Monday, June 29, 2009

My Town Monday: Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara

San Diego sunset (because I'm back home and it's an evening post) :)

I should really rename this post My Town Monday EVENING EDITION!

It was a busy weekend. I was in Santa Barbara from Thursday to Sunday with Child #3 for a water polo tournament. Very fun times. Child #3 played well. The weather was great. I shared a hotel room with another mother and her son. They dynamics among the four of us were perfect. However...the traffic back down to San Diego last night was HORRENDOUS! And, I already had plans for today.

Hence, the very late (fashionably late?) My Town Monday post. ;)

So...Santa Barbara....There are many, many things to do in this town of about 100,000 (including outlying areas such as Goleta and Carpenteria). From The Santa Barbara Natural History Museum to Chumash Painted Cave State Park to University of California, Santa Barbara to the Summer Solstice Parade to....and the list goes on. There is A LOT to do in Santa Barbara and its environs.

For this evening's post, we're going to stroll along Stearns Wharf. This wharf is visited by FIVE MILLION PEOPLE A YEAR! We won't be lonely. And many pelicans (who love to hang out at the end of the wharf)!

We'll start our walk at the three dolphin entrance.

Some facts and a little history:
-Stearns Wharf was built in 1872 to handle both passenger and freight shipping.
-It's mostly built of creosote, a chemical that helps protects it from sea water damage
-The Wharf has dealt with a fair number of natural disasters such as earthquakes, wars and fires.
-It was named after its builder, John Peck Stearns.
-It's the oldest operating wharf on this coast.

Some things we can do on the Wharf:
-learn about the future from psychic Madam Rosinka
-stop for a bite to eat at one of several restaurants, such as at Longboards Grill or Moby Dick's
-shop at Mother Stearns Candy Company!! I love candy!!
-visit the Coastal Winery
-buy souvenirs for our friends back home from Coastal Treasures
-pop into the Stearns Wharf Bait and Tackle to get outfitted for some fishing
-squeeze in another visit to Mother Stearns Candy Company

We really would have fun, wouldn't we?

Here's a link for a virtual tour of Stearns Wharf

Please pop over to Travis Erwin's blog. He's our Fearless Leader for My Town Mondays. Along with his own MTM post, he'll have a list of participants.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

odds and ends ( all good)

HUGE quadratic-formula-like congratulations to Child #3 who just finished GRADE 7. And who, a couple of weeks ago, took the high school district math test for entrance into HIGH SCHOOL HONORS GEOMETRY.

HE PASSED! So, next fall, he'll start his school day in 9th grade honors math, then return to middle school for the rest of his classes.

This is proof positive that dh's brilliant math genes totally dominated my very sorry math genes. Probably at the embryonic stage. Because all my children are better at math than their mother. Which leads me to believe that my math gene is BLANK!

Anyway, seeing your child succeed where you would've failed is...I'm not sure how to describe it, but it's an incredible, floaty feeling.

One of my sisters and her three girls are coming down this summer. My sister is fun and sensitive and interesting. Someone you want as a your BFF. And she'll be under my roof for close to two weeks. I CAN'T WAIT! I've already started stockpiling meals in my freezer so we'll have lots of time to play and still be able to feed our kids. Thank you Southwest for the great deals from Buffalo to San Diego.

Today I rewrote the first paragraph of I So Don't Do Makeup. (Waves to Editor Wendy who may or may not have been expecting this!) I read aloud the revamped paragraph to Child #2 who paused after I'd finished, then said, "Oh, that's good."

Yes, I raised his allowance.

Oh, and you know that the nanosecond I have a cover for Makeup, it's up here on the blog. The nanosecond.

So, you're all having a good summer so far, right?

Monday, June 22, 2009

My Town Monday: Oceanside Pier

At feet, 1954 feet, this is our longest wooden pier on the west coast. The Oceanside Pier is open 24 hours and offers a great stroll with views of the beach and surfers. In case you need to know, restrooms are located at the Pier's halfway mark. There's a nice little restaurant (Ruby's Diner, 760-433-7829) at the end.

The Oceanside Pier is located in.....Oceanside, CA (sometimes life is not full of surprises!). Oceanside is a North County community located 35 miles north of San Diego. It's fairly close to Legoland and the Wild Animal Park and Mission San Luis Rey.

You do not need a fishing license to cast off from the pier. The general consensus is that live bait works best, especially anchovies. Some fish you might catch: mackerel, croaker, halibut, sand bass and guitarfish. I gather it depends on where you stand on the Pier and what you use as bait.

A couple of things to watch out for:
1. There can be friction between surfers and fishermen. The old territorial thing.
2. Throw back undersized white sea bass. You want to be nice and give them a chance to grow up. Also, it's illegal to keep them, and there's a fine.

For more info about the Pier, call 760-722-1534. Oh, and an interesting book: Pier Fishing in California

Next Monday, I will be posting about a different fun pier that's NOT in San Diego because....I won't be in San Diego. How's that for a little cloak and dagger?

Please surf over (corny, but it kinda works!) to Travis Erwin's blog. He's our Fearless Leader for My Town Mondays. Along with his own MTM post, he'll have a list of participants.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

And the summer fun begins!

Setup: Child #2 is 15 years old. Child #4 is newly 9.

Child #2: Can I put a chameleon on your head?

Child #4: (stops sipping her drink and frowns, thinking): Okay.


It's going to be an interesting summer...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Live Long and Prosper

***EDITED: Ack. I don't think the toe-nail one was meant to be high up on the list. At some point, I just started typing items because I remembered them, not because I remembered then in any particular order. So, sorry, sorry, sorry, if I've sent you all off on a quest for zinc lotion.

Actually, I think the doctor started by just giving me five items, and then I pushed for more. So, probably toe nails was way way down there. At the level of when she was done with answering and ready to shoo me out of the office.

I do, finally, remember the item that escaped me when I originally posted: Make regular visits to the dentist.***

I recently switched primary physicians. We had a meet-and-greet-your-doctor appointment. I live a life filled with lists. It's my survival strategy. (Thank goodness for real estate agents who drop long pads of paper by my front door.) I trundled off to meet Dr. K., armed with a list of questions. I thought I'd share Dr. K's medical words of wisdom concerning longevity and general health.

Me: What is the age of your oldest patient?
Dr. K: She's in her 90s.

Me: What kind of shape is she in?
Dr. K: Good. She's still living alone.

Me: What are your ten top pieces of advice for people who'd like to reach this age and beyond, while maintaining good health?

Dr. K:

1. Don't smoke.

2. Don't be over weight.

3. Exercise regularly. Three of four times a week.

4. Drink alcohol in moderation.

5. Wear sunscreen every day. Pay particular attention to your face and your left arm.

6. If your toe nails thicken and yellow, treat twice a day with zinc lotion.

7. Take your vitamins daily. (And she told me what amounts of various vitamins and minerals, especially calcium, to take.)

8. Check that your multi-vitamin dissolves easily by dropping it in a cup of water. It should dissolve within an hour.

9. Get enough sleep, seven or eight hours nightly.

10. I've forgotten #10. Hopefully, it wasn't the most important suggestion! The golden key to longevity, as it were.

Do you have anything to add to the list?

You can click here for a yahoo article with solid suggestions for staying healthy.

We can all get healthy together!

And totally off topic....sorry, but there is no way to segue into this....does anyone have knowledge of SAT prep courses? I'd love to hear of any experiences with University of San Diego's program. And, well, just any program at all. Child #2 is interested in starting to study for his SATs.

I'm headed back to the dentist early tomorrow morning with Child #4. I swear that girl doesn't have any enamel.

And...congratulations to Child #3 and Child #4! You made it all the way through grade 7 and grade 3, respectively. Friday is the first day of summer vacations. (I don't want to spoil the moment, but there will be to-do lists this summer.)

A few people have asked me detail my summer plans. I will. I'm not quite done, scrambling to work out last-minute details. I realized today that I had seriously overbooked Child #4. I'll have to slow life down a little for her. And, consequently, for me!

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Town Monday: Mr. Sandman

Aerial view of cul de sac

There is a little public street that runs off Silver Strand Blvd and leads to the beach close to the Hotel del Coronado. Avenida del Sol. There are a couple of reasons to be aware of this street.

First, it's a cul-de-sac that offers free parking with great beach access.

Second, you're likely to see sand art by our very own Coronado Sandman.

Yes, yes, that's some at the top of this post! With a broom and a dust pan and sand trekked off the beach to the street, Alberto Avilla AKA the Coronado Sandman creates. He claims his inspiration comes from an angel who speaks to him. If you catch him at work, don't hesitate to say hi. He's friendly and chatty. He dresses in a cap and old suit. He doesn't have a lot of teeth left, but he loves to design "sand formations" which is what he calls his art. He has received a few citations based on complaints by citizens.

Look for his art on the cul de sac and on the sidewalk leading to the Hotel del. Cars drives over it. People walk on it. The sand pictures are quite long lasting, though.

If you happen to visit the area on a day without art (or if you don't have plans to visit San Diego), you can keep an eye on the Coronado webcam.

Last week, Child #4 and I were meandering along Avenida del Sol, admiring the sand art. But I'd forgotten my camera.

Luckily, my psychic niece (who occasionally comments on this blog) still had the photos she'd taken on her last trip out to visit us. And she emailed them to me. Thanks, Stef! Here they are for your viewing pleasure!

Here's the man himself!

You can friend him on myspace.

And on facebook

Please pop over to Travis Erwin's blog. He's our Fearless Leader for My Town Mondays. Along with his own MTM post, he'll have a list of participants.


Friday, June 12, 2009


Elizabeth of About New York asked me if I'd participate in a blog round-up about plates.

Plates? I thought to myself. What is that woman on about?

Then I thought about how Elizabeth has more creativity in her baby finger than I do in my entire body. And I decided that plates were no doubt a brilliant idea for a blog round-up. I just wasn't with the program yet. After all, Elizabeth once convinced me to join a round-up about doors. And that turned out to be uber interesting.

So, here goes... PLATES!

A few years ago, I decided eclectic was the way to go. And I stopped matching my plates. At first, my children were a little shocked. But, they've gradually warmed up to the idea.

So, if you have dinner at our house, your plate will be different from the plate of the person on your left and different again from the person on your right. It certainly makes for a colorful table!

Without further ado, let me introduce you to some of our plates.

This is a very pretty peach-colored flower plate. Child #4 loves it.

This Christmas plate was a gift from a friend and arrived loaded down with Christmas cookies. I use this plate year round.

This melamine Mickey Mouse plate is left over from days when my kids were younger.

My mother-in-law bought me this platter. She found it at a garage sale in Oklahoma. A little sentimentality and recycling all rolled into one.

Not a plate! But while you're getting to know me through my dinnerware, I offer up my favorite mug. It's a Halloween mug, a little chipped and what I drink tea from every morning. In fact, I may be sipping from it as you read this post!

And I leave you with a nursery rhyme about a plate:

Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon,
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

This 1765 nursery rhyme may be about more than amusing children. It might be about life in Queen Elizabeth I's court with the cat representing the Queen and the dog representing Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Some believe the plate is the Queen's serving lady, while the spoon is the royal taster. When these two fell in love and ran off together, the Queen had them found and locked up in the Tower of London. Blogger Elizabeth really was onto something. Plates can be more than the sum of their foods. (At the moment, this sounds clever to me. But will it still tomorrow morning?)

Now, I'm off to Elizabeth's blog, About New York, to see what she and the other participants have come up with for this round-up about plates.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

She bites him!

This is a picture I took last night of our female veiled chameleon. I could practically be a famous nature photographer!

And onto the news...

Our female chameleon BIT the male!

Holy reptile! But this is unheard of!

He has always been the dominant eater. Pushing her away from the tupperware dish where we release the crickets and worms. Stepping on her if she doesn't move fast enough. Hissing at her.

But she's smart. She figured out there's no reason to run and hide when we creak open the cage door. We're just leaving nibblies.

So, yesterday, I unlatched the door. He scurried off, in the true manner of a frightened bully. She waited on the edge of plastic container. I plopped in three meal worms, a new treat for them.

She focused on them (both eyes looking in the same direction, for a change). She opened her mouth.

Before she could shoot out her sticky-ended tongue, he strutted down the branch, knocked right into her, and gobbled up the three meal worms.

She couldn't believe it. Both her roving eyes registered disbelief. Her mouth still agape, she leaned forward and bit him on the shoulder. There was a brief nose-to-nose face-off, then he backed away.

Here's a grainy picture of him backing away while she stands her ground on the now-empty container. I was shooting through the cage. This is an example of why I'm NOT a famous nature photographer!

So, what's going on? Why is our female veiled suddenly showing chutzpah?

I think all those hours alone in a damp, dark tunnel of wet sand changed our little girl. She wasn't just down there laying twenty-three eggs. She was learning an important lesson about herself. She discovered an inner core of strength and courage. And a bunch of self-esteem.

You go, girl!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

High School's Out for Summer

Yesterday was my 15 year old's last day of school before summer vacation.

On the way home, we stopped at our local convenience store to pick up a cold drink. This place has, hands down, the best fountain diet coke in San Diego County. But I digress.

So, I'm standing in line, sipping the best diet coke around and thinking about that summer-vacation feeling.

The cashier says, "What's new?"

"It's the last day of high school," I reply.

"Oh no," says the postman standing next to me. He slumps.

"What's the matter?" I ask.

"Now, they'll all go home and let their dogs out."

How very very interesting. I would never have equated high-schoolers-home-for-the-summer with increased danger for mailmen.

It's all in your perspective.

And I'll all about characters and their perspectives at the moment. I got I So Don't Do Makeup back from Editor Wendy. And, while I'm taking care of the suggested revisions, I'm also checking to make sure the dialog and actions and metaphors fit the character. Such as, does the character who loves snacks and junk food uncover the hot sauce clue?

Oh, and, by the way, the revisions aren't too bad at all. Yay!!

And, now about something totally different (sorry, I couldn't think of a smooth segue!)...

A contest where you can win a $75 gift card to spend on books!

Eileen Cook is celebrating the six-month release anniversary of her book, What Would Emma Do? Click over to Eileen Cook's blog for details.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Book Review Club (June Meeting)

Welcome, welcome one and all to our FIFTH get together! I know, it's incredible. Well, really, it's not all that incredible. You take a bunch of good books, a bunch of enthusiastic reviewers, and toss them out in the blogosphere and, pouf, you have our amazing Book Review Club.

So, grab a cup of coffee and a cookie or two, and settle in for some terrific reviews. This month, we'll be talking young adult and adult. And even about a picture book. We'll bring you mysteries and historicals and biographies and more. Fair warning. Your to-be-read pile will grow!

Before beginning, though, I have some sad news. Last Friday morning, my high school English teacher died in hospital. He was sixty-eight. Today is his funeral. Mr. Peter Magee was an awesome awesome teacher. If it weren't for him and his passion for reading and writing and creativity, I wouldn't be a writer. I'm truly honored to share that the acknowledgment to him at the front of I So Don't Do Mysteries will be part of the eulogy. I wish I'd written more. I certainly could've. I will do a proper post about Mr. Magee. But I didn't want the day of his funeral to come and go without paying some tribute on the blog. At eleven o'clock Eastern Daylight Time, I'll have a moment of quiet time in his honor.

Condolences to all his friends and family. Especially to David.

And, now, a book review.

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby was published in 2005. It is his fourth book.

The plotting is exquisite. The dialog is a work of art. The voices of each of the four characters is unique. And in first person, which I love. The humor is biting and wry. If you haven't figured it out yet, A Long Way Down is my favorite Hornby book.

From the New York Times Book Review: One New Year's Eve, four people with very different reasons but a common purpose, find their way to the top of a fifteen-story building in London. None of them has calculated that, on a date humans favor for acts of significance, in a place known as a local suicide-jumper's favorite, they might encounter company. A Long Way Down is the story of what happens next, and what doesn't..."

The four characters are Martin Sharp, Maureen, Jess Crichton, and J.J.

Martin is a middle-aged British TV personality who made the huge mistake of getting involved with a fifteen-year-old girl. He spent three months in prison, ruined his career, his marriage and his relationship with his two young daughters.

Maureen is a fifty-one, a single mother who has given years of her life caring for a severely disabled son.

Jess Crichton is an angry self-centered eighteen year old. She's the daughter of a local politician and does not get along with her parents. Her sister went missing a few years prior.

J.J. is an American musician who's delivering pizza in London. His band broke up and his girlfriend dumped him.

At the end of Act I, Jess convinces everyone not to jump, but to help her find her ex-boyfriend. And, thus, this oddball group joins forces and agrees to climb down from the roof. They plan to meet at regular intervals. And each meeting is zany and poignant and never what I'm expecting.

This review is definitely not capturing the humor in the book. Sorry about that. A Long Way Down really is funny. For example, at the end of Act I, they decide to give life another six weeks and arrange a Valentine's Day get-together. From the book:

Martin shook his head, but it was to indicate defeat rather than refusal. "We'll all live to regret it," he said.

A Long Way Down will probably be made into a movie. Yay. Johnny Depp bought the film rights. More yay.

From the author's website, here's a description of a typical day: 'I have an office round the corner from my home. I arrive there between 9:30 and 10 a.m., smoke a lot, write in horrible little two-and-three sentence bursts, with five-minute breaks in between. Check for emails during each break, and get irritated if there aren't any. Go home for lunch. If I'm picking up my son I leave at 3:30. If not, I stay till six. It's all pretty grim! And so dull!'

If you'd like to read an online interview with Nick Hornby, click here.


Below are links to our wonderful and amazing reviewers. Enjoy!


Sarahlynn of Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips: A SOUP OPERA by Jim Gill


Linda McLaughlin: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman (middle grade)

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: NATION by Terry Pratchett. Includes an interesting look at his books for adults vs. his books for kids.

Stacy Nyikos: SHIFT by Jen Bradbury

Thao of serene hours: TWENTY BOY SUMMER by Sarah Ockler

Kathy Holmes: GIRLFRIEND MATERIAL by Melissa Kantor


Sarah Laurence: DUNE ROAD (USA)/GIRL FRIDAY (UK) by Jane Green. Includes an author interview.

Sandy Levin of Peaceful Heart Stained Glass: THE ULTRAMIND SOLUTION by Mark Hyman, M.D.

Jenn Jilks: THE MIND OF NORMAN BETHUNE by Roderick Stewart (biography)

Beth Yarnall: SURRENDER TO A WICKED SPY by Celeste Bradley (historical)

David Cranmer of The Education of a Pulp Writer: L.A. OUTLAWS by T. Jefferson Parker

Scott Parker of SF Safari: COUNTDOWN (the Star Trek graphic novel) by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman

From the Desk of Bee Drunken: HEARTS AND MINDS by Amanda Craig

Alyssa Goodnight: THIS ROUGH MAGIC by Mary Stewart

Keri Mikulski: THE YEAR OF THE FOG by Michelle Richmond

Kaye of the Book Review Forum: WILD INDIGO by Sandi Ault (mystery)

P.S. If I left you off the list by mistake, just leave a comment. I'll get it right!