9-24-2018 Alhambra Our home town for 40 years

For the last 40 years, we have owned a home in Alhambra California. While we have completely vacated the place and put it on the market, it has yet to sell. Recently we spent the better part of a month in our old town – staying with some friends – and doing the final bits to close out the property. As of today, (9-28) we have had several offers but have yet to get through the entire escrow and final sale process. Hopefully soon this will happen. This got me to thinking about the history of the City and what has happened over the years.

The original inhabitants of the land where Alhambra now sits are the Tongva and the San Gabriel Mission was founded nearby on September 8, 1771 as part of the Spanish conquest and occupation of Alta California. The land that would later become Alhambra was part of a 300,000-acre land grant given to Manuel Nieto, a soldier from the Los Angeles Presidio. In 1820 Mexico won its independence from the Spanish crown and lands once ruled by them became part of the Mexican Republic. These lands then transferred into the hands of the United States following the defeat in the Mexican–American War. A wealthy developer, Benjamin Davis Wilson, married Ramona Yorba, daughter of Bernardo Yorba, who owned the land that would become Alhambra. With the persuasion of his daughter, Ruth, Yorba named the land after a book she was reading, Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra, which he was inspired to write by his extended visit to the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain (we visited the room where Irving wrote the book during our trip to Spain in 2015).

Alhambra was founded as a suburb of Los Angeles that remained an unincorporated area during the mid-19th century.

A view of Main Street from about 1920.

The first school in Alhambra was Ramona Convent Secondary School, built on hillside property donated by the prominent James de Barth Shorb family. Thirteen years before the city was incorporated, several prominent San Gabriel Valley families interested in the Catholic education of their daughters established the school in 1890. The city’s first public high school, Alhambra High School, was established in 1898, five years before the city’s incorporation – both of our sons graduated from this school along with other legendary folk including Clive Cussler – author, Cheryl Tiegs – fashion model, Dorothy Howell Rodham – mother of Hillary Clinton, Mickey Thompson – race car driver to name a few.

Incorporated in 1903, the city was originally promoted as a “city of homes” and many have historical significance. There are various styles; craftsman, bungalow, Spanish Mediterranean, Spanish colonial, Italian Beaux-arts and others. Twenty-six single-family residential areas have been designated as historical neighborhoods.

One of the historic homes in Alhambra.

The downtown area at the intersection of Main and Garfield has been the center of the business district since 1895. Having undergone a number of construction changes over the years it is still the main point to start shopping. Along Main Street, there are a number of car dealerships making it very much a destination for anyone looking to buy a new car.

Main Street of Alhambra

Alhambra has experienced waves of new immigrants, beginning with Italians in the 1950s, Mexicans in the 1960s, and Chinese in the 1980s. As a result, a very active Chinese business district has developed on Valley Boulevard, including Chinese supermarkets, restaurants, shops, banks, realtors, and medical offices. Just around the corner from our home was an old Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant that was turned into a popular Asian restaurant, Noodle World – our go-to fast food spot for years.

Alhambra has also been in the movies!  NCIS, NCIS-Los Angeles, Father of the Bride and other TV and movies have used parts of Alhambra over the years.

NCIS has filmed in Alhambra a time or two.
This is the home used for the movie Father of the Bride with Steve Martin.

Phil Spector,

Phil Spector – looks like he put his finger in an electrical socket!

a legendary record producer who did a number of records for the Beatles and others, lived in Alhambra for many years in what was called the Pyrenees Castle built in 1926.

Pyrenees Castle – Phil Spector’s house on the hill in Alhambra

In 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was shot to death in his Alhambra home and in 2009, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in connection with Clarkson’s death. This was national news for several months.

The Hat great food

The Hat, a local icon, was opened in Alhambra in 1951. It was the original, family-owned outdoor restaurant, and is now a well-known small Southern California chain. The company has kept to its roots by keeping its retro neon signs featuring a chef’s toque and the words “World Famous Pastrami”. It was a prototype of today’s fast-food restaurants. Its customers consume 13–15 tons of pastrami per week – we have had our share over the years but NOTHING close to the amount they sell on a regular basis. Another favorite over the years has been Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant.

Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant – great food!

Started in Alhambra they now have locations in many local cities but the original is always the best.

During our visit we discovered that one of our favorite chefs has purchased a neighborhood pizza place and is beginning to change it into something different. Genovese’s Pizza (2900 Main Street, Alhambra – stop by!)  has been around for a long time and now Hugo Molino and his wife Aricia are hosting Pop Up presentations for some of the creations Hugo has done over the years. Recently we were there for Tuscan Night that was wonderful.

Our “Group”, David, Janeen, Jim and Sally
Strawberry – Basil Bruschetta with Burrata cheese and pomegranate molasses
Diver Scallop on Gorgonzola soft polenta meyer-lemon cream
Smoked Filet Mignon and chianti Redction on Pappardelle Dolognese and Rapini
Sour cream Panacotta with California Figs and a glass of San Felice Vin Santo
Hugo and Aricia taking a bow.
Janelle – my neighbor during the Tuscan Nights Pop Up Dinner

Over the years the City has changed, but it has always been able to maintain a certain character – clean, relatively safe, a bedroom community with generally good schools and an active City Council moving in conservative fashion to improve the place.

Once we sell the house, which will happen eventually we know, we will still return as we have great friends to visit, places to eat we love and a climate that is really hard to beat.

This is the front of the house we lived in for 40 years.

09-13-18 Morro Bay, Marina Street Inn B&B and some Wine Tasting

Having shared nuptials and celebrated the wedding over the weekend, we gathered our belongings and headed to Morro Bay to stay a few days and enjoy the cool weather of the area. Over the last 30 years or so we have stayed at a B&B in Morro Bay – Marina Street Inn.

The front of the Marina Street Inn – stop in and visit with Claudia.

Over the years we have gotten to know the Owners and they became friends not just owners of the B&B.

Proof that we were here in February 2008 and that we are skinier!!!

If you have been following our Blog for a while you will remember that Claudia joined us in Paris for Christmas and New Years last year.

Having been here as many times as we have we do have a preference for the first floor and that’s where we are – the Dockside Room.

The Dockside Room – this is where we usually stay.

However, over the years we have stayed in all four rooms of the Inn.

The Rambling Rose room is one of the 2 rooms on the first floor.
The Garden Room is on the second floor with a small patio between it and the Bordeaux Room
The Bordeaux room on the second floor.

We hadn’t been here very long before we got into Claudia’s car and headed out to dinner at the Galley. This is a great fish place right along the water in Morro Bay and a spot we have been to virtually every time we have been here. Great food, nice people and they don’t seem to mind if I bring my own wine (which is always a plus!).

The next day, after a lovely breakfast,

The dining table will seat 8 without a problem. There have been some lively discussions at this table for sure.

we piled into our car and headed out for a picnic at Justin winery. Justin has been around since 1981 with the mission of making world-class Bordeaux style blends. Since then they have expanded both their knowledge of viniculture in the unique region as well as the acreage.

Justin’s Tasting Room – lots of space to move around.
Krystal the Tasting Room Supervisor at Justin was fun to talk to about their wines.
Janeen and Claudia sample some wine and enjoy our picnic lunch

After a new owner came in about 10 years ago a new tasting room and facilities were built to expand the customer experience. Located a good 10 miles off Hwy 46, the main route along the wine areas of Paso Robles, it’s a destination for sure and not something you just stumble across. We planned a picnic lunch on their patio along with a wonderful bottle of Rose and had a fantastic time.

Here we are at Justin after or picnic. Claudia is between Janeen and David (duh).

Not being finished with wine tasting the next day we packed up and went out again – this time to Niner Winery. Niners consist of about 223 acres and are best know for estate grown cabernet sauvignon, Pinot noir and Chardonnay.

Niner’s tasting room – two big fire places would make this place a delight in the winter.

The entire place started about 2001 and has been doing OK. They have a restaurant with a limited menu and a very nice tasting room. We arrived for our lunch reservation a little early so or course had to sample a few things in the tasting room. We settled on a bottle of Chardonnay to go with our lunch.

The Heart shaped area with trees is a lovely feature of the Niner vineyards

Sitting out on the patio overlooking some olive trees, the “heart” shaped grove of trees and the lavender plantings was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

Niner’s plantings of lavender were just outside the tasting room

Back to the Marina Street Inn for the evening ending this wonderful day we just hung out in the living room, read some books and enjoyed the end of the day together.

A comfortable living room open to all guests is a great gathering place before breakfast or anytime during the day.

If you are ever in the area drop in and say hello to Claudia and if you need a place to stay be sure to mention us and I’m sure she will give you a discount!

09-08-18 Birthday and a Wedding

Several months ago, our friend John Carnesale from Las Vegas called and invited us to his wedding to be held in Santa Barbara on September 8th. While it was at least 6 months ago when the call came in we have been working our way here ever since. I did mention to him that he was getting married on my birthday so I would remember the date.

We arrived in Santa Barbara the day before and settled into a nice room close to downtown and not far from the wedding site – Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church

and the reception site at the Four Seasons – Biltmore

The Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara

both in Montecito just a wee bit south of town.  We started the day with a late breakfast at the Four Seasons including a lovely adult beverage overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Enjoying my Bloody Mary for breakfast.

Popularly known as “the Little Church of the Fathers,” this 160-year old parish is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Montecito.

Since the parish was unable to come up with the funds to build a new church, three sisters who moved to Montecito from the Mid-west, funded the construction of what is the current Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

While not officially a part of the California Mission system, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church does have a connection to it. The humble beginnings of the church can be traced to the earliest rural settlers in Montecito, the soldiers of the Santa Barbara Presidio and their descendants. In lieu of a salary or pension payments, Presidio guards who watched over the Mission in Santa Barbara were given small tracts of land in Montecito and other nearby areas. Having grown tired of traveling to Sunday church services in Santa Barbara, these landholders eventually decided they wanted a church of their own. On July 16th, 1856, a priest traveled from the Mission to Montecito to celebrate Mass in a meadow and to announce that a chapel would be erected around the location of that first Mass.

Father Cox, who led the construction of the new church, passed away in 1939, leaving a legacy of generosity to those in need during the Great Depression. It is said that no one was turned away from his door.

The simple rectangular adobe church with a wooden porch was completed in 1859, the same year that the land on which it stood was officially deeded to the Church.

Over the years, a parish school was added along with a new chapel that expanded the capacity of the church from 300 to 600 parishioners.
Stacy and John have joined together! Lovely wedding.

We parked at the Four Seasons and took a Lyft ride to the Church where we joined a throng of people getting ready for the ceremony.

After the wedding there was a couple of hours before the start of the reception and we took that as a sign for an adult beverage in the bar.

A beverage in the bar – nice way to spend a part of my birthday!

The wedding included a fantastic band that played great tunes throughout the night and a sit down dinner with open bar!

A lovely afternoon for a reception by the ocean!

The band – great tunes throughout the reception and dinner

All in all a great way to celebrate my birthday, in a beautiful spot where we met a bunch of new friends and celebrated the joining of John and Stacy.

09-07-18 Moving Day, Wine stuff and great friends

The 29th of August was a big day for us. We moved everything we owned out of our home in Alhambra and into storage for the next 8 to 9 months. Thus culminates a two week long packing adventure where we tried to put everything into protective boxes and made decisions on what to keep and what toss. Having lived in the house for 40 years, we had accumulated a lot of treasures. Fortunately, before we started this adventure, we had a major “estate sale” to reduce the amount of stuff but even still there was a lot to go through. Originally we had thought about getting a couple of the “Pods” and filling them up but the more I thought about it the more discouraged I got with that idea and just called Nationwide Moving for a quote to pick everything up and move it. Turns out the quote, based on the “volume” we would have had with two pods was less expensive! This also meant we were released from the heavy lifting of loading the damn things and making sure it all fit!

The round mosaic table was made by my mother 40 plus years ago. Where will end up? Who knows but it’s going with us.
Lots of shrink wrap, cardboard, packing blankets and tape being used.
I never would have packed this stuff as carefully as they did that’s for sure.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, the quote for the “volume was for 500 Cubic feet. After all was said and done, and loaded on the truck, the volume of all our worldly positions was closer to 800 Cubic feet – and 2 pods wouldn’t have been enough.

800 cubic feet of stuff.

Sure, maybe we saved to much stuff but there are some treasures we just couldn’t part with. We have sent additional 7 or 8 boxes of things to our son’s home in Virginia (thank you very much Terri and Jason for allow us to share your place when we are on the east coast). Now all of our stuff is stored waiting for us to find a “landing pad” sometime next year.

The following day, VietnamVets came and carted away a lot of things we were not going to keep and might be helpful to others. When it comes down to it, the emotional tie you have to things can be broken if you just try. YEARS ago I took a million pictures, had a darkroom to develop and print my own pictures and some really nice camera equipment (Nikon with 3 or 4 lens). This camera equipment has been in a carry case for the last 15 years and not opened. I put it on the AmVets truck and away it went. Yes, the stuff in the case had cost a pretty penny but had little value to me now and was certainly not digital so of little interest to todays camera totting folks.

With our house on the market, and thus no home to sleep in, we continued to stay with friends in Alhambra while they were on their road trip. When they returned we moved to other friends (Phil and Jessie)

Phil and Jessie – our hosts for the last several nights. Wonderful people we have been fortunate to have met one NYE 6 or 7 years ago.

in Pasadena until leaving (today) for Santa Barbara.

Taking a night off from all our efforts, we got to see John Pizzarelli at Catalina’s Jazz Club in Hollywood one evening. I figure we have seen this guy 15 or more times over the years.

Since the movers took everything away we have had a couple of offers on the house and one that looked like it might actually result in its sale. Unfortunately they got cold feet and backed out so the realtor is out drumming up more interest in the house with the hope we can get in and out of Escrow before we have to leave for Northern California at the end of September (not likely but we can hope).

As many of you know, we have a bunch of wine (thus the loverofwine.com website) and I was able to sell of 28 cases of the juice during the last 2 weeks. That still leaves another 80 cases to worry about still in storage!

Stored wine – lots and lots of stored wine
Some very special bottles in storage for sure. Two in particular on the right side – a 1995 Bollinger RD and a 2006 Cristal. Lovely Champagnes for sure.
OK, we have a lot of wine…I know…

All of it is safely protected in a LOCKED (don’t get any ideas) locker in a temperature-controlled building. Along with the wine are several boxes of photos, photo books and other things that will be much safer in the wine locker then in a hot storage facility.

During the years we have spent in the Area, we have gotten to know a number of really interesting people – particularly in the wine and food business. I can specifically point at Tom Anderson who was the GM at the Parkway Grill in Pasadena as the person who got me started in collecting wine (damn you Tom! [just kidding]) and to Hugo Molino as the first chef who introduced me to the joys of gracious dining and interesting meals. During our last few weeks we have been able to have dinner with Tom and his wife Nikki

Tom and Nikki with a wonderful dinner and wines.

and to catch up with Hugo!

Hugo now owns a small place in Alhambra on Main Street called Genovese’s. Stop in and enjoy!

Great joy in reconnecting with these people – hopefully not loosing them as we move away but visiting with them when we are in the area.

We are now in Santa Barbara for a couple of days to attend a friends wedding (tomorrow on my birthday) and then off to Morro Bay to visit with our friend Claudia (you will remember her as she came to Paris last December and stayed for Christmas and New Years with us….) before returning to Alhambra for a round of medical appointments and other happenings before heading to the Bay Area (Northern California for those not in the know) to celebrate our friends 50th Wedding Anniversary. Until later, as Rick Steve’s always says, Keep on Traveling.

One last note, before I go, we have learned that our darling Little Miss (our granddaughter) will become an “Big Sister” in April! One more reason to be on the east coast for sure.

I’m the Big Sister T-Shirt