Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Real "Jeffersonian" from Bones

Bones fans will recognize this as the establishing shot used for the Jeffersonian.

It is in fact the Wallis Annenberg Building for Science Learning and Innovation at Exposition Park right by the rose garden. I knew I recognized it!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Descanso Gardens: Rest in the City

I have been wanting to visit Descanso Gardens since I saw a co-worker's, sister's wedding photos.

That was over five years ago and I hadn't made it, until today. Debbie and I, taking advantage of my last weekend house sitting in LA, ventured over to La Canada to wander around.

Ironically it is just as far from Culver City, where I was staying, to La Canada, as it would have been from Orange County. But that is neither here nor there.

For only $8, and free parking, you are given access to over 150 acres of garden delights. We stopped first for a late lunch at the outdoor cafe, catered by Patina. Good sandwich and salad fare. What is killer is the outdoor seating, set beneath a lovely pergola and beside a serene water feature. It was very relaxing and the set the tone for our visit.

Since neither of us had ever been there we should have taken the 50 minute tram tour for $4, but we were late and impatient, so we didn't. We just started walking.

Our first stop was in the five-acre Rosarium. It is breath-taking. The informal garden has over 1,200 varieties of roses and over 3,000 plants. Strolling through the gardens you feel like you're in someone's backyard. It is not the formal experience you have at The Huntington but instead you feel like you can run and play. Everywhere you turn there is a bench to sit and view the gardens, take in its beauty and relax.

From the roses we meandered through the Camellia Forest and Oak Forest, which are lush and green. It provided amazing shade and a few breezes to help us cool off. It was hot! There are lots of trails in and through this area for those who want to explore more and have a more strenuous hike.

Since we got there late we didn't get to see everything. Next time I want to make it to the Lilac, Iris and Japanese Gardens. We got lost in the rose garden for a few hours. Couldn't stop taking photos. I will definitely be back!

If you go remember that La Canada is hot! Bring sunscreen, a hat, good walking shoes and lots of water.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

(Non) Baseball Game at Angel Stadium - Cheap Entertainment

Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
Some friends of mine from Ohio were in CA this week. They were staying in San Diego but came up to the OC for a night.

One of them is a HUGE baseball fan. Since they're from Ohio her team is the Indians, as losery as they may be this year. So to please her we went to an Angel's game.

Not wanting to shell out serious cash we opted for the cheap $12 seats. I have never been in those seats before. I now know why they are called nose-bleeds. Those stairs are steep! My friend's daughter is a dancer, in really good shape and we were all lacking oxygen by the time we got up there. Yikes.

We all sat down caught our breath and decided that we could wait til the end to go to the bathroom.

Bad thing about those seats, vendors don't go up that high. We only saw one, the lone hot dog vendor willing to climb up there. So sad. Since the daughter is the young one we made her go get snacks. LOL. The food at Angel stadium is really pretty good - Carls Jr, Panda Express, CPK in addition to your usual baseball fare.

We were so busy yakking and catching up we really didn't watch any baseball. I guess that's what ya get when three girls go to a game. Didn't really matter, it was a blow out against the Angels, they lost like 6-0. Or at least that was the score when we left in the 7th inning.

I like baseball for the socializing, always fun to go with friends. Lots of great memories there. My favorite are give-away nites and when they show fireworks. That night we got a tin-cap Angel's hat, courtesy of Claim Jumper. That was worth the $12 and they threw in a little baseball too, nice.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Extreme Hamburger Customization at The Counter

A friend asked me to meet them at some place called The Counter. I had no idea what they were talking about. All they would tell me is, it's hamburgers on crack.

Alright. I could not imagine what would constitute such amazingness. I mean there already was Red Robin that does a decent burger, but you can't really customize. I haven't been back since they had the audacity to eliminate my favorite burger, the Pizziola. But there is the issue of those fantastic thick steak fries that never end. That is a HUGE selling point. Have you had the garlic fries, so good.

Then there is Fuddruckers. Their burger is good. You can pretty much customize and they have an extreme condiment bar. You get your choice of size, etc but they're bankrupt and restructuring or something. That is bad hamburger mojo.

Don't get me started on In-N-Out that is just not in the running. There was once this great greasy joint in West LA called, "Mo Betta Meaty Meat Burgers." That place was slammin' and you can't say the name enough, it in and of itself inspires delight. The whole burger, steak fry, soda combo ROCKED!

So how good could The Counter be? What would they have to bring to the hamburger conversation? I was thinking it was going to be some shi-shi place that gave you a dinky burger with a wasabi-teriyaki sauce and called itself a new twist on burgers.

But I am here to testify that The Counter is this shiz. It is ultra modern and the burgers are big and juicy. You can choose a chicken, turkey, lamb, beef or veggie burger in your choice of size on your choice of bun, go old school with the sesame, healthy with whole wheat or get crazy with the market selection, the flavor of the month. This month its rustic ciabatta. Then you have your choice of 12 different cheeses (1 included), 21 different regular toppings (up to four included, more extra), 9 premium toppings and your choice of 21 different sauces (1 included, more extra). It is a choice overload. Kid you not.

I was dumb-founded. I had no idea what I wanted to taste. I thought about going with one of the pre-fixe burger choices, but that would be just silly.I had the beef burger with sharp provolone cheese, mixed organic greens, red onion and a delicious chimichurri sauce (market place selection) on rustic ciabatta bread. My friend got a beef burger with gruyere, carmelized onions and black bean/corn salsa on ciabatta. Each of our 1/3 burgers were about $10.00 given extra selections we requested. The ciabatta was a dollar up charge and fries are extra.

We split an order of 50/50 fries - skinny fries and sweet potato fries. The sweet fries were a bit bland but the zesty sauce that came with it made all the difference. I'm not a fan of the skinny fry but I'd get the sweet fries again, because of the sauce.

Total bill was about $30.00 with the drink. I loved it. It was a great treat! You could return a thousand times and never have your burger the same way twice. Think about the possibilities. I will be back!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Classic Movies on Big Screen in Anaheim

I was driving past Cinema City Theatres today in Anaheim and in small print see the words, "My Fair Lady, May 12." What?!

Every second Wednesday, throughout the year, they present their Classic Cinema Series. Fabulous movies like Goldfinger (June), Casablanca (October), and White Christmas (December) will be brought to the big screen once again.

Cinema City also offers first run movies at only $5 before noon, $6 from 12-6 p.m., and general admission is $9.

Looks like I will be frequenting Cinema City a lot this year.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pink Tacolicious

After taking in JLO's comeback flick, The Back Up Plan at AMC Century City, we decided to walk around the outdoor mall to see what there was to see. Passing Coach, Tiffany, Kate Spade and The Container Store, our eyes were drawn to the outdoor deck of Pink Taco.

Seated up high in Los Angeles, among the skyscrapers, you are sippin' the drink of your choice and feasting on chips and salsa.

The chips were thick and crunchy. The salsa nice and spicy, chunky not runny and oh so flavorful. We shared a taco platter ($12.95), three tacos with rice and beans. We ordered two carne asada and one chicken. The flavoring was the same on both and it was gooood. The margaritas were not skimpy on the tequila and at $10/ea about average on the price. I must say it was all delicious and the service was quick and friendly.

The outdoor bar cleared out at about 10:30 p.m. but the music was so loud that you could not easily carry on a conversation. Still a fun place to go with friends before or after you see a movie and if you're young enough before you hit the clubs.

My friend and I both realized that about 10 years ago 11 p.m. is when the night got started but in our mid-30s it's time to go home.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Got my American Idol Moment

After a year-long wait my friend finally got two tickets to see a taping of American Idol.

I usually only watch the beginning of the season and then the last few weeks. I'm fickle like that, I admit it. My favorite of this bunch was Siobhan and Lee. Siobhan was eliminated last week, but Lee's still going strong. I think he has gotten better since I saw him last, in the top 24.

Turns out she only got tickets for the dress rehearsal, but I was still in, why not. It's one of the great perks of living where we do.

We arrived at CBS studios at 12 p.m. dressed "trendy and hip with closed-toe shoes" per the guideliness she received with the tickets. The line at the Genosee gate was already about 50 deep, so we took our place to wait.

Waiting at another gate, not far from ours, were those going to see Dancing with the Stars. To attend that show you have to dress like you're going to prom. Wow. Lots of stilettos, glitter and hairspray happening!

We are set to wait an hour or more, in the sun, to just get into the next waiting area. Finally at about 1:30 p.m. we walk single-file through the metal detector, no phones or cameras. Then we wait another hour and a half on benches outside the set. However, they do have a water cooler and port-a-potties for us, it isn't all bad. We get acquainted with those around us and even run into someone my friend knows, it's a small world.

Finally at 3 p.m. we go inside. I'm surprised that I'm really quite excited. All of the waiting really builds anticipation. We file in, like good school kids, and are are seated right behind the judges table. If this were the live show we would have been on camera the entire time. This is usually where the family and friends of the contestants sit.

It is just magical to be there, to see in person what you only usually see on tv. I was instantly surprised at how very small the set is. It's amazing how much smaller it is in person. I could hear murmurs of the same thought echoing in those around us. Someone even said, "I could sing here, what's the big deal." But once the turn on the lights, wow! The set is transformed. Since most of it is metal and mirrors it becomes gigantic, foggy and scary. Now I can see why they're nervous.

The actual performance area this week is only about 15' x 12'. The majority of the stage space is taken up with the band. It is Sinatra week after all and we'll get to see Harry Connick, Jr, the mentor, who will be on hand to rehearse with Ryan. Harry is funny, charming and oh so hot in person. He doles out a few hugs and autographs to the pit. Very congenial and nice.

In total, rehearsal takes about an hour. Most of the taped segments of the show aren't ready. We hear lots of banter back and forth between Ryan and the staff. He's really quite funny. He interacts a bit with the audience and trade one-liners.

Each contestant goes through the songs and are given last minute instructions on where to sit and run through sample questions from Ryan. The judges were not there, we instead saw their stand-ins who always offer positive feedback to the contestants working out last minute kinks in their songs.

As a person who loves to see how it all happens, I was in my glory. We tried to get tickets to the real show, but we didn't get from the set to the next line in time. We did however return to On Camera Audiences to put on names on the waiting list again.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Flower Fields are in Full Bloom

Flower Fields
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
The hills are alive with the site of ranuncula's in bloom. The Flower Field website is now reporting that everything is full swing for the season. Spring has officially arrived to Southern California

Every year, March through May, the Flower Fields of Carlsbad are open to the public to experience a spectacular display of flowers, featuring ranunculas but also including roses, sweet peas, poinsettias and gardens of many other kinds.

Every weekend there is a new activity from Canon photography workshops, to band, kids activities and arts/crafts. Check the event calendar and make your plans to go.

This year they are also displaying Santa's Playground that used to be at Lake Arrowhead's Santa's Village. Become a kid again as you go through the sweet pea maze or run around the giant mushrooms and Dollhouse.

I can't wait to go back and take some photos and eat the delicious strawberries for sale at the entrance! Yum. I have been several times and it never fails to amaze!

Tix for adults are $10, parking is free!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Beautiful Day in Laguna nearly ruined by yahoos.

This was my view for most of the four hours I spent chillin' at the beach on Saturday. It was sunny, warm, peaceful, serene and ideal. I got to watch a toddler play in the sand with his father and grandfather. I saw high school boys, clearly not from CA, try and body surf and only hurt themselves in the process. I saw lovers stroll hand in hand down the beach. At one point we even saw dolphins follicking in the water. It was practically a spiritual moment.

Yes! It was awesome and picture perfect UNTIL two yahoos came and stood right in front of us. WHAT? The beach was nearly empty and these middle-aged men came and stood right in front of us blocking our entire view of everything including the ocean. I mean they were about 10 feet in front of us, that close. Isn't there a rule that if the place is empty you don't go sit or be by the only other person in the area? Isn't that a rule of thumb for being polite in public. It's an American custom. I'm pretty sure.

So WHY? I even asked them why, but they wouldn't turn around and wouldn't answer my question. If you have the entire beach to choose from, go stand elsewhere. Then they were talking so loud we could hear every word they said. Their conversation was inane and ridiculous. It wasn't like they were discussing life and death. The balding guy was upset that his girlfriend killed his buzz when they were bar-hopping by taking too long to decide where they were going next and when she finally decided the next place was too far. Then she had the audacity to keep talking and nearly ruin his night. So apparently that's why he had to ruin my view.

The ocean spoke back. The tide was coming back in and came right up to where they were. They shrieked like little girls and went running because heaven forbid you get wet at the beach. Seriously.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gelato Paradiso - Taste of Italian Heaven in Laguna

Gelato Paradiso
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
A trip to Laguna Beach is not complete until you traverse down the quaint alleyway to Gelato Paradiso.

That's right, there is an actual white-light strewn alley leading you to this sweet lovers paradise. Be transported to another place.

Coming in from the main sidewalk you pass a restaurant and chocolate shop to get to the sweet aroma of freshly-made waffles wafting from the small shop. But don't stop press on towards the gelato, it is worth it.

Made in a time-honored Sicilian way that maximizes flavor, with half the fat and calories of regular ice cream, their web site says! Can it be true? Perhaps, it's from the imported Italian ingredients, they lose calories on the flight over.

That's right, this italian ice-cream chain says that they actually import some of their ingredients straight from Italy to make sure it is done the same way it has been done for centuries. Does it make a difference? I have no idea but it's delicious and the line of people waiting for their tasty treat must agree. Their flavor list is relatively small but you're sure to find something to please you with flavors ranging from chocolate hazelnut, cookies & cream, espresso, dulce de leche, tiramisu to the sorbetos like limone, mango and strawberry.

Now this decadence comes at a price, the medium size (two scoops) will run you about $5. Not as cheap as frozen yogurt but a taste sensation definitely worth the trip. I had lemon sorbeto and italian cream gelato. The sweet and sour were a perfect pair in my mouth. My friend Gina got pistachio and chocolate almond. She was in gelato heaven.

So go tempt your taste buds at Gelato Paradiso.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kaffa! Coffee - Free wifi few outlets!

Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
Named the best coffee house in 2008 and 2009 by various OC publications and news outlets. This small coffee house has a lot of hype to live up to.

Located in a, primarily medical, strip mall, parking is ample. When I arrived at 3 p.m. the coffee house was nearly empty. Score. After my trip to Chapman Coffee House I was ready to get some work done. Decorated in black wood wainscoting and yellow walls, filled with local art for sale, Kaffa! feels intimate and cozy.

Employees are friendly and helpful. They are ready to suggest a drink, sandwich or dessert. By 3 p.m. their pastries are pretty picked over, so I opt for another iced coffee. It is steeped for 72 hours in cold water. Wow. That is some strong iced coffee. Good though.

Wifi is password protected, so be sure to ask for it. However, beware, there are few outlets.In fact there is only one they want you to use and it is up front. The one I found in the back is linked to the kitchen circuit and it could be tripped if you use it. Yikes. So if you go, be sure your battery is charged or don't plan on being there long to work.

Aahh happy to be at a place where I can settle in for a bit, or as long as my battery holds.

Too Old Chapman Coffee House?

My coffee and free wifi search of the day takes me to Chapman Coffee House, which is practically on the Chapman University campus, on the corner of Glassell and Walnut. It is also in walking distance of the Orange Circle.

Parking, as is the case in downtown Orange, is a bit hairy. There is 20 minute parking behind the coffee house, but if you plan to do more than take your coffee to go you must fair with street parking. Be careful of the green curbs, which means only 1 hour parking. Usually you can find an empty spot on one of the side streets for longer stays.

With its proximity to the university expect lots of students, seems silly to say, but just be warned. This place is full. There was only one empty table in the place when I arrived at 2 p.m. and this table was no where near an outlet. Instead I opted for the very cute "outdoor living room." While it has no outlet, the wifi is still free, you can enjoy the outdoors, watch people pass by and soak up some sun. It is a perfect place to sit and relax and sip your coffee.

Ah yes, the coffee. They offer the usual coffee house variety but seem to have a special affinity for chai. They have it in every variety - milk shakes, soy, lemonade, strawberryade, etc. This was like Bubba's list of shrimp, but with chai. Insane. I did not try any of those, I went for the iced coffee, which is brewed for 24 hours in cold and purified water. ($2.72 for the large) All I can say is wow, rich. They also offer quite the selection of pastries, even one called the "Strawberry Pastry to die for." Wow. Impressive.

It is interesting to listen to the students talk around me. Some are studying for tests, others are frantically trying to find an internship, others desperate for a date. Aahh your early 20s, all the angst and ridiculousness, when you think you know everything and act accordingly. It was fun to sip my coffee and listen to them wax on about life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Everything at Chapman Coffee House nice enough, but it doesn't feel like a place I will frequent very often to work. No real reason. Employees nice enough. Coffee decent. Maybe I'm just too old. But it doesn't fit my personality, somehow. Now, I would be back with a friend to share a pastry worth dying for.

Chapman Coffee House

505 N Glassell St. Orange, CA 92867

Open Daily 7am to 10pm

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happily Unfound at The Lost Bean

Since I am unemployed, I am perpetually on the look out for cool coffee shops with free wifi. If coffee or drink refills are free then so much the better.

I did a cursory search on Yelp and found several that I will be frequenting soon! The stop today is The Lost Bean. Located in a very cute plaza on Newport Blvd in Tustin. Beware that all parking spots in front of the cafe are 1 hour or less, some even just 10 minutes. Be sure to park in the back if you plan on partaking of the free wife.

Inside the cafe has a stamped, gray cement floor with warm, dark wood tables, chairs and bar. A bright predominantly yellow wall with the recessed lighting and dim over-table lighting is just right for reading, computer work and conversation. I arrived at 3 p.m. and it was about half full. The wifi is only free with a purchase. It is a secure network, so be sure to ask your barista for the code when you try one of the sandwiches, desserts or drinks.

I tried one of the ice teas on brew for the day, an organic black Hawaiian. It is was great. A black tea with subtle tropical flavors, mainly pineapple. A refreshing blend. I also treated myself to an amazing chocolate croissant. Oh my! The kind barista offered to heat it for me and all of the chocolate melted into the croissant. Heaven. So good. I have to say that the employees are super friendly and conversational unlike Panera or other shops where they just take your order and say next. I get the feeling that if you came here often they would remember what you like.

Other than the really loud conversations happening around me, I am pleased with my trip to The Lost Bean. Granted, it is loud in most coffee shops, but at some the noise all blends together to be a general clatter, here it's a smaller local and individual conversations assault your consciousness.

Regardless, I will be back and will recommend it to others. Also for sale are works from local artists, organic tea offerings and other coffee and tea accouterments.

The Lost Bean
13011 Newport Blvd, Tustin, CA

Monday, April 5, 2010

E Street Cafe a lucky find

E Street Cafe
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
Wrapping up our whirlwind afternoon in Encinitas Nicole and I decided to stop and hydrate up at this cute cafe on the street where our cars were parked, aptly named E Street Cafe.

It is adorable! Warm and cozy with free wifi, Dell workstations for rent, live music at night, delicious pastries and coffee drinks galore. These aren't just your grandma's coffees instead its a specially selected organic, free trade coffee blended and mixed into your favorite drink. Also on hand are a variety of loose leaf teas.

We were there around 1:30 p.m. and the place was busy but not overly crowded. There was also a great mix of people, not just a bunch of loud teenagers. I know that comment makes me sound old, but you know what I'm talking about.

I had an iced coffee that was delicious. They had a bunch of syrups, even in sugar free, to choose from but I went with it straight. Nicole had a Pellegrino and we shared one of the plethora of desserts, a chocolate chip crumb cake. It was great! Prices were about average for a place of its kind.

I know I would definitely go back.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

View of Laguna Beach

Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74
This is why it is worth dealing with smog, high cost of living, traffic, rude drivers, crazy laws, etc - the view. Spectacular. Oh how I love the ocean and beach!

Convenience at the Beach

I was cruising around Laguna yesterday hoping to find a spot by the beach.

I just wanted to pop in for a bit and soak up some sun and waves. All I could find were metered spots and I had ZERO change on me. I remembered that the meters by the beach in Laguna only take quarters and dimes, no pesky nickles or pennies for them. Your cash of those varieties is not wanted. But what caught my eye as I drive by was the mastercard logo.

I nearly stopped on a proverbial dime when I realized, these meters take credit cards. SWEET! Now I can charge my time at the beach. That is having your cake and eating it two if I ever heard it!

Not sure if all beach meters are like this, but those near Laguna, by Las Brisas Cafe are :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


One of the great things about California is that there is a restaurant for every ethnicity, taste, creed, variety and style. From Thai to Ethiopian to French to Vegan to Raw to greasy Diner. You can find it all here. Every craze, fad, tradition and culture is represented. Now, not every one will be a favorite and today was one of those for me.

I'm saying up front that this restaurant is not one I would choose on a regular basis. Instead it was chosen by my friend, who is on a strange diet and can only eat like three things. I respect her dietary needs and we went. With that build up, where did we go, Rutabagorz.

Rutaz, as it is affectionately named, bills itself as a healthy alternative. It is mostly a vegetarian restaurant. Lots of sprouts, vegetables and dishes made with bean curd, soy proteins and sweet potatoes. However, I was surprised to note that most things are drenched in melted cheese, but I guess if you're not eating meat or anything fried, melted cheese is necessary for protein and to get it all down.

Now to say something good, the passion fruit ice tea is delicious. It is smooth with hints of fruit that do not overwhelm.

Rutaz is turning 40 this year so every month the three restaurants will be featuring a dip special for only .40. At the Fullerton location, where I was today, it was the black bean hummus. I must say it was AWESOME. I could eat a gallon of that, so good. They also have really amazing pastries and cookies. When you walk in, it's the first thing you see, a giant case of them taunting you and begging to be eaten. Each one is made on site, and you can taste the difference. The restaurant opened serving only homemade soups and cheesecakes in 1970. It was also among the first to capitalize on the coffee trend and serve espressos in a casual environment that wouldn't kick ya out.

I remember the coffee drinks being delicious, from college. Some are even of the alcohol variety and with those delicious pastries, how can you go wrong? You can't.

I had not been to Rutaz since the early 90s and I probably won't add it into heavy rotation. But if you're in for the healthy variety, want a variety of vegetarian cuisine, I highly recommend it. Their salads are ENORMOUS. They are practically served in a giant mixing bowl.

I think I would have been happier if I had gone with the bbq chicken salad instead of the enchiladas verdes. I don't know why I ordered them. There was hint o' chicken and LOTS of cheese. My friend had a highly customized salad of some variety that you couldn't replicate if you tried. But the great thing about Rutaz is that they will do it for you, occasionally with a small up charge.

There are three Orange County locations: Fullerton, Orange and Tustin. Each one is housed in a reconstituted, historic building. No new construction for Rutabagorz (a twist on the vegetable Rutabega). They believe in using what is already here and want you to feel good about what you eat.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ode to Yogurtland

I have found my new heaven and it is almost healthy.

The other day I met a friend for froyo. Frozen yogurt is the new cupcake. There are a million different places to get it, seriously. There is Pinkberry, Golden Spoon, Cherry on Top and now my new mecca, Yogurtland. It is that good.

To be honest I was hooked when I found out the featured flavor is Red Velvet Cake Batter. OMG! OMG!! Although every flavor is delicious from the Vanilla Cookie Wafer to Coconut, Strawberry, Yuzu Tart, Madagascar Vanilla or Peanut Butter. You can request little sample cups from the cashier and taste to your hearts content. Although they will only give you one or two cups at a time.

Since it is self-serve you can make your own creation unabashedly. I did a base of the vanilla cookie wafer, cheesecake, strawberry and coconut. AH-MAZING!

The other great factor is the topping bar, everything you can think of to put on your frozen yogurt from fresh fruit to candy to crushed graham crackers, oh my.

All of this for .30 an oz. Kid you not! Only .30/oz. This treat is healthier than coffee, I'm sure, and cheaper. I smell a new addiction for me. I have been twice already this week.

So far I have been to the one in Irvine at The Marketplace and the one in Tustin near State College. The one in Irvine is my favorite. Find your nearest location and go!