<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Dining, shopping and nightlife]]> Copyright 2016 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/entertainment/the-scene http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Thu, 11 Feb 2016 09:15:46 -0800 Thu, 11 Feb 2016 09:15:46 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Valentine's Day And Your Wallet]]> Thu, 11 Feb 2016 09:07:45 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/219*120/Generic-Flowers-2.jpg

Valentine's Day isn't just for lovers as 50 percent of singles report being proud of their relationship status. But whether you're in a relationship or not, Americans have no problem spending big for the holiday for their loved ones and even themselves.

$19.7 billion is projected to be spent in the United States for the holiday this year, with the average person spending nearly $150. Some of that money will go towards furry friends as one in five people will buy their pet a gift in the name of Cupid and 24 percent of singles will gift themselves a treat as well, according to WalletHub.

For the couples across America, 90.8 percent plan to give their significant other a gift which is a good idea considering 53 percent of women say they would break up with their significant other if they didn't receive one for Valentine's Day.

The day of love can also prove life changing for some couples as 14 million marriage proposals are slated to happen this holiday.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Not Just Chocolates and Roses: Unique V-Day Gifts ]]> Thu, 11 Feb 2016 09:09:14 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/valentinesday.jpg ]]> <![CDATA['Force Awakens' Costumes at FIDM]]> Thu, 11 Feb 2016 07:09:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fidmshow20168.jpg

Halloween has long held sway over au courant, pop culture-current costuming. Meaning that if a major genre film debuted in the summer, we'd likely see the famous costumes from the flick at our autumntime parties.

But it isn't that way nowadays, thanks in part to cosplay and conventions like WonderCon and Comic-Con International. A huge film can debut at the holidays and fans will immediately begin to dress up as the characters, Halloween or not.

"Star Wars" buffs, your inspiration has arrived downtown, up-close and ready for you to admire. Outfits from "The Force Awakens" debuted as part of the larger The Art of Motion Picture Costume Design, the annual exhibit hosted by the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.

Costumes from several other notable movies can also be seen at the show, including "Straight Outta Compton," "The Danish Girl," "Bridge of Spies," and "Mad Max: Fury Road."

Admission to the exhibit, which debuted on Feb. 9, is free. It's open Tuesdays through Saturdays with an end-of-April closing.

As for the exhibit's striking centerpiece? The iridescent blue-to-green ballgown of a certain princess named "Cinderella." Prince Charming joins her on the platform, one that's capacious enough to hold the entirety of her frock's fabulously fairytale-esque hem.

Period pieces at the show include "Carol," "Brooklyn" and "Trumbo" while "Jem and the Holograms" and "Crimson Peak" add a distinct fantasy, or at least nicely outlandish, over-the-top, tone.

By the by, if you're looking to "The Force Awakens" for WonderCon costume ideas, and would love to see the actual pieces used in the film -- which these are -- you're in luck, at least in terms of not needing to drive too far: WonderCon lands in downtown Los Angeles over the last weekend of March.

The costume exhibit will be open that week, so sew your Kylo Ren ensemble for the convention after a quick pop by FIDM to see the real deal.



Photo Credit: FIDM]]>
<![CDATA['An Act of God' at the Ahmanson]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 21:39:40 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/actofgodjimcox.jpg

It's often said that God has a sense of humor, and if our unpredictable, never-boring mortal paths are any evidence, this chestnut holds a lot of water. (Or, er, chestnut meat, as the case might be.)

The Almighty's funny bone has been explored numerous times in contemporary popular culture, with everyone from Alanis Morissette to Morgan Freeman to George Burns taking turns at filling some major shoes.

"An Act of God," the latest in this long and lively look at the lighter side of the Absolute Being, debuted on Broadway to glowing reviews a couple of years back. (One might view the glow off the production's numerous good notices to be much like a sunbeam pouring out of a cloud or light reflecting off a still pool.)

Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory" donned the famous robe for the show, and fans of both his sitcom and David Javerbaum's cheeky modern spin on social media and reverence showed up in droves. Prayerful droves? Perhaps, in a way, though laughter is ever-present when the omnipresent figure speaks upon his viewpoints from centerstage.

Taking the role for the Southern California run, which officially enjoys its opening night on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at the Ahmanson, is Sean Hayes. He sits before a grand staircase, the kind you would find adjacent to a certain set of gates made of pearl, and addresses the questions many of us have longed to put to a higher power.

But this isn't the sort of quippy Q&A enjoyed by John Denver and George Burns in the '70s classic "Oh God!"; rather Mr. Hayes enjoys a rollicking monologue about matters both angelic and not so. 

Speaking of which, there is a cameo, by a famous angel, during the course of the evening, who arrives to bring more mirth as well as earthly queries. Some gravitas, too, to the goodly spirit of the event.

And is that a straw in the goblet from which God sips? It is, indeed, a small but delightful detail on a heavenly set nearly devoid of props. Full attention is given to Mr. Hayes, and his celestial companions, during the course of the buoyant night, a night that spurs deep thinking from matters both droll and divine.

"An Act of God" is at the Ahmanson Theatre through March 13, 2016.



Photo Credit: Jim Cox]]>
<![CDATA[Yelp's Top List: Porto's Is #1]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:46:35 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/portosbakerynight.jpg

Ask an acquaintance to name a favorite regional restaurant and you're bound to get a few prime choices casually tossed off, from longtime classics to newer spots with some heat.

But bring up Porto's Bakery & Cafe with anybody who has been in Southern California for over 17 hours, give or take, and you're in a whole new ballpark. The person may need to sit down, and close their eyes, as they conjure a rapturous description of the last potato ball they consumed, and how it tasted, and when they ate it, and the way they felt when they ate it, and when they're going back for more.

The family-sweet Cuban bakery, which serves up not only powerhouse pastry but an array of savory staples, has gained a staunch following over the last few decades, in Downey and Glendale and later Burbank.

And now, clearly, the world at large. The cakes-to-Cubano-sandwiches treasure has just topped a Yelp list of "Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2016" inventory, which will surely draw more devotees of potato balls and tres leches cakes into the full-of-tummy, full-of-heart fold.

The list was released via Yelp's Official Blog on Wednesday, Feb. 10.  

It's a grouping, says the online review site, that "honors businesses that rank so highly in the Yelp's community opinion that they have earned the status of 'must try within this lifetime.'"

Serious stuff, in the best sense. And restaurants truly run the gourmet-to-easy-grub gamut, or "fancy to casual," in Yelp's parlance. 

Did other Golden State go-tos make the glossy roster? "And how" seems the only sensible way to answer that question. California appears to dominate, with places from San Diego to Napa Valley, and beyond, showing up and standing tall. 

Other Los Angeles eateries, by the by, include but are in no way, no how limited to The Morrison, Langer's, and Genwa Korean BBQ.

Are you still thinking about potato balls? Have you been thinking of them since you started reading this? We'd never snap our fingers to get your attention, because that is rude, and plus we wouldn't want to interrupt your potato ball-based reverie.

But to eye the whole caboodle of top restaurants around the country, per the active Yelp community, best place those dream potato balls to one side of your brain, for a moment, and read all here. (Best don a bib, or have a napkin nearby, in case those saliva glands get busy as you peruse, because yum.)

Have you been to every last one in town? How about the state?



Photo Credit: Porto's]]>
<![CDATA[How to Save Money on Valentine’s Day Flowers]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 12:16:42 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-128086166.jpg

Valentine's Day may be one of the few times per year that you go out and buy fresh flowers, but that is no excuse for rookie mistakes. The gift of flowers is a reminder that you are thinking of someone and Feb. 14 is an excellent opportunity to send this message. Make that gesture count with these budget-friendly tips for delivering quality flowers that won't disappoint.

Opt out of the Valentine's Day up-sell - Almost all floral retailers will create Valentine's Day-specific offers to catch your eye. Those bouquets come with a hefty price tag, and often lack on the stem count you are looking for. Avoid the holiday-specific bundles.

If in season, head to your Farmer's Market - Get to know a Farmer's Market in your neighborhood before Valentine's Day. Pay attention to bouquet costs when it's not a floral holiday so that you have a baseline before prices increase. Ask a vendor to pre-order for Valentine's Day and lock in a price before the holiday surge. You can feel accomplished come February 14 knowing you already have your fresh flowers and that you have supported local growers.

Don't Procrastinate - Many companies offer incentives to place your Valentine's Day order in advance, so that they can get a sense of how much inventory to allocate for the major holiday. Take advantage of those offers and you can save quite a bit - you can also sit back and relax while everyone else is scrambling to find the last red and pink flowers!

Learn how to pick fresh flowers - Chances are that if you are looking at a bouquet and all of the flowers are already open, those flowers were not picked yesterday. We all get stuck on how the blooms look right when we buy them. A real flower pro, though, will know to look for bouquets or bunches where the flowers are still closed. Those blooms are the most fresh, and will continue to bloom for days to come.

Do some recon - Sending flowers online? Do all that you can to make sure those blooms are fresh and look good. Check to see where your retailer ships from, and opt for a business that sources flowers from U.S. farms. Floral retailer Bloom2Bloom founder Laurenne Resnik advises, "Whether you're buying online or in store, check for companies with the 'American Grown' or 'California Grown' labels. Farm-direct flowers really do last longer." Unlike most outlets, Bloom2Bloom doesn't change its products just for Valentine's Day.

Think outside the vase - Don't fall for the clichés this Valentine's Day. Skip the vase and look for companies that keep costs down for consumers by wrapping bouquets in Kraft paper for that farm-fresh look. Remember, just because everyone is advertising red roses this Valentine's Day, doesn't mean you have to buy them. Rananculus and Tulips offer a new twist on an old classic. Not to mention, they are in season in California right now!

More content from moneytips.com:

Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Their Net Worth

States With Highest Property Taxes

Preparing For Your Annual Tax Meeting



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cake Monkey's Swanky Valentine's Sweets]]> Wed, 10 Feb 2016 10:54:32 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/201*120/ValentinesBerryCrumble.jpeg

Grouping the so-called "sweets holidays" together in one big sticky lump isn't fair to the holidays in question, nor to the talented treat-makers creating those iconic edibles that are so often paired with specific occasions on the calendar.

Halloween has its candy corn, Christmas its peppermint everything, and Valentine's Day? Traditional chocolates and crunchy conversation hearts reign. But a number of boundary-testing, icing-acing Southern California bakers are taking the Cupid-iest of holidays to new heights in the dessert department.

One such spot is Cake Monkey, the still-recently-opened shop on Beverly Boulevard near the Fairfax District. The recent spate of special celebrations have seen special confections in the cases, and Valentine's Day 2016 will deliver on the delectable front, in a few ways.

For the host throwing a Feb. 14 dinner there's the Triple Berry Crunch, a full-on Valentine's cake. It's interesting, as cake, as a concept, isn't as associated with the mid-February holiday, save elementary school-style cupcakes. 

Inside the Triple Berry Crunch? Vanilla buttercream and raspberry crumble, to lend some pinkiness to the ultra-pink'd-out party this could easily be the center of (and, truly, Valentine's parties, for the grown-ups, deserve to be a thing, complete with paper cut-out decorations and all).

Pop pies, staples of the bakery, have become pop hearts for the special Sunday, with a quartet of flavors to choose from: cider roasted apple, brown sugar, chocolate almond, and blueberry crumble. 

And to complete the Valentine's sweet table -- much like a Halloween party sweet table, less the orange flourishes and hanging bats -- there are pink macaroons and shortbread linzer cookies in the shape of hearts. (They're raspberry, by the by, which is truly the unofficial flavor of the Love Holiday, perhaps after the singular taste of conversation hearts.)

Ready to be a bit fancier and change up your approach to goodies during one of our most indulgent occasions? Pink, posh, and plenty flavorful desserts await in the Cake Monkey case.



Photo Credit: Cake Monkey]]>
<![CDATA[Valentine's Cuties: Bulldog Beauty Contest]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 18:43:24 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/bulldogbeautyjustin928232.jpg

If it's Valentine's Day around Southern California, you can count on A) aisles of heart-shaped candy lining the markets and B) buckets of roses near the counter at nearly every florist shop and C) rotund 'n' adorable bulldogs walking the red carpet in Long Beach.

Okay, true, the Bulldog Beauty Contest, which hits its dozenth year out in 2016, doesn't always fall on Feb. 14; sometimes it is a day or two before. But it is associated with the holiday, very much so, and seeing a foldy, furry lovebundle decked out as Cupid is not unlikely.

But the pageant, which regularly garners national coverage, doesn't solely belong to the flat-of-snout and short-of-tail canines. The National Mutt Show is also part of the sunny lark at Marine Stadium, and the categories to enter, while not countless, may briefly overwhelm even the most dedicated of dog parents.

You can sign your little wet-nosed tyke up for a bevy of competitions set to roll on Sunday, Feb. 14, including Best Smile, Most Handsome Dog, Best Senior Dog, Best Ears, and, wait for it, Best Butt. (If you prefer you can call them the 'tocks, which is the common parlance online, nowadays, for squeeing over an animal's posterior.)

A category paying tribute to blind or deaf dogs, or canines facing a challenge, is also new for the event in 2016.

Gift certificates, frame-able pieces of paper signifying your pup's glory, and blue ribbons go to the winners of the various categories, while the victor of the Bulldog Beauty Contest will receive a year's supply of Petcurean pet food. 

An adoption fair will be happening concurrently with all of the red carpet action, so if your buddy needs a buddy, stop and meet the home-seeking hounds.

This is all helmed by Justin Rudd, local philanthropist and the man who dreamed up the Haute Dog parades, processions that have become hallmarks on the hound-based bash circuit. 

Does your Valentine's need something extra? Sunshine, ocean breezes, cooing over hundreds of happy pups doing their best strut? The Love Holiday, after all, isn't just about the amour found between two people.

We're sweet on our shaggy BFFs, too. And making them the stars of Feb. 14 feels like something to woof about. Woof woof.



Photo Credit: Justin Rudd]]>
<![CDATA[Hollywood Bowl Reveal: A Starry Summer]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 21:06:24 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/bowl2016GettyImages-138789290-horz.jpg

The Hollywood Bowl, which will mark its first centennial in just a handful of years ("handful of years"=six years here), has a happy way of whetting our appetite for the pleasures of summertime at just the right moment.

That right moment typically falls near the start of February, the time of year during which the Highland-close landmark typically announces its big roster of concerts and events. But the funny thing about the 2016 announcement, which arrived on Tuesday, Feb. 9, is that it felt as though it was arriving not in winter but the height of summer.

Don't let the temperatures fool you, though: Summer is still to come and the bowl's slate is, as always, as starry as a big famous shell'd stage can muster, and it can muster a lot.

Diana Ross is a headliner for the 2016 season, gracing the stage for a Friday and Saturday in July. Brian Wilson's "Pet Sounds" is one of the buzz-makers of the Bowl, as is Jeff Lynne's ELO (the space-tastic optimistically orchestrated outfit has never played the famous venue).

Steely Dan is part of the opening night celebration, and "A Chorus Line" is the musical set to bring sass and major names over the final weekend in July.

Gladys Knight, Tower of Power, 50 Years of Jeff Beck, Herbie Hancock, Sigur Rós, Buddy Guy, Rodrigo y Gabriela, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Culture Club, and the forever-and-ever favorite "The Sound of Music" sing-along will be filling the 17,000+ seater with sounds of extraordinary quality and depth.

And, as is tradition, there's the whole picnicking scene at the hillside haven of tunesmithing and history, a thing SoCalers have done since the wayback times of Tinseltown's earliest days.

Days that included the Hollywood Bowl, a 1920s-era icon that is as vibrant as always. So how to get tickets? Subscriptions are on sale as of Feb. 9, with the "5 or More" packages available on March 15 and single tickets on the first Saturday of May.

Truly, summer is not here, regardless of what the thermometer says. But it is on the way, as a certain early-February announcement from a certain historic venue reveals.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pizza Day + Bagel Day: It's Happening]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 13:36:20 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/pizzaresize-horz12345.jpg

Holidays aren't occasions that ever stand strictly alone. Sometimes a birthday will land on Halloween or the Fourth of July, or the first day of school will converge with a town's historic founding day.

In short, nobody advocates selfishness in terms of what days can highlight what celebratory matters. That said, everyone gets a tad selfish over the last slice of pizza in the box, and the final bagel half in the bowl, especially if it is the top half of the bagel, the one covered with a hefty smattering of onions or salt or cinnamon sugar.

So that National Pizza Day and National Bagel Day should arrive on the very same day -- Tuesday, Feb. 9 -- feels right and good and almost as though the mysterious, hard-to-harness forces of the universe are in order. 

You don't need to go too deep, though, to find your favorite deep-dish pie around Southern California, or the perfectly smeared bagel. Our region is home to hundreds of shops serving round-in-shape foodstuffs of a bready, top-with-cheese'd nature. If you want to indulge, though, on Feb. 9, then turn your carb-seeking nose to the breeze and follow it to...

Einstein Bros.: The bagel-a-torium is not only marking its big holiday with a deal, it is going one better by "spreading bagel love." The upshot? You'll get a bagel and schmear "with any purchase on 2/9," and "(w)e donate a bagel to someone in need." This is a sweet thing to do, and just in line with that other holiday that's going on right now, Valentine's Week. (Oh, and there's a coupon on the Einstein Bros. site, too, to get this deal going.) 

Western Bagel: The NYC-style, fill-the-tummy bagels have been a Los Angeles favorite for well over a half century, and each week a special is posted, the better to give the savings back to the fans. The special for the week in which National Bagel Day falls? One dozen bagels and two small flavored cream cheeses for $13.95. Just be sure to have the offer ready to show on your phone.

Pizza classics: A number of coupons for national chains, from Papa John's to Domino's to Pizza Hut, can be found at major money-saving outlets like Retail Me Not and Deal Catcher. But maybe supporting a local joint on #NationaPizzaDay -- hello, Village Pizzeria or Deano's Pizza or the hundreds of started-in-SoCal pie shops -- is your ticket to honoring one of the best foodstuffs in the solar system and the people who make it. A slice is still one of the best bargains around, whether it is National Pizza Day or not. Fact.

Still, there are other pizza holidays on the calendar, like National Cheese Pizza Day in the fall, so don't give up on more deals to come. And another bready, chewy, round 'n batter-yum icon will make its annual holiday showing in just a few weeks, when National Pancake Day arrives. The deals there start famously at IHOP, so best get to planning your syrupy savings now.



Photo Credit: Pizza, Bagel]]>
<![CDATA[Grammy Cocktails: Sips Inspired by Songs]]> Tue, 09 Feb 2016 21:12:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/grammy_danielcollopy.jpg

Order any beverage at a restaurant or bar or club, and you may find yourself enjoying it while a soundtrack of contemporary tunes plays on the venue's sound-system.

It may then be said, with some confidence, that songs and sips are regularly paired together, both out and about as well as at home.

But finding beverages that find their naming inspiration in recently released hits is a bit more of a challenge unless, of course, it is Grammy Week and you and your party happen to have landed at the right spot.

More than one dining/drinks destination will pay homage to Music's Biggest Night in a variety ways, from nominees on the playlist to what's on the menu. Want to raise a toast to the artists from a tavern or eatery ahead of the Monday, Feb. 15 show? Then grab a ride for...

The restaurants of the Patina Group: Patina Catering is serving as the official caterer to the Grammy Awards, and, in the spirit of that connection, is also offering a number of tune-themed beverages at select Patina-helmed eateries around town. But the outfit is going one further, by asking the public to vote on the Grammy drinks (you can eye 'em all, including their catchy titles, on the Patina site). The winner won't just claim victory; it'll show up on Patina menus for a full year. Which is getting the buzz? Word has it that "Drunk on Jealousy" is making tasty waves.

The Mixing Room: The J.W. Marriott hot spot, which is a short stroll from all the award-handing-out action at Staples Center, has a few selections timed to the Grammys, including the Retired Dragon ("Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars is the sip's theme). The flavors/ingredients? Watch for tequila, agave, lime, and blood orange. Other cocktails await, too, including one in tribute to Taylor Swift's "Blank Space" and one in honor of The Weeknd.

Grammy Museum: True, true, the LA Live-based institution isn't know for its beverage service, but rather amazing exhibits and starry presentations. In honor of its biggest week of the year, however, members at the Patron Level can join a preprogram cocktail event with producer L.A. Reid on Tuesday, Feb. 9. The sips served won't be inspired by the nominees, but you will be enjoying your glass at the Grammy Museum itself, making it as Grammy-esque as any themed drink. It's a major week, in music, and toasts shall be raised, within the institution and at restaurants, and clubs, around town.



Photo Credit: Daniel Collopy]]>
<![CDATA[30th Anniversary: 'Pretty in Pink' in Hollywood]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 13:23:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/prettyinpink2016.jpg

If we were to tell you that a certain 1980s film favorite was marking its 30th anniversary, you likely wouldn't believe it, no way, no how.

You'd have to go back to your old diary, the one covered with kitten and unicorn stickers, and consult the date you first saw "Pretty in Pink," which has become, with time, one of the emblematic movies of the decade. And if you saw the angsty/adorable film opening night, then you watched it on Feb. 28, 1986.

So there's now denying it: "Pretty in Pink" is passing its three-decade mark, but not without a weekend-long release in theaters. Finding those theaters shouldn't be as heart-wrenching as Duckie continuously biking by Andie's house; in fact, the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres will show the teen romance twice on Valentine's Day, at one of the upper-level cinemas, and again the following Wednesday.

Yep, just in time for Valentine's, making the famously pink dress famously worn by Molly Ringwald in the film an apt fashion choice for the pinkiest of holidays.

The stars won't be in attendance, but what you will get is a rare chance to see a film that doesn't make the big-screen rounds all that much played large, like you saw it in 1986.

1. 9. 8. 6. We still need to let that roll around in our noggin a bit. Seriously, kitten/unicorn diary: Is "Pretty in Pink" now 30?

What we don't need to doubt is that this is a movie with a lot of local location cred. John Hughes penned the script, which might make you think it was filmed around the Windy City, but au contraire: Andie's house is in South Pasadena, while Trax, the record store owned by Iona (Annie Potts), is at Broadway and Third Street in Santa Monica. A bevy of other Southern California locations, including the Millennium Biltmore, make cameos, too.

This isn't the only film getting a brief re-release over Valentine's Weekend, note; 2004's "The Notebook" will also run at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres.



Photo Credit: Pretty in Pink]]>
<![CDATA[Fat Tuesday Fun: Mardi Gras in LA]]> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 07:44:47 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/20130212MardiGras.jpg

Many annual occasions, after being planned for and observed and celebrated, can find their way to the proverbial back shelf, at least in many of our minds. 

There's always a new holiday on the horizon, something else to prepare for, and remembering what we did a month ago is a luxury our busy brains can't indulge.

Mardi Gras, however, might be an exception. Not only is it brighter -- think of all those shiny beads -- and brassier -- think of all those big horn-tastic sounds -- but it is tied to a particular city, one that's at the forefront of jazz and celebration. New Orleans reigns royally in hearts across the land, and when Fat Tuesday dances back into view, we want to party.

Not to mention, of course, that Fat Tuesday revelers have a way of hanging any beads they catch on their mirrors or doorknobs, making it one of the most unforgettable dates on the calendar.

So, SoCal, where will you go on Feb. 9, if not NOLA? You can grab your decorated parasol and dance for...

Amoeba Records: The good times roll early in the afternoon at the Sunset Boulevard record-a-torium, with live drumming and dancing from Congo Square at 3:30. Things get going an hour earlier, at 2:30, with DJ-spun tunes. Want to join the convivial, oh-so-mirthful Mardi Gras parade around the aisles of the store? It truly is a Tinseltown tradition. Just be sure to dress in your greens, purples, and golds.

Aaron Neville Quintet: The legend is headed for the Broad Stage in Santa Monica to do some Mardi Gras-style celebrating, though not on Feb. 9 proper. Listen for the jazzy, New Orleans-vibrant note-making on Friday, Feb. 12 and Saturday, Feb. 13. If the wintertime holiday is very much about the music for you, this should be your destination.

The Original Farmers Market: The Mardi Gras goings-on began in late January, but they're still going, or at least will be on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 9. Listen for Eddie Baytos & The Nervis Bros. on the landmark public market's West Patio, which happens to be exactly where The Gumbo Pot is located. The show? It's free to see.

Terrine: No one needs to be told that tempting cuisine is a savory centerpiece to the holiday, and French-forward bistro Terrine is going all out on the vittles front. The special Mardi Gras grub on the menu? Crawfish gumbo, shrimp and grits, red beans and rice, beignets, pudding with a chicory-coffee zing, and NOLA-nice cocktails like the Sazerac. Cheers!

Messhall Kitchen: You're up near Griffith Park, and it is Feb. 9, and you're craving a shrimp boil that has all of the hallmarks of bayou-close cuisine. This restaurant can deliver on that front, as well as the fronts of cinnamon raisin pudding with praline sauce and a twist on the famous Hurricane. Will your shrimp boil be served on newspaper, though, as is standard? You bet.

Little Dom's: The Los Feliz favorite is doing up a few nights of Big Easy eating, with Tuesday, Feb. 9 being the final evening to order up the Louisiana-yummy dishes. Boudin balls, jambalaya, roast beef po'boys, and King Cake are all on the roster, as well as other standards like gumbo and red beans with rice. Have you dined as though you're on Bourbon Street yet? There's still time.



Photo Credit: Mardi Gras]]>
<![CDATA[Chinese New Year: Celebrations Around SoCal]]> Sat, 06 Feb 2016 09:35:37 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/181*120/shutterstock18313213.jpg

The Year of the Monkey arrives on Monday, Feb. 8, and with it many festivities and parades and shows, all to welcome Chinese New Year in the most auspicious and celebratory of ways.

The biggest party in Los Angeles, and one of the oldest to be found on the West Coast, dances down North Broadway on Saturday, Feb. 13: It's The Golden Dragon Parade, which marks its 117th anniversary in 2016.

Thousands will attend, but the happy gatherings are starting early, ahead of the new year's first hello, at various spots around town. If you'd like to greet the Year of the Monkey alongside other revelers, find your special spot around Southern California. Look to...

Chinatown: A Midnight Temple Ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 7 -- it begins at 10 p.m., and lasts through to midnight, do note -- will be full of meaning and joy and perspective. The "Chinatown community gathers to welcome good health, prosperity, and harmony for the 'Year of the Monkey,'" says the main Chinatown site. Chuan Thien Hau Temple is the place, the public is welcome, and admission is free.

Pacific Asia Museum: Make for the University of Southern California campus on Sunday, Feb. 7 for storytelling and the making of art and more. There's no admission to pay for this free happening, which will focus on "how the Lunar New Year is celebrated in China, Korea, and Cambodia." Time? It's an all-afternoon to-do, with a start time of 11 in the morning.

Norton Simon Museum: Family Day: A Monkey Celebration unfolds at the Pasadena painting-filled institution on Saturday, Feb. 6. There's no extra fee to join in, beyond paying your admission at the entrance. The making of monkey puppets out of paper bags is part of the sweet happening, which is geared for kids ages 4 to 10 and their parents. 

San Pedro: If being close to the water has enchanting properties for you, as you begin this next auspicious chapter, head for the Downtown Harbor and a Saturday, Feb. 6 celebration. Lion dancers, tai chi, a Dragon Martial Arts demo, and fireworks to close out the fun fill out the big day. It is big, too, with booths and more to stroll by, so arrive early in the afternoon.

Citadel Outlets: Mid-day merrymaking at the 5-close shopping center will incorporate several elements on Saturday, Feb. 6, including the decorating of "an authentic 15-ft. Chinese pagoda." Performers will be present, engaging in traditional dragon dances and martial arts. As for lanterns? The illuminating symbol of the season will be out in festive force, in hues of red and gold.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Pop-Up Pool Day at Santa Monica Landmark]]> Sat, 06 Feb 2016 09:50:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/annenbergbeachjanpool.jpg

Who has El Niño's phone number? Email address? Can someone private message the famous weather event via Facebook or Tumblr?

After an umbrella-testing pummeling in early January, and some solids rains near the end of the month, the forecast is looking mighty warm and dry leading into Valentine's Week. El Niño shall return, is the general word, and as we await the next slosher we might as well all done our swimsuits and wade into the nearest available pool.

February and blue shimmery wet spots aren't a natural pairing, but the Annenberg Community Beach House will play matchmaker, for a day, on Sunday, Feb. 7. 

Meaning? Something summery is landing in winter, in the form of a Pop-Up Pool Day. The historic property, which was once home to actress Marion Davies, will throw the doors open on its splashy attraction, for the get-in fee of ten bucks.

That's ten bucks per adult, though seniors pay five dollars and youths from age 1 to 17 have a four-dollar admission. No reservations are possible, which translates into one thing: You've got to show on the early side, when passes first are sold.

That "early side" is 9:30 a.m. -- some might quibble if that is truly early for a Sunday, so, yeah, quibble away, if that's your jam -- and the pool will get busy in the heat of the afternoon, if not earlier. "The heat of the afternoon," by the by, will hit the mid-80s, or so, as of this typing.

February, you are wearing some serious July-style plumage.

Which makes us wish for damper days after this next heat streak. True, a winter run of high-temp days has been pretty typical in recent years, but our wetter January had us believing that trips to the pool were way down the road.

As long as we're all in tanks and shorts, we might as well find a beach, or a pool, to keep cool, and it is mighty nice of the Annenberg Community Beach House to open up right when they know people would like a refreshing dip.

Meanwhile, someone see if El Niño is on Facebook or has an email that's being regularly checked. 



Photo Credit: Annenberg Community Beach House]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Salad Fat vs. Big Mac]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 10:40:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/McDonalds2.png

McDonald’s has put a lot of marketing dollars behind revamping their image to become a “healthy” fast food option, but one of their newest “simple” and “fresh” options for clean-eaters will do more caloric damage than a Big Mac, according to the chain's nutrition information.

The fast-food giant recently unveiled a new line of salad bowls that contain kale, a leafy “superfood” that has become a sensation for its nutritional value and being packed-full of vitamins.

“A salad so delicious, it might be hard to stay calm,” McDonald’s website reads of the new menu item, the “Keep Calm, Caesar On” salad. But dieters might have a hard time keeping calm after finding their bowl of greens has more fat, calories, cholesterol and sodium than most of the other items on the entire menu.

McDonald’s promotes the salad with crispy chicken as “a nutrient-rich lettuce blend with baby kale, delicately topped with delicious crispy bacon, real parmesan petals and roasted garlic focaccia croutons.”

Although McDonald’s leaves out the dressing the salad comes with in its initial calculation of nutritional information listed online, all-in-all this is the how the new “Keep Calm, Caesar On” salad with crispy chicken stacks up against other popular meals:

Kale Caesar Salad Crispy Chicken
730 calories (with dressing)
10g saturated fat
100mg cholesterol
1140 mg sodium

Bacon McDouble Sandwich
420 calories
9g saturated fat
70mg cholesterol
1050mg sodium

Big Mac
520 calories
10g saturated fat
70mg cholesterol
950mg sodium

10-Piece Chicken Nugget
460 calories
5g saturated fat
70mg cholesterol
820mg sodium

Large French Fries
560 calories
3.5g saturated fat
0mg cholesterol
420mg sodium

Regular Oreo McFlurry
560 calories
12g saturated fat
45mg cholesterol
390mg sodium

Swapping out the “crispy” chicken for grilled is an option, but will only save you 160 calories. The American Heart Association recommends eating just 2,000 milligrams of sodium and 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day.

McDonald's does offer other salad options that are not as hard-hitting to the waistline. McDonald's Southwest Salad only contains 280 calories and 490 milligrams of sodium, CNBC points out, which includes a creamy southwest dressing. A side salad without dressing is only 15 calories and 10 milligrams of sodium.

A spokesperson for McDonald’s did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.



Photo Credit: McDonald's Corp.]]>
<![CDATA[New: 'The Floating Library' in Echo Park Lake]]> Sat, 06 Feb 2016 06:53:37 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/booksshutter123-horz.jpg

We SoCalers, loving transportation as we do, reach our local library branch in myriad ways.

We can hop the bus, drive, have a friend drop us off, bike, roller skate, or use a pogo stick or unicycle to reach our local magical book place. However we reach the stacks is super; at the end of our journey stories and tales await, which are most excellent treasures to possess.

But most people, we'll confidently wager, have never taken a pedal boat out to the center of a lake to call upon a library. That'll change for a few days in the middle of February, when "The Floating Library" debuts in Echo Park Lake.

Yes, we said "in" and not "at," which might imply that the pop-up library would appear on the banks of the body of water. This temporary biblio-spot, which will be open from Thursday, Feb. 11 through Sunday, Feb. 14, is in Echo Park Lake, or on the surface, at least (nobody likes to see books get wet, because curly pages, smeared type, and so forth).

Machine Project, an art collective based in Echo Park, is hosting the wee 'n whimsical happening "in conjunction" with the LA Art Book Fair, which is not occuring at the lake but rather can be found at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA from Feb. 12 through 14.

Artist Sarah Peters is behind the pedal-by-and-read-an-art-book bash, which'll be open each of its specified days from 11 a.m. to 4 in the afternoon.

The books are on an impressivly constructed raft, if you're curious about the "floating" part of "The Floating Library," and you're welcome to while away some time paging through the tomes. (They're generally art-themed, befitting the nature of the project and the larger book fair.)

While it is free to pedal out, via boat, to the book-laden raft, you'll need ten bucks to rent your ride at the Echo Park Lake Boat House. Sunscreen, water, and the usual accoutrements you might take on a boat ride would be good, too. (We mention because sunscreen is not a typical going-to-the-library recommendation.)

Is this affiliated with the Los Angeles Public Library system? It is not, but it is worth mentioning that Feb. 14, the final day of "The Floating Library," is the last day of the "return your overdue books for free" program at LAPL. If you can visit one library, you can visit two libraries, one where you may return your late books and the other one that's weirdly in the middle of Echo Park Lake.

Ms. Peters and her enchanted project have had other iterations elsewhere, so if you'd like to know more, get the backstory. If you want to go in fresh, that's cool, too.

Cool as lake water, which is something we don't typically encounter as we pogo-stick our way over to our local library branch.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Anonymous Art Event: Petals to Fall Downtown]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 09:12:31 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/petalGettyImages-492850731.jpg

Here's a riddle: Two things are coming down over the weekend in downtown Los Angeles, with one being as heavy as a bridge and the other as light as a petal.

Literally, let's be clear, on both fronts. While all eyes will be on the long-in-planning demolition of the Sixth Street Viaduct -- #101SlowJam is the catchy, seen-everywhere hashtag -- many hands will be in the air, several blocks away, in the alley that separates the Cameo Theatre from the Arcade Theatre.

Those hands will be reaching for falling petals, which are expected to drop from above throughout the daylight hours of Saturday, Feb. 6. 

The petal's droppers? It's an anonymous art collective, the same civic-sweetening group that constructed the Griffith Park Tea House in the summer of 2015.

You'll remember this bite-sized and beautiful building, the one that popped up, quite suddenly, in the park. You'll also recall it was made from wood that was burned during the 2007 Griffith Park Fire.

Again turning to natural materials, the art outfit will take to the windows above the downtown alley with petals in hand. The hashtag for the joyous, and highly visual, happening? #PetalDropLA, of course. (As for the "downtown alley" and its actual location? If you're at 530 S. Broadway, you're in the right neck of the woods.)

It's performance art, it's the wilder world viewed amid bricks and concrete blocks, it's a weightless slice of lightest nature in our city's densely packed, skyscraper-packed hub. Some 7,000 cups of petals, found at flower farms around the region, will be used, says the LA Times.

We've likely all experienced walking through a sudden "rain" of blossom-based beauty, either from a tree on our street or at the LA Arboretum or out in the woods. To experience this same petal-filled moment in a downtown alley, however, will likely be a first for all who attend.

Want to follow along on Instagram and Twitter? Petal Drop LA has a presence on both. 

Will the Sixth Street Viaduct feel just a little less lonely as it enters its final hours, knowing that, nearby, something else is also falling? Perhaps the petals can serve as some sort of poetic exclamation mark to the venerable bridge's final hours.

Or, perhaps, the petals are simply petals, and strolling through them will provide a magical and momentary fizz of joy for all who stop by. You interpret as you will: After all, it's art.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Neon Museum: Grand Opening Peek]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 22:28:27 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/monaopening2016.jpg Look upon the luminescent treasures on view at the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale.

Photo Credit: MONA]]>
<![CDATA[Snoop Dogg, Super Bowl Reporter]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 09:13:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/snoop5.jpg

Rapper Snoop Dogg turned into a Super Bowl 50 “reporter” during the Broncos and Panthers press conference in Santa Clara Thursday, chatting up Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and telling Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis to “go to work” with a broken arm.

"That's your spirit. Go to work. And when you get a sack, dab with your broken one, for me," he told Davis, referring to the "dab" dance move newly popular with football players and other athletes.

The rapper tweeted a photo of him shaking hands with Manning: “Legend. #TurfdUp,” he wrote, referring in the hashtag to his YouTube sports show. His next tweet was a selfie, followed by a photo of himself acting as a reporter for DirectTV's "The Rich Eisen Show."

Snoop also sent out a couple of tweets promoting Merry Jane, his Marijuana lifestyle platform he hopes will act as an icebreaker for people who take pride in their love for marijuana.

One said: “ganja proving 2 help athletes with sports related injuries,” with a photo of a rolled up ball of weed.

The tweets were removed from his timeline after some time. It wasn’t immediately clear why the rapper took the tweets down.

The NFL has a strict drug policy, but many question whether it is out of date. According to media reports, marijuana is coveted by NFL players as an invaluable painkiller, and for younger players, smoking weed is normal.

"There are so many people in the closet, and we are giving them an opportunity to come out of the closet and just admit they like to smoke," Snoop said at the Merry Jane launch at TechCrunch Disrupt in September. "I’m a smoker, my name is Snoop Dogg, and I’m a stoner."



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Otter Bowl: Furry Showdown in LBC]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 07:21:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/otterbowlaquarium1.jpg

Football-themed decor and football-themed eats and football-themed events reach their zenith on Super Bowl Sunday, when everything that can be turned into a semblance of a football is, to the delight or at least amusement of everyone present. 

But there's possibly no living creature on this planet that's more delighted to encounter a football made of clams than an otter. We're going to assume that you're not having any otters over on Sunday, Feb. 7 to watch Super Bowl 50 -- may we assume that? -- but if you want to see the furry ocean mammals taking on clam footballs with their famous webby-sweet feet, then best head for the goal posts in Long Beach.

And by "goal posts" we mean the Aquarium of the Pacific, the very place where Otter Bowl II will be played on Feb. 7. And by "be played" we mean the toys'll be out, many football-themed, for the aquarium's resident otters.

Who will be deemed the Otter Bowl MVP? Early prognosticators are watching the field, which will include Charlie, Betty, Brook, and the other otters who call the LBC location home.

And by "the field" we mean the Sea Otter Show, which is where all of the football-toy action'll go down at 4 p.m. (meaning the otters'll leave their usual digs at 3:30).

And by "go down" we do mean submerged, quite possibly, since Otter Bowl involves a water element. Our whiskery friends do so love to splash about, and there's no reason that the football toys can't go in the water with them, if they so choose.

Will there be a play-by-play during Otter Bowl? You bet. An Aquarium educator will be at the mic, offering fun observances as well as informative tidbits about the life of an otter.

Will there be snacks? Well, the otters will likely dine ahead of the big game, and not on the nachos or dip we favor (yep, they do so love clams and mollusks and such).

Are we all winners at Otter Bowl? We really are, if we get to see these delightful denizens of the drink frolic about. It's basically otters at play, with a few gnawable, push-around-able football toys in the mix. But that totally counts, right?

Right. What also totally counts is how jealous people will be when you tell them you actually got to go to Otter Bowl II, in Long Beach, live and in person.



Photo Credit: Aquarium of the Pacific
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<![CDATA[Subway's $5 Footlong Now Costs $6]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 04:12:36 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-493636850.jpg

So long to the catchy “$5 footlong” jingle, because Subway's iconic deal just got a dollar more expensive.

Customers will now have to shell out $6 for "ALL of your favorite classic footlongs," the restaurant chain announced on Twitter Tuesday.

Not surprisingly, fans of the sandwich chain were not happy. The news prompted an immediate outcry on social media. Subway responded to displeased customers in another tweet, defending the increase on rising food costs.

The new price takes effect on Thursday in Subway restaurants nationwide.

Subway has been reeling from bad PR after its former spokesman, Jared Fogle, was sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison for child pornography and sex charges. Fogle helped fuel sales for nearly 15 years after shedding 200 pounds on a diet of Subway sandwichs.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Weekend: LA Cookie Con]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 05:43:23 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/561094481.jpg

LA Cookie Con and Sweets Show: We're somewhere in the valley between the holidays and Valentine's Day, but that doesn't mean our lives need to be entirely treat-free. The baker-brimful, chef-filled festivity is called "The West Coast's Biggest Baking, Decorating and Pastry Convention," and both home cooks, and those who simply like to snack in the finest of sugar-creamy confections, will be out in samply force. It's weekend-big -- Saturday, Feb. 6 and Sunday, Feb. 7 are the dates -- and it's icing-up the Los Angeles Convention Center.

First Fridays: It's a science-smart, DJ-cool, social-happy happening that only happens over the first half of the year, and only on the first Friday of the month. And it is revving up again for another run, at the place with the gigantatron dinosaur bones and really, really old rocks: The Natural History Museum. The talk themes for the first First Friday of 2016, which falls on Friday, Feb. 5? It's taking on the theme of the season: the "intersection of fiction and science." So is "Jurassic Park" sorta real, or what? 

Chinese New Year: The Golden Dragon Parade through Chinatown is still a week or so out, but you can welcome the Year of the Monkey at a Family Day at the Norton Simon Museum on Feb. 6, a Midnight Temple Ceremony in Chinatown on Feb. 7, and a Lunar New Year celebration at the Downtown Harbor in San Pedro. Near the Citadel Outlets? Join the Chinese New Year party on Saturday, Feb. 6. Can't wait for the mondo, firecracker-sparkly fest and parade in Chinatown? Feb. 13 is the date.

Museum of Neon Art Opens: The glow-amazing institution left its downtown home a few years back for a fresh start in Glendale, right across from The Americana at Brand. Is your anticipation as buzzy as a vintage neon tube? The grand opening party is on Saturday, Feb. 6. If you can't make the soiree, there are open hours, though they're limited to Fridays and Saturday, for the time being. Follow the light and read all.

"Sleepless" at the Music Center: Does magic spring up around the very magical Music Center Plaza after much of the city is tucked up in bed? Find out at this free, multi-part bash at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Yep, we said "free," but here's the next thing to say: You need to RSVP. As for the "multi-part" bit? There are DJs and video installations and the building of "a shadow puppet city-scape" and other cultural treats. The hours? Nap if you can: It starts at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, and wraps at 3 o'clock in the morning. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cultura RF]]>
<![CDATA[Natural History Cool: First Fridays Return]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 23:56:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/firstfridays0293929323.jpg

Apparently dinosaurs never built discos, way back in the Jurassic Period, because archaeologists would have likely unearthed mirror balls and turntables and tables and chairs by this point.

But there's no reason that the Stegosaurus and Triceratops and even good ol' T. Rex can't enjoy some thumping beats nowadays. (After all, dinosaurs were the original thumpers, what with their large feet and sizable tails hitting the ground, step after big step.)

The Natural History Museum magically recreates the dinosaur disco that never was, way back when, each first Friday of the month from February to June. Yep, this series is called First Fridays -- catchy, and so handy with remembering the date -- and it is opening for its half-year run on Friday, Feb. 5. 

The dino bones don't actually get up and shake their stuff, but you can, if you buy a ticket to this increasingly and extraordinarily popular event. (You have to use hyperbole when A) it's true and B) gigantic dinosaurs are involved.)

DJs provide the soundtrack for the stuff-shaking, and performers and bands, too. For the Feb. 5 party, KCRW DJ Aaron Byrd'll be spinning with guest Anthony Valadez. At the mics? The Hood Internet, Boulevards, and Mark Redito fka Spazzkid all will take the spotlight during the evening.

An evening that isn't just about living it up in one of our city's most hallowed repositories of history. The Exposition Park institution is know for science, and science-themed topics shall be discussed, by interesting experts, at each first Friday.

The theme of the 2016 season deals with "Stranger than Fiction!," so look for a lot of intersecting between imagination and the facts of life on earth.

Which is why we speculated about how nifty it would have been if the dinosaurs had actually had discos. Again, they did not -- that's the imagination side of the equation, and not the science, let's be 100% clear -- but to pair the creative impulse with the wonders of knowledge is a beautiful thing.

The Natural History Museum has this beautiful thing down to, er, a science, with its fabulous First Fridays. Don't make us resort to hyperbole again: They're popular, so get on your ticket, as fast as a dinosaur thumped along millions of years ago.



Photo Credit: NHM]]>
<![CDATA[Cat Gets Head Stuck in Vase, Becomes Internet Sensation]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 14:53:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/93528537.jpg

A Reddit user this week posted a photo of a cat looking like an Egyptian goddess, but the shiny collar in the photo was not supposed to be around the cat's neck.

The cat, which is doing fine, got the accessory the hard way - by sticking its head in a vase, according to TODAY.

The cat is doing fine, and its misadventure sparked some pun-filled fun on the Internet.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Movie Costumes: Free Exhibit to Open Downtown]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:02:43 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fidmcostumes123456789.jpg

To say that most of us probably didn't overthink what we donned today, clothing-wise, is being generous. The fact is that many people scan their closets in a jiffy, looking to simply see what's clean, what fits, what's appropriate, and what's available.

In short? That shirt, those slacks, done and done.

But dressing a movie character is a whole other rack of hangers. The character's journey needs to be considered, and time period, and moods, all important elements that the screenwriter and director and costume designer want to convey.

Once again the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising will delve into this detailed world with a sumptuous display of some of the best film costumes of the previous year. 

That previous year we speak of is 2015, so look for get-ups from "The Danish Girl" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" and the velvety jewel-toned togs of the '50s-era "Carol."

Typically some 100 costumes, give or take, from two or so dozen films receive the FIDM spotlight. But what FIDM doesn't receive is our pay-at-the-door admission. Once again, the Art of Motion Picture Costume Design will be free to all (though, of course, you can make a donation near the door, if you so wish).

"Free," however, doesn't translate into "open every day," however. The 24th annual costume show shutters on Sundays and Mondays, so should you want to see it during its Tuesday, Feb. 9 to Saturday, April 30 run, best go when you know the lights'll be on.

Speaking of those lights, the costume displays typically take on a stark look, with subtle lighting, which helps the look of the exhibit remain on the clothing. There are no props from the films, as a rule, or anything to distract from the famous frippery.

These are the outfits you saw in the cinema, the very ones and not reproductions. It makes easy, standing just feet away, to imagine a favorite actor standing where the mannequins do. 

Though whether a visit to the exhibit makes it even easier to get dressed in the morning, or not, is up for debate. Perhaps we can all be inspired to add a brooch, or a smart hat, to our daily look, after a visit to the FIDM gallery.

Or not. What works for us works for us, and what works for a movie character, clothing-wise, is up to a team of imaginative people, spearhead by the big talents of the production's talented costume designer. 



Photo Credit: FIDM/Alex J. Berliner]]>
<![CDATA[Universal Studios: New Reservation System]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 12:26:21 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Studiotournystreetuniversal132332.jpg

Talk to any theme park regular and the topics won't necessarily be about a beloved vintage roller coaster or a buzzed-about stage show or a fried treat on a stick. (Mmm, anything on a stick.)

Instead, they'll dig down into the nitty-gritty of doing the park, from the best way to optimize a park visit, to early entry, if it is available, to which days may or may not have the most foot traffic.

So the new EZ Rez online booking system from Universal Studios Hollywood should give plenty for park-obsessed people to chew on, much like the aforementioned fried treat on a stick. A bunch of stuff rolled out from the announcement, which was made on Tuesday, Feb. 2, including "the unique opportunity of booking date specific tickets." "Advance savings" are part of the deal with booking online, too.

What's bound to pique the interest of hardcore parkists, though, beyond securing a specific date, is that an EZ Rez booking gives early entry to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Define "early entry," you say: It's one hour before the park opens.

A glance at the online calendar also reveals Universal Studios Hollywood is moving into demand pricing, with variable pricing depending upon the day of the visit. Theme park regulars might guess that select weekdays -- hellooo, Tuesdays, sometimes, but not always -- will be a bit less than weekend days on the admission front, and they'd be correct, by about five to ten dollars, depending upon the time of year. 

If being tied to a particular date isn't your bag, can you still purchase an "anytime" ticket? Yep. That's still a thing.

Of course, booking a ticket for a specific date in the future is something Universal Studios has already done, for years, via Halloween Horror Nights. But choosing a Saturday three weeks hence, for the scary experience, didn't mean you could do the same with a general theme park ticket.

So what will Harry Potter enthusiasts do with that extra morning hour, ahead of the official park opening, when Wizarding World debuts on April 7? And what did Hogwarts students chow down upon for breakfast in the Great Hall, anyway? Magical muesli and enchanted eggs?

Whatever sustenance you choose, magical or not, best eat early before making for the park and that extra hour.



Photo Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood]]>
<![CDATA[Vans Custom Culture Competition: Now Open]]> Wed, 03 Feb 2016 09:27:04 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/vans2016schools1.jpg

There are few things dearer to the Southern Californian's heart, beyond the perfect fish taco and some macking surf, than A) customizing our stuff and B) Vans, in all of their checkerboard-y, old-school, wear-'em-every-day forms.

And each year the started-in-Anaheim outfitter embraces our affection for adding our own artistic spin to our kits with a contest for high schoolers, all in the name of supporting arts education. The competition, which just opened, is called Vans Custom Culture, and numerous high school students around the region will join in the customizing, imagination-awesome project.

How does it work? High school art teachers register to participate — everything's still open for 2016, for sure, so feel free to get on that — and Vans then sends the teacher four pairs of blank Vans. After that? The students take over.

Blank Vans sound way cool, of course, and ready for wearing, but the school's art students'll make them even cooler, by choosing designs and hues and vibes. There are a quartet of themes to work with for the competition, all inspired by Vans "Off the Wall" lifestyle. Do you know them already? You guessed right: They include action sports, arts, music, and local flavor.

Some 79 schools around the LA area jumped into the competition in 2015, and, as of this typing, 57 schools have registered to participate in 2016.

But how long do art teachers have to sign their schools up to join? Through Feb. 12. The design period happens over the second half of February, or pretty much: Feb. 15 through 26 are the dates. (Do note that the submitting period lasts a good long while, from Feb. 29 through April 8.)

"The winning submission will receive a $50,000 donation from Vans to foster the school's #RighttoArt movement, along with the potential that the school will see one of its designs produced for sale at select Vans retail locations and Vans.com," says a company rep.

Suh-weet.

The five finalist schools will be chosen in May, with one school winning the 50 grand at a Vans-hosted happening in early June.

The 2015 winner? High fives, Carlsbad High School, for your radical designs.

Is this something your students would dig? Do you know a school that should throw their hat — er, Vans — in the ring? It's a California icon, seen on feet everywhere. And it's an icon that works to connect with the SoCal community in the spirit of art and imagination and, yes, customization, that beloved regional pursuit.

Have you ever drawn on your Vans? Yeah, that was/is a thing, still. Read more about the company's commitment to arts education and the annual Vans Custom Culture.



Photo Credit: Vans Custom Culture]]>
<![CDATA[New: LACMA Local Program]]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 21:42:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/urbanlightdiscoverla1.jpg

The sticky wicket about being a world-class institution, with fans located around the planet, is that connecting with people who live down the street, and a zip code or two away, can sometimes get lost in the bigger swirl.

Not that any place with such a reputation would complain about having global and neighborhood cachet; it's just that the visitors-from-all-over part can sometimes dominate in the ebb-and-flow of running a major museum.

Well, we tipped our hand right there: It's the Los Angeles County Museum of Art we're talking about, one of the premier institutions here and everywhere, a spot that dotes on its outside-of-Southern-California guests as much as it adores Angelenos.

But it is the regional people that are about to get a little bit of extra LACMA love. The painting-packed landmark, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Miracle Mile in 2015, announced its new LACMA Local membership program on Monday, Feb. 1.

So what's the deal? The museum describes it as "a fun, low-key way to hang out with like-minded people while experiencing art." This includes bi-weekly events such as admiring a sunrise at Levitated Mass, the universe's most famous over-air boulder, or a scavenger hunt that could include mimicking the pose of a statue (and capturing it with your phone).

How does one get up on this? If you're a member right now, you'll pay an extra $25 to join LACMA Local for a year. But you don't need to be a member to participate, as there's an "a la carte" option for forty bucks. 

There's absolutely a more social dimension to LACMA Local, if you're wondering how it differs from a traditional membership, and a zanier, outside-the-box-ier approach to art appreciation than one might typically find.

The community-nice heart of LACMA Local is in a very nice place: It ponders "(h)ow do you meet people and make friends in a big sprawling city like LA?" It's a query posed by Kristen Shepherd, the associate vice president of audience strategy and services for the museum.

A lively get-together built around people- and museum-engagement seems one key for connecting locals, with LACMA serving as the cultural conduit.



Photo Credit: Discover LA]]>
<![CDATA[New Later Hours: Cherry Blossom Festival]]> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 09:37:44 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/cherryblossomdescanso243.JPG

Late January and early February, while not the time of the year in which we observe Daylight Saving Time, are pretty remarkable in the "it's suddenly getting lighter in the late afternoon" department.

True, true, it is always getting lighter later, or earlier, depending upon the time of year and where our clocks are at, but after a few months of feeling as though night was falling just after lunchtime -- c'mon, everyone gets a little grumpy over that -- the light of early evening is returning in a noticeable way.

It will be most noticeable on the second Sunday in March, when Daylight Saving Time kicks in. That also happens to be plunk in the middle of cherry blossom time around Southern California. Yep, it's not just a phenomenon seen around our nation's capital, but rather right here, too.

And one of the primo places to admire those pinky-white blooms is Descanso Gardens. The La Cañada Flintridge destination knows it has a picturesque thing going in the cherry blossom department, and it throws a weekend-long festival each year, the better for buffs to spend some quality time among, and under, all of those painting-pretty buds.

That the festival is falling on the weekend of Daylight Saving Time has not gone unnoticed by Descanso. So in the spirit of later light, the gardens are pushing the hours of the festival a bit later in 2016, for the first time. That means that your quiet communing with these exquisite natural wonders can happen from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 12 and from 9 a.m. to 7 o'clock on Sunday, March 13.

A whole bunch of bud-oriented to-dos will happen over the weekend, too, in addition to the standing-and-admiring thing (which every visitor takes part in, pretty much). Cherry trees will be for sale, while "exploration stations" will be set up for people to learn more about one of spring's biggest superstars. 

Origami, traditional Japanese music, and more light-of-heart, light-of-spirit delights await.

Can you wait? We know, it doesn't seem so midnight-dark just after noon these days, like it did a month or two ago. It is a sunny signal that brighter nights are on their way. If you need the perfect spot to welcome those back, do it among the cherry blossoms on the second Sunday in March.



Photo Credit: Descanso Gardens]]>
<![CDATA[SoCal Museum Free Days: Get the Chart]]> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 23:58:33 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_108263612.jpg

When oodles of art-appreciating Southern Californians spend a chilly January Saturday enjoying some of the best regional institutions for free, it can be rather extra-chilly to see such a day conclude.

But conclude Museums Free-for-All Day must. The once-a-year gratis event from SoCal Museums just wrapped at the close of the month, but before it bid adieu it gave everyone the chance to revisit a favorite institution or discover a new place that, one day, might also become a favorite. All for, you got it, free.

That's not where the freeness ends, however. True, true, there's only a single day, or weekend, rather, where several museums waive admission fees, but those same spots that participated in Museums Free-for-All Day also observe a free day, or free afternoon, during the month, depending upon the day of the week and a few other specifics.

True, true, a chart brimming with dots and days isn't quite as easy-breezy as simply knowing a bunch of cultural and art destinations will be free at the same time, but this handy grid from SoCal Museums'll get you off and running in no time on the saving-money front. 

For example, a quick glance reveals that Kidspace Children's Museum is free on the first Tuesday afternoon of the month. And USC Pacific Asia Museum? It's visit-for-free date is the second Sunday of the month.

It's a snap to use, and, if you line everything up right, you can almost make Museums Free-for-All Day a permanent and monthly way of life. Nothing to pay at the door, but so very much to gain in terms of looking and admiring and being challenged and being brain- and spirit-invigorated.

Can't quite get over Museums Free-for-All Day yet? We get it, but here's what you do while waiting for the next one: Hop on the many free days, and afternoons, that our regional museums offer each and every thirty days, and sometimes more frequently. Meaning? There's a slew of always-free museums on the roster.

Oh yeah. "Always-free" is pretty nifty, too.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA['Alice' at 150: Mondo Book Fair Spotlights a Classic]]> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 13:05:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/aliceGettyImages-458502386.jpg

While we might quibble over the most important dramatic film or the most essential classical piece or the fashion designer who went on to influence other stars of the industry, it isn't difficult to trace modern children's literature back to a single book from the Victorian era.

It's "Alice in Wonderland," Lewis Carroll's adventure-themed tale of a girl's fantastical journey down a rabbit hole. From the Disney film to several live-action movies to the countess iterations in music videos and graphic novels and clothing lines, Alice, as a major force of pop culture, has reigned more powerfully than the Queen of Hearts herself.

A century and a half has passed since the first publication of "Alice in Wonderland," and the California International Antiquarian Book Fair will celebrate the book's sesquicentennial. 

The rare-and-vintage tome to-do, which lands at the Pasadena Convention Center over Valentine's Weekend, also has some impressive years logged: It marks its first half-century in 2017.

That means that visitors can find a host of first editions and hard-to-find works and pros who know pages. And, yes, in 2016 there'll be an Alice-focus, complete with a special exhibit featuring "books, illustrations, papers and original ephemera from the G. Edward Cassady M.D. and Margaret Elizabeth Cassady R.N., Lewis Carroll Collection at the University of Southern California Libraries, Special Collections." 

The famous Mary Blair drawings of the Disney Alice will also make a cameo.

And if you're looking to own an "Alice in Wonderland" book there'll be several on hand, from a number of eras, for the perusing and/or buying, from various dealers.

Think you have an interesting rare book at home, one you'd love to get appraised? "Discovery Day" at the fair is Feb. 14, and you can present up to three items for an examination by an expert. Cost? Free.

Though do note the fair itself is ticketed. Want to buy your pass to Wonderland... er, Pasadena, rather? The rabbit hole is this way, book buffs.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Adoptable Dogs Become Movie Poster Heroes]]> Mon, 01 Feb 2016 13:35:53 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/202*120/doggiemoviepostersla223232.jpg A pair of local animal lovers picture pups in cinematic settings, all in the name of finding the pooches forever homes.

Photo Credit: Dmitriy Katsel & Erica Solomon]]>
<![CDATA[Free: David Bowie Screenings at The Paley]]> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 20:22:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/davidbowiepaley921832.jpg

Many fans of David Bowie spent many hours over the last few weeks revisiting his many videos and his concert footage and the artist's rarer treats, like snippets of his turn as The Goblin King in "Labyrinth" and that beloved holiday duet with Bing Crosby.

And while the music-intense immersion absolutely helped people deal with the passing of the legend, the watching of those videos, in the majority of cases, was likely a solitary experience. That's a-okay, of course; we don't always need to come together with other buffs to pay tribute.

But if you are seeking a more communal moment, before the month of Mr. Bowie's birth and death passes, make for The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills on Saturday, Jan. 30 and Sunday, Jan. 31. The institution, which is rife with television history in its many prismatic forms, will pay tribute to the glam-to-rock-to-jazz-to-everything icon with a special series of screenings.

All the screenings, do note, are free.

What's on tap? It's worth mentioning that the program will change from Saturday to Sunday, so if you want to take it all in, best plan on being at the institution on both days.

The Saturday program? That's called "David Bowie: Sound + Vision: Packages 1-3, 1964-1982," and the screenings will include a 1973 documentary detailing "Ziggy mania," a soulful appearance on Cher's show, and some "electro-experimentation" via Germany's "Musik Laden Extra."

On Sunday look for a 1984 film called "Jazzin' for Blue Jean" and some work from the 1990s. The screenings will span from 1984 into the early aughts.

Saturday kicks off at 11:15 a.m.; plan on staying through 5:15, should you want to see all. Sunday's start is just after noon, at 12:15.

Did you watch some of these clips online already? Revisiting Mr. Bowie's sonic, space-tastic catalog was a comforting pursuit for fans in recent days. Now see the breadth of his work, via selected moments, on the big screen among other devotees, for free.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Live Cam Experience: Dive into the Pacific]]> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 13:23:41 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Projection_Wall_1584pearls.jpg

When the dreamers and prognosticators and inventors of old tried to imagine what, in the future, a portal to other places might look like, they likely never quite envisioned the live cam.

Or if they did it probably looked much like the ol' string between two cans. The live cam is not, let us be clear, a lengthy brass tube that runs from place to place, allowing a viewer to peek inside at one end and see what is happening at the other. The tech is rather more advanced, but so are the ways to experience a live cam.

Ways that go beyond our computer screen. Look to The Annenberg Space for Photography, which has invited Explore.org to create an immersive Pearls of the Planet happening at the Century City center's Skylight Studios.

The theme of the latest Pearls of the Planet, which transports viewers to the far reaches of the natural world, is the Pacific Ocean. 

True, the Pacific isn't all that far from Century City -- one suspects a lengthy brass tube could reach from Skylight Studios to the beach -- but the live cam experience goes further into the depths. Visitors will call upon the "colorful kelp beds of the Channel Island of Anacapa" as well as the waves of Hawaii and Alaska.

Will orcas and walruses and jellies make cameos? This is a live cam, so, like life, anything could happen.

And it all happens within the aqua-awesome design of the room, a darkened space that includes a photo booth, giant sea floor imagery, and tucked-away spots in which to commune with whatever is going on in the depths of the Pacific, right then, simultaneously.

Surf cinematographer Mike Prickett is the honoree, by the by, of this Pearls of the Planet go-around. Did you visit the last one that alighted in at Skylight Studios? That ventured into the Arctic?

That's part of Explore.org's mission: To pair people with nature through the modern portal of the live cam. Pair it with a beautiful thematic setting, and you're going beyond dipping a toe in the water, as far as watching a live cam. 

Pearls of the Planet is in Century City through March 20, 2016.



Photo Credit: Pearls of the Planet]]>
<![CDATA[Conversation Hearts Chic: Magnolia Cupcakes]]> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 08:52:09 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/magnoliasweetsayingscupcakes.JPG

Conversation hearts, those chewable, color-sweet little candies that flood our store aisles each February, may seem like a product that came to prominence during your childhood, but they've actually been around a lot longer.

Like, a whole bunch longer, since the 1860s, when NECCO first introduced the "You're Cute" and "Be Mine" treats. And while the edible icons stayed in candy form for well over a century, pretty much, you can now find Conversation Heart Chic -- let's just call it a full-on aesthetic and style -- in products from stationery to clothing.

And cupcakes, too, of course. The sweet shops of Southern California are moving into high Valentine's gear, and Magnolia Bakery is no exception. While the West Third Street treatery will feature a number of holiday noshables, including Red Velvet Whoopie Pies and Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cupcakes, enthusiasts of conversation hearts may want to seek out the Sweet Sayings Cupcakes.

Nope, there's no candy involved, but there is a deep-flavored devil's food caked topped with chocolate ganache and some words of love and/or friendship. Price? Three dollars and seventy five cents.

You probably couldn't fill a bag with these beauties, nor would you want to, because the ganache would get everywhere. One or two feels about right, should you want to share your emotional emotions with that someone who gives you the tummy flutters.

And if Valentine's Day isn't about the sharing of emotional emotions, then what occasion is? Yes, true, Macaroni and Cheese Day, and a few other national food holidays, might qualify on the emotional emotion front. We can't not get emotional over that.

To eye all of the Magnolia offerings, in all of their redness and pinkness and Cupid-a-tude, saunter by the shop or check out their online HQ.



Photo Credit: Magnolia Bakery]]>
<![CDATA[Hero Dog Awards: Nominations Are Open]]> Thu, 28 Jan 2016 22:42:48 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/226*120/herodogawardsfinalists2015.jpg

There's no use for being coy about the topic, or noncommittal, or suggesting that the portrait we're about to paint has nothing to do with you, because it likely does: Everyone, upon hearing about a heroic animal, wishes they were acquainted with the animal, even tangentially.

Because beasties that do good go beyond the squee-cute online videos and fictional tales of furry deeds; those tail-wagging heroes are among us, now, inspiring us and helping out in many ways.

American Humane takes time each year to commend such selfless sweet creatures with a full-on, hotel ballroom ceremony, with one dog taking home the big honor. And while the ceremony is set for early September here in Los Angeles, what isn't set in stone, at the moment, is just which dogs out there will be nominated.

This is where you can do your kind part. Know a pup who has gone the distance, shown some moxie, stayed strong in the face of adversity? You can nominate the pooch for a Hero Dog Award.

The nominating process is open to the whole nation, as American Humane looks "to honor America's bravest heroes on both ends of the leash." Categories include Law Enforcement Dogs, Military Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Service Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Arson Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, and Emerging Hero Dogs, which is a special section "for ordinary dogs that do extraordinary things."

We all probably know such a heartwarming pup. And a pup's handler who deserves to also receive the spotlight, some gratitude, and a hearty round of applause.

Twenty four semifinalists will be announced in March — three for each category — and the initial round of public voting will open. 

As for what winners receive? The victor in each category will be able to donate $2,500 to "their designated charity partner," while the Hero Dog Award recipient will receive $5,000 to do the same. Each partner selected honors the "working dog" and how people play a big role in our hounds' lives (and very much vice versa).

Have a worthy wagger in mind? Best make your nomination now. You can check out the stories past nominees, including Glory of Sun Valley, a 2015 finalist. Glory, a bloodhound, has a knack for helping locate lost pets.

Nice, nice, incredibly nice. Did you just wish, for a moment, you knew Glory, personally, or one of the other nominees? Maybe you're acquainted with a heroic dog now.

Best suggest the awesome pup for top honors at the Hero Dog Awards.



Photo Credit: Hero Dog Awards]]>
<![CDATA[Museums Free-for-All Day]]> Thu, 28 Jan 2016 12:24:03 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/skirball_noahs-ark_puppeteer_1stevecohnskirballculturalcenter.jpg

Quite often, when one engages with a complex and awesome painting, the hard work needs to be done upfront. What is the painting saying? Is it a product of its time or timeless? How does it challenge who I am?

That's part of the whole process of loving art, and while thousands of SoCalers will be out loving art, for free, on Saturday, Jan. 30, we feel like some of the more challenging questions regarding Museums Free-for-All Day should come at the outset.

Is parking free? It's not, if there's typically a charge to bring your car to the institution, so plan on paying. Is every museum throughout the region waiving its get-in fees? It's best to check on where you want to go first, to make sure the place you have in mind is participating (the list of participants is quite long).

Will my free admission included any ticketed exhibits at the museum I visit? No, but you'll have plenty to see throughout the rest of the place. Is every museum on the list free on Jan. 30? Not every place: The Skirball Cultural Center and a few other spots will observe free hours on Sunday, Jan. 31.

Okay, those are the top-line, need-to-know questions for Museums Free-for-All, which is presented by SoCal Museums. Now for the overriding theme of the day: A whole slew of amazing Southern California museums will be free, free, free. You can waltz right in with your wallet well-stowed, and proceed to enjoy art, cultural displays, and cars.

Oh, yes, about those cars: The newly renovated Petersen Automotive Museum is on the list, if you haven't seen it yet. Other participating institutions include the Museum of Latin American Art, the Bowers Museum, and the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum.

Like a painting often has an overriding theme, so does Saturday, Jan. 30 in LA: Many museums will be free. This is an excellent theme, one we can all embrace.

The only question is this: Do you revisit a beloved museum again or try someplace new? It's like returning to a favorite painting you've seen a lot. Do you say hello to the artwork again or pay a visit to the painting next to it, the one you're unfamiliar with?

What would art, and free museum days, be without their challenging questions of the heart and mind?



Photo Credit: Steve Cohn/Skirball Cultural Center]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend: LA Art Show]]> Thu, 28 Jan 2016 08:03:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/laartshow9092382.jpg

LA Art Show: It's often said that art appreciation is a subjective pursuit, but there's not too much that's subjective about the bold claim that Los Angeles is an important and vital nexus for the creating of visual art. January, or LA Art Month, reflects our city's global rep as an innovating chance-taker in modern and contemporary art, and LA Art Show, a mega feast for the eyes, caps it all off downtown over the final weekend of the month. Want traditional art? Find that adjacent to LA Art Show, at the LA Fine Art Show. Big? Yes. Galleries from all over the world? They'll be at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Museums Free-for-All Day: Indeed, January being LA Art Month means many things, and one of the money-saving-est of all those things is happening on Saturday, Jan. 30, when a whole caboodle of local institutions waive their get-in fees for the day. What's free? Well, what isn't? Okay, a few places might be, so best check all the participants. Of note: The new Petersen Automotive Museum is on the list, if you haven't visited yet, and Skirball Cultural Center is honoring its free day on Sunday, Jan. 31.

Mardi Gras Opens: True, true, Fat Tuesday officially happens on Feb. 9, but the landmark public market at Third Street and Fairfax Avenue is starting the zydeco tunes and beignet eating and bead throwing a bit early. The party is on all Jan. 30 and 31, and Sunday will see a gussied-up pet parade to boot. If you can't make it, there's more Mardi Gras good times to come, on Feb. 6 and 9.

Chinese New Year: Our region will see a parade of parties honoring the Year of the Monkey over the coming weeks, and Universal Studios Hollywood is ready to get the celebrating going early. For two weeks -- Jan. 30 through Feb. 14 -- a number of festive to-dos will happen at the park, from Shenzhen performances, a plum blossom arch, cuisine that suits the spirit of the occasion, and, wait for it, Megatron, a character from Transformers: The Ride 3-D, chatting with guests in Mandarin.

Night on Broadway: Bringing Broadway Back, the multi-year initiative spearheaded by Councilmember José Huizar, is all about putting the deserved spotlight on the vibrant stretch of theaters and businesses that centers downtown. This annual party is free, and full of performances, and you get to enjoy Broadway for several blocks in its closed-to-cars state. Love a gratis bash with a community and cultural heart? It's all happen on Saturday night, Jan. 30.



Photo Credit: LA Art Show]]>
<![CDATA[Trade Old Baby Items for Discounts at Toys 'R' Us]]> Thu, 28 Jan 2016 06:13:01 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/062411+toys+r+us+generic+store.jpg

Anyone looking for an excuse to rid their home of old and unsafe baby items could stand to benefit from Toys "R" Us's annual Great Trade-In event.

Since 2009 the children's toy company has provided shoppers with the opportunity to discard old and unsafe baby gear — such as cribs, car seats, strollers and more — in exchange for a 25 percent discount on a purchase of select new items. The year shoppers can drop off gear from Feb.1 through Feb. 29 and those with "R" Us credit cards also receive an additional five percent off. The event applies at both Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us.

"As we strive to help parents make the best possible choices as they care for their babies, we look forward to once again hosting this program at our stores nationwide. We strongly encourage parents to use this time to check their baby gear and trade in old items for new ones that meet or exceed current safety standards," said Reg McLay, Senior Vice President of Babies "R" Us, in a statement.

The benefits aren't reserved for just those who bring in old items as even shoppers without an item to trade in can take advantage of a 15 percent discount in-store and online with a coupon at Babiesrus.com/GreatTradeIn.

Over 1.1 millions items have been turned in since the inception of the Great Trade-In. Several brands including Graco, Sorelle, Baby Trend and more have signed on to support the cause and help decrease unsafe childcare items from circulation. Items can include bassinets, infant swings, bouncers, travel systems, walkers, entertainers, play yard, and toddler beds.

Organizations and child care centers can exchange items in bulk but should contact their local Toys "R" Us store. There is no trade-in limit for the the number of items a customer can bring.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Teens Too Tall for Costumes?]]> Thu, 28 Jan 2016 07:00:05 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Too-Tall-for-Costumes-Disney.jpg

Two San Diego County teens were left disappointed after being turned away from a "Frozen" Disney on Ice show at Valley View Casino for an unlikely and seemingly bizarre reason: they were too tall to be wearing costumes.

Say what?

The girls said security staff told them they could be confused with the performers.

"Honestly, more than anything, it was just disappointing," Jessica Mcroskey said.

The two friends who attend Francis Parker High School, Mcroskey and Jennifer Wineholt, were decked out in "Frozen" attire for the event last Friday – only to be turned away because they were too tall, they told NBC 7. After the girls showed their IDs, proving they weren’t adults, they were given this reason:

“They came back later and said that 'Yes, you’re under 18, but you’re too tall ... people would actually think that you’re one of the characters,' and I guess there’s an issue with them taking pictures with us or something,” McRoskey said.

The teens said they looked again at the fine print on their tickets: Nowhere did it say on the tickets nor the event's website that costumes weren't allowed.

When reached for comment, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, the promoter of the event, told NBC 7 the company doesn’t have a policy against costumes. He said there appeared to be a miscommunication with security guards.

The company has offered the girls tickets to a later event.

The two best friends are heading to college on opposite coasts next year.

"We just want to have as much fun together as we can before we leave, and that was a night we'd been looking forward to for awhile," Wineholt said. "It's definitely a night we won't be able to get back."

]]>
<![CDATA[Free Downtown Fest: Night on Broadway]]> Wed, 27 Jan 2016 22:22:26 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/048.AurelieDavisnightbroadway.jpg

Saunter down Broadway downtown most any day or night of the week and you'll see the city in full vibrant thrum: Dress shops and restaurant and bodegas and vintage movie palaces and Clifton's Cafeteria see a flow of shoppers, eaters, lookie-loos, and people just enjoying the passing parade.

What you won't do, though, is walk down the street, in the center of the street, for a few blocks, due to traffic and Broadway's forever-bustling nature. That changes on one night of the year, the night of Night on Broadway, an annual celebration in commemoration of Councilmember José Huizar's Bringing Back Broadway initiative.

Make that free annual celebration. Night on Broadway is back, on Saturday, Jan. 30, to honor the eight anniversary of Bringing Back Broadway. 

Some 35,000 people attended in 2015, strolling the closed stretch of blocks -- think 3rd to 7th Streets -- and dipping into the many theaters along the way, for no-fee festivities of the cultural, art-awesome, eye-popping sort.

There's a lot of theater-visiting, music-listening, food-noshing to do over the six hours of Night on Broadway, so arrive right at 5 p.m. if you want to experience most everything.

Most everything includes The Million Dollar Cabaret at The Million Dollar Theatre, a "cirque bizarre" performance at The Orpheum, The Lucent Dossier Experience at The Los Angeles Theatre, and The Clouds Below will rock The Palace Theatre.

There's so much moreness to the night -- yes, you got it, "moreness" -- that filling in every detail is much like trying to vividly describe Broadway's vivid vibe to someone who has never experienced one of our city's great streets.

It isn't hard to argue that Broadway has indeed been "brought back," as its initiative is seeking to do, and not just on one special night of the year. But that some 35,000 revelers, and Broadway buffs, turned out for the free fun in 2015, the magical etherealness, the food yumminess, and the gifts of the historic, theater-lined stretch, says much.

Nope, you can't saunter down the center of Broadway, in the heart of downtown, on most days, but on Jan. 30 you can, at least for a few designated blocks. It's a rare treat with a bigger, Broadwayier purpose, one of community and culture combined.



Photo Credit: Aurelie Davis]]>
<![CDATA[Bean Dream: CoffeeCon LA]]> Wed, 27 Jan 2016 15:16:33 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/219*120/84445962.jpg

It's a common occurrence — even an everyday one — to grab a quick cup of coffee before heading out to something you've got planned for the day. Your morning sip gives some caffeinated zip, some deep flavor, and the warmth-steamy will to put your shoes on and get to the place you need to be.

But what if that place was itself all about coffee? What if your morning cup was simply a peppy prelude to all of the bean-centered, pro-knowledgeable goodness you were about to encounter over several hours?

Well, surely you'd still have your cup or two before splitting from home, anyway. CoffeeCon LA gets your obsession with the brown-of-hue, lavish-of-taste beverage, a drink so good to so many that it is sometimes the last thought you think before going to sleep at night. (Admit it: You think "only a few hours before my first cup.")

The date is Saturday, Jan. 30, the place is The Reef downtown, and a host of speakers will discuss the intricacies and art of coffee-makery. Making a Buttery Brew is one seminar, as is a French Press Lab. A gathering called Water: Coffee's Silent Majority is on the calendar, and if Turkish Coffee is your obsession, there is a session just for you.

Exhibitors from every corner of coffeedom will also be in the house, so check out the likes of Good Land Organics, Warbler Coffee Roasting, Portola Coffee Lab, and more.

Tickets? They're thirty bucks for the entire day, and you get access to the labs and seminars, too.

CoffeeCon, which burbles up, like so much fancy foam, in some other major cities, too, is billed as The Consumer Coffee Festival. 

If you're the sort of coffeeist who stopped reading this to go make a cup — or you're thinking of going to get a cup right now — then strengthening your coffee maker game, your sugar/milk ratios, and your general knowledge of bean-grinding is probably important to you.

After all, millions drink it every morning ... and afternoon ... and night ... and repeat. Perhaps it is time to give this every day, but not-so-everyday, passion of your palate some more love.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cupid to Visit Santa Monica Diners]]> Wed, 27 Jan 2016 12:58:47 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cupidheartsm123.jpg

Calling Cupid spritely, unpredictable, and frankly fickle is like saying El Niño is damp or the redwoods are tall.

Everyone knows that the wing-sporting, quiver-rocking cherub can and does alight wherever he dang well pleases, spreading love here and there but certainly not everywhere all at once. (Such is his singular, oft-bemoaned, occasionally praised reputation.)

This makes heading into Valentine's Weekend a bit tricky, and even trickier if you don't need Cupid to visit you, as you're already with a honeybun you're rather sweet on. Our suggestion, though? Best change that tune if you're dining out that honeybun in Downtown Santa Monica on Saturday, Feb. 13.

Why? Because Cupid himself will be calling upon a number of restaurants, and couples within those restaurants, on Valentine's Eve, all to sprinkle joy and light and $50 gift cards towards the meal you're currently enjoying.

The hours? Look for a flash of wings, hither and yon, between 6 p.m. and 9 o'clock in the evening.

The eateries? Oh great candy hearts, there's a lot of them around the immediate area: Blue Plate Oysterette, Ivy at the Shore, Melisse, FIG Restaurant, Cassia, True Food Kitchen, Water Grill, Loteria Grill, Locanda del Lago, and Red O Restaurant are just a slice of the spots where Cupid may or may not cameo.

We know, we know: It's a dicey prospect, for everyone, to wait on a certain Grecian god to show up and do his beneficent thing, whether that's pairing lovebirds or handing out money-saving gift cards to Valentine's Eve diners.

All we can say is this: If he doesn't pop by your table, be not glum. Be glad, rather, that you're out, in lovely Downtown Santa Monica, a block or two from the beach, with your #1 pumpkin on Valentine's Eve. 

That rocks.

And, honestly, there hasn't been a person now, or throughout history, who has found a way to summon the mythical matchmaker on demand. That's not about to start, either, but should Cupid and his quiver full of $50 restaurant gift cards find his way to you and your partner, well... Your Valentine's Eve will be one for the storybooks.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Santa Monica]]>
<![CDATA[Mardi Gras Kick-Off at Farmers Market]]> Thu, 28 Jan 2016 07:51:43 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fmmaskswestpatiomardigras.jpg

The fanciful spirit of any celebration can be a challenge to bottle up and label according to its ingredients. You simply know that something works because you've seen it working, and much of the merriment stems from a number of not-easy-to-place reasons.

But it's rather obvious why the Original Farmers Market at Third & Fairfax throws such a lively Mardi Gras each and every year: It's already got that merry spirit year-round, much like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, which we can confidently call Mardi Gras Central.

Is that the secret to an ebullient party that's also rife with the A, B, Cs of the wintertime shindig? The "A" being accordion, the "B" being beads, and "C" standing for crawfish. That a place is already full of people having a good time pretty much always?

That good time'll get even brassier on Saturday, Jan. 30 and Sunday, Jan. 31. That's right, the landmark public market is starting the Fat Tuesday fun several days before Feb. 9, in an entirely different month. (You know this is a beloved tradition when the bon temps rouler can't even be contained in a single month.)

But the NOLA-style doings continue into February, with more Mardi Gras tunes on Saturday Feb. 6 and a party on the day of Mardi Gras proper. That's four full days of rocking the beads and feathers.

The highlights? There are many, but Mutti Gras, on Jan. 31, will bring out the pups dressed in gold, purple, and green. A strolling jester will be out that day, in harlequin regalia, and a whole bunch of bands will bring the stomp 'n twirl.

Want to catch every act, from The Wabash Wailers to Eddie Baytos & The Nervis Bros? Best check the full roster. The bayou is meeting up with the Fairfax District, and you likely don't want to miss a note.

As for the cost of catching a few bead necklaces and twirling your partner to the sounds of the French Quarter? That's all free, in grand Mardi Gras style.

Pocket some dollars, though, for beignets and a po' boy at The Gumbo Pot. It's located on the market's West Patio, where a lot of the dancing and accordion-awesomeness is set to go down.



Photo Credit: Original Farmers Market]]>
<![CDATA['Hamilton': Broadway Hit Headed for Hollywood]]> Tue, 26 Jan 2016 18:43:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/hamiltonGettyImages-483195626.jpg

Hit stage musicals have long had an impressive knack for leaping out of their home theater and into the hearts of new fans around the world, many of which haven't even seen it yet.

Think of "Cats" or "Phantom of the Opera," two spectacles that grew a mega fan base in cities where neither production had even traveled (both would go on to major road careers, of course). Shows don't get that sort of lightening-hot heat every day, or even every decade, but "Hamilton" has, and how.

Based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, the hip-hop historical from exuberant story innovator Lin-Manuel Miranda became the Broadway phenom of 2015 thanks to catchy lyrics, energy-laden numbers, and a general joie de vivre that permeates every corner of the production.

The only question for many musical-obsessed SoCalers was this: When would "Hamilton" arrive in Los Angeles, and where, and how can I find a ticket, and when? When???

The when and where and how have been determined, after lo these many months of waiting: The musical, which is based upon the Ron Chernow-penned biography, will play at The Pantages Theatre starting in the summer of 2017.

Yes, "starting" is the key: "Hamilton" is set to run into December 2017, an especially lengthy stop for a show, but, of course, not a show that has hit the heights in such a mega manner. (Speaking of which, Lin-Manuel Miranda is also well-known for his great work on "In the Heights," which proceeded "Hamilton" as another much-catch Broadway musical.)

The Pantages revealed its full schedule on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Joining "Hamilton" on the 2016-2017 roster will be "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," the Lincoln Center production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "The King & I," "An American in Paris," "The Bodyguard," "Finding Neverland," and a return engagement for "The Book of Mormon."

How can you score your seat for "Hamilton" and the other musicals making for Tinseltown? Season Packages are available now. The venue says the individual ticket on-sale date for "Hamilton" will be "announced at a later date."

If that's what you're waiting on, best listening to the official cast recording a few more times, and read the biography that inspired Mr. Miranda to write his hit show. After all, musicals that reach far and wide beyond their original venues, even ahead of going on the road, don't come around all that often.

So we in other cities must enjoy the show from where we are, how we can, by hitting "replay" on the songs again and again, ahead of the production's actual arrival. (Which is, for your calendar, Aug. 11, 2017.)



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Green Juice Day: Sip Your Veges]]> Tue, 26 Jan 2016 09:58:24 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/greenjuiceevolution123.jpg

New year's resolutions, the making and keeping of them, provide the fodder for numerous articles at the start of the year, as do topics ranging from "why we shouldn't make resolutions" to "starting over on the resolutions we broke too fast." 

Perhaps Feb. 1 can be that start-over date, officially, for those people that couldn't quite make a go in January. Here's impetus to jump-start those healthier, cut-down-on-dessert promises, the ones that involve taking in more greens: Green Juice Day.

Don't run to your handy food calendar, the one that lists all of the yearly holidays, to find this one: It's new, and Evolution Fresh, a maker of green juicery, is the outfit that declared it should be a Thing. (Which begs the question how foodstuffs initially made our food holiday calendar: committee meetings? Convention votes? Questions, questions.)

You can see all on the National Day Calendar, if you don't already have every date memorized (we know you know that April 5 is National Deep Dish Pizza Day).

But Jan. 26 is Green Juice Day, and this end-of-January event comes with a resolution-goosing label: "Turn It Around." Evolution Fresh realizes that vows made on Dec. 31 might be, well, lagging at this point, but there is still time to turn it around and start anew. 

The company has paired up with Postmates to get "Green Juice Breaks" out to people in 15 cities. The three-pack includes 15.2-ounce servings of Sweet Greens and Lemon juices. How to get on this tasty wagon? Go here and sign up.

Celery, cucumber, kale, parsley, and more fresh from the vege drawer goodies await. As does practically a whole year of eating a bit better. Didn't quite get that going on Jan. 1? Let Jan. 26 -- Green Juice Day -- be your inspiration to "Turn It Around" and go green.



Photo Credit: Evolution Fresh]]>