Visitors are the BEST

My much-alluded to 5 weeks in California this summer were hot, wonderful, and in the business of happiness. Unfortunately, however, they were not spent with my best bud…BUT he came to visit!

(picture taken at Noah’s Bagels in LA)

Noah visited for a weekend, and we spent Shabbat at camp and then took Sunday to go out on the [heavily-trafficked-and-sprawling] town [of Los Angeles].

Happy day.


The day started with a momentous occasion…the renting of my first rental car!


First stop was The Grove, an outdoor shopping center/food market in LA with a fun downtown-y feel.


We enjoyed some time walking around the stores and stalls, looking at the various treasures:

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Eventually, it was time to get down to business with the food, so we went to the Farmers Market area:


The Farmers Market is basically a large collection of restaurants, food shops, and specialty stores. After looking around for a little while, I got a vegetable crepe with cheese from the Crepe Company:

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After The Grove, we drove to Santa Monica for some beach-walking and more window shopping.

California sunshine:


The beach was crowded! And there appeared to be some sort of anti-war installation:

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Overall, a great visit and day out and about. ūüôā

Hey Look – I’m a student

For my time in LA with the HUC program, we spent some class time at the hotel and the rest of the time at the HUC-JIR Los Angeles Campus. (post about walking around Beverly Hills here)

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The campus is directly across the street from USC, which provides a nice opportunity for HUC students to benefit from the development and resources built up around the USC campus. For example, when we had a lunch break during our first day of classes at the HUC campus, we walked across the street to USC and then found our way to the student center.

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There were several dining options within the student center, including Coffee Bean, Panda Express, California Pizza Kitchen, and a burger joint. We all grabbed food from different places and then ate together outside:


Not having gone to a large university, it was a little overwhelming to be on the USC campus. There are so many people! And children take tours there!!


tour group of kids looking at the Trojan statue

Besides getting a glimpse of a two new (to me) campuses, a highlight of my time in LA was a trip to the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Pier. After the last day of classes wrapped up in the evening, a bus brought us to the promenade where we had a chance to walk around and stroll down to the ocean and pier:

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I walked with a friend, and we arrived to the ocean walk just as the sun was setting:

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The Santa Monica Pier juts out from the ocean walk pathway and has a lot of energy – almost a fair-like feel (note the ferris wheel):


The pier is lined with tourist shops and restaurants, and the view looking out towards the beach and ocean is amazing:


Since it was the last night for the cohort to be together, we had a group dinner at a restaurant called Ristorante al Mare. This was an Italian restaurant right on the pier, and it was a great spot for a big group. They had a fairly extensive wine menu as well as a nice assortment of salads, seafood, pasta dishes, and meat entrees.


I got a dish called Il Petto di Pollo Funghi e Patate Рwhich was basically just a chicken breast topped with a mushroom sauce and served with potatoes.


The next morning, it was time to conclude the program and head home. The official graduation ceremony was very nice (although sad to say goodbye to the cohort!), and I now have a very crisp certificate which I hope to frame some time in the future! After the graduation ceremony, we ate lunch together before adjournment. And, since celebration so often involves cake…


(CAEA stands for Certificate [in Jewish Education] for Adolescents and Emerging Adults). Wahoo!

Overall, this was a great trip – leaving feeling proud to have this certificate and also lucky to have been able to enjoy a few great days in Los Angeles!


Three days in Paradise

After the horrible winter and ‘spring‘ in Minnesota, the weather is finally turning and warming up. Nonetheless, it was nice to escape for three days to the sunny paradise of Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong, I know LA can get hot as blazes and I don’t think I’d classify it as an Eden during the peak of summer, but for this last few days it has been absolutely¬†perfect weather.


I was in LA for the completion of the¬†Certificate in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults program I’ve been part of throughout the last year through¬†Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The program is comprised of a cohort of 16, and we come from all over the country (and one from Canada!). We all stayed at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills.


The hotel was colorful, boutique-y, clean, and comfortable – plus there was a very swanky pool area!

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The room itself was very nice, with an extremely comfortable bed, a mini-fridge, and a shower with AMAZING water pressure:

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When I got to the hotel, I had a few hours until the first session of the program, so I set off to explore the area with another member of my cohort. The hotel is in the heart of the Beverly Hills area, surrounded by shops, restaurants, and plastic surgeons (not kidding).

We meandered from the hotel to Beverly Drive, where we stopped at Urth Caffe Рa popular, natural/organic, and local cafe chain (suggested to me by a friend Рthanks, Jinai!).


Urth has an impressive selection of coffees, teas, smoothies, and specialty beverages (including tea espresso drinks!). The dessert display is certainly a sight to behold:

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I ordered a blended green tea smoothie, and my friend got a cappuccino (complete with some amazing foam art!) and a kale salad:

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The salad looked so good, I went back to Urth for dinner the next day to order it myself!

After being rejuvenated by food, we explored the area around Beverly Drive for the rest of the afternoon.

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I saw pretty much every store I’ve ever heard of plus a lot more that I never even knew existed. Mostly we window shopped, but if somewhere looked particularly appealing we would go inside to poke around. Attracted by its massiveness, we went into the¬†mega-sized Anthropologie:


I know that lots of people¬†love this store, but I’ve never really shopped here. I saw a lot of dresses that I thought were cute:


But then I looked at the price tag…


…and now I know why I don’t shop here! I’m perfectly content with my dress from Gap Outlet, thank you very much.


There is one thing, however, that might be a bargain at Anthropologie.


Who knew they sold wedding dresses?! Maybe it is only at this or other very large locations, but they had a pretty broad selection:


After Anthropologie, we wandered for a while and then noticed a place called Go Greek. The shop caught our attention because a sign in the window advertised the fact that they had yogurt flown in fresh daily from Greece. Wha?!?!


This place was very neat. In addition to the (now) ubiquitous self-serve frozen yogurt bar…

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…You could also get fresh greek yogurt with the toppings of your choice:

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We didn’t order anything since we had just eaten. I was hoping to be able to go back later in the trip but ended up not having the opportunity. Oh well – maybe next time!

The last store that captured our interest was Merimekko. Merimekko is a Finnish design company with brightly colored and bold patterns. They make clothes, home products, and a variety of trinkets. I had heard of Merimekko previously because Noah’s parents have a set of placemats from them, but I was impressed to see the wide variety of products they sell: pillows, dresses, baby clothes…you name it!

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Eventually, it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for the start of the program so the day of exploration had to come to an end. This was a great day though of soaking up the sunshine and posing as someone who knows a lot about shopping and fashion. ūüėČ


Late Morning in LAX

I woke up this morning at 5:00am to catch a flight to Los Angeles. I’m in LA to complete a Certificate in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults through Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. I honestly can’t say enough great things about the program – I have learned SO much, everything has felt extremely applicable, and I find myself thinking constantly about things I have read/studied/done in class. Extra bonus, the program is heavily subsidized through funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation, so it is both a wonderful educational opportunity and doable financially (how unique is that?!).

The program is a hybrid learning program, combining both distance learning and on-site intensives. This third and final intensive is in Los Angeles at the HUC Campus, and we’ll be staying at the Avalon Hotel. Yes, I can’t stop singing Weezer’s ‘Beverly Hills’ song.¬†The hotel looks awesome from the website, and I’m excited to see it in a couple hours. Right now, I’m waiting at a Starbucks near baggage claim at LAX. Another member of my cohort is landing within the next hour, and we’re going to share a cab to the hotel.

I have been spending a lot of time at Starbucks lately thanks to a Starbucks card I received as a gift. I have immediately become a Starbucks card fan (especially since I’m not paying!). Using the card, you earn stars which allow you to get free coffee and tea refills and also earn free beverages. I already got a free drink and still have about $10 left on the card!

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Plus, Oprah likes Starbucks.


‘nuf said.¬†

In other news, I flew Spirit airlines for this first time today and IT IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST SECOND WORST TO COMCAST. I know Comcast is not an airline so it’s apples to oranges, but – hey – they’re both fruit!

These are my grievances with Spirit airlines:

  • Not only do they not allow checked bags, but you are also not allowed a carry-on bag!!! To bring a carry-on bag to and from LA, I would have needed to pay¬†$90!!!¬†My outrage forced me to stuff everything into my backpack and have an extremely uncomfortable travel day.
  • If you do not print your boarding pass prior to arriving at the airport you will have to pay¬†$10 just to get your boarding pass!!!
  • There are NO complimentary beverages. If you would like a water, coffee, juice, or soda – guess what?! – you have to pay!!!
  • To express any seat preference, you have to pay!!! If you don’t pay for this, you are randomly placed at check-in (bad for groups and anyone who doesn’t like a middle seat)

Listen up Spirit, I bought a ticket on you because it was the cheapest option on Orbitz, but it was not THAT much cheaper and I will certainly never be seeking a seat on your plane again. My back will thank me.

In other news, I love my bowl from ‘Paint Your Plate‘ and¬†will miss eating breakfast from it while I’m out of town.¬†Thanks, Noah! ūüôā