Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Outlet Shopping in Los Angeles

The VIP Shopper Lounge at the Citadel Outlets
During happy hour a friend mentioned how her mother never taught her how to bargain shop. She looked to me for suggestions, mostly tips, on what to do to update her wardrobe without spending a pretty penny. "Go to the Outlets," I told her. 
"But we don't have outlets in Los Angeles..and, I don't want to drive to the dessert." 
"Um...I don't want to drive to the dessert either, that's why I recommend that you go to the Citadel Outlets."
Truth be told, this conversation happened - but it wasn't me advising a friend to go to an outlet, that was a friend telling me. 

It happened almost a year ago. I had yet to go to the Citadel Outlets since that conversation until I was invited to their blogger preview.

Honestly? I had a misconception about outlet shopping; mostly due to the fact that the only outlets I stepped foot in were in the dessert and weren't all that great. The Citadel Outlets doesn't fall in either category. 
Main Entrance
Just a short drive from Downtown Los Angeles (even driving directly from my Westside home, took less than an hour); the Citadel Outlets is located behind a GORGEOUS Assyrian castle facade.

Craig Reality, the folks behind the Citadel Outlets, put unique touches on this building and shopping experience that are not found anywhere else. From murals painted by a local artist to special perfume wafting through the center's plumbing center, there's love and care put into every inch of the Citadel Outlets.

The outlet center itself is set-up as an outside mall.  The big difference from other outlets, is that the Citadel Outlets has various benches, areas to sit and mingle, trees for shade, and basically a nice set-up to take a stroll. Not only that, but the Citadel Outlets also host weekend live music, making shopping feel more like an experience and less like a drag.
Some of my favorite stores located in the Citadel Outlets included Kate Spade New York, DKNY Company Store, Max Studio, Levi's Outlet and Kenneth Cole Outlet. I especially found a gem at the outlets that carried off-price/discounted Lancome and Kiehl's. Be still my heart!

As locals, we can appreciate all these touches, but those of you that are planning on visiting Los Angeles in the near future will appreciate the complimentary luggage storage, concierge service, foreign currency exchange, and multi-language signage, 

The Citadel Outlets also offers guided tours and shopping packages, such as the newly introduced "Shop Until You Drop Off...at LAX," program, which is exactly what it states: shop all day, and the Citadel Outlets shuttle service will drop you off at LAX when you're done!
As for me? Well the Citadel Outlets made me a convert - maybe it has something to do with them gifting me a shopping certificate, that I gladly used at some my favorite store, or valet parking ;-)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Montefalco Sagrantino Grand Tasting

Like most Latino households, I grew up with wine in my home. As a child, the bottles magically appeared on our "special occasion" dinner table together with wondrous meals and laughter.

During my college years I removed myself from the liquor-heavy parties, and instead embraced the beauty of wine and conversation.

As a matter of fact, my first roommate was a Spanish gal that worked in the restaurant industry. Wine was always available in our place, yet I could only distinguish between white and red.

With time, I have come to appreciate the different varieties of grapes and the wine they produce. I've become braver and even more open minded when it comes to trying new and different wines. 

I've also come to experiment with food pairings and plan on taking a wine region tour outside of the US. So, imagine my excitement when Montefalco Sangrantino invited me to try various wines from the Umbria region of Italy?
Until that moment, I was completely unfamiliar with the Umbria region of Italy, which is the only area in the world that grows Sangrantino grapes.  This unique grape is one of the most tannic varieties in the world, which are inky purple in color with an almost-black center. The bouquet can be described as full-flavored, with hints of plum, cinnamon, and very, very earthy. 

The wine produced with Sangrantino grapes is aged for 30 months, of which at least 12 months must be in oak barrels. The wine is a DOCG, the highest-ranking category of Italian wine denominations.
Originally used specifically for dessert wines, the more than 25 growers in the region are experimenting with different types of wines made with Sangrantino Grapes. Some white, some red. Some dessert and sweet, some a bit bubbly and dry.

I tried several of the wines brought for the tasting, and found that the red wines that were 100% Sangrantino grapes were a bit tannic for my taste. Whereas, although I am usually not a fan of sweeter and white wines, those made with Sangrantino grapes had a nice balance, and I found them perfect to pair with heartier summer dishes.
My favorite wine from the tasting with the Scacciadiavoli Rossi
I have asked around for some of the wines I discovered during the tasting, and found that the best resource was going directly to the Montefalco Sangrantino website to get a list of distributors before I went directly to a wine shop to find these boutique bottles.
___

Do let me know if you try Sangrantino Wines and what your taste buds think - I'm pretty sure you will be happy to find a new wine to love :)

Cheers!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Feels Like a Saturday

Sometime by early week, I was overbooked with three different events that were scheduled for today. I find it hard to say no to the people I love and overbooking myself tends to be a constant challenge in my life.

By yesterday evening, I had the choice to either drive up the California Coast for a family Baptism, or end-up at the oven the San Fernando Valley for a family BBQ. The third plans were canceled.

Today I was hoping my hubby would simply "pick" for us. He did: we're driving in this God-awful heat to partake in family togetherness at my brothers BBQ. 

I plan on explaining, for the 200th time that "yes I have to stay covered and indoors," because I have "sun allergies," while I peel like I lizard from my ViPeel (more to that later).

Yah me!

But enough about me, how about you: what does your Saturday look like?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Finding ME at Flywheel Fitness

From being pretty much inactive, to training for the marathon. To getting into a car accident that prevented me from walking, let alone running; to working out - religiously - with a trainer; to yet ANOTHER car accident...and then of course, two back-to-back surgeries. Not to mention my many issues with my thyroid.

This, in a nutshell, has been the reason I haven't worked out consistently for the last five years.

To be honest, I like working out. I love the rush. I love the feeling of being able to complete something physical; and, I love how my body-aches turn into muscles.

Unlike most people I know, I also like to try the latest and greatest workouts. Mostly because I don't want to tire of working out. And whats better than to mixing it up a bit to keep you motivated?

So although it had been a while since I had walked more than a couple of blocks, let alone engage in any high energy workout, I was enticed to try Flywheel Spin.

Touted as being more than your average spin class, Flywheel classes mix high-energy music and motivational pep talks between intense cycling routines.
Brett Hoebel, one of the most sought-after weight loss, nutrition and lifestyle coaches in the country, led the class I attended. His credentials include being a trainer on NBC's The Biggest Loser season 11. He is, in other words, a Superstar in the Fitness world.

The Flywheel Spin in Larchmont Village is a bit East of the Westside (where I live), but has its own parking lot, making the schlep worth it (Yah for convenience).

The modern lobby and general areas of Flywheel Spin is unlike the workout room, which seems a little staged, very dark, and the trainers are positioned as theater actors.

It was a wee-bit-wierd at first. But honestly? The darkness in the room, the loudness of the music, and Brett's position at the front of the class made it very easy to stay focused and ignore everything and everyone around me, except for Brett.

In typical American fashion, a couple of huge screens highlighted the fastest person in the class. I think you could see how many calories were being burned. Maybe thats motivation for others, but for me? I didn't care. What I did care about, was that I did it. My personal "torque," allowed me to slow-down or up the intensity of my workout.

In the end, I ended-up working-out for half of the class. First time in more than six months; and yes I was dripping in sweat and I felt a bit ridiculous walking out before the class ended.

But I didn't feel judged - not that I care. But my weakly body did. And it felt nice to know that I was in a space where the instructors and the staff were equally understanding and focused more on finding our inner strength than they did on being the fastest, or best, in the class.
The workout was definitely intense - and as much as anyone tells you that you can workout at your own level, the music and the mantra's said by the instructors in an almost chant-like voice, push you.

You can't stop - even when your crotch is aching from jumping up and down.
Too bad my body isn't quite ready for a workout this intense on a frequent basis. Otherwise I would be here every week - at the very least to listen to motivational mantra's that would help me believe in me.

For the rest of ya, if you are close to a Flywheel, do stop by and take at least one of their introductory classes. Trust me, it's all its cracked out to be.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Meet Ivanabitch

Ivanabitch in the original and peach flavors
My hubby and I like the occasional drink, or two. Although not highbrow drinkers, by no-means, we tend to stick to the more demure and frou-frou grown-up drinks when we go out.

But when we're home, we like to mix drinks that let us have a little fun; and Ivanabitch Vodka fits that mold perfectly!  

With more than ten all-natural flavors, ranging from watermelon to whipped cream, traditional to tobacco, Ivanabitch clearly has something for those who embrace their uniqueness and live for conquering the moment, and doing so with an attitude that says, “This is who I am.
On the day that I received a pair of Ivanabitch vodka bottles, I also happened to have fresh strawberries...so I put two and two together, and whipped-up a drink infused with fresh berries.

Mixing Ivanabitch Vodka is perfect because its clean, fresh taste, is smooth-enough to bring-out the flavors of any fruit that is used for drink infusion.
First, I sliced fresh strawberries and filled a mason jar 3/4th of the way up. Then I added two tablespoons of raw sugar, and filled up the mason jar with Ivanabitch vodka. I stored the mason jar in the refrigerator overnight. 

The following evening, I pulled out the mason jar and poured it in my blender. I also added two mason-jars filled with ice and blended until smooth.

Once blended, I had almost three mason jars filled to the brim with yummy a strawberry vodka concoction, that was really quite simple, yet full of punch.

I topped the mason jars with fresh whipped cream and we sipped all night.
A few days later we realized that we still had a brand new peach-flavored Ivanabitch Vodka waiting for us to taste.  

The first thing I did when I opened the bottle was to smell it. And yes, it smelled absolutely peachy! But, what to do, what to do?

I opened up my fridge and whipped up something else that was a little bit more refreshing, and perfect for a hot summer night.
I used a beer glass and filled it 3/4 of the way up with ice. 

After the ice, I poured orange juice half-way up the glass, added one tablespoon of the maraschino cherry juice, two maraschino cherries and added the peach Ivanabitch vodka to taste. By taste, I mean, how much liquor you "need" to taste. (Sometimes I add one "shot" sometimes more ;-) )

I stirred gently, smoothly, and let the flavors blend together...when done, the party in my mouth was absolutely MAGIC. Magic I tell ya, MAGIC!

I've made this drink MANY times since receiving the bottle - and far and wide - it tastes so much better with the peach flavored vodka, than it does with the original. But you try it, and let me know what you think.

Cheers!
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