Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mountain retreat?

Country decor

It was hot today, but this front yard reminded me so much of a mountain cabin that I automatically felt 10 degrees cooler. The chair, in the dappled sunlight surrounded by flowers and rustic decorations, looked like the perfect place to take a break.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Outdoor dining


New uses for old things at the Machado houseOne of the fun discoveries we made during our visit to Julio and Stella's was the outdoor kitchen. This was not just any outdoor kitchen, this came complete with an oven large enough to cook an entire cow.

I was also significantly impressed by the number of cast iron pots and pans on display.


"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all."
~ Harriet Van Horne

Friday, April 28, 2017

Another man's treasure

New uses for old things at the Machado houseNew uses for old things at the Machado house

Julio Machado loves flea markets and yard sales. For him, one man's junk truly is his treasure. He can spot potential in the most mundane or run-down objects, and these items, cleaned up and sometimes transformed, find their way into his house. At DDP, we like to see new uses for old things. Julio is a master at this process. Above, collections of old copper teapots and irons lead the way his  staircases.

You'll nearly always see a crystal (or faux-crystal) vase at a yard sale. I usually pass them by. But collect a mass of them, and display them on a handcrafted wrought iron shelf, and they come to life. A collection of miscellaneous items enhances a hand-carved wall shelf. And leftover scraps of metal and rivets create a map of the USA.

New uses for old things at the Machado houseNew uses for old things at the Machado houseNew uses for old things at the Machado house

No two sets of lighting are the same. I like finding new uses for Mason jars, so these Mason jar light fixtures were my favorite, along with the use of old piping to conceal the wiring.

New uses for old things at the Machado houseNew uses for old things at the Machado house

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Into the wood

Wood in the Machado house

Julio, Stella, and I also share a love of wood. Like the metal, wood is everywhere—but more so! The house is framed in wood, and it is all left bare, with the knots and the bark adding to the beauty.

Julio's floors are put together from many kinds and colors of wood—not just because that's what he had on hand, but also because the variations are beautiful and more interesting than a single kind and color of wood. In many places, words that relate to their lives are inlaid into the wood. Some of the wood is highly finished and smooth. Some is textured and dinged in a way that adds a whole nother (yes, Google says it really is a word) dimension to the beauty. Gnarled tree trunks get made into strange but comfortable chairs.

Wood in the Machado houseWood in the Machado house

Huge wooden planks become dining room tables that will seat the whole extended family (or into a desk where there's always room to spread out your work). Thick logs get carved into jaguars (above) and eagles.

Wood in the Machado houseWood in the Machado house

And Julio doesn't let anything go to waste. The little pieces that most carpenters sweep up and throw away get used to cover up ugly concrete columns. Or as material for an artist's rendition of the house, made entirely from wood.

Wood in the Machado houseWood in the Machado house

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

What Julio has wrought

Machado house

Wrought iron: iron that has been heated and is then worked with tools to change its form and properties. The term “wrought” comes from the past participle of the word “worked.” Wrought iron literally means "worked iron."

Machado houseWrought iron, although prevalent, is just one of many metals found in Julio and Stella's beautiful home. I soon realized that we shared a love of metal. From the three wrought iron staircases, to the numerous custom-made display shelves, to the rows of hanging cast iron and copper pots and pans (not pictured), metal is everywhere, and most of it is handmade by Julio himself.

Here are just a few examples of the artwork that Julio has created from metal.

Machado houseMachado houseMachado houseMachado house

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Casa Machado


Getting a tour of this unique house was an amazing treat. Julio and Stella are welcoming and kind. They clearly love showing off their beloved home. As you can see, everywhere there is the profusion of color and growing things! There is even a tree "growing" on the side of the house.


"HOME is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, laughter never ends."

Monday, April 24, 2017

Humans of Downey - Julio and Stella #2


"When we first came to America, the fastest job I could find was as a seamstress in downtown LA. They paid by the piece and I was not very good. I was making $3.00 a day and sometimes sewed my finger. Then I was able to get a position at Teledyne in Hawthorne. But the work was always the same, day after day. I earned minimum wage, but we had medical insurance for the whole family. The building was warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It was a nice job.

"But then I got pregnant with our daughter, Brenda. Julio said we need to change things. You need to go back to school. The real estate agent that sold us our first home motivated me to get my license. While I was pregnant with Brenda, I had to be in bed a lot. I was swelling because I was retaining fluids. But it allowed me to study at the same time. She was born in November and I got my license the next February. I worked for Century 21 and was doing very well.

"Twenty years ago my broker decided to retire since he had heart problems. He rented his broker license to me for a few months while I went to school to get my own license. Soon after I got my own license, he passed away. Since then I have opened my own office, which allows me to work on my own. I keep my clientele and they keep calling me. I help my clients whatever their needs are: residential, commercial or investment property. I work all over California and I will drive wherever my clients need me to go. I don't have any other agents in my office because that relieves me of the stress of making sure they are doing things correctly. I can put all my attention on my clients' business."

~ Stella

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Humans of Downey - Julio and Stella #1


This is Julio and Stella. They immigrated from Argentina in 1978 and they are a great example of living a life of hard work, honor, and uprightness. Pam, Joan, and I had the pleasure of being welcomed into their home recently. Today and tomorrow, I will share some of their stories. After that, Pam and Joan will share some pictures and thoughts about their beautiful home.

"When we first came to America, we rented a house in Inglewood. After we had been there for 10 months, we started to look to buy a house. I had a friend, he was my boss and he encouraged me to buy a house, but I said I didn't have the money. He said he would help me with the money with a $3,000 down payment and I just needed to pay him back in two years. He wanted me to buy a house around $30,000. Stella and I looked around and we found a house in South Gate for $52,000. I told my friend about the house we were going to buy and he got scared. He said this is more than what I said to look for. You will have problems making the payments. I said that I would make the payments as I promised. He said, the money I gave you I'll need in one year, not two. I said no problem, I'll pay you back in one year. Actually, we paid him back in 6 months.

"In Argentina I went to engineering school. This is where I learned to work in wrought iron and wood. When I came to America, I started working in a machine shop. Then, after two years, I started making wrought iron security doors and security windows. But we didn't have a shop to work so we did it in my garage in South Gate. We added customers little by little so we bought our first shop near Florence and Alameda. As we grew our business, we sold that shop and bought a larger one. But then I started doing more finish home construction. We do room additions, roofs, plumbing, electrical, concrete—anything to do with construction, we do it.

"I run my business the old way. The people tell me what they want done, I tell them what I will do and how much it will cost. They say how do you want the money and I say I will go first doing and you will come behind with the money. We shake hands and I start. As we have been talking, I have been taking pictures in my head. I have pictures of what the inside will look like and what the finished product will look like. Once I had a customer that wanted some work done on his home. I listened to him, took my 'pictures', went back to the shop, calculated a price, and then sent him the bottom line. He liked the price but he wanted something in writing. I sent him a piece of paper what I was going to do and the price. He said he wanted more detail and he was going to fax me what he meant. He faxed me 40 pages of details. I called him and said everything that was on his 40 pages was on my one page. He agreed and said go ahead with the plans."

~ Julio

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Big sisters


This little girl was definitely taking care of her little brother as they walked around the park.

"My first job is big sister and I take it very seriously!"

Friday, April 21, 2017

Miles to go

Bike path

I took a walk along the Rio San Gabriel riverbed bike path last weekend, near Wilderness Park. Even though it was a nice day out, the path was still pretty empty. (I imagine it will start getting crowded in a few more weeks, as the days get longer and longer.)

Gazing down the path brought these words to mind.

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
but I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep."
~ Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Study in lines


One of the essentials of photography is the study of lines. Lines tend to draw our attention to themselves and then draw our attention to other aspects in the photo. Done well, the lines should draw your eye to the subject in the picture. See if you can tell what I was thinking was the subject in this picture. *

study in lines 2

By the way, this tree is just outside Porto's Bakery. I love how the lights play off the leaves.

* The answer is: the traffic on Firestone Blvd.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Humans of Downey - Jose


"Back in Mexico when I was 13 years old, I landed a job in the state of Veracruz. They were working on a gas pumping station for Phoenix. I started out as a 'helper'. So, as I hung around, I watched the welders and I learned how to pipe feed and other aspects of welding. After that job, the company asked me to stay on and I finally got to weld by myself after a couple of years. I worked all over Mexico at that very young age. Then I ended up in Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

"Then in 1969, I came to the U.S. to work. Back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, there wasn't very much safety on the jobs. You didn't care about wearing safety glasses or ear plugs or covering your hands with the protective gloves or your feet with steel-toed boots. So, there were a lot of accidents, bad accidents. I remember once we were working in the North Sea. This crane was carrying this large piece of 48-inch pipe. And they didn't have a flag man. The flag man keeps an eye on everything and everybody that is happening during the job. But the crane operator didn't notice one of the workers was in the way of the pipe he was moving. The pipe smashed him pretty bad. Other unsafe activities like drinking on the job were common on those extended jobs. That isn't how it is anymore. Now, the first thing that happens before you do any work is they have a safety meeting. Then they have another big meeting once a month.

"My biggest job was an oil platform we built for the North Sea. Each leg of the platform weighed 17,000 tons. To get each leg onto a giant barge to be shipped to the North Sea, they used a giant crane called Thor. I went with the barge and stayed out at sea for three months to complete my portion of the job. One of the platforms we built was destined for the waters off Alaska. When they turned it upright, the legs sank too far into the sand and rock. So, they decided to take it out. But the feet were stuck, so they dynamited the sand but with too much explosive. It cracked one of the legs. We were called out to repair what they had damaged. Later they found a better spot with less loose sand."

~ Jose

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter feast


A big part of our lives is the family gatherings we have celebrating holidays important to us. This Easter was a beautiful day spent with friends and family.

IMG_1879-1“Easter is a time when God turned the inevitability of death into the invincibility of life.”
~ Craig D. Lounsbrough

Monday, April 17, 2017

I won't grow up

Tree climbing at Wilderness Park

For me, the best part of any park was always the trees. Which ones could be climbed? Which ones had the perfect seat for surveying my surroundings?

“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I won’t grow up.” 
~ Peter Pan

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Elaine's garden revisited

Rose garden

About three years ago, I wrote about this garden, created by Dave Lopez in memory of his wife Elaine. In those three years, the roses have flourished, to the point that the abundance of white made me stop this week for a closer look.

Rose gardenIt has grown into a beautiful and peaceful place.

Messiah Lutheran Church

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Duck, duck, goose


I watched these ducks race across the lake in the same formation. The duck in the front kept dipping his head down in the water  and the other two kept an almost formal following.

"In matters of style. swim with the current; in matters of principal, stand like a rock." 
~ Thomas Jefferson

Friday, April 14, 2017

Egg-cited about Easter

Easter yard art

The family at this house decorates for every season, so it's always fun to go by and see the current decor. For this Easter, there are lots of pastels and eggs.

"Easter is the only time of year when it's perfectly safe to put all your eggs in one basket."

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Humans of Downey - Emmanuel


"I'm the only musician in my family. People will ask me, 'Oh, do you have family that are musicians?' Many of my colleagues at USC, their parents are musicians. But for me it was the opposite where I was the first one. It was more like seeds were planted in me: a jazz seed, a classical seed. The story my parents like to tell me is, every time I went to sleep when I was young, they would play me different kinds of music. So, it was little things here and there. My second grade teacher was and still is a radio disc jockey for KKJZ, a jazz station from CSULB. I've always had a fascination for classical music. I went to the music center when I was young. These little things just grew out of me, they found me.

"I started playing the trombone in the fourth grade. I went to an after-school music program where they taught you music theory for the instrument you chose. People will ask me, 'Why did you choose the trombone?' But I didn't choose the trombone, it chose me.

"Here at the Downey Theater is the first time I played in a stage concert. It was the first time I conducted also. People will also ask me, 'How did you choose conducting' Again, it chose me. It was at an 8th grade concert, the jazz portion of the winter concert. At the time I was the class president. My band director told me he had something for me to do. He said, 'Come direct the band.' I had no clue what to do but I did it and the seed was planted. The bulk of my conducting training was at the Bard Conservatory of Music in New York. Currently, I am working on my master's degree, taking conducting classes, and playing trombone for the USC orchestra."

~ Emmanuel

PS I met Emmanuel after a recent concert of the Downey Symphony at The Downey Theater where he played trombone.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Humans of Downey - Steve


"The very first art piece I remember making was when I was 10 years old. I still have it. I did it in crayon and it was titled, 'Misery on a New York Sidewalk.' It was cubic and very abstract. Interestingly, I had never been to New York or even seen abstract art before. It was received well, though, my mom loved it.

"The first piece I ever displayed in public was about nine months ago. I've spent my working career as a writer and editor. Over the years I have created multiple art pieces for my own enjoyment. A while ago, I decided that before I died of a heart attack with a bunch of art pieces in my garage that will probably get thrown away, I would get them out there for others to see. So, about a year and a half ago I started visiting art galleries and talking with the owners, asking them how could I get involved in the art world. I went to a place called The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art. The director there liked my stuff and he encouraged me to get my pieces in the public eye by entering my art in places that had open calls for art. I had my first piece of art displayed in public nine months ago at that gallery.

"My creative process is usually like this: I work at night at a workbench with a lampshade overhead. Then I try to step inside the piece. It's like I'm part of the piece and wandering around in it or like I'm in a dream world. So all my pieces are actually psychological or dream-like. It's unconscious. I don't do anything with an end product in mind. I just start to build on what's there. It seems to have a life of its own."

~ Steve

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Homelessness in Downey


Looking at this picture, you might think it was of a camping trip in the middle of a beautiful field. It is actually one of the many homeless dwellings to be found in and around the Rio San Gabriel riverbed area of Downey.

IMG_1773-1In the second picture, you have to look more carefully to see the couple of tents sheltered by the trees.

Seeing these tents and the dozens of others in the area makes me wonder. How did people end up here and what should we be doing in response?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Do pigeons get a bum rap?

Birds at Wilderness Park

I thought that yesterday's birds just flew away after being chased by the sisters, but a chance glance upwards revealed dozens of them perched in the tree over my head.

Birds at Wilderness ParkAre these pigeons or doves? It turns out that the two are very similar, almost interchangeable. In fact, what we typically call a pigeon is most likely actually a rock dove.

But while there's very little difference between the two, there is a lot of difference in the names. For the dove, we read things like, "The Dove, on silver pinions, winged her peaceful way." (James Montgomery). But for the pigeon, we hear, "From the sanitary viewpoint, a pigeon is a rat with feathers."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The care and feeding of birds

Feeding the birds at Wilderness Park

These sisters couldn't decide if it was more fun to feed the birds or chase them. Either way, they were having a great time at Wilderness Park today.

Taking my daughter to feed the birds at Wilderness is one of my favorite memories. And of course, we always brought a loaf of bread. It never occurred to me back then that this wasn't very good for the ducks and geese. It turns out that bread is like junk food for most birds—filling, with no nutritional value. Their natural diet is more likely to consist of seeds, vegetation, and even fish. Bread can get moldy quickly, and large pieces can get stuck in the birds' craws.

So the next time you go to the park to feed the birds, take along some bird seed. Enjoy feeding the birds, and knowing that you're providing them with a healthy diet.

Feeding the birds at Wilderness Park