Week 37: Up, Up and Away!

May the Wind welcome you with softness

May the Sun bless you with warm hands

May you fly so high and so well

that God joins you in laughter

and may He sit you gently back again

into the loving arms of Mother Earth!

 

Words from the Balloonist’s Irish Blessing that our pilot Bill recited to us, as we enjoyed a champagne toast after landing from our lovely hot air balloon ride, over the rolling hills of Rancho Santa Fe.

 balloonhbsign

***

Hot Air Ballooning was not only on my 50 Weeks list, but also on my youngest sister Roselma’s wish list. She had recently turned 40, so my other sister Liza and I decided the balloon ride would be the perfect present. Along with our sister from another mother Sharon, we made up a fun foursome for the sunset ride.

 

We first meet the rest of the group in a Del Mar shopping center, and were directed to find the silver van at the side of the bank. Once there, our contact Jamie informed us that because of the incoming clouds, there was a slight possibility that the flight may not happen. Safety first he said, which was okay by us. Falling from the sky while in a hot air balloon was not on my 50 Weeks list.

 ballooninstructions

Once we get the a-ok, a dozen of us pile into the van (we should of had one of these during our Little League days) to head to our takeoff spot. Us four get the back row of the van, which Jamie tells us means we are the VIPs. But considering how tight it was to get seated in the back seat, I wonder how we’ll be in the balloon.

 balloonside  balloontakeoff

There are three other hot air balloons at the takeoff spot in Rancho Santa Fe, which I honestly can’t remember where it was. A couple of the balloons were already getting filled up, and once we were there, the ground crew started prepping our balloon. And since the balloon is about 10 stories high, it takes a while. The basket, where all of us will squeeze on to, starts off on its side, and once the balloon is full of hot air, the basket is turned upright. We are then to climb over the side of the basket using the cut out foot holes. Boy, it’s a good thing we wore sneakers.

balloonflame  ballooninside

You can not only see the flames heat up the air for the balloon, but you can definitely feel it. Before you know it, the balloon is filled with hot air and is ready for boarding. I get to climb in first, then my sisters with Sharon following. It’s a somewhat clumsy feeling going over the basket side, as you basically fall into the huge woven basket. I felt like I was a little birdie being dropped into a nest. And being so short, the basket sides are high enough that there’s no way I would accidentally fall over mid air.

 ballooniluvu  balloonblue

Soon enough, the rest of the passengers are in, Bill gives a quick spiel on safety, and that he will be continuing to add hot air to the balloon throughout the ride and that it’s very loud — which it is and I was right under it. Next thing you know, I happen to look down and we’re already up in the air. Up we go, floating higher and higher, enjoying the views of the ocean and estate dotted hillsides.

 balloonviewblue  balloonvieweques  balloonview1

Boy, Bill did a fabulous job of piloting the balloon up and down, and around so smoothly. You couldn’t even tell when we were rising or falling; movements were seamless. The ride was peaceful, yes very peaceful. Looking at the beautiful landscape of San Diego’s rolling hills and ocean vistas was calming. And the estates of Rancho Santa Fe put you in a dreamlike state. You think, okay one day I will have a house like that, or oh I like that home’s style better than that other one. Or I will also put in a vineyard or rows of fruit trees on my estate. Or I like the shape of that infinity pool. Ahh, one day.

 balloonview3  balloonview2

Bill also pointed out homes of various celebs such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Phil Mickelson, and Bill Gates. We saw burnt hillsides that creeped up close to homes. Then there was the deer sighting in one of the canyons, I never even knew there was wild deer in our areas. And I especially loved that people who lived below would come out of their homes and wave to us. People are so friendly.

 ballooncliff

Other balloons were flying too and we all followed the same general path, making sure to communicate via walkie talkie with each other so as not to knock one over. The clouds were slowly dissipating, making way for the brilliant sunset colors that San Diego gifts us.

balloonviewballoons

I could have fallen asleep if I wasn’t so entranced by the vistas. Maybe this is why we will pay a premium for homes, or hotel rooms with a view. It’s very relaxing to sit and look. I start to think, wouldn’t it be great to have a dinner party up in a balloon? I wonder if they make passenger baskets with clear sides? Although, that might be a little scarier for my dinner guests, we wouldn’t want them losing their dinner.

 balloonland

Before I get a chance to nod off, Bill informs us that we will be landing soon and yes indeed we are headed towards a vacant construction lot. That past hour went by very smoothly. But, apparently we may have a bumpy landing, so we are told to hang on and bend our legs to lessen the impact. And since my sisters and I were short in the first place, we couldn’t see over the basket sides, and right as we landed…the ground crew popped up right in front of us to help hold the basket down. The sudden appearance of their faces spooked us and you would have thought we were on a haunted trail. The scariest part of the ride.

 balloondeflate

The basket did slide quite a bit, but the landing wasn’t that bad. We slowly wait our turn to clumsily again climb over the basket onto terra firma. The ground crew quickly pushes out the air to flatten the balloon. We then realize that it actually is quite windy on the ground. Up in the air, we didn’t notice at all.

 balloonsunset

We gather under the orange red sunset skies, while Bill recites the Irish Blessing. As we raise up our champagne plastic cups, we toast the very successful and gorgeous flight.

 

***

Hot air ballooning is a luxury well worth enjoying. No life lessons to be learned this week. Only the acknowledgment that every now and then, we all deserve to do something special for ourselves.

 balloonviewsunsetballoon

***

Panorama Balloon Tours, www.gohotair.com. They offer hot air balloon rides in Del Mar (sunset), Temecula (sunrise), Palm Springs, and Albuquerque. The Del Mar sunset rides are $270 weekdays, and $299 weekends per person. Look for regular Internet discounts and Groupon deals — ours was $270 for two.

 

The first manned hot air flight was in Ireland on January 19, 1785. A good website to find info on hot air ballooning is www.irishballooning.com.

 

Several areas have hot air balloon festivals such as the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival in late May, www.tvwbf.com; the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta this year on October 4 – 12, www.balloonfiesta.com; and the Irish Hot Air Balloon Meet on September 21 – 26 in County Waterford.

  

Week 36: Helping Habitat for Humanity

It’s dark, it’s hot, and I’m sure the little black specks I see are mouse droppings. I’m on vacation, and I’m crawling around in the attic of a rehab Habitat for Humanity home. Yes, an exciting vacation indeed!

habhouse

***

There are many ways to give back to the community and one group that I always wanted to help with was Habitat for Humanity. It was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list, but I didn’t get around to signing up until recently. I found that most of the project volunteer days are during the week, and all the Saturdays I looked into were full. I think people like volunteering with projects where they can actually see the results. So I was taking a vacation week and was out of town for most, but not all of the time, so I figured what the heck, might as well help during the week.

 

I signed up for a rehab house in National City. The San Diego Habitat for Humanity affiliate will occasionally obtain homes that have been abandoned and fix them up and find a family that qualifies under their low-income standards. Those that live in San Diego know that housing is expensive and can be tough for anyone to afford. And since home rehabs is somewhat the family business, I thought helping on a rehab project was an appropriate way to give back.

habgate habbckyard

***

I drive to National City early one morning under dark skies with thunder and lightning threatening. I was worried that rain may delay the project. And yes when I arrived Dale, the project supervisor, informed us that the project was delayed. Not due to weather though, but because the plumbing and electrical work that was to be completed, was not. Those who have had remodeling projects can sympathize. So today we were assigned clean up type duties. Darn, I was looking forward to nailing in something, I like working with hammers.

habhousefrt

Lucky short, I say petite, me gets sent up to the attic. Along with one of the shorter guys (but Navy tough), we are to clean up the attic and make sure it’s not a fire hazard prior to putting in the new insulation. The others get sent to the crawl space underneath the home, which is actually about four feet in height, so they could somewhat standup primal like. I probably could have stood upright. Whoohoo, the advantages of being short, I mean petite!

habkitchen habbckrm habgarage

We climb up the ladder, flashlights in hand. Yup, it’s pretty dark up there and very low. How the heck are we supposed to reach the corners and edges? Dale tells us that we can’t put weight on the attic floor (ceiling) so as to not fall through. That we need to move along the joists (I think that’s what they’re called?). There are wooden planks that we can place on top of the joists and use to crawl, or shimmy on to get to outlying areas. This wasn’t really what I was expecting this morning, but someone has to do it right?

habattic2 habattic  

So we use the flashlight to guide us along and show the way to the areas that need cleanup. Gloves are on, and we use masks to keep dust particles, and who knows what else, out of our lungs. I spent a lot of time just trying to figure out how to move from one place to another without stepping on the floor. Good thing I didn’t have a camera filming my backside, because that would have been a sight to see as I tried to angle and position my way around. I move planks along as I try to reach that one piece of wood or old insulation in the far recesses of the ceiling. Inch by inch I would slide towards that elusive excess wood, one stretch of the fingertips, and yes success! Okay, the rest of the attic to go.

habatticopening

As we slowly clean it up, the temperature gets hotter and hotter, and breathing with a mask on makes it worse. We take a break to breathe without the mask. But as we continue I do keep it on, because looking the attic floor, who knows what critters were up here and left who knows what in their droppings. When we are done, I climb down last — for a while I think Dale was going to leave me there, as my short legs barely reached the ladder top.

habdig

Dale talks to us some more about Habitat as we gather in front of the house. There’s a little bit of digging to be done around the pipes. So the group stands around and watches while one guy digs. You see, there really wasn’t much more for us to do today. We try and use up time picking up miscellaneous debris left outside and in the backyard. Volunteers can actually do quite a bit more — put up walls, floors, drywall, paint, roof, etc. I will definitely have to sign up again so I can do other building work. Think of it as being a construction intern. The skills you learn may prove to be useful in the future.

habdaletalk

But as we stand around, Dale shares with us some of his experiences with Habitat for Humanity projects. They have a couple of new multi-home building projects, one in Imperial Beach and one in Escondido. His favorite projects are those that fall under the Repair Corps category. Repair Corps helps with home fixes for veterans, many who have been wounded. Habitat volunteers will come in and upgrade the home in many ways, including building wheelchair ramps and install walk-in bathtubs. He recalls listening to the vets’ war stories — Pearl Harbor survivor, World War II vets, and Vietnam War vets who told about their experiences of having to fight hand to hand with their bayonets, only camouflaged by the jungle flora. Guys that honorably sacrificed themselves for our country. Dale says the best part is that so many of them are so grateful for what Habitat does for them, and that they get letters of thanks all the time.

habdale

We really should write more thank you notes. And thanks to people like Dale who works for an organization making a difference in people’s lives.

habgrp

***

We volunteers had a short work day. The group consisted of me, Rebecca who works in real estate so she has a flexible work schedule, and three Navy guys helping on their time off. I think it’s great that we had the opportunity to help with Habitat, because face it, it’s expensive to live in San Diego, and affordable housing is one of the biggest problems. For many families it may be the choice between keeping a roof over their head or food. How much of your income can you feasibly allocate for housing, while trying to feed a family, pay for transportation, utilities, taxes, etc. You all know – it all adds up. It’s a problem I saw when I stayed overnight at the San Diego Rescue Mission (see Week 5), it’s hard to find affordable housing when you are already struggling. I’m honored to help in even the teeny tiny way I did with Habitat. Whoever wants to join me in the future, we can plan a group activity on a Saturday.

 

Now, reflecting back about our own communities. Many of us like to think only certain neighborhoods need this kind of assistance. But even in my neighborhood, there’s always that one house that seems to be a blight. Do we know their story? Have we ever asked why their properties are being neglected. Maybe an elderly person lives there and can’t maintain or doesn’t have the means to help maintain the property due to physical reasons. Some probably feel too proud to ask for help. Look around your community. If you live in one like University City where I live, homes are getting at that age where repairs and maintenance are needed. And if you bought your home over 30 years ago, are still living in it with now a fixed retirement income, it’s not that you don’t want to fix up your home, you just don’t have the means to – physically and financially. Maybe it’s time to bring the Habitat model to the hyper-local level and make it a project of our neighborhood watches. We can truly watch and take care of each other. It only takes an afternoon to make a difference in someone’s life. All you need to do is ask.

habtruck

***

About Habitat for Humanity: The San Diego affiliate of Habitat for Humanity is governed locally, raises funds locally, and builds locally. As with the international group, SDHFH’s mission is to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope. Recipients of HFH homes are required to put in sweat equity into their own home or other projects. They have new build projects, rehab projects and special projects for veterans – Repair Corps and Building for the Brave. Other special events include Builders Blitzes and Women Build. SDHFH also runs ReStore, a home improvement outlet store that accepts donations of and sells used building materials. There are two ReStore locations in Mission Valley and Escondido. Individuals and groups can volunteer on the building projects, at the ReStore locations, and with administrative duties. Minimum age to volunteer is 16, but sometimes younger children can help with parental supervision. And I’m serious about planning a group. UC Mamas, are you all in?


San Diego Habitat for Humanity: www.sdhfh.org

Week 35: Floating Away

I feel like I’m floating on air. This must be how it feels like if clouds were your mattress. I close my eyes, and drift away…slowly my mind thinks of …nothing…

***

After my Walking Dead Escape night during Comic Con, I figured that I should actually watch the episodes. So all of last week and this past weekend, I spent my free nights watching all the available episodes on Netflix — three seasons of Walking Dead. I got hooked after the first episode and had to complete my Walking Dead viewing marathon as fast as I could. I get obsessive that way, like when I have to finish reading a captivating book — I can’t stop. So what if the kids need dinner. Unfortunately Season Four isn’t out yet, and won’t be until a few weeks before Season Five starts on AMC (mark your calendars for October 12!). A side effect of all this exposure to zombies and survival mode characters, is that I think my mind turned me into a dead head. I became sluggish and was in a funk. It seemed that I was still taking to heart my role as a walker and was continuing to be slow and lethargic. (See Week 34)

 

As for the survivor lifestyle I was viewing, I was starting to think that survivalists really had a point, and that I should stock up on supplies (Costco sells Spam right?). I was also making sure that I could properly swing my collection of baseball bats that I keep by my bed – the old aluminum t-ball bat my kids used, a commemorative Tony Gwynn 3,000th hit wooden bat, and a souvenir Padres hard plastic Padres bat (it probably won’t do much damage, like how the Padres’ bats really are). My swings had to be able to knock off zombie heads you know.

 

By this past Monday, I knew I had to re-energize myself somehow. So along comes the usual emails from Groupon and Living Social, some which included deals to float spas. Hmm. One hour of floatation therapy. I had heard about these before, and float therapy was known to help your physical and mental well-being. My aging body could use some relaxation, and let’s face it, I was getting mental. It’s also supposedly helpful with any creative blocks you may be experiencing. I do have a few business articles to write. Okay, I sold myself on it, a couple clicks here and there, voila. Now, a quick call to Cocoon Float Spa and my appointment to float away was made.

 

Oh yes, I ended up picking the float spa that offered the isolation tanks that looked like cocoons. They reminded me of the movie Cocoon and the ability of the aliens’ energy to provide healing powers through the waters. Makes perfect sense to me now, I’ll spend some time in the cocoon’s chamber, get re-energized and live forever, hahahaha! Then comes world domination! Okay, just kidding.

***

float7

I get to Cocoon Float Spa and realized it was the same building Lacy and I parked in for the Pride Parade. (See Week 33). What a coincidence. The spa had very modern, clean furnishings that really complemented the look of the cocoons. I liked the solid white background, with touches of blues. My favorite color. And they had a great floor they created themselves with beach pebbles and epoxy. You sign-in for your treatments via iPads, plus first timers are to watch a short animated video on what to expect and what to do. Simple enough, you float and relax.

 

The very nice male attendant (I forgot to ask his name), showed me to my chamber which includes a private shower. You go in the float tank butt naked, and need to shower immediately before and immediately after your session. A ton of Epsom salt is in the water, which is what helps you float. He showed me how to close and open the cocoon; there is no lock and it uses hydraulic bars, so it opens easily. I wouldn’t want to get trapped in there. He also showed me how to turn on and off the lights and Muzak, and he told me that most people turn them off about five minutes into the session. Part of the float therapy is in experiencing sensory deprivation, which is why it’s dark and quiet. I’m also given ear plugs to help deafen any noise. He also lets me know that the music and lights will automatically turn on when I have five minutes left of my session.

float5

Okie, dokie. I’m then left alone to float my troubles away. I shower quickly, and step on in. The water feels soothing and warm. The tank is also built to warm the water to your body temperature. I slowly close the door, but wait, the attendant mentioned I could place a towel down so the door doesn’t completely shut and a crack of light seeps through. I decide to do that. A neck floatie is also provided to help keep your head up. At first I try without it, but felt I was straining myself, so I use the floatable pillow and feel much more comfortable. Okay, I’m floating, getting comfy, time to turn off the lights. Whoa…that is dark. I lose my sense of direction in this tiny tank (although bigger than what I expected), and am pushed away by my own current and need to sit up, open my eyes and find the light button again so I can turn off the music. Now I can turn them both off.

 

Back to business. With both the lights and music off, I try to relax, and simply float. What do I think about in here? Do I think about work? No. Do I think about my friend’s problems with her daughter? I’m so glad I have sons. Should I have a garage sale or not? Still undecided. Is orange really the new black? Darn, my whole wardrobe is basically black. Then I get distracted by the slightest of sounds. Geez, I forgot to put on those ear plugs. I can’t remember instructions given to me five minutes before I start? I don’t want to get out to grab them; I just know some alarm would sound off if I did. So I try not to pay attention to the barely audible humming sound I hear, to the gurgling sounds my body is making (no it wasn’t a fart), and to the noises my floatie pillow is now making which do sound like farts. I adjust my pillow.

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What do I do with my hands? I try to lay them across my chest mummy style. No, too deathly. Then I place them on each side in a V formation. No, too loose. I rest them behind my neck underneath my floatie. Yes, just right. Too much thinking going on here. I take some deep breaths to help me relax more. The video also mentioned toning, just making noise in the cocoon. I start doing so as if I was in yoga. Hey, sounds pretty cool in here, but no echo. Maybe it’s like in the shower, my voice may actually sound good singing. I try to sing that new song I’m hooked on: “All About that Bass” by Meghan Trainor. Nope, I still can’t sing, even in a cocoon pod.

 

My nose is itchy. I scratch it and some of the water from my finger drips onto my lips. Yuck! That salty water is disgusting. I forgetfully try to wipe my mouth which makes the taste worse. And I get a few drops in my eyes, which quickly stings me. There is a spray bottle of fresh water to get it out, but I don’t feel like trying to find it. So I take it and eventually the stinging goes away.

 

I eventually relax enough where I do feel like I am floating on air. It really is relaxing. It feels like there is nothing below me or around me. This must be how it feels to be weightless. I imagine myself in space, like Sandra Bullock in the movie Gravity. Oops, that was not a good thought. I start to feel like I need to touch something. I move myself towards the door so that my feet touch the cocoon walls. That’s better. Now with that swishing around, I created some subtle waves which makes me feel like I am moving, yet when I look towards the sliver of light through the door’s crack as a reference point, I realize I’m not moving. Am I getting motion sickness now? I am so lame. I’m starting to feel nauseous, and very bloated. I can’t float anymore. I sit.

 

This all occurred roughly more than halfway through my session. So taking into account getting adjusted to everything, I think I may have had a solid 20-25 minutes of relaxed floating. Now, I’ve freaked myself out too much, I can’t get back into that state. I try. Maybe about three more times. And I was just about to fall asleep, maybe that’s what scared me too, I didn’t want to fall asleep in water. But the water is so buoyant from all the Epsom salt, that you naturally conform to a floating position. Not wearing ear plugs didn’t help either. I kept hearing a buzzing sound, until I realized it was my phone notifying me of incoming texts. I can’t get out to look, the point of float therapy is sensory deprivation. So I sit there, naked, arms around my knees, my bottom heated by the salty water (I do have a hot bottom), waiting for my session to end. I only sit there about five minutes before miraculously the lights turn on and the music starts playing. Thank God! I sit there a little while longer for good measure, and slowly get out.

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I take a really long shower (sorry, I know we’re in a drought), and use every product they provided. I’m still trying to take deep breaths in the shower to calm myself. I was still feeling nauseous and bloated. Before I leave, I share my truthful experience with the attendant, who seems very puzzled at what I am saying. Am I the only one to not come out raving about how life changing it was? He says it could be that I have a lot of toxins to rid. Huh. He gives me a bunch of discount cards to use for next time, or to give out to friends. The guy who was in the cocoon room next to me came out saying that “it was amazing!” I left at that point.

***

Now, I don’t think it was a bad experience. I did relax at the beginning and enjoyed it, until I felt that I did need to use some of my senses. I needed to use at least one sense – like touching the walls. The isolation tank was invented in 1954 by John C. Lilly, and scientists started using them in the late 1970s to experiment on the therapeutic benefits and called it “Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy” (REST). REST. It may have been better for me if I could have started with only 30 minutes of sensory deprivation. Why is it that everything is booked in hours? Massages, acupuncture, exercise classes. I probably experienced some sort of sensory withdrawal. I’m usually on sensory overload. At the office, I have two screens going, with many windows open, and a number of projects being worked on daily. And my phone is like a mini computer, or the TV is on news or sports or House Hunters International, the laptop connects me to Netflix, in the car the radio is on. I’m screwed. This is also why I still haven’t been able to really meditate. I’m addicted to being on sensory overload. My name is Jemma, and I am a sensory addict.

 

Seriously folks, I did get a very good nights sleep. I fell asleep by 10:00pm, which is early for me. And I’m pretty sure I was snoring. My back pain seemed to have gone away. And boy, my skin sure feels soft. You do have to clean yourself up really good afterwards, as midday the next day it was kinda gross when I realized I had a some residual dried salt on my earlobes, and I’m wiping the salt out with my fingers. Ehh, touching my earlobes does calm me. I could still feel a slight sting of salt in my eyes too, they’re looking pretty red.

***

Would I try it again. Maybe. I do believe in trying things at least twice to confirm one way or the other. Like the time I tried that stinky but supposedly tasty fruit durian during a trip to Thailand. Well, the first time yes it was stinky and it was not tasty. I’m sure I made a horrified face when I took a bite. On a future trip to the Philippines, I decided to try it again, and the results were the same. So what is the lesson I learned from this experience? There’s no way I could be an astronaut.

***

Cocoon Float Spa, 3969 4th Ave. #201, San Diego, CA 92103, 619.688.3978, www.cocoonfloatspa.com. $90 for 60 minutes (I have discount cards if you want one.) $150 couples – not in the same cocoon (I wish), same time. Membership packages available. Free parking.

***

Just because I was thinking of this song while in the tank, here are the lyrics to Meghan Trainor’s song:

 

“All About That Bass”

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two

But I can shake it, shake it

Like I’m supposed to do

Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase

And all the right junk in all the right places

I see the magazines workin’ that Photoshop

We know that shit ain’t real

C’mon now, make it stop

If you got beauty beauty, just raise ’em up

Cause every inch of you is perfect

From the bottom to the top

Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size

She says boys like a little more booty to hold at night

You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll

So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along

Because you know I’m

All about that bass

‘Bout that bass, no treble

I’m all about that bass

‘Bout that bass, no treble

I’m all about that bass

‘Bout that bass, no treble

I’m all about that bass

‘Bout that bass

Hey!

I’m bringing booty back

Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that

No I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat

But I’m here to tell ya

Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Yeah my mama she told me don’t worry about your size

She said boys like a little more booty to hold at night

You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll

So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along

 

Because you know I’m

All about that bass

‘Bout that bass, no treble

I’m all about that bass

‘Bout that bass

Hey, hey, ooh

You know you like this bass

Week 34: Walking Amongst the Dead

I became aware of the Walking Dead show a few months ago and watched some episodes. But that was the fourth season and was told I really should watch from the beginning. Watching four seasons of life after a zombie apocalypse wasn’t too appealing at the time so I didn’t. The show haunted me again when soon thereafter, my friend Marie B. sent sent me a link about The Watching Dead Escape (TWDE) and that it may be something we may want to do. Why not? Who wouldn’t want to dress up like zombies and try to infect good paying people with the virus? Sounds like fun to me!

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Since TWDE was during Comic Con, we thought we could get some of the kids to participate — no go. Guess it’s not cool to dress up like a zombie with your mom. Oh well, so Marie, my friend Jamie, and I got into our zombie mindset this past Saturday night. Prior to going, we make sure to wear old clothing that we don’t mind getting dirtied up. I find old sweats, a surgical shirt and a medical smock (probably remains from a prior Halloween costume).

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We drive to Old Town where we plan to catch the trolley since we know it’s going to be packed downtown. Once we finished driving around to find a parking spot, we rush to make the next trolley as we are already running late. We’re supposed to be there two hours prior to our walking time of 9:00 pm, so that TWDE folks can apply the zombie make-up. Now, you know Comic Con is in town when a ton of people dressed up in various costumes from superheroes to sexy vixens get on the trolley and no one bats an eye. I still can’t figure out how some of those women are comfortable walking around in 6-inch heels. I would fall over and sprain an ankle or two.

twdetrainer  twdepetco

Once off the trolley, we rush to Petco Park to check-in. It’s pretty organized, you first sit to wait for instructions. Then you get up and move to sit in another section while the main zombie dude gives you a quick training session on how to be a zombie. He reiterates over and over again that you are to always remain in character (because people pay to be spectators, so we are always being watched by someone), and zombies are slow and lethargic…slow and lethargic…slow and lethargic…I am  s l o w  and  l e t h a r g i c. We are not to hide and scare people (what, that’s fun), or try to attack them outright. As zombies, our muscles go into atrophy and we really can’t see. So we are to slowly, and lethargically walk with our shoulders and eyes downward. We can hear noises, and smell survivors within two arms length distance. That’s how we can “infect” the survivors (the people paying more good money to run the course). Remember, slow and lethargic. We can do that, I think.

twdeprep  twdemakeupprep

On to make-up, the fun part. We get into different assembly lines of make-up artists from the actual show. Artists from either Los Angeles or Atlanta who get paid to turn people into zombies, now that’s a profession! First make-up base is sponged on our hands and faces to pale us down, then a splattering of black and red (a trick we will have to remember). Then we’re air sprayed more white or black coloring on our faces and arms, which smelled like it had a trace of rubbing alcohol. Last came the thick and sticky fake blood made with corn syrup splattered all over my face to look like we had been eating flesh. Jamie had her guy make it look like she had a head wound. Marie and I wanted more blood — we are blood thirsty B8#@*%? — we go back in line for more blood, which was why I wore a white smock in the first place, so the blood would be very visible. The make-up artist does just that this time, smearing blood all over me, which eventually ends up in places I didn’t imagine. I asked for more blood, and I sure did get it.

twde1  twdejem

Now we wait in the holding area until our time slot. As I look around, we have an interesting group of zombies standing around doing nothing. I guess we are getting into character. There were people of all ages, yet skewed to those in their 20s or 30s. A few young children too. Many were dressed up to fit in with the Comic Con crowd. So you got your zombies wearing pajamas, orange prison wear, sailor zombies, bride zombie, zombie superheroes, and the FEMA guy — oh wait, he’s one of the course characters. This is when we take most of our pictures, because once we’re let out to infect survivors, we can’t be walking around with our iPhone cameras snapping away. Next year — GoPro. Remember, slow and lethargic.

twde9  twde8

The time has arrived for us zombies to greet the waves of survivors! We are assigned to a group upstairs in a section where a horde of zombies await the survivors as they turn a corner. We end up liking this zombie section because we can make comments to each other in low zombie voices as we slowly and lethargically drag ourselves around. But as we start our zombieing, it’s hard to infect anyone. These survivors run you down, I mean really run you down as if they really are going to get infected by you. I think Jamie was struck to the ground three times! I know I was hit quite a bit, but I admit I really tried to block them too. And when I try to reach out, I realize the location of my hands may not be the best area to grab people. I mean I didn’t want to be accused of sexually harassing anyone. But we soon get into the zombie mindset of wandering around aimlessly until we hear steps or they get close enough to smell. There’s usually someone that will make noise as a distraction for the group, so us zombies mob towards the direction of the noise while the other survivors move quietly around us. So nice of them to sacrifice themselves. Our group was able to trap one guy in a corner, he just sat hunched down on the ground not moving a bit. Eventually us zombies forgot about him and he quietly slipped that away. Remember that if you get overwhelmed by zombies in the future.

twdecamo

Some zombies really get into character, making grunting noises, falling due to our failing muscles. Sometimes we bump into each other like a slam dance. The spectators try to tell the survivors which way  to go, or yell out to us that we could have gotten them. TWDE hecklers, who would have thought. Hey, we’re all trying here, give us a break, we paid even more good money to walk around slowly and lethargically.

twdecage  twdefans

After about an hour though (we have an hour and a half total walking slot), we decided to go rogue. I mean, us three were getting antsy, we’re very active women here. We find out that we can walk the rest of the course as long as we stay in character, so we decide to slowly and lethargically see what the survivors have to do. Well, everyone is in total character around here, the actors really get on the survivors to move it. There are all kinds of obstacles set up throughout half of the ballpark. And we only saw a part of it, there was so much more (see YouTube links at the end), and it looks like the survivors need to be somewhat fit (note to self – train for next year). We find the end, and the military group manning the area there was very nice to us, taking pics, and letting us experience the finale. They were a family of volunteers, which is another option to get involved with TWDE, but volunteer slots fill up quickly.

 

As the survivors young and old are herded into the safe zone, I’m sure they felt relief that they weren’t infected. A fun time for all.

twdefanfest

TWDE is just plain fun. Another chance to reinvent yourselves in a minor way playing dress-up. We’re all kids at heart and love to play. Would we do it again? Absolutely! While we were zombieing around, we kept getting ideas on what to do for next year. First, we would be survivors too and participate both ways. We would wear wigs, so we don’t get all that sticky blood goop in our hair and waste all that water showering at 2:00 in the morning. Oh, and we had all kinds of ideas on fun, freaky costumes to wear. It’s still in the planning stages, so I won’t share all our secrets yet. Yup, I admit it’s kind of a nerdy thing to do, but hey nerds rule the world, and we are looking for world domination!

twdeexit

***

twdehappy

Walking around like a zombie was somewhat a form of meditation. No really. Think about it — you’re walking around in a somewhat vegetative state, slowly and lethargically aimlessly meandering about. Thinking and doing nothing is, well, relaxing. I think I will include zombieing in my daily routine…where can I fit that in my schedule?

twdesyfy

As we were discussing meditation on our way to the Gaslamp, some guy overhears and starts talking to us, asking what we were doing dressed up as zombies. It becomes a familiar question the rest of the night, as we make our way through the late evening Comic Con crowd for some midnight breakfast. Even in this setting, three petite female zombies is a sight to behold. We were sitting at the outdoor bar at Ascension (MaryJane’s at Hard Rock, SyFy channel takes it over for Comic Con) where there’s a glass partition separating you from the sidewalk. While devouring breakfast food (there’s only so much human flesh you can take), people kept walking by, pointing and smiling at us.

twdecos  twdeccsign

We also had a great time people watching, I mean it’s Comic Con, who needs a ticket, just grab a seat and watch. We see Mario Bros., octopus like creatures, more superheroes, Luche Libre type guys, some young construction guy that wanted us to stay and have a drink (we are not cougars), and a line of prostitutes, oh wait they were real ones. There were celebrity sightings too, Orlando Bloom went by us, supposedly Megan Fox was in the place, and Christopher Nolan (starring in Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey) was signing autographs right in front of us. We should have shoved a piece of paper over the glass wall for an autograph..

twdetrolley

On the trolley ride home, you would have thought that superheroes and zombies are normal late night passengers. Me, I was happy to go home and wash all the blood and make-up off of me, because it’s really hard to pee when the toilet paper is sticking to your corn syrupy bloody hands.

twdeclothesafter

Maybe I should watch all the Walking Dead episodes now, it’s on Netflix right?

***

The Walking Dead Escape, http://www.thewalkingdeadescape.com/, $20 to be a spectator, $75 survivor, $95 walker, $150 VIP – survivor and walker. (We were able to find a Living Social deal to be a walker for $42.) Tickets did sell out, so if you plan to do it next year, you may not want to wait for a deal and just buy a ticket. The next TWDE is scheduled for October 25 in Miami, and other cities to be determined. But remember TWDE for next year’s Comic Con weekend, as we will walk again!

youtube videos (there’s plenty, just search the walking dead escape san diego:

2014 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zu6y04zSK94

2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMSISUtFk78

TWDE bw1  TWDE bw2

Week 33: Showing Some Pride

Early last week, a friend forwarded me an email request asking for volunteers during the annual Pride Festival. But my kids had basketball and baseball games, and other plans had been made, so the timing of the volunteer slots didn’t work. I had never been to the Pride Festival or watched the Parade, so it got me thinking maybe I should at least go and watch. Then without having mentioned it to her, my friend Lacy asked if I wanted to go to the Parade. I took that as a sign that going to the Pride Parade would be my 50 Weeks activity for Week 33.

 

As with many of my activities with friends we take the time going to and from the destination catching up on life. Lacy had just returned from her sister’s wedding in Jamaica, so I was getting the scoop. We soon drive into the Hillcrest area and after once around the block we park and walk to the Starbucks.

pridestreet

If Starbucks was an indication of the large crowd to be expected, it’s going to be huge. The line for morning lattes reached the door, and more importantly the bathroom line was just as long (of course I forgot to go before leaving the house and needed to stand in this line). Once getting relief and getting introduced to Kelly and Hank (friends of Lacy’s), we leave to find a spot along the parade route. It is already packed with many people bringing chairs and canopies. Luckily it wasn’t that hot of a day.

pridekidshirt

We claim a great location at the corner of University and Sixth, where we figured was a spot that Parade participants needed to stop and turn the corner. Already I can tell this is going to be one fun parade. Many spectators themselves were dressed for the occasion, Kelly had on a cute rainbow tutu. Lacy was wearing a colorful blocked dress (later a drag queen commented how she loved Lacy’s dress, and a gay guy said to his boyfriend to look at her great tits).There was a lovely family next to us whose young boy designed a rainbow t-shirt for them to wear, with labels of Dad, Dad, Daughter and Son on the backs. Lots of skimpy clothing too — both men and women. I just had to look at a woman’s ass that was half exposed, you couldn’t miss it.

pridevendor

  prideumbrella  pridemaskguy

Once the parade started with a leather clad bike club leading the way, there came lots and lots and lots of participating groups. Pretty much every local politician was there, many legal associations, churches, banks, medical groups, nightclubs, radio stations, and of course, all the LGBT associated groups. I was having fun just being there since I haven’t watched a parade since…I can’t even remember, probably when I was a little girl. (I’ve always wanted to watch the Rose Parade too, but I have been to the Rose Bowl.)

pridefetish  pridecops

pridelovestraight

priderevivals  pridemamaskitchen  pridehula

You really have to experience the Parade to truly enjoy it, which is why this blog is mostly pictures because there was so much to see — and there was so much more that I didn’t include, need to edit you know. What was my favorite? So much…all the cute guys (so what if they’re gay, still great eye candy, especially the half naked ones with ripped bodies, is there a gay strip club I can go to?), the foam truck, all the fun giveaways (I was given a bunch of condoms), the Chipotle truck with the giant riding burrito, the costumes, and all the signs expressing love for all (“I love all my children, even the straight ones”, “God loves us all”, and “size matters” — oh wait, well still a great sign).

pridehalfnaked  priderichs

pridechipotle2

pridefloat  pridehula

The vibe of the Parade and the festival is one of acceptance. No matter your sexual preference, race, religion, big or little, how you looked, favorite dog breed or bank affiliation, Pride welcomes all and judges no one. Well, the anti-circumcision group drew a few “not the right place for that, honey” type of comments, but overall it was a fun gathering of people enjoying life and who they are. Always take pride in yourself — you are beautiful, inside and out!

pridepugs  pridewalkers  pridefoam  prideteddybear

pridepubdef  pridefall  priderv

pridestiltwalker

pridesizematters        pridewheelchair    prideflags  pridesm  pridebikenun  pridebears  prideflagwalkers  prideloveisgod  pridescooter

***

San Diego Pride, https://sdpride.org/. This was the Pride festival’s 40th anniversary, which drew a 300,000 parade attendance (yes, it was really, really crowded), 40,000 music festival attendance, and 940 volunteers. Be prepared, with so many groups participating, the Parade was long, over 3 hours (we had time to eat fish tacos at Oscar’s during the parade, http://www.oscarsmexicanseafood.com). The music festival was only $20 for both Saturday and Sunday, so plan for next year. Lacy and I are trying to figure out how to participate in the parade next year — anyone have a flatbed truck, DJ equipment, and racy costumes we can borrow?

priderainbow

pridegoodies

Week 32: Lavender and Rose

On the road or on your toes, it’s all about the journey.

 

***

kcfsign

Keys Creek Lavender Farm.

We were all chatting and catching up with friends the evening of the Fourth of July, and Linda mentioned reading about the lavender farm in San Diego. Now, when I envision the rolling purple hillsides of lavender farms, I think of Provence. Something I had hoped to do whenever I get a chance to visit France again. The idea that there was one in my own county, well add that to my 50 Weeks list.

kcflavenderbush

That weekend I tried to locate info about the lavender farm, and I was brought to the website of Keys Creek Lavender Farm. And what do you know, the season was extended into two more weekends in July (normal season is May and June). I took this as a sign that a visit was in order, so next thing you know I’m emailing Linda and Sharon (who was in on the discussion) and we made plans to go. Since we all had some weekend activities scheduled (we all have boys in summer sports, that should explain it all), we had to squeeze in a visit this past Saturday afternoon.

 

We know it will be hot, so we grab our hats and off we drive away. And you know when they say it’s not the destination but the journey, well that was partially true for this trip. As we ramble up the 15 corridor, we continue to chat away and get caught up on life. We unintentionally make a wrong turn somewhere, and didn’t realize it until we couldn’t find the “Yellow Deli” landmark as noted in the website’s directions. We decide to check our blue dot location on Google Maps and figure out our way back, which led us to one of the curviest roads I’ve ever been on in the mainland. (For those of you who have been on the Road to Hana in Maui, think of the road we took as the same pattern, but without the lush green waterfalls to your right and the deep ocean blues to your left.)

kcf road2

After driving this windy road, thankfully we all kept our stomach contents intact, we get to a main road and soon pass the Yellow Deli. We turn right onto a dirt road, and as we start to drive it I’m thinking “thank goodness my lease is up next month!” A mile and a half later of driving up and down short hills, passing through tree groves, we arrive at the entrance to the farm.

kcffields

I will admit that I was disappointed at first at not seeing rows and rows of purple. But we soon realized that was because all the lavender stems in the lower fields that we first came upon had already been harvested. We did come at the end of the season, so that is to be expected. Now that we know about the place, we can visit earlier next year. As we continue walking towards the main visitor’s area under the hot sun, we soon get a whiff of the fresh lavender scent. Ahhh, here’s our journeys destination.

kcfgate  kcfporch

We pass the welcoming gate and you can immediately sense a feeling of calm. Quirky plant displays and repurposed furniture greet us. First thing we do — walk into the gift shop. Everything lavenderish you can think of, they’ve got. Oils, lotions, bath products, teas, candles, lavender. I try to sample the oil and accidently pour way too much on my hands — Sharon, do you need some oil? We leisurely look at all the products, and after a taste sampling — or two, or was it three — amongst us we take home a variety of goods (tea, lemonade, scone mix, sachets, caramel sauce, jelly, and of course, lavender sprigs).

kcfgiftshop

We mosey up the dirt path to Mrs. Jones Tea House. Like the gift shop, the tea house is a cozy wooden cabin, painted in olive green with lavender trim that blends so comfortably with the surrounding fields. The wrap around porch provides views of the picturesque hillside, plus desired shade while we sip on lavender iced tea and lemonade, and munch on lemon lavender cookies and scones.

kcftea  kcfteahouseinside

There was a very lovely couple from Germany, Clarissa and Marc, tending the tea house, who was helping out at the farm for a few weeks. They were part of the WWOOFing program which pairs volunteers to work at organic farms in exchange for room and board (sign me up!). Clarissa and Marc have been able to travel all over the world as part of this exchange. We kept chatting with them about the program, since it was so interesting to us, and we were all wondering if that lifestyle would fit into our retirement plans — I think so. Okay kids, hurry up, finish college, and start supporting yourself, cuz mom is hitting the road!

kcfgercpl

It was time to actually walk amongst the lavender bushes, where we can read about the different varieties. (They grow 20+ varieties.) There were lots of bees around, which the farm is trying to help preserve theri population. We walk around to the far fields where lies a bougainvillea archway leading you to a lavender labyrinth and meditation garden. The whole setting was so serene, so peaceful, so natural. When I think of living in the countryside, this is what I would envision.

kcfsharlin      kcflabryinth

kcffieldspeople

As we head back home, on a shorter and less windier road, you can’t help but begin to think about ways to live like this. Maybe true innovation in the future will be a way to combine technology for use in smaller and less stressful communities. Not just for those who have the luxury to do so, because in my mind, living on a farm such as Keys Creek is a luxury.

kcfpost

***

 

Rose Canyon.

There are lots of canyons around San Diego, and my neighborhood of University City is surrounded by Rose Canyon. The city maintains hiking trails in the canyon and for the almost 15 years that I have lived here, I am ashamed to admit that I have never been in Rose Canyon, until now.

 

Walking through Rose Canyon was on my 50 Weeks list because it was one of those activities that’s so easy and so accessible that you always think, oh I’ll do that next week, next month, next year. Our elementary school would have field trips into the canyons, yet for some reason or another those were dates I was unable to chaperone.

 

How did I finally get down into Rose Canyon? After our lively lavender seeking drive to Valley Center, I felt it was warranted to take a nap. Well, before I could get into the dream stage, Gigi texted me to see if I was up for a walk in the neighborhood. Sure, why not, I need the exercise and it was a lovely evening. And she too came back from a long drive to Los Angeles and wanted to move her legs about. So off we went on a typical walk through the UC hood.

 

At one point we came close to the trailhead on Regents Road, I had pointed us towards Starbucks, but Gigi wanted to know what was down there. We looked at the posted map, down the hill towards a hidden creek, and a asked a gentleman who was jogging down into the trail about how far a hike would it be. He said that he usually turns around at a certain point and comes back, but I knew there was a way out the other side — not only by looking at the map, but because my kids have been known to play in the canyons with their friends.

 

We each had a water bottle, the sun was still out, and you know I love these impromptu adventures. Plus it was on my list, the time was now.

RCbridge

Down into the canyon we go, first into a steep well worn dirt path. We seemed to have lost the creek. But we meet it up again at the bottom as we cross over it on a very nicely built bridge. The path then opens up onto a wide trail that parallels the canyon with the train tracks on the north side. We notice a huge tree that was either burned or hit by lightning. Tiny wildflowers decorate the canyon.

RCwidetrail

Quite a few people are down in the canyon, mostly of the running, sweaty types. Us, we walk. And we walk, and we walk. I assured Gigi there was a way out if we continue, and there was no need to turn around. (Gigi – I know you were questioning me.) But after a while I must admit I wasn’t sure if we would be out before dark, because I thought there would be a shortcut up the hill ending up at the west end of Governor Drive. If there was, it wasn’t visible from the path we were taking. So we walk.

RCplankbridge  RC trail

We stay on the path and were rewarded with surprising rustic charm. Besides the beauty of the natural habitat, some of the trail was lined with ranch-like wooden fences, areas lined off for regrowth, and plank bridges. I loved part of the path that was enclosed by trees, kinda spooky. Eventually it leads up on a bare narrow ledge around the west end of the canyon, where you can wave to the train passengers and watch the freeway traffic. As we head down we once again encounter the gentleman we first talked too and his young son riding a dirt bike. He reassured us that we were almost there. He and his son were heading back the other way. We were happy we made it this far.

RCcreek

As we see the end leading back to our neighborhood, we also notice other paths that lead to Marian Bear Park and its trails — next time. Because right now the hardest part was ahead of us — the killer walk up the steep Bothe Avenue!

 

***

 

The Journey.

In both activities, the time spent with friends getting to the destination became what was cherished. In both trips, there were times we weren’t really sure where we were going, but we kept trudging along eager to get to the final stop…must have been the full moon. In both, we met wonderfully nice people who we chatted up and learned new insights. In both, we discovered places that seemed so remote, yet were in our own backyards. And in both, we ended up enjoying the excursions so much, we found ourselves planning for “next time.” Our children may have brought us all together in the first place, but our growing friendships have lasted. Here’s to more journeys together my friends!

kcfflowerarch

***

 

Keys Creek Lavender Farm, 12460 Keys Creek Road, Valley Center, CA 760.742.3844, www.kclfarm.com. The season is over for now, which is usually during the months of May and June. Entrance fee is $5 per person. During the season they hold special events and classes such as distillation workshops, soap making classes, English High Teas, and Jazz Concerts. The farm is available for special events. Their products are also available at farmer’s markets, including Ocean Beach, Little Italy, and La Jolla.

kcfdistill

kcftabledistill

Friends of Rose Canyon, www.rosecanyon.org. A non-profit volunteer-run organization which helps preserve Rose Canyon. They offer student field trips, bird walks, and volunteer preservation opportunities. The website contains some information filled videos.
City of San Diego, http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/oscp/ – useful info and trail maps.

 

Week 31: A Mixed Bag

Sometimes a week can unexpectedly provide a few fun firsts. This was one of those weeks.

 fabfair

Fab Fair Four

Thursday, the 3rd of July. Who’s really working this day? Apparently hardly anyone, therefore our office decided to lock up shop midday. What to do with this extra time — go to the San Diego Fair! I hadn’t been in ages, probably close to a decade, and my co-worker Rosey hadn’t been yet this season, so what the heck, we were going to the Fair.

 

Going to the Fair was somewhat on my 50 Weeks list, primarily because I’ve never tried those oh so bad for you fried foods. Like I mentioned, the last time I had been to the Fair was years ago, and when I did go it was to take my little boys to the kiddie section. We had never ventured into the adult areas, with all the vendors, exhibits, and food stalls (lots and lots of food stalls). I ended up doing a few firsts while there.

fairoxybar

Oxygen Bar. I had seen ads about oxygen bars in places like Los Angeles and New York, but thought really? A place to go pay to inhale oxygen, don’t we get it for free? Well, there was an oxygen bar at the Fair, and we were waiting around for one of the bands to start, so I thought what the heck, I’ve never done that before. The guy manning the bar gave me the spiel, it’s one of the healthiest things to do at the Fair, it’s 92% pure oxygen, and refreshes you from the inside. Also note, this guy only started doing this for the Fair, so what he’s telling me is from what was told to him. But, it was only $7 for 12 minutes, so what the heck, tube me up.

 

I get to pick the color tube I want (you keep it for a souvenir I guess) — green, and he showed me how to loop it around my ears and to place the inserts into my nostrils. It’s then connected to the machine that has four different scents that you can pick – one, or mix and match. You can adjust the scents as you please throughout the 12 minutes. You smell the different flavors because the oxygen is bubbled through the bottles before getting to your nose. I start off with Sex on the Beach (no comments please), which contains various fruit extracts and is described as “euphoric, sensual, exotic.” Then I add some Beach flavor which is wisteria and is to be “visualizing, exotic, relaxing.” After a few minutes, I thought might as well throw in some Mango Madness and give me an “exotically sweet and invigorating” flavor too. Wow, as I breath in through my nose, and exhale through my mouth (very yoga like), it feels like there’s a party in my nose.

fairoxybottles  fairoxyjemma

I enjoyed breathing in that combination of flavors. I wonder if I could just sit at one of these machines and breath in chocolate, or potato chip flavors — would that take away my cravings for such foods? Maybe it could be a whole new diet fad, breath your way to weight loss! It did feel refreshing, and gave me a short boost of energy, but I didn’t feel any real lasting effects. Maybe I needed more oxygen, who knows. Maybe visiting the animal pens and breathing in their aromas right after may have negated the benefits of my visit to the oxygen bar…

 fairpearl

Pearl for a Jem. One of the many vendors we passed by in the huge exhibit halls was the AM Import Pearl booth, where you can pick your own oyster and keep the pearl inside for $12.95. Again, what the heck. Rosey was very excited about this booth and she studiously looked at the oysters, found the ugliest one and pulled it out. It produced a beautiful pearl with a bluish tint. She had the touch, so she poked around looking for one for me, and I selected a pretty pitiful looking one too. After opening, getting doused with salt, rubbed shiny, I too had a beautiful silver blue pearl, with an estimated value of $69. That was the first time I ever got a pearl from it’s source. How special. Should I find a ring setting for it, or maybe wear it as a necklace?

 fairskyride

Skyway Jitters. One of the prominent attractions at the Fair is the Skyway ride which takes you from the middle of all the food vendors to the depths of the Kiddie Zone. It looked like a nice leisure ride which would save us a bit of walking on the way to the other side of the Fair, since we got a round trip pass. And again I had never gone on that ride, plus it would give us a great view of the Fair and oncoming sunset. So up we go and it’s like a ski lift, so the seats come around, scoops you up, the attendant drops down the bar and you’re lifted into the sky. What a great view, I’m taking pictures left and right. This is pretty cool. I’m trying to make sure I don’t lose my phone (anyone make me a phone neck holder yet?), and therefore not holding on to the bar. I then notice the sign on the back of the seat ahead of us which warns riders to sit up straight and hold on to the bar. Hmm, I start to think, if I start relaxing too much and slouch would I fall underneath the bar, would the crowd below catch me? I then grab the bar and hold on. I did manage to take a few pictures.

 fairtopview  fairskycrowds

Food. Food. Food. Okay, the real reason I wanted to go to the Fair was to give myself yet another excuse to eat unhealthy, fatty, but ohh so yummy food. Those TV news stories about the newest deep fried something are always so tempting. I finally get to partake. Yes, this was on my 50 Weeks list. So much to choose, where should we go first?

 fairnavtaco

We hadn’t had lunch, so I start off with a Navajo Taco, which is beans, chili, lettuce, cheese and salsa on Indian Fry Bread. Rosey started with a corn dog. We each had a little bit of each, which was plenty. We were stuffed, but we couldn’t help but notice what others folks were eating, and thinking we should get some of that. To walk some of it off we head into the exhibit halls, where I notice a mini donut stand. It was so cute, their mini donut machines frying the donuts right in front of you. I love watching those machines, the dough is dropped in the hot oil in a perfect donut shape. They bobble along until they get to the turning thig-a-ma-jig, they halt for a second then they are plopped on to the other side. The donuts bobble along a little more until they are pulled out and sprinkled with sugar. Now that is an invention! I refrain and only get a half dozen as a quick treat to tide us over til later.

 fairminidonuts

Sooner, rather than later, we decide it’s time for Rosey’s Fair craving — funnel cake! You’ve got to love fried dough (that’s really the gist of fair food). Covered with strawberries and whipped cream, what a sweet delight. We were tempted to get a bacon maple donut, but that would have sent me to the emergency room (or at least to a nice comfy bed for a nap). Afterwards we walk over to the Paddock area and wait for the band and get a Happy Hour beverage. We run into one of our favorite elementary school teachers, Shawn Nelson, who along with her friend Debra, sit with us and rest our feetsies. (Shawn took the oxygen bar photos.) After we parted, Rosey and I look for more food finds. We almost got some fried cheese curds, but after a sample from some guy who just got some, our taste buds decided naw. We did find the stall that makes deep fried Twinkies and Oreos – an order of each please! Twinkles, ehh a little too sweet; Oreos – YES!

 fairfunnelcake  fairbacondonut

fairfoodoreostwinkies

It was soon time for us to leave, so we gathered a few things to take to go. Rosey: a huge turkey leg wrapped with a pound of bacon, yours for only $20. Me: chocolate covered bacon (after tasting I felt the chocolate drowns the bacon flavor), and Mackinac Island chocolate nut fudge – which makes a delicious breakfast with a cold glass of milk.

 fairturkeyleg  fairchocbacon

It was an impromptu Fair visit, so we didn’t have time to plan much, because afterwards I realized there was a lot we missed which would have given me a few more firsts. Plus we should go in a group of four to share the treats. There’s always next year.

 fairbaconsign

Water Play at Waterfront Park

Saturday night, post holiday. What to do, what to do? My friend Gigi was hungry, and we were both in the mood for seafood. I suggested a drive downtown to grab fish and chips at Anthony’s Fishette. Off we went, took a while to find parking (I forget we live in a tourist town), and next thing you know we’re munching away. The night is still young, so what the heck, we walk a number of blocks towards Extraordinary Desserts, another fave. We each get desserts to die for, with boxes to go. We take a different route on the way back to our car, which takes us along the south side of the new Waterfront Park at the county building. We decide to take a look, since we have never seen it. First off, it’s just so much nicer than the huge concrete parking lot that was there previously, as all parking is now underground.

 waterfrontpark

We immediately are entranced by the evening lights with the historic county building looming in the center of the park. Then what do I see in front of me — shallow pools with splashing fountains along the edge. I can’t resist. The fountains are dragging me in to come and play — “Jemma, come in the water and play with us.” I’ve always loved running through sprinklers, and these were just as fun. The water was very shallow (no chance of drowning here) and was very refreshing on this humid night. A little boy joined me and dared me to put my entire body underneath the fountain. Although I was tempted, the practical side of me remembered that I didn’t have a towel with me and didn’t want to soak Gigi’s car. And as the sun was setting with the historic Star of India sailing ship resting on the San Diego Harbor, I had to be thankful once again to live where I do.

 waterplayboy

Playing in the Waterfront Park that night reminded me that aging doesn’t mean you can’t have some kid-like fun. The simple joys you found as children are always within you. Let the kid in you out every once in a while. You’ll be a happier adult.

 watership

Ticket for One Please

Sunday afternoon. No plans. Empty house. I had been wanting to see the movie Jersey Boys (then plan to follow-up by watching the play), and going to see a movie by myself was actually on my 50 Weeks list, so what the heck, the time is now. I search my handy dandy Fandango app, Jersey Boys was showing at my local AMC (the one with the leather recliners) in 45 minutes, so I click the buy tab – one ticket.

 movies

I finish up the laundry, grab myself and off I went. I have just enough time to get popcorn and butter thoroughly. I had picked an aisle seat in advance which I plopped myself down in, pressed the button to recline all the way back, and the previews begin. The theatre was full, and I looked like the youngest person there. I loved the movie and all the music. I did have the urge to start singing along at times, and to get up and dance. Do you think they will come out with a sing-a-long version? I would have to go with a group of friends for that one.

 

Although most of you know that I’m a social, people-person, going to a movie by myself wasn’t that bad. I didn’t have to compromise on the movie I wanted to see, I left when I was ready, and most importantly — I got to watch all the credits at the end without feeling like I was holding up the rest of my group. Yes, I would do this again.

 

What did I learn? It’s not a big deal to do stuff by yourself. Now I have done some things by myself, primarily on business trips, where eating alone and reading paperwork felt normal. And I have actually vacationed by myself (only once) during college when researching for a Cultural Anthropology paper. Plus I’ve done a few 50 Weeks activities by myself (meditation center, homeless shelter, colonics). You can be alone and not be lonely. A good thing to learn, as my kids are growing up and will be off to college soon enough. Although for retirement, I have discussed the idea of communal living with some girlfriends, like our version of the Golden Girls.

 

It’s also a good learning experience to know that you don’t need to rely on others to enjoy what you want to do. Does this make us selfish? I guess it depends on the person, but if you are happy with yourself and with what you are doing, then I would think it makes you a happier person when you’re around the people you love, who in turn want to spend more time with you. Does that make sense? You can still share experiences with those you care about, without actually doing them together. There is joy in sharing. Quite frankly, those you love may not always want to do the same things as you, but that’s what makes each other interesting, we’re not all the same.

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San Diego County Fair (the Del Mar fair to me), www.sdfair.com. The Fair, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, starts early June to the weekend of 4th of July. The 2015 theme is Planes/Aircraft. (The Del Mar Racing season starts soon!)

 

Waterfront Park, located at the San Diego County Administration Center, 1600 Pacific Highway, San Diego, 92101. http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/parks/Waterfrontpark.html. Park hours are from 6:00am to 10:00pm. When we were there, it was $20 for underground parking. Drive around and you can usually find a spot, if you don’t mind walking.

 

AMC Theatres, www.amctheatres.com. AMC La Jolla, 8657 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla, 92037. It was recently announced that AMC will be installing recliner seats in all its theatres. Get the Fandango app to easily buy tickets.

Week 30: Wax On, Wax Off…Ouch!

Before we go on, there are some subjects that can be considered TMI (too much information) for some of you folks, especially to my male readers — all one of you. You know who you are, so thank you for your loyal support, but you can stop reading now if you’d like. Otherwise, remember I warned you.

 

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Okay, it’s bikini season (a one-piece for me)…therefore, yes I got a Bikini Wax. Not a big deal, but again, it was something I had never done and which was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list. I had been thinking about doing this for months, years really, and every time I would think about it I would laugh. Because it seems so silly. Why should I bother, who’s going to see? Don’t answer that. Plus I wanted to spend more time at the beach this summer, and I didn’t want to be constantly looking at my pelvic area to make sure no stray hairs were sticking out. Am I the only one that does that?

 

But again, this year long journey of mine is about trying new things, and waxing my lower regions would be a new experience for me. Occasionally, I do get my eyebrows waxed and I started only after getting my eyebrow virginity broken by the best — Anastasia from Beverly Hills (yes, I am name dropping), who has worked on many celebs — courtesy of my sister’s connections at Orange Coast Magazine (thanks Linda Goldstein). Now I get mine done through Anastasia’s locally trained affiliates in La Jolla at the Brow Lounge (I go to Annie), a short walk away from my office. I remember that getting my eyebrows waxed made such a difference in how I looked, that I wondered would that make my genitalia pretty too.

bikini 

By now, you all know how much I love my Groupon and Living Social deals. Well, there was a Groupon available to get a Bikini Wax done at Our Little Secret Salon & Beauty Bar, also in La Jolla. After thinking about it and laughing to myself while picturing in my mind what they are going to do to my very private parts, I figured what the heck, it’s just a Bikini Wax, not a full Brazilian where everything is waxed off.

 

I buy the Groupon (only $17) and I log onto their website and make an appointment for the next day. Boy that was easy; now I can’t chicken out, I’ve paid the money. And I was so busy at the office the next day, I had no time to think about it. I had to hurry up after work and get to the hidden salon.

OLS

When they named it Our Little Secret, they meant it. The salon is tucked away in a very nondescript shopping center off Mt. Soledad Road that blends in so nicely with the surrounding community, you would have thought it some homes. I’ve driven by there many times in the past and never noticed it. My appointment was with esthetician Kelly, who was waiting for me and ready to go. I let her know this was my very first time getting a Bikini wax ever — I was a virgin.

 

Kelly was very nice, explained that I need to take off only my pants, place the towel over me, and I could keep my panties on for a Bikini wax. Really, because I was ready to take them off. When you’ve given birth with doctors and nurses coming in and out of your room looking at the lower regions, showing those parts to strangers doesn’t seem like a big deal…well for medical type reasons…I mean, I wouldn’t show them to some random stranger…what do you think of me…don’t answer that.

 

Anyhoo, Kelly and I were discussing the procedure and she mentioned I didn’t look that bad. Why thank you Kelly. Embarrassingly I explained that I had attempted to pluck my own hairs, but it was taking forever. Plus, I was always worried that one of my sons would walk in on me (because they haven’t learned the knocking thing yet), and what kind of explanation would I give them.

 

Before you know it, Kelly was applying wax along the sides of my mound, and whoosh, pulled off the strips. I had a delayed reaction because we were chatting away, then it hit me. Okay, ouch, stings a little, but not too much. For some reason I thought it would be worse than childbirth. But, no it was fine, yes Kelly go on and wax away my pubes. And before you know it, my Bikini wax experience was over. It took less than 15 minutes.

OLS Kelly 

Not so bad. I may have to try the full Brazilian next time. If I do, I’ll be sure not to let you know. But apparently Kelly says more women come in getting a Brazilian than the Bikini. Or I could meet in the middle and get a landing strip wax – a landing strip for who? The after effects of my first waxing experience was minimal, just some redness which oils and lotions helped relieve. The pain was hardly worth all the time I spent getting worried about it. Soon afterwards, I was off shopping.

 

***

After all that, no big deal. So ladies, if you’ve thought about waxing down there and was worried about the pain, just do it. OLS can even host parties, shall we have a waxing party? But the things we do for so-called “beauty.” Who ever thought of waxing off our pubic hairs in the first place? Probably some man. And the Brazilian, did some Brazilian man think of that? Did they think of Brazilian Blow Outs too? Who gets that job?

 

Now I get the “I don’t want hair in my mouth” thing, but then male partners should reciprocate don’t you think? Guys can get some manscaping done, and get a wax around their private parts. Let’s see who’s crying in pain. And think about it, that if your partner wants you all bare down there, isn’t that a little creepy. I mean, then he prefers a pubescent look. What, does he have child molester tendencies? Or trying to live out virgin type fantasies? Weirdo.

 

Again, it’s the ongoing debate over what is considered beautiful. All vaginas are beautiful, hair or no hair. Ladies, you are all beautiful, inside and out…including your lower regions. Who gets to decide what is beautiful — each of you, for yourself? Celebrate the beauty of your vagina (and control of it too). Do I need to start a Jemma’s Beauty blog, and tell it how it is? The beauty brands wouldn’t like me very much then, because I would probably say why spend your money on such things, go spend it on feeding starving children. But again, here I am getting sucked in by my own curiosity and spending money on such things. I do have a nicely trimmed triangle now, want to see…no, not you! Wait, what’s that…is that a gray…okay, Brazilian next time.

 

When you think about it, if doing such beauty treatments makes you feel more beautiful on the outside, then your increased self-esteem makes you feel better on the inside. Right after my wax, a friend saw me driving down the street and texted me that I looked real happy. I texted back (not while driving) that “I just got a bikini wax!” Ahh, the little things that make us happy.

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The Brow Lounge, 933 Silverado Street, La Jolla, CA 92037, 858.459.9800, http://www.browlounge.net. They are known for their brow shaping. Other services are waxing, skin treatments, make-up, and spray tans.

Our Little Secret Salon & Beauty Bar (OLS), 6437 Caminito Blythefield, Suite A, La Jolla, CA 92037, 858.454.7444, www.ourlittlesecretsd.com

Bikini Wax regularly priced at $35, Landing Strip $45, and Brazilian $50. Besides all types of waxing, OLS is a full service salon (for men and women) and offers make-up application, eyelash extensions, facials, spray tanning, and hair services – cuts, styles, coloring, updo, and blow outs. Membership packages available. OLS Happy Hour specials each day – check website for info.

OLS can also add a Vajazzle or body art if you get a Brazilian – that is a design element down there. OLS Vajazzle designs use Swarovski crystals, and high quality glitter for the body art. Perfect for that special private occasion, or Friday nights.

If any men are still reading this, wasn’t this very informative? I try to provide a pubic service.

 

Week 29: Boy, that’s for Dam big!

No, that’s not what she said. I’m talking about the Dam, you know the Hoover Dam. It’s that big man made thing that helps save water and creates power for places like…Southern California.

 

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You know how there are those places that you always say to yourself, ok next time we visit so and so we’ll go there. Well, everytime I visit Las Vegas I tell myself that the Hoover Dam should be on the agenda. This past week, I made sure I did. Visiting the Hoover Dam was on my 50 Weeks to 50 list, and darn it, I was going to visit the damn Dam!

 

I was in Vegas for business, no really, for the week. My parents had tagged along too. We decided to stay an extra day and take the time to visit the Dam, which was only about 30 minutes away. And if you’ve ever ventured away from the Las Vegas Strip, the rest of the area is well like…most other communities — new housing developments arising, strip malls, baseball fields, freeways. You know you are close by the Dam when you exit off the freeway and Dam tourist souvenir stores start to spring up. And the streets are lined with fast food establishments. I was tempted to stop by the A&W restaurant since we don’t have any in San Diego.

 

There’s a short curvy road you take from Boulder City to the Dam, and I notice that they have their own police station which looked to have a pretty large presence. I assume it’s to prevent anyone from causing major damage to the Dam, because that would be a major domestic terrorist attack. You then notice all the electrical poles, then you turn a corner and there’s the Dam.

dam2

We pay the $10 to park in the parking garage (where else are we supposed to park), and as we step outside our comfortable air-conditioned car, are immediately greeted by the dry, hot desert air. I don’t know how Vegas folks stand the heat. I guess you get use to it. We hurriedly get into an elevator (the theme of the visit) from the garage to the street level, so that we can take an escalator down to the Visitor Center and get back into someplace with air conditioning.

 

The longer Dam tour where you get to wear hard hats wasn’t available by the time we get there (I was in seminars all morning, so we arrived in the afternoon), and we have to settle for the shorter Dam Powerplant Tour, which lasts about 45 minutes including a short film documenting the water reclamation reasons for having a Dam, and building of the Dam itself. It was actually very interesting, and we learned that construction took five years, which was two years ahead of schedule, and it created Lake Mead, the largest man made lake in the U.S. They had to build smaller dams and diversion tunnels prior to the big Dam, one of the dams is still buried in the water. Being built during the Depression era, the project helped boost the economy too, and helped develop the surrounding communities. After the film, we are lined up to wait for a large elevator to take the whole group down, down into the Dam facilities. Each group is about 40-50 people, tours run constantly, so lots of people come to visit. I hear many dialects and foreign languages, so it’s a pretty popular Dam destination — being one of the top manmade wonders of the world.

 

Our tour guide is informative and funny. I think a pre-requisite must be a sense of humor if you want to work in this Dam place. As we are packed in like pickles in these elevators, our guide warns us that all those with cameras “can take all the Dam pictures you want.” Boy, people really like to play with that Dam word.

daminside

After the elevator takes us down 530 feet into the rock wall of Black Canyon, we exit into a tunnel that leads to a small glass enclosed room that overlooks a massive 30-foot-diameter pipe, which carries water from Lake Mead to the Dam hydroelectric generators. Apparently 90,000 gallons of water each second. Wow, that’s a lot of water surging underneath us. I’m thinking if there’s some major earthquake or fluke underground flash flood — we’re gone.

damtunnel

We also see some maps detailing the floor plans, showing that the two sides of the Dam facility are identical. Now, for some reason I never realized that the Nevada/Arizona border runs through the middle of the Dam. So they refer to the Dam Nevada side and the Dam Arizona side. We are then lined up one by one to head back into the elevator, and counted twice. I feel like I’m a kid on a field trip.

daminside2

After a short elevator ride we walk through a longer tunnel to the viewing balcony overlooking the room housing the powerplant generators on the Dam Nevada side. You get a nice view of the 650-foot long room and its eight generators, each marked atop with the initial of the state the power is designated for. I love the design of the terrazzo floors, so art deco. After way too many Dam generator pictures, we are once again lined up along the long tunnel rock tunnel, counted twice, and wait for the elevator to arrive. We notice some water leaking down on some areas of the tunnel walls; there’s not going to be an outburst of water through a crack is there, I wonder.

dammuseum

Once back in the elevator, we end the tour at the visitor center, which has a small but informative exhibit hall and an outdoor viewing area overlooking the Dam. Inside the exhibit hall, you learn many facts about construction and use of the Dam. The official death count of those who died during construction is 96, but that number doesn’t include deaths from pneumonia. And although the government says no bodies are buried there, you have to wonder due to the nature of some of those deaths, it’s a gruesome thought.

dam5

Up on the outdoor observation deck, you get a view of the Dam and its grand concrete wall. When they built the Dam, they had to pour smaller 5-foot square concrete blocks with a cooling pipe in the middle of each in order for the concrete to set — otherwise if they would have poured it all together, it would have taken 125 years for the Dam concrete to cool down. How different would our lives be without that innovation of a cooling pipe?

dam3

I took my share of Dam pictures, but I was so worried that I was going to drop my phone down the Dam side, I probably could have taken some with better angles. I would have been lost without my phone. My phone has become so damn important in my life. I wish there was some sort of contraption that holds my phone around my neck for these picture taking purposes — can someone design one for me please. I guess I can design one myself, and mass market and sell it too. I can go on Shark Tank. Okay, I’m getting off topic.

dam2

Let’s see, oh yes, you can then leave the visitor center and walk out on the Dam itself. You see the older visitor center and Dam towers. I love the art deco artwork on the structures. And I didn’t think about it until just now, but I should have taken a picture with my legs straddling the border of Arizona and Nevada — Dam it! And you can’t miss the bronzed Winged Figures of the Republic. Apparently if you rub the toes of the figures, it’s good luck. You do have to pay tribute to those who developed the idea for the Dam, constructed the Dam, and died at the Dam. If the Dam wasn’t built, how would the landscape look like in places like Southern California without the water and power. You don’t want to dwell on the “what ifs” but we can be thankful for the many pioneers before us.

 

When you think about it, many sacrifices have been made for us to have the lives we have today. In the 1930s, when the Dam was built, people were willing to take on such dangerous jobs because they were in the middle of the Depression and wanted a better life for their families. Even our ancestors sacrificed in coming to a new country in the first place. Whether from Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, they sacrificed to give us all better lives in the United States. Today there are also many occupations that sacrifice for the benefit of others — police, firemen, military, miners, and more — we can’t thank them enough.

 

Not that everyone should have a dangerous job, but what are we doing in our lives to help benefit future generations, or in the simple sense, to help others. It’s not always about us and it’s not always about the present. When the future is taken care of, the present is so much brighter.

 

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Well, I’ve seen the Dam, and damn glad I did. Check that off the list. What I also didn’t think about until now, is that we could have taken Dam tours from the water. There are apparently lots of vendors that will provide your group with river and lake cruises, or rafting trips — next time. Then there’s helicopter tours too…ugh, I won’t go there. I will say that I’ve always thought that living in Vegas would be hard because of the heat. But the river and its surrounding communities aren’t that far away from Vegas and its jobs…

 

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For Hoover Dam info: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/index.html

Week 28: The Happiest Place on Earth

I have been to Disneyland many, many times. Come on…I grew up in Anaheim Hills. Everybody loved to come visit us, and after a while my parents would say, “here are the directions, have a nice time.” I remember my Grad Nite where we (yes me too) rented tuxedos to wear for the heck of it. As a teen, we would go to the theme parks to go dancing (Knott’s Berry Farm had a great teen club deal too). We even went to Disneyland in college. Afterwards, when dating my future husband, we both played hookie from work and had a day at Disneyland (don’t tell O’Melveny).

 

Later when we moved to San Diego and my boys were young, annual passes were a staple. It helped that one of my sisters lived in Orange – cheap accommodations. Then, who cared if you took a day off from preschool or elementary. In elementary school we even visited Disneyland and California Adventure with one of our favorite teachers (not on a school day).

grad nite bus before

So when the high school was asking for volunteers to chaperone the annual senior Grad Nite trip to Disneyland…well, ya — I’m raising my hand. It didn’t matter that I did not have a senior, all the better, no kids to embarass.

 

There was a nice group of parents that were chaperoning (Brook, Dawn, Lisa C., Claire, John, Scott, Mary, etc.), and I was paired up with my friend Lisa-Marie. Our plan was to eat our way through Disneyland. You see, I did have on my 50 Weeks list to visit Disneyland without kids, because I wanted to eat and shop without kids dragging me around…not that I think my kids are a drag, but you know what I mean.

 

Luckily, our bus had a nice and fairly quiet group of kids. But we did hit some traffic on the way to Disneyland, so by the time we got there, Lisa-Marie and I were both starving. We started off sitting down to a meal at the Carnation Cafe — chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes and veggies. We were so hungry, by the time I remembered to take a picture, we were done eating. After sitting a while and people watching, we decided to do the same thing at another restaurant.

grad nite beignets

Yesss…I had been thinking about the Mickey shaped beignets at Cafe Orleans for weeks! Finally, the moment I had been waiting for, sitting down eating beignets, drinking hot chocolate, leisurely people watching. I love their beignets (reminds me of Cafe du Monde in New Orleans), so do my kids. Both Lisa-Marie and I had to buy extra beignets to go (note that by the time my kids had some the next day they were smushed, but were fine after heating in the toaster oven with a fresh sprinkling of powdered sugar). Lisa-Marie had a delicious plate of Bananas Foster crepes. We said hello to a few kids we knew walking by, and soon thereafter we were stuffed.

 

We figured we might as well enjoy some rides, so let’s see what was around that didn’t have too long of a line… oh yes, the Haunted Mansion. Love that ride, especially when they re-decorate for Halloween and the holidays. Then on to my most favorite ride ever — Pirates of the Caribbean! I was so happy when they made the Pirates movies, now they are my most favorite movies ever! While in line, we did what we hated seeing other people do, let a couple kids we knew cut in line. Hey, isn’t that what chaperones are for, to help the kids?

grad nite main street

The Indiana Jones ride was too long (we stayed in line for about a half hour and it was going no where), so we went on the Jungle Cruise instead. It could be ten years later and the jokes are still the same, gotta love consistency. But we all oblige and laugh anyway. Time flies when you’re having fun and it was soon time to head on over to California Adventure. People were lining the streets so looks like the fireworks show was about to start. Which meant that the shops were empty, so we took some time to browse the shops along Main Street. So many cute things. I would need my own Disney Playhouse in the backyard to decorate properly.

grad nite 2

The throngs of Grad Nite participants were all heading on over to California Adventure, because after they officially close at 10:00pm, it stays open until 2:00 am for Grad Nite kids and chaperones only. Woohoo! What to do, what to do? We head to the right and start off with Soarin’ Over California. Love the 4-D effect of smelling the orange blossoms. Then it’s over to the Grizzly River Run…wait, what it’s closed? Oh man, that’s one of my favorites (I love water rides). Ok, well let’s keep going, yes next is the Goofy’s Sky School ride for a nice dose of whiplash. My kids would go on this ride over and over and over again using the single ride line. For me, once is plenty. We do go on a ride I’ve never been on — the Toy Story Midway Mania. It’s like an arcade game as a ride and you rack up points shooting at targets. Anything that spells competition is considered fun in my household, so this was fun to me. The interactive rides are always our favorites (like the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland, I got a million points once…no really).

 

We continue walking to the other side of the Boardwalk, but looks like some of the sidewalk food stalls are out many food items. So we head on over to the Chaperone’s Lounge in Ariel’s Grotto. Lots of people were charging up their phones, some were napping. Outside we see a few other parents we know, and sit for a spell, enjoying sodas and snacks – yummy chocolate chip cookies, and I’ll save that apple for later, thank you.

grad nite cars

Then what I’ve been waiting for all night (ok, besides the previously mentioned eating of beignets), and that is Cars Land. That area wasn’t built when I was there last, so this was really exciting for me. I love that movie. (I’m using the word love a lot aren’t I?) The Cars movie actually inspired us to take a mini-route 66 road trip, including staying overnight in the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino. So even though the line was an hour long for the Radiator Springs Racers ride, we stuck it through. Apparently an hour wait is nothing for that ride. We kept occupied by listening to some of the high schoolers chant (I think we heard a UC, U Know in there somewhere), get appalled at the numbers of kids line cutting, and wondering if we were smelling alcohol on these minors breaths. Once on, the ride was so much fun, racing the car next to you was a blast. The cars actually went faster than what I had expected. Yes worth the wait.

grad nite cones

We watched the kids dancing to the DJ in that area, which was playing rap music. Then we noticed a girl passed out on the floor, but security was on it and an EMT was on the way. Her friends were gathered around, hmm exhaustion, alcohol, drugs? Even as chaperones, how do you really prevent kids from sneaking stuff in? Did you ever sneak such things into Disneyland, honestly? Actually, I don’t think I ever did. I was a good girl.

grad nite flos v8 kids

Next to that area we see the Luigi’s Flying Tires ride which neither of us had been on, so we go. It’s like an oversized tire bumper ride on air, and you move your body towards the direction you want to go. For me, it was somewhat hard to maneuver and I found myself jumping out of my seat, trying to bounce around. As we leave that area, we notice that the girl that was passed out was being attended to by the park medical team, and there was at least a dozen security guards encircling her. I hope she’s okay, you worry as a parent.

grad nite corn

We head on over to see what was happening at Hollywood Land, and that was were the action was…yes we found a street cart selling corn on the cob and chimichangas! So, of course, we were getting hungry again and had to split some. We take our snacks into the dance area where kids were head bopping with hands in the air to a DJ playing some techno dance music – is that what it’s called, I’m really out of it. As we eat, we watch the kids enjoy themselves. This is the area where I would tell  my son to go next year when he’s a senior. Some kids start break dancing, others splashing water on others heads. The joys of young adulthood. I had the urge to get into the middle of it all, but no, I stayed where we were, on the outskirts looking in, wishing we were young again. At least the drug dog didn’t sniff anyone out.

grad nite stage

    grad nite kids stage

Well, the close of the night was soon approaching, so now what. We stroll back towards the Boardwalk thinking we may have time for one more ride. We see a large group of the chaperones heading back, but most of the kids were staying to watch the “Last Kiss” World of Color show created for Grad Nites. We decide to stay and watch and it really was a spectacular show. We were standing towards the back of the group and could still really feel the heat from the fires. Disney really knows their special effects. It did bring me back to my own high school days when we would watch the Dancing Waters show at the Disneyland Hotel. Does anyone else remember those?

grad nite 1

Alas, time to go. The herds of kids quietly and orderly stream out the gates and to the lines for the trams back to the buses. We look at the lines and think, we’re chaperones, we can’t wait this long. We were about to walk back, but then we noticed a line where we can sneak up to the front. Okay, so we took cuts. The kids didn’t say anything. Shouldn’t there be a Fastpass for chaperones anyway? Luckily, the bus driver and the other bus chaperone got there ahead of us and let some of the kids in. All the kids slowly start meandering in, and looking at what they were carrying, many did not take the advice of shopping earlier in the day. Moms know best, take our advice.

grad nite bus home

Eventually, we checked in all the kids, and double-counted. We didn’t want to be the chaperones that left kids a county away from home. The kids were pooped out, and so were we, so it was a very quiet ride home. And before you knew it, we were in bed having our Disney dreams.

 

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I really can’t believe I wrote this much about Grad Nite, and if you’ve read this far, then you must love all things Disney too, or really like my writing. Come on, Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth! (Now, if they built one in Hawaii, whoa, I’m applying for my retirement job.) I think us adults design these outlandishly fun places for kids, because deep down we are all kids. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that!

 

Yes, I went as a chaperone, but we all love Disneyland so it was fun for me too. And there’s nothing wrong with reliving some of your young adult memories. So I give you permission to go to Disneyland without the kids. Have fun…and bring me back a beignet or two!

 

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Disneyland and California Adventure, do I really need to tell you where it’s at? www.disneyland.disney.go.com

Prices: $96 for one-day, one park admission for age 10 and older, $150 for a park hopper; for a two-day $178/$217. You can get a Southern California Select Annual Passport for $289, but because of blackout dates, you can’t go most of summer, weekends, and holidays. The ultimate Premium Passport to go anytime with parking included is $699, yup, you read that correctly $699 for one year at the Happiest Place on Earth!

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P.S. I also helped with the UCHS Grad Nite at the school. I spent all night at the Food Court and let me tell you that serving kids all night was way harder than Disneyland. (My feet are still killing me.) But all the kids seemed to be having fun, they were well-behaved, and appreciated all the food provided. I love that they ate up all the fruit platters. Oh, sushi a big hit too. Making these childhood memories for all our kids is what makes volunteering worthwhile.