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12 Days of Giving : Monrovia Association of Fine Arts

December 19, 2014 in Art, Education, Events, Holidays, People, Photography, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Social issues

LogoThis is a group that I have devoted tons of energy and time to over the last 10 years.  Their mission statement sums it all up:
“Enhance the lives of those within our community through interaction with the arts. Increase the opportunities of our children through art education.”

Its something I completely believe in, live and breath it.  I got involved 10 years ago as a way to help promote my art, but after a few meetings I found its something that benefits the entire community in ways I never knew.

My kids were in the MUSD system and I was disappointed to learn that Art Education wasn’t part of the curriculum as a separate class at the elementary level.  Monrovia Association of Fine Arts, MAFA for short, was just getting ready to make its first donation to the schools the year I joined to help fund art educatoin at the elementary level.  Over the course of the next few years our cash donations totalled over $75.000.  But it didn’t stop there. Read the rest of this entry →

12 Days Of Giving: spcaLA

December 17, 2014 in Blogging (in) LA, Holidays, LA, Pets, Seasonal

spcaLA logoPreamble/Disclosure: There’s a subset of the fine folks who know I’ve been a scrivener for Blogging.la going way back to March 2004, who also know that back in 2011, despite all appearances of sanity, sensibility and advanced middle age, I committed to making a rather drastic career change in leaving behind a 20-odd year (emphasis on the word “odd’) career in journalism to become a humane law enforcement officer, more commonly known as an “animal cop.” Soon after that decision, I undertook what would become a lengthy, arduous and challenging process of training and preparation and hiring — I call it a “journey of a thousand hurdles” — that culminated this past summer when I was sworn in as a Level 1 Humane Officer working for, you guessed it: the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA).

But enough about me. More importantly, I need to clear up an important misconception. You know those heart-wrenching ads that inundate your TV screens around this time of year, soundtracked by Sarah McG’s “Angel” and featuring some celeb (last year it was the guy from “Will & Grace”) guilting the hell out of you to donate NOWRIGHTNOW while a slideshow of horribly mistreated animals scrolls by? Yeah: that’s soooooo not spcaLA. That’s a whole different animal: That’s ASPCA, or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

But Will, you ask, isn’t ASPCA the “parent” of spcaLA? Great question! Answer: Not in any way, shape or form. They are entirely individual and separate entities. It’s a common mistake people make believing that ASPCA is some sort of national umbrella under which all SPCAs in the country operate. But they don’t. Each and every SPCA is its own independent organization. The same goes with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). They have absolutely nothing to do with, say, the Pasadena Humane Society.

But Will, you ask, why should that matter to me? Another valid query! As an Angeleno it should matter to you because at the end of one of those above-mentioned ASPCA ads that will be dominating the local year-end airwaves, when you rush to your computer or telephone, whip out your credit card and ship some money to their headquarters across the country in New York City, not a penny of it will benefit any of the animals in your own neighborhoods. Think of it like donating blood to your local hospital versus the American Red Cross. In both worthy cases, the precious resource will almost certainly go to someone who needs it, but the chances are exponentially greater that the blood you gave at, say, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles will go to a child at that hospital. Donate locally, I say… which rhymes with spcaLA!

After the jump, a bit of history before we get to the fun part.

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12 Days of Giving: The Peace Project

December 17, 2014 in Blogging (in) LA, culver city, Holidays, LA, Seasonal, Shopping

2014 has been a great year for my family.  It wasn’t always like this.  We’ve had some pretty lean years in the past but hard work, faith, and determination put us on a blessed path.  There are plenty of places in the world where, no matter how hard citizens try, those qualities still don’t offer up a dream life.  This year, I felt it was important to give back to the universe that has created joy and plenty in my life but still finds so many people suffering around the world.  My husband and I both come from from traditions of charitable giving and volunteership.  No matter how impoverished we’ve been, we could always put food on the table and our parents taught us that meant we were still fortunate and it was our duty to offer assistance to those without.

So our regular checks to charitable organizations weren’t good enough this year.  A stellar year means we’d have to reach a little deeper.  But I’m lazy and volunteering with an infant while my husband is working overseas is more difficult than I can manage.  Instead, I found a great way to give while doing my regular weekly shopping at the Culver City Farmers Market.  The Whole 9 Gallery had a booth I could not avoid.  So many cute and cool things to buy!  And what’s this??  The money spent helps to support their charity The Peace Project??  Perfect!  Holiday shopping AND charitable giving, combined!  I bought more gifts than I had people to give to just so I could throw more money at a worthy cause.  And all of it was reasonably priced and very well made and unique.

The Peace Project is an effort by The Whole 9 online creative community to transform lives globally.  Started in 2010 by the community’s founder, the project has distributed crutches to amputees and victims of civil war in Sierra Leone, sponsored educational grants for African school-age children, built houses for Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines, and been the benefactor for several artists on six continents.  Through their works, they’ve used art to bridge the gap between necessary resources and the community members who desperately require them.  The Whole 9 Gallery in Culver City sells the wares for several artists whose proceeds fund these works abroad.

To learn more about The Peace Project or to donate directly, visit http://thepeaceproject.com/donate.php.  Just want some last minute gifts that will fund the future happiness of others in our world?  Check out The Whole 9 Gallery at 3830 Main Street, Culver City, CA 90232.

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12 Days of Giving : Anteaus Theater Company

December 15, 2014 in Entertainment, LA, News, People, Seasonal, Social issues, Theatre/Stage

Live theater in Los Angeles is a tough gig. Anteaus in Noho is no different than the rest, to bring quality theater to the community they need help. Volunteers and tax deductible cash donations are welcomed.

To donate and learn about them visit Anteaus.org.

‘Tis the Season for Crowds: Krampus on Parade & Renegade Craft Fair

December 13, 2014 in Art, Crafts, Downtown, East Side, Entertainment, Events, Fashion, Holidays, LA, Seasonal, Shopping

I braved not one but TWO crowds today.  First up…  The Echo Park Holiday Parade!!!  I had high hopes for this because I’d heard a bunch of Krampus revelers were going to be there and I was not disappointed.  If you’re one of the uninitiated, “Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Christmas season who had misbehaved… Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children and drag them off into the black forest.” (wiki)

Krampus was made popular a couple years ago by a viral video of hairy-costumed nightmares rampaging through a northern Italian mountain community and beating the ever-loving crap out of passersby.  I needed the little one to see this so she’d be on her best behavior for the next couple weeks.  But unlike Italy where it is apparently legal to beat innocent tourists, it’s frowned upon here, especially for 6 month olds.  That’s probably for the best.

There were other parade participants but I honestly can’t remember who they were after seeing the Krampus steam engine car built by Bay Area artist-engineer Kimeric Smythe.  Also several members of the Salzburg-area Alt Gnigler Krampus and Perchten Troupe joined the parade of domestic brand Krampus… Krampuses?  Krampen?  Krampai?  Whatever.  It was a hoot.

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As if seeing Krampus in Echo Park wasn’t enough, I dragged the kid downtown to Grand Park for the Renegade Craft Fair.  It’s one of my favorites.  Although I had nothing to buy this time (poor wallet…), I got to see some new friends like the ladies at Ave Dee.  I bought a fanny pack from them at the Patchwork Show in Long Beach and it’s been my saving grace on short outings with the kid.  Contrary to what movies tell you, you do not need to travel everywhere with a full diaper bag breaking your back.  Sometimes you just need your wallet, cell phone, car keys, and an emergency pacifier.  Maybe some chapstick.  Ave Dee’s fanny packs are the perfect hands-free device for busy mommas like me.  And they’re cool!  Anyone who says fanny packs are lame are probably pretty lame themselves.  And I guarantee you they’re carrying around way too much crap.

I also stopped in on good friends and former roommates extraordinare from Outlaw Soaps, Russ & Danielle Vincent.  These amazing villians started their business in our house just a couple years ago and look at them now!  Masters of saponification.  Lauded by the mighty Oprah herself, even.  I highly recommend you jump on their bandwagon, stat; they’re moving their productions from Oakland to a little parcel of land just southeast of Lake Tahoe and they’ve quit soap making until the new digs are up and running in January.  When I saw them today, they had very little stock left.  That’s what happens when your goods are being bought for wholesale by the likes of national retailers like Urban Outfitters and ThinkGeek!  I’m so proud of them, I could scream.

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12 Days of Giving : Foothill Unity Center

December 12, 2014 in Entertainment, Events, FEATURED, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Shopping, Social issues

wrapped GiftThis is the first of several posts by us outlining charities and non-profit  causes near to our heart.  Its not always about monetary donations for these groups.  Tight on funds?  They welcome your time and talents to help them as a volunteer as well.  When its all said and done you feel closer and connected to your community when you help it out.  And isn’t giving of yourself all that matters this time of year regardless if its Christmas, Hanukkah or Pagan rituals?

One of the charities that I help when I can is the Foothill Unity Center.  This group is headquartered here in Monrovia with a satellite office in Pasadena.  Year round they service the hungry, newly homeless, newly jobless or whatever other suddent tragedy that hits their home leaving them in need of help.  They need volunteers for several upcoming events, money to support their programs, food donations, clothing…whatever you can help them with. Visit their web site linked in here for more information on what you can do to help them.  After the jump you can learn more of their immediate needs. Read the rest of this entry →

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Paint n Play offers up Winter Art Camp for Holiday School Break

December 11, 2014 in Crafts, Entertainment, Events, People, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Shopping

Paint n Play Winter Art Camp application, click to embiggen and print

Winter Art Camp has got to be one of the best things going in the SGV if you have school age kids and you lose your usual day care during the Holidays.  I’ve witnessed the activities that Lisa Barrios and her crew at Paint n Play Art Studio and Gallery here in Monrovia line up for the kids and its pretty amazing.  Tons of ceramic crafts for the kids to do every day with expert instruction by the staff at Paint n Play is included in the price of your childs time at Winter Art Camp.

All you need to do is pick out a week and its M,T, F they provide Art Camp for either Christmas Week or New Years week.  Monday and Tuesday be sure to pack your kids a sack lunch.  Friday no worries, its Pizza Party day.

Space is limited and you do need to apply early.  Click on this application to embiggen and print and bring it in to Lisa and gang at the store.

Deets.  Week one 12/22, 12/23 NS 12/26,week two 12/29, 12/30, 1/2.  418 S Myrtle Street, Monrovia CA 91016 626-256-4848

See’s Candies Holiday Pop-Up Shops

December 10, 2014 in Food & Drink, History, Holidays, LA, Seasonal

See'sPopUpIt’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you love Los Angeles native, See’s Candies! They are putting up pop-up holiday shops around town so you don’t have to brave the mall when you get invited somewhere last minute and don’t want to arrive with your hands hanging. They are selling only boxed chocolates, no candy counter full of individual yummies to mix and match. But when Aunt Gertrude is stopping by and you’ve accidentally left her off your list, you can race in for that two pound box of dark chocolate nuts and chews she loves so much.

Check locations here.

And there are two more days to enter into the See’s Candies For Life contest!

My personal favorite – Scotchmallows.

Artisanal LA

December 7, 2014 in Crafts, Entertainment, Holidays, Seasonal, Shopping

I had no intention of going to Artisanal LA‘s holiday market in Pasadena but I found myself there anyway on Saturday.  It was ok.  Most  of the vendors didn’t really speak to my holiday shopping needs but I did manage to get some high falutin’ chocolates from Marco Paolo and a jar of Indian spiced tomato sauce from Mee’s Kut.  The chocolates will be given as a gift but the tomato sauce is mine, all mine!  I will probably eat it all in one sitting with a very large serving spoon.  Possibly a bib.  Also, a shout out to the ladies at Bond Bar…  Thanks for the 5lbs you’ve added to my hips in samples.  I appreciate your efforts but I was serious when I said I’m avoiding you.  My fu is stronger than your tasty treats!

The highlight of the event and the whole reason for the spontaneous visit was seeing Santa!  My little one had never met the big guy and I was nervous about her reaction so I went with a friend as a precursor to our real Santa excursion next week.  My darling daughter is a huge flirt though, so it was an instant love fest.  After a short wait to get him sprung from jail (he was stuck in a parking lot), she took up her seat of honor on his knee and stared longingly into his twinkling eyes while tangling her fingers in his beard.  Sadly, the pictures include a crummy tent tarp background in a lackluster general environment.  We’ll still visit a higher end Santa next week but for 5 bucks, Artisanal’s Santa experience wasn’t awful.

Santa made it onto his own naughty list. "Psst, big guy...  I have a present for you in my diaper!"
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I told you we had a Christmas Parade

December 6, 2014 in Entertainment, Holidays, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal

Well the city renamed it “Holiday Parade” but that doesn’t matter, Santa Claus brought up the rear, not kwanza claus.

Holiday Vomit Lights, An Appreciation

December 6, 2014 in Seasonal

xlights

Pictured above (appropriately snapped without care for composition or focus), is without question in my mind: The Worst Christmas Decoration In The City — and The Best. Sure, they’re everywhere, but this particular installation in the Pico-Union district of town is a shining and glorious example of what I affectionately call “vomit lights” because, well, look upon them. It’s as if someone straight-on upchucked ‘em (that or maybe this is how taggers do it during the Christmas season, with a spray of lights instead of paint).

Not only is this anarchic sub-style of seasonal illumination an affront to holiday decorating perfectionists everywhere, but I’m sure this silly string of twinklies goes against some sectional statute buried deep in the freakin’ Code Of Nature, itself — which are two reasons this display that I abhor also happens to be my favorite holiday lighting in the city. I hold them in the highest disregard. I love them unconditionally.

Full disclosure: Those perfection-minded decorators I mentioned above? Oh yeah, I’m soooo one of that legion. Every year when I climb up on the roof to risk serious bodily injury hanging up the lights at my house (always during the weekend after Thanksgiving  — always!), I’m faced with a design dilemma. See, the three strands of icicle lights that go along my 30-foot rain gutter measure 27 feet. Inevitably during my initial placement they end up off-center and I kid you not, I will literally take the ridiculous amount of time and further risk of falling off the roof required to physically move the lights one way and the other until there’s an almost equal 1.5 feet of unlighted rain gutter at either end. It’s called idiocy, I know. It’s also called symmetry, people. And I’m a slave to it.

After the jump you can see what I mean. Seriously, even the reindeer are mirroring each other. To some that’s a cry for help. To me, a call of duty. But I digress…

Read the rest of this entry →

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Christmas its a big deal in my corner of L.A

December 4, 2014 in Entertainment, Events, Holidays, San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal

I will be the first to tell you I love my little corner of L.A.  Its big enough to get lost if you want to, but small enough to be able to keep tabs on all that is important.  Plus I can be anywhere in L.A or behind the Orange Curtain in about an hour.  But thats not the real news, tonight is the traditional…been doing it as long as I can remember…the Lighting of the Christmas Tree followed by the Annual Christmas Parade.

  • 6 PM Tree lighting in Libarary Park
  • 7 PM Christmas Parade, Myrtle Avenue starting at Chestnut and ending at Palm (Library Park)

Hot on the heels of that is the Annual touring of Santa Claus escorted by MPD and MFD through the city. It takes 5 nights to cover every nook, cranny and alley in town. This year it starts on the 15th and the last night is the 19th. Details here.

Patchwork Craft Show No Go

November 30, 2014 in Crafts, culver city, Events, Food & Drink, LA, Seasonal, Shopping, Uncategorized

I had every intention of going to the Patchwork Show in Santa Ana today but a series of events kept me from it.  First church (hi hippie Unitarians!) which got canceled due to the kid oversleeping her morning nap, then I spent too much time researching ways to use my remaining root vegetables from the Culver City Farmers Market to make leftover turkey chili, Skyped with the in laws, and then I happened to look at a map and discovered Santa Ana is hella far down in the OC. By that time, this wet stuff had started falling from the sky.  Too bad…  lots of great vendors were at the Long Beach show and I was looking forward to shoving some cash at them.  Next up…  Unique LA!

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Surviving Christmas with toddlers

November 30, 2014 in Entertainment, Holidays, Seasonal

Surviving Christmas with a toddler can be a challenge.  A nice looking tree with a toddler around is easy if you take a few simple steps.  I remember all the steps and criteria for a well dressed tree from my days at Bullock’s, one fatally so as a Christmas Shop Manager, so I know how to do it.  A toddler simple requires a little revision.  All that bright shiny twinkly stuff is a huge temptation.  Let them at it but with some safeguards.

Christmas tree in a play pen - click to embiggen
  • Put the tree in a playpen to keep them yanking it apart when done.
  • Buy shiny unbreakable ornaments they can put on the tree.  Do the lower half of those onrmaments within their reach
  • Keep the fragile Radko and similar above their reach
  • Use LED bulbs which burn cool compared to the old minatures and c7 bulbs…just in case they get through the barricades they still cant get injured

My grand is 2 1/2 and we found this was a much easier solution than yelling “no” all day.  Also they feel quite proud of helping put it all together so its a win on many levels.

I may get brave and try him on Christmas cookie making this year.  What harm can come of giving a toddler colored sugar and sprinkles?

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Small Business Saturday support the home grown retailer

November 28, 2014 in San Gabriel Valley, Seasonal, Shopping

Small Business Saturday

Saturday November 29 is Small Business Saturday, the day the small retailer hopes will make their Holiday Season instead of the chain stores at the Mall. Its been going on a few years now, tomorrow is the day. Make it happen for the Home Grown Retailers that support the community they live in. Here is a run down of some of the things I know are going on in and around my corner of L.A.

First up my friend Lisa Barrios owner of the Paint n Play Art Studio and Gallery in Old Town Monrovia is offering up 20% Saturday only for customers who come in and tell her you saw the post here.  The 20% off is on any Holiday Gift item, pottery or ceramics that you chose to do.  The Legacy Hand Prints she does are really special momentos you will treasure for a lifetime.  418 S Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia CA 91016.  They are on Facebook too…remember to tell them fraz sent you!

Hoopla! in Altadena is closed for the day getting ready for Small Business Saturday.  This is a wonderful store full of really unique, often locally sourced artists and writers, gifts.  Hoopla will be donating 15% of their proceeds Saturday to both Light Bringer Project and Room 13 associated with Pasadena’s John Muir High School.

Sierra Madre is rolling out the Red Carpet as a community and will be hosting a “SmART Walk” of local artists within established businesses in town.  Do stop by Sierra Madre Playhouse and get your tickets for the family to attend their production of  A Little House Christmas.  Added bonus is photographer Geoffrey Wade will be exhibiting a few of his backstage images. Read the rest of this entry →