DreamWorks Adventure to Santa

Posted on

The magic of Christmas has always been a very powerful force in my life. I think it’s partly thanks to my vivid imagination as a child, which kept me happily leaving out milk and cookies for Santa long after I learned that he didn’t exist; and partly due to our family being on hard times over many a holiday season, which resulted in me clinging with a death grip to the wonder of the season as a way to keep spirits up. Because while presents may cost money, magic is priceless.

And sharing that magic with my own children is something I’ve always looked forward to with great anticipation and emotion. So last weekend, when Maevie met Santa for the first time ever, thanks to DreamWorks Adventure to Santa and Club MomMe, my heart exploded with such violence that the vibrations were felt all the way up in the North Pole. Honestly, the whole experience was so saturated with magic that my mom and I were choking back happy tears throughout the entire thing!

The adventure begins when you approach the DreamWorks animated LED Christmas house, where beloved characters from Shrek appear and disappear behind windows and doors, getting the house decorated and ready for the holidays.

Families are admitted 3 at-a-time to the house, by appointment, so there’s no waiting in endless lines like many mall Santa experiences. And better yet, there were many interactive features of the adventure as we got closer and closer to our encounter with Santa.

First, we played a video game in order to win our Pilot’s License, to help us pilot the sleigh to visit Santa at the North Pole. Later, we got to virtually decorate Gingy the Gingerbread Man from Shrek. 3-D printed ornaments of everyone’s finished product are available for purchase online at gingyscookiemaker.com.

These interactive elements are a great way to keep families entertained and engaged as they wait their turn to meet Santa, and bring great added value to the experience. It was great fun for my mom and me to do, since Maeve was too young to participate.
Adventure to Santa collageThe ride to the North Pole was definitely a huge highlight. We all piled into a sleigh in front of a huge screen, which transformed into an amazing, exciting, and charming virtual ride to the North Pole with Shrek and Donkey. My mom and I had such a blast on the ride, and even Maeve seemed into it! Check out this brief clip from the beginning to get a glimpse into the magical illusion and excitement of the ride.

Soon after, came the moment we had all been waiting for. Santa’s elves told us to get ready, and opened the door with a cheerful exclamation: “It’s SANTA!” and we were ushered into a gorgeously decorated study featuring the man himself.
Adventure to Santa final

I’ve seen many a mall santa in my day, and let me tell you, this guy was the REAL DEAL. He was incredibly warm and tender and gentle with our wee Maeve, and had all the trappings of your dream Santa Claus conceivable. And when I saw my little girl look up into his eyes with such wonder, my heart burst.

DreamWorks Adventure to Santa is available in 14 locations across the US and even in London – and reservations are required.

Dreamworks adventure to santa

If you’re lucky enough to live near one of the locations for Adventure to Santa, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m already looking forward to taking Maeve back next year, when she’s able to understand and enjoy the experience a little more. It was a completely magical day for 3 generations of LaRue women: Maeve, me and my mom!

Thanks to South Bay Galleria, DreamWorks and Club MomMe for the invite! It was a truly unforgettable experience!


Getting My Groove Back with Baby Boot Camp: Week 3

Posted on

Last week, I promised you guys “before” photos, and so photos you shall have. Here I am, in all my 4 months post-partum glory. I had to work stupidly hard to not suck in my stomach for these pictures, by automatic instinct. Vanity, friends. It’s a bitch.

Baby Boot Camp Before and After
I also took measurements before starting my 3 month Baby Boot Camp challenge, so I could track my progress with greater specificity. I’ll be sharing the changes in my measurements monthly. Since muscle weighs more than fat, and I’m hoping to convert a lot of this fat into heavier muscle… numbers on a scale are the least of my concern.

But, for transparency’s sake, I’ll tell you right now: I weighed 200lbs on the dot the first morning I went to Boot Camp. It is definitely the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’m OK with it, inasmuch as I know this body is responsible for creating, housing, and birthing the most beautiful, wonderful creature I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. But still, it would be nice if I could fit into any of my old clothes, y’know?

I also promised you goals this week. One thing that gives Baby Boot Camp some sweet added value is that Melinda and Elizabeth don’t just lead class, they also provide coaching outside of class time, via emails and a private Facebook group for Boot Camp members. It’s turning out to be a wonderful community of women, as we share inspiration, tips and tricks together. Elizabeth and Melinda encouraged us to set goals for ourselves through the end of the year, and provided great guidelines for setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals.

So I thought on it, and decided that my goals would be as foolproof as possible.

  1. Attend Baby Boot Camp 3x/week
  2. Take long walks (minimum 1 mile) on non-bootcamp weekdays
  3. Cut back on sugar and refined carbs by not having them in the house
  4. Eat larger lunches and smaller dinners
  5. Acknowledge my beauty, growing strength, and the non-physical benefits of this challenge every day

Somehow, I think the last one might be the hardest. But it’s so, so crucial.

Every day when I get dressed, or catch my reflection in a mirror, an insipid little voice inside me tries to bully me into a state of disappointment and defeat. It’s gross, and I try to vigilantly tell that little voice to FUCK OFF every time I hear it’s whispers. And the best way I know how to shut that voice down is by working out, feeling my strength, and honoring my journey. I’m only human. I’m doing the best I can.

And sure, I’m often the slowest in class. When we jog around the park or do walking lunges, I often lag behind the other women, huffing and puffing and red-in-the-face. In these moments, when instinct has me wanting to speak unkindly to myself, I practice a new mantra:

This is for her. This is for me. This is for him. This is for us.

Because this challenge isn’t just about vanity. It’s about modeling a healthy lifestyle by example for my daughter. It’s about my mental health, physical wellbeing and longevity. And being happy and healthy makes me a better wife to my husband and a better mother to my baby. I work out because it betters my whole family.

So, my challenge is going strong, and I’m feeling the benefits add up more and more every day. I’ll be back next week to check in on my goals and progress!

baby boot camp fitness

Disclosure: My participation in this 3-month challenge is generously sponsored by Baby Boot Camp Culver City & Marina del Rey. 


Drink this: Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk

Posted on

best coconut almond milk

Yes folks, a post about almond milk. Why? You ask? BECAUSE IT IS THE BEST DAMN ALMOND MILK IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. How much do I love it? Enough to write a whole post about it, out of the kindness of my own damn heart, to enrich your mouths and lives. That’s how much. Dammit.

Or at least, it’s by far the most exciting new grocery-store find Paul and I have had in the past year.

We’re not huge “milk” people. Don’t get me wrong… I love me some cheese, and all the butter, like any good midwestern girl should. But, keeping cow’s milk around isn’t my super jam. We really only use it in our morning coffee/tea, and our acupuncturist prefers that we avoid true dairy as much as possible. So one day last year I picked up Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk after seeing it in the refrigerated section at Whole Paycheck Foods and thinking the bottle was cute. I looked at the nutritional information, and I thought it was all good – no added or artificial sweeteners or any creepy unpronounceable ingredients. Then I learned Carrageenan, one of the ingredients, is super shady, which put me off it for a while, and it as back to cow’s milk for us. Sad trombone.

But thanks to a recent flare-up of my arthritis, which is exacerbated by too much dairy, I revisited the non-cow’s milks on the market, and my dreams came true. Califia just announced they’ve removed “the C-word” from their products. REJOICE! In fact, it boasts better-than-milk nutrition with 50% more calcium, less fat, less sugar and less calories. So I took it home for a spin. And rekindled my steamy love affair with their creamy, coconutty concoction.

It makes everything better.

Their unsweetened, plain version is also delectable, if coconut isn’t your lover the way it is mine. We all have different predilections. I understand.

I mean, I think you’re a weirdo. But we’re cool.

I guess.

I also got a sample container of their Almond Coffee Creamer last weekend at Club MomMe’s Fall Family Fest, and it makes my mouth sing. Takes our quotidien PG Tips tea and elevates it to somehow taste like my most beloved fancy french tea.

But here’s what’s absolutely no bueno, much to our shock and dismay… do not, by all means, buy or drink their seasonal “Holiday Nog” flavor. That shit was foul. I was so disappointed. Also, I wish it came in paper cartons rather than plastic. But you can’t win ’em all. (Califia, do you hear me? I love your sustainability practices, and your bottles be cute, but plastic is persona non grata around my house!)

Go, get you some, friends. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Screenshot 2014-03-04 23.23.02You’re welcome.

(this post was not sponsored by Califia. it really is just that good.)


How to cook the perfect holiday turkey in only one hour.

Posted on

This is not a joke, nor an exaggeration. Indeed, it is a promise. A gift to you, from the bottom of my heart. Because you CAN cook the perfect turkey in one hour, and transform your Thanksgiving experience forever. Believe me, you and your guests deserve it. Not only is it perfectly juicy, tender, and flavorful every time… but the skin is crisp and gorgeous, too. It’s everything you want your bird to be… in a fraction of the time.

cook a perfect turkey in one hour

I’ve been cooking turkeys this way for a few years now, ever since my high school bestie posted her father-in-law, Ron’s, youtube instructional… and I’m never going back. Nor are the friends and family that I’ve turned onto this style. Why in gobble’s name should anyone slave over a bird for hours on end, basting and fussing and checking temperatures… when you could be kicking back with a glass (or three) of wine and good conversation and family and friends?!?

So without further ado, I present to you… Ron’s One-Hour Turkey. Beloved by all who dare to try it themselves – satisfying dinner guests with minimal effort and maximum reward!

And to make it even easier for you, here’s a handy dandy link for the Granite Ware Covered Oval Roaster you’ll need. I got mine at Target, but Amazon Prime is even easier!

Welcome to the good life, friends.

(…and stay tuned, folks, because coming up soon is my famous, epic, thanksgiving feast layer cake recipe! I’m full of delicious inspiration and holiday cheer!) 


Getting My Groove Back with Baby Boot Camp

Posted on

Before I got pregnant, I was pretty friendly with my fitness. I worked out regularly, and ate a healthy diet of mostly whole foods. Let’s not forget, I was careening quickly toward my wedding day – always a great incentive to watch my figure and double down on my commitment to a healthy lifestyle. And on my wedding day, I looked and felt great! Success!

Then I went on my honeymoon to Paris and Korea and came back 5 lbs heavier (Thank you, cheese. Thank you, chocolate. Thank you, 3-michelin star meals), and 3 weeks pregnant. Then came the chronic first trimester migraines, followed quickly by second trimester nerve pain, and working out quickly became the absolutely least desirable activity I could possibly think of. I was basically couch-bound for the majority of my pregnancy, and while having Gestational Diabetes helped mitigate my weight gain, I lost considerable muscle mass as a result.

In the 4 months since having Maeve, things have not improved at all. I’m now 35 lbs up from my pre-pregnancy weight. Nothing I own fits me. I feel schlumpy and weak and tired all the time, and I hate it. Working out is a huge part of my mental health upkeep as well as my physical well being, and neglecting it was starting to take a real toll on every part of my spirit. And modeling a healthy lifestyle for my daughter is incredibly important to me. I’ve reached critical mass of feeling like shit. So, I knew it was time for a serious change.

baby boot camp culver city

I found Baby Boot Camp during a search for fitness options that allow me to bring my baby along, and as luck would have it, they were offering a free class to celebrate their grand opening of a new location at Howard Hughes Promenade. I went, and over the course of the 30 minute demo, doing exercises that used to be in my comfort zone, I thought I was going to die no less than 10 times. It was a huge wake up call for me.

I talked to Melinda and Elizabeth, the owners of my local Baby Boot Camp franchise, and we thought it would be fun for me to document my progress as a Brand Ambassador, so they’re generously sponsoring my attendance for the next 3 months. I’m historically useless about exercise without some form of accountability, and this way failure is not an option!

Baby Boot Camp Culver City

I started my program last week and had a great time! Their Howard Hughes Promenade location has stairs that Melinda integrated for a really strong leg work out, and the Helms Bakery location has a lovely cobblestone courtyard with nice grassy areas for people’s kids to play on. Women brought their children ranging from 6 weeks to 4 years, and if a baby got fussy or needed to be fed, Melinda was happy to push their stroller or hold a bottle so mom could keep working out. It was so nice to be among women just like myself, rather than in a gym setting surrounded by muscle-bound weightlifters and impossibly perfect bikini babes.

“Boot Camp” is a bit of a misnomer for the experience though. There’s no “tough love” whatsoever in these classes, as you might imagine in a boot camp-y setting. Rather, it’s warm and encouraging. We do lots of body-weight resistance work like squats, lunges, and planks; and use resistance bands for bicep curls, obliques, triceps, and more. I love the variety of exercises we do, because as soon I start to get tired of one, we move onto another.

After only one week, I’m already noticing a change in my energy level and mood. I’m so excited to see what other progress I can achieve over the next 3 months thanks to Boot Camp in conjunction with clean eating. I’ll be sharing my journey along the way. Wish me luck, and stay tuned next week for my before photos (youch) and goal setting update!

baby boot camp fitness