Saturday, June 28, 2008

Monday -Seal Beach and Hollywood

Monday morning Kristen, Merilee, and I awoke knowing we wanted to fit a lot in during our last day together. I was really not looking forward to letting them go home again!

We started out by going to what is now my favorite beach in the area, Seal Beach. I've decided that I like Laguna Beach best for it's beauty, Santa Monica and Huntington beach are tied for the southern California-atmosphere-people watching-summer fun feelings they produce, but Seal Beach is the best for just heading to the beach to play in the waves or lay out with a good book and an iPod. It was less crowded (so shhh.... don't tell anyone about it so it stays that way!), had great sand, good waves, and a great walking distance between the pier and this huge rock formation. And the best part, it's only four miles down the road from me! Who knew?? Seal Beach is also a fun little town, that makes you feel like you're far away from busy Los Angeles, and actually in some quaint beachy town that only the locals know about. So, you know where I'll be spending a lot of mornings/early afternoons, even possible to fit in if I work at night!

(it did end up being a little more crowded than these pictures show, but really not too bad!)
We came back from the beach, made a quick lunch, then enjoyed a great bowl of ice cream! I had been saving up my strawberry-rhubarb sauce for when Kristen and Merilee came, so we had that for dessert. We had been enjoying a little ice cream at some point each day, so we knew we couldn't skip it on Monday!

Can you tell how yummy it was? I'm so glad I have a little bit left, and am thinking I'll need to make a few more batches sometime soon!
Here you see three women who have had a wonderful, busy, hot, relaxing and super fun time together!
I was so glad to get to know Merilee and am looking forward to staying in touch!
I really love my cousin, Kristen, and am so thankful that we've been able to form a fun friendship! I'm so glad she was able to come visit, and I can't wait for our next adventure together... we'll have to start planning that!
We left my apartment to check out Hollywood before heading to the airport. We got to Hollywood Blvd and found tons of people, no parking available, and lots of tourists with cameras! I swiped this photo from Kristen's Facebook page. She was able to snap a shot of the Kodak Theatre from the car (home to the Oscars and many other Hollywood events).
A little farther down the road we turned left and went two blocks to Sunset Blvd. At the corner of Sunset Blvd and Rodeo Drive, you find the famous Beverly Hills Hotel. It's been called the "number one hotel in America" and has counted numerous famous people as its guests. We started walking towards it to take some pictures, then felt a little like we were trespassing so only got as far as the main drive. It sure would be fun to stay here sometime! If only it didn't cost hundreds of dollars a night...

We had parked my car along the residential section of Rodeo Drive (close to where Gene Kelly used to live) and found lovely homes with great architecture and manicured lawns. I love that there are so many rose gardens all over California!
A few blocks south of there, we arrived at the famous section of Rodeo Drive, all the shops! These are elegant stores that don't even put price tags on things (if you have to look, you can't afford it...) and I think all of America assumes that all the stars shop here. We didn't see anyone famous (that we could tell -maybe they were incognito...) but we saw a few rich-looking people and lots of tourists. We just pretended we belonged and then gave up and snapped pictures!

That's Versace behind me. I was thinking of my fashion-loving friends with stores like these!
At the south end of the shopping area is the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, made famous by the movie "Pretty Woman".
These doormen were kind enough to pose for me!
We ended our time together by grabbing a quick dinner at the north end of Rodeo Drive, at this great pizza place. It was delicious brick-oven pizza! We felt a little like we were at some European cafe, sitting outside around this little table.
After dinner, I dropped Kristen and Merilee off at LAX to catch their flight home. It was hard to see them leave! I feel so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life!

I left the airport and called Aimee and drove to Seal Beach to watch the sunset. It was a great way to end a great weekend!

Thanks, ladies, for letting me join in on your Southern California fun, and for helping me feel like I was on vacation as well!! Miss you!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sunday -Santa Monica and Universal Citywalk

On Sunday morning, we decided to snap a few pictures at my apartment before we melted for the day. This turned out to be a good idea! It was hot out and we melted quickly...
We left and went to the church my cousin, Jamie, has been telling me a lot about. Mosaic Church is where he attended before he moved too far away, and it's the place that's really helped him grow spiritually. I felt really blessed to be part of the worship there, and I might check out a few of their other campuses around the area.

After church, we had decided to head towards Santa Monica for the afternoon. I called up my cousin, Micah, and his brother Mark who is in town on a break from med school in Iowa. I was happy to hear that they could join us!

Waiting around for the guys...

After walking down towards the pier,
we decided to head back up to "The Promenade" to find a place for lunch. A few of us ate at this great Falafel place in the food court. The Promenade was a lot of fun, and I'd like to head back there again sometime -if for nothing else than to watch the REALLY talented street musicians!
Looking out at the pier, complete with an amusement park and lots of street vendors.
This is to show you how wide the beach is, which seems crazy because towards the ocean, there's this little dip in the sand that forms a great slope to lay out on, and it was still full of people! You'd think there would be enough space for everyone!

Me, Mark, and Micah overlooking the beach. Mark is the cousin I've probably spent the most time with as an adult, since he'd come back to Fergus to visit his parents and we'd get to hang out quite a bit. It's been a fun week to reconnect, both Sunday at the beach, and also yesterday when I went to Jim and Marilyn's house and just spent the afternoon hanging out. Micah and I went to high school together (and lived together in a trailer selling concessions in Canada for a summer!) but it's fun to live in the same town again and get to see each other more often!
I love being surrounded by cousins!!! Kristen and Mark both had a part in my sister's wedding almost 7 years ago, so it was really fun to reconnect them, and I'm not sure that Kristen and Micah had ever met. It was strange for me to realize that my cousins had never met, but since they're from opposite sides of my family, I guess that's pretty normal!
We took a few (well, MANY!) pictures all in a row which of course made us think of my mom -the queen of picture-taking. So, we decided to make a quick video for my mom to let her know we were thinking of her. Enjoy!

Santa Monica from Kari Swanson on Vimeo.

I love sailboats... Sailing on Pickeral Lake in Minnesota is sure different than what it must be like to be out in the ocean on a sailboat. I think I'd like to try it sometime!

It was fun watching this couple hit the ball back and forth for a bit.
I love the colors in this shot.
Micah and Mark enjoyed their time in the sun, and here I am, talking to Jared on the phone, so he's really in this picture too! Hi Jared! We're glad you could "join" us!! Now we were just missing Jamie, but Micah called him after Jared...

My beautiful cousin with her naturally curly hair after getting it wet in the ocean.
The story with this picture is that there were actually some dolphins out a little ways in the water, jumping up and diving back in. I tried to snap a good picture of them, but seemed to miss each time. It was REALLY cool to watch them having fun in the water! I'm so glad we got to see it!!
A couple of HUGE helicopters flying by.
I love the glistening sun...

and the waves.
Okay. This picture cracked me up! I had taken a long walk down the beach, and on my way back, I followed this family for a while. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see the mom strolling along with her arm around her son's shoulder, without a care in the world. Then, you can see the dad wearing two hats, carrying three pairs of shoes, two backpacks, and a few other things in his arms. It still cracks me up!
Kristen snapped this picture, which is priceless! She saw this old man wandering around with his big hat, stockings to his knees and wearing sneakers while walking in the sand. She couldn't resist a photo of his silhouette, and I'm so glad she got it! Cute picture!

A last look at the sun and sand and waves and ocean before we decided to leave for the day. We had spent a wonderful afternoon at the beach!
After leaving Santa Monica, we went to Universal Citywalk. It's this outdoor mall area with shops and restaurants and lots of neon. It's a pretty fun place that's hard to describe.
We watched this artist for a little while. He does "experiential art" like my cousin, Scott. Creating art while people are watching. It's very cool to see the progression of the picture!
There's an outdoor fountain area that has water shooting up from the ground. The kids around were having a blast playing in it!
As a big fan of "Forrest Gump" it was fun to see the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co restaurant. We didn't end up eating there after hearing the food wasn't that great, but to be honest, I'd still love to try it sometime -just for the atmosphere!
I love that the neon sign telling you what you can do with shrimp actually shows up in this picture! If you liked the movie, enlarge the picture and get a good laugh!
Forrest's bench and running shoes...
complete with the suitcase and box of chocolates!
Kristen and I glowing in the neon lights.

A view down the main road of Citywalk.
Kristen and Merilee at our dinner restaurant.

After eating a great meal, we decided to enjoy some yummy chocolates we found at a great chocolate shop. Mmmm... chocolate and peanut butter... can it get any better?
After leaving Universal Citywalk, I decided to drive home via the south side of Long Beach, so I could show Kristen and Merilee that part of the city. We drove along Ocean Blvd, saw some great places I'll need to check out, and ended up at the marina. This is a poor picture, but you can see the Queen Mary which is a WWII troopship, turned hotel/restaurant spot/tourist attraction. It's on my list of places to check out and seeing it all lit up at night reinforced that desire.
I love the look of the lights all reflecting off the water.
The bridge is lit with some pretty fun colors!

So, that's a taste of our Sunday! It was a fun day -hope you enjoyed yourselves!