Sunday, August 31, 2014

things that make me smile

This being played at the Hollywood Bowl on Labor Day weekend :)

I also love seeing this every year when the Star Wars theme is played. (But one note to many of the lightsaber-carrying audience members in attendance Friday night: The theme from "Superman" is not a "Star Wars" song ;) 

butterflies and dinosaurs and german fries - oh my!

So this past week a bunch of my friends had birthdays (HBD Niki, Dayna, Jodie, Shane, Barrett, anyone else I forgot), but only one (hi Katharine) decided her friends needed an educational experience as part of her celebration ;) 
So last Sunday, friends of Princess Katharine got up early, cursed slow people in the Starbucks drive-thru in front of them (ok, that was just me) and trekked down to the Natural History Museum to walk first amongst butterflies in the soon-to-close Butterfly Pavilion and then amongst dinosaurs and bunches of stuffed creatures auditioning for Night at the Museum 3. 

A lot of photos were, of course, taken... especially of pretty butterflies:

Then, inside the museum, this question was posed:

Well, this is the belly of a reeeeallllly big dinosaur suspended from the ceiling:

And these are two dinosaurs about to attack each other (well, if they were still alive ...)

Other important questions were also posed in the museum:

...but the exhibits there were real human skulls and stuffed real animals, which creep me out. So no photos of that. Sorry.

Instead, let's move onto lunch.

We were going to go to uber-hotspot-of-the-moment Eggslut in the Grand Central Market in downtown LA, but the line was half the length of the market (long-ways).

So instead we explored and got a variety of yummy stuff. I ended up at Berlin Currywurst, where I had a delish medium-heat brat, and german (don't dare call them french) fries:

Then we relived the birthday girl's childhood and got ice cream at McConnell's Fine Ice Creams. I, of course, had my fave: mint chocolate chip. It was delish!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

wine and cheese and jalepenos - oh my gawd!

In today's series of new-to-me places to hang out with good food and fun people, I present On the Thirty, a wine bar in Sherman Oaks, tucked into that super-busy strip mall between Van Nuys and Kester on Ventura Blvd. (You know, the one with the Lazer Tag place upstairs.) 

The atmosphere was fun and casual, and our waitress (who's name I can't remember) was awesome with wine recommendations, if not so awesome with remembering to bring everything we ordered (Umm... love the bacon-wrapped dates, but where are my truffle fries?!?) 

I was, however, impressed with our "mix & match" cheese & meat plate. You can choose a combo of 3, 5 or 7 meats and cheeses. We ordered two meats and told her what types of cheese we liked, then the "chef de fromage" selected three cheeses to compliment the meats. What you see below was the final result -- with olives, almonds, drizzles of honey and a side of jalepenos! Why have I never thought to have jalepenos with my non-nacho-plated cheese?!? Delish!

The only downside to the experience (other than having to ask where my truffle fries were) was the price tag. Eating lots of "small plates" (vs an entree) adds up quick. (Remember that if you go to Bottega Louie downtown. You've been warned.) 

It's much cheaper to go to Trader Joe's and copy the photo below... which I've done. So I would therefore like to thank On the Thirty for ruining my psuedo healthy summer eating plan. Since visiting this place, I've had wine, cheese, salame, crackers and jalepenos for dinner at home like four times recently. Ugh. Cheese is sooo good, but soooo bad. ;)

m street kitchen is mmmmm!

I ventured over the hill a few weeks ago for an early Sunday dinner in Santa Monica and discovered a delish new (at least to me!) spot on Main Street called M Street Kitchen

Located about two blocks up from the beach, it's got a comfy wrap-around patio if you want to sit outside (that's dog-friendly!) and has great happy hour specials from 4-6:30pm each day. We arrived early enough to order their yummy $3 sangria and guacamole as an appetizer before chowing down on this yumminess for dinner and dessert :)

Scottish Salmon with moroccan spices, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, tzatziki and arugula

Brussell sprouts salad with manchego cheese, almonds, berries and mustard vinaigrette

Warm chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream 

Then to work off the chocolate chip cookie, we walked down to the beach to check out the sunset... but being the west side, the cloud cover was already rolling in and kinda ruined the view... oh well. :)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

weekend morning hiking club

This summer, a few friends and I have decided to get back to working out outside, so we started a weekend morning hiking club (#wmhc :p) and have spent the last few Sunday mornings hiking two spots that were new to me, but still close to home.

If you have any recommendations for new trails to try, please leave them in the comments! 

Griffith Park / The Old LA Zoo

What I Like About This Hike: 

- Easy parking up the hill from the Griffith Park Carousel

- Not a lot of people, especially once you get past the Old Zoo/picnic area

- A good workout: We went two miles up to a "landing" area at the top of one of the fire roads which had some tough inclines along the way, reminiscent of the not-evil side of Runyon. So the total hike was four miles-ish (we walked in some big circles at the top and bottom to get to that nice number. LOL ;)

- Great views of both the Burbank/Glendale area as you ascend ...

...and the Silver Lake Reservoir and Downtown LA once you get to the top:

What I Don't Like About This Hike

- Not much shade at all once you leave the Old Zoo area.

- The Old Zoo is creepy.

Studio City/Fryman Canyon*

(*unofficial name.. the Betty B. Dearing trail in Wilacre Park is the official name.. I think)

What I Like About This Hike: 

- Easy parking either in the pay lot at the corner of Laurel Canyon and Fryman Road OR free in the neighborhoods around Laurel Terrace Dr. 

- Not a ton of people It's a busy trail, but nothing like Runyon.. and while dogs are allowed, this trail doesn't have the eternal odor of dog poo that Runyon has.

- The incline is right at the beginning, so you get your heart rate up first thing and can then chat, chill and enjoy the views the rest of the way.

- Lots of shade so you don't feel like the sun is trying to personally defeat you like I sometimes do after a few hills at Runyon. And the end of the trail dumps you out on a residential cul-de-sac where you can do your cool down on paved, shady streets while admiring lovely houses and picking up new landscaping ideas ;) 

What I Don't Like About This Hike

- It's only 3 miles. I love everything else about this hike, so I wish it was longer... although that is about the same length of the Runyon loop on the stairs side. (I don't think I will be fighting the parking and dog poo at Runyon again anytime soon... can you tell? ;) 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

oh hi ojai

So I've been wanting to go to Ojai, CA for years... ever since I read about the amazing Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in In Style Magazine a long,  long time ago.

While I haven't made it to my weekend getaway packed with wine and massages surrounded by lush green hills, today I did finally make it to Ojai, for the happens-once-a-year (usually on the hottest day of the year) Ojai Valley Lavender Festival.

Luckily, I was with friends who'd been to the festival before. So we left the San Fernando Valley for the hour or so drive north to the Ojai Valley at 8:30am and arrived just as the festival was opening at 10am. It's not a large event... it takes place in Libbey Park on Ojai Avenue and consists of about 40 booths with local artists and vendors. But once it hits about 11:30 the place is packed.

Since we arrived early, we were able to buy delicious lavender sugar cookies and pound cake before the Island Breeze Macaroons and More booth -- that makes lavender infused baked good just for the festival -- sold out (which they looked close to doing when we passed by again around noon on our way back to the car).  I'm enjoying one of the cookies right now with a cup of hot tea :)

I was also able to be choosy about the bunches of fresh lavender I bought (2 bunches for $9) from the Rivendell Aromatics booth, which was mobbed as we left.

My final lavender purchase of the day was lavender lemonade -- delish! The nice woman at the Lori's Original Lemonade booth even suggested mixing it with vodka to give it a kick. A woman after my own heart :)

At the festival, we also learned that owls are still trendy... at least at the Ojai Raptor Center, where they rehab and release birds of prey... like this real owl and hawk who were just hanging out, staring and being stared at all day.

(Sidenote: While I know they were there to educate people, I could've done without seeing the stuffed and mounted birds [or in some cases, just their big beautiful wings] in the booth :(   )

Once we were done walking the festival in about an hour, we did a little shopping across the street and enjoyed the small town feel a mere hour and a half from cray-cray LA.

It was amazing to see that people in town had already put out their folding lawn chairs along the main boulevard, claiming their spots for the 4th of July parade. And, while they were roped down/together so no one could walk off with them, I got the feeling that, except for all us out-of-towners-from-the-big-city, no one in Ojai would even think of doing such a thing.
We ended our day trip with lunch at a lovely local Italian restaurant, Boccali's, which had amazing cheese bread and pesto, and huge helpings of homemade lasagna and spaghetti with meat sauce and homemade meatballs. But the absolute BEST thing they had was homemade strawberry shortcake! The perfect way to end a day that started with things of my favorite color and ended with my favorite fruit/food on the planet :)