Hanging With My Bestie

Early mornings mean spectacular light, coffee, and sometimes conversation.

One of the great things about visiting my best friend, Dawn, (other than the completely obvious) is the view from the house.  She, the Old Man, and Little Obi-Wan live two blocks from Universal Studios/City Walk. We could walk there if we wanted to deal with all the steep inclines.  This includes the Stairs of Death.

Take them slowly and hold on to the rail or you WILL fall. This is why they are the Stairs of Death. Also, you feel kinda dead once you climb all those stairs.

Visits usually mean we’re up early.  She was a teacher for years so when she was still working, she was still up early.  Now Little Obi-Wan usually wakes early meaning she does, too.  Early there means late for me so really I’m sleeping in.  Right?  We have coffee, sit and zone out, talk a little once we feel coherent, and now that we have smartphones – check world of social media.  I’ll usually pull out whatever book I happen to be reading and indulge in some early morning reading time.  Book count this vacation?  Four.  That’s pretty good considering all the stuff we did I already blogged about and all the stuff I haven’t shared with you yet.  Not to mention the countless times we watched Thomas the Train, Sesame Street, and videos with Little Obi-Wan.

The view from the kitchen. How can you not love that view while fixing your meals? Oh, right. It gets hotter than Hades in there. That’s how.

I love cooking with Dawn and in her kitchen.  She did something great that I already shared about which was make sure there were safe pots and pans for me to use.   The last time we visited it was for Thanksgiving in 2009.  The kitchen is a little small so having Dawn, her mom, and I all in there at once can get a little claustrophobic, so we tried to take turns.  It worked for the most part, but there were times we were all in there at once and staying perfectly still at our station so we weren’t bumping into each other.  That was a great Thanksgiving!

I showed you several of our meals out, but I haven’t shared our meals in.

Our first night, Dawn grilled up two different types of brats by Johnsonville.  Original and Spicy.  She also grilled some corn.  We had some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers as well and then watermelon for dessert.  Yummers!

So fresh!

Another night, Dawn made Sloppy Joes with homemade buns and roasted potatoes.  Chaz was in homemade bread heaven while we were

Potatoes and Sloppy Joes!

visiting.  I skipped the buns and ate mine with a fork.  Just as good!

The day we went to the L.A. County Fair was my turn to cook dinner.   Chaz was spectacular and ran over to Ralph’s for all our dinner needs once we got back from the fair.  I should mention that the shopping center that the Ralph’s is in closest to Dawn is the shopping center where everyone loses their sanity.   Everyone forgets how to drive in there and decide that they all have the right of way.  Thank goodness for underground parking.  If you can manage to get to it without being run into.

The requirements that the Old Man set out for anything I fixed is that it have meat (can do), and not contain eggplant or

An old standby

curry.  I decided to go with a variation of something I tend to make

Carnitas! Ole!

when I want something quick and easy.  Pasta with mild Italian sausage and kalamata olives.  I added asparagus in with it and topped it with fresh basil.  Chaz got some fresh heirloom tomatoes that he sliced up and some radishes.  I intended to eat mine without pasta and just set some the of sausage, asparagus, and olives aside, but Chaz bought some Tinkyada pasta, so I felt obligated to fix it.  I had a pot of Tinkyada pasta for me and a pot of gluten-full pasta for everyone else.  There were enough leftovers that I could have some as breakfast a few days.  Which turned out to be a good thing after I discovered eggs were a problem.

Dawn loves using a slow cooker as much as I do.  She fixed carnitas in the slow cooker the day after our trip to Disneyland.  This meant really only veggie prep that evening.  The best kind of

That risotto…best risotto!

The sky was on fire one night

cooking when you’re recovering after back-to-back full days out.

Our last dinner was roasted chicken, carrots, and butternut squash risotto.  Dawn was awesome and instead of using butter that the recipe called for, she used more olive oil.  The best risotto I’ve had.  And it was cooked in a rice cooker!   Yes, a rice cooker.  You know, the thing that us Asians use to cook rice in so we can have great rice without standing at the stove watching it, but a lot of Americans use to cook other things in.

Okay.  I know I started off with talking about what we do when I visit and ended up talking about food.   Well, we eat!   We used to go out to eat a lot (or call for takeout or delivery) when I would visit, but tight budgets and food intolerances/allergies kept us in more often this time around.  That was fine with me.

Just look at that face!


The resident fighter against Communism, aka Mantequilla or Manny for short, takes up residence next to me while I’m sitting on the sofa or love seat.  He demands a lot of attention and belly scratches.  He learned from my first visit that I’m the one with the fingernails that knows all the right spots to hit.  Word has it he was a bit sulky and wanted more cuddles than usual after we left.  Poor little guy.  He just can’t get enough lovin’.

We usually play video games during lazy days indoors.  They got a Xbox with Kinect since our last visit.  Let me tell you, that thing is a pain!  It took more time to get everything set up than we spent playing!  As Dawn says, it’s not intuitive.  Not at all.  Give me my Wii any day!  Little Obi-Wan had a blast though.  He plays like I do a lot of times.  I don’t really care, I just do whatever.  Really.  Playing Mortal Kombat and Street

Trying a Sancerre

Fighter in college I had no clue how I was supposed to use the controller.  I just kept rapidly pressing all the buttons and when I was lucky, I’d win.  It’s all about having fun.  Right?

Copious amounts of wine and other adult beverages are also consumed.  That’s just one bottle of wine and the one I bought.  You should see their two bars.  Okay.  One and a half.  The Old Man’s mancave is where he has his poker games and they keep a full bar down there.  The “bar” in the kitchen just has a little of everything you might need.  Rum, vodka, kahlua.  You know, the important stuff.

No words needed





Little Obi-Wan doesn’t want to go

The weekend before leaving for vacation my bestie asked if I wanted to go to Disneyland.  I hadn’t really thought about it so I told her it didn’t matter.   Bestie and I have gone to Disneyland together since high school.  It was a band thing.  One short parade around Main Street and we were free to goof off the rest of the day.   It was the long trek around the backside getting from where our buses were to where the parade started that was the hard part.  We all loathed that part.  Forget that we got to see the part of Disney that most people never get to see.  It was a long march and usually hot on top.  Wearing a full polyester uniform over your street clothes isn’t exactly comfy.

We wound up there the day after going to the L.A. County Fair.   If you didn’t see my guest post at Johnna’s 52 Foods on a Stick, go check it out.

Disneyland was one place I was actually looking forward to going and feeling like I didn’t have to worry about food.  Chaz and I met Chef Joel Schaefer last year at the Gluten-free & Allergy-free Expo in Chicago.  Chef Joel worked for Disney for a number of years and helped them grow their safeofferings to people with food allergies and intolerances.

Counting fun in the back seat. Can you tell that he changed his mind?

We looked information up the night before.  We discovered that I can take food in with me and not get hassled by Security.  My stash was still at the bottom of my camera bag though.  It’s just nice to know up front that they make that accommodation.    There is a short list of quick-serve places that can accommodate most food allergies.  That was nice to know up front as well.  We typically eat at the table-serves now that we are older and have more income, while the quick-serves were our choice in our teen years because they were cheaper and we wanted to get as much time on the rides as possible.  Sometimes you just need something quick and you need to know where to go ahead of time if that ends up being the case.  The website also has information on where to find healthier food options as well as vegetarian options on the regular dining page.

We can’t go near Goofy so Little Obi-Wan took us to the train first.

Little Obi-Wan has a Guest Assistance Pass as I mentioned in previous post.  This allows us to not have to wait as long for rides and helps prevent meltdowns while waiting.  You can go read the other post to see the misadventures in one woman’s judgement when she saw the handicapped line for It’s A Small World.  Bestie also gets season passes for them which means they can park hop at their leisure.  Chaz and I made sure to get park hopping tickets so we could go between Disneyland and California Adventureland.  It was our first time going to the latter.  The last time we all went to Disney, we just stayed in Disneyland.  It makes things interesting because as I mentioned in the guest post for Johnna, we tend to let Little Obi-Wan lead the way.   This meant going between parks about once an hour, maybe two.   And don’t worry thinking we lost a lot of time.  We stayed until closing.

I really enjoyed California Adventureland.  It was like having a mix of mini-California, Toontown, and Fantasyland all in one.  I highly recommend the giant Ferris Wheel.  Get yourself a swinging gondola.  It’s great for a scream.

We worked up an appetite going between parks and so the time came to decide where to eat.

On the other side

Any table-service restaurant was an option.  Yes, any of them.

Bestie made the suggestion we go to Blue Bayou and then attempt Pirates of the Caribbean after lunch.  Little Obi-Wan isn’t too keen on that ride lately so we were trying to suggest it to him all morning by saying we were going to see “good pirates.”  He made the distinction that he was a “good pirate” a few days before when he was dressed up in his pirate costume.

Gluten-free, dairy-free rolls and a gluten-free, dairy-free salad with just olive oil and vinegar to dress.

I was up for the suggestion.  I always wanted to eat in Blue Bayou.  Years of riding Pirates of the Caribbean will do that to you.  You ride by and you just want to know what’s over there in that barely lit restaurant.  The darkish ambience makes it so mysterious.

The darkish ambience also make it harder to take food porn.  Go figure that after the trip I figure out the low light setting.  Oh well.

Chicken, green beans, and rice

Our server brought out Chef Jose to talk to me to double-check my food issues and he told me directly how my dish would be altered to be safe for me.  We all got our salads after that and then our server came back with a basket of gluten-free, dairy-free rolls just for me.  I was over the moon.  I never get to have bread in a restaurant.  Never.  I miss it sometimes when everyone else is macking away, but I’m at the point where I truly am used to not having what everyone else is having and I’m okay with it.  I don’t pine over what I don’t get to have.  I enjoy what I do have.

That said, I ate all three rolls even though they were dry.  I poured some olive oil and pepper into my bread plate and sopped it up with the rolls.  The chicken was much better than the chicken I had at the L.A. County Fair.  But I have no idea what’s up with that bone they stuck in it.  My guess is they were trying to make it look like a chop.

Around this time was also when I connected the fact that I had eggs for breakfast two days in a row after not eating eggs for a week and my itchiness and dandruff going up gradually after being calmer for a bit.

Little Obi-Wan was having none of the attempt to go on Pirates after lunch.  The handicapped/guest assistance entrance is right next to Blue Bayou so he knew what was up when we headed there.  Chaz and I went on while Bestie calmed him down and waited for us outside.  That ride never gets old and always makes me smile.  Just like It’s A Small World.

Cute, yeah?

As usual, Little Obi-Wan wanted to ride with Uncle Chaz on a lot of the rides.  That boy loves his uncle.

We did more park hopping, more rides, and I got to check out Cars Land.  Felt like I was in Radiator Springs only non-animated.  Where else can you go on a strip of Route 66 without being onRoute 66?

On Route 66

Yeah, I got my kicks.

And I got to ride on Mater with Little Obi-Wan.  We screamed and laughed our heads off.  Good times!

Our last hour was spent trying to get on the Teacups, the Carousel, and a little last-minute shopping on Main Street.

A fun day was had by all.

Having a great time. Wish you were here!

Until next time…

This is how he rolls

He fell asleep eating his lollipop on the way home. I saved it from falling on the ground. He grabbed it proclaimed, “Mine!” and resumed eating as soon as he woke up.

Leisurely Wandering With Purpose

Teas & spices

I’m usually up early when I’m visiting my bestie.  Not only is “early” really “late” for me considering time zone differences, but Little Obi-Wan tends to get up early.  There were a few mornings I was actually able to sleep in, but for the most part I was up between 6:30 and 7 am.  That makes for a lot of time to sit around, drink coffee, have early morning conversations with the bestie, goof off with Little Obi-Wan, and reading.  Lots and lots of reading.

Sunday morning, the bestie and I left the males at home and went off to the Studio City Farmers Market.  You know what’s cool about the farmers market that I knew before we even went?  They have pony rides for the kids.  I read about it in Jim Beaver’s memoir, Life’s That Way.  He lives within walking distance and will take his daughter there for the pony rides sometimes.

An assortment of berries

Anyway.  It was my first time at a farmers market.  Sort of.  I would sometimes go to the one in the parking lot of the Whole Foods in Louisville when we were still living there, but by the time I would get there after work, there wasn’t much left or many vendors left.  I always left empty-handed.

Beautiful bouquets

We strolled up and down both sides of the market.  I was tempted by the teas and spices, but I told myself, “You have enough at home.”  I checked out the figs to replace the ones that got trashed in the cooler while tailgating the day before, but wasn’t quite thrilled with what I found.

I did spend a few minutes talking to a gluten-free baker.  I can’t remember the company name or her name and I seem to have lost her business card.  She had some gluten-free, dairy-free cookies and bread.  I tasted several of the cookies and the bread and liked what I tried.  I wound up buying a small bag of cookies and a loaf of bread.  When I got them home later the taste was much different and I got an aftertaste that I didn’t get when I was tasting them at the market.  The cookies were not as soft and the bread didn’t taste the same.  I think the bread had to do with the slice.  She gave me a small piece sliced super thin to try.  The actual slices of bread in the loaf were about half an inch.  At least.  It was probably a good thing that I discovered two days later that eggs were causing a problem.  I hope the raccoons liked the bread.

GF DF bread and cookies

It was nice just walking around enjoying all the colorful produce and flowers while people watching.  I thought it rather funny that the woman working for the probiotic vendor (they had kombucha and other fermented foods) was sipping on a Starbucks cup.  She could have had nothing but green tea in that venti sized cup, but usually you think coffee when you see a Starbucks cup.  Or is that just me?  Either way, I had a good snicker.

Someone should have used spell check.

We got home, put things away, then headed back out again.  This time with Chaz.

To the garment district!

When he realized where we were going and what we intended to do, he regretted he joined us.

I wanted some Hawaiian print materials without having to have it shipped from Hawai`i.  So Bestie took me to where she gets her Hawaiian prints in the garment district.  She gets some pretty good prints.  I admit I salivate over some of them.  

We did a lot of looking.  Rummaging through the remnants bin.  Rummaging through the pre-cut stacks at the front of the store.  Checking out the walls of hanging bolts.  It was almost like being home again.

Gastro pub!

I left feeling like I scored.  Other than the 5+ yards of the University of Hawai`i print that I paid the full price for, everything else I got was $1.50 per yard.  It was a good thing I didn’t let myself go overboard.  I had to be able to fit it all into my suitcase or my carry-on.

We decided we were hungry by the time we got back to the car.  Sausages were calling our name for some reason.  We decided on a gastro pub, Wurstküche, that Bestie had told us about.

I should have taken a picture of the line.  We were outside for a bit (read: in the blazing sun forever) before we could even get in the door.  The line snake around inside before you could even get to the counter.  The bright side was they had free spa water sitting out that was iced.  Did I mention the dry heat? They operate like a fast casual place.  You order at the counter, they give you a number, and then they bring you your food.

Filipino Maharlisa with caramelized onions, and sauerkraut

The nice part of the place is you don’t have a million things to choose from.  That’s my downfall.  I can’t decide if I have too much to choose from.  Add pictures to a menu and it’s impossible to decide.  However, as soon as I saw Filipino Maharlisa on the menu, I knew what I was getting.  I didn’t even see what was on the menu after it.  The sausage was slightly sweet like longanisa.  A popular Filipino sausage.  Okay, popular with Filipinos.

Where have you been? I better get a good neck scratch, woman!

Anyway.  Between the sweetness of the onions, the meatiness of the sausage, the tartness of the kraut, bitterness of the mustard, and the saltiness of the fries, it was an umami experience.  You better believe I had a little bit of everything on my fork.  Just because I can’t have the bun, doesn’t mean I can’t eat it all together.

Bestie did a check in on Facebook while we were there to let the Old Man know where we were and that we were eating awesome sausages without him.  He’s such a good sport.

It was a great place to have sausage, sausage, or sausage with my fries or sausage with my fries, fries, or fries.  That’s all they do.  Nothing else is fried in the fryer.  Did I mention they double fry their fries?