Sunday, July 20, 2008

Linen's and Things - Store Closing Sale

Linen's and Things filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy a couple of months ago and is closing most of their stores. i had gone to the one in west l.a. (olympic and sawtelle) when they did the first mark down on the entire store (probably approx. 2 months ago), but it was only 10% off. i actually go to sawtelle to eat a lot and was there again recently when i noticed a guy holding a sign noting that the whole store was now 30-50% off. a good selection was still available. the markdown was mostly 30% off (kitchen electrics was what i mostly was interested in), rather than 50%. don't even think about purchasing an iron at this store - they were all gone except for the rowenta iron/steamer combo ($169). i did not purchase anything since the 30% off did not seem like much me (i still have a 20% off bed, bath and beyond coupon for any one item) and everything is final sale. also, lnt does not except any coupons.

The Dark Night Movie

i saw the 'dark night' opening day at the vista theatre in los feliz. i couldn't wait to see it only because i like christian bale a lot, especially from the first batman which i had not seen since its release. i barely got in after waiting in a line for 20 minutes and had the worst seat in the movie theatre in the front row right side. the story and special effects were good, but i did not like the fact that christian bale had this weird fake voice when he converted from bruce wayne to batman - he sounded like he was mumbling to me and i couldn't tell if it was because of the seats we were sitting in or if it was intentionally supposed to be like that. i had a hard time understanding what little lines he did have in the movie. i certainly did not remember this effect from the first batman. also, some scenes in the movie were not so smooth and cut over too fast to the next scene in which the audience was supposed to pick up what happened. overall, i was disappointed in the movie, especially since it had been hyped up so much. i do have to say that heath ledgers performance was very good. it was also very long, 2.5 hours. geez.

i am so glad that katie holmes was replaced by maggie gyllenhaal. katie holmes was the only part in the first batman movie that was terrible. maggie gyllenhaal actually looked similar to katie holmes in some scenes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pay more to park in City of Los Angeles ? - According to KTLA

LA city council voted tuesday to increase parking meter rates and extend hours of operations (previously meters were in operation until 6 pm; new ordinance will be until 8 pm)

hourly rates
up to $1.oo/hour
up to $4.00/hour for high usage areas

ordinances will be effective late august and city wide implementation will take about 90 days.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Easy Bread and Butter Pickle Recipe (sweet pickles)

I think i've finally found a recipe good enough to substitute joan's pickles, through trial and error. it tastes slightly different but very good and it's so easy to make. i don't think i need to buy joan's pickles again because these pickles will be just as good for my macaroni, potato and tuna salads. i think i just have to find something to keep the pickles crisp.

bread and butter pickle recipe
6 sliced pickling cucumbers sliced thin
1 white onion sliced thin
2 tbsp of kosher salt
Fill large bowl with water to top of bowl. Add salt, cucumbers and onions. Refrigerate overnight.

Drain and rinse cucumbers and onions.
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
2 tsp dill (i used mccormick's 'it's a dilly' spice)
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp celery seeds

heat above ingredients above together and bring to a simmer. pour sauce over cucumbers and onions. then refrigerate. i waited 2 days before i tasted the cucumbers. obviously the longer you wait, the more flavor the cucumbers absorb.

i think this process of pouring the sauce while it's hot over the cucumbers slightly cooked the cucumbers and wilted them, so i'm going to wait until the sauce cools before i pour the sauce over the cucumbers the next time i make this recipe.

i have read that young grape leaves or pickle crisp (calcium chloride) keep the pickles crunchy, but i have no idea where to buy these items.

i know these pickles will last more than 1 week but i'm going to see if it last longer.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Gap Sale and Incredible Hulk - The Movie

Saw Incredible Hulk yesterday at the grove. it was an entertaining movie. lou ferrigno had a small cameo as a security guard in the movie. iron man and hulk together in one movie in the next sequel?

as i left the movie theatre, i could not help notice other shoppers holding large shopping bags from 'the gap' store. decided to investigate - apparently, a very large summer sale was underway. the whole store was practically on sale (except for a few new arrivals) with an additional 25% off already reduced clearance prices. unfortunately, the store was a mess by the time the movie let out but i couldn't help myself from looking for some good deals. i got a light purple scoop neck tshirt for $3.74 (orig $16.50, pleated white wrap around skirt for $15.73 (orig $49.50), purple lightweight sweater for $12.74 (orig $44.50) and a pleated tank shirt for $8.23 (orig $44.40) prices including the additional 25% off. over 75% off from original prices.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Devendra Banhart at Hollywood Bowl

Saw Devendra Banhart, who opened for Gilberto Gil, yesterday at the Hollywood Bowl. First time at the bowl since the remodel of the shell. i really don't enjoy watching a concert there because of the uphill walk to the bowl. of course, i had to walk even more of an uphill since i sneaked in the residential area and park there. i was sweaty and tired by the time i got to my seat. it wasn't even that hot of a day. i'm glad i wasn't carrying food or wine. i like the prepared food at pinot (marketplace) cafe, but it can be pricey. i purchased 2 small bottles of beers for $6 each. i sat in the bench section (section F) behind the box section. it was hard to see anything from there so i just watched the 2 large screens near our seats. binoculars are necessary at the bowl if you are sitting in any bench seating and don't want to watch the large side screens.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Nintendo Wii Fit Refunded

i only used the wii fit once to try it out and never used it again. for me, it was one of those products that would probably just end up collecting dust somewhere in your home. i put all parts back in the packaging the same way it came in as best i could. since i had purchased my wii fit at target, i had assumed the return policy was the same as everything else (90 days). not so. the target employees' gave me a hard time since it was considered an electronic item. it was practically unreturnable since i had used it once (how else was i suppose to know if i liked it or not?) the large sign the employee pointed to stated "some items cannot be returned if opened...". some items? of course, the wii fit was not explicitly stated on their return policy. the employee said that they would not be able to resell it (which i did not believe since it was in practically new condition and a very in demand product). the employee called the manager who he said would be able to make the final decision. a manager came and asked the employee if all parts were inside and if so, to give me a refund. thank goodness. i really didn't see them having a problem reselling it. whew!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

EBay to Strengthen PayPal’s Anti-Fraud Provisions - NY Times article

hmmmm... very interesting. especially after what happened to me earlier this week with paypal. ebay/paypal supposedly offers buyers coverage currently but apparently it does not apply to me since paypal cannot recover funds from the seller account. i certainly did not get the item i paid for and it has been nearly 4 weeks since the auction ended, but apparently there's nothing i nor paypal can do about it since the seller withdrew all her funds before the dispute ended.

NY Times article

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- EBay Inc. hopes to attract more online traders by expanding the protections available to people who use its PayPal payment service for transactions on eBay's Internet marketplaces.

EBay executives said Thursday at the company's annual user conference that buyers who pay for items with PayPal will be eligible for full refunds, with no cap, if a seller fails to deliver an item as promised. Previously a buyer's coverage was capped at $200, or $2,000 if the item's seller enjoyed a particularly good reputation on eBay.

EBay sellers who accept PayPal as a payment method -- as nearly all of them do -- will also get unlimited protection against a charge being reversed. Such reversals can happen if a buyer claims not to get an item, or if a payment is fraudulently made. Previously sellers' coverage had an annual limit of $5,000, and applied only for shipments to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

PayPal spokeswoman Sara Gorman said the changes, due to take effect this fall, reflect the service's increasing confidence in its ability to spot and block many fraudulent transactions before they occur.

The steps come as eBay is trying several measures aimed at making its auctions and fixed-price listings easier and safer to use. Recently eBay revamped its feedback mechanisms and introduced new incentives for frequent sellers.

However, an earlier attempt to drive use of PayPal has encountered friction. The company recently postponed plans to require PayPal on all transactions in Australia after that nation's antitrust regulator raised objections.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ebay / Paypal Dispute System Sucks

so i bid on a pair of new jeans which ended on memorial day, 5/26 for $57 ($51 plus $6 shipping). on the auction description, the seller stated that the item would be mailed via priority mail which takes 2-3 days. paid via paypal immediately after auction ended. paypal withdrew the money from my bank account. i didn't hear from the seller after 3 emails to her in over a week and assumed she might have sent the item already. i did not receive the item the following week either and no response from her, so my only option was to file a dispute with paypal. ebay/paypal make you wait 10 days to file a dispute and then you have to wait another 10 days for them to resolve the issue after they notify the seller to respond. what a drag. i just wanted my money back. she finally contacted me on 6/13 (almost 3 weeks later) stating that she sent the item on 5/30 and she hadn't had time to respond because she was busy with school. it was a sorry, unbelievable excuse. whatever. i told her i would wait one more week and she agreed that she would give me a refund if i didn't receive the item by then. she told me that paypal's dispute system only allows her, the seller to either refund the money or submit tracking info, which she did not have, and asked me to cancel the dispute because they were going to automatically withdraw money out of her account and refund it to me. she didn't want to refund the money because she claims she sent them and i would be receiving it any day now. i told her i was not going to cancel the claim because i wanted to protect myself and if money was withdrawn from her account, i would mail her a check if i ever did receive the jeans. apparently, she withdrew all her money from the account before the paypal dispute ended so paypal would not be able to withdraw money. here is paypal's email response i got:
After careful review, we have concluded our investigation of the Buyer
Complaint described below.

We have decided in your favor, however, we were unable to recover any funds
from the seller's account. As stated in the PayPal User Agreement, recovery
of funds associated with a Buyer Complaint cannot be guaranteed.

Please know that we will make our best effort to recover the funds in
question if they become available in the seller's account in the future and
will take appropriate action against the seller. Such action may include
issuing a warning, a temporary restriction, or terminating the account.
Keep in mind that PayPal uses a number of factors to determine when to take
action, including member complaints. Due to privacy laws, we cannot discuss
the details of any action taken. We hope you understand our policy and that
it assures you that you are safe using PayPal.
So basically, i may never get my money back. thank goodness this wasn't a more expensive item. lesson learned here: always pay with your credit card and let paypal charge your credit card instead of withdraw from your bank account.
at least you have some protection with your credit card. i also don't think paypal's punishment of issuing a warning, temporary restriction, or terminating the account is harsh enough.

Seoul Garden on Olympic (2 blocks east of Alvarado on Bonnie Brae)

korean shabu shabu (genghis khan). i love this place. it's $23.99 per person for the standard shabu shabu (meat). mostly korean clientele and the servers speak very little english, but enough to serve someone who doesn't speak korean. they give tons of thin sliced (very marbled) meat with separate plate of a mound of vegetables. one pot is shared among the entire table. a small salad and traditional korean side dishes are served as well (kimchee, etc). you cook the meat with the accompanying vegetables in the pot. after you are done eating the meat and vegetables, a server comes by with a small side of noodles and adds it to your remaining broth. when you are done eating the noodles, rice is then added to the remaining broth along with sesame oil and seaweed flakes. a refreshing sweet rice tea is served at the end as well. so yummy. i got there around 6 pm and we were seated right away, but at the end of our meal, we were rushed out and there was a wait.

free valet parking behind the restaurant (enter on bonnie brae). very easy to miss.

1833 w. olympic blvd. (at bonnie brae)
los angeles, ca 90006

Hollywood and Highland

Does anyone actually go here to shop? i can only imagine going shopping there or watching a movie if i lived near by or wanted to take out of town guests. yesterday, i went to exchange a $20 item at The Gap for a different size that i had put on hold. crowded as usual and heavy traffic and it was a tuesday night. i can only imagine what a nightmare it is on the weekend. i was too cheap to park inside ($2 for 4 hours) since i only wanted to run in and exchange the item and it was only $20. i drove around looking for parking and finally found one after 20 minutes 5 blocks away (i probably ended up wasting more money in terms of gas). although the area is supposedly getting better in terms of higher end stores moving into the area, i find the area still in need of much improvement. i walked about 5 blocks and there was either a homeless person on every block either asking for change or talking to himself out loud. i did not feel safe, even with the presence of cops driving by. i was constantly watching behind me to see if anyone was going to attack me from behind. i'm not going to be cheap about parking next time.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fridgidaire Refrigerator Warranty

Last year, i had gotten a new fridgidaire fridge on 6/13/07 (18 cu. ft, energy star). i did notice that my dwp electric bill went down about $20-30 per 2 month cycle since then. bottom fridge recently would not close right and fridge started to make slight noises. luckily for me, my fridge was still under a 1 year warranty. i called fridgidaire and they gave me the telephone numbers of 3 fridge repair companies that they have contracts with near my area to set up an appt. a repairman came out yesterday from Check Appliances. this repair guy knew his stuff. he said the irregular noise i was hearing was from the doors not being completely sealed. apparently, outside air was getting inside causing more frost/ice particles to build up in the freezer, so the fan has to work extra hard. ice particles also get stuck inside the fan/timer causing the noise. when the ice breaks off of the fan, the fridge is quiet again. the bottom fridge door was not closing properly because it was not screwed on properly. thus, gravity was pulling it forward. he re-adjusted the door as well. all is well again. the 'fan' i refer to is not the correct fridge terminology, but you get the picture. he says those go out all the time and i recall having that same problem with my prior fridge. the sound was louder and for longer periods of time, but i overlooked it.

he advised me to get the extended warranty for $39/year. he said house calls for his company are $150 minimum per visit.

update 7/11/08. just purchased an extended warranty over the phone at 800-374-4432. i was informed that i would be able to purchase another extended warranty before the current one runs out.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

24 Hour Fitness - Yoga Classes

i've now tried almost every yoga class (except 2 instructors) at the 24 hour fitness in hollywood in a 1 month period.

i prefer some instructors more so than others mostly based on clear instruction and description of poses. a lot depends on the intensity also. sometimes i'm not in the mood for intense yoga workout which most of the classes i tried were. i did try debbie's class last saturday which i enjoyed - she was a good instructor and i liked her because she did all the poses with the class. since i've only tried 1 of her classes, i don't know if all her classes less intense than other classes i've tried there so far.
i definitely liked trevor's class (his class is on friday at 6 pm and sunday at noon). i've tried not to miss it since i started doing yoga again. i also thought melanie was good too (6 am on monday and wednesday) but it's difficult for me to get up that early to make it to her classes plus i'm so sore right after trevor's sunday class which makes it even more difficult for me to go to her monday 6 am class. The classes are only 1 hour, so i'm in and out. i only wished i started using my 24 hour fitness membership years ago.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sex and The City - The Movie

Went to see Sex and the City on saturday. first checked online to see if i could purchase tix online at the grove or arclight around 3 pm. apparently, all shows were sold out until midnight. luckily for me, los feliz 3 (has updated seats and much more leg room than before, but only about 100 seats) was showing it at 5:45 pm and 8 pm. although buying tix online is so convenient, i'm glad you can't buy tix online for these types of instances. got there around 5:15 pm and only 5 people waiting and they let us in immediately. it was sold out by the time the movie started. it was a feel good movie and i definitely enjoyed it. It was just one really long episode.

Woo Lae Oak on La Cienaga

Yesterday I went to woo lae oak for dinner having not been there in over a year. i got there at 5:50 pm. they have a new happy hour from 4-6 pm every day, so i got there right in time to try it out. $3 small beers (ob, hite). $6 specialty martini (lychee-tini, sake, grape-tini). $5 red or white wine. $5 appetizers (tempura, spinach leaf wrapped around real crab meat (their specialty according to the waiter), baby back ribs, bbq skewers, jap chae (glass noodles), chicken wings, mandu (wontons).

i had the lychee-tini (very tasty and sweet). i also decided to order the shrimp mandu (wontons), tempura, spinach wrapped around crab meat, chicken wings. they were out of the bbq baby back ribs unfortunately. portions were small except for the shrimp/vegetable tempura (only 2 chicken wings of white meat part, 3 spinach/crap meat pieces about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch diameter, 4 small wonton pieces). i glanced at the real menu and notice the spinach-crabmeat crepes were normally $14 which probably is served as a larger portion. i felt like it was still a good deal regardless of the small portions since i was able to try a variety of foods. i will definitely go there again.

i also ordered the kalbi ($28) and bulgogi ($24) - bbq beef comes with unlimited rice, small salad, kim chee, thin slices of daikon and broccoli/sprouts lightly seasoned. i guess i felt like splurging just because i hadn't been there in so long.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

saw indiana jones at the grove last thursday. i was never a big fan of the original indiana jones, raiders of the lost ark, so i didn't really have any expectations of this movie. some parts were unbelieveable and some lines were really corny, but i enjoyed this movie. it didn't drag on like some other 2 hour long movies.

Eureka The Boss Canister Vacuum - Model 3684D (Red)

My last dirt devil upright vacuum blew up last week, so i purchased the Eureka The Boss Canister Vacuum - Model 3684D (with Hepa Filter and 12 amps) at Bed Bath and Beyond for $80 (Originally $99.99 but I had a 20% off coupon). i didn't do too much research on vacuums since i needed one right away but i knew i wanted an affordable vacuum that could reach into small spaces. also, this was the only canister vacuum available at bed bath and beyond in hollywood.

this vacuum was just what i was looking for and is so much better than my upright. it fits into the smalles spaces and i was even able to vacuum under the bed. i actually had fun vacuuming and didn't think of it so much as a chore. The vacuum included a hepa filter(HF8 or 60666 model number) which should be replaced every 6 months but i couldn't find them at bed bath and beyond. The vacuum also included 1 extra replacement dust bag (2 bags total) which should be replaced every 1-2 months.

i probably will vacuum more often now.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ninendo Wii and Wii Fit

After reading about the Wii fit due to come out this wednesday, i decided to buy the nintendo wii ($250). the nintendo wii comes with a sports game (bowling, tennis, baseball, golf). i tried the bowling and tennis games yesterday. both games were fun and the tennis was more of a workout than bowling, but it's not a replacement for real exercise.

worried that wii fit would be sold out by the time i got off of work on the day it came out on 5/21, i drove to target at 8:00 am to purchase one. yes, i wanted one that bad.

So far, i've spent more money than i ever imagined ($427 including tax) and i still feel like i need more accessories. i haven't even purchased any real wii games yet either.

wii $250 (target)
Wii fit $90 (target)
wii play with extra remote $40 (costco - shooting gallery, Mii-matching game, billiards, air hockey, tank battles, table tennis rally, Mii poses and a cow-riding race.
wii 2 gb sd card $15 (circuit city)
still need classic controller ($34 for 2 pack at costco) since i plan to download classic games like donkey kong using wii points on wii shop. i also want another nunchuck.

Update 6/11 - Wii Fit was a good idea, but i probably will be returning mine. I guess i just got into the hype. i used it only once the first day i got it, almost a month ago. i thought i would especially be using it for yoga, but i'd rather watch a yoga dvd, honestly. i don't like the extra step you have to do your moves on and whenever you're done with a pose, you have to use the large remote control to go back to the main menu.

Red Light Cameras - LA Times

80% Red Light Camera Tickets are from rolling right turns- Fine is $159
Fine for running an actual red light is $381.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

24 Hour Fitness - Hollywood - Yoga Stretch Class

So after many years of having a 24 hour fitness gym membership and not using it, i decided to finally use it yesterday. i had originally signed up for a 3 year membership ($750 for 3 years and $50 every year after) many years ago, when the hollywood 24 hour fitness first opened, thinking i would transition into the hollywood 24 hour fitness, from gold's gym in eventually. i never did. i'm one of those people who end up wasting money on gym memberships thinking i'm going to go but never do. i only used the membership once or twice before when the gym first opened (parking was $1 for 3 hours, now it is $1.50 for 2 hours). since then, i stopped going to both gold's gym and 24 hour fitness altogether. i took up yoga instead elsewhere for a couple of years but i eventually stopped doing yoga altogether too.

yesterday, i decided to take the yoga stretch class at 24 hour fitness. having not done yoga in a while, i chose to do the yoga stretch class which i thought would be gentle enough to get me transitioned into doing yoga again. not so. it started off basic enough with the sun salutation but the class became very intense, very quickly. They should change the name from 'yoga stretch' to just 'yoga'.

i might try a couple of other yoga classes at the 24 hour fitness hollywood since it doesn't cost me anything now except $1.50 for parking (2 hours).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Click It or Ticket from LAPL Blog - 5/12 thru 6/1

The Los Angeles Police Department will be aggressively enforcing the state’s occupant protection laws as part of California’s 2008 Click It or Ticket mobilization, taking place May 12-June 1, 2008.

California has a primary seat belt law which requires that every passenger in the car, including the driver, is required to wear a seat belt at all times. If stopped and found to be in violation, law enforcement will issue citations without warning. Tickets for first seat belt violations range from $80 to $91 for adults and $330 to $401 for children under age 16, depending on the county.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lunch at McDonald's - Calories, fat

i don't eat at mcdonalds too often but decided to have lunch there one day. i ordered mcdonald's chicken selects premium breast strips which don't seem too greasy but are deep fried (5 pieces) and a medium iced coffee (which is probably equivalent to starbuck's large coffee-small sized iced coffee was not an option). mcdonald's has nutrition facts listed on their website so i decided to see what my caloric intake was just for lunch. much to my surprise, the calories for the 5 piece chicken strips were a lot more that i thought at 670 calories (52% calories from fat, 6 g saturated fat). the strips aren't even that big at 134 calories each? my goodness. plus i had 2 southwestern chipoltle bbq sauces at 70 calories (0% calories from fat, 13 grams of sugar) each. the medium regular iced coffee was 200 calories (35% calories from fat, 30 grams of sugar).

total calories i consumed for lunch that day was 1,010. i wasn't even full. i had an urge to go get the chicken strips again yesterday but decided not to. maybe it would be a good idea to post nutrition facts on the menu afterall. portion control and educating yourself is obviously not enough since 5 dinky strips were loaded with so much more calories than i ever imagined.

Iron Man Movie

Saw Iron Man at AMC Century City on Saturday evening. $11.50 adult/ $10.50 student. Very entertaining movie- over 2 hours but time seemed to fly by. side note - gwyneth paltrow looked really uncomfortable in those 6 inch heels.

Monday, May 5, 2008

3rd Street Promenade Shopping

for some reason, i just stopped shopping on 3rd street promenade. perhaps because i can find many of the chain stores on the promenade closer to me (i.e. grove and beverly center). or maybe because of all the street performers (some good, some annoying and obnoxious). i went with a friend here over the weekend to check out the new 2.5 story forever 21, one of the newer additions to the promenade. couldn't find a single thing to buy in forever 21. i am a standard size medium and much of the forever 21 clothes are too small. i can sometimes fit into a large but a medium size is way too tight. the store was much too big to navigate through with every kind of color or style imaginable all over the place, cheaply made. the music was blasting (so you probably end up buying more), but all i wanted to do was get out of there. also, all the clothes were tightly on the rack together so it was even hard to see what the clothing looked like unless you pulled it out of the rack. so annoying.

other stores i stopped by were urban outfitters, anthropologie, gap, old navy, jcrew, banana republic. i didn't buy anything at the other stores either. i'd probably just go back if i had an out of town visitor who likes to shop visit. side note - there are 'no smoking' signs officially posted by the city on the promenade.

Mimi's Diva Dryer Aquis Microfiber Hair Towel / Hair Turban

I stopped by Nordstrom's Rack in the Howard Huges Center (Westchester/Marina Del Rey area) yesterday. unfortunately i could not find any clothing or shoes to buy, but i am happy to say i found the aquis microfiber hair towel and hair turban for $6 each (normally about $12). i had heard good things about this towel but i never really went out of my way to buy it since it really is not a necessity. this towel is absolutely the best. it is very soft, thin, light (probably good for traveling)and dries quickly. the turban actually stays on your head unlike a towel. also, rather than just moving water from one place to another place like what a standard towel does, it is actually super absorbant (acts like a sponge). only wish i had purchased this earlier. i might just order one for every day of the week.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Harold and Kumar - Escape from Guantanamo Bay Movie

i had enjoyed the first harold and kumar movie. unfortunately, the sequel was awful. not very funny. tried to be funny by poking jokes at a lot of different ethnicities based on stereotypes.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some of Nancy Silverton's brand recommendations from 'A twist of the wrist"

if you can find them....

bacon - niman ranch bacon or neuske's bacon
basil pesto - rustichella d'abruzzo, la bella angiolina, pesto ligure
beets- jarred beets instead of canned, aunt nellie's whole ruby red beets
black olives-nicoise, saracen, taggiasche, all pitted
breadcrumbs- artesian baked breadcrumbs by heaven scent, sold at whole foods
broth-trader joes' free range chicken broth
feta- french brand, valbreso and bulgarian feta
greek yogurt-fage total at trader joe's
green chile salsa-mark miller's green chile salsa, rick bayless's tomatillo salsa, whole foods roasted green chile salsa
green olives- lucques and picholine
mayonnaise - bestfoods (hellmans is the same on the east coast
old bay seasoning- for steamed and boiled seafood dishes
paprika - pimenton de la vera from spain
pasta sauce-rustichella d'abruzzo
red pepper paste - trader joes red pepper spread, rustichella d'abruzzo red pepper pesto, zergut hot or mild, crema di peperoni from ag ferrari
ricotta - giola in los angeles, di palos cow's milk ricotta in new york
san marzano tomatoes
soup - trader joe's boxed soup (corn, butternut squash, roasted red pepper and tomato)

Recipes - Nancy Silverton Recipe from her book "A Twist of the Wrist"

Chipotle Mayonnaise1 cup mayo
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 tsp or more of pureed canned chipotle
1 tsp kosher salt

mix all ingredients together.

Creamy Avocado Dressing
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 large hass avocado
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 small garlic cloves
2 small shallots
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

puree 1st 7 ingredients. add canola oil and olive oil after.

1 cup couscous
3 tsp kosher salt
1 cup boiling water
2 small cucumbers, chopped and seeds removed
1 cup parsley leaves chopped finely
1/4 cup mint leaves
1 large garlic clove minced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
32 small sweet tomatoes cut in half or 16 cherry tomatoes quartered

pour boiling water over couscous and kosher salt in mixing bowl. seal bowl with plastic wrap for 5 minutes. break up couscous with fingers. combine remaining ingredients into couscous

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What Does The Average Californian Earn Per Year? - Kcal News

LOS ANGELES What does the average Californian earn? Probably not enough to live well in California.
Tax returns filed before this year's recession began showed that the average Californian earned $35,390 a year, the California Franchise Tax Board reported Saturday.
Average home prices in the region, of course, are many times that -- in the $600,000 range.
The average married couple reported a joint income of $66,810 per year in 2006, the agency said.
Statistics released by the state this weekend show California taxpayers filed 15.1 million state income tax returns in 2006, and reported some $1.2 trillion in adjusted gross income. That figure represented a healthy a 9.4 percent increase over 2005 figures, but came before the current recession started.
"Fifty seven out of 58 counties reported income growth in 2006, a year
when consumer spending was up and unemployment remained low in California," said State Controller John Chiang, who heads the tax board.
Los Angeles County taxpayers filed 25.5 percent of all 2006 income tax returns in California. They reported median incomes of $30,822 for single-payer returns, and $57,725 for joint returns, ranking 39th and 31st in the state, respectively.
Four suburban Bay Area counties again top California's 2006 median income survey. Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties routinely report the highest median incomes.
Marin County still has the highest median income for joint returns, reporting $116,626, an increase of 8.1 percent over 2005, the tax board reported.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Shabu Shabu House - Little Tokyo

The last time i went to the shabu shabu house was 6 months ago. since then, the prices seem to have creeped up a bit again. the small shabu (10 slices of meat) is $12.98 and the large (15 slices of meat) is now $16.98. extra 10 pieces of meat is $6.50. the price increase does not seem to deter its loyal customers. it opens at 5:30 pm for dinner everyday (closed on monday). i got there at 5:10 pm and had to put my name on the waiting list. many people were already waiting to get in. i didn't even make the first round (with approximately 27 seats) and had to wait a half hour to get seated. i guess there's no way of getting out of waiting anymore. in the past, if i came anytime after it opened, i'd have to wait 1 - 1.5 hours just to get seated. of course, the food is always consistent and i had an excellent meal. with so many people waiting, i always get rushed out of there, but can you blame the owner? on another note, i happened to overhear the owner outside telling another patron he only uses quality, prime rib-eye meat.

iced coffee ($1.50) at the end of the meal is always nice also, but the owner doesn't like it when you stick around - better off taking it to go.

i forgot about the free 2 hour limit with validation. i was over by 2 minutes and had to pay $5. damn.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

H&M shopping at Beverly Center

i had once heard that h&m changes their inventory more frequently than department stores (6 weeks on average), so i stopped by over the weekend after not finding anything a couple of weeks ago. seemed like the same old stuff. i just ended up buying more white tshirts and tanks. some of the new stuff (marimekko designs) was definitely not my style. i could not find shorts or pants to fit me properly. all the shorts and pants i had tried on were obviously based on european sizes. even at one/two sizes larger than my regular, it was too tight and most definitely didn't look right.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fairfax Silent Movie Theatre

Stopped by the fairfax silent movie theatre saturday afternoon. tickets were $10 for a double feature including the movie "the verdict" and "three strangers" both released in 1946 and starring peter lorre. i only saw the second movie "three strangers". apparently, the description of the movie was 'one of the forgotton films of the 1940's and ....never screened on dvd or vhs. to be quite frank, i didn't like this movie at all. it was one of those movies that unsuccessfully tried to be suspenseful and the story didn't seem to flow too well. i didn't really care about the characters 20 minutes into the film. had this been a rental, i would have turned it off. i don't think anyone who's even seen the film was too upset when it dissapeared. the theatre was small but a nice touch was the first 2 rows of sectional (maximum 2 people) leather couches. i also thought the $10 movie ticket was pricey, especially for a saturday matinee.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - The Movie

i really wanted to like this movie but it was unbearable at times. halfway through the movie, i wanted to walk out but i felt i had seen too much to just leave. there were about 3-4 scenes showing the main character's frontal 'private parts' which were unnecessary. it was more of a shock to see than funny. male genitals are so unpleasant to see - is that really something anyone wants to see on the big screen? this movie was longer than it should have been. some parts were very corny. this movie will probably go straight to dvd.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Foodland Farms - Mauna Lani / Fairmont Hotel Entrance

Foodland farms is the so-called 'gourmet', upscale grocery on the kohala side. you have to enter through the mauna lani hotel street. it reminds me of bristol farms but with a different name. separate deli section serving sandwiches/paninis and pastas and beef shortibs (all less than $10), dessert section, sushi ssection and seafood section serving every imaginable poke version you can think of. boneless beef shortribs was not too good, neither was the macaroni-potato salad which just tasted like a glob of mayonnaise. i'm a big fan of macaroni salad and i've noticed that macaroni salad in hawaii has always too much mayonnaise flavor. i purchased shoyu poke ($6.99 per pound) and california roll (made with real crab meat for $8.99). california roll was average. shoyu poke was good but had an overwhelming sesame oil flavor. i seared it this morning and it tasted much better than when i had purchased it. this place is great alternative to the pricey hotel restaurants. i didn't try the sandwiches but they advertised 'boar's head meat' everywhere. it's also a great place to go if you want to just take your food home and cook it. they had a great looking meat and seafood selection.

side note: tom's of maine toothpaste is $8 at every hawaii grocery store i've been to.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

tartar sauce recipe - barefoot contessa

tartar sauce recipe - barefoot contessa

1/2 cup good mayonnaise
2 tablespoons small-diced pickles or cornichons
1 tablespoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon coarse-grained mustard
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

big island hawaii

it seems every time i come to the big island, i end up hanging out at puako beach in the south kohala area. it is has very lush coral reef area right off the beach - great for snorkeling. yesterday, i finally saw a sea turtle, well actually 2 sea turtles right off the shoreline just hanging out.

Food Inflation in the U.S. - Msnbc article

from msnbc article:

A USDA economist explained the factors everyone knows about: sharply higher commodity costs for wheat, corn, soybeans and milk, plus higher energy and transportation costs.

The other reasons: Rapid economic growth in China and India has increased demand for meat there, and exports of U.S. products, such as corn, have set records as the weak dollar has made them cheaper. That’s lowered the supply of corn available for sale in the U.S., raising prices in the U.S. Ethanol production has also diverted corn from dinner tables and into fuel tanks.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Microsoft's Ultimate Steal Student Deal - $60 - Expires Soon (4/30/08)

since i had gotten my new dell xps m1330 computer, i had searched for a microsoft office 2007 software student deal. i saw advertisements for $119 for microsoft office basic 2007 (excel, word, powerpoint and one note). i then came across a great microsoft office 2007 deal (microsoft's ultimate deal) during a google search. it is for anyone with a student email ( and includes several microsoft programs (office, excel, powerpoint, outlook, publisher, access, accounting express, groove, onenote, business contacts and manager) for only $60. i couldn't believe the price since the microsoft office professional which usually includes similar programs would normally retail for over $400. i downloaded microsoft's ultimate deal yesterday (download took 30 minutes) plus i paid $12 for a dvd copy. all programs work great. it truly is a good deal. expires 4/30/08.

American Airlines Flight to Kona

all week, i had been worried that my flight to kona would be delayed or even cancelled, especially since 2 other airlines (aloha and ata had declared bankruptcy) and many of the american airlines md-80 flights had been cancelled for inspection. it was not cancelled (my flight was not an md-80) but of course it was delayed. my flight was scheduled to depart lax at 5:30 pm and didn't depart until 6:40 pm. i had arrived at 3:30 pm hoping to change my seat for an exit row with more leg room. as i checked in, i was told that no exit seats were available and that my seat was changed form row 16 to row 24 due to a change to a smaller plane (original plane had166 seats and was changed to a seat with only 129 seats). the flight was soldout. i then arrived at my assigned gate within plenty of time left before boarding and decided to walk to the bookstore. i got back to my gate at approximately 5 pm and noticed a very long line which i originally thought was for people to board the plane. it was actually a line due to an announcement of the smaller plane change, so the people who thought they had an assigned seat had to stand in line to change their seat to a guaranteed seat on the smaller plane. i got lucky since i knew ahead of time this information when i arrived at lax before any of the other patrons who were already waiting at the gate. apparently, they overbooked and asked for any volunteers to give up their seat for a $700 voucher (no blackout dates including flights outside of the U.S., plus hotel accomodations, dinner and breakfast and a guaranteed seat on the next day's flight to kona) which i seriously considered but decided not to. by the time i heard the announcement, i had already boarded the plane to which i found out i was seated next to a woman and a baby. somewhat annoying but the baby ended up sleeping 3 hours into the flight thankfully. i had already got my flight free using my aa miles (reduced from 35000 miles to only 27500 miles using my aa platinum card) and the $700 voucher would have been an added bonus. i almost regret not taking the aa deal but now that i've arrived in hawaii, i'm glad i didn't. it is absolutely beautiful.

The Nanny Diaries - The Movie

I actually enjoyed watching this chick flick even though the title was unappealing. Story was just ok and romantic parts were somewhat unbelievable, but i was able to sit through this rental without ending it prematurely.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Recipes - Barefoot Contessa

Indonesian Ginger Chicken

1 cup honey
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup minced garlic (8 to 12 cloves)
1/2 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root
2 (3 1/2 pound) chickens, quartered, with backs removed

Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. Arrange the chicken in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the sauce is a rich, dark brown.

Shrimp Salad
Copyright, 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, All rights reserved
This recipe is available for a limited time only. Why?
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lemon cut into quarters
4 pounds large shrimp in the shell (16 to 20 shrimp per pound)
2 cups good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 cup minced red onion (1 onion)
3 cups minced celery (6 stalks)

Bring 5 quarts of water, 3 tablespoons salt, and the lemon to a boil in a large saucepan. Add half the shrimp and reduce the heat to medium. Cook uncovered for only 3 minutes or until the shrimp are barely cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water. Bring the water back to a boil and repeat with the remaining shrimp. Let cool; then peel, and devein the shrimp.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, wine or vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and dill. Combine with the peeled shrimp. Add the red onion and celery and check the seasonings. Serve or cover and refrigerate for a few hours.

For the marinade:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons good soy sauce
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Light charcoal briquettes in a grill and brush the grilling rack with oil to keep the salmon from sticking.

While the grill is heating, lay the salmon skin side down on a cutting board and cut it crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.

Place the salmon skin side down on the hot grill; discard the marinade the fish was sitting in. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn carefully with a wide spatula and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. The salmon will be slightly raw in the center, but don't worry; it will keep cooking as it sits.

Transfer the fish to a flat plate, skin side down, and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Allow the fish to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the skin and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Real Meatballs and Spaghetti
Copyright, 2002, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, All Rights Reserved
For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan

Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

Turkey Meatloaf
Copyright, 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All rights reserved
This recipe is available for a limited time only. Why?
3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large onions)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
5 pounds ground turkey breast
1 1/2 cups plain dry bread crumbs
3 extra-large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F. and the meatloaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.) Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.

Roasted Shrimp with Thousand Island Dressing
Copyright, 2006, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the dressing:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon minced capers
1 teaspoon minced gherkins
1 tablespoon sweet pickles
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the shrimp on a sheet pan and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil and juice over the shrimp, and roast in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes.

For the dressing, place the mayonnaise, ketchup, capers, gherkins, sweet pickles, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl, and stir until blended. Serve with the roasted shrimp.
Blue Cheese Burgers
Copyright 2007, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved
2 pounds ground chuck
1 pound ground sirloin
1/2 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup steak sauce (recommended: Crosse and Blackwell)
3 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 to 10 hamburger buns
8 ounces blue cheese, sliced (recommended: Danish Blue)
Arugula and sliced tomatoes, for serving, optional

Carefully mix the meats, bread crumbs, steak sauce, eggs, salt, and pepper with the tines of a fork, but do not mash them. Lightly form hamburger patties and press lightly into shape.

Prepare a charcoal or a stove-top grill.

Cook the hamburgers for 4 minutes on 1 side, then turn and cook 3 minutes on the other side for medium-rare. Remove to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Allow the hamburgers to rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, grill the buns, cut side down, for 1 minute, until toasted. Place a hamburger and a slice of blue cheese in each bun, plus arugula and tomato, if desired, and serve hot.


Potato Salad
Copyright, 2006, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved
3 pounds small white potatoes
Kosher salt
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red onion

Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in quarters or in half, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Coconut Madeleines
Copyright 2005, Barefoot in Paris, All Rights Reserved
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, to grease the pans, plus 1/4 pound (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
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Confectioners' sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Thoroughly butter and flour the madeleine pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until light yellow and fluffy. Add 1/4 pound of butter and mix. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt, and stir into the batter with a rubber spatula. Stir in the coconut.

With a soup spoon, drop the batter into the pans, filling each shell almost full. Bake the madeleines for 10 to 12 minutes, until they spring back when pressed. Tap the madeleines out onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper and allow to cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dell xps m1330 Exchange

although i was quite pleased with my last xps m1330 last month, i wanted one with the lighter led screen (normally $150 more). i returned my last computer and ordered one with the similar price and stats (Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7300 (2.0GHz/800Mhz FSB, 4MB Cache), 120 gb hard drive, 2 gb sdram) as the old computer but with the led screen. i received the computer last friday and the led screen did not work. i called dell customer service immediately for an exchange. the new exchange arrived today and i am quite pleased with it. not only did the exchanged computer arrive quickly (only 4 days), the stats are much better (Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T7500 (2.2GHz/800Mhz FSB, 4MB Cache, 250 gb hard drive, 3 gb sdram) plus the 128MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400M video card was included as well as a bluetooth travel mouse. very nice of dell to upgrade.

Sending a cell phone text message from an email address

American Airline has a 'flight notification service' on their website of any of American's flight departure/arrival information and gate information by sending a text or voicemail to your cell phone 2-4 hours prior. very convenient service. i set up my iphone to receive the text messages. flight for someone i took to the airport was at 5:30pm. i received a text 2 hours prior with gate number and flight status on time. 35 minutes later (i had just arrived at the airport), i received another text message with delayed flight notification of 1.5 hours. i wish we had been notified sooner of the flight delay.

of course, you can send a text message to a cell phone from any email address:

Virgin Mobile:

the cell phone can reply back to your email address as well, rather than a cell phone number. how wonderful.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Filing Federal Taxes Free

i did my taxes over the weekend. i had previously used turbo tax, but they wanted to charge me $49 since i had to use the schedule d (capital gains/losses) form. turbo tax online has a selection titled "start for free" but by the time you end up entering all your information, it is likely that it is not free unless you are filing the 1040 EZ. i actually filed my federal taxes this year for FREE through taxact ( taxact also has deluxe versions and you can file both federal and state for $17.95. i found it similar to turbotax and calculations for my taxes were exactly the same. perhaps for more complicated taxes, it is best to choose turbotax. i really don't know since my taxes aren't too complicated. i chose to do only federal for free using taxact and filed the california state tax forms myself (which only took me 10 minutes to fill out the 540A Form), so i didn't spend a dime.

Ross Dress for Less

in hopes of finding 2 similar outdoor chairs that i purchased from ross last year, i decided to stop yesterday after seeing their advertised commercial for "outdoor event" happening now. sunday is not a good time to go or any weekend for that matter. all the times i've been there on the weekends, i have had the same experience. it is similar to a playground. parents tend to think it's ok for their children to run around (some even unattended) playing with items that ross sells. yesterday i had the pleasant experience of hearing a small child consistently bouncing a basketball with his sibling. the store was a mess by the time i arrived late afternoon so i usually try to go early morning when the store is most organized. the checkout lines are ridiculous which is another reason to avoid ross on the weekend. other than that, ross is a great place to get really good deals for clothes, outdoor, kitchen, shoes, luggage and bath. stock changes constantly so what you see and decide not to buy probably won't be there next time. i did buy one nine west bag yesterday for $25 (orig. $69).

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hurry Curry of Tokyo on Sawtelle

Reasonable priced curry/japanese spaghetti. Dishes only $8-11. i knew i should have gotten the curry. instead i got a spaghetti dish called tarako ika described as 'the finest cod roe sauteed with calamari, lightly tossed in noodles garnished with nori'. i actually didn't know what to expect. a pink pasta arrived with generous amounts of white cod roe stuck to every inch of pasta. squid garnishings mixed together also. strange texture on my mouth after, although the pasta itself wasn't to greasy. i ate it all but i probably would not order it again, nor would i recommend it.

on Sawtelle (near olympic). another one in pasadena on fair oaks (near colorado).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

FIDM Scholarship Store - 9th and Grand

After a long hiatus, I thought I'd stop by the FIDM store, since I used to purchase lots of fabric inexpensively here. Clothing/fabric is donated (all new) by certain companies. All types including damaged clothing, samples or over inventory. This place has a lot of tadashi evening type dresses (I personally had never heard of him) and Reference/Forever 21 donated clothes. Sizes are limited. Small selection of clothing/bags/costume jewelry/shoes You have to look hard to find something you like and something that fits, but it is worthwhile if you do find something you like. Damaged clothing was only $1 for tops and $2.50 for bottoms. Most other clothes were an additional 50% off ranging from $10-$30. Plus i saw a selection of very formal wedding gowns also an additional 50% off prices ranging from $100-$150 (some slightly dirty - i didn't look too hard so i don't know what the sizes were). A $50-$75 new wedding dress is unheard of these days, if you can find your size there. i purchased 9 yards of fabric at $1/yard yesterday. i certainly would not recommend the store for clothing/shoes or bags, but fabric deals are great. forever 21 regular clothing at the store is so cheap anyway, how much would you possibly need to save? especially for "not so perfect" new clothing?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mirage Hotel Las Vegas Review Cont'd - 100% Refund of my 1 night stay

After a lengthy letter to the Director of Hotel Operations at the Mirage listing all my complaints about my 1 night hotel stay at the Mirage, I spoke with the Director's assistant earlier this week. She had gotten approval from the manager to credit back 100% of my stay. Yes!! She had given me the option to get a future night stay at no cost or credit back my previous stay and of course, i chose the latter. i'm still confused about the receipt i received in the mail the week before i spoke to the assistant. it was a Mirage T statement that stated the deposit of $206.01 on one side and a credit on the other side of $206.01. i had thought mirage already credited my credit card but had not received a credit on my statement in over a week, so i contacted the mirage and they put me through to the Director's assistant. i don't believe it, but she said that they had just received my letter that same day i called (i had sent it over 2.5 weeks prior). she told me she would make it a priority. 4 hours later, she called me to tell me the good news about the refund. she apologized and was so courteous saying 'she hopes i will stay at the mirage again'.

i know mirage is remodeling but i had more of a motel 6 experience, with the very outdated and dirty room, broken faucet, sagging old bed and bad customer service. it was unacceptable to me given there are so many other better, newer choices on the lv strip. i had not stayed in a room outdated like that in recent years. it was more of a 2 star hotel. i should not have to complain about the room assigned to me before getting a better room. too bad they just didn't assign me originally to an updated room.
response letter from mirage

Dear customer:

Thank you for taking the time to write a letter and contacting my office regarding your recent stay at The Mirage. Our guest comments are important to us and we appreciate your valuable feedback.

On behalf of the mirage, please accept my apologies for the disappointment and inconveniences you experienced with check-in, problems with your guest room, and billing issues after check out. i have forwarded your comments to the appropriate departments for their immediate review.

guest rooms are currently being remodeled....although this remodel is planned, it certainly doesn't excuse the poor condition of the room you recently stayed in. we have issued a 100% credit to your credit card.

we hope to regain your patronage and are confident that your next visit at the mirage will be nothing less than enjoyable and memorable-exactly what you should expect when staying with us. thank you for giving us the opportunity to address your concerns.


Exec Dir of Hotel Operations
cc: director of engineering, director of front office, accounts receivable manager, front office manager

mirage seems strangely behind in updating rooms, especially with all the competition of new /newly remodeled hotels on the strip. the response letter included a pamphlet of the remodeled rooms (completed by march 2008) at mirage which will include 42" lcd tvs, ihome ipod docks, sealy pillow top mattresses, feather pillows, media hub , neutral color palettes.

i hardly would consider feather pillows an upgrade. i prefer down since the end of the feathers sometimes stick out and poke at your head. the most important upgrades to me would mostly be the pillow-top bed and lcd tv.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Vito's Pizza - LaCienaga (Between Santa Monica and Melrose)

Although the flavors of the pizza and crust texture is great, they seem to have a problem with burning the bottom of the pizza crust which gives the pizza a bitter burnt taste. it is almost is happening on a regular basis unfortunately (well, at least the last couple of times i've been there). the crust is so thin that you can't remove the burnt parts easily. i passed on the pizza this time and ordered the chicken parmesan sandwich ($9) on a french roll. they burned part of the french roll too. do they even know about this problem? tomato sauce on top of the chicken parmesan was delicious and had lots of garlic. albano's brooklyn pizza on melrose is now enzo pizza which i have yet to try. too bad albano's closed down - they had some good pizza. i might start going to pizza hut.

James' Beach Restaurant/Bar in Venice

Contemporary restaurant/bar/hangout place. Food was very good. Service was extrememly slow. Entrees ranged in price from $20-30. i tasted both the halibut (with string beans and mashed potatoes) and brisket (with roasted vegetables). Both dishes were very tasty. side note - menu stated that their french fries were voted "best in l.a." (we don't know by whom). they were just ok. nothing to brag about. i've definitely had better. after 10 pm, seems to turn in to a pickup joint. lots of blonds, both attractive and unattractive. mostly 30 somethings and a couple of 40 somethings. spotted mike d from beastie boyz there.

Pharaoh Sanders Quartet at the Jazz Bakery (Helms)

1.5 hour concert in an intimate setting. only about 100 seats. tickets were $30. a friend is a big fan of pharoah sanders, a great saxophonist. friend loved the show so much that he even wanted to see him again the next night, but he couldn't make it. luckily for my friend, he will again be playing at the Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood on 7/31, 8/1, 8/2 and 8/3. tickets were only $30 at the jazz bakery which seems like a bargain these days. Pharoah Sanders played with William Henderson (pianist), Willie Jones III (drums)and Nat Reeves (bass) - all great as well.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bloomingdales Private Sale

Not really private sale. Bloomingdales big semi annual sale going on until friday, march 28th. i received coupons in the mail ($25 off/$100 or more. the beverly center location had some jeans for an additional 40% off clearance and regular jeans. i found some lightweight ginger stretch 7 for all mankind jeans - normally $187 marked down to $157 plus an additional 40% off ($95). the sales person in the denim area said the $25 coupon didn't apply to premium denim as stated in the fine print. i walked to the lingerie dept. all clearance lingerie's were an additional 50%. i found a brassiere for $6, reduced from $28 to $12. now that's a steal-i practically got the jeans half off, but still was expensive. my total was $100 and the salesperson (she could care less what the jeans were - premium or not, whatever) in the lingerie department gave me the $25 off. i also purchased a pair of $119 raybans with the $25 off - total with tax was $101. show your receipt of spending more than $100 before tax and you get a $15 bloomingdales gift card (can be used for anything including cosmetics) to be used from march 29th thru april 13th. I spent $180 not including tax and only got one $15 off card.

updated 4/5 - so yesterday, i decided to return a pair of white sleepwear shorts that i bought for very cheap $6.75, since they were too see-through for me. since i used the coupon, i was only refunded $5.20 (23% less than what i paid because of the coupon). it doesn't make sense to me because my total even without the shorts was over $100 and i would have still gotten the $25 off. it's the principal of the matter.
i also refunded the sunglasses and the salesperson asked for the $15 gift card back and if i didn't have it, she would have to subtract $15 from my refund. i told her that i only got 1 gift card with 2 receipts and my total was still over $100. she gave me a total refund, but what a hassle.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Original Pantry Restaurant

Right before the lakers game, i ate at the pantry. even though i used to work only a block away, i never thought about coming here to eat. i had eaten there a couple of times many years prior and wasn't impressed. there was a line full of people waiting to get a table. i was able to get a seat right away at the bar. i had a philly cheesesteak ($11) and i remembered why i did not come here, because it wasn't so great. i saw the chef cooking many things people in the restaurant had ordered, since the large grill was in front of my seat. one steak grossed me out, it was brown-gray colored before placed on the grill and did not look fresh at all. i had purchased a red steak from ralph's once and the next day it turned to brown-gray color and it didn't smell that great either. i'm positive that the person who ordered that steak probably had no idea, but then again, i'm sure i've been served many a times brown-gray colored steaks that was masked in color by the searing. also, the color of the cooked green beans that came with the plate dinners reminded me of elementary school green beans. i almost lost my appetite. on the upside, the coleslaw was good.

Lakers Game Yesterday at Staples Center

i hadn't been to a lakers game since i left my last job 4 years ago, which used to provide free VIP tickets via raffle whenever they weren't being used by a marketer. although i wasn't much of a sports fan, the ambience was always fun. Lakers played the seattle supersonics. lakers won (130-105). lakers were leading pretty much 10-15 points from the get go. i left before the game ended but it was announced that everyone in the audience would receive 2 free taco coupons from jack in the box if the lakers won with at least 100 points or more. it was obvious the supersonics were not going to catch up during the 4th quarter. the free coupon wasn't enough for anyone to stay until the end. many people started to leave during half of the 4th quarter. our seats were located in front of one side of the basket, so it was even hard to search for stars, something i always used to do with binoculars. of course, i did spot jack.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day Off Today - Shopping Extravaganza

Today i got the day off since it was considered a holiday (good friday). i shopped right after getting my car back at 11. i took a 2 month hiatus from shopping. i almost forgot about loehmanns since i don't seem to get any coupons from them emailed to me. the beverly hills location expanded - the men's section is no longer there (moved to beverly connection) - there is more of a selection of handbags and accesories, almost overwhelming. shoe department is the same. i did not find a single thing to buy despite the large selection and new arrivals of some italian items. they had several items from philosophy di alberta ferreti but were expensive (eg. $500 suites marked down from $1500). please. my next stop was h&m in the beverly center. i could not find anything interesting and only purchased 3 white plain tank tops for $6 after over 1.5 hours searching. lots of same stuff as last year, a lot of black tops, some colored designs. boring. luckily, i don't really have to buy any new clothes since the styles are the same. last stop was marshalls at the beverly connection. purchased a dana buchman black short trench for $60 but it has a leopard print inside. yuck. well at least i have 30 days to decide whether to refund it or not.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dell xps m1330 review

i've had the dell xps m1330 laptop for a total of 3 days. so far, so good and i didn't even get top of the line. much faster than my last computer and i'm actually able to run several programs without delays at the same time. 6 cell battery lasts about 2 hours. i'm still getting used to microsoft's vista but haven't encountered any problems yet, however i have not tried out all the functions on vista. computer is light and very portable but not as light as i thought it would be - i think mine is 5 pounds - my last laptop was double the weight.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Weekend Vegas Trip

Vegas weekend. Booked 2 nights at the mirage (a so-called 4 star hotel?). Room we were assigned to was clearly out of date. old crt television, rough sheets, sagging bed, broken faucet. room decor was awful. we were able to get out of our 2 night hotel reservation after only 1 night with no penalty. Mirage did finally offer to move us to a newly renovated room, but it was too late. also, mirage check in desk, was nice looking with a hugh aquarium background, was inconveniently located far away from the hotel elevator. the guests actually have to walk thru the same walkway as the visitors thru the casino. obviously, not something i wanted to do since people were leisurely walking around (in my way at times), while i wanted to get to the hotel room asap. luckily, the flamingo hotel had available "go" rooms. when we checked in, we were automatically upgraded from a regular go room to a mini suite go room (600 sq ft). the room was quite spacious with 2 large lcd televisions and 1 small lcd embedded in the bathroom mirror. the room also had an assortment of complimentary nuts, crackers, cheese, dried apricots and chocolate awaiting our arrival. lastly, the room was on the 29th floor, the highest floor of the flamingo i believe, with a view of the bellagio fountains. i will most likely be returning to flamingo if ever in vegas again. i think i just got sucked into the mgm properties (mgm, treasure island, mirage) from their website. harrah's website is not as nice. their properties include flamingo, caesars palace, imperial palace, bally's).

i also saw cirque du soleil's ka at the mgm hotel. good production effects, especially in the first 15 minutes. similar type dramatic performances and skimpy costumes (male thongs, etc) as in other cirque shows i've seen (mystere, o, delirium).

i won a total of $200 playing blackjack at the $10 table (imperial palace and o'sheas), some winnings from the help of a dealer nice enough to give his expert advice to me. it was a roller coaster ride all night for both nights.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dell Laptop - XPS M1330

Just ordered a refurbished laptop from yesterday. i watched the stock come and go for 5 days, constantly refreshing the page for new inventory. immediately when you see a new laptop(s) added, you should add it to your cart to hold it for 15 minutes and then read the stats after. anything in your cart is removed after being in your cart for 15 minutes or you can always remove it from your cart. i've had experiences reading the description first and then trying to add to my cart with no luck (it's no longer available because someone else added it to their cart first). very high turnover. outlet computer warranty is for 1 year (you can buy additional 2/3 year warranties) and there is 21 day money back guarantee. i chose the xps m1330 because of it's light weight. My current laptop (dell 5100) still works, but is thick, heavy and slow. i've had it for about 5 years and it cost me $1350 back then.

below are the notebook stats for the computer i purchased. total was $816.77 ($729 + 19.99 shipping + $6 environmental disposal fee)
also, i just got an automated voicemail from dell. apparently, dell xps computers have their own dedicated tech support number (answer in 5 minutes or less: 800-964-8321). how wonderful!

1 XPS M1330 Laptop: Intel Core 2 Duo T7100 (2MB cache/1.8GHz/800Mhz FSB)
1 6 Cell Primary Battery
1 120 GB SATA Hard Drive (5400 RPM)
1 Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium
1 Bluetooth Wireless Card 355
1 13.3 inch WXGA Standard Display
1 8X DVD +/- RW w/dbl layer write capability
1 3945 802.11a/g Wireless Mini Card
1 Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 3000
1 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM 677MHz (2 DIMMs)
1 Integrated 2.0 Mega Pixel Web Camera

i also chose dell because the prices were competitive in comparison to other brands (sony, hp, lenovo, mac) with the similar stats. i use my computer for basic stuff (documents, spreadsheets, photos, internet, itunes), so i didn't need top of the line ram or graphics card or hard drive. hopefully this computer will hold me over another 5 years and then i'll upgrade again.

Bialetti Mukka Express Cappuccino Maker Warranty

Since I had purchased my Mukka Cappuccino maker over a year ago, I have had a cup of cappuccino almost every day since. Although it is available in many stores (Crate and barrel, Bed, Bath and Beyond, etc), I purchased mine from Williams-Sonoma who is the only store that sells the Mukka with a black bottom. My first purchase was 11/2006 and approximately 6 months later, the black bottom layer started to peel off. I took it back to Williams-Sonoma and they exchanged it with a new one with no questions asked. The next Mukka black bottom started to peel and bubble also many months later. I contacted the manufacturer (Bradshaw International, 800-421-6290)instead of Williams Sonoma and they said they would replace the black bottom with a steel bottom. Their only request was to send a picture of the black bottom. I sent a photo on 3/3/08 and received a whole new Mukka with a steel bottom including the top one week later. They also sent me a letter thanking me for informing them of that problem. That was really nice of them.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Pinkberry Tax

I just could not understand why i'd be charged tax at pinkberry sometimes and not other times, so i finally asked.
apparently, if you order your pinkberry 'to go', they do not charge tax, but if you order it for 'eat in', tax is charged. go figure. i had already placed my order for 'eat in' before i asked, so i was charged tax, but at least i now know for next time.

Joan's on Third Price Increase

I took a month hiatus from joan's. Needing to restock the pickles in my fridge, I headed over there only to find out the price increase of the trio salad increasing from $10.25 to now $11.25. It hadn't even been that long since they raised the price from $9 to $10.25 (almost 10%). My favorite trio combo was the cous cous, ariminata pasta and penne. i don't think i want to pay that much now especially since i can get a comparable good meal for less, so i will not probably not go there as much, unless of course i need more pickles.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

LA Marathon

LA Marathon tomorrow, March 2nd. 26.2 mile route starts from Universal City all the way to Downtown. Thank goodness it's only once a year, although I'd rather have it zero times a year. It's a drag to try to drive anywhere if you live in the city near the routes or if you're trying to go anywhere. Streets are usually blocked all day.

Zyliss Easy Slice 2 Folding Mandoline

So I was in the mood to try to figure out a similar sweet pickle recipe to Joan's on Third's pickles (polly's picklesand needed a mandoline. I wanted an easy to use, compact mandoline. OXO Mandoline had to many pieces so I returned it. I purchased a very cheap one in January 08 (Chef Mate) for $10 at Target. The price one month later in Feb was $15, a 50% increase. The chef mate was not adjustable and had only 1 thickness setting. the food holder was not stable and the blades was not sharp (it came with 3 interchangeable blades. Returned yesterday. I went to Sur La Table yesterday and purchased the Zyliss Easy Slice 2 Folding Mandoline. Perfect. For only $35. Food holder is stable, blade is sharp and there are not too many pieces. It only slices thin to thick and can cut potatoes into french fries, no other function, which is exactly what i needed. It folds in half for compact storage and easy to clean. Be careful and always use the food holder as recommended in the included DVD. I became lazy and I sliced a piece of skin off my finger.

Side note: still have not figured joan's pickle recipe-it will be a matter of trial and error. i just bought a jar a joan's and now am trying to identify the spices. coriander, dill, allspice?, whole black pepper. i did make a great asian type pickle yesterday out of sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar after soaking sliced cucumbers and onions in a bath of tap water and kosher salt for a couple of hours. the onions were not as pungent.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Star Sighting at Sawtelle Kitchen on Saturday Night

Had dinner at Sawtelle kitchen Saturday night. Sitting right next to me was Julian Schnabel and his wife. He was nominated this year for Best Director of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Also, i'm not 100% sure if it was Aaron Eckhart or not, but there was someone who looked just like him 2 tables away.

Remove your name from pesky marketers lists

Remove your name from the marketing list such as catalog and credit card offers by going thru the link below.

Click on the "remove my name from those lists". Although Social Security Number is requested on the application, it is not required. Only list your name and address.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Oahu's Cheap Eats - Some Listed by the LA Times

1. Nico's Pier 38, 1133 N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu; (808) 540-1377, Fresh Fish. $7-10 Plate includes fish, rice and organic salad
2. Uncle's Fish Market and Grill, 1135 N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu; (808) 275-0063, $6-16. More types of fish, plus pastas, salads, deli foods, sandwiches, burgers and chicken
3. Helena's Hawaiian Foods, 1240 N. School St., Honolulu; (808) 845-8044. Taste kalua pig ($2.90), poi ($2.25), squid luau ($3.15) and fried butterfish collar ($3.95). $2-15
4. Mei Sum Dim Sum, 65 N. Pauahi St., Honolulu; (808) 531-3268. Chinatown $2-3
5. Little Village, 1113 Smith St., Honolulu; (808) 545-3008, The menu lists more than 100 items, with most dishes priced at about $7.50.
6. House Without a Key at the Halekulani, 2199 Kalia Road; (808) 923-2311, Have a seat and order a glass of wine ($7.50) and appetizers, or perhaps a Caesar salad ($10), spaghetti ($12) or dessert ($7.50), and watch Miller wow the audience. She's accompanied by various groups playing traditional Hawaiian music.

Aretha Franklin at Nokia - Valentine's Day

Enjoyable concert. She sang for about 1.5 hours. Sounded great but had some problems hitting very high notes. She had a whole orchestra ensemble playing with her. She loves Pink's hot dogs apparently.

Heart attack warning signs - cdc

Heart attack warning signs can include one or more of the following five symptoms: shortness of breath; pain or discomfort in the chest; discomfort in the arms or shoulder; a feeling of weakness or lightheadedness; and discomfort in the jaw, neck or back.

Chest pain is the most common symptom. Women are more likely than men to experience some of the other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath and back or jaw pain, according to the American Heart Association.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fool's Gold - The Movie

I gave this movie the benefit of the doubt despite the terrible reviews. This movie was just as bad as the reviews stated. Hardly any funny parts, just a chuckle here and there. I wouldn't even recommend it as a rental. Matthew McConaughey and kate hudson's chemistry was not as good as their previous movie together, "how to lose a guy in 10 days". story had potential, but some parts were too ridiculous to take seriously. too bad.

USPS First Class Stamp Increases to $0.42 on May 12

Price goes up to $0.42 from $0.41. You can still buy the forever stamps for $0.41 and use them after the rate increase.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

San Antonio Winery

Had lunch at San Antonio Winery for a friends get together. i believe its the only los angeles winery. Prices aren't that cheap but food is ok. Sandwiches were $10-12, pasta plates $10-15 and tbone steak ($28). Large portions. Tried the calamari sandwich and sausage pasta, both tasty. Hard to find location near the major UPS hub in downtown los angeles - Main and Lamar street.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

LA Times Ramen Restaurant Recommendations - Food Section

Santouka: Despite their pedestrian locations in Mitsuwa Marketplace food courts, these restaurants are hands-down the best in Southern California, Wong says. "That's right. The best noodler in town is roughly the Japanese equivalent of a Panda Express or an Orange Julius," he writes on his website. "Rich and luscious, Santouka's Asahikawa-style tonkotsu shio broth is the reigning champion of world-class ramen in Los Angeles." 3760 S. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 398-2113; 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 434-1101; 21515 S. Western Ave., Torrance, (310) 212-1101.

Daikokuya: Though this Little Tokyo standard is a favorite among Internet foodies, Wong demurs. "It is a decent place," he says, "but I have to say it's also the most over-hyped place in L.A. You have to wait for hours to get in, and it's just not that great." 327 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, (213) 626-1680.

Barneys Warehouse Sale Santa Monica

I stopped by the semi annual barneys sale at barkar hangar yesterday afteroon (going on until 2/19). they had tons of stuff (more than past season sales)and the selection was much better. racks of designer shoes ($100-400), boots and clothes (lots of denim priced from $60-$149, average about $100) and some handbags ($100-300). prices still high but marked down from original overpriced prices. i'm not surprised by the better selection of clothing and shoes, especially with the economy slowing, also probably more competition too. cute franco sarto boots i saw were marked down from $900 to $345 - more than 50% off , now that's a discount but still very expensive. i've seen franco sarto shoes and boots at loehmanns never showing more than $300 original price. of course, i didn't get them. i wanted to look around more, but the selection became too overwhelming after a while and very crowded, so i left shortly after. i purchased just 1 item - a pair of 7 for all mankind gray corduroys ($49) that i had bought and returned on sale at the barney's in beverly hills (sale price was $99)- the original price was $198. they also had swimsuits but were so expensive - i never heard of a swimsuit costing $800 and marked down to $129. the designs were cute but i would never spend that much.