Posted in Life, Personal Challenge, Relationships

Single’s Awareness Day: Personal Challenge, 2-14-13

Today is known as Single’s Awareness Day or what I like to call “Make Single People Feel Like Crap” Day.  Since I am single and have been single on every Valentine’s Day since I was born, I have certain traditions for celebrating this day.  But since I am striving to try something new every day, I discovered something at Target yesterday that has enhanced my celebration.  I discovered Red Velvet Pop Tarts!!!!!DSC_0229

So now, I am sitting here and starting a new tradition.  I am eating my Red Velvet Pop Tarts while watching the 1967 film, The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.  Following this glorious holiday film, I will watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho followed with a Ghost Adventures Marathon.  Since I highly doubt I will find a man who would enjoy my February 14th traditions as much as I do, I think this is going to be my Single’s Awareness Day celebration tradition for many years to come.

Happy “Make Single People Feel Like Crap” Day!!!

Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California

My Personal Challenge: The First 90 Days

Ninety days ago, I set out on a quest to try something new everyday.  Personally, I was in a rut and wanted to do something where I could live my life.  I have spent way too much time sitting around and waiting for people, often finding myself just sitting at home, alone and depressed.  So I decided to challenge myself to try something new every day for a year, so far it has been amazing.

In just the first 90 days, I have discovered so many hidden gems here in southern California and I have also made a lot of new friends along the way.  Yes, it is hard trying to do something EVERY DAY.  There are days where I am so exhausted from work that I just want to take a nap.  But I force myself to at least try a new meal.

The harder part has been finding the time to post my trials for the day.  I have had issues with the WordPress phone app and with the end of the semester, getting ready for finals, I haven’t had much time to write.  I have to use the upcoming break as a chance to catch-up.

Another challenge has been the cost of this experiment.  There are so many things that I would love to try but I am a teacher who lives paycheck to paycheck.  I try to do the free activities or the more frugal dining options but let’s face it, this is Los Angeles.  Everything costs money here.  The event or activity may be free but the gas, metro or parking is not.  So I think this is really the biggest challenge of all, doing things on my budget.

But no matter the challenges that arise, I will push forward and continue trying something new every day.  Here is what I have done thus far (and my reviews):

Day 1: The Cobb Estate (aka Enchanted Forest) in Altadena, CA: I didn’t get any haunted vibes but it has a great history and I can’t wait to go back and explore the hiking trails.

Day 2: Suicide Bridge (Colorado Street Bridge) in Pasadena, CA: The scariest part of crossing the bridge is the people not obeying the speed limit.  It is absolutely beautiful and a great place to take pictures.

Day 3: Under the Suicide Bridge (Colorado Street Bridge) in Pasadena, CA: This is where all the lost souls are said to wander.  During the day it is fine but it is a bit spooky after dark.

Day 4: Old LA Zoo (Griffith Park) in Los Angeles, CA: This is the old abandoned zoo with a nice hiking trail that winds through it.  This would be a great place for a photo shoot.

Day 5: Devil’s Gate Dam in Pasadena, CA: This hike did actually freak me out.  I do want to go back but I won’t go alone.  Very interesting history.

Day 6: Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, CA: Beautiful cemetery and a great place to see the final resting place of many celebrities.  It is free to enter but remember to stop at the gift shop for a map and go before 2pm if you want entrance into the mausoleums.

Day 7: Hollywood Tower of Terror Ride at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, CA: DCA is completely redone and actually an interesting place to visit now.  The Tower of Terror wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, definitely a thrill ride but the drops are really not that bad.  Just don’t go on a full stomach or bladder.

Day 8: Manhattan Beach, CA: Out of all the beaches near LAX, this is the best.  There is a nice little downtown shopping and dining area.  It is clean and not as crowded as the more popular tourist trap beaches like Santa Monica and Venice.

Day 9: JPL Hiking Trails in Pasadena, CA: These are the hiking trails that go behind JPL.  There are a lot of hikers and bike riders so you do have to be aware of those around you but overall it was an easy hike.  I didn’t go too far, I had fun playing down by the brook.  I definitely want to go back and explore more of the trails.

Day 10: Sahaja Meditation in San Gabriel, CA: These are free meditation classes offered throughout the valley.  It was a very interesting and relaxing class.  I do want to go back or try another location.

Day 11: Griffith Park Horse Rental in Los Angeles, CA: For $25, you get to ride a horse for an hour through Griffith Park.  I had a blast doing this and definitely want to go again (my friends were actually upset I didn’t ask them for this one).

Day 12: San Gabriel Square in San Gabriel, CA: This was supposed to be this amazing Chinatown type place but I found it disappointing and I wouldn’t recommend it.  Just go to Chinatown instead.

Day 12: Habit Burger in Pasadena, CA: Finally tried this So Cal burger chain and it is really good.  You will never want McDonald’s, Burger King, or even In n’ Out after having a Habit Burger.

Day 13: Pasadena Roving Archers in Pasadena, CA: At the Lower Arroyo Seco park, they offer free Archery classes.  I took my friend’s son so I didn’t get the chance to take a class but it is on my list of things to do again.

Day 13: The Coffee Gallery in Altadena, CA: This is a cute little coffee place by my house.  The coffee is really good and it is a great haven for artists.

Day 14: Pasadena Museum of History in Pasadena, CA: There are two main exhibit halls focusing on local history.  If you are new to the area, this is a great place to go to find out the amazing history of Pasadena.

Day 14: Pie n’ Burger in Pasadena, CA: Excellent little diner with good burgers and some of the best pies around.  Just remember that it is a cash only establishment.

Day 15: Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada Flintridge and Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena: These are my two favorite local bookstores.  I will never again go back to a Barnes and Noble.

Day 15: Altadena Library in Altadena, CA: This isn’t a quiet library, this is a free after school daycare program and romper room.  I will never go back.

Day 16: Sierre Madre Library in Sierre Madre, CA: Another small library but a million times quieter than the Altadena Library.  The kids area is all the way in the back, in a separate room.  You could actually get some work done here.

Day 17: Flower Pepper Gallery & Bookstore in Pasadena, CA: My new all-time favorite art gallery.  They support local artists and the people who work there are amazing (and have turned into great friends).  A must see gallery in Pasadena.

Day 18: The Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena, CA: I went there for a comedy benefit and it was hilarious (Yay, Christopher Titus).  The tickets are reasonable but they do get you with the 2 drink minimum.  But if you have good comics performing it is well worth it.  I do plan on going back with friends.

Day 19: Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA: I love the exhibits at the Norton Simon, especially the Asian artifacts but be warned that free Fridays attracts the unsavory and the annoying.  If you want to go to enjoy the art in a peaceful atmosphere, don’t go on the free Friday events.

Day 20: Montrose Oktoberfest in Montrose, CA: This isn’t even worth discussing, just avoid this all together.  This is not a true Oktoberfest–more like a Budweiserfest.

Day 21: CicLAvia in Los Angeles, CA: I went to this event with new friends and we had a blast.  It can be dangerous at times with some of the bikers not knowing bike etiquette but overall it was a very cool experience and I can’t wait to go again.

Day 22: Acupuncture Cupping with Dawna Ara in Pasadena, CA: Aside from Dawna being the best acupuncturist, the cupping experience was very relaxing.  It felt like a deep tissue massage.  You do have these weird bruises on your back for days but I would do it again if needed.

Day 23: The Metro Gold Line: I take this metro line a lot now.  It easily gets you from Pasadena to downtown LA or Union Station without the stress of dealing with LA traffic or parking.

Day 23: El Toreo Restaurant in Old Town Pasadena: This is a great little Mexican restaurant on Fair Oaks, just south of Colorado.  The prices are very reasonable and you get tons of food.  It may look like a dive but the food is good.

Day 24: Taking the Metro buses to work: Horrific experience, don’t ever do it.  The train system is reliable, the bus system is not.

Day 24: Saladish in Pasadena, CA: A healthy salad and wrap restaurant.  The food is really good and the staff is very helpful.

Day 24: Green Earth Vegan Restaurant in Pasadena, CA: I am not a Vegan but some of my friends have lots of food allergies so this was a great choice for us.  Everything we tried was really good.  I do have to say that I was surprised at how good the food is.

Day 25: Hook Burger in Pasadena: My favorite burger place thus far–I’m hooked.

Day 26: Pasadena Art Weekend Art Night in Pasadena, CA: Fun event for all ages, just plan out your agenda ahead of time or you will spend most of your time on the trams.  And go to the Food truck areas.

Day 27: Pasadena Art Weekend Art of Food in Pasadena, CA: You get the opportunity to sample food from local restaurants in the South Lake district.  Go with an appetite.

Day 28: Disneyland at Night in Anaheim, CA: Disneyland at night is a completely different experience than the park during the day.  There are light shows, fireworks, and my favorite, the Mad T Party in Disney California Adventure.

Day 29: The Hat in Pasadena, CA: Considering I got sick from my Pastrami Dip, I wouldn’t recommend this restaurant but others seem to think it was because of my food choice.  My friend swears by the Pastrami Burger but I don’t think I want to risk going back.  The fries were good though.

Day 30: The Noodle House in Pasadena, CA: This is an Asian Fusion noodle house that provides the perfect meal on a cold day.

Day 31: Father Nature’s Lavash Wraps in Pasadena, CA: My former roommate recommended this place and I am glad she did.  It looks like a dive and you might walk right past it but don’t judge a book by its cover.  The food is amazing (Mediterranean/Armenian) and reasonably priced.

Day 32: Back to El Toreo in Pasadena, CA: With German friends in town for a visit and wanting good Mexican food, I took them to El Toreo.  I chose a different item on the menu from my first visit and my friends all tried different options.  We were all very satisfied with our meals (and enjoyed our leftovers the next day as well).

Day 33: Back to Hook Burger in Pasadena, CA: My California sister had never been so we went together.  I ordered a different burger but we both agreed that these are the best burgers in town.

Day 34: Pok-a-Dots in Arcadia, CA: Pok-a-Dots is a great costume shop I discovered when attempting to go to a different restaurant that was closed for a private event.  I will definitely go back the next time I am in need of a costume or accessories.

Day 34: Bento Ya in Pasadena, CA: This is a Japanese food drive-in.  From the outer appearance (and Motown music) you would think it serves American diner food but instead it offers sushi and other Japanese food dishes.  It wasn’t bad.  It is definitely worth going there just to have the drive-in Japanese food experience.

Day 35: Russell’s Diner in Pasadena, CA: Diner food and prices in a classy atmosphere.  The Meatloaf and mashed potatoes was the best comfort food for my birthday.

Day 35: Old Town Haunt in Pasadena, CA: During the month of October, the Old Town Haunt happens in the basement of a building on the corner of Raymond and Colorado.  This is one of the best Halloween mazes that I have been to.

Day 35: Lucky Baldwin’s in Pasadena, CA: A great little pub to stop at for drinks with your friends or to catch a sporting event.  They had really good Oktoberfest beer.

Day 36: Blaze Pizza in Pasadena, CA: They can customize your pizza for all dietary needs (including gluten-free) and the pizza is good.

Day 37: Corner Bakery Cafe in Pasadena, CA: It is a lot like Panera Bread.  It was good but a little overpriced, in my opinion.

Day 38: Academy Cinema in Pasadena, CA: This is the kind of theater where movies go after the main theaters run them and before they go to DVD.  The movies are cheap and the atmosphere is dirty and ghetto.  I would never go back.

Day 39: Volunteering at the Old Town Haunt in Pasadena, CA: This is the best volunteer job ever!!

Day 40: Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, CA: I went on the free Friday admission day.  The museum is very interesting but under construction (many empty rooms).  I loved all of the Asian artifacts but I wouldn’t want to pay admission.  It is worth checking out, just go on the free Fridays.

Day 41: House of Basturma in Altadena, CA: Some of the best Armenian food I have ever had–aside from the food from my students’ parents.

Day 42: Golden Deli in Temple City, CA: The best Pho (pronounce Fa) in town.

Day 43: Burn Movie Premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, CA: First of all, Burn is an amazing film and everyone should see it.  But since it is no longer playing in the area, if you can see any film (or get the chance to go to a premiere) at the Egyptian Theater, do it.  It is a wonderful old theater.  They don’t make theaters like this any longer.

Day 44: Book Signing at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA: At the Vroman’s location on Colorado, on the second floor, they have authors speak and sign books.  It is a nice intimate setting where you will get the chance to chat with some of your favorite authors.  Just know that you have to purchase the book at Vroman’s in order to get it signed.

Day 45: Dog Haus in Pasadena, CA: They offer large, specialty hot dogs.  There is no need for a side since the hot dog is massive.  They are good but they can’t compare to our Detroit Coney Dogs.

Day 46: Guisados Mexican Restaurant in Los Angeles, CA: Way too spicy for me.  My mouth was on fire and I had the mild food.  But if you like Mexican and you like spicy, you would love this place.

Day 46: Mikawaya in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, CA: The Moshi ice cream is awesome–and a perfect way to cool down your mouth after spicy Mexican food.

Day 47: Pasadena Museum of California Art in Pasadena, CA: I am so glad that I went on a free Friday because I would never pay to go into this museum.  I found the garage to be a better exhibit but the show at the time was centered around furniture.  I felt like I was in an IKEA showroom.  But perhaps with a better show, it might be worth another trip.

Day 48: Dia De Los Muertes on Olvera Street in Los Angeles, CA: If you want to really celebrate Dia De Los Muertes, Olvera Street is the place to be.  There were tons of people but it was worth braving the crowds for the opportunity to experience the festival.

Day 49: Cal Tech Turtle Ponds in Pasadena, CA: On the Cal Tech campus, this is a nice relaxing spot for writing or meditating.

Day 49: Bobby’s Place in Pasadena, CA: A great little food stand.  The burger combo was really good.  It wasn’t Hook Burger but out of the Burger stands that I have been to, it was one of the best.  But make sure you ask for the burger without Thousand Island dressing.  I don’t know why but here in California they put Thousand Island dressing on their burgers instead of ketchup and mustard.

Day 50: Pasadena Central Library in Pasadena, CA: The library to rule all libraries.  Now this is a real library and there is no need to go to the smaller branches.  This is a great place for reading, studying or writing.  I am in love with this place.

Day 51: Zina’s Healthy Corner in La Canada Flintridge, CA: I had the Falafel wrap.  It was OK but Father Nature’s is much better.

Day 52: Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA: My favorite museum and gardens wrapped into one.  I went for the new Civil War exhibit.  This is a great place to go for art, science, culture, books, revolving exhibits, and the amazing gardens.  This is a must see in Southern California.

Day 53: El Molino Food Truck Thursdays in Pasadena, CA: In front of the Pasadena Playhouse on El Molino, they offer Food Truck Thursdays (seasonal event).  There are numerous food truck options and changes each week.  I liked the Flatiron Steak truck and can’t wait to go back to try the Grilled Cheese Truck.  Just know that most of the Food Trucks are cash only.

Day 54: China Express in Pasadena, CA: A great little chinese food take out stand.  The food wasn’t bad and I would definitely go back.

Day 55: Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA: I am glad that I went as a school chaperone and did not have to pay for my ticket.  This is the kind of amusement park where you go once to say you went but you don’t go back.  And don’t stay after dark.  Many of the rides were not working or areas were being remodeled so there were no lights.  We were walking into people at night.  And the admission is cheap but the food is expensive.  I won’t be going back.

Day 56: Eaton Canyon Nature Center Hike in Altadena, CA: It is a nice hike from the Eaton Canyon Nature Center to the bridge by the Mt. Wilson Toll Road and back.  If you want to hike the Canyon, the nature center is the best place to get all the info you need for a safe hike.

Day 57: South Pasadena’s Buster’s Coffee in Pasadena, CA: There are a bunch of cute shops (and the Halloween movie house) on Mission Street in Pasadena.  I stopped in Buster’s Coffee but opted for a root beer float.  This is a great little hang out spot located right next to the train tracks.  I would recommend stopping by if you are in the area.

Day 58: Pasadena Hastings Library in Pasadena, CA: This is a small library branch with one main room.  It was nice and quiet until the kids started to arrive.  There is free wi-fi and the coolest thing I have seen at a library, a DVD rental box (just like Red Box).

Day 59: La Canada Flintridge Library in La Canada Flintridge: This is larger than the Pasadena Hastings library but it is just one large room.  Once the kids and teenagers started to arrive, the noise increased.  Also, you need a library card with a pin in order to get on the internet.

Day 60: Mako Bowl in Pasadena, CA: They have really good rice bowls and miso soup.  This is better than the other rice bowl places that I have tried in the area.

Day 61: Zankou Chicken in Burbank, CA: Really good Mediterranean Chicken meals.  The humus was excellent but the pickled items on the salad were pretty gross.

Day 61: AMC 16 in Burbank, CA: This theater reminded me why I go to the Arc Light cinemas with the assigned seating and rules against texting during a movie.  I would never want to see a movie here again.

Day 62: Catalina Island: The Island is beautiful, for what I saw.  But don’t ever go with a work trip.  I have to plan a trip back so I can really experience Catalina.

Day 63: South Pasadena Library in Pasadena, CA: This library tries to separate into sections like a kids section, teenager section, group projects section and a quiet section.  But my biggest gripe is the quiet section is right next to the check out counter so it isn’t very quiet at all.  The teenagers have their own room.  They should switch the quiet area to the closed off room and let the teenagers sit next to the counter.  Free wi-fi, though.

Day 64: Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, CA: I wanted to go here for Wicked Lit but I couldn’t afford it.  It is free to wander around but I got there when the Mausoleum was closed so I didn’t get to visit with Superman (aka George Reeves).  This is a beautiful cemetery with old crypts.  There is a lot of history that can be learned here.  I plan on going back.

Day 64: Fair Oaks Burger in Altadena, CA: The burgers are not bad.  I forgot to ask about the dressing–why ruin a burger with Thousand Island dressing?  I’m sure it would have been a better burger but the dressing ruined it for me.  I will have to go back and try it without the dressing.

Day 65: Jim’s Burgers in Pasadena, CA: This is a burger stand on the corner of Lincoln and Woodbury.  It is cash only.  Again, with the thousand island on the burger.  I am not a fan.  Hook Burgers are still the best in the area.

Day 66: Redwood Bar & Grill Open Mic Comedy Night in Los Angeles, CA: The bar is a dive but their grilled cheese is really good.  I went to see my friend perform and that is the only reason why I would ever go to this bar and grill.  I had a weird experience when I first got there so I would never go alone.

Day 67: Union Station Homeless Shelter Thanksgiving Dinner: To volunteer, you have to sign up in advance.  If you are like me and you forget to sign up, you can stop by and drop off the food that they need for the dinner.  They have shopping lists on their website.

Day 68: Pasadena One Colorado Tree Lighting in Pasadena, CA: The area is way too small and there were too many people so I didn’t even get to see the ceremony.  They played it on a jumbo tron but again, there were way too many people for the space.  The events on Holly Street were better than the actual tree lighting ceremony.

Day 69: Small Business Saturday: I went shopping in Montrose, supporting several local businesses while completely my Christmas shopping.

Day 70: Descanso Gardens Art in La Canada Flintridge, CA: Descanso Gardens is another one of my sanctuaries.  They have been making a lot of improvements, including an art gallery and new urban garden areas up by the Boddy house.  The exhibits change out but they are always linked to the Gardens.  This is a great place to get away, hike, take in some art, and enjoy the fresh air.

Day 71: Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles, CA: This ceremony put the One Colorado lighting ceremony to shame.  There was a wide open space, a middle school choir and a beautifully decorated tree.  I would go to this ceremony again next year.

Day 72: Teri-Yaki in Pasadena, CA: The food was OK.  I have had better.  So I wouldn’t put this on my “recommended” list.

Day 73: King Taco in Pasadena, CA: I always see lines so I wanted to see what the hype was all about.  I wasn’t impressed.  The side of sour cream is the same price as a taco.  I think I will stick to El Patron and El Toreo.  I won’t be going back and wouldn’t recommend King Taco to anyone.

Day 74: Moffett’s Family Restaurant and Pot Pies in Arcadia, CA: The Best Chicken Pot Pies in town!!  This is the place to go for old-fashioned, down home country cooking.  The best comfort food ever!

Day 75: Tonny’s Restaurant in Pasadena, CA: This is a decent Mexican restaurant.  I ordered take-out and if they had not forgotten my salad, I might consider going back.  But again, El Patron and El Toreo are better.

Day 76: LA County Arboretum Forces of Nature art exhibit in Arcadia, CA: The LA Arboretum on its own is a great place to visit and explore.  But they often have shows and exhibits to check out.  This is another one of my sanctuaries and I love checking out their new shows.

Day 77: The Gamble House in Pasadena, CA: Used as Doc Brown’s house in Back to Future, this historical landmark will give insight to what it was like living in Pasadena in the early 1900s.  The house is amazing and the 1 hour tour is very informative.  I want to live in this house!!!

Day 78: Palm REstaurant in Los Angeles, CA: I went here are a guest for a company dinner.  The food was really good, a little slow but that could have to do with our large group.  I imagine it is really expensive and I probably will only go here if someone else is picking up the tab.

Day 79: The LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, CA: This was a working event for me but I would recommend it for anyone who loves cars or is interested in learning more about the cars that will be on the market soon.

Day 80: Haiku Kitchen in Pasadena, CA: Another rice bowl type of place.  Most of the stuff on the menu was spicy so I had to pick something mild and I wasn’t impressed.  Mako Bowl is so much better and it is just around the corner.

Day 81: Lee’s Hoagie House in Pasadena, CA: So much better than Subway or Quiznos!!!!

Day 82: Umami Burger in Pasadena, CA: This just opened in Pasadena.  It is pricey but the burgers are so flavorful.  And do your research before going so you can order things from their “secret menu” like the truffle cheese fries.

Day 82: Pasadena Antique Mall at Paseo Colorado in Pasadena, CA: This place is massive and amazing.  Give yourself lots of time to explore.  They have everything, including movie & TV memorabilia.

Day 83: Flower Pepper Gallery and Bookstore Show Opening in Pasadena, CA: This was my first art show opening and it won’t be my last.  There was food, drinks and a DJ.  You get to mingle with the artists and other members of the local art community.

Day 83: 50/50 Burger in Pasadena, CA: This restaurant just opened so we stopped by to check it out.  There were too many options for the build your own burger so we opted for the different Mac n Cheese concoctions.  I had the sun-dried tomato and basil mac n cheese and it was very tasty.  We plan on going back for 12.21.12 for the Armageddon burger.

Day 84: Lower Arroyo Seco Park Hike in Pasadena, CA: This is a very easy and serene walk that will take you right up to the Rose Bowl and beyond.  Lots of people walking, jogging, or practicing archery at the park.  Just know that there is limited parking so it is better to park on the street and walk down to the park.

Day 84: Vietnam Kitchen in Arcadia, CA: Another noodle house but the Pho is much better at the Golden Deli.

Day 85: Legends Classic Diner in Glendora, CA: On Route 66, you can step back in time to a 50s diner.  The atmosphere is worth the trip.  The food is just OK (the fries are good) but the atmosphere is why I would recommend this place to others.

Day 86: M Local Mediterranean Grill in Pasadena, CA: The food is OK but the House of Basturma is so much better.

Day 87: Super Burger in Altadena, CA: Yet another Burger stand but this one is better than Jim’s Burger and Fair Oaks Burger.  I ordered the basic cheeseburger combo, without the thousand island dressing.  Hook Burger is better but this is a decent burger stand.

Day 88: Saddleranch Steakhouse at Universal Citywalk: It is a little pricey for the day-to-day but good for a special occasion.  The steak was amazing and our server took good care of us.  I would recommend this to anyone planning on spending time at Universal.

Day 89: Catal Restaurant at Downtown Disney: Not my usual dining experience but the food was good.  It is a little pricey but would be good for a special occasion.

Day 90: Legoland in Carlsbad, CA: I took my nephew here and we had a blast.  There is so much to see and do.  I loved how they had places in the ride cue for the kids to play with legos.  It wasn’t as crowded as Disneyland and the kids love it.  I can’t wait to take my nephew again.

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

Chillin’ With The Turtles at Caltech: Personal Challenge, Day 49 (11.4.12)

I am currently participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge (National Novel Writing Month).  This morning, they had planned a gathering for the Los Angeles NaNoWriMos at a Library at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).  The only stipulation was you had to arrive between 10-10:30am.  With Daylight Savings ending, you would think that would be a piece of cake, getting up and getting out of the house before 10am.  Yeah, not for me.  I only woke up because I had a reminder of the event on the phone and it was vibrating on my nightstand.

I really did want to get out to a new place and get some writing done so I decided I would head out to Caltech anyways.  I read on the Pasadena Views website that there are some cool ponds to check out at Caltech—the Turtle and Lily Ponds.  So I figured I would bring my camera to get some photos as well as my little laptop to get some writing done.

First of all, the Caltech campus is beautiful.  It is so quiet and serene.  I parked on Wilson and immediately started taking pictures of the architecture.  I made my way over to the ponds and instantly fell in love.  I love turtles and there were turtles everywhere (I didn’t see any lily pads but I did see one really big bullfrog).  They were swimming in the water or sunbathing along the shores or on the rocks.  There are even some ducks hanging out right next to the turtles.  I went picture crazy.  The ponds are actually five-tiered ponds connected on a hillside via waterfalls.  There are benches throughout the park like area where you can see students reading, writing, or meditating.

It reminds me of sections of Descanso Gardens or the Arboretum when you can just absorb the sights and sounds of nature while you are in the middle of the big city.  We are just blocks away from Old Town Pasadena but you would never know it, sitting here listening to the running water and the occasional quacking duck.  On the weekend, there is free parking on the streets around campus.  I haven’t seen too many students lingering around so it makes for a great place to read and write (or meditate).

There are a few families with their children here, which would normally bother me, but the kids here are well behaved—unlike some that I have come across at the Gardens.  The parents are using the area to teach the kids about the turtles and the ducks.  There are even a group of kids that are on the hunt for tadpoles and bullfrogs—but without all the lily pads, there are actually harder to find.  Others are discussing the ecosystems and how everything in the pond works together (the Koi, the ducks, the turtles, the algae, etc).  Of course, this is the Caltech campus so it makes sense that this would be used as an educational space for families.

I would definitely come back here on the weekend to write.  There are no admission fees and fewer people in attendance than the gardens.  It is a beautiful campus, from the architecture to the ponds, offering lots of inspiration for the creative mind.

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

Dia De Los Muertos Celebration Pictures: Personal Challenge, Day 48 (11.3.12)

On Saturday, I took the Metro down to Union Station and headed over to the Dia De Los Muertos celebration on Olvera Street.  I have always been told by Los Angeles natives that Olvera is the place to be on The Day of the Dead and they were absolutely correct.  The elaborate tributes, the costumes, the make-up, the dancing, the music, the shopping and the food–it was phenomenal.

I am going to let the pictures that I took speak for me, explaining what it was like celebrating Dia De Los Muertos on Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles.

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.

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

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


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 Life, movies, Personal Challenge

Burn Movie Premiere: Personal Challenge, Day 43 (10.29.12)

Tonight was the LA Premiere of a film that is very near and dear to my heart.  The film was made by two of my friends and it is about my hometown of Detroit.  This film is called Burn: A Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit.

This is a documentary on the lives of the firefighters in Detroit.  It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will open your eyes to what is really going on in our own country in terms of budget cuts made by politicians and how those cuts affect the working class.  I cried several times throughout the film.  It also made me a little homesick–with everyone drinking Vernors and talking about going to eat at National Coney Island.

At the premiere, I had the chance to spend some time with the firefighters who are featured in the film.  They flew out to LA just to be there for the Grauman’s Egyptian Theater premiere.  We all reveled in what a small world it is.  One firefighter, “Doogie,” went to school in the same school district and graduated a year after me.  It turns out that we used to hang out at the same places and were probably there at the same time.  Another firefighter, Dave Miller, lives fairly close to my older brother.  After seeing this film, I feel like I know them, like they are family.  I received several hugs from Dave Parnell, a retired Detroit firefighter, that evening, just because I am a Detroit native and I support this film.

It opens this Friday in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Noho 7 in North Hollywood.  This film will change your lives and it may even just change the way you vote next Tuesday.  Check out the Burn website for more information, to see the movie trailer, or to find out if it is going to be playing in any theaters near you.