Disenchanted An Irreverant Musical

“Disenchanted, the new musical that gives fairytales the Bird” is a funny, articulate, irreverent and honest look at how little girls are programmed to think that one day a man (their prince!) will arrive to save them…and how so not very true that is! Disenchanted is based on the book, music and lyrics of Dennis T. Giacino. The script is adult in nature and not appropriate for children under 13.

The cast of Disenchanted OnStage Playhouse Chula Vista. Author's photo

The cast of Disenchanted OnStage Playhouse Chula Vista. Author’s photo

Disenchanted is a tale emcee’d by Snow White (very well-acted by Kay McNellen).  She weaves her story together with Cinderella (Justine Hince) and Sleeping Beauty (Paula Richardson)…who definitely hysterically lives up to her name.Cinderella (Justine Hince) is constantly being thwarted by the overbearing Snow White, but in the end she gets to do her routine. The jabs between Snow White and Cinderella are hysterical and reminded me of “mean girls” from school.  Who is going to end up being the Queen of the Princesses?

The cabaret-style story focuses on fairy tale princesses and their woes regarding their oversized bosums, teensy tiny waists, horrible high heeled shoes that are oh-so-not-comfortable, and how unrealistic fairy tales are. They poke fun at the myth of Happily Ever After.

A scene from "Disenchanted!" at OnStage Playhouse. Photo credit: Tim Fears sdgln.com-

A scene
from “Disenchanted!” at OnStage Playhouse. Photo credit: Tim Fears sdgln.com-

Belle cannot understand why she would love a Beast. The Little Mermaid bemoans the fact that she gave up a lovely life in the sea for a pair of legs, while Rapunzel is notably Germanic in her drindle dress, long braided blond hair, strong voice…and huge face mole. Tara Kostmayer is splendid in these roles and a solid counterpart to the more “traditional”  Princesses.

The actors of OnStage Playhouse's Disenchanted

The actors of OnStage Playhouse’s Disenchanted

Janessa Herrera is fierce as Hua Mulan (could Mulan be a lesbian? She’s the only princess who doesn’t wear a dress, after all) and Pocahontas. As Pocahontas she asks us if we really think she work such sexy attire. Janessa brings a modern, edgy look to the fairytale Princess.

And finally Brittney Caldwell gives a raucous performance as The Princess from the Frog Prince…..since “Princess finally went Black!” She is fantastic and a great foil to the other princesses.

"I'm not evil; I'm just drawn that way." Jessica Rabbit. photo courtesy of disney.wikia.com-

“I’m not evil; I’m just drawn that way.” Jessica Rabbit. photo courtesy of disney.wikia.com-

This was my first time at the OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista, and I was not disappointed.  It is an extremely small theatre (maybe 50 seats?) and the best seats are in the middle. I don’t know how well you would see from the side seats, even though the theatre is small. I would recommend getting your tickets early to any show they produce. There were prizes given out at the beginning of the show for trivia; as this is my first visit I do not know if they do that normally.

I had no idea such a gem existed in the SouthBay. I was very impressed by the quality of the acting, the theatre, the stage sets, and the musical accompaniment and will definitely come here to see another play.  My friends and I went to dinner at Project Pie before the show and then grabbed some coffee afterward.  It was nice to be able to go to dinner, a show and coffee without having to worry about parking or schlepping up to the Gaslamp area.

Their website is www.onstageplayhouse.org and they operate solely on donations and ticket sales.

They are located at 291 Third Avenue, Chula Vista, CA 91910. 619-422-7787

OnStage Playhouse Chula Vista upcoming plays

OnStage Playhouse Chula Vista upcoming plays

Upcoming plays include:
Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde October 10-Nov 1

Bell, Book and Candle Nov 28-Dec 20

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Jan 16-Feb 14 2015

Our Lady of the Tortilla Mach 13 – APril

Rent May 1-30, 2015

Motel 6 Travel Tips

I’ve stayed at Motel 6 since I was a little girl in the 1970′s to now as a middle=aged adult.  What I have found is that some are better than others, but they all share common characteristics of clean beds, polyester bedcovers, small scratchy towels & complimentary slivers of soap.  Here are my tips to make your Motel 6 stay better.

Renovated Motel 6 room

This was one of the nicest Motel 6′s I’ve stayed in.
Great location, looked like they took over another hotel.

  1. Bring your own towel.  Yes, the Motel 6 towels are uniformly thin, scratchy,and small.  I use their towels to dry my hands and my hair, and bring my own towel for the rest of me.  A towel can also function as a blanket or pillow on an airplane.  I’ve even used my towel as seat padding.  Bring a beach towel and it’s an even better blanket. Heck, you can even use it at the pool!
  2. Bring your own pillow. I have found that having my own pillow while travelling has made the difference between tossing and turning, and getting a good nights sleep.  Also if I’m on a driving vacation it makes it easier to sleep—-no more cricked necks.  Don’t forget your travel towel-blanket.  I can also then use the Motel 6 pillows as back bolsters while reading or watching TV in bed.  Plus, for me, I’ve seen some of the other Motel 6 guests, and well, I don’t want to use pillows they have used.
    Motel 6 beer bottle opener

    You have to love a hotel that provides a beer bottle opener! Go Motel 6!

  3. Shower Flip Flops.  I don’t care if it’s Motel 6 or a higher-end hotel, it doesn’t mean people don’t have athletes foot.  I use these at the gym too.  When you have to get ice or walk to the pool, just slip them on.
  4. Bedbugs. I have never seen bedbugs in any Motel 6. Period.  Doesn’t mean I don’t check!
    Flagstaff Motel 6

    This is the Flagstaff Motel 6 that has not been renovated

  5. Which Motel 6 in the same city?  I have found that if there are two Motel 6′s within a few miles of each other, and there is a $20+ price difference per night….there’s a very good reason for that.  $20 a night can make a huge difference between the clientele and the room/hotel condition.  See photos below of a $55 vs $75 a night Motel 6 in Flagstaff, AZ.  I stayed at both.  I will stay at the $74 a night Motel 6 the next time I visit.  The staff was friendly at both locations.  Ice was the same at both.  The difference was newer & nicer amenities, a laminate versus carpet floor (cleaner, fewer allergy problems) and no peeling walls in the bathroom.  You get what you pay for, even within the same chain.
  6. Amenities. You don’t go to Motel 6 or similar quality hotels for the amenities.  There will not be a blow dryer, bathrobes or slippers, huge towels or shampoo.  Ice will generally be on the ground floor and there will be a sign asking you to please not fill your ice chest with their ice. But at $50 versus $124+ a night…well, I’ll bring my own towel and blow dryer sometimes.
    Motel 6 shower curtain

    I love these curved shower curtains in the renovated Motel 6′s

  7. Clientele. This can be a crap shoot.Let’s just say it’s a melting pot of socio-economic diversity.  However, even though on the lower scale of clients, some of whom I would normally cross the street to avoid, I have never been afraid or had people fall against my hotel door at 3AM in a drunken stupor —- which did happen several times on a Carnival Cruise.  You will avoid a certain socio-economic group if you stay at $125+ a night hotels.  But I’d rather spend my money on a long vacation on activities and meals.  (On short trips I go higher end.) Motel 6′s are also usually older, worn out buildings.  But at $50 a night, there’s not a lot of money left over for maintenance and upgrades.
    blow dryer

    BYOB —- Bring Your Own Blow Dryer to Motel 6!
    Image courtesy of John Kasawa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net










If I am not staying at a ‘nice’ hotel and I only have a choice of $50-$90 a night rooms, I generally opt for Motel 6.  Like other chains (McD, Dennys) I know what I’m going to get.  There’s a comfort in predictability when you are on the road and in a strange town.  I leave the crapshoots for meals and experiences.

flip flops

I use flip flops in all hotel showers,not just at Motel 6
Image courtesy of James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Much like I know what a Quarter Pounder or Grand Slam is going to taste like, I know what I’m going to get with a Motel 6.  I have found that on the road, ‘better’ brand-name chains that have locations near or next to Motel 6 generally charge higher prices for the same quality of room and amenities.  At that point, I am paying for the ‘name’, not the quality. The lobbies are a little larger (Ok, a lot! Motel 6s don’t have lobbies).but they don’t always have free coffee in the morning. I have found those ‘name brand’ hotels have moldy-smelling rooms, cheesy towels, and slivers of soap.  It just cost more.

Tom Bodett, please keep leaving the light on for me. Thanks.




Knit Scarves and Relaxation

fancy knit scarf

This knit scarf looks fancy but it’s all in the yarn.

Knitting is a form of meditation for me. The clicking of the needles and the repetition of the patterns soothe and relax me. Each yarn has its own unique feel, whether a soft acrylic, nobbly cotton or a sequined and feathery specialty yarn. If it is a gift, I love knowing the pleasure my gift will bring.

My life is frenetic and stressful. My business, my husband and hobbies keep me busy. Many times it seems like every moment is already accounted for before it exists. That’s when sitting down with a skein of yarn and knitting needles becomes a critical emotional space for me.

I don’t work on fancy, involved patterns that require a lot of focus. I don’t work on patterns that require charts. I like patterns that are easy to memorize. This is a relaxing space for me, so my knitting projects are simple.


This knit scarfwas made with the basic garter stitch knit pattern

However, my knitting projects are not plain. I have discovered that using the standard knit stitch but adding “dropped stitches” makes a complicated-looking lacy scarf,  yet it requires very little extra effort than if I made a beginning scarf like this pink one:

This knit scarf is made with 1 1/2 skeins of Loops and Threads Charisma yarn in “Think Pink” with size 13 needles. I cast on 13 stitches and worked it up in simple garter stitch. Make sure you buy enough yarn of the same dye lot. It may not seem like a big deal until you run out of yarn and the next dye lot is just different enough to be visible. I bought 3 skeins so I’ll be able to make two gifts.

charisma yarn

This yarn is very easy to knit with.










A simple garter stitch scarf is lovely, but with one stitch change the entire feel of a scarf can be transformed from nice to beautiful.

Dropped Stitch Scarf

Dropped stitch knit scarf

This knit scarf I made looks lacy and luxurious, yet it was made with one skein of yarn that cost about $5 and a simple variation on the basic knit stitch. The inspiration for this knitted scarf came from a pattern I found on www.ravelry.com, a knitting site with thousands of free or inexpensive patterns. The original pattern was nice, but as I started knitting I realized that for this particular project I wanted a lacier and thinner scarf. So I made two small adjustments and created this easy lacy scarf that is unique, feminine and sparkly.IMG_4764

I don’t check my gauges with scarves. I cast on, stitch several rows and if the scarf is too wide or narrow I figure out how many stitches I need and start over. With my knitting tension this made a scarf that is six inches wide. So with that caveat, here is my pattern:

Knit Scarf 3YO

This is what the row with the 3 YO looks like before you ‘drop’ it

I used ———yarn in ——— colors with ——- size needles

Cast on 25 stitches

Rows 1-6 knit all stitches.

Row 5 K1, YO twice, K1 * repeat from * to *until end of row

Row 6 K1, drop the two yarn overs, repeat from * to *

That is where the original pattern ended and started repeating. It’s pretty but again I wanted something just a taste lacier.

Row 7-8 knit every row

Row 9 YO every stitch 3x

Row 10 knit across dropping the YO

Row 11-12 knit every row

Row 13 YO every stitch 2x

Row 14-17 knit every row

Row 18 YO every stitch 2x

Row 19-21 knit every row

Repeat rows 5-21 until scarf is desired length.  End with 6 knit rows.

I also use the basketweave pattern to make scarves, especially for men.  Basketweave looks difficult but is extremely easy. I knit this scarf with Red Heart Red Heart Super Saver Super Saver yarn. Basket weave is just alternating between Knit and Purl stitches.

Cast on 26 stitches with Size 8 knitting needles.

Knit Rows 1-5

Rows 6-10, K3, K5, P5,K5,P5, K3

Rows 11-15, K3, P5,K5,P5,K5,K3

I like having the garter stitch on the edges as it keeps the scarf from curling up. Here’s what the scarf looks like:

basketweave scarf

Basket Weave Knit scarf looks complex but is easy to knit

basketweave scarf

Here is a close up of the knit and purl patterns


I hope you enjoy these scarf patterns. Please use the pattern for personal use only. If you want to make scarfs to sell from the patterns, give yourself the gift of good karma and make a small donation to pretty horses rescue. This charity rehabilitates starving, abandoned horses. Every dollar helps us rescue and rehabilitate starving horses.

10 Ways to Save Water

Save Water and Money.

California is facing its worst drought in recorded history.  Governor Jerry Brown declared a Drought Emergency on January 17. Here are 10 simple steps to save water and money:

Replace your faucets. Bathroom faucets use approximately 16% of a family’s monthly water.  One easy way to save money and help the drought is to turn the water off while you brush your teeth.  You can also save by replacing your old faucet aerators with a new, water-efficient one. Better yet? Do both! http://www.epa.gov/watersense/products/bathroom_sink_faucets.html

Take Shorter Showers. You use 2.5 gallons of water a minute in the shower.  So every minute counts! http://www.conserveh2o.org/shower-water-use

Catch the Shower Water. Put a Bucket in each shower to collect the water while it heats up. Use the water collected to flush toilets and water plants

photo courtesy of blog.priscillawoolworth.com

photo courtesy of blog.priscillawoolworth.com










Flush less Often. I know, kind of off-putting.  But do you really need to flush every single time? Over 27% of household water use comes from the toilet. Still no? Then choose another tip.

photo courtesy of www.bullseye-plumbing.com-

photo courtesy of www.bullseye-plumbing.com-










Use a Pool Cover.  This not only keeps your pool clean (less work!) but saves water…and is safer for children! Check this out:

photo courtesy of www.pooldepotsandiego.com

photo courtesy of www.pooldepotsandiego.com


Water your plants, not your sidewalk.  Watch your sprinklers and only water as needed. Thoroughly but infrequently is the key. Longer but less frequent watering forces plants to grow deeper roots. Water early in the morning or after 6 pm to minimize evaporation.

California Fuchsia Native Plant photo courtesy of freygardens.com-

California Fuchsia Native Plant photo courtesy of freygardens.com-

garden squash

water saved on the lawn helped turn a front door garden into a feast!

Remove your Lawn.  Plant a vegetable garden or replace it with artificial turf.  You’ll save money and either have delicious food or less maintenance.  It’s win-win either way!

Embrace Native Perennials. Drought-tolerant does not mean boring.  California has hundreds of beautiful native plants that once established require very little water or maintenance.  Plus, they attract birds and butterflies into your garden.  Find an entire list at http://theodorepayne.org/ and visit the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College for classes, ideas and inspiration. http://www.thegarden.org

photo courtesy of simplesojourns.com-

California poppies take very little water. Photo courtesy of www.simplesojourns.com


These beautiful birds just started showing up at my hummingbird feeder. Photo courtesy of www.carolinabirds.org-

These beautiful birds just started showing up at my hummingbird feeder. Photo courtesy of www.carolinabirds.org-

Water plants with dropped Ice Cubes.  http://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/

Mulch your plants. This not only saves water, it minimized weeds.


How to make the Best Campfire Fire Starters

The best campfire fire starters are made from 100% recycled material.  Used cardboard egg cartons, dryer lint, and candle wax.  Don’t waste money on purchased campfire fire starters; make them yourself!

Fire Starter Candles

Use old candles for the campfire fire starters

I think the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts make these campfire fire starters as well. I was a Girl Scout but I don’t remember ever making them. .


clean, dry cardboard egg cartons are the base for campfire fire starters

So, how do you make these incredibly easy fire starters.  Well, you start with clean cardboard egg cartons.  Don’t use the plastic ones; you don’t want to melt plastic into the ozone layer. Note: Make sure you put something under them, like wax paper, an old towel; anything to keep the wax from getting on your surface.

Dryer Lint

Dryer Lint for Campfire Fire Starters

Fill them full with dryer lint.  Dryer lint is one of the most flammable materials on Earth so it’s perfect for the filling for the campfire fire starters.  I like to pack the egg cartons pretty full, but I know others use less.  One thing I learned the hard way—pack the lint into the egg cartons outside otherwise your house will be full of lint particles!

Fire starter

Firestarter made from egg cartons and dryer lint

Then melt candles in a double boiler and pour the melted candle wax over the lint.  Several people say you just need to dribble some candlewax, but I like to make sure all the dryer lint is fully coated so I don’t have to deal with dryer lint flying everywhere.

When I first fill the campfire fire starters with the candle wax, I only put enough on to coat the lint.  I found that if you pour the egg cartons full the first go-around, you run the risk of the candle wax overwhelming the egg cartons, and then you have waxy feet on your egg cartons.  The goal is to fill them up but not saturate them.

fire starter

I lightly coat the firestarters with candlewax the first go-around.
Just put enough to coat the dryer lint.

fire starters

Once the wax has cooled, turn the egg cartons over
You don’t want the wax to completely soak through or you will have wax ‘feet’

I then let them cool and stack them for future use.  I try to make up a year’s worth of campfire fire starters at once.


Completed Fire Starters.

I bought a silicone spout at World Market for $4 to help keep the wax contained. If you have a saucepot that has a lip all the better, but this is an easy fix and makes the wax pouring much easier.

Firestarter double boiler

The silicon spout works very well. I bought these pots at a thrift store.
Once used, they are dedicated to campfire starter making!

I get lots of candle wax by sending out an email at the end of winter to ask for ‘dead’ or unusable candles.  My friends call me the Queen of Oddball Requests….but then it’s FREE and I have lots and lots of candle wax, and those candles aren’t creating landfill, so it’s win-win.

fire starter candle wax

This is what an email request for ‘dead’ candles got me!
Over a year’s supply of campfire fire starter candle wax!

If you don’t have enough dryer lint, ask your friends to save that as well. I have a friend who works at an assisted living home, and she brings me masses of egg cartons and dryer lint!

5 minutes to campfire

5 minutes after using the campfire starters…
No lighter fluid, no kindling, no mess, no muss, no fuss/

Why are these the best campfire starters? Because they are easy to use.  You don’t have to build up a huge base of kindling. You don’t need to use lighter fluid or charcoal briquettes.  Because they light up fast. Because they reuse, repurpose and recycle, but even better within 2 minutes your fire has caught, and within 5 minutes you have a cheery blaze going.fire starter video  Plus since they are stackable they are easily stored and transported. Here’s the fire five minutes later.fire starter video under way

pets and campfires

We do a lot of backyard campfires.
Here are two of my rescue pets…I have 3 dogs and 2 cats.

fire 8

Enjoying a California winter’s backyard camp fire.

fire starter pieces

This is all you need to create a roaring blaze.
That’s why they are the world’s best campfire starters

I use 2 or 3 egg pieces to get the fire started. Enjoy camping or backyard fire pit relaxation with these amazing campfire fire starters.

Sentri Pass and Healing

What does a Sentri pass have to do with healing?

When Ernie and I decided we would be going to Mexico on a regular basis, the logical next step was to get a Sentri pass so we wouldn’t have to sit for 3-4 hours (no joke) to cross the border back into the United States. We did that once and even my mild mannered Ernie blew a fuse.  What’s the point of going to Mexico to relax if your stress level is higher than when you left for vacation?us border crossing


We applied online at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/trusted_traveler/sentri/ and gathered the documents necessary to get approved. Everyone I spoke to said it was an invasive process; that you have to give customs and border protection all your private info.  Maybe because I’ve been fingerprinted many times and had to give my life story to get my series 6&63 securities licenses, it didn’t seem invasive to me. They want proof of residency (utility bill), proof of income (pay slips or tax returns) and proof of car insurance. They also run a criminal background check and take fingerprints. This makes sense to me. Since I can skip customs coming home in larger airports where there are Trusted Traveler kiosks where you can scan your passport and skip customs, I would expect Customs and Border to want my life story.

I was told that it would take about 3 months to get an appointment after my background check but it only took 6 weeks. I scheduled an appointment for my interview and read the directions to Customs and Border Protection Agency address on their website. That’s where I made my first mistake. The directions are correct but they are not complete, nor is the address compatible with GPS programs.

When we first drove to our appointment I gave us over an hour to get there and get situated. We only live 15 minutes from the border so I didn’t anticipate any challenges even if there was unexpected non rush hour traffic.us border crossing 3

I should know better than to rely on technology, especially so close to the border with no way to make a U-turn. I followed the Garmin instructions and Ernie followed me in our other car. (Cars must be inspected too.) Garmin said take the exit that entered Mexico. I said “nope” and exited at the last USA exit.

Ernie and I pulled over at a fast food restaurant and asked for directions. We were told by the manager that we were almost there, we just needed to follow this one street to the end. At this point I wasn’t stressed because we still had over an hour to find the place. We followed the directions and arrived at a government building….just not the right one. Okay, now I was getting a little stressed. I re-typed the address into Garmin  and tried again.  Garmin insisted that we needed to take the last exit which took us to Mexico.  Ernie and I were talking to each other via our cell phones and neither of us knew what to do, so we got off the freeway at the last USA exit and pulled over again.

At this point my stress level was skyrocketing. This kicked back to old childhood programming of the punishment I would receive if I was late to an appointment.  My father taught me that if you are on time, you are already 15 minutes late. My chest tightened with fear.

US Border Crossing

Coming home via the Sentri line. the regular line is on the left on the other side of the barrier

Garmin had directed us incorrectly and I was kicking myself mentally for not coming down earlier and figuring out where the location was. And no one can mentally berate me better than I can do to myself.

We decided to try one more time, and ended up in Mexico.  I freaked, not knowing what to do. My biggedst fear was not knowing how to get back to the USA. I decided that there was no way I was going to just drive through the border so I chose the line that said “Something to declare”. I figured this way we would at least be able to ask someone how to get home.  I pulled into the customs area and burst into tears and started to shake.All my old childhood fears of being punished for making a mistake swamped me. I have always had a fear of being lost and abandoned and to be in Mexico and have absolutely no idea how to get home brought all those old fears and feelings to the surface.

A gentleman came to the car where I was sobbing hysterically and tried to calm me down.  He seemed genuinely concerned and I told him “I am lost.”  He told me to wait, and he spoke to Ernie…who speaks no Spanish…I sat crying in the car for a half hour, wondering where Ernie was and how we were going to get home. Now I was not only dealing with childhood fears of making a mistake and abandonment, but I was unreasonably wondering if this was the time when Ernie would become a monster like my father.  This despite 20 years of evidence to the contrary.  But when visceral fears grip you, reasonableness disappears.DSC_0728(rev 0)


The form that allowed me to leave Mexican customs back into the USA

Ernie worked with the Mexican customs and got us passes to get back into line at the border crossing.  They took us to a special opening in the gate and allowed us to get back into the USA border crossing.  I was still crying and trying to stop.  I was gulping air and was trying to calm my breathing.  Ernie got in front of me in line and he must have said something to the border crossing guard because he very kindly directed me where we needed to go.

We finally found the Sentri office.  But we had been in this fiasco for over an hour, so we had lost our turn and had to reschedule.  That was fine by me; I was not in any shape to deal with anyone at that point.  We rescheduled and went home, where I collapsed into bed, exhausted from the emotional turmoil.  Ernie, my beloved Ernie, crawled in next to me and just hugged me until I fell asleep.


Cardiff-by-the-Sea Things to Do

Cardiff by the Sea is a small community in the “North County’” area of San Diego, nestled between Encinitas to the north and Solana Beach in the south.  Many people consider it a part of Encinitas, but Cardiff by the Sea is a fiercely independent beach community of artists, surfers,  independent business owners and residents who take great pride in their community. There are 2 miles of beautiful coastline to sunbathe or surf in.

cardiff good morning  cardiff

Good Morning has trolls everywhere….and I mean everywhere!

For me what is the most interesting of Cardiff, together with it’s nearby sister city Encinitas, is that unlike much of “North County” San Diego, it’s not pretentious. There is a scruffy charm to this city that has resisted urban blight and retains it’s California beach city vibe.

Cardiff-by-the-Sea has some fun, funky bakeries, yoga studios,thrift stores and retail shops.  One such place is the infamous “Office” a local dive bar where businessmen allegedly hang out and tell their spouses they will be home late because they are at “The Office”. This is not a place to take a first date, and don’t expext chi-chi customers.

VG Bakery

VG Bakery makes a variety of cookies for every taste

Right next to The Office is V.G. Donut and Bakery, which serves not only coffee and pastries that you can enjoy on the outside patio (if you can get a seat, that is!) .  They also bake renowned cakes for special occasions. V.G. Donut has been in business since 1969, so they must be doing something right. I’m not a huge donut fan, but VG has been voted Best Donut in San Diego.  BTW, VG stands for Very Good. LMAO!

VG Bakery cakes

VG Bakery is renowned for their cakes

Cardiff-by-the-Sea is also home to Rancho Coastal Humane Society. RCHS helps raise money to save animals from being euthanized with their thrift store.  You can find clothing, jewelry, accessories, furniture; all the normal castoffs that become someone else’s treasure.  I love browsing in thrift stores; you never know what you are going to find.

Trolls at Good Morning Cardiff

If you suffer from troll-phobia, this is not the place for you! They are everywhere!

A funky little retail shop that is a bit on the dingy and over-cluttered but fascinating nevertheless is Good Morning Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Owner Darreld (Daryl) and his son Rick are charming hosts to visitors.  I asked Rick about the abundance of trolls amidst the tchotchkis and he said his father has been in business for 39 years, and people come in and give him things to sell, or just for him to display.  This is a tiny storefront so leave strollers outside.  There’s a lot to look at!  I love their hours: Wednesday to Saturday from 10 ish to 3 ish.  Only in a laid-back funky town like Cardiff-by-the-Sea would you be able to be in business for 39 years with those types of hours.

IMG_4962Seaside Bazaar, although technically in Encinitas proper, is a great place to get original jewelry, clothing, and art, plus you can listen to music

Pipes is a local landmark that serves amazing breakfasts.  Don’t be surprised if you have to wait in a long line.  Come hungry and get to Pipes before 9 AM.  Parking, as in all small California beach communities, is at a premium, so one of you might want to get in line while the other finds parking!

I hope you enjoy Cardiff-by-the-Sea.  It’s one of my favorite places in San Diego.

An American in Baja

Cremeria Cheese Shop

Cheese tasting in Guadalupe Valley in Baja CA

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt. It can also breed comfort.  I found myself barreling along the Cuota (toll road) between Primo Tapia and Rosarito, 105.7 The Walrus blaring out 1970s hits on my radio, and reflected on the changes in me and Ernie since February, when we first started coming to Baja.

Ernie and I had always visited Mexico as tourists, usually on shore excursions off a cruise ship, so our understanding of true Mexico was nonexistent.  My perspective was as a tourist trying my best to avoid the people walking on the beach trying to sell me Alpaca silver, cheesy tchotkis, blankets, baskets and other miscellany that I didn’t want.   We didn’t drink the water. We stuck to regular restaurants and avoided the roadside food stands. Forget driving by ourselves.  We took guided tours everywhere.  We were told over and over to be so very careful when exploring, and to stick to the Golden Zone of every city. And so we did as we were relatively inexperienced travelers and a bit fearful.

La Fond beach

Baja has miles of clean, uncrowded beaches, like this one at La Fond Restaurant

Fast forward to 2013. Our friend Carolyn has a home in Primo Tapia, just a few kilometers south of Rosarito proper, and invited us to come visit with her.  She was thrilled when I said yes, and told me she finds it impossible to find people to come and visit with her.  I admitted to a certain trepidation, but since the drug lord wars seemed to have calmed down, I was game to at least try.

Horseback riding Baja CA

For $30 you can ride on the beach for 3 hours…and not just at a walk. You can canter, gallop, do whatever you feel comfortable with.

As we drove down the Cuota ($5 one way between Tijuana and Rosarito) all I saw was poverty, half-finished rusty skeletons of high rises, dirt and graffiti.  I felt guilty that I have so much and these people seemed to have so little.  The poverty and half-finished houses bothered me, but Carolyn told me that a lot of the half-finished buildings were a result of the 2008 economic meltdown, and at one point there were over 450 building projects going on before then.  What I saw was the detritus left behind. What I saw was what ignorance allowed me to see. What I didn’t see was the truth.

Wine Tasting Baja Ca

Wine tasting in Baja can include live music, plus cheese and crackers as part of the experience.

If you had told me that I would fall in love with Mexico a year ago I would have laughed at you. I had the same attitude many Americans have about Mexico. It’s dirty, poor and dangerous. Since the killing and capture of the notorious Arellano brothers in ——, we have been told that there is a power struggle between smaller drug factions going on, and it was too dangerous to travel to Mexico. Ernie and I stopped taking cruises to Mexico and thought we would never return

It was the lure of horseback riding that enticed me. Carolyn knew a young woman who rescued horses and rehabilitated them. Once they were healthy she either adopted them out or used them as rental horses. Since I’m a rabid animal rescuer myself I was doubly eager to meet her. Especially, sad to say, since I had no response from local horse rescues in South San Diego when I offered to help. I also met Carla who runs La Mision equestrians and offers rides on the beach for $30 for 3 hours!

Baja Ca Road

The free road between Rosarito and Guadalupe Valley. Very modern

In this last year Ernie and I have learned to eat at roadside birrireras,  how to navigate dirt roads without panicking,  speak a little Spanish,  negotiate for work on Carolyn’s house with local people,  and have learned to love the simpler,  calmer world we have found in Mexico than the one we live in the states. Is there poverty? Yes. Does the United States have similar poverty? Actually yes, when you travel through small towns and some Native American reservations. Do the Mexican people have all the ‘stuff’ we have? I’m sure some do but most don’t. Are they seemingly more relaxed and happier than we are? From what I’ve seen, most definitely yes. Also I have found everyone who we come in contact with to be friendly and helpful.

Sol de la media noche Land of the Midnight Sun

Wine tasting in Baja is very civilized, whether it’s a small shop or a large winery

I used to assume that Americans who live in Mexico only do it because the cost of living is substantially cheaper. And it is, and I’m sure that many American ex-patriots come down for that reason. But for me the appeal is a slower, calmer way of life. I can breathe in Mexico. I relax in Mexico in a way I don’t even do on my regular vacations. There’s a siren call to me to come down here at much as possible. This trip found Ernie and me looking at a house to purchase, either now or in the very near future.


There’s nothing like street tacos in Rosarito

Come to Baja. Hang out with the locals and the ex-pats.  I wish you the same magical experience that we have had.


Unless otherwise notes, all photos are original and the property of Susanne Romo. If you would like to use them, please do so, but give yourself the gift of good karma and make a small donation to pretty horses rescue. This charity rehabilitates starving, abandoned horses. Every dollar helps us rescue and rehabilitate starving horses.

Rosarito life tips for Americans

I have been coming to Rosarito, Baja California now for about a year and I have learned some things about how to interact inside the local culture and live inside Baja. If my friend Carolyn had not shown me some of these things I must admit I would have been clueless.

Rosarito restaurant

Chips, homemade salsa and marinated veggies at every meal

1. The person bagging your groceries at the market. It’s normally a young child or an older man. The older men are wearing either a vest or a hat imprinted with “voluntario”. The children are in their school uniforms. In Rosarito (and all of Mexico)these people are not employees of the store. I have learned that it is customary to give them a peso or two (10-20 cents) for doing this. At first it irritated me because it’s both not what I was used to but also because panhandling in the states makes me uncomfortable. However, there is a huge difference here…these people are not looking for a handout; they are trying to make a living. There may not be any other jobs available for them. I thought about it I realized that there is no social security or Medicare, no safety net like we have and take for granted in the United States. I realized it may be the only way for them to survive. They are friendly and helpful and there is no sense of shame. This is part of the culture.

The man helping you to maneuver in the grocery store or restaurant parking lot? They’re volunteers too.  For the courtesy of a few pesos they will watch your car for you and at night help you get out of the tight parking lots without mishap. The person pumping your gas and washing your windshield?  He’d appreciate a few pesos too.

Not one of these people have ever put a hand out.  If Carolyn hadn’t shown me this I would have never realized the cultural expectations. There’s no sense of obligation and no one gets snarky if you don’t tip.

I have learned to take pesos with me everywhere I go in Mexico.

2. Having a $100 bill is like having no money in Mexico, even at the grocery store. Even at the Rosarito Walmart or Home Depot they don’t like $100 bills.Take small bills. Accept change in pesos. I know I can exchange my dollars for pesos at the border but I have decided to let the locals get the exchange “commission” instead. For example if the dollar is valued at $12.90 in pesos to every $1, the locals “exchange” your dollars for about $12.50 in pesos.  I did the math and it’s pennies on the dollar and saves me having to exchange money. If I know I’m going to buy something large I either use my debit card, which many times has the best exchange rate, or I change my money before I leave.

Tacos with guacomole

Guacamole comes with the meal, it’s not an ‘extra’ in Mexico

3. A living wage is shockingly low in Baja California.  I have asked Rosarito locals and have been told it ranges anywhere from 120 to 200 pesos a day. Remember that exchange rate? At $12.90 that means the average daily wage is $9.30 to $15.50. A day. What this means is if you shop, eat and live like a local you can live well on very little. You can get your car detailed—not just washed—inside and out, floor mats washed, for about $9.00 US.

Your American dollars stretch incredibly far in Mexico.

4. As a traveler anywhere in the world, learn how to say “Please, Thank you and Good Day”. People like to know you are trying to communicate in their language. It shows respect.  You are a guest in their home; act like you would like to be warmly invited back. People in Rosarito are friendly and welcoming.

5. The length of time for a home loan depends not only on your credit but your age. I know, odd huh?   I am 48 and my husband is 70. I can get a 20 year loan to buy a house but he can only get a 5 year loan.  I guess they are looking to make sure you can pay off the loan within your life expectancy. Guess whose name the house will be in?

Mexican roadside eatery

One of Ernie’s favorite places to get Birria, plus you can meet up to go riding on the beach!

6. Birria aka goat soup. Carolyn goaded me into trying it by doing the “cluck cluck chicken” routine. Well…If she hadn’t told me it was made of goat I would never have guessed. It tastes like pork (one meat that doesn’t taste like chicken!). It is now Ernie’s go to meal every time we go to Mexico.  I am not a huge fan of soup or stew so I’ll have some of his.


Fresh, home-made salsa

7. Meals. After eating in Rosarito at the locally-owned birrireras, you may have reverse culture shock eating in America. We can get 2-3 tacos each,  loaded with everything including guacamole or avocado slices, plus a soda or a beer each…for a total cost with tip of about $7-8. Think freshly chopped onions, cilantro and salsa. Meat cooked in front of you and overflowing the freshly made tortillas. Beer for $2. It’s gotten hard for me to eat lunch in the states now.

8. Directions. Forget your satellite navigation system. You don’t ask for addresses; you ask what kilometer they are on and what are some local landmarks or stores to help you find them.  I knew I had acclimated when someone told me where her shop was with local landmarks and I asked “What kilometer are you near?”

Beach horseback riding

You can ride for 3 hours on the beach…for $30!

9. Your sense of time. Leave your American sensibilities home.  You will drive yourself crazy if you expect people to be on time.  Your waiter is not going to put the check on the table and say “No rush, whenever you are ready” which in the USA is code for “Hurry up, we want to turn the table over”. You will have to ask for the bill. People are patient here and there is no sense to rush. Slow down and find yourself slipping into “mañana time”.

Breakfast at LaFonda

Breakfast overlooking the Pacific Ocean

10. Sentri pass. For about $125 for a pass that lasts 5 years, you can save hours and an incredible amount of stress. Get the Sentri pass. You will breeze through the border crossing in minutes. Also if you travel elsewhere outside the United States there are certain airports where you can scan your passport at a special kiosk and avoid the hassle of clearing customs. It takes about three months for the entire process. When you are coming home from your relaxing visit to Baja California, you don’t want to lose that feeling waiting in a 3-4 hour border crossing.

Several people have said  “You have to give so much of your personal information”…such as proof of residency (utility bill),  proof of income (pay slips or tax return), proof of car insurance…my response is “Do you really think the government doesn’t already know all this info?”

roadside eats

Mexico street tacos….you can’t get any fresher!

I hope this information helps you come to Rosarito. I’ll be waiting to have a drink with you while we watch the sunset from a rooftop deck or ocean view condo with a million dollar ocean view that costs about $145, 000 -$200,000 to own.


Unless otherwise noted, all photos are original and the property of Susanne Romo. If you would like to use them, please do so, but give yourself the gift of good karma and make a small donation to pretty horses rescue. This charity rehabilitates starving, abandoned horses. Every dollar helps us rescue and rehabilitate starving horses.

Eclipse Chocolate South Park

I had the opportunity to eat at Eclipse Chocolate in the South Park area of San Diego.  South Park is a quaint, tree-lined neighborhood with several blocks of unique stores.  Tonight I was at Eclipse Chocolate to have dinner.

Eclipse Chocolate

Eclipse is located on a shady, tree-lined street in South Park

Ernie and I started with the happy hour chardonnay. I would have been disappointed if it was the regular $8 price, but it was good at the $4 happy-hour price.  Happy hour at Eclipse lasts until 7 pm weeknights.

Eclipse’s entire dining area is wall-to-wall glass so it’s hard to have a bad seat.  We were unfashionably early at 5 pm so getting a “window table” was not a problem. Eclipse has a prix fix dinner for $20 where you can choose one entrée and two other menu items, such as a salad or dessert

eclipse chocolate

You can have beer or wine with your chocolate and sit at the bar

I started with the beet & green apple salad which is comprised of baby greens, roasted beet, herbed chevre, candied cocoa nib and vanilla bean vinaigrette.  I’m not a huge beet fan but as part of my new mantra to try something different each time I go out, I figured I’d give it a whirl.

eclipse salad

You cannot call this a ‘diet’ salad….

The salad did not disappoint.  The crisp apple slices tempered the tart, earthy flavor of both the thick chunks of beets and the chevre. The chevre melted in your mouth, it was so soft and smooth. The salad had a satisfying crunch, it was sweet and tangy and the dressing was light and did not overpower the salad.  Overall I give the salad five of five stars.

I chose the chicken with tomato pesto Panini. The bread was a homemade grilled sage focaccia bread and the tomato pesto sauce was served on the side. Paninis can sometimes be a bit on the greasy side, but this one was not.  The bread was crisp but still held its shape.  There were thick slices of chicken and deep red tomato slices accompanied by field greens for the lettuce.  Overall a very nice sandwich.  Not the best but solid.

Ernie had the beer-battered fish, which the menu describes as “pale ale battered white fish + kale chip + lemon wedge + caper vanilla bean tartar sauce”. Ernie said it was flaky and not greasy.  The fish looked more like fish fingers than the sometimes too-thick pieces of fish that restaurants served.

eclipse pumpkin

mmmm pumpkin!

I ordered the  bacon wrapped dates.  The menu described them as “thick cut bacon wrapped medjool dates, roasted + brute cocoa brown sugar glaze + chive”. Now that’s an interesting and tasty combination! The saltiness of the bacon is tempered by  the sweetness of the medjool dates.  What was someone smoking when they thought this one up? Yum.

This is my second visit to Eclipse Chocolate.  The first time was with a girlfriend enjoying one of Eclipe’s divine chocolate confections with coffee on a sunny afternoon. Eclipse knows how to make chocolate.

One thing I saw on the board above the dining counter was a beer float.  Yes, a beer float.  Apparently you can get beer with ice cream.  Remember what I said about what someone might have been smoking? Who in the world would have thought that up? Needless to say, I must come back to try it next time!

Eclipse Chocolate

Eclipse’s drinking chocolate and a brownie….life does not get more decadent than this!

My final thoughts?  I think the food at Eclipse Chocolate is good. Their chocolates are divine. This is a good place to sit and people watch, eat satisfying food in a hip, trendy atmosphere. I would eat here again.

A great time to come in would be during South Park’s Walkabouts. But come early, as the Walkabouts can get packed!

Eclipse Chocolate is located at 2145 Fern Street San Diego, CA 92104 619.578.2984

Their website is http://eclipsechocolate.com/