Free Things to do in Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara is often deemed a playground of the rich, but this doesn’t mean that this part of California doesn’t offer enough free attractions and activities for visitors of different ages. Here are some ways to enjoy it in style without breaking the bank, according to

Image source: Santa Barbara Outdoors

Old Mission Santa Barbara
This structure, founded in 1786 by a Franciscan friar and with its architectural details reworked until the 1830s, is called the “Queen of the Missions” for its sheer beauty. It’s the 10th of the 21 missions built in the state, and it boasts twin bell towers and outstanding city views.

Inspiration Point
This popular hiking destination provides a scenic view of Santa Barbara coupled with an intimate look at the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands beyond. Start on Tunnel Road and venture into a 3.5-mile hike taking about one to two hours.

Santa Claus Beach
A favorite among locals, this beach is among Santa Barbara’s well-kept secrets, with its soft white sand, mild waves for a range of watersports, and array of shops and restaurants.

Carriage and Western Art Museum of Santa Barbara
Founded in 1972, this free museum is steps away from West Beach and features carriage-related art, including historical pieces. It’s open on weekdays for free and unguided tours.

Skater’s Point
Opened in 2000, this skate park is open to guests of all ages. It’s right on the beach, too!

Image source: California Beaches

Coronado Butterfly Preserve
From late October to early March, monarch butterflies migrate here to spend the winter, hanging in clumps and clusters from eucalyptus tree branches. It’s free to the public, and it showcases rich wildlife, trails, and open areas for gatherings.

Diana Wylde is a 19-year-old computer science student at Duke University who enjoys visiting Santa Barbara in CA. Read more of her writings on this page.


Proper Sushi Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

Japanese dining has its own nuances and there are quite a number of rules for eating sushi in a traditional restaurant. There aren’t any absolute requirements besides general politeness and dining etiquette, but there are do’s and don’ts that can enrich one’s sushi experience when observed. Here are some of them, according to Thrillist.

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Don’t: Use a lot of wasabi

Chefs typically grate fresh wasabi to-order on the piece of sushi. The stuff could overpower the fish’s delicacy when there’s too much.

Don’t: Get scared when the sushi chef yells in Japanese

They say “irasshaimase” really loud when customers arrive, and it’s to welcome guests and express enthusiasm about new people coming into the sushi place.

Don’t: Discount the rice

There’s a great deal of time and sushi chef skills spent on the rice, and it’s a show of one’s excellence in sushi making. Don’t let it go to waste.

Don’t: Rub chopsticks together

You likely won’t get a lot of splinters when dealing with wooden chopsticks. And it’s rude practice, meaning you believe they are giving you poor-quality chopsticks.

Do: Eat your sushi right away

Eat a piece of fish right away when the sushi chef hands it to you, as it’s when the quality is at its peak.

Do: Observe cleanliness

Trust your instinct when you see a sushi place dirty, disheveled, or cannot be bothered to keep up appearances. Imagine what they could be doing with the fish where you can’t see it being prepared.

Do: Eat sashimi with chopsticks, nigiri with your hands

Sashimi isn’t served on rice or anything on top, so eat it with chopsticks. With nigiri, turn it upside down and put it in your mouth.

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Do: Wipe off your hands with the towel

It’s to get refreshed and to cleanse one’s hands, as sushi involves plenty of eating with hands.

Diana Wylde is a 19-year-old computer science student from North Carolina who loves exploring the best new sushi restaurants in town. Get updates on her Twitter page.

Sights and Sounds: Top Things to do in Solvang

Known as Little Denmark, Solvang is as scenic and beautiful as the Santa Ynez Valley in California can get. This wine country offers a roster of distinctly Danish architecture and historic attractions that one definitely shouldn’t miss.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In this Danish village, one may have a luscious taste of history by visiting Old Mission Santa Ines, a well restored Catholic Mission established in 1804. One may also tour the Wilding Art Museum, or see a performance at the Solvang Festival Theater. One may also simply admire vintage motorcycles at the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum. There are further options for families with kids in tow, including the Hans Christian Andersen Park and the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art.

Indulge in authentic Danish pastries at one of the many world-famous bakeries, or stroll through the village and be in awe of old-world European architecture. Get a souvenir or two at the charming boutiques and shops, or ride the Solvang Trolley, an historic, wooden, horse-drawn street car that’s just one example of how Solvang brims with cultural heritage.

Food and wine lovers are in never in want of things to do here with the over 120 wineries and vineyards to explore near Solvang. Rusack Vineyards, for instance, is a boutique winery and vineyard producing world-class wines as it’s nestled among the oak-dotted rolling hills of Ballard Canyon. The family owned Lincourt Vineyards, too, is a wine estate tucked away in the hills between Buellton and Lompoc towns in Santa Barbara County.

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A well-planned visit to Solvang is a delight for visitors of any age and eyeing historical, art, or culinary adventures. Make it happen today.

Diana Wylde is a 19-year-old computer science student at Duke University in North Carolina, and she is keen to learn more about her family’s Danish roots. Learn more on this page.

The most popular PC multiplayer games right now

Looking for new multiplayer games to try? When it comes to choosing multiplayer games, the first thing you need to check is the community. Are there enough people that play the game? Are the forums active? Is there enough content that you can read online about the game? Here are the most popular multiplayer games you can play right now.

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Overwatch: Overwatch was released just over a year ago, but the game is dominating the online shooting world. You’ve probably already heard of it. Not only is it the most popular online shooter, but the content and folklore are also amazing. You’ll instantly get hooked once you play its ranked games. What makes this game so successful is it forces you to play as a team if you want to win.

Diablo 3: Diablo 3 has been out for more than a couple years now, and it’s still one of the most popular multiplayer games out there. This hack-and-slash action-RPG from Blizzard is still receiving occasional updates (it’s one of the reasons many are still playing this game). The setup is quite simple: pick a hero and set out for an adventure to destroy evil in the world while making your hero powerful with enhanced armor and weapons.

CS:GO: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a thriving online shooter in the PC platform. The game is an evolution of the early 2000’s game, Half-life 1. Unlike Overwatch, the game is heavily focused on mechanical skill and accuracy.

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Hi there, Diana Wylde here. I’m a computer science student from Duke University. Since I’m from a Danish family, I look forward to visiting Solvang in Santa Barbara County in CA, which is also called Little Denmark by locals. That’s if I’m not busy with my games. Follow me on Twitter for more of my adventures.

How the real-money auction house feature almost ruined ‘Diablo III’

For the massive number of fans eagerly awaiting the third and latest installment in the acclaimed Blizzard role-playing series “Diablo,” to say D3 started off on the wrong foot is an understatement. The game was a huge disappointment, mainly due to the inclusion of a real-money auction feature.

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For one, gamers had waited 12 years for the game’s release in May 2012 only to be confronted by a beta-like version. The game had lots of glitches, and the mechanics were incredibly punishing; monsters were too powerful and finding good gear was nearly impossible. Then there’s the great consequence of the auction house design: most players spent more time buying and selling and sniping items on the main auction menu instead of playing the game. It was the same place where those good gear were being offered. And for actual money.

This was a deal-breaker for many players expecting a refinement of features from “Diablo II.” While the auction house provided an investment opportunity for those with lots of time on their hands to farm for gear, the real winners were those with money to spend, as they got the most overpowered gear.

By the time the game’s expansion “Reaper of Souls” came out in 2014, the developers had abandoned the model. And with good reason, as the removal of the auction house signaled the beginning of the game’s rise and renewed playability. And D3 is still going strong in 2017.

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Diana Wylde is a student of computer science from Duke University. She is a huge computer game fan and spends a lot of time playing popular games. Drop by this blog for news and updates on popular gaming titles.

Your Guide To Eating Sushi Properly

With more sushi restaurants opening nationwide, it has become more important for people to know how to properly eat this Japanese dish. Sushi etiquette is not only a great conversation starter, it will help you learn how to fully appreciate the dish. Japan-based chefs have listed the proper ways to eat sushi.

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The first — and perhaps most shocking — lesson is that cut rolls are meant to be eaten with one’s hands. Tokyo sushi chef, Naomaichi Yasuda, explained in a video posted on that proper sushi etiquette did not include using chopsticks for certain sushi varieties. Naturally, this has changed over the years; more people are accepting of using chopsticks, but traditional methods still call for a hand-picked bite.

Second, sushi was not meant to be “dunked” in the soy sauce. The dip is basically that, a dip. Sushi flavors were thoughtfully planned by the chef; overexposing the dish to soy sauce will mask the various flavors. The soy sauce is meant only for taste. Moreover, pickled ginger is never eaten with the sushi; these should be eaten by themselves, after eating the piece of sushi. This is to cleanse the mouth.

Another no-no, according to Yasuda, is dipping the nigiri into the soy sauce. The chef explains that the fish, and not the rice, should make contact with the sauce. This not only ensures that no rice kernels fall into the soy sauce, but again, to enhance the original flavor of the dish, and not overpower it.

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On a final note, the chef reminds customers that sushi is mainly about the rice, and not the fish. While the fish is often the “featured” item in many Japanese restaurants today, traditional sushi makers say that the fish is only the secondary ingredient. It is the rice — the quality and texture of it — that makes a good sushi great.

Hi! I am Diana Wylde and I love going to different sushi restaurants. Learn more about me when you follow this blog.

Phased-Out Video Game Consoles Worth Remembering

As the daughter of a videogame fan, I had the chance to try out some of my dad’s precious videogame consoles even after they’ve been phased out. Some lived up to the hype while some weren’t destined to last long. Let’s take a moment to remember all the great video game consoles children of this generation will no longer experience.

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Neo-Geo Pocket Color

The NGPC will go down to history as GameBoy’s most memorable nemesis. Easy on the fingers and with a lot of games to choose from, kids who have played this console will remember spending hours on Bust-A-Move, Fatal Fury, Metal Slug, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Unfortunately, SNK ran out of resources to fund the production of this handset.

Sega Saturn

I’m sad about the end of this console because from what I’ve heard, it was Playstation’s worthy opponent. It had a great suite of titles in pretty 32-bit that will draw in gamers. Though the Saturn was released earlier, as it turns out, Sony had better strategies. What would life be like if the Saturn was continued?

Nintendo GameCube

Back in the day, GameCube looked weird. This console, however, became the brand’s representative in the console wars during the early 2000’s. While Xbox and PS were hashing it out, Nintendo had its own number of loyalists who are willing to try everything the brand offers. Resident Evil 4 and Mario Kart Double Dash were some of the good games we played on this purple box.

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Do you still remember these? If you know someone who collects vintage sets, it would be nice to check out some games on these consoles.

Hi! My name is Diana Wylde and I’m a 19-year-old Computer Science student from Duke University. I am a videogame and sushi lover. Solvang in California is my favorite place on earth. Visit this page to know more about me.