Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Weekend Happenings

Friday, October 28

Moorpark, Underwood Family Farms: Fall Harvest Festival (through 10/31), 9 - 6
Santa Ana, Santa Ana Zoo: Boo at the Zoo (also on 10/29 & 30*), 5:30 - 8 pm
Topanga, Theatricum Botanicum: Theatricum Bootanicum, 4 - 10 pm
Irvine, Tanaka Farms: Pumpkin Patch (through 10/31), 9 am - 6 pm (9-3 on 10/31)
South Pasadena: Halloween Spooktacular (free), 5:30 - 7:30 pm
Griffith Park, Live Steamers: Halloween Ghost Train (through 10/31), 7 - 10 pm

Saturday, October 29

Griffith Park, Los Angeles Zoo: Boo at the Zoo
Downtown LA, Convention Center: Green Festival, 10 - 7 (also on 10/30*, 11-6)
Pasadena, Vroman's: Vroman's Annual Halloween Party (stories, trick-or-treating), 10:00 am
Los Angeles, Skirball Cultural Center: multiple family events, (also on 10/30*)
Los Angeles, LACMA: Tim Burton Closing Weekend Events
Los Angeles, LAPD Northeast Division: Open House (scroll to bottom of page)
Los Feliz, Franklin Elementary: Franklin Fall Festival, 1 - 6
Silver Lake, Ivanhoe Elementary: Ivanhoedown, 1 - 8
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum: Family Drawing Hour, 3:00 pm
Silver Lake, Rose Scharlin Nursery School: Halloween Hullabaloo, 4 - 8 pm
San Pedro & Wilmington: Happy Harbor Halloween, 12 - 3
Culver City, Star Eco Station: Enchanted Green Hallow's Eve (also on 10/30*), 12 - 6

Sunday, October 30

Pasadena, MakeSpace ARTS: Children's Halloween (not scary) Art Party (free), 3 - 6

*See above listings for events that go through the weekend and into Monday.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ideas for Rainy Day Play

We Angelenos really don't know what to do with ourselves when it rains. And it's especially perplexing for those of us with kids. Where do we take them?! They need to get their ya-yas out somehow. Indoor playgrounds are great but it's nice to mix things up once in a while.

How about a little art? Head over to LACMA, bring your kid's NexGen card (or apply for one), and absorb some culture. NexGen gets kids 17 and under plus their grown-up into LACMA for free to explore permanent collections and certain special exhibitions. Best of all, you can MAKE your OWN ART. The museum generously supplies paper and paint! Check out these masterpieces my 4-year-old created there. He knows more about art than I do (he references Lynda Benglis, whose work he saw at MOCA, and Jackson Pollack), thanks to his talented artist babysitter.

NexGen also entitles you to discounts on art classes and items in the museum shop. Pret-tay, pret-tay amazing! Also, I've got it on good authority that it is possible to find free, 2-hour parking around the museum. Free fun is always good!

Another idea is to go for a dip in a pool. Sound crazy?! Not so much . . . Echo Park Deep is a year-round, indoor city-run pool, located right off the 101 freeway near downtown. The facility offers myriad aquatic activities, including recreational swim, team sports, and lessons - all for reasonable rates.

Or, there's The Natural History Museum, an amazing educational resource for kids of all ages. Check out the new Dinosaur Hall, Spider Pavilion, Hall of Gems and Minerals, Insect Zoo, and more.

These ideas are just the beginning. There's more than to do indoors in our rain-soaked city than we realize. So, go on, get out, and Play in LA!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Green It Up This Weekend!

Green Festival is coming up this Saturday and Sunday (29th & 30th) at the LA Convention Center and they'll have a Kids' Zone for our future environmental stewards. Sounds fun and educational.

A Play Date BORDERing on Perfect

Credit for this play date idea goes to my mama friend, L. She is expert on all things downtown, as far as I'm concerned. And she is the one who introduced me to this fun eating/playing combo at The Border Grill and Bonaventure Hotel - both on Figueroa, connected by a fun little bridge that our kids love to race across to see who wins.

Usually first up is a meal at Border Grill. Happy Hour is pretty hard to beat - excellent options for grown-ups and kids alike, wait staff and management are delightful, and parking is validated (or, if you're feeling really adventurous, take the Metro - up the cool factor with the kids). Can't go wrong with kids bean and cheese tacos, poblano quesadillas & chopped salad for parents, and creative cocktails (with or w/o alcohol) like minty lime cooler or pomegranate lemonade.

Once our little ones have filled their tummies, run around and charmed the employees, gotten multiple tours of the kitchen, and used bathrooms where "you don't have to press the button for the soap, it just comes out automatically," we say our goodbyes, zip up a quick escalator (or elevator) and over the bridge that spans Figueroa, and land on the grassy area at the base of Bonaventure Hotel.

There the kids run their fannies off, plop down on their backs to take in impressive glass pneumatic-tube-like elevators that glide up and down (verrry Blade Runner-esque) the hotel's shiny exterior, and chat with the guys washing sidewalks with their super cool, ginormous water machines until they're almost too out of breath to talk.

Last but not least, we and our tuckered tikes mosey into the hotel and hop onto the elevators, which could be a ride at Disneyland for all they care. We go up and down a few times - as much as my motion sick stomach can take - and it is utterly thrilling. Honestly, the views are pretty awesome. On a clear day, you could definitely see the ocean.

Give this a whirl some day. You won't be disappointed!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Homemade Pineapple-Grape Juice

Out of a desire to wean our family off of plastic (to the extent that it is possible), the first steps I decided to take was to juice fresh fruit right here at home.

In small doses, we love pure pineapple, apple, orange, and grape juices and figured they'd be easy enough to make with our juicer and much healthier.

So today I fired up the dusty old Juiceman Jr., sliced a beauteous organic pineapple, and pushed it through the tube. Out flowed a gorgeous, golden, frothy liquid.

I also happened to have on hand a few bunches of homegrown grapes from a friend up the street. I wondered if they would work in the Juiceman. So I plucked the pretty little dark purple globes off the stems and stuffed them in.

Wow! What a luscious combo it turned out to be! Feast your eyes on the photos below.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Need something to do with the kids this weekend?

There's no shortage of interesting, fun, cultural and seasonal stuff to do around town - from ghost trains to spider pavilions, and everything in between! Feast your eyes on this hefty list and find the perfect event for you and your family. Enjoy!

Friday, October 21

Pomona: Cal Poly Pomona Pumpkin Patch (through 10/31), 10-5
Moorpark, Underwood Family Farms: Fall Harvest Festival (through 10/31), 9-6
Mission Hills, Forneris Farms: Fall Harvest Festival (through 10/31), weekends: 9-5, weekdays: 2-5
Santa Ana, Discovery Science Center: Bug Invasion 2 (through 10/31), 10-5
Woodland Hills: Winter Ice Rink Opens! (through 2/5/12) hours vary
Highland Park, La Casita Verde Preschool: Magical Halloween Party, 6-8 pm
Griffith Park: LA Live Steamers Ghost Train (and on 10/22 & 10/23, 10/28-31) 7-10 pm

Saturday, October 22

Los Angeles, Natural History Museum: Spider Pavilion (through 11/6), 10-5, Flashlight Tour: 5-8:30
Long Beach, Aquarium of the Pacific: Scarium of the Pacific (and on 10/23), 9-5
Pasadena, Kidspace: Pumpkin Festival (and on 10/23), 9:30-5
Los Angeles, Getty Center: Pacific Standard Time Family Festival, 10-6
Hollywood, Hollywood Forever Cemetery: Dia De Los Muertos, Kids' Art Center, 12-4
Los Angeles, Skirball Cultural Center: Dig It! Archaeology Adventures (Sunday too), 10-5
Downtown LA, Disney Concert Hall Children's Amphitheatre: World City: Los Centzontles & Facto Teatro, 11:00 am
Westchester: Halloween Town Fair, 11-5
Los Angeles, Vista Hermosa Park (an un-discovered slice of heaven right near downtown LA): Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" (Sunday too) 1-3
La Canada Flintridge, Descanso Gardens: Harvest Festival, 10:30-3
Echo Park, Echo Parenting & Education Center: Pumpkins for Peace, 4:00 pm

Sunday, October 23

Los Angeles, Kadampa Meditation Center: Kids Meditation Class, 9:30-11
Larchmont: Family Fair, 12-5
Los Angeles, Skirball Cultural Center: Spellbinding Sundays, 12-2

NEXGEN: Free LACMA Membership for 17 & Under + 1 Adult

NEXGEN is the best deal in town. I've heard about it for years and am finally making it happen. Signing up my 4-year-old so he can go and bring me for free! Art for the masses!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Learning to LOVE Brussels Sprouts

Those mini green heads of cabbage never appealed to me growing up. They ranked as low as lima beans in my opinion back then. Now, however, I feel like their number one fan. So imagine how surprised and thrilled I was to discover that my kid gobbles up Brussels sprouts like they're going out of style. I attribute that to the way I cook them - sliced in half and roasted with a light coating of olive oil (you can also try olive oil infused with herbs, especially rosemary), a sprinkling of salt, a pinch of pepper, and a liberal amount of chopped fresh garlic in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Then, voila, out comes an irresistible caramelized, crispy concoction you can eat like popcorn or get fancy-ish and incorporate into dishes like pasta, frittatas, pizza, and more.

Recently I served the fam roasted Brussels with spaghetti and lentils, which provide a nice source of protein. The combo turned out to be a huge hit. It was even good the second day cold, right out of the fridge.

When I cook, I like to build big flavor and to that end I tend to use ingredients like garlic, herbs, vinegar, dressings, etc. For this Brussels sprouts dish, I used chopped onions during the roasting process and that added a whole other dimension of flavor - very tasty! I warmed up pre-cooked, packaged lentils from Trader Joe's on the stovetop and mixed in about 2 tablespoons of pre-made pesto from Whole Foods. I also splashed on a little red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing from Joe's. Before tossing everything together, I coated the cooked spaghetti (note about making pasta: always add a tablespoon of olive oil to the boiling water to prevent the pasta from sticking to itself after it's drained - my sis taught me that trick) with more dressing. I then threw everything into a big bowl, stirred it up, sprinkled on some grated parm and the masterpiece was complete. Easy, healthy, simple ingredients.

Here are some pics . . .

Monday, October 3, 2011

Super Sunday Morning, Part 2 - Chugga Chugga Choo Choo

After our lazy Sunday brunch, we cruised over to Live Steamers in Griffith Park to experience all the new Halloween decorations along the train route. The good folks who volunteer there have gone all out and the curving, shaded route is packed with ghosts, goblins, skeletons, giant plastic rats, headstones, and more. Not too creepy during the day so it's probably best to take young children while the sun is up (open on Sundays, 10:45-3:00) and older children (who don't get too scared by spooky creatures or who enjoy that sort of thing) during evening rides on specific dates in October. See photo below:

Passengers on one of the Live Steamers trains.

Continuing on with our railroad theme, we zipped over to Travel Town, right next to Live Steamers in Griffith Park and took a spin on the train there.

Here, the boys wander along the Travel Town tracks to Locomotive Pavilion (of course we've explained that they can't walk on real train tracks).

Lastly, we spent some time watching the miniature railroad (open only on weekends, I believe) inside the large warehouse building within the boundaries of Travel Town.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Super Sunday Morning, Part 1 - Malo es Bueno

Sundays for us tend to be slow and easy. Sometimes we venture over to the Hollywood Farmers' Market, but only if we get up early enough and it's not too hot out.

Otherwise, we'll hang at home and make breakfast or head out to a local restaurant. That's what we opted for today, and Malo in Silver Lake was our destination. We've found over the past year that Malo is kind of a secret in the busy, chaotic world of weekend brunching. It's never crowded - today we arrived at 9:15, stayed until almost 11 and had the place to ourselves. The food is good, service decent, we sit outside, and kids can make a ruckus with little or no backlash. Plus, they offer a reasonably-priced kids menu with more variety than most restaurants.

A glimpse of the patio, which is covered so you're not blasted by the sun.

Kids menu.

"Echo Park" fruit salad (seasoned with chili powder, lime juice and sea salt). Not as exciting and flavorful as it used to be. Sadly, a little short on melon choices, and I'm not a fan of jicama.

Children's French toast - Mexican style. Sabroso!

One of the breakfast burritos, modified with no grief. But did forget to add cheese. Oops. Still was yummy.

Last but not least, my personal favorite: potato eggplant taco.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Raspberry-Strawberry-Vanilla Pancakes

main ingredients for the batter

Now that fall is settling in, I am more in the mood to cook. The lack of sweltering heat inspires me to venture into the kitchen and get my culinary creativity on. Much of what I come up with is a direct result of needing to use items in the pantry and fridge before they go bad. We hadn't made pancakes in a long time, raspberries and strawberries were lying around so, voila, Saturday morning our family made gorgeous raspberry-strawberry-vanilla pancakes. A total breeze with the three of us working together. Hubby and son prepared the batter with Trader Joe's Multigrain Baking & Pancake Mix.  [Note: We always buy pasture-fed, small farm eggs. They taste better and are more humane.] I chopped the berries and whisked them in.

toppings (bourbon-vanilla maple syrup for for mom & dad)

vanilla powder from a trip to Tahiti - superior to liquid extract, in my opinion
my guys tend the griddle

cooking up nicely
mmm, mmm, good!