Tuesday, February 26, 2013

No Shopping for 40 Days, HELP?!

I love shopping as much as any other girl, so for Lent this year I thought why not give up buying "unnecessary items" for the 40 day challenge. For this exercise I am qualify un-necessary as cosemetics, clothes, household items, knick-knacks etc otherwise items that are nice to have but not life depending, essentially everything other than food and gas.

So by participating in Lent I felt that it would not only be a good exercise to discipline myself, but it will also reflect quite nicely at the end of my credit card statement. But Ack!!! what have I gotten myself into? Life never felt so restraining!!



While I do recognize that shopping with a list is effecient, it's not nearly as fun as implusive buys especially if you're thrifting or bargain hunting. So up until Easter my blog entrees will reflect this temporary lifestyle choice, though it defintiely hasn't been easy. I'm having major shopping withdrawls and I'm heavily craving the art of hunting. Anyone else fasting?



In the meantime I have been spending my free time with the following

1. Watch random travel/food shows. I've recently discovered "Unique Eats" which is like Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" but with a focus on restaurants that twist a classic item as well as the new foodie reality show "The Taste."  Though I would be interested in a new show. Any recommendations?

2. Clean the house. You'd be surprised at how time consuming organizing and reorganizing takes. I feel like I've been cleaning for days and yet the progress seems grim :/

3. Editing photos. Wow there are a TON of photos that I haven't even touched yet. Hopefully by the end of this fast I'll be a pro at Lightroom (A Photoshop for Dummies like program)

4. Cooking. While I love to eat, I'm not much of a chef, hopefully that will change.




What do you do to occupy your mind when you're having withdrawls?


Yours Truly,

Irene

Monday, February 25, 2013

OC Restaurant Week- The Californian @ The Hyatt in HB, CA

Orange County Restaurant Week is here! And what better way to kick off the event than by attending the premier night! My aunt and I decided to check out The Californian at the Hyatt Hotel,(yelp review here) in Huntington Beach, CA as the three course menu (see menu here) seemed tempting and also included a glass of white or red wine.  Here we go!
     

Before you enter the restaurant you first need to valet your car at the front. No worries though! The Californian will validate, though it does make me wonder if hotel guests regularly pay the $19 daily rate or $25 overnight stay. Yikes!

But finally we enter the pristine establishment and were presnted with bread, olive oil and the most delicious balsamic vinegar I have ever had. It's sweet but not overpowering and the bread was an excellent vechile to really savor both flavors.


Next there were two appetizers to choose from so we decided to get one of each to sample them both. The Salad of Watercress and Endive was such a delightful salad as the pungent feta combined with the candied hazelnut and crisp endives covered in the creamy hazelnut dressing just created so much dimension in each bite. My Agave-Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque with Spiced Pepitas was also a hit as the slightly sweet and creamy butternut squash just melts in your mouth.  Both were great to kick off our meal swaray.

   
 
Next we were presented with our entrees and again we selected different items to maximize our sample options.  Mmm... The presentation for the Grilled Natural Flat Iron Steak looked and tasted delectable. Combined with the pumpkin-seed butter and red wine jus it was just heavenly.  I also really enjoyed the vegetable remedy underneath which consisted of organic mushrooms and a rutabaga hash.     


My experience with Shetland Island’s Sustainable Salmon entree however wasn't quite as stellar. The salmon was a bit overcooked and bland. Quite a disappointment since it was the star on the plate.

However, I absolutely loved the port macerated raisins as it added a sweetness to the dish that was unlike what I've had in the past.   




We finished off our meal with an All Natural Gelato with a House-made Biscotti mmm... fancy... and the hot fudge with bits of chocolate sprinkled throughout the dessert was simple but decadent.
 


The Californian is located only footsteps away from the beach and has the most spectacular view of the ocean (when seated outside), but with the night dawning earlier the pitch black darkness just envelopes the natural beauty. I can only imagine how picturesque the perfect brunch on a bright sunny day would be like. I guess the fountain fish and grand palm trees will do for now.


I love attending Restaurant Week as it gives me an opportunity to try out high end restaurants at a discount.  I haven't figured out which one I want to attend next, but there sure are a wealth of choices! (see list here)  

What restaurant would you like to attend at a discount?




Yours Truly,

Irene

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Yelp Tasting @ Slaters 50/50 in Lakeforest, CA

As an avid yelper, I had the pleasure to attend a soft opening for Slaters 50/50 in Lakeforest, CA for a complimentary tasting and was even allowed to bring a +1! Woohoo! I decided to bring my amazing friend and mentor Barb since she's never experienced the wonders of Slaters 50/50, even though there was a location just footsteps away from her home. Crazyness!  I for one, fondly remember my first visit at their Anaheim branch and just drooled over all the unique combinations.  So going into this food tasting I knew everything would taste amazing. This is a great gourmet burger joint in the mid-tier price range.



We first started off with a trio sampler appetizer plate with sweet potatoe fries, onion rings, and fried bacon mac n' cheese balls, each of which had their own dipping sauce. I never really pictured these combinations together, but they worked! The paired the sweet potatoe fries with a pumpkin sauce (really delicious), the onion rings with a home-made BBQ sauce, and the fried balls with Tapatio ranch. 

While the marriage between the sweet potatoe fries and pumpkin sauce was a match made in heaven, the winning item on platter had to go the fried bacon & mac 'n cheese balls. I mean those round indulgances epitomize comfort food. While unfortuantely the onion rings were my least favorite. They were a bit soggy, which is definitely not a sexy characteristic to possess.    


I was already starting to get full from when load and behold our burgers arrived. I ordered the Hawaiian Burger, which was a creation complete with their signature 50/50 patty (50% ground beef and 50% bacon, yeah seriously...) topped with a grilled pineapple, Spam, sunny side up egg, American cheese, baconnaise and a teriyaki glaze on a beautiful white brioche bread. I cannot see any flaw with this burger and it tasted just as amazing.

My partner however ordered a much healthier alternative and decided to try the World's Greatest Turkey Burger which consisted of a turkey patty topped with smoked gouda, baby greens, red onions, a portobello mushroom cap and creamy pesto sauce on a honey wheat bun. Mmm... But there was no holding back on our last and finale dish.


A decadent bacon chocolate brownie (though the texture is more like a cake) with three scoops of vanilla ice cream.  The saltiness of the bacon contrasting against the sweetness of the warm chocolate with the smooth ice cold ice cream was the perfect combination to end our gourmet meal.



Food should be fun and I especially love all the twisted combinations that Slaters 50/50 presented to their patrons. And I mean bacon makes everything taste better, don't you agree? With burgers ranging in the $12-$15 price range, this definitely isn't your typical McDonalds meal. But if you want to indulge in a creative and decadent creation this joint will definitely get you hooked..


AND they're participating in Orange County Restaurant Week (menu details here) starting Sunday Feb 24th! For $15 you get an appetizer and a burger (which usually can cost $15 as is). Great deal and an even more amazing meal.

Or if you're feeling like pigging on out a decadent burger there are a ton of other restaurants participating in Orange County Restaurant Week at all price points starting at $15 for Lunch to $40 dinners. There's chill laid back restaurants like Zimzala (yelp review) to fancy-shamcy old- money restaurants like the Ritz Carlton and a ton more!!


What dish do you look most forward to while dining at your favorite restaurant?



Yours Truly,


Irene



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Free Today Show Taping w/ KLG, Hoda,+ Flo Rida!!

I think my biggest regret when I was a student in New York was not attending any TV tapings. I mean you have everything from morning shows like Good Morning America (audience info) to goofy night time comedies like Saturday Night Live (audience info) to live cooking demonstrations with Rachel Ray (audience info). Argh... how I wish I could go back in time and attend one of these family friendly and FREE event.

But lord and behold, one of my favorite New York based day time talk shows was heading over to Los Angeles, CA for an on location segment! KLG and Hoda from the Today Show were coming to the West Coast! Woohoo!!!


Since this broadcast was on-location (and we're three hours behind their normal schedule) the tapings were pre-recorded and lucky for us they were shooting three shows that day! And yes my mommy and me did attend all three tapings. :)   



Here's a photo of all the die hard fans waiting in line to see Kathie Lee and Hoda! Look at all the cool signs! I espeically love the two wine glasses. Which one is your favorite?



Here are my girls- KLG and Hoda! This shot was for Presidents Day (this past Monday, Feb 18th) and boy did they show their patriotic pride- go red, white, and blue!!!



Although very brief, I'M ON TV!!! Be sure to watch the "What-The-What?!" segment all the way through since I'm featured at the very end. I was the audience choice winner for the "Caption The Photo Contest" (which in this case was a photo of a dog sticking his tongue out at a cat) and won a Kathie Lee and Hoda mug! Woohoo!


Now for some random photos throughout the day. The cake on the top right was presented to KLG and Hoda Monday Show to celebrate Universal CityWalk's 20th birthday.  Unfortunately we weren't able to sample the treat, but it looked really pretty.  The bottom right photo featured a segment on eyewear for people with all face shapes and the photo to the right is just KLG acting silly.  lol She's actually fixing her mic.

     

Next up is the Man Panel segment which is where audience members can ask relationship questions to men in different relationship stages (ie. single, divorced etc).  And if you look closely enough you may notice a familiar face.


At the center is actor Jaleel White, or otherwise better known as Urkel. Did I do that?!

Interesting that we've come to a point where we're taking love advice from a guy who was  always heads over heals for a girl that just couldn't stand him.  But take a closer look at the gentlemen in the far left, because we all know that real mean wear pink or as one of my guy friends would call a light shade of red.     

                                                                                         What morning show would be complete without a rockstar appearance? The Today Show brought mega superstar Flo Rida!!! who not only chatted with the hosts, but also brought down the house by singing his #1 hit single "Wild One."  And let me tell you, Flo Rida is just as good (if not better) live. There's just something about hearing vocals live that really gets your blood running and heart racing.  I was even lucky enough to snag a photo with him before he exited.          
My mom and I had such a great time being a part of the studio audience. Thanks KLG and Hoda for coming out to the West Coast!  We love you! And so does LA as depicted in out signs. For my non-French speaking readers it translates to "Love for KLG" and "Love for Hoda"


BTW, for those of you who have Spring Break (teachers, students, retired etc) and live in or near NYC or LA you should definitely consider attending some type of TV taping (morning show, sitcom, etc). They're always free and you never know you might get to be on tv!  Some shows require advance tickets, whereas others are a first come first serve basis.  Here's a great article on audience member protocol and taping tips on attending an LA TV taping

What TV show would you love to be a studio audience for?


Yours Truly,



Irene   


Announcements
*Really great article on how to get free stuff! Click here. 
*Shin Sen Gumi: Will be celebrating their 12th birthday with $3 Hakata Ramen at their Fountain Valley Location on Feb 23 and Feb 24.  700 bowls each day, first come first serve. 
*Knotts Berry Farm: B1G1 Free admission ticket. Click here. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Free Orly Nail-polish & China Glaze Set @ Sally Beauty Supply

This photo doesn't do Orly's Red Carpet nail polish justice as you're not able to see all the wonderful sparkles and glitter, but it's there and in person the red polish was absolutely perfect for Valentines Day (I used it as a top coat and a China Glaze product that you will see below as a base). Did I mention that this was free? Yup, a nail polish that generally retails for $8 was a free gift for any $3 purchase.


Ah-ha! So there was a catch! Yes, and unlike the saying "The best things in life are free," that's wasn't the case for this situation. Though we were allowed to purchase items from the weekly deals or clearance aisle. So I decided to peruse through the store and decided to get this Makin’ Memories Set (below) which includes a picture frame and two full size lacquers: Red Satin (Red Polish), Winter Holly (Green Polish). Yes I do know that it's two months past Christmas, but I saw beyond the winter packaging and knew that these colors would be amazing for three other holidays .


Separately the colors are amazing for Valentines Day,4th of July, and St. Patricks Day. And I've heard nothing but rave reviews on China Glaze polish and I have to admit it's a huge upgrade from my Revlon polish (which does tend to streak upon application). These colors glide on like butter! And the colors are gorgeous! If you want a va-va-voom color for your nails the red is perfect as a stand alone and I can't wait to razzle-dazzle my nails for St. Patty's Day.   



But it gets better! I mean this gift set was on sale for $9.99, then reduced to $4.49 and by the time I got my hands on it it was a mere $2.25!!! Crazyness. (Yeah they were leniant and gave it to me even though I didn't reach the $3 minimum. What nice cashiers).

Each polish sells for about $7.5 at Ulta so I'm guessing this was orignally around $15 ish? Oh and did you see the cute frame. I'll be sure to keep him and bust him out next year :)


The Free Orly Polish with $3 purchase is still going on at all participating Sally Beauty Supply until 2/18 (or until they run out of Orly Nail Polish). The one I went to had 2 large grocery bag full of polish, so get it while you can!

Some of you might be curious as to why Sally Beauty Supply is essentially giving away these items and I have an answer for you! Orly recently changed their packaging so Sally Beauty Supply needs to clear their shelves to make room for new products. The formulas and colors are the same, just the logo look differs. The cashiers even told me that the polishes hadn't even been sitting on the shelves for that long till Orly informed them to clear them out. So it's a win-win for us :)


What color polish are you looking to sport for the upcoming month?



Yours Truly,


Irene Yu 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

V-Day love letter to my readers XOXO

Happy Valentines Day everyone! And for those of you who don't celebrate, Happy Thursday! But I hope you'll remember that today is a day where we can share our smiles and companionship with all our loved ones which goes beyond our signficant other (or lack of one) and includes relatives, friends, neighbors, pets, coworkers, etc. Just remember that you are a loved worthwhile individual and that sharing is caring.
 
Photo Credit by my talented and awesome friend Nick Pleasants

Hugs and Kisses to all my readers from my family to yours today and everyday! Love love you all!


Yours Truly,

Irene

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chinese New Year- Year of the Snake OOTD

Happy Chinese New Year everyone! And for my Chinese speaking readers Gong Xi Fa Tsai! This year is the "Year of the Snake" and what better way to incorporate this year's zodiac animal into the new year than by including it in our fabulous and frugal outfit? Horray! Here's my more rebellious "Year of the Snake" Outfit of the Day. It's definitely a sassy one so I hope you enjoy! 


Red is symbolic for prosperity and good fortune, so it's important to incorporate it into the outfit and these black and red tiger striped skinnies just screamed personality. What a fun way to spice up the outfit without compromising my culture's values on this bold color. 


And our star of this pairing is this little guy... my Betsey Johnson Snake Charmer Necklace. Super girly with the bow detail and rhinestone over the snake, but also fun and flirty too.  I decided to keep the rest of the outfit very simple and used a black top, blazer and heels to help polish up the look.

OUTFIT
Betsey Johnson Snake Charmer Necklace: Betsey Johnson Outlet
Red and Black Striped Skinnies: Buffalo Exchange, Costa Mesa, CA (Thrifted)
The Limited Black lace top: Women Helping Women, Santa Ana, CA (Thrifted)
Forever 21 Blazer: Restord, Foothill Ranch, CA (Thrifted)
Black heals: TJ Maxx, Fountain Valley, CA


How do you incorporate your heritage into your lifestyle?


Yours Truly,


Irene 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

*Date Idea* Fun activities @ Irvine Regional Park

I've always seen these colorful carts at the beach, but never got the chance to ride one. So one day when my husband and I were visiting the Orange County Zoo we decided to give it a try. Check out my yelp review on our zoo adventure and find out how to get a B1G1 Free Admission Ticket!

BTW, the bike rentals are located outside the zoo, which allows for more space to explore and ride around the large park.  We also had a $5 off bike rental coupon as an extra incentive. Click here for a discount code.


I loved riding this (over a traditional bike ride) and I think it's the perfect date activity. There's just so much more intimacy as you ride side-by-side and you really have to work together to conquer some of those challenging hills! We just laughed throughout our ride as we navigated through the pathways and tried not to run over pedestrians and other surreys.  


The view is absolutely gorgeous and the beauty's amplified even more so when enjoyed with a loved one.  This park also has many other fun family friendly activities as well. There's multiple playgrounds for kids of all ages to enjoy, a pony ride and mini ranch, paddle boat, a train-ride and the zoo (as I had mentioned earlier).


We rode around for an hour and trust me an hour is plenty, but loved every minute of it. We unfortuantely needed to head back home immediately after we returned the bike, but had we had more time we certainly would have enjoyed a picnic complete with a Little Red Riding Hood basket and checkered picnic blanket. Next time!  



What's your favorite frugal date activity?



Yours Truly,

Irene