Monday, January 27, 2020

Never Forget

January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is a day of commemoration for the victims of the Holocaust during World War II. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of approximately 6 million Jews, 2 million Romany, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its associates. Today, January 27th, is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland.
Every year at our family Passover Seder we recite these words:
Seder Ritual of Remembrance:
This is for the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis and for the heroes of the ghetto uprisings.
On this Seder night we remember with reverence the six million of our own people, and those of all nationalities and faiths, who only yesterday were mercilessly crushed by a tyrant more wicked than the Pharaoh who enslaved our fathers in Egypt.
And they slew the blameless and the pure; men, women, children and babies did they destroy absolutely in chambers of fire and in factories of death.
On this night of Passover we recall with pride the undaunted defenders of freedom in the ghettos of Europe—our brave brothers and sisters who defined the tyrant, even as did our ancestors in the days of Judah the Maccabee.
On this night we also recall and give tribute to those members of our family who have passed on. We celebrate their lives by honoring them and giving strength to their memory, despite the darkest of circumstances. We honor their courage by re-telling the Passover story, our Spring Festival of freedom and re-birth. 
Visit the Museum of Tolerance on Pico Boulevard at Roxbury Drive in Los Angeles to learn more about it.
Considering the political climate in the United States these days, we need to remember now, more than ever.

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Local Field Trip

L.C. Brand's Miradero Estate (1904)
Yesterday, Larry and I took a mini-field trip. We'd recently viewed PBS's "No Passport Required" with Chef Marcus Samuelsson. The first show of the new season featured the Armenian culture of Los Angeles. The show started out in East Hollywood and then traveled over the hill to Glendale, the west coast city with the largest Armenian population outside of Armenia. Needless to say, all of the places Chef Marcus visited were enticing!
OK, we couldn't justify driving to Glendale just for lunch, so we incorporated a visit to the Brand Library and Park. I've always loved the Moorish designed library, formerly L.C. Brand's mansion (Nathaniel Dryden, architect), on the grounds. I hadn't been there in years. The gallery was closed yesterday, but we hung out in the Library for a bit. The building has been lovingly restored. You can easily see that this was a home. Each room, dining, living, den, etc. has areas for reading and studying. I could live there!
Restored Reading Rooms at the Mansion/Library

After perusing the excellent art book section, Larry and I strolled the grounds of the park and wandered into The Whispering Pine Tea House and Garden. Very serene.

Whispering Pine Tea House and Garden

We'd finally worked up an appetite to seek out one of Chef Marcus's lunch suggestions. We headed over to Mini-Kabob, just off Central Avenue, south of The Glendale Galleria. Parking is scarce is this neighborhood, but we managed to find a spot about a block away.
My motto: "You Can't Eat Atmosphere," applies here. This is really a hole-in-the-wall place with 3 tiny tables inside. Patrons were kind enough to shift their seats so Larry and I could sit together. Because the tables are in such close proximity, we struck up conversations with our fellow diners and were given tips as to the best dishes to order.
Mini-Kabob, Glendale
We both ordered Lule kabobs, Larry had the beef and I ordered chicken. They came with rice, hummus, garlic sauce and fresh lavosh bread. Our meal was totally DELICIOUS!
Chicken Lule Kabob

We will return to Glendale and East Hollywood to check out Chef Marcus's other recommendations!

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Words to Live and Knit By

Suzanne's sweater honoring the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This has become a tradition on "L.A. Is My Beat."  For the past nine years I have been featuring Suzanne's MLK sweater on my blog in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I will repeat  again this year because I'm so in love with this idea and in awe of Suzanne's mad skills. 
The sweater pattern is from "Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines."  The name of this sweater is "Margaret," designed for the book by Mary Neal Meador.  The instructions state that the sweater may be embellished after knitting with chain stitched quotations of the knitter’s choice.  The sweater in the book has poetry added to the front and back. 
When I saw Suzanne's ("owlknits") sweater, I was touched by the words she chose.  This is from Suzanne's project page on Ravelry: 

I knit this sweater for a local art exhibition that was organized to honor the ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I used quotes from his “I have a dream…” speech to embroider on the front and back of the sweater: Front: Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. Back: The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the day of justice emerges.

I am still blown away by Suzanne's sweater and her choice of quotations.  One day I will make such a sweater for myself.  Bravo!  Excellent work, Suzanne, honoring an eloquent man and his ideas! 

Follow this graphed chart to make a different sweater honoring MLK

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Marin Luther King, Jr.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Musical Roots

Classic MoTown
A friend recently asked me about my musical roots.
"What song is guaranteed to make you speed in your car? Dance in your seat? Sing out loud?"
I'm always looking for cool songs to play on the ukulele. Time to dig back into my archive and choose some cool sides!

I can always bop to the pop music from my youth, which is classic Mo-Town (including the 4 Tops, Marvin Gaye, Jackson 5, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Marvelettes, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, etc.), classic surf music (including Beach Boys, Dick Dale, The Surfaris, The Ventures, Jan and Dean, The Chantays, etc. The teen songs from the Brill Building in New York, by composers such as Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Cynthia Weil, Howard Greenfireld, Ellie Greenwich and Burt Bacharach. The groups of the British Invasion years, such as the Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones. During my later high school and early college years I was crazy for Carole King, Elton John, James Taylor, Crosby/Stills and Nash, The Flying Burrito Bros., The Byrds, The Doors.

THEN, I spent years doing the folkie, bluesgrass, blues and country thang. My older brother is a musician so I used to tag along with him to the historic folk and jazz hangouts of Los Angeles: The Ashgrove, The Troubadour, The Golden Bear, The Lighthouse, etc. I was exposed to American Roots music early on. By ROOTS, we mean the Roots of rock 'n roll. Rock comes from blues, country, rockabilly, jazz. In the late 80's and early 90's I was the board operator and engineer for Billy Vera's Rock 'n Roll Party on KCRW-FM. Billy has an impressive knowledge of American music. I learned a tremendous amount about early rock 'n roll from him. I grooved to oldies from the 50's and 60's, along with swamp rock from New Orleans.

In the late 90's and early 2000 I co-hosted a blues radio show on KPCC-FM. This was another educational opportunity for me to learn more about American music...I learned to love early black gospel music, all kinds of blues, zydeco, cajun music, norteno music, polka, etc.
Ellen on the Radio
Notice the Silver "45" insert around my neck!
Phew! So, after all that, here are the somewhat esoteric songs that get me going, put me in a good mood and make me dance:

10. "Polka Changed My Life Today" by Rotundi
9. "Zydeco Gumby Ya-Ya" by Brave Combo
8. Any song from the original movie soundtracks of "Hairspray" or "Crybaby" (John Waters' Baltimore Rock)
7. "Dragnet for Jesus" by Wynona Carr
6. "Raised by Hippies" by I See Hawks in L.A.
5. "Sam's Place" by Buck Owens
6. "Kiko and the Lavender Moon" by Los Lobos
4. "4th of July" by Dave Alvin and the Allnighters
3. "At Last" by Etta James
2. "Eat The Lunch You Brought" by Jeff Turmes
1. "It's Raining" by Irma Thomas

There you have it! I'm old, but I'm bold!

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Happy Birthday Larry

Larry, 9th Grade, Sherman Oaks, CA

Today is my husband, Larry's birthday! Happy birthday Sweetie! We will celebrate ALL DAY LONG, because we can!

We've been married almost 28 years. It's getting more difficult to surprise Larry with unexpected birthday gifts. I hope I succeed. We'll see....  There will be some lounging around today, then dinner later at one of Larry's favorite Hollywood restaurants.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Vintage Palm Springs, Our Vacation Spot

Ellen, Ken, Palm Springs, 1962
It was one of those cold, cloudy days in the winter in Palm Springs in 1962. It had been raining. We couldn't go swimming. Suddenly, the sun came out, but it still wasn't warm enough to don our bathing suits.
I remember the "car coat" I was wearing. It was red. So was the "pixie band" in my hair. My brother was reading a book. Dad snapped a photo with us squinting into the sun. 
We were staying at the Hillcrest Manor. My Dad was a contractor and had a door and wardrobe business at the time. He had supplied the remodeled Hillcrest Manor and another motel nearby, The Caribbean, with their doors and wardrobes. I guess the owner had a difficult time with payment, because in exchange, we had a weekend apartment in Palm Springs for about 3 or 4 years. We shared it with my Dad's business partner, so every other weekend we HAD to go to Palm Springs, rain or shine. This was one of those rainy weekends. 
Hillcrest Manor, Palm Springs
It wasn't easy getting to Palm Springs in those days. It took hours and hours. There weren't a lot of freeways. I vaguely remember going all the way south on La Brea Avenue until it turned into Hawthorne Blvd. I also remember stopping part-way in San Gabriel at a Mexican restaurant called El Poche Cafe for dinner. It was in an old adobe building, down the street from the San Gabriel Mission. There was a candle shop in the lobby. It must have taken about 4 hours to get to the desert.
The Hillcrest Manor was just off the main drag, Palm Canyon Drive. I remember walking to Louise's Pantry (originally Gordon's Luncheonette) and the A & W Rootbeer Stand, downtown, in the same courtyard as the Palm Springs Plaza Theater. If the weather was cold and we couldn't swim all day, we'd walk up and down Palm Canyon, looking in the shops. There were many of the same stores that we had in Los Angeles: Silverwood's, Desmond's, Robinson's, Saks 5th Avenue, Bullock's, Milton F. Kreiss Drugstore and lots of little resort-wear boutiques. 
Downtown Palm Springs
We also went on field trips near Palm Springs to the Palm Springs Aerial TramwayAgua Caliente Indian CanyonTahquitz CanyonHadley's Fruit Orchard and even all the way out to the Salton Sea. Dad liked arranging educational field trips for us. Mom liked shopping. 
I've continued taking trips out to the desert my whole life. Even though it's changed and grown, I still love it.
Have a great weekend!

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Monday, January 06, 2020


2116 Castle Heights Avenue, Los Angeles, 1952

When I was born, we lived in a house that my Dad designed in Beverlywood, an area south of Beverly Hills, in Los Angeles. I don't remember the house because we moved to nearby Beverly Hills when I was two years old. However, the house is still there and I drive by it often. It still looks great and very much the same, except the landscaping is very lush now.
Kenny and George Bloom, playing cowboy. Beverlywood, 1952
Beverlywood is a very nice area of Los Angeles. There are schools, stores, restaurants, markets and bakeries nearby. Many of the post-WW II homes have been replaced by larger homes. The area has become quite expensive, so new residents want to maximize the capacity of their lots. I do miss the ranch-type smaller homes of my youth that made the neighborhood cohesive. I've lived my entire life on the edges of this neighborhood, so I feel very at home here. Which area of Los Angeles is "home" to you?
2116 Castle Heights Avenue today. The exterior of the house is the same, only the landscaping has grown!

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year's Eve

Altered Dorothea Lange Image, "Dust Bowl Mother"
New Year's Eve is Amateur's Night.  If you're really a hard-core party-er, you'll be out drinking and dancing 'til dawn on ANY other night of the week except New Year's Eve!  This is what HBO TV host John Oliver says about New Year's Eve in New York:  "New Year's Eve is like the death of a pet, you know it's going to happen but somehow you're never really prepared for how truly awful it is.  New Year's Eve is the worst.  It combines three of the least pleasant things known to mankind:  Forced interaction with strangers, being drunk, 
cold and tired and having to stare at Ryan Seacrest for five solid minutes, waiting for him to tell you what the time is." 
Hahahahaha!  I agree.  Up until I was in my late 30's, early 40's, I used to LOVE New Year's Eve.  We always made elaborate plans for the evening....parties, music, fancy dinners and more.  Now that we've advanced in years, I find the whole evening a let-down.  For the last decade or so (with a couple of neighbor's parties thrown in), Larry and I usually go to an early evening movie and then dinner at an out-of-way, non-festive restaurant like our local coffee shop or Thai place.
This year we'll be doing more of the same.  We have a movie picked out at the Landmark, WLA that starts at 4:05.  Hmmmm?  Where to go for EARLY dinner afterwards? Afterwards, we'll stop by our neighbors' house and drink a toast to East Coast New Year's at 9pm. Perfect!
I found the vintage photo below in the L.A. Public Library photo archives.  We will NOT be with the gang on the Strip tomorrow night.  Ho Hum.
New Year's Eve on the Sunset Strip, 1968.  Herald-Examiner Collection

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Friday, December 27, 2019


A few of my Sascha Brastoff pieces

There's something about collecting ceramics. They can be dainty and take you back to a forgotten era of civility and refinement or they can be objects that you use daily. I've always had a fondness for all things ceramic. I collect sets of dishes, vases, figurines, salt and pepper shakers, outdoor pottery, candle holders, etc.
The Sascha Brastoff Showroom, 11520 West Olympic Boulevard, WLA.
Designed by 
architect A. Quincy Jones (1953)
One of my favorite collections is my pottery by artist, Sascha Brastoff. Brastoff lived in L.A. after World War II and designed pottery and sculpture during the late 40's, 50's 60's and early 70's. He had a store in West L.A. When I was a little girl, I remember my Mother taking me to Sasha's 'seconds' shop on Olympic Blvd. near Sepulveda, right next to the railroad tracks. This is where he sold his pieces that were slightly damaged or not perfect enough for the department stores or china shops. My Mother doesn't have any of her Sasha pieces anymore....I'm not even sure what she purchased during those days, I only remember walking around the showroom and loving all of the modern whimsical horses, fish, ballerinas, Harlequins, Eskimos, etc. that Sascha painted on his glazed pieces.

So, for the past 40 years, everytime I go to a garage sale, estate sale, thrift or antique shop I look for Sascha Brastoff pieces. They've gone way up in value, so I rarely find a piece I can afford now-a-days. I have various ashtrays, plates and ginger jars. My collection is not large, but I have a variety of designs. I'm still looking for the Polynesian tiki ashtray and the ballerina pieces I admired as a child. Sascha's pieces usually have a signature of "Sascha B." and a little rooster design on the back of the piece. There is a biography of Sascha B. that includes photos of many of his creations. I have the book and refer to it often for inspiration. 
Other artists (and disciples of Sasha's) during the same era, turning out some beautiful modern pottery, were Marc Bellaire and Georges Briard. I did inherit a gorgeous frosted glass serving platter from my Mother with decorations by Briard. I also have an ashtray with a Marc Bellaire design. 

Sascha Brastoff, working in his studio
If you see some great Sasha B. pottery and it's under $20, buy it for me! I promise to reimburse you!
My Poodle Dish is my favorite Brastoff piece!
I've added a few more pieces to my collection since taking the photos above. Thanks to Larry and my friend, Susan for keeping an eye out for me!

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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Holiday Cards

In May 2019, we took a road trip and met some new friends

Each year, as a gift to our friends and family, Larry and I like to create a personalized  holiday card. We try to come up with some sort of current event that happened during the year. Sometimes, we just gather up some cool stuff in our house and have a photo shoot.
Together, we come up with a concept. I usually sketch out the idea and gather the photographic elements. Larry is the professional photographer, so he creates the card in Photoshop. 
Here are a few fun cards from past years:
2012, The ENDEAVOR spacecraft flew around town and The BIG ROCK was delivered to LACMA from the California  desert. We followed both through the streets of Los Angeles!
2014, Ukulele Obsession! We even created our own playlist for our upcoming "CD." Click on the picture to read the song titles!
2015. We snapped a photo of an old building on Santa Monica Blvd. and Van Ness in Hollywood and inserted our photo for an upcoming movie poster!

2017. A frantic year. We just looked around the house for all of the holiday stuff, gathered it and took a group shot!
2018. The devastating fires in California, especially Paradise, CA. Larry's family home was destroyed. A melancholy year, indeed. #CaliforniaStrong
My cousin, Myrna has saved ALL of our holiday cards since the early days...1990s. I must check out her collection and see what I'm missing.
Who knows what we'll come up with for next year. I must remember to keep track of events and places that we visit in 2020!  Happy Holidays to you!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

ModCom Xmas Party 2019

The ModCom Holiday Party is always the third Monday in December. This year we convened at the Valley Relics Museum in the San Fernando Valley, between Reseda and Van Nuys. It was wonderful seeing old friends from the Modern Committee of the L.A. Conservancy. The Grilled Cheese food truck was just outside the door, serving up some yummy food.

The Valley Relics Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, interpreting and presenting the history of the San Fernando Valley and surrounding areas in order to share with residents and visitors the stories of those who shaped the region and its role in its development.
So many wonderful signs and artifacts from old places around the Valley are stored and displayed here. It's a feast for the eyes. You MUST visit

The Museum is also a grand place to hold a party! On Monday, we saw friends that we haven't seen in years! There was a live band, Justeen, the strolling ukulele Lady and more!
Celeste, Adriene, Marjorie, Ellen and Justeen
To see more fab photos taken by Mr. Larry Underhill, click HERE

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Hiren's BootCD
hard drive recovery