Rest And Peace

Float decoration is hard work, long hours on your feet, concentrating on fine detailed work.  We were feeling a little fatigued and needed a little rest from our manual labor of the past couple of days, so we took the day off from float prep to do what Downtown Dad and I do best on vacation – look up dead relatives, and old addresses from our past!

The first stop was Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena.  A peaceful place where three out of five members of my mother’s family are buried.


Here’s my grandfather, the one who invented the drill that matches your grip for bowling balls.


Here’s my mother’s mother.


Here’s my mother’s twin brother who died of Leukemia at 16 years old.

A couple of years ago, my sister and I scattered my mother’s ashes in and around our home town of Goleta, California.  I also scattered some in Sioux City, Iowa where she was born. Turns out both my sister Vicki and I still have some ashes left, and we both think the rest of them should be interred with a headstone next to her twin brother.  I’m currently working with a counselor at the cemetery to see if we can do that.

Our next stop was Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale.  We went there to find the graves of two of Dave’s shirt-tail relatives, but I knew there were more stars from the golden age of Hollywood buried there than any other cemetery – so, while he searched the hillside for familiar names, I searched Google on my phone to see if there was any way to find out where these celebrities’ final resting places were.

Turns out there is a list of people buried there, but there is a catch.  There are privacy laws, and the office can’t give out crypt or plot locations unless you are a relative.  ….unless… you can find and follow the secret instructions to locate your fave dead celeb… which I did.

There are really only two celebs that I really even care about, and both happen to be buried there at Glendale Forest Lawn.  Humphrey Bogart, and Walt Disney.  Bogie is buried in a private garden, behind a locked door which can only be opened with a golden key issued at the time of burial to the surviving family member.  Walt Disney, on the other hand is a classic example of hiding in plain sight.

At the top of the hill is a building called the Freedom Mausoleum. You can’t miss it, there is a 13 foot high statue of George Washington at the front door. Just to the left of the front entrance is a small private garden with a gate. I have to admit I was quite amazed that I was able to stand inside this private enclosure, alone, not three feet from the plaque that bears his name.


To the right of the plaque is a small statue of the original Little Mermaid which as strewn with flowers, and several tickets from Disneyland. What an awesome experience!  I have to admit, I’m still feeling the weight of it.

Check back tomorrow to hear about our further adventures in float decoration!

Details, Details

Decorating a Rose Parade float is much more detailed work than you’d think.  Here are some behind the scenes pictures of some of those details.

Each float starts as just a giant flatbed, like you’d imagine, then the designers make the general shape and theme.  Once that is established, the Fiesta Float people go on a scavenger hunt through their massive warehouse for the steel and wireframe pieces that have been used for previous floats.


The above picture, is a tiny fraction of everything available.  These pieces start out as what I’ve been calling a paint-by-numbers project.  For example the tiger above, is “color-coded” to denote what type of material you glue to the surface.


While decorating, you might find yourself in a somewhat compromising position, such as glueing crushed peach lentils to a tiger’s butt!  It’s a slow and tedious process, with painting the glue, precisely on the color coded areas, then patting the tiny natural materials, such as onion seed, for the black stripes.


The view as you walk around the float is pretty interesting.  You mostly see butts and feet dangling from the scaffolding as workers press statice flowers to this camel’s saddle.


Each task is very time consuming.  For example, here, we were popping the glue plug out of straws that were rolled in oregano.


Below, Dave spent his 6 hours creating the Sunrise at the Oasis sign – look for it on the front of the float.


Oh, and we did run into a celebrity!  This little cutie is Daniel, a beagle being billed as “the luckiest dog in the world.”  He was in a group of dogs to be euthanized, in a canine gas chamber in Alabama.  When they opened the door, he popped out alive as can be!  Look for him, he will be riding on the Lucy Pet Foundation float.


The little piece of excitement we had on Saturday was that PETA was outside protesting the Sea World float which is being constructed right next to ours. Their float, while not nearly as beautiful as our Dole float, has some majestic killer whales on the front, but it’s truly NOT disrespectful to animals!  One little example of both the Sea World float and the detail involved in creating these art pieces is the picture below. On TV the floats go by so quickly, you never get a chance to see the detail that we have had the amazing opportunity to see this week. For example, only the head and feet are completed in this picture, but I watched the people placing the split peas and beans on this using tweezers, and the back of a paint brush.  This is a great example of the dedication of volunteers working on these floats.


We took the day off today, to do some cool personal/genealogy stuff, but we’ll be back at it again tomorrow.  It will be much more intense, so tune in again to see the progress!

We Are (Dole) Family

Most people, when they go on vacation, bring along golf clubs, or beach towels… Us?  We bring scissors!

Linda Thomas Anderson

Our vacation goal in LA is not to catch a wave, a fish, or even some rays (although it has been 80+ degrees here!).  Our goal is to be a part of a community that is creating something – that something just happens to be the Dole Food Company’s Rose Parade Float!

We drove the 12 miles from Eagle Rock to Irwindale, through surprisingly light traffic to the Fiesta Parade Float warehouses.  Signage was great, directing “parade float decorators” through the snaking streets to the miles and miles of parking where we were glad we were wearing our lanyards, proclaiming us to be a member of the Dole family.  Once parked, we walked what seemed to be another mile, and once inside the cavernous building, yet another mile past the 13 other floats to ours.

Float 1

This being the 2nd day of the decoration process, the live flowers had not yet arrived, and instead of the perfume we expected to be in the air, it was more of chemical smell, which we soon learned was the Elmer’s glue on steroids we would be slathering all over everything – including ourselves.

We located our supervisor Darryl, who has been doing this for 30+ years, as have most of the staff, which pretty much happen to all be related to each other – so its like a family business! Since we were newbies, we were set to probably the most heinous task, glueing papery dried seaweed to the ribs on the underside of giant palm leaves.

Glue and Leaves

So, while the more seasoned workers created faces on camels, and stripes on tigers, we spent our 6 hour shift on two leaves!

Nori Gluing
























So, that’s all – we’re off to start our second day!  Stay tuned for more!


What a Difference a Day Makes!

After 25 hours of wondering at every turn whether we’d make it to our final destination, we finally made it to our destination!

I must say that Delta Airlines treated us very very well, and each flight, the one from Fargo to Minneapolis, as well as the one from Minneapolis to LAX were smooth as glass and arrived ahead of schedule.


Let me just try to express what a joy it is to leave the sub zero frigid, frozen plains, and a mere 5 hours later walk out into an 80 degree bright sunny day! But no, this picture is truly worth a thousand words….

We caught a shuttle from the airport to a small but very friendly car rental agency who held our car through our delay, and didn’t even charge us for the day we missed!

With the help of our iPhone GPS, we drove to the Pasadena area, and right to our cozy and fabulous AirBnB home for the week.  Our hosts left perfect instructions for how to get in, how to access the Internet, down to how to work the television.


But we were starving, having not eaten all day.  We drove up 3/4 of the length of Colorado Boulevard just taking in the sights, and getting the lay of the land. We then doubled back settling on a mexican cocina called Senior Fish, that had a lovely deck allowing us to enjoy our tacos al pastor and beer in the glorious afternoon sun.

We then took advantage of the fact that we didn’t have to worry about whether or not we’d miss a connection, or fail to arrive, and caught up on our emails.  We checked in with our hosts, letting them know we’d arrived, and also with Beverly at Fiesta Parade Floats, to see what time our shift would begin. Beverly told us not to arrive before 9am, as that’s when the designers get there, and there’s a lot of waiting around.

We then found the Trader Joe’s market, and stocked up on organic veggies for our morning smoothies, along with a couple of bottles of wine. Just a side note here, a weeks worth of smoothie supplies, PLUS wine, coffee AND creamer cost less than just smoothie supplies at our local grocery store at home.(Shameless plug for Trader Joes!)

1493039_10152511282212627_755121772_nSo here we sit, munching on some microwave popcorn and sipping our lovely Trader Joe’s wine, (in the proper glasses no less) feeling the 19 hours we’ve been up start to catch up with us.  Tomorrow we start on our float decorating adventure!

Christmas With the Crankys

There are so many Christmassy lines that fit just now…

‘Twas the night before Christmas….

Oh the weather outside is frightful…

We need a little Christmas, right this very minute…

Let me set the stage.

Downtown Dad and I made a conscious decision to – like the Kranks, “skip Christmas” this year, since all three kids are otherwise occupied with significant others, or away at college. We’re flying out to sunny California to decorate a float that will be in the Rose Parade.

We had an early Christmas Eve dinner with friends. Reservations confirmed, made 6 weeks ago for a 6:00am departure on United from frozen Fargo, arriving on a bright balmy Christmas morning in LA.  A bargain rental car to toodle around in.  A night at the Pasadena Hilton for an elegant Christmas evening before moving into our AirBnB home for the week.

(That’s the sound of a record scratching)

Suddenly, at 7:30pm, 11 hours before we are supposed to take off, we get a “robocall” (not even a real person on the other end) from United Airlines saying our flight had been – not delayed – CANCELLED! But not to worry, they could rebook us TWO DAYS LATER!  TWO DAYS?!?! WTF?!?!

Thus ensued a flurry of calls to Cheapo Air, Expedia, United, and the Pasadena Hilton to try to re-arrange the hopelessly toppling dominoes of our trip.

Cheapo Air came through right away with flying colors (pun intended) by getting us on a flight on American Airlines, on the same day, just much later.  While this was a start, we soon realized that we wouldn’t be able to pick up our rental car, due to late arrival, and therefore would not be able to make our reservations at the Pasadena Hilton.  Calls to Expedia gave us two options, cancel the great deal rental car and rebook for twice the price for one that would be available when we arrived, or cancel our hotel reservations, but to do that we’d have to call in the morning and speak to the manager, since that could only be done by special permission.

After an uneasy night’s sleep, we started what turned out to be 5 hours of circuitous phone calls, the details of which I’ll spare you, suffice to say that we never found anyone at the Pasadena Hilton that would or could authorize our cancellation, so we were out that money.  We were able to notify the car rental agency to let them know we’d pick up the car the next morning. We ended up getting, and having to pay for, another hotel room walking distance from LAX.

Still cranky at United, for their short notice notification, I took my beef to Twitter, letting them know what a fiasco they’d caused us.  I actually got a reply back with a link to their Customer Service Team’s email complaint form.  Not sure what good will come of it, but I filled it out. I also gave a parting shot Tweet back to United saying I wasn’t going to hold my breath for a reply.

So, here we sit, still in the snow, at home when we should have been sipping a cold beverage in LA 5 hours ago, finally about to leave for our rebooked flight.

I knew that that this would be an adventure…..


Adventures in Float Decorating

They finally arrived!

The long awaited VIP (Volunteer In Pasadena?) passes for Downtown Dad and me to the Irwindale warehouse where we’ll be decorating a Rose Parade Float later this month!VIPCROP

Sounds super elegant and swanky right? Don’t you just wish you could go along? Well, here’s some great news… even if you can’t come with us, you can enjoy it vicariously right here, because I’ll be telling you all about our trip from Frigid Fargo to Balmy LA, and our adventures while there.

  • We won’t be traveling around in a limo, or a convertible even, just a compact rental car;
  • We aren’t staying in a luxury hotel, but we will be trying out AirBnB;
  • We won’t be hitting too many touristy meccas, but we will be on the lookout for quirky or out of the way destinations. In fact, if you know us, you won’t be surprised to hear that we will be visiting at least one cemetery;
  • We aren’t counting on running into any celebrities, but you never know, it IS LA after all!

Let me give you the backstory on how this whole idea came about…

As a very young child, my family lived in and around Pasadena, but my parents decided to relocate North to the relatively small town of Santa Barbara when I started school. We occasionally would go back to visit relatives still in LA, but my parents, having been locals, avoided that entire area during the holidays. So, even though my cousins attended UCLA, one of them even was a finalist for Rose Queen, the Rose Parade was something we watched on television, never in person.

Every year, as I watched the parade, I’d marvel at the spectacle and pageantry of those flower covered floats.  And every year I’d say to myself, ‘someday I’m going to decorate one of those.’ So, last year, as I pondered my Bucket List for 2013, I ran the idea of doing just that past Downtown Dad, and much to my surprise, he was all for it!

But how does one go about getting on a volunteer crew?

First, I found the Tournament of Roses Facebook page, and posted that question on their wall.  I was referred by more than one person to Beverly at Fiesta Parade Floats. An email inquiry to her was swiftly answered. She gave me a time line of events, and what I’d need to do, and when to do it. That was in January, and now, at last, I have the coveted “passes.”

In the letter that accompanied our passes, it says we are only required to sign on for one 6 hour shift. Well, we will be there for 6 days, so we’d really like to take on as many shifts as they’ll let us, you know, to get the feel of how it all works! But, we don’t want to spend the whole time working! We’ve identified a few places we must go, or must see.

  • Neighborhoods in Duarte and South Pasadena I literally have not set foot in for half a century!
  • Griffith Park
  • The former site of my Grandpa “Doc” Hinkley’s Bowling Supply
  • Mountain View Cemetery
  • Those Hollywood Lights from those Hollywood Hills – or any scenario from Bob Seger’s Stranger In Town Album
  • Disneyland/Knott’s Berry Farm/Universal Studios?

If you have any good advice on where to go/eat/stop/explore, please leave comments! Or, if you’re in the area, come meet us for a beer!

Let the adventures begin…

The Perfect Pie Crust

I’ve always thought that whatever filling happens to be between the layers in a pie, served only as the liquid to moisten the star of the whole pie show – the crust.

I must admit to having used frozen, mix and rolled pie crusts over the years, but as you might suspect, they were convenient, but lacking.

This year, I decided to put all of my creative efforts into making the Perfect Pie Crust – and I think I may have achieved it.

I read over and over that Lard was the essential ingredient for tender but flaky crust. I also wanted to use butter.  So with reckless abandon and with no regard to caloric count, I used half lard, half butter.  I think that may be the magic.

So, without further ado – here is what I consider to be the Perfect Pie Crust. This is enough for one two-crust pie, or two single-crust pies.

1/2 cup lard

1/2 cup butter

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

Mix butter and lard in a food processor, add salt.

Add 1 cup of the flour and pulse to mix

Add 2nd cup of the flour, pulsing till the mixture is coarse

Move the dough into a bowl, and add ice water 2 Tablespoons at a time, mixing gently with your hands just until the dough forms a dry ball.

Turn out onto a floured pastry board and gently roll to the size of your pie pan.


As you can see, we had to sample it first, just to make sure that it really was perfect. It could be that I also used the Perfect Apple Pie recipe which helped the pie crust achieve it’s own perfect-ness.  But that, my friends is another blog post.