Monday, December 28, 2009

Misguided Youth

Trying to consolidate, give away, and sell my belongings has been extremely difficult the last few months. I'm not just consolidating what I currently own but also the things that I have had stored in my parents' house for the last how many years.

Everytime I find ANOTHER box, I think, "How can there still be more stuff?" When we were in junior high and high school, my parents took us to the mall every weekend. South Coast Plaza. Fashion Island. Del Amo. Today, my brother has a strong aversion towards shopping of any kind and I won't set foot in a mall unless I know exactly which one or two stores I want to visit and exactly what I'm looking for. Oh and it also has to be on a weeknight. I also frequent online retailers. Those Saturday afternoons spent wandering around malls for no reason consequently made us into buyers of useless things. Going to the mall was something my parents thought of for us to do possibly because it was easy and required no planning, but consequently, we bought a ton of crap and wasted countless hours. 

Today, I don't even like receiving "things" as gifts because I really don't need more stuff. Instead, having unique experiences and eating good food are what I most value. So I'm not going to save $5,000 to buy a Chanel bag, but I will save that much to go to Italy to eat the best food in the world.  

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Environmentally-friendly outdoor ice skating at the W Hotel Westwood

W Hotel's Chill Ice Skating Rink (Photo: Irene Chen)
In a city known for make believe, it couldn't have been long before someone came up with fake ice skating rinks. The W Hotel in Westwood has transformed its pool area into a festive winter wonderland complete with an outdoor ice skating rink called Chill.

Chill is different from the rinks in Santa Monica and Pershing Square because it is made from a  synthetic "hybrid ice". That means no refrigeration or Zamboni needed, which is a good thing for the environment. It's also a good thing for you because no more falling or trying to get up on frozen ice.

W winter wonderland (Photo: Irene Chen)
At 1,300 square feet, the rink isn't very big but the setting is beautiful with lots of lighted Christmas trees, decorated cabanas, and greenery. Chill will be open until January 23, 2010, Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. $10 includes an hour of skating and skate rental.
W Hotel Los Angeles - Westwood
930 Hilgard Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Tel: (310) 208-8765

   More on the holidays: Guide to Christmas Tree Lightings in Los Angeles and Orange County

2009 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

Gorillapod. (
Find the perfect gift for your favorite wanderlust this holiday season. Here are ten practical items all under $100 that any world traveler would love to receive.

1. Gorillapod: This compact, portable tripod is perfect for hands-free picture taking. The Original Gorillapod is good for compact digital cameras up to 325 grams and comes in seven different colors. Using its three flexible, wrappable legs with over two dozen leg joints, you can secure your Gorillapod to almost any surface. $21.95 at

2. Digital Luggage Scale: Never pay overweight baggage fees again with this tiny digital luggage scale. You can weigh your bags before you leave for the airport and avoid any surprises. The scale can weigh items up to 100 lbs. At only $25, it’s sure to save you much more. Available at

3. Eagle Creek Comfort Travel Blanket: Ever met a flight attendant who recommended you use their smelly, old communal blankets? Neither have I. Bring your own soft packable blanket for a more comfortable journey in the plane, car or train. This full size blanket packs into itself and has a zippered pocket to keep earplugs, eyeshades or other items handy. $20 at

TourSafe Handbag (Photo:
4. Greenaid Hand Grenade Reusable Shopping Bag: Have a little fun while doing your part to save the environment even when you’re abroad. This reusable polyester bag rolls up inside a hand grenade-shaped neoprene case for easy packing and its clip allows you to attach it to your bag or clothes. $18 at

5. TourSafe Handbag: A classic handbag with four Pacsafe anti-theft features, The TourSafe Handbag allows you to travel with sophistication and peace of mind. Anti-theft features include eXomesh slashguard in lower front, lower side and bottom panels, slashproof adjustable shoulder strap, snatchproof shoulder strap that allows bag to anchor to a secure fixture and tamperproof zipper. $89.99 at

6. Power Monkey: This 3 oz portable charger packs a lot of punch in a little package. Who wants to travel with an iPod, digital camera, cell phone and PDA plus all of their chargers? The Power Monkey charges all your electronics in your pocket almost anywhere in the world. Included are four adaptor plugs, a 110-240 volt adaptor for recharging in 150 countries, connectors for most mobile phones and a wide range of other electronics and a black storage pouch. $69 at

7. Pack-It Shoe Cube: Keep your dirty shoes away from your clean clothes. These shoe cubes come in three colors and feature side ventilation and a top handle. $14 for medium-sized, $18 for large-sized at

Global Atomic Clock (Photo:

8. Hadaki Hanging Toiletry Bag: No counter space in your tiny hotel bathroom? Here’s your solution. This fashionable brown with multi-colored striped toiletry bag unfolds and hooks to hang wherever you need it to. It features four transparent zippered pockets for easy organization of your necessities. $28 at

9. Super Leight Earplugs: Before you strangle the screaming baby in 14C (or its parents), put in a pair of Super Leight Earplugs. These soft foam earplugs have a noise reduction rating of 33 to get rid of those unwanted noises. 5 pairs for $2.69 at

10. Global Atomic Clock: This travel alarm clock uses radio signals from international atomic time transmitters in the United States, Western Europe, Japan and the United Kingdom to set itself. Available in red, black or silver and featuring a large digital display, soft back light, snooze alarm, 12/24 hour formats, dual time face, date display, signal strength indicator and twist-n-stand base and includes a travel pouch. $39.85 at 

More holiday links: Guide to Christmas Tree Lightings in Los Angeles and Orange County

2009 Guide to Holiday Events in Los Angeles

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Virgin America launches service to Fort Lauderdale

Sir Richard Branson welcomes first flight guests
(Photo: Irene Chen)
San Francisco, California-based Virgin America began service from San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Wednesday, November 18, 2009 with twice-daily nonstop flights. Fort Lauderdale is the tenth destination in Virgin America’s network since its launch in August 2007. Fares to Fort Lauderdale start at $99 each way.
Virgin America operates a young fleet of Airbus A320s that feature mood lighting, leather seats, WiFi access, touch screen entertainment and power outlets at every seat, and on-demand food service.

Sir Richard Branson addresses the press and guests
(Photo: Irene Chen)
To celebrate the launch of their “Golden State to Gold Coast” flights, inaugural flight guests enjoyed complementary WiFi access, food service and cocktails by KARMA California Brut, Patron Tequila, and VeeV Acai Spirit. Golden on-board makeovers were provided by Bare Escentuals. Upon landing, guests were welcomed by Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, with a fire engine waterhose salute and a red carpet reception on the tarmac.

 Santigold performs at the W Hotel Fort Lauderdale
(Photo: Irene Chen)

Afterwards, the celebration continued at the W Fort Lauderdale with a performance by Santigold.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guide to Christmas Tree Lightings in Los Angeles and Orange County

Although Southern California may not be having a white Christmas again this year, Christmas tree lighting events around Los Angeles and Orange County will definitely get rid of your "Bah humbugs" and put you in the Christmas spirit. Grab the whole family and experience one or more of these spectacular holiday events. All vents are free unless otherwise noted.

Around Los Angeles

Beverly Hills kicks off their annual holiday festivities on Saturday, November 21st by lighting up the 200 block of Rodeo Drive. Starting at 3 p.m., visitors can enjoy entertainment including balloon and caricature artists, jugglers, musicians and carolers. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand for photo ops. At 7:00 pm, the Mayor along with Rebecca Mader (Lost, Men Who Stare at Goats) will flip the switch to illuminate the 12,000-crystal snowflake over the Beverly Wilshire hotel and the thousands of lights along Rodeo Drive. If that isn't enough, there will be a fireworks display, synchronized to the holiday music.

The Grove's 100-foot white fir tree will be lit up with more than 10,000 lights and 15,000 ornaments on Sunday, November 22nd at 7:30 p.m. Musical guests will be on hand to celebrate the lighting of this enormous tree.

One Colorado in Pasadena's Tree Lighting takes place on Friday, November 27th at 6:00 p.m. The event features an appearance by the 92nd Rose Queen and holiday sing-a-longs.

The Hollywood & Highland Center will be lighting their Christmas tree on Saturday, November 28th, with musical and celebrity guests and Santa Claus himself. Disney Recording Artist Mitchel Musso, I'm OK You're OK and American Idol stars' Kimberley Locke and Michael Johns will be performing live. In addition, guests who donate to One Heartland, an organization committed to improving the lives of children impacted by HIV/AIDS are invited to attend a VIP pre-reception at 5 p.m. VIP tickets start at $50. Tree lighting celebration begins at 6:30 p.m.
Join the City of Rosemead for their 2nd Annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony happening at Rosemead City Hall on Thursday, December 3rd at 6 p.m. Local youth will perform favorite carols, and hot chocolate and cookies will be served.

In Orange County

South Coast Plaza's 96 foot tall White Fir tree went up last month at Town Center Park. Its 20,000 colored lighted will be turned on Thursday, November 19th at 6 p.m. and the celebration will include an appearance by Santa Claus and performances by the Orange County School of the Arts.
Fashion Island downsized this year with only a 40-foot Christmas tree. Their typical 115-foot tree would not fit while renovations are being completed at the mall. The two night celebration happens Friday and Saturday, November 20th and 21st at 6 p.m. on Atrium Lawn adjacent to Santa's House. The event includes performances by students of the McCoy Rigby Conservatory of the Arts, along with the arrival of Santa.

The City of Orange's Tree-Lighting Ceremony & Candlelight Choir Procession happens Sunday, December 6th from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Old Towne Orange Plaza.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Los Angeles Conservancy celebrates 50 years of 1960s architecture in Greater Los Angeles

Next year, the Sixties turn 50. To mark this occasion, the Los Angeles Conservancy and its Modern Committee have created a nine-month educational and outreach program to celebrate and explore preservation issues surrounding these buildings. This birthday is significant because 50 is the widely accepted age threshold for buildings to be considered “historic.” The program includes a fall tour which was hosted last Sunday, November 8th. “It’s a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod City” took guests on a self-driving tour around the Westchester and Culver City areas to explore hidden gems representing Los Angeles’ rich architectural heritage from this era. Docent led tours were held at a number of sites along the route.

The Proud Bird Restaurant (Photo: Irene Chen)
Highlights of the tour included:
The Proud Bird Restaurant (1967) – 11022 South Aviation Boulevard, Westchester
Destination restaurants with themes, such as Polynesian, pirate, and mining, began to pop up all over Southern California in the 1960s. The Proud Bird is an aviation-themed restaurant near the LAX runway. Almost every seat in The Proud Bird gives its diners a view of the take-offs and landings. Patrons can listen in on the action through headsets connected to the LAX control tower. The grounds hold many historic aircraft and replications, and the interior details the history of flying and the aerospace industry in the South Bay through photos and memorabilia. It also pays tribute to famous fliers such as the Tuskegee Airmen and General James Doolittle.

LAX Theme Building under renovation (Photo: Irene Chen)
LAX Theme Building (1961) – 201 Center Way, LAX
This Los Angeles icon was first built as the symbolic center of Los Angeles International Airport. Under renovation since 2007 when a chunk of one of the arches fell onto the roof, the building is scheduled to be completed in 2010. The tour included a visit to the space age-themed Encounter Restaurant and a very special visit to the observation deck which has been closed since September 11, 2001. Plans to reopen the observation deck to the public are still unknown.
Flight Path Learning Center and Museum (formerly LAX Imperial Terminal) – 6661 West Imperial Highway, Westchester
This space has served many purposes throughout the years. From 1951 to 1965, Northrop Aircraft used it as an operations facility. Next, it was used as a terminal for charter flights and foreign carriers and for presidents, sports teams and celebrities due to its remote location. Today, The Flight Path Museum contains a large collection of airline memorabilia as well as a vintage DC-3 aircraft where visitors can step back in time and even take the controls in the cockpit.

Interior of St. Jerome Catholic Church's sanctuary
(Photo: Irene Chen)
St Jerome Catholic Church (1966) – 5580 Thornburn Street, Westchester
Architect Raymond Whalley created an innovative round church with a folded-plate roof. The nontraditional shape of the sanctuary creates a strong sense of community among parishioners.
Other sites along the route included Otis College of Art and Design (formerly IBM Aerospace Headquarters), Holy Cross Cemetery, and The Forum.
More events and actitivies are in the works including a spring tour of residential gems of the sixties scheduled to occur on March 14, 2010.
                        The Sixties Turn 50
                           Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee

Friday, November 06, 2009

Holiday pop-up shopping in Los Angeles

Stella McCartney Fair Isle cashmere wrap cardigan (
In an age of here today and gone tomorrow, it seems fitting that retail stores are now disappearing as soon as they open, but it isn’t due to bankruptcy but on purpose. Today, the latest trend in retail shopping is the pop-up. These exclusive, limited time only shopping destinations give retailers an opportunity to make use of the scores of vacant retail spaces just in time for the holidays.

Here is a sampling of the current pop-up stores around Los Angeles:

Stella McCartney for GapKids Pop-Up Store – featuring the new babyGap and GapKids Holiday collection by Stella McCartney.
108 N Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 285-1880
Open now until November 28th
Monday - Saturday: 10:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Baileys Original Irish Cream Pop-Up Shoe Shop – featuring shoes from Casadei, Sergio Rossi and L.A.M.B. for $75 a pair. All proceeds will go to Clothes Off Our Back.
156 S. Robertson Blvd.
November 11-13: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
You must be 21 to enter the store.

Shoes + Shoes + Shoes + Bags Pop-Up at Space 15 Twenty – featuring shoes and bags from's on-line exclusives and more!
1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028 Monday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Gift! Pop-Up Shop at Space 15 Twenty – lots of shops within a shop including Holiday Cheer, Camera Shop, Music Shop, DIY Shop, Book Shop, His/Her Gift Shop.
1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
November 21st - January 3rd
Monday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

The Mimobots Pop-Up Shop at the Munky King Shop - artist-inspired USB flash drives
7308 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 938.0091
Open now until November 29 Daily: 12 - 7 p.m.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Air Travel Consumer Report: Worst airlines for luggage handing

In their October 2009 Air Travel Consumer Report, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports 208,000 filed baggage complaints for domestic airlines between August 2008 and August 2009. This number shows a significant decrease from last year's 270,000 complaints. These figures concern lost, damaged, or delayed baggage, charges for excess baggage, carry-on problems, and difficulties with airline claims procedures.

Best Airlines for Luggage Handling:
10. ExpressJet Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 4.37
9. United Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 4.12
8. Southwest Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 3.57
7. Northwest Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 3.13
6. JetBlue Airways - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 2.93
5. US Airways -Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 2.90
4. Continental Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 2.89
3. Frontier Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 2.24
2. Hawaiian Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 2.11
1. AirTran Airways - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 1.74

Worst Airlines for Luggage Handling:

9. Alaska Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 4.40
8. American Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 4.45
7. Mesa Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 4.53
6. Delta Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 5.02
5. Skywest Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 5.25
4. Pinnacle Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 6.25
3. Atlantic Southeast Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 7.63
2. American Eagle Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 7.81
1. Comair: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 8.20
The report also covers flight delays, oversales, consumer complaints, airline animal incident reports and customer service reports to the Department of Homeland Security.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Exhibition celebrates 35 years of Hello Kitty

  Hello Kitty's house (Photo: Irene Chen)
Hello Kitty was born in Japan in 1974 and has since become a global phenomenon. This year marks her 35th birthday. To celebrate, Sanrio is presenting Three Apples, a very special, multi-dimensional exhibition celebrating all things Hello Kitty, and those of us lucky enough to be in Los Angele have the opportunity to view this one-of-a-kind event. Taking place until November 15, 2009 at Royal/T café / shop / art space in Culver City, California, this event is free of charge and open to the public. Three Apples will feature an art exhibition, product retrospective, pop-up shop, and special events. The café will also be presenting special Hello Kitty-themed fare.

Product Retrospective includes items only found
in Asia (Photo: Irene Chen)
Why Three Apples? This is Hello Kitty’s height. Hello Kitty has long been a muse to artists and designers around the world. Over 80 contemporary artists including Gary Baseman, Ron English, Buff Monster and Camilla d’Errico have interpreted their vision of Hello Kitty in one-of-a kind pieces on display. One series of photographs by Markus Klinko and Indrani even feature pop singer Lady Gaga posing in a dress made entirely of Hello Kitty stuffed animals and other Hello Kitty attire. The Three Apples Art Show is curated by Jamie Rivadeneira of Japan LA. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the art will benefit LA Works.

Halloween event included a pumpkin decorating contest (Photo: Irene Chen)

Events still to take place.
Saturday, November 7 – Meet the Artists Party
Wednesday, November 11 – Hello Kitty’s Gyaru Beauty Parlor
Friday, November 13 – Hello Kitty’s Bats and Cats Masquerade
Saturday, November 14 – Hello Kitty Art & Fashion Happening
For more info: Royal/T Cafe

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vote for me - photo contest

I entered some of my travel photos into a contest. Please vote for me for "Public's Choice." Grand prize will be awarded by a panel of judges. Thanks!

Vote here

Virgin America – “Best Domestic Airline” according to Condé Nast Traveler

Virgin America Airlines has been voted for the second year in a row as the “Best Domestic Airline” in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards. Over 25,000 readers voted on categories including cabin comfort, cabin service, entertainment options, and food/beverages.

Every flight features mood lighting, touch screen entertainment in every seat with satellite TV, pay-per-view movies, and video games, and food to order when you want it. Virgin America flies from Los Angeles to Boston, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC. Service to Fort Lauderdale begins on November 18.

Ski and stay in Salt Lake and get the fourth night free

With ski season just around the corner, the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau is offering their “Gold Medal Podium” Package in honor of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Book a four-day, four-night stay at a participating property and the Ski Salt Lake Super Pass and get a fourth day of skiing and lodging for free. The over 20 participating properties include The Inn at Solitude, The Cliff Lodge & Spa and The Inn at Snowbird. Packages must be booked by December 15 and travel by April 18, 2010. Hotels based on availability and blackout dates may apply. For complete details, visit Ski Salt Lake.

The Ski Salt Lake Super Pass is an easy and money-saving way to experience all four of Salt Lake’s world-class resorts. Ski Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude for up to 20% off the regular ticket window price.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Funny Food Names: Pennsylvania Edition

 Chow chow - pickled vegetable relish

 Shoofly pie - Pennsylvania Dutch molasses pie with crumb topping

 Birch beer - made from birch bark, similar to root beer
Whoopie pie - two round cakes with cream filling. Available in red velvet, chocolate, pumpkin and other varieties
Irish potatoes - candy made from cream cheese and coconut with ground cinnamon topping

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Domo Loves Slurpee!

Wow, is 7-Eleven smart! First, The Simpsons and now, Domo! 7-Eleven is running a Domo promotion this fall, featuring everyone's favorite brown Japanese, lock-jawed monster on everything imaginable. Domo has taken over the Slurpee machine, coffee cups, and hot dog containers, and three collectible Slurpee cups and four straws are available for purchase. 7-Eleven has created a mini-site and will be rolling out three webisodes with Domo over the next weeks. Part 1 is available now.

Smart is 7-Eleven. Too bad the same cannot be said for the franchisees, who don't seem to know how the internet works and don't know what free PR is, especially the people who work at 10356 Venice Blvd at Motor Ave. These were the only photos I managed to take. I wanted to buy the Domo straw with the candy, but assumed my money along with my photography wasn't welcome there. I'm sure other, more intelligent franchisees would appreciate my patronage! That pumpkin lattee sounds amazing!






*last photo from

For more information on Domo and to watch new webisodes of Domo, visit

Also, please do not patronize 10356 Venice Blvd at Motor Ave.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Crumbled Blue Cheese with Cranberries (Trader Joe's)

As I reached to grab my usual salad accompaniment (crumbled goat cheese), my eye wandered over to a little blue container. Trader Joe's Danish-style crumbled blue cheese with cranberries? Um, yes, please. I was planning to buy some dried cranberries as well for my salads, but at $2.49, this killed two birds with one stone.

So for this week, I've been making a baby lettuce salad topped with the blue cheese and some of the leftover salami I had from a party this weekend and my favorite salad dressing. The cheese is nice and strong and there are just enough cranberries to add that extra something to the salad. Makes for an inexpensive and easy lunch!

Monday, September 28, 2009

DineLA Restaurant Week

I am a big participant in DineLA's Restaurant Week. It has given me the opportunity to try many restaurants that are normally only "special occasion" places (re: out of my price range). Next month, fall restaurant week will be held October 4-9 and October 11-16 at over 200 participating restaurants. With three-course meals at three different price levels, there is something for every budget. Lunch ranges from $16-$28 and dinner from $26-$44.  

How do you choose which restaurant to go to? First, see if the restaurant you've been dying to try is on the list and then, look up its menu to see if it sounds appealing.

More details at:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Festival Fun: Port of Los Angeles Lobster Fest

[Insert food here] and tack on the word "festival" and I am there! The Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival and Music Weekend took place between September 18-20, 2009 at Ports O' Call Village in San Pedro, California. We attended on Sunday, which has historically been the busiest day. $7 with a $2 off coupon downloaded from their website is a small price to pay for a day of celebrating this famed crustacean!

 Free samples from Laughing Cow and Coke Zero

Eclectic entertainment such as Arturo Nakame's one man band

Saturday also happened to be International Talk-like-a-Pirate Day so there were plenty of pirates representing among us landlubbers. 
For $31, we enjoyed two Maine lobsters with drawn butter, cole slaw, potatoes, and a biscuit.

After lunch we headed over to the music stage to see what was going on. We had just missed a rock band that we could barely hear from where we were sitting. Next on the line-up for our musical enjoyment was a Mini Michael Jackson and Tiny Tina Turner!! I certainly wasn't expecting to hear Smooth Criminal and Proud Mary!


Think you missed your chance to savory some shellfish? Lucky for you, the Redondo Beach Lobster Festival will be held this weekend (September 25-27, 2009) at Seaside Lagoon, 200 Portofino Way, Redondo Beach, CA - 90277. For more information, go to

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NomNoms: Cafe Verona (Los Angeles dining)

When it comes to breakfast foods, I always find myself in the predicament of choosing something savory or something sweet. Cafe Verona definitely satisfies my desire for salt. I also love it's outdoor patio on a sunny Sunday morning. They also have a nice outside/inside patio under a canopy with lots of greenery and a little fountain. Cafe Verona has all of my must-haves: serene ambiance, a hidden gem, and wonderful food. The frittatas are like no other frittata I've had. I usually find them to be ugly and eggy messes but here they are like little breakfast pizzas and what can I say about the polenta. Polenta is such an easy dish to ruin but, here, it's light and creamy! Their coffee is not very good though. Even the waiter thinks so.

Frittata Verona - turkey sausage, eggplant, red pepper, zucchini,
and mozzarella with a side of sweet potato mash

Polenta con Uova - polenta with roasted tomato and two eggs

Cafe Verona
201 S. La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Friday, July 24, 2009

Weekend Getaways: Via Las Vegas

We drove south back towards what I thought would be Las Vegas. Matt was pretty tired from driving so much and as we approached the Vegas exit, he said that he would probably need me to take over driving in another hour. Then he exited the freeway! What a trickster! We were still gross from hiking and being in the car, so we immediately went to our hotel, The Hilton Grand Vacations Club. The hotel was pretty nice and since it was off the beaten path, not too crowded but it was far from most of the action. We got cleaned up and ordered room service. Matt had another surprise for me: chocolate and champagne!

We put on our fancy clothes and headed out for the night. Visited Planet Hollywood (tacky!), Paris (to get tickets to the Eiffel Tower. I found a 2-for-1 coupon in a brochure in the taxi cab. Go me! But I didn't want to go up until it was all lit up at night), Bellagio (to go to the Conservatory), Caesar's Palace (to wander around), and back to Paris (to go up the Eiffel Tower).

Paris fountain

Bellagio Conservatory

Eiffel Tower at night

Unfortunately, the wait to go up was around an hour and forty-five minutes and we had already decided to go to the Wynn Buffet. Matt looked up at least 5 different websites to see which buffet was the best in Vegas. The buffet closed at 11 pm and by the time we were done at the Eiffel Tower we would have had 30 minutes to eat, so we left and got a return pass for the next day. As we drove down the Strip, we enjoyed fireworks from the back seat of our cab. Not exactly as romantic as being on the top of the Tower!

The buffet was nice. It had the usual stuff like prime rib, crabs, desserts galore but there was a lot more meat than I expected.


By the time we finished dinner, the hoochies were out in full force. I was overwhelmed by skintight mini dresses. We visited the Encore which was equally as tacky as Planet Hollywood and then decided to hang out at the Parasol Lounge at the Wynn. Being outside on the patio on a balmy night was actually kind of nice. Little did we know that there was also entertainment on the patio. It was a multimedia extravaganza and also had a dancing and singing frog! It was the perfect ending of a wonderful day!

Important thing I learned during this trip: Matt cannot keep secrets from me.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Weekend Getaways: Emerald Pools Hike (Zion Natioanl Park)

On Saturday, which happened to be Independence Day, we awoke much later than I was expecting. When we went to Joshua Tree in May, the temperature in the tent was unbearable by 7 am, but for some reason, it was still nice and cool by 9. We had to pack up camp and move out of our site by 11, so we had a nice breakfast of bagels, bananas, and watermelon and were on our way.

We moved our car to the Visitors Center and hopped on the bus to Zion Lodge. Today's hike was going to be to the Emerald Pools. There are three pools along this 3-mile hike. I found it to be more strenuous than the previous day's because there was a bit of elevation gain and direct sun exposure.

To get to the trailhead, you have to cross a short footbridge over the river. Boy am I glad that we did The Narrows on Friday because this is what we would have been wading through after the night's downpour. Matt and I wanted to film a commercial for Hershey's chocolate milk!!

On the footbridge leading to the Emerald Pools trailhead

We wound up finishing the hike very quickly but there were still a ton of people on the trail. I was sort of happy to be leaving. It was still a very beautiful hike but it's difficult to really enjoy when there are bottlenecks of children and slow people. The pools were pretty but the waterfalls were just a trickle.

Upper Emerald Pool

At the Upper Pool

After completing the hike, we left the park and got coffee and breakfast from a cafe in town and then headed to this faux town that we had seen on the way in and promised to stop at on the way out.

Tourist trap


Then we were off to my next surprise!