Friday, June 30, 2017

A Review of 'Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy' by Noelle Stevenson

"Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together... and they're not gonna let any insane quest or array of supernatural critters get in their way!"

I borrowed this book from the library because a friend of mine recently did the art for a later issue of Lumberjanes and I wanted to get to know the story before I reached her issue.  But along the way, I fell in love with the story and with these characters.

I grew up in Girl Scouts, so that is in part what endeared this story to me.  But being a Lumberjane is by and far different from being a Girl Scout.  Lumberjanes are more badass and tend to get into a little more trouble than I remember getting into as a Girl Scout.  I certainly never had to worry about being attacked by mythical creatures in the middle of Girl Scout camp!  That much I'm sure of.

I love the friendship (and in some cases more) between the girls in this story.  I love that they weren't competing with each other and any romance that you might notice in this story and purely secondary to what is happening to the girls in this book.  That was very refreshing from other books that I've read in the past where the romance is centrally located and that is what is occupying the female characters' minds.  Girls are more than lustful looks and broken hearts.  We are powerful.  We've got other things going on in our lives.

I gobbled this read up and I know that you will too.  I read this book on my Kindle and with the graphic novel view (that I just found out about), reading it there was fine, but reading it as a bound book is infinitely better.

I give 'Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy':
Thanks for Reading!


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Review of 'This One Summer' by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

"Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach.  It's their getaway, their refuge.  Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had.  But this summer is different.  Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems.  It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

In This One Summer two stellar creators redefine the teen graphic novel.  Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the team behind Skim, have collaborated on this gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of her teen age-- a story of renewal and revelation."

I've been reading more and more graphic novels since graduating.  This was an interesting one to read.  I have read another graphic novel by these two cousins before and I remember not liking it, but I think after reading this one, I am starting to get used to how they structure their stories.  It's a story that's meant to model life in a lot of ways, so it's not meant to have a solid ending.  Just like when something story-worthy happens to us, our life still continues.  There is no happily ever after, so to speak.

I loved reading about the friendship of these girls.  They talk about normal girl things such as how their bodies are changing, whether or not they're interested in anyone, they talk about movies... they are normal girls going through life with their families.  And you know what?  Sometimes stuff happens.  People change.  I appreciated that this was firmly from the perspective of Rose, so we figured things out as she figured things out.  We started understanding her family more as she did.

This isn't my absolute favorite read ever, but it was nice to be taken on a ride.  Like, I knew something was going on with her family because Rose noticed that her parents were acting differently, but I didn't try and seek out that information myself.  So because I was just waiting for more information to come at me, I could sit back and relax while I waited and took in the story.

I give 'This One Summer':
Thanks for Reading!


Monday, June 19, 2017

A Review of 'The Princess Diarist' by Carrie Fisher

Image result for the princess diarist"The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher's intimate, hilarious and revealing collection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved-- plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naivete, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized.  Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher's intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time-- and what developed behind the scenes.  And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty.  Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience."

One of my favorite memories growing up was watching Star Wars with my dad.  That's just something we did together because he loved it and so I fell in love with it too.  And of course, I fell in love with spunky Princess Leia.  This was a book I was excited for, and when my library said there was a digital copy available, I jumped at the chance to read it.

I thought it was really neat to read about behind the scenes happenings on the set of Star Wars.  It was weird to think that this was just a "small" film when it started, but I suppose even the biggest movie franchises start out as virtually unknown before they hit the big leagues.

I loved reading about Carrie when she was younger (around 19) and how she navigated such an atypical young adulthood.  It seems like she handled it with as much grace as a teenager can be expected to have.  But entering a world that's so filled with experienced adults is so much pressure and you're almost forced to become something you're not even though you know it's not authentic to who you are... I guess that's a familiar feeling to me at this point in my life.  On some level, I relate.

But my love for this book was sadly limited.  I thought too much time was devoted to the part of her life where she fell head over heels for Harrison Ford.  It started as juicy gossip, which was enjoyable at first, but... something felt like it was missing.  It felt lovesick because I think that's what the relationship ended up being.  The relationship felt very one-sided and physical.  So reading about this part of Carrie Fisher's life feeling like it should be a powerful and beautiful thing, however brief, fell flat for me.

What this book did accomplish for me was tempting me into reading other parts of Carrie Fisher's work.  Her prose was smart, funny, and easy to read while still remaining insightful.  So while I won't be buying a copy of this book for my own shelf (it's fine, I've got way too many books laying around my house anyway), I do look forward to reading more Carrie Fisher.

I give 'The Princess Diarist':

Thanks for Reading!


Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Review of 'Bike Snob Abroad: Strange Customs, Incredible Fiets, and the Quest for Cycling Paradise' by Eben Weiss (BikeSnobNYC)

"In his new book, BikeSnobNYC reaches the final frontier of cycling: riding with the family.  As his choice to take to the road with his toddler son in tow is met with bewilderment and disapproval from onlookers and the occasional motorist, he ponders why it's such a taboo.  And what does it really mean to be a bike-friendly country?  Seeking answers, he heads from the U.S. to London, Amsterdam, Gothenburg, and San Vito dei Normanni in search of an alternative.  With humorous anecdotes and his trademark biting wit and wisdom, BikeSnobNYC takes us on his most personal narrative journey yet, and ultimately shines a light on the growing pains that exist in any culture that asks smartphone-obsessed, text-happy pedestrians, the two-wheeled, and the four-wheeled to share the road."

I checked this book out a few times, the first time being a little bit after I returned home from living in the Netherlands.  So I was on this kick where biking was super important for me and it's how I got around before we got a car.  I was also seeking out books about the Netherlands.  While this book isn't 100% about life in the Netherlands, a good chunk of it is.  It also features London and New York City, both of which I have now been to.  So in hindsight, I can appreciate the New York aspects more now.

The author is a blogger who has made a living off of talking about bikes and what life is like biking in different areas.  This is part of a series of books, but this one focuses on biking in different places and how different cities accommodate and even encourage biking every day.  Places like Amsterdam and Gothenburg have really amazing infrastructure that makes biking safe for everyone and it was fun to read about places that are not quite there in terms of having all of the necessary infrastructure, but are really making the push to make this happen.  This is how biking cities are born!

For some reason I found the sections talking about biking with a child to be some of the most interesting parts.  When I lived in the Netherlands, this was something I was fascinated by-- the number of human beings you could fit on one biking apparatus.  This picture below is my favorite:

The picture above features a bakfiets (BACH-feets) where you put your children in this wheelbarrow contraption and if you're feeling generous, you can put the rain top over it so they don't have to hang out in a mobile swimming pool in the rain.  There's also a place on the back to put another child.  There are so many ways to cart your children around on a bike!  But in a lot of places where biking isn't as prevalent, many people are concerned about safety.  But these are all perfectly safe.  These things are big and heavy, it takes a little bit to get them going, especially with children in them, so you tend to take a little more time to calculate what you want to do as opposed to if you were biking by your lonesome.

Anyway!  This is a wonderful and incredibly informative read.  If you're even remotely interested in bikes, this is the read for you!

I give 'Bike Snob Abroad':

Thanks for Reading!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

I Traveled To California And Arizona! (Part 3)

And so we continue with Part 3!  Click on the highlighted words to read Part 1 and Part 2 if you're just joining us.

Friday was our last full day in San Diego.  We decided from the start that this would be a relatively low-key day, especially since there were things we needed to do in order to get ready for the next leg of our trip.  Nevertheless, we didn't want to devote the entire day to preparations, so we headed out to a totally different part of San Diego than either of us have ever been and we headed out to the very first Franciscan mission in California.  It called the Basilica San Diego de Alcala, after the Alcala in Spain.  It's a relatively small place located at the top of a hill around 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, so it's not by the water at all.  We got there pretty much right when it opened.  We got a map and then walked through the bit of museum space there was and through the church that is there, which is still an active church to this day.  We were able to see what a Franciscan's monk's space might look like, look through the gardens, and then see the tools and items that have been dug up from the on-site archaeological dig (ongoing).  Even though I'm not a very religious person, I still found this to be a peaceful place and I loved the amount of care that went into restoring this place and becoming such an important place for many.

The monks who lived here (there were supposed to be two assigned here, but there was actually just one) were in charge not just of having a place to worship, but also educating (and ultimately converting) the native Californians.  I'm uncomfortable with that whole set up, but that's what happened.  The way the exhibit talked about it made it sound like the monks incentivized conversion to Christianity by providing education that was intended to help improve their lives.  Based on what I know about colonization and what happened to Native Americans all over North America, I'd be interested in hearing about this same span of time from the perspective of Native Californians.  I'd like to know what they thought and felt about this whole situation.

From there, we decided (because of my prodding) to return to the Whaley house, but this time during the day.  So we drove back to Old Town San Diego and grabbed some lunch at Casa Guadalajara first.  I wish I had a picture of this place.  It was pretty warm in San Diego at the time, but the outdoor eating space is where they put us and with all the shade, it was significantly cooler.  The whole restaurant is so colorful and the food there is incredible.  I'm not normally a guacamole person, but I had fantastic guac on my chicken quesadilla.  It was so yummy there.  I'd love to return.  Old Town has the reputation of being SUPER touristy (because it is... there's no way around it), but this restaurant is a little off the beaten path, so I think you escape some of that really cheesy, touristy atmosphere.  Anyway, eat here.

I wanted to return to the Whaley house because I wanted to take more pictures and also during the day, you're able to pay a cheaper entry fee and then you're able to walk around the house at your own pace.  So there are positives and negatives to both the day and the night tours.  I won't post more pictures of the Whaley house here though since I posted some in the previous blog post.

The rest of the day was spent preparing for the next leg of our trip-- driving to the Grand Canyon!  Or at least about half an hour away from the Grand Canyon.  We booked an AirBnB, but this place is a little bit different: it's basically a sandbox in the middle of a scrubby desert and you camp there.  So we had to get all of these provisions that we might not normally buy if we were staying in a solid structure.  We stocked up on veggies and s'mores supplies and more importantly, firewood.  We're camping after all.  If you don't have firewood, you don't eat.  And since we're in the desert, we brought four gallons of water for drinking and then when absolutely necessary, dousing fires and cleaning.  We packed all of this into our rental car (our trusty steed) and we already had our camping things packed and ready to go.  That was our one checked bag-- a giant suitcase with our tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and a tarp.  We packed up the suitcases we used as carry-ons and then went right to bed.  We had a big day ahead of us...

Saturday, we woke up and were somewhat on a time schedule.  We knew that if we drove straight through to the Grand Canyon, it would take us about eight hours to get there from San Diego.  But we weren't driving straight through.  We had a couple stops in mind (because it's the adventures you have that really makes the trip, right?) which would amount to around 10 hours of being on the road.

One of my favorite games to play is Fallout New Vegas.  In the game, you're supposed to walk around gaining skills and eventually make your way to Las Vegas (rechristened New Vegas, since it's a post-apocalyptic world).  In this game, you spend a lot of time in the Mojave Desert.  So that's where we passed through first!  We drove in a North-Easterly direction from San Diego and drove to the Mojave Preserve.  This was a quick pass-through, but I would love to come back here sometime to explore some more.  You can apparently camp here as well.  We stopped at an old train station which has turned into a rest stop and that's where I really started reading up on this place.  There are so many different types of environments in this small part of the world-- it's a scrubby desert, but there are also sand dunes and cinder cones as well.  I would love to spend more time here (maybe in the winter sometime?).

Our next stop was a couple hours away in Oatman, Arizona.  So at this point, we've crossed the length of California (although kind of a lengthy way).  My parents visited Arizona several months before we did and they highly recommended that we go.  Why?  Because there are wild burros walking everywhere!  For some reason, they really like Oatman.  Oatman itself is a ghost town, but it has been revitalized into a tiny touristy area in the middle of the scrub desert on Route 66.  So as far as I know, no one lives here except the burros.  And they're pretty darn adorable :)  I'll leave a mess of pictures around this and the next paragraph.

I'm really glad that we stopped here, even for a little while and even though it was getting late.  The burros were so cute and I even got to feed them!  There's a lady in one of the stores who packs up cubes of, I think, hay that the burros can eat and that is relatively good for them.  And they love those treats.  You just need to show them the bag and they know exactly what they're about to get!  And sometimes you'll have a crowd around you trying to get at the same hay bite.

What was even better about this place for me was trying to leave, because that's when you really get a sense of what life is like when you're surrounded by wild burros.  We turned the car around and were about to hop on Route 66 to continue on our way when a burro went to go receive a treat and stopped in the middle of the road.  I didn't want to honk, because that seemed mean and apparently it doesn't startle them, really.  So as the driver, I waited helplessly before the kind lady we got treats from tempted the burros with more treats and cleared the road for us.  Thank you, kind lady!  And with that, we headed for Williams.

Route 66 was interesting to drive on.  It was a very beautiful place to drive-- it's so unlike Minnesota in this area, so I was just in awe everywhere we went, every curve that we took (and believe me, there were about a million hairpin turns in this part).  At one point, I just had to pull over to the side of the road to snap a picture of these formations poised dramatically by the side of the road.  It's a glorious place to drive and it's a surprisingly well-kept road.  Like, if you think of Route 66 pictured in Cars when Lightning McQueen gets to Radiator Springs, I thought it would be dusty and broken down and all that.  But it's a very smooth road.  It feels like you're gliding.

Jack and I switched driving I think one more time before we reached our campsite.  At this point, we had been in the car so long that we just wanted to get there.  Our first road trip as a married couple: survived.  It was getting darker and darker the closer we got and we were getting hungry, but we didn't want to stop because we were planning to cook dinner once we set up camp.  When we got to Williams (which is where our campsite was located), it was completely dark outside.  But not to worry, because we had the directions punched into our GPS.  What can go wrong, right?

So many things.

We followed directions as per the GPS and when we stopped, we were in front of a small, dark cabin and across the street from an old Winnebago.  We were completely safe, but something was not right... we continued down the road that was in horrible condition.  Imagine with me a dirt road with tire divets several inches deep in some areas, then the road gets all crazy so your car is tipped to the side while you're driving and with every turn of the wheel, you go over a new bump.  It's a hot mess out there in Williams back country.  And then we're driving over this in the dark.  Finally, we had been driving for a while and decided that it was time to call our host for backup.  Jack's phone had absolutely no service, but luckily my phone had very minimal service.  I could kind of access the GPS map, but more importantly, I could make and receive calls.  So a few phone calls later and a zillion bumps, we made it to our campsite!  Hurray!

It should be noted that I feel absolutely fine telling you all of this now that we're long safe at home and have survived that trip :)

I don't know how I did it, but while Jack was working on getting things in the tent, I had managed to start our campfire and get dinner started in roughly two minutes.  I must have been operating on adrenaline or something.

That first night, we ate our hobo dinners (potatoes, meat, and veggies wrapped in tin foil and tossed directly on the fire) and pretty much went right to sleep.

Tune in next time for Part 4!  We're going to the Grand Canyon next!

Thanks for Reading!


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Review of 'The Girl Who Fell to Earth' by Sophia Al-Maria

"When Sophia Al-Maria's mother sends her away from rainy Washington State to stay with her husband's desert-dwelling Bedouin family in Qatar, she intends it to be a sort of teenage cultural boot camp.  What her mother doesn't know is that there are some things about growing up that are universal.  In Qatar, Sophia is faced with a new world she'd only imagined as a child.  She sets out to find her freedom, even in the most unlikely of places.

Both family saga and coming-of-age story, The Girl Who Fell to Earth takes readers from the green valleys of the Pacific Northwest to the dunes of the Arabian Gulf and on to the sprawling chaos of Cairo.  Struggling to adapt to her nomadic lifestyle, Sophia is haunted by the feeling that she is perpetually in exile: hovering somewhere between two families, two cultures, and two worlds.  She must make a place for herself-- a complex journey that includes finding young love in the Arabian Gulf, rebellion in Cairo, and, finally, self-discovery in the mountains of Sinai.

The Girl Who Fell to Earth heralds the arrival of an electric new talent and takes us on the most personal of quests: the voyage home."

Starting in January, I joined a book club for teachers through the University of Minnesota where we read books that take place in the Middle East.  I have been fascinated by this part of the world, so pairing that fascination of mine with my desire to practice teaching and improve my teaching practice, this was a good step for me to take.  This was the first book that we read together.

I had never read anything taking place even partially in Qatar before, so it was interesting to be able to start exploring this place a little bit.  The story takes place as Qatar is starting to build up and commercialize.  Sophia's family is part of, I think, the native people of Qatar called Bedouin.

This is a story about how Sophia reconciles the two cultures she is part of and how she figures out who she is as a person (or at least starts to figure this out... it's weird how sometimes we don't figure that out until we are well into adulthood).  Her mother is from Washington and she spends a good chunk of her life there, but really doesn't fit in here.  Her mother sees no other option but to send her to her father in Qatar.  There, Sophia ALSO really doesn't fit in.  She is somewhere between these two cultures, but where these different cultures start and where Sophia finds herself in the midst of them... it's not totally clear.  And Sophia brings us on that journey.

I think I told our book club group that this is a book that I would teach to high school students.  Just dealing with this identity aspect alone is incredibly powerful and important for students this age to consider as they figure out what they want for their lives and figure out how the expectations they have for themselves fit in with what others want for them and what they ultimately choose to do.  I think reading about another character that is figuring this out (and figuring this out for quite a while too, not just as a high school student, because who has everything figured out when they graduate from high school?  I certainly didn't...).

One thing that made this read interesting was the structure of the book.  There were times when Sophia went back and forth between the present and the past and speculation and how all of these things came together.  I also appreciate that the ending wasn't nice and neat and completely tied up and ready to go.  Because life isn't that way, even if you live to be very old sometimes.  I also wonder if some of her storytelling reflects how stories are told in Bedouin culture, but I haven't found out the answer to that.

Overall, this was the book I enjoyed the most out of the books we read in this book club.  It wasn't the most popular choice in our little group, but that doesn't matter too much.

I give 'The Girl Who Fell To Earth':

Thanks for Reading!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

I Traveled to California and Arizona! (Part 2)

Welcome back!  Here's some more about my adventures I took with my husband!  Last month!  If you haven't read part 1, click HERE to read that first.

CW: Mentions of destroyed communities and suicide at the end of this post.

Wednesday morning, we got up relatively early (vacation early, so around 8) and on the recommendation of our AirBnB host, we walked to the Balboa Golf Course, because he said they had a really good breakfast there and a great view of Downtown San Diego.  So we did :)  And he wasn't lying...

After some pancakes and mimosas, we walked back to our tree house and made a plan for the day.  Turns out it was going to be a low-key day which, after doing so much museum hopping today, I was ready for.  We read in our tree house for a while and then made the drive out to Point Loma to see Cabrillo tidepools and generally see what all was out there (because we didn't really know).

Turns out there's quite a bit out there if you look hard enough.  One of the better-known places to visit there is the lighthouse, but before we made it up there, we found a bunker that was an old radio station during World War II.  I didn't know this before, but after Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, the Army (or whoever) thought that San Diego would be next.  So they really started preparing the area closest to the ocean for war, training in people to triangulate locations of ships out at sea, training them on how to use the guns, and training people in on the radio to communicate and assist with triangulating.  So we went in that bunker.  It's very small but worth visiting.  It's just down the hill from the lighthouse.  There was also another bunker slightly up the hill where they used to shoot the guns, but it was closed up tight.  I know, I jumped down in front of it to see if I could slide through the small window facing the ocean, but that was closed up with metal doors too.  I decided not to pursue it any further.  I probably would have gotten stuck in the bunker with a million spiders anyway.

The lighthouse was neat to see.  The stairway is cramped, but judging by the number of beds in the lighthouse, it could house a family of 4-5 people, which I thought was incredible.  I also didn't realize that keeping a lighthouse was a whole family affair.  It's wasn't super easy like changing out the enormous light bulb every once in a while, but you had to keep up the house itself.  Everything needed to be clean, the garden needed to be kept, and then on top of all your lighthouse responsibilities, you were also kept busy by making sure there was clean water available and other odd jobs around town.  The life of a lighthouse keeper is far from dull, I understand.
Once we finished looking around the lighthouse and grounds immediately beside it, we kept walking down a path and it turns out that we had stumbled along a really great path to observe the annual Grey Whale migration.  It's way too late in the season to see them migrating-- they're mostly up near Alaska now with their babies-- but I was excited because as some of you know (mostly if you're my immediate family), I have spent the past five spring semesters with this one fifth grade teacher and her class as a volunteer (and lately, as a substitute teacher).  One of the projects I have done with the kids is tracking the spring migration of different animals, and one of those animals has been the Grey Whale.  So to see where the whales swim by, even if I didn't actually see any whales, was super cool for me.  I'd love to return to this place in the spring (earlier this time) to see the whales swim by.  I think that would be just incredible.  I'll add that to my bucket list.

From there, we drove down to the tidepools.  There really weren't many walking paths out there, so it was just easier to drive.  Fun fact: once we got down to this low point, Jack got a message on his phone saying "Welcome to Mexico!"  Apparently, we were close enough, though we never set foot in Mexico on this trip.  Jack turned off the cellular capability on his phone at this time.  And really, it was for the best, because even though we arrived long after low tide, there were still some really interesting things to see in these tide pools.  Here are some pictures of what we saw and found:

Don't worry, it's dead.
I put a dead crab on Jack :)
Found a real crab hiding under this rock :)

Anemones cover themselves with pebbles to stay moist when they're uncovered during low tide.  How smart!
We had a card we were looking at that told us what kind of things we could find in the tidepools and we noticed that there was a lot we hadn't seen yet.  For example, we didn't see a starfish or many actual fish.  We decided that we would look up low tide for tomorrow and go to more tidepools bright and early tomorrow.

After heading "home" for a bit longer (napping, reading... it's vacation, we can do what we choose, right?), we got to meet with some family for dinner and catching up!  It was extra fun to catch up with them because they recently had a baby and she was wonderful to meet :)

Thursday was another great day.  Much like yesterday, we went to see the tidepools, but instead of driving to Point Loma again (you do have to pay to get into the park, which is kind of a drag), we drove to La Jolla to see the tidepools there.  We still didn't see a starfish, but since we got there at 9:30 AM (before low tide), we still saw a lot of really great things.  So many crabs, a lot of barnacles, limpets, and a surprising number of fish.  It was really cool.  And we were able to walk really far out into beds of seaweed that is normally covered by salt water.  That's not something we get to do every day, so that was very special.  And then of course, since we were back in La Jolla and on the beach, we just happened to be right by seal rock again, so paid the lovely neighborhood seals a second visit.  Morning time must be the optimal time to see animals.  I once visited the Minnesota Zoo in the morning with my mom and the animals were super active then.  It was the same thing here with the wild seals.  Yes, a lot were still sunbathing, but several were swimming around in the water.  One particularly sassy seal was just a kick to watch!

After we had had enough time with the seals, we decided to head over to Chicano Park.  On the day we visited Balboa Park, we were talking to someone from London who has lived in San Diego for the past few years and when she found out we were just visiting, she told us that Chicano Park was one of her favorite places to visit.  We'd never heard about this before, so we made the trip to go check it out.

The story behind Chicano Park is that this was once a big neighborhood where many people from Mexico and other parts of Central America made their homes.  One day the government decided they needed a highway that cut right through that neighborhood, so houses were torn down.  This once unified neighborhood was now split in two.  There were protests about the construction of this freeway (which now leads to Coronado, a wealthy island neighborhood near San Diego).   To help bring some semblance of a community to this place, murals have been created on the underpass itself, sharing the history and culture of the people who are here.  It was a really interesting and devastating part of the city at the same time.

Following a lunch of carnitas burritos (with pretty much the best rice ever... I can't even, you guys), we got back in the car and took the Coronado bridge to Coronado.  This bridge is extremely tall to allow ships to pass underneath it without it opening up.   So we got a great view of San Diego before driving into the fancy town of Coronado.  We didn't come for anything except the beach.  My mission was to find the Sand Castle Man, or at least his work that he left behind.  It took a while of wandering and walking in the water (which in and of itself was nice), but we did find his sand castles!  There were three of them in the same area that he completed for companies that must have been having meetings or something at Hotel Coronado (which is right on Coronado beach... I'm told that this place is rather famous, but I'd never heard of it before).  One cool thing about this beach is that there are flecks of mica in the sand which looks like gold.  It's a fancy beach.  From what I could tell, this was a great swimming beach and I could see why there were so many families there that day.  It's a really nice place to be.

In the evening, we headed into Old Town San Diego which is known for being extremely touristy, but it was good fun at the same time.  We ended up having ice cream for dinner like the healthy adults that we are and then walking up the hill to the Mormon Battalion site.  This wasn't something we expected to do, but that's part of the adventure, right?  It was an interesting museum.  I think the people working there (at least the younger people) were on their two-year mission.  They dressed up in pioneer dresses and took us through a surprisingly interactive tour.  Like, even the pictures moved and our tour guided pretended to interact with them.  It was goofy, but oddly I enjoyed it.  The whole museum was about how the Mormons came west through Westward expansion (you can't do it for free, apparently).  They had to volunteer for the U.S. Army and be prepared to fight, though they never actually fought a battle, which is good.  Still, the journey was tough and trying for everyone.  This was a free museum and the people working there are so nice.  You should pay them a visit next time you find yourself in San Diego :)
There was just one last thing that we did on this day, and it was something that I had been looking forward to for weeks when we initially found out about it: The Whaley House.  This is a house that claims to be the most haunted house in America.  I'm not sure about that, but I was so excited to go through the house.  Thomas Whaley, the patron of this house, moved here from New York and started a series of businesses throughout his life.  He was a very entrepreneurial spirit.  Anyway, he's the one who built this house (he didn't see a problem with building this house on the site where people were executed after committing crimes.  I mean, what could go wrong, right?).  The house would become a General Store and granary, a courthouse, a family home, and a small theater in its time.  He married and had children, many of whom died in the house.  His son died of scarlet fever at 18 months and I think the most famous death of his children is that of Violet.  She married in a double wedding and her marriage ended in divorce (which she had to be convinced to get).  She became so distraught that she had to be on suicide watch after her first attempt.  Her second attempt worked and she died after being brought into the house.  If you go on the evening tour, you are encouraged to take flash photography (several in any one place you stand) and look for figures and orbs of light as well as pay attention to the things you feel in your body.  I got several pictures where the lens of my camera is clean, but little lights can be seen in one picture and in a different location in the next several snapshots I take.  I swear a felt someone try to hold my hand.  You can believe or you don't have to, but this was such a fascinating experience for me and I'm really glad I got to go through the house at night.

I'll end this post here!  There are still more adventures to tell you about, so keep an eye out for that post in the next couple days!

Thanks for Reading!