Day 21: Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine

Sometimes when I need some inspiration or a quiet place to sit, I find myself at the Self Realization Fellowship (pun intended) in Pacific Palisades.  Right now is such a great time to visit this ten acre plot of tranquility, everything is blooming.  A gentle path winds its way around the spring-fed lake, past waterfalls, and waterfowl.  There’s a storybook like windmill and plenty of benches and shady spots to enjoy the view.  There is the Gandhi Peace Memorial,  where a portion of his ashes are enshrined.   I have attended weddings and memorials here, they have group meditation classes and Sunday services, with all religions welcome.  This is truly a magical spot to connect with the spirit that moves through all things…

Day 20: Natural History Museum

The last time you visited the Natural History Museum, did you need a parent signed field-trip slip and were you riding a yellow school bus?  Re-live that childhood curiosity and plan a visit…  

Try an adults only First Fridays (next one is on May 6th). Once a month, the entire Natural History Museum stays open until 10 pm and features live music, exciting scientific discussion, and behind-the-scenes curatorial tours.  See a Mummy, explore the upcoming Dinosaur Hall, learn more about the history of California or take a stroll in the Rose Garden. 

My family loves the Hall of Mammals and the Gem and Mineral Hall.  For a special treat, check out the Pavillion of Wings from April 10th-Sept. 5th. More than 40 different butterfly and moth species and an array of plants take up residence every summer, this is a special exhibit and requires an additional entrance fee, but the kids love it!

Day 17: Tree People

Coldwater Canyon Park is home to the TreePeople, a natural oasis smack dab in the middle of the city.  The park itself has miles of hiking trails with views of the San Fernando Valley and is owned by the City of Los Angeles but maintained by the TreePeople.

According to their brochure, TreePeople was founded in 1973 by teenagers.  TreePeople staff and volunteers have planted more than two million trees, and each year the organization educates thousands of children about environmental responsibility. TreePeople offers many programs in Coldwater Canyon Park including Eco-tour field trips for elementary schools, park tours, full moon hikes and summer performances in the ampitheater. 

Upcoming events include the first annual Green City Fair on Saturday, June 4th, 2011 from 10 am- 4 pm.  12601 Mulholland Dr. (at Coldwater Canyon Blvd.)  Go to or call 818-623-4862 for details.

Day 16: Zengo

Zengo is Japanese for give and take, which is how we ate our meal tonight at Richard Sandoval’s Latin Asian fusion restaurant atop the newly redone Santa Monica Place.  This hip and chic eatery (the whole Santa Monica Place for that matter) bears no resemblance to that old dreary indoor 80’s mall.  The decor features a mix of Mexican Glass Lamps and Asian Antiques and leans toward the dark and clubby, it has both indoor and outdoor seating with a fireplace place and has quite a hopping bar scene.

The food is served in small portions (tapas style) and our waiter recommended 2-3 plates per person.  Last time we ordered like that, there was quite a bit left over… So we ordered one plate each and one for the table.  In total, we had the Carnitas Over Rice Noodles, the Ahi Tacos w/Mango Salsa, The Flank Steak Churrasco, a Wagyu Beef Roll and an appetizer of Wok Tossed Edemame, which had a very different, but delicious smoky flavor.   Everything we ate caused us all to talk, you could taste all the flavors in each bite and we had a great view.  This was our third visit and so far it’s failed to disappoint us.

Day 14: Earth Day at the Autry

On May 1st, The Autry presents a Native American perspective on earth-friendly living. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about sustainable living in the West. There will be earth-friendly tips from backyard farmers, gardening experts, green-build architects and wildlife experts. This family friendly event also features a Kid’s planet area, where children can participate in activities and games.

Day 12: Huntington Library and Gardens

Before it gets too hot and while the peonies and wisteria are blooming, you might want to bring your mom, child or anyone else who would enjoy spending the day strolling the gardens and gracious grounds.  There is so much to see, it would be impossible to take it all in at one glance.  Suffice to say, the gardens and library are extraordinary… 

The library houses one of the largest and most complete research libraries in the U.S.  $1.5 million dollars has been awarded to 158 scholars in the humanities to do research at the library for the 2011-2012 year.  There is a rotating exhibit of many first edition and rare books.  Among the items on permanent exhibit are a copy of the Gutenberg Bible on vellum, the double-elephant folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America (sadly, many of these have  been dismantled and sold for home decor), and a collection of the early editions of Shakespeare’s works.

The many theme gardens include; the rainforest, a childrens garden (with lots of water so bring extra clothes/shoes for the kiddies), a Japanese garden, a Chinese garden, a rose garden, a Shakespere garden, and a jungle garden.  These are not small gardens either, so wear your most comfortable walking shoes.  They are having their 37th annual plant sale on May 15th.  In the past,  I have found their prices very reasonable and the range of plants sold to be fantastic!

They are taking reservations now for Mother’s day picnics in the rose garden.  You should note that the the Japanese garden is closed for renovations, including adding a ceremonial tea house, until its centennial in the spring of 2012. We love to go to the Rose Garden Tea Room (reservations recommended, see the link below),  a cafe and a Chinese tea house.  We’ve never eaten at the Chinese tea house so if any of you out there can comment to that, thanks in advance! 

Book your Tea Room reservations online>

Day 9: 2011 Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase

The 2011 Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase – Saturday, April 30th from 11:00-4:00  Cost: FREE

This giant eco festival in Mar Vista brings together a community of residents who share a vision for a greener life. Of course, non-residents are welcome as well.
This year, the tour will host the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour and showcase Mar Vista locations that have gone solar. 

A few years ago, we planted a hummingbird garden.  To our surprise, it also attracted monarch butterflies.  At one point, my 10 year old and I counted 34 caterpillars, we watched them devour our plants, build cocoons and eventually burst out and fly away.  Nothing like bringing the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle to life!

So put on your walking shoes, fill-up the air on those bicycle tires and dust off those little red wagons.  After our unusually cold winter it is going to be great to get outside, meet some neighbors and learn more about what can be done to make our gardens and homes more sustainable.

Day 8: LACMA

Let’s start with the fact that I know absolutely nothing about art.  Despite having a mother who has been an artist her whole life and dragged me along to art shows and museums as a kid (notice I used the word dragged), none of the information stuck.  I know nothing about techniques, the history of the artists, the evolution of art, nada…  That being said, since art is subjective anyway, you don’t need to know anything at all to go and look.  Now I just pay attention to my reaction to the art itself; some I find repulsive, some makes me angry, some makes me laugh, others make me ponder, and some I just find beautiful…

A few years ago, when LACMA opened the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, we decided to take the kids to see the Jeff Koons exhibit.  We thought this would be a good first step for all of us since his art is so whimsical and fun.  To our pleasant surprise, the kids were given free memberships that are valid until they are 18 years old and the accompanying adult gets in free!  The program is called NexGen, so bring those kiddies with you for a free day at the museum!

We went a few weeks ago during our school spring break and had a light lunch at the Stark Bar, a contemporary setting in the courtyard between the buildings.  We shared a burrata appetizer and a mushroom and truffle oil flatbread.  It was a lovely afternoon and I am looking forward to going back.   The kids are looking forward to seeing the Tim Burton exhibit that starts at the end of April.  No more dragging along for me. I want to go, my kids want to go and it’s free.  Thanks Mom, I guess a bit of it sunk in after all!

Day 7: California Heritage Museum

An official city landmark since 1979, go check out all things California in a wonderful old Craftsman in Santa Monica.  The home was originally situated on Ocean Ave. and was built for the son of the  founder of Santa Monica, Roy Jones.  Today it is located on Main St. and Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica.  From fiesta ware, to skateboards, to movie stills, there is a little something for everyone who has an interest in California history.  Tuesday nights from 5:30-9:30 there are gourmet food trucks that benefit the museum and Sunday mornings there is a wonderful farmer’s market.  Both feature free bicycle valet, so peddle on down and get your grub on!

Day 5: The Farmers Market

I think I like this place because it represents the melting pot of ethnicity that I love about L.A. and for me, anyplace that features this kind of food line-up is heaven.  The whole family, heck the whole extended family could come here and find what they have been craving.  Everything is here, groceries, shops and dining choices from tacos (Loteria!), to molluscs (Tusquellas Fish & Oyster Bar), so you can eat it here or collect everything you need to prepare the food at home, including the pot itself (Sur La Table).  Growing up on the Westside, it was like a field trip for me as a kid to venture off to Fairfax and go to the Farmer’s Market and still feels a bit that way today.  This is not to be confused with The Grove next door, this is pure old school.  Independently owned businesses that have been passed down through generations and still operate today.

I had the good fortune to meet some friends there last Sunday morning.  We plunked ourselves down at the tables and went ballistic at Bob’s Coffee and Donuts, stall #450.  They were out of their famous cinnamon rolls but had fresh glazed donuts that were still hot, Krispy Kreme doesn’t even come close!  One of our party decided it was early enough for ice cream, hey it’s 5:00 p.m. someplace…  She ventured to Bennett’s Ice Cream, Stall #548 (which in full disclosure is owned by one of my best friends).  I am a die-hard fan of the White Chocolate Raspberry and the flavor named after the proprietor Scott’s wife, Fancy Nancy.  I think there should be a name for ice cream creators, I mean coffee houses have baristas, right?  But anyway, recently Scott brought his artisan drumsticks to a party and that was that, my new favorite!  Go by sometime and watch him make the ice cream on-site through the window on the side of his stall. 

I cannot leave out Du-par’s Restaurant, which is open 24 hours and it’s the perfect late night stop or for breakfast.  Think short, fat and warm coffee cups that are re-filled regularly by waitresses with attitude, has every kind of pie you could want and you get the gist.  And it’s been around almost as long as the market itself… Lastly, Huntington Meat & Sausage is the way to go for all things meat, as they are one of the few purveyors of Harris Ranch beef and have the most amazing sausages to throw on the grill or that perfect Shelton Thankgiving turkey. 

If you really want a treat, show up on Saturday nights for karaoke, there are some regular characters (and I mean characters) that can’t be missed, hilarious! Or visit one of the many events that are featured here throughout the year.   There are too many other great places to see to mention here.   So do yourself a favor and just go, wander around and be open to trying something new, you might just like it!