It’s definitely been a hot minute since I last blogged; however, considering this year’s lockdown orders and the evolving status of Covid-19 I’ve had a pretty low key year in terms of adventures and discoveries. Nevertheless, as I reflect on this chaotic year I’ve come to the conclusion that life is short and we too should grow and evolve.
I’ve had the username @yurockstar or Rockstar for the past 5 years maybe? and while I will still be known as Rockstar by some of my friends I think Insider Irene is much more inclusive of my interests and also allows others to get a peak into some of my latest finds – whether it be restaurants, fashion, nerd culture, historical landmarks, etc. I think at my core I’ve always liked discovering new things, supporting mom n’ pop shops, and sharing it with everyone so for the coming years I hope that I’ll be inspired to share more consistently. If you like my cosplay stuff go check out my other alias @cosplaycounselor where I integrate counseling with cosplay. I’ve posted tons of video content www.cosplaycounselor.com.
For now I’ll just leave you with this announcement and pose this question: What is something that you think EVERYONE should know about. It can be a restaurant, a cool shop, landmark etc. Let me know below!
I love bread, but it all goes to my hips, so, I seldom eat carbs now in days. However, on my recent Fresno trip I stumbled upon a little bakery called The Brioche Lady – the name alone perked up my ears and I was eager to try her baked goods. When I entered, to my right were two racks of fresh Brioche with little colored stickers indicating their flavors. They have a lot of traditional, as well as asian inspired fillings, so my parents and I bought a couple of loaves: strawberry cream cheese, taro, and red bean.
We also tried the chocolate chip croissant warmed up and a Croque Madame (brioche, ham, egg, sandwich). The appearance of the Croque Madame wasn’t as elegant as I imagined in my head, but it tasted good, and the chocolate chip croissant was buttery and flakey. Definitely worthy of the calories.
I gifted one of the loaves to my uncle who loves bread and even though we were going to have lunch, he dug in and wanted to try some. Little did I know his little piece turned out to be 1/4 of the loaf (!!!) but I can’t blame him, since I myself also kept eating my leftovers.
If you’re in the Fresno area this little bakery is definitely a wonderful charming place to indulge in carbs – especially if you’re not baking sourdough at home. Did I mention that they’re award winning too? (2017 People’s Choice Award – Fresno Food Expo)
When most people think of the Ontario area they don’t think of it as a hot foodie destination, but I beg to differ! A couple of my FAVORITE restaurants are located out in the Inland Empire including Marisco Jalisco in Pomona, and Ashiwad The Blessing and Daddy O’s in Upland. Over the weekend, I visited the area again to attend Anime Los Angeles and found another epic spot! Home Pie Bakery & Cafe in Ontario, CA is certainly a place worthy of a visit!
This small mom n’ pop shop is located in an unassuming business complex and seems to cater to local businesses for lunch. Their hours are limited as they’re only open from 9am-4pm Monday-Friday. Thankfully, I scheduled a visit for Friday lunch and boy am I glad I did! My friend and I each ordered a savory pie – Roasted Chicken and Leek for me, and Chicken and Mushroom Pie for him. We also shared one hand-held savory pie. Lets just say that we licked the plate clean and are planning to come back here for our next Anime Los Angeles visit.
Personally, I loved the chicken and leek better than the mushroom. In my opinion the mushroom overpowered the compact dish, whereas the leek and chicken have a much milder flavor. Yet it still made you feel comforted like a warm hug. It’s such a simple dish, yet the crust was flaky and the chicken was incredibly moist and tender. I’m trying to cut down on my carbs, but I feel this dish was a worthy guilty pleasure.
Colorado Springs is a peaceful and serene place, and while I nearly died on the Manitou Incline (Post here), I was blown away by the beauty of the Garden of the Gods. This natural rock formation evokes a type of Jurassic World meets Cars Lands (from Disneyland); It’s really a sight to see and these photos don’t do the attraction justice. Visitors can choose to hike, drive, horseback ride, or bike around the mountain to admire the landscape. I came here twice during my Colorado trip and got to see it from various vantage points – up high and right at the base. Spanning a 1,367 acres the size alone would warrant a name worthy of the Gods – yet it was originally called the Red Rock Corral. The name was changed in 1859 from a group of surveyors who thought that was was a place fit for the Gods and since then the name stuck!
You honestly feel like you’re in another world, and even though I’m not really an outdoor girl, I can certainly appreciate the natural wonders!
How would you enjoy this park? Driving? Hiking? Horseback riding?
Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center 1805 N. 30th Street in Colorado Springs
Colorado is known for it’s picture perfect scenery, but when its came to food, I hadn’t the slightest clue as to what to expect. It was my first time visiting this state, so when my coworkers (who were based out in Colorado) made reservations to their favorite German restaurant I figured I’d be in for a treat! And right I was! Upon entering I noticed several awards and accolades and crossed my fingers that Edelweiss Restaurant would be all that and more.
Our party of 20 entered the restaurant and it was truly decked out in an old world fashion. It seemed as if we were were transported to a German square and I had major Pinocchio vibes. There were many wooden furnishings and while the restaurant was spacious it had a cozy warm feel to it. We were seated quite promptly in a long table and menu had many traditional offerings. A singer came by and serenaded to use with his accordion, as we were deciding on what to order.
After thoughtful consideration I ordered the Rahmschnitzel, a breaded boneless pork cutlet sautéed and topped with a mushroom cream sauce, house spatzle, and fresh vegetables, as it came highly recommend. Boy! let me tell you this is definitely not diet food, but considering I almost died on the Manitou Incline (Post here) I felt this dinner was worthy of the calories.I essentially polished off the plate and looking at my coworkers entrees it seemed that everyone enjoyed their meal as well.
Do you have a go-to entree when you eat German food? Schnitzel? Bratwurst? Something else?
If there’s two thing that my friends all know it’s 1) that I’m not a morning person and 2) I definitely do not like hiking; however, on a recent work trip in Colorado Springs, CO I did the unthinkable. I woke up at 4am (Colorado time, so it’s in essence 3am California time) to go (you guessed it) hiking *Gasp* But hear me out… It’s not everyday I get to visit a new state, so when some coworkers volunteered to lead a group up the Manitou Incline before our professional development training it seemed opportune to experience one of Colorado Springs most popular (and fatal) attractions.
At the beginning of the the hike I was very optimistic, but with each step I felt increasingly more light-headed and fatigued. If I’m being brutally honest, I felt like I was going to die. The top was 9000 feet above sea level and we were starting at 7000 feet and for someone who lives at sea level this drastic change in elevation was really hard on my body. It became increasingly more difficult to breath with each step and the stairs were extremely steep.
There were so many moments when I wanted to quit and go back down although it might have been more dangerous had I done that. I eventually made it to the halfway point where hikers can take a safer and much more even way down and while I am slightly disappointed that I didn’t make it to the top, I am proud that I at least did the halfway since I remember wanting to quit 1/4 of that!
Would you do this incline? I didn’t notice the sign until I looked more closely, but people have died from this hike!
I live in Southern California so I have very high expectations of Mexican food so when I learned that Chicago has a thriving tamale scene I had to see it for myself. After extensive research many reviewers gave high marks to “The Tamale Lady” in Pilsen and raved about her hand-made pockets of joy especially the ones with spicy green sauce. A few even stated that there would be long lines bright and early in the morning and that they were worth the wait.
The weather forecasted rain, but since I saw photos of her standing in the snow during the winter months I had no doubt she’d sell her goods in case it poured cats and dogs – and I was right! There was no line at 9am (probably because of the rain and humidity) and she had everything available. I decided to grab a dozen of the tamales with green chicken (spicy) and a half dozen with red pork (mild) to bring back home for my family and friends to enjoy a piece of Chicago. But before packing them up, I took it upon myself to be a guinea pig and taste test one of the red ones. Oh-Em-Gee, it was delicious!! The corn to meat ratio was perfect and the flavor brought everything together cohesively.
I recently went to a “must eat” tamale shop in LA recently, and I would rather have the tamales from THIS lady. For $15 a dozen or $1.25 for a single, I would definitely come back and buy more!
Between the two tamales – if you could only have one which would you pick? Red Pork (mild) or Green Chicken (spicy)?
It was muggy and moist on the last day of my Midwest Roadtrip and my friend and I didn’t want to go into Chicago proper to explore. Additionally we were scheduled to fly out of O’Hare Airport in the late afternoon so we decided to checkout Little Italy, Pison and other neighborhoods instead. I typed in “thrift” in a couple of search engines as another activity since we had already visited three food destinations and found Village Discount Outlet as a spot to spend some time before eating again. lol
Wow! This chain thrift shop is uh-mazing, and had I known sooner that they had multiple locations and how massive it was I would have probably dedicated entire DAYS to just thrifting. Holy Cow! This warehouse location was massive and there were TWO FLOORS with aisles upon aisles of clothes, household goods, shoes, toys – you name it! and the prices were very VERY reasonable. On top of that if your item had a tag of a particular color there were additional discounts – SCORE!!! I had about 45 minutes to shop, but considering the size of the store I had to speed through my usual sections. I found a several cute dresses, but were slightly big on me including a Calvin Klein, Betsey Johnson, and BCBG brand. I settled on a black Batgirl dress that I planned to wear during a Batman Afterparty at SDCC (I got a LOT of compliments on it). There were some minor alterations that needed to be done, but for $3.50 I was willing to do some hand-sewing! I also bought the pink and white summer bag in the photo above for $5. Not bad considering the time constraint as well as luggage space. lol
Dresses and bags are always things I look for when thrifting. What kind of gems do you love finding?
Village Discount Outlet
2032 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
The global culinary adventures continue on my Midwest Trip! Before heading to Chicago, my friend and I wanted to grab a bite before driving to our next destination. We looked through yelp and found this highly rated mom and pop shop. We’ve tried African in Cleveland, Ohio (Post here) and Lebanese in Detroit, Michigan (Post here), so why not try El Savadorian in South Bend, Indiana? Suffice to say, the food was prepared fresh and cost was dirt cheap!
When we plugged in the address into the GPS we were very confused by the address since we were driving by multiple residential areas and there wasn’t a shopping plaza or some type of communal area for people to gather. Finally, we pulled up at what we thought was someone’s house (there was a small sign) and entered.
The establishment was very bare, but on the far side of the wall there was a beautiful painting of women hand-making some pupusa’s. An elder woman (whom I suspected was the chef, host, and cashier) greeted us at the counter. We each ordered the “Special” and soon we were noming on her freshly made creations. There were three flavors, pork/cheese, bean/cheese, and cheese so we decided to do one of each. These pupusa’s had simple ingredients, but because they were freshly made I thoroughly enjoyed them and for just $7 I’d gladly come back for these cheap eats.
Among the flavors which would you try?
525 N Eddy St., South Bend, IN 46617
As I was researching things to do (between Grand Rapids and Chicago) I was feeling discouraged that many of the attractions I found were closed on Sunday. However, my friend noted that we instead of driving along the coast of Lake Michigan we could head to South Bend, Indiana to see the University of Notre Dame before hitting Chicago. With this new revelation I did further research and found that any guests could attend Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which was right on campus. So we decided to wake up bright and early and attended the 10AM Mass. My friend and I got there around 9:15am to check out the area and wow the buildings were incredible – both outside and in. The paintings on the ceilings were so vivid and detailed. These pictures don’t even do the cathedral justice, but with the high ceilings and tall columns you just felt like you were a part of a very grand affair. Soon visitors filled the seats and while I have attended Mass previously, I’ve never been a part of one that was so structured. There was a pipe organ with a full choir performance at the beginning and many interactive sections of the service. We sang hymns, listened to the priests message, and there were a number of processions with various people dressed in white wardrobes parading down the aisle during different parts of the service. It was extremely formal. Once the service concluded many guests then felt comfortable to takes photos of the facility. While I do not practice Catholicism (I am a non-denominational Christian) I can appreciate the time that these individuals took to preserve this service, and openness and generosity to open this for all to attend. I had a wonderful and safe trip in the Midwest (up to that point) and was thankful to have an outlet to praise God
What are you thankful for?
Basilica of the Sacred Heart 101 Basilica Drive, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (574)-631-7800