Tuesday, July 30, 2013

USS Iowa

We are lucky enough to have a battleship permanently docked at the Port of Los Angeles.  The USS Iowa docked just a shade over a year ago and has been a destination spot since its arrival.  We took a tour of it over the summer.

What a fascinating place!  The ship is enormous and with all of the gun turrets and missile launch sites on board, there's absolutely no doubt what this ship was built for: war.  We were amazed to see all of the components of the ship, but were particularly intrigued by the living quarters.  On one of the decks above, we saw the officers quarters.  While not too bad, we definitely found them to be fairly cramped.  However, as we later discovered in seeing the enlisted mens quarters, the officers quarters were luxurious by comparison!  The enlisted men were stacked three bunks high and directly faced an identical stack of three bunks.  Their lockers were slimmer than most lockers you see at a high school, and about three quarters the length.  I can't imagine having that teeny-tiny space as my only space to put my personal belongings.  Then we discovered that these quarters were luxurious as compared to what they looked like before their last makeover.  During World War II the enlisted personnel's quarters were stacked FIVE high, not their current three!  It's hard to imaging living that way.  But how lucky are we that there were so many men who signed up to fight for our country and to protect our way of life.  Truly the Greatest Generation.

Here are a few photos of our adventure:

The Sol Tones

Kevin has a new band - and they're really terrific!

About 6 months ago he answered a few postings on Craigslist and played with a couple of different bands.  Neither of them were a good fit for him, but one of the other guys who also answered one of the postings is a great bass player.  Kevin really liked him, but not so much the others in the band.  I suggested that maybe he contact the bass player on his own to see if maybe they could work something out.  Before he could do that, the bass player called him, and they did indeed work something out!

In a strange turn of events, it turns out the bass player is the cousin of a friend of mine from school.  Small world, isn't it?

Anyway, the Sol Tones have been rehearsing and have had several gigs over the summer, with another upcoming on August 10th.  Last Saturday they played a private party and the hosts were so sweet!  They invited the guys to bring people with them if they wanted to, so Vicky and I both went.  It's so exciting!  It's fun to be a groupie.  No, a roadie.  No a groupie...well, okay, both.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Cottage Garden in the Making

After we removed all of the old shrubs along the back fence, we discovered there is plenty of room to work with.  In fact, it is so much larger of an area that it ever appeared to be.  So much so, in fact, that I am still in the process of filling in with plants here and there.  But.  We got a pretty good head of steam going and I know that once we've finished planting everything and things begin to fill in, it will be a lovely garden.  Looking so forward to that!

In the meantime, we've still been enjoying watching the plants grow and bloom, and now they're going through a second bloom as we head into the middle of summer.

In addition to the plants, we've added some other features.  For instance, I've always wanted a few of these ceramic stools.  I found these two at the Pier 1 and fell in love with the colors, so I bought both.
I also wanted an obelisk on either side of the garden to kind of anchor the space.  I searched online and found a bunch of different choices, but they were all either too small, too large, or too expensive.  I finally found what I was looking for at Tai Pan Trading.  In looking through the photos, I see that I don't have one of the obelisks, so I'll have to get out there and take one soon!  Anyway, I loved them the moment I saw them.  The one problem is that they were brown and I really wanted black.  A can of spray paint remedied that one ;-)  While at Tai Pan, I also found a graduated set of willow teepees that I thought would be perfect for a cottage garden, so I bought a couple of those also.  This is not ours, but it's just like the two we bought (sorry, I know the pic is a bit small!)

I also discovered a beautiful talavera pottery birdbath at HomeGoods one day that I just had to have.  I've seen so few of these and of those that I have seen, they are terribly expensive.  I thought this one was a bargain by comparison, and actually prettier than most I've seen.  Again, this one is not ours, but it's very similar.  The colors are the same, but ours has a raised ceramic flower in the center instead of the birds sitting on the edge.

Anyway - all of this to say that I have some photos to share of the garden, but most of these elements were added after the plants were planted and I haven't taken more updated photos really since then.  

If you look closely in one of the pics, you'll see the white actuator for the pool.  It's still functional, but it stands out so much because it's white.  Since these photos were taken, and because I already had the black spray paint for the obelisks, I've since painted the white actuator black ... and it looks much better!  

The last thing we've done is to add lights.  We thought about a couple of different options, but decided on cute little Italian cafe lights strung across the back, close to the hedge.  We also added another set along the overhang close to the house.  It's amazing how much light they add to the yard!  Additionally we've got lots of little ceramic lanterns around the yard and patio and have been using flameless candles to light them up; it ads a nice warm glow and a wonderful ambiance.  The last thing we added (well, at least for now!) is a candle chandelier over the dining table.  It, too, came with the flameless candles, but these candles are on timers!  We can set them for either 4 or 8 hours and when they reach their limit, they go off automatically.  Niiiiice!  Here's an ad photo of the chandelier:

And here are some night-time photos of the lights we added to the back yard:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Day Trip: Ojai, California

About an hour and a half away from us is a small artist's retreat called Ojai.  Other than the pace of this laid back town, a bit of agriculture and some wonderful old architecture, there isn't an awful lot to draw folks here.  But. When you're looking for a relaxing day trip that will transport you to another world, this little town is definitely what you're looking for.

There are several ways to get there and we chose the more rural route.  It may take a few minutes longer, but the scenery is absolutely worth it.  Along the way we discovered things we hadn't even known existed.  For instance, we had no idea this beautiful little college was tucked into the mountains.  Just look at it - wouldn't you want to put this on your 'possibility' list just based on the view alone?  

A little further up the road and you'll be driving right along this beautiful place:

What an absolutely gorgeous place!  The bucolic scenery belies the fact that you're not far from the LA basin ... you'd just never know it.

In the town of Ojai, there are a few spas and bed and breakfast retreats, a couple of thrift shops, a few artsy boutiques, a fabulous ice cream place, and an outdoor bookstore - really!
If you're looking for much more than that, you'll be a bit disappointed, but if this is what you had in mind, you've found your Shang-ri-la.

Check out this beautiful fountain:

I was also intrigued by this somewhat hidden wine bistro...
Love the look of this little deli - it's so European!

It was a wonderful little getaway.  Far enough out of town to know that we've been away, but no so far that we needed to book a hotel.  C'est magnifique!

A Space Odyssey

We're very lucky to live in southern California and have access to one of the most incredible machines NASA ever built: the Space Shuttle.

Last winter, the Space Shuttle Endeavour wound its way through the streets of Los Angeles to its new home - the California Science Center.  Currently the shuttle is being housed in a temporary location at the center while its new abode is being built and fussed over.  Since it is so close, we just had to go and check it out for ourselves.


You've seen photos before, so you know that it's really something of a beast, but you really have no idea just how monstrous it is until you're in the same room with it.  It was cool to be able to walk around and check it out in person.  A first hand view of each of the tiles, having their own little designated number.  The enormity of the engines.  It's great height and girth.  The entirety of it is just awesome.

If you happen to be in town, this is something you definitely want to take the time to see.  After all, how many times in your lifetime do you really have to stand up close and personal with a Space Shuttle?  Oh yeah, and ... it's FREE!  Exactly!