Help Local Foster Children – Hope4Kids Festival and Run

Save the date! Join in to help some foster children and if you are into road races, you should check out this upcoming 5K/10K and mile fun run happening in Camarillo on April 29:

Hope4Kids flyer - event to help foster children

All proceeds from the races, the festival, and a huge silent auction they are having will benefit foster children in Ventura and Los Angeles counties through the group RaisingHOPE. Here are some sobering facts from them:

There are approximately 1,200 children in foster care in Ventura County and 28,000 children in foster care and Los Angeles County. Many of these children are in group homes or are shipped out of county because there are not enough foster families to care for them. These situations disrupt a child’s ability to live in a healthy family and impede their schooling, family visits and they even split siblings. Without our community getting involved many of these children have no one. They are essentially cared for by a system of paid staff in homes with other children. We aim to bring the children to the community so that each citizen can do something to help our most vulnerable children. We help hundreds of youth annually through our programs as follows.

For more information and to see how else you can help, visit RaisingHOPE’s website.

Nintendo Switch Preview

Kids playing video games

Last weekend my boys and I got to play some games on the new Nintendo Switch! We attended a launch event in Hollywood, and as I noted on Instagram, it was totally worth the drive. 

video game player and girl with multicolored hair

We’ve been anticipating the Switch’s arrival for months, and the boys were really excited that it is finally here. I’m still super old-school, so I am content to play LEGO Star Wars on the Wii U (and let’s face it, I would have been fine playing Atari for the rest of my life if things hadn’t evolved from there) but I was definitely curious.

Mario party

The selling point of the new Switch gaming system is that it can be used as a console hooked up to your big screen TV, or taken on the road and played like a tablet. So it’s sort of a cross between the Wii U game pad and the Nintendo DS systems. When the Switch is in console mode, you use the little “Joy-Cons” as multiplayer remote controls, docked in a Joy-Con grip so you can use them like a pro controller, or just use a pro controller. When you go portable with it, the Joy-Cons re-attach to the Switch and you use them both to play your single player game.

Nintendo Switch product photo

There’s a great video to demonstrate these different ways to play here.

At the launch event, the kids and I mostly used the Switch in console mode, but I did take a moment to pull the unit out of the Switch dock to see what the graphics looked like when I was playing the new (and also hotly anticipated) Nintendo open-world video game Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The graphics were great on the big screen, but you can really see the definition on the Switch unit itself. It looks better than any hand-held and certainly better than the DS or 3DS.

Boy playing Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

The game is awesome. We only got to play a 20-minute demo version, but it was enough to make us all wish for a Switch and the game. Kit wakes up from a 100-year nap and gets a cool magic tablet that shows him where to go on his quest. But as Kit’s controller, you get to choose where to go, what to discover, and what to do. It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, but in a video game.

Breath of the Wild screenshot

We also played some neat games that you control with the Joy-Cons: Arms (first person knock out game, which my kids mastered instantly but I could not seem to grasp) Poyo Poyo Tetris (like playing Tetris, but with Gremlins), Splatoon 2 (another kid-favorite: you get to move the world around by tilting the Switch in handheld mode), 1-2 Switch! (quick-draw fire at your opponent game), and Just Dance 2017:

You can barely see the Joy-Cons in our hands because they are so small. It makes dancing much easier than with the bulkier Wii U remotes. In these pictures we are totally rocking out to “Cake by the Ocean.” The kid beat me with his sick moves.

The launch event was a gamer’s theme park. It was the coolest arcade this side of the 1980’s, no quarters needed. (These kids today. They have no idea.)

woman under giant Mario hat

We need much more time with the Switch to give it a thorough review, but from this limited experience, I can see that it’s going to be a big hit. The Switch goes for $299.99 and game cards are $49.99 and up, not compatible with the Wii U or Wii. So it’s basically a platform replacement. This is a paradigm shift for the one-at-a-time console family, like we have been since getting our first system in 2009.

Not that it matters much at the moment. The Switch has sold out everywhere already! And with a game release schedule spreading out the awesome new titles for several months, I’m betting they’ll continue to fly off the shelves (and out of online retailer warehouses) as fast as they come in! Check out the Switch website for more details and videos.

CLOSED: Let It Snow Returns to Four Seasons Westlake Village [2016 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.