Weekend Warriors 2: Easter Sunday in LA

Having a kid reintroduces you to all the wonder and excitement that comes with holidays, such as Easter.

Jojo hates the bunny copy

Save for the first bunny scare (she warmed up fast to all subsequent bunnies) we had a blast re-exploring our childhood and Easter customs in Los Angeles. On Saturday we braved the crowds and visited The Grove, where we waited over an hour to see the Easter Bunny (not the one pictured above). On Sunday we decided to do something on a smaller scale and visited our local Motor Avenue Farmer’s Market that goes on every Sunday. It turned out to be a neighborhood kid’s Easter wonderland without the intensely long lines equipped with a puppet show, egg hunt, and bouncy house. She caught on quickly to the whole concept of finding a glossy egg and shoveling it in your basket (taking things other kids want, an already inherent desire). We kept sneaking eggs out of her basket and putting them back down for other munchkins to find. Shhh, don’t tell her we told you that.

Jo and Dad egg hunting copy

JOandMom copy

Jo in Jump House copy

Celebrating Easter kind of made me miss the good old days when my mom used to adorn me in the foofiest dress on the market topped with a gargantuan bow and drag me to church at the crack of dawn. Dresses, scary bunnies, nice bunnies, bows, egg hunts, farmer’s markets — it’s fun to forge new and old traditions together.


How To Get On (and WIN) The Price Is Right

If you didn’t tune in to the latest episode of The Price is Right (TPIR), I’ll summarize it for you: Chris got onto contestant’s row and made a winning bid that brought him on stage to play a classic game of Pushover alongside Drew Carey. You can watch it at this link: http://www.cbs.com/shows/the_price_is_right/video/peaav_XU6fidSxAYQN6F6cJPGuAacoWk/the-price-is-right-1-9-2015/

That moment was a long awaited childhood dream, some may even call it sheer luck. While admittedly luck has a little to do with our time at TPIR,  much of Chris’ success can be attributed to the preparation that took place before we reached the studio. So for folks out there who, too, wish they can spin the wheel, I thought I’d share a step by step guide to making it happen:

Step 1: Watch the show! TPIR was the highlight of my mornings every time I got to stay home sick from school and watch it with my grandmother, so it’s a foreign concept for me that “Plinko” and “Come on down!” isn’t part of everyone’s vocabulary. But the sad truth is, it’s not… so if one of your buddies is trying to get you to go with them to a taping, watch the show! It’s simple, fun, and classic.

Step 2: Snatch some tickets. They’re free, you can get them online, and you ought to get PRIORITY tickets to guarantee a spot in the audience for a taping. Oh, and if you’re not residing in the LA area, make a trip, and plan to spend a whole day for a taping of TPIR.

Step 3: Do your research and study up. Familiarize yourself with the games by watching reruns. Read blog posts about other contestants’ experiences (like this one), and start paying attention to the prices of cars and trips and jewelry. While it’s nearly impossible to actually memorize the prices of every single thing on this planet, it will benefit you to know that a trip to Europe will cost more than $10,000, and that designer handbags and shoes can easily cost upwards of a grand. Some folks go so far as to making excel spreadsheets of the costs of every prize on the show. Laura, the showcase showdown winner of the entire episode, admitted to me while we were waiting in line that she was guilty of making spreadsheets herself. That proves to me that fans who are in it to win it show up with their A-game.

Step 3.5:  Make some groovy T-Shirts. While this actually isn’t necessary for getting called to “Come on down,” it makes for a good chance to be creative and punny. Plus it’s nice to read everyone’s shirts while waiting. And you’re going to do a ton of waiting.

Note: Chris’s shirt read “24 and ready to score!” in celebration of his 24th birthday. My bright idea.

Step 4: Bring a crew of TPIR hardcore fans, and make sure you can rely on them. One person can reserve up to 4 tickets in their name, so you can bring a small crew of 1 other person, or gather a whole bunch of folks and bring a posse of 20. But the number doesn’t matter, what matters is the energy your entire group brings. If your buddy/buddies are as hyped up and excited to be there as you are, then someone in your crew has a good chance to get called on stage. Once that lucky individual makes his/her way up to contestant’s row, and maybe even on to spin the wheel, they will totally lose their minds and their legs will turn to jelly. That’s when the reliability of your crew comes in — whoever is on stage trying to win sweet prizes will be looking right at their crew for numbers and guidance.

As for us, our posse consisted of Colby (Chris’s high school best buddy), Chris, me, and Jenny (Chris’s mom, the wonderful soul that gifted Chris with TPIR tickets)


Step 5: Once you get in line for a taping, plan to charm the crap out of the producers. I can’t stress the significance of this step enough. After you endure your first couple of hours of waiting, in which you sign contracts, get your number and nametag, small talk with people in line, and take pictures, it’s now the moment of truth to get pre-picked to “come on down”. They pull you aside in groups of about 20, and the producer and his assistant will ask each person in the line a simple question, most commonly “What do you do for a living?” giving everyone a under a minute to prove they are contestant-worthy.

That’s when you have to turn the charm up, way up, beyond measure. I’m talking bubbly, engaging, ridiculous, almost kind of buzzed behavior. They’re looking for folks who are genuinely over the moon about TPIR (such as ourselves), so if you are as pumped about being there as we were, let that excitement bubble over and make your story striking.

Example) When the producer asked what I did, instead of telling him I was a “Stay-At-Home-Mom” (because, let’s face it, that sounds pretty boring) I told him I was a “Stay-At-Home-Supermom to an exuberant toddler!!!!!!!!! Woooohoooooooo!!!!!!!!” (Verbatim) And I cheesed and wooed and clapped and got them to ask more questions about myself.

Then they got to Chris, who was standing in line right after me feeding off of the rising energy levels. They asked him the same question, to which he answered, “I’m a Master’s student getting a degree in Education, I’m a father to an exuberant toddler (pointing to me, his baby’s momma) and I’m a volunteer at underserved schools in South Los Angeles!!!!! WOOOHOOOOOO!!!”

The producer, impressed and engaged, implored, “When do you have time to watch the show?”

Chris, barely containing his excitement, responded, “I watch it online, that’s what CBS.com is for!!!!!!! WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” *

The producer and his assistant smiled, wrote some stuff down on the notepad, and told us they hope we have a good time on the show.

After the short interview, it’s up to TPIR gods to push you forward, but be at ease in knowing you tried everything in your power, so now it’s time for step 6…

Step 6: Have fun! By the time you reach Step 4 of this guide, chances are you’ve waited, and waited. And waited. The moments before you get into the studio, you’re probably starved, dehydrated, bored (they make you surrender your cell phones, which are probably out of battery at that point) and you might have already forgotten why you were waiting in the first place. But once they open the heavy soundproof doors and you enter the brightly decorated fishbowl of a studio, the upbeat music explodes loudly through the speakers and you simply forget all about the waiting you just did. Soak in every moment of the very game show you’ve been dying to get on since your childhood days slurping chicken noodle soup next to your grandma on the couch. Let loose and have fun. Shout numbers incessantly at the top of your lungs. Shake hands and congratulate all the winners that surround you. You’re already living the dream, so enjoy it.

PR 2 PR 3 PR 4 PR 5PR 1 PR 8

And one more piece: http://hub.jhu.edu/2015/01/08/valenzuela-price-is-right

To sum up the story of our time on TPIR, Chris won a sweet DSLR camera and a trip for 2 to Belize. He got to spin the wheel, but unfortunately went over $1 and didn’t make it to showcase showdown. We had the time of our lives, and look forward to snorkeling, ziplining, and cave exploring in Belize.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comment section!

*I know what you’re thinking, you’re wondering if we’re overdoing it on the Woohooing. I can assure you, there is no such thing as overdoing the woohooing on TPIR.Woohoo til your lungs hurt, then woohoo some more.

Our First Summer in Los Angeles w/ Photos (for Free!)

It’s a bit odd, saying goodbye to summer but not really saying goodbye to the hot weather or luminous sunlight. There are some downsides to the end of summer, like how the days are shorter and the evenings are cooler (oh, you know, like 72 degrees F). We had a beautiful summer that, frankly, went by way too fast. Though, I couldn’t have asked for a better first summer to have spent with my new family. Especially because *gasp* a lot of the things we did were FREE. In short, here was our summer:

We visited Manhattan Beach a few times, and enjoyed a stroll down the pier to the FREE aquarium and poked at some starfish.















We went to the California Science Center, which is FREE everyday aside from a $10 parking fee. For smaller tots, there are rooms with age appropriate activities, like this neat puppet set that got Josephine so excited she could burst. Right outside is the the Exposition Rose Garden, open to the public and free to roam for those who don’t suffer from seasonal allergies. 











Of course, Jazz at LACMA is one of our favorite events! Picture this: adults drinking wine on their picnic blankets strewn across the lawn, dogs of all kinds parading like it’s a Pedigree dog show, children running in circles, and marvelous jazz musicians playing against the silhouette of the Urban Light installation. We had a blast one evening dancing next to the featured band with a woman who was 102 years old! Yes, it’s FREE.














Hiking along the trails of Griffith Observatory proved to be a blast, especially for Josephine, who got to hang out on daddy’s back the entire time. And hiking, as we know, is (let’s say it together now) : FREE!








I’ve got to say, when you have a small family with little money to spare but want to make the most of your time together seeking adventure, Los Angeles makes it possible. Summer is officially over, but fall and winter will offer its own set of FREE, enjoyable activities. I’m looking at you, pumpkin patches and Santa Clauses! 

What do you do for FREE? 

Free L.A.: Echo Park Lake

I was weaving through semi-congested streets the other night trying to make it to a Dodgers game (I know, I’m the worst) and I stumbled a upon a springing fount bursting in the middle of urban sprawl, much like an oasis. Had I not been trying frantically to get to the game before the 3rd inning, I would have parked the car and laid in the grass to soak in the twilight against the Los Angeles skyline. Needless to say, we got to the game in one piece (the Dodgers lost, yay!) and decided to revisit the park the following weekend.
Echo Park Lake is nestled in the center of Los Angeles. It’s a little rough around the edges, but still relatively safe. For those who hail from the SF Bay Area, it is akin to our dear Dolores Park, where you find hipsters, (yea, I used the “H” word) families, hipster families, and other creatures sprawled out on soft grass enjoying people-watching and a cool breeze. There’s a playground for restless kiddies, paddle boats you can rent if you’re trying to woo someone, and even a guy who lets people ride on his two ponies. No joke. All this with a view of downtown L.A.’s skyline.

Jojo is slowly learning how to crawl and occasionally sneaks out of our eyesight. While Chris and I were invested in our mobile devices, Jojo creeped off and had her first taste of dirt at Echo Park Lake. From the look on her face, Echo Park dirt tastes pretty good.

Tips: To get here, type in “Echo Park Lake” in your GPS – emphasis on the lake – otherwise you’ll be driving around the Echo Park neighborhood aimlessly. 

Also, bring a few dollars in case you get peckish – there are vendors who sell yummy goods like ice cream and freshly made pupusas!

Here are other free things to do in L.A.: Go to Playa del Rey beach, Check out the LACMA on Free Museum Day

Free LA: Playa del Rey Beach

Okay, I know I’ve been open about how much I love the Bay Area more than Los Angeles, but let’s not kid ourselves, SoCal beaches are pretty nice. The fifteen minutes it takes to drive over to a beach here in LA trumps the hour or two through windy roads it usually takes to get to Stinson in the Bay (which is still tremendously beautiful).

I used to wait for a sweltering hot day in July or August to drive out to Stinson beach with my body board in tow to catch a few waves. Even then, the water’s stabbing cold temperature crept up on me like pins and needles, but I knew it wouldn’t get any warmer and I just had to dive in. Here, I’ve been to the beaches numerous times in the middle of January “winter” and I have nothing to complain about. The water is still a little chilly, but to be able to enjoy the beach in a tank top and shorts before spring is more than I can really ask for when I have friends across the country enduring a polar vortex.

So here’s to another FREE activity, going to the beach. My personal favorite is Playa Del Rey, a relatively secluded beach with beautiful homes nestled against the shore. There’s free street parking and cheap lot parking nearby, and a wide bike and foot path if you want to soak up the sun and sea smells without enduring the sand between your toes.

I’ve taken Jojo here a few times, but this past weekend was the first time she ventured into the sand. Chris let the water creep on her toes, and she was quite shocked at the chilly sensation she’s never experienced before. She wasn’t exactly happy. One day she’ll come to realize the endless fun that ensues when water and sand collaborate to make castles. Until then, we’re going to have to keep acquainting her with the numerous beaches Socal has to offer.

Free L.A.: Museum Day @ LACMA

Let me share a secret about myself: I’m a bit of an agoraphobic. Crowds of people make me uneasy. The different paces and directions at which people move and the lack of space make me want to jump out of my skin and float away. Add a stroller on top, and I forget how to move my limbs. Moving to L.A. doesn‘t necessarily ease symptoms of my phobia. 

BUT, I also love free things. And museums. And on free museum day in L.A., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) had free general admission, so I sucked up my agoraphobia and headed straight into the crowd to enjoy the wonders within (and around) those walls.

Heizer’s “Levitated Mass”

Upon entering, the LACMA sets itself apart with iconic outdoor installations free for the public to admire. Palm trees surround the premise and create an adjacent line to Michael Heizer’s humongous boulder, “Levitated Mass” which hangs over a walkway, casting a symbolic silhouette over the entrance. Anyone who has ever visited this boulder has taken a picture like this:

Our dear friend, Jessie

At the other entrance, you can waltz right into Chris Burden’s “Urban Light,” a cluster of 202 old street lamps that also make for excellent photo opportunities both day and night. 

Burden’s “Urban Light”

If you make it past the the hoo-rah outdoors, you’ll find tons of fun things to look at – anything from contemporary and modern art (the kind of stuff that makes you wonder how and why) to Mexican cinema. To be honest, I weaved through two floors until I could barely see my own feet amidst the crowd, which is when I started hinting to Chris and our friend that it was time to go.

But I couldn’t leave without seeing my personal favorite, Burden’s “Metropolis II”, a large installation of a children’s fantasy toy city. The metropolis is comprised of buildings and roads made of wood blocks and steel parts nostalgic of the Legos and Lincoln Logs we used to play with in kindergarten. Small scale architectural wonders like the Eiffel Tower and Tal Mahal are interspersed throughout the urban jungle. With a push of a button, hundreds of hot wheel cars and trains weave around the the many buildings, filling the room with the soft rumble of tiny spinning wheels along with the crowd’s oohs and aahs. This installation is so good, I’m going to forego sharing a photo here in hopes of persuading you to visit. Pictures won’t do it justice anyways. 

All in all, Jojo had an amazing, fuss-free experience staring at the multitudes of peoples and artwork while we got to spend some valuable family and friend time. That, to me, is a good great day. Oh, and it was free!