Sunday, June 27, 2010

Roll Out Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer....

Those days of pretzels and, er, wine? You betcha! WFS officially rolled out summer in Altadena on Saturday evening with an awesome, interactive wine pairing seminar!

Presided over by bloggers Anne Louise Bannon and her husband, Michael Holland, the happy attendees learned which type of wines to serve with traditional 4th of July barbecue and party foods. We tasted eight flights of wine with wonderful dishes prepared by local eateries Bonnie B.'s Smokin' BBQ Heaven and Amy's Patio Cafe and boy, let me tell you, the food and the wine were spectacular!

Barbecue foods are infamously hard to partner with wine. Beer or mixed drinks are the usual choice at barbecue parties, but what if you don't like beer? It's a nice gesture for the host(ess) of a party to offer more than one choice of libation, and wine, when chosen correctly can compliment your menu perfectly and please the most discriminating guest.

We all had a great time listening to Anne and Michael and it was nice to see so many people taking notes, asking questions and sharing their experiences with different wines and foods. Lots of laughter flowed, new friendships struck and it didn't feel like any type of seminar I'd ever been to! This was really so much fun that we'll have to do it again for all the seasons and make it a tradition. Huge thanks must be given to Sarah, manager of Webster's Liquor, who worked with Anne and Michael to get the wines just right and without her this evening wouldn'tve happened.

That's the other beautiful thing that happened last night. This first collaboration between Webster's Pharmacy Corporation and Webster's Fine Stationers went off without a hitch and I am so thankful for that. This shows that working together we can create a memorable evening of knowledge, fun and community in our neighborhood, which is so important for independently owned businesses like ours. We love giving back to our town and all our customers who've been there for us all these years! It's you all that made this evening so special. Thanks for taking a chance and for having faith that it wouldn't be a flop. I look forward to working with Webster's Liquor and planning the next fete!

Have a wonderful week!

Lori & Scott

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Reading through what my friends have written about their fathers on my Facebook feed, I’m feeling the love they’ve expressed.  As I subject you to my tribute, I’ll invite you to leave one about your father here in the comments.  Everyone should write about their parents at some point in their adulthood, I think.  It’s almost like a cathartic and adds another layer of understanding to your relationship you have or had with them.

Last month, when I wrote about my mom on Mother’s Day, I hadn’t really planned it.  I sat down to write my usual Sunday blogpost and that’s what came out and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I said I’d write about my dad on Father’s Day in that blogpost and write I will.  But it’s not the same as it was with my mom.  My dad was more…..complex.

Bob Elliott was born Robert Irving Elliott, Jr. in 1917 to Dr. Robert Irving Elliott, Sr. and Ann Louise Babcock Elliott.  He lived at 511 Main St., in Chadron, Nebraska – a two story Victorian with a deep porch.  If I was a house, I’d want to be one like that, loved so much there are sketches of it, a framed painting and years of nostalgic reminiscing.

It’s hard to talk about my dad without first talking about his parents, my paternal grandparents.  It was they who formed the man who would become my father, they who molded his character and somewhat enigmatic personality.

In 1917, Woodrow Wilson was president and the world was at war.  Life went on largely uninterrupted in Chadron, NE, located just underneath Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  My grandfather’s parents had immigrated to Nebraska from Illinois as my grandmother’s parents had done from the east coast, seeking new territories to settle.  The Babcock side of my father’s family had been in the U.S. for years, a distant cousin having fought in the Revolutionary War, while the Elliott’s came over from England (and France, on my paternal great-grandmother’s side).

My grandfather finished graduate school, taught school for a while, was superintendent of schools for two different counties then won the election for Nebraska’s Deputy State Superintendent of Schools. He later became the President of Chadron State College.  Chadron State was formerly called Chadron State Teacher’s College and my grandfather was instrumental in transforming it into a fully accredited four-year college.  He was President there from 1916 until 1940.

My grandmother taught Latin.  She just didn’t teach Latin to school children….she taught advanced Latin to teachers, and later, taught college level Latin.  She had a degree, also, and that certainly wasn’t common for women in the mid to late Victorian era.  In 1910, she and my grandfather married, rather late in life, as they were both over 30, also not that common for the times.  My father was their only child.

I never learned much about my father’s life directly from him, other than his talking about his old home, the college and traveling with his parents.  Most of what I’ve learned about his early days, I’ve read from my grandmother’s many (many!) journals and from his best friend, my late Uncle Sandy.  I know my grandfather’s position warranted much travel, mainly to Washington, D.C. and New York.  I know that while in New York, staying in a hotel while his father attended more graduate studies, he contracted diphtheria.  He had to be quarantined and the doctors didn’t know exactly when he’d be allowed to go home.  I remember him telling me that his father was none too pleased to be kept waiting because of a sick child.

He also traveled to California with his parents, so his dad could take part in some continuing education at USC.  It was there that his father told him that after he completed his prep school at Chadron State, he would be attending USC.  He graduated from the USC School of Commerce in 1938.  He lived over by The Pantry in Los Angeles, which, along with Phillippe's, became his favorite places to eat.  He also loved the old Biltmore Hotel downtown almost as much as he loved his church, The First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.  My dad was an usher there for 30 years or more, serving with the likes of Gale Gordon and Rock Hudson.  He admired his friend, Dr. James W. Fifield, greatly, and was a member of the church’s Freedom Club.  Dr. Fifield married my parents in 1947 and baptized me in 1957, and my dad was a pallbearer at his funeral.

My dad was a staunch right-wing conservative, a member of the Conservative Book Club Of America and once flirted with The John Birch Society.  He wasn’t the type of guy you took to a party and trust to be silent on the subject of politics. He quoted Nikita Kruchev’s line, “we will bury you with your own shovel” quite often and his favorite books were “The Naked Communist” and “Kissinger On The Couch”.  When I was around the age of 14, he tried to explain to me that the Beatles’ “Hey, Jude” was a song about heroin – poor guy just couldn’t get past the lyrics “let it under your skin”.

This didn’t make him very approachable when I was an adolescent.  He was the ultimate task-maker, the rule defender and my mother’s last resort.  We were the classic “wait until your father gets home” family, which was also not very conducive to good relations.  There was such an age gap between my parents and my sister and I – they both were raised in a different age and they had a hard time understanding what was happening in the 1960s and 70s.  Of course, when you’re 16 and wanting to go to a party, you don’t understand how your father’s upbringing could have anything to do with the fact that he won’t let you go.

My father must’ve been raised with a stern hand.  Parents had different criteria for children in the early part of the 20th Century than they do now (seen and not heard comes to mind and is something I was told often when I was young).  Back then, kids mostly did what their parents told them to do without question.  Thanks to the youthful uprisings in the 60’s, that changed and left many older parents befuddled.  Education, naturally, was important to my father’s parents and so was important to him.  I ‘m sure I cut him to the quick when I refused my paid-for USC education and got married instead at the age of 18.

Having lived through the Depression also left a permanent mark on my dad.  I really never understood why so much, since his parent’s position in life wasn’t affected by it.  He had a real fear of the stock market and I can only surmise that others in the town must have suffered losses.  He did, however, teach us by example how to be accountable with money, although I didn’t appreciate that until I was older.

There was much that I didn’t appreciate about my father until I was old enough to understand him.  I’ve reached a deeper understanding now after raising my own child and maybe I’ve just grown wiser over the years.  I can look back and see that he was a generous man, had great family loyalty and a high level of personal integrity.  And to his credit, his extreme political views mellowed out over the years, so he was capable of expanding his mind. 

He never quite got over his reluctance to communicate on a personal level with his children.  I wish I’d known him better.  But if he were here today, I would tell him thanks for raising my sister and I with such high standards.  I could say to him that I thank him for passing on to us his great love for the U.S. and what it stands for.  Most of all, I’d say to him that yes, dad, I get it now…..I understand what you were trying to tell me all those years ago.  Rest in peace, dad, I love you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ask Not What Your Community Can Do For You.....

Forgive me for using a variation of President John F. Kennedy's famous inauguration speech.  I thought it appropriate that we substitute the word "community" for "country" for they are eventually the same ideal.  Broken down to the grassroots level, what you do for your community today strengthens your country tomorrow.

This is also a question that Scott and I asked ourselves before taking over ownership of Webster's stationery department.  Weighing the pros and cons of buying a store that wasn't really a store, one that was already in financial trouble, against the potential good we felt we could do in our community.  We took this on not because we thought we were going to make a ton of money in the endeavor, but because our family and community needed us to do it.  In whatever permeation Webster's is in now, at least we're still here. 

If  I had a dime for every time I've heard customer's say, "what would we do without Webster's?", I'd be able to buy lunch at Amy's Patio Cafe for 10 of our customers!  We're doing our part to ensure that Webster's remains in the community, not only as just a part of our historic scenery but a contributing member of Altadena's community.  That's why Scott and I , along with Ben McGinty, Molly Tierney, Steve Salinas, Lance Anderson and Jeff Kline formed the Altadena Arts Coalition.  That's why I'm sitting on the board of the Chamber of Commerce and it's also why Webster's Fine Stationers supports our local non-profit organizations.

We've also been very active online and love helping promote our community member's businesses and other worthy causes.  We've also enjoyed getting to know more of Altadena's residents as well, through our Facebook page and other venues, as well.  We envision a time when all the businesses in our Upper North Lake neighborhood work together for the benefit of all and we're working toward that end.  Until then, however, it's my pleasure to let you know (if you don't already) that Amy's Patio Cafe will be open on Saturday and Sunday nights for dinner during the summer.  Lauren will also be assembling box dinners for your enjoyment at the Sheriff's Support Group's Summer Concert Series, commencing soon.  Find out more information on her Facebook page and become a fan!

Speaking of working together, save the date of Saturday, June 26th, when Webster's Liquor and Webster's Fine Stationers will be holding a collaborative event you won't want to miss!  This fun and informative mini-seminar on pairing wines with popular barbeque party foods will feature local wine experts Anne Bannon and Michael Holland, just in time for the spate of 4th of July parties on the horizon.  The seminar is free but space is limited....when you receive your invitation be sure to respond quickly!  More information will be forthcoming next week.

This wraps up quite a week of excitement!  Last week we had a surprise visit from Tom Hanks, and our friend, Karen Klein, author of the blog Financially inKleined and reporter for various newspaper & magazines, wrote this article that appeared in BusinessWeek.  We love that the shop local message is being carried out here in the San Gabriel Valley!  Just remember, my friends, when you spend a dollar at an independent retailer, 70 to 80 cents remain to work within your community.  That's opposed to only 20 to 40 cents on the dollar if the same purchase was made at a corporate-owned big box or chain store.  Shop local and you'll find that stimulating the local economy has never been so rewarding!

Until next week,

Lori & Scott

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Altadena’s such a great place, don’t you think? This past weekend was so jam packed with fun things to do, I’m sure lots of folks had trouble deciding which events to attend!

Friday evening before driving home, Scott and I stopped at McGinty’s Gallery At The End Of The World to check out their quarterly Art Bender Weekend kickoff. Visiting the Gallery is always a treat for us and we love the easy feeling of its laid-back, eclectic interior. Even more than that, we truly enjoy the sense of camaraderie that Ben and his artists create for Art Bender….each one unique, but each one distinctly Altadena. Many of our favorite local artists were showing this weekend – Molly Tierney, Dave Lovejoy (who gets around a lot, as you’ll discover next paragraph), Heather Campbell Morrow and so many others!

Saturday brought Art on Millionaire’s Row, an exhibit of local art and local eateries presented by our own Altadena Library. It was hot….not brutally so, but a harbinger of temps to come as summer progresses. We caught the Jitney, Pierre DuPuy’s antique trolley type car, on the corner of Mariposa and Lake and rode in style to the Library down the street. It was nice to see a good sized crowd attending.  We met Dave Lovejoy at the suspension bridge at the front entrance to the Library where he was working on an interactive art display. His son was helping by manning Dave’s booth, filled with his exquisite pottery.

Our favorite painter of mermaids, angels and fairies, Karen Bagnard, had her booth set up near the center. With her mister in hand, she was keeping cool as her beautiful cards and other offerings were flying off with satisfied customers. She was also selling older drawings…originals penned and not used, perhaps….for $5.00 per piece to benefit the Library. We thought that was pretty great so we invested in some fabulous Halloween themed drawings that you’ll be able to see exhibited closer to the holiday this year!

Inside the Library itself, in one of their meeting rooms, was an exhibit of paintings and photography by locals, including the Library’s own Camille Dudley, Edward Beckett and John Balian. The artwork was fantastic and I’m still blown away by them all! We enjoyed speaking with Mr. Beckett and Mr. Balian and John will be bringing us a couple of his paintings to hang in the store. I’m so excited about that! All in all, we met so many truly gifted and talented artists and I’m hoping we’ll be seeing more of their art in the future.

It’s so gratifying to see our community come together like it does for these events. Today, Scott and I attended the Bright Future Scholars graduation celebration at the Pasadena Civic Center….wow, what an excellent way to spend an afternoon. If you’re not familiar with the Bright Future Scholars, please click here. If you’ve been following our blog then you’ll know that we have been supporting the Scholars since we took over the store. Now that we’re a bit more together than we were back in 2007 & 2008, we’ll be planning more fund-raisers for this very special Altadena non-profit.

We’ll talk more in depth of our plans and what it means to the Altadena community next week. Until then, here’s wishing you a wonderful and productive week….

Scott and Lori