Saturday, December 21, 2013





For a number of years, during the month of December, I have observed a much too crowded, outdoor skating rink overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Anyone who is a skater knows the disadvantages of a crowded rink: choppy ice and the chance of falling over someone. Add to that a hefty $23 fee with a $5 discount, if you have your own skates. I was satisfied just looking.

      So here I am, on this sunny day with a 70 degree temperature, heading over to the famous Skating Rink by the Sea at the Hotel Del Coronado. It's time to see what it's like to skate with a view of the ocean. It's still early in the season and it's the 1:30 to 3:30 pm session on a Friday—just maybe, it won't be too crowded and the ice will be good.

      First of all, I found my old skates, after searching the apartment for a good hour—they still fit because feet don't grow. Rental skates generally don't provide enough support and never seem to fit right. It's good to have your own, and I am attached to my 25-year-old skates. I rarely use them, but I was not about to part with them when we moved to California.

      I needed to find out, once and for all, what it is really like to ice skate outside, on a warm California day, with a cool breeze, and a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. Add to this the Christmas music from a high quality sound system. It was good. There were about 24 skaters on the rink at the most, so it was not crowded. The ice was very smooth and great for skating. Just remember not to fall because there is a sheet of water on top of the ice and you will get soaked.

      Skating By the Sea at the Hotel Del Coronado is in its ninth year. This is recent, considering the hotel is currently celebrating its 125th Anniversary. The man-made rink is open for skating from November 27 to January 5. The rink also provides a view of the hotel. It is especially enjoyable at Christmas when the hotel is adorned with thousands of white lights.

      One of my favorite things about the hotel, is the exquisitely decorated Christmas tree standing in the center of the old lobby. This year the 50 foot tall tree has classic Victorian ornaments, tartan plaid, and vintage Santas. The theme changes annually.

      Coming from Minnesota I grew up skating, as most of us did. In the 1950s we walked to the local rink, which for us was Folwell Park in North Minneapolis. We used the the warming house to put our skates on, and then off we went to enjoy the large outdoor rink and socialize. If we got cold, we went inside to warm up. Skating and sliding on the hills kept us well entertained throughout the cold winter season.

By the way, if you are from the Midwest and decide to try Skating By The Sea, I guarantee that you will be one of the better skaters on the rink. Californians are much better surfers than skaters.



*Hotel Del Coronado photo gallery

Tuesday, December 10, 2013



                                                   -San Diego City decree, 1871

      I first visited Balboa Park when my daughter started her studies in San Diego in the year 2000, and have been intrigued by it ever since. Now I visit regularly, always choosing a good weather day which isn't hard to do in San Diego. I love to enter via the Cabrillo Bridge and then through the West Gate Archway. There is a beautiful view of the California Building Tower, and the pleasant sound of bells from inside where the 100 Bell Ona May Carillon chimes every 15 minutes.
At the end of the bridge, I often walk up El Prado enjoying the shimmering pools, gardens, fountains and Spanish Colonial buildings. It is designed in the same style as the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, and it's easy to see the similarities.
Balboa Park (1,200 acres) is larger than CentralPark (840 acres) in New York City. You can always find something to do here because it has more attractions than any other urban park in the nation. To me it's the park of parks. Here are some of the many things to see and do:
  • 15 museums
  • San Diego Zoo
  • Old Globe Theater complex
  • Restaurants, cafes and snack carts
  • Spreckels Organ—the world's largest outdoor pipe organ
  • 15,000 trees of over 350 different species
  • The Moreton Bay Fig Tree
  • Lawn bowling, golf and tennis
  • 65 miles of hiking trails
  • Alcazar Garden and numerous others
  • The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
  • House of Pacific Relations International Cottages
  • Spanish Village Art Center
  • Fountains, plazas and archways
  • Japanese Friendship Garden

 This past week I made two visits. The first day I went to the Photographic Museum Library. It has one of the largest photography book collections in the country—way too many for one visit. It is well worth a visit if you have the time and enjoy photography, as I do. A reservation is required. Afterwards, I stopped at The Prado for lunch. It's one of my favorite restaurants, mainly because of the setting and ambiance. I always enjoy the pressed arugula salad ($9.95).
     Later in the afternoon, Ron joined me and we went to the Air and Space Museum which was free to residents on this 1st Tuesday. It provides a great journey through the history of flight with over 60 aircraft and space vehicles on display. The museum is currently celebrating its 50th Anniversary.


       On December 6th, we made a last minute decision to visit DBalboa Park December Nights. It attracts thousands during the two evenings it is held. We arrived at 3:00 on Friday, before the crowds, and enjoyed a good hike around the park on this cool brisk evening. It is truly a unique experience with Christmas lighting throughout. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the decorated trees from all over the world in the Casa Del Prado. Also, a visit to the Natural History Museum (most museums are free during this event). The highlights are always the entertainment and Christmas tree lighting at the Spreckels Pavilion. By far the best food vendors are at the International Cottages where they serve food from around the world at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, we arrived there about 7:30 when the food lines were too long for us. We will arrive earlier next year. We left the park about 8:00 and noticed that there were far more people entering than leaving an already too-crowded event.
      The park has much to offer. I never tire of my visits. It also changes with the seasons—I'm looking forward to the roses and flowering trees in April.



Tuesday, November 19, 2013


  I love to ride the morning
 commuter ferry to downtown San Diego. One morning I met Cynthia, who was on her way to work at a Persian rug gallery. My visit to this fascinating shop is the subject of today's blog.
     Walking into the 4thAvenue Rug Gallery, 827 4th Avenue, is like entering an art exhibit with over 1500 handmade works of art from all over the world—each with its own story. The colorful vintage rugs are displayed on the walls, piled high on the floor and tied in rolls along the side. The perfect setting is a 1907 building located in the Gaslamp District of San Diego. It is a long narrow building with original brick walls, redwood floors and high ceilings.

Add to this Cynthia, a friendly and extremely knowledgeable sales consultant, and you are in for a treat. She has been working at the gallery for over 13 years, has lived all over the world and is a life-long student of art. She graciously spent time explaining the rug business to me and I came away with a new appreciation. My head was also spinning when I left—as there are as many versions of rugs as there are cities and towns in the Middle East.

      Most of the rugs in the gallery are from Persia, the former name of Iran. They also come from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and other areas. They are new and used—some over 100 years old. Since they are handmade, many of the fibers have been hand dyed as well. Made from cotton, wool and silk, all natural fiber, the rugs can weigh hundreds of pounds. Colors and shades vary, but the most common are red, blue and gold.

      Two to four people work together using looms and knots to produce rugs that can take many years to complete. They can be made in cities where there are government-sponsored rug factories or in the country, where the tribal rugs are made.

     This diversity—range of colors and dyes, all parts of the world, commercial looms and portable looms, cotton, silk and wool, faded and bold, old and new, patterns, stories, portraits, and knot size could easily take a lifetime to learn.

      There are hundreds of different types of rugs in this shop, and it would be difficult to leave the store without finding a favorite or two. I loved the Tabriz rugs—they are colorful with a soft silky feel to them. Tabriz, Iran, is one of the oldest rug weaving centers in the world. I also enjoyed the tribal rugs with their bold colors and patterns.

       I highly recommend you stop to visit this store. I am convinced you will walk out with a new appreciation for these lovely handmade rugs from the Middle East and more than likely a desire to learn more about the regions of the world that so meticulously weave them.

      The owner of the 4th Avenue Gallery is Arman Jodari, a second-generation rug expert from Iran with over 50 years of experience. In addition to importing and selling rugs, this store does appraisals, cleanings and repairs.




Sunday, November 10, 2013


We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.”

                                  Anais Nin, French writer

     This is the inspiration for my writing about a September visit to New York City for a reunion with my three dear friends that I spent a year of my life with many years ago. Our first get-together was in 2008. At that time we agreed to meet again in five years, so here we are.
     The four of us met in 1969 when we all lived at the Phoebe Warren Boarding House. We each had a room on the fourth floor with a shared toilet and bathtub down the hall. No longer a boarding house, it is now a beautiful restored brownstone home on the Eastside, next to Central Park – costing millions.
     We also shared the experiences of weekly Sunday champage brunches at Fridays with sawdust on the floor and Schrafft's Restaurants with the old dark-wood walls and delicious chocolate sundaes. Then there were the counter lunches at Chock full o'Nuts where they served cream cheese sandwiches on dark raisin bread with coffee, all for under $1. We also frequented the Pan Am Building with a rooftop bar for a spectacular view of the city. None of these special places exist any longer.
     We lived on what we earned and if there was anything extra it was spent on clothes at discount department stores like Alexander's or Ohrbachs.
     Wthin a couple of years we had all returned to hometowns and more comfortable lifestyles. Only Michele, the quintessential New Yorker, returned to live in Manhattan again. After leaving the second time, she returned to NewYork on company expense accounts—a dream come true.
     I arrived in Manhattan early on a Friday, anxiously anticipating the arrival of my friends that evening. I took advantage of the beautiful day to walk from 57th Street to the Lower East Side to tour the Tenement Museum. Afterwards, I hurried back to the hotel.

      Finally, my vintage friends showed up and here we were all together again in New York. Obviously it's a much different city than it was 45 years ago, but our shared memories will last forever.
     I can't tell you exactly what we did during those couple of days we were together, but sightseeing wasn't high on the list. We laughed and talked about everything we could think of. We learn as we get older to enjoy the moment, and that we did. Through the years we have all had our life experiences and have gone many different directions, but we have a common bond that brings us together.

     Not surprisingly, Carole talked us into doing a little shopping while there—she was always the one that knew just how to dress “New York” even on a shoestring. She is still classy. Donna is now in charge of recruiting volunteers for various nonprofits in upstate New York, also not surprising because she always had a heart of gold.
     We parted with hugs and tears, and promises to return again in another five years. It seems like forever, but time moves on fast—too fast sometimes.

Ralph Lauren Store
Madison Ave.
Related Post: Dated April 11, 2011, The Vintage Career Girl vs the Classy Career Girl ofToday

Thursday, October 31, 2013



      Ron and I decided to go out for a bike ride on another lovely sunny California day in October. Ron perused the bike map and decided to drive south toward the Mexican Border, and then bike on a paved road that leads to the Southwest corner of the continental US in
Border Field State Park.  Currently, the bikes are stored inside our van which makes driving to a biking destination an easy option.

      This is one of the more interesting rides we've taken. It's a bit of a step back in time because most of the ride is on an old winding paved road that hasn't had any improvements for years. In fact, it is underwater part of the year. It's quiet with very little traffic, modest farms, and horse ranches along the way. The surrounding ground cover and brush looked pretty scraggly and brownish.
     What made it the most interesting, however, is the fact that we were biking along the Mexican Border and could see the border fence and Tijuana along the way. There were few cars or people around, but we saw an occasional Border Control truck as well as one patroller on a motorcycle.

      When we reached the Pacific Ocean and the Southwest corner, we walked up to the double border fence and viewed the Mexican beachfront community of
Las Playas de Tijuana on the other side. An old dormant bullring and picturesque lighthouse were also visible. We could hear live music from the other side. There was far more activity on the Mexican side with people playing and walking along the beach. The border fence extends about 300 feet into the ocean. Swimming is not recommended due to hazardous conditions, such as inshore holes and rip currents.

      I was surprised to see horseback riders on the beach. Border Field State Park is one of the only places in California that allows riding on the beach and horses can be rented at a nearby stable. (I hope I can convince my son to come down here and ride a horse with me when he comes to visit at Xmas.)

      Another fascinating discovery was Friendship Park. It is the only place along the entire Mexican-US border that provides a place for loved ones, that are separated by immigration status, to reunite. Established in 1971, it is located within the Border Field State Park and open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Families travel from great distances to be together.
      There are a few ways to drive to this area and various parking options. We took the Dairy Mart Road exit west off of Hwy 5, and parked at the Tijuana River Valley County Park. We biked along Dairy Mart Rd which eventually turns into Monument Road. It is about five miles to the Border Field State Park and the ocean. This is all located within the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, a wildlife reserve. The road into the park is closed most of the winter months due to flooding.




Thursday, October 24, 2013


  We arrived in Des Moines in early October to relax for a few days, and spend some special time with our son, Ben. The weather was in the 70s and sunny. We stayed downtown at the Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel, using Marriott free night rewards. It is an old hotel with small rooms, but the location is convenient.
  It was a good opportunity to get to know the downtown area. It's a pretty, sleepy city with a population of 203,500—the biggest shopping store is Walgreen's. The traffic is light, even during rush hour. The scenic Des Moines River, with it's Principal Riverwalk and bridges, made for some enjoyable hiking and biking. The Iowa State Capitol is perched on a hill overlooking the city.

Original Dome Skylight
The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

  One of the downtown gems is the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates and the surrounding gardens. It is located in the restored century-old Des Moines Public Library, one of Iowa's greatest historic buildings. (The downtown library moved to a new location in 2006.)  Since 1986, the World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. The hall, which was officially dedicated to the World Prize Foundation in 2011, is now open to the public on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It has a very impressive original dome skylight—each of the 10,000 pieces of skylight glass were inspected, cleaned and repaired during the renovation. There are many lovely rooms to visit with interesting works of art from all over the world.

Sherman Hill Historic District

Sherman Hill Historic District

     The Sherman Hill Historic District, with its Victorian mansions from the 1870s, is also worth a visit. It is about a mile from the city center. Also, if you are lucky enough to be in Des Moines on a Saturday morning (May thru October), don't miss the downtown Farmers' Market which is ranked #2 in the nation by The Daily Meal website.
  Ben and I had lunch at Baru at the Des Moines Art Center, 13th & Grand Ave, which is close to his apartment, and a favorite destination for him and Erica. The dining area includes a pleasant outside patio, surrounded by water. I enjoyed the quiche and salad.
  We also visited the downtown Hessen House Bierhall, 101 4th Street, which offers the old world German charm as well as a choice of over 21 imported beers. Don't miss the unique and tasty appetizers: sauerkraut balls, reuben rolls, and a peasant plate with German cheese and sausage.
  Last spring Ben purchased an 80 year old home that needed major renovation. He is just finishing the drywall and expects to be moving in soon. He is fortunate to have learned so much about construction through his work with Habitat for Humanity. As usual, Bens' hard work and dedication pays off. 

Sherman Hill Historic District

Sherman Hill Historic District

Sherman Hill Historic District

Sherman Hill Historic District

Hessen House