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Descanso Gardens – La Canada Flintridge, Calif.

18 May


You have got to go here…Descanso Gardens – La Canada Flintridge, Calif.

Don’t you love when you discover something new in your own backyard?  I do!  That is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago when I spent a lovely day at Descanso Gardens.


Located in the beautiful neighborhood of La Canada Flintridge, Descanso Gardens is 160 acres of glorious flowers, trails, and vistas that can be explored by the whole family!  If you just want to stop and smell the roses or strap on your hiking boots – this place is for you.

Love flowers?  Feel free to stroll through the Rose, California Native, Lilac and Japanese gardens (just to name a few)!








While the flowers were gorgeous, they weren’t may favorite part of the day.  The best part were two things I discovered that were totally unexpected – TRAILS & TRAINS!

First, let me start with the trails – I had no idea that there were going to be so many little hiking opportunities around the property.  My advice, take the unbeaten path because you never know what wonders you will come across.  Please remember one thing, there is poison oak so be careful!


I was also super excited to learn that you can ride around a portion of the grounds (for an additional $3 – which is totally worth it!) on a 1/8th replica of a diesel train called The Enchanted RailroadYES, big kids can ride on it too!








If I haven’t mentioned enough to keep you occupied, trust me there is much more to see!  A historical home, expansive lawns to relax on, hidden benches to spend a moment with your loved ones, a bird observation deck  and the list just keeps on going…







If you need to take a break for some food there is a cafe on-site or feel free to bring a picnic and eat at the tables just outside the entrance.

OH did I mention you get a day full of adventure of only $9??? You can’t beat that!  Trust me, Descanso Gardens is a place you have got to go to!

Happy Gardening,










Angels Flight Railway – Los Angeles, Calif.

24 Jun

You have got to go here – Angels Flight Railway – Los Angeles, Calif.

Want to do something totally out of the ordinary and super inexpensive in downtown Los Angeles?  Why not take a trip on Angels Flight Railway?

Angels Flight Railway

For just $1.00 roundtrip you can take this historic (originally built in 1901) incline railway named “The Shortest Railway in the World” between Hill Street & Grand Ave.

Tickets!Enter for fun...

I can’t explain it, but there is something so fun about riding one of these cars between all of the giant modern buildings that make up the downtown skyline.


Riding with FriendsLooking down...

While the trip is short, there are plenty of things to do on both sides of your journey.  Why not start at the Museum of Contemporary Art, then take a ride on Angels Flight Railway down to Grand Central Market for some lunch?  There are endless possibilities of adventures that could be had…

Angels Flight Railway is open from 6:45 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. 365 days of the year, so there is no excuse not to take a ride. Believe me, no trip to downtown Los Angeles is complete without a visit to this unique landmark.

Happy flying,


simplethings sandwich and pie shop

17 Jun

 “I am beginning to learn it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder


In the crazy, hectic, rigamarole of life it truly is in the sweet, simple things that we find happiness.  And if you want to find a place that lives into that philosophy, you only have to look as far as 8310 West 3rd Street in the heart of Los Angeles at a place called, quite appropriately, “simplethings.”  simplethings (no capital) doesn’t have five pages of menu items or thirty different desserts.  Instead, they focus on two things – sandwiches and pies, and they do those two things well.

It starts with fresh, local ingredients put together in combinations that make your taste buds dance and it goes from there.  From the mouth-watering Italian Meatloaf  to the new L.A.mbwich, they offer about 18 different varieties of sandwiches that will satisfy any palette.  Focusing not on traditional deli offerings (although you can find a reuben on their menu), they instead look to take the sandwich to a new level.  To go with it, they offer the kinds of food you would expect – soups, salads, potato chips, and even some mac & cheese.

But what will be sure to catch your eye are the pies.  Yummy, scrumptious pies in serving sizes you can eat by yourself.  Or share with a friend or three.  From the cutie pie to the simple pie to the BIG PIE (24 hours notice please), they offer a different variety everyday.  And they even bake custom pies.  Just call and tell them what you’d like and they’ll make it for you.  Andy Paxson, co-owner of simplethings, said that no one has ever really asked for anything outrageous, but one person did ask for a French Silk Pie… hold the crust.  “This one guy called up and asked how much would it be basically for a big serving bowl of just the filling, so we did it for him.”



Andy graciously shared some of his thoughts about this amazing restaurant.

Why the name “simplethings?” – The name came from the first meeting with Ryan (Handel – co-owner with Andy).  We wanted to start a better ingredient sandwich shop and serve basic things that Americans really enjoy.  Simple.  We wanted to go with something off the word simple like in the phrase “the simple things in life.”  We wanted it to be a neighborhood place, a non-pretentious food experience.

Why do “simplethings” as one word? – A design choice.  We wanted people not to think of our food as “simple things” because we really wanted to focus on the better ingredient sandwich, but hope people associate our restaurant with a concept.  Instead of serving “simple things” they would instead have this association between our name and our food.

What was behind the philosophy of your place? – Well, again, we wanted to do a better ingredient sandwich concept and felt people were really ready for it.  The way the culinary world is around here, people want that experience but it’s still a fast-paced town.  With sandwiches, it was something people are already familiar with – comfortable, easy, not pretentious – and something they could talk to their friends about but all with better ingredients.  We wanted simplethings to be a neighborhood place that you know your sandwich was worked on with human hands.  It tastes good, not super heavy, and maybe something different.  Like our new L.A.mbwich and we’re planning on rolling out a Chorizo Sausage Sandwich soon.

Third Street seems to be a burgeoning mecca of food, was the location purposeful? – This being our first location, it’s not an easy thing (to pick the right place).  So much competition!  It’s quite a process for a young company.  You just have to wait and be willing to see what happens.  We looked all over the city for a long time, but always liked 3rd Street.  It has that New York feel in a sense – walking around town, restaurants and retail – few streets have lots of character, but this was one of them.

With so much competition, were you concerned? – Joan’s (Joan’s on Third) has been popular forever and then Toast is just down the street, but we considered that a good thing.  It brings people to the street, and we’re almost located exactly between the two.  We went into this place intentionally knowing it was a walking street.  We wanted to be part of that community.  Since the time we opened in 2010, the area has really taken off – Magnolia Bakery coming from New York, Mendicino Farms…it’s a legitimate culinary scene in L.A.  Overall the street works as a whole.  Similar concepts but each brings their own brand.

Why pies? – That idea also came from our first brainstorming meeting.  Sandwiches was the first focus and we thought let’s pair it with ONE dessert, not a dessert menu.  And pie is America’s dessert.  All these questionnaires asking what’s your favorite dessert and pie would always win.  But it always seemed there were hurdles to get a pie.  You either needed to buy a whole pie or order a slice of pie and right now quick grab and go desserts are popular.  Frozen yogurt, cupcakes, gelato – but no one had done it with pie so there would be a market for that, so we came up with the Cutie and Simple Pie.  It wasn’t a hard thing to decide to do.

What’s your favorite pie? – Either banana cream or key lime.  Key lime is not an easy pie to get the right combination of sweet and sour and banana cream has that cookie crust.  Both are great but they’re all terrific.  Everyone seems to love the mud pie.

What’s next for simplethings? – Well, we’ve always wanted to share our food all over L.A. and Southern California.  It’s such a great area and we’re full steam ahead in finding a second location.  Nothing to announce yet, but we’re looking for that next best thing.  The reaction of people to this first location gives us the confidence that this would work!

If the taste of their pies and other great offerings is anything to measure their success by, then simplethings is going to be around for a long time.  This is one of those places you’ve simply got to go there.  And bring a cutie pie home with you.


simplethings sandwich and pie shop

8310 W 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA


Andy Paxson – co-owner

Find Craig Yoshihara  regularly over at his blog Disney Nerd.  

Historic Greystone Mansion and Park

16 Jun

You have got to go here…Historic Greystone Mansion and Park!

Visits to the Greystone Mansion are a tradition for me.  Any time I am in L.A. I always stop by to say “Hi”.

My mom began bringing me to the mansion when I was young as a treat.  I will always remember the first time I laid eyes on this hidden gem.  It is grand and beautiful – a place where a child’s imagination can run wild and until this day mine still does.

This is a great place to bring kids, or a date, but my favorite time here is when I am all alone.

I always get excited when I drive off Sunset and on to Doheny as I know I am close (be careful when looking for the driveway as it easy to miss.)  The long and winding road leads you to ample parking and a great overlook of the grounds.

I usually head straight down the historic steps to the mansion.  Thoughts run through my mind – dreaming of whose footprints stood where I am in the heyday of the mansion or what kind of secret rendezvous took place at the pool.  No matter how many times I visit, I always write a new story.

At the mansion, be sure to look through the front door…I am sure you will recognize the black and white checkered pattern from a few movies and music videos.  Leisurely make your way around the house, stop and see the sun-bathing turtles, take a deep breath on the patio – enjoy the view!  Make sure to throughly look at the mansion, the architecture is amazing and awe inspiring…every time you go I can guarantee you will discover something new.

There are several gardens to visit, the stairs on either side of the house lead you to two separate locations.  Visit both as they are stunning and different in their own ways.  Also around the grounds are picnic areas – don’t forget your lunch as relaxing and enjoying the scenery is a must when visiting.

I can not tell you all the people who have lived in the L.A. area their whole life and never knew this treasure was here.  As much as I like to keep this serenity in the middle of all the chaos to myself, I can’t imagine not sharing it with others.

So this is my gift to you – The Greystone Mansion and Park!  Visit often, learn its history and let your imagination run wild!

The park is open daily and is free to all visitors.  There are several events that allow you to tour the inside of the mansion, please visit their calendar for more info.

Happy  Imagining,