Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fred Segal Sale-Everything 50% off

I stopped by the Fred Segal (FS) on Melrose on Friday afternoon and then Fred Segal in Santa Monica on Saturday afternoon. Some overlap, but different stores and selection of stuff at each Fred Segal since Fred Segal consists of many different boutique-like stores. Some of the prices are way overpriced like t-shirts at $100, with a sale price of $50. I would never spend more than $20 on a good quality t-shirt. I just purchase a whole bunch of long-sleeve crew neck and scoop neck t-shirts (mossimo) at Target for $7.99. It's not the softest t-shirt or the best quality, but I'm willing to compromise for the price. Pants/slacks were $150-300 original price. Shirts were $100-300. To be honest, it was rare to find anything less than $150 original price. You could tell that some clothes were made of cheap material and cheaply made, but it was still $200-300? Perhaps you're paying for the design? I'm such a hypocrite. I just paid $96.34 for a pair of jeans.

Fred segal boutique stores-jewelry, mens store, sunglasses, beauty, childrens, jeans, shoes, bags. Santa Monica FS has more boutiques at 2 separate buildings across the street from each other. I think the main boutique on Melrose had a better selection of clothing than any of the stores in Santa Monica, but as I only bought a pair of jeans. Clothing was scrunched together so tight in such a small space, it was hard to look at them and maneuver around with others shopping right next to you, plus blasting music. oh well, i'll probably re-visit next week when the prices are discounted even more. Usually, the discount at the end of the sale is almost 90% off, but you have to buy 5 items. At these prices with a discount plus 5 items, you still end up spending a couple hundred. oh well, it's only once a year.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Killer Brain Eating Amoeba - MNSBC article

A rare killer amoeba (naeglaria) living in lakes enters the victims' body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die. More prevalent as water temp goes up.

People become infected when they wade through shallow water and stir up the bottom. If someone allows water to shoot up the nose — say, by doing a somersault in chest-deep water — the amoeba can latch onto the olfactory nerve. People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers. In the later stages, they’ll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes. Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Fatal within 2 weeks.

The easiest way to prevent infection is to use nose clips when swimming or diving in fresh water.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

IRS Warns Taxpayers of New E-mail Scams

Below is the sneaky scam email I got today. The link takes you to a website that looks exactly like the official IRS website. This page this link takes you too asks for your SS# as well as Debit card information where the refund will be made to. Too bad the website address was, not So I figured it out. I wasn't expecting a refund anyway, but be careful.

Scammers are smart. The email address even said it was from the address

IRS WEBSITE states that Recipients of questionable e-mails claiming to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the e-mails. Instead, they should forward the e-mails to You can also forward suspicious e-mails to the Federal Trade Commission at: .,,id=170894,00.html

Phishing, as it is called, is the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft.

----- Original Message -----
From: Internal Revenue Service (
Cc: recipient list not shown:
Sent: Wednesday, September 26, 2007 5:19 AM
Subject: You are eligible for a refund - Internal Revenue Service ( IRS )

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $211.Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to process it.
You can apply for your refund online here (takes you to a link to website that looks exactly like page).
A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline. Please be carefull when entering your data.
Regards, Internal Revenue Service

© Copyright 2007, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A..

Dancing with the Stars

Dancing with the Stars (DWTS). I have to admit I've been watching this show on and off for the past couple of seasons. Occasionally entertaining. This show has so much air time. Is it really necessary to have an hour long show on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday? I guess the ratings are pretty high. My tivo is so outdated and can only record one show at a time. I did not know that this show would be on (3rd day) the same time as the new show Back to You (2nd episode) which I missedm because tivo was recording the 1 hour elimation show of DWTS. Damn. I knew that Apollo Ohno was going to win last season on DWTS. You could tell Ian Ziering wanted to win desperately. I wish he had won. That's how bad I felt for him. It is a show for all ages. Unfortunately, they have a lot of wasteful time-fillers which drag the show. I like it much better than some other reality shows like American Idol which I saw last season. I still think Melinda should have one. Jordan was ok, Blake was awful in my opinion, so was his "style". Who did he appeal to?

Entry Level Sound System

Entry Level Home theatre combo to be set up this weekend:

Denon DRA-295 A/V Receiver
Bowers and Wilkins DM 303 Speakers
Denon Dp-29F record player

I'm a newbie.

Tropical Island Vacation

Just came back from a 4 day vacation on a tropical island. Water was warm. Sun was strong. Very relaxing. Snorkeled and saw a variety of fish, unfortunately I did not see the sea turtle like some others. Half-boogie boarded. Stayed at beautiful house. Merriman's for lunch only $10-20 open M-F from 11:30 to 1:30. Pretty good. Terrible dinner food at Huggos on the Rocks. Over priced restaurant, location great - right on the shore. I ate mostly cooked food I purchased from Costco on first day of my arrival.

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles Again

Take out from Roscoe's again. Had the 5 drumsticks plus a waffle. Drumsticks were not good yesterday- were refried or were cooked in very old oil. So disappointing. Oh well. I'll still eat here again.

Annual Fred Segal Sale

Fred Segal sale starts tomorrow. Finally! Usually lasts 2 weeks with more price cutting towards the end of the sale.

Crescent Heights and Melrose.
10 am to 7 pm M-Sat
12 pm to 6 pm Sun

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

2008 Tax Brackets

Among next year's changes: The basic standard deduction, typically claimed by about two-thirds of all taxpayers, will increase to $10,900, up $200 from this year, for married couples filing jointly. For most singles, it will rise to $5,450, up from $5,350. The personal exemption amount will rise by $100 to $3,500.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

NBC to offer free episode downloads

The new service, dubbed "NBC Direct," will allow users to download episodes to computers running Microsoft Windows software. The file will contain advertising that cannot be skipped. The episode will not be available 7 days after the show has aired. The new service will launch in a test version in October and be expanded in coming months.

NBC Universal said it would no longer sell TV episodes on iTunes because it wants the ability to sell its shows at a variety of prices instead of the $1.99 standard enforced by Apple.

I guess this would be good if you don't have a dvr.

Los Angeles Weather

Winter storm heading our way? Geez, I've been waiting since yesterday afternoon for this so-called storm. Today's been a very nice day aroun 70 degrees and althought the weather reports indicate a winter storm is heading our way, it sure doesn't look it right now.

Supposedly, the weather/news channels are 90% correct in predicting the weather, but people only remember when they are incorrect. I guess this is one of those days.

US Dollar Continues to Weaken

The dollar took another fall on currency markets today, reaching one-to-one parity against the Canadian dollar for the first time in 30 years (since 11/1976) and falling to a new low against the Euro. The Canadian dollar is known as the "loonie" because of the bird pictured on the one-dollar coin.

The half-point cut in U.S. interest rates earlier this week had the effect of further weakening the dollar versus other currencies by reducing the cash yield on dollars. A lower dollar can make travel more costly for U.S. residents and can also pose the risk of making imported goods more expensive over time.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fashion for Less - Designers collaborate with Mass Retailers

Experts say the key to successful designer-retailer collaboration is offering an interpretation of the designer clothes at the mass retail level.

Sept 16 - Alice Temperley’s collection at Target, in stores for sixty days, featuring knit tops, jackets, dresses, pants and more from $14.99 to $139.99.

Sept 9 - Simply Vera Vera Wang exclusive collection at Kohl’s. The line, with $34 silk-blend t-shirts and a $138 double-breasted brocade car coat.

Nov 8 - Roberto Cavalli’s one-off collection for women and men will launch in 200 H&M stores. A company spokeswoman described it as “glamorous,” offering “fall/winter party trends featuring sharp retro couture and androgynous decadence.”

mid- November - Erin Fetherston will present a limited-edition holiday collection for Target featuring youthful babydoll silhouettes and flouncy dresses. The line will be priced under $100— Fetherston’s $1,500 designer frocks are sold at Barneys New York.

Contacts for County of Los Angeles Public Health

I have reported foodbourne illness the I had contracted at certain restaurants before to the County of Los Angeles Public Health thru this online link

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fed lowers interest rates today

Fed slashes rates to boost economy

The Federal Reserve lowers the target on a key short-term interest rate for the first time in four years to 4.75% from 5.25%. Consumers should soon start feeling the impact of the Fed rate cut in the form of lower borrowing costs and stingier savings rates.

Stocks surged following the announcement, with the Dow gaining nearly 300 points, or 2.1 percent. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq both up more than 2 percent.

• Expect lower rates on home-equity lines of credit and some credit cards.
• Expect stingier money-market funds and savings products yields (decrease from 5% to 4.5%).
• Fixed-rate mortgage rates could move higher if inflation worries grow.
• Borrowers with ARM's tied to Libor aren't likely to get immediate relief.

The Fed also cut its discount rate by another half of a point to 5.25 percent.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Coconut Cookies - Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Made this cookie recipe this weekend. Easy recipe. Adjusted recipe by adding more cocunut and cooking at lower temp. Moist and delicious.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until light yellow and fluffy.
Add melted butter. Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt, and stir into the batter. Stir in the coconut.
With a soup spoon, drop the batter into the pans, filling each shell almost full. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 325 degrees F. Allow to cool.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe - From America's Test Kitchen

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake

Do not substitute semisweet chocolate chips for the chopped semisweet chocolate in the frosting—chocolate chips contain less cocoa butter than bar chocolate and will not melt as readily. For best results, don't make the frosting until the cakes are cooled, and use the frosting as soon as it is ready. Do not use regular cooking sprays such as Pam for baking. Instead use baking sprays such as Pam for Baking No-Stick Cooking Spray and Baker's Joy.

Cake-Serves 10 to 12
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), very soft, plus extra for greasing pans
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces), plus extra for dusting pans
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate , coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (3/4 ounce)
1/2 cup hot water
1 3/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch-round by 2-inch-high cake pans with softened butter; dust pans with flour and knock out excess. Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot water in medium heatproof bowl; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 inch of simmering water and stir with rubber spatula until chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sugar to chocolate mixture and stir until thick and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and set aside to cool.
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in small bowl. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and yolks on medium-low speed until combined, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar, increase speed to high, and whisk until fluffy and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Replace whisk with paddle attachment. Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg/sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds, pausing to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing about 10 seconds after each addition. Add about one-third of flour mixture followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each addition (about 15 seconds). Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture (batter may appear separated). Scrape down sides of bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; smooth batter to edges of pan with spatula.
3. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool cakes to room temperature before frosting, 45 to 60 minutes.

16 ounces semisweet chocolate , finely chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream (cold)

Melt chocolate in heatproof bowl set over saucepan containing 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, heat butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Increase heat to medium; add sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt and stir with heatproof rubber spatula until sugar is dissolved, 4 to 5 minutes. Add melted chocolate, butter mixture, and cream to clean bowl of standing mixer and stir to thoroughly combine. Place mixer bowl over ice bath and stir mixture constantly with rubber spatula until frosting is thick and just beginning to harden against sides of bowl, 1 to 2 minutes (frosting should be 70 degrees). Place bowl on standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Classic White Cake Recipe - From America's Test Kitchen

Cake layers can be wrapped and stored for one day; frosting can be covered with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for several hours. Once assembled, the cake should be covered and refrigerated. Under its coat of frosting, it will remain fresh for up to three days.
Do not use regular cooking sprays such as Pam for baking. Instead use baking sprays such as Pam for Baking No-Stick Cooking Spray and Baker's Joy.

Classic White Cake-Serves 12
Nonstick cooking spray
2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 sticks tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool

1. Set oven rack in middle position. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.
2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs.
4. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides. Mix at medium speed 20 seconds longer.
5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.
6. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

Butter Frosting
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool
4 cups confectioners' sugar (1 pound)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk
Pinch table salt

Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed until sugar is moistened. Increase speed to medium-high; beat, stopping twice to scrape down bowl, until creamy and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. Avoid overbeating.

Raspberry-Almond Filling (Optional)
1/2cup blanched slivered almonds (2 1/2 ounces), toasted and chopped coarse
1/3 cup raspberry jam (seedless)

Before assembling cake, set aside 3/4 cup of the frosting for decoration. Spread small dab of frosting in center of cake plate to anchor cake, and set down one cake layer. Combine 1/2 cup of remaining frosting with almonds in small bowl and spread over first layer. Carefully spread jam on top, then cover with second cake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of assembled cake. Pipe reserved frosting around perimeter of cake at the base and the top. Cut the cake into slices and serve.

Shabu Shabu House - Little Tokyo

Shabu Shabu House - Japanese Village Plaza (alameda and 2nd) in Little Tokyo

Went here Saturday night. I usually just come here M-F at 5:30 pm so I don't have to wait. I had to wait 1 1/2 hours just to get seated finally on Saturday. Mall offers free 2 hours parking in the lot with validation but since we were here for 2 1/2 hours, we had to pay the maximum of $5. I'm getting a meter next time. Food is always consistent and I'm always satisfied. Since this place is so popular, you can almost always expect to wait. Also, they tend to rush you out which is always unpleasant, but people are waiting. Oh well.

Large (15 slices of meat) - $14.99
Medium (10 slices of meat) - $12.35

Shabu meals come with rice, clear rice noodles, udon noodles, cabage, mushrooms, carrot, green onion. 2 different sauces to dip

Can specifically request lean/marbled meat.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Sneezing keeps bad stuff out of our breathing passages and gets rid of germs and bacteria. You create a force that propels things out of your nasal passages at 100 mph.

A long time ago, people used to think that sneezing was a sign that you were developing the bubonic plague, so people began saying "god bless you" in the hopes that the person sneezing would not get the disease.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Supreme court ruling favors L.L. Bean in sales tax dispute

5/26/06 - The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Friday ruled that L.L. Bean was correct when it charged sales tax on the full price of merchandise before deducting the value of a discount coupon. In a unanimous ruling, supreme court justices said that the value of the coupons honored by L.L. Bean was part of the sale price, and that L.L. Bean properly charged sales taxes on the value of the coupons.

Tax on Shipping at Jcrew Sucks

5/15/07 - inquired about's policy on charging tax on shipping via email since have never before been charged tax on shipping charges at any other online company that I have placed orders from. Received the following response from a Jcrew customer service representative:

"We charge sales tax on shipping charges whenever we are charging sales tax for the merchandise on the order. This is based on a guideline given to us a few years ago by the FTC stating that shipping and handling is a taxable service."

Since I found out this information, I only order if I find a free shipping online code. Jcrew shipping costs can be high (see below). Also Jcrew shipping is free if you order/call from an actual Jcrew store. US Shipping Costs
Up to $25: $5.95
$25-50: $7.95
$50-75: $9.95
$75-100: $11.95
$100-150: $13.95
$150-200: $14.95
$200-250: $16.95$250 and up: $17.95

They should state the tax on shipping in their policies clearly. I didn't see it the "Shipping and Handling" Jcrew link.

T-Mobile Los Angeles Promotion - Advertised in LA Times

T-mobile has better deals for cellular plans than Verizon. I'm so tempted to switch but haven't yet.
$39.99/month for 1500 Nationwide Anytime Minutes (Individual Plan)

No Free nights/weekend
No mobile to mobile

Great Dinner at Hide Sushi

Had dinner at Hide sushi on Sawtelle. Sushi was absolutely wonderful yesterday (ordered yellowtail belly, uni, mackerel, albacore, unagi). Tempura good here too. The last several times I had been there, sushi was just ok. Staff is friendly. $50 for 2 people.

Cell Phone Use and Driving in California

New Laws Goes into Effect July 1, 2008

Adult drivers will be required to use hands-free equipment if talking on the phone while driving.
$20 for 1st offense
$50 repeat offenters

Californians under age 18 will be prohibited from using cellphones, text message devices and laptop computers while driving. The new law also prohibits under-18 drivers from using hands-free cellphone devices.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

I saw 3:10 to Yuma (2007) version with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale last night at the Grove. I never did see the original but I'm sure the original was probably a lot better. Very Disappointed. Russell Crowe was pretty good. I don't know how much of the story was adapted from the original, but I did not like the ending especially. Some weird casting too. I'm not mentioning any names. I rarely see better version made of an older, classic movie. Some examples: Stepford Wives (newer, modern version) was horrible compared with the original with Katherine Ross. The newer version of Sabrina with Julia Ormand and Harrison Ford was awful. Too bad

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Megan's Law - Find out about sex offenders in your area

This website (this website pertains to california only) provides detailed information on sex offenders required to register with local law enforcement under California's Megan's Law. Easiest way to get a map/listing of sex offenders in your area is by typing the zip code in the search box.

Currency Conversion

1.00 Euro = 1.39 USD (Dollar weakens to record low against euro today)
1.00 GPB (Great Britain Pound) = 2.03 USD

Interesting facts:
Total of 27 members of European Union.

13/27 European Union countries currently using the euro:
Austria,Belgium,Finland,France,Germany,Greece,Ireland Republic,Italy,Luxembourg,Netherlands,Portugal,Slovenia,Spain

11/27 European Union countries set to use currency at a future date:
Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania

3/27 European Union countries who have voted not to adopt the Euro:
Britain, Denmark, Sweden

European Countries that don't belong to European Union:

Switzerland, Norway, Croatia

6th Anniversary of September 11

It's always difficult to watching replays on tv of september 11. I always think about the only person I knew who parished on 9/11. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald as an assistent bond trader on one of the top floors of the first tower that was hit. He had just graduated from college 3-4 years before. Cantor was his second job after graduating (his first job being with a smaller trading company). He was so young and had a bright future ahead of him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Taste of Santa Monica-6th Annual

Sunday, Sept 16 from 12 pm - 4 pm
Just saw an ad for the 6th Annual Taste of Santa Monica (held on the Santa Monica Pier). I probably won't be going here since ticket prices have risen drastically since the 1st annual one that I went to. Ticket prices are $40 per adult this year. When I first came here, I remember paying only $20 with a student id. The regular price for an adult ticket was $25. Unfortunately, student discount is no longer offered. They probably have more restaurants participating (many in Santa Monica) this year (about 40) than previous years. Each restaurant has its own booth and offers a sample of it's food. You can sample as many times as you want at whichever booth you like. I remember the I Cugini restaurant booth was very popular. There was always a huge line for the samples of raw oysters. No other food/booth at that time was memorable to me. $40 / person is pricey. I'm not sure if it's worth it. It really depends on what the restaurants will have as samples. How much can you really eat? I would rather buy myself a very nice brunch elsewhere.

Some restaurants participating this year:

The Lobster
El Cholo
Ocean Avenue Seafood
Duke's of Malibu

Monday, September 10, 2007

W Hotel Bed Deal Quarterly?

Ordered a full size W hotel bed set on 5/16. W hotels is part of the Starwood hotels. A 40% off starwood employee discount off their beds was floating around online (valid from 5/16-5/31/07). Only 2 options available (Plush and Pillowtop). Full size plush top set was $950 in May and would have been $570 with the 40% off. After checking out the bed at a nearby 1-800-mattress store (La Brea/Melrose), I decided to purchase the full size pillowtop which was much softer, but still had enough support. The 1-800-mattress sales representative told me that the W pillowtop bed was the same as the Westin Heavenly bed. Full size pillow top set was $1200 in May and was discounted to $720 with 40% off (delivery included). Tax is only charged when bed is delivered to addresses in New York. Price also included delivery and set-up of bed and removal of old bed. So far I have been happy with this bed.

Because the deal was popular at the time, I didn't receive the bed until 3 weeks after placing the order. I recently saw online another 40% off starwood employee discount floating around (valid from 8/16-8/31/07). Maybe starwood offers the 40% off discount quarterly for their employees?

Cheap Movie Tickets - Pacific Theatre at The Grove

I often purchase discounted "group activity" movie tickets at the concierge in the Gas Company (at the NE corner of 5th and Grand). Anyone can go. Hours vary, but you can always call ahead to find out the hours of Monica Green, the concierge (213-613-4587), to reserve tickets. Open M-F during business hours usually. It's inside the Gas Company Tower across from Starbucks; unfortunately you can't see it from the street. Cash only. I usually buy a bulk amount of tickets every couple of months.

Pacific Theatres (restricted)- only $6.00. You can use these tickets at the PacificGrove Movie Theatre anytime before 6 pm for any movie, I believe. You can also use these tickets on any movie after 6 pm if it has been open for 2 weeks. You cannot use these tickets for new movies after 6 pm. These tickets cannot be used for Pacific Arclight Theatre unfortunately.

Other discounted tickets concierge sells:
AMC - silver $6.00
AMC - gold $7.50 (unrestricted)
Mann - $7.00 (unrestricted)
Regal - $6.50 (restricted)
Regasl - $8.00 (unrestricted)

Concierge also sells discount tickets to universal studios, disneyland, knotts berry farm, legoland, san diego zoo, san diego wild animal park and sea world. Slightly discounted prices/lots of restrictions. i don't think it's worth it to buy these tickets here.

Another concierge in downtown is at the Wells Fargo Center (Janet - 213-253-4205)- 3rd and Grand. She seems to have very sporadic hours.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

America's Test Kitchen - Tasting Lab, Season 6

America's Test Kitchen Best of (season 6) :

Parmigiano Reggiano (avg $14/pound) much better than Parmesan Cheese ($8/pound). If you can't find Parmigiano Reggiano, DiGiorno parmesan cheese was recommended.

Bottled Barbeque Sauce
Texas Best Barbecue Sauce, Original Rib Style, $3 for 19 ounces
Bull’s Eye Original BBQ Sauce, $2 for 18 ounces

Bottled Italian Dressing
Good Seasons Italian All Natural Salad Dressing Mix ($2)- Includes cruet and 2 packets with dried seasonings
Kraft Seven Seas Viva Italian Dressing

Chocolate Chips
Guittard Classic Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate Chips
Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks

Inexpensive steak
GOOD CUT FOR PAN-SEARING: Boneless Shell Sirloin Steak (ALTERNATE NAMES: Top butt, butt steak, top sirloin butt, top sirloin steak, center-cut roast)
GOOD CUT FOR PAN-SEARING: Flap Meat Steak (ALTERNATE NAMES: Top sirloin tips, beef sirloin tips, sirloin tip steak, sirloin flap meat for tips)
CUT BETTER FOR GRILLING: Flank Steak (ALTERNATE NAMES: Jiffy steak, London broil)
CUT BETTER FOR GRILLING: Skirt Steak (ALTERNATE NAMES: Philadelphia steak, fajitas meat)

Hunt's Ketchup, apparently tasters liked this brand better than heinz

Hellman's Real Mayonnaise(east cost name) /Best Food's (West Coast name)
Hellman's Light Mayonnaise better than other brands also.

White Sandwich Bread
Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White
Arnold Country Classics White

Supermarket Chicken Broth
Swanson Certified Organic

Droste cocoa

Dark Chocolate
Hershey's Special Dark
Ghirardelli Bittersweet

Canned Tomato Brands - Muir Glen, S&W, and Redpack

Daylight Savings 2007

Beginning in 2007 (Part of Energy Policy Act of 2005), Daylight Saving Time in U.S. is on the:
Second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time on the
First Sunday in November.

Previously, from 1986 thru 2006, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. began on the:
First Sunday of April and ended on the
Last Sunday of October.

States that don't observe Daylight Savings are Hawaii and Arizona.

2007: March 11, November 4
2008: March 9, November 2
2009:March 8, November 1

21st Annual Brige Benefit Concert (Tickets go on sale today)

Benefit Concert for Bridge School (Mountain View,CA - near San Jose, CA)
Ticket Prices: $35-$146 ($35 Lawn, $71 Upper Level, $146 Lower Level)
This year's concert has a great line-up like many of the past years I've attended. I always enjoy going to this concert.

Concert Dates:
Saturday, 10/27 at 5 pm
Sunday, 10/28 at 2 pm

This year's line-up:
Neil Young
Jerry Lee Lewis
Eddie Vedder with Flea & Jack Irons
Tom Waits and Kronos Quartet
John Mayer
Tegan & Sara
Regina Spektor

Favorite Performances from Previous Years
Neil Young
Billy Idol
The Who
Paul McCartney
Pearl Jam
Jerry Lee Lewis
Tony Bennett
Brian Wilson
Trent Reznor
Thom Yorke

About Bridge School - The Bridge School is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that individuals with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation in their communities through the use of augmentative & alternative means of communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) applications and through the development, implementation and dissemination of innovative life-long educational strategies.

America's Test Kitchen - Preferred Equipment, Season 6

Electic Deep Fryers
Oster Immersion ($79.99)

Non-Stick Skillets (9-10" skillets)
Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Nonstick Hard Anodized Omelet Pan ($30)
Wearever Wearever Hard-Anodized Skillet ($30)
Farberware Millennium Soft Touch Stainless Steel Omelet Pan ($40)
Kitchenaid Gourmet Essentials Nonstick ($40)
Simply Calphalon Stainless Omelet Pan with Nonstick Interior ($50)

Rice Cooker
Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice /Micom - no bottom browning even after 3 hours of warming, cooks rice perfectly

Food Processor
Cuisinart and Kitchenaid food processors

Cake Pans
Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Square Cake Pan ($20)
Calphalon Classic Nonstick Bakeware 8-Inch Square Cake Pan ($16)

Measuring Cups
Pyrex -Glass measuring cups

Hand (Immersion) Blender
KitchenAid's immersion blender ($50)

Americas Test Kitchen - Recipes

Although I have not tried the following recipes yet, I did see the American's test kitchen asian episode (chicken teriyaki and orange chicken) last saturday, 9/2. The recipes looked standard and simple. If you don't want to make your own teriyaki sauce from scratch, the bottled teriyaki sauce that won with the taste testers was Annie Chun's All NaturalTeriyaki Sauce. Second runner up (critized for the strong flavors and abundance of sesame seeds) was Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki Sauce.

Chicken Teriyaki Serves 4 to 6
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
table salt and black pepper
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic minced
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set thighs bottom side up in broiler pan. Broil until skin approximately 5 min each side. let chicken rest 2 to 3 minutes, cut into wide strips.

Teriyaki Glaze - combine soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic in small saucepan; stir together mirin and cornstarch in small bowl until no lumps remain, then stir mirin mixture into saucepan. Bring sauce to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced to 3/4 cup and forms syrupy glaze, about 4 minutes. Cover to keep warm.

Serve immediately. Drizzle teriyaki sauce over chicken and rice.

Orange Chicken Serves 4

Marinade and Sauce
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs , trimmed and cut in 1 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup orange juice , plus 1 1/2 teaspoons grated zest, and 8 strips orange peel (each about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch wide) from 2 oranges
6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3 medium cloves minced garlic
1 piece fresh ginger (about 1 inch), grated (1 tablespoon)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch , plus 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons water (cold)

Coating and Frying Medium
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups peanut oil

FOR THE MARINADE AND SAUCE: Place chicken in 1-gallon zipper-lock bag; set aside. Combine chicken broth, orange juice, grated zest, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and cayenne in large saucepan (with at least 3-quart capacity); whisk until sugar is fully dissolved. Measure out 3/4 cup mixture and pour into bag with chicken; press out as much air as possible and seal bag, making sure that all pieces are coated with marinade. Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes, but no longer.
2. Bring remaining mixture in saucepan to boil over high heat. In small bowl, stir together cornstarch and cold water; whisk cornstarch mixture into sauce. Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, until thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Off heat, stir in orange peel and chiles (sauce should measure 1 1/2 cups); set sauce aside.
3. FOR THE COATING: Place egg whites in pie plate; using fork, beat until frothy. In second pie plate, whisk cornstarch, cayenne, and baking soda until combined. Drain chicken in colander or large mesh strainer; thoroughly pat chicken dry with paper towels. Place half of chicken pieces in egg whites and turn to coat; transfer pieces to cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly. Place dredged chicken pieces on wire rack set over baking sheet; repeat with remaining chicken.
4. TO FRY THE CHICKEN: Heat oil in 11- to 12-inch Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan with at least 3-quart capacity over high heat until oil registers 350 degrees on instant-read or deep-fry thermometer. Carefully place half of chicken in oil one piece at a time; fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning each piece with tongs halfway through cooking. Transfer chicken to large plate lined with paper towels. Return oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining chicken.
5. TO SERVE: Reheat sauce over medium heat until simmering, about 2 minutes. Add chicken and gently toss until evenly coated and heated through. Serve immediately.

Deep Fried Fish (from Fish and Chips Recipe)

3 quarts peanut oil (or canola oil), plus 1/4 additional cup
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
teaspoon paprika
teaspoon ground black pepper
Table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 pounds 1-inch-thick cod fillet (or other thick white fish, such as hake or haddock) cut into eight 3-ounce pieces
1 1/2 cups beer (12 ounces), cold (any beer except dark stouts or ales)

In heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat (medium-high) 3 quarts oil over medium heat to 375 degrees.

1st bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, cayenne, paprika, pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt in large mixing bowl; Separate 3/4 cup of flour mixture to another bowl (2nd bowl). Thoroughly dry fish with paper towels and dredge each piece in flour mixture in 2nd bowl, shaking off excess flour.

Add baking powder to 1st bowl and whisk to combine. Then add 1 1/4 cups beer and stir until mixture is just combined (batter will be lumpy). Add remaining beer as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition, until batter falls from whisk in thin, steady stream.

Using tongs, dip 1 piece fish in batter and let excess run off, shaking gently. Place battered fish back onto baking sheet with flour mixture and turn to coat both sides. Repeat with remaining fish, keeping pieces in single layer on baking sheet.

When oil reaches 375 degrees, increase heat to high and add battered fish to oil with tongs, gently shaking off excess flour. Fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer fish to paper towel to drain. Allow oil to return to 375 degrees.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Downtown Car Wash (Corner of Olympic/Figueroa) - $5.00 in 5 Minutes

When I first purchased my car, I learned a little about detailing. I used to wash my own car twice a week.I purchased all the products and did it myself. I was told not to take it to the car wash, especially a machine car wash, because the brushes and towels would scratch the paint of the car. Supposedly, the rags the car wash employees use to wash and dry your car have dirt embedded in them which scratches the paint on the car. I also heard that when car wash employees dry your car, their belts may scratch your car. Talk about paranoia. I'm not as particular anymore. Anyway, I've been going to the Downtown Car Wash beginning earlier this year. It's so convenient. It's a machine car wash. They've just recently added an automated machine so you can pay while you are in your car; you don't even have to get out of your car anymore. Previously, you had to pay inside and a car wash employee would take your car thru the machine and another employee would dry it. Now, you take your car yourself thru the machine. The brushes are pretty harsh which I never realized until I took my car thru the machine myself. Oh well. After you drive out of the machine, a car wash employee wipes the excess water (not thoroughly though); your car is about 90% dry. They have many car wash other options, including detailing, but I always just get the $5 wash. It's $8 if you want them to vacuum your car for you, but you can use their vacuums for free with the $5 wash.

If you get the $5 wash, your car comes out clean enough (some dirt remains), but this car wash is fast and convenient.

Consumer Reports reported that most liquid scratch removers worked well for fine/light scratches (swirl marks) such as Turtle Wax Scratch and Swirl Remover, Quixx Repair System High Performance Scratch Remover, and Nu Finish Scratch Doctor but only the Quixx High Performance Scratch Remover ($21) worked well for deep scratches.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles

Roscoe's Chx and Waffles (on Gower, near Sunset) - I went here for take-out last night. Hadn't had food from here for months. Ordered the chicken (5 drumsticks) and waffles (less than $10). Friend ordered breast and wing with waffles (less than $10). When I picked it up, it had just been cooked. Drumsticks were so tender and juicy. Can't say that about the breast or wing which were dry. I couldn't wait to eat until I got home, so I ate while driving. Waffles got soggy by the time I got home. Just popped the waffles in the toaster and was crispy again. Waffles are so good here (it's a secret recipe) - has cinnamon flavor. Yesterday's waffles were extra cinnamony - tasted almost like the cereal, Apple Jacks.

Open late:
8:30 am to 12 am M-Th
8 am to 4 am F, S

Washington Mutual Savings Account (Earning 5% Interest)

I opened Washington Mutual (WaMu) checking and savings accounts at the same time in December 2006. WaMu was offering to pay 5% interest on your savings account if you opened both accounts thru the promotional link on the website. I always see this promotion being offered so it may be offered even now. This 5% interest was competitive against other banks at the time. I wasn't too happy with the customer service the few times I went in to the branch/called customer service. I even had to wait 10 business days for a check to clear once. The customer service representative said that the long waiting period was because I was a new customer and once the average daily balance establishes a history, the checks will clear much faster. oh well. It was so frustrating, so I kept my Bank of America checking account. I just transfer money to my WaMu savings account (thru WaMu, BofA charges a fee if you do it thru them) from my BofA account. I only use WaMu for my savings account. I thought the rate would fluctuate but I'm still earning 5% even now.

It takes a while (4-5 business days) for the money to transfer. I put in a transfer from my B of A account to my WaMu account on Monday morning and I didn't see it hit my WaMu account until Friday morning.

Also, you can withdraw the money anytime from an atm machine. WaMu sends you atm cards for both accounts. If you forget to bring one card, you can transfer money from checking to savings (vice versa) at the atm and then withdraw money. I used to have a Capital One savings account. Capital One's interest rate was comparable to WaMu's. However, Capital One did not give you an atm card. To withdraw money, you had to transfer money from your capital one savings account to your bank/brokerage account which takes 3-5 business days.

I like Bank of America because the atm machines are everywhere here in Los Angeles. In Beverly Center. BofA's are also easy to find in San Francisco and Las Vegas (Caesar's Palace shopping area).

My Investment Portfolio

Mostly consist of Exchange-Traded Funds (ETF) and Mutual Funds. Individual stocks I do own were purchased many, many years ago from my previous stockbroker's recommendation. I now don't like to buy individual stocks because of the risk. Tried to diversify-mostly large cap (growth and value) mutual funds and etf's. Portfolio did very well over the years, except recently (end of July and beg of August) when the stock market was very volatile. I was especially disappointed with my hotchkis and wiley mid-cap fund which dipped 9% in July and 4% in August, both months were way below the benchmark, Russell MidCap Value.

Mutual Funds - most are low fees except the Hotchkis and Wiley Fund
Dodge and Cox Balanced (dodbx-closed to new investors)
Dodge and Cox International Fund (dodfx)
Hotchkis and Wiley Mid-Cap Value (hwmix, hwmax, hwmcx, hwmrx-closed to new investors) - has high fees
T Rowe Growth stock (prgfx)
Vanguard Total stock market (vtsmx)
Vanguard index 500 (vfinx)
Vanguard index growth (vigrx)
Fidelity Balanced (fbalx) -
Fidelity Contrafund (fcntx) -
Fidelty Spartan 500 (fsmkx) -

ETF's - generally low fees
ishares S&P500 ETF (IVV)
ishares Dow Jones select dividend (DVY)
ishares S&P mid-cap 400 (IJH)
ishares S&P 500 (IVV)

Individual Stocks
Kraft (from spinoff of Altria)
Ebay-hadn't performaned too well since my purchase
Raytheon (RTN)-hadn't performed too well since my purchase

I have had a Scotrrade account for the last 4 years. Scottrade has a good selection of mutual funds and low commission costs. The only thing that I don't like about Scottrade the low money market interest rate it pays for cash in your account while many other brokerage accounts are paying currently 5% on money market accounts. With scottrade, you have to have $1,000,000 to get 5% interest.

Scottrade Commission:

Online Trading Over Internet (Market and Limit Orders ) $7

Mutual Funds
No-Load, No-Transaction Fee(NTF) Funds - no fee to buy, no fee to sell
No-Load Funds(not in NTF program) - $17 to buy, $17 to sell
Load Funds- No fee to buy, $17 to sell

Interest Rate(Annual Percentage Yield) Scottrade Pays on Cash in your account (as of 9/10/07):
0.01-4999.99: 0.50%
5000-9999.99: 1.25%
10000-24999: 3.00%
25000-99999: 3.50%
100000-249999: 3.75%
250000-499999: 4.00%
500000-999999: 4.50%
1000000 and over: 5:00%

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hawaii Airfare Prices

I had been searching for cheap airfares from LAX to KOA (Kona,HI). I did notice that American Airlines was one of the very few, if any, to offer a non-stop flight from LAX. Most airlines go thru Honolulu. Summer prices were too high. I checked the prices quite frequently until one day at the end of July, I saw the price for a roundtrip airfare drop to only $394 including tax beginning the day after Labor Day. Many seats were still available. Most dates to and from (in September) were all only $394. Get this, LAX to Honolulu was only $294 including taxes in September. Now that's a deal.

Purchased tickets in October '06 from LAX to HNL for only $260 including taxes for travel for Feb 15-20 (Presidents Day weekend). I guess it pays to book early.

The price of $394 from LAX to KOA remained pretty constant on the days I chose since I purchased the tickets back in July. Recently(3 weeks prior to the departure date), the price went up to $630; very few seats were available on both flights to and from Kona. New Update as of 9/17/07 (3 days before travel) - price is now $1,084 including all taxes.

On a side note - I always do price comparisons for airfare/hotel prices using the expedia, travelocity or cheaptickets website. I noticed that prices didn't vary too much. You may get a slight discount for packaged deals. I never book thru these websites because they charge a $10-$15 service charge in addition per person. Once I have the information for hotel/airfare prices from these websites, I go directly to the hotel/airline website.

Trader Joe's Food

I shop at Trader Joe's for certain things (milk, eggs, cheese, niman ranch bacon, canned tomatoes, olive oil, tom's of maine toothpaste). I prefer to shop here because the prices are pretty competitive and it's easy to get in and out. I come at least once a week. Since it has a limited space, tj's discontinues and adds new items quite frequently. They have a lot of tj's brand items copied off of other selling items that sold well. I have to say that the only tj's brand item that I have tried and liked and continue to buy is the tj's white cheddar popcorn. Some of the frozen fruit is ok too. I have to say I have tried many of their items and not liked the taste.

Tj's chicken shu mai in the frozen section are absolutely awful and so is the included sauce. I just purchased 3 packages which I'll probably end up throwing away. I can't believe they're trying to sell that off as food. Gross.
Tj's chicken dumplings are slightly better tasting, but are still pretty awful. No wonder they discontinue a lot of items. Do they expect that these awful tasting foods to sell well? Customers probably try it once or twice and never buy it again.

Some of their different types of breads are questionable too.

Also, what happened to the La Brea Bakery Baguette bread ($1.89)? The last couple of times I went, I did not see the La Brea Bakery baguette. Finally, I saw a sign in front of the bread section saying that tj's had only changed the packaging for La Brea Bakery and Il Fornaio breads. So I purchased a bread that claimed to have been a La Brea Bakery baguette (there was no La Brea Bakery bread label on the packaging, just Trader Joe's). The item even showed "La Brea Bakery" bread on the receipt and was the same price. Could it be? No, it was not. It did not have the same texture or consistency, was more dense and did not taste as good. Was I missing something? I've been now buying it from Costco (2 La Brea bakery breads) for $3.29. Unfortunately, the nearest Costco location is not as convenient for me as Tj's.

Birth Control Causing Death?

Ok, I just received an email from someone. It was regarding a healthy 31 year old female, who died from a blood clot last week. The cause of the blood clot was from the birth control pills that prevent periods on a monthly basis (Lybrel and Seasonique), both are FDA approved. Sad, very sad.

Microwaved Popcorn Linked to Lung Disease?

Apparently, the chemical "diacetyl", a chemical additive used for butter flavoring in microwave popcorn may be linked to lung disease, by inhaling the vapors. Both Orville Redenbacher's and Act II brands are removing this chemical by the end of the year from it's products. The decision was based on the fact that some workers exposed to large quantities of this chemical at some microwaved popcorn plants had developed lung disease.

Take Out Food in Hollywood

Friend and I could not agree on a place to eat, so we ordered takeout from 2 very different places:

I ordered cheap takeout from Noshi Sushi on Beverly /Hobart. Didn't order sushi, just 2 orders of spicy tuna rolls. Each cut into 4 large pieces.Only $3 each, so total was $6. What a steal. Spicy tuna rolls are very good here. The rolls are large and have more spicy tuna than rice. Noshi has all types of rolls - spicy tuna, tuna, salmon, albacore, yellowtail, sweet teriyaki? glazed eel.

Friend ordered takeout from Marouch (middle-eastern food on Santa Monica Blvd, near Normandie). Beef sharwerma plate is enough to feed 2 people and is only $10. Plate comes with beef shawerma (meat quality is ok for the most part, better than some other places), tahini, radish, hummus, rice and 2 pita breads. Other middle-eastern food places I like to eat at in Hollywood:

Al Wazir - Corner of Hollywood and Gower. Sandwiches only $3-5. Food plates are $5-8 and come with choice of meat, hummus, small salad, 2 pita breads, lots of rice. Usually open until midnight.

Zankou Chicken - In east Hollywood on Sunset Blvd, near Normandie. Plates are similar as Al Wazir. Only $5-8.

Papa Cristo's (Greek food, not Middle-Eastern) - Pico and Normandie. Closes early at 8 pm. Next door is C&K Importing, a small market/grocery owned by the same family. Sandwiches $6. Grilled Lamb chops $15. Grilled baby octupus $8. Many items are grilled, not slow cooked like the shawerma items on the middle-eastern restaurant menus. The pita bread served with the plates are thicker and have a different consistency than the pita at the middle-eastern places.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cheapest LAX Parking?

After much research of finding the cheapest LAX Parking, I think I've finally found it. Longer stays at certain parking lots are discounted.

Sample parking fares not including 10% tax (all have free shuttle to/from LAX):
Lax Parking Lot B is $8.00 per 24 hour period
Lax Parking Lot C is $10.00 per 24 hour period
Johnny Park (Next to Lax Parking Lot B) is about $8.00 per 24 hour period.

LAX Self Parking is $4.50-$5.50 per 24 hour period for rooftop parking (7th Level). It's a hassle to drive all the way up to the rooftop with a limited number of spaces and sometimes all the spaces are taken. To park indoors, it is $6.50 per 24 hour period. You can see the current rates on their coupon section of their website. You have to print the coupon to get the rate and show them the coupon before you park. Also, the rates changes every so often whenever you go on the website (you can see the dates the coupon is valid for) , but are still cheaper than other lots.

Easy to find on LaCienaga / 99th street (north of Century Blvd). Shuttle service is sometimes terrible (varies) and it may take up to a half-hour waiting at lax (going to lax is not as bad at approximately 10 to 15 minutes wait; similar to other lax parking lot shuttle services. Close to LAX.

update as of 4/9/08 - $5.95 is cheapest for rooftop parking on coupon, so not as cheap as before but still reasonable.

American Aadvantage Mileage Program is Great

Let's see now. I've accumulated more miles with my Citiaadvantage Platinum card ($85/annually) . I always fly with American Airlines merely to earn more miles. I was thinking about flying to NY-JFk last year via Jetblue (same ticket price as American) and I've heard only positive reviews, but I decided I'd rather earn miles. The Gold aadvantage card is only $50/year. You earn 1 mile per $1 spent usually. Other incentives offered for earning more miles (such as 2 to 5 miles per $1 spent) thru certain online merchants can be found at You have to go thru the merchant link to earn the additional bonus miles-usually takes 6-8 weeks to post, or you won't get the miles. Anyway, I've only used my miles once since I signed up for the credit card 5 years ago. I was able to fly to europe using my miles last year during shoulder season (March 15 thru May 15 and October 15 thru December 31) for only 40,000 miles (60,000 miles for peak season begins May 15 for Europe). Domestic flights within the U.S. usually require 25,000 miles, except Hawaii which requires 35,000. The dates are splotchy and I actually had to work around the availability of seats and dates, but it wasn't too bad. I've already accumulated enough fly to europe again and again. The miles have accumulated so fast. AA recently changed the inactivity period from 36 months to 18 months, meaning if you don't use or accumulate miles within 18 months, your account will no longer be active. I can only say good things right now. So far, so good. Can't wait to use my miles again.If you have the Citiaadvantage card, you can even fly with reduced miles to certain destinations during certain periods (the website is updated quarterly).

Sample mileage required for 4th Quarter 2007 from the website above: U.S. to Frankfurt, Germany is only 32,500 miles if travelling from Oct 15 to Dec 15. The Citiaadvantage program practically gives you 15-20,000 miles initially, depending on the promotion, when you sign up.

When you book a flight on American's website, you'll earn 250 miles round-trip (125 miles one-way) for an economy-class flight or 500 miles round-trip (250 miles one-way) for a first- or business-class flight.

Iphone 8 GB Price Drops Today to $399 (33% price drop)

8GB Iphone drops down to $400 (down from $600) today just after 2 months on the market; 4GB will be discontinued. Imagine that.
Prices effective immediately at both apple and at&t websites. Sucks to be someone who purchased it for $600. Was apple's iphone sales lower than expected?

Can get a price difference refund with receipt if purchased within last 14 days (before August 22).
*Update: Apple will issue a $100 store credit valid at Apple stores or Apple online for those who are not eligible for a rebate/price difference refund. Details on apple website. Request for $100 credit must be submitted by November 30th.

UCLA Hospital Pacificare HMO / Lower Back Pain

I've been an HMO patient under the UCLA hospital for the last 5 years. I had mainly went to see my UCLA doctor for the same re-ocurring lower back pain on my right side. My back pain is from sitting incorrectly for long periods of time, mainly while using my computer at work and home. I have tried everything from seeing a chiropractor to yoga to physical therapy and now accupressure/accupuncture/massage. I have only seen my current doctor once since I was forced to switch back in July; my last doctor recently moved to a different state. My last doctor had given me referrals to a chiropractor and physical therapy. Chiropractor treatments were good temporarily, back pain would resurface 2 days later. I did not like the physical therapist I saw at UCLA hospital. She had a weird personality and was aging and unmarried. I went to her for over 12 sessions. She had once told me that yoga was too difficult for me. I presumed it was because she just wanted me to continue to solely see her.

I eventually took up yoga at a local community college. The yoga instructor was great there and taught the basics well. I always felt lighter and refreshed after a class. It's hard to describe. I took it here for over 2 years. I had scheduling conflicts so I eventually moved on to the Larchmont Yoga Studio. I had tried several of the classes over a month trial period from gentle to intermediate. I never had that refreshing feeling, although I thought the instructors were pretty good and they obviously were trained well and were quite knowledgeable on yoga. I eventually stopped doing yoga. It's always better to take a class so you do the poses properly; learning the basics of hatha yoga is essential before you take any other yoga class. I still do some yoga poses at home every now and then. I had recently met someone who had tried several yoga studios in the area and highly recommended Liberation Yoga on La Brea (near 2nd). I might try this yoga studio eventually.

My current doctor whom I've only seen once since I switched doctors in July had given me a referral to accupressure/accupuncture/massage at the UCLA East-West Hospital in Santa Monica (Santa Monica Blvd and Cloverfield). She said a lot of research has been done to document that it really works. My first session 3 weeks ago included trigger point therapy (injection of lidocaine-numbing of muscles?) and heat-lamp massage. Felt better immediately, no back pain at all. Pain resurfaced 2 days later. My second session, a week later, included trigger point therapy again and accupuncture. Some pain relief but not the same as the first session. Third session was last week which included trigger point therapy, chinese massage and accupuncture. Felt relaxed and pain was gone. Couldn't tell what caused the pain relief. This week, my back pain is still there, but I must say it is not as bad as usual. Looking forward to my next session next week. btw - trigger point injections and accupuncture did not hurt. They also recommend you do accupressure at home.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Must Have Kitchen Appliances

A food processor is a must have for any kitchen. I have had the Cuisinart Food Processor for many years. It saves a lot of time in the kitchen.

Kitchenaid Burr Coffee Grinder-Purchased it the day after Christmas on sale for $129 at Williams Sonoma. Metal/glass. You can set the grind from course to very fine. The very fine setting does not grind the coffee as fine as I would like (powdery texture), but it is good enough to make espresso. I used the espresso grinds to make espresso ice-cream and the espresso grounds had a grainy texture in the ice-cream. I use this machine every other day.

I purchased a Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer a couple of months ago, also from Williams-Sonoma for $299. It was pretty much the same price everywhere, except amazon had it for $269. It looks nice, but I have to say I don't use it as much as I thought I would. I don't bake that much but I imagine it's especially for someone who likes to bake. Hmmm, I have used it to mix meatloaf as well as the inside part of a wontons. The mixer made these tasks so much easier. Other than that, I haven't really used it. I did purchase the juicer attachment and the ice cream maker attachment. Juicer attachment was annoying since the juice kept on dripping down my arm. I made a great batch of ice cream with the attachment, but quite honestly, making ice cream is a whole process. You have to freeze the ice cream bowl 24 hours prior, make the ice cream from milk/cream, eggs and sugar a couple of hours before (slowly cooked under low heat), then refrigerate, then filter. Once all that is done, you can finally put the mixure in the ice cream bowl attachment. I've only made ice cream once since the purchase. This is the reason I don't make bread, only quickbreads. Too many steps.

Bialetti Cappucino Maker - Purchased from Williams-Sonoma also for $89. Also sold at Bed, Bath and Beyond and Crate and Barrel and Sur La Table all for the same price (different colors are offered). Make great cappucino at home on the stove (medium heat). It did leak a bit at first, but I finally discovered a way to consistently screw the top and bottom together so it won't leak. Also, a bit hard to clean. The top part where the cappucino is finished gets a slimey feeling from the milk, so you have to clean right away with a sponge. If you wait to long to clean the slimey parts, it becomes caked on from layers and layers and then you have to scrape it off with a metal object. Never use soap-it will slightly alter your cappucino flavor. If you don't mind the cleaning, this thing makes great cappucino. It also makes latte (you just add more water, but use the same amount of milk and espresso grounds) and don't press the button down which makes the foam of the capucinno. I've used at least once everyday since I purchased it, except recently. The last week or so, I've been making iced coffee with my espresso maker below.

Stovetop espresso maker - I purchased my 3-cup from Cost Plus for $12 last year. I've seen it at Ross for $5. This thing is so cheap and totally worth it. I had just learned about the stovetop espresso maker when I went to Italy in April 2006. I wish I had learned about it before. This think is so easy to maintain. Easy to make espresso, easy to clean. Never use soap. I pour the espresso over ice and cream and sugar. Yum. Tastes so good.

Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker NS-KCC05 (3 Cup) - Best rice cooker I've ever owned-proudly states "made in japan" on front. $129 (free shipping, no tax in ca) on amazon. I purchased mine brand new thru amazon 3 years ago for $59. I am convinced amazon had a pricing error since every other place had the same rice cooker listed fro $119. I should have purchased more. Its claims of "making perfect rice every time" are correct, as long as you follow the directions. Very easy measuring system, takes only seconds prepare rice. Light, easy to put away, also has retractable cord.

Kitchen Academy Food Series Cooking Classes

I love to cook. I've taken a recreational cooking series (12 cooking classes each with a different theme: salads, meats, baking, etc) at the Kitchen Academy in the Arclight complex about 1.5 years ago. It was about $60-75 per class; series classes had a small discount. I enjoyed it for the most part and learned a lot of new skills, such as making my own pasta from scratch which was a lot easier than I thought. I still use some of the recipes quite often (caesar salad, cous cous, jerk chicken, pasta with tomato and mustard seeds). I would have never even attempted to make jerk chicken on my own. It's pretty easy if you have a food processor. Some of my favorite (also simple) recipes that I got from the cooking class below:

Ultimate Caesar Salad Dressing

3 egg yolks
3 anchovies or past
1 garlic clove
2 T parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp tabasco
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 T lemon juice
4 oz canola oil

Whisk (don't use a food processor - whenever I used mine for this recipe, the dressing emulsified too much and tasted like mayonnaise) egg yolks and anchovies first, then add next 8 ingredients, then add canola oil. So easy. I've adjusted this recipe slightly by adding 1 less egg yolk and a 1/2 t of sugar. Make croutons easily (I use the La Brea Bakery Baguette bread-I've tried other brands, but it doesn't taste as good). Pour generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil on bread, bake at 300 degrees for half hour or until hard. I also use Reese's anchovy paste, which I purchase from Bay Cities Deli/Market in Santa Monica on Lincoln.

Grilled Jerk Chicken - simple, tasty recipe
1/2 small white onion
1/2 cup green onion (green only) - about 3 stalks
1 medium habanero chile or chile of choice
1 T fresh thyme
1 T Kosher salt
1 T Ground black pepper
1 T Sugar
1 T Ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 T Vegetable Oil
1 T Cider Vinegar
10 boneless chicken thighs

Place all ingredients (except chicken) in food processor and process until smooth-this is the marinade. Marinade the chicken for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 24 hours.

I use my oven broiler and grill each side for about 5 minutes. Can use chicken breast, but chicken thighs are so much more tastier and flavorful. Kind of healthy (not much oil used except for the fat/oil in the chicken which can easily be removed).

1 1/2 cups of instant couscous. Follow instructions on couscous packaging (more flavor is chicken stock is substituted for water). Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside
1/4 cup vegetable/canola oil
1 large onion-small dice
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 T curry powder
1 large carrot-small dice
1 celery stalk - small dice
1 small jicama -small dice
1 large zucchini-small dice
1/4 cup dried currants (dried cranberries may be used)
1/2 cup cashew (walnuts may be used) - toasted and chopped

Over high heat (using non stick saute pan), heat oil, then add onions until lightly brown, about 3 minutes. Add curry powder and garlic, cook additional 15 seconds.
Add carrot, celery and jicama, continue to cook until tender, not soft, about 5 minutes.
Add zucchini, about 1 minute. Add currants and cashews. Add cooked couscous and toss well. Add salt and pepper as necessary.

Pasta with Mustard Seed/Tomato Sauce (made with fresh pasta but also tastes good with dried pasta)
1/4-1/2 pound of pasta. Follow instuctions on dried spaghetti/linguine packaging.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion-small dice
1 T Mustard Seeds
3 cloves garlic minced
1 T Tomato Paste
4 large tomatoes - peeled seeded and cut into small dice
1/2 stock or water
kosher salt and pepper

Over high heat, heat olive oil, then add onions and cook until translucent (3 minutes). Add mustard seeds and garlic, cook another minute.
Add tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Add stock/water. Brink mixture to boil and cook for 5- 10 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked pasta to sauce and toss to combine.

Tasty Mac and Cheese (not from Kitchen Academy) Serves 6

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
3 good bread, cut into small pieces
2 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg
Sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, (about 4 ounces)
1/2 pound elbow macaroni

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.
While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cheddar cheese, and Gruyere cheese; set cheese sauce aside.
Cook macaroni 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions so macaroni is slightly underdone. Stir macaroni into the cheese sauce.
Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.

Old Spaghetti Factory - Closed in Hollywood

Who knew Old Spaghetti factory on Sunset in Hollywood would ever close? So sad, so sad. I’d come here as a kid and would get a whole children’s meal for $3 in the 80’s. It didn’t have the best food, but I always felt the atmosphere to be welcoming. It had a fancy décor with fancy chandeliers, but was unpretentious. It was a fun place. The last time I came here was some time last year. The pasta dishes were ($7-$10) and included a salad, sourdough bread and vanilla/spumoni ice cream. If I’d only known it would close on June 19 07, I would have come here one last time. In retrospect, I should have supported it more. It always seemed short staffed and half of the restaurant was usually never occupied. Prices had increased gradually over the years, however, it was still considered very cheap to eat here. Drinks used to be included in the meal, but were no longer included in the later years. Obviously, it was a cry for help. :(

Closest location to hollywood is now in Duarte (take 210 E, about 30 minute drive from downtown los angeles); it's visible from the 210 freeway

1431 Buena Vista
Duarte, CA 91010
Phone :626.358.2115

5:00pm-10:00pm M-Th
5:00pm-10:30pm F
11:30am-10:30pm, Sat
11:30am-9:30pm, Sun

What happened to Food Network?

I'm someone who loves to cook. I used to watch food channel every chance I got when I had time to watch tv. Years ago, I would come home around 4 pm and watch the show "Cooking Live" with Sara Moulton (Editor of Gourmet Magazine). It was a 1 hour show. She would cook while taking questions on the air from typical viewers. It was truly educational. I was a true addict. I always wanted to try a new restaurant and I would try cooking new recipes constantly, always thinking about food and what to cook next. I must say cooking is an expensive hobby. Costs of ingredients always add up. Tons of food was wasted (trial and error) as well as making too much. In addition, I had gained a few pounds.
It seems as though there are all these new and old "traveling" food shows. Food network even had a reality show - winner might have got his/her own cooking show. The only food show, that was added in the last couple of years, I truly enjoy watching now is the host of Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. Alot of her recipes look like everyday food, not too complicated recipes. Sometimes Good Eats too, with Alton Brown. I've looked up his recipe version of "mac and cheese" on and I wasn't too happy with his version of it, so I've watched him less ever since; he's less credible to me now. Rachel Ray of 30 minute meals is ok too.

I don't think about food as much. If I do cook, it is usually something simple that I've already made before. I'll go to the same restaurants again and again. I have 1-2 restaurants for each type of food (sushi/japanese, mexican, greek, steak, etc) that I usually go to whenever I'm in the mood. I don't try new recipes or new restaurants as much as before.

No Reservations - The Movie

So I was in the mood for a good-feeling, romantic comedy. Decided on "No Reservations" starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart. It was more sad, than funny. I had no idea that this movie was going to be a downer based on the marketing/advertising and trailers. All I thought after 20 minutes into the movie was "when is the movie going to be over?" Boring story, perhaps more editing should have been done to shorten the film.