Voices from My Plate: Phuong Trang – Whole Fried Tilapia


My plate’s eyes are wide open and her voice is screaming “COMFORT.” Deep fried tilapia with steamed rice reminds me of my childhood. I couldn’t wait for this simple dish to be served so I can devour it, with my mouth, my eyes, and my memories.

I didn’t intend to order this dish at Phuong Trang. I didn’t even see it on their website menu, when I did my usual restaurant research before deciding where to have dinner this past Sunday night. Phuong Tran serves Vietnamese food, which is what I wanted to eat prior to watching the Miss Saigon musical – our dinner and a show night. (I like to match the dinner theme with the event of the night.) I perused their extensive menu a number of times, planning to try dishes typical of Vietnamese food – hot pots, pho, rice vermicelli, anything with lemongrass. But immediately when I saw they offered whole fried tilapia (with an extra 15-minute wait), my growling stomach wanted nothing else.

We checked our phones to make sure we had the extra time before the show, and yes we did – we’d have to skip dessert this dinner. And as we waited, I silently and hungrily waited by wading through email and social media accounts. 

My partner Richard got his meal first, a delicious seafood fried rice – he decided on a basic dish because there were so many choices, he couldn’t decide. As I eye his dish, Richard asks me if I want some…well, just a little bit. Very good and fresh tasting, but I didn’t want to eat too much, even though I was starving at that point. 

“Fish, fish, fish,” my stomach was chanting.

Finally, my whole fish was served – including the head. And hot! Straight from the deep fryer to the plate and into my mouth. Who cares if the crispy skin and white meat was steaming, it seemed like I was waiting for hours! Since we were in a restaurant, I tried to daintily remove the meat with my knife and fork, but after a few morsels flew onto the table (five second rule), I thought forget it – I’m using my hands to grab the fish. I did hold back from going all native, and used my fork to get the right proportion of fish and rice for each bite. I was in food heaven, thinking about my childhood plates.

The dish may seem to look plain and bland, but to me it was a delicacy. As a kid, my Filipino parents would occasionally make fried tilapia for weekend dinners or when guests were invited over. Sometimes served on banana leaves, and always with lots of steamed white rice. We ate tilapia before it became a food thing.

I have never fried fish for myself, but I always smile when my parents prepare it for me and my family. I have been known to drive over to 99 Ranch and have them deep fry tilapia for me, but that’s as close as I’ve gotten. It’s not the same as being freshly prepared for me by my parents, and then eaten as soon as it’s out of the fryer with my rice. Even better when I’m eating with my hands. But now I know I can get my whole fried tilapia at Phuong Trang. And that makes me smile. Because as we say, happy tummy, happy life. This dish represents my comforting childhood and satisfies my eater needs. My plate of simple whole fried tilapia speaks for itself, and asks…when are we coming back?


Phuong Trang

4170 Convoy Street

San Diego, CA 92111



Notes: Phuong Trang’s menu is very extensive, so take your time in deciding what to order. Prices are very reasonable, our dinner for two was less than $30, including tip. I was first exposed to Phuong Trang by my friend Rosey, who would order trays of food from the restaurant for workplace and personal gatherings. We especially enjoy eating the Glazed Chicken Wings with their house special sauce.  


Week 50: Birthday Bash


I did it!!! 50 Weeks at 50 is complete, and what a journey it has been. What better way to mark the end of the year than a celebration, and celebrate we did. I had never thrown myself a birthday party. So the Saturday after my birthday, a few, okay maybe dozens, of my friends drank and danced underneath the lights of my backyard. What a glorious party!




At the end of this post I will give my thanks and thoughts from the party. But right now, I’m going to do a little bit of reflecting back on this past year. And if you’ve noticed, it’s taken me a while to actually write this Week 50 blog since the date of my party, because…well, I don’t really have an excuse why, I guess I really don’t want it to end…


I decided to start the 50 Weeks to 50 blog because…who really knows why.. A mid-life crisis? Or a mid-life awakening? Regardless, as I was approaching my 49th birthday, I began to think ahead to my 50th. I knew I wanted to commemorate the Big 5-0 by doing something special. But as I prepared a list of the possible activities, I realized there was (and is) so much I wanted to do — how do you pick one? Therefore, the idea of 50 Weeks to 50 was created, and voila here we are a year later (plus a few weeks).


Looking back, there were some weeks that have stood out in my mind, and for my loyal five readers too. (Later, I have included the readers top 10 list.) Here’s a few comments about what stood out for me:


  • Most Emotional – Week 5: Shelter for the Night. I stayed one night at the women’s shelter run by San Diego Rescue Mission. I still cry every time I read that blog post. And I continue to feel I need to do more. The women and children, can be any one of us, could have been me. A single mom with teen sons. I’m one of the lucky ones. And during this holiday season, or anytime of the year, the best gift you can give yourself, is to give to others.
  • Most Memorable – Week 45: RiSE Up. I will never forget the feeling of watching all of the paper lanterns rise up into the dark, desert skies, and all written with people’s hopes, dreams, and resolutions. I was able to share the experience with those I love, and the memory will never be forgotten…“because every dream needs a voice.”
  • The Funnest – Week 46: Speeding Across the Bay. Okay funnest may not actually be a word, but riding the speed boat was pure and simple fun! We will definitely do this again!
  • Most Exhilarating – Week 37: Up, Up and Away. You would think that jumping out of a plane would have been the most exhilarating, but I really, really was captivated by floating up in a balloon and looking below at the beautiful San Diego landscape. Another activity that I will absolutely do again in many different places. To me it was exhilaratingly peaceful.
  • Scariest – Week 17: Jettisoned the Jetpack. I thought I was going to die by drowning. I have never felt so scared in my life. The experience made me feel so vulnerable which I didn’t enjoy. I’ve always felt that I can pretty much do anything, and I thought I could do this even without ever learning how to swim. I was wrong. And I still haven’t learned how to swim…still on my list.
  • Quirkiest – Week 14: Love is Your Salvation. Salvation Mountain and Slab City is one of the most interesting places I have ever visited. It’s not just a tourist attraction, but a way of life. The people and the place may seem quirky, but they’re happy living a very simple life off the grid. Sounds like a fun retirement plan to me, although I need someplace closer to the ocean.
  • Most Romantic – Week 38: Overnite Pow Wow. Yes, it was romantic because I was with Richard. But the romantic part was staying in the pow wow campground overnight, and listening to the heart pounding songs of the Native American men and women. We couldn’t understand the spoken words, but the emotional vocables told a passionate tale. One that will forever be remembered in our hearts.


There are obviously many memories from the last year, but I’m not going to relive them all – that’s what all the blog posts are for! If you’ve missed some, go back and read them. (I have a list and links on my 50 Weeks to 50 Table of Contents page.)



partynancyluciemejamie2  partysandiejohnheidi  partylizbotmelacychris  partykleins  partyjemmaria  partygals4  partybecks  partyanne

What a great party!!! A somewhat last minute 50th Birthday Masquerade Party came together quite nicely, mostly due to the help from my Unofficial Official Birthday Party Committee. Plus, so many friends all got into the theme of the masquerade, and I was happy that both men and women wore masks. Food, drink, dancing was enjoyed by all. Everyone loved dressing up and taking photos.

partybotjemchris  partybotdavid  partylacyrosey

Thanks to so many people (I know I’m gonna forget someone), including: Rosey for taking care of rental tables, chairs and linens; Marie B. and Kim for handling the wonderful decorations – transforming my backyard into a magical backdrop; Gigi for food ordering, and her son Evan for designing the party banner and making the 50 Weeks video (I will have to upload on YouTube); Lisa-Marie for picking up food; Lacy for going shopping with me and lots of clean-up the next morning; Heidi for set-up; Dawn for helping with the wishing tree; Sharon and Marie W. for being there; Chris for coming from the OC; David and my sisters Liza and Roselma for all the kitchen duty and clean up; to my parents Lita and Elmer for creating me; my sons Brad and Grant and their friends for “volunteering”; and to Richard for making the 50 Weeks songlist, helping with everything and doing all the guy stuff. Without everyone’s help, it would not all have come together. It takes a village to produce a spectacular party.


Plus thanks to all those who shared the special night with me, brought presents and donated to my favorite non-profits. And you can still make your tax-deductible donations before year end to: Centurion Foundation, EdUCate!, San Diego Rescue Mission, and/or UCHS Adopt-A-Family — which we desperately need donations right now to help bring some extra cheer to a few UCHS families.

partymrlaw  partydancing  partykellyhank

My favorite part of the night was dancing underneath the stars when light rain showered upon us while AC/DC was playing. You shook me all night long baby! Rain is good luck, so they say. Here’s to a wonderful year being 50. I have decided to capture this year through a daily Instagram post, so you can follow me there — jsamala. And we had such a great time throwing this party, be ready for next year, because It’s a Dead Man’s Party!




What did I take out of this year? It took a special event, turning 50, to motivate me to get up and actually do some of the things I have always wanted to do. But actually doing the things you want to do shouldn’t be limited to those special times, you should live your life that way all the time. I know there are practical limits – finances, work, children’s events, general life commitments — but commit to yourself. If you’re unhappy all the time, quite frankly who wants to be around you? And if you’re unhappy, so are your kids. Be a role model to them in a positive way.


My college business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi, motto was Action Not Words. I had a very memorable year by doing both really – acting on my 50 Weeks list and writing about it. I happily feel doing both is the normal way for me to live. With my AARP card in hand, bring on my second half of life! It’s going to be a great adventure!!!




UCHS Adopt-A-Family: http://uchsptsa.org/

Centurion Foundation: http://www.uc-centurionfoundation.com/

EdUCate!: https://www.uc-educate.org/

San Diego Rescue Mission: http://www.sdrescue.org/




Links to all blog posts are at: 50 Weeks to 50 Table of Contents


50 Weeks Reader’s Top 10 Posts


1 – Week 49: Black’s Beach Birthday Suit (This post won by a landslide, you know what kind of minds my readers have!)

2 – Week 14: Love is Your Salvation

3 – Week 5: Shelter for the Night

4 – Week 13: Curling

5 – Week 19A: Going Commando

6 – Week 11: 24 Hours at 24 Hour Fitness

7 – Week 3: A Reading

8 – Week 4: A Jump of Faith

9 – Week 47: Cooks in the Kitchen

10 – Week 20: What SUP with that Yoga




Jemma’s Birthday Song List*

1964         I Want to Hold Your Hand, Beatles

1965         California Girls, Beach Boys

1966         Summer in the City, The Lovin Spoonful

1967         Somebody to Love, Jefferson Airplane

1968         Jumpin Jack Flash, Rolling Stones

1969         Heard it Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye

1970         25 or 6 to 4, Chicago

1971         Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Who

1972         Layla, Derek and the Dominos

1973         Superstition, Stevie Wonder

1974         The Joker, Steve Miller Band

1975         Killer Queen, Queen

1976         Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry

1977         Walk This Way, Aerosmith

1978         Because the Night, Patti Smith

1979         Heart of Glass, Blondie

1980         Pop Muzik, M

1981         Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes

1982         Tainted Love, Soft Cell

1983         1999, Prince

1984         Legs, ZZ Top

1985         Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears

1986         True Colors, Cyndi Lauper

1987         Livin on a Prayer, Bon Jovi

1988         Sweet Child O’Mine, Guns & Roses

1989         Like A Prayer, Madonna

1990         Roam, B-52’s

1991         Groove is in the Heart, Deee-Lite

1992         Everyday People, Arrested Development

1993         500 Miles, Proclaimers

1994         Linger, Cranberries

1995         Run Around, Blues Traveller

1996         1979, Smashing Pumpkins

1997         If It Makes You Happy, Sheryl Crow

1998         Bitter Sweet Symphony, The Venue

1999         Save Tonight, Eagle Eye Cherry

2000        All the Small Things, Blink 182

2001         Beautiful Day, U2

2002         Get the Party Started, Pink

2003         Crazy in Love, Beyonce

2004         Let’s Get It Started, Black Eyed Peas

2005         Mr. Brightside, The Killers

2006         Crazy, Gnarls Barkley

2007         Rehab, Amy Winehouse

2008         Viva La Vida, Coldplay

2009         Use Somebody, Kings of Leon

2010         California Gurls, Katy Perry

2011         Rolling in the Deep, Adele

2012         Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen

2013         Little Talks, Of Monsters and Men

2014         Happy, Pharrell Williams

Bonus       Don’t Stop Believing, Journey

*Compiled by music trivia wiz Richard Patchett, with a few edits by Jemma that he was not aware of until reading this list.


Week 49: Black’s Beach Birthday Suit

The quiet, deserted beach is the backdrop to my birthday suit runway. My collection mirrors that of The Emperor’s New Clothes fall line. Exposed to the ocean air, my new fashion is quite exhilarating, as if a newly discovered pattern. I was born naked, why not celebrate my birthday by going back to the beginning…because in some ways, turning 50 has been a new start.



I live minutes away from the only official nude beach in San Diego, and probably the most popular one in the United States. Yet I never dared to take advantage of my location. I drive by the gliderport in La Jolla all the time, which is where you can take the trail down the cliff to the infamous Black’s Beach. Going there and taking it all off was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list, and I felt there was no better day to go than the morning celebrating my birthday.


But I couldn’t go alone. Who was going to take pictures? Enter Lacy, who agreed to go and dance naked on the beach with me. (You were expecting Richard to go right? So did he!)


So very early that morning, I wake up when it’s still dark outside, waiting for Lacy to pick me up, wondering about my sanity. She arrives with a Starbucks Grande Hot Chocolate ready for me in her car’s cup holder (she knows me well). We drive to the trailhead and start the trek down. It was cold and I was fully clothed in thick gray sweats, straight from bed. I do believe I at least brushed my teeth, I think. Lacy was in a hot pink workout dress. Luckily we both had excellent soled athletic shoes which provided excellent traction down the muddy trail.


It’s really not that hard of a climb down, but it was muddy from the night before and not regularly maintained, so we had to be careful. I thought for sure that I would slip, sprain an ankle and have to be carried up by Lacy. Am I going to be one of those people that have to be rescued by lifeguards on the taxpayers dime doing something that seems so stupid. How embarrassing? Jemma, why were you going down that trail when it was visibly too muddy? Well, uh, I was planning to run around naked at the beach…that would not have made good publicity.

blackstrail  blackstrail4  blackstrail3  blackstrailend

After slowly trekking down the mud soaked steps and windy path, we manage to get to the bottom. Now, walking on a wet, slimy beach is not that easy. We were not here for a muddy slip ‘n’ slide or for female mud wrestling — that’s for a later week. This morning we were thankful for the kelp that washes ashore, which we used as stepping stones to get to the drier sandy area. I set my towel on the sand and looked around. There’s absolutely no one here. It felt like we were in a foreign, undiscovered land. I was an explorer in my own backyard.




Okay, I guess it’s now or never. I carefully take off my sweats and place them neatly folded on my towel. I rarely wear a bikini, but this morning I did, so I hesitantly take off my top and plop it atop my daypack. Not so bad. I slowly start walking towards the shore. Lacy is already naked and in the water…I look around again, still no one in sight…quickly now, bottoms off, thrown haphazardly behind me, and I run into the ocean. Ahh, what a discovery!


Who would have known that being unencumbered by clothing in the open breeze would feel so good? I didn’t, until now! I tell ya, being 50 and having the wisdom to try new things has been life-changing. And for the better.

 blacksselfie  blacksfeet  

The jaunt down to Black’s Beach was supposed to be a quick experience to check off my list, but now that I’m here, free to the wind, who wants to leave? Not me! Party to prep for, ehh, so what if I haven’t shopped for food yet, everyone’s good with chips and dip right? I am not going to stress, not now, not at such a relaxing moment. Lacy and I take a dip in the water which really wasn’t that cold, and actually felt invigorating. We leisurely walk around, take pictures (later I will regret sitting butt naked directly on the sand). I write in the sand “50 Weeks to 50” and soon thereafter a wave washes it away. No evidence.


I’m happy. I truly feel at peace, my soul naked to all — exposed to all of you. It’s quite liberating. I highly suggest it.


Now, I do see volleyball courts a couple hundred yards away…playing volleyball naked with body parts flopping to and fro, not sure if I would suggest that…but then again, I haven’t tried it. As I get up from the sand, I wish I could spend the day here, but back to reality and the day’s commitments.


Two men walk towards us, looks like a father and son taking an early morning beach walk. I turn away to put on my clothes, wondering why all of a sudden I should feel embarrassed. Some emotions will take longer than a morning to overcome. The journey that we are living, will take a lifetime to complete.



Well, what comes down must go up…at least when you are hiking down to Black’s Beach. It’s somewhat of a steep climb and I haven’t worked out much lately. Remember when I got a tattoo, one of the instructions was to curtail exercising to prevent stretching your skin. So I had to follow instructions right? I probably could start going back to the gym, because after about roughly two flights of stairs, I was already having to stop and catch my breath. I don’t know how long it took to get back to the gliderport parking lot, but it felt twice as long as it was in real time. Finally at the top, mission completed, time to get some sustenance.


 carolinesmimosa  carolinesbreakfast

We meet Gigi at Caroline’s, my favorite breakfast spot. Drinking a mimosa, eating a delicious mediterranean egg scramble, fresh fruit and sourdough toast slathered with butter, soaking in the morning sun in the company of friends…life is good.


Trail to Black’s Beach is at the southwest end of the dirt parking lot at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037, www.sandiegofreeflight.com.

Caroline’s Seaside Cafe, 8610 Kennel Way, La Jolla, CA 92037, 858.202.0569, www.carolinesseasidecafe.com. Open daily 8:00 am to 3:00pm for breakfast and lunch.

Week 48: A Haunting We Will Go

Halloween season was upon us and we should celebrate right? We’re too old to go trick or treating, and our kids are too old for us to dress them up in cute character costumes. Instead this year they went out as a group of Chippendale dancers, seriously. I suggested they stick $1 bills in their pants, but was told they are classy dancers and get $20. Okay, enough of that conversation.

Us adults decide it would be funner (not really a word) to go to a Haunted House. Well, you know me and my deals, I find a very inexpensive deal (two for $15) for the Nightwalker Caverns. Lisa-Marie, Valerie, Richard and I decide we should get a good scare one night to set the stage for the Halloween weekend.


We arrive around 9:00 pm which apparently is late for a weeknight, or are us old fogies just early,  as it seemed we were the only ones around. I guess people were inside, as we can hear them screaming — heard but not seen. And it turns out the Haunted House is not in anything resembling a house, but in a mini strip mall kind of place in a skate shop. Well, that’s different.

We check-in, were brought around to the entrance, told the rules and warnings — if you have any physical limitations, pregnant, or intoxicated, you are suggested to turn away now. Interesting. We are asked if we want to go in individually, in small groups of two or altogether…there is no way we are breaking up the group (because we’re a bunch of chickens), we are in this together!


Now, us gals, okay me, hate watching scary gory movies (although I am a big Walking Dead fan now), so why are here? I don’t know. But nevertheless, we are shown the entrance “elevator”, doors closed behind us and here we go. The elevator is dark, shakes and rattles and right when the door going in opens some guy eerily comes out of the corner (kind of like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland). Here we go…Richard leads us into the abyss, with me holding tightly behind (not tightly holding his behind, that’s later), Lisa-Marie and Valarie with hands on each shoulder of the person in front. We’re on an expedition of sorts.


It is completely dark when you enter. Richard needs to touch along the walls to figure out the direction. I don’t dare touch anything. Soon the fun begins, with people jumping out of corners scaring us…sight-bending strobe lights and loud deafening music…gory deathly scenes…creepy girl with freaky eyes walking past you in a zombie like way…a guy whose neon dotted outfit made him blend into the wall…foggy rooms with cut off body parts…figures trying to reach at you behind black plastic walls…a wobbly floor seemingly falling to unknown depths…and then escape.


Well, that was a scare. I actually did scare more than I expected. I don’t like hidden creatures jumping out at me, so well, yes, I screamed. It was fun and glad we did it. It did seem like it went too quick and would have preferred something that would have lasted longer. Then it was brought up there’s some sort of scary event you can pay for where they kidnap you at an undetermined time and take you hostage and “torture” you for a full day. Apparently there is a long waiting list for this activity, but no, that is not on my list.

Okay, I finally went to an official “haunted house” and next year we will search for something scarier! Because we always seem to have this urge to outdo the past. I think this past year has been pretty awesome, and I would be privileged to continue to live my life this way. Maybe I will.


Nightwalker Caverns, 6760 University Ave. #100, San Diego CA 92115, www.nightwalkercaverns.com. General admission $15 each. I couldn’t really take photos as I was clinging to dear life.


Week 47: Cooks in the Kitchen

My kids know me more for baking cookies than for creating delicious dinners. I’m one of those people that keeps a folder full of take-out menus and buys a ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken at least once a week. But I love good food, and have always wanted to take cooking classes. And since my life is about trying new things, I recently went to a Spanish meal themed cooking class at the Great News! Cooking School with a few friends — Sharon, Marie W., and Lisa-Marie. We had a nice Groupon of course.


It was a weeknight and we had to deal with rush hour traffic — the little amount of bumper to bumper traffic we get between my house and Pacific Beach — try to find a parking spot and get there just before class starts. Now, I will say I was disappointed when we arrived upon realizing that it was not a hands on class, but a lecture type of class with cameras pointed down at the work stations. I guess hands on classes are held only periodically and are pricier. Oh well, next time. I really need to read the descriptions more closely.


The smells of the kitchen prep are already making our taste buds salivate as we walk into the classroom. We settle down, get some beverages and review the recipe handouts given to us. The menu looks so yummy:

  • white wine sangria with apples and green grapes
  • manchego cheese with almonds, marinated green olives, garlic toasts and spanish chorizo
  • roasted cauliflower and red peppers with lemon-caper vinaigrette
  • zucchini potato tortilla (a fritatta and my favorite dish that evening)
  • roasted beef tenderloin with spanish rub and smoked paprika aioli
  • mascarpone cream filled cake with sherried fresh berries


The instructor, Phillis Carey, is introduced and starts to go over the menu and begins making the dishes. First we are given glasses of the refreshing sangria, and one by one the dishes are served to us while we watch them being prepared. I take notes.


We spend the night nibbling, well scarfing down, the dishes given to us. We try to chat between instructions, and of course you are given a nice break halfway through class, which is primarily spent on shopping around the store and finding the items they just used in class. Because who would be caught without an electric pepper mill? And I must get another cookbook that I look at once. They make it easy for the students with display endcaps of products as seen in class. We each reserve our stash to pay for later, because who knows what else we will want or must have in our kitchen after completing the second half of class.

cooktapas  cookcauli  cookfritatta  cooktenderloin  cookcake

We do learn some great tips from Phillis throughout the class, such as:

  • pour Sprite over cut apples, pears, peaches and they won’t change color
  • crushed vitamin C tablets will prevent potatoes from discoloring
  • olives with pits taste better
  • higher sided roasting pans will keep more juices in for sauces and au jus
  • cut your cakes in a sawing motion to keep the shape

cookviewcauli  cookviewmeat  cookprep  cookstove  cookviewfruit

Overall, I was surprised how full we all were from having our class portions of the dishes, and I was especially surprised at myself for enjoying a cauliflower dish. For those that know me well, I am not a vegetable person, but mixed with the roasted red peppers, it was delish. Actually, everything was very tasty and looked very easy to make.


All of us enjoyed the evening, and one day soon will plan a Spanish themed dinner party. Isn’t that the point of learning these new dishes — sharing with friends.


After this first cooking class experience, I definitely would like to try more. I enjoy trying new foods as it helps you learn about different cultures. You can learn a lot around a culture from the dining table. If every political meeting centered around sharing a great meal, we would all be more agreeable. Isn’t that why we call our close advisors our kitchen cabinet – we get things done when we are cooking and eating. ¡salud!



Great News! Cookware & Cooking School, 1788 Garnet Ave., San Diego (Pacific Beach), 888.478.2433, www.great-news.com.

Phillis Carey, phillis@philliscarey.com. Follow her on Facebook for recipes and cooking tips – Phillis Carey “The Casual Gourmet”


pirchchef  pirchdinner

P.S. Pirch Dinner: Although not an official cooking class, last night I attended a cooking demonstration by Chef Ed at Pirch, UTC. (Thank you Anne for including me as one of your winning Taste of the Triangle auction dinner guests.) Had a wonderful time enjoying a four course meal with wine pairings and a comforting apple cider. Menu for the night was:

  • Pumpkin Roasted Soup with Toasted Pepitas, Raymond Sauvignon Blanc, North Coast 2012
  • Hearth Roasted Shrimp Cocktail with Cranberry Cocktail Sauce, DeLoach Rose of Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2013
  • Flat Iron Steak with Roasted Mushrooms, Mashed Summer Squash and Leeks, and Quinoa, Liquid Velvet Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County 2011
  • Berry Crisp with Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream (mixed on a salt block)

We also got some great cooking tips, including that in France the rule is to let your meat rest for half the time it is roasted so as to keep the juices in. If you haven’t been to Pirch, it’s a must go to place for kitchen, bathroom, and general decor ideas. Pirch’s motto is to “live joyfully”, and the dinner was a joy – thanks Chef Ed and his assistant Melissa.

pirchappetizer  pirchsoup  pirchshrimp  pirchshrimpglasses  pirchtenderloin  pirchdessert
Pirch, Westfield UTC, 4545 La Jolla Village Drive (across from Sports Chalet), San Diego, CA 92122, 858.966.3600, www.thepirch.com. Check the website for upcoming cooking events. Make sure to visit the store and their free coffee bar.

Week 46: Speeding Across the Bay

We zig zag across San Diego Bay, faster and faster and BOOM, our speedboat catches air and as we bump like a pogo stick back down on the surface, salty sea water splashes my face. When you feel a need for speed, there’s nothing better than racing past the sailboats and ferry boats on a typical beautiful morning in San Diego. I finally traversed the scenic San Diego Bay, after living here all these years.



Going on some sort of vessel on San Diego Bay was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list, I wasn’t sure what kind, but you know I get inspiration from all types of discount platforms and this time it was from Travelzoo. Basically half price to captain your own speed boat while on a guided tour along the perimeter of the bay, sounds like a fun bargain to me. Made a reservation quite easily, and before you know it, life vests are on.


Prior to getting in the boat, our tour guide (for the life of me, I can’t remember his name) gave us a rundown of the boating rules, how to drive it since there are no gas or brake pedals, and adjust our steering since the boat steers from the rear. Also, it was very important to know that the rule is “sail over steam” — sailboats have the right of way since it’s much harder to redirect using sails. He talked about the wake zone, riding on the plane, and when starting to go full throttle be prepared to not see anything for a few seconds since the nose of the boat will go up before you. Then there were the cautions about getting too close to sea lions, don’t ride if you have a bad back, and making sure the harbor police don’t shoot you. Is this safe?


The instructions would make anyone leary about participating. But it didn’t matter much to me, Richard was driving the boat, so all I was concerned about was that I probably shouldn’t take pictures while going full speed because if I would loose my phone, there’s no way I would recapture it — unless those trained dolphins know how to locate them. Wait, Richard you were listening right? Oh, I guess he drove a speedboat before in his teens, no problem.


Let’s get this show on the road, or on the bay, baby!


speed3  speed1

The tour group consists of five boats with two passengers each, plus the guide’s boat (what is his name, this is really going to bother me). The guide is able to communicate with all the other boats. We steadily climb into our small 13’ speedboats, left foot first as instructed, safety cord attached to each driver (in case the driver is thrown out of the boat, the boat will turn off, good to know), engines on, and one by one we idle past all the docked boats into the exit channel. Baby ducks following the momma duck.



At the end of the channel we see the San Salvador replica build site at Spanish Landing, then we turn a corner and our guide points out the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program training facility — basically dolphins are trained to protect the harbor, recover equipment, and detect mines. I was hoping for a dolphin sighting, but as usual I missed it. We’re still at a slow pace, bobbling out of the no wake zone…here we go, first the guide goes out at full speed ahead, then the two boats in front of us, now us…Richard goes full throttle…woohoo!




I’m so glad Richard was captaining the boat, because I would have tried to concentrate too much on proper steering and direction. As a passenger, I could squeal like a little girl going on my first roller coaster ride. It was thrilling. I have been on larger tour boats when on vacations, but this mini speedboat with us sitting low on the water, what an adventure! We first venture safely in the plane, then more daringly zig zag across waves, you can’t help but enjoy the moment.

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Okay, this is a guided tour, so we make periodic stops along the bay’s edges:

  • Point Loma area where the bait barges become resting spots for sea lions and sea gulls, one baby pup looked injured, so sad. We did see a pod of dolphins on the way.
  • Midway Museum which towers above as we slowly glide underneath its decks.
  • The Maritime Museum ships such as the Star of India (getting ready for the Haunted Tales), the HMS Surprise, and the Soviet B-39 Submarine (you can see the rotted rear from our view).

 speedmidway2  speedmidway


speedstarofindia  speedmaritime  speedsub

Being from San Diego and seeing plenty of sea lions and visiting the museums many times as a field trip chaperone, can we just keep riding? We do spend most of the time enjoying the waters, especially a long stretch from the opening of the bay below Fort Rosecrans towards the Coronado Bridge. Speeding along like that, it really was a blast. I loved it when we made air, and held tight for the bumpy return. It brought a smile to my face, plus a salty complexion.


What joy. I waved to those on slower sail boats, tourists on ferry boats, and those watching on dry land. I’m smiling, but thinking yes you folks should be envious of us, you are missing out, this is an “E” ticket ride. Being able to freely enjoy and captain your own boat, what a fantastic idea. I love being a tourist in my home town. Now, we’re starting to wonder, how much do one of these little babies cost; they can fit in my garage right?


One last speedy zig zag along Harbor Island. Thank goodness Richard was driving, because the angle of that turn, if I was driving we surely would have crashed into the rock wall. Is he trying to recreate some James Bond flick, that Brit of mine? But it sure was fun. And I will consider myself his Bond girl.



San Diego Speed Boat Adventures, Inc., Cabrillo Isle Marina, 1450 Harbor Island Drive, Suite 205, San Diego, CA 92101, 619-294-5852. www.speedboatadventures.com  – I didn’t take any photos of us driving at full speed, since I was worried that I would lose my phone, so watch the video on the website. Whatever our guide’s name was, he was excellent.

Week 45: RiSE Up

“Because every dream needs a voice.”


We look up into the cool dark desert sky and one by one the lanterns rise up and form a magical blanket covering us with all our hopes, wishes, and dreams. We are mesmerized. We lay down on the ground unable to remove our gaze from the lantern lit evening skies. So peaceful, so spiritual, so enchanting. Are we dreaming?


“RiSE is a traditional lantern festival that brings people together,

so they can rise a little higher.”


I can’t remember how I found out about the first RiSE Lantern Festival, but whatever drove me to notice it, I am thankful it did, because as my attitude is in most events in my life, there was a reason for it. We were meant to be there, all of us — me and Richard, my sisters Roselma and Liza, David and his daughter Samantha. RiSE will always be etched in our memories as an event that brought us together for a time of reflection and inspiration.


“RiSE elevates hope, ignites dreams,

and creates memories you will never forget.”


We started the weekend like a typical weekend road trip to Vegas, last minute packing with breakfast on the go. Texting my sisters that we were on our way, since they were leaving from Anaheim. About six hours later (yes, it took long, we made a couple bathroom and Starbucks breaks, including stopping at one off ramp that felt like we were in the Twilight Zone), we hurriedly park at the Rio, wait in a long line to check-in, and quickly change — since we took our sweet time, we were now rushing to get to the festival shuttles. Conveniently, my sisters’ room was right down the hall from ours, so we meet up and get our booties out to the convention center parking area. Whoa, there are lots of people here already waiting to board. I had heard there would be about 10,000 people participating, and probably half was here at the Rio while the other half was catching shuttles from the Gold Strike Casino, which was closer to the event.


It didn’t take too long before we were on board one of the buses, back on the freeway towards the Jean Dry Lakebed. You can tell just from that bus ride that it was a calm crowd, all here trying to seek something…something evolving from their own personal experiences. It was nice to see children too, including our own Samantha. My own boys were home for the Homecoming Dance, but I was now wishing this was happening when they were younger, when it was easier to drag them places.


Soon we exit towards Jean Lake and see the large number of shuttle buses dropping off the swarms of festival goers. Since there was a backlog, buses were letting people off in all sections of the desert road and we looked like tributaries all converging into a central river. It was not an easy path where we were let off, highs and lows, bumps and bruises, soft and hard earth. Much like our paths in life, it is never as smooth as we think it should be, but eventually you get there. We, along with everyone else, were on our own pilgrimage towards what? Enlightenment, spirituality, peace, love.



The walk towards whatever we were searching for was a long one. Lots of time to reflect and take in the moment and the serenity of the desert. The colorful hues of reds and oranges were captivating, which eventually melded into the deep blues of the night.


We were welcomed by large white letters that spelled RiSE. There were apparently lots of candles leading the way, but since we arrived with a later crowd, they were all taken away or blown out. We reach the entrance and edge of the festival circle, look at the map and find the center aisle towards our section on the other side. We pass many others who arrived earlier and claimed their spot. We locate the 1A sign and look around for a couple areas for our group of six. At first it reminds me of an old drive-in movie theatre, since the rows of unlit torches look like the drive-in speaker posts.

risewelcome  risemap

Each of us is provided a yoga mat and two lanterns, so we lay out our mats to form a close grouping and plop down our bags and our weary bodies. And we were all hungry so off to the food tents to collect our pre-ordered meals. Those were a breeze to pick up, but you couldn’t pre-order alcohol and snacks, including huge chocolate chip cookies, so we wait in those lines too. While waiting we learn that people have come from many different areas, primarily greater Los Angeles, but some as far away as DC. Everyone is so friendly and calm. We make way back along the maze of yoga mats and lanterns to find our our group, and leisurely eat our meals, which were very delicious by the way. Of course I selected the surf and turf meal — shrimp and steak with orzo, oh there was some salad in there too.

 risesisters  risemeal

Sitting there underneath the night sky, eating and drinking, music playing by Joshua James, thinking about what messages we wanted on our lanterns — I would think it may have been how Woodstock felt, I mean without the sex and drugs. This is a family event.


Time to think about what to write on my lanterns. We each have two, and the lanterns are much bigger than what I expected, so there’s lots of writing space…and I love to write. Okay, down to business. Why am I here? What message, hope, dream, or resolution am I feeling? Who do I want my thoughts to focus on? Do I write about my family, my career, my future, my lovelife? There is so much, I can write a book. Hmm, we try and concentrate on our lanterns. We’ve had over a month to think about this festival and our messages, but life is always evolving and what you may have been thinking about a month ago may not be what feels right, right now.


“Hope Always Rises”


The time has come. Everyone is asked to light their torches, and the desert glows in unison. From that moment on, you could feel the electricity in the air. You knew something special was about to happen. Now everyone is asked to light one lantern and wait a few minutes for them all to fill up with hot air, which takes at least two people to hold onto each lantern, meaning about 5,000 lanterns to rise at once. The anticipation is too much for a handful of people as you see a few lanterns prematurely released. Hold on people, we’re almost ready, and yes, now — let go of your lanterns. WOW.


Words cannot describe the moment, yet there are so many that capture your feelings. Magical. Spiritual. Peaceful. Enchanting. Amazing. Emotional. Exhilarating. Joyful. Inspiring. Many words can be bantered about to describe the beauty of the simple act of letting go of the lanterns, and watching them rise against the black night. The glow of the lanterns gives you hope amid dark times.


We lay down on our mats to look upward towards all the rising lanterns. We are witness to something special. To see all the people gathered this night releasing their messages truly was a magical moment. Strangers who have come together to experience a special connection. I don’t want to stop watching the rising lanterns. This moment will forever be etched in my memory and my heart. I think everyone there feels the same way.

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“Together We Rise”


There are more lanterns to write on. More messages to give, more dreams to live, more resolutions to create, more memories to make. The experience was poetry for our souls. We are inspired again to continue writing on our lanterns and watch them rise to the heavens above. You can feel it in the air, the exhilaration of that first wave of lanterns continues for the next hour.


Groups let off lanterns together, couples rekindle their love for each other, family members remember those they have lost. The lanterns mean so many different emotions for so many people, yet only together could we have created something so extraordinary. Our group does the same. My sisters Roselma, Liza and I send off a lantern. Richard and I. Liza and David. David and Samantha. And our whole group in unison.


Once we were done, we wished we had more lanterns. And wishes come true. A group next to us heard we were here for part of my 50th birthday celebration and gave me another lantern. No matter what you think, there is good in everyone. My last lantern was dedicated to my 50 Weeks to 50 journey. As I watch it float skyward, I can’t help but be thankful for the wonderful year I have had. The varied experiences with so many many people; that lantern brings a soft smile to my face, and warmth within. The lanterns have become a symbol of our lives.


I didn’t want to walk away. I would have loved to have spent the night underneath repeating images of the rising lanterns. I know I will RiSE again.








The first RiSE Lantern Festival meant many things to many people, and we all felt very lucky to have experienced it. I want to relive the moment over and over again. I do so by checking the RiSE Lantern Festival Facebook and Instagram pages to read about other stories and watch their videos. There were a number of marriage proposals, dedications to those who passed away, and celebrations of a free spirited life. So much gained from such majestic simplicity.


You have got to wonder…in our lives we strive to collect so much stuff, which I am guilty of as anyone else. But think about the many simple earthly wonders that make us happy. The colorful beauty of sunsets, the soft rustling of leaves in a forest, the powerful crash of ocean waves, the glow of lanterns drifting away. That’s the memorable stuff I want to collect. Accepting simplicity brings you peace.


“RiSE Festival is a celebration of the life, joys, dreams, hopes, and blessing of each participant. Those are all unique, but something we all share is a love for the planet.”

 risefireworks2  risefireworks

A week later, I still am left feeling that trying to describe the RiSE festival in words doesn’t relay the experience fully. You really need to experience it for yourself. Many of you have expressed the desire to attend the next one, and I assure you we will plan one big gathering. We may need a bus for our own group. Go to www.risefestival.com, follow them on Facebook and Instagram, and read about the many stories. They will inspire you today.


(Note: There was a big snafu with 10,000 people trying to load buses at one time, but it was the first RiSE event and I’m sure it will get fixed for next year. Richard and I stepped back from the negativity, sat on our yoga mats, and shared chocolate chip cookies. One girl thought we looked so serene against the madness she wanted to video us kissing, so we obliged. That’s not going to be sold later is it?)


I crave the magical experience we had, and for me, I think it will be a new travel opportunity — lantern festivals around the world. First on the itinerary…Bali is calling me.


*Quotes are taken from the RiSE website and printed materials.