Monday, July 28, 2008

Vegas Chillin and Eats

Spent the weekend at the new Palazzo in Vegas. Luckily for me I got hooked up with a Fortuna Suite, which was super huge....easily the size of 4 standard Vegas rooms. The room had all the luxury amenities of a high-end Vegas suite, with multiple flat screen TVs, mini bar, full size living room area with sectional sofa and spa like bathroom. But probably the best part of this room was the amazing view of the pool, which you could quickly cover up with this high tech remote control for the curtains and blinds. I enjoyed my stay very much and I hope to be back again soon.

Another highlight of the trip was checking out the newly opened SushiSamba, also at the Palazzo. I was totally excited to try it out after hearing that it had opened last week. I had heard great things about the sister restaurants in Chicago and New York, and I must say, aside from the snooty service staff, the food was delicious. I had the miso marinated chillean sea bass, which was perfectly cooked, on top of various mixed vegetables. To drink, I had my favorite, a traditional caipirinha....also made perfectly. Overall the place was packed and the vibe was pretty hip. Just around 9pm they had a DJ playing Latin house, which is always OK with me and meshed well with the vibrant cuisine. Outside, there was a lot people who didn't have reservations trying to get a table, most of them were turned away. SushiSamba will definitely go on my lists of Vegas favorites, I just hope the waiters and hostesses will drop the sometimes off-putting Vegas attitude.

To wrap up my trip, before heading back to L.A. I had a chance to catch an M. Kungl exhibit at the Jack Gallery inside the Venetian Canal Shops. I'm a big fan of Kungl's work and it was very cool to see some of his works up close.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Starting a Wine Collection

As part of renovating our kitchen, I've set a goal of starting a wine collection. No, not just a bunch of 2 buck Chuck. Actually, over the last year I've learned a lot about wine and have developed a taste for it. In the process, I've even picked up some favorite years and vineyards that I prefer. Some of my favorites are Vines on the Marycrest and Ferrari-Carano. So as I begin to stock up on these amazing wines, I think a nice wine cabinet would complete the new kitchen.

Now, I'm not going to pretend I'm some kind of wine snob....I wouldn't even call myself a wine enthusiast. But lets face it, there is something about having a wine collection that makes you feel kind of grown-up. Besides, it will reflect the wine theme from the art in the kitchen and also encourage me to continue learning more about wine.

Target has a small cabinet that I like and will go nicely with the new kitchen cabinets. The cabinet holds 20 bottles and quite a few glasses. The best part is that its fairly inexpensive, coming in at an affordable $189. Check it out below:

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Monday, July 21, 2008

New Art for the Condo or My Office

Just received a print I purchased last week, its an interesting visual word map of Los Angeles. Reading another blog last month, I came across a very interesting map of Chicago, which laid out the names of all the neighborhoods in the city to create a larger silhouette of the city. I was intrigued and checked out the designer's (Ork Posters) web site. As I browsed the site, I noticed there were maps of various other cities, including Los Angeles. I had been looking for a unique artistic representation of L.A. for a while, and this map was definitely visually interesting.

I still don't know if this print is going to go up in the condo or my office. As I had posted earlier, anything that my wife doesn't like, ends up going up in my office. Who knows my wife may even want it for her office.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Solution for Our Closets

I was recently browsing the Target web site and I came across the Fab 500 sale. This sale features 500 of their most popular items all on sale until tomorrow. One item that caught my attention was the "John Louis Home Standard Closet Shelving System." I've been looking for something like this for a while now, and its on sale for $199.99.

One thing my wife and I love about our bedroom is that it has his and hers closets. I have my side and she has hers. But since they are pretty old school, its hard to efficiently use the space, specially since we only have one hanging bar across and one long top shelf. And for my wife, there is never enough room for her clothes and shoes. I think this shelving system is what we need. Lets just hope this is one DIY project that I don't screw up.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Staying Local

As mentioned in my previous post, my wife and I stayed local this last weekend. And aside from the carpet fiasco, which I have since fixed, it was pretty fun filled.

Saturday night, we had tickets to the Hollywood Bowl to see Chris Isaak... kind of a post anniversary date night for us. I had heard that Culver City had a park and ride bus that runs from the downtown area to the Bowl for $5. Considering the high gas prices and the hassle of HB parking, this seemed like a great option and we decided to try it out. From our condo to Downtown Culver City is about 5 minutes. So we arrived around 6:30pm, had time to pick up some pannini sandwiches at Ugo. Normally, I'm not a big fan of their food, but those sandwiches were delicious. I had the prosciutto pannini, and my wife had the sun dried tomato pesto pannini.

The bus left at 7PM and was a 40 minute ride, which is a little bit longer then if we would have driven, but this way I had 40 minutes to chill and relax. The show was great and after the concert we hopped back onto the Culver City bus and headed home. We arrived back just before midnight. My wife and I decided we were still not done for the night, so we walked over to a few old and new hot spots in the neighborhood.

First we checked out the tried and true Carbon. This place is a tiny no frills bar/lounge with a Hip Hop DJ. The drinks are very reasonable but its always packed, and on Saturday I was feeling extra claustrophobic. So after a beer we headed over to a new spot that just opened, Rush Street. I had seen this place boarded up for quite some time, so it was good to see it finally open. The ambiance was hip, comfortable and inviting. The lower level is a large open space restaurant/bar with really interesting Chicago inspired decor. The upper level is more of a loungey bar area with a space for dancing. The DJ on Saturday was great, he played a very diverse range of music that was fun and entertaining. Both my wife and I really loved this place and will probably be back with our friends.

Also this weekend, it was the grand opening of Culver City's Chipotle. This was another place I was anxiously awaiting. I know this place gets a bad rap for being a McDonalds concept, but hey the burritos are good and that's the bottom line. I discovered Chipotle when I lived in DC back in 2001, when I moved back to California in 2003 there were only a handful of Chipotles around. Now, they are slowly becoming a must have in every city. So on Sunday I headed to the new Culver City Chipotle, which is just 2 doors down from Rush Street. The line was huge and the service was slow. But I was entertained by little kids trying to pronounce Chipotle and the people in line, who were scheming how they were going to sneak their burritos into the movie theater next door. I tell you, its only a matter of time before the smell of carne asada replaces the aroma of buttered popcorn at my next moving outing. All and all, gone are the days of driving down to Marinda del Mar for my Chipotle addiction.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

The DIY Carpet Cleaning Experiment

This weekend was the first, in a few months that my wife and I had a chance to stay local and do stuff around the condo. After a never-ending post-kitchen renovation clean-up, Saturday morning I rented a Rug Doctor machine at Albertson's and cleaned the carpets.

I hate our carpet, its super cheap and very hard to clean. Nevertheless, it came with the condo and it needed to be cleaned. The cleaning process was an interesting experiment, the machine was fairly easy to use and the process of cleaning the living room/dinning area, hallway and our master bedroom took about 3 and a half hours. I think the process would go much faster, but I had to constantly change out the water.

While I was happy with the way the carpet looked while it was still wet, this morning when I saw the results I was not satisfied with the end result. There were dark patches scattered throughout the various rooms. Makes me wonder if I should invest in putting in hardwood like in the kitchen. Anyway, my experiment failed and now need to call a professional to make sure its done right.

I don't know if its because I don't have the handyman gene, or what, but I don't know why my DIY projects never work out for me. Oh well, practice makes perfect. But damn, its getting expensive fixing up my mess ups.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Inspiration for Our Next Project

Staying at the Colony Palms this weekend was great, the casita we stayed in was recently renovated and had some really nice contemporary design elements that got the wheels in my head turning.

Probably the most inspirational element was the bathroom, which had a Pottery Barn catalog feel to it, with a Mediterranean vibe. Both my wife and I dug it a lot, so hopefully we can translate some of these features into the renovation of our own bathroom.

Check out a web site photo of the bathroom we had in our room this weekend.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

5 Year Anniversary and Weekend Getaway

After a hectic week of renovations, my wife and I were in serious need of some R&R. Saturday was our 5th year wedding anniversary, so we decided to take a quick getaway to Palm Springs. I had never been there, but its just 2 hours away from Culver City (far enough to feel away from the city) and has a bunch of great little spa/resort places.

We stayed in a casita at the Colony Palms Hotel, which was very cute and hip. The hotel had great ammeneties and a really cool pool area, with a loungey downtempo house music soundtrack playing in the background. We spent a lot of time sipping cocktails poolside, and enjoying the relaxing environment. For dinner we ate at the hotel's restaurant, which was delicious and I finally opened a bottle of Dom that I was saving for a special occasion.
Many props to my wife for finding this place, happy anniversary babe.

On the way home Sunday, we stopped by the outlets in Cabazon for some shopping. We checked out a lot of stores, but I really dug the Crate and Barrel Outlet, both my wife and I picked up some goodies.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Pictures Worth a Million Words

Ok, everyone....tada, our new kitchen!

Some before and after photos:

Version 1:
This is what our kitchen looked like when we bought our condo in October 2006.

Version 1.5:
Upon moving in, we made some minor upgrades,

Version 2.0:
This is our kitchen today, completed July 2, 2008

Now that the kitchen is ready, ALLEZ CUISINE!!!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Eating Out During Kitchen Renovation

I am happy to announce that our kitchen should be ready today. Still some minor lingering issues left, but for the most part it will be done and we can begin to move everything back to our cabinets.

As you can imagine, not having a kitchen for a few days resulted in us eating out a lot. During this time, my wife and I visited two cool new Culver City restaurants, Pho Show and Father's Office.

Fathers Office was pretty good, they had an awesome beer selection and interesting sweet potato fries. My wife and I both had burgers, which were tasty, but not as good as the Albi Room (another nearby bar). The drawbacks, were waiting in line to get in and then the free-for-all seating arrangement. I think this place is probably better for drinks than dinner, but nevertheless we were quite satisfied with our visit.

Pho Show is a restaurant I have been anticipating since January. For the longest time the restaurant was an empty space with just a sign. So I was so happy to see it completed and open for business. Finally we have a pho place nearby!

Since moving to the the West Side, we've longed for a decent neighborhood pho place. For the longest time we kept going to Pho 99 in Brentwood, which was a good 10 miles out of the way. So last Wednesday my wife and I decided to take a walk and check it out. The results were mixed, the food was good but not impressive. I felt the broth and the noodles were missing something. I found myself adding more stuff then usual to my pho to get the taste I'm use to. Overall, I will definitely be back. The proximity and the price is just right, and the food will satisfy my occasional pho fix.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Aftermath of Day 2 and 3

Sorry for not posting since Day 1, but I have been dealing with a major case of the remodeler's blues. Both Day 2 and 3 went without any problems. The cabinets were assembled and installed last Thursday. Then on Friday, the cabinet molding was done and the granite counters were installed. The sprint pace of this project was pretty intense, and as promised the cabinets were completely swapped out in 3 days. Bottom line, the cabinets and granite counters look awesome...not bad for only $7k.

The company we chose to do our cabinets was Jing Cabinets in Culver City. They promised an unbelievable 3 day turnaround on our kitchen, which they made happen. Now you're probably wondering, if everything was done in 3 days why am I so blue. Well, mainly its because of the amount of touch-ups and fixes that result from upgrading a 30+ year old kitchen. Jing Cabinets, basically guts your cabinets and unplugs everything (plumbing, appliances, electrical connections), and installs the new cabinets without connecting anything back up...including the free sink they gave us.

It wasn't a big deal to me when they told us about not doing the plumbing, upon signing the contract. But when I actually saw the number of fixes that we needed to do post installation, it really bummed me out. Here are some of the things that we've had to fix after installation.

1) They took off my range hood to install cabinets, but didn't reinstall it (which is fine), but then refused to even cut the whole in the cabinets to install it. Status: Done

2) They disconnected all plumbing and removed dishwasher, which we were alerted to when buying cabinets. The bad news was they lost some screws to our dishwasher and cut some of the plumbing parts under the sink. So we've had to replace the entire plumbing under sink, again. Status: Done

3) Also related to plumbing is the sink installation, reconnecting our garbage disposal and installing our new faucet. Status: Done

4) As result of removing the old cabinets, we had some damage to the walls. We will have to patch up and repaint the kitchen. Status: Done

5) Our electrical outlets were too low, and some of them got in the way of the 6 inch granite back splash. We've had to move them a bit and added 2 new ones.
Status: Done

6) Our phone wall plug, had the same issue as our electrical outlets. So we updated it and finally covered the existing whole (thats been there since we moved in) beneath it. Status: Done

7) The granite counters were installed and look great, but the cabinet folks don't put the sealer to protect it. So I had to go to Home Depot and put it on myself. Status: Done (but I don't think I did it right, will try again)

8) Various pieces of our crown molding were also damaged as part of the installation. Also, our new pantry door is at different height as our old door, so we have to get a slightly shorter molding. Status: Done

9) And the big whammy that I need to get Jing Cabinets (who haven't been as helpful after the work was done) to fix, there is a 2 inch gap under one of the cabinets, between the flooring and cabinet. I totally missed this when I did my inspection of the work. I guess I was so excited to get new cabinets that I just overlooked it. I actually caught a smaller thing with the granite counter and the dishwasher, which should be easy to fix. Status: Still Pending

Overall the experience wasn't so bad, I mean aside from the fact that none of the workers that did our cabinets spoke any English(only Chinese) they did pretty good work. And I do love my new kitchen very much. I guess its just the lingering effects that prevent us from moving our stuff back into the kitchen that has me down.

I will post photos of the results soon.

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