Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mama's boys

I remember when I was a kid, my mom would get sick for days on end. There was nothing we could do to help her but leave her alone. I could almost feel her pain just looking at her, it was so bad.

Now I'm the exact same age that she was when it started and I am going through the same pain. Some days I can barely stand up, and I see the same look of concern and wanting to help in my own kids eyes.

On those bad days the kids really step up. 5 and 7 years old is a wonderful age. Both kids can read, follow directions, darn near do everything themselves. sigh. They grow up so fast. The other day I was in too much pain to cook dinner or even call for take out.

The Kid got my phone, read my recipes and made dinner. He made Shoyu Gohan. Luckily I usually have a few of the ingredients prepped and chopped in the freezer at all times to make for a quick meal.

The Kid has always helped in the kitchen ever since he was little. He loves to prep and help cook, I think that's why he's so open to eating so many different things. Now all those years of being my littlest sous chef is paying off.

I helped him get some high stuff off the shelf, but otherwise he did most of the dumping of ingredients, pour and measuring of sauces and spices. I managed a quick pic of him in action before I went back to bed. Sure it's an easy recipe but he really did a great job. Not only that he cleaned up the table and helped the Baby with his homework. That Kid deserves a new set of Legos.

Shoyu Gohan (recipe here)

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The claw

It was my good friend's bday and I know she LOVES seafood. I had heard that the Catalina Kitchen at the Terrenea resort in Palos Verdes held a seafood buffet every friday night, and though *I'm* not a lover of seafood, I have a strange fascination with buffets. I love to see the variety of items that get put out, the more the better!

So I booked a reservation for us, and though it's a LONG haul it was totally worth it. While most people like to trek north to see the beauty of the Los Angeles coastline, heading south is where it's at. Gorgeous, quiet - and because it's so tucked away from the rest of L.A., the South Bay provides a perfect little getaway.

I had gone to the brunch buffet before which was fantastic (all you can eat donuts, anyone?) but the dinner one was pretty great too. There was a salad station, a hot station, seafood salads.

The service was outstanding, our waiter was Portuguese and since some of our dinner guests were part Portuguese they had a lot of fun talking about Macau, etc. All the staff was friendly and always checking to see how we were doing. Each table also got a dish of hot crab legs in the middle of their table so they wouldn't have to be bothered getting up to get more. A lovely idea. Again - me - not the seafood connoisseur, didn't really partake but the rest of the table went to town. Even all the kids who had a grand ol' time cracking crab legs like it was a sport.

There were plenty of other options for non-seafood lovers like me: skirt steak, pork loin, as well as paella and even pizza.

The stand out was a made to order sushi station - and while I'm a 'bad asian' I don't eat sushi, the rest of the people in our party went for it.

No, I was fixated on the DESSERT STATION of course. This thing was stocked to the nines. Caramel flan, Chocolate Pot de Cremes in All-Clad 1/4 cup measures of all things. Tarts, cakes, cheesecake pops - but what got the kids all excited (and me) was the ice cream station filled with toppings:

It was a fantastic meal and a fun time with good friends. The buffet was a great way to have a stress-free meal with kids in the party, everyone got their choices, and we could take our time. That's the way all celebratory meals should be - relaxing and full of delicious food!
Catalina Kitchen @ Terrenea
100 Terranea Way
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reading Rainbow

It's that time of year again...homework time!
~Collective groan~ and that's just from the parents. My kids both have to do 20 mins of reading a night and while that doesn't seem like much, fitting it in with regular homework, after school classes, after-school sports, dinner, bath...it ain't easy.

This summer I signed my kids up for the summer reading program at the library and they read 40 books each. That's 80 books total! While the 2nd grade Kid is pretty set up with Magic Treehouse and Roald Dahl books, the Baby is just starting first grade and the transition between kinder and first is vastly different. Books need to be accessible, quick and most important: FUN

I like to have him read 'series' of books. The characters and overall rhythm stay the same which helps kids keep interest. I've done this many times before but I just love to showcase good books. So here are some of my fave series books for 1st grade homework reading. Let's start with Game of Thrones...KIDDING.

My absolute fave children's author is Mo Willems. Whenever he comes to town I try to take the kids to one of his readings. His pigeon books are a riot and very easy to read. He has a whole series of other books but the pigeon ones will always be my favorite.
The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!


Amy Krouse Rosenthal books are the best! The fun twists and turns - they are full of surprise and humor. My kids love these books and we read them over and over again.
Little Pea
Little Oink
Little Hoot


"If you give a..." by Laura Numeroff is another series full of humor and fun. While the books are similar in plot, they always bring you back to the same happy place.
If you give a pig a pancake
If you give a cat a cupcake
If you give a mouse a cookie

These are all great series to start. While they are def easy reads they will help the kids branch out into longer stories and more advanced words. Reading can be fun and easy if you just have the right books!

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Monday, September 19, 2011

In brightest day, in blackest night...

When the kids draw they usually ask me to print out a picture as a reference. The other day we were drawing superheroes and the Baby said, "I REALLY need a picture of Star Sapphire." Um. In case you didn't know...THIS is Star Sapphire:

Uh...yeah. Well, the Baby is just really into Green Lantern and so he wanted a picture of her and Green Lantern and well - I just couldn't do it. Although I have to say I am curious as to what his version of THAT outfit would look like.

Instead I gave him an EQUALLY good Star Sapphire pic, the Batman Brave and the Bold version, whose outfit I much rather prefer. He used that pic to draw the two of them:

Since they were doing the Lantern Corps I printed out a pic of Daffy Duck as Green Lantern and the Kid drew his version. Not bad. Art class starts this week so we'll see if all of our summer drawing time has paid off.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pigs in spaaaace!

I love Korean BBQ. The marinated meat cooking, sizzling, right in front of you on an open grill, reeking up your clothes to high heaven - I love it. In L.A. there are tons of options out there for Kbbq from downtown all the way to the South Bay. Of course, Koreatown is where it's at.

My brother and I happened to be rolling through K-Town so we decided to stop by Honey Pig for lunch. I had heard a lot about Honey Pig, great things and not so great things, but it's always been on my list of places I've been meaning to try.

I will say that the reviews about the poor service were pretty spot on - however I tried to avoid this by going right at the 11am opening time on a midweek Tuesday. My brother and I were the only ones there which meant we were the only people to be waited on so it wasn't bad. But yes considering it was just the two of us in the whole joint, and the standard Korean restaurant 'waiter call button' was on the table, there still was lot of...waiting. Hm.

The difference between this place and other Kbbq places are the large domes that the food is cooked on, almost like a convex wok. The room looked like little spaceship landing pads, only the aliens were made of delicious kimchi.

Speaking of, the kimchi is thrown right on the grill and I've never thought to have it that way. It brings out so much flavor! My mouth is watering as I type this.

There isn't much as far as banchan (sides) but they do give you (chapssal) rice paper wrappers which reminded me of mochi SO much, how could I not love them. I used them to wrap my meat and grilled kimchi, but sometimes I just ate them all by themselves.

I have to say the meat was nothing special, I've tasted a TON of Kbbq and this meat was on par. The prices were as well - a little on the high side but as you'll see by the end of this, you get MUCH MORE than just bbq meat.

Honey Pig is known for their pork belly, which was good but again, nothing out of the ordinary. I will say I definitely went for the 'pork belly special' which is fresh, not frozen like the other pork belly selections - remember that. Go for the 'special'.

After near stuffing ourselves my brother tapped out into a meat-coma and the waiter said, "What about your third course?" What. Usually at this point in my Kbbq experience I go home and wash the smell out of my clothes, but excuse me - third course?

With all those crispy leftover bits on the space dome (which was still hot) the waiter added a bowl of greens, salted Korean nori (seaweed) and kimchi flavored fried rice. Combined with the leftover tiny pieces of beef and pork that we had just mostly consumed - OMG it was delicious. My brother wasn't having it - weak. I went for it, there is nothing more satifying than freshly made fried rice and I could not...stop...eating it.

They should have really called it a 3/4 course because it also came with a big bowl of spicy miso soup. Wow the meal just never ended!

And if the smell of the bbq meat, garlic, kimchi was too much - there was complimentary mouthwash in the bathroom! (This is not a good date place, obvs)

The food was great and so was the experience. I will def be back especially since I didn't get the prized PIG that they give away, but perhaps that's only at dinner when the supposedly bad service is in full effect. ~sigh~ You can smell me from a mile away but I'm still dreaming of spicy kimchi fried rice...don't wake me.

Honey Pig
3400 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To all who come to this happy place - welcome!

As a veteran Disneyland park go-er I was recently asked how many times I've been in my lifetime. Considering I've been going 3+ times a year since I was 2 and I go about once a week nowadays, the answer was...over 100. I think that's an understatement.

So here are some of my favorite Disneyland tips and tricks (check out the update for 2013)

If you think Disneyland is a nightmare, you're just not doing it right. When my kids were younger and they had passes - I would take them every few weeks, and there are ways to make your Disney trip easy peasy. Honest.

People always ask me for tips on taking their kids to Disneyland - I have been working on this list for a long, long time. These are a few tried and true things that will make your day a whole lot easier!

I don't like lines.
Yeah. Neither do I. The absolute best way to take advantage of free reign in the park is to stay in a Disney hotel because they let you in one hour PRIOR to opening this is called 'Magic Mornings'. A select few rides are open, usually the ones for the kiddies in Fantasyland. If those aren't for you, at least youare IN the park and you have a prime spot for first choice of all the rides once they open up all the lands.

I know not everyone wants to stay in a hotel, in that case the optimum ride time is when the parades start, (that's where all the kids are). Same with the fireworks at night. Just skip the fireworks if rides are your priority.

If YOU love the rides, then get this: a lot of the fast rides offer 'single rider' which means you can go up to the front and ride while your spouse stays with the sleeping kid, then you switch off.

One more thing - Disneyland apps are your bff. From wait times to height requirements, it will save you a headache from running from one ride to the other. 60 min wait for Indiana Jones? Forget that, go eat a corndog. (the corndog line even has a wait time on the app!!) MouseWait is my fave.

Now this is the kind of wait time *I* live for:
My kids need to pee.
Anytime I can, I head back to Main Street to go to the Baby Care Center. (Next door to the Corn Dog Truck.) They have toddler sized potties, changing tables that are cleaned and wiped down after every use, baby food if you need it, a microwave, and a breast feeding room. I love that place because I am a total clean freak. Sadly, adults aren't allowed to pee there, so you're on your own. Hey, at least the kids are taken care of.

I want good food, not crappy park food.
Anytime you go to a theme park it's easy to get suckered. I am anti-hamburger/chicken nuggets/fast-food-esque things for my kids, so I am always looking for something better.

For breakfast: The Carnation Cafe on Main Street
Wow the breakfasts here are good. Just nice and homey and really tasty. Eggs, potatoes, and the cutest little Mickey waffles ever. There is a wait though, but it's worth it.

For Lunch
: Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country
Disneyland is changing their food options and all for the better. The newly revamped Hungry Bear Restaurant across from Splash Mountain now has more (even vegetarian) offerings instead of the same old burger and fries (ugh, not a fan). Fried Green Tomato sandwiches, sweet potato fries - all make for new and out of the ordinary theme park food.

For Dinner
: The Plaza Inn on Main Street
They have really big spaghetti and chicken dinners, that are large enough to share, which is great for your budget too. Also the dining is indoors, which is comfy at night.

I need a souvenir.
The best things ever are personalized. Biased opinion, here. Sure you can get Disney ears, but did you also know you can get anything personalized? Towels, tees, jackets - just bring your purchase to the Disney Clothiers store on Main St. NEXT to the Mad Hatter and they will embroider names for you for an additional charge. It's a unique gift esp for people bringing gifts back home.
Note: Did you know that if you break a Disneyland toy while you are there (I'm looking at you kids) or if your balloon pops (still looking at you, kids) Disney will replace it for free? Hey, whatever it takes to avoid crying is fine with me.

This could go under 'snack' too, but popcorn buckets are great. They cost a little more than a popcorn box, but that you'll just toss. These come with a lid so you can easily tote it all day. They buckets are collectible in the sense that they are always changing, but here's what I like, you can take them home, wash them, and they really come in handy for storing legos, crayons, any small toys. It's a nice reusable container.

The newest container is hard to find - a special R2D2 popcorn bucket!! This was put out to celebrate the opening of the new Star Tours ride. I love it since I adore Star Wars, but beforewarned. It costs WAY more than your average popcorn bucket, coming in a steep $15. You heard me. And yes, I bought it. Anything Star Wars, I just can't help myself.

I want something sweet.
Ok, this is my biggest secret of all, and I will probably regret saying this one, but the ice cream shop on Main Street is FABULOUS. If...you want to wait an hour and half for ice cream. I've done it. Don't. It's a nightmare and at the end you'll be too pissed off to eat. The secret is...go across the street. The Main St. Cone Shop is next to the lockers and has ice cream cones, sundaes and...NO LINES. Seriously. Your anger management therapist will thank you.

The park is also attempting new fun desserts that are certainly memorable and very Disney-fied. From mini pies to cupcakes they are breaking the trend of boring old cotton candy and ice cream. Just check out that Belle caramel apple!
Those are just a few of the questions people have emailed me about navigating Disneyland. If you have any more just let me know. I'm not an expert, just someone who goes...A LOT.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination

O.G. went to the market and saw 'Earthquake Kits' for sale. She complained about their contents and I told her, "You realize...those are for CHILDREN to keep at school in case of an emergency??" Her response: "Ohhh. No wonder. I was thinking, why would anyone want to sit around eating raisins during an earthquake?" Good. Lord.

I told her I'd take her to the market to build her own earthquake kit and when I asked her what SHE would put in it, of course the answer was chocolate.

'Course the last time we had a major earthquake she ended up under the table. Yes - there are pictures because I am the best Grand-daughter ever. (Not really.)

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Bacon Steak

The kids have been saving their money from christmas, birthdays, chores, lost teeth - it's all adding up. While the Kid went for the toys, the Baby went another direction:

"When I save up all my money I'm going to buy a pork chop from Lindy & Grundy."

Is that child a meat expert or what?! Lindy & Grundy is a locally sourced butcher shop in LA. Their high quality meats are outstanding and their knowledge is extensive.
The pork chop that the Baby is referring to is their 'smoked pork chop.' But yes, fresh, good quality food is not cheap and that's why the Baby needs to save up.

When Amelia sold it to me she said "it's like eating a bacon steak" she wasn't joking. Being smoked, the chop is slightly on the salty side but that smoky, almost bacon-y flavor definitely shines.

While our meals lately have been fruits and veggies with a side of meat - this pork chop took center stage. This chop was so full of flavor it was amazing. Since the chop is already smoked - here's the quick way I cooked it:
1. In a pan on high heat sear the fat on the edge of the chop. About 1 min.
2. Once that is rendered down place the chop on it's side for about 3 mins.
3. Turn over and cook the other side for another 3 mins.
4. Place it under the broiler for 2 mins until it's a nice caramelized brown.

This truly is the best pork chop known to man and I kind of want to hand the Baby money on the sly just so we can go get a few more. But he doesn't need my help. He tends to find money everywhere...

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Rosita: I was thinking later, you could kiss me on the veranda.
Dusty Bottoms: Lips would be fine.

I have a new balcony. There's something about a totally blank slate, some people fear it but I see so much possibility. But with a small budget *sigh* you can only do so much.

Stone or decking just wasn't in the cards, plus since it's an upper level balcony that would add a lot of weight and it wasn't something I was structurally comfortable with. No, my plan with this was to make it more warm by bringing the inside, outside.

I started by looking for indoor/outdoor rugs. They are generally durable and tough but also pretty. I needed a rather large size since the balcony is wide and long. A small size would look like a bathmat - i.e. ridiculous. I found a gorgeous rug at Crate and Barrel for $250 +10% cost delivery. Uh - excuse me? NO WAY. The rug was perfect but the price wasn't.

Then I found Martha Stewart indoor/outdoor rugs at HomeDepot.com. I have to say Martha Stewart has never steered me wrong and I found a rug almost identical to the expensive one. A beautiful beige weave with a black border, durable enough to be vaccumed or even hosed down. Unlike the expensive Crate and Barrel one, this one was just $79 PLUS a free doormat sized rug PLUS free shipping. I took a chance and ordered it. When it came it was more than perfect in size and color. Texturally it was soft and easy to roll up thank goodness, since my goal is to put it in storage when it rains.

Rain. Not conducive to lovely outdoor decor. Even tho it never rains in Southern California (Tony! Toni! Tone! shoutout) when it does it sure ain't fun. So while my balcony will most likely stay like this 10 months out of the year, I still need furnishings that I can carry in and out of storage by myself in the 'rainy' season.

I'd love to have a large table and chairs but budget-wise and heavy-lifting wise, forget it. So instead I looked for a 'conversation table'. A conversation table is basically a small height table approx 19" or so. Think of it as a coffee table but for the outdoors. It still allows you to entertain, and it is usually on the low end price wise.

I lucked out AGAIN at HomeDepot.com and found a great Eucalyptus conversation table marked down 50% to just $99. At 19" W x 39" L it was a great size. Once again free shipping was the offer and I took a chance - the legs were easy to assemble with no tools and it only weighed 21 pounds which meant I could carry it by myself.

Now when it came to chairs I happened to have these foldable teak chairs in storage that are over 10 years old. Here's where Phase 2 of this design will kick in so use your imagination. Since the canvas on the chairs doesn't match my new decor, I plan to recover them myself using a deep red canvas and also get a matching sun umbrella that will also be a red canvas. The red will be a perfect compliment to the black border on the natural indoor/outdoor rug. Stay tuned for Phase 2.

As far as accessories, again I like to bring the inside - out. White accessories like vases are a nice way to offset to dark wood outdoor furniture, and adding little color pulls the whole thing together. These artichokes look edible but are in fact candles and could also double-take as flowers. The white and the green bounce off the wood nicely.

There is still more to do on this balcony but for now it's comfortable enough that I use it a few times a day. I go out there to sketch, write recipes and even have snacks or a summer dinner in the evenings for the kids.

Of course I'm not the only one that uses my newly decorated balcony. I think this may be how it was intended to be used anyway...

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Whip it good

I have fond childhood memories of going to the Dole Plantation in Hawaii and having a cool and refreshing Dole whip - just after getting damn near heatstroke. (Wahiawa is blazing HOT in the summer.) The Dole Whip was lighter than ice cream and not as creamy as soft serve. Just plain ol' refreshing.

The only place aside from Hawaii that you could get such a treat was Disneyland, next to the Tiki Room. Luckily since I go to Disneyland so often it's readily available anytime but honestly with the tourist-y long lines it was rarely worth my wait.
Now Dole Whip is available outside of the island AND Disneyland! The small House of Dole Whip storefront is open in West Hollywood at Santa Monica & Fairfax with an array of flavors like strawberry and red velvet! My fave is and always will be pineapple. There's nothing like it.
While the flavors are available in machines against a wall like most yogurt shops, here you make your choice and someone serves you. It's an odd set up - I almost wish there was a counter so there was a clear separation of how you are supposed to order but no matter - the flavors and menu board says it all.

There are floats, smoothies and even banana splits all made with the Dole Whip. The kids love Dole Whip too because it's so light - like eating a fruity airy frozen treat. The Baby went for a double of Mango + Pineapple. A perfect treat for the end of summer.

House of Dole Whip
7901 Santa Monica Blvd. suite 106
West Hollywood, CA
Sun-Thu 11am - 10pm
Fri-Sat 11am-11pm

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