Copyright 2013 Melissa Reyes http://mizmeliz.com
Blog Venture, Everything Miz Meliz

Are Museums Fun? 5 Hot Spots I Visited this Summer in Los Angeles

I did not go out of town for a summer vacation this year, but I did have the chance to visit some of L.A.’s hottest destinations!  Here are some highlights of my “staycation adventures” . . .  5 Summer Hot Spots in Los Angeles:

Click on the name of each attraction to go directly to their website.

number 1The Getty Center, Los Angeles

I went to the Getty Center earlier this year for a Social Media Event.  On that day, my husband and I vowed to return and explore the amazing venue at length. My family remembered this when it came to making plans for Mother’s Day. It was a perfect idea. (Yes, it was a scorching hot day on Mother’s Day in L.A., thus the summer had officially begun for us!)photo credit Melissa Reyes copyright 2013 http://mizmeliz.com

The Getty Center is a great place to spend the day with the family, take in some local culture and have a nice meal.  We decided to join the Architectural Design Tour and the Garden Tour on this trip.  It was a lot of walking, but it gave a full scope of the history of the building of the Getty Center and the design of the grounds and gardens.  The same docent lead both tours.  She was quite knowledgeable and personable.

After going on both tours, we still had plenty of time to eat lunch at the cafe and visit some of the exhibits. All of my kids enjoyed the outing. They are teenagers, so I wasn’t expecting too much from them, but I found myself out of steam before they were! I have one son who isn’t into museums and reading as much, but he went along to be a good sport and spend time with the family.  I thought he wasn’t getting much out of it and would look back at it as torture, but recently he was able to recall terms that the docent explained to us in the tour.  I was so impressed that he was paying attention and retained that information even after a few months.  We put our youngest child in charge of taking pictures and that kept him busy and interested.  Our oldest is about to go to college and is studying architectural engineering – so this techie, artsy, place known for its innovative architecture was certainly the perfect destination for him!

See the mosaic gallery of pictures from my day at the Getty Center at the bottom of this post. 

number 2Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

I found out through my Blog Venture buddy, Mary of Along Comes Mary, that admission to LACMA is free on holiday Mondays.  We wanted to go together on Memorial Day, but since that didn’t work out my husband and I made a date of it.  I visited LACMA a few years ago and saw the Tim Burton Exhibit.  That was something I will never forget.  I was so impressed with Tim Burton’s early childhood drawings and how those characters ended up coming to life in some of my favorite movies.  I have talked about the experience so many times that my husband was intrigued.  Besides going to the Getty Center, we haven’t been to many local museums together.  It is something we love to do in other cities while on vacation – why not enjoy some of the best museums in the world that happen to be in our own area!

It turned out to be the perfect date.  On a holiday Monday, there was very little traffic and for the price of parking, we enjoyed a few hours at the museum looking at the established and long-term exhibits.  Since contemporary and modern art is usually very high-tech and scientific, it was right up my husband’s alley.  I think his favorite part was the huge elevator, but he enjoyed most of the rooms.  While I enjoy sitting and looking at paintings and sculptures or people watching, my hubby likes to read all of the information posted about each artifact and view every documentary on the screens.  He can go for hours taking in all of this information systematically.  I like to soak it all in and look at the things that attract me.

We vowed to return to LACMA again because there was much more than we could see in a few hours.  However, personally I would not have enjoyed being there for too much longer.  I would rather return another day.  I would definitely benefit from becoming a member there!

number 3California Science Center

Since we had such a great time at the Getty Center on Mother’s Day and LACMA on Memorial Day, we thought we would try another outing with the kids on Father’s Day.  We decided on the California Science Center because my husband had been wanting to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor since it arrived in L.A.

This was an amazing experience!  The California Science Center has some wonderful exhibits and is free all the time.  It is home to the IMAX Theater and  the Space Shuttle Experience.  Both require tickets in advance which you can get online.  I enjoyed looking at the Space Shuttle and it was particularly meaningful to me since it was Father’s Day and it brought back fond memories of my dad.  He worked in the aerospace industry and was involved in early contracts for the Space Shuttle.  It was his pride and joy to have had a part in American history and he would have loved to have seen that exhibit.  I know he was proud of us for going there.

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I am not as in to seeing science exhibits as much as I am art and architecture, so I bottomed out rather quickly at this one.  My son, who was just ‘along for the ride,’ and I hung out together in the gift shop and at the cafe while the others fully immersed themselves in the experience.  When my youngest got bored, the three of us went outside and waited near the butterfly garden.  It was a beautiful day and if I had realized that there was a lovely park there, I might have brought a picnic, a blanket and a football for the boys.

There is so much to do in Exposition Park, you can definitely make a day of it.  Adjacent to the California Science Center is the Natural History Museum. . . we may be back for the next holiday!

number 4Griffith Observatory

For my sister-in-law’s birthday my brother planned a lovely afternoon at Griffith Observatory.  I am still not sure if he was riding our coat-tails on the idea of visiting our local attractions or if it was purely coincidence.  Nonetheless, I was excited by the notion of visiting another favorite L.A. destination.

We met at the Merry-go-round at Griffith Park and devoured the luscious pies that my brother had brought in his ice chest.  There are lots of picnic tables and large grassy areas by the tennis courts.  There is a little snack bar where the kids bought drinks and popcorn.  The majestic antique Merry-go-round is a Los Angeles treasure and tickets to ride it are only a few bucks. Parking is free at Griffith Park and it is just a little drive around the mountain from the Merry-go-Round to the parking area for the observatory.

photo credit Melissa Reyes copyright 2013 http://mizmeliz.com
The Majestic Merry-go-round at Griffith Park

The Griffith Observatory has been renovated since I was last there and I was impressed with the newest additions.  I was also relieved that the old favorites still remain and can be shared with future generations.  There is so much to see and do at the Griffith Observatory.  We explored the telescopes and the science and space exhibits.  Along the outside perimeter are plenty of photo spots to take pictures of the Hollywood sign, the Santa Monica mountains, panoramic views of the city and the observatory building itself.

Inside there are two theaters, the newest being the Leonard Nimoy theater and the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Admission to the observatory is free, but tickets for the planetarium shows are $3-$7 and must be purchased at the ticket counter at the observatory.  We saw a show at each of the theaters during our visit.  The free show that we saw at the Nimoy theater was fun (funny) and informative.

number 5The Getty Villa, Malibu

For my birthday I decided to take the family to the Getty Villa in Malibu.  Well, I suppose they took me – since it was my birthday! I was there once as a child and I only remember a few details.  The thing that impressed me the most was the feeling of being worlds away, as if I were transported through time and space to a special point in history.  The Getty Villa was closed for a long time and since they built the Getty Center, I did not know what happened to it.  It has been renovated and is simply breathtaking!  I still got that feeling that I was transported to a special place and it was even better than I remembered it!

The villa itself is a beautiful specimen of architecture and design.  It houses an enormous collection of antiquities, sculptures and artifacts from Ancient Greece and Rome.  Anyone interested in history, mythology, art, design, archaeology or anthropology will love this museum and educational center.

There is a special procedure to follow in order to gain entry to this iconic California landmark and I observed it being strictly followed.  Admission is free to the museum but reservations must be made in advance to park there.  The fee for parking is $15 per car and each person in the car must have a printed “timed entry” ticket.  The nice thing about this procedure is the ease in finding a parking space upon arrival.  Even though we went on a busy summer weekend afternoon, I did not have the feeling that is was crowded.

We explored all the exhibits and wandered the villa and the grounds in a few hours.  It was fun and beautiful.  There are lots (way more than I expected) and lots of nude statues, so be prepared if you have children with you or that makes you uncomfortable.

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Plan to have extra time if you like to take pictures, there are so many things to photograph including many of the artifacts.  I took pictures of everything, even the tiled flooring.  It was different in every room and I loved taking shots of it.  Can you imagine?  Centuries old art all around me and I am taking photos of the floor!  It was fun! I did get in trouble for trying to get a shot of the visiting exhibit from Sicily – that apparently is a big no-no.  But they allow you to photograph practically everything else.

The kids are a little burned out on the “museum” thing.  But my husband and I have found it to be the perfect date for us.  We plan on going to the Reagan Library next!

So, what do you think? Are museums fun?  Have you been to any of these places while visiting Los Angeles?  Which is your favorite? Do you have any suggestions for other adventures in the area?  

Disclosure:  I love sharing my experiences and happily opted to post this piece for fun.  I do not represent any of the venues nor was I asked to write about them.

Number photo credit:  Image credit: wikki / 123RF Stock Photo

 

 

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Blog Venture, Everything Miz Meliz, Foodie Reviews

5 Stops on a Culinary Road Trip

One of the best things about taking a vacation is going to new restaurants and checking out the local fare. On our recent road trip to the Southwest, I enjoyed some of my all time favorite foods. If you are a foodie and like to read about food adventures, grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax as I take you on a Culinary Adventure Road Trip!Road Trip Food

1. Green River, Utah

Chow Hound

I wanted to go to a family style diner, somewhere I could relax and stretch out a bit after a very long drive, and a nice server would wait on me. When we pulled off the highway and arrived at the halfway point between Las Vegas, Nevada and Boulder, Colorado we were literally in the middle of nowhere. Green River is a small town in Utah and for some reason it seemed very desolate. I had looked up restaurants in the area online ahead of time and there seemed to be quite a few. It’s the only populated area around and I expected there to be restaurants dotted along the main road. Not so much. Maybe we got off an exit too soon, or too late but we certainly didn’t see any signs of life around.

It was mid day and even though we had an early breakfast and snacks on the road, we had built up an appetite. As we drove down the main street looking for signs of life that hopefully lead us to a full service restaurant, one of the boys spotted a burger joint. A box style, family run, three table, stick in the mud. It was awesome! We had Green Chile Cheese Burgers and Fried Tater Tots. It was the first time we saw green chile burgers on a menu on this trip and the boys and I had been looking forward to having one. I don’t think they used New Mexico Green Chiles, but they were big, juicy and had the tasty tang and spicy heat that we were hoping for. After lunch, the chocolate soft serve ice cream hit the spot! We were ready to take on the long road ahead of us once again.

Chow Hound 3-28-13

Chow Hound Tables

ice cream

When we finally arrived at our destination  after a grueling day of driving which included an incredible excursion over the Rocky Mountains, we didn’t care where we ate – we just wanted food. The boys went to Denny’s and brought me back a pancake sandwich that I devoured in my hotel room. In the morning, we had just enough time to grab coffee and a continental breakfast provided by the hotel. It was pretty good. We stayed at the Best Western Kiva Inn near Fort Collins, Colorado. It was one of the nicest Best Westerns I had ever stayed at. If you are in the area, I highly recommend it.

2. Fort Collins, CO

Lark Burger

For lunch that day we had specific instructions from a friend to try Lark Burger. We were told they had awesome burgers. For some reason, I didn’t expect to find a high-end gourmet eatery in Fort Collins. I was pleasantly surprised by the selection and the quality of the food I tried. It was totally yummy and the prices were good for what you got. It turns out that Lark Burger is a chain, so if you have a chance to try it let me know. I had a Larkburger with Swiss Cheese and Truffle & Parmesan Fries. I loved every bite!

From Fort Collins, we drove to Boulder, Colorado. The first thing we did after checking in at the hotel was go on a factory tour of Celestial Seasonings. Even though we planned on being in town all weekend, it was a holiday so this was our only chance. The kids weren’t too interested and we had just experienced quite a bit of “togetherness” over the last 48 hours, so my hubby and I decided to go it alone. We had a blast! We have both always loved Celestial Seasonings teas. On the way there we reminisced of the past thirty or so years that we have enjoyed the herbal tea, the encouraging words on the packages, the unique artwork and our favorite, the Sleepy Time Bear. Besides the fact that we have both loved the product since childhood, we both love taking factory tours.

3. Boulder, Co

Celestial Seasonings

I am sorry to say that we did not get to eat at the Celestial Cafe because it closed early for the holiday. But we did enjoy the Tea Room very much and it deserves a stop on the Culinary Adventures Road Trip! When we arrived we were given our “pass” to the factory tour (it was a small package of blueberry herbal tea) and to unlimited hot and cold herbal tea tasting. There is a snack bar and a gift shop where you can buy anything and everything tea related and Celestial Seasonings trademarked. The tour itself was quite impressive. Our favorite was the Mint Room where all the mint is stored exclusively from the rest of the herbs and teas. Everything smelled remarkable and refreshing! We learned a lot about tea and herbs from around the world.

Turley’s

That night, we met my cousin for dinner. She has lived in Boulder for a number of years and qualifies as a local. We discussed in advance where we should eat and since it is a local favorite, this fit the bill. Turley’s serves buffalo meat as part of their very extensive organic and “clean” menu, which was something the boys wanted to try. I had a hard time deciding what to have since I was still full from the burgers over the past few days and all the tea I drank! I ended up having the Chicken Pot Pie. It was a little dry with a pizza dough kind of crust rather than a flaky pie crust. It was pretty good. I never saw the food on the boy’s plates. It vanished before I could take a picture. It must have been good!

I enjoyed a wonderful, fresh and hearty meal at Turley's in Boulder Co.
I enjoyed a wonderful, fresh and hearty meal at Turley’s in Boulder Co.
Turley's provided an elegant atmosphere, excellent service, and great food.  A perfect place to visit with family!
Turley’s provided an elegant atmosphere, excellent service, and great food. A perfect place to visit with family!

4. Broomfield, CO

Flatz Restaurant

Easter Brunch at the Renaissance Boulder Flatiron Hotel was to die for! It was very pricey, but you would expect that at a fine restaurant located in a four star hotel on a holiday weekend. The buffet menu was extensive combining unique chef prepared dishes with hometown favorites and brunch classics. Everything was displayed beautifully, the service was exceptional and the meal was a dream. Especially the bottomless mimosas!

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Boulder Cafe

It was very difficult to pick a restaurant in the Pearl Street area. There were plenty of choices and everything looked amazing. The boys are clued into finding the local fare and skipping the chain restaurants and things we normally eat. So, it was hard to resist an eatery called the Boulder Cafe. It is right in the center of Pearl Street Mall. It has inside and patio dining. The place felt authentically local, with a cafe menu, oyster bar, fondues and “Rocky Mountain” cuisine. It looked like a great place to take a date and there was a young clientele. I assumed everyone there to be college students. At this point, still stuffed from the reckless vacation eating I had been doing, I had an Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap appetizer for my meal. It was such a bountiful helping, I shared it with the boys. They also chose light meals that ended up not being quite enough to fill them. They finished every last bite of my dinner! The best part was just hanging out with my boys. We walked the length of the mall and shopped a little. I got them to go in LUSH with me and they got me to go in Rocket Fizz with them.

A cool brew at the Boulder Cafe
A cool brew at the Boulder Cafe
The boys toast with their sodas from Rocket Fizz on a cool Spring night in Boulder, CO
The boys toast with their sodas from Rocket Fizz on a cool Spring night in Boulder, CO

In the morning, we rushed to check out of the hotel and get to the college tour at the University of Colorado. We had no time for breakfast, so it was “hotel room” coffee, tea, granola bars and juice on the way. Then we grabbed a bite to eat at the cafeteria at the college before we got back on the road for our next, and final stop on our road trip. Boy, were we famished when we were driving along the dry, dusty road to New Mexico! As we approached each little town, my husband would ask, “Do you want me to stop to find a place to eat here?” We were all thinking the same thing. If we stopped now, we won’t be able to eat when we go through Santa Fe. We would drive the entire distance just to eat real New Mexico chile! So, we held out until 9 PM.

5. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen

As we rolled into one of my favorite all time places to visit, we started naming restaurants we knew in Santa Fe. We did a Yelp search based on our location and we selected the closest “New Mexican” restaurant we could find. As we walked in to Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, it seemed vaguely familiar. I may have been there before. I wasn’t sure. I know for sure I felt at home. It may have been the smell of tortillas and sopapillas cooking, the smiles on the faces of the servers, the families eating a late Monday night dinner, and the old adobe that appealed to me. It was familiar. It was wholesome cooking, the food that my family makes. We took a quick look at the menu and we all looked at each other, who would ask first? “Red or green?” We all have our favorites and we like both! One of the boys ordered exactly that – both, referred to as “Christmas.” Red and green sauces made with New Mexico chiles.

Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen served it up fast, large portions of all of our favorites, complete with sopapillas and honey. I had my favorite, Stacked Enchiladas with Chile Adovada and Red Chile with a side of sour cream to cut the heat. The heat of New Mexico chile always gets me at first. Luckily, I had the chance to eat it quite a bit during our visit over the next few days and I was able to adjust! It was an amazing meal. It had been far too long!

Everything is a blur after that! We spent a few days with family and ate wonderful food while we enjoyed being together. The boys managed to get out to their favorite local restaurants in New Mexico like Twisters Burritos and Dion’s Pizza. On our way home we stopped at a Cracker Barrell in Flagstaff, Arizona. I don’t have any more food pictures to share from the trip. It turned out to be a fun Culinary Adventure Side Trip that I hope you enjoyed.

Have you been to any of the restaurants listed here? Do you have any suggestions on where to eat in New Mexico, Colorado, or Utah? Let me know! I would love to hear about your foodie adventures!

So, I didn’t mean to leave you hanging!  If you are following the entire Six States in Seven Days Road Trip Saga, I left off describing the exciting adventure just as we made it over the Rocky Mountains.  Stay tuned for more fun!  I would love to share with you what I did to make this trip fun for myself and how our family survived driving the rest of the 1000 miles or so through Boulder, Colorado and Albuquerque, New Mexico and back to our home sweet home in Southern California.

Blog Venture, Everything Miz Meliz

Our Wild Rocky Mountain Drive

Continued from . . . What Happens When a Determined Mom is in a “Road Trip State of Mind” . . .

Soon, I was in a State of Excitement and Anticipation

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Do you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you get when you hear the click of the seat belt as you are getting seated on a roller coaster ride?  You know, when you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Will it be fun? Will it make me sick? Will it be worth it? Will it be. . . . oh . . . here we goooooo! And it starts. It is exciting.  Every breathtaking turn and each heart stopping plummet makes you smile from ear to ear.  Your screams are screams of delight! And when it is over, you wonder if you will have time to take the ride again.  You realize it was just a few minutes of joy.  And now, it’s over.  What’s next?  Well – this was nothing like that!

It started slowly, after hours and hours of driving through dirt dry desert terrain and long twisty mountain roads with nothing to see but a giant blue dome overhead and the far off promise of a horizon in the distance.  I kept thinking that in the near future we will get to our destination.  We will be sleeping in Fort Collins, Colorado tonight and in the morning we will be touring the campus that my oldest son might be calling home before long.  This might just be the first time I drive this road.  It might be the first of many times.  I was thinking about that when we started to drive up a long steady incline, through the foothills of a large mountain range stretched out before us.  It was like the long tall ascent of a big rollercoaster and the car felt like it was being pulled by cables, slow and steady, and I couldn’t see what was at the top.  My excitement was building.  I felt somewhat breathless.  That was probably my body adjusting to the altitude.  I took some slow steady breaths.  I drank some water.  I looked over the railing to the land below, and I saw a vineyard.  It seemed so out-of-place.  The only thing that looked alive and colorful was the sign for the vineyard, and the buildings, and billboards around the area.  Everything else was dry with just the hint that it had all survived the winter months and may be dormant just before Spring bursts through the vines.  I took note of the place, Grande River Vineyards, and considered it might be thriving the next time I come through here, perhaps in the Fall.  It might be worth a stop if we had time.  I closed my eyes for a while.  I repeated my mantra to myself, “I will be sleeping in Fort Collins tonight and I will wake to a new day!”

At this point my husband was driving.  He had taken over at the last gas station where we had stopped to fuel up and stretch.  I planned to drive longer, but he offered and I didn’t refuse.  I figured I could rest and then take over again in a few hours.  The next four hours of driving proved to be another testament of my husband’s stoic character.  Over the years he has been my rock.  He has the ability to stay calm and persevere through the most difficult times.  I have seen him run into a  burning building to fetch beloved items for my elderly aunt and give mouth to mouth and revive our newborn son – there is no doubt that he is an angel and a hero!  He has to be patient, calm and understanding with me!  I get nervous and I worry a lot. I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks in the past.  I have had bouts of vertigo.  I love driving curvy roads that I am familiar with, but I get nervous and sometimes dizzy when driving through canyons where there are steep cliffs or long tunnels.  But I have learned to trust him and his abilities and boy was I glad he was driving at this point in time!

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We are Southern California city drivers.  We are used to rush hour traffic and freeways.  I shared my husband’s concerns of the hazards of driving in a snow storm with no chains, battling poor visibility, and dealing with the dreaded black ice.  This is the reason I pushed the kids to leave early that morning.  I wanted to get through this mountain range before nightfall.  I wanted to get to Fort Collins in time for dinner and a jacuzzi.  But it was about 6 PM and all I could see was mountains ahead and it was getting cold, cloudy and dark.

Driving Through the Rocky Mountains Was a Wild Ride through the State of Fear

We travelled from Henderson, Nevada through Arizona, Utah, and Colorado that day.  A total of 819 miles.  The estimated driving time was exactly 12 hours.  When we stopped for lunch in Green River, Utah, it was sometime around 1 PM.  We had 400 miles to go driving along Interstate 70 through the majestic Rocky Mountains.  We had already marveled at the breathtaking and gorgeous mountains and rock formations that we saw as we drove by Arches National Park and the Colorado National Monument areas. None of it was quite as exhilarating and exciting as driving along side the Colorado River through Aspen and Vail.  The curving roads around mountain peaks, the steady ascent into higher and higher elevations, the river rushing past us, the quaint snow villages with their elegant homes and lush chalet style cabins, all of it was straight out of the Travel Channel!

Throughout the entire trip, my very techie family referred to Siri on their iPhones whenever my husband would ask a question.  Where is the nearest burger joint?  Where is the nearest gas station?  “I wonder how cold it is outside?” My hubby would tease.  Even though he could see that number get lower and lower on the dashboard thermometer, one of the boys would ask, “Siri, what is the temperature outside right now?”  “It’s 38 degrees right now.”  Siri would answer. We knew the forecast in Vail was snow.  The weather was at the freezing point, there were dark clouds over head, and we were going up steep mountain roads.  It began snowing as soon as we reached the summit of the mountain in Vail.

At first they were just pretty flurries of snow flakes hitting the windshield.  We still had a light glow from the sky behind us and the mountainside looked so pretty with the tall fir trees lining the slopes covered with fresh snow.  Ahead it was dark and looming.  There seemed to be fewer cars on the road and at some points we were all alone.  As the snow started to fall all around us, I was surprisingly calm.  A part of me (I will admit, a huge part of me!) was all, “Yeah! I knew it would snow, take that Hertz! My husband knew what he was doing when he reserved this vehicle.” We were prepared for this moment.  Did we know what we were doing exactly?  Heck no!  But we had our safe roadworthy brand new Chevy Traverse All Wheel Drive and we were damned well going to need it for the next several miles. The rest of me was holding on for dear life and praying the Rosary in my head as my husband tried not to show any sign of fear lest he freak me out.  The next hour of my life was spent singing the soundtrack of Les Miserables with my sons in the back seats watching the original Superman on the DVD player with headphones on while I thought positive loving calm beautiful thoughts of kittens and puppies.

We followed another SUV with a Colorado license plate rather closely due to the very poor visibility.  I figured they must be experienced driving through this area.  My husband knows everything about cars and how to drive them and he is very skilled with using the proper gears and shifting at the right time . . . etcetera, so on and so forth.  He knew what he was doing.  But I felt his stress and concern.  It wasn’t terribly dangerous or frightening and we were very lucky that the snow although it was sticking to the ground, was not wet or icy.  We did not see any accidents or stalled vehicles.  It was just slow going through heavy snow over the highest point of the mountain and then a very long slow descent down down down on a curvy road until we made it to the bottom.  It felt like skiing down a black diamond run that you ended up on by accident when you are first learning to ski or snowboard.  There is only one way down.  We took our time and made it.  We were incredibly encouraging to each other through it all.  The boys were quietly enjoying their movie even though I interrupted them often with, “Did you see that? Look over there!”

Always the Adventuress, I loved every moment of this trip.  My teen-aged sons rolled their eyes.  To them, it was like you’ve seen one mountain, you’ve seen them all.  Overall it was impressive to them and they enjoyed it.  But I was taking it all in like I would enjoy a bouquet of flowers admiring each flower for its individual beauty and scent.  I loved that gorgeous drive and I hope to go back again, someday!

I will post even more about the trip, the college visits, the food, and what happened next in the coming days when we arrive in New Mexico. 

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Blog Venture, Everything Miz Meliz

Do you Instagram? Follow Miz Meliz @mizmelissa and See Beautiful Vacation Pictures!

I love Instagram!  I feel really connected with people when I know they are following my adventures.  With Instagram I can post a picture, improve the way it looks by adding a filter and a frame, write a caption, include a hashtag, share it instantly on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr, and even check in via Foursquare.

New Mexico
New Mexico

On my recent Spring Break Vacation, I asked my friends to follow me on Instagram @mizmelissa for daily updates.  I went on a road trip with my family and we made lots of stops.  We drove over 2500 miles in one week.  We drove through beautiful terrain and I saw some of the most exquisite views of the sky that I have ever seen.  All the pictures I took were with my iPhone and mostly through the window of the passenger seat! I think my pics came out pretty good and I enjoyed sharing them!

I called my trip Six States in Seven Days and I will chronicle my travels in my next few posts.  The trip was amazing for many reasons.  It was a great break from routine and get away with my family.  I planned meet ups with family and friends that I haven’t seen in years.  The main objective and reason for the trip was to visit the universities that my son had been accepted to and help him make a decision on where to attend in the Fall.  It was probably the last family road trip vacation I take with my three sons.  This vacation was also a great way to test my social media skills and have an adventure!

If you want to see the 25 pictures that I posted on Instagram during my trip either click  HERE and see them on my Instagram page, or you can search for the hashtag #mizmeliz. If you like what you see, I hope you follow me to see more fun and gorgeous photos. Let me know your Instagram name so I can follow you!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Blog Venture, Everything Miz Meliz

My Oscar Experience Part Two @MendPoverty #MENDOSCARS #Mizoscars

I had a wonderful time last night with my hubby at the MEND Gala Event, The Oscar Experience Los Angeles!  Thanks to our hosts at Kaiser, Jennifer and Jonathan Lopez, we had an outstanding experience.  It was just like being at the Oscars!  It felt like we were part of the excitement and energy of the Oscars, at least.  MEND raised over $250,000 for their charitable organization that helps people who are suffering from poverty in the Los Angeles area.  Please see their website to donate and find volunteer opportunities.  Who knows?  Maybe you will find yourself on the red carpet next year!

http://mendpoverty.org/
Blog Venture, Everything Miz Meliz

My Oscar Experience: Part One @MendPoverty #MENDOSCARS #MizOscars

My Oscar experience 2013 began when I saw The Sessions and I considered it to be “Oscar-worthy”.  When I see movies I always try to predict the nominees for the Academy Awards.  Once the nominees are announced, I try to see as many of the films as possible.  This year, I think I out-did myself!

I enjoyed seeing quite a few of the Oscar nominated films including:
The Silver Linings Playbook
The Master
The Sessions
Frankenweenie
Brave
Skyfall
Snow White and the Huntsman
The Avengers
The Hobbit
Paperman
Lincoln
Life of Pi
Django Unchained
Zero Dark Thirty
Argo
Les Miserables

Here are a few I missed but would still like to see:
Flight
Amour
The Impossible
Beasts of the Southern Wind
ParaNorman
Anna Karenina
Mirror Mirror

Tonight I have the privilege of attending MEND’s Oscar® Experience Los Angeles.  MEND is a charitable organization.  With dignity and respect, powered by volunteers, MEND’s mission is to break the bonds of poverty by providing basic human needs and a pathway to self-reliance.  Meet Each Need with Dignity, MEND, is an organization that my family has supported over the years by donating and volunteering.  This is the first time I am able to attend their annual gala event.

Oscar® Experience is the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts and Sciences’ program that enables local charities to host glamorous Oscar® viewing parties and raise money for their organizations. Only one charity in any given media market may participate in Oscar® Experience. MEND is honored that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has designated MEND as the only official Oscar® Experience charity in the Los Angeles area.

The whole thing takes place at Universal Studios, here is the “invitation”:

MEND invites you to join us for our third annual

OSCAR® EXPERIENCE LOS ANGELES CELEBRATING THE 85TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS

Universal Studios HollywoodSM – the Globe Theatre Sunday, February 24, 2013

4:00 pm: Red Carpet Arrivals 5:30 pm: Program Begins 6:00 pm: Gourmet Dinner by Wolgang Puck Catering Begins

Evening includes celebrity guests, silent auction, casting your own awards ballots, and an Oscar® trivia contest.

Attire: Red-carpet appropriate

http://youtu.be/P4TB9MQMpeI

So, now I have to decide on what to wear and do a little more fact finding to participate in the trivia contest and make my final decisions so I can cast my ballot! I am so excited!  I will be Tweeting and posting on Instagram so you can follow along in the Social-Media-Sphere and join in the fun!

#MENDOSCARS @MENDPoverty @mizmeliz #mizoscars

Hopefully, I can help raise awareness for this special organization that does so much for the people of Los Angeles. If you want to volunteer or just find out more, click here VOLUNTEER NOW.

MEND – Meet Each Need with Dignity
(818) 897-2443
10641 N. San Fernando Road
Pacoima, CA 91331

Blog Venture, Everything Miz Meliz

Surrender to Your Inner “Cowboy” #BlogVenture

San Francisco, Here I Come!

“Adventure is out there, it’s heading our way So grab your scarf and goggles, let’s fly! I’ve mapped out our journey, we’re up here to stay. A sunset is our home. A moonbeam we will own. My Spirit of Adventure is you!”~Michael Giacchino

I was excited about my road trip to San Francisco for lots of reasons. I have had ‘Visit SF’ on my bucket list for a long time. I thought it would be with my hubby or even a trip with our kids – but I was thrilled to be going on a road trip with fellow blogger, Mary Lansing of Along Comes Mary!

The reason for this trip was a quest to meet and interview another blogger, Evan Sanders of The Better Man Project. He had just launched his book by the same title and invited many of his followers to a launch party in Palo Alto, CA over the weekend. It happened to be a free weekend for me and I thought I could take my son up and look at colleges along the way. As I began planning the little trip, I crowd-sourced the idea on my So Cal Lady Bloggers Facebook Group to see if anyone knew of a B&B or hotel that was blogger friendly, thinking I might get a good deal. I also contacted a relative that recently moved to a suburb of San Francisco and has offered me the use of her guest room. As I casted out my net, I snagged a few interested blogger buddies and a road trip/meet up was born!Blog Venture

The Spirit of Adventure

The spirit of adventure takes over in me when I think about travelling. I love exploring and letting vacations unfold. I like to have a light structure and be open to all the possibilities. I love meeting up with and visiting with friends and family along the way. When Mary and I set out, we talked and talked the whole way. We really got to know each other. One thing we have in common is that we take after our fathers. Our dads have always had the type of personality with which they made friends with everyone easily and always ran into people they knew everywhere they went. It was uncanny to my family that this happened to my dad on so many occasions. The same is true of Mary’s dad. It doesn’t seem like a big deal now when we are able to keep in touch with distant relatives and old friends on Facebook and with email, but long before that became an option – our dad’s had that friendly comaraderie with people all over the world. They left lasting impressions and their friendly and easy-going demeanor was always approachable. We both want to continue the tradition. We enjoy making friends along the way on our journey through life. Having the spirit of adventure and openness to possibilities running through our veins is one thing that made our spontaneous trip to San Francisco so much fun! This got me thinking. . . one of my core beliefs is based on being open to the possibilities that can be life changing—and believing that these possibilities may bring a greater sense of joy and fulfillment to my life.

So Cal in the Rear View

Cowboy-up

In Evan Sanders’ book, The Better Man Project, he mentions how he thinks he should have been born in the “cowboy era” when things were much simpler. He says, back then you could . . . “Jump on your horse and go. Didn’t matter where, you could just go for miles. If you needed to get away, there was always a new frontier waiting to be discovered. But most importantly, you could be at peace.”

“The cowboy symbolizes the free life, closely tied to the out-of-doors and nature. The impact of land, the grass, the rivers and streams and gushing springs, the color of the sky and the clouds, the climate and the weather, these things are characteristic of the real and the mythical cowboy cultures.” ~David Dary, Cowboy Culture

I had this “cowboy” feeling going on around the time that I heard about Evan’s party in Palo Alto. I felt the urge to go on an adventure and I wanted to get away. I felt a need to let go a little. Too much routine was getting to me. I actually went to Google maps and entered Palo Alto, CA. Where was it? How far a drive was it? What was it near? I checked my bank balance. Could I swing it? I had just told my hubby that we shouldn’t spend too much on Valentine’s Day and I knew a hotel or airfare was out of the question. But sharing the cost of gas and only having my own expenses to worry about was doable. The call of the road was beckoning me!Rainbow

Sometimes when I get this feeling, I will take a long drive by myself. I like to take the top down on the Jeep and drive up the coast. I will find a place to park and go for walks on the beach. Have a picnic. Shop. Explore. Alone. I like to get some solace now and then. Be introspective. Recharge. Listen to my heart. Let go. Surrender to the wind.

Bonding and Forming Lasting Relationships

This time, I felt like connecting with others and forging new relationships. I really felt a call to venture out to connect and reconnect with friends. I had the urge to spend a weekend networking and expanding my community. I was in the mood for “girl-time” and boy did I get it! I lost my voice from talking for three days straight and I enjoyed every minute!

I wanted to surrender and get away from the every day. I wanted to make the most of my time and have fun, too. I made my mission for the trip to use the time getting to know people and letting them get to know me. I opened myself up a bit. I actually enjoyed being me and I made the most of it. This was a chance for me to be the “pure me” – not the mom, or the wife, or the planner, or even the blogger. Just me and my rental car, my iPhone and my debit card! It was a blast!

I want to thank my husband and sons for being so very supportive of my ideas and my spirit of adventure. I know they all like to travel and would have loved to take a trip to San Francisco. They were very understanding of my reasons for my need to get away without them. We are a very close family but we respect the need to do things on our own at times. That goes for the mother, too! I am blessed!

Have a Hap-pea Day

It was a big risk! I went on this trip with someone I had only met a few times and barely knew. Since she is a blogger, I checked her out by looking at her online presence. I knew very little about Mary and she knew very little about me. There turned out to be a big age difference, but when we tried to guess each other’s age, the gap seemed much closer. This was a good thing. We found that we have much in common and we got along famously. We connected on many levels, but the most important factors we found to have in common is our love for blogging, our love of travel, and our love of 80’s music! By the time we arrived in San Francisco, we had eaten lunch at Pea Soup Anderson’s in Buelton, gone wine tasting in Solvang, searched for garlic ice cream in Gilroy, and become great friends!

Miz Meliz in BeulltonWine Tastes

The San Francisco Treat

We stayed at a wonderful new Bed & Breakfast in South San Francisco. Just kidding! We stayed with a family friend of mine (my husband’s cousin) and her husband and their two young sons. Their hospitality matched that of the best B&B’s around and we were particularly impressed with the wait staff. The cute little boys not only carried our bags, provided turn down service, brought us coffee and snacks, but also snuggled in bed with us! It was a heart-warming experience. There was a lot of trust, a – lot – of – trust with bringing a stranger along with me to stay in the home of a family friend!! That was the biggest risk of all. I thank my lucky stars that it turned out as great as it did! (I did have a back-up plan. It would have been costly, but if Mary and I didn’t “click” I planned on checking in to a hotel.) But, luckily, she fit right in and has become an extended member of the family. Our gracious hosts made their guest rooms comfortable and our stay was an A+ experience thanks to them!Our Hosts

Over the weekend Mary and I spent a significant amount of time connecting with friends, making new friends and interviewing bloggers. We also did some sightseeing. We went to breakfast at the Squat & Gobble in the Castro District and the food was amazing! We spent the afternoon taking pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and driving around the city. We went to the Walt Disney Family Museum at the famous Presidio and we saw the Snow White Exhibit. Our friendship grew during this day as we shared these experiences together. Mary and I took lots of pictures and we were fortunate to be in one of the most famous cities in the world on a gorgeous sunny winter day. A few times along the way Mary asked me, “What do you want to do right now?” Which I kindly responded, “I’m doing it!” Truthfully, it didn’t matter exactly where we went to eat or what site we saw next – I was on a trip having a great time, making a friend and being one. That is all I wanted to do and I was so happy I got to do it!

Golden Gate Sightseeing Snow White and the Seven Oscars The Presidio

Palo Alto Party

Our host, Maryann, joined us as we headed to Palo Alto that evening to meet with two other blogger friends for dinner. Five ladies in a small booth at the well known old-time diner, the Peninsula Creamery was quite a sight to be seen! After dinner, we walked over to the Coupa Cafe for coffee. We talked and enjoyed getting to know each other even better over coffee. It was here that we experienced the “girl power” of a weekend get away! Blogger, Susan Cooper of Finding Our Way Now came to town on her own ‘girl’s weekend” with her long-time friend, Deborah. The two drove from Sacramento to attend the launch party.

Mocha from Coupa Cafe The Five Ladies The So Cal Lady Bloggers

Susan says that she is an adventurous soul. I was glad to get the opportunity to spend time with her. She brought her camera and tripod. She took lots of pictures and was quite interested in meeting Evan and joining in the fun. She made the trip seem like no big deal. It felt like it was what we should be doing. Both Mary and I have felt a connection with Susan via our blogs. It was nice to spend time together. We didn’t have to do much discovery about each other. We just “fell in line” in a conversation that seems to be forever ongoing!

“I find great excitement when taking a new path in a new direction, often offering new lessons to learn and share. I have learned that life’s lessons are just that… lessons that we must learn from, appreciate and share and most of all, remember to have fun along the way.” ~Susan Cooper

After coffee, we went across the street to the bar where Evan’s big party was taking place. We were on a quest to meet the writer and get an interview about how he went from blogger to published author. It was fun being at a party for someone having never met the guest of honor (except for via social media!) It was a fantastic party and a great venue. There was a big turnout for Evan’s celebration and we met some of his biggest fans, followers and even his family. Evan gave us a lot of attention and honored us for coming so far to meet him. The next morning, he gave Mary and I even more time to ask questions when he met us for breakfast to complete the interview. See my post Meet Evan Sanders.

Big Margarita Deborah Entranced Inspired Ivy Mary Listening Evan Sanders and Melissa Reyes

The Last Day

Sunday morning was spent hanging out in the kitchen of our host family and making plans for the day. It was a bitter-sweet farewell as we were just getting comfortable with our new found friendship with Maryann and Alec and their wonderful sons and we really liked being in San Francisco. I wished we didn’t have to leave so soon. One or two more days would have been terrific!

From the breakfast interview with Evan, we went on a side trip to Silicon Valley to meet with another blogger buddy. Our dear friend, Maribel of Stroller Adventures would have loved to attend all the activities in Palo Alto and San Francisco but she couldn’t coordinate it with her two small children in tow. I suggested that Mary and I meet her some place where the kids could have some fun while we have a chance to hang out together. The important part was to make a connection and spend time together. All the blogging and social media connections that we do could never measure up to a face to face meeting. Warm hugs, smiles and face time! Now Maribel’s kids call me “Auntie Melissa!” That is golden to me! It was worth the effort and all it cost was some time.

The InterviewOutside Peninsula CreameryMelis Maribel Mary

On the drive back to Los Angeles, Mary and I had ideas to stop at more places and have even more adventures! We would have loved to take a pit stop at the campy restrooms at The Madonna Inn that we have heard about or go wine tasting at the beautiful winery at Bella Luna in Paso Robles. We talked about sharing a sunset in Ventura with my good friend, Joy of Facets of Joy. We talked about other friends of ours that live in the Bay Area and how we could definitely take another trip together some day to visit them. We did stop for dinner at Woodstock Pizza in San Luis Obispo. It was the last leg of the trip. Mary had heard they had great gluten free pizza and they did! By this time I was tired and starting to show my age. (No, I can’t keep up with Mary!) Luckily she had the energy to drive the rest of the way home. I was sad that our little adventure was coming to an end. But somehow, it seemed like a beginning. Yes, it’s a new beginning! We will have more adventures together. We will call them our. . . Blog Ventures!

Woodstock Pizza

Surrendering

You don’t have to take a road trip to enjoy the feeling of getting away. You can make changes in your life by accepting it the way it is. Surrendering does not mean giving up… it is about acceptance. When you accept your life the way it is, you can free yourself.

“When you feel like you’re fighting your life instead of living it … clinging to the past … afraid of the future … not feeling what is in your heart … to put it simply, you feel stuck. When you can’t steer your life where you want it to go, don’t give up — learn to surrender.” ~Gary Zukav

Gary Zukav believes that surrendering is one of the most difficult things that you can accomplish in your lifetime. Surrendering is about accepting your life just as it is, without any resistance. When you resist your life, you resist what you can learn from it, and what you can gain from it. Open yourself to new experiences, open yourself to loving yourself in all experiences. Just the way you are.

Don’t Give Up

Surrendering is not what most people think. It doesn’t mean giving up — it means acceptance. When you accept your emotions and experiences, you begin to create a more powerful life for yourself. Surrendering doesn’t mean letting go of your responsibility. You must do your part — only you have the power to change the direction of your life.

Evan Sanders believes in never quitting. Evan says in his book, that standing for never quitting is a very measurable aspect of his life. He knows when he is quitting something. Not following through on commitments. Giving up. Giving in. He says he wants perseverance to be at the heart of his character. Love. Passion. Never quit.

I am so glad I took the time to get away on this Blog Venture! It was time to refresh, renew, surrender and open myself up to new things while accepting myself and what I am capable of doing. I hope it inspires you to be spontaneous and to enjoy the things that make you tick.

 

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/When-Life-Seems-Unfair/4#ixzz2DXxIX79l

The best things about you are there all the time!