony.
While I was ready to spend a long weekend by the pool, rediscovering the joys of being lazy, Ian and the kids were ready for action. Ian took CC jet-skiing, which she loved.

Jet ski time!
We also walked into town to explore shops, the marina and random street Zumba. The kids couldn't pass up the #Cabo sign!

We also took a glass-bottom boat out to El Arco, or the arch, at Land's End. Our captain even stopped at the lovely Lover's Beach (the rough, choppy Divorce Beach is on the other side) for us to jump out and have a quick swim.

The trip was just what we needed. I love Los Angeles, but honestly it's nice to escape once in a while. And when it's so easy, it's so worth it. I would totally recommend the all-inclusive option, too. We didn't have to worry about money and just ate and drank whenever we wanted. Definitely a plus, if you want to go that route.

Needless to say, we'll definitely be going back.

Our last night in Cabo.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Skirball Cultural Center Spotlights the Sounds of Los Angeles

Las Colibri, the all-female mariachi band, performs at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Summer is in full swing, and what better way to enjoy the season than with an outdoor concert that celebrates our city and its many cultures?

Skirball Cultural Center, nestled into a hill just off the 405 and perhaps better known for its popular Noah's Ark exhibit, kicked off its Family Amphitheater Performance series in June and offers up fun concerts on Saturdays and Sundays through September 4.

The Sounds of Our City series

CC, Will and I checked out the series over the weekend and had the opportunity to hear Las Colibri, an all-female mariachi string ensemble that's all about girl power. They are amazing. I loved listening to their gorgeous harmonies, the festive songs and those stringed instruments. Wow!

Not only that, but kids were encouraged to get up and dance. Parents, too! The scene was relaxed and inviting, and the ladies even asked everyone up for a Spanish-language version of "London Bridge." I scooped up my sometime-shy Will and walked him under that hand-held bridge.

Las Colibri, which means "The Hummingbirds"
Some other performers in the series include Leftover Cuties, a noir-pop group from Venice (Aug. 6); Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band (Aug. 14); String Harmonies (Aug. 21); and more! Performances are included in the price of admission, and you have two opportunities each day to see them — 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. on the day of their performances.

Skirball selfie with CC and Will.

And while you're there, don't forget to check out Noah's Ark and current exhibit "Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American."

Skirball Cultural Center 
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049

Tickets: $12 (general); $9 (seniors, students, children over 12); $7 (children ages 2-12); Free (kiddos under 2)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Friday Finds: Epic! Online Library for Kids

Whether you're worried about summer brain drain or ready to get your kids prepped for their next year of school, there's a cool app and website that makes reading extra fun for the smartphone set.

Epic! is an online library that offers more than 15,000 children's e-books for kids ages 12 and under. It's pretty, well, epic!

CC talked about Epic! a lot last year during 3rd grade. Her teacher used it in school, and one of her friends read books from it all the time. So when I had the opportunity to check it out, I jumped at the chance.

The service, which costs $4.99 per month for unlimited access, is bright, user-friendly and organizes the books into different categories and age groups. There are topics such as Fantasy & Magic, Animals (which CC loves) and Historical Fiction. Not only that, but kids who are pre-readers can also get in on the action with favorites such as "Goodnight Moon" and "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" at their fingertips. (That's good news for Will!)

Epic! also has a large selection of award winners, too.

While we've used it mostly on my phone, you can get Epic! on all iOS and Android devices, as well as on laptops and desktops, too, via the Web.

What I love as a parent is that I get weekly updates that chart what CC is reading -- book titles, how many pages and minutes she's read. It gives me such a great idea of what she likes and how she can further challenge herself.

What she loves are the variety of books, the easy-to-read graphics, the fun characters that accompany badges and rewards for all of the books she's read. I even got a reading certificate emailed to me to print and give to her.

Epic! offers kids lots of incentives to keep on reading -- which is exactly what I want to keep her motivated for 4th grade and to hit the ground running on her first day of school!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Getting Eco-Educated at Discovery Cube Los Angeles's Inspector Training Course

Enjoying some summertime fun at Discovery Cube Los Angeles
While summertime might mean lazy days at the pool or lounging on the couch with a great read, another fun option is to head over to Discovery Cube Los Angeles for a little science- and eco-friendly fun.

We made a special trip to check out the science museum's Inspector Training Course, an exhibit that features a replica house and a hands-on game that has kids and grown-ups alike learning how to conserve energy and resources at home.

The eco-friendly California Craftsman inside Discovery Cube LA.
Will and CC loved being in charge of their own touch pads -- aka inspector belts -- that they picked up just outside the house. The trivia-based scavenger-hunt game is super kid-friendly and even offers different options, depending on the age of the child. (Will was in the under-5 category.)

CC sizes up the available games.
Once the kids got their pads and selected their age group and games, they were off and running. First, Will had to find the rain barrel that collects rain water to be used for watering plants or grass. That way, we don't waste water (especially in a drought!).

Will discovers the rain barrel.
The game has kids exploring different spaces in the house, sending them searching for items in places like the kitchen, garage, bathroom and back yard. After that, they answer trivia questions about everything from low-pressure shower heads and low-flow toilets to how much energy different light bulbs use. It's really a cool game and makes everyone reconsider just how much energy they use.

Will loved pushing the button that made the shower splash (recycled) water.
The realism and hands-on aspect of the game makes it extra-fun for kids while also giving them a real-world example of how things like shower heads work. (Part of me also kind of wanted to live in this house, mainly because there was no clutter!)

We find out which bulb uses the most energy to light up.
While I spent most of my time walking around with Will and reading out the questions for him (he is only 3 after all), CC was able to be independent and search out her own clues. And they were both thrilled to become Super Inspectors after the game. I love that Discovery Cube celebrates kids' successes by placing their digital pictures on the wall. Great thinking!

We were also able to connect what we learned at the Inspector Training Course with what we're doing at home to be eco-friendly:

* We have a recycling bin right next to the trash can, and the kids have learned what's trash and what can be re-used.

* We donate clothes and books every month, so that other kids can re-use what CC and Will have outgrown.

* We have an adorable air plant that CC has named Prince. He requires literally a spray of water per week.

* We turn off the water while we're brushing our teeth.

* And we buy energy-efficient light bulbs, have low-flow toilets and low-pressure shower heads.

What a great experience for the family!

11800 Foothill Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 91342
Tickets: $12.95 for adults and kids through Labor Day. Kids ages 2 and under are free.

(Disclosure: I am being compensated for this post in my position as a #DiscoveryCubeMoms LA Ambassador. All opinions, however, are my own.)


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