Monday, September 29, 2008

Free Museum Day

This past Saturday was Free Museum Day courtesy of Smithsonian. Kevin and I used this opportunity to visit two local museums for the price of one! The first stop of the day was The Pasadena Museum of California Art. What fun! They had a wonderful exhibit of plein air paintings of the California Missions - though only one etching of my favorite mission - San Juan Bautista (even, with my limited artistic ability, I drew a sketch of the bell tower!). They also had a photography exhibit of Greene and Greene architechture. The museum was nice, but a bit small. I'm glad it was free because the $7.00 per person admission is a bit steep in my opinion for such a small museum.

Next stop was the Norton Simon Museum. I love that place! If you've ever watched the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, you've seen the Norton Simon.

Recognize it? Anyway - if you ever have the chance to go, I highly recommend you take advantage of it! Especially if you're a fan of 19th Century art - Degas, van Gogh, Pissaro, Cezanne, etc.
I loved so many of the things we saw it would be very difficult to choose my favorite. I loved van Gogh's Mulberry Tree, and the Degas bronze casts among other things. However, if I were pressed to choose a favorite, this would be it. Both Kevin and I just fell in love with the colors. So much so, in fact, that we bought a print of it to take home. We need to have it framed and then we will hang it over the piano. It matches the colors in our home perfectly!

All in all it was a wonderful adventure. I can hardly wait until next year's Free Museum Day!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wii Fit, Me Not

After several unsuccessful attempts to purchase a Wii Fit, yesterday we finally had success! I looked through the Sunday ads and, lo and behold, the Toys'R'Us flyer listed the Wii Fit for sale. Kevin rushed out to buy it; there were exactly five to be sold...he was third in line. YAHOO!!

He brought home this precious cargo and got it all set up. We could hardly wait to try it! For those of you who are not familiar with Wii Fit, it's a type of exercise/fitness 'game' which involves standing on a small plastic balance board. Inside the board there is a small, militant drill seargent that, when you step on the darn thing, GROANS! Look, I know I need to lose weight, but that's going a bit far don't you think?! In addition to the audible groan, it does supply useful information about fitness and the importance of daily exercise. Both of us tried our hand at yoga. It's a blast! But don't be fooled - it's definitely exercise. I had sure-fire proof of that this morning when trying to get out of bed.

Suffice it to say that Kevin and I will both be giving this thing a good workout...and vice versa I'm afraid!

The end of an era...

Last night was the final game at Yankee Stadium; it is truly the end of an era. For the life of me, I can't figure out why the decision was made to tear down this historical landmark and build another stadium. Last summer, Kevin and I had both the pleasure and honor of attending a game at Yankee Stadium. We knew that this year would be the last and we had to see 'the house that Ruth built' before it was demolished. We're so thankful we went.

It strikes me that there is a lack of the sense of historical value for places and things. Not just Yankee Stadium, certainly, but many other things as well. For instance the great city of L.A. thought it perfectly acceptable to demolish the old Ambassador Hotel. You may remember's the site where Robert Kennedy was shot.

I realize that time marches on and things change, are we to impress upon future generations that there is historical value in places and things if we tear them all down? How are we to give them a sense of permanence if none exists? Did they melt down the Liberty Bell simply because it was cracked? Did they sink the Statue of Liberty when she needed repair? Of course not! Imagine if we based our keep/don't keep decisions solely on being in need of repair - nothing would be exempt! ...and nothing would be left.

Anyway -- all of this to say that there is a palpable sense of sadness and loss this morning.
...and I wish Derek Jeter had hit that final home run!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dodgers Win!

Last night was our final Dodger game of the season. What a way to go out! The Dodgers beat the (archenemy) Giants 10-7; Manny hit two home runs! Go blue!! Before the game, they celebrated Tommy Lasorda's 81st birthday and everyone sang to him -- how could they not win?

To make it even more of an adventure, Kevin and I decided to take the free Dodger Trolley from Union Station to the stadium. What fun! We took the Gold Line from Pasadena to Union Station. From Union Station, you pick up the FREE trolley and it takes you right to the stadium. It drops you off in back of the Centerfield Pavilion so, if you're in the 'cheap seats' (which we are!), it's a bit of a hoof up all of the steps, but still... Taking the train & shuttle to/from the stadium is definitely the way to go. An added bonus: round trip rail passage (total for both of us) = $5.00; parking at the stadium = $15.00; piece of mind not having to maneuver out of the stadium parking lot after a sold out Dodgers v Giants game = priceless!

Jazz at the Depot

Friday night we went to the Depot Jazz Series. This is the third or fourth year we've been going to the concerts. It's a wonderful way to start a weekend: fun venue - the Claremont train station (very cool!), great music - this weekend it was Swing4Sale, and a relaxed ambience - on-lookers of all ages picnicking on the lawn - all of the ingredients needed to kick-off a fun weekend!

Kevin, my mother-in-law, Vicky, and I all had a great time. The series runs for about a month. We don't usually make it to all of the concerts, but most of them. For the first concert, the weather is still generally pretty warm. In other words, we take jackets and blankets, but typically don't end up needing them. By the last concert of the series, we're fairly well bundled up! It's a fun way for me to signal 'fall is definitely here!'.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fun Fun Fun...All Summer Long

Last night was our season finale concert at the Hollywood Bowl. What a way to go! What better way to end your summer than watching Brian Wilson and his magnificent band sing all of your favorite Beach Boy tunes? It was perfect. Everyone had such a good time - laughing, singing, dancing. Wonderful atmosphere, great company, delicious food, and great music. What more could one ask? Fireworks? Yep, they had those, too. See, I told ya - perfect. We did, indeed, have fun, fun, fun all summer long.

(Photo by Elise Thompson for LAist)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pumpkin Centerpiece

With the cooler weather we've had this past week, I've definitely been in the mood for fall.

This morning I decided that it was time to do a little spruce-up around the house. Kevin and I went to Kirkland's and picked up a few candles and such. A few years ago we'd bought two sets of wall sconces at Kirkland's and a while back, one of them fell and broke. I've been checking back from time to time, but they've not had them again. Today we decided just to go ahead and get a new set of wall sconces and take the others down. Doing this required a bit of spackle and some paint touch-ups as well. By the time we finished, Kevin had touched up paint on the walls here and there, we'd hung the new wall sconces and found places in other rooms for the three we removed from the living room, done a bit of rearranging with the dining table and chairs, replaced candles and potpourri throughout the living room and I'd created a cute pumpkin centerpiece for the table. The whole spruce-up took about two hours total - including the trip to Kirkland's. Not bad! And definitely well worth it. Here's the centerpiece...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

If you're looking for health food, don't go to a burger joint...

Maybe it's just me, but it drives me crazy when people go to burger places (or any other restaurant that's clearly not a 'health food' restaurant) and try to make their food "healthy".

Tonight Kevin and I went to Chili's to grab a bite for dinner. We chose this particular restaurant because I wanted a burger and Kevin will, hands down, always order the chicken crispers. It's Chili's; we go in knowing full well that whatever we decide to order for dinner will probably not qualify as something your doctor would recommend for a healthy diet.

That said, we can hear the waiter talking to the couple in the booth behind us. They're obviously debating about what to order - understandable - Chili's has many taste-tempting choices. Finally I hear the waiter say 'you can order the black bean patty for any of the burgers listed on the menu.' Choices such as a triple bacon cheeseburger. Yep, that black bean patty is going to make that dish muuuuch healthier. If you want to make a healthy choice, order a salad.

I'm just sayin'.


In honor of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001:

"When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart..." — Frederick Buechner

We will never forget.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sixty Five Percent

That's where we currently stand on our savings goal for the house. It's not a huge gain from the last posting on this subject, but definitely progress. Especially when you consider I don't receive a paycheck over the summer and, (with the surprise of losing his job) Kevin has been looking for work since the end of June. We figure that progress in the right direction, no matter how small it may seem, is definitely a success!

Now that my paychecks have resumed and Kevin is (keep your fingers crossed!) on the verge of returning to the work force, we feel confident about reaching our savings goal by the end of the year. Quite an accomplishment considering the setbacks we've had here and there!


Being back at work means going back to routines. Whereas some people hate routines, I actually enjoy them. There is something very comforting about slipping back into a routine that you enjoy. For me, one of those routines is preparing meals. I just love it! I don't, however, enjoy it when I don't have things planned out and I'm rushing around at the last minute searching for ingredients I may or may not have on hand. That doesn't happen too often as I keep a pretty well stocked pantry and freezer, but it does happen from time to time.

This weekend I decided to make soup. We love soup! A hearty soup with crusty bread is one of our favorite meals. It's very cozy and satisfying. I had all of the ingredients on hand to make a big pot of vegetable beef barley soup. YUM! It's finished now and I've packed it away to have for dinner a bit later this week. I can hardly wait! Here's the recipe:

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, cut into coins
2 stalks of celery, chopped - including tops
1 pound beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
6 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
seasonings to taste
1 cup pearl barley
1 seared beef soup bone (optional)

In a stock pot over medium high heat, saute onions and carrots in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the onions begin to brown, add celery and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove veggie mixture to a bowl and set aside. Add beef to the pan and let it caramelize. In one corner of the pan, add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir beef to coat in flour mixture. Add seasoning to taste (I use Montreal steak seasoning). Slowly pour in beef broth; mix well. When mixture begins to bubble, add sauteed veggies back to the pan. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Add barley and allow the mixture to return to a boil; cook about 25 (+/-) minutes.