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Friday, January 31, 2014

Mustangs, Fun Run In Redondo And Fine Dining Are Highlights This Weekend...

...and I think there is some football game or something on TV, too.

One of the coolest things going on should be the Ford Mustang 50th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday. There is nowhere in America that worships car culture the way Southern California does and the Mustang is one of the most iconic symbols from the era of  "California Dreamin'", the explosion of surf culture and cruising PCH with not a care in the world. Held at the Automobile Driving Museum in El Segundo, there will be a display of classic 1964 ½ Mustangs (one of which is the 1964 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car) and plenty of 60's memorabilia and delicious BBQ.

For those who want to get a little healthy time in before sitting down to pizza & wings, beer and the Super Bowl, there is the 36th Annual Super Bowl Sunday 10K/5K in Redondo Beach. This is a favorite yearly event in the South Bay and over 9,000 participants are expected this year. The Baby Buggy 10K and costume contest always prove to be big hits, and the event is part of the free 2-day Health & Fitness Expo held each year on Super Bowl weekend that takes place at the Seaside Lagoon. Keep in mind that on Sunday, congestion and scarcity of parking spaces are expected between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. west of Pacific Coast Highway, south of Herondo Street and extending to the Riviera Village.

If you are skipping the game (or are planning on not gorging during it!), Manhattan Beach is holding its first annual Dine MB Restaurant Week starting Sunday. The South Bay is fast becoming known as a 'foodie' paradise and breeding ground for some truly top-notch chefs. Dine MB allows them room to experiment with new items and dishes and gives increasingly sophisticated South Bay diners an opportunity to try some amazing food at a discounted price. Some of the great restaurants participating are Circa, Petros and The Strand House, and you'll find the complete list here. Bon App├ętit!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Did You Know The South Bay Area Has Fresh Farmers Markets 5 Days A Week?

It's true, there are six different unique farmers markets in our area and the only days you won't find one of them open are Mondays and Wednesdays. That is great news if you are like the booming number of people these days who are seriously embracing the healthier eating lifestyle that the locally grown, farm-to-table movement has blossomed into over the last decade.

The Redondo, Manhattan and Hermosa Beach markets, while only a couple of miles apart, all have a totally different flavor. The Manhattan Beach  Farmers Market on Tuesdays in Downtown MB is highly focused on a wide variety of exotic fruits and vegetables, gourmet meats and cheeses, fresh pressed oils and specialty food items. I admit I am a little partial to this one because I take my granddaughters there and love how much they enjoy the live music and the choo-choo train! The Hermosa Beach Farmers Market on Fridays is a little more intimate and earthier, and the focus is more on things like dried nuts, made-to-order dishes, cherry cobbler, fish tacos, killer Korean BBQ, a salad vendor, and, of course, a wide selection of certified-local produce. For value seekers, the Redondo Beach Farmers Market on Thursdays has a few different fruit and vegetable vendors who will offer you a nice sized bag to fill up with their goods for $5 when closing time is near, and there are also tons of free samples and deals to be had.You'll find lots of good produce, flowers and knick-knacks, and, since the market is in Veterans Park, you'll be browsing right next to the ocean near the Pier.

A smaller market, but convenient for being the only one open late afternoon/early evening, the Thursday El Segundo Farmers Market is notable for its tamale vendors, piping-hot fresh bread, a cake bakery, seafood on ice, fresh hummus & pitas, kettle corn, roasted corn on the cob, flowers and jerky. At the other end of the South Bay, the Rolling Hills Estates Farmers Market is a quaint but well-attended market that has the benefit of being the only one open on Sundays. This is the most traditional market with its fresh herbs and spices, a wide selection of produce grown nearby, eggs, flowers and a stand-out salsa bar. The biggest market in the South Bay, and one of the most well known in Los Angeles, is the Tuesday and Saturday Torrance Farmers Market. This is about twice the size of the others and has a festival feel to it with its steel drum musicians, spacious food court, balloons and toys, and a huge variety of goods representing a vast array of cultures.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ocean Friendly Gardens During A Drought

With all of the concern about the drought Southern California is experiencing, I thought now would be a good time to combine two related topics and talk about ocean friendly gardens and how they conserve water as well as protect the sea. The Los Angeles area had just 3.6 inches of precipitation last year, the lowest amount in recorded history, so it is really important that all of us do our best when it comes to conservation.

Run off from gardens is one of the leading sources of ocean pollution. Overwatering and improper irrigation can lead to pesticides, herbicides and fungicides trickling into the ocean and damaging sea life. Synthetic fertilizers are especially dangerous as their increased nutrients lead to algal blooms and red tides, lowering dissolved oxygen levels enough to kill aquatic habitat and fisheries. One of the best ways to prevent this, and also conserve water, is to create a swale or dry stream bed. These soak up rainwater in the soil, preventing it from rushing off of the property. Water sponged up in soil provides natural flood control and supports soil micro-organisms, which bring water to plants as they "request" it.

Another excellent way to conserve water and keep an ocean friendly garden is to use as many native and drought tolerant plants as possible. These have become really popular in recent years and, since California has so many varieties, creating unique landscaping is a breeze. This link offers some great suggestions on drought tolerant plants to get started with. The Southern California Metropolitan Water District also offers all sorts of wonderful programs and ideas, and this link will direct you to rebate offers on conservation materials, gardening tips, live and online landscaping tutorials and what the water restrictions might be in your neighborhood. The Surfrider Foundation is also an amazing organization in the fight for conservation and protecting our oceans, and their website offers all sorts of important information and resources.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mira Costa Is A 2014 GRAMMY Signature Schools Semifinalist

I was delighted to learn that out of the thousands of high school music programs in the country, the Mira Costa High School Music Program (which includes band, orchestra and choir) is one of only 123 public school music programs nationwide to achieve the honor of qualifying as a GRAMMY Foundation 2014 Signature School Semifinalist. Both of my daughters were part of the amazing Choral program there so I know just how deserving of honors the music program at Mira Costa is. They are now in the running to be one of the finalists, which will be announced in mid-March, and these schools will receive a custom award and a monetary grant ranging from $1,000 up to $15,000 to benefit their music program.

Created in 1998, the GRAMMY Signature Schools program recognizes the top U.S. public high schools making an outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year. The GRAMMY Foundation creates opportunities for high school students to work with music professionals to get real-world experience and advice about how to have a career in music. This includes any kind of music career from audio engineer, concert promoter, electronic music producer or manager to musician, music journalist, singer, songwriter or just about any vocation related to music.

Congratulations on this great honor, MCHS! I can't wait to hear how you do when the finalists are announced in March. I hope you all enjoy watching the GRAMMY Awards this weekend knowing that some of you may well be joining the ranks of the great artists who are South Bay locals and Mustangs, like Pennywise and jazz great (and multiple GRAMMY nominee) David Benoit, someday soon!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Wonderful, Free Things For Kids And Families This Weekend

While there is always plenty to do for kids and families in and around the South Bay on weekends, this weekend is pretty packed. Saturday, especially, is loaded with fun stuff and a good place to start may be the free cheerleading class by Team Self-Esteem at the Hermosa Beach Community Center on Pier Avenue. Open to girls and boys ages 5-12, the event is an hour long program designed to introduce concepts such as respect, building self-esteem and teamwork through fun, games and cheerleading techniques.

If you head north to Dockweiler Beach Saturday morning, you'll find two things to do for free with the family. The first is a 9 a.m. shore fishing class where even the poles and bait are gratis. Anglers typically catch surf perch, croaker, corbina, halibut and leopard shark. Then, at 10 a.m., there is a
"Make It and Take It" craft class where kids 12 and under can sit by the waves and learn about different crafts, make a project and take it home.

Saturday evening offers a free concert at the Journey of Faith in Manhattan Beach by Watoto Children's Choir entitled Beautiful Africa: A New Generation. An uplifting program of vibrant images, original music, dance 
routines, stories of transformation and exciting audiovisual effects and music 
videos, this will probably be the most spiritual, soul enriching event anywhere in the area this weekend. Please go here to read more about this amazing, world-traveling group that uses positivity and hope to bring attention to the plight of women and children in Uganda.

Finally, Sunday is the monthly Torrance Antique Street Faire in Downtown Torrance. If you have never been, it is a really good time. There are over 200 sellers set up in the streets with antiques, collectibles, vintage clothing, furniture, jewelry, plants, tools, toys, home decor, etc., and all kinds of great bargains. This is also free, of course, and you'll find plenty of great food vendors, DJs and live music, antiques appraisers and a rescue pet adoption in the park nearby. Here is their official link.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Scoop On The New Manhattan Beach Library Project

If you are curious about how the new Manhattan Beach Public Library project is coming along, I will try to fill you in on some key bits of information. First off, construction is coming along nicely and things are on track to have the library grand opening by April of next year. Work began in mid-September of last year and the ambitious $19 million project will double the size of the previous library to almost 22,000 square feet. The depictions here and here really make the new building look amazing and three sides will be transparent glass with a second-story ocean view.

The construction of the new library is a "green" project and the goal is to achieve LEED Gold Level certification by incorporating sustainable design features to optimize energy and water use efficiency, enhance the sustainability of the site, improve indoor environmental quality, and maximize the use and reuse of sustainable and local resources. While this is all being done, the library is still offering many services such as a weekly bookmobile and children's activities and book clubs at the Joslyn Community Center, and the Friends of the Manhattan Beach Library will be holding monthly book sales and is accepting donations here. You can find more information on the library and interim services at this link.

An interesting fact about the Manhattan Beach Library is that it was started in 1910 by the Neptunian Woman's Club of Manhattan Beach and became part of the County of Los Angeles Public Library system in January of 1915, making it one of the oldest continuing county libraries in Los Angeles. Being a proud member of the Neptunian Woman's Club, that fact is really cool to me!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Neptunian Woman's Club Of Manhattan Beach

I was looking over the events calendar for the Neptunian Woman's Club of Manhattan Beach, of which I am proud to belong to (I am also a former member of their Board of Directors), and it struck me that I should get the word out about what our group is all about for those who are unfamiliar with us. Since we are celebrating our 105th birthday this year, and holding a sold-out Grand Fundraiser on Friday, I thought now would be a great time.

Founded in 1909 by Jessie Bell Smith, the Neptunian Woman's Club is a nonprofit philanthropic organization dedicated to volunteerism and the raising of funds in support of charitable, educational, cultural and civic services. While we are mostly devoted to philanthropy, we also enjoy spending leisure time together. There are a bunch of fun activities we engage in such as our hiking, bridge, book, shopping, museum, tennis and gardening clubs. We also have monthly luncheons where we have speakers as varied as TV weatherman, comedian and philanthropist Fritz Coleman, world-renowned magician Steve Owens and Salvation Army and Red Cross representatives scheduled for this year.

In addition to the Grand Fundraiser on Friday, we are presenting the 36th Annual Manhattan Beach Student Art & Photography Contest on March 9th and are also planning a fashion show luncheon in April. We are a very active club and I really love being a part of such a great group of wonderful gals, and I am happy that we keep expanding. If any of you South Bay ladies are interested in supporting us or joining our group, please go to this link for more information about how to do so.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Congrats To The Mira Costa Rugby Club!

New to the Los Angeles Rugby Club this year, the Mira Costa Rugby Club closed out their 8-game season undefeated last weekend with a win over the Artesia Rugby Club's Pioneers. This weekend, they play a series of matches at UCLA against other youth rugby clubs in a tournament that will feature 10 of the finest quality high school programs in the state, and from which UCLA hopes to recruit top prospects.

Playing their home games at Waller Stadium for the LARC Youth Program, the new rugby Mustangs are primarily made up of Varsity and Junior Varsity football players and feature plenty of familiar faces who suited up during the Fall. The sport is new to most of the guys but the Mustangs utilized their speed, strength and size to physically manhandle the Pioneers, eventually forcing Artesia to retire.

Rugby is a very physical sport that is played without pads and there are no huddles, this leads to non-stop action. It is definitely not for the faint of heart but the Mira Costa students were excited to have a new challenge to help them over the post-season blues they get when football ends.

Congratulations to all of the great players on the MCRC team on being champions right out of the gate, and good luck at UCLA this weekend!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fun Things To Do In The South Bay This Weekend

Early birds and surfers of all ages and skill levels get a treat Saturday morning when the South Bay Boardrider's Club hosts its Surf Series #2 presented by Dive N' Surf. Starting at 7 a.m. and lasting through the late afternoon, the contest is open to everyone and includes various divisions like Micro Groms (under 9), Legends (over 50), a longboard division, junior men's and women's rounds and many other categories. Go to this link to learn more about the day's schedule and upcoming SBBC events.

If you want to take a break from all the surf action, the Roundhouse at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier does their shark feeding at the aquarium housed inside every Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Staff members feed sharks and other sea creatures and discuss their habits, and visitors can explore the many hands-on exhibits and displays of the aquarium. Admission is free but donations are always greatly appreciated.

Probably the most joyful thing going on Sunday is the 7th Annual Southern California Slack Key Festival starting at 2 p.m. at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Celebrating the traditions of acoustic guitar slack key music (where some of the strings are slacked from the standard tuning, with the thumb playing the bass while the other fingers play the melody and improvise in a finger-picked style) and Hawaiian culture, this event features the most respected names in Hawaiian guitar music in the most prestigious Hawaiian music concert event in the mainland U.S. Of course, there will also be tons of arts & crafts vendors and plenty of delicious Hawaiian and island-themed food and snacks. This link will give you all the details for this awesome event.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Fabulous Manhattan Beach Sand Section

Having grown up in the Manhattan Beach sand section, and having raised my two beautiful daughters there, I truly consider this wonderful place to be the jewel of the South Bay. Running the full 2-mile length of Manhattan Beach and comprised of the area adjacent to the sand and waves (as well as homes located in the nearby walk streets), it is one of the most dynamic and desirable places to live in Southern California. Home to beach lovers, renowned athletes and celebrities, multi-generational families, and those who just love the "good life", it really is one of the most vibrant communities you will find.

One of my favorite aspects of the sand section is the amazing variety of dining and social gathering spots that bloom near the Pier and continue up the hill. From the new Pan-Asian sensation Little Sister restaurant to the superbly classy fine Italian dining at Mangiamo to longtime standbys Rock 'n Fish and The Kettle, there are an exceptional amount of fantastic places to eat and meet up with friends and family for a great meal. And, the area has long been known for its great art galleries and clothing boutiques and places to take the family for treats like Becker's Bakery and Manhattan Beach Creamery.

The heart of the sand section, however, may just be the many beach activities that go on throughout the year. From surfing camps and competitions to the Manhattan Beach Volleyball Open to the cyclists and rollerbladers gleefully gliding down The Strand, the lifestyle here is a fun, healthy and active one. You will often find whole families at the beach volleyball courts or throwing Frisbees near the shoreline, or toddlers learning to ride tricycles on the walk streets. You will also often find locals strolling around the centerpiece of the pier, the Roundhouse, or visiting the non-profit Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium inside (which has an ever-changing roster of events and exhibits throughout the year, so donations are always appreciated). When the Aquarium Cafe is open, you can even grab a frozen latte or an ice cream cone.

Yep, life is definitely still pretty idyllic in this neck of Manhattan Beach!