I don’t frequent the South OC Shop often, so when I was invited to attend the 6th annual Taste of Lake Forest this past Sunday I was curious to see their offering. I saw many soccer type moms with children at this event and the palm trees and bright sunny afternoon made it a fun family event for people of all ages to enjoy. One element of this tasting that’s different from other tastings I’ve attended in the past is how guests play an active role in selecting their favorite restaurant at The Taste of Lake Forest. With a map in one hand and a guide of all the participating restaurants, my guest and I went down the rows to sample each restaurants offerings to see which was our favorite.
There were many familiar restaurants and businesses that participated in the event including: Mimi’s Cafe, Pick Up Stix, and Jamba Juice just to name a few. Yet, my favorite was definitely Tito’s carnitas tacos with cabbage. It was juicy and the the tostado was a good solid base to carry this substantial bite. Miguel JRs was also present at the event, which is the perfect segway to introduce my Gift Card Winners. Drum roll please…. Congratulations Jean L and Lisa! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday September 29th to claim your prize!
Didn’t win this time? Don’t worry! I will throw another Miguel’s JR Giftcard giveaway on my Instagram account for another opportunity to win! Pst… there’s a good chance that it may be on Friday *wink wink*
Whats your criteria when judging a food competition?
I know it’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here!!!! My popular annual Birthday Freebie post is finally complete! This year I was able to redeem over 20 birthday freebies in the month of April, and while this may seem overwhelming many freebies allow the patron to redeem the promotion either the day of, week of, or month of your birthday!
I’ve arranged them alphabetically for your convenience with a hyperlink to the retailer’s site for more information to sign up for their loyalty program. Personally, I created a junk email account for all these retailers to send me their promotions and then I check that email account during my birth month to print out the coupons, and collect all my goodies. Check out to see if your favorite retailer is here!
Baskin Robbins: (Free scoop of ice cream). I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! They’re really picky about printing out the coupons, so be sure to do that!
Black Angus (Free Steak Dinner with purchase of entree): Join the Prime Club and get a free steak dinner with a purchase of an entree of equal or greater value. Yee-ha! Good for the month of your birthday.
Boston Market (Free side): Join their VIP club and get a free dessert or an order of a regular side. I chose a side of creamed spinach. Yum! No purchase necessary. Expires a week after your birthday.
Brueggars Bagels (Free bagel!): Start your day with a free toasted bagel with cream cheese. You will get the email the week before your birthday and it will expire on your birthday.
Buca De Beppo (cake and meal discount): This year Buca De Beppo gave a $15 off with a minimum purchase of $30 and if you make a reservation with 4 or more they will also give you a cake for everyone to enjoy! Be sure to make your reservation through opentable to earn rewards points for your next restaurant gift certificate!
Charming Charlie ($5 gift card): Join the Charm club and earn a $5 gift card to purchase anything in the store! You can get jewelry, accessories, shoes etc
Churned Creamery (Free Scoop): Sign up on the “Five Stars” App on your smartphone and add Churned Creamery to your list. I believe the freebie is good for a week and expires on your birthday.
Corner Bakery: (Free Baked Good): Sign up for their eCafe list to redeem a free pastry treat. I chose a giant M&M cookie to take home. Expires a week after your birthday.
DSW($5 gift card): You can get kicks, heels, or flip flops, but I always get a new pair of cool socks.
Del Taco (Free milkshake): Your choice of strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate! No purchase necessary. Expires a week after your birthday.
Denny’s: I worked till 9pm on my actual birthday, and most places are closed by the time I left the office. Luckily I just flashed my drivers license for a complimentary grand slam (I opted for a “choose your own”). Who else loves breakfast for dinner?
El Pollo Loco (Free meal!): Join the E-Club and enjoy your choice of “Original Chicken Tostada” or “2 piece fire-grilled chicken meal” within the month of your birthday.
Godiva (chocolate covered strawberries): Complimentary $10 gift certificate at the Godiva shop. I decide to purchase a cone of dark chocolate covered strawberries ($12.50) and paid the difference. The freshly dipped treat was a lux indulgence that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Kiehls (Free Lip Balm): Be a Loyalty member and get a free lip balm ($7 value) with a purchase of any item.
Mimi’s Cafe (muffin sundae): If you love the contrast of cold ice cream topped with fudge, strawberries and whip cream over a warm muffin, this offer is for you. Expires one week after your birthday and no purchase necessary.
Red Robin (Free meal!): I think this is the best deal meal deal. A free gourmet beef or chicken burger plus unlimited fries for free, and on my visit they also gave me a free birthday ice cream as well. Just show them your Red Robin’s Rewards Number. This is always one of my favorite places to visit during my birth month.
Sephora (Free Makeup): Love makeup? Be a beauty insider and you can get a deluxe sample of the latest products! No purchase necessary. This year I choose the Caldalie skincare items and so far it’s been very luxurious. Oh la la!
Souplantation: Join Club Veg and you will receive coupon for a free lunch with drink or a to-go combo #2 which includes a salad plate, two small soup containers, and a bakery bag
Starbucks (Free drink – any size!): This year they changed their promotion. You will get an email the day before your birthday and need to redeem it either on that day or on your birthday. Must have a Starbucks account.
Togos (Free Sandwich): Sign up to be part of the Togo Tribe on your phone and get a free birthday sandwich!
Veggie Grill ($5 gift card): This year Veggie Grill gave me a complimentary $5 gift card towards any menu item. I decided on a Grillin’ Chickin’ (fake meat) meal and enjoyed my healthy lunch. It’s a great healthy fast food option for people on the go. Offer good a week before and after your birthday.
Wienerschnitzel (Free Corn Dog): You get a coupon a week before your birthday to redeem an item and this time for me it was a free corn dog. Expires on your birthday.
Whats your favorite birthday freebie to redeem? Are there freebies that I missed? Comment below!
Think about it… A single day ticket at both the Chihuly Garden and Glass Musuem and Space Needle is $22, so if you bought both it’d be $44. However, if you purchased the package deal it starts at $36 (general adult) – so you save $8. If memory serves me correctly I believe you had to pick times that you wanted to visit and the different time slots were different prices. The beginning of the day and the end of the day were the cheapest with the mid-day charging the premium. We chose to go right at the beginning of the day for three reasons
A cheaper rate
A greater opportunity to take nice photos without crowds of people and
Good lighting for photos
Alternatively you could also go with the CityPass which allows tourists to visit 5 attractions for $74.
But first we went to Lola, a local breakfast spot with a national reputation. Featured on Food Network, Chef and TV Host Giada De Laurentiis raved about the fresh and made to donuts on the “Best Thing I Ever Ate – Fried Food Edition.” I generally like to start my day with something savory so I went for one of their most popular dishes the Eggs benedict and smashed potatoes.
The entree was quite substantial and easily could feed two people. The Bavarian ham was on the saltier side, but the poached eggs were perfect and I popped it open to allow my crispy potatoes soak in the ooey gooey magic. I was extremely full even though I only ate one portion. It’s a $20 dish and they add a 20% gratuity on all items.
With bellies full we took a short stroll and headed towards the Space Needle. We gave our ticket printout to the greeter and bypassed a huge portion of the line (mainly school groups taking a class field trip). I think that’s another advantage of buying a ticket early on.
We were then directed to the elevator and flew up 605 floors until we hit the observation deck. The sight was beautiful and it’s definitely a destination that all tourists should visit at least once. After a few shots and selfies we walked around the deck and headed down.
The Chihuly Garden and Glass Musuem is absolutely a must see destination. The glass blown masterpieces are breath-taking and while I think I captured the essence of their beauty I think everyone NEEDS to see this in person. Photos and words can’t really express how glorious and exquisite these art pieces are.
Within the museum each room is dark and reflects a certain theme. I think the under-the-sea rooms were my favorite as I felt as if I was swimming with the little mermaid, but each exhibit had a charm that really could appeal to anyone.
After you finish the museum interior you are invited to the gardens where they infuse flowers with glass sculptures. It’s so majestic and I’m convinced that when I win the power-ball I’d want this Dale Chiluly (the glassworks artist) to design my backyard. But until then this museum definitively tops my list on one of the best places to visit in Seattle.
Do you have a favorite place to visit in Seattle? Leave a comment.
Oregon was a great state to visit (click on the hyperlink for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 for those entries) with fresh air and the slightly off the wall quirky culture, but I was ready to explore a new territory. I met up with a native Californian who recently moved here to explore this part of Seattle and suffice to say there’s a ton to do and see!
Welcome to my #SleeplessinSeattle series! where I’ll be hunting for my frugal finds and visiting some of the cities best hot spots. First destination is the Pike Place Market- home to a bazaar, the first Starbucks, and the Gum Wall!
The Pike Place Market is similar to many bazaars. There were various stalls selling food and souvenirs, but it was a nice covered area to take a nice stroll. It rains often in Seattle and while I wasn’t use to random sprinkles, I noticed that virtually no one brought umbrellas or seemed to care that it was misting. I guess I’m a fish out of water 😛
The offerings in this market showcased many local vendors and I appreciated the spirit of the entrepreneurs here. After walking through the area my stomach started to growl. Looks like it’s time to eat!
I saw a crowd of people in front of what looked like a bakery. It was called Piroshky Piroshky, hmm. What’s a piroshky? I figured with a long line that it was worth checking out. While perusing through my phone I found out that that this Russian bakery specializes in savory pastries. My friend and I decided to split a Beef and Cheese piroshky and you know it sorta tastes like a Chinese beef bao but with an American bread. Ha! I enjoyed it but was eager to try some other items.
Next we waited in line for the first Starbucks. I think the line spanned across 2 stores, but it moved relatively quickly. With the popularity of Starbucks there’s actually another nearby with zero line, but as a tourist it was obvious that a visit to Seattle is incomplete without a visit to THE Starbucks. Now I can cross it off my bucket list 🙂
With bellies relatively full we decided to further explore the area and found the gum wall, which you guessed it is a wall chalked full of gum.
Some tourists and locals would be completely grossed out by this site and as a teacher I should probably discourage what could be conceived as vandalism on the property, but I’m off duty and *gasp* I even bought a package of gum to add to the artwork. I’m such a rebel, lol
The tradition of sticking gum on the wall started around 1993 – I’m actually shocked that it’s a relatively new attraction. Personally, I think it’s a pretty cool place to leave your mark and take selfies, but each his own.
After enjoying the novel attraction my friend and I decided to try a local restaurant for Happy Hour. I did a quick search and found Chan Seattle – a local Korean and American fusion bar only a few streets up Pike’s Market Place.
Happy Hour is from 5:00pm-6:30pm and we just made it to enjoy their offerings. We sat at the bar and sampled four dishes: Fried Rice Cakes ($3), Bulgogi Beef Sliders ($6), Chicken Wings ($6), Fried Pacific Oysters ($6) to tantalize our taste buds. Flavor wise it was on the more salty and spicy side, but with a glass of beer I can imagine many patrons enjoying these tapas.
Have you visited Pike’s Market Place? What’s your favorite attraction there? Comment below.
Good morning Portland! Yes, most people would probably sleep in on their Saturday, but this girl definitely wanted to check out everything this city has to offer.
Our first stop was the Saturday Market – a large outdoor bazaar where local vendors and artists showcase and sell their quirky gadgets, hand-made creations, and unusual artwork with Portland flair.
Located in the historic Old Town this venue is home to over 250 vendors. As I took a stroll down each aisle I couldn’t help but smile at some of the offerings. Many of the vendors had immense Portland pride as it was evident in their products and merchandise. I bought a heather grey t-shirt with each major city’s landmark (ie. Statue of Liberty for New York, The Space Needle for Seattle etc) and at the center was a Redwood tree for Portland. It’s a great design and I always love supporting entrepreneurs – support small!
I wore the shirt later on in the trip if you’re interested see what it looks like.
I regularly visit craft fairs and festivals, but the Saturday Market here just has a really great quirky feel to it. There’s just a ton of unique items and designs. If anything this is a great place to get inspired by the inventions and for those of you who couldn’t make it on a Saturday, no worries because it’s also open on Sunday. With a name like Saturday Market, it’s quite confusing, but it’s open every weekend from March – Christmas Eve (Saturday 10:00am -5:00pm; Sunday- 11:00am -4:30pm). It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re here on the weekend.
I also completely lucked out as the weekend I visited happen to be the weekend for the “Grand Floral Parade” – the largest floral procession in the North East. See one of my instagram video’s here.
There were many participants including different branches of the military (Marines, Navy, Coast Guard), various interest groups (ie. Rotary, equestrian club) and entertainment personalities all parading down the 4.2 mile route. The flower celebration also featured various marching bands, ornate floats, and vintage cars. And what Rose Parade would be complete without a rose court. I’ll post the video on my instagram. It was a nice surprise to be a part of an annual celebration.
Next up we hit up Nong’s Kaho Mangai to sample their famous Chicken and Rice dish ($8.75). Featured on a number of media outlets including Food Network and The New York Times (just to name a few), this humble restaurant is no secret to the Portland community and with three locations it’s clear that this is a fan favorite.
The dish is a simple one, but the taste is anything but. The chicken is moist and tender and the rice is cooked in chicken broth, which really brings out a nice earthly flavor. It also comes with their signature ginger sauce to which I would slather all over my chicken and a side of soup. It’s a tasty entree and for my LA readers it’s very comparable to Savory’s Kitchen in Alhambra – although I do think I have a slight bias to enjoying the later just a tiny bit more.
How do you spend your Saturdays? Curled up in bed or out and about? Comment below!
Located in the West Hills of Portland, Oregon, this mansion has 46 rooms estate and is situated on 46 acres. It’s now owned by the city’s Bureau of Parks and Recreation and open for touring. You can check out the interior of the home for a $10 general admission fee, but we decided to just enjoy the picturesque skyline.
My goodness, just look at this stunning view! The photos don’t even do it justice!
We then drove back to Downtown Portland to check out a punk-rock theme restaurant called Killer Burger, a local Oregon franchise that serves up a mean burger. Made famous by their Peanut Butter Pickle Bacon burger we bit the bullet and ordered one – mind you we ate at two restaurants 2 hours ago, so we were not prepared for another full blown meal lol
With a 1/3 lb of 100% Angus Beef, Bacon, house sauce, mayo grilled onions, sliced pickles this burger was massive and heavy. Top it off with some bottomless fries, and this baby could easily fed me for two meals.
I’m actually not a huge fan of peanut butter, but this burger just might make me convert. The ratio of meat and the other ingredients was perfect and the flavor just explodes in your mouth. Mmmm…
They also offer a Crazy Hour (aka Happy Hour) Monday- Friday from 2:00- 5:00pm where they offer a discount on their popular items.
Classic Burger or PBPB with Bacon with bottomless fries $6.95 (reg $9.65)
Micro Brews$3.50 (reg $5.50)
All Soft Drinks $1.00 (reg $2.50)
Would you try the peanut butter and pickle burger? Comment below!
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream – and you know Portland’s going to be cranking out some really amazing exotic flavors as it’s the birthplace of Salt and Straw, an artisanal ice cream shop that’s made headliners as one of the nations best ice cream shop!
*For my readers just joining me on my “8 Day West Coast Roadtrip” you can click the hyperlink to see the list of cities I visited, or if you missed my “1st Oregon entry” click the hyperlink.
Salt & Straw is well known among the foodie community as having creative and tasty creations. Some of their standout flavors include “Pear and Blue Cheese” and “Strawberry Balsamic and Black Pepper.” Although these pairings may sound unusual they do allow customers to sample different flavor profiles before making a purchase. Personally I think I sampled 10 or so and had a really difficult time choosing one.
For the indecisive foodie, one can consider getting the taster tray, which no only photographs well, but also allows a guest to get 4 different flavors. This is a great option for $9 and because it’s in Oregon – no sales tax, yes!
I think one reason why it was so difficult for me to choose because I wanted to pick four very distinct flavors to keep it interesting. Here are the four that I ultimately chose.
Freckled Woodblock Chocolate – This was a pleasant chocolate ice cream. It’s more of a classic choice, but still distinct with the bits of chocolate flakes.
Sourdough with Chocolate and Strawberries (Limited Edition Flavor) – This flavor was a huge surprise to me. I would never have thought to put the two together. Definitely my favorite and I hope they’ll consider making this a permanent flavor!
Chocolate w/ freckled flakes
Sourdough and Strawberries
Pear and Blue Cheese
Sea Salt and Caramel
Pear with Blue Cheese – It’s very subtle when you first try it, but leaves a very potent aftertaste. I would say that among the four this one is more of an acquired taste, but I appreciated how it does have an explosion of flavor.
Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons – A bit salty, but it’s a great balance with the sweet caramel
For my Los Angeles Readers they have a branch in Studio City – so you can get your fix too!
With so many rich flavors nested in my tummy we decided to head to one of Portland’s most beautiful locations and take a stroll down the International Rose Test Garden – one of the best FREE attractions in Portland.
Open year-round from 7:30 am – 900 pm, this park is a fantastic place for everyone to enjoy – horticulture enthusiasts, families, couples, and singles. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous and backdrop is perfect for engagement, graduation photos, or tourists like myself 🙂
Even though I visited in the summer time, the roses were in full bloom and it smelled amazing there. I wish they developed smell-o-vision so you can experience it too.
There are over 10,000 roses in this 4.5 acre land and while I did not get the opportunity to attend a tour they do offer them. From June 2 through September 19 trained volunteers led tours at 11:30 am on Tuesdays and 1:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
For a gal for always loves to be on the run, I couldn’t help myself but soak in the calmness of this environment. If I lived near this garden I could definitely see myself taking a stroll on a weekly basis. It just puts you at ease and really allows you to just appreciate the simple beauties of this world. I guess it just reinforces the ideology that we ought to “stop and smell the roses” – literally 🙂
Portland is a quirky city known for their eclectic and creative food scene so naturally we checked out a few of the city’s hottest places to eat. The first spot was Tasty n Alder, a local bar serving American fare with a twist. We sampled three items at the bar from their Mid-Day Menu (2:00pm – 5:30pm) and thoroughly enjoyed the offerings.
We started out with the radicchio, a salad mixed with lardons, manchego, six minute egg and gratted cheese. In some ways it’s like a caesar salad with a bit of a bite. A large is $7 and the portion is very generous. I definitely recommend trying that out! We also a side of fries ($3), which were adequate and ended with a panna cotta – which was extremely creamy and topped with Oregon rasberries soaked in vanilla. Yum!
A few streets down we headed to our next foodie spot – Lardo‘s, a restaurant and bar that specializes in pork sammys. Our meter was running so we called in (during our happy hour meal at Tasty N Alder) and ordered our sammy to go. We picked up our Korean Pork Shoulder sammy ($10) with house kimchi, and chili mayo so that we could grab and go, but I couldn’t resist and took a quick bite. It’s spicy for the sensitive eater and the meat is also on the more fatty side thus oozing with grease but I did enjoy the flavor combination.
If you’re at Lardo’s during Happy Hour (3pm -6pm) they do offer $3 pints daily.
With so much food in our belly we decided to take a stroll around downtown and check out the famous Powell’s Bookstore. With over 3000 Yelp reviews and a 5 star rating I couldn’t fathom what could make this bookstore worthy of such an honor so I went to check it out myself.
Wow! Just by size alone I was completely floored by the space and number of books. Powells is enormous! With four floors filled with books of every genre and category this store is a bookworm’s dream house. They sell new and used books and also have handwritten staff recommendations (just seemed like a nice personable touch). I casually walked through a few aisle’s and was completely captivated by the different book offerings and easily could have stayed in that aisle for an hour or so. In a way I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast and lost in an adventure (although to be fair, I was drooling over some recipes in the food aisle lol).
I found the rare-book-room where limited edition and hard to find books are located. Guests need to check in their items and attain a pass from the info desk, but it was quick and simple process. They have a $12,500 book for sale (obviously behind glass for good reason!) The De Bello Judaico translated as The Jewish War is a book bounded by parchment sheet from 1480. Considering how old it is it’s actually in pretty good shape!
I will have at least two other Portland entries coming up, but until then which aisle would you be venturing through at Powels? Politics? Religion? Food? Fashion? Comment below!
Surrounded by towering Redwoods and spacious grounds this city of Eureka has definitely some great hidden gems. On this visit we checked out the Sequoia Park Zoo, an intimate home to wildlife, including some adorable red pandas and river otters.
General admission is $7 and if you visit on Wednesday all visitors receive half price regular admissions. They do not take or offer any other discounts for non-residents.
I was excited to visit and lucked out as they were just starting the Otter Feeding!
Animal Feedings Schedule:
3 pm: Otter Feeding – Oh my goodness! Wow talk about hungry otters! When they saw/heard the zookeepers coming these guys were swimming like crazy. The pups were super active and even when the zookeeper threw in pieces of fish they were hungry for more. Near the end of the feeding the zookeeper threw in chunks of carrots. How cute!
4pm: Red Panda Feeding -This feeding was more like a training exercise where each red panda would listen to a command before earning treats. It was so cute watching a red panda essentially beg the human for munchies.
This zoo is very small; however, I appreciated how well maintained each of the exhibits were and that they were spacious enough for all animals to live happily. Aside from otters and Red Pandas they also have a large bird cage with various exotic birds (ie bald eagle, owls), a flock of pink flamingos, and some farm animals. Think of this zoo as a animal retreat in the mountains.
Eureka didn’t strike me as a destination known for authentic ethnic food, but goodness gracious the Carribean food at the A Taste of Bim made me feel as if I were in the Bahamas. The restaurant has such a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere and the food was cooked to order by a lady from the islands. My friend and I shared the baked whole fish in secret sauce ($18.75) which came with a side salad and a choice of another side and my goodness it was beyond amazing. Seriously ten stars, go and you will not regret it!
From the interior decor to the mouth watering food I felt like I was transported to another country and it’s a shame how far Eureka is from home. It’s a great restaurant and if you’re in the area you definitely should hit them up.
Is it just me or does this home look like the house from – The Addam’s Family?
This mini castle is actually the Carson Mansion. It’s footsteps away from the Pacific where guests can enjoy a beautiful view. Visitors who wish to visit the interior need to be members of the elite club (or from a reciprocal club – from what I’ve been told), but just from the outside the home has some really intricate details.
Which attraction was your favorite? Comment below.
Back in the day the area residents used this site as their official water dumping ground where they discarded cars, glass, and other unwanted goods. Over time nature transformed these junk items into beautiful gems spread across the coastline (the crashing waves grind the pieces down), making this once junkyard to a hit tourist attraction – what a great trash to treasure story!
I loved walking on the glass sand and admiring the beautiful pieces. There was a nice breeze and I loved sifting through the colorful “glass sand.” (Check out the Instagram video here ) It’s definitely a unique beach, but sadly the glass on the beach isn’t as plentiful as it once was, as tourists collect and take home the pieces. Should you come to visit, please leave them there so that we all can enjoy them.
Next stop was one of my favorite tourist traps – The Drive-Through Tree! For a small $5 per car admission fee it was a relaxing pit stop to just smell the fresh air, stretch your legs, and of course drive through a Redwood!
My friend and I waited patiently in the line to drive through the tree, but thankfully it moved fast and we were super excited. Guests are also allowed to part their car in the parking lot and walk through the tree as well – I did it several times, ha! Just watch out for the cars!
The trees here are so majestic and there are so many around this part of California. I absolutely loved how peaceful it is here and it’s a great place to have a picnic.
Which terrain do you prefer – Beach or park? Comment below!