Monday, March 31, 2014

Back in California

I have a boatload and a half of photos from my spring break at home in California. I don't want to bombard you, (or myself, I'm still getting the hang of this blogging thing) so I'll start out small.

Boy, was I ever excited to get out of frigid NYC.

Delta Airlines JFK passport chanel bag

I landed in LAX at dusk. Having just gotten off a plane from San Francisco herself, my mother met me at my gate, Birkin handbag in the crook of her arm and a huge smile spread across her cheeks. (She saw Julie Andrews get off my plane in front of me - I'm still envious that I didn't get to see Mary Poppins/Fraulein Maria myself.)

It's always the best feeling stepping outside from the airport in LA. I can't quite describe it, but it's being enveloped in warm air and a slight ocean breeze, the smell of jet fuel, and the peace of being home.  This particular occasion I was greeted by a full moon and a dusty-coloured sky. Utterly magical.

Dusk at LAX
I woke up bright and early the next morning to grab breakfast in Orange with some of my best friends from high school. Jet lag and excitement made me a little early, so I sat in my car absorbing some morning sun rays and jamming to Vance Joy's Riptide (FlicFlac edit). Give it a listen while you read the rest of this post!

There were hibiscus shrubs bursting with flowers lining the car park.

Hibiscus flower

By the time we sat down to breakfast at Rutabegorz, the temperature was already creeping up to the high 80ºFs, but the girls at uni out-of-state (including me) insisted we sit outside. Kale hummus was on offer for a dollar (a dollar!) so we ordered it for the table. We also ordered matching entrées, as always. I stuffed myself with a bagel topped with cheese, eggs, and avocado. Simple, Californian, and delicious.



We gabbed for a couple hours and then it was time for everyone to be on their way. We made plans to see each other when we're all home again in May, and said our goodbyes. I headed home to the pool for the rest of the day with my sisters and some coconut water. This is my baby sister. She suggested taking this photo… precious, isn't she?

Isabel in the pool, coconut water

In the evening of the following day, I picked up Ashley in Hollywood and we made our way to Venice with the convertible top down as the sun set.

Abbot Kinney is a road tucked right behind Venice Beach. It's home to a bunch of surfers and artists - and it shows. The shops and restaurants are all a bit hipster-y and people skateboard barefoot down the sidewalk with their dogs. Ashley and I grabbed Mexican food and strolled down the street, looking in shop windows, picking out our favourite homes, and finding murals.

Abbot Kinney storefront

Edgar Allan Poe

Abbot Kinney


Abbot Kinney mural


It started to get a bit chilly so we hopped back in the car and meandered into Marina del Rey (which would be the name if Lana del Rey and Marina and the Diamonds had a lovechild, I'm just sayin') until Lauren rang us that she landed at LAX. We sped on over to the airport, picked her up, and headed back south to Orange County, buzzing over plans for our next few days together.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Center Theatre Group Gala: A Night in Downtown LA with Barry Manilow

Last weekend I slipped out of my sweatpants and into a dress and headed into Downtown Los Angeles for Center Theatre Group's annual gala.

Located adjacent to Walt Disney Concert Hall (home to the LA Philharmonic) and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (which houses the LA Opera), Center Theatre Group is the theatre company in LA - a pillar of the city's cultural scene. The Group puts on the highest quality and broadest range of productions, from groundbreaking new works to a discerningly curated collection of Olivier and Tony Award winning West End and Broadway hits (often with original cast). CTG also run great outreach programs that support emerging artists and engage young people in Los Angeles who are underexposed to the theatre and fine arts. The idea is that these young people might need a push in the right direction to create interest and realise talent in an artistic field that otherwise they might have not pursued. Center Theatre Group's annual gala gives its donors a chance to don formal wear in celebration of The Group's great work.

It's confession time now. I was quite the bad blogger this night. I looked quite a mess having gotten ready in 15 minutes after having to take my dog to the vet (he was bit by a snake, but he's fine). I'm also not quite accustomed to snapping photos at a formal event, so sorry for the shoddy and sparse pics.

We arrived early, just as Los Angeles was cast into its golden evening light. As we tottered into the glittering, Art Deco styled Opera Pavilion, we were greeted by a dapper lineup of waiters holding drink trays.

This is my beautiful sister, S. Can you believe she's only 17?

I'm wearing: DVF dress (similar here) // Christian Louboutin Neofilos in Cognac (no longer available, I'm afraid) // beaded clutch from Anthropologie (similar here) // Essie Nail Varnish in Mint Candy Apple

S is in: Urban Outfitters jumpsuit // Zara tweed blazer (similar here) // Swedish-style clogs // Mulberry Suffolk bag (although you can't see it) // Daniel Wellington watch 

I finished wine in above photo in record time, which may have contributed to my laughably deplorable blogging mindset/photo posing…

Had a taste of this Manhattan. Possibly the worst drink ever, I'm still cringing thinking of it.
After joining up with some friends and casting our lot in for a chance to win a Hawaiian vacation, a ton  couple of canapés, and a gin and tonic later, we headed up the grand staircase to the ballroom for the dinner and auction portion of the night. Dinner was, as one must expect with mass-produced food, uninspired: some kind of cucumber-y prawn cocktail thing, filet mignon, and a mousse-y thing for dessert. The food didn't matter, however, because we had our friends from out of town at our table to entertain us, as well as a young girl who had participated in one of Center Theatre Group's youth development programs. Aged 16 and headed to university already, she was a bright young thing and brilliant to chat to! 

While we munched, Barry Manilow and his longtime friend and colleague, Bruce Sussman, marched up onto the stage for a Q-and-A about their brainchild musical, "Harmony", which we were going to be treated to later on. They made us giggle and gave us some insight into what it took to get "Harmony" into production, the true story behind the plot, and what inspired them to go into their creative fields. They really stressed that it can take just one experience with the arts to propel a young person to pursue a natural gift and make the world a more beautiful place. Again, sorry for the horrid photography.

Next up was the auction, moderated by our local weatherman, Fritz Coleman, from NBCLA. He's jolly good fun, as he touts himself as the "weatherman of the city with no weather." Philanthropists and corporations bid an enormous sum of money for CTG's cause and won fun prizes like a chance to appear in a CTG production and scouting trips to London's West End.

Finally it was time to head to the Ahmanson Theatre for the show! We settled into our front and center balcony seats and cracked into the chocolate that had kindly been left there for us. 

The show was based on the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a singing group from WWII era Germany and their battle for success and against Nazi oppression. The music (by Barry Manilow) was brilliant and catchy - with splendid harmonic arrangement, of course. I was a bit disappointed at how the whole production played out, however. The cast was talented and the script was witty and touching, but I just thought it fell a bit lackluster with so much potential. I think perhaps the show, considering its topic, was played a bit too safe as a whole. Still, it was an entertaining night and definitely an experience I'll think of fondly.

If you're in the Los Angeles area, check out Harmony or another one of Center Theatre Group's productions in their three theatres! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

El Centro Park: Mexican Food and Central Park

A few Saturdays ago, a rare thing happened in New York: beautiful weather. 
What's more, an even rarer thing happened - a group of friends and I had a free day - on the same day.

We knew the forecast a few days ahead and tittered back and forth on Facebook message until we decided on a plan, courtesy of one lovely lady I've had the pleasure of meeting this year, A. A's friend from home was visiting and they had plans to spend the day at Sheep's Meadow in Central Park and check out a Mexican place that A had scouted. She kindly invited a group of us along for the day, and oh man, were we ever excited…

A hop, skip, and a jump off the subway platform and we were in Hell's Kitchen with only a couple blocks to walk to El Centro for lunch. We quickly grabbed a table and set out on studying the menu. The drink portion first, of course. 

There was a decent selection and the prices were very good, especially for NYC. I plumped for a mojito, which arrived with chips and salsa for the table. 

The mojito wasn't the best I've ever had, but it was strong and not too sweet, so I was satisfied. We put in our main orders and munched, snapped photos, and chattered away while we waited. 

Every once and a while we'd look around and admire the brightly coloured and whimsical décor - complete with bottle cap-topped tables and Corona bottle chandeliers. 

Up next was the entrée - Ashley (who runs a charming blog) and I split chicken enchiladas. I was glad we split because they were huge! This was just my portion: 

After we were stuffed full and slightly buzzed from our drinks, we were ready to stretch our legs and feel that beautiful, oft-absent sunshine on our faces again. We skipped through Columbus Circle on our way to Central Park.

When the city is warm (i.e., 60ºF), it's transformed. Grumbly New Yorkers smile, the collective bustle becomes a stroll, and everyone seems to have a song in their heart and a spring in their step. Please note the good amount of snow still on the ground. It didn't break our stride one bit.

It had originally been the plan to lay out on Sheep Meadow, a big, grassy expanse, but it's apparently not open until mid-April. Which I guess is understandable, because it's usually too cold to want to picnic in the sun until that time of year. We gave the meadow a longing last look, snapped a few sun-soaked photos, and moved on to find another grassy patch.

The perfect spot!

There was a frenzy of throwing down bags, kicking off shoes, spreading the blanket, finding a configuration of how we could all fit on the blanket… and then everything was perfect.

Little dogs from different owners pranced around and crawled all over us. For pet-starved university students, it was the most brilliant treat.

I lost track of how long we lay there. It's actually almost sad how euphoric "warm" weather makes me. Snow is fun for a little while, but I'm definitely a California girl at heart. Blue skies are one of my favourite views.

Eventually the sun started to sink below the skyscrapers. No longer warm, we walked towards the entrance of the park, where we met K's cousin and some of his uni classmates, who were visiting from Connecticut.

While we all chatted, there were some very preppy, quite handsome gentlemen behind us having some kind of silly photo shoot (kicking myself for not getting a photo of them, it was in equal parts strange and attractive). Anyway, we thought we could show them up as models and snapped a few group shots.

If this is not Vogue worthy, then I really don't know what is.

The sun on its last legs and so it was time to head back to school. As we were leaving, we were already planning our return on the next sunny free weekend.

It's cold, cloudy, and a little miserable again in New York, coming off of a gloriously warm spring break in California (posts coming soon). I need another sunny Central Park day soon!

**Thank you to L and Ashley for letting me steal some of your beautiful photos, and thank you to everyone that I took stalker candid photos of, you made stunning models! x