Tag Archives: California

Venice,Mama Hongs, family & friends – la la land!



img_0782I have wandered around the pretty residential backstreets of Venice as a tourist many a time, but never been inside one of the pretty homes — until today. We had a lovely lunch at my cousin’s gorgeous new house, a modern gem of poured concrete and glass with big airy rooms, landscaped gardens with succulents, a tiled hot tub, a cool fire pit and  a fruitful Meyer lemon tree. We walked along the narrow lanes  between rows of small and not-so-small homes admiring the variety of architecture and colorful dr Seuss-ian vegetation. Four year old Lucy rode her scooter down the lanes and around a little circle surrounding a tall thick palm tree. She jumped around on a trampoline in the front img_0789yard of a pretty bungalow (a sign kindly welcomes little kids).

img_0778Dinner was excellent Vietnamese (bun with grilled shrimp and pork at Mama Hongs in downtown Burbank with my friend Susan from San Francisco and her adorable boys (yes 20-something boys can be adorable… especially if you have known them since they were babes) who live here.img_0801

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Stough canyon, H2O poke – Burbank 

img_0396My brother and I hiked up a mountainside above Burbank in a recreational area called Stough canyon on a cool sunny morning. I kept stopping to catch the view ( and my breath). Glorious slopes blanketed in dense bright green foliage (after days of rain, which fortunately I missed).

In the distant valley, like a faraway oz, rises the  skyscrapers of downtown LA. A little nature center at the trail entrance has some displays including real snakes that kids might enjoy. La la land!

Lunch was at H2O poke and fish grill, a new place on the main drag in bustling down Burbank (note to self: travel story?)img_0764img_0767

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Huntington gardens, Nickelodean Building (The Loud House!) and Armenian chicken- Burbank and near

img_0735Loved my maiden voyage to the Huntington Collections and Gardens in San Marino near Pasadena, a spectacularly situated series of landscaped gardens (Japanese, Chinese, children’s, Australian….) and galleries (my favorite was an exhibit of early American folk art).

img_0739 img_0745My sister-in-law Heather (named here for her bemusement) and I drifted through one lovely setting after another, catching up, enjoying the greenery, flowers, huge trees, even the dramatic white-grey clouds over the mountains off in the distance. We had a light delicious bite of scallion pancakes and mushroom-stuffed spring roles by the reflecting pool outside in the Chinese garden and enjoyed the excellent gift shop (where I discovered that a Nashville painter Vicki Sawyer, whose whimsical bird portraits  I bought several years ago at an east Nashville gallery, has become a brand- I bought napkins, coasters and cards with her birds on them!)

Of course the best sight of the day was my four-year-old niece who knocked on the door of my guest house in lovely Burbank in the morning. img_0759Other highlights include seeing my brother and his fun new digs at the new Nickelodeon building. (He writes for the hit kids show “The Loud House”) and dinner from Zankou zof takeout chicken, hummus, tabbouli, rice with my cousin Scott!img_0762

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When next in…Big Sur

My brother’s one-minute review from a recent trip to Big Sur!

so we did our trip —

over all it was great. Deetjen was a highlight. We really loved it and want to go back and stay there. We had breakfast, which was amazing. The cabins are so cool and rustic. H. definitely fell in love.
We didn’t love Monterey, but maybe because we didn’t like our hotel much (a depressing Best Western). The town seemed touristy, overpriced and nothing that special. We went through Pacific Grove and Carmel briefly and both seemed great – next time we’d stay there. Beach at Pacific Grove is super beautiful.
Big Sur drive was incredible!! But so long.
Went for a hike in Julia Pfeiffer Burns. It was nice, but not that memorable.
Point Lobos, on the other hand, was amazing. I would definitely go back there.

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Daisy Mint Thai, cherry froyo, south Pasadena

image imageAnother day, another place to explore. This time Pasadena, which I last visited in sabout 1986. lUcy, mike, Dirck and I met scott tuft for Sunday lunch at Daisy Mint, a very good Thai restaurant and then went to Cherry, for frozen yoghurt.

 

We walked around the expensive shops in the pretty downtown, drove past some gorgeous Spanish style mansions and around the pretty little bungalows and interesting indie shops of south Pasadena (a place I could almost seeing us living in) and then thru the grentrifiying highland park back to Burbank (where we started the day with a steep hike up the hills for a,spectacular view from on high of the city.

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Lucky llama, Carpenteria beach, Lilly’s tacos/the mission/Mcconnells ice cream: Santa Barbara 

     The last time I passed through Santa Barbara was in 1983 in a torrential downpour and it was all a blur. I vaguely remember Spanish arcades and palm trees. This time I got a much better look and it was lovely.

 We started about 15 miles south in the laid back beach town of Carpenteria, where as per my brothers recommendation, we stopped for coffee and an Acai bowl at a mellow coffee place called the lucky llama. Then onto the beach where we walked in the fog along what looked and felt like soft pristine sand until we returned to the car and realized our feet were coated with sticky tar that we first thought was from pine needles but later realized must be from the oil spill last year. I made the mistake of trying to scrape it off with my fingers which then got coated. pIty the poor wildlife that had to deal with this sticky stuff.

 bUt on we went to lovely Santa Barbara where the Spanish style architecture , the giant palm trees, the bourganvilla was enchanting. Reminded me at times of Santa Fe, Naples (Florida) and even the plaza in Kansas City. We had good humble tacos at Lilly’s taqueria and explore the shops nearby, then we toured the pretty old stone mission (shades of Peru and Tucson), walked to the end of the wharf for a dazzling view back across the water past the Spanish white buildings and the mountains beyond., drove around some of the neighborhoods with pretty old craftsman and mission style houses, ate some ice cream at McConnell’s (since 1949) and drove back to la via orange and lemon gloves and strawberry stands to Burbank.

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cOmmisary, Toro sushi and poke house, larchmont Blvd., salt and straw –an LA day!

  wHat a great day in LA. perfect weather, blue sky, sunshine, greenery, pink cherry blossoms, red and purple bourganvilla, makes my Midwestern winter weary soul explode with joy. Best of all is my adorable niece Lucy, who we got lots of quality time with at the start and end of the day.

iN between, we had coffee at the Commissary which really does make Burbank feel like an industry town. Outside on the patio, everyone except us was talking show is. Some guys were discussing the script for a horror film, a woman was talking about her commercials. Later we met mike for excellent poke, my favorite Hawaiian food which is now in LA as well as NYC. We ate outside at Toro sushi and poke house on Burbank’s main drag.

  nExt stop, larchmont Blvd where we went to a great walk through an elegant neighborhood full of Spanish and Tudor mansions, all beautifully landscapes, many now with drought resistant plantings. We stopped at salt and straw for some artisanal ice cream (skipping the too weird flavored with ingredients like salt, avocado and figs, for some delicious “chocolate gooey brownie” and bought some sanders at the village shoe store near by.

love being here and being with my family here!

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Hopmonk Tavern/Sebastopol; Shunzi./San Raphael; Bacco/Noe Valley S.F.

Always hard to leave San Francisco on a sunny day, especially after walking The dog with Susan in Golden Gate Park, shimmering as green as Ireland after yesterday’s mist and rain. But I will be back. and maybe someday to live here. Susan drove me north yesterday through Marin to Sonoma County to check out the relatively rural, affordable town of Sebastopol (relative to San Fran) but the beauty of the area was obscured by mist and rain. What little I saw made me wonder what kind of life and community we could build in a place with both a young counter culture vibe and an older casual California moneyed chic vibe, since we belong to neither tribe. We did have the best grilled artichoke I

Susan, parking spot park, Outer Sunset

Susan, parking spot park, Outer Sunset

have ever tasted (and there is a lot to be said for that) at the rustic-cozy Hopmonk Tavern. It was marinated in vinegar, oil and seasoned, cut in half and grilled then served with a grilled but still juicy lemon and a creamy white dressing. Susan’s tomato soup was full of flavor and had little cream, another plus. My small pulled pork sliders on little homemade Tasting buns was good. We stopped en route in San Rafael at Shunzi, a favorite clothing store of Susan’s, full of comfortable California chic clothes (I am still working though the guilt of the money I spent there.) In San Francisco, we had pasta and sautéed Brussels sprouts at Bacco in Noe valley, which was good but having spent two weeks recently in Italy, I am a tough customer. We walked along the main drag in Noe valley, windowshopping, the tiny shops closed but lighted, peddling an often idiosyncratic selection of wares, or as Susan observed, a hyper curated collection of overpriced stuff. Other things of note: – Urban Putt, a very inventive indoor miniature golf course in the Mission. – See’s lollipops, sold near gates 82 and 68 at the San Francisco airport.IMG_0472

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Susan, Mifune Japanese, Outer Sunset, the Mission, Golden Gate Park: San Francisco

Exploring the Outer Sunset neighborhood

Exploring the Outer Sunset neighborhood

Tartine

Tartine

Easy one hour flight from San Diego to San Francisco. (not so easy a flight for D whose flight to Denver was cancelled due to mechanical problems so he got home 5 hours late via Houston). so far I haven’t seen much of this city I adore because I am really hear to see my old friend Susan and we have a lot to catch up on since we last saw each other three years ago.

We did return to Mifune, a good place in Japantown, for udon noodles and tempura. And we have walked her dog several times through Golden Gate Park down the back, which never gets old. We also walked down to the Asian shops on Irving (we are in The Sunset neighborhood) to pursue the little ceramic bowls Decorated with whimsical drawings of animals that I always restock when here.

We also explored the Outer Sunset neighborhood around 46th street and Judah,which has a smattering of little shops and coffee houses including Trouble Coffee, General Store and Carville Annex.

The next day we wandered around the ever-evolving Mission neighborhood, visiting some old favorites like Tartine Bakery, for fabulous bread, quiche and grilled sandwiches and new spots like the gorgeous Heath Ceramics show room, Charles Chocolates, the Local Mission Market  – all park of this “small batch” hyper local “maker market” high design aesthetic that’s so big here and beyond. We also stopped for overpriced but incredibly flavorful and creamy ice cream (malted milk ball) at Humphry Slocombe. We also visited a super cool inside put put course in the Mission. Dinner was at a favorite from my last visit – Burma Superstar in the Richmond.

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