New Year’s Eve with Señor Fred

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Location: 13730 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks

With the Christmas season and our Carmel getaway behind me, one last important celebratory holiday milestone to go – New Year’s Eve. My boyfriend and I decided to keep it very low key this year, with an intimate dinner at Señor Fred Restaurant in Sherman Oaks; followed by a casual movie night at home with a Martinelli’s Apple Cider toast at midnight.

Señor Fred offers a perfect dark sexy ambiance, balanced with delectable Mexican cuisine. Since it was New Year’s Eve, the expectation was that every restaurant in town was going to be pretty packed. God bless Open Table! We put in for an 8:00pm reservation and when I called the restaurant to check to see if they were only serving a prix-fixe menu or if patrons could order from the regular menu as well, I was less than enthused by the guy who answered the phone. He wasn’t rude exactly, but told me that he thought he had blocked off all Open Table reservations during the 8 o’clock hour, so that people entering after 9:00pm would be charged the $10 cover for the night.

I almost wanted to cancel my reservation altogether when he told me that as long as we were done between 9:30pm-10:00pm it should be fine. While this seemed like plenty of time to finish our meal, the fact that he even communicated a time limit made me nervous. The idea of being rushed to accommodate the fact that he screwed up with the reservation system should not have even come up in the conversation.  Bottom line: that was between him, Señor Fred, and Opentable.com.

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{Margarita selection.}

While Señor Fred certainly didn’t make the best first impression, or second for that matter when there was a slight mix-up in where to seat us, by the third impression – once the chips and guacamole came out, Señor Fred had begun to redeem himself. From there, the night went flawlessly (minus some service issues from a seemingly distracted, but pleasant waiter).

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{Chips and guacamole. Divine.}

I went with the Grilled Salmon infused with Mexican flair served in a roasted chile cilantro sauce, over sweet corn, shrimp picadillos and mashed potatoes. For dessert, I splurged on the Chanpurrado con Churros (translation: churros served with Mexican Hot Chocolate). Fabulous! 🙂

Needless to say, this gal was more than impressed with the food and the ambiance for her last meal of 2012; but service, service, service always brings the dining experience to absolute perfection. Senor Fred can cook, but he seriously needs some help on his people skills.

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{Dinner: Grilled Salmon.}

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{Dessert: Mexican Hot Chocolate and Churros.}

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{Back at home – N.Y.E. toast.}

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Highlights: Carmel

After a very happy Christmas Day and once I had gotten over the initial shock of such a thoughtful and extravagant gift, we headed out to enjoy the surprise Christmas trip from my boyfriend, a 3 (that turned into 4 – long story) night stay in Carmel!

I had never been to Carmel-by-the-Sea (which I learned is the city’s official full name), and honestly, had only heard of it because of Clint Eastwood. (How cultured of me, I know). As a lover of travel, good hotels, dining out, and sight seeing, I knew I was in for a real treat. Better yet, I was going to get 4 full uninterrupted days of adventure with my favorite person! 🙂

It was the prefect mixture of relaxation (i.e. spending lots of time lounging in our hotel room watching Saturday Night Live re-runs on VH1) and exploration (i.e. getting to know the city of Carmel).

Random fact: I just visited the city’s Wikipedia page and apparently there’s a law that prohibits the use of high heels without a permit due to uneven pavement throughout the town. Thank god I wore my Converse and didn’t get rock my 4 inch heels – it seems that would’ve been illegal!

Here are a few highlights from our Carmel-by-the-Sea adventure:

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{Our hotel, Carmel Mission Inn.}

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{Loved the beach-y inspired flair to the room with this cool electric blue lighting over the bed!}

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{Nothing like starting the day with room service.}

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{Exploring The Crossroads shops across the street from our hotel on a beautiful rainy day.}

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{This is by far the coolest way I’ve ever been served a vanilla latte! Nothing but nice things to say about our breakfast experience at “From Scratch Restaurant.”}

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{Exploring the shopping and dining places on the other side of our hotel, The Barnyard.}

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{View from our 4th floor hotel room. I loved all the trees, so much greenery.}

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{Roaming Downtown Carmel. Very quaint. Very expensive.}

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{400 Degrees Gourmet Burgers & Fries. This place was super cool! You placed and paid for your custom made burger order on the device at your table and your hot food came directly to you when ready. I predict we’ll be seeing this in L.A. very soon.}

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{Finally, I made a wish and threw a penny into this fountain in a park in Downtown Carmel. Here’s to hoping it comes true.}

Highlights: Christmas Road Trip

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{Let’s go!}

I was ready for a change of scene! Don’t get me wrong, I’m an L.A. girl at heart, but I was definitely happy to leave the City of Angels and spend some time absorbing the very different Northern California air. I was going to spend Christmas in Santa Cruz with my boyfriend’s family this year. And p.s. – I literally envy the fresh, clean, crisp air up there. You can actually breathe! Not exactly a forte in smog-filled, rains twice a year, L.A.

While completely exhausted from the events over the last month, I was slowly getting excited. Before we’d even hit our final destination, I was very much looking forward to the experience of our mini road trip journey ahead. Six hours of chatting with my guy; staring out the window at endless fields, grass, and smelly cow farms (just typing that brings the smell to life. ugh.) thinking about whatever came to mind; stopping for gas and praying that the restrooms were decent to use; and realizing that no matter where you go, it’s true, you can’t escape McDonald’s because I saw one at EVERY exit off the I-5.

What I’ve come to discover, truly believe, and even like about myself is that I’m happiest when I’m exploring anything new; be it here in L.A. at new restaurant or museum, or off the side of a highway in the middle of nowhere. I’m most alive when I’m traveling! If there’s any one thing that I know I need to do more of is chase adventure.

I don’t know what it is exactly that makes me this way, perhaps it’s the fact that I love doing something new and exploring places outside what I know, and I’m sure it has much to do with the fact that I get bored easily and need to be stimulated, away from the mundane often, and always learning.

It was Saturday, December 22nd, a rainy day as we took off for the latest adventure.  Here are a few highlights from our mini Christmas road-trip:

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{Taking one last look at all the wrapped gifts I would be giving out this Christmas right before packing them away for the trip. I love buying presents and coming up with creative presentation.}

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{Pretty much what most of the I-5 drive looked like out my window.}

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{Part of the fun of road trips? Snacks! Though I resisted and went for the oh so healthy Taco Bell instead.}

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{Taken outside our stop at the TA (Travel Centers of America) in Wheeler Ridge for a restroom break and food. I loved this view and BY far one of the cleanest bathroom facilities you’ll see on the road here. Make a note of this. Especially for us ladies!}

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{This was supposed to be my road trip read, but admittedly, I don’t think I read more than 5 pages of this book the entire time I was on vacation. So this is what I’ll be working on now – but the highlight being I bought it as my holiday read.}

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{Once we made it into town, I wanted a really good, HEALTHY meal. We stopped at Mimi’s Cafe where I enjoyed chicken and veggies for dinner, then ruined it with this yummy triple chocolate brownie sundae. Oh well, I was on vacation, right!?!}

2012: How Pinterest Made Me Cooler

March 5, 2012. The day I joined Pinterest, the latest social media craze that spawned yet another online addiction that I probably didn’t really need, but am more than happy with having. Once I figured out what the heck it was (and how to pronounce it), 2012 was never the same.

Pinterest appeals to my deeply visual side, my organizational side; and that side of me that loves to learn something new, how to do it better, or when I just need a little inspiration to change things up.

Pinterest has made me cooler. How, you ask? Let’s just say that thanks to the ideas curated onto my pretty awesome profile (if I do say so myself :)), I cook better, dress better, and my apartment has benefited from a few ideas sparked from a simple photo.

As of writing this post, I’ve pinned 643 images. Of those 643 images, I’ve managed to put a handful into action. In the spirit of looking back over the year, I thought it would be fun to share the recipes, tips, and products that I now treasure. Here’s how Pinterest made me cooler this year:

HOW I COOKED BETTER: Easy Garlic Chicken

1-68719933196_dlrL9hCf_c{Photo source}

Without a doubt this very popular brown sugar and garlic chicken recipe pin turned me into a mini-rock star in the kitchen and was my first ever Pinterest experiment. It’s super easy to make, and only takes a few ingredients: chicken breast, garlic, olive oil, and brown sugar. I like to add a bit more garlic to the mixture to give it a little more punch against the brown sugar and top it off with a few dashes of salt and pepper for more flavor.

HOW I ACCESSORIZED BETTER: Kaela Designs Cheryl Katch Hobo Bag

Cheryl Katch Hobo Bag w/ Acrylic Ring Handle

I stumbled across this unique and trendy bag on Pinterest from Kaela Designs earlier this summer. Aside from the shape and pattern of the handbag, I fell in love with the ring style handles. It really makes it stand out. To read about this addition to my collection from earlier this year, please see my blog post.

HOW I HOME DECORATED BETTER: Flower Arrangements 101

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I love flowers. I them so much I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to them! Awhile back, I found Lauren Conrad’s “how-to” for flower arrangements via a pin. Above were my results! They added such a great touch of brightness and liveliness to my home for a week straight. I wrote a blog about making this simple and affordable flower arrangement courtesy of L.C. here.

HOW I BECAME CRAFTIER: D.I.Y. MAKEUP BRUSH HOLDER

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The first image above was a pin I came across that made me want to combine my love of candles (but not the left over jars), organization, and presentation into one. This photo led me to try re-purposing an old candle jar that turned into the photo below complete with an organized make-up brush holder on my new antique vanity tray. I’ll eventually upgrade to a nicer candle jar, but liked how it turned out! To see how I did mine, please visit my post.

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These are just a few ideas learned from my online passion, pinning images! I look forward to 2013 where I’m sure a new resolve to make it the best year yet, with Pinterest’s help, will spark new ideas and motivation from a simple image and I’ll be cooler than ever! Happy Pinning!

Highlights: End of November

Things have been going so well lately, that I don’t want to jinx it by even talking about it! November was an exciting month: the election, our visit to San Juan Capistrano, and Thanksgiving were huge successes. Here are a few recent small pleasures and sightings that added huge smiles to end a happy month:

A stop at The Counter for a custom-made burger and yummy fries last week before catching a flick over in Century City, had me try something different this time between the bun: cranberries! Let’s just say, it works. Yum!

While I don’t personally have formal Christmas dinners, I would totally use these cute flatware stockings that I saw while perusing Crate and Barrel on my Holiday table. They’re so festive!

These adorable snowman cookies I saw while in line for a latte at Starbucks. The best part: the scarf!

Christmas music has officially entered my life once again. My favorites: Josh Groban’s Noel, Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas, and Pandora’s Christmas Station.

I hope November treated you just as kindly. Have a great weekend! 🙂

Highlights: Thanksgiving Day

Wow, where does the time go? All the build-up and the planning, coordinating; then eating, sleeping, eating, watching a movie, and more eating until it’s all over. Thanksgiving was a complete success on my end. In large part because I had the best company, and we ordered the most delish ham from The Honey Baked Ham Store, with a slew of sides from Bristol Farms. Let’s just say we had Thanksgiving dinner two nights in a row, ham and eggs for breakfast twice over the long holiday weekend, and at some point this week a ham sandwich will be in my immediate future.

As I look back on an amazing, relaxing, and food-filled Thanksgiving Thursday these are the parts that made me smile and what I’ll always want to remember:

I stopped on Wednesday afternoon (in the actual chaos of last-minute grocery shoppers…I did it for the drama!) and got a fresh bouquet of flowers to give my place a bit more of that festive Thanksgiving vibe! They were perfect!

How the food arrived. 🙂

Thanksgiving entertainment. We tried to find movies that were themed for the holiday (and I just thought E.T. would be awesome to re-watch). We eventually got through everything during those 4 days, but Planes, Trains and Automobiles was the perfect flick to kick-off a movie-filled weekend.

Thanksgiving dinner: honey baked ham, glazed baby carrots, green beans almondine, mashed potatoes, and candied yams. That’s a little sparkling apple cider in the wine glass. Words cannot describe how happy I was at this moment – yum! 🙂

Dessert: Pumpkin pie, naturally!

The BEST surprise and my personal favorite, this Esque candle that my boyfriend gave me as a little Thanksgiving day present. Aww! I was totally shocked because I was admiring it a few months back at Z-Gallerie, but didn’t get it. It’s so pretty I don’t even want to burn it!

I hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving holiday this year. There was much more for myself on the horizon as the long weekend got started (posts to come) but it truly was a day to be remembered. Thank you to my awesome guy for making it such a special day!

On to Christmas….yikes!

How I Custom Designed My Own Pizza

Location: 12103 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City

So I know that turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce are all that’s on the brain this week, but I just had to share the great news with you! I cannot at all take the credit for this awesome find, my boyfriend told me about it, but the moment we stepped inside I knew pizza would never be the same. It was described to me as the “Chipotle for pizza!”

Pizza Rev sits not too far from the corner of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. Its motto: craft your own pizza. My motto: I’ll take everything on mine!

{Making the dough.}

{Over 30 toppings to choose from.}

Interestingly, the decor reminds me a lot of Chipotle, down to the buffet style ordering set-up as you move along in line to build your own pizza, starting with their homemade dough. Next, choose your cheese, choose your sauce, and then choose your toppings. The thrilling thing about this place is that for $7.95 you can put ANYTHING you want on your personal sized pie. The sky’s the limit. Naturally, I went overboard as one does with a buffet of toppings to choose from.

{Building mine!}

For our gluten-free friends, Pizza Rev has you covered. While a small $2.00 increase comes with ordering their wheat free crust, unlimited toppings more than make up for it. If you’re too tired to create your own (and who in the world would these people be?) you can also order from their “Our Way” menu and stick with the basics.

{In the oven.}

A short wait while your custom designed pizza cooks in their open deck oven and you’re out the door. I crafted a regular dough pizza with olive oil, mozzarella, feta cheese, ricotta, all beef pepperoni, ham, spinach, tomato, mushroom, pineapple, and black olives! Told you, I went overboard, but O.M.G. was it delish!!

{My finished custom designed pizza :)}