Tag Archives: california

SoCal Mini Break: Venice Beach Boardwalk

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Venice Beach Boardwalk Skate Park

I can’t make a stop in LA without a pass through Venice.  When I was a Los Angeles resident, Venice was always a great place to be for the day, with all its color and life!

Luckily, this time, it was only a short walk away from my bungalow in Marina Del Rey to the Venice Boardwalk…

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Close enough to take in the art…

 

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And the people…

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Do a little shopping…

 

 

Take in the local flavor…

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And catch some major skill at the skatepark…

Processed with Snapseed.Processed with Snapseed.Processed with Snapseed. Processed with VSCO with acg presetBut, as I have experienced time and again in My California, I can never get enough…

photo-oct-12-1-34-56-pm…so, I will continue to return.

SoCal Mini Break: Beach Time

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SoCal Mini Break: Beach Time

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Sunset surfers in Marina Del Rey

There comes a moment in every native Californian’s life when getting to a beach is of great rejuvenating import.  Having relocated to the midwest several years ago, times arise when being on a coast line, if only for a few days, is desperately essential.

Just by luck, at the moment of my urgent need to get sand in my luggage,  I happened to be traveling through LAX on a trip.  So, at long last, I found myself in my old stomping ground of Marina del Rey for a precious few days to soak up all the beach time possible.

Marina del Rey, always delivers –  with it’s long pier…

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Steady, straight coast line…

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Beautiful sunsets…

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Surfers…

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Wall art..

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Plus, just a short jaunt away, is Santa Monica Beach and boardwalk…

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And after three days, I was not even close to having my fill…

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So, I will be back, soon … probably with that sand still in my luggage.

Next time: Venice Beach Boardwalk!

For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here

 

My California

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On a recent trip home to Northern California, I decided make the attempt to capture my California – the California where I spent my childhood living and my adult hood visiting – in pictures.

The California of my childhood – in the shadow of Mount Umunhum,

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On the edge of the Santa Teresa Hills,

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With the currently shrinking Calero dam, just beyond,

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Where my suburban neighborhood,

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Nestled right alongside the farms and ranches of rural Nor Cal,

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A place where the sky is sometimes pink,

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and even during a drought or dry spell is always beautiful,

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My California. The place that will always be home.

 

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Weekend Wedding in Monterey, California

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I was vastly appreciative to my niece for choosing to have her wedding in Monterey, California.

Mr. and Mrs.!

Mr. and Mrs!

While I doubt my wishes were high on her list in decision making, I was nonetheless both thrilled to able to share this day with her and enjoy such a picturesque place. While this was not my first time in Monterey (Mini Break in Monterey), it was my first time in the fall and with my family.  We were blessed with the perfect Monterey weekend.

Cannery Row

Cannery Row The Aquarium, Cannery Row

The Murals

Beaches and murals, Monterey, ca

The Foggy Mornings

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Being Tourists

Dippin dots on Cannery Row, Monterey

Cannery row, Monterey, california

Never pass up a weekend in Seaside Northern Californa!

FOR MORE SWEET SPOT TRAVELS: Sweet Spot travels

 

50 Is the New 30 – A Napa Excursion

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Happy Birthday to us!

Happy Birthday to us!

50 is the new 30. I have decided this to be a fact – partly because this is the year I turn 50…actually that is the only reason. However, after a one night stay in Napa, California (yes even at 50 one can still do a “quickie”) with 5 truly inspiring lifelong friends (all of whom occupy my same 50-years-of-age rickety boat), I am more convinced than ever 50 is clearly the new 30.

These women, my fellow Napa excursionists, are accomplished Doctors, Educators, Designers, Writers, Managers,  Business Owners, Moms and Wives – perfect in their imperfections, beautiful both inside and out. And no matter how many years go by without seeing each other, we seem to pick up right where we left off – as if REO Speedwagon had just been blasting on the car radio.

So what do 6 such women ringing in their 50th year do? Meet up in Napa, CA, of course. There is no better place for such a milestone – except for possibly one of those spas where you magically emerge with a face as shiny and wrinkle free as a bowling ball, lips that look like something on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float and perky boobs. But no, I think Napa is definitely the place.

It is beautiful,

Napa, CaliforniaThere is lots of wine.

Napa, California

Now, we just need to get stomping.

Seriously, barrels of the stuff.

Like that little chain is actually going to stop anyone!

Like that little chain is seriously going to stop anyone!

And chocolate is always welcome (hint: it is especially advantageous to have friends of supreme intelligence who know to pack chocolate and lots of it).

Grgich Hills Estate

Grgich Hills Estate

Speaking of packing, we didn’t get to be 50 without learning a thing or two about how to arrive prepared. Since I am the youngest of my group of 6 by at least a full 2 weeks (that’s right, I can retain my youthful status of 49 until almost the end of 2014), I decided to offer to carry everyone’s bags. That is until I saw how much was required for an overnight 6 girl stay in Napa – then I silently reneged (I might possibly have been thinking to myself something like let the old bats carry their own luggage, it’s good for the circulation).

And that is how you arrive prepared!

And that is how you arrive prepared!

And then it was off to the wine tasting, complete with a hired driver to keep us on schedule (and out of jail).

Caymus Vineyards

Caymus Vineyards

All in all, it was the perfect way to spit in the eye of welcome 50.

If I have learned anything in my 50 years it would be this – cherish the people who knew you when you had to wear a head gear to school, thought Leif Garret was cute and attended Jr. High instead of “Middle School”. When it is time to turn 50, they will have your back (and understand why you can’t stay awake past 11:00 pm).

Also (and clearly just as crucial a life lesson) always wear shades when being photographed in bright sunlight.

50 is the new 30 (only, with an earlier bedtime)

50 is the new 30 (only, with an earlier bedtime)

Next time, I follow the rabbit.

 

Big rabbit, hard to miss...

Big rabbit, hard to miss…

Live From the Polar Vortex

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polar vortex

Yesterday, I went to the bank.  Exciting, I know.  But, I made a crucial discovery in the process.  You see, as I dumped into the teller’s space my unfinished deposit items, I expressed apologies for my inability to perform the simplest of math required to complete the deposit slip.  “That’s ok” she generously replied, “It’s too cold to think”.  In the words of Pre-Teen, who immortalized the phrase in our family after discovering a London street we had inadvertently walked down late one night was the “gay party street”…

”That explains a lot!!!”.

Too cold to think!  Of course! Suddenly all was explainable.  It explained why I can’t seem to write a blog to save my life (which aside from my recent run-in with a barbed wire fence hasn’t really been necessary), why I have been driving in circles on country roads in the quest to deliver my sons to sporting events (because how else to explain that after 12 years, I still have not mastered country-style direction following), and why I can’t seem to put two words together or remember anyone’s name (cause, like, in no way could that be age or anything).

Honestly, the whole Polar Vortex thing is getting on my nerves.  Aside from the “too cold to think” phenomenon (which, seriously, is the last thing I need as my thinking abilities are challenged under the warmest of conditions), and the fact that I can’t leave the house without cursing at the wind like a crazy lady, and those weather-chicken school officials who keep making my kids stay home with me, stuck in the house being bored, instead of in school annoying the teachers, (don’t they know waiting at the bus stop in sub-zero weather builds character?),  there are the questions.

For example, my husband, asking me every single morning – like my uterus is somehow hard wired into the Doppler radar – “What is the weather forecast for today?” (um cold, freezing or excuse-me-while-I-scream-in-agony-cold?).  Or from friends and family smugly living in my native California – like they don’t recall that anything under 60 degrees qualifies as “cold” in Cali (yeah, you know who you are) – “Is it cold there?”  (um, yeah, cold, freezing, and excuse-me-while-I-scream-in-agony cold).  Or from Teen and Pre-Teen who I suspect secretly just want me out of the way so they can watch a cagillioneth episode of Family Guy “Why are you watching Dexter…again!?” – (because the Miami setting makes me feel warm and I have a soft spot for a cute sociopath with heart, if you must know).

I can at least appreciate the question from friends who, like me once basked in the glory of a sunshine state but have now unwittingly found themselves relocated in a polar vortex – “Are you surviving the cold”  (since I wear gloves to grocery shop, I would have to say “No”).

One thing is for certain.  My cat, Lulubelle, doesn’t seem to have trouble thinking in the cold and has in fact figured out a way to survive and keep warm, which makes her the smartest member of our family.

You don't mind a few, or say hundreds of white hairs on your clean laundry, right?

You don’t mind a few, or say hundreds of white hairs on your clean laundry, right?

Yep, things are that bleak.

So for now,

I am coming to you live from the Polar Vortex…

But, only barely.

Fall and the Drive-By Photo Op

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Being a native of California, I scientifically lack the gene required to flourish in a cold climate – cold being, anything under 60 degrees.  Seriously, it’s true. There is a grant-able study in there somewhere, I am sure of it!

Therefore, having chosen to live in the Midwest (and by choose, I mean going all pioneer woman and falling in love with a country boy – True Love By Way of Kitty Dance and a Bucking Horse), I have had to rely on instincts from my ancient ancestors, ugly shoes and, at times, the cat’s pooper scooper (A California Girl’s Rural Winter Survival Guide) in order to survive.

However, there is a bright spot to living in a place where all vegetation turns into standing firewood for months on end each year.  Just prior to becoming winter skeletons, the trees and bushes turn, if only for a brief time, into the most amazing parade of yellows, oranges and reds.  It is truly beautiful.

This fall season has been particularly stunning where I live.  So of course, I spent the whole of the Fall season running around trying to get “the perfect photo” to share with Sweet Spot visitors.

Some of the most amazing displays are along the main highway I traverse on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, I quickly discovered, on my 60+ stretch of frequented highway, there is virtually no place to safely pull over for Vista Views and Photo Ops.  I suppose this is to keep the foreigners (i.e. people from Kansas) from stopping until well across our state.   Anyway, since I did not desire my epitaph to read “died in pursuit of a pretty picture of trees” and the “drive-by” photo always looked exactly like what it was, a crazy lady trying to drive and take pictures on a highspeed interstate highway at the same time,

Crazy Lady Photo Drive-By

Crazy Lady Highway Photo Drive-By

I ditched the effort.

Thus, I resorted to skulking around back roads, byways and onto peoples’ private property – which can be precarious in a place where the guns outnumber the residents 2 to 1 – to take photos.

In the end, the one Utopian Fall Photo I was so desperately in search of eluded me. But maybe this collection of my favorite photos (and one stolen from a friend), make their own kind of perfection:

Fall in the MidwestFall in the MidwestFall in MidwestFall in MidwestPhoto by: Nollie Moore

Fall in MIdwestFall in Midwest

If you want to see the most beautiful fall display, I guess you will have to someday come and drive our Midwest highway yourself…just don’t plan on stopping.

Mini-Break in Monterey, CA

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Old Fisherman's Wharf - Monterey, CA

Old Fisherman’s Wharf – Monterey, CA

Actually, the mini-break was my trip out to Northern California – a familial inspired excursion (which is a fancy way of saying, I went to visit my parents).  The Monterey portion of the trip was more like a one day jaunt when a happy circumstance arose to meet up with friends in the coastal city.   So, I guess that makes my trip to Monterey, CA more of a “micro-break” (a totally made up concept, which makes me some sort of trend setter, in my own mind anyway).

So, what does one do with friends and only one day, or rather several hours to spend in Monterey, California?  Duh, go where the food is, of course!  More particularly, Old Fisherman’s Wharf for the clam chowder!

Why is that guy’s floating head in my photo?

And in case you are one of those people who does not do any research on restaurants in advance (like me), not to worry!  For, as we walked down the wharf every restaurant offered us a sample of their version of clam chowder, daring us to consider each the best on the wharf – which made me feel a bit like Gordon Ramsay,  with cuter shoes but not near as coiffed.  Finally we settled on a restaurant mostly because they clearly had the best chowder that day, but also so I could raz my husband, who shares the moniker (ok, he is making me clarify,  “only the Jim part”), about it later.

Hey you people, get your mitts off of my samples!

Hey you people, get your mitts off of my samples!

With the remaining time, I took a walk over to the neighboring pier on San Carlos Beach.

Monterey, California

Once to the end of the pier, I found massive amounts of Sea Lions just “chillin’” in the sun. Stuffed as I was with sample clam chowder, bowl of clam chowder, bread, calamari and the most amazing oyster crackers ever, I was vastly tempted to join them…they, however, did not seem entirely receptive to the idea.

Not the most hospitable group of mammals.

Not the most hospitable group of mammals…unless you are big, brown and have flippers.

In conclusion, I came away with four pertinent pieces of information from my Micro-Break in Monterey, CA.

1. Sea Lions are major posers.

Poser #1

Posers #1

Poser #2

Poser #2

2.  If you are planning on leaving your boat or yacht in the harbor, beware!  Although the Sea Lions are vastly fastidious when it comes to leaving their rock lounge in order to shall we say, answer the call of nature,  when they get onto your boat, they are not overly concerned about it – giving a whole new perspective on “swabbing the deck” (Thank you conservationist guy who had nothing better to do than answer my stupid questions).

3. If you go to Monterey and don’t at least sample the clam chowder you should be drawn and quartered…or at least made to swab those decks.

Old Fisherman's Wharf.  Monterey, California

Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Monterey, California

4.  I will be back.

For more travel posts:  Sweet Spot Travels

A Trip More (or Less) Ordinary

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A trip is a trip.  From where I stand, any trip is a good one.  The minute I board a plane, there is the excitement of unknown adventures and happenings ahead. The longer I go between trips, the more I begin to feel like a bird with it’s wings clipped – or, just really bored.

But the truth is, not all trips are created equally (although in the interest of hurt feelings, we try not to talk about it – we like our trips to feel good about themselves).  Where some trips are about adventure, unique experiences, seeing new places, or lounging on beaches – others are about spending time with family.

Over our spring break last week, I grabbed my kids, jumped a plane (well, walked onto it) and headed out on one of  those spending time with family types of trips – fun and enjoyable, but in a more sedate, ordinary kind of way.

For example, every morning, we made coffee,

Desperation is the mother of invention.

Desperation is the mother of invention.

We regularly walked to the store and hijacked stranded shopping carts,

Look out, here comes the "po po".

Look out, here comes the “po po”.

Played hours  and hours of backyard wiffle baseball – that is until all our wiffle balls had been lost to the bushes, trees and neighboring backyards.

Anyone for lemon ball?

Anyone for lemon ball?

Watched Manuel the cable guy climb a power line pole to fix the internet connection, (I swear he is up there, somewhere…I think).

Can you see any of the wiffle balls from up there?

Hey Manuel, can you see any of our wiffle balls from up there?

Went to a museum.  But before we could enter, we had to be briefed by Obi “Sean”…

May the force be... whatever.

May the force be with Billy Dee Williams?

…be reminded that Billy Dee Williams was in fact in a Star Wars movie…

I must have blinked while watching Star Wars.

I must have blinked during that scene in Star Wars.

…and battle the dark force before we could proceed into the museum.

I think I can take the guy behind him...

I think I can take the short guy…

Oh and by the way, once we did actually make it into the museum, we sensed there was something  amiss…

I sense a problem.

I suspect conspiracy.

So, aside from picking up some new one liners from the movie “The Amazing Burt Wonderstone” like

“He put a puppy in my pants!”

“Your skin makes me cry” 

“He has more urine in him than blood…he should be dead.”

And the guy who passed out on our airplane and had to be escorted off by police and paramedics.

Paramedic: “Sir, have you done any drugs today.”

Passed out guy:  “umm, nooooo.”

Plane erupts in laughter.

This is probably what the guy looked like the night before boarding the plane.

This is probably what the guy looked like the night before boarding our plane.

It was just an ordinary trip… more or less.

For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here!

Today’s Best Moment: Lake Tahoe, CA – Take 2

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Lake Tahoe, CA – Take 2, December 2011

Last Day Snowboarding: Today, more snow, less people, and still there is that lake.

For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here!

Today’s Best Moment: Santa Cruz, CA

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Sunset in Santa Cruz,  California –  Surfers grabbing the last waves of the day. December, 2011.

Mid run to the water entrance, a surfer stopped to catch a moment of the sunset. We caught it with him.

For more Sweet Spot Travels: Go Here!