Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Be Mine!

Day 4: Sunday, February 14 

It was a sweet treat getting to spend Sunday morning together. We all met at Liesey's apartment at 8AM, then walked several blocks and enjoyed brunch at a great little spot called Huckleberry. Healthy, fresh, organic fare was the order of the day. And did I mention that the coffee was tall, dark, and handsome?

After we returned back at the apartment, I handed out Valentine gifts to my sweethearts -- yummy chocolates and BIG lips! The big red and pink lips were purely for a photo opportunity. See?

 AJ and Markkk headed off to the airport, so the rest of us squeezed in just a little more fun stuff before we had to say farewell.  Liesey Lou and I decided that we "needed" one more sweet treat, so we stopped in at a Ghiradelli Chocolate shop for a Sunday sundae. You simply cannot go wrong with ice cream and chocolate that is made for sharing...And even more so, since it was Valentine's Day.
As a special note of interest, I want to point out the awesome necklace that our daughter is wearing. Our Airbnb hostess makes jewelry and teaches jewelry making at Santa Monica College. We bought this "signature piece" for our daughter. I knew she'd love it. And she did.

Our flight back to the DFDubs was right at three hours long, the shuttle ride to the parking spot only took a few minutes, and the drive back to Keller was 40 minutes.  It's good to be back home, but I'm ready to go back to California for another visit any day of the week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Day 3: Saturday, February 13

On Saturday morning, as we were making a trip to Costco to purchase roses for our ballerina girl, we happened upon this unusual "artwork" above a CVS pharmacy. This sculpture is somewhat disturbing, yet it somehow seems right at home in Venice, CA. It is apparently a "marriage" between a classically trained ballerina and street performer/clown. It is a masculine, yet feminine looking all at the same time -- definitely the kind of thing that might make me have bad dreams, yet I "had" to take a picture of it. 

I am pretty sure that we may have seen the inspiration for this piece of work strolling on the Venice Boardwalk...

After the flowers were purchased, we met up with AJ and Mark at the Santa Monica Pier. They had an early flight from Portland to LAX on Saturday morning. They, too, had tickets to the best show in LA -- Pepperdine's Dance in Flight!

It was very crowded in Santa Monica, as preparations for setting up the finish line for the Los Angeles Marathon was underway. There were barricades set up, news crews, and more street vendors than usual. Traffic was a wee bit heavier than usual -- both vehicle and pedestrian. We didn't mind the crowds. It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

See those two people waving? Braxton and Millie are in the #17 car of the Ferris Wheel.
And here they are close-up.

The main reason we made this trip to Southern California was to see the annual performance of "Dance in Flight," Pepperdine's resident dance company that our girlie has been a part of for the past two years. We were not able to attend last year's performance, but we did get to see a video of the performance. It was amazing! We decided that we would have to be present and accounted for at this year's show, since it IS her senior year.

DIF auditions are held in September, then rehearsals take place every weekend until showtime in February. There is a tech rehearsal, a dress rehearsal, and a show for elementary school children before they get to the four shows on Thursday-Saturday. We opted to see the final show.

Dance in Flight dancers perform Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap, Ballet, Modern, Theatrical, Ballroom and World dance. Although there are 30-some dancers in the company, if I am being TOTALLY honest, we were really only interested in seeing one of them light up the stage with her smile. :-)

We met up with our dancer in between the Saturday matinee and evening shows. We didn't have time to tour the campus, but we did have time to get a quick bite to eat together.

As expected, the show was FABULOUS! (I might be somewhat biased...)

I am including two photos from a ballet piece and one picture from the salsa number that our girlie was in. We were not allowed to take photos during the performance, but these photos were taken by a Pepperdine photographer during one of the rehearsals.

You can tell by the smiles that we all enjoyed the "flight."

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sand and Stars

Day 2: Friday, February 12

Big squishy hugs were given and received when we got to see our Pepperdine girlie! 

We were given the 2¢ tour of Liesey's apartment before we headed to Pacific Palisades to have breakfast at Maison Giraud -- one of the best places, aside from traveling all the way to France, to get a yummy, flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth authentic French croissant. We were not disappointed. 
We simply had to sample several different kinds of baked goods (Gluten? What gluten?!), but the consensus was that the chocolate and plain croissants are the best of the best of the best. Not a single crumb was wasted.

The French toast is pretty fabulous, too! 

After breakfast, we drove north along the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu to visit a few favorite beaches. Zuma and Westward Beaches are both nice, but the best photo ops were found at El Matador State Beach. The rock formations and magnificent waves were oh, so picturesque. And best of all, we found some happy faces to photograph.

We then headed to Venice Beach just for comparison sake; however, there is no comparison between the beaches in Malibu and Venice. People watching IS a bit more "colorful & interesting" at Venice Beach -- no contest there!

Our SoCal tour guide needed to leave us in the early afternoon, as she had a dance performance to get ready for on Friday night. When we were back on our own, we drove into LA to find Neapolitan pizza at a plain Jane warehouse looking restaurant. Cheap, fast, plentiful, tasty, and gluten-laden all describe our experience at DeSano Pizza Bakery. (I had already declared that this would be a day for allowing gluten into my diet, so I went in with knowing what I was in for. No regrets.)

After eating all that bread, it was time for a walk. There are nearly 2,400 stars/names covering 3.5 miles of the Walk of Fame. I don't think that we saw every single one. I lost count! However, we saw a good representation. 
Elvis, Bob Hope, Lassie, Mickey Mouse, Harrison Ford, Ronald Reagan, and of course Marilyn Monroe are some of the big names that we walked all over. 

Grauman's Chinese Theatre might now be called TCL Chinese Theatre, but the hand and footprints on the front sidewalk of the theatre haven't changed since the first impressions were made in 1927. Again we saw a lot of names, but most are ones I did not recognize.

We made one quick detour before heading back to our guest cottage accommodations. We (quite literally) drove by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see Chris Burden's "Urban Light." This sculpture incorporates 202 restored 1920s and 1930s street lamps. It is...well...enlightening. 

Hooray for Hollywood

Day 1: Thursday, February 11
Seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position, seat belts are securely fastened, and smiles are on these travelers' faces. 
All ready for takeoff! 
We are SoCal bound.

After a very quick and very direct flight to Los Angeles, we hopped in our rental car, navigated a crazy route (all thanks to Waze), and headed to a two-hour tour of Paramount Studios.

Our tour guide took our group of seven (four of us and our three Aussie buddies) all around the studio in a golf cart. We got to visit a warehouse filled with retired (and some very recognizable) props, we walked the streets of the backlot, and we toured a few sound stages as we learned a lot about what goes on behind-the-scenes in Hollywood.

 Look at these two "celebrities" that we saw on the streets of New York!
Oh, the paparazzi!

Braxton demonstrated that all of those workouts for baseball have obviously paid off. 

"Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." :-)

Forrest Smith?!

Okay, so this might be about the most touristy thing that we did while in LA.
Well, maybe not...

After stopping at In-N-Out in Hollywood, we headed to Santa Monica to check in to our Airbnb. We had reservations at a Spanish-style guest cottage for three nights. 

The sole reason for our trip to Southern California was not to visit Hollywood, but it was to visit our middlest child, and watch her perform in "Dance in Flight" at Pepperdine. Our college coed was unable to see us on our first day in California. On "Day Two" we were promised big squishy hugs with our California girl. :-)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Out With the Old; In With the New

I will start off this NEW YEAR by sharing a few pictures from our final road trip of 2015. The day after Christmas, we loaded up the car, then traveled "over the river and through the woods" to get to Indiana.

On December 27th, we spent our 28th anniversary with a good representation of people who were with us at our wedding -- minus the three Smithlings, of course, and a few newer additions to the fam. The headcount totaled twenty-one for our after-Christmas family gathering. We cannot imagine a better way to spend "our" day.
While in the Midwest, the three Smith "kids" took a day trip to the Windy City. Despite being a cold, blustery day, they had fun seeing the city, meeting up with a friend, and enjoying Chicago-style pizza.

We made it back to Texas for New Year's Eve, and we somehow managed to stay awake until midnight. As you can see, we had a "wild" evening, full of bubbly stuff. To be honest, the bulk of the champagne went down the drain, but the sparkling cider was a hit. 
On New Year's morning, this trio rolled out of bed and headed to the other side of the Metroplex to lend a hand with Operation Blessing's cleanup efforts for the communities that were hit by the December 26th tornadoes. Nine twisters hit Texas and eleven people were killed, not to mention the hundreds who lost their homes and pretty much everything to the storms. 

Here are a few pictures that M. took while they were in Rowlett:

Oh, there were many stories that were shared... Every picture tells a story.

One of the happier tales was of a gentleman who lost his home, his beloved pet cat, and pretty much everything. He then went on to explain that he found his cat, alive and well, a few days after the storm. He was encouraged by getting his pet back, and was eager to get his home and life rebuilt.

 Perhaps finding humor amidst the tragedy aids in the healing process.

We are surely counting our blessings as this new year begins.