Tuesday, April 30, 2013

LA Countdown: UCLA Botanical Garden

My office here in LA is located on Wilshire Blvd just across from Westwood, where coworkers and I will often walk about during lunch. We rarely venture as far as UCLA (6 whole blocks! *gasp*), but beautiful weather recently inspired us to go in search of the botanical gardens at the edge of campus we'd heard mention of.

Took some dedicated googling, a significant bit of wandering, friendly questioning of a college student who RUDELY refused to help us as he was very late for class (hmph!) and a boatload of complaining (decided at the beginning of our adventure to wait to eat until we found the garden, by which time stomachs were growling up a storm, whoops!), but we eventually located the small park. Took a quick spin and secured a nice bench to enjoy lunch by the turtle pond. Nom nom.

End game: worth a return visit for further exploration (full stomach preferred). Though we didn't spend a huge amount of time in the park, it was a welcome break from the office to be completely surrounded by greenery for just a few moments. Even a brief immersion in nature can do wonders to refresh the mind and reset one's attitude. And jumping always lifts the spirits.

One, two, three...UP!!!

Monday, April 29, 2013


My darling coworker Peggy has outdone her regularly sweet self - an incredibly thoughtful moving gift! 
And it's so perfect, she is a fantastic gift giver. 

Love love love.

Are you on my mailing list?
If so, you can expect to receive one of these bad boys in the mail as soon as I move. 
If not, SEND ME YOUR ADDRESS!!  I am a letter writing fool.

And how genius is giving a map to somebody moving to a new city? 

I am so stoked.  This baby is going to help me get all around town without looking like a total goober.  Ok, I'll probably definitely look like a total goober at first, but whatever, at least I'll get to where I'm going properly.

Thanks Pegster!! Let's start planning your visit now!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

LA Countdown: Palm Springs

Whirlwind trip to Palm Springs this weekend to visit some friends who we don't get to see all that often; they live out in the desert during the bearable portion of the year. Up early on Saturday morning, quiet little breakfast at home, speed racer chore completion, then on the road by 10am! It's a quick, easy drive and rather pretty toward the end when you're winding through rocky desert mountains and scores of windmills. I always think they look like an army of alien soldiers solemnly marching toward battle.

Upon arrival, we said our hellos and then immediately set out for lunch at a fun spot - Kings Highway Diner & the Amigo Room at The Ace Hotel. Quirkily remodeled Denny's attached to a hip hip hipster hotel.  The food was fantastic and the gentleman were stoked on breakfast being served all day. Steak and eggs it is!

We spent a leisurely afternoon just sitting by the pool and talking. The temperature soared to 104, which we were assured was abnormal for this time of year, but it was quite pleasant in the shade. Some homes are just perfect for enjoying endless hours of conversation with good friends. This one pretty much sets the bar.

On our first visit several years ago, I discovered the most amazingly comfortable bed I would ever sleep in. So comfortable that a regular night's sleep felt like I'd slept for 17 hours straight. I've dreamed of that bed ever since, and was incredibly excited to visit it once again. Dave concurs and we are inspired - a king-size memory foam mattress will now be our first big purchase upon finding a permanent apartment after the move.  I'm pretty excited for the jump-on-the-bed-with-a-glass-of-wine test.

Sunday morning we set off for a short hike, early enough so the heat wasn't blistering just yet, but still significantly warmer than anything I'm used to (a black t-shirt probably wasn't the smartest choice I could have made).

Managed to survive, however -
it was a nice, short trail with pretty views of the city below and we were back in the comfort of air-conditioning before heatstroke could claim me.

Sun got my nose a bit, though. Boo.

24 hours later we were back on the road headed west! Even though we were gone for only a nano-second, it was rejuvenating to get out of the city and away from our packing project for a chunk of time. 

Two weeks!

We leave exactly two weeks from today.  TWO weeks.  14 days.  336 hours.  Yipes.

Nervous, excited, impatient, delighted, frantic, grateful, eager, overwhelmed SO MANY FEELINGS!!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

LA Countdown: Westwood Memorial Park

Yes, visiting a cemetery makes for a bit of an odd lunch break (much less a blog post), but I'd heard about this hidden spot and had been wanted to try to find it - apparently, tucked down in between the highrise buildings on the Wilshire Corridor, is a modest but immaculately maintained garden cemetery, where some of Old Hollywood's brightest stars have been laid to rest.  So I enlisted the help of an adventurous colleague and we set out to find it. Faintly macabre? Perhaps. But I was hoping for serene and happened to find just that.

The park street address is just a few blocks from my office, but we arrived and found...nothing. Well, lots of things, to be fair, but certainly no cemetery; library, parking lot, CVS, parking structure...we walked up and down the entire block several times. Nada. Finally, a random kid on the street noticed our confused tap dance and asked if we were looking for the cemetery. Why yes! How did you know? "People always look confused when they are searching for the cemetery." *whoops* So much for inconspicuous. Anyway, he kindly pointed us in the right direction and it was strange to find we were practically on top of the place - after making your way down an alley, between a skyscraper apartment complex and a busy parking structure driveway (which I never would have found this on my own) you suddenly find yourself at the entrance of a small but very lush park, more aesthetically pleasing than any other cemetery I've ever seen.

It's a beautiful little spot with quite a few recognizable names (full list here). A majority of the gravestones had flowers and there were several tourists wandering about, but for the most part it was quite empty.  Undoubtedly, most people come to pay homage to the late Marilyn Monroe.  I was expecting a bustle, if not a crowd, around her tomb, but it was perfectly free from commotion. After her death, Joe DiMaggio arranged for fresh flowers to be delivered to Marilyn's crypt twice a week for the next 20 years - this was actually something Marilyn had asked him to do on their wedding day should she pass before him, just as William Powell had done for Jean Harlowe after her tragic death (end research nerd rant). Both incredibly romantic that he followed through and achingly sad that he had the opportunity to do so. 

Engravings on the headstones and crypt markers range from nostalgic and heartfelt to hysterical. "More Than Love" decorates the stone for Natalie Wood (came thisclose to crying in the middle if the day, but managed to contain my sobs), along with an abundance of flowers, letters, coins, personal tokens left behind. Jack Lemmon gets in a last laugh with a simple "Jack Lemmon in." Though I can't claim to be a big fan, top prize goes to Rodney Dangerfield - no dates and the plaque reads only "There goes the neighborhood."


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

LA Countdown: Getty Villa

Though frequent visitors of the Getty Museum, we had never been to the famed Getty Villa in Malibu. Multiple people have raved about it, so it was definitely a top item on our checklist before moving. Tickets are free (my kind of museum!), though time-specific reservations are required for entrance and there's a parking fee. Got on the list for a Saturday morning at 10am, the first available time slot of the weekend (gotta get going on that checklist!). Lucked out with weather, it was sunny and gorgeous early on, which was delightful for the short drive up the coast. The entrance to the museum is exactly one mile north of Sunset Blvd, very well marked and easy to turn into as long as you are traveling north - there is no left turn permitted if you're heading south, which seems both dangerous and inconvenient. Anyway, my nerves were unfounded as we located the museum quite quickly, confirmed our reservation at the front gate and drove right in, no line since it was so early in the day. Super easy to park, then we wandered our way up the mountain. Stairs. More stairs. Be prepared for stairs.

Where's Waldo?

The museum is set back into the mountain above the beach, it's really quite a spectacular setting. The architecture is just as interesting as the regular Getty, though on a much smaller, more intricate scale. Or perhaps it just seems smaller since it's private, tight and tucked away. The beauty of this place, to me, was in the seclusion. Rather than looking down over the expanse of LA from high above, here you are completely isolated from it. I think that's what is so enjoyable, being whisked away to a seemingly foreign place; people love knowing about hidden gems, and there are hundreds of nooks and crannies here within to be explored, as well as the entire place being sort of hidden. The surroundings definitely lend themselves to an air of discovery and intrigue, even on a sunny Saturday morning.

The entrance to the main building is at the base of a large amphitheater. I imagine evening plays in the summertime would be quite lovely to attend. There's a quiet café on the uppermost level, stellar coffee and an ocean view. It was rather empty the day we were there and very peaceful. Absolutely zero cell phone service, which can be a blessing, but good to know beforehand.

Summoning Sophocles.

The art is primarily Greek (it is a historical villa, after all) and statue heavy (ba dum da!). If you're a fan of dark and moody painting, you'll prefer the hilltop Getty. This spot is undeniably gorgeous, though. I spent much of my wandering humming Hercules tunes to myself and was very proud whenever I recognized a name from long ago mythology class (oh yes THAT'S who he battled to rescue Megara from Hades!).

It's all Greek to me!

Beautiful tile installations, elaborate gardens, numerous fountains, multiple lookout points.
The Getty Villa is all about the view.


DVC marks the spot.

Portrait of the artist.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Sunny spot

Breakfast this morning at this happy little nook in the living room.

I really will miss this apartment.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Die Mutti besucht

We've been in dire need of a kickstart on the packing project and la madre provided just that this weekend. She battled a tire blowout on the highway and insane LA traffic to get here, and boy are we thankful she did. (Grateful the full flat of strawberries survived the trip as well.) More progress was made in the short 24 hour period she was here than has been made in the past week and a half.
Kitchen? Done.
Bedroom? Packed.
Jam-packed hall closet? Emptied.
Chaotic, crowded living room? Organized.

Even had time for a leisurely evening stroll to Joan's on Third.

My dad came by on Sunday (after hitting up the Santa Anita Race Track on Saturday for the annual UD Memorial Day at the Races, cha-ching!) to help us load up some treasured items which are being sent to Nipomo for safe keeping.  Our apartment feels relaxingly empty now, and we're actually able to make sense of the remaining packing.  Even managed to sell off several of our larger furniture items, including our mattress. (Stoked somebody actually came and picked it up, but seriously? Ew.)  May have been a bit of an early pull on the trigger, though - now we're sleeping on the air mattress for three weeks...

Guess who got a sweet summer haircut and garners adoration from strangers everywhere??
(Hint: it's the dog.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

LA Countdown: Ed's Coffee Shop

Ed's is my favorite Saturday morning breakfast spot. Breakfast is not usually my first choice when it comes to dining out, mainly because I dislike eggs and they make up the majority of restaurant breakfast menus. Despite this hesitation, I absolutely LOVE this gem and will wholeheartedly sing its praises to anyone who will listen. Wedged between fancy shops on a fancy block of a fancy street, this humble coffee shop doesn't try too hard to be something it's not. A tiny little hole in the wall diner with limited seating and rather restricted weekend hours (7am - 1pm Saturdays, closed Sundays), Ed's does basic breakfast to perfection - delicious morning standards at fantastic prices.

You can feel confident ordering anything here - the kitchen is small and the refrigerator tiny, so ingredients have to be brought in fresh every single morning. It may sound silly, but you can really taste the freshness and it is delightful, as is the waitstaff. Still family owned and operated, an ancient "Mrs. Ed" shows up to work every morning without fail, to claim her perch at the breakfast bar and oversee the happenings. Though she has long been unable to serve tables, it is readily apparent how happy it makes her simply to be there, schmoozing customers, admiring babies and inquiring about weekend plans. Plus, any woman who is cool with having a giant photo of her middle-aged self in a swimsuit on the wall is a baller in my book.

The mini breakfast burritos with home fries are unparalleled. I get them almost every time (melted cheese and a strip of bacon inside yummm). DVC is much more adventurous and has tried nearly everything on the menu. He highly recommends ordering the special, whatever it may be (but especially if it's corned beef hash). Snag a bar seat if you can or an outside table if one is available - there are only two out front, but a few more hiding in the side alley, where pups are also welcome!

Happy Caturday!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ready, Set, Relocate!

May 11 approaches at lightening speed.  Long list of tasks ahead, and every intention of getting started EARLY so it will be less daunting (does 3 weeks out even count still as early?). Once the move date was set in stone, we were able to actually proceed with some of our to-do list rather than just planning, planning, more planning, which has filled the past few weeks.  The past several days we've actually made some decent progress - boxes purchased, movers scheduled, walk-through with landlord requested, one piece of furniture pawned off on a friend - thank you to Hugo for picking it up!  We've donated a ton of stuff and will continue making donation runs this week (it's depressing to realize how much of your stuff is neither sell-able nor worth moving).  After making quite a big dent last tonight, we have a modest goal of one new box packed per day to keep us on track.  Fingers crossed!!

We'll be bubble wrapping for DAYS.

My parents are coming down to help us get organized this weekend, quick road trip out to Palm Springs to visit some old friends the following weekend, then I'm squeezing in one last trip up to Nipomo right before we leave - a baby shower, a brunch and two birthdays, oh my! Will be nice to see lots of people back home just before the move. Wish we could make it to my cousin's baby shower in Fresno as well, just not enough time to cram it all in. Busy enough cramming things into cardboard boxes!

I am an extremely creative packer.

In other very exciting news....