Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Desert Botanical Garden

Chihuly structures before entering
the Garden

In addition to watching baseball and eating food, we also visited the amazing Desert Botanical Garden while we were in Phoenix, thanks to a tip from our good friend Vicki J. Not only is the garden beautiful, it's located just east of the downtown area, at the intersection of Priest and Van Buran, two of the main streets in Phoenix. Can you imagine such a sight in the middle of L.A.?

Greeted by blooming barrel cactus

Magnificent saguaro

Wildflowers in bloom

Sonoran Dessert


Tim checking out the view

More wildflowers

Marching cactus


Blooming tree

"Twisty" cactus

Philip Haas's enormous "Four Seasons" sculptures





Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Training 2013

Every year we say we’re going to Phoenix for spring training, but then something inevitably comes along that prevents us from going. This year we went anyway. It was our first five-day, non-work-related vacation since Orlando in December 2010.

We stayed at the Marriott TownePlace Suites in Tempe, across the street from Arizona Mills, the area’s largest indoor outlet mall, and within easy walking distance of the Waffle House, our favorite out-of-state greasy spoon diner. Baseball fans from throughout the west and mid-west descend on Phoenix every March, so it’s no wonder every room in our hotel was booked. With 15 teams playing in the Cactus League, fans can go to a game at one of ten different stadiums every day, if they stay long enough. We attended three games in three days at three stadiums: Diablo, the spring training home of the Angels, our favorite team; Surprise, located 40 grueling miles (during rush hour traffic) from Tempe; and Goodyear, home of the Ohio teams (Cincinnati and Cleveland).

Of the three, my favorite ballpark was Goodyear, even though it took us an hour to get there from Tempe. We drove through undeveloped desert land and even an Indian reservation in hopes of avoiding Friday night traffic that, quite frankly, rivals the worst of L.A. The harrowing drive was worth it, though, when we finally arrived at the stadium and were greeted by a brassy version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played by a live band. The park was lovely and we had fabulous 7th-row seats. Plus the town of Goodyear is home to a small boneyard of retired aircraft, which we could see from the stadium parking lot—something to investigate further next year!

The Stadiums


The entrance to Goodyear Ballpark

The band

Abstract baseball structure outside the stadium

First-base line, looking toward home

Yes, we were that close—the best thing about
spring training baseball!

For Tim, it ain't baseball without a dog

Airplane boneyard in the distance

Let's go, Angels!

Happy fans

Chase Field

We will probably never see baseball games from inside every stadium in the U.S., but we do like to tour other teams' ballparks whenever we're out-of-town. Phoenix's Diamondbacks currently have a special place in my heart because their manager, Kirk Gibson, is my all-time favorite ball-player. (Yes, we were in Dodgers Stadium when he hit the famous home run that led his team to their first win in the 1988 World Series). So, of course, we had to visit Chase Field, home of the D-backs.

Like many of the newer stadiums, Chase Field is built in the style of earlier ballparks—brick architecture and lots of fan amenities—but is completely modern and HUGE! A retractable roof can be closed when the weather gets too hot. The stadium even has a pool that fans can rent for parties during game days. See for yourself:

Looking toward right field

The retractable roof (upper left)

The view from centerfield

The pool!

The view from the dugout

Guess who?

Spring Training: Food

Lunch at Matt's Big Breakfast

With three games to attend over three days, many of our meals were eaten at the ballpark: popcorn or some sort of fried or barbecued chicken for me and dogs for Tim. We did, however, get to sample some of the local fare, mostly for breakfast.

We made our pilgrimage to the Waffle House our first morning in town. The restaurant is so small that the kitchen is in the open, right behind the counter. Booths and tables are squeezed in every which way to accommodate as many people as possible. Still, there's usually a line when we go. This time we got there early enough to be seated right away at a booth. The waffles, of course, are good, but it's the hash browns that keep us coming back. You can order them "regular," "large" or "tripled" with or without an assortment of toppings (e.g., cheese, tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and even ham chunks). We like ours just plain. Even so, they're the best. A great way to start the day!

Waffles, breakfast meats and, of course, 
those hash browns for two

Day #2, we made our way into downtown Phoenix to eat at Matt's Big Breakfast, a great place we first heard about on Guy Fieri's Drive-Ins, Diners and Dives several years ago. Matt's has moved to larger quarters since the last time we ate there in March 2009, but the food was just as good. In fact, we loved it so much we returned for lunch the next day after touring Chase Field, which is located just a few blocks away. Neither of us could resist the BLT: thick-cut pepper bacon with lettuce and vine-ripened tomato on thick-sliced, toasted country bread. I got mine with the homemade cole slaw. Absolutely to die for. You can see the rest of the menu here.

A big breakfast at Matt's

My BLT & cole slaw

Sunday, March 17, 2013

PaleyFest 2013

Can you spot us here?

Not only is The Big Bang Theory one of our favorite TV shows, it’s also the #1 sitcom on television. It’s so popular, in fact, that the event celebrating Big Bang at this year’s Paley festival sold-out immediately. Luckily, we got our tickets as soon as they went on sale. We attended the event last Wednesday night.

As I’ve explained many times before on this blog, PaleyFest is an annual film festival that brings together the creative teams of some of the most popular TV shows on the air today. We’ve been going probably 27 of the 28 years we've known each other. This year we attended events honoring Parenthood, The Newsroom, New Girl, and Big Bang. An entire episode or select scenes of the show are screened at each event, followed by an hour-long moderated Q&A with the show's cast and creators. Toward the end of the hour, audience members are invited to ask questions as well.

For the first time this year, Hulu live-streamed the Q&A sessions, which are now available online for free. We could see the Hulu stream as it was being taped. Can you find us in the clip below? Hint: we're sitting in front of the guy standing and asking the question. Halfway through the clip, Tim nudges me and, out of the corner of his mouth, says, “We’re on screen!”—which to him, of course, was far more important than the guy’s question!

You can watch the entire Q&A here. Enjoy!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rainbow Over Culver City

Double rainbow

We were leaving for dinner, Friday, when Tim suddenly gasped, "Oh, my God!"

I looked up. Above us was the most spectacular rainbow I had ever seen.

"Babe, go get the camera!"

Soon several of our neighbors were standing outside, snapping photos. Everyone was amazed.

From one end of our block . . .

Right into our neighbors' chimney

Living under the rainbow