Xander takes some warm-up swings before a recent “Fall Stars” baseball game; the way I cropped the photo with the tall palms in the background gives off an interesting vertical style panoramic presentation. The second photo is a shot of our TV screen after the Yanks took all three of their ALCS home games vs. the Astros this week. The palm trees also lended a larger-than-life quality to Mr. X and his aspirations of one day rising to the heights of
the 6-foot-7 Yankee rookie slugger Aaron Judge.
When Troy returned from a recent visit to Dave & Buster’s arcade and asked me to assemble this little plastic cell phone jail (complete with lock & key), I saw an opportunity to commandeer his gag prize choice. Yep, this would become my personal toy whenever I deemed their mobile devices needed a little alone time.
Only Troy has a phone number on his iPhone, but I gave my previous cell to Xander so he can text and utilize other features and apps with the home wi-fi.
X watching too many sports highlights on the ESPN app or YouTube? Troy playing too many successive games of MLB17 or Crossy Road? With the handy-dandy cell-phone lock-up, say hello to technology-free activity time!
Available at your nearest Dave & Busters or wherever plastic cell phone jails are sold!
The kiddies had such a good time on their first visit to Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark they requested a repeat visit over the Fourth of July weekend. So we packed a picnic lunch and made the 45-minute drive from West L.A. to basically play the role of Old MacDonald for a few hours. The following is their account of the outing.
Picking Fruits and Veggies, by Athena
As we walked into the enormous field of fruits and vegetables I was so excited and curious about what I was going to pick, taste and see. Although I’ve been to Underwood Family Farms once before, there would be different kinds of fruits and vegetables because it was a different time of year.
First we picked beets, then we kept walking and saw red lettuce, radishes, bok choy, and some more greens. We saw navel orange trees and avocado trees, but sadly they were not ready yet. The raspberries were in season so we picked a lot of them. I liked how when you are picking your fruits and veggies you can eat as many as you want at the same time. I ate so many raspberries because they were so delicious. Then we came upon the strawberries and ate even more.
After that we picked some peppers, a squash, potatoes, green tomatoes and carrots. I had a lot of fun getting the carrots because you pull them right out of the ground and they are so sweet and tasty. We also picked zucchini. I had so much fun and I loved picking the fresh fruits and vegetables like a farmer.
Farm to Table, by Xander
When we got home, I grabbed the fruits and vegetables that we bought, ran into the house and started washing them. We were planning to make a salad with all the vegetables we picked and added some teriyaki steak strips. We also made fried green tomatoes; I sliced all the vegetables such as carrots, American radishes and French radishes.
My mom and Athena cut the lettuce and grilled the steak while my dad and I made the fried green tomatoes in our little Fry Daddy. The fried green tomatoes were complicated because you had to coat them in egg, then a flour coating, and finally the bread crumbs. Then you put them into the fry cooker and wait 3-4 minutes. We all ate the delicious meal together as a family and we all loved Underwood Family Farms!Animals and a Show, by Troy
Besides fruit picking, there was a small area with animals you can feed and a show we saw with four different animals. My brother, sister and I fed several animals such as chickens, ponies and sheep by putting 25 cents into a machine that gave us food for that type of animal. We weren’t allowed to touch the animals, but we could take pictures of the ostriches, goats, bulls, pigs and more.
“The Animal Show” featured four different trained animals. They did tricks like jump over a pole, spin in a circle and give their trainers high-fives. There was an alpaca, a potbelly pig a baby goat and even the farm family’s dog. The two trainers explained some of their traits and history. We got to pet the dog at the end of the show but not any of the others.
And making the slo-mo highlight reel from the 60th Anniversary festivities…..
March 29, 2017
“Happy 84th” I say to my Dad on a morning call. “I haven’t been able to find the time to send you a gift for your b-day so just wanted to give you a heads up to expect a little something next week.”
Little did he know that the little something would be me and the famiglia in the flesh at his and Sheila’s surprise 60th wedding anniversary party in Florida nine days later.
April 7 (the actual day of their anniversary)
Me, Irene, Troy, Athena, Xander, my bro Gary, Alex, sis Lisa and nieces Jessica and Chelsea are huddled in the upstairs library of the 5-bedroom AirBnB in Boca Raton that would serve as the accommodations for our 4-day fiesta. The anniversary couple thought they were stopping by a listing that Chelsea wanted to show them (Chels recently got her real estate license) before my sister would take them out for breakfast. We decided not to shout “Surprise!” as the doors were flung open, instead letting video and photos capture the moment. Minutes later, the silence was broken by waterworks from the happy couple and greetings from around the room.
Realizing that Grandma and Grandpa Florida (as the kiddies call them) didn’t yet have a grasp of the full surprise, I told them that we would all be staying in this house together and Lisa would be shuttling them back to their condo to pack a small bag for the next few days. Surprise #2 and more waterworks! A buffet lunch kicked off the party and continued well after our home-grilled steak dinner.
Who needs a resort when you have a house that features a pool area with a Jacuzzi, a hammock, a retractable awning for shade and sun worshippers alike, a grill that you could cook a side of beef on, (not to mention a yacht parked alongside the pool for that added ritzy atmosphere) and AN ELEVATOR! The boys even picked up the lone fishing pole that was provided and cast a few lines into the intra-coastal waterway (no fish were caught but Troy did reel in a piece of seaweed with a small green crab clinging to it!)
Earlier that day, Grandpa Florida joined us on a field trip to a local park to watch the boys take some batting practice!
Then it was back to the house for Surprise #3 when some local relatives and friends trickled in for the “official” anniversary celebration at 6 p.m. – a cocktail/dining reception that was enjoyed by all and highlighted by a cake and video tribute (put together by Alex) complete with pictures of the anniversary couple over the years (“Got a booth, babe?” read the best caption alluding to dad’s classic request for his favorite restaurant seating!)
Inside our crib, an assortment of board and table games lent an extra element of camaraderie throughout the weekend: we paired up for a variety of Jenga and chess matches and turned a dining room table into a ping pong court with a portable set that was also provided by the house. Since we had to rise at 4:30 the next morning for our return flight to L.A., we turned in a tad earlier than the previous couple of nights but not before raising a final toast to the magnitude of two people acheiving a six-decades-old bond!
More than 35 years since their 80’s heyday, Duran Duran is sounding (not to mention aging) better than ever. When they announced their two-night St. Patrick’s weekend shows at the Agua Caliente Casino in the Coachella Valley back in December, I picked up a pair of tickets for Irene’s b-day gift.
What made it even sweeter were the amazing seats we scored in this intimate venue: second row in the loge — just above the floor seating with completely unobstructed views of our boy Simon Le Bon, who was in fine voice as always! Simon takes his vocals very seriously and this night was no different than any of the previous couple of shows Irene and I have seen together; his range was impeccable, from holding a falsetto note on songs like the new uptempo “Last Night in the City” to classic ballads like “Ordinary World.” He has definitely distinguished himself as one of the most engaging all-around lead singers in the game!
On being able to remain relevant after all these years, bassist John Taylor told the Dallas Observer in a recent feature: “You can’t fake it. You’ve just got to have the burn and not get hung up on the past. So many of my peers that don’t do music for a living don’t have anything positive to say about contemporary music. You got to be really open and be prepared to really go digging because I think it’s important that you have a sense of what’s happening right now and it’s important that what’s happening right now feeds into the music that we’re making.”
Equally relevant at this show was the band’s stage theatrics: the confetti cannons (during “Pressure Off”), the giant beach balls (“Rio”) and Simon’s request for the audience to pull their iPhones out of their pockets and turn on the flashlight (during “Save a Prayer”) was all reminiscent of any recent Coldplay show. And the big screens on either side of the stage (one right above our excellent seats that afforded us even closer close-ups of the action) provided great animated backdrops for each song as well.
With 14 albums (plus four greatest hits packages) under their belt, D-squared definitely had their work cut out for them deciding which songs to play live but their choices were satisfying for this show; highlights from the 90-minute, 16-song set list (including two encores) for me were “View to a Kill,” “Is There Something I Should Know” and “Notorious” while Irene could be heard belting out “Wild Boys” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” at an enthusiastic volume!
Mowing the lawn this past weekend turned into a National Geographic creepy-crawler photo shoot. Taken on my iPhone7, these pix show a variety of insects that we corralled, starting with a two-inch black beetle, which we decided to drop into a plastic flower pot liner with a caterpillar and some potato bugs, and then the final shot showing the grisly demise of the grub, whom the beetle was obviously merely sizing up in the second photo.
To celebrate Miss A’s performance at her gymnastics meet in Las Vegas last weekend, we hit Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR on the Vegas Strip (the “GR” in the name is chef’s initials that fit conveniently into the word, sans the “e” of course)! GReat BurGRs and even GReater all-around weekend! (See what I did there? Using the word “all-around”
saluting the gymnastic theme of the weekend!)
Stepping out onto the balcony, I surveyed the rectangular main gardens below and thought how awesome it was to be back in Rome. But wait, it was actually Malibu and my first visit to the Getty Villa (*EDITORS NOTE: this was a family outing with the kiddies and their cousins; the real Rome was pre-children!)
Adjacent to the Getty Museum, The Getty Villa is modeled after a first-century Roman country house in Herculaneum, Italy. The building was constructed in the early 1970s by architects who worked closely with J. Paul Getty to develop the interior and exterior details. Inside on two floors are antiquities collections and changing exhibitions as well as outdoor herb gardens and fountains. The cousins particularly enjoyed the Family Forum room for a little hands-on discovery: role-playing with foam swords, shields and headgear in front of a projection screen, and using dry erase markers to decorate replica urns and bowls.
Also worth noting is the indoor/outdoor Café that serves casual Mediterranean-inspired fare (beer & wine are also available). I was compelled to relay my compliments to the kitchen after lunch: my Villa Burger ($14.95) with crispy onions, Emmental Swiss, sherry gastrique, arugula, roasted garlic & pepper aioli on a Brioche Bun (with a side of shoestring garlic fries) was one of the best gourmet burgers I have ever had.
To reserve a time and arrange for your complimentary tickets, go to http://www.getty.edu/visit/cal/index.html (parking is $15).
Irene took these photos of the Watts Towers on her iPhone during a recent school field trip with Xander’s third-grade class and I tinkered with the colors for a mini Warhol side-by-side presentation. In lieu of an accompanying explanation to the question What-the-Heck-Are-the-Watts-Towers? for those not in the know, check out this link.