Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Exploring California: What’s There to See in the Charming Town of Harmony?

Population 18 says the green sign along Highway 1. Wait, what?! I had to do a double take the first time I saw it. Three years later, I still feel that sense of wonder each time we pass by that sign during our summer trips to California’s Central Coast.   

In 2019, my family and I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to explore the Town of Harmony. Early last year, as I was watching a South Korean TV Series entitled The Heirs (also known as The Inheritors), I found myself squinting at the television screen trying to read a building’s name which turned out to be Harmony Valley Creamery Assn.

Who remembers this white building from 
The Inheritors starring Lee Min Ho?

“I think I know where that is!” was my first thought and verified through online search that the scene was indeed filmed in Harmony. It made me more curious to see the town for myself. So, when we went to Cambria a few months later, I made it a point to finally check out the place.

Harmony IS a tiny town where visitors can buy handmade pottery, handblown glass items, other souvenir pieces, and craft ice cream available in various flavors. It has a lot of pretty spots for lovely impromptu shots and also features a small church (see what it looks like inside by watching this video) that offers wedding ceremonies and reception as well as an elopement package! Oh, and yeah, there’s even an option to rent the whole town!

The Town of Harmony, according to a painted wall, grew up around a dairy founded in 1869. Until 1907, the creamery changed hands several times and in those early days, rivalries and feuding among the dairy farmers caused chaos in the valley. When someone got shot dead, a truce was finally called and all residents agreed henceforth to live in harmony, thus the town’s name.

When the dairy business eventually shifted to San Luis Obispo, Harmony Dairy was closed in the late 1950’s. For years, the town was abandoned except for the post office which remained open. In 1972, restoration began to bring back the beauty and vitality of the original Harmony from many years ago.

Sometime last month, my husband and I went back to visit Harmony and brought our sons with us. Like before, we had a nice time strolling around the area and just soaking in the artistic vibe that the pottery and glassworks stores evoke. 

If you happen to be traveling along Highway 1 in the future, you may want to stop by, too, and spend at least half an hour or more there. After all, when would be the next time you’d come across an interesting and historic place with an 18-count population? :)

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Exploring California: A Stopover at Santa Barbara's Chromatic Gate

I love rainbows and have always been fascinated with the fable that there's gold at the end of it. While I find it hard to believe in finding treasure at the bottom of a rainbow, there's something precious about standing next to one ... or a likeness of it!

Last weekend, as we took a road trip to California's Central Coast, I asked my husband to do a pit stop at Santa Barbara so we can visit the Chromatic Gate at the Arco Circle. This historical landmark was designed by artist Herbert Bayer (b.1900 - d.1985) and was installed in 1991, six years after his passing. It is 21 feet high and weighs 12.5 tons.

According to seecalifornia.com, the structure's completion and existence was made possible by art visionary Paul Mills (among others), the longest-serving art director at Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

This lovely rainbow arch has a small park behind it where we saw some people having picnics. It is also located just across a wide stretch of beach and very near the Santa Barbara Zoo. I hope we'd have more time to explore the next time we come visit.  

In case you're wondering, we were there around noon on a Sunday and the foot traffic was light. There were other groups of tourists who also took pictures at the site but it wasn't crowded. People were very respectful of others' personal space so it was easy to have the area to ourselves for several minutes. Parking at the side of the road was also not a problem.

Santa Barbara's Chromatic Gate
is located at Cabrillo Park, 633 East Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara, CA 93103.  See more California travel tips and photos by following @CaliTravelDiary on Instagram.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

How Does a 3-D Mirascope Work?

Okay, geek mode on!  I found this fascinating science toy recently and set it up on the dining table before my youngest son got home. When I showed him how the frog wasn't actually on top of the mirascope, he had the same surprised reaction I had the first time I tried it. The image looked so real but when you try and touch it, you can't!  Watch the video, here.

So, how does this instant illusion maker work? According to the box, the 3-D Mirascope consists of two parabolic mirrors that are facing each other. The top mirror has a hole in the center where the hologram effect takes place. By setting an object in the bottom parabolic mirror, it is suddenly projected as a solid object in the opening of the top mirror.

Super cool, right? If you also want to buy one, you can find it here:    https://amzn.to/3e3hTe6. Enjoy! 

Please leave a comment below to share how your family and friends reacted. It would be a nice party trick don't you think? Also, aside from the frog, what other small stuff were you able to project as a hologram? I'm still looking around our house for another tiny item to try!   

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Exploring California: 5 Good Reasons to Visit The Flower Fields in Carlsbad + 5 Tips to Make Your Trip Even More Worthwhile

"I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want." ~ Andy Warhol

I am such a softie when it comes to flowers — not much of the cut ones you have to put in vases but more of the the living and growing kinds that can be found in parks and gardens, on the sidewalks, along hiking trails, and even on sandy beaches! 

These past three years since moving to California, I’d often “drag” members of my family during springtime to places near and far where we can fully appreciate nature and admire beautiful flowers while they are still in bloom. 

Last month, I came across a post on Instagram about The Flower Fields in Carlsbad and we finally made it there this past weekend. Here’s sharing 5 good reasons why you should also consider visiting:

1. Seeing the flowers up close is NOT the same as seeing them in photos. Sure, I could have simply scrolled through hundreds of IG posts by other people and save us two hours of travel but the experience wouldn’t be as exciting or as delightful as actually being there.

2. Strolling beside acres of ranunculus flowers is an unforgettable experience. I’ve had my share of being in many parks and gardens before where flowers grow abundantly but this place is on a much higher level of WOW! Plus, the fresh air, cool breeze, and sunshine will definitely perk you up! 

3. There are official areas strategically placed all over the fields for photo shoots. You WILL have great pictures! You just have to line up and wait for your turn. In general, most of our fellow visitors were very respectful of others and the rules of the place. It was just disappointing to see a few groups who were stepping over the green tapes, purposely placed there to protect the flowers, just to get their photos taken nearer the middle of the fields. 

4. Besides the flower fields, there are a lot of pretty spots with other flower varieties where you can take additional awesome photos. There are gazebos, arches, a giant chair, a sweet pea maze, and more.  

5. You can take a wagon tour if you don’t want to walk far. There’s 50 acres to cover after all!

So, have I convinced you to pack your bags yet? If yes, here are 5 tips that may help as you plan your own trip to The Flower Fields.

1. Wear comfortable shoes and pack a jacket in case you get cold. The place is HUGE so expect to be walking more than 10,000 steps if you plan on covering a large area of the fields. We spent around two hours there and still weren’t able to see everything there was to see. As much as we’d like to explore some more, pushing a wheelchair on upward sloping ground can be quite challenging.

2. Keep your mask on when not taking photos and please be mindful of the place’s regulations. If you are not one of the farm workers who are authorized to step over the green tapes, DON’T be like the selfish morons who think they’re special enough to break the rules. 

3. Arrive early if you’re visiting on a weekend. I bought us tickets for 2:00PM and we arrived about 10 minutes early. Unfortunately, it took us quite a while to find a place (even the handicapped spots were full) at the overcrowded parking lot.

4. Bring a good camera or a mobile phone that takes sharp pictures. And make sure to charge your batteries beforehand! You wouldn’t want to miss capturing many nice shots what with all the gorgeous backgrounds you’ll find all over the place. 

5. Consider being at Carlsbad for more than a day. The city has a lot to offer and it’s just a 30-minute drive away from San Diego. By staying for two nights, we got to visit Balboa Park and the South Carlsbad State Beach but unfortunately didn’t have enough time to check out the U-pick strawberry farm nearby nor go to the Oceanside Pier as originally planned. Still, we had a grand time and have more reasons to come back another time! :)

Saturday, January 02, 2021

How Auld Lang Syne Sounds When Played on a Tongue Drum

Happy New Year, everyone! Since most of us preferred to usher in 2021 at home, I'm sure that like us, you also found various ways to keep yourselves entertained. 

Sometime in May 2019, I bought a tongue drum online to make music with. I originally wanted to have a hang drum that sounds so much better but found the prices way out of my budget. So I settled for this one and it's been nice playing it for fun. It has even become a conversation piece whenever we had (pre-pandemic) guests over. 

Anyhow, here's sharing a simple, non-professional rendition of Auld Lang Syne on a 10-inch 11-note tongue drum that my non-verbal son with special needs found entertaining. 

Whether it was simple or grand, I hope your New Year's celebration with the people you love was a joyous one :)

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Why 2020 is an Intermission Year for All of Us

It's the end of 2020! How excited are we to usher in a New Year filled with hope and better things to come? While the past months have been challenging and splattered with a lot of heartbreaks, those shouldn't prevent us from looking forward to the coming days! 

screencaptured, no copyright infringement intended

I'm currently watching a Korean drama series titled Thirty But Seventeen and a conversation between the two lead actors made me pause and contemplate. I had to rewind the clip to capture the words which I think would also resonate with many of you.

Woo Seo-ri: "You know what an intermission is, right?"

Gong Woo-jin: "A break time during a musical or a show?"

Seo-ri: "Yes. Whenever I went to concerts as a kid, I really loved intermissions. 'Thank goodness, it's not over yet. There's still more left. What kind of cool performances will they do now?' I feel like I'm in an intermission now. I'm taking a break for a moment while waiting for the next cool performance. The intermission of my life. That's why I'm okay. It's not over. I'm [just] taking a break. My heart's racing. I'm waiting for the cool stage to come. I'm just on pause right now."

The backstory is that Seo-ri, a violinist, was in a coma for more than 10 years and woke up as an adult instead of a teenager. She wasn't able to attend a prestigious music school abroad as planned and her hands can no longer play the violin like they used to.

Goodbye 2020!

I appreciate how writer Jo Sung-Hee was able to beautifully express this sentiment in words. I think many of us feel the same way about this year. We have been put on pause due to circumstances beyond our control. And yet, by merely surviving day to day, month after month, we're still here ready to face a new year with dreams of a brighter future.

So, as we leave 2020 behind, I hope you, too, can just consider this year as an intermission while waiting for the next cool performance of our lives. Happy New Year, everyone! :)

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Exploring California: Where to Watch the Sunset on Top of a Hill in La Habra Heights

I love watching sunsets wherever in the world I am. So, every time I learn of a new place with a great view, I try my best to go there. Sometime ago, my youngest son and his friends posted some nice photos online when they were on top of a hill with an expansive view of the valley.

with my favorite hiking buddy

Earlier this week, our Daniel brought his dad and I to the same place that they nicknamed Top of the World. I was quite surprised to see that the entrance is another part of the Skyline Trail which we have hiked before from Powder Canyon and another time from Schabarum Regional Park

towers of power

We arrived there about an hour before sunset so there was time to explore a bit before climbing the not-so-steep incline going to the highest point. We passed a couple of pylons (towers used for carrying power lines high above the ground) which added interesting elements to some of our photos.

father and son

When we got to the top, I was delighted to see a large part of the valley spread out before us. We could even faintly see the downtown LA skyline from that distance. I wanted to follow the trail going down on the other side but there wasn't enough time to get back before dark. So we reserved that thought for another day.

sunset vibes

Looking around, it was a bit disappointing though to see discarded items like beer bottles and food wrappings here and there left behind by some visitors :( We plan to go back with trash bags next time and help clean the place up. 

the moon came early!

We stayed for almost an hour and I wished I'd brought one of our portable lightweight folding chairs because there aren't any soft grass to sit on, just the dry ground. Still, the sunset was worth the wait. We watched the sky turn different colors until dusk fell and the valley lights started twinkling. 

twinkling lights of the valley behind us

Since there weren't any lamp posts along the trail going back to where we parked, we used our phones' flashlights and made a mental note to bring our rechargeable LED headlamps in the future.    

trail head

To those who'd like to explore this place, enter 799-401 Skyline Trail, La Habra Heights, CA 90631 on Google Maps. The trail head is located at the very end of Punta Del Este Drive. If you're bringing snacks, kindly take your bottles and other trash to dispose of at home. Let us protect our environment so that more people can enjoy nature for generations to come :)


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Exloring California: 8 Tips for Those Planning to Hike the Pumpkin Rock Trail

Halloween is almost here so it's not surprising that a lot of people suddenly want to see the Pumpkin Rock located in Norco, California. I actually didn't know about its existence until I came across several posts about it on Instagram a couple of weeks ago. Because it made me curious, I made plans to visit it with hubby and we were able to go there this past weekend. 

thankful for the lady who offered to take this photo of us

Here's sharing some tips to make your trip worthwhile:   

1. Plan to go there very early in the morning to avoid the crowds. I saw an IG post that said they had to wait two hours in line just to take a photo with the Pumpkin Rock! My husband and I left home at around 6:30AM and made it there a few minutes past 7AM. I wanted to catch the sun rise behind the rock but it was unfortunately cloudy that morning. Still, the cool air was nice as we hiked up. We were able to take photos with "Jack" after the two groups in front of us.

view of the Pumpkin Rock from the longer but not so steep trail route 

2. Check the weather forecast before going and wear an extra layer of clothing if it's going to be cold in the morning. A light jacket would be easy to take off and tie around one's waist in case you'll feel hot later on. 

what my pants and shoes looked like after the hike

3. Wear comfortable closed shoes with good sole traction. Also, if you don't want to get your legs all dusty, wear pants instead of shorts. I don't recommend following my husband's example of wearing slippers! Being a barefoot runner, he sometimes tend to not wear shoes when he knows we're just going for a short hike. I only became conscious of it when a few hikers pointed it out and marveled how he was able to move easily along the dusty trail.   

Crestview Drive as seen from higher up the steep trail near the fire hydrant

4. Park along Crestview Drive. It's a long curving street right beside one of the trail heads just up the Equestrian Center. Hubby and I found a spot a few yards from the yellow fire hydrant. Being first timers there, we mistakenly climbed the steeper trail near it but which surprisingly made for a faster hike up to the halfway point (around 10 instead of 25 minutes). I wouldn't recommend it though for rookie hikers. Going down, we chose the gentler route even though it was three times longer. 

FYI, there's a smaller pumpkin rock further to the right of the big one
5. Bring a trekking pole / hiking stick (or two) if you have one. I regretted that I didn't bring mine because there are some steep and slippery areas along the trail. Even though the ground was very dry, a lot of small loose rocks and pebbles can make you lose your footing. We've seen a lady fall and slide down on her bottom when she slipped. Thankfully, she wasn't hurt and was still able to laugh about it. 

Don't forget to bring something to hydrate with!

6. Carry your water in a REUSABLE bottle and bring a bag so you can dispose of your trash when you get home. Please don't leave anything behind. I found it sad how some people felt it was okay to leave their beer bottles and other garbage strewn all over the place! 

Scorched by the sun but still beautiful up close 

7. Explore the surrounding areas beyond the Pumpkin Rock. Don't make that climb without maximizing your time up there. Enjoy the nice views, clamber up some of those big rocks, feel the cool breeze, and admire the pretty plants that survived summer's scorching heat.

the one and only graffiti I found nice among all the ugly ones 

8. Take nothing but pictures and leave only your footprints. I know this is cliche but there are irresponsible people who need to be reminded of it because the atrocious amount of bad graffiti shows that there are those who hike up the trail armed with spray paint to vandalize the environment. The Pumpkin Rock itself looks really dirty so I opted to "clean" the writings using a photo editing app as you can see in my pictures.  

Can you see the beer bottles on the ground? ๐Ÿ˜•

Lastly, don't forget to wear a mask and be mindful of social distancing protocols. Let's help each other make California's hiking trails safe and enjoyable for everyone. 

pretty flowers along the hiking trail

If this blog post encouraged you to visit the Pumpkin Rock and if found these tips useful, please leave a comment below and let me know. Thank you and happy hiking! ๐Ÿ˜Š