Santa Cruz Island

On March 29, 2014, I went with my friend, Lori, and The Valencia Hiking Crew to Santa Cruz Island for a day of hiking. Santa Cruz is the largest of the eight Channel Islands and one of five islands that make up Channel Islands National Park. Once privately owned, it is now 24% National Park and 76% Nature Conservancy.

We met up with our fellow VHC friends at Island Packers in Ventura, securing a spot on the upper deck, outside, for the one hour boat ride to the island. So far in my boating experience, I’ve never gotten seasick (knock on wood), but from what I gather, it’s something that can happen to you at any time, so I debated over whether or not I should take any preventive measures. Since I’ve never had a problem with boats, roller coasters, or other topsy-turvey, spinning carnival rides (knock on wood again), I decided I’d be ok. And I was, thank God. What I wish I had done was pack long pants and gloves. That wind was more bitter-cold than I had anticipated. On the return trip we warmed our hands with cups of hot chocolate, which you can buy onboard, as well as other food and beverages.

It was very warm on the inland trails. I wasn’t able to keep up with the pace of the group, so I ended up spending the day hiking alone on the cooler cliffside trails.  Normally I would never recommend hiking alone, but I had a trail map and too much plenty of water with me. I also knew my friend wouldn’t take off on the return boat without me (would she???), so it was really a wonderful experience, hiking in solitude.

If you’re not into hiking, sea kayaking, or camping, there is nothing for you here.


Cal-Earth Superadobes

(1) shelter is a basic human right, (2) every human being should be able to build a house for him or herself, and (3) the best way to provide shelter for the exponentially increasing human population is by building with earth. — The three principles in Cal-Earth’s mission.

This place was nothing like I imagined, thank God. It was amazing! I highly recommend checking out one of their open houses, especially if you have kids. They can climb all over the superadobes, even up onto the roofs. Yes, of course, I tried it out myself!

The open house is the first Saturday of the month (except August). You can either bring a pot luck item or a minimum donation of $7.00. While you’re exploring the superadobes and taking in a lecture, the Cal-Earth people are setting up the potluck.

The superadobes are made out of sandbags and barbed wire. The structures have passed California’s high-seismic building codes, making them resistant to earthquakes, fires, floods and hurricanes. But even more imporantly (ha ha) they are cuuuuuuuuuuuuute!

Read about the founder Nader Khalili here, and about his inspiration, the poet Rumi, here.

Thanks to The Valencia Hiking Crew for organizing another amazing event!





Angeleno Heights

Angeleno Heights is one of the oldest districts (1880s) in and contains the highest concentration of 19th century Victorian homes in Los Angeles. Although there are more than 50 Victorian houses in the neighborhood, the majority of the ones you’ll want to see are in the 1300 block of Carroll Avenue, between East Edgeware Road and Douglas Street.

You could have someone drive you around Angeleno Heights while you snap pictures out the window. Please don’t. Take my advice… park the car and walk down the block instead. These beautiful Victorian houses have so much detail and character you need to take the time to stand in front of them and really look.

For instance, try to count how many colors of paint have been used on just one house, or try to discover the differences between Eastlake style and Queen Anne. Or see if you recognize the house from Charmed or from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. As you stroll along, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the gigantic Moreton Bay Fig tree and the charming street lamps, hitching posts, and carriage steps.

Since you’re already in the neighborhood, why not take the kids over to Echo Park Lake to ride the pedal boats? The lake was recently dredged, cleaned up, and restored with four acres of wetlands, courtesy of 2004’s Prop O water quality bond. Since you paid for the bonds via your L.A. City property taxes you might as well enjoy it, right?

All that walking and pedal boating make you hungry? Try some amazing homemade street tacos from Guisado’s on Sunset. You can watch them make the tortillas from scratch while waiting to place your order and they have a nice patio out back where you can sit down to enjoy them.

Tip: If you’re at all skittery about visiting unfamiliar neighborhoods on your own or would like a chance to go inside a couple of the houses, the Los Angeles Conservancy offers guided tours the first Saturday of every month. Make a reservation here.

Urban Hike: Highland Park to Old Pasadena

On February 16, 2014, my friend Lori and I went on an urban hike with the Los Angeles Hiking Group. Thanks to our decision to take an earlier train, we had time to walk around and look at the lovely old buildings on Route 66 (Figueroa) in Highland Park before meeting up with the group at Antigua Bread. Had we known about Antigua’s amazing-looking pastries we would’ve come even earlier to have breakfast, but this time we had to settle for iced Cafe Americanos to go.

This hike from Downtown Highland Park to Downtown Pasadena was approximately 8 miles and, as my photos show, the route was accurately described by leader, Tuck, as being “via obscure neighborhoods, unusual points of interest, and multiple public stairways.”

Johnston Lake aka Beaudry Lake aka Mirror Lake
In the 1950’s, this lake of many names disappeared from view into a gated community to be enjoyed by 18 lucky homeowners. On the day we visited, a guy opened the gates and some of us made a mad dash past him to take pictures of the lake. As the gates started to close, the rest of our group screamed frantically for us to “Get out! Get out!”

I made it out just before the gates locked behind me. Since the guy was in the process of pulling the trash cans in and needed to reopen the gates I’m sure he was wondering what the heck everyone was yelling about.

Castle Green
Take my advice and go on the holiday tour!!!!

Abbey San Encino
It is not an abbey. It’s a private residence. That’s just it’s name. Jackson Browne’s grandfather, Clyde, a printer & typographer, built the house. You can see Jackson sitting in a chair in the inner courtyard on the cover of his album “For Everyman.” If you’re too young to know who Jackson Browne is, yet the house looks vaguely familiar to you, it plays the abandoned church in episodes of Dexter where Professor Gellar  and Travis Marshall commit their crimes.

Arroyo Seco
That means dry stream, which it is right now, thanks to the drought. But it’s still lovely to hike along beside it.

Church of the Angels
This church is really cool! Looks like something you’d expect to see in England. It was built by Mrs. Alexander Robert Campbell Johnston in 1889 as a memorial to her husband, a British Colonial official. He also has a road named after him on a Hong Kong island.

Judson Studios
They have been designing and installing stained, leaded, and other architectural glass for over a century!

Pisgah Historic Home District
Interesting place. You should click on that link I provided and read about the history of this place, which is now a senior housing facility.

Our final destination before catching the Gold Line back to Highland Park was lunch at Lucky Baldwins Pub, which was celebrating their 15th Annual Belgian Beer Festival. The dark, foamy #13 & #18 were getting a lot of ooos & ahhhs, but ice cold lemonade sounded more refreshing with my Pub Burger.

Even though it wasn’t our stop, Lori & I got off at Highland Park station on the way back with two goals in mind: Get one of those pastries to take home & find the Victorian house on a hill that we could see from the train.

Unfortunately, all the pastries were long gone, but Lori got a Guatemalan cookie and we did find the Victorian house!

Smith Estate “El Mio
That house has an interesting history if you have time to click the link. It’s been in a lot of movies, too. This video shows the interior.

This hike gets 5 stars because it was a good distance for me, personally, and the hills & stairs got my heart rate up. Additionally, hike leader, Tuck, goes at a pace that is not the death march some leaders like to take us on. Even when I stopped to take a picture of something it was just a fast walk or short jog to catch back up with the group. And I like that Tuck made  periodic head counts and checked on our various tables at the end of lunch.

Nike+ Fuelband stats:

Fuel: 4,317
Calories: 938
Steps: 21,592
Hours Won: 7

Further Reading:
Highland Park by Charles Fisher
Within the Vale of Annandale by Donald W. Crocker

Walk #9 South Pasadena to Arroyo Terrace 6 1/4 Mile Walk With Bob Inman

On January 4, 2014, my friends and I went on an urban walk with Bob Inman.

This was Walk #9 from Bob’s new book, Finding Los Angeles By Foot, Stairstreet, Bridge, Pathway, and Lane. [Shameless plug: Bob used my photo of the Marathon Stairs on page 64 of his book so I am now a published photographer! Thanks, Bob!]

Bob is a really good leader. His pace won’t kill you and he stops along the way to “talk about this or that,” such as:

Water Tower House
Architect: Frederick Roehrig, built in 1891 to match Grace Mansion, which has was converted into apartments in the 1920s. The mansion was the home of William Stanton– cousin of Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War!–and his wife, Ellen. The water tower was converted to a residence in 1924. Read more here and see pictures of the interior here.

American Red Cross Building (fka the Cravens Mansion)
We were lucky enough to have a Red Cross employee on the walk with us and he just happened to have a key to the gates! Read more about the mansion here.

After the walk, my friends and I stopped for Howie Burgers at La Grande Orange Cafe inside what used to be the old Del Mar train depot.

Further Reading:
My friend Karen’s photos and blog about this walk.
Finding Los Angeles By Foot, Stairstreet, Bridge, Pathway, and Lane by Bob Inman.

Nike+ Fuelband Stats
Fuel: 3,801
Calories: 831
Steps: 17,907
Hours Won: 4

AFI Fest 2013: The Strange Little Cat That Wasn’t

November 12, 2013 1 comment

I saw three more movies at AFI Fest on Sunday.

Documenteur. France. The Director, Agnes Varda was there to talk about her film. She’s also this year’s guest director for the entire festival. She had been all over L.A. that morning introducing films in various locations for different events.

I’m sorry I don’t remember what exactly she said about Documenteur or the actors. Something about liking the look of the lead actress–she had the best smile of anyone I’ve ever seen, especially when she smiled at the little boy who played her son–and the boy being the real-life son of someone–and something about the murals around L.A.–and something about L.A. being the desire of everyone wanting to go out West to chase their dreams and Venice being as far west as you can go so that’s why she had the story take place in Venice.

My friend didn’t like the movie. “Not enough action and nothing really happened”, I think she said.

I like books & movies where nothing really happens and we just sit back and observe people and their strange lives. In this one we observe a mother & her son in the 1970s, I think, searching for an apartment & trying to make a life together. Strange but sweet.

The Strange Little Cat. Germany.

My friend didn’t like this one either, LOL. It was the one I had looked forward to the most. I was really curious to see the cat and wondered what was strange about him.

Well, there wasn’t anything strange about him! Turned out to be a metaphor for the strangeness of the scenes playing out in front of us. The whole thing took place, for the most part, in a tiny little kitchen with different family members & friends coming & going. It was a bit too artsy for me, but I did love the adorable little girl and the big dog that liked to watch the cat sleep & would bark as soon as the cat started purring.

The Date. Finland. This was a short they decided to show us before The Strange Little Cat. It was about a prize-winning, male Siamese on one of his “dates.” Ahem. We hear the cats but all we see is the two families waiting for them to finish. At one point the two nervous teenagers are smoking out on the patio. Funny.

The Lunchbox. India. Oh my God I loved this movie so much!!!!! Best one so far. Oscars for everybody!!!!!!!

Who knew that in India they have a lunchbox delivery service? Guys on bikes go from house to house picking up the lunchboxes. They’re loaded onto trains and delivered to office buildings where someone else delivers them to workers at their desks.

I checked with my co-worker and it’s totally real. They deliver them to schools, too. She remembers the hot cooked meals from home arriving every day. She said the cost is inexpensive.

In the film, a woman who is being ignored by her husband cooks a special meal for him to get his attention. It’s delivered by mistake to a man who recently lost his wife. Notes go back & forth and a relationship develops.

I won’t tell you how it ends. You have to see it. It is sooooooo funny. Our audience loved it. The older man from Life of Pi is in it. There’s something about him I love. His reactions, facial expressions, etc.

There’s an old “Auntie” that steals the show even though we never see her.

A great film! It had better win EVERYTHING!!!!!

AFI Fest 2013: In which I try to be smart, but find myself in the wrong theater.

November 10, 2013 3 comments

Yeah…after a day of sitting in front row aisle seats and my neck becoming permanently craned to the right, there I was, sitting in a great center seat in the back row watching smugly as others resigned themselves to the front seats. And then the AFI Fest volunteer welcomed us and said he hoped we would like The Selfish Giant.

Um…what?????? Not My Afghanistan????? Oh crap.

My Afghanistan was the hardest ticket to get. I had tried online for days before finally getting that ticket!

Oh well. Nothing I could do about it now. It was already starting in whatever theater it was in so there wouldn’t be even a front row seat left. I would just have to stay and see The Selfish Giant. All the movies at this festival are good so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. My friend, Lori, will see My Afghanistan on Monday afternoon so I’ll experience it through her.

If only I had bothered to put my reading glasses on to look at the ticket last night. Looking at the stub now, the theater number is clearly 6, not 4. Interesting that the ticket taker didn’t notice that I was in the wrong movie either.

Never mind. The Selfish Giant was really good. It was a UK film about two boys expelled from school who make money stealing copper wire. Illegal, dangerous, and horses are involved so you know something tragic happens. I was glad I had a Kleenex Pocket Pack in my purse.

I saw three other movies yesterday:

Little Black Spiders. Belgium. Based on real life, it takes place in 1978. Pregnant teens hidden away in the attic of a hospital. What happens to them and their babies? All the girls were great and the story was good. Thankfully, the Director, who was there and spoke to us in her cute Belgian accent, Patrice Toye, didn’t stray into any horror-type plot lines. These real-life events were horrific enough on their own that she didn’t need to do that.

In Bloom. Georgia. Not that Georgia. The country, Georgia. Look at an atlas. An atlas. Google “atlas”. Oh fuck it. It’s next to Turkey, Russia, & Armenia. Read up on it and then come back.

The main character is a 14-yo girl and one of the directors was 14 in 1992, which is when the movie takes place. The Soviet Union has just collapsed and there are bread lines, thugs & guns, one of which the girl and her best friend find themselves in possession of. Very tense moments with that gun throughout the movie. It had one of those great endings that leaves you wondering what happened next.

We Are The Best. Sweden. Based on a graphic novel. Three 13-yo girls (why is every movie about kids this year?) in Stockholm form a punk band in 1982. Very good. Funny, but also lots of awwww moments for the one girl who always gets let down. Reminded me of that one movie about kids learning to play instruments. Wasn’t it a Jack Black movie?

Looking forward to the next round of movies!!!! I love you, AFI Fest!

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