Nov 29, 2009

Environmentally-friendly outdoor ice skating at the W Hotel Westwood

W Hotel's Chill Ice Skating Rink (Photo: Irene Chen)
In a city known for make believe, it couldn't have been long before someone came up with fake ice skating rinks. The W Hotel in Westwood has transformed its pool area into a festive winter wonderland complete with an outdoor ice skating rink called Chill.

Chill is different from the rinks in Santa Monica and Pershing Square because it is made from a  synthetic "hybrid ice". That means no refrigeration or Zamboni needed, which is a good thing for the environment. It's also a good thing for you because no more falling or trying to get up on frozen ice.

W winter wonderland (Photo: Irene Chen)
At 1,300 square feet, the rink isn't very big but the setting is beautiful with lots of lighted Christmas trees, decorated cabanas, and greenery. Chill will be open until January 23, 2010, Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. $10 includes an hour of skating and skate rental.

W Hotel Los Angeles - Westwood
930 Hilgard Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Tel: (310) 208-8765

   More on the holidays: Guide to Christmas Tree Lightings in Los Angeles and Orange County

2009 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

Gorillapod. (
Find the perfect gift for your favorite wanderlust this holiday season. Here are ten practical items all under $100 that any world traveler would love to receive.

1. Gorillapod: This compact, portable tripod is perfect for hands-free picture taking. The Original Gorillapod is good for compact digital cameras up to 325 grams and comes in seven different colors. Using its three flexible, wrappable legs with over two dozen leg joints, you can secure your Gorillapod to almost any surface. $21.95 at

2. Digital Luggage Scale: Never pay overweight baggage fees again with this tiny digital luggage scale. You can weigh your bags before you leave for the airport and avoid any surprises. The scale can weigh items up to 100 lbs. At only $25, it’s sure to save you much more. Available at

3. Eagle Creek Comfort Travel Blanket: Ever met a flight attendant who recommended you use their smelly, old communal blankets? Neither have I. Bring your own soft packable blanket for a more comfortable journey in the plane, car or train. This full size blanket packs into itself and has a zippered pocket to keep earplugs, eyeshades or other items handy. $20 at

TourSafe Handbag (Photo:
4. Greenaid Hand Grenade Reusable Shopping Bag: Have a little fun while doing your part to save the environment even when you’re abroad. This reusable polyester bag rolls up inside a hand grenade-shaped neoprene case for easy packing and its clip allows you to attach it to your bag or clothes. $18 at

5. TourSafe Handbag: A classic handbag with four Pacsafe anti-theft features, The TourSafe Handbag allows you to travel with sophistication and peace of mind. Anti-theft features include eXomesh slashguard in lower front, lower side and bottom panels, slashproof adjustable shoulder strap, snatchproof shoulder strap that allows bag to anchor to a secure fixture and tamperproof zipper. $89.99 at

6. Power Monkey: This 3 oz portable charger packs a lot of punch in a little package. Who wants to travel with an iPod, digital camera, cell phone and PDA plus all of their chargers? The Power Monkey charges all your electronics in your pocket almost anywhere in the world. Included are four adaptor plugs, a 110-240 volt adaptor for recharging in 150 countries, connectors for most mobile phones and a wide range of other electronics and a black storage pouch. $69 at

7. Pack-It Shoe Cube: Keep your dirty shoes away from your clean clothes. These shoe cubes come in three colors and feature side ventilation and a top handle. $14 for medium-sized, $18 for large-sized at

Global Atomic Clock (Photo:

8. Hadaki Hanging Toiletry Bag: No counter space in your tiny hotel bathroom? Here’s your solution. This fashionable brown with multi-colored striped toiletry bag unfolds and hooks to hang wherever you need it to. It features four transparent zippered pockets for easy organization of your necessities. $28 at

9. Super Leight Earplugs: Before you strangle the screaming baby in 14C (or its parents), put in a pair of Super Leight Earplugs. These soft foam earplugs have a noise reduction rating of 33 to get rid of those unwanted noises. 5 pairs for $2.69 at

10. Global Atomic Clock: This travel alarm clock uses radio signals from international atomic time transmitters in the United States, Western Europe, Japan and the United Kingdom to set itself. Available in red, black or silver and featuring a large digital display, soft back light, snooze alarm, 12/24 hour formats, dual time face, date display, signal strength indicator and twist-n-stand base and includes a travel pouch. $39.85 at 

More holiday links: Guide to Christmas Tree Lightings in Los Angeles and Orange County

2009 Guide to Holiday Events in Los Angeles

Nov 13, 2009

Guide to Christmas Tree Lightings in Los Angeles and Orange County

Although Southern California may not be having a white Christmas again this year, Christmas tree lighting events around Los Angeles and Orange County will definitely get rid of your "Bah humbugs" and put you in the Christmas spirit. Grab the whole family and experience one or more of these spectacular holiday events. All vents are free unless otherwise noted.

Around Los Angeles

Beverly Hills kicks off their annual holiday festivities on Saturday, November 21st by lighting up the 200 block of Rodeo Drive. Starting at 3 p.m., visitors can enjoy entertainment including balloon and caricature artists, jugglers, musicians and carolers. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand for photo ops. At 7:00 pm, the Mayor along with Rebecca Mader (Lost, Men Who Stare at Goats) will flip the switch to illuminate the 12,000-crystal snowflake over the Beverly Wilshire hotel and the thousands of lights along Rodeo Drive. If that isn't enough, there will be a fireworks display, synchronized to the holiday music.

The Grove's 100-foot white fir tree will be lit up with more than 10,000 lights and 15,000 ornaments on Sunday, November 22nd at 7:30 p.m. Musical guests will be on hand to celebrate the lighting of this enormous tree.

One Colorado in Pasadena's Tree Lighting takes place on Friday, November 27th at 6:00 p.m. The event features an appearance by the 92nd Rose Queen and holiday sing-a-longs.

The Hollywood & Highland Center will be lighting their Christmas tree on Saturday, November 28th, with musical and celebrity guests and Santa Claus himself. Disney Recording Artist Mitchel Musso, I'm OK You're OK and American Idol stars' Kimberley Locke and Michael Johns will be performing live. In addition, guests who donate to One Heartland, an organization committed to improving the lives of children impacted by HIV/AIDS are invited to attend a VIP pre-reception at 5 p.m. VIP tickets start at $50. Tree lighting celebration begins at 6:30 p.m.
Join the City of Rosemead for their 2nd Annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony happening at Rosemead City Hall on Thursday, December 3rd at 6 p.m. Local youth will perform favorite carols, and hot chocolate and cookies will be served.

In Orange County

South Coast Plaza's 96 foot tall White Fir tree went up last month at Town Center Park. Its 20,000 colored lighted will be turned on Thursday, November 19th at 6 p.m. and the celebration will include an appearance by Santa Claus and performances by the Orange County School of the Arts.
Fashion Island downsized this year with only a 40-foot Christmas tree. Their typical 115-foot tree would not fit while renovations are being completed at the mall. The two night celebration happens Friday and Saturday, November 20th and 21st at 6 p.m. on Atrium Lawn adjacent to Santa's House. The event includes performances by students of the McCoy Rigby Conservatory of the Arts, along with the arrival of Santa.

The City of Orange's Tree-Lighting Ceremony & Candlelight Choir Procession happens Sunday, December 6th from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Old Towne Orange Plaza.

Nov 11, 2009

Los Angeles Conservancy celebrates 50 years of 1960s architecture in Greater Los Angeles

Next year, the Sixties turn 50. To mark this occasion, the Los Angeles Conservancy and its Modern Committee have created a nine-month educational and outreach program to celebrate and explore preservation issues surrounding these buildings. This birthday is significant because 50 is the widely accepted age threshold for buildings to be considered “historic.” The program includes a fall tour which was hosted last Sunday, November 8th. “It’s a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod City” took guests on a self-driving tour around the Westchester and Culver City areas to explore hidden gems representing Los Angeles’ rich architectural heritage from this era. Docent led tours were held at a number of sites along the route.

The Proud Bird Restaurant (Photo: Irene Chen)
Highlights of the tour included:

The Proud Bird Restaurant (1967) – 11022 South Aviation Boulevard, Westchester
Destination restaurants with themes, such as Polynesian, pirate, and mining, began to pop up all over Southern California in the 1960s. The Proud Bird is an aviation-themed restaurant near the LAX runway. Almost every seat in The Proud Bird gives its diners a view of the take-offs and landings. Patrons can listen in on the action through headsets connected to the LAX control tower. The grounds hold many historic aircraft and replications, and the interior details the history of flying and the aerospace industry in the South Bay through photos and memorabilia. It also pays tribute to famous fliers such as the Tuskegee Airmen and General James Doolittle.

LAX Theme Building under renovation (Photo: Irene Chen)
LAX Theme Building (1961) – 201 Center Way, LAX
This Los Angeles icon was first built as the symbolic center of Los Angeles International Airport. Under renovation since 2007 when a chunk of one of the arches fell onto the roof, the building is scheduled to be completed in 2010. The tour included a visit to the space age-themed Encounter Restaurant and a very special visit to the observation deck which has been closed since September 11, 2001. Plans to reopen the observation deck to the public are still unknown.

Flight Path Learning Center and Museum (formerly LAX Imperial Terminal) – 6661 West Imperial Highway, Westchester
This space has served many purposes throughout the years. From 1951 to 1965, Northrop Aircraft used it as an operations facility. Next, it was used as a terminal for charter flights and foreign carriers and for presidents, sports teams and celebrities due to its remote location. Today, The Flight Path Museum contains a large collection of airline memorabilia as well as a vintage DC-3 aircraft where visitors can step back in time and even take the controls in the cockpit.

Interior of St. Jerome Catholic Church's sanctuary
(Photo: Irene Chen)
St Jerome Catholic Church (1966) – 5580 Thornburn Street, Westchester
Architect Raymond Whalley created an innovative round church with a folded-plate roof. The nontraditional shape of the sanctuary creates a strong sense of community among parishioners.
Other sites along the route included Otis College of Art and Design (formerly IBM Aerospace Headquarters), Holy Cross Cemetery, and The Forum.
More events and actitivies are in the works including a spring tour of residential gems of the sixties scheduled to occur on March 14, 2010.
                        The Sixties Turn 50
                           Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee

Nov 6, 2009

Holiday pop-up shopping in Los Angeles

Stella McCartney Fair Isle cashmere wrap cardigan (
In an age of here today and gone tomorrow, it seems fitting that retail stores are now disappearing as soon as they open, but it isn’t due to bankruptcy but on purpose. Today, the latest trend in retail shopping is the pop-up. These exclusive, limited time only shopping destinations give retailers an opportunity to make use of the scores of vacant retail spaces just in time for the holidays.

Here is a sampling of the current pop-up stores around Los Angeles:

Stella McCartney for GapKids Pop-Up Store – featuring the new babyGap and GapKids Holiday collection by Stella McCartney.
108 N Robertson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 285-1880
Open now until November 28th
Monday - Saturday: 10:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Baileys Original Irish Cream Pop-Up Shoe Shop – featuring shoes from Casadei, Sergio Rossi and L.A.M.B. for $75 a pair. All proceeds will go to Clothes Off Our Back.
156 S. Robertson Blvd.
November 11-13: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
You must be 21 to enter the store.

Shoes + Shoes + Shoes + Bags Pop-Up at Space 15 Twenty – featuring shoes and bags from's on-line exclusives and more!
1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028 Monday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Gift! Pop-Up Shop at Space 15 Twenty – lots of shops within a shop including Holiday Cheer, Camera Shop, Music Shop, DIY Shop, Book Shop, His/Her Gift Shop.
1520 N. Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
November 21st - January 3rd
Monday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.

The Mimobots Pop-Up Shop at the Munky King Shop - artist-inspired USB flash drives
7308 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 938.0091
Open now until November 29 Daily: 12 - 7 p.m.

Nov 5, 2009

Air Travel Consumer Report: Worst airlines for luggage handing


In their October 2009 Air Travel Consumer Report, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports 208,000 filed baggage complaints for domestic airlines between August 2008 and August 2009. This number shows a significant decrease from last year's 270,000 complaints. These figures concern lost, damaged, or delayed baggage, charges for excess baggage, carry-on problems, and difficulties with airline claims procedures.

Best Airlines for Luggage Handling:
10. ExpressJet Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 4.37
9. United Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 4.12
8. Southwest Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 3.57
7. Northwest Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 3.13
6. JetBlue Airways - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 2.93
5. US Airways -Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 2.90
4. Continental Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 2.89
3. Frontier Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 2.24
2. Hawaiian Airlines - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 2.11
1. AirTran Airways - Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 1.74

Worst Airlines for Luggage Handling:
9. Alaska Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 4.40
8. American Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 4.45
7. Mesa Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 4.53
6. Delta Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 5.02
5. Skywest Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 5.25
4. Pinnacle Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 6.25
3. Atlantic Southeast Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 7.63
2. American Eagle Airlines: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 7.81
1. Comair: Number of complaints per 1,000 passengers: 8.20
The report also covers flight delays, oversales, consumer complaints, airline animal incident reports and customer service reports to the Department of Homeland Security.

Nov 4, 2009

Exhibition celebrates 35 years of Hello Kitty

  Hello Kitty's house (Photo: Irene Chen)
Hello Kitty was born in Japan in 1974 and has since become a global phenomenon. This year marks her 35th birthday. To celebrate, Sanrio is presenting Three Apples, a very special, multi-dimensional exhibition celebrating all things Hello Kitty, and those of us lucky enough to be in Los Angele have the opportunity to view this one-of-a-kind event. Taking place until November 15, 2009 at Royal/T café / shop / art space in Culver City, California, this event is free of charge and open to the public. Three Apples will feature an art exhibition, product retrospective, pop-up shop, and special events. The café will also be presenting special Hello Kitty-themed fare.

Product Retrospective includes items only found
in Asia (Photo: Irene Chen)
Why Three Apples? This is Hello Kitty’s height. Hello Kitty has long been a muse to artists and designers around the world. Over 80 contemporary artists including Gary Baseman, Ron English, Buff Monster and Camilla d’Errico have interpreted their vision of Hello Kitty in one-of-a kind pieces on display. One series of photographs by Markus Klinko and Indrani even feature pop singer Lady Gaga posing in a dress made entirely of Hello Kitty stuffed animals and other Hello Kitty attire. The Three Apples Art Show is curated by Jamie Rivadeneira of Japan LA. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the art will benefit LA Works.

Halloween event included a pumpkin decorating contest (Photo: Irene Chen)

Events still to take place.
Saturday, November 7 – Meet the Artists Party
Wednesday, November 11 – Hello Kitty’s Gyaru Beauty Parlor
Friday, November 13 – Hello Kitty’s Bats and Cats Masquerade
Saturday, November 14 – Hello Kitty Art & Fashion Happening
For more info: Royal/T Cafe