Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Town Monday: La Jolla, CA (3 days late)

Oh my, my. What has happened to me? I've been sucked into the vortex of end-of-the-school-year activities and beginning-of-the-summer activities.

Ambitious Child #3 (15 year-old son) decided he'd like to get a Spanish high-school class under his belt this summer, no mean feat in the impoverished California public school system. After weeks of internet searches and phone calls, we finally found a course--at a posh private school! So, for 4 weeks, 6 hours a day, he's getting a little glimpse into another world.

Likewise, Child #4 (11 year-old daughter) and I have migrated along with him to swanky La Jolla. She's enrolled in various morning camps to allow her mother some writing time. So, I'll be posting to you from a variety of locations in La Jolla over the next while.

Check us out:

After dropping off Child #3, we head over to La Jolla Shores for breakfast on the beach. This is Child #3 and a good friend, munching it up before heading to a shark camp.

The surf is up! All those black dots are surfers. Very fun to watch. But not great for shark spotting as the great surfing waves means churned-up water with less-than-stellar visibility for enthusiastic snorkellers.

After dropping off the girls, I wander the streets of La Jolla, my laptop in tow, looking for an open library (once again, not easy in these times of budget cuts) or an interesting coffee shop.

And we'd like to recommend Pizza on Pearl for lunch where they serve all sorts of thin-crust-New-York pizza, by the slice or the pie.

It's never to late to check out My-Town-Monday posts! Please click here for links to what's going on in other corners of the world.

Hope you're enjoying your summer!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Today Child #2 graduates from high school!

Well, well, Child #2, here you are at 19 days old. (Sorry about the blurry picture. I must learn to use the scanner.)

And today, sometime after 6 pm (who knows how long it will take to get to the latter half of the alphabet!), you will graduate from high school.

You really haven't changed much. You're still mellow and easy-going, able to charm people from all walks of life. Your smile literally beams. You're a hard worker and self-motivated, determined to do your best. You have a terrific sense of humor, much more refined now. (Your father and I are glad you have grown out of the habit of pitching everything off your highchair tray, then laughing maniacally.) You're smart, athletic, thoughtful, insightful. You're a fine friend, son and student. In any order.

Occidental College is lucky to get you.

I'm very proud of you.

And, no, I wasn't kidding about the skyping. We want to see your shining face very Sunday evening.

Love, Mom xo

p.s. You might consider returning to a diet that includes more fruit and vegetables. Just a little something to keep in mind when you're making food choices in the college cafeteria.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Town Monday: Stopping to Smell the Roses, San Diego, CA

Last week, I did an author visit at Cajon Park School in my own little town of Santee, CA. I got to speak to all the 4th, 5th and 6th graders in two assemblies. The visit went super well. These students are incredibly creative and inquisitive and respectful--all good ingredients for a successful visit. Thank you to everyone involved in setting it up. (Principal Ginn-May, Librarian Siebern, PTA, anyone I may have forgotten).

Note to Cajon Park students: Great job on creating characters Emily and Hailey! Some of you need to write stories starring one of these protagonists. Yes, the characters are THAT good!

I have to think it must be particularly empowering (to use an overused word) for students to meet a very local author. Because a very local author goes to your library and shops at the same grocery store as your family and works out at the same gym as your mother. This must make writing a book and getting it published or, in a larger sense, attaining any dream, seem so much more manageable and doable. Which is the way it should be because a dream is attainable. I'm just guessing about the local author stuff. There were no author visits, local or otherwise, at my elementary school when I was growing up.

Before I forget, thank you Middle-Grade Author Ellen Booraem for sharing your Character Chasing exercise. We had lots of fun with it!

I always learn a thing or two and usually more at a school visit. Here are a few of my thoughts following this visit.

I had lunch with some of the students, and we ate in this very amazing garden. Cajon Park School's garden is run by a mother-daughter team (hello Judy and Liz!) with lots of student help. Students learn (I'm sure they're not even aware they're learning most of the time) in this garden. This shot shows just a small segment of the garden.

We sampled apples and cucumbers from the garden. Now, I thought we couldn't grow apples in San Diego because we have such a short cold period, and apple trees need dormant time. But, it turns out there are two varieties that do well here: the Anna apple (needs 150-200 cold hours/year) and the Beverly Hills apple (needs 100 cold hours/yr). So, the Anna apple does a little better inland (where I live) while the Beverly Hills apple does better along the coast. I want an Anna apple tree (Mr. Summy, are you reading this post?).

I love raised flower beds. But I'd never thought of using plastic decking (such as Trex decking) to build the walls. Brilliant idea!

They have four composting bins built of leftover pallettes and chicken wire. The shiny round object in the middle is a special composting thermomter that not only tells you the temperature inside the mulch, but also what the temperature means.

I ended up staying to chat (imagine!) for a while in the garden. Liz offered me some frog spit (a lime sherbet push-up!). I left with homegrown carrots, green tomatoes (which I'm frying this evening) and a bouquet of flowers.

Even better, I left feeling relaxed.

And it occurred to me as I drove the short twelve minutes home, that I don't feel enough of that. And who would've expected a school visit to result in a kick-back, de-stressed state? ;)

Please click here for links to more My Town Monday posts! It's always fun to see what's going on in other corners of the world.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Town Monday: Feathers in San Diego, CA

A huge craze right now in my neck of the woods (and perhaps in yours) is feather hair extensions.

Over Memorial Weekend, Child #4 and I spent a day at at the annual Vista Strawberry Festival. (Vista's about 42 miles northwest of our house.) I was tied up for a while with several very fun local romance authors, giving writing workshops and signing books.

A few booths down from us were a couple of hairstylists offering feather extensions. Keep these 3 points in mind: I needed to keep Child #4 occupied. She'd been coveting feathers. It was the day before her 11th birthday. You see where I'm heading....

The day before, Child #4's good friend attended our Santee Street Fair and, you guessed it, got feathers.

Here's the result. Yes, it's the perfect example of birds of a feather flock together. Ha! Aren't they in fine feather?!

And now, after the fact, here's some interesting info about feather extensions. (Thank you for the link, CJ.)

-The long, skinny saddle feathers are found on the backside of roosters.
-These rooster feathers are used to make fishing lures.
-The roosters are genetically bred to produce these feathers.
-The roosters often do not survive the plucking.
-Fly fishermen are unhappy about the current feather hair fashion because roosters feathers are now tougher to find and more expensive.

Who knew a trip to a nearby street fair would result in feather extensions which would result in this post. You could've knocked me over with a feather! ha! Or perhaps this post is a feather in my cap! More ha!

I will show the white feather and cease with these silly puns! Instead of tar and feathering me (which, quite frankly, would be very extreme!), please click here for links to more My Town Monday posts! It's always fun to see what's going on in other corners of the world.

May your Monday be pleasant and calm with no one ruffling your feathers! Last pun, seriously!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Book Review Club (June 2011)

Welcome to our June meeting of The Book Review Club. Perhaps you are clutching a bouquet of sweet peas or wearing a string of pearls or pearl-studded cuff links because . . . this is our 30th meeting!! Squee! Good for us, keeping this little book review club going despite life's many and varied obstacles! Again this month, we bring you great reviews of all manner of books. So, please continue scrolling after my review for the links to all the other marvelous reviewers!


When Jasmin Darznik is in her twenties, her father dies. In the process of helping her widowed mother, Lili, downsize, Jasmin discovers a photo of her mother, aged 13, dressed in Iranian wedding clothes. In the photo, Lili stands next to a groom and looks as though she's about to burst into tears. Jasmin confronts her mother who refuses to speak about this secret part of her past. Eventually, Lili sends audio cassettes, one at a time, to her daughter. The audio cassettes describe Lili's past, a past with an abusive marriage, a daughter born when Lili was 14, a divorce at 15, and the forced abandonment of her child as per Islamic law.

Each chapter of THE GOOD DAUGHTER begins with passages spoken by Lili on the tapes. This book is written in beautiful, lyrical language with a generous sprinkling of Iranian terms. Lili's is an uplifting story. She is a brave, resourceful woman who left an arranged marriage, moved to Germany to study midwifery, married a German engineer, then returned to Iran to help its women.

I'm happy to recommend THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Jasmin Darznik.

And, now, onto our amazing reviews. Click away!


Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: THE GOOD MASTER by Kate Seredy (middle grade, a Newbery Honor back in 1935)

Lucy Sartain of Ranting and Raving: FOURTH GRADE FAIRY by Eileen Cook (middle grade)

Kaye of the Road Goes Ever Ever On: THREE CUPS OF TEA by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (Young Reader's Edition)

Sarah Laurence: WHAT CANT WAIT by Ashley Hope Perez (young adult, review + interview)

Keri Mikulski: TWENTY BOY SUMMER by Sarah Ockler (young adult)

Alyssa Goodnight of the Writers' Road Less Traveled: THE LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa and Laura Roecker (young adult, mystery)

Beth Yarnall: THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE by Liz Gallagher (young adult)


Scott Parker: GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN by George Mann (science fiction)

Staci of Life in the Thumb: CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin (literary)

Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE GALLOWS BIRD by Camilla Lackberg (mystery)

Linda McLaughlin: A FIERCE RADIANCE by Lauren Belfer (historical)

Lindi Lamont: THE SURGEON'S LADY by Carla Kelly (Regence Romance)

Stacy of The Cat's Meow: CALEB'S CROSSING by Geraldine Brooks (historical)


Patti Abbott: A WIDOW'S STORY by Joyce Carol Oates

Sarahlynn of Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips: ASSASSINATION VACATION by Sarah Vowell

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!