Sunday, January 13, 2013

Central Park, NYC & My Favourite Restaurants

I visited New York just before Christmas and although the city was awash with Christmas shoppers and business people, during the day Central Park was a picture of tranquility. I went for a run every day  I was there and each day stopped to take a photo at almost the same spot.

My trip was only a few days and mainly consisted of eating my way through the city so I thought I'd share a selection of my favourite places I ate while there. Although I tried a couple of places on my Travel To Do List (I would highly recommend breakfast at the Parker Meridien for a nice treat and delicious French toast!), 3rd Avenue in Midtown turned out to be my favourite place to hang out at night. My personal favourites were as follows:

Pie Face: We may have gone here every night after dinner for dessert...  (It was the holidays!). Their Lamingtons and mini apple pies are particularly delicious.

Blockhead's Burrito: Very laid back and more of a bar atmosphere than restaurant. I have to admit when I first stepped in it was because the restaurant I wanted to go to was booked for a party and I was slightly skeptical, but everything was very fresh and delicious! The portions are huge, but somehow it was so tasty I managed. Very wallet friendly and a good place to hang out after work.

Nana Sushi Lounge: I may be slightly biased seen as this was the first time I had tried dinosaur rolls (sushi restaurants where I'm from are not particularly adventurous) but everything I ate was delicious.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Current Beauty Favourites

The Body Shop Strawberry Body Butter

Daily moisturising often just feels like another unnecessary step in my routine and, in my quest to never get out of bed a second before I have to, it often gets forgotten. However, since wearing this I have gotten so many compliments and "mmm you smell like strawberries" remarks. That, added to that fact that it truly does smell lovely, but not overpowering at all, has made me apply this every day since I got it in my Christmas shopping.

Sensationail at home Gel Manicure Kit

I have been wanting to try gel nails since I first heard about them a couple of years ago. I loved acrylic nails in high school but they wrecked my nails nails and have since slightly fallen out of fashion. However, the $50+ price tag of getting gel nails done professionally in my town has always put me off.  $60 is hardly cheap for a manicure kit (plus $11) for every additional colour you get, but the Sensationail at home gel manicure kit felt a lot more justifiable to me.

I may do a fuller review on this when I have my camera back, but essentially: the entire process takes about 15 minutes, it looks just like any salon manicure, and I did not struggle with the removal at all. If you're someone who likes to wear glitter nailpolish a lot, removing the gel was about the same difficulty. The two negatives are that one of my nails chipped after about 4 days and the set definitely didn't last for 2 weeks (I would say it was more like 7 days). However, that was only my second application, I'll see how they turn out this time. And second, if you're a nail polish junkie like me you might find their colour range slightly lacking. I purchased the pale pink kit and additional dark red and blue colours which were the only ones that really caught my eye. Overall, I will definitely continue using the kit, but I don't think it will replace my regular nail polish use any time soon. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Los Angeles Trip

Santa Monica Beach 
Life is different in Los Angeles. Every other person you meet will be an aspiring actress or singer, usually with a day job as a waitress or cab driver. I spent most of my time in Malibu and Santa Monica and have to admit that L.A. is nothing like I expected it to be, but I loved it nonetheless.

This was my first trip to Los Angeles where I had complete control over what I wanted to do so I felt obligated to do all the perhaps cliched and touristy, but time-honored traditions, including dinner at the Ivy, shopping on Rodeo Drive and Melrose Avenue, visit the Kodak theatre, the Walk of Fame, the Viper Room, Santa Monica Pier and a lot of other things. Here are a few photos from my trip and some recommendations on where (and where not) to go.

The Ivy: I can't even remember what I ate, I think it might have been spaghetti. Essentially, it was nothing special. It was very cramped and you pay a lot for average food (although I am very spoiled when it comes to good food).

Rodeo & Melrose: Rodeo drive tends to be a little out of my price range, but Melrose is much more eclectic and affordable. Unfortunately my favorite store there Gas Bijoux closed down last year.

The view from Hollywood Hills
Hollywood & all the jazz: I've done a tour of Universal Studios before, so this time I went on a tour around the rest of Hollywood. From the Walk of Fame and Kodak Theatre to celebrity homes and a view of downtown and the Hollywood sign, it really went everywhere. I love going on tours, not because I'm particularly interested in celebrity homes but because it's a great way to see the city.
By a mile, the best place I ate was Geoffrey's in Malibu. It's an restaurant in Malibu with an ocean-view, a perfect place for lunch or breakfast. The food was delicious, healthy, and reasonably priced. Plus with the beautiful summer weather it's wonderful to sit out looking over the ocean and feeling the gentle breeze while you eat.

Cab drivers were by far the most interesting people I met while in L.A. One turned off the meter and took us on a tour of Santa Monica. I told another that I lived in China a few years back and he proceeded to tell me how the Chinese government was sending students to UCLA to learn to build weapons. I was not aware that such a class was offered there. Regardless, it made for some interesting commutes.

Photos of where the rich and famous come to pay thousands for a piece of leather & where the rest of us come to gawk ;)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Must See: Portland's Grotto Festival of Lights

Having not set foot in a church for some time I was slightly skeptical at the thought of visiting Portland's Catholic Grotto for their annual Festival of Lights, but the promise of thousands of sparkly Christmas lights drew me in. What is a divine sanctuary by day is transformed over the holiday period to a beautiful show of lights, carolling, and storytelling. I ended up staying to see two of the musical performances that were going on that evening, one of which was a traditional choir group and the other of which was a bluegrass band! I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area over the holidays. And if you don't happen to live nearby, here are some pictures for you to enjoy anyway.


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