Thursday, December 1, 2011

Santa Ana 2011

They're calling it Windpocalypse. And it was pretty bad. This poor ancient tree was one of the victims. It lived just a couple of blocks from where I live, and yet, I'd never really noticed it before. How could I not notice such a massive tree?

Sadly, there's a BMW underneath there somewhere. The tree fell right over the garage. I don't think anyone was hurt.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I love that SoCal still has restaurants like Moffett's. Opened in 1975, it's a time capsule back into another era. One that appreciated food like chicken pot pie. That's what Moffett's specializes in, pies from chicken to fruit. Of course they have other things like hamburgers and sandwiches, but just stick to the pies, which are single-portions of granny's-love-goodness.

Their lunch special is a particularly good deal. For around $6 you get either chicken or beef pie, gravy, whipped mashed potatoes, carrots and peas, and a choice of either a roll or biscuits. Get the rolls. Baked in-house, they're really, really good.

And before you leave, buy some fresh unbaked pot pies for your freezer. I try to keep four in mine at all times.

Arcadia too far away? If you live in Hollywood, Huntington Meats at the Farmer's Market on Fairfax sells the unbaked pies. That's actually where I first learned about Moffett's. I think the pies are a dollar or more at Huntington, though.


1409 S Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007
(626) 447-4670

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bhan Kanom Thai

One of the things I love most about LA is all the tiny little ethnic delis and bakeries you find tucked away in strip malls. My newest favorite is the Thai dessert specialist Bhan Kanom Thai in Thai town. The little store is an irresistible treasure trove of Thai cookies, crackers and preserved fruit, along with ice cream, puddings and freshly made pastries. I loved their rice crackers which were drizzled in caramel. Their preserved golden kumquats were fantastic too. Can't wait to go back and try more things.

Bhan Kanom Thai
5271 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90027
323 871-8030

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pasadena Air Force Open House

Last June, the Pasadena Police Department’s Air Operations Section hosted an open house. We went and was impressed by how much hardware the police department so proudly displayed. Like their SWAT vehicle (in case there's a zombie attack), which was used in a demo of what the police department would do if there ever was a sniper in town. Here are some pictures.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Infrastructure Blunder

So noticed there was some serious work going on out on the street today. Went to investigate and found city sewer workers out in full force trying to correct a major infrastructure problem. Seems Pasadena hired some bozo contractors who put gas pipes straight through sewer pipes. I really hope these contractors are going to go to jail for criminal negligence but I'm sure they'll just get another contract from Pasadena.

We tried to take pictures for the blog but the workers wouldn't let us. Not that we're surprised.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Artesia's Little India

So what do you have to do to get good authentic Indian food in LA? Go to Artesia's Little India. We spent half a day there and had fun eating, shopping and just looking around. Little India isn't very big—just a couple of blocks centered around Pioneer Boulevard. But it's packed with restaurants, jewelers, sari houses, groceries, etc.

We ate at both Surati Farsan Mart and Udupi Palace. I thought Surati had by far the better food. Fresh, tasty, fun, Surati specializes in Gujarati street food. Although the name seems to imply that they're a market, they're really a delicatessen with a case full of pretty sweets.

In between eating, we shopped. My favorite store was Cottage Art, a kind of mini department store on Pioneer. They were having a sale on clothes so I bought this:

We ended the day with ice cream at Saffron Spot. They make their own ice creams and kulfi. The lychee ice cream was pretty fantastic.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chong's Grocery

My LA discovery of the year is Chong's Grocery. A tiny little storefront in Koreatown, Chong's makes its own sesame oil! And it's fantastic! I had no idea fresh sesame oil could taste so alive. No hint of rancidity at all. Chong's sells both light and dark oil in a variety of bottle sizes.  I got the smallest, a 16 ounce bottle for $10, which is a bargain. They also have toasted sesame seeds, barley, soy beans, etc.

Warning: if you're trying to find the store, please be aware that they're on the phantom 8th street. Phantom 8th street, you ask? Yes. Because, it turns out that there are two 8th streets: the main 8th street and a tiny side street that parallels it for about a hundred feet which is also called 8th street. Chong's is on that parallel side street.

Chong's Grocery
3560 W 8th Street
LA 90005
213 387 0651

BTW, according to the Korean spelling, the store should really be called Jeong's Grocery. Just saying.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bottlebrush Plant

Amos T Fairchild

This is one of our favorite plants in LA. It's called a bottlebrush plant, but we like to call it the toilet brush plant! The official name is Callistemon and it's really a native of Australia. That's what's really wonderful about SoCal—it's just one big botanical garden. Just wish the plants had labels!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hummingbird Rescue

There was much excitement at our household today. We discovered that one of the birds on our feeder was terribly injured. It'd been sitting at the feeder for over twenty minutes, which is highly unusual, its feathers sticking out as if it'd been given a shock of electricity. I just thought it was a weird little bird until it dropped backwards and hung strangely before righting itself again. That's when I noticed that it was bleeding around its neck. Every few seconds the bird would close its eyes—it wasn't even feeding. So eerie how all the other birds were ignoring it, like they were smelling death.

Luckily, Animal Rescue very kindly said that they would come and pick up the little thing, but only after we'd safely confined it. Well, that turned into quite an ordeal. We aren't exactly experts on handling wildlife and the whole situation made us very nervous. As per a website's instructions, we put some paper towels in a small box and tried to coax the bird into the box. Nope. The bird wasn't going to cooperate. The grip it had on the feeder's leg was incredible. So we gently enclosed the bird in the box, plastic feeder leg and all.

We were hoping that the bird would relax while in the box, but that didn't happen. I couldn't believe how ferociously it was flapping its wings trying to get out. So I spent ten minutes talking to the bird while the Goldberg Variations played on the stereo. All became calm—I just hoped I wasn't literally talking the bird to death. Can't tell you how relieved we were when Animal Rescue came.

We wondered how the little thing got injured. Animal Rescue thought it was injured during a typical hummingbird fight. But I don't know. It's neck seemed to have been slashed and I thought of the cat that always hangs around the feeder, swiping at the birds. How strange that the bird was attacked on the Ides of March, the festival day of Mars (and we all know what happened to Cesare). Well, hopefully, the bird will survive to fight another day. Good luck, bird!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jet Propulsion Lab Tours

After talking about it for a year, we finally went on the Jet Propulsion Lab tour! Yay--another thing gone from our to-do list! I'm glad we went, but I have to admit that much of the tour was like being stuck on a date with an Asperger's sufferer. The tour began with a rapid-fire talk that lasted something like thirty minutes touching on various historical points to do with JPL and Caltech and NASA. And then a JPL promo video narrated by Harrison Ford which was like a very bad Nova program on space. Granted, the talk was given in the auditorium which housed replicas of Voyager and Cassini, but it was a lot of tedium to suffer through. Afterwards there was a brief visit to a small museum, the highlight of which was a thermal camera you can check your temperature on, and then the actual tour.

But was it a tour? We only got to see one of the "clean rooms" where the JPL guys assemble the rovers and the "Dark Room" at the Space Flight Operations Facility. The dark room is what you usually see on TV when a launch happens--you know, the room where all the scientist are glued to their computer screens hoping against hope that their mission is a success. Today, there wasn't a launch so we only got to see about half-a-dozen bored people sitting at their desks while the tour guide talked for some ten minutes about how NASA uses UTC (coordinated universal time) because time is relative, etc. The "clean" room was fascinating though. Up high in a viewing gallery, you get to look down at guys dressed in "bunny" suits building stuff (this is what you're seeing in the video). "Bunny" suits are these all-white, anti-dust suits that people have to wear in order not to contaminate the equipment they're going to send up into space (it made me think I was touring Willy Wonka's chocolate factory because there's a similar scene in the 70s movie). Today the JPL staff was working on the outer container for the newest rover, Curiosity, which should reach Mars sometime in August 2012. At the end of the tour you get to see a full-scale replica and that's pretty cool. And I was impressed by how much the tour guides knew.

So would I recommend the tour?

If you are a Super Geek: yes.
If you are a Tepid Geek: sure, why not?
If you are a Non Geek: only if you want to impress a Super Geek.

And if you want to take a child? Man, I would definitely not recommend you take any child under eleven. I felt so sorry for these little tots as they suffered through the first forty-five minutes or so of endless talk and senseless video. During the talk, the tiny tots were fidget bombs. And during the video, all I heard was a non-ceasing chorus of small voices crying, "What happened?" This is because the video is so poorly written that you can't figure out what they're talking about when they discuss the missions. It's really a shame that JPL doesn't have a specific tour program for the very young, one that is interactive and full of fun things to do because shouldn't part of NASA's mission be geared towards inspiring little children? After all, one day these little children are going to be voting on whether NASA gets funded...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Altadena Urban Farmers Market

What in the world is an urban farmers market, we wondered? Only one way to find out: drive all the way up there and check it out.  Which is exactly what we did last Sunday. The market was on the grounds of the Zane Grey Estate. It was only a few dozen stalls, mostly of people selling baked goods and marmalade (we couldn't find fresh produce anywhere). The smell of manure and hay was rife (the estate has a petting zoo, which was open). The atmosphere made me immediately think of the Women's Institute (UK readers will know what I mean), with a good layer of Bay Area hippie. Even the shoppers looked transported from San Francisco. Who knew there were so many Bay Area types in L.A.?

This venture is fairly new. We couldn't find a webpage but they do have a Facebook page. On this page there is a mission statement which reads:

To encourage more local food production, and make that food easily accessible to Altadena residents. Through partnership with the Arroyo Time Bank, to make buying locally grown food possible for those with limited financial resources.

The market takes place on the third Sunday of every month. To shop there you have to be a member, but I think anyone can be a member. Basically, you sign a "membership" form before entering, but the form was just a legal disclaimer which freed the market from injury suits. If you do go, check out the cookie lady with the most amazing butterscotch cookies. She's really nice, too.