Museum Trippin’: Inside the Craft & Folk Art Museum

Craft and Folks Art Museum

A few weeks ago Le Kid and I headed to a homeschooling meet up at the Craft & Folk Art Museum. Although I’d seen it plenty of times on our way to LACMA or the Tar Pits, I never really felt the need to go. But because I’ve been looking to meet more homeschoolers (and because the exhibit we were seeing featured the work of a black artist by the name of Sonya Clark), we decided to venture out.

I’m glad I did. Not only is the Craft & Folk Art museum (CAFAM) larger than I expected (it looks pretty small from the outside, but is actually three stories tall), it was actually pretty cool. And their gift shop? DOPE!

When we first stepped into CAFAM, a large portrait of Madame CJ Walker made out of combs hung near the entrance.

Sonya Clark, Madame CJ Walker portrait

Although we got to tour the museum an hour before they opened and were there to see the Sonya Clark exhibit, we were able to check out some of the other installations as well. Currently, they are showcasing the art of Alaskan folk artists, and we saw some pretty cool paintings, photos, and sculptures. Some were even made of walrus belly!

I wasn’t familiar with Sonya Clark’s work before our visit, but I enjoyed checking out her exhibit which was all about hair.

Sonya Clark's work at the CAFAM

Here’s how the CAFAM described her exhibit:

Drawing from her African-American, Scottish, and Caribbean roots, Clark incorporates both the actual hair of African-American women and culturally associated hair-braiding techniques into textile form and sculptural objects. Her symbolic and innovative interpretation of materials and weaving processes explore the layered historical and intergenerational contexts of racial identity, disenfranchisement, and definitions of beauty within African-American cultures.

Le Kid got a kick out of Clark’s Abe Lincoln with an afro, and I was amazed at how hair could be molded into art (and even necklaces!).

Abe Lincoln with ‘fro!

If you get the opportunity to see Sonya Clark’s work in your city, or if you’re in Los Angeles and want to check out something besides the standard (and sometimes way too pretentious) art museums, be sure to stop by the Craft & Folk Art Museum! We will definitely be heading back.

Photo Trippin’: The Getty Museum

The Getty museum courtyard

Over the past two weekend–yes, both–le kid and I have ended up at The Getty Museum. Last Sunday we went on a whim. It was a bright blue day, we were feeling a little stir crazy, and it’s free (but parking is $15), so we decided to head on out. This past Saturday, while out to breakfast with my mom, I asked her if she wanted to go to a museum, and since she’d never been before, we decided to go again.

The Getty museum sits atop Los Angeles and houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs.

While I know nothing about architecture–other than things look nice–the Getty looks very old worldly with its pale marble floors and walls, numerous fountains, and expansive greenery.

The Getty Museum courtyard

The Getty boasts a wonderful collection of art, which includes some of the “masters” like Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Rembrandt, and many others.

People gathering around Van Gogh's Irises.

Van Gogh's Irises

Painting of Louis XIV

One of le kid’s favorite parts of the museum (aside from the Family Room, which offers a hands-on place for kids to play) were the sculptures.

My mom studying the sculpture

Le kid enjoying the family room.

A fountain in the courtyard

On a clear day, the Getty is a beautiful place to spend a day. With its lush campus, amazing views of LA, cafes, and art, the Getty is definitely a must-see when you’re in Los Angeles.

The view from the Getty Center

Have you ever been to the Getty? What’s your favorite part of the museum? 

On the Road: The Living Desert Zoo

The Living Desert Zoo

Who knew there was a zoo in the middle of the desert?!

I had no idea until I did a google search for “L.A. Day Trips” and the Living Desert Zoo came up. Because le kid LOVES animals and we hadn’t really been anywhere in a few weekends, it seemed like a no-brainer to take a drive out to the desert to see what the hype was all about.

Last Saturday we got up fairly early (for a weekend!) and hopped in our car headed toward Palm Desert. Despite being about 135 miles away, we were able to make pretty good time and ended up reaching the zoo in about 2 hours.

The desert is beautiful!

The Living Desert Zoo was established back in 1970 by several local residents who foresaw the impact the growth of resorts in the Palm Springs/Palm Desert area would have on local wildlife. To counteract some of the development, they set aside several acres of land as a nature preserve and hiking trails. Today, the zoo is home to animals and plants from all over the world (and specifically Africa) that are native to desert climates.

I have no idea what kind of flower this is, but it reminded us of a spider.

What would a desert be without camels?

The zoo is broken into two sections: North America and Africa, and features animals, plants, and reptiles native to each region. Because it’s a zoo of desert animals it features many of the usual suspects: camels, zebras, wild dogs, hyenas, and giraffes, as well as some endangered species such as gazelles, and servals.

Giraffes...showing a little love.

Because the zoo is in the middle of the desert, you can imagine it was HOT. Although it was only about 75 degrees, the sun was definitely shining brightly. I wouldn’t even THINK of visiting the zoo in the summer when temperatures can easily top 110. Luckily, the zoo closes early in the summer (1:00pm). Also, some of the animal shows–Animal Wonders and the reptile show–are also subject to the weather, so check the weather report to make sure it isn’t too hot before you head out.

If you’re like me and have been to your fair share of zoos, you’ll notice that the Living Desert Zoo is quite a bit smaller and has less exhibits than your “regular” zoo. However, because the weather can make a full-day here almost impossible, for us, it was the perfect size. I can get impatient with kid attractions (sorry, blame my father for passing on his short attention span), so for me, this was perfect. We spent a good four hours checking out the exhibits, watching the shows, and seeing the zoo at our own pace. There are several hiking trails on the zoo grounds, so if you want to bring along a picnic and go for a hike before seeing the animals, you can easily turn this into an all-day affair. Otherwise, set aside a few hours and tour at your own pace.

He's in LOVE with trains!

Although le kid had a wonderful time looking at each animal exhibit, what he REALLY loved was the model train set. The zoo has an AMAZING train set that’s takes up an expansive 1/3 acres. The train set includes replicas of local shops, restaurants, and hotels as well as all sorts of trains. He was IN LOVE. Le kid must have looked at the train, studied it, and ran around the set for the better part of an hour. I literally had to pry him away.

Overall we enjoyed our day at the zoo. Not only did we see lots of interesting plants, animals, and reptiles, but it was CHEAP! Two tickets cost us just $22. How can you beat that?

*Check out more pictures from our zoo adventure on my Facebook page. 

Have you been to the zoo lately? What’s your favorite thing about zoos? 

Lunchtime Trippin’: Urbano Pizza Bar, L.A.

Today I took my car in to be serviced and instead of waiting around in the dealership, I decided to hop a bus to Downtown L.A.

Although I have no problem taking the bus or train in other cities, there’s something about being on the bus in L.A. that makes you feel like you’re losing at life (#realtalk). Unlike other cities where everybody proudly hops on public transportation, taking the bus here is looked down upon. Nevertheless, I hopped aboard the L.A. Dash, paid my 50 cents (!!), and headed downtown.

I got off in the financial district and wandered around for a bit before trying to find an interesting place (read: not a chain) to have a quick lunch. Because I only had two hours, I needed something fast, relatively affordable, and most importantly, TASTY.

Urbano Pizza Bar Los Angeles

After walking for a few minutes, I spotted a pizza joint just a block from the Central Library on 6th and Flower that caught my eye.

Urbano Pizza Bar looked pretty cool from the outside, it wasn’t especially crowded, and it seemed laid back enough that I wouldn’t feel self-conscious sitting in there alone (I’m still getting used to eating out at restaurants solo, don’t judge me).

Urbano Pizza Bar Los Angeles

As soon as I stepped in the door, Urbano reminded me of Pizza Express in London. Although it sounds like a nondescript fast food joint, Pizza Express serves up gourmet pizzas, wines, and beers in a laid back (yet somehow upscale) atmosphere. Urbano does the same.

At Urbano I was greeted by the bartender/server who let me know I could sit anywhere. The restaurant has several tables both inside and out, but I chose to sit at the diner-style, center table that accommodates several people.

I searched the menu and settled on the PROSCIUTTO DI PARMA pizza which was a delicious mix of thinly-sliced prosciutto, mushrooms, pecorino romano, and  arugula all on a crispy thin crust. Yum! Although it was slightly salty, it was sooooooo tasty! It was definitely enough to share with someone and CHEAP ($12).

Urbano Pizza Bar Los Angeles

LOVE the water bottles. It's the little things, really 🙂

Urbano Pizza Bar Los Angeles

Yummo!

Even though I could have done without the ’50s soundtrack pumping through the place (just isn’t my style), the atmosphere, the food, and the beer and wine list (that I didn’t try, but they had several interesting choices), are DEFINITELY enough for me to head back downtown for a slice.

Have you ever been to Urbano Pizza Bar in LA? What’s your favorite pizza place in the world?

Feeling Cultured at the L.A. County Museum of Art

A section of the Berlin Wall in Los Angeles

A section of the Berlin Wall in Los Angeles.

Who doesn’t love pretty pictures? Even if you’re like me and can only name a handful of artists, I have a profound appreciation for the arts.

Over the weekend, le kid and I made our way to the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA). They were having a Target-sponsored family day, and since the kid (plus an adult) got in free, I figured…why  not?

We’d been to LACMA a few times before, but like most museums, the exhibits are constantly changing. This time they were showing a collection of Californian art, as well as a new instillation piece called Metropolis II that I knew le kid would LOVE (here’s a hint: it’s all about cars).

Metropolis II at LACMA

He was TOTALLY into Metropolis II

We arrived at the museum a little after 1pm, and lucikly, we were able to score street parking across from the museum (saved us $8). When we got to the campus, we strolled through the courtyard looking at the stations set up for the kids. The museum was also celebrating the Chinese New Year and kids were able to make masks, as well as learn about what “sign” they fell under according to the Chinese astrological calendar.

The kid didn’t feel too crafty, so we decided to head into the museum. We strolled through the California art exhibit, which also included a section on Spain’s influence on indigenous populations in the Americas.

After we toured those exhibits, we hit up the “modern art” building. Surprisingly, le kid had a lot to say about almost every piece that we saw, and really enjoyed himself. Even though he’s just 6, he had very strong opinions on what pieces he liked and why. I was very impressed!

(check out a video I made of our trip!)

Eventually, we made our to the Metropolis II exhibit, a whirling art piece with 1001 handmade die cast cars and trains moving at extremely fast speeds. There was a bit of a line to see it, but it was well worth it…the kid thoroughly enjoyed watching the cars whizz by!

Although we didn’t make it over to the ancient art side (we’ve seen it before), we could have totally spent a few more hours looking around the museum. Instead, we were both getting a little thirsty and decided to hit up one of the nearby food trucks for a snack.

Because I knew le kid still had energy to burn, we walked over to the La Brea Tar Pits, a museum that houses prehistoric fossils found in tar deposits in Los Angeles. Although we didn’t go into the museum, we sat outside and le kid quickly made a friend, and they played while I swapped parenting tips with his mom.

All in all it was a WONDERFUL way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  We not only had a great time, but our entire excursion was FREE (my kinda day!).

Do you have a favorite museum in your city? Share!

San Antonio Winery, Downtown LA’s Best Kept Secret

San Antonio Winery in Los Angeles

When you think of California wineries, what comes to mind? Napa Valley? Santa Barbara? Temecula? Downtown L.A.?

*record scratch*

What…Downtown L.A.?

Although most people love California wines, when they think of bastions of wine-making here in the state, Downtown L.A. probably doesn’t make the list. But we do indeed have our very own winery right in the middle of the city (and just a few steps away from the projects!).

Friday, I got a call from a friend who invited me to lunch at the San Antonio Winery. We had gone once before (my first time), and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Like many people, before my last visit I didn’t know L.A. had a winery either!

San Antonio Winery

San Antonio Winery has been in the city for 90 years, back when Downtown L.A. was full of vineyards (who knew?). The winery is family-owned and has been serving up their own vino to thousands who visit each year. The winery boasts three separate locations: the historic Downtown L.A. location, which is a designated historical landmark, an Ontario branch, and another store in Paso Robles.

I haven’t been to the other locations yet, but the Downtown L.A. winery has a store, which has a huge selections of wines from around the world as well as every sort of wine-related accessory you can think of, and a restaurant that serves up tasty Italian, American, and brunch options. This time around I had a BBQ burger (very tasty!) and indulged in a red velvet cupcake (I’m a sucker for sweets), both of which left me completely satisfied (and stuffed!).

San Antonio Winery

After my friends and I finished lunch, we walked over to the tasting room where you can sample three wines for free (!!) as well as stock up on some of your favorites. In the tasting room (which was pretty busy…it was also busy the last time I visited), the sommelier, Robert, poured our samples according to our tastes (I like sweet wines). My friend and I loved Stella Rosa’s Orange Moscato, which tasted like a mimosa (no OJ or champagne needed!), and I bought a bottle to take home. Although you can taste three wines for free, or choose to taste four premium wines for $10, Robert hooked us up with extra samples. And when I told him it was my friend’s birthday, he poured her a sample (I don’t remember what number we were on lol) of one of their best ice wines from Vermont (VERY sweet & delicious!).

San Antonio Winery

Although we just popped in for a quick lunch, San Antonio Winery is easily a place you can spend a few hours exploring. Though it is not expansive in size, you can tour the winery (also free) and learn more about its history and wine labels, and of course…you can eat lunch (or brunch, or dinner).

Even though this was my second trip, I’ll definitely be back to the winery. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic date, or just hanging with your friends. I’ve already told my mother about it and suggest she and her girlfriends head to the winery instead of their local after-work happy hour spot.

What’s your favorite local winery or wine bar? Let’s make a list so when we travel, we have options! 

Lunchtime Trippin’: Hermosa Beach

Hermosa Beach

Have you ever needed to just get a away for an hour or two?

Yesterday, I rose very early (I couldn’t sleep) and immediately got to work. I wrote articles for my main gig and I also crafted pieces for my other projects. Around noon, I engaged in a little Facebook distraction and found myself smack dab in the middle of a heated debate. Now…I love to debate, but this was one that I had to walk away from because I felt myself getting angry. As I readied my next (snarky) reply, I looked out the window and saw that it was an amazingly beautiful day. With most of my work behind me for the day, I decided to head out on a mini-trip (and find something to eat).

Full disclosure: I’m blessed. I live about 10 minutes from the pier and can easily access the beach, which always calms me down. But instead of heading to Redondo Beach, I decided to drive a little further down PCH to Hermosa.

Hermosa Beach is a small coastal town in L.A.’s “South Bay.” It’s main attraction is the Strand, a boardwalk filled with shops, restaurants, bars, and lounges that leads up to the pier. It’s also known for its beach volleyball tournaments and being apart of the International Surf Festival.

Luck for me, Hermosa is just a short ride from my place and I was there within 15 minutes. As I strolled around trying to figure out what to have for lunch, I noticed many colorful clothing stores, bike rental places and bars (and they were all busy!). Like many beach boardwalks, there were people riding their bikes and rollerblading, and because many are still out for the holidays, there were also several people playing beach volleyball.

After walking down the Strand and sitting on the pier for a while, I was completely relaxed. The sun was shining brilliantly, and the sky was the most amazing shade of blue. How could I NOT be relaxed? I listened to the waves for a while, and decided to head back to the Strand to find lunch.

Hermosa Beach has a plethora of food options. Not only were there tons of American and Mexican food joints, but there was also a French cafe, an Irish Pub, and a Brazilian BBQ restaurant. So no matter what you’re craving, they’ve got it covered. I decided to stroll into a pizza joint called Zeppy’s (I’d never been there before), and order up the lunch special: two slices, a salad, and a soda.

Zeppy’s Pizza was so delish! Apparently they only serve deep-dish Chicago style pizzas (and by the slice!), so I ordered the tomato and basil and a slice of pepperoni. Both were tasty, and for $6 they were also pretty cheap (I was full…for hours). I sat outside on the patio to eat my lunch and enjoyed a little people watching.

After lunch, I headed home….completely relaxed and ready to jump back into work. My mini-break was just the thing I needed to calm my mind, let go of a little bit of stress, and enjoy the sunshine.

Sometimes we think that we cannot, under any circumstaces, get away. But whether you live close to the beach like me, or can escape to your local park…taking a mini-break can do wonders to help you recharge.

Have you ever taken a midday break? Where do you go when you start to feel stressed out? 

Newport Beach: All Watching, No Whales

Today, I decided to take le kid whale watching in Newport Beach. He loves marine life and I figured it would be a good way to end the year with yet another adventure. Despite living in L.A. my entire life, I’d never been whale watching, so after I peeped a deal for $20 tickets, I decided to jump on it.

Le kid and I arrived in Newport Beach at about 2pm to take the last cruise of the day. I figured it might be a little cold, so I brought along a really warm sweater. Although it was a little cool, it was bright and sunny outside, so I thought we’d have a beautiful trip.

And we did…for a while. We boarded the boat (which was packed!), and le kid was all smiles. He talked up a storm as we jetted through the ocean, pointing out birds and using our rented binoculars.

Our ocean jaunt started off quite promising as we spotted several bottle-nose dolphins and some seals (or sea lions, I always mix them up). Everyone excitedly crowded to the side of the boat to snap pictures and shoot video of the dolphins. Le kid yelled excitedly, and I was hopeful we’d see some whales.

As we ventured further into the Pacific, the weather got VERY cold and the sun disappeared behind the clouds. Immediately there was a huge patch of fog, and I began to get a little worried that we wouldn’t see any whales. Le munchkin found a seat (and almost fell asleep), while I kept watch for the whales.

(See what I mean!)

Although we didn’t spot any…and being on the ocean was FREEZING…riding the waves was very peaceful. I marveled at the vastness of the ocean and the tranquil nature of it all. I’ve always loved the water, but believe it or not, I’ve never been that far out on a boat. It was beautiful and I’m definitely doing it again (and on a lager scale, cruise anyone?).

Because we didn’t spot any whales and because it was such a foggy day, the company–Newport Landing Whale Watching–gave everyone free passes to return for another trip (and because I’m so nice & chatted with a woman from New Mexico who was leaving tonight, she gave me hers as well. Score!). I really appreciated the free passes because le kid and I were bummed we didn’t get to see any whales. So we’ll definitely be back for another shot at seeing them!

Have you ever been whale watching?