Vegas II: Tao

Spring Break '10

For our first night in Vegas we decided to go to Tao Nightclub (3355 Las Vegas Blvd). We all got ready and walked across the street to The Venetian. FREEZING! (Thanks go to Sea Ridge Merlot for the invisible blanket.) This Asian-influenced nightclub is amazing on the inside. The entrance is lined with bathtubs filled with rose petals and go-go [sitting] dancers. I am 80% sure I heard that Kerry climbed in one later that night? We quickly bypassed the restaurant on the first floor, but we were there long enough for the delightful aroma to waft past our noses. Those twelve seconds stimulated my olfactory senses in a wonderful way. Sigh... one day.

Now I know what you might be thinking when I say Tao... Taoism, Confucianism, etc. Am I right? Well, yes, "Tao" translates to "way," "path," "doctrine;" the true nature of the world. Let's roll with this "yin and yang" idea to develop this blog post into more of a research paper? Don't ask questions - just accept.

The common yin and yang argument is that each action creates a counter-action. This is an instinctive, inevitable shift within manifestations of the Tao.  Consider a night in Vegas at Tao through the yin/yang goggles: dressed up men & dressed down women, chilly drinks & steamy dancing bodies, obscure shadows & glowing flashing club lights - all prime examples of complementary opposites making up the greater whole that is Tao Nightclub. I will revisit this idea later... 

Natalie/Alex and Kerry/Jacquelyn/Ashley met up with us inside. We were led to a prime-spot table on the dance floor, enjoyed the free Girls Hour drinks from 10 - 11 pm, danced, and took pictures. With my eagle eyes I spotted a friend from high school in the thick of the dance floor. I think I almost ran her over when I eagerly approached her! Such a small world... only in Vegas!

Unfortunately, my yin and yang were out of balance that night and I had to retreat to the hotel early. Luckily, like a dropped stone in a calm pool, my friends were there to balance me out and get me back into a quiescent state. I love them so much and appreciate how they came to my rescue! Thank you!

Vegas I: Flight & Treasure Island

On March 5th I caught the 4:20 pm flight to Las Vegas, Nevada for a weekend trip with some fabulous girl friends of mine. We had this trip planned for some time now, so I was excited that it was finally time to revisit Sin City and cause some trouble. Okay - that sounded really hokey. Among the six of us, there aren't really any troublemakers.... 

It was only two years ago when I made my first trip to Vegas (with Kelly, Megan, and Sierra). Last year I returned with Kelly, Megan, and four more AOII girls: Taylor, Kali, Amy, and Katie G. This year Katie wasn't able to make it because she is living and working in Australia.

Spring Break '09

Hopefully this trip can become a tradition for the six/seven of us. It's nice to be able to gather from different parts of California and convene somewhere with shopping during the day and an over-the-top nightlife! I love playing dress up.

My flight got in around the same time as Kelly's, so we were able to grab a cab together. The six of us stayed at Treasure Island (3300 S. Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas). The hotel was so much fancier than I imagined it was going to be. Each room was very sexy on the inside, with a flat screen LCD TV, floor-to-ceiling windows, two fluffy pillowtop beds with large padded headboards, and sleek, dark, wood furniture.


Kim Kardashian & Salinas' Bankers Casino (April 30)

I don't know what it means by "performance," but apparently Kim Kardashian, of Keeping up with the Kardashians, will be performing at the VIP Lounge of Bankers Casino (111 Monterey St, Salinas) on Friday, April 30th. You can get a ticket to see the vixen in action from their website

The Bankers Casino has a card room with 24 hour tables that play Pai Gow, Texas Hold 'Em, Omaha, 7 Card Stud, Draw Poker, and Blackjack. They also have 7 58" flat screen TVs  and a restaurant with steep prices. I don't really understand what the VIP Lounge is (the website pictures don't reveal anything) and what Kim will do there - looks like the tiniest place in the world - but that's her job! Showing up and being Kim and having people ogle.


Monterey County violence, 2010 Map

This is sort of scary, but as I look for Monterey County community items to post on my blog, I always shy away from the sad news. If you follow this link, you'll see an interactive map that shows violence areas in Monterey County. Notice that everywhere south of Marina along Hwy-1 looks fairly clear. Thank goodness!

Yellow = Injury Occured.
Purple = Homicide.

I live about 100 yards from a police department, so I feel very safe walking around at night. However, it's always good to be cautious! Safety in numbers people!! (Thank you PHS Health class for instilling that in my mind...)

Oh leaf, where is your home?

Do you want to know where your bag of Fresh Express salad came from? Well with the UBC code on the bag & the leaf locator number that was just added to the packaging, you'll be able to go online and find out. The website gives a story of the origin of your salad bag. Locations include: Salinas Valley, Huron Valley, Imperial Valley, Imlay City (Michigan), San Luis Valley (Colorado), Belle Glade (Florida), Yuma (Arizona), and El Bajio (Mexico).

Fresh Express - FYI - is based in Salinas and the company hopes that this salad-bag-story feature will entice foodies and the like to amp up their bag purchasing from 10 a year to about 35. That's a lofty goal! Thinking of doing this with your Fresh Express cole slaw or organic salads? You won't be able to - yet.

More info: read this article from The Californian.

I'll go! I'll go!

If you know me, you know that I love space and that it is my ultimate dream to walk on the moon. Oh hey, NASA. I hope you are reading this in 2036 as part of my background check!

This article was posted today about Obama's NASA plans and how it might get us one step closer to even considering going back to the moon. Who knows if we'll get monetary support for his plan or the Constellation program, but however it is resolved... please, pick me!

'The most heated exchange came when U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, asked Bolden which country -- the United States or China -- would send humans to the moon next. Bolden started to respond by saying it didn't matter -- because the U.S. already has been there -- when Wolf cut him off. 'Well it does to me,' he snapped. - OMG, IT DOES TO ME TOO!! - 'It does to me, and I think it matters, with all respect, to a lot of Americans.' Bolden then said he thought NASA would 'get back first' with Obama's plan. 'I think we stand a pretty good chance of getting to the moon much quicker than we would have with the Constellation program,' he said, stressing the plan's focus on developing new space technologies.'

Earth Hour 2010

Learn more about Earth Hour 2010 by following the link.

This Saturday 3/27, at 8:30 pm local time, is Earth Hour. I will be in downtown Fullerton (or getting ready to go out!) Where will you be when the lights go out? Even if I'm in the middle of curling my hair or applying makeup, I'll whip out my flashlight and turn off the electricity in Kerry's house. It's only an hour, let's all help do our part!

In 2009 hundreds of millions of people around the world showed their support for Earth Hour and this year let's answer this global call to action (ring a ling ling)! Program a reminder into your cell phone (DO IT! Right NOW!!) and set a reminder for 10 minutes before 8:30. Take a nap, light a candle, make some romance, or... you know, whatever you want.

Now really, put a reminder in your phone! I know you didn't do it when I suggested it one sentence ago...


Hiking Fort Ord

Even though my coworker warned me of ticks on the Fort Ord trail, I still took my mom and my sister on the Jim Wrona Loop. Jim is one of the guys in my running group at work and he discovered this loop a while back. Lately it has been the only trail we go on - hopefully we'll switch it up tomorrow! Here are some lovely pictures from the hike. Spending an hour walking around with my mom and sister gave us a lot of time to catch up free from distractions. :)

The wild turkeys were out again today! I think I see at least one wild turkey every other day. Today they had their turkey tails open. That was a first...

One of the many LOST hatches in Fort Ord. This is the lavatory hatch. There are tons of abandoned buildings on the trail, all from when Fort Ord opened in 1917 as a field artillery target range and maneuver area. The 7th Infantry Division was the primary division based at Fort Ord. They were first activated for service in WWI, but their actions in WWII were the most memorable. They fought against the Japanese forces in the Pacific Theater. Division units practiced boat loading at the Monterey Wharf and amphibious assault techniques at the Salinas River in CA. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)


Happy trails...

Don't be a Doormat.

I recently found myself in a situation where an "elder" was talking with me about my new job. Let's call this person R (for rude).

R: It's great that you were able to get a job. Where is it that you are working?
L: In Seaside.... blah blah details blah
R: Oh Seaside! Well that's unfortunate...
L: Why do you say that?
R: There's nothing to do there. There's no culture, or anything...
L (cutting him off): Well actually there's tons of stuff to do there. I have a blog where I write about different things going on around Seaside and the rest of Monterey County and you would be surprised at how many museums, art shows, music events, festivals, etc going on in Seaside
R: I doubt it.
L (incredulously shaking my head - is R for real?): I'm serious!
MY MOM (whispering in my ear): L! Stop it! You are being rude!
L: No I'm not. I'm simply telling R that he is wrong. He has no idea - I'm not going to sit here and let him insult where I live when he doesn't even know what he's talking about!

After reflecting on this interchange a little more, I just wanted to take a few moments to rant ...and think. My mom expected me to just laugh and go along with what R had said. Yes it was a silly comment and I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it, but it really irritated me.  I have quickly fallen in love with my new home and town. Seaside has charm and character. There are gorgeous hiking and biking trails, hidden restaurant gems, and - oh! - the views... breathtaking ocean views!

I could tell that R thinks he is an all-around big shot, but I didn't feel the need to impress him. I did not want to be a doormat and keep quiet when he belittled Seaside. A quick Google search led me to this article about how to not be a doormat in relationships, friendships, and at work. The author gives 5 easy steps:

1. Evaluate Your Relationships
2. Find Your Voice **don't be afraid to speak up for yourself. You don't need to be ugly, or mean - be kind and considerate, but speak in specific terms... You can do this. To avoid being a doormat, you must find your voice and speak up when you WISH that you would.
3. Think out what is wrong
4. Realize people are not out to get you
5. Treat yourself the way you want to be treated


Psycho Donuts (Campbell)

I've been wanting to go to Psycho Donuts (2006 Winchester Blvd, Campbell) for about 3 months now. This is a prime example of a business that makes its business through effective social media marketing. They have (and regularly update) a website, Facebook, Twitter, and a blog. People love Psycho Donuts on Yelp. They are all over the internet!!

Straight from their website, I couldn't say it any better: At Psycho Donuts, peculiar donuts hobnob with quirky art, and a crazy, themed environment. Psycho Donuts has performed a facelift on the common donut, and has resurrected the corner donut shop from the brink of extinction.

Kyle went with me Saturday morning to try out a few of their donuts. We split the Crazy Face, Mood Swing, and Clumbsy Crunch. They were so yummy! Will someone who likes overdosing on sugar come with me next time so that I can order the Kooky Monster or Manic Malt? I also really want to try their Nutella the Hun and Psycho Panda!

Pictures from Psycho Donut's facebook page. See the whole selection by clicking here.
Crazy Face

Mood Swing

Clumbsy Crunch

I thought the actual donuts were tasty. Two of the three were old-fashioned style. I'm not going to lie, I prefer the fried fluffy dough ones the most though! What I especially liked about Crazy Face was that I could have a little bit of custard (the eyes and nose are custard filled donut holes), without having a whole mess of custard up in my donut. Also, it was covered with maple glaze, which has been my favorite since elementary school. The people who run this place definitely know how to choose a theme and run with it. The whole "psych ward" feeling is apparent. Their donut servers are dressed as nurses, they passed out bubble wrap (randomly) while we were trying to decide which donuts we wanted, and they have obscure robot/donut/hospital art work everywhere. Atypical donut shop stop!

Fashion Show at The Fairmont

On Friday night I drove to the Fairmont (170 South Market Street) in downtown San Jose and watched my sister in the annual Presentation High School Fashion Show. The theme this year was One Common Thread (I think). I really enjoyed watching the show and I thought all of the designers were great picks. My sister lucked out and got the two most amazing outfits in the entire show. The one above is from a designer who is actually a pres alumni. None of the clothes are for sale yet because the designer, Megan Sasaki, is still doing the patterns and what not. Her entire segment was fierce though! Loved the patterns.

Before the show there was an alumni cocktail hour. It was really nice to have the opportunity to catch up with some '05 graduates. It's strange that we have all been through so much these past four and a half years, our paths have grown further and further apart, and yet we effortlessly fell into laid back girl chit chat. One common thread is right...

The finale of the show is a daughter/sponsor walk. My mom escorted Nicole down the aisle and I'm not going to lie, I teared up. The fashion show's finale is sort of a symbolic rite of passage into the graduation phase of senior year. It marks the beginning of the end for Nicole. The beginning of easter break, AP tests, finals, the last dance recital, senior dinner, awards day, and then, before you know it: your last A day and B day. The last time you [are required to] wear your Pres skirt. (After all, there's always Halloween and other occasional reasons to pull out the good ol' plaid :)

After the show it was my turn to congratulate my sister on a terrific job in the show. She looked beautiful on stage. It wasn't just the hair, clothes, makeup, etc though. She has more. She has brains and confidence and I couldn't be more proud of her....

Last Chance Mercantile

As I was driving home (Seaside) from home (San Jose) I made the impromptu decision to find the Marina Dump. As part of the Green Team at work, I go to bi-weekly meetings and help plan the Green Fair (April 15th).

At the last meeting, somebody mentioned Last Chance Mercantile (14201 Del Monte Boulevard, Marina). It is a store near the dump that sells random items for ridiculously cheap prices. Basically - the last chance to purchase these items before they end up like the brave little toaster or his blankey friend.

I remembered hearing that it was near the Dole Factory, so I turned off at Marina's Del Monte Blvd exit.

Dole's cooling, packaging, shipping facility

I got lost, so I pulled over and asked a farmer tending to his rideable lawn mower for directions. He kindly told me to turn around and make a left at the stop sign just past the Dole plant. I began to see signs for the landfill and waste management facility. Fancy terms for DUMP!

The drive into the dump was oddly beautiful. There were rolling green hills with blossoming wild flowers, towering trees with shadows that veiled the pavement, farmers in the distance piloting tractors and tilling their land. The most picturesque landfill access road I could possibly imagine. Before the gates of the slag heap, I turned right at the sign and parked in front of the Last Chance Mercantile.

LCM had sporting goods - lots of old golf clubs and balls, auto parts, clothes, books, mulch, compost, paints, bakeware, and more! I purchased measuring cups ($1), a nice glass serving platter ($1), five $1 tin trays, and one $2 tin tray that was a bit more intricate than the others. My total was a little over $9 after tax.

My dad agreed to help me turn my 6 platters into a cupcake stand. Can't wait to drill some holes through these babies! My cupcake stand will be one of a kind and look super duper snazzy! Snap!

LCM is a great place for DIY fanatics, bargain hunters, remodelers, or the unemployed. The resale shop has extremely affordable prices and, with a little imagination, you can turn trash to treasure. It would be fun to get together with friends, each contribute $2, and spend the remainder of your day building something crazy on a $10 budget. Yes? No? Any takers?

Operating hours:
Monday - Friday: 8 am to 5 pm
Saturday: 8 am to 4:30 pm
Sunday: Closed

Chicken & Waffles

Rachael Ray is a strange lady. Raspy voice, doesn't always seem too excited about what she's cooking, doesn't surprise me with crazy amazing dishes... BUT! I did get inspired to do my own take on her Chicken & Waffle Monte Cristos. I basically grilled up some chicken (right), reheated the leftover fish from Fashion Show (center) using the same skillet, and made an Eggo wheat waffle (left) in the toaster.

Ray layered humongous waffles with chicken and bacon, using the term "savory" a lot. It looked more like "heartattacky." Being a fan of waffles, I decided that I could eat a waffle after I finished my protein chunkers. I ♥ waffles. 


Volunteer at the 2010 U.S. Open golf tournament

Volunteer at the 2010 U.S. Open golf tournament

Do you like golf? Do you like volunteering?

The deadline to register as a volunteer for the U.S. Open will be April 1st. Volunteers will help with event management, entrance control, customer service, and giving access to the right people to designated areas. The golf event comes to Pebble Beach June 14 - 20. If you volunteer, a shift will last you 7 to 7.5 hours and you'll have to complete at least three of them. You need to be 18, speak English well, pass a criminal background check, be able to stand up (no, I'm not kidding), and be a U.S. citizen or resident alien. Apply here.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

For St. Patrick's Day I made Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes with Smitten Kitchen's recipe.  On Monday I gave you a preview of what I was going to make. With both frostings finished, I was confident that I wouldn't be up til 2 am finishing them! First I made the chocolate Guinness cake. All the alcohol burned off and the cocoa folded in perfectly. BTW: I'm still looking for legitimate Dutch-processed cocoa powder - that's cheap. Any suggestions? 

Adorable, yes? I know.
I was a little nervous about filling the mini cupcakes because -well- they are just so teensy! The first batch I layered the two frostings, whiskey ganache on bottom and Bailey's frosting on top.

Before I got gutsy and decided to fill the cupcakes
I'm a baker with an engineer's mind. Because I didn't have a clever apple corer at my side (it would probably be too big for a batch of minis anyways), I used this meat thermometer to "poke & swivel" cavities into the babycakes. It was the perfect tool! Then I came in with my piping bag and stuffed them with whiskey!

As for the Bailey's frosting, I decided it would be best to fully cover the tops of each cupcake, including the little nub I left peeping out of the whiskey ganache hole:

I made two of the mini cupcakes with both frosting types in one pastry bag. It was simply for experimental purposes. I think the swirl effect looks really pretty!

I then sprinkled green sugar on top, just to really emphasize the idea of celebrating St. Pat's (as if the three alcohols weren't enough!)

I made a few with gold foil liners. They remind me of little pots of gold. But upside down. Hmm...

Overall I got great responses from coworkers about these. Everyone seemed to like the bailey's and rich chocolate cake. I had a frosted one on Tuesday night and I could REALLY taste the whiskey. Like, a lot. I had to go have a snack to cleanse my palette. Then again, I think I have had one too many Irish Car Bombs, so it could just bring up ...memories.

Who wants the next batch?

"Best Restaurants of 2010"

Best Restaurants of 2010. - Monterey County Weekly

MCW, one of my favorite local papers, just finished their "Best Of" review of everything in Monterey County. I know that I'll come back to this post when I'm looking for a restaurant that won't disappoint. Below is a quick rundown of the best in each category:

New Restaurant of '09: Mundaka
Restaurant in Monterey County: Marinus  **oh snap! That's where my roommate works! Yay for him!
Restaurant more than 10 years old: Rio Grill
Restaurant in Big Sur: Nepenthe
Restaurant in Carmel: Cantinetta Luca

Restaurant in Carmel Valley: Cafe Rustica
Restaurant in Marina: Kula Ranch Island Steakhouse
Restaurant in Monterey: Montrio
Restaurant in North County: Phil's Fish Market & Eatery
Restaurant in Pacific Grove: Passionfish
Restaurant in Pebble Beach: Roy's **might have eaten here before with my mom, I'll try it again though!
Restaurant in Salinas: Gino's
Restaurant in Sand City: Sweet Elena's Bakery
Restaurant in Seaside: Fishwife **what no Baan Thai?
Place for a Business Lunch: Tarpy's Roadhouse **been there, can't remember a thing about it...
Best Breakfast: First Awakenings (Pacific Grove)
Cheap Eats: Chipotle (Monterey) **what about Tommy's in Marina?!!
Chinese: Tommy's Wok (Carmel)
French: Fifi's Cafe & Bistro (Pacific Grove)
Italian: Little Napoli (Carmel)
Japanese/Sushi: Crystal Fish (Monterey)
Korean: Orient Express (Seaside)
Mediterranean: Petra (Monterey)
Mexican: Peppers Mexicali Cafe (Pacific Grove) **tried going here but they weren't open, now I'm sad for missing out!
Middle Eastern: Amir's Kabob House (Monterey)
Thai Food: Thai Bistro II (Pacific Grove)
Appetizers/Small Plates: Esteban (Monterey)
Outdoor Dining: The Forge in the Forest (Carmel)
Vegetarian Menu: Tillie Gort's (Pacific Grove)
Steakhouse: John Pisto's Whaling Station (Monterey)
Family Restaurant: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. (Monterey) **my other roommate works here! Both of their companies got on the list!!
Seafood: Monterey Fish House (Monterey) **definitely going here! top of my list! apparently you need to call wayyyy in advance though
Best Clam Chowder: Old Fisherman's Grotto (Monterey)
Best Splure: Ventana (Big Sur)
Best Wine List: Sardine Factory (Monterey)
Best Romantic Spot: Pacific's Edge at Highlands Inn (Carmel)

Sheesh, those took a long time to link! But this is my official MUST-EAT LIST. 
I solemnly swear to eat at every place and tell you all about it!


Red’s Donuts: Monterey-Seaside donut dynasty turns 60

Red’s Dawns : The Monterey-Seaside down-home donut dynasty turns 60. - Monterey County Weekly

Ever been to Red's Donuts? Me neither. But a LOT of people have. 60 years worth of people! Owned by Matthew O'Donnell (his sister Kathy helps), are celebrating 60 years of donut sales from their Alvardo Street location. I don't know if my sister will remember this, but when we first came here (I was looking at potential places to live), we drove down Alvarado Street and I pointed at Red's Donuts, made a comment about how quaint it looked, and then proceeded to take a picture of it:

Matthew and Kathy's dad Herman "Red" O'Donnell, opened shop in 1950 in downtown Monterey. The Seaside location opened in 1964 and relocated in 1986 to it's current location on Fremont Blvd. Red's sells about 300 DOZEN donuts each day. If you would like to read more about their family, business, and the glazed beauties, follow the link to the article above.

Pros: friendly atmosphere, they obviously know what they are doing, tradition, about 20 donut varieties, $0.70 donuts, $7 dozen, old-fashioned prep methods, no machinery, "each wad of of dough is hand-rolled and cut into the shape." Want an early donut? Go to Red's at 4 am.... I know one of these days I'll get a bag full of donut holes or one of those twisty ones. (When I do I'll update my thoughts!) MMMMMMMM!!!

433 Alvardo Street Location:
Mon - Sat: 6:30 am - 1:30 pm
Sun: 6:30 am - 12:30 pm
(813) 372 - 9761

1646 Fremont Blvd Location:
Mon - Fri: 4:00 am - 3:00 pm
Sat - Sun: 4:00 am - 2:00 pm
(813) 394 - 3444