Monday, July 27, 2009

My Town Monday: Birch Aquarium

Money-saving tip: Present your AAA or CAA card to save $1.00 off the ticket of each person in your group.

I am very late posting this week's My Town Monday. BUT this is really what I did today, along with my visiting sister, her three children and a couple of my children. AND, technically, it's still Monday...

So, we went to Birch Aquarium. And had fun. And even learned stuff.

The first thing we did was eat our picnic lunch. Let's just say that we're a slow-moving group, and we so did not get there when they opened the doors at 9 a.m. Not even close. Also, my THREE wrong turns, even with my navigator (I'm a poor listener), didn't help matters.

This is a sarcastic fringehead. It's my favorite fish. Although only 9 inches long, it's feisty and loaded with attitude, even charging scuba divers. It has bushy eyebrows. You can find it hanging around off the California coast about 10 to 200 feet down. The sarcastic fringehead lives in holes and old bottles, especially beer bottles. Females usually mate with the largest male and then leave the eggs in the male's shelter where he'll guard them. HOWEVER, females do not like to mate with males who live in old and dirty shelters.

I can just imagine the conversation:
Him: Hi there, baby. I can eat my weight in fish. I'm easily the buffest fringehead on the reef.
Her: Do you pick up after yourself? How often do you clean? When was the last time you dusted? Let me check out the inside of your bottle.

(BTW, I did not take this photo as my camera (which must be squeezed tightly in order to keep light from sneaking through the right-hand side) is messing up more and more.)

Below is some Birch Aquarium poetry to help you remember marine facts. (Which you can recite at cocktail parties, impressing everyone to no end!)

And, last but certainly not least, I leave you with a shot of me and my little sister in a shark's mouth.

Yes, we are naturally that cool! It's a family curse.

If you're in town, you'll want to take in Birch Aquarium. It's interesting and educational with some very cool exhibits. It's not even particularly expensive. There's a neato tide pool area outside. I personally poked at a sea star and a sea cucumber today. The view of the ocean below is stunning. You'll get a decent dose of info about environmental issues (easily skipped if you're not in the mood) such as the green house because this IS California. Here's the contact info: 2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92093-0001 phone: (858) 534-3474

Tomorrow: the beach! I'm the proud owner of a brand new boogie board. Oh, you didn't know I was an expert boogie boarder? Okay. Fine. I'm not. But I do catch the odd wave. Especially when Child #2 stands next to me in the ocean and shouts, "Jump, Mom!" just as a promising wave approaches.

For links to the other MTM participants, please head over to our My Town Monday blog which was set up by the lovely and talented Clair Dickson.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Here's my adorable little sister. Of course, she's all grown up now. She's a mother, a wife, a teacher. But she'll always be my little sister. (Whether she likes it or not.)

A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. ~Marion C. Garretty

Having a sister is like having a best friend you can't get rid of. You know whatever you do, they'll still be there. ~Amy Li

You can kid the world. But not your sister. ~Charlotte Gray

Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet. ~Vietnamese Proverb

And here's a quotation that is true, true, true:

Who sees to it that my head stays the right size? ~Pam Brown

My sister and her three daughters arrive at the airport in two hours, 50 minutes. The house is cleaned. The beds are made. A few meals are planned and in the freezer. Even Dorothy the Dog is groomed and sporting pink bows around her ears.


This week's My Town Monday post will be about whatever we end up doing on Monday. Maybe even just lolling around the pool!

Here we are, the three sisters. We're on a boat in Muskoka, Ontario. It's a summer many moons ago!

EDITED TO ADD: It's 1:00 a.m., and my sister and I are finally going to bed. We've been talking for about 3 hours. We barely stopped to take a breath. Tomorrow? More of the same!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

another update from veiled chameleon cage...

I thought you guys might want to know what's happening in the world of our veiled chameleons.

Here's the cutie patootie female veiled chameleon. She's the same busy mama who laid 23 eggs at the end of May. Now, she's busy growing and shedding her skin!

Here's one of the two deli dishes with veiled chameleon eggs. I pulled the dishes out of the incubator to take a couple of quick pictures for you guys.

In this dish, you can see how some of the eggs are shriveling up. To my untrained vet eye, eight eggs (look at all those e's in a row!) in this dish still look healthy at this point. (I stuck in a penny to give you some perspective.)

Even fewer healthy eggs in this deli dish. If you look at the egg in your upper left, you can see how it's being absorbed into the vermiculite (that soil stuff). There are several discolored eggs now. Eggs that aren't going to make it.

So, out of 23 eggs, about 14 are still hanging in there. I guess the attrition rate explains why she laid so many eggs.

Awwww....a little artsy shot of her taken just after I turned off the heating lamp. Well, actually I dropped my camera a couple of weeks ago, and if I don't squeeze it tightly when taking a shot, a little light sneaks in at the side. So, this is a light-sneaking-in shot.

Veiled chameleons. They don't like to be held much. They don't make much noise. They're slow moving and pretty much just hang out in the upper 1/4 of the cage.

Yet. I love having them as pets.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Town Monday: Sonic

Before beginning this week's My Town Monday (which, I must warn you, is a bit of an odd one), I have some very fun business to take care of...

I'm featured on the Random House Author Spotlight. The same material, but in a slightly different format, is at Random House Kids.

So, uh, Holy Delacorte Press!!

(Note to my sisters: It is meant to be HUMOROUS! I know I'm not actually the most beautiful, etc. Love you lots and lots. xo)
(Note to FaceBook friends: I know this is old news for you guys, but I'd forgotten to post it on blogger)

And, now, an odd My Town Monday...

Last spring, my town of about 60,000 got a Sonic. Big whoop, you might think. Well, apparently it was. You couldn't even get in the main driveway, but got directed around to a side street. And this popularity continued and continued. Inexplicably. I mean, we're just talking burgers and tater tots.

This past weekend, Child #2 and Child #4 begged me to take them to Sonic now that the lineup has died down. Fine. I wanted sushi, but, hey, I'm a good compromiser. It wasn't until we got all situated and parked and ready to push the button to order that my heart started pounding because...

once you drive into the little ordering station, you have to reverse out. And...I had already informed everyone that this was the weekend that I WASN'T DOING ANY BACKING UP because...

I was stuck driving dh's car with its TOTALLY CLOUDY REAR WINDOW THAT YOU CAN'T SEE A SINGLE THING OUT OF. (Dh and Child #3 drove my clear-windowed van to Ontario, CA for Child #3's water polo tournament. (Yes, he played brilliantly, in case you were wondering.) I reminded Child #2 and Child #4 that we had mapped out our weekend to AVOID REVERSING situations.

Yes, I did manage to back out of the ordering area. I did not run over a waiter zipping around on roller blades or smash into another car. I did, however, sweat buckets.

And just when I thought I was home free, I was forced to navigate a complicated orange cone maze that dumped us out....

on a weirdo back street. Seriously, I didn't have a clue where we were. It was like we'd entered a SONIC DIMENSION. We drove FORWARD for a while, until we eventually recognized a street and were able to find our way home.

Dh and Child #3 have returned from their little trip. I now have my van back. I may spend my entire Monday driving around town IN REVERSE! Ha!

And just to show you how quick children are to take advantage of a situation, here a couple of the statements Child #2 and Child #3 said to me over the course of the weekend. And by "said," I mean in a "whispered in an eerie, ghost-story voice."

Child #2: "This is the Sonic Dimension talking. Raise Child #2's allowance. A lot."

Child #4: "The Sonic Dimension wants you to give me another popsicle."

For links to the other MTM participants, please head over to our My Town Monday blog which was set up by the lovely and talented Clair Dickson. Thank you to Travis Erwin for launching us on this crazy My Town Monday journey. A journey from which there is no reversing. (I couldn't resist.) Next week, I'll be back to a normal MTM post. Promise.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Town Monday: Oasis Camel Dairy Revisited

Guess what I did???

Yup. Yesterday, DH, Child #4 and I drove to the Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona, CA. It was the one evening in July that the dairy farm was open to the public.

Meet Sampson, a 3 year old, 700 pound male. He'll be mature at 6 years at which point he'll weigh about 1500 pounds. Sampson's one of 21 (hmmm...I think I got that number right!) camels on this 43-acre ranch. Sampson is short for his age. He was rejected by his mother at birth. He's been fixed. Male camels are snipped at about one year.

Other trivia: Bull camels rut in the winter, beginning about November. Romeo, the bull at the dairy, likes to take care of business about 2 A.M. Camels are very noisy with lots of yelling and screaming. The Rieglers, the dairy owners, let their neighbors know that it's "that time of the year," so that there are no worries about what's going on down at the ranch. What else? Apparently, Romeo is very popular with the females.

A little more trivia: Camel yarn sells for about $40 an ounce.

This is the back end of a pregnant camel. Camels gestate for 13 months! Yowzer! And they lactate for 18 months.

And here's some camel speak for you: The pregnant female's raised tail says to the male: "Go away! I'm pregnant. And I am not the least bit interested in fun times with you."

And from the back end of a nursing male, here's some more camel speak: In this case, the raised tail means, "Yay, the milk is here!"

Admit it! You were so hoping I'd snap a shot of CAMEL POOP. Next to a nickel (the only change I had) for perspective.

Yes, I did it! I rode a camel. Child #4 (at the front) talked me into it. It was VERY bumpy. I would never make it as a Bedouin.

Thank you, Nancy and Gil Riegler, for a great and informative evening.

(I'm a little appalled at how frumpy I look. That hat, while I love it, is doing me no favors! Neither are the capris. Or the t-shirt.)

The second I hear, I will inform you guys of the date Dirty Jobs will air the Oasis Camel Dairy segment on TV. It was shot back in February.

FINALLY....A GIVEAWAY!! I bought a bar of pomegranate-scented camel milk soap. Just for you guys. Well, for one of you guys! The soap was made at the dairy. Leave a comment by this Friday at midnight Pacific time. Child #4 will pick a name from a bowl. The soap's supposed to be great for your skin. It certainly smells good.

Clair Dickson (Thanks, Clair!) set up a very adorable My Town Monday blog with links to all the participants. Please hop on over and check out everyone else's MTM posts.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thoughts on Child #4's Birthday Celebration

I did not bake this cake. Or any cake, for that matter. Child #4 wanted a "real" cake this year. By which she meant "bought"!

We celebrated Child #4's 9th birthday with a makeover sleepover party!

Yes, yes, I So Don't Do Makeup opens with a makeover slumber party! It was a case of real life imitating art. Without the mystery part! :)

The girls patted an oatmeal + yogurt mask on their faces.

The girls soaked their cuticles in a honey + olive oil

The girls soaked their tired nine-year-old feet in aluminum lasagna pans filled with warm water + foot salts. Then they massaged their feet with a rubber foot and used silky lavender lotion + oil.

Of course, as the mother of the birthday girl and spa manager, I hung out a lot with the girls. And eavesdropped. Here are a few of the interesting things I overheard straight from the mouths .

"Boys have issues."
Spoken with much authority by one of the guests. She was explaining why Child #4's brothers were playing video games and not joining in on the spa fun.

"Girls, girls! My makeup's falling off!"
Shouted by one of the girls who had slapped on eye shadow and blush at 7 a.m., then promptly catapulted into the pool with the rest of the gang.

"I don't know why she put eyeshadow right up to her eyebrows. Are we supposed to do that?"
A question pondered by women around the world!

"Mrs. Summy, you know what would make me really happy? If you gave us cake for breakfast and then let me go on your treadmill. It would be like I hadn't eaten at all."
This last one actually bothered me. The girl who made the request is a cute, creative, chatty 9 year old girl of normal weight. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive about the eating thing because I'm reading Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, a YA dealing with anorexia. Or maybe 9 year olds should be thinking exercise=healthy not exercise=not gaining weight.

What do you guys think?

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Town Monday: Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona, CA

There are A LOT of fun things to do in San Diego. A LOT. Some, like the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld, everybody knows about. Some, though, are a little off the beaten path.

Like the Oasis Camel Dairy in Ramona.

You may have heard of Ramona on the news. It's where the Cedar Fire, one of our largest wildfires, began in October 2003. What else? James Cagney owned a bunch of land in Ramona. As in 900+ acres. And the town got its name from the Indian maiden in Helen Hunt Jackson's 1884 novel Ramona. Ramona is about 37 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.

Okay. Back to the Camel Farm. I've lived in San Diego for a little over, ahem, 20 years. And I've NEVER been to the camel dairy. BUT, the next monthly tour is July 11, and I'm so there along with at least a couple of my children.

Gil Riegler and Nancy Kobert-Riegler run the 34-acre dairy, which, by the way, is the ONLY camel dairy in the entire USA.

Some trivia about the dairy and/or camels (in no particular order):

-Camels live to be about 50 years old.
-Camels have THREE eyelids to help keep the dessert sand out of their eyes.
-Gil was actually in the Israeli military and rode camels with the Bedouin.
-There are about 18 camels at the dairy.
-You can rent a camel from the dairy for a party or Nativity scene.
-Contrary to popular belief, camels really don't do a lot of spitting.

Camels produce rich milk that can be fed to foals and crias (baby llama) who are sick or injured. Camel's milk soap is full of vitamin C and is great for sensitive skin. You can buy it at the dairy or order it online (website link below).

Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel's DIRTY JOBS shot a show last Feb. at the Oasis Camel Dairy!! Here's a link to Nancy's blog post about that very cool event.

Here's the website for the Oasis Camel Dairy.

Travis Erwin has stepped down as our My Town Monday leader. Although I'm sure he'll be back with future MTM posts because who can resist the allure of My Town Monday?!

Clair Dickson (Thanks, Clair!) set up a very adorable My Town Monday blog with links to all the participants. Please hop on over and check out everyone else's MTM posts.

Sources:,_California (including photo credits for all but the top pic)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Book Review Club (July 2009)

Holy Toledo! It's the SIXTH meeting of The Book Review Club!

Without going all emo and touchy/feely, I'd like to say a million heartfelt thank yous to the reviewers. I've gotten to know most of you better through your reviews and emails and blog comments. Thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedules to blog about books. To give us your insights and opinions. To share a little of your reading life with us. I would like nothing better than if we could actually get together in real life.

And a huge thank you, also, to all our visitors. We're getting a very nice turnout each month. It's wonderful to have this opportunity to write about what we're reading. And to know readers out there in the blogosphere are interested.

Ahem, ahem. On to the book review...

There are some periods in history that just grab me. The Holocaust is one. The Salem witch trials is another. If a book, particularly a Young Adult, takes place during one of these time periods, I'm likely to read it.

So, when Celia Rees' debut young adult novel, WITCH CHILD, was published in 2000 (it was re-released last month!), I knew I'd pick it up. What I didn't know was how very much I'd enjoy it or how very often I'd end up recommending it.

Before the story begins, there is this note:

The following manuscript comes from a remarkable collection of documents termed "the Mary papers." Found hidden inside a newly discovered and extremely rare quilt from the colonial period, the papers seem to take the form of an irregularly kept journal or diary. All dates are guesswork, based on references within the text. The first entries are tentatively dated from March 1659. I have altered the original as little as possible, but punctuation, paragraphing, and spellings have been standardized for the modern reader.~~Alison Ellman, Boston, MA

What a brilliant set-up. And from here we go on to learn the story of fourteen-year-old Mary Newman. In England, Mary witnessed the torture and hanging of her grandmother as witch. During the hanging, Mary is whisked away for safety reasons and finds herself bound for Salem in the New World. Now orphaned and forced to keep her past and her supernatural powers secret, Mary attempts to make her way in a Puritan society where even a whisper of the word witchcraft can prove deadly.

The first person point of view and the diary format made this an intimate read. The suspicious society, fainting girls, and the minister who damned Mary's grandmother all work together to make this a tense read. The historical descriptions and careful language make this a rich read.

There is a sequel--SORCERESS. It was enjoyable, as well.

All in all, I'd recommend this book without hesitation.

Please, please visit the reviewers below. You won't be disapopinted. You can see that there's quite a variety of books!


Sarah Laurence: EVOLUTION, ME & OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE by Robin Brande

Alyssa Goodnight: THE POISON APPLES by Lily Archer

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry

Thao of serene hours: ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen


Sarahlynn of Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips: NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro (literary fiction with a dash of SF&F)

David Cranmer of The Education of a Pulp Writer: SWORDS OF THE TALERA by Charles Allen Gramlich

Scott Parker of SF Safari: THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA by Scott Lynch (sci fi)

From the Desk of Bee Drunken: LOVE IN IDLENESS by Amanda Craig

Patti Abbott: BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett

Linda McLaughlin: PERSEPOLIS: THE STORY OF A CHILDHOOD by Marjane Satrapi, PERSEPOLIS 2 by Marjane Satrapi (both are graphic novels)

Kathy Holmes: RED HOT LIES by Laura Caldwell (book 1 of the Izzy McNeil mystery thriller trilogy)

Jenn Jilks @ My Refections: MURDER IN A GOOD CAUSE by Medora Sale (mystery)

Beth Yarnall: DIE FOR YOU by Lisa Unger (mystery/suspense)


Jody Feldman: THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE ILLUSTRATED by Strunk & White and Maira Kalman (illustrator)

Kaye of the Book Review Forum: LEFT TO TELL, DISCOVERING GOD AMIDST THE RWANDAN HOLOCAUST by Immaculee Llibagiza with Steve Erwin

Prairie Rose's Garden: THE GARDEN OF INVENTION by Jane Smith (biography of Luther

Jenn Jilks @ My Muskoka: CLINIC OF HOPE: THE STORY OF RENE CAISSE AND ESSIAC by Donna M. Ivey (biography)

Note to reviewers: If I missed linking to you, please leave a comment or email me. I keep pretty good tabs on the blog on review club days.

Happy Canada Day to all our Canadian readers!