I love Thanksgiving, not sure if it’s my favorite holiday, because to be honest, all holidays should be special. But I really love it. All Jewish holidays center around food and a lot of other stuff. So it’s nice to just have the food and guests of course. This year it was just the family – since we are growing (13 of us) I’m fine with that.No pictures of food this year, let’s just say we gobbled like turkeys. So after the meal, it was time to get pictures. Here I am with two sons, one son in law and oldest and youngest grandchildren.Shira, as the only granddaughter ruled the roost. Here she is reading to her cousins, then she declared it was cousins day and all adults were kicked out of the living room.You can clearly see the genetics here! Some of the adults complied, they were happy not to be surrounded by their kids.Mickey is always a winner in this house.

By 7:30 everyone had left, some for home some for shopping. They left behind their kids – it’s part of the tradition, parents go shopping and have a chance to wake up late. Grandsons stay here and have a blast.Another tradition on Friday, walking to the fire station. Why do the grandparents look so happy while the boys don’t?If Cam looks a little uncomfortable it’s cuz he is, he wasn’t so sure about being way up there, all alone, sure his brother was on the other side, but with all that equipment he couldn’t see him.West was much happier, look he even wore the right shirt for the occasion. I love our Fire Station, no. 78, whenever possible they love welcoming the neighbors in.The gorgeous weather in the mid 70s meant we took a hike. This time up in the Verdugo Mountains just off La Tuna Canyon. See, even in So Cal we get some fall colors.Along the path there were areas with large oak trees and shade.Someone is making honey. We had already started out climb at this point.Looking down on all those boxes. This wasn’t even the high point.This is as high as we got. That is the 210 freeway, with La Cresenta in the foreground and La Canada off in the distance.Something has to be done about fire abatement in this state. Fire is natural, but seeing the devastation up north in Paradise, it’s not natural. We as humans are stewards of the earth, and that means clearing brush, thinning forests and controlled burns. Don’t tell me that people should live in those areas – where should we live? On Mars?

Last year there was the Creek Fire, it started near Sylmar and burned through Tujunga and La Tuna Canyon. 30 homes were lost, horses were killed but no people were killed. A year later and we see the results of that fire. Nature is resilient, this tree was burnt, but the core wasn’t destroyed and after some rain in the winter, which ever trees can, are coming back to life.Not all can, many of the hills are bare, and there are areas like this that are just dead. But literally a few feet away, and the chaparral is growing just fine. Fire follows it’s own rules, it can cut quite a path of destruction, and on either side of the fire path – it looks like nothing happened. What I can’t show in pictures is the smell, not as bad as a new fire. But there was a real smell of burnt wood as we walked through these areas.

I’m happy to say that many people were out hiking, or biking. Southern CA has a real outdoor active vibe to it and I’m thrilled we had plenty of company.


Oddities in Simi Valley

Simi valley was originally ranches. As the need for housing exploded in Southern CA, it became a valley full of tract homes.  It’s a lovely area, but not quirky, well except for Santa Susana Knowles.  There is something about building up into the hills that makes for funky neighborhoods. I’ve seen it in Woodland Hills, Sierra Madre, Alta Dena, – the artistic types like to live in the hills in interesting homes.Because this is an unincorporated area, no one has rules about the exterior of your home. Since this was ranch land, there are plenty of old farm tools to be used.This is probably a real covered wagon that came west, with new canvas of course. The original would have rotted years ago.Another example sits outside a local restaurant.An old windmill for a well.Plenty of interesting garden art, a lovely example of stained glass. Birds.Birdbaths for the real ones. Interesting mailboxes.Keep on walking!



It is cool enough for Sunday hikes

This time we went northwest into Simi Valley. I have quite a few books with local hikes. This particular one was published when the 10,000 steps was all the rage. So the author put together walks of about five miles. We started out in Corrianville Park, named for a Hollywood stuntman. Turns out a lot of Westerns were filmed here. This is Stunt rock, where many a stuntman was shot and fell into Robin Hood Lake.  Clearly no one has kept the lake up, so it’s a dry bed with a bunch of kids on bikes and skate boards. Today there is a modern Studio right near by.Complete with it’s own ‘backlot’. Fellow hikers told us there was a major Western filmed here recently, they built a whole facade of a town in the park.The rock formations are unique around here, even the hawk likes them.Simi Valley is quite the suburban area now. It is a very friendly safe place to live.The community next to the Park is called Hopetown. That is because Bob Hope used to own this land as well as the filming locations. They were donated as a park, and the community took his name. The old Santa Susana Railroad Depot and museum. We got there too early, the museum wasn’t open yet.So we enjoyed the displays outside. Like this citrus truck. Tapo is the name of a nearby canyon. Sunkist is still the large cooperative of Southern California citrus growers. Sadly, this label wouldn’t be allowed today, something to do with cultural appropriation. The local Indians never wore these headdresses, but that isn’t why this isn’t OK, rather than accept our history and move on, people feel the need to erase it. Maybe that is why it is behind a screen, so it won’t be vandalized. The train came by! No trains stop here anymore. It’s just a museum. The Santa Susana pass is very steep, modern trains can handle the climb, but back in the stagecoach days, the climb and then descent into Chatsworth were very scary and dangerous indeed.

More on what we saw in the next post.


A walk in the neighborhood

Sometimes I can have wonderful experiences without photo documentation.   I decided to walk in the hills, but in an area I hadn’t walked before. I parked near the hills and headed up. It’s the old part of Studio City, the hills with interesting old homes.I did a double take, a barn quilt up on the garage. Not something I see often. Right after I took this picture, I saw a woman picking her roses in the front yard. I went over and asked her about the barn quilt block. We spent a good half hour talking. She was so thrilled that I recognized it for what it is. Her name is Denise, she is originally from North Carolina, where she saw these barn quilts. She now owns her grandmother’s house up in the Blue Ridge Mountains where a larger version hangs on a barn.

We talked quilts, she showed me some that she had made. She showed me how she is raising monarch butterflies. She is growing milkweed all over her back yard to attract the butterflies. She took  a large netted cube, put in a lot of milkweed leaves and a few eggs and already has 3 chrysalis. When they emerge, she gives them a few hours to dry off and lets them leave, they usually stay with her for about an hour.

Then she showed me the baby squirrel that is enjoying all the droppings from the many bird feeders.  We went a few doors down to her neighbor, who wasn’t home, but who is quite a quilter. We probably belong to the same guild, I’m going to look for her at the meeting.

I didn’t take any pictures, we just chatted. It was so nice! I find, that give someone the chance and they will be very open and friendly. No, there was no request to stay in touch, it was just a nice exchange between two people.I went on my way, looking and admiring the old houses. I love this iron partition. It’s an old house, the details in the woodwork are things that haven’t been put on houses since the 1950s. I wonder if the TV antennae still works. With so many people cutting the cable cord, an antennae is a useful thing to have.No more barn quilts. Denise said she was hoping neighbors would follow her example, but no one has. People find other ways to decorate, Stained glass is big.This is a beautiful example, peacock and roses.A little English cottage!I couldn’t find a trashcan anywhere to disposes of this litter. I agree, Philippe’s French Dip sandwich is amazing. Worth the trip downtown, but why throw the box on the ground???

A nice walk on a hot Saturday morning, I need to explore these hills a little more.



Hiking the Verdugo mountains

It’s been a while, but we are back to hiking! Yay.  On a beautiful spring day with overcast skies – perfect.

This is a 3.5 mile hike that circles around Descanso Gardens, they themselves are a wonderful place to visit, but we were going for exercise and views.Before we started out, I looked up and saw these powerline towers on the horizon.The hike starts with a steep uphill path, they even recommend that if you are riding a horse, get off and walk the horse up. We saw no horses or cyclists on the path.Look how lush and green everything is! Give it two or three more weeks and this will all be brown, or what we call – gold.We gained elevation quickly and soon were looking down on one of the lakes in Descanso Gardens.Because it was such a hazy morning, the visibility isn’t great.  Downtown to the left and the mausoleum at Forrest Lawn to the right. It was just a week ago I was there view stained glass. What caught my eye here is the big orange tank, I don’t know if it’s a water tank or not, but it makes me think of my friend Becky who has a saying: orange, it’s everywhere. The wildflowers are blooming! Joel is hiking.A lot more uphill walking and we are at the same level as the towers I saw from down below. We even ended up walking underneath them.I’m not a geologist, but I’m sure someone could give a very interesting commentary about what is going on here.Erosion has really affected the path. This year the power of water has really been brought home. First the massive mudslide in Montecito that killed over 20 people. Then just a few days ago an awful tragedy in Israel. A group of teens were out hiking and a flash flood overtook them, 10 kids are dead. So sad. Once the hike was over, we headed over to Honolulu Ave in nearby Montrose and walked around the Farmers Market, where of course, we found some very delicious tacos.

I love where we live!


A Sunday walk in a cemetery

Once a month at least 100 people come out to walk with Charles Fleming. He wrote the Secret Stairs book. Most of these walks are based on the book. Today was different, we walked around Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale.This cemetery was built in 1905, one of the first to embrace the parklike environment. A place to celebrate life. In a dry area like this, fountains are a must.Replicas of world-famous art is a big draw here. If you can’t travel the world, come here and see some very credible replicas.Hmm, who is that peering over the wall?A plaster mold was made out of the original and this one was also carved from Carerra marble. In the oldest part of the park, tall tombstones were used. But Eaton, the man who developed the open concept of cemeteries, decided to use plaques in the ground, so the overall feeling is open and expansive.He even created two heart shaped plots – these were meant for babies and children.  Interesting to look down the hill and see not only the heart but the busy commerce just beyond the fence on San Fernando Rd. A large European castle? No, the mausoleum. Here is Charles (in the white shirt) describing the ornate burial site of Aimee  Semple Mcpherson. She of the Four Square Church fame, the first radio evangelist, and Show-woman for God.I bet Hollywood would love to use some of these shots. It looks like a real castle.It is easy to see which areas hold the newer graves. They tend to have flowers and in this case – flags. There are people visiting and tending to their loved ones. As time passes, even the loved ones end up in a graveyard – so in the older areas one doesn’t see people or flowers.There are strict rules about how one can decorate gravesites for the holidays.As well as this warning. Another man took the same picture, then admitted that his mother used to do just that. Steal flowers from another grave to put on her loved ones. She didn’t want to spend the money….  A Church or Chapel on the top of the hill.Quiet and peaceful, but not open on a Sunday.  There is also a large museum, I have visited it in the past and really should do so again.

An hour and a half, three and a half miles of walking up and down the hills.  A lovely way to spend a Sunday morning. Then instead of tacos, we had some juicy burgers for lunch. A little break from our ‘after-walk’ tradition.


Back to a Stairway walk

I think it’s been almost two years since I joined Charles Fleming on one of his secret stairway walks.This was a level 4 walk, only two miles, but it included almost 700 stairs, most of them going up. Really, on the downhill, we were on steep streets, uphill was on the stairs. We were a large group, somehow I managed to get a photo before anyway started up on these.We walked by Neutra’s home and office. He is one of the fathers of midcentury architecture. The neighborhood of Silverlake is home to many midcentury homes, as well a much much older ones.I don’t know what this is called, all I know is that it’s old and no one builds houses that look like this anymore.Across the hill and across the reservoir is this Lautner home, Silvertop.

If you follow the link, it’s in the real estate section of the LA Times from a few years ago. Charles admitted that he used to be able to play tennis on their courts until this sale went through.This is an interesting perspective of the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory. In reality, the Observatory is east of the sign, but from this angle, it looks the opposite.Here we are, starting up the Loma Vista Stairs. Quite long with many interesting homes to see.I guess it’s been a while since Charles climbed these stairs, this painted wall was new to him. And yes, quiltspiration! I love that I stumped spell check with this world – a combination of quilt and inspiration and no, I didn’t invent it, I’m just using it, in hopes that one day, everyone will know what a quiltspiration is.Across the way was this house with artwork from A to Z. The fall decorations are coming out!Some people still like kitsch, I counted 5 or 6 teapots on the fence of this house.There were a lot of us, I’m not good at estimating crowds, but I’d say at least 50 people if not more.Which caused local residents to turn as watch us go by.This initiative and signs are new to me. I do think that Charles deserves a lot of credit for bringing these stairs to the publics’ awareness.It’s always good to catch a glimpse of downtown LA.And the beautiful refurbished Silverlake reservoir. Oh, and as we were climbing one set of stairs, we bumped into a couple coming the opposite way, with Charles book in hand. They didn’t want to turn around and join us, but Charles directed them to his FB page, to find info on future group walks

I must say, most of the walkers seemed to be new, I heard many mentions that this is the first walk people have taken with Charles. Pretty impressive, he wrote a book ten years ago, not thinking it would gain any traction, and yet it has, it really really has.


Busy Weekend

It’s amazing how much there is to do here every weekend. I set out on Saturday to see a small California Pottery show.It really wasn’t very large. Mostly antiques with a very big emphasis on Bower Pottery. I was immediately informed that what I’ve been buying is a new iteration, new owners, even if many of the designs are similar.I’m not a collector, so although I enjoyed looking, I wasn’t buying.I’m glad I can share a picture of this rabbit with my friend. She does the rabbit-rabbit thing at the beginning of each month. At $600, a picture will suffice.For me, an owl, I’m wondering if that deep green turquoise is one of the glazes that is too toxic to make today?How about this crude unglazed owl?There were a few contemporary artists, I would have loved to buy this totem pole.Instead, all I could afford was a nice new coffee mug.

If you think Pasadena was a quiet, sleepy town on that Saturday morning, think again.Although it was 90 degrees, all the cyclists were out, Green street was blocked to traffic, clearly, some people came prepared.I’m amazed that I caught this shot.Oh, and inside the convention center, there was a girls’ dancecompetitionn. On the convention center floor, where I’m used to seeing vendor booth there was a stage and lights. It was fun seeing the girls in their shiny costumes.

Then On Sunday, it was time for a belated mother’s day hike with my boys.There was construction on Sunset Blvd. so we couldn’t go up Kenter Ave, we went up Mandeville Canyon instead and entered the fire road from here.Very helpful people on this trail.Three miles up and we are looking over at the Nike Missle site on dirt Mulholland, you can’t drive there, it’s a hike.Ok, I was using my telephoto lens in the previous picture. It’s not that close. But one of these days it would be worthwhile to hike from the valley to the city and Uber back. The reason I’d go that direction is because it is downhill most of the way.





Walking as exercise

I’m not getting any younger. My doctor says I need more exercise, he is right and at some point, I might even go to a gym. Right now I’m using my stairs as aStairmasterr and getting out and walking the local hills.Here I am, going up Sunswept St. The hills have turned golden, it looks like I’m far from the city.I’m right above Carney’s on busy Ventura Blvd.I often wonder if the city would allow these steep winding streets to be built today, probably not. It is fun to see the funky creativity up here.The more modern gates I see, the less creativity. Some carpenter had a lot of fun here.There were quite a few trucks up here, people are refurbishing their homes. Well not everyone. A doorway to an empty lot.I always stop for arrested decay, I think this may have been part of a gate mechanism.Here you can see the slope of the street. I guess you can call this recycling, patching together a car from many parts.A few days later, I was off to the Northwestern part of the valley. A large lovely park, O’Melveney Park. What used to be a private ranch with a lot of old fruit trees. Many people out hiking and enjoying this park which was gifted to the city years ago.It’s not quite June, but we are getting the marine inversion layer already. An old crabapple tree.A thistle. A lot of plants are blooming and the poison oak is out in force. That probably has to do with the rains we’ve had.This is what I call very good design! Water that is reachable by adults, people in wheelchairs, children and dogs!

So yes, this is a very enjoyable way for me to get my exersize.






Happy Passover

Happy Passover to all who celebrate, I’m busy getting ready for the second Seder, smallish group, yet still a lot of work.

So let me share what I did just a few days ago.

First of all I bought new hiking boots, we are going to Switzerland with friends this summer, time to get good boots and break them in.

I met my friend Elin at The Church at Rocky Peak and set out for a hike.Getting a different point of view of the Church’s cross, I usually see it while whizzing along on the 118 freeway.The trail predates the large gated community, so they are obligated to have a right of way for walkers.  Oh my, what a community it is.Just look at this lion head!The gardeners were working hard, so I got a chance to peak beyond the gates into some of the front yards. Yes, even in a gated community, people put up gates around their own property.…and have gargoyles protecting the premises.Up and out beyond the community, a hazy look back at the San Fernando Valley bellow us.With some obligatory rusted object.Our original plan was to hike to these old foundations of a house, but time ran short, so I got a picture from afar. Next time.It is a large property, the entrance looks like it would have been very impressive.Back to the Church parking lot. You can see why it’s called Rocky Peak. Interesting rock formations here at the Santa Susana Pass.Since I mentioned Passover, here is an obligatory image of the brisket I cooked in the Instant Pot, and yes, it was moist and delicious. Hardly any leftovers, just enough to send home with the CPA son. Great Seder, good company, two of the guests discovered that their mothers were best friends as children. What a small world.