Wednesday, July 15, 2009


This past Saturday, I checked out the Renegade Craft Fair at the California Market Center downtown. In addition to a vintage typewriter key pendant, I picked up a poster by graphic designer, Frank Chimero, which really resonated with me in so many ways:

I love the style and colors (it's pretty much the palette of my bedroom, where it already hangs), and the clever design and message is spot on. Sometimes, I really do have to remind myself that the only thing keeping me from my ideal career/life is actually ME.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Note: Hiking, on hold

For the past several weekends, I've been in the midst of moving, so I haven't had a chance to embark on any new hiking adventures, but I hope to start up again soon, especially since the June Gloom is keeping the temperatures pretty moderate without too much sun exposure.

The hike that's next on my list is in Griffith Park (the one that starts in lush Ferndell and ends at the Observatory). I saw it (along with The Trails cafe) featured on "Visiting ...With Huell Howser" and have been wanting to hike it ever since. As a teaser, a couple of weeks ago, I stopped at the cafe and had a huge slice of apple pie, which didn't wow me (not sweet enough and a little dry), but I still want to go back and try the other pastries (I hear the scones are great) and food items (lots of veggie options, including an avocado sandwich that sounds amazing). The location is very pretty and peaceful (as long as there aren't too many screaming children), and I like the idea of sitting on the picnic benches enjoying some nouvelle snack bar food under the trees.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cannoli Watch: Masa

I had heard so much about the chocolate croissant bread pudding at Masa that I was determined to have it. However, after consuming lots of cuban rolls and a couple slices of the Chicago-style pizza (see Must Try), I couldn't even bear to think about having more bread. But, me being me, I still wanted to have a sweet cap to my meal, especially since the other dessert on the menu was a chocolate chip cannoli (!):

This cannoli was no bijou reimaging; it was 5-6 inches of the real deal. The ricotta filling was very good and not too heavy (for ricotta), and while I wish there were more chocolate chips to add a little texture and more interest to the filling, chocolate was fully represented in the generous glazing. I really liked this and it definitely whets my appetite for Masa's hallowed bread pudding.

Must Try: Chicago-Style Pizza at Masa

I went to Masa on Friday night, and the Chicago-style pizza has been on my mind as strong undercurrent since then. I have shared my experience with as many people as possible, extolling the tastiness of the cornmeal crust, which only got better after reheating on the second day. I have had daydreams about the garlicky tomato sauce and the layer of cheese peeking out from underneath. And I think that if I decided to ever really let myself go, I couldn't think of a better way to do it than to eat this pizza everyday. (Actually, the best way would probably be a weekly routine of Masa, Pie 'N Burger, Honey's Kettle, Hurry Curry, and Cici's.)

I had the California Vegetable pizza, which had Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and next time, I'd like to try the Mushroom and Olive. I suppose it's a good thing that I don't eat beef/pork, since I can only imagine how filling the meat pizzas are. The key is to try not to eat too much before the pizza. This proves to be a bit of a feat, since it takes 40 minutes, during which you have to resist various appetizers, salads and freshly-baked Cuban rolls (which thankfully, don't come automatically.) Good luck with that.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hike #7: Echo Mountain via the Sam Merrill Trail

Two weekends ago, I (along with TB) went on the toughest hike yet (at least, for me): Echo Mountain via the Sam Merrill Trail in Altadena. This hike is about 2.5 miles one-way up a sunny and switchback-heavy trail with a total elevation gain of about 1,400 feet:

When you get to the top of Echo Mountain, you can explore the ruins of a turn of the century (1900s) resort:

...and the railway that took guests up to it:

Before descending or continuing the three miles further to the top of Mount Lowe, you can read both the historic and intepretive signs scattered around the site and relax in several shady picnic areas:

My favorite part was this:

It's not everyday that you get to hear your own yodeling echoing throughout the San Gabriel Mountains:

One of the best things about doing a strenuous hike is that you really have carte blanche to eat as much as you want for lunch. We did just that at the plain-looking Pie 'N Burger, a Pasadena institution. I had been meaning to go there for quite a while since I found out that they did turkey burgers (I don't eat regular burgers) and that it was mostly counter seating (I love eating at counters!)

After 3 hours of hiking, my burger definitely hit the spot. TB said the burger reminded him of a Big Mac, but better. (I don't think I can even remember what a Big Mac tastes like, but I'm assuming that they would be similar because of the Thousand Island dressing.) Anyway, the showstopper (and possible heartstopper) was the Dutch Apple Pie: crumbly cinammon topping, warm and not too sweet apple filling, buttery crust and generous scoops of French Vanilla ice cream. (TB got the rhubarb pie.) In any event, they have more than a dozen kinds of pie (depending on what's in season) at Pie 'N Burger, and I can't wait to try every single one.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hikes #5 & #6: Franklin Canyon Park Hastain Trail and Elysian Park Wildflower Trail

Two weeks ago, I went to Franklin Canyon Park to try out the Hastain Trail. Unfortunately, I didn't complete this trail. All I'll say regarding this is don't ever try to do a hike when you're hungry, thirsty and hot with no way of fixing any of those conditions. It wasn't a total loss as I still got a good hour of hiking in (most of it spent getting to the actual trailhead since I parked in the upper park as opposed to the lower park.)

In any event, last weekend's hike at Elysian Park was much more successful. The weather was cloudy and mild, plus I was much better prepared. As someone who is supposedly very knowledgeable about L.A., I'm ashamed to say that this was my first time in the actual park (of course, I've been to many, many Dodgers games) and that I had no idea how nice it is, despite being so close to the rest of the city:

I'll definitely come back especially since I want to check out the small arboretum on the grounds.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A note on all the hiking...

I am not a naturally outdoorsy person. Most people who know me would define me as a city/indoorsy person, which I think is true for the most part. I don't like getting dirty and being outside usually means some sort of elemental assault on my allergy-riddled system. Plus, I spook very easily and tend to feel frightened and vulnerable when in unfamiliar natural settings. In other words, I am seldom fully at ease.

However, despite this, I am very drawn to lush, green, overgrown, wild landscapes. Strangely, being in unspoilt nature makes me feel closer to the past than most historic buildings or sites I've been to. I guess I just love knowing that more or less my eyes are seeing things the way they've been for centuries. No doubt one hundred years ago, people felt the same awe I do when I watch a brook flow through a heavily-wooded ravine or when I see the sunlight filter through a dense canopy of leaves. I feel strongly connected to everything in these rare moments and that far outweighs any fear or discomfort.

Three years ago, I had a very emotional and cathartic session with a psychic healer (my first and so far, only time). While so many things came up for me, one thing she mentioned stands out right now. She said that I needed to dig my feet into the earth, to really be a part of it, in order to combat my natural tendency to be ungrounded and aloof. Too often, I lose myself in obsessive thinking and daydreaming, which really wreaks havoc on my reality. But, when I am on a hiking adventure (or any exploratory adventure, for that matter), I am very much out of my head and into the world.

Friday, April 03, 2009

New York, New York

Last week, I took a quick (3 days, 2 nights) trip to NYC to visit friends, go to museums and eat good food. Here are my highlights:

POD Hotel
- For the most part, NYC hotel rooms are small. So why not embrace that and save money at the same time? I loved my perfectly-designed double room at the POD, but what I loved even more was that I paid as much for two nights than I would have for one night at an equally stylish hotel. It's also a block away from the 6 train which is very convenient if you're going to hit the museums on the Upper East Side, and because it's in Midtown, it's an easy to walk to most of the main tourist attractions. The only thing to note is that some of the rooms use the bathrooms in the hallway, which can lead to interesting smells and dormlike/noisy frolicking in the public areas, but I didn't really have a problem with this because I have a high tolerance for noise and I had my own bathroom.

Frick Museum
- Still my favorite museum, probably because I'm such a fan of "America's Castles"-type residences. But the collection is outstanding if you like beautiful paintings by Old Masters (with some exceptions). My only quibble is that I wished Frick had collected some Sargents, but I'll take the Whistlers happily as substitutes. I thought it was ironic that the special exhibition consisted of paintings from the Norton Simon, but since I love that collection, too, I didn't really mind.

Madame X at the Met - Probably one of my favorite paintings of all time. When I was last in NYC, it was on loan to another museum, but this time, I got to fully admire John Singer Sargent's controversial painting at my leisure.

Tea @ Alice's Tea Cup - Amazing scones! I had "The Nibbler" tea service which consisted of one scone (pumpkin for me) with jam and cream, a rather hearty tea sandwich (Lapsang Souchong Chicken on multigrain bread), various cookies, and a pot of tea (Lavender Earl Grey). I was pretty ravenous, but this filled me up very quickly, so it makes me wonder who would consider this just a nibble.

Sofia Wine Bar - I needed a quiet place near my hotel to catch up with an old friend and found this new wine bar a block away. The sommelier was very accommodating and helped me to zero in on the perfect glass of Brunello.

Lemony mini croissants @ Sant Ambroeus - These came in a bread basket I had during Saturday morning brunch at Sant Ambroeus and I'm still thinking about them. Dusted with powdered sugar, they had a faint lemon flavor that brightened the buttery sweetness. This restaurant/pasticceria/gelateria gets extra points for the sweet but sophisticated design of its branding (the waiters even wore pink button-down shirts to match!)

Food @ MOMA - I like eating at museums when I get the chance and usually the food is okay to good, but I have to say that the food service at MOMA was revelatory. For lunch at Cafe 2, the lemon ricotta manicotti with swiss chard I had was sublime and better than many dishes I've had at proper sit-down restaurants. Later in the afternoon, despite already eating a chocolate chunk cookie at lunch, I shared the inventive MOMA sundae with a friend at Terrace 5: raspberry & fromage blanc sorbets, cheesecake, fresh berries, vanilla sauce. Decadent, but light.

MOMA Store
- I bought a new watch here in addition to some other cool things, and spent more money than I had planned. If you like museum stores and good design, you'd probably drop a bit of cash here, too.

Pret a Manger
- I loved these grab and go food shops in London and was glad to see them stateside. If only they were in L.A...

AirTrain - This is the first time I've had the chance to take the AirTrain to and from JFK and I have to say that it was very convenient (especially since my hotel was a few blocks away from the subway station.) Previously, I used to take the Grayline Bus from JFK to Grand Central, but I liked this much better. Unless I have more than one suitcase to carry by myself, I will definitely be sticking with the Airtrain for my NYC airport transfers.

I really enjoyed myself on this trip because I didn't have to really worry about orienting myself (which can be a drawback when you go to a new location). I just got to re-experience all the stuff I love, while checking out some of the new things I've heard about. To me, NYC is one of the best repeat travel destinations because it does a fantastic job of preserving its history and character while still moving forward at a dizzying pace. It's always easy to find something to satisfy any one of my many moods and I am never bored there. While I love home, it's definitely a nice change of pace from laidback and less-accessible Los Angeles.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hike #4: Monrovia Canyon Park: Bill Cull Trail

Since I was going hiking with TB today, I decided to choose a trail that was a little farther into the woods than I would normally go alone. I wanted to see a waterfall, so I chose the Bill Cull Trail at Monrovia Canyon Park, which juts into the Angeles Forest. The trail starts out high above the canyon:

...before meandering around a pretty stream:

...and then ending up at the waterfall:

Along the mostly-shaded way, you are surrounded by a beautiful overgrown woodland with rocky canyon walls and lush greenery:

My favorite shot of the day:

Hike #3: South Coast Botanic Garden

Yesterday, I was in the South Bay for a christening, so since I was down there anyway, I decided to visit the South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes for an easy hike:

The photos I took focused on pattern and texture:

Reflected pattern:

The alien landscape-like White Floss Silk Tree:

Snowy cactus with berry-colored buds:

A little ladybug:

I tried not to take too many pictures of flowers since I think I did enough of that at Descanso, but I couldn't resist this one:

A lone calla lily amongst the deep green leaves.

On the way home, I took a detour to visit the Bluebird Cafe in Culver City, trying their chocolate and coconut cupcakes. They weren't bad, but they didn't crack my top 5. Someday, I'll get around to posting my cupcake rankings (along with the macaron ones.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hike #2: Lower Arroyo Seco

For the second hike, I wanted something easy but with lots of visual interest, so yesterday I chose the Lower Arroyo Seco Park Trail. I spent a lot of time taking pictures of bridges:

An abstraction:

A stab at black and white artsy-ness:

With the sun setting:

Golden light touching the arroyo (again, I'm a sucker for this kind of landscape):

And dappled on this quaint path up to the street (yes, it's a little Thomas Kinkade-ish, but it was gorgeous in person):

I was glad that I started this hike in the late afternoon, because the quality of the light was so beautiful. As such, it's my favorite time to take pictures. Instead of trying a new food place afterward, I actually went to Europane beforehand. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to try their famous croissants, but I had a wonderful carved turkey sandwich on their olive bread along with a giant pistachio macaron, which had great cream filling, but was a little too chewy for my taste. I'll have to come back for the pain au chocolat.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hike #1: Debs Park

Last week, I went to Debs Park in Highland Park for the first of my 60 hikes. After parking at the Audubon Center and deciding on my route, I ascended up the hill on the City View Trail (obviously named for its views of Downtown L.A.):

...which eventually led to a nice little pond at the top:

I wandered around a bit (I can't resist taking pictures of dappled light):

...before finally descending and checking out the LEED Platinum-rated Audubon Center (which my company worked on):

Overall, it was a good hike with several decent climbs to work out your calves. To reward myself afterward, I hung out in South Pasadena, eating a fantastic caprese sandwich at the Heirloom Bakery (see my tweets) and trying out the cupcakes at My Sweet Cupcake. Then, I went to the Pasadena Museum of California Art:

I've been wanting to go here for awhile, and though it is a small museum space, it does have its own charm. My favorite exhibit was of 3D images of Mars, courtesy of JPL and Caltech. After putting on the requisite specs, the Martian topography really popped out with the perspectives changing as I walked along the large prints.

Anyway, from one type of landscape to another, it was quite a full day!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

How I'm Going to Spend This Weekend (and at least 60 others)

Hiking endlessly beautiful trails (burning calories painlessly) + Eating amazingly good food (gaining calories happily) = Perfect Weekend Equilibrium

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Photo Excursion: Descanso Gardens

Yesterday, I finally made the drive up to La Canada to visit Descanso Gardens. Since I'd never been, I took the tram tour (which I recommend for a good overview), and afterwards, I walked around and took some pictures, mainly of flowers:
Cherry blossoms:Mini Daffodils (I love yellow flowers!):Lilac from the Lilac Garden:

The gardens are known mainly for their camellias, which are everywhere:

Probably my favorite part of the grounds, though, were the green grassy knolls punctuated by the wild, beautiful coast live oaks (very popular for film/photo shoots):

This is the kind of landscape I love. I got a taste of it while I was up in San Luis Obispo this past week, and now I'm planning an extended trip to the central coast for more.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Picture of the Day: Eye to the Telescope

Griffith Park Observatory (taken with iPhone camera):

Also a good metaphor for what I've been searching for lately.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Perfect late Saturday afternoon lunch

Chicken gyro, dolmades and a Snapple Lemon Iced Tea at Papa Cristo's... the meal also came with live Greek music!

(Mobile blog post)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How I should always do my homework

Listening to live jazz on a Sunday afternoon at Larchmont Village. (Of course, I requested Night and Day)

(Mobile blog post)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Resolved, Year Two

My resolutions for 2009:

Resolved, that I will get enough sleep.
7-8 hours minimum per night, hopefully.

Resolved, that I will get to work on time.
Basically, anytime before 9 a.m.

Resolved, that I will not wait until the last minute to do my work and homework assignments.
While I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be a perennial resolution, I have hope that at the very least, I will get better and not procrastinate so much.

Resolved, that I cultivate a more active social life with an emphasis on my friends and family.
No doubt about it... It makes me happy to go out and do things. And I'm even happier when that includes the people I love. So, definitely more concerts, museums, galleries, restaurants, events, etc. in '09.

Resolved, that I will dance more.
Whether it means I get back into the swing scene a little, reacquaint myself with tango or just take more dance classes, this is a must. Two years away from something I love doing is ridiculous.

Resolved, that I will travel more this year.
I think this is the year of smaller domestic trips (especially now that I have the perfect car for roadtrips.) On my radar: SF (for the Cathedral of Christ the Light and the Academy of Sciences), Utah (for my sister), NYC (for friends and food), Minneapolis (architecture) and Atlanta (to swim with sharks). If I have any money left after paying off my debt and going to school, there is the possibility of Japan, but we'll see.

Resolved, that I will read more books.
In the past couple of years, I've definitely lagged on my book reading due to my crazy schedule. At the very least, I want to shoehorn in all of the books on my shelf that I haven't read yet. And that includes "The House of Leaves" and all of the other books that I think are going to scare the hell out of me.

Resolved, that I will make both my home and work offices more inviting.
For my home workspace, I need better organization and less clutter. For my office, I need color, better lighting and something fun on the walls. It's so drab right now.

Resolved, that I will eliminate my credit card debt.
I'm pretty determined about this one and if all goes according to plan, I should accomplish this within the the first half of the year.

Resolved, that I will contribute to my Roth this year.
This is the first year that I think my Roth is a better bet than the 401K that my work offers.

Resolved, that I will drink more water.
I'm borrowing this one from TB.