Pic(s) of the Week: Chestnuts Roasting on a Gas Fireplace

image2image1Okay, the chestnuts were actually done in a toaster oven but these two shots seemed pic-of-the-week worthy: our family room fireplace decorated by interior design maven Irene and a snack of said chestnuts & egg nog while we trimmed our 2016 tree.

 

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Guest Blogger: Miss A’s Wet ‘N Wild Daycation

By Athena Lippman

     I wanted to go to the Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park resort for as long as I can remember. On my birthday, my family and I finally went to the one in Garden Grove near Disneyland.  I loved how the hotel was made of wood and bricks and when you check in, the staff gave each person a free wolf ears headband. It was so cool that they made you feel like you were in an actual lodge.

     There were a few stores, such as a bakery, a souvenir shop, an arcade and a bathing suit shop that you actually had to enter to get into Bear Track Landing – the name of the water park. There was even a kid spa called Scoops.

        We immediately went to the water park area. There were many different waterslides. There were two big slides and many other smaller ones. There was also a racing waterslide where you used a flat foam mat and it would track your time. There weren’t only waterslides but also a lazy river with floating tubes, great for relaxing! We also went into the wave pool and tried a surfing simulator, played basketball in a pool, ran an obstacle course and enjoyed a water structure with some mini waterslides.

img_3285     At the top of the water structure, there was a huge bucket that gets filled with water and when the bell would ring every few minutes, that means the bucket was about to tip over and the water would fall on anybody on the ground underneath it. It was so much fun!

     But my favorite waterslide was Tornado. First you curved and then a big drop, followed by a flat part that zig-zagged you side to side. I was having the best time. I also loved all the other waterslides. One of the things I loved most about Great Wolf Lodge was that there were no lines; you would just walk up to the waterslide and there would be like 2-5 people in front of you, but mostly there were no lines at all because Great Wolf Lodge water park is for hotel guests only.

     I was having the best time with my family. I love water-related activities. The water is always so much fun. I definitely hope I can go to Great Wolf Lodge again!

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Food for Thought: A Pair of ‘Ready’ for ‘Prime’ Time Players

belcampoTwo recent adult-exclusive dinner outings uncovered two “prime cuts”: Belcampo Butcher Shop & Restaurant in Santa Monica and Genwa Korean BBQ in Beverly Hills.

Paired with a full-service butcher shop where guests can order custom cuts or choose from a variety of grab-n-go fare next door, Belcampo Restaurant features rustic, meat-centric California cuisine and farm-inspired craft cocktails. On this “dating anniversary” occasion, Irene and I shared a grilled beef heart app, a lamb burger, a French dip “éclair” with bone broth jus, and the roasted brussels sprouts – all umami to the max.

The Genwa dinner date was arranged by our good friends who love to “park” themselves at a good Korean BBQ place. Seated at a table with a state-of-the-art, smokeless gas grill set in the middle, we cooked up a selection of thinly sliced cuts of meat, the bulgogi being my personal favorite.

img_3048img_3054I’ve been to a handful of Korean BBQ spots but never have I seen such an array of the small accompaniments that are placed around the circular grill as here (more than two dozen) – from kimchi (fermented Napa cabbage) to lotus root and Japchae (stir-fried glass noodles). The Bibimbap (sizzling rice) was also the best I’ve had thus far.  Then there’s a unique touch when the check arrives:  lollipops on long sticks for each guest (that we brought home for T, A & X).

Pic of the Week: Little Trump & Hillary

We’re the Mini Politico Party and we approve these masks!

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Pic(s) of the Week: Batterymate Bros

batterymates

x_catchertroy_pitcher

For the uninitiated, the term “batterymates” in baseball means the pitcher-catcher duo in a game; while Troy and Xander are at different age levels during the more competitive
Spring season in Santa Monica Little League, they are teammates/batterymates on their
Fall Ball Avispas (Spanish for “wasp”) team. These photos show the sibling tandem in
action during last Sunday’s game vs. Culver City.

Pic of the Week: Greece the Great

My in-laws just returned from a trip to Athens; while “Athena” was all around them (the name of their hotel even had the word in it), Mr. V chose this pic of the Parthenon when I asked to post one of his favorite shots….

Guest Bloggers: Summer Fun Roundup

hotdog(EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is a report from budding family entertainment correspondents Athena (age 10) & Xander (8) highlighting a trio of summer vacation endeavors)

Yankees vs. Angels

By Xander Lippman

It was interesting because Angel Stadium of Anaheim was not like other ball parks (I’ve been to Dodger Stadium twice). There was a waterfall in center field, and there were empty seats in front of us so Troy and I sat there.

yankeesangelsBefore the game we saw the Yankees stretching along the first base line. After that, the game started with the Yankees batting first. It was really cool to see the players in person.

It was probably the 4th inning and we were all hungry so Troy and my dad went to get some hot dogs. We also bought snow cones and peanuts. We brought our own boxes of Cracker Jacks from home.

In the 8th inning people were leaving so I sat in a seat where a few foul balls were being hit, but I didn’t catch any. Even though the Yankees lost 2-0, it was cool to see them play. Overall it was a fantastic outing.

shamuSeaWorld San Diego

By Athena Lippman

While I was walking into the SeaWorld San Diego entrance, I got so excited about all the animals I would see and the rides we would ride.

There are all kinds of animals such as penguins, fish, mantas, sharks, turtles, dolphins, whales, flamingos, sea lions and more (and the pigs, cats and dogs that performed at the “Pets Rule” show were so cute!).

mantaThere are plenty of shows including the Blue Horizons Dolphin Show — one of my favorites of the day! The dolphins did flips, jumps and other tricks! There was also a Shamu show which was also really cool (we were lucky to see him because the giant killer whale is retiring this year). At the sea lions show one sea lion held a ball on its nose and then jumped in the water with the ball still on the nose.

There were also some rides: Manta is a rollercoaster where, after you exited the ride, you could touch baby mantas in a petting pool. Journey to Atlantis is a combination flume ride and rollercoaster that takes the boat up an elevator and goes on a wild ride! The Wild Arctic is a motion ride that takes you on a helicopter flight; afterwards, you can see beluga whales, a giant walrus, and polar bears in their natural habitat. It was amazing!

I also liked Shipwreck Rapids — a circular raft ride where you get super wet because you are heading down a path of flowing water.  The Sky Tower is a rotating elevator ride that goes up into the sky with 360-degree views of San Diego, and the Sky Ride is a cable car that brings you over the bay (it is a good ride to relax on!).

We also walked through some aquariums. I thought that SeaWorld was a very awesome and a really fun amusement park!

Six Flags Magic Mountain

By Athena and Xander

(Athena) My favorite rides at Six Flags Magic Mountain were Jet Stream and Goliath. Jetstream is a calm, relaxing boat ride at first but then there is a 6-story drop at the end and you get soaked. My dad’s Yankees baseball cap flew off while we were going down the drop.

(*EDITOR’S NOTE: After following “park procedure” by filling out a Lost & Found form online, my cap was never retrieved, even though we all spotted it on a concrete landing in a restricted area after exiting the ride. Thanks for losing my cap MM).

jetstreamGoliath is a whole different story. This rollercoaster reaches a top speed of 85 miles per hour. It was so fast that it blew back your cheeks and the wind was so strong that it literally held you down. Then there is a 260-foot drop, which was crazy! There were lots of twists and turns.  By the end of the ride my heart was beating so fast. Goliath was really fun. If you go to Magic Mountain I would definitely recommend this rollercoaster!

(Xander) I had 3 favorite rides: Twisted Colossus, Green Lantern and Full Throttle. Twisted Colossus was a really fast rollercoaster; first it was all bumpy with a huge drop. Then you go under another train. Then you attach to a different track and it’s the ride all over again.

Green Lantern was a very weird ride. First you go up. Then you go backwards. Then down, spinning around throughout. The whole ride is over in about 30 seconds.

Full Throttle was my favorite. A girl says, “3, 2, 1, go!” and you blast off super fast to start. Then you go upside down. Then you keep going super fast. Then an announcement says, “Enjoy the ride!” and you go backwards. You keep going fast and there is a huge drop. Then the ride is over.

Pic of the Week: ‘Amazing’ Camp Pick-up

AmazingRaceChina

Spotted this banner in front of Gersten Pavilion at Loyola Marymount University after picking up the kiddies from tennis camp one recent July afternoon. Not sure if the campus was serving as a “Detour” or “Road Block” and was perhaps even more curious what the Chinese Phil Keoghan looks like! Minutes later, we passed by a black SUV with one of the teams and camera crew. TAR is one of our favorite reality TV shows so you can imagine our excitement over this brush with TAR China!

Driving Mr. X

The little quips started in 2012 at five-years-old and ran through 2014; then the classic “Xanderism” made its triumphant return in 2015. Now that he’s 8, I’m inclined to give Mr. X’s humorous wordplay a more age-appropriate title:  X-Claims? Yep, that works for me.

So we’re heading to summer camp one recent morning when he begins contemplating the rules of the carpool lane.

What if there’s only one person in the car?

You can get a ticket and pay a fine.

Introducing the “X-Claims”:  Do dogs count?

Becoming Your Dad

Every dad has traits – good and not-so-good that define him. And then there are those little idiosyncrasies that you inherit from the guy that fathered you. Just recently, two such quirks that would definitely be considered “learned behavior” made me stop and question: am I turning into my dad?!

IMG_1476These two are pretty straightforward: My dad used to walk through the house turning off the multitude of light switches that were on when nobody seemed to be occupying or using said space as he announced to anyone who was within earshot that we were wasting electricity. I’ve come to realize that I just recently started doing the same thing (just this morning I shut off a half dozen lights before leaving for work), but I merely mutter things like “Electricity doesn’t grow on trees you know!” under my breath. So not completely like Grandpa Florida and certainly less effective!

The second example is much more sentimental. To this day, my dad puts family photos and other heartfelt notes on the visor of his car. Just last week, Athena gave me a little piece of artwork she made with “#1 Dad” written on it. Hmmmm, where should I proudly display this as a constant reminder of what great little kiddies I have? ON THE VISOR OF MY CAR, OF COURSE!

Thanks for those two traits that remind me of you, dad, and Happy Father’s Day to both you and dad-in-law Mr. V.!

Pic of the Week: “Train”ing Day

This shot shows our return to Bergamot Station in Santa Monica after trying the new Metro Expo line to Downtown L.A. (with an added graphic touch from my fave new Over app).


Food for Thought: Perfectly Playa

Urban Plates' light fixtures are a cool design element

Urban Plates’ light fixtures are a cool design element

Our clan is a good fit for Urban Plates and Lyfe Kitchen – much like the two fast-casual restaurants are well-suited for the health conscious, entrepreneurial residents they serve at The Runway mixed-use complex at Playa Vista.

Ordering, paying, grabbing a table, digging into your savory food, and splitting as soon as you’re done is a great set-up that is growing in appeal for me (there’s also Hop Doddy Burger Bar just a half block down from these two spots that utilizes the same approach). Urban Plates has various stations where you slide your tray cafeteria-style and watch the cook prepare hand-tossed salads, hand-carved sandwiches, flatbreads and other various comfort foods. Like Hop Doddy we’ve been here twice and chose communal high-top tables for our size group, sampling each other’s dinners both times: Moroccan Chicken Braise, Asian Chicken Salad, BBQ Turkey Meatloaf, Margherita Pizzette, mac & cheese and an Urban Kids Plate with grilled steak, one hot or cold side and a chargrilled focaccia.

And it was 10 enthusiastic thumbs up for Lyfe Kitchen, where the food and drink is a bit more organic. Co-owned by Top Chef Masters alum Art Smith (we tried LK for the first time at its Culver City location), my Faye’s Grilled Cheese ranks up there with one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had, with its house-made pimento cheese, thinly sliced tomato, arugula and sprinkled with parmesan (459 calories/620 mg sodium); at six bucks, this was a good value so I went for the sweet potato fries on the side for $2 more. A varied menu features everything from “Shareables” like Spicy Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps and an Edamame Hummus Plate to “Handhelds & Sides” like Mahi Fish Tacos and Roasted Brussels & Squash. “Little Lyfers” can choose from a handful of dishes including pancakes and “Unfried Chicken Strips.”