Monday, June 4, 2018

Royal Blenheims are Back

The first Royal Blenheims of the season 

The luscious sun-flecked, honey-flavored Royal Blenheim apricots are back in the farmer's markets. Those pictured above were grown in Winters and I snapped them right up at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza market. The ripe globes are overflowing with nectar and have a superb texture unlike the mealy character and bland flavor of other varieties. We also have a vendor in the Berkeley market and I've been checking on this year's progress. Rain can ruin the blossoms if it hits at the wrong time, but luckily this year's weather has cooperated and we can look forward to a bountiful crop.

The Blenheims were grown in Europe 200 years ago and flourished in the garden at Blenheim Palace in England, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The variety thrives in California but production is waning. They account for less than 2% of total apricot production. Still, the small handful of commercial Blenheim apricot growers say that, despite the odds, they will try to keep this fruit from becoming extinct in the golden state. I hope so, because no other apricot can compare!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Kauai in Progress II

National Tropical Botanical Garden in Poipu

Water Lillies in Kiahuna gardens


Wet mattresses being dumped in Recycling Center

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Swamped on Kauai-- Blog in progress

One of many emergency alerts on our  iphones 

Bai Hai obscured by clouds and rain

You can read what San Francisco nature writer Tom Stienstra wrote about the flooding. By an amazing coincidence, he was there too.

Helicopters flew to evacuate those stranded in the North- boats brought supplies

waterfalls were spectacular

Hanalei River overflowed its banks and the bridge to Hanalei and points north was closed and underwater

Activity at Recycle Center

Wet mattresses from flooded houses being dumped at recycle Center near Princeville

Ne Nes near the pool

Sisters still smiling


                   Our traditional brunch at the St Regis Hotel before our late afternoon flight home

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Skinny on Glitter

      "Glittering things attract people's attention effortlessly. If you want to be be a stunning eye-catcher, do a glitter makeup for yourself. It's easy for you to show off your magic fascination and wow people around you."  So says Pretty Designs. com

                        BUT WAIT

 The sparkly glitter we enjoy using for makeup and craft projects is actually made from microplastic, one of the world's biggest environmental pollutants and potential killers of marine life. Those tiny plastic sparkles find their way down the drain and into the ocean where they contribute to the 51 trillion fragments of microparticles found floating there. It has been documented that there is plastic present in every third fish caught in the U.K. Soon there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. But there are easy ways to make small changes and one is to use products like the biodegradable glitter made by the Danish company Ecosparkles- here. Their glitter is a biodegradable alternative made of cellulose film and will prevent further damage to the environment. And it is compostable!

Now you can make your mousepad from plastic free compostable glitter

 But glitter is just the tip of the iceberg. Our convenience-driven, throwaway, fast food culture  indulges in plastic bottles, straws, plastic bags, lids and containers. These items are thrown away and survive forever in landfills or are washed into storm drains and out to sea. It's time for the plastic and oil industries to take some responsibility but instead they continue their deep-pocketed campaigns to quash anti-plastic legislation and discourage scientific research.

Yet there are men and women devoting their lives to studying the ecological impacts of  plastic pollution and trying to find solutions. You can't delve far into that world before finding mention of Marcus Eriksen and his 5 Gyres Institute. He studies the global distribution and ecological impact of marine plastic waste  by making sailing expeditions to destinations that include all 5 subtropical gyres, plus the Bay of Bengal and many inland lakes and rivers. He recently published the first global estimate of all plastic of all sizes floating in the world's oceans, which totals 270,000 metric tons.     

Marcus Eriksen's Junk Raft sailing to Honolulu

In 2017 Eriksen's book Junk Raft was published by Beacon Press. It chronicles his journey from Los Angeles to Honolulu in 88 days using the North Pacific Gyre's swirling current. The motorless "junk raft" floated on six pontoons made of 15,000 recycled plastic bottles and carried a Cessna plane body where the two sailors ate, slept and kept provisions. He tells the story of how plastic pollution at sea was discovered, the impact on people and the planet, and the growing movement to solve  the problem through zero waste initiatives in the largest cities worldwide.    

California, as well as many cities around the United States, has banned plastic bags. Now it's up to consumers to stop being wasteful and come a notch closer to that zero waste ideal. Carolyn Jones, an East Bay freelance writer suggests, "Why not ban more non-biodegradable products? Let's ban plastic water bottles for starters. Who thought those were a good idea anyway?" And for the real deal please, check out the Blog "My Plastic Free Life." Can we do it? Let's try!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Winter Wine Road 2018

We're checking in and claiming our wine glasses

It's Winter Wineland time again, coinciding as always with my birthday week. This intoxicating event, spanning two weekend days, invites ticket holders to visit as many of the 112 participating wineries as they want. The wineries meander through three stunning valleys in Northern Sonoma county---Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and Dry Creek. We always go Sunday only.

Right off the bat we bought three bottles of chardonnay from Taft Street. 25% off event special---how could we resist?

We picked up chardonnay # 4 from Hook and Ladder. Then onto La Crema. Though they produce one of our favorite chardonnays, we hadn't been there since they moved to their spacious new location in 2012.

                              This old truck decorated the hillside as we drove into the winery

We  found our glasses once again and entered the winery for more fun. They didn't disappoint. As well as delicious chardonnay and pinot noir, they were serving farrow salad with roasted squash and duck confit. I had three servings.

      Dean stepped out into the damp winter day for a breath of fresh air and a view of the vineyards.

We enjoyed this bottle on Thanksgiving

We needed another taste of great chard, so we headed up Slusser Road to Sonoma-Cutrer. They had closed the winery to the public so Wine Road people could have the grounds to themselves. We wandered around the light-filled rooms tasting wines, sampling small plates and trying our hand at the croquet contest. Dean looked like a pro but  failed to hit the goal to win a bottle of wine. I came in way short, so we left without our fifth bottle of chardonnay.

La Crema is my kind of winery

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Peace In the New Year

Lawai International Center, Kauai

In the hope of encouraging peace in 2018,  I'm presenting images of some of the unique Japanese shrines populating the hillside paths of the Lawai International Center on the island of Kauai

The Lawai International Center, a non-profit community project, is an archaeological and cultural treasure in a valley that has long been recognized as a healing sanctuary. In 1904 the first generation of Japanese immigrants built 88 shrines replicating an ancient pilgrimage of 88 temples in Shikoku, Japan. Today, it is the only such site existing outside of Japan and is one of the oldest Buddhist temple sites in the country. When the shrines fell into disrepair in the 1960s, the nonprofit Center was formed to restore the site. The maintenance and restoration work continues to be done today by a network of devoted volunteers.

It was fascinating to glimpse into each miniature shrine and marvel at the objects within

     We called the Center when we arrived in Kauai and made arrangements to visit the site. They are open to the public two Sundays a month, but if those days don't work, a volunteer will open the Center when it's convenient. When we arrived we were offered tea and were told the history of the valley. Then we were given walking sticks to help us clamber up and down the uneven paths and peer into each shrine to discover the unique offerings placed inside. Many are still tended by family members and offerings are replaced or repaired when necessary.

Treasures inside a shrine

Here's Dean peeking in
another interior

      I conclude with this peaceful shrine from the Lawai Center,  hoping that peace will bloom out of every nook on the planet, like the orchids of Kauai.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas 2017

                                               Merry Christmas to All