Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Brown-bag Tuesdays at the Gamble

September 16, 2010

Many Pasadenans probably drive by the Gamble House at least a couple of times a month and think to themselves, “I really should take the tour.” Now’s your chance: until the end of October, the venerable Arts & Crafts home is open on Tuesdays for picnic lunches and abbreviated tours. That means us common folk can pretend for just a little while that we actually reside in the gorgeous house and have lunch (bring your own) on the beautiful back patio or lawn. It’s all very casual, and a handful of shaded patio tables are available on a first-come basis.

I brought Mr. T (and his grandparents), but it’s not exactly geared toward the under-10 set. Lunch was a quiet affair so we quickly ate our tacos from La Estrella and strolled the grounds. The half-hour tours are $5 and start at 12:15 and 12:45. It’s a pleasant, low-key way to spend a lunch hour.

Lake Arrowhead day trip

May 27, 2010

It’s only 90 minutes from Pasadena, but Lake Arrowhead had until last weekend escaped my travel writer’s scope (perhaps because I’m not a skier). It was a nice (if chilly) change of scenery, but I can’t say I’m enthusiastically planning our next trip there. The center of town, Arrowhead Village, is a faux Swiss-chalet complex of chain stores and restaurants (McD’s, Bass, Izod, Thomas Kinkade), with a few mom-and-pop places thrown in. For the kids, there is Lollipop Park, a lakefront playground with a few fee-based rides and a tiny mini-golf course.

From there, you can take a short stroll along the lake and feed the ducks. We had a decent panini and soup (it was really cold!) at Razzbearies Bakery before heading out.

A worthwhile side trip with the kids is Wildhaven Ranch, a non-profit animal sanctuary that rescues and rehabilitates deer, bobcats, bears, and other animals that make their home around Arrowhead. They offer tours every Saturday at 1 p.m. The $10 per person price ($5 for kids) seemed a little steep, but it was a solid, informative hour and a half with lots of closeup animal interaction. We learned what to do if we ever encounter a bobcat (don’t look him in the eye), were practically nose-to-beak with three American eagles, an owl, and a hawk, and watched the three resident bears (Snicker, Little Bear, and Misha) frolic in bath tubs and relax on special carved chairs. It was a little too much talking for our 5-year-old’s taste, but the older kids in the audience (6-10) seemed interested.

The most remarkable part of the trip was the drive in — breathtaking views of the pine-studded mountains and southern California basin. You can also still see the devasting damage of the 2003 wildfires that swept through here: shriveled and gray trees, completely denuded of leaves, cover entire hillsides like skeleton gravestones. Foundations of houses that burned down are visible from the road, though you will also see many new builds — proof that most residents think that life in Lake Arrowhead is worth the risks.

Fried avocadoes and tractor rides

September 25, 2008

It’s the county fair, L.A. style. Lots of sunshine and fried foods, plus Jessica Simpson on the stage. We had fun just wandering around, looking at the oversized farm animals, eating barbecue, and checking out landscaping and green-home displays. Jack loved the miniature John Deere tractors, though he still doesn’t seem to get the concept of pedaling. The best time to go with kids is right when it opens at 10; by the time we left at 3, the place was packed and it would have been hard to let him run free.

Disneyland Day Trip

September 15, 2008

It really is the Happiest Place on Earth in early September. Most kids are back in school and you can practically walk on most of the rides without waiting. Jack’s getting bossier and more opinionated now about where we go. He wanted to go on the “boat ride” (Storybookland), Casey Jr., and Peter Pan when we first got there, in that order. We also hit Autopia (a very bumpy ride, with him at the wheel) and Buzz Lightyear, then zoomed over to California Adventure to try out Toy Story Mania, the park’s newest ride. That was hands down his favorite – it’s interactive so he could try to knock down ducks and other targets by pulling a string attached to our car.

I got him a pair of Mickey ears and he insisted on wearing them everywhere for the next few days, around the house, to bed, at Trader Joe’s. All in all, an A-plus trip.

Car-less with a kid in Santa Barbara

August 25, 2008

Dolphins, cool sea breezes, Julia Child-blessed tacos, and no car keys to misplace. Those were a few of the highlights of our 3-day jaunt to Santa Barbara this month. I thought Jack’s best memory would be the ride on the 2nd level of the Pacific Surfliner, but he seemed to delight in everything. Not having a car turned out to be easier than I thought. We stayed at the Fess Parker Doubletree, which is directly across the street from the beach and a half-mile from the action of State Street. Whenever we wanted to go into town, we walked or took the 25 cent trolley that runs up and down Cabrillo Blvd. Our one splurge was renting a stroller for $45 from the Santa Barbara Baby Co. (they deliver), which turned out to be a great idea.

Here are some highlights from our child-centric weekend:

–Visited the Santa Barbara Zoo, a small but adequate zoo a block from Fess Parker. There’s a small train ride for the kids that’s an extra $2 or so.

–Stopped by Kid Zone, an old-fashioned playground (think lots of wood) near State Street. It was packed but a nice change from the usual plastic offerings.

–Ate on the patio at Super-Rica Taqueria, which was well worth the 20-30 minute wait. Best pozole I’ve ever had, plus handmade tortillas that are made to order. Jack ate every crumb of his chicken and cheese taco, then demanded some of our pork adobado and guacamole. Fun fact: Julia Child used to eat here when she lived in SB.

–Took a small boat called Lil’ Toot from the pier through the harbor. They let the kids take a turn steering for a few minutes. It’s a short ride, but good for small children. Cost: $4 adults, $1 kids.

–Had brunch on the beach at the East Beach Grill. Service was lousy (it was Sun. morning though), but the blueberry pancakes and oatmeal were better than average.

Tips for the train: Buy tickets at least 3 days early and you’ll be able to get a AAA discount. We intended to leave from Union Station, then found out you can park for free for 72 hours at Glendale station (which is closer to us anyway), so we just caught the train there. The only catch is you’ll have fewer seating choices (we ended up sitting across from the bathroom). Also, bring LOTS of snacks. There’s a cafe but the selection is mediocre.

Ferry to Balboa

August 19, 2008

For once, Jack spent the day talking about boats instead of trucks. We drove to Newport Beach and took the small ferry over to Balboa Island. It was much easier than I thought it would be, though karma was definitely on our side. The long freeway (605 to 405) drive was practically traffic-free and we lucked upon a parking spot within a block of the ferry. The ferry is a sweet step back in time amid the condos and boutiques of Newport Beach (think “The O.C.”). We waited less than 10 minutes, hopped on with a handful of humans and 3 cars, and paid our $1 to the 2-person crew. It took no more than 6 minutes to cross the channel, but Jack loved it. There were lots of other boats sailing by us and we even saw a few seals bobbing about.

From the dock, you can walk to the pier and the beach, which is a good (though crowded) stretch of sand with nary a power plant or airport in sight.

Tip: The Ruby Tuesday’s at the end of the pier has rooftop seating with stellar ocean views. It was $10 very well spent.

Summer Sounds

July 25, 2008

A rite of passage for all L.A. moms of 3-5 year-olds is attending the annual Summer Sounds program at the Hollywood Bowl. It’s akin (I’d guess) to going to the White House Easter Egg Roll if you live in D.C.  Each week or 2 in July and August, a specific type of music is showcased in a concert, then paired with a related art project. This week’s focus was Zimbabwe, and the show (at least the part we saw) was awesome spectacle of drums, dancing, and giant marimbas (like xylophones). A definite A. The art segment (for which you buy tickets separately) was disappointing, with projects that aren’t much different from the kind you find in preschools. It also could have something to do with the fact that Jack isn’t all that interested in crafts and was happy to let me glue beads on a piece of cardboard while he munched on a Clif bar. The highlight for him was by far getting to talk in the microphone about his creation. He told the lead person that he made it all by himself and was going to hang it on the wall of his room. 

TIPS: If you only have time for one program, choose the music one. If you do both music and art, try to go to the 10 am concert, followed by the art project. If you choose the 11:15 concert, you end up waiting a good half hour between events. By the time the music started Jack (who slept a measly 8 hours last night) was good and tired and ready to go home.

COST: $6 per person for the concert, $4 (kid only) for the craft.

The Grove for eastsiders

July 11, 2008

I really wanted to hate Americana at Brand, a new outdoor mall in Glendale created by the same guy who built the Grove on Fairfax. But the truth is, it’s a pleasant, easy way to spend a morning. The $3 and up parking fee annoyed me at first, but the free perks make up for it. We rode the glass elevators to the roof and looked out over the city, followed the trolley tracks to nowhere, and watched the twice-hourly dancing fountain show. There’s a small playground, but Jack got bored with that fast. The whole place is more compact than I thought and must be elbow to elbow on weekends, but I’d definitely spend another morning here, if only to ride the trolley (for Jack) and buy cream puffs from Beard Papa (me). I’ll also bring a camera next time!

Dinosaurs!

June 23, 2008

Jack & I, along with 8 trillion LA school students, visited the Natural History Museum a couple of weeks ago. The buses lined up outside could have filled a football stadium. My pre-mom self would have turned around and gone home or at least to a Starbucks to wait it out. But I had talked up the dinosaur museum to Jack that morning, in part to get him put his clothes on without a fight. So we had to go.

He didn’t mind all the kids at all. And we found one sanctuary – the Discover Center in the basement, where groups have to have a reservation and regular paying folks can sashay right in. So we spent a good hour there looking at fossils, snakes, spiders, and turtles, and reading books about fossils, snakes, spiders, and turtles. We didn’t even try to see the Dinosaur show since the entryway to it was packed. But we did take a quick tour of the “salt marsh” and the “rain forest”, which were pretty cool.

What did Jack talk most about after our visit? The turtle eating lettuce, and the wagons and stagecoaches on display in the California history section. Wheels still trump giant prehistoric creatures for this kid.

Fire Chief Jack

May 28, 2008

Fire Service Day in Los Angeles = free balloons, free hot dogs, unlimited access to fire engines and ambulances, and one elated 3-year-old boy.