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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Eat In. The Midnight Kiss [Thirsty Thursdays!].

If you're like me, you'd drink champagne for just about any appropriate occasion (birthdays, weddings, surviving that day at work), so drinking a glass of the bubbly at midnight tonight won't be any big deal. Let's add some twists to that, and make this a real celebration (because we surely all need it!).

I've adapted this recipe from one I found on the Food Network website for Prosecco, and have proceeded to name it The Midnight Kiss (clever, eh?):

4 oz. of Champagne (or Prosecco or any sparkling wine, if you so wish)
3 dashes of Angostura bitters (like Campari)
1 sugar cube

Add bitters and champagne to a champagne flute. Drop in the sugar cube, and the mixture should sparkle and fizz (!).

Mmm, what better way to start your new year than with a Midnight Kiss, right (wink wink)? Happy new year, and please stay safe out there tonight!

-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: Food Network

Do It. New Year's Eve traditions.

When the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Eve, people around the world express their excitement at the prospect of a new year and new beginnings in a variety of ways. Here are a sample of ways that people around the world christen the new year.

Twelve grapes: Also known as the twelve grapes of luck, this tradition is celebrated in many latin countries, it is tradition to eat twelve grapes as the clock hits midnight. At each chime, people are supposed to pop in one grape, and eat it before the next chime (which is said to be virtually impossible). The tradition started in Spain, specifically Puerta del Sol, Madrid. The twelve grapes are supposed to symbolize the last twelve seconds of the old year.

Anos viejos: In Ecuador, sawdust dummies are set ablaze at the stroke of twelve, symbolizing putting the bad things of the past behind you. Men dressed scantily as the "widows" of the effigies go around the streets mockingly asking for money to pay for their "husband's" (the dummy's) funeral.

Hogmanay: Those Scottish really get into the spirit with a four-day celebration, including parades and music festivals including traditional Celtic music, jazz, electronica, and almost every type of music you can think of. Because Christmas was banned in Scotland for nearly 400 years, the Scots really got into celebrating the New Year.

Pictures of Hogmanays past look less like a celebration, and more like a revolution, but the fireworks look spectacular.

Pictured above is a Hogomanay celebration. Other celebrations depict Scots marching through the streets with banners, and cleaning the house became a tradition.


-- Lauren Williams

Advance Notice. Martin Scorsese at LACMA.

Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Color of Money, Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed ... ) is championing a cause--film preservation. During the summer, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art-LACMA announced the planned end of their weekend film program--or at least an indefinite break from it due to lost funds. Scorsese wrote an open letter to LACMA CEO Michael Govan, which resulted in an outpouring of community support for the program. A Film Club is now in place, and the announcement of it's inception resulted in $150,000 in donations, as well as the $50 fee for each new member who joins.

Now the New York Academy Award winner is headed to the West Coast to give us some more of his thoughts on the matter.

The legendary director will be in conversation with Govan at LACMA on January 20 at 7:30 p.m. I know those of you who have 2010 calendars are just dying to mark them up with January plans, so write down January 4 as the on sale date (as well as of course the 20th).

LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles - (323) 857-6000

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: www.listal.com

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Check It. Julian Casablancas' "11th Dimension" video.

And I thought this song just couldn't get any better.

The shaggy-haired, won't-stop-wearing-his-leather-jacket frontman of the Strokes has, as we all know, gone solo, and though Julian Casablancas' debut album Phrazes for the Young left much to be desired, this first single absolutely rocks it. A banging synth, lyrics about frozen fireballs and Casablancas' trademark drone. And now! And now we have this amazing video. No words can describe it, my friends. Enjoy.



-- Chau Tu

Do It. Impromptu composting.

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to be a better gardener, one thing that may help you is might be impromptu composting. Unfortunately for those who lack a green thumb, California soil is very poor in nutrients (because Southern California is really just a big desert). Areas near the beach are often have even worse soil quality because they are usually quite sandy.

Like many people, until recently I lived in a small apartment with very little space, which really doesn't work for the full-size compost pile, like the ones my parents used to have when I was a kid. A compost pile takes a long time to break down all the components, and a giant heap of garbage at a small home is just a recipe for disaster.

Certain food waste, though, is particularly helpful for the novice gardener. It can get very technical, with measuring acidity, carbon and nitrogen, and pH levels (just thinking about all that is exhausting) but here are a few things that work well in quickly improving soil quality.

Egg shells, banana peels, and other potassium-rich food reminants will make your roses bloom. Coffee grounds, which you can actually pick up at almost any coffee shop for free, are also a tremendous boon for your garden, too much though and they can stick together and prevent air from getting into your dirt, and essentially suffocate your plants. Orchids also love black tea, both the leaves from the bag, and the brewed tea--cold of course--but they're quite fussy, so I wouldn't deviate from their normal care too much.

If you do end up going all out and composting on a large scale avoid all animal bones, meats, pet waste, and grease.

Just bury or pour these ingredients over your plants and it will definitely prolong the life of your plants.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: Picture courtesy of Cambridge, Mass. website.

Eat Out. First Cup Caffe.

When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go .. downtown!

Petula Clark most likely didn't have First Cup Caffe in mind when singing her 1965 hit, but its positive nature is a perfect representation for me of downtown Los Angeles' First Cup Caffe. It's a couple blocks up from the Los Angeles Times building, opens at 6:00 a.m., and is a place where the coffee is always fresh, piping hot, and delicious.

They use Tully's Coffee, and it's self-serve from large pump thermoses. They have a variety of great flavors including Kona Blend, Madison Blend, and House Blend. It's a comforting thing to have a place where the coffee is always good.

The food at First Cup is as satisfying as their Tully's coffee. Buttery blueberry muffins, almond croissants, chocolate croissants, spinach croissants ... they know their pastry. Additionally, they have a full kitchen and can make such hearty breakfast items as bacon and egg bagel sandwiches. For lunch, they have salads and sandwiches (including panini). And for dessert, red velvet cupcakes. This place sounds awesome, right?

It's just as easy to take away as it is to eat in, where the simple cafe-style tables are adorned with little vases and flowers.

First Cup Caffe is located at 333 S. Spring St. in downtown Los Angeles.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: First Cup Caffe

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Eat In. White bean salad.

One of my favorite salads a friend of mine taught me is also probably one of the easiest. White beans, chopped raw, white onion, and chopped cilantro, seasoned with a little salt and lemon juice. It's amazingly tasty, and very healthy.

A trick my roommate taught me to take the bite out of raw onions is to sprinkle some salt on them and rinse in a colander. Then squeeze with a paper towel. That nasty, harsh taste basically disappears.

Another catch is that it is very hard to find unseasoned white beans. Many of them come in a strange, seasoned marinade, but Sun-Vista carries a good, unseasoned canned white bean.

This salad is great for parties or picnics because it doesn't have any mayonnaise and you don't have to worry about it sitting out all night and spoiling. This is also a great thing to have for leftovers because it marinates in its juices, and is really nice to take to work the next day.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of cookthink.com

Do It. Rose Parade float-viewing.

Is there any other New Year's tradition quite like the Rose Parade? A spectacle unique to Southern California, it brings people to volunteer their holiday time and gentle fingers to yield flower upon flower on monstrous wooden structures, and it brings others to camp out overnight(s) in the often unforgiving cold on unforgiving streets. That's (century-old) tradition, baby.

So don't let all this hard effort go to waste. These Rose Parade floats are, in fact, quite a spectacle, and even more so when seen close up. Thankfully, you won't have to give up your usual (and hopefully warmer) New Year's Eve plans to catch the floats.

If you wish to see the floats before their official unveiling, they'll be available for public viewing today until 5 p.m., tomorrow 11 a.m.-5 p.m., and on New Year's Eve from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. As Thursday will be the all-important time for finishing touches (or maybe major finishing rushes), be prepared to maybe lend a hand or two in throwing some flowers on a float if you're visiting then. Or, if you'd rather see the floats in all their finished glory, stop by on Jan. 1 from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. or Jan. 2 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Either or any way, it's $7, and not only will you get to see some awe-inspiring creations firsthand, you'll be taking part in something truly Californian and hand-made with love. Take pride, and start off the new year right!

-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: Tournament of Roses

Check It. Old music & new movies.




Today is an exciting day for fans of The Clash--the London Calling: 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is now available. The iconic 1979 album features "London Calling", "Spanish Bombs" and "Lost in the Supermarket" among other classic punk songs that have mass appeal. The second disc in today's release includes "making of" videos, live footage from the band's heyday, and a 20 page book.

Two scary DVDs worth a mention hit the shelves today--Diablo Cody's better-than-you'd-think Jennifer's Body (starring Megan Fox as a high school vampire), and box-office horror hit Paranormal Activity, the movie I've been too scared to see.

Jennifer's Body is worth checking out if you like the I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream series. Adam Brody makes a humorous appearance as a band member named Nikolai from the big city who comes to play a bar in their small town, and Amanda Seyfried is great as Jennifer's nerdy best friend, Needy.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: www.amazon.com

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eat Out. The perfect pickle.



One of the things I will miss most when I leave Los Angeles, will be the phenomenal pickles at Canter's Deli. I am a huge pickle fan, and my quest to find the perfect pickle has taken me everywhere. I once walked to about one mile in early January to visit the hundred-year old business The Pickle Guys in New York's Lower Eastside, where they sell half-sour, sour, hot sour, and horseradish pickles and those were only comperable to the amazingness of Canter's pickles.

For me, the qualities that make a good pickle great are: a good crunch, a fair amount of salt (of course), not too much dill, and a lot of garlic. Canter's pickles have these qualities in spades. I once bought a small vat of these pickles, and ate one every few days for maybe close to two weeks. They are just that good.

The rest of their menu isn't stellar, but them being a deli and me being a vegetarian, there aren't too many options for me anyway. They do have a tasty double-baked potato and a good cup of coffee and when I visit that's usually what my meal consists of: potato, pickles, and coffee.

Canter's Deli is located at 419 N. Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.

-- Lauren Williams

Check It. New Broken Bells.

All the Shins fans (here's looking at you, Zach Braff) know the story: frontman James Mercer up and unexpectedly fired the rest of the band earlier this year, for unknown reasons other than reported "aesthetic differences." The new Shins now consist of members of other bands like Modest Mouse and the Fruit Bats, and they're expected to put out an album early next year.

But what has Mercer been up to in the meanwhile? Putting down some tracks for Broken Bells, his also-new side project with producer-performer (best known for being one half of Gnarls Barkley and for producing the awesome The Grey Album) Danger Mouse.

Broken Bells was, too, an unexpected move at first--a seemingly random side-step for the acoustic-pop player to dip into sonic beats--but thanks to this just-released single, "The High Road," one might be right in thinking Mercer is taking the right steps after all. Listen below (or download for free at brokenbells.com):



Broken Bells is set to release their self-titled debut in March. Has Mercer made the right moves in taking his high road?

-- Chau Tu

Make It. Using vinegar [A clean house on the cheap].


Vinegar is another one of those household staples that everyone has, but isn't necessarily sure what to do with. When I recently moved, I had four different containers of vinegar, but almost no other food. Rather than own a litany of cleaning products, a container of vinegar can be used in laundry, cooking, degreasing, and just about any kind of household cleaning.

It is because of its high acidity, that vinegar works so well as a cleaning agent. ONLY use white vinegar for cleaning, removing stains, and other household improvement projects. Never try to clean your coffeepot with balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar. It will definitely be very regrettable, and will probably result in you needing to buy a new coffeepot.

Among its many uses, vinegar can be used in laundry to remove foul smells and stains, clear out hard-water deposits in your coffeepot, and is far more environmentally friendly than many other cleaning products.

It really is a miracle product. It's great at getting grease off of something, can be used to deodorize, and can even freshen wilted vegetables. It can also be used to clear up hair product buildup by adding a teaspoon to your shampoo.

This website has other amazing tips on how to use vinegar when cleaning your house.

-- Lauren Williams

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Etc. Hatch Show Print.

Hatch Show Print is a very cool letterpress print shop in downtown Nashville. It began in 1879 and today they're still making posters on-site. We picked up an awesome red and white Hank Williams/Grand Ole Opry poster. Their range is wide--from music; Patsy Cline to Steve Martin to Old Crow Medicine Show, to advertisements for Dr. Martens and Holsum bread. The style is similar across the board, most made with basic colors and large block letters and vintage-style imagery. Check out their goods online.
Hatch Show Print is located at 316 Broadway in Nashville, TN.
-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credits: Hatch Show Print & Yelp (L to R)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from the BEAT


We'd like to wish our readers the Merriest of Christmases!
-- the BEAT

Photo credit: www.operationlettertosanta.com

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Do It. Quirky Christmas trees.


One year for Christmas, my family decorated the cannon we had in the living room of my parents house (My uncle made the cannon; it actually works) instead of actually having a Christmas tree. I didn't want to cut down a tree, and we hadn't yet discovered potted Christmas trees or tree rental.

We tied red ribbons around the metal parts and put everyone's presents under it. We called it "The Christmas Cannon." It was actually pretty cute and festive.

Here are some zany alternatives other people have had to the traditional Christmas tree.

To the right is a sushi Christmas tree.










.... those are beer bottles. As much a fan of beer as I am, I don't think that says "Christmas," but hey, everyone has different types of holidays.

























Happy Christmas!

-- Lauren Williams

Etc. White House gingerbread house.

Apparently, even the White House is getting into the Christmas spirit. In keeping with tradition, staff chefs constructed a 400-pound white chocolate and gingerbread model (yum!) of the White House, complete with a small garden, an ornate chandelier, and detailed windows.

My question is, who is going to eat all those sweets?

-- Lauren Williams

Etc. Norad Tracks Santa 2009.

Ever wonder how Santa makes it all around the world with so many presents on Christmas Eve? This year, you can keep an eye on his journey from the comfort of your own home, after you've laid out his milk and cookies. Don't forget carrots for the reindeer. The Official NORAD Santa Tracker will show viewers a beautiful display of Ol' Saint Nick flying over everywhere from the Taj Mahal to the Golden Gate Bridge. Just get tucked into bed before Santa reaches your chimney.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: www.operationlettertosanta.com

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eat Out. The Grilled Cheese Truck.


Reason #2787538 I love living on my block of Sunset:

I walked across the street to Walgreen's to pick up a few travel essentials tonight (because I'm leaving for a week in Massachusetts tomorrow!!!) and on my way back, I was starting to feel hungry. I cleaned out my fridge earlier (we all know how old food freaks me out) and, in my mad dash to pack, I sort of forgot to feed myself dinner. So I was bummed because I had just left the store and--for once--I didn't really feel like getting a slice of pizza at Two Boots. But then, lo and behold, parked not twenty feet from my door was LA's newest food truck, The Grilled Cheese Truck.

OK. Amazing. I got the Harvest Melt, which has Gruyere, butternut squash, leeks, balsamic, a bit of agave syrup for sweetness, and thyme. And I got it for $5. What an unexpected, convenient, cheap, and toasty/melty delight! A Festivus miracle, really.

But that isn't the half of it. Curbside, this place dishes up bbq pork, mac and cheese, a grilled desert sandwich with banana, Nutella, and marshmallow, and, last but not least, grilled cheese's trusty sidekick--tomato soup.

Brilliant!

The truck began making its rounds in late October when a couple of grilled cheese enthusiasts preparing for LA's Grilled Cheese Invitational (isn't this town rad?!) decided to take the show on the road.

Like every food truck in LA, you can follow this guy on Twitter and Facebook.

-- Heather Robertson

Eat Out. Loveless Cafe.

Hello from Nashville, Tennessee! The Loveless Cafe stands out even among the abundance of delicious food available in the south. They're famous for their biscuits made from scratch by Carol Fay. Check her out (and her Got Biscuits? T-Shirt) on Conan. The buttery beauties are served before every meal at Loveless, with homemade preserves--strawberry, peach, and blackberry. Breakfast is served all day, but their lunch and dinner options are enticing enough to turn down pancakes for. Juicy fried chicken, salty country ham, fried okra, hash brown casserole, macaroni and cheese, hush puppies, catfish ... the list goes on. I had a BLT (toasted pale wheat bread, mayonnaise, deep green lettuce and a generous helping of crisp greasy bacon) with fried green tomatoes (yum!) and sweet iced tea--something I can't get enough of. You literally have to say "unsweet tea" here if you want what we in L.A. consider "iced tea". The whole menu is comfort food precisely how you hope for it in Dixie.

If you haven't had enough by the time you leave the cafe, there's a gift shop next door which sells everything from magnets to preserves to RC Cola and MoonPies, and of course the famous biscuit mix!

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: www.amyengland.net

Check It. A Single Man.

A lot can be said of crossover artists and the failure and ridicule they must be setting themselves up for--but that cannot be said of Tom Ford. The man (former creative director of Gucci, now oversees his eponymous label) knows how to make a suit, and he also knows how to make a movie.

A Single Man follows George Falconer (Colin Firth), a gay literature professor dealing with the loss of his longtime love (Matthew Goode). It's a story told through flashbacks and memories, shot gorgeously through rich sceneries and sensual close-ups and helped by a beautiful, emotional score. The performances are just phenomenal. Firth, known for his romantic hero roles in Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones, completely disappears as Falconer, wholly becoming this man full of undeniable pain and confusion. The close-up cinematography, which worked to enrich the sensuality of the scenes, gave no room for mistakes from the actors, and they surely don't disappoint.

The story, based on a Christopher Isherwood novel, falls short in some places, with a sense of rushing the storyline to focus too longingly on more trivial moments. But that's just like fashion in a way; it's more something that is meant to be seen, experienced, felt. It's all about the image, and Ford gets it.

-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: V Magazine

Eat In. Mini casseroles.


I love casseroles. Maybe that makes me trashy. But mostly, it just makes me my mother's daughter. We ate quite a few meals from a baking pan. Never had green bean casserole, but there was plenty of Mexican lasagna, chicken and biscuits (I requested my mother make this for me when I go home to Massachusetts for X-Mas), and chicken divan.

The thing about casseroles though is that they are usually way too much food and preparation for a single girl. I don't have time to cook up pounds of chicken and veggies and there is no way I'm going to eat it all. I freak out when leftovers have been in my fridge longer than a day.

But I've discovered a quick, economical solution: mini loaf pans. They are disposable (I don't like dishes so much, but I have no doubt they make glass or metal ones), come in packs of 5 at the dollar store, and are perfectly portioned for one. It allows me to have fresh comfort food for a couple days. Here's my recipe for a veggie casserole that is incredibly inexact, takes whatever you have on hand, and pretty much the best thing I've ever made up.

Ingredients:
  • About 3/4 cup frozen veggies or enough to fill the pan to the top. Whatever you have handy. I like to keep lots of options hanging out (they're frozen, why not?), so I usually include peas, green beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes.
  • Around 1/3 can of any condensed cream soup. I'm big on plain ol' Cream of Mushroom, but I will also use Cheddar Cheese soup, Cream of Potato, and I'm sure Cream of Celery or even Cream of Asparagus would be delish.
  • Roughly 2 tablespoons of sour cream.
  • A palmful of cheddar cheese.
  • A generous sprinkling of parmesean. No canned powder stuff. At least get the pre-shredded kind that resembles the actual hard cheese. Why? Because we may be broke, but we still care about ourselves just a little bit.
  • Breadcrumbs. Or crushed up crackers. Hell, even Cheez-Its. Whatever you got, baby.
  • Pepper and oregano or your favorite herbs and spices to taste. No salt though, that soup contains more than enough sodium!

Directions:
  • Thaw the veggies in the microwave or in a pot of water (no need to heat all the way, the idea is to keep the finished product a little crisp).
  • Combine the soup, sour cream, and cheddar in a bowl. Season with pepper and oregano.
  • Stir in the veggies.
  • Pile it into the pan and top with bread crumbs, parm, and more oregano and pepper.
  • Bake at 350 for 30 minutes-ish.
Now you can take that anywhere. Subtract and add until you've got dinner.

Also, don't you love how the flash makes the pan gleam in the photo? The holy grail of Heather's kitchen. For real.

-- Heather Robertson

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Check It. (500) Days of Summer.

Well BEATs, this quite possibly is it--my favorite movie of 2009. Now, I'm indecisive enough to say that I'll probably want to back out of this tomorrow (wasn't Fantastic Mr. Fox just totally awesome?), but there's no doubt this film had a huge effect on me. I knew it the second Joseph Gordon-Levitt started that karaoke cover of "Here Comes Your Man." Or that split-screen moment at Zooey Deschanel's party. Or Autumn. Forget 500 days of Summer. This was 500 moments when everything in this movie just felt so painstakingly right, and all 500 moments are now finally available on DVD. Time to put JGL (and Hall and Oates) on repeat.

**Bonus track!


-- Chau Tu

Photo & video credit: Fox Searchlight

Make It. Cookie mix [Gift Guide].


For those who have waited 'til the last minute, here's a quick, easy Christmas present to give friends and coworkers. This is actually perfect for the completely antidomestic person, because these people probably have all these ingredients sitting unopened, in their cupboard now, waiting for the day when they're actually in the mood to bake.

It's also nice for The Person Who Has Everything, because they probably love cookies or bread just as much as The Person Who Needs Everything.

Find a cookie or bread recipe and print as many copies as you have friends who you haven't yet bought gifts for. You'll probably need things like all-purpose flour, chocolate chips, baking soda, maybe yeast.

Take a clean Ball jar and measure out in water how much volume is in half a cup, a full cup and pour the water into the Ball jar. Draw the measurements onto the Ball jar with a colorful permanent marker. That way when your cookie/bread/scone/pastry-of-some-kind mix is all used up, your gift recipient has a brand new measuring device.

I used coins of various sizes to measure the circles where the measurements were.

Place all the dried ingredients from your recipe into the Ball jar, keeping them separate to create a cool layering effect. Obviously, don't add wet or perishable ingredients, because those will spoil and giving someone rotten food would be a horrible gift.

Tie the recipe to the ingredients with colorful ribbon and you're good to go!

-- Lauren Williams
Photo credit: Amazon.com

Eat Out. Eggnog latte.


I love seasonal drinks. Especially eggnog. At Portfolio Coffeehouse on Long Beach's "Retro Row" there is a mean eggnog latte, which is neither too sweet or "eggnog-y" and still has a nice coffee flavor.

For those who love coffee, but hate "flavored coffee" this is the perfect compromise. Other amazing holiday drinks include: spiced apple cider, peppermint latte, pumpkin spice latte, white Christmas mocha, brown sugar mocha, and gingerbread mocha.

Lattes are between $2.50-$3.50 and can be served to you in a glass, if you ask (as the one pictured above is).

They also have an amazing array of pastries; right now they have a pumpkin cream cheese muffin and pumpkin vanilla scone. Yum!

Portfolio Coffeehouse is located at 2300 East 4th Street, at the intersection of Fourth and Junipero Street in Long Beach.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: Courtesy of K. on Yelp!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Do It. Museums!

If you're in the lucky majority of those who get the next couple of days off for the holidays (i.e. students, people who wisely saved up vacation time, the unemployed, not me), it's excellent timing to take advantage of one of Los Angeles' greatest assets: its art. Plus, it's a great, non-super-touristy thing to take out-of-towners to do. Here's a round-up of what's currently going on at the city's big museums:

MOCA: Collection: MOCA's First Thirty Years
A year ago, MOCA was about to go under for lack of sufficient funding. Celebrate its perseverence with this retrospective exhibition, featuring the renowned museum's collection at its best, including special focuses on artists like iconic contemporarists Robert Rauschenberg and Mark Rothko. If anything, the museum needs and deserves your support!
250 S. Grand Ave. & 152 N. Central Ave., downtown; open this week Mon. 11-5 & Thurs. 11-3; $10

Hammer Museum: The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb's Book of Genesis
And he's done it again. Seminal comic artist R. Crumb has been challenging and influencing the art world for decades with his strange, insane and stark images on society at large, and now he's up and illustrated the first book of the Old Testament, the Book of Genesis. Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve, The Creation...it's all there, now distinctly portrayed with the unforgettable R. Crumb touch.
10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; open this week Tues.-Wed. 11-7 & Thurs. 11-3; $7

LACMA: Heroes & Villains: The Battle for Good in India's Comics
Gods as superheroes and demons as villains? It's nothing particularly new, but take it from an Indian perspective and drop them into modern society and you've got some interesting comics. This exhibit's got both Indian and American comics, vintage and modern, and include other Indian art from LACMA's collection.
5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile; open this week Mon.-Tues. 12-8 & Thursday 12-5, $12

-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: Hammer Museum

Etc. Holiday Travel Tips.

If your travel plans are all in order, and a major storm hits your region, you're outta luck. Lucky for us in L.A. this is a rarity, so as long as a few simple steps are followed, it should be smooth sailing ...

DO check in online (and as soon after you're allowed to as possible, to get in one of the first boarding groups. you're usually allowed to check in online 24 hours before departure.)

DO fly direct if possible

DON'T check a bag if you can avoid it

DO make a "packing" checklist that includes everything from socks to hairbrushes to deodorant, or anything that you are prone to forget

DO arrive to the airport early - holiday security lines are unpredictable and if you encounter a large slow crowd, you'll appreciate the extra minutes

DO bring a sweater or small blanket on board, if you want a nap, it will be much cozier if you're not freezing

DO have a toothbrush easily accessible for your post-nap mouth

DON'T wait until the night before a morning flight to do your laundry - 1:30 a.m. up alone folding T-Shirts is not ideal if you have a 5:00 a.m. wake up call

DON'T wrap presents before flying--security may have to unwrap them if they decide to have a peek (or more) through your belongings

DO pack for the weather of your destination

DO bring a camera

and lastly, DO have fun!

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: www.bostonherald.com

Make It. Scrubbing pots [A clean house on the cheap].


Around the holidays our pots and pans get more use than usual. Green bean casseroles, lasagna, and especially those roasts leave tons of residue that's tough to get off.

What my grandma used to do was after cooking let the pans cool, then fill them almost to the top with water, and turn the burner back on to loosen food remnants that got stuck on the pans. She actually used to use this as a "gravy" for the dog's food -- it sounds kind of gross now, but I guess in the 1950s on a Midwestern farm, it wasn't that crazy.

I've tried this with things that don't perfectly sit on the stove's burner, like a casserole dish or other heat-resistant cookware, and it works just as well. If there is food especially caked on, pour a tiny bit of soap (not for the dog) in the pan and let that bubble.

You will want to watch the pan, because it will start to boil quickly and can boil over.

This works really well, and you won't even have to get out the Brillo pads.

Also, to get the residue out of candle holders you may have been using to light up the house this holiday season, freeze them. Put the candle holder in the freezer overnight, then tap the container upside down into the palm of your hand. All the residual wax from candle should fall out.

-- Lauren Williams

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Do It. Weekend project.

A nice way to fancy up a plain piece of unfinished, wooden furniture is to paint it, then decoupage it with some kind of image. Here I chose the desk chair in the living room. It was the only unfinished piece of wooden furniture in the apartment. I would use wood as a base because I'm not sure how decoupage reacts with other materials. I don't think it sticks as well.

Among the nice materials that can be decoupaged onto something are old photos, maps, and newspaper. I chose newspaper because this is the writing chair in the living room and nothing seemed more fitting than old issues of the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

I used black as a background to give it a black-and-white look, but red or some other color would work just as well. Using black though, made the newspaper dark and required my roommate and I to add more layers of newspaper.

You will want to dust the chair so that the paint and decoupage material stick. To gloss on the material, you will want to buy Mod Podge Decoupage sealer, or something comprable, at a crafting or art supply store.

I tore pieces of newspaper, but you can use large images too. It just has a different effect.

When you have painted and decoupaged, let the item dry a full day before sealing with a glossy Polyurethane mineral sealant so that your clothes don't get covered in whatever material you were using and it makes it a little more waterproof.

It's a very easy project, relatively inexpensive, and can be done in a few days over the weekend.

-- Lauren Williams

Friday, December 18, 2009

Eat In. Candy Cane Swirl.


From baking (gingerbread cookies!) to clothing (Christmas sweaters!), the holidays just make everything better. But now that it's the weekend, let's add some alcoholic drinks to the mix!

Now normally, I'd just take the lazy route and add some peppermint schnapps to a steaming cup of hot cocoa (topped with an abundant amount of marshmallows, of course), but we can get fancier than that. Here's a recipe I found on whattodrink.com (not that great of a site, but a good place to start getting ideas) for a surely wonderful concoction named Candy Cane Swirl:

Check It. Avatar.

James Cameron's (Aliens, The Terminator, Titanic) new epic film Avatar is out today. I saw it last night/early this morning in 3D (with awesome heavy-duty glasses, not those cheap ones that are smudged and pinch your temples) at the ArcLight's Cinerama Dome theater, and it was pretty incredible (which I did hope it would be for $18.50!). Not being a sci-fi type person in the least, I didn't have much initial interest in the film--unlike the revved-up mostly male, mostly nerdy crowd that had gathered in the theater's lobby by 11:30 p.m. It was a case of don't judge a movie by the "look" of it here--because I ended up emotionally attached to these alien-like blue creatures.

Visually, it was thrilling. I highly recommend it in 3D. It had tastes of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and some Disneyland ride magic in there too. It's impossible to imagine how they made it all come together. Aside from a drawn-out fight sequence toward the end that could have wrapped up a bit faster, I enjoyed every minute.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: USA Today

Eat Out. Sipology [Sunday Brunch]


We had brunch at Sipology in Lauren's neighborhood last week. Never been to downtown Long Beach before. It's really lovely and almost worth the hour it took to get there. Leslie and I got hopelessly lost--I think we drove on at least 5 freeways, each slowly moving us in the right direction (so, thanks, 405). Finally there at the cute brick building that holds Siplogy, things were on the up and up. We wanted coffee and food and here we were.



Leslie ordered a fancy coffee drink and a slice of banana bread. Her order and service were prompt. Mine were not. The woman behind the counter never asked to take my order. I had to interrupt her morning paper perusal to stumble over what I wanted, because she looked at me like I was disturbing her. She didn't say, "Oh, I didn't see you there" or "Sorry, what can I get you?" or even "Can I help you, because even though I'm mad that you're here, that's what I get paid to do?" Her response was more like, "Really? You've got some nerve doing this to me. You are going to pay for this."

And after Leslie moved upstairs to join the rest of the Beat, I was left at the counter waiting on a breakfast bagel. I waited probably 20 minutes. Were they busy? I was the only customer, so probably not. I was patient at first, but then I got nervous that maybe they had forgotten, since they hadn't shown they really cared to begin with, so I asked. And the girl looked at me, annoyed, and said, "Uh. We're making it now." And just what were they making? A bagel, untoasted, with cream cheese, tomatoes, and fresh basil. How long does that take? When they finally dropped it on the counter, there was no, "Sorry it took so long!" just a turn on the heel and a dismissive glance. Awesome.

Everyone swears up and down that the food and drink at this place were top notch. Chau loved her mocha, Leslie thought the banana bread was divine, and Lauren recommended the place, so naturally she's a fan. I guess I just couldn't taste it through all the bitterness the insufferable people behind the counter had served me first.

They had free Wi-Fi, a great view, and comfy couches, which made it an awesome place for us to get some work done on a Sunday, but the iffy customer service trashed my experience.

Oh, and Sipology? Gallerie is a whack way to spell gallery.

-- Heather Robertson

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advance Notice. She & Him.

Indie darlings She & Him are playing the El Rey on March 25, and if you want to go, you may as well be prepared and buy presale. The password is VOLUMETWO, and it starts at 10:00 a.m. Friday (tomorrow) at goldenvoice.com.

Zooey Deschanel is best known for her acting (Elf, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 500 Days of Summer) but her band is definitely a worthwhile venture too. With M. Ward in the mix it's hard to go too wrong, but L.A. native Deschanel holds her own. Their music is quite delightful.

Some trivia for the music fans who didn't already know: Zooey Deschanel and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie married in September.

Tickets on sale at: www.goldenvoice.com

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: Goldenvoice


Eat Out. Barcade [Thirsty Thursdays].


I love bars that offer me more than a drink and a DJ. I get bored and then my grandma instincts kick-in and I'm out the door. I shudder thinking about the lines outside of all those Hollywood establishments that offer nothing but standing-room only on a Saturday night. And all that time spent dressing up. For that! I prefer leggings, Netflix, and a pizza. I'm just that kind of girl.

This is why I like places like Miss T's Barcade. No hard liquor, dingy dive bar vibe, and genuine 80s arcade games. The nerd in me appreciates the lax atmosphere, sipping a red bull at a table that houses a Ms. Pacman game. And the hipster in me likes that it’s just a teeny bit exclusive. There isn’t a sign out front announcing Barcade to the world. The K-town establishment is only identifiable by the neon Pacman ghost glowing faintly in the window. I guess it’s not really that much of a secret, there is a thing called Yelp, but it still impresses out-of-towners.

So forget your laundry and save all those quarters for DK at Miss T's Barcade this Thursday night.

Miss T's Barcade is located at 371 N. Western Ave.

-- Heather Robertson

Photo Credit: pacman-plus.com

Check It. PostSecret [Gift Guide].

There's probably no greater feeling in the world than the relief after revealing a secret you've been holding on to. Somehow, a man living in Maryland named Frank Warren figured this out and made an incredibly successful empire out of it.

But that sounds shallow. The PostSecret world is actually quite the opposite; as Warren tours the nation, lugging along his PostSecret postcards, he also brings along opportunities for enlightenment, allowing people to let out their deepest, darkest secrets anonymously, just to get that great feeling of relief. For some, it can be life-saving; for most others, it's just simply comforting.

And all it takes is a blank postcard. Warren receives hundreds of them everyday in his mailbox, all revealing someone's anonymous deep, dark, haunting, embarrassing or even funny secrets.

A lot of them have been compiled in the books Warren has published in the last couple of years, the fourth of which, entitled PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death and God, came out this fall. The books feature the secrets in all this postcard glory, and range from being written out in simple handwriting to being a part of some intense, beautiful work of art. You can't help but be enthralled when picking up a PostSecret book; somehow they make you feel so much closer to the world, like you too can breathe that sigh of relief.

**And if the moments between the two people in this video at 3:36-4:13 don't make you feel something, you're dead inside. Watch the whole video to get the right feel, and don't miss that part.


-- Chau Tu

Photo credit: PostSecret Archive; video credit: PostSecret

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do It. Werner Herzog, L.A. Record's Xmas Party.


Meet a crazy man: Werner Herzog @ Downtown Independent, Fri. at 7pm (9pm showing will have Herzog introduce), $12
Werner "It's not a signficant bullet" Herzog is crazy. The auteur behind amazingly wondrous documentaries like "Grizzly Man" and "Encounters at the End of the World" is set to release a new feature film, named "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" and lucky for you, he's coming out to promote it at this Q&A. What could you ask such a man? Here's your chance; it's bound to be entertaining.

Meet a crazy band: L.A. Record's Xmas Party @ Bedrock Rehearsal in Echo Park, Sat. at 8pm, FREE with RSVP and donation of child's toy
Okay, maybe none of the bands playing this holiday gig are as crazy as Werner Herzog (that would be quite ambitious), but they'll give you a good show nonetheless. I've seen fave Smell players Abe Vigoda a few times and they just keep getting better, and I can't imagine The Soft Pack not bringing some great energy to their poptastic beats. Oh, but that dude Daedelus does have crazy sideburns, and add in that free tequila (if you're 21+, of course)...maybe you will be in for a crazy night.

-- Chau Tu

Eat Out. Joan's on Third.

Joan's on Third is a great lunch spot on West Third Street between the Beverly Center and The Grove. It's casual with a gourmet flair. After a recent remodel, they've widened their space to include a cheese section, a dessert section (cupcakes galore!), a separate area for ordering out, and a large communal table indoors. Speaking of a table ... the one downside to Joan's on Third is the potential problem of not being able to find a table when your food is ready. Even with a substantial outdoor seating area, and tables up the left side of the inside space, there always seems to be a shortage of eating space. I have had to change my order from "for here" to "to go" on a busy weekend afternoon because of this.

The food is spot-on. They have a deli case full of treasures for a foodie, including the salads which made up my salad trio (above). Beets with goat cheese, pasta with pine nuts, you name it, they've got it. The curried chickpeas are a favorite. They also make a mean grilled cheese (large slices of white bread, and the option to add tomato slices or bacon), tuna melts, turkey breast sandwiches, homemade macaroni and cheese ... the list goes on. Grab an Izze sparking juice drink and enjoy.

A note for the out-of-towners: Joan's prime celebrity-spotting territory. Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes and Kirsten Dunst are all fans. I've seen the Million Dollar Baby there myself.

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: the BEAT

Eat In. The perfect cup of coffee.

A cup of coffee can mean the difference between a warm morning and a dreary one for many people. There are so many different styles of coffee and ways to make a good cup, but what I've noticed works best for me is to heat the milk first in a sauce pan, then add it to your cup before adding the coffee. Not only does the coffee stay warm longer, but I feel like you can control the color of the coffee better, the cream to coffee ratio, but maybe that's just me.

On a recent trip to Florida, I discovered an excellent expresso-style Cuban coffee called Cafe Bustelo, which is quite tasty and amazingly inexpensive. A six-ounce brick costs just under $3 and not much is needed for a good, strong cup.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: Picture courtesy of ehow.com.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Make It. Cork trivet [Gift Guide].

Looking for something for a friend who loves to cook? This project is one that has been in the making for quite a while. At first, I was trying to save up corks from bottles that I've drank, but I can't go through them quite as fast as I wanted to make the trivet, so I dropped in to the local wine bar and asked if they had any extra corks there.

What you'll need for this project is a power drill, a coil of small-gauge wire, wire cutter, and about 24 wine corks. I also used beer and champagne corks and the mushroom-shaped lip at the top actually made kind of nice feet at the ends of the trivet. Make sure not to use plastic corks, as they might melt when in contact with a hot surface.

I also used a portable vice to hold the corks steady when I drilled through them (I definitely wouldn't recommend using your hands to hold the corks while you're drilling). Although you may not own a portable vice or power drill there are a few sites where you can borrow them from neighbors for free and there are a few rental sites out there, where you can rent power tools easily enough.

One of the problems with using cork is that it flakes and is unbelievably messy. Also, drilling a perfect hole that is straight is going to be tough because of how cork is. You'll want to have the vice positioned low so that you can get a good handle on it; it just makes drilling a bit easier.

Drill a hole through the corks the long way (come to think of it, I guess you could drill them through the short way and string them together sideways). For those who haven't used a power drill before, never stop drilling half way through. Continue drilling even while pulling the drill out. Otherwise, you will go through a few drill bits. I found this out the hard way when making a clothespin doormat.

When all the corks are drilled, string them together on a thin or medium-gauge wire. You will have to twist the wire to get through the cork because the stoppers flake when the drill goes through them and obscures the hole.

I strung four corks together and made six rows. I used three beer stoppers and one champagne plug at the ends to make feet; it actually came out pretty nice.

Connect the different lines of cork together with more wire, wrapping the wire around the middle parts. This is where the thin gauge wire comes in. It's a bit less conspicuous.

It is a little time consuming, and certainly messy, but you have a nice trivet in the end.

-- Lauren Williams



Check It. Two DVDs and a book.

The day we've all been waiting for is here, The Hangover is now out on DVD. Relive the crazy desert journey again and again this holiday season with Phil, Stu, Alan and Doug. Get your wolf pack together for some laughs. Jagermeister, anyone? I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord ...

Also out on DVD today, Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino and Pitt, need I say more? It made news Monday morning with ten nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. Although--scalping, killing, Nazis ... may not exactly sound like what you want to watch with the whole family on Christmas Eve. I say save it for 2010.

Vanity Fair special correspondent and best-selling author Dominick Dunne's last novel, Too Much Money (which USA Today calls "transparently autobiographical") is available today. Dunne died in August at 83, but left us one last great piece of work, and just in time for Christmas (it's on my list).

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: filmschoolrejects.com

Make It. Gingerbread tips.


I originally set-out to write a post that would demonstrate how simple it is to make delicious and beautiful gingerbread cookies. Unfortunately, I have no business pretending I'm Martha Stewart. I ruined my first three batches. But! That 4th batch came out pretty sweet. So, let my mistakes save you from your own cookie trial and error. Use these tips to get it right... the first time.

  • DO use Trader Joe's Deep, Dark Gingerbread mix. The flavor is rich and spicy (and it's pretty much foolproof).
  • DON'T coat your baking sheet with cooking spray. When the timer for batch #2 went off, my cookies were floating in a puddle of fake buttery goop.
  • DO use parchment paper.
  • DON'T wing it. Baking 5-7 minutes at 375 does not equal 10 minutes at 320*.
  • DO chill your dough between batches. If the dough gets too warm, your cut-out will not retain its shape.
  • DON'T buy the Betty Crocker cookie icing for decorating. Just trust me on this one.
  • DO incorporate chocolate. Adding nonpareils to decorate and cover the sloppy icing on my snowflakes proved to be both tasty and pretty.
  • DON'T eat them all at work the next day because you forgot your lunch at home. Or do. I don't really have any regrets about that, actually.
*And just what was in the oven that made me think I could bend the rigid rules of baking? Magic Cookie Bars--a specialty of my boyfriend, Adam. They came out perfect, of course. Find the recipe here.

-- Heather Robertson

Monday, December 14, 2009

Etc. Banshee Beat video.


As a now-regular commuter to the heart of Los Angeles, braving those packed freeways for a simple paycheck, I admit I have become immune to all the wonders this city's roadways hold. I am a born-and-bred Angeleno; these freeways have always been part of my blood and I appreciated them to a certain extent--the memories of trips to Orange County for delicious Asian food, the drives to college seeing downtown L.A.'s skyrises on the horizon. But commuting has ruined it all.

I discovered this video after my friend Greg posted it on his facebook, and let's just say that I've become nostalgic again. Eugene Cheung, the filmmaker (whom I know nothing about, sorry), writes in his description of the film that this traces his own commute to a job in L.A., and with Animal Collective as the soundtrack, this video just can't get more fitting. There is beauty in simpicity, my friends, and thankfully Cheung's video reminds us all of that. (And with the genius of using Google street view, ah!)

-- Chau Tu

Make It. Getting ink out of clothes [A clean house on the cheap.]

In one of my past lives, I worked at a dry cleaners. I remember the awful smell of chemicals being used to rid clothes of their stains, but there are plenty of easy do-it-yourself tricks to get stains out of clothes without having to add another item to your dry cleaning bill.

One trick for getting ink out of clothes is to spray hairspray on a stained garment. Spray a bit of any kind of hairspray (aerosol or regular spray), and blot with a clean, white cloth (the cloth needs to be white or the dye from the rag may soak into the sprayed area). Then, after it looks like most of the ink has been absorbed wash and the stain should all but disappear.

Also, never soak a blood-stained garment in hot water. Hot water just "sets" the stain, making it more permanent. Always rinse these clothes with cold water and rub with a little bit of powdered detergent.

Another tip for saving your clothes: Use clear nail polish on stockings that have a run in them. The nail polish will slow the tearing of the cloth and hopefully save you from another trip to Target.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: Courtesy of eHow.

Eat In. A quick breakfast.

Waking up early is no picnic, and getting something in your stomach before you need to be out the door can be hard when an extra 20 minutes for breakfast can be spent in a warm bed. But eating some kind of breakfast in the morning is also said to be quite healthy.

One quick and easy breakfast is just a banana with peanut butter on it. Slice a banana into coin-shaped slices and spread peanut butter on them. Wrap it in a paper towel and you're on your way with a filling, nutritional breakfast and a good start to your day.

-- Lauren Williams

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Eat Out. Figaro [Sunday Brunch].

Figaro on Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz is a place some (including myself) consider a near-perfect brunch spot. It's on a street that has loads of cute shops for post-brunch strolling around, they have both inside and outside (sidewalk) seating, and the food is fresh and flavorful.

The meal is started off right with a bread basket--something many restaurants reserve for lunch and dinner only. It includes a varied mix of breads including olive and nut among others, sliced and with a little dish of strawberry jam on the side.

Their coffee is tasty and refilled often, the latte bowls are ginormous, and the hot chocolate looks like an image from a childhood dream.

We were all very pleased with our meals (omelettes for Lauren and I, a Parisian croissant for Heather, and a spinach salad with hard boiled egg and crumbled bacon for Chau) ... I went with the classic choice, Omelette Figaro (pictured). It was a perfect combination of mushroom, brie and avocado. I had a seen a neighboring bruncher with it and almost didn't order because it looked a bit dry. The egg and mushrooms are cooked together, then folded around thick slices of brie and soft creamy generous slices of avocado. I am SO glad I got it. I ate every last bite. The inside ingredients easily blend with the egg/mushroom exterior.

One downside to the cute European-style sidewalk seating--a sensitive car (parked near our table) alarm (loud!) going off every time a fast car or bus would pass.

Figaro Bistrot is located at 1802 N. Vermont Ave. in Los Feliz

-- Leslie Anne Wiggins

Photo credit: the BEAT