Seeing Beauty and the Beast at The El Capitan Theatre!

A “Tale as old as time” has returned to theatres! Nearly twenty years ago, Walt Disney Pictures released one of their most beloved fairy tales to date, Beauty and The Beast. Breaking box office records and becoming the first animated film to be up for an Academy Award for Best Picture, Disney has gone on to create their smash Broadway adaptation and, now, a live action re-telling of the film has been released.

When The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood told Michael and me to “be their guest” (see what I did there?) for a showing of Beauty and the Beast, I could not wait to see what both Disney and the theatre had in store for a showing. As someone who can get quite anxious in movie theatres, I always have a great time at The El Capitan. They go beyond your usual day at the movies with a rousing pre-show with LA favorite, organist Rob Richards. For me, Richards has become  my favorite part of heading out to The El Capitan. Each visit, it is such a treat to hear all of your Disney favorites (Under the Sea, Be Our guest, A Whole New World…) brought to life by an ample organ. I can only imagine the shivers it gives the kids!

Following Rob, we were in for an additional surprise as their curtain has been adorned with thousands of sparkly Swarovski crystals, and they presented a remarkable show boasting projections of lights to capture the beauty that is on their curtain. Set against a Beauty and the Beast score, the music and lights will get you pumped to enjoy the film.

As the film starts, we no longer hear that spooky, deep gentleman’s voice. The introduction to our Beast (Dan Stevens) and his castle begins at a masquerade party he is giving (and narrated by a woman’s voice). When the now infamous beggar woman comes to the door, the Beast is infuriated she has crashed his ball, and, of course, kicks her out. While most audiences have always awaited the transformation scene at the end, this new spin on getting an insight to the Prince’s change into a Beast was a welcome change and certainly set the mood for his character.

For our opening number of Belle, we at last meet our heroine, played by Emma Watson. While some quirks and elements to the opening has changed, it basically stayed close to the original. With it being one of my favorites from a musical opening, that made me happy!

I appreciated the character development to this film that both the cartoon and musical lack somewhat. We are introduced to Gaston (Luke Evans) and Le Fou (Josh Gad), of course, in the opening sequence, and they added so many new layers to these beloved characters you love to hate. Especially Le Fou (more on that later).

Stevens was an extremely good choice for the Beast. When we first meet him, he is ferocious, cold and spares no mercy when Belle’s father (Kevin Kline) stumbles into the castle’s garden in hopes to pick Belle a rose. Something he has done on every voyage he takes (another new take. I thought it was an interesting tie in and connection to Belle and the Beast from the beginning). As the tale goes, Belle begs the monster to spare her father and take her prisoner instead. It is soon after we are better acquainted with some of our favorite Disney side kicks, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Babette and the Wardrobe.

One of my favorite Broadway stars, Audra McDonald, hilariously portrays the Wardrobe, and in her former human life, is married to the castle’s piano (Stanley Tucci). Ewan McGregor is an absolute natural at the flirtatious Lumiere. Having just seen McGregor in Trainspotting 2, it reminded me just how diverse and versatile he truly is. Ian McKellen’s Cogsworth is also on spot and he brings more laughs and smiles to the already lovable role.

As far as Evans’ Gaston goes, he is a really good version for a live action film. I have seen Beauty and the Beast live countless times and in those live performances, I have always enjoyed the booming baritone vocals to Gaston, which I felt Evans did not have. Until, the rousing “Kill the Beast” number. Evans redeemed himself to me and I loved how true to the original this song and dance number was. He gave so much cruelty to the role, and was not afraid to be downright sinister. The ultimate “Disney Villain”.

I feel I will be in the minority here, but, my least favorite performance? It was Emma Watson’s Belle. I just do not see her as our Disney heroine. I was hoping she may wow me with her voice, but, alas, I was not too impressed. Luckily for Watson, she was surrounded with such a terrific cast that in my opinion are born naturals at their roles, which assisted in her Belle and adding the support the film needed to make it “dazzle” over the top.

As far as some interesting character development, I appreciated Kevin Kline’s Papa was not as dautering as he is usually portrayed. Both Belle and Papa are inventors, and he appeared to have more legitimate inventions and not chalked off as a “joke”.

And, for Josh Gad’s Le fou, so many elements and layers were added to the infamous sidekick. Much like Gad explained earlier this year in an interview, that as Gaston’s friend, “He sometimes wants to be him, and other days wants to kiss him.” Le Fou clearly has feelings for his friend, and is torn as he is seeing Gaston first make a fool of himself as he attempts to woo Belle, then see his dear friend turn evil and does not know which side to stand on. As for this film “robbing the innocence” of children with the homosexual innuendo’s? Yes, there is a very innocent final scene for Le Fou. It is cute, it is innocent, it is nothing (but awesome). I thought it was a great subtle turn to a character we did not know too much about.

Beauty and the Beast is playing world-wide and is currently the #1 movie in the world. Have you seen it yet? Or, have you seen it a few times?! Special thanks to The El Capitan for having me! xo

Staying at The Oaks at Ojai….

When I was first invited to head out and experience The Oaks at Ojai, I definitely felt like that cliché blogger from Los Angeles. Heading out of town in LA terms (not even 2 hours from home) and going on somewhat of a retreat. What would I find? Are you expected to stay on The Oaks’ grounds your entire stay? Can you bring any of your own snacks? Will you get in trouble if you don’t drink decaf coffee?! I knew I could survive an overnight boot camp if that turned out to be the case. But, what I discovered both after learning more about The Oaks, and while on my stay, is that The Oaks at Ojai has created an extremely unique atmosphere where YOU are in charge of what your idea of a “spa”, “detox” or “retreat” is.

Located in the tranquil Ojai, California (Just a half hour inland from Ventura Beach), The Oaks is one of the several hacienda-style buildings within the city, and from their street, can look very un-assuming. Park your car in their ample parking lot (free and they take up an entire corner on Ojai Street) and enter the lobby. The architecture of The Oaks, especially from the main drag, brought to mind one of the 21 California missions.

I arrived at noon as I had been invited to join the resort for lunch prior to my check-in. When you stay at The Oaks, all of your meals are inclusive, plus many snack breaks throughout the day and drinks available 24 hours a day (regular and decaf coffee’s, teas, water, etc). You can imagine that I was tickled pink when Maria, the courteous and warm Oaks associate who assisted my check-in, informed me that my room WAS indeed ready, and that I could head on in to freshen up before my meal and tour.

My cozy bungalow.

Before I was on my way, Maria also made sure that I chatted with Christine, The Oaks’ Head Chef, regarding my gluten allergy. While we had emailed about the lunch I would be having, she wanted to ensure I was good to go for dinner, as well as give me the lay of the land of their formal dining room (where you can join other guests for lunch or dinner and get table service) and The Libby Lounge.

I must admit, I favored The Libby Lounge. As I get older, I really have found that I NEED my solo time, and work trips like this are real treats I’m grateful for to have some time to myself and let my mind wander. In the lounge, you’ll find a long counter top filled with iced teas, water, a great assortment of tea’s, coffee’s, milks/creamers, fresh fruit and during lunch time, the meals are served in the lounge, as well. Come dinnertime, should you wish to enjoy your dinner on your laptop or reading in the lounge, you can ask the staff to bring it to you there. (You can also eat your meals poolside or back at your room. Entirely up to you!)

The Libby Lounge is also where you will grab your AM fuel whether it be post-morning hike, pre-yoga, or just anytime before 9:30, so keep hitting snooze til then if you wish. The cuisine is definitely along the lines of a health program. Yet, the portions are there. Lunch at my arrival was a tostada salad with turkey and soup of the day was a pumpkin chili (which I really favored. Hearty and nice to enjoy a fall favorite in the spring for a change). For dinner, Christine had several options for me to select from, and I selected their vegan and gluten free black bean noodles stir-fry. It was delicious, and the veggies fresh and cooked in a flavorful tamari sauce. Having enjoyed black bean noodles in the past, they were not as spicy as I have had them, and they soaked in the flavors from the sauce and veggies greatly.

In between your 3 meals a day, there are several snack breaks that include a vegetable broth with magnesium and electrolytes (vital if you’re enjoying all of the activities offered at The Oaks) as well as veggies and dips, and a savory popcorn after dinner.

Each day, The Oaks has countless classes throughout the day for all of their guests. Whether you are a pro at yoga, or a newbie to dance or hiking, the dedicated trainers and teachers at the resort will take great care of you. The daily relaxation yoga at 4pm will be the perfect way to unwind post swimming, walking or shopping downtown. While I was concerned I’d forgotten my yoga mat, I was in luck as such amenities are there ready for you at the fitness center. Pool towels, too!

With so much going on outside your door, you may find it hard to want to leave your suite. I was so excited to stay in one of The Oaks’ famed bungalows. Boasting a sun deck to tan with lounge chairs and a patio perfect for sipping your morning coffee or un-winding after your facial, I could have easily moved into my room! I felt like Georgia O’Keefe at her New Mexico hacienda. Inside, I had a cozy living room and a spacious bed room and double bathroom.

All I kept thinking is how many people my suite can hold; easily 5 guests as the living room has a pull-out couch, pillows and blankets, and many rooms have double beds.

So, while this is definitely a great place to detox, you can keep in mind living it up, too. Just steps outside of The Oaks  you will stumble into Downtown Ojai where there are delicious cafes, wine bars, shopping and even The Ojai Valley Trail. A fantastic 15 mile loop that goes throughout Ojai. I had no idea such a gem of a town existed in Ojai!

Next week, I will share with you my experience at their spa. From hair care and nails, to facials and massages, The Oaks has you covered there, as well. In the meantime, learn more HERE and plan your own visit to The Oaks! xo

(*Disclosure: I was invited to stay at The Oaks on their behalf for this feature. All opinions are my own.)

The Final Weekend of Descanso Gardens’ Cherry Blossom Festival is Upon Us!

The place to be in Los Angeles this weekend will be Descanso Gardens Cherry Blossom Festival. This annual event has drawn such crowds each year that the gardens are now requiring reservations, and, alas, is sold out. If you are lucky enough to have that golden ticket for this weekend, read on as Michael and I were able to snag tickets last minute to the first weekend!

While purchasing tickets in advance is usually not required, Descanso has now installed ordering them online or by phone. Once you select a time, you are welcome to join in on the festivities anytime after that. One element that was a bit confusing is that even with your ticket, you must still get in line to check in when you arrive. You’re then given a fun hand stamp for entry that says “Happiness” in Japanese.

The event was definitely was at capacity, yet the gardens did not feel “mobbed” or that we were navigating overwhelming crowds. With several Japanese-inspired food stands to check out, Michael decided to make a bee line for some chicken curry…..

“Happiness” hand stamp

Nearby, you could also grab a glass of wine, beer or BBQ specials. While the festival events took place at Descano’s Japanese Gardens section, the cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom throughout the grounds, and, while some definitely had a little more ways to go, we nevertheless saw some absolute beauties.

We stumbled upon a traditional Japanese band on stage, Minyo Station, and they were about to launch into a celebratory song. When they asked if anyone was celebrating a marriage, engagement, birthday, I was quick to raise my hand that I am about to be married, and we were one of the couples the song was dedicated to. It was absolutely lovely and the vocals on the lead singer were beautiful. After the performance, they invited attendees to take part in learning the art of the Obon dance. Between my good friend, Alex, who dances each year at the Obon Festival in Portland, and, Mike and I loving Kubo and the Two Strings, it was awesome to see them teach just how Obon is done. Did we participate? No….we were the shy kids in the back observing!

Happy couple.

With it being Mike’s first time at Descanso, I wanted to check out their famous Boddy House and their “Bloom” art gallery. After that, we decided to do our own thing and found a fantastic (and a little deserted) hiking trail that ended us up at the top of a gorgeous hill overlooking La Canada Flintridge and The San Gabriel Valley. Complete with a bench that had “Love” painted on the back, it was a fun surprise to find and to listen to the Japanese music being played down at the festival.

IF YOU GO….

Parking is free and ample

You can buy your own cherry blossom tree! Many were under $50, but, sell out early, so grab yours first thing when you enter (they are available out front of the gift shop)

If you have little ones in tow, the train looked really fun. you can buy your tickets for a ride at the entrance for $3.

Their cafe is now serving brunch on weekends….need we say more?!

Pack a bag of your essentials. Its a lot of walking, so, wear comfy shoes and remember your water.

You can learn more HERE and if you are unable to snag a ticket this weekend, rest assured as the cherry blossoms should be in bloom for awhile and you can go anther time soon! xo

(*Photos: Michael Farah.)

 

 

 

 

Talking with Oscar Nominee, Steve Emerson from Kubo and the Two Strings.

With The Academy Awards rolling into Hollywood this weekend, there is certainly a roster of diverse films hoping to get their gold man. While I’ve not seen many of the nominated films this year, one I have seen and loved was Best Animated Film nominee, Kubo and the Two Strings.

From the creative brains who brought you Coraline, The Box Trolls and ParaNorman, Kubo tells the story of a young Japanese boy who’s Father, a samurai warrior, was killed when he was a baby and is survived by his strong, yet ill, Mother. Living atop of a mountain, Kubo journeys into his village daily while the sun is out to create magical stories through the art of origami and his shamisen (thus, his two strings).

When tragedy and turmoil strike as Kubo’s family are evil and we learn his Mom has been hiding out and protecting him from her family, Kubo is left to fight off these enemies on his own yet with the helpful assistance of a mysterious monkey (appropriately named Monkey), and a Beetle who claims to be an amnesiac samurai who was cursed to take the form of a beetle and says to have been Kubo’s dad’s apprentice.

Kubo and the Two Strings was such a fantastic story of finding yourself and holding onto the importance of family and those you love, as well as paying great homage to the Obon Festival and Japanese culture. Boasting a great cast that includes Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey and George Taikai, I was thrilled that shortly after seeing Kubo, the opportunity arose to have a chat with Oscar-Nominated VFX Supervisor of the film, Steve Emerson.

 

Speaking from his office in Portland at Laika Studios, we were quick to want to get the skinny on the morning he got word he was nominated for an Academy Award, and if he is prepared should he win?? “I don’t have a speech. Its been so busy and so exciting. I haven’t really had a few moments to start thinking about that. The moment where I found out. It was like 5 in the morning, I was watching a streaming with my wife and son, sitting on the couch, drinking coffee, when we found out. Its been such a long process. Theres so much dedication from all the artists involved. you put years into your life for (these movies).” Emerson explains, “I would just say I’m intensely connected to all of these films (from Laika). So at that moment when we found out that we were being recognized, it all hit me at once. I broke down a little bit, and unbeknownst to me, my wife got a picture of me crying and put it right on Facebook!”

Despite all the glitz and glamour and Hollywood treatment from The Academy, Emerson also explained that Laika Studios is simply a small, independent stop motion studio working out of a warehouse, and that their visual effects team reckons more the size of the lighting team on most feature films. Fiercely admiring  his peers and fellow Nominees works, Emerson says “Its incredible, really incredible” to be among the best.

Another question on our minds was: How does an LA live action effects guy with a resume that includes Matrix Reloaded and The Dark Knight find himself at a slow motion studio in Portland?!

“I’d spent a long time working in live action visual effects down in LA. My family and I were looking for a change and wanted to relocate to Portland. I spent the better part of a year commuting from there to LA, not an ideal situation. Then, I happened to hear from a friend that this studio called Laika was working on a feature film called Coraline and I should look into that. I was fortunate to go to a “Look at Laika” night and they hired me within a few weeks to contribute to Coraline. I had very little to no experience with stop motion production but had a background in live action.”

Fast forward nearly a decade later, and Emerson has worked his magic on the Laika roster of films ever since.

Such a huge thanks to Steve Emerson, and Focus Features for including me on this fantastic round table interview. Here’s hoping I will soon be able to say we have featured an Academy Award winner on Along Comes Mary! 😉

5 California Getaways from The LA Travel Show.

*Photos courtesy of Classic California and Visit Redding.

This past weekend I was thrilled to head out to The LA Travel and Adventure Show and in between representing IFWTWA at our booth, got to connect and learn about some great sights to discover and the ones I hope to get to again soon. I was so happy to see several California destinations and thought I would highlight five of my picks for traveling in our great Golden State!

CAMARILLO

From world-famous shopping (The Camarillo Premium Outlets) to wineries, golfing and monthly food festivals (Camarillo Ranch Throw back Thursday Food Festival), Camarillo is an adorable gem of a community in Ventura County with year-round great weather and small town vibes. Perfect for a laid back weekend, and next door to Ventura Harbor Village and Oxnard. (Speaking of Oxnard, check out their Salsa Festival coming this Summer!)

BUELLTON

Often considered the “gateway to The Santa Ynez Valley”, Buellton was once seen as a pit stop town and where you go for Pea Soup Anderson’s. Nowadays, Buellton is love and respected for its wineries, breweries and, of course, great food. Along with plenty to do within 5 miles in the Santa Ynez Valley towns of Solvang and Los Olivos (as well as a terrific place to stay near Solvang), Buellton is also a great option if you are traveling with an RV and want to hook up at Flying Flags RV Resort.

Photo I took afew years back in Pismo Beach

 

PISMO BEACH

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you might recall I adore trips up Highway 101 with stops to search for mermaids and sea life in both Shell Beach and Pismo Beach. Pismo Beach is in the middle of the Central Coast of California and much like Big Sur, boasts some of the best views and sunsets. Whether you want to surf, bike, hike, or wine and dine (and shop), Pismo Beach is a dream come true.

KERN COUNTY

Here is an area I am much too unfamiliar with. Kern County is where lays The San Joaquin Valley, Bakersfield, Lake Isabella and an array of great sporting activities. Off road biking, rock climbing, kayaking and a slew of other adventurous outings  Perfect this time of year for snow bunnies, I look forward to perhaps paying a visit when the temps rise up for the Summer!

REDDING

I was so excited to meet the team at Visit Redding. And, a little proud they teased I should work for them, as I know this Northern California city and its surroundings quite well (thanks to my dear Ariel. Whom you have met on the blog!). From The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay, to nearby Mount Shasta and Burney Falls, Redding is another fantastic option when you are searching for The Great Outdoors. It is one of my favorite areas of California to visit.

Where in California will YOU head next?! xo

 

10 Valentine’s Day Date Ideas (& Giveaway ends 2-13!).

I know what you may possibly be thinking…Valentine’s Day?! The greeting card holiday?! Or, I am single! I can’t do this stuff! While, maybe, hopefully, some of you are eager to read about some Valentine’s Day ideas and my pretty sweet giveaway I have for you, I also hope you agree with some of these thoughts I had for super awesome and fun getaways, and places to wine and dine. All of these options would be excellent with your friends, too (Galentine’s Day, anyone??). Read on and good luck with the giveaway, too 🙂

GETAWAYS

Cruise on down the coast for Valentine’s Day in San Diego and stay at one of the best 5 diamond resorts in California, and the nation, for that matter, at Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Currently running a “Do Not Disturb” package through February 11th which includes a one night stay, a $50 food and beverage credit, complimentary bottle of champagne and strawberries amenity and in-room movie. Learn more HERE.

An often overlooked getaway destination, Sacramento is booming with culture, great food and wine, and some adorable boutique hotels and my favorite, The Amber House Bed and Breakfast. Minutes from the State Capitol, and convenient to walk to several activities, The Amber House is an amazing experience that includes a fresh breakfast brought to your room each morning. With several packages currently being offered, check out The Exquisite Dinner and Lodging package.

Gluten free French toast served in your room at The Amber House.

If leaving Fido home for Valentine’s Day is out of the question, consider a few nights at Carmel by-the-Sea’s pet friendly Hofsas House. A favorite here at Along Comes Mary, Hofsas is currently offering a “sweet” deal that when you  stay for at least two nights with them, you will receive a box of local Lula’s Chocolates and a Hofsas House logo tote bag to welcome you! Book HERE.

If you’re an Angelino looking for a local getaway, drive over Route 66 to Claremont, a hidden gem here in SoCal. The DoubleTree Resort is a gorgeous, newly renovated and modern home away from home that i’ve had the pleasure of staying with twice now and along with Downtown Claremont just a few miles away, you have The Piano Piano Bar, a Dinner and Theatre venue and a Trader Joe’s all within the hotel’s parking lot, making it perfect to simply park your car and hang out at the complex. With their Celebration package, get a bottle of sparkling wine, breakfast and a late check-out. Get all the details and book HERE.

WINE and DINE

Reserve a gorgeous table over looking the water and harbor at Cafe Del Rey in Marina Del Rey. Easily one of the best restaurants I’ve come across in LA as of late, Cafe’s Chef David Vilchez is a master in the kitchen and dedicated to ensuring each plate leaves you wanting more of his creations. With their Valentine’s Day dinner, choose from such decadent dishes like a 10 oz steak, salmon or lobster tail. Lets not even mention the strawberry panna cotta. Check out the menu HERE.

A cozy table for two at District Wine Bar.

Nothing like the custom build mac and cheese at Stacked.

If you do head for a Northern California getaway, do yourself a favor and spend the day in Cambria and dine at Linn’s Restaurant. Whether you stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, Aaron and his amazing staff are sure to treat you like family and their Olallieberry-centric desserts (many gluten-free) are the ideal sweet treat for Valentine’s Day!

A place to see a piece of history in the middle of Downtown LA is no other than San Antonio Winery. Always a fabulous time, San Antonio offers daily wine tasting, tours, delicious cuisine at Maddalena Restaurant, a coffee shop and bistro and, of course, their beautiful gift shop. San Antonio would be an ideal Valentine’s Day date.

Down in Long Beach, treat yourself to some beach time, stroll with your love on Belmont Shore’s 2nd Street, then drive down Ocean boulevard to Downtown and plan an afternoon at District Wine Bar. One of the first wine bars to ever invite Along Comes Mary to do a feature, District Wine is one of those places that feels like you’re with family. Mark and Angela Dunton launched District Wine in Long Beach’s funky Arts District in 2010, and have been hosting memories in the making ever since. From daily happy hours to Sunday mimosa brunch, make a reservation NOW to cozy up to your sweetie this Valentine’s Day!

If you’re looking to have a laid back Valentines Day (granted, it is on a Tuesday so getaways will probably have to be on a weekend), take your Valentine to STACKED: Food Well Built. With several California locations (Including Thousand Oaks and Huntington Beach), make it a fun evening by having you and your sweetie order for each other. At Stacked, you order and customize your meal on an iPad! (Psst, great gluten-free options, too).

A NIGHT IN

If you are more the type to have a cozy and romantic evening at home (or if it better fits your budget), why not try surprising your love with homemade chocolates? Or, better yet, make a recipe together or surprise each other with one each from Susie Norris’ decadent book, Chocolate Bliss. I had the pleasure of meeting Susie at The IFWTWA Conference and she was such a sweetheart that she  offered me an autographed copy of Chocolate Bliss for one of my readers! Simply use the form below to enter by February 13th, a winner will be selected at random, and make sure to check out my sweepstakes tab!

Let me know what your plans are for Valentine’s Day! xo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters Comes to Forest Lawn Glendale.

While cemeteries and memorial parks may bring some sort of solace and tranquility to some, most do not look at them as a venue to find beauty and enjoyment. If you take a visit to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, be prepared to leave with a new sense of meaning to graveyards. Forest Lawn is unlike any other resting place you have ever visited.

When Melanie from LA Explorer invited me along to the preview of Forest Lawn Museum’s newest exhibit, David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters, I was instantly in as I love Mr. Ziggy Stardust himself, and knew this would be a fabulous event to be apart of. Yet, what was mainly on my mind was the fact that Forest Lawn has a museum. A museum, at a graveyard?!

Pulling into Forest Lawn off of Glendale Avenue, a friendly face greets you at the drive up information center, and I was shortly given a map to assist me as I headed up a very large and beautiful hill to the top where the museum, church and Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection paintings were at.

Views from the top.

As someone who has a very strong fear of death, it was humbling and somewhat comforting to be on such a beautiful road covered with world-class sculptures, statues and landscaping all around me. There certainly are moments you may forget for a second just where you are, and then you will be reminded as mourners pass you by. Forest Lawn has created a beautiful atmosphere for the living to enjoy, while still having all due respect to those there to grieve.

When I arrived at the top to the museum, I was taken aback by the views of Los Angeles. They rivaled Griffith Park, if not even better. All of our rain that has helped clear up our California drought  also adds to the fantastic views and clear, blue skies!

Entering their small museum, I was struck by the pieces on display; definitely “quality over quantity”  as I got to see an un-canny Mark Twain sculpture and vibrant stained glass windows.

Boasting a fun gift shoppe, I was my typical self and just had to get something in honor of David Bowie. I grabbed an adorable Ziggy Stardust make-up bag, and word is they will also soon carry Bowie tee’s.

David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters chronicles Bowie’s first and only time playing in Mexico City 20 years ago. World-renowned rock and jazz photographer, Fernando Aceves, was at one of the legend’s concert in his home base on assignment. When Bowie opened the newspaper the next morning and loved the shots captured from the performance, he gave Aceves a call and invited him to come hang out with him and the tour mates while they were in town to document their visit.

With Aceves on hand at the preview, it was fascinating to get to ask this artist what it was like to hang with another brilliant creator. Affectionately referring to Bowie as “The Guy”, Aceves appreciated getting to know the human behind the legend; While David Bowie was the ultimate Renaissance Man, he was also real, which is what is painfully captured in these photographs; Bowie having fun, sipping his coffee. There was more more behind the creator, in between making music history time and time again.

Once these men were acquainted, on Bowie’s agenda was to visit and appreciate some of the most famous landmarks in Mexico City that paid homage to muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, as well as take in the beauty at the Frida Kahlo Museum and the pyramids of Teotihuacan. In Aceves photographs are glimpses in to several of these moments. There are the fun, laid back shots, as well as several showing Bowie in awe as he is, indeed, among the Mexican masters.

Fernando Aceves and Forest Lawn’s Art Curator introduce the exhibit.

With such a rich history between Mexico and Los Angeles, it is only fitting the the first stop on this exhibition tour is to Forest Lawn. Open daily from 10am to 5pm (excluding Mondays), David Bowie: Aming the Mexican Masters, will proudly be on display until June 1st. Learn more about the exhibit and both Bowie and Aceves, HERE.

And, after you check out the Bowie exhibit, no visit to Glendale’s Forest Lawn is complete without seeing the Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection paintings. These are the largest religious paintings in the Western Hemisphere, and this was a moment that left me speechless. On top of the massive size of these paintings, you can imagine my shock when we told that a curtain was hiding more of the art. I was not even seeing its entirety! The building they are housed in was built FOR these paintings, and are displayed in a theatre venue-like setting with a 20 minute video about its process and the paintings, shown throughout the day.

With free admission and parking, it’s no wonder that Yahoo Travel named The Forest Lawn Museum one of the best 10 free museums in the nation.There is something for everyone to see. Learn more and plan your visit HERE.

(*Disclosure: A special thanks to Forest Lawn and LA Explorer for having me at this media event. All opinions are my own.)

A Sunday Brunch at Copper Blues Oxnard!

I think it is safe to say I love me a great Sunday fun day brunch. There’s nothing like knowing you can enjoy that extra hour (or two) of sleeping in and lounging, then still be able to catch a great late breakfast or early lunch paired with a Mimosa or Bloody Mary. Michael and I were able to do just this when Copper Blues Rock Pub and Kitchen invited us out to see what makes their brunch ROCK harder than any others!

Following a gorgeous drive up Highway 101 to Oxnard, we arrived at the city’s beautiful shopping center. Boasting department stores, movie theatre, top notch dining and, of course, Copper Blues and their partner, Levity Live Comedy Club. Which are conveniently located next to one another.

Entering Copper’s feels more like a rock club than a restaurant, but don’t be fooled: They know how to do both, and how to do it right. Murals and portraits of famous musicians adorn every wall (Amy Winehouse, John Lennon, Keith Richards, just to name a few) while the ladies room had framed song sheets of such hit songs as Blondie’s Call Me. Everywhere you turn in Copper’s, there is something to see. And, that is to say nothing of their food.

Beautiful fountain and views out front. Photo: Michael Farah.

Copper’s is very gluten free friendly! Photo: Michael Farah.

Getting to chat with the Management team, I was fascinated to learn that EVERYTHING at each Copper Blues is made daily from scratch. From the Bloody Mary mix  to their apple and fennel sauce, it is made with love in house. Thus, making each bite taste more like a home-cooked meal than a restaurant.

While I opted for an order of their endless mimosa (which I was warned is mostly champagne. I wasn’t complaining), Michael was eager to take advantage of their Build-Your-Own-Bloody-Mary bar! Your server brings you your glass with ice and alcohol, then you’re off on your own to make your concoction however you like. Less mix, more bacon? More spice, less celery? It is all up to you. Not being a big fan of the spicy favorite, I had to try Michael’s (which mind you had bacon in it. I tried that too and it was an epic moment of flavor) and for once, I found a Bloody Mary tolerable. I think it is all about the mix and Copper’s does an excellent recipe.

While we awaited our main dishes, the team insisted we try their brunch staple, Bibimbap. Having not had this dish much, I was intrigued. At first look, it appeared to be some hot rice with an egg on top. After one bite? I could have ordered 2 more bowls of this! Filled with savory flavor and spices, kimchi and the option of bacon (Vegetarian for me), their Bibimbap was delicious and certainly a signature dish.

Bibimbap. Photo: Michael Farah.

Cajun Shrimp Benedict. Photo: Michael Farah.

While we awaited our breakfast plates, the live music set began. At Copper’s, they are not joking when they say they are a Blues Kitchen. Behind their full bar that looks out onto the restaurant, a stage rests there, right in the middle of the action. As the great Sunday morning band began, they combined dynamic energy while taking great takes on popular covers that made them their own. An energetic and fun cover of Sunshine in my Pocket while sipping my 2nd (or 3rd) Mimosa made for a great afternoon!

Michael ordered The Cajun Shrimp Benedict while I tried out the Smoked Salmon Omelet with a side order of their Potato Latkes. That is correct, friends, they have Potato Latkes that ARE gluten free! Along with that apple and fennel dipping sauce, I had to ask if the accompanying sour cream was also made in house. I was shocked its one of the few items that is not! Not being a huge sour cream fan, this was delicious and fresh.

Both our seafood dishes were hearty and just what we needed given the bottomless alcohol we were enjoying. Along with Copper’s weekly brunch, make sure to check them out for their “Wine Down” evenings, karaoke and fun to be had before and after you catch some comedy next door.

I am so excited to have a new go-to spot for brunch, and can’t wait to return to Copper’s. Visit them HERE and make sure to let them know Along Comes Mary sent you! 😉 xo

 

Great Sets and Success at Bootleg Theatre’s Love Trumps Hate Benefit.

After surviving Inauguration Day and admiring all of those out in the Marches today, I have been thinking alot about the incredible Love Trumps Hate benefit evening I was able to attend last weekend at The Bootleg Theatre.

While I definitely had considered going out to a march myself, I will be honest: The crowds intimidated me. Los Angeles alone is said to have over 745,000 passionate citizens out today. I have felt concerned for all of my friends attending today, but, thankfully, it looks to be going down beautifully and making history.

Love Trumps Hate was much more suited for me. An incredible event conceived by A&R Director of Angry Mob Music, Ralph Torrefranca, and Talent Buyer Kyle Wilkerson of Bootleg Theater, Love Trumps Hate was a powerful event of music, socializing and fun while coming together to raise awareness to very important causes and to show people that it is important to donate and be involved with organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, the non-profits, respectively, that  funds were raised for this evening.

Nick Waterhouse

 

Silversun Pickup’s

The silent auction was a music collector’s dream; signed memorabilia from Leon Bridges, Young The Giant, Family of The Year, Mac DeMarco, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Counting Crows and several others, while I saw many nerd-ing out over the possibility of getting backstage access and concert tickets from Fitz and The Tantrums. I tried my luck at some raffle tickets for the Amoeba Music gift cards.

The first band up was Expo 86, a Silverlake favorite specializing in many cover songs from popular bands today. They had dynamic energy and I appreciated what the lead vocalist had to say as he looks ahead at our next four years; as he spoke from the heart that we will survive and its times like this that show we come together as one. It was extremely comforting to have the audience shouting along that we will be ok in the USA.

An artist that is now on my radar is Nick Waterhouse. Having not heard of Waterhouse’s music, I stepped into his set with no idea what to expect, and loved what I was hearing. Combining a great mix of blues, jazz, rhythm and some rock-pop, Orange County native Waterhouse gave his all during his songs and had great chemistry with the filled theatre.

Following some more great performances from James Supercave and the very cryptically intriguing YACHT,  final performers of the night, Silversun Pickups, graced the stage for their acoustic ending to the evening. Radio friendly and always chromatic, Silversun Pickup’s are a real throw back to the shoe gazing, dreamy style of music that often brings to mind My Bloody Valentine or The Smashing Pumpkins.

Having not heard them acoustic, I was interested to hear some of their classic work stripped down. As they launched into one of their most beloved tunes, Panic Switch, Bassist, Nikki Monninger, was left to keep the intro loop going as the always humorous lead vocalist, Brian Aubert, decided to disappear into the crowd!

Such a huge thank you to all those who came together to make Love Trumps Hate the sold out success it was. Lets continue to keep our voices heard and support important causes, as we enter new territory these next few years. xo

 

A First Time Visit to Hearst Castle!

Along on our recent NorCal weekend trek that took us to Thomas Hill and Linn’s, another highlight was my invite to at last visit The Hearst Castle. Being a California native, its a bit embarrassing that the castle has been on my to-do list FOREVER. Michael had not been, either, and off we headed to the gorgeous San Simeon for our Grand Room Tour!

With each tour lasting about an hour, we were due for at 2:20pm. That gave us ample time to enjoy Cambria’s Moon Stone Beach that morning. Nestled in San Simeon, Hearst Castle is about a 30 minute drive from Paso Robles and Cambria. A gorgeous ride over Highway 1 took us to the Visitor’s Center where you not only check in for your tour, but, the center also boasts a great cafeteria-dining style cafe, coffee stand, a beautiful boutique as well as their Hearst Castle theatre.

Reminding me a bit of my recent visit to Graceland, your castle tour begins on a bus ride up a stunning winding hill to reach the top of vista where, you guessed it, the castle lays. During our ride up, our guided tour begins with Paso Robles resident and Jeopardy host himself, Alex Trebek, giving visitors a glimpse into the rich history and the depths of William Randolph Hearst and his remarkable empire.

Arriving at The Visitor’s Center.
Photo: Michael Farah.

These views!
Photo: Michael Farah.

Tennis courts. Photo: Michael Farah.

Once we arrived, our Grand Tour quickly began with our insightful and resourceful host. He had a difficult task right out the gate as to explain where the infamous Hearst Castle pool is. It is indeed there, but, well, empty and under construction. The castle’s pool is so famous that he admitted many visitors are led to believe their tour is simply that of the POOL, and, not much else!

Made legendary (and what many think of when they hear of Hearst Castle) by souvenirs and stock photos, Mr. Hearst was known to simply “patch up” the pool over the years. So much, that major damage had occurred and was causing the grounds to be draining thousands of pounds of water a day. Now that a contractor has been decided by the city, you can rest assured that plans to have the pool restored by this year are under way.

As we moved on, I adored seeing the gardens and some of the guest bungalows where the castle’s staff and help resided. Throughout the grounds, sculptures and art adorn left and right. A very indicator that The Hearst’s were living quite comfortably as they built their home and, ultimately, a museum!

Our Grand Tour highlighted the party and grand rooms of the castle; where the holiday parties were held and the impressive dining room. Immediately, when you enter their grand dining room, you cannot help but have Harry Potter come to mind and, sure enough, the designers from the trilogy themselves visited Hearst Castle for inspiration and even pursued filming there. While the castle was unable to accommodate those Hollywood requests, the essence and looks are nearly un-canny. Hogwarts may just be alive and well on The Central Coast 😉

The Grand Living Room was spectacular. Decked out for Christmas time, each year the castle re-creates just how the Hearst’s had their home sparkle at the holidays…

Photo: Michael Farah.

The Dining Room Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

As our hour concluded, our last stop is an intimate theatre to watch some rare home movies and clips of William Hearst and the family. With all tour admissions, you are also able to watch an hour long film back at The Visitor’s Center.

With the castle as massive as it is, its understandable why their tours are split up into hour tours. Many visitors opt for more than one tour on a visit which can easily be planned. I would definitely recommend this if you are in search of seeing more of the common areas or bedrooms. The Grand Tour is certainly a great first timer’s visit as you get to learn about the pools, the Hearst family and their lavish hosting rooms.

To learn more and plan your visit to The Hearst Castle, mosey on over HERE to learn more! xo

A Gluten Free Haven at Linn’s Restaurant.

During my time living up on the Central Coast of California in the Santa Ynez Valley, I always loved any chance I got to head to Cambria. Cambria is 30 miles north of San Luis Obispo, and 230 miles south from San Francisco. A humble, small town, Cambria is known for their stunning Moonstone Beach, as well as their annual Scarecrow Festival and a great Main Street drag of restaurants.

One of their dining staples is the absolute gem of a cafe, Linn’s. Linn’s Restaurant is known for their “Olallieberry”; a Youngberry crossed with a Loganberry. The primary fruit grown on their beautiful farm nearby, a Olallieberry tastes similar to the Knotts’ famous Boysenberry, or blackberry. While very tart, it did not provoke any crazy  “lip smacking” and was a great sweet treat…on the MANY dishes I recently got to experience on a visit to Linn’s!

Heading in on a rainy Sunday, we were quickly greeted by our Hostess, Kim and while the place was bustling, she assured us it would be less than a 20 minute wait. We were so engrossed with their bakery and gift shoppe that it felt more like a 5 minute wait. All decked out and ready for the holidays, Linn’s shoppe may not be ample, yet, they manage to have enough variety and beautiful adornments that you feel inside a proper department store.

Just a glimpse of their gift shoppe.

 

Gluten Free Olallieberry Muffin

We were soon escorted to our cozy corner table with a great window view of the rain coming down and the locals enjoying a stroll under their umbrellas. Mr. Linn himself, Aaron, soon came over to greet us and was an absolute delight to chat with. A Cambria native, The Linn’s have been operating their restaurant and farm since the 1980’s. If you want to know anything about Cambria and their townspeople, go have a chat with Aaron and he can fill you in on the what/where/when of the town. Great guy!

They’re also not shy to encourage you to try the entire menu. I was very excited to head to Linn’s as nearly everything is gluten-free (or they will gladly assist you if an item is not). Aaron’s Mom has Celiac, so they know first hand the excitement  you feel when you hear “Olallieberry Chocolate Brownie Cake….Gluten Free” or, my personal favorite: warm bread baskets that are gluten-free brought to your table.

We began our food journey with one of their most famous appetizers, their Ocean Rose Farm Abalone. Having not recalled experiencing Albalone, I was anxious to see why this is such a special dish. One bite, and I knew. Locally sourced Albalone from nearby Cayucos is served with two hazelnut encrusted medallions, lemon-thyme beurre blanc and a decadent jicama-jalapeño slaw. While not a gluten-free dish, simply mention if you need it to be, and they adjust the encrusted medallions for you. Perfection!

Albalone.

Moon Stone Beach Omelette.
Photo: Michael Farah.

Hearst Ranch Hamburger.
Photo: Michael Farah.

With so much already having gone down (chats with the locals, gluten-free galore, great coffee, great atmosphere), it was time for Mike and I to make our big decision: Whats for lunch?! I decided to take advantage of a late breakfast (Weekends they serve it until 2pm, other days, 12p) and try one of their favorite omelettes, The Moon Stone Beach with an abundance of Shrimp, Dungeness crab, tomato, green onion, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. While Mike decided on an old reliable: their Hearst Ranch Beef Cheese Burger with fries.

The Moon Stone omelette was to die for. The seafood so fresh, I would imagine it could have been caught that morning, while the flavor combinations of the cheese and veggies enhanced it perfectly. Mike enjoyed his burger, and the presentation was gorgeous and made it hard to want to dig in (Just a little….).

We were very stuffed by the time we had many options for dessert coming our way….check out what Aaron and staff insisted we try….

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

See all this, folks? Mike and I were able to get it all down…and, as some of you know, I am a Type 1 Diabetic. I am pleased to say with the proper amount of insulin injections that day, I was able to keep my sugars in a  good range! I truly thought this could be my last supper. Death of a sugar rush. And, what a great last supper it would have been! 😉

First up, was that irresistible chocolate brownie concoction, followed by their famous Pecan Chew Cookie Delight with Linn’s Pecan Chew Cookie, Brazilian Coffee ice cream, house made caramel sauce, candied walnuts and just a little real whipped cream. Bravo!

 While I could continue to share my love for Linn’s, I will end here, and trust that you will do yourself a favor and head to Linn’s next time you are in Cambria. Learn more about them HERE and make sure to tell them Along Comes Mary sent you! xo
(*Disclosure: I was a guest of Linn’s Restaurant in exchange for this feature. All opinions are my own and it was a phenomenal experience!)

 

Make it an Easy Morning with Overnight Chia Seed Pudding! #NOSHWithGroceryOutlet

Remember awhile back when I introduced you to Grocery Outlet? Well, folks, since then, I have been an avid shopper. Even with our closest one about 20 minutes away, you will commonly see me braving The 5 freeway to head on over.

While they have always had such a great variety of the types of foods and beauty care products I need, I was especially excited to hear that my favorite aisle at Grocery Outlet, with my gluten free crackers, cereals, and plenty of coconut oil, is officially their NOSH section.

Where else can you get Annie’s products for 99 cents?

NOSH indicates Natural, Organic, Specialty, Health. While alot of discount stores are hit/miss with healthy and organic offerings, I love that Grocery Outlet is devoted enough to make a section of these foods and treats. I headed over yesterday in search of the goods for a recipe I kept hearing I need to try: An overnight chia pudding! Both my friends and Naturopathic Doctor had recommended learning to cook with chia seeds, and I can see why:  A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains (1, 2):

  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
  • They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

Chia seeds are also high in fiber (which actually comes from the carb content), protein and a powerhouse amount of anti-oxidants. Whats not to love, right?

I found a great HUGE bag of chia seeds on the NOSH aisle, as well as everything else I needed  to try out the pudding. And, thats not all I found on my trek….

And, want to know a secret? This was all under $40!

Not only was that maple syrup under $5, but, that was also an idea for the pudding. I ended up holding off, but, feel free to add a tablespoon of maple syrup or agave to your concoction, too!

OVERNIGHT CHIA SEED PUDDING

You will need:
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
1 cup of milk (I used Almond Breeze, also on the NOSH aisle)
A glass jar (I used an old Kombucha glass bottle. Mason jars are awesome, too)

Optional:
A dash of cinnamon, vanilla
A tablespoon of maple syrup or agave

Toppings:
Berries
Peaches
Nuts
Chocolate chips

Simply mix the first 2 ingredients, shake VERY well and put in the fridge. At about a half hour, take out for one more good stir and shake, then leave in fridge til the morning. Its pretty amazing how chia seeds expand, and in the morning, you will have this:

I was in a simple blueberry mood, but, you can get as creative as you like with the AM toppings. Having just finished that bowl this morning, I will say that I feel extremely satisfied and that I had a wholesome breakfast to start my day.

Make sure to mosey on over to THIS LINK and get a $3 off coupon for Grocery Outlet to see for yourself how awesome Grocery Outlet is. What will you create? 😉

 

(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Grocery Outlet, but, the content and opinions are my own.Products and prices featured may not be available at all locations. Please check your neighborhood store for more info.)