Friday, May 28, 2010

Ode to California

In the spirit of true mourning, I feel compelled to compile a "Top Ten" list (in no particular order) of things I will miss about living in southern California.  Family is the #1 given, and therefore will not even be included on the list.  (Let alone mentioned without tears and great sorrow.)  

#1 As mentioned in my last post, the variety of vegetation constantly changing and blooming year round is PAINFUL to leave behind.  Dr. Seuss moved to La Jolla in 1948, and I'm convinced the majority of the plants in his books were inspired by some of the funky things that grow around here.  Check out this beauty in the side yard of the kids' school:

And this is what I see out my car window when I pull into my driveway.  (The really crazy thing is how little maintenance this stuff requires.) 

#2.  Trader Joe's  Oh, Trader Joe's!  No California kitchen worth it's salt is complete without your accoutrements!  How I will miss you and your mushroom risotto, your vegetable melange, your Gingeroos and dark chocolate covered blueberries, your Hansen's diet soda, your garlic hummus, your cheap, hormone & antibiotic free eggs, your sweet & salty trail mix, your cool recyclable bags, your fresh, inexpensive flowers, your better-than-from-an-Asian-grocery-store gyoza, your check out boys in Hawaiian shirts, your mini beef tacos, your blueberry ice cream, your guaca-salsa.  It is a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.   

#3.  The ocean.  What can be said about leaving the ocean?  The smell of the salty air, the sound of the waves, the feel of the sand between your toes, watching the sun set on the water.  And I just barely learned the baby powder trick to wipe away sticky sand!  It's just not right.  I will especially miss our family bike rides at the beach in the winter.  And the ability to drive up Pacific Coast Highway for a short weekend anniversary trip like we did last year to Cambria.  Oh, the pain! 

#4 California style.  There is none.  I mean, obviously there IS, but there are so many different cultures and people here you can wear whatever you want, wherever you want and it's all good.  None of this fussy, super trendy, perfect hair requirement you see in some places.  Classic California casual.  I love that.  Going along with that is just the diversity in general. Look at these pictures I took just today at my kids' school: 

Elizabeth's kindergarten music program. (Going back to family being the worst thing to leave behind, that's Elizabeth's cousin in the white polo just a bleacher up from her.)

"Lunch on the Lawn" with Will and his buddies.

#5 Disneyland.  Knott's Berry Farm.  Sea World.  Lego Land.  Hello - we live in a vacation destination! I'm trying to remind myself that if we move we might actually be able to afford a "real" vacation, but at least it's been nice to live somewhere we could easily drive to fun, vacation spots.  (Bonus: going "off season" when it's not crowded.)

#6  The weather.  Notice the separate buildings behind Will and Elizabeth in the Dr. Seuss tree? The school hallways are all outdoors.  Southern California living is outdoor living.  Year round.  But it's not just the temperatures, it's also the perfect balance of humidity, and the clear, fragrant air.  The air!  I know it's L.A., but maybe it's because we are so high up above the city into the mountains that the air quality is so nice.  I just like the way it smells here.  Sounds weird, I know, but it's true.    

#7  The restaurants.  Brandon and I made a pact over a year ago that we would never go to the same restaurant twice because there are so many incredible places to eat in this megalopolis.  Some of our favorites have been: Firefly Bistro, Mike and Anne's, Il Fornaio, Cafe 140 South, Katsuya, and just last week we discovered Three Drunken Goats,   a Spanish tapas restaurant, where we had bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese, and gourmet churros that came with a little cup of warm chocolate for dipping.  Now I realize that great dining establishments are pretty low on the list of desired characteristics for good places to raise your children, but it hasn't hurt us one bit while we've lived here.  Except in the pocket book, maybe.  (Perhaps that's another good reason to go!) Can't forget the local favorite: 

#8 The cultural opportunities.  If you want to get into Bonsai like my husband, there are some great nurseries for that.  If you need a little Rembrandt in your life, go to the Getty over the weekend.  We have passes to both Descanso Gardens and the L.A. County Arboretum.  (We're actually going tomorrow to the Santa Anita Bonsai Show with the kids.)  Both places have outdoor concert series (LA Phil at the Arboretum) in the summer which is just about my favorite thing in the world: live music in a beautiful, natural setting.  Then there is the Griffith Observatory, the downtown California Science Center, Kidspace Children's Museum, the Rose Parade on New Year's, the Skirball Cultural Center I've been meaning to go to for like three summers now.  That's what is really bugging me.  I had a baby in the middle of our four years here so even though I have lived like a serious tourist as much as possible, there is still so much left to do!  I'm starting to depress myself and just asked Brandon if it was too late to back out of this whole moving thing . . . 

#9  Cool Factor.  This is the lamest thing on the list, but it's just fun.  How cool is it to say that Miley Cyrus came to our Back-to-School BBQ because her little sister went to our kids school?  (Billy Ray came to the school play to watch Noah as Little Red Riding Hood.)  Angela Bassett lives down the street.  We pick our kids up at "Costner's Corner" - a little spot of land outside the walled home where Kevin Costner used to live in the 80's and 90's.  My sister-in-law's family ran into Kobe Bryant's family once while out shopping and had a nice little visit.  With Hollywood just around the mountain, and downtown a mere 15 minute drive away, this stuff is not terribly unusual.  And it's just kind of cool.  (If I had the time, money, babysitter, or inclination, I hear the shopping in L.A. is pretty good too . . .) 

#10 The architecture.  And I'm not just talking about big, old city buildings.  (Though one of our favorite dates was running around gorgeous Pasadena City Hall after eating out one night.)  Since there is no more room to "build out" in this area, if you want a new home here, you just buy a house like ours in a beautiful location, tear it down (you're mostly paying for the land anyway), and - walah! - build your dream house.  There are lots of dream houses in our neighborhood - another reason I think our house sold so well.  There are no developments here with row after row of homes that look exactly alike.  It's refreshing.  Here are a few of my favorites within a block or two: 

Our house is seriously the smallest house on the smallest lot in the whole neighborhood I think.  Being surrounded by so much beauty is almost worth it, though.  

Even though I've already mentioned the weather, the vegetation and the beach, it's the whole package all wrapped up together that makes California such an amazing place to live.  While we've lived here, we've been to the Channel Islands Nat'l Park, Sequoia Nat'l Park, BRANDON has been to Yosemite more than once (I'm not bitter about that at ALL!), skiing in the mountains, camping in the mountains, biking at the beach, camping at the beach, swimming in the ocean, hiking in the mountains in Malibu overlooking the ocean . . . I'm sick about leaving, people!  You here me?  Sick!  

I really do love this place.


  1. Holy Smokes I want to move to California.
    Earthquakes! Mudslides! I'll just keep repeating those same two things over and over.

  2. THEN DON"T GO!!! just kidding. We're going to miss you guys sooo much. Did you know that at the end of the summer, Abby will be the only child in primary between CTR 5 AND CTR 6. That's 2 primary classes, and only little ole Abby. Sad, sad. And hey, why are you posting pictures of my house on your blog. I don't remember giving permission for that! ;-)

  3. THEN DON"T GO!!! just kidding. We're going to miss you guys sooo much. Did you know that at the end of the summer, Abby will be the only child in primary between CTR 5 AND CTR 6. That's 2 primary classes, and only little ole Abby. Sad, sad. And hey, why are you posting pictures of my house on your blog. I don't remember giving permission for that! ;-)


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