New Year's 2014

Every year we travel to the Los Angeles area to celebrate New Year's. As usual, we left a couple days after Christmas and returned on January 2nd. We stocked up on warmth and sunshine, and have since returned to cold and overcast on some days, colder and clear on others.

Friday, 27-Dec

It's become pretty old hat to make the flight to Long Beach, including getting something to drink at Dilettante and grabbing fish tacos from Anthony's for lunch. As we settled onto the plane, I was wondering how the crew would handle the change in personal electronic usage. Ends up they said what you couldn't do, but didn't explicitly say what you could use during takeoff and landing. The attendants walked right past people with headphones on or tablets out, so that seemed to be a pretty good indication.

I texted my mom after we landed to let her know we were ready, and we headed to Lyon Art Supply so I could upgrade the computer there. That completed without issue, we went grabbed take-out Chinese food. There was a pretty long line and many trays were close to empty, but they were busy refilling them and we had no trouble getting what we wanted. Dinner in hand, we made for the house.

I wasn't done with tech support for the day, as I did some work on my parents' phones and tablets. Other than waiting for everything to download, things went quickly and smoothly.

In the past I rolled balls of an (sweetened red beans) after dinner but my dad wanted to do them, so I went to grab some sleep.

Saturday, 28-Dec

My dad made waffles, a great way to start the day. We then took a look at the an balls, and they seemed a bit large. My dad said he had made them 15 grams each, but decided that 12 grams would be better. Yes, we resized the 6 dozen (or so) an balls, but it didn't take very long.

We gathered everything and headed out to my cousin's house where mochitsuki is held. There were several people already milling around, and rice was already being steamed. We started right around 9am, and people settled into their usual roles; mine is to man the cutting machine and size the mochi as it comes out, while Melody does packing as well as shaping of the mochi. The batches came pretty quickly; even though we took an unexpected break to let the grinding machines recover from overheating, we finished around 120 pounds of rice by noon, far faster than in the past

Finished mochi cooling

We were all ready for lunch, which was, as usual, a wide assortment of things people had brought. After lunch, the packing of the mochi was finished up and everyone headed home with their haul.

It felt strange to be back at the house so early in the day. Melody and I walked to a café in downtown Downey to grab something to drink and get access to fast wireless. It was a nice place to hang out, and there were several people coming and going.

Sunday, 29-Dec

After breakfast on Sunday, I took Melody to the light rail station so she could head to Pasadena to spend the day. Among other places, she went to Vroman's Bookstore, the Norton Simon Museum, Old Pasadena, and checked out the preparations along Colorado Boulevard for the Rose Parade.

Downey Rose Parade float

Meanwhile, I swung by the building where the Downey Rose Float was being worked on. I've gone on different days over the years, and this time caught the float before any flowers were attached. In fact, they were still doing some welding and had other pieces yet to assemble. Still, it was fun to see.

My mom had reserved a printer for pick-up the previous night, so they could have which would let them print from their tablets. The grand plan is to retire their old desktop computer, since it was too old to update. When we picked up the printer, we were pleasantly surprised that it was on sale for 30% off.

When we got back to the house I set up the printer and made a few adjustments to their network so wireless would reach more parts of the house, specifically my parents' bedroom. I wonder when my sons will need to start giving me tech support.

The last thing on the to-do list was to make the layered jello for New Year's, but this year I ran into a couple problems. The first was I didn't wait long enough to pour the second layer, so they mixed together. I emptied the pan to start again, so the result would have a couple fewer layers than usual. I successfully got all the layers set, but when I started to cover it with plastic wrap, the wrap settled on the jello and when I tried to pull it off, a lot of the top layer came with it. Fortunately, I had some extra of the top layer (ended up buying a larger box for it), so I was able to patch it up.

After I picked up Melody from the train station, we arrived at the house to corned beef and cabbage for dinner. Ah, comfort food.

Monday, 30-Dec

My parents headed off to work in the morning, while we gathered our things to head out for a side-trip to the coast. We set out to Malibu to the Getty Villa. Traffic was light, which was nice.

Getty Villa

Getty Villa

Even though we arrived a bit before the time on our pre-reserved tickets, were admitted anyway. We parked the car and picked up a map and schedule. Not being sure how many tours we would feel like, we figured the highlights tour would be a good place to start. There was plenty of time before it started, so we began by wandering around the grounds.

We were thinking we wanted to see the movie about the building of the Villa, but the line was pretty long. We intended to check back later, but each time the line was still long. No movie for us, apparently.

The map said that iPod Touch devices were available which let people do self-guided tours, so we went to get a couple of them. We got probably the last pair.

It was time for lunch, so we headed up to the restaurant. The line was predictably long, but it didn't move too slowly. We went back and forth on what to get, especially since it was hard to guess how large the portions were. The display showed samples of some dishes, we asked about others, and settled on broccoli fennel soup, salad, and focaccia with brandied apple spread. Having had plenty to eat, we did a bit more wandering before it was time to catch the highlights tour.

The Getty tours involve wearing an earpiece so you can hear the docent. I ended up turning it down enough that I could mostly listen directly to her at particular pieces, but still hear when we were walking. The tour was quite interesting, and instead of flying through the museum, she spent quite a bit of time each on few pieces.

After the tour, we proceeded with some of the self-guided tours. After a while, we spilt up so Melody could cover more of the pieces while I looked more at the architecture.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica Beach

After leaving the Villa we headed south to Santa Monica so we could check into the hostel. There was a bit of traffic since it was late afternoon, but not more than we expected. The parking garage was quite full, and there weren't a lot of full-size spaces; we did find one on the lowest level.

We checked in, dropped off our bags, then headed back out so we could get a view of the sunset. Even though the sun was below the horizon, there was plenty of color, so as it ends up, the timing was just right.

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We wandered onto the Santa Monica Pier which was quite busy with activity. The carousel didn't have a lot of people on it, but it was still fun to watch the people ride it. We then wandered further down the pier, passing the official end of Route 66. At the end of the pier we saw several people fishing on the lower level, even though it was pretty dark. On the way back we wandered through Pacific Park where there were several rides.

All around the pier we saw “Welcome, Stanford” signs, and thought it odd they would welcome Stanford but not Michigan State, who was also in the Rose Bowl. Once we realized there was a rally for Stanford on the pier, we started seeing Stanford Band members all over; you could tell since they were carrying instruments while wearing pajamas.

We were starting to get hungry, and after doing some research, settled on Sea Salt Fish Grill. On the way we walked through the Santa Monica Promenade, which was also had lots of people milling around. There was a constant stream of people going in and out of the restaurant, and we could see why—the fish tacos and fried catfish were both great.

Back to the hostel for the night. After getting our wireless fix, we were definitely ready for sleep.

Tuesday, 31-Dec

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We got up in the morning and headed down for the provided breakfast, sitting near a man from Portland who was more than happy to chat about anything and everything, from travel to sports. Afterwards, we gathered our things, and checked out of the hostel. Remembering the garage was full the night before, we laughed when the elevator doors opened and the only car we saw was ours.

The plan for the day was to hit a couple of the Malibu beaches, then double back down to Venice.

Point Dume State Beach


Point Dume State Beach is a bit of beach and a lot of cliff. What was interesting is on the beach side of the cliff, the paths were sandy, but as we went around to the east side, they got rockier. As you would expect, there were great views from the top.

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My phone was telling me that there was a scene ofThe Big Lebowski filmed at the top of the cliffs. Ends up there were several shows filmed there, including the Iron Man series, which used it as the location of Tony Stark's house.

As we were working our way down, we saw a couple people at the top of the cliffs by the water. They threw ropes down to the beach, then started working their way back down the trail. When back at the beach, they met up with a bunch of other people who were setting up to use the ropes to climb the cliff face. Ends up that's a pretty popular thing to do, as there are bolts at the top. The first guy to climb was a novice; the guy on the other end of the rope encouraged him to lean back to feel what it's like if he lost his grip, and to be reassured that he wouldn't fall.

El Matador State Beach

We went a bit further west to El Matador State Beach, but when we got there we were wondering if we really wanted to pay the fee and take a look. It was hard to see from the parking area, but we decided to go ahead and check out why it was recommended in the book Melody had.

When we got our first glimpse of the beach, it was easy to see why.


We spent quite a bit more time exploring the beach than we had anticipated, since there were new views every time we rounded a rock formation.


Being ready for lunch, we decided to park near a pizza store then explore Venice on foot. It took a few minutes of driving around, but we managed to find some street parking only a few blocks away.

There were only one or two people in Abbot's Pizza when we got there. We had slices of Hawaiian and mushroom, which were really good. The mushroom pizza especially so, which not only had several types (including oyster and shiitake) but an olive pesto sauce.

The line grew as we ate, and was going out the door as we left. We made a beeline to the Venice Canals. We mostly covered the outer canals, crossing a couple of the bridges. The canals were pretty shallow, and several of the houses had boats. Looking at them, we were guessing that there's an ordinance against having motorboats. In addition, none of the boats had oars, either (probably to prevent them from being stolen).


Next stop was Venice Beach and Boardwalk. We had wandered pretty far south, so we started north on on Ocean Front Walk until we hit the boardwalk (which is one in name only; no wooden planks to walk on). There was a lot of activity, both among the stores and on the beach.


We decided it was time to go back, but since we had been walking so far, of course we needed a snack. Having seen a gelato store near where we had lunch, we decided to give that a try. Again we walked into an empty store, enjoyed our ice cream, then left as the line was getting long.

After returning to the car, we worked our way back to Downey, hitting surprisingly little traffic. My Aunt Frances was there, and she joined us for a celebratory New Year's Eve dinner.

Wednesday, 1-Jan

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The only way to start the new year is by having ozoni. My dad made some before we got ready to head over to the family new year celebration at my cousin's house.

When we got to Tustin, several people were already there. Of course, there was a lot of food, all of it great. I had cut the layered jello before we left, so all I needed to do was plate it.

It was great to have more time to chat with people, especially since this was the first time I had been back to Southern California since the year before.

In the afternoon, Melody and I walked along the Mountains to Sea Trail, which neither of us had been on before. It took us past several parks, and it was fun to see all the families out having a good time. We turned around, and on the way back the signs changed to say we were on the Sea to Mountains Trail.

When we got back to my cousin's house, people were already playing games (card, word, etc.) and were getting ready for the usual game of Trivial Pursuit. After games were done, the obvious thing to do is eat more food. We obliged, and afterward, packed up some more food before heading back to Downey.

Thursday, 2-Jan

The last bit of packing before we left the house was for me to grab mochi to bring back for family. Ends up I carried about ten pounds back; airport security must have been scratching their heads looking at big blobs of frozen rice.

Going through security was very fast, not like last year. Seems like people have mostly gotten used to the reconfigured Long Beach airport. It also helps that their systems have been updated from last year, when they couldn't scan tickets off one's phone.

It was a pretty quick flight back, but since we landed a bit after lunchtime, we grabbed something to eat from Beecher's (conveniently across from our gate). At long last we were home!