Weekend Frolic

Weekend Frolic: Tiki Drink Master Class at Greenbar Distillery

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We've been having some very low key weekends lately, and I have to say, I'm not complaining one bit! The weather has been quite warm (understatement) and we've been enjoying afternoon cocktails in the yard. 

My husband has a certain obsession with all things tiki, and we are always on the lookout for new tiki bars and events (we're even thinking of a little day trip to San Diego very soon for Tiki Oasis!) So, when I was scrolling through Facebook late last week and happened upon a post from Greenbar Distillery announcing they still had spots for their Tiki Cocktail Master Class, I jumped.

We've been to several events at Greenbar - tours, tastings, classes - so we knew it would be a fun event and we would finally learn to make a proper Tiki cocktail. The thing I love so much about Greenbar is that they do a great job of breaking down a cocktail into sections and explaining why you need a certain ratio of sweet, sour, alcohol and extras to make the perfect drink. 

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After an explanation, and a short demonstration, we moved to tables set up with everything needed to concoct the perfect adult tiki beverage (I'm bummed I didn't take a photo of the set up - I was so excited to get started!). The one thing I tried to keep in mind as I made my cocktail is making sure the flavors I was combining were complimentary. I don't like overly sweet, but I don't like sour at all. Greenbar provides the guides (above) so you know exactly how much of each item/ingredient is necessary, and the lines across the circle mean you can mix that ingredient with another. For example, for the 1 oz. of alcohol, I could have done 1/2 oz. of the Grand Poppy Amaro and 1/2 oz. of their Tru Gin or Vodka. I wanted to keep it simple so I didn't mix too many different alcohols together. My first cocktail included mango fruit juice, Grand Poppy Amaro, Fruitlab Ginger Liqueur, honey syrup, lemon juice, and a few dashes of saffron bitters. 

And then you get to shakin'!

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After the pour into the official tiki glass (shown at the top!) you can garnish it with whatever you desire, and start sipping! We were able to make two cocktails, and the vibe is totally relaxed and fun. There is staff on hand to help with any questions or to get you out of any jam (like when your shaker won't come apart, not that that happened or anything...). We left with our recipes, ideas for more tiki-inspired drinks and another fun memory to cap off the weekend.

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Two Days in Santa Ynez

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We just returned from a quick trip to Santa Ynez, and it was simply the best. We discovered the region 28 years ago when the parents of a close friend retired there, and we've been stealing away ever since. 

Santa Ynez Valley is located in the Los Padres National Park, above Santa Barbara, and is an easy 2-hour drive from Los Angeles. It was made famous by the movie Sideways in 2004, and the area really exploded after that. There are currently over 120 wineries in the valley and more are opening all the time. The valley encompasses the towns of Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, Ballard, Solvang & Buellton, with Lompoc, Los Alamos and Santa Maria to the north.

Santa Ynez is one of those places that as soon as you drive into the valley, you can feel the stress of urban life melt away. And because it's only 2 hours away, it's an easy day trip for us when the feeling strikes, which is often! In fact, this was the first time in a few years that we actually stayed for two nights. 

This was a last minute trip that we planned when we realized that friends of ours from Florida would be there for a couple of nights before a wedding in Southern California, so we decided to crash their party. They're sweet, so they didn't mind!

We always strategically plan our time there and have our favorites that we always return to. Our typical MO is to drive almost to the end of Foxen Canyon Road and work our way back to town. I'm sharing our favorite stops below that we visited over the two day period, not all at once! We typically visit 3 wineries in a day, with snacks and lots of water between! I'm usually the designated driver since I'm not a big drinker, but I still really enjoy the scenery and vineyards.

Cambria Wines

Cambria Winery is way down almost at the end of the trail, off Foxen Canyon Road. It sits high up and has a gorgeous view of the vineyard. Of course, I didn't get a photo of that, but they have a window into the barrel room from the tasting area and the whole production always amazes me!

Waylan Wine Co.

Los Olivos is a sweet little town just outside Santa Ynez and has many tasting rooms lining the main street. This is actually a really nice way to experience the region without having to drive. Waylan Wine Co. is the new kid on the block in Los Olivos, and they have a gorgeous tasting room. They've only been open for a couple of months but we had a great time learning about their wines and their backstory, plus the host was so enthusiastic, we couldn't help but purchase a couple of bottles in support. They're still young, but they have a lot of potential.

Refugio Ranch Vineyard Tasting Room

Refugio Ranch Vineyard tasting room is another old favorite of ours, and even though it's not politically correct right now, I love their logo. They recently acquired another winery down the street, Roblar, that we visited the next day and had a beautiful picnic on their veranda (see below).

Hitching Post Restaurant

For dinner the first night, we tried Leonardo's, located in Solvang, and owned by the former co-owner and chef of Trattoria Grappolo in Santa Ynez. If you saw my Instagram, there was a little story about Chef Leonardo & I from a cooking class 10 years ago - we tried to recreate the photo as best we could, but we've both aged! After dinner, Scott and I had a quick nightcap at the Hitching Post, another throwback from Sideways, and ran into David Crosby as we were leaving! 

Riverbench Winery

The next day we started at Riverbench Winery, one of our favorites. It's right on Foxen Canyon Road, and is so beautiful. We are members of this wine club and love coming out for the pick up parties, which include small bites, wine and live music. They also have a tasting room in Santa Barbara, in the Funk Zone, which is where we frequently pick up from when we can't make it all the way into the valley. 

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Foxen Winery is an old favorite and now has two tasting rooms on their property. The shack (first photo) is an old favorite, and it quite literally is a shack. It has a ton of character and in the old days, the two winemakers were pouring while three old dogs wandered around. This is another place made famous by Sideways, and they have since opened a newer, larger tasting facility that is quite nice but lacks some of the character of the shack. 

Roblar Winery

Roblar Winery is just outside the town of Los Olivos, and has a beautiful patio that is perfect for a picnic. If you forget to bring provisions, they have a kitchen and serve up a small menu that perfectly pairs with their wines.

Dinner that night was at SY Kitchen, which is hands' down our favorite dinner spot in Santa Ynez. I neglected to take photos of the meal, but it's a tiny place that seems to always be happening. Plus, we had our second David Crosby sighting there!

When we returned home I realized that this is our last getaway of the summer (and summer just started!). That means fun weekend frolics near home before our trip to Scotland in September!  

The Weekend in Photos

To say this weekend was eventful would be a huge understatement. I usually don’t like to plan more than one major outing during a weekend because I love the downtime and just hanging out with Scott. For some reason, this weekend started out with only one thing calendered, and snowballed from there!

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Friday night we headed downtown (again!) as I had scheduled a tour & tasting at Lost Spirits Distillery. We have already visited two other distilleries in the area, Greenbar & The Spirit Guild, but I had read that Lost Spirits has a very unusual tour, and we were curious.

Unusual is another understatement, and while it was a little kitschy, we had a blast. Think, a cross between Willy Wonka, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise & the Tiki Room. I’m not kidding. Housed in an industrial building, that looks quite small from the outside, you are taken on a tour that begins with a tasting of their bespoke rum, and then guided into a boat which delivers you to the still room. The story of their origins is fascinating, and they get 1000% for creativity and enthusiasm. As if the boat ride wasn’t enough, you are shuttled onto a floating carousel (see above) which delivers you to another stop in the production chain. It was very well done, and we had so much fun! Unfortunately, it is kept very dark, so photos are difficult. If you happen to live in the Los Angeles area and up for something unusual, I highly recommend this experience!

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With no plans on Saturday, we found ourselves driving to the Getty Museum in mid-morning traffic, something I’ve been wanting to do for ages! In addition to street art, I’m a total museum junkie. I’m that person that has to stop at almost painting, read almost every description, get up close and personal with almost every piece of art. I’m intrigued with the brush strokes, the use of color and the composition. I’m also that person that often photographs art so I can remember it later, because it almost always evokes a feeling in me, often causing so much emotion I have been known to cry. (true story, ask my husband)

There was a great exhibit of some lesser known Rembrandt drawings and his India inspirations as well as a great exhibit of early American photography. And the gardens – no expense is spared, it is breathtaking and it was a gorgeous day to boot!

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Sunday was Earth Day, and Metro Bike Share was celebrating with free rides. There are several bike stations in Venice, so we headed there and rode around the Venice Canals. In all my years of living in Los Angeles, I’ve not been there! This is definitely on the Be a Tourist in your Hometown list. The Venice Canals are an area of man-made canals built in 1905 by Abbot Kinney in an attempt to recreate the appearance and feel of Venice, Italy. It’s an adorable area, and hard to believe that the hustle and bustle of Venice Beach is so close, not to mention Los Angeles and all its’ traffic. There are little bungalows dotted between modern architectural dreams, with footbridges and one-way auto bridges on a few streets. It’s so beautiful, and even with the remodeled homes has a certain charm that is unfound anywhere else in Los Angeles.

The weather this weekend was perfect for all these excursions! We finished the afternoon Sunday at The Rose Cafe in Venice where we indulged in a little day drinking and people watching. It couldn’t have been better. 

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Downtown LA Street Art Tour

A little-known fact: I love street art. Not the gangsta graffiti that litters the freeway, but actual art. Where an exterior wall is commissioned and painted in a downtown or city area. Whenever we’re driving or walking around, I almost always have my iPhone handy to shoot the street scenes and there’s no place more abundant in street art than Downtown Los Angeles. It turns out, there’s a tour for that – LA Art Tours provides guided, private and group tours of the downtown areas with an emphasis in several different categories: The Brewery Art Complex TourDTLA Graffiti/Mural TourUrban Art & Craft Beer TourAlley Adventure Graffiti Bike Tour, and the Santa Fe Art Colony Tour.

Last Sunday, we took the DTLA Graffiti/Mural Tour and it was so much fun. It’s a 2-hour walking tour in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District (one of our favorite places to hang out and explore), and it was led by a local guide, who is also a street artist. What I loved so much about the tour (besides getting up close to the art) was hearing the history of street art and the techniques that different artists use. Did you know, they don’t usually outline the art before they begin – no pencil, no chalk. They just go in and start layering – almost all of it is done with spray paint, using different nozzles to achieve different stroke looks and blending. It was mind-boggling, the talent!

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We also learned that every artist has their own unique style; with graffiti, the style is their signature. Many of the large-scale murals that are found Downtown are the product of street art groups, and they are usually commissioned for a few months to a year. After that, it gets painted over so another street artist can come in to do their work.

This is a very fun local adventure (be a tourist in your town!) and the perfect activity for out-of-town guests, and very inexpensive – our Graffiti/Mural tour was just $12 per person. There are several different time slots that you can schedule, but I would suggest early on Sunday before the crowds and cars make it difficult to see (and photograph!) the art. Afterward, head over to 3rd Street & Traction and grab a bite at Wurstkuche or Arts District Brewery and check out the free gallery at Hauser & Wirth.

Above all, don’t forget to wander!

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Be a Tourist in your own town!

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Have you ever played tourist in your own town? Probably not, but it’s a super cheap and easy way to spend a beautiful day outside. Yesterday we drove down to 22nd Landing at the Port of Los Angeles, where they have a Metro Bike LA Station next to our favorite brewery, Brouwerij West. A one-day pass is $7.00 (trips less than 30 minutes are only $3.50), all you have to do is download the app, create an account, enter payment information, and then follow the prompts on the kiosk and choose your bike.

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There isn’t a lot of traffic in that area, plus it was Sunday, but we simply crossed the street and rode into the Cabrillo Marina for a little sightseeing and easy exercise. There was just the slightest chill in the air but the wind was blowing against us so that definitely added to the work of the ride. It was such a gorgeous day, the sky was the bluest blue, with just a few clouds it was a perfect Sunday afternoon.

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Just past the marina is a large empty parking lot where motorcycle enthusiasts gather to ride and show off some shenanigans – there was a group of Mongrel Motorcycle Club members, and we watched one of them pop a wheelie, definitely a production because those bikes are large & heavy!

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A little further down the road, you can find the SS Lane Victory, which has self-guided tours daily and actually has a pretty interesting history. It was built in 1945 here in Los Angeles and served in World War II, the Korean War & Vietnam War, as well as part of a merchant fleet.

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You can continue down the road (north, I believe) and hit Ports O’Call Village and eventually the LA Waterfront Park. We did not continue down yesterday, but did this same ride last month on a warmer day and rode to the Waterfront Park and back. It’s a great ride, but Ports O’Call has certainly seen better days and really not worth stopping at.

Instead, we headed back toward the Metro Bike Station and rode through a 22nd Street Park, which is right next to the station.

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And of course, we couldn’t leave before topping ourselves off with a visit to the brewery, which actually happens to be our very favorite way of ending the weekend

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IF YOU GO...

  1. Visit Metro Bike LA for details. There is a map with locations (see below), mostly in metropolitan areas. I think it would fun to do this in Venice and Pasadena too, but I’d be wary of Downtown LA due to traffic.

  2. Download the app, create an account and load your payment information.
  3. Bring a backpack or crossbody bag, you don’t want your camera, phone or wallet falling out of your pocket, and while the bikes do have baskets, there are large gaps and small items will fall through.
  4. Bring water, money and a lock if you plan to stop for a bite or a beer.
  5. Watch the traffic, they might not be watching you!
  6. Have fun!

Architectural Tour: Schindler House Los Angeles

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I love going into the city when time permits, not just for the urban adventure that it is, but there’s such an amazing concentration of cultural icons around almost every corner. Being a design junkie, I especially love stumbling upon something special.

This happened recently when my husband & I were in the city visiting my son & his friend in West Hollywood. We were walking to brunch, down Kings Road just north of Melrose Boulevard, when I saw a tiny little sign for Schindler House. I was not hugely familiar with R.M. Schindler, but I did know the name as a pioneer in the modernism era. After brunch, on our way back, we stopped in and toured this historic house.

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What  struck me first was that you would never know a historic home is located on this quiet and beautiful tree-lined street in bustling West Hollywood. The street is mainly apartment houses and condominiums, and Schindler House is set back from the street behind a fully mature bamboo hedge. There is just a small sign proclaiming its’ existence.

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Schindler House Los Angeles, or the Kings Road House, as it is commonly known, was built in 1922 and was actually considered to be one of Schindler’s most important works. It is considered by many to be the first house built in the modern style, and was experimentally built for communal living, housing another couple besides the Schindlers.

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The lot was divided into seven sections; four of them were assigned to each of the four inhabitants of the home to express their own individuality and there was a shared kitchen and outdoor sleeping areas (on the rooftop deck!). The structure draws upon European modern architecture (Schindler was Austrian) and, like many European buildings of that time, incorporated concrete, glass and wood in the construction of the home. This had become a popular trend in Europe thanks to Mies van der Rohe’s work in experimental concrete buildings in the 1920’s.

The only reason I remotely know this is because this house reminded me of my husbands late uncle, architect William Alexander, who designed and built the Hangover House for Richard Halliburton in 1938.

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The residence was used for political, social and cultural events during the time they lived there, and was also used as housing for visiting artists, architects and writers (Frank Lloyd Wright and his son, Lloyd Wright, were frequent visitors). I can only imagine how astounding the guest list must have been during those days. The Schindlers eventually divorced, but the house continued to be a meeting place for left-wing political radicals in Los Angeles.

Today, the house is maintained and funded by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture Los Angeles at Schindler House. There are year-round events and exhibitions and programs geared toward the creative arts. When we were there, we were lucky to be treated to small Eames exhibit.

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Schindler House is located at 835 North Kings Road, West Hollywood, CA 90069. It is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, 11 am – 6 pm, and admission is $7.00.

It’s well worth the visit.

Top photo via The MAK Center for Art and Architecture L.A. All other photos my own.

Day Trip: Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

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Have you ever been to the Poppy Reserve in Lancaster? This year Southern California had a very rainy season, and wildflowers were popping up everywhere - we like to refer to that as a superbloom! Visiting the Poppy Reserve has been on my to-do list for years, but somehow we always miss the blooming season! We finally got a chance to visit last weekend, and just as I imagined, it was spectacular.

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The Reserve is located in the Antelope Valley of Southern California and is a State Nature Reserve (i.e. part of the State Park system). The park is about 78 miles north of Los Angeles, off of California Highway 14, and very easy to get to. It’s 1800 acres of almost pure orange between late March & early April and is the most consistent poppy-bearing land in California. Besides poppies, tons of other wildflowers share the space, and it truly is a mosaic of rolling hills of color.

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We visited on a Saturday and luckily got there early, before the big crowds. If you go, I highly recommend an early arrival or try to go during the week. As we were leaving at 11:30 am, the parking lot was full and visitors were having to park outside the reserve and walk in (at least a ½ mile).

There are seven miles of dedicated trails that are easy to follow, all of them are loops, and you can go as far as the Antelope Butte Vista Point, which has a gorgeous view.

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If it’s early in the day, as it was for us, and on the cooler side, you may have to deal with some flowers that haven’t fully opened. This is also the case if it’s cloudy or cold, so be forewarned! If you go later in the day, you inevitably have to deal not only with crowds, but that great Antelope Valley wind that kicks up almost every day!

If you visit, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The Reserve is open from sunrise to sundown, daily, all year
  • Entry is $10 per vehicle
  • Bring water – the wind is dehydrating!
  • Don’t bring your dog, they are not welcome
  • Watch out for rattlesnakes!
  • You can bring snacks, but you can’t eat on the trail. There’s a picnic area at the visitors center
  • Stay on the trails! The blooms are so beautiful, but they won’t last for everyone to enjoy if you stomp into the field for that perfect Instagram photo
  • No drones – although that would be a cool experience to see!
  • Check out the Visitors Center on your way out for more information on the wildflowers & wildlife in the reserve – it’s so interesting!

The season is definitely winding down, and they’re only expecting the blooms to last another week or two, so if this is on your list, hop to it! With all the rain we’ve had this year, you won’t want to miss the display.