Saris and Spices...My Day in Little India

Unofficially referred to as "Little India", Artesia California is a day trip worth visiting. Artesia is a colorful destination for shoppers and epicureans alike. Make sure you arrive with an appetite. 

The main drag, Pioneer Boulevard, is lined with restaurants, Indian shops, food markets, music stores, beauty parlors and sweet stops. Many shops sell a rainbow of saris, which is the traditional dress of Indian women. Everything is hand embroidered, beaded and gorgeous.    

When shopping, don't be afraid to haggle a little. It is both customary and expected. My favorite shop was Cottage Art on Pioneer Boulevard.

From floor to ceiling, Cottage Art is packed with gorgeous furniture, richly colored wall tapestries, fabrics, pillows and linens. All imported from India.

It was a wonderful shop and I didn't want to leave, but my family was hungry and dragged me out of there. Shopping at Cottage be continued. 

We asked several merchants, which was their favorite restaurant for lunch, and one place seemed to stand out, Ashoka the Great.

With an excellent lunch buffet, including vegetarian options, Ashoka the Great, was a crowd pleaser.

So many choices, such a small plate. Lunch was amazing and it made us all very happy. Surprisingly, we saved room for dessert and headed down Pioneer Boulevard for ice cream at Saffron Spot.

We cooled our palates with a scoop of chikoo (fruit flavored) and some malai kulfi (milk-based) frozen dessert.

We were in "Little India" for approximately 5 hours. It was a joyful, fun filled day. I escaped without spending too much money. I purchased a bracelet, necklace, Bollywood CD and some baked goods. However I plan to go back to my favorite store, Cottage Art, and do some more shopping!

I hope you visit and enjoy it as much as we did.

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Urban Wine Trail - Cupcakes and Sparkling Wine!

Want to get away but don't have much time? If you live in Los Angeles, try taking Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner to Santa Barbara for wine tasting in the heart of downtown. The Pacific Surfliner offers its passengers a seaside seat and delivers you to downtown Santa Barbara, just blocks from the beach, Stearns Wharf, restaurants, shops and tons of wine tasting rooms!  

My girlfriends and I met Saturday morning at the the Glendale, CA Amtrak train platform. Free parking for 72 hours. All aboard...destination fun!  

I've been wine tasting several times to the wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley, which is about 35 miles outside of Santa Barbara. The Santa Ynez Valley makes for an amazing day of exploring different wineries and vinyards,  but since we took the train into town and didn't have transportation, we stayed downtown and hit the many tasting rooms.   

The collection of tasting rooms in this area is known as the Urban Wine Trail,   all within blocks of the beach, restaurants, shops and bars. 

We went to several tasting rooms on Saturday and walked around the shops. Make sure to fit some lunch in between your tastings. It has been said that Santa Barbara has more restaurants per capita than any other city on the West Coast.  

We watched the sun set from Stearns Wharf then took a short cab ride up State Street for dinner at Pierre LaFond's Wine Bistro. I had purchased a bottle of wine from the Santa Barbara Winery earlier that day and since the winery & restaurant are owned by the same folks, there was no corkage fee.

One tasting room, Corks n' Crowns, offered a cupcake and sparkling wine pairing on Sundays. Obviously we had to go.  

Sunday morning we headed to brunch at Beachbreak Cafe, on State Street. $3 mimosa and veggie eggs benedict...thumbs up. After brunch we strolled over to Corks n' Crowns for dessert. Doesn't everybody have dessert after brunch?

As we approached the front porch we were greeted by a friendly sign. Our timing was perfect because it wasn't that crowded and it felt very relaxing.

Cupcakes & Sparkling Wine is on Sundays and starts at 11:30 AMGourmet Cupcakes are made by Sugar Cat Studio  

Alison Riede, the designer and creator of Sugar Cat, is at Corks n' Crowns every Sunday to pour wine and answer questions. Every week there is a new selection. Did I mention that Sugar Cat Studio was a winner of the Cupcake Wars on Food Network? 

At first I attempted to look civilized by taking a tiny bite of the cupcake. But my manners quickly went out the window and I decided a better technique was to pop the entire mini cupcake in my mouth, all at once. Much less messy, or at least that what I told myself.

One of my girlfriends chose to have a red wine tasting with her cupcakes, instead of the champagne. So if bubbly is not your thing, they have red, white and beer samplings as well. Beer and cupcakes you ask? Why not!

Our train back home was at 4:00 PM on Sunday. The train station will hold your bags for $3. So if your hotel check in/out time is different from your arrival/departure time, just check your bags at the station and go have fun in the city. Everything is in such close proximity.

We found great seats on the train, that had an ocean view and faced each other. We played cards and laughed all the way back to LA.  

Good times!

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Frame Makeover - Beachy Shabby Chic

I used to live near the ocean in a beach city. I tried to cast my eyes on the water everyday, even if it was just for a moment. Now I live inland and although I have a salt water pool, the closest ocean view is 40 miles away. I wanted to bring the ocean closer to I decided to redo my bathroom with a coastal theme. I found a cool starfish, a driftwood candle holder, several hurricane lanterns and a "port hole" style aged mirror. I added some sand to my hurricane and driftwood lanterns and kept the colors neutral.

Now I just needed an ocean picture. I found the perfect photo, it was from a vacation we had in Laguna Beach, CA. I looked online but couldn't find a reasonably priced coastal looking I made my own.

I went garage sale-ing and found a simple 8x10 wood frame for $1.00. Challenge accepted!

Using medium grain sand paper, sand frame well. Dust and wipe the frame with a clean cloth.  Lay down newspaper and spray the frame with black spray paint. The base and top coat can be whatever colors you choose.  I wanted black and white, with dominant white.  I used Rust-oleum Ultra Cover Flat Black as my bottom color. Make sure to cover all the edges evenly. Spray paint is very easy.  Let frame dry for 24 hours, protected from the environment. 

After 24 hours, lay down more newspaper and spray paint white. I used Rust-oleum Ultra Cover Flat White. This time let it dry for 48 hours. It needs to be 100% dry before proceeding. Once it's dry, use a piece of fine grain sandpaper and lightly sand the areas of the frame that you want the black to show through. I sanded areas that would naturally get scuffed with age.

I ordered a 5x7 print of my Laguna Beach picture and picked up some white matting for under $10.  My beach picture was complete. I love it. Now I can get ready with an ocean view! 

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Yummy blackberry pie

This is Grandma Shepard's pie crust recipe with delicious summer blackberries. My sister and I have my Grandma's recipe written down, but we think she changed something over the years, a pinch of this here and there. This is the original recipe that my Grandma started with, but we're still trying to figure out what she changed over the years. It's a good excuse for us to continue experimenting and making more pies. Not that anyone needs an excuse to make pie!

I placed each pie crust in a gallon size ziploc bag to chill in and roll it out in. My sister bought me a 14" Pie Crust Bag, but I forgot to use it today. Note to self, organize kitchen cupboards so I know what I have! If you experience any cracking while rolling out dough, the ziploc (or pie crust bag) makes it much easier.  

Makes 2 - 9" crust pies:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup (plus 2 tablespoons) vegetable shortening
4-5 tablespoon ice cold water

Mix first three ingredients in a bowl with a pasty blender.  Sprinkle water gradually and mix with a small spatula until a ball can be formed (may need to add more water).  Put in ziploc to roll out immediately or put ziploc in refrigerator to chill until ready.  When ready to roll out bring dough back to room temperature. 

For the filling I took 2 pints fresh blackberries and sprinkled them with 1/2 cup (plus 2 tablespoons) of organic sugar.  Mix into the blackberries 2-3 tablespoons flour and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.  Place one pie crust in bottom of 9" pie plate, pour in blackberry filling, top with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (cut into cubes).  Place top pie crust on and pinch edges together to enclose pie, brush edges with water if needed.  Cut slits in top crust and decorate as desired.  Bake at 375 for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until it looks delicious.  Cool for several hours.


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