Wednesday, August 24, 2011

About Me

I finally added an "About Me" section for those of you fortunate enough to not know me in real life. I don't have any proof that anyone other than my eight followers (who all know me) read this blog so if you're out there please "follow" my blog and we'll get to know each other!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Red Rocks

Whoa kids...whoa. This month has been full of non-stop action and by the end of August I will have hosted two different sets of house guests, taken five flights and six days off of work, worked out too little and eaten too much wedding cake. Wait. Is there such a thing as too much wedding cake? Don't answer that.

But back to the traveling part - I'd like to tell you more about my trip to Denver last weekend. Justin and I arrived on Friday, with the John Butler Trio show scheduled for later that night. After a long and stressful car ride to the airport that morning, (Los Angeles traffic of course) a turbulent flight and getting lost immediately upon hitting the road in Denver, it felt amazing to finally reach our destination of Morrison, Colorado. It was only 2 p.m. when we rolled up to this tiny but picturesque town so we had time to kill before the show. The first order of business was lunch at Beso de Arte. This spot came recommended by my brother's girlfriend and it was by far the cutest restaurant in town due to its perfect outdoor patio. Truthfully, I was so hungry by that point I would have eaten a shoe, but Justin did something totally unexpected and ordered a salad. I don't think I've ever seen him order a salad (and for the record I don't think it's wrong for a guy to order a salad, I love greens too). The salad contained spinach, spicy bacon, pecans, dried cherries and a creamy basil dressing that made the dish. I think I liked it better than my BLT that I was half way into before I thought to photograph.


After lunch we were able to check in to our adorable accommodations for the night at Cliff House Lodge. Lodging in Morrison is really limited due to the town's size, but this place ended up being the perfect location for travelers to Red Rocks. The lodge wasn't modern by any means (in fact at check in we learned that the main house is haunted) but everyone was so warm and welcoming and you can't beat a private patio with a private hot tub. They even included complimentary breakfast and a bottle of champagne, which we never got around to drinking :(

After getting settled in our room we walked to the liquor store, per recommendation from the lodge receptionist, to pick up some local beer for tailgating before the show. She even let us borrow her cooler!

During this outing I saw a sign for ice cream, which sounded like the perfect treat on a ninety degree day. To my surprise, I found that the shop was serving Blue Bell Ice Cream! Since Blue Bell is made in Texas, it was always a staple growing up. When I moved to Los Angeles I had to say goodbye to my beloved brand, so it was a sweet sweet reunion when I got that Blue Bell ice cream cone in my hand again.

A few hours later it was finally time for the show. We chose to drive the two minutes to Red Rocks instead of walk because of the incline of the walk, the heat, and the fact that parking is FREE. Living in LA, I'm not used to free anything, and especially not free parking. We couldn't believe how easy and relaxed it was to park, enjoy a few beers and make the hike up to the venue. Perhaps it was the altitude (or the beer) but the walk from the car to our seats was actually a killer calorie burner. We were huffing and puffing up the ramps to the entrance and when we finally got there security told me I couldn't bring my camera in because it didn't fit their point and shoot requirements. I must have looked like I was on the verge of tears or passing out because when I pleaded with them not to make me take another trek to the car and back, it worked. Because of the fear of being kicked out for having my camera inside, I didn't take many photos of the show. I know I'll always remember it regardless.

It was clear that it meant a lot to John Butler to be able to play to such a large crowd, at such a unique venue and to feel supported in a country that is not even his own. The band interacted with the crowd and made the show memorable for everyone there. For me, the highlight was when John brought his wife on stage to sing "Losing You" with him. Listening to the beautiful acoustic love song in the company of the one you love on a beautiful night in Colorado with a full moon in the sky is/was perfection. Knowing that we were on vacation and had no worries for the next few days was just the icing on the cake. More Denver updates to come!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Music That Moves Me

This weekend I embarked on a journey to cross something off my bucket list - To see a concert at Red Rocks. Oh yea, and then I went ahead and one-upped myself and made sure it was my favorite band.

My journey with John Butler Trio is a long one. In college I was a lot more exploratory when it came to music and I'd spend hours upon hours finding new artists online and downloading their songs (hey, it wasn't illegal back then). Weren't those the glory days? Before Napster got sued. My music searches eventually led me to Australian musician, John Butler. I had only a handful of songs by his band in my possession but I clung to them tight. Something about the almost jam session-like music and messy vocals moved me. On faster songs it seemed like John Butler had poetry he wanted to recite, but his fingers were picking the guitar so quickly he had to spit out words even faster to keep up. The slower songs break your heart because they're either about the people he loves, or the land he loves, at risk for industrialization and government corruption. For a good while I thought I was alone in my love for this mysterious Australian trio until one day I was telling a friend about this unknown group called JBT and he said, "Oh I saw their LP at the campus radio station, I can give it to you." With a full thirteen songs now in my hands, my infatuation grew even larger. That same year that I was falling in love with JBT music, South by Southwest was also paying attention to this Australian group.

I found out JBT was going to be playing an Australian music party at SXSW so I showed up. To this day I still think it was a private party because everyone else in there had badges on, but I walked right in and nobody said anything. I happened to be wearing a red shirt and the volunteers were wearing red shirts so I think luck was on my side on this one. I enjoyed a super small and intimate performance and wow. just wow. This music that had moved me before was even better live. Like by a landslide. To top it all off, since the party was so small I even met John Butler after his performance and took this embarrassing photo. He has since gotten rid of the dreadlocks.

Over the years following that SXSW show I saw JBT another six or so times, including once by myself when nobody else would go with me. It was my first time going to a concert alone and it ended up being my favorite JBT concert ever. It was in Austin at La Zona Rosa so it was a small stage and a great crowd. I heard the song Ocean played live for the first time and it brought tears to my eyes. Ocean is an almost ten minute long song with no vocals. The entire song is performed by John Butler alone on his guitar and seeing him put every ounce of himself into that solo is something I'll never forget.

Friday's show at Red Rocks is another performance I will never forget, and I know it meant a lot to Justin as well (since he is now looking into acrylic nails to play the guitar like John. Really, he is). It needs a post to itself so I'll be recapping my Red Rocks and Denver trip over the next few days. Until then I'll be rocking my new JBT shirt :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bucket List

I don't actually have a written bucket list of "things to do before I die" but I have ideas all the time about the places I'd like to visit, things I'd like to do, people I'd like to meet, etc. Oftentimes something will be added to my proverbial bucket list only to be forgotten a month later. But it's the rare things that I can't seem to forget about that I know I absolutely must make a reality.

One of those plans is coming to fruition this weekend and I'm wiggling around in my seat with excitement right now just thinking about it! I'm finally going to attend a concert at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. And it's not just any concert, it's my favorite band, The John Butler Trio. I'll share more about my journey with John Butler Trio music later, but for now can we just talk about what an amazing concert venue Red Rocks is?



Because of its natural beauty, Red Rocks is a popular spot for live recordings and in fact I first learned about the venue from watching Incubus' "Alive at Red Rocks" DVD way back in 2004. Something about the open-air amphitheatre called to me from that recording and I haven't stopped lusting after Red Rocks since. Being from Austin, I'm very particular about my concert venues. Austin hosts some of the best live music shows you'll ever experience, but Austin has nothing like Red Rocks. And Los Angeles has nothing like Red Rocks. Red Rocks is one of a kind. That's why when you previously had no intention of taking a trip to Colorado this summer but you get an email from John Butler Trio that they've confirmed a show at Red Rocks, you think about it for about an hour and the next thing you know you've purchased tickets. Luckily Justin was on board for taking a random trip to Colorado and we have grand plans to explore the Denver area and its abundance of local breweries. I read somewhere that Denver is considered the Napa Valley of Beer so you know we're going to be in heaven no matter what.

I'm signing off from blogging for the weekend so I can drink all the microbrews in sight, (er, I mean, be a responsible adult) but when I return I should have a review of my bucket list experience and you know me well enough to know there will be no lack of food photos either. We're visiting a diner from "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives"! Yes, we're those people.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dog Cousins

I have a very important and not at all trivial question - If my cousin has a dog is that dog a cousin to Chula? If so, Chula met her dog cousin Sasha this weekend!

How freaking cute are two Boston Terriers together? Especially when they are family. PS, these dogs were not fans of photo opportunities and did their best to make sure I didn't get any good shots of them next to each other.

Last summer I attended my cousin's wedding in Colorado. It was a beautiful and fun event in the mountains of Silverton, where I learned a lot about Moldovan culture (she married a Moldovan). Most importantly, I learned that Moldovan boys don't take no for an answer when they want to dance. And they always want to dance. Seriously, have you ever tried dancing all night at an elevation of 9,300 feet? Not happening.

A year later Morgan and her Moldovan man have added Sasha to their happy little family and are celebrating their one year anniversary with a road-trip across the West Coast. A quick stop in Los Angeles to see moi and to introduce the dog cousins was in order. While the cousins didn't exactly become instant besties as we had hoped, they did look quite adorable next to each other, don't you think?

The human cousins got to spend some quality time together shopping and sightseeing while the boys discussed things like "Deadliest Catch" and working long hours.

Our tourist outing this weekend included the Griffith Observatory, a Magic Johnson sighting, amazing Italian sandwiches at Bay Cities in Santa Monica, Jenea seeing the ocean for the first time, ice cream and cookie sandwiches at Diddy Riese and a visit to Tori Spelling's store, Inventori. After such an action packed day we relaxed with a quiet dinner at home.

We made breaded pork chops with sage gravy, mashed sweet potatoes and asparagus. For dessert we attempted a layered cheesecake parfait with blueberries but silly me tried to swap out the heavy cream for half and half so it turned out more like a cheesecake soup. Trying to cut calories on a cheesecake dessert equals textural failure. Lesson learned.

Even despite the dessert failure, after dinner Jenea told me (in a thick Moldovan/Romanian accent), "You cook good. In Moldova this means you ready to marry."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Market Pizza

First of all, I've been torturing myself in Photoshop this week to bring you the new blog header featured above. I hope it's an improvement because if I had a swear jar it would be full right about now. I took a Photoshop class in college more than 6 years ago (I feel really old saying that, by the way) so it was a long process trying to remember the basics enough to yield results anywhere near what I envisioned. I've also been trying my hand at manipulating html code (nerd alert) to eventually get the site looking exactly how I want it, piece by piece.

After this weekend's trip to the farmers market, I was inspired to recreate my favorite frozen pizza from Trader Joe's - the Pesto Pizza - from scratch. I use the word "from scratch" loosely because I did not attempt to make my own pizza dough. Pizza dough is something I'd like to experiment with eventually, but I already had Trader Joe's wheat pizza dough in my fridge and not having to wait for dough to rise made this dinner ridiculously easy and ridiculously fast. If you don't live near a Trader Joe's, I am sorry. Very sorry. I went twenty three years without it in my life and now I'm making up for lost time.

The Trader Joe's frozen version uses a pesto sauce and is simply topped with tomato slices, broccoli and mozzarella cheese. I made the pesto using two handfuls of fresh basil, about two tablespoons each of pine nuts and Parmesan cheese and around half a cup of olive oil, or enough to make it all come together in spreadable form. Fresh pesto is one thousand times tastier than pre-packaged and a cinch to make in the food processor (best Valentine's Day gift ever) when you have fresh basil on-hand.

We didn't have any broccoli so I used green bell peppers instead and red zebra tomatoes to top the pizza.

Add the mozzarella and bake for 8-10 minutes at 450°.

And just like that, dinner is served to a skeptical Justin. Are you suuuuure this isn't Trader Joe's?

I can't show you the picture after he took a bite because he had pesto in his teeth...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sundays at the Farmers Market

Another Sunday, another farmers market. This time I remembered the camera.