DreamWorks Animation’s Favorite Characters Headline All-New Universal Studios Hollywood Attraction, Kicking off with Kung Fu Panda in 2018

It’s an exciting time at Universal Studios Hollywood as the #1 tourist destination in Los Angeles introduces compelling new theme park attractions and noteworthy new Universal CityWalk establishments. Click here to see what’s new.

Below highlights what’s on the horizon in 2018 at Universal Studios Hollywood even as the Entertainment Capital of L.A. continues to unveil dynamic new opportunities for the remainder of 2017:

  • With DreamWorks Animation’s recent acquisition, Universal Studios Hollywood will soon roll out the red carpet for a unique, never before seen DreamWorks Theatre attraction. Opening in 2018, this newly designed venue will play host to a variety of action-packed DreamWorks Animation themed attractions beginning with the multi-sensory adventure inspired by the global blockbuster franchise Kung Fu Panda, and created in partnership with Universal Creative and DreamWorks’ Artists. This new technologically advanced attraction will take guests on a legendary journey that fuses captivating storytelling with state-of-the art projection mapping and LED lighting effects for a highly engaging and immersive, unstoppable-awesome experience.

Meet the lovable DreamWorks characters that will join Universal Studios Hollywood beginning in summer 2017 to entertain guests and pose for memorable photos. Newly introduced characters will include:  Kung Fu Panda’s Po and Tigress; Madagascar’s Alex the Lion, The Penguins—Skipper, Rico, Kowalski and Private, and King Julian; Trolls’ Poppy and Branch; Shrek’s Puss ‘n Boots will join existing characters Shrek and Fiona. These many new entertaining characters will join the vast array of Universal Studios Hollywood’s many other diverse walk-about characters.

  • Hello Kitty, the beloved global pop icon created by the Japanese company Sanrio, joins Universal Studios Hollywood in 2018.  Hello Kitty and her signature red bow, along with more Sanrio friends including My Melody, Keroppi, and Chococat, will be featured on park-exclusive merchandise including accessories, apparel, collectibles, and confectionery. Highlights of the exclusive product offerings include designs incorporating classic Universal titles such as Jaws, ET, Back to the Future and more. Hello Kitty herself will also appear to meet and greet guests.

The following highlights Universal CityWalk Hollywood’s newest introductions:

  • World-renowned filmmaker, Steven Spielberg headlined the grand opening of Universal CityWalk’s multi-million dollar Universal Cinema renovation and shined the spotlight on the state-of-the-art venue as the place to “see movies where movies are made.” Featuring screening room quality theatres, deluxe recliner seats, next generation sight and sound achievements and a trendy Director’s Lounge cocktail bar, the all-new Universal Cinema redefines the movie-going experience, setting it apart as a category leader.

“As a filmmaker, we create movies that invite moviegoers to enter other worlds, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. In the best case scenario, the movie-going experience and its venue are on par with the movie that you came to enjoy. Universal Cinema defines advancement and technology with this incredible new movie theatre. I am happy to be here at Universal CityWalk to join the official opening of the Universal Cinema, where movie-goers have a rare opportunity to see movies at the very place where movies are made.”

—Steven Spielberg, filmmaker

  • Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band took center stage performing at the grand opening of Universal CityWalk Hollywood’s newest dining experience,Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. The first-ever Los Angeles-based location invites guests to escape the everyday and dine within a casual seaside retreat environment amid palm trees, thatched enclaves, island music and surfboard tables. The venue’s expansive 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar features such hand-crafted cocktails and signature margaritas as the Who’s to Blame® Margarita or the 5 O’Clock Somewhere boat drink while live music and entertainment complement the dining experience featuring such signature dishes as LandShark Lager Fish & Chips, Jimmy’s Jammin’ Jambalaya ®, Volcano Nachos or a Cheeseburger in Paradise ®.
  • Voodoo Doughnut casts a spell on Universal CityWalk Hollywood with its decadent and eclectic palate-pleasing pastry creations that range from Bacon Maple Bar and Oh Captain, My Captain to Grape Ape, Mango Tango and its signature Voodoo Doll doughnuts. This first-ever California location serves up delicious traditional and vegan out-of-this-world sweet and savory treats inspired by its hometown Portland, Oregon location.
  • Inspired by celebrated restaurant Meizhou Dongpo and its renowned and innovative owners, Chef Mr. Wang and his wife Mrs. Liang, Dongpo Kitchen serves authentic Sichuan cuisine in the first-ever U.S. casual dining concept exclusive to Universal CityWalk Hollywood. Offering both indoor and al fresco dining, the CityWalk restaurant caters to  Southern Californians and guests visiting from around the globe with a variety of tantalizing signature dishes, from Dongpo fried noodles, roasted duck salad, spicy chicken to specialty beverages such as dragon well green tea and roasted oolong milk tea.

Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood™ is The Entertainment Capital of L.A. and includes a full-day, movie-based theme park and Studio Tour. As a leading global entertainment destination, Universal Studios Hollywood delivers highly themed immersive lands that translate to real-life interpretations of iconic movie and television shows. Recent additions include “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter TM” which features a bustling Hogsmeade village and such critically-acclaimed rides as “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” and Flight of the Hippogriff™, Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor rollercoaster, as well the all-new “The Walking Dead” daytime attraction.  Other immersive lands include “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “Super Silly Fun Land” as well as “Springfield,” hometown of America’s favorite TV family, located adjacent to the award-winning “The Simpsons RideTM”. The world-renowned Studio Tour is Universal Studios Hollywood’s flagship attraction, inviting guests behind-the-scenes of the world’s biggest and busiest movie and television studio where they can also experience such authentic and immersive thrill rides as “Fast & Furious—Supercharged.”  The destination also features the Universal CityWalk entertainment, shopping and dining complex, including the Universal CityWalk Cinemas and the “5 Towers” state-of-the-art outdoor concert venue.

Looking for Summer Craft Books? Here are some of my favorites!


Crochet Stories: L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful
Wizard of Oz

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to a charming combination of storytelling and crocheting! Suitable for beginning to intermediate crocheters, this book features a retelling of the classic adventure story, punctuated with nineteen patterns for L. Frank Baum’s beloved characters, plus their settings and accessories.
The much-loved tale begins in Kansas and follows Dorothy and Toto to Oz, presenting patterns for the little heroine, her dog, and her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em. Storybook chapters of her arrival and encounters with the people of Oz follow, accompanied by patterns for a Munchkin, the Good Witch of the North, the Wicked Witch of the East (consisting of Dorothy’s house with the witch’s magic slippers sticking out from underneath), and a stretch of the Yellow Brick Road. Subsequent chapters introduce Dorothy’s new friends — the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion — and those they meet in the Emerald City — the Wizard, the Wicked Witch of the West, a Winged Monkey, and the kindly Glinda the Good. In addition to these characters, the full-color patterns include key storytelling items such as the poppy, Emerald City spectacles, water bucket, and magical golden cap. A photo gallery of many of the story’s characters provides a delightful conclusion to the book.

Price: $18.95.

If you love the Wizard of Oz (and who doesn’t?), and you know how to crochet…you will love this book! I think that I will learn to crochet just so I can make some of these adorable characters! 

Creative Haven Alice in Wonderland Designs Coloring Book (Adult Coloring)

If you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland and like to color..this one is a must!

Color your way through the whimsical world of Alice in Wonderland! These 31 original illustrations offer bold variations on the classic drawings by John Tenniel, spotlighting Alice, the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, and more beloved characters set against beautifully detailed backgrounds of hearts, flowers, playing cards, and more. Pages are perforated and printed on one side only for easy removal and display. Specially designed for experienced colorists, Alice in Wonderland Designs and other Creative Haven® adult coloring books offer an escape to a world of inspiration and artistic fulfillment. Each title is also an effective and fun-filled way to relax and reduce stress.

Price: $5.00

You can purchase at http://store.doverpublications.com/


Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to facilitate this post. 


Go Little Tokyo for a Weekend of Authentic Food and Drinks at the 2nd Annual Delicious Little Tokyo Over a Dozen Restaurants and Shops Offering Events, Special Menu Items, Demos and Tastings Friday, July 21 – Sunday, July 23

unnamed (1)

Go Little Tokyo invites expert foodies and first time explorers alike to the heart of Downtown LA to experience diverse cuisines from the restaurants of Little Tokyo for a scrumptious weekend of authentic food, drinks, and fun at the 2nd Annual DeliciousLittle Tokyo.

From Friday, July 21 to Sunday, July 23, explore the culinary gems of Little Tokyo and all the neighborhood has to offer with friends and family at the 2nd Annual Delicious Little Tokyo. Experience culinary demos, food tours, workshops, tastings, and one-of-kind activities at various Little Tokyo shops and restaurants exclusively available during Delicious Little Tokyo weekend.

Friday, July 21

  • Sake at First Street North with the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC)7:00 – 10:00 PM — Enjoy sake provided by Mutual Trading Co., Inc. and delicious small plates at First Street North, a block that is critical to the past, present, and future of Little Tokyo. The event will also feature a multimedia installation to inspire guests to re-imagine First Street North. The installation is part of +LAB, LTSC’s creative community development project. $100 General Admission. Must be 21 years or older to attend.

Saturday, July 22

  • Floral Centerpiece Workshop, 10:00 – 11:00 AM — Learn from second-generation florist veteran and owner of Kuragami Little Tokyo Florist how to make a beautiful, effortless floral centerpiece for any special occasion. $10 cash materials fee paid upon entry, pre-registration required. Limited to 15 participants.
  • Poke & Tea Tasting, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM — Join Snociety for a special offering of the freshest proteins seasoned with your choice of six homemade sauces and refreshing iced teas, milk teas and infused lemonades. $10 cash admission due upon entry, pre-registration required. Limited to 15 participants.
  • Kyaraben (Character Bento) Demo, 12:00 – 1:00 PM – Join non-profit organization Anime for Humanity, for a fun, unique food demonstration on creating a beautiful bento box with food designs inspired by your favorite animations! FREE admission, pre-registration required. Limited to 20 participants.
  • Bento Box Demo, 1:00 – 2:00 PM — Join former Mrs. Japan and TABLE FOR TWO, a non-profit organization that promotes healthy eating and helps hungry children around the world, to learn how to pack a lunch that is both deliciousand adorable with kawaii (cute) characters to liven up your bento box! FREE admission. No registration required.
  • Sushi-Making Workshop, 2:00 – 3:00 PM — Learn the history and art, proper form and technique of hand-rolling the perfect sushi from Little Tokyo legacy business owner of Mitsuru Grill and Master Sushi Chef, Mamoru Hanamura. Learn how to make four (4) different, classic rolls. $15 cash materials fee due upon entry, pre-registration required. Limited to 15 participants.
  • Delicious Little Latte Art Workshop3:00 PM & 4:00 PM — Learn from award-winning latte artist and local Cafe Dulce barista, Eugene Lee, in a hands-on lesson on creating the perfect free pour design to top off your latte. All proceeds from this workshop benefit the Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC)$10 donation per person paid upon entry, pre-registration required. Cash only. Limited to 6 participants
  • Spam Musubi Demo, 3:30 – 4:30 PM — Join Aloha Cafe for a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a classic Spam musubi, composed of a slice of grilled Spam on top of a block of rice, wrapped together with nori (edible seaweed) in the tradition of Japanese omusubi$5 cash materials fee due upon entry, pre-registration required. Limited to 15 participants.
  • Historical Food Walking Tour, 5:00 – 6:00 PM — Join the Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) on a journey through Little Tokyo’s culinary past with a guided walking tour of historical food landmarks found in the neighborhood. $15 cash donation per person paid upon entry, pre-registration required. Limited to 20 participants.
  • Delicious Little Tokyo Latte Art Throwdown5:00 – 7:00 PM – Go Little Tokyo and Cafe Dulce presents the inaugural Delicious Little Tokyo Latte Art Throwdown! Professional baristas from all over Los Angeles will go head to head to compete for the crown in a winner takes all, best freestyle latte art battle. $10 cash registration per participant. Walk up registration only. Limited to 32 participants.

Sunday, July 23

  • Kawaii Sushi Felting Workshop, 10:30 – 11:30 AM — Join local DTLA collaborative co-working space, Opodz, for a beginner’s needle felting workshop! Students will learn the basics of crochet and create adorable, stuffed sushi figures. Ages 10 years and older. $5 cash materials fee due upon entry, pre-registration required. Limited to 30 participants
  • Onigiri Workshop, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM — Join TABLE FOR TWO and Wa-Shokuiku “Learn. Cook. Eat Japanese!” to learn to make Rice Ball Characters, a fun and creative take on onigiri — the most popular Japanese snack! $15 cash materials fee due upon entry, pre-registration required. Limited to 30 participants.
  • Beginner’s ‘Ukulele Class, 1:00 PM2:15 PM, and 3:30 PM — `UKE On with U-Space’s easy, familiar tunes and songs led by `ukulele artist and educator, Jason ArimotoFREE admission. Loaner instruments available on-sitePre-registration required. Limited to 10 participants per time slot.
  •  “Furoshiki” Japanese Cloth Wrapping Workshop, 1:00 – 2:00 PM — Learn the art of “furoshiki” cloth wrapping from master furoshiki wrapper, and Director of Service Programs at the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC)Mike Murase. Hear about the history of these traditional Japanese wrapping cloths, and try your hand at this eco-friendly, fashionable option to package your lunch boxes, bottles and other gifts. Sponsored by BunkadoFREE admission, pre-registration required. Limited to 20 participants.
  • Cocktail Demo, 2:30 – 3:30 PM — Join Little Tokyo’s neighborhood highball bar, Wolf & Crane, for a lesson in mixology. Learn a few tips and tricks from these Japanese whisky experts on how to concoct a perfect cocktail and have a sip (or two) of their favorites: Grandma Sue’s Gin and Tonic, Tokyo to Manhattan and Yoshi’s Island. FREE admission. Limited to 20 participants. Must be 21 years or older to attend.
  • Japanese Tea Ceremony, 3:30 – 4:00 PM — Experience the beautiful, choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha, in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony led by renowned Tea Master Nishimura of the Edo Senke LA Fuhaku-kai School. Sponsored by Tea Master Little Tokyo$5 cash materials fee due upon entry, pre-registration required. Limited to 30 participants.
  • Pizza-Making Workshop, 4:00 – 5:00 PM — Get with the laissez faire lifestyle with a pizza lesson from the pros at Baldoria! From strawberries to octopus, get inspired by their menu selection and grab a friend to share bites of custom-made pizza creations. $20 cash materials fee due upon entry, pre-registration is required. Limited to 10 participants.


Sip and sample special libations and treats only available during the Delicious Little Tokyo weekend. NEW this year is the coffee cocktail collaborations available Saturdayand Sunday from Cafe Dulce + Wolf & Crane and Cafe Dulce + Baldoria. Attendees can keep cool and caffeinated with drinks like “Kyoto in Summer”, a Kyoto Cold Brew inspired cocktail with Kenya Kieni coffee created by Café Dulce and Baldoria. For a list of all special drinks, treats and collaborations offered visitgolittletokyo.com/delicious .

Friday, July 21, 7:00 – 10:00 PM

Saturday, July 22, 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Sunday, July 23, 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Little Tokyo – Downtown Los Angeles


Free – $100, depending on the activity. For more information and to register for demos and workshops please visit http://www.golittletokyo.com/d elicious/.



Go Little Tokyo is a community-led effort aimed at highlighting the unique cultural programs, community events, and dining and shopping experiences found in Little Tokyo. As one of Los Angeles’ most vibrant cultural hubs, there is an abundance of destinations and landmarks in and around this historic walkable neighborhood, and Go Little Tokyo will help you uncover them. Go Little Tokyo is a Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC) project developed and produced by Community Arts Resources (CARS) and made possible with support from Metro. For more information, visit: http://www.golittletoky o.com/


The Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC) is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) which has over 90+ member organizations.  LTCC works to ensure that Little Tokyo will continue to be a viable center for the Japanese American community and the Los Angeles Downtown community. For more information, visit: http://www.littletokyola.org/

Go Little Tokyo’s 2nd Annual Delicious Little Tokyo Returns July 21 – 23 Go Little Tokyo’s Weekend of Authentic Culinary Experiences Returns Friday


Go Little Tokyo for a weekend of authentic, delicious food and drinks garnered from the streets of Little Tokyo with the 2nd Annual Delicious Little Tokyo, Friday, July 21 through Sunday, July 23, 2017. Experience culinary demos, food tours, workshops and one-of-kind activities at various Little Tokyo shops and restaurants exclusively available during the Delicious Little Tokyo weekend. Go Little Tokyo invites expert foodies and first time explorers alike to experience diverse cuisines from a plethora of restaurants located in the heart of Los Angeles: Little Tokyo.


Kick-off the weekend festivities with neighborhood social group, Little Tokyo Vibes, at the pre-launch party on Thursday, July 20. Then, sink your teeth into Delicious Little Tokyo weekend at Sake at First Street North, Little Tokyo”, the 11th Annual Sake & Food Tasting Event hosted by the Little Tokyo Service Centeron Friday, July 21, 2017. The event will feature small plates from local neighborhood restaurants and sake, provided by Mutual Trading Co., Inc., while drawing attention to First Street North, a block that is critical to the past, present and future of Little Tokyo.


Following, food aficionados and festival goers will have the unique opportunity to experience special interactive culinary and cultural workshops daily on Friday (7/21) to Sunday (7/23). Learn from Japanese whisky experts on how to concoct the perfect cocktail and have a sip, or two, of your favorite at Little Tokyo’s neighborhood highball bar, Wolf & Crane at the fan-favorite Cocktail Demo. Take a journey through Little Tokyo’s culinary past with a guided walking tour from the Little Tokyo Historical Society and learn about the historical food landmarks found in the neighborhood.


Knit a foodie-themed figure with a beginner’s “Amigurumi” Knitting Workshop presented by Opodz and jam out with U-Space at their beginner’s Ukulele Workshop. Coffee enthusiasts will have the opportunity to get involved with the Latte Art Competition with Café Dulce, and foodies can put their taste buds to the test with Snociety’s Poke and Tea Tasting. Additional activities include a Sushi Making Workshop with Mitsuru Sushi & Grill, a Lunch Box Furoshiki Workshop(traditional Japanese wrapping) by the Little Tokyo Service Center and Bunkado, and a Spam Musubi Workshop with Aloha CaféBaldoria will host a Pizza Making Workshop and Kuragami Florist will teach attendees how to create a beautiful, table centerpiece at their Floral Arrangement Workshop. More workshops, demos, and activations are being announced as Delicious Little Tokyo nears.


To stay up to date on participating venues, specials offers, demo and food tour registrations, parking and more event details visit golittletokyo.com/delicious. Delicious Little Tokyo is brought to you by Go Little Tokyo, a Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC) run neighborhood marketing campaign created by Community Arts Resources (CARS) and funded by Metro Los Angeles. In collaboration with the Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS), Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), and Little Tokyo Vibes.

Credit:  Go Little Tokyo.

Grasshopper is Pet of the Week!

Grasshopper, July 20 Pet of the Week

Long, lean, lanky and large of eye, Grasshopper certainly fits his name. This poor little 4-year-old male tabby was bitten on the head by a dog and was brought to our shelter. He’s recovered from his wounds and seems to know that we mean him well, as he’s extremely affectionate and gives “head kisses.” Even with that, though, he’s not happy at the shelter and is in need of a loving home with humans who keep him safe. And he will reward such a home with loyalty and affection. Please come meet Grasshopper at the Companion Animal Village at 7700 East Spring St., (562) 570-PETS. Ask for ID#A593116.


(This rescue encouraged by the usual suspects.)

Credit: Courtesy of the Companion Animal Village.

Books of the week 7/17/17


The Heartwarming Tale of Surfer Dude is a must-read!

Destined for fame, Surfer Dude is known to many who looked for this colt while crossing the bridge to Assateague Island and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The story of this beloved wild stallion, who cared for his herd of mares over a lifetime on Chincoteague Island, is beautifully illustrated in vivid detail, from his distinctive blue eye to his white star and stripe, silver mane and tail, and chocolatey chestnut coat. His passing at the ripe age of twenty-three in the spring of 2015 touched people from across the United States and beyond. But the spirit of his gentle nature and the way he loved his foals lives on. His spirit lingers in breezes that ruffle the island grasses and in the sunbeams that warm the island ponies, and is celebrated in this story of love and the circle of life.

I really enjoyed reading this heartwarming story and highly recommend for children ages 7+.

About the Author
Lois Szymanski has authored over 25 books, many on the wild Chincoteague ponies. She lives in Westminster, Maryland, with her husband, Dan, and their Shetland sheepdog, Ryley. A former regional advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, she teaches occasional writing classes at Carroll Community College. In her spare time she visits her daughter’s Chincoteague pony, Sea Feather, which the family purchased in 1995 at the Pony Penning auction.

About the Illustrator
Linda Kantjas began drawing and painting horses and other animals while in elementary school. She graduated from the University of Idaho with an art education degree. After college, she visited Assateague Island and began learning about and painting the ponies. Linda lives in Middletown, New York, and her Shih Tzu, Kimba, accompanies her on outdoor and travel adventures.

About the Publisher
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. is a family-owned, independent publisher of high-quality books. Since 1974, Schiffer has published thousands of titles on the diverse subjects that fuel our readers’ passions. From our traditional subjects of antiques and collectibles, arts and crafts, and military history, Schiffer has expanded its catalog to publish books on contemporary art and artists; architecture and design; food and entertaining; the metaphysical, paranormal and folklore; and pop and fringe culture, as well as books for children. Visit www.schifferbooks.com to explore our backlist of more than 5,800 titles.


I love this next one! 

LemonadeStand-CoverOptions5hires copy

Lemonade stands have become big business. Kids have been running them for decades, whether to raise money for a new bike, for a charitable cause, or simply to conquer boredom. Inspired by dozens of kid entrepreneurs from all over the country, Kathy Strahs pours her expertise as a food writer, entrepreneur and mother of two into the ultimate guide to setting up one’s own lemonade stand. Step-by-step illustrations and full-color photographs of each recipe (lemonades and snacks) and many creative crafts make each page easy and fun for budding entrepreneurs.

This one has wonderful recipes! I love the Watermelon Agua Fresca and the Polka Dot Blondies! But, it also has some really fun DIY crafts! Check out some of the great recipes here!  I recommend this one for both adults and children!

You can purchase on Amazon.com.

Looking to maybe lose weight this Summer and eat healthier? I highly recommend this next book!


Bestselling cookbook author, Victoria Dwek, teams with successful nutritionist Shani Taub to creating delicious and
easy to prepare meals that are low in calories but high in flavor. I love all the recipes in this book! There are recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are over 135 different recipes and I love the pictures!  The Apple Pie Crepes is one of my favorites and I can’t wait to try more of the recipes this Summer!
I can’t wait to try this one:
Portobello Mushroom Towers
Yields 2 large servings
Dairy ▪ Gluten-Free ▪ Low Carb ▪ Sugar-Free
Calories: 181 per serving; Shani Taub Exchange: 1 protein, 1 Vegetable
One summer Sunday afternoon, my family and I passed through Monsey, stopping at the Evergreen shopping center. I really wanted iced coffee, so I headed to Hava Java. As I waited for my Skinny Frappe (one of
the best ever), I watched the hot dishes emerge fast from the kitchen. One dish that caught my attention was the towering Portobello Mushroom Sliders. I went home and recreated the dish … and it was just as
good as it looked.
2 Portobello mushroom caps
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp salt
1 red pepper
½ onion, sliced
1 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
½ onion, diced
8 oz frozen spinach, thawed, drained
2 (1-oz) slices Muenster OR mozzarella cheese
[1] Place mushroom caps into a ziplock bag. Add red wine vinegar, garlic powder, basil, and salt. Seal; marinate for 1 hour or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
[2] Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place mushrooms and marinade into a baking pan; bake for 25 minutes.
[3] Meanwhile, place red pepper into the oven (on its own or in a baking pan). Roast until skin is blistered, about 35-45 minutes. Let cool; peel and discard peel and seeds. Slice pepper; set aside.
[4] Coat a sauté pan with nonstick cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion; lower heat and sprinkle with salt. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from pan; set aside.
[5] Coat the sauté pan again with nonstick cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add diced onion; lower heat and sprinkle with salt. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add spinach; cook an additional 2 minutes. Season with salt.
[6] Assemble the towers: Top each mushroom with half the spinach mixture, half the peppers, and half
the onions. Top with one slice of cheese; bake until cheese is golden and bubbling, 9-10 minutes.
Make Ahead: All the components of this dish can be made ahead and stored separately in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Simply assemble and bake when ready to enjoy.
Powerhouse food writer VICTORIA DWEK is co-author of the bestselling Secret Restaurant Recipes, Everyday Secret Restaurant Recipes, and the popular Made Easy cookbook series. She’s the managing editor of Whisk, a popular kosher food magazine published weekly by Ami Magazine, where tens of thousands of loyal readers turn weekly to her “Hello Cooks” column. She’s a featured personality on Kosher.com, where fans tune into her cooking shows, including the video series based on Secrets of Skinny Cooking. Victoria is also a founding partner of BetweenCarpools.com, the lifestyle site and app for the busy Jewish woman, where she shares inspiration and tips that go beyond food. She holds a B.A. from New York University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.
SHANI TAUB is a certified nutritionist and certified diet consultant who has helped hundreds of patients take control of their weight and start on a new path of health. Based in Lakewood, New Jersey, she counsels patients from all over the East Coast, from Monsey to Brooklyn to Baltimore, and internationally, in Canada, Switzerland, and Israel. Shani struggled with her weight as a child and understands the various challenges faced by her patients who are trying to get healthy. Every struggle is unique and each patient has different triggers that will push them to reach their goal.
Working one-on-one, Shani creates a personalized eating plan that fits with that person’s taste and lifestyle. In addition to her renowned weight loss counseling, Shani Taub has also launched a successful line of health foods.
Recipe Credit:

Recipe(s) from SECRETS OF SKINNY COOKING: Mouthwatering Recipes You Won’t Believe are Low Calorie
By Victoria Dwek and Shani Taub C.D.C.
Artscroll/Shaar Press; May 2017
Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to facilitate this post. Cover images were also provided. 

Whole Foods Market celebrates National Ice Cream Day


July is National Ice Cream month and tomorrow is National Ice Cream Day!

How are you going to celebrate?

On July 16 and in celebration of National Ice cream Day, all Whole Foods Market stores will have a one-day sale on Ben & Jerry’s ice creams, frozen yogurts and non-dairy frozen treat pints. Customers can choose two of any of Ben & Jerry’s euphoric and uniquely flavored pints for just $6.

Ben & Jerry’s is one of my favorites and I quickly ran to Whole Foods Market earlier today to pick up one of my favorites! Today it is on sale for $3.99 but tomorrow will be the 2 for $6 deal!!


This offer is valid on July 16, 2017, while supplies last.


Happy National Ice Cream Day!



Self Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and some form of compensation (products) was received. 

War For the Planet of the Apes – Brutal But Breathtaking Special Effects And A Sincere, From-The-Heart Message


Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “We’ve come a long way in the world of cinema since Charlton Heston told those darn dirty apes to get their stinkin’ paws off of him.” Alejandra G. adds, “This science fiction film had me fascinated with the breathtaking special effects and the animation from the get go. It’s impressive how much technology has improved and the differences of the effects in the previous Planet of the Apes films compared to this new one is incredible.” Talia J. wraps it up with, “War for the Planet of the Apes is an action-packed, thrilling movie that will both pull on your heartstrings and intrigue you to the very last second.” See their full reviews below.


War for the Planet of the Apes

By Alejandra Garcia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15


Spanish: https://youtu.be/N7FttZTdJHg



This science fiction film had me fascinated with the breathtaking special effects and the animation from the get go. It’s impressive how much technology has improved and the differences of the effects in the previous Planet of the Apes films compared to this new one is incredible. It’s insane how today, everything looks so realistic. I also like this film because of its sincere, from-the-heart message.


War for the Planet of the Apes is about Caesar and his apes who are forced into deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a cruel Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet.


My favorite scene from this film is when all the apes are attacked by the military and lots of them are killed. Their leader Caesar, of course, becomes furious and wants to do something about it. He decides to go off to fight the soldiers that attacked his family while defending themselves. I love this scene because it shows how the leader of the apes really cares for his family. Also, the apes that look up to him see him as a role model and can follow in his footsteps and morals.


The important message of this film is that no family is perfect. Unpleasant things can happen that make their relationships worse. Family members can go through tough times, but in the end, family is family and love will always be there. So if there’s fighting and family members are struggling through something, they will figure things out and help each other sort things out. In this film, the apes are all there for each other all the time. If someone needs help, they all help. If someone is fighting or arguing, they all help figure it out. They support each other. I think it’s an amazing idea that this message is taught by the apes because lots of people can learn from this and apply it to their own lives.


War for the Planet of the Apes

By Talia J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14



War for the Planet of the Apes is an action-packed, thrilling movie that will both pull on your heartstrings and intrigue you to the very last second.


This film is about an ape, Caesar (Andy Serkis) who embarks on a journey to avenge his loved ones. He is joined by other apes including Maurice (Karin Konoval), who is wise beyond his years, Rocket (Terry Notary) who is full of strength and many others. Caesar struggles as he deals with the chaos left by his old friend Koba, making sure he does not turn into the monster he was.


One thing that I thoroughly enjoyed is how this movie explains, at the onset, what happened in past films. I have not seen that in many films. For those who do not know, War for the Planet of the Apes is the third film in the brilliant Planet of the Apes franchise. The first film introduces Caesar and we hear the back story about the virus that caused apes to become smart and killed humans. The second movie shows what happened when Apes and humans tried to figure out how to live together peacefully, but this ended badly. If someone has not yet watched those two films, it is described in the beginning of this movie and sets the stage for what is going on.


This film is a war movie, so if you do not like gruesome moments and lots of blood, this is not your film. The first two films are much lighter than this one. The director, Matt Reeves, wanted a whole new feel. There is a lot more fighting, murder, suicide and blood than in the previous films. It is also quite depressing. The director not only wanted this last movie to end with a bang, but he wanted the audience to realize something about humanity.


Although this is a war movie, there is lots of unexpected humor. There is one very important character that had every single audience member holding their stomach because everyone was laughing so hard. This character is an Ape and he calls himself “Bad Ape” (Steve Zahn). He absolutely steals the show. Up until this Bad Ape comes into view, the movie is very dark and serious, but when he is introduced, the feel of the movie gets much happier. He is definitely the comedy relief the film needs.


The motion capture technology is out of this world. They completely transported me into the world these apes lived in. There is so much detail and emotion in the apes’ facial features. Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar, truly brings his character to life, filled with emotion.


The music is also incredible. Composer Michael Giacchino wrote an incredibly beautiful score. If not for his beautiful music, the movie would have lacked the emotion it has. At one point, the combination of music and acting brought me to tears. It is truly special.


There are many lessons in this film. The most important one is that you are stronger together. The apes have a motto that states “apes together strong.” In the past films, Caesar made it very clear that he believed that apes are weaker alone and they need to be together to survive. Another lesson that is offered in this film is to not give into your dark side. This goes back to the idea of vengeance. Caesar has to deal with being the leader of his group, while at the same time fighting his own battles.


I recommend this film for ages 14 to 18 and adults will love it as well. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars because of the extreme violence. This film comes out on July 14th so go check it out.


War For the Planet of the Apes

By Willie J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18



We’ve come a long way in the world of cinema since Charlton Heston told those darn dirty apes to get their stinkin’ paws off of him. That actor in a costume has since become an actor in a suit that’s digitally modified. In terms of effects, there has been a lot of advancement from the first film in this series. But in terms of quality, I’m afraid there’s been inconsistency. The first entry of this century’s “Ape” trilogy was a solid film, the second not as good but mildly entertaining and now, we have this one. War For the Planet of the Apes is a mediocre end to this trilogy.


I’ll admit I am not a fan of this series, not even the original. I don’t quite like the concept. However, I give every film its fair shake. With this one, there are some moments I genuinely feel are fantastic, but those don’t make up for the rather strenuous over-direction in certain times. Director Matt Reeves tends to heighten moments to a point of climactic musicality where it just doesn’t fit. As an audience it’s rather confusing and feels forced. Every important or emotional moment doesn’t need to be accompanied by a dramatic score or emphasized with perfectly framed cinematography. More times than not, less is more.


There are parts of the script that make no sense and throw away logical progression or sensory moments for the sentimental. There are moments that are too unbelievable and elements that are unnecessary. A plot element about a disease that plagues Earth could have been done away with, yet it is used to cover up an illogical plot hole.


The acting is fine with Andy Serkis leading the way. Woody Harrelson does not ham it up too much for which I’m very grateful. Most of the cast is enhanced by beautiful animation which fills in many facial expressions and reactions that are very realistic. Although the acting is credible. It isn’t the best thing, the score is. Michael Giacchino’s beautiful score evokes both suspense and a sense of calm. His music is the main source of catharsis. He also composed the scores for both the films Inside Out and Up. His familiar quiet piano keys are also featured in this score.

With that said, I give the movie 2.5 out of 5 stars, because it does have moments of grand entertainment and intrigue, however it can be overdramatic with unnecessary moments. I recommend it for ages 12 to 18. It opens nationwide in theaters on July 14, 2017 so be sure to check it out if you are a fan of the series, or not.