Pigging Out

Let me set the scene: Breakfast is served cafeteria style at our annual week long family bible camp in Idyllwild Pines CA. They used to serve it family style on platters but that was, apparently, too easy. My 12 year old is standing first in line, taking no chances on missing out on any possible tasty goodness that will be served. He isn’t interested in quality so much as quantity. A 12 year old boy is never full to the top and spends much of his day seeking, eating and thinking about food. In later years, this morphs into other subjects that cause me to lose sleep, so for now, I am encouraging him in this hobby.

He patiently thanks the servers for what is placed on his tray and the last I see him, he’s sitting with buddies loudly enjoying the start of another fun day. I of course am delighted to be enjoying my own calmer breakfast with real live adults. There’s not a toddler in a clip-on high chair, I’m not eating over the head of an infant strapped to my chest, and I don’t have a kindergartner asleep in a wagon just outside the doorway. Twenty minutes of contented breakfast later, I clear the table and head out of the dining hall.

Full stop.

Let me re-set the scene: a 12 year old boy eats like the wind (in case other competing 12 year old boys are looking sideways at his meal). And then he looks around for more. The cafeteria is happy to hand out seconds, even thirds, until the food runs out. So why am I looking at my son, sitting outside at a picnic table, up to his ecstatic elbows in a massive platter of bacon? His eyes are a little glazed over, a look of bliss on his face. I know I speak for everyone here when I said, “Eeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwww.”

Actually, you and I know that’s not what I said. I said, “How did you get that?” followed by a moment of being impressed with the child’s opportunistic skills, followed by a vague jealousy, followed quickly with my mom instincts: “You are going to be SO SICK.”

“But mom,” says the cherub, grease dripping from his chin, “they were just gonna throw it all away!”

Here is where I need to take a moment. Just last week, I was cleaning the morning kitchen mess and on a large tray was one last chocolate brownie. You know what happened, right? We’re not going to let a brownie come between finishing the kitchen and moving on with the day. Brownies for breakfast without even skipping a beat. Can’t waste it just because it has nowhere to go.

Boom! Kitchen clean. No survivors.

Pork products are near and dear to my family’s heart, and I’m going to assume, yours. We will do the happy dance if ham or sausage or bacon or BBQ pulled pork sliders are on the menu, and we keep it fairly rare for health reasons as it does, literally, get near to our hearts. So I couldn’t really do anything about the bacon bliss breakfast except laugh and hope for the cast iron stomach of a 12 year old to take the punishment that his mouth was sending down.

We should all be so punished.

 

BBQ in a Pot

When I say I use my Crockpot all the time, it’s true. I absolutely love knowing that no matter how crazy our day gets or when in the world we all come staggering home at night, dinner is hot, ready, and delicious. It only takes a few minutes in the morning or maybe the night before and is almost goof-proof once you know the basics.

Buy a slow cooker with a removable pot. If you don’t want to clean it ever, use disposable plastic liners. This is key if you make nacho cheese sauce in it. All the snack bar moms out there are nodding along with me.

Always put a couple inches of fluids (wine, sauce, water, etc) in the pot, whatever you’re cooking. Fat from the meat itself will melt and create more fluids, so use your own judgement. Soup is a natural for Crockpots. Never fill it to the brim. It will bubble over the edges while it cooks. You shouldn’t need to check or stir your meal either.

Always put potato chunks on the bottom layer, followed by baby carrots, then set your roast on top.

Don’t bother thawing a roast first (unless it’s bigger than your pot and needs to be whacked!), but a whole chicken will need it’s innards removed first so…thaw it and get ’em out. Remove the skin if you can; it will not be crunchy or brown in a pot.

Things will cook on “Low” all day but I like to cook my beans on “High” just to make them as tender as possible. Yes, sort and rinse them the night before and soak overnight. Be sure you rinse them again before cooking them.

I’m sure you have your own favorite BBQ, but here is what I mix up and dump on top of any meat in the pot.

And then I walk away.

  • 1 and 1/2 C ketchup
  • 1/4 C balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 C BBQ sauce
  • 1/8 C honey
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic

 

Crackpot News

I just crammed an eight pound pork roast into a three pound Crockpot. I’m guessing here because the darn pig piece wouldn’t quite fit. I was putting a square pig into an oval hole. Why do the butchers do this?  Does anyone make a square Crockpot? Would it still be a “pot” if it had corners?

My mom used to bake bread in large coffee cans. The loaves were round. It’s still “bread”.

Don’t they know we’ll be getting the kids out the door to school in the morning and then remember we were going to toss something into old faithful because it’s going to be “one of those days”? So we yank open the freezer door, rip open the rock hard meat chunk and go to plop it in, and….it comes screeching to a halt because the thing won’t fit. Just a corner is still sticking out. The clock is ticking.

“Get in the car!” you shout to the kids, “I’ll be right there!”

Now it’s down to you, the pig, the pot, and a kitchen variety of options. I did the only logical thing that didn’t involve a hammer or a blowtorch. (You have those too, right? Mallets are for beating a chicken breast into chicken fried submission, and the torch is for lighting the birthday candles or caramelizing Barbie’s feet when she needs to be tortured when Mom’s not looking.)

Turning the pot to “High”, I gently balanced the lid on top of the roast in the pot and put the heaviest thing handy on top of the lid. Then I ran out the door.

There’s a good 2-3” of water in the pot. The hot steamy water should melt the pig just enough to bend that corner into the pot. Or at least enough so that when I return I can whack that non-conforming pig bit off and commence the cooking. It feels good to have a plan.

Later, upon kitchen re-entry, I discovered that the pig had melted just enough to leak juice over the edge of the pot as it plopped into submission. Naturally. After cleaning it all up and claiming victory for dinners everywhere, it occurs to me: I legally had this raw meat sitting “out” for three hours. Sort of frozen, sort of steamed. This is where my mom’s voice runs across my inner forehead like a ticker-tape, all in capital letters.

STOP! FOOD POISONING ALERT! WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT! ALWAYS KEEP COLD FOODS COLD! KEEP HOT FOODS HOT FOR ONLY TWO HOURS! C.A.Y.G.! REFRIGERATE PROMPTLY! WARNING! SALMONELLA! IMMINENT DOOM!

If you think for one minute I’ll be starting over here, you’ve got another think coming.

I could season it with a couple dashes of Lysol and essence of bleach, but instead we’ll go with the original plan and cook the phooey out of it all day.

I’ll call it a luau. If I were to be authentic, we’d be pulling this bad boy out of a pit dug in the ground where it was surrounded with rocks and dirt and the bare feet of natives. You’re lucky we’re not pulling bits of gravel out of our sliders tonight, so there.

Tea Scones

Are you a Brit? Are you Irish? Perhaps an Aussie? Every home will have it’s own favorite variety on the tea table. I prefer drinking Yorkshire Gold and most black teas; there’s a special place in my heart for vanilla chai, it’s like Christmas in a cup! For scones as well, family recipes are a staple and you’ll find them sweet or savory or plain, like a blank canvas for you to decorate.

I’m going to give you two that fit my own personal criteria: fast, easy, and all five of my kids will eat them.

Fast Scones

Combine:
2 & 1/2 C Bisquick baking mix
scant 1/4 C sugar
With:
2/3 C milk
1/4 C melted butter

Divide into 12 very sticky lumps of dough onto a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 450* for around 10 minutes.

Want to be fancy? Open a “nest” with two forks in the center of each sticky lump and plop some jam, jelly or preserves in there before baking. 

Extremely Fast Scones

Combine:
2 C flour
1/3 C sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Then stir in:
1 C cold milk or cream

Knead briefly then cut or drop into 8 pieces on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375* for 12-15 minutes

Still want to be fancy? You can mix in candied ginger or strawberry bits or even some savory bits (chives, cooked bacon). Then, paint them with melted butter and/or sprinkle on some coarse sugar before you bake them.

Scones are delicious served warm, straight from the oven. Store them airtight for up to 24 hours or freeze up to 12 weeks. Reheat them for 5 minutes at 350* when your guests pop in unexpectedly.

I have actually purchased crumpets at the grocery store. They are like english muffins. But they rhyme with “strumpets”. So they’re more fun.

For a party, place lemon curd, clotted cream, whipped cream, jams, preserves and butter curls in small dishes on the table.

Add plates of crust-less sandwiches, biscuits (cookies), tea cakes, scones, fresh bite sized fruit and berries.

Bon apetit!

 

Tea Time Part 2

One lovely Mother’s Day the girls and I treated our mums to afternoon tea at a beautiful Victorian tea house.  The atmosphere was gracious, the manners dainty, and all I could think was that it seemed an awful lot of money for weak hot water and tiny little bits of food.  I went along, hoping I could sip, smile, and fake my way through it.  I had a large meal before-hand; I wasn’t taking any chances on losing my cool and devouring an entire gilt plate full of watercress sandwiches.

Watercress….I ask you.  (Insert eye roll here.)

What I did not realize was that back in the tea house kitchen, an art was being performed.  Fresh water was being brought to a perfect boil and poured into a warmed teapot with choice loose tea leaves to brew exactly three and one half minutes.  The tea had been chosen for its quality, flavor, and freshness and was handled with skill.  With pomp and circumstance, high tea was served in the dining room.

I took a cautious sip.

OH my.  What is this amazing tastiness?  It was truly an eye opening event for me, and I couldn’t blame it on the jam scones.

There is most certainly a difference in a cup of tea that is made properly and with a great deal of respect.  It must be made slowly and sipped slowly to appreciate the true flavor of it.  Unlike coffee or cocoa, which can be gulped by people at random temperatures at any level of strength, tea is delicate and capricious.  You can’t rush tea.

You must be very careful about what you want to add to it.  Tea does not like to compete in the cup, and heaven forbid anything wooden, paper or plastic gets involved.  I know that lemon or honey can be played about with, but never cream or creamers.  I myself am a “one lump” of sugar and skim milk kind of gal.  I know that every bona fide tea drinker has his or her own version of the perfect cup of tea, and without fail they have respect for others of their ilk.

It really must be “just so”.

When you have your tea just exactly the way you love it, there may as well not be anything else in the world for the next fifteen minutes of the day.  It can completely reboot your system.  With this kind of contentment, the day’s irritations are covered with a layer of grace.

And so I have learned my lesson from those more gracious and patient than myself.  As a student of the “ways of tea” as my joking hubby calls it, I find a world of intrigue, a history that precedes all other hot drinks, and respite for my frazzled nerves.  I actually think tea accessories are as fun as any jewelry: infusers, containers, whisks, drip catchers and “flowering” tea which is amazing to watch “bloom” in a glass pot.

Like the heroes of legend, at the right time the knowledge was revealed to me (ie: before my guests returned). This time I will be their hero!  Dare I say it?  The course of the hostessing world as we know it has tipped for the better – simply because I have discovered the delight of a cup of tea.

Tea Time Part 1

There are many things you learn as you go along in life.  Some the hard way, some the easy way, and others you had no idea you wanted to learn in the first place.  Loving tea is one of those last ones.

Tea is to me what spinach is to Popeye, what beer is to the McKenzie brothers, what Bella is to Edward.  I can face almost any disaster and climb almost any mountain when preceded by a cup of properly prepared tea.

Ah yes, I saw you shake your head just then.  “Another tea snob” is what you thought. I was also one of you back in the day.

What in the world possessed my travelling guests from across the pond that they would go into a state of depression when parted from their dearly missed cuppa?  Why did they stand there, staring at the Lipton tea bags and the Styrofoam cups; sugar packets and wooden stir sticks at the ready?  It was no use encouraging them along with other flavors of prepackaged blandness or perhaps offers of a plastic spoon for the job at hand.  No.

Better to do without than make a cup of gutter water.

Tea withdrawal does not a pleasant guest make.

The gracious hostess within me should have addressed this conundrum with the proper level of respect, yet I am sorry to say that I simply couldn’t grasp the gravity of the situation.  There’s some tea.  There’s a cup.  What’s the hold-up?  Just don’t offer me any.

I went along with similar views of coffee I’m sorry to say, and here is where you have relegated me to the weirdy heap, I know.  If coffee only tasted the way it smelled, we would be getting somewhere.  It is an entirely bitter and awkward brew, and flavored creamers cannot possibly be the answer.  If I have to flavor my coffee with Almond Joy candy bar creamer to get it down, I’d just as soon eat the candy bar. I suppose my dignity would be only a little crushed by sitting at the coffee house chowing down a candy bar instead of sipping coffee.

With Starbucks popping up on every corner and everyone suddenly “meeting for coffee”, I was faced with the choice of zero social life or finding a way to blend in at the coffee house.  I was pleasantly surprised, after having all of those exciting Italian words explained in English, to discover that a frappuccino is basically ice cream with a coffee flavor.  A latte is basically flavored milk.  Add enough sugar and milk to a coffee and it is no longer coffee.  Voila!

You can top it with whipped cream and pretend you are having hot cocoa, which used to be my only palatable hot drink of choice.  Unless you are ordering in a restaurant and everyone orders coffee but you order cocoa and get thinly disguised looks of pity.  And the waitress without fail puts too much cocoa into the cup, making a layer of chocolate sludge at the bottom, rendering the watery drink a horrifying substitute for a sophisticated adult drink.

I’m afraid my experiences with tea were no better.  Many well meaning friends had tried to introduce me to the joys of tea in the past.  I tried, I really did! Green and herbal teas taste exactly as advertised.  At least the tea was honest, unlike traitorous coffee.  I was still not excited about drinking a cup of hot orange flavored water.  Or flower flavored.  They are nice fragrances though, perhaps a little behind the ears?  Black teas might as well be coffee.  Perhaps my palate was simply not ready to be trained.   Perhaps not enough sugar and milk had been applied.  Or perhaps tea is the weakest flavor of hot water ever, and you could not convince me to give it the effort required to acquire the taste when there was still coffee yet to conquer.

But I digress.  While having a basic understanding of a disappointing hot cup before you, it didn’t seem life altering.  And then the inevitable happened.

As it does.

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

Cowabunga!

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.

Beach Bum Etiquette: What Every Tourist Needs to Know

Okay my sand seeking sun loving vacation raging buddies! Here’s the deal for hitting our beaches with class, and keeping your wits about you in the process.  We love you to visit, but there are a few things you need to know right up front, and the tour books are not going to tell you.

1) When you finally arrive at the beach, lugging enough paraphernalia for a camping trip, and start down the beach looking for prime real estate to set up shop, please spread out. What I mean is, if you find there is plenty of sand to go around, please stop putting your base camp two feet from my own. All I have is two towels laid out and a knapsack. Do you really need to park your igloo cooler right in front of my view of the ocean? Which way is the wind blowing? Are your kids actually going to start tossing sand into my stuff while I listen to you debate where to plant the beach umbrella? Do not make me have to mention “playing with jellyfish” to little Timmy.

2) When you show up wearing civilian clothes, I have to watch you during the next two hours, slowly ruining and removing them. Don’t even bother taking your shoes and socks out of your car. Flip-flops are a good choice if your tender feet have never seen fresh air before, and buy cheap ones because they will not stay on more than ten minutes and they will either be forgotten, washed out by the tide, or buried in the sand by little Timmy. Do not wear jeans. Have you ever felt the misery that is wet denim? Go ahead, roll them up. Pretend you’re only going to stick your toes in the water. I’ll wait.

There, did I tell you so?

3) Once your clothes are off, for the love of Aunt Mabel (you brought her, too, didn’t you?) put on sunscreen. You can borrow mine. But you are going to have fried fannies, among other parts and I can’t look at you without cringing. It is NOT a badge of honor that you burnt. It means you can’t take care of your skin. You will not acquire a California tan in one day or even a week of vacationing, so please don’t try the hard way.

4) Okay, this one gets a bit tricky. We are in California, not Spain, and as emancipated and progressive as we claim to be, we will shudder EVERY TIME you guys get down to a pair of Speedos. Please don’t make us watch you strip down and then change into Speedos. We rock the swim trunks/board shorts here. My son played water polo in high school, so I can see there’s certain liberation when a guy is that secure in his manhood, although my kid always doubled up on game days, since teams tried hard to “pants” each other when no one was looking. I don’t know. Call me uptight if you must, but while Europe has embraced the human body in all of its glorious diversity, we modest Americans are also scandalized by topless sunbathing. You’ll get a ticket. Don’t do that either.

5) Seagulls are flying vermin. We won’t feed your basement rats and you shouldn’t feed our gulls. Squirrels are also an issue on beaches full of rock or ice plant bluffs. You will hear them chirping from their look-out perches, signaling to the squirrel pups that lunch is about to be served. The minute you dash to the water, the critters attack your camp. The seagulls know how to open your bags, grab anything in Ziplocs, and fight up and down the beach trying to rip them open. I had a squirrel actually chew a hole through a cloth backpack and run off with my granola bar. I think they used the silver wrapper as wallpaper in their burrow. Gr.

We also frown on littering, smoking, alcohol and dogs (with a couple of exceptions) but these tips should get you started off right. You may choose to attack our beaches in your own unique and special way, of course. I enjoy hearing all of your accents and watching you look around at everyone else while pretending you’re not. It’s hilarious that you think because I’m wearing sunglasses and a hat that I can’t see or hear you. Yes, I know where the sharks are. Yes, I could teach you the “sting-ray shuffle”.  But little Timmy might not want to put his bucket of crabs down right beside me.

Not if you’re wearing Speedos.