My Holiday Calendar

Image courtesy of [image creator name] /

Image courtesy of  /

When I was a kid Halloween was by far the wackiest holiday we had. Adults were actually giving us candy for starters, not to mention letting us stay up late, wear makeup and run screaming down the street. How could you not love a holiday like that?

Halloween is still one of my favorites.

It’s unpredictable. How else would you ever know that your staid insurance agent had a slutty nurse fantasy or that your rowdy next door neighbor has secretly always wanted to be a nun?

If you’re lucky you get to do the Monster Mash at a party where dastardly drinks, murderous martinis, and creepy cocktails are served. Plus there’s no cooking involved and plenty of chocolate. What’s not to like?

While Halloween once undoubtedly wore the holiday crown with pride, a bunch of new holidays have since cropped up. Rather than try to keep up with all of them-there are hundreds and it’s so hard to know what Hallmark and the rest of the cool kids will be celebrating by 2020-I’ve decided to do you a favor and provide you with my very own hand-selected list of favorites.

For example, I bet you don’t know that November 1, the day after Halloween, is not just Why They Call That Hangover Cocktail a Bloody Mary Day but also the Third Annual Give Up Your “Shoulds” Day. According to founder Damon L. Jacobs, for this one day we are invited to “give up a certain ‘should’ that leads to stress, guilt, misery, or any sort of sadness.” Last year people gave up “shoulds” like “I should clean the house,” “I should go to the gym,” “I should be making more money” and “I should stop eating all of the leftover Halloween candy.”

I’m not too sure about celebrating “Give Up Your Shoulds” Day, first because I would never give up candy on principle, and second, because if I gave up “shoulds” I fear it “would” leave me with nothing to talk about.

I would, however, definitely like to celebrate Cookie Monster Day on November 2, which I hope is brought to you by the letter “C” for chocolate chips. We’ll be celebrating at our house, in case anyone wants to stop with by with a batch of the white chocolate macadamia nut kind.

Stay Home Because You’re Well Day (November 30) also has potential-not that I would ever do that, boss-as do National Chocolate Covered Anything Day (December 16), No Interruptions Day (December 31) and National Compliment Day (January 24).

Of course I can’t leave out my favorite Seinfeld holiday Festivus, “for the rest of us,” featuring an undecorated aluminum pole in place of a Christmas tree and an “Airing of Grievances,” where everyone gets to air out their grudges and bitterness toward each other. Don’t you just love family traditions?

I’d certainly like to make Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day (January 31) one of our traditions; especially if the bubble wrap is wrapped around that new Mac Laptop I’ve had my eye on.

For February we’ll be celebrating Spunky Old Broads Day (February 1), which kicks off Spunky Old Broads Month. There’s also Laugh and Get Rich Day on February 8th and Read in the Bathtub Day on February 9th, both worthy activities for this spunky old broad.

I’m also looking forward to Barbie Day on March 9th, Potato Chip Day on March 14th and National She’s Funny That Way Day on March 31st.

In April there’s Tangible Karma Day on the 2nd, National Deep Dish Pizza Day on the 5th and Talk Like Shakespeare Day on the 23rd. In May we’ve got National Two Different Colored Shoes Day on the 3rd, Respect for Chickens Day on the 4th, National Day of Reason on the 5th (where I reason I’ll have a couple of margaritas out of respect for Cinco De Mayo), Tuba Day on the 6th and Free Comic Book Day on the 7th. So much to celebrate. Thank goodness I get that week off for the holidays.

Next it’s time to do Do-Dah Day (June 4), Upsy Daisy Day (June 8), Please Take My Children to Work Day (June 27) and National Columnists Day (June 28) one I’m sure you’ll all be celebrating by sending me chocolate samples so I can write about my favorites for National Chocolate Day (July 7). July also brings SCUD (Savor the Comic, Unplug the Drama) Day on the 8th, Embrace Your Geekiness Day on the 13th and National Talk in an Elevator Day on July 29th.

Crackers Over the Keyboard Day is August 28th and the 30th is National Toasted Marshmallow Day. September is my birthday month, so of course we’ll all be celebrating all month long and through the first couple of weeks of October. Then we’ve got National Chocolate Cupcake Day on the 18th, iPod Day on the 23rd, World Psoriasis Day on the 29th and before we know it, Halloween will be here again.

I’d better go get my costume ready.

When Leslie’s not plotting her holiday celebrations, she can be reached at For more columns visit Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on October 29, 2010.

The Upside of Arguments

Photo by David Castillo Dominici,

Photo by David Castillo Dominici,

Though it pains me to admit it, I’ve got a mean streak when it comes to arguments. Whether I’m right or wrong, or even arguing about something I don’t really care about—I like to win.

So does my husband.

This can lead to some heated discussions, most of which are amusing and some of which are actually our busy parent version of foreplay.

So you can imagine how hot I got when-in yet another scientific example of something I knew instinctually must be true—I came across a University of Michigan study that found that expressing your complaints and frustrations can actually help you live longer.

Did you hear that, honey? Told you so.

According to the study, married women who squelched their anger when they felt wronged by their husbands died earlier than wives who expressed their anger.

Good thing I pride myself on keeping a squelch-free house. I am going to live forever.

Of course the Michigan researchers and a whole arsenal of psychologists agree that fighting a “good” fight can be healthy, but that fighting dirty might be just as bad as letting your hostility simmer. Was I so dead set on winning my arguments that I was crossing the line between healthy discourse and downright nastiness?

I wasn’t sure, so like any logical yet lazy 21st century lady in search of information, I decided to take a quiz on the Internet at


“The results of the test you just took indicate that you are not a bad fighter, but you still have a lot to learn when it comes to your fighting style.”

I can live with that.

Then I read on.

“A lack of focus is the cause of many overly long, exhausting fights. Do you carry grudges about old conflicts and bring them up time and time again?” Of course I do! It’s called nostalgia. That’s a big part of how we keep the love alive. Without all of those misty water-colored memories of long lost battles we’d have so much less to argue about.

And yet, the quiz still advised me to, “Do your best not to bring them up all at once! When you’re in the heat of the moment, try not to let your judgment be clouded by old hurts and buried issues it’s certainly not easy when you’re seeing red, but it’s for the best. Keep focused on the issue at hand, and learn to recognize when enough is enough.”

That sounds familiar. In fact that logic is a lot like my husband’s frequent plea, “Can we just fight about one thing at a time?”

Aurgh. There’s even data to back that one up. I hate losing. Now I’ll have to bring up something from 1993 to torment him with.

According to research from the Gottman Institute in Chicago, to argue in a healthy fashion couples should “edit their arguments.” I should be able to handle that, right? I’m a professional editor. But seriously, “refrain from saying out loud every single angry thought during an argument. Sometimes, talking about sensitive topics can turn really ugly if everything is let out. Couples who edit their arguments are consistently much happier than those who don’t.”

You mean I shouldn’t explain every one of my husband’s faults to him in excruciating detail and if he doesn’t agree with me the first time, then I shouldn’t say it over and over again in an ever more shrill tone of voice? You mean I shouldn’t constantly nag him with my well-intentioned and ever-so-helpful suggestions about how to fix his shortcomings?

Nope. The health quiz experts advised me to “avoid irony all together. Ideally use even-handed logic to settle your arguments.”

Excuse me. No irony, no sarcasm, no satire, no mockery, no way! Where will I sharpen my wit if not in the soft underbelly of my beloved hubby? And even more importantly, if I have to use logic to win my arguments, how can I possibly win?

When Leslie’s not strategizing to win her next battle of the blurbs, she can be reached at For more columns visit  Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on October 22, 2010.

My Kind of Playground

Viva ELVIS - Courtesy Julie Aucoin, Aria Resort

Viva ELVIS – Courtesy Julie Aucoin, Aria Resort

Once you have children, those moments when you feel completely relaxed are few and far between. I think I had one once in the early 90s and then another time in 2002 when I was zonked out on cold medicine, but until recently, that’s about it. And it occurs to me that I didn’t even have a kid in the 90s, so that must have just been anticipation. It’s not that being a mom isn’t absolutely wonderful, precious and fulfilling at least 77 percent of the time, but it’s almost never relaxing.

But once in a harvest moon the stars align just right and someone offers you and your husband a free trip to Las Vegas on the exact same weekend that someone else offers to take your son camping and, miracle of miracles, your kid’s soccer team has a bye that weekend.

Talk about timing.

I’ve heard rumors that younger, childless people stay out late and drink cocktails with fancy names on a regular basis, and I have a vague foggy memory of doing something like that myself once upon another lifetime. I’ve also heard alien mumblings about sleeping in, massages, long baths and spa treatments, but again, it had been a long, long while since I had indulged in anything that luscious.

I shooed away any guilty thoughts about lazy Saturdays as I lay soaking in a vanilla-scented spa tub at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, which is surely one of the least Vegas-like hotels on the strip. For some reason everything in this hotel smells like vanilla – although I’m guessing the reason is that they pump in the scent of vanilla. And, dare I say it; the opulent decor is tasteful by Vegas standards. From the curved 250-feet-long by 24-feet-high water wall that greets you along with the valet, to the stunning-but understated-for-Vegas-anyway, Maya Lin silver sculpture of the Colorado River that flows above the registration desk-this is hardly a typical hotel.

The Aria is the largest hotel in the world to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, but it also features the most technologically advanced guest rooms in the country, as my husband discovered when he put new grey hairs onto my head by accidentally pushing the “sleep” button, where one click closes the curtains, shuts down all of the electronics and turns off all the lights.

Luckily I was out of the tub at that point.

Even the casino has eco-friendly features like slot machine bases that serve as floor air-conditioning and specialized air curtains that help minimize the impact of tobacco smoke and perhaps pump the vanilla scent in. Of course neither of those things stopped us from losing what could have been a very nice pair of shoes at the Craps tables, but it was fun anyway.

We were wined and dined through a global variety of cuisines at the Town Square Center, with yummy nibbles and cocktails from Cana Latin Kitchen & Bar (South American), Texas de Brazil (Brazilian by way of Texas), Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant & Bar (Island-inspired), BRIO Tuscan Grille (Northern Italian) and Blue Martini (all-American alcohol). Then in a lovely coincidence, we were able to meet up with some of our best friends from Santa Barbara who happened to be spending their anniversary in Vegas.

Meeting for late night drinks (yes, more drinks) at the Aria’s View Bar, where my husband and our male friend were more drawn to the view of our sexy waitress’ accoutrements than the (also excellent) view of the strip, we couldn’t help but giggle at how much fun it was to be out late and not worrying about babysitters’ curfews.

The next morning it was spa time. Spa just happens to be one of my favorite words in the English language. My Vita Boost Facial was wonderfully relaxing and my skin looked great afterward, unlike some of the facials I’ve had where “bringing all of the impurities to the surface” actually makes your skin look worse. Not only that, the lovely Gina gave me paraffin treatments as well, leaving my hands and feet ever so soft and happy.

Then it was on to more gourmet cuisine (don’t miss the stuffed piquillo peppers, pintxo de chorizos and the churros with chili chocolate sauce at Julian Serrano), and my discovery of what a pleasant daytime beverage white sangria can be.

After a tour of Crystals, an impressive 500,000-square-foot retail/dining area at CityCenter featuring gorgeous galleries and stores like Prada, Christian Dior, Bulgari, Carolina Herrera, Hermes, Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels, it was time to tour the shopping areas of Town Square Center, where the more along the lines of my budget retailers like Old Navy, Victoria’s Secret, Borders, Lucky Brand Jeans and Bebe reside.

Spa treatments, gourmet food and shopping all in the same day! This is my kind of playtime. But it got even better. After returning to BRIO for yummy crab cakes and Mezza Chicken Limone, they treated us to Cirque Du Soleil’s newest offering, Viva ELVIS, an energetic fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music that had us bopping our heads and singing along with the King. Watching the show was actually one of the few times in this decidedly adult weekend that I wished my son had been with us, as it was definitely an entertaining event that kids of all ages would appreciate.

As for the rest, well, sometimes it’s good to get away from it all and play like a grownup.

When Leslie’s not fantasizing about her return to the Aria spa, she can be reached at For more columns visit Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on October 15, 2010.

Top Shelf — Works From Local Authors

Top Shelf — Works by Local Authors, originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons, Fall 2010.

Top Shelf — Works by Local Authors, originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons, Fall 2010.

THIS FALL’S HARVEST from our homegrown authors is every bit as interesting and eclectic as Santa Barbara Farmers’ Markets. Here’s a peek at what some of our local scribes will have on the bookstore shelves this season.

Travel back in time with Joan Tapper to a time when it was possible to tour The Wild West on 5 Bits a Day (Thames & Hudson). Part travel guide, part historical journey, this clever tome invites readers to climb onboard a horse or a stagecoach and enter the world of colorful characters like Wyatt Earp and Buffalo Bill Cody. The book is written like an 1880 guide to traveling, eating,
drinking and surviving in frontier America, but with a fast-paced style to
satisfy today’s readers.

 While Tapper’s book is rooted in the past, former Santa Barbara Writers Conference director Marcia Meier’s  book, Navigating the Rough Waters of Today’s Publishing World: Critical Advice for Writers from Industry Insiders (Quill Driver), casts its view firmly toward the future, setting an investigative reporter’s eye on the book publishing industry, now “going through a revolution unlike anything since Gutenberg.” Meier interviews some of the top figures in the industry to provide an insider’s gaze into the crystal ball of the future of books.

Celeste Varner, owner of the charming yarn and fiber store Loop & Leaf recently published Shibui Baby (Shibui Knits), a so-cute-it’s-hardto-resist book of sweet, yet practical, baby patterns for knitters, designed especially to work well with the unique fiber and texture combinations in the Shibui Knits (Japanese translation: “elegant with a touch of bitterness”) lines of yarn.

Top Shelf — Works by Local Authors, originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons, Fall 2010.

Top Shelf — Works by Local Authors, originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons, Fall 2010.

Architects Russell Shubin and Robin Donaldson, whose partnership comprises the award-winning Shubin + Donaldson Architects, explore the inspirations and influences behind a number of local dwellings in their gorgeously glossy book Live + Work: Modern Homes and Offices: The Southern California Architecture of Shubin + Donaldson  (ORO Editions), which showcases modern homes in Montecito, the Riviera and Toro Canyon, among others.

Inspiration often springs from unexpected sources, an idea psychotherapist Jennifer Freed explores with affectionate humor and surprising depth in her book Lessons from Stanley the Cat: Nine Lives of Everyday Wisdom  (Penguin Group). Freed, who is best known locally as a marriage and family counselor, professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute and co-founder of the teen program AHA! (Academy of the Healing Arts), “translates” her beloved feline companion’s wit and wisdom into life lessons such as “Trust your instincts and stay away from people or creatures who smell like bad things or bad moods” and “Walk proud in the body you have and all will find you appealing,” then elaborates on these simple ideas with a professional’s insight and wisdom.

Dr. Maria Chesley Fisk, an educational consultant who specializes in training adults to work with children, takes almost the opposite approach of Dr. Freed. Fisk’s book Teach Your Kids to Think: Simple Tools You Can Use Every Day (That’s Good Thinking) dissects the complexities of the latest research on intelligence and converts it into a series of easy-to-use tools for parents to use in everyday conversations with their children.

Local artist Cathy Feldman of Blue Point Books has designed the book as a fast read for busy parents, while Fisk has stuffed it full of immediately useful takeaway tips on how to converse with your child, and at the same time, strategically develop their analytical, creative, social/emotional and practical thinking skills.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Fall 2010. Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Fall 2010. Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Get Up Close and Personal with Architecture

Brian Hofer points out details on the Architectural Foundation tour. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Brian Hofer points out details on the
Architectural Foundation tour. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

To experience Santa Barbara architecture in all its glory, there’s nothing like strolling through town with an expert by your side to point out the rich history and international artistic influences that aren’t readily visible to the untrained eye.

Every weekend, trained docents from Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (, 805/965-6307) take both locals and tourists on walking journeys through the hidden courtyards, secret fountains and original adobes of downtown, focusing on architectural styles, significant and historic buildings, aesthetics and landscape history, as well as details like handmade tiles, wrought iron, stonework, balconies, doorways, archways and plantings.

The Sabado (Saturday) Tour starts in front of city hall and takes guests on a tour of De la Guerra Plaza, historic De la Guerra Adobe, El Paseo, Hill-Carrillo AdobeMeridian Studios, Lobero Theatre and more. The Domingo (Sunday) Tour, which starts at the Central Library, focuses on historic art and architecture of downtown Santa Barbara as it was reborn after the 1925 earthquake, including the library and its famous murals, La Arcada Court, the historic Arlington, The Granada and other architectural delights. You’ll also learn about Santa Barbara’s architectural history and how the Women’s League and Pearl Chase forced us to maintain architectural integrity, beautiful public park spaces and rich landscapes. Both tours start at 10 a.m. and last about 1-1 /2  hours. The foundation asks for a $10 donation per person, and proceeds go toward scholarships and other community programs.

Walking Wednesdays with Santa Barbara Walks is a clever new way to get some after-work exercise and experience the beauty of our local environment. The group, which is a project of COAST (Coalition for Sustainable Transportation, 805/875-3562), meets at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of every month and features a different theme and location each time. One walk included a tour through the upper eastside with architect Anthony Grumbine of Harrison Design Associates, beginning with a walkthrough of the historic Winsor Soule Hodges Residence (currently The Fielding Institute), a 1920s Spanish colonial revival estate, which was once the most expensive home built in Santa Barbara. The expedition also journeyed through a wonderful variety of architecture styles, including a Francis Underhill stripped classicism design, a Richard Neutra mid-century modern, French Norman and Dutch colonial, as well as the many architectural hybrids. Previous walks included an art walk with Ellen Durham, an architectural tour of El Andaluz with Jeff Shelton, trees of Santa Barbara with Bob Muller and a historical tour with Brian Hofer. Walking Wednesdays are free; visit for information on monthly locations and themes.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Fall 2010. Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Fall 2010. Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Dear Blank, Please Blank

Image by phanlop88,

Image by phanlop88,

Dear Dear Blank, Please Blank,

You have just surpassed stretching, making sure my DVR is programmed and Facebook as my favorite way to procrastinate.

Keep up the good work, Leslie

I stumbled across a very funny website the other day, It’s a site where people write in and fill in the blanks.

You know how sometimes you get really pissed off or frustrated about something and you don’t want to write an entire column about it? Or you would love to write an entire column about it, but you know your editor would never publish it? Or if you did write about it, then you would have to spend the rest of your life worrying that a certain so-and-so who shall not be named might come sneaking in your door at night and strangle you while you were sleeping?

Before now you couldn’t just vent your frustrations, amusement or plain old annoyance any old place. Now you can. This is the perfect site to share all of that pent-up wickedness you dare not say (or write) out loud.

The site was created by Jared Wunsch and Hans Johnson, two Seattle guys in their 20’s with enough sarcastic wit to program animated cartoon villain mustaches onto their pictures when you roll your mouse over their faces. Hans opens his “about me” bio with, “In 1984 my father bought our first computer, it was the original Apple Macintosh. I poured apple juice into the floppy-drive, for which he never forgave me.”

Clearly these are funny guys, but their readers are even funnier, populating the site with “Dear Blank, Please Blank” gems like:

Dear Middle School Boys,

A can of Axe is meant to last you more than one day.

Sincerely, Gagging Middle School Girls


Dear World,

My last name is not Dammit.

Sincerely, God


Dear Anti-Fans,

I can tolerate Justin Bieber. I can tolerate Twilight. I can tolerate Miley and Demi and Selena and the Jonas Brothers. I can no longer tolerate you. When you’re more annoying than the fans you claim are obnoxious, you’re doing something wrong.

Sincerely, a person who’ll take the actual fans any day.

And one of my favorites,

“Dear The Most Interesting Man in the world,

Join us, and together we can rule the universe.

Sincerely, Chuck Norris and Old Spice Man.

Incidentally, my niece, who got straight A’s last semester, did a rather brilliant (at least according to her parents) college presentation on “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” so clearly these contributors are onto something.

Readers monitor the submissions and vote on which sections the submissions get categorized in. The options include: “How Dare They” (Dear Ex-Boyfriend, Changing your relationship status to “single” on Facebook is not a good way to break up with someone. Sincerely, All you had to do was tell me; “You’re a Douche” (Dear jf;ldsfa/kvsmmklnn, Please lknvfdmv.xvn. Sincerely, Stevie Wonder); “Hilarious” (Dear gangsters, I would pants you, but it looks like someone beat me to it. Sincerely, Anonymous); “I Like This” (Dear People of the World, I don’t mean to sound slutty, but please use me whenever you want. Sincerely, Grammar); “Random” (Dear Romeo, I’m gonna fake my own death tonight. Don’t freak out or do anything stupid. Sincerely, Juliet); and “Umm WTF?!” (Dear optimists and pessimists, I don’t care whether it’s half full or half empty, is anyone gonna drink that? Sincerely, an opportunist).

Then there’s my personal favorite, which defies categorization:

Dear person reading this,

You’re here because you’re actively procrastinating or avoiding real work, aren’t you? It’s OK…me too.

Sincerely, I’ll work tomorrow.

When Leslie’s not amused by, she’s usually amusing herself at For more columns visit

Limited Edition/Limitless Talent

Limited Edition, Limitless Talent. Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine Fall 2010.

Limited Edition, Limitless Talent. Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine Fall 2010.

THE DEDICATED ALLIANCE of artists who form Santa Barbara Printmakers have come up with a clever way to promote the local art scene and support Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative direct-to-artist grants at the same time. Beginning in October, a monthly series of limited edition prints will be available
for purchase, starting with the work of Santa Barbara’s Nicole Strasburg (, who is known for her minimalist approach to the landscape, weaving naturalistic imagery with abstract sensibilities.

While painting is Strasburg’s primary medium, printmaking is a constant diversion. “Experimenting with other mediums, including printmaking,
is a great tool to explore design and composition with the belief that all paths lead back to a richer understanding of painting,” she says.

November’s featured artist is Pamela Zwehl-Burke (, who says her work “manifests in a variety of scales, formats and materials, but the intention and subject is for the most part commonplace visual experience re-seen and re-excerpted: animal, vegetable,
mineral and their stories.” Seeing is as much the subject as the seen for this German-educated artist, who makes her home in Santa Ynez.

Other participating artists include Marie Schoeff, Carolyn Hubbs, Nina de Creeft Ward, Teresa Zepeda, Valori Fussell, Dug Uyesaka, Libby Smith, Rafael Perea
de la Cabada, Michael Jameson, Nina Warner and Stephanie Dotson.

This limited edition print series is now available through Santa Barbara Arts
Collaborative (,, a group of artists and arts supporters committed to sustaining and growing all forms of art in Santa Barbara by providing focused support of individual artists
and arts organizations that contribute to the unique cultural ecology of the community.

Purchase all 13 prints for $550, or one each month for $50, with a bonus print by Carolyn Hubbs available on December 15.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Fall 2010. Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Fall 2010. Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Fall Artfully Back to School

Santa Barbara Seasons, Local Lowdown, Fall 2010

Santa Barbara Seasons, Local Lowdown, Fall 2010

Back to School Get Creative!

There’s nothing quite like the creative inspiration found in the inviting smell of a fresh package of crayons or the satisfying sound you get from cracking the spine of a brand new notebook.

Whether you’re going back to school or simply back to work after Labor Day, why not lift your spirits—and expand your vocabulary—with something new, like fair trade messenger bags by Handmade Expressions, available from Folio (4437 Hollister Ave., 805/964-6800). The rules of geometry take on a whole new meaning with this Areaware Strida bike from Imagine (11 W. Canon Perdido St., 805/899-3700) which magically folds down to just the right size to stow, while the lessons of ingenuity are literally right at your fingertips with this bright diary and notebook from Upstairs at Pierre Lafond (516 San Ysidro Rd., Montecito, 805/565-1502).

Santa Barbara Seasons, Local Lowdown, Fall 2010

Santa Barbara Seasons, Local Lowdown, Fall 2010

See below for information about the rest of our finds from Folio, Imagine, Upstairs at Pierre Lafond, UCSB (University Center, 805/893-8321), Westmont College (955 La Paz Rd., Montecito, 805/565-6064) and SBCC (721 Cliff Dr., 805/730-4047).

Clockwise from top: hand woven jute and cotton Handmade Expressions messenger bags from Folio; recycled packaging material diary and notebook from Upstairs at Pierre Lafond; foldable Areaware Strida bike from Imagine; Forgotten Shanghai “Desk in a Bag” from Folio; and Cavallini & Co. Can o Clips clothespins and Chipiola curlicue paper clips from Folio.

Bike folds up and fits in knapsack.


Santa Barbara Seasons, Local Lowdown, Fall 2010

Santa Barbara Seasons, Local Lowdown, Fall 2010

A is for All-Ages Education

BACK-TO-SCHOOL TIME isn’t just for kids. Santa Barbara offers a plethora of educational opportunities for learners of all ages. Do you have a passion for plants? UCCE and Botanic Garden offers a master gardener training program this fall ( Participants learn about sustainable landscapes, identifying and managing pests, soil and plant nutrition, plant management practices and diagnosing plant problems, then apply their knowledge to assist schools, parks, retirement communities and Botanic Garden with various garden projects.

Why not indulge your artistic impulses and support the environment with a Saturday morning workshop at Art From Scrap (302 E. Cota St., 805/884-0459, Almost every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, local artists like Dug Uyesaka, Holly Mackay and Bill McVicar lead workshops for children and adults to explore their creativity, all at the bargain price of $6, supplies included.

Want to learn more about art? Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1130 State St., 805/963-4364, offers docent-led tours of special exhibitions Tuesday through Sunday at noon and an overview of the collection at 1 p.m. (free to members or with paid admission).

Want to learn to dance the tango, shape up with fitness classes, explore your musical side or teach your dog to stay off the couch? Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation ( offers low-cost classes in all of these things and more.

Don’t see anything that tickles your fancy here? Check out Santa Barbara City College Adult Education ( and UCSB Extension (, both of which offer hundreds of classes for lifelong learners.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Top–bottom: Covent Garden Newgate alarm clock and Acme Pens Studio Crayon Retractable Ballpoint Pens designed by Adrian Olabuenaga, all from Imagine; Illustrator’s Sketchbook and “The Game” youth hat from UCSB Bookstore; embroidered hat from Westmont College Bookstore; zippered hoodie from SBCC Bookstore; floral laptop case by Pylones will hold up to a 17” laptop, from Imagine; and Toms Shoes in brown plaid—for every pair of shoes purchased, this company gives new pair of shoes to a child in need—from Westmont College Bookstore.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Fall 2010. Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Fall 2010. Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Editor’s Letter Fall 2010 (Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine)

Santa Barbara Seasons Editor's Letter Fall 2010. Photo by Tracy Smith Reed.

Santa Barbara Seasons Editor’s Letter Fall 2010. Photo by Tracy Smith Reed.

 Winter is an etching, Spring is a watercolor, Summer an oil painting and Autumn a mosaic of them all. –Stanley Horowitz

FORGET JANUARY 1. As any parent will tell you, fall is when the New Year really begins. The kids go back to school and their structured autumn schedules, while mom and dad toast their newfound freedom with at least as much as gusto as the days of Auld Lang Syne.

Fall is also a great time for celebrating the beauty of seasonal changes. Our (slightly) cooler weather offers a perfect opportunity for taking long walks and appreciating the remarkable bounty of art and architecture available just about everywhere you look in Santa Barbara.

Even though I’m lucky enough to have been a resident for most of my life, while working on this issue, I was pleased to discover new and interesting details about our town while taking both the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara walking tours through the traditional local landmarks and a Walking Wednesdays with Santa Barbara Walks trek through the impressive variety of architectural styles, not to mention landscaping inspiration, found on the upper eastside (“Get Up Close and Personal with Architecture,” pg. 24).

I also had the pleasure of spending some time in the whimsical world of Ablitt House, and I can’t imagine a better cover subject for our seventh annual art and architecture issue. We provide an intimate peek into this bright symphony of colors, tiles, curves and angles conducted by homegrown architect Jeff Shelton, a true visionary who has refreshed and reinvented the look and feel of Santa Barbara’s architecture while continuing to pay homage to our Mediterranean roots (“Art + Architecture + Ablitt,” pg. 60).

Yet another fascinating and fanciful brick in the architecture of our city can be found in the exuberant mosaic bursts of colors in Dan Chyrnko’s creative art installations. I had the dual pleasure of joining Dan at his creekside studio, where he shared some of the inspirations and stories behind his mosaics, and then sharing some of our conversation with you (“Mosaic Master,” pg. 104).

We also take you inside the homes of contemporary art collectors Jacquelyn Klein-Brown, Geoffrey and Laura Wyatt, and Tim Walsh and Mike Healy to share some of the fascinating artistic treasures—and their hunters and gathers—hiding behind closed doors in the 805 area code (“Contemporary Art Lives Here,” pg. 50). We were impressed and inspired by their collections, and we think you will be too.

Our cultural journey then meanders in a completely different—but still quintessentially local—direction to the historic backcountry’s iconic Cold Spring Tavern, where the acoustic pairing of Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan under the oak trees is a favorite part of the weekend ritual for foodies, bikers and, most of all, local music aficionados (“Roadhouse Blues,” pg. 56).

All of us at Santa Barbara Seasons get a huge kick out of capturing and sharing the unique, quirky, fun, classic and otherwise notable aspects of Santa Barbara life for your enjoyment, and it has a been particular delight for me to fill in as editor for this issue while editor Rebekah Altman has been extremely busy with an amazing production of her own—a precious baby girl. My advice to her (and to all of us, really) is to savor every moment of this season, because in what feels like the blink of an eye, she’ll be right there with the rest of us, toasting fall’s return back to school.

Cheers to a wonderful autumn!

Leslie Dinaberg


Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Fall 2010. Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Fall 2010. Cover photo by Jim Bartsch.

The Write Stuff

Rebecca McClanahan "Word Painting"A Conversation With Rebecca McClanahan

When we’re not gobbling up the written word with a gusto that bewilders non-readers as much as whatever it is they do for pleasure baffles us, one of the things we writers like to do most is talk to other writers.

This week I had the pleasure of chatting with Rebecca McClanahan, the 2010 winner of Santa Barbara City College’s Raab Award in Creative Nonfiction, who will give a reading from her work from 7-8 p.m. on Friday, October 8, in the Fe Bland Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Leslie Dinaberg: You’ve published in many different genres. How do you decide that this idea will be an essay rather than a poem or fiction or creative nonfiction?

Rebecca McClanahan: I don’t think particularly about that, though I’m sure you could find little vestigial tails of experience in poems that I have written. … I think I’ve always written about home and loss of home and homesickness. … There are certain things, themes and characters and places that I revisit whether in fiction, poetry or nonfiction. … Certain things that continue to float up, that you revisit in some ways, you gnawed on it, you buried it and then it came up in another shape another form. … At some point you do begin to notice patterns.

LD: You often write about your personal experiences and your own life. When things are happening are you writing about them or do you wait a while?

RM: I think I maybe do a little of both. I have a writer’s notebook and sometimes I’ll jot down things as they are happening to me, events or specific details that I want to retain. But I think especially as an essayist, and that’s sort of the main hat I’ll be wearing in Santa Barbara because of the Raab Award, I really think that nonfiction and the essay is a reflective stance, that’s the genre. With a good essay, I think you really want the sense that you are discovering the meaning, the why of the experience, you’re not just writing down what happened.

… The best essays require reflective distance, especially if you’re a character in them. You’ve got to be the person on the other end of the experience trying to understand it because being in the middle of it, it’s a muddle. … I think there’s a place certainly for blogs and for instant writing and all of that but I don’t want to lose the power of reflection and time. You know that old saying; “we serve no wine before its time.” I tell my young graduate students “we serve no memoir before its time.” Wait a little bit.

LD: I read an interview where you were talking about how much more difficult it is to write sincerely about happy feelings as opposed to darker material. Can you talk a little bit about that?

RM: I hosted a panel called “Joy: The Last Taboo” a couple of years ago. It really is very difficult to not be Hallmarky about it … It’s very, very hard in our culture. I think especially because we really want to go to that sordid troubled dark memoir. I’m just so tired of them I can’t tell you.

LD: My husband and I have a running joke that our childhoods were too happy for us to really be successful writers because we didn’t have enough drama-no alcoholic parents or poverty or any of that great material.

RM: (Laughs) There are so many sad things out there. But here’s a quote by the poet John Ciardi: “You don’t have to suffer to be a poet. Adolescence is enough suffering for anyone.”

I definitely have written about a lot of dark things, personal and otherwise, but that’s not a whole life and that doesn’t make it interesting just because your father raped you or something. Even that has to be shaped into a text that is beautiful and meaningful to others. … What I look for in writers is someone who has really, really worked hard and allowed the truth to come through them in a way that’s going to change my life. That’s why I read. I can read the newspaper for the other stuff.

LD: As a writer, how do you know when you’re done?

RM: With briefer pieces, poems and brief lyric essays, I think I have a very firm sense when they’re done. The longer book length essays, it’s much harder to know because it’s such a complicated weaving. … I try to explain to my students, it’s like all the plates are spinning, and you’ve spun one and you’ve spun another and before the first one drops you have to run back to spin it again and finally when all of the plates of the world of the poem or the essay or the novel are in the air spinning as beautifully and blissfully as they can, they’re all alive at the same time, then you know it’s done and you get out right then-before you fall on your head.

Rebecca McClanahan will be reading from her work at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 8, in the Fe Bland Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. For information about her writing visit For more columns visit