Moonlighting @ Encinitas

We’ve worked our way north along the coastline, and while I was planning to go much further north to Carlsbad maybe, or head south to Pacific Beach and catch some World Famous fish tacos, I’m tired. We’ll come back later and hit some more. I’d love to show you around the Hotel Del in Coronado.

But today, we’re hanging out in Encinitas, and the first agenda item is having breakfast at Honey’s. Step up, pay for your order and go grab a table on the sidewalk if you can. People watching in Encinitas is half the fun and everyone from locals to tourists are popping in for coffee, muffins, or the whole acai bowl topped with bee pollen thing. Encinitas takes it’s vegetarian, laid back, dog loving beachy vibe seriously. You should be comfortable with dreadlocks, spandex, hot yoga, and enlightenment. Even the homeless folks shuffling along the sidewalk fit right in.

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference.

On this piece of Coast Highway 101 they will close down for a 10K or their massive annual Street Fair. There are funky resale shops next to Gardenologie next to frozen yogurt next to bars. The Farmer’s Market is every Wednesday from 4-7pm. Roxy’s is just down the block; we’ll come back after the beach and have falafel or veggie burritos, yeah? Or maybe you’d rather go have Thai? Curry followed with plum or green tea ice cream.

Now that we’re full of delicious goodness, let’s drive over to Moonlight. The roomy parking lot on the bluff top has two ramps dropping down to the beach. You can see right away the playground on the right and the volleyball courts beyond it towards the ocean. To the left you’ll see a brand new facility that includes spacious bathrooms, showers, and a snack bar. Across the middle walkway are the lifeguard tower and toys. They designed it brilliantly with a flat rooftop stage area. During the summer, they host bands there above the beach, efficiently using every inch of this compact space.

You’ll see the fire rings, picnic tables in the center. And beyond all this…the Pacific. Let’s head out toward the water and put our stuff down. The beach stretches out north and south, we can wander either direction. The surf is a little bigger here, the seaweed comes and goes. Let’s watch some two-man volleyball first. I can play a mean game of smash ball, if you brought it. This is the beach you come to when you play hooky from work, where the nannies bring their young charges for “outside activities”, and where all you want to do, really, is relax and enjoy the fresh salt air. I can feel my curly hair twisting into dreadlocks as we speak. Look, a couple of dolphins are going by.

(Here is some space inserted for taking a very long nap in the warm sand, while the ocean breeze runs over the dunes and the seagulls cry loudly back by the snack bar…I hear a kid crying by the snack bar too, but he doesn’t count in this scenario…commence napping)

The day is almost over. I’m glad you got to enjoy the water and the beaches with us.  A large group of people has slowly gathered on the sand. They sit in a circle and everyone has a drum of some kind. One person begins the slow deep rhythm, and one by one the beat is picked up. Enjoy the impromptu entertainment while we all watch for the green flash as the sun drops its last bit of golden disk below the horizon. The bonfires are sending wispy smoky smells our way and it’s time to snuggle into hoodies. You hear a train pass in the distance behind us.

There’s a saying on bumper stickers out here: “No Bad Days”

True enough.


Gym Gymminie

My daughter cracks me up. When she was in high school, she was sitting with a small circle of friends during lunch listening to them discuss everything from weight to body image. They didn’t realize how much whining, in general, goes on within a gaggle of females regarding the female form. My girl decided that they weren’t loving themselves nearly enough, and got the ball rolling by announcing that she was going to name her teensy little poochy muffin top “Cloe”. She was going to love it, hug it, and treat it with all dignity and respect, as it represented all the happy foods she’d enjoyed lately. And when she ever decides that Cloe simply must go, she will politely invite her to leave via the mountain in our backyard.

It’s our family’s muffin-top remover of choice.

I myself prefer the gym for several reasons. It’s open at all the completely random times I have an hour to spare for sweating. It never has weather. There are no rattlesnakes. It always has restrooms. And there’s a TV monitor everywhere you look!

Color me crazy, but I only have time to watch TV when I go to the gym. I pick a machine in front of the channel I like. I can time it for the news, or Oprah or the Home Improvement shows. Or watch them all simultaneously.

But heaven help me! I have a major weakness for the cooking channel.

I went to the gym this morning and half the TVs had cooking shows on.  Seriously?  I’m trying to remove cheesecakes from my past here and they’re showing me how to make them.  And a really beautiful egg roll dish, and some excellent BBQ ribs.  I wasn’t too excited about the “beans n greens” soup recipe, but still.  I came home and now I’ve got two chickens simmering on the stovetop and some eggs were just hard boiled and I’ve got the stuff out to start the cinnamon rolls next. You gotta love the gym.

I carried five wonderful children in turn, and each one left me with an extra special bit of muffin-top that I fear is going to be a friend for life. I ought to pick a name for it that reflects its honorable and historical significance. “Bertha” seems about right.

So far this month, we got ourselves a new swimsuit and some new manners for our beach trips. I’m really not here to help you get a new body to go with it. Your body is all yours. You get to be in charge of it and all I really think is that you ought to love it and treat it with respect, since it’s all the body you get. No matter who else comes and goes in your long and triumphant life, your body is going to be right there with ya.

May as well give it a hug. Maybe a little pat on the back for getting you this far.

I’ll be spending all of May in the kitchen, which is one of my happy places for sure. I’ll also get around to telling you about zumba and yoga and turbo kick boxing. But right now, I’m just totally craving muffins!


Surfing @ Swami’s


Surf’s up beach bums! Are we psyched?  Are we stoked? The waves are really juicy today; glassy, cool, totally sweet, awesome and rad.

Saweeeeet! Is that dude trunkin? Trippy. Where’s your suit?

We’re gonna hang ten on the nose. We’re gonna see some righteous surfing out there! Let’s see you in the tube; shoot the pipe dude! Gnarly! Check out the sharkbait! Let’s go tribe!

My dad is a silver surfer. A gray. A senior. He’s a swami. And this is where he hangs.

At the north end of our stretch of beach, next to the Swami’s self-realization resort and spa, is a tiny parking lot at the top of a flight of steps leading to Swami’s beach. Surfers save parking spots for each other and most of the time this tiny lot is as entertaining as the beach below it.

Go ahead and circle it slowly a couple of times just for fun.

You’ll see surfers in every stage of undress, in every kind of vehicle, age, hairdo, body art and discussion. Enjoy the tiki carved into what’s left of a cut down tree in the little grassy area by the road. Park if you’re lucky, otherwise use the highway but watch for bikes!

Yeah, there’s a bike path, but they abandoned it to the stroller pushing power walking moms in spandex and take their chances with the speeding topless convertibles who are watching the amazing view of ocean and mom-spandex, and not the road.

There is one small bathroom at the parking lot and then a looong staircase down to the beach. Be sure you go before you go, ya know? Don’t be surprised if the toilet paper is all gone. Every power-walking mom stops here along her route, and every surfer and tourist. I get it.

But probably the resident bag lady has something to do with it as well.

She’s the one on the bench there surrounded by all of her worldly possessions in plastic grocery bags. It’s hard to tell what she possesses because all of it is also wrapped up in newspaper. And she steps, periodically, into the ladies and carefully wraps up a supply of TP for her own mysterious reasons. I’ve never asked.

My dad has been surfing here and there for a great many years. He is still not considered a local by the locals. He’s seen surfers go all aggro but also met some chill bruddas. His board is cherry. He knows how to shape blanks and glass them.

He’ll be happy to take you out and show you the basics.  Watch out for hotdoggers.

I myself will be holding down the beach. I’m a gaper fo sho. No shame. I brought my camera.

While we’re heading down 138 wooden stair steps, glance left (south) and you’ll see that this strip of sand will take us back over to Pipes, where we walked last week. High tide removes the beach between them, but you can stroll along the asphalt walkway up top anytime. Watch out for those strollers.

If we got here during low tide, we’ll walk right (north) and check out the awesome tide pools. Look for octopus and sea urchins, with anemones and mussels thick on the sharp reef. Tiny fish are caught in small pools along with crabs in the rocks, waiting for the Pacific to return. Watch your step.

I would like to fill you in on the procedures to take should you ever come in from a surf session and step down onto a sting ray. These buggers drift on the sand in any depth of water and surprisingly hate when people step on them. I’m sure you feel the same.

Okay, what to do when one barbs you in the ankle. Scream like a little girl. Bleed profusely. Both of these are good things. Do NOT pee on it. That’s for jellyfish.

Let a lifeguard boil you a bucket of saltwater and stick your foot in it to soak. Add some mussels and a dash of spirulina. When the soup is ready…no, just kidding. When you think you can possibly hobble to the car, go home and take a fist full of pain killers.

Watch your foot morph over the next week, going from pus filled blisters to open weeping sores to scabby healing wounds. Wonder if you can take the hole it made and use it in some kind of creative tattoo to remember the occasion by. Never surf again.

Just kidding again.

Return to surfing immediately, because that’s the kind of awesome gnarly wave-riding dude you are.

Stop by the Java Hut for a hot coffee when you’re done.

Tell ‘em Dale sent you.

Hang loose, dude. Hasta luego.

Lounging @ La Jolla Shores

Welcome to “The Jewel”. If you come out for a visit, we have beaches all up and down the coast, each with a different feel and activity level.  I’ll take you on a trip to four of ours, starting with a very popular international destination. La Jolla Shores has plenty of parking, a brand new lifeguard facility, kid’s playground, good bathrooms, showers, lots of grassy area and lots of groomed sand. It sits in a large cove, making the whole area flat, surrounded by the rolling bluffs of town around it. There is a spacious feel, a wonderful view in all directions, and a flat, gentle ocean that invites all ages out for a dip.

Because of the smaller waves, this is the place where groups take surfing lessons, scuba diving, and kayak tours. You will see paddle boarders, swimmers, and snorkelers out by the buoys, and usually seals, sea lions, dolphins, or the seasonal leopard shark communities. If you pop on a mask and go out to join them, you will discover sting rays on the bottom, corbina and other local fish along side of you.  Keep floating south toward the reefs and you may even find Garibaldi. The entire area is an ecological reserve; it’s illegal to remove any marine life.

Lounge on the beach with me facing the ocean and glance left, to the south. You will see tiny La Jolla Cove tucked into the point of land that thrusts from the coastline. Those folks had a ridiculous time finding a parking space and then hiked down the stairs into the Cove, which is crowded, especially during high tide which pushes all the humans up against the bluff but they are not going to leave because, darn it, they finally have a parking space up there. If you find yourself over there, pack all your gear back into your car (ignore all the other cars stalking you, wondering if you might be leaving so THEY can have your spot. It’s mean to linger and tease them!). Take your camera and walk along the bluff top south towards Seal Beach and you will have lovely views, and some nice grassy areas that you could enjoy. If all the kids in the whole world weren’t having their birthday parties there, that is.

Sit up and follow the hilltops visually along to the southeast behind us and you’ll see the tall cross on Mount Soledad. It’s a short drive there and the view is worth it. Continuing in our circular tour, you’ll see ba-zillion dollar mansions all over the hillsides from south to north. They have nice views, eh? Pick out which one you want to live in someday. The one obviously calling your name. Then remember to make a ba-zillion dollars when you go back home so you can retire here. Then ask me over for tea.

The campus for UCSD has many buildings around the area, and some can be seen as you hit the north end of our view. The Scripps Institute for Oceanography sits there and stretches out a long pier into the Pacific for their research needs. You can walk down there later and observe college students observing barnacle “habitats” living on the pier footings. The students and the barnacles appear to have identical energy levels. Just saying. The college accounts for all of the young adults lying around out here “studying”, and their parents from around the world, who are out for a visit. It’s common to hear different languages and accents spoken on this beach.

At this point, you’ve probably noticed something really awesome. No, not the co-eds! The bluffs to the north take a radical turn skyward and leaping from their heights are hang gliders. You can drive up there and watch them from above, listening to the shrieks and joining in on them, but I prefer the view from right where we are. They float along like dandelion puffs and I don’t have to see how close to smashing into the cliffs they come or hear the unintelligible obscenities or even the blissful, awestruck look on their faces as they become one with the sky, the view, and the….I’m sorry, HOW do they land those things? In the water? On the beach? Back onto the bluff? I have never seen one land. Perhaps they have been up there for years, the same guys, living off rainfall and randomly captured seagulls. I don’t want to know.

I probably will never know because the beach directly below that cliff is Black’s Beach, an infamous nude beach that you have to get down maybe 3,000 steps from the bluff to access. I suppose if you’re a local and go frequently, the exercise has you in good enough shape to toss your garments, but I’m never going to be curious enough to find out.

Wait, where are you going? I took you to this beach! Hey, come back!

And The Winner Is…Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

So I’ll wait with my poker face on while she deliberates whether it’s safe to stretch her word far enough into the double word zone but with a letter I may not be able to stretch into a triple later.  To play the S or not to play the S, that is a question.  Also, how many Ds are there in the game?  You could count them up and roll the dice accordingly.  Well, we don’t use dice but it’s an idea.  Perhaps a Magic 8 Ball would come in handy once in a while.  So she’ll put the word out there and maybe it’s only because it was “a really cool word” and it had to be played, points or no points.  Yep, it’s a really cool word all right.  Too bad I’m going to roll right over the top of it and play my X word into the red territory and pull into the lead by 30 points.  Ha.

“Cheater.”  Spoken softly through clenched teeth and with eyes slitted sideways at me.

“I know.”  Carefree.  Confident.  True.  I had looked up every X word variable and stumbled onto this one.  Research pays off.

“What does it mean?”

“An African unit of money.”

“I don’t know how you sleep at night.”

“Me neither.”

And so the tension mounts, as much from our surroundings as from the slowly filling board.  We have to keep vigilant peripheral vision to stop a crawling or stumbling child from landing on the board (we usually play on the floor with cushions) and if someone needs the facilities or to grab a coffee refill, the other is bound to keep her hands off the tiles.  And no peeking on the other gal’s tray either.  Years ago we decided that really cheating for goodness sake was no fun at all.  When the game ends and you realize there are eight blanks played, you know you’ve been duped and neither your victory nor your defeat is worth much.

“Argh!! There is nothing on my tray but junk!”

“I’ll sell you a vowel.  I’ve got four Es.”

“Too bad you have the Q.  And the J, I’m sure.”

“That just means I’m getting all the points.  Too bad you’re gonna lose again.”

“I know.”

“Seriously, I’ll give you a hundred bucks for a T if you got one.”

Our games last about an hour give or take.  We rarely have to prod each other on to make a move.  The closer to the end of the game you get, the trickier the moves have to be, especially if the score is even.  We’ve each made up a 50 point deficit and both know the joy of going from underdog to top dog in the end.  Anything is possible, and somehow attitude is a major component of if and when fickle lady luck decides to join your side.

Don’t give us a chess board or Stratego or invite us over for a game of poker.  We can’t count, we don’t need to think more than one step ahead, and if we are interrupted twenty times in the hour, you wouldn’t expect us to be able to play anything in a straight line.  We tried the online scrabble game, the ones in phones and one on Facebook.  Once in a while we gather a crowd and really cut loose with a game of Take Two.  But it’s just not the same.  No one else can quite grasp the sentiment.

“That is SO not a word.”

“A rubber-soled cloth shoe.  From Norway.”

“Oh whatever.  Can you add an -ER to it?”

“Because then the shoe is shoeier?”

The notebook has a few blank pages left in it.  Maybe if we could get together more than a couple times a year it would go faster, but we’re patient people.  And I need to add more words to the Dictionary.


And The Winner Is…Part 1

In my game closet there is a small spiral notebook with years of score keeping running through it.  Red ink, black ink, doodles and stars adorn the margins and some pages have been torn out and tossed ceremonially into a trashcan.  The columns are kept clearly separated and labeled for the most part “Me” and “You”.  Occasionally there was a third player but those pages don’t count.

The players of course, are my sister and I.  Our game of games: Scrabble.

Clear back to the opening pages, I was home with tiny children and my younger sister was doodling variations of “Mrs. B…..” with little hearts on the backside of the scoreboard while waiting for her turn and her future.  Later pages have her lists of possible baby names between tile counts.  This in itself will tell you who normally keeps our running tally.  Big sister trumps little sister, so big sister claims to hate math and can spend the entire game accusing little sister of cheating.  But I’m just too lazy to check her work.  The truth is, she could rob me blind in the score keeping and I wouldn’t have a clue.  There are a couple of pages that end somewhere in the middle of a game that had to be forfeited due to interrupted baby naptimes or a dinner that could no longer be delayed.  But for the most part, my kid sister keeps a beautiful book of numbers.

A circled final winning score shows the end of each match.  Each match brings the updated tally of wins per sister an inch closer to fame and fortune.  If someone played a seven letter coup, it is duly recorded in the margin. If a truly amazing triple was played, there may be stars and notations included.  Early on we played a game where my sis must have been highly caffeinated.  Apparently, she broke 500 points by playing “cartels” and “leakings” along triples.  Even my spell check says that last one is NOT a word.  Most of the time we break 300 each by the game’s end.

You won’t hear me say it out loud.  (Cheater.)

OK, so what is not written down, but guaranteed to have been a large part of the game, is the running dialogue between us, each of whom is equally skilled and both of whom have predetermined herself as the winner of a game not yet played.  We sit down for our games with an aura of victory and the sure knowledge that our worthy competitor is already shaking her head in pity for our loss.

“According to the scorebook, it’s my turn to win today.  You won last time.”

“Yes, but we’re playing at my house.  My house, my rules.  My rule: I’m winning today.”

“Did I or did I not just bring you a coffee?  You have to let me win.”

“Look, I’ll prove it.  I’ll draw my letter.  There.  See?  I pulled out an H.  Clearly the fates have chosen me to go first, and win the game.”

“Pfffft.  There.  Looking like my B is going to trump your H and me and your fates are gonna have a good laugh today.”

“We’ll just see about that.  Pass me the book.”

And now a note about The Book.  We have a couple of our own rules.  What would be the fun of any game if you were stuck with somebody else’s rules?  The game board score boxes of course make sense as do the face values of the tiles and so forth.  But honestly, if I have to actually think while playing a game surrounded by children you are kidding me.  I have a well used and much loved Scrabble Player’s Dictionary and it travels with the game.  There’s no wasting time thinking up a word that may or may not in fact be a word, playing it, and then having to waste more time in challenging it.  If you have to look it up anyway, why on earth not just do it to begin with?  Sheesh.

We have discovered more new words than you can possibly imagine.  We have actually discovered the reverse as well and had to pencil in words that ARE words.  Why was “understand” omitted?  Seriously, it’s not there, and neither is “underwear”.  And there are words in there that I know for a fact can NOT be words, and yet there they are.  You can take a tray of ridiculous letters that in no way shape or form are ever gonna be a word, but if on the off chance you could play a Q in the four spaces of a triple box, by golly you start thumbing through the Q section.  What do you know?  My, my, you learn something new every day.  It never ceases to amaze me what qualifies as a word.  And apparently the makers of the book left no stone unturned.  We have an unspoken agreement that we won’t play a word that is in unsavory taste.  Unless it gives us a bazillion points, in which case we don’t let the kids watch.

All’s fair in love and Scrabble.

(Part 2 here.)