Tips on How to Eat Uber Hot Chili Peppers and Other Fun Adventures of an Empty Nester

The dolphin statue in Puerto Vallarta by Bud Bottoms. It's a twin statue to the one on Stearn's Wharf in Santa Barbara.

The dolphin statue in Puerto Vallarta by Bud Bottoms. It’s a twin statue to the one at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara.

We were on vacation in Puerto Vallarta — enjoying “empty nesting” that I first wrote about  here.  We went to a brunch at a luxurious gringo resort — complete with every type of food imaginable — waffle and omelet stations, a taco bar, sushi, every type of seafood and protein known to man, plus gorgeous arrays of fruits and salads.

I was being so good, trying to stick to a high protein, low carb plate — salmon, pork, a taste of sushi. And then I saw roasted Serrano chilis near the elaborate Mexican dishes. It wouldn’t hurt to just have a taste, would it? I plunked the single chili onto my plate next to the scrambled eggs.

Serrano Pepper

Serrano Pepper

Later, sitting at the table with my husband, friends, and a person we had just met, I cut off a small bite of the chili. POW! YIKES! Help me, Jesus! How could I sit still, be polite and nod and smile?

My eyes watered, I shifted up and down in my seat and I thought I was crawling out of my skin. I was ready to jump on the table and do a happy dance!

That was the all time hottest chili. Ever. So much for the high protein low carb diet — I began stuffing my mouth with bread, tortillas, chips — anything to get the soaring heat to die.

Peppers

Peppers

The next evening at dinner, I listened to one of our friends tell a story about when he was in college and ate his first jalapeño. He was told that the secret was to keep the chili from getting any air. So right from the jar, he slipped the jalapeño into his mouth and closed his lips tight. Then he chewed and was blasted with unbelievable heat. He said the guy who told him “the secret way to eat chilis” laughed so hard that he’s probably still laughing today — 40 years later.

Now that I’m away from the freshly roasted peppers, I looked up a few things about chilis. First, serrano chilis are typically eaten raw and have a bright and biting flavor that is notably hotter than the jalapeño pepper. No kidding!

The Scoville Scale

The Scoville Scale

There is a thing called the Scoville Scale that measures the spicy heat of the pepper! Who knew? 

What makes a chili hot? The answer is capsaicin. What is that you ask? 

“Capsaicin (/kæpˈs.ɨsɪn/; 8-methylNvanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact.” — from Wikipedia.Chilito_verde

If you ever have the horribly uncomfortable occasion of biting into a super hot chili — milk and dairy is the answer. I did not know this. Do not drink water, tea or coffee. Try milk, yogurt or cheese to cut the heat. The next best thing is bread, rice or pasta.

Besides the great food and hot peppers, what did I enjoy about Puerto Vallarta? Try this!

View of beach in Puerto Vallarta.

View of beach in Puerto Vallarta.

Things Your Daughter Will Be Surprised to Learn about High School and College Sports

My daughter diving in a competition with her club team at the East LA City College pool.

My daughter diving in a competition with her club team at the East LA City College pool.

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar or You’ve Come a Long Way Baby, Part II

Isn’t it strange that women swimmers a few decades ago ended their swim careers in their teens, while it’s not uncommon to have women compete in their 20s and 30s today?

I was talking to Bonnie Adair — a former swimmer who held 35 National Age Group records during her career — including the 50-meter free for 8-and-unders that stood for 29 years. She quit swimming at age 19. Contrast that to say Olympian gold medalists Dara Torres, who swam in her fifth Olympics at age 41, Natalie Coughlin, still competing at 32, or Janet Evans who swam in the 2012 Olympic Trials at age 40.

Dara Torres

Dara Torres

 

Janet Evans

Janet Evans


What has changed so much in swimming since the 1970s that gives women the ability to still compete throughout their 20s and beyond?

Natalie Coughlin

Natalie Coughlin

I interviewed Bonnie Adair, the head coach of Loyola Marymount in LA, for another writing project I’m undertaking. She began swimming at age five and was an amazing and gifted swimmer. She said after she graduated high school she wanted to train for her third Olympic Trials. She lived at home with mom and dad and commuted to college — so she could still swim with her club team, Lakewood Aquatics coached by the legendary Jim Montrella.

images-6She noticed one day that there were no guys in her training group. They had all gone to swim on scholarship at colleges such as UCLA and USC. The girls did not. Why not, you ask? Because they didn’t have college swim teams for women! 

images-7Isn’t that stunning? My daughter, age 18, is swimming right now — this very minute — at a D1, PAC 12 school (Go Utes!). It was always her dream — since she was five years old — to swim in college and go to the Olympic Trials. She took it for granted that she had the opportunity, and that if she worked really hard, she could possibly achieve those dreams. She’s made the college dream come true and she has a couple seconds to drop for Olympic Trials 2016.

I was shocked and stunned to realize that these dreams were not remotely possible for women just a few years older than me! Their swim careers were cut short if they wanted to have a college experience where they lived on campus and were away from home. It was difficult or nearly impossible to keep competing with a club team for many years past high school.

images-5When I was in high school, we had no pool or high school swim team, boys or girls. I remember we had girls track and field and tennis. Cheerleading was the big thing for girls to do. Cheer tryouts was one of the horrors of my teen life, a total embarrassment that makes me cringe remembering being put on exhibition in front of the entire student body.

We didn’t have girls basketball or golf and I played golf. Since I didn’t make the cheerleading squad, I tried out for the boys golf team with my lifelong friend and fellow golfer Christy.  We were allowed to go to all the practices with the guys. We were the last group out on the course  — a twosome.  We were never included in any of the tournaments or competitions. I honestly don’t know if we were that much worse than the boys — or if it was because we were girls.

I wrote about how far along we’ve come from the time my parents told me I was going to college to get my MRS degree and when girls were required to take home ec in high school in “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar, or You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!” Our young women take all of this for granted. They are truly lucky and blessed to be alive today in the United States.

Of course, the main reason there are women’s collegiate sports today and weren’t say before 1972 can be summed up as Title IX — which has its benefits and its unintended consequences. This will be discussed on another day.

bathing_beautiesWhat high school and college sports did you participate in? Were there girls teams for all the boys sports?

7 Things I Miss About My Daughter Now that She’s in College

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

Kat at Carpinteria State Beach

We took our daughter to college two weeks ago. She looks really happy in the photos posted on FB and Instagram. She’s made new friends, is enjoying her team and coaches -and likes her classes.

My life is busy with new and old projects. But, I notice a quiet, a sort of waiting sense, that I didn’t feel before. It’s the little things about her that I miss.

Kat swmming

Kat swimming

I miss her cracking my back. She could give me hug, tell me to relax and say, “One, two..” and lift me up in the air before she said three. The result was cracking, popping relief.

I miss her making me laugh. Kat is funny. I love her little half smile when she knows she’s especially clever. And the crinkles around her eyes when she laughs out loud.

I miss her cleaning out my wallet and organizing it for me. She’d say, “Mom your purse is gateway hoarding.”

I miss her walking through the kitchen door after her morning workout asking me to make her eggs. I don’t have anyone to make eggs for right now — except my husband and I — and we rarely eat them.

I miss her cat Olive walking on the skinny end of her four poster bed while she watched Netflix on my laptop.

Baby Olive Bear

Baby Olive

I miss when she was very young and called yellow “lallo.”  And when we’d go to the beach and she’d strip naked as soon as her suit got wet. I used to bring a bag full of swimsuits for her.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.

I miss going to the pool and watching practice, chatting with the other swim parents. That was a luxury that I took for granted.

Yes, I miss her.

What do you miss most about your kids?

Kat making an entrance into the room.

Kat making an entrance into the room.

From Play-Dates to Play-Groups, Just Let the Kids Play!

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I saw a blogger on TV talk about “banishing the play-date.”  You can read his post here.

I reminisced about my childhood. I played in and out of neighbors’ backyards, rode bikes from dawn to dusk — with no adults bothering me.

imgres-2When I had kids, I found they didn’t have freedom like we did.

I went to Mommy and Me with my son Robert at the Palm Springs Pavilion. We learned to sing songs together and play “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot” with a dozen other moms and babies that apparently needed the coaching.  Each week, we took turns bringing snacks of grapes or string cheese. I look back at this as a training ground for the proverbial play-date.images-5

Play-dates developed from the Mommy and Me group. We had a park day, which was actually fun and healthy. Moms sat together on quilts on the grass and talked for hours while our kids played on the now-banned steel playground equipment — a super tall, steep slide, a merry-go-round, and a stagecoach that they could climb into, on top of and jump off of. Sometime during their early childhood years, our city tore out the dated, dangerous equipment and put in rubber ground and safe equipment. My kids never liked to play on the brightly-colored equipment and our park play-dates vanished.images

One day, I got a phone call from a friend. She homeschooled her daughter and hand-picked her friends for a weekly Friday Play-Date. She hired a teacher to run play-group, and each week included a lesson, a theme, craft and snack, followed by 10 minutes of unsupervised play on her backyard swing set.imgres-1

I felt honored to be in the select group. My kids had made their mark. Months later, she took me to lunch at CPK and told me she had some big news. She was uninviting one of the boys. I hardly saw this is earth shattering, but perhaps there was more to this luncheon. Maybe it was a warning!

imgresYears later, when my kids were in high school, they reconnected with friends from play-group. NOTE: This wasn’t just a play-date, it was play-group. They remembered it as if they were fellow Mouseketeers, having survived a bizarre childhood experience.

By 7th grade, I was homeschooling my daughter. Every Wednesday, I picked up her best friend from school, and brought her to my house to play until her mom got off work. This was another sort of play-date. We moms thought it was an ideal way to keep their friendship going. Since my daughter loved arts and crafts — homeschooling allowed her to try ceramics, mosaics, and quilting — I said that the two girls could do an art project each week.

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But that didn’t happen. I was tired from supervising my daughter’s activities to the half hour, and my daughter just wanted to hang out with her friend. So, I retired to my room and left them alone. After a few weeks, the friend didn’t want to come over anymore. She said she was promised an art activity and she was disappointed that they weren’t doing anything.

That makes me think about our kids and their overly structured lives. I love having quiet time. I hope my kids do, too. We need to unplug, unschedule, and let our kids regain their creativity and inner peace. They need us to leave them alone and let them be kids.DSCN0116

What to do and say when you’re facing an empty nest, or Is there life after kids? Part 1.

openwaterfinish“What are you going to do after Kat leaves?” I’ve been asked more than a few times. Yes, I’m facing an empty nest, with a soon to be senior at UCSB and my youngest going off to Utah to swim in college.

christmas cardI asked a friend the same thing last year when her youngest left for college. She said it’s unbelievable how many people ask that. She’s a busy person and didn’t think that was going to stop because her kids were living away from home. She liked to answer the question with, “I’ll be taking up underwater, upside down yoga basket-weaving.”

piano lessonsI remember when this friend and I carried our youngest on our hips, and watched our first graders begin their day with an assembly in a courtyard lined with fragrant rosemary bushes. Our babies would wriggle off our hips and run to the playground. I won’t forget the day they were escorted back to us by a horrified teacher that told us they had called their older siblings “poop heads.” Oh my! Those were the days!

friendsatbeachFor the past 25 years I have been serving as a volunteer in one form or another — and the majority of my time has been caring for others. I’ve served on boards of Ad Club and Junior League — in my life before kids. Then the preschool and elementary school boards, room mom for years, National Charity League, the swim team board, etc. It’s been a busy life, filled with great memories and friendships.

katyawnI’ve been changing diapers, wiping noses, making late night trips to the ER with sick or hurt kids, and cooking, cleaning, and driving.

It’s now going to be time for me! Isn’t that an exciting thought?

So, what am I going to do? I’ll let you know at a later date.katandrobertPhotos are from the past 21 years of being a mom. From the top: Kat at June 2014 Open Water National Championships, Robert and Kat at sunset sailing in Santa Barbara, one of 12 years of piano lessons for Robert, at the beach with friends, baby Kat yawning, and a 1997 Christmas card photo.

Top 6 Things Parents Love About Swim Meets

katdive

One of my favorite parts of being a year-round swim parent for the past 14 years has been swim meets. Not home meets, but traveling to meets. Don’t get me wrong, the home meets have their unique qualities that I’m sure I’ll miss — but, travel meets — I’ll definitely miss more.

kat at a meetThis past weekend, we were at a meet in So Cal Thursday through Sunday. Other swim parents posted photos and wrote on Facebook about how much they enjoyed the weekend and meet. My age group swim parenting days are numbered — 40 days and nights to be exact — but who’s counting? With my daughter leaving soon for college, I’m nostalgic about why I and other swim parents love meets. kat meet

My top six reasons why I love swim meets include:

  1. Spending time together.  When you are away for two to five days with your swimmer, you have a captive audience. There’s no distraction of 8 hours at school, followed by 3 hours of swim practice, and hanging out with their non-swim friends. Spending lots of time together, unfettered with household, work, and daily school responsibilities is refreshing. Enjoy your little bubble of time, treat it like a mini-vacation. Play cards, sing songs, go to the beach, have fun! You’ll look back on these days as precious memories.kat girls
  2. Nap time. When your swimmer is older, and in age groups that have prelims and finals, you’ll find yourself in your hotel — with your swimmer — for three to four hours in the middle of the day. Your swimmer needs to be off their feet and resting, so going to the beach isn’t a good choice. Nor is shopping. Bring in lunch, relax, and enjoy some of the best naps you’ll ever have!50Free
  3. Walking. Being at a meet for days on end, without cooking, cleaning, working, etc. allows plenty of time to walk. I walk during warm-ups and warm-downs. I walk with my husband, with friends, and by myself. I look forward to checking out the areas by the pools on foot. Walking gets rid of my nervous energy and walking for hours and miles has to be good for me!kat shelby
  4. Friendships. You’ll spend lots of hours with team parents under the pop-up tent. Mostly, swim parents are generous, encouraging and have the common interest of your team and kids’ successes at heart. I’ve made great friends with parents from other teams and I look forward to seeing them at the away meets. I had a great conversation this past weekend with a parent of another graduating senior. Our daughters are in separate towns, on separate teams, yet they are both swimming in college next year — and going through the same excitements and anxieties. I’ll look forward to seeing these parents in the future, during our college phase of swim meets.kat medals
  5. Watching your swimmer race. What is it about watching your child race that is so rewarding and exciting? I’m not sure, but if you have the answer, please let me know. It’s so exciting when they do well. I love that feeling when I see their hard work pay off and watch their growth as a person and an athlete.kat relays
  6. Sushi. We eat lots of sushi at swim meets. I consider myself a sushi connoisseur and I’ve scouted for the best sushi restaurants near pools throughout Southern California.  My daughter likes to eat sushi at meets, too. It’s healthy, light, provides her with the right fuel to race. My top three favorite Sushi restaurants include: bake-lobster-roll_resize

O Fine Japanese Cuisine, Laguna Beach and Irvine, CAojc_00100_resize

Zen Sushi, Lake Forest, CA, and Orange Roll and Sushi, Fullerton, CA.sunset-laguna-roll_resizeAre you a swim parent, or a sports parent? What are your favorite things about going to away meets?

robert meet

I Am Woman Hear Me Roar … or, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby…

imagesDuring my weekend visit with my son at UCSB, we discovered how far women have come from my generation to his. (Yes, I’m talking about the same son that tried to give away the cat on Facebook — read about that here. And, he’s the one that wrote about his crazy mom for his senior project — read about that here.)imgres-1

We were out to dinner at The Palms in Carpinteria, where you grill your own steaks or halibut, with one of my best friends, my son Robert, and his girlfriend (She’s a poet and an CCS English Lit major. You can read some of her poetry here).

imgresMy friend and I talked about home ec, and we wondered if it was offered as a major in this day and age? My mom was a home ec major in the 1950s, by the way.

My son said, “They really DID have an MRS degree!”

“Not only was it a college major,” I said, “but we were required to take home ec in high school.”

“Only the girls, that is,” my friend said.

“WHAT?!” both Robert and his girlfriend were horrified. How alien to their lives is a gender-based school requirement. We explained that the boys took wood-working or shop.

My son thought for minute and asked, “What did you learn in home ec?”

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“Scrambled eggs, sewing an apron, sex ed, how to clip coupons and general household budgeting,” I answered.P1017847

“All of those things should be taught to men and women,” the kids said.  

I think they are right.

Thinking of those days, made me remember the Virginia Slims cigarette campaign which began in 1968, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!” 

Also, Helen Reddy, and her song, “I Am Woman.” 

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Do colleges or high schools still offer home ec? Do you think home ec should be required for both men and women? Let me know your thoughts.