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The original Playboy Mansion

Casa Grande: the main house at Hearst Castle

Sitting 1,600 feet above the Pacific Ocean in the quiet little town of San Simeon, Calif. is the massive vacation home of William Randolph Heart. Now a tourist spot along the central coast of California, the property consists of a main house, Casa Grande, three guest houses, outdoor pool, indoor pool, airport, and gardens as well as more than 300 animals. (An old fashion Hugh Hefner anyone?)

According to the soundtrack tour guide visitors listen to on their way up the 5 mile long windy driveway to the castle, at one point Hearst had the largest privately owned zoo in North America. With elks, deer, llama, zebra, and cows there are still animals on the property who are descendants of Hearst’s original zoo animals. While driving on the drive we spotted hundreds of cows, a fox and the bear cages which at one time housed polar bears.

The first stop of the Experience Tour is to the infamous Neptune pool. The ancient Greek and Roman inspired pool is surrounded by colonnades of marble which lead to marble statues at the base of a large staircase. The staircase leads up to a courtyard which is surrounded by the four main structures of the property: three guest houses and the main house. Each guest house has bedrooms, all with private baths (not the norm for the early 1900s) and sitting rooms. However none of the guest houses have kitchens. According to our tour guide, Tim, this is because Hearst wanted to spend time with his guests and meals were a time for socializing.

The Neptune Pool: the outdoor pool

During the Experience tour visitors are taken through the first floor of the main house, or Casa Grande. You begin in the foyer and sitting room area. The enormous room was built totally symmetrical with matching windows on either side of the room, decorative pews on each side of the walls and an entry way across from a double mantled fireplace which sit right in the middle of the room. Tim said this is the place where Hearst and his guests would come before their dinner to have drinks and appetizers and become acquainted with one another before they moved into the dining room.

The gothic inspired dining room consists of a narrow table, purposely narrow to make conversing easier, and 22 chairs. Instead of sitting at the head of the table, Tim said, Hearst would sit in the middle of his dinner table so that he was in the middle of the conversations. Again, the totally symmetrical room has matching windows which line the top of the two longer walls. From dinner guests would work their way into another sitting room or a billiard room to enjoy after dinner drinks and more conversation. (A kid on the tour said it must of “sucked” not to have technology back then. I think I might have to agree.)

The final stop is a slightly less impressive indoor Roman pool. Inside a room, I can’t help but consider a little gaudy. From top to bottom, including the inside of the pool, covered in mosaic tiles. This Olympic sized pool is 10 feet deep from one end to the next but has the illusion on a sloping angle like most pools having a deep and shallow end.

At the end of the Experience Tour visitors are picked up by another bus and brought down the winding driveway one more time to the visitor’s center. This is one amazing place but the entire time I couldn’t help but think, is Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner our generation’s William Randolph Hearst? One day, are we going to be taking our kids to Beverly Hills and walking through the Playboy mansion, seeing Hef’s zoo, the playmate house and most impressive the grotto? Did Hearst ever think his favorite vacation home would be walked through by thousands of total strangers over 60 years after his death? Either way, Hearst was an impressive man, with eccentric and elaborate style.

February 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Awards season round up

With awards season in full swing Patrick, Shay and I have been in full movie mode. Watching all of the films Patrick’s mother receives from the Screen Actor’s Guild I couldn’t help but fall in love with some of the movies from 2010. Here is my top  5 list.

1.  Black Swan: Natalie Portman did an absolutely amazing job portraying innocent Nina, a dedicated ballerina who lets her role take over her life and state of mind. The storyline keeps you on your toes with their “did that just happen” parts and constant shock factors.

2. The Town: Jeremy Renner steals the show with his bad boy style. You never know what is going to happen when he is in a scene. Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall have great chemistry together and you truly feel her fall in love with him and her hurt when she finds out exactly who Affleck’s character really is.

3. The Social Network: The awkwardness of the real Mark Zuckerberg is accurately portrayed by quirky Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg and the rest of the cast show the growth of our generation through the birth of social media.

4.  King’s Speech: The struggles and the pressures of a new king with a speech impediment at the start of the technology boom is shown through Colin Firth’s representation of King George VI. The weird angles and with too much head room and low shots give the film a documentary feel.

5. The Kids are All Right: This lesbian couple going through a little midlife crisis struggle to hold their family of two children together while dealing with a power struggle, infidelity and the fears of growing apart while their children grow more and more independent.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christmas cookie crisis

As a Christmas present to all of the managers at work I decided to do something a little personal and bake some cookies for everyone. I have never been a baker so I thought it would be a good idea to involve Shay, so that no one would get poisoned.We began with one of my favorites, Peanut Butter cookies with a Hershey Kiss on top. A wonderful cookie, just not so wonderful for our egos. The first batch of PB cookies I got the recipe online from Betty Crocker’s Website. Between Shay and I, we added a little too much salt and way too much flour. The cookies were dry and tasted like we dipped our tongues in a bowl of salt. To top it off, with the slightest touch of our fingers our cookies literally deflated in front of our eyes. 

Since we were still missing some ingredients for a different cookie batch we ran to Ralphs and just in case, picked up PB cookie mix.

Our second batch of PB cookies came from a recipe in a book my sister, Sandy, gave me before I moved called “Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her?” The batter ended up looking like we were going to bake straight peanut butter and the “cookies” flattened flatter than the cookie tray.

Finally we knew it was time to break out the big guns. We were using the packaged PB cookie mix we had bought. The cookies were delicious! Next time we’ll just start with cookies from the store.

The final product

First batch

Second batch

January 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘What are you going to a wedding?’

Right after the wedding ceremony.

Well my 36 hours in Connecticut was all I could have hoped for. I got to see my friends, my family and most importantly, I got to see my parents get married. My mom and Al have been together since I was 8 and he has always been the best father figure for me and my brother and sister. He has always been there for us if we needed anything. So after all of this time, they finally decided to settle down and tie the knot. Haha.

The wedding was a surprise for the rest of the family when a Justice of the Peace came to our family’s Christmas Eve celebration. Only my immediate family, and one of my aunts and uncles knew. It was funny to see the reactions of everyone who did not know the surprise. My aunts were yelling and one of my cousins even joked, “Al what are you going to a wedding?”

The ceremony was short but heartfelt with most people ending up in tears, including my step dad who I don’t think I have ever seen him cry. After all of this time I am so happy to finally have my parents married! I love them both more than anything and I don’t know what I would do without them.

I love you two. Congratulations.

December 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s begining to look a lot like Christmas.

This holiday season has been the most different than any other year of my life. Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a super stressful time for me. I am not really the holiday spirit type person. I don’t listen to Christmas music all of the time and I don’t enjoy going to the mall just because it’s decorated. Especially working in the mall, I actually don’t like going there at all during the holidays.

However this year, now that I am on my own, my feelings towards the holiday season are totally different. I was so excited to go shopping for a Christmas tree and decorations. I made my own wreathe and Patrick even lent me one of his trains to go under my tree. I have stockings up and snowmen throughout my apartment. (For as long as I can remember my mom has filled our house with snowmen during the winter months.) And buying presents this year was easier than ever before.

And even with all of the craziness at work – working in such a busy store and having so many responsibilities and pressures – this holiday season has been the most exciting and happy. I have had my own home to decorate and make Christmasy. I have been

Cookies Shay and I made.

looking forward to going home for a quick two days and it is all I keep looking forward to and keeping me excited for Christmas. I can’t wait to see my family and friends in two days. Tomorrow I will be working for 9 hours (I hope) coming home to close up my apartment and then heading down to LAX and hoping on the red eye to JFK. Then Christmas night I will be taking the red eye back to LAX so that I can work the busy return day on December 26.

I am excited to see my brother and sister and parents who I haven’t seen in six months. Hopefully next time I go home will be much sooner than six months from now.

December 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Lone Ranger in Lancaster, CA

I remember being young and my step dad driving over the bumps on the side of the road to wake us up while driving home from my grandmother’s house. The rumble strip is actually placed there to warn drivers who are leaving the road whether it’s because of poor driving conditions or to wake up the driver.

It’s always the same annoying, vibrating noise. But Honda created a special version of a rumble strip in Lancaster, CA, a desert town north-east of Los Angeles. The lane-wide rumble strip plays the Lone Ranger theme song.

Because of the noise – and the increased traffic – news reports said that the rumble strip was paved over and then moved to a more remote part of town.

On our way home from Vegas a few weeks ago we couldn’t help but take a little detour and drive over the rumble strip ourselves. Below is the video Honda made of their creation.

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s a small small world.

Kat, me, Michelle, Shay, Patrick and Katy with Pooh Bear

Disneyland, Disney World, Epcot, California Adventure. They’re all magical places. They’re places where adults can be kids again whether you are a thrill seeker wanting to go on Tower of Terror or a more low-key ride lover soaring over never-never land on Peter Pan’s Flight.

To me, it’s not just the ambiance or the rides that make Disney’s parks such a magical place. It’s the way all of the rides, shows, actors, and decorations are created and executed that is the true genius of the company. It really is a place to appreciate.

For as many times as I have been on the boat and cart rides like Pirates of the Caribbean or Finding Nemo, there are always the small details that I had not caught the time before that the imaginers had put into the ride. Whether it is a shaking prop or a name on the naughty and nice list in Haunted Mansion, every small detail has a hidden meaning or a back story to it.

The Haunted Mansion's naughty and nice list.

Then there are rides like It’s a Small World, which is probably one of the most boring rides ever created. (I mean let’s face it, it’s so long and that song, oh my that song!!) These rides have little touches that could actually make the ride a little fun. Since they re-opened the ride in 2009 at Disneyland, there are Disney characters places throughout the ride. Trying to see who can find Jasmine, Cinderella and Ariel first or who can find the most is a good way of making the 15-minute long ride go, just a little faster.

It is crazy to me to think that each of these amazing rides are actually just empty warehouses transformed into another world by the Disney imaginers. The pirates, fairies, princesses and talking animals are all in a at one time, bare building and now look like a whole new world (no pun intended). Disney’s parks and resorts are truly amazing places that can never really get old.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’ll have a Calamari Martini please

 

Michelle, Katarina, Katy, Patrick, Shay and I with all of our food at Paradise Cove.

From the first week I was in L.A. I was told I just have to try Paradise Cove in Malibu: the best brunch in L.A. And while I didn’t go for brunch, I do have to say their lunch had a great first impression on me. While my friends were visiting last month from Connecticut, we decided late lunch in Malibu would be a great way to spend a Saturday and with six of us, there was plenty of food for us all to try.

 

While walking through the outside patio (which is covered in sand by the way) to get to our table inside we each couldn’t help but notice most tables have the same appetizer in the middle. A massive martini glass full of fried calamari and lemons on the edge. The presentation sold us. We had to order it.

Calamari martini glass app.

Now calamari is a hard food to master. It can sometimes be too chewy, too much batter or even not enough. The calamari at Paradise Cove was absolutely delicious. The perfect amount of batter on a good amount of fish laying on top of a bed of French Fries. Although the food was great, the sauce it was served with wasn’t too wonderful. A little too “ketchupy” and not enough tomato sauce.

Some other options we chose to try were the New England Clam Chowder, seafood sandwich, and nachos. Everything was really good and best of all, not too pricey.

Most sandwich meals were around $15. The most expensive meals were the seafood meals costing near $30. Not too bad for an amazing meal on the beach in Malibu.

November 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In a strange place it’s nice to see a familiar face

So super excited for my best friends to be coming out to L.A. tomorrow. Tomorrow Katy, Katarina and Michelle will all be in LaLa Land for the first time!

Can’t wait to pick them up and for them to see my new home!!

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gyu-Kaku… It’s just a funny name

Edemame and salad

After working at a Thai restaurant for four years I have tried all types of Asian foods. Sushi and Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Laos. One thing I have always been interested in was Korean and Japanese BBQs and it is also something that Los Angeles is packed with.

A few weeks back Patrick, Shay and I went to Gyu-Kaku in Sherman Oaks for their lunch-time happy hour, a Japanese BBQ with locations all around the city, New York, Hawaii and Chicago.

The dark wood exterior sets the tone for the rest of the restaurant. The inside of the dining room is very dark yet welcoming. There are the options to sit in booths or tables all of which have grills on the tops on them to grill your food on.

My meat before it was cooked

For the happy hour, you order based on your main meal. Chicken, beef, shrimp, filet, or pork.  Once your meal is ordered you get your appetizer, a small bowl of edemame, miso soup, a small salad with a light mustard dressing and veggies.

The edemame and salad were both great but for my first time trying miso soup, I wasn’t impressed. I have had seaweed before in sushi, but the broth just wasn’t very tasty. Once we finished our apps, soup and salads our meats came out and we began grilling.

The main course wasn’t that big, five or six pieces each, but for such a cheap price and a good amount of rice that came with it, the meat was enough for lunch. Shay got chicken, Patrick got beef and I got sirloin, and because I’m obsessed with fish I also ordered bacon wrapped scallops from the regular menu.

All of the meat was so good. Shay’s chicken came marinated and Patrick dipped his meat in their teriyaki sauce before cooking it to flavor it a little. However, when it came to my bacon wrapped scallops, I was not impressed. Maybe it’s because I’ve never cooked them before, but shouldn’t it be kind of easy?

On the grill, almost done.

My bacon cooked quickly and the scallops took forever causing the bacon to burn. Not so great. I actually ended up taking the bacon off of the scallops and eating them separately.

A cool, private, fun and sexy place to go as a group or on a date. Defiantly a fabulous conversation starter for a first date.  Check out Gyu-Kaku’s Website to see what looks good for you.

October 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment