Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Saturday

We celebrated Easter quietly on Saturday with Jacob, Vanessa and Mike at our home.

Laurie had her usual thousand
holiday specific decorations out and about

Jacob needed a snack before the
One-Boy Easter Egg Hunt

Poppo dutifully hiding eggs

St. Francis was a co-conspirator

Let the Hunt begin!

There, THERE!!!

St. Francis blowing his cover


Mike helping with an egg in a tree


Jacob seemed to enjoy the Easter Egg Hunt. Once it was over, it was time to be a little boy again. 

Jacob and his red '57 T-Bird

Hippy Power

Fun with Plastic Balls

Imprisoned with his Dad

Helmet on, time for a scooter ride

While I've got the helmet on,
I might as well take a few cuts
on the Batting-T 

The Dinner Table was ready

Do I have to wear these all dinner?

Good family time!

Now if we could just hook up sometime soon with Kevin, Jenn  and Andy . . .

Friday, April 18, 2014

Carnival Cruise to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico

Last Sunday we drove down to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to pick up our good friends from Seattle, Mark and Susie Johnson.

The reason? A fun-filled three day, four night cruise aboard a Carnival cruise ship from Long Beach, California to Catalina Island and then on to Ensenada, Mexico.

It turned out to be as much fun as we thought it would be!

But first, an epic breakthrough . . .

French Pastries and Tea Room

This is not a good picture but it serves a GREAT croissant!!!!

In nearby Thousand Oaks, we found a French restaurant that has just been sold by a man from Bordeaux to a couple from, of all places, LYON!!!

We had read about the sale in last Sunday's newspaper and decided to stop by to sample their wares on the way to LAX.

Their buttery croissants are, to say the very least, WORTHY!!!

I foresee many side trips to Thousand Oaks in my future . . .

Meanwhile, at the Port of Long Beach, our cruise began late Sunday afternoon.

Mark, Laurie and Susie

Did I mention that it is all-you-can eat aboard ship.

Love that Shirt

On this first night, we opted to just sit, talk and nosh instead of going to the dining room for a more traditional dinner experience.

We were all good with that.

Snail Art with Towels

On every cruise that we have ever been on, the room steward does these nightly, artsy towel sculptures.

By the way, we ate some very good escargot on our final night at sea.

Our first stop on Monday, only "26 miles across the sea" from Long Beach, was Catalina Island's Avalon Harbor.

We rented a four passenger golf cart to tour this delightful little community.

Mark and Susie above Avalon Harbor

Our Cruise ship in the distance

Picturesque Avalon Harbor with
their famous Casino on the far right

Hijinks at the local pet cemetery

Sassy Island Cat

Cool Mosaics at the Casino

The Chicago Cubs held Spring Training
on Catalina Island from 1921-1951

Not surprising when you consider that the Wrigley family, of chewing gum fame, owned both the Cubs and Catalina Island.

They still own over 90% of the island but no longer control the Cubs who they sold to the Tribune Company in 1981 after 65 years of ownership.

The Casino up close

This Art Deco structure first opened in May of 1929 and originally it was used as a ballroom and theatre. Today it also houses a museum.

There was never any gambling in this iconic structure. The Casino gets its name from the Italian word "casino" meaning simply a gathering place.

Not Real

On the other, much less inhabited side of the island bison do indeed roam. This is not one of them.

Avalon is one continuous postcard

Catalina incorporates tiles like these
into the architecture of several buildings

Our first day was in the books and it was a good one.

Now, it was time to head South of the Border to . . .

Baja California, Mexico

Only in Mexico


"When in Rome . . ."

After touring an interesting fish market near the harbor and doing a little shopping, we opted to grab a sidewalk table at a local watering hole and share in some of the local mores and folkways.

Oh boy . . .

The PC Memo has still not arrived
in Ensenada

A traditional Ensenada Hotel,
Restaurant and . . .

. . . Bar

I first visited the Hotel Bahia in the late 1950s with my family while vacationing in Ensenada. I remember it as having good food and a great floorshow featuring Aztec warriors and maidens performing traditional dances.

As an 11 year old boy, I was impressed!

On this nice Tuesday afternoon, we had the bar to ourselves and rekindled our friendship with many new and incriminating escapades.

I do have several nieces and nephews

We made it back to the boat with plenty of time to spare. I do not know if a cheeseburger ever tasted any better than the one I consumed once back on board.

Bayside Soccer Field

I took this picture from the ship's Deck 10, the Lido Deck. That soccer field you see is indeed, 100% dirt. The locals are dedicated to their national sport I would haste to say.

All that was left now was a very slow day at sea on Wednesday as we returned to Long Beach. 

Cruise Ship Smokestack

This was the view from the Pool Deck on our last night at sea.

It was great seeing Mark and Susie again with lots of time to catch up.

Good Times Indeed!!!

Reading Is FUNdamental!!!

The Sixth in Martin Walker's
"Bruno Chief of Police" Book Series

I have read them all and while this book would stand well on its own, it was a bit disappointing in its spot as the latest tome in the series.

Still, Walker took us on another fun trip through the landscape, wine and food of his beloved Périgord area of France's Dordogne département which is found in the Aquitane région of Gaul.

Available on-line only

A short story, it was a straight forward read about a minor crime in the Périgord at Yuletide that Bruno handles in his usual folksy way.

UCLA American Football Clinic

I attended my first UCLA Spring Football Clinic back in 1971 when Pepper Rodgers was their Head Coach. The Bruins were being introduced to what became a very successful version of the Wishbone offense, the first of its kind on the West Coast. They would be led by a JC transfer QB from Pierce College. His name was Mark Harmon. I wonder whatever happened to him after leaving UCLA?

Homer Smith was the Offensive Coordinator at that time, what an incredible football mind! 

Their line coach was a very young Terry Donahue who would eventually become the winningest Head Coach in Bruin history from 1976-1995 with a record of 151-74-8. At that 1971 clinic, Donahue gave what to me is still the best talk on offensive line fundamentals and the famous Crowther Sled Progession drills that I have ever heard. It was incredibly valuable information to this young and inexperienced coach at that time!

This past Friday and Saturday, I ventured down to Westwood to again learn some new concepts from both the UCLA staff and a line-up of very successful high school speakers from all over the USA.

Our list of speakers included:

Noel Mazzone, UCLA Offensive Coordinator
"Bruins' Up-Tempo Offense"

Verlon Dorminey, Trinity Christian Academy
Jacksonville, Florida
"Advanced Shotgun Unbalanced Wing-T Offense"

Jason Negro, St. John Bosco H.S.
Bellflower, California
"Strength and Conditioning - A Year Around Approach"

Dan Quinn, Seattle Seahawks Defensive Coordinator
"Fast and Physical - Creating a Defensive Style"

Tony Sanchez, Bishop Gorman H.S.
Las Vegas, Nevada
"Defensive Drills for a Winning Edge"

Jason Mohns, Saguaro H.S.
Scottsdale, Arizona
"Inverted Option Reads in the Spread Run Game"

Troy Thomas, Crespi Carmelite H.S.
Encino, California
"Building a Culture"

Overall, these speakers did an outstanding job with their presentations and made the two days on the UCLA campus more than just a bit worthwhile.

One of the highlights was getting on the practice field to go over some of UCLA's basic position drills and see their passionate staff and players in action.

I have posted a series of videos from the Bruins practice session on Saturday that will not be visible if viewing them on a tablet or smart phone, only computers will do the trick.

Defensive Fit Drill

Slow paced but insures that players know where they fit into a defense and how this attention to Gap Integrity can stifle a running game

Kickoff versus . . .

 . . . Kickoff Return

The CLUB!!!

Punt vs. Punt Return

REALLY loud music at practice is now a staple at NCAA DI practices it seems. I could barely here myself but it is a must to keep the player energy up at practice and prepare for the eventual rowdy and hostile road environments that the Bruins will face this coming Fall.

Linebackers working on Agility
and Low Pad Level

Linebackers Shedding Cut Blocks 

Defensive Linemen Staying Low Too

DL Get-Off

Pass Rush: Club and Rip . . .

. . . with POWER!!!

Here is the DL Pass Rush Drill

It was SO much fun to see Coach Jim Mora's UCLA staff coaching with unbridled enthusiasm, passion, toughness and attention to fundamental details.

I think that UCLA will be a handful this year for the rest of the PAC-12.