December 31, 2023

In Case You Missed It: 2023 Edition

Happy New Year! (Almost.)

This year, a lot of my creative efforts shifted towards producing videos for KCET's "SoCal Wanderer" show instead of writing articles for the SoCal Wanderer blog, which meant I was doing a lot of retreading of old ground instead of exploring new places. 

December 26, 2023

Photo Essay: A Trek Around the Naples Island Christmas Decorations, Along Rivo Alto Canal

"But Sandi, you've done everything in LA!" my friends tell me. Not true, I say. I still have so much more to do. 
Take the Naples Canals in Long Beach, for instance. Although I'd ridden a gondola and even kayaked through them, I'd always wanted to check out the Christmas lights there or even attend the annual holiday boat parade—but until this year, I hadn't actually made it there yet.

December 25, 2023

Photo Essay: The Magical Holiday Parade, Upon the Centennial of Toluca Lake

Christmas Eve has always been more important to me than Christmas. I guess I've always just liked the anticipation better than the reality of things. 

So, in years that I'm not able to go back East for the holidays, the challenge is finding something to do when 'tis the night before Christmas and so many places are closed (or, sadly, extra-expensive). 

Historically, that's meant going over to a friend's house, attending church services, or even just hitting the neighborhood bars a little harder than usual.

But this year, I made a plan two months in advance: to volunteer as a caroler for the Toluca Lake Magical Holiday Parade in the village of Toluca Lake, California (technically part of the City of Los Angeles). 

December 23, 2023

Photo Essay: SoCal's Other Christmas Tree Lane, In Oxnard (ft. the F Street Railroad)

I'd already been to Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena, just northeast of the city of Los Angeles—but it's not the only Christmas Tree Lane around in Southern California. 

There's another one in the city of Oxnard in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles in the other direction—and this year I finally got to go (once again for a shoot for work).

December 19, 2023

Photo Essay: The Retlaw1 Disneyland Railroad Rules the Rails at Santa Margarita Ranch

I knew that there were original RETLAW1 Disneyland train cars running on a railroad on the privately-owned Santa Margarita Ranch in the town of Santa Margarita, California. But I just hadn't been able to get to them yet. 


December 13, 2023

Upon the Monarch Migration

I've been chasing monarch butterflies in California for a few years now. But I've largely failed.

I've never seen the hoards of migrators that used to fill the skies—and trees—of Central and Southern California on their way down to Mexico. I've only heard the stories.

Honestly, by the time I started really looking for them, their population had dipped so much, I'd be happy to see just a single monarch.

December 08, 2023

Photo Essay: Pasadena's Christmas Neighborhood, Lighting Up For 71 Years and Counting

I don't remember how long ago it was that I drove through the Upper Hastings Ranch neighborhood of Pasadena, California looking for Christmas lights—and finding none.
But it's been years and years—and I've kept thinking I need to go back to figure out where they are.

Turns out, I think I was just too early in the season—because at least this year, the official start of the neighborhood Light Up is on Saturday, December 9. 

Although fortunately for me (and my plans to produce a video of it for work), a few houses were ready early this year—