Students win big in clean air calendar contest

A lucky thirteen local kids learned some fun and creative ways to get around town without creating air pollution, thanks to a recent calendar art contest, sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District and SBCAG Traffic Solutions.

JoJo Relyea, age 10, a student at May Grisham Elementary School in Orcutt, was the grand prize winner of a free bicycle donated by Bicycle Bob’s in Santa Barbara, and a $100 savings bond contributed by Santa Barbara Bank and Trust.

Her winning picture, which graces the calendar cover, features colorful butterflies with the message: “Creative ideas for transportation will make our world beautiful.” JoJo said that she was playing outside on a warm day and spotted a butterfly that became the inspiration for her winning artwork. “If you want to go to your friend’s house, ride your bike instead of having your parents drive you – and that will keep our air clean.”

The other winners were:

Josef Gottwald, Age 11, The Howard School, Carpinteria: “My picture is about electric buses.”

Veronica Duran, Age 12, Jonata Elementary School, Buellton: “Bike riding is the way to prevent air pollution.”

Dana Illes, Age 7, Oak Valley School, Buellton: “A train can carry lots of people.”

Sabrina Sorich, Age 12, Goleta Valley Junior High: “Fly Free in the Clean Air!”

Kyle Saunders, Age 10, Santa Barbara Christian School: “People using alternate forms of transportation to keep the air clean.”

Corina Brown, Age 12, Vista de las Cruces School, Gaviota: “My picture is about pollution and why it should be stopped.”

Helena Davila, Age 8, Montecito Union School: “Walking is a lot more fun than riding in a car!”

Rylan Ross, Age 12, Vandenberg Middle School, Lompoc: “Outdoor play the clean air way!”

Stephanie Zirretta, Age 10, Adams Elementary School, Santa Barbara: “The way to go!”

Matthew Ray Willis, Age 8, Fillmore Elementary School, Lompoc: “My picture is about the walking school bus.”

Jose Lopez, Age 7, Harding Elementary School, Santa Barbara: “My picture is about being kind to the air.”

Ben Brewer, Age 6, Monroe Elementary School, Santa Barbara: “Bike riding is fun!”

They each received $50 savings bonds from Santa Barbara Bank and Trust.

Local artist Daniel Girard designed the clever calendar, using a medieval castle theme to integrate the artwork and photographs of the children.

Calendars are available to county residents upon request while supplies last. To request one, call the APCD at 961.8800.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 30, 2004.

Dropping the Ball on Annual Resolutions

Bratislava New Year Fireworks, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Bratislava New Year Fireworks, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Like many otherwise rational people, I like to take some time at the end of each December to reflect on my accomplishments of the past year and set goals for the next one that will help transform me into a more organized, healthier, wholesome person with a better body and a much cleaner house.

While I haven’t accomplished all that I would have liked to in 2004, a look back at the history of my New Year’s resolutions tells me that at least I’m continuing to make progress every year.

Resolution #1

1990: I will get back to the weight on my Driver’s License.

1997: I will get back to my weight when I got married.

2002: I will follow my new diet religiously until I get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

2005: I will try to develop a realistic attitude about my weight, buy myself pretty clothes and develop my personality. (Confession: I’d like to take credit for this line, but truthfully it’s what my father said about me the first time he saw me when I was an hour old.)

Resolution #2

1989: I will not spend my money frivolously and save enough money to put a down payment on a small house in Santa Barbara.

1992: I will stay on a strict budget and save enough to put a down payment on a small house in Goleta.

1998: I will not spend any money at all on anything, under any circumstances, and save enough to put a down payment on a small house in Isla Vista, with the help of my parents and anyone else who might want to invest.

2003: I will not spend my money frivolously and save enough to put a down payment on a small used car.

2004: I will stop buying so many new pairs of shoes.

2005: I will try to keep my expenses below 110 percent of my income.

Resolution #3

2003: I will stop smoking.

2004: I will stop smoking.

2005: I will stop smoking. (Confession #2: I never started smoking in the first place, but I always like to give myself one easy thing that I know I can accomplish to make myself feel better about this whole New Year’s resolution thing.)

Resolution #4

2003: I will spend more time with my family.

2004: I will spend more quality time with my family.

2005: I will redefine quality time with my family to mean that we all have to be awake, with no one yelling, but not necessarily doing the same activity in the same room at the same time.

Resolution #5

1997: I will treat my body as a temple and eat only healthy, organic foods.

2000: I will only order out for pizza once a week.

2002: I will remember that Chuck’s Mai Tais do not count as a serving of fruit, even though they come with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry. Apparently the celery in a Brophy Brother’s Bloody Mary doesn’t count as a vegetable either.

2003: I will sit down with my family and eat a healthy, balanced meal at least once a week.

2005: I will eat a piece of dark chocolate and I will drink a glass of red wine every night, but only for the good of my health.

Resolution #6

2001: I will hold my ground with my boss and not let him push me around.

2002: I will not let my sadistic boss drive me to homicidal thoughts.

2003: I will get a new boss.

2005: I will tell my boss how much I appreciate him and take every opportunity I can to suck up to him, so I can get a raise and not work on Fridays.

Resolution #7

1982: I will write a book before I’m 30.

1995: I will write a book before I’m 40.

2003: I will read at least 10 books a year whose titles I’m not embarrassed to talk about.

2005: I will stop letting those People Magazines pile up by my bedside and actually finish them.

Resolution #8

1993: I will not fight with my boyfriend about household chores.

1994: I will not fight with my husband about household chores.

1999: My husband will stop pretending he knows how to fix the car and I will stop pretending I am the least bit competent in the kitchen.

2003: My husband will stop pretending he doesn’t see the pile of laundry that needs to be folded and I will stop pretending I don’t know how to plunge the toilet and pump my own gas.

2005: My husband will make sure I have gas in my car if I give him enough warning when the tank is low and I will stop making New Year’s resolutions on behalf of other people.

Resolution #9

2005: (finally a new one) I will put away a dollar in a little jar every day and maybe when I retire I’ll be able to afford an R.V. that I can park somewhere in Santa Barbara. (Confession #3: Who am I kidding? Pass the wine and chocolate!)

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 30, 2004.

Eastside dental clinic gets new site, mission

One of the things that you hear in this world a lot is that dental disease is the only sickness that is almost 100 percent preventable,” said David Landecker, executive director of Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, whose newest project, the Eastside Family Dental Clinic, will celebrate its grand opening Jan. 13, from 3:30 to 6 p.m.

The dental clinic recently moved into a roomy, new 2,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art space, at 923 N. Milpas St. It had been housed in an 800-square-foot building on Carrillo Street.

In addition to offering basic dental services – like exams, X-rays, cleanings, fluoride, root canals, fillings and nonsurgical extractions – to low-income families for as little as $15 for children and $20 for adults, one of the key components of the project is the dental education center. The center will focus on teaching children how to care for their teeth.

“The idea is to bring preschool (and elementary school) classes here, or when kids come in …,” Landecker said. “We’ve got a computer and all kinds of dental stuff. It’s just to kind of make the office a little more fun and little more friendly.”

The timing of the new center couldn’t be more perfect for the Assistance League of Santa Barbara, which recently decided to take on dental education as a new programming area.

The Assistance League was aware that dental care was one of the most serious health needs for the working poor, families that had working incomes but not necessarily dental insurance, said Sarah de Tagyos, who is heading up the Assistance League’s volunteer effort. The research also found that a lack of preventative care and regular checkups led to more serious dental problems.

Working with Dr. J.C. Ramirez, the clinic’s dental director, and Georgia Lee Miller, who heads up the county’s Children’s Dental Disease Prevention Program, the Assistance League has donated hygiene kits and dental health activity books for children.

Assistance League volunteers will also help staff the education center, along with volunteers from Direct Relief International. In addition, major donations coming from Paul and Leslie Ridley-Tree, the Weingart Foundation, Michael Towbes, the Ann Jackson Family Foundation, the Hutton Foundation, Joel and Vasanti Fithian, Susan Levin, the Outhwaite Foundation, the Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation, among others.

However, the clinic is still $140,000 short of its $1.4 million fund-raising campaign, said development director Terra Basche.

As the only dental clinic of its kind, the clinic is available for anyone in the community; however, Landecker emphasized the importance of serving children.

“Our real mission … is really to take care of children, and to educate children about their teeth,” he said.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 23, 2004.

Lab now center of school’s attention

With fund raising down to a science, Peabody at last gets chance to explore.

Those ubiquitous blue-and-yellow “If You Build It They Will Learn” bumper stickers from Peabody Charter School were replaced by a new slogan Thursday — “We Built It! Now Watch Us Learn” — as Principal Pat Morales cut the ribbon on the long-awaited Exploration Center.

“Yes, we built it and, yes, we will raise the rest of the money (approximately $1 million) to pay for it,” Morales said to the hundreds of children and their families who gathered to celebrate the center’s opening.

The seeds for the $4 million learning center were planted in 1998, when voters passed a $25 million bond issue to fund new libraries for several Santa Barbara County schools, of which $800,000 was allocated to Peabody. Inspired by the school’s motto, “think of the possibilities,” the school’s leaders envisioned something much grander than just a library. They wanted a full-scale learning center that would live on into the future, utilizing cutting-edge technology.

In talking about the vision for the project, Morales said the focus was always on the future, “sending our message into the future that children are important.”

“It’s not just about a building,” Tom Cullen, board member of the Peabody Charter School Foundation, said of the new library, computer center and science lab. “It’s about delivering on the American Dream for our children.”

The fund raising done by the school community would be impressive under any circumstances, but it’s particularly notable given that 43 percent of the families of Peabody’s 720 students live at or below the poverty level. A total of 18,000 volunteer hours have been contributed this year alone, according to school officials.

“Kids brought in change and parents cut hair,” Cullen said of the many different fund-raising efforts.

“It’s all a reality because of you,” said Morales, who noted that kindergarten, first- and second-grade students were not even born when the fund raising began seven years ago.

The new facility overlooks an outdoor courtyard, and features 49 computer workstations, a big screen presentation area, 15,000 books, a fireplace and reading lounge and a fully equipped science lab.

“I knew it would take time. It’s going to take us even more time to finish the fund raising,” Morales said.

Citigroup presented the school with a $20,000 check at the center’s opening. There are also many additional sponsorship opportunities available at the Exploration Center, which will be open to the public for after-hours classes and educational opportunities for an additional 20 hours a week.

For more information call the school at 563.1172, visit or e-mail Morales at

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 23. 2004.

Family ways sometimes leave a lot to be desired

Photo by luist & his inner pig,

Photo by luist & his inner pig,

Tribal customs can be a mystery to outsiders. Are you fine with that?

“Feliz Navidad,” sang those sweet, high-pitched voices of the fourth and fifth grade children.
“I want to wish you a Peaceful Solstice. I want to wish you a Happy Hanukkah. I want to wish you a Joyful Kwanza. I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart.”
It was the most politically correct holiday concert I’d ever seen.
If only my own holiday rituals could be so inclusive.
There’s one very important fact about marriage that gets lost in the sea of white silk and perfect place settings that all of those bridal magazines are so enamored with.
You don’t just marry a man; you marry an entire family.
With that family comes decades worth of holiday rituals that are guaranteed to be different than your own.
And let’s be honest here, when it comes to holiday celebrations, different isn’t just different — it’s plain wrong.
So after we’ve cleaned up all of that wrapping paper and eaten our last bite of Christmas turkey and we pull out a deck of cards this year, I’ll have to ask, once again: “Are we playing Dinaberg or Klobucher rules?” Because Klobucher rules are weird. It’s like they actually read the directions or something. And they don’t cheat, which I take as an affront to every thing my father ever taught me.
I love my husband’s family, but sometimes when I’m with them I feel like I’m an anthropologist digging through exotic terrain.
I should have known I was in for trouble when we were first dating and my future husband took me out for a lovely birthday dinner. The food was fabulous. He’d invited only my favorite friends and bought me that perfect pair of earrings I had slyly hinted that I wanted.
It was when he took me home that the trouble began.
There was no cake.
No cake.
Not just no chocolate cake, but no cake whatsoever.
“But we had Crème Brulee at the restaurant,” he protested, like that had anything to do with my missing birthday cake.
He didn’t understand. Birthdays are a big deal in my family. They last at least a month (several months in my mother’s case), with both family and friend versions of the celebration.
The specifics may vary a little from year to year, but one thing doesn’t. There is always cake.
And by the way, the proper way to figure out birthday candles is your age plus “one to grow on.” This is science.
“A little more is always better” is my family’s philosophy.
My husband comes from a mother who fed four growing kids on two Chinese dinners from Ming-ons.
I, on the other hand, come from a Jewish mother.
So I know that if, God forbid, you have a party and there aren’t leftovers for at least a week, you didn’t make enough food.
It’s enough to make you feel guilty for a year.
And if you feel guilty about something you have to talk about it, right?
In my family you have to talk about everything. And talk, and talk, and talk … until you’re so tired of talking you forgot what you were talking about.
Then you can talk about that.
My husband’s family doesn’t get the whole talking thing. Mostly they’re “just fine” with just about everything.
But how do they really feel? We’ll never know. And that’s “just fine” with them.
I, for one, have never been “just fine” about anything in my life.
I certainly wasn’t “just fine” that one year we had Thanksgiving dinner at my ex-Uncle’s house. Sure they had turkey and a killer game of Pictionary but there were no mashed potatoes.
That’s right. Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes.
Can you imagine such a thing? No wonder he’s an ex-Uncle.
Which is why my sister and I spent the latter part of that evening driving around in search of mashed potatoes. It simply wouldn’t have been Thanksgiving without them.
And when we finally found them at a Thai restaurant they were the most delicious potatoes we’d ever tasted.
Kind of like that gigantic flourless chocolate cake the year after my husband didn’t buy me a cake.
“As if I’d ever forget again,” he barked.
“See, that’s why we talked about it so much honey,” I mentioned for about the 12th time that year.
“Fine,” he said. “Just fine.”
When Leslie is not studying the tribal customs of her in-laws, she can be reached at For more columns visit

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 23, 2004.

Annual rituals are often as important and appreciated as the season

Photo by

Photo by

No matter how you celebrate this holiday season, chances are it will be remarkably similar to the way you celebrated last year. December is a time that we cling to our family traditions — even when those traditions consist of, for example, not celebrating Christmas by going to a movie and then out for Chinese food, as many Jewish families do.

While the religious observances of the season are an important part of the celebration for some, for others the holidays are more about family and the sense of connectedness that enjoying the annual rituals reinforces.

Whatever the activity — whether it’s decorating the tree with the family, lighting the menorah during Hanukkah, exchanging special gifts, preparing traditional meals, sending cards, baking cookies, clothing the homeless or hosting gatherings at your home, it becomes a tradition when it’s repeated each year.

“These traditions are the factors that help hold us together and help us identify who we are,” said sociologist Herbert Smith. “If it’s done enough, people expect it and if it’s positive enough, people want it. The key is not so much of doing anything elaborate or expensive; anything that’s done within the family that creates a sense of ‘we-ness’ is what you want to establish.”

Here’s a look at how some local families will be celebrating that “sense of we-ness” this holiday season and in the years to come.

“Spending quality time with family you wouldn’t normally get to see,” is a favorite part of the holidays for student Rollin Gartzke, a sentiment echoed by many.

Another student, Tony Tan, said he likes, “Seeing all my old relatives and just talking about life in general.”

Gift giving also plays a part in family favorites.

“Some of my favorite traditions are letting the kids open one present on Christmas Eve, playing Christmas music while we decorate the tree, and driving around to look at neighborhood Christmas lights,” said Matt Randmaa, an electrical engineer.

Dos Pueblos High student Rashad Crew said his favorite holiday tradition was “giving presents and spinning dreidels.

“Christmas breakfast is a big deal in our family, involving Chelsea rolls, grapefruit and an attempt by parents to stretch out the meal as long as possible. It has become a time-honored tradition for the kids to lobby constantly for an end to breakfast and a start of the opening of presents,” said Steve Parry, a venture capitalist.

Whether it’s Chelsea rolls or turkey, tamales or latkes, food definitely plays a big role in South Coast holiday celebrations.

“Eating latkes, spinning the dreidel and making pictures of cool holiday things,” are some of 10th-grader Emily Solomon’s favorite traditions.

“Eating latkes and opening presents” also got a vote from 10th-grader Ariel Horwitz.

“Each year, my extended family, despite having not the slightest bit of Mexican ancestry, has tamales with rice, beans and salsa for Christmas dinner. How this came about, I do not know; someone just decided that having tamales each year would be a novel idea,” said Grant Smith, a Cate School sophomore.

“Also, every year since I can remember, my family put up a quilted Advent calendar with Velcro pieces on the first of each December. Until about two years ago, my sister and I would argue every morning over who would get to put up the day’s piece, which I suppose is a tradition in itself,” said Smith, who added, “I’ve since let go and allow her to put all of the pieces up.”

“Some of my favorite holiday traditions are everyone going to the local elementary school to play baseball, football and handball while the Christmas feast is cooking, and baking Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve day then having the family over that night to eat them … The kids put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer then go online to to see where Santa is located,” said Kathy Randmaa, an attorney.

“I like going up to the mountains after Christmas and having another big celebration there and playing in the snow. I also like driving around looking at Christmas lights,” said Randmaa’s third-grade son, Kurtis.

Indeed our childhood memories often become more vivid at Christmas.

“The holiday tradition I remember as a child was going to my grandfather’s house on Christmas Day. There were seven granddaughters and he always bought us identical dolls and had a dressmaker make three or four outfits for these dolls, said Diane Freeman, a nurse.

“Grandfather had a hard time changing this habit and the last doll I got from him was in my senior year in high school when he gave us all three-foot tall dolls that would walk with you if you held her hand,” Freeman said.

“I grew up in a Jewish home, so we celebrated Hanukkah when I was small,” said Daniel T. Colbert, a venture capitalist. “We did the usual things — lighting of the candles each night. While I was small, we received presents each of the eight nights! In those years, we felt luckier than our Christian friends! As an adult with my own family, we would always walk the neighborhood in the evening near Christmas, to see the lights on all the houses.”

Just think, as you admire the lights in your own neighborhood this year, inside they could be celebrating the holidays with traditions like some of these.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 16, 2004.


Photo by Michael Schwarzenberger, Pixabay.

Photo by Michael Schwarzenberger, Pixabay.

Sometimes a simple gift you make yourself can be the best gift of all. Here are a few ideas to get those creative juices flowing.

It’s hard to go wrong with a gift you make yourself. But many people end up saying goodbye to each holiday season with a closet full of good intentions and half-finished projects. The non-Martha Stewarts among us have learned the hard way that you have to pick realistic projects.

Here are a few suggestions for gifts that are not too late to make:

Fun with Photos

Santa Barbara Scrapbooks (918 Chapala St., 962.5099) offers mini albums that can be put together easily in an evening, said manager Amy Jakubowski. They also offer premade photo calendars that you just plop your photos in, journals to decorate, handmade card kits and shadow boxes, which convert scrapbook pages into wall hangings.

Personalized Stationery

Craft Essentials (187 S. Turnpike Road, 681.3115) has a nice selection of monogrammed initial rubber stamps and blank cards and stationery. Pick your favorite style and stamp up a set of notecards. For an elegant look, you can even emboss the stamped initial with gold powder. Tie the cards together with raffia or ribbon and you’ve got a great gift.


Susie Bigelow makes this Swedish liquor in big batches, some to keep and some to give away. In either case, it will keep you warm at night. (Per batch) simmer about four cups water in a large pot for about an hour with a few cut-up oranges, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks. Strain the mixture, then add a quart of port (or cheap red wine) 1/3-cup sugar, and brandy to taste. Heat mixture and pour over almonds and raisins. Serve warm. Bigelow gives it away in pretty jugs (either new or recycled) with the raisin and almond mixture tied to the neck in colorful saran wrap.

“A Personalized Gift

…is the best gift of all,” said Stuart Lewis, owner of 2000 Degrees (1206 State St., 882.1817). At $7 a day for adults and $4 for children, you can deck out everyone on your list with handmade ceramics such as custom drawer pulls, ornaments, mugs, plates, frames, surfboards and just about any animal you can think of. Ceramics take two to three days to fire, Lewis said, so there’s still time. Also new are mosaics, which can be taken home right away and have no studio fee associated with them.

Around the Corner

…at Art Essentials (32 E. Victoria St., 965.5456) is a wealth of craft kits to make your own alarm clocks, salt-and-pepper shakers, ceramic boxes, frames, jewelry and more. Most of these are designed for kids, so they’re easy and fast for all ages to use, said salesman Joseph Truelove.

One of the Only

…things nicer than giving a handmade card is giving someone a bunch of them, that they can be given away for occasions such as birthdays, new babies and thank yous. Michaels Arts & Crafts (183 N. Fairview Ave., 967.7119) offers everything you need to make an assortment of cards to give away, including dozens of pre-made, pre-cut kits.

Cookies Are Another

…”can’t miss” homemade gift that just about anyone will appreciate. And if you run out of time to actually make them, you can always mix up the ingredients in an attractive container and stick a bow on it for ready-made cookie mix. Red and Green M&M cookies look especially festive done this way.

Another Favorite Last-Minute gift is reindeer food for Rudolph & Co.

Mix a cup oatmeal, a cup sugar and red or green sugar crystals with glitter.

You can either put it in baggies, tied with ribbons, or if you use a jar, layer the ingredients, sand art-style, with oatmeal on the top and the bottom. Include the poem: “It’s the night before Christmas and all through the house, everyone has eaten — even the mouse. You give Santa some cookies and a glass of milk, too. Don’t forget the reindeer — please give them some food. Open this bag and sprinkle outside. Hop into bed — Santa’s soon to arrive.”

Gardening Gloves

You can pick up a nice set of canvas gardening gloves at Orchard Supply Hardware (125 N. Fairview Ave. 681.1500) then use acrylic craft paint (available at any art supply or craft store) to stencil on a flowerpot, leaves, flowers, etc. You can also sponge paint the gloves and personalize them with the recipient’s name or something like, “Grandma’s Garden” or “Rosie’s Posies.”

Customized Candles

Personalize inexpensive candles from Pacific Co. (3309-A State St. near Gelson’s Market, 682.9552) with favorite quotes printed on clear mailing labels or rubber stamp images on tissue paper, and then use a heat gun to attach them to the candles. You can even combine these two techniques by attaching pretty printed tissue to the candles with the heat gun, then sticking favorite quotes and sayings over that for a collaged look. Or have children draw pictures on the tissue paper for a one-of-a-kind candle creation.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 16, 2004.

Memory Post brings Memorials to the Digital Age

With the spirits of Mr. Rogers, Bob Hope and Aunt Sevelta on its development team, its no wonder that Goleta-based is on a roll. Launched in January 2003, the Internet service to celebrate life events has already been featured on national television and has users from all over the world.

The project started three years ago when his Great Aunt Sevelta passed away, said Tosh Bulger, who runs the site along with wife Monica and web designer Safa Scott. Sevelta’s funeral excluded a lot of the family, so he “decided to make a website where people could go and leave stories.”

The site caught on with family members, with about 30 people posting stories about Sevelta. Inspiration struck when one of Tosh’s cousins told him “This isn’t just for our family; everybody could use it.”

The Bulgers had already collaborated on a consulting company, Santa Barbara Techworks, when inspiration struck for “We heard that the only thing making money on the Internet was porn,” Monica said. “We wanted to do something positive and profitable.” They self-funded the enterprise with an inheritance from Sevelta, working other jobs and going to grad school at UCSB at the same time. “Most of the work actually took place between 6 and 2 a.m.,” Tosh said.

The site is designed primarily for broadband users. “We built it for the future, ” he said. Although with digital camera sales eclipsing that of analog film-based cameras in market share and dollar value, according to Business Week, the future is gaining ground pretty quickly.

“What we are is an online scrapbook … we started with memorials, but now its really a family website,” Monica said.

The interface is simple, offering a collaborative site to share photos, stories, create personal home pages, a guest book and more. The first guest invites his family and friends to view the site, add photos and stories and so on, all for free. It’s also free to the original user for the first 90 days, with optional upgrades that include adding additional images (the first 25 are free) and special projects like adding audio and video.

The Bulgers have become experts in guerrilla marketing. For example, when Mr. Rogers died, they created a Memorypost for him and paid for the site to come up first on search engines. They had people from all over the world visit the site to pay tribute.

“It seems to be almost cathartic,” said Tosh. “A lot of times in the memorial they write directly to the person,” said Monica. They did a similar memorial site for Bob Hope, again garnering worldwide attention from both individuals and the media.

This is more than just a commercial enterprise for the Bulgers. “Our goal is to connect people,” said Monica. In addition to the memorials, popular subjects for sites are family reunions, destination weddings and, of course, new babies. “We’ll have fathers rush to post pictures, literally minutes after their baby is born,” smiled Monica. “It’s so cute. They’re so proud.”

Surely Aunt Sevelta is looking on with pride somewhere as well.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 12, 2004.

Building blocks of Hanukkah tradition

Lego Menorah by Elijah,

Lego Menorah by Elijah,

Santa Barbara’s Hanukkah festivities began a new way Tuesday night, when many families gathered at La Cumbre Plaza to build a six-foot-tall menorah out of Legos.

Young and old alike had a great time celebrating by lighting the candles for the first night of Hanukkah, playing the dreidel game to earn chocolate coins or gelt, and eating traditional foods like latkes and doughnuts.

Both latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts are eaten on Hanukkah because they are fried in oil, which symbolizes the miracle of the oil found in a lamp in a decimated temple. It seemed to be only enough to burn for one night yet, miraculously, it burned for eight days. This is why the menorah is lighted for eight nights and Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights.

Throughout the eight-day holiday, families play the dreidel game and eat traditional foods. Most families also exchange gifts, although in some families, only the children receive presents.

“We celebrate Hanukkah by lighting the candles each night, singing the traditional songs and reading books. Of course, there is always a little gift attached to the celebration. Mostly, it is just being together and enjoying this very festive holiday,” said Shaunah Smith.

With so many mixed marriages, many families create their own, modified versions of the Hanukkah celebration.

Tisha Levy was raised a Catholic, but her husband is Jewish and they are raising their two sons to be Jewish. When Hanukkah comes around she decorates her entire house in blue and white, including a tree with only Hanukkah ornaments. “We have this Merry Hanukkah Troll doll on the top,” she laughed.

Her sister also made her a stunning silver wreath with blue glass dreidels and Jewish stars, which decorates her front door each December.

Like most families, every night the Levys light the candles and say the Hanukkah prayers. “It’s really interesting to try to teach the kids not to blow out the candles (like birthday candles),” she said. She also reads Hanukkah books to her sons, like “My Merry Hanukkah” and “Jalapeño Bagel.”

Other popular children’s titles include “A Confused Hanukkah;” “Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah;” “Spin the Dreidel;” and “Papa’s Latkes.”

Levy noted there actually are some positive aspects to Hanukkah becoming a more commercial holiday. “My mother-in-law told me when her kids were growing up it was really hard-to-find Hanukkah wrapping paper and toys and books and stuff,” she said.

That’s certainly not the case anymore.

To join in the Hanukkah celebration and learn more about the traditions, why not participate in some of these free, upcoming events:

Erev Shabbat/Hanukkah with the Congregation B’nail B’rith Band Friday, 7- 8:15 p.m.; Congregation B’nai B’rith, 1000 San Antonio Creek Road; 964.7869 x16.

Hanukkah Children’s Book Reading Sunday, 10-11:30 a.m.; Borders, 7000 Marketplace Drive; 683.1544.

Family Hanukkah Celebration and Concert featuring storyteller Michael Katz Sunday, 4-5:30 p.m.; Congregation B’nai B’rith, 1000 San Antonio Creek Road; 964.7869 x16.


Rolling the Dreidel

Playing the dreidel game is a lot of fun for children of all ages. The four letters that appear on the four corners of a dreidel allude to the miracle of Hanukkah. They spell out Nes (N-miracle), Gimel (G-great), Hay (H-happened) and Shin (S-there, meaning in Israel).

To begin the game, each player should have about 20 items (chocolate coins, or gelt, peppermint candies, chips, etc.).

Each person puts one piece of candy in the middle of the table. Then each person takes a turn at spinning the dreidel. The Hebrew letter on each side of the dreidel tell you what to do:

= If you roll a Nun you neither pay nor gain anything.

= If you roll a Gimel you win everything.

= If you roll a Hay you win half.

= If you roll a Shin you lose everything.

When only one piece of candy or no candy is left in the middle each player adds another piece of candy. When a player has all the candy, that person wins!

To play online visit

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 9, 2004.

Cottage pushes for chance to spring into action

Pending environmental review, hospital renovation could start in a few months

Warning a project delay will ultimately cost the community more money and may threaten health-care services, Cottage Health System officials last week pushed the city Planning Commission to move quickly to approve a new, $407 million regional hospital.

The rebuilding program, due to begin in 2005 with completion by 2012, involves replacing the existing hospital, to meet new seismic standards. It also includes the construction of three nursing pavilions, a new entrance at Castillo and Pueblo streets, and a diagnostic and therapeutic wing on the Junipero Street side of the complex.

Cottage plans to use a combination of hospital reserves, a tax-exempt bond issue, foundation assets, and a major community fund-raising effort to pay for the project, but will not rely on tax dollars.

Construction could begin in the spring, but first it must get past an environmental review, the first phase of which was heard Dec. 2.

About 70 people attended the meeting but many left early as the discussion stretched to nearly five hours. It was clear there was strong support for the state-of-the-art hospital but also many concerns about the effects on the surrounding neighborhood. Speakers expressed concerns about construction, traffic and environmental impacts.

“Given that the purpose of the hospital is to improve our community’s health and given that Santa Barbara is often a front-runner in implementing proactive environmental practices that often exceed the requirements of law, the redesign of Cottage Hospital should be viewed as an opportunity to implement the best possible protections of health and environment,” said Kira Schmidt, executive director of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.

Her sentiments were echoed by representatives from the Citizen’s Planning Association and Heal the Ocean, both of whom also suggested a closer look at the sewage system and possible development of a sewage treatment plant for the hospital.

This was the first public meeting in which the project’s draft environmental impact report was discussed. Public comment ends Dec. 15 and the matter must return to the commission for final approval early next year.

For a copy of the report visit Comments may be sent to Irma Unzueta, the project planner for the city, via e-mail to or P.O. Box 1990, Santa Barbara 93102.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on December 9, 2004.