Sunday, December 24, 2006

SeaWorld San Diego

My week with my brother's fam ended with a bang or should I say drop.

We went to San Diego on Saturday for our first sunny day. We basked in the warmth, shows, and a relative lack of people. The park was pretty empty, which was fine with us.

Our first show of the day was the dolphins. We were careful to sit out of the soak zone, figuring since it isn't the splash or sprinkle zone they must be serious. As we were leaving however, we noticed that we had instead been sitting in the poop zone. A seagull, we didn't know was part of the show, dropped a present in my hair and on Rocio's shirt.

Rocio had to wash part of my hair in the bathroom. Mike had to run and buy her a new shirt. At that point there is nothing you can do but laugh.

From there we saw the sharks, the reef, the manatees and the aquarium. We were disappointed the penguins and several other exhibits were closed. I think SeaWorld is best visited in the summer when its warmer. I've heard there are more shows and more things are open.

Regardless, the boys had a blast. Our final show of the day was a special 12 Days of Christmas with the Sea Lions. By this point we were freezing and $10 hot chocolate seemed like a bit much.

Seaword was a good way to end the trip. We then headed back to Ohio, for Christmas with my parents, on a redeye. I'm so glad they came. It was a fantastic week.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bye Bye Disneyland

The City Pass was so worth it. Three days at Disneyland and California Adventure was perfect. We got to see and do everything there that we wanted to. It was a great pace and thanks to the rain the first day we rode every ride in record time.

I love Disneyland at Christmas the park looks so amazing.

Today was our last day. I think Mikey was right, we killed it. We got to see everything we wanted to in both parks. Well how many things are worth seeing California Adventure, only two - Soarin' over California and Tower of Terror.

I made the mistake of riding the Ferris Wheel with Mike and Mikey. Have I mentioned lately I'm terrified of heights. I thought I conquered most of it when I went hot air ballooning and didn't die or hyperventilate. Well one of the distinctions about this particular ferris wheels is that some of the baskets on it swing and slide along the spoke. Oh yea! Guess which one we were in? You got it, the swinging ones.

I was not a good example for Mikey. The panic started to overtake me when we started to swing. I gripped my seat, closed my eyes and started praying for mercy on my soul. It was not a pretty site. My brother was laughing hysterically and lamenting that the didn't bring the camera. Mikey soon forgot his fear because he was laughing so hard at me. I'm glad my pain, fear and trauma brought much joy to them.

I loved seeing Jordy with the characters. He had so much love for them and wanted to hug every one, then take his picture. At one point he saw Chip and Dale and got to do his hug and pic routine. When we walked away he said, "Aunt Marti, those aren't the real Chip and Dale" Curious about why he thought that he continued, "Those are just people in a suit." At little of the magic is beginning to die, either that or he felt a kneecap or something when he hugged them, who knows.

My two favorite moments with Mikey were when we walked through Tomorrowland and he said, "I didn't know you could use technology to do this" Then as we were standing in line for Space Mountain he said, "I can feel the sonic energy in my ears." That's hilarious. He went on to contribute his supersonicness to all of the tv he watches.

We had a fantastic time. Overall the boys favorite land was Toon Town. They loved all of the gags.Their least favorite rides were It's a Small World and Snow White. When we exited both their exact words were, "that was dumb." The highlights of their favorite rides, because its pretty much all the rest, were Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Pirates of the Carribean, Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, and Astro Blasters.

Tomorrow we're off to Universal Studios or just "The Studios" as Jordy calls it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Southern California City Pass

My nephews are here! WHI-HOO! I can't wait to take them to all of the theme parks. We opted to buy a Southern California City Pass.

For one lower price we get three days at both Disney Parks (Disneyland and California Adventure), SeaWorld San Diego, Universal Studios and the Wild Animal Park or the San Diego Zoo.

The price for kids 3-9 is $159 and $210 for adults. It would cost about that much just for the Disney tickets.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Breakfast at Las Brisas

We had our department's Christmas celebration today. Our boss took us to brunch at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach.

Las Brisas is a gorgeous restaurant set on the cliff right above the Pacific Ocean. One entire side of the restaurant is filled with windows over looking the ocean.

It is one of my favorite places for brunch. Served Monday - Saturday it is only $12.50, a real bargin in Laguna Beach. Brunch at Las Brisas features freshly baked croissants and muffins; omelettes and Belgian waffles prepared fresh to order; sausage, bacon, crepes, eggs Benedict, and potatoes. There is also a selection of cereals, melons, yogurt and cottage cheese. Breakfast includes choice of coffee, tea or milk.

We really suffer working only 20 minutes from the beach. It was a balmy 75 degrees and sunny, a gorgeous day to be down by the water. We didn't want to go back to work.

I am grateful today for the beach and the warm December weather. It is amazing to live in this climate. Not to rub it in with those in freezing cold, believe me we pay for it.

Las Brisas, 361 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, CA.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


One of my favorite things to do is go to tea. I love dressing up, the ceremony of it, the tradition, the scones and of course, the tea. Hey, I'm a girl it is in my DNA, next to the gene inabiling me to go to the bathroom by myself whilst in a crowd.

So imagine my delight and joy when I found A site dedicated to finding, rating and listing tea houses across the U.S. Can you hear the choir of angels in my head now.

Unfortunately the first place we went to visit from the site, White Rose Cottage in Rancho Santa Margarita, was closed. And not closed for the day but FOREVER. So make sure you call ahead to verify they are still in business.

I'm still willing to give the site the benefit of the doubt. The content is mainly driven by users so if you have a good, bad or ugly experience at a tea house make sure to report it.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Tour of Frank Gehry Buildings in Los Angeles

On Saturday Jeff and I, both architecture fans, took a tour I created of major Frank Gehry buildings in Los Angeles. I wanted the chance to see the evolution of his work. Besides where else in the world is there such a concentration of it, no where I tell you.

I don't have the technical knowledge to explain where he fits into architectural trends, I just like his use of space, imaginative layouts, incorporation of natural light, bright colors and unconventional lines. Frank Gehry is a true pioneer.

Our tour included, in order:

  • Loyola Law School - Fritz R. Burns building on 919 Albany St. Gehry worked on this project from 1981 to 1984. The urban campus is wrapped in a barbed wire fence. It's a strange oasis in downtown Los Angeles. The campus is an experiment in modern and postmodern buildings. The bright yellow center of the law school houses classrooms and offices. The most notable features are the three external staircases. The center leads to a greenhouse and the two outer ones resemble fire escapes. Gehry's building is flanked by a glass chapel with visible wood structures inside and a one-room lecture hall with three cement pillars at the door. Even the garage has a steel facing providing a very minimalist look contributing to this very beautiful campus.
  • Disney Concert Hall - Our second stop was the Walt Disney Concert Hall at 111 S Grand Ave. Gehry worked on this from 1989 to 2004. If you're in the area and stop to visit the "symphony of steel" I highly recommend the audio tour. This is the only way to get your parking validated and the opportunity to wander around the entire interior. It's worth it. Make sure that you tour the outside as well as the inside, there are beautiful gardens and a large rose sculpture created for Mrs. Disney. This building has to be my favorite. It is so whimsical. I think it's perfect for the symphony. I think the building was created by the swipes of the conductor's baton. Look at it, its possible.
  • LA Children's Museum - Our third stop, well drive by, was the Los Angeles Children's museum at 310 N Main St. It was the most boring square building I've ever seen. It was so bad we didn't even stop. We did a slow roll, snubbed our noses at it and moved onto stop number four. Interestingly enough he started building his house at the same as he was working on the museum, 1979. I think all the creative juices went to his house. Then again who knows what kind of limitations were put on him.
  • Hollywood Library - Our fourth stop was the Hollywood Regional Branch Library on 1623 Ivar Ave, built in 1982. You can tell that he is starting to push the boundaries of space. The interior is bathed in natural sunlight. This building is just steps away from Hollywood Blvd so its a great place to sitesee in. Don't forget to prep your camera for the fantastic view of the Hollywood sign when you get off the 101 North at Hollywood Blvd.
  • Gehry House - Frank Gehry's house near the corner of Washington Ave and 20th St in Santa Monica. We didn't know exactly where it was but as you travel down the street you can't help but notice it, it doesn't exactly blend in with the Spanish architecture of Santa Monica. We were stopped by a local resident wondering if the house was for sale because there were so many people stopping to take pictures. Jeff thought that Frank might actually still live there. I hope so because I can't imagine who else would want to. It's interesing to look at but it's odd. The house is surrounded by steel boundaries with peeks at the interior through fencing, glass triangles and more experiments with space.

By this time we were starting to get tired, fighting traffic, crazy LA drivers and it was so freaking hot. We were dealing with 80 degree weather, hard to believe it's November. But there were two more stops on the tour, the Chiat Day building and the Venice Beach house. We knew the pay off at the end would be worth it. I mean how much more perfect is an ending at the beach. I was hoping we would time it with the sunset.

  • Chiat Day Building - The distinctive Chiat Day Building in Venice, 340 Main St to be exact, built in 1991. The building is located around the corner from Gold's Gym and is in slight state of disrepair. Like the advertising agency housed there it has lost its luster and has seen better days. You can't enter the building or the binoculars to check out the view but they doprovide form and function. The building had to adhere to really strict city guidelines for buildings in the area - limited in height and scale.
  • The Venice Beach House - The final stop on my Frank Gehry tour of Los Angeles is the Venice Beach house at 2509 Ocean front Walk. Constructed in 1981. It looks like a lifeguard stand. There are lots of outdoor spaces to take in the amazing view of the ocean. I think I was more enamored of the Venice beach than the house built next to it.

We were about 30 minutes too early for the sunset. Maybe you'll time it better if you're in the neighborhood. Make sure you stop at C&O Trattoria. They have the best garlic rolls and at 9 p.m. the entire restaurant stops to sing That's Amore. So fun. It was a great day.

I think one of my favorite things about the day, aside from seeing all of the Gehry buildings was seeing all of Los Angeles. We went from downtown past the Broadway Theatre district to Hollywood and to Santa Monica via West LA. The are so many hidden architectural gems. Also as we were were coming off the 101 on the way to the library we got the best view of the Hollywood sign.

I have to stop and say if you're ever planning a trip or tour you must use Mapquest, which will let you put in up to ten addresses, manually order it and then provide point to point directions. It took all the guess work and frustration out of this endeavor. We didn't back track or get lost once. How amazing is that, if you've ever driven with me you'd know that's a miracle.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Morning in Laguna

I got to spend the morning with Carmen in Laguna Beach. We haven't seen each other in months and had a lot of catching up to do.

We were going to go to San Diego but opted instead for something more local. So we went for a late breakfast at The Cottage. This former residence has a sliver of an ocean view, nothing like Las Brisas but its coziness makes up for it. I had a tasty omlette and Carmen had pancakes. Very tasty.

We then walked around the shops and beach. It was cloudy and cool but still amazingly beautiful.

I forget how many great restaurants there are in Laguna. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend Javier’s, Las Brisas, The Cliffs, and The Beach House. The Cliffs has a fantastic view and The Beach House has a great patio. Also tucked away in a picturesque alley way is Gelato Paradiso and La Rue du Chocolat fabulous for desserts.

This is the best place for people watching. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Ruby's Shake Shack in Crystal Cove

I went for an early lunch today at the Crystal Cove. There is a great place called Ruby's Shake Shack on a cliff overlooking the beach. It's amazing.

It was featured on Rachel Ray's $40 a day. She had a shake and loved it. So I figured if Rachel loves it, it must be good. I also had the Crystal Cove hero sandwich. Very tasty.

I called my aunt on my way home and she told me that it is 30 degrees in Indiana and they had a deep frost last night. I think I'll pass on the cold and snow and stick with the sun and sand.

If you're ever on PCH between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach you have to stop at the Crystal Cove State Beach. It's gorgeous. There is a biking and walking path. Also dotted along the shore are cottages for rent. You can make your reservation online, just make sure you're planning your visit at least seven months in advance.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Day in San Diego

I realized that I've lived in So. Cal. for 13 years and I have only been San Diego a couple of times. There is so much to see - Balboa Park, La Jolla, Old Town, Mission San Diego, Sea World, Legoland, Heritage Park - lots of history, ocean views and good food. So I headed down to visit my friend Nicole.

We started siteseeing at Balboa Park. It is amazingly beautiful. We walked around to see the ampitheatre, Spanish Village, Prado Theatre, UN village, Japanese Friendship Garden and we only saw a very small part of it. I can't wait to go back to see the Botanical Gardens, visit some museums and maybe go to the zoo.

We went up to Mt Soledad vista to get a sweeping panorama of La Jolla and the ocean. It was breathtaking. It is views like this, warm 80 degree days in October that make living here worth the cost. Even though it was a little foggy it was still stunning.

We drove back down to the water's edge to see the sunset. La Jolla is one of the most photographed beachfront locations in all of California. I can see why, it's spectacular. We stopped to look at the surf and people watch. There were many getting their photos taken by the water, including several doing engagement photos. They were frolicking in the water trying to appear spontaneous and lovey-dovey.

As we strolled along the sea we saw four weddings, ranging from the very young to the very old. We noticed that you could tell the age of the bride by the number of bridesmaids she had. The number goes up exponentially the younger they are. I have to say the sweetest one was the oldest wedding of the day. To see people at least in their 60s finding love was great.

We had dinner at Top of the Cove - fantastic food and a more amazing view. The perfect cap of the night was at a place called Extraordinary Desserts. The line is a mile long to get it but do not let it distract you from visting. I had the best toasted almond and caramel chesecake. What a perfect way to end the day.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Surf, Turf, Art and Ice Cream

Today, Jen and I decided to load up the CR-V and head North. Not too far, just to Pasadena and LA.

We didn’t really have a plan. All we knew was that we wanted to go to the Huntington Gardens to see the rose, Shakespeare, and Japanese gardens, priceless works of art in the Boone Gallery, and my favorite, the sculptures.

Every time I visit the Huntington with someone new I make them pose like one of the scultpures. I think it’s great fun. Unfortunately I think we chose one of the hottest days this summer to walk around. It was like 115 degrees, seriously.

Once we roasted ourselves sufficiently Jen wanted to see Old Town Pasadena, since she’d never been. Neither of us can read a map so we fumbled with the Thomas Guide to try and figure out how to get from San Marino to Old Town. We finally found it and by accident also discovered the fabulous Colorado Street Bridge. We were stunned as we rounded the corner to see it and literally stopped traffic to get a picture, it is beautiful. Then we just wandered around the back streets in the quaint Pasadena neighborhoods with all the Craftsman houses. It was fun.

By this time we were starving, and rather than eating in trendy Old Town we headed west to LA to my favorite restaurant, Versailles on Venice Blvd for Cuban food. It is quick service, reasonable prices and amazing food. Ok, so I always order the same thing. I’m sure there are many tasty treasures on the menu but I love the garlic chicken served with black beans and white rice. I only get to eat it every few months so I savor every bite. Besides I end up smelling like garlic for about two days.

Then we headed down to Venice Beach to the boardwalk. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a parking spot, cause apparently everyone else in Southern California was thinking the same thing we were - it’s cooler by the ocean. So we just ended up driving through Venice and Marina del Rey.

Somehow we ended up on Washington Blvd that winds through Culver City, home of Sony Picture studios and a darling downtown that makes you feel like you stepped back into 1955. It is very clean and hard to believe it’s minutes from LA. So after a stop at Cold Stone Creamery we began the long trek back to South OC.

What a fantastic day.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Coyote Grill

This morning I attended a bon voyage breakfast for a co-worker at a little cafe in Laguna Beach called, Coyote Grill.

What a way to start the day, sipping coffee on an outdoor patio next to a roaring fire with a view of the Pacific Ocean. You can't help but be relaxed as the salty sea air envelops you and the coffee and fire warm you. It creates a near perfect climate and environment to enjoy your breakfast.

The house specialty at Coyote Grill is enchiladas and eggs. I was a bit skeptical but since Rachel Ray recommended it from her visit to Laguna on $40 a Day, I knew I had to give it a try. I must say, she was right, it was really tasty. I was a little worried about having enchilada sauce for breakfast but it worked like a salsa for the eggs and blacks beans. I am stuffed and very happy.

Now I just have to get from mellow mood into work mode.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Garden Grove's Strawberry Festival

Rebekah and I decided to go on a little adventure today so we headed to Laguna and had a late breakfast at The Cottage on PCH. It has a great view of the ocean and a diverse menu. It was perfect.

She was meeting another friend at 4 so we decided to venture North to Garden Grove and check out the annual Strawberry festival. I've heard about it for years but never made it until now.

I think I watch too much Food Network tv. When I think festival I think everything and anything related to the food, vegetable or fruit being celebrated. In this instance I thought there would be lots of strawberry foods, pageants, clothes, flavors, a mascot or two etc. Ummm.. not so much. Not even a contest to see who can grow the largest strawberry.

We had to hunt to find the strawberries at all. There were lots of rides, swap meet type booths and a deep fried burrito but not much strawberry type stuff. I couldn't even find strawberry ice cream. How sad is that? There was vanilla ice cream with strawberries, but no strawberry ice cream.

I guess its better than the Lemon festival we went to last year in Upland where the only booth sporting lemon anything was Albertson's grocery store with a lemon pie.

I'm beginning to think that towns in Southern California don't know how to throw a festival. Perhaps they don't know what festival means. They just need to call it a strawberry-flavored fair or something, but a festival it was not.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Harborhouse Cafe

Jeff and I, who share a love of brunch, headed north to Sunset Beach to try out Harborhouse Cafe.

I had no idea where Sunset Beach was, I had never even heard of it. Turns out its near Huntington Beach.

The web site says it is a very popular spot with locals and surfers and while its open 24/7 we opted for 10 a.m. Note to self parking is a pain. I drove around for about 10 minutes looking for a spot. I hate that. Once we parked we had a 30 minute wait. To me that is a good sign.

Once we got seated service was quick. Harborhouse has a diverse menu and boasts over 25 varieties of omlettes. I had a scramble and Jeff had the chorizo and eggs. It was okay, nothing spectacular. I was disappointed that my coffee cup sat empty for a while. We had to flag down someone to get a refill. That is a bad sign.

I don't know if it was worth the drive up there, but if you're in the area I'd choose it over Dennys, it definitely has more atmosphere. I think I most enjoyed going to the beach after breakfast to just sit and enjoy the water.

Harborside Cafe: Sunset Beach 16341 Pacific Coast HighwayCalifornia, 90742 (562) 592-5404