Thursday, December 29, 2011

Driver's License for Advil?


My son-in-law purchased Advil Cold and Sinus this week. In order to do this, he had to provide his driver's license to the store clerk. What's up with this? Isn't this just one more example of over-regulation?

So I did a little research on this.  There were a few complaints by individuals that they had to not only provide a Federally recognized form of identification, but that this information was loaded into a database.

The regulation in question is 21 USC Section 830.  I'm cutting to the chase here, but the regulation is very wordy. The following sections are what seems to affect the average American citizens.

1.  "Pub. L. 111-268, Sec. 1, Oct. 12, 2010, 124 Stat. 2847, provided
    that: "This Act [amending sections 830 and 842 of this title and
    enacting provisions set out as notes under section 830 of this
    title] may be cited as the 'Combat Methamphetamine Enhancement Act
    of 2010'."

2.  ...."The seller maintains, in accordance with criteria
          issued by the Attorney General, a written or electronic list
          of such sales that identifies the products by name, the
          quantity sold, the names and addresses of purchasers, and the
          dates and times of the sales (which list is referred to in
          this subsection as the "logbook"), except that such
          requirement does not apply to any purchase by an individual
          of a single sales package if that package contains not more
          than 60 milligrams of pseudoephedrine.

Each Advil Cold and Sinus liquid-filled capsule contains 30mg of pseudoephedrine so it falls under the purview of this regulation.  Ridiculous....

Also, the Energy Independence and Security Act 0f 2007, which apparently was scheduled to go into effect on January 1. 2012, will not be enforced  "until Oct. 1, 2012, according to a rider attached to the $915 billion spending bill signed to avoid a federal government shutdown" as reported by Stacy Jones / The Star-Ledger.

Coupled with attempted regulations of what we can feed our families, I ask the the following question.

Why are we paying the salaries of 535 people who are supposed to be representing us, but instead are, in my opinion, over-regulating us?  Also, why are we paying their staff, approximately 15,000 people as of 2009,  according to the website, "Government Policy", to assist with writing the laws that are too wordy and difficult for the average citizen to read?

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Greetings


May you be blessed in a special way during this Holy Season.
 

Merry Christmas 
and
Happy New Year



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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Santa Claus at La Gran Terraza

On Sunday, I accompanied my daughter and grandchildren to brunch with Santa Claus at the La Gran Terraza at the University of San Diego.   The food ranged from shrimp cocktail and crabs legs, to breakfast items like omelets (made to order), waffles, bacon and sausage, and on to assorted enticing salads and hot entrees.  These included a carving station for ham and prime rib, grilled salmon with pesto and gourmet vegetable dishes.

I love buffets because I can have a tablespoon of whatever foods appeal to me personally.  I enjoyed a little shrimp cocktail, followed by an omelet with herbs, bacon, a sliver of ham and small piece of the salmon.  At the carving station, I requested "a small sliver" of the ham and it was graciously served to me.  Everything was delicious and the salmon with pesto was especially tasty.  My daughter enjoyed the pumpkin soup with apple and goat cheese.  As I chose mostly breakfast items, I just didn't have room for another bite except, of course, dessert.

In the center of the room was a long table with sumptuous desserts.  There was such a variety, it was hard to choose.  I tried a small piece of chocolate mousse.  Delicious.  The grandchildren enjoyed decorating their own gingerbread cookies on a table set up in the corner of the dining room.  Then, on to sitting with Santa Claus.  The big surprise was getting small gifts from Santa.  The children were delighted.  The memory of this day was captured in a photograph of Santa with the children for Mom.

We had a wonderful time, thanks to Chef Nathan and the wonderful staff.  You would do well to experience this restaurant for yourselves.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cold Nights in San Diego

I awoke this morning to the sound of heavy rain.  Didn't really want to get out from under the covers.  Last night was warmer (48 degrees) than it had been for over a week.  I should have realized that something was up.  The dark skies gave way to sunshine in the afternoon.  But it was still chilly.  The nightly news showed pictures of snow on Mount Laguna.  My apartment was freezing this afternoon.  The Weather Channel showed the temperature as 54 degrees, but it certainly didn't feel like it.  My daughter told me that as she left work, she was wearing a sweater, a bulky sweater and a raincoat and was still freezing.  My grandchildren were wearing their winter jackets with the hoods up.

Later in the day, we had showers.  When I ventured out I had to wear my "New York" coat, a jean jacket that has a faux fur lining.  Tonight it is supposed to rain again with a low of 46 degrees.  As I'm sitting here typing, the temperature is 52 degrees.  I don't heat my apartment since I usually can just wear a sweater and feel fine.  Not today.  Right now, I'm wearing three sweaters.  I guess this sounds like "whining."  But, this is San Diego!

While the days in San Diego are usually warm in the mid-sixties, at this time of year the nights are sometimes very cold.  Of course, it is a matter of perspective.  If you live in colder parts of the nation or world, 46 degrees is not really that cold but for San Diego it is.  All last week, when the sun went down, the chill set in with clear night skies.  Earlier in the week, when the overnight temp reached 42, I had to pull out another bed covering.  That makes two quilts and one blanket.  My daughter, who lives about 8 miles northeast of me, was waking up to 36 or 37 degree weather in the morning.  She lives a few miles inland from the coast and I live about 1 1/2 miles from it.  That probably accounts for the difference in temperatures.  

Two nights ago, I saw birds flying silently overhead.  I immediately thought they looked like the green parrots.  However, I've never seen or heard these parrots in the winter.  They usually arrive almost exactly on March 9 and leave in late August or September.  This evening I did see them and definitely heard them.  They are very loud.  Don't know what they're doing here now.  And, I suspect even the vacationers are wondering why (Oh, why) they picked these weeks to come here.

It seems like a very strange year here in San Diego.


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Friday, December 9, 2011

Say Merry Christmas Song

I've just learned about a new Christmas song about saying Merry Christmas.  During the past few Christmas seasons, when I was in the store, in response to a clerk's "Happy Holidays", I would say, "Merry Christmas."  In most cases, I would get a small smile.  Sometimes, a person would whisper a response to me, "Merry Christmas."   The song can be heard here.

I realize that people and businesses don't want to offend those with other religious beliefs and that is understandable.  However, Wikipedia.org shows a Pew Forum (retrieved 2011-11-04) reporting that 78.5 of the U.S. population surveyed claim a Christian affiliation.  So, in my opinion, most of the money to purchase gifts and toys are intended to celebrate Christmas.  It might be a good idea for store owners to recognize this.

It also appears that the commercialization of Christmas is going to remain.  Giving gifts at Christmas is a great practice to center on what the celebration really means.  It's also an excellent time to teach children to look around and appreciate what they have.  Many years ago, we decided to have a "giving" Christmas.  We explained to our children, who were old enough to understand, that there were people who could not celebrate that year.  So we would help them.  We also told the children that they would not necessarily have as many gifts under the tree as they were used to receiving.  Maybe they would get three presents each, instead of ten.  We took them shopping for this family, who weren't able to provide gifts that year.  We never knew who that family was.  All we knew was the number of children in a family and their genders and age.  The children were free to select what they thought the child might want, within our budget, of course.  Our children really enjoyed it.   And, on Christmas, they saw that they were blessed with many, many gifts under the tree.  As the years went on, our children knew that they really weren't giving anything up by helping another family. That is what Christmas should be all about.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

A 5 Year Old's Birthday Weekend


On December 1, my youngest grandson turned 5.  That evening, his mother and father took him and his sister to the Corvette Diner in San Diego.  They had a wonderful time.  He played games and ate dinner in the Neon room.  There, if you place your hand on the table and then pick it up, a neon imprint of your hand is left on the table.  Cool.  Then, as he was eating his ice cream, he heard an announcement wishing him, by name, "Happy Birthday."  He was so excited.  After that, the wait staff came over and sang to him.  All this, together with a pirate hat made of balloons, made for a memorable birthday. 


On Friday, his kindergarten class celebrated with Rice Krispy Treats (his choice).  On Saturday, he had a "friends" party.  It was an old-fashioned ice cream and cupcake party (no bouncy house, no crafts, no clowns, no pony).  The ice cream was served in prepackaged cups from Smart and Final, the type that was sold with wooden spoons....popular years ago.  Seven friends attended and had fun running around the yard, playing with simple balsa planes and other toys, as well as writing on the patio cement with chalk.  The children had a simply wonderful time.

Sunday was the "family" party.  It was somewhat of a replay of Saturday except that the family stayed for dinner. After cupcakes and ice cream, the six children sat on the living room floor as the birthday boy opened his gifts.  It is always funny to see little children so interested in the gifts that they inch up closer and closer until they are surrounding the birthday child.  Then, someone takes initiative and tells the children to give the honoree space, which they do.  Their demeanor was very polite.  Then, little by little, they again slowly inch up closer to the child opening the birthday gifts.  It is cute to watch.

This past weekend will stay in the birthday boy's memory for quite some time, considering how many times he celebrated.  As for me, I will center on how much fun a simple old-fashioned birthday party can be.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winter is almost here

U.S. Patent D486,953
Winter is almost here.  Here in San Diego, the temperature tonight is 53 degrees.  Tomorrow morning, it will be 45 degrees.  When the sun is out in the afternoon, the temperature is usually in the 60's.  However, once the sun goes down or it's cloudy, winter jackets are in order.  I have been busy knitting my "interlocking scarf" for some children in the family.    My scarf has unique features.  You can go here to read about them.  I believe that many Moms and caregivers would benefit from a scarf that a young child could put on unaided.  Anything that makes a Mom's life easier is worth creating.

Last year, I was in New York for 10 weeks (from January to March) in what was a very stormy, bitter winter.  Every time I went out, I would see little children with scarves tightly wrapped around them.  My scarf is much more comfortable and Mom doesn't have to wrap it multiple times and tie it behind the child's head.

I am interested in licensing my scarf.  You can contact me via e-mail at  bicoastalgrandma@gmail.com .  L.L.Bean, Target, Walmart, are you out there?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Thanksgiving

As we near the day we call "Thanksgiving", I think of its origins and the reasons we give thanks.  Thanksgiving Day is an American holiday, which commemorates the gratitude exhibited by our earliest settlers who had endured extreme hardship in their quest for freedom from an oppressive ruler.  Many of us celebrate this day with a special meal, taking time from our busy, busy, and perhaps, humdrum lives to give thanks to God for our freedom and many other blessings.

When I was growing up, we didn't have a "Thanksgiving" meal, as my father had to work that day.  As best I can remember, I was a teenager by the time my father had that day off from work.  Then, we had an "official" Thanksgiving meal to which my mother invited older friends who might otherwise be alone that day.  I remember my mother making the turkey and cooking everyone's favorite vegetable.  So therefore, although we weren't by any means rich, along with the turkey, we had a full array of condiments and at least six different vegetables on the table.  That was the only day I ever had another meal later in the evening consisting of "left-overs."

As my husband and I raised our seven children, we tried to instill in them a spirit of thanksgiving in our everyday lives, so this day was celebrated in a big way.  Now my children, separated only by approximately 2,600 miles, celebrate with nearby family and friends, remembering their brother and sisters, living on the opposite coast of the country, in their hearts.  This is a time when we wish we could all be together again, but living on two coasts doesn't afford us this opportunity.

Judeo-Christian teachings instruct us to be thankful to our Creator.  Psychologically, it is beneficial for us, in our busy, busy, and perhaps humdrum lives, to assess our lives and our blessings.  I'm sure there are physiological benefits from this as well.  It's been my observation that when I center on being grateful, my spirit rises.  While I'm far from what I consider financially "rich", I consider myself blessed beyond belief.

I'm thankful to God for my family, our health and wealth (however, subjective) and ability to do and be what we want, within reason.  I'm thankful, as a Christian, for my Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit who guides me day by day.  I'm thankful for the wonderful family and friends with which the Lord has seen fit to provide for me.  I'm thankful for our service men and women who lay down their lives for our safety, and their families who willingly sacrifice their lives as well.  I'm thankful for my health and ability to spend time throughout the year with all of my children and grandchildren, who are growing like "weeds."

My prayer for you, this day, is that you are able to fulfill your God-given destiny with your God-given talents.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Slitherers


On Sunday I accompanied my daughter and her children to Costco (a membership only warehouse-style store) on Morena Boulevard in San Diego.  This was the only day my daughter had free.  The parking lot is always crowded and that day was no exception.  As my daughter waited for a shopper placing their purchases in the car, a driver (about 30 to 40 years old) in a white car passed her and made a u-turn in the aisle.  As the first person was backing out of the parking spot, the person in the white car slithered into the now empty spot.  As my perturbed daughter now drove on around the lot looking for another spot, we found ourselves on line behind some others also waiting to park.  Then, we saw the same occurrence we personally experienced.  A man (looked to be in his 30's) passed others, made a u-turn and slithered into the spot just vacated, robbing the person who had been patiently waiting for that opening.  We just nodded to each other as we agreed, "This is a ME society."

When I've accompanied any of my young grandchildren on a shopping trip, I've always told them that I had to be on the outside nearest passing traffic because the people, speeding by, seemingly oblivious to the safety of pedestrians, could see me.  I jokingly tell the children it's because I am larger and taller than them (an obvious statement that is received with smiles).  This practice is especially needed in the Costco parking lot as people speed down the aisles just to get a spot.

Inside the store, Costco has employees who provide tasting of the food products they sell.  The children love this.  My daughter likes this practice because she can observe if the children like a product before she buys it.  The children politely waited for the person putting food on the tray.  My daughter told me that when the employee put food on the tray, adults just reached down over the children's heads and took all the samples.

Costco seems to attract shoppers who appear affluent.  Does privilege extend to incivility?  Does being fortunate and having more money automatically determine that you can act anyway you like to the detriment and inconvenience of all others?  

While this is an age-old problem, it is quite noticeable at this store.  I suspect that what we saw and experienced is more a product of "new money" and lack of education in the way of discipline and respect of others.  Or, maybe it is just selfishness....  We've shopped at stores in LaJolla, Cardiff and Encinitas, which really are affluent communities, and have not experienced this.

As we were leaving, my daughter made the observation that the Costco workers were much nicer than their customers. While Costco is not responsible for the actions of their customers, they could provide a live person to monitor their parking lot on weekends and especially busy times.  Thankfully, the people who lost their parking spot to the "slitherers" did not lose their patience and confront these slimy characters, but just moved on.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'm Back

First New York Snowfall Oct. 2011
Electricity, oh wonderful electricity.  Four days without it is a trip to "yesteryear."  Thankfully, my sons-in-law had wood and/or pellet stoves to provide heat.  Although, many people have endured worse and still don't have it.  Today's Poughkeepsie Journal relates that about 1100 people are still without power in that area.  A TV report (today) stated that other Northeastern states still have many users without electricity. 

Last winter, I gave my granddaughter a gift certificate for a tea party.  She went with her mother and had such a good time, they decided to take me on my next trip.  On Saturday afternoon, my daughter and 10 year old granddaughter took me to "The Cup and Saucer" on Main Street in Beacon, NY.  The tea sandwiches, scones and cookies were delightful.  The little sandwiches in various shapes were made of pumpkin butter, salmon cream, cucumber (my granddaughter's favorite), and egg salad.  We selected  Earl Grey tea and a chocolate mint tea.  The teapots were covered by tea cozies.  This brought back memories of my childhood.  We had a very nice time.  I definitely recommend this restaurant.  It's a great idea for people who take the train from New York City on the Second Saturday of the month .

While the snow was falling on Saturday night, we played a game called "Hedbanz".  You have a card in a headband on your forehead stating you are something, like a food item or a baseball, etc.   You have to ask questions of the others and guess what you are.  It was fun.  I think everyone enjoyed the evening.

Sunday was very quiet.  Soccer, as well as our possible mountain trek was cancelled.  I would never step out of the house in that weather.  In fact, I didn't leave the house for three days.  I live in San Diego to avoid weather like this.
Day after Oct 2011 Snow Storm


My visit to New York was a busy one.  I loved visiting with my children and grandchildren.  The grandkids are getting so tall, I have to look up at them to converse.   Also, I enjoyed seeing friends who could spare the time.

In an earlier blog, I said I would share about my $266 flight on Delta to and from Newburgh NY through CheapOAir.  I flew through Detroit and on the return trip, the agents asked for volunteers to give up their seat for a $400 voucher for a future flight, a first-class seat on a plane to Los Angeles, overnight stay and meals paid for by Delta, and a flight to San Diego in the morning.  I volunteered.  A female passenger stated that the plane was overbooked by 14 people.  I phoned my son and daughter-in-law to see if I could stay with them for the night instead of using a hotel.  My daughter-in-law invited me to stay the week.  That would have been great.  However, by the time the agents made the changes, I had no time to get to the gate for the flight to Los Angeles.  So, I continued on to San Diego. 

It was, as usual, a great trip, but I was glad to be back in my own bed in sunny San Diego.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

This Week's Activities

In the midst of a very busy weekend meeting longtime wonderful friends, I lunched with Katie, who graciously drove up from New York City.  I love to hear what's happening with her, and her interesting pursuits and travels. As with many of my friends, I come away inspired.  Maya Cafe and Cantina , located on Route 9 in Fishkill, NY provided a perfect place to enjoy a meal and catch up on our activities.  I ordered my favorite....a steak quesadilla, made with skirt steak, which I happen to love.  Katie's choice was Machaca y Huevos. which is Brisket, eggs and queso fresco.   My meal was delicious and Katie told the waiter how much she enjoyed hers.  The food and the atmosphere make the Maya Cafe a "must dine at" restaurant.

*           *           *           *           *          *           *            *           *           *           *           *                
On Tuesday, my sister and I visited my grandson's Eagle Scout project.  He created a rest stop with picnic tables for walkers and bikers on the Dutchess County Rail Trail in LaGrange (picture on right).  It is located about one mile north of Titusville Road.  The walk was relaxing and pleasant.  We followed it with lunch at the Acropolis Diner in Poughkeepsie.  They serve a bowl of Matzoh Ball soup, which was perfect after a long walk.

We had planned to visit Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel (built in 1906) in Poughkeepsie NY.  It is located on property formerly housing The Hudson Valley Psychiatric Center and is now owned by St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Hyde Park.  I was told it was very beautiful.  So we traversed the winding road until we found it impassible due to workmen repairing the pavement.  Hopefully, I'll get there on the next visit to the area.

Today is cold and rainy.  A good day to hibernate.  What a surprise....snow.  The first of the season!



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Friday, October 14, 2011

Climbed Mt. Beacon


On Monday, My 14 year old grandson and I climbed Mt. Beacon in Beacon, NY. Well, sort of.... We climbed a stairway of 200 steps to a level of about 600 feet.   The mountain is 1,610 feet high.  I wanted to get above the tree line to take some photos to the area.   The stairs are very sturdy and I had no problem climbing.  Then I saw the path at the end of the stairs and that was the end of my climb.  The path with slanted slabs of rock was too steep for me. 
So, there ended my quest.  The mountain seems to be a popular hiking spot.  The hikers passed right by us traveling up and down the path.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to climb high enough to photograph the scenery I wanted, due to haze over the Hudson River.

At one time, there was a casino (circa 1902), hotel, and restaurant atop Mt. Beacon. Many people rode an "incline railway" to the top. Presently, there are plans to rebuild the "incline." I hope to experience the ride when it is completed.   At the top of the mountain there is also a reservior, which provides the city of Beacon with water.  My grandson told me that the area up there is relatively flat.  On the way down, he told me about another way up the mountain.  There is a dirt road at the end of East Main Street.   Actually, Wikipedia says that way is the easier way to climb Mt. Beacon.
Near the bottom, we checked out the remnants of the "incline" and what is left of the old "lower railhead"structure.  We also found a strange looking remains of a tree (see photo at right). 

Just before we exited Mt. Beacon Park, my grandson pointed to the "gum" trees.  Apparently hikers plant their chewing gum on a tree either before or after their climb. 
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What a Week (Continued)

Well, I flew to New York on my $328 round trip ticket. The Delta flight was uneventful and pleasant. The personnel were helpful, friendly and efficient.. The trip went to Detroit and then, on to Newburgh, NY. The only drawback was that the seat was near the rear. As we prepared to take off, the young woman sitting in the middle seat in my row said, "Sorry, Ladies" to me and the woman sitting on the aisle. Then she opened a bag with a box enclosed. As she opened her box, there was an "In and Out" cheeseburger neatly packaged with french fries. It certainly looked inviting. The aroma was enticing. She then offered us a french fry, which I declined. Just then, the flight attendant came along and remarked, "In and Out, I want one." Again, the young woman offered her a french fry. Except for pleasant conversation, that was pretty much the highlight of the first leg of the trip. After landing in Detroit, I had 38 minutes to make the next flight. Being near the rear slowed the exodus from the plane as passengers remove their carry-on luggage. When I finally reached the building, I discovered that I was in Terminal A and had to rush to Terminal C for my next flight. A fast walk and half a run had me arrive as almost everyone else had already boarded.  No way was I missing this flight. A small price for a cheap flight. Also, Delta served a Bischoff cookie that was out of this world. Except for breaking apart when you opened the package, they really nailed it with the taste.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

WHAT A WEEK

Last Wednesday, my fliptop cell phone met its demise.  Because it was fried, I was unable to recover the phone directory.  Thursday evening I was in the Sprint store getting my new one with a touchtone screen.  With this, I was catapulted into the twenty-first century.  The touchstone screen locks so I can't inadvertently press the wrong thing.  I was advised that Sprint would be calling me within three days for a customer survey.  No problem.  They called the very next day.  As I listened, I was prompted to press 1.  Where's the "one"?  Where's the "one"?  I couldn't find it.  Oh, the pressure.  I lost the call.  Oh well....  The next challenges were receiving calls, but I'm improving.  When you get a call, you can't just say "Hello."   First you have to unlock the touchtone screen before pressing receive.  Then, while I had problems accessing the phone numbers in my contact list, I saw that my 10 year old granddaughter didn't.  I discovered that I was using too much pressure.  The next evening I saw a hummingbird and tried to take a picture with the phone.  After taking three pictures, I realized that I was taking a picture of my own eye.  Then, I realized that I was supposed to hold the phone so that I could see the picture before taking it.  Text message notices appear in the form of a cartoon "bubble".   If I'm quick enough in unlocking the screen and pressing the "bubble", I am able to read the message.  If not, I guess it goes into the "black hole" because when I go to "messages", unread ones are not there.  I've touched the "bubble" notice on the status bar 'till I'm blue in the face.  While I'm very grateful for the phone, I feel like the Webcam 101 for Seniors grandparents on YouTube.

More on "What a Week" on the next posting.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Photo Show




I hope you enjoy these photos.  
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Amtrak Trip

As I promised on my blog of August 3, I finally made the trip to Los Angeles.

This past weekend I visited my son, his wife and two children, ages 5 and 8.  I rode Amtrak from San Diego to Union Station in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon.  When I arrived there, I went to the bus area and boarded a “Fly Away” bus to Los Angeles Airport (LAX).  I travel this way so that the family doesn’t have to get stuck in Downtown Los Angeles traffic, which can be a bear.  It is much easier to pick me up at the airport.  I purchased my Business Class ticket and boarded the 1:25 pm train and arrived at LAX around 5pm.  I ride Business Class because it gives me a reserved seat for an extra $15.  I remember being on a train to Los Angeles once, when some people had to stand.  Those seats are difficult to hold onto to prevent falling.  So, as a plus, I’ve enjoyed the special treatment given in Business Class.

I like to sit upstairs.  As I was trying to carry my suitcase up the stairs, a young man, who seemed to come out of nowhere, offered to take my bag up for me.  When I reached the seat, I decided to ride the wave, so to speak, and asked him to put the suitcase up in the overhead.  Since I sat one seat behind him and his friend, I heard that they were in the entertainment field.  The same young man carried my bag to the platform in Los Angeles.   As they were departing the train, I asked him the name of his group.  He responded, “Manufactured Superstars.”  I really appreciate that he stepped up to the plate, offering to help me.  I hope he is blessed for his kindness.

At LAX, my son timed his arrival to match my bus.  Because of security concerns, a car just can’t wait at a loading area.  As the bus was entering the airport, he called me on the phone to ask where the bus was and what kind of a bus it was.  He managed to be just ahead of the bus, so there was no waiting on my part, or his.  With an uneventful, yet pleasant trip, the transition was smooth and I joined the family.

On Sunday, my son drove me directly to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles.  He expected light traffic.  However, it was bumper to bumper so I missed the 2:00 pm departure.  It wasn't much of a wait since the next train was scheduled at 3:00 pm.  The Business Class section was practically empty and had only five adults and four children.  Since I didn’t bring a book, I had two hours and forty-five minutes on my hands to notice the people on this trip, as well as Friday’s trip.  One of the passengers mentioned, in my hearing, that he and his 3 year old daughter ride the train many weekends.  This little lady with bouncing brown curls seemed right at home in the train traveling the aisle at will.  The other children were three teenagers (two boys and a girl, aged thirteen).  They also seemed right at home on the train.  Unfortunately, they had been visiting their father in Manhattan Beach and were returning home to their mother in Solana Beach….a distance of approximately one hundred miles.  Apparently, they do this quite often.  The boys acted like eight year olds, as she did her homework.  While they seemed to be weathering their situation, it still seemed like a tough life.

The ride was quiet.  When we reached the beach area, I lamented not bringing my camera because the train windows were clean.  The only drawback to the ride was that we stopped five times to let trains coming north go through.  At different points on the trip to San Diego, south of Solana Beach, there is only one track.  I believe San Diego is the seventh largest city in the United States so you would think they would improve the tracks.  I guess Amtrak’s ridership between San Diego and Los Angeles just isn’t large enough.

Even with the inconveniences, the trip was worth it.  I had a wonderful time with the family.


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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Travel Costs

Next month I will be visiting New York for my fourteen year old granddaughter’s Confirmation.  I plan to stay long enough to celebrate my youngest granddaughter’s first birthday.
Many people remark that they don’t understand how I can fly to the East Coast so frequently.  Actually, I visit there about two to three times a year.  Since I have children and grandchildren on both the East and West Coasts, I make it my business to see them all as much as possible.
The website, Wikipedia, states, “San Diego has on average 146 sunny days and 117 partly cloudy days a year. “  To avail myself of this good weather (no ice, no snow), I live in San Diego, California.  Thus, I unfortunately forgo the children’s birthdays, concerts, moving up ceremonies, and this year, my eldest grandson’s graduation from high school....sounds heartless, doesn’t it?  But I believe it’s better to have a grandma in good health, than not.
So far, I have been able to visit at least twice a year.  In order to accomplish this, I comb the Internet for good airline prices.  This year I joined Airfarewatchdog (http://www.airfarewatchdog.com/).  There was no fee to join.  However, this website is usually for someone who can pounce on the opportunity and buy immediately, or someone who has very fluid travel plans.  Since I plan my visits around an event in the family, it hasn’t proved useful to me.  I usually check out:
Cheapoair ( http://www.cheapoair.com/),
Orbitz ( http://www.orbitz.com ),
Travelocity ( http://www.travelocity.com ), and
Expedia ( http://www.expedia.com ), as well as the airlines’ websites.
Over the years, I’ve used them all.  And, I select flights with the most reasonable cost; that is, the most reasonable cost in my estimation.  I have never, so far, encountered any problems using these services. Though sometimes I have to fly into JFK, Albany, or North White Plains to get the lowest price.  My quest is to keep my ticket cost under $300.  My daughter in Queens, NY would love it if I flew into LaGuardia Airport (near her home), but flights into that airport are usually much more expensive.   Earlier this year, I used Southwest.  For an extra $10, you can get a “priority” number for boarding.  On Southwest, this is important since this airline doesn’t assign seats.  It was worth the $10.
Also, it pays to enlist help from people who are adept at finding good fares.  My daughters always notify their Queens NY sister when they are looking for flights because she is very good at it.  She has helped me a number of times.  Though in all fairness, my other daughters are getting much more adept at it. 
This time I picked Expedia because it advertised a $266 fare from San Diego to Newburgh, NY (an airport usually out of my price range).   After taxes, the complete cost is $328.80.  I’ll let you know how I make out.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Recollections of Sept. 11, 2001

I am re-posting my entry from September 11, 2010.  It is my hope that you will be able to feel what I felt that day.   No one should ever forget. 

No American civilian should ever have to experience the events of 9/11 on American soil. And, my experience of that day is in no way comparable to the heartache of the families of the victims. The following is just my personal recollection of that day.

As my train pulled into Grand Central Station that morning, I heard some buzz from other commuters. But, it was none of my business so I just got off the train and walked the underground tunnel to the Forty-fifth Street exit. As I walked up Madison Avenue, I saw a throng of people standing around a bank looking at a TV. As I tried to see that they were looking at, somehow I got the message that something happened at the World Trade Center. I remember looking in that direction, seeing smoke, and trying to use my phone, and then, trying my Blackberry. No signal. I proceeded north to my office on 52nd St. When I arrived, I saw that I had a message from my daughter who worked near the World Trade Center. However, I could not reach her since I had no phone service.

I proceeded to work. A short while later, I heard that there was a TV in Personnel. So, I went to that floor to see what was going on. After a few minutes, I squeezed into the room. The scene was incredulous. I decided that for me the best thing was to go back to work. Young people on my floor were just milling around. We were the IT (computer) department. They either had IT friends in those World Trade buildings or, like me, had previously worked there themselves. I tried to work, but at the back of my mind were all the tens of thousands of commuters who literally poured out of the ground from the PATH (a train from New Jersey). What happened to all those people? Many, many times I had walked through the underground shopping Plaza and the passage ways under those buildings as a shortcut to save time. Since my commute was 2 ½ hours each way from upstate New York, I was always running to be on time at work. In November 2000, a co-worker and good friend gave me a job lead that resulted in my leaving the World Trade Center and moving to 52nd Street. As an aside, I later heard that a very smart female executive of the Port of Authority ordered the trains diverted to the mid-town area of New York City, saving many lives. I thought of how I would take my lunch into one of the glassed-in areas of my building and look at the Towers. How magnificent they were. Of course, I was just looking at the lower floors. I thought the design was intriguing.

Later that morning, I finally heard from my daughter who was with her co-workers at an apartment in lower Manhattan. One of the workers just took his whole department to his home. I advised my daughter to stay right where she was with her co-workers unless they were evacuated. Then, I was contacted by a great friend from Merrill Lynch inviting me to stay the night at her place since the City was in "lock-down."

Being in Computer Security, I decided, since I had no phone, to try sending emails to get messages to my children. I thank the good Lord for the “Information Highway.” Being able to contact my family in an event such as this is why I feel so strongly that there should be no Government interference with the Internet. I emailed friends in San Diego requesting that they contact my family. My children thought I still worked in the World Trade Center. Exactly where I worked was not one of their concerns. I didn’t know my son’s work e-mail address, but decided to create the addresses in different ways. Surely, one of the emails would get through. Not knowing was going to happen next, I wrote to my son that his sister and I were OK. I gave him the address and phone number for the apartment where she was staying. Then, I gave him the phone number of the friend with whom I would be staying. Without being melodramatic, I thought this might be the last communication we could possibly have. It brings me to tears when I think of it.

Around noon, I went to the bank to get money since I couldn’t get home that night. The sea of people walking, shoulder to shoulder, north out of the City on both sidewalks of Park Avenue was at least five people deep. It was an amazing, yet fearful sight.

Around 1pm, my daughter, accompanied by a co-worker, walked the 30 blocks to be with me. Her hair was covered in ash. I got her in our “locked-down” building. When we reached my office, the phone rang. It was my son in Los Angeles. My daughter, wide-eyed and in shock, told him what happened….her words just spilling out. I tried to calm her down. Her only response to me was, “You weren’t there.”

Then, my daughter told me we just had to get out of the City. She kept pressing. As far as I knew, we couldn't go anywhere. I decided to leave and walk to Grand Central to see if any trains were moving. I never in my lifetime had been prepared for what I saw.

As we walked the now eerily empty Park Avenue south to the train station, we were met with men with megaphones ordering us where to go. We walked a sidewalk cordoned off with safety tape into what seemed like the only open entrance. Other than the sea of people in the great expanse of the center of the building, I don’t remember much except that my mind kept reeling, thinking that something else could happen at any moment. Before long, we were on a train leaving the City.

That evening, watching TV, I saw the real events I knew nothing about because I tried to work that day. I realized that I, being the kind of employee I was, would have returned to my desk in one of those buildings when the “All Clear” announcement was given.

My daughter and I were now safe, but what about those people who died. What about their families? Even today, my heart goes out to them

I realize that this is a sharp contrast to my usually light-hearted and hopefully informative blog. I will always remember my daughter walking 30 blocks to my uptown office, covered in ash from those collapsed buildings….wide-eyed and in shock, having seen death and destruction not many American civilians have ever seen. And, as I said in the beginning of this writing, no American citizen should ever have to experience the events of 9/11 on American soil and no one should ever forget.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

My Daughters, My Friends

When my eldest daughter was eight months old, she was a poor eater.  I don’t remember what I told the pediatrician about it, but he responded, “Mrs. Hall, you are her mother, not her friend.”
As our family grew, we had five daughters and two sons.  Our long dining table was so obviously dominated by females, that while I was pregnant with one of the younger ones, my first born son actually prayed that I was carrying male triplets.  That never happened, but he had hopes.
I was a disciplinarian and my husband, the softy.   Over the years, the pediatrician’s advice came back to me many, many times.  I would insist on curfews, appropriate dress and proper friendships.  For several years, we held a monthly teen meeting with a "cool" speaker, followed by a party in our finished basement.  Many of the friendships they forged have continued to this day.  As those teens reached college age, our younger daughters weren’t interested in a teen meeting, so we just went with the flow.
Over the years, through the death of my youngest son at 6 ½ half due to a severe heart problem, and other hard times later in life, they didn’t fall apart.  We were still family.
My daughters are all adults and married now….three on the East Coast and two on the West.  Yet, text messages and cell phones keep them very close.  They steadfastly encourage my pursuits and report to each other when concerned about what I do.  While each has their friends, I am always included, as one of the girls, in their excursions to dinner, shopping, plays, card nights, etc.  What amazes me is that in spite of my being a strict mother, each has chosen to make me her friend.

Check out my photos at:
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

East Coast Earthquake

When I read this afternoon that Colorado had a 5.3 magnitude earthquake last night at 11:46pm (Mountain Daylight Time), I checked out the U.S. Geological Survey website. Having experienced three earthquakes since I moved to Southern California in 2001, the USGS website is on my "favorites" list. While looking at the USA Geological Map, I saw that Virginia had just experienced a 5.9 (later changed to 5.8) at 1:51pm (Eastern Daylight Time). I had no idea the extent to which it was felt throughout the East Coast until I received a phone call from my daughter in New York City advising me that she was unable to reach her husband or her mother-in-law who cares for my daughter's 10 months old baby. My daughter was concerned that she couldn't reach them and asked me to try. She experienced September 11, 2001, so this earthquake only heightened her awareness. I remember that on September 11, 2001, when I worked in New York City, we could not phone anyone, yet people outside of New York could call in. So today, I phoned both my daughter's home, where I got the answering machine, and her mother-in-law's cell phone. The cell phone didn't even connect, meaning I heard no ring...nothing but silence. Then, I tried my daughter's cell phone. That didn't connect either. Later I learned that cell phone activity immediately following the earthquake, figuratively, just flooded the system. I e-mailed my daughter about the dead cell phones and she responded that she had heard from her mother-in-law, who was evacuated with my granddaughter, and had now returned to the apartment. On August 7, 2011, I wrote about the importance of the Internet to the general public. If you haven't read it, I invite you do so. Today's occurrence is just another instance of our need to have unfettered access.

I do not take earthquakes lightly. I recently met friends for dinner where we asked one of our members about his elderly in-laws who live in Japan. He spoke about the multiple earthquakes that Japan is still experiencing. At this point the discussion veered to weather around the United States. My friends reiterated how they could not live in areas with tornadoes and hurricanes, yet everyday they risk possible earthquakes here in San Diego. Having had an earthquake literally lift me off the floor four years ago at 8:00am on Labor Day morning, I respect them. I was brushing my teeth and the next thing I knew, I had to hold on to the sink with my elbow in an effort to avoid falling to the floor. Yet I, too, choose the same risk as my California friends, to live in practically perpetual sunshine rather than ice and snow.


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Friday, August 12, 2011

La Gran Terraza Restaurant


Wednesday evening my daughter took me to La Gran Terraza, a fine dining restaurant at the University of San Diego, where my son-in-law is the evening chef. We entered the building and proceeded down the hall, past O’Tooles Tavern and entered a large dining room with large floor to ceiling windows. Our view included Tecolote Canyon and Mission Bay. The Front Manager, Amanda, told us that usually the view includes a beautiful sunset. That evening, we had a complete cloud cover.

The Prime Rib buffet was certainly tempting. Since I had a late lunch, I had no intention of eating very much. However, I had a little of this and a little of that. Before I knew it I had filled my plate. Beside the Prime Rib (delicious!!) with onions and mushrooms for topping with au jus gravy, there were roasted vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes. As I rounded the buffet table in the center of the room, I found a fresh fruit compote with black beans, a plate with fresh fruit and cheese, and salmon in pastry.

Then, our waiter reminded us of the soup table and the various breads offered. I had to pass up the soup, but not the cranberry bread. It tasted so good. I barely managed to try the desserts which are created in-house. The whole meal was excellent, as was the service.

Now, having enjoyed this wonderful meal, desserts and all, coupled with my late lunch at Red Lobster, I am definitely returning to my diet.

Check out my photos at http://www.shutterfly.com/pro/PhotosbyCathi/Scenery

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Red Lobster

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Yesterday afternoon I met a friend, Maricruz, for a late lunch (or early dinner) at Red Lobster. Since the restaurant was having their “Crabfest” promotion, the waiter supplied us with a menu containing some very inviting dishes. As we perused the menu, we just couldn’t decide. We were originally ordering crab cakes, which I had enjoyed once before when we met for dinner. However, the menu had some tantalizing suggestions. Maricruz asked if I wanted to share some dishes. Well, it opened the door. We ordered multiple appetizers. We ditched our resolution and surrendered to the inviting pictures on the menu and ordered the crab cakes, and the coconut shrimp, and the shrimp bruschetta. Everything tasted delicious. What a great idea.

Because of the time of day, the restaurant was not too busy and the atmosphere was perfect for catching up on each other’s news. I really enjoy hearing of my friends’ new ventures, and the one Maricruz has embarked upon was very interesting. I say congratulations to her! Of course, as much as I like to write, I love to talk. Before we knew it, we completed our tasty meal.

And, as the day progressed, I went to another restaurant. More about that tomorrow.


Check out my photos at http://www.shutterfly.com/pro/PhotosbyCathi/Scenery

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sammy's Woodfire Pizza


My daughter took me to Sammy's Woodfire Pizza in Liberty Station, Point Loma.
While I've been to three of the twelve Sammy's locations, this is by far my favorite. On my first visit a few years ago, I took the time to look around. The building was constructed sometime in the 1930's and 40's as part of the Naval Training Center in San Diego. When the Navy scaled down their training operation in San Diego during the late 1990's, the City of San Diego transformed the buildings for restaurants, stores, etc. As I looked around, I saw that they used the original structure, showing the bare wood of the roof and draping it with sails. I thought how appropriate....reminiscent of its former use.

When we go to Sammy's, we usually share a Five Cheese pizza ($12.50) and a small Balsamic Grilled Chicken ($9.95). This time we added shrimp ($4.00) to the salad because I like that, while my daughter likes the chicken. The small salad is the size of a dinner plate. We both agreed that every thing was very delicious.

Then came dessert. We decided to share Apple Empanadas ($7.50). As we were ordering it, I mentioned to the waitress that we were celebrating birthdays. She said, "Oh, for birthdays, the dessert is on us." What great news.

I really love this place, so you are reading about it in detail. When in San Diego, this restaurant is worth your visit.

Check out my photos at http://www.shutterfly.com/pro/PhotosbyCathi/Scenery

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Poll about God's Job Performance

While this blog is principally one to speak about places I've been in Southern California and New York State, I occasionally take license to write about a subject out of this area. The following is totally my opinion.

An August 1, 2011 New York Daily News (online) article by Kathryn Kattalia, told about a survey reportedly taken by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm based in North Carolina. The question was “if God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its performance?” The choice of answers was Yes, No, and Not Sure. You can read it at http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-08-01/entertainment/29859965_1_approval-rating-new-poll-job-performance.

Aside from calling God an “it”, in my opinion, the question was frivolous and empty. Printed beside this article was a New York Daily News poll, which included the following answers (I’m paraphrasing): Approve, Don’t approve, and “Should humans really be rating God’s job performance.” I checked the third answer on the New York Daily News poll.

Human nature seems to cause us to praise God for the good and blame Him for the bad. The God I worship is a good God. I praise Him for good things happening, but I don’t blame Him when bad things happen. I believe that God created this wonderful world, and then, human beings. He gave us “free will” and dominion over this world. I believe He left the world in our hands and only intervenes when asked. Sometimes things happen as a result of societal actions. We can use and abuse the world and everything in it, or respect every human life and His creation. I also believe that, unfortunately, bad things do happen to good people. Life happens. I don’t believe that God picks people to suffer the injustices of this world. I still believe that God is a good God and loves each and every one of us personally. It is our choice to access that love, or not.

In full disclosure, I am a Roman Catholic who believes that I have a personal friendship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You, too, can have this same friendship. Just ask Him, tell Him that you are sorry for anything you’ve done that you know was wrong and then, trust it is done. In the Bible, Acts 16:30-31 states, “….Sirs, what must I do to be saved? They (Paul and Silas) replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

I am certainly no theologian, just an individual who trusts in the goodness and mercy of God….a sinner saved by grace.

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20th Anniversary of the World Wide Web

On August 6, 1991 the World Wide Web (www.) was made available to the public on the Internet. A full account of this information is found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Web. Twenty years later, many of us practically live on the Internet, either before or with their morning coffee or late into the night. It has become a valuable tool for keeping in contact with our friends and researching every conceivable need for information. Because of the public access to the Internet, world wide news travels in seconds, probably faster.

I am a ardent believer in keeping the Internet free of Government involvement. Good intentions in the guise of protecting us can also restrict us.

On September 11, 2001, I worked in a building on 53rd Street near Park Avenue in New York City. My daughter worked 500 paces from the South Tower at the World Trade Center. My children on the West Coast thought I still worked at the World Trade Center on that day. (Actually, I had changed jobs and moved to the midtown area.) After the planes hit those towers, it didn't take long for us to lose phone service. Therefore, I could not phone my East or West Coast children to tell them that my daughter and I were alive.

Later in the morning, I thought of the Internet. I had never used the computer at work for personal reasons. But, that day I sent e-mails to my San Diego friends. asking them to phone my family in San Diego and Los Angeles. When the first plane hit the North Tower, my friends in San Diego were only getting up for work. I didn't know that they never went to work that day. I sent e-mails to my West Coast children, guessing at their work e-mail addresses, telling them that their sister and mother were OK. I gave them our locations, where we would be that evening in case there was another attack, and phone numbers to possibly reach us. New York City was in "lockdown" and we weren't going anywhere. If we didn't have this unfettered public access, my children would have continued wondering if we were alive. Because my son received my e-mail in Los Angeles, he was able to call me. I can't explain how he could get a call in yet I couldn't get a call out. Just suffice it to say, he spoke with me and his sister.

So, while there is good and bad on the Internet, we must preserve our freedom to this access. With all the social networking available on Facebook and Twitter, we contact friends, some of us with vital information and others with every thought that crosses their minds. They are free to do that.

We cannot wake up some morning and find that our Twitter and Facebook, much less Internet access has been taken away because of a real or perceived crisis. If "the powers that be" are concerned about hackers, they should be working on improving software security to preserve freedom for all, not restraining all. I believe we should appreciate what we have and keep the Internet public.

Check out my photos at http://www.shutterfly.com/pro/PhotosbyCathi/Scenery

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

All Quiet on the Home Front


It is now 3:50am. It is 70 degrees and I'm awake. I guess our real summer is arriving here in San Diego. Of course, it is nothing to complain about with other parts of the US suffering under much higher temperatures. When I moved from New York to San Diego, my co-workers kept telling me that our "real" summer would occur in August and September. Well, it turned out to be true. It pays to listen to the locals.

With our visitors from New York having returned home, life has settled back into the regular routine. My San Diego grandchildren have been going to camp or preschool.

When the teenage grandchildren arrived from New York, the first question my 14 year old grandson asked was "How come you call your highways the 5, the 405, the 15, etc?" Well, I don't know. Practically every East Coast visitor has asked that. In the Northeast, highways are identified as "Route 9, Route 95, etc.", except for "the Turnpike", "The Garden State" or "the Thruway". Also, here in San Diego located on the Pacific Ocean, we go to the beach. On the East Coast, if we are going to the ocean, it is called "the shore", like "Jersey Shore." If you are going to Long Island, it is "the island", or "the Hamptons" if you are uber-rich. I'm sure other areas of the US have their own terminology.

So, onto other summer adventures. I'm looking forward to visiting my son's family in Redondo Beach. I'll use Amtrak for that trip and will, of course, share that with you.

Check out my photos at http://www.shutterfly.com/pro/PhotosbyCathi/Scenery

Monday, July 18, 2011

Busy Busy Weekend

Since my teenage New York grandchildren were visiting San Diego, our weekend activities (usually with everyone going his or her own way) accelerated.

On Thursday, they went with their uncle and cousins to Nickel City. All the games cost one nickel (5 cents). The younger grandchildren always enjoy going there. The teens told me that they enjoyed it as well. Then, following dinner, the family was off to Corvette Diner for dessert. My teenage granddaughter said that it was now her favorite diner. My teenage grandson had a hat made of balloons, as did the younger grandchildren. There is quite a variety of shakes and ice cream desserts from which to make your selection. The choices at our table ranged from shakes to a large banana split. After that, they went to the midnight showing of the new Harry Potter movies. Hear tell....they went to the Studio Diner in Kearny Mesa and got home around 4:30am. They probably slept all day Friday.

We met them again on Saturday in the Gaslamp Quarter of Downtown San Diego. Lunch was at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza on Fourth Avenue. The family enjoyed a great salad and several different kinds of pizza. Since I am on a protein diet, I ordered Kobe Beef Hamburgers without the rolls. They were the size of "sliders". They were very tasty and served exactly as I requested with no roll or sauce, etc. However, I didn't realize that Kobe beef has a higher fat content than regular beef. It still tasted delicious without any sauce or accoutrement's. After lunch, the teenagers toured the area with their Cardiff aunt and uncle.

On Sunday, we all went to Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. It was a pleasant experience for me since I've never accompanied the family to the beach before. After three hours of playing in the sand and surf, a restful lunch was in order. Later in the day, my grandson took my two granddaughters and myself to the Delmar Golf Center to use the driving range. He told me early in his visit to San Diego that he was taking me there. My grandson is a member of his high school's Varsity golf team. On Sunday, I saw how promising my granddaughters, both the 14 year old and the eight year old, were as golfers. For someone who never hit a golf ball, the teenager did very well, as did the eight year old. After we repeatedly complemented her, my teenage granddaughter called her father in New York and asked for golf lessons.

That evening, we had to say farewell to my New York grandchildren. We all enjoyed their visit. Perhaps they will come again....maybe to attend college.

This afternoon, as my daughter and I did an errand, we decided to go out to diner. As discussion ensued, I suggested Filippi's in Pacific Beach on Garnet Avenue. I could feel the lasagna calling me, even though I didn't get that. The food at Filippi's is great and we especially like the atmosphere at the Pacific Beach restaurant. After the children enjoyed their ice cream, we decided to go to the beach (three or four blocks away).

We found a parking spot about a block away and walked the beach. Actually, the grandchildren gleefully ran and jumped up the beach. As the sun went down, we stopped to see a man having a little show on the beach. His talent was juggling fire torches as well as balancing them as he stood on a ladder (unsupported) on a small 4' by 4' platform in the sand.

As we walked back to the car we all agreed that sometimes "spontaneous" outings can be quite enjoyable.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

San Diego Night Zoo

This afternoon I went with my daughter and family, as they took two of my East Coast grandchildren to the San Diego Night Zoo. Our East Coast visitors are 14 years old.

We arrived around 3pm and headed for the "Urban Jungle." On the way, we visited the tropical birds including the Laughing Kookaburra, which my four-year old grandson can imitate perfectly and the peaceful koalas. This time there were nine koalas sitting, sleeping or eating on branches. The spectators are usually very quiet. It's almost like they are taking on the aura of this exhibit.

Finally, we reached the giraffes and crossed the street to see two rhinos cavorting. We were just in time to watch an employee named Heidi feeding Murphy (a red river hog). As we circled around past the rhinos, we found them playing roughly with each other. It was quite a spectacle to see these large, heavy animals actually pushing each other back and forth over a length of 30 or 40 feet. After that we stopped to see one of the Night Zoo acts, Jasmine and Jade Jumpers, performing there. After enjoying their acrobatic antics, we left to find a place to eat supper.

My daughter suggested the Sabertooth Grill at Elephant Odyssey. Everyone enjoyed their choice of dishes....macaroni and cheese for the four year old, a chili bowl, a hamburger with onion rings for the teens, chicken wrap and chicken rice plates for the adults while watching the elephants. As we were eating, my daughter told us she spotted Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna on a VIP tour as we were watching Heidi feed Murphy, the red river hog in the Urban Jungle. Not that I'm a celebrity hound, but it would have been nice if she told us at the time. I remember standing outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles with my Cardiff daughter to see the Wiggles. My daughter said, "Don't look now but there is an actor standing over there, but I can't remember his name." I immediately looked in that direction. She said, "You looked. I told you not to look." It was just a natural response. I guess that at the zoo today, my San Diego daughter decided that Harry, Lisa and the children deserved their privacy. Last year, I took my San Diego granddaughter to the zoo on the day the new Polar Bear Exhibit opened. That night the TV Newscaster related that Tori Spelling was at the exact same place that afternoon. I didn't see her, but most likely wouldn't have recognized her anyway. I'm sure many famous people visit the zoo without being noticed. Well, on another subject, with full stomachs, we ventured over to the elephants.

Then, back to the entrance to take the much anticipated tour bus, the last one of the day. We all sat on the upper level and had a great forty-minute ride. In some instances, being on the upper level prevents you from seeing some animals. However, I consider it fun anyway.

At 8pm, we saw the Front Street Finale. There is a short parade which includes the spectators. We returned to an act the grandchildren had seen last week. The young performers from China were very talented. We tried to congratulate and speak with them until we realized, as they nodded and smiled, that they most likely didn't speak English. Then, on to the Skyfari aerial tram, so that our guests could see the whole park.

Just as we were ready to go home, my teenage granddaughter asked where the iguanas were. As we were near the reptile house, in our entourage went. That is, except me. I don't go into reptile houses. They came out a short while later, satisfied with what they saw. They all spoke about a large ancient turtle.

Our six hours at the zoo seemed to fly by. My teenage East Coast grandchildren have been to the Bronx Zoo in New York a number of times. I think they really enjoyed their day at the San Diego Zoo.

To my Southern California friends, you would really enjoy having a zoo membership. It enables you to visit for two or three hours anytime you want. The zoo map details which trails are easy and which are steep. You can choose to see a part of the park at your leisure so you don't miss anything. That's how our family does it.


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Monday, July 4, 2011

Thanks to Our Troops

As I join my family and friends on the Fourth of July, I would like to thank the good Lord for the freedoms we enjoy so blithely in the United States of America. I say, blithely, because while we go about out lives, day in....day out, it is so easy to take freedom for granted. As we have our cookouts and fireworks, we should remember that these freedoms are a result of the dedication of our Service Members stationed throughout the world. Their steadfast commitment enables us to live and travel in relative safety. If I see a member of our Armed Forces on my travels, I make it a point to say "Thank you." If I'm able, I will hand them a few dollars for lunch. Usually, the recipient is embarrassed, but gracious. However, I believe it is important that each person in uniform personally realize that we are thankful. I also believe that, in this suffering economy, they have less money to go around, than we do.

As we celebrate our freedoms today, please join me in prayer for our Armed Forces.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday at Balboa Park


My shy, reserved granddaughter will be attending the San Diego Junior Theatre camp in Balboa Park tomorrow, so my daughter took her there to see the layout. I and my not so shy or reserved grandson went along.

There were many visitors, so we had to pray for a parking spot. We circled the parking lot not finding a spot and decided to just drive to the front of the building where the theatre camp would be held. There, right in front of the building was a "15 minute" spot. We had just enough time to familiarize my granddaughter with the layout of the area. Then, we got back into the car and drove to the area where she would be picked up every day. That accomplished, my daughter circled through that parking lot. As she stopped because of someone waiting for a parking spot, a couple walked up to the car and said, "We are leaving if you want our spot." That gave us the opportunity to wander through the park. If you had seen the line of cars waiting to park, you'd probably agree that our prayer was answered.

The Park was crowded but not over-crowded. We walked to the Bea Evenson Water Fountain. To the left, is a picture taken when there were less visitors. On the way up to the fountain, a lone street dancer got my grandson to join him in a dance routine.


We just missed a large group dance performance near the fountain. As we walked down the main street we saw the San Diego Bird Rescue group with some beautiful birds. The volunteers walked amidst the spectators allowing them to have a close-up view that they would not ordinarily enjoy.



My granddaughter wanted to see the tall tower near the western entrance to the Park. Actually, it is the California Tower housing the Ona May Lowe Carillon (picture at the top of blog). To the left is a picture of the entrance to the Museum of Man.



Then, with her curiosity satisfied, we walked back towards the Botanical Building. On the way, a small crowd surrounded a street magician. We stopped to watch his magic tricks. Then, on to the Botanical Building where we had the opportunity to rub and sniff some herbs. Interesting. There were many, many plants, but it was too crowded today.

I led our little group to a tree behind this building, which I've found very interesting because so many of it's roots were above the ground (picture below on the left). The children enjoyed climbing the roots. I think the this tree might be a Moreton Bay Fig Tree as its roots are similar to the large famous one near the Park Avenue entrance (picture below on the right).








As we passed the Village Grill, we decided to have, what was by now, a late lunch. It provided a good reprieve from all our walking. As time was marching on, we regrettably had to skip the Art Show at the Spanish Village Art Center.

There is just so much to see at Balboa Park, whether it be roadside entertainment, museums, plants or beautiful architecture. Actually, we probably only covered one-third of the park. And, a good time was had by all.

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