Blessed holiday

I think I’m the last on the planet to discover iMovie. Better late than never, right? I put this little number together this evening. I think I’m addicted and will be documenting everything from now on. Can’t wait to make one for our cross country trip to Michigan. (Can I call it a “cross country” trip even though we aren’t crossing the country? We’re technically just driving north but it’s almost as far north as you can get.) In case you forgot, this is from my trip to California in October. 

music: Holiday by Vampire Weekend and Blessed by Brett Dennen
footage & photos: yours truly 

Now that the kids are out of school (our last day was June 1st) I think I’ll be finding myself with some extra time to blog! No more making lunches or sitting in car lines or studying for tests or helping with homework or science projects or volunteering in the classroom or…or…or. No one told me that when I had kids I’d actually be going back to school but that is truly the case. Consider yourself told. 

What kinds of amazing summer plans do you have? Vacations? Staycations? Do tell!


A year in review

I’m filled with hope for the new year. I’m not sure why turning a page on a calendar signifies a new start in my life but it does. Every year. Sometimes I look back fondly on the year and other times, like this year, I can’t wait to flip over the page to January 1st. That got me thinking. How bad has this year really been? In looking through my blog posts, it hasn’t been bad at all. Yes, the last couple months could have been better but this year has held some amazing memories for me. If you haven’t been reading my blog all year, I encourage you to browse through these posts.

We went geocaching and got some interesting treasure. 

Visited the Florida State Fair for the first time.

Took my favorite picture of the year.

I saw the Google maps car!

I conquered a fear of mine.

Went on many Sunday outings.

Went to the beach (several times) and started our jumping picture tradition.

Went on a road trip to see Mumford and Songs (warning, this post is long, with lots of photos). This is a tie for my favorite memory of the year.

Went to Georgia, collected some rocks & jumped for some more pictures.

Threw Ken a 40th birthday bash! 

Celebrated my niece’s birthday in Crystal River.

Watched my friend’s movie screening.

Went to California to interview Roma Downey. My favorite posts about my trip can be seen herehere (my favorite day in California), here and this is my interview.

Recorded an acoustic music video. (Here is the link that includes the actual video.)

So, as I sit back an remember all that has happened this year, I’ve decided that it’s been a good year overall. Yes, the last two months can kiss my butt and I’m still looking forward to 2012 but 2011 & I have kissed and made up. I think I just needed some perspective.  

Have a great New Year’s Eve and may you experience more blessings than you can imagine in 2012!

California’s Venice canals

This is my last post for my California trip. Hopefully I haven’t bored you to tears with the last few posts. The morning of my last day, I headed to the shore just one more time to soak up the sounds of the Pacific Ocean. I even scooped up a bit of sand to take home with me. 

Since I didn’t have to be at the airport for a few hours, I decided to hit the Venice canals. You read right. They’re just like the canals in the other Venice. Well, maybe not exactly but pretty close. The last time I went to California they were under construction so there was really nothing to see. But there was plenty to see this time! I think I’ve found my next place to live:

The houses were amazing here. Don’t you agree?

I’ll take the one on the right, please. All the houses were fixed up so pretty with flowers, plants and perfect outdoor furniture.

This house even had matching flowers:

This was the neatest place. Nestled in the city is this quiet neighborhood. You’d never know it was here unless you knew to look for it. I’m so glad I had the time to stop by and see it. And as soon as I move into one of those houses, I’ll let you guys know and we can have a great big party!


I love technology

Here’s another movie for you: Napoleon Dynamite. Did you see it? Did you see the song at the end? Where Kip sings to his bride about his love for technology? If you haven’t seen it, click here for a 30 second clip of the song. Just like Kip, I love technology. And here’ why: all through my vacation, I was posting photos & updates on Facebook so my family & friends could follow along. I emailed a fellow blogger from the shore and even had a couple of friends download the Find My Friends app so they could follow me on my adventures (thanks Anthony & Melissa!). It was so delightful sharing my fun experiences in and around Santa Monica.

After my time at Leo Carillo Beach, I was hungry. Before I even left for California, my friend Vickie from Lilacs and Cupcakes had told me that I just had to eat at one of her favorite cafes. She couldn’t remember the name, couldn’t remember the address but knew it was across the street from the beach & the Malibu police station. But when I looked up the police station, it was miles from the beach. We went back and forth with text messages and she told me it was right in the middle of a shopping center on PCH. We were getting close: I only saw two shopping centers on PCH. I took a guess, pulled into one, took a picture & sent it to her asking if this was the right one. Lo and behold, it was! Now do you see why I love technology? My friend in Missouri was giving me “directions” to a cafe in Malibu! 

I had a delicious burger at Coogi’s Beach Cafe. Inside, it looks more like a diner than a cafe but the food was divine. I had the pesto burger and So very good.

When I left Coogi’e I decided to head up toward Los Angeles. My friend, Kevin (who lives in Florida), has a brother, Tom, that works at Fox Studios and I was going to meet Tom for dinner. This isn’t something I normally do; meet strangers for dinner but I just had a feeling that this would be fun. Since I still had a couple of hours before dinner, I thought I’d drive around Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive for a bit. I posted on Facebook that I was heading that way and I really felt like everyone at home was cheering me on as I went. I got requests for pictures (but they felt more like threats if I didn’t get pictures). I rushed to get there before dark but the California traffic was working against me. I got there in enough time to snap this picture from the car:

Not a great picture, but proof that I made it! While receiving directions from my dad over the phone, I found The Witch’s House. This old house was in several silent films and can also be seen in Clueless (one of my guilty pleasures).

I told Facebookland that I was now heading to Rodeo Drive. Again, I got requests (or threats) for pictures. Most of the stores were closed when I arrived but, like Beverly Hills, I got some pictures to prove that I was there. I didn’t realize that the window displays are so extravagant there.

Ralph Loren:

Most of the other pictures are too dark to see much of anything but I still had fun wandering around pretending that I could go into any store and buy whatever I wanted. From a new Hugo Boss suit for Ken to some jewelry for me from Cartier. And then I found the mothership: Paper Source. It’s a cute little shop with all things paper and paper crafts including books, wrapping paper, cards, rubber stamps, home decorations. I could have spent an hour in there! But I think the craziest thing I saw at Rodeo Drive were parking meters that take credit cards. Super convenient and a great idea but I never thought I’d see this.

And now it was dinnertime! I followed Tom just a few minutes down the road to Farmer’s Market (be sure to watch the video). And this is why I love meeting people that live in places that I’m visiting: I would never have gone to this place, I would have missed it completely. I highly recommend this place. There’s something for everyone at Farmer’s Market. It was so much fun. So many different places to eat and if I wanted I could have picked up some fruits and veggies. We walked around and decided on a place for dinner – The French Crepe Company.

We ate dinner and then walked around The Grove. Tom is the most fascinating person I’ve met in a long time. He’s a foley editor currently working at Fox Studios. In case you don’t know what a foley editor is I’ll tell you. Anything you hear in a movie that isn’t dialogue is the direct result of foley artists. Background noise, footsteps, cars crashing, keyboard tapping, punches being thrown…all that is created by the foley guys. I could have sat there and listened to his stories for hours. Wait…that’s exactly what I did. Let me stop here and say that I really hate people that are name droppers just for the sake of impressing others. And Tom was nothing like that at all. He had story after story of people he’s worked with but never made it sound like he was trying to impress me or those around us. I know the secret (maybe it’s not a secret but I like to think that it is) of how they made the sound for Face/Off when the boat crashes. I know how they got the sounds for the fight scene. I know that Jim Carrey is most likely a great guy to work with but I probably wouldn’t want to work with director William Friedkin.

Tom and I spent four hours talking movies, his journey to working in the movies, my interview with Roma, houses, the economy, Florida, California. It was so much fun. And like I said, not something I normally do, but I trusted my friends Raegan & Kevin and it payed off. I feel like I have a new friend for life now.

My California trip is quickly coming to an end. My dinner with Tom marked my last night in California. I was to leave the next day. I’ll only have one more post to tell you about the canals in Venice. This was not something I had seen on any of my previous trips to the West Coast and it was amazing. Can’t wait to show you pictures!

My best day

Again, this post is pretty long and very photo heavy. So get another cup of coffee or tea and enjoy yourself…

Ever seen City Slickers? I love the scene when they’re all telling each other what their best day was. Well, I’m getting ready to tell you my best day from my California vacation. You might be surprised to know that it wasn’t the day that I got to interview Roma Downey. Nope, even though I loved that day and all that happened during it, it wasn’t my favorite. My favorite day was Tuesday. Here’s the lowdown:

I got up early and decided that I’d take a scenic drive. My dad sent directions for me. It was like a mission sent to Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible. Except it didn’t self destruct. And I didn’t have to hang from any cliffs or jump from any motorcycles. My drive started on South Topanga Road. It’s a two lane road right off PCH but a bit busy. I followed the road for about 4 miles and turned onto Old Topanga Road. Now, this was quite the road. Curvy, quiet, country, beautiful. Every turn provided something beautiful. People live in fairy tale environments.

Not a sound around me except a small creek, birds, wind and the very occasional passing car. Curvy roads and nature, that’s what this ride was all about. Around every curve was some beautiful sight to see or a beautiful soundscape to behold. I kept pulling over to snap pictures and shoot videos. Here’s one video.

You have to listen carefully to hear the horses and phone but I swear they’re on there.

The drive was nothing less than stunning. Which, for me, wasn’t surprising for California. I felt like I was getting out of the car after every turn.

My remote was out of batteries so in order to take some self portraits, I had to work with the timer…ugh. Oh well, I’m not in Cali everyday so a photographer has to do what a photographer has to do, right?

And, of course, my traditional jumping picture:

After driving along Old Topanga Road, I hooked up with Mulholland Highway. I took that for a few miles and then drove on Stunt Road. When I turned onto Stunt Road, there was a sign that said “Grooved Centerline for next 4 miles”. Guess they don’t want anyone doing any stunts on Stunt Road! It was quite curvy, I have to say. I can only imagine how fun it would be to drive with a Jeep, convertible, or a motorcycle.

My last turn was onto Las Flores Canyon Road and I think it was the most twisty, curvy, winding road I’ve ever driven on. It was simply beautiful. That road put me right back onto Pacific Coast Highway. This little drive took over an hour but probably would have been quicker if I hadn’t stopped a million times to take dozens of pictures. But then, what would have been the point, right?

I headed north on PCH after stopping at a Radio Shack to get batteries for my camera remote. Just a few miles up the road, I pulled off to check out Escondido Beach. You park on the side of the road and enter the beach access through a gate. Once inside the gate, this is what you see:

Taket this pathway to a set of stairs. Many, many stairs. I counted all the stairs I took to get to this beach and it was over 100! But totally worth it! Descend the steps, open another gate, continue down some more steps and viola, you’re there! It was early on a weekday morning so there was no one on the beach. It was quiet except for the sounds of the crashing waves. Heavenly.

I climbed all the way back up to street level and continued north on PCH. I had places to go and things to see. 

And here’s where my day goes from great to greater; why it’s my best day. I spent over an hour on the shore of Leo Carillo Beach. If you take a trip to Malibu and don’t stop here, you’re nuts. At first glance, it looks like any shore of Malibu except for the gigantic rocks just off shore. In this picture you can see a surfer enjoying the waves. 

See all the rocks in the foreground of the picture? There were millions of them! I’m guessing the tide was low and revealed all these colorful rocks. Tiny crabs, shells and sea urchin things were waiting for me to discover them.

Beautiful, right?

Just a few yards from where I was standing was this breathtaking scene:

It was right out of a movie set. Huge rocks, little tide pools, big tide pools, more creatures and caves…

Since I started blogging, I’ve met a few other bloggers and considered some of them friends. Ocean Soul is one of those bloggers. They are lovely ladies. As I sat at the shore, I sent them an email telling them that I was thinking of them and realize now why they call their blog Ocean Soul. I sat there, taking in all the beauty and actually said out loud to myself, “Nothing can beat this.” And then I saw this:

Right in front of me was a tiny little pool of water, no bigger than a 5 gallon bucket, full of crabs, sea anemone and star fish! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I just started crying like a dork. I’m so glad I was alone on this beach. This whole trip was from God. The opportunity to have my flight and one night paid for, the opportunity to interview Roma Downey, the fact that we had a little extra money for me to stay a couple days, the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, the scenic drive I had just taken…all of it I felt was a gift from God. And while I was enjoying my gift, He continued to give to me. I just love when God gives us extra special gifts just for the heck of it. I started looking around a little more closely and found dozens and dozens of star fish. It was amazing.I sent another email to Karen at Ocean Soul telling her about my experience and my kiss from God. In return, she asked me if I had stuck my finger inside the anemone center. That thought hadn’t crossed my mind and I told her I hadn’t & asked if I should. I said they look like they’d suck my finger off and leave me with a stump. She assured me that it’s fine. Feels sticky and strange, but it’d be fine. After a long debate, I figured that I couldn’t come to California and not do it. If I didn’t, I’d definitely regret it. So, I did!

Karen was quite proud of me and I have to say I was, too. I did end up sicking my whole finger inside and it was still pretty freaky. I’m so glad I didn’t walk away without trying it. I’ll leave you with some more pictures of my day:

And that was my best day. Delightful drive, breathtaking trip to the shore, connecting with online friends, and that wasn’t even the end of it. I’ll be back to tell you about the rest of my day – Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive and how I connected with a stranger (that isn’t a stranger any more).

The California coast and crepes

And now I understand why some people feel overwhelmed with vacation pictures. I was only gone 3 days and I can’t seem to get my head above water. Tons of pictures plus new editing software means I haven’t been able to blog about the rest of my trip. So I’ve made a compromise with myself. I’ve done only the bare minimum on these pictures I’m about to show you. I’m excited and I cannot wait any longer. So here goes nothing…

After the interview, I went back to the hotel to pick up my car. As one of the other interviewers said, “Only in California can you rent a luxury car for just $25 a day but pay $30 a day to park it!” He was right. It was $30 to park our car in the hotel’s garage. Crazy, no? Since the day was young, I picked up my car and headed to The Third Street Promenade. This is an outdoor pedestrian friendly shopping center where they’ve closed off 3rd Street to cars. They have a web cam so I called home, waved to the family, blew kisses to my boys and went on with my shopping. This is a great area and would be a regular stop if I lived in Santa Monica. The Third Street Promenade has the biggest Anthropologie store I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure I heard the angels singing as I walked in. Other stores include Apple and a gi-huge-ic Urban Outfitters. 

Old movie theater:

Lots of street performers. Not quite as unique as the guy rollerblading and playing electric guitar on Venice beach, though. But maybe that’s not a bad thing after all.

Water fountains like these were up and down the whole shopping center.

After walking around for a while, I decided to do a little tourist thing (I can shop at home, after all). I had read online that the beach house from Spanglish was only a few miles from where I was staying! This is probably one of my top 10 favorite movies so I just had to see the house. It took less than 15 minutes to drive to the house, hop out and snap some pictures. I hear that it only costs $45,000 month to rent it. Maybe I’ll do that next time I’m out there.

Remember when they walked next door so the guy working on his car could translate & ask Flor if she could stay for the summer? I love that scene. The guy is so cute – putting on his shirt to talk to her. And the shot from across the street while she’s trying to decide what to do and all the cars are passing by is another favorite scene of mine. If you look to the left, you can see that area where they had that conversation:

Then it was back to the coast. I couldn’t help it, it keep calling my name. I would drive 1/4 mile and have to pull over to see and hear it. I read about a good place to see the sunset so I rushed back down south just in enough time to see this:

See the tiny sun hidden in the clouds? Yep, the sun had set behind the clouds and wasn’t stunning like I had hoped. I had to laugh at the thought that I had raced to that spot just to see a beautiful display only to have it ruined by clouds. One day I’ll make it out there again and see the beautiful sunset of the West coast. 

Looks like shopping was in the plans for me that night. I found the neatest mall, Santa Monica Place. It’s just like a multi level shopping mall but with no roof. It’s open air but not in a strip center style. Make sense? I browsed around and decided that I’d have crepes for dinner. Thank you, Yana.

Let me go off subject for a minute here and tell you how very connected I felt during my entire trip. I used Facebook to connect to those at home and received more than one recommendation for dining.  I felt that my friends were really rooting for me to make it to Beverly Hills before the sun went down. And I could almost hear then cheering me on as I walked around Rodeo Drive, posting pictures of the stores and their window displays. I think that the social network thing is amazing.

OK, back to my crepes. I only have an iPhone picture of it & I’m surprised the poor little crepe lasted even that long. May I present the Nutella crepe with strawberries and a hint of cognac:

It was heavenly, delicious, delightful, enchanting and simply yummy. If you make a trip, I insist that you try Cafe Crepe. You’ll thank me.

Well, that about wraps up Monday. I’ll be back tomorrow with tales of my beautiful drive on Topanga Canyon Road as well as my favorite part of my trip and how I connected with another blogger while sitting at the shore. I have to catch up because I also have two great birthday presents to show you!

I am now part of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

{Before reading this post, do yourself a favor and grab a cup of coffee or tea. Might as well get a cookie, too, since this is quite a wordy post.}

I just realized that by meeting someone famous, I’ve now inserted myself into the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Never would have guessed that!

When I last left you I was going to interview Roma Downey. (Still sounds strange to me.) So here’s how it went down (you got that coffee and cookie, right? You won’t want to miss one detail of this story.

We were whisked away from the hotel Monday morning. There were 5 of us going to interview Roma Downey & Phil Lollar, the producer and writer (respectively) of Little Angles. The interviews were to take place at Roma Downey’s house in Malibu, CA. The drive to her house took about 15 minutes. The day was dreary, filled with clouds and a cool temperature but I was full of excitement. Everyone seemed to be going about their normal everyday business. That is, everyone except those of us in the van.

As we pulled into her driveway, we were all in awe. It wasn’t a mansion but it wasn’t your average Monopoly house, either. She, her husband Mark Burnett, and their three children live in a large, white house with a beautiful garden, complete with a waterfall. We were taken inside and, oh my. The entry way was just as beautiful as the outside. You could see into the 2nd floor loft area and it was full of bookshelves. All around the perimeter were books, books and more books. And art. Lots of art. Large orchids, full of blooms, greeted us at the door and the house smelled like an Anthropologie store. Candles were lit everywhere. The foyer included a Matisse painting and two Chagall paintings (yes, they were real, not reproductions). One of the guys that worked for the media company interrupted our gazing and asked if we wanted to see the view out back. I felt that it would have been just a tad unprofessional if I answered, “Well, DUH!” so instead, I quietly agreed that that would be a delightful idea. 

Her backyard is unbelievable. The view is unbelievable. The pool and outdoor furniture were unbelievable. The flowers and plants were unbelievable. It was all…unbelievable.

My senses were in high alert in her backyard. Her house sits high above the water but you could still hear the waves crashing down below. She had a simple, rectangular pool but the plants and trees around it made it appear simply grand. The rear of the house was just as beautiful as the front. The smells from all the plants were so luscious. The sounds of the crashing waves were almost sublime. It was all so beautiful. Of course, with permission, we snapped a few pictures but were told that they were not “for public consumption.” So, I’ll just have to do my best to describe everything to you.

As we headed back inside to the waiting area, we walked through the kitchen with pots hanging over the island, an eat in dining table with a huge china cabinet filled with dishes (I secretly imagined she brought these over from Ireland and they were family heirlooms. I have no idea if that story is true, but I like to think so). On our way we saw more art, family pictures, a christening gown sewn to a quilt and wedding pictures in front of the family pool. But my favorite thing about this house? On the doorway to the kitchen, she had marked where her children had grown. There were dozens of marks showing the growth of her children over the years. I found it endearing that she would note each milestone just like you or I would. Out of all the things in the house, this was my favorite.

Our waiting area was the movie room; a huge room with 4 large couches situated like movie theater rows and about a half dozen (comfy) bean bag chairs. When not watching a movie on the large screen, one could take in the view of the waterfall at the front of the house. This room was filled with more art, candles, orchids and more family photos. There was even one of everyone on camels! We used this time to get acquainted with one another. It seemed to me that some of the others had met before. There were eight of us there, including interviewers from The 700 ClubHomeschool Movie Club and Movie Guide. Everyone was kind and easy to talk to.

After a time of chatting and breakfast, the interviews started. We all interviewed the writer, Phil Lollar, first. Phil is best known for his work on Adventures in Odyssey. He was a few minutes late (one of the downsides of traveling through Los Angeles) but was quite the gentleman and apologetic. He’s the writer for this project and I found to be a very interesting interview (not that I have a lot to compare to). He said he used to watch Saturday morning cartoons (I’d like to interject here that I think it’s a shame that my kids don’t know the joy of waking up Saturday morning to see the cartoons.) and then try to mimic the voices that he heard. After a while he tried to make up his own characters and voices. As you can imagine, the road from there to writer/director isn’t a long one. I took great comfort in knowing that there’s hope for my son (who is always pretending – and I love that).

Once we were each through with our interviews, we waited until Roma was ready. She didn’t keep us waiting long. And in fact, just a few minutes before the first interview was to begin, she came in and greeted us! She was absolutely stunning. She’s a teeny, tiny thing. Did I mention that she’s stunning? She was so welcoming to us, asking if we had seen the backyard and told us that there was a walkway down to the beach that we were all welcome to use. I know that it’s in her best interest to be kind to those that will writing or talking about her project, but she seemed to be very sincere. She talked about her giant Irish Wolfhouds, Fin McCool and Maximus. And when I say giant, I mean it – I hardly had to bend down to pet them. She chatted about her garden and the flowers they planted to attract butterflies. Very down to earth and welcoming.

By the time I was up to interview her, all the “bad” nerves were gone. If you’ve ever performed on stage or in front of people, you know that there are good nerves and bad ones. You want to have a little bit of butterflies in your stomach but not so many that it’s crowded in there. She was very pleasant to talk to. You can tell she is passionate about this project. Part educational and part Biblical, Little Angels teaches preschoolers numbers, ABC’s as well as Biblical principles. In the series, twins Alex and Zoe have eight little angles painted on their ceiling that come to life when the children need them. Each episode teaches the basics of numbers and letters and also has a Bible story. I’ve seen David & Goliath and Joshua. Each DVD also includes a lesson from Roma to the parents. The lessons talk about different things that all parents have to tackle. For example, one lesson is on sharing. The series is very well written, visually pleasing (no mediocre animation here) and I really think it will appeal to preschoolers. I was not paid to write a review but I find that well done Christian things (especially in Hollywood) are hard to come by. We’re getting better but we’re not there yet and when I see something that’s worth noting, I like to tell everyone about it.  

The idea for the little angels in the story was from a prayer that Roma’s mother used to say to her. Roma has big dreams for the brand; music CDs, clothes, books, you name it. Little Angels has their own Facebook page, their own web site and even apps for your iPhone or iPad. Roma was so cute when she said she just started tweeting and joked that she called it “twittering”, evoking an eye roll from her daughter. I guess even Hollywood stars have to deal with teenagers rolling their eyes. 

The whole day was so much fun and I’m so blessed to have had the opportunity to do something like this. I’d love it if the opportunity arose again, but who knows. Right now I’m content to stay on Cloud Nine and delight in all the details.

I’ll be back tomorrow with some photos of my trip (I think this is the only post I’ve ever done that didn’t include one single picture) and a cool story of a unique way that I connected with one of my favorite bloggers, Ocean Soul.

See you at the fence tomorrow!