Seeing Hayley Mills at One Starry Night.

One Star

Growing up, I lived in a very fun and artistic household. There was always records playing or a musical movie going on the VCR. My Grandma was the Queen of “Columbia House Video Club” and I feel fortunate that I was exposed to all of it. Among our faves, though, were the Disney movies. And, one that got HEAVY rotation in the living room, was the 1961 classic, The Parent Trap.

While there are countless films I adored, The Parent Trap, with Hayley Mills, Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith, has always stayed with me and continues to be a favorite of me and my Mom to this day. We have the DVD set, and even went to a retro screening of it last year at LACMA.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I interviewed One Starry Night co-founder, Juliana Hansen, and found out that Hayley Mills herself, along with fellow Disney royalty, Richard Sherman, would be joining forces to duet on the film’s theme song, Let’s Get Together, at The Pasadena Playhouse event! Mind you, Mills has NEVER performed this song outside of the film. This was seriously an event 50 years in the making, and I am so thrilled that I was able to go, with my Mom, to witness Disney history go down!

Courtesy: Getty Images

Hayley Mills and Richard Sherman. Courtesy: Getty Images

Having covered One Starry Night since its inaugural performance in 2014, each year has found this all-star charity soiree improving and finding new turns with each event, while never abandoning the reason that we have all joined together in Pasadena: To fight ALS and bring awareness to the ALS Association’s Golden West Chapter.

This year found One Starry Night awarding The Spotlight Award to the creative team behind Gleason, The Sundance award winning documentary chronicling NFL champ, Steve Gleason, and his heartbreaking battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease. All, while raising his newborn son with his wife.

One Starry Night’s Honorary Co-Chairs were Miley Cyrus, and her dear friend, Mari Winsor. While most recall Mari as the lady behind the “Winsor Pilates” empire, many of you may not know that she is fighting ALS herself. While Miley was unable to be in attendance, we were treated to a beautiful speech from Winsor, who will not quit until there is a cure for this devastating disease.

Kate Linder. Courtesy: Getty Images.

Kate Linder. Courtesy: Getty Images.

The One Starry Night Award went to long time Young and the Restless actress, Kate Linder. She has been an advocate for ALS and raising funds to get us closer to a cure, since 1982.

When the moment arrived for Hayley Mills to grace the stage, the crowd went wild. Giving a heart warmmg speech about ALS, and, urging us to focus on the “good guys” more than all the negativity that is in our world, she soon revealed that when she was cast as both Sharon and Susan, respectively, in The Parent Trap, she went to Richard Sherman scared to death to sing, since she is an actress. “Act as if you are a singer” the pianist advised, and, as we know, the rest is history.

Sherman shortly joined Mills on stage for an adorable duet of Let’s Get Together….they even got out their lyric sheet to ensure they were singing the lyrics right!

While I thought seeing Petula Clark perform Downtown, one of my favorite songs, at last year’s One Starry Night could not be outdone I think it is safe to say  that they did indeed out do themselves this year. While I pray for the day fundraisers like One Starry Night are no longer necessary (as we are certainly closer each day to a cure for ALS), I could not be more grateful for all who come together to make this event happen and bring more outreach to the cause. Bravo, One Starry Night! xo

Juliana Hansen Returns for 3rd annual One Starry Night in Pasadena.

One Star

When I was invited to attend One Starry Night: A Special Performance to Conquering ALS, I was not quite sure what to expect. A variety show at The Pasadena Playhouse? With all-star names? It was one of the first charity events I had covered, and I was thrilled for the chance to dress up, and return to Pasadena Playhouse with Michael, whom I had seen The Playhouse’s 12 Angry Men with, on our humble 3rd date, a few months prior.

Fast forward 3 years, and One Starry Night continues to be one of the best fundraisers put on yearly in Los Angeles, by The ALS Association’s Golden West chapter. Returning once again to The Pasadena Playhouse, One Starry Night, and its honorary Co-Chairs, Mari Winsor and Miley Cyrus, invite you to come on out to this star-studded evening of music, theatre, magic, comedy and award ceremonies.

This year, One Starry Night is proud to honor the hit documentary, Gleason. The 2016 Sundance Film Festival goes inside the life of former NFL star Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saints defensive back who, in 2011 at the age of 34, was diagnosed with ALS and given a life expectancy of two to five years. Weeks later, Gleason found out his wife, Michel, was expecting their first child. A video journal that began as a gift for his unborn son expands to chronicle Steve’s determination to live as fully as possible. The film highlights his mission that people with ALS can not only live but thrive after this diagnosis, along with many of the extraordinary successes achieved by the Gleason Initiative Foundation (“Team Gleason”), including the creation of the “Team Gleason House for Innovative Living” and the passage of “The Steve Gleason Act” which assures the availability of life-sustaining communication devices for people with ALS and other diseases. Distributed by Amazon Studios and Open Road Films, “GLEASON” has received glowing reviews both from audiences and news outlets including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Rolling Stone and Variety, to name a few.

I had the pleasure to chat with Co-Creator and Producer, as well as One Starry Night performer, Juliana Hansen, about her unstoppable, creative life, playing Mary Poppins and what she hopes attendees take away from this evening….

Juliana Hansen

Juliana Hansen

Mary: When did your journey in the performing arts begin? Do you come from a creative/artistic family?

 

Juliana: I’ve been in the entertainment industry since I was very young. I began modeling with one of the top agencies in San Francisco when I was 4 years old, I did my first musical when I was 5 years old, my first national commercial at age 7, and my first television starring role and voice over lead (The Land Before Time IV) by the time I was  9. I have always loved acting and singing. I grew up with music in the house, as my dad was a professional musician for over 30 years. My mom is very creative, too. She has done everything from wardrobe for films to makeup for shoots, to producing music videos! They were terrific about exposing me to great art at a young age and have always encouraged my pursuits in the industry.

You blew me away at last years One Starry Night with your Mary Poppins performance! What was the experience like playing such an iconic role?

 

Playing Mary Poppins was the dream coming true that I never even knew I had dreamed! When my agent called me with the audition, I laughed. I never thought I could fill Julie’s (Andrews) shoes, but I discovered so much about the character of Mary and myself throughout the process.
I did tons of research, because I wanted to incorporate to P.L. Travers’ version of Mary; the only one Julie Andrews had to go off of as well as give the audience reminiscent moment’s of Julie’s Mary – who we all grew up loving, while still making her my own. No small task. Top that off with the knowledge that Richard M. Sherman (my mentor and very dear friend) would be in the audience on opening night…. That’s was a lot of pressure! I wanted to do my absolute best, and also leave the audience with a huge gift and a lot of love. The run was too short, and I hope to revisit Mary several times over!

What has it been like working with Richard Sherman?

Working with Richard is one of the greatest gifts of my life thus far. And it is ALWAYS amazing… every single time. He is truly one of the top 5 kindest people I’ve ever known, and I’ve learned so much from him. He is a genius and a total pro, and I’m just so honored that he has made me his muse. I feel like a modern-day Julie, Annette (Funicello) and Hayley (Mills)- which is surreal, as these are ALL women I’ve admired and looked up to my whole life. I’m incredibly grateful that I can give Richard the gift of being reunited with Hayley Mills for our third Annual ONE STARRY NIGHT and help them to make Disney history by bringing them together to duet, for the very first time, on Let’s Get Together from the Parent Trap (a song Hayley has declined singing for nearly 50 years). 

Hansen as Mary Poppins

Hansen as Mary Poppins

Can you tell me a little about One Starry Night and how it was conceived? How did you get on board?

 

I created and Produced ONE STARRY NIGHT in 2013, with my friend Jonathan White.  After seeing my one woman show, Juliana Hansen- Live At The Federal (album available on Kritzerland records) wanting to produce my show in a larger venue, namely The Pasadena Playhouse. It was my idea to produce a much bigger show together one that would do good in the world and raise awareness in Hollywood for an under champions cause. We chose the ALS fight because we both had people dear to our hearts suffer from the disease, and we felt like, in the Entertainment community, ALS was such a little championed cause. This was before the ice bucket challenge. I’m a believer that once energy is put towards a purpose, the universe will find more ways to put more energy to that purpose and grow a vision. It was amazing to see the Ice Bucket challenge blow up as our show was taking shape. We wanted something that would bring glamour and class back to Hollywood, while in a unique way. ONE STARRY NIGHT is in the style of an old-time variety show (think Ed Sullivan) and features Tony award-winning Broadway performers, Emmy winning Television stars, Hollywood icons, comedians, production numbers, specialty acts and more all with a 15 piece orchestra comprised of Los Angeles’ finest musicians (these guys play the Oscars). It’s my hope and vision to grow it to eventually being annually televised on PBS to reach a much wider audience. 100% of the proceeds go to our partners at the ALS Association, Golden West Chapter. This year’s show is produced by Melissa Verdugo, Patty Ramsey, Patrick McMinn and myself, and we are confident it will be a very special evening.
What do you hope the audience takes away from One Starry Night?
It’s my hope that our audiences will be changed for having attended ONE STARRY NIGHT and that their hearts will be touched. I hope people will leave with more knowledge to share with their friends and family about the great need there is in the ALS community for more financial support for research and home care, and that people will generously give. I know everyone will enjoy a truly magical evening of entertainment, and I especially hope that our guests of honor, people currently living with this horrible disease will know we love them and are fighting alongside them. Hope and love if what it’s all about. 
(One Starry Night is this Monday at The Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California. Tickets are available HERE)

We Are LA Festival with Lisa Loeb & Giveaway Through August 21st!

We are LA

There was always something so cool, nerd chic, about Lisa Loeb. The singer/guitarist who rose to fame with her song, “Stay (I Missed You)” on the Reality Bites soundtrack made her a radio and Mtv favorite. Stellar albums like Firecracker, successful Food Network series, Dweezil & Lisa, as well as several children’s ecords, Loeb certainly has stayed on the radar with her diverse ventures.

On September 17th, Lisa Loeb will be one of the stars gracing the stage at The We Are LA Festival, coming to The StubHub Center in Carson, California. Her co-headliners include Ozomatli, YouTube personality DJ Flula and the magician/comedian, Justin Willman, host of Cupcake Wars as well as family friendly interactive and educational activities, all day long!

“We want to create an environment where the Los Angeles community can enjoy a day of great music and get to know the incredible children’s charities that make a positive impact where we live, work and play,” said Charissa Gonzales, We Are LA Co-founder. “Those who come are familiar with the rock stars who will perform on stage, the goal is to get them to know about the rock stars working behind the scenes for at-risk and low-income children and families,” added Gonzales.

 

Lisa

Lisa Loeb.

All net proceeds will benefit the following local Los Angeles children’s charities: 826LA, Amer-I-Can, CASA of Los Angeles, Happy Trails for Kids, Junior Achievement of Southern California, Richstone Family Center and LA Galaxy Foundation.

“The LA Galaxy Foundation is honored to be included in the inaugural We Are LA Festival. A special thank you to the Lucido’s for their generous support to make this event possible; the concept of bringing together multiple non-profit groups to benefit and support the work each does in the community is a wonderful opportunity”, said Lauren Nowinski, Director, Community Relations of the LA Galaxy Foundation.

The daylong celebration begins at 11am and runs through 11 p.m. with family friendly daytime activities and an adult contemporary music lineup for the evening. Families will also be able to enjoy interactive activities, including a songwriting booth, guitar lessons, jam sessions and arts and crafts.

Ozomatli

Ozomatli

Receiving a tremendous out pour of philanthropic support, additional Festival musical acts will continue to be announced. You can visit wearela.org for more information and to purchase tickets…..

But, how would you like to WIN a pair of tickets?! I have a pair to give away, thanks to We Are LA! Please use the form below to enter by August 22nd. The festival will be on September 17th in Carson, California, so please make sure the location and day works for you! Open to USA residents over 18. Good luck! 😉 xo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Troop Beverly Hills Gets The Rockwell Treatment in Los Feliz!

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The 1980’s were filled with some of the best cult films conceived. From The Never Ending Story to The Goonies, and E.T. or Ferris Bueller, I think we all have our 80’s favorites. One for me has always been 1989’s Troop Beverly Hills.

Troop Beverly Hills wasn’t a huge success at the time, but, fast forward some years and there are now many fans like myself out there who first fell in-love with the movie on Los Angeles’ KTLA Channel 5, or rented it from The Warehouse (Be kind, rewind!).

TBH

It is currently receiving the ultimate royal, cult status treatment as the un-authorized musical parody is being performed at Los Feliz’s Rockwell Table and Stage, through September 10th. I was so excited to see one of my favorite films done “Rockwell” style, along with my friend, Melanie. At Rockwell, you cannot get much more hipster meets flamboyant than their stage performances of some of our favorite films, told with countless tongue in cheek snarks and musical numbers that has the diners howling for more.

With the script nearly identical to the film, the talent team has managed to weave in several lines and remarks that we all know we are thinking as we watch Troop Beverly Hills. Right down to Hannah and Chica’s bi-curious feelings!

TBH1

One of the highlights to seeing a parody at Rockwell is the cross-dressing roles of beloved characters. We were in for a real treat seeing Christopher Youngsman as micro managing, power-hungry, Wilderness Girls leader, Velda (sharing the role with Rockwell favorite, Drew Droege, respectively). Youngsman had Betty Thomas’ Velda down pat, as did Kat Tokarz in the role of Annie, Velda’s reluctant side kick.

With an 80’s soundtrack of such faves like Material Girl and I Will Always Love You, Marla Mindelle as Phyllis (Shelley Long’s infamous role in the film), has the ideal powerhouse chops needed to sing such songs. She also has an un-canny resemblance to Long’s Phyllis, which made it even more fun to experience!

The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Troop Beverly Hills is currently playing in repertory at Rockwell Table and Stage. Reservations are recommended and do remember: This is an interactive show! 😉 Learn more here. xo

Weezer and Panic! At the Disco Rock Orange County.

Weez2

Growing up, I never understood the fuss about Weezer. I thought of them as most men probably think of Tori Amos; a cliché musician women name drop. I always thought guys trying to act cool, but not too cool, would mention their love of Weezer.

Fast forward? Michael is a fan, and guess who now accepts them as they are and actually enjoys, dare I say, like, Weezer? Yep, folks, me. I was so excited when Mike told me he was able to score us lawn seats to see the 1990’s band of “Buddy Holly” fame, along with fun co-headliner, Panic! At the Disco, this past Saturday night, at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.

With the doors opening at 5:30, and the show beginning at 7pm, we headed down to Orange County early to get a good spot on the lawn. Right out the gate? We were informed our lawn chairs that said were alright to bring on the website, were NOT allowed inside for this gig. Not even a towel, or a blanket. Once the show began, we could understand this rule for the lawn as it would be very easy to trip down the long hill of a lawn, but, it would have been cool if their website rules aligned with the actual rules.

Greetings from the lawn!

Greetings from the lawn!

When Panic! At the Disco began, it was very clear to see (and hear) that this band has a dedicated following. Fans singing along, and holding on, to lead vocalist, Brandon Urie’s, every word. Urie has incredible stamina, and knows how to win an audience. His vocal range was all over the place, and when I cringed a bit at his announcement that the band were about to launch into Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, I was pleasantly proven wrong and can see why this band has re-made this classic their own on The Suicide Squad soundtrack. I loved experiencing a whole new generation listen and love Freddie Mercury’s legacy!

While Mike and I questioned if the crowds would die down after Panic! At the Disco, they certainly did not and only seemed to grow more intense as the arena awaited Weezer. I will admit I was surprised at the nearly 20 song set Panic! At the Disco delivered, followed by Weezer’s humble 16 song set….that began well after 10pm.

Weez1

Selling out stadiums for over 20 years, Weezer definitely gives all that you would expect in a rock show: Good energy, an enthused crowd and nearly every song performed a radio hit. From Hash Pipe to Beverly Hills, and an acoustic take on Island in the Sun and a cover of FUN’s We Are Young, Rivers Cuomo  and Weezer know how to give a great, PG rated concert. Ideal for the teeny boppers and their parents. As well as 90’s alt fans like Mike and myself.

While I would have enjoyed to see opener, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness (of “Cecilia and the Satellite” radio fame), I was unfortunately detained picking up my pre-ordered T-Shirt in the Sidestep line. Sidestep is a great idea that ahs potential. With this app, you order and pay for event merchandise and “quickly” pick up your order in a Sidestep line adjacent to the souvenir line….guys? People were laughing at us in our “pre-order” line. I got into line well before McMahhon hit the stage, and arrived back to my seat (well, lawn) as he was exiting. I also found the attendant to be very un-professional and anything but speedy once it was my turn.

Weezer and Panic! At the Disco are certainly a great live act, and it was fun to see different generations join together to see these bands. I had a fun time and check them out on their next tour stops in Korea! xo

 

Heading to BlogHer this week? Join my Linky Party! #BlogHer16

BH
I will always recall my very first event for bloggers. Jamie (Minnesota Girl in the World) had just helped Erin (Horsing Around in LA) and myself start our little blogs April, 2012, and  invited us to join her in Burbank for a dinner with The SoCal Lady Bloggers. It was both exciting and nerve wracking to attend this meet up! It was the very first time I met several ladies whom have become my peers and mentors.

I will always recall meeting one of The SoCal Lady Bloggers founders, Sidney Patrick. We lost Sidney much too soon that October, and I still think of her last words to me, which were on the evening (in person, anyways; Sydney was one my first faithful readers of mine and always left a comment): “Blogging can be scary. Thats why we’re here. Let me know if you need anything.”.

That evening, I listened to several of these women talk about their up-coming trip to New York for BlogHer. These women travel for their blog?! There are conventions?! I remember thinking. Managing a blog just like you would a business seemed daunting and impossible to me. I wondered if I would actually stick to Along Comes Mary, but, knew if I did, that I would one day attend BlogHer, too.

Fast forward over 4 years later, and I am sometimes amazed at all I have accomplished on this blog. Its my longest relationship, followed by Michael. And, guess where I am going this week? To my first time ever at BlogHer! Get ready for me, Downtown Los Angeles.

I am also excited that this year’s conference could be the most controversial yet: Kim Kardashian West is a Key Note Speaker. Yes, that Kim. While at first I was extremely surprised and somewhat disappointed to hear that she would be a speaker (Reality TV? Sex tapes? Kanye?) I had to take a step back and really think about this: Yes, shes really not my image of an ideal speaker (Where are my friends who’ve built their empire? Where are the young women who began, like me, and are now at the top of their game?) BUT, this business mogul does make a rumored $10,000 per tweet. and Google “Kim Kardashian social media” and the second article is titled “How to use social media like Kim Kardashian.” She knows her way around a platform, that is for sure.

My first SoCal Lady Bloggers Meetup! April, 2012.

My first SoCal Lady Bloggers Meetup! April, 2012.

Even more exciting to me than West speaking, will be all of my friends I will get to see, new ones I will make and connecting with so many awesome sponsors and brands. Remind me to load my wallet with business cards, will you? 😉

Something I have wanted to try out for awhile, and thought that since this is my first BlogHer, I would also debut my first link-up form! If you are attending BlogHer, please drop a link (or 2!) to a blog post. It can be any kind; newest one, favorite, anything goes. I would love to connect with as many of you as I can. If you see me (Most likely I’ll be talking to someone, or on my phone…holding a coffee cup…), say hey!

 


5 Wines Pouring at Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival. #WineWednesday

LAFW

 

Last year, a major mile stone occurred for me and my blog. Much like my recent article that asked what does “making it” mean to you. Getting invited to cover The Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival was a pretty great honor.

One of the most annually anticipated food and wine events, anywhere, is coming to Los Angeles and the heart of Downtown once again. From August 25th through August 28th, Grand Street is transformed to the most hip and posh food event to be at. Some of the world’s best Chefs, Sommeliers and restaurants will be on hand plating dishes and pouring only their best varietals.

As well as the festivities to be enjoyed Downtown, you can also experience LA Food and Wine at Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar, Rose Cafe in Venice, Manhattan Beach, and more.

What I enjoyed experiencing at their 2015 event, was, of course, the wines. I am pleased to see that some of my stand out’s are once again pouring this year, as well as some I am familiar with, and hope to try:

ADELAIDA CELLARS: 

Out of Paso Robles, I can honestly say I have never not enjoyed a varietal from California’s Central Coast (perhaps I am biased since I am a native?). Sure, some were more memorable, and maybe some I have not continued drinking, but, you cannot beat the Paso climate for a more peach-y, light Chardonnay or a Merlot with those bold moments of cherry, and sweet interludes of cocoa. I have heard much about Adelaida and know they will be an excellent choice during this week.

Some treats from last year.

Some treats from last year.

CHAMPAGNE HENRIOT

Having had their champagne, I can tell you that Henriot is absolutely exquisite. It transforms you to the vineyards of France. While I usually am not a fan of Brut, Henriot was one that I adored. Very floral and “toasty”, as another review stated. Very accurate.

J. LOHR VINEYARDS

One that we frequent at our grocery store. J. Lohr has manged to make wines that are truly “For every occasion”, as their web-site says. If you need a great wine under $15 to go with dinner, or are hosting a party and need to step things up a notch, consider their Cuvée PAU Red Blend (vintage: 2012). J. Lohr knows how to keep their varietals wonderful and your wallet happy. I’m so happy they will be in attendance once again.

KUNIN WINES

I had a great chat with Kunin last year and think Owner, Seth Kunin’s simple philosophy on wine making sums up my feelings, too:  when you open a bottle of Kunin Wine, you can be assured, from vineyard to glass, very little has been done to alter the purity of the fruit or its natural terroir.

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MULDERBOSCH

While I am unfamiliar with Mulderbosch, just hearing they hail from South Africa has me intrigued. I love to step out of my “comfort zone” with wines and try those from other regions, or countries, even, that I have not had too much from. From their Bio:
“Widely recognized as one of South Africa’s most iconic producers, Mulderbosch is well-known for its approachable, easy-drinking, and affordable, fun wines. Under new ownership, Mulderbosch has entered an exciting new era of quality and promises to over-deliver on its value to quality.”

Tickets are on sale NOW for LA Food and Wine Festival. I hope to see you there, and remember to grab a cab or the metro to ensure you can eat and drink yourself silly! xo

Lunch at Vintage Enoteca with the Cast of Don’t Think Twice!

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After seeing Don’t Think Twice, I had the pleasure to head  out to Vintage Enoteca on Sunset Boulevard to meet Mike Birbiglia (who not only write and directed, but, also stars in the film as Miles), Keegan-Michael Key and Kate Micucci and get their insights on their roles, and find out when they knew they had “made it”….

For Micucci, who makes up half of the awesome comedy/singing duo, Garfunkel and Oates, it was when she could buy her favorite sweet treat! “I love raspberries yet they’re expensive and I would always have to pick apples instead” she explained, “I remember the day I bought raspberries and  didn’t look at the price. I thought, oh my god I’ve made it! ” 

Having so many diverse, artistic projects, and even loving to sand sculpt, I asked her if there was a moment in her life that first sparked all of her talents. Micucci recalled growing up in a very financially poor family, in Pennsylvania, and that once a week her Mom would let her pick out one thing at the store, and it was always the arts and crafts store when little Kate took advantage of that one purchase.

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While I admit I was not too familiar with Key’s work, his interview left me so, so inspired. “It’s a movie about when you get to a certain point in your life (and think), when do you realize that some of the dreams you’ve set up for your life or the story you have set up for your life, and the way its going to go, and when it goes in a different direction: What does that mean? How are you going to navigate the rest of your existence?” He explained,  “We kinda get to that place where you think uh oh? It hasn’t happened yet, (but) It’s also defining what does success mean to you? If you’re happy and fulfilled is that enough to be happy, or is it not until you achieve X or Y.”

Both stars also admit that being able to do what you love and safely pay the rent is also huge…or, in Key’s case, as long as he had money for food and beer, he was good! “If money is important to you,  don’t be an actor” he advised. Good advice!

For Director/Writer?Star of the film,  Mike Birbiglia, success has evolved for him over the years. “I think in my 20’s”, he told us, “success meant this one thing like having a sitcom, or a movie career. Then,  in my 30’s I started to have this realization that success doesn’t have to be this one thing. It can be anywhere on the spectrum, and that was a pretty free-ing realization, having always been chasing a brass ring.”

After completing his first film, Sleepwalk with Me, Birbiglia sat down to begin work on Don’t Think Twice, entitling it “Instructions for Movie #2.” Once again, I was inspired and felt validated for some feelings I have had lately as I get older. One of his must’s for making his second film? “No ass holes on the crew or in the cast. I  realized how short my life is with my first movie and that I only want to work with people who are great. I check references a lot” he laughed.

Love this shot from Don't Think Twice's Facebook page. Selfie time with Keegan-Michael Key and Mike Birbiglia.

Love this shot from Don’t Think Twice’s Facebook page. Selfie time with Keegan-Michael Key and Mike Birbiglia.

While having a great sense of himself, Mike is also working on what he feels are some weaker points;  “Ask the person why they want to do this film, and don’t lead them to their answer.” he said, “A big flaw (of mine) is finishing people’s sentences.” Seems natural, given his strong background in improv comedy.

Another element of Don’t Think Twice that I loved were the shots of New York City. Birbiglia truly captures his characters ups and downs on their journeys while also capturing such vivid, stunning shots of Manhattan. He explained that while the big budget studio films have talent scouts and locations are very planned out, there is nothing like the joys of simply walking around the city with your Cinematographer to discover great film spots.

Having the opportunity to meet these fantastic individuals was so rewarding, and our luncheon was not too shabby, either. Vintage Enoteca is a very intimate, un-assuming wine bar in West Hollywood. I love their tag line: In Wine, We Trust. With small bites and some terrific wines and beers on hand, I was pleased to see that they also offer brunch and a generous happy hour. I will be back!

Don’t Think Twice is now playing in New York and Los Angeles, with more dates and locations on the way shortly. Bravo! xo

 

Why I Love Pokemon Go (& Playing in Los Angeles)

3rd and Fairfax was loaded with Pokemon to catch!

3rd and Fairfax was loaded with Pokemon to catch!

While Summer 2016 has already established itself as a year to put in the history books (The presidential candidates, finding out Bill Clinton’s love for balloons…) nothing can quite match the phenomenon that is Pokemon Go.

Since its launch on July 6th, millions of smart phone users have downloaded this free app that takes us back to our childhood.

Or, if you are like me, you never were into Pokemon at all but are hooked with the new wave of playing.

Much like all the political posts, and memes making the Facebook rounds, quite a few coming up on my news feed are jokes about those of us playing Pokemon Go. Many think we are morons, silly, should find better things to do. Yet, after downloading this game myself, and having Michael show me the ropes, I have realized the teasing and eye rolls are not very accurate.

Look at all those blue dots indicating "stop's" in Beverly Hills!

Look at all those blue marks indicating “stop’s” in Beverly Hills!

As a lot of you know, I have depression and anxiety. While it is not too easy to notice these traits if you have met me, I have moments, days, even weeks, that I am really plowing through my mental state, and trying to work up the strength to get out the door.

How does this tie into Pokemon Go? Pokemon Go has helped me, as well as many other social anxiety patients, get out and enjoy themselves. Unlike Candy Crush Saga or Solitaire, Pokemon Go thrives on the player being out in the world. I have caught a few Pokemon in my house, but, there are way more to find, Poke stops to head to and Poke Gyms to battle at once you are out and about.

And, despite that some feel it is a new excuse to stare at our phones, I have had just the opposite happening. A beautiful day in Long Beach found me for a bit at The Seal Beach Pier, and, not only did I have amazing luck at catching many ocean Pokemon, but, the whole pier was literally playing with me. There were young boys racing to get more poke balls at the town clock (Clocks are ideal Poke Stops, just sayin’!), young couples asking me what I just caught as they could see the grin on my face and a sweet group of older people asking a guy what the heck is all the fuss about.

Thanks for the shout out, LA Farmer's Market!

Thanks for the shout out, LA Farmer’s Market!

Contrary to what some may be thinking, Pokemon Go is actually quite different from your traditional, sit on your couch video game. The app also thrives on your location. You won’t catch a Tauros at the beach. But, you may find a few Staryu

I also highly recommend Pokemon Go while traveling! For my trip to Chico later this month, my friend already cannot wait to show me all the parks and lakes that are crawling with our little Pokemon’s.

Head to Seal Beach for a gorgeous walk on the pier and some Pokemon catching!

Head to Seal Beach for a gorgeous walk on the pier and some Pokemon catching!

While word is Pokemon Go will soon make it so places can opt out of being a “stop” or “gym”, I’m also anticipating businesses will be able to manually make their location a “stop”. A stop is where players go to obtain more poke balls and other necessary “items” for catching, healing and evolving your Pokemon. I think it would be fantastic if Pokemon Go goes to that simple lucrative next level.

Would you want your business, or even, neighborhood, to be a Poke Stop, if it is not yet? If this post has left you intrigued to learn more about Pokemon Go, feel free to email me at alongcomesmary26@gmail.com. I am in no way a “pro”, but, I am at Level 13 and yes, have even gotten a few Pikachu (my favorite, along with Clefairy!) 😉 xo

A Day in Claremont Village. #RoadTripOil

(This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RoadTripOil #CollectiveBias)

Something that I needed to address before we headed out to Claremont, California, last month, was….my car. My trusty, old reliable 2004 vehicle has been there for me since 2009. Back then, I was lucky to do a getaway here and there with it, but, now? Living in Los Angeles, just wanting to go anywhere in our traffic can feel like a “road trip”!

I did realize that I was over due for an oil change and thank goodness I could kill many birds (Or catch Pokemon) with one stone: I needed to head to Walmart for some road trip essentials and realized that while I shop, I could drop my car off for an oil change at their Automotive Care Center. Not only was it easy-peasy when I called to schedule my appointment, but, I was also informed since my car is a bit of a “senior” (Ahem, older!) that  now through September 28th,  Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle® is on Rollback from $39.88 to $35.88. Win-win!

How convenient is this?!

How convenient is this?!

With Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle® motor oil, I was told by the guys at Walmart how it helps clean out the “sludge” lesser oils leave behind, and can even help reduce leaks and oil consumption. It’s a motor oil specifically designed for new or late-model vehicles with over 75,000 miles, with the idea of keeping engines running clean and going strong. Which my car definitely needs.

My car certainly felt strong and mighty as we headed out to Claremont. And, while Claremont is the ideal walking city, we were staying about 6 miles from the restaurants and fun, so, perfect excuse to take advantage of my oil change and service!

With Claremont’s very own city gift cards in hand, Mike and I were starving and ready to find a great meal. If you’re wondering what “Claremont Gift Cards” are, you can purchase them at The Chamber of Commerce to use at any or all of the participating local businesses. While it’s usually a personal shop or cafe that provides gift certificates, The Claremont Chamber of Commerce has once again proven how creative they are with generating new visitors and those that already know this gem of a city (psst, like me).

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Claremont offers gift cards in the amount of $25 each.

We decided to check out BUA Thai, in the heart of “The Packing House”, which the city began in 2007 and found an old railroad station getting a major face lift to attract those in Claremont looking for a bit of a modern experience without taking away Claremont’s “laid back” college town vibes.

With indoor or patio dining, BUA boasted many traditional Thai restaurant amenities and had a massive selection of Thai cuisine faves (as well as most available gluten-free! Just let your server know.). Craving my “go-to”, I decided to get Spicy Tofu Eggplant. If nothing else, to see how it fares with my most favorite Thai restaurant here in the valley. The verdict? I told Mike that I would choose BUA’s over my usual!

Gluten-free Spicy Tofu Eggplant at BUA Thai.

Gluten-free Spicy Tofu Eggplant at BUA Thai.

While at first, Mike was surprised he was not asked how spicy he wanted his dish, the answer was soon revealed that every spice and peppers and hot sauces you could think of to have on your Thai food, was set in front of us at our table. It turned out to be a great thing, instead of hoping you spoke correctly by saying “medium”, or even “mild”.

And, of course, no visit to Claremont is complete without a visit to their Folk Music Center and Rhino Records. Both apart of the gift cards program, we had a ball in Rhino deciding what to bring home. Their Donald Trump coloring book was awfully tempting!

Right across the street from Rhino, is the Folk Music shop, which I have written of before. Owned by musician, Ben Harper, and his family, this store is an absolute treasure chest of magic and creativity. Whether you want to pick up a banjo or guitar for the first time, or are a violinist needing a new one, or some strings, this is a legendary shop that musicians far and wide flock to. Nearly every instrument displayed is available to pick up and play a tune on. They’re also the creators of Claremont’s annual Folk Music Festival.

Claremont's world renowned Folk Music Center.

Claremont’s world renowned Folk Music Center.

If after you get your folk and rock fix on, mosey on down to get some major NERD on at A Shop Called Quest. While I am not as familiar as I’d like with comics, I usually get excited in comic shops as they have so much beyond comics to enjoy. From a beautiful complete series of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, to T Shirts and the most POP! bobble heads I’ve ever seen, this local fave is a must see.

Rhino Records.

Rhino Records.

Our little local getaway to Claremont was just what we needed, and to have zero anxiety about my car’s needs, thanks to Pennzoil® and Walmart, made it even more fantastic. Not to mention, my fun shopping time while I waited for my car….this could at last be the ideal purse to hold all my junk when I travel. Went around it a few times, and decided I was being stupid, and bought it. I was saving money with the oil change rollback, right?? 😉

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Huge thanks to Visit Claremont as well, for the great experiences with our gift cards! Where will you go after a Pennzoil® oil change at Walmart?! xo

Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice Will Have You Thinking Alot About Your Life.

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When in life do you know you have “made it”? What defines success to you? What if you’re seeing all your wishes come true for your best friend, and never yourself? These are some of the subjects covered in Mike Birbiglia’s newest dramedy, Don’t Think Twice.

After its world premiere earlier this year at SXSW, Don’t Think Twice has gone on to play the film festival scene, just had an amazing premiere at New York’s Sunshine Theatre and will at last  will begin playing at more theatres this month (Including LA this week!).

I went in not knowing too much about the premise, other than it boasted a fabulous cast including Kate Micucci (whom I am already a fan), Keegan-Michael Key from Key and Peele and Keanu fame, and Birbiglia himself.

Gillian Jacobs, Tami Sagher and Chris Gethard make up this ensemble cast who play improv comediennes with their own troop, The Commune. Each week, The Commune host a super fun improv show at a small club that is about to go bye-bye. This group of friends are not only fiercely talented, but, also, devoted to their comedic craft.

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To get some of their own laughs, The Commune gather each week to giggle, have some drinks and poke fun on the living room floor at Weekend Live (AKA-Saturday Night Live). While I do watch SNL, it certainly has not felt in a great phase as of late. The talent is there (How can you not love Leslie Jones on Weekend Update? Or Kate McKinnon as Hilary Clinton?), yet, sometimes? The writing and laughs feel forced. Much like how Birbiglia portrays Weekend Live. Yet, it is clearly how The Commune gang will know they have made it: When they join the cast of Weekend Live.

When talent scouts from the series arrive at their improv night, some members shortly get the phone call to come in for an audition, while some do not. When one of The Commune’s very own gets IN on Weekend Live, several emotions come forward as they see their now star friend get more busy, more known, and favoring their TV roles over Improv nights in a basement. When audience members seeing The Commune seem more interested in seeing their star comedy member, feelings get hurt, naturally.

While I am in no way a comedienne, I related to Don’t Think Twice so well. it is all about knowing when you need to give up on your dreams. Living in a city in your 20’s, then 30’s. One of my most favorite lines in the film (And just that I’ve heard in a long time) is when it is said that your 20’s are when you hope, then, in your 30’s? You often are left feeling dumb to have ever hoped, and instead, you end up taking odd jobs just to try to make the rent.

The cast at the NY premiere of Don't Think Twice. Photo by: Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix

The cast at the NY premiere of Don’t Think Twice. Photo by: Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix

Birbiglia absolutely nails mocking Saturday Night Live, right down to Timothy, the head honcho at the show (and clearly boasting traits of Lorne Michaels) and also at some of the guest bands on SNL. He did not hold back at the tongue in cheek, and it plays brilliantly.

Following the film, I had the pleasure to head  out to Vintage Enoteca on Sunset Boulevard to meet Mike Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key and Kate Micucci to get their views and insights on Don’t Think Twice. Stay tuned as later in the week I will share that fun afternoon with you! xo

 

Visiting Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden & Giveaway ends 7-26!

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

One of my favorite things to do this time of year is visit all the beautiful butterflies to be seen at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont. While I was lucky to see them last year with my IFWTWA Family, this year I was invited back to see more sights and eat great food in this adorable college city in the Inland Empire. This time, with Michael in tow!

We spent an absolutely fabulous weekend in Claremont, and in the coming weeks I will be sharing more about our adventures with you. For the first story, I want to introduce you to Butterfly Bill and his Butterfly Pavilion that opens up every May at the gardens.

Mike and I were fascinated at the different types of trees at the gardens. The bark on this one especially caught our eyes. Photo: Michael Farah.

Mike and I were fascinated at the different types of trees at the gardens. The bark on this one especially caught our eyes.
Photo: Michael Farah.

Kids get a kick out of this grass hut.

Kids get a kick out of this grass hut.

“Butterfly Bill” is none other than Bill Gendron. Gendron is a retired engineer who dived back into his passions for entomology when he was 50. His main jam? Studying and collecting butterflies. For just $3 admission (in addition to your admission into this nearly 800 acre garden), you can enter his world of butterflies and even see caterpillars right on the verge of earning their wings.

While I have visited similar pavilions before, Rancho Santa Ana’s is easily my favorite. While many zoo’s and exhibits give you the chance to get up close and personal with species, no one is usually around to tell you more about what you are ooh-ing and ahh-ing at. Bill is right there to greet you and take you into the pavillion. As butterflies are literally fluttering all around (and maybe even on!) you, Bill is there to explain to who is who, where they start at, their mating tendencies and what makes them unique.

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

Along with the dozens of butterflies to see, many of Bill’s framed ones are on site to see and learn from, too. He is at the ready and eager to teach you all about these unique, gorgeous creatures.

Rancho Santa Ana also hosts countless classes and field trips all year through, too, and you can even rent out several parts of the gardens for your own event. Get all the info HERE.

Michael made a friend!

Michael made a friend!

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While Rancho Santa Ana is open year round, the butterflies will be released on August 7th, and the pavilion will close up shop until next  May. I highly recommend visiting this Summer to see The Butterfly Pavilion. Like I mentioned: This is the Inland Empire. So, it’s very warm! Definitely dress appropriately, wear a hat, slather on the SPF and don’t be like Mike and me and run out of water. (There are water fountains and a gift shop to re-hydrate, though).

I have a pair of tickets, as well as admission to The Butterfly Pavilion, to give away! Simply enter using the form below by July  26th, and make sure to read over my Sweepstakes Rules under the tab above! Good luck! 🙂 xo

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