Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 67: Rings, Parkour, Back on the Beach

Aidan had the day off school today.  He missed out on going on this really cool field trip to Santa Barbara with Mr. Vanderveen's science class, and he was so mad at himself.  The day started out with him beating himself up over it, and then saying how bored he was.  I talked him into loading our bikes on the car, and we drove to Back on the Beach to go for a ride.  As soon as we pulled off PCH into the parking lot at Back on the Beach, Aidan said, that's Aunt Lisa!  My sister pulled in with her friend David just as we were taking the bikes off the car.  Lisa was taking David to lunch for his birthday, so we joined them and all ate lunch in the sand.  Lisa and i have been coming to Back on the Beach for a decade or so.  When the boys were babies they were so happy to play in the sand under the table while we noshed above.  Now that they are older they can always go play football while waiting for the food to come.  Today I changed up my order and tried the fish tacos.  Usually I say you don't come to Back on the Beach for stellar food -- you come for atmosphere.  But today I had quite a decent lunch - it was a real treat. (more...)

Afterward, Aidan and I rode south toward the pier where we saw a few clusters of Japanese girls taking pictures on the beach.  Aidan said, "Mom, why are they all wearing big, chunky shoes on the beach?"  It was not the most practical beachwear.  But they looked like they were having a blast, posing with each other.  Past the pier we stopped so Aidan could swing on the rings.  He swung all the way from one end to the other, and then back almost all the way again.  Lisa and David joined us, and David brought his two dogs, Kenya and her pup.  David climbed the ropes and did some fancy moves on the top.  He coached Aidan in trying to climb to the top.  Lisa did a kickass job climbing the ropes.  I tried the rings and right away felt I had 5 blisters on my hand. Aidan and I were amused/entertained and ultimately, horrified by a man singing in the outdoor shower cleaning his body, especially the naughty bits, so thoroughly it almost got really obscene.  We could not stop laughing at the spectacle.  There was a beefy, orangy-tan Muscle Beach guy in his late 60's chatting us up, and then we met the parkour guys -- two young guys -- around 21, who were doing these great parkour stunts.  When I called out goodbye and happy birthday to David, the parkour guy, whose name was Nick said hey, it's my birthday too, man, I'm not even kidding!  He was so cute.  He told me Aidan should come study parkour with him at the beach, he gave me his email address.  We tossed the frisbee for a bit.  What started out as a dud of a morning turned into a fantastic afternoon.  We rode north back to our car, loaded the bikes and headed home, sweaty, sticky, sandy and happy.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 66: John O'Groats

Mark and I found ourselves child-free this morning, so we decided to treat ourselves to a nice grown-up breakfast. We thought we would try the new restaurant in the old City Bakery spot, called Farmshop in the Brentwood Market. Farmshop is elegant and comfortable. We ordered iced tea, and then as we looked at the menu, I saw the two omelette options (one an omelette, the other a fritatta) were 19.00 and 22.00. Neither was what I was really in the mood for, and unless this omelette was made of gold, I was going to have huge problems with it. Twenty two dollars, REALLY??? We decided to leave.

We ended up at an old favorite which we haven't been to in years -- John O'Groat's. John O'Groat's, consistently on every top breakfast list in Los Angeles, did not disappoint today. It is owned by a guy, Paul, who Mark went to high school with. He is always there to greet us, I think he is there seven days a week. We waited in the cozy little waiting room of mismatched chairs and sofas by the front door until we heard the magical words, "Rebecca, party of 2." Mark, a gluten-free man, loves this place for the buckwheat pancakes with raspberries and pecans. I got an omelette with wild mushrooms, provolone, and tomato. Now I'm not saying this is a bargain joint, but I would argue that the 14.00 omelette here is just as good, if not better than Farmshop. And I didn't feel sick when we got the bill.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 65: Yard Sale

The Southern California institution known as the yard sale, or my husband likes to call it, shit on a lawn, is a full-time pastime/hobby/obsession for some people. Today I had one of my own. It wasn't real successful, but I was able to purge some of our crap and move it out. Whatever didn't sell I donated, and I am thrilled to have room in my shed to store the crap I actually want to keep. 17 years ago when I was moving in with Mark I had a yard sale at my apartment on Euclid. A Russian man haggled with me over a frying pan that I was charging $5 for. He felt that was just offensive and preposterous. He kept handing me a dollar bill, picking up the pan and saying, "I give you one dollar. I take pan." I told him no, it's five dollars. He said, I give you dollar, then he would pick up the pan and I would take it back again. It would have been a good Seinfeld episode. We really got into it and I finally told him to get out of my yard, he told me I was crazy.

Nothing that dramatic happened today. I sold a pair of water shoes for 50 cents. Nnogo came by to sell some of her stuff and watch the wares while I ran over to watch Beckett's bssketball game. I gave away to Nnogo the wine opener that Anya gave to me at her yard sale when she was moving to New York. It was a day of selling, trading, giving away, schmoozing with neighbors I know, and meeting some cool neighbors I didn't know. It almost makes you want to have another yard sale. Maybe in seventeen years...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 64: Manhattan Beach

Whenever I am in Manhattan Beach I feel like I've stepped into a Beach Boys song.  There is something about the place, and the scantily-clad people that feels like a throw back to more laid-back, Southern California livin that I love.  I threw my bike in the car and drove down the scenic route along the beach.  I parked on one of the side streets, rode my bike through town, down to the Manhattan Beach Pier, made a left on the bike path and rode to the end.  I passed stroller posses, mommy boot camps, gals playing volleyball, and happy dogs and owners trotting along.  I rode past Hermosa Pier, and down to Redondo, which felt like the end of the bike path.  It may have picked up somewhere past the Chart House, but I wasn't sure, so I turned around.

I rode back up to meet my pal Cynthia, who came straight from her tennis match where she creamed a friend 6-2.  We met at Le Pain Quotidien, and had a lovely breakfast outside in the sun. (Sorry east coast friends who just got another 19" of snow today, it was a sterotypical 78 and gorgeous.)  I was pleased as punch using my KCRW Fringe Benefits card -- support public radio and get 15% off your omelettes too!  It's easy.  Le Pain Quotidien is situated right next to Shade Hotel - an adorable little boutique hotel.  If ever I were to have an affair this seems like the perfect spot.  Charming, quaint, near the beach and no-one within a 20 mile radius knows me.  Afterwards Cyn took me to the Tea Exchange, a great shop selling all kinds of loose teas that you can smell samples of, buy in bulk.  They also sell everything tea related - teapots, cups, mugs, glasses, cute little tea strainers.  Looking and feeling like a total cliche, I drove home with the windows rolled down, the sunroof open blasting Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl."  In my sexy hybrid Highlander I'm ripe for a Laura-Linny-esque mid-life crisis.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 63: Santa Monica College Planetarium

 I went as a chaperone today on Beckett's class trip to the Santa Monica College Planetarium.  We walked from Roosevelt to 14th Street, to catch the Big Blue mini bus.  This bus costs 1.00, and it is incredibly clean and reliable.  Good qualities in a bus.

I live less than a mile from Santa Monica College, and from driving by I have to say I had NO idea how nice the campus is.  I guess I had only ever been to the pool and the track -- today was my first time on campus.  Most of the buildings are modern and architecturally really interesting.  The kids had lunch in a common hang out area with cafe tables.  Then, at 11:45 we herded everyone up to the planetarium.  It isn't huge, but it is a gorgeous, state-of-the-art planetarium. Here is a brief spiel that I am too lazy to re-type:

Thanks to the generosity and vision of the late John Drescher, Santa Monica College is the home of a computerized planetarium theater. At its heart is the Evans & Sutherland Digistar II planetarium projectorthe first of its kind on the West Coast. Using digital technology, audiences can fly beyond the solar system and soar among the stars. We can transport you across our galaxy to the limits of spacetime or into the heart of the atom.
We are open to the public every Friday night, offering public planetarium shows designed for the whole family. We can also provide weekday special shows for schools and other groups.

The planetarium director (I forgot his name) was incredibly knowledgeable and animated, and did a great job of talking to the kids on a level that was understandable for them.  The show was fantastic, informative and pretty darn spectacular.  I can't wait to look at the night sky tomorrow with the kids and look for some of the constellations and planets that we learned about today.  Highly recommend.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 62: Capri

This morning Kalli, puppy Teak and I hiked up at the top of Capri in the Palisades.  This guy was riding by us on his mountain bike - after a double take I realized it was one of the dad's from my son's club soccer team.  It was a gorgeous day.  We veered off the main path up a side trail, which wound up back on the same path we started, only higher up the hill.  All in all we probably hiked  4 miles. I took this picture of the Santa Monica mountains. Sorry to my friends in NY who are experiencing 20 degree weather.  Come out and visit!  xoxo

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 61: The Office

Today I went back to my office, the Santa Monica Public Library on the corner of 6th and Santa Monica Blvd.   The new Main Library was designed by Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY) of Santa Monica and finished in 2006.  The new library presents a strong civic presence in the heart of downtown, just a few blocks from the strip of car dealerships that line the Boulevard.  I've been coming here to write for the past couple of years, on and off, and for the most part it's been great.  The library is well-stocked, the staff is knowledgeable and helpful.  There are many nooks and crannies with great lighting right next to the wall of windows that provide a great setting for me to try to get into my head, turn off distractions and write.  The only glaring problem is that all the homeless folks who used to hang out in the old Santa Monica Public Library are still around, and they like to hang out here.  When I scope out a spot to plant myself and work, I like to choose a double desk with a young-ish student, or a female of some sort who looks fairly safe.  Inevitably, I wind up next to, or near a grunter who, with Turrett's-like randomness, will utter a grunt every two or three minutes, while he shuffles his papers and mumbles to himself.  Sometimes I have to pick up and move once or twice.  I have learned on rainy days to avoid the library at all costs.  The smells in there on those days are just too potent and distracting.  And the secret I have figured out lately is to work in the "quiet room" that seems to be mostly for serious studiers - cell phones are shunned and talking is not allowed.  It seems to be mostly students and stressed out grad students, so this is the new place for me.  I love the outdoor cafe tables in the sun outside the little snack bar/cafe in the center of the courtyard.  Today, in-between procrastinating with my iphone, and answering it as it inexplicably rang off the hook (on vibrate), I got into my writer's head and was happy for the escape, and the chance to get a little work done before I rush back to school to pick up the kids at 3:00.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 60: Santa Anita Racetrack

I did not go to Santa Anita today, but Beckett had a date to go to the races with my sister, and they had a great time.  Beckett's Grandma gave him $40 bucks to put on a horse - $20 for her and $20 for himself.  Some of the horses they bet on were: Lucy Got Lucky, Warren's Magic Man, and Sky Brite Miss.  They did not win anything, but he had a great day.  They toured the stables, and had lunch.  I lent Beckett my camera.  He took these photos.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 59: Urth Cafe West Hollywood

I have been going to Urth in Santa Monica on Main Street for years, loving the food, the vibe, especially the outdoor patio in the back.  I meet up with Joni or Kate there, and we catch up over iced tea and a mushroom omelette.  Last Saturday, on our way to a friend's house for dinner we stopped into Urth in West Hollywood for dessert to bring with us.  I got 3 flourless chocolate cakes and one blueberry pie (these are all mini pies and cakes) and they did NOT disappoint.  In Santa Monica I like how there is someone who comes around, when the line is long, taking orders to speed things up on the line.  Actually, in Hollywood, a server came up and took my order while I was waiting in line, so all I had to do was hand the cashier my slip and my money.  Very efficient.  I am posting a couple of pictures I did not take - one of Russell Brand leaving Urth.  Apparently the WeHo Urth is the spot for spotting of celebrities, and celebrity dogs.  Entourage scenes have been filmed here.  They hugged it out over Urth lattes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 58: Venice Beach

It was a gorgeous, balmy day today.  Instead of going to the gym, I grabbed my ipod, camera, geek helmet and headed down Pearl on my bike.  I waited forever for the light at Lincoln (my cousin used to call this the ugliest street in Los Angeles.) I wove through the back streets behind Main Street, then down to the beach.  At the bike path, I made a left and rode to Venice.  I rode past the people strolling, tourists eating at Perry's Cafe.  I rode past the homeless teenagers, the musicians, the vendors selling everything from sunglasses to a hemp-themed line of clothing.  I snapped these shots of skateboarders at the skate park.  And this chihuahua with attitude.  The ride home is a whopper - there are a few small hills, and then from 11th to 14th street up Pearl it is a steep incline, spinning those wheels furiously.  Whew got up that hill and earned the massive lunch I was imagining I might have to have

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 57: Jump Sky High, Camarillo

Well, I left the Westside today.  Boy did I leave!  I took a car full of boys to Camarillo.  The first sign we had left Los Angeles behind:  The SUV in front of me in Camarillo on the freeway proudly declared on a bumper sticker, "I do not believe the liberal media."

Jump Sky High is a massive structure the size of an airplane hangar with several different jumping options.  Once you sign their lives away in a waiver, your kids can bounce off the walls, bounce in their own square, bounce square to square, younger kids can go in a puffy bouncy climbing apparatus and slide.  There was a foam pit.  One of the dads did a backwards flip into the foam pit, and I had to close my eyes.  I'm imaging he will be spending some time at the chiropractor tomorrow.  The music, combined with the noise of several hundred bouncing children was fairly deafening.  Since I have a scratchy throat and didn't want to do a lot of yelling over the music, I mostly nodded and smiled when spoken to.  After 2 hours of this the grown-ups all agreed we would meet at the Waypoint Cafe in the Camarillo airport for lunch.  One of the dads found this and researched it on yelp (it had enough positive yelps to insure that along with kiddie fare there would also be edible adult fare.)  The Waypoint Cafe did not disappoint.  It's everything I wish the Spitfire Grill in Santa Monica would be.  The Spitfire is also a cute little cafe in view of the take-off and landings of the small-plane airport, but the food is inedible.  So with my iced tea and chicken sandwich with guacamole and jalapeno jack cheese, I happily watched the kids run around on the lawn next to the runway.  Oh, and it was 80 degrees.  Excellent way to spend MLK day with my boys.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 56: Cafe Brasil, Culver City

On our way to Toys R Us so Beckett could cash in his gift card, we stopped off at Cafe Brasil for lunch.  First of all, my stomach was iffy and I was feeling the need for some comfort food.  Second of all, I need to somehow make everything about food, especially a trip to Toys R Us so I won't be in a bad mood.  Beckett and I sat on the patio on a balmy 74 degree gorgeous day and enjoyed chicken, plantains, and rice.  It's a no-fuss, order-at-the-counter kind of place with cozy, rustic furniture, with a large screen t.v. inside showing a soccer game.  It was much nicer al fresco.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 55: Laemmle's Royal Theater

Mark and Aidan were invited to a Laker game tonight, so Beckett asked if we could go to the movies.  I was not in the mood to deal with crowds and massive parking structures, so we decided to go see the Illusionist at Laemmle's Royal Theater on Santa Monica Boulevard in West L.A.  This is a huge screen and a nice old theater that I have not been to in years.  There were probably fewer than 30 people in there.  The film, by Sylvain Chomet, the same filmmaker who made the Triplets of Belleville, worked from a screenplay originally written by the great Jacques Tati, about a character who he could probably identify with.  I found this synopsis of the film online, which I liked:  "The Illusionist" is a story about two paths that cross. An outdated, aging magician, forced to wander from country to country, city to city and station to station in search of a stage to perform his act meets a young girl at the start of her life?s journey. Alice is a teenage girl with all her capacity for childish wonder still intact. She plays at being a woman without realizing the day to stop pretending is fast approaching. She doesn't know yet that she loves The Illusionist like she would a father; he already knows that he loves her as he would a daughter. Their destinies will collide, but nothing -- not even magic or the power of illusion -- can stop the voyage of discovery. 

The combination of the melancholy story and the intricate, original animation of French train stations and remote Scottish seaside towns reminded me of the Madeleine books I loved as a child.  Beckett loved it -- he wants to see it again with dad.  He asked me who my favorite character was in the movie, and we both agreed it was definitely the Illusionist himself -- a dying breed of showmen with a big heart, who would give away his last dollar and end up pawning his precious magician's kit to put a smile on a little girl's face and buy her things that he thought would make her happy.  It was light on plot, and at the same time a beautiful story. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 54: Date with Seymour Cassel at the Golden Bull

Every couple of months Scott, Marika, Robb, Mark, and the boys and I get together with Seymour at the Golden Bull in Santa Monica canyon for dinner.  Tonight we toasted Seymour, who is about to turn 75, and Malina, Scott and Marika's baby who turned one a few months ago.  The Golden Bull is not trendy or cool - in fact it is so uncool that it is cool.  It's an old school neighborhood joint with steaks, fish, chicken and pasta.  The red vinyl booths are cozy.  They remind me of an Italian restaurant in town called Manzi's that I loved when I was 10. The waiters and the clientele are also not trendy or hip.  The combined age of everyone at our table (before Seymour got there) was lower than the age of the average patron in the Golden Bull.  Malina flirted with Aidan.  Beckett savored his iced tea and cheeseburger.  Robb, Seymour and Mark exchanged off color insults, I enjoyed the wine that Seymour brought, and caught up with Scott and Marika, who are amazing new parents.  Malina was the center of attention in the restaurant - grabbing at the photos of Seymour's grandkids, cooing at the other babies, and then handing them back to Seymour.  She loved the bread, the fish, and had a love/hate experience with the Pelligrino - gulping it down and then making the cutest sour face in the world.  We topped off our dinner with generous slices of chocolate cake -- the perfect ending to a perfect evening.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 53: Los Liones hike

(Parker Mesa Overlook/Topanga State Park)
My friend Autumn sent me a link to suggest ideas for my blog: the LAist posted their 14 most romantic make-out vistas, and the hike I took today that I was about to blog about was on there!  Serendipitous.  Kalli and I took our weekly hike up Los Liones, in Topanga State Park.  I lamed out a little over Christmas break, plus I had a cold for a week, so this hike really kicked my ass today.  It is a fairly challenging hike.  We love it because it's a gorgeous spot -- the hike is doable in under an hour, and it's a kickass workout.  We peak at this gorgeous vista, apparently a top make-out spot.  On a clear day, which today was, you can see north all the way up Malibu's coast, and south all the way to downtown, and the mountains beyond.  The air is clean, and it's an amazing way to start out the day.  Off to Starbucks for a zucchini muffin and a massive iced tea.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 52: Santa Monica Airport

I live in Southern Santa Monica, a few blocks away from Santa Monica Airport.  This private-plane airport is one of the defining landmarks in this neighborhood, giving Ocean Park it's character and charm.  Originally called Clover Field, after World War I aviator lieutenant Greayer "Grubby" Clover, the airport was the home of the Douglas Aircraft company.  The first circumnavigation of the world by air, accomplished by the U.S. Army with Douglas World Cruisers, took off from Clover Field on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1924, and returned there after some 28,000 miles.  The airport has two restaurants, and a nice little museum - the Museum of Flying.

My kids and I have always been fascinated by this place.  When they were little I sometimes drove to the end of Centinela, pulled up to the airport and Aidan and I just watched the planes take off and land while Beckett was asleep in his car seat.  As they got older they played in the playgrounds at Clover Park and Airport park.  Now they have baseball games and soccer tournaments here.  We take our dogs to the dog park.  We walk our dogs over to Clover Park and the kids can scooter or bike around.  Aidan, who is 11 and enjoying some new freedom, loves to take off with his friends to the park.  They scooter over, hang out, grab chips or a drink at the convenience store on Ocean Park and 28th street, and scoot back home.  Together, the boys and I like to bike over to the park, ride around the perimeter, stopping to admire the tiny planes that are parked along the north end of the airport.  There is something so romantic about these little single-engine planes.  I of course am thinking of Robert Redford, in all of his insane perfection, touching down to pop in on Meryl Streep at her plantation in Out of Africa, one of my favorite movies. How her heart lept when she heard that engine sputtering to a stop when he came to see her, and how her heart sank the day she waited and waited for that little plane to appear on the horizon.  He never made it back.

I have never taken off or landed here, nor do I intend to, as I have a deathly fear of these little planes.  My involvement at the actual airport itself has been limited to attending a Barney's New York sale, or an Adidas sale at the Barker Hanger.  Perhaps my favorite memory of the Barker Hanger is when Mark and I came here, must have been in the mid 90's, to se an INXS concert.  Great show, great band, great memory.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 51: Rosti

Mark and the boys and I went to our favorite neighborhood Italian joint for dinner, Rosti on Montana.  We brought a bottle of Rodney Strong and I had my usual: chicken Milanese with checca and potatoes.  Those Rosti potatoes - they are pan fried, or maybe baked, and they are crispy and delicious.  Aidan had macaroni and cheese, Beckett had spaghetti and meatballs, and Mark had balsamic chicken.  When we got home I googled Rosti Santa Monica and one of the first pictures to pop up was Aidan's!  Here he is with Ron, Alan, Henry and company (Aidan is on the far right) appearing in Big Tony Ragu's blog.  He was doing a blog entry on Rosti and took this picture of Aidan and the Schlessingers.  I did not know my son was googleable!  The internet is freaking me out a little right now.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 50: Star in (OK, appear in) TV show!

My girlfriend Lauren is in town producing an episode of her show, Food(ography) for the Cooking Channel starring Mo Rocca.  She needed someone to take the keys from Mo, tip him a buck, be a bitch to him and drive off, so I happily obliged.  When Beckett and I first got to the Viceroy we got to go behind the scenes and watch them film a few scenes.  Beckett loved the scene in which Mo Rocca is sitting on a groovy yellow Viceroy armchair surrounded by two hulking twins (actual guys on the crew) posing as twin bodyguards.  As they stoically sit there Mo acts like a diva and throws his cellphone at one bodyguard demanding fish tacos.  Beckett thought that was great.  Thank god he stifled his laugh until after the director yelled, "cut!"  We snacked and shmoozed.  We got to hang out with Remy, the awesome pint-sized chihuahua who was shivering, even though he wore a chunky wool sweater.  Lauren ran a smooth ship -- it seemed like the crew was having a lot of fun too.

Then it was time for my part.  I wasn't nervous, as they are not paying me and must therefore have extremely low expectations.  The plan was for me to bring Mark's BMW to the set, leaving the mom car at home.  My only fear was that I would spazz out and not operate his car properly, which of course I did.  Apparently if one of the doors is open you cannot put the car in gear, so, ashamed, I had to have the valet guy at the Viceroy drive the car into place for the shoot.  I was being such a chick.  Mo wore a suit, sat in the Beamer and, looking into the camera said he has learned in order to be treated well at a place like this it's best to show up in a really expensive car.  Then as he gets out and I walk up, it is clear he is the valet dude.  He says to me, "Here you are, ma'am" and I have an attitude with him, hand him a buck, say, "here you go," and get in the car and prepare to drive off.  After a few takes I was really getting into it - I know my motivation - I'm a bitch and he is a peon.  It was awesome!  After three takes we nailed it.

Ever wonder how people and societies were shaped by food?  Take a look at cultural food themes by learning about the past, present and future of iconic, classic and tasty treats.  Cooking Channel, Sunday nights at 9:00