Saturday, January 23, 2016


Being overwhelmed is not good. It means you've got more than you can handle. Yesterday I felt overwhelmed. But I decided it was my attitude so I decreed that my attitude would change.

Being underwhelmed is also not good. It means nothing's good enough. That's a bad attitude right there.

So, I'm whelmed.

My Story Kitchen writing class is happening and it's fun. I have a couple of editing clients and I love the work. I've got new voice-over opportunities thanks to the home studio I've put together. I'm writing. I'm consulting. I'm building a new website. And more.

More work, more learning curve, more busy, more......aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!lllll good! Yes yes yes. It's all good. I decree it.




Sorry for shouting.

I've always sought ways to turn my passion into my day job—to get paid to do what I love, or at least something related. I'm getting there.

(Can I monetize eating ice cream and surfing the web?)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Story Kitchen Cooks Again

This month I start teaching again! My class is called the Story Kitchen. It takes place at the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse and the first four-week session begins January 20th.

Even though I know how to write and I even have a degree in Creative Writing, when I began work on my novel, Camelot & Vine, I still had a lot to learn. A novel is a big project! But over time I've come up with some methods that can help other writers streamline the process.

Most people know how to write good sentences and paragraphs. But longer forms, like a screenplay or a book of fiction or nonfiction, are harder to piece together. At the Story Kitchen I'll help you organize it all—the scene ideas, themes and characters that have been running around in your head—into the whole story. Your story. I can't tell you what to write. But I can help you write the story you want to tell.

A kitchen is a cozy place where people gather to talk, enjoy the warmth of the stove, and have a cup of tea. The Story Kitchen is cozy, too, a safe place to work on your story with people whose goals align with yours. Class size is small, so everyone's work gets a lot of attention, every time.

Here's the deal:
4 students, 4 weeks, $199
January 20th & 27th, February 3rd & 10th
Wednesday evenings, 6:30-8:45pm
Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse (yes, we get to have coffee and snacks in class)
Call now! Or stop by the store to register: (818) 790-0717
1010 Foothill Blvd., La Canada, CA 91011 (it's easy to get to, right of the 2 and 210 freeways)

At the Story Kitchen, I know you have the ingredients. All you need is the recipe.

photo by John Sandel 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy 2016

Rubel Castle, Glendora, California

Best wishes for all your holidays, and a Happy 2016. See you then!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Rubel Castle, Artists

Several artists live and create at Rubel Castle in Glendora.

There's a fantastic print shop operated by Iris Porter.

Scott showed us how the press works. He and my husband John are speaking on this video.

There's a blacksmith. His name is Big John Lybrand and he "works with other interested amateurs on Saturdays," says Scott Rubel.

I couldn't resist messing with this photo of part of the anvil.

There's a musician. That would be Craig Woods.

And sculptors. And a tile maker, Sandy Krause, who also lives at the Castle.

And many more. Artists have been part of the Castle since as early as the 1960's. In this large studio building there was so much, I didn't know what to look at. It's a wild and wonderful space.

There was much more to photograph and I took so many pictures! But you get the idea. Rubel Castle is a great place to visit, and you'll probably want to go more than once. Tours are by reservation only. You can make them at the Castle's website.

Here's Scott Rubel, standing inside the real caboose that's an apartment at the Castle. Chickens, dogs and horses live just outside. Like I said, there was so much to photograph.

Thanks to everyone at the Castle for being so nice (and for eating the donuts!). Special thanks to Scott Rubel for sharing his knowledge, and his memories of an amazing youth spent living and working in the family Castle.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Rubel Castle, Vehicles

Tucked into sheds, garages and corners around the two-acre grounds of Rubel Castle you'll find lots of old cars. Our tour guide Scott Rubel had a story about each of them. Since I don't know a lot about antique vehicles, I enlisted Scott's help with this post. His additions are in italics. Thank you, Scott!

1. The large Ford flat bed truck you have viewed from the front is a 1949, given to Michael [Rubel] by his former tenant Glen Speer, builder of Mongoose Junction, a shopping center hand-built from stone (where did he get the idea?) in the Virgin Islands.

It's possible some of these have seen their last active days.

2. These are the 1924 International and 1924 Chevy flatbed trucks. Although they are rusting away, they were used in our field trips to collect stones for the Castle, and the last time they were run was in the 1987 Glendora centennial parade.

Full on...

...driver's side...

...passenger side. All three are views of the same truck.

3. These three pictures are of the 1925 Chevy one-ton flatbed.

You might notice a lot of dust. Though most of these old vehicles are in sheds, due to the nature of the Castle many of them are partially exposed to the elements. There's no staff to keep them shiny. The dust, rust and lopsided junk at Rubel Castle are part of its funky charm.

4. The 1932 Ford Tudor is the first year V8 was made. Even though we had a bulletproof Mercedes, this Ford was more commonly used for our evening car when we were being spiffy. (The Studebaker was strictly for the best occasions.) I always like to mention that the Tudor was a gift to Michael from Edson Rorabeck, who was a beau of my grandmother's [Dorothy Deuel Rubel]. 

This is the front of an old tractor.

5. The Cletrac I cannot provide an accurate date. Giving a round number I usually say it's a 1918. Cletrac was made by the Cleveland Tractor Co. The last time all these tractors were put to much use was during the 1969 floods.

A couple of the cars were locked in a special shed. This is the grille of the car below.

6. The car with the "9" in front of the grill is a a six-cylinder 1929 GJ model. Only 1,200 were made that year. The "9" is supposed to be a "6", but my uncle [Michael Rubel], when he wasn't exaggerating numbers, at least would get things upside-down when he worked on things.

That's Scott Rubel on the right, with my husband, John Sandel, on the left. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Scott grew up at "the Pharm" and even had a hand in building the Castle.

This is the interior of the "bullet-proof Mercedes." I don't know why anybody at Rubel Castle needed a bullet-proof car, but I can tell you the doors are damned heavy.

7. The bulletproof Mercedes is a 1957 model. It was a parade car for dignitaries. Charles De Gaulle rode in it for one parade, allegedly. It had a telephone in it which worked back then by radio. When my uncle and I drove it around in the 60s, he would pick up the telephone and pretend to talk on it whenever someone was watching. In the days before mobile phones this performance was a head-turner.

Michael would pick these cars and trucks up for nearly nothing during the 1950s. People were prospering after WWII, and during the 50s these old vehicles began to sit around in the Glendora ranches because they were being replaced by new vehicles. They were so easy to come by, just for the asking, that young teenage Michael had no way of valuing them. Some vehicles he didn’t manage to keep for a day because of his mistreatment of them. He was a superb mechanic at a very early age and could get an old truck or tractor running after it had been rusting for ten years in a field, then speed off through the orange groves until they would meet their end.

Thank you, Scott! And believe it or not, there's more to come. We haven't talked about the artists yet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rubel Castle, Michael's Room

I almost forgot I promised to tell you more about this triangle shaped, glass bottle wall when I posted a photo of it last week.

The wall forms part of the loft above Michael Rubel's private room, one of the first things he built as Rubel Castle was beginning to form.

Michael's mother Dorothy liked to host lots of parties. Hollywood celebrities came to the Packing House. Dorothy was good friends with the famous fan dancer and actress, Sally Rand. Jack Benny came, and Bob Hope, even Alfred Hitchcock. There was usually dancing and a small orchestra.

Michael was not a party guy.

So he began to build himself a retreat where he could dream of his ambition.

There's something poignant about this little room. The loft above it is reached by a rickety ladder. There's nothing up there now but the bottle wall, some dust and a rug. But Michael's ambition surrounds it, in the form of his Castle.

We'll look at some of the antique Castle vehicles next time.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rubel Castle, the Old Parts

The oldest buildings on the Rubel Castle property are the packing buildings, used when this area was orange groves.

This one was kind of a bachelor pad for a friend. The gas pumps were working when our guide, Scott Rubel, was growing up at the Castle. They don't look like they're in use now, but you could fool me.

Michael Rubel and his mother Dorothy moved their family antiques into the large Packing House. There's a huge main room with a pool table and comfy seating, and along the sides are smaller, "refrigerator" rooms. The rooms are definitely cold.

There are a lot of things in the "thing room."

This was Michael Rubel's room. Cold and cozy at the same time. If I'd had a book with me I'd have sat down to read.

Next time, I'm going to show you the amazing collection of vintage vehicles at "the Pharm."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Rubel Castle, Communal Kitchen

You may remember our good friend Craig Woods, the Superintendent at Mount Wilson Observatory. Craig invited us to a special Sunday potluck breakfast at Rubel Castle, otherwise known as Rubel Farms, or simply, "the Pharm." Craig also introduced us to Scott Rubel, who grew up at the Castle and is now the Facilities Manager at the Carnegie Observatories.

I hope you're following this, because I'm not sure I am.

By the way, it's pronounced roo-BELL.

I make decent granola. I thought it would be good to bring some to a breakfast potluck. But I asked, just in case. Craig said we should bring donuts.

Donuts? Really? We discussed it and decided: if Craig wants donuts, he shall have donuts. We kept the granola for ourselves, and hoped other people would bring something healthy.

Apparently there's a tradition. Newbies are roped into bringing donuts and basically no one eats them. I had two. (Others managed to grab a few as well, so it wasn't a total loss.) Everyone thought it was funny that we fell for it and everyone was nice. AND there was plenty of healthy food to eat.

There are six apartments at the Pharm, most of them occupied by resident artists. Once a month they hold a potluck breakfast and invite friends. Some people are regulars. It felt special to be there enjoying something different, meeting new people, seeing folks I knew, feeling included.

Every single corner of the Pharm holds something weird or wonderful or old or special. There are too many photos to take. You will not see everything here on the blog because it would be impossible to show it all. But there's more, and I'll do my best.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Rubel Castle, Rocks

Enter beneath the portcullis and you are in a weird and wonderful vision made real by Michael Rubel and is friends and neighbors. He enlisted help and free stuff wherever he could, and what he got was magical. They made towers...


...stairwells... (door courtesy of the old Glendora jailhouse if I've got it right)...

...and jumbles of all kinds.

Huell Howser visited twice and said the place "defies description." He hit that iron nail directly on its head. (The video is well worth watching. You get to meet Michael and see some great vintage photos.)

We wandered a bit but it was more fun to stay with our friend and tour guide, Scott Rubel. Scott grew up in the castle and helped his uncle Michael build it. Scott shared stories of the history of this unusual place, as well as his own memories.

Scott doesn't give tours often, but all the tour guides are great.

You can bet they all know what this is. We'll talk about it when I post Rubel Castle, 4.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Rubel Castle, Portcullis

Once you're inside the security door of the Rubel Castle property, you approach Rubel Castle proper. You enter through a portcullis. Yes, you do.

The Wikipedia article mentions that the builder, Michael Rubel, purchased the Glendora property in 1959. It doesn't point out that he was only 19 years old at the time. He and his mother worked out the deal and moved into the existing citrus packing house with their family antiques.

Michael's mother, Dorothy Deuel Rubel, had been a dancer on Broadway in the Greenwich Village Follies and was friends with Sally Rand. (You'll find their memorabilia when you tour the castle.) Dorothy loved to host parties, and many Hollywood glitterers attended.

The castle is another story, to be continued...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Rubel Castle, Security Door

It looks a bit off, doesn't it? Like maybe I need to straighten the photograph, or perhaps try a little tilt-shift to sort it out. But if I did that, you wouldn't know what it really looks like.

Prepare to enter the artsy, creative, eccentric, heartfelt and beloved confines of Rubel Castle in Glendora, California. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

50 HP Fairbanks Morse, II

This 50HP Fairbanks-Morse engine, built in 1911 and installed at historic Mt. Wilson Observatory in 1912, was for many years the only source of power at the Observatory campus. It's "a twin cylinder gasoline fueled engine, directly coupled to a generator capable of producing 40 kilowatts of power at 125 volts DC." There's more about the engine here and here.

We got our tour courtesy of Ken (L) and Larry (R) Evans, who've been keeping the engine running for more than 15 years.

Ready, set...let's see what this baby can do.


A brief view from the other side.

Not everyone gets excited about it. But a lot of us do.

The Fairbanks Morse engine is in a restricted area of the Observatory campus, but the Observatory itself is open to the public every day, 10am-5pm, as long as the roads are open. The Cosmic Cafe is open on weekends from April through November. Guided tours of the Observatory are available on weekends, or by reservation. You can even reserve one of the telescopes for a star gazing party! Or a photo shoot! Or an anniversary party! Or a wedding! I'm pretty sure there's not a more unique location, at least not within driving distance of my house.

11/23/15 update from Ken Evans (left, above): 
"If that lizard got onto the running flywheel, it would have to go 60 miles per hour to stay in one spot. Just a little trivia I once figured out.

"I am draining the water out of it tomorrow, Tuesday Nov 24 for the winter. Freezing nights are predicted for several days and we don't want to damage anything on such a treasure.  So the show season is over. Of course it can be looked at, just not run."

11/26/15 Here's another update from Ken Evans, and let's all thank him and Larry; they've been so helpful and informative and that's what makes this fun.

"Electricity Now and Then -  The AC electricity for Mt Wilson is supplied by SoCal Edison. In the Power House where the Fairbanks-Morse engine is located the DC is provided by solid state rectifiers and distributed from there. Originally DC was provided by various sizes of internal combustion engines. The F-M being the last. It was really a battery charger. There was a room with glass jar wet batteries and were charged during the day. At night the batteries were used which provided non polluting quiet power that astronomers liked. When AC power came to the Observatory in 1917, an AC motor driving a DC generator was installed and the F-M was a back-up. We are not sure if the AC-DC motor set was used to charge the batteries or ran all the time.

Fuel Oil -  A fuel oil called California Distillate was used as the source of heat. It is lighter than kerosene maybe like paint thinner. A large storage tank was set on a high spot and distributed to Day Tanks at various facilities by gravity. The Fairbanks-Morse engine was run on it. However, we use gasoline now for the demonstration runs. They had to start it on gasoline and then switch over to the distillate. It had to be delivered up the Toll Road but no reference has been found about delivery.

A lot of propane is now used at Mt. Wilson for heating and cooking.

Engine Running -  The engine had to be run during winter because it was the main power source. So freezing was not an issue. The combustion air intake can come from three sources. First is outside air, then room air and last, a shroud around the exhaust manifold would provide warmed air. We only use outside air. We only run the engine for demonstration during the summer. We have another volunteer that has figured out the generating system and we have generated electricity to run a light bulb and a motor for compressed air for starting. We have a modern air compressor for starting now. One cylinder of the two is converted to run on air to start the second cylinder and then converted to produce power from both.

Water -  Water for Mt. Wilson is obtained from wells near by. But because of the drought, they have gone dry and water is trucked in."