Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quirky Santa Barbara

N and I had a late birthday weekend to launch the beginning of 30th year. Well, it was my 29th birthday, so that's the start of my 30th year, right? I'm trying to get myself into the mindset of "I'm THIRTY years old" so when it really happens, I won't freak out too much. A year of mental preparation should be enough. I think.

N planned the weekend for us in Santa Barbara. We just can't stay away from that town! Since it was our third time there, he put a lot of effort into finding some quirky, off the beaten path activities for us to do. And it was extra challenging since it was supposed to rain a lot that weekend, which really limited the outdoorsy things we could do. In the end, he pulled it off big time.

But first, we had to go to Arroyo Burro with Stewie, of course. That beach never ceases to amaze me. I know I already filled previous posts with cute Stewie-on-the-beach photos, but will that stop me from posting more? Nope.

We went further down the beach than ever before and came across this neat "cave" in the rock. It dead-ended not too far in where I found a pile of empty beer cans and some graffiti. Charming.

One of the exciting discoveries of the trip was the BEST. BLOODY MARY. EVERRRRRR. Those capital letters do not exaggerate. Take a look:

Yes, that's a whole crab claw in there. And spicy pickled green beans. I ordered it while we had brunch at Tupelo Junction Cafe on State Street. I loved it so much, in fact, that we went back there for brunch the very next day so I could order it again! I really love Bloody Marys, but whenever I order them I'm always disappointed somehow. They just never taste like how I want them or expect them to...either too heavy on the alcohol, not spicy enough, not savory enough...but this one was PERFECT.

Oh--and the food was also really good and the prices were seriously reasonable. They call everything "small plates" on the menu but they're totally regular entree-sized. They also had two tiny tables outside so we could bring Stewie with us.

N also found a little hike in Nojoqui Falls Park about 40 minutes north of the city that we took Stewie to. You drive up a highway and turn off onto a tiny road where you find a very short (less than a mile) trail to a secluded waterfall. It was seriously amazing.

We also had dinner at Cold Springs Tavern, a really-really old restaurant up in the hills. It's been there since 1865 and is a really fascinating place. It felt like we were driving into an abyss since we were so far out from the highway and there were absolutely no other buildings or lights around. I don't have any good photos since it was pitch black up there, but it was definitely a fun experience. The water from the spring tasted great! BEST. WATER. EVERRRRRR. Ha!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

LA Printers Fair

A couple weekends ago, N and I went to the LA Printers Fair. I found out about it from Craft--a really hit-and-miss blog, but sometimes it digs up hidden gems...like this fair. And the blog isn't even specific to LA (it just covers general craft projects), so I was really lucky to find it there!

The first thing I saw about this fair was that it was going to be held at the International Printing Museum. First off, I had no idea such a museum existed and I thought it was fantastic that it does. Then I was very excited to see that it's located in Carson, less than an hour's drive south of us! I made immediate plans to attend the next day.

The fair (and the museum!) did not disappoint. The museum had old presses and printers all over the place and a few volunteer guides who showed how they work. I loved watching the old Heidelberg presses--it's mesmerizing seeing them go. And the final printed pieces look fantastic.

We walked into one room where people were lined up for...something. I didn't even know what it was for, but I figured I should join in. I eventually figured out that everyone was waiting to have a custom metal slug with their name on it produced on the spot for $1! I got way too excited about it. Watching the Linotype machine working was amazing:

And right after our slugs were produced, they used them to print a little decorative card on a Vandercook Proof Press:

Here's a close up of the slugs we took home with us. Neat, huh?:

There were also a bunch of graphic designers/vendors selling their letterpressed cards and calendars. And there were actual old printers for sale! Really old ones (most were missing parts, completely rusted and needed repair) but I had a good time longingly gazing at them. And wondering how they work. And if I'd ever be able to have one of my own...

Anyway, along with printers there were also a lot of old random metal type pieces for sale, including this set of absolutely tiny Chinese characters which was amazing (click on the photo to zoom in, please):

The fair was great and I am really, really glad that we went. And to conclude...here's lots more photos!:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

almost forgot!

Stewie's birthday came and went--he's SIX now! We took him to Griffith Park that weekend for his present (I've baked dog treats for him for his bday in the past, but I barely do any cooking anymore [sadly]). He usually loves Griffith Park, but this time we hiked uphill on a trail a bit farther than we've ever gone before and he suddenly sat down and refused to move. But when we turned around to go back downhill, he suddenly had tons of energy to walk again. What a wuss.

Also, way back in July, we went to the Hollywood Bowl for the first time ever! It reminded me of Ravinia in Chicago except there was no lawn space since it's up in the hills...just lots and lots of stadium seating. We went to a fun performance--West Side Story was projected on big screens and the LA Philharmonic performed the score to the movie while it was playing. Definitely made the already awesome music that much awesomer. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

wow--it's been two months!

I can't believe it's been a whole two months since I last posted, but it's really a testament to how crazy my life has been lately. It's now starting to calm down somewhat, though, so here I am!

In the last couple months, I flew to Chicago for a bridal shower and my ten-year high school reunion, Vegas for a bachelorette, Dallas for a wedding, and Chicago again for another wedding. And after interviewing for several positions over the last few months, I also started a new job. This is the first time I've interviewed for a job while still working one, and I can easily say that it's one of the most stressful things I've ever done...probably about as stressful as moving into a place. Oh, how I despise moving (which is actually next up on my list of things to get done).

So between doing those things and also viewing tons of apartments (without finding a suitable one yet), N and I managed to go to the LA County Fair. Last year did a lot of summer-y activities but this year we didn't have much time, so I'm glad we got at least one fair in.

Yes, that is me eating a disgustingly large corn dog. It was as gross as it looks. I regret both buying and eating it.

Like at any respectable fair, you could find fried EVERYTHING!

There were two reasons I wanted to go to this fair: 1) the food and 2) the pig racing. I had no idea what the pig racing would be like, and it ended up being pretty cute:

That was a mom pig racing against a few of her piglets. They also raced goats, sheep, and puppies!
And here's the final list of what went into our stomachs that day:
  • that grossly humongous corn dog
  • fried veggies
  • pork chop on a stick (surprisingly tasty)
  • roasted corn
  • funnel cake (Interesting fact--no one at the fair had ever heard of "elephant ears," "fried dough," or "fritters"...we asked around for it and no one knew what we were talking about. Maybe they're an east cost/midwest thing?) 
  • Dippin' Dots
  • ...and I brought home cotton candy and kettle corn
All in all, a pretty good haul!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

electric bikes!

And now, continuing our trip through the land of Groupon/Living Social/tons of other daily deal sites...electric bikes!:

By the Santa Monica Pier

This blog is making it seem like I'm buying daily deals nonstop, but I swear I'm not. Well, yes, I do buy them once in awhile. I know everyone says they're a guaranteed waste of money, but I'm finding them to be a great source of local stuff to do that I would never have found out about otherwise. 90% of the deals are for massages and Juvederm and tanning (which really are boring) but sometimes fun stuff comes up. Like this electric bike tour we bought from Pedal or Not

The tour first piqued my interest since I had heard a lot about electric bikes (mostly positive), but I never thought I'd get a chance to actually try one. Then I saw that Pedal or Not has a solid 5 out of 5 stars from 34 reviews on Trip Advisor. It seemed like a guaranteed winner--and it was.

Pedal or Not gives "semi-private" tours that are limited to 5 people, but we lucked out and had a real private tour since no one else was in our time slot! It was just our tour guide and us. The tour began in Santa Monica and we rode down the long and winding bike path along the beach to Venice where we wandered among the Venice canals (we're on a bridge over the canals in the photo above). 

It was probably a 7 mile ride roundtrip. Halfway through it, I was definitely depending more on that silver battery pack on the back of the bike than my leg muscles. You twist the handlebar like on a motorcycle to turn the motor on (or at least that's how I see people ride motorcycles on TV), and twisting it more makes you go faster. It is really a strange feeling to speed along on a bike without pedaling. It really took me awhile to convince my body that I was not going to topple over despite the fact that my feet were not moving.

We learned some interesting history about Venice and Santa Monica along the way, of course. And maybe it's still the New Yorker in me, but I was shocked by how polite everyone was. When we'd pass walking pedestrians on the bike path, our guide would say, "on your left, there's 3 people in our party" and most people would actually say "Thank you!" in response. I was surprised, to say the least. I don't think I'll ever really shake off that instant feeling of suspicion/wariness whenever a stranger engages me in public.

Monday, July 4, 2011

star eco continued

Almost forgot about this photo:

Sad and funny-looking...but moreso sad. The original owner of the parrot took care of the bird improperly, and it permanently lost a lot of its feathers. It looks disturbingly like the whole chickens I buy at the grocery store.

star eco station

I can't believe I forgot to write about our trip to the STAR Eco Station back in May! Actually, I'm pretty sure I did write an entry on it, but Blogger lost my draft and I was too frustrated to rewrite it. The time has finally come to recap it, though.

Unsurprisingly, our trip to the Star Eco Station was once again prompted by a Groupon deal. When I read up on it, I was surprised to find out that the Station is a wildlife rescue organization based in Culver City (just ~10 miles southwest of us). My first thought was, "I can't believe an exotic animal rescue can function in the middle of a big city!" and then I became immediately skeptical. It seemed like the whole thing was really geared toward kids, but I decided to buy the tickets anyway. Whether we enjoyed it or not, the money would go to a good cause. I also guessed it would make for great photo ops.

Although I'm pretty sure N and I were the only childless people in our tour, it was still worth it. The Station was a surprisingly robust organization with a good number of animals in it--huge boa constrictors, alligators, exotic birds, and even wild cats. They take in a lot of animals that are illegally smuggled through LAX and stopped by the US Fish and Wildlife service. They can't be sent back to their home countries since they have American "germs" on them already, but they're also illegal to own in the US. Those animals are given to rescues like the Star Eco Station.

The Station also receives animals from people who can't take care of their animals anymore, and they occasionally find them in boxes left on their doorstep in the mornings. At the end of the tour, we found out that they also adopt out some of these animals (since they are legal to own, of course). N has a soft spot for reptiles, and I've never owned one but have always wanted to, so we put our names down on a wait list for an iguana or small tortoise. If one ever comes up, we'd definitely take it!

And now for some photos!

Friday, July 1, 2011

LA film fest (again!)

I keep forgetting we've been in LA for over a year now. When it came time for the annual LA Film Fest again, I was pretty surprised...and now I'm having deja vu blogging about it.

This year's "haul":

  • Somewhere Between (a documentary following the lives of a few Chinese teenage girls who were adopted by white families in the US)
  • Unraveled (a documentary following Marc Dreier, a high powered lawyer who stole millions of dollars from companies and was only overshadowed by Bernie Madoff)
  • Natural Selection (a funky indie comedy about a conservative Christian wife who gets tangled up with her husband's no-good son) 
  • Another Earth (an indie sci-fi movie [that's not really sci-fi] about a girl who tears a family apart after a drunk driving accident and tries to redeem herself)
  • Love Crime (a French movie about living out the American Dream)

The two winners of this year (in my own personal competition that follows my own personal tastes) were Somewhere Between and Another Earth. They were both spectacular and definitely worth seeing. I think N really disliked Another Earth, but I'm becoming a huge fan of indie sci-fi films nowadays...and I think I may have gotten him to reconsider.

Somewhere Between, though, was the all-out CHAMPION. I bawled almost the entire movie...and I'm really not that much of a movie-cryer (although I've noticed that as I get older it happens more frequently). I cried within the first 30 seconds of the film in the opening scene! Although the focus of the movie is on a very narrow slice of America, the girls' experiences can be extrapolated to the overall Asian American experience (especially for women). While the girls in the movie can't find their genetic roots, 2nd generation Asian Americans struggle with the idea of the "motherland" and questions of "where are you from?" in a parallel way. What does it mean? How much does it matter? Should I try to find out? Do I belong here?

I'll go out on a limb and say that these adoptees' struggles/conflicts could be the 2nd gen AsAm experience simmered down to its very concentrated (and, in some ways, very much literalized) core.

Anyway, that was an overly academic stream of thought. Watch the trailer!:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Griffith Park

One of the great things about our apartment is our proximity to Griffith Park. It's a humongous park with lots of hills and great trails to hike. We've been a few times, but we really haven't taken advantage of it as much as we should. Dogs are allowed, but not off-leash (sadly). Stewie absolutely LOVES it there. Right when we drive in, he starts sniffing like craziness and scrambles to get out of the car. Parking is always easy and everything is so accessible!

A selection of photos from our trips there:

After every trip, we have to spend lots of time pulling burrs, leaves, twigs, grass seed, and other various foliage out of Stewie's fur:

finally...a real los angeles taco truck!

I am completely ashamed that it took me and N over a year of living in LA to finally eat from an authentic taco truck. And I'm not talking about that fusion crrrap (I don't want any kimchi in my tacos)...I mean the real thing. There are two trucks just a few blocks from us: one parked at an old abandoned gas station and another at a closed auto repair shop. We've probably driven by both over a hundred times...each time thinking to ourselves, "why haven't we eaten there yet??" Finally, FINALLY, we walked (how not-LA of us) down to the truck at the gas station to get some real food:

N got a barbacoa burrito and I got a carnitas burrito. This was our first time eating at a taco truck, so everything about the trip was interesting. Each burrito came in a little Styrofoam tray with some really fresh-tasting tortilla chips, a lime wedge, a grilled Serrano pepper (at least we think it was a Serrano), a piece of raw radish, and what seemed like a par-boiled carrot:

An interesting combo of flavors all around. The pepper was awesome tasting, but also pretty darn HOT. The tortillas that wrapped the burritos were so pleasantly thin--I have a perpetual problem with the wrapper-to-filling (or bread-to-filling) ratio of foods, as I always think there's too much tortilla compared to the meat. But this one was perfect. The carrot and radish seemed kind of random to me, but I found myself naturally eating my way through them...probably to bring some freshness/bitterness to the very savory burrito. It was pretty great. I'm sure we'll be back soon.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

what i want to eat everyday

I made this cinnamon sugar pull-apart bread (with this recipe) several weeks ago and completely forgot to blog about it. And it's definitely blog-worthy...just LOOK at it! (yes, this is a crappy cell phone photo...I really wish I had used the DSLR, because this pic does not do it justice):

Each layer of dough is slathered with a combination of browned butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Then they're all stacked together and placed in the pan like a deck of cards on its side. Here it is before its second rise:

When it comes time to eat, you can pull each individual layer off to snack on. It takes awhile to make with all the rising and rolling out the dough and everything...but I can easily say it's 100% worth it. And so awesomely rustic-looking!

Monday, May 16, 2011

you may have noticed...

...a sudden steep increase in quality of the photos posted on this blog. That is due to our latest acquisition: a Canon T2i. We mostly got it for its HD video capabilities so N can finally have a "real" tool he can use for filming. Yes, we do have a few super 8 cameras sitting in the closet, and although they are pretty neat and N is a purist when it comes to film (even though he denies it), c'mon--this isn't the stone age! It's time to go digital.

We got it for a spectacular short-lived deal through Amazon, of course. I think we get a box from Amazon delivered to us on an almost weekly basis. Dog treats, fabric glue, crystal light drink mix, male to male 3.55mm stereo cables...anyway, since then, we've procured additional lenses, various camera bags, and, yes, there is now a large tripod on wheels taking up a precious 6 feet of floor space in our apartment. And we live in a studio, so yes, the floor space is very precious.

I'm slowly getting to know the camera, also. I don't want this nice piece of equipment lying around without me taking advantage of it! The first thing I wanted to do with it was take macro photos of letterpressed pieces I've designed to show the grain of the paper and the imprint of the inks. Then I came to learn that I'd need to buy a crazy expensive lens to do exactly what I had in mind. There's a bunch of other techniques to get the effect I was looking for, but I am not invested in the camera enough to spend any amount of money on trying them, I realize. I have other projects I'm working on.

Don't think this will be the end of crappy cell-phone photos on this blog, though. As "they" say (whoever "they" are)...the best camera is the one that's with you. And I'm certainly not lugging that t2i with its various lenses around with me all the time. Not to say that N won't, though.

Friday, May 13, 2011

one of those quick update/summary things

$$$. Investments and retirement, to be exact. I've really put off thinking about these things for several years (my excuse being that I was basically going from paycheck to paycheck while trying to increase my standard of living to something that I thought was...livable). But the time has finally come to sit down and really plan. I've been immersed in reading about Roth IRAs, 403(b)s, mutual funds, and EFTs. I also starting following a bunch of PF (personal finance) blogs written by people in their 20s (this one's my favorite so far, especially this section. I want to grow food!). These blogs make me feel extremely behind and convince me that I'll be out on the streets and starving when I'm 65 years old. Just kidding--kind of. But I'm almost in my thirties. THIRTIES! All those charts you see out there show how compound growth/investing benefits you--and if I had started just a few years ago, I'd have way more money when I retire! Luckily, I don't hate organizing my finances; I'm actually finding that I somewhat enjoy it. But it might just be the high from learning about a new thing.

My hair. I am getting really sick of it. I mean, I'm usually sick of it (a little bit) all the time, and I've tried a lot of different lengths and colors over the years, but I've hit a new level of boredom. I switched my part to the opposite side of my head a couple weeks ago in a lame attempt to change things up. Interesting fact: when changing the part you've had for 10+ years, your scalp gets really SORE afterward. I'll probably go back to a shorter cut with bangs and some other color soon. Just thinking about it bores me. *yawn*

That d-i-e-t? I think N and I finally reached our (what I personally consider) "normal" weight range, though we both still want to lose some more...but, in my mind, it's more a vanity-thing at this point. The grand total? I lost 25 pounds. 25!! Can you believe that?? And N? An amazing 30 pounds. 30!!! Can you believe THAT??? Okay, that was an overzealous use of question and exclamation marks. I don't know about N, but it wasn't willpower that did it for me...I've just had an increased amount of stress that basically killed my appetite, so my food portions drastically shrunk even though I was still eating Panda Express and any other crap that struck my fancy. Oh well.

Teeth. It hit me a few weeks ago--even though I have terrible teeth and tons of cavities (and have my whole life), I've never actually tried new techniques with my hygiene habits except for increasing my brushing and flossing. I decided to look into electric toothbrushes and bought this Sonicare brush from Amazon. N was completely against it (he thought electric toothbrushes were pointless), but I got it anyway. The first time I used it, I could barely stand it. The feeling of a mechanical object vibrating against the surface of my teeth (and making that terrible buzzing noise!) gave me horrible flashbacks to all of the cavities I've had drilled out over the years. I stuck through it, though, and now I think this toothbrush is FANTASTIC. It even made a believer out of N, who I didn't think would even try it since he was so against it. We both use it regularly, and I can really feel how much cleaner my mouth is now.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

N's birthday

It was N's birthday on April 1st (he's an April Fool), and his bday request was to spend the weekend in Santa Barbara. We went there with N's parents last year, and we liked it so much we've been looking forward to going back ever since. By the way--that gift I got N last year for his birthday? They're still sitting unused in their boxes. Maybe this public shaming will push him into using them ;)

We were much better prepared for Santa Barbara this time since we were more familiar with the city. We brought Stewie with us (of course), so I looked up a bunch of dog-friendly things we could do in addition to Arroyo Burro Beach, which is a spot we are absolutely obsessed with. And it was somehow even more fantastic than the first time we went! Lots of cute Stewie pics coming up...please click on them to zoom in; it's totally worth it!

Stewie LOVES-LOVES-LOVES running and blitzing all over beach sand. He's a speeding bullet!:

 Someone had constructed this little teepee-ish structure on the beach. It was the perfect size for Stewie:

In addition to the beach, there's a few other off-leash dog areas in Santa Barbara. One is called the Douglas Family Preserve, and it's located on top of the plateau that borders the beach. There's a couple small trails you can climb up to get to the top of the plateau, and there are unbelievable views where you can look straight down the sheer cliff edge to the ocean.

A trail on top of the plateau:

A view on top of the cliff in the background:

And the birthday boy sitting near the edge of the plateau:

We also walked up and down the length of State Street where we had dessert and coffee at a very cute Danish bakery called The Andersen. N wanted to eat seafood, so we got dinner at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company which is located at the end of Stearn's Wharf. It was pretty quiet and dark and we ate at a table outside looking right onto the water. It was downright romantic! Except for the pieces of crab shell and whatnot that kept flying into our faces as we cracked through them.

Monday, April 11, 2011

a small preview of my next post...

staaaay, Stewie...

good boy!



more things that happened

  • V-day came and went, along with me and N's 5-year anniversary. How to celebrate? Steak again, of course! He's such a pro at broiling+pan searing steak now that he picked up some cuts of meat from Gelson's at 7pm and dinner was on the table before 8!
  • Following LA Time's suggestion, we ate at Mapo Kkak Doo Gee--a pretty great tiny Korean restaurant. They specialize in fried fish, which I've never seen before at a Korean place. My experience with Korean food is really limited, I've realized, even though I've eaten it my whole life. And they serve a huge variety of banchan! Each kind was really good. We will definitely be going back.

  • President's day came and went, and N and I drove up to the San Francisco area to see my new niece again and to see my mom for her birthday. We all went to the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley to celebrate. We watched a cooking demo taught by one of the instructors and ate at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. The food at the restaurant is cooked by CIA students, and you could watch them at work in the open kitchen. The menu was typical and the quality of the food was very inconsistent, which wasn't surprising, I guess. The steak I ordered (geez, I really do eat a lot of steak/beef...it's so good, though!) had a huge piece of gristle running through it. I wasn't going to bother mentioning it to our waiter, but he somehow overheard me and quickly offered me a replacement for free. They also had a special whole wheat sourdough bread they bake in-house which was REALLY good.
  • One our way back to LA from SF, N and I finally satisfied a years-long dream--we ate at Sonic Drive-In. We always saw commercials for it in NYC and in LA, but there are none in either city! Why do they tempt us when they're not even around to spend money at?! Anyway, the last time we drove up to SF we saw a Sonic sign when we drove through Gilroy, and we planned to stop by next time. And that time finally came! We got hot dogs and tater tots and limeaids. It was totally fun and tasty (I'd never been to a drive-in before). I wish there was one closer by.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

LA Arboretum

Since I had no idea how our trip to E. Waldo Ward & Son would turn out, I wanted to find something else we could do around Sierra Madre in case the tour ended up lasting 10 minutes or something. I'm still getting to know the areas around Los Angeles, so I decided to Google map Sierra Madre and take a look at the nearby cities. That's when I saw a big green area south of Sierra Madre called the Los Angeles County and State Arboretum.

I figured we could head over there after the tour if we were in the mood, and we ended up stopping by...for a good two hours.

The LA Arboretum is like a big, beautiful, un-sculpted park. It's huge! There's lots of open green space and lots of wooded area. I thought things would be more botanical garden-y with specific paths and signs and plant labels, but it's more like a nature preserve. There were greenhouse areas with carnivorous plants and orchids, but the better part of the Arboretum was the open space.

There were several free-roaming peacocks in the park, which was so weird to see. And did you know that they make sounds that sound like a mew-ing cat?? While we were in the Arboretum, N and I would randomly hear LOUD mew-ing sounds and it took us a long time before we realized it was the peacocks!

There was a large lake in the arboretum..

Along with pretty flowers and waterfalls and strange plants...

While we were there, we saw a sign for a Mushroom Fair that would be held the next weekend. We couldn't make it this year, but we're definitely going next year! N loves mushrooms.