California trip day 3: Hollywood Sign Hike

California trip day 3: Hollywood Sign Hike

Day three was departure day from Hollywood to start our trip up the coast. Jessica and I had planned a hike up to the famous Hollywood sign but weren't sure how far we'd get judging by comments made by other people who tried it. The mountain is just a few miles from downtown, so it was a short drive. At first, we got lost because the roads are winding with many intersections, and the GPS would go in and out. Finally, we reached our destination as far as the road would go. There was very limited parking, because the sign is not an "attraction", although it should be. The area where you park is in a residential neighborhood. We walked up the street to the end and entered the paved path beyond a gate marked do not enter. We could see many people beyond the gate and going through the gate, so we decided it was okay to go that far. Just through the gate, you have a great view of the sign, but we wanted to see it up close. We continued down the paved path up the mountain.

California trip day 2: Hollywood

California trip day 2: Hollywood

Day two in Hollywood was very exciting for us. It started out with a bang! Our first priority was to visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame where they have the stars' names on the sidewalk. I didn't realize how many there were until we started walking Hollywood Boulevard.
 I thought they were mainly grouped around the Chinese Theatre where they do the red carpets, but no, they seemingly go on forever. Sandy and Jessica wanted to find Jennifer Aniston's star, so we went on a journey and found ourselves walking blocks to find it.   Fortunately, we were going in the right direction!
Around that time, we saw a film crew setting up on the sidewalk.

California trip day 1: Hollywood

California trip day 1: Hollywood, Pacific Coast Highway, Yosemite and San Francisco.

Taking our niece to California has been a real treat. We're in the middle of the trip, and it has already provided a lifetime of memories for everyone. We flew out of Orlando, Florida early Tuesday morning and arrived in Los Angeles around 11am. Since L.A. is three hours behind east coast time, we still had plenty of time on Tuesday to accomplish a lot.
It was a short wait for a shuttle from the airport to Enterprise for our rental car. I booked months in advance to get the best rate. I checked a few times after I booked just to make sure the rates hadn't gone down. Boy, were we lucky to get the rate we did! It was almost double by the time our trip arrived. We always book our car from the car company's website. Other travel sites usually tack on a few bucks because they are the middle man.
Next we headed to Burbank to eat lunch at Studio Cafe Magazinno,  a small place near Warner Brothers Studio with fresh sandwiches, soup, and desserts. After lunch, we headed around the block to take the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. This was actually our third VIP tour at Warner Brothers and the first time for our niece. The good news is that this tour was very different from the prior two tours. Each guide puts their own spin on the different sections of the lot and takes you to different areas. This time, we not only drove around to the other sets and buildings, but also got to tour the prop house where people can rent props by the day.
No cameras were allowed on the set where Two and A Half Men is recorded. It's amazing how small and dull the sets look without all of the lights and "Hollywood effects". Visiting the Friends set never gets old for us! We got to sit on the orange couch in Central Perk for a few pictures. 
Being on the Warner Brothers studio lot is like being in Denali National Park for us ... Trying to spot a celebrity among the people and buildings is like trying to see a moose or a bear in the brush. We were excited when we spotted "Raj" from Big Bang Theory hanging outside with some other guys. He was very friendly as he waved and said "Hey guys".
It was an excellent tour and highly recommended anytime you are visiting the LA area. You'll be surprised at how many movies and TV shows were filmed there.
After the tour we were ready to get dinner before our next big adventure. We went to The Counter. It was a nice, clean restaurant in Studio City. We happened to hit it at happy hour when appetizers were half off and mini burgers were $2.00 each. We had the chili cheese fries, sweet potato fries, and the mini burgers. Everything was delicious.

From dinner we proceeded to CBS Studios to see the taping of Last Man Standing with Tim Allen. You can get tickets at for free. The catch is to get there early, because it is first come first seated, and there are no guarantees that you will get in. It's worth taking the chance if you are visiting the Hollywood area for any length of time. After we got seated, they brought out a very funny comedian to get us warmed up for the show and keep us energized during breaks. Just before the taping started, the cast came out for their introductions. The actors did a great job and we were able to witness some great live bloopers. One time, Tim Allen opened the door into his forehead. Another time, "Mandy" had a drink spilled on her. The whole process took about three to four hours to complete. In the middle of the show, pizza was served with water to keep everyone happy and energized. No cameras are allowed on set, otherwise I would have posted one here. It's a great thing to put on your bucket list if you like sitcoms.
That concluded day one, and we were exhausted! Have you seen stars in Hollywood? Do you have an L.A. experience to share?

Bypass the phone prompts and get me a human!

Bypass the phone prompts and get me a human!

Ever try to get through to a company on the phone only to get lost in phone prompt madness??!! It's the touch tone game, and if you press the right combination of numbers or letters you might just get a real person on the line. Then, just when you think you're getting somewhere and you've been on hold for thirty minutes, all of the sudden the hold music stops. You think, this is going one of two ways. I'm either getting transferred to someone human (excited!) or I just got disconnected (furious!). Usually it's the latter of the two.

You can save yourself a bunch of time by going straight to the website that will tell you how to get a real person on the line in the shortest amount of time. It's called They give you the buttons to push to get a human as soon as humanly possible. There is even a customer feedback area where people leave comments about their experience and tips for improved service. Also the hold times are published so you know approximately how much of your day will be tied up with these corporate giants. I kept this article short and sweet so you can get on with your life and make that call! Please leave comments below. Comments make the world go round!

Day 8 & 9: Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time

Day 8 & 9: Tips for Visiting The Big Apple, New York City for the first time.

The last couple of days on our trip were less planned and less hectic. We were able to visit all of the sights on our list with some time left over on the last days to relax somewhat. After we relocated to the downtown Crowne Plaza Hotel, we decided to hit Good Morning America live. It was just a block or so from our hotel. We decided to make signs advertising our business and were lucky enough to get substantial air time!
After that, a spur of the moment decision led us to a Yankees home game! The subway has a station right at the stadium, so it was very convenient. There is also a Hard Rock Cafe in the stadium, so I made sure to get a souvenir pin! It was a great game complete with a grand slam. The Yankees won.
All in all I think after our nine day adventure, we can say we conquered New York City. After returning home to Florida we found out that we are having our first baby thanks to our NYC vacation!! A souvenir to last a lifetime!
 If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post below. Comments make the world go round!


Installing Windows 7 System Builder vs. Regular Retail Version

Installing Windows 7 System Builder vs. Regular Retail Version:

So you want to upgrade your PC operating system and you're wondering what the heck is the "system builder" version. I recently built a mid tower desktop computer system and was wondering the same thing when it came to installing my new operating system. I had XP Pro on the previous system, and I wanted to keep the old hard drive, but have a new OS installed on a new SSD boot drive. After reading all of the horror stories about wiping your drive to install Windows 7, I opted to just add the SSD, and keep all of my old files on the old hard drive. I did my research about the system builder version of Windows 7 and was still hesitant about my abilities to install it without having issues that I couldn't resolve on my own. It turns out that the system builder version is made for system builders that install operating systems on the computers that they build for resale. You can find Windows 7 System Builder on Amazon at a greatly reduced price from the regular retail version. The catch is two fold. First is that you do not have any technical assistance available with this product like you would if you installed the retail version. Secondly, once installed, it is permanently linked to the motherboard on that computer. So you will not be able to reinstall the software on another system if it crashes...etc without a whole lot of aggravation.
My thinking was...I've installed full operating systems and upgraded OSs before so how hard could it be. It had been a while, but I didn't remember having any major issues when I did. Plus for the cost savings on the SB version I could buy two for the price of one retail version. If I ever had to replace the motherboard or move the hardware to a new system I would come out even anyway so it's worth a shot! I ordered the OS and it arrived in the mail a few days later for the install. It was a straight forward install just like I thought it would be. It was exactly the same steps as installing the retail version. Registration was smooth and I was up and running in an hour or two. Make sure you buy the correct OS version (32 or 64 bit) depending on your hardware setup. I don't consider myself a pro builder by any means. I'm more of a do it yourself-er. So if you have a decent amount of computer knowledge, you shouldn't have any issues installing the system builder version. Good luck and if you have any questions, feel free to ask here.