Saturday, 28 May 2011

Teachable Moments

As we wind up the school year, in City Heights, where I go every other Friday to teach a Cooking/English class to a group of adult refugees, I am reminded that lessons in the classroom often impact the teacher more than the students.

Case in point.

When I walked in yesterday to set up, the students were on a break and many were snacking on the same dish.

I asked what it was and was immediately brought a bowl, the snack and a napkin. After hearing the word, I asked the kind student if she would ‘write down’ the name of this rice flour and water fried-in-oil concoction.

The rounded shapes and symbols were so unlike our alphabet that it really struck me what a steep learning curve this group had to master English.

And after repeating it three times, I still hadn’t nailed the pronunciation.

Then class began. I held up pictures of fruit and one-by-one they came up and wrote down the name. The only difficulties in spelling came from k-i-w-i. And the only confusion came from remembering that lemons are yellow and limes are green and not the other way around. While everyone was enjoying the prepared fruit salad, I used an empty whiteboard to list the ingredients.

The fun came when I asked the students if they could teach me a thing or two – AND THEY DID.

Writing the same word underneath in their native language.

For most that was Karen, related to Burmese and spoken by around 4 million people in Burma and Thailand. They also wrote the phonetic version so that I could more easily sound it out.


Spelled out like that I had a far greater appreciation for where they started and how well they are doing in English, both written and verbal.

What pride they took in teaching the teacher.

A+ class!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Low Tech Lawnmowers

In a business park in Rancho Bernardo, between Sony Electronics and Nokia, there is a low-tech solution for managing tall grass, weeds and other unsightly brush.


Grazing, chewing, munching billy goats.

Sharing gossip at the water cooler before getting back to work.

That can clear acres.

And unlike traditional lawnmowers, they also provide fertilizer.

Tuckered out from a long day of eating on the job.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Book Works

Located in the Flower Hill Mall on Via de la Valle.

Will be closing in July.

After 35 years.

It is just one of the independent bookstores that hasn’t survived in San Diego.


  • Many readers are now downloading onto electronic devices.
  • Readers that still like to hold a book and flip through pages also want the convenience of online shopping and doorstep delivery.

Which is too bad.

For readers like me.

Who came home with a bag of books today.

All unfamiliar titles.

Based on the staff’s enthusiastic recommendations.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Sprinkles in La Jolla

This cupcake bakery started in Beverly Hills and expanded across the country.

One opened this year in the shops at La Jolla Village (near the Landmark Theatre and Whole Foods) so locals can indulge their sweet tooth.

From chocolate marshmallow to ginger lemon to salty caramel – cupcakes at $3.50 a piece.

Take some home.

For pet-lovers, they even offer a doggie cupcake, sugar-free with yogurt frosting.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Brain Highways

Receiving a hug after a long session.

Yesterday afternoon was his last day of an 8-week course at Brain Highways in Encinitas.

No ceremony. No cap and gown.

Yet an incredible amount of growth, development and awareness took place.

In just two months.

I am talking about a 9-year old boy. With special needs (autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy). Who had been rather unengaged in life.

That is no longer the case.

He smiles, he makes eye contact, he anticipates, he even acknowledges that he understands what is said by those around him. He gives high 5’s. He is learning how to play.

The process of getting there has been frustrating, amazing, miserable and ecstatic. Often in a single afternoon.

And I am just a bystander.

A friend of his mother.

Who listened when she described the program and said that the first class had left her wiped out and slightly anxious. So I offered to attend with her and her son.

From the very beginning, the director taught us to look at him as any other 9-year old child.

Treat him like any other 9-year old child.

Engage with him as we would any other 9-year old child.

And that was difficult.

It was far easier to coddle, over-help and let him get away with all kinds of behavior.

Now everyone in his life is doing better.

And so is he.

We have all toughened up. And become cheerleaders in the effort.

Letting him know what specific behaviors are expected of champions.

So he can become one.

The successes happened right away. A happy alert boy was delighted to enter the building for his third session.

Hugs and handholding followed.

I was acknowledged. Even though I had known him since he was a baby, I was never sure he was aware of my existence.

After this, fine motor skills started to show up – clapping with open hands.

Games and fun became part of his life – tug-of-war, taking turns, playing with toys, choosing what book to have read to him.

Another parent at Brain Highways wondered how his mother could remain stoic each and every week as she watched all the dramatic changes unfold.

Why had she not burst into tears of amazement?

I think emotion was always saved for later. There was too much work to be done.

And that work will continue. And progress will be made.

It has been my privilege to be a small part of his team and witness the transformation.

Happy Graduation!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Garden Update

We have been picking lettuce from the garden for weeks.

Learned the hard way that it is best to deal with clinging snails while outside.

Brown shells in the salad spinner...not appetizing.

Continually check the other ‘crops’.

But nothing is ready.

The tomatoes are still green.

The corn is thriving but no ears have sprouted.

Lots of tendrils but no beans yet.

Squash is still tiny. Not enough blossoms to stuff and make a meal.

Great color on the Japanese eggplant. But definitely not pick-able.

I will monitor daily.

But for now, dinner is green salad and escargot.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Jury Duty

Drove downtown to the courthouse today.

Filed into the juror lounge at 7:45 am. My name was called seven hours later.

We did not get through voir dire and must return tomorrow.

Oh joy.

Lest you think I am not excited about doing my civic duty, it is only the endless waiting beforehand that I mind.

Two interesting things came up however.

The judge that welcomed us this morning mentioned that he had been called for jury duty last Wednesday. I wonder if he got picked to serve?

Later on, in the courtroom upstairs, the presiding judge asked the large pool of potential jurors, "Have any of you ever been a victim of theft?"

Almost everyone raised their hand.

We all laughed.

Courtroom humor, I guess!

Monday, 16 May 2011


Walked around the marina on a cloudy May afternoon.

Checking out the names on the back of the boats.

They ranged from pretty to clever to racy.

The moniker on this particular vessel caught my attention.


lower case.

Doesn’t try too hard.

Derived from an ad campaign for milk?

Sunday, 15 May 2011


If you live on the west coast, this cup is instantly recognizable.

Most likely you have indulged in a double-double (has anyone tried the 4x4?).

Animal style.

With fries.

The chain has branched out.

All the way to Texas.

There is a YouTube video showing a line of cars that snakes for miles. Hungry folks from the Lone Star State that want their first taste of an In-n-Out burger.

It is laughable but not surprising.

There are 203 locations in California and there is always a line.

Just not as long.

Worth it though.

Because as their jingle says, ‘that’s what a hamburger’s all about.’

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Pushing the Elephant

For the past few weeks, the International Rescue Committee has been running a documentary film series as a fundraiser.

I saw Pushing the Elephant.

At the center of this film is Rose Mapendo, who was imprisoned with her family during the violence that erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She escaped with nine of her ten children and eventually resettled in Phoenix, Arizona.

The film is about reuniting Rose with her daughter who was left behind. Nangabire must adjust to her large family, high school and American life.

As Rose travels home to help other survivors, she tells a group of women that alone they would not be able to ‘push an elephant’ but if they pulled together and used their resources they could do anything and make a better life for themselves.

After the credits rolled, two seniors from a San Diego high school were introduced and took questions from the audience. One young woman had been born in a refugee camp and lived there for 15 years before coming to San Diego.

That was amazing in and of itself.

But what struck me most was that, on the outside, these were two typical American students. They rolled their eyes, told funny stories and had goals. One wants to go into nursing. The other wants to be a pharmacist.

We all have obstacles to face.

That is part of life.

It is the size of the elephant that makes their stories so incredible.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Airport Parking Perks

I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about the San Diego airport.

Although lately I have been the dropper-offer and picker-upper so have spent more time outside than in.

Specifically in the cell phone lot just before the commuter terminal.

There is always an open spot. It is free. You can park for 60 minutes.

I wait patiently.

Until I receive the 'come get me' text message and then I head to the terminal.

Only recently did I notice the flight status monitor in the lot.

How did I miss that?


And so convenient.

Now I can say with a fair degree of certainty that I know at least everything there is to know about the cell phone lot.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Point Loma Seafoods

Smoked, baked, fried, raw or still swimming.

In a cocktail, chowder, sandwich or sushi roll.

There are clams, scallops, crab, shrimp, yellowtail, tuna, herring…

Endless choices.

Long lines but prompt service.

Tables inside and out.

Umbrellas meant to block the sun.

On Sunday it kept the slight drizzle off our crab sandwich and clam chowder.

Great view of the marina.

Lots to enjoy and admire.

Including a mint-condition Porsche parked next to us…

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

May Gray

It is the reason we tell visitors to stay away.

It is a sad month.


It prompts a mini-seasonal affective disorder.

It basically sucks.

Looking south towards downtown and the Coronado bridge.

The only thing worse than May Gray is the onset of June Gloom.

But that is weeks away...

UPDATE:  Sun came out, disregard this post.

Monday, 9 May 2011


Didn’t want to interrupt his walk.

To ask questions.


Is this exercise?

Balance practice for a surfer?

Or simply a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The photo was taken last week so perhaps he has already joined the circus...

Sunday, 8 May 2011

La Jolla Tide Pools

Casa de Manana, an up-scale retirement community, is just up the street from spectacular tide pools in La Jolla.

There is 3-hour parking in front of their building.

The pools speak for themselves.

Take a walk along the sand.

And rock.

Peer into the nooks...

and crannies along the way.

And contemplate retirement.

Or at least how you will spend your next free weekend...

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Field Trip

My grade school class went to the Griffith Observatory.

We watched a movie.

Learned about planets.

Et cetera.

Yesterday I was in the Whole Foods store in La Jolla purchasing curried broccoli salad.

There was a lot of noise coming from the olive bar in the back.

The server and I glanced up at the same time. Then she smiled and said, “Oh it is an elementary class.”


“Yes, they get to walk around the store and taste samples. The group yesterday was chanting ‘chocolate, chocolate, chocolate’ and they got kinda loud.”

School kids line up to try green and black olives.

While checking out, I asked the cashier if Whole Foods sees a lot of field trip groups.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “The kids get to go back to the seafood section and see a whole octopus and stuff.”


Still trying to process this.

Am I the only one that thinks this is an odd choice for a school sponsored trip?

On the plus side, the next generation will know where to buy organic.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Pelican Population

Brown pelicans were once an endangered species.

If you have been along the coast, in the last few weeks, you would find that hard to believe.

They seem to be doing fly-bys.

In various formations.

Kinda cool to see.

Although for those with beachfront property it might be a different story.

I would bet that sales of Windex have skyrocketed along with the pelican population.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Makeshift Sunscreen

Protection from harmful rays when temperatures rose over 80 degrees along the coast.


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Working the Quads

Swami’s in Encinitas is an ideal spot to ‘do the stairs’.

From the top,

it is 138 steps…

…and a transition from concrete to wood,

before you hit the sand.

The improvements that took place in April are noticeable.

Now it is easier to enjoy the workout and view without worrying about structural soundness.