Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Most of you know by now that I work at an ad agency. It also happens to be an ad agency where Halloween is a really huge deal . 100% participation is expected and the department teams get downright competitive as to who's got the best costume. I've aligned myself with the creative team and together we are showing up as the cast of Mad Men. We're all pretty psyched about it mostly because it just seems so apropros. And also because we plan on drinking martinis all day Friday. :)

I think Sergio does Roger Sterling proud. A couple of martinis, a ciggy and lots of attitude are all he needs to churn out advertising genius.

My big plans to hunt down the perfect Jane Sterling outfit never came to fruition. Shame considering there are so many vintage shops lining Melrose (which is just a few miles from our office). Luckily, a below the knee black dress, a tweed cape, some vintage accessories from my own closet seemed to fit the bill. Put in a well-placed cigarette and a haughty expression and I might barely pass as Jane Sterling. Here's Nick channeling his inner Don Draper. Shaken not stirred please!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More Fun Things

I recently visited Mitsuwa, our local Japanese grocery store. I cruised down the snack aisle and immediately noticed how different Japanese snacks are packaged. The package designs seem less commercial, more creative, downright artistic even. For example, the engineering of gum and mint dispensers were well thought out, forward thinking and considerate of how the packaging might be of more service to the user. Gum wasn't just wrapped in flimsy, disposable papers. Instead, there were housed in pastel-colored, plastic dispensers with innovative little sliding tops. Candies were shaped to appeal both to your palate and your eyes. I was most charmed by these delightful, little packages of "dolls". So adorable and so very detailed. According to Sato, our Japanese au pair, the manufacturer of these snacks are very traditionally Japanese, known for producing their goods the old-fashioned way. True quality craftsmanship from inside and out. Gotta love it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fun Things

Love this packaging. I always find sardonic wit to be fabulously entertaining. And these tin canisters definitely have that in spades. I'm also digging the retro-ish spin on primary colors. Who needs plain old orange when you can have creamsicle? Or green when you can have chartreuse?

(images via KnockKnock)

Sweet Valley Confidential

The Wakefield twins are back! And yes, I'm excited. The Sweet Valley series were one of my favorites growing up. And now they're coming out with a prologue. Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later... is due to hit shelves in March 2011, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm totally going to buy one!
These books have a soft spot in my heart. I collected and read the Sweet Valley Twins while in grade school; and then graduated to the more "mature" Sweet Valley High series when I entered middle school. I had a huge collection of the pastel colored books. I remember taking such great care of them, as I did with all my books -- relishing every word and carefully handling the covers so as not to break the paper binding or wrinkle the pages. I wish I had saved them not just so my daughter could also one day enjoy the stories, but also because I think there was a bit of an art to the way they illustrated the covers. I could get into a whole spiel of how cover art for young reader books have changed so much over the years, but I won't.
Instead, I'll leave you with an excerpt of Chapter One from the new book. It's a bit grittier and definitely more adult in nature (umm, Elizabeth Wakefield crying after an orgasm?? Whuaaattt??) than the Sweet Valley stories I remember, which begs the question: Who exactly is the intended audience for this book? Current young readers? Or old, sentimental fogies like me? Or maybe today's young reader is more advanced in terms of subject matter? Eh, who knows.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's Apple Picking Season!

What I love most about Southern California is that we have everything we could possibly want within driving distance. Beaches, deserts, mountains, farmland. You name it, California's got it. It never ceases to amaze me what California has to offer. Take for instance, this weekend. We decided to visit Riley's Farm, located in Oak Glen which is about two hours from where we live.

Riley's Farm offers acres of U-pick fruit -- apples, cherries, berries, pears, pumpkins, peaches etc. You can find a link to their site HERE.

After a fairly quick drive (I think we made it in just 90 minutes), we found ourselves parking underneath a bountiful apple tree. We were excited! If the parking lot had apple trees bursting with such large, ripe fruit, we couldn't wait to see what the rest of orchard would look like. Mia had her heart set on a caramel apple. Evan actually wanted to press his own cider. And all I wanted was to get the perfect apples for my first attempt at making an apple pie.

The farm had a colonial schtick going. Employees were dressed in 18th century garb. They had archery classes, candle making demos, live cider pressing of your picked apples, a colonial store with homemade goodies, good old-fashioned hay rides and even live skits of colonial stories. The white and black house pictured above is actually their restaurant and bakery where they serve homemade everything -- chicken pot pie, chowder, apple turnovers, sweet potato pie, hot chocolate, hot cider -- all in the dim glow of lanterns. It was a little gimmicky; but after a while, you kinda come to appreciate the effort everyone takes to make your experience a fun one.

Varieties of apples were grouped all along the orchard, but we're talking acres of land here. The ones we wanted, Virgina Winesaps and Glen Seedlings, were all the way at the back of the orchard. Up the hill. Behind the red barn. Past the apple cider makers. Beyond the small creek. Around the bend. To the left of the pumpkin patch, and just a little further past the berry crops. In short, it was a hike. Okay, okay, I may exaggerate a little. But it took some stamina to get there, man! Mia tried to help as best she could. She insisted on carrying the camera bag. My little sweetie pie.

Though after a couple of minutes, Evan ended up carrying Mia and the camera bag. What a nice Papa! :)

When we finally found the trees we wanted, we went at it. A bit selectively at first. Here's Mia saying that this one's no good cause it's got a little blemish. But the rule is, you keep what you pick. So we went right ahead and put this one in the bag.

There were tons of smaller trees around for the kiddies to pick from, but Mia loved to get the apples high above the branches. All she needed was a little boost from her Papa.

Sato, Mia's Japanese au pair, shined a couple baby ones for them to snack on. These Stayman Winesaps really were delicious! Since it was a rather chilly autumn day, the apples were kinda cold to bite into; which made them even more delicous-tasting. Unlike what you'd get at the store, these organic apples had juicy, sparkling flavor. Seriously like apple soda! Except without the carbonation, of course.

We filled up our two bags. No sense in taking more than we needed. In the end, we walked away with Glen Seedlings (large green apples that are very tarty), Virgina Winesaps and Stayman Winesaps.

After about an hour and a half of hiking and picking fruit. We got hungry. Mia had been salivating over a chocolate chip cookie she had seen in the bakery window at the entrance of the farm. The thing was about the size of her head. Hence, here's the two of us running down the trail in hot pursuit of unusually large chocolate chip cookies.

Mama, of course, couldn't keep up. We leisurely walked the rest of the way. I mean, no sense rushing past the beautiful scenery, right?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Humbled Commuter

I'm in my third week of working at the new gig. It's been terribly busy, but luckily, I'm enjoying it. Although I will say that the traffic in Los Angeles is absolutely, incredibly, awe-inducing.

The first couple of days I'd leave a little more than two hours early to make the 40-mile trek up the 405 freeway. Then I realized that it's a matter of finding the sweet spot window and then driving alertly to ensure you're maximizing all possible lanes (i.e. lots of crazy weaving). After a couple weeks of commuting, I thought I had it handled. I had the Laws of Diminishing Traffic Returns figured out. I'd leave home in the morning as late as I dared to risk it; and then I'd obnoxiously weave and dart in between lanes, cutting off slow pokes and other semi-catatonic commuters. I took pride in driving aggressively. I got this, I'd say. The 405 ain't no thang, I bragged.

This past week brought rain to Southern California. And so the stage was set for my humbling... Today the 405 schooled me with two car accidents and a never-ending expanse of slick, wet road glowing with the hotness of brake lights galore. Three hours from Orange County to Santa Monica. At hour two, I completely surrendered and bowed down to what has to be the earthly manifestation of hades.

Besides that, I have to say that I'm enjoying the new job! LoL

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Heart Asian Poses

Never take a boring photo again. Next time you're mugging for the camera, try one of these cute and quirky Asian Poses. Adorable, right? :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Red Lentil Salad with Mango Chutney

I first tasted this Red Lentil Salad at my daughter's school's Open House Night. The school really emphasizes the importance of healthy eating, so it's not surprising that they'd have something like this on the buffet table for Open House. In fact, the school's daily lunch menu usually consists of something fresh, organic and homemade. Tofu fried rice, turkey dogs and homemade whole wheat lasagna are just some of the things that they serve the kids. Anyway, I digress... Back to the Red Lentil Salad. This was the first time I've ever had lentils and I absolutely loved it! I hounded the School Director for the recipe and now I'm sharing it with you because it really is such a wonderfully healthy and delicious dish. It's made with red lentils, apple cider vinegar, mango chutney and just a touch of curry. On top of it being high in protein and fiber, the salad has a deliciously tart and sweet flavor. Really yummy!

Salad Ingredients:
24 oz Red Lentils
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 cup chopped raw cashews
1 cup chopped golden raisins

Dressing Ingredients:
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons of curry (I used a mild curry)
1 jar of Major Gray mango chutney
Salt and Pepper to taste

Most of these ingredients can be found at Middle Eastern, Indian or other ethnic grocery stores. The ingredients aren't too exotic, so I wouldn't be surprised to find them at a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.

Dice and chop your ingredients as specified. You don't need to adhere to the exact measurements. If you like red bell peppers, feel free to add more than a cup. That's the beauty of salads. You can put as much or as little of certain ingredients as you want.

Place lentils in a large pot and cover with water. Cover and boil for 3-5 minutes stirring frequently. Lentils cook very quickly, so keep an eye on them. You don't want to overcook them. You want them al dente and to keep their reddish color. Cooking all 24 ounces of the lentils actually yields quite a bit of food. Feel free to adjust the quantity as you see fit.

Once al dente, drain and rinse the lentils with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Mix onions, celery, red bell peppers, cashews, cilantro and golden raisins with the red lentils.

In a blender, puree the dressing ingredients (cider vinegar, mango chutney, olive oil, curry powder, salt and pepper) together until smooth. Pour over the lentils and veggie mixture. And voila! You're done!

My salad came out a little thicker than expected. I made the mistake of blending the raisins into the dressing. Oops! Still came out delicious though! Enjoy!