Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thanksgiving dinner for 2

We didn't have the resources to fly to New York to be with N's family for Thanksgiving, and I had just been up to San Francisco twice in the past month to see my family for my dad's 70th birthday and my sister's baby shower, so we decided to stay in the area for the holiday. I was hoping to rent a cabin for the weekend somewhere near Big Bear, but nothing budget-friendly really came up. 

We considered not cooking Thanksgiving dinner and going out for Korean BBQ, but tradition prevailed and we got an 11 lb turkey from the grocery store (the smallest they had). This was N's first time ever cooking a turkey. I had a terrible experience undercooking a turkey a few years ago, so I kept nagging him to make sure it was cooked all the way through. His first priority, though, was making sure to not overcook the breast meat. He pulled out the bird from the oven when the breast meat was done and he was overly worried that he had overcooked it, but when it came time to carve, the dark meat was completely undone. Then I had a good time saying "toldya so" to him.

No harm done though, the dark meat went back into the oven and we ate the breast! N made the bird, stuffing, and mashed potatoes and gravy, and I made the cranberry sauce, yams, and green beans:


Clippers-Knicks

I came across a Travelzoo deal for $10 tickets to a couple upcoming Clippers games and asked N if he was interested. It turned out that stubhub actually had tickets for more interesting games for even cheaper, so we ended up going to the Staples Center a couple weeks ago to watch the Clippers go up against N's precious New York Knicks.


Even though our tickets were $2 each, parking cost $20! We were in some super nosebleed-y seats, though...I think we were in the second row from the tippy top of the entire stadium. It was slightly vertiginous. 

This was the first time I had been to the Staples Center and I was pretty impressed with how new and clean and modern it was. We cheered for the Knicks and they ended up winning easily. There were a few Knicks fans around us, which I was surprised by. 

I didn't know a thing about the Clippers until we attended this game. I learned their star player is a rookie named Blake Griffin and that he's pretty fantabulous. He had a couple of almost riot-inducing slam dunks during the game and also scored over 40 points, which was a career high for him. I wanted to find out more about him so I read his Wikipedia entry on my Droid during the game, which I think makes me a huge nerd.

AFI Film Fest

In early November, N and I went to a few screenings at the AFI Film Fest. The best part of this specific film festival is that all the tickets are FREE! And you can get them online pretty easily...as long as you stalk the website and order them the instant they become available. But that's still much better than waiting for hours in line somewhere or entering a lottery, I think.

N did the web stalking and got tickets to tons of the screenings. I only ended up going to 3, though. There was an inordinately high proportion of Korean films in their offerings (I'm guessing due to the population of LA?), and I ended up going to 2 of those, plus 1 French film which was completely bonkers. It was about a tire (yes--like the ones that are on your car) that goes around murdering people by exploding their heads off. The beginning was actually pretty clever in a meta-ish kind of way, and then it just went downhill from there.

The Korean films I watched were both done by the pretty famous director Hong Sang-soo (Hahaha and Oki's Movie). The only other Hong Sang-soo film I've seen is Woman is the Future of Man, and I don't remember a single thing about it. In fact, I thought that I hadn't seen it until N claimed that we had watched it together a few years ago. So, apparently, I did see it. If you can trust N.

After watching Hahaha and Oki's Movie I concluded that I really dislike Hong Sang-soo's films. It was actually a double feature so we watched them back to back, which I'm sure did not help. By the end of Oki's Movie I was in a bad mood and wanted out of the theater. The films were filled with men who drink too much, become pathetic, and whine endlessly about women. Wow. Sooo uninteresting. Lots of whiny women in them, too.

Anyway, the AFI Film Fest is definitely a great benefit to living in LA. It has tons of free screenings, and they are all in the heart of Hollywood in famous theaters. Will definitely be going again next year...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Spider pavilion

In October, the Natural History Museum had a special outdoor exhibit called the spider pavilion. It was a greenhouse-y type structure with mesh walls and celings that had a ton of free roaming spiders in it. When I heard about it, I knew I *had* to go. Spiders (especially their web-making abilities) are sooo fascinating. Here's a pretty big one, about the size of my hand:


The webs were above pathways, across pathways, in trees, on walls...everywhere! It was pretty neat. There were also a few butterflies that people watched breathlessly as they somehow flew around without getting tangled in any of the webs. Another shot of one above our heads:


We chatted it up with one of the museum workers, and they said each morning one of them had to go into the pavilion and clear the paths of new webs that sprung up overnight. The museum also had a neat bug exhibit inside where we saw some pretty crazy looking beetles and the like. We looked around the rest of the museum, too, but no museum in any city can live up to the ones in Chicago. I can't believe how much better the museums are in Chicago than everywhere else...okay, I guess the Louvre and the Met beat the Art Institute, but overall Chicago's museums are really great.

bouchon pic

Sunday, November 28, 2010

October: The official birthday month

Connie, Mia, and I (friends from high school) all have our birthdays in October. So every year, we try to get together sometime during the month, which is quite a feat since we haven't all lived in the same state since 2001. We've been scattered between California, Illinois, and New York in various configurations for the last several years. This year, though, we met in LA and Connie (and her fiance Brian) flew in from NYC and Mia from Berkeley to have a whirlwind weekend.

A few weeks ago I had randomly bought tickets through Groupon for hydrobike rentals in Long Beach. I had never heard of hydrobikes, but they seemed like a fun and easy weekend activity to do someday. Luckily, Mia and Connie were interested so we drove down to Long Beach to ride em:


They were basically bikes attached to flotation devices. Pedaling spun some blades underwater that chugged you along. The day was gray and almost rainy, which was sad. But it was still a fun ride!


Later on we fancied it up with dinner at Bouchon in Beverly Hills. The mushroom salad was the star of the night, but everything was pretty good. I do have major complaints about service, though--we had a reservation and we still waited for 30 minutes before they were able to seat us. Then they sat us at the most terrible table in the house; it was literally right behind the hostess stand and in the middle of the most concentrated foot traffic. That table really shouldn't have existed at all. It didn't even feel like we were *in* the restaurant...we were kind of on the outskirts of it. Or maybe in the middle of the exit. I'm not someone who complains about service a lot, but when you're spending that much money I demand SOMEthing.

But anyway, it was about the company, right? It was great seeing the girls again, and props to Connie and Brian for taking that 6 hour flight back and forth just for a two-day weekend! Happy birthdays to us...

Lithuanian Fair

In early October, N and I went to the Annual Lithuanian Fair. I really had no idea what to expect--I don't know anything about Lithuanian culture, but I thought it was so interesting that there's enough Lithuanians in LA to have a large fair every year. It was held at a church not too far from our apartment. There were craft tables for kids where they could make flower garlands and do a May pole-ish kind of dance. But, of course, I was there for the food:


Top: potato pancakes with fruit compote and sour cream; bottom left: sausage, sauerkraut, pickles, and boiled potatoes; and bottom right: pierogies topped with bacon and sour cream. Lesson learned: Lithuanian food almost always comes with sour cream, no matter what it is. 

But the biggest part of the fair, by far, was the beer. The crowd was pretty rowdy by the time N and I left! There was a stage with live entertainment and singers, but most of it was in Lithuanian so we had no idea what was going on. 

Another note--I believe this fair is the only time that we were the only Asians/racial minorities in sight since we've moved to LA. The crowd was definitely pale skinned, blond haired, and tall and willowy. Not surprising, I guess!

catch up: the boiling crab

I had a craving for crab for a really long time, so N and I finally went to the Boiling Crab in Alhambra to be rid of it (this was back in September). I had heard it gets insanely crowded during dinner time, so I figured if we went at the very beginning of the dinner hour we'd be okay. We arrived at 4:50pm, and we ended up waiting an HOUR AND A HALF! It was insane. If I wasn't craving crab so badly, I would never have waited that long.

The Boiling Crab is a crazy restaurant where you order shrimp, crayfish, and crab by the pound, and they serve it to you in a plastic bag. There's various seasonings you can get on your seafood, but the agreed upon best flavor to get is "the whole sha-bang" which is a combination of all of their seasonings in one big mixture. It's salty, spicy, cajun-y, and just really, really good. The tables are covered with a shiny wax paper and each party gets an entire roll of paper towels since you eat everything with your hands there:


We got king crab legs, shrimp, and sweet potato fries. Once you get your plastic bag full of seafood, you dump it out straight onto the table and go at it. The shrimp come shell on, so it is impossible to be neat about it. 

It was good. Really, really good. But could I ever justify that wait again? I don't know. There were plenty of people doing carry-out, so maybe that's the way to go...if you could cover your home dining table with paper.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

so behind

I have so many things to write about, but no time to do it...

...in other news, it is NINETY-SIX degrees here and it's November! California is so crazy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

hiking the Hollywood sign

I've been wanting to hike up to the Hollywood sign since I was back in NYC, and with N's parents in town we finally decided to do it. We followed the directions in the handy guidebook Take a Hike and they were very clear and accurate. That book is a pretty valuable resource.


One thing I have to learn, though, is that whenever a guidebook lists a hike as "easy," that actually means "medium." In my mind, "easy" means "no effort whatsoever." But I guess that wouldn't really be a hike then, would it? It would be...a walk, I guess.

The Hollywood sign hike had some parts with a good incline to it, but the path was always flat and easy to navigate (no rocks or streams or anything like that to maneuver). The most challenging part was that there was little to no cover, so the sun just beats down on you and there's nowhere to hide. Every time we passed any patch of shade Stewie would immediately lay down in it.

Here's a view from behind the sign--this is the closest we could get to it; there are fences and motion detectors and supposed crazy amounts of security to prevent people form defacing the sign:


Stewie ended up getting the best view out of all of us at the peak:


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Santa Barbara

A couple weekends ago, it was N's parents' turn to visit us in LA (which is how we all ended up on the Tonight Show). We also took a great drive up the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu, Oxnard, and Ventura, and stopped several times along the way to check out the various towns/views/beaches. N's parents rented a convertible while they were here so we drove the whole way with the top down, which was FUN.


A pic of N and Stewie on a beach in Malibu:


We ended up spending the night in Santa Barbara.
I had only heard great things about Santa Barbara (UC Santa Barbara is supposed to have the most beautiful campus out of all the UCs) and it lived up to the hype. It was just really pretty. That's all I can really say. While we were there, we went to the Arroyo Burro State Beach where dogs are allowed off-leash. Not only was it a fantastic dog beach, it was beautiful in its own right. Here's a video of Stewie getting used to the water there (those are my flip-flops I was holding in my hand on the left):


A little crab we spotted on the beach at Arroyo Burro:



missed the tonight show?

You can see us right at the beginning of this clip when the camera zooms out from Prince Poppycock...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

*newsflash*

On the Tonight Show this evening, you'll clearly be able to see Nick, his dad, and his mom when the Ross Report starts. All three of them are sitting on aisle seats (in three successive rows) when Ross and a big patriotic sequined clown descend the steps in the audience. I'm across the aisle from Nick, but I think I tried to hide myself so there's probably just a glimpse of me :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

LA's Annual Greek Fest

Yesterday, N and I went to the LA Greek Fest for dinner. I read about it on LAist in the morning, and since it's pretty close to where we live we headed over without knowing much about it. And it turned out to be GREAT!

First off, the place was very organized and extremely well-run. There were tons of working volunteers and all of the signs and lines were super clear, which we really appreciated. When we walked in, I saw a man pass by holding a container of fries topped with grilled mini lamb chops, and I knew I must have them. N got some moussaka (which was okay) and spanikopita (which was REALLY good) and I got my mini chops with tzatziki sauce and fries sprinkled with feta cheese. The chops were more well done than I prefer, but for a big crowd they we
re cooked very well. And the grilled char on them...so yummy. Our eyes were so big from seeing so much good food we just downed it before I even remembered to take a photo of it all.


The proceeds from the festival benefited the Saint Sophia Cathedral (in the photo above), which made it easier to spend money at. Tom Hanks and his wife were the celebrity hosts for the event--who knew Tom was Greek? There was a lot of music and dancing on stage. Everywhere you walked you'd hear a random, "Opa!!"

I had heard a lot of great things about the loukomathes, which are something like Greek donuts covered with honey. N and I shared a Greek coffee and got our
loukomathes topped with cinnamon and chopped walnuts. They were heavenly:


At that point, we were completely stuffed, but I hadn't gotten to try everything I wanted to. So we stopped by the pastry table and got a piece of baklava and a piece of galatobouriko to try later at home.
Sadly, the one thing I missed that I really wanted was the saganaki. I love me some flaming salty cheese.

I did try both the baklava and the
galatobouriko by now. The baklava was hands-down the best baklava I've ever had! I think all the pastries were cooked by the cathedral volunteers. The baklava had a great homey taste to it, the honey was not overpowering, and the nuts in it were especially caramelized. I think most of the baklava I've had in my life so far has been prepackaged and whatnot...although it's good, it tends to be overly sweet with a strange preservative-y aftertaste to it. I had never had galatobouriko before (filo dough filled with a custard), and it was equally as good.

I love Greek food!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Point Dume, Malibu

I hit a wall with my blog posts for awhile, but I'm trying to get back into it. Been overly busy and exhausted lately.

My parents were in town last weekend. At my coworker's suggestion (thanks Kevin), N and I decided to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu with them to go to Point Dume. It was the first time since we've moved here that we've driven the PCH despite hearing so many great things about it, and it was truly amazing. A fantastic drive...we passed so many beautiful beaches and cliff sides. Along the way, we stopped at a small restaurant called Plate for lunch. My parents are really into health food nowadays, so I decided to go there since it serves "earthy California cuisine." It has four stars on Yelp, but I had really low expectations for it. It seemed like one of those ubiquitous organic/local/Los Angeles-y/produce-centered spots that I was fairly certain wouldn't be terrible, but was also sure wouldn't be notable in any way. Even the decor in the place was totally predictable. But, I have to say, the food was shockingly good. Everything was cooked and prepped extremely well. It served typical American fare; I ended up getting a BLTA (a BLT with avocado) with a side of sweet potato fries, and they were the best sweet potato fries I've ever had. Thinly sliced, crisp and light, not greasy, with the perfect amount of sea salt on them. Everyone really enjoyed their meals and my parents really loved it. It's also not overpriced, which sealed the deal for a very good lunch.

Anyway, we eventually got to Point Dume. There's free spots for about 10 cars to park where the trail begins (2 hour limit), and the best bet is to just idle there until one of them leaves, which is what we did. The next place to park is at the beach for $10, which was completely packed when we went and also so far away that it required a shuttle ride to get to the trail from.

We first descended a pretty steep sandy trail followed by a really steep staircase to get to the tide pool area. Sadly, it was high tide when we arrived so we couldn't see any starfish or the like. But the rocks and ocean were still fantastic to see and wade through. Then we climbed back up and followed the circular trail around the top of Point Dume, which is a rocky cliff that juts out straight into the ocean. The views were spectacular and the drop off the cliff is straight down. At one point we spotted a couple sea lions balancing on a single rock jutting out of the water way down below. N took this photo of me and my parents near the top of the cliff:


We also drove past Pepperdine University in Malibu on the way. My mom summed it up by saying, "I don't think any of the students here study." That campus is truly situated in paradise.

Meanwhile, it was Stewie's 5th birthday on Sept 2. Happy belated birthday to him! We've had him for a little over 1.5 years at this point. Now he's the oldest in our little 3-person family...in dog years, at least.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

LA Film Festival

Back in June, N and I attended a few screenings at the LA Film Festival. I've been putting off blogging about it for awhile (I really don't know why), but now the time as come! Here's the grand list:
  • Cyrus (this one hit most regular theaters...a comedy with John C. Reily, Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei)
  • Cane Toads: The Conquest (in 3D...a strange and fascinating documentary on the toads that are taking over Australia)
  • The Hand in the Trap (a great 1961 Argentinian film)
  • The Seven Madmen (a not-so-great 1973 Argentinian film)
N watched a couple more on top of those during the week. Cyrus actually premiered at the festival and we happened to attend that specific screening. There was red carpet, really annoying security guards who seemed convinced I was paparazzi, and lots of celebs. Half of the theater was reserved seating for those in The Biz. John C. Reily, Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei sat in the row in front of us. Seth Rogen and a few others sat to the right of us. I could have reached out and touched them! But I didn't.

The cast did a short and awkward Q&A after the screening. Here's my extremely poor photographic proof:

I was struck by how very different the LA Film Festival was from the New York Film Festival...and how the way they differ follows the stereotypes of both cities. The LA Film Festival featured a lot of Hollywood blockbuster films and actors...the energy of the festival was young, glitzy and energetic. The New York Film Festival shows serious art films that usually don't get distribution, and the crowd consists of either young film snobs chuckling at some inside film joke or old rich ladies who attend every cultural showing in Manhattan, regardless of what it is. It's a pretty solemn and serious event.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

corn festival and sichuan food

Last weekend N and I went to the Corn Festival in La Habra, about an hour drive's east of us. It was listed in AAA's Westways magazine (that I mentioned in my last post) in their "5 worth the drive" section. It was a very small, very local festival located in a suburban area, and this year was their 62nd annual corn festival! I thought they'd have (or I hoped they'd have) a lot of corn-based foods to eat, but they didn't have anything corn-y aside from corn on the cob. We still ate ribs, hot wings and horchata, though. I tried to get N to get on one of the carnival rides with me but he wussed out big time.


After the fair we watched The Kids Are Alright, which was pretty darn awesome. Who knew that Mark Ruffalo could act??

I had been craving Sichuan food for quite awhile and I got a suggestion from one of the student workers in my office to head to a restaurant called Yun Chuan Garden in Monterey Park. It was DAMN GOOD. N and I had a tiny Sichuan restaurant by us in Brooklyn which I ended up ordering from about once a month. Nothing can substitute for Sichuan food! I looooove the flavor of sichuan peppercorns, and once I'm craving them, I must have them!! Here's one of the great dishes we had...I believe it's generally called Chong Qing Chicken in Chinese restaurants...it's battered and deep fried bits of spicy, spicy chicken. YUM:




Sunday, August 1, 2010

things i like nowadays

  1. Couponing. I follow a lot of bargain hunting/couponing blogs, but I could never really take advantage of the deals they posted because most coupons still come in print (even though you can get some online). Then I came across a fantastic deal for Sunday delivery of the LA Times--only $9.88 for one full year. I figure I can easily make back the $9.88 through coupons over the next year, so we now get Sunday newspaper delivery. For some reason I really enjoy getting the newspaper delivered to my doorstep on weekends. It's nice to laze about the day before another workweek starts and flip through the paper. The LA Times isn't that great, but I do get a kick out of getting much better coupons now.

  2. Teaching Stewie new tricks. We always thought Stewie was a bit unteachable when it came to tricks (he's not the quickest dog in the world), and he is pretty picky when it comes to treats...he just won't eat some. He also doesn't really respond to praise or affection. But we finally came across a treat that he goes crazy over and that we feel okay feeding him regularly (dehydrated chicken breast), and I think he's gotten comfortable with us enough that his little brain can now take in new information. He's learned how to shake hands and how to stand up on his hind legs on command. Now I'm trying to teach him how to spin.

  3. The AAA Westways Magazine. N's parents got us a membership to AAA now that we are car-owning folk. It's already proven very useful after Stewie locked himself in the car with the keys when we were filling up at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Besides that, we started receiving their Southern California-specific magazine "Westways." It has a very comprehensive list of events for the following two months, and most of them are very interesting to me. For instance, this upcoming weekend is the US Open Sandcastle competition along with the La Habra Corn Festival. Although I would really love to go to the sandcastle contest, it's so far south it's almost at Tijuana. Hopefully we'll make it to the corn festival, though.

  4. Carrot juice. It's sold at Costco in 3-bottle packs, organic, with no other ingredients besides carrots. It is completely refreshing, slightly sweet, and oh-so satisfying.

  5. The X-Files. Having Netflix streaming allows for some really great old-TV episode viewing. It has the entire X-Files series on it...I remember loving the few episodes I watched when I was little and also being absolutely terrified by them. I first tried to watch all the episodes in succession, but then I decided to cut it down to the mythology episodes (which there are still a ton of). I still have about 15 mythology episodes to go until the series finale. I wish there were shows like the X-Files on nowadays.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

i'm famous!

http://www.slate.com/id/2260826

Yes! That's me! Debra in Los Angeles!

I submitted that question to My Goodness at Slate because it seemed to be very similar to the kind of questions they post on that column. I find it hilarious that N became the issue when he really had barely anything to do with it at all.

Here's my original worded email to them, if you are curious:

Hello,

I've donated in the past to various charities, and I must be on some mailing list of some kind because I constantly receive letters in the mail asking for donations (from organizations I've never heard of) and they include a sheet of personally printed return labels with them using my address. Since I am just uninterested in some of these group's causes, I use the return labels for my personal mail and toss out the rest of the letter without donating. My boyfriend jokingly pokes fun of me because of this, but I'm pretty sure he'd rather have me not use the labels and just throw them in the garbage. No one else can use them since they have my address on them. Sometimes the labels have the name of the organization on them, and then I think I am just perpetuating a lie since the recipient of the mail may assume I have supported the organization. It's a small but everyday kind of problem. What should I do?

Thanks.

Monday, July 5, 2010

stewie and ocean

here's a pretty boring video of N and Stewie on Carmel Beach:

cherry pickin'

I heard there's U-pick cherry farms around LA awhile ago and I've been waiting for the season to start ever since. We finally drove up north to Leona Valley (where there's several cherry farms) to go picking this past Saturday, about an hour north of where we live in Hollywood. Cherry season is usually only the first two weeks of June, but this year the season extended all the way to July so we lucked out! The rainier cherries were pretty much all gone, but there were a ton of bing cherries left for picking.

Here's N on top of a ladder picking some bings:


Here's some heart-shaped cherries N gathered for me:


I've never been cherry picking before, and it was pretty fun...especially having to climb up ladders and getting to stick your head straight up into the trees where you're surrounded by cherries. They were super ripe, so they came off their stems very easily (and the weather was PERFECT). The farm we went to didn't use any pesticides and somehow the fruit was pristine. And SO sweet.

On the drive back, we passed a sign that said "The Falls" so we pulled over. There was a little hidden waterfall among the trees. The neighborhood fire department was there with their truck handing out slap bracelets to kids and thanking people for being fire-safe (as in...not having any live fires going).

Saturday, July 3, 2010

wedding photo booth

The photo booth at my brother's wedding was fun since they had a chest full of wacky hats/jewelry/glasses/costume-y type things to use as props for your photos.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

wedding weekend

My brother's wedding was this past weekend. I can truly say it was a very good wedding--the best one I've been to so far! N and I were busy helping prep/set up for the event a few days before, and we also took care of the rehearsal dinner (which was 90% taken care of by Costco). All went well, and I don't think I've seen my brother happier.

I'm sure many photos from the wedding will appear on facebook, so I won't cover that here. N and I did grab brunch with my sister and brother-in-law in downtown Carmel on Sunday before we drove back down to LA, though. We had a nice meal at one of the tons of dog-friendly restaurants there (which we needed since we had Stewie with us and my sister and bro-in-law had their puppy Yooni with them!). The restaurant brought out a water bowl and a plate of biscuits for the two pups, which was cute.

Afterwards we walked down to the Carmel beach, which is supposed to be one of the best dog-friendly beaches in the country. It's also stunning--100% white sand, people surfing on the water, dogs splashing around leash-free. It was the first time we ever brought Stewie to a beach, and I'm pretty sure it's the first time in his life he ever got to be on a beach off leash. He went crazy! He was sooooo happy. He blitzed all around the sand and accidentally kicked some onto the heads of some sleeping women on a blanket and woke them up. I profusely apologized but once they realized it was Stewie that did it they were very amused. He had a blast. I think it's the happiest N and I have ever seen him.



Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hey Baby

Saw this on a blog several days ago. If you're a woman who's ever walked through a big city, you know the rage that boils up in you when you're cat-called, heckled, or otherwise harassed? Now there's an outlet for all that anger.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

toothpaste update

So I thought I found my dream toothpaste--Tom's of Maine fennel paste. When I read about it, I thought it was perfect--fennel (licorice) flavored, WITH flouride, but WITHOUT SLS (some chemical that makes toothpaste foamy--I don't have any specific problems with it, but why use it if I don't need it?), and NO artificial sweeteners. And it had some sort of natural abrasive for whitening, which I thought could be great. Regular whitening chemicals make my teeth hurt. A lot.

Although most stores carry Tom's of Maine products now, I couldn't find any drug stores or grocery stores that had this *specific* toothpaste in it. So I resorted to ordering a couple tubes online from drugstore.com (while also strategically ordering other products we needed to make sure I got free shipping. I never order stuff online unless I get free shipping!).

Two big things about this toothpaste: It is barely licorice-y at all. It tastes like nothing. And secondly, although it doesn't taste like anything specific, it is SWEET. I mean, I guess it's not sweet compared to your regular Colgate and Crest products (in fact it's probably much less sweet than those), but for a product that has "no artificial sweeteners," it is tooth-achingly sweet. I'm sure I'm biased because I've been using the fennel toothpaste from Trader Joe's for the past few weeks and it's only the slightest bit sweet, but when I first put this in my mouth it tasted disgustingly candy-like. And the fact that it didn't have any fake sugar in it made me think...is there REAL sugar in this instead?? How can it possibly be this sweet without any fake sugar in it???

Of course, the ingredient list doesn't include SUGAR or CORN SYRUP on it or anything. But it does list "natural flavorings" which makes me suspicious. Hey...just because they're not sprinkling refined white sugar into this toothpaste, it doesn't mean there's no sugar in there. And just because it's not sugar on its own doesn't mean it's okay to brush your teeth with. I'm pretty sure whatever germs cause my cavities wouldn't reject naturally occurring sugar because they prefer refined sugar. I mean...I wouldn't brush my teeth with 100% fruit juice with fluoride added to it, right?

So I'm a bit torn. What's worse? Brushing your teeth with no flouride, or brushing your teeth with flouride+sugar? I've been trying to force myself to get used to this Tom's toothpaste, but I don't know if I can get over the sweetness that I know is real sugar. It also doesn't freshen the breath at all since the fennel is so weak. Luckily, Tom's of Maine has a great satisfaction guarantee where they'll refund the price of all their products and even pay for shipping back to them. I may end up taking them up on that offer.

Friday, June 18, 2010

goodbye, bus

Well..I survived almost 3.5 weeks of commuting on the Metro bus in Los Angeles. But this past Thursday...I hit the end of my rope. Maybe it was one too many fistfights (I saw ANOTHER one just a few days after the one I blogged about--where a man shoved around a woman!), one too many smelly homeless people, several too many buses packed to the ceiling with passengers, or possibly the many, many hours spent on traveling just 8 miles.

That's it. No more bus for me. I bit the bullet and paid for an annual parking pass at UCLA. And since we only have one car, N's taking the subway into work now (all the trains go into downtown). We'll see how his experience goes.

For awhile I made myself forget that public transportation was one of the main reasons why I wanted to leave NYC in the first place. I know it's better for the environment, it saves money, etc., etc....but ohmygoodness, I just can't relax when I'm on it. It's just constant stress. To me, public trans = stress. And riding the 60 minutes to work and then the 60+ minutes back just felt like I was tacking on another 120+ minutes to my workday. I didn't have that "Ah, a workday accomplished!" feeling of relief once 4:30pm (when I get out of work) hit. I had that "ugh...now I have to wait 20 minutes for the bus" gray cloud settle over me. Then that cloud would start raining once the 6' 6" guy standing next to me on the bus stepped on my feet over and over again. By the time I'd get home, I'd be in a bad mood.

But heading over to my car at the end of the day...that is true relief. I'm in my own space, I can recline the seat to a comfortable position and go home speeding all the way if I want to. Not that I do, I just could. If I wanted.

lakers

Lakers won last night. N was all excited since he's never lived in a city/state with a winning basketball team before. Poor, poor N.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

the best meals of my life

Yesterday, I had one of the best meals of my LIFE. And it cost me $5.50. And came in a Styrofoam box. Thank you, Dino's, for this majesty:


There have been a few times in the past when the stars aligned and I ate something that completely floored me. It usually happens like this: A mouthful goes in, a billion sparks go off in my brain and I think, "Is that as good as I think it is???" I take another bite, the same sparks go off, and I think "Ohmygod--it is. It really is." One more: "THIS IS THE BEST EFFING THING EVERRRR." And the rest of the meal goes by in a timeless blur and I completely forget what is going on around me. A nuclear bomb could go off and I don't think I'd notice.

I'd call it a near out of body experience. And it's not just the food that makes the moment happen. I have to be in the right mood, with the right cravings, the right level of hunger, and in the right environment to gorge myself, and then it might happen. Meaning that the next time I eat this Styrafoam boxed chicken, it won't nearly be as awesome as the first time. And that certainly doesn't mean the chicken isn't good. It's good. Really good. It's just that nothing compares to the first time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

LA public trans update

I have to make major modifications to my previous post on riding the Metro in LA.

1) The bus gets CROWDED. I was running late a couple mornings, and by 7am the bus is totally slammed. As long as I am running on time (which means getting on the bus at 6:30 or earlier) it's pretty empty. It doesn't help that the line I take passes a high school, so lots of students use the bus.

2) The bus is usually filled with a group of older Hispanic ladies who all take the bus at the same time, know each other, sit together and chat in Spanish, and all get off at the stop in Beverly Hills where all the driveways are private and gated. Somehow I don't think they live there...

3) Unlike NYC, very few people on the bus are listening to ipods, mp3 players, etc. 90% of people just stare off into space during the ride.

4) I got a subsidized monthly TAP pass from work, so now I pay 72 cents/ride.

5) There are few enough buses that run so that I know I'm going to get 1 of 2 drivers when I ride in the mornings and in the evenings back. Maybe we'll become BFFs! ;)

6) Public trans here is not void of the same kind of craziness that happens in NYC. The other day a fistfight broke out between two men right in front of me. Luckily it didn't get too intense. It was pretty funny seeing all the older Hispanic ladies yelling at the men saying "shut up! sit down! stop that!" at them. Somehow, I don't think the men were listening.

bichon frise upkeep

Stewie just went to the groomer. I knew when we first got him over a year ago that keeping his coat clean would be a challenge--all the stuff I read about bichon frises said that you had to brush their coat everyday to prevent mats. I thought that was an exaggeration, but I was wrong. Very wrong. I think Stewie's coat needs to be brushed at least twice a day to keep it 100% free of mats and tangles. I'm Stewie's self-appointed hair stylist...mostly because it drives me nuts if I see any kink in his coat. I'm constantly brushing hm, cutting his hair, pulling grass seed and burrs out of his fur, cleaning the tear stains on his face etc., etc. It's actually a pretty good outlet for me to funnel all my obsessive habits toward.

It's not a burden to me, but N says I spend a lot of time doing it, and I think all my efforts barely make him acceptable-looking. We bring him to the groomer a few times a year, and despite all of my efforts, every time we bring him there they had to shave him almost 100% naked to get rid of the mats that he had.

UNTIL this past time! I finally learned how to brush him thoroughly enough (it involves a combination of a slicker brush, metal toothed comb, mat remover, dried chicken treats, a solid 30 minutes of time, N holding him in place, and Stewie's Nylabone to let his frustrations out on) and the groomer was able to just give him a trim instead of a shave! Now he looks so
shockingly puffy, white, and cartoony that every time I walk him every person that sees him has to comment on his whiteness, cleanness, or prettiness. He's a marshmallow! And I am triumphant.

Before:


After:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

a fantastic thing about our apartment

We don't have to separate our recyclables--the building pays the waste company to separate it for us. So our trash is recycled, but we don't have to think about it! We don't have to have 3 separate containers for trash, plastic, and paper, and since our one trash can is now padded with plastic and paper it gets tossed out very regularly and never reaches the point where it smells. Awesome.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Grunion Run

This past memorial weekend, N and I got to do something I've been looking forward to for the last year: watch a grunion run.

Grunion are small ~6" long fish that are native to Southern California. They have this crazy mating habit where each year they come to southern california beaches on nights of full or new moons and ride a high-tide wave onto the sand. Females bury their tails into the sand just so their head is sticking out and lay their eggs 2"-3" deep while several males swarm all over her fertilizing them. Then the female flops out of the hole, and the fish wait laying on the sand until the next big wave brings them back to the water.

They come out in huge droves. And since they follow the moon, it can be pretty precisely predicted exactly what spring/summer nights they'll show up. N and I drove down to Cabrillo Beach (about 45 min south of us) at 10pm on Sunday night to catch the 11:05pm-1:05am run.


We'd never been to Cabrillo Beach before and all we knew was that the Grunion tend to run at the ends of the beach. So we brought flip flops and flashlights and wandered our way around the park. We saw a few folk gathering at one end of the beach, but we decided to try the opposite end. We had to climb over a good 10' rock wall to get to the sand, but it was sooooo worth it.

The grunion didn't like lights very much (they'd avoid us if we left our flashlights on for too long), so I only got one clear photo with flash:



And here's a photo of a new mom next to the hole she just laid her orange eggs in and flopped out of. It looks like the roe my parents eat in their Korean food. Yum.


And here it is in all its video recorded glory!:



It was so neat. Except the part where a wave came in and I didn't get out of the way fast enough, so a huge swarm of grunions swam into my feet. That was pretty gross.

the wheels on the bus

I've taken the LA Metro buses to work for a full week now. As with most public transportation, I only had a general idea of what bus to get on and when, so I certainly ended up taking a few unexpected detours and arrived at the office super early or really late sometimes.

And, as with most public transportation, it takes about twice as long to get to work than driving in a car. Which is a big drag. I try to go to bed at 9pm now, which is my sister's bedtime that I once scoffed about. What was she, some kind of senior citizen or 3-year-old? I guess I am now, too.

A few basic notes:
  1. Fare costs $1.25 (much less than NYC's $2.25). Just like the MTA in NYC, you need exact fare in cash (unless you have a card, called TAP cards here). Unlike the buses in NYC, you can't just dump your change down the slot. The coins have to be dropped in one by one.
  2. The buses are standard--very similar to the MTA's. When you want to get off, you pull the cord. The big thing that has NYC beat is that all the buses have automated recorded voice announcements that play telling passengers what intersection is coming up, so you always know where you are
  3. The bus drivers are all super friendly. Not one hasn't said "good morning!" to me when I got on. And the majority of the time, that's followed by a "And how are you??"
  4. The buses are all equipped with two screens that play trivia, news facts, etc (above). Too bad I can't look at them without getting car sick.
  5. The buses don't run that frequently. Sometimes I wait up to 20 minutes for the next one to come around.
  6. Even during rush hour, the bus is rarely full, but maybe that's just my line.
Except for the longer commute, it's a very pleasant ride. It stops right in front of my apartment and drops me off at UCLA. Right now, N's temp job doesn't have a clear ending date (if it ends at all), so I'm not sure how much longer I'll be riding. But one of the good perks of my job is that I get 50% off monthly bus passes, which would cut down our spending a lot.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

saturday morning



lunch

let me show off to you what N packed me for lunch today:


It may look a little haphazard, but let me tell you what's in it...which are some of my favorite things in the world...
  • roasted beets in balsamic vinegar
  • braised brussels sprouts (which are SO good)
  • green olives
  • sweet and spicy pickles
  • tomatoes
  • hard boiled egg
  • lightly steamed broccoli
  • chicken from the deli counter
  • goat cheese
  • sliced almonds
  • crumbled bacon
  • fresh mushrooms
  • shredded carrots
  • and, of course, spinach
  • all topped off with a from-scratch lemon mustard vinaigrette
be jealous. very, very jealous.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

toothpaste

I'm exploring a world I've never explored before...the world of toothpaste. Exciting, I know!

When I went through all my dental work, my teeth were so sensitive that the regular toothpaste I used hurt SO much I couldn't stand it. N and I started using only Arm & Hammer toothpaste a long time ago (before my teeth started hurting, I thought it was awesome). I guessed it was the mint in it--that cold, tingling sensation--that really caused the pain. It was an impressively intense pain. So I went on a search for mint-free toothpaste.

We happened to be going to Trader Joe's the next day (we go there regularly to stock up on their brown rice milk...it's full of fiber, not expensive, and doesn't taste like "water with white in it" like regular rice milk does), and we stopped to look at their toothpaste. They have two kinds of "all-natural" toothpaste--peppermint (ew) and fennel/propolis/myrrh (wha?).

Anyway, I decided to try the myrrh kind out. An extra bonus was that it had no added sweeteners, and I always felt like regular toothpaste was too sweet for me. I fully expected it to taste like crap instead of sweet, but it doesn't! It actually tastes...good! It's altogether a neutral flavor with just a hint of sweetness from whatever else they put in there (the myrrh?). The licorice scent to it leaves you with a very nice clean feeling to your mouth without having that overwhelming mint taste that ruins everything else you eat for the next half hour.

I thought I had found an awesome thing, but I was still worried about how the toothpaste was "fluoride-free." This was my first foray into putting more than 2 seconds of thought into what toothpaste I should use, so I certainly did not understand why toothpaste that didn't have fluoride should even exist in the first place. Wasn't fluoride kind of the point of using toothpaste?

So, after some research, I found out that there are lots of Tom's of Maine-type people out there who think fluoride is toxic and should never be anywhere near the body, but practically all dentists advise against using a non-fluoridated toothpaste. My personal dentist wanted me to use a special $30/tube toothpaste that had 40x the fluoride regular toothpaste does since I'm so prone to cavities. I'm not the kind of person who thinks everything out there is toxic to me, so I want my fluoride. Give it to me! But...not a mint-flavored one! And preferably one that isn't sweetened! Can I have a regular fluoridated toothpaste that isn't overly flavored?

That's the new search that I'm on. If you find a toothpaste with fluoride that isn't minty or artificially sweetened...let me know.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

public trans...in LA?


This is definitely how I felt during the last year I lived in NYC. It didn't have a very positive effect on my social life.

N got a temp job in downtown LA, which is in the opposite direction of where my office is. His first day is Tuesday, which brings us to the big question...can we survive in LA with one car? We'll see...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

bike, no gears

N keeps making fun of me for wanting this bike (look how cheap it is! and cute, of course).

I just want to perch on top of a big, comfortable seat and leisurely coast around the city...do I have to sit on a road bike with my head low and my butt sticking out and switch between 20 gears to avoid embarrassing myself?? I guess so. The only bike I had growing up was a single gear pink Schwinn that was passed down from my sister and had a big banana seat from the 70s...and I LOVED it and rode it nonstop. I don't know what to do with so many gears! I'm also always stumped by how brakes are on handles...that Schwinn had the kind where you just pedal backwards to brake. I also was in love with the bikes Liberty of London came out with at Target, but they were limited editions and are gone now...only the girl's size is left. A small part of me does feel pretty lame for loving these bikes. And I think I probably would feel slightly embarrassed riding one in public...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

dodgers follow-up/may gray

I couldn't write very much at the game on Sunday on my Droid--although I do love android, they have a lot of kinks to figure out. The blogger interface just wasn't working well in Dolphin or Opera Mini...anyway...

Here's a picture of the FANTASTIC garlic fries at Dodger Stadium. They were soooo. good.


And a picture of the game, too, I guess :)


Unfortunately, the day started out pretty gray. We've entered that time of year that people around here call the "May gray" or "June gloom," which basically means--sometimes, it's cloudy. *gasp*. I'm already spoiled, though...I still complain when it's not 100% clear and sunny outside. The day did get sunnier, though, but our seats were on the west side of the stadium so we were in the shade. The next time we go to a game, I'm definitely going to try to get seats on the east side to get more sun!

I don't know much about baseball, and I certainly don't know anything about the Dodgers, but it was still FUN!! Despite the fact that I was in the bathroom when the only home run was hit by the Dodgers...followed by the closer running out onto the field (which is my favorite part of baseball games). Oh, well. We'll just have to go again :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

*live* blogging the la dodgers game!

N and I are currently at Dodger Stadium watching a game against the Rockies! Travelzoo had tickets for five bucks each, so we decided to go (too bad parking cost $15, though!) I am continually amazed by how BORING baseball is to watch on tv, and how FUN it is to watch in person! And eat the hot dogs and garlic fries, too, of course.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

fluff dog apartment

N and I are dogsitting this weekend for our friends in Silverlake. Now we have one white fluff dog and one black fluff dog in the house!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

d...i...e...tttttttt....

My personal efforts in our diet have certainly gone downhill. I've been getting a lot of intensive dental work done which restricts the kinds of food I can eat (it's gotta be mushy, mushy, mushy), and having tooth pain just makes me want to eat junky processed foods to give me some kind of happiness. Meanwhile, N has lost a whopping 20 pounds. Twen-ty! (Which is more of a testament to how big he used to be as opposed to how skinny he is now, but still.) I plateaued at -6 lbs for the past week. I keep telling myself once all my dental stuff is done I'll get back on the bandwagon...right now the pain's so annoying all I can do is sit here and think, "PAAAAAAAAIN."

We did take another detour, though. On Midtown Lunch's suggestion, this past weekend we went to get Korean kahlgooksoo at Myoung Dong Kyo Ja, which some say has the best kahlgooksoo in the city. I didn't see a single non-Korean in the packed place, so that was a good sign. Some waitresses couldn't speak English, so when I asked for an extra plate (in English), I was responded to in a lot of Korean to which I said "Okay," while vigorously nodding, although I had no idea what she said. The extra plate never arrived.

Ban chan consisted of super garlicky kimchee (and mool kimchee, which was fantastic).


We also got an order of steamed mandoo (dumplings)--they were packed full of ground pork and green onions, kind of like a Korean version of the chive dumplings you get at dim sum. They were tassssty.


And, of course, the kahlgooksoo. It also came with a few dumplings in the soup, and topped with ground pork. Altogether a very homey, cheap, satisfying meal. A very nice find.

California Caution Signs

Spotted on campus at UCLA:


"CAUTION...SLIPPERY SIDEWALK. FIG TREE FRUIT FALLING"

I overly enjoy how caution signs here are warranted from fruit falling from the sky.