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

Pasadena Tour Guide: Personal Challenge, Day 32 (10.18.12)

With friends visiting from Germany, I actually had the chance to play tour guide in Old Town Pasadena.  With a quick ride on the Metro Gold Line into Old Town, my friends got their first taste of Pasadena at night…and they loved it.

We walked up and down Colorado, searching for the perfect place to eat.  I used my Yelp app but the most appealing restaurants were already closed for the night.  My friends said that they wanted real California food…meaning real Mexican food.  So we made our way to one restaurant but they didn’t like the lack of seating so I told them about this restaurant that I had recently tried, El Toreo.  They were sold so we made our way over to Fair Oaks and Colorado.

Chicken Enchilada Meal

Wanting to keep up with my challenge of trying something new every day, I decided I would order something different on the menu at El Toreo.  Last time, I ordered the carnitas but this time I went for the Chicken Enchilada meal and I wasn’t disappointed.

My friends also tried different meals, from the special sampler plates to the Tamales to the Mexican Cervezas.  They couldn’t get over how much food we were given.  Every meal ordered turned into two (all of us except one had doggie bags).  So obviously, I would recommend this to anyone, including three German exchange students visiting for the weekend.

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

A Double Pleasure in Old Town Pasadena: Personal Challenge, Day 31 (10.17.12)

I love living in a big house but I really hate cleaning it.  I have friends coming to visit this weekend so I really need to clean house.  With all of my activities, I have let certain things go–like the dishes, laundry and dusting.  So once again, I have to opt for a quick food trial adventure today so I can spend my evening cleaning before my friends arrive.

My college roommate recommended that I try Father Nature’s Lavash Wraps and More in Old Town Pasadena, located on De Lacey, just north of Colorado.  Since my former roommate has never steered me wrong in the food department, I thought I would take her suggestion and try Father Nature’s on my way home from work.  And after a little research, I discovered that many people agree with my roommate.  Pasadena Views lists Father Nature’s Lavash Wraps and More on their 365 things to do in Pasadena list.

It is a small little place, not much to look at in terms of decor–extremely casual dining would be the appropriate description.  I asked for recommendations and the woman working there recommended the #8 wrap: The Double Pleasure.  First of all, I like that the title is a double entendre.  But it combines two food that I consider to be Mediterranean staples: Falafel and Shawarma.  Thanks to my students (and our PTSA) I am very familiar with Mediterranean food.  This warp seemed like the best option, and I got a kick out of saying “I’ll take a Double Pleasure to go.”

Double Pleasure Wrap at Father Nature’s in Pasadena

So my review, I was definitely pleased with my double pleasure wrap.  I am hooked and I would definitely go back.  Actually, I can’t believe I didn’t even think to order a side of hummus.  For me, the quality of the hummus says a lot about a Mediterranean food establishment.  I guess I am just going to have to go back.

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

Chicken Noodle Soup To Cure What Ails You: Personal Challenge, Day 30 (10.16.12)

The LA traffic at 3:30pm, this is why I am taking the Gold Line train

With an upset stomach (still from the Pastrami the day before) and elevated stress levels from a bad day at work, I decided I needed comfort food.  (Bland comfort food)

Before embarking on my next food trial adventure, I stopped off at home to change out of my “teacher” attire and into more weather appropriate (and comfortable) clothing (90 degrees in October is insane).  I didn’t feel like driving so I hopped on the 264 bus in Altadena.  The 264 bus line will take the passenger from Altadena east to the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line station.  This was my first trip to this particular Gold Line station.  (Sierra Madre Villa is the last stop on the eastbound Gold Line).

I do have to say, it is still weird for me, this whole traveling by Metro train bit.  When I lived in North Hollywood and worked down at USC, it was super simple to take the Metro Red Line down to 7th street then hop on the Dash, taking you right to USC.  The train is more reliable than the buses.  But when you are traveling in downtown LA, the buses arrive every 15 minutes.  In Altadena (and parts of Pasadena), if you miss a bus, you have to wait a half hour to an hour for the next one to arrive.

Train station in the middle of the freeway

Also, the Gold Line is so different from the Red Line.  The Red Line was underground like a real subway system.  The Gold Line is above ground and in some parts, travels down the middle of the freeway (perhaps to remind you of the horrible traffic jams that you are missing by taking the train).  I usually take the Allen or Lake station to start my journey into Old Town Pasadena and beyond but this is my first time going to the Sierra Madre Villa station.  For me, I found it strange that you arrive at what looks like a typical parking structure.  You climb four flights of stairs to reach a walkway that goes across the freeway.  You then descend two to three flights of stairs to reach the train platform, located in the middle of the 210 freeway.  I still get this surreal feeling while waiting on the train platform.  It isn’t normal to be standing in the middle of a freeway.  Maybe someday I will get used to it.

Anyways, I took the Gold Line to the Memorial Park station in Old Town Pasadena.  I made my way down to Colorado and used the Yelp app on my phone to find a restaurant that I haven’t tried yet.  I also made sure it was a place that was reasonably priced and would have food that wouldn’t upset my stomach.  That is when I decided I wanted Chicken Noodle soup.  There are a lot of Noodle places in Pasadena but I decided to try The Noodle House in Colorado, just west of Fair Oaks.

Chicken Noodle Soup

The Noodle House is a quant little Asian noodle house with so many choices ranging from Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese noodle soups to noodle and rice dishes to the traditional Asian appetizers.  It was actually a tough decision to make.  If my stomach wasn’t in distress, I would have a field day trying all of the different items on the menu.  But I settled with the Chinese Chicken noodle soup, a side of edamame and a Sprite.

Edamame

Everything was amazing and the portions are huge.  I wound up taking enough home for another meal (I don’t mind spending $14 on a meal that turns into 2 meals).  You could definitely turn this into a family style meal if dining with friends.  For me, the soup is exactly what  I needed.  I would definitely recommend this restaurant to friends and I plan on returning when my stomach is in better shape.

Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Spirituality, Tourism, Travel, Universe

I’ve Got A Ticket To Ride: Personal Challenge, Day 23 (10.9.12)

Today started off great.  The weather cooled down and it finally felt like Fall.  I actually wore a sweatshirt this morning.  I was in a good mood despite my sore body.

But then the sun came out and my mood got worse (it must be opposite day).  I had a freak out about finances and rising gas prices.  Since my paycut this year (they changed my schedule so I can no longer make extra money doing supervision), I am struggling to keep up with the rising gas prices.  I do have to admit that I have spent more money than I planned on this personal challenge–most of the money spent on food and gas.  But over $5.00 a gallon for gas is ridiculous.  So I did what I always do when I get into panic mode, I went to see my therapist.

After a grounding 45 minute session, I had a new outlook on things, new solutions to my problems, and a smile on my face when I noticed that the clouds had returned.

And my perspective returned.  I am the queen of stretching a dollar.  So I had to look at what I have at my disposal.  I have the free Metro TAP card that I received, offering me the chance to try out the Metro for 5 consecutive days.  I first used it on Sunday and it is good until the 11th.  So I am going to use this pass as often as I can.  I tried to find a good route via the Metro to get to work but all routes point to an hour and a half commute.  Since I am not a morning person, that isn’t going to work for me.  (But I am going to try it out tomorrow to see if it is really possible).  So I will just use my car to go back and forth to work.  I can ride my bike down to the grocery store and use the Metro to go anywhere else.  A monthly pass on the Metro is $75–the current price of one tank of gas for my Cavalier.  This will eliminate the gas I waste driving to all my new adventures as well as the gas wasted trying to find parking spaces.  It will also eliminate the fees for parking.  But the best part, it will help me lose the weight I gained after my car accident.  Hopefully, I will work my way up to riding my bike to and from the different places as well.  (I really have to work on going uphill).

So tonight, I decided to give this new plan a try.  I parked my car in the driveway and headed to the closest bus stop.  I downloaded the Metro app on my phone and used that to track the local buses.  I hopped on the bus that took me to the Gold Line train station and I took the Gold Line to Old Town Pasadena (Memorial Park station).

Once again, I pulled out my phone and used my Pasadena app (and eventually Yelp) to find a place to eat.  I decided I was going to try this Vegan restaurant called Green Earth Vegan cuisine on Fair Oaks.  I am not a Vegan or a Vegetarian by any means but I have some friends who are hardcore vegetarians.  So I thought I would check out a place where I could possibly take them when they visit.

I made my way over to Fair Oaks and found Green Earth Vegan just south of Colorado on Fair Oaks.  I also discovered that it was closed.  Yep, it is closed on Tuesdays.  So I pulled out my phone and went to Yelp for assistance.  There are tons of restaurants on Old Town but they are too pricey for my taste.  So I filtered my search for a restaurant with a good rating and only one dollar sign.  It turns out that the number one choice is right next to Green Earth Vegan–El Toreo.  Mexican sounded good to me.

So I walked in and instantly I felt like I was walking into someone’s home for dinner.  Everyone in the restaurant seemed to know each other.  There was a group of guys at the first table watching a ball game, playing dominoes, and enjoying their tacos and cervezas.  I sat down in a booth, placed my drink order and started to browse through the menu.  I ordered the carnitas dinner and enjoyed my complementary chips and salsa.  I looked over at the TV and noticed that the baseball game playing just happened to feature my hometown team, the Detroit Tigers.  The Universe is so funny sometimes.

As for my meal, it was really good but it can’t beat the carnitas tacos at El Patron in Altadena.  But I would happily return to El Toreo to try some of the other items on their menu.

So with a very full belly, I made my way back to the Memorial Park Metro Station and hopped on the Gold Line train back to Allen.  But according to my Metro app, I had a 30 minute wait for the next bus.  I decided to just walk home, just like I did on Sunday.  It was a nice cool night and to my delight, as I approached my neighborhood, it started to sprinkle.  The drizzle felt nice and cool after the walk home.

Obviously, the travel time is longer than driving but overall, I found the bus and train experience to be so much more relaxing.  And it almost felt like the Universe was telling me that I made the right decision (about using the Metro) by giving me the gift rain in the last leg of my journey tonight.

As for my Metro adventure tomorrow, I am going to try out the suggested routes and see how if taking the Metro to and from work is a possibility.  Stay tuned.

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

Let’s Go Ride A Bike: Personal Challenge, Day 21 (10.7.12)

Today didn’t exactly start off the way I had planned.  I woke up, ready to participate in CicLAvia, an event that temporarily moves cars from the streets of Los Angeles.  The streets are open to bikers, pedestrians, roller skaters, skateboarders, and joggers.  I was planning on joining a new group of friends in a bike ride through the streets of downtown Los Angeles.  I was all ready to go when I noticed that both tires on my bike were underinflated.  I couldn’t go on a major bike ride with my flattened tires.  (I guess this is what happens when you don’t ride your bike for a while).

I took out my little hand pump and tried to pump up my tires.  It was taking forever and I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to meet up with my friends.  I called my California sister in a panic and she came over with her pro tire pump.  Once the tires were properly inflated (and she teased me about my helmet and bike), I was off.  This was my first real expedition on my Schwinn Legacy Cruiser that I received as a Christmas present from my parents.  Actually, this was the first time I was riding a bike on the streets of Los Angeles and taking the Gold Line train to Downtown.  It was a little scary.  There was a bike lane but often times there were cars parked in the bike lane and I had to merge into traffic, terrified I would be hit.  But the drivers were courteous and I managed to make it to the Metro Gold Line train in one piece.

I took the Metro Gold Line for the first time using my new Metro TAP pass.  A few months ago, I received a letter in the mail from Metro, asking me to try their new TAP pass.  I would get 5 free days on the Metro.  I agreed and received my TAP pass, a pass that has spent several months in a drawer until today.  My TAP pass was definitely put to use today.  I tapped in at the Gold Line, making my journey to Union Station.  Then I tapped into the Metro Red Line (warning: the elevators reek of urine) with MacArthur Park as my destination and meeting place.

When I first got off the train, I entered a land of bikers.  Every bike that you could imagine, including some that would be seen in places like Burning Man, streaked past.  I eventually found my friends at MacArthur Park, enjoying the food trucks.  There was entertainment, food trucks galore, and free food samples awaiting the CicLAvia participants.  Once I arrived, my earlier frustration with my bike became a faint memory.  I was so glad that I didn’t give up and let the flat tires ruin my day.  Just getting to the event had been an adventure and it was about to get better.

We started out on 7th Street, making our way to Grand Park, the next entertainment and food hub for the event.  It was cool how the streets were closed off to cars, except in cross streets.  We did have to stop at some intersections to allow cars through the area.  And at times, some of the fellow participants were dangerous in their lack of bike etiquette.  So many times, people would just stop right in front of us and block a large section of the street so they could talk with their friends.  Other times, you had people riding their bikes on the wrong side of the street, usually kids.  But my favorite had to be a woman on a pink cruiser bike riding with her cigarette sticking out, ready to burn anyone who brushed past her.  We were the unfortunate ones behind her having to breath in the smoke but we were too afraid of getting burned to pass her.  Thankfully she was distracted and went off to the right and we were able to ride quickly past her.  You definitely had to be a defensive biker, constantly keeping an eye on everything going on around you so you didn’t wind up kissing the pavement (which I did see happen a few times).

After Grand Park, we made our way to Chinatown.  At this point, it was after 3pm and the event was coming to a close.  We were all exhausted and decided after a quick visit to the Chinatown hub, we would hop onto the Gold Line.  We decided we would go out for a drink before heading off into our separate directions.  We took the Gold Line to Old Town Pasadena.  We chose The Green Tavern as our drink destination.  I had never been there before and to be honest, it is a little too . . . upscale for my taste.  I did finally get my imported German beer and a salad but it was too expensive for my taste.  But at least I can say I have been there.

Once we were done chatting and enjoying our drinks, we rode our bikes make to the Metro Gold Line station where we had to part ways.  I was three stops away from my destination.  When I arrived and made my way down to the street, I used what energy I had left to ride my bike back up a street I drive on a daily basis.  But when you are in a car, you don’t notice the street’s steep incline.  I didn’t get very far on the bike before I decided to just walk the last few miles home.

I don’t think I have ever been so happy before to see my back door.  I made my way into my kitchen and decided to look at my Bodymedia Fit results for the day.  I had burned 3,000 calories, took over 11,000 steps and had over 4 hours of activity.  My legs were sore, I got a little too much sun, and I was way too sweaty but I had a blast and I would definitely do this again.

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Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Spirituality, Tourism, Travel, Universe

Gallery of Inspiration: Personal Challenge, Day 17 (10.3.12)

Have you ever had one of those days where it becomes so clear that the Universe has plans for your life?  Well, I had one of those days.  I spent some time after work going through Pasadena View’s website and their page, 365 things to do in Pasadena page.  I printed out the listed, crossed off the places I had already visited and started to do some research on some of the events.  Then it just became a chain of events.  Google led me to Pasadena View’s website, the 365 Things to Do page led me to the Old Pasadena website and the Events page led me to a Gallery and Bookstore that I had never heard of before, Flower Pepper Gallery & Bookstore.  The name alone caught my attention.  But the events page mentioned that this particular gallery currently had a group show in exhibition entitled “The Color Blue.”  I clicked on the more info page and the show advertisement caught my eye.  I found the image intriguing and wanted to see more.  The title of the exhibit could mean so many different things (I started to think of Picaso’s Blue period) so the best way to satisfy my curiousity was to head over to Flower Pepper and check it out.

When I arrived in Old Town, I immediately found a paking spot right in front of the gallery (that never happens to me).  The Flower Pepper Gallery & Bookstore is literally right on the corner of Union and N. Arroyo Parkway.  When I first walked in, I was greeted by the extremely nice and courteous staff.  I probably could have stood there talking for hours, but I had only put 45 minutes worth of coins in the meter and of course the gallery would eventually have to close.

The art work in the exhibit, created by several local artists, truly fits the theme of “The Color Blue.”  The image titled “Baby Blue” by Dustin Myers was the first to catch my eye.  If I only had large quantities of money to spend on artwork, this would be the first added to my art collection.  And the image “The Comfort of Apathy” by Ryan Myers would be the perfect gift for my college roommate; this is an image that I think many from my generation would want hanging in their homes, reminding us of our own childhood (and Pee Wee Herman).

Every image in the exhibit had great depth and detail, leaving the true meanings of the work open for multiple interpretations.  The images are displayed on the Flower Pepper Gallery Bookstore website but I highly suggest heading down to Old Town Pasadena (if you are in the LA area) and checking them out in person.  They will be on display until October 19th and a new exhibit opens on the 20th (stop by and meet the artists opening night–contact the Gallery for more details).

This is definitely an art gallery that I would definitely want to check out every time they have a new exhibit.  Like I said, I think the Universe wanted me to go there today.  I made a new friend and hopefully a new partnership that will help me with one of my goals on my bucket list: to make a difference in the lives of others.  So stay tuned.  I think I will be writing more about the Flower Pepper in the future.