Posted in Holidays, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California

Halloween in the Dog Haus: Personal Challenge, Day 45 (10.31.12)

Halloween is by far my absolute favorite holiday but unfortunately, the universe decided it should be my worst Endo day this month.  So with very little energy and in a lot of pain, I am still surprised that I managed to get some decorations out.  I had so many plans for my holiday decor but I guess I will just have to save the ideas for next year.

But I didn’t want my holiday to be ruined.  Despite being in an exorbitant amount of pain, I could still partake in some of my family Halloween traditions.

When I was a kid, my Dad would get all dressed up to take us trick-or-treating.  My Mom would stay home to pass out candy and make us a big pot of chili to eat when we came in after a night of walking around in the brisk fall weather (this was in Michigan so we had some chilly Halloween nights).  I remember coming inside and sorting through our candy while my Mom prepared a bowl of chili for each of us.  Then we would sit in front of the television and watch a Halloween themed movie–like Nightmare on Elm Street, any of the Halloween movies or any of the Friday the 13th movies.

Wanting to keep up with my challenge of trying something new every day as well as family traditions, I decided to find a really good Chili Cheese Hot Dog.  Originally I set out to try Slaw Dogs but despite the hours posted on Yelp and on their door, the restaurant was closed when I arrived around 8:30pm.

So through another search on Yelp, I found “Dog Haus,” located on Hill Street in Pasadena.  At first I was a little taken aback by the prices.  Six dollars for a hot dog seemed extreme.  But I was set on a Chili Cheese dog so I couldn’t back out now.  I ordered “The Little Leaguer,” a hot dog covered in chili, cheese, onions and fritos.  I also included a side of tater tots and a drink.  For a person used to spending $1.50 at Costco for a hot dog and drink, this was out of my price range with a total of $13 for my meal.  But when I finally received my order and realized I could have fed two people with my order, I didn’t feel quite as bad.

The Little Leaguer was in no way shape or form a little hot dog.  With the Sweet Hawaiian bread bun and the massive dog in the middle, that would have been meal enough.  But add on what looked like a can of chili, cheese, onions and a bag of fritos and you have got yourself an entire meal.  I didn’t really need the order of tater tots.

Overall, it was a good hot dog.  It still can’t beat my love for my hometown coney dogs at National Coney Island (it’s a Detroit thing) but it was still a good dog.  Just be warned, the portions are much larger than you would imagine.

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Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Spirituality

Learning How to Ghost Hunt in Southern California: Personal Challenge, Day 44 (10.30.12)

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Tonight I went to a book signing at Vroman’s Bookstore on Colorado in Pasadena.  I have been to book signing’s before but this was the first books signing I have been to where the book focuses on the Paranormal and the author is a Psychic Medium Ghost Hunter.  The book is entitled “Ghosthunting in Southern California” by Sally Richards.

Unlike other authors who tend to read passages from their books, Sally started off the evening with a presentation about the history of spiritualists.  She talked about her own history and her experiences with death, drowning at  a young age as well as being struck by lightning during her adulthood.  Her near death experiences have opened her up to another realm where she can communicate with spirits and feel energies that the rest of us can only imagine experiencing.

She has her own team of “ghost hunters” that goes out and communicates with the spirits.  Sally works mostly with the photographic experts.  As a photographer myself, it was interesting to hear her techniques for capturing ghosts inside photographs.  I am personally skeptical when it comes to ghosts in photographs.  I teach my students how to “fake” ghost photos.  But some of the images that Sally showed us, I have no way of explaining the effects captured in her images, especially a few photographs of her daughter.  Dust, slow shutter speed, or a lens flare are the usual explanations for images captured by some of the famous ghost hunter crews (like Ghost Adventures) but again, these explanations don’t work with the photographs of her daughter where there is a strange lighting effect only on her face.  It was interesting to see.

Aside from her photographs, Sally has many fascinating stories and mentioned that she is currently working on a ghost hunting book for Northern California.  As for the Southern California edition, it does cover some of the most interesting places in Southern California, like the Queen Mary, Linda Vista Hospital and the Cobb Estate.  I first purchased this book at Vroman’s when I started my personal challenge, visiting the Cobb Estate on the first day.  Her book is a great resource for places I still want to visit and I can’t wait to see what she find up in Northern California.

Posted in Entertainment, Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Tourism, Travel

Scaring Up A Good Time In Old Town Pasadena: Personal Challenge, Day 39 (10.25.12)

On my birthday, my friend Ida and I went through the Old Town Haunt in Pasadena.  We were only about 20 feet into the basement when we asked if we could volunteer to work in the Haunt.  They told us to ask the man out front after the maze.  So we did and he said we could come back on Thursday at 6:15pm.  So we did and we were so excited to get our “scare” on.

When we arrived, one of the owners, Ron, walked us through the process of the Haunt and helped us create our characters.  They had costumes, masks, prosthetics, and make-up ready for us to use.  Ida chose to just use make-up and a wig.   I decided to try using prosthetics since I have never used them before.  It was lighter than a mask and seemed more realistic.  Plus it was scarier than anything I could do with make-up.

Once we in character, Ron took us to our scare locations, giving us tips on how to use our areas to get the best scares.  Thankfully for us, Ron stayed close to Ida to give her advice on her scare techniques while the other owner, Mark, was close to me, giving me helpful hints and advice throughout the night.  It was a blast but exhausting at the same time.  By the end of the night, I didn’t have much of a voice left but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  In fact, we plan on returning to the Haunt as scareactors before the season ends.  It was definitely a volunteer opportunity of a lifetime.

But I don’t know, look at the pictures.  Do you think we were scary enough?

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Posted in Diet, Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Tourism, Travel

My Pizza is a Blaze: Personal Challenge, Day 36 (10.22.12)

It has become a challenge in itself trying to find something new to do every day.  People keep asking me if I am exhausted from going to all these different places.  My answer, I am exhausted from my day-to-day “doing the exact same thing several times a day” work routine but my personal challenge energizes me.  You get a rush from trying something new.  You feel alive.  The hard part is the first few moments after you leave work and you just want to take a nap.  I know if I go home, that is exactly what will happen.  So instead, I go somewhere else to figure out what to do next.  That someplace else is usually Vroman’s bookstore on Colorado in Pasadena.

After work, I will go to the Zeli coffeehouse, located in the front section of Vroman’s.  You can get a large coffee for under $2 (and it is better than Starbucks).  I find a table–or couch–and start searching through my list, books, different websites, Pasadena & LA Weekly, and the flyers/posters in the coffeehouse.

Sometimes, if nothing catches my eye, I will stroll down Colorado to see if anything catches my eye.  On this day, I decided to walk over to Halloween City by Paseo Colorado.  I needed some accessories for my Zombie costume.  On my way from Vroman’s to Halloween City, I passed a pizza place that looked interesting, Blaze Pizza.  I decided I would make that my food adventure for the day.

When you first walk in, Blaze looks almost like a high class sandwich shop with the long counter of ingredients.  The have so many different options for pizzas.  They do have signature pizzas for $6.85 but they also have build your own, customizable pizzas.  So if you are Vegan, Vegetarian, have an allergy to Gluten or an allergy to dairy or soy, this would be an idea pizza place for you.  They have options to meet everyone’s needs.

I decided to go for a personal signature pizza–the art lover.  The art lover is topped with artichokes, mozzarella, ricotta, chopped garlic, and red sauce.  I am not usually a fan of a thin crusted pizza but this was one tasty pizza.  And I still can’t believe how quickly it was prepared.  You place your order, it hits the ingredient assembly line and then it is fired in the oven.  I was definitely impressed and I love that is located so close to Vroman’s.  I don’t think I will ever go back to Domino’s after trying Blaze.

Posted in Diet, Exploration, Holidays, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Tourism, Travel

Celebrating in Old Town: Personal Challenge, Day 35 (10.21.12)

This weekend felt like my own personal birthday gift from the heavens–they gave me rain!  It finally cooled down and felt like October.  It would have been better to see the leaves change color but I will take what I can get.

Russell’s Meatloaf dinner with a Bellini drink

For my birthday, I decided to hang out with my friend Ida in Old Town Pasadena.  I had a craving for my staple comfort food–mashed potatoes and gravy.  So I searched Yelp for a diner in Old Town Pasadena.  The search mentioned Russell’s on Fair Oaks.  The reviews described it as being a diner type establishment that was always crowded.  So I was imagining a 50’s style diner or even something like Denny’s but Russel’s was neither.  Russel’s felt like a very fancy restaurant, a perfect place for a first date.  Yes, there were booths but they were more elegant than a typical diner.  There were lamps instead of cheesy light fixtures.  There were classic paintings by Masters like Picasso and Van Gogh covering the walls; it almost felt like an art gallery.  There was classic music playing and a fancy looking menu.  However the food was similar to a diner menu, but again a more upscale diner.

We both ordered a Bellini, even though it didn’t really seem to go with my meatloaf and mashed potatoes dinner but I liked it nonetheless.  Ida ordered the Chicken Breast dinner.  We were both pleased with our meals and I do have to say, the mashed potatoes were amazing.  But we both agreed that the Yelp reviews did not do this place justice.  It wasn’t what we expected . . . it was better.

After dinner, we decided to check out the Old Town Haunt on Raymond and Colorado.  I have done the Knott’s Scary Farms and the Universal Halloween Horror Nights.  I am the kind of person who laughs through a Haunted House.  I am usually laughing at the girly girls who are screaming.  It takes a lot to scare me.  But I read a lot of good reviews for the Old Town Haunt and the actual Haunted History of the building where the haunt occurs.

Old Town Haunt

When we first arrived and got into line, we were excited about possibly being scared.  Unfortunately, my excitement turned sour when the group of inconsiderate 20-something a**holes started smoking in line, breaking a whole bunch of city ordinances.  They didn’t even care when I was vocal about my allergy to smoke and started coughing.  In fact, they all decided to light up so I had to excuse myself from the line.  Being the good friend that she is, Ida braved standing near the IAs.

Personally, I will never understand the selfishness of smokers.  There are so many people in a small area waiting to go into the haunt, many were children.  If you want to smoke and kill yourself, that is your prerogative but why force the rest of us to choke on your second-hand smoke just because you have a sad, pathetic addiction that will lead you to an early grave.  I like my life and I have seen too many people die from lung cancer–some never smoked a day in their lives but their family members did.  OK, that is my rant for the day.

Thankfully, Ida and I were put with a group far away from the smoking IAs.  And from the minute we took our first step down the staircase into the basement of the Old Town Haunt, all our grievances were forgotten.  The decor was amazing.  Our experience started with a tour guide (who is also the organizer of the event).  We asked him if we could work for him and he said all we had to do was talk to the ticket taker on our way out.  From that moment on, our excitement grew and our adventure began.

We did spend most of our time laughing at the people in our group–even the guys were screaming and freaking out.  I got three hugs from the different characters throughout the maze.  The decor was so authentic.  The costumes were freakishly good and we were even startled a few times.  The area where it was pitch black and we had to feel our way through–then crawl our way through–was pretty awesome.  This was by far the best haunted maze I have ever been through.  Universal and Knott’s have nothing on the Old Town Haunt.  And the best part, starting on Thursday, Ida and I will get the chance to haunt the maze and cue up a little scares of our own.

After the Haunt, our adrenaline was pumping so we decided to try yet another place in Old Town Pasadena.  We headed over to Lucky Baldwins for drinks.  The 21st was the last day of their Oktoberfest specials so I decided I would partake in the festivities with the t-shirt, glass and German beer special.  Finally, good German Oktoberfest beer to redeem the disappointment from the Montrose Oktoberfest.

All and all, it was a great birthday (spent with a great friend).  It’s funny how sometimes everything just seems to fall into place.  Originally I had wanted to go to a play but we opted for the Old Town Haunt instead.  That slight change in plans led to an opportunity I wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t decided to go to the Old Town Haunt and ask if we could volunteer.  Now I have my plans set for Thursday where I will get the chance to do something I have always wanted to do, work in a haunted house.  I can’t wait for Thursday!!