Category Archives: Pop Culture

New Trailer & Poster Revealed for Penguins of Madagascar!

My daughter just cannot wait to see Penguins of Madagascar! We had seen a trailer a few weekends ago at the movie theater.

(Photo credit: 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation)
(Photo credit: 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation)

I recently found out that 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation have just released a NEW clip and poster for THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, featuring everyone’s favorite, mysterious birds!

Discover the secrets of the most entertaining and mysterious birds in the global espionage game: Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private now must join forces with the chic spy organization, the North Wind, led by Agent Classified, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch to stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine, voiced by John Malkovich, from taking over the world.

For more movie info, check out  the official website for Penguins of Madagascar & also follow them on Facebook!

Are you or your kids excited about this movie that will be released on November 26, 2014? Do you like it when studios release new movies around Thanksgiving? I do, as it gives us something to do the day after!

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I received information about this movie release & simply wanted to share it with my readers. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.


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.

First Impressions on the Emmy 2014 Nominations

People often joke in LA that we have four seasons, which are Summer, Fall, Fire & Award seasons. Personally I love the entertainment award season, especially the “big” ones like the Emmys, Golden Globes & of course, the Oscars. I often tell my friends & family that the Oscars are my Super Bowl. I really get into the predictions of who will win by participating in “friendly wagers” with friends, where the winner gets treated to lunch. Usually before an award show, I’ll try to handicap the winners by studying Entertainment Weekly’s predictions or read other online critics write-ups (much in the same way my brother-in-law will read up on colleges during the NCAA March Madness).

RealMomOfSFV_Emmy Noms

So what do I think about the Emmy 2014 nominations? First off, I am pleasantly surprised that Silicon Valley got nominated for Best Comedy Series. I think it is a hilarious cable TV show & I’m glad to see it recognized! Most likely (going by past history) Veep or Modern Family will win.

I love JLD in Veep. Although I really wanted to like her character in the movie Enough Said, I just had to stop watching the movie. For me it was snores-ville. The fact that her character couldn’t be any more different than Vice President Selina Meyer, just shows how great Julia Louis Dreyfus’ range can be.

I think Matt LeBlanc is super funny in Episodes. The show may have jumped the shark in the last season, but he is still great in it & it’s good that he was nominated.

While I’m not a huge fan of Mom, I’m glad to see Allison Janney nominated for it. The Supporting Actress in a Comedy category race is a toss-up for me. It’ll be interesting to see how the actresses campaign for it & who will ultimately end up winning.

The biggest race & hardest to predict for me will be the Best Drama Series. So many good ones! I always root for Downton Abbey & Mad Men. I’m not a GOT watcher, so I have nothing to say about that show. True Detective & House of Cards are top notch.

The Best Actor in a Drama Series will be an interesting race. The fact that the two leads for True Detective were put in this category as opposed to the mini-series one is a head scratching decision for me. Matthew McConaughey would have been a sure bet if placed in a different category. I think we can all agree that it is Bryan Cranston’s year though & this is coming from someone who didn’t even watch Breaking Bad!

I sure hope one of the actresses from Downton Abbey wins in their respective acting categories!!

So what are your thoughts & predictions on the Emmy 2014 Nominations?



Grease Sing-A-Long at the Hollywood Bowl!

I’ve been going to the Hollywood Bowl for as long as I can remember. There’s nothing like sitting under the stars with friends after sharing food that you’ve brought from home or perhaps purchased from one of the Bowl’s fine food establishments. Last year I went during my 40th birthday weekend & ate at the Rooftop Grill. It was lovely – such a great setting & the food is wonderful!

After the birthday dinner at the Rooftop Grill, we found our seats & listened to the awesome music. The theme was Movies and Music & here’s a photo of one of my favorite scenes from that night, Disney/Pixar’s Up! The song from that movie is so great & I loved watching the scenes play out in front of you on the jumbo screens.

Hollywood Bowl

I also took my daughter to the Summer Sounds program last summer. It’s a great way to introduce your kids to music at the world famous Hollywood Bowl. During the 2 hour event, they have fun arts & crafts, as well as a musical program. You can read all about it here in my recap.

In about a week & a half, the Hollywood Bowl’s lively Grease Sing-A-Long will be back on July 13 with a pre-show performance and the much-loved movie musical on the Bowl’s giant screen!

(Photo credit: © 2014 Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. Used with permission.)
(Photo credit: © 2014 Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. Used with permission.)

Tickets are available here.

The annual event, which is hosted by Didi Conn, best known for her role as the beauty school dropout Frenchy, will also feature a pre show performance by ‘50s music legends Sha Na Na. The band, who rose to stardom with their portrayal of Johnny Casino and the Gamblers in the movie, also performed six songs on the film’s iconic soundtrack.

These tickets usually go fast, as it is popular with many families! One of my daughter’s friend’s went last year with her mom & really enjoyed it.

Disclosure: I did not receive monetary compensation for this post. All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. My thoughts & opinions are 100% mine.

Meeting Alison Sweeney – Author, Actress & Mother

A couple of Mondays ago, I had the opportunity to meet Alison Sweeney at Duff’s Cakemix in Los Angeles. Melissa Musen Gerstein of The Moms was hosting a meet & greet with Alison, who was promoting her latest book Scared Scriptless. You probably know Alison from her various TV show credits, such as The Biggest Loser or Days of Our Lives.

I had been to Duff’s Cakemix before, having taken my daughter to decorate cupcakes over Spring Vacation.

When I arrived, I saw how cute the room was decorated with cupcakes & cakes specially made by Duff’s bakery team.


It wasn’t long before Alison Sweeney arrived. After posing for pictures with some of the guests, she sat down with Melissa for a brief Q&A. I found her to be sweet, down-to-earth & a wonderful mom with a parenting style very similar to mine.


She spoke about her son who doesn’t have his own iPod or iPhone. Alison specifically tells him, “This is not your iPod, it’s the family iPod & I’m letting you use it.” She also talked about being a strict parent & not wanting to be a “friend” to her two children.

Here she is talking about being a “type-A” mother:

Being a working actress, she loves telling a story that affects people & making them laugh or cry. Being a performer is in her blood. She mentioned playing the violin as a little kid & Alison’s mom said that she always performed the best when there was an audience.

With that said, she also shared that her younger daughter is the “performer” in the family. However, Alison does not want her to go into the entertainment industry. She is really concerned about her daughter facing rejection.

During the Q&A, I was able to ask Alison a question about her fitness routine as a busy working mom. She talked about working in exercise as much as possible, but during hectic times (like her book tour) she sometimes has to forgo her exercise routine. So during those times, she just focuses on eating clean, healthy food & not indulging in alcoholic drinks (which we all know can be high in calories).

Speaking of calories in drinks, one of the sponsors for this event was Arizona Beverage Co. They provided the Skinnygirl Sparklers which are a low calorie sparkling water mixed with real fruit juice. I sipped on the pink grapefruit & also the tangerine mango. Both were delicious, but I found the pink grapefruit flavor to be very refreshing!


After the Q&A, Alison signed copies of her Scared Scriptless book & we got to pose for pictures. I started reading the book on the plane this past Saturday, on my way back from Park City to LA. I’m halfway done! It is fun fiction, an easy-breezy book – perfect for the beach, during vacation or while you’re on a lunch break! Alison briefly describes the plot in this Instagram video here.

AliSweeney_Me with Book

Alison had to dash off for another promotional appearance, but the rest of us got to decorate cupcakes at Duff’s Cakemix. Here’s my finished product! I chose “M” for the initial of my last name. The bottom portion of the pic shows my workstation & the box that we packaged our cupcakes in.


Thanks to The Moms, Alison Sweeney, Duff’s Cakemix & Arizona Beverage Co. for an awesome #SweeneyMamarazzi event!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend a promotional event. I did not receive monetary compensation for this post. All photos, videos, thoughts & opinions are 100% mine.

David Gray’s Latest Album “Mutineers” Drops June 17th!

The following post is sponsored by One2One Network. All opinions are 100% my own.

I’m always on the hunt for new music by different artists. I love listening to music in the car (especially when I am stuck in LA traffic), while I am working out & at home when I am cleaning, answering emails or trying to write out my latest blog post. 🙂

David Gray is an artist from the UK who came on the scene in the late 90’s with his big hit album White Ladder. I remember listening endlessly to the song “Babylon” which came from the album White Ladder. It has a great melody & a catchy hook.

I recently had the opportunity to preview his new album Mutineers, which releases on June 17th (about a week & a half away). The songs are mellow & haunting. It’s great music (in my opinion) to listen to at home or in the car when you need to zen out.


My favorite songs are “Back in the World” & “Beautiful Agony.” Check out David’s video for “Back in the World” & see for yourself how cool it is!

The complete listing for Mutineers is as follows:
Back in the World
As the Crow Flies
Beautiful Agony
Last Summer
Snow in Vegas
Cake and Eat It
Birds of the High Arctic
The Incredible
Girl Like You
Nearly Midnight (bonus track)

For my LA readers, you’ll be happy to know that David Gray is coming out to tour our city on  September 3rd at The Greek Theatre! For additional tour dates & ticket info go to

Are you eager to get your hands (or ears) on the Mutineers album? Well guess what – you can pre-order it on iTunes: or Amazon:

Happy listening!

Disclosure: I received a free download of the album to review from One2One Network. Images & video are used with permission. All opinions remain my own.


Earth to Echo Film

Have you seen the trailer for Earth to Echo yet? I personally can’t wait to see it. It reminds me of my childhood favorite films ET and The Goonies!

Earth to ECHO

I recently found out about a cool contest that will give schools the opportunity to win $100,000! All you have to do is visit to vote, watch the trailer and enter your school for the chance to win! How cool is that?! The school with the most votes will win the $100K prize. The winner will be announced on June 2nd.


Happy voting & good luck!

For more info on the movie Earth to Echo click on over to their official website!


Disclosure: I did not receive any monetary compensation for this post. I simply wanted to share this info with my readers!

How To Train Your Dragon 2

This past Saturday evening, our family watched How to Train Your Dragon. My daughter had seen it before at summer camp, but I didn’t have a chance to see it yet. I found it entertaining & we all agreed that Toothless is our favorite!

Later this week I will get to see a sneak peek of How to Train Your Dragon 2 on behalf of Surf & Sunshine.


Naturally my daughter wants to see it opening weekend, so I’ll take her to see that later next month.

Until that happens, we will be on the hunt to “Spot Toothless”!

Spot Toothless

We love Hawaii, so of course we hope to win the trip! Good luck to those who enter. 🙂

Disclosure: I did not receive monetary compensation for this post. I am a fan of the movie & wanted to share this info with my readers.


Hungry for Laughs – Go See Chef!

Last week, on a gorgeous day in Santa Monica, I attended a fun event where I got to sample different varieties of macaroni & cheese from the Stouffer’s Mac ‘N Cheese Food Truck.

Stouffer's FoodTruck
We had the opportunity to meet Chef Lucien Vendome, who happily passed out samples of Classic Mac, Pizza Mac, Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cuban Mac.

(image credit: The Moms)
(image credit: The Moms)

My favorite was the Classic Mac, dressed up with crispy bacon & chives. Who can resist bacon?! I sure can’t…


After the tasting event, I caught an early screening of the movie Chef, which was written & directed by Jon Favreau. Jon also acts in the movie playing Carl Casper, a chef at an upscale restaurant that is owned by Dustin Hoffman’s character.

In the movie we learn that when Carl started out, he was a rising star who created innovative food & had a promising future. However in this point of his career, instead of using his talent to come up with unique menus, he has to toe the line & make what the restaurant owner wants him to cook. A food critic (played by Oliver Platt) pays a visit & rips into Carl on his food blog, by basically saying that his food is safe & pedestrian. Naturally Carl goes ballistic.

Bobby Cannavale (from Boardwalk Empire) & John Leguizamo (most recently seen in Ride Along) cook alongside Jon Favreau’s character in the kitchen & are hilarious in the movie! There’s an interesting side plot that illustrates how in the age of social media, you better be careful about engaging in Twitter wars.

Jon Favreau’s son in the movie is played by Emjay Anthony. In the film, he becomes Carl Casper’s social media manager (by default) as the father & son go road-tripping in Carl’s new food truck venture. Emjay also happened to be at the screening in Santa Monica. Isn’t he adorable?


I found the movie to be funny, totally original & the cast had great chemistry. Speaking of cast, I’m pretty sure that Jon Favreau called in favors with his Iron Man buddies because both Scarlett Johansson & Robert Downey Jr. are in the film. The always funny Robert Downey Jr. is only in a few scenes but makes the most of his screen time, stealing the show during those hilarious scenes.

Roy Choi (chef, author & restaurant owner) is a producer on the film. If you ever wondered what the man behind the Kogi food truck craze looks like, make sure to stay through the end of the credits. As someone who loves food trucks & has been a fan of Kogi since the beginning, I really appreciated that moment.

Take note that the movie is Rated R, so make sure to leave the kids at home! If you’ve ever worked in a kitchen, like two of my uncles who have made a living as a chef & line cook, then you’ll know that tough talking & wise cracking is par for the course. If you’re looking for laughs, then go see Chef!

Chef opens in select theaters on May 9th!
Visit the official website
Like Chef the Film on Facebook
Follow @ChefTheFilm on Twitter #ChefMovie

I was invited to a media event hosted by The Moms which helped facilitate this review. All images are mine unless otherwise noted. Though a post was not required, I wanted to share my experience. All opinions are my own.

Happy Muppets Monday!

Muppets Most Wanted came out over the weekend. Did you take your kids to see it?

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity of a lifetime to meet the cast & producers of the film. You can read about my experience over on Surf and Sunshine, where I did a guest post. Here’s a photo of me in the press room waiting for the “big reveal” of the cast! I couldn’t wait to meet Kermit, Miss Piggy & Tina Fey!


I was also fortunate to see an early screening of the movie. It was cute & entertaining with a ton of celebrity cameos. If you’re a Muppets fan, you’re going to really enjoy it! You can read my full review here.

Happy Monday everyone & have a great week!