Monday, March 24, 2008

Plausible Excuses

Fear not faithful blog friends, I have not abandoned my posts...just got sidetracked with a bunch of things- whether or not these are good enough excuses to have not blogged is obviously a subjective matter. Now to proceed with the sharing of excuses!

Excuse #1:
I was throwing a bridal shower for my bff, JK.
This is a pretty good excuse because it took a bit of work to execute the party and all the minute details which I decided on at the last minute- triflings like making marzipan flowers at midnight for the green tea cupcakes that I had baked for the shower...also let me not forget to mention that it took three batches before my VCTOW green tea cupcakes came out properly (Isa does warn us about the amount of moisture that varies in soy yogurt brands- well Wildwood definitely made my cupcakes too moist- they ballooned & then sank. Really yummy, but super wrinkled upon deflation.) They turned out pretty damn cute...and I happened to have a matching pale green tray to house them.

The bride's wedding invites were pale green with pink ribbon, so I carried the them throughout- with the green tea cupcakes & also with the shower favors. I made a cd of fun songs and found a fab green scalloped label online. You customize the label with all your songs, etc and they mail them out to you. Then you stick them carefully onto the cd and then proceed to tie pink ribbons & hot glue gun them to the envelope- those turned out pretty damn cute too I'd say. I am grateful for the bride's sister-in-law's help. She threw the shower with me and was very helpful during the cd making! Here's a shot of the favors, cupcakes, a little purple book of polaroids of the guests & their well wishes for the bride and the collage of different pics of the bride over the years was a game where everyone had to guess the year of each pic....

I was able to find a really nice Chinese restaurant that served dim sum. Most places in Chinatown that serve dim sum are super crowded, service at a nil, noisy and the decor leaving much to be desired. I totally lucked out when I found Shanghai Pavilion on the Upper Eastside. The place was really nice, food was good and the service great. I had the menu planned in advance and was able to secure some mock duck, vegetable dumplings and fried veggie rice noodles in addition to the omni dim sum menu.
Here's one of the guests writing his heartfelt wishes (in neon bright crayola markers) for the bride, next to the polaroid that I took of each guest as they came in...

I am not one for cheesy bridal shower games, nor is the bride, but I understand that games break the ice especially when people do not know each, I tried to come up with games that were fun and where people also got to learn more about the bride & groom. We played a game where I got answers from the groom beforehand and then we tested the bride to see if she knew the answers, but the game was in that the guests had to guess whether or not the bride would know the answer. That was fun!

I also put one of these little cute characters under each plate. As everyone finished eating, all had to lift up their plates and see which was underneath- angelic little Cinmaroll or mischievous little penguin. Depending on which character, each person had to turn to the person next to them and share either good story about the bride or a mischievous one. People were all angling to get the bad little penguin of course!

That big smile on my face means finally having some fun after all the planning, baking and marzipan flower making is done...

Excuse #2:
I agreed to produce a 2 day location shoot on an extremely limited budget. Not the most ideal way to work, but hopefully, we get the campaign and all our hard work for a seriously discounted rate will be worth it.

We started on what turned out to be the windiest Sunday of the year- the winds were no joke and of course we were down on Wall St, near the tip of the island where all the winds going at a million miles an hr in every direction converged. Every single trash receptacle had been blown over. As we shot at Bowling Green, we saw a food cart vendor's umbrella blow dangerously down the street, threateningly to seriously impale someone- thankfully, it was caught.

I'm glad I wasn't a cheapskate producer and did not skimp- I paid for a location van and we really needed it. The wind turned brisk weather into freezing conditions. We could climb back into that van fast enough...

Don't ever think that models don't work their behinds off. See this skinny little girl below- she has no bodyfat and her outfit was not warm, which means she was freezing her butt off while still holding her pose and looking pretty & natural while the wind whipped down the streets. See how everyone has a hat or hood on? It was ridiculously cold. Poor girl was a real trooper and a professional- not a peep out of her or maybe she was just so beyond cold she couldn't even complain.

This shot was a little better because she was in the sun at least. But this did take longer because we were right on Wall St. by the NY Stock Exchange which was swarming with tourists of all shapes and sizes and they were all very interested in our shoot- to the point where they were either totally in the shot and even right behind the photographer, trying to look through his lens...crazy.

But we do appreciate the money that tourism brings to our city, so I am ever thankful but firm when I ask them get out of the shot...

I thought the second day would be better because we would be down by Tribeca, but of course our location happened to have construction & a giant cement truck next to it. Our speedy photographer made due and got the shot done in record time before they started the cement making... that wheelbarrow was not out prop, nor the dirty muddy water...

Here our other intrepid model - we were all freezing up on the rooftop because the winds were still whipping, less so, but still damn cold, yet our guy still managed to climb up near the water tower and face the elements...water towers are so quintessentially NYC, you'd be surprised how much some of these buildings want to charge you for shooting on their unfinished roof...a few were $5000 - $8000, I guess that too is only in NY.

Excuse #3:
I was checking out Cafe Blossom on the Upper West Side with a friend.
And boy was it good!

We were in the neighborhood for a screening of The Other Boyleyn Girl (which was throughly entertaining, but I tiny bit distracted trying to figure out if Natalie Portman - my fav veg actress was actually wearing real fur or faux in the her costumes...). I have yet to go to Blossom in Chelsea but they recently opened Cafe Blossom and I checked it out with an omni friend.

She had the tofu salad which was one of the tastiest salads ever. My omni friend declared that she would definitely come across the park (from the Upper East Side to Upper West Side, one goes through Central Park) just for the salad alone! The tofu was tender & delicate with a nice smoky grilled flavor and the seaweed mixed into the salad was just delicious.

I had lentils wrapped in phyllo pastry with a red pepper coulis- I thought mine was really good, which it was, but the tofu salad was actually even better.

We had a lemon cake & a chocolate cake- chocolate was the way to go- it was moist & perfect.

Am ready to get back to Cafe Blossom sooner than later!

Cafe Blossom 466 Columbus Avenue (bet 82nd & 83rd Sts) NYC 10024

Excuse #4:
There's been a lot of eating going on.

Follow Your Heart Mozzarella (so good for melting!) on bread from Balthazar bakery with tempeh bacon & cherry tomatoes...
Trade Joe's Beefless Strips sauteed with mushrooms & onions on a tortilla...

Pasta with veggies & FYH mozzarella....
Grandma brought me smoked tofu (a Chinese restaurant in Flushing sells it as mock chicken) which I had with steamed kale, quinoa, corn & cashews.

Fcat made vegan Cuban black beans with rice.

And Fcat's yummy peppers with garlic crostini and argula salad with green apples.

Fcat's delicious lentil soup.

I had some left over vanilla cupcakes from the shower which goes well with vanilla soy cream & strawberries.

Excuse #5:
I took a Reiki 2 workshop one weekend and having learned now in Reiki 2 how to do long-distance absentee healing, have been doing long-distance healing for a ton of people from my sister, SKO in Florida to the a nice kid that works at the Apple store downtown that I got into a conversation with- most people experiencing heat or seeing color/visions, but some just feeling a sense of calm & peace afterwards. Reiki helps to unblock stagnant energy; I liken it to an energy massage.

I love to give reiki as much as people love to receive. It dawned on me the other day that I could do reiki for charity. So if anyone would like to try a long-distance reiki healing session (it requires 15-20 minutes of quiet time), please email me or leave me your email in a comment so that we can schedule a session and you will tell me what the intent of your healing request is (what you would like the reiki energy to support- anything from relief from stress or back pain, to specific goals etc) and I will ask that you make a $5-10 donation to the animal charity (The McKee Project that helps starving strays) that I am raising money for- the link button through FirstGiving is on the top right of my blog. Check it out and get some soothing reiki and give back to help strays at the same time!

So, those are my excuses and I'm sticking to them-

Well, until next time my friends which I hope to be sooner than later...

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Prodigal Blogger Returns (Part 2 Do I still heart L.A.?)

It's been several weeks since my shoot from hell ended. Twenty-five days is sufficient time to take a deep breath and look back without cringing too much...

So to continue where I left off sometime ago, armed with my newfound reiki healing energy techniques, I was packed and ready to get on the plane. Alas, nothing is that simple, a few hours before I was supposed to leave for airport, I was on the phone with the airline scrambling to change my ticket. My client had texted me that I should be flying business class- well yes, it would have been easier to just go to the airport and sit in coach, but I was not passing up a business class flight! So after spending however long it was being passed from operator to operator in Bangladesh or wherever my call was outsourced to- I finally got my ticket. Lots of kisses to Booboo and treats strewn about, I was off to the airport. Before running out, I grabbed my absentee ballot envelope and put it in the mail- couldn't forget that!

Now, in all my years, I have never been in business or first class. I have been on private jets & planes a few times, but those things are not at all within my realm of existence, so it's not something I even think class on the other hand, is expensive but closer to my reach. Comfy chairs that you can stretch out & fully recline in, a civilized dining setup, mini dvd players with a library of movies...How will I ever fly coach again? It's so funny that they even have a little red carpet.

Planes are a hotbed of germs. Halfway through the flight, I started sneezing- oh no, there was no way that I could get sick right before the shoot...I searched my bag for vitamin c and realized it was packed in my luggage. Being the resourceful, panicked girl that I was, I immediately started doing reiki and whether it was a coincidence or not, I did not get sick though the photographer who was on the same flight came down with the worst cold ever during the shoot.

First day was lots of meetings and lots of people hovering about me with a million requests which of course was nonstop the entire trip...what to do when everyone constantly needs something from you on top of all the minutiae that you must make sure is in place for a smooth shoot? Eat something yummy of course! We were staying at The Viceroy and there happened to be a 2 hr break where clients went shopping and I had some details to wrap still. I decided to order from Real Food Daily for lunch- and yes, they do deliver. I did not love RFD the first time I went (really not good), but am always willing to try anything one more time and I had heard that the nachos were amazing. So I ordered the nachos with jalapeno cashew cheese and the works...also nori tempeh rolls and an energizing beet juice. Having some real time to breathe, I decided to do a full reiki session while I waited forever for the food to be delivered. Oh, but when it did finally arrive- it was really really good.

The Viceroy has my one of favorite lamps ever- a little pupster lamp. Some years ago, I experienced a strange condition, comparable to a kind of reverse seasickness- I had been on a fancy boat for sometime and when I returned home, on land, everything swayed. I was ill for days. Well, that wallpaper in my hotel room was starting to move but I realized that I was just simply exhausted.

After running around with the clients & doing a quick run-thru at the location, I was able to get back to my room in time to catch a gorgeous sunset. I've said it before- I could definitely live in Santa Monica...

There was so much drama during the shoot in Los Angeles, I don't even feel like rehashing it. So let's just look at some pics from the shoot instead- my amazing pa (production assistant) set up a small pharmacy because everyone felt like they were coming down with something.
We made a nasty garage into an elegant little dining setup. For the amount of money that we were paying to rent this house in Venice, one would think that the owner would have moved his crap out of the garage so we could setup dining (since we were also not allowed to bring food in the house, nor would he move his ridiculously expensive sportscar out of the 2 car garage- but then wanted to make sure that we didn't get too close to it?!?). So we made due by setting up the black cloth covers which worked beautifully!

Yes, the house was amazing, but the attitude of the owner was a whole other matter. Okay, oh and ahh over the pictures because it is a cool house, but the guy was such a jerk that I can no longer see the house objectively.

See, I can't even bear to put more pics up. Our pre-light day went fine and the shoot day with Maria Sharapova went really smoothly which I definitely did not expect. She was an absolute professional & super nice. It was the third day in the house where all hell broke loose, well, more like the toilet plumbing system. There was literally dirty, nasty toilet water seeping from the walls because of a clogged toilet- that was the most horrifying thing ever, germs everywhere- AAHHH! See, my photo shoots are never that glamorous- there is almost always some kind of incident involving solid waste. Roto-rooter to the rescue but let's just say that owner totally knew that he needed to have his pipes unclogged every once in awhile but was just waiting for some clients to pay for it. And then he accused my crew of throwing stuff down the toilet- because we really had time to stand around and throw stuff down his precious toilet....don't get me started. I pride myself on making sure my crew & clients are extra considerate when we are renting a house. Whatever, moving on. After shooting a full day, we wrapped , packed up & cleaned up and still had to drive that evening to Palm Springs and I am leaving out all the drama that came with that, but let me tell you- I was pooped (hehehe).

So fast-forward to Palm Springs- the hotel, The Colony Palms. It was cute and I picked it because I didn't think that we would want to also stay at The Viceroy in Palm Springs too- thought it would have been too much Viceroy trendiness for one trip. Well, I was wrong because despite the trendiness, the service at The Viceroy is great. The Colony Palms, not that they were not super nice, just not the quickest...

But, I did have an upgraded room with a hot tub & seating area - which we didn't even check out, though hot tubs freak me out a bit- big yuck factor.
The room was cute.
Here we are off to shoot- our first day in Palm Springs!

Now, this house- the owners were a dream. They were such a fun, fab gay couple- they just loved having people in the house and the crew felt the difference. They were great hosts (yes, we paid a lot for the house, but still they had a warm, welcoming vibe).

We were even allowed to breakfast setup in the pretty kitchen!

And then I lucked out with the best caterers ever, Love At First Bite. They came and cooked breakfast right there- such a treat! Lunch was also nicely setup, it's all about aesthetics and I did not have to explain that to these caterers...
Our super fun hosts sure know how to party with this outdoor shower...
Here's Fcat working hard shooting some product on the Mercedes that one of the models drove around in for another shot.
Here's one of our handsome models by the gorgeous fireplace.
Um, the pool was fab....
The view was amazing...
And that brings us to our wrap dinner for 18 people at the hottest restaurant in Palm Springs which happened to be at our hotel. Yes, we waited forever even with reservations at The Purple Palms- but it was worth it for the amuse bouche alone...I had called ahead to let them know that I was vegan and the chef himself came out with my vegan amuse bouche. And let me tell you it certainly amused my mouth, it was the most delectable, delicate crispy taro chip with crunchy pickled oshinko- just delightful.

The salad that I ordered did not thrill me, but perhaps, I was expecting too much after the tasty little bite beforehand.

My entree was interesting Vietnamese black grainy stickyrice with tempura avocado & pineapple. I have never had tempura'ed fruit and it was tasty. The owner came over just to tell me that the tempura was eggless. I think they love to have a vegan- it gives them a challenge to come up with something innovative and different. My meal was delicious, but truthfully it was quite late and I was really tired.

This is what a full crew dinner looks like, right before the drama broke out. Let's just say that people were airing out some grievances from the shoot and there was alcohol involved. I snuck out and went to bed...
Breakfast the next morning was the most perfect fruit salad with some whole wheat toast & peanut butter. Then it was off to repack the cars because the clients wanted to check out the premium outlet mall before the drive back to LA...

The only way I got through the most insane shoot week, was through the grace of God, reiki, Fcat's loving support, a nice hotel, good food, my amazing assistant and my amazing assistant's husband making a sticker of her cat and affixing it to our car. That was the absolute best- made me smile for days. She hadn't even spotted it and of course, I see all things kitty.
This post is way too long already, so let me wrap it up. Once I was free of clients and back in LA, Fcat and I had a dinner to ourselves at Chaya Venice. The food is absolutely stupendous.
The wakame salad was tasty and delectable.

My entree was the yummiest thing ever- seitan in a delicious curried lentil. The flavors were simply amazing. And yes, I also had a martini which of course I can never finish...
See said martini alongside dessert? Sorbet was served with mixed fruit. A perfect ending to a fabulous meal. I love love Chaya Venice! Makes sense because I love M Cafe so much and they are the same time for M Cafe this visit though.
But no trip to LA is complete without my favorite breakfast at Swingers- the tofu chilequiles.
After my yummy breakfast, it was back to the hotel to pack up and time to go home. Boy, was I ready. I still heart Los Angeles even though it was the most drama filled trip ever. Look forward to my next LA trip and leisurely having more yummy meals and one day meeting up with some of those LA vegan bloggers...

Yes, this super long post is finally finished. Have a great weekend!
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