Go Southwest, Young Daughter

Southwest Tail

Ah, Southwest Airlines… I have heard many good things about your excellent customer service and hassle-light travel. But ever since I’ve been traveling by myself, I have not had the opportunity to fly with you. I’m sure my family must have flown Southwest at some point, but I can’t remember the experience exactly. Too young to remember those details.

When I booked the flight back in… April, I believe… I was having some issues with the website and prices that just kept switching, so I called them up at something like 11:30pm to ask about the prices. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the lowest price I had seen earlier that day, but the wonderful booking agent was so nice to me over the phone that it made buying the ticket virtually painless. (Well, I did feel some pains in my bank account later.) I usually have some anxiety and indecision when buying plane tickets over the internet, so it was a relief to do it over the phone where I didn’t have to agonize over every detail. Plus, like I said, the agent was so darn nice even in the middle of the night!

On Wednesday, June 8th, my wonderful partner-in-crime sacrificed a few precious hours of sleep to drive me to the airport at 6am. She was pretty dead and I’m sure she didn’t appreciate my “pop-up-like-toast” morning demeanor. …It’s just how I am! Much to my surprise, the Austin airport was packed. The security lines were “out the door” and the K-EYE news team was also there. What the heck was going on? “Just summer travel,” I heard people say. That’s weird, because it reminded me of Chicago-O’Hare around Christmas time! Craziness. It was a good thing that I had arrived with an hour to spare, because after I got through security, I had enough time to go to the bathroom, fill up my water bottle, and speed-walk onto the plane. This was my first time using Southwest’s “Pick Your Own Seat” kind of thing. I sat next to a couple of French teenage girls who were perfectly bilingual. I asked, “Is this seat taken?” To which they answered, “No.” And then continued on with their perfectly-accented conversation. Their parents were sitting across the way from them and also spoke to them in French.

The first flight was uneventful. I sat there with the two teenagers… who pulled out their twin pink Nintendo DS’s and began to play games. I thought this was the perfect time to break out my metallic-rose-colored Nintendo DS and play some Pokemon Heart-Gold. The girl sitting next to me kept on glancing over at my screen to see what I was playing, heheh. We flew over the Grand Canyon and stopped in Las Vegas, where I changed planes. There were slot machines in the airport!

Las Vegas Airport SlotsThe layover wasn’t bad and I didn’t have to wait too long. I got a seat in the second row on the second flight, which was nice. I sat in the middle and clunked over on my seat-tray to take a 20-minute nap. I was wearing my Victoria’s Secret PINK “I ♥ TEXAS LONGHORNS” sweater, so when I woke up the guy next to me asked, “Are you from Texas? …Rock on.”

Aunt Jan lives insanely close to the Burbank airport, so she picked me up within minutes of me calling her to tell her I’d arrived. I hadn’t seen her in a year (not since June 2010), so it was great to reunite. We “hit the ground running” and headed straight downtown to Little Tokyo. We went to the 3-storey mall there, which Aunt Jan hadn’t been to for many many years. The majority of the shops were closed/out-of-business/going-out-of-business, so that was a little sad to see. However, the place we really wanted to go to was nice and open for lunch at 11:30am.

Lunch at Shojin was an amazing experience. We ordered a bowl of miso soup for me (gotta love my miso) and then to share: the Orange Kale Salad, Pumpkin Croquettes, and Shiitake & Avocado Roll. Everything was simply delish! So fresh and flavorful. I would gladly eat there again. I’m only sad that I didn’t think to take photos of our gorgeous meal.

After Shojin we wandered around Little Tokyo proper, stopping in a few shops and grabbing a few things. Most notably, Fugetsu-do which is an old traditional Japanese confectionery. They’ve been in business since 1903 and I could definitely taste the authenticity in their sweets. Their wagashi tasted just like being in Japan.

While we were leaving, Aunt Jan mentioned to me that we were pretty close to Babycakes NYC. Now I have to tell you… it’s been my dream to go there, ever since I heard about the NYC location in college. Let me tell you, nothing there disappointed me. Nothing. They had some samples out of their chocolate chip banana bread, chocolate chip cookie, cornbread… just a taste of what was to come. Aunt Jan bought us both cupcakes (Chocolate with strawberry icing for her, Carrot Cake with coconut icing for me) and then I purchased a few things on the side to share (Donut Hole with Coconut-Chocolate icing, Vanilla Cupcake Topper with Blueberry Icing, and a Vanilla Macaroon). I don’t know where my brain was, but I didn’t think to ask if I could take pictures in the store. Too overwhelmed by all the sweet yummy-ness, I suppose.

Once home, we relaxed and chilled out from our busy morning/afternoon. It had been a long day for me already! Plus they are two hours earlier, so when it was 3pm in Los Angeles, my body thought it was 5pm. We poured over Appetite for Reduction to choose some recipes to make while I was in town. I told Aunt Jan about the cookbook (which I got from my mom for Christmas) and how much I loved it, so she bought herself a copy too! It makes me so happy when I can connect with people over food. It’s a big change from the “I’ll have my rice and beans while you eat your meat and potatoes” kind of thing. We decided on the 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma. Can I say YUM? After dinner, we watched a bit of TV until I started falling asleep on the couch. End Day 1.


Going to the West Coast is always difficult because they are two hours behind me. I normally get up between 5:30am and 7am on any given day. So in West Coast time, that means….. Too darn early. Woke up around 4am that day or something and watched some Angel on TV. I love that show and it is usually on every weekday morning. I hung out and ate breakfast until Aunt Jan awoke from her slumber.

We went to the Van Nuys Japanese Garden where my aunt is a docent and runs the gift shop. They were “closed” for upcoming renovations, so we had the place all to ourselves. I got the grand tour and was very impressed with the size and variety of elements. It was actually designed in 1970 and is a part of the area’s history.

Aunt Jan and Suiho-en

Contemplating Tree

Garden view

After walking around the garden, we were hungry for some lunch. Aunt Jan took us to the Tarzana Whole Foods location, the newest one in the area. It had an underground parking garage like the Austin Headquarters. We got some stuff from the deli and had a nice lunch, eating and chatting for a couple hours. “Shootin’ the breeze.” That night had leftovers, which were still a-ma-zing.


Flower day! Aunt Jan and I got up around 5am to get ready for the big flower adventure! This flower adventure included going to the Los Angeles Flower Market with Aunt Jan’s ikebana sensei. We went to pick Sensei up at 6am so we could avoid traffic and get the best flowers. The market isn’t open to the general public until 8am, but people with special passes like flower merchants and ikebana teachers get in beforehand. Going in there was like an adventure. There were so many different types of flowers! Plus I got to see how an ikebana teacher goes and selects the materials for her class.

Los Angeles Flower Market

Oodles of roses

Roses by the truck-load!

Flowers everywhere

Just one vendor's section.

Sensei  was a delightful woman! She’d been in LA for many many many years, and said her personality was much more suited for the American life. I was inclined to agree. :) Open, inviting, generous personality with a good sense of humor, I thought. After the Flower Escapades, we had some breakfast at the Flo-Ma (Flower Market) cafe that was right there in between the two buildings (yes, there were two square blocks of flowers). We were home by nine and I was amazed at how much we managed to do in just a few hours!

Aunt Jan also happened to have two free passes to the Contemporary Crafts Market in Santa Monica (that was going on all weekend). We headed down there (and to the ocean!) to peruse the wares. The Contemporary Crafts Market was very much like an upscale merchant marketplace. Some things were very very high-end, worth thousands of dollars. Kind of reminded me of the Armadillo Bazaar here in Austin that I went to this past year. So many beautiful things! Towards the end of our go-around of the booths, we stopped at this one artisan and I was particularly drawn to this one two-tone necklace (silver chain with a fine bronze charm). The artisan’s name was Richard Lindsey. Aunt Jan surprised me by offering to buy it for me as an early birthday present! I loved it so much that I wore it out and for the rest of the day. You’ll see me wearing it in pictures later. :)

My aunt had the brilliant idea to just leave our car in the expo parking lot and walk over to downtown Santa Monica for lunch. It was little overcast still, but quite pleasant. We walked ourselves over to… the infamous… Real Food Daily! Seriously, I’ve wanted to go to this restaurant ever since my mom got the cookbook for Christmas several years ago (this was back in high school). So after many years, another one of the restaurants on my bucket list was crossed off! :) The food was brilliant (okay, I’ve been watching too many episodes of Kitchen Nightmares.) and just as great as I would expect. We got the “Real Food Bargain” so we could taste a bit of everything.

Real Food Daily

Really there! (RFD)

Cornbread and miso soup

The "Real Food Bargain"

The "Real Food Bargain"

After lunch we stopped by REI, Gap, and Lululemon (I had no idea that the Santa Monica store was the USA headquarters!), before heading back home. The Friday afternoon traffic was pretty horrendous, but I tried to stay in good spirits. LA traffic really is horrible and the truth of it is that there are just too many cars on the roads. Too many people driving. Not enough highway/freeway space for everyone there. But the good news is that we did get home for some R&R!


Ikebana class day! We were going to Aunt Jan’s ikebana class (the one we bought the materials at o-dark-thirty on Friday morning for). I munched on the steel-cut oats I’d made earlier in the week for breakfast and hung out on the computer until Aunt Jan woke up. We were out of the house around 9am and headed to the community college where the class was being held. I got to talk a little bit with Sensei, but mostly with her assistant. It is a little frustrating when you try to talk to Japanese people in Japanese and they answer you in English. I wanted to practice more Japanese, but I guess they just automatically see a foreigner’s face and think, “Must speak English.” Or something. But the class was interesting. A bit like the ikebana class I’d taken in Tokyo, but much more thorough and precise. They meant business! :P I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Ikebana materials

Raw materials...waiting to be made into art!

Aunt Jan doing ikebana

Aunt Jan at work

The cross-bar technique

The cross-bar technique....or, what you don't see behind the beautiful flowers.

Ikebana end-product

A finished work!

Then it was off to Nana’s place in Thousand Oaks. She lives in a retirement community there and I’d never actually seen her new place before. We arrived at 12:30pm, in time for lunch! I enjoyed the tour of the campus…..via golf cart! Most everyone has a golf cart to get around since the campus is pretty big. They have condo-like places, apartment-like places, and also an assisted living facility. After lunch we got settled in, caught up with each other, and I played with the dog, Chris. Aunt Jan and I went to Whole Foods to grab supplies for our fajita dinner, which turned out deliciously! You can never go wrong with fajitas. I was pretty zonked that evening because I hadn’t slept too well the night before. Thankfully, the couch was a lot longer than my 5 feet, ten inches and pretty comfy.


Got up, read the paper, tried to do the insanely hard LA Times crossword and sudoku…. failed. Failed even with using Crossword Heaven, the ultimate cheat-site for crossword puzzles. Ahem. After a long lazy morning, none of us were hungry for lunch so we went for a drive along the coast. We started out in Thousand Oaks and drove all the way down to Malibu, passing the Pepperdine campus (how on earth do the students get ANYthing done with a campus that beautifully distracting??). I always love seeing the Pacific Ocean. And the canyons were amazing!

Pacific Coastal Highway

Pacific Coastal Highway

We got back and discovered a voice mail on the phone from my parents, who had just moved into their new townhouse in the Chicago suburbs. We called them and chatted for a bit, before heading to an early dinner at Akio Sushi. Yummmmm. We stopped by a RedBox on the way back home and grabbed Secretariat, which was enjoyed by all.

Chris on the couch

Chris on the couch waiting to watch the movie :)


I got up early, put my workout clothes on, then went for a run around the community. It was then that I understood exactly why they called it Conejo Valley. There were rabbits EVERYWHERE. (Conejo means rabbit in Spanish.) I wandered as I ran… and found the exercise room, which to my glee, was open! Yay eliptical machine! This was my first rigorous exercise all week, so it was certainly welcomed. Afterwards I returned to my grandmother’s and showered. My flight was the day after, so we had to head back to my aunt’s house in LA that afternoon. I am really really glad I had the chance to visit my grandmother. A short, but sweet visit. Before Aunt Jan and I had to head off, we took some family photos together with my handy dandy gorilla-pod and self-timer.

Three Abrams WomenWe took the Pacific Coastal Highway once again, this time going through a different canyon and the city of Topanga. Remember Boy Meets World? When we got home, we began to go through a bunch of old photos. I had borrowed some photos from Nana and was going to scan some with Aunt Jan’s nice scanner, to put them in my digital archives. I am the self-proclaimed digital librarian for my family! I love looking at old photos of my family! Plus I get to hear about some cool family history. We made a ratatouille-like stew with some grilled polenta for dinner, mmm. I checked in my flight and packed up a bit too.


Back-to-Austin-day… Sorry if I seem like I’m not including as many details on these later days. My mind is going and this is such a long entry already! I’m a-losin’ steam! Aunt Jan and I went to Hugo’s (just down the street from her house), per her suggestion. And wow… an awesome suggestion! I had some mung-bean-brown-rice-masala burgers with some sauteed greens and Aunt Jan had a portabello sandwich. After lunch, we went to Best Buy to get her a shiny new white Verizon iPhone! But lameness of all lame, they did not have any left in stock. We left, empty-handed. Aunt Jan humored me by taking me to Kind Kreme in Studio City. It turned out to be a little further away than was convenient, but the ice cream was fabulous. I got vanilla, and it was one of the best vanillas I had ever had.

We were on our way home when we…. turned into the mall! The guy at Best Buy had said that the Apple Store would have the iPhone in stock, and that we would have luck there. Random decision to go! We talked to a “Genius” and began to go through with the process, but then AT&T was being stupid. So again, we left empty-handed! A bit frustrating, but at least the Apple people were helpful. I made Aunt Jan promise to go back! Since she had been needing a new phone for forever. (She did end up getting it!)

We returned home, I packed up my things, and we left for the airport. My flight was pretty uneventful. I sat next to a young mother who held her little girl on her lap, which was a first for me. Thank goodness the child did not cry! My ears were spared. The layover happened in Phoenix, an airport I had never been to. I called my dad and talked to him for a while until I had to board the plane.

Sam picked me up at Austin a little after midnight… Color me tired! I didn’t get to bed until 1:30am and still I went to work the next day. Crazy? I think so! And so ended my wonderful trip to California.


8 Comments to “Go Southwest, Young Daughter”

  1. It sounds like you had an awesome time! I’m glad to get to read about your adventures!

  2. What a delight to have Stacyface all to myself (and Nana) for a whole week! A great time was had by all (and OMG the food!).

  3. So special you could record your visit this way, complete with photos, albeit you forgot to take some of the food! Job well done and I know they enjoyed seeing you.

  4. Thanks for sending this link to me, Stacy! What a gifted writer you are – I LOVED reading about your trip. I want to visit Aunt Jan too! :-) The flower market alone would be amazing…..!!!! Looking forward to your future missives.

  5. Kind Kreme sounds amaaaaaaaaaazing. I’m jealous of all the yummy food and sights you get to see.

  6. Sounds like you had a great trip! I’m glad you fit this trip in before we head off to Japan :D

  7. Had a great time reading your blog…WOW!

  8. Great reading! I wish Sam had set up a blog while he was in Germany for the past year! He has less than a month before he gets home!

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