Monday, May 30, 2011

A pirate's life for me

I don't often splurge anymore but if I do, you can bet it's on something Disney.

The kids are at an age now where they just love movies, so it seemed to be the perfect time to take them to the El Capitan. The El Capitan is a Disney owned theatre in the heart of Hollywood, and by heart I mean it's right on Hollywood Blvd, surrounded by tourists, opportunists and every walk of life known to man.

They feature a new Disney release every few months but I've never had anything interest me. There were always lots of fairytale movies - but we're all boys here, we're not interested in that. So when Pirates came up, I knew that was the one. Johnny Depp?? Hello.

I got VIP orchestra tickets which were perfect, right down close to the stage and excellent viewing for little shorties. With your ticket you get reserved seating and it comes with free popcorn in a themed bucket (of course) and the drink of your choice.

You also get 'souvenirs' from the movie - in this case, 'Pieces of Eight' for you to play pirate at home.

Now usually the El Capitan puts on a big stage show and has games and entertainment set up in the back, sadly that wasn't the case this time but life is kind of nice without hoopla sometimes.

So they had the 'world famous' organist play Disney tunes on the organ much to the delight of the crowd. Everyone knew each song, of course.

They also had a lot of props from the movie, including original art, as well as the actual costumes worn by the actors.

To celebrate our Pirate-y day I made a pirates themed dinner for the kids (recap, here). The movie mya have gotten so so reviews, but I thought it was fun and exciting - I don't ask for much more from movies, or for my kids to be entertained which they were.

The El Capitan is such a fun way to experience a movie, I can't wait to go back. I hear when they premiere Cars next month, they are transforming the entire back lot with Cars themed games and jumpers and it sounds like pure little-boy-happy-craziness. I'm in.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

I'm just an Orange County girl, living in an extraordinary world

I may bake a lot of cupcakes, but I also BUY a lot of cupcakes.

Proving my point, I drove 100 miles roundtrip, just to pick up cupcakes from Meringue Bakeshop at the
Sunday Farmer's Market in the O.C. Granted it's faaaar down into Orange County, so sadly 100 miles is spot on.

Ok so I didn't JUST drive all that way for cupcakes. I also set it up so that I could meet up with a bunch of friends and I've been wanting to go to the Great Park Farmer's Market for some time.

Every Sunday Meringue Bakeshop sells their cupcakes at the Farmer's Market. Even before we realized we had lots of mutual friends, I became a fan of Meringue Bakeshop's moist and flavorful cupcakes.

I first tried them at Cupcake Camp O.C. where my Sleeping Baby cupcakes was one of the top 3 in the amateur division and in the professional division Meringue Bakeshop won best O.C. themed
cupcake with their Orange Crush cupcakes!

They do cakes for weddings and showers, but they also invented the pushcake! I really wanted to try one of these novelties but they were out that week. Oh well, there's always next time.

The Great Park market is pretty neat. Lots of food trucks, a variety of fruits and snacks and most important? PLENTY of seating (big plus) and FREE balloon rides, FREE carousel rides and FREE playgrounds for the kids. Now you're talkin' my price range.

I'd love to come here every week, I just wish it was closer. For people who live in the O.C. - this should be a must every Sunday. For us L.A. dwellers, well, I promise to visit more when the gas prices go down. Plus I need to go back and get on that giant orange balloon...

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights, it's time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight

There are certain things that influence me as far as my design, creativity and Disney, Sanrio, Star Wars and of course...the Muppets.
My mom was a HUGE Muppet Show fan. We'd watch the show together and to this day she will quote it CONSTANTLY. My mom introduced me to so many fun and creative influences growing up - it's something I definitely try to carry on with my own kids.

I remember not only the characters, but the life-like interaction and humor that made it all so entertaining. Jim Henson was an important creative figure in my life and when the opportunity came up to visit the studios, I couldn't wait!
I drive by the studios all the time - it always looked like the Wonka Factory to me. Old 1900s architecture, a large Kermit statue placed jauntily on top of a sign, above the HUGE overbearing gate...which is always closed. Only invited guests, here.
Once inside I got to see some amazing Emmy award winning technology. I always wondered how they merged the art form of puppetry with live action. The technology was fascinating. It's like being inside the mind of puppeteer, though I don't know if that's a dream or a nightmare.

There were tons of figures from shows long past - it's amazing how much Henson productions has their hand in every major form of entertainment.
Remember the tv show Dinosaurs?? Yep. That's the actual baby.
I think what shocked me was the size of things. You always see the puppets on tv, but in reality they are HUGE. I mean, this Scooby Doo was full size, and when you think about it - yes, he is supposed to be a massive Great Dane, but when you see it standing there 4 feet tall+ in person, it's almost scary.
Lots of Dark Crystal stuff. I remember the Skeksis and being totally freaked as a kid. TOTALLY. FREAKED.

As an adult standing nose to nose with it is still a bit disconcerting but the detail work is outstanding. It looks amazing on screen but in person the amount of thought and work put into these creatures is almost breathtaking.
I got a peek inside the office conference room, where there was a large mural with every single creature that was worked on by Jim Henson himself. It almost broke my heart.
I remember being devastated when Jim Henson died.

He was so creative, he had so much more to do and he was just gone too soon. But his legacy certainly lives on through all the creative talent at the studio.
I think the most spectacular thing about the place is that they were the original studios of Charlie Chaplin. His actual bungalows, sound stages and buildings are all still being used today.

Being on the lot takes you back in time and you can almost feel what it was like when they made movies back then.
They even have Charlie Chaplin's actual footprints saved in the courtyard.

Everything looks the same - but modernized. There is a full on high tech recording studio that is used everyday by some of the biggest names in music. The list of famous people is mind-boggling. After all they recorded 'We Are the World' here. Some real heavy hitters come in and out of this joint.
This was another one of my favorites - seeing as how I just did a 'Where the Wild Things Are' dinner for the Baby, it was jaw-dropping to be standing next to a life size head from the movie. Again, the size of these things is astounding. That head is almost 5 feet across! I just never imagined the puppets would be so big!
The coolest thing about the lot is that everywhere you turn there's another creature. They are SO realistic it's hard to tell if something's going to jump out at you or just stand still. I think if I worked a late night I might freak if I turned the corner and saw a Skeksis staring at me, is all I'm sayin'.

The amount of work and care and love that goes into every show and creature can be felt as you walk around the campus. The feeling is truly a testament to the creative people that carry on the Henson name.

It was near bliss to be able to live out one of my dreams and see some of my greatest influences in person. It was truly a fantastic place where creative possibilities seem endless.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

You live you learn, you love you learn,
you cry you learn, you lose you learn

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week at school. Seems like everyone else had theirs 3 weeks ago so I don't know why we're so behind, but oh well.

They suggest you: 'say something nice' to your teacher, 'bring her fruit', etc. Er. Fruit? Sorry. I'm the worst offender of calorie crushers around here and I show love with dessert. I did try to incorporate fruit the best way I know how though...

For the after school care teachers: Banana cupcakes with a Cinnamon Buttercream

I am making little gifts for the kids *actual* class teachers, but I felt like I wanted to do something for ALL the teachers in the school. After all my kids will be there through 5th grade, I might as well butter them up I MEAN get on their good side now.

So I made Teacakes with a Brown Sugar Whipped Cream and Chocolate cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting and left the box in the teacher's lounge. I hope they enjoyed them. I can barely handle 2 kids I don't know how the teacher's cope with 25+ all day. I think they deserve all the cupcakes in the world.

Banana cupcakes (recipe, here)
Milk Tea cupcakes (recipe, here)

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

That girl's so sweet, just like her name

It's that time of year again...Strawberry Tour season at Tanaka Farms!!

Every year I anxiously await for the tours to open - it's one of the most fun things to do in SoCal. A tractor ride, fresh veggies, all the strawberries you can eat - what more could you want?

I was glad to avoid the heat this year although in some ways it was worse - it had rained the night before and the mud was in FULL EFFECT. OMG. Shoes were getting stuck in the mud, people were falling down, it was chaos. Thank goodess I wore crappy shoes.

The previous rain sure made for a pretty sky.

This year we took a little boy and it was his first time on the farm. He seemed to really like trying the fresh vegetables which was cool to see, and really - what boy doesn't love tractors.

The Kid was thrilled to go into the farm stand and pick out veggies. His favorite veggie: Sugar Snap Peas were in peak season and were sweet and fresh, raw right from the farm.

While the mud was a downer it was still a gorgeous day in Orange County and we got our strawberry haul. A perfect Southern California day.

Strawberry Tours only go through June, so get there quick!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011


At times in my life I called myself Jenny, Jennie, Jennifer - until I settled on just...Jenn.

One thing was always true, I ALWAYS used TWO N's. I was not a one N Jen, I had a lot of friends that were though.

We Jen(n)s are very particular about the spelling of our names - the number of Ns makes a big diff, trust me - get it wrong and I will know very quickly whether or not you really know me.

And so for all my Jen, Jenn, Jenifer, Jennifers out there I made it simple:

A pin to show everyone if you're a one N or a two N Jen(n). If you use a 'ph' sorry, you're on your own...

You can buy your favorite Jen(n) an "*nns button", here.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Kill your television

At school they had 'Turn Off TV Week' and the Kid REALLY got into it, mostly because there was a 'prize' at the end.

I don't let the kids watch that much tv, but I'm letting up and allowing them to watch a few more shows and movies - seeing as how I'm such a pop-culture junkie myself.

You had to write down what you did everyday instead of watching tv, and since the kids don't watch much during the week anyway it was easy to write down our regular art and reading every night - it was just hard to think of NEW things to write down since the Kid demanded that we had to log something different down every day.

We played a lot of games (which I always lost - because the Kid is the King of board games), we read, the kids cooked, it was a full exercise in creativity.

Here's the thing, having 'Turn Off TV Week' during the Lakers playoffs is just cruel. Granted it doesn't matter now, but still. The playoffs are BIG. The Kid would yell, "I CAN HEAR YOU WATCHING. TURN OFF THE TV." It got to the point where even my mom (their Grandma) would say, "Hey, I don't go to your school, I CAN watch tv." Seriously. It was like we were all being watched.

All I know is that *I* was glad it was over. The Kid got his prize and I could finally watch Food Network without the TV Nazi lurking behind the corner..."MOM. I CAN HEAR YOU WATCHING SOMETHING..." Yikes.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

You better run, you better hide ,we gotta keep you out of sight, be careful Sigmund.

The Magic Treehouse is still in full effect around here. The Kid reads the books every night, and with 45 in the series - he'll be reading for a while.

So for After Dinner Art the other night I saw him sketching while he was reading:

Summer of the Sea Serpent. This book was one of his faves.

Back in the old days (when the Kid was 3-4 years old) I used to help him with art by going over shapes, spatial proportions, etc. In just a few short years he's really come into his own and loves drawing. Now he doesn't need me anymore. ~sniff~

Speaking of raising and taking care of kids, the awesome women of Geek Girl Con have invited me to speak on a panel at Geek Girl Con in Seattle! The topic? 'Geeky Parenting and Raising Geeky Kids.' Or as I call it...parenting. HA! I'm sure it was my large organizational collection of lightsabers and capes that made them think I was qualified...

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Monday, May 09, 2011

We gonna run this town

This weekend was jam packed. There was so much to do in L.A. I didn't know where to start, everything had to be carefully scheduled and coordinated so that we didn't miss out on any of the action.
First off - Unique L.A. Unique is one of my favorite shows and for the first time I didn't have a booth! I have to say, it was pretty nice to be able to just walk around and shop, there are so many great local vendors! If you wanted the best of the best in L.A. artists they were all at Unique. I wish I could have bought one of everything.

The other thing I love about that show is EVERYONE goes. I saw so many friends, I couldn't walk more than 2 feet without bumping into someone I knew. I love when everyone comes together for art like that!

The kids - they weren't having it. Shopping was a big NO especially when it was also...
Free Comic Book Day!! Our fave holiday of the year. We always go down and visit our friends at the Comic Bug and this year, the kids could NOT contain themselves.
Driving by the shop was a kick because out on the street it was a Star Wars fest, there were stormtroopers, scout troopers, jedis and... R2 unit!! The Baby nearly lost his mind. He loved that thing so much and the 'operator' could tell so he kept making the droid follow the Baby around. It was very sweet. The Baby was loving it. He gave the droid a hug and proclaimed R2-A6 his best friend.
The Comic Bug - as always - had an amazing lineup of creators, lots o' comics and lots o' HeroClix. The kids had a ball.

The next day was Mother's Day and the O.G. book signing was a HUGE success! We had so much fun and saw lots of great peeps. (recap here) And now the book is available online. Whew!

To cap off a successful weekend, O.G. and I celebrated as we do everyday - with tacos!

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Word to your...

This Sunday is Mother's Day! Come join me and O.G. in Culver City at Royal T Cafe! We'll be there signing the new O.G. comic-cookbook from 12 - 3, there will be a special Mother's Day menu in the cafe, justJENN designs items stocked in the shop and a stART craft table for kids!

Stop by to eat, shop or just say HI!

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Hot fun in the summertime

This weekend was the L.A. Times Festival of Books. I look forward to this event every year because I feel like the city loves this fest and people always show up in droves to support reading and the community.

This year it was moved from the UCLA campus to USC, and I was extremely thankful. Not because I'm a die hard Trojan (which I am) but I am a die hard hater of hills, and at UCLA it seemed more spread out and awkard to navigate. This year there was a clear grid with side pockets of whatever you were interested in. For me - it's always children's books.

We arrived Sunday just in time because the Kid was thrilled to see Mo Willems. He wrote the Pigeon books, Knuffle Bunny and is one of our favorite authors. He read from a few of his books and is always entertaining. Such a talented guy! We have all of his books, some original Pigeon sketches, yet we have never met the man. The line up to talk to him is always long and so we never get the chance.

I bought the Baby "Can I Play Too?" a Mo Willems book and the Kid lamented there being no 'Magic Treehouse' booth. I heard that from a lot of kids that day. We stopped and visited First 5 L.A., Boom! Studios comics and our friends at Steam Crow. I was sad to miss out on all the cooking events, but again - no time, gotta keep on movin'.

Per the usual, it was HOT. Every year the book fest lands on the hottest weekend and this year was no exception, it felt like the surface of the sun. The heat quickly got to the kids so our stay was short, but we had to go to the most important booth before we ice cream from Ben & Jerry's! Everyone else at the fest had the same idea.

I wish we could have stayed longer but the heat was overwhelming and our weekend was packed with so many more fun things to do. You know it's time to go when the Baby just drops dead in the grass. When Batman's down- the fun is over.

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