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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wide open spaces

There are a few perks to being in the middle of nowhere.
One of these is land sailing, which Matt and I enjoyed a couple years ago. We loved it so much that we wanted to let my family experience it, too. So we booked a land sailing trip for all of us last fall when they visited and drove out to the dry lake bed, only to have it canceled because the wind wasn't strong enough that day. Fast forward to their next visit and we booked it again, got all ready to go, and then got a phone call saying it was canceled because the winds were too strong and it'd be dangerous. We figured the third time would be the charm and were happy with the wind forecasted for our third try, but then we showed up and the wind, well, didn't. Seriously, Mojave Desert? It is windy all.the.time here. All the time except when we actually want it to be.

Needless to say, land sailing with the fam just wasn't meant to be. Luckily, I had a back-up plan and had found a great deal on ATV rentals. We switched gears and tore up the dry lake bed on four wheels instead of three, and it rocked! The last time Matt and I went four-wheeling was on our honeymoon in Germany, so it was fun to flashback a bit. Of course, the scenery was quite different this time around! With miles of wide open spaces, we went all-out and hit top speeds. There were also plenty of awesome trails and little jumps in the desert that outlined the lake, which meant we got the best of both four-wheeling worlds. Definitely a fun afternoon!
We took Jakey for a slow little spin. He wasn't so sure about the wind in his face.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Balboa is one of our favorite, all-in-one locations in Southern California. Great beach, good pier, unique shopping, fun activities and yummy treats. What more could you ask for? Naturally, when my family was in town, we had to spend a day in Balboa. This was at the very beginning of June and at the end of Jake's 8th month, and happened to be the day he officially took his first steps! Excellent choice of location, Jakey.

We dug our toes in the sand, played in the water, built castles, hit up the ferris wheel, enjoyed Balboa Bars, and rode the ferry across Newport Harbor as the sun set. Then, to top the day off, we cleared the shelves at Sprinkles Cupcakes. Not a bad day :)
Jumping the waves!
Ah, and then it was naptime.
Jakey waving! He reserves that little trick for my parents and my parents alone. Go figure :)
Once he figured out he could walk alone, there was no more staying still!
Well, except to eat ice cream (a Balboa Bar). He can pause for that.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Manhattan Beach

I have a strong preference for OC beaches, but every now and then, a shorter drive wins out. And really, it's hard to complain when you have sand, salt water, and sun -- no matter where you are! Manhattan Beach is a great place to play volleyball games, bocce games, bird-chasing games, and pull-your-baby-around-in-the-sand games.
My dad took over bird-chasing duties with Jake.  So cute!

Friday, July 27, 2012

How to do Hollywood

A typical tourist spends one minute taking a picture of the Hollywood sign and then spends a day meandering the crazily-overrated Hollywood Boulevard (presumably in search of celebrity?). Oh dear tourists, you have it all backward! Instead, spend your time getting up close and personal with the famed Hollywood sign, and then all you need is an hour of "check-it-off-my-tourism-list" time on Hollywood Boulevard. (And if you want a truly awesome Hollywood experience, top the night off with a concert at the storied Hollywood Bowl. But that's a whole 'nother post.) Trust me on this, okay?

The Hollywood sign is so much more "Hollywood" than a touristy street could ever be. Its roots date back to the golden age of Hollywood and it has been in dozens of movies and television shows since. If you care at all about seeing the sign, hiking to it is the best way by far!
The trail starts at Sunset Ranch and takes you all the way above the sign with a a few great photo-ops on your way up. From the top, you can look down at the massive "billboard" and, as an added bonus, you'll be rewarded with amazing views of Los Angeles. Plus, if you care about this kind of thing, quite a few actors live in the area so your odds of a celebrity sighting on this trail have to be higher than on Hollywood Boulevard. I've been to Hollywood & Highland probably 15 times and I'm 0/15 there, but I'm batting 100% in celebrity sightings on that trail! Turns out it's a lovely secluded place to take your baby for a stroll.
Of course, I totally get that you can't come to Hollywood without seeing the Walk of Fame or Grauman's Chinese Theater. Here's the deal. Park at Hollywood & Highland (it's a mall named after the intersection that it calls home) and pick up a free validation from the information desk near the Kodak Theater. You're welcome. The Oscars are held in the Kodak Theater, so take note of the "Best Picture" winners from each year on the pillars as you head down the stairs from the mall to Hollywood Boulevard. Then head out onto the Walk of Fame to find your favorite star. If you're not in the mood to stroll around big crowds for hours, you can google a map of where your favorite stars' stars are located before you go. If you do end up going for a stroll, be sure to grab a hot dog at Pink's on La Brea.

Once you've had your photo op, head over to Grauman's to check out the hand- and foot-prints of Hollywood classics and today's most popular stars. Grauman's is right next to Hollywood & Highland, so it's easy to hop in your car and enjoy the traffic as soon as you're done! If you have time to kill and are in the mood for an overpriced, cheesy, yet also rather entertaining good time, you can make a pit stop at Madame Tussauds before you head out. Nothing like wax celebrities to make your Hollywood tour complete! Although, you could always save some dough by posing with "superheroes" on the street... Oh boy. That boulevard always seems to attract the crazies. Interesting people-watching, for sure.

We did the hike, traffic, and Hollywood Boulevard in about 5 laid-back hours total, so you're good to plan on just a fun afternoon for the experience. Any questions?
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