Our son is enrolled to begin attending Imagine Preschool in 2016. It's a new school, and I'm so excited that a Reggio-inspired program is now available in our area. (Try Googling Reggio Emilia to learn more.) There is an amazing 1:4 teacher to child ratio, and all three teachers are extremely kind, experienced, and patient. Each teacher has a different specialty: art, science, and Spanish. The interior spaces are filled with natural light and carefully chosen colors and materials. Work stations are set up for building, painting, reading, sensory exploration, staging plays, and so forth. The outdoor space includes a grassy play area, a project table, snack area, vegetable and herb gardens, a climbing tree, footbridge and rocks, water feature, mud/sand tables, and more. I love that the emphasis is on childrens' curiosities and expression (in many forms), and that the curriculum is flexible enough to be tailored individual interests. I'll post an update once school has started, but for now, I'm so impressed with Imagine Preschool that I wanted to put a few words out there for other parents who are looking for an extra-special place in which their little ones can grow and thrive.
After reading many reviews online, I gave Helen Park a call. She was wonderful! She had the car I wanted ready to drive when I arrived at the dealership. Less than three hours later, I drove away in a beautiful new 2013 CR-V, after paying less than the Kelley Blue Book Fair Price (kbb.com). A few weeks later, I still couldn't be happier with Helen or with the car.
If you're in the market for a new car, go see Helen!
Back story: I'm the type of person who does a lot of research and knows exactly what she wants before ever visiting a dealership. So, I don't want or need to be *sold* a car.
Since I have an 8-month-old baby, I also don't have the time, energy, patience, or financial resources to fool around. I just needed the right vehicle at the right price with the right interest rate. No stressful back-and-forth negotiations. No sales pitches. No dilly-dallying around. No pressure or up-selling.
Helen knows her stuff. She answered all of my questions in a knowledgeable, warm, friendly, concise, and honest way. She respectfully listened to my concerns and helped me find the right set of solutions for my situation. Never did I feel rushed, dismissed, pressured, or anything but treated with care.
When it came to dealing with the big bosses (my term, not Helen's) about the contract details, I really felt that Helen was on MY side, helping me get what I wanted and remaining faithful to the numbers that she had quoted me. She also bent over backwards to expedite the whole process so I could get my little one to bed on time.
Thanks, Helen! :)
This is an awesome market. My favorite. Everything's local, of course. The French bread guy has insanely good stuff. (I won't tell you what I get every Sunday for fear that you'll eat 'em all before I get mine!) There's at least one stand that carries whatever's in season. Who needs forty stands with eggs or asparagus or strawberries or whatever when you have at least one with *perfect* eggs or asparagus or berries, etc.? This is THE place to go for produce and atmosphere. It's a shady Jacaranda-lined street with nice flowers and shrubs. Dogs are allowed on the sidewalks. Kids can ride real ponies and bounce on bouncy things. Prices are very reasonable. The same farmers are always there, so you get to know them and they remember you. Sometimes they give you little bonuses such as free jalapenos when you buy cilantro, just for giggles. The limitation is in the cooked-food stands. We could really use an excellent crepe place and an omelet stand like the one at the Santa Monica farmers' market. There's other stuff to eat, but it's more lunchy when I want brunchy. You can, however, sit and have brunch amidst the action on the sidewalk at Black Cow Cafe, Star Cafe, or Zeke's Smokehouse, all very good. Finally, I must mention Gremoli New Orleans Jazz Band. I love 'em! They're always there, peppy yet mellow. Their tunes really add to the overall cheerful atmosphere.
Very good prices, staff is polite, interesting selection. I was especially psyched to find lots of 1970s National Geographic magazines, which I use for my artwork, for 29 cents a piece. (I've seen NG at other thrift stores for as much as 3 dollars an issue. What's *that* about?!) The general cleanliness and organization of the store impressed me -- the shoes' and clothing racks' organization by color (and from light to dark within a color) verges on OCD, but I adore the staff for it. I found a lot of women's tops with the original store tags still on (Banana Republic, American Apparel, Inc, etc.) The things I liked were priced between 99 cents and $5.99. Thumbs up all around.
Hey, if you can put time in a bottle, you can surely ship real Kentucky bar-b-que in a cooler! (Don't call me "Surely" though.)
My parents, who live in middle Tennessee, sent four pounds of Backwood's pulled pork bar-b-que to my hubs and me all the way out here in Los Angeles. It arrived on the second day via Fed-Ex, in a styrofoam cooler which was wrapped in paper inside the box. Yum! It arrived fresh, tender, smoky, and delicious!
The occasion was the Titans' recent playoffs loss to the Ravens. My husband's from Baltimore, and we lived there for several years, so there's this ongoing rivalry. A Titans victory would've won my folks a bushel of crabs.
Having grown up in Tennessee and having lived the last three years in Texas, I claim to know good bar-b-que from the fair to middlin' kind, and Backwoods bbq -- despite the logistical disadvantage noted above -- held up very well to that of my favorite places: Bobby Q.'s in Cookeville, TN, Rib N Loin (499-OINK) in Chattanooga, Ironworks (for beef ribs) and Green Mesquite (for beef brisket) in Austin, TX , and The Salt Lick just outside Austin. We paired our West Coast Backwoods dinner with Stubb's sauce, pickles, bread, and deep fried tater logs. Just like home! Mmmmm.
I've gotta be "Debbie Downer" here. The parking is a bit odd, the patio seating area is quite nice, and the bread is, indeed, good -- just like the other reviewers noted. However, the house salad was boring (romaine with shredded carrot), and the minestrone was blah. It was actually not minestrone-like.
From my time in Italy (and Baltimore's Little Italy), I've developed the following criteria for minestrone: it's at least a little thick, as soups go; it's "hearty" with veggies; and it's got some kind of bean in it. At Divina Cucina, the minestrone was watery, sparcely populated by vegetables, and there were no beans. Actually, my mom used to do this thing when I was a kid where she heated a can of Campbell's Vegetable Soup on the stove, adding a little vinegar with the water. It was kind of good, but it wasn't minestrone. (She didn't claim it was.) Well, I was reminded of my mom's concoction at Divina Cucina, maybe because of the vinegar flavor. I should note, though, that Divina's soup was obviously fresh -- it didn't seem at all out of a can or anything.
I had the Penne Alla Diavola, and it was good. Spicy enough. Just nothing to write home about. Bradley had Fettuccine Primavera, and he said it was light and summery and just fine. The reason I'm going for three stars ("a-ok") is that there was nothing that made us feel like we'd like to eat here again.
On the other hand, there was nothing that made us feel like we'd never eat here again. The restaurant is clean, and the service is pleasant. I'm torn about the flavored iced tea -- a bit too flavored for me.
There was one funny thing: On our way out, a manager-type near the front reception area said to Bradley and me, "Thanks, ladies, have a good afternoon." A few seconds later, he caught his mistake and tacked on, ". . . and gentleman!" Laughs were had.
The best part was definitely the bruschetta with a sweet carmelized onion topping that they brought out as a complementary appetizer. It was very Italian, very tasty. Reminded me of the crostini and onion jam served at a wine (and Vinsanto -- yum!) tasting I went to at a vineyard near Castiglion Fiorentino, which is just a bit north of Florence.
I always referred to it as 499-OINK because of the phone number's prominence on their signage, along with cartoon Porky-like pigs in suspender pants.
Anyway, assuming that the place hasn't changed hands since I frequented it in the mid-1990s, which I think is reasonable to assume, THIS IS THE BEST PLACE FOR PULLED PORK BBQ ANYWHERE. Everybody, whether it's in Texas or Tennessee or Maryland (all of which I've lived in pre-California) has really strong opinions on the subject of barbecue -- but this is mine.
I recommend the pulled pork sandwich because it's plenty of meat, and you don't have to eat the bun if you don't want to. They automatically put slaw on their sandwiches, but you can get it on the side if you're an inauthentic sissy like me (wink). It's good slaw, but the BBQ is DIVINE.
As with most TN BBQ joints, you'll get a HUGE cup of whatever you want to drink, and it'll be chock-full of the really good kind of ice -- the little irregularly-shaped crushed-type conglomerations.
Great cobblers, served warm and a la mode, of course. Good cornbread. Great BBQ sauce, too, I meant to say earlier.
The atmosphere is super laid-back -- picnic tables with red and white checkered waxed-type table clothes. The dining room has an enormous seating capacity, so I doubt it that they ever have too long of a wait.
But all of this might have changed since I graduated from UT Chattanooga. Nevertheless, 449-OINK (aka Rib & Loin) will be among my first stops when I'm back in Chatta-vegas again!
Somebody local, please add a review with the latest scoop!
Can't say anything about Pinkberry, which sounds a little frou-frou by name, or else a gross euphemism, if I think other prefix-berry names for things that aren't literally small globular or ovate juicy fruits not having stones. However, I went to Juice It Up, just a couple of blocks closer to me on Foothill Blvd. -- or actually, I sent my husband in to get us a pair of juice smoothies. He chose two kinds, and both of them more more like 7-Eleven's Slushies or Slurpees or Slush-Puppies or Whatever-they-call-them, than fruit juice smoothies. Artificial flavor. Artificial color. Sickeningly sweet.
Despair had begun to set in.
But today it's supposed to have gotten up to a shocking 104 degrees, and we were picking up some things at OSH, when I noticed Ce Fiore (Italian for "There are flowers." Nice.) across the street. See, we have 8,000 BTUs for our entire house, which is 8,000 more A/C than we had before, and we have only this tiny little dorm room type fridge with no ice cubes, so mine was a hankering-and-a-half for something cold and fruity, but not all strung out like the Juice It Up stuff.
I had the Raspberry-Pomegranate frozen yogurt. You get PLENTY with the Kiddie size for $3.00. The flavor and texture were just right. Not too sweet, not too, not too bland. I was happy to taste that flavor of real yogurt that has active cultures and stuff, but I used to hate that exact component. Guess it's an acquired taste. Now, I think about how healthy I'm becoming as a result of ingesting such fantastic bacteria!
Bradley got the smoothie with vanilla yogurt plus fresh -- not frozen -- raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I know their toppings are fresh because they're visible from the counter. Nice looking kiwi and all sorts of candy-type goodies. Some kind of multi-colored corn-flake looking stuff. Plenty of choices. I tried his smoothie, and thoroughly approved. I was even a little jealous.
On the way out, I asked for a sample of the green tea frozen yogurt, and the first taste was kind of weird, but by the third taste, I was thinking about ordering a whole cup of it. Unfortunately, I showed some restraint.
There wasn't another soul in the whole place (Friday at about 3:30 pm), which makes me wonder how they stay in business. Had fun with the table tops in the dining area, which rotate lazy-Susan style. (We're not hard to amuse.) The decor is not-quite-right-Modern, which seems to me very authentically Euro. Reminded us of this crazy (in a good way) hotel we stayed at in Naples, Italy. The decor is like a half-cousin of IKEA. Ce Fiore's chairs and booths could use a re-upholstering, which made the dining area seem a little less crisp and clean than it was.
Finally, the service was perfectly good, but like I said, we were the only customers. The thing that was sweet was that the maker of our things seemed genuinely pleased to hear us say we liked our order.
[Do I win some kind of prize for writing the longest review of the shortest experience? I think it took me four times as long to write this than it took to eat at Ce Fiore. Anyone?]
It's exactly what they say: hole in the wall. It's in an ugly strip-mall, but I think all strip-malls are ugly. I really like the U-shaped booth by the window. It's a small place, but the booths are cozy and private, and it's clean. I can't enjoy eating at a place with fingerprints and smears all over the windows, you know? (Maybe you're not as neurotic as I am. If that's the case, congratulations, I'm really happy for you.)
Anyhow, I LOVE their salsa. Having lived in Austin, Texas for three years, I got pretty spoiled by all the Tex-Mex places and every variety of salsa, and I've developed some strong opinions. First, my favorite salsas have no garlic. If they have garlic, it's fresh that day, not pre-minced or otherwise out of a jar or can. No brainer, right? One would think.
Second, my favorite salsas are easily distinguishable from pico de gallo. There are not a lot of big chunks, and there isn't a lot of clear or almost clear liquid.
Third, I like the smoky flavor of Ancho peppers, but not to the exclusion of tomato.
Fourth, lots of fresh cilantro is required. Lots. Of. Cilantro.
Last, they have to keep it coming. I can't sit there waiting for more salsa when the salsa's good and I know it's good but my table's out and there are just a bunch of plain non-salsa-ed chips to munch on. It's torture!
Back to El Sol, their salsa is better than any restaurant salsa I had in Texas. (Sorry, Texas.) And isn't the salsa SO important because they serve it -- and you can't help but eat it -- no matter what you order by way of entree or appetizer?
But the entrees I've tried so far have been damn good! (Pardon my Spanish.) Even though I'm not so much of a meat lover, my favorite might be the Carnitas Burrito, which comes with the green sauce. I could have used a little more of the green sauce, actually. The carnitas is (are?) so tender and lean!
The Enchiladas Verdes are also delightful, as are the cheese enchiladas with the red sauce and cheese on top. As for the rice and beans, I consider them pretty standard, but you can order any dish with or without them.
Finally, everybody's been really friendly there. I'll keep going back. (No AA references intended.)
My friends Carrie & Tom, who live in Cape Coral, first introduced me to Gramma Dot's in -- it must have been 2001. It was THE place on Sanibel for Coconut Shrimp or Grouper Sandwiches then, and whenever I go back to Florida, it never disappoints. I always, always, always go for lunch, since it's really nice to be at the marina in their screened in porch. (The whole place is not big. Just an oversized screened-in porch). And you get the same awesome food for a reduced price.
Last time I was in Sanibel, which was December 2007, my husband and I stayed for seven days and ate at Gramma Dot's FOUR times. We just couldn't stay away. Their key lime pie is the best on the island, and I'm a key lime pie fiend. I order it everyplace.
One day, I wanted the coconut shrimp again, but I was trying to maybe cut back on calories for one meal and ordered their catch of the day, an only slightly cooked tuna steak sandwich, and I didn't regret it. The texture, color, and flavor were perfect. Just divine. Beautiful! I kept thinking, "Let me eat this forever," which is what I usually think at Gramma Dot's. The tuna was so good that when we went back the next day, my husband tried to order it -- the one bite I had offered him tantalized him so -- but no more. All gone. New catch of the day.
So, the service is great, the atmosphere is great, and you'll have a tough time finding better coconut shrimp anywhere!