Friday, March 26, 2010

#117: Cherry Blossoms at Lake Balboa

Spring is afoot and if you haven't got a ticket to Japan for cherry blossom season, you've got about a week or two to head over to the next best thing--the cherry blossoms at Lake Balboa in Van Nuys.

Brad and I headed out here on Thursday and the lake was busy with family picnics, young and old couples strolling hand in hand, and artists with paintbrushes and easels. Walking around the lake, showered with cherry blossom petals, there really wasn't a better way to spend a weekday afternoon.

The man made lake is filled with reclaimed water and is home to many different species of birds. In the nearby vicinity is also the Japanese Garden (#108), a golf course, an archery range and even a model airplane field. Pretty awesome stuff out there in Van Nuys--who would have thought??

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Friday, March 19, 2010

#116: Getty View Trail

*Note: This trail is currently closed due to construction. I'm not sure what they have planned for the trail in the future.*

I've driven past the Getty View Trailhead many times on Sepulveda, but didn't seem to notice it until a few weeks ago. On a Friday afternoon, Brad, Kelly and I headed out for some exercise and sun.

It's a ridge line hike for about a mile (this part could be scary if you are afraid of heights), and then the trail forks into a wide fire road. We went right. Both trails dead end, so you must go back the way you came.

For most of the trail you get a view of the 405 and the Getty Museum. Then when you get on the fire road, you can see a lot more greenery, less freeway. Parking is $3 cash and the whole hike takes about an hour and a half. We ran the way back down, and it was a fun invigorating afternoon!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

#115: Guilt Free Desserts

Babycakes Carrot Cupcake

This is why I love L.A.. It's got smog and stressful driving and all kinds of other stuff that's bad for your health, but when it comes to healthy eating, this city comes out on top. And leave it to L.A. to offer some of the best guilt free desserts in the country.

(You can lower that skeptically raised eyebrow now)

Trust me. At worst, these guilt free desserts taste like the real thing. At their best, they are so uncontrollably good that I can eat them all day (and presumably not get fat, right?) :)

So here are my picks for the all out best guilt-free desserts in town...

Babycakes in Downtown L.A. This is the mother of all guilt free bakeries. Most of their products are gluten/sugar/soy/dairy free. Yes, all of those. They use gluten free flour and sweeten everything with agave. Furthermore, instead of using butter, they use coconut oil. (Yes!!!) That's their carrot cupcake shown above. So pretty. My favorite, though, has to be the chocolate on chocolate cupcake. Out of this world good. Coming a close second are their chocolate chip cookies, doughnuts and carrot cupcake. Be sure to eat the cupcakes right when you get them so that they stay moist. Also, just a warning-- street parking's a little tough in DTLA, but there are plenty of paid lots.

Babycakes small brownie

Babycakes chocolate chip cookies

Babycakes banana bread

Raw Food Desserts: Juliano's Raw, Euphoria Loves Rawvolution, and Cru have the best raw desserts, IMO. You can also get them from the Santa Monica Coop or Whole Foods if you don't feel like dining out just for dessert. These desserts have no wheat or sugar in them. Instead, they're sweetened with agave or honey and are made mostly of fruit and nuts and coconut oil.

Little raw chocolates from Euphoria Loves Rawvolution

M Cafe de Chaya: This macrobiotic cafe has got the best desserts! Their carrot cake and cupcakes--especially the pistachio cupcakes--are so good. They are technically sugar free, and are sweetened with evaporated cane juice and perhaps agave.

Pistachio cupcake from M Cafe

The Sensitive Baker: This place is in Culver City and is heaven for those who are sensitive to wheat. All of their products are gluten free! They use evaporated cane juice instead of sugar, and an Earth Balance oil product instead of butter. In addition to killer brownies and cookies, they've got some crave worthy bread sticks.

Zen Bakery: They distribute through Trader Joes and Whole Foods, but they've also got their own little shop on Pico in West L.A.. Zen bakery specializes in sugar and dairy free whole wheat or bran muffins. The muffins are sweetened with fruit juice and contain canola oil instead of butter.

Friday, March 5, 2010

#114: Catch a 3-D IMAX Movie at the California Science Center

I'm a sucker for 3-D movies, especially when they're set in nature. That's why I love the IMAX theater next to the California Science Center. They only show nature and science 3-D movies. Score!

This past weekend I wanted to know what it's like to surf in Tahiti, so we headed over to the 3-D movie of Kelly Slater's Ultimate Wave Tahiti--a beautiful and heart pounding movie that any surfer or non-surfer would enjoy. We went on a weekday and it was practically empty. To kill time before the movie, we walked around the Science Center, which is free!

Be sure to bring $8 for parking, and money for the movie as well.

#113: UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden

The Hannah Carter Japanese Garden is a zen oasis located on Bellagio Blvd, just north of UCLA's campus. The garden is small but manages to cram in a lot of foliage. It's also planted on an incline, making the most of the limited space.

To get into the garden, you must make a reservation. The purpose of this becomes obvious when we saw that there were only two parking stalls. This, as you can imagine, translates to a wonderfully intimate experience where you can lose yourself in nature.

Once you arrive, you have 50 minutes to enjoy the waterfall, carp lake, a small pool, and an open air shack before the next set of visitors arrive. There was construction going on last week across the street which somewhat disturbed the peacefulness of this place, but otherwise it was a great place to meditate. Be sure to book your reservation at least a week in advance.

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