Author Archive: lifex5

Pic & Vid of the Week: Birdzilla & the Blowhole

Giant seagull tramples Long Beach! Actually, just an iPhone shot of
the bird perched on a railing of Carnival’s “Imagination” ship
before heading to Ensenada on a 4-day Baja cruise.



Guest Bloggers: X-man and Miss A’s Cruise Review

The Food, by Xander

My Dad’s prime rib with horseradish, onion rings and a baked potato side.

The food on our 4-day Carnival Cruise to Ensenada was fantastic. There were two dining options: you could eat at a food court or a fancy sit-down restaurant (the food was included in the price of the cruise). First the food court: it included a deli, pizza place, celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s gourmet burgers with toppings bar (I liked the smoky bacon bits and sautéed mushrooms), a taco/burrito stand, an ice cream machine, and a lot more. Also, each of these food places changed over for breakfast.

Baked Alaska (meringue ice cream cake with a flame in the middle!) for the final formal dessert.

The sit-down restaurants for breakfast and dinners were my favorite because the food was delicious and our servers were extremely nice. The menu changed every night with delicious fancy foods. My two favorite appetizers were alligator fritters and escargot bourguignon. Yum.

The Activities, by Athena

About to hit the water slides on Embarkation Day

We went on our first cruise in 2014 so this time we had the chance to check out some of the things we didn’t do the first time. We chose to visit many new activities and spots such as the spa. At the back of this area was the gym; after my mom and I worked out a bit, we went into the sauna and the steam room.

Following dinner the second night, we enjoyed the “Divas” show in the main Dynasty Theater (a sing and dance show). In the show, the performers sang and danced to Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Rihanna and more. It was very entertaining. On Thursday night, the first day we got on the cruise ship, we watched the Hasbro game show with volunteers from the audience playing games such as “Operation” onstage. It was fun with the British host/cruise director “Matey.”

Xander getting sprayed by La Bufadora!

When our ship (named the “Imagination”) docked at the port of Ensenada on Saturday morning, we took a shore excursion to “La Bufadora” (The Blowhole). Our tour guide Gilberto led our group on the short walk to the natural geyser; we passed many small Mexican shops offering souvenirs and food and “Gil” gave us each a free drink sticker to the Habana Banana! We watched the geyser, which sprays sea water up from a small cave, shopped a bit and had a delicious lunch at the Habana Banana, where we all shared a platter of soft tacos , shrimp and clams. Shortly after lunch, we made our way back up the line of shops and got back on our tour bus to return to the ship.

On Saturday night, we went to a rock ‘n roll show (held in the same cruise theater as the “Divas” show and featured the same performers) except the songs were rock and we watched from the upper balcony seating. My parents also got to have some alone time in the Serenity adult area in the very back area of the ship with two hot tubs and comfy lounge chairs while me, Xander and Troy were one deck above sliding down the waterslides in the mini-waterpark.

Amazing Indian head sculpture carved in 15 minutes!

My dad and brothers also saw an ice carving show on the Lido deck where a champion ice-carver transformed a block of ice into an Indian-head ice sculpture in just 15 minutes. We also learned how to make towel animals with Matey (a dog and an elephant). The new activities we got to do were so much fun and I thought it was nice to experience some of the things we missed on our first Carnival cruise.

Pic of the Week: Crouching Palm, Hidden Dragon

After doing a double-take driving past this palm tree in Marina Del Rey, I was compelled to pull over and snap a pic of the slumped tree-turned-art-project.

Pic of the Week: dippin’ duh!

Regular please (cuz that makes sense!)….

Conquering Mountain High

There are few things more satisfying than watching not one but all three of your kids pick up on a sport or activity collectively – especially after you’ve traumatized one of them and she bounces back from it a couple hours later.

The setting was during a Spring Break overnight trip to Mountain High Ski Resort in Victorville. The kiddoes would be taking just their second lesson ever (the first was an introductory group lesson at the smaller Mount Baldy in 2015); but first, to kill some time before the instructors arrived, I thought I’d relay some pre-lesson tips from my many years of snow skiing and head over to the bunny slope for a couple of test runs.

Instead of using the people mover (think “tow-rope” from back in the day!), my brilliant plan was to introduce them one at a time to the easier of a pair of chairlifts. I would take Athena up first, ski back down the short distance to get the boys and we’d all ski down like one happy foursome.

Except it didn’t quite happen that way.

Yep, I accidentally chose the more challenging “beginner” chair and it was all downhill (pun intended) from there. Long story short,  I ended up behind an accelerating Miss A yelling “Lay down, lay down!” before catching up to her and eventually side-stepping down together — about 45 minutes later — to the waiting and not-so-happy Troy and Xander. “Where WERE you?!” they screamed at me.

“Uh, trying to get Athena back down in one piece; sorry boys, we took the wrong chairlift!”

But as I already alluded to at the top of the story, this tale has a happy landing! Because when their actual lesson with an actual certified instructor was over, T, A & X were a sight to behold (especially Miss A what with having to overcome the horror of her maiden run!)  Now they really were ready to take multiple chairlifts up to that very run. And Troy and Xander even summoned the courage to explore a more advanced trail by day’s end.

With my poles in one hand and my iPhone in the other, I followed behind them to capture a video of their shared triumphs:

Food for Thought: Raising the Char

Venison tartare with smoked egg yolk and charred parsnips

The creation of Michelin star chef Josiah Citrin (who also owns the landmark Melisse in Santa Monica), Venice’s Charcoal is “centered around fire-based cuisine.” Citrin was inspired by the weekend BBQs that he throws in his own backyard for family and friends so he opened this neighborhood spot in December 2015  (everything is cooked indoors over live fire – with charcoal or in the coals).

Celebrating our big two-oh wedding anniversary on April 4, Irene and I felt like friends of the family from the moment our affable server outlined our ordering options. We chose to go small-plate style and share a few dishes (not unlike the recipe that has made our 20-year marriage a successful partnership: always try new things and share, share, share!)

Miso cod and hanger steak

The Night Cap

First out of the gate was a mouth-watering venison tartare with a smoked egg yolk topped with charred parsnips. This dish was served with perfectly grilled slices of sourdough bread to hold a spreadful. Wonderful.

Next up was a trio of umami: roasted brussels sprouts, a Certified Angus Beef hanger steak, and a miso cod. The house-made condiments – a smoked paprika mustard chimichurri, a red wine chipotle sauce, a J-1 steak sauce, and a Basque vinegar – were the perfect dipping choices, while the cod’s flaky meat was infused with just the right amount of smoke.

Smoky drinks of choice were a Fumee Old Fashioned (Buffalo Trace bourbon, bitters, smoke) for me and a Venice Mule (Rain vodka, ginger kombucha, smoke, lime) for Irene. Keeping the sharing theme going, we also sipped on an espresso cocktail for dessert called the Night Cap. Great food and drink to mark an even greater occasion.

Pic of the Week

Was able to sneak up on this cool little guy literally seconds before it flew off of the herb planter it was perched on in our front yard. Zoom in for a closer look at the finer details!

Scenes from NYC

Irene recently returned from New York City, where all the Valverde siblings
helped their sister Janet celebrate her 50th b-day. Here are some very cool shots
taken on Irene’s iPhone 7:

Looking down on the Oculus, the $4 billion train station at the Freedom Tower

The Freedom Tower

Night view from the birthday girl’s building.

The iconic Brooklyn Bridge

The Guggenheim Museum

In stark contrast to surrounding Tribeca-area buildings, a 60-story tower rises like a Jenga game.

Perfect day for shopping

View across the Hudson — Long Live Joisey!

Pic(s) of the Week: Zoo-tography

The famiglia took an overnight daycation to Santa Barbara over the holidays and hit the Santa Barbara Zoo; not-too-shabby iPhone shots if I do say so myself:




Happy Ah-Choo Year!

I almost choked on one of those oversized cold & flu capsules yesterday; the first one went down okay but the second horse pill got stuck in my throat and I had to dry-heave it out. I was standing over the sink so everyone thought I was retching from being under the weather the past few days. Now my throat is sore on top of an extremely irritating cough.

And in case anyone was wondering, the second pill was spotted on the dining room floor – SEVERAL feet from the sink where I was trying to expel it after apparently having bounced off a rubber Tupperware lid!

Yah, so that was fun, and for some unknown reason I’ve decided to share, perhaps the result of an idle mind lolling around the house with a cold on New Year’s Day. It’s one thing to be sick, but pair that with a day where practically everything is shut down and you get this post. While many people try to kick off their new years with lofty resolutions, my first one is to strongly consider going back to liquid cold remedies only. Maybe. We’ll see.

Then, after popping a cough drop, I randomly wondered if it will be possible to blog EVERY day in 2018, because I mean, here it is Jan. 1 and I’ve already cranked out the first one! I guess I could make it a resolution, but then there are definitely more pressing matters at hand – like getting rid of this annoying hack!

Happy New Year to all!

Rock Climbing for X-man’s 10th B-Day

Firsthand Fire Pics

Bro-in-law Mario V. was driving southbound on the 405 through the
Sepulveda Pass this morning at 5:30 a.m. and snapped these photos on his iPad.