Day 93: Puttin’ on the Ritz

Today is Day 93 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

My friend, Debbi, and I decided to walk along a section of the 1200 mile California Coastal Trail in Half Moon Bay, California.Ritz Carlton

The section of trail we chose starts at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay, a luxury hotel with a golf course and spa. I had never been to the hotel that sits on the bluff above Half Moon Bay with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean (see photo at right). Click Here to see more photos of the elite digs.

After a self-guided tour through the hotel and grounds, we headed north on the California Coastal Trail. It was bright and sunny – and very hot. Shady spots are few and far between on the trail. Frankly, it’s usually overcast and cool on the coast, so we didn’t expect the heat. We wished we had umbrellas.

At one point, we unintentionally veered off trail and wound up on a service road. We found our way back to the trail and passed by a pasture dotted with native California plants. Two horses (one white and one brown) were in the middle of the pasture and when Debbi called to them they sauntered over to the fence to receive some pets. 🙂

We headed back toward the opulent Ritz-Carlton Hotel and a song popped into my head that Papa used to sing, Puttin’ on the Ritz.  It was written by Irving Berlin in 1929.  Click on the link to watch Fred Astaire sing and dance to the song.


Day 92: Fall’s on the Ground!

Today is Day 92 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

“Fall is in the air,” or maybe a more appropriate phrase would be, “Fall is on the ground.”  Walking is getting treacherous these days because I have to dodge seeds, pods, and cones that are dropping from trees and littering the sidewalks and streets.  The squirrels can’t pick them up fast enough.

The culprit trees include:magnolia cone and seeds

Magnolias – They drop huge, green, scaly cones that contain red seeds. According to the U.S. National Arboretum the cone isn’t really a cone, but a woody fruit. Really? Look at the picture (on the right). Looks like a cone to me. 🙂

Liquidambars aka sweetgums – The leaves of these trees put on a stunning show of color during the fall, but starting in September they drop hard, spiky seed balls that can trip walkers and skaters – and be very painful for bare-footers.

Birch Trees – Their long, soft, dangly seed pods are messy but not a real trip hazard.

oak appleOaks – We have two prevalent varieties in California: the Valley Oak and the Coastal Live Oak. Both drop conical-shaped acorns that the squirrels hoard with glee. They also drop round, brownish-red balls called galls or oak-apples (see photo) that are really a home for wasp larvae. A wasp deposits eggs in the base of a leaf bud which causes the oak tree to form a structure around the developing larvae to protect the tree from harm. Grown wasps exit the galls by drilling little holes in them, and eventually the galls fall off of the tree. Galls don’t harm the tree at all. To learn more click on the links above.

Sequoias or Redwoods –  These huge trees drop hard, ball-shaped seed cones about the size of a large strawberry.  National Geographic offers a free video that explains how the trees depend on fire such as the Rim Fire or Yosemite Fire in order to reproduce.

Pines – We have a few varieties in our neighborhood that drop big, spiky pine cones. There’s even a Coulter Pine that drops gigantic cones (8-14 inches or so) that people often use for fall and winter crafts and gifts.

It’s a mine field of seeds, pods, and cones right now, so be careful out there! Of course, these little nature hazards make great materials for fall crafts. I may collect some on my next walk to create an autumn wreath.

Day 91: Sidewalk Chalk Art!

Today, August 14, 2013 is Day 91 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

Getting up the hill was a little easier today, and as I came down the hill and walked into the flatlands I was rewarded with the most  chalk for sidewalkstunning sidewalk art!  About 30 concrete panels were covered in chalk drawings in pink, blue, yellow, green, and white.

I stepped gingerly over the artwork, admiring pictures of the sun, rainbows, stars, moons, hearts, people, houses, and palm trees. Plus, there were peace signs throughout the work with words printed in chalk that included “peace,” “love,” “happy,” “mom,” and “sister love.” Those last two words made me think of two young girls – sisters – who spent an afternoon using sidewalk chalk to share their happiness with the world. That just made my day. 🙂

I recalled that Papa used to give me chunks of carpenter’s chalk to draw with on the sidewalk in front of our home. I started wondering about chalk, what it’s made of, and the history of chalk.

On Wikipedia it says, “Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms.”

As I searched a little further, I found a wonderful science essay on the NPR website, Thinking Too Much About Chalk, by Robert Krulwich. He wrote that in the 1860s a British naturalist and evolutionary theorist named Thomas Huxley looked at chalk under a microscope and discovered that emiliania_huxleyi_coccolithophore_-plos-chalk is composed of the ancient skeletons of marine life (see picture on left). Krulwich further commented:

“But I’m charmed by the idea that when a school teacher writes her name on a blackboard on the first day of class, what she’s really doing is crushing the skeletons of terribly ancient earthlings into a form that spells out the name ‘Mrs. Guttenheimer.’ Does she know? Thomas Huxley thinks she should.

Whoever knows the true history of chalk, he told the workers at Norwich, will have ‘a truer, and therefore a better, conception of this wonderful universe.’  

At one time carpenter’s chalk, as well as blackboard and sidewalk chalk, were composed of natural chalk, but today it’s made from a mineral called gypsum (calcium sulfate).

You can make your own sidewalk chalk – try this DIY recipe from Martha Stewart.


Days 89 & 90: Walking Uphill and Downhill

Days 89 & 90 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

Yesterday, I walked with my friend Suzanne through the flatlands of my neighborhood.  It’s a pleasant walk, but I told her I thought I was ready to try something more challenging.

Ever since I began the Papa’s Walk Challenge, I have stuck to walking on flat ground and avoided hills. I didn’t think I had the stamina to hill imagetackle them.

So, today, I decided to take a different route that started out with a climb to a hilltop near my home. The last time I walked up that hill was in January 2013, and I had to stop midway to catch my breath.  My goal, was to walk up the hill without stopping.

I did it! I walked slowly, and I was huffing and puffing along the way, but I made it to the top without taking a break. Then, I enjoyed the downhill walk to the flatlands and followed my usual walking route.

My stamina has improved over the past few months – and I’m certain it’s a result of walking every day. I’m looking forward to tackling more hills in the weeks to come especially in light of a study by Austrian researchers that showed the benefits of uphill and downhill walking as follows:

  • Walking uphill lowers tryglycerides by 11 percent compared with 6.8 percent while walking downhill.
  • Downhill walking improved glucose tolerance by 8.2 percent compared with 4.5 percent while uphill walking.

The researchers think the difference may be a result of more concentric muscle activity while going uphill and more eccentric activity going downhill. Who knew?



Days 87 & 88: Water, Fire, & A Swear Word

September 10th and 11th, 2013, were days 87 & 88 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.   

water-towerYesterday afternoon, I met my friend Barb for a walk through a wooded residential section of Menlo Park, California.  We came across a huge water tank on a fenced lot owned by the O’Connor Tract Co-Op Water District, a privately owned water company that operates independently from the municipal water district.

Barb told me that during the California drought in the late ’80’s and early ’90s, water usage was rationed by the municipal district and people stopped watering their lawns, etc. The yards throughout the neighborhood were brown. However, the tract that is serviced by O’Connor stayed green because residents in the O’Connor tract weren’t rationed.

I wondered about the source of the water. Is there a well? I went online to find information but came up empty. If you know anything about the history of the O’Connor Tract Co-Op Water District and/or the source of their water, please post it here.

Today, September 11th, my friend Debbi and I walked around the downtown area of Menlo Park. We walked for firefighterabout an hour, but because we hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks, we were focused on catching up through conversation.

On the way home, we passed by the Menlo Park fire station with 340 small American flags planted on the front lawn to commemorate the 340 firefighters who died as a result of the tragic terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001.

That led us to a conversation about the current Mount Diablo fire. Debbi was appalled by the robbers who broke into the lockers at the fire station to steal the fire fighters’ wedding rings, wallets, and other valuables. Debbi called those criminals “$%&!r@?ds”! I had never heard that word before, but there was never a more appropriate or funny word for the lowlifes who stole from the heroic firefighters. Sometimes, a good swear word says it all.

Day 86: Chicken Squawk Walk!

Today is Day 86 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.  

Midway through my walk today, I heard chickens squawking. I paused and listened intently to see where the squawks were coming from. Theychicken were coming from the backyard of a well-manicured residence. I peeked through the wrought iron gate and saw two birds cackling up a storm in the secured driveway. They were really loud and I wondered if the neighbors ever complained.

My husband and I have toyed with the idea of raising backyard chickens, and I was inspired by this incident to look into it when I got home. I discovered that From Cities to Suburbs, Raising Backyard Chickens Is All the Rage! Seems our food sources are becoming so unreliable that people are opting for a safer source – their own backyard!

I found several helpful websites with instructions on how to raise backyard chickens such as

And at SuburbanChicken.comI learned that chickens are the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus-Rex!

I also found the Top 10 Tips for Urban and Suburban Chicken Keepers.

The one piece of advice that all of these sites give is to check your city zoning laws first. Some urban and suburban areas allow chickens but others don’t. Ordinances may limit the number of chickens you can have, and determine whether or not you can have a rooster. Find out your city zoning ordinances and codes about chickens at

My city allows residents to raise backyard chickens, but limits the number to three. What do your city ordinances say?


Day 85: A Bicycle Built for Two

Today is Day 85 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

As I started my walk this morning, a bicycle built for two swooshed by me. A man and woman, decked out Bicycle Built for Twoin neon-chartreuse bike gear, were getting their morning workout. The man was seated on the front of the bike and was leaning forward intensely focused on pedaling. The woman was sitting more upright in the rear seat, and was coasting. She didn’t seem to be taking the ride as seriously as her tandem partner.

baby bike seatYou don’t see a bicycle built for two every day or people riding tandem on a bike.  So, I was really surprised when just a few blocks later I saw a father riding his bike with his infant son in a bicycle carrier seat that fit on the front handlebars of the bike.  They both seemed to be having a great time.  Only the child was outfitted with a helmet and I wished the dad took the same care of his own noggin.

Seeing these tandem riders make me think of a song Papa sang from time to time that he called, Daisy. The song is actually titled Daisy Bell and is popularly known as Bicycle Built for Two. It was written at the end of the 19th century and the lyrics include these lines:

“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do,Daisy Bell

I’m half crazy all for the love of you.

It won’t be a stylish marriage,

I can’t afford a carriage,

But you’d look sweet upon the seat

Of a bicycle built for two.”

The song has an interesting history that you can learn more about on Wikipedia. There, you can click on a link to hear the original version of the song sung by Edward Favor that was recorded in 1894 by the Edison Phonograph Company. Or, listen to an updated version of Daisy Bell for children on


Day 84: “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here”

Today is Day 84 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

On my walk today, I noticed that the sign, “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here,” is popping up on lawns Drive Like Your Kids Live Here Signthroughout my neighborhood. It’s a big red sign that’s hard to miss. (See picture.)

In my neighborhood, the speed limit is clearly posted as 25 MPH on most residential streets. Plus, there are yellow caution signs that say “Children at Play.”  Apparently, it’s not enough, and the residents have taken to posting signs of their own to slow down the traffic. Does it work?

The signs direct people to visit the website, I went to the site and found an article by ABC News titled, Would This Convince You To Put On The Brake? Here’s an excerpt:

“If you appeal to someone’s heart, or someone’s emotions, can you get them to change behavior? It’s a standard tactic for advertisers, and now one woman has taken a page from the Madison Avenue playbook to try to influence how we drive.

“Petulia Pugliares lives on a busy residential intersection in Wethersfield, Conn., south of Hartford. Her home sits smack between two elementary schools and a high school.

“That doesn’t seem to faze the drivers though. ‘Cars go by way too fast, especially during the morning and evening commute,’ says Pugliares, who has witnessed numerous accidents, and was even struck by a car herself as she walked the neighborhood. Frustrated, she came up with a simple campaign to try to get drivers to slow down.

“Her message, printed on bright, red lawn and street signs reads, ‘Drive Like Your Kids Live Here.’

“Pugliares’ words seem to work. ‘It has that hit-home effect. It really resonates and makes them slow down,’ she told ABC News.”

I rarely see kids playing in or near the streets where the signs are posted. Kids don’t play in the streets like they did when Papa or I were children. If you’re not going to let your kid play in/near the street – what’s the point of the sign? If there are already speed limit and child safety signs erected by the city, posting more signs seems redundant. I undersand the intention behind the sign, but I’m not convinced they’re effective or needed. Frankly, I think they’re an unnecessary eyesore on the neighborhood landscape. Of course, your mileage may vary. :)

Would you slow down if you saw this sign?

Day 83: Snap, Crackle, and Pop!

Today is Day 83 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

I made a lot of noise as I walked down a tree-lined street today. The trees had dropped what looked like peppercorns – and there were thousands of them on the sidewalk. I was enjoying Chinese Pistache Tree Berriesthe sound of the snap, crackle, and pop of the seeds beneath my feet. Occasionally the little, hard berries acted like rollers and I slipped and slid across them.

I saw a woman (about 60-ish) sweeping the tiny berries from her sidewalk into the street. I said, “Hello,” and mentioned that I enjoyed the crunchy sound the berries made. She said, “These are very messy trees, but the colors of the leaves during the fall are so beautiful, it’s worth cleaning up the mess.” 

I asked if she knew the name of the tree and she said it was a Chinese Pistache. She added, Chinese Pistache Tree“They are planted in front of every home for the next two blocks. There are male and female trees. Only the female trees produce berries, so the male trees aren’t messy at all.” She pointed out a male tree two doors away. Turning back to the female tree in front of her home she repeated, “The colorful autumn leaves make the mess worthwhile.”

I asked if the berries were edible. “The birds eat them,” she replied. I thanked her for the information and continued on my way.

When I got home I discovered some interesting history and facts about the Chinese Pistache tree at, including this: “Growing a Pistache is a kind of a historical and religious experience. The name comes from Persian “pistah” which is the name of the nut-bearing pistachio tree. There is no poison associated with ANY PART of the Pistache tree (how many other trees can you say that about?). In fact, most Pistache species produce resins which have been used by man since 50 A.D. The Bible is full of references to the Pistache…The terebinth tree mentioned in the Bible—the tree that provided shade to nomadic wanderers–is a Pistache.”

I am amazed at how much I learn on my “Papa Walks.” 


Day 82: Follow the Bouncing Ball!

Today is Day 82 of the Papa’s Walk Challenge.

This morning, I was surprised by a soccer ball that was bouncing and rolling in the gutter, blown along by the wind. No one was around to claim it. I imagined some lucky kid would find it later in the day and kick it around a field.

Just a block beyond where I saw the renegade soccer ball, I passed by a tattered golf bag sitting on a street curb in front of a house. I peeredballs through the hole in the bag to see some golf irons and three golf balls. It looked like it was free for the taking, but because there wasn’t a sign that said “free,” I left it alone.

About a half mile beyond the golf balls, I noticed a basketball hoop in a driveway – and there, tucked between the hedge and the front lawn, was a basketball. The thought of the homeowner catching me trespassing to retrieve the ball and shoot a few hoops made me laugh out loud.

I walked another mile and came to a small island park in the middle of an intersection. It’s covered with grass, has a picnic table, a waste receptacle, and is home to seven trees: 2 magnificent redwoods, 1 oak, and 4 other varieties. A man was playing catch with his Labrador dog who dutifully retrieved a tennis ball every time it was thrown.

That made me think of Papa. He found dozens of tennis balls in the street on his walks over the years. A neighbor had a tennis court and failed to recover the balls that were accidently lobbed over the fence. Papa saved the balls for his grandchildren to play with whenever they visited.

As I was nearing the end of my walk, I passed by a daycare home and noticed several 3-or-4-year-olds attempting to bounce foursquare balls in the yard where they play. It really takes some coordination to get the hang of bouncing a ball. I was amused by their antics and admired their focus and dedication to mastering the technique.

Bouncy rubber balls are an age-old toy. I was surprised to learn that rubber balls were used in Mesoamerican games 3,500 years ago. Click here to read the fascinating history of rubber balls.