Monthly Archives: December 2011

Burger Week recap

Some time in the spring, Sean emailed me a list of the best burgers in LA compiled by LAist. Even though Sean wanted to start working through the list, we never got around to it, at least not intentionally. We crossed off The Apple Pan as it was across the street from the theater where we saw Thor.

Earlier this month, LA Weekly posted another best burgers in LA list. Sean nudged me about it. We decided to make a dent in the list this week since we both are on vacation.

Thus, began Burger Week. After the second day, we made a spreadsheet in Google Docs and included any spot on LAist’s 2010 best burger list, 2011 list or LA Weekly’s 2011 list. Yeah, the spreadsheet is nerdy, but it made picking the next spot easier. We based our choices on type (“gourmet” vs “basic”) and location. Most of the high end burger spots are located on the Westside so we didn’t ever travel more than 6 miles.

MONDAY

Father's Office burger

Father’s Office Burger @ Father’s Office
Los Angeles (near Culver City)

FO is a familiar spot. It’s less than a mile away, but I don’t go very often as I’m not much of a drinker and it’s pricey for a burger. Still, after a few visits over the last few years, it’s easy to see why the FO burger is consistently listed as one of the best burgers in LA.

Father's Office sweet potato fries

In short, it’s delicious. We both had the Father’s Office burger: Kobe beef, Gruyere, caramelized onions, applewood bacon compote, maytag blue cheese and arugula on a roll. I love the combination of Gruyere, arugula and caramelized onions. We passed on the shoestring fries (they’re good) and split a basket of sweet potato fries with garlic aioli on the side for dipping. The burger is great, but the sweet potato fries with garlic aioli are my favorite menu item. Since FO is a gastropub known for a wide beer selection, we paired our burgers with Unibroue Fin du Monde.

Heads up:
It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for. The burger can easily feed two people with smaller appetites. FO does not do substitutions and does not have ketchup in house. This has never bugged me. The LA location gets very crowded at peak hours and you might have to stand around waiting for a table or spot at the bar to open up before ordering food. Be patient.

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Eleven for ’11

Overall, 2011 was a pretty good year. Below, eleven memorable moments in chronological order.

First photo of 2011

Kissing Sean at midnight on New Years Eve. That almost didn’t happen thanks to a fierce winter snowstorm that delayed his move from NY to LA a few days. [post]

Happy running in the home stretch

Feeling Grandpa and Grandmas’ spirits giving me strength in the final miles of the LA Marathon. Something made me surge at mile 25. I say it was my grandparents. Crossing the finish line was cool too. [post]

The attention getting Tweet

Getting a text message telling me to turn around and then seeing Sean down on his knee, holding a ring in a box. I said yes. There were tears and mocos (boogers). [post]

St. John Vianney in Hacienda Heights

Learning from Adrian via a midnight text message that St John Vianney was on fire and likely unsalvageable. It didn’t hit me until the next morning when I saw the news and photos of the gutted church. [post]

All the Bixi bikes were rented

Running and biking along Lake Ontario during my trip to Toronto. Other memorable runs during my travels: a long run through Santa Barbara; a short post-LB Marathon run along the Hudson in New York; running along the nature preserve in Napa. [post]

Nevada Falls and Liberty Cap

Reaching the point on our hike when Nevada Falls finally came in to view. Yosemite was great overall. Even though our trip was cut short thanks to the crazy storm it was still pretty amazing. [post]

Brea Community Center - Community Hall

Setting a date, signing contracts and paying deposits to reserve the church and reception hall. After that point, getting married started to feel official. [post]

Friends since freshman year at UCLA

Celebrating my 31st birthday with lots of friends and family. Not only did they show up, a lot of people also put in lots of time and effort to make it special for me. [post]

Empire State of Minding it

Seeing Sean and his friends sing Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” at the top of their lungs at a bar during our only trip back to New York this year. I know he misses NY. I do too. [post]

Disneyland with familia

Spending a day at Disneyland with my parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins. It was neat to fill up an It’s A Small World boat with my family and see Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni enjoy Disneyland for the first time in 35+ years. [post]

Cindy showing off her newest medal

Kicking ass during the Holiday Half Marathon and earning a 5 minute PR. I ran a few PRs this year and for the most part met my running goals. However, this one instilled some confidence and felt like a come back from my awful LB Marathon experience. [post]

LA Marathon 2012 decision time

Starting line!

One of my goals for the month was to finally decide on running the LA Marathon. With two days left in the month, I still haven’t decided. Enter, the trusty pro/con list.

PROS

  1. The LA Marathon was my first marathon last year and I loved it.
  2. It’s local. I’m not interested in traveling for races next year. I need to save the extra travel/accommodations money I’d spend on a destination race.
  3. I loved the Stadium to the Sea course. With the marathon potentially changing owners, I might not have opportunity to start a race at Dodger Stadium again.
  4. My Long Beach Marathon experience sucked. I need to erase it with a good experience.
  5. Spring is the only time I’d like to run a marathon next year. I don’t want to train for a marathon while worrying about the wedding in September.
  6. I’d likely be able to get some long runs in with the SRLA kids and can do long runs on part of the course.
  7. I’d have the guidance of my coach. So far while working with him, I’ve managed two PRs.
  8. Since it’s local, family can come out like they did last year.
  9. I’m not interested in other area marathons in the spring/early summer (e.g. OC, Pasadena, San Diego). Bay Area races are out of the question due to travel costs.

CONS

  1. Frank McCourt currently owns the LAM. If I run, that will be padding his money grubbing pockets. I don’t like McCourt.
  2. I’ve already run LA, maybe I should do another local spring marathon.
  3. I can think of plenty of other things to do with $145 ($155 after January 15th).
  4. I got injured in September at the end of the last training cycle.
  5. I’m currently dealing with some IT band issues and have cut back on my running in the last few weeks.
  6. Focusing on marathon training will give me less time to focus on other fitness goals, i.e. losing some weight, more strength training.
  7. I’m lazy.
  8. Training through the winter means runs after dark (I’m not a morning person) and sunny morning long runs. I prefer the marine layer cloud cover during the summer.

That’s all I got.

The pro list is obviously longer and reflects what I’ve been feeling for the last few months. I got two confidence boosts with my PRs at the Turkey Trot 10K and the Holiday Half Marathon. However, in the weeks after the Holiday Half, my IT band has been acting up. After my last long run (11 miles), I was in some pain. I felt as if I’d taken a fall on my hip. It’s gotten better with some icing, sticking/massaging and rest. I’ve kept recents runs <4.5 miles. At least I’m getting in my cross training and strength training.

The plan:
Begin training, have my coach write my training plans as if I do have a marathon to run on March 18th. I won’t register until I feel more confident that I can get through the cycle sans injury. I don’t want a Long Beach ’11 repeat nor do I want to back out later and possibly lose the $145/155 registration fee.

Count me in for LA 2012… unofficially.

Look-alike assurance

That’s my cousin Valerie up on the left. On the right is Jessica Frech, a singer featured in the Hyundai Holiday commercial. When we saw the commercial on Christmas Eve, a few of my cousins noted the resemblance between our cousin and the singer.

Valerie wasn’t so convinced. Isn’t it usually that way? I told her I’d post the question here. What do you think?

Past look-alikes:

My dad and César Chávez

Emmanuel “Meme” del Real from Café Tacuba and Dave Grohl

Johnny Depp and Edward James Olmos as el Pachuco

Don’t forget the ñ!

cindy vs piñata

There’s a lot of things that bug me in the blog and internet world. This is one of them:

PINATA

PINA COLADA

ANO NUEVO

CUMPLEANOS

ANGELENO

See something wrong?

Yes, the tilde is missing over the n. I love the ñ and have always been a little jealous that some of my family members get to add it to their surname (Ureño).

Angeleño may look okay without the ñ, but it was originally written like that back in the day. The third phrase on the list makes me giggle. It’s the perfect example of how leaving the tilde off the n changes the meaning of the word. It’s no longer “new year,” it’s “new anus.” Yeah, people will probably know what you mean, but it’s still awkward.

k l ll m n ñ o p

For the most part, the people who read my blog are not guilty of leaving off tildes, so you can skip this and leave it to the people who search for the following phrase:

How to add a tilde over an n

On a PC: control-shift-tilde + n
Using the key pad: alt+164 (I’ve also seen 0209)

On a Mac: opt+n, a tilde will appear, press n again

iPhone/iPad: hold down on the n, three options should appear, choose ñ

In high school, I used the Word Perfect insert character option or just added the tilde after I’d printed my assignment. As a Spanish minor in college, learned the PC shortcuts lest my grade suffer. Switching from a PC to a Mac for my personal computer meant learning more shortcuts. Adding accents was one of the first things I looked up when I got the iPhone. If you rarely write in Spanish or other languages with accents, umlauts, tildes and other characters, it might be tough to remember these shortcuts. An easier shortcut might just be searching for the properly spelled word you need on Google and then copying and pasting it into your document. Example: if you google “pinata”, piñata comes up immediately.

¿Quieren más?

This Penn State tutorial on typing accents and special characters probably has everything you need.

Feliz Ano Nuevo with Michael Peña (via Mun2)

Spanish alphabet photo by Nathan Gibbs, used under Creative Commons license.

Christmas déjà vu

The second family Christmas party felt like déjà vu from last week.

The similarities:

Cinnamon rolls made in the cupcake pan

We had an abundance of delicious food and desserts. Everyone contributed something to the spread.

Ureño family in from Chula Vista

Family came in from out of town to join the festivities. Our out-of-state family members didn’t make the trip, but it was great to see the family from San Diego.

Minel says his goodbyes

Minel did his part for the adorable baby/toddler quota.

Sean, tío Pancho & Santa

One of my male family members volunteered to dress up as Santa and pass out gifts. Last week it was my cousin Jesus, this week it was tío Beto. Of course, Minel wasn’t into the Santa thing. He was just as resistant as Olivia last week. [Side note: even though Minel and Olivia are not related, I think they could be fraternal twins. It must be the curly hair and the proximity in age.]

Adrian on drums

Dad got out the guitar and we sang some Christmas carols. Adrian accompanied him on the snare drum.

Valerie's turn

I brought a second beautiful piñata and my cousins’ kids gave it a beating. Since these kids are older, taller and stronger, we had to handicap them in some way. After diving in to the melee for some candy, Padrino José passed out the bolo, or the traditional grab bag of peanuts, cookies, candies and tangerines.

Most of my bridal party

Once again, I felt like I got hosed when it came to the height genes when standing next to my tall cousins. Nancy, Vanny, Valerie and my sister will all be part of my wedding party next year. I either need to make them wear flats or wear the highest heels I can find, if only for photos.

Me, Dad & Sean

I forgot my camera this week and relied on my iPhone. Luckily, Sean brought along his camera and tried out his new flash and diffuser. He was a good sport being the unofficial photographer.

The differences:

Papá Chepe, Daisy and Santa

Instead of doing a white elephant, we were much nicer an did a Secret Santa. Sean picked Papá Chepe and bought him a newsboy cap. I think he wears it well.

Also, we played some games. In the past we’ve done Wii games and karaoke. This year we kept it less physical with a round of Taboo amongst the cousins.

arbolito

We got to open more presents!

***

Christmas Day was super low key as it’s been for the last 10+ years. Since we went to Mass on Christmas Eve, I just spent the afternoon and evening lounging around the parents’ house. My brothers spent most of the day with their girlfriends so it was just Lori, the parents, Sean and me. We watched a few basketball games, ate leftovers for dinner, and played card games. It wasn’t too different from most Sundays.

Tamales tally

20111225-155958.jpg

Tamales are not my favorite Mexican food. They’re not even in the top five.

I used to pride myself on how few of them I could eat each Christmas season. Usually the count was somewhere around 2. I’d have one of the spicy red chile and pork tamales and one of the sweet cinnamon, pineapple and raisin ones for breakfast. The sweet ones are always best as breakfast on Christmas morning when my mom places them on a comal or a pan to toast them lightly. A savory/spicy tamal works just as well for breakfast.

This year, I’ve been craving tamales. Prior to Christmas, I’d only eaten on tamal and that bugged me. That changed last night and this morning when we had the traditional tamales and a bunch of other delicious food. Funny thing, Sean asked me if it was okay to have tamales for breakfast. I almost laughed at him. It’s not only okay, it’s condoned and might be the only thing available aside from some beans and eggs. He’s a newbie at Mexican Christmas.

The tamal tally is currently 4. Let’s see how many more I can eat.

***

It used to really bug me when I heard people refer to the singular tamal as tamale. It sounds wrong to my bilingual ear, but I know the English translation is tamale. In fact, my spell checker has tamal as incorrect and tamale as correct. I mentioned this to a friend once and he mentioned that tamale is closer to the Nahuatl word, “tamalli.” He reasoned that tamal was the bastardized Nahuatl term for the food we’ve come to love.

Anyway, who talks about tamales in the singular anyway? If you eat just one, you’re doing it wrong. Or you’re saving room for all the other delicious food. I can’t blame you too much.

Christmas past in Los Angeles

Posadas, 1949
Posadas on Olvera Street, 1949

A couple of days ago, I was going through my reader and found a post on KCET’s SoCal Focus blog about holiday celebrations of yore in Southern California. It’s a pretty neat compilation of photographs and postcards from various digital image archives.

Olvera Street posadas, 1949
Posadas on Olvera Street, 1949

There was one thing that bothered me. It didn’t look diverse. By that I mean, where were all the people of color? We’re in LA and Southern California too!

Pacoima Junior HS, 1963
Pacoima junior high school students, 1963

I don’t think it’s cool to whitewash Southern California history, even if it’s unintentional. Still, it’s pretty easy to find some images that are more representative of the holiday season in LA.

Ella Fiztgerald sings to kids, 1975
Ella Fitzgerald sings to children in South Central, 1975

I did a simple search on UCLA’s photograph archive, Changing Times: Los Angeles in Photographs, 1920-1990 for old school Christmas photos. All photos here come from that archive.

East LA Christmas parade, 1984
Olympic themed float at the East LA Christmas parade, 1984

Street scene along Sunset Blvd in Echo Park, 1988
Festive Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park, 1988

Photo Credit:
Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library. Copyright Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.

Used under attribution, non-commercial, share alike Creative Commons license

Pictures of you (and me)

On Sunday afternoon, Sean and I met up with Michael Fletcher, our talented photographer. We made the super short trip to downtown Culver City.

For the next 3+ hours Mike took hundreds of photos of us in various states of PDA. Or rivalry.

It was a little odd to have a tiny audience when we were in Downtown Culver City and at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.

We really stuck out at the overlook since most of the people up there were in workout clothes.

On Monday morning, Michael sent us a link to the online gallery. I’m very happy with the photos. It wasn’t easy to choose favorites from the 180+ he uploaded [#humblebrag]. I picked 1-2 per location/wardrobe change. If you want to see a few more, Sean chose his favorites and posted about them on his blog.

CREDITS
Photos: Michael Fletcher Photography

Makeup: Evette. Going to her work on Saturday was totally worth dealing with Eastside Carmageddon, aka the 60 freeway closure. We did a trial run on Saturday. On Sunday morning she came over to my mom’s house. If not for Evette, I would’ve never thought to go for red lips or add false lashes.
Hair: Alexis (brother’s girlfriend), she styled it with 5 minutes’ notice on Sunday morning
Sean’s beard: Headmaster Barber Shop
Dress and Sean’s shirt, sweater and tie: Banana Republic. He influenced me with shopping there, I influenced the color choice. I love purple and so does my grandmother, Mamá Toni.

Locations:
Downtown Culver City
Cheviot Hills Recreation Center
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

Family Christmas party (part 1)

The treats are out

A few years ago my family began hosting an annual Christmas party for the Mosqueda side of the family. I think for several years after my grandparents passed, it felt like we’d lost some of our holiday traditions. We always host the party a week or so before Christmas so that it doesn’t conflict with Christmas Eve gatherings. Typically, Mexicans gather on Christmas Eve and do all the fun stuff — including presents — then.

This year my family hosted the biggest party. Part of the family who moved out to Texas years ago returned. It was good to see my aunts and uncles again. Last year, tía Nellie and tío Rick came to LA for tío Joe’s funeral. This time they brought their spouses and kids to celebrate and have fun.

After a dinner that included the requisite tamales and several other options (roast beef, pasta, meatballs, fried chicken, etc) and digging in to the dessert table, my dad got out his guitar and we sang a few Christmas carols.

Carlos, Luz and Santa

Santa showed up shortly afterward and the kids went crazy. Well, most of them. My cousin’s 18 month old wasn’t too keen on sitting on his lap. The adults didn’t get anything from Santa except a photo op.

Isabelle takes shots at the piñata

We cleared out the tables and set up the piñata. Even if Isabelle hadn’t asked me a few times when it was time to break the piñata, she would’ve gone first as one of the youngest. Again, her little sister wasn’t interested.

Cousin group shot

The adults played a white elephant game, we took lots of photos and then cleaned up.

Dad leads the Christmas caroling

I’m glad I didn’t miss this year’s party. Last year I was in New York with Sean. This year he got to meet the Texas side of the family. It was nice to hear my tía Nellie welcome him in to the family.

It's raining candy!

Even though I attended a few low key holiday parties for Job1 and Job2 last week, I didn’t really feel in the holiday spirit. It usually takes me a few weeks in to December to begin to feel like it’s Christmas. This weekend I couldn’t help it. Seeing toddlers go crazy for Santa and singing carols with my family is enough to snap me out of my grinch mood. Candy and baked goods help too.

Photos mainly by Sean.