It’s been a busy and somewhat non-traditional month for us. As you’ll see from these photos, there’s been a good amount of time spent with those we love, but somehow things were busy in other ways too.
We also went to the Musical Instrument Museum (the MIM) for our 34th wedding anniversary on Dec 9th, celebrated the holidays with a few of the non-profit groups that I work with and had a lovely evening with some other dear friends. All of those activities don’t have pics posted yet, but hopefully I’ll get to it.
I’m not quite sure how the month got away from me, but we didn’t decorate inside the house until December 19th which is VERY LATE for me! Originally we weren’t expecting to have any gatherings at our house this year, so I guess that gave me the freedom to put it off. Then we found out that we were hosting our family gathering, so I got busy and did a few things.
We still have at least one more celebration to come with our son, Kevin when he returns from being overseas in early January. That will be a special time to have him back home and in the U.S. hopefully for a very long time.
Here are links to a few photos that I’ve posted on Facebook over the last month. I hope you enjoy them! (Note: I was told that some of these links didn’t work for those that aren’t on Facebook, so I’ve updated them.)
I’m interrupting my stories about Scotland to celebrate my 600th post by doing a little catch up on what’s going on in my life at this moment.
Today I’m in downtown L.A. I’m here to attend BlogWorld Social Media Business Summit & New Media Expo (#BWELA)! I’m really excited about the avalanche of workshops that I will encounter over the next 3 days and can’t wait to get started sorting out which ones I’ll attend in person and which I’ll listen to after the conference.
BUT, before I dive into the conference I wanted to share a little of what inspired me today. You see, not so very long ago I lived in a suburb of L.A. In fact I lived just about 40 miles north of here for 18 years. And while we didn’t come into the “city” frequently, we did have a chance to enjoy the benefits occasionally. I’m not really a city girl, I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t want to live here, but I love visiting. Something about the soaring skyline and bustling traffic energizes me. I get the feeling that important things are happening here. Deals are being brokered, historic decisions are being made and ideas emerge here that are changing the world.
These are just a few of the things that inspire me about L.A.:
Passing billboards about new TV shows and movies (do you see that in your town?)
Enjoying dinner outdoors in November
Landing on radio stations in 7 or 8 different languages
The city skyline – it’s breathtaking
Exit signs for Little Armenia, and Historic Filipinotown
Realizing that the Pacific Ocean is just minutes away.
Appreciating all the sculptures and great architecture in downtown
Remembering that they have an “all news-all the time” radio station (AM1070). I miss that.
Celebrating the fact that the L.A. Philharmonic plays regularly at two awesome venues – The Walt Disney Concert Hall (see below) and the Hollywood Bowl (one of my absolute favorites). I miss that too.
So here’s how my day went in this inspiring city…
I drove from the Burbank airport this morning and met my daughter and son-in-law for breakfast (which I don’t get to do nearly as often as I’d like). Amy and Andrew are a couple of inspiring people too, but that story will have to wait for another time. I enjoyed a few hours with them, then headed down to the hotel where I’ll be staying for the duration of the conference.
On the way there, I passed the AMAZING, Frank Gehry designed, Walt Disney Concert Hall just a few blocks from the hotel. After checking in, it was such a gorgeous day that I decided to walk there. If you’ve never seen it in person, you really should make a point to go. I would love to take a tour and would especially love to attend a performance there. I understand that the acoustics in the auditorium are nearly perfect. Another fun tidbit is that there’s a small theater and gallery space in one corner of the Hall, called REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater). I used to work at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts) when REDCAT was being built and the staff and student body were anxiously awaiting it’s completion, so I have a bit of a vested interest in the place.
Anyway, here are a few photos of this awe inspiring complex.
The amazing thing is not so much imagining the building, but actually making it come to life with all those curves and waves. It’s spectacular!
While there I stopped in the gift shop because these places are just dripping with culture and creativity. I saw this great T-shirt and a bunch of other inspirational items, but it wasn’t really a shopping day for me, and I can’t really afford a $120 scarf no matter how beautiful it is, so I had to pass on all but a couple of little things that I picked up for Christmas gifts.
After dinner, I had a chance to go out and play a little with my camera and here’s a fun shot.
So now, it’s off to bed to rest up for 3 days of inspiration and information to come.
Have you ever been to Los Angeles? If not, what do you find inspiring about your own town?
Friday afternoon when we landed we met the kids and picked up our rental car from the airport. Our son, Kevin had already been in Scotland for a couple days and had a rental car too. We decided that we’d pay for an additional driver for each car so that each of the 3 couples would have the freedom to go somewhere on their own if they wanted to. It turned out to be helpful on a few occasions and the fact that a car that seated 6 people (plus luggage) would have had to be quite a bit bigger, we were glad that we didn’t get just one vehicle for all of us this time.
The experience of driving on the left side of the road with the driver on the right side of the car, was quite a culture shock for the guys, especially for Terry. Add to that the fact that the rural roads in Scotland are VERY narrow, have virtually no shoulder, are often lined by stone walls and sometimes are no more than one lane, it makes for a stressful drive. Fortunately our son-in-law, Andrew LOVED driving. Here’s a pic of him practicing in a parking lot before he went on the road for the first time. The next day he went out driving by himself and tried to find the narrowest roads he could drive on, just for the fun of it. The week they were with us Andrew always drove and Kevin drove a lot of the time, even though I don’t think he enjoyed it as much as Andrew. Then when we were in Ireland Terry came down with a cold and felt pretty crummy so Kevin drove almost the whole time there too. [We were thankful that the guys were willing to do that.]
Our home base was in the small town of Aberfeldy, right in the heart of Scotland. The 6 of us were staying at the Moness Resort in a 2 bedroom time-share (with a sofa-bed in the living room). We had a functioning kitchen which saves on time and food costs when you can prepare a few of your meals at home instead of eating out all the time.
On Saturday we all slept in a bit to try to catch up on sleep after our long travel days. We envisioned a relatively low-key day since we knew we needed to acclimate to the new time zone before the schedule got too busy. The plan for the day was to drive about 15 miles to do a bit of exploring in the town of Pitlochry. The young guys wanted to check out some of the whisky distilleries there and the rest of us just wanted to start discovering Scotland. When we got there we went to the Information Center on the main street and asked for information about how to find the distilleries. After we started walking Amy wasn’t feeling too well, so she decided that she didn’t want to do a long walk. I volunteered to stay in town with her since I didn’t have a huge interest in whisky and we sent the other four off on their adventure.
[Note: Whisky is spelled without an “e” before the “y” in Scotland, but with an “e” in Ireland – and in the U.S. since my spell check keeps highlighting it as a misspelled word.]
Here’s a photo (above) that Chelsea took on their hike (and I hear it was quite a hike) to the Edradour Distillery. This happens to be the smallest distillery in Scotland. You can read more about their story here. Since I wasn’t with them I don’t feel qualified to write about it, but I’m hoping that Terry (or someone) will give us their account of the hike and the tour that they went on.
While they were exploring the world of whisky, Amy and I visited Victoria’s for a delicious cup of tea on their outdoor patio (note the Rick Steve’s Scotland Tour Guide on the table). Afterward Amy decided to go and nap in the car and I spent some time exploring the shops.
Here are a few of the sights.
I thought these guys in kilts looked authentic until I heard them speaking German. Not sure if they were trying to blend in (which they didn’t) or if they were there for some other reason.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FOOD: I visited a few other stores, but nothing really jumped out at me that I HAD to have. Then I spotted The Scottish Deli and their sign in the window that read “Scotland Deli of the Year 2011”. Despite Scotland’s reputation for having relatively bland, boring food, I had to see what this little place had to offer. Inside the cozy shop that could only accommodate 2 employees and a few customers I found some wonderful surprises. The huge blackboard behind the counter listed about 30 different sandwiches available. There were unique treats like Smoked Local Duck with Chilli Jam or Dunked Local Smoked Salmon with Star Anis & Pink Peppercorn Mustard. It was such a creative variety that I was disappointed that it wasn’t meal time. I vowed to bring the gang back to have a meal here or to order some of their picnic lunches to go.
While I was there I wanted to at least pick up some cheese and crackers that we could all enjoy in the room. I browsed the various artisan cheeses in the case and asked the woman behind the counter to wrap up a Scottish Gouda as well as an Isle of Mull Cheddar to compliment the crackers I found. Then it was time to pay. The register was in a corner of the deli area with a counter about 2 feet wide and there was already an older woman being served by the young man behind the counter. She was having some difficulty with her bag and needed to have her items transferred to a new one. Simultaneously I was paying for the cheese and crackers at the same small counter. Soon the older woman was finished and walked out of the store. Since I was waiting for them to give me my cheese, I stood at the counter, finalized my payment and looked at the clerks.
They looked at me as if to say, “I think we’re finished. You can leave now.”. But I still didn’t have the cheese that they had wrapped up behind the counter.
I’m sure I looked puzzled as I stood there and finally asked, “…my cheese?”
They both looked at each other and blurted out, “Oh no! Mrs. McDougall must have taken it!” The young woman tore out from behind the counter, ran out the door and down the street shouting for Mrs. McDougall while the young man apologized profusely about the missing cheese. A few minutes later the young woman returned, a little out of breath, with my purchase. She apologized again, we all had a good laugh and all was right with the world.
This is one of their beautiful garden areas in the town center. It’s a charming little town, well worth a day trip.
Before we left town we headed for their grocery store, which was probably equivalent in size to a Fresh-n-Easy Market in Arizona. We picked up food for one dinner, breakfast each day and a few snacks and drinks for the week. With the itinerary we had, we knew that we wouldn’t be home much at meal time and we were right. We planned the food perfectly, with just enough to get us through the week. Here are some of our treasures. Bramble preserves (which could be blackberries or raspberries – delicious), Crumpets (these remind me of an English Muffin that’s not sliced-very tasty) and Ginger Crinkles (a crispy ginger cookie or “biscuit” as the Scottish call them).
That night we enjoyed a home cooked meal of vegetable beef soup, salad, bread and wine. It was delicious!
TRAVEL TIPS TODAY:
1. Rethink the automobile: We have spent a majority of our vacations in the western United States which are filled with wide open spaces and sprawling cities where a car is almost necessary. In older areas on the east coast of the U.S. and “across the pond”, we’ve found that a personal vehicle isn’t always required because so many sights are within easy walking distance of each other. Plus sometimes its more hassle than its worth…with parking woes and navigating congested streets…consider other dependable modes of mass transit and walking, of course.
2. Every meal doesn’t have to be at a restaurant: Depending on your accommodations, it might be possible to buy a few items to keep in your room to save on eating every meal at a restaurant. You can also think about picking up a sandwich as takeout from a deli and enjoy your meal in the park. We usually plan to eat no more than 2 meals a day out. Often a late breakfast and early dinner work out well. Then, if needed, an evening snack in the room will hold you over until the next day.
How do you handle your meals when you travel? Any tips for saving money without starving?
If you missed part 1 of this post about the Harbor Seals, you can find it here.
After doing a little bit of wading in the water, we walked along the sidewalk that hugs the coastline and passed two different wedding parties enjoying a gorgeous setting to tie the knot. This bride was on her way from her photo shoot to her reception. I saw our daughter, Amy gazing longingly at the wedding festivities. I know she would love to shoot a wedding here (so give her a call if you need a photographer for here or anywhere)!
We ended up resting under these wonderful curvy, gnarled trees. I have no idea what they’re called, but they were so unique.
Next we headed toward LaJolla Cove (just a few steps away). We passed this lovely plein air painting on the way to the beach. I’d love to try painting again someday, but I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to try it with so many onlookers. You couldn’t find a more perfect setting though.
This is La Jolla Cove which is actually designated as an Underwater Park Ecological Reserve where fishing is prohibited and all the marine life is protected. You’ll enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming and kayaking here!
I’m told that there are times during the year where you can see both Seals and Sea Lions at Casa Beach, but that didn’t seem to be the case this week. Today we get to meet the California Sea Lions that are at La Jolla Cove. It’s within easy walking distance of the seals.
I think it’s so awesome that these gorgeous creatures are in such close proximity to each other and so accessible for the public to view. What a great way to teach your little ones about the magnificence of God’s creation and to guide them in how to explore, appreciate, honor and respect their natural world. This is the ultimate example of nature at your doorstep, even in busy southern California. As you can see, these kayakers have an amazing view of the sea lions and a much different vantage point than those of us on land.
By the way, do you know the difference between the seal and sea lions that we see in La Jolla? Sea Lions have small external ear flaps. Another big difference between true seals and sea lions is that sea lions have larger front flippers which they use effectively on land. Sea lions can also rotate their hind flippers toward the ground so they’re able to walk on all four appendages, unlike seals that basically “scooch” on their bellies. They make use of their fore flippers when propelling themselves through water too. Sea Lions are generally the creatures that you’ll see performing in shows, since they’re highly intelligent and relatively easy to train. If you’d like to get into even more detail about the differences, visit “How Stuff Works” here.
And last, but not least this temperate climate does wonders for flowers! Here’s just a taste of the colors you may see here.
Here’s a link to a detailed map of the LaJolla area. At this posting it was last updated in 2010, so it’s hard to tell how accurate the business listings are, but for general navigation, it should be helpful.
So what’s your favorite part of La Jolla so far?
Next post will be about the Open Aire Market there. Stay tuned – you’re gonna wish there was a scratch and sniff blog option.
Here are a few of my favorite pics of our family from the weekend. Don’t you just love Amy’s earrings!
For our first day in LaJolla, after inching through the traffic between the hotel and the coast, we finally found a place to park about a block from the beach.
First stop would be the Casa Beach to see the Harbor Seals. Here’s what the view looks like from street level (click to enlarge). Now remember this is right in town and less than a 5 minute walk from where we parked. Looks kinda like a normal beach, protected from the waves by the wall and walkway. What you may not notice is that there are Harbor Seals in the water and on the beach, just below the wall, past where all the people are. At certain times of the year, the whole beach is covered with seals, and this is also where they have their pups in the spring.
This harbor seal colony numbers approximately 200 seals. To learn more about this beach, the seals and the La Jolla Friends of the Seals that help out there, click here. It’s really quite interesting. There’s also some controversy between those that think the beach should be roped off to protect the seals year round and those that think humans should have access to the beach in the summer for swimming. If you’re interested in more info on that, visit “The Controversy” here.
We walked down on the beach and I pulled out my 300mm zoom lens so I could get some close-up shots of the seals without disturbing them physically. They’re so cute and lovable, but can seem to be aggressive when humans encroach on their space. While we were standing there, an adult seal moved away from the rest of the seals and toward some folks that were getting too close. She seemed to be chasing them away from the pups and other adult seals. Once everyone backed up, she went back to the group. I’m not sure what would have happened if the humans hadn’t moved, but suffice it to say that it’s important that we respect their habitat and honor their right to be there too. In the photo above you can see how close people were to the seals.
Here’s a group shot that shows the interesting range of color and pattern in their fur coats. They go from silver to black with all manor of combinations in between.
Look at the seal heading into the water in this one! And the brownish one lying on his back. He looks like your favorite dog begging to have his belly scratched. The sad thing about this photo is the water bottle tossed in the group of seals. Seriously, who in the world would do that? Sad enough that someone would throw it on the ground at all, but the fact that this could have been thrown directly at a seal is disgusting. Please teach your children that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. (getting off my soap box now…)
So after we left Casa Beach, we walked down a little way. Andrew and I did some wading at another stretch of beach while Terry and Amy looked on.
And while we were there, I used my “motherly expertise” to rescue a little boy who had encountered a serious issue. Check out this photo that Amy took. This little guy was maybe 8 years old and had been playing on the rocks at the beach. Somehow he managed to rip his trousers across the top of the back pocket and ALL THE WAY down his pant leg from top to bottom, so his underwear and rear end was showing. Fortunately he HAD underwear ON, but it was still pretty embarrassing, I’m sure. So Amy had a big safety pin and I managed to get the loose flap pinned to the top of his pocket enough so that everything wasn’t hanging out. It’s something only a mom would be allowed to do respectfully. I’m not sure where his mother was, but I would have hoped that someone would do the same for Kevin if he’d been wandering around like that when he was young. The little boy seemed to be appreciative, but still couldn’t find the shirt that he lost as well. Good thing he was having fun in the water, otherwise it could have been a ruined day for him.
Isn’t it amazing how, even as adults we’re fascinated by the interplay between waves and sand. I could sit and watch the ocean for hours. It’s so relaxing and refreshing…
So, we’re about half way through the day at this point. The next post will be the rest of the afternoon.
What do you think about the ocean? Is it scary or intriguing to you? Having grown up right next to Lake Erie, large bodies of water don’t frighten me. I am a bit intimidated by the more dangerous creatures in the ocean though…like sharks and jelly fish and the like. And I’m not really fond of the salt water coating that’s left in your hair and on your skin after swimming in the ocean.
Let me know what you think about the ocean. Have you ever been to La Jolla? What’s your favorite thing to do there?
Saturday night was an unofficial birthday dinner for me (and for Andrew too) since both of our birthdays were in the week before we were there. We tried to make a reservation for a place overlooking the coast, but the earliest they had was 8pm, and we had eaten early in the day, so we tried to find someplace available earlier. We ended up at The Spot.
It wasn’t overlooking the coast, but we were able to snag a table right next to a couple of windows that opened out onto the sidewalk with the fresh ocean breeze wafting through. This is the booth where we sat. Can’t you just feel the breeze?
It also helped because the restaurant is a little dark, so the outside access helped it feel more open.
She also posted some pics from our recent visit with them and our trip to LaJolla. You can find those here.
My pics are coming soon, I promise. You’re gonna love the cute seal pictures and I have some good ones of Amy and Andrew too.
We have commitments tonight and tomorrow night, but I should get some more out over the weekend.
By the way, what’s your favorite day to read new blog posts? I’m always hesitant to do new posts on the weekend because everyone is out and about and I’m afraid that they’ll get lost in the shuffle. I’d love to target the best days for you, so let me know what they are.
Thanks for reading! Hope you’re having an awesome summer!