Blast City Laser Tag: Winter Break Activity

Blast City game room, for while you’re waiting to play

For parents* who are fans of Kids World at Lindero Canyon and Kanan (and other indoor playgrounds) but whose kids are getting too big to spend hours in the arcade, climbing tunnels, or the battle ball pit, I’m excited to tell you that Blast City Laser Tag, which opened recently right next door, is there for the kids to enjoy once they graduate from “little kid” status.

Big kid in motion

Blast City is a two-story laser tag facility that is “fully immersive,” so it’s just like the kids get to play their favorite role-playing video games but in real life. Each game is $10 for “12 minutes of intense action, fog, light effects and great music.” Referees are stationed throughout to offer assistance, but parents can enter the game with the kids (you have to play too, though). Equipment includes vests and laster tag guns, and participants have to watch a video and go through equipment training before playing the game. Kids 5 and older can play, and it’s not just for kids – plenty of adults play the game, too.

Equipment staging area

My kids got to check it out as guests of Blast City, and I have to say I was a little bit nervous because the 9-year-old has had negative experiences with laser tag in the past, but he gave this place two thumbs up! The staff who run the facility are very knowledgeable and helpful and they’re super into laser tag, which really adds to the experience. The boys were both tired and sweaty after two games. It was such a successful visit that Blast City gift cards were purchased for their Christmas stockings and they were both really happy to find them!

Blast City Laser Tag Arena

Blast City is open for open play Wednesday through Friday starting at 3:00 PM, and all day on weekends. The facility can be booked for birthday parties and corporate events, or you can reserve private games for your group of 10 or more. This actually sounds like an awesome team-building activity for your department at work.

Blast City Party Rooms and Rates

Better yet, because Blast City is right next door to Kids World, you can split your family up and send the older kids to play laser tag while you chill with an adult beverage in the back at Kids World and the littles pummel each other with soft foam balls. Who said there’s nothing to do over winter break?

*This goes for grandparents too. My kids’ grandparents brought them to Blast City, so I have them to thank for the legwork for this post.

Blast City Laser Tag
618 Lindero Canyon Rd
Oak Park, CA 91377
BlastCityLA.com

All photos by Barbara Tracy

Let It Snow Returns to Four Seasons Westlake Village [Giveaway]

Let It Snow, the special holiday event at the Four Seasons Westlake Village, is back for its fifth season and better than ever.
Let It Snow night

Southern Californians enjoy “snow” at the Four Seasons

Check into a wonderland at the far end of the Four Seasons Lobby. When you step outside the big glass doors you and your children will encounter:

  • Snoopy and Charlie Brown greeting you and high fiving and happily posing for photos
  • Santa waiting for you in his little house, with Rudolph outside bouncing around
  • A holiday train which might take you past the Grinch
  • Twinkly lights everywhere
  • Hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows
  • S’mores by the fire pit
  • Snow every 15 minutes!
  • Ice skating for young and young-at-heart ⛸
  • A food-for-purchase snack bar including pizza and popcorn
  • A cookie-decorating room with Mrs. Claus

We have brought our boys to this event a few times now, and even as they are getting older, they still enjoy it. Their favorite is the ice skating, even though it’s faux-ice. I would say a close second, for my older son, is the cookie-decorating activity. He is starting to master it! My own favorite is the snow itself. Okay, yes, it’s faux snow, but the way it flurries around amid the twinkling lights at the already stunning Four Seasons makes the moment truly wondrous, and the fact that it happens every fifteen minutes means that as soon as it’s over, you can expect it to happen again soon.

Let It Snow cookies

Decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus. She said he should get an internship at the North Pole.

Your pass gets you access to all of these activities, and a discount on dinner in Mercato Restaurant inside. What’s not to love? You can only get this experience if you are an overnight guest at the Four Seasons, or if you managed to score some tickets during the recent Conejo Deals purchasing window, OR if you are the lucky winner of a four-pack of tickets that I’m giving away here in this post! (Read to end.)

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Holiday train

If You Go

I have a few tips for you if you go. First, this event is just perfect for little kids, or bigger kids who still have a love of whimsy, crafts, Santa, magic, snow, or even just the Four Seasons itself, which can definitely be a thing among children. I mean, have you seen it there? The grounds alone are worth a visit. Let It Snow is placed outside on the terrace in the back of the hotel, and you have to walk down the grand staircase toward the waterfall to get to the ice skating area. It’s a truly breathtaking sight, and you’d never know this place exists so close to the busy 101 freeway or the hustle and bustle of Lindero Canyon Blvd. My 9-year-old sighed wistfully as we entered the doors that were held open for us by a cheerful doorman, “I miss this place,” he said. “When are we going to stay overnight?”

(This is funny because we live basically right around the corner.)

Let It Snow skating

Seating: during the rest of the year, the terrace is known as The Lookout, an outdoor bar seating area. For Let It Snow, they have moved the seating out of the way so you can walk around easily, but if you want to sit, the couches and fire pits have been moved to the lawn. Just follow the sign and pathway to the little holiday train depot and you’ll see them arranged on the grass. If your kids like to skate, that’s a good time for you to sit and rest too.

let it snow sign

Another tip: the line to get in to see Santa Claus can back up, so if you can come with more than one adult who can wrangle smaller children, that would be ideal. But Rudolph and other characters are around to entertain while you wait. And it’s worth it:

Let It Snow bombshell mommy

This adorable family is not mine. Abigail Blank of Bombshell Mommy was kind enough to let me show you hers because we missed our photo op. She is a local writer I have followed on Instagram for a while for her great pics and thoughtful words. Check her out.

These are the best family photos I could come up with this year. My husband, Stewart, was there but declined to be photographed.

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Let It Snow has become one of our favorite local holiday traditions. Once we’ve been to the Four Seasons, had our cocoa, danced around in the snow, and decorated cookies, it truly feels like the season has begun. Happy holidays!

Let It Snow
Four Seasons Westlake Village
2 Dole Dr
Westlake Village, CA 91362

Giveaway – Let It Snow Tickets!

I’m giving away four tickets to Let It Snow at the Four Seasons Westlake Village. Remaining dates are December 9, 10, 16, and 17. The event runs from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. (Kids 2 and under are free to enter so you don’t need a pass for them.) To enter, leave a comment here by 11:59 PM on Thursday, December 8, with your favorite local holiday tradition, like where to see great holiday lights, etc. One comment per person please. Additional entry available (each) if you “like” Agoura Hills Mom on Facebook or follow on Instagram. (Just leave a note in your comment with your Facebook name and/or Insta handle to qualify). Winner will be chosen at random from qualifying entries. Winner will be notified via email on Friday morning, December 9. Tickets will be held under the name given at the concierge desk at the hotel.

My family attended Let It Snow as guests of the Four Seasons. All opinions are my own.

Clean Up Your Finances in 2017 – Erin Mercer Can Help

Erin Mercer can help you get your act together in 2017.

Erin Mercer new year

By this time of year people are cursing the year that is. “2016 is terrible! I can’t wait for 2017! Next year will be better!”

But you can’t wait for the year to turn for things to start being better. Especially when it comes to personal finance. It doesn’t magically improve because of a flip of a calendar page. You have to do something about it yourself. That can include asking for help. Even if you think you have things pretty much handled, you can step back and realize that to get past that one last hurdle, it’s time to call in a pro. The key is to get organized!

Erin Mercer financial roadmap

Erin Mercer of Financial Revolution in Westlake Village will literally sit with you and go through your personal finances so you can get an accurate picture of what is, which will help you set a goal for what you want, and create a roadmap for how to get there. Based in Agoura Hills, Erin works around your schedule, so if you can’t get to this during business hours, she will come to your home on your time and work with you for as long as it takes. Her secret is that she went through the same thing – from confusion to a plan – and she has a passion for helping others come to the same place. With three young kids and a busy household of her own, Erin knows what most families are going through.

Getting Started

Over the course of two or three weeks, Erin met with me several times and examined my records and expenses to assess our family’s financial situation. She couldn’t do all the work though – I had to gather up our statements and policies and figure out what our expenses are. It was a good exercise because it’s been years since we purchased life insurance, plus I couldn’t remember half the passwords to our online accounts. I was glad to update all of my information so it’s easily accessible when we need it.

Although I have kept very good records and have had our family on a budget for years now, our financial situation is changing. I recently went from 100% freelancing to a regular schedule day job with a regular paycheck. While that might seem like the chaos would be reduced, I’m just not used to it. I thought I could use some help in the planning department, so I agreed to have her take a look.

As thorough as I have been, it is hard for me to be objective about my own spending and planning. I know we don’t set aside enough for college for our boys yet. But, we will need a replacement car pretty soon since both of ours are over 10 years old. I need to replace my computer. I want to go on vacations and visit my family on the East Coast. There are plenty of needs and wants: Erin did a great job of just laying them before me, and making practical suggestions.

Step-by-step Planning

The process went like this: first we met at her office in Westlake Village. She and her partner Daniel walked me through the typical steps that a family will encounter when working with them. Assess the financial situation – debts, income, monthly expenses. Create a Personal Financial Strategy. Point out ways you can save – cut down on restaurant eating, anyone? (Erin has worked with people who didn’t even realize that they were spending thousands every month on eating out, grabbing coffee, and other miscellaneous items that added up, simply because they had not paid attention until then.) Help people consolidate their debt, if necessary. Suggest savings vehicles.

In their work, Erin and her colleagues find that the average family is at least $90,000 in debt, and doesn’t have enough life insurance. The rule of thumb is to buy enough life insurance to cover your salary for 10 years so that your spouse and family will be spared financial trouble if you pass away. Turns out we could use a bump in ours, and Erin was able to recommend a product that could work for us. Because World Financial Group is a brokerage firm associated with Transamerica, they can sell the best product that fits, not just a line of products from one company.

From working with Erin over our several meetings, I realized that one thing was clear overall: her sense of service. Erin wants you to succeed, and she knows how you can, so she is happy to bend over backwards to help you out. She doesn’t pressure you to buy anything, and she barely does any advertising. Her clients come to her via word of mouth and recommendations. Her goal is to be helpful to you no matter what stage of personal financial planning you find yourself in.

Erin Mercer headshot

 

Erin Mercer
831-521-8293
Financial Revolution
World Financial Group
License number # 0k99469

Sweetfin Poké at the Village in Woodland Hills

sweetfin poke mango albacore

I’ll sum up my meal at Sweetfin Poké in one word: satisfaction. It’s satisfaction in a bowl, folks. You heard it here first.

To expand, I’ll even say it’s surprise, delight, savory, and filling.

Sweetfin Poke exterior

But let’s go back to the beginning. This is only the second location of Sweetfin Poké in the universe; the first is in Santa Monica. I love that so many forward-thinking businesses are choosing Woodland Hills as a place to expand. Anyway, when they invited me and a guest to try their poké bowls, I went with more curiosity than anything (okay yes, my appetite too) because raw fish as the main ingredient of a meal has never been my number one choice. But if I am going to torture myself with death-defying workouts in the name of a good story, I’ll put raw fish in my mouth for you. (Cue the Breakfast Club music.)

sweetfin poke drinks

Sweetfin Poké is a fast-casual style restaurant on the first level of The Village toward the south end. You can build your own bowl by choosing the meat, the base, the sauce, and any add-ons, or choose from a list of “signature bowls.” And it doesn’t have to have raw fish – you can choose tofu or chopped vegetables instead. And even with the signature bowls, you can subtract, add, substitute, and generally go crazy with mixing and matching.

sweetfin poke menu

Because I am a novice, I let the staff pick for me. I ordered (with manager Calista’s help) the mango albacore bowl which comes with ponzu-lime sauce, macadamia nuts, and fresh ginger. But I had them omit the ginger (I’m not a fan) and add sweet potato and kale to the bowl along with a rice back. All bowls also have scallions, white and black sesame seeds, and salt. I also poured myself some lemon water after sampling all of the freshly brewed teas, which had interesting flavors but I wanted to have a palate cleanser for my meal.

sweetfin poke meal

My trusty plus one, Jennifer, is more of an experienced sushi fan, so she went for the spicy tuna bowl with avocado, creamy togarashi sauce, hijiki, and crispy onions on top, using kelp noodle cucumber slaw as her base. She liked the mango black tea.

sweetfin poke spicy tuna bowl

Much to my delight, I really liked the tuna! It was actually a great vehicle for all of the other flavors that were mixed into my bowl. Jen enjoyed hers too, and we both ate it all, which is a bummer for my husband, who loves to eat and review my leftovers.

sweetfin poke popcorn chips

He did get to sample the dessert-type goodies they sent home with us though. These flavored popcorns were unique and tasty, and he loves the fresh taro root chips seasoned with sriracha powder.

The bowls are only $7.95-$9.95 for a small and $11.95-$13.95 for a large. I had a small and it was the perfect size to satisfy but not make me feel stuffed. The atmosphere in the restaurant is open and friendly, if a bit too cold. We sat outside since it’s still summer in November in SoCal.

sweetfin poke outdoor seating

I am looking forward to returning to Sweetfin Poké with my fish-loving husband, and my wacky kids who will love the climbing features just outside the restaurant. Let me know if you try it out – I’d love to get some suggestions for other flavor combinations to try!

Sweetfin Poké
at The Village
6256 Topanga Canyon Blvd. #1310
Woodland Hills 91367

Wellness Kitchen’s Wine Wednesdays

Wait, did you say “Wine Wednesday?”

You did?

Okay, I’m listening.

gingerbread cake wine

The Wellness Kitchen, located in the Four Seasons Westlake Village as part of the California Health and Longevity Institute, hosts cooking classes and demonstrations that are open to the public or in their packages for spa and hotel guests. They have added Wine Wednesdays, special evenings of wine pairings with food and emceed by experts in the worlds of wine and fine cuisine. Wine Wednesdays are relaxing 2-hour events where you’ll sit in a comfy chair and have delicious food and wine brought right to you in a planned out presentation all while learning about the wines and the recipes the chef makes for you right before your eyes.

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This experience only costs $65 per person! That’s less than you’d pay for dinner and wine at many local restaurants, and let’s be honest, nothing really compares to the luxurious surroundings and top notch customer service of the Four Seasons, amirite?

wine wednesdays birthday

I went to a recent Wine Wednesday event with my pal Julie along for the ride because a) I like her and b) it was her birthday. We attended the Meditrina wine pairing evening. Nicole Mparmperis of Heather Mercer Imports led us through each pairing of a delicious Italian wine while Wellness Kitchen’s Director of Nutrition Paulette Lambert spoke to us about the food we were eating: how it was prepared, tips for getting our pasta just right (hint: leave about a cup of the pasta water in the pot after you drain it), and background about where the fresh produce was grown.

wine wednesdays class

We had warm mushroom salad with a Pinot Grigio, pasta with greens and vegetarian sausage paired with a Cabernet Franc, and the amazing gingerbread cake (above) with a spumante. But the main event was this delicious roasted halibut paired with a wine called Falanghina that Mparmperis said is actually sold locally at Wade’s Wines for less than $20 per bottle!

wine wednesdays halibut

Each dish was light but satisfying and its wine partner was perfect. The other diners in our session were there on mom’s nights out, or date night, or celebrating birthdays, too. Everyone was rapt at attention when Lambert or Mparmperis were speaking but there was plenty of time for conversation and catching up. The overall experience was informative, tasty, and simply delightful.

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The next Wine Wednesday is coming up on November 16 featuring Navarro Wines. Call to make a reservation – the class I attended was full!

Wine Wednesdays at the Wellness Kitchen
Four Seasons Westlake Village
Two Dole Drive
Westlake Village, CA 91362
(818) 575-3000