Onward and Yonward with PBS Kids Nature Cat!

Published on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

You may remember seeing a picture of me with super sibs David and Adam Rudman of Spiffy Pictures from PBS Annual Meeting. We were there talking about their latest gem for PBS Kids called Nature Cat. You may not recognize them right away, because David is usually busy performing as Cookie Monster and Adam is usually writing half of the kids’ shows on television. In fact, they both have had incredible award winning careers steering some of the most beloved children’s entertainment on record. When I first viewed trailers from Nature Cat, I was immediately struck by how the voices were SO hilarious and characterful – something one doesn’t often find in these days of having celebrity voices in animation. I really get aggravated by all the current films that use recognizable straight voices of pop stars and film actors for animated characters while there are those actors who strive to master the voice. While Nature Cat may use some famous talent that you might find on a late Saturday night, including Bobby Moynihan, Kate McKinnon (her Squeeks is my favorite), Taran Killam, Kate Micucci, and Kenan Thompson, these comedic actors have obviously fully embraced their animated manifestations and created characterful voices that make the show absolutely hilarious! I commented to the brothers that I was thrilled by the voice talent, and they seemed so glad that this wasn’t unnoticed, as they grew up on Looneytunes, SchoolHouse Rock, and Fractured Fairy Tales just like I did. The shows were funny because the cartoons were fully developed personae, and we had no idea what the person behind the voice looked like.

My Critter and I just screened the first three episodes of Nature Cat, and we loved it. You can see the show Wednesday November 25th on your local PBS station right after the also brand new and awesome Wild Kratts Christmas Special - LA folks can find it on PBS SoCal. I’ve linked to some really cool activities you can do with your own two legged critters in the thumbnails too. Looking forward to calling this one a classic!

Mixed is Magnificent

Published on Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Having just finished writing and illustrating my picture book, I was totally on board when Sonia Kang of Mixed Up Clothing invited me to a MultiCultural Mixer at the ever so stylish Kidville, including a super cute fashion show and Taye Diggs reading his new picture book called Mixed Me.

The event was kicked off by a really thought provoking panel discussing raising multicultural children. The panel included Sonia, Elena Epstein of LA Parent, Christopher Colbert of House of David Church, and Melinda Alexander, all of mixed cultural heritage, or raising children who are mixed. With the exception of a French great great great great great grandmother, my roots are really straight up WASP, as now are my son’s – we are so obviously white, no one ever approaches us and says anything like “What are you?”. Over the years I have had close friends who created mixed families and navigated the waters of doing so, but never have I had my eyes opened with regard to the subject as discussed by the panelists. It hasn’t occurred to me that in this day and age children of mixed race or culture really go through a lot with others questioning them and trying to pigeonhole “what they are”. What I learned is that they do. Parents told of their own stories and those of their children, and I sensed something like relief that there was this kinship in the group. I found the panelists to be frank and real about their experiences raising their children and the bumps in the road, with humor and empathy.

Next up was a fashion show featuring fall fashions from Mixed Up, and I think that some of the most gorgeous children on earth were the models. I had so much fun watching them play in the adorable outfits, then they walked the runway – some serious style mavens! They dazzled us, then the runway became a carpet again and they gathered ’round to listen to Taye read his book. After my bombing out with the grade school set the week before, I was charmed by his command of the kids and the simple lyric of his story. Afterward, I was able to talk to him a bit and have him sign my copy of the book. He was fun and easy going, and I’m excited to have his story in our home.

Thank you so much to Sonia and the sponsors for a colorful day!

I Bombed as the Mystery Reader and Now Have a New Heroine

Published on Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

I bombed as Mystery Reader last week. The Critter tried to be cool when he saw that I would be the surprise grownup who would read to the class that day, but was SO adorably happy that he ran over to hug me. I had carefully selected one of my childhood favorites The Emperor’s New Clothes, and also included his seasonal favorite It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I rehearsed reading the former due to the more antiquated language, and decided to read it first, then to bring down the house with the Great Pumpkin. I was allotted forty minutes to read both, and was confident that I could hold the crowd’s attention.

Boy, was I wrong! The girls loved the Emperor, but the Critter could not have cared less for it, nor could at least half of his male cohorts. I sat in a chair with him beside me, looking at twenty third grade faces sitting on the carpet at my feet, reading my heart out, while he created distractions, thinking that it would help the boys pay more attention. Due to many soul crushing questions about how much longer until we could see the Charlie Brown book caused me to run overtime. They were a tough crowd.

When I saw these Heckerty videos, I thought “I’ll bet SHE never loses an audience.” I love seeing a group of kids engrossed in storytelling and watching Jan Ziff voice the tales of Heckerty, the loveable little witch, definitely raises the bar for my future Mystery Reader endeavors.

Looking over Heckerty’s site, I see that it contains a treasure trove of tools for teachers, kids and parents alike. The Heckerty books, apps, and eBooks are based on a series of children’s stories, originally created and brought to life by Ms. Ziff, one of Britain’s most internationally successful storytellers. Her fabulous English accent is just the thing to enrapture the kiddos, and now that the newest Heckerty app is now available on Amazon Underground (and on iTunes later this month), your child can experience her for free!

Shift Happens

Published on Friday, September 25th, 2015

Today I’m at a conference that my friend Leah founded and graciously invited my Diet Coke swigging self to attend. I met Leah about six(!) years ago at a blogger event and I was impressed by her story of having lost one hundred pounds and keeping it off by eating organic and nonGMO foods.

Since then she has gained (no pun intended) so many followers that organic and eco aware brands have created a movement called ShiftCon. ShiftCon is “the only social media conference focusing on wellness, health, and the environment. This conference blends workshops, networking, parties, and intense collaboration of changemakers all over the United States and Canada in one place. ”

I think the full impact of how hard the work of of food farms and brands who want to keep things clean, chemically speaking, is hitting me right now as I listen to Robyn O’Brien in the panel I am sitting in right now. She describes this work as a crusade on the front lines of a fifty year project – big industry food executives do not necessarily know and understand the the effects of what they do with the food we eat and that their business models are at a critical point. They really need to be educated in “shifting” the way food is grown and processed so that it is good for people. Robyn, along with two other healthy food companies that we all have/have had in our homes – John Foraker, founder of Annie’s and Gary Hirshberg, founder of Stonyfield Farms cheerfully talk about how small eco aware and natural food brands are finally being seen as financially viable by the big guys, but fear of failure in making the shift holds companies back. I’m amazed at the great profit statistics that Robyn shares when a monolithic brand makes the move to make things healthier. Having these statistics is hard won by all three of these panelists, and they are clear that more hearts and minds must be changed.

I realize that these are the people who have raised my (limited) awareness and are probably the reason we don’t buy water in bottles anymore, we (meaning Esperanza my housekeeper) recycle all those Diet Coke cans, and I no longer buy brands with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and avoid items with sugar for no reason. I only buy organic dairy and meat products, and only buy wild caught fish. I don’t think of myself as having anywhere NEAR the integrity of most of the attendees of this conference, but I really believe less junk in our food IS better. I think the patience of those who created the shift are the reason for this, and I am excited to learn more.

Fall Kicks Off with “The Bar” and the SEC

Published on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

One of the things that I’ve always loved about Beverly Hills is that it’s not obsessed with football. I chose a husband for this reason – during the year of courtship well into the first years of our marriage, I was blessed to call back home and tell my friends who are football or deer season widows that I was neither. WAS.

Thanks to the influence of business travel to Georgia and one of my crazy Mississippi friends, my husband has become an SEC fanatic and now he claims 24/7 TV viewing rights on weekends to the SEC and Seahawks! I complain bitterly that I did not sign up for this! It was easy for me to move all the way out here because I never liked football, and never could relate to anything football. I would rather do almost anything than go to a home game at my own alma mater, let alone one of the top three universities. There’s indisputable evidence that had I remained in my home town, I would have had to conform to the calendar of football if nothing else: many invitees did not make it to our wedding reception in Mississippi due to the fact that it was the weekend of the Ole Miss vs. State game. Priorities. So now in my own adult home, each year I grumble about hating the games and the loud noises they make when they are on TV. I serve a lot of dude food like queso and onion dips, then go have cocktails at Neiman Marcus with friends who are oblivious to football as well.

But I have to love this one fictional football team in South Carolina that my friend Nancy has created. Last Sunday while my hubby watched football, I attended the premiere of my sweet Alabama ex pat pal, who has embraced the football obsession of our home with The Bar. Nancy had the idea and got together with some other cool Hollywood people, and they now have ten episodes of this hilarious comedy about a bar in a community college town in the Deep South. Two of my most creative friends Shannon and Jeannine came along, and we howled at the characters and the colloquialisms. The afternoon, although it was about football, really wasn’t about football. It was about celebrating a friend’s hard work and HUGE accomplishment in a very little timeframe. Watch the whole season of “The Bar” above, and wish the cast and crew a hearty congrats!

What I Did Over Summer Vacation

Published on Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

In two days the Critter will have been back to school for an entire month, yet in my mind I cannot end summer until after Labor Day. We had exactly two months of summer this year and it just was not enough! It seems that it only just started, and now I’m reflecting upon what we did. If you ask me, I’d say “not much”… then I look at my photo stream.

Turns out there was WAY more to do than hanging out at home! We went to the premieres of Netflix Dinotrux and The Humpback Whales, hung out at the JPL and at a film studio with a producer. I toured the fabulous newly redesigned and rebranded Mosaic Hotel, and attended a glam preview of the new Sephora in Beverly Hills. I dined on SkinnyPasta at the LINE Hotel and partied with Eva Longoria at the launch of the LG ProBake oven. I lost three left flip flops and got the Critter outfitted for Cub Scouts and with an orthodontic spacer appliance.

I met the sons and wife of Charles Schulz, and was able to attend an exclusive presentation of the style book and clips of the upcoming Peanuts Movie, which really warmed my heart. I had just finished the paintings for the book Louis XIV of Beverly Hills and turned them over to a fine art scanner, so this presentation created dreams of my Critter one day making a 3-D film from my work, as Bryan and Craig Schulz have done.

I feel so blessed for this wonderful time, but it goes so quickly – Im pretty sure if I blink hard it will be Halloween.

Remembering Katrina – Ten Years Later

Published on Saturday, August 29th, 2015

On this weekend in 2005, I had just met my husband. I had just started back up with a beloved client again to finish more of what we started. I also had just finished designing my mother’s new Gulf Coast house and was there in Gulfport, enjoying the sultry breezes, a few cocktails and amazing gulf seafood, catching up with family and friends. We knew a hurricane was out in there, but we consulted with all the neighbors who were, along with us, veterans of Hurricane Camille. We even knew where the water went up to in our neighbor’s house, and the storm surge wasn’t going to be that high. We would probably hang out upstairs with the shutters closed and the worst that could happen would be six inches of water on the newly refinished pecan wood floors. We scoffed at the idea that we would need to evacuate – there had been so many false alarms in the past, here and when I lived in New Orleans. In a flash flood one day in the early 90s I was stuck on the interstate for nine hours within spitting distance of my Garden District exit, so there was no way we were joining an exodus of people onto Highway 49 to get out, only to be turned away.

And then it got serious. My new almost boyfriend (now husband, who had been in the U. S. Navy) called and asked the address of mom’s house, and when he found the place on the map, he started getting emphatic. “Do you realize how serious this is? You have got to get out of there!”. So the denial slipped away, and we called Robby’s mom who still lives in the old nighborhood that was well out of the storm to see if we could stay the night, then packed up the supplies we were going to use for the storm and headed over. The last thing my mom said about the house was “do you think we should get sandbags for the windows? If there are only a few inches of water reaching the house, they may stop it – I am so worried about ruining the floors…” I think I rolled my eyes or something and told her that it’s time to go. I had become sufficiently convinced that the storm was going to be bigger than we thought.

Robby’s family was fantastic – they had all sorts of systems for survival in place for once the water and power inevitably went dead, and in between watching the wind in the trees predict how close Katrina was coming we ate a lot and watched the news on the solar powered tv, took naps then awakened to ride the storm out in the wee hours of the morning. The storm proceeded to pummel the Coast for an entire night and day, many hours longer than Camille did. We all sort of went into a type of shock, because we didn’t need to see the news to know that there would be nothing left. It took a while for us to get back to the beach, because the destruction from the storm had blocked streets and intersections. We did arrive at what was left of our house just before the National Guard, the press and the looters got in, the latter two before the former. All of a sudden, there we are, talking to Harry Smith standing on the pecan floor, and noticing women rifling through the massive debris that was now our neighborhood.

The reality then became that we needed to get the hell out of there, because it was crushingly obvious that there was nothing to be done or saved. We managed to get up Highway 49 over countless downed trees and power lines, shocked by how far inland the destruction was all the way back to Jackson, where my mom’s primary residence is. We noted what a luxury it was that her building had a generator so we were able to be cool and get clean, after almost three days of hurricane experience. We were very fortunate to have that luxury, as it was not so for so most. Our friends and family suffered extreme hardships and many lost everything. People died during and in the aftermath from the stress and fear and seeing the world look like the apocalypse had happened. None of these are happy memories.

I am very grateful for the few days before Katrina ruined everything, because my childhood hometown looked more beautiful and lush and graceful than ever before, and I got to relive the best parts of my memories by driving down Highway 90 with my mom, commenting on every house that we loved to talk about since I was old enough to say veranda. They lined the beach drive like beautiful ladies in a row, having an afternoon cocktail and watching the water. It hurts to know that they are not there anymore – gone along with the surge of the tide of a natural disaster. I only wish I’d taken a “before” video.

Triple Attraction in ATX – Friends, Fun, and PBS Kids

Published on Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

I love that my married life and motherhood have begun to have annual traditions. The springtime months are always a whirlwind – April brings Easter and My Perfect Husband’s birthday with the Critter’s birthday immediately after, then Mother’s Day, and then I travel to a different city every year for the PBS Annual Meeting. I always am energized by the wonderful networking and programming I am able to preview, and the fun I have with my fellow PBS Kids VIPs and friends from PBS SoCal. It’s also become a tradition now that my Mother’s Day gift to myself is to take some extra time off and explore the city after the meeting has ended.

When I discovered that this year’s meeting would take place in Austin, Texas, I immediately thought GIRL TRIP! I had just reconnected with my best best best friend from high school (thank you Facebook), and she lives in Austin. My BFF Debra, who was my first roomie here in LA is now happily married and living in Houston, so I announced we would get together as soon as my meetings ended.

A huge thank you to the folks at PBS and PBS Kids for making our visit completely awesome! In the realm of tradition, our PBS Kids Very Involved Parent group have now attended three Annual Meetings, and now here we were at the fourth – we now have connected as friends and had a terrific time catching all the moments together – the highlights this year included: a special performance at the venerable Austin City Limits by the up and coming Peterson Brothers, hilarious and inspirational breakout sessions with the creators of the latest PBS Kids programming Ready Jet Go! and Nature Cat, and a fun informative cook’s tour of the pristine new Whole Foods Market. I learned (and ate) more in these few days than I have room to share, but stay posted for a more information as the premieres of the new shows come nigh, and a trip to the JPL with the folks from Ready Jet Go!

I hugged goodbye to all my VIPs and before I knew it Bianca was there to pick me up, just like when we were in high school! We talked so much and caught up on the last twenty years, and it was like no time had passed at all. We talked kids, husbands, history, food, drinks, politics, fashion, and I don’t know what else over lots of great food in several different locations. I got to meet her super creative smart kids and see where she lives, and it was all good. She is still a raving beauty who can make me belly laugh, and I can’t wait until our next rendezvous.

Debra rolled in from Houston on Friday afternoon, giving me a chance to lie around binge watching Grace and Frankie, (which was perfect, considering that it’s a show about old friends), and then get my act together, because she was looking fabulous from H-town. We figured out that we have now been friends for twenty years! It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since we were roommates near the Farmers Market for my first summer working for Wilson and Associates – we were instant gal pals and have never wavered in supporting and cheering one another on, and it was so good to be together in this funky fun town to do nothing but gab, eat, drink, and take in local culture. Taking pity on me as a mom who has to keep up with everyone’s schedules, Deb had sussed all the cool stuff to do, so all I had to do was be ready to go, and go we did. She found some terrific hot spots for us to do our apps and cocktails thing, and some fantastic music venues that took me back to my college days of hitting the Subway Lounge and the Delta Blues Festival. We even managed to do a power walk and do a little shopping. I have to say that Austin is a really cool place – great culture, sophisticated quality dining without pretense, and an all around good time, in fact, I really want to go back as soon as I can! Check out my photos to see some of our highlights and for information on the venues – it was a perfect place to have me-time with my girls and come back to Beverly Hills revitalized.

Thank you again to my sweet friends and the wonderful staff at PBS Kids for making this such a special trip – next year: Chicago! I have to get on Facebook and see who I know there…

Mommy Greenest Leads Us Out of the Chemical Wasteland of Parenting

Published on Thursday, June 25th, 2015

The first time I met Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff was in 2010 at a wonderful eco-awareness event at Rolling Greens – deciphering what chemicals are going into our home, food, and clothing was something that concerned me greatly, and I was really impressed by the non-judgy way Rachael’s group shared information and super luxe “green” products. Y’all know how we moms are constantly being shamed for so many things that it’s hard to keep up. I think we all get it that less toxins = better, but sometimes it can be overwhelming and one feels like only scientist can translate the chemistry.

Over the years I’ve watched Rachel persevere with her message and I just love how she get things DONE! Publishers say no? Who cares? Rachel has worked on this book since her youngest child was born eight years ago, and I was able to celebrate the release with her and some other fabulous moms with missions last month at the Naturepedic store on Robertson. The evolution of the partnership between Mommy Greenest (Rachel) and Naturepedic was organic (pardon the pun), as Rachel and Barry Cik, founder of the American made organic mattress company both created their product out of care for their children and grandchildren. The event was chock full of friends supporting a better way to do things and sipping champagne in celebration with some of the best foraged nibbles I’ve tasted in ages from Mia of Transitional Gastronomy .

You can read the ebook here, or order the printed book directly from Rachel, too – but don’t wait – it’s a limited edition! A huge congratulations to Rachel on completing her mission and thanks to Naturepedic for helping her realize the vision. Now I just need to get a new mattress to lie on and read the book…

William Shatner Clangs Our Bell

Published on Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Were you wondering why I was having lunch with William Shatner last week? Let me tell ya, he is an ICON. Not since I posted this picture of the lovely Dahm Triplets have I gotten such feedback! Funnily, the first thing people would say after “William Shatner? For real? Awesome!” would be “what are y’all holding in your hands?”

That, my friends, would be an adorable hand knitted lovey-creature called a Clanger:
“Clangers is a Sprout Original series that follows a family of pink, long-nosed, inventive and inquisitive mouse-shaped creatures who live on a small blue planet, out in the starry stretches of space not far from our world. The Clangers have many friends that make up their community but welcome creatures from outside planets as well. Kind and generous creatures, they communicate with distinctive whistles, and a narrator–William Shatner–comments on the thrilling and often hilarious events which occur in every episode.”
I think we can all agree that Clangers will be far out! Premieres tomorrow on Sprout – check your local listings.
A very special thanks to the folks at Sprout for such a memorable afternoon, and thanks to Courtney for my poached photo below. I was actually sitting so close to Bill (yeah he’s Bill now), I couldn’t get a good shot (see my ring and my pursecase strap photobombing.