CALL THE HOTLINE --Now is the time to enjoy the lovely wildflowers of So Ca. The Theodore Payne Wildflowers and Native Plants Hotline is an excellent resource to start planning your trip. You will hear the voice of Emmy Award winner, actor extraordinaire, Joe Spano, most currently on NCIS, giving a weekly report on where to go and what to see at each location in local Southern California sites. The hotline is only available during the spring months of March through May with an updated voice recording every Friday. 

THIS WEEK--Though it is a recorded message, it sounds like Joe is reciting poetry as he describes blankets of color such as the pink of the monkey flower, yellow of California poppies, purple of the desert lupine, deep burgundy of the desert willows, and the dainty white and yellow desert lilies. 

Expect to see a great display throughout this entire season everywhere with a variation of terrain, elevations and sun exposure. This week Joe talks about four locations to catch these beauties in different desert regions in So Ca: First, the Anza Borrego Desert State Park with 600,000 acres to explore, then Santa Rosa Plateau in Riverside, the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach and finally Placerita Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains. 

A BLOOMIN’ BONANZA--With the deluge of rain this winter, this year’s wildflower season is going to be a specular. So go explore. Enjoy your senses. See the colorful beauties to behold against the desert terrain, take in the aromatic floral scents in the air, hear the gentle trickling of the water in the streambeds and waterfalls, and feel the sunshine and breeze. You might want to keep a printout of the hotline recording handy to help identify the wildflower species. Here’s the PDF

Keep updated with the TPF Wildflower Hotline each Friday. You might enjoy this free resource so much that you will feel compelled to get involved in the organization by becoming a member or volunteering. I did, I am now a proud TPF member and owner of a TPF coffee mug!  



The TPF is everything California native wildflowers, plants and gardening to promote reduce water usage, cutting down on pesticides and fertilizers, encouraging natural pollination through birds and bees, and reducing maintenance. With its staff members and generous volunteers it maintains an educational center, nursery on it 22 acre property, a gift shop and art gallery, hike site, and hotline. 

10459 Tuxford

Sun Valley, CA 91352

(818) 768-1802   

NURSERY--The retail nursery carries over 900 unique high quality California native plants. 75% of the plants are grown on premises. There is a helpful and extremely knowledgeable staff who can help you pick out plants according to what kind of soil, lighting, and to attract hummingbirds, songbirds and butterflies. The identification placard on each plant species is very detailed saying everything you need to know. There were over ten different kinds of buckwheat plants for sale!

So much to write about, check it out.   


Poppy Days Plant Sale 

Saturday, March 18, 2017, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm

The region’s best selection of California native plants. Discounts for being a TPF member. 

Annual Native Plant Garden Tour (Year of the Buckwheat!) 

Saturday and Sunday, April 1 and 2, 2017, 10 am -5 pm      

A self-guided tour of 32 inspiring gardens. Learn about native plants, landscape design and wildlife habitat

For tickets


(Sue Helmy has plenty of tricks up her sleeve. She is currently providing superb administrative services at a financial management firm in Century City. She is active in countless church and civic organizations and spends every minute she can spare dancing to the Zumba beat.)


BAD DEALS--Your mission should you choose to accept it! Destroy Cayla the spy! 

Two years after it was found to be vulnerable to hackers, Cayla the doll with several identities has been deemed guilty of illegal espionage device according to Germany's telecommunications regulator, Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur). If you listen to BBC News in an article they published on Feb. 17, 2017, Germans on both sides of the former wall are pretty darn careful when it comes to matters of surveillance. They are having none of it.[i] 

Penalties for possessing banned surveillance devices can result in up to two years in the big house over in Deutschland. Parents have been advised to destroy Cayla and never look back. 

Across the water in the UK, the Retailers Association isn't worried about the spy, even though researchers have been able to listen to and talk to children from up to 33 feet away. They've even been able to accomplish this THROUGH SEVERAL WALLS! Indeed, some researchers have been able to get Cayla to sprew foul epithets. 

Here in the U.S., My Friend Cayla is under investigation as well. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Cayla’s ability to upload children’s speech is an undue violation of privacy[ii]. According to a compliant filed with the FTC, corporations can insert their productions into conversations with the children straight through the mouth of good ole Cayla. 

Turns out the U.S. maker of the snitch partners up with the same database maintenance team that develops and maintains voice recognition software for law enforcement and the military. Zowie! Your kid could be Navy Seal ready before she even gets to first grade! 

Cayla isn’t the first spy to hit the streets. Hello Barbie was introduced back in November 2015. According to an article in Newsweek soon after her release, kids can say whatever they want to Barbie simply by pressing her belt buckle. She is configured to keep all of this information in a cloud. From time to time, she will ask the child about information the spook has gleaned from the child in the past. The implications are pretty scary if you ask me. 

I’m not the only one who thinks so. A class action suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against Mattel, ToyTalk and KidSafe[iii] claiming that Barbie is a dangerous gal who can and has been hacked. 

I don’t know about you, but I say these dolls are sinister. It’s sad to think that even one of them could be a kid’s best friend. Even if the kid doesn’t tell the doll that much, Barbie and Cayla can pick up intel from anyone within a certain radius. Bad news and a bad deal for free thinking people everywhere.


(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at  Facebook: - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: 


DEALS & DISCOUNTS--If you visit the beauty supply store or a local nail salon, you will quickly see that there are thousands of nail polish colors. Choosing a single bottle among the many competitors in this $6 billion business is hard. The name of the color maybe just the tipper to buying the one particular bottle costing anywhere from $5 - $20. After all, I cannot express myself better than nail polish brands OPI, Essie, Revlon, or Deborah Lippmann already have in the names of the different shades. When I am excited about a vacation, “The Thrill of Brazil” or “Live. Love. Carnaval.” says I am greatly looking forward to getting away. If I am getting ready for an evening out, “I’m Gown for Anything”, or “Orange you Glad” better. If I plan to spend some time with my fun-loving Zumba buddies “Backseat Besties” says it all.  When wearing bright red on my fingertips, who wouldn’t love to shout out that they are wearing “Kimona Over”. 

How about names of colors that describe your feelings. Here are a few from Revlon’s New Shades line: Untamed, Electric, Uninhibited, Magnetic, Bubbly, Adventurous, Provocative, Vixen, Coy and Impulsive. I guess there are times when I feel a little of each one of these. 

When I was at the new Ulta store in Santa Monica that opened a few days ago, I can came across polish names that caught my eye and kept me thinking. Some are really entertaining, punny, exude fun and energy. Warning, there are some XXX names (Oh, which just happens to be an OPI color, “XXX SPF”): 

These names are to empower women to be stronger, braver, more powerful and optimistic. As you can imagine the colors are bolder.

Who Needs a Prince? - OPI

I Pink I Can - Sally Hansen

Shifting Power - Essie

No Shrinking Violet - Revlon

Brave - POP Beauty

Ivy League - Ginger + Liz

Aristotle in a Bottle - Glamorous

Rosy Future - OPI

I Am Strong - Essie 

This line is called the Washington DC from OPI. It came out last fall before the November 2016 Presidential Election. Perhaps they were certain that Hillary would win.

We the Female

Freedom of Peach

Stay Off the Lawn

Pale to the Chief

CIA” Color is Awesome

Never a Dulles Moment

Squeaker of the House

Yank My Doodle

Shh…It’s Top Secret

OPI By Popular Vote 

Everyone must get their nails done before the holidays, the more sparkles, the better.

I’m Gown for Anything - OPI

Party at Holly’s (OPI Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holiday 2016)

Ring the Buzzer Again (OPI Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holiday 2016)

Snow Globe – China Glaze

Twinkle Lights – China Glaze

Champagne Bubbles – China Glaze

Poinsettia – China Glaze

Velvet Bow – China Glaze 

There is no other time to show off your pedicure than when you are wearing sandals at the beach. Here are a few names that will make you wiggle your toes in the sand.

Taupe-less Beach - OPI

Lost My Bikini in Molokini – OPI (BTW, the color is a bright purple)

No Tan Lines - OPI 2017 Spring Collection

Do you Sea What I Sea? - OPI 2017 Spring Collection

100 Degrees in the Shade – China Glaze 

What better way to celebrate life events like anniversaries, birthdays, wedding or a birth than to get your nails done in one of these colors. To my delight, I would love to show off and say, I’m wearing OPI’s “It’s a Boy” blue. “Incidentally I just delivered a baby.”

It’s a Boy - OPI

Happy Anniversary - OPI

Happy Birthday - Deborah Lippmann

I Do! I Do! – OPI, Perfect for your wedding night

Catch the Garter – OPI

Mimosas for Mr. and Mrs. - OPI 

Names of nail polish color can be inspired from foods and beverages, especially when we associate them with a particular color.

Coney Island Cotton Candy - OPI

Gelato on My Mind - OPI

Tiramisu for Two - OPI

Cajun Shrimp - OPI

Got myself into a Jam-balaya - OPI

Orange You Fantastic (OPI Coco-Cola Anniversary Summer Collection 2015)

Malaga Wine - OPI

Life’s a Cabernet  - OPI

Is Mai Tai Crooked - OPI 

There are companies that dedicate lines to cities as Revlon does with a bright jewel tones for Las Vegas or OPI’s New England, New Orleans, New Zealand, Far East and Chicago and Far East lines.

Big Win – Revlon

All or Nothing - Revlon

Stays in Vegas – Revlon

Amore at the Grand Central - OPI

Danke-Shiny Red - OPI

The Thrill of Brazil - OPI

An Affair at Red Square - OPI

Bogota Blackberry - OPI

La Paz-itively Hot - OPI

Vampsterdam - OPI

Tickle My France-y - OPI

Berlin Done That - OPI 

Sex sells. Here are some of the more tame ones.

Gondolar Fondolar – Essie

Pussy Galore – OPI, Don’t think this is referring to the Women’s March

Pounded on the Kitchen Table – Naughty Nailz

Berry Hard - Essie

Dark Side of the Mood - OPI Fifty Shades of Grey 2015 Collection

Porn-a-thon - Smith and Cult

Size Matters – Essie

Between the Sheets - Deborah Lippmann

Makin’ Whopee - Deborah Lippman

Orgasm - Nars

Shag - Butter

Royal Mattrimoany - ManGlaz 

OPI carries colors designated for little girls from the Hello Kitty and Muppets lines carrying more subtle colors such as light pinks, purples and blues.

Kitty White - OPI Hello Kitty

Look at My Bow - OPI Hello Kitty

Meep Meep Meep - OPI Muppets

Gone Gonzo - OPI Muppets

Pepe’s Purple Passion - OPI Muppets

Rainbow Connection - OPI Muppets

UnFROGetable - OPI Muppets 

OPI makes a smaller bottle costing slightly less at $6.99. It is geared at youngsters and empowering them to do great things:

Do Good, Feel Good

My Claim to Fame

Please Red-cycle

Believe It, Do It

Profoundly Purple

Make a Compliment

Miss Independent

Sometimes colors can reflect a woman’s poor self-image. Based on the name, I could not bring myself to buying self-deprivation even if the color was amazing.

Cougar Attack – Wet N Wild

My Silicon Popped - Wet N Wild

Plenty of Fish in the Sea – Wet N Wild

I Only Eat Salads – Wet N Wild

Dirty Slut – Matresse

Iris I Was Thinner - OPI 

Tomorrow, Detox! - Sephora Collection 

Marry a Millionaire - China Glaze

Sugar Daddy - Essie

Trophy Wife - Essie 

I'm Not Really A Whore - Naughty Nailz

I'm Not Really A Waitress – OPI 

At the forefront, OPI, one of the most prominent nail polish brands (coincidentally located in North Hollywood) is the executive vice president and artistic director, Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, known as “the first lady of nails”. She is the creative force behind the shades of colors as well as the names. Describing the inspiration of the names from just about anything: everyday people on the street, notable people and celebrities, geographic locations, places to travel, looking at runway trends, food, music, movies, and more. As we can all witness from the sampling of names mentioned, the names creatively and whimsically and tell a lot about how a person is feeling, an experience, and what they are anticipating. There’s a name to perfectly fit any occasion. 

There are a few colors that are named in her honor:

Suzi had a Swede Tooth

Suzi Shops & Island Hops

Suzi Without a Paddle (OPI Fiji Spring/Summer 2017)

Suzi Nails New Orleans 

Some may think of polish as merely slapping on a color on our nails, but others look at it as an experience. Going to your favorite beauty store or nail salon, spending time choosing a color to match a mood or an occasion, and carefully applying it to last as long as possible. No matter if I pay $5 or $20 for a bottle or $15-35 for a manicure, this is one spurge that makes me feel like a million bucks. Long after the polish wears off, I get bragging rights on the polish color name for a long time.

(Sue Helmy has plenty of tricks up her sleeve. She is currently providing superb administrative services at a financial management firm in Century City. She is active in countless church and civic organizations and spends every minute she can spare dancing to the Zumba beat.)



The Chinese New Year 2017 is the year of the Fire Rooster celebrated on Saturday, January 28. If a person was born under this most auspicious sign, they could be characterized as charismatic, but also attention seeking, boastful about personal accomplishments and seeking the attention and approval of others. I wonder if this is an omen of the upcoming year in US politics. You can draw a connection if you want, but for now, let’s stay on the “sweet” topic of Chinese parades and bakeries. 


The New Year’s festivities continue into this weekend with the Golden Dragon Parade at the Central Plaza in Chinatown on Saturday, February 4 along Broadway Street. It is the 118th annual Chinatown tradition bringing many activities to the stage including marching bands, traditional music, kung fu demos, ping pong action, face-painting, story-telling, paper-folding, with the main attraction, a giant golden dragon float. An Angeleno must-do, despite the large crowds. A recommendation is to take the Metro train to the Chinatown station as parking will be challenging. 


While in Chinatown and on the parade route, check out the Phoenix Bakery. It has been a staple on Broadway and Bamboo Streets for the past 8o years founded in 1938 by Fung Chow Chan and his wife Wai Hing. They bake many traditional Chinese pastries, but known for their extremely popular strawberry shortcake. The recipe is very simple using fresh ingredients like red ripe strawberries, fluffy whipped cream, yellow sponge cake with toasted almond shavings sprinkled on the sides. An “East meets West” thing, that appeals to everyone, not too sweet and very delicious. 

The cake only comes double-layered, in 16 different sizes. Here is an idea of their round cakes sizes, prices and portions:

4” round for $9.99 (serving 2-4)

6” round for $16.95 (serving 4-6)

7” round for $22.95 (serving 6-9)

8” round for $29.95 (serving 8-10)

9” round for $35.95 (serving 10-15)

10” round for $41.95 (serving 18-20) 

When ordered in advance, the classic can be made with variations in the whipped cream layer by adding peaches, pineapples, bananas, vanilla custard, and chocolate. The cakes can be ordered in other sizes, as a 12” square, and sheet cakes: 1/8, 1/6, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and as a full sheet (18” x 24”). The full sheet sells for $172 and serves 100 people. It is even possible to get as a multi-tiered wedding cake on columns and decorated with sugar flowers. 

Since the early years, the strawberry shortcake has become the Phoenix’s signature product. There was a time in the seventies when they would sell over 1,000 cakes on a given Saturday with long lines of people winding around the block. Today they continue to sell several hundred cakes on any weekend. 

In addition to the strawberry shortcake, the Phoenix also has tasty almond cookies, baked daily, flakey, light and yummy, selling a dozen for $3.25. I very much recommend trying them. There are other sweet delights such as sugar butterflies, which are fried wontons dipped in honey, sesame balls, moon pies stuffed with winter melon, red bean and Chinese lotus, selling for $1.75 each, and fruit blossoms in pineapple, apple, guava cheese, blueberry and cherry selling for $1.50. 

There are a few savory items on the menu, in case you need to grab lunch or a snack. The bbq pork buns and hot dog buns are a great deal for $1.35 each, served warm, soft, doughy, and delicious. 

The service is great too. The extremely patient lady who helped me was accustomed to having first-time visitors asking a million questions which I did. 

Hopefully, you make it to the parade this Saturday, celebrating the New Year with the excitement of the spectacular golden dragon float and tasting the specialties at the Phoenix Bakery. You will save yourself some “dough” and make your tummy very happy.

Confucius says: Be careful of fiery roosters wanting the spotlight. They may be very charming, but not to be trusted. 





Golden Dragon New Year’s Parade

Chinatown, February 4, 2017, 1-3 pm

Starting at Hill and Ord Streets – Ending at Broadway and Cesar Chavez Streets

Phoenix Bakery

969N. Broadway Street

Los Angeles, CA   90012

(213) 628-4642

Hours: 9 am - 8:00 pm, 7 days

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