Friday, December 30, 2011

All the Links That Are Fit to Click for the Tournament of Roses

Got back from the Parade & will be adding many new stories over the next few days.  Be sure to visit my TOR column on!

It's been busy, busy, busy in Pasadena the past couple weeks.  Everything is gearing up for the Tournament of Roses, "America's New Year's Celebration".  The Rose Parade, that incomparable cavalcade of top-notch bands, equestrians, and indescribably beautiful floats.  The Rose Bowl Game, "Granddaddy of Them All".  Equestfest, with hundreds of horses prancing and galloping and doing tricks.  Bandfest, three field shows featuring musicians and drill teams from all over the country--and world.  The float barns, where the creations transform from drawings into reality.

I have been following every event and all the news one feelancer could possibly cover.  I've interviewed princesses, astronauts, float builders, volunteers.  I've tried out local eateries.  Listed here are "hub" articles, which have links to most of the articles I've written. There are others that you can find by going to my Tournament of Roses column, or searching at in the search box.

And more are coming up, so stay tuned!

Tournament of Roses 101: Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game information

Tournament of Roses 101: Everything you want to know about the 2012 Royal Court
Follow that float: Los Angeles/Natural History Museum, from plans to parade

And, for a peek at last year's floats:

Rose Parade floats 101: Photos, winners, articles for the 2011 parade

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Real L.A.: The Natural History Museum

If you really want to see what L.A. is about, there are three places you must visit: the old city area, including Olvera Street, Chinatown, the Japanese history museum, and all the spots along the way; the La Brea Tar Pits; and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

That's where the history and culture are, folks, along with many other locations.  And here's an article all about the Natural History Museum, the largest in the western United States with one of the most comprehensive dinosaur collections in the world.  Plus, there are videos of Dinosaur Encounters (the only such show in North America) and Ice Age Encounters (the only one on the planet).


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Amazing folks, amazing adventures, amazing stories

The authors of Using All the Colors

I have the privilege of participating in an exceptional writers’ group in Pasadena at Monte Vista Grove Homes.  The folks at “The Grove” have some of the most amazing stories to tell, and it is a joy sitting in and listening to them each week.  Now you can hear them, too, in the pages of Using All the Colors, a vibrant collection of stories and recollections from more than two dozen authors.

I got into the class through a friend of mine, a retired minister who attends the same church as I do, and was delighted to discover the diversity of experience and viewpoints in this group of retired Presbyterian church workers.

While the class began as a memoir-writing exercise, the writers go much farther afield than simply personal recollections.  Told with rare humility and grace, the stories are historical, philosophical, humorous, personal, and at times theological.  They are never preachy.  They resonate with the joys and fears we all have as human beings, offering a hand in friendship to the reader.

You can read more about it on Altadenablog and Altadena Patch.  The book is available through CreateSpace and and would make a great Christmas gift.  

Proceeds benefit Monte Vista Grove Homes, and CreateSpace gives us a higher margin, so please purchase the book there.  The collection is edited by the writing group’s facilitator, Anna Zoeller Walker.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

JR Martinez, Iraq War vet and TV personality, is 2012 Grand Marshal

Rick Jackson, president of the 2012 Tournament of Roses, revealed his choice for Rose Parade Grand Marshal yesterday.

It was J.R. Martinez, an Iraq War veteran who was burned over 40 percent of his body when the Humvee he was in rand over a land mine. He is on Dancing with the Stars and All My Children, and tours the country as a motivational speaker.

I was impressed with what he had to say, especially when he said he has an "amazing, strong, beautiful mother"!

I did two write-ups on the event:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's behind the hedges?

Home of Sarah Noble Ives, Altadena's first historian
Ever wondered what stories there are behind the hedges and walls of some of the beautiful old homes in Altadena? Altadena Historical Society had a tour of some of the historic places on and near the spur of East Mariposa just east of Lake Avenue.

Altadenablog assigned me to cover the story.  There were lots of surprises and new discoveries. Read about them in "History, mystery and scandal on Historical Society's tour of Mariposa".  I especially liked the miniature golf course and revisiting the home of my old friends from Westminster Presbyterian, Herb and Betty Herr.

It was also inspiring to see the artwork of Sarah Noble Ives, whose picture-book illustrations were, I think, among the first in full color and established a style that lasted for decades.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Community gardens and community characters

Richard Carlos from Theodore Payne Foundation
When I was an editor at a weekly paper, an aspiring writer turned in a review of a band she liked. She wrote that they were on stage, each doing their own thing.  "If they were each 'doing their own thing,'" I said, "it wouldn't be music." I explained how musicians have to listen to each other, and play together.

Three decades later, I take that back. If music gives joy--and the joyful color pink on the stoles and hoods of academes reflect that--then perhaps it can be joyful even when each musician is "doing his own thing".

And that's why I took this video.

As for the rest of the story, it's posted on Altadena Patch.  The event was the Fifth Annual Gathering of Community Gardens, held at Loma Alta Park in Altadena, and the purpose was to educate beginners and master gardeners alike.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2012 Rose Queen just announced!

Drew Washington, center,  Kimberly Ostiller and Cynthia Louie on either side.
Drew Helen Washington, the youngest girl on the Tournament of Roses Royal Court, was named as Rose Queen this morning at Tournament House.  She is 16, lives in Pasadena, and attends Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La CaƱada Flintridge.

She is the 94th Rose Queen and will reign over the 123rd Rose Parade and 98th Rose Bowl Game.  Read all about it in my Tournament of Roses column.  I will be posting stories frequently.  This morning's entry,
DrewWashington named as 94th Rose Parade Queen today at Tournament House, covers the announcement.

Friday, October 14, 2011

2012 Royal Court: Pictures & Profiles

It's that time of year when most of my writing centers around the Tournament of Roses. It's a job I really enjoy, and I find myself meeting new people every week.

In addition to following the Los Angeles/Natural History Museum float from start to finish, I will be covering all the Tournament events between now and January 3, 2012.

On Monday, the 2012 Royal Court was announced, and I was there to get photos and talk to the girls.  Here are the links to all my stories--all 10 of them!

Tournament of Roses announces Royal Court to reign at 2012 Rose Parade
Photo gallery: 2012 Tournament of Roses Royal Court
Rose Parade 101: How will the 2012 Rose Queen be chosen?

Profiles of the Rose Princesses (in order of photo, left to right): 
Sarah Zuno
Cynthia Louie
Morgan Devaud
Kimberly Ostiller
Drew Washington
Hanan Worku
Stephanie Hynes

That should be enough reading to keep you busy until the Rose Queen is announced on October 18!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

On the way to royalty--5 finalists talk about their TOR experience

Kimberly Ostiller, Teni Jebian, Lois Gordon, Hanan Worku, Erin Green
I spoke with five of the Tournament of Roses Royal Court finalists on Thursday and posted a story in my TOR column.  They all looked like Rose Princess material to me!  Outgoing, articulate, poised, funny, girl-next-door types.

Next Monday, we will all find out who made the cut--which seven young women will ride the Royal Float along the Rose Parade route.  I have to say, I have a couple favorites.  But I won't say who.

For a picture of all 34 finalists, take a look at "34 finalists named" on

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rolling out the Rose Parade floats

Riding the City of Hope float for T2 test. Photo by Lisa Ely
I had a great time at the Saturday monring street tests for the some of the 2012 Rose Parade floats.  These partcular floats are being created by Phenix Decorating.  I got to ride the City of Hope float for its T2 test (meaning the cocoon was on and the mechanics working). I am following the City of Los Angeles/Natural History Museum collaboration as it is built, and posted a video of its impressive T1 street test in my Tournment of Roses column.

If you love the Rose Parade (and the Tournament of Roses in general), keep watching my column!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Three women, three families

Three families enjoy playing together at Five Acres after being reunified by DCFS.
What would it be like to have your children removed from your home because it was determined that you could not parent them in a safe and nurturing environment?

Then, what would it be like--after months, even years of hard work to sober up, learn parenting and job skills, and create the kind of home your children deserve--to get them back?

I heard three stories last Friday from three amazing women who found the inner fiber to recreate their lives and form strong families.  They didn't do it alone, of course.  A community of social workers, volunteers, and other professionals surrounded them with the soil it took to help them blossom.

They were celebrated by the Department of Children and Family Services at Five Acres. Their stories are being posted on Altadena Patch this week.  I will add the links here as each one posts.

First up is Erica Ward, mother of five, who regained custody of two-year-old Ma-Nijah and six-year-old Kenyae.  Here is her story, in her words.

Anna Flores began to turn her life around before the week was out after her daughter was removed from her home.  She tells her story here.

Brea Sheriff, only 22 years old, was able to keep her infant son and regain her two daughters. Here is her story.

Friday, September 2, 2011

September 11, ten years later

American flag and Tournament of Roses flag taken from the porch of the Wrigley Mansion

Where were you on 9/11?  The fact that we don't even have to put a year at the end of that date speaks to the sea change that day brought to our country, and indeed the world.

Where were you?  I was sitting in the living room, waiting for my kids to be ready to be driven to school.  Gabriel had gone across the street to talk to his friend.  Suddenly, he burst in the door and said, "Mom! Do you have the TV on?  The Twin Towers were bombed!" or something like that.  Maybe he didn't use the word "bomb" but he didn't know what had happened yet, either.

I didn't believe him. I thought he was joking.  But at his insistence, I turned on the TV and saw the towers coming down again and again.

Then I went to church.  Not my church; I was working in a church at the time.  I went to work, but it was a church, and I thought there was no better place to be on that day.  We hastily planned a service for noon, one of the pastors turned off the TV after a couple hours, and we started getting the stories.

There were two men from Boston who had just settled into their hotel when they discovered that their two partners, who were coming on later flights--one on American Airlines Flight 11, the other on United Airlines Flight 175 had certainly perished at the World Trade Center.

There was the young woman, a member of the congregation on a recruiting junket for USC, who woke up in the Marriot on the WTC site and thought she was experiencing an earthquake.  She grabbed her purse, cell phone, and sandals.  When she got to the street, she realized it was much, much more than an earthquake.  Someone got her to a ferry to Staten Island, and a family there took her in for a few days.

The stories are still coming, and they are still new.

With the 10th anniversary of this infamous day coming up soon, I wrote a series of seven articles, "Remembering 9/11", on the local events related to 9/11.  Here they are:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Catching up: Boys Republic, Altadena Urban Farmer's Market, Tournament of Roses

It is hot in my office right now, about 95 degrees. The only mitigating thing that can be said, as my fingers stick to the keys as I type, is that it is much nicer here in Gabriel's old bedroom than when I had my office upstairs.  Sometimes there is a 20-degree difference in temperature.  Not today, today it's only about 10 degrees.

Here are my latest stories for Altadenablog, Patch, and my Tournament of Roses column.

"Boys Republic Auxiliary's century of service" took me to a thrift shop in Altadena next to the post office.  The ladies and gents sell used merchandise to raise funds for the Boys Republic.  Actor Steve McQueen, a juvenile delinquent, had his life turned around at Boys Republic and was a supporter the rest of his life.

"Altadena Urban Farmer's Market Seeking New Location" presents the decisions the fledgling organization faces as it seeks to re-establish the popular underground market.  It was formerly held at the Zane Grey estate in Altadena.  There's also mention of the certified farmer's market which is on tap for October at Loma Alta Park.  I can walk there!

Of course, my favorite stories are usually about the Rose Parade or other local events.  Here are two:

"Pasadena's birthday party shows of 125 years of vehicles" is the last in my series of articles about the quasquicentennial of Pasadena.  It made for a summer of fun!
"Service clubs participate to spread the word" is another in my series on the 2011 Rose Parade floats.  Each of the award-winner got its own article, and the rest I've divided into categories.

Soon it will be time to guess the next Grand Marshal, welcome the Queen and Royal Court, and attend celebrations, announcements, and the parade itself.

Keep reading!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tragedy to Triumph

Another dead kid, another fundraiser. That seems to be the way it goes. 

Brandon Jackson, a senior at John Muir HS, was shot in cold blood just a block below my house last February.  The shooters were gangsters; Brandon was not.  His family couldn't find a place for the memorial service.  Some churches were too small, some feared gang retaliation.

First Presbyterian Church, Altadena stepped forward.  Session approved the memorial and they approved a fundraising basketball tournament to provide scholarships for promising students, kids who had turned their lives around as Brandon was doing.

As Debra Williams, director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministries at Altadena Pres, said, “God uses even the most tragic things to bring life, to bring hope to a community. Death doesn’t have the last word.”

No, indeed.

I wrote about it for Altadena Patch.

A note on the photo: The best sports photographer I ever knew, James Rourke, told me the key to taking great sports shots is to know the game, to know where to point the camera.  This is not a great shot, but I thought of him while I was shooting.