Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The colors of light


Light makes such a difference in photography. Sometimes you plan well, sometimes you just get lucky.

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We are staying in a 15th century house in the historic, walled section of the medieval town of Dinan. Two houses down, at the end of our street, is the Basilica of Saint Sauveur, which was founded in 1112 by Riwallon Rufas (upon his return from the first crusade).

Yesterday, we visited the church as the sun was low in the sky. It was the perfect time for a visit. The colors of the stained glass windows spread all around the church, giving it a brilliant, sparkly glow. It was stunning.

"May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out."
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Monday, April 29, 2013

Beach town


We spent today exploring the north coast of Brittany, called the Côtes-d'Armor. The picture above is the beach resort town of Saint-Cast-le-Guildo. You can walk from its long stretch of beach (in the distance), along the winding patch under the cliffs, to its fishing and leisure port at this end.

Saint-Cast-de-GuildoThe tide in this area varies from high to low tide by nearly 30 feet, so it is important to work your way through translating this sign, which warns: "The path might be covered at high tide."


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Another Notre Dame

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Chartres

One of the things that surprised me when I first traveled to France is that many of the cathedrals in France, not just the famous one in Paris, are called Notre Dame.

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de ChartresThis cathedral, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, is a medieval Catholic cathedral located in Chartres, France, about 50 miles southwest of Paris. It is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current cathedral was mostly constructed between 1194 and 1250. (Wikipedia)

As is often the case, the towers of the cathedral dominate the city skyline.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

On the road again...


Yesterday we arrived at the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX for our trip to northern France. We had heard so much about the sequestering, and expected long, tedious security lines. However, it was a pleasant surprise. No lines, the process was as usual...meaning you basically strip down to go through security, but nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, the terminal wasn't all that crowded.

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Our layover was in London/Heathrow airport. This butterfly structure was over a sushi restaurant there. I found myself walking back to look at it several times as we waited for our final flight. It was such a fun design.

More to come from France.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Watch your speed

Speed check

I live near an elementary school, on a street that is often crowded with kids. The speed limit is 25 MPH, but a lot of times, cars speed by at 30 MPH and more.

It's easy to not be aware of how fast you're driving. So a while back, the city installed two of these speed checks. They're a visual reminder when you're going to fast, and most people slow down as a result.

And, the signs are solar-powered!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Man, these look good

farmers market 4-19-13

I found another Farmer's market here in Downey. It's put on by the students of Cal Poly Pomona University at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital every other Friday from 7 am to 1 pm. The students grow about half of the produce displayed while the other half is from local farmers.

carrots 4-19-13There were some unusual varieties along with the usual and all at good prices.

Do you like to visit these local events for your fresh foods?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My dream house

Tree house

When I was young, I loved climbing trees and would have been ecstatic to have a tree house just like this. The closest I ever got was a board jammed between two branches that provided a very uncomfortable seat.

I like the rather rustic style of this tree house in my neighborhood.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

If the shoe fits...

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I'm not sure what was going on... I took this picture at the old zoo picnic area. This was a group of maybe five guys all dressed up. taking pictures or maybe a movie. They were doing all sorts of crazy things. Anyway, the shoes were fun and quite interesting.

"Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life."
~ Unknown

Monday, April 22, 2013

Able to leap tall buildings...


Last week I showed you some new construction here in Downey. As I was leaving I noticed these hollyhocks growing in a yard across the street. Comparing them to the roof line I estimated their height to be around 8 feet. And they still have more blossoms to go. Last year I grew some hollyhocks and they reached 5 feet. Boy was I proud of them, until now.

Do you have some large plant stories?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Living sculpture

Spiral bushes

"Topiary: the horticultural practice of training live perennial plants by clipping the foliage and twigs of trees, shrubs and subshrubs to develop and maintain clearly defined shapes, perhaps geometric or fanciful... As an art form it is a type of living sculpture." (Wikipedia)

I tend to like wild and crazy gardens, but you have to admire the time and patience it takes to create and maintain these designs.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The old Los Angeles Zoo

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This was our view as we hiked up the road to the old Los Angeles Zoo. The zoo "remains" are to be found just a few miles from the current LA Zoo.

IMG_2015 as Smart Object-1Established in 1912, the old LA zoo is less than an hour away from Downey (even with traffic). It is odd that when they moved the zoo to the "new" location, the former zoo was not torn down. Instead, it was left intact and converted to a picnic location. You can wander past open cages (some in remarkably good shape) and find ways to get through fencing to get into the larger enclosures.

I know we've learned a lot since the early 1900s about animal care, but it's hard to imagine the list of animals that lived here in the relatively small cages and enclosures we wandered through.

It is an interesting adventure, close to home. You should check it out.

"Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo."
~ Paul Simon

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Friday, April 19, 2013

The eyes have it


Do you ever get the feeling that a car is looking at you? I think this one winked at me when I parked near it.

"I think the eyes flirt most. There are so many ways to use them."
~Anna Held

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new


The great thing about taking daily photos of Downey, besides the fact that we live here, is that Downey is always changing. This construction site is just down the street from Alameda Elementary School. Some old structure is torn down so a newer more useful structure can go up.

I talked to the owners who said the original house was just under 700 square feet, but the new house will be over 2200 square feet. They won't lose any front or back yard space since the added space is accomplished by filling in the area between the house and garage plus a second story.


You can see the stairs going up to the second floor here. And there is always the inevitable scrap pile.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Flying high

flyover QE I

Last year for my birthday, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a Groupon good for two hours of flying over the Los Angeles area. I waited until winter to get a good visibility day, but the flight was cancelled twice due to bad weather. Finally today, my wife and I got to experience Los Angeles at 3000 feet.

One highlight of the flight was flying over the Queen Mary luxury liner. It is permanently docked in the Long Beach Harbor just 17 miles south of Downey, and it is where another son recently purposed to his girlfriend, who said, "yes."

flying_ryanRyan was our pilot for the day. This is a picture after our landing.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How much wood could a wood chipper chip?

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Evidently, it is time for the parkway trees to be trimmed. Signs have gone up all over the Orange Estates neighborhood, warning for temporary "no parking", tree trimming.

IMG_1983 as Smart Object-1These guys were hard at work this afternoon. Although with the wood chipper, it seemed to make the job much easier. They made quick work of the project.

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"People love chopping wood, in this activity one immediately sees results."
~ Albert Einstein

Monday, April 15, 2013

April flowers


April showers bring May flowers...In southern California, we've skipped the showers and gone straight to the blossoms (real and otherwise)! They are everywhere, which makes for some beautiful walks around Downey.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The California poppy

California poppiesCalifornia poppies

The California poppy, the state flower of California, is a wildflower that typically blooms in April. The hills of the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, a couple of hours north of Downey, are usually carpeted with gold flowers as far as the eye can see. So for my birthday this year, I told my parents I wanted to go for a ride to see the poppies in bloom.

But the poppies had other plans. With almost no rain this winter and spring, the poppies failed to bloom this year at the preserve. So we settled for a different ride instead. Without the poppies.

Or so I thought. But as we started out, they directed me to make a small detour that ended at the Arlington Garden in Pasadena, where there are poppies in abundance.

What a wonderful birthday surprise from my loving parents!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Water tower

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Testament to being a city unto itself, this water tower stands in the now abandoned south campus area of Rancho Los Amigos. I'm not sure how old it is. I'm guessing it might date back sometime to the early 1900s.

In 1915 William Ruddy Harriman took over as the superintendent of the then "County Poor Farm." During his tenure, he accomplished an ambitious plan of improving the facilities. According to the Historic American Buildings Survey (from the Dept. of the Interior), these improvements were largely accomplished in the wake of the financial surge following World War 1.

Friday, April 12, 2013

What's in a name?

20th Century Insurance

20th Century Insurance was founded in 1958 by Louis W. Foster. Did he think about the name becoming obsolete at the turn of the century?

Now, the company is called 21 Century Insurance (and is owned by Farmer's Insurance). And this building is just another office building with space to rent.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


sculptured lawn

This front lawn has caught my eye several times because of the sculptured fountain of what I think are three cranes. The closer I looked, though, the more I noticed other sculptured items on the lawn. Not only the deer but even the trees are sculptured.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013



Spotted this azalea bush the other day on my bike ride here in Downey and thought what a great gardening achievement. There is more bush in front of the picture but I wanted to capture the sheer size of this one. I thought it must be fake. The one in my yard is two feet high and you can see right through it. But alas, it's real, very real and very beautiful. My hat is off to this gardener.

Are you this successful in the garden?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rancho revisited

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It's been a while since we posted pictures of Rancho, south campus. It is one of the unique areas in Downey. Dating back to the late 1800s, originally known as "the farm," there are now only ruins left. You can see the boarded up windows and doors in this picture and everything is surrounded by fencing to keep "visitors" out.

IMG_0350 as Smart Object-1I'm not sure how long it has been abandoned. I've heard lots of stories, but I don't really know. I am curious and would love details if anyone out there has some...

I wonder how long it took for this roof to start growing the plants that seem to add an interesting "trim."

Monday, April 8, 2013

This old house

Old Downey house

There's an old house buried behind the businesses near downtown Downey. With its steeply pitched roof and myriad of angles and lines, it's very intriguing.

Old Downey houseMore intriguing is that I can't find out anything about it, including its actual age. What surrounded this house before it got closed in by fences and businesses?

Any history on this house, anyone?

You can click the location link at the bottom of the post to see the location of the house.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Signs of our times

Downey billboard

I think that I shall never see
a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.
~Ogden Nash

As I drive on the nearby 5 freeway, I marvel as I pass billboard after billboard. They obstruct my view and batter me with advertisements. I'm grateful that Downey has very few billboards on its  streets. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Big city reflections

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It was a great time of reflection in the big city last week.  After we visited Vincent Court, we were in search of a fun place to eat breakfast.  We headed for an iconic LA eatery, the Original Pantry Cafe (which I have wanted to try for years ). Unfortunately the line was too long and we had to settle for a less historic place for a quick bite.

IMG_1706 as Smart Object-1Back on the streets, heading for our car, we began to notice how the glass of these buildings did such a good job of reflecting the puffy clouds and the colors of the surrounding structures. I hadn't "seen" the reflections earlier. Perhaps the sky had been more gray or the sun hidden behind clouds. But, all of a sudden, the reflections were there—dramatic and vibrant.

It was a beautiful way to start our day.

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."
~ Confucius

Friday, April 5, 2013


Downtown Downey reflection

There are many things I like about this scene. The late afternoon sunlight that turns the buildings golden.  The contrast of the old downtown storefronts reflected in the modern glass building across the street. And the bare branches through which you can see all of this.

This picture was taken a few weeks ago. I imagine that these trees are showing signs of spring by now. I love spring, but I also love how the bare, wiggy lines of the branches let you see scenes like this.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I cannot tell a lie

cherry tree 1

This is a cherry tree I planted in my backyard three years ago.

It hasn't produced any cherries yet, but each year my mantra has been, "This is a good year for cherries." So I water, spread Miracle-Gro and citrus food, but nothing yet.

cherry tree 2Until today when I went out and saw some white buds on one branch. I had one bloom last year but nothing came of it so I'm not sure what you have to do to actually get some fruit.

But I'm open to suggestions.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Crossing guard


This is Bobbie. She is the crossing guard for the Alameda Elementary School children here in Downey. Every school day she assists the children and parents in safely crossing a busy intersection. Unfortunately, not all the parents take advantage of Bobbie's services. Instead, they choose to jaywalk with their children across Alameda through traffic, teaching them it's OK to break the rules if you're in a hurry.

I remember when I was in 6th grade, I was appointed to be a "safety monitor." I got to wear a metal badge on my arm and one of my duties was to be the crossing guard for my schoolmates.

What extra responsibilities were you given in grade school?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Historic Los Angeles

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One of the nice things about living in Downey is its proximity to so many other great places. One of my favorite adventures is exploring LA. Last week we took a morning to visit St. Vincent's Court, located in LA's jewelry district. (A friend had shared an article about St. Vincent's and we were curious.)

IMG_1689 as Smart Object-1Originally the site of the first college in Los Angeles in 1867, by 1907 it was the first Bullocks Department Store location. Over the years, this unique alleyway off of 7th Street has seen many changes. Until recently, sidewalk tables lined the street in front of cafes.

Arriving in the morning, there was not much going on yet. But, we were thrilled to spot a charming French cafe open. The man behind the counter boasted that he made the best cappuccino in town! I was almost convinced until we asked him what kinds of fresh French pastries he had. At this point, he held up a bag of Kirkland bagels. They are good, but definitely not French! C'est la vie!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Shop till you drop

Shopping at Stonewood oldShopping at Stonewood young

Young or old, a full afternoon of shopping at Stonewood Shopping Center is justification for giving your feet a break in one of the many comfortable chairs in the mall.