Posts in the ‘Los Angeles’ Category

A Beautiful Day at the Huntington

Sunday, after an incredible night in Pasadena celebrating our friends’ wedding at the gorgeous Langham hotel where we danced, took a ton of silly photobooth photos, invaded the lobby/sitting room and spent the night sharing a room with some friends, we decided to take advantage of our location. I’d wanted to go to the Huntington for a while, and we hadn’t made the time to head out there, so since we were already in the neighborhood, we decided to head on over.

The admission price was pretty steep — $20 each — and there weren’t any hats on sale at the gift shop, so we were worried we’d get horribly sunburned, but we decided to go anyway, and I’m very glad we did!

Huntington Cactus Garden

We started with a walk through the expansive cactus garden. I could not believe how many different types of desert plans lined the walkways and went as far back as I could see. It was like we were in a Dr. Seuss book, with all the fun, bulbous shapes and twisted trunks around us.

Huntinging Cactus Garden

Then we went to the lily pond and sat in the shade, watching the ducks and red dragonflies chase each other around. It was incredible to see somewhere in LA so full of life and beauty.

Huntington Rose Garden

Then we walked through the jungle area, up to the rose garden, and then on to the serene Japanese gardens with their koi pond, bridges and delicate plants.

Japanese Gardens and the Huntington

We also went into the conservatory to see the tropical gardens, and we saw the corpse flower, though it hadn’t started to bloom yet and didn’t smell at all.

We didn’t go into any of the museum buildings, and we didn’t make it all the way to the some of the farther gardens. We’ll definitely have to go back to see more — and we’ll have to bring the good camera!

Check out more of my photos on Flickr (all taken on my iPhone).

More Than a Year Later, Tuttle LA Is Still Going Strong

Francine at Tuttle LA

Me at Tuttle LA at Toorak Coffee with Jeb and Vaughan in the background. Photo by Ms. Jen Hanen

Remember back when I started posting about Tuttle LA? Well, we started trying to recreate the magic of the Tuttle Club social media cafe that I was involved with in London over here in LA last February. It’s always been a loosely organized group of freelancers, web workers and geeky folks, and through this small but dedicated group, I’ve made new friends, discussed a lot of interesting ideas, worked on a few projects and learned a lot.

When we started, we were meeting at The Library, a quirky coffee shop in Long Beach with an always-changing space. It was cozy and we enjoyed meeting there for nearly the entire first year, but we soon felt like we were outgrowing the changing space we liked to call ours. The tables were getting smaller, the Wi-Fi wasn’t getting any better, the place wasn’t getting any closer to the freeway, and we were constantly surprised by what we found in our meeting room, from a clothing store to a performance space (seriously, check out the older photos from our Flickr group).

We decided to change venues over to a newer coffee shop, Toorak Coffee, also in Long Beach, and we’ve found a happy home. The staff knows us, there’s lots of room for us to stretch out, we never feel like we’re being too rowdy during our heated discussions, and the Wi-Fi is quick and reliable. We only wish there were more outlets for our laptops. It’s also easy to get to since it’s just minutes off the 405.

I’m proud that we’re still meeting every other week like clockwork, and we’re currently discussing adding post-Tuttle educational programs. We’ve also had a number of special guests, including many Tuttle friends from London.

Just this past Friday a group of about 7 of us were discussing how valuable Tuttle has been to us. Since just about all of us work from home, Tuttle has provided an important outlet for meeting new people and adding a social component to our workweek. Because of it, we’ve gotten feedback on new projects, collaborated on work and gotten inspiration to try new solutions or conquer new tasks.

When we started out, I didn’t know if anyone would even show up. Now, our group isn’t huge, but we regularly have 6 to 10 people, and sometimes even a few more. Though I originally hoped we’d have a large, thriving group, I am happy with our steady pack of regulars who are committed to coming and helping each other out.

So Jeb, Jen, Vaughan, Al, Matt, David, Geoff, Kelly, Luke, and everyone else who stops by, thank you for being a part of Tuttle LA. It’s meant a lot to me, and I’m happy to hear that it’s meant a lot to most of you. You’ve helped inspire me creatively and professionally and you’ve introduced me to many great ideas, apps and tools.

Want to learn more about Tuttle LA and when we’re meeting next? Visit

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Kevin Tighe Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Kevin Tighe as the Bengal Tiger. Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz

Friday, our friends Sean and Lindsay invited us to go see “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” at the Mark Taper Forum. We don’t go to the theater much, so were excited to go out and see and do something new.

The critically acclaimed play (it’s up for a Pulitzer) centers around two soldiers, a tiger and an Iraqi translator in Baghdad during the Iraq War, and the characters are all dealing with their own existential crises and ghosts.

The tiger, played by Kevin Tighe wearing raggedy clothes is the first indication that this play will be something different. In the first scene, he paces in his cage, ranting about life in the zoo and during war-time, dropping profanities left and right. Things quickly take a turn for the worst when one of the soldiers guarding the tiger taunts him with food and the tiger bites off his hand.

As the characters try to accept their fates and deal with their emotional traumas, the play manages to be simultaneously funny and painful, giving a glimpse into the tragic absurdities of war and the stressors that cause people to act out or go mad. “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” is engaging throughout, it feels fresh and original and it’s deeply affecting.

Its simple set is also very impressive, using some ingenious lighting techniques to use turn one static backdrop into an office, a zoo, a garden, the desert, the night sky, a hospital and more.

I went into the play with no information as to what it’s about, so I don’t want to say too much, but “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” is at the Mark Taper Forum until May 30, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Watch videos, learn more and buy tickets.

A Relaxing Weekend in Ojai

We found some trees that change color in Southern California!

We found some trees that change color in Southern California!

OK, this post is only more than a month late, but I did want to share…

Over Halloween weekend, Evan and I decided to get out of LA for a bit. He’s been working 6- or 7-day weeks, and he finally had a full 2-day weekend to relax for the first time in more than a month. Also, neither of us really like celebrating Halloween, so it was the perfect weekend to get away. We considered Palm Springs, or Santa Barbara, or even Solvang, but they all seemed troublesome and pricey that weekend — there was a giant Phish concert out in the desert, and Santa Barbara has a major Halloween celebration, so we thought of some place a little closer and quieter — Ojai.

We were only going for one night, and we only decided to go a few days before the weekend, but thankfully things weren’t too busy and we were able to book a beautiful room in a very cute and cozy bed and breakfast called Inn Harmony. Inn Harmony is on a residential street just a block away from the main shopping and restaurant area. The yellow house had only a few rooms and it really felt like staying in a friend’s beautiful guest room. The furnishings looked new and were a mix of classic shapes with contemporary funky fabrics, the bathroom was quite modern, and we even had our own little balcony. There was a wine and cheese happy hour, a nice yard and porch where we spent time reading, and an absolutely adorable and friendly little Havanese dog.

How could you not love that face?

How could you not love that face?

Ojai turned out to be a great little vacation spot. We went on a nice hike which crossed back and forth over a small stream and gave us some beautiful views of the Ojai valley. There were so many hikes in the area that we had a hard time choosing which one to do. We also had a nice dinner at the Ranch House, where we sat on their heated patio in a lush garden. We got a very private table that was on its own platform amid the trees, and shared a bottle of wine and a nice meal.

One of the views from our hike

One of the views from our hike

We also went wine tasting at the Old Creek Ranch Winery, which was just outside of Ojai. We tasted a large selection of their small runs of wines and were impressed with all of them, especially the now sold-out sauvignon blanc and the sangiovese. Though they buy their grapes from other vineyards, they do make the wine on the pastoral property, and there were plenty of people picnicking with their families and dogs.

Ojai turned out to be the perfect weekend retreat for us. We relaxed, spent time outdoors and had fun checking out the little shops that featured the very talented local artists, like Steven Spiro. It was also really easy to get to — it only took about an hour and a half to get there. I’m excited to find another weekend when we can go back.

A Hike in Griffith Park

Griffith Park Observatory

View of Downtown LA from the Griffith Park Observatory

Yesterday, my friend Jared and I went for a hike in Griffith Park. I hadn’t been hiking there in a while, and it was great to get back out there and experience some of the nature LA has to offer.

The paths are mostly wide and sandy, and they wind up and around hills where there are views of downtown, the San Gabriel Valley and the Hollywood sign. There’s also the very nicely remodelled Griffith Park Observatory, where you can wander around checking out exhibits on the sun, planets and stars (and it’s free).

Me and the Hollywood Sign

Me and the Hollywood Sign

I’m not sure quite how far we walked, but I think it was between 3 and 4 miles. There were plenty of other people out walking and running, and there were lots of dogs there, too. There isn’t much shade on the trails, but there are some areas to relax, like the small garden and picnic area at Dante’s Peak, and by the Observatory.

Check out the rest of the photos on Facebook or Flickr.

Jared and Albert Einstein in the Griffith Park Observatory

Jared and Albert Einstein in the Griffith Park Observatory

The Hammer Museum: ‘What Manner of Person Art Thou’ and other exhibits

Last weekend, Evan, my friend Laura and I went to the Hammer museum to see “What Manner of Person Art Thou” and the other exhibits. Though the Hammer is a small museum, it has some really wonderful works and frequently changing exhibits.

We started with the Francesca Gabbiani-curated collection of images that have to do with witchcraft, sorcery and the darker side of life. In a room filled with mostly old etching and prints, though also including some more modern ones, we were really delighted by the bizarre elements we found in many of the pieces, especially the extremely strange Pieter van der Heyden works from the 1500s.

There was also a neat portrait exhibit called “Other People,” which had a wide range of mostly contemporary portraiture. My favorite piece was a collection of baseball card style photos of baseball photographers. Of course, they were all in baseball poses and had baseball props, but were all in their normal clothes.

The real reason we went to the museum, though, was to see Erin Cosgrove’s animated film, “What Manner of Person Art Thou.” It was shown in a very small room, with just two couches and some chairs in the back. We didn’t quite know what to expect, but the film was quite funny, though a bit long. It followed two men from a religious sect, whose families had died, trying to find any other descendants to bring back to their community. They’re sorely disappointed by what they find out in the world, from pro-anorexia groups to dating shows. With each relative they meet, their journey becomes more absurd and more horrifying.

The film is only playing until tomorrow, but it’s worth checking out, as are the other exhibits.

Tuttle #2 – This Time With Video, and No, We Weren’t in a T-Shirt Shop

What is Tuttle LA? from Francine Kizner on Vimeo.

Tuttle #2 was even better than Tuttle #1. We met again at the Library, and started by meeting in the cozy room on the left that has lots of couches, but we had a special surprise — a video Skype chat with Lloyd Davis (aka the Tuttle mothership, as Geoff said), who is at SXSW this weekend. We were a bit loud when on the call, so one of the annoyed Library patrons suggested we head to the bizarre extra room off to the right, which was empty.

With talked about Austin, Tuttle, London and more (check out the video above).

Our new spot in the side room provided us more seating space and let us talk and move around more, but it was a really bizarre space. There were a few yellow walls, some mismatched paintings, a rack of T-shirts and hoodies (all in primary colors), a massage chair ($1 for 5 minutes) and some paper lanterns.

In addition to all the talk about tech, phones, Twitter, WordPress and SXSW, we also did some video interviews. Geoff’s phone died, so we took all the video on my Macbook Pro.

Tuttle LA: Interview with Mark Davidson from Francine Kizner on Vimeo.

Tuttle LA Interview with Amir Motlagh from Francine Kizner on Vimeo.

This week’s attendees: Me (@kizziefk), Geoff Hickman (@geoffsays), Jeb Brilliant (@jebbrilliant), Mark Davidson (@markdavidson), Amir Motlagh (@amirmotlagh, Vimeo), Christine (@christyxcore), Caroline (@thevixy)