california

All posts tagged california

We began the day making our second attempt at getting to the Griffith Observatory. And, once again, we failed. So we headed off to our second stop of the day, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. Thomas and I had done the tour in 1996, so I was interested in seeing what had changed and what had stayed the same in those past 21 years.*

I tried to get Alex to buy our tour tickets from the website while I looked for a place to park. It turned out that the surface parking lot was full, so we ended up underground, and lost our connection in the process. By the time we got parked and were back on the surface, that tour was sold out and so we had to buy tickets for one (to my memory) at least an hour later. So we spent that hour walking around the outside of the studio. We walked up Warner Boulevard and along Riverside Drive then back down Avon Street to the entrance. We walked through security and grabbed a bite at the Studio Plaza Cafe, a little cafeteria-style place in the lobby of the tour building. Then we went to wait around for our tour and ended up joining a slightly earlier one that had just gotten together.

After the tour, I figured that if we didn’t go lighthouse spotting that day, we never would so I pulled up the directions to Los Angeles Harbor Light (I generally refer to this one by its colloquial name, “Angel’s Gate Light”). This took us through the Port of Los Angeles and out onto Pier 400. Nothing looked familiar to me from our previous trips to the light, but I admitted that it had been almost 18 years and kept driving. Eventually we reached a gate separating us from the lighthouse, the guard, who seemed friendly enough, didn’t speak English (and I drew a complete blank on the Spanish word for “lighthouse” (which is “faro,” but by the time I remembered it, it was too late, but I doubt I’ll ever forget that again after this)).

Point Fermin Lighthouse, 2017

Point Fermin Lighthouse, San Pedro, California, 2017. I’m not sure what’s up with the bunting. Leftovers from the Fourth of July, maybe?

So we gave up and headed to San Pedro for Point Fermin Light. As we head into San Pedro, I keep having flashes of driving off to the east of where we’re going for some reason, but can’t place why we were going that way. I found the lighthouse pretty easily — it’s a straight shot down Gaffey Street, but Gaffey Street winds around Fort MacArthur, so it’s not as straightforward as one would think. We walked around Point Fermin Park, took some pictures, I remembered some, but not all, about the Sunken City, and suddenly I remembered why we’d been driving through the neighborhoods of San Pedro — the fishing pier that we always took to go look at Angel’s Gate wasn’t in the Port, it was in San Pedro.

The Pacific Ocean with Angel's Gate Light in the Distance.

If you squint, you can see Angel’s Gate Lighthouse there in the distance. Cabrillo Beach is a good place to see the lighthouse; it’s not necessarily a *close* place to see the lighthouse.

So we headed off to make a second attempt to see the lighthouse and this time we were successful. We got to Cabrillo Beach and there were all of the things I hadn’t found on Pier 400 — the bath house, the aquarium, the beach. I accidentally paid for another person’s parking space (I’m not even sure how that happened, but he then paid for ours, so it all worked out) and walked out on the pier. It was getting late by then and was a bit chilly out there. The lifeguard announced that he was going home and I took some pictures of the lighthouse. As it got darker, we got back in our car and headed back towards the hotel.

Once I got home, by the way, I sent a message to the folks at Google suggesting that they might want to offer Cabrillo Beach as an alternative Angel’s Gate Lighthouse destination.

We needed food for our planned trip to the desert the next day, so we stopped at yet another Walmart, this one in Pico Rivera, which turned out to be not far from the office where Thomas tested that application so many years ago. If it hadn’t been so dark, and I hadn’t been kind of panicked when I realized that Alex was taking us to an entirely different Walmart from the one I’d planned to go to, I might even have recognized the area. We bought some fruit and some paper plates and plastic utensils and we realized that we had a microwave in our hotel room, so we bought some microwave dinners as well, then headed back to Pasadena to get some rest before our (as it turned out) very busy fourth day in California.

*Warner Brothers will also get a longer writeup once I finish the travelogue portion.

The plan for our second day in California was to visit the grave of Debbie Reynolds* and Carrie Fisher, then to see the Griffith Observatory, and then to knock around in Griffith Park for a while before heading out to Marilyn Monroe’s grave and then maybe the La Brea Tar Pits.

We ended up having to rearrange things a bit. In fact we lost two whole hours when I hit myself in the eye with my knuckle while drying off after my shower and scratched my cornea. We had paid ahead for breakfast for this trip, so we stopped off in the hotel restaurant and had some bread and fruit while the concierge found a walk-in clinic for us to visit. After breakfast, I started fretting about what we would do if I’d damaged my cornea badly enough to make the doctor restrict me from driving. I figured that we could afford one taxi ride per day, and our hotel wasn’t *that* far from the light rail line, so we could take the train most other places we wanted to go, so long as we stayed in the Los Angeles area. This would mean that our planned trips to the desert would be out, but just as long as we wouldn’t be trapped in the hotel all week, I’d be mostly okay.

It turned out not have been that badly scratched. I wasn’t having much pain, the scratch was off to one side of my pupil, and I wasn’t having more sun sensitivity than usual. The doctor prescribed some eye drops for me just in case and had them e-prescribed to the nearby Walmart (our second Walmart of the trip, for those keeping count). And, as I’ve discovered since becoming a pharmacy technician, sometimes it takes a while for an escript to come through and it did take about half an hour that day. Then we waited for the eye drops and headed off to Forest Lawn.

We made it to the cemetery okay, but then made a wrong turn looking for the mausoleum. This led us to the Birth of Liberty mosaic, which holds come kind of mosaic record — largest outdoor mosaic in the United States? Largest outdoor mosaic west of the Mississippi? I can’t remember and I can’t find the info right now.

Birth of Liberty, Forest Lawn

The Birth of Liberty Mosaic at Forest Lawn, 2017. it really is very impressive up close.

We made it to the mausoleum and Alex wanted to walk around the long way so as to avoid stepping on any of the graves in the lawn. He really would have been horrified by the way my cousins and I used to play in the cemetery down the street from my great-aunt and great-uncle’s house. As we walked around the mausoleum, a stretch limo pulled up. It just sat there for a couple of minutes and then drove away. I do often wonder what that was about.

It took using Findagrave.com and the GPS on my phone to finally find the monument. Along the way we passed a room where they had apparently just finished a funeral and the chief mourner was still understandably upset. If Carrie and Debbie had turned out to be in that room, we would have come back another day. But they weren’t and we eventually found them and paid our respects.

After that we made our first attempt (of several) to get to the Griffith Observatory. There is at the time I’m writing this, free parking down at the Greek Theater (known as just The Greek to the locals, from what I can tell) on days when there isn’t going to be a show and then a shuttle up to the observatory. And, of course, there was a show that day. So we drove up the hill and discovered that the parking lot was much smaller than I remember. We drove past and right back down the hill. There are parking spaces on the way up and down the hill, as well, but I’m not a confident enough driver (particularly in a rental car!) to parallel park on a hill with a big line of people ahead of and behind me.

Marilyn Monroe's Grave, 2017

Marilyn Monroe’s Grave, Westwood Village, 2017. Notice that the stone is a different color. I’m not sure if that is the original color of the stone, or if it’s discoloration from the cleaning supplies they use to remove the lipstick marks. None of those lip prints are mine.

We headed towards Westwood Village Memorial Park to pay our respects to Marilyn Monroe next. Alex and I had watched Some Like It Hot (and again with the Amazon links) before we left so that he could see why I wanted to visit her grave so badly. I don’t really wear makeup at all, and I totally considered bringing a lipstick so that I could kiss her grave. I chickened out, but I made sure to “tell her” that I considered it, despite it being terribly out of character for me. Mental illness sucks. There’s no way that Monroe could possibly have known that 50-some years after her death, people would fly hundreds or even thousands of miles to visit her and even if she had known, since, as the saying goes, depression lies, it probably would never have made any difference.

Well, that was cheerful.

By the time we got done saying hi to Marilyn Monroe, it was too late to make it to the La Brea Tar Pits. Well, I’m pretty sure that Hancock Park was open, but the museum closes at 5:00 pm and we were at Westwood Village until 5:05.

So, instead, we made what is my fourth (and Alex’s second, unless you count the trip when I was pregnant with him) trip to the Universal City Walk and, as has been our tradition, we ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. This, being our first discrete destination (I mean, I guess that cemeteries count, but I don’t know if there is a huge demand for blog posts about cemeteries), will get its own blog post.

*For my mom’s birthday one year we went to see Debbie Reynolds perform. One of the lines in her patter was something to the effect of how she knew we were all there because we thought “let’s go see Debbie before she dies.” For some reason, that memory returned soon after her, fortunately not too untimely (84 is a respectable age), passing.

We got to Los Angeles International without an incident and I had my first experience of disorientation. I swear I used to be able to find my way out of that airport back in the 1990s. I was our navigator on all four of our previous California trips, for crying out loud.

Alex and I made it to our first stop, Seal Beach, successfully. Thomas and I watched the old soap opera Sunset Beach (which is not available on DVD or even for streaming, dammit) faithfully for its entire three-year run and, so of course, on our final three visits to California, we had to visit Seal Beach, which is where many of the outdoor scenes were filmed. I took Alex to the Richards family’s first house, and to the Pier, of course, and then we looked at the buildings they used for the Waffle Shop, the Deep, and the Java Web. Then Alex went to a coffee shop (not the Java Web) to get something to eat and I hiked down to the buildings they used for Ben’s and Annie’s houses. We never got to a bunch of the buildings, because Alex was starting to drag already and we still had several stops to go.

Our next stop was the Sweet Cup in Garden Grove. I’m learning Vietnamese and would have loved to have had more time to explore Little Saigon while we were in Orange County, but we had places to go. I would have linked to Sweet Cup’s web page if they had one. But check them out if you’re in the area. And, no, I didn’t get comped or anything for this. I almost never talk about food or anything, but I’ll make an exception in this case. The viral video was pretty much spot-on.

Then we undertook an hour drive to Parkers’ Lighthouse in Long Beach. Normally, it’s about a half-hour drive, but I wanted to drive along the ocean for a while. We ended up going back into Seal Beach and soon discovered that Pacific Coast Highway goes entirely too far inland there (as we discovered to our chagrin after following it for a few miles) So we had to turn around and head back We then overshot the turn for the restaurant and had to go back around again.  So it ended up taking about an hour. We also took some pictures of the Queen Mary while we were out there.

The Queen Mary, Long Beach, 2017

The Queen Mary in Long Beach. When we were planning this trip, i suggested staying on the Queen Mary, but we ended up moving to a more traditional hotel to be closer to some friends we were hoping to meet. We never met those friends. After seeing the ship, Alex has requested that we follow through on staying on the Queen Mary next time.

Thomas and I went to Parkers’ Lighthouse when I was pregnant with Alex. We’d been whale watching with a friend and spending time on or near the water always makes me crave seafood. So when we saw Parkers’ Lighthouse, we bet they’d have seafood, and they did. I always had fond memories of our visit there, so of course I wanted to go back with Alex now that he’s old enough to build a memory of the place. I was kind of worried because we weren’t dressed up, but the people there were very gracious. And the food was just as good as I remembered.

By then, Alex was falling asleep and having a hard time navigating, so we headed to the hotel. Once we’d gotten some rest, I realized that I’d left some of my over-the-counter medication at home and we headed out to a Walmart to replace it. Then we attempted to visit Santa Monica Pier at night. That was a failure; we could *not* find anywhere to park (note to self: check out parking ahead of time next trip). So we drove back up Santa Monica Boulevard until we passed the Latter-Day Saints Temple, and then went back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Little did we know how much of an adventure our second day would end up being. . . .

In what I’m pretty sure was 1996, Thomas wrote an application all by himself that was going to be used company-wide. He worked more than 12 hours a day on it over a couple of months and the end result was something to be very proud of (I wonder if he has it on his resume?). The company was so pleased that, since the software needed to be tested in the field anyhow, that they said they would send Thomas (and me) to any field office in the continental US (they had an office or two in Europe, if I recall) for a long weekend. We’d fly out on Thursday, he’d test the software on Friday and Monday, and we could knock around in the area on Saturday and Sunday (turns out he got most of the testing he needed on Friday so we ended up with a lot of Monday as well) and then we’d fly back on Tuesday.

We looked at the map and either one or the other (or both!) of us had been to most of the places available or the places were too far off the beaten track. So with one thing and another, we ended up deciding on Los Angeles.

We flew in on Thursday afternoon, got our rental car, and headed for the hotel. Once we were checked in, we decided to explore a little. We somehow ended up on Santa Monica Boulevard and, based on the Sheryl Crow song All I Want to Do Is Have Some Fun, decided to see if there is, in fact a giant car wash out that way. We never did find the car wash, by the way (since the lyrics come from a 1987 poem by Wyn Cooper, maybe the car wash is long gone?). But it turned out that there was a lot to see on Santa Monica Boulevard, including the Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Thomas and I had long missed the hustle and bustle of the big city (San Antonio’s a big city, but is more suburban in its feel) and we felt a lot better about our choice of Los Angeles.

The next day, while Thomas worked, I took the rental car (fortunately his employer was willing to add me as a second driver) and explored the Pasadena region, from San Dimas to Arcadia (I wanted to visit San Dimas because, of course, of the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Oh, look! Another Amazon.com link!)). I also went lighthouse-spotting and managed to find Point Vicente Light at the very least. I don’t remember seeing Angel’s Gate or Point Fermin lights until later trips.

Picture of San Gabriel Mountains taken from San Dimas,California, 1996

The San Gabriel Mountains taken from San Dimas, California. This is not the best photo ever, but it’s one of the few I have from that 1996 trip.

And I enjoyed that drive so much I took Thomas with me the next day. We also went up into the San Gabriel Mountains and took an unfruitful trip to Forest Lawn Cemetery to look for Marilyn Monroe’s grave (my folks found her grave on their own late-90s trip out that way).

We visited other things on the trip, as well, and I’ll go into those things in future posts. I thought I might wait until I get to 1996 in my travel memories series, but since Alex and I visited a bunch of these places this year, I’ll probably go ahead and cover the 1996 trip and the 2017 trip together. Overall, though, we had a wonderful time and loved Los Angeles, much to our surprise. We even considered the possibility of moving out there for a while. We returned in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and that was my last trip until this year.

I’ve been wracking my brain about why I was so desperate to visit New York City, but was never equally desperate to visit Los Angeles. At first, I thought that maybe it was because Los Angeles spends so much time pretending to be someplace it isn’t and that there were no really iconic places in Los Angeles to compete with Central Park, Grand Central Terminal, the Statue of Liberty, and so forth. But Los Angeles has the La Brea Tar Pits, Santa Monica Pier (which, by the way, I still haven’t visited), Universal and Warner Brothers Studios (I always heard wonderful things about the Universal tour, but nowadays the Universal tour is an amusement park, which loses something), Griffith Park, Malibu, and so on (the first time we passed the Sherman Oaks Galleria, I actually said, “We have to go there,” not because I’m so into shopping malls, but because it’s, well, famous).

So iconic locations wasn’t it. Maybe it’s because the people who make the movies and television shows seem less enthusiastic about showing us the beauty of Southern California (except insofar as that beauty is wearing a bikini) than the people who make movies and television shows are about New York. And that may be part of it. Television and movies made a big deal out of gang violence, smog, and that period in the early 1990s when freeway shootings became big news (played, rather peculiarly, for laughs in the 1991 Steve Martin movie L.A. Story (warning: Amazon,com link)). And that may be part of it, because on some level, you get the feeling that maybe it’s not such a great place to visit (or to live in).

But, upon further reflection, my lack of burning desire to visit Los Angeles may be attributable to one specific thing.  Let me tell you a story about a man named Jed. A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed. And no, that’s not a tangent. Jed is central to this epiphany. During Thomas and my second trip to Los Angeles, we were there with a group of friends. And one night, about half of our group piled into a car and drove off to see the house that they used as the outside of the Clampett house on The Beverly Hillbillies (warning: another Amazon.com link). And I had to pause for a moment, because the Clampett House was in California and . . . well, California isn’t a place that actually, you know, exists. When it comes right down to it, that might explain it all. I knew the names of place in California, but I also can name places in Narnia and Middle Earth, but that doesn’t put them very high on my very real list of very real places that I want to visit.

Coming up in Part 2, how Thomas and I ended up in this mythical world and what we thought about it once we got there.

That was odd. I started this post and, just as I was finishing the title, I got a message saying that the backup version of this post was different from this one (which is kind of impossible, since I was just starting this post) then, as I typed the word “California,” the message disappeared and took with it everything after “I’m.”

Since public parks are one of my things, I did visit a few parks while I was out there: Griffith Park (of course), Hancock Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Leo Carrillo State Park, and Point Fermin Park, among others.

I also had the opportunity to visit a doctor in the Los Angeles area. I accidentally smacked myself in the eye with my knuckle while drying off after my shower and scratched my cornea. It was healed by the next day, but I was terrified at first that I would have to spend my entire vacation holed up in my hotel, or limited to however-many sites I could get to by public transportation in a day. I didn’t even have to stay home for one day, since I could see okay and wasn’t sensitive to light.

I got to visit the desert for the first- (and second-) ever time. The only desert in Texas is considerably west of here and I don’t think I’ve gone that far west yet. I think that the Salt Lake City area is also subhumid and I don’t think we got into the actual desert at all there, either.

I’ll start going through all this in a more orderly fashion beginning in another couple of days. Probably.

Every time I think about posting here, I remember how long it’s been and put it off again.

Welcome to procrastination.

I think I’m going to stop recapping absolutely everything I read in National Geographic. So much of what they are writing about now, all of the scientific research stuff, particularly, is interesting to me to read, but not so interesting to blog about. So I think I’m going to limit myself to travel articles.

I’ve been stressed out by work and my elderly animals. Diabetic cat, Cosmo, has been losing weight and we’ve slowly been decreasing his insulin. Long story and I need to get to bed. We’ve added gabapentin to our arthritic dog, Foxy’s regimen. Another long story.

Why do I need to get to bed?

Because in about six hours from right now, Alex and I will be off to Los Angeles for our annual “big trip.” In less than 12 hours from now, we’ll be starting our trip along the Pacific Coast Highway starting in Orange County and working our way northwest. I also plan to stop off at Sweet Cup in Garden Grove for an ice cream taco in the morning, as well. So I hope to have a bunch of adventures to share with you once we’re back. I may make a post or two while we’re out and about.

Oh, and I’m doing the Samsung Health Global Challenge for the second month running. I ended June somewhere in the low 100,000s and right now I’m in the low 80,000s (with 194,000 steps so far this month). Hopefully we’ll find lots of opportunities to walk over the next week and I’ll be able to keep and improve upon my standing. We’ll see what happens down the line.

 

I think I’ve updated y’all on the plans. At first we planned to go to Europe this year. We planned to fly into Amsterdam, then visit Rotterdam, then into Germany, where we would go to Berlin, Munich, and Heidelberg (stopping at Neuschwanstein just because). After that I had hoped to visit Brussels before going back to Amsterdam for the flight home. In my dream version of this trip, I hoped to stop off at Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau, the two towns of Belgium and the Netherlands, respectively, that are sort of intertwined with one another.

Late in 2016, we scaled that trip down to a trip to Canada. The plan was to fly into Toronto, then drive a rental car to Quebec City, where there is going to be a tall ship regatta this summer. But Alex made a friend in California and really wanted to visit there, so early this year, we scaled it further back to a week in Southern California.

I just realized this last week that one of our traditional July trip destinations is a national park. In 2011, we went to the National Mall; in 2012, it was Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; in 2013, we had Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, *and* Cape Hatteras National Seashore; in 2014, it was Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio; in 2015, it was Statue of Liberty National Monument; and in 2016, it was Golden Spike National Historic Site and, of course Yellowstone.

But what to do in Southern California? I was hoping to get to Catalina Island while I am in California, since I’ve never been to Catalina before, but it’s expensive. Channel Islands National Park is less expensive so it was tempting, but apparently you have to pick one island, and the closest island is still an hour away by boat, and the boats leave from Ventura, which is an hour from our hotel. So that’s a four-hour round trip. And apparently there’s not really anything to do on the islands unless you like to kayak, which doesn’t seem like my sort of thing. There’s not even a place to take shelter from the rain on Anacapa, which is the one that’s only an hour-long trip.

If the boats traveled more like the ones at Statue of Liberty National Monument, where you could take one boat to Anacapa, then another in an hour or two to Santa Cruz, and so on, it might be worth it. Take a boat to one island and be stuck there for the rest of the day is less exciting for me (oh, and apparently the seagulls are nesting on the island in July, so it’s apparently noisy and smells like seagull poop). This means, of course, that if I want to go to an island, I’m back to considering Catalina.

In contrast, our hotel is about two hours away from Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve been looking at pictures and doing some reading, and you can see the San Andreas Fault from there, and there are a couple of oases in the park.  So if I’m going to spend four hours in a rental car to get to and from a national park, Joshua Tree gets my vote.

So we’ve been doing the insulin shots for just about a week now. I say just about because we had a bit of an adventure. I gave Kiliamo his first shot on Saturday, April 1, at 7:00 pm. Then I got up at 7:00 am on April 2 and gave him his second. While I was showing Alex how to draw up the insulin, he bent the needle of the syringe and we had to start over. Somehow, we ended up knocking the vial off of the counter and it shattered.

So I called the vet to leave a message asking for a new vial and we had to just hope that another 13 or so hours without insulin wouldn’t cause any damage. Monday morning, I got a message from work asking if I would come in an hour late to cover that shift instead of my original shift, so I planned to get up whenever the vet called and get the insulin. When they hadn’t called by 9:30, I called. The new vial was ready, so I went to get it. While I was driving back from the vet’s office (the only way to make it easily back from the vet’s is to continue down that street, turn at the next corner, and come back up a different street), I get a text asking me to come in right then. Well, I hadn’t eaten, or showered, and still needed to give the cat his insulin. I said I couldn’t be there for less than 45 minutes (and that would have required me to eat while I drove), and someone else offered to come in instead. So I was back to the later shift.

By the time the cat got his insulin, though, it was after 10. When you move a cat’s insulin dose, you’re supposed to move it in half-hour increments. Moving it half an hour at a time, I would have ended up late for work on Wednesday. So I ended up moving it in 35-minute increments, and now he’s back at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  I’m going to have to move the doses again in June, because Alex stays with his dad for the month and so I’m going to have to work only the late shift and give him his dose at 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. for the duration.

Well, it’s definitely been an experience.

In other news, I am often after Alex to take pictures of things and places that he thinks is important or memorable, because they won’t be there forever. I’m having that kind of experience on two levels right now. I was just at North Star Mall getting my pedometer steps in and I remembered that the mall has a basement. When my now-ex and I moved here, it was an Oshman’s Sporting Goods store. And as I walked around the mall, I could not remember where the escalator to the basement was. I think I’m pretty close, but still not quite enough.  I wish I’d thought to take a picture, if not of the escalator, of the spot where the escalator had been once it was gone.

The other thing is that the Santa Anita Derby horse race was today. I’ve been past Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. The first time my now-ex and I went to California, I borrowed the rental car while he went to work and we agreed that I’d find a pay phone and call him at some specific time (I think it was 3:30?) so we could arrange when I’d come pick him up. I passed the racetrack at pretty close to the time we were supposed to talk and I went to a supermarket to make the call.

There was a brief pause there while I gave my cat his insulin. Where was I? Ah, yes, Santa Anita.

So I’ve looked for a supermarket near the racetrack a few times and can’t find anything. This summer, Alex and I will be staying in that part of the Los Angeles area, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find that supermarket again. I’m certainly going to try. It was more than 20 years ago, so the area has probably changed irretrievably (?), but just maybe I’ll get lucky and find that store again.

No, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. But I’ve been really exhausted after work and have been using the energy that I do have on my language-learning project (maybe I’ll start a topic for that . . .), so I haven’t had the time or energy to spend on reading magazines. Except for Vanity Fair, because I am one of that magazine’s tens of thousands of new subscribers. I’m considering subscribing to Teen Vogue, as well, for their political reporting. There’s apparently also a project going where people are subscribing Republican politicians to Teen Vogue as well (a subscription is only $5 per year).

As for the language-learning project, as of yesterday I have hit the $90 mark, and as of today I’ve finished Level 1 of Rosetta Stone Vietnamese. As far as Spanish goes, I’m apparently somewhere in the midst of heading towards CEFR* Level B1. B1 is a high intermediate/low advanced level, so I can live with that, I think (for now, at least). The only thing stopping me from being at a higher level is vocabulary, so I’m considering adding vocabulary flash cards to my regimen. One of the things that bugs me about Duolingo is that the gold circles (indicating that you’ve completed that exercise) stop being gold after a while (as a prompt to make you practice more). I wish Duolingo would let me specify that I use Spanish nearly daily in my job, so that the circles take longer to stop being gold. Having to do the same lessons over and over because Duolingo assumes that I don’t use the language enough to keep the vocabulary fresh can be kind of frustrating.

I’ve also discovered a new tool, Language Zen, which I’m trying out. So far they only have Spanish for English speakers (and their second plan is for English for Spanish speakers), but if the site takes off, they’ll be adding more languages later. It’s a little translation-heavy (they give you sentences in English and you have to write the Spanish for them), which doesn’t do so much to prepare you to speak the language, but it’s hopefully going to broaden my vocabulary.  There’s an odd “less than (number) words need practice” thing in the corner that I haven’t quite been able to figure out yet. I had 60 words at one time, then worked my way down to ten, and now I’m at 255. I can’t wait to figure out what that means. As I worked on this post, I was working on that site and I’m down to 245. Still don’t know 245 words until what, exactly.

There’s also been a change in plans for our bigger 2017 trip. Alex has a friend in California that he wants to meet in person, so we’re going to be going to Southern California for the week. I have been there four times before (and Alex went once as a baby), but, again, the now-ex (who still doesn’t have a pseudonym) has most of our photos from those trips. So I’ll be taking new pictures of those places to replace the ones that I no longer have. I also hope to make it to a few new places (the Queen Mary and Catalina Island, specifically).

*Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.