Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, everyone! This afternoon, Hazel and I took part in the second annual Howl-O-Ween Pooch Parade at Lemon Park in Simi. (Hazel was a princess at last year's inaugural event, remember?) It is a warm, beautiful fall day here-- the perfect day for a parade.

Hazel had tons of fun sniffing around, making new friends and making people smile. She did the sweetest thing: As we were walking the route, Hazel veered off the path and made a beeline for a woman in a wheelchair who was watching the parade go by. Hazel jumped up and said hi. It made the little old lady so happy. I have the kindest dog, I must say.

We later went around the vendor booths, which included one from our own vet, and Hazel got a few treats out of the deal. And isn't she just the cutest in her pumpkin dress? Not exactly frightening, but adorable, yes! (At least, in my biased opinion.) There were some great costumes this year, and lots of owners matching their four-legged friends. (Unfortunately, I don't have a pumpkin shirt in my closet.)

A few more pictures from the parade because I'm a proud mama and I can't help myself:

On the route around the civic center


Cooling off in the shade after the walk 

 My mom came at the beginning of the march to keep us company

Treat? Did someone say treat?

Hazel is thoroughly exhausted now, passed out in my bed as I type.

I hope you are having a wonderful day, whether you are painting the town orange tonight or getting ready for an evening at home passing out candy. I'm still not sure which one I am doing! Maybe I'll make some cookies until I figure out exactly what it is I'm going to do. :)

Have fun and be safe!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

A weekend getaway... to Vegas!

Happy almost-weekend, everyone! This past weekend, I drove four-and-a-half hours to Las Vegas to meet up with some Seattle friends, Brittany (a roommate from college) and Erin (who I met at Britt's wedding last year). They were in town to see a Garth Brooks concert and when Brittany told me about it a few weeks ago, I didn't want to pass up the chance to revisit Vegas or catch up with an old friend, even if it did mean driving almost 600-miles roundtrip, alone, in my beat-up car. (We both happily survived!)

It was a quick-but-completely-awesome trip, from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, and ever since getting home I've been recovering, working and battling a cold that I thought was getting better but struck back with a vengeance last night. Turns out Brittany and Erin have also had colds since Tuesday, which means we all must have caught the bug in Sin City. Even still, I'd say it was totally worth it!

These were the girls to go to Vegas with. We spent most of our time dancing, drinking, shopping and all-around being girly. Absolutely no gambling. In my book, that's the way to do Vegas up right! We even went to a "show." But more on that in a minute...

I'd like to share a few more pictures and stories, if you'd like to see and hear...

We stayed at the Trump International Hotel, which is located on the northern end of the Strip. We had a fabulous suite on the 57th floor with a kitchenette (not that we really used it; room service, on the other hand, we took full advantage of), a couch that pulled-out into a queen bed (which I slept on), and a view of the Strip! You have to imagine this view all lit up and glamorous at night time. Of course the only problem with being on one end of the Strip is you have to cab it everywhere! But at least we didn't have to hike all over Vegas in our heels, either.

And I can't forget to mention this. Our room was so fabulous and the bathroom so fancy that there was even a TV in the mirror! Hilarious. Even more so when I turned it on and it was tuned to the Disney Channel.

Friday night we got our groove on at Mix Lounge at THEhotel. The club is located at the top of THEhotel--which is part of the Mandalay Bay-- and this is us on the terrace overlooking all the sparkling casinos. My drink of choice, of course, was a vodka cranberry.

Now, that show I told you about? Well, Erin loves cowboys (and Britt and I really couldn't argue with her; who doesn't love a man in a Stetson?) so on Saturday we went to the Professional Bull Riding Finals at the Thomas & Mack Center! Can you believe it? That's not your typical Vegas activity, but it was actually a good time. (Minus the scarily-steep seating. I have an unnatural fear of bleachers. Don't ask me why, I just do. Practically had a panic attack climbing to our seats.)

The bulls got the best of most riders, throwing them off within a few seconds.

But some cowboys hung on for an impressively long time! Unfortunately, the dude who rode the best was injured when he was finally flung from the bull-- he landed on his back-- but we were told later that the injuries weren't serious. Thank goodness.

Though it wasn't initially my idea of a good time, I have to say I'm glad Erin made us go watch PBR. Like my bestie told me later, how many of my friends can say they've done that?

Later that night, the girls and I went out to LAX Nightclub at the Luxor, which had a much bigger dance floor than Mix and I believe a much younger crowd, too! (The Jabbawockeez and Criss Angel were there, as well.) It was a good time and we didn't get home until the wee hours of the morning... This picture is one I snapped of us still looking fresh faced, waiting at the bar for our first drink.

Sunday morning I took Britt and Erin to the airport and then got on the road. I took this shot while driving the 15, near Hesperia, I think. There was a huge cloud hugging the mountain in front of me, and I later drove literally straight through it. Once I got on the other side, the sky had turned from sunny to dark and gloomy.

When I got home, I literally passed out. There really is no other way to end a trip to Vegas.

There you have it, the recap of my exciting getaway to fabulous Las Vegas. Funny thing is, I have absolutely no plans for Halloween. No costume either. Hopefully I'll get over this cold and make some plans. Till then, tell me what you'll be up to this October 31. And you know what I really want to know: what are you dressing up as?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Weekend bits

Happy, stormy (here anyway) Tuesday, everyone! Now, don't let those above photos fool you. I didn't get another tattoo. (Not to say I haven't thought about it-- sorry, Mom!). I did, however, eat some yummy food. See, all of those photos are just snapshots from my weekend, which was spent in the wacky and wonderful town of Hollywood.

The boy has been dog-sitting for the past week for a couple who lives just a few blocks away from the corner of Hollywood and Highland. Even though there is tons to do, he has been a bit lonely, so I went to visit him and the pups he's been watching.

Unfortunately, I didn't think to snap a photo of Edna and Babe, so you'll just have to take my word for it when I say they are adorable. They are mom and daughter, so they love to snuggle and, as strange as it is, lick each other. Babe is young and full of energy. Edna is a tad chubby and seems to waddle about on her stick legs. At first, Edna was frightened of me-- she was even shaking!-- but she soon warmed up and decided that, in fact, she loved me and wanted to sit on my lap and be pet all. the. time. Still, so cute.

While the weather has been awfully gloomy and drizzly, the boy and I did get out to explore the neighborhood. Our weekend included:

:: Eating at Aroma Bakery Cafe on Sunset, where much of the food has a Mediterranean vibe, the picture menu goes on for days and the portions are huge. The waitress talked us into a sampler, which included pita bread, hummus, french fries, a cucumber-and-tomato chopped salad, pickles and hot sauce. It was enough to feed four people, at least, so by the time we got our rosemary chicken (served with delicious pine nut rice and a house salad) we were almost too full to eat!

:: Searching out High Voltage Tattoo, better known by TLC watchers as LA Ink, Kat Von D's studio. I've loved and tuned into the show for years, and continue to be a fan even though the last two seasons have been more focused on personal drama than tattoos. I was hoping to see Kat, of course, but the only people I recognized inside the shop were Adrienne and Khoi. While I didn't leave the shop with some new ink (not yet!), I did purchase a High Voltage hoodie. (I couldn't resist.)

:: Waiting in line outside The Griddle Cafe. It was so worth the wait, which actually went more quickly than expected. (We were quoted 45 minutes but I'd say it took 30.) Ever since seeing The Griddle Cafe featured on Yahoo! a month or so ago as one of the best pancake houses in the nation, I knew I had to go. It did not disappoint. Because I couldn't decide and because our charming server suggested it, I got a single (but still huge) Banana Nana, a buttermilk pancake filled with brown sugar-baked bananas, plus an order of Eggs Benedict. But their Benny isn't like anywhere else. The poached eggs sit atop a thick slab of ham and instead of English muffins as a base, The Griddle Cafe uses potato skins. The whole thing is swimming in creamy, dreamy hollandaise sauce that makes you feel guilty but it is so good you don't care. I even added avocado, which was totally unnecessary but still delightful. I also had a bite of the boy's French toast, which had a heavy hand of vanilla extract that made it taste like there was unseen vanilla bean ice cream on top. Seriously, to die for. Go. Now. And if my recommendation isn't good enough, maybe you'd believe Justin Long? He was in a booth just a few feet away from us. That's Hollywood, baby.

:: Trying unsuccessfully to go see a movie at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre (there were no good movies playing, incredibly) and having a creepy homeless dude that reeked of alcohol come up to the boy and pull on his sweater while we were looking at the celebrity footprints and handprints outside. Again, that's Hollywood, baby. As an alternative, we went to Hooters (my first time!) for a late-night snack. Five pieces of medium, naked chicken wings and an Amstel Light for me, training burgers and fried pickles for the boy.

So... where did your weekend take you?

P.S. On Friday night, I went back to my alma mater, Pepperdine, for "Blue and Orange Madness" (aka, Midnight Madness). It was wonderful to see my sorority sisters and even my little sis. I kind of felt like I was in college again (complete with a midnight trip to Jerry's Deli afterward). But the reason I'm telling you is because part of the festivities included a dunk contest. Last year, Keion Bell dunked over five people and the video became a YouTube sensation. Well, this year he had to one-up himself... and he did! "Seven human beings!!!!!" as the announcer said. Basketball fans, you can watch it here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Time out

Hi, everyone. Sorry for my slightly-longer-than-usual silence. (Not that regularly irregular posting is new for me.) Things have been crazy at work. Lots to do and I'm in campaign coverage overdrive, since there's just a few more weeks until the Nov. 2 general municipal election. Plus, I have a new editor which adds to the typical stress load.

Anyway, it all leaves me longing to take a grown-up time out. To find a quiet, peaceful place and just get away from it all. Where deadlines and to-do lists don't exist, nor do dreams about work. (Aren't those awful? More like nightmares.)

I think I found a few good spots to take this much-needed (albeit imaginary) time out. If you'd like to come along, I'll save you a seat. (Or a stump. Stretch of sand. Dock. You get the idea.)

Wishing you (and me) a peaceful rest of the week...

All images via we heart it, found by searching "peaceful"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pit-fired perfection

Pitfire Pizza, downtown Los Angeles

Since dating my boyfriend these past three and a half years, I have probably consumed more pizza than ever before. (I swear, pizza is like a food group for him. And most definitely his favorite food.) For that reason, I'll go out on a limb and call myself somewhat of a pizza connoisseur because I truly have had my fair share of slices of all types: thick and thin, loaded and margherita. 

Based on this past experience, I have to say that Pitfire Pizza makes possibly the perfect pizza. Strong statement, I know, but it was that good.

(Prior to Pitfire, it was a little pizza place in Virginia, outside D.C., that held the key to my pizza-loving heart because of it's amazing, cracker-like crust. But that's another story.)

See, before the Sara Bareilles concert last week, the boy and I needed to grab a bite to eat for dinner. I had checked out dozens of restaurants in the area online, looking for something new, different, delicious. While I was tempted by several fancy-sounding Italian restaurants, I opted for Pitfire because it seemed like it would be budget friendly and a sure-fire hit with the boy, who is an even pickier eater than me.

Summer special artichoke pizza

Well, Pitfire delivered on all counts. (Literally, they deliver, but of course that's not what I mean.)

The boy got his typical pepperoni pizza, but Pitfire's version was far from typical. Made with Zoe's slightly spicy natural pepperoni, sweet tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and torn basil, it was finger-licking good. I got a bite or two before the boy polished it off, no problem.

I decided to try something I had never had before: artichoke pizza. It was on Pitfire's summertime specialties menu, and I was thrilled they still had it even at the end of September. Topped with roasted artichokes, blistered red and yellow cherry tomatoes, wilted spinach and black olives, it was the most flavorful pizza to ever have the joy of entering my mouth. It was salty and delectable-- even more so after drizzling it with some red chili flake-and-herb-infused olive oil on the table-- and I felt a tad guilty leaving even one piece on the plate.

As you can see in the photos, we also had a light salad-- with asiago and "torn" croutons-- to get our greens. I washed it all down with a glass of Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc. Slightly sweet, with notes of fig, apple and grapefruit, I think it was the perfect pairing.

Now, as tasty as the toppings and sauce were, Pitfire's pizza wouldn't be as magnificent as it is if not for the crust. Pitfire stays true to its name. The pies are cooked in a wood fired oven, resulting in a rustic, crispy, perfectly singed crust. And the bubbles! Oh, the bubbles were my favorite part. You know how sometimes there are bubbles in your pizza crust? Well, these bubbles weren't full of air... just more doughy, delicious bread! Oh goodness. Charred and chewy pizza. What could be better?

I was kind of hoping to try Pitfire's smothered cookie-- a warm cookie topped with organic soft serve, hazelnuts and your choice of sauce (I would have gone for the house made caramel sauce with Maldon salt)-- but the boy and I were just too stuffed (thank goodness for my flowy dress!) and it was not meant to be. Next time, I'll save room!

(Totally trying the handmade chicken meatballs with grilled bread next time. Totally.)

Oh, how I hope there will be a next time. I'd seriously drive an hour just for that crust.

Pitfire, could you make a special delivery to Simi? Please and thank you.

So, now I need to know: Have you had any great pizza lately? Or tried a new restaurant? I'd love to hear!


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sara Bareilles in concert

So, I bet you're wondering how the Sara Bareilles concert was.

In a word? Spectacular.

Not that I expected anything less from Miss Sara B. But even though I know her to be an amazing vocalist, I was still in awe of her performance.

But more on that later. First, let's talk about the venue: The Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

It's pretty spectacular, too. Opened in 1926 and restored in the early 1990s, it is truly an architectural gem. We couldn't help but take several photos outside the neon marquee sign.

Walking into the lobby, I kind of felt like we stepped back in time. There was an old ticket booth...

And the inside of the theater was filled with beautiful, ornate detailing everywhere you looked. Just check out those chandeliers!

The stage was even more impressive. Lush, red curtains. Scalloped edges on the mezzanine box seats. The dim lights made the theater's gold features glow.

It all felt so rich and yet, so intimate. I've been to concerts at huge arenas filled with thousands of people. I had a blast, don't get me wrong. But The Orpheum was the perfect place to showcase Sara's voice. There were no fancy special effects, no costume changes or back-up dancers. Just pure authenticity and talent. (This review agrees with me :)

But first up were her opening acts.* Sara definitely made us wait! But I didn't mind too much because both performers were fantastic.

Sara, casually dressed before the show, introducing band mate and opening act, Javier Dunn.

The adorable and charming Javier Dunn took the stage first. He actually plays guitar for Sara. He put on a one-man show. It was just him and his guitar, and sometimes some prerecorded background instrumentation. But it was simple and honest and catchy-- and I loved it. The boy loved his cover of Death Cab for Cutie's "Summer Skin." I enjoyed all his songs, but I think my favorite might be "One Good Reason" ... or "How I Love You" .... or, gosh, I loved them all. (You can listen to Javier on his myspace, but I have to say his songs were much more dynamic live. He is great live.)

Next up was Greg Laswell. He and his band put on a great show, too. The ladies loved his hunky cellist and Greg was a pretty funny dude. The highlight was when he covered Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." He changed up the melody of the song so much that it took me a few lines to place it, but once I did, I couldn't help but laugh. However, comical as it was, it was actually a fabulous rendition-- even rivaled the original, in my humble opinion. It was in this style, with Greg stripped down, just him and his piano, that liked Mr. Laswell best.

Excited for the show to start!

It was probably an hour and a half before Sara came on. I told you she made us wait! But when she finally walked out on stage, the crowd erupted. Sara looked adorable. She was wearing a black jumpsuit,  shiny black ankle booties and a black bow in her hair. Throughout the show she made several remarks about this headband and bow. She said it was a new look for her and asked if she looked okay. Of course we all said yes!

(Sara also made us laugh with her potty mouth, which she couldn't shake even after realizing it was an all ages show. The boy was surprised; I was not. We both thought it was too funny.)

Sara opened the show with "Vegas" (from her first major-label release, "Little Voice") and followed that up with "Uncharted," one of my favorite songs from her new album ("Kaleidoscope Heart").

She mostly played songs from her latest (and greatest!) CD ("Hold My Heart," "Gonna Get Over You," "Let the Rain," "Basket Case") but in the middle of her set she performed the can't-help-but-get-stuck-in-your-head radio hit that made her famous: "Love Song."

Also from that 2007 album was "Fairytale." Sara delivered the tongue-in-cheek feminist anthem-- which is about all those unrealistic fairy tale romances us girls growing up believing in-- without her male band. She said she had performed a few shows without playing the song and it just didn't feel right, like something was missing. We were all glad she brought it back.

And there also was this totally cool cover of Radiohead's "Nice Dream," with Sara on ukulele and her boys stomping, tapping, clapping and snapping. Pretty fantastic.

Of course there was her upbeat (even if she is saying "f-you") new single, "King of Anything," too. (Pretend you're at the show and listen to the live performance here. And if you didn't guess already, click any of the links above to see video from the concert. Thanks to violetskyye!)

The most amazing moment of the night came at the end, when Sara brought up Sonos, a local a cappella group, to sing "Gravity" with her. "Gravity" is probably my all-time favorite Sara B. song. It might very well be my favorite song of all time, it is that good. It stirs my heart every time I hear it. And her performance at The Orpheum was no exception.

After "Gravity," Sara thanked Los Angeles-- her hometown-- and left the stage. But of course we called her back up for an encore. She sang "Many the Miles" (from "Little Voice") and then officially closed out the show with the hauntingly beautiful intro to her new CD, of the same name-- which she accompanied by playing some kind of accordion-type instrument. Again, amazing!

Taking a bow after the encore performance

All in all, it was a fabulous show. Sara's talent is far more impressive in person-- and I was already impressed by her CD! Her voice was strong, flawless, crystal clear. Her notes angelic, almost floating in the theater. After hearing "Gravity," my head on the boy's shoulder, I literally said "wow." Yeah, that sums it up. Wow.

Watch the a cappella version of "Gravity" below. (Aren't you glad someone was recording the performances for us?)

*sorry no photos of the openers and sorry my photos of Sara aren't the best! Unfortunately, my camera wasn't cooperating. Really, it's just old and no good in poor lighting. A girl in the row ahead of me was taking excellent, clear, close-up shots. The ones I have here are actually zoomed all the way in, if you can believe it! I'm officially taking suggestions for a new camera. :)

However, Sara's photographer friend Colin Young Wolff took some amazing behind-the-scenes and concert photos. You can check them out here.