The Manhattan Beach Open: Beach Volleyball’s ‘Wimbledon’

Stands south of the Manhattan Beach pier for the Manhattan Beach Open in 2006

Stands south of the Manhattan Beach pier for the Manhattan Beach Open in 2006 (in the foreground are players and 2008 Olympic Gold Medalists Phil Dalhauser and Todd Rogers).

Today qualification play begins for the AVP Manhattan Beach Open in Manhattan Beach, California. Match play continues tomorrow and Saturday with the finals on Sunday, July 17th. Known by players and fans alike as the “Wimbledon of Beach Volleyball,” this is the tournament all US players want to win at least once in their careers. Held in Manhattan Beach for the 57th year, this year’s tournament features six of the eight United States beach volleyball players heading to the Summer Olympic Games in Rio in August.

If you are in Los Angeles this weekend, make your way to Manhattan Beach to catch some of the top volleyball players in the world compete! Players who win the tournament have their names immortalized on the Manhattan Beach pier a year after their win.

MB Open Pier fog

The Manhattan Beach pier, as seen in October 2013 during the #FoggyPierPressure Instameet. Plaques for the winner of each year’s Manhattan Beach Open are embedded in the pier.

The Manhattan Beach Open's 1960 winners plaque for

The Manhattan Beach Open’s 1960 winners plaque for Mike O’Hara and Mike Bright.

Usually, the Open is held in mid-August, but since the Olympics will be happening at that time, the tournament was moved to this weekend in July. In years past, the Open was held after the Olympics and it was a great chance to see US Olympians compete after returning home from the games. Many of the players competing this weekend live in and around the Beach Cities/South Bay area of Los Angeles, so this is also considered a home tournament for them.

During the early rounds of the tournament, you can wander from court to court, and watch different matches with your beach towel or chair. There is always a crowd, but during play on Thursday and Friday, it is easier to get a courtside seat.

Olympic volleyball legend Karch Kiraly serving during an early match in August, 2006.

Olympic volleyball legend Karch Kiraly serving during an early match in August, 2006.

Karch Kiraly and Larry Witt play during the 2006 MB Open.

Karch Kiraly and Larry Witt play during the 2006 MB Open

Local papers The Beach Reporter and Easy Reader News both have articles about this year’s tournament, and more information on the schedule, draw and athletes competing can be found on the AVP tour website.

As we have been out of town the last two years, I am excited to head down to the beach and catch some of the action this weekend. If you are not local to Los Angeles, you can watch the final matches on Sunday on NBC.

MB Open big court 2006

Play on one of the large courts during the 2006 Manhattan Beach Open. In the far court are teammates Stein Metzger and Mike Lambert.

A women's match during the 2006 Manhattan Beach Open.

A women’s match during the 2006 Manhattan Beach Open.

MB Open 2006 Phil blocks Kevin Wong

The 2006 Men’s Final of the Manhattan Beach Open. (Left) Stein Metzger and Mike Lambert against (right) Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers. Dalhausser and Rogers upset top seed Metzer and Lambert 22-20, 21-23, and 15-11.

MB Open 2006 Phil blocks Stein

Another shot of the final match in the 2006 Manhattan Beach Open between Stein Metzger/Mike Lambert and Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers. On the elevated stage, right under the Crocs logo you can spot Laird Hamilton bent over with his hands on his knees watching the match.

 

Dinner with a Race Car Driver: Nelson Piquet, Jr.

Nelson Kiera crop

Me and Nelson Piquet, Jr. in Long Beach, California.

In advance of the Long Beach ePrix in April, I won a FoxSports twitter contest to have dinner with driver Nelson Piquet, Jr. I could not quite believe it when it happened, and remember telling Dave, “I think I’m having dinner with Nelson Piquet, Jr. on Thursday night!”

What do you do when you have dinner with a race car driver? Ask them questions, lots of questions. Nelson currently races in the Formula E series for NextEV TCR – electric car racing through the streets of many of the top cities in the world – and as a driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship with Rebellion Racing. In the past he’s raced in GP2, Formula 1, Global Rallycross and the NASCAR trucks series. He’s also the son of three time Formula 1 world champion Nelson Piquet.

As you might imagine, I had no shortage of questions!

We met at Gladstone’s in Long Beach – right across the street from his hotel for the race weekend. Josh Skolfield was another contest winner, and Rebecca Banks and Emma Stoner from Nelson’s PR team joined the dinner as well. I thought there would be a huge group, but it was simply the five of us.

Nelson Piquet - Long Beach 2

Dinner with Nelson! L-R: Emma, Rebecca, Josh and me at Gladstone’s right after we ordered.

I started asking Nelson questions after we ordered, and I continued peppering him with questions as we ate our dinner. I wanted to be sure I did not forget to ask anything. Nelson was very gracious and open, and he was willing to answer all of my questions – even the ones about the infamous incident at the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix in 2008.

Nelson Piquet - Long Beach

There’s a photographer that takes pictures of your table at Gladstone’s and then sells you this montage.

It was interesting to hear about the life of a race car driver – never staying in one place for too long as there’s always a promotional appearance, another race, or testing to attend. He said home is his suitcase. I asked Nelson which series he enjoyed racing the most, and was surprised that he enjoyed the NASCAR trucks series so much.

Nelson Piquet - Long Beach 4

Nelson poses with me and Josh after dinner. Credit: Rebecca Banks.

Some of the more interesting things that he shared with us include his regret that he didn’t continue racing in GP2 while he was a reserve driver for F1 in 2007. Since he was a reserve driver, he was sitting at the race tracks, not racing and it was a bit boring. He also regrets not remaining in Nascar Trucks for a third year as he instead jumped to the Nationwide series. He enjoyed Nascar and working with a radio spotter throughout the race. He said you need to have total trust with the spotter because they can see what is happening on the track, so when they tell you to make a move, you need to move.

I asked him about this favorite tracks, and he immediately mentioned Macau, Silverstone and Monaco, saying that the more challenging the track, the more fun it is to race. He hopes to continue racing for as long as he is able and will consider his next steps once his racing career is finished.

Nelson Piquet program

Nelson signed the Long Beach ePrix program for us.

Nelson was not particularly optimistic about his chances in the Formula E season this year, and after winning the series first title last year, it has been a disappointment. Still though, I am following the series, and enjoyed attending the race in Long Beach (the cars make high pitch sounds but are very quiet – it’s a bit odd to see the open wheel cars zoom by without much sound!).

Supporting Nelson at the Long Beach ePrix

Supporting Nelson at the Long Beach ePrix

I was excited to hear about his racing with the Rebellion team in the World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His team mates are drivers Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost.

We attended Le Mans this year, and I managed to capture a quick selfie with Nelson during Scrutineering. He remembered meeting me in California and wondered what I was doing in France – watching Le Mans!

Nelson being interviewed with his Rebellion Racing team mates during Le Mans scrutineering.

Nelson being interviewed with his Rebellion Racing team mates during Le Mans scrutineering.

It was raining quite a bit during the interviews.

It was raining quite a bit during the interviews.

There was quite a large crowd for the two days of Scrutineering. After the cars were inspected, the team – drivers and crew – posed for an official team photo.

I stood on my tip toes to capture this photo. It was very crowded!

I stood on my tip toes to capture this photo. It was very crowded!

After posing for the photo, the crew pushed the car along the pathway, and the drivers stopped for photos and to sign autographs. That is when I was able to say hello to Nelson again and take a selfie!

Nelson signs autographs for the fans at Le Mans.

Nelson signs autographs for the fans at Le Mans.

Nelson selfie Le Mans

A selfie with Nelson during Le Mans scrutineering.

The Rebellion team was the top private team in the LMP1 class at the race, and Nelson and his team mates were on the podium.

Nelson Le Mans podium

The Le Mans 2016 podium. Nelson and his Rebellion Racing team mates Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost are pictured on the podium at the far right for being the top private LMP1 team in the race.

This weekend, he races for NextEV TCR in the last race of this year’s Formal E season, the London ePrix. You can help Nelson’s car receive an extra “boost” in the race by tweeting or tagging your Instagram photos with #NelsonPiquet, #Fanboost and #LondonePrix – once a day until race day (although since Nelson is not in a position to win the championship this year, he would probably would not mind if you gave your boost to another driver).

Thank you for dinner Nelson. It was a pleasure meeting you, and I hope to see you again soon at a racetrack!

You can follow Nelson on all his social medial channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Have you ever had dinner with a race car driver? Who would you want to meet? Let me know in the comments below.

Celebrating Olympic Day in Pasadena

Today, June 23rd, is Olympic Day, a day celebrating the Olympics around the world. In honor of this day, local NPR station KPCC hosted a discussion panel with several US Olympians at the Crawford Family Forum in Pasadena, California on Tuesday evening.

At the event, several Olympic pin collectors displayed the hundreds of pins they have collected by trading at several Olympic games. It was interesting to hear their stories of how they started collecting pins and their memories of attending several Olympic games. I have some pins from when I attended the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002, but my collection pales in comparison to the pins they acquired through trading.

Olympic Day pins

The moderator for the panel discussion was Olympic Hall of Fame swimmer John Naber (1976 Swimming, 4 gold and 1 silver medals). Before the discussion, John introduced Gordy Crawford and he spoke about the US Olympic and Paralympic Foundation and encouraged everyone to support Team USA – even a small gift makes a difference in helping our athletes train for the Olympics!

John asked questions of each of the Olympians about their experiences at the games, what they remember and the lessons they learned. With a diversity of sports represented, it was interesting to hear their perspectives about what we can expect from the US Olympic Team at the Rio Games this summer.

The panelists included:

  • Shirley Babashoff (1976, swimmer, eight Olympic medals)
  • Dwight Stones (1972, ’76, ’84, high jumper, two Olympic medals)
  • Connie Paraskevin (1980, ’84, ’88, ’92, ’96, speed skater and cyclist, one Olympic medal, four world titles)
  • Paula Weiskopf (1984, ’88, 2012, volleyball player and coach, two Olympic medals)

Olympic Day panel

The Olympic panel with

The Olympic panel. Front row L-R: Shirley Babashoff, Connie Paraskevin, and Paula Weishoff; Back row L-R: Dwight Stones, Gordy Crawford (Chair of the US Olympic and Paralympic Foundation) and John Naber.

After the discussion, all the athletes mingled with audience members, and I spoke with Dwight Jones about his broadcast career – he will be reporting for ESPN International in Rio, calling play by play for track and field, and Shirley Babashoff about her soon to be released book, Making Waves, and the documentary about the 1976 games and the East German swimmers that she knew were doping at the time (but no one else seemed to acknowledge this) – The Last Gold. Shirley brought along her 1976 gold medal in the 4×100 relay and let all of us hold it. What an honor!

Olympian Shirley Babashoff poses with me.

What an honor to meet Shirley Babashoff.

 

An Olympic gold medal!

An Olympic gold medal!

It was an honor to meet these Olympians, and I thank them all for representing our country at the Olympic Games. I am excited for the games in Rio this summer.

Happy Olympic Day!

Plane Spotting Iron Maiden’s “Ed Force One” at LAX

Living close to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), I enjoy seeing the planes coming from the east making their final approach for landing when I’m driving on the 405 Freeway. Or when we’re walking our dogs on the Strand in Manhattan Beach, we try to guess the plane type and carrier as we watch flights depart to the west over the ocean.

When private planes and charters come to LAX, they are often parked on the south side of the airport, near the intersection of Sepulveda Boulevard and Imperial Highway (aka the 105 Freeway). I wonder sometimes who the planes belong to, or who is flying in them. On Sunday, when I saw a plane there, it was clear who was in town.

As I drove north on Sepulveda, heading to Santa Monica, I saw a 747 plane with Iron Maiden livery. Iron Maiden was in town to perform two shows over the weekend at the Forum in Inglewood. Returning home a few hours later, I decided to try to get a picture of it. It was difficult – you could see it perfectly from the streets but it was parked at a busy intersection with a highway overhead so views of it were obstructed.

I finally parked, walked down an incline, and was able to take this photo – unfortunately the 105 Freeway is blocking the full view of the plane.

Zoomed in view of Iron Maiden plane parked at LAX.

Zoomed in view of Iron Maiden plane parked at LAX.

I could see some people walking along the green fence taking pictures of the plane (pictured above in the distance, closer to the plane), so I looped around to attempt parking near them with the intention of then walking back to take photos. Unfortunately, they were parked on the side of an off-ramp, in a no parking zone, and as I pulled over to park, I noticed a police car behind me. I thought better of parking there and moved.

I next went to Imperial Avenue in El Segundo. This street parallels Imperial Highway, but instead of being on the same level as LAX, the land is hilly, so there are some spots that provide excellent views of LAX and the southern runways.

On Imperial Avenue in El Segundo looking over LAX

On Imperial Avenue in El Segundo looking over LAX. The building on the far left, with all the planes parked outside, is the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The first five planes closest to me are all A380s.

A KLM 747 taxis on the runway at LAX.

A KLM 747 taxis on the runway at LAX.

Here is a map of where the plane was parked and where I was standing to watch the runways. It is a great location for plane spotting, watching both the incoming flights from the east and then seeing planes depart to the west.

While I was too far from the parked plane to get a good photo (and it was obscured by other buildings at LAX from this vantage point), there was a large crowd gathered with several people wearing Iron Maiden t-shirts, presumably from the concert the night before. The gentleman standing next to me, Ron Monroe, had a DSLR camera with a large lens, and he was taking pictures of all the planes departing, so I asked him about the planes, identifying them, and watching them land. He said this spot usually only has a few people watching and most of the people there today were there for the Iron Maiden plane. Ron took some beautiful photos of Ed Force One departing LAX that I shared below. I encourage you to visit his gallery on Flickr (he also took photos of Ed Force One landing at LAX a few days earlier. You can see them here, here and here).

/Air Atlanta Icelandic, Boeing 747-400, "Ed Force One" Photo credit: ©Ron Monroe

Air Atlanta Icelandic, Boeing 747-400, "Ed Force One" Photo credit: ©Ron Monroe

Once the plane started moving from its parking spot, there seemed to be excitement in the gathered crowd. I learned from some of the other onlookers that Iron Maiden’s lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson pilots the plane, and the plane is called Ed Force One.

After about twenty minutes, the plane was at the end of the runway and started moving towards take off, and I was able to capture the departure on video.

Iron Maiden and their crew was headed to Tokyo for their next concerts there as part of their Book of Souls world tour. Interestingly, after I shared this post, I saw an article about an associate curator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology who helped translate the band’s Book of Souls song titles into ancient Maya hieroglyphs, two of which appear on the tail fin of Ed Force One. You can read more about that here.

Immediately after the plane departed, the crowd dissipated. One woman, wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt, said, “I want to cry. It’s all over now.”

Did you see the Iron Maiden plane at LAX? Have you ever visited an airport to watch planes taking-off and landing? Let me know in the comments below!

Fun Times Through the Years at The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Image

Every April, the streets of Long Beach, California, are turned into a race track for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, an IndyCar race, but there are other races throughout the weekend: the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race (this is the 40th and final year), IMSA, Pirelli World Challenge, Stadium Super Trucks and Super Drift races.

We are heading to the track today, and I found some old photos of previous weekends at the race. Fridays are less crowded, with open seating, and the ability to walk around some of the pits and take part in an autograph session with the drivers.

On Saturday there is World Challenge and Indy Car practice, the Pro/Celebrity race, Stadium Super Trucks race, IndyCar qualifying and the IMSA race. In addition to the IndyCar race on Sunday there is the Pirelli World Challenge race, Mothers Exotic Car Parade, and the Stadium Super Trucks race.

Throughout the weekend, the Long Beach Convention Center is open with pit areas for some of the support races, cars and automotive displays. There is a lot to see, and with bright sunny days in the forecast, it will be a beautiful weekend for racing!

Here are some of my photos from previous race weekends.

tgplb conv ctr 2014

K-PAX car in the Convention Center, 2014

tgplb conv ctr 2 2014

Nissan GTR in the Convention Center, 2014

 

Racing Ford GT and a Corvette, 2008 (If only that guy was sitting!)

Racing Ford GT and a Corvette, 2008 (If only that guy was sitting!)

Autograph session in 2012 with Corvette Racing's xxx, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen

Autograph session in 2012 with Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen

Flying Lizard Motorsports Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long, 2012

Flying Lizard Motorsports Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long, 2012

The Wayne Taylor Racing car in 2014

The Wayne Taylor Racing car in 2014

Lots of skid marks on the streets of Long Beach, 2008

Lots of skid marks on the streets of Long Beach, 2008

Walking around, you can see the cars being worked on before the races - here Flying Lizard Motorsports in 2008

Walking around, you can see the cars being worked on before the races – here Flying Lizard Motorsports in 2008

There are screens throughout the course - here during the Indy Race in 2012

There are screens throughout the course – here during the Indy Race in 2012

Corvette Racing's Oliver Gavin and crew members by the car in 2008

Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and crew members by the car in 2008

Racing in 2011

Racing in 2011

Indy Car race in 2011

Indy Car race in 2011

Indy Car race 2011

Indy Car race 2011

Indy Car race 2011

Indy Car race 2011

Have you ever been to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach or another IndyCar race? Let me know in the comments below.

Celebrating Easter Mass ON Hermosa Beach

Six years ago my parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hermosa Beach, California, started a tradition of a sunrise Easter Mass on the beach. It was the idea of our now pastor Father Joe Kim (at the time he was studying to be a priest).

I attended the first year this mass was offered (I believe in 2010), and I remember being cold (nights are chilly in southern California). There was a small gathering, and even though it was overcast, it was a wonderful way to celebrate Easter, as night became day, by the water, with the waves as our music.

When I joined the mass last year, I was happy to see that it had grown in size. It was still a bit chilly and overcast, but the crowd of worshipers gathered to celebrate the risen Christ was warming to the heart. As the mass progressed, the moon faded from view and the sun enlightened the beach and our gathering.

Arriving to the beach, it was still quite dark, and the pier was still lit.

Arriving to the beach, it was still quite dark, and the pier was still lit.

The moon lit up the sky before the sun rose from the east behind us.

The moon lit up the sky before the sun rose from the east behind us.

The Bishop said mass and is giving his homily.

The Bishop said mass and is giving his homily. As you can see, there is a large crowd.

OLG Beach Easter homilyOLG Beach Easter homily 2

By the end of the mass, it was almost completely daylight (though still overcast - typical for southern California in the Spring and early Summer).

By the end of the mass, it was almost completely daylight (though still overcast – typical for southern California in the Spring and early Summer).

Once again this year, Our Lady of Guadalupe will offer Easter mass on the beach – 6:30 am on Sunday, March 27, at 11th Street and the Strand in Hermosa Beach. Bring your own beach chair, a warm sweathshirt and a blanket. Come join us!

For more pictures, see this photo gallery from beach side mass in 2014 by the Los Angeles Times.

How do you celebrate Easter? Does your church celebrate mass or hold services outside of your usual church?

Amara Chocolate and Coffee Cafe in Pasadena

Earlier this year, my friends Lisa, Melissa and I were looking for somewhere to meet and catch up with each other. Melissa suggested a few places near her in Pasadena (California), and one of them was a place that served hot chocolate. That quickly became our pick, and we met there on Saturday afternoon.

I arrived first, and since I left the house early that morning, I was hungry. Not knowing if we would be ordering only hot chocolate or food too, I decided to try an empanada while I waited for Lisa and Melissa to arrive.

Pasadena empanada

Beef empanada at Amara

It was the perfect size for a small snack, but you could also order several to make a full meal.

Although I wanted sipping chocolate, I needed some caffeine, so I decided to try a cacao latte, but I had choices as to how dark I wanted the chocolate in my mocha to be, a choice I never had before! I am a big fan of dark chocolate, so I ordered my cacao latte with the 61% dark chocolate. According to Amara’s menu, the chocolate is paired with Guatemalan espresso. It was the perfect combination of chocolate and espresso flavors with a hint of sweetness.

Pasadena mocha

Amara Cafe’s dark chocolate mocha – note it’s already half gone because I was too excited to drink it before taking a picture!

While waiting, I realized that Amara Cafe was not simply a pastry cafe but a Venezuelan cafe – the empanadas on the menu was one clue. There was a selection of the usual sandwich combinations, but at the register, an ipad displayed photos of other menu items. One thing that caught my eye was a tortilla that seemed to be covered with beans and plantains. There were also churros on the menu! I did not expect that. I knew I wanted to order some but decided to wait to see if Lisa and Melissa were interested in sharing some too.

Melissa arrived next, and while she was looking at the menu, she too noticed the tortilla photo and was intrigued. We decided to order that to share and learned that in addition to the beans and plantains there was beef and cheese as well. It is called an arepa, a Venezuelan corn flat-bread. We ordered La De Pabellon which included the arepa, shredded beef, white cheese, black beans and plantains.

Pasadena pancake

When it arrived at our table, we split it between the three of us (by this time Lisa joined us) – it might make a main entree for dinner, but with both beans and meat, it is pretty filling for one person for lunch. It was delicious – the sweetness of the corn tortilla and plantains balanced nicely with the meat and beans. So, so good!

After finishing that, we had our next big decision – how many churros to order, and with what sauces? We decided on six to share with dark chocolate and nutella sauces.

Pasadena churros

Churros con chocolate -mmm the perfect morning, lunch, mid-afternoon or late night treat!

We were all surprised by this little cafe in the heart of old town Pasadena. While there is typical cafe fare, the Venezuelan menu items – especially the chocolate – give it something to stand out. Read more about Amara’s chocolates on their website.

The space is small, but we were able to find a table with ease to enjoy our orders. There was a steady stream of customers coming in for food to sit and eat or a drink to have on the go.

I would recommend visiting this unique cafe and trying some of their Venezuelan delicacies and chocolates!

Amara Cafe

55 South Raymond Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91105
info@amarachocolate.com
Phone (626) 744-1765
90 min Free Parking

Reflecting on the “Best” of Instagram 2015

Here are my best nine Instagram posts from 2015:

Best Nine

A week or two ago, I noticed people posting a photo collage on Instagram with the hashtag #2015bestnine. I googled and soon learned how to discover your best nine photographs you shared on Instagram that garnered the most likes.

It is quite simple – visit http://2015bestnine.com/, type in your Instagram user name, and the site searches your posts and compiles the top photos in a collage you can post to Instagram, share to Twitter or save as an image. The site also compiles your total number of likes (5,332 for me) and the total posts you shared in 2015 (299 – almost one per day!).

I was surprised to see my results – all the photos are from right here in southern California – and it was fun to remember the story behind each one.

My most liked photo (in the top left of the collage) is from a calligraphy workshop this fall in downtown LA at the Design Love Fest studio. I have followed Lauren Essl’s feed, @BlueEyeBrownEye, for a while, and I was excited to be able to participate in one of her workshops. I took the introduction to calligraphy class, and I learned enough to address all of my Christmas cards this year with calligraphy!

From Lauren Essl's Blue Eye Brown Eye introduction to calligraphy workshop at Design Love Fest in Downtown LA

From Lauren Essl’s Blue Eye Brown Eye introduction to calligraphy workshop at Design Love Fest in Downtown LA

The middle column of my photos is from right here at home – almost daily walks along the Strand in Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach are always Instagram worthy. The middle photo is with a Paradise Bowl – delicious acai and pitaya bowls that are perfect after a long walk along the beach! Sometimes it feels redundant to keep posting photos of the beach at sunset, but every time I am there, the scene is so beautiful I have to take another picture!

Below the calligraphy post in the first column are coffee photos, both from Two Guns Espresso in Manhattan Beach (they also serve coffee at the Manhattan Beach Yacht Club at the end of the Manhattan Beach pier). Nothing makes me happier than a delicious espresso, and Two Guns makes the best Flat Whites around! These photos make me miss visiting Caffe Luxxe in Brentwood – my office used to be close to their San Vicente location, and I enjoyed stopping in for a cappuccino (and sharing it on Instagram) before going to the office (n.b. they roast the beans for Two Guns).

The column on the right is food – the top is a chicken sandwich from the Free Range LA food truck. They were in front of Stumptown Coffee in downtown LA, right around the corner from the Design Love Fest studio where I took my calligraphy class! Since Free Range LA says they are #ChickenGawds, I had to try one of their sandwiches. I had the “classic” but they allowed me to customize it by adding some of the “original” slaw. Mmm, mmm, good!

The original sandwich from the Free Range food truck. It was huge - I didn't have dinner that night.

The classic sandwich from the Free Range food truck. It was huge – and oh so good – I didn’t have dinner that night.

The bottom two photos are from a blogger gathering at Gloria’s Restaurant and Bar in Huntington Park. Thanks to Chef Turok (Brian Menendez) for organizing the event and inviting me. The food was delicious, the margaritas yummy (they created three different ones for us to sample), and the mariachi music was fantastic!

2015 was so much more than these nine photos, but it is fun to share things daily and then see what resonates the most. It will be interesting to see what I post this year, and which ones become favorites. Have you discovered your #2015bestnine? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy New Year! Here’s to a great 2016!

Visiting the LA Auto Show

IMG_9258

The LA Auto Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center (South Hall entrance).

Last weekend, Dave and I visited the LA Auto Show on Saturday. Through Dave’s membership in the Audi Club, we were able to enter the show an hour before it opened to the general public. What a treat to see and take photos of the different car manufacturers displays without crowds of people!

The LA Auto Show is at the Los Angeles Convention Center and is open through Sunday, November 29th, and show hours are 9:00 am – 10:00 pm daily. There are cars to suit everyone’s interest, an aftermarket hall, and opportunities to test drive some vehicles too.

Here are some photos of the cool cars we saw.

We first explored the Audi booth, or rather, we made a beeline to see the new Audi R8 in the Audi booth.

I event sat inside for a little bit – there’s a surprising amount of head room (not an issue for me, but for those with taller builds, I imagine it would be quite comfortable).

DSCN5764

Here are the displays.

BMW:

DSCN5769

Mazda:

DSCN5767

Cadillac:

DSCN5768

Acura:

DSCN5777

The new Acura NSX was on display with a screen above showing the overhead view.

DSCN5778

When I walked by the Alfa Romeo area, most of the cars were still covered, but this 1968 33 Stradale was unwrapped and gorgeous.

DSCN5770

The 1965 TZ2 was also uncovered and looking fantastic.

Alfa Romeo 1965 TZ2

Alfa Romeo 1965 TZ2

The Maseratis were also still under wraps but slowly emerging. I love the look of the Maserati front grill, and their trident logo is iconic.

DSCN5771

DSCN5774

We briefly ran through the Mercedes booth, stopping to take photos of this.

DSCN5772

And the SLS

DSCN5773

We left the South Hall and rushed over to West Hall, hoping to see the Ford booth before the show opened. We wanted to be able to ogle the new Ford GT before the crowds came. It did not disappoint in person!

DSCN5813

Both the race car and the street car were on rotating stages so you could see the car from every angle.

DSCN5836

DSCN5794

DSCN5806

DSCN5805

It was really interesting to see the back and look under the car to see how the air flows beneath it. We can’t wait to see this race!

DSCN5804

DSCN5803

DSCN5847

Although I am not crazy about the yellow color on display, the lines of the street model of the Ford GT are beautiful.

DSCN5833

DSCN5832

DSCN5831

After staring at the two Ford GTs for a long time, we looked at some of the other Fords on display, like this Mustang GT 350r which Dave declared is, “my next car.”

IMG_9291

We went outside to test drive the Fords. Ford had an Explorer, Edge, CMax, Focus and Mustang to test, but in order to test the Mustang, you had to drive another car first. Dave tried the Explorer and I drove the Edge. Both were nice comfortable rides and handled well on the short drive around Los Angeles’ city streets.

We both drove the Mustang – it has eco boost which makes it not as front heavy as usual. There was also a paddle shift option on the car, which I tried for a small section but it didn’t have the same feel as the manual transmission I am used too, so the Ford representative switched it off.

After our test drives, we went back into the hall to see the Fiat booth – I love the Fiat 500s, and was also interested to see new Fiat Spiders on display.

IMG_9294

IMG_9298

We took a quick glance at the Dodge Viper.

IMG_9297

DSCN5855

DSCN5859

DSCN5863

DSCN5857

DSCN5863

DSCN5862

 

DSCN5864

We left the south hall and went to see the Porsche display, which was in its own contained area in Petree Hall. Not surprisingly, it was very crowded.

The 911.

DSCN5865

DSCN5867

It was nice to see the race 919 Hybrid FIA World Endurance Champion car on display.

IMG_9299

While I was adding money to our parking meter Dave visited the Galpin Hall and saw the Aston Martin from Spectre…and didn’t take any pictures of it, or tell me about it. I love the beauty of Aston Martins and am bummed I didn’t see any.

In the After Market Hall, there were some modified Lamborghinis and Corvettes on display.

DSCN5868

DSCN5869

DSCN5870

Of course I spotted some original Abarths – modified by Madness Autoworks in Signal Hill (Long Beach). They are so tiny compared to the modern versions!

IMG_9300

IMG_9313

This is only some of what is on display at the show. There are literally hundreds of cars to see, to sit in, and to test drive! It is fun to see the new cars the manufacturers are showing, and also to compare different makes and models of cars if you are in the market for a new one.

It is the last weekend of the LA Auto Show, so head downtown and check it out!

 

Manhattan Beach Pier Lighting

Last week, Manhattan Beach hosted their 21st Holiday Open House and 26th Annual Pier Lighting. It was a relatively warm night, so I threw on a sweatshirt, put the boys in the car and drove down to join in the festivities.

Local streets were closed in downtown Manhattan Beach, and as we parked and started walking, we saw many other people headed downtown as well.

Most of the stores were open until 9:00pm and were decorated for the holidays. Many had snacks, treats and drinks inside, but since the dogs were with me, we were only able to window-shop.

It was a festive atmosphere as the streets were filled with adults and children of all ages enjoying the shops, carolers, and music playing outside.

IMG_9199

York Town on Manhattan Avenue. I liked their wood houses and white light display.

The window display for the Rolling Hills Flower Mart featured a ‘living’ flower dress, but all these children cared about was the snow that was falling outside.

IMG_9200

It’s snowing!

IMG_9203

Snow dance.

IMG_9204

Carolers wandered the streets singing holiday songs. Here is a group in front of Manhattan Beach Creamery.

IMG_9205

I reached the intersection of Manhattan Avenue and Manhattan Beach Boulevard and saw the traditional “Season’s Greetings” sign across Manhattan Beach Blvd., but the tree and the pier was yet to be lit.

SBS Nov 18 2015

Looking west toward the pier – waiting for the tree lighting.

 

And then, promptly at 7:00 pm the lighting began – it took less than a few minutes, but you can see there was a large crowd to watch.

IMG_9207

Looking west and there are no lights yet…

Then the trees lining the pier and the ‘pier tree’ were lit.

IMG_9208

And then everything!

IMG_9211

I continued walking around to see more of the holiday windows.

A snowy window-scape at Dacha.

IMG_9217

Lush and festive floral displays at Growing Wild.

IMG_9214IMG_9215

The windows at Udderly Perfect featured an old-school TV.

IMG_9220

In the Metlox complex, Waterleaf had pretty stars hanging in their windows.

IMG_9222

I love Fringe, the new store on Manhattan Avenue. They also have a location in south Redondo. How cute is this oven display with cookie ornaments?

IMG_9221

Bo Bridges Gallery seemed to be having quite a party inside the studio. This striking photograph of the Eiffel Tower was touching in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

IMG_9231

Manhattan Denim decorated their windows with disco dancers. They kept moving so it was hard to take their picture. I want a wig like that!

At Katwalk there was a large elf blowing kisses to all who passed by (and obliging selfie-takers).

IMG_9229

Prizes were awarded to the best window designs, detailed here in The Beach Reporter. Rolling Hills Flower Mart won “Best Overall.”

There is a beautiful photo gallery, also by The Beach Reporter, with more images from the tree lighting.

It was a fun night to be out enjoying downtown after dark, although I wish the holiday season started after Thanksgiving!