Posts Tagged ‘southern california’

I’m really bad a titles, y’all. Blog post titles, anyway. But I feel like most of them are at least pretty informative about the content of the post.

We moved into our house in California back in late December, and Jared checked into his new command in early January, and in theory he was supposed to get 10 days to help get the house set up and us settled, but the Navy being what it is, he got to take his leave in….March.

Handily enough, I also had spring break in March so we lined the dates up and took a fantastic 10 day staycation in southern California, because sleeping at home and driving a little further is cheaper than flights and hotels. I won’t go into all the details, but here are some of the highlights! I might make more detailed posts about some of the individual outings (like the Food & Wine festival) in the next couple of weeks, but no promises.

Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival

I’ve done the EPCOT version of this, which takes place in the fall and involves a lot of international fare around the World Showcase, but the DCA Food & Wine Festival centers on California-grown products and flavors, which is a really neat idea.

Each stand focused on a region or specific ingredient, such as avocado (avocado ice cream was interesting, and the flavor grew on me), citrus (lemon ginger mules and orange chicken), or strawberries (strawberry frushi was wholly new to me and soooo good). We had a great time, and between lunch and dinner managed to try everything we wanted to from the lineup.

And since it was a vacation week, we stayed for World of Color, the DCA nighttime water and light show! We don’t often stay that late as it begins around 9:45pm and we were driving home, but it was fun.

And afterwards because most people had gone home, we hit up our favorite rides that had too-long lines during the day. Nothing like walking straight onto Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and riding it in the dark!

Whale Watching and Exploring Little Italy San Diego

One of the things I miss about Hawaii is the proximity to whales. They are here, of course– gray and blue whales have migration patterns that take them past the southern California coastline– but you don’t usually just look out and see them.

Since it’s gray whale migration season, we scheduled a whale watching trip out of San Diego harbor for an overcast morning in the middle of the week, and were rewarded with four gray whales! They were huge, and moving northward as a group.

After whale watching, we hung out in the Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego. This area was settled by Italian immigrants who came for the tuna fishing, and the buildings retain much of the charm of the historic neighborhood.

There is also plenty of good food, and we had amazing pasta followed by gelato and sightseeing. The Catholic church there is particularly beautiful, and open to peek inside of during the week (when there isn’t a service).

Universal Studios Hollywood and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Neither of us had been to Universal Studios Hollywood before, though we’d been to the theme park in Orlando a few times. One of the things that struck me about the Hollywood location is that it is actually at the studio, and that it grew out of the old studio tours that began over 100 years ago, in 1915.

You can still go on the studio tour and see the back lots they use to create places like “New York City” or “London” or even “Whoville” from the Grinch, among other places.

And, of course, the theme park is now home to the second installation of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This park has the smaller Hogsmeade area, just like the first part added in Orlando. (There are rumors that started before this part of the park even opened in 2014 of a Diagon Alley expansion but I’ve not been able to find any firm confirmation of it. I wouldn’t doubt it, though– Harry Potter is probably one of their most marketable theme park experiences, and is the best park of their theme parks in terms of immersion and overall experience.)

We enjoyed our afternoon in Hogsmeade in an ongoing drizzle, which was nice because it kept the crowds to a minimum and left us with much of the “village” to ourselves. And I can confirm that hot butterbeer is the superior version of the 3 they sell, especially on a cool, rainy day.

WonderCon 2018, Anaheim

We capped off our staycation week with a weekend in Anaheim for WonderCon 2018. WonderCon is produced by Comic-Con International, the company who puts on San Diego Comic-Con in the summer, and is I suspect what SDCC used to be about ten or fifteen years ago. That is to say that it’s large (with an exhibit hall floor of a similar footprint to SDCC) and brings in some well-known faces in both comics and general pop-culture, but is still small enough that everything feels accessible. We were able to make it into every single panel we wanted, which is physically impossible at SDCC. Also, small businesses can still afford floor space in the exhibit hall, so I got to see a lot of local indie designers I like (and interview a few for Geek Girl Pen Pals).

Highlights of the panels I attended included An Afternoon with Patrick Rothfuss, which was a spotlight panel featuring the author wherein he told stories and sort-of answered questions; The Science of Pacific Rim, with scientist panelists debating the feasibility and possible biology of the giant robots and creatures from the Pacific Rim series; and a screening of an episode from A Series of Unfortunate Events, which just added season 2 to Netflix this past weekend.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is one of my favorite book series, and I’ve been enjoying the show quite a bit. The screening was introduced by Nathan Fillion (which meant a reeeaaally packed out room– though I managed to score second row seats!) who plays Jacques Snicket in the 2nd season.

And then it was Sunday and we had to come home and go back to “real life” the next day. But it was a fantastic 10 days and the very needed break from the whirlwind of the last several months. I feel more balanced in this whole school/life thing and that’s good, too. I’ll leave you with my “Easter kitty” and wish you well. 🙂

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Well, here we are.

It’s 2018, we’ve moved halfway across the country, and life is beginning to show the signs of settling back into some sense of normalcy in our household. J went back to work and I am waiting on school to start and generally speaking we’ve got an idea of the next few months.

If you follow me on instagram, you’ve seen some of our recent local adventures, now that we’re back in southern California.

Silver and gold sunset

A post shared by Joanna (@joannavolavka) on

It’s been good to be out of the cold weather, and I can already feel my mental health improving. It also helps that not only do I have friends still here, but I actually have, somehow, more friends here than I did when we left three years ago. Some have moved here and others have naturally grown from acquaintances to friends from just being in my broader circle, and I’m grateful for all of them. And, unlike my usual moves where I don’t have a niche (which is an ongoing issue for military spouses, and one that I should probably blog about separately), I also have a cohort to join and which has already been welcoming and happy to meet me.

So all in all, things are good.

And what of the writing?

Well, I’m working on a couple of things. The first is a fresh media push for THREADWALKERS, including a local book launch sometime in the next couple of months. (I’m seeking book bloggers/vloggers/etc for reviews and interviews and all, so if you are interested or know someone who is, please get in touch!)

I’m also working on the next book… It’s not a follow-up to THREADWALKERS but a new thing entirely. It started as a pet project to get some ideas out of my head but has grown into a thing that might turn into a Book. We will see. There’s still a lot of work to do.

What can you expect in 2018 from me?

  • I’ll be going to some conventions this year (would a schedule on my About page be of interest?).
  • New content related to military spouse life.
  • New content related to writing.
  • More travelogue things because you know I won’t stop traveling and that’s what I enjoy writing about here the most.

So there’s the update! If there’s anything you’d like to know more about, just get in touch! 

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Safari Park, cheetah

It’s been a while since I took my big camera out to the Safari Park, so one day last week I hauled it along with me. I always ride the African Tram (which is included in my membership) and I got some great photos. Here’s a little overview of the ride. One of the first exhibits you pass on the Tram is the cheetah exhibit, and this pretty girl was enjoying some shade on a very hot day. The exhibit cheetahs aren’t the ones who do the cheetah run; those are kept in air conditioning so their bodies don’t get overtaxed in the heat.

Safari Park,

After going past the black rhinos and the river areas with flamingos, you get to the first savanna-style exhibit. These are waterbuck, and they are shaggy and large and I love their faces. They are in one of the huge mixed exhibits that are part of what makes the park famous. This young one is one of many that are born every year; I learned that between the Safari Park and the Zoo, there is an average of at least one animal birth a day, all year, so seeing baby animals isn’t too uncommon.

Safari Park, wildebeest

These are gnus, or wildebeests. I always liked the word “gnu” as a kid, and it was fun to find out that wildebeest and gnus are one and the same. The striking markings on their faces warn predators that they can bite or jab with their horns if they are threatened. In the wild they live in immense herds, and as many as 1.5 million of them migrate together in late spring when the seasons change.

Safari Park, Somali wild ass

As you continue toward the back of the exhibit, you pass several more sections, including vultures and these, Somali wild ass. They look like they have zebra legs and many people mistake them for a zebra hybrid, but they are much smaller, have bigger ears and, of course, bray– wild asses are, after all, precursors to donkeys! I think they’re pretty.

Safari Park, pelican

Next as you start to round the corner at the top of the hill, you get a wide view of the park and the valley, but you also get to see more ponds and I always enjoy spotting the pelicans. There are three species of pelicans at the zoo and Safari Park, and I’m pretty sure this is a dalmatian pelican. The wide view of the park is gorgeous, but I think it’s easy to miss things like this when you’re looking too far afield.

Safari Park, Arabian oryx

Finally as you round the corner to head back to the Tram station, up on the hill they have a herd of Arabian oryx. These are some of my favorites to see, not only because of their beautiful fur and elegant horns, but because they are a conservation success story. While they still aren’t thriving in the wild at their former rate, they were extinct other than a handful in private collections just forty years ago. Two breeding herds were established in the US, and now several hundred have been born, and have started to be reintroduced into the wild. That is the point of conserving species in captivity: to educate the public and to preserve species until they can go back to their native habitat, if possible.

So that’s a little taste of the Safari Park Africa Tram. Hope you enjoyed the tour. More photos from that ride are here. ^_^

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The day after camping at the trailer palace, J and I (and our friends who went with us) decided to drive to Pioneertown.

Pioneertown Mane Street

Pioneertown is a little place in the middle of almost nowhere that has a restaurant, a post office, a motel, and some buildings that are all straight out of an Old West film. This is not an exaggeration: many of the buildings in the town are stage pieces, built in the 1940s to have a permanent place to film scenes.

Pioneertown horse

The buildings are small, but look functional, and some of them (such as the post office) are real. There are hitching posts for horses (and many people there use their horses for local transportation), and all sorts of odds and ends that add details to the ambiance.

Pioneertown jail

The restaurant was good, and served barbeque and such things, and we enjoyed strolling the dusty streets. Really it was surreal to be walking down something that was sort of a set…. and then not; we could see people’s real houses just off of the main road.

(Photos of Pioneertown in the already-posted album begin here.)

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