San Diego Garden Centers

Summers Past has fun little fairy gardens tucked all over the nursery

Summers Past has fun little fairy gardens tucked all over the nursery

I went on a San Diego Garden Center crawl to see the locally-owned garden centers. My normal default is big-box garden centers such as Walter Anderson or Armstrong Nurseries.  I am doing my best to patronize family-owned businesses even if the prices tend to be a little bit higher. Family owned nurseries have selections, service and knowledge that the big-box stores do not.

Enjoy a cup of coffee on Summer's Past's covered patio

Enjoy a cup of coffee on Summer’s Past’s covered patio

I started at Summer’s Past Farm in Flynn Springs.  Summer’s Past has a solid selection of plants, gift items, a coffee bar and a sweet pea maze.  Every spring they host a Fairy Day and they have a good-sized selection of fairy garden items. I also like that they have locally owned merchandise such as scarves and notecards for sale.

Interior of Summer's Past

Interior of Summer’s Past

City Farmers Nursery is, well, in the ‘hood. Parking is horrible; my husband had to direct me out as it was so tight and haphazard. However, this is a great place to bring kids or the kid in you!  Lots of old-time ephemera, a gentle giant of a Rottweiler named Roxy wandering around, a coffee bar, chicken coop, pony, koi pond, red slider turtle pond and a mini-playground for the kids adds up to a magical place to explore. city nursery 4

I love that they use this old library index system for seeds you can purchase in your own specific quantities at City Farmers Nursery

I love that they use this old library index system for seeds you can purchase in your own specific quantities at City Farmers Nursery

Mission Hills Nursery has been a San Diego landmark since 1910! They have a solid selection of garden supplies, indoor and landscape plants.  Just be careful walking around outside, the ground is extremely uneven. I bought a small cactus for my fairy garden. The staff were really friendly here as well.

Mission Hills nursery is tucked just south of Washington Avenue

Mission Hills nursery is tucked just south of Washington Avenue

My last stop was Exotic Gardens. I have driven past this nursery on El Cajon for 10 years and never realized it was there! This is the place for cactus and succulents.  They have a good variety and the manager said they are willing to trade, depending on what you have. I told him I have an Epiphyllum that is out of control. He said he wouldn’t trade for it but if I brought it he would make sure the cuttings went to good homes. Gotta love that attitude!exotic nursery 4 exotic nursery 5



I enjoyed my San Diego garden nursery crawl.  It makes me happy to see small nurseries able to compete with the behemoths

Now it’s Your Turn! What is your favorite San Diego nursery?




South Park Walkabout

South Park Walkabout --- The Grove, a fun, eclectic store

South Park Walkabout — The Grove, a fun, eclectic store

South Park is an artistic neighborhood tucked between Golden Hill and North Park, just northeast of downtown San Diego.  It’s tree-lined streets host artisanal chocolate restaurants, art studios, unique shopping and four times a year, the South Park Walkabout.

Each South Park Walkabout has it’s own flavor, influenced by the seasons.  The most recent walkabout did not disappoint.  The only caveat—-parking is horrendous.  Either plan to arrive much earlier in the day or prepare yourself to circle endlessly for the few parking spaces available while you do your best to avoid pedestrians busy texting and not paying attention.  South Park walkabouts are a mob scene. Bar patrons spill out onto the sidewalk, enterprising homeowners host live bands in their front yards, others set up impromptu art studios in their garage.  South Park has a fun, funky vibe.

South Park Walkabout at Bad Madge

South Park Walkabout at Bad Madge

One of my favorite stores in South Park is Bad Madge.  I had the opportunity to talk to Bad Madge owner Tanya McAnear at the San Diego Vintage Flea Market about how Bad Madge, a fun, funky shop filled with eclectic vintage finds, came to be named.  Apparently Tanya had a previous business sending out actors to auditions, and one of her ‘talents’….Madge….had a tendancy to not show up to auditions. She would get sidetracked and became known as ‘Bad Madge”….and the name seemed appropriate for her new store.  It’s fun that she is housed right next to Made Good, another fun shop with clothing, jewelry, and home tchotckis.

South Park Walkabout has quirky musicians for your listening enjoyment

South Park Walkabout has quirky musicians for your listening enjoyment

On this South Park walkabout Tanya had hired a whistling accordion player decked out in 1950’s Rita Hayworth style. You have to love  an accordion player who is also a world class whistler.

South Park Walkabout

South Park Walkabout — La Cueva Nostalgia Shop

Another fun shop is La Cueva nostalgia shop.  This shop is crammed full of religious punk rock images (yes, really!) side by side with Virgin Mary, Breyer Horses

Now it’s Your Turn! Tell me what your best memory of a SouthPark walkabout was? Do you have a secret parking space?


Coronado Artisans Alley

Coronado Artisans Alley

Coronado Artisans Alley is full of Christmas kitch to enjoy

My first craft fair as a vendor was the 2014 Coronado Artisans Alley Craft Faire.  The Coronado Artisans Alley Fair has been an annual event for 42 years, and I was hopeful on the sales results I would get for my Bounds(TM) Beauty Rounds. I didn’t know what to expect but knew that I would learn a lot.

The craft booths were very well-decorated. There were the normal ornaments, masses of booths selling jewelry (I think at least 25% or more were jewelry), wooden Santas, colorful wreaths, wind chimes, body lotion, the normal gamut for a craft faire. Patti Clark-Sanchez had custom-made Day of the Dead Skull purses, very cool! I met Michelle Irvine who, in addition to her lovely jewelry, also had the coolest sheer drapes surrounding her booth, which made it feel very feminine and spa-like. The Coronado Artisans Alley requires that items be at least 80% hand-made and it is a ‘juried’ show. I had to submit samples of my work. I had sent in a photo note card and a sample of my Bounds(TM) beauty rounds, which are a 100% USA cotton handmade makeup remover.

Coronado Artisans Alley Craft Faire

There were fun character-themed hats at the Coronado Artisans Alley Craft Faire

The 2014 Coronado Artisans Alley was not very well attended.  There were multiple empty booth spaces, and the people who came to the faire did not seem to be buying.  I asked some of my booth-neighbors about this and they all agreed that the crowd was really light.  Perhaps it was because we had had three days of rain, an anomaly in San Diego, and Saturday was a glorious and hot day, with blue skies and a nice ocean breeze. Perhaps people weren’t in a shopping mood?

Coronado Artisans Alley

Coronado Artisans Alley had all kinds of cute things for little girls.

I talked to a woman in the booth behind me. She was selling hair bows and crocheted character themed hats. She said that this was her third year and would probably be her last year, based on the price of the booth and the results she had.  She said three years ago she made $800 (on hair bows!), last year she made $400 but it had poured rain, and this year she thought she would be lucky if she made $200.  Considering the booth cost for the Coronado Artisans Alley was $125 for 2014 and is increasing to $140 for next year, she said it doesn’t make economic sense as you have to be here from 9 AM – 3PM.  She said she also works the Otay Ranch (Chula Vista – Eastlake) Mall Farmers Market on Tuesdays from 4PM-8PM, they let you set up as early as 2 PM, and it only costs $35.00 each night. She said she generally makes $200 a night there.

Coronado Artisans Alley

Artisans Alley was my first craft fair to see how my Bounds(TM) Beauty Rounds Makeup Removers would sell

The woman in the booth across from me was selling these really cool baby swaddlers and little girl tutus and tutu-dresses.  She said that it was terribly slow. She has been coming here for years, and this was the worst she had seen it.

I also spoke to Tawnya LaFave of IB Crochet. She had not only a corner booth but a secondary one! She too said the fair was really slow, and she does better at the Imperial Beach Farmers Market. This was good information for me.

I am glad I experienced the show.  I only sold 11 sets of my Bounds(TM), and after paying my friend’s daughter for helping me and the booth rental ($125) I basically broke even.  So for me the Coronado Artisans Alley was great from a learning prospective, but not from an economic one, and I will not be going back as a vendor.

Now it’s Your Turn! Tell us about your experience as a vendor or attendee. Is there a particular vendor you come to every year to buy your holiday gifts?


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 side 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.

Now it’s Your Turn! What do you like to do in Cardiff?


Things to Do in Encinitas

There are so many things to do in Encinitas. Here are some of my favorite Encinitas places.Encinitas is a funky, laid back beach town just south of Orange County.  It is known for the Surfing Madonna, Swami’s beach and the Self Realization Center, but what I love about Encinitas is that it is a feast for the senses

I love signs like this.

Sign outside an Encinitas beauty shop.

Day of the Dead Coast Hwy Traders Encinitas

Coast Hwy Traders Encinitas has the best DOTD

You can spend the day at the beach, go to a funky seaside art bazaar, eat at fun restaurants or browse the many art co-op stores along Highway 101. If you are a night owl and love The Rocky Horror Picture Show, that’s available too.

One of my favorite things to do in Encinitas is window shop. Coast Highway Traders has the best collection of Day of the Dead ephemera in San Diego.  From small altars and Day of the Dead figurines to iPhone cases, stickers and larger-than-life-sized Katarinas, this store is a color-fest. Coast Highway Traders is run by a group of vendors, so in addition to the Day of the Dead merchandise, there are mermaids, seashells and seashell-covered gifts, other Mexican art, purses and handmade jewelry.Day of the Dead Day of the Dead IMG_5240

The canary Frog

Maybe because he’s an Encinitas Frog he whistles like a canary instead of croaks


Plum is an Encinitas art co-op

Plum is another artist co-op store filled with photography, hand painted silk fish ornaments, Christmas merchandise and handmade jewelry. Plum is definitely more upscale than Coast Highway Traders but both are equally fun to browse.  The prices for a resort/tourist area are reasonable, and the artist/owners are very friendly. George the frog tweeted like a canary every time we walked in or out of the store.

IMG_5262I was drawn into _____ after looking at the statue on the sidewalk and glimpsing the salt crystal lamps, sari patchwork throws, and luscious stone and mineral jewelry. I loved the small dark-purple amethyst pieces they had. Really spectacular.IMG_5258IMG_5255

Queen Eileen’s reminds me of Babette Schwartz in Hillcrest.  Fun, somewhat tacky gag gifts crowded the walls next to Anne Taintor magnets and cocktail napkins. More jewelry and unique clothes.

Lots of gag gifts at Queen Eileens

Lots of gag gifts at Queen Eileens


Encinitas Seaside Bazaar artist


Encinitas Seaside Bazaar sign. Love it!

We browsed through the Seaside Market. I had a chance to talk to artist Cecilia Gabriel. She and her husband Roger sell mini-pieces of art.  Mini as in 2×2 inch squares at the smallest.  She explained that they like to create collages of smaller pieces of art work so in a limited space they can enjoy many different types of art instead of focusing on one piece only.  The 2×2 mini paintings start at $25 and go up to $65 for a 10×10 canvas.  I asked her if they made the canvasses themselves and she said no, you can actually buy them online.  Fascinating. We talked about chakras and she told me about chakra-size, which are exercises for your chakras. I love her infectious happiness and her jewelry is beautiful and reasonably priced for hand-made works of art.

I picked up a few gently used paperbacks from Patricia McFarland at Book Tales. Patricia said she has owned the store for 15 years but it has been at this location for over 30! It is so nice to see a used bookstore flourishing; they are a dying breed of retail.


Book Tales used book store in Encinitas

Another great shop was Earth’s Elements.  They have a great selection of eco-friendly soaps and cleansers, solar phone chargers, clothing, art and handicrafts…and a fun bumper sticker covered wall.  How do you decide which one you want to buy? They are all awesome!


Koi pond at SRF in Encinitas

I ended the day at the Self Realization Fellowship’s meditation gardens.  After a small climb up some stairs, you can either sit and view the Pacific Ocean and watch the surfers down below, or you can relax watching the flashing ballet of the enormous koi.  The grounds are immaculate and well-kept and though there were quite a few people at the large koi pond, it didn’t seem crowded.

Encinitas is a visual feast.  It is one of my favorite San Diego towns.  I hope you get a chance to visit.

Now it’s Your Turn! What’s your favorite thing to do in Encinitas? Do you have a go-to restaurant?



Unless noted otherwise, all photos are the original work of Susanne Romo.  If you wish to use them, please add photo courtesy of to the photo. Thank you.

Fabulous Finds Bend Oregon

Yesterday on a shopping junket in Bend, Oregon I was fortunate to discover this gem of a shop.  It’s tucked away on a side street just off 2nd and 190 NE Irving Ave. There is ample parking on both the street and in front of the store.

We got a taste of the treasures inside Fabulous Finds by the tableau out front.  A vintage bicycle stood near a white wrought-iron planter packed with fall flowers.  A grapevine pumpkin twinkled with white lights. A door was propped against a window and a hand-written chalkboard invited us in.

Fabulous Finds

We entered Fabulous finds to discover the shop lived up to its name. Exquisite displays of up-cycled decor mingled with vintage and new artistic finds in a feast for your senses.

I especially loved this vintage Parisian-themed vignette.  The combination of the filagree baby carriage, head vases, pillows, candles and tchotckies kicked me back to my own visit to Paris. I loved the way the wood, glass, metal and fabric worked together.


Here’s another fun display celebrating Fall.  The focal point is a Christmas tree festooned with Halloween decor topped by a witch’s hat.  A fountain to the left provides a musical backdrop while the pumpkins, fall leaves and plants soften the edges.  Look in the mirror and you will see an inadvertent picture of me snapping away.


I spoke to the owner Matina, a vivacious woman who loves what she does.  She told me she had opened the store one and a half years ago and only recently moved into her new 2000 square foot location.  I asked her how she finds her merchandise — a subject always fascinating to me — and she told me she is fortunate to both be able to attend estate sales and shows and also has ‘pickers’ who know her style enough to find what she needs for the store.


Fabulous Finds lives up to its name and motto “Trendy Accessories and Unique Gift Items”, although I have to say I’d call them timeless accessories. It’s chic without being intimidating, Matina is warm and friendly, enthusing over her stock, and the prices are very reasonable, much more than I was afraid they might not be.

This is a great shop to find unique gifts that will fit well in any decor.  She has great local-made jewelry, vintage linens, clothing (I lusted after a wide purple scarf but I am on scarf-buying moratorium) and more.  All in all a great stop if you find yourself in Bend, Oregon.

In the alley of 190 NE Irving Ave & 2nd St.

Matina Christophersen (541) 385 8921

Wed – Sat 11am – 5pm