Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tea House Los Rios

After our trip to Casa Romantica we decided to head down into downtown San Juan Capistrano and roam around the shops near The Mission. As we walking down near the railroad tracks we pass by the Tea House on Los Rios.

What better way to cap off my birthday than with tea in an idyllic, rustic, yet Victorian setting. I was so happy they were open and had space for the three of us without reservations. The great thing is that it was all dressed for Christmas - full of white lights and greenery.

However, my most favorite thing was that we all got to choose our own hat. There is an actual hallway full of hats. That's right you get to wear a hat. While Lisa wasn't that into it she complied. Thank you Lisa.

We were seated within 10 minutes. We all had The Mission Tea which included our choice of tea (there are 21 varieties), soup or salad, assorted finger sandwiches, scones, fresh fruit and desert. It was a lot of food. My favorite were the little sandwiches and scones. The soup was a little cold. But all in all delicious.

It was great. I highly recommend it. Happy Birthday to me.

Casa Romantica

Today I grabbed two friends (Lisa and Debbie) and headed South. I didn't have a plan we were just driving along the magnificent coast, enjoying the sunshine and good conversation.

Then I remembered a really beautiful historic home in San Clemete called, Casa Romantica. It is the former home of San Clemente founder Ole Hanson.

From the front its an unassuming home, with a keyhole-shaped entry way. You are ushered into a beautiful grassy courtyard in classic Spanish hacienda style. However the money shot is the view of the ocean from the backyard. High above San Clemente Pier it has an unfettered view of the ocean. You can hear the waves crash but you're far removed from all the people and street noise.

The house has been restored as a cultural center and offers a glimpse into Southern California history, architecture, ecology and culture. Each room is beautifully restored and also houses a small library. It would be a great place to go read. They are also in the process of building an ampitheatre.

Casa Romantica's street address: 415 Avenida Granada, San Clemente, CA 92672
HOURS: Tuesday 1-4 p.m., Wednesday thru Sunday 11-4 p.m., Closed Mondays.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hollywood Museum

Sick of Britneygate Debbie and I were craving a little of the glamorous spirit of Hollywood past so we trekked up to the Hollywood Museum in the historic Max Factor Building.

There are four floors of Hollywood artifacts and memorabilia. Even walking into the building you can feel the history that lived there - the stars that were made there. It's amazing.

Standing at the door to the museum is a mafioso looking individual who appears to be the doorman. I don't know what his purpose is, perhaps to lure in tourists, make deals on the street, no idea. Inside we were greeted by a woman who I'm sure was alive when Max Factor walked the halls. She took our money and our cameras. That's right, no photos anywhere in the building and to make sure you don't, you're forced to check your camera at the door.

A little shaken at the thought of leaving our precious cameras with a total stranger we pressed on. Once you leave the beautiful art deco lobby, dressed in white and pink marble echoing the building's glory days, there are two floors above you to explore and one beneath you.

The second floor is mainly devoted to costumes by the stars in well-known films. It was so amazing how different the clothing looked in person versus on the screen. It was much smaller and the colors were odd, especially for early technicolor process. For example, a costume from White Christmas is white on screen but in person its actually gold. I guess the lights completely washed it out.

The third floor is an odd assortment of Hollywood memorabilia, ranging from the gold sheath Elizabeth Taylor wore in Cleopatra to an amazing collection of clothing and items belonging to Marilyn Monroe. There is no rhyme or reason to the display of the collection and in many instances there is no description or explation where it comes from. There was no one from the museum around to answer questions either.

A trip to the basement, though scary, is worth the fright. They have the cellblock from Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon. The entire set is on hand including all original props. It was eerie. Next to it is an exhibit on Egypt and memorabilia from Elvira, quite the odd combination.

We spent about 45 to an hour on each floor. There is so much too look at and digest. It really is the glory of Hollywood past with a sprinkling of the present, just to make you feel like you're a part of it.

My favorite part of the tour were the famous Max Factor make-up rooms on the ground floor. Being the first to realize color theory Max painted rooms to flatter the complexion of women of a certain hair color. It's a cool blue for blondes, peach for brownettes, pink for brunettes, and mint green for redheads. It is said that it was Max Factor who made Lucille Ball a redhead and Marilyn Monroe a blonde.

It's amazing but I looked best in the pink and mint green rooms. So Max would have let me be a redhead or a brunette, but never a blonde or brownette (lighter shades of brown). All original props from these famous make-up rooms have been restored from original Max Factor make-up to mirrors, lights and the photos of the famous stars who got made up there.

Also on display on the ground floor is Cary Grant's Rolls Royce, the largest autograph collection in the world and a film about great Hollywood performances and actors.

There are so many artifacts in this museum its hard to digest the fact that you're looking at Bob Hope's golf clubs, next to the first editing machine, next to the body cast from Puffy the dog in There's Something About Mary. It's insane. (For a semi-complete list of artifacts on display click here.

If you're a fan of Hollywood glamour, this museum is a must see. It is extremely uncommercial. They don't even have a gift shop. But maybe that makes it more pure somehow. Who knows. I loved it.

Cost: $15
Hours: Open Thursday through Sunday, from 10 AM to 5 PM. Closed Monday through Wednesday.
Location: The Hollywood Museum: 1660 N. Highland Ave, Hollywood, CA 90028 (323) 464 7776

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pink's Hot Dog

Pink's Restaurant
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
Ready to test our gatronomical fortitude Debbie and I headed to Pink's to taste Hollywood's famous hot dog.

Founded by Paul Pink in 1940, on the corner of LaBrea and Melrose when it was home to spacious fields not trendy stores Pink's hot dogs has become a celebrity and local hot spot.

Touted as the only hot dog stand with free valet parking it always has a line, doesn't matter if you're there at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m.

Debbie and I split a chili dog (mustard, chili and onions) and a planet hollywood dog (Polish Sausage, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, bacon & cheese). Can you hear our arteries clogging. Yea. It's good like that.

I don't feel the need to go back, but one trip is required if you're going to be in LA. Come on if Bobby Flay, Celine Dion and Nicole Kidman have eaten one you gotta try it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ruby's Diner on PCH in Laguna

After absorbing the sunset in Corona del Mar we headed down PCH towards Laguna to have dinner at Ruby's Auto Diner.

Ruby's was founded in Newport Beach, by a So-cal native who got a long-term lease from the city for an old, run-down bait shop at the end of the Balboa Pier. What started as nostalgia is a now multi-state chain restaurant appealing to our love of Americana in simplier times. In this quintesential 40s diner you will find red vinyl seats, chrome-lined tables and waitresses in little candy-striper uniforms. The fare is predominantly hamburgers, fries and milkshakes but they have also traditional diner food, ala southwest - salads, meatloaf, soups, tacos, and fish.

I had the kobe beef burger and fries. Tina had a BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado) on toasted parmesan sourdough bread. We shared a birthday milkshake that tasted just like yellow cake batter, oh so sweet and delicious. My favorite is the 50/50 shake or the chocolate malt. They have also adopted the Red Robin approach to fries and your basket is bottomless.

Ruby's also serves breakfast.
30622 S. PCH, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
P: 949.497.7829F: 949.499.0314

Ruby's can be found in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington State.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Down to the Sea

Corona del Mar Sunset
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74

After nearly dying on skates Tina and I headed down towards the water to see the sunset at Corona del Mar.

The light was amazing and the sunset was spectacular. The sky and mountains started out purple and pink. Then as the sun set it started fading to orange and red. It was amazing. I mean look at those colors.

The sad thing is the lens can never capture the true brilliance of the light at sunset.

This is why we pay a ton of money to live in Southern California. Next we headed to Ruby's for dinner.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Birthday on Wheels

Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74

Today some of my favorite people joined me to celebrate my 33rd birthday on wheels.

We dusted off our skating skillz and took to the Holiday Skate in Orange. Since there were more than 10 of us we qualified for the group rate, only $5.50 for entry and skate rental. Not too shabby.

The rink had all of the glitz and glamour I remember from skating back in the 80s - the disco ball, funky lights mounted to the wall and cheesy paintings abound. It was fantastic.

While we didn't get the chance to do the hokey pokey we did manage to get around the rink a few times with minimal damage. It's amazing how many muscles you use to keep your balance on those four little wheels. Right now I hurt in places I didn't know I had.

It was so much fun. I felt like a kid again. It was a spectacular early birthday.

As we came out of the rink we decided to head south on the 55 towards Corona del Mar.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Craving Lomeli's

One of the downfalls of living in South Orange County is that most of our restaurants are chain. They are owned by conglomerates. There are very few mom-n-pop restaurants to give us a hometown feel.

When I lived in North Orange County there were a few and one of my favorites was an italian place called Lomeli's. It is owned by a husband and wife team who can always be found in the restaurant. The customers are loyal and frequent, meaning there is always a wait.

Upon entering, you forget that you're in a strip mall near a grocery story and fast-food restaurants. The warmth and coziness exude to make you feel like comfortable and welcome. The walls are adorned in murals depicting the Italian countryside and overhead there is a trellis obliterating all memory of the nail salon next door.

Once seated a plate of carrots, peppercinis and ranch are promptly delivered to take the edge of the hunger yet help you save room for the pasta. The homestyle italian cooking is amazing and the generous portions make sure you're full. You can order your favorite pasta dish ala carte or as a complete dinner, which includes soup or salad, a glass of wine and a scoop of ice cream for dessert. Average complete dinner price is $9-12.

My favorite is the baked shells. I also love their pizza. But the chicken cacciatore or meatball casserole is delicious too. Honestly, I really have never had anything there I didn't like. You can tell the sauce is simmered on the stove all day. This is comfort food to the max.

I may have to make a trip up the 5 and indulge my craving.

1000 E Bastanchury Rd # B, Fullerton, CA 92835
Phone: (714) 255-9100

Friday, November 30, 2007

First Trip to In-N-Out in 15 years

In-N-Out is a hamburger institution on the West Coast. People who leave the area crave it. The establishment inspires fierce loyalty among patrons who even have their own secret menu.

I however, don't really enjoy it all that much. This little known fact has caused much ridicule and shame from those to whom I dared reveal my dark secret.

The first time I went to In-N-Out was in college, probably 5 minutes after I moved here. My first impression was that the meat patties and fries were too thin. At 18 I didn't see anything spectacular about it. I was fine with McDonalds or Burger King for fast-food options. So I haven't been back in 15 years.

I recently got another lecture about the freshness and superiority of the food. The hamburgers are never frozen and only the finest cuts of beef are used. The lettuce is hand-leafed. The buns are made of old-fashioned sponge bread (whatever that means). The french-fries are hand-cut from real potatoes for heaven sakes. Ok. Ok. I'll go. So last night was the night.

The drive-thru line at In-N-Out is always long. I've driven by at all hours and there are at least 5 cars in line. So I queued up. Finally it was my turn to order. Even though I haven't been for 15 years the menu is easy to remember, how do I want my burger, fries or no fries and what kind of drink. I ordered a cheeseburger, no tomato, order of fries and a chocolate shake. Then she asked me if I would be eating the food in the car. Weird question. I said yes confused by why she cared.

When I pulled up to the window to pay the cashier handed me a lap mat. Then when I received my food it was in an open container not a bag. The sandwich was half-wrapped to make sure I had easy access to my burger. How clever.

From the age of 18 to now (32) I have made a few lifestyle changes and not eating at fast-food is one of them. I rarely go to McDonalds and Burger King is never an option. However, I can honestly say that the In-N-Out burger really does taste fresh. It is not a juicy burger. It isn't overwhelming in flavor, but it didn't taste processed. It was satisfying. The highlight of my trip was the thick, creamy milkshake. It was AWESOME. The fries, still not my favorite. But overall a great experience.

I don't feel like my life has been missing anything but perhaps my grown-up tastes can at least appreciate it more now.

In-N-Outs are located in CA, NV and AZ.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

La Perlita in Foothill Ranch

There are only two known Mexican restaurants in my town, and one is Taco Bell. So being a respectable Mexican I was compelled, dare I say required, to patronize the other Latin establishment called, La Perlita.

Actually, I've driven by it a million times and never visited until one of our vendors took us there for lunch. Apparently she'd been going for years and loves it.

The interior resembles Tijuana. It is very colorful with decorative paper strewn from the ceiling and inflatable Corona beer cans are prominently displayed. The booths are well worn and you sink into a butt imprint that millions before you have contributed to.

The story on the menu talks about the family, their dedication to tradition, love of quality Mexican food and desire to be the most hospitable. As evidenced by the quick delivery of chips and salsa and friendly waiter. The chips were decent, but the salsa lacked flavor. It was very runny and seemed like dressed up tomato sauce. There was nary a chunk of tomato, onion, or pepper in the mix.

The menu itself is a traditional one with tacos, enchiladas, burritos and a variety of meats all accompanied with rice and beans. Ty had a combo plate with an enchilada and a taco. Susan had a cheese enchilada plate. I had the red chili colorado - beef chunks in a red sauce. One huge downfall of this place is that the tortillas are not homemade. I selected corn and they were dry and tasteless.

Susan always orders the same thing and hasn't tried much else from the menu. So she was very happy. Ty said her meal was good, just a little bland. My chili colorado was ok. The chili sauce wasn't very savory, it lacked a depth of flavor. There were no hints of garlic, onion or chili. It was very tomatoey. The cuts of beef itself were poor and I found a lot of gristle and fat in my dish.

Overall I would say the food is kind of tastless. The rice while fluffy and red didn't taste much different than white rice. The beans, while not from a can, needed a lot of salt and were watery. I didn't have frijoles de olla so they weren't supposed to be.

I'm not in a big hurry to go back. If I did, I would probably go for something more generic like Ty. It isn't the taste of home I was hoping for. My quest continues to find real Mexican food anywhere nearby. Unfortunately I have to keep driving up to LA or down to San Diego. Although Avila's El Ranchito has delicious carnitas.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Switchfoot in Concert at the Bren Center

Originally uploaded by ErinsWorld
A night of rock-n-roll, screaming, and dancing at the Bren Center with Switchfoot, Relient K and Ruth, all benefitting Habitat for Humanity. What could be more fun or charitable that?

Lisa, Janine, Carole, Colleen and I trekked over to UCI for an evening to cut loose, scream and dance to one of our favorite bands. They did not disappoint. From the opening with Oh Gravity! to the closing Meant to Live the crowd was jumping, singing and cheering them on.

They perfomed Awakening, Dirty Second Hands, and My American Dream from the new album. Other fan favorites included Stars, On Fire, We are One Tonight, Gone, and This is Your Life.

Switchfoot is really all about the fans. Lead singer, Jon Foreman spent a lot of time out in the audience and even showed up at one point on the side, in the crowd so that they could sing with him.

Switchfoot is even encouraging bootleg versions of the concert songs so they can distribute them on CD to that nights attendees. They want to keep the concert magic going long after the finale. You can also visit their web site and request bootlegged version of concerts from other concert goers. How awesome is that!

I had no idea who Relient K or Ruth was but they were a good fit with Switchfoot. I learned Relient K is from Canton, OH, the town were my parents live. Cool.

Another interesting component of this concert was the age range of people there. It was literally from 10 to 50. There were moms and probably grandmas rocking out next to their kids and some came on their own. It was interesting to think that some of the kids in there weren't born until the 90s. Yikes, at 32 I'm old enough to be someone's mother. And it this point it wasn't even as a teenager but I would have been in my 20s. Yikes.

Still a great night. Lots of fun. Switchfoot and Co continue to roll through the West Coast through the beginning of Dec.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Disney Soda Fountain

No trip to the El Capitan is complete without dessert at the Disney Soda Fountain and Studio Store located next door.

It was was an old-fashioned parlor experience with quintessential Disney friendliness. The menu has a plethora of sundaes, malts, shakes, freezes, floats, and cones served with a variety of syrups, sauces and toppings. All made with homemade ice cream brought in once a week from Dewars in Bakersfield. It is creamy, rich and delicious. It reminds me of what ice cream should be - no ice or skim milk.

I had the hot fudge sundae with walnuts. It was delicious. You know the ice cream was quality because it didn't melt under the weight and heat of the hot fudge. It stayed cold throughout.

Janine had the enchanted sundae. A mixture of strawberry ice cream and marshmellow creme. She loved it. Fernanda had a cookies-n-cream shake. The serving was gigantic. There was enough there for two. Colleen had a rootbeer float. They serve the ice cream on the handle of the frosty cold glass so that it gradually drips into your drink. She said it was fantastic.

The menu also includes sandwiches, salads and waffles if you need a light lunch or dinner. I would go for the ice cream though. It is soooo worth it.

6834 Hollywood Blvd.Hollywood, CA 90028 Phone: 323-939-9024 Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Enchanted at El Capitan

After a late lunch at the French Crepe Company Janine, Colleen, Fernanda, Daniella and I acknowledged our inner princesses and went to LA to see Disney's newest fairy tale, Enchanted, at the El Capitan Theatre.

We sprung for the VIP admissions ($32.50) which included a reserved seat, popcorn, a drink and entrance to the special Enchanted Experience. It also saved us about an hour and a half in line.

The El Capitan Theatre is amazing. It originally opened in 1926 and was "Hollywood's First Home of Spoken Drama." Disney has restored it beautifully with all of the lavish decor and colors. I recommended getting to your seat early so you can listen to Rob Richards play all of your favorite Disney tunes on the theatre's pipe organ.

The movie was great, very romantic and pays homage to all other Disney stories. Afterwards we were treated to the Enchanted Experience. You walk into a recreated ballroom where Aurora, Belle and Cinderella are dancing on stage. Prince Charming is welcoming you into the fantasy and urges you to explore the entire area where all the Disney princesses are there waiting for you. It was like we were 6 years old again.

Inside a massive tent we got our pictures taken with Snow White, Jasmine, Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora and the newest Princess, Giselle. We got to see costumes and props from the movie and insert ourselves into "Enchanted" scenes with the help of a green screen.

Also included was a make-up station to make sure you look your royal best. A dress-up station where the littlest of princesses can try on their gowns and tiaras. An arcade and game station set up to resemble NY where the movie is filmed. Of course there was also a store to buy all of the latest movie paraphenalia, even your own take-home McDreamy doll.

We had the best time. I highly recommend going as a VIP.

Enchanted will be playing at the El Capitan through December 6.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

French Crepe Company

We began our LA adventure with a late lunch/early dinner at the French Crepe Company in the Hollywood and Highland complex.

I love crepes for dessert and breakfast. I wasn't sure how I was going to like one for dinner. Janine, Colleen and Fernanda had a La Normandie crepe. It is filled with free range chicken, button mushrooms, carrots & green beans in a white dijon sauce. Daniella had a La Poissoniere crepe. It has smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, sour cream, capers, and chives. I had a special of the day a beef stroganoff creme with sirloin, mushrooms in a cream sauce.

After samples all around we decided that the La Normandie was the best. It was delicious and light. The La Poissoniere was a little too fishy for our liking. The stroganoff filling was delicious I would have just preferred it with egg noodles instead of a crepe.

The best was the dessert crepe. We share a La Napoleon where we got to pick three incredients to fill our crepe. We choose - nutella, bananas and walnuts. It was topped with whipped creme and was PHENOMENAL. I highly recommend it! So delicious. I bet it would also be great with strawberries. Then again I like to eat nutella with just a spoon.

Average price is $8-10. I definitely think this place is worth visiting. Check it out if you're in the area.

The French Crepe Company is also located in the Farmer's Marketing at 3rd and Fairfax.

PARKING TIP: If you're looking for a place to park in that area you really can't beat the Hollywood and Highland structure. With validation from participating shops and restaurants you can park 4 hours for $2. We ended up being there for 8 hours and paid $9 for parking. In LA that is a deal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Las Vegas

Las Vegas Sign
Originally uploaded by Pirvy

In order to properly give thanks I'm going to Vegas!

I will be visiting a spa, eating food from famous chef's restaurants, shopping and taking lots of photos.

I'll be back this weekend.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Homemade Tortillas in the OC

Making homemade tortillas is just a giant pain. My grandmother tried to teach me over and over again as a kid. I could never keep track of what she put in them, just a pinch of this, a splash of that and who knows what else. There was no recipe and no measuring. It was by feel and sight only. I didn't really care because I was only interested in eating them. In the end she'd get frustrated and just shoo me out of the kitchen.

Now that she's gone and I have a touch more patience I wish I had paid attention. Instead, I relish restaurants and stores that offer a taste of the homemade without all of the work.

Here are a list of places I have found in the OC that offer handmade tortillas.

1. El Torito Grill - we usually go to the one by the Orange County airport. As soon as you walk in you'll see all of the little ladies patting their dough balls getting ready to roll these out. These flour tortillas are to die for. They are served with butter and salsa. I also recommend the guacamole, which they make right in front of your eyes - all ingredients are ultra fresh. The rest of the food is a california-flavor fusion but the tortillas make it worth a visit. Located in Southern California and Indiana.

2. Miguel's - Their fajitas are amazing and what better way to top them off than with the delicious handmade flour tortillas. Miguel's has a diverse menu and is a nice treat. Located in Foothill Ranch and Corona.

3. Acapulcos - A step above tex-mex in terms of authenticity but dinner and Sunday brunch is worth it because of the homemade tortillas. So tasty. Located in California and Oregon.

Let me know if you find other restaurants that serve tasty, home-made tortillas.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mamma Gina's Ristorante

After Corteo, Lisa and I went for some italian on the Newport Harbor at Mamma Gina's Ristorante. I had never heard of it before but Lisa had and said it was good, she was right. It was the freshest, most delicious pasta I've had since I was in NY.

Lisa and I like to order two different entrees and share. We settled on:

  • Pappardelle Alle Contadina - House handmade wide egg noodle with our genuine hearty meat sauce, grilled mild italian sausage, sweet red and yellow pepper on super tuscan red wine sauce.
  • Mamma's Lasagna - savory meat sauce served over handmade sheets of pasta layered with ricotta, mozarella and other cheeses.
Lisa loved the lasagna and I loved the contadina. But it was all fantastic. So good. The flavors were rich, without being heavy. I've heard the Barefoot Contessa talk about how fresh pasta needs no sauce and now I can see why. It is is so delicious and these sauces didn't overwhelm it.

While the food was fantastic there was no ambience in the place. The harbor location would have been fun and visible during the day, at night the house lights were so bright we couldn't see anything. The lounge next door was so loud we could hardly hear each other either. I wouldn't go to Mamma Gina's expecting romance or the ability to carry on a conversation, but the food is worth a visit. I would go for lunch when the prices are less expensive. Dinner entrees range from $20-$30. Average lunch prices are $10-15.

One of my favorite parts of the dinner was when the table next to us was filled with six, typical, middle-aged, Orange County women. They wandered in dressed like their daughters with clothes just a little too tight, hair just so, perfectly manicured nails and slightly liquored up. They sat down and immediately ordered drinks. It took them 15 minutes to figure out what two entrees the six of them would share. Gotta love the O.C.

251 Pacific Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92660.
Phone: (949) 673-9500

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cirque du Soleil - Corteo

A clown imagines his funeral in a joyful processional in a carnival-type atmosphere.

The show explores the sad and funny, the big and small, the successful and failures. This show is about life - moments of supreme joy and beauty followed by the odd and uncertain.

There were so many things and people flying through the air I wasn't sure where to look. I was mesmerized by women twisting through and flying on chandeleirs with ease and elegance. Amazing acrobatics performed on beds. High wire acts done in ballet toe shoes. A trapzee act where men and women are thrown through the air without the aid of swings. A beautiful dance performed in the air, jugglers, comedic acts and so much more. It was two hours of childlike wonder and delight. So much fun.

Having never been to a Cirque du Soleil show before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I don't like the circus and I don't like clowns. It's ethereal, magical, breath-taking and amazing.

Unlike other shows I've heard about this storyline was easy to follow and the characters are actually human. The circular stage and constantly moving performers make sure there isn't a bad seat in the house, however I would avoid the ends. Pay for the Tier 1 or Tier 2 seats, they will put you dead center and give you the best view.

The Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) will be in Orange County at the Fairgrounds until Dec. 23rd.

Where: Orange County Fair & Exposition Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Nov. 8-Dec. 23. 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 4 and 8 p.m. Sundays, 1 and 5 p.m.
How much: $38.50-$90
Tickets: 800-678-5440

Thursday, November 8, 2007


I'm so busy right now, I don't have much time to travel but I tend to eat out a lot, so here is one of my lunch favorites: Chipotle.

They are the freshest, tastiest tacos, burritos and salads. It's not authentic, it's just delicious. Don't question. Just eat.

I always order the same thing: burritos with white rice, black beans, barbacoa, corn salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cheese and lettuce. Amazing.

This is a two-handed burrito that leaves you wanting nothing else. It is "unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal" food. Meaning it doesn't sit in your stomach like cement and might actually be good for ya.

Other options for your burrito, taco or salad include pinto beans, steak, chicken, carnitas, hot/medium salsa, pico de gallo and sauteed veggies.

Chipotles all over the U.S. Find one near you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Original Tommy's Burger

Today, after a staff training they arranged for the Tommy truck to feed us lunch.

I have never had an original Tommy burger but was told it is an LA institution and quite delicious. Apparently so, I actually saw a few guys run towards the truck and I swear a general yum swept through the crowd. So the expectations were high.

I was told the chili cheeseburger was the thing to order and many combined that with a side of chili-cheese fries. All that was missing was the milkshake to wash it all down.

With just one bite I wondered if I was eating what they described to me. It was the greasiest, drippiest, messiest burger I've ever had. I'm not a burger princess. It doesn't need to be neat and tidy. I'm all for a juicy burger packed with toppings, but I couldn't even taste any hamburger. The patty was really thin and small. I tasted the onions, chili and onions the most. So it was more like chili in a bread bowl than a hamburger. The chili itself didn't taste much different than anything you'd get from a can. It wasn't awful it just wasn't phenomenal.

The chili-cheese fries were tasty. I recommend those instead of the burger, which I don't feel the need to ever eat again.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pot Pie Tour of 2007

As the weather starts to turn a little chilly, which here in So. California means about 68, my thoughts turn to comfort food favorites. I start to crave food that warms you up like potatoes, stew and soups.

Lately my hearty fare of choice has been chicken pot pie, which I have now sampled at three different restaurants: Mimi's, (pictured left) Claim Jumper and The Lazy Dog Cafe.

Now Mimi's, founded in CA and located through the U.S., is a homestyle, family restuarant with a French/Mardi Gras twist. They serve the best, fresh-baked breads. So I was sure that their pot pie would be hard to beat. It was full of chicken, potatoes, peas, carrots and onions but the sauce was too runny. The crust was flaky and crunchy but the edges were over done. It reminded me of a Banquet frozen pot pie. You know the ones where the edges get brown and hard while the sauce is just a touch underdone. It was still ok, just not fantastic.

Next was the pot pie at Claim Jumper, located only on the West Coast. Known for large portions I was sure this would be a meal for days, and it was. The center was very rich and creamy. I liked the sauce better on this one although it was almost too rich and it sat very heavy with the dry, thick crust. Overall a decent pot pie but not my favorite dish at Claim Jumper.

Finally, The Lazy Dog Cafe. I had never even heard of this restaurant. But a friend recommended it and the food was delicious. It is brought to you by the founders of Mimi's and is currently only in Southern California. The menu is quite eclectic with italian, mexican and chinese inspired choices. But I knew what I wanted, the chicken pot pie.

What I received was the perfect example of all that is good and holy about a chicken pot pie. The crust was flaky, soft, moist, buttery deliciousness. The inside was creamy, packed with vegetables and yet not too heavy. It was a great blend with the crust. I will definitely be back to taste this bad boy again.

Any suggestions on where to eat a good pot pie in Southern California?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Cathedral of our Lady of Angels

Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74

A most unexpected elegance, serenity and peace.

That is what I experienced at the unique downtown cathedral. Built with warm tones to fit in with the tradition and history of the California Missions the church is welcoming, open, and beautiful. It is modern and fit in with the community of people that worship there.

We learned that there are no right angles in its construction to provide an era of mystery and majesty. It is built to withstand an 8.0 earthquake. It was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral to be built in the Western US in 30 years.

It's worth a visit, even if you're not Catholic.
555 W. Temple St, LA, CA 90012

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Finding Nemo

New Finding Nemo Ride
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
I finally stood in line to experience the new Finding Nemo ride at Disneyland.

When it first opened this summer the wait was over two hours. We only waited 40 minutes, not too shabby. But as a caveat the park was pretty empty yesterday.

I have to say the ride is MUCH better than it was, no longer do you have floating styrofoam fish. Instead you're swimming with Dorie and Nemo.

I think this is a must, if you like Nemo or want to see the next generation of the submarine ride.

Blue Bayou

Tina, Janine, Lisa and I took advantage of our Disneyland passes and headed into the park to lunch at the Blue Bayou, inside the Pirates of the Carribean attraction in New Orleans Square.

I was afraid we were going to be distracted by those screamers, music and general noise from the ride but honestly I didn't hear anything. The ambiance was great. Dimly lit with overhanging lanterns it is cozy.

They are famous for their Monte Cristo sandwiches and au gratin potatoes. So that's what Tina and I ordered. Janine had the Jambalaya. Lisa ordered the pork chops. Average entree price for lunch is $21 - 32 dollars. Although many told us the food was just okay.

I hated my entree. It a deep-fried sandwich that had little to no meat on it. It was all dough and very dry. I guess that's why you're supposed to use the jelly, but I don't like ham and jelly. It was odd.

Janine didn't like hers either. The jambalaya had undercooked rice and was too spicy for her, even though she asked if it was mild when she ordered it. We were going to suffer through it until our waitress came to the table and asked us how our meal was. We all looked down at our plates. Should I say something? Should I not? So I eeked out, "the potatoes are great."

Everyone laughed. Then she asked, "Do you want something else? We're happy to exchange it for you." So we did. I ordered the tesoro chicken and Janine had the Mahi Mahi. We were much happier with our second choices.

Desserts on the other hand were extraordinary. We figured we were already spending a ridiculous amount of money to eat there we might as well have dessert. Lisa and I shared a Flying Dutchman Cookie Boat. Tina and Janine had the creme brulee trio. Our waitress kindly pointed out that both the treasure chest for the creme brulee and the mast on our ship were edible. But as Tina point out, "Just because its edible it doesn't make it good." Stick to the chocolate for sure.

Overall a delightful experience with very fun people. The service was excellent. I don't think I feel the need to go again, but if I did I'd just have an appetizer and some dessert. And if you have an annual pass don't forget to show it - you get a discount.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Walt Disney Concert Hall

hall entry great
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
Debbie and I ventured to LA today for a photo day.

Our first stop was at the Disney Concert Hall. This is my favorite building, designed by Frank Gehry.

I learned today that the audio tour is now free. This 90-min tour of the hall, narrated by John Lithgow, gives an overview of the building's design, inspiration, materials, form and function.

We learned that the building was originally to have been made out of stone. That the warm douglas fir used on the interior is only for aesthetics it carries no acoutical value whatsoever. That Gehry designed the carpet specifically for Lillian Disney (still ugly). If you are interested in post-modern design this is a must see.

I was glad that it was slightly overcast today it made photographing the stainless streel structure somewhat easier.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

From Santiago to Saddleback

I found this photo on Flickr of the fires near where I live. It is spectacular. Chris Camargo, who took this shot, got some other amazing photos.

Orange County Fires

I would be remiss if I did not post something on this blog about the Orange County fires. Although most of my posts are here: O.C. Fires, Fire Update, Voluntarily Evacuated, and Returning Home.

This picture was taken on the road leading to our house on Monday. The flames are coming from right behind our complex.

From my window at work I just saw 14 fire trucks from LA, Santa Monica and other cities pass by heading towards our parking lot, which is being used as a staging center for the local fire departments.

The air is thick. There is ash everywhere. Everyone's allergies are going haywire. We all have headaches, congestion, and are coughing.

I am just praying for those who have lost their homes and those who are under mandatory evacuation. We were evacuated for one night and its an odd feeling. You feel very lost and distracted as you try to make sense of everything.

It's amazing how you can't get enough information. We're glued to the internet and tv as we try to piece together what we need to know.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Disney Annual Pass

After a two year break I decided it was time to have a Disney Annual Pass once again.

It's amazing how much prices have gone up. A one-day, park hopper ticket is now $91. WOW. A Southern California Annual Pass is $169. I only have to go twice to pay for the pass. How crazy is that.

So Lisa and I went and got a pass last week. Both of my roomies have a pass, as do a few of my co-workers. So there are lots of people to visit with. I've already been twice and paid for it. I remember in college (1993ish) they had southern california days and you could get in for like $36. I'm getting old, it's a sad day to remember when things were much cheaper.

But we've had a blast riding Tower of Terror, seeing the Halloween decorations, and people watching. I haven't had the energy to wait almost 2 hours for the new Nemo ride, but eventually I will.
Being there reminds me of how much fun I had last December with my nephews. I torture everyone with lots of stories about them at Disneyland, but I don't care, they're hilarious.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Girls Weekend in Laguna Beach

My friend Nicole is getting married and to celebrate her pending nuptuals, six of her favorite people all headed to the beach.

The first stop was to Burke Williams in Mission Viejo. They got massages, spent time in the jacuzzi, relaxed in the quiet room and drank the very delicious orange water. I hear they even got reprimanded for being too loud. It's not possible for that many girls to be together and be quiet. I don't know what they were thinking.

Then it was off to the beach house, that a friend let us borrow. The front door opened right up to the sand. It was amazing! We had appetizers, opened presents and starting yakking.

Then around 9 p.m. we went into Laguna Beach to have dinner at K'ya. Located in the Casa del Camino hotel the restaurant has an amazing variety of "small plates" to sample from. I had the hearts of romaine salad and thai chicken wings. Other options included braised short ribs, ahi poke, chicken empanadas, and potstickers. So many great things to try. The service was great and we had a blast. Each small plate ranged in price from $4 - 14. There are also regular entrees and salads.

The next day we had a fabulous brunch overlooking the ocean. We lounged for the rest of the day, just listening to the ocean and enjoying the time to spend together. All in all very relaxing and wonderful.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Magdalene - The New Musical

Mary Magdalene is oft written about and rarely understood. Broadway actress/playwright Allison Metcalf Allen brings her story to the stage in a new musical. Exploring themes of brokenness and redemption as a result of her rape at a young age by several Roman guards. How does she find freedom and healing?

Performed at the Three Trees Theatre in Costa Mesa, I've heard from many this show is phenomenal. My small group is going to go on October 27. So I won't have time to do a review, instead its a preview.

Another unique aspect of this show is that producers have partnered with the International Justice Mission to bring awareness to the fact that sex trafficing still happens today. There are things we can do to help girls like Magdalene now.

The show runs through October 27th. Performances are on Wednesday - Sunday, at 8 p.m. and a matinee on Satuday at 2 p.m. Ticket prices are $20. This play is recommended for ages 13+.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sunsets in Huntington Beach

I did a random google search on the best places to see the sunset in southern california and came across a lists on BeachCalifornia for their top 8 places in huntington beach.

Here are their top two locations:

- Huntington City Beach south side of the pier near the shoreline is the number one choice. The way the sun filters through the famous Huntington Beach Pier pilings is awesome. The play of light and shadow is not only mesmerizing, the moist, evening air is intoxicating. It is guaranteed to relax your mind.

- Huntington City Beach Dog Beach parking lots between Seapoint and Golden West Streets is our number two choice People gather for the sunsets and stay just until it gets dark. At this location you can watch the interplay of people and pets on the beach with the darkening sky as the sun drops brilliantly into the ocean. It isn’t just a sunset, it’s an entire experience.

Visit their website for the other 6 locations. Some of them are hotels, so it seems slightly commercial, but overall the list seems solid.

I'm definitely going to have to check some of them out.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dead Sea Scrolls and Mexican Food

Lisa, Debbie and I hopped in the CRV and headed down to Balboa Park today to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Natural History.

We left home at 10:15 and managed to take almost three hours to get there. It was bumper to bumper traffic all the way down. Not fun.

But, the great thing about driving down to San Diego is that the freeway parallels the ocean. The vistas are stunning. It was threatening to rain so the sky was full of beautiful clouds and was a brilliant shade of blue. Not exceeding 30 mph we had lots of time to look at the sky. We saw the collision of two storms noticed water spouts over the ocean. In my mind I call them ocean tornados. You could actually see the funnel clouds suck the water up out of the ocean into the sky. It was phenomenal.

When we got to Leucadia we had to pull over and get a photo. Of course my rechargeable batteries chose that moment to die, so luckily Debbie had her camera. It was stunningly beautiful. About 50 other people had the same idea, our little vista was jam packed.

But alas it was back to the traffic. We had visions of the Old Town Mexican Cafe in our heads and now only about two hours before our 3:15 p.m. entry time to the Dead Sea Scrolls. So our tortilla dreams had to be fulfilled pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, we picked the art festival weekend to visit Old Town and parking was out of the question. So we wandered over to Balboa Park and found St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro in Hillcrest. It is a beautiful cafe promising equally delicious crepes, panini's, and tasty baked treats. The food was ok, nothing spectacular. It sounds a lot better on the menu than it actually tastes. I don't think I'd go back.

Now its off to the Scrolls. The exhibit is divided into two sections. The first level is an introduction to the region where the Scrolls were found. You see beautiful photographs of the Dead Sea and surrounding areas. It's amazing how similar the biodiversity is to Southern California. Not exactly the images you have in mind of the middle East. I was picturing desert, war-ravaged areas and camels. So not true. We saw lush, rolling hills. Beautiful olive and date trees. And learned how the Dead Sea is receding because people keep drawing from it.

The introduction transitions to the archeological dig. You learn how the Bedouins discovered the scrolls in a a cave, untouched for thousands of years, through many different ruling parties from the Hittites to the Romans to the Mongols to 1948. The Scrolls were preserved by the dark, cry climate of the cave and many disintegrated simply by being removed. Unsure of their authenticity the scrolls were advertised for sale. Once scholars verified them they began the long process of preservation. Early techiniques had only proven to weaken them future.

In the second part of the exhibit you move down stars, grab your audio tour device and decend into a simulated cave. The lights are dimmed and the temperature is dropped to protect the documents. First we learned about Qumran the community near the caves where the Scrolls were found.

After 14 stops on the audio tour, through hair nets, shoes, coins and desks we finally we got to see the Scrolls. They are so small, frail, and fragmented. There are large reproductions above them so you can view them more clearly. It's amazing to see the different penmanships between the different documents. Each one bearing traces of its human connection. Some are clear and precise. Others are blurred, thick and hard to read. We saw scrolls of the biblical books of Leviticus, Job, Psalms and Deuteronomy.

It's hard to image a society where only a select few know how to read and write. Yet they were passing on sacred texts because they believed the veracity of it. The exhibits dismisses the Scrolls as little more than ideas. Ideas that have certainly shaped thousands of years of thoughts, philosophies and religion, but is still just one idea of many.

It was interesting to listen to the different theologies of those viewing the documents. There were many Christians there who were studying the timelines, tracing prophecies and discussing bible stories. Others saw them as just an interesting historical discovery having little importance to their life today.

One thing struck me is how the Bible did not change for thousands of years. It was passed from scroll to scroll by diligent scribes and nothing changed. The message, meaning and importance remain the same.

The museum was packed. It is shoulder-to-shoulder view of the photographs, exhibits, and films in the collection. It was frustrating to try and read while being bumped and pushing while listening to screaming babies. It was not a leisurely visit to one of the most important archaological discoveries of the 20th centuries. By the end I was exhausted.

We went back to Old Town for dinner and headed home. Overall a fantastic day with two of my favorite people.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tall Ships Festival, Dana Point

Tall Ships
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74

I went to the Toshiba Tall Ships Festival in Dana Point. I don't know what I was expecting but this wasn't it. I think I was struck by my Southern California Festival curse.

There is very little parking in the Dana Point Harbor so you park in remote shuttle lots and are bused in. You're dropped off near the existing shops and restaurants in Dana Point so I wasn't sure where the festival started. Sure these shops had stuff on the sidewalk because of the festival, but it was just the usual wares.

So I kept walking and finally found some booths. There were about 30 ranging from information about marine life to paintings to face painters for kids. There were lots of kids and dogs.

It was nice to be down by the water but I was hoping to see the ships with sails up. I'll either have to time it better or just go back to San Diego.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

San Diego: Reprieve from the Heat

Today was our final day of site seeing and the end of our vacation together.

We decided to spend the night in San Diego since they have a morning flight out on Thursday. We got a great rate on Hotwire for a hotel in the downtown/harbor area of San Diego.

We've had such a good time. I think we all were a little mindful of the fact that it was our final outing.

We had a lazy morning. Mom and Dad finished packing, then an early lunch at the Corner Bakery. Home of the tastiest cinnamon creme coffee cake on the planet.

We didn't make it to San Diego until about 2 p.m. We checked into the hotel and then went to the harbor. My dad wanted to see the tall ships and we opted for a 2 hour harbor cruise on the Hornblower.

There are only two harbor cruise companies to choose from Harbor Excursions and Hornblower. They offer the exact same cruise, both in a one hour and two hour variety. We opted for the two hour tour of both the north and south bay on the Hornblower.

Why the Hornblower, we had a coupon from a tourist mag we found at the hotel, saving $2 a person. The tour itself was fine, but the narrator sucked. It didn't sound like he enjoyed his job all that much. But he was quick to ask for a tip. I hate that.

Our tour included: the navy ship yard, naval sub station, tall ships, coronado bridge, point loma, harbor and shelter islands, cabrillo national monument, and more. Being out on the water sure lowered our temperature. In our second hour I started to freeze. I was ready to be off the boat.

From there we opted for dinner in the Gaslamp district. Before heading back to the ethnic food wasteland known as Ohio my parents wanted one last Mexican dinner. They chose Fred's Mexican Cafe, voted best Mexican cuisine in San Diego.

The salsa is fantastic. With a hint of chipotle its the best I've had in a while. Mom had the enchiladas suizas, Dad had fajitas and I had chicken monterrey. All very good I would recommend it. As we were eating a friend of mine randomly walks by. It was great to see her and her new fiance. What a treat.

After dinner we walked around a little. Mom wanted to visit the Ghirardelli Store. Dad wanted to buy a Cuban cigar and I visited the ZGallerie. Everyone was happy.

I can't wait to get back to the Gaslamp area and explore some more. There are over 65 different restaurants, many museums, shops and clubs. So much to do.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Battling the Inland Heat

We got a slow start today. It is still so flipping hot. This is not the Camelot weather we are supposed to have here in Southern California.

We made it worse by heading inland. Instead of the cool moving breeze off the ocean we headed northeast to San Gabriel, CA, near Pasadena to visit the San Gabriel Mission. I am on a quest to see all 21 missions and this is my 8th one.

San Gabriel Mission is the 4th Mission founded in 1771 by Father Junipero Serra. He hoped to turn over mission management to the local Shoshone indians (Gabrielenos) but due to secularization in 1833 it didn't happen. In the 1900s the Claretian missionaries restored the mission and church and continued to reach out into the community with compassion.

This mission, like all of them, is a small city. It contains its own wine press, candle-making, tannery and other provisions. The grounds themselves are a little undermaintained but the simple beauty of the mission shines through.

After soaking up all of the history of the mission we continued to brave the heat and travelled to the LA Arborteum in Arcadia. This 127 acre botanical garden was founded by EJ Baldwin. Who bought the desert land with visions of an oasis. He proceeded to hand plant much of the property and received many of the varieties of plants as gifts from around the world. One distinct feature of the property are the peacocks and peahens that roam freely throughout the park. I was hoping to see one display its feathers but they weren't having it. Perhaps they were too hot as well.

I knew we were in trouble when upon arrival we learned that they were not running a tram today, it seems the roads are under construction.

So we proceeded to start walking in 100+ degree weather around the grounds. Did I mention it's 127 acres of stuff to see. Yea. In triple digit weather with humidity. I think we're high on siteseeing and don't know when to stop. So our first tour was through was African garden. All I remember is desert hot.

20 minutes in and ours collective wagons were a draggin'. My mom soaked her shirt in the water fountain and it was dry in about 15 minutes. Yep. Hot.

So we persevered and went into the tropical garden. It was thick with foliage and a smidgen cooler. Unforunately it came to an end all to fast. We pressed on toward the Queen Anne Cottage, which was also home to Fantasy Island. It's a beautiful victorian home with a lush rose garden and pond nearby. Very beautiful. Still hot.

My mom gave up at this point, flagged down a maintenance man on a golf cart and headed back towards the entrance. Maybe we should have taken heed from the fact that the aboretum was virtually empty upon our arrival.

Dad and I tredged on to see the waterfall. Only we make it there to learn that due to high temperature there is no water. At this point we're parched and wondering if we're going to make it back to the entrance. I have visions of a search and rescue team having to come find us. We'll be on the news as the idiots that trapsed around the gardens in 120 degree weather. It didn't help that none of the water fountains worked. They turned them off. What the heck. We nearly died out there for heaven sakes.

We only ended up seeing about half of it before we gave up. But the grounds are stunning, even though a lot of the plants are dormant or dead in the weather. I can't wait to go back when more is in bloom and it isn't so flipping hot.

We haven't had enough heat we head towards Ontario to have dinner with my cousin Sammy. We're going to meet him at the Ontario Mills Mall. We opt for BJs Pizzeria and the air conditioning. Praise God for air conditioning and water.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Cars, Vegetables, and the Hollywood Sign

Our adventure today was to LA to visit the Petersen Automotive Museum, The Grove and Hollywood and Highland.

I come from a family that loves cars. My dad used to be a mechanical engineer. We frequent dealerships just to see the new cars, even when we're not going to buy. We go to car shows and I used to work in the automotive aftermarket. Cars rock! So the Petersen Automotive Museum was a must see for us.

I have to say this was the best museum I've been to in a while. It does an amazing job of showcasing the cars in their context. It explores the world they lived in. You see cars from their inception up through the 60s in the permanent exhibition. You watch the gas pump and freeways in LA evolve.

What was amazing to me was that as early as 1917 they were exploring hybrids. They didn't have the technology they needed to make it work. What was also interesting was that those early cars got 50 miles to the gallon, even through the 40s. Those cars weighed significantly more than our cars do today and they got 50 mpg and we can't manage that with all of our technology, something is wrong with that picture.

Other exhibits on display now are Hollywood Cars, Convertibles and Microcars. If you like cars you really need to visit. Admission is $10 and parking is $6.

For lunch we headed over to the LA Farmer's Market on 3rd and Fairfax, just a few blocks from the museum. Established in 1934 the market has a long history of bring the community together around food. You can buy your vegetables, eat a crepe, taco or New Orleans gumbo. We opted for Du-Parrs a family-owned restaurant established in 1936. Their homemade food was delicious. They have a bakery onsite so the bread and desserts were fantastic.

Then we wandered down the block to The Grove to see the fountain show, shop at Crate & Barrell and we listened to a band on the grassy knoll. The band was called The Copycats and they were really good. Lots of celebrities like to shop there but we didn't see any.

Needing a fix of the weird and fanciful we decided to visit Hollywood and Highland. Out in full force were people dressed up like Shrek, Harry Potter, vampires, Spiderman, SpongeBob and other characters to make money taking pictures with tourists. It works.

We opted instead to have a cream puff at Beard Papa, see the Hollywood Sign (directly behind the shopping complex), and visit the Grauman's Chinese Theatre. I don't know what's so fascinating about seeing celebrity hand and shoe prints but it is. I think its because they're all so amazingly small.

Our last stop was at the Roosevelt Hotel, right across the street from Graumans. Knowing that is where the first Oscar's were held I wanted to check it out. The hotel was home away from home for many stars back when Hollywood was still glamorous.It has been completely restored the Spanish Colonial style and its luster. However I don't think its as beautiful as The Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles.

After three full days of siteseeing we're exhausted. Tomorrow we're going to sleep in and lay low.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Wine Tasting in Temecula

Inspite of warnings that the heat would be in the triple digits we braved the weather and headed east to Temecula so that my mom could do a little wine tasting. It's her new hobby.

We just kept telling ourselves it would be a dry heat and cranked the AC in the car. OH MY GOODNESS! We had no idea how hot a dry heat can be. I got out of the car and felt like I couldn't breathe. Walking was like swimming.

We stopped to eat to make sure there was food in their stomachs before they started tasting and the clerk said it was 107. Oh yea, it was hot.

But we persevered and headed to our first winery - Churon. A winery bed and breakfast built to resemble a French Chateau. It has a picnic area and a great view. The staff is so friendly and informative. I remembered it from my last trip (5 years ago) and knew that they free poured. I gave my mom a crash course in pacing herself. Letting her know that its ok to spit.

Then we headed to Calloway for the free tour to see how they make wine. It's a great 25 minute overview of Calloway's philosophy and grounds. Even though they were in the middle of harvesting we didn't get to see any actually in process. Although they are having an old-fashioned wine stomping at the end of September.

Two things I learned from our guide Sergio was that most California wines expire in five years, if not sooner. They are not meant to be aged because of they way they use yeast to quicken the fermenting process. So essentially American wine is akin to fast food - sweet.

Our third stop was Maurice Car'rie. It is designed after a Victorian-style farmhouse. The grounds are quaint and they usually have a craft fair, but not today. Their wines are usually blends but they have the best baked brie in sourdough bread. That alone is worth stopping for.

Our final stop was at a winery I'd never been to, called South Coast Winery.

It is also a resort and spa. That aspect is definitely reflected in the grounds, which are stunning. The walkways are lined with a gorgeous pergola made of barn beams. It's a great place to take photos.

My mom said the wine at South Coast was great, especially a port wine called Black Jack. They also have tasty wine-related jams, dipping sauces and salsas.

Once we were wined out we went for a drive around the temecula valley, which is amazingly beautiful at this time of year.
Inspite of the heat it was a great day!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lazy Summer afternoon on Balboa Island

Today we headed up the 405 a bit to Balboa Island and Newport Beach via Lucille's BBQ in Lake Forest.

After a leisurely lunch at Lucille's, which has the tastiest BBQ, biscuits and banana pudding we ventured out to Balboa Island, a man-made island whose lots originally sold from $25 and are now worth millions.

We took the ferry over and I have to say I was shocked to learn that it cost $4 to get over there. I know I'm an old fogey by saying I remember when it was like .55 cents a person. How crazy is that. Now its a $2 for the car/driver and $1 per person.

Once landed we drove the six blocks to the beach to park. From there we walked around the shops and pier. We were going to rent a surrey bike for four but it cost $35/hour. The attendant generously threw in an extra hour for free and we just laughed. There is no way we were going to bike for two hours in this heat. So the extra hour did not make it more enticing.

Everyone else agreed. Normally the sidewalks are full of bikers, skaters, skateboarding and runners but today the Island was quiet. There were some people at the beach but it was not crowded at all. I'm sure you're there this weekend it will be another story.

We decided to beat the heat by taking a 90 minute bay cruise [$17] instead, to see how the other half live. So we boarded the Queen and cruised around the bay checking out the most expensive island home for $29 million and a home that was ordered from a Sears catalog for $1850. The land it sits on is worth $4 million.

We also learned that Nicholas Cage just bought a house there and so did the president of yahoo, whom we actually saw as we were cruising by. Other bay cruise vistas were sea lions, the site where they filmed the opening sequence to Gilligan's Island and the Newport Ghetto where the homes are only worth $3 million. It was a fantastic way to relax, stay cool and see the island.

No visit to Balboa is complete without stopping in the Fun Zone. While we didn't play in the arcade, take a ride on the ferris wheel or carrousel we did have a Balboa Bar in the fun zone. This is a must if you're ever near Balboa. It is ice cream hand dipped in chocolate rolled in your favorite topping. So good.

We ended our day with another trip to the beach where we watched the sunset over the water.
It was breathtaking.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cooling Off in Laguna Beach

I had to work half a day today so mom and dad lounged by the pool and in the jacuzzi. It was a scorcher outside so they were in search of cooler locations. Once I got home we headed down to Laguna in search of moving air.

Aaahh yes, the ocean breeze. That elusive wind that has the power to make you feel human once again. Anyway, once we finally found parking and headed west it was like you could actually feel your body temperature dropping. It was heaven.

So our first step in Laguna was Gelato Paradiso. I had pomegranate, lemon and coconut. It was so good and refreshing. Mom got various flavors of chocolate and dad had a mixture of most everything.

So we walked down through all of the stores and galleries on PCH. We even took a walk on the beach. The water was so cold. Our final stop of the day was at The Cliffs to have appetizers with an amazing view.

A fantastic afternoon.

Gelato Paradiso 448 South Coast Highway, Suite A Laguna Beach, California 92651
Phone: 949.464.9255

The Cliff Restaurant 577 South Coast Hwy.Laguna Beach, CA
Phone: (949) 494-1956

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Will Stop for Homemade Tortillas

My parents got in safe and sound today.

Our first stop was in Old Town San Diego. After living in Ohio for two years my parents crave real Mexican food. So every time they come to visit we make sure to have one authentic meal.

So we went straight to Old Town Mexican Cafe in the heart of Old Town San Diego, where the tortillas, both corn and flour, are homemade. That reason alone makes it worth stopping for. You can get them to go for only $3 a dozen.

My dad had their specialty, carnitas, and mom and I shared a taco and tostada combination plate. The rice was a little dry and over condimented but everything else was fantastic. I highly recommend it.

Old Town Mexican Cafe
2489 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110
Tel: (619) 297-4330 Fax: (619) 297-8002
Open Daily 7:00am- 2:00am

Monday, August 20, 2007

Multi-Cultural LA Day

Finally after two months of busy schedules I got to spend the day with Erika. No big plans we decided to go with what sounded good.

We thought about the Getty or perhaps to the park in Culver City to see an outdoor play but in the end opted for the African Marketplace & Cultural Faire.

We'd heard it was the largest cultural fair in the US and in its 22nd year we had very high hopes for it. We expected a fair full of life, with non-stop music and entertainment, a wide variety of food, and a broad selection of vendors and art. It did not deliver.

It was more like a swapmeet combined with a school carnival. We arrived at 2 p.m. and it was deserted. There was one stage, with no chairs for seating. Didn't really matter since there was nothing scheduled for hours. Most of the vendors seemed to carry the same thing. The youth village, which was supposed to have a petting zoo, storytime and classes was one booth for face painting, a bounce house and a kid kareoke stage. When we walked through it was five kids singing along to a Beyonce song. Maybe we just went at the wrong time on the wrong weekend.

Reeling from our disappointing festival experience we decided to to Culver City to visit Grand Casino Cafe & Bakery, [3826 Main St Culver City, CA 90232 (310) 202-6969] a cute Argentinian cafe on Main Street for a desert snack. Erika says that their empanadas are tasty. They have lots of traditional treats to choose from and a wide selection of sandwiches as salads. I was just happy to find my favorite Argentine cookies, Alfajores. So good.

Culver City has really changed in the last five years. There are so many great restaurants in their redeveloped downtown. Erika said that Harrison Ford's son just opened a place there aptly named Ford's Filling Station. I may have to forego a few trips to Versailles and try out some of their culinary treats.

Besides you never know who you'll run into there. While we were stopped at a stop light a pedestrian almost ran into Erika's car while crossing the street. I looked up and it was none other than Tim Robbins. How funny is that.

I spent the rest of day learning how to make Mu Doi or steamed pork buns, one of my favorite Asian foods. So good. By far, my favorite part of the day was the impromptu dinner al fresco in the garden. So lovely. What a perfect way to cap the day.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ocean Views

ocean view 2
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74

One thing I love about living in Southern California are the views.

I was driving home from a friends house rounded the corner and this is what I saw. How fantastic is that! Views like that are what make the crazy amounts of money we pay to live here worth it.

Luckily I had my camera so I pulled over and took a picture.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Empanada Man

I love Argentine food. It is AMAZING. My most favorite is the chimichurri sauce - a delicate blend of herbs, spices and oil that makes any steak, empanada or piece of bread come alive. It is a veritable carnival of flavor in your mouth. I kid you not.

I was thrilled when a co-worker introduced me to Empanada Man. Only a mile or so from work in Lake Forest. It is a whole restaurant dedicated to the making of hand-made flaky pouches of deliciousness filled with all sorts of treats like spinach and cheese, shredded steak, chile verde pork or ricotta and mushroom. Soo tasty.

I don't however recommend you try to reheat these babies, no so good. They are best fresh and hot the first time around.

Empanada man also serves pizza, salads, sandwiches but I've never ventured beyond the empanada.

Empanada Man - 20761 Lake Forest Drive, Lake Forest, CA. (949) 855-9257. Visit their web site: for a full menu and coupons.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Prepping for a Parental Visit to So Cal

My parents will be visiting at the end of August and I'm trying to put together their itinerary.

A visit from the parentals is quite different than prepping for a visit from the nephews. But I do have to blend two very different approaches to vacations. My mom just wants to hang out and live life like I do. So she's ok with a light schedule. My dad on the other hand can't sit still. He likes to contantly be on the go. He wants a full schedule and to see everything.

Ooh and the other great part of all of this is that if I ask them what they want to do - they have no opinion. Yep all I get by way of help is, "whatever you want to do honey." So that means no help whatsoever. So I'll be stabbing in the dark trying to figure out what they want. Aahh yes, my childhood revisited.

I love my parents don't get me wrong we have a great time, but its just a tad stressful.

We've been to: Disneyland, Queen Mary, LA Conservancy Walking Tour, San Juan Capistrano Mission, Magic Mountain, Santa Monica (3rd Street, Pier), Old Town Pasadena,

So this time I think I'll take them to: Huntington Gardens, Old Town San Diego, La Jolla, Buena Adventura Mission, and maybe we'll go to Santa Barbara or Palm Springs.

We'll see.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

OC Fair - Cowabunga

Today Tina, Genny and I went to the OC Fair to eat deep-fried twinkies, visit the animals, see a bull-riding show and peruse gadgets we never knew we could live without. It was fun, but ooh so hot. We had to make strategic visits to the air conditioned buildings just to survive.

We took a divide and conquer approach to the food. First on our list was some lunch so we shared a sausage with pepper and onions and some deep fried zucchini.

After visiting a buck-toothed llama, 900 lb cow and baby animals we decided it was time for deep-fried twinkies and threw in a couple of deep-fried oreos to round out the junk food fest. They really were quite tasty. The twinkies were like a filled-doughnut. The oreos were quite chocolatey and very sweet. Of the two I enjoyed the twinkies more. It was ooey-gooey, calorie-filled deliciousness.

In the Main Hall we decided to have our handwriting analyzed with a giant machine with lots of blinking lights. My fear was that it was scanning my signature and going to apply for credit cards but they assured me it didn't. What we received for our $3 was a generic sign reading. I didn't even agree with half of what they said. Tina's and Genny's was right on.

Then we met up with Lena and Derek for a bull-riding show. I've never seen a bull-riding event. It was entertaining for about 30 minutes, then the seats got really hard, it was hot and I was done. Each ride is less than 8 seconds and it takes about 10 minutes to prep the bull and rider for their turn. So what they fill with is a bunch of lame horse shows. I don't think its funny for some guy to pretend to run into a horses' butt.

So we had dinner with Lena and Derek. Tina and Genny opted for chow mein, I had a bbq beef sandwich. Not as festive as the deep-fried twinkie. After six hours at the fair it was time to go.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mayan Inn

Contrary to popular belief there is ethnic food in South Orange County.

Today for lunch four co-workers and I ventured to the Mayan Inn, on the corner of Los Alisos and Jeronimo in Lake Forest. It has been owned and operated by the same family since 1986. Located in a strip mall I wasn't sure what to expect, but one step inside the restaurant and all hole-in-the-wall fears disappear. It is a very cute atmosphere with white stucco walls, black vinyl booths and Mexican flag colors everywhere.

They serve very traditional Mexican food. For lunch I had a cheese enchilada and beef taco plate, which included beans and rice. The beans were excellent, not from a can. The enchilada sauce was homemade and delicious. It had the right balance of tomato and chili spices.The rice wasn't fantastic, but I'd still be willing to give them another shot. I'm anxious to try the chile verde.

If you're in the SOC give it a shot.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Places to Bonfire in Orange County

At the doctor's office last week I casually perused Orange Coast's July 2007 issue and discovered a list of beaches with firepits in the O.C.

The article points out several important keys to successful bonfires in the OC. The first is to arrive early in the day and stake out your spot, especially in the summer.

The second is to make sure you have the right kind of wood. The article says that the best for a long-lasting, smoke-free fire is pine and Eucalyptus. You can log onto to learn how to build your wood pile. Here are a list of O.C. beaches with fire pits to test your fire building skills.

Capistrano Beach - 35005 Beach Road.
Hours: 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Parking: $1/hr.
Phone: 949-923-2280.

Dana Point - Doheney State Beach, 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, at el Obispo.
Hours: 6 a.m. - 10 p.m. during DST and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. PST.
Parking; $10.
Phone; 949-496-6172

Huntington Beach - Bolsa Chica State Beach, 17851 PCH, between Warner Ave and Seapoint.
Hours: 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Parking: $10
Phone: 714-846-3460

Huntington Beach - Huntington City Beach, 103 PCH, between First St and Beach Blvd
Hours: 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Parking: $10
Phone 714-536-5281

Huntington Beach - Huntington State Beach, on PCH between Beach Blvd and Magnolia Ave.
Hours 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Parking: $10
Phone: 714-536-1454

Newport Beach - Balboa Beach/Balboa Pier, on Ocean Front between Island Ave and Main St
Hours; 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Parking: Meters and street parking
Phone: 949-719-6100

Newport Beach - Corona del Mar State Beach, Ocean Ave and Iris Street
Hours; 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Parking: $10
Phone: 949-644-3151

Newport Beach - Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort and Marina, 1131 Back bay Drive, off Jamboree Road.
Hours 8 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Parking: $10
Phone: 949-729-3863

San Clemente - Calafia State Beach, Avenida Calafia and Avenida del Presidente
Hours: 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Parking: $10
Phone; 949-492-3156

San Clemente - Ole Hanson beach/North Beach, 1900 Avenida Estacion
Hours: 4 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Parking: Metered until 8 p.m.
Phone: 949-361-8265.

San Clemente - Pier, 620 Avenida del Mar, off El Camino Real.
Hours: 4 a.m. to midnight.
Parking: $1/hour.
Phone: 949-361-8219.

San Clemente - State Beach, 3030 Avenida del President at Avenida Calafia.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Parking: $10
Phone: 949-492-0802

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Drive-In is back in OC

I was searching for info on the OC Fair and randomly ended up on a link to a new drive-in that shares the fairgrounds. A decade after the last one in OC closed Star-Vu opened its gates to a sell out crowd. It's closed now for the fair but opens again August 11, 2007.

The new drive-in experiences offers state of the art sound (on FM transmission) and first-run movies but still keeps all the traditions and nostalgia alive as well.

I can't wait to go. Growing up in a small Ohio town there was nothing to do on a summer night but go to the drive in. I loved going in my jammies, playing on the swingset up front and eating a ton of popcorn. The great thing about a drive-in here in CA is that there won't be any mosquitos to eat you alive on a hot summer night.

Location: Orange County Fairgrounds, Costa Mesa, 88 Fair Drive. The fairgrounds are located just off of the 55 Freeway South at the Del Mar/ Fair Drive exit. Cars arriving will be entering off of Fair Drive through Gate Two. Exit traffic will be directed out Gate 10 to Newport Boulevard.
Capacity: 300 cars
Price: General admission (13 years and older): $8.50, Children (5 to 12 years) $5 , and free for 4 years and under.
Public information: Phone number: 949-296-7002 , Website: or email: