I know I have said it here before, but 4th Of July is the best holiday of the year… It is all about sun, fun and fireworks, what more could you want!?!? Needless to say I am excited for my favorite to roll around again… I will be doing all those things I just mentioned, swimming, BBQ and watching stuff explode! The kind people at Adlen’s Sundials sent me a summer fun pack to enjoy over the holiday. They claim: “with Adlens Sundials you can see up close, into the distance and all around you, at the turn of a dial. These sunglasses can instantly go from poolside readers to longer distance glasses, perfect for a game of beach volleyball or tennis!”… I tested them out and they are pretty awesome, especially if you’re a little older like me! You can just twist until what you’re looking at is in focus, that simple. I highly recommend these for reading around the pool… and then maybe actually taking a dip!
Bing and I were out at the races last weekend… The Indy Car races! This was our second race this year and we both really enjoyed it (despite the Florida like humidity!!!) It is so amazing to get to share things the kids are super interested in with them (And sometimes terrifying seeing as Lucy is into sharks!) Again keep an eye out for email deals, Bing and I were able to get a pair of race tickets, pit/garage passes and scanner rental for a really great price!
Here come the flag!
Bing thought this super car was super cool!
My little photographer
In the garage
Lounging as the cars whiz by
Me and Bing at the MAV TV 500
They averaged 210 MPH
I know much of L.A. gets annoyed when the President comes to town… I personally think it is pretty cool to get to see the POTUS in town (although I have never actually seen him, I have viewed his limo entourage drive by my house and Marine One fly over.) A week or two ago I caught him flying by the Hollywood Sign from my office window and I thought the phto was kind of cool so I thought I would share it again here.
I’m going to keep this short… We all have 4th of July celebrating to get to! Here’s some music I’m digging this week:
This weekend it finally felt like summer… Now I know other cities have way more to complain about weather wise, but it has been a really cool spring, so it was nice to finally have a hot weekend! The kids and I took full advantage of the warm weather and it got me thinking that I should share some of my ideas for free time fun.
Bing powered lift
We decided to check out the Los Angeles Discovery Cube this weekend. We have been to the Orange County Discovery Cube and really loved it so we were excited to visit the newer L.A. version. It’s way closer to us in Burbank, located in the Hansen Dam complex with a large amount of free parking. The building is large with plenty of room to get hands on with the exhibits… The problem is that there is way less to do than the O.C. version. Geared to the 10 and under crowd, we were able to see and do everything in just over a hour and there wasn’t much Bing felt like revisiting. Right now (until 6/30) they have a special $10 admission price (it increases to about $16 for adults, $13 kids when the deal expires, you can get a family season pass for around $99)… at the special rate it is worth checking out, but if you are paying full price make the journey to Orange County and get your moneys worth.
Playing the super market game… We were caught on their “winners camera”
Let me warn you, this idea is not healthy… But fun isn’t always healthy ;) I noticed this weekend that there is a place were everyone is happy… The doughnut shop! It’s a fun adventure (especially if you have a shop walking or cycling distance from your house) to have a breakfast at the local doughnut shop. It’s affordable (usually not more than $10 for 3 of us) and it brings a smile to the kids face. Also it gives you some time to sit together and chat… Bing and I like to discuss the cars we see drive by as we sit outside and down chocolate sprinkle covered goodness!
Go nuts for doughnuts
I know this tip may not be popular… But sign up for spam! What I mean is join the mailing lists of local places you enjoy. I signed up for AMF Bowlings mailing list and now I get tipped off to all the deals… A week or two ago they had 2-hours of bowling with shoe rental for $10 per person! Bing and I bowled 7 games… Or to absolute bowling exhaustion! They had fun music, black lights and disco balls spinning and a full menu of food and drink if you decide you’re hungry. We also get specials from Sky High and Groupon is great for local activities at a discount. Also don’t forget restaurants, kids faves Souplantation and Hometown Buffet both have email clubs that offer discounts on a weekly basis.
This past weekend Bing got it in his head that he wanted to have a picnic… This was a great idea! First it offered us the chance to prepare the meal together. We planned and then made our meal… with Bing doing most of the work. We made some sandwiches, poured some nuts into a container, grabbed some chips and drinks and put them into a reusable shopping bag. A football and beach mat were the only additional items we needed! We walked to a local park (which is more of a field) and set up. It was an amazing evening of food and play outside away from TV and tablets. Even if it’s just in the backyard, a picnic is a great way to have some together time.
No picnic basket required
Playing a little old fashioned catch
My final tip for this post is to check your cards… Kids get random gift cards throughout the year and sometimes they get put aside and forgotten about. Turn those old cards into adventures. This weekend Bing decided to use the Baskin-Robbins gift card Grandma and Wendy had given him… So we combined the cool treat with a bike ride. We pedaled around the neighborhood before routing to the local B-R and having a “Hey I’m a big boy who rode his bike in the street” celebration sundae!
OK, those are my summertime tips for now… but I’m sure as the warm weather continues I’ll have more.
And since I’m posting, Here’s some music I’m digging right now:
Hermitude – “Through The Roof”
Cold War Kids – “First”
Third Eye Blind – “Everything Is Easy”
Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – “Cecilia And The Satellite”
I find myself with some unexpected free time this afternoon… Bing has a stomach bug so we are cooped up at home. As he drifts in and out of sleep next to me on the couch I thought I would catch up on this blog (I have been really bad about updating this year!)
Like most people now-a-days I don’t have limitless expendable income, so what little I have usually goes to doing something fun with the kids (one of our latest finds is Sky High Trampoline Park, we really enjoy it) A month or two back we went to the movies and on our way back to the car we stopped in Urban Outfitters , the kids love to browse all the unusual and wacky stuff they have. Bing was drawn to a row of record players… Yes, old school, black vinyl playing, needle having record players. He had never seen one before, so I gave him a quick run through on how it worked and he listened to the demo record they had on it for a bit through UrbanEars earphones (which I actually own a pair of thanks to TuneIn Radio, I wear them on my walks, they are awesome!) and we moved on.
In the weeks after that Urban Outfitters visit Bing had asked multiple times to get a record player, I told him maybe thinking it was just a passing fancy. Well after weeks of constantly asking I decided to burn some of that limited expendable income on a record player. I ended up picking up a simple Crosley Chalkboard Cruiser Turntable System (although there are many other equally affordable models on Amazon – Record Players)
We started with some records from the label I work for (perk of the job) and both kids really enjoyed it. Then one afternoon just Bing and I were hanging out so I took him to the local record store (Yep, we still have one – Atomic Records). When we walked in I was instantly taken back to when I was around his age and I would spend my time in record stores browsing vinyl, tapes and later CDs. He had never seen anything like it, in Bing’s lifetime music has always been digital… You typed what you wanted into a computer and the page containing it appeared. He wasn’t sure how it all worked? I showed him how it was organized, how you flip through the bins of records searching for the one you really want… maybe have been searching out for years (at least that’s how it was when I used to do it, now you just go on ebay). He was instantly engaged, he would call out an artist and I would guide him in the right direction… It was really a special moment for me to see him so excited over something that I enjoy so much. We ended up getting Elvis, Bing Crosby and Harry Belafonte.
The beginning of our music history lesson
I have quickly learned that this record player has been a gateway to getting the kids to listen to music they would otherwise never give a chance… And not at an outrageous cost. Our record player is basic at best, so no need to buy vinyl that is in excellent condition, we cruise the dollar bin and find slightly worn classics that sound fine through the tiny speakers on our Crosley . And the kids are now experiencing music that is opening their eyes to new things… I have to say one of the best wastes of my disposable income in a long time!
Here are the best of vinyl (So Far!) as picked by Lucy and Bing: Queen – The Game , Madi Diaz – Phantom, Harry Belafonte – Calypso , Barry Manilow – Live and The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour.
For getting outside! I think most people who do not live in Los Angeles believe the summer is the best of our seasons… But us locals know that the winter is amazing for enjoying the outdoors. (Sure the beaches are much cooler, so swimming is out… But the winter sunsets are far more amazing!) With the cooler weather comes awesome hiking opportunities. Yesterday I joined Angela and Ethan for a hike in Simi Valley. Rocky Peak is easily accessed with parking right off the 118 Freeway and offers easy short hikes, as well as harder longer climbs. There were many cool rock formations and awesome views of not just Simi Valley but the entire San Fernando Valley as well.
The start of the Rocky Peak Trail
It was a bit hot when we went, I recommend picking a cool day and bringing plenty of water. Dogs are welcome on leash (Bring water for them too!) We didn’t see a ton of wildlife, but the ravens did put on a show for us (see photos and bottom of the post!) But it really doesn’t matter where you go, the Santa Monica Mountains to the Angeles National Forest and everywhere in between or around, it’s a great time to get outside!
I know it is also the time for gift giving and I found something pretty cool. At work a few of the ladies get Birch Box each month and they are always excited to see what it contains (For those of you who don’t know, it is a monthly subscription service that delivers a custom assortment of beauty products)… But what if you’re kind of a nerdy and really don’t care about a shampoo that claims to moisturize while energizing your scalp!?!? Well check out Loot Crate … It is Birch Box for game geeks! Each month you get a box delivered full of cool geek and game themed stuff all for about $14. They offer gift subscriptions of a single box, 3 or 6 months… I think I’m going to get Bing a subscription for Christmas, it’s a cool gift that gives longer than just December. Click here to check it out!
Musically I feel like I have been listening to some older stuff lately, although there are a few new releases I have been into. I’ll start with Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness (Not on the label I work for!) His new self titled album was just recently released and I really like it. You might remember Andrew from his former projects: Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin (If you have a chance, click here to check out the awesome The Resolution… One of my favorite all time songs.) He has grown up a lot on this most recent project, much of it deals with his past and his new daughter, Cecilia… Which leads me to the track I wanted to share with you, the first single off the record, Cecilia and the Satellite
I’m also really digging the new Cold War Kids album Hold My Home. (Not on the label I work at) Not a new band, in fact they have a bunch of amazing songs (Give them a listen on Spotify when you have a moment). Here’s the first single from the new album – All This Could Be Yours
And finally, Scars On 45 (On Nettwerk, the label I work for) Safety In Numbers. I have been lucky enough to spend time with these guys (and one gal) and they are awesome, I have honestly never met a bunch of rock stars who treat everyone else like they are the rock stars! The first song off this record is Crazy For You.
OK, I’ll wrap it up with some photos from our hike.
Rock On, Jack
Ethan and Emma ready themselves for the hike up the hill.
Looking out over Simi Valley
Exploring under the rocks
High above Simi Valley
Angela making her way up the trail (with the San Fernando Valley behind her)
And the heat is on! I’m not going to lie… I like it!
It was weird, this morning I dropped Lucy off for a sleepover at her friends… That is my baby, who now is going on sleepovers! It is cliche to say “they grow-up so fast”… But it’s true! Being unemployed so much over the past 6 or so years was both a curse and a blessing, on one hand it was very stressful, on the other it afforded me a lot of extra time with the kids when they were little. I’m so glad I made good use of that time volunteering at school, going on outings and just spending time with both of them.
I really am enjoying my new job, there are lots of new challenges. I wish I was picking it up a little faster, but I’m trying really hard, so hopefully it will start to click soon! Everyone there has been super helpful and supportive. It reminds me of Star 98.7 when I started there… A small group of really talented people who enjoy what they are doing and the people they do it with. It’s also an exciting time to be at the label, a few of our artists are on the climb.
(Full disclosure: Both of the artists below are on the record label I work for, so my opinion might be a tad biased… But I think they’re really good!)
Here’s Passenger performing at the Pink Pop Festival to over 30,000 people
I’m amazed you don’t hear this one every time you turn on the radio yet, it’s Boy “Little Numbers”
OK, enough about work. We were outside playing the other day and Bing grabbed a toy out of the garage and wandered off… When I looked it was the Ultra Stomp Rocket. This could be the best toy ever! It costs less than $15 ($12 something at Target), it requires no set up (pull it out of the box and play) and the kids love it. We have had this thing for over 5 years and both kids still play with it all the time… And we play with it together! They love to go to the park and see how high I can make it fly and they try to catch it. So if you’re looking for a gift for a child in the 3 (although it is recommended for kids 5 and over… Bing has been playing with it since he was 2) to 11 range this one gets 5 “Rock On’s” from me (I just came up with that… thumbs and stars have been taken, so I will rate things on a 1 (Don’t bother) to 5 (amazing) “Rock On” scale.)
And just to show I’m not totally brain-washed by my new gig… Here’s some other great music I’m digging right now (none of which is on Nettwerk Records.)
I find myself walking around singing this one
I’m going to go see this guy in September at the Roxy! One of my all time favorites.
This one has been out for a little while, but I just think it’s amazing. Reminds me of Echo & The Bunnymen.
As always, Thank you guys for hanging in with me for all these years… Through marriages, multiple jobs, podcasts and all the other various craziness!!! You Rule!
I’m not exactly sure why, but I am looking forward to this summer. It feels to me that things are getting better (I read all the negative posts online about the end of the world and the destruction of America… which I firmly think are crap), although I have not secured a better job yet, I have noticed way more opportunities available (and have applied to a bunch! Wish me luck!)
The kids and I have no firm vacation plans as of right now, but we always seem to find fun stuff to do. A few weeks ago we took the subway to USC for the book fair which was fun… Los Angeles is a huge city, there are many adventures to have right in our backyard. I want to take them to Grand Park (which is right off the subway) when it warms up, there are some great fountains for them to play in. Bing has been hounding me to visit the Vasquez Rocks, we see them when we travel to my work events and he really wants to explore them. They always love the La Brea Tar Pits, we’ve been about a dozen times and they never get board. ( A really good deal is to get a membership to The Natural History Museum, it not only gets you into the NHM but the Tar Pits too!) And then there are all the fairs and festivals that take place all over the city.
My Sister signed us up for a 5K walk for the California Wildlife Center this past weekend. Lucy did an amazing job, finishing with ease (I know 3.2 miles isn’t crazy long, but for a 9 year old it’s pretty far!), I am very proud of her. Bing made it half way… Not bad for a little guy! (He rode the 2nd half back on my shoulders… Surprising, I wasn’t sore the next day.) The walk was actually on the beach, the weather wasn’t the best, but it was still nice to trek the sand of Malibu.
Burbank Sunset #2
In pod news, we crossed the 1500 hour mark this week… Yes, that is over 62 days of straight podcasts (If you were to listen to them all in a row… which I do not recommend!) It hasn’t always been easy, but I am proud of Stench and myself to sticking with it and equally proud of all the great people who have stuck with us! Thank you so much to all the Pod Peeps… You Rule.
I thought I’d share some new music that I’ve been listening to, this one Brian at work turned me onto, It’s called “Let Her Go” by Passenger… The whole album is pretty good, if you get a chance check it out on Spotify:
You might recognize this one from the credit card commercial it was in, it is actually a really great song! “Into The Wild” by LP:
David Usher has new music out and it is really good, but since I’m pretty sure most of you aren’t familiar with him I thought I’d share my favorite song from him “St Lawrence River” (click here to check out his new stuff!):
I was offered the opportunity to review the newest in the Kidz Bop series, Kidz Bop 21… But I thought what would my opinions matter in respect to a CD for kids, so I enlisted Lucy (my 8 year old daughter) and Bing (my 5 year old son) to listen to it with me and give their perspective on the latest (which will be released on Jan. 17th, 2012) in the series.
I figured the best way to work this was to go through each track:
1. Party Rock Anthem -
Lucy: I like how it sounds with kids singing instead of an adult.
Bing: (Bing started singing along instantly… And shortly after was dancing) I like it because their are girls singing and the voices change. Everybody is shuffling.
2. Moves Like Jagger
Lucy: It sounds like the same people (She means Maroon 5… then I asked “What are moves like Jagger?”) I don’t know, is it a move?
Bing: I liked it, I just did.
3. The Edge of Glory
Lucy: I like how it sounds with kids, I just like the way it sounds.
Bing: I like that in the back it says “en-en-en-en” (??? – he’s 5)
4. You Make Me Feel
Lucy: I like the girls robot voice.
Bing: That’s boys and girls… I like that.
5. Good Life
Lucy: I like how they all sing together on the “Good Life” part.
Bing: I like that they say “it’s going to be a good night.”
6. Stereo Hearts
Lucy: At the start their were three people and they all had their own parts, I liked that. I like this song.
Bing: I like the “ohh ohh” part.
7. Without You
Lucy: Don’t know this song, but I like it so far.
Bing: I like it. (This is the first song they weren’t already familiar with.)
Lucy: I don’t know this song… I’d like to fly. The rapping part is good.
Bing: I like it… It says “to flyyyyyyyyyyyy.”
Lucy: I know this song and I like it.
Bing: I liked it .
OK, at this point they are running around and dancing, so we’ll get an overall review at the end of the remaining tracks.
10. We Found Love
11. It Will Rain
12. The One That Got Away
13. Good Feeling
14. Mr. Saxobeat
15. It Girl
16. Someone Like You.
Lucy: I like how the kids sing better than the adults. I would tell my friends at school to get this CD. I know all the songs expect 2 or 3 of them.
Bing: I just liked it all.
Dad’s turn, As I watched the kids I could tell they were really enjoying these versions of the Top 40 songs they already enjoy. As a parent I like that I know these versions are safe for them to listen too. We’ve all had to quickly turn off a song because of content. Most importantly, it’s not totally annoying to listen to for adults. It is not the nerve trying, stuck in your head til it hurts Wiggles song or Barney ballad. Kidz Bop 21 gets three thumbs up from the Heine’s.
I have always been a huge music fan, it has always provided the soundtrack to my life. Much like a smell or place can make memories and feelings return, so can a song. The kids were messing with my iPod via the car stereo the other morning, a favorite activity when we are a few minutes early to school, and they stumbled upon a song I hadn’t heard in a long time, it instantly took me back to that period in my life for a brief moment.
I thought I would go back to the beginning of real music appreciation for me, the 80′s. Prior to this I mainly listened to what my parents liked and Queen… They were by far my favorite band of the 70′s. In 1980 I turned 9 and started making my own music decisions.
This was a hard list to compile, but I limited myself to my 8 favorite albums of the 80′s… So many records were excluded, so many great songs did not make the list, but I had to limit myself or I would have rambled for pages and pages.
These are my 8 from the 80′s in no particular order, please list yours below:
1. The Cult – Sonic Temple (1989) – This album is not their best, but it came at a time of transition in my life. 1989 was the year I graduated from High School, there is that excitement mixed with fear that comes when you realize your adult life in beginning. This record was probably the most straight forward rock album they had released to that date and really was one of the last big hair type rock records before Nirvana broke with Nevermind in ’91. For me it will always remind me of New Years 89/90, a handful of friends and I saw The Cult play the Long Beach Convention Center on New Years Eve 89, it was an amazing show and the start of a transition for all of us.
2. The Cure – Head On The Door (1986) – By far my favorite Cure record. I bought this at a record store in the Glendale Galleria on cassette right when it came out. I listened to it over and over again, and I didn’t have auto-reverse, I had to pop the tape out and flip it over. Again, I had already been a huge fan of the group, being introduced to them by the heavy rotation of the Let’s Go To Bed video on MTV. I don’t know why this album spoke to me, but to this day I can listen to it from the start of side one to the end of side two.
3. Depeche Mode – Black Celebration (1986) – Another band that has a large body of great works, but this album has always been my favorite. It’s probably the darkest of all the DM albums, there is a loneliness to it that spoke to a lonely teenage boy.
4. New Order – Technique (1989) – I picked this New Order/Joy Division record because it was the soundtrack to my first real date, I took a girl to see The Sugar cubes/Public Image Limited/ New Order at Irvine Meadows (Yes, it was still Irvine meadows back then.) We only went out once or twice after that night, but it is a powerful memory and I can’t hear Mr. Disco without thinking of it.
5. Devo – Freedom Of Choice (1980) – Devo continues to this day to make great music, I had this one on vinyl and I used to listen to it all the time in my room. Whip It was a huge radio and MTV hit, but I loved Girl U Want. You don’t get more 80′s than Devo.
6. Suicidal Tendencies – Self Titled (1983) – This was another Glendale Galleria purchase, although on vinyl. This record really introduced me to punk and what was going on at the beach, at that time there wasn’t much of a punk scene that I was aware of in the valley. It opened a door for me to discover a bunch of other punk music from around the country.
7. Love and Rockets – Express (1986) – After the split of Bauhaus Peter Murphy went solo and the three remaining members formed Love and Rockets. I remember driving around with my friends listening to this on the car stereo, feeling that freedom you had when it was just you and your friends going nowhere and doing nothing.
8. Echo and The Bunnymen – Songs To Learn and Sing (1985) – This one isn’t really fair because it’s a compilation, but it was how I learned about the band, I bought the tape at the Warner Brothers Company Store when my Dad was working on the lot for my Uncle. They used to sell Warner/Sire records and Tapes for .50 cents and a dollar for a double record. This was another one that I wore out and then picked up on CD later in life and wore that out too.
OK, I hope that wasn’t too boring for you, it’s not easy for me to express the emotions that many of these song evoke, but it doesn’t really matter because they only work for me anyway, you have your own list, your own memories, your own personal soundtrack.