Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Disneyland's Halloween Carnival

While most people go to Disneyland at Halloween to see the Haunted Mansion and the park all decked out, the real fun (and less crowds) is finding the seasonal food and secret little spots with extra entertainment!

This year Disneyland transformed Big Thunder Ranch into a Halloween Carnival! There were fun treats, costumed characters and activities to keep the kids busy.
There was an awesome pumpkin carving display where professionals showed off their unbelievable skills and carved memorable Disney characters out of pumpkins. I like to carve special pumpkins every year too so I definitely paid close attention to detail.
There were carnival games where you could throw bean bags, spin a wheel and rope a witch's hat. No prizes but lots of fun and costumed characters were on hand to help out.

There was a stage show and a special Villains tent and a big craft station...
...where kids could color or make masks and they held a 'masquerade' every now and then for everyone to show off their designs.

The best part of Halloween at Disney is always the food. My personal fave (and really the main reason I went to the park) was to get the special holiday Candy Corn Cotton Candy! I love candy corn and I love cotton candy, so this was my dream come true. While the taste was just regular sugar, the look of it was adorable! Why snack on regular old pink cotton candy when you can hold a pretty candy corn one?

As always seasonal apples are tons of fun and two that always stand out are the Jack Skellington and Pumpkin Mickey caramel apples.

Except for the food, all these fun carnival activities are free to enjoy. It's a great break from rides, crowds and cool park feature you only see once during the year! Fall is always fun at the park!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

24 Hour Donut City II

If I had a list of things I love: art, donuts and Los Angeles would be at the top. This weekend all three came together at the 24 donut pop up at LACMA.

In celebration of the 24-hour screening of artist Christian Marclay’s The Clock, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 24 Hour Donut City is a reception giving away free donuts for 24 hours with new donut selections every two hours.
I love to take the kids to pop up art exhibitions so that they can see all that the city has to offer. However seeing as how I wanted to go later in the evening to avoid the crowds I knew staying up might be a feat for the kids. But hey, there were donuts involved, I was sure they'd manage.

The pop up was across the street from LACMA and the tiny gallery was pretty crowded. People surrounded the free donut table and oohed and aahed just as if they were looking at fine pieces of art. Sweet, delicious art if you ask me.
We arrived at the 9 o'clock hour when the selection varied from a few leftover Rainbow Sprinkled Donut Holes from Bob's and Green Tea Donuts from  Cafe Dulce in Little Tokyo.
Since I once judged over 40 dozen donuts in the LA Donut Summit, I know my donuts. We grabbed the Chocolate Sprinkles donuts provided by S+K and settled in to people watch. There were lots of art and donut lovers milling about while the iPod dj played sweet sounds from Depeche Mode and Neneh Cherry. This was my kind of art gathering.
There was also a table where you could color your own donut and have your art displayed on the wall. You didn't have to ask my kids twice, and they quickly got to work.

The kids love going out and exploring Los Angeles but nighttime is extra special. We walked through a few open galleries at LACMA, and at the end the kids got to do their favorite thing, run through Chris Burden's "Urban Light" display. Hide and seek in a million dollar+ work of art. A pretty good way to end the night.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012


One of the 'hoods I like to go to in San Francisco is Hayes Valley. Cafes, shops, restaurants - it wasn't always full of this much hipster love but nowadays there's a ton of things to see and do.

I like to eat breakfast at Stacks, stop by Miette for candy, go to Isotope for comics, stare at the meat next door at Fatted Calf but one place that I hadn't stopped in before caught my eye...
An ice cream store - built in a shipping container - where the ice cream is made to order right before your eyes. What. I had to see this for myself.

So I peeked into the reconstructed shipping container and the line was loooong. Everyone wanted some of this ice cream and yes, it was indeed being made to order.

The locally sourced ingredients were added to the one of a kind ice cream machine called a 'Kelvin' and using liquid nitrogen it was flash frozen and you had your custom made ice cream in just 60 seconds!

I ordered the Tcho Dark Chocolate ice cream with homemade brittle on top. The unique churning and freezing method made for not only a gorgeous scoop of ice cream but it was smooth and creamy. Completely amazing.

At $3 for a small scoop it's perhaps a little pricey for a dessert and a smokey show? Nope, the flavor and quality make it worth it and so much more. I'll definitely be back to taste the seasonal flavors.

Smitten Ice Cream
432 Octavia St.
San Francisco, CA

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Monday, September 17, 2012

San Francisco eats

Last week I went to San Francisco because I was a finalist in the Ghirardelli Bake Off. I love the food of San Francisco and everytime I go up north there are specific place that I MUST stop at. Here's a look at my food vacation:

My first stop almost of the plane is Benkyodo in Japantown. The little mochi shop is totally old school and the cases are filled with traditional Japanese confections.

This time I around I was lucky to get fresh mochi donuts filled with red beans. This is the stuff dreams are made of.
Another must-stop of mine is Miette. While they have a smaller outlet in the Ferry Building it's the Hayes Valley store that is near and dear to my heart. I like to stroll down to James Sime's Isotope to buy comics, then head over to Miette to stare at all the beautiful candy. I rarely say no to their pastry case either.

Speaking of the Ferry Building I always go in the morning so that I can spend all day eating there. So many choices, I simply must try them all. Acme Bread is a fave amongst SF locals and with good reason, the bread is amazing. I'm a sucker for olive rolls and at 85 cents I always buy a few to keep in my purse for the plane ride back.

Boccalone 'Tasty Salted Pig Parts' - need I say more? One of the founders of Boccalone is Chris Cosentino who is currently a contestant on Top Chef Masters. I'm rooting for him not only because I am a fan of his food but because he is playing for the Michael J Fox Foundation, who I am also a big fan of

Chris Cosentino's 'PIGG' is featured at Umamicatessen and has some amazing food which I've written about before. Here at Boccalone the salesperson recommeded the Orange and Fennel Salame and told me it was their best seller and I would not be disappointed. Upon hearing that I got it wrapped to go asap and headed on my way.

At the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, Ciao Bella was one of the gracious vendors who handed out FULL SIZE samples. So kind and generous, it was also delicious! The promo worked because I went to the shop and ended up buying and sampling many flavors!
The Ferry Building is filled with great places to eat but I always end up going back to Delica. The upscale Japanese bento is both beautiful an delicious. For lunch on this day I had sweet and spicy chicken with rice and the divine garlic wasabi potato salad.

 I lucked out and just as I was leaving I happened upon a vendor that had only been open in the Ferry Building for ONE DAY! Biscuit Bender had a cute little stand and the salesperson was so personable I couldn't help but stop and check out these gorgeous biscuits.

Just plain biscuits? Don't be crazy, these are special - light and flaky but FILLED with flavor. From savory to sweet the choices were abundant but the recommendation of the salesguy steered me towards the Cinnamon Bun Biscuit. I was not disappointed. They were melt in your mouth good and I pretty much ate that bag of three in one day, I'm not ashamed to say. I only wish I lived in SF so that I could stop and buy these fresh every week.

Sure Ghirardelli Square is touristy but that doesn't mean it isn't good. I adore the ice cream shop and I'm so glad one opened up here in Orange County at Disneyland.

They've expanded and now there are even more stores to choose from. I wondered why everyone was there so early for breakfast and it was the 'special' that brought them in, 'a free cup of coffee with a chocolate croissant.' That's the perfect tourist breakfast if there ever was one.

Going for that tourist breakfast makes perfect sense because then you can keep eating throughout the day. Right next to Ghirardelli Square by the wharf is the Blue Mermaid Chowder House. A chowder house MUST have good chowder, right? This did not disappoint.

The award winning Dungeness Crab and Corn Chowder was amazing. Not too creamy or heavy, just the right amount of well, everything. The sweet corn was a perfect match for the Dungeness Crab. It was so good I wanted to go back every day.

Those were the just a few highlights of my trip, there were so many more - some that are deserved of their own upcoming posts. For now I will look back fondly on these pics and start planning another trip to the Bay area.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Dino Racetrack

You know those mornings when all you hear is arguing? One child wants to play one thing, the other wants something else, mom wants peace and quiet? Yeah, those days.

My solution - let's all combine our talents and come to a resolution! Thus Dino Racetrack was born.

Except for the hour I spent swearing under my breath trying to figure out how to put together slot car tracks with foreign instructions (who bought this for my kids??!!), all's well that ends well.

The Baby got his dinos, the Kid got his race cars and I got to go to my happy place, eating cookies and reading in the kitchen. Ahh....all's well in the land of Dino Racetrack.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

twitter party!

On Wednesday September 12 I will be cohosting a twitter party with - an online t-shirt company that carries uniquely awesome t-shirts, from Star Wars, My Little Pony to Hello Kitty! The party will begin at 11am PST and I will be hosting the party from my twitter account @justjenndesigns along with @welovefinetees 

Follow both of us for all the party information and make sure you use the hashtag #welovefineparty to participate and you could win fantastic prizes!


Wednesday September 12, 11am PST


Friday, September 07, 2012

Make your own tambourines

You know when you wake up and think to yourself, 'Hey, I should make my own tambourine today!' No? Well you don't live with the Kid cause those are the ideas he comes up with and MUST tell me at 6:30am. zzz...

Luckily I can usually get him to hold off until After Dinner Art but when he gets an idea it takes over and he runs with it.

First he gave me and the Baby two paper plates and told us to draw images on the flat (bottom) side.

The Baby drew a snake and some Pokemon thing.

 I went the cute route and I drew just the faces of my fave Hello Kitty on one side and Domo on the other.

I think the hardest part of any craft project is trying to figure out what to draw/plan to start off. I always suggest you go with your favorite characters. You're never disappointed in the end.

 Then the Kid filled them with jelly beans...

...and taped the sides together with decorative tape.

A quick and easy tambourine! Or in the Baby's case, a drum. It's going to be a long, loud night.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Belwood Bakery

Is it wrong that sometimes I don't want to tell people my favorite places in LA? I worry that my tiny little secret faves will soon by overrun and they won't be 'mine' anymore. The double edged sword of this is the fact that if these places don't get people coming in, then they'll go out of business so what's the point?? sigh.

So I share these tiny bits of info with you readers and hope that you'll use your discretion, enjoy the same places I love all the while keeping these fantastic places up and running.

Brentwood is a well off neighborhood just west of Westwood and the 405 freeway. I spent a lot of time here when I was designing a house and I love how secluded and small town it feels. Small, rich town that is. But the trees and seclusion are lovely and hard to beat when you want to get away from the noise just east of the 405.

In the tiny little shopping triangle of Barrington Court you'll find pilates classes, clothing stores and Belwood Bakery. This TINY (I mean tiny) bakery is always packed with locals who know a good thing when they find it.

There is NO air conditioning in the tiny bakery, no matter because there aren't any seats either, still I feel for the workers inside when the summer weather kicks up into the 90s. There are lot of outdoor umbrellas and tables though, which makes for great people watching.

The bakery has assorted baked goods like cookies, muffins, tarts as well as full sized cakes. They also have sandwiches for those people who eat actual food for lunch. What, no one eats cake all day like me? Hmph.

My favorite sandwich is the Rosemary Chicken, ciabatta bread filled with tender chicken, lettuce tomatoes and a tangy dijon. All the sandwiches are great but it's the desserts that have people lined out the door.

Cookies and danishes are amazing but I have to say, much like the yelp reviews  - I adore the muffins. Muffins are a curious thing that a lot of places get wrong. Too dry, crumbly, even tough, but the muffins at Belwood are perfection. Moist and almost cakey, they are divine and my fave is the cappuccino.

When someone calls up and wants to meet for a weekday lunch on the Westside, Belwood is my place of choice. It has nothing to do with the fact that I crave cappuccino muffins 24 hours a day...ok it totally does.

Belwood Bakery
11625 Barrington Ct
Los Angeles, CA 90049

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