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Velella, By-the-Wind Sailor, Jellyfish-like Organisms in Pismo State Beach

May 19, 2023
Picture of Velella, By-the-Wind Sailor, found at Pismo Beach, California
Earlier this week in Pismo Beach, we stumbled on thousands of Velella, also known as By-the-Wind Sailor. They are so magnificent and beautiful. They're tiny and look like they have a sail on them. 

For the first time in many years that I've lived here, this is the first time I've seen them at our beach! I was so excited. They have little legs on them and eat plankton. In person, they look very purply blue but it was a cloudy day so they have this darker color when I took pictures of them. See my video short below to see better angles of a velella that I captured.

A few days later, we had a beach day and drove on the beach on the south side of Pismo State Beach from Grover Beach to Oceano. (Pismo State Beach encompasses Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, and Oceano.) These by-the-wind-sailors were washed up along the beach in multitudes! You could find thousands of them within a few yards. See the video short I captured while I was there.

See more pictures that I've taken at Pismo Beach.

One Week of Spring Break - California Mom Journal

April 12, 2023
My kids get a week off from school for Spring Break. It's a total of 9 days of no school if we count the weekend before it starts as well. This year, I've logged what we did each day during this break! We stayed local for the first part of the break and then went to Los Angeles for the last 2 days. Jump to our Universal Studios Hollywood Trip on Day 7. I'm putting Day 1 as the Monday that break officially started, calendar-wise. Here's the day-by-day breakdown of what we did for Spring Break this year:

Day 1 - Played at Sinsheimer Park in San Luis Obispo

We ran shopping errands at The Home Depot and Whole Foods Market in the morning. Then, we went to Sinsheimer Park in San Luis Obispo in the afternoon and brought our cardboards with us to slide down the green hill. My sons love doing this. If your kids are not used to sliding down a hill, I would pay close attention to them as they can get hurt if they roll down awkwardly. Sinsheimer Park is a large park with a lot of benches, large slides for bigger kids and a smaller area for the toddlers. Address: 900 Southwood Dr, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. To see all of my pictures and quick thoughts on all of the playgrounds that I've visited in San Luis Obispo County, go to the Family-Friendly Events page

Day 2 - Pool Day at SLO Swim Center
We lounged around the house during the day while watching re-runs of Bluey on TV. Later on, we went to the SLO Swim Center for Open Swim Hours, that is also referred as Family Recreational Swim Hours. Also located right by Sinsheimer Park, we returned to the very area the next day for a swim for 1 hour and 20 minutes. They were open during our Spring Break in the evening from 5:30PM - 6:50PM for the public to enjoy during the weekdays. The cost was $4.25 for adults and $3.75 for children. Even though it is only for 1 hour and 20 minutes, the kids were happy and my little one slept very well that night. I missed taking a picture at the pool because I was in the water, watching my two sons the entire time! For the Family Recreational Swim Hours session, you get to use the heated therapy pool that's outdoors with a shaded canopy. The shallowest end of this particular pool is 1 feet; and the deepest is 4 feet. I love that they make it clear that it's intended for families. Address: 900 Southwood Dr, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 

Day 3 - Chill and Packing Day
On Wednesday, we decided to do some more shopping in the morning to get some new clothes first and then, a bag of Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream chips as my sons have really been into them lately. We decided to have a more mellow day and didn't go anywhere else after that. My kids were really bored later in the evening as they were used to doing something active yesterday and the day before. Later in the evening, the kids started packing their own clothes to get ready for our LA trip this weekend. It's nice that they are old enough to be responsible for that. I just give them a verbal list of items to pack and then, they put the clothing items in their light-weight small suitcase that they share. It was like a scavenger hunt for them.

Day 4 - Played at 16th Street Park in Grover Beach
We attempted to have a beach day but the wind was so chilly! We were in our beach gear, parked, walked down to the sand in Pismo Beach, stood for a few minutes and decided that the cold wind was too miserable and walked right back up the steps and sat back in our car. Since the beach was a no-go, we decided to play at the playground at 16th Street Park in Grover Beach instead for an hour and a half for some outdoor play.  

I was a bit disappointed while we were at this park. There were half a dozen big kids (maybe Middle School or High School aged) who were blocking the entrance of the slides at the playground. My sons were intimidated by the "teenagers" (which is what my 9 year old son referred them as) so they alerted me and I had to ask the big kids if the little ones can use the slides. And then, after me asking is when my kids could enjoy going down the slides. It's a bit annoying but inevitably happens around school breaks. I want to point out that this is the third time at this specific park (16th Street Park) that my kids have had issues with older Middle School aged or older kids. One time, two of them even told one of my sons to try drugs to "feel special" and my son went straight to me to report it. It has been ridiculous. After we got home, we decided to make oobleck using arrowroot powder as a "science" experiment. See a list of all of the playgrounds that we've visited in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County and the pictures that I personally took at these playgrounds.

Day 5 - Pokemon Party at Arroyo Grande Library

We had been looking forward to this Friday for a couple of days because there's a Pokemon Party at the Arroyo Grande Library! My kids have just started getting into collecting Pokemon cards earlier this year so this was their very first Pokemon related trading party. Arroyo Grande Library has been the only library in all of San Luis Obispo County that has hosted a Pokemon Party that I've seen this year so far! They always plan great events throughout the year. See all story times at San Luis Obispo County Library or see upcoming family-friendly events in San Luis Obispo County on my Events list. My kids completed a Pokemon ball craft, played bingo, went on a Pokemon Scavenger Hunt and traded cards with each other.

They had a wonderful time and didn't want to leave, even when the event was officially over. They connected with other boys on the same hobby and it was so amazing for me to see how kind everyone was to each other.

Day 6 - Baseball Game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles

We decided to travel a bit south to Los Angeles and watched the Dodger play against the Cubs on Jackie Robinson Day! It was about a 3.5 hour drive from SLO County, which is not too bad. I love that every one on both teams wore the number 42 that day in honor of Jackie Robinson. We sat on Reserve Level behind home plate. I thought it was a good view. See my picture above to see my view from my seat. We kept the kids happy with popcorn and chips. We left before the 7th inning to avoid getting stuck in bad traffic as we parked our car instead of using the Stadium Express Bus. It was a fun time and the kids were ready to get back to the hotel room to relax for the rest of the night. The walk from the car in the parking lot to the stadium and up to the Reserve Level and then back was quite a walk!

We stayed overnight in Los Angeles for this trip. My family liked the hotel that we were staying at. It's a Hyatt Place and I used my free award night at the Hyatt Place in Glendale in Los Angeles for the one night stay. I've been a member of the World of Hyatt Loyalty Program for over a dozen years now and I feel that it's worth it. It's one of the ways that I've been able to save for a free night here and there. When we travel, we try to stay at a Hyatt if we can help it so that we can earn points towards a free night stay a couple of times a year. Hyatts are usually comparable to other hotel chains in the area when it comes to price and amenities.

This particular Hyatt Place location used the Metropolis web app for valet parking, which is convenient because they use a digital ticket and did away with paper tickets. If I needed my car, all I had to do was go on the Metropolis link from my phone to request it. No need to call ahead of time. It was very efficient. I would stay here again as it was so close to the big mall down the street called The Americana at Brand. Regrettably, we didn't get a chance to check it out but it has dozens of restaurants and stores, and I hope to check it out in the future when I come back to this area again.

Day 7 - Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles

Since we had planned to go to the Dodger game in Los Angeles, we decided to make the best of it and went to Universal Studios Hollywood the next day and for the last day of Spring Break to check out the new Mario Kart ride in their amazing Super Nintendo World. It had been a long time since my husband and I had been to Universal Studios Hollywood and this was my sons' first time. It was an amazing day there! We spent the extra money and got Super Nintendo World Early Access Ticket for an extra $30 each person (might have increased if you're reading this months or years later) so that we can ensure that we get to ride the new ride and enjoy the area before it got too crowded. We also took advantage of the early access to book a reservation for lunch there by scanning the QR code in front of Toadstool Cafe. Toadstool Cafe is a Mario Bros. themed restaurant with Chef Toad as the chef. See my pictures below of the cool things we ordered.

We're so glad that we made a reservation through the QR link right when we got there because by 10AM, all reservations for Toadstool Cafe were booked for the day! Rides that we went on included the new Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge ride, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Jurassic World - The Ride, The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash, The Simpsons Ride, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Transformers: The Ride-3D (not in this order). 

The whole family really enjoyed what Universal Studios Hollywood has done with Super Nintendo World! I can't wait to come back again.

Even though we live 3.5 hours drive away and 3 rides broke down while we were in line or on the ride, I still enjoyed the trip. Like many machines, rides can have issues. The Mario Kart had technical difficulties right when it opened so we had to wait about 20 minutes after already getting in line around 7:15AM (we bought the early access pass). Thankfully, it was fixed before the kids got too antsy and we were able to ride it before the rest of the whole park opened for the general admission goers. The second ride that had issues broke down after 5 or 10 seconds after we were already sitting on The Simpsons Ride. It's a simulator ride so it moved but didn't travel. They had to ask us to get off the ride and then restart the intro video before climbing back on again. The third ride that had an issue while we were there was the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We were almost at the tail end of the ride when it stopped and my son and I couldn't see each other's faces (only our legs) so I was worried for him, but after about 15 long seconds, it continued again. You'll have to be mentally ready for these technical difficulties on rides if you're planning on going to Universal Studios Hollywood. Read about a previous trip in Los Angeles when I stayed in Little Tokyo

At the end of it all, I was really happy with all of the plans and the activities that we did for my kids' Spring Break. Overall, the kids' week long Spring Break was a perfect mix of down time and new fun adventures!

Suggested Reads:

Blue Seafood & Grill Arroyo Grande Lunch Date Review

March 31, 2023
Blue Seafood & Grill opened in Arroyo Grande recently in 2023 and my husband and I decided to have a lunch date there. It's nice to have another seafood restaurant in AG! They replaced the previous restaurant named Me & Z, which I regretfully did not get to try before they closed down.
Blue Seafood & Grill Arroyo Grande Review
We parked in the back of the building where they have their own parking lot. Beware, it's a one way in, one way out situation so if you have a really big vehicle, just be mindful of that. However, it's nice to not have to park on the street.

We went inside by using their back door from their parking lot and walked in from the patio. No one was sitting in the patio because it was a rainy day. Once inside, we saw that Blue Seafood & Grill was almost a full house! We took one of the last two tables and sat down.

The menu was already on the table, laminated, and has a front and back side lined with items. They also have a kid's menu so that is nice for young families. Since we were there for lunch, they also had a small sheet with a lunch menu. I opted to order the crab sandwich with fries for $15 from the lunch menu and my husband decided to order the lobster roll that came with dirty fries for $30 from the regular menu. (Note: With inflation and rise in costs, the restaurant may increase their menu prices and the prices on this blog entry only reflects the prices that were listed on the menu that day when we visited.) I loved my crab sandwich and my husband thought his lobster roll was overpriced for the size. See my Pinterest pictures below.

My crab sandwich was like a smashed crab cake between two sandwich slices. My husband's lobster roll had some lobster meat topped on top of one thick bread slice. I think mine was definitely a better deal for the portion but like the grocery store and at other restaurants, the lobster is usually always much more expensive than crab.

They had a few things for desserts on the menu, but we decided to skip it and walked next door to Tribe Coffeehouse for some delicious craft coffee. See pictures of Tribe and other coffee shops I've visited in Five Cities of San Luis Obispo County.

See my top favorite restaurants throughout San Luis Obispo (SLO) County

Other Reviews of Seafood Restaurants within the Five Cities area that I've visited:
  1. Pono Pacific Kitchen in Grover Beach
  2. Ventana Grill in Shell Beach (part of City of Pismo Beach) 
  3. SeaVenture Restaurant inside of the SeaVenture Hotel in Pismo Beach
  4. Oyster Loft in Pismo Beach near the Pismo Beach Pier


Pros and Cons For Joining a Parent Teacher Organization

March 26, 2023
Many schools call their Parent Teacher Organization, PTA (Parent Teacher Association), others are just PTO.

What's the difference?

A PTA, Parent Teacher Association, has to pay fees to the the national PTA organization in U.S.A. but a PTO, Parent Teacher Organization, doesn't have to pay fees to the PTA and can have different rules and regulation/by laws.

Regardless if they are PTA or PTO, how they are run can be pretty impressive, dependent on the leadership of the board.

After volunteering for the last half year, here is a table of my thoughts.

Pros and Cons For Joining a Parent Teacher Organization or Parent Teacher Group.

  • You can connect with other parents (adults) in the school for a good purpose. The goal of the parent teacher association or organization is to help the kids and teachers. That could include fundraising for field trips, planning fun events for the community and volunteering to help serve the kids with any activity.
  • You can be creative by volunteering to create signs, flyers or graphics for events. Make sure you properly tell everyone during the meetings so that no two people are doing the same work so that the team can be efficient and have their focus on finishing everything.
  • You can add your volunteering projects to your resume! This is especially helpful if you need to beef up your resume for a new job.
  • I feel that volunteering for your kid's school can set a really good example early on in their childhood because when they see mommy (or parent) volunteering, they may be more inclined to do community service projects in the future. They've seen me run around helping out at events and attending meetings for the benefit of planning projects for all kids and not just for them.
  • Like many groups or clubs, there may be conflict with ideas and processes. I feel that we can always learn from each other but if you don't handle disagreements well, I advise that you come with an open mind and read some self-help books to help resolve conflicts.
  • Volunteering requires time out of your day and/or evening to work on projects or be there for events. If you don't have a lot of free time, just make sure you can commit to the hours or projects that you volunteered for. 
  • If you're volunteering during school hours on the school property, your school may need you be get fingerprinted and pass the background check to avoid pedophiles, or people with a history of crime, from be around children. This is a standard procedure for every volunteer or employee and it's a good one! So, make sure you have all of that already taken care of before volunteering on property during school hours.
  • Meeting new people at any group may be a bit intimidating and it's okay to feel nervous at your first meeting. Try to learn to be assertive so that the group knows you'd like to volunteer. Sometimes they don't want to push work on whom they are not sure would be up for the task. Raise your hand during the meeting if there is a project you'd like to volunteer for! 

I've volunteered to chaperone for 5 different field trips so far. Read about my list of Pros and Cons for Volunteering For a School Field Trip!


What to Prepare to Buy a New Home and What To Do After Sending an Offer

March 7, 2023

On the East Coast, we had bought one home and sold it 3.5 years later after we moved to the West Coast.

On the West Coast, we've bought two homes: one before the pandemic and one after the pandemic.

Each time, the process of buying a home was stressful

What to Prepare Before Picking a Realtor to Buy a New Home

From what I can see now and for the foreseeable future, there is no shortage in REALTORs so finding a REALTOR is the easy part. We like to find a one who has been active in the business for decades because they know more about the area and have a finesse about them. All of our REALTORS have not only been active and successfully selling and buying property for their clients for decades, but they were all also brokers who owned their own office with employees.

Typically, you'd need a pre-approval letter from a bank or mortgage broker to see how much money you are allowed to borrow in order to efficiently narrow down your price range and provide this information to your REALTOR.

Guessing how much you're allowed to borrow is a big no-no. Having that official pre-approved letter will save you and your REALTOR time now and when you're ready to put in a offer for the home you like. Once you're ready to ink that offer with your signature you'll need to be sure that you can fulfill your compelling offer. The seller won't want to waste their time with someone they're not sure can afford to buy their home and they'll usually want to sell it as soon as possible.

If you're a military veteran like my husband, make sure to check with USAA to see what kind of veteran or military special loans you can get or are eligible for. If you decide to use a different bank or mortgage broker, they'll usually ask you if you're a veteran as well, so that they can find the best loan rates for you.

Besides getting the proper pre-approved letter ready, I want to say that you'll also need to get emotionally and mentally ready because once you start searching for a home, finding one you like and then, putting in an offer, that's when the emotional roller coaster starts to take place. The waiting game of waiting for an answer, the negotiation that takes place before getting an acceptance, taking care of the legal stuff and all the other construction or home improvement projects that are going to line up will take over your life for an extended period of time!

Best Resources to Search a Home

With online technology nowadays, your search is no longer at the mercy of your REALTOR because now all active MLS listings are available on the internet for you to look at. Zillow, REALTOR, Redfin, Trulia are just some of many online websites you can use to search for homes on sale and see their pictures.

You can provide the range and information about homes that you're looking for. For two of the three homes we bought, we've found them ourselves and then brought it to the attention to our REALTOR so that they can unlock the lockbox and let us see it. The only time we didn't need someone to open the door for us was when we went to an Open House, which we found out through Zillow by ourselves anyway.

Even though you can search homes online yourselves, having a great REALTOR can be very beneficial. The importance of having a REALTOR, especially an experienced one, is their connection to the community, handy men, the city government and their negotiation skills. They can read between the lines and counteroffers very skillfully and help you make a smart decision and deal. 

Making an Offer or Deal

During the pandemic, when the interest rates were low, many people were buying homes around our county and our friends struggled to find one where it wasn't snatched up so quickly. Even my son's teacher had expressed to me how frustrated she was when she made an offer on a home for over asking price and still not get it accepted, losing out to someone who offered over $100,000 above the asking price. It was pretty nuts! Now that the pandemic is over and the interest rates are very high, I don't see that issue anymore.

When you're ready to put in an offer, your REALTOR (buying agent) will draft up an agreement and then have you sign it, attaching a check (or wire directly) as earnest money. The typical amount of this earnest money varies from your geographic location/market and the general rule of thumb was different when I lived on the East Coast (considerably less) compared to the West Coast when the amount was more. Surprising, it's not a straight-up percentage calculation like many of the online articles would say from what I've done and seen in reality. Maybe this is different in your area. Your REALTOR will help you with what the appropriate general amount should be. After that has been discussed, she/he will meet or email the offer and earnest money information over to the other REALTOR, who is in charge of selling the home (listing agent) and usually, they'll get back to you within 24 hours. In your agreement, you can state the timeframe you'd like the seller to respond within so that you can focus on finding a different home and not be waiting around too long.

For two of the three homes we bought, we put in an offer that was less than their asking price. Both times, they counter-offered with something higher but still below their asking price. That's a good sign as that means, there are no competing offers at that very moment. That also means there can be some back and forth negotiating and for me, this process was quite stressful. It was like a game of ping pong with hours of waiting time in between hits.

Home Inspection and Termite Inspection After Accepting Your Offer

After they've accepted your buying offer on the house and it's in ink, your REALTOR will suggest a list of home inspection and termite inspection companies so that you can get professionals to look at your home and see if there are things under that surface that are broken or problem areas that need to be fixed before you officially buy the home. You don't want to move into a home to later find out that there is a huge rot issue or some other detrimental issues. Every area has a different list of to-dos that you'll need to be mindful of. Usually your REALTOR is the expert with these things and will guide you in the right direction.

Every time, we've gotten a home inspection, there's always something that needs fixing. It was never a perfect inspection for each time that we went through this process. We had to come back to the seller (through the REALTORS) to list those items from the home inspection to request them to fix it. There was only one time that the seller fixed the issues before our closing date. For the other two, they preferred to credit us the cost of fixing those items instead so that we'd be the one to fix it after the house closes. When this happens, this does add another layer of stress to you as a buyer because now you'll have an immediate list of home improvement projects to tackle right away before moving in. 

Waiting for the House To Close

If the home inspection is looking good and/or you've worked out a credit deal to cover home issues from the home inspection, it's time to tell your bank/mortgage loan person that you're ready to move forward with buying the home so that it can go under escrow. This typically took us a month but it could be longer, depending on the company you went with. During this time, it's a good idea to get those home improvement projects a lot of thought to figure out the time and budget to focus on them.

This is also a good time to get those household items in boxes to prep for the move so that it's not so overwhelming last minute! In the past, I'd put a couple decent items I didn't need anymore for sale on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace every day during the waiting period and made some extra cash. It was quite fun and I didn't have to dump them in the trash. With Venmo and PayPal, you don't even need to even see the buyers in person. Just have them send you the money online and leave the things out on the porch for them to pick up around that agreed time. Because of the pandemic, no-contact transactions have been becoming quite normal and expected.

Closing Day and Getting the Keys

Before Closing Day, there will be a lot of papers to read and fill out! It'll cover how you're going pay the seller, any credits towards fixing anything and a lot of legal information. You'll be talking to your REALTOR and mortgage person a lot for the weeks leading to closing day. On the East Coast, our state required us to have a lawyer present and facilitate closing day. Luckily, in California, only a notary person needed to be present and process the paperwork. It was much easier and less formative (and less scary) in California. Once all of that has been notarized and you've signed your signatures in dozens of spots, your REALTOR will let you know when the money part is all cleared and set up a time to hand you the keys to your home.

Every time, I get the keys, I feel so relieved! More relieved than happiness, really. For all that paperwork, money and time, we exchanged it for something; a small key that'll unlock the home and our future. And also, the garage opener! We get the garage openers to the garages of the home too.

Moving Day and Bulk Items

Finally being able to move your stuff into your new home is going to be an amazing and/or very hectic day, depending on how prepared you are! In the past, I've went on the U-Haul's website to find last minute movers to move my refrigerator and other large appliances. It was really easy to pick a moving company from there and they also show their availability without having to call them directly. You can also find local moving companies as well but I wouldn't be surprised if they are listed as one of the businesses under U-Haul for local moving services.

Usually by time it's moving day, I've already put most of my things in cardboard boxes. You can sometimes find used moving cardboard boxes on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, if you don't want to spend more money and buy brand new ones. I've also gone to stores and asked for cardboard boxes as well.

Home Improvement Projects

If your home that you've just bought is not a brand new construction, chances are, you'll have some home improvement projects to do like we did. It took us about a good month before we could make our home livable when we bought an older home. 

If your home is a new construction, then you might have to buy new blinds like I did because it didn't come with blinds! Read my Lowe's and 3 Day Blinds Price Comparison blog entry.

Hopefully, you didn't plan any vacations close to your closing date because there is a chance that you're going to spend some money and time to personalize your new home and you'd want to take care of it quickly.

When you fill out a change of address form at the USPS, you should get a big packet of coupons mailed to your new home that you can use for your home improvement projects. USPS works with a lot of stores on this. This usually takes about a week to receive but it may take longer for you. In the past, I've received a coupon from Home Depot and Lowe's after I've filled out the change of address form and I was so grateful! If you're planning on making a big purchase at a home improvement store and it is not terribly urgent, it might be worth waiting for those coupons to arrive, especially for large appliances. It could save you hundred of dollars. Year round, Lowe's offer a 10% off discount for active military and veterans with proof of service, so we typically try to shop there instead of Home Depot because of the savings.

Celebration As Home Owners

After you've moved the very last item in to your new house, it's time to celebrate. You deserve it! All of that stress and time you've put into has resulted in a home that you now own. Pop the champagne!

Note from Blogger:

Rules and regulations on buying a new home differs from state to state, county to county and/or city to city so check with your professional REALTOR and local government to make sure you're following the proper steps you'd need to take to protect yourself and your investment. Buying a hope is a very big deal! I'm only sharing about my personal buying experience and not a professional investor. Good luck in your home buying adventure!

Temporary Blinds:

Cleaning Supplies:

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About Me

San Luis Obispo Mom Originally from San Diego, California, I'm a San Diego State University alumna, veteran's wife and mom of two kids who were born two years apart. After living on the East Coast for 6 years, we now reside in San Luis Obispo County and here, the exploration continues.
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All photos (except for ads) on including: homepage, 'Family-Friendly Things to do' page, 'SLO Restaurants' page,'Mom Groups & Childcare' page, and 'blog' page were taken by me so they are my original content and belongs to this blog/website.

To find family-friendly activities in the SLO area, go to the 'Family-Friendly Things To Do' page.

Some of the links are just useful local information that I'm sharing for free and some are commission-based products that may help me earn a small commission for each sale to upkeep with the fees of running this local blog.

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