Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers Aim For Infinity And Beyond

The Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers have been setting up telescopes every month for more than 10 years along the Chandler Bikeway at Lima Street and Chandler Boulevard in the Magnolia Park district of Burbank.

“We try to reach the youth and grow interest,” commented Bob Alborzian of the Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers, noting that U.S. college students currently make up a dwindling percentage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors.

In 2003, the City of Burbank removed an unused rail line that had run in between North and South Chandler Boulevards, from Mariposa Street to Clybourn Avenue, where border with the City of North Hollywood lies. On August 20, 2004, the Chandler Bikeway held its grand opening party.

By Alex Zane

By Alex Zane

“I started putting up telescopes at night once the bike path was finished,” explained Alborzian, “and the Mayor and the City approached me and asked for me to hold a regular event.”

While the Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers may have been slow to start off, the group has gained a lot of momentum and the monthly stargazing parties in Burbank are a big draw.

“Before, we almost had to beg people to look through telescope and now we go and they are waiting for us,” continued Alborzian. “It’s a delight.”

Alborzian, who has Master’s degrees in both Astronomy and Library Science, met the founder of the international Sidewalk Astronomers group, John Dobson, as a student at UC Berkeley.

Dobson taught Alborzian how to build a telescope at home, something for which members of the Sidewalk Astronomers are known. The Sidewalk Astronomers share their knowledge and their time with interested people in their communities.

The nonprofit group was formally established in 1976 although Dobson had been sharing his enthusiasm with like-minded individuals for more than a decade already.

“We teach people how to build telescopes for free,” explained Alborzian. “Your only cost is the build material.”

By Alex Zane

By Alex Zane

“Growing up, my mom would often tell me a Persian proverb: ‘seek knowledge and education from the cradle to the grave because one lifetime is not enough,’” he added.

At 69 years young, the retired librarian still takes classes to continue learning about the world around him.

In addition to the monthly stargazing parties at the Chandler Bikeway, the Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers also set up telescopes at the monthly Griffith Park Star Parties.

In December, the group will set up their telescopes at the Westwood Library on the second and Silver Lake Library on the third. Along with Griffith Park’s Public Star Party on December 27, they close out the year with two dates on December 4 and 29 at Burbank’s Chandler Bikeway.

More information can be found on Burbank Sidewalk Astronomers website at www.burbanksidewalkastronomers.com.

DeBell Golf – Hit The Links In The Great Outdoors

In a word, DeBell’s golf course is gorgeous. Even when the temps rise to the upper 90s and 100s, this spot is an oasis of nature: gigantic trees, spectacular views and prolific wildlife. It’s not unusual to see a pack of coyotes cavorting on the fairway of the first hole or a group of deer nibbling on flowering bushes on the back nine.

Gorgeous greens in the Burbank Verdugos at DeBell Golf Club's 18 hole course. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Gorgeous greens in the Burbank Verdugos at DeBell Golf Club’s 18 hole course. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

While many folks walk the 18 holes for their weekly exercise, it’s always too much fun driving about in the cart. You can still get plenty of exercise if you want to get out and walk a bit.

Rates are reasonable and even for Burbank residents. Burbank youth can often play for free. The local high schools use the course for regular practice and team play. Classes, camps and clubs for kids, adults and seniors abound. The monthly couples scramble play on a Sunday afternoon is a blast.

The Canyon Grille is open seven days, but closes rather early unfortunately. It would be a great evening dinner place, with such a spectacular view, but, the kitchen winds down as dusk falls, generally. The food is delicious, though.

DeBell’s holes are rather narrow and dog-legged, so be prepared to lose a ball or two. But all those trees help separate the fairways from each other and provide much needed summer shade.

The most scenic holes are found on the back nine. If you start twilight play, you most likely won’t finish the course before it gets too dark, even with a cart and a fast pace.

All the info about tee times and DeBell Golf Club and Course can be found on their website.

Yamashiro Continues As Tops in Dining With a View

A favorite fancy dinner out for the whole family includes dinner and a garden stroll at Yamashiro Hollywood. Just over the hill from Burbank, the drive may take 20 minutes or so depending on traffic on Barham Boulevard.

Yamashiro's Miso Soup. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Yamashiro’s Miso Soup. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

The fresh, top-quality fish, vegetables and other ingredients used by Yamashiro’s kitchen turn out creative takes on the Japanese, Mexican and American favorites.

Cobia Ceviche starter at Yamashiro. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Cobia Ceviche starter at Yamashiro. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

We’ve always had an excellent experience for nice dinners at Yamashiro and occasionally have had spectacular meals. Yamashiro’s wait staff are adept at handling the tourist and the seasoned visitor; the place runs like clock work.

Pan Seared Crab Cakes at Yamashiro. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Pan Seared Crab Cakes at Yamashiro. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

We have enjoyed steaks, chicken and fish at the restaurant, but our favorite typical meal involves a lot of raw fish, some cooked seafood and fresh vegetables prepared in characteristic Yamashiro style.

Truffle Hamachi with fresh tomato salsa. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Truffle Hamachi with fresh tomato salsa. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Yamashiro’s desserts are a fusion of flavors, from chocolate to cream to fruit and more. Pots of tea or snazzy mixed drinks round out a complete meal.

An after dinner walk is perfect for settling the stomach. Stroll through Yamashiro’s meticulously-maintained terraced gardens and stumble upon pools, benches and spectacular views.

Yamashiro's Spicy Lobster Roll has bacon! (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Yamashiro’s Spicy Lobster Roll has bacon! (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

The Pagoda Bar operates on limited hours because of the hilltop fortress’ proximity to residential neighbors. However, grabbing a drink at the outdoor bar is a summertime fave.

Misty evening view from Yamashiro's terraced gardens. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Misty evening view from Yamashiro’s terraced gardens. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

For Burbankians looking for an upscale dinner in a fantastic setting, one of the closest standbys is Yamashiro, just a few minutes drive to the other side of the Hollywood Hills.


Starlight Bowl Offers Weekly Concerts For All Ages

The Starlight Bowl in Burbank kicked off the summer concert season with the July 4 spectacular and is deep into its schedule of live music for all ages. This Saturday, July 19, sees Larry Dunn’s Tribute To Earth, Wind & Fire take over the outdoor amphitheater in the Burbank hills.

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 4.58.41 PMThe Platinum Groove opens the concert at 6: 30 p.m. Picnics, beer and wine are welcome and there are assigned seats in the lower deck. Bring a blanket and/or a low beach chair for upper deck grass seating.

After Saturday’s concert, there are three more concerts in the season on July 26, August 2 and August 9. Tickets are typically $15 for adults, $8 for seniors and children.

Magnolia Park Summer Movie Nights

This looks to be some local fun – Magnolia Park hosts three community movie nights this summer. The parking lot of the UMe Credit Union will provide the seating area for the audience. While some may pack blankets, chairs may be the better option for the two-hour event.

“The Goonies” will be shown on July 11, with “Grease” on August 8 and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” on September 5. The event begins at 8:00 p.m. Food trucks, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks will be available.

People are encouraged to walk or bike to the event. More info here.


Great Day Trip: Disneyland

Just an hour or less – if you time the traffic right – Disneyland is a great day trip from Burbank. Sometimes we just go for lunch at Downtown Disney and the afternoon and evening in the park.

Other times, we’re more motivated and make it out of the house around 8 or 9 a.m. and get going on our Happiest Place On Earth adventure a little earlier.

Disneyland Fireworks, seen from Tomorrowland. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Disneyland Fireworks, seen from Tomorrowland. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Whether you do it as a family, as a couple, or with a bunch of friends, young and old, southern California residents know that Disneyland (and California Adventure) have a great day in store for all ages.

Autopia, a Disneyland classic. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Autopia, a Disneyland classic. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

The park has seemed more crowded, even at off times, these past few years. And, some of the perks that used to be available are no longer available. But, there’s really nothing in the world like spending a day at Disneyland, so no matter the crowds, no matter the wait, a Disneyland day is a memorable adventure however one makes it work.

Blue Bayou tablescape. Glow lights in the the drinks make the meal POP. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Blue Bayou tablescape. Glow lights in the the drinks make the meal POP. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

We love eating at the Blue Bayou – but we have discovered that reservations are basically a must-plan at least several weeks in advance. Even two weeks in advance, we found our party of eight had to take a 5:15 p.m. time…. unnaturally early in general, but in the rare ether that is Disneyland, it was actually perfectly timed.

Every trip we make now, we try at least one ride or experience we have never encountered before. And then there’s the fan favorites… Tomorowland, Adventureland and New Orleans Square have become more of our family focus in the past year or so, supplanting Toon Town and Fantasyland.

Greatest ride this most recent trip – Space Mountain. But, Indiana Jones was closed, sadly. Would have been a close competition.

Space Mountain. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Space Mountain. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

We enjoy Halloween-time in the Park, Christmas-time and early year time, when crowds are typically less.

When we eat in Downtown Disney, our current favorite is Naples. Pizza, pasta and awesomely delicious food is served by attentive wait staff. Shady and plentiful patio umbrellas make eating outside a real option in hot weather.

Gorgeous, delicious food:

Downtown Disney's Naples restaurant serves up classic fried calimari. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Downtown Disney’s Naples restaurant serves up classic fried calimari. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Delicious freshly made pizza at Naples. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Delicious freshly made pizza at Naples. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Mussels with pesto and linguine at Naples. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Mussels with pesto and linguine at Naples. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Naples' sauteed spinach with garlic. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Naples’ sauteed spinach with garlic. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

After Disneyland…. if you don’t stay TOO late, make sure to stop by Portillos’ in Buena Park. Delicious, DELICIOUS, eats. Fresh outta Chicago, Portillo’s Buena Park, brings a whole new meaning to the hot dog, bratwurst and Italian/Polish/German sausage.

Portillos. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Portillos Italian Beef and beer. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Chicago style dog at Portillos. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Chicago style dog at Portillos. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

For the locals, Disneyland and environs are so way-cool, tasty and memorable. Fun for all ages and tastes.

While the summer may be a little more on the crazy busy side, still, even a few hours at the Park and some outta the way eats, make a getaway day easy to plan from Burbank for all.

Spa Day In Koreatown

Just a few minutes drive over the Hollywood Hills south from Burbank lies Koreatown and one of my favorite day spas for cleansing and relaxing, WiSpa. The no-clothing allowed bathhouse is divided into different floors for men and women.

Photo Courtesy WiSpa

The community and cafe floor. (Photo Courtesy WiSpa)

There is also a clothing-required floor cafe for a delicious and healthy Korean lunch, for relaxing on heated floors and enjoying various saunas, from salt to clay to super super hot. WiSpa provides the clothing – T-shirts and shorts – for everyone, in every size.

If you’ve never had a full-body scrub, you don’t know what you’re missing. Available in the gender-specific sections, you are directed to lay face down on a plastic/vinyl-topped table, and the lady, dressed in black bra and panties, rinses you off with buckets of water.

She starts scrubbing and the dead skin cells just peel right off. Flip over, for the same action on the front part of your body.

We are talking scrubbing every square inch of your body. I have never felt so clean as after a Korean spa scrub. Freshly grated cucumbers are placed on closed eyes and face for a rejuvenating effect. The final rinse consists of more buckets of water poured across your body.

Photo Courtesy WiSpa

Photo Courtesy WiSpa

While you may feel like a slab of meat being scrubbed and washed, it’s really quite a liberating experience.

Pools from very cold to very hot dot the interior of the spa floor, along with showers, steam and sauna rooms.

The cafe’s food is absolutely delicious and completely Korean. Washing it all down with some sweet Aloe juice helps cleanse the body too.

The salt sauna. (Photo Courtesy WiSpa)

The salt sauna. (Photo Courtesy WiSpa)

The salt and clay saunas are favorites, as well. Wooden blocks provide head rests and clad in T-shirts and shorts, clientele just pick a room to lay down in large beds of chunky pink salt or smooth brown clay balls.

Facials, waxing, massage and other salon and spa services are all available at this affordable oasis in the heart of Los Angeles. Lockers, hairdryers and plentiful mirrors help one freshen up before exiting out into the city.

Take Me Out To The Ball Game!

“Let me root, root, root for the.. Dodgers
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
‘Cause it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out

At the old ball game.”

Just a few minutes away from Burbank on the 5 Freeway south lies Dodger Stadium and some classic American fun: drinking beer and eating Dodger Dogs, popcorn and peanuts while the boys in blue work their magic.

Dodger Stadium during game with Colorado Rockies, April 26, 2014. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Dodger Stadium during game with Colorado Rockies, April 26, 2014. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

A perfect outing for the whole family, a visit to Dodger stadium is even better with a large group of friends. Just pack your patience and positive attitude and get ready for a huge open-air party under the Los Angeles sky.

While the all-you-can eat pavilion is fun, and possibly a good deal, sometimes it’s even better to spring for seats closer to the bases. The upper decks hold their own charms, but often extremely drunk people, too.

“Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
I don’t care if I never get back.”


Santa Ynez Wine Country With Kids

Dierberg Starlane (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Dierberg Starlane (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

No, really, Santa Ynez Wine Country with kids is a great idea… if your children can be chill. A group of us needed a quick overnighter out of town, and the Santa Ynez area is just far enough away to make it seem like we really got away from the grind.

Staying overnight in Solvang was a good stopping point in the midst of our vacation and planning ahead was key to making the most of our short trip. Two days and one night is not a lot of time, but for three families, including six kids, there was something fun for everyone.

We got on the 101 West finally around 10 a.m. and made it to the Los Olivos Cafe right around noon. Still early enough to beat the crowds heading into town for the weekend, we started out wine country trip with lots of water and hearty food.

After a stroll through the quaint town of Los Olivos, we settled in at the Carhartt Tasting Room, a delightful little spot with shady trees and a little water feature. The wines were delicious and we especially enjoyed the whites. The Mourvedre was fascinating as well.IMG_4597

Then it was off to Beckman Vineyards, located in the country outside of Los Olivos. On the spacious porch overlooking a small pond, our kids could ramble about a bit. They finally settled themselves on a table near the pond for reading and drawing.

Beckman’s wines were enjoyable but we didn’t feel invested in purchasing a bottle at the time. The property also has some clean and functional bathrooms, which were one of the popular attractions for the steady stream of visitors.

Then it was time for Dierberg Starlane. Our friends introduced us to the winery located far out in the countryside about a half an hour from Solvang. Gorgeous wines and a spacious, well-turned out barn made Dierberg Starlane one of the highlights of the entire trip. We enjoyed the wine so much we joined their wine club for periodic shipments throughout the year.

As nighttime settled over the valley, we headed to Solvang for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Our hotel was clean and decent and the pool was a huge hit with our patient children. Dinner at Cecco for authentic Italian food, along with some more wine, was lovely, although our server seemed a bit overwhelmed. Grilled pizzas and fresh pastas were very tasty.

The next morning we wandered about Solvang, shopping and enjoying the autumn weather and kitschy environment. By 11 a.m., we were packed and headed back out on the road.

Foxen. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Foxen. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

On Day Two, we visited the two Foxens and the Cambria winery. One of the best stops of the trip was Foxen, with its amazing wines and plenty of space for kids and adults. Kids got in some playtime with volleyballs and frisbees and the adults enjoyed fantastic tasting flights in a lovely country setting.

Perhaps my most favorite wine of the trip was Foxen’s Cuvee Jeanne Marie, which tasted deep and rich, like blackberry jam. Dierberg Starlane’s Sauvingnon Blanc and Pinot Noirs were right up there, though. Foxen’s Pajarito red and Sauvignon Blanc were also delectable.

Down the road from Foxen is Foxen 7200, a quick roadside stop that was packed with tasters alighting from limos and other luxury vehicles.  The kids came up with some hilarious drawings of adults enjoying wine in the southern California sun, which entertained us all.

We ended the afternoon at Cambria Winery, a massive estate closer to the coast. The surrounding vineyards had been trimmed back after the harvest and the setting sun in late November was lovely, as the expansive vineyards glowed golden in all directions.


Parents and kids frolic in the late afternoon sunshine at Cambria. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

We headed back to Burbank, along the 101 Freeway South as the sun set over the ocean. Famished by the time we reached Santa Barbara, we stopped for a bite of delicious and creative authentic Mexican tacos at La Super-Rica.

And then it was time for home. With souvenir wine glasses and loads of delicious wines to savor in the coming months, parents and kids alike all felt the driving trip through Santa Ynez Wine Country a deeply memorable time of fun and friendship. Another perfect southern California weekend put on the books.

Good Morning, Burbank!

Anyone who’s lived in or even visited Burbank has noticed the lone lollipop-shaped tree, the Wisdom Tree, on the top of the hill south of the city. For those motivated enough to hike about 800 feet up the backside of the hill, the views from the top are spectacular in all directions.

Looking out over Burbank from the Wisdom Tree. (Photo By Alex Zane.)

Looking out over Burbank from the Wisdom Tree. (Photo By Alex Zane.)

Several online guides exist on how to get to the Wisdom Tree and the Burbank and Cahuenga Peaks. I like this one because it includes a little history.

One can keep on hiking across the Hollywood Hills peaks to Mt. Lee and the back of the Hollywood sign, if you’re so inclined, although it looks to be a bit rugged and may take some time.

We have made it to the Cahuenga Peak and explored all around the Burbank Peak/Wisdom Tree area. The trail up from the Lake Hollywood Reservoir neighborhood is pretty steep and a great cardio workout, with spectacular views of Los Angeles from Downtown to the ocean.

From the top of the Burbank Peak, views of the length of the San Fernando Valley and the Verdugo Mountains can be enjoyed.

Looking at Lake Hollywood Reservoir. (Photo By Alex Zane)

Looking at Lake Hollywood Reservoir. (Photo By Alex Zane)

Burbank, CA, from the Cahuenga Peak. (Photo By Lisa Paredes

Burbank, CA, from the Cahuenga Peak. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)