Snorkeling Me

Snorkeling in Catalina

A few years ago, I went snorkeling for the first time at Lover’s Cove in the city of Avalon on Catalina Island.

Lover’s Cove is a protected marine preserve next to Avalon Harbor. It features a rock reef, kelp forest, and a vast variety of marine life including sea urchins, sea stars, lobsters, octopus, and several types of fish including California’s state fish, the Garibaldi. It is one of the most popular snorkeling sites on Catalina, due to its large diversity and abundance of sea life.

It’s completely free to snorkel in Lover’s Cove. Bring your own gear, or rent it from one of the many locations throughout Avalon for a small fee (most places are cash-only). On our visit, a mobile rental facility was available at the cove, complete with rental lockers and fish food for purchase. (This may be seasonal. I’ve seen a number of online reviewers complaining of not having a safe place to store their belongings. In this case, you can rent gear and lockers from locations at Avalon pier.) We visited on a Saturday in August, when tourist season was in full swing.

You can get great deals on snorkeling gear package rentals throughout Avalon. My fins, mask, snorkel, and shorty wetsuit were less than $15 for a two-hour rental. You will definitely want a wetsuit; water in this area is around 70° F in August, which is the warmest it gets. In the winter months, the temperature gets down to the upper 50’s!

Additionally, be sure to change into your swimsuit before heading out to Lover’s Cove. There are no changing areas at the cove itself, and you’ll want to have it on already to wear under your wetsuit.

We chose not to buy any fish food during our snorkeling adventure and found that we still encountered a variety of marine life. A lot of the families and children there at the time of our visit had purchased fish food and seemed to be enjoying themselves with it. One kid entertained himself by throwing fish food onto my husband who was swarmed by fish. Luckily, the fish are harmless. They can bite, but if you’re wearing a wetsuit (and gloves, when handling the food with your hands), you’ll be fine.

One thing I recommend is to bring a waterproof camera. If you don’t already own one, many of the shops on Catalina island sell them for reasonable prices. I purchased a reusable film camera with a waterproof housing for less than $20. I captured all the photos in this post using the camera, and I still use it to this day.

If you’re planning a getaway to Catalina Island, be sure to visit Lover’s Cove for a few hours of snorkeling. It’s a perfect, inexpensive, and beautiful activity that anyone can enjoy.

Avalon Snorkeling Map

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Industrial Light & Magic Main Sign

Visiting Industrial Light & Magic

A few weeks ago, my husband Eric travelled up to San Francisco to visit Industrial Light and Magic. I had originally planned to go along with him, but because of a few scheduling changes and a new job, I ended up having to miss out on the trip. But why should all of you miss out just because of me? Today, Eric is here to share his experience at this iconic film & visual effect studio. Take it away, Eric!

Recently, I was invited by a friend to join him at a screening of his short film. Both Erika and I work on a variety of films; in the last few years we’ve worked on everything ranging from short films to major studio releases, even Oscar nominated documentaries. Needless to say, we attend many screenings throughout the year. However, what made this invitation special was that the screening would be held at Industrial Light & Magic in San Francisco.

ILM Darth Vader Costume
ILM Boba Fett Costume
Industrial Light & Magic (known professionally as ILM) is arguably the home of modern special effects in films. It was founded by George Lucas in 1975 to handle the visual effects for Star Wars after he discovered that 20th Century Fox had closed its in-house effects department. Originally run by John Dykstra (whose invention the Dykstraflex would change visual effects forever) and a small team, ILM has grown to be the largest visual effects company in the world. Other ILM milestones include the first use of an entirely computer generated sequence (1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), first completely CG character (1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes), and these two:

Unfortunately, ILM has a firm “no-photos” policy beyond the main entrance. The pictures here are of the main entry way, which is open to the public. ILM’s offices are found at the Presidio in San Francisco. They share the grounds with other offices once part of the Lucasfilm empire, as well as several other historical sites and businesses.

ILM Main Lobby
Inside, the halls are decorated with old matte paintings done by ILM, along with various props and engineering they were responsible for. My personal favorite was the internal mechanism prototype designed to drive  Jurassic Park‘s T-Rex, which I believe was designed to drive a two foot tall puppet of the dinosaur. I may be mistaken, but this approach was eventually scrapped in favor of a combination of CGI and a thirty foot tall practical puppet designed by Stan Winston Studios.

O'Brien Statue at ILM
O'Brien Statue Engraving
Close on O'Brien Statue
Statues of famous filmmakers and visual effects pioneers are everywhere, ranging from Eadweard Muybridge to Ray Harryhausen, whose statue holds a small skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts. For film buffs and fans of visual effects, the trip is worth doing, even if you can’t go into the offices themselves. It’s a gorgeous location, complete with it’s own Yoda fountain.

ILM Yoda Statue
Bronze R2D2
Presidential Award
Amydala Fight Statue

Brand Park Library

A Tourist in My Hometown

Today I’m guest posting over at Jess’ blog, Stamp in My Passport, for her Tourist in Your Hometown series! I’m super excited to share some of my favorite places in Glendale with you. Head over there and check it out!

10 Things to do in Disneyland

10 Things I Love To Do In Disneyland

I first heard about Disneyland when I turned five. I begged my parents to take me, but my sister had just been born, and they (logically) wanted to wait until she was old enough to go. So, they told me I had to wait until I was seven. I’m sure they hoped I would forget over the course of two years, lose interest, or get distracted by something else, but they were quite wrong. By my seventh birthday, they had no choice but to fulfill their promise and plan a summer vacation to Southern California.

I still remember the absolute joy of that long-awaited moment when I walked through the front gates into Disneyland for the first time. Twenty-three years later, it hasn’t gone away.

I’m now an annual passholder, so I visit the park several times per year, and I always have a blast. While there are hundreds of things I love to do at Disneyland, today I’ve put together a list of ten of my favorite things to do at the park:

1. Ride the Matterhorn.

It’s my all-time favorite ride, because of the perfect combination of theme and thrill. You careen around and through the mountain, which was constructed to look just like the real Matterhorn in the Alps. Out of all the Disney parks, this ride only exists in Disneyland, and it’s unique in that there are no breaks or powering mechanisms in use throughout the ride (except at the end). It begins by pulling you up to the top of the hill, then releases you to coast down the tracks. What’s awesome about this is, the heavier the people in your bobsled, the faster you go — we always try to put the heaviest person in front. It’s most fun to ride this at night, during the fireworks if possible; you can see the bursts of light as you come out of the tunnel and it’s pretty amazing!

Matterhorn Mountain

2. Pilot the Monorail.

Many people don’t know that the monorail has a special compartment in the front, with the driver, that seats up to four people. You can’t actually drive the monorail, but you get the absolute best view of the park from the giant windshield. All you have to do is ask at the monorail station if you can ride up front! (It might be a long wait on busy days, and they won’t let you do it if it’s very hot outside).

3. Ride Splash Mountain in the rain.

It doesn’t rain much in Southern California, but when it does, I love to spend the day in Disneyland. Who would do this? Well, exactly, no one, except me, which is why it’s wonderful! You have the park to yourself! And, you’re already soaked, so why not jump on everyone’s favorite log ride? Last time we did this, we were able to ride through Splash Mountain three times in a row because no one was waiting to get on when we came in to dock. In my opinion, this is much more worthwhile than waiting 90 minutes in 90 degree heat to ride through it once. 😉

Splash Mountain

4. Sing along with “it’s a small world”

It makes the ride much more fun, and is actually challenging to do for the entire duration. Just don’t sing louder than the ride — you don’t want to annoy the poor strangers that ended up on your boat.

5. Wear a silly hat.

There are few places where you can get away with wearing an ear hat, a bear hat, or a pink-and-purple fascinator top hat. But you can wear them here! I enjoy looking quite ridiculous when I go to the park. It helps hide the fact that I’m usually also acting quite ridiculous.

6. Eat a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar.

Because yum.

Mickey Ice Cream Bar

7. Visit the Disney Gallery.

It’s filled with frequently changing displays of awesome, unique Disney-themed artwork. Most people don’t seem to know or care about it, so it’s usually not crowded, but it’s a lot of fun to walk through and check out some great art. It always makes me feel a little creatively inspired, too!

8. Scream in terror any time a ghost pops up from behind a tombstone in the Haunted Mansion.

There’s about four of them in the graveyard at the end of the ride and they pop up suddenly. Be sure to jump and scream bloody murder, especially if you know when it’s coming. We once got stopped for a few minutes on the ride right in front of one of these and I think Eric may have wanted to punch me.

9. Bring a friend who’s never been.

Maybe it’s because I still remember how excited and thrilled I was when I first entered Disneyland Park, but I love bringing someone else for the first time. It’s fun being able to share with them why I love the park so much. And I love getting to see them having fun in a place that makes me so happy, too!

10. Feel like a kid again.

There’s seriously something magical about this place that makes me so happy. Every time I walk through the front gates, I still feel the same unbelievable joy that I did on my first visit at the age of seven.

Disneyland Rope Bridge Fun
PS: Disneyland Half Marathon & Trader Sam’s Tiki Bar

Swimming Away

Learning to Scuba Dive

There’s no experience like scuba diving. The ability to swim — and breathe — underwater opens you up to exploring a whole new part of the world. It’s truly incredible.

It’s also terrifying. But aren’t all things that are truly worth doing?

My husband has been scuba certified since the age of 14. As such, he’s spent the six years that we’ve known each other trying to convince me to learn, too. This year, ready to take on a new adventure, I decided it was time to take the plunge (both literally and figuratively). I signed up for the first open water diver class of the year at Aqua Adventures Unlimited, a dive shop in Burbank that had come highly recommended.

Aqua Adventures Unlimited

Eric signed up for a refresher course alongside my class, as it had been a few years since he’d been diving. The course took place over two weekends. The first included a few hours of classroom time, followed by several swimming pool dives. The second weekend took us out to Catalina for a variety of open water dives.

The classroom time was relatively easy. I had read the book the week before, and felt pretty good about all the information and lessons it contained. Scuba diving definitely classifies as one of those things, though, that you just can’t learn from a book. Don’t misunderstand me: there’s a lot of important safety information that you need to understand. But the experience of actually getting in the water and diving is something you just have to do.

Me on Shore

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    Hello! I'm Erika, a quiet girl living in the noisy city of Los Angeles with my husband Eric and my cat Cookies. I enjoy exploring new places, going on adventures, eating delicious food, and taking lots of pictures! >> Read more

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