<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Dining, shopping and nightlife]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/entertainment/the-scene http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:12:02 -0800 Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:12:02 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Discounts and Sleepovers: Aquarium Holidays]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:20:12 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/familysleepoveraquarium123435.JPG

Sticking a Santa hat on a stingray is not advisable -- also, it might slide right off, what with the shape of the stingray and the shape of the Santa hat -- but you can still mark the merriment of the yuletide season at the Aquarium of the Pacific in a festive manner.

First up? Discounted late-night admission flaps its fins on Friday, Dec. 26, and for several more season-sweet nights, including Dec. 28, 29, 30, Jan. 2, and 3. But don't let the "late" in the late-night admission make you yawn: The deal actually starts at 5 p.m. and wraps up at 8:30 p.m.

Will people get in even if they pay the amount of a kid's admission, during those hours and on those dates? That's a shark-big yes. Will SoCalers show with their out-of-towners, people who may not live near massive oceans, meaning they'd enjoying seeing creatures of a crustacean, piscine nature?

You know this is so: The Pacific Ocean, and its denizens, is often the reason visitors alight in Southern California, even if we fib to ourselves and say we're the reason for their trip out. (Maybe they want to see us, too, in addition to jellyfish and otters.)

Is it neato being at the aquarium when darkness falls? Yes, and don't you dare counter us on "neato": Spying spindly beasties and critters that rock gills are made for nighttime viewing.

And speaking of nighttimes, the Long Beach institution is throwing an ever-popular, make the kidlets way, way excited with anticipation Family Sleepover. That's on Sunday, Dec. 28, there shall be pizza and snacks and cereal for breakfast, there shall be a chance to touch "sharks, sea stars, and sea jellies," there shall be a chance to join in the feeding of fish, there shall be learning (yay, learning!), and there shall be the knowledge that while you're busy dreaming, some underwater denizens are living La Vida H20 very close by. 

Cool stuff, and a nifty way to round out the year. And please don't counter us on "nifty"; it is a word that nicely applies to interesting, idea-growing experiences such as sleeping inside an aquarium.

Whoa: Sleeping inside an aquarium. Will this be your young'un's first Show-and-Tell topic of 2015? Best take plenty of photos for the classroom presentation.

Photo Credit: Aquarium of the Pacific]]>
<![CDATA[Farmers Market Merry: Free Fa-La-La Happenings]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:24:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/FMXmas.jpg

A person arriving at the Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax for the first time, especially during the holidays, can be forgiven for searching for some sort of turnstile or employee taking tickets.

After all, the landmark public market is decorated and cheerful as all get-out; surely there's an admission to pay to experience the live bands and holly-corsaged carolers and crafty workshops and other convivialities of the most gingerbreadian season of the year?

Nope. That's a big nada. It's always free to visit the founded-in-1934 market, regardless of the date on the calendar, and you'll never find a turnstile blocking any of its charming, warren-like entrances. So not spending a lick while enjoying songs of the season and other cheerful sights/sounds is easy as plunking down in one of the market's iconic green chairs and wiling away a December afternoon.

The festivities kicked off on Friday, Dec. 19 and they'll warble right through Wednesday, Dec. 24. There's a full schedule to peruse, and each day is a little different, but you're apt to find brass quartets, pinecone decorating workshops, a Hawaiian Christmas hula show, and an afternoon of Hanukkah goings-on, including the building of a balloon menorah, on Dec. 21.

Do not pay anyone admission. In fact, use the money you'd normally give someone else for a ticket to something fun and purchase a cocoa to sip as you admire the swag, boughs, bows, and other adornments gracing the market's stalls.

It's pretty cheerful stuff, capped by carols played the clocktower, now and then. Also, if you're a fan of the Farmers Market green basket -- the wooden shopping trolley that's been around for decades -- check out the big tree to the north of the market: It's laden with smaller versions standing in as ornaments.

Cuteness aplenty. And, speaking of cuteness, calling Farmers Market's entrances "warren-like" is a total compliment. It's one of our city's few storied structures that sprung up fairly organically, over the years, which means that how you get enter, and how you wander among the stalls, is a little quirky.

It's not a place that's been overly tested nor marketed, something that's rather refreshing come the holidays, if you like your festive with a side of funky. And who doesn't?

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Fashion Trends 2015]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 05:35:56 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/456371972.jpg Here are some trends you can expect to see next spring.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fashion Trends: 2015's Best Looks]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:19:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Inner.jpg

The world of fashion is fleeting and ever-changing. With each season, trends are introduced, reconstructed, and promptly disposed.

This past year, we saw a contrast between the incredibly loud to the impeccably subtle. Within four short seasons we visited the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s.

As we moved through 2014, we tapped into our inner flower-child, borrowed from the boys, went wild for animal prints, visited the heartland, learned new ways to reveal skin, yet also satisfied seasonal classics like pastels for spring and furs for winter.

Let’s look back at some of the favorite runway looks and trends:

As much as we are enjoying the retrospectives, fashion is very much about the future and 2015 is already shaping up to look like another exciting year for ready-to-wear.

During the recent monthlong parade of shows in New York, Milan, Paris and London, international designers seem to agree on what feels like a definitive message for the Spring Summer 2015 season: 70s chic.

“It was remarkable how much solidarity there was among designers in pushing forward a new look, albeit one that was largely rooted in an aesthetic that was inspired by the easy fashion of the 1960s and a somewhat hippie vibe of the 1970s,” said Eric Wilson, fashion news director at InStyle magazine.

Its influence was overarching, evident in the fringes at Proenza Schouler and Alberta Ferretti, flared pants at Derek Lam and Celine, bohemian flowy dresses at Pucci and Etro, fur vests at Tommy Hilfiger and Gucci, and patchwork at Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino.

But, it wasn’t all peace and love on the runways. Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs, among others, went for a more utilitarian look with deep cargo pockets, tailored silhouettes, khakis and olive drab — think somewhere between military-chic and safari luxe.

There were also Japanese inspirations, asymmetrical hems, androgynous tailored suits, and denim galore.

Perhaps the most surprising trend to come next spring and summer is the fall staple, leather.

“Certainly 'summer leather' is a new category that looks promising, partly the result of technical advancements that have resulted in lighter weight materials, even perforated leather that feels cooler in warmer months, and partly the result of the fact that spring clothes now go into stores so early that they need to address multiple seasons' weather,” says Wilson.

As we brace the current arctic blasts swathed in cozy sweaters and coats, check out the gallery at the top of the story for a peek at the spring 2015 looks soon to be arriving in stores.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Free Holiday Screening of "Christmas Vacation"]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 06:33:24 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/tlmd_nationallampoon.jpg

'Tis the week when people thank other people for a bevy of nice deeds (and, it goes without saying, it is also the week where words like "'tis" start sentences in greater numbers). 

This seasonal, heart-big feeling extends to local businesses, too -- stores, restaurants, and theaters that do their share in sprinkling a little cheer here and there. TCL Chinese Theatres is one such venue intent on showing gratitude to the community, and it is doing so by doing what it does best: Screening a movie.

Make that a free movie, in the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres, and make it one of the merriest standards of the modern yuletide season: "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." It screens on Sunday morning, Dec. 21 at 10 a.m.

It's the 25th anniversary for the nutty, nog-scented movie starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Will the turkey explode? Will something misfire with all of those many, many, many bulbs making the house bright? And will everyone keep their cool on the snowy night?

You may know the answers, if you catch it on television each year, but it has likely been a couple of decades since you saw it on the big screen (if you happened to see it when it was first released). 

As far as the free part? It is a way to give gratitude to the community. Note that TCL Chinese Theatres is asking every patron who attends to donate a can of food. The beneficiary? PATH (People Assisting The Homeless).

It's a first come, first seated deal, so set out that can of food Saturday night and get a move on early Sunday morning. Make like Chevy Chase in the "National Lampoon" flicks, in fact: The eager, ready-to-go-the-distance dad who'd arrive early for a festive movie. 

Be Clark Griswold, in short. Without all of the mishaps and hiccups, of course.

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.]]>
<![CDATA[First Time on Public View: Scarlett O'Hara's "Barbecue Dress"]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 09:06:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/199*120/soharabbqdress1.jpg

We're fairly certain that the words "flounce" and "flouncing" appeared in dictionaries prior to 1939, when "Gone with the Wind" was released, but we're fairly certain that no one had embodied sheer flounce-o-sity before Scarlett O'Hara first graced the silver screen.

Of course, the legendary Vivien Leigh had a gorgeous assist in the flouncing department from one of the most famous frocks in the film, the "Barbecue Dress" seen near the beginning of the story.

You know the one: Scarlett's off to a daytime soiree, in the flounciest dress imaginable, and the bigness of her frock, and the flounce-i-ness of her gestures as she flirts with and fends off suitors, mirrors her confidence and bravada. 

That dress, with its dark green details, ruffly shoulders, and hoop-skirted bottom, has never been displayed publicly, but that's about to change: The Natural History Museum will display Scarlett O'Hara's "Barbecue Dress" for a six-month run starting on Friday, Dec. 19.

It may, at first glance, seem like an unusual venue for a movie costume, but the gown will show in the permanent exhibit Becoming Los Angeles. The reason for the inclusion? The film's 75th anniversary.

Daniel Selznick, David O. Selznick's son ("Gone with the Wind" buffs recognize Mr. Selznick as the film's producer), donated the costume to LACMA, and LACMA donated the dress to NHM in 2004. (Also note: NHM, while it is famous for its dinos and science, has a large collection of costumes.) 

Walter Plunkett designed the frock, which comes in three pieces, complete with a kelly green sash.

If you're wondering if this is the dress that Scarlett dons after getting fitted into that tight, tight corset, you'd be correct: It is. This is also the same frock that Miss O'Hara poo-poos to a suitor, saying "I wore this old dress just because I thought you liked it!"

Of course, it was no old dress, and she knew it, too; it's one of filmdom's most recognizable costumes, a sartorial statement of the rich life Miss O'Hara was leading at the start of "Gone with the Wind."

"New conservation" has restored the dress, which has been seen at some private events over the years. The six-month display will give "Wind" fans a closer look at a piece of true film history.

As you stand before the case protecting the dress, ask yourself, or your friends, this: Has any actress used a dress to express such flounce, impertinence, and in-charge-ness before or since? Scarlett O'Hara truly ruled them all, with dash and eye-flash to spare. 

Photo Credit: NHM]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend: 106th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:52:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/newportbeachbleucottonphotography.jpg

NEWPORT BEACH CHRISTMAS BOAT PARADE: It seems, come December, that every vessel in every harbor along our coastline sports some sort of festive decor -- lights, bows, a mechanical Santa. But this on-the-water procession, which is marking its 106th year, is the patriarch of the pizzazz-filled parades. Or do we mean boatriach? Grab some shoreline to watch some of the glitteriest yachts, dinghies, kayaks, and beyond do their dazzling thing. Humor, sparkle, and general verve count for much, and prizes are given (though you'll likely find your own favorites). Through Sunday, Dec. 21

HANUKKAH CELEBRATIONS: Many a large menorah is now a-glow around town, from Santa Anita to Beverly Hills to the Original Farmers Market at Third & Fairfax (where an additional balloon menorah will be constructed on Dec. 21). Want to find out where to see the evening lightings, which happen through Dec. 24? Click. And be sure to make for the Skirball Cultural Center, which is hosting some special tours of its Hanukkah lamps, gems that run the gamut from traditional to pop-culture-y. It's a fine way to reflect upon the Festival of Lights.

AND SPEAKING OF THE ORIGINAL FARMERS MARKET... The holidays are big at the landmark public market -- you saw the market's LEGO menorah last year, yes? -- and with that bigness comes a green basketload of free to-dos, from listening to strolling carolers to decorating pine cones to enjoying the Mele Kalikimaka Holiday Hula Show. The stalls and green awnings are well decked out, as are the iconic clock towers, adding atmosphere. As for the holiday doings? They're on a Farmers Market from Dec. 19 through 24.

LAS POSADAS: It's a ballad-filled tradition honored each year in communities from California to Texas and all across Mexico, and further points afield. Olvera Street pauses each December over several nights, leading up to Christmas Eve, and visitors join the procession, which is led by Mary and Joseph as they search for an inn. Pan dulce and champurrado are served, and other seasonal happenings festoon the reverent and voices-together evenings. Through Wednesday, Dec. 24

MUSIC CENTER HOLIDAY SING-ALONG: There's only one sticky wicket to this joyful annual happening, and it is this: It's free, but you'll need a ticket, so arrive early, at least a half hour -- or, honestly, an hour -- before the 6:30 p.m. start time on Friday, Dec. 19. You'll wear your ugly snowman sweater, yes? You'll warble loudly, among other SoCalers, the better to summon community and cheer? Of course. You'll enjoy being out on the Plaza, the fountains, the brisk night air, the stars? Those are all part of it, too, at no cost to you.

Photo Credit: Bleu Cotton Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Autumn Awwws: Babies of the LA Zoo]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 06:47:10 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/189*120/lazoowinterbabies_9012312334.jpg A trio of giant otter pups and a sweet giraffe make their darling debuts.

Photo Credit: LA Zoo]]>
<![CDATA[The Bunny Museum's On the Hop to a New Home]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:37:33 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/bunnymuseumrabbit1234.jpg

Southern California is a pretty quirky place, you might have heard. This quirk-a-tude plays out in numerous ways, but one of the most delightful, and delightfully offbeat, is the proliferation of home museums — museums inside private houses — that focus on a single theme.

Forey Ackerman's sci-fi-esque Ackermansion comes to mind (RIP to both Mr. Ackerman and his memorable museum), but there've been a bouquet of abodes doubling as museums over the last few years, with one very well-known warren sitting at the top of the carrot hill: The Bunny Museum of Pasadena.

Founded by Candace Frazee and her husband Steve Lubanski, The Bunny Museum is in a private home, or part of a private home, owned by the couple. What makes it all the more remarkable is that over 30,000 rabbit-themed items are now in the collection, a collection that began when Mr. Lubanski gave Ms. Frazee, his then girlfriend, a plush bunny on Valentine's Day 1992.

From there, things flowered, or, um, leafed out, in the way a carrot top gets leafy.

But if you've visited The Bunny Museum in recent years, with its keep-your-arms-close-to-you passages and stuffed animal-stuffed backroom, you've probably pondered that this little warren was outgrowing its space.

And so it shall, in the months ahead, officially: The home museum was incorporated in August, and approved as a nonprofit, and has begun a Kickstarter to help fund new digs.

Ms. Frazee says the announcement regarding The Bunny Museum's still-veiled bigger location, which will also be in Pasadena, will be made on Valentine's Eve 2015, a nostalgic nod to when the bunny-cute ball first got rolling.

As for those Kickstarter backer thank yous? Admission to the new location, shot glasses, and other long-earred items are nabbable, depending on how much you donate.

It's been a popular place, too, for celebrities to visit — Huell Howser cheerfully called upon The Bunny Museum, oh yes he did — so perhaps a famous person will lend some furry-tailed love to the fresh spot.

And, it is true: We feel a little bittersweet. Museums taking up a chunk of a private residence are flush with character, but thousands of people have been to the snug Pasadena nook that's home to the world's largest rabbit collection, per the Guinness Book of World Records. In short? It has been enjoyed by many in its current plot.

Until we learn where we must hop to find the museum's new warren, we can enjoy this short piece starring Elijah Wood, an instant Funny or Die, Bunny Museum classic.

Photo Credit: The Bunny Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Mi-Mi-Mis and Merry Sweaters: Music Center Holiday Sing-Along]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:42:08 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/singalongholidaymusiccenter123456.jpg

There are few places where ugly holiday sweaters, fountains, city lights, free fun, and festive seasonal singing come together in the way that all of those components come together at Music Center Plaza each year.

It's a heady, holly-festooned concoction, and one that works, time and again. Why? Because while some of us might be able to croon along to disco, or R&B, or the American songbook, or '80s ballads, most of all of us have the words to "The Christmas Song" and "Jingle Bells" stored deep within our DNA.

Grocery stores and malls and TV specials have made this so, but count our general and widespread love of carols as the main reason that we almost don't need lyric sheets to join in the yearly Music Center Holiday Sing-Along.

Thank your lucky chestnuts, though, that lyric sheets are provided, should you forget the line that goes "we'll conspire, by the fire." (Nope, it is not "we'll perspire, by the fire," no matter how often you tell yourself it is.)

The Holiday Sing-Along, like all Music Center everyone-warble-together-now events, is on a Friday. It's Friday, Dec. 19, to be specific, and the weather says that your garish Christmas sweater, the one you'll surely don, won't simply be for looks: You'll need it, because temperatures will be perfectly brisk and perfectly perfect for inspiring that crisp Christmas cheer. 

The time? It's 6:30, so get out of the office in an expedient manner, and don't forget the Santa hat you keep stowed in your desk. Tickets will be handed out starting at 6, and even though it is free, you will need a ticket (and you can only get a ticket for yourself, so tell your pals not to dally.)

Will there be live music to give your singing voice oomph? Please. This is the Music Center. It's got "Music" in the first part of its name, for a reason.

Call this sing-along, and all Music Center sing-alongs, part of the SoCal cultural canon. This one, though, has some extra zest, and stand-alone-a-tude, as it happens outside of the usual calendar of sing-along happenings.

Pretty cheerful and rare, for sure. You can make it, merrymaker.

Photo Credit: Music Center]]>
<![CDATA[Menorah Lightings, Santa Anita to Santa Monica]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 20:14:45 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/menorahpasadena12345.jpg

The Festival of Lights brings with it family gatherings, friends getting together with friends, history, remembrances, songs, and eight nights of lighting the menorah. 

And while a menorah is as personal and distinctive in the home in which its stand -- the meaning and feel behind the nightly lighting makes each menorah unique -- it is also a lovely thing to join with the larger community at a public lighting during Hanukkah.

That there are eight nights to do so means that a number of local menorahs could be visited, and revisited. Several Southern California spots will begin to light their large and art-pretty menorahs at sundown on Tuesday, Dec. 16. The evening time candle burn-brightlies? Those happen through Wednesday, Dec. 24. 

Menorahs are gracing...

Pasadena City Hall: The grand menorah lighting is on Sunday, Dec. 21. Gelt, latkes, and dreidels fill out the family-sweet celebration. 

Westfield Santa Anita: Like Pasadena City Hall, the Santa Anita menorah is presented by Chabad of Pasadena. An olive press demonstration is a highlight on the first night of Hanukkah.

Beverly Hills: Head for Two Rodeo Drive for the lighting of the Beverly Hills menorah plus music and eats on Tuesday, Dec. 16. 

Santa Monica: The grand Winterlit menorah goes aglow on Tuesday, Dec. 16. Head for Arizona Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, and if you want to hear live tunes from Klezmer Juice, be at the lighting on Thursday, Dec. 18.

The Original Farmers Market: The historic market's big menorah-centered celebration takes place on Sunday, Dec. 21. Will there be music, the making of cards and dreidels, and the building of a balloon menorah? You bet. Details here.

Photo Credit: Chabad of Pasadena]]>
<![CDATA[Tips for Making Latkes ]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 10:08:09 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/bay-latke-chef.jpg

When it comes to holidays, there's no better recipe than the one you grew up with.

Same is true for latkes.

So, tonight, when Hanukkah begins at sundown, folks around the globe will be firing up the frying pans to create the ultimate potato pancake.

Some began cooking the Hanukkah delicacy even before the Jewish Festival of Lights began.

"We cooked 6,000 yesterday," said Evan Bloom, who co-owns Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen in San Francisco with partner Leo Beckerman. "And we'll probably be making more."

The secret to the Wise Sons latkes? "We try to keep it very simple," Bloom said, adding that the real trick is to squeeze any liquid from the potatoes after grating them, so that they taste "crispy, not soggy."

And of course, he uses oil. Lots and lots of oil.

And although schmaltz, the Yiddish term for rendered chicken fat, was recently touted in the New York Times as gaining a comeback, Bloom said he and his cooks tend to stick with regular cooking oil for their latkes.

"We use schmaltz in a lot of things, like our chopped liver and matzo balls, but not in our latkes. There are so many vegetarians, and so many people are afraid of it."

But there are all sorts of ways to make latkes. Here is a small round-up of some popular latke-making videos.

From upscale (with Parmesan cheese, chives and Tabasco)...

To India-inspired (with carrots and coriander)...

Lest your Bubbe should see, she just sticks to the basics: potatoes, oil, flour, salt and pepper.

Photo Credit: Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 118th, Griffith Park]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:05:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/griffith+park.jpg

City parks festoon metropolises the world over, but consider how many you can actually see from pretty much anywhere, regardless of where you happen to be standing in said city.

The number's not high, right? Because pristine rectangles dominated early park design, and pristine rectangles, as pretty as they are, tend to be rather flatter.

Not Griffith Park, though. "Flatter" is not a word we'd apply to our scrubby, hill-pretty, observatory-cool, Hollywood Sign-y, puma-riffic, carousel-charming, zoo- and museum-plentiful wild space, a space that can be seen from countless spots, high and low, around Los Angeles. 

This unusual metro-wild place is a major player in providing our always needed urban elbow room, and it gets a major birthday party, in its honor, on Tuesday, Dec. 16.

The place: Griffith Observatory. The time? Be there from 4 to 5 p.m. 

Councilmember Tom LaBonge and LA Parks and Rec staffers'll turn out to say words of a stirring and important nature about this oxygen-producing expanse, which is marking its 118th anniversary. Colonel Griffith J. Griffith bequeathed 3,015 acres of his Rancho Los Feliz estate to we Angelenos on Dec. 16, 1896, ensuring that we'd all have a free-to-see place to retreat to, for decades and now centuries to come, whenever we needed to clear the mind and exercise the body, simultaneously.

The park stands at over 4,210 acres. It's been a setting for films, a place to play golf, to trot by horseback, to hike, to meditate, to spy wildlife. It's one of the largest in the world, city park-wise, and, as mentioned, one of the handful that rises up, up, up, above the city, serving as a visual reminder that we all can take a breather when needed.

True, it is getting a little shower for its birthday, but call that part of the celebration. We humans often walk into a shower of confetti or balloons on our birthday; why shouldn't Griffith Park, at 118, also enjoy a little rain, which is, of course, the natural world's own celebratory shower?

Happy 118, big park.

<![CDATA[California Dog's Warts-and-All Adoption Page Builds Buzz]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 21:16:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Eddie+Adopt+Silicon+Valley+Dog.jpg

If someone you didn't know were to stop you and your pooch in the street and ask about your pup, would you first list his many adorable pluses? Or would you reveal how he barks at music videos, tips garbage cans, and occasionally stands on the coffee table, whenever the urge strikes?

Most dog people would probably stick with the adorable points, though every dog devotee knows every dog has his or her Other List, that colorful roster that brims with quirks, habits, and strange behaviors.

Meet Eddie, a Chihuahua currently up for adoption through the Humane Society of Silicon Valley. Unlike pretty much every other pup up for adoption via the Internet, Eddie's adorable pluses are not what are prominently listed on his page but rather the "three great reasons you shouldn't even think about adopting him."

Charmed? Yep, as are many: Eddie's story is spreading as quickly as a Chihuahua crosses a yard for a piece of pepperoni. Huffington Post and Yahoo are talking about it; can it be long before Eddie's on the cover of a major magazine? 

The reasons for being cautious about adopting Eddie, by the way, are real: "He goes from zero to Cujo in .05 seconds when he sees another dog on a leash." Also? Eddie the Terrible -- his catchy handle -- is not what you would dub a "kid dog." That's a big ol' nope.

And if you want a woofer who will not get in the bed or the couch with you, look elsewhere, because Eddie is gonna. Major gonna. It's a done deal: He's making himself at home in all of your human-favorite spots.

But Eddie is also "super loyal, easy in the house, and a lot of fun," says the site, so while his quirks are given top-billing, his good points make a strong showing at the end.

Will Eddie be with a forever family by the end of 2014? Someone, likely multiple people, will be charmed to bits by this wee barker's tail -- er, tale. Will other rescue groups and adoption outposts walk the humorous warts-and-all path more often, when it comes to placing pups?

We don't see why not. Because while every dog devotee loves to sing her sweetie's praises, we all know that our canines are complex, and not a single one of them is a bed of roses on four legs.

In fact, many of them like to dig in beds of roses, and around fences, and in the garbage bin, and that, along with their pluses and minuses, is part of their larger, wonderful story.

Photo Credit: Humane Society Silicon Valley]]>
<![CDATA[SoCal Sightings: Bald Eagle Count by the Numbers]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 19:52:41 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/203*120/baldeaglesocalcount1.jpg

You may think you never, ever point your finger and shout — both are deemed rather impolite, after all — but you absolutely would upon seeing a bald eagle in the distance, perched high on a bare branch.

It's a stunning and rare sight, and one apt to make a surprised viewer jump up and down before hushing up and observing the iconic bird. But on Saturday, Dec. 13 — and on a few winter Saturdays yet to come — volunteers and biologists stayed hushed from the get-go as they scanned lake-close trees and the sky for signs of visiting bald eagles. 

The Federal and State biologists, and bird buffs from around Southern California, were participating in the "first bald eagle count of the winter" near "several lakes around Southern California."

"Several bald eagles spend their winter vacations around Southern California lakes," says the U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino. The migration our way is the result of water sources, and thus food sources, icing over in more northerly climes.

The final tally of the Dec. 13 add-'em-up? A total of 9 bald eagles were spied (Big Bear, Lake Hemet, Lake Perris, and Lake Silverwood all reported bird sightings, while Lake Arrowhead had no reports.)

The number is a possible underrepresentation, though, says the Forest Service, due to wintry conditions at the usual mountain count sites, thanks in large part to the big storm that passed through just days ahead of the count. Deciding it was too dicey to have volunteers take on some of the icier roads, the Forest Service chose to leave some sites uncovered on this go-round.

But there are a trio of winter Saturdays to go, and you can join in to watch, and count, visiting bald eagles. Those Saturdays are Jan. 10, Feb. 14, and March 14, and "no experience needed," so volunteers should not be daunted.

Perhaps the only true volunteer requirement is the ability to not jump up and down, too hard, upon sighting one of America's quintessential symbols, the truly majestic bald eagle.

Another bonus to signing up for the dates ahead: Sightings tend to go up come January and February.

Best dust off those binoculars, or, better yet, ask for a shiny new pair come Christmas. The U.S. Forest Service, your fellow bird-loving SoCalers, and nature all thank you.

Get your lake locations and volunteer information, eagle mavens.

Photo Credit: U.S. Forest Service]]>
<![CDATA[OC Whimsy: Edward Scissorhands Winter Formal]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 12:37:12 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/edward-scissorhands-w1280.jpg

When we ponder those holly- and tinsel-bedecked films that play again and again (and again and so on) during the second half of December, we tend to alight upon a dozen or so flicks involving top-hatted misers and small-town-y good guys and couples who ice skate, drink cocoa, and fall in love, typically in that order.

But many a Christmas-loving film fan has kept one fantasy flick near-and-dear each December over the last quarter century. It's light on misers and mistletoe but not charm, offbeat-a-tude, or Burbank cred: It's "Edward Scissorhands," Tim Burton's charming Gothic-drizzled sugar cookie, a flick sparkly with snow and ice sculptures and Important, Meaningful Lessons (that aren't actually saccharine at all).

CinemAttack! will celebrate those who make this their numero uno holiday-time viewing with a Winter Formal in Santa Ana on Friday, Dec. 19. The place? The Frida Cinema. The time? It's 10 o'clock in the eve.

The haps? Well, you don't need to tape scissors to your fingers — probably a bad idea — but you should get dressy, and hair-spiky, if you choose, and think darkly divine, as a character in the film might.

A hairstyle contest is part of the night's doings, "festive prizes," "crazy prizes," a guest from the North Pole, and, you bet, Johnny Dep. That's Johnny Dep with a single "p," please note. Seen Tim & Eric's "Diamond Jim"? Then you know the mirth and strangeness ahead.

A ticket is $15. There shall be treats. 

And, yes, we say the film has been around for a quarter century, but it'll actually mark its 25th next year. Still, hard to believe that "Edward Scissorhands" has been around for that long, when its satire, colors, and quirk still feel as fresh as a just planted poinsettia.

As for the aforementioned Burbank connection? Well, Mr. Burton is a Burbankian by birth, and while "Edward Scissorhands" found its candy-cute neighborhood setting in Florida, the feel of the film absolutely evokes the big B. In short? It's a film with California and Christmas cred, both.

Photo Credit: Edward Scissorhands]]>
<![CDATA[Hanukkah Lights: A Skirball Family Tour]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 08:12:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/207*120/skirballeightdaystour123.jpg

A family's menorah is one of the treasures of the household, a sacred piece that can speak to decades of tradition or a group of people's offbeat and singular sensibility.

There are the classic designs that incorporate a row of candle holders, one for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, and the center candle. And there are the unusual menorahs, the ones that are shaped like prickly pear cactuses or television characters or Statues of Liberty or LEGOs.

The Skirball Cultural Center pauses each year to honor the Lights of Hanukkah with a series of family tours, tours that take in the institution's impressive collection of menorahs. The "stunning display of Hanukkah lamps" is part of the "Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America" exhibit, which celebrates Hanukkah and the "value of religious freedom."

The tours are happening on Thursday, Dec. 18, Saturday, Dec. 20, and Sunday, Dec. 21. There's no extra fee to join; your museum admission gets you on the tour, which happens at 12:30 p.m. each of those days.

If you can't make one of those days, "Visions and Values" is an ongoing exhibit.

But if you can? Be sure to make time to visit the Skirball's much-loved-upon Noah's Ark, "the permanent, award-winning children's and family destination that's the talk of the town!" The sweet, animal-lovely area involves rainbow mist arbors, storms, coyote howls, and a conveyor belt that is all about putting animals on the ark, two-by-two.

And "Light & Noir: Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood 1933-1950" is on at the center through March 1. "Ninotchka" and "Casablanca" and other films are highlighted (look for special screenings throughout the exhibit's run, too).  

Photo Credit: Skirball Cultural Center]]>
<![CDATA[Merriam-Webster Names Word of the Year]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 12:52:03 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/27167011.jpg

A nation, a workplace, an ethnicity, a passion, an outsized personality. The people who comprise these things, who fawn or rail against them, are behind Merriam-Webster's 2014 word of the year: culture.

The word joins Oxford Dictionaries' "vape," a darling of the e-cigarette movement, and "exposure," declared the year's winner at Dictionary.com during a time of tragedy and fear due to Ebola.

Merriam-Webster based its pick and nine runners-up on significant increases in lookups this year over last on Merriam-Webster.com, along with interesting, often culture-driven — if you will — spikes of concentrated interest.

In the No. 2 spot is "nostalgia," during a year of big 50th anniversaries pegged to 1964: the start of the free speech movement, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the birth of the Ford Mustang and the British Invasion heralded by the landing of the Beatles on U.S. soil for the first time.

Nostalgia was followed by insidious, legacy, feminism and a rare multiword phrase that can be looked up in total, in a foreign language at that: the French "je ne sais quoi."

The Springfield, Massachusetts-based dictionary giant filters out perennial favorites when picking word of the year, but does that formula leave them chasing language fads?

"We're simply using the word culture more frequently," said Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster. "It may be a fad. It may not. It may simply be evolution."

Sokolowski noted that the reasons words are looked up aren't just about not knowing what they mean. Sometimes, he said, we seek inspiration or a way to check in on ourselves. Of an estimated 100 million lookups on the website each year and a similar number on the company's app, culture enjoyed a 15 percent year-over-year increase.

Percentage-wise, it doesn't sound like much, but the raw number in that stratosphere is large, Sokolowski said. He wouldn't disclose actual numbers, though, citing the proprietary nature of that data for a company still privately held.

Sokolowski is a lexicographer, not a mind reader, so his observations about why any single word takes off in terms of lookups is well-informed but theoretical.

"The word culture's got a cultural story. We have noticed for years that culture has a cyclical spike every year at around Labor Day. That is to say back to school time during the month of September, so we've been watching this word spike at that time for years," he said by telephone from Springfield. "In recent years we've seen similar spikes at the end of semesters during finals."

But traffic throughout the year indicates that culture is a "chameleon," Sokolowski said. "When you put it next to another word it means something very different. For example, 'consumer culture' or 'rape culture,' which we've been reading about lately."

There's the "culture of transparency" in government and business, and "celebrity culture," and the "culture of winning" in sports, he noted. "It's a word that can be very specific, like 'test prep culture,' or it can be very, very broad, like 'coffee culture.'"

One standout reference that caught Sokolowski's eye in The New Yorker's December issue is from a new book, "How Google Works," which includes a description of a software fix by a few engineers that made ads more relevant on the search engine:

"It wasn't Google's culture that turned those five engineers into problem-solving ninjas who changed the course of the company over the weekend," wrote the authors, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former head of product development Jonathan Rosenberg.

"Rather it was the culture that attracted the ninjas to the company in the first place."

Before the word culture exploded, Sokolowski said, "we used to talk about 'society' a lot. Certain groups are taking 'society' out of their names now. It seems to be receding. Part of that seems to be because it's elitist. We're using the word culture more frequently in that place."

Not all lookup spikes are quite that complex. The reason "je ne sais quoi" landed at No. 6, for instance, is "dead simple," he said.

The fast-food drive-in chain Sonic, known for TV spots featuring two goofy dudes eating in a car, had them munching on boneless chicken wings in September.

"I've finally found myself a wingman," goofy guy No. 1 says of the wings he hopes will make him a chick magnet.

"Oh right," sneers goofy guy No. 2, "gonna give you that certain je ne sais quoi."

Responds No. 1: "Jenna said what?"

They mine the word play a couple more times, but you get the picture.

"Since September when this ad came out this word has been close to the Top 10 or in the Top 10 of our lookups almost every single day," Sokolowski said.

Fast-food aside, he called this year's list a relatively sober one.

Insidious, for example, received a bump early in the year when a new trailer was released for "Insidious: Chapter 3," a prequel in the horror film franchise "Insidious," out in June. The word surfaced in a big way again, on Oct. 8, when a Texas hospital released a statement on the death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first confirmed Ebola patient in the United States.

The statement spoke of his courageous battle and the hospital's profound sadness when he "succumbed to an insidious disease, Ebola."

Rounding out the Top 10 are innovation, surreptitious, autonomy and morbidity.

"This is a fairly sober list. It was a fairly sober year," he concluded.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sweet: California-to-Chicago Otter Gets a Name]]> Sat, 13 Dec 2014 00:29:44 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/californiasheddotterluna1.jpg

Many a Californian will make their way to Chicago this holiday season, either for a layover at Midway or O'Hare or to set up camp with a relative for a few food- and tradition-filled days of celebrating.

But one Golden-Stater arrived early, at the end of October, and has stayed on. Her address? She's at the Shedd Aquarium. The reason? Well, not holiday merrymaking, but a little recovery and tending-to. And her name?

Well, that's a stickier wicket, but one with a sunny ending. Or, not sunny, but rather more moon-like.

The otter pup rescued from a Pescadero-close beach earlier this autumn was dubbed Pup 681, a temporary handle oft-repeated by media and fans. Twitter and Facebook pages sprung up, and seemingly everyone wanted to know more about the cute critter who'd been flown from the West Coast to the Midwest to recuperate after the Southern Sea Otter Pup was discovered, on a beach, weighing less than six pounds.

Ms. Pup 681 now has an actual name, however, and the "moon" comment from before was a tip-off: It's Luna, a name chosen via public online voting hosted by Good Morning America. (Cali, Ellie, Poppy, and Ana were other choices.)

It was a name that Shedd staffers had hoped for, too. And it is a sweet one for Californians, as Luna is a tribute to Half Moon Bay, which is a bit north of the Coastways Beach where a jogger spotted the ailing pup in late September.

Luna will make her big Shedd Aquarium debut in the spring at the Regenstein Sea Otter Habitat in the Abbott Oceanarium. With over 10,000 people voting on her name, and many more following her story, we can only assume fans are making travel plans now.

But Luna's new handle isn't the only new thing about her. She got to peek at the otter habitat, where she'll take up residence later in 2015.

Photo Credit: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez]]>
<![CDATA["Snow" Due for Downtown, Studio City]]> Sat, 13 Dec 2014 00:29:10 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/snowpershingdowntown123445.jpg

If someone were to pull you aside and tell you that both downtown and Studio City would see snow in the coming days, you might, for an instant, believe them, given the massive window-pounder of a storm that visited Southern California in the early morning hours of Dec. 12.

Well, you should believe them, though the snow headed for Pershing Square and Beeman Park will not be delivered straight from the clouds above; rather, it'll show via truck and human planning (as snow must around this particularly balmy region).

The chilly upshot? Both places are throwing free, family-sweet holiday festivals, with the festive flakes at the merry center of the proceedings. 

Pershing Square's party, which takes place at the Holiday Ice Rink, is the two-day Winter Holiday Festival 2014. Those two days are Saturday, Dec. 13 and Sunday, Dec. 14, and the Snow Zone is the place to be, for all of your family's snowman-building, angel-making pursuits.

Outside of the zone? Craft booths, train rides, and free photos with Santa Claus await. As does the rink, but note that fees and rentals will apply (though to play in the snow is free). Hold the phone, though, one moment on the rink fees: If you arrive early on Saturday, Dec. 13, and you're one of the first 1,000 skaters, clothier (and event sponsor) UNIQLO will pay your entry and skate rental.

As for Studio City's snowy shindig? That's on Sunday, Dec. 14 at the Studio City Recreation Center at Beeman Park. Some 70 tons of snow will show up, making for, one imagines, some truly epic snowball fights/snow people/cold enjoyment. 

Attendees are also asked to show with clothing, food, and more to donate, so if you want to know what to show with, ahead of digging into all of that snow, you can find the rundown here. 

Happy snowy times, SoCalers. And if you want snow in the traditional way, Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead have seen some serious flakes with this major weather pattern.  

NBCUniversal is a supporter of the Studio City Residents' Association Annual Winter Family Festival and Festival of Giving.

Photo Credit: Pershing Square]]>
<![CDATA[CityWalk New Year's Eve: Back to the 2015]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:10:22 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/bttf22345.jpg

New Year's Eve is one of the either/or holidays.

In fact, the final day of the year is probably more either/or-y than most celebrations: Either people are going to go out and do it up, sequins and Champagne-style, or they're going to get comfy, get under a blanket, and get a stack of movies lined up on the DVR.

Universal CityWalk has found that rare between place, and it brims with what Universal Studios has done so memorably over the decades: Create memorable monster and sci-fi and heart-tugging alien films, the kind of flicks that have regularly busted blocks.

Five classic Universal films are set to screen on Wednesday, Dec. 31 at Universal CityWalk. Meaning you can both go out and stay in, sort of. Right? You're feeling us here.

Want to take a guess as to the quintet? Well, you're correct on the first guess: "Back to the Future" is one of the movies. (The 1985 time-traveler is pictured above, after all.)

There will need to be a few of the vintage monsters in the mix, since Universal invented the fearsome form, and there are: "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" will both be in the house, or at least on the big screen. They're the double-feature of the bunch, note.

As for the last two films? Think Velociraptors and Reese's Pieces. "Jurassic Park" and "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" are the final two classics to fill the New Year's Eve movie event.

If you're worried that you'll be mid-film when 2015 officially arrives, fret not: All movies start at 9 p.m., so you'll be out by 11:30 p.m. A DJ dance party, comp soft drink, and other goodies await on the second level of the AMC Theatres.

So, how to choose what flick you'll see? The alien, the dinos, the time travel, or the double-bill of 1930s monsters?

And will the movie you see predict the kind of 2015 you'll have?

Two things are certain: It's fun to see a flick right where it was made or conceived, and all of these films count on that bill. And two? If you wanted a hybrid of going out on New Year's Eve, and watching movies comfily, this could be your sweet cinema spot.

Note: There will be no fireworks or outdoor concerts on Universal CityWalk this New Year's Eve, due to the ongoing construction (hello, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and other projects to come).

Photo Credit: Universal]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend: Boat Parades, Naples to Oxnard]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 13:43:46 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/naplesboatparade1mosthumorousboatdougwolven.jpg

PARADES ON THE PACIFIC: Cable brims with shows featuring people covering their homes in strings and strings of lights, but we here in Southern California face a rather unusual challenge when it comes to decorating for Christmas: How do we run the blinking bulbs up the mast or along the bow? It's boat parade time just off our shores, and while the venerable Newport Beach parade is still a week away, Naples, Oxnard, and Kings Harbor Yacht Club -- where NBC4's Fritz Coleman will serve as grand marshal -- are ready to show off the yuletide-spirited yachts. The date? They all happen on the same night, so choose your shoreline with care, holiday boat parade fans: It's Saturday, Dec. 13.

POINT FERMIN LIGHTHOUSE BIRTHDAY: If you want to be wave-close, but would rather admire a structure that has ties to the ocean, rather than, say, a boat, you'll have that opportunity, too, in the days ahead, with a nice bonus: cake. It's the Point Fermin Lighthouse's big 140th birthday, and the San Pedro landmark will celebrate on Sunday, Dec. 14 with tours, remembrances, and, yes, the traditional doughy sweet stuff that marks a momentous occasion. It's pretty, it is historic, and may it last forever (the lighthouse, not the cake). 

"THE GODFATHER" DOWNTOWN: It's one of our most famous flicks dealing with family complications, and, hoo boy, what complications it serves up, grandly and with style. Alison Martino, daughter of Al Martino -- he played Johnny Fontane -- presents as part of the Vintage LA night, and Kenneth Turan of the LA Times is there to chat ahead of the screening. Place? Million Dollar Theatre. Date? Saturday, Dec. 13. Will there be cannoli? Well, Grand Central Market is right next door and full of good eats.

MANET'S THE RAILWAY: The Norton Simon Museum is about to have its big, rosy international television appearance, on New Year's Day, but the Pasadena institution is making big, rosy headlines for another reason:  Édouard Manet's "The Railway" just debuted there on Dec. 5.  Don't dally, if you want to see this masterpiece, as it is on loan from The National Gallery of Art in Washington through early March. 

ON THE STAGE: Angela Lansbury stars as the exuberant Madame Arcati in Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit." The snappy supernatural treat is on through the middle of January at The Ahmanson. And if Jane Austen makes you swoon, and puppets make you clap, you are in luck: The Broad Stage presents "Northanger Abbey" as presented by people and puppets (the company is Box Tale Soup, specifically). You read that right: Austen. With. Puppets. What a magical world we live in, indeed.

Photo Credit: Naples Boat Parade]]>
<![CDATA[Fallen Fruit Public Tree Adoption]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 15:55:21 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/publicfallenfruitadoption1.jpg

If you've ever visited a region that isn't especially lush with bougainvillea and birds of paradise and orange trees and lemon trees, it can make you pine for the lovely 'n lush land o' plenty that is Southern California.

Actually, "pine" reminds us that pines grow well here, too, as do most leafy, juicy, petal-laden things.

Fallen Fruit, a collective dedicated to mapping fruit growing on or over public property, appreciates our unique bounty. Appreciates it, and enhances it, through numerous annual events, from jam-making sessions -- that's jam made with fruit collected from public or public overhang trees -- to the tending of the Urban Fruit Trails.

Next up? Fallen Fruit will host a Public Fruit Tree Adoption on Thursday, Dec. 18 at One Colorado in Pasadena. If you've been wanting your own citrus tree to fuss over and care for, the group will give away over 50 trees "carefully selected for the event."

There are important asterisks to the adoption, but they are community-enhancing and easy to follow. The biggie? This fruit tree, should you choose to take one, is not for the little plot of dirt next to your swimming pool. You'll need to plant it "in a public space or alongside private property to create new kinds of community based on generosity and sharing."

Fallen Fruit suggests that such a kind-hearted act "saves Santa a trip."

You'll also be "initiating a relationship with the tree" once it is yours, so it isn't a plant-and-forget kind of thing. There's a vow to take, and a solemn one, as your tree could give fruit to many people for years to come. Nice? Yes. Important? Yes. Other good-feeling words that get a lot of play during the holidays but maybe don't carry water in most situations, but absolutely do here? Yes.

You'll need to RSVP, to let Fallen Fruit know you want a tree, and there's a first-come, first-served vibe going down.

Now, where will you put that beauty, here in the land o' pretty plants, so it may give fruit to all who want it for years, or even decades, to come? 

Photo Credit: Fallen Fruit]]>
<![CDATA[Legend on Stage: Angela Lansbury in "Blithe Spirit"]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:22:31 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/blithespiritjohanpersson.jpg

We don't gussy up in tuxedos and taffeta for dinner nowadays -- probably just as well, with our go-go-go schedules -- and we don't exchange witty repartee as a matter of course. (Question: Is there any other sort of repartee aside from "witty"? Dull repartee doesn't have the same ring.)

But we do occasionally long for the smart-talking, tails-and-top-hatted world of Noël Coward, the playwright who best captured the screwballian swells who reigned supreme in the escape-seeking '20s and 1930s.

Reigned and deigned to have a few adventures of the occasional high-jinx-y sort.

Think ghost wives showing up to meddle and make trouble, as an example. Such is the engine of "Blithe Spirit," arguably one of Mr. Coward's most celebrated and oft-performed plays, a story so charming that thespians of any level of can-do can bring a great amount of gusto to the supernatural comedy.

Now imagine, with that in mind, Angela Lansbury filling the role of the play's flaboyant medium Madame Arcati. Are you pre-dazzled by the thought of a legend in a legendary role in a legendary play? Be pre-dazzled no longer: "Blithe Spirit," which stars the effervescent Ms. Lansbury, is summoning spirits, and spirited laughs, at The Ahmanson through the middle of January.

As tempted as we are to simply leave it at that, or type "Angela Lansbury" over and over thirty more times, a little head-spun and starstruck, such an act would not count as witty repartee, or witty anything, in the Noël Coward canon.  

So let us mention that Ms. Lansbury has performed Madame Arcati on the Broadway and West End stages, that Charles Edwards of "Downton Abbey" fame -- he's the rascal who spirits Lady Edith away to the continent, let us not forget -- plays writer Charles Codomine, and Jemima Rooper and Charlotte Parry zazzily assume the merry mantels of the former and current Mesdames Codomines, dead and alive.

"Zazzily" is a fine word for any go at witty repartee, yes? Well, good. We may live in times where tuxedos are more scarce, but being a little classy, when a Noël Coward play starring Angela Lansbury is in town, seems a very fine thing, indeed.

Now where's our corsage, sateen evening gloves, and crystal ball?

Photo Credit: Johan Persson]]>
<![CDATA[LAX Taco: The Every-Day-of-the-Week Kogi Stand]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 14:33:42 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/192*120/kogilax123.jpg

Friends traveling together tend to discuss, in hushed voices, a number of topics on a plane, with certain subjects getting a lot of play once the airplane has touched down in its destination city. A) Can I get my pillow back? B) Where'd you park the car again? And C) tacos.

C) applies, very much so, in Los Angeles, where travelers returning home have been away from the Best Tacos on the Planet for far too long, across the board (even if that traveler was gone for a weekend). Naturally they'd rhapsodize about eating one upon landing, and they don't have to go far to do so: There's a Kogi BBQ Taco Stand in Terminal 4 of LAX.

Which means jet-laggy, taco-craving globetrotters do not need to go in search of one of Chef Roy Choi's famous trucks, the on-wheels taco deliveries that have thousands of Twitter followers (followers who will gladly journey to wherever the quartet of Kogi trucks park next). 

One only needs to be in Terminal 4 between 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., seven days a week, to nosh upon a freshly made short rib or chicken taco or burrito, a dish that can also be made with tofu or arrive with kimchi. 

And while 6:30 a.m. may, at first glance, seem early for taco-eating, 10 out of 10 Angelenos would likely disagree (at least in our dream scenario, which, given our burrito-seeking ways, is probably a fairly accurate assessment). Plus, who can say what time it is on the traveler's watch? 

It may be dinner time in the place from which the returning-homer just left. So, you bet, tacos are the topic on the tarmac, for many a SoCaler. Fingers crossed -- or legs crossed, given that you're probably still sitting in your row, between two other passengers -- that you're plane is pulling up to Terminal 4, and it is somewhere after 6:30 in the morning but before 11:30 at night.

Photo Credit: Kogi Truck]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 140th, Point Fermin Lighthouse]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 10:17:41 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/198*120/pointfermin140.jpg

People can be forgiven for thinking that most things -- buildings, streets, cars, products -- that spring from Southern California can trace their beginnings back all the way to 1978. We do, after all, have a rep for the new, the now and the ultra-shiny.

And people can be forgiven for being surprised that lighthouses that are well over a century old stand sentinal-like in our new-loving region. Lighthouses have long been tied to New England's craggiest coasts in popular culture, but, of course, the Golden State boasts a few illumination-famous beauties of considerable age.

The Point Fermin Lighthouse of San Pedro is one of those superstars, and, nope, it wasn't built in 1978, and, no, it wasn't constructed in Maine and then transported here. It's one of our homegrown, help-those-ships-in landmarks, and it is turning 140 with a birthday party on Sunday, Dec. 14. 

The come-one/all public celebration is free and presented by the Point Fermin Lighhouse Society and the LA Department of Parks and Recreation. And a bonus? "Free lighthouse models will be distributed to the first 140 families who walk through the gate or while supplies last."

Cake, speeches from officials, and "colorful historic characters" will be a part of the party, as well as a timeline tracing the lighthouse's 1874 start to today.

Did it almost get torn down at one point a few decades back? Oh yes, but that's a fairly typical plot point for some of our most historic beauties. Did the lighthouse's lumber hail from our state's own redwoods? Oh yes, as much of the lumber that created buildings of that era.

Will the Dec. 14 party mark the first lighting of the lamp? That's the big reason behind the day, and a romantic one, at that.

In fact, few structures engender such windswept and romantic thoughts, truly. Lighthouses dot fiction and movies because what they do comes with a bit of drama -- lead ships in -- and how they look is pretty darn cinematic.

Point Fermin Lighthouse, with its tidy tower and 1800s-y lines, is a SoCal treasure, made of redwoods and built here and still here. Sorry, believers that lighthouses belong to New England and everything around LA hails from 1978. 

Can't make the party? The lighthouse is open to lookie-loos every Tuesday through Sunday, save holidays.

Photo Credit: Point Fermin Lighthouse]]>
<![CDATA[LAX Shares Its Top Holiday Airport-Happy Tips]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:18:40 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LAXnightholidaytips123.jpg

To say that you frequently visit the Los Angeles International Airport but you don't have your own stash of tips, tricks, and personal must-dos is to fib just a little, we'll guess. 

Because every traveler has their favorite bit of curb where they like to pick up a friend, their favorite terminal, and, yes, their favorite bathroom (and maybe even their favorite stall). Let's not tell tales here; this is a known fact.

But the people who know the most about thes ins, outs, and arounds of the gigantic plane port at 1 World Way are not its patrons; rather, the staffers who work at LAX every day have got the 411. With that in mind, and to ease the grumbles and gosh-I'm-lates of the holiday season, the airport has released its make-life-easier list of Happy Holiday Travel Tips.

Don't worry -- we're pretty sure your favorite stall is still a secret.

A few reveals, though? There's a walking map to show you where construction is going down -- because, oh boy, that LAX construction, are we right? -- and where to find the local eats (yep, BLD and Farmers Market have outposts at LAX, as do several made-in-LA restaurants).

"Parking structures 3 and 4 are under construction" says the sheet -- that's good to know -- but alternatives are suggested in the stow-your-car category. And details on the Cell Phone Waiting Lot are on the pdf, just in case you've thought, while circling and circling, "gah, where is that Cell Phone Waiting Lot?"

Answer: Adjacent to LAX Parking Lot C, off 96th Street.

If you visit the airport more than once a month, for your own travels or to greet/goodbye guests, this might just be required reading, holiday time or not.

Just please tell us that you know about the airport's shortcuts, so you don't have to make the whole circle while your pal waits for her suitcase. The pair of time-saving wormholes, dear LAXian, should rank far higher on your tips 'n tricks roster than your favorite bathroom or coffee counter (though those certainly can rank just below on your airport knowledge list).

Happy traveling and de-grumbling, holiday travelers who are airport-bound.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Make This Year's Gifts: Handmade Holiday Day]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 08:59:36 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/craftingcommunityhandmadeholiday123.jpg

Martha Stewart is, well, Martha Stewart, but the domestic doyenne's name means much in our modern era. Proclaim "I'm no Martha Stewart" and people immediately understand that your skills in the kitchen or linen-keeping or yard-decorating departments may come up rather wanting.

But no one has to be Martha Stewart, of course (except for Martha Stewart). You can be a person who creates interesting, crafty, natural-fiber and/or woodsy gift items for people you love, and you can be you while doing so.

The Crafting Community believes in small steps, mindfully done, and the little lessons that help us achieve that homespun beauty in what we make. The you-do-it duo Karen Kimmel & Stacy Bernstein and their talented fans are throwing the Community's first-ever holiday-themed Los Angeles day-of-making, at Lombardi House in Hollywood, on Saturday, Dec. 13.

The long and the short of Handmade Holiday? You'll make the gifts you give this season. No tags, no codes, no coupons: Just you and some paint or glitter or paper or you name it.

The $125 ticket includes "5 gorgeous, gift-able crafts including custom leather accessories, hanging planters, and a Martha Stewart ornament bar."

Well, maybe we can and do have a touch of Martha to us.

The day is also all about customized tees, cookie decorating, a photo booth, a holiday market, games, edibles, and a gift-wrapping station. Want your kid to join in and discover crafting thrillz? Young makers ages 3 to 14 get in for a hundred bucks.

Regardless of whom you wrap up those gifts for, perhaps this can be the year where your long-standing vow of "making memorable presents by hand" finally clicks into place. It can be an overwhelming prospect, but, nope, none of us need to be churning out cute things worthy of Pinterest from the get-go.

A day spent learning among crafters, in a convivial setting, is a doable first step to a handmade, homespun gift exchange.

Photo Credit: Crafting Community]]>
<![CDATA[A Very Familial "Godfather" Screening]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:34:41 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/brando-godfather.jpg

Ask any movie maven to name five films about family, and you're bound to hear several sunny ones in the mix. Perhaps "The Royal Tenenbaums" will crop up, or "Little Miss Sunshine," or a popular kid flick. 

But we like our family films to be like our own families, generally: Complicated, layered, verbose, and intense. And no other family film ticks all the boxes like "The Godfather," Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 operatic opus that out-operas all other opuses.

And when the Oscar-winning icon plays at the Million Dollar Theatre downtown on Saturday, Dec. 13, family will be the vibe of the night, not just up on the screen but in front of the screen, when Vintage LA's Alison Martino chats with Kenneth Turan of the LA Times.

"Martino" is a name known to any "Godfather" buff -- and any music maven as well -- thanks to the man who filled the role of Johnny Fontane: Al Martino. Ms. Martino's dad played the actor who visited Don Corleone with the performer's eternal dilemma: I need some buzz, pronto.

What follows is a conversation that unleashed one of the cinema's best-known and most oft-repeated lines: "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."

(And boy, does that happen. It's a scene that inspired a generation to check the bottom of their beds upon waking.)

A ticket is ten bucks, and Grand Central Market next door is in on the movie action; it's a partner in the screening, so you're apt to see film goers noshing over there ahead of the 8 p.m. film.

Also, Mr. Turan will sign copies of his book, "Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film." That's happening at the Million Dollar, so eat early, then get to the movie palace ahead of curtain time, between 7-7:30 p.m. (The pre-film chat starts at 7:30 p.m. sharp.)

And enjoy Ms. Martino's memories of her dad's very famous, stylishly realized part, and the part it played in movie culture as a whole. If "The Godfather" is truly our great movie dealing with family dynamics, it's a treat to see a daughter remember her father's contribution to that fearsome and fabulous familial drama.

Photo Credit: The Godfather]]>
<![CDATA[#SantaPhotoFail: Pics of No Good Santa Encounters]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 23:42:41 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-santafailthumb.jpg It's Christmastime and it's that time of year when you head out with the family and get those beloved pics of the kids with Santa. Except the photos don't always turn out as you hoped.]]> <![CDATA[A Cookie Contest That's City-Big]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 10:22:45 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/christmascookies123getty.jpg

Going snickerdoodle-to-snickerdoodle against a known cooktastic competitor, say, a parent at your kid's school or someone in the neighborhood, is plenty intense. You know that your rival's spice may out-spice your best efforts, and out-sugar, and out-wow.

But going up against many, many bakers in a cookie contest that doesn't bear the name of a school or community center but, rather, an entire city? And a large one at that? Oh, dear cookie maker, you'll need to be brave and bold for this one, and look forward to some non-competitive fun as well.

It's the annual Long Beach Cookie Contest, and, nope, you don't blindly submit your family recipe to some web site, never to hear again. You'll be showing up, with two dozen sweets in tow, for in-person judging from the likes of the esteemed food editor of the LA Times, Mr. Russ Parsons, and a bevy of personalities.

Oh, Santa Claus is judging as well. The pressure.

The date is Sunday, Dec. 14, the place is Bay Shore Church, it is free to enter, and there's a free Christmas concert from 5 to 6:30 presented by the Southern California Brass Consortium.

Want to have a taste of the many (many many) cookies expected to show? Well, if you bake, enter, and show with your prized butternut stuffins/chocolate goodies/sugar cookies, then you get to taste for free. If you want to show up and snack, then you'll pay five bucks.

Not bad to see what the home bakers of Long Beach are up to. And fear not, if you happen to be one such baker: The recipes are kept secret, so you don't need to fill out a card and put it in front of your pan, letting everyone in on what your grandmother whispered in your ear about adding a little too much vanilla extract; that's your secret to keep.

You will have to note whether your cookies have nuts or not. Even Santa Claus needs to know that.

Good luck sugar buffs of the LBC, and happy baking.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[James Franco Talks Sony Hack on "SNL"]]> Sun, 07 Dec 2014 06:02:47 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/James-Franco-SNL.jpg

James Franco returned to the "Saturday Night Live" stage this weekend, kicking off his opening monologue by addressing the massive hack at Sony, which produced Franco's upcoming movie "The Interview."

"These hackers have leaked real, personal information about everyone who's worked with Sony," the host said. "Soon you'll know that my email is cuterthandavefranco@aol.com, my password is 'LittleJamesyCutiePie,' and this is all a huge invasion of my personal life."

Halfway through the monologue, Franco's friend (and "The Interview" co-star) Seth Rogen shuffled onstage to inform Franco that the hackers released all their personal photos.

"They also released this one of me teaching you how to read," Rogen somberly told Franco. "We were making such good progress, man."

Franco later appeared as Tad Rankin, a man miffed about losing to a four-year-old in a mayoral election.

"Tommy is a little kid!" he howls. "This town needs a mayor who doesn't get ear infections!"

The "SNL" cast spoofed NBC's Thursday-night special "Peter Pan Live!", starring Allison Williams and Christopher Walken.

Peter Pan (Cecily Strong) challenged Captain Hook (Franco) to a duel while asserting "his" own masculinity.

"You heard me -- I'm a boy! The most gorgeous, womanly boy with shiny bright eyes and feminine features!" Pan proclaimed, in a sendup of the bright-eyed (and thoroughly female) Williams.

One difference from the original: Tonkerbell (Aidy Bryant), Tinkerbell's puckish half-sister, joined the cast. "Do not boss my ass around, okay, Peter? I work for myself as a reverse tooth fairy -- I fly into kids' rooms, I take a dollar, and I leave one of my own teeth."

Franco lampooned Walken's laconic delivery as Hook, whose singing was limited to monosyllabic grunts while his motley pirates did song-and-dance routines.

In the cold open sketch, Al Sharpton (Keenan Thompson) addressed the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions.

"For the first time in my life, everyone agrees with me," he said. "Folks are high-fivin' with me, invitin' me places -- this must be what it feels like to be Beyonce!"

Sharpton welcomed Peter Dinello (Bobby Moynihan), a spokesman for the Staten Island Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, and asked what it takes for a police officer to be indicted for homicide.

"Well it does happen, Al, but there are very clear rules on this," Dinello said. "The victim must not be resisting arrest, it's best if he's sleeping, and, uh, it helps if he's white."

The political skewering continued during "Weekend Update," as co-hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che lambasted a grand jury's decision not to indict the two police officers.

"It used to be you said you were racist to get out of jury duty. Now it seems like it's a requirement!" Che said. "These decisions were so bad that I might just stop avoiding jury duty. I might just show up at court and see if they take walk-ins."

Jost piled on: "Please, for everyone's sake, keep the cop trials out of Staten Island," the Staten Island native said. "We're not ready for these complicated modern issues yet. We still arrive in Manhattan every day huddled in a boat."

Joining them at the desk was Weekend Update "relationship expert" Leslie Jones, who documented her experience taking psychedelic mushrooms after joining a dating site for marijuana smokers.

"When I took the mushrooms, I talked to Harriet Tubman for like 2 hours," Jones said. "Have you ever been called a bitch by Harriet Tubman, Jost?" she barked at the bemused co-host.

Kim Kardashan (Nicki Minaj) rounded out Weekend Update, as she tried to give some context to Kardashian's skin-baring photoshoot for Paper magazine.

"Look at this photo. Do you notice anything? There's no background to the photo," she said. Then, as the background changed: "See, it was actually about about getting regular checkups from your gynecologist."

In addition to performing as Beyonce-as-the-Virgin-Mary in the "Jingle Ballerz" sketch, Minaj sang "Bed of Lies" with Skylar Grey and "All Things Go."

"SNL" returns Dec. 13 with host Martin Freeman and musical guest Charli XCX.

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<![CDATA[Holiday Photo Twist: Selfies With Santa]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:36:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/selfiessantafig7thdouble.jpg

How many times have you cried while sitting upon the mall Santa's knee?

Well, probably for sure when you were two or three years old and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the lights and lines and your parents jumping up and down behind the photographer. But many grown-ups still feel fidgety about a visit with Kris Kringle, even if they don't reach the point of tears. 

It's the pressure, right? You 100% want to make the Nice list.

Figat7th, however, is putting a big-kid twist on the traditional holiday photo affair, and, nope, it doesn't involve you crying but yep, it does involve you holding out your own phone, at arm's length, while you and the Jolly Ol' Elf go put your heads-together, pose-style.

The downtown destination has kicked off Selfies with Santa, a free treat for shoppers who want a pic with St. Nick but are looking for an image with Instagram-ready cred.

Santa's waiting for selfie seekers in his tree-adjacent chair every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (and special evening hours on Dec. 5). Final day? Dec. 20, which means you could still have time to put together your holiday greetings with your spankin' new Santa selfie.

If you aren't especially into arm's-length photography, you can absolutely go old-school and have someone else snap a photo, with your camera, of you and Santa Claus together in the usual, time-honored way.

Make for TASTE if you're looking for the visiting North Pole dignitary, and dress your festive best. Selfies may be the new take on Santa snapshots, but pulling out your best snowman sweater is not up for discussion: You totally should.

Photo Credit: Figat7th]]>
<![CDATA[Theatre Auction Includes Star Visits, Set Peeks, More]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 15:56:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/the+americansAP130305017415.jpg

Auctions are as different from each other as the items in a row being auctioned at a single event. Some are online, some are silent, some take on a particular theme or simply go wide, highlighting whatever items have been donated.

But one local stand-out on the Los Angeles calendar offers a cornucopia of treats designed to not only support the non-profit but to give Hollywood fans something very special. It's the LA Theatre Works online auction, and its third outing will once again cover a host of Tinseltown-themed and topical favorites guaranteed to draw the bids of excited fans.

Like? Well, a chance to have lunch Matthew Rhys of the FX spa drama "The Americans" is on the roster. (The lunch is in New York, we should note.) Geoffrey Arends, an actor on "Madam Secretary," has donated the opportunity to tour the show's set as his guest. And a lunch with "Castle" performers Susan Sullivan and Seamus Dever is also on the block (that one's in LA).

A hello-how-are-you with Josh Radnor (plus two seats to "Disgraced" on Broadway), lunch in LA with Ed Asner (hooray, Mr. Grant), and a lunch with Marsha Mason (hooray, "The Goodbye Girl") are also up for auction, as well as goodies for fans of "Wicked" and "I Love Lucy."

And funds raised help LA Theatre Works, which "records top actors of stage and screen in state of the art productions" and then makes those recordings widely available.

For sure, many an auction helps many a worthy organization, but it takes a Los Angeles event to truly incorporate those actor-led set visits and lunches with television stars. 

Surely someone is going to bid on an original page from an "I Love Lucy" script? That sounds as frameable, and show-off-able, as all get-out. You know if Lucy had something that nifty she'd brag about it all over town.

Bidding wraps on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Toluca Lake's Homegrown Carol: "The Christmas Song" at 70]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 10:10:56 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/179*120/ornament.jpg

The word "chestnuts" may open one or two other songs, but sing "chestnuuuuts" and most people assume, rightly, you're about to launch into a stirring, octave-testing version of "The Christmas Song."

Carols don't come more classic, nor lyrics indelible, but the snowy, cozy portrait painted by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells in the 1944 ditty came straight from imagination, and not their surroundings: They wrote it in Toluca Lake.

Sunny LA, of course, is home to some of the holiday season's snowiest sights and sounds -- the snow-pretty scenes "It's a Wonderful Life" were shot in Encino -- so it is no surprise that Christmas's biggest bundle-up tune is pure Toluca Lake.

It's 70 years old,  and the neighborhood is pausing to remember its famous homegrown carol, a carol that's gone note-to-note with "White Christmas" for the title of best-selling Christmas song of all time. ("White Christmas," too, has LA roots, with a shout-out to Beverly Hills in its traditional opening lyrics.)

Let us also note that "The Christmas Song" has been recorded well over a hundred times, but, absolutely and forever most notably by Nat King Cole. And let us know that the tune was penned on what is oft-called a sweltering summer day in the Valley.

The imagination of songwriters, huzzah.

The Toluca Lake homage mi-mi-mis on Friday, Dec. 5 at the Toluca Lake Open House on Riverside Drive. Performer Mackenzie Sol, who played Billy Elliott in London, will sing the carol at 7 p.m.

A Toys for Tots collection drive, the Wells Fargo stagecoach and horses, shop giveaways, and a tree lighting with NBC4's Fritz Coleman dot the celebratory evening, in addition to the singing of Toluca Lake's most famous cultural creation, "The Christmas Song."

"Most famous" is a big thing to say, but, truly, pretty much everybody can sing at least the first few lines, yes? "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..."

Though, honest now: Jack Frost does not nip all that many noses around Toluca Lake. Funny how some of the snowiest songs and cinema in the world have their frosty roots in sunny SoCal.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Target Employee's Black Friday Pep Talk Goes Viral]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:25:29 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/target+credit+card+breach+latest.jpg

Although Black Friday can be a stressful day for bargain-hunting shoppers, it may be even more difficult for retail employees.

That is why a Target electronics department worker in Westminster, Maryland, gave his coworkers an epic pep talk ahead of the shopping holiday, as seen in a video that has gone viral.

"They come here with bargains in their heads, and fire in their eyes!" Scott Simms shouts in the video. "We're more than just a store. This is a team! This is a family! This is Target!"

The speech has been compared to Gerard Butler’s in the 2006 war movie "300,” but others say it is just marketing scheme concocted by the company.

However, Target told “Today” that it wasn’t responsible for the viral video.

"One of our favorite parts of the holiday is watching our entire Target team bring the season to life in their own way,” the retailer said in a statement. “We have long said that Thanksgiving weekend is to retail what a championship game is to sports. Scott is clearly quite a team player." 

<![CDATA[Pasadena's Seasonal Sweets Take to the Streets]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 14:33:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/southlakeholidayfest123.jpg

While snowy cities elsewhere typically stage their holiday markets and happenings under a roof. Colder climes like to take the fun indoors, inside gyms and community centers and malls, but we here in Southern California like a side of sunshine with our Santa-themed doings, if at all possible.

And after several days of welcome rain, that sunshine + Santa equation is going to work out just fine, in the Crown City, as two major merry-minded events take over two major Pasadena thoroughfares on the very same day.

They're a little different from each other -- Artisanal LA is about the locally made hand-crafted goods and the South Lake Holidayfest boasts carriage rides, a scavenger hunt, and shop specials -- so, if possible, you should try and take in both. Visiting one will not automatically give you the experience of both.

Artisanal LA presents its annual Holiday City Market on Holly Street on Saturday, Dec. 6. Booths and tables selling goods like fancy eatables -- Beyond the Olive and Three Little Figs Jam Co. will both be on Holly -- and jewelry and tees and wallets and cards and such will be the theme of the day. 

And, for sure, Santa will cameo, too, and carolers as well. Plus you can drink hot cider while you shop, in the soft, post-rain sunshine.

Little slices of heaven don't come heavenlier. 

And a few blocks away, that very same day? South Lake Avenue stages its Holidayfest. Live disco-electro pop, shop specials, Santa photos, a scavenger hunt, and carriage rides festoon the 1950s-esque shopping destination.

Honest: Don't you feel like you might have slipped through a time portal, when you're standing on South Lake? And it is 1955 all over again?

Holly Street has a certain wayback charm, too, making both Lake and Holly ideal stretches to celebrate a SoCal-style holiday in the sun.

Plus, how many traditional carols mention both "lakes" and "holly" in their lyrics? Once again, Pasadena, you know how to welcome a big street-based to-do with verve.

Photo Credit: South Lake Avenue]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend: CicLAvia Rolls for South LA]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 09:42:20 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/garyleonardciclaviaoct12345.jpg

CicLAvia: The huge, streets-closed-to-cars event, a happening that regularly draws well over 100,000 participants, has explored a few Los Angeles neighborhoods quite thoroughly -- hello Wilshire, hello downtown -- and it is ready to add a new boulevard to its get-to-know-you list: Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, on Sunday, Dec. 7. The first-ever South LA CicLAvia will also take in a bit of Central, and, along the way, music, food trucks, community booths, and so many shops and spots to get acquainted with. Also? Hellooo, perfectly chill pedaling weather.

Grinchmas Debuts: We don't possess a map to Whoville, and we're fairly sure we don't have the right sleigh to get there, anyway, but Universal Studios Hollywood can help us find that enchanted, snowy land. Well, the snow at Grinchmas might be faux, but the songs, stories, and other Seussian convivialities are real. Plus, the Grinch in-person. Or in-Grinch, rather? And cute Max the dog, too. The trees start to twinkle on Dec. 6, and the final night? Jan. 3 (though check the calendar, as Grinchmas only runs on particular days).

Holiday Markets: Grand Central Market is filling its airy space with a bevy of food and retail pop-ups, plus music, too, on Saturday, Dec. 6 and Sunday, Dec. 7. And Artisanal LA is making its way to Holly Street in Pasadena on Saturday, Dec. 6. For sale? Handmade wearables, soaps, gourmet edibles, and more. Did someone just say "stocking stuffer"? Oh, wait: We did.

Downtown Excursions: Dig a lively scavenger hunt challenge but seeking a fresh twist? Escape Room LA marks its first weekend on 8th Street. The upshot? You're led into "a mysterious room, filled with both traditional and unusual objects." Then the door is locked -- eek! And at The Theatre at Ace Hotel, on Sunday, Dec. 7 at 2 p.m.? Comedian Louis C.K. appears at a "Putney Swope" screening (it's a fundraiser for Cinefamily). 

Julefest Opens: You'd be hard-pressed to find a town, anywhere in this country, that looks more Christmassy on practically any ol' day of the year than most cities do in December, than Solvang. The windmill-whimsical Dutch burg, a wine country centerpiece, knows its cute factor, and ups it by at least 20 -- or maybe 30? -- come December. A tree lighting, decorations, a wine walk, and all of those delicious aebleskivers complement the cozy Christmas doings. 

Photo Credit: Gary Leonard]]>
<![CDATA[Lia Sophia Closing Its Doors]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 16:32:44 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/LiaSophia11.jpg

The popular direct-sales jewelry retailer Lia Sophia announced Monday it will be closing its doors this month.

“We are so proud of building Lia Sophia over the past 28 years into an outstanding company that has empowered women, and whose jewelry has been a favorite of so many,” creative director Elena Kiam wrote in a blog post on the company's website Monday. “However, given the challenging business environment, we made the painful decision to wind down Lia Sophia in the United States and Canada by December 31, and cease operations by the end of February.”

Kiam’s husband, Lia Sophia CEO Tory Kiam, acquired the business from his father Victor Kiam. Victor Kiam, former owner of the New England Patriots, made a name for himself in the 1980s as president and CEO of Remington Products, famously appearing in commercials coining the slogan, “I liked the shavers so much, I bought the company."

Victor Kiam purchased the retailer in 1986 under its original name Act II Jewelry before renaming it to Lady Remington. Following the entrepreneur's death in 2001, the brand was acquired by his son Tory Kiam and his wife Elena. In 2004 the couple relaunched the brand under the name Lia Sophia.

"Most of all, we're proud to be a family company, and to see the names of our daughters, Lia and Sophia, on every box of our jewelry," the company's website states.

Lia Sophia sold its jewelry through a network of local independent sales representatives, relying on in-home demonstrations and a direct-selling approach similar to the practices of Avon and Tupperware.

An outpouring of messages to the company’s Facebook page from customers and employees expressed a mixture of shock, disappointment and appreciation for the products and jobs the company created during its operation.

Photo Credit: Lia Sophia]]>
<![CDATA[Journey to Whoville: It's Grinchmas]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 17:22:06 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/grinchmas110689.jpg

If you've ever attended Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood, and you've dared hop onto the Terror Tram, then you know that you pay a visit a most unlikely spot on the vast back lot: The Whoville set from 2000 film "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

Well, you skirt it, but it can be momentarily discombobulating to be on the watch for monsters while seeing the homes of Whos. You only need calm yourself, at that moment, by remembering that Grinchmas is not too far away, with its sleigh bells and stories and, yes, real honest-to-Max Whos.

Oh, we tipped our (Santa) hat: Max is part of Grinchmas, too. What would the tale-come-to-life be without his innocent, doe-eyed charms? Max, dare we say it, is us, all of us, when we first enter the book or TV show.

The theme park's yuletide, yuk-sweet treat debuts on Saturday, Dec. 6 and runs on particular days — think weekends, as well as the two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year's — through Saturday, Jan. 3. 

Will the Grinch be there? Indeed, he's the furry, sometimes fearsome (but ultimately cuddly) master of ceremonies. Will there be ornament decorating, stories told (by Cindy Lou Who herself), and photos with the Grinch and Max? For sure. Is the Grinchly tree tall and photo-ready and oh-so-Seuss-y? 

In a word? Havu-doray (or whatever nice thing the Whos would sing to nod in the affirmative). 

And the back lot visit to Whoville, the very movie set sometimes frequented by monsters come October, will be fully festive, with songs, dances, and Who-ly high jinks of the most pleasant sort.

We can't really see the Whos getting up to too much mischief. Just merriment. It is, in fact, called a "Who-bilation," so we can confirm that any creepy-crawlies from earlier in the fall have been swept away by joyous caroling and Who-darling antics.

So, who — or Who — is your favorite character? Max, the Whos, or the Grinch? Maybe Dr. Seuss himself? Wherever you land on that question, it's a rare treat to visit a theme park that so fully embraces that most gingerbready of seasons.

Or would "roast beast" be the more appropriate Grinch comestible to reference? Best ask him when you meet the Furry One yourself.

Photo Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood]]>
<![CDATA[Repeal Day: Cocktails at Flapper-Nice Prices]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 07:18:06 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/Cocktail+event+boston.jpg

When the Twenty-First Amendment was given the ol' heave-ho back on Dec. 5, 1933, passionate people on both sides of the issue -- that was the legalization of alcohol, of course -- could not have seen some eight decades into the future, and what offbeat ripples the day would create.

True, liquor was legal henceforth (and, as everyone now knows, many revelers never quit imbibing throughout the nearly 14 years Prohibition was in place), but Dec. 5 would go on to become a raise-your-glasses holiday of sorts.

As you can guess, Repeal Day is celebrated in taverns, bars, and pubs, and, yep, there's a spirit of thumbing one's nose at the Great Experiment, which proved, in the end, that it was just that: an experiment lacking in real permanence.

Well, there are drink deals to be had, too, in addition to any thumbing of noses. And those deals include...

One-Dollar Repeal Day Cocktails: The libation price is dropping at a whole roster of swankeries around the city, including Harlowe in West Hollywood, Sassafras in Hollywood, and both Bigfoot Lodge and Bigfoot West. The time for the one-buckers? Be there from 5 to 7 p.m., and be prepared to stop at two cocktails. (Yep, there is a sensible limit, as one might expect.) 

Oh, and hello: Oldfields Liquor Room, The Thirsty Crow, and La Cuevita also made this libationful list.

As for the one-dollar drinks? Think Old-Fashioneds in most of the spots listed, except for La Cuevita, which is going the tequila press route, and Bigfoot West, which has a trio of $1 drinks, including the House Beer.

If you're not looking for deals, but more of a stylish throwback to the era of Prohibition, Angel City Brewery has it, complete with a dress-up party and other touches of the flapper-esque time. In fact, attendees are "required" -- yep yep -- to go the moll-and-fedora way, with their outfits and whatnot.

A ticket? Thirty bucks. (Update: Angel City has decided to make this a free event, with beer and food for sale, but you'll still need to reserve a ticket.) Date? Why, you guessed it: It's Repeal Day, or Friday, Dec. 5. Turn up the jazz and get the gin out of the bathtub -- Prohibition is over (for 81 years).

Photo Credit: Flickr/Waferboard]]>
<![CDATA[Giant Gingerbread House Fits People]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 04:31:21 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/giant+gingerbread+house.jpg

Vermont's Woodstock Inn & Resort has unveiled a giant gingerbread house that towers above the rest. The creation of pastry chef Lerome Campbell and his team stands 9 feet tall from its base to rooftop. It's 7 feet long, and has ceilings high enough for most people to carefully stand up beneath.

"We have about 180 pounds of flour in there," Campbell told New England Cable News. "Confectioners sugar? I'm going to say about 150 pounds."

The gingerbread house was about three weeks in the making, Campbell said. It's mostly edible, but is built over a wooden frame. Campbell explained there is so much gingerbread — more than 350 shingles on the roof and 700 bricks on the walls — that it would need a sturdy wooden frame to bear the weight of the gingerbread, icing, and candy.

Campbell said he has worked on even larger gingerbread houses before. At a previous job at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida, Campbell said he once helped construct a taller house than the one in Woodstock. "I always shoot for the 'wow effect' in people," Campbell told NECN.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Robin McCluskey, a traveler visiting Woodstock from the Boston area. "It's just wonderful."

"There's no detail spared," added McCluskey's friend, Kate Brown, who was marveling at the giant gingerbread house's windows, trim, and flowerboxes, which are filled with lollipop blooms and shredded wheat soil. "It's just amazing!"

This mansion of the gingerbread house world will be up at the Woodstock Inn & Resort until the start of 2015. Campbell said the wooden frame will be saved for use in future years, as a base over which fresh candy decorations and gingerbread tiles can be applied.

The Woodstock Inn & Resort has a series of Christmas events and outdoor winter activities, like dog sledding, planned for the next several weeks. For more, visit the destination's website.

For additional information on planning a visit to Vermont during the winter, visit the website of the state's Department of Tourism and Marketing and Ski Vermont.

Photo Credit: NECN]]>
<![CDATA[At Auction: James Bond's "Octopussy" Jet]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 08:06:18 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/jamesbondoctopussyjet.jpg

That clever Q would definitely have an inventive solution to the problem we present, but every other human being likely does not: How would an excited gift giver wrap a famous jet, seen in a famous James Bond film, and stick it under the tree for the 007 fan in their life?

Alas, if you're the winning bidder on the "Octopussy" jet, which goes up for auction at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills over the first weekend in December, you might simply have to park it in the driveway for your loved one, with just a bow on top.

A number of Bond-awesome props will be on the block at the out-sized Hollywood auction event. Joining the BD-5J jet, described by the Guinness Book of World Records as "the lightest single engine jet in the world," is the hovercraft from 2002's "Die Another Day" and a helicopter prop from 1967's "You Only Live Twice."

And if we have to tell you which actor played Bond in each of those films, well. You're probably not going to be bidding (though maybe today is where you start your love of all things 007).

We'll wager that big fan or not, you know that Roger Moore was seen piloting the jet, complete in dapper tie, in 1983's "Octopussy." But even if you don't have room for the movie star machinery, you probably have room for a chair. But not just any chair: Blofeld's famous piece of furniture, the one form which he glowered and plotted and stroked his kitty in "You Only Live Twice," will also see a shower of bids.

Question: Does it come with a few cat hairs still intact? Any animal lover might wonder.

As for the numbers? Julien's Auctions estimates the jet, which, note, does not have an engine, will touch down in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, while Blofeld's chair will draw $1,500 to $3,000. Other Bond goodies will go, too, some 25 lots in all, and all familiar to the super-fan, the person who can sing every movie's theme song, top to bottom, and knows instantly the location list, start to back, of every 007 flick, in order.

Still, though. Where will you get enough wrapping paper for that jet? Really, just think about leaving it in the driveway, for your special Bond buff to find.

Maybe even have the "Octopussy" theme on the hi-fi, ready to play? Best think big, like James himself.

Photo Credit: Julien's Auctions]]>
<![CDATA[Fritter Day: Fritter It Away, Deliciously]]> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 15:58:33 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/cornfrittermesshall12345.jpg

Food holidays, whether they're locked into their calendar-centered place by a particular industry, famous restaurant, or a prominent critic, are fairly airy things, but always worth noting if your very favorite dish, or one you happen to serve at your eatery, comes up for its day in the spotlight.

And those days are typically well-time to the overall weather. Various refreshing fruit dishes are spotlighted come spring, National Ice Cream Day is in the warm, warm middle of July, and Fritter Day? Well, that's at the beginning of December.

Dec. 2, to be specific, which just happens to be the day when LA is getting its first fierce rainstorm of some years. Oh, OK, months, but it feels like it has been years, which means eating a comfort-food-y puck of dough plus filling is exactly the mealtime ticket we're looking for.

Did we say puck? Well, fritters can be balls, too, or discs, but as long as there is a fried element, and a chewiness, and an ingredient apart from the dough, we're gold. Find your Dec. 2 fritter at...

The Wallace: Fritters with the flair of the ocean? They exist, boy howdy, in the form of The Wallace's Salt Cod Fritter. "(C)apers, lemon, and roasted garlic aioli" complete the seafood-y bite in the traditional 'n tasty way.

Hudson House: Kale grit fritters lend a touch of green -- hello, kale -- and a touch of the Southern kitchen -- hello, grits -- to the fritter form. Add in some sweet pickle tartar sauce and you have arrived at a chewy, tangy level of fritter-tastic enjoyment.

Messhall: The Los Feliz eatery is know for its knobby, toothsome little balls of corn-fritterdom goodness, and those orbs'll be given away, gratis, on Dec. 2, with every meal. Rain + fried dough = a match in meal la la land.

Randy's: If fritters with vegetables, seafood, or grits aren't just what you're looking for, but something donut-y is, then LA's famous doughnut shops -- Stan's, Bob's, and beyond -- will supply your apple fritters. Or head for the big doughnut, but the airport, for your drive-through, puck-pretty treat. Fried apple tartness, all from the driver's seat? It's like every day can be Fritter Day.

Photo Credit: Messhall]]>
<![CDATA[Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Tonight]]> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 09:08:56 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/228*120/capitol_christmas_tree.png

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker John Boehner will light the Capitol Christmas Tree on the Capitol's West Front Lawn at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday.

This year's tree, a massive White Spruce, came from Minnesota's Chippewa National Forest and will be decorated with thousands of ornaments made by residents of Minnesota children.

After Tuesday's lighting, the Capitol Christmas Tree will be lit from dusk until 11 p.m. every day through Jan. 1.

<![CDATA[SoCal Nice: Giving Tuesday]]> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 06:30:43 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/unselfiegivingtuesday1.jpg

The marvelous things about Giving Tuesday, that most marvelous and magnanimous of the Thanksgiving-adjacent spend and/or socialize "holidays," are as plentiful as ornaments on a tree, an image that makes it easy to remember that it very often falls in December.

Dec. 2 is the date this go-around, and the directive is simple: Lend a hand, or some funds, or what you can, to the organization or charity or museum or group of your choosing. It's the last day of the holiday weekend Black Wednesday-to-Cyber Monday run, which feels fitting.

If this were a script, the coming-together bit would naturally come at the conclusion. Hollywood, where's the Giving Tuesday movie? No, really.

So what Southern California organizations are participating? Well, all of them; a group doesn't have to post Giving Tuesday's memorable #unselfie photos to its social media page to be a part of the love. If you want to give to a place you like, do so, on Dec. 2 or when you can.

But here's a SoCal start:

Los Angeles Regional Food Bank: Can $25,000 be reached on Giving Tuesday? The organization has this goal in mind, an amount which will ultimately raise funds for food for 100,000 people. The Food Bank is encouraging active social media use on Dec. 2, to spread the good word.

The Skirball Cultural Center: Do you support spending with a purpose? So does "one of the world's most dynamic Jewish cultural institutions." Educational programs at the Sepulveda center are supported by donations, and other areas of The Skirball.

Best Friends Animal Society: The LA chapter of this love-on-animals organization is involved in some of our area's biggest adoption pushes, and with No Kill Los Angeles. Want to help a bevy of beastie-oriented programs covering spaying, sheltering, and more? Bark this way.

Santa Monica Conservancy: A number of historic-minded and preservation-loving groups around the region remind the public that memberships and donations do much to keep our stories, buildings, and memories intact. Have a group in your area, say Santa Monica? Here's your chance to show support.

Photo Credit: Giving Tuesday]]>
<![CDATA[Toe-Shoe-ing This Way: A Bouquet of "Nutcrackers"]]> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 22:01:52 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/laballetnutcracker12345.jpg

Many a pop culture property has been visited just once, in a single, standard form, without any spins or variations put on setting, character, or theme.

And then you have the plays of Shakespeare, works that regularly show up boasting Wild West duds, '50s jeans, or spacesuits. And then you have "The Wizard of Oz," a journey that's been re-interpreted more times than there are yellow bricks in a certain oft-traveled road.

And then you have "The Nutcracker," Tchaikovsky's ballet that out-classics other classics and out-does other stories on the re-imagined scale. A suburban household, a schoolroom, a castle? "The Nutcracker" has been to them all in recent years.

But returning to its whimsical, storybook roots is one of the pleasures of the season, and a number of Southern California companies will tie on the toe shoes and alight in the Land of Sweets over the coming weeks. Those troupes include...

The Los Angeles Ballet: Once again, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara, and their co-adventurers will have an around-the-region adventure, too, as they visit Glendale's Alex Theatre, The Dolby Theatre, Royce Hall, and Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Count on two dates at each venue, spanning Dec. 6 through 28. So, really, wherever you are in the city, you can see our acclaimed ballet take on that iconic, tree-and-flake-laden treat.

City Ballet of LA: "Set in 1942 during World War II in Hancock Park," this Nutcrackerian outing takes on a jazzy, modern mien, complete with some Duke Ellington in the musical score. It's happening the Friday and Saturday ahead of Christmas, and right in Hancock Park, too, at the Wilshire Ebell.

The Marat Daukayev Ballet Theater: The school, which celebrates on Vaganova instruction, "the classical Russian style of ballet that focuses on the upper body," will present the 1892 ballet at the Luckman Theatre at Cal State Los Angeles over four nights. See it on Dec. 6, 7, 13, or 14.

Inland Pacific Ballet: Like The Los Angeles Ballet, this Montclair-based company will twirl into a quartet of theaters during the yuletide run, from Rancho Cucamonga to Claremont to Riverside (a visit to the Arcadia Performing Arts Center kicked things off in late November).  

Photo Credit: Credit Photo - Reed Hutchinson]]>
<![CDATA[Voices Together: Disney Hall "Messiah" Sing-Along]]> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 11:42:12 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/singalongmessiahla1.jpg

Life doesn't present too many opportunities where we can both join in a cultural event or stand apart and watch a seasoned group of pros take the reins.

But the annual "Messiah" presentations at Walt Disney Concert Hall give fans of what is, without quibble, history's most recognizable choral piece -- "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" -- the chance to both sing along and hear it performed, in magnificent fashion, by that aforementioned unit of professionals.

Those professionals? The Los Angeles Master Chorale, of course. Some of the most sublime voices around will take on Handel's seasonal, spirit-stirrer of a piece on Wednesday, Dec. 17 and Sunday, Dec. 21.

Nope, you won't be singing, unless you're in the Chorale. Nope, neither should your neighbor. This is a sit-back-and-let-the-notes-wash-over-you kind of experience.

If, however, you are able to sing the "Hallelujah" chorus like nobody's business, and frequently practice in the shower, in the car, and in the kitchen, then the Sunday, Dec. 7 concert is for you. This is the sing-along, the one you're invited to warble with, and, for sure, the Los Angeles Master Chorale will be in the house, or, er, the hall, lending their diaphanous tones to to the towering work of music.

It's year 34 for the popular sing-along, and Director Grant Gershon shall be at the baton-wielding helm. And, worry not: You'll get some lyrics to follow along with, lest the lively nature of the event stir your spirit too much.

But, is that possible? The "too much" part? It's good to get a bit swirled come the sparkly season, especially by a piece that's recognizable from a mere three or four notes. How many choruses, songs, or riffs can stake that particularly epic claim?

Making the singing all the more epic is you'll be joined by some 2,100 other Hallelujahers inside one of the most acoustically awesome buildings in this solar system.

We can say that, right? Because when this joyful choral coming-together comes together each year, Disney Hall does indeed feel like it might out-awesome every other cultural institution on this side of the Milky Way.

Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz]]>