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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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

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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”


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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.

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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.