Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 95: Rockreation

I took Beckett and his buddy Jack to Rockreation today, since it was raining and they were climbing the walls at home.  I figured we would switch it up and climb the walls over there, with harnesses and make it official.  We signed up for kid's climb, $15 per kid for an hour with a belaying guide.  We walked in and the familiar smell of smelly feet/rental shoes/lysol kind of hits you in the face.  It's the bowling alley/ice skating rink smell.  Or if you have boys with smelly cleats of all variety, it is the familiar scent of home.  Beckett and Jack were sure the shoes were too small, but our guide assured us you want to be able to feel the wall and feel your way along with your feet, so eventually they quit complaining.

We got lucky because we were the only ones signed up for the 1:00 session, so it was basically a private lesson.
Our guide, Dylan started them out on an easy climb, which they mastered, then they worked their way along to some of the more challenging areas.  Beckett and Jack took turns , each one cheering the other on and encouraging him as he tried to make it to the top. We watched in amazement as some of the experienced climbers climbed like Spiderman all along the walls and up across the ceiling.  I found the gym overall had a good vibe.  It was a little bit grungy, and so were most of the climbers, but they had a warm fuzziness about them -- the grunge was part of the charm.  This is a no-frills place that is not really concerned with impressing anyone.  If you want to come and climb and use the workout equipment, great, if not, no worries.  Go somewhere else!  After the climb the boys shared a chocolate bar and had vitamin waters.  They were thoroughly satisfied, beginning to end with the entire experience.  And that kinda says it all.  I posted a few pics I took, one of the Impossibly White Guys.  I did not need a flash - they were aglow from within.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 94: Beyond The Olive

In December, I was selling jewelry at Chiat Day's annual holiday bazaar, and located conveniently behind my table was the olive oil man.  I got to overhear a little of his spiel as he told people about his products, and his shop in Pasadena.  Eventually I got really hungry and sauntered over for some samples.  Being sort of a freak for olive oil, I was really impressed by the quality of the samples I was greedily gobbling up.  But what really blew me away was the aged balsamic vinegar.  I have yet to venture out to Pasadena to Beyond the Olive, but I have become a die hard fan.  This is the mission statement (they have a mission statement - it's so Jerry Maguire!) found on their website:

Our Mission The mission of Beyond the Olive is to provide our customers with the knowledge to accurately assess the quality of extra virgin olive oil and provide them with access to the greatest extra virgin olive oil that California has to offer. We accomplish this by providing education on the production, varieties and attributes of extra virgin olive oils and allowing consumers to taste the subtleties in a comfortable, inviting atmosphere. 

I have ordered a few different things from Beyond the Olive's website.  I enjoyed reading about Chip and Crystal Reibel, the owners.  They have a work ethic, and a philosophy, which is mainly about insuring high quality from local, Northern California olives.  I actually learned a lot about olive oil - how to store it (cool, dry place, tightly sealed).  Best not to buy in massive quantity, because it really needs to be consumed while it's fresh -- it can actually go rancid.  Also, there is a long-winded explanation of what extra virgin means.  Next time I find myself in Pasadena I can't wait to check out this couple's fantastic shop.  For now I am enjoying the hell out of my 25 star (formerly known as aged 18 year) balsamic vinegar.  I dip toast in it, make salads with it - today it was excellent drizzled on a turkey arugula sandwich with parmesan and tomato.  Yum.  Thanks Chip and Crystal for elevating the condiments around here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 93: Mr. Cecil's Rib joint

This joint, opened by a rib-loving former Hollywood studio exec. in a funny circular hatbox of a building in West L.A., is apparently The Bomb if you like ribs.  I don't, but my husband does, so this blog is for him.  According to the New York Times, "The meaty, tender St. Louis-style ribs are particularly outstanding, with a spirited but not overpowering sauce.  Afficionados of pecan pie should also keep this place in mind. Plus, it's the only rib joint in town where you can order a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild."  Now that I've read that, I may be able to get behind the concept of Mr. Cecil's after all...I do love me some pecan pie...and Chateau...still, this strikes me as more of a guy place.  My sister went on a date with some guy a few months ago -- when they walked into this rib joint she knew this would be their second, and last date.  The great thing about Mr. Cecil's is that it is half a mile from my house.  On Valentine's Day I got Mark the best gift he's ever received from me (he's not easy to shop for.)  It was a full plate of ribs with all the fixins.  So if I'm ever in the dog house, it's off to Mr. Cecil's I go.  It is hard to scowl through all of that gooey spirited but not overpowering sauce dripping off your happy face...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 92: Gjelina

It was my sister's birthday, the Ides of March.  We almost blew our reservation for Gjelina.  Traffic and road blocks and family drama conspired to make it almost impossible to get there...everywhere I turned there was a detour, and then more traffic.  After I picked Lisa up there was traffic on Main Street due to the food truck Tuesday night crowd.  Once down there, I dropped Lisa off and attempted a few futile parking situations.  I finally pulled into the Brig, where the sign said $6 parking.  Fine.  Then the attendant informed me there were no spots left, but upon seeing my dejected face he offered to move his car and have me take his spot.  But where will you park?  I asked.  He said he would double park in the valet lot and be fine.  OK!  I forgot my sister's card, forgot to go to the bank, got in a huge fight with my husband and wanted to brain him. Other than that it went really smoothly.  I re-gifted a blow dry at the Dry Bar in Brentwood, only to discover that my sister's girlfriend Nichelle also gifted the same gift!  No worries -- Lisa will have good hair for close to two weeks!  Our hippie-dippie groovy waiter was so laid back -- sometimes we did not see him for 20 minutes or so, but for the most part he was really sweet and helpful.  He took 2 or 3 pictures of us but they all ended up with red devil eyes.  Damn  Iphone.  The best things I had tonight were: 1) 2 glasses of Pinot, 2) sunchokes, 3) buratta with artichokes, and 4) rhubarb tart.  Oh, I almost felt relaxed there for a moment.  Aaahhhh.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 91: Ritual Adornmnets

I was saving Ritual Adornments -- I was going to blog about how it is my favorite store in the world. It is so much more than a bead store. When you walk in, Joni Mitchell or Spearhead is cranked up - that's when you know this is not Michael's craft shop. You take a gourd, write the price of things on little plastic baggies as you add them to your gourd. There is a wall of beads, stones, wood. There are spools of wire and chain. There is a vast selection of pearls and semi-precious stones. There are pendants, lockets, Thai silver, vermeil charms and findings. There are cases of high-end semi-precious and precious stones, and there is a case of finished jewelry ranging from the stuff the women who work there make, to gorgeous, unique 22k pieces from India.

Last night Nnogo stopped by and asked if I had heard that Ritual Adornments is closing its doors. I was shocked. I made her show me the email that says they are moving to Santa Fe. This bead store opened 18 years ago, and I have been shopping there for 18 years. I've become friendly with the owner, Joel, although his wife is a prickly pear and not quite as approachable. Joel hugs his old-school customers (people like me). He will sit there and rap with you about his latest buying trip to Bali, or about the ordeal of trying to find a good preschool for your kid that is not impossible to get into. He has always extended the designer deal to me - 50% off on strands, and discounts on price per gram of silver, etc. They offer jewelry making classes which have been a big hit.

A few years ago Joel and CeCe moved to Santa Fe and opened up a branch of Ritual Adornments there, but the Santa Monica store remains their core business. I have never been in there when there is not at least a handful of beadaholics, like me, who know that this is not your run-of-the-mill bead store. I have come, in desperation with kids in tow, when I needed some findings or some chain and I couldn't wait. But I prefer to come by myself and indulge in browsing around. Depending on how much money I drop, it is either a guilty or guilt-free pleasure. When my mom comes here from New York and we plan our week, she says we have to stop by Ritual Adornments at some point!

SO now I am dying to know why they are leaving. I'm guessing it is because they have settled in Santa Fe and want to focus on just having one shop. Maybe the rent is being raised in the building on Main Street. I am so sad to think of a Main Street without Ritual Adornments. It's a bit like Fifth Avenue without the Plaza.  I may have to lay my body down in protest, or wire-wrap myself to the register, demanding that they keep on doing what they've been doing so nicely all of these years.  Ritual Adornments, why?  Why?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day 90: Larry David stalks me

When you live in Santa Monica, you're never more than a stone's toss from a celebrity.  One time on a playdate at Britta's house, Britta and I started to get really creeped out by this man parked in his car in front of her house.  He sat there for over an hour, tapping away on his hand-held device.  We decided he was casing the neighborhood.  Britta called the police.  When they came and questioned him, it turned out he was a papparazzo stalking a pregnant actress who lives up the street.  I'm not sure who she is -- she is on The Hills or Gossip Girl.  I do, however, know the old school Thirty Something peeps who live on Britta's corner - Ken Olin and his awesome wife, Patricia Wettig, lately of Brothers and Sisters fame.  In fact, my life is like six degrees of Thirty Something.  Peter Horton is a dad of two adorable little girls at my son's school.  My friend Carmen is friends with Ken Olin's brother, Doug.  And when Carmen was house hunting, she took me to see a home she was considering buying, then owned by Mel Harris.  Apparently if you throw a stone in the Palisades, or Santa Monica, you will hit a cast member of Thirty Something.

And now Larry David is following me around.  First I saw him last week at AK, when he assured all of us the bathroom he just vacated was the safest bathroom in all of Los Angeles to enter.  Tonight, he inexplicably showed up at my son Beckett's baseball game.  I will assume he has a boy on the team we played.  One time Bruce Willis, friend and collaborator of my husband's, showed up to watch my son Aidan's baseball playoff game.  Bruce has three daughters - I don't know if they play baseball, but boy, did he did dig watching my son pitch!  Oh, and Owen Wilson likes to watch my son play soccer.  He is Aidan's pal Joey's uncle.  Sometimes he or Luke will show up on the sidelines.  Within moments of their arrival, young women come out of the woodwork and start drifting closer and closer, until they are surrounded.  They usually say their goodbye's or just slip out in the second half of the game and disappear.  Brian Grazer and his ex, Gigi Levangie-Grazer are also regulars at the baseball field, and basketball court where my sons play.

On a sunny day you can see Sean Young peddling around town with a scarf on her head -- something slightly off-kilter and unravelled about her that is hard to put your finger on.  I'm not sure what it is, but if Glenn Close was busy and had to pass on Fatal Attraction, I feel like Sean Young with a bad perm could be extremely believable as the rabbit-boiling, overzealous lover of Michael Douglas.  My friend Steve, a traveling vet ( inoculated Paris Hilton's puppies, and euthanized (in the same week!) the elderly dogs of Stevie Nicks and Carole King.

But my favorite celebrity citing by far was one someone pointed out to me which I never would have guessed in a million years.  When I was moving out of my little studio on Euclid to move in with Mark, a few of my neighbors and I had a collective yard sale.  A tall, older blond gentleman who I recognized from the hood came across the street to peruse our albums and ashtrays.  He was friendly-- we chatted for a minute.  After he left my friend Abby said, that was Troy Donohue.  I stared in amazement as he mosied back across the street into his non-descript apartment on Euclid.  Sometimes you go out like a lion, and sometimes you go out in garage-sale dwelling, rent-controlled apartment anonymity.  I'm guessing fame, for some is not all it's cracked upped to be, and it's more appealing to be left alone to do the mundane crap the rest of us get to do, unaccosted.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day 89: Pierson Playhouse

Today Aidan, Beckett, Carmen, Zack and I went to see Zack's twin sister Chloe perform in Theatre Palisades Youth's performance of "Piggy Nation, the musical."  I have passed Pierson Playhouse on Temescal many times, possibly even performing illegal U-turns in front of it, without really noticing it.  It is right across from Pali High - a cute little theater and "Piggy Nation" was a cute little show.  It stars local kids, including the fabulous Chloe Lynch as Bunny.  It is a tale of bad behavior, and how we might all be guilty of it at one time or another.  I loved the costumes, particularly one little tike who wore a sky-high black and white wig worthy of the Bride of Frankenstein.  Also a dreadlocked dog who walked his silver-painted porcupine.  Aidan was pretty impressed, Beckett less so, although he did like the sugar cookie he purchased at intermission.  Chloe's extended family was all there to support her.  Carmen's ex father-in-law reminded me of Grampa Simpson, muttering his comments way louder than he imagined during the show ("is that a little girl dressed as a boy?  I thought so!")  I hope Chloe pursues her career in musical theater - she was a star!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 88: First Fridays on Abbott Kinney

Mark and I decided to head down to Abbott Kinney tonight for First Fridays.  The first Friday of every month is food truck night on Abbott Kinney - an awesome mingly, people-watching street festival evening when you feel like you actually live in a walking city.  This is the first time we made it to First Fridays together.  I did come once with Stefanie, which was a great night, but we ended up at Primativo, not eating food from the trucks.  The only time Mark and I ever came down and attempted we gave up when we couldn't find a parking spot.  Well, tonight the weather was not too cold, so our strategy was to park half a mile away, behind Main Street, and just walk over.  We checked out two or three trucks until we got to a Korean BBQ(the first of three!).  Mark got a barbecue beef taco (only 2.50) which took forever to make.  We were a little annoyed waiting, but we noticed an "A" in the window of the truck, and it seemed like they were specially preparing each order, so we cut them some slack.  It turned out the taco was delicious.  We wandered on, pushed along in a sea of groovy young hipsters.  We window shopped, and checked out the street vendors.  First Fridays, as I also noticed when I was here with Stefanie is a major hook-up singles scene.  Still, great people watching.  There were a few troubadors and I also noticed this funky, furry, tricked-out red pedi-cab -- something I've never seen in L.A.  (See pic.)

The truck I decided to give a whirl was India Jones.  I ordered a shrimp Frankie and some samosas.  Unlike the truck Mark ordered from, the food was incredibly fast.  The man told me not to go far, it would be ready at the next window very soon.  He said we only call it out once or twice, then you're out of luck.  I was getting really hungry, and I was going to go Brooklyn up in this guy's face if he gave away my frankie.  Well, I stayed close, took my food from him when he barked out my order.  It was excellent.  A frankie is a roll/wrap type of thing with egg, onion, and incredibly tasty shrimp.  The samosas made me remember with a smile the ones I got on street corners in London long ago when I was a student there.

It turns out we arrived just about at the hour (8:00) where it was starting to get crowded.  We did fine on the lines, but when 8:30 rolled around the lines got longer and longer.  When we got to the Brig parking lot, the lines were completely insane.  There is a truck that serves a grilled cheese with macaroni and cheese inside, and a layer of pulled pork.  People were lined up for a quarter block for this concoction.  I asked a girl on the end of the line if she had actually had this grilled cheese.  Yes, she assured me, it is amazing.  I asked how long she thought she might have to wait, and she told me probably an hour.  Mark and I were floored.

We ran into a director friend, and his friend, and meandered back with them.  It turns out it was already 9:30 when we got to our car. We considered going out to an actual sit-down place, but we decided instead to go home, have some leftover kick-ass risotto that I made, and watch Bill Mahr.  Mark told me that his brother told him no matter how long that wait was for the grilled cheese, it was worth it.  It's one of those you've died and gone to heaven plates of food.  Hmmm...I can only advise get there at a really uncool, early hour and you just might get to the order window in less than 20 minutes.  If you get one, save me a bite.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day 87: RFD WTF

I want to say nice things about Real Food Daily.  In fact, this vegetarian restaurant with lots of vegan choices is a fantastic little spot on Santa Monica between 5th and 6th.  When I first stopped in to check them out, being a bit dairy-challenged, I was thrilled to find them.  The reason why they suck is their prices.  Every time I go in there I am bummed out by the bill.  I often write across the street at the library, so RFD seems like the perfect place to pop in for a cup of soup.  Today I ordered a cup of soup to go (3.95 - not a bad price at all).  I wanted to get a chocolate chip cookie, but at 3.25 I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  When the soup came, it was in a thimble.  I suggested they change the menu to read thimble instead of cup.  (Yes, I have become that lady.)  But I'm sorry, it's just such a gynormous rip-off.  A few times I ordered  the two vegetable combo with rice - you get to choose your own veg and rice, or quinoa, or whatever, and you pick a sauce.  It's not bad, for uber-healthy food, but again, the price of 7.95 did not really reflect what was on the plate.  Alas, they lost me today with that thimble of soup, it just felt like a slap in the face.  Even if you slap someone with tofu, it still hurts.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day 86: Parking Lot Rant

Ok it's about time for another rant.  It's true we Angelinos live in our cars.  Which means, in the course of your day you will encounter many parking lots.  There are parking lots with narrow slots that would be perfect if we all drove Smart cars.  At Equinox I have to drive down and down, into the dungeon until I get to the bottom 3 levels - designated for gym members.  Then good luck finding one that is not kitty corner and does not require a 17-point turn to get out of.  There are destinations I avoid all together (Laemmle Royal on Santa Monica Bl, the entire town of Westwood) because I know parking will be a headache.  There are the poorly designed lots - hello Fred Segal Santa Monica, Starbucks on Bundy and Santa Monica Blvd.  If you pull out of your spot at this Starbucks, you basically are inches away from hitting the cars parked across from you.  Oh, and there are 8 spaces, 2 of them are handicapped.  It's not so much a parking lot as it is a parking spot.

And then there is my pet peeve, the forced valet parking.  My bank, City National apparently has one bank per fifty square miles.  EVERY time I want to go to my bank - even if I just want to use the atm machine, I have to pull up and valet.  Then, when I come out, if they are busy, I have to stand around and wait for my car.  Just to get 20 bucks out of the machine!  I used to tip these guys, then I realized, I am either going to pay a fee for using another bank's atm, but paying a tip here to use my own atm was defeating the purpose of schlepping all the way over here.  The bank manager assures me the drivers get paid well and we do not need to feel obligated to tip them.  The Whole Foods on Wilshire had to pay an additional $1million bucks and push back their grand opening because they were forced to re-do their entire parking lot.  It's not bad now, I can only imagine what a nightmare it was before the renovation.

And finally, to those that got it right.  I love on Pico and Euclid!  If you need a quart of milk or a red bull for your husband who has a deadline and will be up all night writing, you pull up, literally in front of the door of the store, go in, do your business, leave.  The new Santa Monica Place - not too shabby.  Century City gets my vote because there is a little light above each space - if it's green you know there is an opening, if they are all red you know you need to go down to the next level.  I do wish there was better public transportation here, it sure would be a dream.  We would save money on gas, it would be better for the environment, and maybe we could eliminate road rage (and parking lot rage.)

Day 86: Parking Lot Rant

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day 85: Westridge Hike

Today I met Kalli and her dog Teak at the Westridge hike in L.A.  Westridge is the first left off of Mandeville.  You drive all the way up to the top and park at the trailhead.  Lucky howled and yodeled all the way from home.  The howling got louder and more excited as we got closer to our destination.  I ran into Kirk and Zelly (one year old) in the parking lot.  She was going for a hike strapped to her daddy's back.  When Kalli got there we let the dogs off leash and they shot up the hill, jumping over each other, so excited to finally be free.  Lucky's freedom was short-lived however.  He always takes it a step too far and plays too rough.  This time it was poor Teak.  She was playing with Lucky and all of a sudden he had her pinned and she was whimpering for mercy.  I had to put Lucky on his leash - he blew it!  Alas.   I love that mutt, but he is not the world's most civilized dog.  I quit taking him to the dog park a year ago, after being on the receiving end of a few diatribes by disgruntled (bitchy) owners.  Anyway, Westridge is the in spot for Angelinos and their dogs to see and be seen.  Last time we saw Jennifer Gray, another actress and Canyon Elementary mom just like Kalli.  It was a chilly morning but a gorgeous hike.  Being a bit of a freak about ticks and Lyme disease, I bathed the dogs when I got home, and then had to deal with their gross beds, so I washed their dog beds.  I could have starred in my own episode of "Dirty Jobs" on the Discovery channel.