Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm back!

Lots of photos to upload and weed through (including a gallery of bad costumes).

Lots of thoughts about figure skating.

Lots of work to catch up on. (boo!)

Lots of sleep to catch up on as well.

And if all that weren't enough, 94 new entries awaiting me in Google Reader!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The World Comes to Los Angeles

And I will be there to cheer them on!

Staples Center will be hosting the World Figure Skating Championships this week. As I usually do when I attend major competition, I will be meeting up with a group of skating fans that I met online many years ago. In fact, the first competition we all attended together was the 2002 U.S. National Championship, which was also at Staples Center.

I bought my tickets and booked my hotel last year. Planning ahead has its privileges; we have fantastic seats. *squeal*
The biggest perk of buying an all-event package is getting a practice pass. Many times the practices foreshadow what will happen during the actual competition. Practices also give you insight into how people train, how they deal with mistakes or criticism and whether they are catty towards other competitors. The end of practice sessions are also a good time to say hello or get an autograph from skaters. And since most practice sessions are usually only attended by coaches, commentators, skating icons and die-hard uber fans, the sessions are THE best place to get all the latest gossip. And the skating world always has a lot of gossip. Things can be quite interesting behind all the sequins and sparkly makeup.
With practices starting as early as 7am and competitive events ending as late as 11pm, attending a major competition isn't a very relaxing experience. But who cares as long as you're having fun, which is what we always seem to have. :-)

Monday, March 23, 2009

In the Company of Greatness

Last week I met up with Weezermonkey for one of the lectures presented as part of the L.A. Library's ALOUD program. The evening was described as a conversation between actor Hector Elizondo and author Abraham Verghese. In addition to being an author, a physician and a professor, Abraham is also my sister-in-law's cousin. And his older brother is married to the daughter of a long-time family friend. Due to the broad, unique way that Indians define family, my parents and brother fully expected me to turn out for this event despite the fact I had never met Abraham before.

The lecture's topics were centered around the themes and concepts contained within Abraham's most recent release, Cutting for Stone. This is his third book, but first novel, which was eight years in the making. Abraham really amazes me with his intelligence, creativity and compassion. Not to mention that I think he is a total rock star for being able to balance medicine, writing and family life. Having read Cutting for Stone, as well as My Own Country, I feel like these personal qualities are carried over into his characters and descriptions. With regard to Cutting for Stone, I easily got swept away into the story and its characters. It is really a wonderful novel and I'm not just saying that because he is "family"!

After the lecture there was an opportunity to have books signed.

Dorkiness personifed: Here I am introducing myself and explaining to Abraham how I know him. I'm really not good at stuff like this.
After the event, Weezermonkey and I headed to the The Restaurant at The Standard. It was a dim for picture taking, although Weezermonkey did teach me how to change my ISO settings. It was a great evening all around, with great company!

More pictures and thoughts available here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Birthday Blisses

Who says Friday the 13th is an unlucky day? For me, last Friday was a day filled with bliss. I took the day off. I slept in. When I did leave the house it was for an early lunch at Le Diplomate Cafe in the Brea Mall. I started with the complimentary bread and bruschetta. This was so damn good. Had I known how good it was going to be I would have ordered a side salad or a cup of soup instead of my entree, just so I could eat this entire basket of bread.

But alas, I had already order a brie, avocado and apple panini. It was good, although I think I could have managed with a bit less avocado and a little more apple.

After lunch I walked over to the Glen Ivy Day Spa for my 80-minute massage, using a gift card I received for last year's birthday. Better late than never I suppose. It was more crowded than I expected for a Friday, so I didn't hang out too long in the whirlpool/sauna area. All that chatter doesn't relax me. It turned out I didn't need that stuff; the massage was heavenly and got rid of any tension I had.

I left Brea on the early side, so that I could beat traffic on my way home. I needed to get dolled up for dinner! I used the occasion to debut some recent purchases.

Cole Haan Aurora Slingbacks in black patent:

Louis Vuitton Sunset Boulevard bag in Amarante:

Then Eddie picked me up for a return trip to OC, to one of our favorite restaurants: The Hobbit.

The Hobbit is tucked away on a busy street lined with strip malls. The restaurant has been in operation since 1972, but the home was built in the 1930s. After last month's dining debacle, I wanted to go somewhere familiar and reliable for my birthday. The restaurant may not be modern or trendy, but it consistently turns out good food and excellent service. Eddie and I first ate here three years ago and have returned 3 or 4 times since. We have never had a bad experience. A dinner at The Hobbit really is an experience. There is only one seating per evening and seating is somewhat limited.

From their website:
ACT I: All our guests are invited into our wine cellar to begin the evening. You are handed the evening’s menu and a flute of Hobbit Champagne. Hot and cold hors d’oeuvres are placed throughout the cellar for you to enjoy while selecting your wine for dinner. Executive chef/owner Mike Philippi, his wife Debra, and sommelier Greg Cole are available in the cellar to help select wines-a fun task with over 1000 labels from which to choose.

*What I appreciate about their cellar is the fact that they have something for nearly every price point. I saw full size bottles available from as low as $38 to into the thousands of dollars. They also have a wine pairing available for $40 that is tailored to the menu. Three of the pairing are 4 oz. pours, while the dessert pairing is a 2 oz. pour. The sommelier is very easy to talk to and not at all snooty.*

ACT II: Our guests are invited upstairs to their own table. Act II includes an appetizer, followed by a fish, fowl or light meat, and then a salad course. You are then invited to enjoy “intermission” – take a walk, relax on the patios or visit the kitchen to speak with the chefs.

ACT III: Ten to fifteen minutes later you are invited to return to your reset table for Act III. A flavorful sorbet is next as a palate-cleanser. The main entrée is served complete with accompanying vegetables. Dessert arrives next, always available with an after dinner list of coffee drinks, liqueurs and fine cognacs.

If it is a special occasion, you will also receive handmade truffles along with your dessert.

It was quite dim at our table, so my pictures didn't turn out, but here is a look at our menu:

The birthday blisses continued into the weekend, which was filled was sheer laziness and relaxation. It really doesn't take much to make me happy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Law & Disorder: The Crime Dog Edition

Are you familiar with McGruff? When I was a child I would see at least one of his public service announcements encouraging us to "take a bite out of crime" each afternoon on television. Considering what I do for a living, I suppose you could say I received the message loud and clear. But it seems that an individual in Washington never got it at all.

Excerpted from

A bus driver thought it would be funny to take the bite out of McGruff the crime dog by punching the mascot, but police said children who witnessed the stunt were horrified. Metro bus driver Shawn Brim, 38, climbed off a bus, adjusted his side view mirrors and then punched officer Tyrone Hardy,who was handing fliers to children on a Washington street while dressed as the crime dog, police said. After the punch, Brim got back on the bus and drove away, but was quickly pulled over Saturday.

People continue to amaze me with their stupidity.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Book Challenge: February Recap

February was much more successful that January. I think I'm still a little behind the pace, however, depsite the fact I did engage in some re-reads.

What I read:
  1. Social Crimes by Jane Stanton Hitchcock
  2. 4 Blondes by Candace Bushnell
  3. Baby Proof by Emily Giffin (Note: This book is about a 30ish couple who views on having children brings them together, but also drives them apart. I was amazed at how many people actually asked me about the state of my own marriage after inquiring about what I was reading. Seriously?)
  4. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
  5. Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

Six down, forty-four to go!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Earning My Cooking School Degree

Last October I spent the morning attending a demo at the New Orleans School of Cooking. At the conclusion of our class, our instructor advised us that we could earn a diploma if we made any one of the recipes at home. Last night I set about getting that certificate. Since gumbo was Eddie's favorite dish in NOLA, it seemed to be the logical choice for my final exam.

I used the recipe provided to our class as a model, but halved it and made a few other changes to account for our preferences.

I used:

  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 lb. chicken breast (cut into pieces)
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage (cut into pieces)
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bunch chopped green onions
  • Big Kevin's Bayou Blend seasoning
  • File (ground sassafras leaves used for flavor and thickening after cooking. 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per serving is the recommended amount)
  • Cooked rice

Here is how I did it:

  1. Heat the oil over moderate heat in a saucepan. Add in the flour and make a roux to the desired color. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon to avoid lumps from forming. I took my roux to a light chocolate shade; it took approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. My roux is in the ramekin below.

  2. In a large stockpot, heat a tablespoon of oil over moderate heat. Add the chicken, season. Brown the chicken. Add the sausage and briefly saute with the chicken. Remove both from the pot.
  3. Add the onions, celery, green bell pepper, garlic and roux into the pot. Mix well and stir very frequently. After the vegetables start to become tender, return the chicken and sausage to the pot. Combine well with the vegetables, stirring often. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for approximately an hour. Season to taste with Bayou Blend.

Here it is, simmering away:

Approximately 10 minutes before serving, add in the green onions. Serve gumbo over rice, adding file and additional Bayou Blend if desired.

This was a lot of work, but was SO delicious! Even Eddie had nothing but compliments, which was a suprise to me since he has become quite picky when it comes to gumbo. I think I aced the exam. :-)