Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So excited!

Just popping in to say that I am so excited because in a few mere hours I will be sitting in a seat at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles watching Sara Bareilles perform! I absolutely adore Sara B. and her new album, "Kaleidoscope Heart"-- which hit shelves earlier this month and blazed up the charts to No. 1-- is amazing. Suffice to say, I have been anxiously anticipating this concert for two months and listening to her CD nonstop. Had to learn all the words so I could belt them out tonight! I'll be sure to tell you all about the concert later, but for now I'll leave you with the music video for her first single, "King of Anything."

If you haven't seen it, it is a must watch. You will be singing this catchy, tell-off anthem the rest of the day. (That's a good thing, I promise.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dinner and a show

Saturday was the boy's birthday. Though he won't like me to tell you, he turned the big 3-7. (I know this might come as a shock to some readers who don't know, but yes, he is 12 years older than me. But we all know what they say about a man's age and their maturity level, right ladies? Tee hee.)

Anyway, there was no big celebration this year. No piles of presents. We kept it low key and affordable. But still full of fun and love.

The boy was returning from a trip to visit his grandma in Temecula Saturday morning, so I didn't meet up with him until later that afternoon. His sister Kelly, brother-in-law Mike and niece Miranda wanted to treat him to dinner, so that's what we did. We decided to go to Yamato Japanese Restaurant in Valencia, where you can get dinner and a show.

While waiting for our teppan table, the boy and his niece went outside to feed the koi swimming below the restaurant's front deck. Yamato's has candy machines that dispense fish food pellets for 25 cents. Miranda was quite pleased when I was able to find two quarters in my wallet and so were the fish, who caused a feeding frenzy the moment the pellets plunked into the water.

There were also little turtles swimming in the pond. Most stayed out of the way of the koi but at one point a little guy got swept up into the crazed, circling fish. But don't worry. He held his own.

While I'm a bit wary of sushi, I love teppanyaki. It's fresh and flavorful, and seeing the food cooked right before your very eyes just adds to the culinary experience. And the cooks! They put on a true tableside show, twirling their utensils and chopping ingredients with such dexterity. Spinning an egg into the air and splitting it with a spatula. Then using that same spatula to flip a bowl filled with fried rice. It's pretty amazing!

Of course everyone's favorite part is the flaming onion volcano. I'm not even a big onion fan-- save for the fried variety and those little minced ones on McDonald's hamburgers-- but I gobble these charred rings up, no problem!

While we complimented our chef on his grilling skills, Kelly asked if he cooks for himself at home. The answer? A resounding no! He said after cooking for people like us all day, the last thing he wants to do is go in a kitchen. I can't say I blame him!

As the grill cooled, we filled our bellies with far-too-much food and Sapporo, a light Japanese beer. Even though the boy and I shared-- we had the filet mignon and shrimp entree, which of course came with bowls of miso soup, salad and rice and tons of yummy veggies-- we still had a hard time finishing our plates.

Dinner was capped off-- literally-- with the boy wearing a silly hat and being serenaded with two birthday songs... the traditional American tune plus one in Japanese. He told me later he was a bit embarrassed by the whole thing since everyone in the restaurant turned to look, but he took it in stride, clapping along.

He also got a dessert out of the deal. A scrumptious... fruit plate! Ha! All the credit for that one goes to his older sister, Kelly. The alternative, and the most oft chosen one at that, was a chocolate fudge cake, but she decided to go the healthier route. He is 37, after all.

(I would have splurged on the cake.)

P.S. The night ended with the boy and I seeing "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." It was a bit long and at some points all the money stuff went over my head, but overall I enjoyed it. I especially loved watching the adorable Carrie Mulligan because she and her haircut are just too cute. Same goes for Shia LaBeouf. And I've gotta hand it to Michael Douglas, aka Gordon Gekko. He is one witty sonofabitch. I feel like I want to watch it again just to catch all those snarky quips one more time. Better yet, I need to rent the first one!

P.P.S. How was your weekend? :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vote for Hazel!

Hazel Rae, a 2-year-old Maltese-Shih Tzu, is pretty as a princess last Halloween in her Cinderella costume. Now she just needs to find her Prince Charming! Or a good chew toy, at least.

Hi, friends! Being the crazy dog owner that I am, I entered my little love muffin into a PetSmart contest this past weekend. All I needed to do was upload a photo of Hazel in her best Halloween costume. Remember her get-up from last year? It is too cute, I had to give it a shot.

Plus, if she wins, she could score a cameo in a PetSmart commercial! How amazing would that be? I always joke to the boy that we should get Hazel into dog modeling or acting... so she can start bringing in the big bucks for mom and dad :) And pay us back for all those dog treats and vet bills!

Now, I have no delusions that Hazel will actually take home the grand prize (ok, I take that back, I am a bit delusional when it comes to Hazel) but I could always win a $50 gift card to PetSmart at the very least. Even if all I get out of it is a good laugh and the chance to show off my four-legged baby, it would mean so much to me (and the monkey) if you would vote for her. It's super easy. Just go here, like PetSmart's Facebook page, and click the orange paw for Hazel!

You can vote every day, once a day, until Halloween!

I know I'm ridiculous, please don't hold it against me?

And thank you!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Such a Succa

Meet Dondo, the Echeveria plant.

He's my newest family member, of the green variety.

I got him at a cute little shop called Kingdom of Herbs-- located inside the Ferry Building Marketplace-- on my last day in San Francisco. I'm such a "succa" for succulents, I couldn't resist him, or the adorable pot.

However, I only today got around to properly potting him. He'd been sitting in the pot for weeks now, on my windowsill, but his roots were still in the store's plastic casing. What a bad plant-mama I am. Luckily Dondo has decided not to hold it against me. He seems to be doing well. Still green? Check. Still has leaves? Check.

Hopefully I won't kill him like I did with Echeverias #1 and #2. I'm crossing my not-so-green thumbs.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Food, Wine + Zooey

Two Sundays ago (but who's counting?) my bestie Marielle and I went to the inaugural Los Angeles Times Celebration of Food & Wine. After seeing a full page ad in the Times about a month or so prior, I immediately marked my calendar, invited Marielle and then like a good friend pestered reminded her to buy tickets. (And gave her a discount code, yippee!)

Well, it turned out to be a beautiful day-- the day before Labor Day, in fact-- and not just for the obvious, gluttonous reason. It was so wonderful to spend a carefree day with my best friend in the whole world, indulging in tasty treats but also catching up on each other's lives. We're both so busy all the time that moments like those don't happen often, so I cherish them when they do.

The actual event didn't fail to deliver, too. Though trying to find parking in L.A. always proves to be challenging, especially when thousands of people are all going to the same exact place, the venue itself was pretty spectacular: the backlot of Paramount Pictures Studios. While browsing around, weaving between people and hopping from booth to booth, I would occasionally stop to look around and think, "Wow, it looks like we're on the streets of New York!" Which of course only made me remember my unfilled yearnings to visit the Big Apple. But never mind that...

All told we spent about three hours sampling various gourmet foods and wine. Mostly wine. (I have to say, I was a bit frustrated to see that many of the vendors-- especially the food trucks-- we're charging for food as opposed to giving away free samples, as I had expected. We did pay, after all, to get in. That would be my only complaint of the event.)

During our journey around the outdoor fest, we devoured lots of sweets: salted caramel ice cream from the Cooking Channel's Ice Cream truck, cake balls from Delicious Wishes of Beverly Hills (toffee for me, and I think peanut butter for Marielle, or something similarly divine), and a zeppole (basically an Italian donut, covered in powdered sugar) from Rosa's Bella Cucina. We had to fork over a $1 for that last one, but it was sooo worth it.

We balanced out the sugar with a few salty bites: spicy yellow curry (made with coconut milk, potatoes and carrots) from Sedthee Thai Eatery, some bread and cheese (I ate the bread and gave Marielle my cheese) from La Brea Bakery, and a surprisingly delicious mungbean patty but I don't quite remember who from. Blame the wine.

Speaking of vino, there were tons of wineries to taste, and though we had eight drink tickets each (plus extras from a kind lady who gave me hers at the gate), the vendors didn't much care to take them. We sure didn't mind!

First there was a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Dutcher Crossing Winery, then a nice, light Syrah from Farella-Park Vineyards, followed by a crisp Pinot Grigio, from the LA Times Wine Club (who we liked for their hearty pours).

Our favorite at the festival, though, was Pech Merle Winery. They won points for taste and experience, because unlike the other wineries, they gave us a true tasting, letting us try several of their vintages. We loved them all!

We also tried Korean black raspberry wine from Kook Soon Dang that was dangerously good, as in, it tastes so much like juice you would get drunk before knowing what hit you. Similar to that was VeeV Acai Spirit. I'm not one to sip straight liquor-- I'm a cranberry and vodka kind of gal-- but with this I'd make an exception. Pour VeeV into a martini glass and you're good to go.

Lastly, we tasted Evan Williams Honey Reserve Bourbon. This would be the one thing we tried that didn't win us over. Too strong, we both tossed it-- but kept the cute plastic shot glass it came in. Guess we're not bourbon girls.

With all that alcohol flowing, and a bit of a buzz going, we took a few silly pictures. Who can resist posing with a Sake bottle or ... doing whatever it is we're doing in that second picture. Oh, I know what we're doing. We're making fools of ourselves! Gotta love it.

As the sun began to set, we made our way over to the Hollywood Stage for the evening attraction. No, not food or wine-- but a concert by She & Him. You know-- Zooey Deschanel!

Even though I had never heard Zooey's music before, I was uber-excited to see her, because she is just so darling. (I finally saw "500 Days of Summer," well, this summer.) Though I had told Marielle who would be performing, she didn't realize who I was talking about until we got to the stage. And then she was just as excited as me! We talked about how beautiful Zooey is while swaying to the music... Her voice sounded as sweet and as lovely as she looks.

Even the back-up singers were adorable. All the ladies were wearing fun, colorful dresses with black tights. Perfect! (And check out that guy's white hat in the audience... too cool!)

The whole gang... Matt Ward, the "Him" in She & Him, is on the far left. And isn't Zooey's green dress pretty? The layers fluttered up and down when she jumped to the music, shaking her tambourine.

Closing out the show, Zooey and Matt tackled the piano, pounding the keys together.

The crowd shouted encore after the band left the stage and a few minutes later, She & Him obliged with one last song. With the last notes hanging in the air, the crowd began to break up. As we were leaving, I noticed that the Crepes Bonaparte truck (if you've watched "The Great Food Truck Race" on Food Network, you'll recognize this truck) was still open for business. Even though I was a tad full and it cost a couple more bucks out of my pocket, I couldn't resist.

I ordered my usual-- Nutella and banana-- and Marielle tried a savory Ranchero crepe. We devoured them on the walk back to our car... Both got two thumbs up!

So there you have it. My first food and wine fest. I consumed many, many calories that day but overall, I'd call it a culinary success.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day bits

Hello everyone! I hope you enjoyed your Labor Day weekend! I know I sure did, even if it did make going back to work today a tad more difficult. (Isn't that always the way?)

This three-day weekend was perhaps more needed than usual. Last week was, in a word, miserable at times as I felt my emotions buckling under stress (and nature's hormonal "gift"). But the light at the end of the dismal tunnel was the long weekend ahead. So once those 72 hours of freedom began, I wanted to squeeze every last drop of fun and sunshine out of them.

Here's the rundown:

Saturday was spent lazily at first, catching up on sleep and relaxing in pajamas while watching TV. But soon enough we (the boy, Hazel and I) busted out of the house and into the outdoors, taking a quick drive up to Santa Barbara. Well, the drive wasn't quick thanks to some slow-moving holiday traffic but we still got there in time to walk Hazel along the boardwalk, get some pecan praline ice cream on the pier and watch the sun set over the water (see photos above). On the way home, we stopped for pepperoni pizza. After polishing off 2 1/2 slices, I got a call from my bestie, Marielle, that the gang was going out for drinks and dancing at Cisco's, a popular hangout in Westlake Village. I hurried back to my house, got gussied up in record time and joined my friends for what turned out to be a fabulous night out. One that ended at about 3 p.m. with me watching "Law & Order: SVU" and another slice of pizza. (DiGiorno this time, if you must know. So bad, but so good!)

On Sunday, Marielle and I attended the inaugural Los Angeles Times Celebration of Food & Wine. I'll share more on this later but for now let's just say it was a highly caloric day. Copious amounts of wine were consumed, with a bit of food sampling mixed in for good measure. The fest finished with a concert and a crepe-- sweet for me, savory for Marielle. Fun times all around. But it didn't end there-- afterward we headed to a friend's house where a group of us chatted about life and played Catch Phrase! Yep, fun times, indeed.

Monday was just as eventful but still laid back. It was Labor Day, after all! I celebrated at a barbecue with friends. We munched on chips and dip, drank ice cold beers (as well as a couple margarita-flavored wine coolers for me) and played several tournament-style rounds of Cornhole. After a few tries, I became surprisingly good at tossing the little bean bags onto the board and into the hole, shocking most everyone at the party since it's safe to say I have no skills whatsoever at Beer Pong-- usually the game of choice at gatherings like these.

All around, it was a fantastic weekend spent with good friends, good food and good drink. Which always equals a good time in my book.

How did you spend your Labor Day weekend? I'd love to hear.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Norton Simon Museum

Last Sunday I visited for the first time the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. I had been wanting to go ever since Miss Ashley blogged about it and told me how lovely the gardens are. So I was shocked and thrilled when the boy said he wanted to go check it out that afternoon. We jumped in the car post-haste (But since the museum doesn't open until noon, we didn't have to feel guilty about not getting there until 1:30. We're so lazy on Sundays.)

Located right off the freeway but somewhat hidden from the street, the California Modern building (renovated by renowned architect Frank Gehry a decade ago) would be easy to miss while cruising down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. It's no Getty. But it's definitely worth a stop. And the Norton's smallish size makes actually seeing all the galleries a doable and pleasurable task. There's lots to see but not so much that you feel overwhelmed by it all. I'd say the galleries are perfectly edited.

The museum houses art from the 14th Century to modern day. There's Asian art halls, too. We skipped from century to century on our visit, not viewing chronologically whatsoever. Simply following our whims.

The first gallery we explored housed works by Impressionists, Post Impressionists and mid-century Realists from the 1800s. I absolutely love Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh-- I have Starry Night and The Cafe Terrace hanging in my room, and Irises framed but packed away in a box right now-- so I was positively giddy when his works were the very first things I saw. I'm not exaggerating when I say I practically ran over to take a picture. So much for museum etiquette.

The Mulberry Tree

Portrait of a Peasant

That gallery also reintroduced me to a painter I studied in college but had long forgotten about: Edgar Degas. I simply fell in love with the Frenchman's ballerina series, which included both painted works and bronze sculptures. This piece below was my favorite; I even bought a print of it in the gift shop, along with van Gogh's The Mulberry Tree. I couldn't resist.

The Star: Dancer on Pointe

As the afternoon went on we weaved our way through the rest of the exhibits. Here's a few of my other favorite pieces at the Norton:

Those familiar with "Desperate Housewives" will know this piece. Titled Adam and Eve, it was painted by a German named Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1530.

I'm partial to modern and contemporary art so I loved this watercolor-inspired piece, Basel Mural I (1956-58), by northern California-born painter Sam Francis. That's the boy examining it up close.

Now I'm not a huge fan of Pablo Picasso but I can't argue with his fame in the art world, so I had to snap a picture of this piece, Woman with Book.

The Asian art halls were primarily filled with old sculptures. Unlike in the other galleries, we didn't read up on each piece, instead opting to simply walk through and take it all in, only stopping at the works that really caught our eye. This room below sort of took my breath away. I loved how you could see out into the garden, the statue outside being just as much a part of the exhibit as the ones inside the walls.

My favorite gallery by far was the temporary exhibit, Hiroshige: Visions of Japan, which was filled with nearly 200 woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). I was literally in awe of this work; I'd never really seen anything like it at another museum. Hiroshige's primary subject was Tokyo but I was enamored by his bird and flower prints, too. Check out a sampling of the exhibit below:

All my photos really don't do the art justice but the museum's "no flash" rule means having slightly fuzzy photos.

Now, I know I've shared a lot with you, but I hope you've enjoyed this little e-tour of the Norton! I can't leave you, though, without sharing a few snapshots from those lovely gardens I told you about.

Hope you are having a wonderful, long Labor Day weekend!

Also: Anyone been to a great museum lately? I'd love to hear :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Odette New York

The creativity of others never ceases to amaze me. Which is probably why it is easy for me to spend an inordinate amount of time drooling over the crafts of skilled artists on Etsy.

Take Odette New York for example. I stumbled across Jennifer Sarkilahti's Brooklyn-based shop the other day-- I had some help; she is the featured seller of the week-- while taking a much-needed break from work and since then I can't stop thinking about her gorgeous, hand carved and intricately detailed pieces cast in shimmering metal tones.

Being that I am borderline obsessed with all things bird related-- my blog is named after a bird and I have a swallow tattoo on my foot, after all-- I'll admit it was the Large Swallow Necklace that drew me in (Taylor Swift's a fan, too!). I am seriously lusting after it and wishing I had the financial resources to splurge even on the smaller version. It is such an exquisitely made piece of jewelry. A piece of art, really.

But she doesn't just do birds, as evidenced above. She has a whole bevy of creatures from nature represented in her shop-- from jackrabbits to foxes to owls, oh my! There's even monkeys, jellyfish and a French Bulldog. How's that for creative?

I also love her more organic pieces, like the Bullet Hole Necklace and Skipping Stones Necklace.

Her process is fascinating, too. Jennifer says she first sketches a design in pencil, then carves it into wax, like a tiny sculpture. The wax is cast into metal to make a master and a mold of a master is created to make multiples. After hearing all that, the initial sticker shock wears off. And the awe begins.

Suffice to say, I have a crush on Jennifer's shop. (She also has all her pieces featured here, where you can see her new fall lookbook. Seriously, just look at this ring!)

(Oh, and I kind of adore the name Odette, too. Wouldn't that make a cute little girl's name?)

Have you stumbled across any fabulous Etsy finds lately? Truth be told, it's not that hard to do.

Hope you're enjoying your Thursday evening. Stress slowly melting away...