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YOU WENT WHERE?! THE STAR MOVIE PREMIERE (without kids)

The magic of films, the power of storytelling and the glitter of Hollywood remain a few of the reasons I choose to live near Los Angeles. Films entertain and educate us, they change our perspectives, and expand our views of our world – or what exists beyond. My favorite trend right now revolves around telling historic or well-known stories from a different perspective – whether showcasing a lesser known person who had a significant role in history, telling a side of history that we’re not familiar with, or telling historic stories through fictionally-enhanced side-stories. My new fascination with history lies not with people’s outcomes, but with their journeys.

When invited to the world premiere of Sony Pictures The Star, the twin angels on my shoulders, Oprah and Shonda, eagerly responded: Year of adventure! Year of Yes! Despite working at a film studio for many years, I rarely participated in a project’s release. What a fun opportunity to see a film first and a festive way to ease into the holiday season! Plus this was another amazing destination on my journey this year. With two of my #OMagInsiders blogging pals – Camesha [MamaMotivator] and Rachel [RachelSimmondsFitness] – we set out to support Oprah in her film project, and hopefully thank her in-person for inspiring my Year of Adventure in person.

Approaching the Westwood movie theatre, crowds of fans outlined the streets huddling to catch a glimpse of their favorites from this star-studded cast. The snowy white carpet glistened as elegantly decorated Christmas trees reflected the flash of paparazzi bulbs.

Glimpsing the well-choreographed dance between the celebrities and the press fascinated me – especially the young media with a larger camera and staff than ours.

To our surprise, we effortlessly walked past the will-call line and crowds to the back of the festival set up along the white carpet for the guests and their families! Stocked with comfort finger-foods and carnival games, smiles shone bright from all who lingered in this carved out Winter Wonderland before heading into the screening.

This film exceeded my expectations in so many ways because of the balance in the film. While it’s a familiar story, this film presents the stories of many less-visible characters, little obstacles we hadn’t thought of before and the shock of experiencing it first-hand. While it’s a story of great magnitude, it’s presented in a sweet, simple way that people of all ages can follow with a great balance of good, evil, struggle, humor, skepticism and faith. While it’s a religious story, the amount of religion infused in the story isn’t too much, or too little – it’s just right. I highly recommend this film for families this holiday season. I can’t wait to take my mom, children and my niece!

Seeing The Star film in this huge theatre filled with the magic-makers – who took months, even years to complete this film – escalated my excitement for this project. I always try to sit through credits but in this moment we could applaud the creators as they closed this chapter in their amazing journey! Plus this amazing soundtrack had us dancing in the aisles!

There were a few messages from the film that resonated with me, especially reflecting on my personal journey this year, yet will benefit all ages. Whether your destiny remains unclear to you so far or it shines like a beacon as obvious as the star in the sky, it’s not just reaching the point of achieving your goal that defines you as successful. Equally as valuable are how well you stay your course, face fears or evolve when unexpected things happen or undesirable situations are put in your way. If your faith in your journey and in your goals persevere you rise above the naysayers and reach your goals.

No, we did not congratulate Oprah this time, but I left the afternoon with amazing memories, new life experiences tucked under my belt – shared with my newest best friends, and a new holiday family film tradition (to balance out our tradition of watching Christmas Vacation)!

For more shots of who I met on the white carpet check out my Instagram!

What about you?

  • Have you seen The Star?
  • who was your favorite character?
  • Who is your favorite celebrity voicing a character in this film?
  • What was your favorite holiday song/performer from the film
  • What holiday film do you traditionally watch?
  • What is your favorite holiday tradition?
  • What is your favorite role that Oprah has played?
  • What was your last new experience that you were excited about saying yes to?
  • Are you ready for the holidays?

#thestarmovie #sonypictures #Oprah #OprahWinfrey #TylerPerry #TracyMorgan #Sony #AnimatedFilm #Animation #HolidayFilm #ChristmasMovie #ChristmasMusic #ChristmasCarols #Soundtrack #MerryChristmas #FirstChristmas #Mary #Joseph #Bethlehem #Thestar #film #movie #premiere #makesmewander

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FAVORITE (& A FEW NEW) HOLIDAY ALBUMS

Whew, what a long spell without blogging! I’ll admit that I was surprised how events happening earlier this month on 11/9/16 scrambled my brain a bit and threw me off my blogging path!  Though I’d love to blame it on the election chaos, the truth lies in the fact that holiday music started playing around the clock on one of my favorite stations that same day – weeks before Thanksgiving!!  Now don’t get me wrong, music single-handedly gets me in the holiday mood faster than ugly sweaters and outlandish Christmas lights! Just call me old fashioned (or call me scarred from when I used to work in music and would hear holiday music heralding the halls in July) but I can’t listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving is done.

Now that you know my quirks, here are my traditions. We always buy one new Christmas album every year.  Below I’ll share with you our all time-favorites, and the highest contenders for this year.

CLASSICS
ELVIS PRESLEY – IF EVERY DAY WAS LIKE CHRISTMAS

xmaselvis

Nobody keeps you warmer on these cold winter nights. He’ll wrap you in his voice and sing to you as if you were cuddling by a fire. It has my all-time favorite song “Blue Christmas” and even has a holiday message from the King himself.
Runner up:  BING CROSBY – White Christmas

COMPILATION
THE BIG 80’s

xmas80s

From Billy Squier to Hall & Oats, Pat Benatar, Queen, The Pretenders, The Smithereens and The Ramones – to name a few – my childhood favorites come together to perform the ultimate holiday concert!   It features the funtastic “Christmas Wrapping” song about the girl and the guy trying to hook up all year but holiday magic brings them together for cranberry one holiday eve!
Runner up: NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL CHRISTMAS

DIVA
MARIAH CAREY – MERRY CHRISTMAS

xmasmariah

Just last night on the Disneyland Holiday TV special, this diva belted out her instant classic (that she wrote back in 1994) and the world sang with her: “All I Want for Christmas Is You!” Her gospel tracks on this album get you rolling into the holidays and praying for her to do a whole gospel album. I know there was MERRY CHRISTMAS II YOU but it just wasn’t as DIVAlicious!
Runner up: CELINE DION – These Are Special Times

CAST
GLEE: THE MUSIC: THE CHRISTMAS ALBUM VOLUME 2

xmasglee

Not only do we miss our favorite voices singing to us regularly, but the arrangements on this show have always been worth a closer listen. They artfully highlight everyone’s voices through their choices of songs and partners. My favorite features Santana (Naya Rivera) singing “Santa Baby.” I love how her voice captures the classic tune, but one can sense the power she’s holding back!
Runner Up: A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS

CHILDREN
DISNEY CHRISTMAS FAVORITES, VOL. 2

 

xmasdisney

Honestly, pick up any Disney Christmas album and you’ll find a wonderful collection of classics and a new song or two. Characters will make you smile with songs, or you’ll find classic holiday tunes from the Parks.  I’ve never gone wrong with any holiday album from them and my kids love each one.
Runner Up: TIM BURTON’S A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

A CAPELLA

THE NYLONS – HARMONY

xmasnylonsWhile Pentatonix is bringing a capella to the forefront again, I’m guessing The Nylons probably helped influence them.  You may know them best from their song “Lion Sleeps Tonight” but you need to know their version of “Carol of the Bells! Rather than a Runner Up in this category, let’s turn right into… 

2016 CHRISTMAS MUSIC

PENTATONIX – A PENTATONIX CHRISTMAS

xmaspent

Speaking of Pentatonix, their career crescendo has hit a high note with the release of this, their 2nd, Christmas album. This group of vocalists who came from a variety of colleges (even one high school) and singing backgrounds to form the group that got its start on Youtube.com. Their “Hallelujah” video, released just 5 weeks ago, already has close to 12 million views.

SARAH MCLACHLAN – WONDERLAND

xmasmclach

Sarah’s angelic voice brings me to tears when singing any song, so pairing her with classic Christmas tunes truly brings the most golden sound you’ll hear.  After hearing her ethereal version of “Angels We Have Heard On High” you’ll feel as though angels were singing directly to you.  

SHE & HIM – CHRISTMAS PARTY

xmasshehim

Amazon Exclusive Deluxe Edition!

For those of you who may not know who makes up this duo, it’s a musical partnership of actress Zooey Deschanel on vocals and ukelele and M. Ward on guitars.  Their throwback sound perfectly teases us with an island holiday wishing “Mele Kalikimaka” – a classic everyone knows the chorus to, but now you can learn the rest of the verses.

What about you?
What is your favorite Christmas album?  Will you add to your collection?
If you wrote a holiday song about your life what would it be called?

 

#Pentatonix #Elvis #SheandHim #TheNylons #Glee #Gleek #Celine #CelineDion #Mariah #MariahCarey #Christmas #Holiday #NewYear #Soundtrack #Album #Disney #DisneyPixar #IBelieveInDisneyMagic #BingCrosby #NightmareBeforeChristmas #TimBurton #CharlieBrownChristmas #Peanuts #SarahMcLachlan #80s

TOP 10 BEST ADVENT CALENDARS

elf-meme

Now that we howled through Halloween I feel like life becomes a game of Chutes and Ladders leading up to Christmas!  On the one hand, time slows down the hourglass a bit as your to-do list becomes filled with larger projects and many social gatherings. On the other hand, it always comes too fast for me. I always wish I had a few more paychecks between now and then to play, gift and donate to everyone I want to.

So let me start by leap-frogging to December 1st!  For me, anticipation builds my excitement for any holiday! For Christmas, my internal clock gets a break because Advent calendars builds my holiday spirit – one day at a time! While some people carry a traditional method of counting down, I love to mix it up a bit to keep my kids on their toes.

In no particular order, because my vision of the holidays changes annually, here are my family’s favorite Advent Calendars!

advent-lego-swars

So many adventures come from one tiny calendar! Play well with other Legos too!

1.  Lego Star Wars – After getting this calendar you may not need to do Christmas.  Lego and Star Wars tie for favorite toys with my children so while this calendar carries a larger lifetime – the life of its daily toy is longer than any other from this group. Plus these daily lego toys spawn creativity and the engineering side of my children’s minds which also goes a long way.

advent-chocolate

Treat yourself!

2.  Chocolate – Coming off of Halloween, you may not be as eager to rush out and get a chocolate calendar – until I tell you it’s made by Cadbury!  You may want to buy one for yourself (and a bottle of red wine) and treat yourself during the season where you’re considering everyone else’s treats!

advent-ring

For a how-to tutorial, click the picture!

3.  DIY Paper Rings – I’d say most of us made these rings out of construction paper and hung them on the wall or framing our door to count down days for the holidays or vacations. Whether as a calendar or decoration, its a fun tradition to sit together and make these. During these still quieter moments, the fun stories of old come forth again.  

advent-mel-doug

4.  Melissa & Doug Tree – This lovely calendar will become a family tradition as everyone remembers their favorite ornaments to hang on this wooden tree.  The whole family’s excitement will grow as the ornaments decorate more and more of the tree! Melissa & Doug products last long enough to be passed down.

nativity

5.  Nativity Scene – As a beautiful reminder for the reason for the season, these calendars recreate the Nativity story with a new addition each day. This gives one plenty of time to ponder each new addition to the story and stop to really consider its significance!

advent-tsum

WTF: Welcome These Favorites to your home!  (C) Disney

6.  Tsum Tsum – Your favorite Disney characters win you over again now that they’re adorably oval! Tsum tsums were this year’s hottest collectible and create stacks of smiles! Again, the hours spent with these will outlast the holiday!

paper

I love the simplicity of this look from the allfortheboys.com blog!

7.  DIY Grab bag – Who doesn’t love opening presents?  This way your family gets a small daily gift you can tailor to fit your style!  Go as simple as a brown paper bag with raffia, all the way to decorative cellophane bags. Gifts can range from Bonus tickets: Watch an extra Christmas special! to favorite treats, or notes to your family! To really torture them, give them 1 clue a day about some surprise that will come their way at Christmas!

advent-grat

Click thru to learn how to make the Gratitude Calendar (originally from pragmaticmom.com blog)

8.  Gratitude – I saw this idea on another blog and LOVE it!  This idea is similar to the one above, only fill each bag with a random act of kindness to complete for others.  OR you can create a Gratitude Journal as they do in the blog post and write down the things you’ve completed – or write down one thing you’re grateful every day. Warms your heart better than hot chocolate!

advent-alcohol

9.  Alcohol calendar – To warm your hot chocolate one step farther – may I suggest Alcohol Advent calendars.  I found a company that creates a calendar for you featuring scotch whisky, bourbon, rum or vodka (to name a few). You can peruse their site like a kid in a candy store and custom make your own calendar.  You’re welcome!

wedge

10. Wedgewood blue and white jaspar ware (Limited edition of 3; only 1 available online) – For that relative who has everything, why not surprise them with this amazing calendar. Wedgewood’s delicately decorative exquisite pieces set the tone for an exquisite holiday.

What about you?
Do you mix it up each year or use an heirloom calendar?
Can you share other ideas for wonderful ways to count down to the holidays?
Feel free to share ideas or links!

Please note that some of these posts contain affiliate links through which I may earn a few coins should you purchase your calendar through them.

91 DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS – 6 Days to get Custom Santa Letters from the North Pole!

When I told Santa Claus I was fundraising for a cure, he said, “Tell me how I can help!”
Back by popular demand, Santa is writing:

Personalized Santa Letters
Mailed from the North Pole!

Imagine the smile and surprise on your child’s face
(or the big kid in your life or at school, work or next door)
when they receive a personalized letter from Santa!

Santa's writing each letter!

Santa’s writing each letter! WTF: With True Fondness!

Santa will write a personalized letter with their personal details including:
name, hometown, age, accomplishment, present and best friend’s name.

With a $15 donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)
($10/each if you get more than 1)

your child will get their very own letter to cherish.
All donations benefit LLS! (please note “Letter – who referred you” in notes section)

I’ll send you an email to fill out to update Santa’s records in order to help Santa write his letter.
LIMITED TIME ONLY: I’m only taking letter orders through the month of September
because after that, the elves must switch gears to double up on toy production.

Your child will be thrilled to get their letter in the mail the first week of December.

Believer Testimonials:

“How’d he know all that about me?”
–BL, Age 10

“I’m putting out extra cookies for Santa this year!”
–LH, Age 9

“Oh Wow!!!”
–AH, Age 8

Please help spread the holiday goodwill by sharing this with your friends and families!
I am fundraising for LLS in honor of my buddy, Tom Scruggs.  

He is currently battling Myeloma.
His wife (my college roommate) is due in about 7 weeks with their 2nd child.

If you aren’t interested in a letter or can’t donate,
ensure your place on the “NICE” list by sharing my post with others.
Or, consider making a donation of any size.  Every $1 counts.

THANK YOU and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!