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The lady manning the Dekton table at the National Kitchen & Bath Association/National Association of the Remodeling Industry San Diego Chapter’s Fifth Annual Industry Showcase and Expo was ready. She had her “blowtorch” (an 11-inch refillable butane lighter) and power-red nail polish on hand to prove that this ultra-compact surface — used for countertops, flooring and walls — could handle the worst kitchen/bathroom/barbecue scenario.

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“You just wipe it, and whatever you’ve spilled on it comes right off,” she said, while swabbing a sponge onto a tile dabbed with the red goo of the polish. Presto. No more red — only the elegant look of lustrous wood. “Just one of the infinite design possibilities,” she told me, then joked, “If only I could get this lighter to stay lit, there’d be tons of people at this table.”

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Did you know that you that there’s a television that becomes a mirror, custom made to match your décor? It’s accomplished with an ultra-thin LED. I may not have heard all the technical jargon the guy from LookinGlass was explaining to me, but what I did hear was this: “It looks like a mirror until you push the on button on the waterproof remote. Then, abracadabra, you’re watching Monday night football while relaxing in your spa.”

Over at the Mr.Steam table, the conversation was about the iSteam remote control and how it activates your steam shower from anywhere in the home — wirelessly. Plus there was talk about how you can boost the benefits of steam showers by including Mr.Steam MusicTherapy, adding Mr.Steam aromas or installing the Mr.Steam ChromaSteam system to “suffuse the steam shower with a spectrum of color.” Looking for nirvana? Try violet.

I could gush on about the myriad offerings I saw at this show — the “functional elegance” of Madeli’s designer bathroom furniture; Axor’s “designer visions” for the bathroom; the “new generation” of Miele’s built-in appliances; the sexy curves of White River’s millwork; Leicht San Diego’s European kitchens for “modern living;” Rohl’s luxury collection of faucets, sinks and showerheads; the latest appliances from Jenn-Air; Laufen sinks and tubs that “make the bathroom a living environment” — but there’s news from the lecture I attended.

I figured Ellen Cheever’s “Kitchen and Bath Design: What’s New? What’s Next” would be interestingly informative, especially because of the CMKBD, ASID and CAPS listed after her name. I was right.

Ellen showed slides from Milan’s Design Week (like the one above). Here are a few things she shared about what’s going on in Europe:

  • Europe is moving away from sleek design to a more organic approach and from vibrant colors to neutrals, with colors used only as accents.
  • Designers in Europe don’t source their refrigerators from an appliance person; their fridges are built integrated into the cabinetry.
  • T-shaped islands with an attached table and flip-up sides are coming to the forefront.
  • Range hoods are becoming more sculptural.
  • Laminate is popular these days.
  • Weathered, whitewashed oak and pine are the “in” thing.
I could gush on and on about the show with the title that goes on and on. In fact, I can’t wait to see what’s on the agenda at the National Kitchen & Bath Association/National Association of the Remodeling Industry San Diego Chapter’s Sixth Annual Industry Showcase and Expo next year.

Eva Ditler, Managing Editor


KUSI-TV reporter Ed Lenderman interviews
Dan'l Steward about his tree protest

Photo by Joe Ditler

Blogs are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree

OK, I probably should apologize to Joyce Kilmer for that one, but Coronado residents Dan'l Steward and Ryan Gillespie are wondering who is going to apologize to the two eucalyptus trees that were felled this week on E Avenue in the village. They spent a night up in trees, marked for further removal, to protest the city’s cut-down decision that took place behind closed doors, without community input.

I live in Coronado, too; and trees are a big part of what make that town — or any town — magical. Our own street, Encino Row, is filled with magnolias and their showy, saucer-like white blooms. (I suppose, with a name like Encino — Spanish for oak — that at one time we might have had an oak-lined street, but I don’t know that for a fact.)

When I was a little girl in Ontario, Canada, our street (aptly named Ontario Street) was accented with majestic chestnut trees. At the end of classroom days in autumn, I loved picking up fallen chestnuts on the walk home from school. I didn’t want to roast them on an open fire. I just wanted to see if I could get them as shiny as the wicked witch’s poison apple in Snow White by rubbing them against the wool of my bulky, knitted sweaters.

My journey home from school meant crossing Maple Street — etched in my memory for its glorious autumn backdrop. There’s nothing quite like maple trees to set a street ablaze with spectacular oranges, reds and yellows in the fall. Maples also provided us elementary school-age kids with late February/early March field trips to the woods to watch the tapping of the trees and the syrup slowly collecting in tin buckets attached to the trunks.

In summer, my favorite streets were lined with weeping willows. I found the sadness of their graceful, ground-sweeping branches touching. Here in San Diego, where the willow doesn’t grow easily, the pepper tree in my back yard has to fill in for the romance of the willow.

So I too have had my love affairs with trees. But unlike Dan'l and Ryan, I’m not about to spend a night in a tree to save it. Besides, I’m afraid of heights. I hear through the grapevine that Coronado Mayor Casey Tanaka also is afraid of heights. But that didn’t stop him from climbing up the tree to assure Dan'l and Ryan that, from here on, Coronado citizens will be part of any more tree-felling decisions.

For now, it appears only one more tree on E Avenue will be cut down for safety reasons. Hopefully, my husband, Joe, still can use his pet name for E Avenue: “the street of the kissing trees.”

Eva Ditler, Managing Editor


Corina, Lia, Elisa and Eduardo Ferreira

There’s a mockingbird in our neighborhood that does imitations of our phone ringing, our doorbell ding-donging and our alarm clock buzzing. To serenade us with even more tunes, he also steals trills, tweets, peeps and chirps from several other birds on the block. His repertoire just might be charming during the day, but since this little insomniac begins his litany at midnight and doesn’t quit until 5 a.m., his repetitive routine annoys rather than delights.

I was beginning to feel guilty that I was cursing a bird (after all, what kind of person doesn’t love birds?), until the other night when I was at a backyard choro concert in Kensington hosted by photographer Gary Payne and his wife, Zoraida. It was here that I heard the group Choro das 3 performing “Bem Te Vi Não é Canáro” (a bem te vi is not a canary). Apparently, there’s a bird in Brazil commonly known as a bem te vi, whose tune is so irritating that Brazilian musician Paulo Fasanaro found it amusing to illustrate that fact by giving one of his instrumental pieces this title.

Just like I’d never heard of a bem te vi, I’d also never heard of choro or the San Paulo group Choro das 3, a family quartet consisting of sisters Corina, Lia and Elisa Ferreira and their dad, Eduardo Ferreira. They’ve been playing choro professionally for 12 years, and they’re on a mission: to keep the choro tradition alive by getting other young people excited about it and spreading this music worldwide.

Like the original 19th century performers of this Brazilian folk music, they simply enjoy spontaneously playing their instruments — Corina, 25, on flute or piccolo; Lia, 22, on the seven-stringed guitar (to extend the bass range); Elisa, 19, on the mandolin or clarinet (she also plays banjo and piano); and dad on the pandiero (the Brazilian tambourine). By the end of each piece, they strum, drum and flute at such a dizzyingly fast tempo that they’re up on stage practically giggling with each other as they improvise to the choro’s rondo form (AABBACCA) while keeping up the pace.

Even though the music has basic European classical structure, the joy of its Brazilian, African, Portuguese and Spanish rhythms spreads to the audience. This music is fun, and the Ferreira family wants everyone to know what a delight it is. Eduardo is so happy that he’s whistling while he’s drumming on the tambourine.

If only my mockingbird could emulate that kind of elation. Then, even if this sleepless chirper kept me awake all night, I’d get out of bed with a smile that would match the beaming grins of Choro das 3.

Eva Ditler, Managing Editor


While I was traipsing around South Park last weekend, a restaurant named Brabant peaked my interest, because I was born in the Netherlands.

Yes, I know Brabant is in Belgium, not the Netherlands (although North Brabant is a province in the Netherlands, whether the waiter at Brabant believes it or not). I thought the food at this restaurant might have Dutch flavors, because the country of Brabant borders the Netherlands (not Holland, which also is a province in the Netherlands and not the name of the country, whether the waiter at Brabant believes it or not).

When I saw that the menu listed croquettes, a Dutch (OK, originally French) fried and breaded street-food snack traditionally filled with meat, I took a seat in one of the wooden booths and ordered the appetizer. Unfortunately, they did not taste like the kroketten I remembered.

However, the French fries (originally from Belgium, not France — go figure) did bring back memories of the delicious patat at my grandmother’s Amsterdam apartment. Long before the food truck reached her front door, Oma would hear the telltale jingle as the truck made its way down the cobbled street. She’d call out, “Patat,” fetch her portemonnaie (wallet), and the two of us would clamber down the stairs to flag the driver for patat met: French fries wrapped in a paper cone and served with special mayonnaise.

Here, people eat French fries with ketchup; but in our family, we smothered our fries with yellow mayonnaise. In fact, non-Dutch families would probably find a lot of the food we ate baffling: Chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag) on bread were popular at lunchtime; rolled pancakes with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, were a dinner item; Gouda cheese on bread was an option any time of day, but especially at breakfast. Once, when my husband, Joe, and I were stuck at Schiphol because of weather, KLM offered to feed all the weary travelers breakfast; and I heard the lady behind me say, “If I have to eat one more slice of cheese on bread, I’m going to keel over.”

I’ve eaten stranger things in the Netherlands. Part of a calf’s tongue comes to mind. There’s also raw herring, sometimes eaten with onions. I recall Joe watching in awe (or maybe it was horror) as my mother lifted a herring up in the air, tilted her head back and took a big bite of the slippery fish. Joe stuck his raw herring in his coat pocket “for later.” (He forgot about it for the rest of the day until, when he hung his coat up next to the radiator at my uncle’s house, my uncle asked, “What is that smell?”)

At Brabant, you won’t find herring or calf’s tongue (or horsemeat, which used to be popular in Belgium and the Netherlands, whether the waiter at Brabant believes it or not), but you will find rabbit. For more on what to expect at Brabant Café, check out Stephen Silverman’s restaurant review in the upcoming (September) issue of San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles.

Eva Ditler, Managing Editor


I’m standing at the edge of Frank and Susan Oddo’s fish pond in Elfin Forest, gushing over a koi with fluttery long fins and a ruffled tail. Apparently, I’m lavishing my approval on the wrong carp. In the koi kingdom, this one is considered by many to be a mutt of uncertain ancestry.

Frank points out one of his more precious fish. This silky white koi flaunts a red patch on its head that looks like the rising sun on a Japanese flag. Frank explains that this fish has value because the red patch is clearly defined and it doesn’t travel beyond the eyes into the nose area.

I learn that the pattern showcased on the fish helps determine a koi’s worth, but it’s not the only piece in the price puzzle. Balance is a big deal: The pattern should be symmetrical, and even the scales should be lined up uniformly. In shape, a koi should look like a torpedo; and, as any fisherman knows, the bigger the fish, the better. Striking colors are key, too: White has to be pure with no hint of yellow or gray; red’s shade ought to lean toward persimmon, not crimson; black markings must be pitch dark.

With new knowledge, I pick a different favorite: a red, white and black fish that reminds me of a Japanese ink painting. The black markings, which appear on the head and extend vertically throughout the body, look like they’ve been painted on with a fine brush.

If I heard Frank right, I think he said my updated pick came with a six-grand price tag (a bargain compared to the $340,000+ someone else paid for a prize-winning fish in 2012). And, here’s a shocking tidbit he shared: Even though you might pay thousands of dollars for a baby koi, by the time it’s an adult, it could be practically worthless. The markings change, and that change can be unfavorable. In other words, buying an expensive fish is a crapshoot (or should I say carp shoot?).

There’s also the gamble that an expensive fish will go belly up before it reaches adulthood. There are diseases like ich and dropsy and parasites like flukes and anchor worms. To make sure your koi live a long life (and they can live 30 years or more), you need to have the correct-size pond with the right depth of water for the amount of fish you own, maintain filters, test the water for nitration levels and algae, make sure the water is the correct temperature, change the water, feed the fish properly, etc., etc.

It’s starting to sound like taking care of your koi is more work than taking care of your kids. But I suppose that if you’re worrying, you can always spend a few minutes with them. They say that watching their Zen-like movements has a calming effect on the nerves.

Eva Ditler, Managing Editor



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Toque Talk


As someone who pays attention to cooking with healthy ingredients, I’ve used amaranth flour. Bernard Guillas, executive chef of The Marine Room in La Jolla, trumps me with the homonymous amaranth flower. He used one to garnish the best crab cake I’ve ever eaten.

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