<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Dining, shopping and nightlife]]> Copyright 2015 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, 26 Nov 2015 11:40:07 -0800 Thu, 26 Nov 2015 11:40:07 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Ringo Starr: Cool Treasures at 'Historic' Auction]]> Thu, 26 Nov 2015 07:50:55 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/rinojuliens_scottritchie.jpg Instruments, cars, and more goods belonging to the Beatle and Barbara Bach are on the block, in Beverly Hills.

Photo Credit: Scott Ritchie]]>
<![CDATA[Learn How to Make Coquito Cocktails for the Holidays]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 14:06:14 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ENG_coquito_recipe_1200x675_574318147973.jpg Miami-based food writer Enriqueta Lemoine shows you her take on the Puerto Rican holiday drink coquito.]]> <![CDATA[Holiday 2015: Gift Guide for Any Budget]]> Thu, 26 Nov 2015 04:35:56 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/gift-thumb.jpg
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<![CDATA[SoCal's Newest Viral Star: Daisy Underbite]]> Thu, 26 Nov 2015 09:22:55 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/daisyunderbite29232.jpg

If you're currently consulting the etiquette books on your shelf, the ones that detail what topics are approved for discussion at the Thanksgiving table, and what subjects are best avoided, unhand your guides and go directly to the headquarters of Daisy, a Southern California canine with a magical story.

Daisy, whose Facebook page is entited "Daisy Underbite" for the obvious and charming reasons, is all you need to discuss over the family holiday meal, because everyone can agree she is the most squee-able star to break big on the internet in ages.

Does "break big on the internet" mean there is a viral video involved? Oh you bet.

Her story has heartbreak and hope: Left on her own "on the streets of Bellflower" when she was nothing more than a lil' whelp, Daisy was found by animal control and spirited to a shelter. Her luck didn't look up, for a time, but then A Home 4 Ever Rescue provided a pathos-packed plot twist by plucking Daisy out of the shelter, and just in time. 

The fawn-hued honey has a congenital condition affecting much of her upper body -- "elbows, right shoulder, and back hips" -- which made walking a challenge for the wee lady. Wheels helped, for a couple of years, but then prosthetic legs came into Daisy's life, in the summer of 2015, a game-changer. 

Daisy's now a runner. A sprinter, really.

"Our mission is to spread the love and positive message of animals with special needs through Daisy," says the pup's forever mom Sheena Main on Daisy's main HQ, Underbite Unite.

Could Daisy be one of the delightful uniters of the 2015 holidays? Could this spunky SoCaler shine a light for breaking through to the next level, whatever that level happens to be, a true inspiration for all of us?

No more hypothetical questions: Yes and yes are the correct answers. Just make sure all of the relatives and friends walking in your front door on Thanksgiving Day watch this heart-tugger of a video before they head for the dining room table:

Photo Credit: Daisy Underbite]]>
<![CDATA[Move Aside, Turkey Trots: Thanksgiving Skate]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 22:00:32 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/pershingsquarerinknight123.jpg

We've become so accustomed to joking about the sedentary nature of Thanksgiving — the hours spent at the table, the naps on the couch, the lingering next to the pan of stuffing on the stove — that we haven't even noticed the physical activities of the holiday, pursuits that are becoming as symbolic of the day as a plate of hot yams.

True, tossing a ball around in the yard is a classic, as is throwing fallen leaves, if you have fallen leaves to throw. But somewhere along the way the Turkey Trot trotted into the fourth Thursday of Thanksgiving, bringing with it a host of jogging 5kers and 10kers, many in costume.

If running on the morning of Thanksgiving, though, doesn't quite appeal — you do, after all, have to carefully guard that pan of stuffing on the stove from prying fingers (especially your own) -- then take heart: There's another Thanksgiving Day activity on the rise. 

It's an hour or two spent at a seasonal ice rink. They do stay open on Thanksgiving — well, several of them do, at least, for several hours — and they're an everybody-in, family-wide, whimsy-cute happening with strong ties to holiday nostalgia.

So what's open on Nov. 26, 2015? The Holiday Ice Rink at Pershing Square, ICE at Santa Monica, and Woodland Hills Ice have all posted special holiday hours. Do check before you go, though; just because you've wrapped dinner and washed all the dishes doesn't mean the rink still has its lights on.

(Also, if you really wash all of the dishes right away, you deserve a hearty hooray.)

Note that the ice rink at Irvine Spectrum Center is closed Thanksgiving Day, and the LA Kings seasonal rink at LA Live opens on Saturday, Nov. 28.

Will ice skating ever replace the Turkey Trot or the pickup game in the yard or the leaf fight? There's room for lots of recreation come Thanksgiving. It can't be all eating all the time right?

Seriously, you're not fooling anyone by "guarding" the stuffing on the stove, with a little taste here and there. Thanksgiving rules the school as far as people "eating from the edges" goes, before a dish reaches the table, and that's the truth.

Nibbling around the edge of a casserole is a holiday hallmark, as much as a nap on the couch later in the day.

Photo Credit: Holiday Ice Rink]]>
<![CDATA[History of Thanksgiving: How Much Do You Know About Turkey Day?]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 08:30:30 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_51734552621.jpg

Millions of Americans will travel to visit family and friends and stuff themselves with turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. But how much do you know about the holiday’s origins and why we celebrate? Test your knowledge of the history behind Turkey Day with this quiz.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Last-Sec Dish: The Snacksgiving Gobbler]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 07:57:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/snacksgivingcharlesphoenix.jpg

Look, here's the frank talk: If you've been assigned a dish for Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps an appetizer, and you're only now yawning and stretching and cracking open the cupboards, to see what you might have on hand, well, things are not looking up.

Because your host will give you the hairy eyeball when you meekly walk in the door, empty-handed and full of apologies. Fact.

Best throw something stupendous together, and best do it fast. Thank goodness SoCal's own zazzy history-lovin', retro-food-makin' entertainer Charles Phoenix is there in a pinch, to help us out with our holiday cooking woes.

And his Snacksgiving Gobbler Platter requires no cooking whatsoever, just a crunchy array of crackers found at your local grocery store, and some cheese slices, salami, and a pimento'd green olive for the tasty not-made-of-turkey turkey's eyeball.

Easy, right? It's all in the sure-handed assembly, something that can be done while you listen to Christmas carols. (Stop with the "no carols before Thanksgiving" moaning and enjoy it, if that's your bag.)

Forget not the red bell pepper, which forms the not-made-of-turkey turkey's all-important gobbler. 

If you're pondering if this is the culinary wizard who brought us the infamous three-pies-baked-inside-three-cakes dessert, ponder no longer: Charles Phoenix is the father of the Cherpumple, and all its various holiday incarnations.

We're looking at you, red, white, and blue Fourth of July Cherpumple. With affection.

Mr. Phoenix also created the baked meat rat for Halloween, and a host of other semi-vintage-y and always humorous dishes tied to holidays. It's all so LA, right? Food that's a bit funny and look-at-me-y? We like razzmatazz 'round these parts, and there's no need apologizing for it, in the way no one has to apologize for listening to carols before Thanksgiving.

Photo Credit: Charles Phoenix]]>
<![CDATA[Downtown Delish: Walk-In Gingerbread House]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 09:05:55 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/jwmarriottgingerbread1.jpg

A half century ago, holiday-ready gingerbread houses pretty much adhered to a single, "Hansel & Gretel"-ish look, with a peaked roof, a frosting-covered front door, and, if the cook got creative, a picket fence made of candy canes.

But advances in gingerbread-based design have zoomed forward at an astonishing pace, thanks in large part to our Pinterest-powered day and age. Cookie contests and school raffles regularly see gingerbread condos and gingerbread hotels and gingerbread midcentury abodes and gingerbread swimming pools, too.

The walk-in gingerbread house, though, still reigns supreme. There are only a few places to see such marvels, typically large hotels here and there, and the JW Marriott Los Angeles at LA Live is performing the wow-inducing honors over the 2015 yuletide season.

The house, which weighs 1,300 pounds, is owned by Mrs. Claus, reveals the hotel, and several of her personal effects, from picture frames made of sugar to chocolate Santas, will be on display.

Speaking of Santa, he'll make a cameo at the house on Saturday, Dec. 19, from 1 o'clock to 5 p.m. (there shall be photo-taking, if you haven't gotten your requisite number of Santa snaps in by that date).

Other happenings around the hotel complement the cookie-sweet casa, from "Holiday in a Box" package at the Mixing Room -- it comes complete with party favors, reindeer antlers, and such -- to appearances by "Kung Fu Panda 3" characters (the DreamWorks Animation favorites'll also be around on Dec. 19, when a special Mixing Room "Holly Jolly Day" gives guests "exclusive access to the LA Live annual skating rink."

Are you inspired? To go beyond the peaked roof and gumdrop front door, with your own gingerbread baking in the weeks to come? It isn't easy making all of that icing and candy line up.

It is pretty easy, if you're in the LA Live neck of the woods, to go over the (LA) river and to JW Marriott to see what several hundred pounds of gingerbread, fashioned into a room-like space, look like, however.

The Mrs. Claus's walk-in gingerbread house will be on display at the hotel from Nov. 30 through Dec. 31. 

Photo Credit: JW Marriott]]>
<![CDATA[Pasadena Holiday: Free Fests 'N Fun Times]]> Wed, 25 Nov 2015 09:43:55 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/southlakeholpasa.jpg

If we met the genius inventors who make really huge over-sized things, like those inflatable mega Santas that sit atop car dealerships, we'd ask them to make a Holiday Excitement Thermometer. This thermometer is, of course, just like a candy thermometer, but instead of dipping it into melted sugar you'd dip it into the middle of a city.

Though, on second thought, we probably don't need one of those giant excitement measurers 'round Southern California, because there's one city that likely shows the highest level of pre-holiday anticipation, thanks to a lil' old shindig the place throws on New Year's Day.

The coming of the Tournament of Roses does up Pasadena's general "let's par-tay" factor, which can be seen in the free street festivals and outdoor to-dos that dot the seasonal calendar.

That bells-on atmosphere officially kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 28, when shops around Old Pasadena mark Small Business Saturday. The LA Master Chorale's brand-new caroling bus'll pay a visit to both Mercantile Plaza and One Colorado Courtyard at 7 and 7:20 respectively, and the holiday window decor'll be lending glitter to the glass panes of the area.

Post your favorite window with #OnlyinOldPas for a chance to win a weekly hundred bucks (details here).

A pet photo day, a mailbox for writing Santa, and more merriment fill out Old Pasadena's twinkly to-dos.

The seasonal fun stuff'll keep on trucking most weekends right up through the Rose Parade's arrival, but there's another party, early on, on South Lake Avenue. Holidayfest! includes carriage rides, kid crafts, store deals, live tunes from a bevy of acts like The Dustbowl Revival, a scavenger hunt, caroling, and an overloaded stocking's worth of yuletide pursuits.

It's free to attend, and it gets the holiday good timez going early, on Saturday, Dec. 5.

Is the South Lake Avenue Holidayfest!, as well as all of the happenings around Old Pasadena, happy harbingers of what's to come around New Year's Day? We might not need that giant Holiday Excitement Thermometer after all; it appears that the city has the pre-sparkle, party-in-the-streets thing going well ahead of its biggest annual event.

Photo Credit: Akiko Whalen/South Lake Holidayfest]]>
<![CDATA[Thanksgiving Sweets: You've Got Dessert]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 22:53:09 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Thanksgiving-Cupcakes900magnolia.jpg

The assignment-giving portion of the holidays is always a bit of a nail-biter.

If your friend or relative is doing the main bit of cooking — say, the turkey or the roast — very often sides and breads and drinks are handed out, one by one, to those attending.

What's best to get in this arena? Probably not the stuffing, because, let's be honest, you'll eat the stuffing before you arrive at your holiday dinner destination, or at least like 75 percent of it. Rolls, too, are the same. Not even worth debating.

You want to be picked for the pies. Why? Because pick up a pie or some turkey-shaped cookies or a nicely frosted cake and there's no way you can possibly dig into your assigned dish, pre-Thanksgiving, without leaving noticeable tracks. (The same absolutely cannot be said for stuffing, or any casserole dish, which are full-on tracks-coverable.)

So where to find holiday-ready pastries around Southern California? Call ahead to make sure you can slip your order in, or just stop by, and see what sweets are at ...

Magnolia Bakery: The West Third Street shop, know for its cake-y delights, always steps up to the (dessert) plate when it comes to seasonally thematic foodstuffs. The Magnolia Thanksgiving cupcakes arrive in all of the hues of fall — orange, brown, and such — and there are wee turkeys atop each. In the pie department? Look for pumpkin praline, various fancy apples, and more.

Porto's Bakery & Cafe: Whether you go Glendale or Burbank or Downey, you're dealing with SoCal dessert royalty when you stroll in bearing a beautiful cake or pie from this local treasure. But what to choose? The Thanksgiving Tres Leches, the Thanksgiving Mango Mousse, or the order-24-hours-ahead Thanksgiving Turkey, a "moist pumpkin cake with pecans and cream cheese filling"? Choices.

Crave Dessert: Brown butter anything is pretty much a winner when it comes to autumn edibles, but when it's involved with pumpkin cake, consider your task of finding an elegant dessert done. The "small batch dessert bakery" is on Washington Boulevard, and there are other surprising sweets that are readymade for walking in the door with on Thanksgiving Day. While ahead-orders are the thing, the store has "limited stock available" on its store shelves.

simplethings restaurant: Pies rule here, both steak-y, savory, dig-in-able goodies and the sweet things, too. If you need something on the sweet side for the dinner you're attending, but like a little zing, look to the current Chef's Special Pie, the chipotle pumpkin pie. Will you tell your pals to expect a little kick when they finally take a bite? That's up to you. (Be nice and tell all.)

Auntie Em's Kitchen: Red and green and ornaments and peppermint and elves are up and down every aisle of the stores these days, but it is still autumn, and the trees are actually changing around Southern California. The Autumn Leaves Cake is a November-nice choice for the holiday table, and a good way to be in the season, and the moment, deliciously.

Salt & Straw: The Larchmont outpost of the Portland-started ice cream shop is getting a SoCal sibling in Studio City next year, but as of right now the story is all about fall-esque flavors: sweet potato with maple pecans, apple cranberry stuffing, and such. Want to show with a packed pint? You can. Just be ready to be the talk of T Day with your pint of salted caramel Thanksgiving turkey ice cream.

Photo Credit: Magnolia Bakery]]>
<![CDATA[Awww: Thanksgiving Week Pet Adoption Deal]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 21:19:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/kittyshutterstock_268083917.jpg

Slipping your sweetie a slice of sweet potato or a green bean as you cook Thanksgiving dinner is a tender tradition of the holiday.

Of course, we're talking about the sweetie stretched out on the floor by the warm oven, not the other sweeties who will sit at the holiday table and serve themselves casserole and turkey. Our pets are our quiet and true kitchen companions while we make the big holiday meals, even as the humans in the house turn on the game in the other room or head outside to play.

But if a sweet potato-craving sweetie isn't lolling on the kitchen floor next to the warm oven, and you're keenly feeling that absence, there's a way to remedy that: adoption. It's a fine idea, with so many cats and dogs needing homes at any time of the year, and if you don't have a load of people coming over for the holiday, and you're doing Thanksgiving at a friend's, this could be the optimal week to welcome a new friend home, especially if you have a few calm days off from work.

And you can make a date to stop by the Found Animals' Adopt & Shop in Culver City. Billed as "the only nonprofit pet retail store in California," the Adopt & Shop also places lovies in forever homes. And they've got a holiday special on, from Nov. 23 through 30, and it is this: Your pet adoption from the Culver City location will cost fifty bucks.

Which is a sweet song for a new sweetie who might be at your side, and in front of the warm oven on the kitchen floor, for ten or 15 or even 20 Thanksgivings to come. You can see some of the cuties available for adoption now on the website, but swing by the Adopt & Shop and you just might see beasties who are totally new to you, too.

It's always a question whether introducing a new pet over a holiday period is a wise move. But, again, if Thanksgiving is on the chill side at your pad — maybe your neighbor is hosting — and you've got a few days at home to introduce a fresh friend to the territory, this could be the moment of magic.

Next year? It's your turn to host Thanksgiving again, with your well-settled-in dog or cat at your side as guests arrive. Very much at your side, as they know you're the person in charge of the sweet potato casserole and yummy green beans.

Do they hang out in the kitchen because they A) love you or B) hanker for a treat? The answer is a sweet C) -- both, of course.

Photo Credit: Adopt & Shop]]>
<![CDATA[Gobble Gait: Turkey Trot Time]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 13:03:23 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/turkeyleiwang929823.jpg

Social media traditionally makes a lot of satirical hay about what families face, conversation-wise, at the Thanksgiving table. Mothers pull adult kids aside in humorous videos, telling them off-topic issues, while the peacemakers of a group stick to favorite movies and childhood memories as a matter of noncontroversial course.

Ponder, though, how running together, as a unit, could help create a smoother dinner later in the day, in two ways. One? All of those lovely endorphins can create euphoria, one that you can clutch to throughout the holiday. And two? You can discuss, in detail, the highs and lows of the Turkey Trot you all ran that morning, and voíla: Conversation stays on track, from first course to pumpkin pie.

As far as finding tracks and courses on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 26, your Turkey Trot and Thanksgiving-themed runs around Southern California are plentiful...

Long Beach has a long-running 5K, one that summons people from around SoCal. It's the 13th outing and some "4,000 runners are expected." That's a whole bunch of people working up an appetite a few hours ahead of supper, and those close-to-the-ocean-breezes definitely help in the appetite-stoking department.

Downtown LA has a trot on, too, and this one offers up both a 5K choice and a lengthier course at 10 kilometers. If you forget your turkey hat for the run, fret now: They're for sale there, in both the post-oven version and the barnyard version. The Thanksgiving runs truly might be the only athletic events where more people wear birds on their noggins than baseball or knit caps.

Topanga State Park has some beautiful vistas and rolling hill action, and the three runs on Nov. 26 -- 5K, 10K, and 15K -- will have a bit of all of that good stuff. The scene is Trippet Ranch and the 5K is described as "the fun run," in case that's more your bag.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has a lot of horsey action happening these days down around Del Mar, but the hooves stop a-flyin' and the tennies start running on Thanksgiving morning at the Family Mile Fun Run. There's also a Thanksgiving Brunch, too, at the track, if you want to chow as well.

Perhaps, in the end, the wiseacres of social media are only half-right about Thanksgiving table peace-making: Maybe we do all really get along pretty dang well, making for a sweeter holiday in the end.

Pumpkin pie helps, of course, as does some outdoor time, together, at some point of the day, be it a Turkey Trot or a pick-up game in the yard.

Photo Credit: Lei Wang]]>
<![CDATA[Thanksgiving Turkey Do's and Don'ts]]> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 04:08:13 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/turkey_dos_donts_preparations.jpg #NBC5Responds' Deanna Dewberry offers a few surprising tips on how to make that Thanksgiving centerpiece perfect.]]> <![CDATA[A Dozen Thanksgiving Dinners Out]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 08:54:27 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cafegratitudefreethanksgiving.jpg

If you got stuck stirring the gravy pot last Thanksgiving -- a noble and important job, but one that can take you out of the gossip going down in the den and the pick-up games in the yard -- there is a solution: Take everyone out for dinner. 

You're all at the same table at the same time, someone else is stirring the gravy, and you won't miss a lick of family stories and scuttlebutt. Hundreds of restaurants around Southern California stay open for the holiday, going the turkey-plus-everything route, so finding your crew's spot is a matter of taste and location.

Call ahead for those all-important reservations -- of course you will -- and make for...

Café Gratitude: The Arts District eatery has the spirit of Thanksgiving in its name all year long, and that spirit extends into the day itself, when its annual meal is presented at no cost to diners. The "free composed plate" of holiday classics -- all plant-based -- will be served from 11 o'clock through 3 "or while still available." More Apple and Pomegranate Spritzer, please.

Doma Kitchen: Eating out of a pumpkin is what we typically do come Halloween, what with the miniature candy bars and all. But the Manhattan Beach restaurant is serving up a savory ground chicken meatloaf & fresh vegetables inside a real (not plastic) pumpkin. There are the usual yummy Thanksgiving finds, too, like mashed potatoes, green beans, and herb-roasted turkey.

Sambar: If you're an Akasha aficionado, you likely know all about Chef Akasha Richmond's latest venture in Culver City. Sambar is open on Thanksgiving and is doing up a menu that pays homage to the flavors of India. Hello, garam masala and tomato-braised turkey, and hello to a pie buffet (word has it that Chef rather loves pie, though don't we all).

Artisan House: It's always a question on T Day -- plated or buffet? If you love the latter, make for Main Street and a $30 comprehensive all-included chowdown of favorites like traditional roast turkey and pecan pie (and newbies like truffle mac & cheese). One beyond-the-buffet add-on? Bottomless mimosas for a tenner.

Disneyland Hotel: Several restaurants around the world's most famous theme park go the full-on stuffing route, and while seats can be a little tricky to come by as the holiday draws closer, you might luck out. One draw? Should you find yourself at the Disneyland Hotel buffet, the chances of you getting a pic with Donald Duck, or another iconic character, post-turkey, are quite high.

The Larchmont: Any hearty edible that's been braised or brined in a delicious libation or spice just feels like November on a plate, and The Larchmont has a couple of choices in this arena, including a pastrami-brined turkey breast with Calvados gravy as well as a cider-braised turkey leg rolled with prosciutto and whipped robiola. Other tasties, like cranberry orange marmalade, fill out the menu.

Barton G.: For quirky vittles, this La Cienega post platery is tops. That reputation extends to the holidays, too, so prepare for a slightly offbeat Thanksgiving presentation. The "culinary theater" is offering a three-courser for $65, with pumpkin donuts to round out the sweet close of the meal. The restaurant's regular menu will also be available.

Terrine: While it is a lovely, tried-and-true thing to return to a location where you've eaten ten Thanksgiving dinners in the past, it can be fun to try out a place as they do up their first Thanksgiving. The Beverly Boulevard restaurant's $45 holiday meal includes a communal table filled with food and Chef Kris Morningstar performing carving duties out among the diners.

Anaheim White House: There's a large percentage of go-outers on Thanksgiving Day who like a hefty dose of visual cheer with their holiday foodstuffs, and this Orange County institution delivers on the twinkly lights, yuletide decor front. That it is also so a major player in feeding those in need throughout the year lends it some major spirit and heart, too.

The Tam O'Shanter: The Lawry's group of dress-up, eat-up eateries are known for their classics-filled Thanksgiving menus, and the Tam is going that route, with some Scottish goodies to pay homage to the restaurant's theme. How often have you enjoyed Scotch Rarebit on the November holiday? Not often enough?

Fogo de Chão: People who love everything and anything Churrasco style do not make exceptions for the holidays, and nor should they: Grilled meats can fold in well with the sides we know and love on the Thanksgiving table. Both the Beverly Hills and downtown locations will be open on Thanksgiving, and there shall be sweet potato casserole, cranberry, and more in addition to the those famous Fogo foods.

Crossroads Kitchen: It's known for its "forest-to-table" dishes as well as the luminaries who pop up there on the regular, and on Nov. 26 it'll be all about swanky T Day eats. Butternut squash bisque, autumn chop salad, sweet potato biscuits, and other stuff-the-face-ables will all be a part of the high-styling menu. Where to go? Melrose Avenue, of course.

Photo Credit: Café Gratitude]]>
<![CDATA['Force Awakens' Costumes at El Capitan]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 23:01:03 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/starwarselcap123.jpg

The "Star Wars" universe is rather well-known not just for its fantastical planetscapes, but for interiors that are vast and grand and not a little regal. 

Think of the Great Temple on Yavin 4, the site of the awards ceremony following the destruction of the Death Star in Episode 4. And picture the Great Convocation Chamber, in all of its intimidating enormity and elegance, in "The Phantom Menace."

El Capitan Theatre, one of Hollywood's vintage movie palaces, more than fits the fantastical interior bill here, so when "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" debuts at the Disney-owned cinema on Friday, Dec. 18, fans may feel as though they've entered a room appropriate to the set-design-worthiness seen on the screen.

But there's more to the seven-week run of the film at the El Cap beyond a posh setting to see it in, and it involves these three words: costumes, props, and lightsabers. Because every "list of 3" involving "Star Wars" should end in "lightsabers," right? It's like some rule somewhere.

While not every outfit or item spied in "The Force Awakens" will be on display in the theater's lower-level area, a few key costumes and pieces will be, making an after-credits stroll a must. 

Further, a Laser Lightsaber Curtain Show, ahead of the film, will do the excitement-pre-stoking part, while you're noshing on the popcorn you're trying to make last through the opening sequence of the movie. If you know El Capitan, there's always an opening spectacle, involving some sort of song and/or dance, but seeing laser-like lights  power through the 1920s-era space may be a new zenith for the location.

As for nabbing that perfect seat? Many tickets at many theaters traveled at lightspeed into people's pockets and phones when they first went on sale, at least for the opening weekend. But there are a few interesting ticket choices at the El Cap, beyond the seven-movie Opening Night Marathon (which sold-out faster than C-3PO can complain about whatever R2 is up to, which is pretty darn fast).

There's a VIP Comic Book Admission Ticket, do note, which includes popcorn, drink, and "2 exclusive variant cover designs of "Star Wars Vader Down #1" comic book by Todd Nauck or Michael Walsh.

Also, there'll be Cosplay and Cocktails evenings, on "select dates," which include a private stroll through the costumes, along with other people who've purchased the special tickets. (And drinks, too.)

And there are screenings for the tots, too, where the theater isn't quite as dark and the powerful sound isn't quite as rrreah-rreah-rreahhhhhh. (That was the approximate sound of a blaster, of course.)

Everyone but everyone and everyone they know tried for Opening Day tickets at the cinema of their choice, seemingly, but who'll be there when the spectacle of the season wraps its grand El Capitan run? Look to the first week of February, and the last showing on Feb. 7, and buy tickets for that, too.

That's braggable, yes? You're such a serious fan that you're seeing the very last showing, and not just the first. You are, in essence, seeing it out the door, with a grateful goodbye. There are many medals of honor in the "Star Wars" universe, and they're not all handed out at the Great Temple on Yavin 4.

Photo Credit: © Disney. All Rights Reserved]]>
<![CDATA[Holiday 2015: Top 12 Holiday Toys]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 11:40:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Toys-SplitScreen.jpg Lightsabers, talking plush toys and robots make up this year's lineup of hot toys every kid would love to get for the holidays. Click through to see the top 12 toys dominating store shelves and kids' wish lists alike.

Photo Credit: Thinkway Toys/Hasbro]]>
<![CDATA[Gift Guide: 12 Hot Holiday Toys]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 11:36:37 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/toys-split.jpg

Lightsabers, talking plush toys and robots make up this year's lineup of hot toys every kid would love to get for the holidays. 

Hundreds of products, from puzzles to action figures based on "Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, which is being released Dec. 18, will dominate store shelves and kids' wish lists alike.  

"'Star Wars' is a good monster for the industry," said Richard Gottlieb, principal and founder of Global Toy Group, a consultancy and resource for the industry. "That, of course, will bring an enormous number of shoppers."

Remote controlled cars, droids controlled by smartphones and robotic creatures with voice recognition features are also popular. 

Take a look at 12 hot toys this holiday season:

Star Wars Episode 7 BB-8 App-Enabled Droid

Kids can link this toy and then control it through their iPhone or iPad. The toy reacts to voice command and can patrol autonomously. Also, it can create holographic like recordings. "BB-8 has something unlike any other robot--an adaptive personality that changes as you play," according to the product's description." Based on your interactions, BB-8 will show a range of expressions and even perk up when you give voice commands."

Star Wars Bladebuilders Jedi Master Lightsaber

It's not just another "Star Wars" toy. It is an essential item to have for the series' enthusiasts. It lights up and creates sounds from the movie to simulate the thrill of sword-dueling between Jedi masters and Sith overlords.

Glider Board or 'Hoverboard'

The Glider Board allows you to travel over six miles an hour. It's controlled with your feet as you move around and can climb up 30-degree slopes. The "hoverboard" can go up to 12 miles in distance after every full charge. For security, an anti-theft key lock is included so it cannot be driven without your permission. If you live in New York City, you may have to limit your use of the "hoverboard" to indoor spaces. The NYC police department confirmed that it is illegal to use the 'hoverboards' in public areas because they are considered motor vehicles that cannot be registered with the department of motor vehicles. In California, legislation passed in Oct. allowing the boards to be used in the same places as bikes. Local California municipalities have the ability to ban their use.

Despicable Me 2 Jumbo Talking Minion - Dave

The Minions, both lovable and memorable, are exactly the kind of toy you want for your child. At 16" tall, Jumbo Talking Minion - Dave is a plush toy that with a squeeze on his tummy can say up to 15 sayings in the original voice from the movie. His eyes can also "pop-out" and light up with a press. This plush toy is not only the prefect gift for children, but also for adults who enjoyed the movie.

UDI RC U818A Quadcopter with HD Camera

You can record high definition video from your drone and perform 360-degree tricks at the touch of a button. It has a built-in fast and slow speed function along with a low-voltage alarm on the transmitter to optimize your experience. The manufacturer recommends that this toy be used by people ages 14 and up. It's also important to follow safety guidelines while flying your drone.

Disney "Descendants"

Your child's favorite Disney characters have families in the feature film "Descendants." Toys from the movie feature Maleficent's daughter, Mal and Evie who is the daughter of the Evil Queen from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Carlos, son of Cruella de Vil is another character that you can buy. The figures can be stylized with two outfits, two pairs of shoes and three accessories.

NERF Rebelle Secrets & Spies Arrow Revolution Bow Blaster

This bow and arrow set will unleash your child's inner Katniss Everdeen. The character has spurred an interest in the bow and with the release of the final "Hunger Games" movie, this set will be a hot purchase. Using this bow, an arrow can be shot up to 90 feet away.

Zoomer Dino Jurassic World Indominus Rex Robot

The blockbuster hit "Jurassic World" rocked theaters this summer and toys from the movie will be heavily sought this holiday season. The Indominus Rex, the bio-engineered dinosaur from the movie, can respond to movement, make recorded sounds from the film and change eye color.

Peanuts Happy Dance Snoopy

The Snoopy plush toy is a great gift for fans of the new "Peanuts" movie, featuring Charlie Brown. This plush version of Snoopy dances to a popular tune from the "Peanuts" series and reacts to being kissed on the nose.

Easy Animation Studio

Crayola's animation studio pack allows all future animators and artists to digitally create scenes with characters included with the purchase. After downloading an application for iOS or Android devices, young animators will be able to create scenes with an included poseable mannequin. Position the mannequin into different poses to create a short stop-motion video.

Project Mc2 Ultimate Lab Kit

The equipment for the four super smart girls from the "Project Mc2,"a children's web show, is available for home or on-the-go use. The kit comes with a working 4x microscope and all the equipment needed to conduct a science experiment with a petri dish, safety goggles, pipette dropper and 15 pH strips.

"Lego Dimensions"

"Lego Dimensions," a video game that can be played across most gaming platforms except PC, is the latest in the toy company's reach for the digital age. Figurines such as Lego Batman, Gandalf and Lucy from "The Lego Movie" are available to use in the game. To play the game, figurines are placed on a pad connected to the system and are then represented in the virtual world. More figurines can be bought to expand the character selection.

Photo Credit: NBC Universal]]>
<![CDATA[Don't Be a Turkey: Celebrate a Bird-Free Thanksgiving]]> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 14:03:50 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_554344590313.jpg

It’s that time of year again — to give thanks for all that we have.

Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday, one that is deeply rooted in tradition. The first Thanksgiving goes all the way back to 1621 when the Pilgrims sat down with the Wampanoag to celebrate the harvest at Plymouth Colony, according to Smithsonian.com.

More than 150 years later, the Continental Congress issued the first national Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1777. But it wasn’t until 1789 that President George Washington issued the first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation.

“I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States,” Washington said.

Since then, food and family have become synonymous with the holiday. Many of us will spend time prepping the turkey and pumpkin pie and decorating the table for family and friends before settling down to the feast. 

But if you think eating a turkey on Thanksgiving is overrated, why not change your holiday routine and break free from tradition? 

Go meatless! Sure, turkey is the go-to fare for Thanksgiving, but going meatless does have some benefit. Not only can you cater to the vegetarian guest, it will also eliminate the post-meal food coma. 

There are many different options out there, from vegetarian sides to main dishes like the mushroom and kale-stuffed squash. And, of course, you can still get the feeling of a turkey without the actual bird — products like soy-based Tofurky are a popular alternative to the real thing.

"We’re so proud to see that alternative holiday meal traditions, which were once a niche phenomenon, have become legitimately mainstream in the 20-plus years we’ve been making Tofurky Roasts," said Jaime Athos, CEO and president of Tofurky.

Whatever you decide to eat, why not ask your guests to wear an ugly Thanksgiving sweater? Since they’re not just for Christmas anymore, you can wear these delightfully tacky, non-traditional sweaters while you and your loved ones give thanks.

Staying active is a great way to help burn off the Turkey Day calories, to help alleviate the boredom and promote togetherness.

The President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition recommends 30 minutes of activity a day for adults and 60 minutes a day for children. Why not kick around the ball, try paintball or go bowling, too? 

Having Thanksgiving at a restaurant is also a non-traditional holiday option — especially if you can’t fathom the idea of spending all that time cooking.

More than 33 million Americans will visit restaurants during Thanksgiving this year, according to the National Restaurant Association. There are a number of national chains including Bob Evans, Sizzler, Morton’s and Cracker Barrel that will be offering holiday specials.

You might also consider giving back to the community while giving thanks. There are hundreds of organizations across the country that are looking for volunteers to serve Thanksgiving dinner to those in need.  

"We hope all Americans will consider making volunteer service a part of their holiday tradition and invite their friends and families to join them," said a spokeswoman for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

More than 25 percent of American adults volunteered 7.7 billion hours of time — including holiday time — in 2013, according to the organization.

Trying something new may just open you up to new holiday traditions. 

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Heigh Ho Olympic: Great Walk Los Angeles]]> Sat, 21 Nov 2015 13:21:02 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/greatlawalkfranklin29382.jpg

Photo Credit: Great Walk Los Angeles]]>
<![CDATA[Holiday 2015: Gifts for Sports Lovers]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 07:17:55 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jacket-Gloves.jpg If there's a fitness enthusiast or someone looking to get in shape on your holiday shopping list, look no further than this sports gift guide. Help your friends and loved ones reach their fitness goals with gadgets and gear that will inspire and motivate them all year round.

Photo Credit: JackRabbit/Underarmour]]>
<![CDATA[Pasadena Puckishness: Doo Dah Parade]]> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 16:21:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/doodahparade15_1.jpg

A run-up to any election year involves polls and focus groups and testings and trials of all sorts, and we become accustomed to many an idea going through a thorough vetting before it is put out their for public consumption.

The Occasion Doo Dah Parade is the exact opposite of all of that. There's zero process, in fact, at the annual-ish alt-everything parade, a Pasadena fixture for 38 or so years, kind of, give or take. Our soft-peddling there reflects that sometimes, in the past, the parade has skipped around, date-wise, which reflects its incredibly serious mission of not really doing anything anyone expects while having a super time not doing it.

That's a mouthful, so let us let a long time parade motto explain better: "Remember the rules: Doo Dah Rules!"

Yep, there are no rules to this wacky and weird procession, which began, lo these many years ago, as an answer to the stately and tradition-filled Rose Parade, which, you may have heard, is also something of a Pasadena staple. 

The Doo Dah again marches, merrily and with much mischief, on Sunday, Nov. 22 down Colorado Boulevard in East Pasadena. Again, you're bound to see motorized couches, disco space aliens, barbecue grills on wheels, giant bunnies wielding chainsaws, and the Doo Dah Queen herself, the punktastic Ms. Veronika MeowMeowz.

If you've been to the Doo Dah before you know the start time is iffy -- it is always 11 or so, emphasis on the "or so" part, and that objects, many of them ostensibly edible, are frequently launched into the air above the crowd (foil-wrapped hot dogs have been seen taking flight in past years).

But know this: While the Doo Dah doesn't like to lay down a heap o' rules, there shall be no launching of marshmallows at the 2015 celebration. They get sticky and icky on warm pavement, so best save your bag for your holiday cocoa, if you're marching.

You can still enter, by the way, if you've been wanting to wear your new tutu and old roller skates somewhere. It's ten bucks to join, like it has been forever, and you don't really need a theme, just a dream and a vigorous wave, because lots of people in the crowd will wave at you.

Tutu on and skates tied? Best wobble your way to East Pas, stat.

Photo Credit: Doo Dah Parade]]>
<![CDATA[Dress for Success Worldwide West Hosts Pop-Up Shop]]> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 14:26:08 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/187*120/11-20-2015-dress-success-shop.JPG Dress for Success Worldwide West hosts a pop-up shop to help women get back to work. Michelle Valles reports for Today in LA on Friday Nov. 20, 2015. Click here for the Shop for Success website.]]> <![CDATA[$1 Scoops Fundraiser: Salt & Straw Truck]]> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 11:09:49 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/saltstrawtrucksherman.jpg

The turkey at the center of most Southern California holiday tables hasn't yet been replaced by a mega banana split or a row of frosted malts as of yet, but to live in the sunny region is to understand that, sometimes, summer weather has a way of calling during the turkeyiest week of the year.

It's looking like Thanksgiving itself will be properly Thanksgiving-y, temperature-wise, so dry-clean whatever turtleneck and plaid scarf you plan on donning. But the weekend before will feel a bit less frigid, with temperatures poking into the 80s.

Call it a perfect moment for a swanky scoop of ice cream, and call every moment the perfect moment to save cash and do something good for the community.

Salt & Straw, the started-in-Portland, landed-on-Larchmont ice-creamery picked an ideal day to hand out its small-batch scoops, a happening that both spotlights a big announcement from the growing company and to help out Food Forward.

The reveal? The boutique sweet makers will open up a permanent shop in Studio City in 2016. That means flavors like Black Olive Brittle & Goat Cheese and Avocado & Strawberry Sherbet will now be gettable in the Valley, without a jaunt over the hill (though if you want to go Larchmont, of course, do; it's lovely).

To celebrate this grand ta-da!, Salt & Straw is handing out $1 scoops of several of its flavors -- think Honey Lavender, Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons, and more -- from the Salt & Straw truck on Friday, Nov. 20 from 6 in the evening through 9 o'clock.

The address? Find it at 12180 Ventura Boulevard, which is where the shop will open next year.

The beneficiary? Each scoop sold helps Food Forward's Farmers Market Recovery Program, "which has worked with the Studio City Farmers Market for the last four years to distribute fresh produce to homeless shelters and food banks."

It's a sweet thing to do, but then again Salt & Straw chose Studio City as its second SoCal location due to the neighborhood's "family-oriented, small-town feel."

That small-town-ish-ness will be on display on Nov. 20 as people walk around eating ice cream. It's not a Thanksgiving harbinger -- the turkey at the table's center is safe -- but when fine weather rolls around for a few days, and a very fine cause and fun announcement, well, upon nice ice cream we shall feast. 

Photo Credit: Salt & Straw]]>
<![CDATA[Holiday 2015: Tech & Gadget Gifts Under $100]]> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 09:55:53 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Tech+Gifts+2015.jpg Shopping for a gadget-obsessed friend or family member? Discover the coolest gadgets and tech gifts in our 2015 holiday guide. ]]> <![CDATA[Weekend: Los Angeles Auto Show]]> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 07:50:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/autoGettyImages-497757092.jpg

Los Angeles Auto Show: There's really no quibbling with its billing -- "one of the most influential auto shows in the world" -- and there's no fretting that only people in the car biz'll get to eye all of the shiny goods. This automobile extravaganza is open to the public with $12 weekday tickets (pay three bucks more on Saturday and Sunday). Dates? Nov. 20 through the 29th. The place? Los Angeles Convention Center. The dream machines? The Elio Motors P5, the 2017 Ford Escape, and the 2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4 will all enjoy splashy debuts, plus the Volvo Concept 26. It's big, as big as the open, to-the-horizon road, and then some.

The Great Los Angeles Walk: Just as wheel-focused mavens are gathering at the LACC, some people devoted to having an adventure on foot will be meeting up at Clifton's Cafeteria. It's the annual Saturday-before-Thanksgiving, strut-across-town stroll helmed by Mike Schneider, the blogger behind Franklin Avenue, and it is free to join. The path this year? It's Olympic Boulevard, all the way from Clifton's to the ocean. Nov. 21 is looking sunny and pleasant, too, so lucky that.

CHILL opens: Just when temperatures are ticking upwards, at least for a few days, the iciest event in town makes its seasonal showing. It's the Queen Mary's yearly holiday treat, which includes a very sizable outdoor rink, the World's Largest Rocking Horse (want), Santa cameos, and all of those cool (literally) ice sculptures under the adjacent dome, including one that looks like the Queen Mary itself. They loan out parkas, too, for you to wander about the frigid artworks. Opening date? Nov. 20, but it glides right through into the early new year on select dates.

Doo Dah Parade: It's impossible to describe this famous/infamous Pasadena strut, though using the word "impossible" might help you out a bit. For the decades-old romp -- it is marking its 38th sorta-annual-ish outing in 2015 -- is full of impossibilities and whimsies and strange sights and outlandish ideas. Anyone can join for a tenner, and anyone kind of does, and they gleefully go the distance in the costume/vehicle department. Date? Be in East Pas, on Colorado, on Nov. 22.

Hello Kitty Truck: While the seen-everywhere, smiles-delivering Sanrio character has made several Southern California appearances over the last year-plus, her pink'd-out truck isn't a daily sight around town. But get happy, lovers of this pop culture phenom: The cookies-and-more roll is stopping at the Glendale Galleria on Saturday, Nov. 21. Also sparkly? A pop-up shop, that's much like the truck but a bit more semi-permanent, is headed for the Irvine Spectrum Center in "late November." That's a lot to meow about (though, again, Hello Kitty is not a cat).

Mustache Dache: If you know someone in mid-mustache-growth, and it is the middle of November, chances are this gentleman is participating in Movember, which helps raise money for men's health via the growing of 'stachery across this great land. To show off what's happening in the region of their upper lips, these dudes and the Mo Sistas and Mo Kids'll gather to 5K-it-up in Griffith Park on Sunday, Nov. 22. Costumes that befit the styles of the various mustache are very, very encouraged. Like, wear one. Anything. Try. Cool.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How to Carve a Turkey, Just in Time for the Holidays]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 09:22:05 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/thanksgiving-FINAL_1200x675_570319939834.jpg Chef Fitz Tallon from Eataly NYC shows you how to carve a turkey.]]> <![CDATA[Holiday 2015: Gifts for a Fashionista]]> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 07:38:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fashionista2.jpg Don't know what to buy for the fashion-forward lady on your list. Click through our ultimate holiday gift guide for some of the most stylish items that will be sure to please even the most devout trendsetters. ]]> <![CDATA[Harry Potter in LA: Virtual Tour]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 13:34:35 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/conductorwizworld1.jpg

Los Angeles, it's often said, is the city where trends begin and fashion phenomena take firm root.

Can it be long, then, before everyone in Southern California, and points elsewhere, are rocking some serious Conductor Chic?

Consider that one of the most hotly anticipated 2016 arrivals, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, now has a smartly attired conductor has its first elegant emissary. As the maestro at the controls of the Hogwarts Express, he's the perfect person to lead fans eager for an early peek into the experience.

Have your ticket handy? Nope, it does not need to be punched, but you will need to enter the station, the station where you'll board this particular virtual tour, via the recently launched interactive site for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The station's handle? Why it's Hogsmeade, of course. 

"I'll be guiding you to all the best spots, places to feast, and even where Harry Potter's wand chose him," promises the conductor in the welcome video. Enchanted locations shown on the tour include The Three Broomsticks, where "hearty fare" is on the menu, and Honeyduke's, a shoppe "famous for their wonderful and colorful suites" is also called upon, virtually.

"A series of virtual videos" will roll out ahead of the spring 2016 opening of the magical land, so you've got more tours to anticipate. To keep fully informed on every last spellbinding reveal, best keep tabs and follow all the updates at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter's online HQ.

As for the coming of Conductor Chic to the store aisles of Los Angeles, and then to the rest of the planet? Who wouldn't want to don a well-cut vest with shiny buttons and a pocket watch to boot? It's handsome, timeless stuff, and a look loaded with natural, easy elegance.

The only question that remains is this: Will all things Harry Potter come to influence much of Southern California's fashion and food output over the next year or two, in light of Wizarding World's debut?

We'll have another butterbear and a heaping handful of Bertie Botts Beans as we ponder how Potter'd LA is set to become in the months ahead, starting with more conductor-style vest-wearing.

Photo Credit: Wizarding World of Harry Potter]]>
<![CDATA['Not as Exciting': Black Friday Deals Arrive Earlier Than Ever]]> Mon, 23 Nov 2015 10:36:28 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_583751221090.jpg

Black Friday is becoming a month-long deal.

Amazon's sales began Nov. 20 and continue through Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving and what was once the start of the holiday shopping season. Target and Walmart are offering holiday discounts throughout the month, while Best Buy is holding "pre-Black Friday" weekends.

What was traditionally a single day of shopping already stretches over the weekend and now retailers are trying to extend the extravaganza even further by discounting goods long before the holiday. What that will mean to Black Friday sales is something analysts will be watching for.

"It remains to be seen how significant the event itself is," said Traci Gregorski, vice president of marketing at the retail research firm Market Track.

Tis the season for holiday sales and strategies for capturing shoppers dollars.

Black Friday spending was down last year, the second drop in a row, according to the National Retail Federation. Spending though the weekend in stores and online dropped 11 percent from $57.4 billion in 2013 to $50.9 billion last year. The decline is partly the result of the earlier bargains, leaving Black Friday with less of a punch.

This year, the Credit Union National Association and the Consumer Federal of America are expecting a 3 percent growth in spending, down from an earlier prediction of up to 3.5 percent. The new prediction is based on a recent survey.

But for all the debate over store hours -- and at one end is Kmart, open on Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m., and at the other REI, the outdoor gear supplier that will stay closed on Black Friday itself --  for shoppers the season means deals. They are scouting for the best prices before ever stepping inside a store, Gregorski said. They are driving competition among retailers who know their potential customers are online comparing ads.

“They do have a lot of information at their disposal, much more than they’ve ever had in the past,” she said.

On Friday, Tanya Jackson, a hair stylist from New Jersey, will be on the hunt for a washing machine and dryer at Home Depot where she expects to save $800.

“Oh yes, I already checked,” said Jackson, 42, who lives in Orange and who was making her way through New York City's Herald Square on a recent weekday morning. She is prepared to pay about $2,800.

Thanksgiving Day hours continue to court controversy, with some shoppers vowing to stay home and labor and other groups protesting the disruption to workers' holiday.

"l'm always with my family," said Kendall Castillo, a 19-year-old student studying theater and fine arts in college in New York City. Even the lure of good deals will not interrupt his holiday.

And Naysika Oree, a health-care consultant from the Bronx, has never shopped on Black Friday, turned off by the crowds and reports of unruly shoppers. She will stay home this year too.

"I'd rather just spend the couple of extra dollars then have to go through the madness," she said.

This year, the federation's preliminary Thanksgiving Weekend Survey found that an estimated 135.8 millions shoppers, or 58.7 percent of those surveyed, said they might head to the stores at some point over the weekend. The findings were similar to the year before, when 133.7 million holiday shoppers were in stores and online over the weekend.

Black Friday is expected to be the biggest shopping day for all age groups, but young adults in particular find Cyber Monday appealing, according to the survey's results. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 88.7 percent said yes or maybe when asked if they would should online on Monday. Among 25- to 34-year-old, the number was 90.9 percent.

Kate Winchester, a 23-year-old college student in New York City from Pennsylvania, will among those shopping online. She needs a new vacuum cleaner and a heavy blanket.

"You don't have to wait in the lines," she said.

Plus now that stores open on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday is "not as exciting anymore," she said. "No one wants to go out on Thursday."

To draw shoppers back into the stores, in the hopes that they will spend more money there, some retailers are offering special holiday events, Gregorski said. Wal-Mart for example is making the game Battlefront available to try out before its official launch.

"They’re introducing that experiential element into their promotions and events," she said. "It gives people a reason to come in."

As for what's hot this year, anything related to "Star Wars," game consoles and wearable technology, such as headphones and fitness trackers, she said. Drones are another top item.

Hoverboards, on the other hand, are not proving to be as popular as expected, likely because of their price, she said.

Other trends to watch for: exclusive partnerships between manufacturers and retailers and bundled offers, televisions and game consoles for example, which can make it difficult to determine how good a deal it is.

Milly Mladjenovic, 21, said she would definitely be out on Black Friday, shopping for work clothes and Christmas gifts.

"What am I not looking for?" she said.

The college student in New York City said deals could be found, but she thought bargains were better in years past.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Holiday 2015: Gifts for Foodies]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 10:16:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kitchen-Items.jpg Get your favorite foodie inspired in the kitchen with these cool kitchen gadgets. From utensils to small appliances, here's a list of great gift ideas any food lover would appreciate.

Photo Credit: Amazon/Menu Design Shop]]>
<![CDATA[LA-Bacon Festival: Nab Tickets Now]]> Thu, 19 Nov 2015 07:42:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/maplebaconfest2232.jpg

Do you miss taking quizzes, the kind you used to take in school? You do? Then please solve this conundrum for us... What moves faster: a race car, a roller coaster, or tickets to the LA Bacon Festival?

Frankly, all of those things zoom forward at an astounding pace, and pitting them against each other in the supersonic category is pointless, as they all occupy different spheres. But the bacon festival? Which comes around each year? Let's just say that the tickets to this thing have a "now you see them, now you don't" kind of quality, a quality that could lead any objective observer to belief magic might be involved.

If you do believe that savory salty strips, once the superstars of the breakfast plate but now the superstars of lunch and dinner and dessert, too, to be magical, then best hop on your ticket pronto. Drink|Eat|Play, the outfit behind the four-year-old food confab, just announced the date and location of the party's next outing, and it comes with plus, one not unrelated to the concept of going fast.

It's at the Petersen Automotive Museum, the Miracle Mile hub of car culture, and if you've driven by the Petersen's astounding transformation over the last year, you've likely longed to peek inside. That initial public peek is coming in December, but if you can't make it in the next couple of months, but do plan on attending the Sunday, Feb. 21 bacon festival, be glad: It's happening at the freshly redone auto institution.

Look for "dozens of restaurants and bakeries" to show up in an "homage to all things bacon," an homage that will be enhanced by a number of hopsy libations, thanks to the 20-plus breweries also in attendance.

Will there be sweets as well as more traditional bites? We almost expect there to come a day when the dessert end of the bacon equation starts to dominate. Could this happen? Debate away, baconists.

Will the tickets for the February salty strip soiree move as zippity-quick as any car found inside the Petersen? Well, probably not, but if we saw wheels on a ticket to the LA Bacon Festival, we would not be shocked, given how all available spots at the foodie gathering do tend to roll fast into the pockets of early buyers. 

Photo Credit: Drink|Eat|Play]]>
<![CDATA[Hello Kitty: Glendale Truck, Irvine Pop-Up Ahead]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 12:36:03 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/hellokittytruck12345.jpg

Hello Kitty may not be a cat -- we've all had well over a year to collectively wrap our minds around this notion -- but that has in no way dimmed the Sanrio character's expansive light. She is still a pop culture legend, recognizable throughout the world as she spreads glitter and smiles and sparkle and pink-hued happiness.

And her special brand of glitter falls upon Southern California, like confetti, on an amazingly consistent basis these days.

There was the mega exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in 2014, the first-ever Hello Kitty Convention (which promptly sold out), the Hello Kitty-themed rooms at The Line Hotel in Koreatown, and the Hello Kitty Scavenger Hunt, all within a short time frame.

Other Hello Kitty characters have been calling upon our shores -- say hello to Gudetama, the lazy egg, who is the currently featured at all of the Plan Check restaurants -- and new happenings spring up with all the ease of a smile on a Sanrio superstar's sweet face.

Two fresh happenings, in fact, are on the way. The Hello Kitty Truck will call upon the Glendale Galleria on Saturday, Nov. 21, and a Hello Kitty Café Pop-Up will open at the Irvine Spectrum Center later in November and continue right through into 2016.

Hello Kitty and both locations have been cozy in the past; the icon's pink-pretty truck visited Glendale and Irvine in the spring, selling Hello Kitty-shaped treats, cups, cookies that look like bows, and macaroons bearing the visage of H.K. herself.

The café will carry similar items to the truck, with decorated sweets, fancy coffees, and Sanrio-character'd mementos on the menu.

As for a permanent Hello Kitty restaurant? That, too, is on the whimsical wind: A release from the Irvine Spectrum Center revealed that the Japan-based company "will expand its food service venture in the U.S. late next year, with the opening of a permanent Hello Kitty location at an as of yet undisclosed Southern California location."

While you dream of where this slice of winsomeness might show up, make for the Giant Wheel Court at the Irvine Spectrum for meow-y magic at the semi-permanent pop-up. Queues and crowds tend to be on the standard side for anything Hello Kitty does, do note, so a morning arrival, or the willingness to make new friends as you wait in line, will serve fans well.

After all, Hello Kitty may not be a cat but she, officially, "a friend." 

Photo Credit: Sanrio]]>
<![CDATA[Facial Hair Frolic: The Mustache Dache]]> Wed, 18 Nov 2015 09:11:53 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lamd123456.jpg

When it comes to projects you've been working on for, say, at least a few weeks, sometimes being a bit cagey about your progress is preferable.

You don't necessarily want all eyes on your Christmas-themed cross-stitch before it is complete. And if you're working on a Thanksgiving centerpiece, you'd like it to be admired on the holiday and not when it is only partially finished.

This all goes out the window, though, when it comes to Movember, the annual grow-a-mustache, all-November-long push to stir up a lot of cash, and goodwill, and awesome support, for all sorts of men's initiatives.

You want to show your ever-changing upper lip off, daily, throughout the month, and there's no better place to do so than at the annual Mustache Dache, an "irreverent" 5K that trods through several U.S. cities in the second half of the month.

The hairy-happy Los Angeles outing hoofs it through Griffith Park on Sunday, Nov. 22, with a starting point of The Autry National Center.

For sure, the Dache raises even more cashola for the causes dear to the Movemberists' hearts. It's a good time on a sunny fall morning. And it gives the mustache growers, and the Mo Sistas -- the women who aren't growing mustaches but don't mind wearing one now and then, in support -- a chance to really show off, both via their partially filled-in facial hair and their costumes.

Mo Kids are also welcome, so draw those 'staches on the young'uns.

The costume theme is "Western" -- thanks to The Autry being the main setting -- but if you've gotta go Elvis or barbershop quartet or 18th-century statesmen, because that's what the style your burgeoning mustache demands, then, well, you do you.

Planters and Oscar Mayer'll be out -- the Nut Mobile and the Weiner Mobile, yes, you got it -- to give the day some cheer, some eats, and to add some wink-wink cheek to the reason everyone is running/walking.

Both mobiles'll also be mustache'd, if you feel you need some photos with them. Definitely, right?

Movember is in its wind-down stage, so best get out and show everyone how your handlebar is filling in. Nope, we don't want to show off our craft projects before they're complete, but the guys helping other guys in the health-awareness department definitely want to broadcast the fact, frequently, whether their growing-in mustache is done growing in or not.

Photo Credit: Mustache Dache]]>
<![CDATA[Time-Lapse: First Taco Bell to Move Cities]]> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 07:41:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/IMG_4536tacobellwearethenext.JPG

While the region's movie industry has made a romance or two in its time, nearly every heart-tugger in the world weakens before one of Southern California's truly intense twosomes: food lovers and historic restaurants that may be in danger of demolishment.

Letters will be written, passionate rallies held, and, if everything works out, the structure will still stand, as was the case earlier this year at NORMS La Cienega, which had the words "wrecking ball" floating above its big-window'd facade for several weeks.

Sometimes, though, the structure ends up standing in a whole new place. Look to Downey, and the very first Taco Bell, the storied eatery that founder Glenn Bell opened in 1962. It's currently at 7186 Firestone Boulevard, but as of the weekend before Thanksgiving, it will be in Irvine, at the Taco Bell corporate offices.

Yep, "Taco Bell Numero Uno" is going on a epic overnight roll on the streets of SoCal. Date? Thursday night, Nov. 19 into the wee smalls of Friday, Nov. 20. Hours? 10-10:30 p.m. to just before 6 o'clock in the morning, or so.

You remember Space Shuttle Endeavour, and LACMA's Levitated Mass, and the other big things we so regularly move around in SoCal; it takes time to put a formerly unmovable thing on wheels and move it.

To call the structure beloved among Downey denizens is to traffic in understatement, and to say that its fans were worried when word of possible demolishment arrived at the start of the year is equally understated. 

For while it has housed a number of different eateries over the last three or so decades, it remained, to many local long-timers, the Taco Bell they grew up going to after games and before dances.

Organizations like We Are the Next of Long Beach and the Downey Conservancy sprung into action at the news of the building perhaps being razed, as did Taco Bell, which met with the civic-minded, past-preservation groups.

We Are the Next's Executive Director Katie Rispoli met with both the property's current owners, which alerted the groups to the building's vacancy and potential demolishment, and Rispoli began to meet with the company to see what the wee building's future might be.

Taco Bell went full hashtag – #savetacobell – which helped spread the early word. The company found funds to put the arch-laden landmark on wheels and transport it to its HQ, and the conservancy and We Are the Next provided guidance and input on the process.

Ms. Rispoli shares that the structure, which cannot be entered, will not be on view once it reaches Irvine. But her hope is that one day it may have a "beneficial public use" and perhaps even return to Downey, its forever home.

Like the romance between food people and historic restaurants, civic organizations and major companies can sometimes unite in a moving, and movable, cause. It's a slice of Downey delight, and regional whimsy, and its a restaurant that birthed thousands of others around the globe.

Want to see it? Catch a nap on Thursday, if you can, because this'll be an all-nighter. There's a live webcam of the roll -- of course there is -- and some true-blue burrito buffs may make for a curb on Firestone, to wave goodbye to a local legend.

Photo Credit: We Are the Next]]>
<![CDATA[Music Center Magic: Ukulele Christmas]]> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 12:48:05 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/musiccenterukulelexmas124.jpg

The person who pigeonholes instruments, in terms of the genres of music and types of songs that best highlight their beauty and power, is a person who probably needs to spend a little bit more time communing with the hi-fi and the many surprising places instruments of appeared.

Or not so surprising. An acoustic guitar isn't just for country but for classical concertos, and violin strings gave the rock operas of the 1970s much of their elegance. Saxophones weren't built solely for jazz, but for pop, too, and harmonicas are a happy addition most anywhere they show up.

As is the ukulele. It's a strum-sweet staple of island ballads, and it has shown up in ragtime and Tin Pan Alley works, too. And Americana treats, such as bluegrassy jams and folksy ditties? The ukulele has a way of being both the cream and sugar in that particular homegrown cup of coffee, adding a deeper weight to melodies and some welcomed frippery and fun, too.

This combo -- Americana + the ukulele -- will get even further combo'd-out when ukulele players from across Southern California will gather downtown on Friday, Dec. 11 for the annual Ukulele Christmas Orchestra.

The carol-forward show'll roam "America's rambling roads and smoky mountains," with a strong roots element at the merry middle.

Add a fourth delight to the not-so-surprising recipe of holiday tunes, ukulele vibes, and rootsy notes: The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. There are probably still a few people around Southern California that think one has to be wearing a gold lamé gown to best enjoy the chandeliers-and-mirror opera-plus landmark, but the cultural destination offers a diverse menu of musical diversions, and price points, too: Joining in the concert is fifteen bucks.

It's a gathering just for musicians, take note -- "no guests/visitors please" says the site -- and all uke players need to show with their instrument and a music stand. Beginners and intermediate players are the focus of the night, so take a look at the Music Center's definition and see if this applies to you.

And seriously, don't let us deter you. If you want to wear gold lamé for the show, no one says you shouldn't. Life's best lived marching to your own drumbeat.

And it is, we assume, a drumbeat that shows up in many ways in your world, in much the same way a drum can be heard in many genres and a ukulele can add folksy flavor to a bluegrassy Christmas carol. 

Photo Credit: Music Center]]>
<![CDATA[At Auction: The 'Sabrina' Rolls-Royce]]> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 07:20:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/rollsroycesabrinamovie.jpg

The number of well-known and even beloved movies centered around an important vehicle could fill a sizable trunk, if one were to carefully stack DVD cases, row by row.

There's "Bullitt," of course, Steve McQueen's frequently airborne, streets-of-San-Francisco action-packed chaser. There are the souped-up machines from all seven "Fast & Furious" flicks, and the flux-capacitor'd DeLorean in "Back to the Future." And, yes, Herbie the Love Bug more than deserves a parking space in this particular conversation.

As for cars that don't typically top out at over 100 miles per hour but are still incredibly film-famous? The Rolls-Royce from 1954's "Sabrina" absolutely is at the apex of the hoity heap here. It's the car, after all, that serves as Audrey Hepburn's elegant entry into the world of the wealthy Larrabee family, as her character's dad is the family's chauffeur. It's the car that serves as a visual backdrop to her on-screen romances with both William Holden and Humphrey Bogart.

And it's the car that bidders at Julien's Auctions in Beverly Hills will try for when the historic automobile goes to auction on Friday, Nov. 20.

While it's often called the "Sabrina" Rolls-Royce, let us also pay much due to its other major movie tie: Actor Harold Lloyd owned it for decades, giving it more wayback cred, even more waybacky than its big '50s-era screen debut.

Silent movie mojo and Audrey Hepburn cool? It would hard to not brag about it daily, to everyone.

As for its full title? We are talking about a "Sabrina" star here, and since the Billy Wilder-helmed flick dealt with powerful swells and big-league characters, a full title is essential. The car is "a black Silver Ghost Riviera Salamanca Cabriolet Rolls-Royce," so if you're the winning bidder, be sure to often speak the auto's complete title in its lofty presence.

And if you plan on being the winning bidder, plan on plunking down somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000 to $600,000. The kick-off bid'll start in the neighborhood of $200,000.

It's an interesting week to auction a famous movie car, as the Los Angeles Auto Show opens downtown on the same day as the bidding flies. Where the very newest cars'll be in the house at the show, one of the oldest, and most esteemed, will await its next home just a few miles to the west.

Photo Credit: Julien's Auctions]]>
<![CDATA[Universal Studios: New Annual Passes]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 22:30:50 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/USHMain9876.jpg

It can be a bit of a challenge to explain, quickly and in brief, why El Niño comes along when it does, or why the 405 will be backed upon some Friday nights but strangely empty on others, or how come the jacaranda trees go purple in April some years but wait for May in other years. 

But it isn't hard at all to spell out why oodles of SoCalers visit our region's famous theme parks as often as people in other cities might visit their local mall or coffeehouse. Those amazing, tempting, ride-your-favorite-ride-almost-whenever annual passes are about as local as the aforementioned jacaranda trees, and the 405, too.

Okay, SoCalers visit the theme parks for other reasons, too, their favorite coaster or treat or character or tour. But the truth of the matter is this: Hearing that a big destination is introducing a few new annual passes can be akin, for truehearted fans, to waking up on a birthday to discover that the Minions and some dinosaurs and a Transformer or two are standing inside your house, waiting to surprise you. 

We just tipped our hand there, didn't we? Shucks, here it is: Universal Studios Hollywood announced on Monday, Nov. 16 that a trio of new annual passes will be available "effective immediately."

Best clear your calendars, Studio Tram Tour superfans. We know who you are, the Bates Motel mavens and lovers of all things Grinch.

On the docket? There's the anyone-can-buy-it Gold Pass, the California Resident Plus Pass, and the California Resident Pass. Each comes with a number of get-in dates, with the Gold Pass topping the lot, with 312 dates annually (meaning that there are only 53 days a year you'll have to stay home and wonder what the Minions of the "Despicable Me" ride are up to in your absence). 

The California Resident Plus Pass boasts 244 welcome days for passholders and the California Resident Pass stands at 182 days, and, as in the past, these are "select" dates for all the passes, so you'll need to consult the park's calendar before planning your visits. The prices, which have been raised from the last pass release, in order? Gold is $299, the California Plus is $199, and the California Resident Pass is $139. 

Members are also on the list for preview event invites, discounts on merch and eats, and chances to win cool Universal-y stuff. 

And since passes stretch over a 12-month period, anyone who signs on now'll be an annual pass member when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuts in the spring of 2016.

Wait, what? You honestly didn't know a certain well-known wizard is boarding his broom for LA?

Ha, of course you did. We tease. We know the towers of Hogwarts, which can so easily be spotted from the 101 Freeway and several points around the Valley, are spinning Potter people into a fantasy-flavored frenzy.

The news of the fresh annual passes, by the by, comes on the sweet heels of the theme park's yearly Day of Giving, a huge give-back to-do that helped underserved kids around LA get the school supplies and clothes they need via Operation School Bell. A number of organizations were on the 2015 pitch-in list, in fact, for the theme park's philanthropic foundation, Discover a Star. 

To discover the ways the theme park supports various parts of our community, click here. To wander in through the historic theme park's proverbial front gate and learn more about passes, history, rides, and such, click here.

To visit the huge Harry Potter world now, months ahead of opening? That, dear people, will require a Time Turner, if you've got one.

Universal Studios is owned by NBCUniversal, the same parent company as NBC4.

Photo Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood]]>
<![CDATA[California Classic: Heath Ceramics Annual Sale]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 11:48:40 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/heathceramics_60360797_Medium.jpg

When we talk about California classics, those objects or articles or items that started here, or at least gained legendary status here, most people, probably in the 95% range, begin by rhaspsodically describing our regional dishes.

And probably 100 percent of those people cite the fish taco. True talk? Yes.

They're not wrong: A great fish taco, with extra cabbage, is a sublime pleasure. But sometimes regional dishes that are rightly famous can be the actual dishes, as in plates, and not the famous foodstuffs that we place upon them.

Heath Ceramics exemplifies this notion most excellently. Started in Sausalito in the late 1940s, Heath plates and cups and bowls marry mid-century design with the colors and lines of optimistic, outdoorsy living, the kind of unfettered living synonymous with La Vida Golden State. (And, yes, design can be optimistic; we've all encountered fussier, more complicated objects that seem made for a museum and not the kitchen shelf.)

The ceramics company, in honor of the holidays and California and people who want to try their own hand at making something optimistic and display-worthy, throws an Annual Sale at all three of its showrooms across the state, including the plate-tastic place on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Visit the Heath HQ from Friday, Nov. 20 through Monday, Nov. 23 and score 20 percent off your purchases. Can't make it there? There's an online sale, too, featuring 15 percent off Heath-made goods.

Bud-making workshops, and seminars on making wreaths, are also staples during this time, as the creative-minded people behind Heath's celebrated ceramics welcome aspiring makers into the functional-but/and-beautiful fold.

As with any holiday sale involving functional, use-'em-daily items, the question is whether you'll buy some ceramic pieces for others or for yourself. With 20 percent off, perhaps it can be a little bit of each.

After all, everyone needs a place to put their monthly -- weekly? -- fish tacos, and plopping a California classic upon another California classic, a Heath plate, is Golden State goodness times two.

Photo Credit: Heath Ceramics]]>
<![CDATA[Cool: Arctic Live Cam at The Annenberg]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 08:10:52 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AJS_2695d3.JPG

Brass-and-wood spyglasses, the kind that you raise to an eye and hold steady, have long been a prominent feature in fiction, and fantasy fiction, too, where the device is imbued with special powers.

Rather than just seeing across a sizable distance, or to the horizon, a fantasy spyglass allows the user to observe activity across epic stretches, thousands of miles, even. Turns out The Annenberg Space for Photography has a magical across-the-distance thing going, in the form of a new live cam experience built for observing the polar bear migration.

Polar bears are another fantastic fantasy element, but these furry, big-of-paws are real, and currently roaming our planet in the Arctic. Pearls of the Planet is the name of the new earth-appreciative experience, and it's on at the Century City-based, image-filled institution through March 16, 2016. 

On at Skylight Studios, let's add, the spacious studio a few steps away from The Annenberg. The distance between Skylight Studios, though, and its parent building is far, far less than the spans and stretches covered by the live cams, cameras "connected around the world that allow you to observe the natural splendors of the planet."

True, we can access a host of live cams from any device we hold or held by our desks. But this display is highly state-of-the-art, complete with "immersive photo booths" that capture "the sights and sounds" of the migrating giants of the north.

Really cool #1: There's a posing opportunity, featuring "a life-size bear amidst swirling snow." Bring your camera. (We know you're probably have it in your pocket already.)

Really cool #2: There's a hashtag for your photos and visit, created to spread polar bear love far, wide, and with a mighty roar across social media. It's #explorepearls.

Really cool #3: Admission is free, though validated parking at the studio is a few bucks.

Really cool #4: This is the Arctic, so, yeah, that's totally cool in several senses of the word.

Charles Annenberg Weingarten, of the Annenberg family, is behind "explore.org," a site that boasts "the largest collection of nature live cams in the world." Nature live cams take us there, to the grizzlies catching salmon and to the eucalyptus trees covered in Monarch butterflies and to the tippy-top of the planet where polar bears cover huge swaths of icy tundra during their migration.

No, they don't cover as huge a distance as LA to the Arctic, but the Pearls of the Planet experience seeks to squash those many miles, accordion-style, like a fantasy spyglass might, to bring us all a little closer to the beautiful bears of the north. 

Live-camming our connection reminds us, in a powerful visual fashion, that whatever errand we're running or meeting we're in, somewhere a polar bear is also doing his daily thing. So much of admiring nature from afar is asynchronous, but admiring it as it happens is both highly synchronous and splendid.

Photo Credit: Adrian Sidney]]>
<![CDATA[LA County Arboretum's Autumn Hues]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 20:39:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/arboretumfall2.jpg Several trees are taking on crimson and gold tones around the Arcadia spread.

Photo Credit: Frank McDonough]]>
<![CDATA[Illuminated Animals: LA Zoo Lights Returns]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 12:26:56 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/GL-LAZooLights12345.jpg

If you've ever walked into a room and flicked on the light switch, only to find your pooch snoozing in his bed, you know that the look he gives you, when he cracks his eye open to see just who is disturbing his slumber, can rightfully and accurately be described as the dreaded "hairy eyeball."

All of us have given a few hairy eyeballs in our time, when we've been woken up by sudden lights, which is why the Los Angeles Zoo, during LA Zoo Lights, tucks up its real beasties in their various nests/grottoes/trees before flicking the switch on its seasonal animals of light.

Lots of animals made of light, we'll add, and lots of light beyond those animals, too. The shimmery spectacular, which first debuted in 2014 as a way to "bring holiday lights back to Griffith Park," will again run for several weeks, from late November into early January at the vast animal park.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 27, is the start day.

Or make that the start night. Unlike pretty much every other time one visits the zoo, there are no daytime hours to LA Zoo Lights. Darkness, of course, enhances all of those LED displays, displays like the "glowing 130-foot snake coiled on a roof" to "monkeys scampering through the grounds."

Light tunnels that are all a-glitter, light shows, water presentations, and 3D projections take the light-making art to a contemporary, tech-of-tomorrow level.

It takes about an hour to saunter through, or maybe 90 minutes, if you're comparing it, in your mind, to previous zoo visits. Hot beverages will be for sale, in case you need something to wrap your frosty mitts around on a California-cold December night, and snacks and such, too.

Some VIP happenings, special events, and add-ons, like a happy hour feature, and a New Year's Eve party for families, are also on the schedule.

As for the real resident animals who shall be all asnooze? We'll wish them well as we stroll by the illuminated monkey display and the giganto snake and the shiny snowflakes and the other glow-by-night details dotting the grounds of the LA Zoo.

And we vow to always check to see if our dog is asleep before turning on the lights in a room. 

Photo Credit: Jamie Pham]]>
<![CDATA[Nordstrom Pulls Holiday Sweater]]> Mon, 16 Nov 2015 04:05:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/192*120/GettyImages-2751522.jpg

Just days after Target went under fire for a highly contested Christmas sweater and hours after Bloomingdale’s issued an apology for offending customers in a misleading catalog ad, Nordstrom is now the latest retail giant to get heat for a product they were offering shoppers this holiday season.

Earlier this week, talk about Nordstrom's Faux Real "Chai Maintenance" Hanukkah sweater started circulating on social media, with customers flooding to Nordstrom’s Facebook page to express their disgust in the item.

"I'm disappointed to see that Nordstrom is selling such an offensive item that perpetuates negative stereotypes of Jewish women," wrote one user. "I hope you remove it from your inventory."

The festive blue shirt, being sold in the retailer's "ugly holiday sweater" lineup, shows a large menorah across the front emblazed with the words "Chai Maintenance" at the top. Many Jewish women believed it to be distasteful towards their faith, as the Hebrew word chai – meaning life – is pronounced "high," alluding that Jewish woman are high maintenance.

Nordstrom responded by pulling it from shelves. By Thursday morning, the product was no longer able to be found on their website.

"I'm glad Nordstrom took it down," one Facebook user wrote. "Cute and kitschy is one thing but perpetuating negative stereotypes as supposedly cute or fun holiday wear is disgusting. I expect more of a large high end retailer such as Nordstrom. Especially when the version for men is just cute, why is the version for women derogatory?"

Some customers, on the other hand, were not offended by the ensemble.

"Hey Nordstrom, I'm Jewish and a huge fan of these sweaters, where can I get one from now you've stopped selling?" another shopper wrote.

But it was too late, with the company responding: "We appreciate your interest, however, the sweater is no longer available for purchase."

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Lucky Finds on Friday the 13th]]> Fri, 13 Nov 2015 07:39:21 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fourleafedclovers123.jpg

Finding your most lucky local go-to spot on a Friday the 13th is really more about what flavor you take your fortune.

You can spend Friday, Nov. 13 not walking under ladders and knocking on planks of wood and picking up every penny you see, or you can just tuck a clover in a shirt pocket and hope for the best.

But Southern California boasts a few felicitous locations, as well as cinematic offerings, that can ward off the ill-reputation'd date, or at least get into the spirit of it.

It's a date that only pops up every so often on the calendar, once or twice a year, generally, so calling upon our personal talismans is a rarer thing.

Where to start? There are wishable bridges around town -- the Shakespeare Bridge in Franklin Hills, with its fairytale turrets and wayback history, is said to be a prime spot for wish-makery -- and there are wishing wells, too.

The beautiful baroque-y one in Chinatown's Historic Plaza, with its cups for "Vacation" and "Health," is a much-photographed, oft-visited spot, but so is the wishing well at Snow White's Grotto in Disneyland. Bonus: Snow White trilling in the distance is the soundtrack to your wish.

So close your eyes and hope your fondest hope ahead of tossing your penny into the well's stoney depths.

As for as the whole black cat thing? That untruism has been long retired. Best to spend Friday the 13th at an animal shelter, petting and cuddling kittens needing homes, or donate some blankets, food, or cash. NKLA, Kitten Rescue, Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats, and a host of feline rescues around Southern California would love your support, on the 13th day of the month and every other day of the year, too.

And if you prefer your Friday the 13th with some movie-style screams, both the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres and New Beverly Cinema are showing the Jason-tastic horror classic, with the New Bev showing all eight films in one screamy marathon. 

Could you do it all? Wishing well, some cat affection, and a movie? It is a Friday, that gateway to the weekend. And the gateway to the weekend already comes with oodles of good luck, regardless of the number on the calendar.

Photo Credit: Four-Leafed Clovers]]>
<![CDATA[Weekend: The Grove's Glow Show]]> Thu, 12 Nov 2015 18:07:31 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/grovetreelightglitter.jpg

The Grove Christmas: The Mid-City extravaganza used to be a nudge closer to Thanksgiving, but the mega-wattage party is starting a week earlier these days, though the star appearances, Top Hat dancers, Santa Claus cameo, and lighting of the talllll tree all remains hallmarks of the over-the-top, in-all-the-ways occasion. Seth McFarlane will host in 2015, Meghan Trainor and Katharine McPhee will perform, and a 70-piece orchestra shall lend the stirring sounds. Oh, and there's a fireworks finale, too. Date? Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7 o'clock. As always, arrive earlier than you think you should. Actually, even earlier than that. Even earlier.

Holidays at Disneyland Resort Open: Where do you go first upon walking into the world's best-known theme park during the yuletid? The huge Christmas tree on Main Street, the Candy Kitchen (to buy a handmade candy cane), or it's a small world, which is lit by what seems like a billion frillion lights? There are choices to make, but know that those iconic toy soldiers are back, as they are each year, in the special Christmas parade, that the bows and lights are out in full force, and the Haunted Mansion still has its Jack Skellington costume on, eek. Nov. 13 through Jan. 6

Holiday Ice Rink's First Weekend: You may hold out to see Snoopy skate at Pershing Square, as he does each year, or for the big broomball game, or for the polar-themed skate on New Year's Day, but there's no denying the draw of this downtown ice rink. It's open daily, but a number of special happenings, including DJ nights and a Winter Holiday Festival, up the festive factor by a whole bunch. Plus, who gets to stare up at skyscrapers as they spin? Not many skaters, is the answer. It's the big city meets winter recreation, and it's on through Jan. 18.

Barnsdall Art Center Holiday Art Sale: 'Tis the shoppiest season of the year, and many a local maker of things -- jewelry, pottery, prints, wearables, and such -- will be out selling their interesting and one-of-a-kind-y wares at spots all over the region. This sale, a fundraiser for the center, includes pieces made by the instructors and students. Have you often thought about taking a class at the art hub high on the hill in Hollywood? This is a great way to see what people are doing, buy something, and give support and cheer, all at once. Sunday, Nov. 15

"Friday the 13th": Not one but at least two cinemas are spending Friday the 13th of November screening a film by the same name. Surely you've heard of it? We josh, er, Jason, as practically everyone knows this iconic screamfest. New Beverly Cinema is showing all eight "Friday the 13th" outings all night long (it's sold out, but standby tickets are a very slight possibility) while the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres has got the fright film, too. Did you know, when you first saw the first film over three decades ago, you'd have the chance to revisit it on most Friday the 13ths for, well, forever?

Photo Credit: The Grove]]>
<![CDATA[Free Tacos: Golden Road Opens in Anaheim]]> Thu, 12 Nov 2015 12:03:59 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ocanaheimgoldenroad.jpg

If you were to have said the words "tasting room" a decade or two back, most people would have immediately thought you were referring to wine, which was no erroneous leap on the listeners' parts. California was flush with counters lined with stemmed glasses, and almost no counters devoted to craft beer.

But oh, how far breweries have foamed in recent years. True, innovative brewers were making bespoke-y beers years ago, but the recent rise-and-rise of the calling, here and everywhere else, has led to a lusty lot of powerhouse, fancy-made brews.

LA's own Golden Road has been one of the leaders of this hops-flavored hop forward for craft beer makers, and it has done so by providing quality brews with a local bent (so local that some of its special releases specifically raise money for regional causes, like Heal the Bay). 

That concept of "local" is going a bit wider as of Saturday, Nov. 14 when the company, which has its HQ on San Fernando Road in Glendale, makes its first sudsy stand in Orange County. A new tasting room is debuting in Anaheim, and, with it, a party befitting an opening day. 

Translation? The first 200 people to stop by score a free taco from SoHo Tacos. Wait. Do delicious tacos and solidly made beer go well together? That sounds like it might be tasty. Someone should look into that.

The new tasting room is right across from Angels Stadium and "marks the beginning phase of the company's first major expansion project outside of its hometown," says a Golden Road representative. A future brewery and pub is still to come at the location, a location headed up by brewmaster Victor Novak, a libation specialist who spent several years at TAPS Fish House & Brewery in Brea.

Call Mr. Novak's OC return a hops-nice homecoming, in short.

And dub the notion of the tasting room as much wider than wine. While wine-oriented tasting rooms around California still dominate the concept, seeing some pint glasses behind the counter, and a few taps, is becoming a more common sight.

Another common sight, in years to come, will be Golden Road's label in lands further away from its Glendale headquarters. Could Golden Road soon be one of the Golden State's symbolic beers, with outposts in several parts of the state? 

Photo Credit: Golden Road]]>
<![CDATA[Snoopy, Spins, Skyscrapers: Downtown Rink Debuts]]> Thu, 12 Nov 2015 08:42:47 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/snoopypershing922832.jpg

Staying in your pajamas and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a long-running must-do, whether you live in New York or elsewhere.

If you fell into the "elsewhere" category as a kid, though, you probably experienced some extreme pangs of envy over some of the big balloons, like Snoopy. The short of it? You couldn't quite believe that all of those lucky New York kids got to see one of your favorite characters, in person, right there, jealous jealous jealous.

But Snoopy calls upon downtown Los Angeles each holiday season, too, and while he isn't in giant inflated balloon form, he performs some pretty nifty feats at the Holiday Ice Rink at Pershing Square. Seeing Snoopy skate is now something of a long-running must-do, too, for SoCal kids, and skate he shall on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

The pirouetting pooch is only one ornament on this particular tree, as skating buffs will soon find out. Very soon, in fact: The Pershing Square rink leaps into its 18th year on Thursday, Nov. 12.

While daily skating through Jan. 18 will be what most people participate in, there are a slew of sparkly special happenings, as always. The Winter Holiday Festival on Saturday, Dec. 5 includes real snow to play in, entertainment-y happenings, music, and other stuff made for putting a proverbial marshmallow in your proverbial cocoa.

A Polar Bear Skate on Jan. 1 welcomes the new year in a brrrr-filled fashion.

And DJ spotlight nights will up the rink's rockin' style (a little bass adds oomph to an axel).

Look, LA would never dare call dibs on Snoopy at the holidays, not with his decades-old ties to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Both cities can share the flappy-eared icon come the yuletide season, is what we're saying, and whether Snoopy's shaped like a balloon or he's skating a duet in Pershing Square, it is all as sweet as pumpkin pie.

For rental prices, times, and that aforementioned slew of sparkly events, knot your laces and spin over to the Holiday Ice Rink schedule.

Photo Credit: Holiday Ice Rink]]>
<![CDATA[Disguise: Masks & Global African Art at the Fowler]]> Wed, 11 Nov 2015 19:14:43 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Fowler_MG_2279.jpg

While the autumntime, and Halloween and its attending parties in particular, is very much about the concept of masquerade and costuming and different identities, the concept of the mask isn't simply something that pops up each October as part of the larger holiday.

It's as epic and old as the epochs themselves, but still at play today around the world in myths and local legends and dreams. Twelve contemporary artists have examined those venerable symbols and their meanings, but through a modern prism, in the new exhibit "Disguise: Masks & Global African Art" at the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

The show, which spotlights six visionaries from Africa, and an equal number of Americans of African heritage, doesn't solely go to the established ways of mask-making found in places throughout the planet, the sort of masks we've seen in museums numerous times before.

Rather, the innovators pursue modern takes on maskery, and that innovation is at the heart of the exhibit. It's a story-filled show full of masks, yes, but also the notion of masks and the roles they fill.

"Country Ball 1989-2012" by Jacolby Satterwhite includes HD digital video with color 3-D animation and sound to reveal a layered look at facades and fantasy, while other pieces incorporate "drawing, photography, video" as well as "performance and installation." 

Masks will be seen, but perhaps not in the forms the museum goer expected. But such is the nature of disguise and, ultimately, the interesting journey that a disguise provides the wearer. "These works reveal social, political, and cultural issues through the exploration of traditional African masquerade," says the Fowler. 

See these beautiful and thought-provoking works at the Westwood-based institution through Wednesday, March 16. Admission is free.


Top image: Neo Primitivism 2, 2007—14, Brendan Fernandes, Kenya/Canada, b. 1979, installation with plastic masks, deer decoys, and vinyl spears, dimensions variable, loan from the artist. © Brendan Fernandes, Photo courtesy of the artist. 


Bottom image: From Hiz Hands, 2010, Brendan Fernandes, Kenya/Canada, b. 1979, 3 neon-on-glass-frame signs, loan from the artist. © Brendan Fernandes, Photo courtesy of the artist. 

Photo Credit: © Brendan Fernandes]]>