This year I was treated to a completely new perspective of the mansion at night. My husband and I attended the media preview of Holidays at Filoli, where the mansion and gardens are all aglitter with festive holiday lights. Golden lights accentuate the simple elegance of the home’s front entrance.
Filoli has been a daytime getaway for me over the past decade. I was delighted when I discovered that the 1917 home and garden was open to the public and just a ten-minute jaunt away in Woodside, CA. I’ve visited the wooded country estate with family, friends and even stopped by on my own to sit in the sunny garden. I’ve watched the afternoon ocean fog cascade over the coastal mountain tops and have enjoyed a refreshing walk in the garden in the crisp early morning.
This year I was treated to a completely new perspective of the mansion at night. My husband and I attended the media preview of Holidays at Filoli, where the mansion and gardens are all aglitter with festive holiday lights. Golden lights accentuate the simple elegance of the home’s front entrance.
Inside, each room has its own holiday theme, décor and historical stories of the people who lived and worked in the home. Docents gather up visitors in different areas of the house, like the main stairway to talk about changing trends in holiday decorations over the years, and in the kitchen where staff prepared holiday delicacies.
After touring the home, we made our way outside to the patio where oversized golden ball ornaments dangled from tree branches. Conversation fireplaces offered warmth for visitors to get cozy and chat over a hot beverage. Recharged, we walked the English Renaissance gardens transformed by holiday cheer.
Hedges, topiaries, and lawn ornaments are all aglow in red, blue, green and gold lights. Holiday music followed us as we walked around the sunken garden, swimming pool, and out to the rose and herb gardens. It felt intense to walk between the bright rows of golden hedges decorated in lights from the ground to head height. Once clear of the hedges, the holiday lights danced around our feet covering low lying plants.
On our way out, we stopped at the Clock Tower Shop where estate made gifts like hard apple-pear cider, teas and spices can be purchased. Historical and Filoli inspired items are for sale, and other unique items. Plant lovers coming to enjoy the garden can take a new plant friend home with them!
Holidays at Filoli is not just lights and decorations but also special events like evenings with Santa and chocolate decadence nights with See’s Candies wine and chocolate pairings. Visit www.filoli.org/events/holidays for event information and to buy tickets.
Holidays at Filoli is on now through December 30th.
We ripped off our jackets and tossed our hair back like supermodels as we stepped off the Southwest airplane we had boarded in overcast San Francisco, to arrive in Burbank’s summer heat at the start of our Hollywood weekend. As Editor-in-Chief of FitNFabs Magazine, I was invited by its publisher, Rosalidia Dubon to tag along with her as she prepared for the summer issue release pool party. Rosalidia got behind the wheel of an over-sized sedan and whisked us off to our Airbnb accommodations at the La Belle apartments neighboring the famed Hollywood Tower.
Stop number one on our itinerary was lunch at Dream Hollywood Hotel’s rooftop poolside restaurant. I wore a blue shirt dress with flip-flops, and my companion went with a form-hugging burgundy dress. Our table for two looked out on the city streets below and onto the rooftop pool deck across the street. Aromatic planter boxes overflowing with lavender plants lined the low concrete barrier and protective glass panel walls.
As we waited for our lunch order to arrive, Rosalidia said, “Let’s take a selfie!”
Phone at arm-length we took a few pics. In one of them, my smile was too goofy, and in the other I had a low-key bemused look which was good enough to go social. Rosalidia got to work adding virtual eyebrow darkener and lipstick to my face with an Instagram app. I nodded consent when she was done touching us up and out it went onto Instagram and Facebook.
Still not completely comfortable with taking selfies, I had the chance to watch Rosalidia in action as she took selfies after getting her makeup done by a professional makeup artist the next day. Snapping pictures in a booth with perfect front lighting, she kept the phone high above her head and to the side. I’m thinking this helps slim the face and eliminates double-chins and wrinkles.
Social Photo Ops
That night we rocketed to the 71st floor of the US Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. OUE Skyspace occupies the building’s top floors and offers 360 panoramic views of the LA skyline. A clear slide attached to the outside of the building descends two stories at the height of 1,000 feet. The slide attracts tourists during the day, and a new ultra-lounge with unbeatable views draws adults at night. We were invited to check out the unique digs by a past FitNFabs cover model, singer Ranella Ferrer.
When we arrived and were looking for the lounge, we passed several photo opportunities. There was a recording booth with hanging mic, LA sports memorabilia and an odd psychedelic decorated mailbox to nowhere. Rosalidia struck a Mariah Carey pose in the booth, while I pretended to put a letter in the mailbox commemorated by a super silly Boomerang video.
We found our way to a staircase that took us down a level to the lounge. A DJ played mid-90s hip-hop/R&B the same stuff that was blasted at my high school dances. Two outdoor viewing decks looked out on the sparkling hillsides and streets below. From our vantage point, we were looking down on nearby skyscrapers. A glass deck panel had a set of decorative fairy wings decaled on it. Rosalidia took my picture in front of the wings and city below. I feel pretty good about the picture, although it’s dark!
Back inside, two touchscreen photo stations were set up so that visitors could take pictures against different fun backgrounds. It was difficult to figure out where the camera was within the screen and made for many disconnected and awkward shots. Finally, one came out where we were both looking in the right direction.
Many Ways to Social Share
The next day, FitNFabs pool party was held at Sunset & Vine Apartments, with the Hollywood Walk of Fame as the sidewalk. Apartment residents and FitNFabs fans from LA and the San Francisco Bay Area joined in the tropical pool-side fun. Another DJ played hip-hop while swimsuit-clad 20 and 30-somethings cooled off, socialized and drank up around the pool.
A mix of selfies, live-streaming to social media and photo booth collaborations documented the release party. The FitNFabs sponsored photo booth offered outlandish hats and funny disguises for attendees to play with. A camera took automatic shots of the crazy poses, either printing them out or delivered them via email.
At the party, I exercised my new found selfie-taking skill and took part in a few photo booth shoots. Thanks to my trip to Hollywood, I got enough practice to feel confident in whipping out my cell phone to take great-looking selfies!
I appreciate a well-executed artistic composition and can cobble together a decent looking craft project or two. But I’m no artist. So when my artist husband hinted he wanted me to help him create a chalk sidewalk painting, I thought I’d be more of a hindrance. The chalk painting started at 7 a.m. on the 4th of July at Redwood City’s Courthouse Square. There was no way I’d be getting up that early to apply chalk to cement. If John wanted to go, fine but I’d be in bed for another few hours. However, John was tired from his work week and was ready to go to the festival at noon. I was up by then so I tagged along toting water bottles and a roll of paper towels.
When we arrived at the festivities, the parade crowds were just breaking up. We were definitely getting a late start. After finding parking, we booked it over to the chalk art sign in. I spotted our “canvas” right away, a blank 12’x 12’ space for Art Bias wedged between already completed chalk paintings. Art Bias is the San Carlos art community, where John rents his art studio. Many artists had left or were putting finishing touches on their large scale chalk art. Upon check-in we received two boxes of pastel chalk starter kits with basic colors and were pointed toward poster paint we could use to even out the cement surface.
Woefully behind from the moment we arrived, I wondered where John’s art compatriots were because we could have used a few more hands. I had come to support John because I knew this was something he wanted to do after watching other artists work with chalk at festivals. I didn’t realize we’d be staring down an outdoor shed-sized space, with festival goers walking past and wondering why they were seeing a huge blank cement square.
With no option but to get started, John jumped sketched out where his portrait of Uncle Sam would lay within the square. Next, he painted white poster paint on the ground where Sam was to go. I filled in the remaining background with gray paint we mixed from our two options, black and white. Once we got our foundation down, we put the paint rollers away and stopped to get lunch while it dried.
Before we left our square, I heard a passerby say something like “This one’s weird,” after she looked at our sea of gray with white splotch in the middle. “It’s not done,” I called after her. She seemed to turn and look at me like maybe she didn’t realize I could interact with her, since I was inside the cordoned off area. “It’s not done yet,” I said again with my hands on my hips. I was taking ownership of our burgeoning creation.
After lunch, I let John go back to the square on his own. His heart must have sunk when he went back to conquering the huge task on his own. I walked around other parts of the festival and found there was a chalk art alley on the street divided into smaller squares. The size wasn’t as impressive as the one we were dealing with but a lot more manageable.
I went back over to where John was hard at work. He had drawn in Uncle Sam with black chalk. I pulled up a knee pad and asked him how I could help. “Oh good, you’re going to help me with this?” He seemed relieved. “If not me, who?” I asked, or at least thought. I started with Sam’s hat filling in patriotic blue around the hat’s white stars, then filled in red vertical stripes. I caked the chalk on. I had tried to mix the chalk into the painted surface, only to pull the chalk dust up with the paper towel I was using as a mixing tool.
John worked on Sam’s face blending red, peach, white, and black to get his features to stand out, nose, lips, eyes, beard. John blew on an area of extra chalk dust only to create a dust bowl sized cloud which carried across the courtyard on a gust of wind. At one point, John went to ask one of the experienced chalk artists how they got their chalk to adhere to the ground. What they did differently was bring their own high-quality chalk in an array of color shades, and they methodically applied the chalk to the ground. These guys got to their spot early and stayed late getting all the details down. Since good chalk and loads of time were not an option for us, we continued to cake on the dust to simulate vibrant color.
We kept at it. I filled in Sam’s white hair, trying to “draw” in the boundaries of his hair only to be vetoed by the artist. I had to laugh at John for wanting to be precise within the context of how far behind we were. But I didn’t let his exactness stop me; I knew he needed my help. So I caked blue chalk on Sam’s jacket, added a light layer of yellow to his shirt and blending it with white for a creamy appearance. After all the colors were down, John re-drew the definition in black chalk and created Uncle Sam’s iconic finger pointing at the viewer.
As the event organizer packed up for the day, we finished our piece. Festival-goers interested in how our square turned out swung back around our aisle. A few let us know they were glad to see we got it done, and a few people took pictures of it.
Our creation was not the best, but it was patriotic in celebration of the 4th of July. We did our best for first-timers who didn’t fully realize what they were getting into. John’s drawing talent shown through especially at the end where he quickly and expertly added the definition that gave shape and life to the chalk painting. After taking pictures with Uncle Sam, we left Courthouse Square and tried not to think of the city workers who’d soon be by with power hoses to wash it all away.
If you have a business, you should be sending an e-newsletter. Newsletters are a consistent form of marketing that if done right, provide value to your readers. In other words, the people you send your newsletter to once a month, want to open your email. Why do they want to open it and not toss it in the “trash” folder? Because they know, from reading your previous emails, you aren’t selling something, but giving something they want to read.
The following reasons will give you an idea of how having your own newsletter will bring value to your business and potential clients.
Reason to Stay in Touch
Once a month, twice for the ambitious, you get to say, “hello” to your newsletter readers. If you’re doing it right, only emailing people who want to hear from your business, you will quickly build an anxious audience awaiting your next email.
Prove Your Expertise
In every email, you get a chance to educate, inspire and challenge your readers. Place the heavy stuff up front. If you’re going to talk about the merits of sending newsletters, do that first, before you get to the fluff.
Show Your Products and Services in Action
Highlighting a client success story is a great way to show your product or service solving a problem. Like I can talk about helping a personal trainer plan, edit and launch her e-newsletter!
Increase Your Blog and Website Clicks
Include links to new blog posts in your newsletter. People won’t know about your posts if you don’t tell them to take a look.
Shine With Your Business Branding
Recently, I was asked, what’s the best way to share a blog post with clients, without using a plain email with embedded link? Sending an e-Newsletter was my first thought, because you can, and should, personalize the newsletter template with your business branding. A professional look is easy to achieve through an e-newsletter service like Constant Contact or mailchimp.
Invite People to Events
Want to publicize your next open studio, gallery opening, workshop or class, presentation, or client appreciation party? Include an invite in your upcoming newsletter.
Share Business Updates and Milestones
As you build your newsletter mailing list, a core group of people interested in what you or your business is up to will develop. So, tell them about your new product or service launch, anniversary celebration, or new hire. They really do want to stay in-the-know about these things.
Make Special Offers
Reward your dedicated following with “only for newsletter readers” coupons and discounts. Make it something good for you and for them.
Are you starting a newsletter from scratch and don’t know where to begin? I can help you strategize what to include in your newsletter and who to send it to. Already have a newsletter but need editing support? I do that too! Email me to start a conversation about how I can help you with your e-newsletter.
Now go write your newsletter, your audience awaits!
“We can park on either side of the tunnels,” I say to my husband as we drive north on HWY 1 to Devil’s Slide Trail.
“But I want to park on the ocean side,” he says.
“Yeah,” I say, “either side will do.” I glance over at him, he grips the steering wheel at ten and two. There’s a contemplative stare behind his sunglasses. Still, I see, he’s not picturing it.
Devil’s Slide is the link between Pacifica, CA at the north and Montara, CA at the south of San Pedro Mountain. Highway 1 used to snake around the mountain ledge with rocky ocean surging below and loose rocks sluffing down the hillside above. As of 2013, motorists now drive through the mountain via the Tom Lantros Tunnels, circumventing coastal erosion related hazards. The old highway was transformed into Devil’s Slide Trail for pedestrians and bike riders to enjoy.
I look out for roadside signs to guide us as we rapidly approach the mountain from Montara. Fortunately, a traffic light was installed at the Devil’s Slide Trail parking area, making it easy to get across the opposite lane of traffic without holding cars up behind us. We are definitely on the ocean side. The mountain and tunnel entrance sight lines give way to coastal bluffs overlooking the seemingly indefinite Pacific.
We drive around two small connected lots a few times waiting for someone to leave. I mention again there’s a parking lot on the Pacifica side, but my husband ignores the suggestion. I know he feels he’s holding out for the ocean view – even though both sides are on the same trail. We successfully stalk a family, wait for them to pack up their SUV, and swoop into their vacated parking spot.
The first thing we do after winning our parking spot is take in the unobstructed ocean view. A cooling wind hits our skin; the sun warms us from overhead; the ocean water bobs below. We walk to the trailhead leaving the cars blasting their horns in the tunnels behind.
I think my husband is amazed he can walk on the road his family used to drive when he was growing up in Pacifica. You can pick up so much more detail walking the 1.3 miles than you would zooming by in a car. Yes, the rocks are still sliding down the mountain. Fencing restrains the rubble, but it’s a good idea to keep some distance. A tenacious tree grows within a cliff-side crevice resulting in a lone pine wedged into a rock. Colorful wildflowers and grasses brighten the earthy hillsides. The smell of old, salty, fish waft up to the trail. I assume birds toss their catch onto the cliffs, trying to split open shells against the rocks.
The trail’s easy to moderate incline begins about a third to halfway in. I am glad to tackle the climb first so that our return is easier. We stop at a lookout area with plenty of bench seating. The ocean and sky are blue; the sun is still out. Back on the trail, we make it to the Pacifica side parking lot. True we did take a turn away from the ocean through brown dirt-exposed hillsides for a few yards. My husband and I take a turn around the Pacifica parking lot. He shoots photos of the horse ranch below.
“So, this is the other parking lot,” I say. We turn around to start back on our ocean side walk.
What’s your favorite coast side trail, and what makes it special?
Once we scaled down the muddy coastal bluff, we landed on a rocky beach. This wasn’t a spread-out-a-blanket-for-sunbathing kind of beach; it was way too lumpy for that. My husband’s family had gathered for the weekend at a palatial oceanfront rental home to celebrate my sister-in-law’s wintertime birthday. The home, located in the small coastal community of Pescadero, CA between San Francisco to the north and Santa Cruz to the south on Highway 1, has access to a private beach we were allowed to visit.
I scanned the beach and noticed bits of sea life wedged between the rocks. Pieces of abalone and snail shells, colorful clumps of seaweed in shades of pink, purple and white, and ocean whittled driftwood mixed in amongst the rocks. As the afternoon sky darkened with an impending rainstorm pushing toward the coast, I quickly arranged the sea life into pleasing formations then took pictures of them. The time pressure sped my decision making about how to place the sea life. I quickly moved to the next spot on the beach as I only created arrangements of ephemera within arms-reach.
My sisters-in-law liked my idea of curating beach arrangements. One of them spotted a rock holding down a feather which looked like an eye with eyelashes. I added a smaller blue rock, a pupil, to the formation. After a windy half-hour on the shore looking for sea treasures, we trekked back up the bluff and into the house as the rain began to fall.
Mid-2017 to date I’ve recorded 36 interviews on my little digital voice recorder. I put “37” interviews in the title because I just did one today but I only took notes…but since we’re counting non-recorded interviews let’s add at least another 15. And if we’re going to do that, why not add the 3 21-question interviews I research, craft and edit for each issue of FitNFabs Magazine, another 12. So 64, 65 interviews in the last 18 months sounds like a lot and some weeks, it is.
I’d say a majority of the interviews I conduct are for the Midpen Media Center newsletter. Last month I interviewed a Stanford professor who developed MyShakespeare, an online multimedia website presenting Shakespeare’s plays in a fun, interactive and dynamic way. From speaking to the site’s creator, I learned the history of the project, what goes into developing it and the positive ways students and teachers have used it to delve into the world of the plays. I wouldn’t have reached a deeper understanding of the MyShakespeare website without speaking to its creator. I was able to bring the knowledge I gathered during the interview into my article through direct quotes and synthesizing information.
Over the course of these 65 interviews, I haven’t had a bad one yet. I know how to frame questions in a thoughtful way and I get more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Several times I’ve had interview subjects pause and say “That’s a great question.” It’s usually something they have to think about for a moment but it’s relative to what we’re talking about and adds depth to the conversation. I use interviews in my writing to capture quotes and information for people profile articles, expert perspectives, introducing new works or projects, Q&A interview features, and professional bios.
I’ve already got another interview scheduled for tomorrow and one next week. The FitNFabs Magazine and Midpen Media Center articles below are samples of recent interviews. If you have a writing project requiring information only the source can tell, I’d love to ask you some questions about it!
No matter how you feel about the act of writing – a difficult chore with tons of roadblocks or you love it so much you can’t stop writing – having a second set of eyes on your creation is a good idea. I’ve been taking on more and more editing work. Many of the people I’ve edited for are experts in other fields like real estate, beauty industry or fitness gurus. I get to read the expert’s article before it’s published and I help them find what needs to be clarified.
As an editor, my goal is to cut away words and sentences that are not contributing to the overall message of the writing. Sometimes words just sit there taking up space instead of propelling the momentum or meaning of the piece. Today’s reader doesn’t have time to sift through paragraphs searching for the point.
Some of the top issues I edit for are:
Flowery clichés not adding to the meaning
Areas to condense and make concise
One of the experts I edited had this to say:
“You are AWESOME!!! You have magic in your pen. I love your edits and greatly appreciate your work on this.”
I was relieved to be getting such positive feedback because I realize being edited can feel invasive like you’re under a microscope. But I made this writer feel comfortable, and she appreciated how the suggested changes made her look as a knowledgeable author. So before you hit “send” on an important email, newsletter or article, it really won’t hurt to have an editor take a look-see.
When my husband and I visit his hometown, Pacifica CA for a day at the beach, he usually incorporates a little reminiscing, whether that’s driving by one of the homes he used to live in or telling tales about the adventures he had with his gang of friends. These friends, four teenage boys, roamed free atop their bicycles and later inside a 1975 AMC Matador. Bike or car these guys grabbed up their crab nets, slung them over a shoulder or inside the trunk, and ditched their suburban tract homes for a day out on the pier over the Pacific Ocean. I’ve heard tales of the guys dragging up six Dungeness crabs in one day, and bringing the feast home to share with their families.
I grew up further away from the ocean in the San Francisco East Bay. My family would visit the coast, but we never tossed nets in the water to see if anything would crawl in to be our dinner. It never occurred to me until recently that I can give crabbing a try myself. It doesn’t just have to be something my husband did growing up; it could be something we do together…now.
The crab season opened in early November giving us the opportunity to get out over the water with a net and lots of hope of catching delicious Dungeness on my husband’s birthday. Before hitting the pier, we stopped by New Coastside Bait & Tackle to get geared up for crabbing. The store clerk sold us everything we needed to get started, brand new crab net, a gauge to make sure any crabs we caught were big enough to take and attractive bait – frozen blocks of squid and sardines, yum. Other things we brought with us out on the pier were protective gloves for handling sea life, a cooler to store bait and anything we would catch and an always handy pocket knife – used for exposing bait guts.
My parents and one of my husband’s friends from his carefree Pacifica teenage days, Scott joined us for the birthday crabbing expedition. John and I arrived first to stake our spot on the pier. We passed fishermen lining both sides of the wood-planked cement-walled pier. They expertly cast their fishing pole lines yards out into the ocean below, grooved to boom boxes blasting music and teased each other with no concern for political correctness as they waited for something in the depths to take their bait. John picked a spot between fishermen who’d been out there for hours already, near the end of the pier where the structure takes a right turn as our home base.
He took out a few thawing squid and sardines, roughed them up with slits to their bellies, and stuffed them inside the bait cage attached to the inside of the crab net. He tied the end of the crab net’s rope line to a lamp post. We unfurled the full length of the rope, and he tossed the basket over the side of the pier like it a giant Frisbee. When the net landed in the water, it settled directly below us. Then the waiting for a crab to walk into the net began.
Our guests arrived shortly after we put the net in the water. John hauled the net up a few times to find nothing in. We messed around with the bait a little to see if we could make it stink more to attract a crab. The hard thing is, we don’t know when a crab is walking through the net. If we leave it down there for lengths of time, a crab could walk up, eat all the bait and get off the net before we pull it up. After a few hours we got some activity, a cluster of muscles rolled into the net and a small fish but no crab. We put all these back into the ocean. The next time we pulled up the net there was a crab in it but it was too small to keep, and it was a female. I made John bring it up to the pier so I could take a picture and document that we were somewhat successful.
After this, John felt like we might be on a roll and closer to catching a crab big enough to take home. Scott told us a story of how John made him stay on the beach for hours when they were teenagers because John was so excited that he might catch something. Crabbing is like gambling, you may catch a jackpot, but you have to keep spending time to win, at some point you need to pack it up and go home.
We didn’t catch a Dungeness crab dinner, but we did stop by the grocery store and bought a few crabs in honor of John’s birthday!
For the last few years, I’ve experimented with ways to grow my writing business and find new clients to work with. My preferred method has been to get out and meet people at networking events and mixers. I get to know who’s out there, what they are doing and if they by chance have any writing needs or know someone who does.
Two years ago I was in a networking group with a lady who knew the publisher of FitNFabs Magazine was looking for writing or editorial help. She sent an email to the publisher referring me to her, but we didn’t hear back. Later on, I met another lady who also referred me to the publisher, knowing the best way to get in touch with her was through Facebook. Within the next few days, I was setting up an appointment to meet the publisher because she had an opening for Editor-in-Chief!
I prepared for my meeting with the publisher by creating a portfolio of my writing samples, publication history, and resume. I could tell during the meeting my presentation, experience and my networking contacts set me up to be the perfect candidate at the right time for the position. By the end of the meeting, the publisher was already talking about terms and contract.
As Editor-in-Chief of FitNFabs, I’ve been tapping my networking connections hard. I need dedicated health and wellness experts to write content for the magazine and also become a part of the FitNFabs community. I’ve been able to add the knowledge of a professional home organizer, success coach to CEOs and a personal trainer into the pages of the magazine, all people I’ve gotten to know and trust from networking.
If you’re in business for yourself or have a side project that requires clients – get out and meet people in your community.
Attend local chamber functions to meet owners of businesses and find out what their needs are.
Join professional organizations within your sphere. I’m a member of the California Writers Club, where I meet other writers and find out how we can support each other and collaborate.
Join a business referral networking group where professionals from different industries connect, refer potential clients and business to each other.
Be available and accessible — help your next great client find you!