Where Bookworms Go To Party

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What: The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

Where: University of Southern California


While it seems nearly everyone left the city over the weekend and migrated to the scorching Indio desert for the annual Coachella music festival, I stayed in town and partied at the other one…the festival where bookworms go. Yes, I’m a total nerd (and proud of it).

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The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is an accomplished mixture of live music, art, food, and of course, all things books. Its goal is to unite authors and readers, those with pure love for the written word together in one venue for a two-day celebration. Approximately 150,000 people make their way to the esteemed USC campus to hear talks with authors; attend poetry readings while lying on the warm grass; rock out to up-and-coming bands; indulge in food trucks galore; and walk booth after booth of local merchants, organizations, and booksellers.

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{People everywhere!}

And so, this past Saturday afternoon found me making the trek East to the other side of town to finally see what all the fuss is about. After a not so happy $10 parking fee (ugh), I quickly perked up at the sight of food everywhere as soon as I stepped out of my car, particularly when I saw the elusive Grilled Cheese Food Truck (that’s been on my list of places to try forever). I perked up some more when I saw the sign for funnel cakes, and full-blown elation hit me when I saw Lindes Almonds and fresh kettle corn one booth over. Yes, this was going to be a special Saturday, indeed.

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{The Grilled Cheese Truck.}

As I walked away from the food trucks (making a mental note to return later), I soon noticed myself grooving to the melody of soulful R&B music, looked up and joined the crowd in front of a large stage and listened to a band that I instantly fell in love with, Idesia. Their sound was fresh, their vibe contagious – the audience clearly feeling the tune to their song and I was one of them. I ended up staying through their entire set.

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{Idesia.}

Having had a feel for what was going on on the food and music front, I turned toward books. I strolled along lanes consumed with booths full of works covering every genre imaginable. I smiled to myself often, thinking about how much I’d always loved being around books, something that stems from my childhood (that I’ve fondly written about before here).

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{Books, books, books!}

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{Again, people everywhere!}

The afternoon found me wandering, people watching, then joining a poetry reading by Douglas Kearney from his collection of poems in Patter. I sat on the grass listening as he lyrically emoted his personal account of struggling with infertility with his wife.

poetryATG{Douglas Kearney poetry reading.}

I browsed the endless rows of booths throughout the day, particularly impressed with Yes & Yes Designs, a company that designs jewelry exclusively made from books! Pretty cool, huh?

Yes & Yes Designs

{Yes & Yes Designs jewelry booth.}

As the sun started to set later in the day, I made my way back to the food trucks and finally stopped at that elusive Grilled Cheese Truck, but not before a visit to the Lindes booth to gather those famous glazed almonds and a bag of fresh kettle corn to-go. It was almost a 20 minute wait, but as I bit into my Cheesy Mac Melt, a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with country-style mac and cheese – it was worth the wait (and the calories).

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{Grilled cheese heaven.}

I made my way back to the car, relaxed and happy – high off that first bite of my grilled cheese sandwich. I had sweet treats to indulge in at home, a couple of books in my bag, a new band that I was excited about, and one memorable Saturday afternoon under my belt.

The LA Times Festival of Books just might become an annual party.

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{I loved this saying.}

 

 

 

 

 

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Journey of a Dress: From Princess to Fashion Legend

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What: Journey of a Dress

$: Free

Where: Wilshire May Company Building

Location: 6067 Wilshire Boulevard, Miracle Mile

 


D.V.F. 

You know someone has made their mark in the world when you refer to them with just three single letters. Without question, Diane von Furstenberg, is and will leave this world, a fashion legend.

Once, a real life princess in the early 70s wanted to be more than just someone’s glamorous wife and decided to start a fashion career shortly after marrying a real life prince. Unlike most fairy-tales filled with princes and princesses, theirs wasn’t a happy ending. Luckily, this isn’t the end of her story. In fact, it was just the beginning.

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{DVF, 1972.}

DVF’s claim to fame came in 1974 when creatively taking an everyday piece of clothing, the woman’s dress, and revamping its design to harmonize with the changing of times for the then modern-day female.

It was the wrap dress. A cotton jersey knit, drip-dry dress that typically hit just above the knee, conveniently wrapped in front and tied ever-so-chicly at the waist. It came in vibrant colors and eclectic patterns. It signified independence, playfulness, sophistication, confidence, and sexual liberation – while catering to practicality, comfort, and femininity.

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{The tag that started it all.}

Women no longer needed their significant others to help them in or out of dresses that had tricky buttons or hard to reach zippers down the back. They could easily dress (or undress) themselves in no time at all. DVF’s ever popular design worn by millions, could easily take a woman from the rigors of the boardroom to a night out on the town. In effect, the 1st generation wrap dress revolutionized fashion and womanhood during the frenetic energy that was the 1970s.

And it turns 40 in 2014.

DVF thew it a big 40th birthday bash and invited us all to the party.

Thus, the phenomenal exhibition, Journey of a Dress.

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{Exterior – Wilshire May Company Building, today.}

Just adjacent to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), resides the historic May Company Building on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax Boulevard. Once home to one of the finest department stores on the legendary Miracle Mile in Los Angeles, the Art Deco inspired building is now an LA landmark due to its streamline moderne architectural design. The building itself is nostalgic to fine retail, high fashion, conservation, and permanence in Los Angeles culture. Most appropriately, it’s the site for our “Journey of a Dress.”

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{Exterior – Wilshire May Company Building, today.}

The moment you walk into the space, you realize very quickly that the theme and intention of the exhibition is to remain true to the spirit of her iconic wrap dresses. The ambience is fun, feminine, and vibrant.

The first gallery pulsates with upbeat music, bright pink walls, neon writing, and her famous signature chain link dress print creatively used as treatment on the floor. Picture after picture of Ms. DVF herself and the impact of her dress across fashion, film, politics, and the everyday woman is showcased in a visually enthralling timeline format.

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{Timeline gallery.}

As you take in the large photos of everyone from Cybill Sheperd in Taxi Driver in 1976, to Michelle Obama on current political business, each donning the wrap dress as they move through their endeavors, you grasp the lingering impact of what really is just a simple idea. From Studio 54 to the White House, the wrap dress, which epitomized versatility in design, was and is versatility itself. And though it’s turning 40, the age where women might start to feel less than youthful, the wrap dress is proving to be otherwise. It’s proving to be timeless.

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{Madonna, Michelle Obama, Penelope Cruz among others to rock the iconic wrap-dress.}

Suddenly, you’re in the next gallery. The music a touch louder, the floors (and now walls) all covered in DVF’s vibrant signature dress prints.

And then, there they are – hundreds of mannequins inside a large spacious showroom, decked in all things DVF over her incredible career. Vintage wrap dresses, contemporary wrap dresses, special collection/anniversary items, and jumpsuits surround you, treating your eyes to a fashion feast and the ultimate closet.

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{Wrap dress gallery, first display.}

5 Favorite Looks

{Five of my favorite looks from the collection.}

Of course, it’s not over yet. The exhibition also makes it a point to take a moment to reflect on the woman herself in a section just off the main galleries that is more calm, intimate, and modern in atmosphere. The final gallery finds you enveloped around stark white walls filled with portraits, where legends of the art world take center stage: paintings of DVF by Andy Warhol, photographs of our heroine by Peter Lindbergh and Annie Leibovitz to name a few. There’s such a sense of history to the work that graces the walls in various forms of artistic expression and it’s quite fascinating to see how each artist captures the spirit of the exact same woman in different phases of her life.

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{Andy Warhol, Diane von Furstenberg, 1974.}

While the exhibition celebrates the “Journey of a Dress,” it’s really also a salute to a woman who somehow managed to one-up herself. What might have been thought to be the end of the fairy tale once the princess leaves her prince, turns into a testament of how the (now former) princess did even better. She built an empire estimated at $1.2 billion, eventually found a new prince, and re-wrote her fairy tale.

It’s quite inspiring to see, experience, and celebrate DVF’s achievements up-close and personal through the Journey of a Dress exhibition. And though the perks were likely nice, it’s also beyond inspiring to see what a strong-willed, confident, and creative woman can do when she’s no longer a just a princess, but a woman with a vision. It’s almost as if the show is really about the “Journey of an Icon.”

The exhibition runs until May 1st.

It’s art. It’s fashion. It’s vibrant, feminine, inspiring, refreshing, and just plain fun.

It’s one hell of a party. Make sure you RSVP.


Wrap Dress Showroom


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The DVF Art Salon


 

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{Interior. DVF art salon.}

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{Andy Warhol, Diane von Furstenberg, 1973.}

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{Zhang Huan, Diane, 2011.}

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{Annie Leibovitz, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, ca. 1990.}

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{Peter Lindbergh, Diane, 2009.}


Signing Off


Blend me and book

{Signing off, but not before signing the guest book. Good times!}


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The Power of Photography

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 Where: The Annenberg Space for Photography

Location: 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Century City

Every time I step into the courtyard of the Annenberg Space for Photography, I look up at these two massive buildings that form a cocoon around me and somehow forget the hustle and bustle of Santa Monica Boulevard just beyond. This is quite ironic given that this same courtyard is shared with other prominent businesses, namely Creative Artists Agency, likely making it quite the opposite of experiences Monday through Friday as talent agents wheel and deal on their next big project. However, on the weekends, most of the activity is to your far right at what has become one of my favorite (and free!) ways to spend a weekend afternoon, checking out the latest photography exhibition at “The Space.”

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{Exterior, The Annenberg Space for Photography.}

I’ve seen a handful of exhibitions at The Annenberg Space for Photography over the last 3 years since discovering this gem among the massive buildings, ranging in visual commentary, genre, and tone. Themes span from topics such as the social connotations on the culture of beauty, to those who helped shape the evolution of rock & roll music, to capturing the risk and devastation of war photography. Without fail, I find each exhibition to be more engaging than the last.

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{A few of the stills shared outside the galleries in the courtyard.}

Currently on display at “The Space” is a visual tribute to National Geographic Magazine’s 125th anniversary, known for publishing some the most recognizable and iconic images in history, aptly titled “The Power of Photography.” The Annenberg transforms nearly every single ounce of wall space into a mosaic, sharing over 400 photographs from Nat Geo’s famed collection. With nearly 11.5 million photographs in their archive, narrowing down the selection to put on display would be a challenge for anyone. I applaud how they chose to overcome such a challenge. Alongside the overwhelming print mosaic gracing its walls, the exhibition is expressively curated with 30 large, high-definition, LED screens installed into the walls – showcasing 501 images with stunning clarity, looping every 50 seconds or so.

What is quite magnificent about “The Power of Photography” exhibition is that because the screens are in a constant state of flow, looping through hundreds of images, you could walk the entire length of the show and start fresh or come again on another day – where you are guaranteed a new experience. This sounds pretty amazing in theory, and it is! Unfortunately, I also found it hard to navigate because of this.

This where my one criticism lies with digital exhibitions, particularly, in small spaces. Unlike print stills that invite you to look at the work and move on, multiple graphics in one place is quite the opposite. When the main attraction is on a large screen slowly sifting through images, it can only help but draw crowds of people to stand in front of each screen for long periods of time, creating clusters of people around you that disrupt your interaction with the works of art. If you’ve ever been to the Annenberg, it’s not the biggest of galleries. In fact, this is a complaint that I often have visiting here. It hasn’t deflected me from attending their amazing exhibitions because it still is one of the best curated galleries in town, but is a problem when visiting The Space on the weekends.

As you maneuver though the crowds in an attempt to absorb the photographs, what ultimately redeems itself, despite the cramped experience, is the work of art. You’re instantly struck by the the emotion in many of the images published in National Geographic Magazine throughout the years. I was awed as I took in vast architectural structures, the most eclectic of animals, portraits of people from all over the world, images capturing the conflict in humanity, while highlighting its undeniable beauty. I’ve been inspired to look into getting a National Geographic subscription to keep that awe with me long after the exhibition closes next month.

Unfortunately, due to copyright, photography is not allowed inside “The Space,” but the Huffington Post wrote a great article last fall sharing 15 of the highlights on display.

It’s quite amazing if you think about it. Photography, one of the oldest of visual mediums and artistic expressions, seems to be growing with age. Nearly everyone has a camera on their phone today. Instagram (a personal favorite on mine) now has over 150 million active users. And the blogoshpere continues to share stories using images to enhance their words. The point is that “The Power of Photography” is proving itself to be timeless.

The exhibition runs until Sunday, April 27th.

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Bottega Louie: The Sequel

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Where: Bottega Louie

Location: 700 South Grand Avenue, Downtown

I’m a big believer in killing two birds with one stone. So when it came time to think about how to make Valentine’s Day special, I absolutely loved my boyfriend’s idea to make it a sequel. After an impressive anniversary dinner last month, I knew I’d be back in the near future to partake in what Bottega Louie is also famous for – their weekend brunch. Rather than deal with the chaos of dining out on Valentine’s Day, we decided to celebrate the following morning over an indulgent brunch.

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{Bottega Louie, exterior.}

It’s quite fascinating how a mere 9 hour difference makes downtown LA feel completely different. While the night finds you on rather deserted streets (minus the bustle of activity near restaurants) prompting a more on-guard approach to the city, the day turns into a flourishing metropolis with sidewalks full of people of every nationality you can imagine. This is the part of downtown that I’ve come to love – it’s a magnet for attracting people from all walks of life.

Brunch inside Bottega Louie’s completely exposed, uncolored, minimalist establishment creates a space for enjoying your meal while pure California sunshine beams through the intensely large windows (which also leads to much better pictures for “the sequel” post).

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(Bottega Louie, interior.}

I opted for their acclaimed lemon ricotta pancakes (pictured above) drizzled in their house-made blueberry syrup, with a glass of fresh cold pressed green apple juice. The pancakes had just the right amount of zest, while the ricotta added a more fluffy texture. An interesting thing to note is that while I very much liked the blueberry syrup when I dined in the restaurant, I think I much preferred it with regular maple syrup (shout out to Trader Joe’s) as I ate the left overs the following morning. I could taste the zest in the pancakes more. It seems the blueberry syrup slightly buries what’s unique about them. And though the trend is quite popular around LA right now with juicery after juicery popping up all over town, this was my first time ordering anything cold pressed. I wasn’t disappointed. Once you look through the frothiness that gathers at the top, I enjoyed the simplicity of natural juice without all of the added sugar. I think I became a cold pressed juice fan last Saturday morning around 11:30am.

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{Fresh cold pressed green apple juice.}

Of course, one cannot leave the “Louie” without a quick stop in the patisserie section of the restaurant to shop for a little treat to take home. I’m already a fan of their vanilla, strawberry, and lemon macaroons; so I decided to try something different this time. If the visuals are any indication of how special and intricate every single pastry was in the case, I wish a picture could capture taste. I stepped out onto the busy downtown street with 2 fresh cupcakes in hand. Dessert was all the much sweeter for the next 2 days!

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{Patisserie cases.}

As expected, Bottega Louie didn’t disappoint. The perk of this particular experience was that we were seated immediately (score!) and one really gets a feel for the stark decor as natural light surrounds you. Where our experience was weaker this time was in the service. Our waitress was nice, just a little slow. We also went through three different waiters in the little over an hour that we were there, due to rotating shifts, I assume. Understandably, it’s busy, so it didn’t hinder my experience.

Bottega is an equally fabulous choice for brunch or dinner (which you can read more about here) when you’re looking to celebrate something special over a special meal. And dare I say it? It’s officially my new favorite restaurant in LA. I’ll keep you posted if this changes in the near future. I have a list of restaurants a mile long that I still need to get through.

As for “Bottega Louie: The Sequel,” this my friends is…

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{Post-brunch take home sweet treats: vanilla bean and strawberry cupcakes. Divine!}

Cirque Du Soleil’s Totem

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Where: Santa Monica Pier

Location: 1550 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica

There aren’t many reasons I’d leave my perfectly heated apartment to step out into 40 degree temperatures on a windy Friday night. It’s also not a habit I’d encourage when the final destination is the beach of all places. Hello, frost-bite! (It’s on record that I’m an admitted wimp when the weather drops below 75 degrees – yeah, yeah). However, there are exceptions to every rule and I found myself happily breaking it as I bundled up with one of the few thicker sweaters I actually own and made the trek to the Santa Monica Pier for Cirque Du Soleil’s, Totem.

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{Killing time before the show, enjoying the scene. LOVED this mask, HATED the $60 price tag.}

Up until just a few years ago, the only time I’d ever seen a Cirque Du Soleil performance was on PBS television, glued to the screen marveling at what the human body can do, and how dazzling the human body can look while doing it with the right lighting and costume design. Sure, watching a Cirque Du Soleil performance on television can satiate anyone who loves a (cheap) theatrical concoction of narrative, visual, and athletic ingredients, and with the added perk of perfect camera-work gives you the best seat in the house. And yet…

There’s still nothing like seeing it right in front of your eyes, LIVE. You’d swear at times that they were lying to you.

Totem, the 3rd Cirque Du Soleil live performance I’ve seen, (Iris being the first, and Michael Jackson’s Immortal World Tour, second) is a visual exploration of the evolution of mankind. Thematically, there were points in the show where it is quite obvious we are looking at stylized interpretations and symbols representing the development of the human species, though there were times I questioned what I looking at and how it tied back into the larger narrative. It later became clearer once I’d read up more on the show, but I have to admit, given the attentiveness to the visuals and the acrobatics it really didn’t matter at the time. You’re so transfixed on the ability and action in front of you that you could care less whether or not it made any sense.

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{A still from one of my favorite acts of the night. Click photo for source.}

Where I might give a less than stellar review would be on the design of The Grand Chapiteau (a.k.a. the tent) itself. This is a traveling presentation, and as such, comfort for the audience isn’t necessarily always first priority, but more about practicality (thank goodness the bathrooms were reasonable). While I commend the attempt at stadium style inspired-like seating, it would have been super helpful to have a steeper design to the seating chart. Much of the action was ground-level. As such, you could see the audience bobbing and weaving their heads just to see around each other. I did okay after switching seats with my boyfriend to see the action, but at 6’2 he had a hard time sitting in the seats in general. There’s hardly any leg room and let’s just say you become “friendly” with your neighbors pretty quick.

I also couldn’t help but wonder about the location choice right on the water in the dead of winter (even an L.A. “winter”) given the array of venue options in town. While I’m sure Cirque is selling tickets regardless and I would go anytime the opportunity presents itself, this show would be amazing on the beaches of Santa Monica on a July evening as the sun sets. Just my two cents.

5 Closing Thoughts:

  1. It’s pretty clear given what the human body can do, the athleticism and the discipline, even scoping out the abs on some the ladies, that I need to get my booty to the gym more often like ASAP.
  2. As a gal who doesn’t mind a little “glitter” I was more than visually mesmerized. It was visual overload in the best way possible.
  3. If you’re tall, be prepared to be uncomfortably seated. If you’re short, be prepared to have a neck exercise trying to see over people’s heads.
  4. No joke, I got a Groupon to an introductory Cirque course in my inbox yesterday and briefly entertained what it would look like to be the woman in yellow pictured above…until I recalled how petite she was and thought it wouldn’t be fair to the poor lad holding her because I’d surely break his arm…and leg.
  5. Cirque Du Soleil, as usual, never disappoints. You’ll love it!

Cirque Du Soleil’s Totem is at the Santa Monica Pier until March 16th, 2014.

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3 Years at Bottega Louie

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Where: Bottega Louie
Location: 700 South Grand Avenue, Downtown

I don’t spend much time downtown. Aside from the horrible traffic to get there (the 110 is never your friend); I’m rather prejudiced of the maze of one-way streets that greet you all around. I accidentally had the pleasure of turning down a one-way street once in downtown LA and let’s just say…that was an experience. While I’m still not a fan of its one-way streets, downtown LA has become something special and is on the up-and-up after recent and on-going restorations to the area. It’s still very much “sketchy” in many parts, but it’s become quite the hot spot for young Angelenos – particularly when it comes to dining.

So, when it was time to celebrate our 3 year anniversary, I wanted to shake things up and get out of my usual Westside to Mid-City proper comfort zone and head downtown to check out what I’ve been missing. After sifting through a few options, we went with a restaurant that’s been on my list for over a year now. I’d first heard about it on the blogosphere, later emphasized with an enticing photo on Instagram to keep its memory alive. A quick check and vet on Yelp.com to confirm legitimacy, and our agonizing decision given so many options, was made.

On the corner of 7th and Grand Avenue is the highly regarded Bottega Louie. Known for its exquisite patisserie, bar, and small market right before you enter the large warehouse-sized restaurant, it’s also famous for its weekend brunch. That didn’t seem to make it any less packed during dinner hours. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations (which really sucks – get it together!) we arrived just after 9:15pm, hoping to miss some of the Friday night rush. Dream on. Bottega Louie was still very much bustling and very loud. We did our best to occupy ourselves during the 40 minute wait for a table, by visiting the popular bakery to indulge in a few sweet treat souvenirs to take home – their renowned macaroons (for me) and a delectable milk chocolate bar (for him).

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{Rainbow of macaroons.}

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{Patisserie.}

I don’t know how they do it given the size of the restaurant and how crowded it is, but just as they promised – a hostess comes and “finds you” to escort you to your table. This was cause for concern, what if they can’t find us and give our table to the next person on the list? (Enter “pissed-dom” if we get bumped, here.) Yet Bottega lived up to its reputation of chic impressiveness. They clearly note a description when you check-in (and would rather discreetly stalk you around the restaurant than deign to give out pagers).

Its open, achromatic, dimly lit space gives it a modern, yet relaxed feel; but its high ceilings and exposed design don’t bode well for the acoustics. It was a pretty loud venue, but evened out as the night went on (or perhaps I’d just lost some hearing). Our waitress was one of the best I’d ever had and the food simply divine. The portions were fair given the cost, though they can be rather “nickel and dimey.” Many of their dishes are priced a la carte. I ordered their chicken parmesan thinking it would come everything standard, when the waitress politely asked me if I’d like to order a “side of pasta” (really, you guys – who eats chicken parmesan without pasta!?!).

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{Chicken parmesan…and yes, I ordrered a side of pasta.}

Bottega Louie is an expensive treat, but a perfect place for a special night out. While it has a few flaws, it’s one of my new LA favorites. I’m very much looking forward to checking out their famous weekend brunch next month for the first time and will report back soon. Until then, bon appetit!

IMPRESSIONS

PROS: Great atmosphere, delicious food, superb service, amazing patisserie (their macaroons are a must try), open until midnight.

CONS: No reservations, very loud, long wait times during rush hours, menu priced a la carte, parking can be tricky.

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{Vanilla, lemon, strawberry, rose, and violet macaroons to go. Divine!}

*please click header photo for image source, all others are mine.


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Spooked

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What: Sherwood Scare

Location: 8856 Encino Avenue, Northridge

With the exception of the fact that pumpkins and pumpkin spice everything made an appearance with the turn of the calendar page to October, it hasn’t felt much like Halloween this year. I can’t pinpoint if it’s the general atmosphere, how chaotic life has been lately, or the very peculiar weather over the last few weeks, but I can’t say I’ve been very festive this season. In fact, for the first time in years, I didn’t even carve a pumpkin!

I have been making it a point to incorporate a horror flick here and there to try to shake things up, but when it comes to a good scare to really get in that Halloween state of mind, I knew I needed something new and something within budget,

Enter the power of a Google search.

Then enter Sherwood Scare.

An impressive promo trailer on their website (below), along with a reasonable fee, and 5 star rating on Yelp…and I was on-board!

Deemed one of the best D.I.Y. mazes in town, I couldn’t get over the mere $3 donation benefiting the Big Worm’s Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Not only was it an affordable excursion to get into the Halloween spirit, it was also for a good cause! Win. Win.

The plan was to head out the weekend before last, but I couldn’t make it. Knowing that the maze is only on for two weekends before Halloween, this past Saturday night the decision to hit the heart of the valley to locate that missing festivity and find a good scare was all I could think about. I knew I found it the moment I turned onto the eerily darkened residential street, filled with expansive homes, and a light fog in the air that lent to all good things spooky.

Muffled screams from inside the maze filled the atmosphere as I waited in a short line outside. I got to chatting with the guy working the front door and learned that Sherwood Scare, themed differently every year, is designed and produced by movie industry professionals who create sets. They develop and build the intricate and highly produced maze over what is essentially their basketball court in the backyard of their massive private home – a feat that took over 2 months of planning and construction alone.

2013’s theme, “Camp Sherwood,” welcomes guests into a room where they are introduced to Head Counselor, Skip, before engaging in an orientation video designed to entice visitors of Camp Sherwood’s awesome outdoor adventures…until the once happy-go-lucky campers somehow went missing, returning that fateful night not quite so happy-go-lucky. Thus begins the next 10 minutes of pure terror.

I can vouch that The Sherwood Scare is as awesome as you read about. One almost forgets that you’re simply in someone’s backyard, supporting a good cause. The actors were dressed head-to-toe in horror and stayed in character, successfully creeping me out the entire time. The production value of the scenery was detailed and far superior to what I’d even expected from a $3 admission.

Understandably, photography is not allowed – though you’d be too damned scared just getting through the 2,000 square foot maze to dare attempt to document any aspect of it anyway.

All I can say is, “Bravo! What fun!”

This maze easily rivals and outperforms even the high-end haunts I’ve been to over the years. I can assure you, my lacking Halloween spirit was revitalized by the time I left. I was happily spooked.

The last night to indulge in the dark side at Camp Sherwood is on Halloween Night, this Thursday, October 31st from 7pm-Midnight.

A Day in the Garden

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Where: The Huntington Library

Location: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino

The sky was cloudless, piercing blue, and perfect. The sun shining ever so brightly and ever so presently at (a not-so-temperate) circa 93 degrees. It was the definition of a beautiful day. One of the most relaxing afternoons I’ve had all month was when I found myself taking advantage of what I thought was the final stretch of an extended LA summer (but really wasn’t) and headed out to San Marino to experience one of the most breathtaking estates in town, The Huntington Library.

While world renowned for its fine European and American permanent art collections, changing exhibitions; as well as its rare books collection establishing an equally renowned research library – I have quite the soft spot for their stunning botanical gardens!

Curated in such a way that literally takes you through geographic recreations of gardens around the world, spanning 120 acres among the massive 207 acre property, I spent a Saturday afternoon strolling a colorful Rose Garden into a lush green Japanese Garden, complete with the popular moon bridge (pictured above); through stalks of large bamboo, completely encapsulating you as you walk along the concrete path somehow finding yourself in an open Australian garden. Not too far further, lily ponds appear, leading you up to the Subtropical terrain and into the humid Jungle Garden.

My favorite memory from this day was simply taking a moment to sit on an unassuming bench, thick stalks of bamboo all around – sitting in silence, listening to the low chirp of the birds while watching the squirrels frolic in the trees. The world seemed so far away and in that span of time, I was completely present to my surroundings.

The museum closes pretty early (4:30pm) and we arrived a little later than planned. Rather than to rush through the galleries to appreciate the fine art collections and their special exhibition, we arrived in just enough time to leisurely indulge in perfect nature. What a day…in the garden.

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{Rose Garden.}

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{Japanese Garden.}

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{Chinese Garden.}

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{Rose Garden. // A photo op in the shade.}

The Big Picture: A Night at the Oscars

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{A super excited selfie on the way to the Bowl!}

It doesn’t feel like an authentic L.A. summer until there’s a trip to the Hollywood Bowl. Not only is it a quintessential experience when living in the City of Angels, it also happens to be my favorite place in L.A. if I had to pick one.

This past Labor Day weekend found me right where I wanted to be: with my guy, a small picnic dinner, and seat at the Bowl ready for a night of movie music under the stars. The Big Picture: A Night at the Oscars was an enchanting extravaganza celebrating music from Academy Award winning films that magically echoed through the warm September night. Conductor David Newman and the immensely talented Hollywood Bowl Orchestra recreated soundtracks to some of Tinseltown’s most renowned stories masterfully playing the score over live picture projected on their new state of the art LCD screens. As clips from famous films such as To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), The Artist (2011), An American in Paris (1951), and The Wizard of Oz (1939) played on the large screens, I almost forgot that the accompanying live music was even happening! The synchronicity and the crisp, booming sound were so solidly fused with the visuals, you felt like you were just watching a movie as you would any other time.

What was particularly special about this night was the eclectic mix of films and genres the program chose to highlight. Instead of the very obvious choices you might expect on a night like this, films such as Bullitt (1968), Up (2009), and You Only Live Once (1937) were saluted. In fact, I admired that they didn’t focus merely on films that won the coveted Best Picture award, but films that won accolades from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in a variety of areas from film editing, to acting, to screenwriting.

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{Making our way up to the cheap seats…yet again.}

Unlike this time last year with an engaging Jason Alexander as host – there was a weakness in the show with this year’s selection. Mary McDonnell (the President’s wife who dies in Independence Day) was an odd choice. She was ever so gracious, but clearly reading from a teleprompter and just didn’t have that natural relaxed spirit you’d expect in hosting duties on a night like this. I’m not one to be too harsh in this situation, I can only imagine what it’s like getting on stage in front of an 18,000 seat amphitheater, but I was often taken out the evening festivities when she was on stage. She just wasn’t the right person for the gig unfortunately. This would be my biggest criticism of the evening (outside of some obnoxiously loud people behind us.)

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Otherwise, the night was another huge success. This time I went homemade with a ham and cheese sandwich (sometimes a girl just needs one), good conversation, lots of people watching (you couldn’t ask for a better place to do this!), and a night dedicated to two of my greatest loves: movies and music.

If I’m still carrying anything with me as I write this, the evening inspired me to check out films that I haven’t ever seen before or want to watch again. I see a night curled up on the couch with The Wizard of Oz and some popcorn in my near future.

The Hollywood Bowl is located at 2301 North Highland Avenue in Hollywood. Their summer season ends this month.

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Paradise Found

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{Beach day at Point Dume.}

Every summer over the last couple of years, I’ve made it a point to spend more time at the ocean. Beach days typically now find me at Point Dume in Malibu on late Saturday mornings well into the afternoon with all the essentials necessary to completely veg out and relax. In fact, aside from a $70 massage – I can’t think of anything else that actually does completely relax me. The sound of the waves, a good book, some snacks, and sand in your toes for a few hours always does the trick.

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{Morning waves.}

An even sweeter thing to partake in while in Malibu is a stop for lunch at Paradise Cove. Paradise Cove is a private beach about 2.5 miles northeast of Point Dume that loosely mimics the Beverly Hills Beach Club from 90210 (the Walsh-era one) minus the club membership with a much smaller stretch of sand. I’ve never had the expensive pleasure of spending the entire day here lounging on the private sands with a beach bed rental (which would run you about $90), but I do love to stop and eat at the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe.

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{Cafe.}

Full of cliché in a way that just works, Paradise Cove grants complete permission for guests to be as laid back and chillaxed as possible. The cafe, located right on the sandy beach, is on the pricier side at an average $20 an entrée, but is well worth the splurge. I can’t think of a place that serves larger portions (this place easily surpasses the Cheesecake Factory) and they welcome sharing meals without problem. I do find it funny that for a place full of bikinis, bathing suits, and things “beachy” that the restaurant would be so courageous as to serve so much food. I mean, who wants to pig out while at the beach? This is why I recommend stopping by AFTER a day at the beach and just before making the trek along P.C.H. back home and to bed.

Though certainly not a frequent indulgence (because of the amount of calories you’re inhaling, money you’re spending, and the guilt you feel when looking at all these attractive people in model-esque shape), I’ve had nothing but positive experiences overall. The service is great. The food tasty. And they serve drinks in fruit shells. Always a plus in my book. Beware that on the weekends, it can get rather crowded and while they are not very efficient at keeping to their reservation schedule, it can’t hurt to make one on Opentable to bypass the walk-ins.

So my advice to enjoy a little bit of Paradise? Start your morning with an awesome spot on the beach at Point Dume, arriving circa 10:30am to grab the best spot before all the tourists show up. Spend at least 5-6 good hours taking in the rays and getting through that book you’ve been meaning to for the last two weeks. Head to the Cove. Order a watermelon daiquiri and the tomato and caramelized onion grilled cheese sandwich. Paradise found.

Paradise Cove is located at 28128 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

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{Watermelon Daiquiri.}
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{Cobb salad. Tomato and caramelized onion grilled cheese.}

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{Welcome to Paradise!}