Monday, December 31, 2012

It takes a village

Downey Rose Float 2013

With only one day left to wrap up Downey's entry into the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade yesterday morning, there seemed to be an air of controlled panic at the "float factory" yesterday morning when I stopped by. People of all ages were working diligently on flowers and leaves and doors, and...

Downey Rose Float 2013The Downey float, the "Dew Drop By," is one of the few floats in the parade that is made soley by volunteers. Around 350 people contributed to the effort, and everyone's help is greatly appreciated.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first Downey float in 1913. Make sure and watch for it tomorrow in the Rose Parade.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The color of winter

View from Whittier hills

In cold climates, winter is a mix of whites and grays, and green is the color of spring. But in southern California, winter means rain. With rain, the hills burst into bright green. Lush grass sprouts in abundance as the hills drink up all that water, knowing they will turn back to brown in a few short months.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holiday reflection

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Even though Christmas is over, you can still find Christmas decorations all around town. It's always fun to come across more. (I will really miss them when they are gone.) These bulbs were hanging from a Frangipani plant.

IMG_0092 as Smart Object-1This "Christmas tree" is really a bush that has grown around a road sign that someone covered in lights. One more way people find to reflect the holiday spirit.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Snow-capped peak

Mt. Baldy

The recent combination of rain and cold has brought snow and clear blue skies, which provide a view of Mt. Baldy poking its head above the clouds. At 10,068 feet (3,069 meters), Mt. Baldy is the highest point in Los Angeles and the tallest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Mt. Baldy from the Embassy Suites HotelThe main photo was taken from one of our favorite hikes in the local Whittier hills.
To get some perspective on where we were, the picture to the right (taken last year from the top of the Embassy Suites hotel in Downey) shows Mt. Baldy in the far distance. The low-lying hills in the middle are the Whittier hills, where we were hiking. The hills are about 10 miles from Downey. Mt. Baldy is another 30 miles further.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Winter sunset


One of the great things about this time of year in Downey is the sunsets. Because of the clouds, the clear air and bare trees, we get "picture card" sunsets that make you want to say, "aah, thank you."

When I got home one evening last week, this view was waiting for me. Within 15 minutes though it was gone. Reminding me that sometimes, God's blessings don't hang around forever. You need to acknowledge them when you see them. What blessing did you see today? Did you share it with someone?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Goodbye Christmas!

Christmas nightlight

It's the day after Christmas. How long does one wait to take down all the beautiful decorations we spent hours putting up a few weeks ago? I don't know about your house but months into the future we will find a few decorations still loitering about that haven't found their way up to the attic yet. This night light in the bathroom somehow often gets forgotten. I think it's our subconscious way of keeping Christmas spirit around.

"I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year." Charles Dickens (Scrooge in A Christmas Carol)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

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Today it finally felt like winter. It was cold outside and oddly quiet. You could just see the snow on the tops on the mountains in the distance, but even though today is Christmas and December is almost over, the trees that line Furman Park are still fall-colored.

IMG_0081 as Smart Object-1The sun was hidden behind clouds, so the day had an overcast feel to it. It made for a peaceful walk this afternoon.

"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."
~ Calvin Coolidge

Monday, December 24, 2012

The night before Christmas


It's Christmas Eve. We've just finished our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, opened our Christmas stocking treats, and we're settling down to watch The Nativity Story.

As we prepare our hearts for another Christmas celebration, we wish you peace, happiness, and goodwill not only on Christmas, but through out the coming year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The lure of the sea

Naples island boats

As Joan showed in yesterday's post (The lights of Christmas), Naples, a nearby neighborhood of upscale homes located on canals, is beautiful at Christmas. But for landlocked Downey, Naples has an appeal that lasts year-round, with its vision of a different lifestyle—one of sailing out whenever you choose, with the wind in your hair and the sun (or moon) at your back...

"Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit."
- Brooks Atkinson

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The lights of Christmas

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About 20 minutes south of Downey is an area of Long Beach called Naples. Visiting Naples has long been one of our Christmas traditions. The houses are set up along canals with walkways between the house and the canal. It's a perfect place to stroll and admire the beautiful houses decorated to charm, amuse, and entertain.

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I loved the homey feel of this entrance. It glowed with lights and warm colors. It's so inviting. I think that is one of the appealing things about Naples. Nearly all of the houses are decorated and the entire area has a tangible glow.

But I have to admit that my favorite scene from tonight was the one below with the family chillin' on the couch.

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Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
~Norman Vincent Peale

Friday, December 21, 2012


Cold morning

There is a common misconception that you lose most of your body heat through your uncovered head, so wearing a hat of some sort should keep you warm. Based on that theory, this girl was all set on a recent very cold morning.

I'm just not sure her legs were convinced.

According to Dr. Mehmet Oz:
If you check the US Army Survival Manual's basic principal of cold weather survival it says to always keep your head covered because you can lose 40-45% of your body heat from an unprotected head. Tell that to the guy standing outside with no pants on. Truth is you lose no more heat from your head than any other portion of your body. Any part of your body exposed to the cold will drop core body temperature. When emergency medical technicians treat for hypothermia, they apply heat to the chest, neck, armpits and groin. The head? Not so much.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

More on Christmas trees

Christmas tree 2

I thought I would follow up on Joan's earlier post of The tradition of the tree. Just across the street of The Marketplace that I posted about yesterday is a Christmas tree lot. There you can pick just the right tree that fits your house and tastes. The workers have already cut the base of the trunk, nailed a water holding stand onto it and even put water into the stand to keep it fresh for you. All you have to do is transport it home, decorate it to your heart's content and enjoy the smell of fresh pine in your home for a few weeks.

12-19-12_0905They even have trees that look like they still have the snow on them but the snow never melts. Personally, even if I don't go out and cut down my own tree, it's tradition for me to cut the trunk and put it into the stand myself. What are your Christmas tree traditions?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Marketplace

market place

One of our favorite places to dine in Downey is a one-year-old restaurant called "The Marketplace" at the corner of Florence and Tweedy. It is a refreshing change from other restaurants for several reasons.

First, they have combined the quickness of ordering at a counter like a fast food restaurant with the table service of a higher end restaurant. The staff is very attentive and always gracious and accommodating. Second, and this is the best part, their food is second to none. My wife and I love the chicken Alfredo, the pastrami feta panini and we have recently discovered the Philly cheese steak sandwich. Third, we love the ambiance of eating outdoors. They have created a unique sidewalk cafe atmosphere on a busy thoroughfare by incorporating a waterfall to muffle the traffic noise.

If you come to Downey, you should visit this site. They won a Downey Beautification award for how they changed for the better the look of this corner.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The tradition of the tree

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It is impressive to see the beautiful, decorated Christmas tree standing at the edge of Olvera Street. It has such a variety of decorations, it "feels" festive as well as traditional.

IMG_9969 as Smart Object-1I love looking at the variety of ornaments. They all have such a warm, old-fashioned appeal. I love the process of decorating for Christmas, including the tree. But it made me wonder how we started with the tradition. As I did a little research, there were many possibilities...

Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth. The candles were to simulate the reflections of the starlit heaven - the same heaven that looked down on to Bethlehem on the first Christmas eve.

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Monday, December 17, 2012


Dentist sign

Ambivalent. I think that's how most of us feel about going to the dentist. We love the results—straight or clean teeth, the elimination of that aching tooth.

But like the wind affects the balloons on this sign, the thought of going to the dentist makes our smiles turn upside-down and our hearts pound in our chests.

"Happiness is your dentist telling you it won't hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill."
~Johnny Carson

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nativity in Los Angeles


Speaking of traditions, one of my favorite Christmas season traditions is making the trip to downtown Los Angeles to see the Nativity at Olvera Street. Each year, we take a weekday morning off and head out as soon as the early morning rush hour is over. It's still early, and the sun lights the statues from the side and behind. We enjoy the peace of the scene, then wander past the Olvera Street shops, finishing up with a breakfast of freshly made taquitos smothered in guacamole sauce.

NativityIt seems fitting to have such a beautiful creche in the plaza that is considered to be the birthplace of Los Angeles.

Olvera Street

Saturday, December 15, 2012



I know what I'm supposed to do during Christmas. The reason I know what to do is "tradition." One of my fondest traditions is going to Olson's Scandinavian deli in West Hollywood just 20 miles west of Downey. We go there for Bond-ost cheese and Swedish peas for Christmas Eve dinner.

My wife's family has been going to Olson's deli for three generations. Our children have said they will carry on the tradition with their families. What is it about traditions that keep us doing them? I know what it is about Bond-ost cheese and Swedish peas on Christmas eve, it's because they taste so good and its being part of a three generation tradition. What traditions do you carry on because you enjoy them?

Friday, December 14, 2012

No room in the gallery


This is a picture of Bastard's Bar and Grill up the street from Stay Gallery, where I really was tonight. Since it was so crowded however, not only could I barely get inside to put my present in the pile of donations before I got pushed back outside, but I couldn't get any pictures of the night's "goings on". So to get warm and out of the rain, I stopped by the bar-b-que and took a few shots of the bar tender and the stranger next to us ordering, get this, a Merlot with ice. To see the actual event of the toy drive and ugly sweater party, see

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Apollo 14

Apollo 14

My wife and I went for a walk at Downey Landing earlier this week. While walking, my eyes were drawn to the many plaques that are in the flower beds just outside the stores. They honor the Apollo spacecraft designed and built here in Downey. This particular one is for Apollo 14, the third lunar landing vehicle that carried astronauts Alan B. Shepard, Jr., the commander; Stuart A. Roosa, the command module pilot; and Edgar D. Mitchell, the lunar module pilot to the moon in 1971.

Where were you in 1971? Anywhere close to the moon? Me neither.:-(

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wreath-themed Christmas

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As Pam mentioned in an earlier post this month, it has been fun to notice the varied range of outdoor Christmas decorations (some with themes, others a mix of themes). On the lookout for something different, I came across this yard, which was decorated almost entirely with wreaths. I especially liked the wreaths hanging from the tree out front.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In the eyes of a child

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In my neighborhood there is a 40-foot "Christmas" tree. I was so amazed to see they had strung lights all the way to the top where they placed a star. I know you cannot get the "scope," but it really is impressive. 

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.  In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall."  ~Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

Monday, December 10, 2012

The grocer's job

Albertson's at Christmas

It's not enough, if you're a grocer, to just sell groceries at Christmas time. No, you still have to decorate just like the department stores.

Albertson's at ChristmasYou need special displays for those who are stocking up on the spirits for big parties or special dinners.

And to remind shoppers of their need for last-minute hostess gifts, you need a display of potted poinsettias and gift baskets just inside the main door.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Do you have your tree?

Christmas tree light

Christmas tree lots are busy places this weekend, but not late on a Sunday evening. Without a customer in sight, the attendants at this lot work at unpacking the trees and adding temporary stands.

Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall."
~ Larry Wilde

Saturday, December 8, 2012

In the red

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Christmas is always such a colorful time. It seems like every store has been selling poinsettia plants. Many of us buy poinsettias to place around the house, inside and out, so I thought it might be interesting to share some info about this popular "flower" that is actually a small tropical tree.

Did you know?

* Poinsettias are the best-selling potted plant in the United States and Canada.
IMG_9754 as Smart Object-1* Today the plant is known in Mexico and Guatemala as "La Flor de la Nochebuena" (Flower of the Holy Night, or Christmas Eve).
* The “flowers” are actually large bunches of colored leaves. In order to insure its festive coloring, it is essential that the plant received no light at night between October and Christmas.
* Poinsettias are native to southern Mexico and Central America, where they may reach heights of 16 feet with leaves measuring up to eight inches across!
* The Aztecs used the poinsettia leaves to dye fabric for clothing and the sap for medicinal purposes.
* The poinsettia is NOT toxic to humans or animals.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Unless you're a student

finals study

Yesterday I posted a picture of Christmas decorations because they are one representation of the joy of the season. But not everyone is enjoying this part of the year. Many students are sacrificing joyous events to stay up late finishing projects, studying for finals and writing those last minute papers. At least they get two weeks off after the pressure before starting with new classes next January.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The most wonderful time of the year


It’s that time of the year. I’ve seen them popping up since the day after Thanksgiving. The reminders that Christmas is almost here. Christmas decorations. They’re so high tech these days though. This one has a snowman family inside a globe with snow blowing around them and flashing lights.

When I was a kid, my mom made a life size papier mache Santa and put him standing on our roof. She also inflated a 6 ft. diameter balloon, covered it with papier mache, then put spikes on it to resemble Sputnik. She then put it next to Santa on the roof. It looked as if he had gotten rid of the reindeer and come into the 20th century.

What are your favorite decorations?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's all about the kids

Lewis Elementary School choir

Tonight was the annual tree-lighting ceremony in front of the Downey City Hall.

Downey Christmas treeIt's a fun event for the kids. Santa is there, and one of the center grass areas is covered with snow, where the kids can roll, and make and throw snowballs. But the best part for me was the entertainment provided by the local schools.

The picture above shows the choir from Lewis Elementary School. They really put their heart into a number of Christmas songs. And the audience (mostly parents) was so big it was hard to get close enough for a good picture!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Christmas welcome

Christmas lights

More and more houses are sporting Christmas decorations now that we're fully into December. The decorations range from the simple to the downright gaudy, from casual to truly elegant, from the silly to the sacred. The range is fascinating, and I can't help it—I have to take pictures!

This house has one of the things I like best—outlines. The roof lines, the shrubs, a little bit of everything. It's still pretty traditional, mostly lights, with the Christmas wreath and the candles in the window welcoming visitors.

A very welcoming and cheerful house!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Road trip

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The trip home from northern California was actually kind of beautiful along the 5 highway (which normally seems quite dull). We had dramatic stormy skies filled with beautiful, angry clouds. It made for an impressive scene. It allowed me to "see" the highway from another perspective.

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“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
~Henry Miller

Sunday, December 2, 2012

That's a lot of water

California aqueduct distant

As you drive on Interstate 5 between Downey and the San Francisco area, you follow the California aqueduct system for a good part of the way. The Governor Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct is a system of canals, tunnels, and pipes that carries water from the Sierra Nevada Mountains in northern and central California to southern California.

About even with San Francisco, the aqueduct divides into three branches. The I5 follows two of the branches (the east branch and the west branch) for about 250 miles. At first glance, it doesn't seem like that much water. But the average depth is 30 feet, and the width is about 100 feet. The aqueducts supply water for 25 million Californians and 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland.

California aqueduct close

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Double rainbow

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This weekend I drove up to Livermore, which is is about 5 1/2 hours north of Downey, While it rained for most of the drive, about half way there, the rain stopped and all of a sudden there was a double rainbow we spotted off to the side of the road (which I snapped quickly while driving). It was a beautiful gift to see. It was as if the sky was celebrating the end of the rain...and a few minutes later it was raining once again.

“May God give you...For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.”
 Irish Blessings quotes

Friday, November 30, 2012

Another tree


A quick look through our posts on trees shows what incredible diversity there is in the sizes, shapes, and colors of the trees in Downey.

This tree caught my eye the other day. It too displays fall colors, although not in the way that we traditionally expect.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Present patience


Just as Joan pointed out the day before yesterday, the signs of Christmas are showing up everywhere. When I came home from work today I found wrapped Christmas gifts on our Family room floor. My daughter spent part of her day wrapping them but there is no tree yet to put them under so here they'll wait. The tall one in the back is mine she says. But I'll have to wait 26 days to see what it is.

Do you try to figure out what your presents are? Do you shake them, roll them or see if the wrapper left a section of the paper loose so you can sneak a peek? I remember when I was young I would unwrap then re-wrap my presents because of my impatience. But I found 1. that the giver didn't see the joy on my face as I discovered their gift and 2. it was hard to act surprised when I opened the gift a second time and the giver sat across from me. I learned to wait.

Patience is the companion of wisdom.
Saint Augustine

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson