Friday, March 25, 2016

Onward Upward Forward Through

photo by John Sandel

Remember Zen Monday? This was #37 from 2009, a photo taken of me by my husband, John Sandel, at Hahamongna Watershed Park. Our dear, departed Boz was still with us.

How things change. We're hiking in different places, and now it's Wilma who comes along on the leash. We still get our doses of Zen, though.

This is the last time I'll be posting here at Pasadena Daily Photo/Living Vicuriously. I've shifted operations to a new website, Please join me there! The site has an event calendar, links to my books and voice-over demos, and even a blog where I'll post on Fridays. I hope you'll follow it and add your comments, which have come to mean so much to me over the years.

Don't be a stranger!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

On a Break

Versailles Kitty, 2006

I'm working on something new for the web and taking a break from Living Vicuriously. Just living curiously for the moment.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Story Kitchen Cooks Again in March

Bob Tanabe, Gloria Lee, Petrea Burchard, Catherine Yesayan, and Elaine La Marr at the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeeshop.

The Story Kitchen's January/February class was an absolute hoot. We had two memoirs (one travel, one life/historical), one novel and one novella. Now each of the authors has the tools to make their stories into whatever they want them to be.

We focus on story structure: how to organize your ideas onto the page. The next workshop begins in March: 4 weeks, 4 students, $199. The flyer below gives you the details, but of course you can email me with any questions. I've got a special email address for the Story Kitchen. Save your spot in the workshop by stopping at the store, 1010 Foothill Blvd. in La Canada Flintridge, or by calling (818) 790-0717.

A couple of testimonials for you:

I’ve been running story lines in my head but never could put those thoughts into words. That is, until I signed up for the Story Kitchen writing class. Petrea takes a personal interest in each of her students. Her teaching style keeps me focused and inspires me to keep on writing.—Bob Tanabe

Petrea's workshop has motivated me and made me want to kick my procrastinating self back into creative mode. She inspires us to be ourselves when writing. So grateful I attended this session.—Elaine La Marr

It has been a most enjoyable workshop, and has expanded my understanding and appreciation of the writing process.—Gloria Lee

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Just Float

Was tension written on my face? In my posture? A friend insisted I needed to float.

I like to try new things, so okay. Fortunately, Pasadena has the nicest, newest, biggest float therapy spa anywhere. It's called Just Float.

There's a protocol to follow. The video on the website shows you around the place and tells you how floating works. If you don't have a chance to look at it before you go in, you'll be asked to watch it on an iPad while you relax in the slinky, peaceful lobby. You will also be asked to sign a release saying you won't hold Just Float liable if any number of horrible things happen to you. I read that and my shoulders climbed up around my ears.

I took the release to the front counter and asked the clerk, "Can I actually drown in there?"

"It's eleven inches deep," she said.

We laughed. I'd have to work pretty hard to drown in that.

It's also 1300 pounds of epsom salt dissolved in 250 gallons of water. That's buoyant stuff. I figured I could take the chance.

The lobby ceiling murmurs the theme of floating in calming water.

Everything is soothing, from colors to lighting to a hot cup of tea.

Owner Jim Hefner has poured his passion for floating into Just Float. It shows. Even the decor is about health and wellness. Take a look at the video on the site. It was shot at Just Float, so you see exactly how the place looks. It's amazingly clean. It smells good. You get your own room with a towel, a washcloth, and a damned fine bathrobe. You have your own shower with organic body wash and shampoo, much nicer than the stuff I get at the grocery store. Creme rinse, too, but that's for after.

You have one hour. You'll want to luxuriate in your shower but I say don't linger. Get yourself clean then get into the 94 degree water. Adjust the lights the way you want them. You can have low light, high light or complete darkness. I get a little claustrophobic so I chose low light. If you get a lot claustrophobic you can leave the door open between your float tank and your private dressing room.

I sat down in the warm salt water and my legs lifted on their own. Yep, it would be hard to drown in that. I laid back and tried to find a position for my arms. Up? Down? Either way, my shoulders refused to unclench. They hurt so badly I didn't think I'd last the whole hour. But I wanted to give it a good shot, so I took turns rubbing each shoulder and being careful not to splash. You do not want that salt in your eyes.

The soft music faded out. Jim had suggested I count backwards from 100 to shut my mind off. This might not have been the best thing for me because my brain likes counting. Rubbing my shoulders, first right and then left, I counted down on each exhale. "...65...64...63..." All the way to zero. Then I didn't have anything else to do. I was pretty sure I wouldn't last the whole hour. I floated around, touching the sides of the 7'X5' tank.


Then the music faded back in and the lights came up. I haven't the faintest idea where my mind was for at least thirty minutes. I've never been successful at meditation. I would not say I was in a mindful state. More like mindless.

It relaxed me. I didn't think anything could do that. It was just what I needed.

I pulled myself out of the water, crusty with salt, and closed the door. I was about to enjoy my shower when I heard whooshing inside, so I opened the door to look. The tank was cleaning itself. Later, Jim told me salt is a hostile environment for a lot of icky bacteria. Plus at Just Float, they use ultraviolet sterilizers and hydrogen peroxide to clean the water after each use. This way they provide a sanitary environment without wasting water.

Sanitary, environmentally conscious and totally automated. I felt like I was in a Stanley Kubrick version of 2016.

You need creme rinse after soaking in salt. You might also want a nice cup of tea in the lounge.

I relaxed in the lobby and sipped my tea. You can write in the journal to express what your experience was like. Jim Hefner's entry is the first one. You can see how much he loves his business, and how deeply he believes in floating as therapy for mind and body. 

He's not the only one. On a Tuesday afternoon, Just Float was busy. A couple came in to float together. A pregnant woman. A mom and her little girl. An athletic-looking young man, not so fresh from the office. In one short hour they would be refreshed, relaxed, renewed.

My shoulders are back up around my ears. It doesn't take much. But now I have a solution.

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.