Back to Reality

I fought the urge to go to Urth Caffe this morning and settled on a more appropriate 85 Degree Bakery in Old Town Pasadena, and enjoyed a cup of coffee with a small cranberry and cream cheese bread for breakfast today.

I saved about $20 compared to the mea culpa breakfast I had the other day. And that’s with additional goodies I picked up for my husband and my daughter!

I know this is hardly newsworthy but I just had to share my excitement with the world, or the 7 kind people that actually read my blog!

Breakfast Mea Culpa

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I had a total, “oh crap,” mea culpa moment the other morning at Urth Caffe.  Just take a look at the receipt and please weep with (or for) me.  I just spent a whopping $26 on breakfast. Twenty six dollars! Seriously, who spends that much on breakfast FOR ONE, right?  I’m convinced that an Alien came down and temporarily took over my body when I was making my order.

Well, an Alien or not, the mistake was made.  And while the Nicoise Salad with smoked salmon nestled in lightly dressed bib lettuce was satisfying, it wasn’t worth as nearly as much in my opinion and I’m still regretting that I splurged so much on something I thought was mediocre, at best.

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As I was walking away from the cash register feeling defeated, and with a significantly lighter wallet, I told myself that I will not be returning to Urth Caffe for a while.  I still love this place but it was time for me to reevaluate my spending.  As I was saying this to myself, a barista brought over my Moroccan Tea Latte with this foam art …

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OMG, this is unreal. This has to be the cutest foam art I’ve ever seen. I’m convinced that Urth has some sort of technology where it detects customers that’s thinking about parting and lure them back with this cute-as-a-button puppy drink.

Darn you, Urth, darn youuuuuu!

Yes, I will be back next week.

I Heart Pasadena

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It may have topped the America’s Snobbiest City list, but Pasadena is still a gem of a place, filled with some of my favorite things, like Urth Caffe and its beautiful latte art. I think this Twitter logo-like bird is my favorite art to date.

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And how about the Oxtail Chili Cheese Fries from Bachi Burger?  Just pour a glass of wine and order this and you got yourself an amazing dinner.

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Oh, and these mouth-watering spreads from Le Pain Quotidien. My favorites are Noir (Belgian dark chocolate) and Blondie (white chocolate).

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And of course, Color Me Mine.

All these establishments are a chain and you can find them in other, less “snooty” areas, but it’s nice to know that I can find all my favorite places in one corner of this quaint little Old Town.

Birthday Fun: Color Me Mine

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My BFF Maya and her family came down to LA from PDX for my birthday weekend. I got to spend two solid days with her while Kevin kindly watched Pon Pon (thank you, honey). She took me on a 2.5-hour massage on my birthday at rA Organic Spa in Downtown Burbank (ask for Anne — she was amazing), followed by my husband treating us to cozy dinner at Café Bizou in Pasadena, the same place we had our wedding rehearsal dinner. I’m incredibly blessed to spend the special day with those I truly love.

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The highlight of the weekend was painting at Color Me Mine in Pasadena. I know I was not turning10, but this place brings out my inner child and makes me so, so happy. Unfortunately, I can’t really find people who’s willing to come and paint pottery with me these days so I’m glad Maya was game! We grabbed a cup of coffee and tea at 85 Degree Bakery across the street and spent three hours painting a bowl, colander, aka “bowl with holes,” according to Maya’s husband (for Maya), and two mug cups (for me).

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So may lovely colors to choose from!

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It took me about a hour to plan how I wanted my mugs to look like! I initially wanted to create a chevron design using masking tapes but after several failed attempts, I decided to just paint it solid (with color 84) and add tiny polka dots using white puffy paint.  The cup looks grainy and light blue but it should turn into shiny and light lavender after it’s blazed.

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After I finished the first one, I couldn’t get myself to go through the entire process again so I just used the puffyy paints and created rainbow-colored polka dots.  I might have gone a little overload with the dots!

I can’t wait until the mugs are done this weekend!

Udated on 1/13/15: The mugs are done! We went to pick them up over the weekend and I’m delighted with how they came out. I’m already using them during my daily tea break!

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Charming Diner in A Quaint City: DISH

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My beloved sewing machine has been running non-stop for the last few days, working hard to finish up Pon Pon’s costume in time for her first Halloween. It’s a very simple costume (more detail on that later) but I’m making matching ones for two of her friends, so it’s sucking up all my time and sanity. And since I’m making them on a fly, with no patterns or instruction, I’m making tons of mistakes along the way – to a point where I had to go to the nearest Jo Ann Fabrics and Crafts to get some more supplies.  redface

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We trekked out to La Canada Flintridge on Sunday afternoon for my craft errand, and stopped by Dish for a late lunch afterward.

First, what a cute little city La Canada Flintridge is!  It’s a bit out of the way from our families, Kevin’s work, and our social circle, but I fell in love with this irresistibly charming and quaint town. (I was like, “OMG, I want to live here!” then Wikipediaed the demographic information afterward and found that it “ranks as the 143rd most expensive U.S. city to live in, with a median home price of $1,321,367.” Great …cry)

Second, ah, Dish … what a cute place! We dined there around 3:00 p.m. at an off hour and the place was pretty much empty, which was great for Pon Pon (she can make some noise and not bother other patrons). The food was decent (not spectacular but above average for a good old coffee shop / diner) and service could have been better (the waitress who helped us was sweet and pleasant but it took a while for us to get our orders in), but I really liked this place.

I ordered the Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Sandwich (tasty but it was so heavy that I only ate half) …

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… and Kevin enjoyed Tuna Melt.

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The side of “Grown Up” Mac and Cheese (I recommend this to blue cheese lovers).

Okay, off to buy some Power Ball tickets so we can someday afford a place in this city. lol

Safe Haven for Parents: Pita Jungle

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Blue Corn Nacho that my husband and I shared for appetizer

A kid-friendly restaurant for newbie parents is like an Embassy for someone who’s lost a passport while traveling in a foreign country. You rarely pay attention to it (or don’t even notice its existence before), but you’re so thankful that it’s there when you’re in a pickle.

I want to give a shout out to Pita Jungle in Pasadena for being so kind to us rookie parents. Kevin and I went to Old Town Pasadena few weekends ago, and went into this Mediterranean restaurant for lunch – since other restaurants looked either too small or a bit too bourgeois for this stroller-pushing parents. They were happy to set up a table for two and a half where the stroller could fit perfectly, without blocking the aisle or disturbing other patrons. I never noticed it before but the place was filled with kids and strollers. It’s great to have a place like this, especially for a paranoid mom like me.

And paranoid I am. redface

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Wood-Fire Chicken for him

Up until a year ago, I was a proud member of the “I don’t want babies around me” club. I was one of those people born missing a baby-loving gene, with dislikes for baby showers, baby’s birthday parties, and anything involving little critters running around with drool dripping down from the side of their tiny mouth. I would get annoyed sitting next to screaming babies at restaurants, especially if I was paying good money for a meal. evil  I avoided them as much as I can, like how people avoid the sun, and if there was a lotion that would block the little munchkins from entering my personal space, I would have smothered it all over my body, head to toe.

Now that the table has turned, I’m super paranoid when I take Pon Pon out to restaurants, almost to a point of fear. I know that there are many, many card-carrying members still roaming around the city and I’m afraid that they’re going to come attacking me from behind the bar counter with their designer bags if Pon Pon uttered even a single sound! I know that the public is generally very forgiving (God bless them) and many don’t mind that a baby is sitting next to them, but I’m still very sensitive because I remember how I used to be.

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Wood-Fired Salmon Salad for me

I’m sure I’ll get over the fear sooner or later and will be braving into any restaurants with the baby and her diaper bag in tow, but until then, you can find me in Pita Jungle, with the members of the new club – parents.

Old-Fashioned Fun: Parkway Grill

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Kevin and I spent Saturday evening with friends Joe and Deb at Parkway Grill in Pasadena. They are also expecting a little one next year, and Deb and my due dates are coincidentally only a few weeks apart! This is the second baby for the lovely couple, and we received many wonderful advices — some hilarious and some a bit scary lol — from the veteran parents over great good and (virgin for the moms-to-be) drinks.

Our wonderful evening became even more fabulous because the food at Parkway Grill was just perfect. This Pasadena landmark reminded me of a fancy restaurant my father used to take the us family on his company holiday party.  We were one of the youngest people in the restaurants, and the place had the real, old-fashioned steakhouse feel that I adore.

We shared an order of Tiger Shrimp Corndog to start, which were very creative in its naming but really no different than a regular tempura shrimp … but Thai-inspired sauce was delicious.

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I really wanted to lick the bowl to get the last bit of the lobster bisque!

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Here’s my main dish – truffle infused chicken with vegetables. This was one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had.

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Kevin ordered a New York steak.

I have to admit that I used to hate mommy talks before I became pregnant. Some people are natural baby lovers, even if they weren’t a mom themselves … and I was definitely NOT one of them!  I just didn’t get all the fun behind talking about a state-of-the-art baby stroller, breast feeding, stretch marks, and swollen feet. I think I lost touch with lots of party-girls-turned-moms-to-be over the years because we no longer had anything in common, which, now looking back, was such an unfortunate thing. I wish I stayed more open minded, interested, and supportive, during the most exciting time of their lives.

Now that I’m pregnant, I am incredibly thankful for mothers who listen to my rookie concerns and offer sound advice, and especially for all the non-parents who tolerate my enthusiasm over burp cloths and swaddle blankets!

I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends in my life.

Weekend Gluttony for Two

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I can’t count how many times I used the “… but I’m eating for two!” excuse this weekend, starting with the hearty breakfast / lunch at Aloha Factory for some no-frill Hawaiian feast.

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As if the order of the gigantic macadamia nut pancakes drenched in vanilla pudding was not enough, I had to get TWO orders of char shu tacos, all while picking the food from Kevin’s combo plate. Boy, food here is so good.  I’m not even a huge Hawaiian food fan and I adore this mom-and-pop joint!

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Then for dinner, we went to Gatten Sushi in Monterey Park for some revolving sushi goodness. Since I can’t eat raw fish, many of the sushi I ate here were very non-traditional, like fried green bean sushi! I would usually avoid these funky nigiri and rolls, but I can’t be too choosey right now. But to my surprise, some of these creative sushi are pretty good.  Just stay away from fried salmon skin though.  It sounded good at first, but it was tough and kinda yucky.

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Natto is definitely my best friend during pregnancy.

J and J Restaurant

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I had the opportunity to hang out with friends Jaime and Mike this morning! Kevin and I met them through Tiffany a few years ago, and we tagged along when Tiffany and Jesse went out to meet them. They are such good people! Jaime and Mike are expecting twins due in a few weeks and we had a blast sharing our pregnancy stories and other mommy stuff over a box full of pastries and potato balls we picked up from Porto’s! Jaime is one of the seven friends who are currently pregnant. 🙂

On our way home, Kevin and I stopped by Jin Jian (J and J) Restaurant in Alhambra for quick noodle and dumpling lunch.

I ordered the vermicelli noodle with fried tofu – warm and light, perfect for the cold weather.

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Kevin ordered this noodle bowl with sweet pork chunks – sweet and although a bit oily, it was much lighter than ramen.

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We shared an order of soup dumplings

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… and pan-fried pork dumplings (we actually ordered the vegetarian version but got these instead) .

We shared a large round table with another couple, who looked like they were on their third date because they couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other!lol

Wow, this was a weekend of pure fun and gluttony … and loved every minute of it!