Jan 292012

New State. New Home. New Job.

Here’s a photo essay taken of Duke University and its Doris Duke Gardens in Durham, NC during Winter 2012. As soon as I can identify the exact buildings, I’ll fill it in in more detail.

Sep 152011

Lily Pond at National Museum of the American Indian

Here are some of my favorite things to do in DC this year:

Visit the National Museum of the American Indian. Do the guided tour, about an hour, that starts in the circle with the beautiful canoes near the entrance (check for times) to get the full perspective on the history of Native Peoples in the Americas and ongoing challenges. See the circle to ceiling film on the second floor. Visit the cafeteria where you can watch the fountains through the glass from inside. Look at the different “environments” outside. We liked the pond with lily pads and frogs.  http://www.nmai.si.edu

Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner at the Café Mozart restaurant. Great place for breakfast or dinner meals on special holidays like Mothers Day or Fathers Day (not as crowded as the DC suburbs restaurants – not as many mothers and fathers in the District) or any day. Love the fresh bread and eggs benedict or the salmon version on a Sunday morning. Dinner treats include the Wiener Schnitzel , spaetzli, German potato pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream, and all the sausages (!) Check the entertainment schedule. We enjoyed the talents of a Georgian guitar player and singer during dinner one summer night. He even played some of my Russian favorites—Kalinka and Katyoosha (sp?).  It’s family friendly and the clientele include State Department folks, other international types, and local office workers. You can pick up yummy things from the grocery shelves (Pocket Coffee chocolates from Italy, Mozart’s balls from Vienna, and Illy coffee from Trieste) and pastry cases on your way out.  There might even be a copy of The Washington Diplomat where I work (www.washdiplomat.com) available there. http://www.cafemozartonline.com/zgrid/proc/site/sitep.jsp

Michael Jordan?

Niki de Saint Phalle Sculptures. On New York Avenue, N.W. between 12th and 13th streets), just around the corner from Café Mozart, is an installation of her sculptures, courtesy of the National Museum of Women In the Arts. http://www.nmwa.org/sculptureproject/. It is only there until the end of October 2011. Check out what appears to be basketball player Michael Jordan with a larger-than-life posterior. The late Frenchwoman’s work in the U.S. can also be seen in a fantastic sculpture garden in Escondido, California. http://queencalifia.org/niki.html

Gravelly Point Park in Arlington,VA. More than 10 years ago my husband (he introduced me)and I used to come here, often with Five Guys take-out to watch airplanes at National Airport (before it was Reagan National) land right over our heads on warm nights. We now bring a blanket and come here with our kids (minus the Five Guys as our eldest is deathly allergic to peanuts), where there’s a small grove of trees great for climbing and a game of hide-and-seek. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravelly_Point

Sep 152011

Atlantic City Welcome Center

The more days, weeks, and months that went by, the easier it seemed to not blog.

No sooner was it winter — when there was snow to shovel, after school science classes to shuttle to, Brownie trips and meetings to plan, a basement flood clean-up, allergy shots to schedule, ice skating classes to watch, interminable doctor’s appointments to attend, and a part-to-full-time reporting, editing and web job — than it was Spring — and I, like the ducks in the pond down the street, was in full nesting mode… Followed by physical-and-mental-recovery mode. Then grandma-visiting mode, hosting-kids-in-the-neighborhood mode, and web project mode. And suddenly it was time for the kids, all but the tiniest one, to leave the summer nest and go back to school.

The Spring and Summer didn’t pass, though, without some fun day and weekend trips — to Rocky Neck Beach in Connecticut, Gillette Castle (home to the actor that made Sherlock Holmes come to life),  Chincoteague, Virginia (the beach and nearby Wallops Flight Facility http://www.nasa.gov/centers/wallops/home/index.html), Virginia Beach, and Atlantic City (NJ) — plus a bit of local canoeing on the Potomac (Belle Haven Park and Marina) and on Chesapeake Bay (Solomon’s Island), movie-watching at the drive-in www.bengies.com, and visits to the library to pick up successive Nancy Drew mysteries.

Solomons Island (http://www.solomonsmaryland.com/)

Rocky Neck Beach in Connecticut

Like the Hartford suburbs where I grew up, the Rocky Neck beach of my girlhood seemed so much smaller than I remembered. It seemed to have less sand, too, but it was still picturesque on July 4th weekend 2011. Gillette Castle was just as big as I remember, though, and especially enchanting under overcast skies.

Gillette Castle

Atlantic City September 2011, a place larger than life in my imagination, but nowhere I’d ever actually been—turned out to have a decent beach at low tide with much-sought-after spiral shells to be discovered in the mossy rocks near one of the piers. Since we moved to the East Coast from California, we’d tried in vain to find good shells in Bethany Beach(DE), Assateague (MD), Chincoteague (VA), and the Outer Banks (NC).

Atlantic City Beach, Steel Pier, and Skyline

Shell Hunting in Atlantic City

Steel Pier Ferris Wheel

The famous Steel Pier, originally built in 1898, was crowded in September with day-trippers enjoying the last bit of summer amusements. We exercised the utmost restraint, only spending $9 on the whole pier– for three rides on the shiny carousel (but moving too slowly and with lame pop music). We also took in the sights and sounds of the “scary” rides, come-hither carnival barkers (no Donald Trump in sight, just his casinos), and the end-of-the-pier tourist helicopter.

Caesar's Palace Atlantic City

Resorts Hotel and Casino Atlantic City (right next to where we parked)

We only set foot once in a casino once—Showboat—to use the restroom. It looked pretty much like Las Vegas in there. Some folks were dressed up, but most were trying their luck in summer casual and flip flops. Children were only allowed on the periphery and not on the casino floor.  (Ever want to see what Atlantic City looked like during the 70s decline, see the movie “Atlantic City” and prepare to be depressed! The Resorts Casino, seen in the movie,  is still there.)

Steel Pier Ferris Wheel Atlantic City

Steel Pier and Atlantic City Skyline

"Not Responsible If Seagulls Eat Your Food"

Though we walked part of city’s famous boardwalk, we didn’t partake of any of the Philly cheese steaks, corn dogs, wings or bagels on offer at the kiosks. We beat the casino restaurant lines by ordering cheeseburgers and fries from Johnny Rockets’ outside window and sat at iron tables with our sweaters on. The September chill had arrived.

And so another year has passed, too quickly, and with this promise to myself: To take time keeping up with the blog for  anyone who might be still reading.


Jan 052011

The end of 2010. Exploring endings and welcoming new beginnings.

Over Thanksgiving we took a road trip to Chicago, where jobs in the tech industry are starting to pick up, and where my mom had started a new life this year four years after my Dad’s passing.

Mid- way through our long drive we stopped off in the “Rust Belt” town of Youngstown, Ohio. The steel industry town was home to my father-in-law and his family when he was just a child. For health reasons they left for California long before the industry’s collapse in the 70s. We found their neighborhood still standing, but half the houses were boarded up. A childhood friend’s house was especially grim. An old curtain blowing through a broken attic window and the once meticulously cared for lawn overgrown with weeds. A popular local amusement park, Idora Park,  torn down and fenced up since the 80s. We observed that a bus stop that used to drop off daytrippers was rusted. The 2006 Census puts the median household income at $21,850; the lowest amongst cities with a population exceeding 65,000.

But there were upsides.  A stately 5th street was well kept up—a whiff of old wealth and new.  The Youngstown State University nearby was thriving and apparently expanding.  A local gas station attendant said the school is buying up some of the boarded up houses to clear space for new buildings. There is also some new business development happening in the downtown. And the General Motors  Lordstown Assembly plant nearby is the largest regional employer now. The Youngstown Walmart was full of post-midnight early Christmas shoppers and the local Days Inn (in adjacent Girard) was fully booked. Travelers enjoyed a hearty breakfast before pushing off across the flat expanses of Ohio and Indiana farmland or to the Allegheny mountains to the east.

Links: http://www.idorapark.org/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youngstown,_Ohio, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youngstown_(song), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Smddcs5n0H0 (Bruce Springsteen in concert Stambaugh Theater Auditorium, Youngstown, Ohio, singing “Youngstown.”)

Nobody's Home Youngstown, Ohio

Abandoned House in Youngstown

Youngstown House for Sale

Demolished House in Youngstown

Nature Takes Over Abandoned House in Youngstown

Going, Going, Gone


Rust Belt Biergarten Sign near Youngstown Train Station

Decayed Bus Stop Outside Fenced up old Idora Amusement Park

For Sale: Shining Up The Image

Eddie Loves Debbie: Downtown Youngstown

Downtown Youngstown

Ohio Sunset

Light Dancers: Arlington Heights, IL

Happy Holidays!

Dash Away All! Arlington Heights, IL

Oct 292010

Next to Christmas, Halloween is my daughter’s favorite holiday. She loves to dress up and she loves to go trick-or-treating. But there is one problem. She is deathly allergic to peanuts. Her blood test results for the allergy are off the charts.

Touching one or touching the surface where one has been, let alone eating one, could shut down her breathing and kill her within 10 minutes. However, through past experience, a little research, and with the help of a couple food allergy web sites, we have found a way for her to enjoy the holiday and safely go trick-or-treating.

If you don’t have a peanut -allergic child, or a child with food allergies, be thankful this Halloween.  You can still use the tips in this article to help a child who may come to your door with an allergy to feel safe.

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) says that four percent of children in the US have food allergies, and that many sweet treats contain at least one of the top eight allergens.  In a press release just issued for this Halloween, FAAN recommends that parents keep safe candies on hand for trading and also offer non-food treats as an alternative for trick-or-treaters such as Halloween stickers, pencils, erasers, and small toys.

“While Halloween has grown into a day that most children look forward to all year, it can be quite scary for those with food allergies, and not because of ghosts and goblins,” said FAAN CEO Julia Bradsher. “Children with food allergies need your help preventing allergic reactions.”

Over the past couple years, I have become accustomed to checking manufacturers’ web sites, in addition to checking the actual candy label, in order to get clear information on allergens. I also consult FAAN’s web site which routinely lists recalls of products that have been found to have ingredients, including peanuts, which was not printed on the label.

Recently, the FAAN web site posted this recall: Nestlé USA is recalling “Nestlé® Raisinets® Fun Size Bags” due to undeclared peanuts. The 10-oz bags were sold in Target, Shop Rite, and Don Quixote retail stores in the U.S. The product is marked with production code 02015748 and UPC 2800010255. Consumers should contact the company at (800) 478-5670 for a refund.

Bring on the Tootsie Rolls!  Most candy manufacturers, I have found, have allergy or health information pages on their web sites.  Tootsie Roll Industries, for example, has a page on its web site (http://www.tootsie.com/health_info.php) that is very reassuring on the peanut allergy issue.  Tootsie says all its products are gluten-free, except Andes cookies, and that all its products are peanut-free and nut product-free. Some of their products include Tootsie Roll, Tootsie Pops, Charms Blow Pops, Charms Mini Pops, DOTS, Dubble Bubble, Junior Mints, Sugar Daddy, Charleston Chew, Andes Mints, and many more (http://www.tootsie.com/products.php).

Tootsie also does not use wheat, barley, rye, oats, triticale, spelt, or any of their components, either as ingredients or as part of the manufacturing process. Corn and soy products are used during the manufacturing process.  And, Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Fruit Rolls, Frooties and DOTS have become kosher-certified by the Orthodox Union (OU).

A parent blog, Peanutfreelife.com, in May 2010 published its own list of peanut- and -tree-nut- free candy (http://www.peanutfreelife.com/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=2) .  While this is a useful guide, be sure to cross check any candy on the list with the candy label, and if in doubt the manufacturer’s web site.

Better Safe than Sorry. My Tips for a Peanut-Free Halloween:

1)      I can’t stress this enough. Check ingredient labels even if your child has eaten the candies before as companies can reformulate recipes. Some candies don’t have ingredient labels or full allergen information. When in doubt, check the manufacturer’s web site.

2)      Remember that even if a candy isn’t advertised as having peanuts or nuts, the label may say it contains them. For example peanut M & Ms obviously have peanuts, but the regular M & Ms are also off limits. The label says the candy may contain peanuts.

3)      Remind your children not to eat any candy that has not been checked by you. This is something that FAAN recommends and is already part of our family’s kid party and grocery shopping routine anyway.

4)      It almost goes without saying, for us parents of children with food allergies, but always carry with you your child’s epinephrine auto-injector (such as Epi-Pen, Epi-Pen Jr, Twinject) and antihistamine or whatever your pediatrician has prescribed and advised  your child to take in the event of an allergic reaction.

5)      Be careful around your child’s friends, other trick-or-treaters, and homeowners handing out candy. It’s common for kids and adults to eat candy while they are trick-or-treating or handing out candy. Some of this candy may contain peanuts. Don’t let them touch your child and don’t touch them. Let the people handing out candy drop the candy directly into your child’s bag. Don’t let your child “fish” for it in the candy bowl as hosts may have been eating candy with peanuts and touched the outside candy labels.

6)      If the host handing out candy doesn’t have peanut-free candy on offer then politely refuse it and explain about the allergy. If this isn’t possible, then you can dispose of the offending candy at home later.

7)      At the end of the night, divide up the candy into piles of “safe” (peanut-free), “questionable” (need to look more closely at the label and/or web site), and “unsafe” (contains or may contain peanuts) candy.  If your child is highly allergic take the label off for him/her on the “safe” candy before he/she eats it, in case the label is contaminated by the hand of the host who was snacking on “unsafe” candies while handing out “safe” ones.

8)      Donate any candy you can’t use to charity. Operation Gratitude, for example, is collecting unwanted Halloween candy to send to our troops overseas. For flyers and more details, email OpGrat@gmail.com, or check out their Halloween Candy Video on YouTube: Halloween Video, and Halloween Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/HalloweenCandy. Also, check with your local dentists to see if they are doing a buy-back program this year. Much of this candy will also be sent to the troops overseas who will hand it out to local children as part of winning hearts and minds.

Oct 182010

Point Harbor, NC on the Sound Across from the Outer Banks

Dockside at the Laffin' Gull Beach Grille, Point Harbor, NC

Laffin' Gull Beach Grille and Wright Memorial Bridge to Outer Banks

Fly By

Canoe Practice

Inn at Corolla Light, Corolla, NC in the Outer Banks

Dock of the Bay, Corolla, NC Soundside

October Day Soundside in the Outer Banks

Beach Blanket

Peaceful Waves in Corolla, NC

Oct 042010

Oct 042010

In the early 17th century Captain John Smith– of Jamestown Colony and Pocahontas fame –sailed up the Chesapeake Bay waterways and discovered what he named “Rickard’s Cliffs”.  He put it on his 1612 map of the area.

Now called Calvert Cliffs State Park in Lusby, MD, some parts of these cliffs date back as much as 15 million years. The rocks are sediment from a coastal ocean that covered the area at that time, and the signs posted at the site point out that plenty of fossil shark teeth can still be found by the cliffs. The shark teeth came from the megalodon, an extinct megatoothed shark that swam in the area in prehistoric times.

Click Here for video: Calvert Cliffs September 2010

Even when it’s drizzly out, day-trippers can still be found on the beach, accessed only by a two mile sandy hike through tidal marshland. With their shovels and sifters, the search for fossils by the shore and in tidal pools. The cliffs themselves are off limits due to erosion, but we were happy to find fossils of shells, crabs and sea stars embedded in black and in white rocks nearby.  It was hard to pull the kids away. It was hard to pull me away from the sound and smell of the waves and the wind. And the ancient sand.  And the possibilities of new discoveries beneath our feet. No shark teeth this time, but that just means we have to come back. One day we’ll be fossils too. Our imprints not in rocks to be found by small adventurers, but hopefully in the hearts of those we touched in the fleeting moments we were here.

Sep 122010

A New Monarch At Shenandoah National Park

It’s September. The last of the caterpillars make their chrysalis, while most have already been transformed into butterflies. The new monarch butterflies alight on the late summer wildflowers and enjoy their temporary home at Big Meadow in Shenandoah National Park. In a month or so they make their journey to Mexico, but for now the weather is cool, not cold. The light is perfect. There is still some green in the meadow. The leaves have not yet turned color.

The water is still warm at the Assateague Island beaches, but the sun goes down by 730p now. Daytrippers from DC still don’t mind getting there at 4p because they can still enjoy the warm breezes, the sand in their toes on peaceful walks, the fishing, the camping, and the conversation.

But the little children have gotten bigger and returned to school already with new challenges, so there is no stopping summer’s end now.  What is in store for Mom now?

Late Summer at Big Meadow, Shenandoah National Park

Late Summer View Shenandoah National Park

Assateague Island Horses Crossing the Road at South Beach

South Beach at Assateague island

September Sunset Assateague Island

Wild Horse at Play

Sep 022010

Pismo Beach Pier and Mountains

Pismo Beach Life Guard Tower

Pismo Beach Low Tide

Cliffs at Shell Beach

Kayakers at Shell Beach

Yes. Chocolate Covered Scorpions for Sale. Pismo Beach, CA

More Bug Snacks for Sale at Pismo Beach

Much More Appetizing

Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach, CA

City Sign on the Pier

Cage Fighting At A Winery?

Cruising for Jesus?

Jesus Blessing Jilbertos Taco Shop, Borrego Springs, CA

Chili Cross at Jilbertos Taco Shop

Anza Borrego Desert Panorama

Banking in Borrego Springs, CA

Felicita Park Palm Trees, Escondido, CA

Kumeyaay Historical Spot, Felicita Park, Escondido, CA

Curious Meerkat at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park

Flamingos at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park

Garbage Can Drummers at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park

Ladies Room Sign at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park

Dairy Queen in Oceanside, CA

Pierview Pub Oceanside, CA

Sunflowers in Campo, CA

Train Tracks Along the 101 Near Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Paraglider

Nightview Oceanside Pier

Goodbye Again California!