Friday, June 30, 2006

I miss having someone to cook for

I miss having someone to cook for! Since moving, I've hardly cooked! I've been going out quite a bit, so I've been eating out more than I usually do. Also, when I am home, it's hard to get motivated to cook for myself. I am more motivated to cook when I have friends coming over. Last week, I cooked stuffed chicken breasts that I really like because I had someone over for dinner. I really should make it just for myself, but it just seems like a lot of work just for myself. I guess if I was home more often, I wouldn't mind cooking taking up my time. Since I'm not home often, I'm spending that time doing laundry or cleaning up a bit.

Last night, Shane came over for dinner and to catch up on Rescue Me (man, I love that show!). I made this Korean chicken and potato dish that my mom taught me how to make, but I have no idea what it's called. It's really good. It's one of those recipes that I don't have a "recipe" for, just a list of ingredients and basic instructions. I know when to put which ingredients in and how to cook them. I was thinking that it would be helpful though to maybe try to quantify the recipe so I could share it with others. I've never had a reason to do that though. Maybe the next time I make it. My haphazard recipe will follow on my next post.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Wordplay: A Review

I saw Wordplay, a documentary movie about crossword puzzles, specifically, the NY Times crossword puzzle and people who love it. There is an annual crossword puzzle competition in Stamford, CT. Who knew? The movie covers the 2005 competition, interviews competitors, the Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz, crossword constructors and famous people who love it (like Bill Clinton, Indigo Girls and Jon Stewart).

In short, I loved this movie! I love movies about smart/geeky/nerdy/dorky people. I'd liken it to Spellbound or Word Wars. Of those two, I loved Spellbound and liked Word Wars. I'd put Wordplay up there with Spellbound. I think it's probably more amusing considering I laughed out loud OFTEN. The whole theater was cracking up! I would recommend this movie to anyone who can appreciate people who have too much information in their heads or to anyone who has ever really tried to do a crossword puzzle. I'm awful at them, but I still like to try everytime I see one!

It's stunning that people can be SO good at them. Amazing, really. Now I want to try to get better at them. I could never be good enough to go to a competition, but it looks like so much fun, I almost want to go just to have the fun! I wonder if that's how the Board Game Geek convention will be? Hmmmm...

Go see Wordplay!!!! It's funny!!

Colorado! Here they come!

Well, this year has been full of changes. The latest change is that my sister and her family (hubby and son) are moving to Colorado. They're leaving first thing tomorrow morning. My last shred of family is headed out to the Rockies and now I will be without any immediate family in the state of California.

I was down there last weekend helping them pack up and then I took the day off to help them load up the truck. I'm sad to see them go. I know it's a grand adventure for them because Colorado is beautiful and they are really looking forward to being able to buy a house with one income and live a more relaxed lifestyle. It's a tempting thought and I've often thought about whether I should go too. We'll see how they like it first.

I felt alone when I moved into my apartment because it's the first time I've ever lived totally alone. So far, it hasn't been too bad because I've been keeping busy (just a little!) and I haven't really spent a ton of time at home alone.

Now I'm feeling a different kind of loneliness. I'm alone, knowing that if an emergency comes up, I really have no one who has to help me. I have friends, but it's not the same as having family members to help you. Family members are obligated to help with stuff like that. Friends can help, but it's different somehow. I always had my sister's house to go to when I needed to get away or just get some space away from my life in LA. There was always a spot on the couch with my name on it, no matter what else was going on. I'm not going to have that anymore.

This year has been a year of loss for me. The year's almost halfway done. I hope it gets better soon. I'm sure it will. It has to! On the plus side, now I have more traveling in my future! And I'll get to practice skiing more!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Drama-free life

That friends post has me wondering what happened to my want for drama? In high school, it seemed like the more drama there was, the more interesting life was. I guess I've grown up since then and drama has fallen way down on the list of things I'm looking for in life. In fact, I want exactly the opposite!

Not that I want a boring life, but a life full of meaningful or purposeful activity is quite different from drama. I love doing stuff with friends, but the drama has been quite minimal which I really do appreciate. Even my divorce has been relatively drama-free. Has it been stressful? Yes. Trying? Yes. Filled with drama? NO!

Humph. I think I like having a drama-free life. I'll keep it that way. If you're a drama-filled person, keep going. I don't want to buy any!!


I have lots of friends. Some really might be more of acquaintances, actually, which has been making me think about what makes a friend just that: a friend?

Is it someone you spend time with doing fun stuff, or someone you share with whom you share your trials, tribulations, joys and fears? I guess there are many degrees of friends, so I'm sure there isn't a hard, fast answer to this question. I have friends that I game with, friends that I chat with, friends I eat with, friends I email only with... and then the really good friends that I pour out my heart to and cry on their shoulder and offer mine when they need it too.

What does the dictionary say? Well defines a friend as:
1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.
5. Friend A member of the Society of Friends; a Quaker.

I would prefer to have friends of the definition #1 variety: a person that I know, like and trust. I've realized over the last couple weeks that trust is a huge part of how well I like someone. If I even get a hint of not being able to trust someone, they are cut out of my life. Maybe that's a bit drastic. I'd say I don't make an effort to foster any type of relationship because to me, they are not worth the effort.

There are just too many people out there to surround yourself with people you cannot trust and count on. I think this is the main reason I don't like flaky people. I want someone who can make plans and keep them. Keeping plans is something that is on a very low "trust" level. For the most part, that's about as trusting as I need to get with a friend of the #2 definition variety. So, as far as that's concerned, I guess I could be friends with just about anyone who was dependable and I liked his/her company.

I have picked the person I'm targeting to be my new best friend (don't worry Shane - you will never be replaced!) for 2006. We'll see how that goes. So far it's looking good because the new best friend is (so far at least) trustworthy, fun & funny, outgoing, likes games, likes food, open, honest, direct and we because of all this, we can talk for hours on end. I am also going to work on deepening some of the "acquaintances" I have to see if there's anything there or not. Some people are probably perfect just being acquaintances. Those are the people you invite over for parties, but not for a small dinner, you know?

The best part about thinking about all this friend stuff is that it becomes abundantly clear that I have TONS more friends than I had three years ago and all of them have been invaluable to me during the last year and will continue to factor into my life in a big way for the rest of my life. I never want to be without friends again.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Flowers in Orange County

If you're in Orange County and need to order flowers, you have to check out Everyday Flowers in Tustin. They deliver in Orange County and have fabulous arrangements and customer service. They're relatively new in the market (about four years), but their arrangements are gorgeous.

Check out a couple of their signature arrangements:
Tropical Flower Arrangement

Flowers with Limes

They're going to be featured in the July edition of Orange County Home Magazine as the Arrangement of the Month. The featured arrangement will be this one (you'll probably have to click on the link):

Flowers and Oranges

Everyday Flowers
15012 Red Hill Ave. Suite F
Tustin, CA 92780
(714) 258-7293

The Kitchen in Silverlake

We went to The Kitchen in Silverlake for Jackie's birthday dinner this past April. It was the usual crowd: myself, Shane, Lana, Jackie and Gary with a couple additions... Lana's parents visiting from Atlanta. They were in town for the week and headed out to Las Vegas and visiting family in the area.

Lana's parents

I had been to The Kitchen once before and ordered the Pistachio Crusted Salmon with mango-currant chutney ($14) which was excellent! Jason had ordered the Fish and Chips ($10) which was also very good, mainly because the texture of the fish was flaky and tender.

We started out with the Mac & Cheese and as often happens, everyone has a different idea of how macaroni and cheese should be made. I thought it was OK, but I think I prefer something a little less on the dry side. It looked good though and everyone seemed to like it. I think I'm just a little pickier with my mac & cheese love.

Mac & Cheese

Even though I loved the salmon, I tried something different this time. I ordered the Sesame-Soy Grilled Flank Steak with balsamic reduction, wasabi mashed potatoes & sauteed veggies ($15). It was good. Unfortunately (and I have NO idea why!), I did not get a picture of my dish.

The popular dish at our table was the Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($13). I had read reviews online about The Kitchen and it seemed like this was the standout favorite among online reviewers. I think 3 out of 7 people ordered this and they all loved it. I had a bite and it was pretty good, especially considered it's a boneless, skinless breast!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken without Gravy

Lana ordered the Pork Chops with Goat Cheese Potato Latkes ($14) and she liked her food too.

Pork Chops

The Kitchen is in a "trendy" part of town and all the servers look really hip, but the two times I have been there, I've received really good service (and I do not look like a hipster at ALL!) and had really good food for a reasonable price. If you think about how Marie Callender's is charging $10 for a hamburger these days, $14 for a delicious salmon dish is excellent! It's a small restaurant with outside seating. I would imagine they get very crowded on the weekend mornings and later for dinner. Both times I went were during slower times (3 PM on a Saturday and 6:30 PM on a Friday). I'd recommend checking it out. The menu isn't extensive, but there's something for everyone, even our resident vegetarian. They do offer brunch on weekend mornings, but I have yet to try that as I'm not a big breakfast food lover.

The Kitchen
4348 Fountain Ave (at Sunset Blvd.)
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 664-3663

Monday - Thursday: 5 PM - 12 AM
Friday: 5 PM - 1 AM
Saturday: 11 AM - 1 AM
Sunday: 11 AM - 10 PM

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dream Dinners Demo

Last night I went to a demonstration for Dream Dinners with a group of friends. It was fun. It's a really good concept and perfect for people who don't "like" to cook. They have stations set up in a room and they have recipes posted for each station along with the appropriate ingredients.

Here's what you do:
You get a gallon ziploc bag and put it in these buckets that look like the kind you see at a salad bar and fold the bag over the edges. Then you insert all the ingredients. I made "Chicken Provencal" so I basically put all the ingredients for the sauce in my bag and then attached a preprinted label with cooking instructions. They gave me a separate bag with 6 chicken breasts and a baggie of seasoned rice pilaf and I put ALL of that into a clean gallon ziploc bag. Normally, this would've cost $17, but I got it for free during this Dream Dinners demo.

The concept is great! I think it is perfect for someone who has basic cooking skills, but either doesn't really like to cook (all the prep and clean-up), doesn't "have the time" to cook something nutritious, or for someone who can follow directions, but doesn't have a lot of cooking experience.

I enjoyed making my dish and I would potentially do it again. The only drawback for me is the cost. I do enjoy cooking and don't mind doing all the planning and prepping and keeping the savings for myself. But for people who would normally eat fast food or eat out, this is a GREAT alternative. It's relatively healthy, totally customizable, and best of all... easy!! When I actually thaw out my food and cook it, I'll post a picture of it. It sounds good!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Too much fun

I am officially having too much fun! I have hardly been home alone (thanks to all my fabulous friends) or I've just hardly been home! The side effects: laundry piling up and bills to pay. It just dawned on me this past weekend that I haven't paid one single bill since I moved. Whoops! I'm usually VERY on top of stuff like that, so I'm off to watch Season 1 of Scrubs while I sort through all my bills and then pay them all online. The laundry will have to wait!

And just because I LOVE their outfits, here is a picture of my good friends Lincoln & Nikki at Shane's Hawaiian birthday party!
Nikki & Lincoln - Hawaiian style

Aren't they the cutest???

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Delicious Red Velvet Cake

Erin's Birthday Cake - Before
The red velvet cake from Solley's on Monday night was delicious! I can't say that I even know what a red velvet cake is "supposed to" taste like, but this one was a good cake. It had a cream cheese frosting that was really great, mostly because it wasn't too sweet. When we cut the cake, I saw that there was almost one inch of cream cheese frosting between the two layers of cake and thought to myself, "Wow! That's going to be sweet!" But I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted that it wasn't too sweet at all! It was just right! So I could eat all the frosting without feeling ODed on sugar. I would get another one without a doubt. In addition, Erin said that when she picked it up, there were lots of other interesting looking pastries to choose from. I may have to swing by and see what else they have!
Erin's Red Velvet Birthday Cake - After

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ethiopian food

I recently went out for Ethiopian food. I went to a restaurant called Nyala in Little Ethiopia which is on Fairfax just south of Olympic. We ordered a combination veggie plate and combination meat plate. They bring everything out on these large, circular platters. On the bottom is this big, crepe/tortilla-looking thing and they also give you a basket of them. They have a kind of sour taste to them and you rip off pieces of this thing and "pick up" your food with them. There are no utensils, only your hands! The tortilla thing tasted good for a while, but then I thought it was tasting a little too sour for me and I just started eating directly with my fingers. Surprisingly, I liked the veggies better than the meat! That almost never happens! And another surprise is that the corn dish was my least favorite of the veggies. I normally love corn, but I really preferred some cabbage dishes they had.

The meat dishes kind of looked like Indian food. It's similar to Indian food in that there are lots of spices used. It's different though in taste. I think I prefer Indian, but I'm glad at least I've tried Ethiopian.

The atmosphere is nice, open and comfortable. The service was good too. After dinner, we walked up the block to check out the other stores. There are all these crazy bakery shops! Another time I wish I had had my camera because they had this crazy cake that was a big castle that had a dragon wrapping itself around it. It was amazing.

Overall: I'd recommend it to try something new. You might really like it. The prices were reasonable too, so that's always a plus!

Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine
1076 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 936-5918

1 vs. 100 Game Show Update

For the full story of the taping, check out this post!

I went to try out for 1 vs. 100 yesterday. I think the tryout went well. They had a 30 question quiz that was fairly easy to fill out and I think I did well on that. Then they had these practice rounds that would be like they are on the show and I did well on those too. They are looking for at least a few hundred people I would think, so I think it's very likely that I will make it into the "mob" at least. It's taping on 8/9 - 8/11 and I think the idea is that they're going to tape five episodes, probably to air during November during sweeps.

EDIT: They may change this before the actual taping, but it sounds like this is how the show will work. There is a maximum payout of $3 million (!). There will be one person vs. 100 people in the mob. They will ask a multiple choice question (of similar difficulty to Millionaire) and then the "1" will pick his answer and so will everyone in the mob. The object for the "1" is to eliminate people in the mob. People are eliminated from the mob by answering the question incorrectly. For every 10 people of the mob the "1" knocks out, the potential prize money will escalate. For example, if the "1" answers the first question correctly and 10 people in the mob get it wrong, now the "1" has the choice to walk away with $5,000 (just a random figure) or keep answering more questions to knock more people out of the mob and therefore raise up the potential prize money.

The prize money is based on how many people are in the mob. The fewer number of people, the more money to be won. The guy running the practice rounds said that if on the first question the "1" got it right and everyone in the mob got the question wrong, the "1" would win $3 million! Also, the mob can win money. If the "1" gets a question wrong, anyone in the mob who gets the question correct will split the prize money by the number of people left in the mob at the end of the question. So, if the prize money's up to $100K, and there are 10 people left who got the question right while the "1" got the question wrong, they would split $100K or get $10K each.

One strategy mentioned by the guy running the rounds was that we should try to help the "1" answer questions correctly in the beginning (by yelling out the answers) so that the prize money will escalate. Towards the end, the mob doesn't want the "1" to answer correctly, so they wouldn't help him at that point.

I saw some fellow Lingo contestants, including Stacey and Rainee who were TV champs also asked back for second episode to battle the online winners. They lost their game too, so we commiserated about that for a bit. I did get a copy of my losing episode in case anyone wants to see it! You can see my new boyfriend, 1998 Jeopardy! College Tournament winner, Andrew Hutchings! :-) *Edit: He's not actually my boyfriend... although, if he ever asked me out I certainly wouldn't say "no"! :-)

Here's part 2 of the game show update!

Here's a brief note from the day we taped the show!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Shane's Birthday Dinner at Engine Co. 28

Last night, Shane, Jackie and I went out to Engine Co. 28 to celebrate Shane's birthday! She had read about it somewhere and mentioned that she'd like to go there. So, off we went! And I might add, without my camera - so there are no food pictures! Darn! We dressed up so I changed my purse to match my dress and I totally forgot to try to fit my camera in my smaller purse. It probably wouldn't have fit anyway since my cute purse is way smaller than the one I've been carrying lately.

Engine Co. 28

Engine Co. 28 serves American food with some Southern dishes. The restaurant itself used to be a firehouse. The decor inside is very cozy. The only thing that Shane wanted to hear more was the music. You could barely hear it. Other than that, it was comfortable and nice and the same time.

They offer a three course prix fixe meal ($36 each) which Shane & I both ordered. We tried the sweet roasted corn chowder and caesar salad for starters. Both were delicious! Then for our entree, we had the Southern style pan fried chicken and the skirt steak with jalopeno jelly. I personally liked the pan fried chicken better. It was very moist on the inside while crispy on the outside. For dessert, I ordered mixed berries with a sweet cream and Shane had the double layer chocolate cake. My berries were just OK, but the chocolate cake was really good because it was made with darker chocolate and it didn't really have "frosting," but more like a thin coating of chocolate. I know there's a word for it, but it's escaping me! Jackie had a bowl of the sweet roasted corn chowder and the 911 fudge brownie sundae.

We had a great time! The service was good, food was good and the atmosphere was nice. I'd go again, but probably just order an entree. The portions were a good size and I was full well before dessert arrived. If you're thinking about going, I would recommend making a reservation. It's not huge inside and it was more than halfway full on a Tuesday night. Also, they have valet parking for $7. I think the parking down the block is $5-7, so you might as well use the valet and not risk your life walking around downtown in the evening!

Engine Co. 28

644 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 624-6996

1 vs. 100 Game Show

I received a call last week from a woman (Jen) that used to (or maybe she still does) work on Lingo. My sister & I went on Lingo and won the top prize of $10,000 last year. We went back for a rematch vs. online winners and lost! :-( That losing episode just aired at the end of May and I just watched it on Sunday. OK, enough recap!

Jen called and said that the makers of "Deal or No Deal" were making a new show called "1 vs. 100" and she wanted to know if I was available to try out! It's a trivia/pop culture, money banking show and she said the difficulty level is similar to "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?". So, I'm going today to try out for the show! Hopefully I'll pass the test! Update on how it went to follow tomorrow!

See the update here.

See the further update here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Old posts headed your way!

I have been meaning to post about some restaurants I've been to in the last couple months and I've been putting it off. I'm planning on posting about them sometime in the next week or so and trying to get caught up with them. So, it may look like all of a sudden I'm eating out all the time when actually, I'm just getting caught up with my posts. I just want to get them off my mental "to-do" list.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Games and Family

Wow, I'm exhausted from my very full and fun weekend! And my week has only just begun. I have plans for six nights in a row. I told my brother-in-law yesterday that I had four nights free for the rest of the month. I'm guessing those will be laundry nights! I am happy about that, while he was saying that if had four things scheduled to have to do, he would be overwhelmed. It's funny how different people can be!

Let's see....
Saturday was the 26th SoCal Games Day and it was fabulous! I saw some people I haven't seen in ages and got to play 4 more new games, which brings my total for the year to 49. Just one more to meet the halfway point. I got there right around 10 AM and stayed for the first time, all the way til the doors closed around 11 PM. Then we ate at the Coral Cafe and I had some BBQ ribs (picture to follow later). Our waitress was really cool and perky for being halfway through her 11 hour shift at midnight.

I went to visit my sister and family on Sunday. The weather in the OC was gorgeous!!! We went to Huntington Beach and hung out for a while. It was awesome. I told Neal that I love water and I love being at the beach listening to the waves and being so close to the ocean. It makes me happy inside like nothing else. It's like I'm at home. I think it stems from spending many happy days at the beach while I was younger. I love being there. He said that he could take it or leave it, but that he feels at home when he gets out into the desert. We really are opposites!! The desert is just too hot to bear for me. Even if the beach is hot, you have the water there to cool you off.

Overall a good weekend, but I really need to get to bed earlier!!! I need more sleep! Not tonight though because Erin's birthday party is at my house! We will be eating and playing nothing but party games! Yea!! It will be a nice break from all the serious ones!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Red Velvet Cake

Whew! Finding someplace in Los Angeles to buy a red velvet cake can be hard work! I'm saying that, but really, it took about 20 minutes of phone calls, so I guess I can't complain toooo much!

*Backstory: Erin & I just decided today that she needs to have a birthday party. Therefore, I am in charge of the important stuff... the cake. Her birthday cake requests (in order of preference) were: red velvet cake, carrot cake and chocolate cake.

First things first! I posted a message on the Food Forum on Craigslist.

Ryan suggested trying Porto's to see if they have red velvet cake. Being that they are a Puerto Rican bakery and red velvet is a deeply traditional Southern cake, they do not make it!

Next, I tried Martino's Bakery in Burbank. They make all kinds of delicious tea cakes and cupcakes, so I thought they might make them. Nope! She said that they get lots of calls requesting that cake, but they do not make it. Hmmm... next!

Then I remembered having breakfast at Auntie Em's Kitchen in Eagle Rock and seeing that they sold red velvet cupcakes. So I called to find out if they bake them in cake form. And the answer was YES!! That was the good news! The bad news was that they were totally booked and could not bake me a cake! Darn! Probably a good thing though, because it would've been out of my way to go pick it up and the prices were $35 for an 8-inch cake and $45 for a 10-inch cake.

Hmmmm... then I check to see if anyone had responded to my post on Craigslist. Yes! There was a reply suggesting that I try Jerry's Deli in Studio City because they sell the red velvet cupcakes. So I called Jerry's just to check and she gave me the name and phone number for their bakery and I ordered one through them. It's actually a restaurant, bar AND bakery called Solleys. It's in Sherman Oaks and it's going to be about $22 for an 8-inch cake, $13 less than Auntie Em's and closer to boot!

Solley's Restaurant & Deli
4578 Van Nuys Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
(818) 905-5774

The alternate choice would've been:
Auntie Em's Kitchen
4616 Eagle Rock Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 255-0800

Thursday, June 08, 2006

New games update

It looks like I'm right on schedule to hit 100 new games for this year! I am at 45 new games for the year and we're 44% through the year! It's hard to believe! Also, I think I've discovered that I really enjoy "press your luck" types of games. I think it's the gambler in me!! I'm going to an all day gaming thing on Saturday, so hopefully, I'll add a few more games to my "new games" list.

I'm also hosting my first official games night next week at my apartment. I've been trying to figure out how many people I can fit. I think I can fit 12-13 people and that's exactly how many I have signed up to come over. We'll see how it goes! It should be fun! I'll take stock when everyone's there to see if I can fit one more card table in the living room. I don't think I can, but we'll see once everyone gets there.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Gradually unpacking

I have been so busy since moving into my new apartment! For people who know me well, they know how much I love to watch TV that has been perfectly preserved on my TiVo! Since I moved, I have watched five hours of television. In almost three weeks. That is crazy!! That in mind, I purposely did not schedule anything to do tonight and tomorrow night so that I can just relax and unpack (and maybe watch some TV!). I spent a glorious 90 minutes in and by the pool when I got home from work. I am so happy to have it! The downside (or upside?) is that I will probably be very tan by the end of the summer. I just love being in the water.

The unpacking is continuing... There are still a few boxes that haven't been touched, but I'm hoping to tackle most of them by the end of the weekend. Then comes the fun part! Hanging pictures... I bought some posters a few months ago and I need to unroll them and buy frames for them so I can hang them. That doesn't sound like much fun which is probably why I haven't done it yet. Oh well. Soon.