Transforming Lives Through Art

A decommissioned National Guard armory, designed specifically to keep people out, has spent nearly 70 years coming to bloom as a focal point in Pasadena where everyone is welcome to gather and appreciate art.   

From the street, the building gives the impression of an indestructible stronghold. Tall, thick, gray walls authenticate the fortified structure. The building itself serves as a striking contrast to the sounds of children laughing inside while they paint and play, and a view of impossibly delicate sculptures and paintings through the windows.

Within the building lies a maze of free exhibits with a shared focus of, “inspiring dialogue around visual culture and contemporary life, contributing to global discourses in contemporary art and introducing contemporary visual art to Pasadena,” said Jon Lapointe, Armory director of communications.

Lapointe said the center has exhibited collections and works from profound artists who work in the realm of social justice and beyond, including some of Tim Hawkinson’s first solo museum shows, public projects by Yoko Ono and a Rose Bowl performance for 5,000 spectators by Richard Jackson, who crashed a radio-controlled model military airplane filled with paint into a 20-foot wall, that read “Accidents in Abstract Painting.”

While the Armory features works that are in tune with the center’s mission to transform lives through the arts, Lapointe said at the center of that mission is, “a deep commitment to social justice through arts education.”

Throughout the year, the gallery doubles as a host to studio art classes for all ages where kids can learn, play and express themselves simultaneously. The center’s executive director, Leslie Ito, herself a previous workshop student, says the facility is so passionate about its mission, ardent teachers also offer hundreds of free art classes for the community’s youth in schools, parks, libraries, community centers and juvenile detention centers throughout Southern California.

“(We are) focused on bringing together people from all backgrounds to authentically collaborate, contribute and thrive,” Ito said.

Lapointe said in addition to the armory’s transformation, the last 70 years have also brought about a wave of reputable art museums, cultural institutions, and non-profit arts organizations to Pasadena.

“One other magical thing about this critical mass of nonprofit arts and culture organizations: we all collaborate, respect and genuinely like each other. No competition. We are all on the same team,” Lapointe said.

Being part of that team, Lapointe added, also comes with the responsibility of engaging in work that contributes to diversity and inclusion efforts.

Rather than developing a single committee toward such endeavors, the future for the Armory includes devoting entiretly of the institution’s efforts toward social justice.

“The Armory is on a journey to make this work part of our organizational DNA. We understand this is a process, and it will take time, courage, persistence, and commitment. This is a journey we are ready for. This is the Armory’s future,” Lapointe said.

Armory Center for the Arts
145 N. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena

Easy as Pie

Those eagerly awaiting the release of pumpkin items at Trader Joe’s or Jamba Juice, might want to add variety to their yearly pumpkin pig out. 

The passion for pumpkins began in the Americas. Seeds from related species have been found in archeological digs in Mexico, dating back to 7000 to 5500 B.C. The name actually comes from the Greek word, “peon,” meaning large melon. Native Americans used pumpkins and related fruit as part of their diet before the pilgrims arrived. The marriage of cinnamon and pumpkin came later. Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka and was used in China and ancient Egypt.

Ginger originated in Southeast Asia and nutmeg was from Indonesia. The trade along the silk roads brought these spices to Europe. Without such trade and culinary experimentations between the continents, we wouldn’t have pumpkin spice for November.

Jamba Juice made its fans wait until October 20. Trader Joe’s opened the orange winter squash season on October 1, offering pumpkin bisque, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin spice bagels, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin cereal, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin cranberry crisp, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin spice almond beverage, pumpkin pie spiced ginger brew, spiced pumpkin madeleines, pumpkin bread mix, pumpkin chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie mix, pumpkin ice cream, pepita salsa and pumpkin cream cheese spread.

Another, and perhaps healthier, choice to fulfill your pumpkin spice needs is a seasonal bagel from Einstein Bagels. You can add pumpkin shmear or splurge on the calories with a pumpkin bagel with a sweet crunchy topping of walnuts and cinnamon.

Of course, you can get pumpkin pie at local pie shops. Moe’s pumpkin pie is $6.50 a slice at the Pie Hole and pecan is also on the fall menu ($7). The Cheesecake Factory has pumpkin cheesecake ($57.95 for a whole 10-inch pie or $8.50 a slice) and pumpkin pecan cheesecake ($58.95 or $8.95 per slice). Pie ‘N Burger has pumpkin and pecan pie, too.

Thinking of trying something savory? Then Suriya Thai has pumpkin curry served with shrimp, white rice, spicy red curry and coconut milk ($11.95). Kabuki Japanese Restaurants are offering a winter special: kabocha squash soup ($3.50 a bowl) while supplies last.

Lêberry Bakery on Colorado has gluten-free pumpkin scones with a pumpkin glaze, pumpkin muffins with a light sprinkle of sugar on top and a danish with pumpkin spread in the center. All are priced at $3, but guests will have to hurry because these goodies will only be offered until the second weekend of November.

Another hurry up and don’t be late pumpkin date is at Alexander’s Steakhouse. The executive pastry chef Gabriela Martinez will be serving pumpkin ice cream with dry ice to make it mysteriously smoky. As part of the complimentary mignardises (mini-bite desserts pronounced min-yar-DEEZ), pumpkin bonbons, pumpkin macaroons and pumpkin tarts are among the selections. Everything is made in-house, including the ice cream, and will only be available until November 15.

The Vanilla Bake Shop has gone wild with pumpkin pie shortbread bars, pumpkin streusel pecan pies, the classic pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice cupcakes and a pumpkin spice cake. The cake comes in two sizes, 6 inch or 9 inch. The pies come as small as a 2-inch round to the regular 9 inch. So go ahead and satisfy your pumpkin passion for as little as $2.50. These pumpkin delights will be available until the end of December.

Sunmerry Bakery in Temple City has pumpkin brownies, matcha-pumpkin danishes and whole wheat pumpkin buns into November. Sunmerry is also offering multigrain cranberry bread to go with turkey.

PattiCakes in Altadena has pumpkin cheesecake in five sizes. Two people can feed off a 3-inch pie, or parties of 50 or 60 can get a 16-inch pie. Pumpkin muffins are also available. The pumpkin party continues at PattiCakes until May.

Where to go

Alexander’s Steakhouse, 111 N. Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, 626-486-1111,

The Cheesecake Factory, 2 W. Colorado Boulevard,
Pasadena, 626-584-6000

Einstein Bros. Bagels, 605 S. Lake Avenue, Pasadena,

Kabuki Restaurants, 88 W. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena,
626-568-9310; 3539 E. Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena,

Lêberry Bakery, 445 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena,

PattiCakes, 1900 Allen Avenue, Altadena, 626-794-1128,

The Pie Hole, 59 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena,

Pie ‘N Burger, 913 E. California Boulevard, Pasadena,

Sunmerry Bakery Café, 5728 Rosemead Boulevard, Temple City,
626-656-6336 ,

Suriya Thai, 123 W. California Boulevard, Pasadena,

Vanilla Bake Shop, 88 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena,

Selling Happiness

Place Vendôme sits in a quaint courtyard in Old Pasadena, but the jewelry that occupies the shop is anything but humble.

A grand foyer gives way to a gallery of extravagant jewelry, giving guests a peek into a world where beauty, functionality and history collide and shine.

Since the dawn of luxury jewelry, a couple mainstream ideologies have dominated the way the world views the industry: Princess cut diamonds are a girl’s best friend and creativity has to be sacrificed when aiming for functionality.

About 15 years ago, two men who crossed paths by a mix of fate, luck and chance decided to push the limit of what is possible in the industry and feature unique items that are not standard to most jewelry stores.

The two met when Max Emsallem meandered into Michael Merritt’s store looking for a piece of jewelry to gift his girlfriend at dinner.

“I could never find something special enough, most things are safe—ordinary. When I bought her stuff, it was to make her happy, but it was to make me happy, too. So not being able to find unique pieces was disappointing. But when I met Mike, he had stuff I’d never seen before,” Emsallem said.

As the two moved through each piece Merritt had, the jewelry prompted a conversation about the constraints withholding the industry from reaching its full potential in America, in contrast to its thriving European counterpart.

“Design is just part of the culture there and it shows through in everything, even beyond jewelry,” Merritt said. “It’s shoes, it’s clothes, it’s handbags, it’s architecture, it’s beautiful Italian cars. Whereas in America beauty has to be sought out.”

The conversation sparked what would become a revolution in the U.S. jewelry industry and would change the relationship shoppers have with the jewelry they purchase.

Emsallem, who has a 10-year history in the fashion industry, and Merritt who was ready to grow into a new form of the business with a partner, joined their creative forces to open a luxury jewelry store where the pieces had all of the elements they value most—flawless and indulgent design, diverse lines with functionality for all jewelry lovers and a strong history behind each brand—Place Vendôme.

“We choose brands with their past and their stories in mind, because it changes you,” Merritt said. “It changes the way you see the piece. A ring or a necklace suddenly transforms into something so much more relatable and intentional when you know its story.”

Beyond the jewelry, every detail of Place Vendôme contributes each line’s unique features.

Individual galleries line the walls of the store, which Merritt says, allows customers to see where each designer’s vision begins and ends. “You can understand a designer better when you’re not distracted by anything else,” he adds. “It’s a literal window into each designer.”

Within each gallery are small props that continue to tell a story. Some designers choose to create their own layouts and send in decor, whereas others give Emsallem and Merritt full creative freedom.

From textured placemats, picture frames with leather pieces and decorative candleholders, customers can pair the brand’s vision with several textures, colors and dimensions. Tying each gallery together are fabric-lined walls that lead to a massive skylight inspired by Parisian architecture.

But the real magic, Merritt said, happens when customers allow him to “play” and put on the jewelry.

A fan favorite is the Pomellato NUDO ring. Starting at about $2,350, the stackable rings are constructed without prongs holding the stones. Instead, they are fastened on the top with a groove cut around the stone’s base. The gem fits into the metal cup, then the metal is crimped into a groove. Though the process takes much longer than setting the stone in prongs, Merritt said the result is priceless. And his customers agree.

The “little Pasadena store” is the Italian brand’s No. 1 account in North America and outsells all of the Neiman Marcus stores combined.

“The president of Pomellato asked us how we do it, and we just told her we view it as art, and because of that, we’re very passionate about it,” Merritt said. “We’re not just selling it to customers because it’s pretty. It’s so much more than that, the design is intentional. We just pass our passion on.”

Perpendicular to the Pomellato case is the Pasquale Bruni gallery.

The brand is of another luxurious Italian designer, with looks inspired by nature and built with hand-selected stones.

A $14,200 massive Giardini Segreti ring dominates the case—with good reason. Brown diamonds cover the surface of the ring that spans over two fingers. Each stone varies in color, undulating like a real leaf.

The piece is not one guests would be able to find in most other jewelry stores because of its unique approach to stone selection and setting, “but this place is about going beyond the limits of what you think is possible. It’s about being extraordinary,” Merritt says.

The store also sells men’s jewelry, plush pens and collectible watches that run up to $725,000.

Though being unique can be pricey, Emsallem and Merritt agree the pieces are priceless because of the memories they create. From birthdays and anniversaries, to just a moment made special with a piece of jewelry, both Emsallem and Merritt said being part of memorable occasions is one of the best aspects of the job.

“I don’t think we’ve worked since we opened shop. We sell happiness and in turn, that makes us happy,” Emsallem said.   

Place Vendôme
48 Hugus Alley, Pasadena

Making Chinese Culture Shine

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden has grown seemingly overnight into a wonderland of lanterns that represent themes from Chinese culture for its second Moonlight Forest Lantern Festival. 

The seed to create a lantern festival was planted years ago, when arboretum CEO Richard Schulhof traveled the country in search of a special way to honor the culture and traditions of China, as L.A. County has one of the largest Chinese populations in North America.

Though only in its second year, the festival has become a prominent window into the world of Chinese culture, and according the Schulhof, is one of the best in the nation.

“The festival allows us to discover the commonalities that unite us across the globe,” Schulhof says. “There are aspects of the human experience that are so universal. I think among the long list of those aspects is appreciation for art and appreciation for nature, and this festival celebrates both.”

Set with the backdrop of the gardens, lanterns light up the night and play off of the grounds’ features. A 160-foot dragon stands tall as its light bounces off the neighboring Baldwin Lake and forms breathtaking silhouettes of the surrounding trees. A towering fountain display of bright koi fish guides guests along a path that leads them past cavorting panda bears to a massive blue and green peacock, which serves as the festivals most iconic spot to take pictures.

The result is flawless, but the process is anything but easy and straightforward.

The staff at the arboretum are in constant contact with a design team in China’s Sichuan Province. The layout is reworked numerous times as ideas are exchanged and new exhibits are formulated. Once the design of the layout is established, the Sichuan team is flown out to the grounds roughly a month prior to the festival to begin staging the lanterns.

“It’s quite a process, but I think our audience here at the festival is extremely receptive and curious to experience this wonderful culture. It’s their interest that makes the work worth it,” Schulhof says.

To appease even more of guests’ interests, the festival also features various forms of entertainment with craft professionals from Sichuan Province.

Festival goers have the chance to interact with inner bottle painting artists, who create intricate panoramic scenes on the inside small bottles. Dancers and jugglers relay tradition through customary performances, and a conventional face changing dance originated by the Sichuan Opera lures guests into a world of rich culture. Translators are always nearby to give guests an opportunity to speak with the performers and learn more about China.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to interact with these folks who come here from China to share their traditions. Last year people really loved the interactive pieces of the festival, so we wanted to bring that back,” Schulhof says.

The festival is back by popular demand, but Schulhof wants attendees to know this year’s Moonlight Forest has only gotten bigger and better since last year.

“We’re here to serve the community so it’s a constant evaluation of what works, what programming our guests find rewarding and how the arboretum has to evolve to meet the needs of LA County and Southern California. But it’s going to be a wonderful experience and I hope people come ready to take it all in and really enjoy it.”

The Moonlight Forest Magical Lantern Art Festival

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, 301 N. Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia
5:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday, November 9, to Sunday, January 12.
Ticketed entry times are 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Tickets are $20 for children 3 to 17; $23 for students and seniors and $25 for adults on Wednesday and Thursday. Tickets are $23 for children 3 to 17; $25 for students and seniors and $28 for adults on Friday and Saturday.

‘Leap’ of Faith

Lauren Yee’s play “The Great Leap” takes its name from the People’s Republic of China’s economic campaign, “The Great Leap Forward,” from the Mao Zedong era from 1949 to 1976.   

The play, which runs at the Pasadena Playhouse from Wednesday, November 6, to Sunday, December 1, is actually about a young Chinese-American man who travels to China with his team for a friendship basketball game. Soon, tension mounts when a young player’s actions become the focus of attention. 

Tony Award-winner BD Wong, of “Jurassic Park” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” has been in two productions—one on Broadway and another in San Francisco—playing the Chinese basketball coach. For the Pasadena Playhouse production, he’s taking on a new role: director.

The four-person cast won’t play a real basketball game, but that doesn’t mean the actors and Wong don’t take the sport seriously. In mid-October, when Wong and the cast had just started rehearsals, he said the production’s basketball expert was taking them through drills.

“I did play basketball,” Wong admitted. “I was vaguely familiar with basketball but that’s not my entry into the play. My entrance in the play is not from my love of basketball. It’s more from an appreciation for Lauren’s point of view and also for the world itself. The part actually doesn’t require the actor to play a lot of basketball.”

What he loves is the emotional arc and the Chinese coach’s humor. Wong did feel the need to learn about basketball when he was in his first production of the play.

“You always, always, always must feel that you want to learn about the world of the play you are in as much as possible,” he said.

He is certain that, “basketball fans will understand that she’s (Yee) researched the play very well,” but the play also “delves into the history of China during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and that’s a big part of the backdrop of the play.”

Wong’s second production was in San Francisco, where he and Yee were raised.

“In San Francisco, we had the luxury of being in the town where the play takes place and meeting the basketball coach of the school that is actually depicted in the play,” he said.

Wong recalled they “had great sessions with Coach Frank (Allocco) at USF who gave us not only insight into the game and the physicality of the basketball players and basketball moves, but insight into USF history.”

A crucial part of the production is the basketball experts’ advice and movement training, Wong said. This point, it’s important to “find out what an actor’s strengths and w eaknesses are related to the topic and maximize your potential.” From this, they’ll know who has “ball-handling skills and who needs to learn a little bit learn.”

Basketball lingo fills the script, so the actors needed to watch videos to understand the basketball moves that are described in the play. Although, Wong said, “we live in an age now when you can learn anything at all” by searching on a cellphone, but he wanted to do better than that.

“San Francisco is a great basketball town,” he said, and so while the game isn’t played on stage, basketball has to be portrayed “theatrically and with style and with a certain kind of economy.” Staging basketball is one of the play’s exciting challenges and it’s a challenge being taken up by many theater companies. Wong rated it as one of the top 10 new plays hitting the stage this year.

As director, Wong enjoys watching every moment of the play. When he was in the play, he missed certain bits because he was concentrating on his role.

This time, it comes down to his vision. Because Wong had just begun rehearsals, he was observing the chemistry between the actors and developing his own vision.

“This is the first production I’ve done that’s had an Asian American director,” he said. “My point of view of Lauren’s writing and of Lauren is informed by me being Asian American and her being Asian American.”

Other directors might not feel right away or be able to access that right away, he said. For example, he said, “if a character in the play is Asian American and someone says something vaguely racist to that person, anybody can understand what the response can be, but I know what it feels like.” While a non-Asian American director might not necessarily have that immediacy and have to reach for it.

Wong said the actors’ interaction changes the feel of the play.

“I remember when I did the play, we did this whole section of the dialogue where I said a line rather introspectively and today the actor said it more aggressively,” he said.

He said the actor in question “quite successfully landed the line.”

Minor things like that add up, but Wong wanted to clarify, “I don’t think any of the directors made any big mistakes or did anything wrong.”

“He brings more of an Asian-American perspective” and better understands “the complexity of being Asian American, specifically being Chinese American” and what that means about going to China.

In China, Wong said, “I don’t feel like I’m home when I’m there; I don’t feel like I’m greeted with open arms as an ABC—American-born Chinese.” The culture of China is different from the United States and Wong said he felt alienated.

Being at the Pasadena Playhouse, however, is a sort of homecoming for Wong. Many years ago, in about 1986, he was in a musical at the Playhouse. The same year, he was in a play produced by the oldest Asian-American theater company in the country: East-West Players.

“A Great Leap” is a co-production between East-West and the Playhouse.

“I have a real soft spot for these two theaters because of that” and at this point in his life, directing at the Playhouse is “really meaningful and nostalgic.”

Wong also has fond memories of the area for other reasons. Filming the 1991 Steve Martin movie, “Father of the Bride,” was in San Marino. By then, Wong had already won a Tony Award (1988) for “M. Butterfly,” a play that dealt with China in a sociopolitical way.

Knowing the demographics of East Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley, there’s obviously an AsianAmerican audience to be served who may be “starved for content.” Wong said he believes Yee’s play is a rare find that serves the Asian and American communities without selling out the Asian part.

“A Great Leap” is a crowd-pleaser and moving.

“Those things don’t always go together,” Wong noted. But that’s what makes this “a perfect play for the community.”

“The Great Leap”
Various times Wednesday, November 6, to Sunday, December 1
Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena
Tickets are $25 to $92
626-356-7529 or

Catching the Bug

The most precious gems the world can offer are buried in the farthest corners of the globe, deep in a cherished book, or in Old Pasadena’s very own Gold Bug gallery-where not all that glitters is gold. 

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold Bug,” the family-owned gallery plays off the short story’s key scene when the protagonist, eager to have more money, follows scarab beetle toward a trove of treasures more valuable than what money could ever buy. In tune with the intellectually suspenseful tale’s motif of the golden bug, the store highlights how much of the world around us is not always what it seems.

Staying true to the somber and eerie undertone of Poe’s works, Gold Bug showcases pieces that are meant to turn heads and make statements about the troubles and glories of the world. Owner Theodora Coleman says each piece was chosen because, “of their ability to make people feel something, or see something in a new light they perhaps never considered before.”

Coleman says many items in the gallery serve as a vehicle to have meaningful conversations about the rich history of the world’s art practices. The gallerist added, other quirky works highlight the environment’s most notable struggles.

“The goal has always been the same and that’s to represent people who are inspired by nature, natural history and science that are doing something natural and will at some point go back to the Earth,” Coleman says.

The gallery boasts works from every corner of the world, but the collection of the items has humble beginnings based in Pasadena.

Before Coleman was born, her parents, Shelley Kimball and Stacey Coleman, owned a restaurant and employed countless actors, filmmakers and artists. In addition to flexible scheduling to accommodate their employees’ demanding dreams, the family showed their support for the arts by hanging the staff’s sculptures and paintings in the restaurant.

“When the art didn’t sell, my parents would show their support by buying some of the pieces themselves. They didn’t do a lot with it, they just kind of held onto it,” Coleman says.

Though the family closed the restaurant, the culmination of strange art pieces and sculptures sent the household down an entirely new path—one that sometimes involves the necessity of death to appreciate the fragility of life.

“There are a lot of things that are hard to look at because there is death in here, there are preserved animals here. I mean it’s a conversation we have a lot. But definitely where I’m coming from and these artists are all coming from is this place of revering nature and supporting systems to preserve it,” Coleman said.

She adds customers often ask about a handful of the gallery’s most eye-catching items. One of which is an isopod that dwells alone in a translucent box.

Isopods are part of the pill bug family and are related to the sand flea, but a prolonged glance at the creature paints an entirely different story. Its gigantic frame is a stark contrast to its roly poly genes, and its pink and tan toned hard shell gives a nod to the being’s prehistoric ancestors.

Though the creature looks like a grenade of historic lineage—able to withstand the test of time untouched—coming across the specimen in an unnatural way exposes its vulnerability to destructive fishing practices.

Deepsea trolling, the practice of clean sweeping the seafloor with a net for commercial fishing, captured the isopod from its dark and empty home at the bottom of the ocean.

“I think (trolling) is horrible and not sustainable, but as a byproduct of that they’re pulling things out of the sea by accident that they don’t have a market for, but I do,” Coleman says. “I get a thrill out of those things that come through the store, like those specimens that you wouldn’t normally see. Plus, it’s a way for us to start educating our customers about what’s happening in the fishing industry.”

Another store item that demands attention is a taxidermized unborn fawn.

With a small crown atop its head, the fawn may be petite, but serves as a mighty symbol of the diseased venison industry.

In the open plains of the Midwest, Chronic Wasting Disease has become an epidemic among farmed deer and has spread to naturally occurring deer in the surrounding area. The condition causes the degeneration of the brain and results in abnormal behavior, emaciation and, ultimately, death.

“I hear from the other side of the room a lot like, ‘oh how sad,’ and I sort of have to present myself and let customers know it’s not, ‘oh how sad,’ it’s just a thing that’s happening in our world today. It’s about making yourself aware of it,” Coleman says.

However, while the isopod and fawn definitely demand attention of curious shoppers Coleman says, “they are just two things in the shop presented in order to bring a little of nature’s pure wonder into the store, embellishing the hundreds of other art pieces that surround them.”

The handful of shocking items in the store is balanced with more delicate works like handcrafted jewelry, sculptures, paintings and prints.

The gallerist said one of the most historic artforms in the gallery may not be as shocking, but still has a deep-rooted history that presents yet another peculiar and noteworthy story of our world.

A company based out of the basement of the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence, Italy, is also home to one of the world’s oldest active apothecaries.

Officially selling products to the public since 1612, the pharmacy has a withstanding history creating perfumes, candles and soaps from natural ingredients. Though the world around the church may have changed over the centuries, the way the products are produced remains the same, and is considered a sustainable practice to Coleman.

“That’s the type of thing I steer people toward because it’s got the history and it’s well known, but still special,” Coleman said. “It may not be as weird as a crystal carved into a skull or some of the other items we carry. I mean this is art with a story behind it.”

From impressive sculptures and historic soaps to just about everything else one could think of, Gold Bug is giving guests a chance to see that not everything is what it seems. Coleman encourages shoppers to come in the gallery of wonders with an open mind, ready to ask questions about why the pieces have a spot in her store.

Gold Bug
34 Union Street, Pasadena

Spiked Iced Coffee

Iced coffee is hot. The $5 billion coffee industry is one of the ways we love to cool down during the sizzling summer months. Coffee has long been a go-to beverage for the addition of alcohol; just think Irish coffee with and Mexican coffee with tequila.

But RumChata’s boozy creamer, “MiniChata’s” blend of cream, rum, cinnamon and vanilla has made this even easier. Given the coffee roasters like Jones Coffee Roaster and Jameson Brown, both based in Pasadena, and Regent in Glendale, you can get superior coffee over chain- stores spiked with a touch of creamy rum.

Leon Nie, who started Regent in 2015 then opened his café in Glendale in 2017, recommends using iced coffee from a dark roast bean as a base. “With cream liqueurs’ strong, creamy rich flavor and sweetness, a dark roast develops to be fully caramelized and lightly carbonized,” Nie says. “The coffee could be cold brew coffee prepared slowly, or freshly brewed hot coffee that is then iced. The reason behind the cold brew dark roast is its charming depth of chocolate notes and bittersweetness, without any acidity. It has a solid strength of body and lends itself to work in tandem with many cream liqueurs.”

You can purchase the 25-milliliter MiniChata’s in packs of 15, or pick up their 26-ounce plastic thermal tumbler that will hold your coffee and contains eight “MiniChatas.”


6 ounces iced coffee

1 25-ml RumChata MiniChata


Brew coffee, add MiniChata.

Happy Centennial, The Huntington

hundred years ago, Henry and Arabella Huntington signed a trust agreement that left the buildings and grounds of their San Marino estate, plus their remarkable collections, to the public.

They were both extremely wealthy when they married in 1913, and both were serious collectors. Arabella had been married to Henry’s uncle, Collis Huntington, one of the Big Four of Western railroading who founded the Central Pacific Railroad (later called the Southern Pacific), part of the first transcontinental railroad.

After Collis died in 1900, Henry spent several years courting Arabella. It may have appeared scandalous, but Henry and Arabella were actually closer in age than she to her former husband—and Henry seemed genuinely smitten with her.

He collected rare books, while she was fond of European paintings, jewelry and antiques—and soon enough he became interested in the fine arts, also. He became especially enamored of 18th century British portraiture, and today people travel from all over the world to see two romantic full-length portraits, Thomas Lawrence’s “Pinkie” and Thomas Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy,” hung in the British gallery of the mansion. A few of the exquisite Medieval and Renaissance paintings she owned, including Rogier van der Weyden’s “Virgin and Child,” are on display elsewhere in the same building.

Since Henry and Arabella’s time, the library and art collection have expanded by leaps and bounds, and in recent decades the museum has begun to collect and exhibit American art, as well. They started collecting American art only in 1979, with a gift of 50 paintings from the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation. Five years later the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery of American Art was created, with a major expansion in 2009. The library is in its own building and has exhibition galleries for the public and research facilities for scholars.

Of course, many visitors also come to see the gardens with different blooms at different times of the year. They are themed, including the Japanese garden, the rose garden, the camellia garden, the desert garden, and the newest one, still under expansion, the Chinese garden.

Celebrating 100 years, the Huntington is presenting several new exhibitions and programs—and a name change. Formerly, it was known as the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“Our art collections are more than a group of cataloged objects; they are carefully curated, interpreted and exhibited,” says Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence during a recent presentation to announce their centennial year.

“An added benefit to this change is that we become more discoverable, particularly in online searches. This is important as we work to widen our audiences and accessibility.” 

Christina Nielsen, director of the art museum, adds later in an email, “Simply put, the word ‘museum’ more accurately describes our mission in today’s vernacular. It conveys that this place, which does hold some 42,000 art objects in its collection, is not just a repository.”

The pivotal exhibition will be “Nineteen Nineteen” (September 21 to February 20) in the Boone Gallery, an exhibition looking back to the landmark year when the Huntingtons signed the document creating what is now popularly known as The Huntington.

Using 275 objects from their own collection, curators James Glisson and Jennifer Watts tells a story about what else happened that year—a lot, as it turns out. Europe was trying to recover from a World War, American soldiers returned, women fought for the right to vote, the flu pandemic struck down millions, violent attacks were inflicted upon African Americans, and high inflation fueled labor unrest. Glisson calls it “an inflection point for world history.” 

In theory, they had millions of objects to choose from—the library alone has 11 million objects. However, Glisson says, “The show’s based on a constraint, and that is, everything had to be made copyrighted, altered, exhibited, acquired, the list of verbs can go on, in the year 1919.”

It took three years to narrow down that checklist, and as they did they formed five key themes to organize the material around—“Fight,” “Return.” “Map,” “Move” and “Build.” 

The opening section “Fight,” for example, features the expected—a look at the devastation of World War I. However, some of the objects may be unexpected, such as a sketch by John Singer Sargent of soldiers suffering a mustard gas attack. The struggle for women’s suffrage is shown through a photo of National Woman’s Party members burning “President Wilson’s Meaningless Words on Democracy,” at a time when women were denied the right to vote. The exhibition uses the breadth of Huntington’s holdings, including photographs, handbill and posters, books and documents, objects and art.

“Maps” has maps, of course, but as Watts says, maps also tell a story. There will be a map of the city of Los Angeles in 1919, done by Laura L. Whitlock, L.A. County’s official cartographer. At that time, Watts says, our electric train system was the most extensive in the world, and the centerpiece of this section will be a 37-foot long, hand-drawn map to be displayed flat in a showcase. Done by the Pacific Electric, it details sections of the electric train system in 1919 and the parcels of land around it.

“It goes from Old Town Pasadena all the way to the edge of downtown, to Soto Street,” says the curator. “That map is really incredible. It not only shows transportation networks but real estate domains…additions and redactions over time.”

The story of Henry Huntington, who invested heavily in that network, is pulled in here, as in a number of other places. “It makes the interesting point that Huntington is selling off and investing in a lot of lots of adjacent to the streetcar lines,” Glisson says. “He’s kind of a quintessential Californian because he’s really making his money in real estate.”

The “Build” section focuses on the Huntington’s, and the institution they founded. For years Henry had kept his library in New York, but in 1919 he started building one on the San Marino estate. When it was finished in 1921, he shipped his books here. The Chicago Tribune heralded the event with the lines, “One of the largest and most extensive private libraries in the world is being built at San Marino…and when this is completed it also will be conveyed to the public.”

For the centennial, the library offers an exhibition in two parts, “What Now:  Collection for the Library in the 21st Century” (Part I: October 19, 2019, to February 17, 2020; Part II: May 1 to August 24, 2020). It will show more than 100 acquisitions representing areas in which the library has grown.

With 750,000 visitors a year, the Huntington is one of the most popular destinations in Southern California.

“Today we take a moment…to think about our future,” says Lawrence during a centennial presentation, “and the future and the ideas that will propel us all for the next 100 years. For an institution turning 100, a centennial is a moment to be like Janus, looking back and forward at the same time. Today we’re celebrating how far we’ve come, and reflect on where we want to go.”  

Remembering Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen fans would make their way to the sites associated with their beloved author to ingest the world that shaped her novels. 

One good spot to start this reverence, as I did, is the Jane Austen’s House Museum located in South of England in the tiny village of Chawton, near the town of Alton in Hampshire. The village also boasts Chawton Estate, an Elizabethan manor associated with the famous author’s family.

The museum recently celebrated its 70th anniversary 202 years after Austen’s death.

The daughter of a clergyman with modest means, Austen lived here during the last eight years of her life. The house inspired and nurtured her literarily. That’s where she revised and published three novels, including the classic “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813, and wrote three more.

The dwelling was part of the Chawton Estate that belonged to Austen’s brother, Edward, who had the good fortune to inherit it from the childless Knight family for little more than a change of surname and an endearing personality. Edward allowed his mother, Cassandra, sisters Jane and Cassandra, and their friend Martha Lloyd to live in the home rent–free for life.

Those days, chickens clucking about the outhouse, grunting pigs and a donkey carriage would have been commonplace sights and sounds.

Nowadays, what’s usual are tourists — more than 40,000 flock to the museum annually. About 30% come from overseas and many of the most loyal and enthusiastic fans travel from the United States.

Getting to the picturesque English village of Chawton is half the fun. Once off the A31 Motorway that leads south from London, the drive to the heart of Jane Austen country features wooded areas lined roadside by wildflowers.

Helpful museum signposts begin about 15 minutes before the destination, but my companion and I still managed to lose our way. However, it added to the experience: meandering through the lanes, we were rewarded with sights of thatched-roof cottages, a quintessential feature of the English countryside.

The verdant Chawton countryside remains as unchanged today as it did in the 19th century when the Austen family resided.

“Many of the buildings would have been known to Jane Austen, and we know that she used to walk to visit friends and family locally,” says Jen Harris, the museum’s marketing manager. “During her time here, the road directly outside the house would have been busier than it is now, as it was the main coaching route from Winchester to London.”

The traffic, however, would have been of horses and carriages.

The first glimpse of the 17th century red-brick house with white-framed windows is poignant. This is the only dwelling where Austen lived and wrote that is open to the public. The museum describes it as the most important Austen site in the world also because this is where her genius flourished.

To think of the technology and facilities at the disposal of modern writers brings focus to what little was available to Austen, and marvel even more at her talent.

These thoughts are reinforced in the Dining Parlor.

Placed in a corner is the three-legged table at which Austen devised plots, engaged her sparkling wit and weaved social commentary into endearing prose. (The table base is dated later, but the top is original.)

At this round walnut tabletop, a little bigger than an extra-large pizza, she described the privileged landed gentry of the 19th century and women’s dependence on marriage for existence; hence the stuffy social gatherings where matchmaking was ceaseless, the gowns, the balls with their rigorous etiquette, the conquests and the animated sibling conversations that followed.

Here she created the matchmaking Emma Woodhouse, starched the pompous Mr. Collins, and outlined sense and sensibility in the form of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne.

This fictional world was created with a quill pen dabbed in ink. (The nib pen was not in use until a few decades later.)

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

As the story goes, after breakfast each day, Austen would settle at this table for a morning of writing. Remarkably neat, she pinned together about 20 smallish sheets and wrote on them in her sloped handwriting. She hid the manuscript from prying eyes by giving ear to a creaky swing door that was prevented from getting attention.

Now there’s no Austen writing by the window, so there’s no need to safeguard manuscripts. Hence, the door doesn’t creak and is used as a fire door.

Research indicates that Austen was developing cataracts in her eyes, which drove her to move the table through the house in tandem with the light; hence her preference to using a small work surface.

Another item that gives visitors pause is the lock of straw-colored hair kept upstairs in a glass case. The lock was snipped off by sister Cassandra upon Austen’s death at age 41 in 1817. It was presented to the museum by its American owner at the museum’s opening in 1949.

And then there’s the mystery ring. Was it purchased by her or was it a gift? Is the stone turquoise or the cheaper odontolite? It’s hard to verify.

On the subject of rings, in 1802, Austen entertained a marriage proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither, but changed her mind overnight. Did the insight and emotions she imparted on romantic matters in her novels not translate to real life? Or, did Cassandra, with whom she shared a bed and room since childhood, nudge her to remain single, as she herself stayed?

The museum preserves the first editions of Austen’s books, newspaper clippings from The Courier and The Morning Chronicle announcing the publishing of her books, dozens of hand-written letters and other documents, a coverlet, the Rev. Austen’s bookcase and the family carriage. In Austen’s bedroom hangs her likeness sketched by sister Cassandra, considered the only accurate portrait of her because Cassandra was a talented artist.

It’s best to visit early in the day because the true Janeite will need a good length of time to browse the objects and peruse the documents.

Visiting early would also allow time to walk the few minutes to Chawton House, past the sloping meadows. Austen would often make her way there, to get away from the smaller confines of the cottage where privacy was elusive. While the House Museum is the obvious draw, the “Great House,” as Austen called it, is no less interesting to “dawdle away” the time.

Chawton House, in the Knight family since 1582, doesn’t quite boast the grandeur of Fitzwilliam Darcy’s Pemberley. Researchers believe that Mr. Knightley’s Donwell Abbey in Emma was modeled on this estate.

Janeites would do well to bump into volunteer guide Jeremy Knight, who happens to be the fourth-great nephew of Jane Austen and grew up in the Great House. It is now leased in trust for 125 years.

The Chawton House Library conserves a rare collection of early women’s writing, from 1600 to 1830, which was neglected during the 20th century. While Jane Austen is the most famous woman novelist of her time, others such as Aphra Behn, Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft, also paved the way to the modern novel.

Fans eager to connect the Great House to Austen would note that the library contains the first editions of her novels. She also would have read the books that are in the shelves.

“Some of the books from the Knight collection that the librarian had worked out that we know Jane would have read,” Knight said. “She would have come up here and got permission and read them. So there are books that she would have touched and read herself. We know she came up here to the library quite regularly.”

The Dining Room bears the same long mahogany table at which she dined with her brother’s family when she visited. She would have eaten out of her brother’s Wedgewood dinner service; some of its pieces are in the house museum. Knight inherited the crockery set as a wedding gift from his family.

The Reading Alcove in the Oak Room was one of Austen’s favorite spots from where she would look down the drive.

Among the many portraits is one of her favorite niece, Fanny Knight, while another, a 1783 silhouette, depicts a young Edward Austen being introduced to the Knight family.

During the final part of her life, an ailing Austen moved to Winchester to be closer to her doctor. She died in 1817 and is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

After the author’s passing, her mother and sister continued to live at the house for the rest of their lives. They are buried in the church in the Chawton Estate.

In 1845, the house was split into three dwellings to provide homes for staff on the Chawton estate and the building remained in this state until it went on sale in 1947.

Following an appeal by the Jane Austen Society, the house was bought by a lawyer from London, T. Edward Carpenter, who opened it as a museum in 1949. A registered charity, it’s independent and receives no regular public funding. Jane’s Fund, launched in 2017, raises funds to help protect and restore the home, an ongoing process.

The museum continues to collect her memorabilia and build its collections. A campaign in July raised 35,000 British pounds to retrieve a letter that she wrote. The Bank of England placed her portrait in its new 10-pound note, and the museum asks fans to donate their notes to Jane’s Fund, set up to protect the home. 

On this 70th anniversary year, a special exhibition titled Making the Museum relates the story of the characters, hard work, luck and determination that has gone in to preserve this place of pilgrimage for Austen devotees.

Sadly, she didn’t strike riches when she could have used them; her lifetime’s work earned her as much as her father earned annually. Like many authors that contributed to English literature, she, too, was ushered into greatness posthumously.

Especially after the BBC’s dramatization of Austen’s novels, new legions of fans have discovered her writing and often make their way to the museum. Some are inspired to don a bonnet and gown, which are available to those who want to try yesteryear’s fashion, or dip a quill pen in the inkpot and scratch their names.

Some Janeites have even received offers of marriage in the gardens.

“I know of at least two proposals,” Harris says. “The last we heard about was in 2018 and involved a couple from the States.

“The young girl was a huge Jane Austen fan. Her boyfriend booked her the holiday of a lifetime, brought her to Jane Austen’s House, and then surprised her with his proposal in the garden. He’d even booked a local photographer to capture the moment.”

Austen would have approved.


Gotta Have Art!

As the weather gets cooler, the theater scene is heating up.

This fall, stages across Pasadena and Glendale are showcasing first-class shows with stories that will make audiences laugh, cry and reflect on their own lives through media like dance, performance theater, music and inspirational lectures.

So, grab a warm drink, wrap up in your coziest sweaters and scarves, and prepare yourself for the best entertainment the area has to offer this fall.

Pasadena Playhouse

Pasadena Playhouse has been a hub for creativity in the performing arts world for more than 100 years, and has no plans to slow down. The next century for the theater will bring about many changes. Perhaps the most notable is Pasadena Playhouse’s vision of its purpose, as it transitions from a place of entertainment to a destination of enlightenment through theater. Shows are held at the theater, 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena.

Info: 626-356-7529 or

The fall series includes: “Little Shop of Horrors,” now to October 20; “A Kid Like Jake,” now through to November 3; and “The Great Leap” from November 6 to December 1.

A Noise Within

A Noise Within’s 2019-20 season features three classic plays that fall under the theme, “They Played with Fire.” They demonstrate the trials, tribulations and, ultimately, the power of change through characters who are willing to give their lives to make a difference in the world around them.

Guests will enjoy each robust show in a massive theater erected in 2011 that boasts 324 seats.

A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena.

Info: 626-356-3100 or

The fall lineup for 2019-20 includes: “Gem of the Ocean” through November 16; ‘Buried Child’ from October 13 to November 23; and “A Christmas Carol” from December 4 to December 23.

Boston Court Pasadena

Boston Court Pasadena impeccably blends the drama of theater, movement of music, and an exhibition’s ability to spark one’s curiosity in a single location. Over the next few months, there are seemingly endless opportunities to partake in varied experiences.

Fall will bring about the show “How the Light Gets In,” which highlights the lives of four strangers from drastically different backgrounds, who connect through their loneliness and change each other’s lives entirely when one of them falls apart.

In the auditorium’s lobby, the show will be paired with an art exhibition that plays on the performance’s showcase of vegetation typically seen in Japanese gardens. Both shows are running through October 27. 

The theater also offers music performances of varying types including the conductor-less Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra that was scheduled to perform September 21 and the Grammy-nominated Los Angeles Percussion Quartet set to hit the stage October 17.

Info: 626-683-6891 or

Remaining performances this season include:

• Piano Spheres: Mark Robson, October 4

• Brightwork NewMusic, October 5

• The Viano String Quartet, October 6

• Synchromy, October 12

• Rod Gilfry in Concert, October 18

• Bridge to Everywhere, October 19

• Alexander Miller: To… Oblivion, October 25

• Josh Nelson: Après Un Rêve, October 26

Parson’s Nose Theater

Parson’s Nose Theater believes the classics have withstood the test of time because of the truth they speak to each generation, but also thinks the truth can sometimes be funny.

This season, the theater is featuring “full-out” comedy shows while prematurely celebrating the upcoming centennial year of women’s suffrage. Unlike a large portion of classic plays, in each of the theater’s productions it’s the woman who saves the day.

“Our American Cousin,” the play Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated, will be showcased from October 18 to November 11. The show highlights the story of an awkward and honest American, and her adventures to English relatives as she tries to save her fortune. As per the theater’s culture, the show will include a song and dance or two.

From December 14 to December 22, the Parson’s Nose will also feature a rendition of “A Christmas Carol.” The production is what Parson’s calls “theater unplugged.” During the show, the actors sit along the back of the stage, and present themselves only when needed. In this casual setting they hold their scripts, yet are typically familiar enough with content they’re barely looked over. The actors sing their own carols and create the show’s sound effects by hand and with the help of the audience.

All shows are hosted at Parson’s Nose Theater located at 95 N. Marengo Avenue, Suite 110.

Info: 626-403-7667 or

The Rose

The Rose is an intimate live music venue that serves dinner and also manages to have room for a massive dancefloor. Though the inside is a large space that accommodates all types of music shows each month, the location is comfortably tucked away at 245 E. Green Street, Pasadena. It serves as a focal point for music lovers of all types in the area, and a great place to test out dance moves judgment free.

Remaining shows this season include:

• L.A. Guns, opening sets by Wikkid Starr and Six Gun Sal, October 4

• Jim Messina, October 6

• Brian Howe, opening set by Ampage, October 10

• Jon B, opening set by H’atina, October 12

• A Night with Janis Joplin, October 17

• Todrick: Haus Party Tour, October 19

• Sir Mix-A-Lot, October 26

• Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, November 2

• Judy Collins, November 10

• Los Lonely Boys, November 16

• Queen Nation, opening by Slow Burning Car, November 22

• The Association, opening set by Nick Marechal, November 23

• Jonny Lang, December 7

• DSB Journey Tribute, December 27

• Led Zeppelin Tribute by Led Zepagain, December 28

Info: 888-625-5006 or

Fremont Centre Theatre

Since Fremont Centre Theatre’s start in 1997, Co-Artistic Directors James and Lissa Reynolds have worked to produce shows that promote diversity in society, as well as attract diverse audiences from far and wide.

The theater, located at 1000 Fremont Avenue, South Pasadena, will be showcasing the musical “Annie Jr.” from October 4 to October 27.

The show will bring generations together as the story of orphan Annie walks the audience through her struggle after being abandoned on the doorsteps of a rundown orphanage where she is mistreated. Annie will set out to find her birth parents, but along the way she will adopt an entirely new family—one better than in her dreams. 

Info: 626-269-3609 or

Alex Theatre

The performing arts and entertainment center, Alex Theatre, has been hosting robust events for more than 80 years and has only increased the quality and quantity of events since its doors opened.

Now serving more than 130,000 people per year, the theater located at 216 N Brand Boulevard, Glendale, hosts events including classical, contemporary and world music concerts, film screenings, live theater, stand-up comedy, dance recitals and musicals.

Remaining shows include:

• Live Talks Los Angeles in association with

Glendale Arts presents: An Evening with Bob Iger, October 1

• AEG presents: Yanni, October 3

• Symphonic Concert Management Ltd presents:

Havasi Pure Piano Concert, October 5

• Boundaryless Productions presents:

Where Is Your Groom II?, October 6

• Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange presents: Patti Smith, October 9

• Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre presents:

Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre Goes Broadway, October 13

• Center for Inquiry presents: An Evening with

Richard Dawkins and Ann Druyan, October 20

• Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra presents:

McGegan and Denk, October 26

• Right Angle Entertainment presents: Raffi, October 27

• Alex Film Society presents:

Halloween Classics! “The Old Dark House” (1932) and “The Raven”

(1935) October 27

• Musical Theatre Guild presents: “The Goodbye Girl,” November 10

• Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra presents:

Pulcinella and Prokofiev, November 16

• Los Angeles Ballet presents:

The Nutcracker, December 7 and December 8

Info: 818-243-2539 or

Antaeus Theatre Company

The Antaeus Theatre Company has recently announced its two fall shows, which both share the underlying theme of defying the odds as the past comes back to haunt the present.

The story “Eight Nights,” which the theater will be showing from October 31 to December 16, features the journey of a resilient German Jewish refugee and her family set in a single apartment. From October 3 to November 25, the stage will be absorbed by the cast of “The Abuelas,” a story of an Argentinian concert cellist living in Chicago who will have to face the harsh truths of Argentina’s “Dirty War.”

The theater is located at 110 E Broadway, Glendale.

Info: 818-506-5436 or