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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Los Angeles 2013- Day 3

Sun. Mar. 17, 2013:

As it turns out 11 hours of sleep will leave you feeling well-rested. Which is not to say I was in no need of caffeine, no sooner had I rolled out of bed I was on my way to Starbucks. I needed food too of course. A few steps away from the hotel and already there was no sidewalk. I had to jaywalk to the other side, hoping that the sidewalk would not also abruptly end over there too. First I stopped at the gas station, it was small and crappy and had a terrible selection, but it wasn’t that bad: they had Cherry Coke Zero and Pop-Tarts. The LA marathon was happening later, and all the runners were at Starbucks fueling up with coffee. Wearing my usual vacation gear (cropped black athletic pants and running shoes) I blended right in- except for my giant purse. And the birthday cake pop I was eating for breakfast. The sun had still not come out. I had it on good authority from The Ramones that California was known for sunshine. I rescinded my earlier complaints about my retinas being fried- I missed it now, I wanted the bright glaring sun back.

We took a cab to the Huntingon Library and Botanical Gardens because if we took transit it would be over 2 hours, not counting the delays caused by road closures for the marathon (where else would the marathoners run? There are no sidewalks anywhere it seems). Plus the Library was all the way out in San Merino. We passed by a hotel in downtown LA that had a giant Coca-Cola ad down the side of it that read Drinking In LA. It made me giggle, but it didn’t make up for the fact that the cab ride still took 40 minutes. At some point I thought we were never going to get there and that we were horribly lost, especially when driving through a residential area- which is where the library is oddly located.

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I thought that this would be the smaller of the two places; after all it’s a library- how big could it possibly be I thought? Turns out the place is giant and I have yet to learn my lesson about misjudging a place (cough, Shelbourne Museum, cough). The Huntington consisted of a few buildings spread out over acres and acres of land, spotted throughout with various botanical gardens (desert, Australia, Japan, China, rose, herb). We there less than 5 minutes and already it was easily one of the best botanical gardens we had been to. There was a small green bird sitting in a tree, picking off petals and dropping them, just over and over. He would stop, look at me cockeyed as I photographed him, and continue in a mildly-OCD manner. It was as cute as it was confusing. We started off in the desert garden which delivered exactly what was promised: lots of cacti and lizards. The first lizard was really cool, it was unexpected to just see one sitting on a rock in the sun (unexpected because it was not really afraid of me). Then we saw another one, and another, and a few more throughout the day in various gardens. Turns out these lizards are rather commonplace. Much more interesting was the hummingbird drinking nectar from a cactus flower. And how well the hummingbird blended in with the surroundings, it took us a few minutes to realize it was there- and more than a few minutes later when I was looking over the photos (I had no idea why I had taken them until I saw the hummingbird).

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The first gallery we went to was set up as Huntington’s house had been, with fancy living room and lots of portraits. There were only 2 or 3 paintings that weren’t of people. And one of those was the crown jewel of their collection (at least in my opinion). After years of going to galleries, I finally found what I was looking for: a painting of a disappointed horse. It was magnificent and glorious and it alone made the trek out to San Merino worth it. And just when I thought things could not get any better, in the Japanese botanical garden there was a Bonita tree. The botanical gardens provided a nice interlude between the galleries, which in turn provided a nice break from the sun (which had finally come out and was threatening to burn us).

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One gallery featured what the curators thought were the Library’s gems (why the horse painting was not in there, I will never know). Some of the stuff was just over my head and really only cool because it was old. There were first editions of Shakespeare’s plays (even harder to understand than modern versions). The most interesting one hands-down was a copy of Vesalius’s book on anatomy. It was opened to a page with an illustration of the human body (for story-telling purposes let’s say it was a diagram of the circulatory system). There were also some terribly boring (but very old) items in the collection, such as an inventory of what ship passengers had brought. It did not even make any sense; I had no idea what it said. Partly due to the language and partly the fancy chicken scratch (this was true of almost all the hand-written texts they had). The rose garden was rather anti-climactic, as none of the roses were yet in bloom.

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I had seen a squirrel, but in my sun-drenched hungry state, called it a weasel. Then later I saw what I thought was a squirrel (and called it so), disappear quickly into a hole in the ground- like a weasel would. It was clearly time for lunch in the shade. We split two paninis (steak and bleu cheese; chicken, pesto and tomatoes) out on the patio. I had one bite of Brent’s and demanded a trade-back. Tomatoes are gross. A male scrub jay flew down from the trees to eat the crumbs after a family left, he was so pretty, his colours so bright.

We finished off the rest of the museum and gardens and headed out. Even in San Merino we weren’t free from the lack of sidewalks. We had to walk along the road to even just leave the grounds, resulting in many perplexed looks from drivers. Thankfully once we got out there were sidewalks. We passed a few orange and lemon trees, however the fruits were not hanging low enough for me to just reach up and grab one. It was yet another of those 30 minute walks to ride a bus for 10 minutes. At least I had an excuse to buy a green tea: we needed change to get on the bus. As it turns out that section of the bus route is on Route 66 (it had been repurposed as a regular city street, all that remains is the Historic Route 66 sign and apparently an old hotel).  Being on a bus, passing by unaware of the sign, I did not get a chance to take a picture.

The Norton Simon Museum was much smaller but just as cool. We fulfilled our usual quota of religious paintings; it was curated very well, not a very large collection and not too crowded. Of course we were drawn to the Impressionist gallery- spending a considerable amount of time there, in awe of the talent. Especially given that they had an unfinished Rembrandt portrait, so you could see how he worked. I was happy to see a painting by Ed Ruscha, as I am only familiar with his photographic work; it made me appreciate his talent that much more. As if this was not enough, they also had some Giacometti sculptures! I can never get enough of his weird tall elongated figures (even though I sometimes get sick of Degas’s dancers).

We couldn’t find the business card with the phone number for the cab, so we walked down the street to see if we could hail a cab. It seemed that all the cabs had just disappeared into thin air, we went back to the museum to make change (a great excuse to buy a Dr Pepper) to take the bus. It seemed like forever before the bus finally arrived- and even longer just sitting on the bus. We were taking it to the end of the line and it was unbearable at times. There were so many weirdoes on our bus: the mother who did not want to sit with her daughter, a gangster drinking diet Dr Pepper, people constantly choosing to sit beside others rather than getting to sit alone (we decided this was because they didn’t want to sit sideways on the bus), the guy that smelled really bad.

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We almost missed our stop because it was not announced, but we recognized that we were on Hollywood Blvd. It was so insanely crowded with people bar-crawling for St. Patrick’s Day. Thankfully it was still relatively early in the day so they were still half-sober. We saw some more stars on the Blvd, including one for Thomas Edison and Kevin Bacon’s star too. I demanded that we stop at H&M so I could buy flip-flops and socks (some of my socks had worn out since I wore them last summer and were sliding down my foot- driving me nuts). We went to In N Out to get burgers for dinner, to eat later in the hotel; there was no way I was going to leave the hotel again for the rest of the day- I was exhausted. We got on yet another bus that was supposed to have taken us right to the hotel, but instead it decided to short-turn on campus leaving us with yet another 30 minute walk. We walked right past another In N Out- our burgers could have been a tiny bit fresher. We stopped at a gas station to stock up on soda and snacks. I found a weird Mexican apple soda, weird rolled up Doritos and gummy Starbursts.

Walking back was less than stellar. It was starting to get dark, I was getting hungry and I was not looking forward to having to cross Sunset Blvd through a construction site. I perked right back up when we got back to the hotel and settled in for burgers and Amazing Race. At In N Out I ordered a double-double (2 patties, 2 slices of cheese) because that is the original. This time I did not screw up, I made sure to say no lettuce or tomatoes (lest my burger get contaminated). Even 3 hours and 1 bus ride later, the burger was delicious, it held up very well. The bag, not so much, it was greased through. While watching Amazing Race I ended up laughing so hard I got myself into a coughing fit.

Day 3 celebrity sightings: another goose egg, we did see a guy who looked like Braeden walking a dog, but that does not really count.

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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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Los Angeles 2013- Day 2

Sat. Mar. 16, 2013:

I failed to wake up at my usual ungodly early time; I blame it on the lack o f sun. That is right, in California the sun was failing to creep through the blinds awaking me as it had last year in Arizona. Our second day in California was a cloudy day! Insert shocked face here. We walked half an hour to catch a bus, for a ride that would last 20 minutes. It was well worth the irony as we were heading to the La Brea Tar Pits and the Los Angeles County Art Museum (heretofore referred to as LACMA).

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The tar pits were awesome, they actually bubbled! It did not look or smell as I had imagined. The pits really just look like a lake, at first we thought it was a lake- until we saw a giant black bubble pop- and then the faint smell hit us. As a child I had been terrified of tar pits- I was a huge fan of The Land Before Time. It was only recently that I became intrigued by the tar pits, after listening to a podcast about the fact that they have the largest collection of dire wolf skulls. I wanted to see just how many of these skulls they had (clearly I did not pay enough attention to the podcast). It was just as I had imagined! Rows and rows of skulls! It did not make dire wolves look too smart though, especially relative to other skeletons found in the tar pits. You can’t blame them though, the tar pits look like a lake and seeing a mammoth struggling to get out is just too much temptation. How bad could it be? Mammoths simply can’t swim. Have you seen how big a mammoth actually is? They are giant, epically giant.

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Behind the Page Museum (that is what the place is actually called) they have a c urrent excavation site set up so that you can gaze in and see it in progress. It is not at all what I had pictured, they dig through solid layers. There is no mucking around in the tar pit itself, with all the bubbling and the slowly-sucking-you-down-to-your-demise-ness.

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The LACMA was conveniently right next door. More importantly, they had a café- yet again I was in desperate need of my daily caffeine fix.  At first the museum seemed giant, we wondered if we would get through it all in time. Those fears quickly dissipated, the west wing was closed for renovations and most of the size of the museum was due to it being spread out over a few buildings. We started off with the exhibit we were most excited about: the Stanley Kubrick display. It ranks near the top as one of the best exhibits I have ever been to and it further reaffirmed my love of his films. It was amazing; I got to see props from The Shining, including the typewriter and axe. It also provided more insight however, beside the display of the twin girls’ dresses, there was an explanation that he had been inspired by one of Diane Arbus’s photographs of creepy twins- I was now doubly freaked out by the twins. The exhibit also consisted of copies of the scripts with Kubrick’s notes. One of the pages from a notebook was just filled with variations of the title for what was in the end: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It was all the same words just rearranged. Easily one of the greatest items on display was the tiny bible and suicide pills from Dr. Strangelo  ve. The tiny bible was just so cute. It was quite alarming to walk into an orange room and be face to face with the suit from A Clockwork Orange. Equally alarming was to see the star child from 2001: Space Odyssey just laying there on its side in a display case.

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From there we took our usual route through the galleries, starting with the oldest stuff and working our way towards the contemporary galleries. There were lots more Jesus paintings to be seen, because we still have not seen enough paintings of the Madonna and Child. We did realize that you hardly ever see paintings of the Last Supper (as opposed to Jesus’ birth and death). This could not have all been because of Leonardo da Vinci painting it so beautifully and thus no one else even wanted to compete. Somewhere out there is an enormous collection of Last Supper paintings. I am sure of it.

In the contemporary gallery we encountered our favourite art piece: the polymer plank leaning against a wall by John McCracken. This wasn’t even the first time we had seen it that day. There was one in the Kubrick exhibit as well, which put it into context as possibly having inspired the obelisk in 2001: Space Odyssey. The version of it in the contemporary gallery was a bright pink, so at least the colour was new to us.  As we went to the third floor in the contemporary gallery we could see the Hollywood sign off in the distance. Well, barely see, it was very smoggy then. Brent had read that there was an observation deck so we got in the elevator to go there. I pushed the button above 3, logically the roof button- it was the call button. We ran away. I was now even with Brent. I had laughed at him earlier when he set off an alarm, by going behind a wall to a darkened space. He thought there was a movie playing. No trip to an art gallery is complete without: Jesus paintings, the plank and much confusion about what is going on in the art world (a lot of: how can this be art?!). The last exhibit we saw was 2000 pieces of wood all over the floor. We had met all the requirements; we were done with the gallery.

We used the free wi-fi in the gallery to get directions to In N Out Burger. As it turns out, we had passed right by it on the next street over. I was hell-bent on ordering off the secret menu, nothing regular. I paired my burger with my fries, asking for both of them done animal style. For the fries this entails topping them with cheese, thousand islands dressing and fried chopped onions. As per the burger: extra sauce, pickles, chopped fried onions, and a mustard grilled bun. I was so embarrassed about asking for stickers that I forgot to say no tomatoes and no lettuce. I was stuck having to pick them out of my burger, my sad one patty burger. I do not know what I was thinking ordering a single. The only downside to the animal fries is that the toppings sit on top, so once you get about halfway down they are just regular fries. While at In N Out I saw some cheerleaders and it just reminded me of Bring It On, making me crave the movie for the rest of the day. Waiting for Brent on the patio I witnessed the cutest (and smartest) dog ever. His owner was eating a burger and he kept whining and begging. She ignored him. He put his paws on her lap and whined some more. She gave in and let him have a piece, just a piece, of an In N Out burger. That is just mean. The dog knew this, he begged a few times but to no avail, so he instead took to barking. When he saw that it was not working, he started going over to the next table. A smart dog with good taste.

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We walked back to our hotel through the UCLA campus. It is a very nice campus, though they have a lot of fraternities and sororities. I lost count. There was on that had a spanking paddle holding the window open.

Back at the hotel I found out that there is a Starbucks not too far, I was saved from having to wait for my morning coffee! No more caffeine-crashes for me. The Starbucks just so happened to be located near a pharmacy called Brent-Air which I spent way too much time giggling about.

We took the free hotel shuttle to the Bel-Air hotel where we were having dinner at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. I was more excited about getting to see the fancy hotel (where celebrities stay when they are in town) than the restaurant. I can’t help it; Wolfgang Puck has so many restaurants (including one I saw in the airport when we flew in). We had been anticipating traffic so we left early for the hotel. Of course when we leave an extra buffer of time, there is no traffic at all. We slowly wandered around the hotel grounds gawking at all the fanciness. I was less than thrilled as I was in heels and a sleeveless shirt- it was surprisingly cold out. There was a pool shaped like an egg, seemingly just for the sake of it. In the small lake there was a swan and we wondered if it had clipped wings but we decided against running up and scaring it to see of it would fly away. During our second round through the hotel (we had a lot of time to kill) we encountered drunken newly-weds. I knew they were newly-weds because: they were intoxicated at 5 in the afternoon, they were all over each other, it was pretty clear that they had splurged on the hotel and were more than enjoying the time spent there. If they weren’t in gag-inducing country-club wear (think khakis and sweater wrapped around shoulders, knotted at base of neck) it would have been cute.

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The restaurant was outdoors but with a tent-like covering and fancy heaters. I called dibs on sitting beside the heater. I would soon come to regret this decision as it got insanely warm. I went from being too cold to too hot without any of the good middle part. The amuse-bouche (or as they called it: amuse from the chef) was beets and pomegranates. I stared at it for a while, stared at the beets, the gross beets. As it turns out beets (at least when prepared with pomegranates and served in tiny quantities) are not all that bad. To start we split a bluefin tuna tartar wrapped in cucumbers. It was delicious, very light and not that heavy on the fish taste. As usual we swapped our main courses when we were halfway through. I traded in my enormous- really, it was bigger than my head- schnitzel for Brent’s braised beef short ribs. It was hilarious when our plates arrived. I was presented an enormous (but thin) slab of meat and Brent was given a small plate of potatoes and a pot of ribs in sauce, which the waiter poured over the potatoes. My giant plate of meat versus Brent’s small fancy dish, and somehow Brent won. Hands-down the ribs were much better than the schnitzel. This is not to say that it was awful, it was really good but no better than schnitzels I have had before. The ribs were saucy and succulent and they just fell off the bone. It is debatable if we had made a mistake in ordering an appetizer; we were too full for dessert. The appetizer was delicious and we did get a small mini-dessert with the bill (little puff pastries with cream).

Brent asked the concierge if he could call our hotel for the shuttle. She seemed a bit thrown off for a second; she had assumed we were staying there. We were told it would be about a 30 minute wait until the bellhop would arrive. We set off wandering around the hotel yet again. This time we found the swan nestled all cozy and snug by the lake- with another swan. Driving back we passed a few more mansions. All in all I thought I would see more and bigger mansions in Bel-Air, I also did not expect to see so many mansions being constructed. I was exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel- and it was barely even 9pm. I tried to decorate my notebook with my In N Out stickers… and I somehow managed to fail. It turns out that the back of the sticker sheet serves as a background to stick the characters on.

Day 2 celebrity sightings: zero, again.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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Los Angeles 2013- Day 1

Fri. Mar. 15, 2013:

Our first vacation of 2013 also marked my first direct flight. The few times I have flown anywhere there was always a layover- not this time, this time I was to spend 6 hours straight on an airplane to Los Angeles, California. Thankfully I wasn’t alone, I had a giant bag of snacks ($25 worth) from Bulk Barn, I was set. I also managed not to devour it all before even boarding the plane, yet another first. I was too distracted, playing my last game ever of Dominion on the isotropic website.

There are perks to having one long direct flight rather than two shorter ones, the main one being that you can watch an entire movie or two. Air Canada featured a great selection of movies, not so much on the food though. On a 6 hour flight we were offered no free food, not even peanuts. I wasn’t too mad about it, as I was watching Wreck It Ralph– it is impossible to be in a bad mood while watching it. Just to even it out, I watched Seven Psychopaths next.

And that was all I ever wrote in blue ink in any of my travel notebooks thus far.

As soon as we got off the plane I beelined to  Starbucks (that is what it says in my notes, just to put it in context: I was running on maybe 4 hours of sleep and had not ingested my morning coffee). I was desperate to get some sweet, sweet sustenance in the form of caffeine. And real food, I was also craving that. The problem was that my only options (aside from the sugary bakery sweets on offer at Starbucks) were a bakery or Burger King. I was too lazy to give up my spot in line and look at sandwiches, thus I soon found myself trying to eat a junior Whopper while juggling a coffee and luggage. Yes, I did manage to spill it on myself, while picking the tomatoes and lettuce out of my burger at that.

We took a cab to the hotel and had our first taste of Los Angeles traffic, enhanced by a horribly bumpy highway and construction. Off in the distance we also had gorgeous sites- all marred by smog. We were staying at the Luxe hotel, which was rather quite fancy. They drove us up the hill in the shuttle car, even though it was a 2 minute walk. As usual, we dumped our stuff in the room, turned and left. We had a busy day planned, even if we had just gained 3 hours in the time zone diffe rence. We were going to the Getty Centre to look at some art. It was high up on a hilltop, just behind the hotel. Yet there was not direct route (ok, fine, hike) to it so we had to walk in a giant circle to the other side of the hill. As we walked we saw a service entrance and asked if we could just walk up there, apparently we could not. We continued on but the only problem is that not all parts of Los Angeles are pedestrian friendly. We had made it around the block when we encountered construction on one side and no sidewalks on the other, not even lawns to walk across. Our options were to turn around or walk along the side of the road. We turned around and headed back, defeated, our corneas being burned by the blazing California sun.

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Back at the hotel we inquired about calling a cab and they informed us that the shuttle car that had taken us up the hill earlier would also take us anywhere we liked within a 3 mile radius of the hotel. What should have been a 5 minute drive turned into a 30 minute drive, we were sharing the shuttle with another pair. The driver was trying to make a left turn to drop us off first, we were closer, but he missed it. And so he decided to go right instead, towards the UCLA campus where the other pair was going. It wasn’t a total loss; we did get to see campus and more LA traffic, always fun.

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The Getty Centre was great, the admission was free and the views were fantastic- despite how hard it was to see thanks to the smog and the glaring sun frying my retinas. The architecture of the Centre was just as cool, the galleries were contained in a few buildings spread across a nice garden and patio. It was mildly frustrating to look out and see the hotel on the next hill over given it took us almost an hour total (from when we first set out) to get there. By far the greatest gallery was the Impressionist gallery; it just does not get better than looking at gorgeous Monet paintings. In the last gallery- which we had almost missed- there were some odd people. The girl was complaining about the guy’s apartment and how childish it was and he said he had a court order stating she could not move or touch anything. Thankfully they were slow going through the gallery so we quickly left them behind.

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We took a cab from the Getty Centre to downtown Hollywood. As it turns out driving anywhere in the Los Angeles area (especially downtown) is a bad idea. The slow drive and lack of sleep resulted in me falling asleep. We were going to dinner at a restaurant that was famous from the old days of Hollywood Blvd., Musso & Frank Grill; however we were not dressed for it. We did not have time to go to the hotel and change. We decided to walk by and scope the place out, see if it was fancy or not so much. I didn’t think it would be given it was on Hollywood Blvd. amidst all the tourist traps, but sadly it was. Instead we wandered the Blvd.- it is awful. Hollywood Blvd. is one of those things that you go and see once for the sake of seeing it- and then you never return to it again. It is crowded and loud, and everyone is everything handing you flyers or trying to get you on their bus. As you turn to get away from them you find yourself face to face with a guy dressed as the creepy doll on a tricycle from the Saw movies- something that will inevitably scar you for life no doubt. And if that was not bad enough, the next street performer was a guy with two pythons on his arms and neck, real, living pythons.

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As we walked along trying to figure out our dinner plans, Brent noticed a crowd of people at an outdoor mall all looking in one direction. They were looking at the Hollywood sign. I must say, I had much higher expectations for it. I knew it would be hard to see because of the smog, but I did not think it was that far off in the distance. It was barely a blip on the horizon. It was nice to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, we contemplated how easy it would be to install a fake one.

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Sick of the crowds we headed south to Sunset Blvd. and I noticed an In N Out cup on the ground- there had to be one nearby! Back to Hollywood Blvd.- so that I could ask one of those nice tour bus people where it was. Before I could do that though, I spotted a McDonald’s, so instead Brent tried to use their wi-fi and check the address. It was being slow so I asked a tour salesperson. It was two blocks over and south, on Sunset Blvd. Rather than walk along Hollywood we turned south. There was a Fatburger there, hungry and tired we went there instead. I had wanted to try Fatburger, as I had heard that it was on par with In N Out. It is not. In N Out is much better. Fatburger does still rate quite high on my list of awesome burgers, somewhere around 4th place. I was mildly intrigued by the XXXL challenge, where you have 40 minutes to eat a giant burger (24oz of meat) but I had to resist. We were after all on our way to Pink’s Hotdogs. It was another 40 minute walk to Pink’s, in addition we anticipated a rather long line-up. That is why we stopped for burgers, but did not go all out. As we walked, the next block over there was an In N Out. I joked about stopping in for a burger.

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As we made our way south to Pink’s we passed the Jim Henson Studios, complete with Kermit the Frog on the roof. The line at Pink’s was actually not that long- I had heard stories of people waiting for hours. It was just long enough to give us enough time to contemplate the menu. I must’ve changed my order 5 times at least. Right as we approached the register I changed my mind once more, deciding on the Mullholland Drive: a 9” hotdog with nacho cheese, bacon, onions and mushrooms. It was a good hotdog, super messy to eat. However by the second or third bite most of the toppings had slid off. I had to periodically grab pieces of bacon and mushroom and cram them back into the cheese. The meat was ok, nothing compared to Chicago though. The true draw of Pink’s is the sheer outrageousness of the hotdogs. Where else can you go and get two hot dogs in one bun piled high with an absurd amount of cheese, bacon and other such delicacies?

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We walked back to Sunset Blvd. to catch a cab back to the hotel. As we walked we passed a wrecked car. It had jumped the curb and hit a planter, somehow missing the parking meters. The taxi ride back was less than stellar; I did get to see the stuff I had missed while I was asleep though. I slept through the entire drive through Beverly Hills, this time I got to see the sign and the huge mansions. The less than stellar part came when our driver hocked a loogie out the window at a stop light. I was really sick of riding in taxis, having spent a good portion of my day in them. Plus it was getting expensive.

Even after having eaten Fatburger and a giant hotdog (Brent did not finish his hotdog I might add) we pigged out on candy back in the hotel room. In my tired state of mind (I had been awake since 3am California time) I could not even figure out how to use the shower. I was considering going to be and it was barely past 8 o’clock.

Day 1 celebrity sightings: zero, not even any false alarms.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

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Anniversary Special

What to do to celebrate a 6 year anniversary? Why not take the opportunity to knock three things off my Pinterest cooking board?! Yup. That was my lofty goal for the day. To cook a dinner , a side and a dessert. How hard can that possibly be? Not at all, it is however rather time-consuming given everything on my menu needed time to marinate or cool down. Brent came in the door as I was trying to figure out if the frying pan was hot enough. He said that he could smell dessert from the hallway. I usually accidentally give it away by posting about it before he gets home.

Project 12- ann dinner- whisky vinegar steak, sweet potato wedges, cookie dough cupcakes (20)

For the main course I fried up some steaks. I had found a recipe for a simple steak marinade on Pinterst: fill a 1.5 oz shot glass with half vinegar, half whisky and let the steaks marinate for half an hour to an hour. Easy enough. The trouble came when I tried to go to the original page for instructions on how to cook the steak. The page was gone. I had to find a Wikihow with instructions on cooking steak. I was in uncharted territory. Thankfully they turned out alright.But a pan-fried steak does not hold a candle to a grilled steak, it’s not even close.

Project 12- ann dinner- whisky vinegar steak, sweet potato wedges, cookie dough cupcakes (14)

For the side-dish I decided to use a recipe I found on The Porta Bella’s website for sweet potato wedges (as Brent eats sweet potatoes daily). It is a very simple recipe and for once I actually had all the necessary ingredients! (That never happens). And they turned out delicious! The oven baking gave them a nice crispy outside, as I did not peel them. The one problem is that sweet potatoes are impossible to cut- while struggling to cut them into slices I managed to drop the cutting board on my toe. It hurt like hell.

Project 12- ann dinner- whisky vinegar steak, sweet potato wedges, cookie dough cupcakes (15)

For dessert I decided to splurge and go for something truly decadent. Chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes. The website did not provide a recipe for the cupcake base, just the idea of dropping a ball of cookie dough into the cupcake batter before baking. I found another recipe for simple chocolate cupcakes. (Which has now become one of my new go-to recipes, along with the sweet potato wedges). The cupcakes were simple to make and not that unhealthy, as there is only 3 tablespoons of butter in the batter, not the usual 1-2 cups. The cupcake batter used up my last two eggs, and given that we are leaving for California on Friday I was not about to go out and buy a carton (not even a half-carton) of eggs. So I opted for Pillsbury cookie dough (it’s not cheating because I made the cupcake batter myself). I rolled the dough into tiny little balls- felt like I was making cookies for mice- and let them sit in the freezer for a bit.

Project 12- ann dinner- whisky vinegar steak, sweet potato wedges, cookie dough cupcakes (1)

As it turns out a ladle is a great kitchen item to have when making cupcakes. While shopping for the new home I bought everything under the sun, including a muffin tray- but no ladle. Add that to my list for next time. I had to resort to using one of my measuring spoons to fill the muffin liners as a spoon was inadequate and inefficient. It was a deliciously messy affair with as much batter getting on the counters, stove, muffin pan and me as in the liners themselves. Another great item for the kitchen is a mixer, because trying to cream the butter and sugar with a spoon until it is “fluffy” is way too hard.

Project 12- ann dinner- whisky vinegar steak, sweet potato wedges, cookie dough cupcakes (4)

While I had been at No Frills shopping for the dinner I could not resist the idea of truly epically going all out on the cupcakes. For the icing I bought Fluffernutter (as in marshmallow whip!) and mini M&Ms to sprinkle on top of the marshmallow goop. And just to really top it off I bought caramel syrup to drizzle over top of that (and there were a few recipes I saw on Pinterest while browsing for today that require a caramel drizzle, so look for that soon).

Project 12- ann dinner- whisky vinegar steak, sweet potato wedges, cookie dough cupcakes (7)

So how did the cupcakes turn out? Un-freakin-believable. The cupcake part itself was amazing (a definite keeper in the recipe book), the cookie dough part was a nice delicious surprise and the marshmallow fluff was sticky and delicious. The M&Ms on top added a nice crunch to counter the mush of the marshmallow and cake. The marshmallow fluff also served to cover up the cookie dough showing through the top so that when Brent bit into it he did not expect the cookie part. It was funny.

Project 12- ann dinner- whisky vinegar steak, sweet potato wedges, cookie dough cupcakes (10)

I now have a half roll of cookie dough in my freezer. Ok fine, less than half, I indulged. However I intend to make smores cookies tomorrow with it. Lest it all get eaten by then. It better not. I better come home to find the same amount of cookie dough that is there now.

Project 12- ann dinner- whisky vinegar steak, sweet potato wedges, cookie dough cupcakes (18)

Project 12- ann dinner- whisky vinegar steak, sweet potato wedges, cookie dough cupcakes (3)

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2013 in I Will One Day Attempt To Make This

 

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Meet The Slow-Cooker

Project 11- pulled pork (3)

Recently while at Walmart acquiring new items for the homestead I chanced upon a slow-cooker for $8! I’d be crazy not to buy it. So I did, and carrying it home sucked. Was it worth it? Yes. A thousands times yes. Best decision ever.

Project 11- pulled pork (4)

For starters I jumped right in with a recipe I found for pulled pork. How hard can it possibly be? Despite the fact that I was lacking a barbeque. But apparently it can be done with a slow-cooker. As it turns out it is not that easy. Trying to wrestle the bone out of the pig shoulder was almost as hard as trying to find a pig shoulder in the meat section of the grocery store. It felt so good when I finally managed to free the bone, I held it overhead, victorious! The giant blobs of fat around it made it that much harder to remove the bone. The knife kept slipping and I had a few close calls. I was also now stuck with a pork shoulder bone that I had no idea what to do with- it is now sitting in my freezer until I figure out what to do with it.

Project 11- pulled pork (8)

From the beginning I was only half following the recipe. My slow-cooker is small, so I got a small pork shoulder. Mistake one was not adjusting the spices to the smaller size. I decided to make my own marinade, choosing to soak my pork in Hogsback Lager, it just seemed fitting. Mistake two was opening the slow-cooker to get a whiff of it, the alcohol had started evaporating around that time and it was just awful. It burned and made me jump back coughing. After nine hours it was finally time to remove the pork shoulder. I was really nervous as I had not been following the recipe and was afraid that I did not have enough liquid in there to keep my pork from drying out. I had gotten Brent to add in some more beer while I was out, but I really had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pork just fell apart as I tried to remove it. As I was taking it out the giant slab of fat on the side came right off. I now had a giant slab of pork fat to go with my pork bone in my “pile of pig parts I have no idea what to do with.” It was really easy to just tear it apart into little pieces, it lived up to it’s name of “pulled” pork.

Project 11- pulled pork (9)

Project 11- pulled pork (11)

Next came time to simmer the juices from the slow-cooker and add the remaining spices. Here is where things got dicey. Because I did not have the same amount of liquid (due to the extra beer having been added). It took a long time to simmer and it never quite got to the “syrupy” stage called for in the recipe. And because my pork shoulder was much smaller than called for in the recipe, the end result was severely over-salted sauce. I only realized this when I poured it over the pork and had a taste. I quickly drained the pulled pork and saved it. Mostly. It is still a tad too salty. But still not bad for my first try with a slow-cooker and given I am moreso used to the dessert side of meals.

Project 11- pulled pork (13) Project 11- pulled pork (14)

 
 

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Now Back to Fooding

After a hectic week of moving and the subsequent time-such that is furniture-assembling we were finally poised to get back to our regular fooding schedule. It had been almost two weeks! (Stockyards was the last place we went to, it just took us a good five minutes trying to remember, having both forgotten that my blog holds the answer, duh). The week of moving took us to some dark corners of the food world, culminating in an epic dinner of Pizza Hut. (In my defense it is tradition to eat Pizza Hut once moved in to a new home, did it London too). As it turns out, the stuffed crust might sound like a great idea (cheese!) it is in fact not the best idea: too much cheese. Couple that with cheesey bread sticks and oh what a tummyache. And the sauce is too sweet. The first slice I ate was actually a double slice that had not been cut. It was also the last slice I ate, as it was enormous and filling.

After all that, we were in desperate need of some good fooding. The plan was to go to best italian hot table after I finished work. I did not anticipate staying so late, and we thought that the place was open until 6pm, as it turns out that only refers to the store-front, not the hot-table sit-down at the back. On to plan b! Which was to walk along St. Clair West over to Christie for best bbq chicken instead. We got to Churrasco of St. Clair and thankfully it was not too busy. We had our food before us within no time, which was a good thing as I was starving! I had devoured a lemon-filled donut (yes, I too had no idea that Tim Horton’s actually offered these, I thought they had affixed the wrong label to the tray) on the way over- it was not enough.

We covered the spread in terms of sides: fries, potatoes and rice. The actual winner of it was the roasted potatoes. The chicken was good, but not something I would crave and talk about for years to come. The potatoes though- oh man, those were good. The rice was barely touched, and that was also the largest portion. The hot sauce that came with the chicken was also amazing, among the best house-made hot sauces I have tried, it went really well with the crispy chicken skin.

Churrasco of St. Clair- best bbq chicken (1)

Best of all we were left with an extra piece of chicken as we had ordered one meal with a quarter chicken and one with a half. Too much chicken is never a bad thing.

 

Stress Cookies!

When you have had a horribly stressful week nothing beats destroying the kitchen with a devilishly-delectable-horrible-for-your-waistline dessert. I did it. I finally caved in and made a truly decadent dish: turtles cookies. For those not in the know, Turtles are caramel and pecan blobs covered in chocolate. Add in the option to pig out on cookie dough and it is truly a glimpse of heaven. Eventually.

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After battling many sweet temptations, I managed to get out of Bulk Barn with the necessary supplies, that really you could only find there or maybe a really really good candy shop. I of course mean the caramel squares (you know, the cellophane wrapped ones that are really only around during Halloween).

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I had more than one reason (stress) for making the cookies: this weekend we also happen to be celebrating not one, but two birthdays. Given I was making cookies for a whole lot of people, I stuck close to the recipe. By which I mean I followed it exactly (a true rarity I might add). These cookies are a tad more time-consuming- this is mainly due to having to unwrap all those caramels. And then having to carefully push it into the centre of the cookie, and then dipping it into a pile of chopped pecans. The pecans don’t stay in place, you have to individually cram them into the dough, else they fall off. This is true even after baking.

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As it turns out I really am in need of a mixing bowl. The pot that I normally use was barely big enough, with every stir I lost a cloud of flour and cocoa powder. By the end the counter was covered and the pot was full to the brim. Really, I should invest in a mixing bowl. They can’t be more than $3 and the mall is literally right there (less than 5 minute walk).

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After baking however the cookies need more time for cooling, so that the caramel in the centre sets and does not stick to the other cookies. I ended up with plates all over the place, some with cookies cooling, others with dough balls waiting to be cooked. I also had to let them cool on the baking sheet first, straight of the oven they are still fragile and fall apart easily. Having taken up all the counter space, with cookies in all different stages everywhere… I had to up and leave to get the key to our new apartment. Thankfully no one else was home, I would have surely lost more than a few cookies to sneaky nibblers.

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This happens to also be the first time I have ever ended with the right amount of cookies. I actually ended up with what the recipe said I would! And it was a lot. I have an entire Ziploc freezer bag full of them.

The cookies are worth the effort and giant mess because they are easily the best cookies I have ever made/eaten.

 

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