Curating Sea Life Beach Arrangements in Pescadero, CA

Sea Life Collection

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.

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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.

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Talking to the Source 37 Interviews and Counting


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!

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Feel Good about Your Writing: Get an Editor

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:

  • Logic flow
  • Typos
  • Grammar
  • Unnecessary verbiage
  • 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.

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Crabbing at Pacifica Pier, Pacifica CA

Pacifica Pier

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.

John Getting Crab Net Ready

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.

John Casting the Net

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.

Me and My Parents, Robin and Phil

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.

Inspecting a Catch of Ocean Critters

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.

A Small Crab

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!

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Networking My Way to Editor-in-Chief of FitNFabs Magazine

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!

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Over an Overpass in a Yellow Surrey, Oxnard CA

Surrey on the sidewalk

The sight of the yellow canopied two person surrey parked out front of our hotel lobby brought us relief. All we had to do was rent it at the front desk, hop in, and start roaming around Oxnard, CA via pedal power.
The day before, we left our home in the San Francisco Bay Area excited to start on our weeklong vacation in Southern California. During the first few hours of the drive down we soon discovered mounting traffic delays were holding us hostage from enjoying our vacation.
Our estimated five and a half hour drive became an agonizing eight hours. Our cold-hearted GPS continually announced 15-minute increments being added to our ETA.
So, we weren’t eager to get back in the car upon reaching our destination. A surrey was the perfect mode of transportation for us. The surrey fit two people side by side on a bench seat, four wheels guaranteed our stability, and we each got a steering wheel.
I turned my wheel and tried pedaling, but the surrey seemed just to be listening to John’s steering. I looked at the mechanics behind our wheels and saw that his was hooked up to the steering and mine was decoration only. My right side foot pedal was bent, making it hard for me to keep my foot straight.

Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard CA

After a little parking lot practice, we pedaled to the harbor front path running in front of our hotel and condo complexes lining the harbor. A friendly maintenance man driving a golf cart slowed down so we could pass. A jogger, people walking their dogs, a girl in a stroller, smiled at us as we cheerfully made our way along the shaded waterfront.

Breathing in fresh sea air, jointly propelling our little cart, yachts bobbing in their berths, John finally smiling, we made it, we were finally on vacation.

A quarter of a mile later, we neared a monumental obstacle, Channel Islands Boulevard overpass linking to the other side of the harbor.
We approached the traffic intersection. My first thought was to stay on the sidewalk, but it was too narrow for the surrey. A single bike rider came toward us and could tell from my furrowed brow and hands on my hips that we needed some assistance. He told us that the lane we were in was the bike lane, we wouldn’t have figured it out otherwise because the bike lane signs were on the other side of the overpass.
So we pushed the surrey up over the overpass hump, got back in at the top and rode the brakes down. While on the other side of the harbor we stopped at Channel Islands Maritime Museum. Our surrey dutifully waited for us outside as we explored inside. John was delighted to see that they have an impressive collection of maritime ship paintings depicting dramatic sea voyages and battles going back to the 17th century.
As we pedaled our way back to the hotel, it was high noon in the beach town, with warm beating sun overhead. John was sweating…a lot. He stopped cycling for a moment, and suddenly I was tasked with taking up his slack, which I couldn’t do for long. I think he was trying to show me just how hard he was working to move us both.
Back over the overpass, we went. This time when we reached the top, John wanted to take a selfie from the summit as we were quickly going downhill. I had to remind him that we were on the road, with cars and didn’t want to do something dumb just for a selfie!

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Tame Your Writing Project and Get it Done!

Is a Daunting Writing Project Holding You Back?

www.sweetclipart.com

A feeling of dread washes over you when you read the next “to-do” on your schedule.

Write my website pages

Even though you scheduled two hours to work on writing your website, which should be enough time to make headway, you decide to check your emails again and take an extra-long lunch break.

When you check your schedule again, it’s time for the next to-do. Oh well, writing your website pages will have to be re-scheduled. After a momentary sense of relief knowing you can’t possibly squeeze in time for your website today, you realize that you’ll have to write the website pages at some point.

Before you block off another two hours to write your website, figure out the best way to break down this monumental task so that you’ll actually do it.

Give yourself a deadline. Some writing projects have deadlines attached but personal projects you can do “whenever” have a tendency to get done never, put an end date on it.

Break the project down into manageable tasks to sprinkle throughout your schedule.

Any writing project you do can follow a similar writing process.

If you’re working on writing your website, list all of the pages you need to write. For each page you’ll need to set aside time for:

Research – gathering supporting info
Outline – bullet points of what you’ll cover and arranging in order
Rough Draft – turn bullet points into sentences
Writing – type up a clean draft
Editing – make notes on what needs to be changed
Clean up, Polish – make corrections, read through for clarity

Create the writing project timeline. After you’ve identified all of the tasks associated with your project, estimate how long each task will take. Working backward from the deadline, schedule time to get all of the tasks done.

Do the work of writing. Now that you have a comprehensive plan, you won’t have to think about the next step. Do each step as you planned out. You’re free to have fun as you work on completing each step.

Congrats! You met your deadline and wrote your web pages!

Try following this process the next time you need to write a project that freaks you out.
Instead of giving up or putting it off –

Break it down and put it on your schedule in manageable portions and get it done!

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Affordable Southern California Vacation Spot Hides Behind Its Name…Oxnard?

Channel Islands Beach, Oxnard CA

This year my husband and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary. Of course we’d have loved to jump in a plane and flown off to some exotic locale. But with time and financial restraints we had to be a little less lavish in our summer vacation planning. I wanted to go somewhere warm, on the ocean and far enough away that we’d feel like we really “went” on vacation.

I pulled up Google Maps and ticked off all the California coastal towns we’d visited together – Mendocino, Bodega Bay, Carmel, Monterey, Morro Bay – until I scanned down to the Santa Barbara area. The hotel prices seemed a little high to sustain us for a full week. I looked around at the nearby towns – Ventura sounded familiar which was next to Oxnard. “Hummm what’s going on in a place called Oxnard?” I thought as I compared hotel prices, beach access and ocean proximity. Between the two towns, I found a nice harbor front hotel for a medium price per night in Oxnard – all requirements met.

When I told my husband John where we were going for our ten year anniversary, he set down the laundry he was folding, looked at me with disgust on his face and asked, “Oxnard?” like I’d lost my mind.

“Hey, it’s really not as bad as it sounds,” I said defending my decision. It’s got to be the words “Ox” and “Nard” together that raise eyebrows. I mean if I said we were going to “Ventura” nobody would screw their face up over that.

Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard CA

So, I have to admit I became a little nervous I’d made the wrong decision after we got off Highway 1 heading into Oxnard. We’d passed up Santa Barbara’s blue ocean views, brown sandy beaches in the foreground, and outline of the distant Channel Islands breaking horizon sight lines. Acres of flat farmland then barren sand dunes surrounded the road as I thought to myself “this can’t be all there is out here.”

Breaking free from the rural and lonely landscape, we arrived at the vibrant Channel Islands Harbor alive with restaurants, yacht clubs and boaters. Our hotel was on the peninsula which divides the harbor into three prongs. It was dinner time when we arrived. The open late Toppers Pizza we’d eat at within the hour was all aglow in red and gold lights like a Broadway show. Checking in to our modern hotel, the evening breeze wafting through the remaining balmy warmth of the day, I felt reassured that Oxnard would provide everything I wanted in a vacation destination.

Enjoying Channel Islands Beach, Oxnard CA

Over the next few weeks read about our Oxnard adventures. I’ll share stories about exploring Southern California right here in this blog. Don’t forget a hat, sunscreen and shades for a fun time under the sun!

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All the Books and Movies You Could Ever Want with “Library on the Go!”

I bought a new cell phone last month. In my world, this is news because I only upgrade when forced. Texted images were constipating my old phone, making me miss receiving some of my messages. I am pleased by the sleek technology of my new phone. The first thing I did was hook all my email accounts up then gave a brief thought to what app I would add next. After Facebook, I loaded “Library on the Go!” from the San Mateo County Library system.

“Library on the Go” has so many useful features: online video streaming, research databases, and e-books just to name a few. What I love the most is being able to search for a book or DVD (as I’m out and about) and clicking “hold.” My order is sent to the Peninsula library where my item is located, someone pulls my choice off the shelf, and then ships it to my local library where I pick it up. So easy, so convenient and so FREE!

If you’re researching a topic, binge-watching every Jane Austen movie adaptation, or reading a book series, search your library system (not just your branch) and check out the material for free. Just think about how much it would cost to buy all the DVDs and books you’d like to watch or read in a year. If there’s a good chance you won’t re-read or re-watch them – then why not check them out from the library? Now that I have the “Library on the Go!” app I’ll be tempted to check items out more often.

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Nature Stakes a Claim on San Jose’s Historic New Almaden Quicksilver Mine

Casa Grande, New Almaden
Casa Grande, New Almaden

Look closely at the rolling green hills of the Capitancillos Ridge on the southern end of San Jose, CA. At times the peaceful landscape is jarred by large pieces of rusting machinery, remnants of California’s first mine. No, gold wasn’t found in them there hills but mercury aka quicksilver. The element was used in the gold and silver mining processes to separate the precious metals from crushed ore. Lucky for the ‘49er gold rush crowd, operations to extract quicksilver from San Jose’s New Almaden mines began in 1846 a few years before the gold frenzy.

Almaden Quicksilver Park
Almaden Quicksilver Park

On our way to find out for ourselves what’s left of the 170-year-old New Almaden mine, my husband and I pass multiple new housing developments on previously rural farming land. I remembered reading that the local reservoirs contain high levels of mercury making the fish unsafe to eat. I wondered at the decision to build new homes in the area and if the residents had to be mindful of mercury exposure.

Street View of Casa Grande
Street View of Casa Grande

The suburbs transition to fields, as we take New Almaden Road off the expressway toward the forested community of historical homes nestled between Alamitos Creek and the rising hillside. Entering Casa Grande, a three-story mansion which was home to the succession of New Almaden Mine managers, our imaginations go back in time and deep underground. Antique furnished parlor, library and drawing rooms give a sense of the activities of those who lived there.

A very knowledgeable docent met us as we toured the home and made our way to the Quicksilver Mining Museum located inside Casa Grande. The interpretive museum and docent answered our questions about the mercury mining process. Examples of red cinnabar ore mined deep within the earth are on display. The process of filling tall slender flasks with liquid quicksilver after cinnabar is heated to separate mercury and sulfur is depicted. Black and white photographs of the miners hauling ore and squeezing on the lifts that took them on their decent hundreds of feet underground cover the museum walls.  Visitors catch a glimpse into what mining life must have been like.

Water tower behind Casa Grande
Water tower behind Casa Grande

Back outside we stroll through Casa Grande’s lush green yard to look up at its swaying palms and clear blue sky. Then we started down the street on a section of the 1.6 mile historic home walk that loops around Casa Grande and the Alamitos Creek. Although historic, the colorful homes circa mid- 1800’s  with white picket fences and built with a variety of materials: brick, adobe, wood are all private residences. We walked along a length of original brick sidewalk while reading the informational markers in front of each house. Soon we felt at risk of becoming Peeping Toms with residents clearly going about their day. We decided to get back to the car and see more of the area by road.

Barn at Senador Mine Trail
Barn at Senador Mine Trail

Driving around the perimeter of the Almaden Quicksilver Park I spotted rusting mining equipment jutting up from the treetops at the Hacienda park entrance. We continued along the wooded drive passing the Almaden Reservoir and recently opened access to Mt. Umunhum. Then wrapped back around the hills and entered from McAbee Road closest to the Senador Mine. Walking on the wide shaded path, we passed an old wood barn near the park entrance.

Senador Mine Furnaces
Senador Mine Furnaces
Closer look at furnaces
Closer look at furnaces

About a half mile into the walk we found the concrete chimney remains of the Senador Mine. Three crumbling furnaces where cinnabar was once roasted stand, a perfect dystopian backdrop. Markings of the past are everywhere along the park trails, from covered ore cart rails, foundations of buildings or strikingly majestic ruined equipment. I wonder at the natural beauty of the hillsides and its hints of a long forgotten internal apocalypse.

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