Fun in the Sun

We have continued our exit out of California with a week in Palm Desert.

It’s been like a week-long farewell party with the coming and going of seven families of very close friends. A few of these are my childhood chums…

The rest we met during the precious time we spent at St. George’s Preschool.

While Isabel and Brady were painting and digging in the sand with their little buddies, we were befriending their parents.

Through one magical preschool, we have become lifelong friends.

Here in Palm Desert we’ve spent the blistering days poolside, riding a waterslide on a constant loop, drinking frosty blended beverages in a cabana, and cooling off in the pool with our kids splashing around us rambunctiously. In the evenings, we’ve met at the outdoor grill to cook dinner and imbibe on evening cocktails and conversation as the kids frolic on the golf course.

When the giant sprinklers began its night-time watering routine, the kids ran through, soaking their clothes with the setting sun painting the sky in pinks and yellows.

A farewell party obviously comes with goodbyes, and there have been many of them this week as each family has gone home. It’s so strange, I don’t at all feel like we’re saying goodbye. I don’t think it has set in that I’m not going to see these friends on a regular basis for monthly ladies birthday dinners, Super Bowl parties, Memorial Day barbecues, summer Music in the Park, or watching The Bachelor every Monday night. I’m not worried about keeping these friendships strong. But there have been many mutual tears, just the same.

We are the last family standing. We have stayed for a few solitary days of Womack family time. We often like to do a new excursion off of the resort property to have a little break from pool time. Today we took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway upto Mt. San Jacinto State Park.

On the way, we passed some of the hundreds of windmills that power the desert communities.

We’re headed to the top of that mountain. Notice the desolate terrain we’re driving through to get there. It’s so hot and exposed. It’s drastically different than where we’re headed!

It took me over thirty years of vacationing in Palm Springs to finally do this excursion.

Here we go!

Up, up, and away! The bottom of the tram constantly rotates so we can see all angles on our ride up. Notice the vegetation along the creekbed from the snow run-off.

Everytime we pass one of these towers, the tram rocks and we have to hold on!

A tram passes us that is headed back down the mountain.

We’re pretty high!

That’s where we’re headed, to the top of that mountain.

We made it!

The ten minute trip travels two and a half miles and upto 8,516 feet in elevation. That’s a 5,873 foot climb!

Palm Springs is a long way down there.

It’s a completely different world  up here!

It was one hundred and four degrees when we left Palm Desert and when we climbed out of the tram, it was a cool sixty seven degrees! We left the barren desert and emerged into a forest.

We thought we would explore a bit.

Here I come!

We came across a stream to play in.

Where’s Waldo?

There were lots of sparkling goldish specks in the water.

We were sure we’d struck it rich!

“There’s gold in these mountains. I can feel it!” That was me channeling the old man from Gold Rush.

Brady hit rocks together in an effort to create arrowheads.

And John gazed out into the water pondering life and how lucky he is to have me.

I guess I’m lucky to have him, too.

That was a fun adventure. Oddly enough, the scenery reminded us of our annual camping trip in Big Pine, California, which we’ll be missing this year because of the move.

It’s almost like this was our little camping moment.

When we got back to the resort, I went for a walk by myself on the hotel property to play with my camera.

It interests me that the arid desert setting with it’s harsh, sharp plants mellows and becomes more beautiful as the sun and lighting soften. I experimented with that.

The pops of color are what make Palm Springs and its surrounding communities an oasis paradise in the middle of a parched environment. It was fun to photograph in a completely different setting. A far departure from my Downtown L.A. cityscape shots!

This blog has allowed indulged me with the experience of reflecting on each little phase of the move. I’m grateful for the moments to thank each place that has been a big part of this chapter of our lives.

La Canada is not only the place I personally grew up and lived such a happy childhood and  adolescence, but also the place where John, Isabel and I completed our little family of four when Brady joined us and we brought him home to our little abode on Patagonia Drive.

Huntington Beach was a beautiful haven where we were so blessed to spend so many family weekends and vacations with my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and my nieces. John and I have watched Isabel and Brady boogie board in the surf, frolic in the shallow water with their cousins, and I’ve personally helped them dig pools of water for sand crabs and create elaborate sand castle fortresses in a race against the next destructive wave.  Us adults had countless happy hours on the front patio as neighbors climbed over the low walls separating the houses to join us. We all decorated our wagons and bicycles with red, white and blue crepe paper and rode down PCH to the 4th of July parade and then returned to an all day neighborhood block party.

Since Brady was three months old, we have been coming to Palm Desert every summer with friends. Back then, we would put our babies down for a nap on a lounge chair under an umbrella as our toddlers splashed around in the wading pool with their mermaid Barbies.  At night, we would fiercely compete in a girls against boys Sequence competition on the balcony as the kids were fast asleep, snuggled up on the pull-out couch. These traditions have continued and evolved as our kids have grown, as well as the size of our group.

This week in Palm Desert marks the end of this chapter. Even as we plan on continuing these traditions on future summer vacations and holidays back in California, this marks the end of the reflecting, the end of our exit. For tomorrow, we will begin our trek to Oklahoma, with a few stops along the way, the entrance into our new chapter.

(Listen to this song! John just happened to play it for me, as I was finishing up this post as we sit on our balcony in Palm Desert. It reminds me of The Irish Blessing that I learned when I was a kid and it sure feels relevant today.)

Devil Knows You’re Dead

 

California Girl

While John drives all of our belongings and cat to Oklahoma, Isabel, Brady and I are beaching it in Huntington Beach. I think the kids and I got the better end of that deal.

I absolutely love the ocean. I’m savoring being exposed to this view of endless water knowing that in a few short weeks I will reside in a landlocked state. It’s true, while we lived only about forty five minutes from the beach, we really only went a handful of times each year. Yet, knowing it was out there, within reach, was often enough.

There’s something about the beach, with it’s repetition of waves flowing in and out, that is so mesmerizing and relaxing. I love the sight of it. I love the sound of it. I’m such a water girl.

Since John and I got married, Huntington Beach has been a home away from home. We’ve spent so much time down here with my family. After saying goodbye to our house last weekend,  it’s the perfect place to seek refuge for a little while.

When we were here in H.B. a few months ago over spring break, we came across an amazing donut establishment, Duck Donuts. Remember the hype over Krispy Kreme, the excitement of getting donuts still warm and dripping with glazed icing? I love Krispy Creme. But, this is better.

Well, this time, on our way to Trader Joe’s around five o’clock in the evening, we found ourselves face to face with Duck Donuts. We were hungry and we were about to go grocery shopping. Don’t you know that rule? Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. So, we basically had donuts for dinner. Come along for the ride.

First, you choose your glorious combination of flavors.

Next you watch your very own fresh, piping hot cake donut fall off the conveyor belt. It’s like a naked canvas.

Then you watch the donut magician dip your individual bite of heaven into a base icing, drizzle it with a secondary icing, and decorate it with toppings.

It’s still hot. It’s dripping with sugary icing. It’s a marvel. Brady named this one “the zebra”. Classic glaze and chocolate drizzle.

If you’re me, you try the citrusy flavors. Lemon with key lime drizzle… this one is orange creamsicle.

If you’re my mom, you order a maple glazed donut drizzled with salted caramel and topped with bacon. Hubba hubba.

If you’re my kids, you go overboard, and get your donut with a scoop of ice cream on top. Thrifty ice cream, at that.

If you’re any one of us, you scrape all of the icing off your plate. And, by the way, my mom won for best flavor choice. Bacon. Duh.

I feel obligated to tell you that the next day Isabel, Brady and I took a long bike ride.

The reason I feel obligated to tell you that is because we followed it up with lunch at Ruby’s.

If you ever visit Huntington Beach, one thing you must do, is eat at Ruby’s on the Huntington Beach Pier.  It just feels like such an event walking all the way out there, people watching, checking out surfers catching waves, and observing as people fish off the pier. It’s such a fun treat to eat at a restaurant jutted out into the ocean and listen to 40’s music while you dine.

What you see beyond this point, do not judge.

We decided to try something new. Okay, I decided to try something new. We started with crispy green beans served with a trio of dipping sauces- buffalo ranch, honey mustard and classic ranch (of which they do so well). It was such a great choice.

I went for a cobb burger and onion rings.

Oh yeah. Blue cheese, bacon and avocado.

And you must finish with a milkshake. There are many flavors to choose from.

I hear your loud judgey thoughts. Girlfriend, you might want to skip dinner! I hear you and I see your point. (Don’t worry, there’s an acai bowl coming up very soon.)

The next morning, Meagan, one of my great friends from high school who I hadn’t seen for a few years, came by to spend some time with me before the big move.

We went for a walk down to the pier and found the 602 Coffee House on PCH just north of Main Street.

Under the Signature Drinks section on the menu, activated charcoal latte  caught my eye. What??? The barista explained that charcoal helps whiten your teeth. Okay. So I ordered one with chai.

Provocative.  It didn’t really have a “charcoal” flavor. I really just tasted the chai. It was very good. Maybe a teensy bit gritty at the bottom, perhaps for exfoliating my teeth? Just kidding. But, I love trying interesting things. Meagan chose a lavender latte and loved it.

We decided to split an acai bowl.

I’ve bought those acai packets to put in my smoothies before, but never actually made an acai bowl at home.  It was so fresh and delicious, like a very thick smoothie or sorbet with a variety of textures from the fruit, a drizzle of honey and crunchy granola. I loved it.

We also split the avocado toast with arugula and sriracha. Crunchy, creamy, spicy and delicious!

I love independent coffee houses and 602 Coffee House is no exception. Both the coffee drinks and the food were fantastic!

On the way back, we did one of my favorite things, walking with our feet in the sand.

Love you, Megs!

Between spending some precious time with my parents, I also got to share some fun beach time with my kiddos. Isn’t playing at the beach the best? It makes me feel like a kid again.

We dug in the sand, we boogie boarded (yes, me too).

Isabel and Brady made beach friends and formed a boogie boarding posse…

…which allowed me to bathe in the sun and do some delightful reading (shameless plug).

I also did some treasure hunting and collected about fifty shells. I could look for shells and rocks for hours.

You know how everyone has a beach-themed bathroom? We have discussed that we, too, should have a cliche beach-themed bathroom in our new house in Oklahoma. Therefore, there was a lot of shell collecting with that purpose.

I even found a few rare gems of sea glass and heart-shaped rocks. Isn’t it strange to be taking all of these souvenirs of my own land?

In the same spirit, I bought myself a California baseball cap and cheese tray this week. I will take them with me proudly to represent and think about my sweet Southern California.

Well…

…That’s it. It will be many months before we’re looking at the Pacific Ocean again. But, we had a blast. It was good for our souls.

We said goodbye to my parents as we left the beach house this morning, and that was rough. Saying goodbye to so many loved ones is really hard. But, I am really excited about all that we will be saying hello to.

California Girls

 

These are a Few of my Favorite Things

Two days ago we moved out of our sweet house in La Canada. We are still currently in Southern California for a few weeks of vacation, but we have left our dear La Canada.

Boy,  moving is stressful. And a move halfway across the country at that. The last few months have been so busy packing up our house (oy vey, that’s a lot of work), keeping our house clean while it’s for sale, soothing various emotions about the upcoming change, oh, and still feeding my children and fulfilling their basic needs.

At the same time, I wanted to sustain a sense of normalcy for Isabel and Brady- hosting Easter, throwing Isabel’s birthday slumber party, volunteering at school, all with open houses and showings in between. Of course, we also needed to allow time for spending time with loved ones and saying proper goodbyes.

With all of that now in the past and summer vacation in the works, I have time to reflect. Despite all of the stress, for months I really have been appreciating and cherishing the things that have made my life here in La Canada so special and fun.

#1 The View From our Kitchen Window

Our front yard looked straight down a valley between two mountain ranges to Downtown Los Angeles. Washing dishes really wasn’t so bad when I was looking at the inspiring cityscape. My neighbors probably saw me on many occasions first thing in the morning in our front yard, in my pajamas, with my camera hanging around my neck taking photos of this view.

I’ve shot it on cloudy days…

…on foggy days, on dreary rainy days…

…on beautifully clear days when we could even see the outline of Catalina island.

I’ve captured this shot focusing on the flowers in the foreground with blurred buildings in the background …

…focusing on the buildings with blurred flowers in the foreground.

At dusk, at night…

I think you get it. I love this view. (That’s not even all of my photos.)

#2 The View from our Backyard

The view from our backyard was pretty darn good, too. After nine years of living here, this scenery has never gotten old.

I truly relished these majestic mountains as I let Valentine out each morning. (And so did she.)

Once a year or so, we saw snow!

I always pretended that this tableau from the side of our backyard wasTuscany.

Isn’t it breathtaking?

Can you hear O Sole Mio playing? This was the sight I awoke to the morning after the super moon was in full effect.

And I’ll never forget the sight of my children playing with the mountains as their backdrop.

#2 Friday Morning Hikes

I delighted in my Friday morning hikes with my girlfriends as we charged up the trails of Cherry Canyon enjoying the panoramic views of La Canada, Glendale and beyond.

On these hikes, these fantastic ladies and I discussed which Netflix series we were watching, we chatted about our kids’ sports seasons and dished out parenting advice to each other. Mostly we enjoyed each other’s company in a beautiful setting.

This was the moment of victory when we would reach the fire lookout at the top.

#3 My Favorite Coffees

I savored lattes and cappucinos at my favorite mom and pop coffee shops, Lavendar & Honey in Altadena and Constellation Coffee in La Canada. I also enjoyed my last ice blended from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (not an Oklahoma franchise…yet).

#4 Dining Out

I love love love dining out! There are my local faves like having a Molly salad, a steak and a slice of key lime pie at Taylor’s. Or a Moscow mule from The Proper. Or a potato taco and a midnight mule from Basin 141. Many family dinners have taken place at Dona Maria, our favorite Mexican restaurant, John going through countless baskets of chips (his weakness). Fajitas, enchiladas espinacas, crispy tacos…too many great dishes to mention them all.

Of course there is also the more casual fare at La Canada landmarks, for instance scrumptious sandwiches from Bergie’s (boy, did I eat a lot of Bergie’s egg salad when I was pregnant with Brady back in the day), and the best pizza and meatball subs at La Canada Imports and Georgie’s.

And I really find it exciting to experience a restaurant that is new to me. Since we have announced our exciting moving plans, some friends have taken us to some amazing celebratory dinners a hop, skip and a jump from La Canada. To 71 Above at the top of the US Bank building in DTLA where the food and cocktails were innovative and delectable…

…but the panoramic view of L.A. and looking down upon DTLA was even more spectacular. (Occasionally, a helicopter would fly by not that far above us.)

We were also taken to Mastro’s Steakhouse in the heart of Beverly Hills where we shared a bountiful seafood tower steaming with dry ice and I experienced the epic lobster mashed potatoes that blew my mind.

With so many fantastic restauants surrounding La Canada, my palate has never gotten bored!

#5 Theater

I absolutely love the rare treat of going to the theater. Not long ago, Isabel and I saw Cats at the Pantages.  It was so special to witness her become as moved as I was from the music and emotion of the performances. Whether it’s at the legendary Pantages Theater, the Pasadena Playhouse or the intimate Glendale Centre Theater, I absolutely love the experience of a cast of actors giving everything they’ve got to a live audience. Again, with La Canada so close to Hollywood and beyond, these venues have been at our fingertips.

#6 The Parrots

The story goes, in the 1950’s or 60’s, there was a fire in a pet store , flower store or nursery in South Pasadena. The fire fighters or owner released some parrots in order to save them. They have since multiplied into the thousands and call Pasadena and neighboring cities home.

I am obsessed with the parrots. They fly past our house every morning and every dusk. When I hear their signature squawking, I scramble to get my camera, but still have not successfully taken an impressive photo of them.

I have many pathetic attempts such as this. There they go… Yes, they’re there. Keep looking. One day, when I’m back visiting, I’m going to get a good shot.

I’m so excited and intrigued by the gorgeous exotic birds. When I have seen them, green with a flash of red, roosting in a tree as I go for a run or when they pass through the sky in flocks at the end of the day, for a split second, I feel like I live in South America! They are so beautiful, and because to me they seem so out of place here, I’ve always appreciated how really special they are.

#7 Neighborhood Walks

I love our neighborhood. It’s so beautiful with ancient oak trees, towering deodar and palm trees and too many beautiful floral varieties to mention.

After dropping Isabel and Brady off at school, I would often stroll around the neighborhood really as more of a relaxing moment than a workout. Sometimes I would listen to my Imagine Dragons station on Pandora, sometimes  just to the ambient sound of the neighborhood.

I would admire the beautiful homes and yards and take in the smell of jasmine and orange blossoms.

It’s been all of these things and more that have made living here so memorable. Raising my kids in my hometown of La Canada has been a beautiful blessing. Norman Rockwellesque, even. Despite being nestled in Los Angeles county, it has a small-town feel and close sense of community.  I’ll never forget the friendships that we’ve made with kind and supportive families. I promise to nurture those special friendships even from afar.

Thank you, house, where we’ve been a family and so many memories have taken place for the last nine years.

Thank you, Patagonia Drive.

Thank you, La Canada.

We love you, and we’ll never forget you. And, of course, we’ll be back to visit soon.

MyFavorite Things

 

I Love L.A.

Over the last few months, with the clock ticking down to departure date, I’ve asked myself, what is my L.A. Bucket List? What do I need to squeeze in before I go? I’ve lived in Southern California the majority of my life, so I’ve done most of the typical must-do L.A. things.

I’ve been to the Rose Parade many times. Seeing the gorgeous and impressive floral floats and lively bands in person is a thrilling way to celebrate the new year.

And hanging out in the streets of Pasadena with excited locals and visitors from all over the country and the world as the Goodyear Blimp looms over us makes us locals so happy to live in Southern California!

I’ve been to the Griffith Observatory.

It’s such a gorgeous place to see amazing L.A. views, including the Hollywood sign.

I’ve been to the  La Brea Tar Pits many times, as a child, and it was also one of the field trips when I taught first grade.

I’ve ridden the ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier and have done some damage shopping at Third Street Promenade.

I’ve been to Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  I even saw a movie inside the theater (it was Double Jeopardy starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones).

I used to swing dance regulary at The Derby before it closed down. (A moment of respect for The Derby. Tear…) I’ve seen Marty and Elayne, the husband and wife duo, perform their lounge act at The Dresden as I drank a dirty martini.

I’ve been to every SoCal amusement park, seen countless concerts at the Greek Theater and the Hollywood Bowl. (If you look closely, you can see Harry Connick Jr. tickling the ivories.)

…We could be here all day, folks. But, I did come up with a few random items that I really wanted to experience. I am proud to announce that I have accomplished my very short list.

Get ready. This is a true adventure!

#1 Roscoe’s Chicken N’ Waffles!

I’ve been meaning to try this place out for decades!!! What can I say? I operate on a deadline.

This meal was certainly worth the wait.

Crispy chicken, buttery waffles, sweet syrup. And when the friendly waitress, asked, “Would you like collard greens and mac n’ cheese with that?” we said, “Yes!”

Oh, that’s a perfect bite right there.

My only question to myself is, “Why? Why did you wait this long to go to Roscoe’s? You damn procrastinator!” And the second question to myself is, “Is there time to go again? I need more!”

This place fills up quickly at lunch time. I suggest going at 11:30 and beating the lunchtime rush like we did. I’m definitely bringing John and the kids next time I go. They will love it.

Thank you, Celina, for being my cohort in accomplishing this bucket list item.

#2 The Slide on the 70th Floor of the U.S. Bank building in Downtown L.A.!

Holy cow, that’s a tall building. Let’s go up 1,000 feet and slide down plexiglass hanging over the edge, shall we?

I took this shot on the 70th floor looking down through the building.  Beautiful, yet ominous.

There are observation decks where you can take in the beautiful city views.

Look, there’s Echo Park!

A fun photo opp for any Angeleno.

Okay, enough stalling. Let’s see what you’re made of. Here we go!!!!!!

Truth? It’s not that scary. It only slides down one floor. I really wanted to feel my stomach drop. But, it is a very fun experience and I highly recommend doing it.

And then you can drink champage and eat some surpisingly delicious sandwiches from your beautiful vantage point.

Why not? Our kids were in school and we had a few hours to play! Thank you, Mary Ellen, for humoring all of my whims that day!

#3 The Cathedal of Our Lady of Angels

When we had finished the slide and lunch, we walked a few blocks to the Cathedral in DTLA. I had never seen it.

…It’s not what I had expected of a Catholic Church.

Mary Ellen pointed out that all of the Saints are part of the congregation due to the massive tapestries that line the walls. That was my favorite part.

We walked around the mausoleum in the basement to see who we could find.

On the way back to the car we passed some lovely sights…

The Walt Disney Concert Hall…

…and the Los Angeles Central Library, both of which I will have to save for another day.

It was a beautiful, fun-filled day in Downtown L.A. and we only had to pay a bargain price of $35 to park. Haha.

#4 Find Amazing Shaved Ice comparable to Hawaii!

Let’s face it- that’s a tall order.

Ever since I visited my friend, Kate, in Hawaii last year and experienced the best, most heavenly shave ice EVER (they call it shave ice), I’ve been trying to find shave ice in L.A. that compares. I’m not sure it exists.

But Isabel, Brady and I did find really great Korean shaved ice at Boba Loca in Montrose.

I don’t feel like I can totally compare it to Hawaiian shave ice, as it doesn’t include all of the yummy syrup flavors, but Korean shaved ice has got the texture down. It’s soft, delicate and fluffy, and that is hard to find. I’ve tried.

The ice cream, sweetened condensed milk and fresh fruit atop delicate snowy shaved ice is a beautiful combo. A happy find!

Boba Loca also offers a multitude of delicious boba drink combinations, as well as fusion iced tea, slushes, fresh squeezed juice and raw smoothies!

I’m pretty new to the boba train. A drink that you can chew? I like it.

This was lavendar milk tea and it was so good!

I’ve also had the jasmine milk tea and the rose milk tea. Clearly, I’m on a big floral beverage kick. The rose milk tea is currently my favorite. It was sweet, creamy and lovely, with a subtle rosey flavor. It was the color of blush just like Shelby’s wedding colors in Steel Magnolias. “My colors are  blush and bashful, Mama.”

We couldn’t resist trying the colorful butterfly lemonade. It was tart, sweet and a little herbaceous, due to the splash of cobalt blue butterfly tea which turns purple when it is added to the lemonade . I just read that butterfly tea,  derived from Asia, is known for its anti-aging and beautifying properties! (I’ll justify any treat, just ask me.)

Isabel was very happy with her chocolate banana milkshake. The point is, there are a plethora of beverages to try and fall in love with at Boba Loca!

Since you really can’t have a list of four things and call it an epic list, I threw in…

#5 Throwback Tuesday at the The Regency Academy 6 Theater in Pasadena! Isabel and I saw The Goonies  on the big screen!!!

It was a nostalgic and riveting experience. It made me feel like a kid again! The couple next to me had the foresight to bring Baby Ruths for the occasion. And since the tickets at the Regency Academy 6 Theater are so inexpensive, I let Isabel go crazy at the concession stand.  I didn’t help her at all (liar). Check out the amazing Throwback Tuesday lineup on their website.

There are countless fun and entertaining things to do in L.A. Sometimes it’s so much fun to be a tourist in your own town. Sigh. I really do love L.A.

There’s really only one way to end this post. Sing it, Randy!

I Love L.A.

The Country Mouse and the City Mouse

Remember that beloved childhood story?

I’ve always related more to the city mouse.

I grew up in La Canada, an idyllic suburb of Los Angeles, with all of its culture and possibilities at my fingertips. La Canada is a hop, skip and a jump away from the famous Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena. I didn’t stray far when I traded the mountain air of the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains for the salty air of Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, California. Both places are imbedded in a metropolis bustling with businesses, restaurants, museums, and theme parks. For the last decade, my husband, two kids and I have been back in my hometown.

But things are about to change. Big time. We’re embarking upon a new adventure. Continue reading “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse”