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The Best Burger is...

26 December 2013

Umami Burger!

Being the hamburger fan that I am, I had to enjoy the best Southern California has to offer so I added three of my favorite burgers to my "pre-London bucket list".

My first stop was at In & Out where I had my traditional "crispy" french fries, chocolate shake (for dipping those fries) and a cheeseburger with ketchup instead and whole grilled onions.

They make a very good shake - thick and cold - that is perfect for dipping your french fries. With the right cook at the frier, you can have some really good crispy fries with just the right amount of crunch. And their burgers are always delicious albeit a bit thin of a patty.

Score: A

Next, I went to Stacked Burger with my family where we had the beautiful and fabulous Andie as our waitress.

I particularly like their pretzel buns which are extremely hearty and flavorful. This time around I tried a chicken burger and it was all-around good and filling -- I could only eat 1/2 of the burger myself. Unfortunately their french fries are hit and miss with this time's basket of fries being cold.

Score: B

Finally, I visited Umami Burger with my family with dreams of truffle burgers dancing through my head. Imagine my delight when I saw that it was #truffleseason at Umami. The choices were very tempting but I stuck with my traditional truffle burger and a side of truffle fries.

The shoestring fries covered in truffle cheese and truffle salt are so good it is almost "sinful". Trust me, you'll be closing your eyes in delight as you eat each heavenly fry.

And have I mentioned the truffle burger?? This burger is no joke -- it is my favorite burger (a 6 oz. house-ground, hand-formed patty) made with the "Umami Master Sauce" and topped with their incredible and mouth-watering house-made truffle cheese, glaze and a roasted garlic aioli. Yes -- all that goodness is wrapped up in one burger topped by their signature bun that is perfectly toasted.

Score: A+
(FYI - my parents have both mentioned that they think the burgers are too rich in flavor. Yes it is not your usual fast food fare but this is a gourmet restaurant with burgers that will send your taste buds a whirling with a combination of ooziness, gooeyiness, savoriness, delightfulness, etc. Do yourself a favor and better yet do your pallet a favor and try an Umami truffle burger with a side of their amazing truffle fries. And let me know your thoughts!!

Happy Belated Christmas!

Our Savior is born!
Happy Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas!

This month has been full of great traditions, delicious dinners and fabulous new memories made. What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Target Shoppers - beware!

20 December 2013

It's that Christmas shopping time and credit cards are being swiped here and there! But at Target that might be the cause of some headache and identify theft. If you used a debit or credit card in their stores from Nov 27- Dec 15, please read their official email below.

Happy Christmas!

19 Days to London

13 December 2013

How fast time flies! It seems like just yesterday I was writing my 76 Days until London post.

London, January 2012.

The Sound of Music LIVE - To See or Not to See?

07 December 2013

Sound of Music Live on NBC was quite the conversation piece on many a Facebook and Twitter feed. Even if you didn't see it yourself on Thursday night, I am sure you've heard quite a bit about Carrie Underwood's venture into the musical theatre arena. Allow me to add my two cents as a musical theatre fan and someone who has seen both the Julie Andrews' film and a professional production or two.

A Magical Date with The Lion King

04 December 2013

Disney's The Lion King is back in LA for a limited engagement over the holidays!
Being an ardent Disney fan (and former employee) I just had to see this legendary show one more time (having seen it previously in LA during high school) so I grabbed my dad and caught the Tuesday, December 3rd evening performance at the Pantages Theatre.

Before the 7:30 curtain, I was ravenous and introduced my dad to one of Sunset Blvd.'s best quick service restaurants -- Tender Greens. We arrived at 5:45 and there was hardly a queue. I ordered my usual - butternut soup ($4) and a side of mac 'n cheese ($4). This is the perfect comfort food on a chilly autumn evening before catching a Broadway show at the Pantages Theatre. Dad ordered their chicken hot plate which comes with mashed potatoes and a side salad ($11). 
Butternut Soup © Joy Michelle
Considering the location, the quality of the food (freshly made and prepared to order), the options (you can't find mashed potatoes, for instance, at Panera Bread or Corner Bakery Cafe), the ambiance (very modern and hip), and service (big friendly smiles from helpful employees eager to answer any questions you might have) it is a great deal for a pre-show meal.

Mac 'N Cheese © Joy Michelle
I really think they might have one of the best mac 'n cheese offerings EVER! In my book, they are tied with TASTE's White Truffle Oil and Mushroom Mac 'n Cheese. As my dad said, it is not too cheesy or sweet. And the breadcrumbs on top are a perfect touch! Yum Yum.

So with our bellies full, we walked back up Vine St. to the Pantages and joined a very excited crowd of theatre patrons. For a Tuesday night, the house (on the orchestra floor) was probably 90% full with a mix of young and old. Children, in my opinion, bring a special kind of magic to any Disney show and last night was no exception with the little oohs and awwws.

One fun highlight is that in the main floor lobby (between the two center aisle doors) there is a display of 4 original masks from the Las Vegas production of The Lion King. The masks up close and personal are a-mazing! The detail and the artistry is mind boggling even today, 16 years after the original production made its debut. When you visit the Pantages, this is a definite must see.

Dad and yours truly with the beautiful Julie Taymor masks. © Joy Michelle
At 7:15, with only 15 minutes until curtain, my dad and I made our way to our seats in the orchestra right section on the aisle. Perfect view from our seats of the breathtaking production and the special musicians performing from the wings. You will definitely want to get their early to see the stage up close, check out the musicians' setup, and admire the Pantages' architecture and design.

Dad and yours truly in our seats © Joy Michelle
We were delighted to see the show start on time with an announcement that both Nala and Sarabi would be played by understudies. Unfortunately there were no inserts in the playbills but I am 99% sure that our Nala for the evening was performed by Themebelihle Cele (great accent and adorable interactions with Jelani Remy, as Simba).

And suddenly there was Brown Lindiwe Mkhize (Rafiki) on stage belting out the opening bars of Circle of Life and the magic begins! Actors (who double as stilt walkers, puppeteers, you name it!) start filling the auditorium as the song builds to a crescendo and you find yourself sitting up higher in your seat pinching yourself in wonderment. I had goose bumps! And based on the enthusiastic applause from the audience at every song and scene, the thrill was felt universally by the theatre goers.

No number can compete with Circle of Life but definite highlights were: They Live in You (featuring the show's best vocal performance by L. Steven Taylor), He Lives in You (featuring the strong vocals of Ms. Mkhize), and Endless Night (featuring the talented Jelani Remy).
L. Steven Taylor as Mafusa in The Lion King © Joan Marcus
As a whole, the show was spectacular from start to finish. It is truly an ensemble piece and the cast blended well together to make one magical evening from start to finish. Energy was tops, dancing was flawless, comedy was spot on with every joke earning major chuckles from the audience (including one about today's economy), and those little moments (i.e. Sarabi's mourning of Mufasa) left you choking back tears. The audience was on our feet the moment the final bar of music was played and the standing ovation was well deserved of everyone in the cast and orchestra.

I cannot recommend seeing The Lion King highly enough during its brief stay here in Los Angeles or further on when the show visits your hometown. You will be left with goosebumps, tears of joy and a belief in the magic of theatre and good music. GO, GO, GO!

The 4-1-1:
Location: The Pantages
Dates: Now through January 12th
The one disappointment:
Having been around since 1997, many people know the music and magic of The Lion King whether they've seen the show themselves or heard from friends and relatives. That said, in 2010, 9 minutes of the show was cut including an entire song, The Morning Report, that allowed for character development of Young Simba, Zazu and Mufasa, and a large portion from Scar's second act number, The Madness of King Scar, without which you were left lost and unable to identify with the "madness" per say.  I understand the need to save time but were those the right spots to cut? If it had been my first time to see The Lion King I would have been somewhat confused as to plot and character development. As it was, I felt robbed of key musical moments I loved in the original production.

But I shouldn't get started on my feelings about "cut" numbers. ;) The worst "cut" imaginable has to be Grantaire's Drink with Me from Les Miserables. I still cry hearing the new version. And not for a good reason! :)

Swinging Thru Dallas

21 November 2013

If you follow my Facebook or Twitter, you will know that this past weekend, my mum and I went to visit family in Texas and boy did we have a fabulous time. Time flew all too quickly, as it always does.

Giving Back: Conejo Valley High School

20 November 2013

What a fun day! This morning my co-workers, several volunteers from church and I ventured over to Conejo Valley High School to serve an early Thanksgiving luncheon to the students and staff.
Conejo Valley High School//Thanksgiving Luncheon Volunteers

Sprinkles Came to Westlake Village!

19 November 2013

Photo from Sprinkles Cupcakes Facebook Page
Sprinkles Cupcakes are renowned the world over as the world's first cupcake bakery. I have been a fan of Cupcake Wars on The Food Network and believed the ultimate cupcake had to be Candace Nelson's Sprinkles Cupcakes. She is the judge of Cupcake Wars so that only stands to reason, right? :)

Clik Camera Capsule: Review

Last Wednesday Carson Young, Domestic & International Sales Manager, graciously sent me my very own red Clik Camera Capsule (small)!
Photo from Clik Elite website

Congratulations Daniel & Kriselle

11 November 2013

Daniel Walton (a dear 'lil brother' from childhood) got married this Saturday to the lovely Kriselle Santos. They could not have picked a more perfect day -- sunshine galore -- at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo!
There are always special moments at each wedding that make you say, "aww", and one of those at the Walton wedding was when Daniel and Kriselle shared personalized vows in the privacy of the gazebo while the rest of us sang In Christ Alone.

They also partook of communion as a couple while we sang Amazing Love and there was no doubt that God was at the center of the ceremony and their future marriage.
Mr. and Mrs. Walton! 
My little brother, Johnny, was a groomsman at the wedding and looked quite dapper, if I can say so.

The reception was lovely with the typical first dances, a fun coffee cart, luncheon buffet, cake cutting (Daniel was very kind -- no cake smashed into his bride's face, lol), and some very sweet toasts from Daniel's dad, best man and the matron of honor. 
The first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Walton 
Aren't they adorable?
Mother & Son dance.
That adorable and silly brother of mine with his gf, Kristy.
Luncheon was buffet style with numerous salad options, potatoes, rolls, and a choice of red or white meat.
The cake cutting 

One of my favorite wedding traditions of late has to be the photo booths that double as a guestbook and some very fun entertainment for the guests. Being the natural "ham" in front of the camera I grabbed my date, David, and my bestie, Laurilee, and had some good laughs. A feather boa and tiara might have been involved in the fun, lol. ;)

And did I mention the bouquet toss? Lol. I usually hide in the back at these occasions afraid of being caught in a stampede. I stood to the side and could easily guess that Kriselle was going to toss the bouquet to the left where many of the bridesmaids/friends stood ready to pounce. My guess was correct but in the excitement the bouquet tumbled and literally fell at my feet so well there you have it -- yours truly caught the bouquet or rather the bouquet chose me. ;)

And just for the record, I have to mention my amazing dress. It's a gorgeous Kate Spade dress (originally $395) on sale for $59 at TJ Maxx. God bless TJ Maxx. ;)
I could not be happier for Daniel. He is a great young man of faith, humor, talent and love and it seems he has found the ideal soulmate and helpmate for life.

Flashback to 2007: Yours truly with Andrew T & Daniel W. Two old married men now. :)
Flashback 2001: Awana Scholarship Camp.


06 November 2013

Last night I took my mum to see Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice's beloved musical, EVITA, based on the life of Eva Peron. This particular national tour is based on the 2006 London and 2012 Broadway Michael Grandage staging and exceeded all expectations.
Photo by Richard Termine

Happy Anniversary, Mum & Dad!

31 October 2013

Friday, 25 October, my parents celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary!
Happy Anniversary!
Sunday, 27 October, their best friends, Karin and Harold, invited them (and me!) to dinner at Lure in Westlake Village to celebrate. What followed was a delightful evening devouring a scrumptious dinner followed by some amazingly sinful delicious desserts at their house (with Maizy in tow).

Dayne's Chicago Beef & Dawgs

27 October 2013

This afternoon after church, my mum suggested grabbing lunch at Dayne's Chicago Beef & Dawgs on Thousand Oaks Blvd. - a recent addition to the Thousand Oaks scene as of August 2013. Wow. What a charming little find between Chocolatine and Jiffy Lube near Hampshire Road.

Halloween: Maizy Meets Pooh Bear

20 October 2013

What are you wearing for Halloween? All Hollow's Eve is coming up in 11 days and the stores are filled with costumes upon costumes, masks upon masks.  While waiting for Maizy's grooming appointment to be finished at PetsMart, I spotted this precious Pooh Bear costume on sale.
Cute, right?

Maizy Gets Groomed

19 October 2013

Our precious little furry friend, Maizy, got groomed Thursday in readiness for her family's return.
Look how pretty she looks!

Kiss Me Kate with Davis Gaines

18 October 2013

We all know those classic Cole Porter songs such as Another Openin', Another Show and Too Darn Hot and So In Love. Spiced up for a modern audience but still making use of all the classic songs, the result is continuous laughs and two hours of toe tapping fun.
Kiss Me Kate
Victoria Strong/Davis Gaines
(c) Cabrillo Music Theatre, 2013

76 Days Until London!

17 October 2013

In 76 very short days I will be getting on a plane with my one-way ticket to London! I cannot believe it's almost here. I have been prepping and planning since April and what a whirlwind it has been.

Misty's Wedding Weekend, Part III

14 October 2013

The day we have been looking forward to has come! My beautiful dear heart friend, Misty, is married!!

Dress: Express, Shoes: Jessica Simpson, Bracelet: Stella & Dot
Bridesmaid Wine Glass from Misty 
Bridesmaids were expected to arrive photo ready by 2:45 at Wayfayers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes. On Sunday afternoons in LA you never know what kind of traffic you'll experience so I left photo ready at 12:45 with time to spare and thankfully (praise God!) there was little traffic and I arrived by 2:15 with time to admire the view.
The glorious view from the Wayfayers Chapel parking lot.

Misty, our beautiful girlfriend, had her hair and makeup done that morning and met us all at the Chapel looking quite adorable and perfect with her hair wrap. (How many people do you know can pull of that adorable look?)  

After scarfing down a grilled cheese, Misty grabbed her gown and we followed her into the bride's room where I was honored to share a small and intimate moment with Misty helping her into her dress. When you see the professional photos you will have to agree with me that the dress appeared made for her. A-mazing!

The ceremony went off perfectly. Jared's face flooded with such a huge and happy smile when he saw Misty walk down the aisle and trust me those happy tears I promised in my last post started! Rev. Keenan Barber (from Bel Air Presbyterian) officiated with Rev. Dr. Donald J. Barnes (from Wayfayers Chapel) and Ryan Sterling, friend of the couple, read from 1 Corinthians 13. Seeing the happiness and true love Misty and Jared shared during their vows made it one of the most perfect wedding ceremonies ever.

Groomsman Franco drives the couple to the reception.
After photos, everyone headed 5 minutes down Palos Verdes Drive to Point Vicente Interpretive Center where the reception was held.  Immediately we bridesmaids and Sharon (Jared's mum) got to work setting the tables. Our bridesmaid bouquets doubled as center pieces and all bridesmaids brought our wine glass gifts (from Misty) which added a special touch to our table (#10).

The four "lavender/purple" bridesmaids: Rosie, Cari, Shannon & Sonya

Yours truly with Cari, a hospitable/gracious/warm friend from Misty's college days
Yours truly with Shannon, a lovely/gregarious friend from Misty's Bible study (former housemates)
Yours truly with Rosie, Misty's beautiful/funny/kind younger sister/matron-of-honor
After Misty and Jared were finished with photos, we the bridal party made our entrance. You'll be amused, dear readers, that I, the shortest of bridesmaids at 5'1", was paired with arguable the tallest of groomsmen and Shannon, second shortest of the bridesmaids, was paired with the second tallest of groomsmen. We had a good laugh about it. Next came those precious dances we all enjoy watching, perhaps with a tear or two. 
Misty & Jared's first dance.

Mother and Son Dance: Sharon & Jared.
In foreground: Misty's mum and brother. 
Father and Daughter Dance: Misty and Proud Papa Bill. 
Father and Daughter Dance: Bill, Misty & Rosie share a dance.
In foreground: Jared's dad and sister.
Check out this gorgeous sunset!
Misty shares a special moment with her dad and husband.
 After the opening dances, dinner was served. Misty and Jared had dinner catered by Stonefire Grill (one of my favorite places to get try-tip and breadsticks) and most of us bridesmaids were starving so we couldn't have been happier to see those trays of food when we queued up for food. A friend of the couple, Krystin Walker, served delicious petit desserts while there was a small white cake for Jared and Misty to use for the cake cutting -- great idea!
The head table.
Our delicious dinner (Stonefire Grill).

Some of the delicious petite dessert options. The fruit tart was my favorite.
As it was getting dark, and I had only brought my pocket-sized Canon Powershot, I powered down and joined the dancing.  Still, the groomsmen started taking selflies with their iPhones and we bridesmaids joined in the fun.

Again it was a great and amazing wedding. I am so happy for my dear heart friend, Misty, and her now husband, Jared. As we exchanged our "see you laters" (because I won't accept "goodbye", lol) the tears came and continued for the first part of my drive home. Misty has been someone very special in my life these last 5 years and knowing our lives will be going in different directions for a while (at least) gets me choked up but I am so thankful for modern technology.

They fly to St. Croix tonight so please keep them in your prayers as they start this amazing new adventure!!

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