Archive for March, 2010

Long Beach – Part 1

The day after my LA tour I headed out to Long Beach, for part two of my work trip. Fortunately, Long Beach is only about 20 miles or so away from LA. After a crazy time paying my ride…no cash, driver’s credit card machine broken, hotel atm out of cash…I ended up getting a cash advance from the hotel on my room account, and finally got settled in.

I enjoyed a quick lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery just across the street before heading down to the marina to find a whale watching tour. After buying my ticket, I had some time to spare, so I wandered around the area, to check out the light house

and the Queen Mary, a huge cruise ship from the 1930’s that has been turned into a hotel and tourist attraction. I couldn’t figure out exactly how to get to the ship so I didn’t actually visit. I kind of wish I had. The thing is bigger than the Titanic. But it was cool to view from across the water.  

I lined up with other whale watching tourists, waiting in anticipation. I really hoped we’d actually get to see a whale.

As we began our tour, the representative from the local aquarium explained what sea life we might encounter (dolphins, pelicans, birds, whales), and what to look for if you saw a whale (smoke-like puff above the water, whale fins). We were instructed to keep our eyes peeled and shout “thar she blows” if we saw a whale.

Not very long after we spotted some kind of sea birds and then several dolphins.

A few swam right alongside the boat for a while.

After cruising a while longer, and seeing many more dolphins, the whale spotter called out a hearty “thar she blows”. Of course no one actually saw it so we had to trust him, and the boat captain turned the boat in the whale’s direction. We slowly approached the general location of the sighting before coming to a stop to wait. Whales come to the surface approximately every 3-5 minutes, so we all waited. Then we saw the whale in the distance, but since no one was really familiar with whale spotting, we caught a tiny glimpse of the lingering “puff” and then the tail slip into the water. The captain got a better idea of which way the whale was headed, so we got closer, and again waited with bated breath. Finally, camera ready, I saw the puff of water

and the tail flip out of the water

and then quietly slip back in. I couldn’t believe it. It was freezing out on the water, but I waited out on the front deck of the boat as we followed the whale for probably 30 minutes. The sun was beginning to set, as we caught one last glimpse of the whale and headed back to the dock.


Read Full Post »

My 3rd day in LA, was February 25th. My workshops ended early, so I had time to book a tour of the LA area. Being near the airport is super crappy because there really isn’t anything nearby and you don’t really want to walk anywhere.

I booked a tour that would go all over the city an would last about 5 hours. It would keep me busy for most of the afternoon and into the evening. If I got back in time I thought I’d take the trolley back to Manhattan Beach.

The tour company was scheduled to pick me up around 2:45PM. Another girl from the hotel was waiting for the same tour. I wasn’t really interested in chatting, but we ended up talking anyway. She was in the middle of a voluntary leave of absence from her job as a lawyer in New York City and was spending the year traveling the world.  She was from New Jersey and had to unexpectedly stay in LA fo about a week because she had gotten sick on her flight home from Peru (I think it was Peru). 

We were taken from our hotel to the tour company headquarters where we boarded the main tour bus. I tend to be antisocial on trips because I just prefer to be on my own, but we ended up chatting and hanging out during the whole tour.

The guide was pretty good, but he had a funny “heh-heh” type laugh and he REALLY cracked himself up telling jokes. He laughed a lot.

First stop on the tour was Venice Beach. We got to get out and walk around a bit. It was really beautiful.

There were only one or two people lifting weights at the muscle beach but there were a lot people playing basketball.

There were men advertising medical pot shops nearby, and a guy wearing nothing but a speedo and tennis shoes.

There was a section of the beach where people with a permit could graffiti and paint art.

And there was a magnificent steel sculpture standing among the palm trees.

 After boarding the bus again, we drove what seemed like a long way. We zoomed past Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive (as evidence by the blurry pics), 

From the bus we saw the Beverly Hills Hotel, Fox Television Studios, the Sunset Strip, Steven Spielberg’s house, the Viper Room, and some restaurants owned by Johnny Depp.

After many minutes in traffic on the freeway, we finally we got to stop near the Walk of Fame.  

Before checking out any of the stars, we rushed to the spot our bus driver told us we could best see the Hollywood sign. Allegedly, the Hollywood sign is possibly going to be gone in the next couple years, so our bus driver really wanted us to be able to see it.


I didn’t take too many pictures of the Walk of Fame because there are just too many stars to choose from. I did get Michael Jackson, who died while I was in California on my honeymoon last June.

 Grauman’s Chinese Theater was really cool to see.

It got dark while we were at the Walk of Fame, and soon it was time to get back on the bus. Our last stop was the Farmer’s Market. There were tons of restaurants and shops, but there wasn’t too much time to browse. I ended up with a bottle of wine  for me (2007 PETS Petite Syrah, a portion of sales goes to animal shelters) and a few souvenir chocolate bars for Taylor. (Dark Chocolate with bacon anyone?)

Finally, it was time to head back to the hotel, where I grabbed a cheese pizza from the hotel bar/restaurant and called it a night.

Read Full Post »

My trip to LA was pretty uneventful…other than the fact that I somehow was originally assigned a seat near the back of the plane. Now this might sound really stupid or petty, but I hate sitting near the back of the plane. First, its near the rear bathroom, and I can’t really handle that. And second, there are many people who act like they have never had to form a calm, straight line. It takes 87 thousand years to get off a plane if you are near the back. And there are often people who act like they don’t know how to form a nice, straight line, and politely exit the plane. There are also the morons who get on the plane 2.5 seconds before the plane door closes, then they have to put their massive sized carry-on, in the back of the plane. Their seat however is near the front, and they naturally insist on trying to get to the back to get their luggage before everyone else gets off.

Ugh. Enough of my rambling. Anyhow, I was lucky enough to be able to swap to a seat in row 8. Rows 5 or 6 (depending on how big first class is) through 10 are ideal for me. Too bad my favorite airline is now going to be charging extra for the bulkhead seats and exit rows, because I didn’t mind sitting in either place.

Once I got to the hotel, I didn’t really do much. The hotel was near the airport, so there was nothing in walking distance, and I was kind of tired, so I stayed in, ate some mediocre fish tacos at the hotel restaurant, and went to bed early.

My second day was February 25th. I had  training for work (yeah, the actual reason I was in LA). Once we ended for the day, I bought a $3 ticket for the trolley to Manhattan Beach.  

It was a neat little seaside town. Apparently it’s all man-made beach, but I didn’t care. It was cute. I took a few photos of the beach, the ocean and some surfers. The evening was overcast, so the photos don’t quite show the actual beauty.

After walking around in the sand in my tennis shoes (pretty difficult I might add) I decided to walk back up to the main street and look for something to eat. I checked out the menus on several restaurant’s doors, but ultimately decided on a place called Darren’s. I made a very good choice.

 And luckily it was happy hour, so some of the menu items were half price. While I sipped a glass of Zinfandel, I decided on Lobster Chowder and Shrimp Ravioli.

The Lobster Chowder was AMAZING! It was so different from any chowder I’ve ever had before. Lobster knuckles, corn, shiitake mushrooms, purple potato, and sweet potato in a coconut milk broth….mmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. There was just enough spice to it, and the coconut milk was so unexpected, but really made the dish. I did not get a photo, it was gone that fast. 

Then the Shrimp Ravioli came out. Again, so delicious. The ravioli was made with goat cheese and pine nuts, rock shrimp, shiitake mushrooms and white truffle oil. I got a picture this time, but it doesn’t do the dish one bit of justice. You’ll just have to trust how me on how yummy it was.

I really ought to have stopped after the ravioli, and my second glass of Zin, but when the manager brought me a sample of his signature drink, the frisky pear, I decided I wanted to see the dessert menu.

After a bit of contemplation, I decided on the Chocolate Nutella souffle. Who can pass up Nutella and chocolate together??? Not me.

I couldn’t eat the whole thing, but the crispy outer crust and gooey center really hit the spot. It was served with a small scoop of vanilla bean gelato that perfectly complimented it. The photo I got also doesn’t do it justice. 

The owner of the restaurant, Darren, was in there that night with his wife. And the bartender/manager was really nice. The restaurant was really cool and cozy, and I seriously contemplated going back the next night, even though I didn’t ultimately end up back at Manhattan Beach.

Stay tuned for my LA tour bus adventure and my stay in Long Beach.

Read Full Post »

Bread Crumbs

I haven’t been very diligent about cooking new recipes lately, but I have recently discovered Japanese Panko Bread Crumbs. They have reinvigorated the usual pan-fried chicken dish here in my household. According to Wikipedia, they are made from bread without the crusts, so the texture is lighter.

I found some that are Italian Seasoned at Kroger, but I suppose you could season plain ones yourself.

After dredging the chicken in flour, milk, then the panko bread crumbs, I cooked it in a pan with a little olive oil until both sides were brown. Then I finished them the chicken off in the oven, at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. (Just make sure the chicken pieces aren’t too thick, or it’ll take longer.)

I served the chicken over pasta, with a little spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese. Voila, delicious chicken parmesan! No pictures…it was gobbled up that fast.

Read Full Post »

Slow Poke and Smart Ass

It’s no secret that I’m pretty slow about uploading pictures here and sharing my stories. (What…I got married 9 months ago and haven’t actually posted many pics!)

I finally got the pictures from my recent trip to Los Angeles uploaded to my computer, but still need to resize them and write stuff to go along with the pics. (No worries, I do not do any additional processing that may further slow down my posting here.) 

In the mean time, I do have one tidbit for you, to tide you over.

When I arrived at the Four Points Sheraton LAX, I got some tickets for free breakfast. I’m the jerk who points out the fact that the word buffet (according to Wikipedia: A buffet is a system of serving meals in which food is placed in a public area where the diners generally serve themselves.) is actually spelled buffett…like Jimmy Buffett.

I do enjoy Jimmy Buffett as much as the next guy, but typically when attending a national type conference/workshop that is affiliated with the government, one might assume Margaritaville wouldn’t be the first thing that would come to mind.

The fact that they listed my name as Andre is almost not worth mentioning.

Except that it is way more bad ass sounding than Andrea.

Read Full Post »

I haven’t worked out as much in the past week as I was doing before my trip. To pat myself on the back a little bit, I did go to the hotel gym twice while in LA. But that was nearly a week ago.

On the night before I left to come back home, I ate Mexican food. On our way home from the airport, I specially requested Chuy’s…so Mexican again. I was doing ok with my eating this week, but was not meticulous. And I haven’t tracked my food or my weight very well. I had a big (delicious) greasy cheeseburger and fries for lunch yesterday, and mexican food again for lunch today. Mexican food generally has been off the menu since I started tracking my food because it’s so hard to keep up with how many chips I eat.

I am not beating myself up too bad, but I do need to get back on track.

Or the treadmill will work. 🙂

So tonight, I’m going. No excuses.

Read Full Post »