Anime Expo 2014 in Downtown Los Angeles

Earlier this month I attended my very first Anime Expo. This was my very first conference in the anime industry. It’s funny that when I worked in the toy industry many moons ago, I had several opportunities to go to Comic-Con. Back then the focus was more on comic books & the toy industry that surrounded those characters. Comic-Con has now evolved into more of a pop culture festival. Sure you still have comic book fans that head down to San Diego. However somewhere along the way, when the Twilight fans emerged in 2010 & stormed Hall H, Comic-Con turned into more of a film fest for big studios/TV meet & greet for television shows. I’m not knocking it, in fact I would love to attend Comic-Con one day! However for people who are really into anime, the Anime Expo (AX) in DTLA is the place to be!

When I arrived on Thursday, which was the first day of AX, you could feel the excitement in the air. I made my way over to the press/media section so that I could collect my badge. All attendees received a goodie bag & a fun Dragon Ball Z crown/headpiece. The goodie bag contained a Anime Expo program, map of the convention hall areas & other assorted items. However I knew that the one item that would score some points from my kiddo was the Dragon Ball Z paper headpiece!

AX_Goodie Bag_PressBadge

There were SO many cool costumes! I found out that these intricate pieces take months to create, so people are quite proud AND happy to pose for pictures.


Since I had a little bit of time to wait before the Women in Pop Culture panel started, I checked out one of the smaller halls with some merchandise & electronic items in it. It was in this hall that I saw Hello Kitty clothing for sale from Japan LA. Being a big Hello Kitty fan, I had to buy a skirt that I hope to wear at Hello Kitty Con later this October.



Eventually it was time to head over to the Women in Pop Culture panel.


The panel was moderated by Cassandra Peterson (aka Elivera). Rileah Vanderbilt & Clare Grant (from Team Unicorn), singer Noelle Bean & Danielle Vasinova made up the panel. Sho Murase was supposed to be there but wasn’t able to attend. The women talked about pop culture, anime & breaking barriers in the entertainment industry.


Here is a snippet of Rileah giving props to Cassandra Peterson who played Elivra in film & TV.

Singer Noelle Bean also performed her hit Lois Lane. Here’s a clip:

If you want to hear the song in its entirety, check out this YouTube video:

After the Women in Pop Culture panel, I made my way down to the front to talk briefly with Team Unicorn & Noelle Bean. They graciously agreed to pose for pics.



Then it was time for me to walk the giant showroom. So much merchandise! I knew Hello Kitty would have merch here, but who knew that llamas (or alpacas) would be a thing?!


Cool display of Batman & Superman figures!


Of course I had to stop at a Hello Kitty booth where they were promoting the latest mobile game app.


I walked around a little bit more, but then I was starving so I left to go outside to the food truck area & grabbed a very late lunch. I wasn’t able to go back for the rest of the weekend at Anime Expo (due to work commitments). All in all it was a very cool expo to experience!

Have you been to Anime Expo? How about Comic-Con? Which do you like better & why?

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I attended Anime Expo as a member of the media. I was under no obligation to write about my experience, but I wanted to share it with my readers.  All images are mine unless otherwise noted. My opinions (as always) are 100% my own.

Zola Coconut Water Lemonade

Like a lot of my fellow fitness friends, I enjoy coconut water. I recently tried a new drink from Zola that contains the perfect blend of tart & sweet. What is that drink? It’s Zola Coconut Water Lemonade! This drink contains coconut water, lemonade, Vitamin C (yay!) and cane sugar, among other items. It’s also gluten-free & dairy-free.


But how does it taste? I really like it! It’s not overly sugary tasting like most lemonade. My husband & daughter love their sweet lemonade, which is why I rarely drink it or have it with an iced tea (Arnold Palmer style). With a Zola Coconut Water Lemonade, you get the refreshing taste of a lemonade, plus the health benefits from coconut water. Win-win…

I also received a few other goodies in my care package from Zola, which their company motto is Live Live to the Fullest!


Inside this care package were cans of Zolo Coconut Water with Pulp, Coconut Water without Pulp & Coconut Water with Expresso! I’m not a fan of pulp. I don’t even like it in my orange juice. So I am glad that I got to try it with & without pulp. The Expresso drink gave me a little kick that I needed after my workout.

ZolaCoconutWater_Pckg contents

We are in the midst of a heatwave in Los Angeles, with highs in the Valley at 100+ degrees. So I really enjoyed that cold Coconut Water with Expresso, which has as much caffeine as a 2 oz. shot of expresso. Plus the calorie & fat content of this drink is lower than a blended coffee drink that you would get from your local coffee chain!

(Image credit: Zola)
(Image credit: Zola)

So the next time you find yourself wanting a refreshing drink, you might want to consider one of the coconut waters from Zola!

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I received complimentary samples of Zola which helped facilitate this review. All images are mine unless otherwise noted. My opinions (as always) are 100% my own.

Meet Marni Rosenthal Chaikin of Pure Barre Woodland Hills

I tried out Pure Barre in Woodland Hills a couple of times earlier this month. I needed to try something that was out of my comfort zone, especially since I had been away for 2 weeks on a summer vacation. When I found out that one of the co-owner’s lives in the San Fernando Valley AND is a mom to a young daughter, I just knew that I had to interview Marni for my new series on the blog.

So SFV followers, please meet Marni Rosenthal Chaikin, the latest Real Mom of the SFV!

(Photo credit: Marni Rosenthal Chaikin)
(Photo credit: Marni Rosenthal Chaikin)

How/why did you begin your business?
Marni: I was a professional dancer and Pilates instructor working freelance.  I got to a place in my life where I wanted to build something a little more concrete and have a place to call home. I was in New York City dancing while living in LA and took a barre class and fell in love. I did some research once I got back to LA and there was very little to choose from at the time in terms of Barre classes. Coincidentally, around that time I joined  a women’s entrepreneurial networking group called Ladies who Launch and, on first meeting, in walked the founder of, what was then, a small company known as Pure Barre. Carrie Dorr, our founder impressed me on so many levels. We got to know each other and before long she offered me the first license in LA (at the time it was a licensing program-we have since become a bonafide franchise). I knew Pure Barre was going to be huge. I fell in love with the high I got from running my own business and what Pure Barre itself did for me both physically and spiritually.  It’s been a win win situation from the start.

As a working mother, what is one tip or piece of advice that you would give to other female entrepreneurs?
Marni: It’s impossible to get it all done.  When you have your own business you could feasibly working from the time you wake up until the moment your head hits the pillow.  Prioritize and strategize.  Learn to say no.  I try to make a minimum of an hour each day where I turn off my ringer, shut down my computer and focus solely on my daughter to give her quality one on one time. It means so much to her and to me. When I return to my work I am so much more refreshed and at ease knowing that we had that time together that has really mattered.

What do you like best about having a business in the San Fernando Valley?
Marni: The SFV is so SO community oriented.  I can’t believe how at home I feel at my Woodland Hills location. People are so loving and dedicated and many clients have become like family to me and my business partner Kayla.  It’s a small town feel in the middle of a big city existence and that is so refreshing in LA!

If there was one thing you wish you knew before you began your business, what would that be?
Marni: I wish  I knew that it was okay to delegate. When I opened my first location in early 2009 I thought I had to do everything myself. I worked 24/7 and didn’t think there was any other way to be successful.  Learn what your strengths are and capitalize on those.  Then surround yourself with people that excel in the areas where you might be weak and delegate delegate, delegate!

I just love Marni’s advice, don’t you? Marni not only co-owns the one in Woodland Hills, but she also co-owns the Pure Barre studios in Brentwood & Santa Monica!

Have you been to a Pure Barre fitness studio? If so, what did you think & if not, what’s stopping you? Sound off in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. The image shown in this post is used with permission. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.

JicaChips™ – All Natural Jicama Chips Product Review

Ever since I got back from my vacations in Utah & Arizona, I’ve been making it a point to eat healthier snacks. I’ve had jicama in salads & as a garnish in other items, but I never thought about it as something that I would regularly snack on. So when I heard about JicaChips, I was very intrigued.


JicaChips come in four flavors: Sea Salt, Smoked BBQ, Cinnamon Sugar & Spicy Szechuan. They are made from real jicama slices & baked (yes that’s right – baked, not fried). JicaChips are low in calorie, low in carbs & have 3 times the fiber of oatmeal! My cousin who is a registered dietician & also my friends who are into nutrition will be happy to know that these are gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO & 100% All Natural . In fact, these chips are made with olive oil, spices & pure cane sugar (depending on flavor).

(Image credit: JicaChips)
(Image credit: JicaChips)

I tried all four flavors & my personal faves are the Smoked BBQ & Cinnamon Sugar ones. The BBQ one reminded me of a BBQ potato chip, but a much healthier version. I’m not fond of overly sweet snacks, so this Cinnamon Sugar JicaChips satisfied my craving for something sweet.


My husband’s personal favorite was the Spicy Szechuan. He likes snacks with a spicy kick!


Want to know where you can buy these JicaChips? Well for now you can buy them from their online store. However I hear that they are going to roll out in other places in the near future, so check their Facebook or website for updates!

**Update: Get 20% off your first order when you go to their online store & use DISCOUNT Code “jicachips20″**

If you are looking for a healthy alternative to the average chip, you might want to give JicaChips a try!


Do you like jicama? If you could try just one of the JicaChips, which flavor would you buy?

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I received a complimentary sample pack which helped facilitate this review. All images are mine unless otherwise noted. My opinions (as always) are 100% my own.

San Fernando Valley Startup Weekend 2014

Last week was the TechLA Startup Summer Jam 2014. The TechLA Conference brought together startups, entrepreneurs & investors in one place to take part in a startup competition, panel discussions & (most importantly) to network. If you missed out on that opportunity, then take note Los Angeles & San Fernando Valley folks because there is a SFV Startup Weekend taking place in a couple of weeks!

(Photo credit: Startup Weekend SFV. Photo used with permission.)
(Photo credit: Startup Weekend SFV. Photo used with permission.)

During the weekend of August 1st-3rd, Gazoozle HQ (located in Burbank), will play host to the SFV Startup Weekend.

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014.

All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.

During Startup Weekend, you will start a company together with passionate people by:

  • Pitching an idea
  • Forming a team
  • Building a prototype
  • Validating the market
  • Making a business model
  • Winning prizes
  • Gaining new connections

From idea to business in 54 hours!

I don’t have strong roots in the tech industry, but I do know what it is like to have an entrepreneurial spirit (having worked for a startup, as well as working for several female entrepreneurs when I was a VA). The first time I heard about San Fernando Valley Startup Weekend, I immediately thought of it as a cross between Shark Tank & TechCrunch Disrupt. While I don’t think it will be as wild as the way TechCrunch Disrupt was portrayed on HBO’s Silicon Valley, I do think that there is going to be a lot of value gained & lessons learned from this Startup Weekend in the SFV.

Click here for more information & to buy tickets to San Fernando Valley Startup Weekend 2014. For my readers, you can use promo code SFV2014SW to get a 25% discount off the tickets.

Tell me: Do you know anyone with a startup idea or who is an entrepreneur? 

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I received information about SFV Startup Weekend & although a post was not required, I wanted to share this with my readers. Photo image used with permission. My thoughts & opinions are 100% my own.

An Insider’s Guide to Using the Opoli App

There are several ride-sharing apps out there in the marketplace. You know the ones, they rhyme with “rift” & “tuber.” ;) However what sets Opoli apart is that this app lets the customer & provider do business one-to-one in real time. Once the connection is made, then Opoli lets you do your thing! Plus, all Opoli drivers are commercially licensed AND insured professional providers. Thus making Opoli rides a safer & better alternative.

(Photo credit: Opoli. Photo used with permission.)
(Photo credit: Opoli. Photo used with permission.)

I had the pleasure of using the Opoli app & scheduling a pick-up so that I could be driven to a part of LA that is known for traffic. I’m talking West Hollywood folks! Getting to WeHo from the SFV is no easy task at times. There is a fitness studio in WeHo that offers a cross between boot camp & CrossFit that I had been dying to try! So naturally I thought, if I am going to be super tired (i.e. legs are dead) afterwards, wouldn’t it be nice to be driven home in style like a rock star?

Using the app is easy. I had it downloaded to an iPhone (hubby’s) & also to my iPod Touch. Note that it’s always best to use it on the iPhone because it works better on that particular Apple platform.

(Photo credit: Opoli. Photo used with permission.)
(Photo credit: Opoli. Photo used with permission.)

First you type in a date & time, plus the address that you want to be picked-up & dropped off at. Then you simply wait for the Opoli App to search for available drivers. Once you get the list, you can read their bio & car description. If you don’t like the price that is listed, you can counter & negotiate. You have the power to make reservations, select your driver, the price & the best part – the car! They have limos, Teslas, town cars, SUVs, etc. What does the driver get out of it? The freedom to collect the whole fare & not pay a commission.
I chose a town car for my experience. The driver was polite & had texted me 15 minutes ahead of time, letting me know that he was outside my home & parked at the curb. Since I was finishing up a blog post, I told him that I would be step outside at the prearranged time. When I was ready, I walked to the town car & he opened my door & offered me a bottled water for the ride into West Hollywood. It was so nice to be able to relax during the drive, check out Twitter & answer work emails during the 45-minute to an hour one-way commute.

Here’s a photo of me kicking back & relaxing in the car. Yes, I have pink workout shoes. :)


I arrived at Sweat Garage in style, completely relaxed & read to workout! (Note: a blog post recapping my experience at Sweat Garage will be posted next week.)

I had already made reservations for a return trip to my home with the same driver. Thank goodness I did because I was dead-tired after that awesome workout! Let me just say that having someone drive you home after an intense workout was great. I nibbled on this yummy cheese broccoli quiche while my driver dealt with the LA traffic. Yay!


Getting driven somewhere is fun times, let me tell you! Doesn’t this sound like a great thing to try for your big night on the town – date night, movie premiere, prom, wedding, etc? Well guess what, you are in luck! I am giving away promo codes to 20 of my followers who are first time riders. These have a $50 value & expires on December 31st, so you have time folks to take advantage of this sweet ride! To enter, please check out my Facebook page for details!

Also Opoli just launched a #FreeRideFriday sweeps for new riders on their Facebook page. You can enter that contest here (after you enter mine first – lol!):

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I received promo codes for a giveaway & was provided credit for transportation to use at my leisure. All images are mine unless otherwise noted. My opinions (as always) are 100% my own.

Opoli is providing $50 promo codes for readers who will be selected via the Real Mom of SFV Facebook contest. Winners will be contacted by me via email. Giveaway ends July 31, 2014 at 12 noon PST. Please note this giveaway is open only to residents of Los Angeles County.

Pure Barre – Fitness Studio Review

As you can probably tell, I am addicted to group fitness classes. While I enjoy doing my usual cycle class or TRX class at my local YMCA, sometimes you just have to change up your routine. So a few weeks ago, I decided to try out Pure Barre in Woodland Hills. Mind you, this was the first class that I took after being back from a 2 week vacation to Utah & Arizona. So I was a little apprehensive about taking it.


The class was taught by Gigi & she really helped me with getting the right technique & positioning of my body. Pure Barre workouts focus on lifting your butt, toning your thighs & burning fat. It is a total body workout that fuses elements of ballet, Pilates & strength training. In this particular class with Gigi, we used these rubber tubes as part of our leg workout.


After the first class, I did feel invigorated & energized – this was quite an intense class to take after being gone for 2 weeks. Since I didn’t know the moves or understand the technique (I had taken a barre-type fitness class before, but no two barre studios are alike), I felt like I should take a second class to get a better feel for how the Pure Barre method works.

This second class was taught by Rachel. It went a little smoother for me since I kind of understood the idea of tucking your body in a certain way, being laser-focused on a certain part of your body (core, outer thigh, etc.) & making small movements. In this class, we utilized the rubber tube, a small rubber ball & light hand weights.


How did I feel afterwards? I felt like I got a nice workout. The difference between this type of workout & something like a “boot camp” type class is that those classes are all about getting sweaty, doing a lot of cardio as well as strength training & getting your heart rate up. Pure Barre is totally different. I think if you go into it with an open mind, willingness to learn & the patience to focus on toning & mindful positioning – then you will do well.

The Pure Barre studio in Woodland Hills is spacious & clean. In the front lobby, you can buy merchandise with the Pure Barre logo on it. There is an area in the back where they honor the members who reach their 100th class milestone. You get to sign the studio’s ballet barre & you are part of the 100 Club. The studio manager & owners do a nice job of keeping the community spirit engaged among their members through social media & also via in-store/off-site promotions with Lyfe Kitchen, which is located in Tarzana.


For more information on Pure Barre Woodland Hills, check out their website, follow them on Facebook &/or connect with them on Instagram!


Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I participated in two fitness classes via ClassPass. All images are mine & my opinions (as always) are 100% my own.

Meet Debbie Adler of Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats

As a mom of an 8 year old daughter with a sweet tooth, I am always on the hunt for healthier options for dessert. I also have friends who have gluten sensitivities or happen to have allergies to dairy, soy &/or peanuts. That’s why when I came across Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes, I thought “whoo hoo!” finally a dessert book that can address those issues.


This book is filled with great recipes for those who want to cook healthy sweet treats, who suffer from peanut allergies or live a gluten-free & vegan lifestyle! Debbie has come up with some yummy, tried & true recipes that have been honed in her kitchen & bakeshop – Sweet Debbie’s Organic Cupcakes. You can buy her baked goods (cupcakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, etc.) online or bake them yourself by purchasing her cookbook! I love that her company is based in the San Fernando Valley!

There is one dessert flavor that I absolutely love & that is red velvet. I’ll eat it as a cake, cupcake, cake pop, you name it! Fortunately for me, Debbie has a red velvet cupcake recipe in her book & it is also sold online at her cupcake shop!

(Photo credit: Carl Kravats. Photo used with permission)
(Photo credit: Carl Kravats. Photo used with permission)

What I really like about this dessert cookbook is that it has exotic flavors that you might not find in a traditional cookbook. Check out this recipe for Saffron & Cardamom Donut Holes!


There is also a recipe for Basil Lemonade Cookies! It sounds delish!


As I had mentioned before, Debbie Adler’s bakery is based in the San Fernando Valley. I am SO excited to introduce to my readers a new feature on the blog! At least once a month (or perhaps more depending on scheduling), I will feature a “Real Mom of the SFV” – someone who lives in the San Fernando Valley community, is a mother & a businesswoman.

I am so pleased to introduce to you Debbie Adler of Sweet Debbie’s Organic Cupcakes!

(Photo credit: Debbie Adler. Photo used with permission.)
(Photo credit: Debbie Adler. Photo used with permission.)

How/why did you begin your business?
Debbie: I began my bakery business in 2006 because I was hungry. I was hungry for something that didn’t exist at the time – organic, sugar-free cupcakes. I didn’t think I would be the person to pioneer something like this since I wasn’t a baker per se, but like I said, I was hungry. And when you’re hungry you become very determined. After I developed my recipes, which took many months, I opened up my bakery and it turns out a lot of other people were hungry for the same thing, too! When my son was born a few years later, I found out he had severe and life threatening food allergies to dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds. In 2010, I revamped my recipes, moved my bakery and it became vegan, gluten-free, allergy-free and as always, organic and sugar-free.

As a working mother, what is one tip or piece of advice that you would give to other female entrepreneurs?
Debbie: I remained flexible with my schedule from the very beginning when my son was born, so that I could breastfeed him and enjoy as many milestones as possible. So one tip of advice would be to have someone or someones that you could count on to help you execute your business so that you’re not doing absolutely every little thing. In other words – delegate!

What do you like best about having a business in the San Fernando Valley?
Debbie: The Valley is becoming the mecca for small business, especially in the food arena, and I love that people in the San Fernando Valley “get it”. And what I mean by that is, they understand the value of something that is different, more healthful, and of premium quality. They’re not afraid of ingredients that maybe they’re not familiar with, but are willing to try and learn about.

If there was one thing you wish you knew before you began your business, what would that be?
Debbie: I wish I knew how to expand more quickly because I had to turn down some business at the beginning due to capacity constraints.

Check out Sweet Debbie’s Organic Cupcakes Facebook page & follow her on Twitter for new updates!

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I received a complimentary cookbook which helped facilitate this review. All images are mine unless otherwise noted. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.

Free Children’s Performances at The Madrid Theatre

The Madrid Theatre in Canoga Park hosts a Monday Morning Performance Series for children during the summer. It occurs every Monday morning at 10am. The performance is recommended for children 6 to 9 years old. On the day that my daughter & I attended, I noticed that there was a big group of summer camp children with their group leaders, as well as mothers with their kids.

(Photo credit: The Madrid Theatre)
(Photo credit: The Madrid Theatre)

The concert that we saw on this particular day, July 7th, featured the Teenage Drama Workshop (TADW) from Cal State Northridge. This one hour concert was a little preview of the TADW’s Beauty and the Beast and Cirque des Pirates. The songs were lovely & the acting was entertaining. At one point they even brought kids from the audience up on stage to interact with the performers.


My daughter, as well as the rest of the kids in the audience, was thoroughly entertained. After the concert, the cast members were happy to pose for photos! My daughter was being camera shy that day, so unfortunately I don’t have a photo of her with the cast.


I meet with Doug Kaback, who is the Executive Director of TADW.  He is also the professor of theatre in the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communications at CSUN. He explained that the productions that Teenage Drama Workshop (TADW) puts on at Cal State Northridge are geared for young audiences. There is a limited run for both Cirque des Pirates & Disney’s Beauty and the Beast during the month of July.

If you’d like more information about the Teenage Drama Workshop (TADW), including dates & times for their two plays (as well as pricing), then check out their website here.

For info on Madrid Theatre in Canoga Park, including instructions on how to obtain free tickets for their Monday Morning Children’s Performances, click on over to their website.

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I attended a free community event. All images are mine unless otherwise noted. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.

Daddy’s Beach Kit – Summer Item from Daddy & Co.™

Like many Americans, during the 4th of July weekend, I headed to the beach. On that Sunday, I took my daughter to our favorite beach in Santa Monica to escape the San Fernando Valley heat. We had a lot of fun & although my husband had to work, I know that he will definitely be able to attend our next beach outing. When we do go on our next trip, we will be bringing this fun beach kit with us!


The Daddy & Co.™ Beach Kit is perfect for any family who loves to be outdoors. It’s great for your next boating excursion, trip to the lake or even hanging out at the local park.

Each Daddy & Co.™ Beach Kit contains:

  • Beach Ball
  • Koozie
  • Frisbee
  • Sunglasses
  • Mesh Beach Bag
  • “I’m The Daddy!” Towel (32” x 66” – 100% Velour Terry Cotton)


Look stylish & protect your eyes from the UV rays with these cool Daddy & Co.™ sunglasses!


I had mentioned before in a previous blog post that our extended family is expanding. My husband’s cousin recently had a little girl & another cousin is expecting twins later this Fall. If you need a gift for a new dad, you’ll want to check out the Daddy & Co.™ website. They have the perfect items for new dads! The products range from t-shirts, coffee mugs, baseball hats & even DaddyScrubs® that one can wear in the hospital room…so many options to choose from so that the man in your life can proclaim that “I’m the Daddy!”

Tell me: After you check out the website, what item would you buy for the new daddy (husband, relative or friend) in your life?

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I received a complimentary sample of the Daddy & Co.™ Beach Kit which helped facilitate this review. All images & opinions are 100% my own.