Presidio Park – A San Diego Landmark

Want to take a little trip through time, back to the early days of San Diego? You can do that by exploring Presidio Park. The park is known for the tall adobe tower standing on a hill above a busy freeway. This is one of the landmark images of San Diego. The first California mission and a fort (or presidio) were built on this bluff in 1769. The original structures fell into disrepair. Bricks and materials were carted off to build the nearby town. The white adobe building you see today is a museum that dates from 1929. Its architecture is in the style of “old” San Diego, so you can easily imagine the days long ago.

Today you can tour the small Serra museum and enjoy a picnic on the grassy slopes that surround the building. The mission style of the museum is picturesque.

Desert plants decorate the landscape.

A passerby told me this is called “Papaya Popsicle.” What a great descriptive name!

The view is tremendous, taking in the bay and downtown.

The park is 40 acres, but you can easily see the museum and the area around it in about an hour. Hiking trails border the museum and lead down into a canyon. Not so energetic? You can bring a blanket and a book and hang out on the lawn and relax.

Spend an afternoon here and you’ll be walking in the footsteps of the early settlers of San Diego. They certainly knew how to pick a prime spot for a cool breeze and a clear view.

How about you? Does your hometown have a landmark you enjoy visiting?

Linking up with Image-in-ing, Little Things ThursdayWednesday Around the WorldThe Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens, Seasons, and Life Thru the Lens.

Planning the “Big” Trip – Where to Start

So you want to take that dream trip, maybe to Europe from the U.S. You’ve finally saved enough vacation days, or it’s a milestone birthday or anniversary. In your excitement, the possibilities for your itinerary make you feel like a kid in a candy store. How do you start to narrow down your choices?

A few practical suggestions may help.

1. Dream it. First ask yourself (and your traveling buddies), “Where do I most want to go?” This may seem obvious, but unless you buttonhole a few top priorities, you may get into airfares and cost considerations and lose sight of what you really want to see. If you’ve always longed to stroll the streets of Paris, put that at the top of your planning list. If a cruise down the Rhine is the most romantic place you can imagine, plan around that. In my trips to France, the D-Day beaches headed my list, and the days spent there were truly the highlight of a trip full of wonders.

2. Map it. Look at a map of all the areas you may want to visit. This could be all of Britain. Maybe France, Italy, Germany, and Austria catch your fancy. You may want to plan a trip to Eastern Europe. Use the internet to quickly find distances between places. If you want to stay in London and take day trips, figure out how far you would go to Bath, the Cotswolds, or York. How far is it from Berlin to Munich? Berlin to Prague? Berlin to Vienna? Do you see places between these points that would make a good overnight stay? Looking at a general, large map will also help you avoid backtracking and spending more time than needed getting from one point to another. I have countless spreadsheets of “sample” itineraries I’ve made. It’s my fun way to dream of travel!

3. Check transportation. One of my favorite web sites is Rome2Rio. If you are going to Europe, you can plug in any two places and find not only how long it takes to travel, but also you see all of the options – train, plane, bus, and car. You can click on the train option, for example, and see how often the trains run and the times. We took trains from Venice across the entire country of Italy to arrive at Cinque Terre. I checked the times for the three train legs to see how early we needed to leave Venice. I allowed for a change in Florence that left two later times that afternoon in case we missed our chosen time. It turned out we got stuck in the station in long lines and did miss the first two trains. The third (and last) option worked, barely. We arrived in Cinque Terre in time to enjoy a dinner of fresh-caught seafood and this view.

This may seem like a complicated step at this point in your planning, but at least make sure transportation is available. I’ve looked at some itineraries where buses are the only option, and I’ve moved those places to the bottom of my list. I prefer trains. You may prefer planes or be fine with buses, but just be sure you’re OK with what’s available.

4. Research flights. You may think this would be the first item you plan. I would rather know roughly where I want to go, then look at flights for those places. You will likely want to fly into one city and leave from another, so plan a flexible itinerary first to figure out where you want to start and end. My last trip we flew into Paris and left from Rome. Our next trip we are planning to fly into London and go home from Paris. For a good overall picture of flights available, try Skyscanner, Kayak, and Google Flights. After you find flight possibilities, head for the web site of the airlines to compare prices and book. If you’re flying with miles, of course you would check the airlines site directly. A note on American Airlines: If you are flying to Europe from the U.S. with miles, be careful of booking flights on partner British Airways. The taxes are hundreds of dollars. If you stick with American flights, the taxes currently are less than a hundred dollars. Just uncheck the British Airways option when you search.

Even if your dream trip is far in the future, you can always start planning. It’s absolutely free and may inspire you to make your dreams come true.

How about you? Are you dreaming about travel to a certain place? Do you enjoy planning trips?

Linking up with Image-in-ing, Little Things ThursdayWednesday Around the WorldThe Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens, Seasons, and Life Thru the Lens.


Toward More Calm and Meaning

The More of Less by Joshua Becker goes beyond a call to declutter, downsize, or organize. Becker focuses on the reasons to live with less. “Minimalism” he writes, “is about what it gives, not what it takes away.” A step towards minimalism, no matter if it’s just a baby step, can add so much more than you lose.

Not convinced? Here are some of the benefits he lists of owning less stuff:

More time and energy
More money
More freedom
Less distraction
Less comparison

I’m not a minimalist, but I’m constantly moving toward owning less, though I’m inconsistent. I cannot give up my shelves of beloved books. I have way too many shoes. I cannot part with my collection of 20-plus scarves even though I wear a scarf maybe twice a year. Does Becker offer help for conflicted folks like me (and maybe you)?

Yes. The parts of the book I most appreciated were the practical suggestions on how to get started if you’re not ready to donate or throw out hundreds of possessions. Start with easier categories. Save the books for last (or keep them all, your choice). I found it easy to go through those countless tiny bottles of hotel shampoo and old make-up samples and toss the lot. My history books still sit proudly in place.

Another suggestion is to experiment. If you’re not sure you want to give away those sweaters, put them in a box or closet out of sight. You can choose a period of time or just leave them there indefinitely. See if you miss items you’ve put away. This method works well for me, as it eases the drastic step of giving away many of my clothes at once. I put aside a load of older winter clothes for some weeks. I did pull out a red sweater (my favorite color and I missed it) and eventually gave away the rest of the items. Some people try counting items to keep or to donate. Others like to count the number of days they “experiment” before making a final decision. Try different plans and go with what works best for you.

Becker’s book has both philosophy and practical content. What I appreciated is his encouragement to tailor any kind of cleaning out of your possessions to what you can tolerate. What he’s advocating is “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.”

Did you wonder what the photos have to do with simple living? I went outside my front door while thinking about this book and looked around at how uncluttered nature can be. A brilliant yellow bloom cheers us. The deep green of a succulent is beautiful without any other color or ornament. A palm is so intricate yet uncomplicated. And one white orchid is infinitely lovely. These are images of the more of less.

How about you? Are you dabbling in minimalism? A happy owner of clutter?

Linking up with Image-in-ing, Little Things ThursdayWednesday Around the WorldThe Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens Seasons, and Life Thru the Lens.

Exploring Mission Trails Park

When I want to relax, I can drive a short distance from my home to Mission Trails Regional Park. A quiet visitor’s center is tucked into the hills, just off a busy road. It’s easy to live nearby and not even know this park and center is here. Once you find it, though, it offers a place to take in the view out onto the peaks jutting up from the San Diego River Valley.

Outside the center an amphitheater built into the hills provides a place for education and concerts.

Did you spot the wildlife sculptures in the amphitheater?

Inside, the center’s lobby welcomes you.

The displays are geared to teaching people about Mission Trails Regional Park–both the history and flora and fauna of the area.

Outside the center you’ll find a replica of the dwelling of the Kumeyaay Indians, who once called this park their home.

A model of the flume shows how water was diverted from the river to other places in need.

As you stroll around, you’ll find other sculptures, complete with sound effects of various animals and birds coming from speakers (that scared me, I will admit).

This late in spring, few blooms are left here. I did find these lovely purple ones.

This puffy pink bloom is the brush mallow.

You can hike on one of the many trails in the area, climb one of the 5 peaks, and relax at the river dam. Spring greens are at their best right now.

Not up for a hike? You’re always welcome to kick back in a grove of trees and enjoy the gentle breeze.

How about you? Do you live near a park that you love to visit?

Linking up with Image-in-ing, Little Things ThursdayWednesday Around the WorldThe Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens Seasons, and Life Thru the Lens.


Spring in Coronado

Spring is popping out all over in Coronado, an island in the southern part of California. We meandered around the neighborhood on a sunny afternoon, looking for color and life. A rainbow of blooms greeted us on our walk.

Coronado is home to a navy base, and many active duty and retired military families live here. Thus, the nautical themes appear in little public parks.

As much as I love vibrant color, I also appreciate the pureness of white flowers.

Looking up, you find palm trees here.

The sun set on this fine spring day, spreading golden light.

How about you? How is this season looking where you live?

Linking up with Image-in-ing, Little Things ThursdayWednesday Around the WorldThe Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens Seasons, and Life Thru the Lens.

The Rugged Cliffs of Point Loma

The cliffs of Point Loma in the San Diego area draw visitors from all over to explore and enjoy. The crashing waves provide the sound track, and the wind blows through your hair as you breathe in the salty air.

The waves pound relentlessly against the cliffs.

The constant battering has formed arches and small caves at the shoreline.

You want to be careful not to stand on the edge of the layered, crumbling land.

At low tide, you see all the rocks washed up at high tide. The water swirls around the rock, movement against stability.

What a great way to spend a weekend afternoon, taking in nature with its instability, ever-changing tidal patterns, cliffs and arches, and at bottom, solid rock. Nothing stays the same, just as life, and the beauty and aging are all wrapped up in one place. Even the moody skies are constantly on the move across the horizon.

How about you? Are you feeling strong like a rock or more fragile like the cliffs this week?

Linking up with Image-in-ing, Little Things ThursdayWednesday Around the WorldThe Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens Seasons, and Life Thru the Lens.


The Old Point Loma Lighthouse

What do you enjoy when the weather warms up and spring pulls you outdoors? One of my favorite places to go is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. I love to tromp around on the point of land that holds this old restored lighthouse.

Built in 1855, it not only contained the light but it was also home to the keeper’s family. You can imagine the children filling the small place with laughter. I bet the youngsters had fun on the spiral stairway leading to the light.

The family had horses and chickens and grew gardens.

Here’s the view from the front yard.

By the 1890s, this location atop a 400-foot cliff proved to be less than ideal for a lighthouse. The working light today stands on shore level.

The romance of the “old” is clearly a draw more than a century after it shined its light. Visitors flock here to tour the little house, climb up the winding stairs, and marvel at life on this windy promontory.

How about you? What do you enjoy exploring on a sunny day?

Linking up with Image-in-ing, Little Things ThursdayWednesday Around the WorldThe Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens Seasons, and Life Thru the Lens.


When the Path Is Uphill

How is this season looking for you? Yellow cheer blooms along the lake path this time of year. I took in all the beauty on a walk recently and thought about the uphill road I’ve been on for a few months. Maybe you’ll find some encouragement in reading a bit of my story.

What is it like to hear those words you thought were always for someone else? “You have cancer.”

While each of us knows we are not immune, the shock of reality bashing into what was only a vague concept is brutal. My road got pretty rocky within the space of one hour at the doctor.

I’m in the middle of my adventure with cancer. Here’s a bit of what I’ve experienced so far. Of course, everyone’s journey is different. I don’t know the treatment or outcome for me, so I can’t say what “works” or not. But by talking through some of what’s happened, I hope you’ll know a bit more about what it’s like. I hope you’ll find encouragement for a time when you or a friend or family member is suddenly launched on this path.

A year slipped by since my doctor gave me a reminder card for a mammogram. My results had always been normal, so why take time off work to go for this test? With the new year, new calendar, new schedule that came with retirement — OK, I would make the appointment and go. The results came back with the bottom line highlighted in yellow:

Normal mammogram with no evidence of malignancy.

Good news! But the long, involved fine print talked of a “focal asymmetry.” I was to go back for an ultrasound.

Later, more than one doctor expressed dismay that I received a highlighted printed result informing me there was no malignancy.

Partly because I did have more time to spend in a medical office, I made an appointment for an ultrasound. Just to check it out. My reading showed that “focal asymmetry” was usually some kind of shadow and turned out to be nothing of concern.

In the waiting area, clad in a little blue paper vest and my jeans, I thought about my life. For some reason, sitting there all alone with medical people bustling about, I decided to look back at the times my life was spared when I could have so easily not made it.

First, I had polio at age 2. So many polio patients didn’t make it, or ended up affected the rest of their lives. (Think President Franklin Roosevelt in his leg braces and wheelchair.) My leg healed to the point where my parents couldn’t remember which leg was afflicted. Then there was the time at age 9 I rode my bike down a busy street on a hill and somehow veered in front of a car. The driver, a family friend, later told my parents if he hadn’t been “able to stop on a dime” I would have been hit.  More recently, there was the rush-hour accident when my car was smashed between two SUVs. As I ricocheted back and forth with sounds of metal crashing, I really did think this was it. My car looked like a taco, folded front and back, but I was able to stand up and walk away with just a few bruises. (Shout out to Toyota for making a crumple-free driver’s zone.)

So God allowed me to live a healthy life thus far, and I know I’m in his hands past, present, and future.

And then the pleasant nurse called my name.

The ultrasound tech was nice but quiet as she looked at the screen. And there it was, so clear even my untrained eye could tell immediately she had found a tumor. She zoomed in and took “stills,” said she would be back with the doctor, and then left the room.

In no time the doctor came back with the tech.

“You have cancer.”

The room immediately went foggy brown. The two women stood over me as I sat on the exam table and I looked from one to the other. They were in monochrome. I had trouble focusing. I definitely had trouble formulating words.

The doctor volunteered that the next step would be a biopsy to confirm cancer. I was probably looking at a lumpectomy with radiation. I would stay a night or two in the hospital.

Out in my car, I texted my husband and a few others about the “not good news.” I needed time to gather my wits before I drove home. Immediate texts and calls came, which would be the start of an amazing support system that continues to grow and sweeten.

The refrain “I have cancer” rung in my mind as I drove home. I was on an adventure, one I would gladly forego, but one to delve into because my life depends on it.

Meanwhile, I’m focusing on the spring blooms that grow wild for a only a few weeks each year. And they are at their peak right now!

How about you? Are you in a season of welcome — or unwelcome — news? What cheers you through hard seasons?

Linking up with Image-in-ing, Little Things ThursdayWednesday Around the WorldThe Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens Seasons, and Life Thru the Lens.

When Lilacs Bloom

What signals spring for you? One of the most welcome signs of the season for me is blooming lilacs. We don’t have them where I live, but they are in the mountains about an hour’s drive from my home. The trick is that they bloom only a short time, and I’ve missed their show the last few years.

This year, I wound up the mountain in search of daffodils, another spring favorite. The early warm temperatures brought these out weeks ahead of schedule and they were almost all withered and gone. But the good side of the balmy weather is that the lilacs are early, too. What a welcome surprise!

A bush laden with lilacs has such vibrance against the background of a bare tree that still waits for this year’s leaves to sprout.

I think the lilacs take on a special beauty alongside the budding apple trees.

April’s flowers bloomed in March, and I caught them at their peak. What a refreshing day, full of sun and good conversation and the scent of spring.

How about you? Where has spring caught you by surprise this year?

Linking up with Image-in-ing, Little Things ThursdayWednesday Around the WorldThe Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens Seasons, and Life Thru the Lens.

The Butterfield Stagecoach Stopped Here

What does gold rush country look like today? One place you can visit to find out is Santa Ysabel in California. Gold found in nearby Julian in 1870 triggered a rush of ranchers and fortune seekers. This was a stagecoach stop along the Butterfield route, too. The general store built to provide supplies and feed for livestock during the boom times survives today. This historical landmark is preserved to look just as it did in the 1800s.

You can imagine the gold seekers relaxing in front of the pot-bellied stove over a game of checkers.

The ladies came here for sewing supplies.

And hats.

Of course, food was a necessity. I’m sure the customers especially enjoyed the local produce.

The store also served as a stop along the Butterfield Stage route.

So much history has passed through this adobe building. It’s been a post office and a barber shop as well as a store. It’s a fun stop when you are driving along Highway 79. You’ll likely be in your car, but listen carefully and you’ll hear echoes of the stagecoaches that thundered by so long ago.

How about you? Have you felt the layers of history in some place you’ve visited lately?

Linking up with Image-in-ing, Little Things ThursdayWednesday Around the WorldThe Good, the Random, the Fun, Through My Lens Seasons, and Life Thru the Lens.


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