Friday, July 31, 2009

Carpinteria, California "The World's Safest Beach"

The beach town of Carpinteria is about 25 minutes north of Camarillo and has always billed itself as "The World's Safest Beach.

The Pacific Oceean here is very calm with a long, shallow stretch of sand with very small, kid friendly waves.

Linden Avenue, Carpinteria's main street

For a high cholesterol pizza, try Tony's on the right.

On Wednesday, we opted instead for a classy Italian meal at Gianfranco's Trattoria, the red brick building on the left. By American-Italian dining standards it was very good!

With my youngest sister, Linda

It was Linda who called for this dinner meeting as we belatedly celebrated one of Laurie's birthdays, I won't say which one.

Besides the good food and fellowship, Linda wanted to see our pictures of Asturias, Spain where she spent a very important part of her youth.

Who was I to say no.

The Las Vegas, Nevada Post Office

Andy entered this photo into the fray, nice but I thought L.V.'s would be a little glitzier.

The Redlands, California Post Office

David P. Lassen continues to twist the knife deeper into Camarillo's back!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Life goes on. . .

Another week in sleepy Southern California as we continue to get back into our old routines.

Laurie is back working part-time in Santa Barbara at the Law Office of John Shellabarger.

Meanwhile, you can find me at. . .

. . . the Rio Mesa Weight Room

Working with another crop of Freshmen is interesting to say the least. It is a rather small group this year with only 45 players out for the team as opposed to last year's 80 players on the roster at this point of the summer.

We seem to have a dedicated group who is working hard to get bigger, stronger and faster.

The Signature Rio Mesa Helmet

Soon it will be time for my least favorite part of any football season, fitting and handing out equipment to a team.

The Ojai Post Office

David P. Lassen continues to harass me on the P.O. front.

Ojai is a quaint little town in the backroads of Ventura County.

How did they rate?

Casa Contreras TV

Here it is tuned into the Milan-Inter game last Sunday.

This game inspired Mike and I to buy two tickets to this Saturday night's game at the Rose Bowl between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the defending champions of the known universe, FC Barcelona!

It should be fun.

Monday, July 27, 2009

North Hollywood Post Office

This just in from David P. Lassen, his local Post Office in North Hollywood.


I hope they are ready for a long siege!

Pasadena Post Office

Mike D'Antuono sent me this picture of the Pasadena, California Post Office (with the City Hall's dome in the background) as an inspiration for what Camarillo could do to improve our community's status in the postal/architectural world!

The Pasadena Post Office

DEFINITELY go with the Lemon

Based on the last two years of research,
never ever order the Bolognese Gelato!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oxnard Salsa Festival

Just when you thought that life could not get any better, it was time for the annual Oxnard Salsa Festival. This promised to be a juxtapositioning of crafts, renewed friendships, food and, of course, salsa!

A Two Day Affair

I figured I was good for only one day so I joined Brian and Koreen FitzGerald on Saturday while Laurie decided to sit this one out for two reasons. One, she wanted to keep cleaning up the house for Mike and Vanessa's upcoming wedding and two, she does not do spicy foods very well.

Habanero Salsa has been known to cause self-combustion!

No sense taking any chances.

Let the Food Orgy Begin!

Cool T-Shirts

Salsa Dance Contest

That's Rio Mesa High School's Chemistry teacher Annie Marostica in the green top.

At St. Francis H.S. where I went to school in the early 1960's, our Chemistry teacher was Father Lawrence who looked nothing like Annie.

We hook up with Rick and Linda Torres

As they munch away, Koreen on the left and Brian on the right share a moment between bites with Rick in black and Linda in gray.

Rick is a long time Health teacher and Cross Country, Soccer and Track coach at Rio Mesa while Linda also works at the home of the Spartans as an interpretor for deaf students.

Katy FitzGerald
What little girl does not love horses?

Katy is the yougest of Tom FitzGerald's three children. Tom is Brian's brother and is a Science teacher at Rio Mesa.


$5 gets you a large bag of totilla chips and ten tickets to try ten different salsas of your choice from mild to mediun to hot to DAMN!!!


Normally you get salsa in the small white cups you see on the right but we scored a BIG hot salsa bowl because the owners of Cabo Mexican Restaurant, the Spink family, had kids go through Rio Mesa.

STAY AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This guy specializes in Habanero salsa.

The Spinks of Cabo Restaurant Fame

Their range of salsas go from mild on the near end of the table to steaming at the far end.

Good times at the festival with just the right mixture of salsa strengths to be able to enjoy the afternoon.

Ben Todd and Mike

Ben is one of the bright young teaching beacons at Rio Mesa and a good friend of our family. We invited him to join us for a small backyard BBQ Saturday night.

Vanessa and Laurie's cat Bridget

Camarillo Sunrise on Sunday

Mike and I were on our way to 6:30 a.m. Mass at. . .

Camarillo's St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church

Old by California standards, its doors first opened on July 1, 1913!

We spent Sunday afternoon watching Inter Milan beat AC Milan 2-0 in an overseas Milan Derby from Foxboro, Massachusetts.

It was a good weekend in Ventura County.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Great Camarillo Post Office Debate

If you followed this blog during our three week trip from Sicily to Spain to Belgium to Scotland and finally to England, then you know about my concern for the Camarillo Post Office's place amongst the great post offices of Europe.

I spoke with long time Camarillo City Councilman Kevin Kildee about this situation at Starbuck's over a cappucino last Wednesday and he promised to look into the situation. The recession and the state of California's budget crunch present major roadblocks to a quick solution to our problem.

To review the evidence,

The Trapani Post Office

Located on the west coast of Sicily, it was while paying a parking ticket here that this whole issue was raised in my mind.

The Barcelona Post Office

This Spanish edifice really got me wondering.

The Madrid Post Office

Although it is in Spain's capital city, now my blood was boiling!

The Bruges Post Office

In Belgium's most beautiful city, I can live with this one.

The York Post Office

The English are reserved in many things, I can live with this one too.

The Camarillo Post Office

Now do you see my point?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First Week Back in the USA

We've been back in Camarillo for a week now so I thought I would post a quick update about our attempts to reacquaint ourselves to life in California.

After hitting the Rio Mesa H.S. Weight Room to meet the 2009 Freshman team for the first time, I headed on up to Ventura H.S. to watch our Varsity team's last 7-on-7 games of the summer, both wins over Oak Park and Ventura High Schools.

Spartans playing Goal Line pass defense

Orange Groves

We visited the home that Mike and Vanessa will share after they get married in August. It is in a very rural area of Ventura County that is ripe with citrus fields and horses.

Ivy covered walls are always good

Their rental is located above the garage seen here.

The Living Room

All in all, this is a great spot for their first home.

Aunt Katica, my Mother and Me

On Sunday we drove down to San Marino to visit my Aunt and Mother to show them the photos of our time in Asturias, Spain where their parents were born and where they went to school.

We also cooked them our best attempt at an authentic Sicilian spaghetti lunch.

They liked it.

Sandra Tchiprout and Shi Young Kim

Shi Young took me to Dodger Stadium as a belated birthday present to see the Dodgers play the Cinncinati Reds. Sandra was already there with her son and some friends so we bought tickets near their seats and snuck into the row behind them.

Dodger dogs now cost $5 each and one Stella Artois beer cost $11!

Los Angeles 7 - Cinncinati 5


The Dodgers enigmatic left fielder in action.

It is good to be home but we are definitley living a different life style than the one we enjoyed in Sicily.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Safe Trip Home

Going home . . . its been a loooooong time on the road and we definitely want to see our family and friends.

We were up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready to take that last flight of the journey.

Walking to Paddington Station

We were out the door of the Caring Hotel by 5:45 a.m. to catch the Heathrow Express. It was a short, mostly flat, ten minute walk to Paddington and from there the Express would speed us to the airport in about 15 minutes.

It's ALWAYS about Dubai!

Now it was time to mentally gear up for the 10 1/2 British Airways flight to Los Angeles

Since Laurie and I booked our flights separately last fall, we had separate booking numbers. We had checked in on-line and both had been assigned aisle seats in different parts of the plane. We had also tried to move our seats to be together, but it wasn't possible. We smoothly and stress freely checked in THREE pieces of luggage (take THAT Ryanair!), sailed through security and boarded.

After about ten minutes in the air, the steward informed me that in the last row of the plane, which is only a two seat row, both seats were empty and that I could move there for more space and comfort. I jumped on the opportunity and had a very comfortable flight.

In the meantime, unbeknownst to me, when Laurie boarded she had been upgraded to business class for no apparent reason which meant that she essentially got a BED to sleep in!

Laurie says: I did ask if I could trade seats with George, knowing how uncomfortable he is on airplanes, but was told that I could not. (It was fantastic!!!)

Flying over spectacular Greenland

Someone radio the Titanic!

Cronies Welcome Home

Brian and Koreen FitzGerald were at LAX to greet us and they said that our son Michael and our soon to be daughter-in-law Vanessa called to say they wanted to meet us at Cronies on our way home.

We walked into Cronies and were surprised to find all of the usual suspects assembled.

What a great surprise. We had such a great time! Thank you to Vanessa for sending the e-invites and thanks to everyone for coming.

Mike Contreras, Calcio Catania Fan

It is GREAT to be home again!

But I miss the beauty and our friends in Europe already!!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Day 174 in London

Well, today was the 174th and final full day for us in Europe so we planned on a full day in London with the Johnson family.

We take a British Airways flight on Wednesday morning to Los Angeles where our good friends

Brian and

Koreen FitzGerald will be waiting at the airport to drive us home.

The Changing of the Guard
at Buckingham Palace

First up on the agenda was this traditional English military pageantry.

Picking the right observation point

The Queen Victoria Monument across the street was the perfect high ground to watch all of the action.

They marched in. . .

. . . they rode in. . .

. . . and they milled about.

I'm glad we saw this for the first time. It was interesting but I don't think I'll be returning any time soon. From here it was time to do a little walking to see what we could find.

This might be the best budget airline in the world.

Doesn't matter, I'm not buying.

The Burlington Arcade

Built in 1819, this is London's most exclusive shopping area!

At the Burlington Arcade you can find high end jewelry. . .

. . . GREAT shoes. . .

. . . and even more jewels.

Hamleys Toy Store

The biggest one in England, it was hectic.

Heraldry Trifecta

We take the Heathrow Express near this pub to the airport.


We stopped here for a pint and some sustenance.

Near Trafalgar Square

Camden Town

Eclectic to say the least. Lots of fun here!

The Camden Locks

These locks are part of a fine canal system that runs through parts of London.

Just a nice tree in Camden Town

We took a canal boat trip

We saw hundreds of these canal houseboats. Many were colorful like this one, others not so hot.


A MIRACLE breakthrough in English dentistry.

Mallory and Sophie with one of the
Trafalgar Square Lions

Big Ben in the distance

Sophie's shot of the flags hanging at the Canadian Embassy.

St. Martin's Church

Covent Garden

One last Johnson Family Portrait before we said good-bye.

Laurie and her love of flowers

The Changing of the Guard
at Buckingham Place