Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Mel's Penguin

The New Mel's Diner, Santa Monica

Today was the grand opening of Mel's Diner in the former Penguin Coffee Shop in Santa Monica. Since I work in SM, I decided to bop over for lunch. I knew it would be busy on opening day, but I wanted to re-live my Santa Monica College days when we used to go to The Penguin for burgers after class.
1959. Photo by Jack Laxer, courtesy of original architects, Armet, Davis and Newlove archives

The owners have done a great job of re-imagining the space, keeping that mid-century vibe. Some of their design choices are a bit kitschy, but overall, the restaurant is spacious and welcoming, just like the old days. 
It was busy on this first day and all of the booths were filled. Since I was alone, I found a space quickly at the counter. Mel's has added beer and wine to the casual menu. I sat right in front of the beer taps. The staff was friendly even though they were looking around frantically to make sure that everyone was served. I know it will take the staff awhile before they're comfortable. 
1959 Interior of The Penguin. Photo by Jack Laxer, archives, Armet, Davis & Newlove

My viewpoint from the counter looked right into the kitchen. The cooks were jamming. My patty melt and fries did take a bit longer than expected, but it was delicious, just like the food at all of the Mel's Diners around town (if you like $14 burgers). Really, I didn't expect perfect service on this first day. I did not complain.  After eating, the waitress took back the first bill I received. I was puzzled. Then, she handed me a new bill with only my drink ordered listed. What? She explained that she was sorry my burger took such a long time to be served and that they were only charging me for my beverage. Whoa! Excellent customer service!
The counter is spacious with those 80's juke boxes. Purse hangers under the counter would be a nice addition!

The parking lot is big, but it is valet only. For now, the valet is complimentary. You can enter from Lincoln Blvd., traveling south or from Olympic Blvd., west of Lincoln, traveling west.  After The Penguin closed in 1988, Western Dental took over the building. Luckily, they didn't change the exterior of the building at all. The big penguin sign was saved too. The rock walls inside were dry-walled and therefore preserved. The owners at Mel's really did an excavation job on the place to bring it back the best they could to it's "Googie-ness."
Western Dental, 2009

I must say, I do miss the penguin chef illustrations over the counter area. Also, the marching penguins on the lucite booth dividers. Come on! The name of the place is THE PENGUIN. There should be some penguin references INSIDE the restaurant too. Sigh.
The Penguin Interior, 1959. Penguin Chefs over the counter! Photo by Jack Laxer, from the Armet, Davis, Newlove Archives
Marching Penguins on Lucite Panel. Photo by John Eng, 1988
I will give the new Mel's a month or two to settle in before I go back. I will return. We need more coffee shops in this town!

Terrazzo walkway in front of Mel's

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Monday, June 25, 2018


We received this mysterious communique in the mail last month. Inside the envelope, this document was sealed in wax! We knew it was from our friends, Charlene and Chris Nichols because of the return address. Every year Chris celebrates his birthday with an unusual celebration in various locations. 
Sealed in Wax
We opened the letter to find that it was hand-written in a flowery script in SPANISH! I do have a basic knowledge of Spanish, having taken it from 3 grade through high school. Also, living in Los Angeles, es necesario hablar Español!
The Invitation. Click on image to embiggen
With the help of a few of my Spanish-speaking co-workers, here's what we were able to decipher:

"We have the pleasure of inviting you to participate in a grand celebration of the abundant gifts from God of Upper California. The celebration will be in the home of Ignacio Palomares at 491 East Arrow Highway, Los Angeles at 7 in the evening on Saturday the 23rd of June, 1845.

Come to the Rancho to partake of a grand barbecue, drinks, dancing (fandango) and more. Everyone will come from Russia, Spain, the United States and all over the world to partake of the indigenous gifts from the earth.

Soldiers and cowboys, cayadores, braceros, Doñas and Doñes.  Please wear traditional clothing that you have. We are all compadres, we are all Californios, we are all Mexicanos!"

.....or something like that. One of my co-workers who is completely fluent in Spanish said, "We don't talk like that! This is so formal and Victorian!"  Exactly. It's 1845 after all.
So, Larry and I concocted costumes for ourselves out of what we had in our closets. Larry did purchase a wonderful summer Vaquero hat. We are Señora y Señor Bajo de Loma. (Under the Hill, get it?). You can also call me Elena Flores, my professional name. We are just Mexicano neighbors of the Mr. Palomares.
Señora y Señor Bajo de Loma.
Gracias Dios por el internet! I looked up Ygnacio Palomares and the address on Arrow Highway. Turns out this is the Palomares Adobe and it serves as a historic example of ranchos from this era. There is a museum inside the adobe and the grounds are set up for parties. Oh that Chris! He really makes his guests work for a party! Besides creating our ensembles, we had to drive to POMONA!
It turned out to be a FABULOUS party! Charlene and Chris hired caterers who prepared food of the Rancho era. Food historian, Charles Perry was there to tell us about the history of the food and the wine that was served. There was a group of dancers, musicians and historians from Santa Barbara who performed for us and explained many of the customs of the Californios in 1845. There were horses, goats and chickens roaming around. It was a glorious evening!
Musicians, photo by John Eng
Santa Barbara dancers, photo by John Eng

Best of all was seeing how all of our friends outfitted themselves in clothing from the era. Many people were very authentic. Some, not so much, but very spirited! Here are a few examples:
Our host, Junipero Serra Nichols
Farm-hand Vince, Compañeros Adriene and John
Listening to the food description. Photo by Brooke Keesling
Carving of the Beef. The beef was buried in the ground and cooked all day!

Nicole, Ben and Nathan
Vaquero Daniel and farm-hands Chris and Vince
My personal favorites, Prospectors Deyo, Taylor and Brooke
Vaquero Sunil, Cowboy Steve, Sr. Larry and Basque Farmer Greg
I must say, Marsha and Nicole were enchanting!
Later in the evening Zorro  crashed the party and had a fencing match with one of the nefarious gentleman farmers. I didn't manage to get a good photo of all happened so fast!
It really was a wonderful party. We learned about California history, ate food of the era and imbibed on traditional Calfornia wine. Best of all was seeing all of our Mod-Com friends dressed for the event! Thank you Charlene and Chris. Happy birthday Friar Chris!
Follow me on Facebook! I should have Larry's photos of the evening uploaded soon.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Wow! This is the seventh year I've participated in the Annual Dishcloth Swap on Ravelry.  I LIKE COTTON DISHCLOTHS! What? A DISHCLOTH swap? Huh? Why would I swap a shmatta (rag) with my friends? Because 100% cotton knitted and/or crocheted dish cloths are awesome. That's why!
Other than the fact that cotton dish cloths are lovely to use, they are reusable and good for the environment. If you use a soft cotton, they are excellent to use for spa cloths on your tender skin. If you use an everyday cotton yarn like Sugar & Cream and add some ribs and bumps to your pattern, these cloths make excellent scrubbers for dirty pots and pans.
They make outstanding gifts paired with fancy soap. Oh! You can make them using all kinds of PRETTY COLORS. This will cheer up the spot next to your sink, whether it's in the kitchen, laundry room or bathroom!
You knit or crochet five cloths in the SAME pattern. Of course, you can change around the colors so you don't get bored. Then, you tag your cloths and mail them with a self-addressed stamped envelope to Swap Central. After Labor Day you will receive five NEW dishcloths, all different designs!
The theme of this year’s swap is BEAUTY. Think of these dishcloths as objects you would hang on a wall and stare lovingly at, in addition to dishcloths actually being used in the kitchen or bath. Use surprising color combinations and intriguing patterns. Challenge yourself to use a new stitch pattern or a finer gauge yarn. That said, don’t feel pressured to use teensy little crochet cotton. Thicker kitchen cotton can make fancy dishcloths. 
After we receive your dishcloths, we will be spotlighting some of them in special categories:

  • Fascinating Color Combination
  • Intriguing Pattern – Knit
  • Intriguing Pattern – Crochet
  • Clever Label Design
  • Awesome award (aka Admin’s choice)
The Annual Dish Cloth Swap is on NOW! You don't have to register to join, just finish your cloths before August 24, 2018 and send them to Swap Central.  All the instructions as to size, content, mailing instructions, etc. are here.
There are tons of free patterns for knit and crochet dishcloths on Ravelry.  Join us, won't you?
Our in-house photographer documents the proceedings!

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Happy Father's Day

Larry and I attended a funeral yesterday for our friend, photographer Jack Laxer. Jack was 91 years old and led a full and satisfying life. He was best known for his 3-D photographs of mid-century modern architecture in Los Angeles. See these examples for a taste. The service was lovely, his wife, Jan and daughters, Lisa and Ellen planned a wonderful tribute. Sitting in the chapel and listening to everyone speak about Jack made me think about my own Dad, George (1919-2004). I feel sorry for Jack's daughters that he passed just before Father's Day.
George E. Bloom, 1999

When my Dad passed away 14 years ago, everyone told me that it would get easier to think about him and that I wouldn't start sniffling each time. Not true. Yesterday at Jack's funeral brought me right back to my own Father's memorial. I couldn't stop thinking about Pop and what a wonderful man he was. Salty tears on the keyboard right now. Sigh. I miss him very much.
Happy Father's Day to everyone who celebrates and to the memory of all of our fathers who did their best.
Ellen and George, Ahwanhee Hotel, Yosemite, 1961

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Happy Birthday Ken!

So many June birthdays! Today is my big brother's birthday. Happy birthday Ken! I hope you're having a grand celebration today in Pilot Mountain! Your home town of Los Angeles misses you!
Happy Birthday Ken!
It's my goal in life to see how many old, embarrassing vintage photos I can find in the Bloom archives. You've seen all of these! I hope to come up with some rare doozies for next year.
Love, Ell

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Monday, June 11, 2018

World Wide Stitch in Public Day

The West Hollywood Stitch 'n Bitch met this past Saturday, June 9th for World Wide Stitch in Public Day at the Original Farmers Market. We had a great turn-out. It was fun seeing knitters and crocheters we hadn't seen in a long time, as well as some newcomers. Thanks so much for participating!
Sara and Yuki, comparing yarns
Vickie arrived first to save our table. Ellen brought yummy doughnuts from Bob's
Thanks to Kate...way in the back, wearing lilac, for bringing FREE YARN to share!
Lauren, Lucas and Kelli
Newcomers, Robin and Paula checking out Kate's FREE YARN and Lauren's FREE Yarny Magazines
Thanks for braving the crowds at the Farmers Market on a Saturday! Please join us EVERY Thursday night from 7-9 and the second Saturday of each month from 10 am - noon!

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Thursday, June 07, 2018

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my sweet Mom's 96th birthday! WOW! Happy birthday, Rozzi! See you later!

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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

More Town, Less Country

Town and Country Village in the 1950s, 3rd and Fairfax, Los Angeles

Town and Country, which is a shopping center directly across the street from the Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax is going to change drastically. The entire shopping center will be demolished. There will be a 26-story tower with 380 residential units. Whole Foods and CVS, among others are supposed to come back to the shopping area, along with other stores and restaurants. K-Mart will be gone. There are more details and a rendering of the proposed development HERE
When I was a child, Town and Country Village was a ranch-like shopping center with a few places we frequented like Fisher's Hamburgers, a magazine stand and Andre's Italian Restaurant. Scroll down in this ARTICLE to the Los Angeles section to see more about the history of this property. During the 1960s most of the original buildings were replaced with what stands today, not nearly as charming as the original!
We decided that we should visit Andre's Restaurant since it might not be here any longer. Andre's has been at Town and Country since 1963. The founder, Chef Andrerone owned a similar establishment in Westchester and also the way fancier Andre's of Beverly Hills on Wilshire Boulevard, between Robertson and La Cienega. I do remember going to the place in Beverly HIlls once when I was a child. The Andre's at 3rd and Fairfax is the only remaining Andre's Restaurant. The menu offers home-style Italian food, served cafeteria style at low prices. There's always a line to get inside. It's not fancy, but you can't eat atmosphere!
Andre's in 1963

The food portions are huge and can be easily shared. I ordered the chicken parmesan with ravioli and meat sauce. Larry ordered the poached salmon with vegies and rice pilaf. We also ordered a green salad to split that came with a huge portion of cheese bread. They have home made gelato too. We just didn't have room for dessert!
Copper covers keep the food warm
Salad and Cheese Bread
Chicken Parm with Ravioli
Poached Salmon, Vegies and Rice Pilaf
The Gelato and Ice Cream look yummy!
The dining room has been remodeled over years...nothing fancy, but clean and comfortable. You can also dine on the patio, just outside the restaurant. Get over there soon. No one knows how long Andre's will be at Town and Country Village!

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Hiren's BootCD
hard drive recovery