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.