Around Town: Day Trip to Downtown L.A.

♫ ♪♩ “Downtown” by Petula Clark ♩♪♫

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown
When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything’s waiting for youI love that song. It always cheers me up when I hear it. I lived and/or worked in downtown L.A. for many years and downtown is definitely one of my places I go when I need some cheering up. The past couple of weeks have been particularly rough for all of us, so yesterday I decided that my son and I needed a day downtown to cheer us up.One night last week, my husband, son and I were out running errands. E had been cranky from getting his molars poking through, but seemed otherwise fine. I had him on my chest in the babycarrier while we were running errands, hoping he would take a nap. The teething pain had been pretty extreme so he had gone almost an entire week without a nap longer than five minutes. When we got home, he looked flushed and dazed. I felt his forehead and he was suddenly burning up. We took his temperature and it was 103.5 degrees F. My husband and I went into panic mode. We quickly gave E some infant acetaminophen and got into the car to head to the emergency room. The E.R. doctor said that it looked like he had roseola, and the fever should be better in a few days. I was so scared that the doctor was wrong and perhaps something more serious was wrong, like perhaps he had somehow gotten meningitis like I had last year. Sure enough, a few days after our E.R. trip, the fever broke and E broke out in a rash, just as predicted. I was incredibly relieved.The teething situation was unfortunately still not getting better though. It seemed like the poor little guy was just miserable, and getting all of the molars cutting through at once seemed to be just way more than he could handle. We had a few nights where none of us got any sleep because E was screaming in pain all night, no matter what my husband and I tried. I knew it was his teeth bothering him since months ago, we started the “point at what is bothering you” game every time he starts crying. I started to get concerned that perhaps he had an infection in his gums or something. Yesterday, I took him in to see a pediatric dentist who assured me that he was okay, just in an extreme amount of pain (apparently it is not that common to get all of the molars all at the same time).After we left the dentist’s office, I wanted to take E to do something fun. We had both been cooped up in the house for days and were going stir crazy. He still has a bit left of his roseola rash, and although he should not be contagious anymore, I did not want to bring him anywhere with other kids (roseola is primarily only contagious to people ages three and under). Downtown Los Angeles seemed like the perfect adventure. He could sit back and people watch, be entertained, and stay occupied without exerting himself. I was hoping the day trip would keep him distracted enough to keep the screaming at bay. Thankfully, it did the trick. I am grateful that we are only a half hour’s drive from downtown (during non-rush hour times). It is always fun to spend a day there.I apologize in advance for all of the cell phone pictures. I wanted to take pictures of our adventure, but I did not want to juggle a cranky toddler and my big camera. E and I started out going to Grand Central Market. I have actually never been inside of Grand Central Market, but decided to check it out since I have seen a lot of pictures posted lately about it on social media.  I could not find any organic produce like I would have hoped to find, but there were a lot of cute little places that would make some nice lunch/dinner options. I love the new little street parkettes in downtown, like the one in front of Grand Central in the photo below. The city carved out sections of the asphalt, replaced it with outdoor flooring, and put in adorable little cafe tables and chairs with umbrellas and big planters of succulents. They are in various areas of downtown, and free for use for the public. Such a great update for the city!

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Next we went to The Last Bookstore. I love this place, and books always cheer up my little guy. This is seriously the coolest bookstore I have ever seen. The last time I was there, somehow I did not notice this little vault room filled with vintage books. It is tucked behind the children’s book area. I suppose since I was pre-baby the last time I went there, I was not paying too much attention to the children’s book department. 🙂

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My little bookworm always loves looking at new books! Poor little guy is extra skinny right now from being sick. 😦 His head appears to have had another growth spurt though, despite being sick. 🙂 aliciainwonderlandblog
Then we happened to find a nice little park in the middle of downtown, even with a nice little play area for kids!
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Since E had his first trip to the dentist, I thought it would be fun to show him where his great-great-grandfather had his dentist’s office. E is a fifth generation Angeleno…my family (on both my mom’s and dad’s sides) has been here since the late 1800’s! I love our family history in this city. 🙂 The Bradbury Building is one of those amazing places that everyone needs to go check out. The last time I went in there was a really fun day, when my mom and my grandma came to visit me downtown after I got out of work. My grandma showed us around some of the historic buildings, and reminisced about visiting her dad at work in the Bradbury Building, ditching school by taking a red car to go see a movie in one of the old theaters, lunch at Cliftons, and more. My grandma was the best.

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I used to joke that Urban Outfitters should rename themselves Suburban Outfitters since all of their SoCal stores were initially only in the suburbs (that used to drive me nuts when I was in college and wanted to shop there more often). Look at them, proving me wrong! I get so happy every time I see one of the old historic theaters being put to use. It would have made my grandma happy to see them being used again.
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Many memories of working here, running across that bridge on my lunch break to check out some Friday sample sales. 🙂
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This Zara used to be the Ann Taylor where I worked for years while in college. Nothing against Ann Taylor (I loved working there and it was great shopping for the women who work in the financial district), but this newly revamped 7th & Fig shopping mall is such a great use of space. When I was in fashion school, I actually did a project about how the space could be redesigned to improve traffic (the mall was nearly vacant for a while). Given the proximity to USC, FIDM, LA Trade Tech College, and a few others, the area was in high need for a shopping center that catered to college students. I was really surprised when I walked past the mall and saw a sign that said “Welcome back USC students”, as well as the new H&M and Zara. It looks like the mall executives finally caught on and livened the place up a bit. 🙂aliciainwonderlandblog
This is just one of my favorite buildings downtown. If you had asked me 10 years ago where I saw myself in 10 years, I would have said living in a cool building like this with my cat Fluffy. 🙂 aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog

Every time I go downtown, I am excited about all of the improvements continuously being made. It is finally starting to feel like a “real” city. In my mind, based on all of the major cities I have been to, a vibrant city center should have the following things:
1. Excellent public transportation.
2. Ample shopping, including grocery stores, a variety of clothing stores, a big box store like Target, and more.
3. Coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars.
4. Movie theaters and other forms of entertainment.
5. Areas to sit an enjoy a cup coffee or just relax for a minute and people watch.
6. Accessible public restrooms.
7. Handicapped accessibility.

For many years, downtown L.A. was lacking in most of the categories on my list except for the public transportation category. DTLA’s public transportation is highly underrated, and I am speaking from experience. If you live and work near downtown, or the surrounding areas (as far away as Hollywood), you can easily exist without a car in Los Angeles. I did for about 10 years. The subway is so fast and clean, and the LADOT Dash buses were my favorite, with a variety of routes downtown.

In the past few years, DTLA has made some amazing improvements in items number 2 through 5 on my list. I am so happy with the changes! There are just two more areas that I feel could still use a bit of improvement: restrooms and handicapped accessibility. Most of the businesses downtown do not have public restrooms, so if you are visiting the area and need to go, you are usually out of luck. A major goal of any city should be to increase spending (especially from visitors and tourists). It is difficult to spend any decent amount of time downtown when you can’t find a restroom. The first time I was in London 16 years ago, there were permanent public restroom booths on the street that were self-cleaning. They were pay per use and it is such a brilliant concept. If the Brits could implement such innovative technology to improve their city (almost two decades ago!), surely we are capable of doing the same now, right L.A.? Furthermore, if the restroom booths were big enough for a mom and a stroller, you would encourage a whole new demographic to come shop downtown! I saw one public restroom booth at Pershing Square, so at least that is a step in the right direction!

Which brings me to the other area needing serious improvement: handicapped accessibility. I haven’t spent much time downtown with my stroller before yesterday, but it brought some issues to my attention. The handicapped ramps on the curb are so infrequent and sporadic. There is a ramp often on one side of the street but not the other. Seriously, how is this even acceptable? How are disabled people in wheelchairs navigating these sidewalks of downtown? I honestly do not get it.

If the city could just make those two more changes, it would be darn near perfect. Thank you to our city leaders and planners for working so hard on making downtown better and more beautiful. The new improved downtown makes me proud to be a 4th generation Angeleno! I even noticed a significant change in the attitude of people downtown now. In previous years, any time anyone said much of anything to me downtown, I got nervous that I was about to get mugged again (it happened a couple of times unfortunately). I grew anxious and worried all the time. However, yesterday, it felt like the whole attitude of the city had changed with the revitalization. Strangers smiled and said hello, and opened doors for each other. I was initially afraid to go downtown with my son, my nice stroller, sparkly wedding rings, etc. Since I had a few scary experiences when I didn’t have any of those, I was a bit nervous to go spend much time downtown now. I am so happy to say that for the first time, downtown felt like a safe, warm, welcoming place. I encourage other moms to bring their kids out for a visit downtown too! Thank you to all of the LAPD officers that I saw all around the streets, keeping our city safe! I don’t know what kind of changes you have made lately, but I definitely noticed a difference.

One last funny story in closing…last year when I got sick with meningitis, my husband took me to urgent care initially. The only urgent care open at that time of night was in DTLA. He assumed he would not need to use GPS since I usually know the grid of downtown streets like the back of my hand. When we pulled off the freeway, our conversation went something like this:

Husband: Where do I turn? Which way is Olympic?
Me: I don’t know! You just exited the freeway into the Twilight Zone!
Husband: What are you talking about?!
Me: I have no idea where we are! Nothing looks familiar! Why don’t you use the darn GPS?
Husband: I assumed I wouldn’t need it since you used to know the area so well!
Me: I don’t know what to tell you. Downtown was not pretty and sparkly when I was here all the time so as far as I’m concerned, we may have just driven to a foreign country. 🙂

For the record, I had a viral infection in my brain making me loopy, but downtown really has undergone quite an amazing transformation in the past few years. 🙂

What I Wore Sunday: Finally a Dress Again!

I was super excited about this simple outfit for a few reasons. The first and biggest reason (for me anyway) was that I am finally feeling stable enough again to start wearing some wedge heels! Heels are one of my favorite things, and having my pelvic bones so weak and painful for so long meant that I have had to only wear flats for quite some time now. I am still not pain free, and not stable enough to wear a pair of regular heels yet, but this was an exciting improvement for me. 🙂

I also have been having a really hard time finding any dresses that look good on my figure and are breastfeeding friendly, without being really low cut. I have searched high and low and finally found a dress I liked for wearing to church once in a while. It was a hard process. Most button down shirt dresses are not flattering on me, I can’t do strapless comfortably, and some scoop neck dresses that may be breastfeeding friendly are too low cut for my taste. It is surprisingly difficult to find a good wrap dress lately!

We went by the pier after church on Sunday to look at getting some fish for dinner, and were hoping baby E would enjoy his first time seeing the ocean. Unfortunately, he was too sleepy to pay attention to his surroundings!

Sunglasses: Marc by Marc Jacobs
Purse: Marc by Marc Jacobs
Dress: TJ Maxx
Shoes: a store in “the alley” in downtown Los Angeles

E is wearing an outfit from F.A.O. Schwarz.

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What I Wore: Father’s Day Weekend Part 2

I decided to coordinate my outfit a little with what my two boys were wearing that day for fun. 🙂 We all wore our black sneakers (although E’s are really just socks that look like shoes) and a vest. E thinks it is quite hilarious whenever I have a hat on or a scarf in my hair, and he thought this white with black polka dot scarf was particularly entertaining. I am happy my outfits are so amusing to him. 🙂

Scarf: can’t remember…maybe Forever 21?
Shirt: JCP
Vest: Nordstrom
Pants: JCP
Shoes: Converse
Purse: Marc by Marc Jacobs

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Father’s Day Weekend Part 2

Since it was our first Father’s Day, I “helped” my two boys put together coordinating outfits on Sunday. 🙂 I even wore a semi-coordinating outfit myself. We started off the day going to mass, and then headed out to the California Science Center. E was very interested in everything, but he was particularly fascinated by the room with three walls covered with movie screens and my dad’s students’ R.O.V. exhibit!

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Unfortunately, E fell asleep just before we went in to see the Endeavour. There will be plenty of time for him to see it in the future though. I am pretty sure it won’t be leaving the museum any time soon. 😉 I can’t wait until he sees it for the first time. While I was pregnant with E, it flew right over our backyard on its final flight into the airport here in Los Angeles, and I have been excited for him to see it since then.

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Unfortunately, E’s grandpa wasn’t there to see his reaction to the R.O.V. exhibit for the first time, but we finished off the evening by meeting up with Grandma and Grandpa for dinner!

Father’s Day Weekend Part 1

This past weekend, we decided to skip our rule of one day of working on the house and one day of fun rule. For one thing, we were a little burnt out on working on the house after spending a couple of weekends getting the house ready for the baptism party. Also, since it was Father’s Day weekend, we decided to take the whole weekend to do fun things. Our Mother’s Day weekend was a little rough with all three of us feeling under the weather (each with different problems), so a fun and memorable first Father’s Day weekend was in order.

On Saturday, my husband and E wore their coordinating t-shirts that I got for them. Below is an Instagram picture showing their t-shirts. They were a big hit all day. 🙂1010309_10151526025612535_20475506_n

We started out the day going to the Heritage Square Museum, near Pasadena, CA. My grandmother used to tell this story over and over about how when I was really little, she was driving me to her sister’s house in San Marino. As we were passing by Heritage Square on the freeway, I looked over and said, “what boootiful houses!”. I am still very fond of old Victorian and craftsman houses, as is my husband. We were crushed when we did not get the first house that we put an offer on, a big historic house built around 1919 (the house was somehow repurchased by the same owner). My husband had never been to Heritage Square, and I had not been since I was a little kid, so we were excited to go. In retrospect, I wish I would have brought some of my other camera lenses with me, but worrying about carting around all the baby gear is usually enough stuff to carry. 🙂

I always thought that Heritage Square was a previously existing neighborhood that had been saved and restored. We were quite surprised to find out that they were individual buildings that were salvaged from around Los Angeles, relocated together and restored. It is so sad that there are so many more houses like this that were destroyed over the years around the city.

E was so cute when we were inside the houses. I really wished photography would have been allowed inside the houses. He had his eyes open so big, looking at all of the details of each house and the furniture. We jokingly told him to take it all in and start taking notes so he can work with us on our house soon. 🙂

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We loved the little vegetable garden next to one of the houses. It was modeled after the WWII era victory gardens and gave us some ideas and inspiration for our own garden.BY0A9184 BY0A9185 BY0A9188 BY0A9189 BY0A9190

We met a cute cat in the garden. He followed me throughout the garden. He reminded us a lot of our cat Fluffy. 🙂
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Originally, we were planning to go to another museum in the area after we finished at the Heritage Square Museum, but after we dealt with some long baby feeding sessions and diaper changes, it was a lot later than we had planned and too late to go to another museum. We were not ready to leave and go to dinner at the place we had planned, and wanted to do something else. We decided to go for a walk around the Cal Tech campus since it is so pretty and E absolutely loves looking at trees. 🙂

When I was in high school, a good friend of mine was applying to Cal Tech. I thought that it sounded incredibly boring to go to a college without NCAA sports teams. I decided to go to USC, but spent a lot of time visiting her up at Cal Tech on the weekends and breaks. It turned out that Cal Tech was not as boring as I would have assumed, and I ended up falling in love with the school and the whole environment. I wished I had applied there myself. While at USC, I felt that the general environment was full of a lot of superficiality, backstabbing, snobbery, and everyone judging everyone else. I really do not have too many fond memories of those years, with the exception of a few good friends that I made (however, by now most of those friendships have faded away anyway after moves, etc.). A part of me always wonders if I really did not enjoy studying engineering, or if I just did not enjoy the environment where I was studying. Perhaps if I had gone somewhere else, I might have enjoyed it more. I had a lot of horrible experiences where people in my classes were spreading lies about how I was getting an A in a particular class, and even a professor who tried to sabotage me because he was angry that I got a 97% on his midterm without attending his (pointless) lectures when I had fractured my spine. My good grade brought attention to the fact that everyone who had been in the lectures had come close to failing the midterm, or had failed, and I ruined the curve. Oops!

When I would go visit at Cal Tech, people had themed parties that were more than just order a kegger and get wasted (like the parties at USC). They had open mic nights, spoken word and poetry nights, and other amazing themed parties and events. People sat around having amazing conversations, discussing philosophy, politics, and more (and sometimes science topics too). I definitely spent more of my free time at Cal Tech parties than events at my own school. It was the kind of environment that I had pictured when I thought about what college would be like. When I was busy fighting with the university because they were forcing me to live with roommates who never felt a need to study and stayed up all night partying, my friend at Cal Tech got to live in her own tiny dorm room, with no roommates, because the university understood that living alone in a smaller space was more conducive to efficient studying.

My husband does not like it when I say this, but I really hope E will consider going to Cal Tech if he is interested in science or engineering. I know it is silly to try to encourage him toward a particular college as soon as he is born, but I just loved it there so much and hope that one day I could live vicariously through one of my own kids going to school there. 🙂

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After our little campus tour, we finished off the evening with dinner at my favorite restaurant in my old neighborhood of L.A. (Los Feliz), and a drive through downtown. We had a couple of things in mind that we wanted to do downtown, but a worn out and sleeping baby made us decide to head home instead. 🙂

E’s First Trip to an Amusement Park: Knott’s Berry Farm!

My sister and her boyfriend came out from Texas this past week for E’s baptism. It was very exciting since this was my sister’s first time meeting baby E! She is my only sibling, and it was very disappointing that she was not able to attend our wedding or E’s birth due to her school schedule, so we wanted to make sure that she was able to make it out for his baptism. On their last full day in town, we met up with them for a few hours at Knott’s Berry Farm. This was E’s first trip to an amusement park, and first time on any kind of ride. He was SO excited! He absolutely loved the train rides. When the first one ended, he whimpered a little bit because he had been having so much fun. 🙂

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When my husband and E were on this little truck ride, I heard quite a few people passing by and commenting on how funny it was that the baby was so intrigued by the ride. BY0A8926 BY0A8938 BY0A8936 BY0A8934 BY0A8933 BY0A8929BY0A8944 BY0A8990 BY0A8973 BY0A8968 BY0A8967 BY0A8951 BY0A8948 BY0A8945BY0A9004 BY0A9005BY0A9006 BY0A9016 BY0A9013 BY0A9009BY0A9020
This ride was so exciting that it wore him out and he actually decided to take a nap. 🙂
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While E was sleeping, everyone else got to go on a “real” ride. I didn’t mind staying behind with E since my back is too messed up to go on those types of rides anyway (from previous spine fractures and from the spinal injection during E’s delivery).
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E did not like being “in jail”! He also did not like it when his aunt said goodbye to him at the end of the evening!BY0A9105