Party Inspiration

It’s that time again…come and be inspired with me!

A "true" cup-cake

Love the use of blackboards for menus especially!

Clever idea for a "brrrr-thday" party!

A balloon release party for a 30th birthday

Precious idea - take a picture of guests holding a 'thought bubble'!

Sweet treats wrapped in fun paper!

Red, white and blue!

Hmmm...I may have to borrow this idea for this weekend. ;)

LA Part 2: Music & Food

[BTW: This is actually the first part of our trip.]

We started our trip in LA with a wonderful brunch at a place where Hubby’s visiting cousins from Jersey checked out and loved – The Griddle Cafe. Warning: When you read the menu, your mouth may water. ;) After reading reviews on Yelp, I learned that we would likely stand in line but parking was ample. Lucky for us, we scored a parking spot pretty fast and the wait wasn’t too bad – it made for nice convo-time and people-watching with the Hubby.

People-watching

Store-front

By the looks of it, the line looked chaotic, but TGC apparently had a hidden system going on. Seated after about 20 minutes of waiting (not bad for a popular LA joint), we started with a cup of coffee – they ask if you want bold, medium, etc. and the coffee is not just poured into your cup but served in a coffee press – lovin’ it already.

Caffeine-fix

My guy :)

Cracked out with cream & Splenda

Decisions, decisions. After perusing through the menu, we decided to get one savory dish and one sweet dish to share. The Peanut “Bubba” French Toast and The Griddle’s signature Tequila Sunrise were our picks! We loved them both, but I think my favorite was the french toast and I want to say the Hubby really enjoyed the Tequila Sunrise.

French toast dipped in a peanut butter crunch and grilled to perfection - and perfect it was!

Hello huevos rancheros! The special part of this dish was their chicken tequila sausage - so good!

After this hearty brunch, our bellies were happy and we were ready to venture off to our favorite music store Amoeba! Check out what I happened to stumble upon – love these great music finds and love the price tag! ;)

A Disney Reggae CD??? Yes, it does exist. Adding to Ella's music collection. :)

After shopping at Amoeba, we headed to The Grammy Museum. While walking to the museum, we snapped photos of the Staples Center complete with a championship mural. Go Lakers! You also see plaques adorned with the names of past Grammy winners as you stroll to the museum.

Mural at the Staples Center

Lauryn Hill - my fave artist of the late 90s and I still love her music.

The Great Magic Johnson

"Talking" to the One & Only Chick Hearn

Now, if you’re a music-lover like us, you MUST go to The Grammy Museum – it was AWESOME! Hubby and I were like two little kids in a wonderland of everything we love – the technology featured in the museum was worth the admission fee! You see actual letters, costumes, artwork and other memorabilia from artists of every era – it was so special to see these pieces.

Tickets were about $13 a person - SO WORTH IT!

The Grammy Museum

Standing next to the letter that was sent to all the artists who were part of the USA for Africa's "We Are The World", asking for everyone's cooperation in keeping the confidentiality of the project. Also featured in the case is the original written music. (This photo was taken with Hubby's cell phone. He saw how fascinated I was and "broke the rules" to snap this moment.)

As we were walking back to our car, we stopped over and got some ice cream – meh. I thought it was overpriced and just ok…but refreshing nonetheless.

Mint & Banana Flavored Ice Cream

We also saw some skater kids who asked us for “money to buy food” if they did some tricks. One kid skated down a flight of ten steps. And he scored a $10 dollar bill from us – a dollar a step. He deserved it – and the smile of gratitude on his and his friends’ faces were priceless!

Doing tricks...

The Skater Crew

What can I say? We love LA! :)

LA Part 1: Dinner & Dessert

With our lives getting busier and busier, it becomes more challenging for the Hubby and I to have time to ourselves and actually take a vacation. More recently, we’ve come to appreciate the simple idea of “weekend getaways” and “day-trips” – nearby and local for the most part; no long-term childcare required; and since the trip is short in nature, we are forced to pack in as much exciting stuff as possible…and honestly, that’s the FUN part of planning our trips.

I am a big Top Chef fan and have become a fan of several chef contestants. When they introduced Top Chef Masters, I immediately got hooked. This past season featured Chef Susan Feniger from one of the first televised cooking shows “Two Hot Tamales”! It wasn’t until she was on Top Chef Masters many years later that I grew to love her as a talented chance-taking Chef who had this contagious fun-loving personality. I had heard about her restaurant in Santa Monica called STREET and told the Hubby that I really wanted to check this place out someday – the international menu blew my mind! So when I landed my new gig, my loving husband made an executive decision to take me there to celebrate. And we, of course, made the most of being in LA. This is the first post of our trip, but I’m going backwards, starting with the end of our trip.

Oh LA traffic – boo. Not being locals and getting a little confused by our GPS, many u-turns later, we decided to fold and call the restaurant to tell them we were going to be late. The hostess was so understanding and said she’d take care of us when we arrived. Once we approached STREET, we decided not to fuss with looking for parking and decided to go the valet route ($8). The restaurant looked pretty packed…and after examining the room, I noticed a back patio area. That’s where we were seated and let me tell you, with the beautiful weather that day, I wouldn’t want to sit anywhere else. Sunshine, cool air, and the furniture consisted of comfy patio-like pieces and beautiful stylish bench booths.

We sat a table for two, but this was the section right next to us.

On to the food…well, drinks first!

Reminded me of a mojito but with muddled cucumber and honeydew, and of course vodka!

Beer from India

Okay, really – on to the food. They brought out this complimentary snack that resembled “popcorn” but was infused with Indian spices and bound together with marshmallow. Points for creativity and definitely something you can say “I’ve never had anything like this before!” and mean it.

A nice teaser to an amazing dinner!

Susan was voted off for making her famous Kaya Toast (apparently, the dish was not complex enough for the judges). This appetizer was inspired by Singapore. Two slices of thick toasted bread with a coconut jam filling, served with a soft fried egg drizzled with dark soy sauce and white pepper. The idea is to break the yolk and dip the mini sandwiches in the mix of yolk and soy for a nice sweet and salty sensation. This dish is the most popular of her menu. Really exceeded my expectations – delicious!

Kaya Toast

We also ordered the Lamb Kafta Meatballs, inspired by Syria. I am not a huge lover of lamb dishes, but the last two I’ve had (lamb meatloaf from Urban Solace and this one) have been unexpectedly good! This was served on a grape leaf with Syrian cheese (similar to feta), drizzled with a carob molasses and sprinkled with dates. Mmmmm…every bite.

Lamb Kafta Meatballs

For our main entree, I had done some research on Yelp. My findings were that the Tatsutage Fried Chicken and Malaysian Black Pepper Clams were a big hit. So the Hubby ordered the fried chicken and man, was that dish outstanding. It was accompanied with a side of soba noodles and perfectly pickled veggies. He loved it (and so did I).

Tatsutage Fried Chicken

I was so excited to get my clams…but sadly, I was disappointed. Now, I am a huge lover of salty things – I put fish sauce and shrimp paste on most Filipino homecooked dishes, even if they’re ALREADY salty! But this dish was way to salty – I felt like a handful of salt was thrown into the broth. I HATE complaining about dishes and rarely ever send them back – it’s embarassing and I feel bad and even rude. But with my husband’s validation of the over-salted dish, he encouraged me to raise my hand about it. Our server took great care of us, as did the Chef, who even apologized and agreed that the clams were too salty. To make up for it, they sent out a complimentary appetizer – Paani Puri – while they prepared the entree I decided to get in lieu of the clams. This was actually a nice refresher to all the salt on my palette. Little crispy puffs with a nicely spiced potato chutney filling and bean sprouts, and served with a yogurt cilantro water.

Paani Puri

I was hoping that my substitution to the clams was not going to disappoint – I had ordered the Thai Rice Noodles, which was their version of Pad Seeyew, my all-time favorite Thai dish! I am very picky with my Pad Seeyew, so I didn’t know if I was setting myself up since I already had set standards. AND, not to mention I usually ordered my noodles with beef, not pork, which is what it came with. I cannot even tell you how happy I was with the dish! Amazingly good and the pork was not just sliced pork, it was shredded tender pork that tasted like it was sweetened somehow! Delicious! It was a bit spicy but did that stop me from eating it? Nope. The only thing that was different from Pad Seeyew was the absence of eggs in the dish. But this dish was only inspired by Pad Seeyew not a replica.

Thai Rice Noodles

To end our dinner, noneother than Chef Susan Feniger herself recommended one of her favorite desserts. It’s not even on the website, so I’m going to have to wing it in explaining it. It was like a Thai Tea Mousse topped with candied nuts. So wonderful and a lovely closing to our STREET experience. I’m downplaying this, but I was incredibly STARSTRUCK when I met Susan. Her attitude and personality are inspiring to me, so meeting her made this trip extra-special and memorable.

Thai Tea Mousse (sorry, not the best shot)

Chef Susan Feniger

Eat at STREET

Originally, we weren’t planning on having dessert at STREET but we couldn’t help ourselves and had to try this Chef-recommended creation – so glad we did. But we also wanted to go to a local dessert hot spot called Diddy Riese. With a little more help from Yelp, I learned that this place is a local favorite and they are known for their ice cream cookie sandwiches! What amazed me was how inexpensive everything was – really???? For a dozen cookies, it’s only $3.75. And these cookies aren’t little! Cookies are baked fresh all day, every day. You have your classic cookie flavors – white chocolate macademia, chocolate chip (with or without nuts), snickerdoodle, peanut butter, M&M, oatmeal raisin and I think there’s more! Each one scoop ice cream sandwich is only $1.50! You can choose your cookies and ice cream flavors and be as creative as you want. They also serve Hawaiian Shave Ice with or without ice cream – oh yeah! You have to stop in if you’re in the LA area (they’re in Westwood close to UCLA) but just be prepared to look for parking, stand in line and pay with cash only. Don’t worry, it’s worth it!

Storefront

Yummm...

Random Thoughts Thursday

  • This week is going by faster than I imagined – haven’t really worked a true 40 hour work week in a few months! This week looks like it’s even going to be 40+ (and the rebel in me is wearing jeans today – hehe)
  • Can’t wait for this weekend – spending Saturday in LA with the Hubby! Grammy Museum, photo adventure, shopping and dinner at STREET. Planning to take Ella to the fair on Sunday.
  • Love how it’s daylight later – it’s nice coming home from work and feeling like I still have the rest of the day to enjoy.
  • Child of the hour is our 9 year old – I feel like I’m constantly telling her to “listen”. I think this kid needs more responsibilities and projects to keep her busy and out of trouble.
  • So happy that CS5 is installed on my system at work – I feel complete!
  • Got my first “work shoe” blister. Boo.
  • So inspired by my gf’s house upgrades – I would love to get granite and upgrade our kitchen one of these days.

#14 Buy a King Size Bed – DONE!

Haha, I actually achieved something on my to-do list and didn’t even realize it! Sweet! Forgot all about putting “Buy a King Size Bed” on the list so now I feel especially happy for checking off another thing off the list. Our master bedroom is slowly becoming a place of rest and relaxation, not chaos and stress. Thanks to the Hubby for all of his hard work (no matter how tired he may be).

Another thing I’d like to cross off my list is planning a special girls’ night in or girls’ night out with my besties. Paula planned last night’s outing – sushi at Eda Mami and dessert at her new place. There aren’t enough hours for us to talk, “gossip”, comfort each other and laugh. Always a good time! So thankful for these ladies.

BFFs & Paula's Little Ones

Change is Good

The past few days have been busy and full of changes – see below:

– My last day at Provide was last Friday. It was bittersweet. I wanted to get out of there quick because I don’t like long good-byes. My team gave me flowers and a card, which was really nice. Will miss everyone but felt good when the HR manager and Director told me I’m on their radar for future opportunities – always good to have options. It was a damn good run and I appreciated everything the company shared with me.

– Son started a new job that requires our support with transportation on some days. Oh how I wish he had his own vehicle to drive. We are so close to paying off our SUV and could get a new car soon. But there’s no point in rushing it when our boy isn’t comfortable driving stick. So we have to compromise our schedules to accommodate his ride needs when he’s with us…for now.

– Kids are officially on summer break (lucky). With that, we have to make sure they stay busy during the time they’re with my father-in-law while we’re at work. In addition, all of the kids’ schedules have changed a bit during the summer where they will be with their moms more and Hubby and I will get to enjoy more breaks, which we could use.

– We just got new bedroom furniture delivered on Saturday – hooray! More than a want, we NEEDED a new bed. Our necks and backs were suffering, especially my Hubby’s. King size, new mattress, high thread sheets, and new duvet set – our bedroom is what it’s supposed to be now, our haven. But can you imagine all the moving around we had to do? Ugh.

– I just started my new gig yesterday. A lot of anxiety and excitement. I don’t like being the “new kid” and I have to say that it’s not my favorite having to adjust to new environments. In this case, new team, new wardrobe, new workspace, new rules, new schedule, new expectations, new responsibilities. But part of me was really excited. The first day filled me up with stress and anxiety – having to get dolled up in business clothes, getting Ella ready and out the door, making it to work on time while hoping to have a parking space (as they are VERY limited), and the whole “not knowing what to expect” mentality always freaks me out. But overall, I had a great first day! My team seems great and they were very welcoming – despite their very busy schedules, they took me to lunch at a nearby hotel which had a nice little restaurant. I had a very delicous crab and avocado salad. Yum. And the conversations were so natural – I feel so comfortable around them, which was a wonderful feeling. They gave me my own laptop so I can work from home when needed. I have a nice little, private workspace. I sit close to the ladies room and the coffee machines and microwaves! Yay! And bonus points for brewing Starbucks coffee AND having even fancier creamer than my last job. I can’t wait to contribute my work to this team – waiting for Adobe InDesign Trial to download as we speak so I can get some work done. :)

Random Thoughts Thursday

  • Had a bit of a rough morning – not ever fun having to reprimand a kid first thing in the morning! UGH.
  • So happy that the new season of Top Chef has started – lots of talent! So far, I’m a fan of Kenny.
  • So excited to get our new bed this weekend. :) We deserve it! And we got new sheets and a new duvet set.
  • Kind of sad to leave my current job – super-casual attire, own office, relaxed environement, free flowers and food, Starbucks coffee all day every day, awesome parties, and the cool people I’ve met. Too bad it didn’t work out as a permanent position, but I’m excited for my new job!
  • I’ve been slippin on my blog posts lately – that’s how busy I’ve been.
  • It was nice spending time with my brother, SIL, niece and neff yesterday.
  • Ella had another stellar day at daycare! I’m so proud of her.
  • I cannot wait to pick up my 5 pairs of pants from the tailor’s today.
  • Nice lunch with Hubby yesterday at Red Lobster – hands down, I think they have the best calamari! Plus, they batter and deep-fry broccoli and bell peppers too…mmm!
  • Still not sure what’s happening for Father’s Day and unfortunately Hubby’s gift will be late – sorry!
  • I’ll end this post with a quote that my good friend posted on her FB page – I thought it was great advice and applies to so many areas of “life” – work, families, relationships, friendships. Thanks R!

“Go where you are celebrated – not tolerated.
If they can’t see the beauty of your heart, it’s time for a new start…”-Unknown

Random Food Shots

"Pop Off" Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for the creative group’s softball team “Pop Off”. Hubby said they looked like those old school Hostess cupcakes. This was the first time I made chocolate ganache from scratch – so easy and so good! Although I’m leaving the company, I enjoyed baking goodies for the creative group and being “Team Mom”.

Pansit, Sisig & Filipino Bistek

I was craving Filipino food for lunch and went to one of my favorite local joints. I love the sisig, couldn’t resist the bistek and had to get the pansit which is second to Mom’s. After eating this, I was ready for a nap!

Not Your Ordinary Ramen

Had a bad cold last week and was craving some restaurant ramen bad! Not having the energy to drive to Clairemont to my favorite ramen spot, I decided to go to a local Asian market and see if they had anything that I could cook up at home. And did they! I grabbed three flavors: pork, curry and satay! So far, I’ve only had the pork flavor and it was very good. Not bad for packaged noodles and seasoning.

Weekend, Thank You For Being Good To Me!

Seldom do we ever get weekends to ourselves. But our blended family situation allows us one weekend a month to ourselves (with Ella of course). I love all of our kids, but all parents whether biological, stepparent, single parent – doesn’t matter – need time to recharge and regroup…and be a little selfish without feeling a little bit guilty about it.

So for my selfish fix, my dear Hubby took me shopping for “business casual” work clothes. Thanks my love! We finally purchased a king size bed and a new mattress – so excited for it to deliver this weekend. We ate our favorite foods – Sushi AND Thai, and even went out to breakfast before a very busy Saturday. I was able to do some of my “own” cleaning and FINALLY…dun da da dun…my closet cleaning project has begun! I got rid of 2 trash bags worth of clothes – can you believe it? It was so therapuedic emptying out my closet. I was able to organize my clothing by color and now I can see just how many pieces I have to choose from…and it’s a pretty good amount. Now I need to attack the top shelf, but I feel really good that I am making progress.

Hubby and I got to enjoy some sunshine with friends and family at a flag football game, as well as take Ella to a birthday party. It was nice to socialize with adults and other parents, and spend time with our godkids. We did our usual Walmart/Target/VONS run and finished ALL of the laundry, as well as vacuumed and cleaned bathrooms. We made it a point to cook during the weekend so we don’t blow all of our money on eating out – so that was nice. We watched TV. We sat in the patio. We took care of our individual to-do’s. It made me realize that we really need these weekends to ourselves because we come out of them so refreshed and accomplished!

What’s in the works this weekend? Hodad’s with my college BFF J-Dils, a new bed and a nice Father’s Day. In the pipeline? I have my one-on-one invitation for our 9 year old ready to be delivered, a new job that I am excited for, a little LA getaway with the Hubby (yay!) and an owl-themed shower for my Bestie.

Random Thoughts Thursday

  • Hugely important meeting of the minds today – the first of its kind. I am both nervous and anxious, and I’m praying that all goes well.
  • I heart Groupon and all of its kind – I have date nights lined up for me and the Hubby, and what a great feeling to know that we are saving money!
  • Finally – our son lands a job…at the fair! It’s a start.
  • Speaking of fair…can’t wait to go to the SD County Fair with the Hubby and Ella this summer. Got discounted readmission tixs from work. Should be fun!
  • Wondering what is up with the Ralphs reuseable bag design contest – they are supposed to announce the winner tomorrow but they haven’t even posted the finalists on their website, as the contest rules promised.
  • Shopping this weekend – business casual work attire needs to be beefed up big time!
  • I hate being sick – still fighting a cold and a very achy neck/back.
  • Looking forward to an almost kidless weekend – I seriously need to regroup.
  • I’m hungry – time to eat!