Purple yam or corn and cheese ice cream…anyone?

Have you eaten Filipino style ice cream?  If not, you are missing out on some of the best tasting and most interesting ice cream available to us, right here in the Bay Area!

Magnolia Brand “UBE” Ice Cream, from www.RamarFoods.com

When we lived in San Francisco years ago, Mitchell’s Ice Cream on San Jose Avenue (at Guererro and the corner of 29th Street) was the “go to” place for tropical ice cream.

These days, it is still the “go to” tropical ice cream place in SF.  It is quite unusual to see a business with over 1000 Yelp reviews, let alone one with over 2,000 reviews. As of this post date,  Mitchell’s Ice Cream has 2,230 reviews (“in English” out of a total of 2,235 reviews).   And they rate consistently 4.5 out of 5 Yelp stars!  Their tropical ice cream menu consist of:

  • Avocado
  • Buko (baby coconut)
  • Coconut Pineapple
  • Ginger (available November through February only)
  • Green Tea
  • Halo-Halo (buko, langka, ube, pineapple, mongo & sweet beans)
  • Langka (also known as jackfruit, a relative of the fig)
  • Lucuma (a tropical fruit native to Peru)
  • Macapuno (sweet coconut)
  • Mango
  • Tropical Four (banana, guava, mango & pineapple)
  • Ube (purple yam)

They note on their website that the most of the fruit imported for their tropical ice cream line is from the Philippines.

My grandsons like the purple, Filipino ube (pronounced “ou-beh”) — the purple yam ice cream, as well as the coconut or macapuno flavors, made from sweetened young coconut meat.

My grandsons Jun and Gabriel love ube ice cream (and licking frosting off beaters, after their Lola makes cake)!

Mais Queso Ice Cream by Magnolia Foods. Photo from www.ramarfoods.com

And my favorite?  It is the uniquely Filipino, ice cream combination of corn and cheese!  Yes indeed, corn and cheese was my favorite as a little kid, and it still is among my favorite ice cream concoctions now that I am a Lola (grandmother) of two beautiful boys.

I don’t see my favorite Filipino ice cream flavor on Mitchell’s current menu. However, it is easy enough to find at most Asian/Filipino stores.

A popular Filipino brand is  “Magnolia” by Ramar Foods.  Magnolia brand ice cream is made here in the U.S, at Ramar’s Pittsburg, California headquarters.  Magnolia’s ice cream fruits are also sourced from the Philippines, for the most authentic flavors.

Ramar’s Magnolia Ice Cream line features 16 flavors, including a “halo-halo” flavor (see previous post) and my all time favorite, corn and cheese — though they call it the Spanish  “mais queso”.

I know it sounds weird — well perhaps not so weird if you are of a Filipino background — but corn and cheese ice cream is really tasty.

The corn pieces give the creamy ice cream added unique texture and flavors…and combined with slightly tart, orange-colored cheese bits…well, you will just have to trust me and try it.

But, I do understand if that sounds truly too strange for you to venture into the land of tropical ice cream.  So instead, you might just try:

  • Avocado ice cream — avocados have long been eaten as a “sweet” in the Philippines, as in avocado icicles, or ice pops, or the iced-avocado, sugar and milk snacks of our childhood.  And now, I am seeing avocado cheesecake recipes in magazines!  So finally, it seems…..Americans are trying avocado beyond its role as a vegetable, in guacamole or as ingredients for a salad and sandwich.
  • The mango, jackfruit or coconut flavors (like buko or macapuno)
  • The delicious ube — or purple yam.  Thanks to this purple yam, you will see a good share of Filipino snack foods in shades of purple .  Ube is used not only in ice cream, but also sold as a preserve (nothing like purple yam jams!) and stuffed in breads and added to many Filipino rice-based desserts.
  • And if you can’t decide and want to be adventurous, try the “halo-halo” ice cream, which translates to “mix-mix” or “to mix”, and where many ingredients are thrown in the ice cream mix (again, see prior post on halo-halo).

Growing up in the Philippines, I remember buying ice cream from the sorbetes man, scooped fresh, from his colorful push cart.

Jingling bells signaled the arrival of the sorbetes man on our street, and we would pop outside to let him know we would like to buy, and dash back inside to get our money, and favorite drinking glass, bowl, or cup, to contain the ice cream.

I can’t remember if there were even ice cream “cones” sold by sorbetes man back then, only that we would buy whatever scoop quantity we wanted and he would scoop it directly into our chosen containers.

Back inside and spoon in hand, we worked fast to eat our quickly melting ice cream.  Fresh ice cream from your favorite mamang sorbetero — the ice cream man — has to be one of the best snacks to eat on a warm, Philippine afternoon.

We did not know it, but back then, this was a very “green” method of getting a snack or treat, no waste of plastic packaging or paper trash to deal with.

Hmmm…I do wonder….can one still buy ice cream this way in the Philippines?

Related: Lola Jane’s Filipino food posts:

  • Burgers…and Bangus?  Why the bangus fish is often thought of as a Philippine national symbol
  • About ginamos & tuyo…and can you bring in your luggage when traveling to the US
  • About Sinangag, and how much I missed rice while in boot camp in the US Air Force
  • Use of Banana Leaves in Filipino food
  • The Ube, and why Filipinos love purple food!

Halo-Halo: Saveur’s Recipe Comix

Is Filipino food going mainstream, finally?  The March, 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine featured a recipe for the quintessential Filipino national dish, the chicken adobo (also noted by Local Nomad).

And earlier this week, Saveur Magazine’s website featured this halo-halo cartoon recipe (as they note, proof that a recipe does not have to be just words on paper).

Halo-Halo translates to “mix-mix” and is a much-loved, icy, Filipino treat, perfect for the hot Philippine climate, especially in the mid-afternoon.  It is also delicious as a dessert.

The artist for this recipe comix is Toronto-based Michael Deforge.

Halo-Halo is available at Goldilocks and other Filipino restaurants in the Bay Area.

In the Monterey Bay, Lola’s Kusina — not THIS Lola — on 265 Reservation Rd, in Marina (831)384-2600 is a good place to get your halo-halo fix.  My grandsons enjoy their halo-halo topped with their ube (purple yam) ice cream.

For a step-by-step (from scratch) halo-halo recipe, please visit Jun Belen’s blog,  http://blog.junbelen.com/2010/10/10/how-to-make-halo-halo/  Jun Belen is a Philippine-born, San Francisco-based professional food and cookbook photographer.         I have been a fan since learning about Jun’s Saveur-nominated blog — a collection of his Filipino recipes with narratives, and his absolutely beautiful photographs.

And if you have a favorite Bay Area halo-halo spot, please comment and share.

Do you think one day, Filipino food will be as common — and as readily available — as Chinese or Thai food here in the U.S.?

Shopping For Rice

Years ago, shopping for rice in the U.S. was pretty straightforward, as there was not much to choose from.  Usually, you had a pick of Calrose — the stickier sort we think of when eating Japanese food — Thai Jasmine, or Texas Long Grain.

That is no longer the case, and rice, in an array of choices — sold in 25 lb or 50 lb sacks — are now sold at most Asian markets or Filipino stores.  The photo below is from the rice section aisle at the Filipino chain supermarket, Seafood City.

Seattle location of Filipino supermarket chain Seafood City

So far, Seafood City has 19 locations in California, 4 in Nevada and a new store in the Seattle Area.

The original Seafood City was established over 20 years ago with the opening of its first store in San Diego.

They bill themselves as a “home away from home” for Filipinos and Asians in the United States.

The larger stores also have Filipino restaurants or tropical bakeries and dessert shops nearby, or within the strip mall area of the supermarket.

The Seafood City Supermarket I visited in Milipitas, California has well known, Philippine-based restaurants such as Goldilocks, Max’s of Manila and Chow King.

There were also Filipino cafes, a Valerio’s Tropical Bakery (famous here in the San Francisco Bay area for their Pandesal and “merienda” or snack items) and a Filipino Desserts Plus, which is new to Northern California (they have 3 stores in the San Diego area).

If you are looking to buy rice and are not near an Asian or Filipino supermarket, your mainstream type grocery store will still have several options (and sizes) available.  Just look in the Asian / Mexican Food or Ethnic Food aisle, and you will usually see a variety of rice to choose from — the photo below from the chain store, Save Mart.

rice is located in the Mexican & Asian food aisle at chain store Save Mart

Rice is also sold in bulk at markets like Whole Foods, along side other grains.

rice sold in bulk, via dispensers at Whole Foods Market

The rice choices locally include California “sushi” rice, brown California basmati rice, jasmine rice, sweet brown, and white arborio rice.

rice sold in bulk, via dispensers at Whole Foods Market

The rice we buy for our family here in the U.S. is usually the Milagrosa or Thai Jasmine type — fairly easy to find at local stores, and even available in 25 or 50 pound sacks at most Costco stores.

Shopping for Rice at a Western Style, Philippine Grocery Store

It is interesting to see the opening of new supermarkets in California, targeted to the ever-growing Filipino and Asian-American population here.

At the same time, there are American or Western Style malls and grocery stores opening up in far-flung provinces and places in the Philippines.

It is just part of modern migration trends and much more diverse, global communities living….well, everywhere!

In the Philippines, these new, Western style grocery stores — even outside major metropolitan areas — also serve  the needs of foreigners and Filipino-Americans retiring and/or deciding to move and live in the Philippines, and perhaps looking for the same, familiar, grocery stores from years living in the U.S. or abroad.

While in the Philippines, we went shopping for rice that our Mother might like, similar to the Thai Jasmine variety, sold here in the U.S.   A new Western style mall about an hour and a half drive from our Mother’s home, had just opened, and we went to check it out. There was a new grocery store inside the mall, and we were able to buy pretty much anything we needed and things you would find as a “staple” here in the U.S.

In particular, we were happy to find yogurt, and a nice selection of cheese, which was not so common just a few years ago, and non-existent there when we were growing up.

Rice Varieties and Pricing at a Western Style, Philippine Grocery Store

However, the rice varieties at this new grocery store —  though also sold in large sacks — were limited to Dinorado, Well-Milled, Sinandomeng or Whole Grain.

Dinorado is a popular, traditional aromatic variety of rice.  Sometimes, unscrupulous sellers will pass off lower quality rice as higher quality, and more expensive varieties like Dinorado.

Hopefully, that is not the case with these sacks of rice sold at the new and shiny grocery store.

We will check it out again during our next trip to see if they have more rice choices.  We also heard a new mall has opened just minutes away from our Mother’s place…so perhaps we do not need to drive far to get those U.S. style pantry basics.

Photo Source: IRRI

For more about rice — a staple food for more than 3 billion people who eat it every day — visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) website, here, or click on the bowl of rice photo.

Also, more rice articles are available in the “Rice, Rice and more Rice” Category.

Top 15 U.S. States by Population

Ever wonder which states have the most population?

It is not surprising that border states — California, Texas — as well as coastal and major ports of entry states — New York, Florida — lead the pack.

California’s population is over 37 million…a whopping 12 million more than Texas, the next most populous state (over 25 million).

If you combine the population of the 11th through 15th most populous states, respectively New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, Massachusetts and Indiana, the total population would come close to the entire population of California.

Here are the Top 15 —- population noted are estimates for 2011:

1 1  California 37,691,912
2 2  Texas 25,674,681
3 3  New York 19,465,197
4 4  Florida 19,057,542
5 5  Illinois 12,869,257
6 6  Pennsylvania 12,742,886
7 7  Ohio 11,544,951
8 8  Michigan 9,876,187
9 9  Georgia 9,815,210
10 10  North Carolina 9,656,401
11 11  New Jersey 8,821,155
12 12  Virginia 8,096,604
13 13  Washington 6,830,038
14 14  Massachusetts 6,587,536
15 15  Indiana 6,516,922

Click here to see the population data on all U.S. States and Territories, from the United States Census website.

Also, from a density standpoint (population of people per square mile):

  • California has 239 people per square mile – density rank 13th
  • Texas has 96 people per square mile – density rank 28th
  • New York has 411 people per square mile – density rank 9th
  • Florida has 350 people per square mile – density rank 10th

For the density ranking of all 50 states, visit the U.S. Census website, here.

Is Monterey County ready for a tsunami?

According to the National Weather Service (NWS)….the answer is YES.

Tsunami warning sign at entrance to California State Park beach, Monterey County

Monterey County —  along with the California Counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Orange — received the designation of TsunamiReady for meeting NWS criteria, including developing a safety plan, setting up alert systems and promoting tsunami safety through public outreach.


When Seconds Count,
are Prepared


Interested in learning about other California communities with the TsunamiReady designation?  Click here or on the California map below.

According to the TsunamiReady™  web site, there were 102 sites in 10 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands with the TsunamiReady designation.  Click here or the map below for details.

Did you know…Tsunami (soo-NAH-mee) is a Japanese word meaning harbor wave?

The NWS West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is a terrific resource for all types of Tsunami questions — visit here.

And related to this topic, I posted an article about the “bathtub effect” in Monterey Bay, after the March 2011 Tsunami — article “Tsunami’s Behavior: Waves grew in Monterey Bay…

Tagalish Chicken McBites

And also, another multi-culture, “Tagalish” ad, with this new one from McDonald’s.

Except for the second sentence, the text is both in English and Tagalog for this ad.

Details read: Flavor so big, you will be surprised….Each bite provides delicious flavor…Taste the new Chicken McBites from McDonald’s before it’s gone.

Click here to view more Tagalish ads, in LolaKo’s Language & Advertising category.

Another green message placemat

Another paper placemat beverage ad, with a “green” message, this one spotted at one of our local Korean restaurants (and yes, lucky for Monterey Bay residents, we have a nice selection of Korean restaurants to choose from).

“You can always ask us for more.  Waste less for Earth.”

This time, the ad is for Hite, Korea’s largest beer company.

The previous one wasLOVE the earth, HATE the waste”, on a mat and ad for Jinro, a Korean soju beverage company (also owned by the company, Hite)

Click here for the accompanying article: Green message trends…soju and place mats.

Who’s happy now?

Here is a surprising chart on happiness and GDP, from the Economist.

Well, actually, it may not be that surprising.  Happiness — and most of us know this instinctively anyway — is not related to wealth.  Poor and middle-income countries were the happiest!

The top 3 on the chart are among the most populated countries in the world (Indonesia ranks #4, India #2 and Brazil is #5 in world population).  Indonesia and India also rank among the poorest countries in the world, based on per capita income.

DESPITE the economic gloom, the world is happier than it was before the financial crisis set in (according to a recent poll from Ipsos which surveyed 19,000 adults in 24 countries). 77% of respondents describe themselves as “happy”, three percentage points higher than in 2007. Those countries who report themselves as being the happiest tend to be in poor and middle-income countries, while the gloomiest are in rich countries (the figures for Italy and Spain were 13% and 11%).

With all our information connectivity, do you think people in poorer nations will be less happy as they learn of higher living standards in other parts of the world?  Or is it because poverty is somehow linked to leading a more spiritual life, and thus being content and happy?

Sometimes I do wonder…it seems the more you know about the world, the more sad it can get.

Are you happier now than last year…happier as you get older?

Blog Birthday

This month — and March 6th to be specific–  marks LolaKo.com’s 1st year anniversary.

Blog is my garden

So one year later, blogging is still fun.  I have learned much more about topics important to me, and met new friends through the blog.   Highlights for the first year:

Ginamos and Bananas - Photo by Karlhans

A story I posted called “Luggage with a special kind of stinky”, about my mother’s mishap bringing fermented fish (ginamos) from the Philippines to San Francisco turned out to be popular.

And at the same time, it was helpful to those wondering if they can bring dried fish (and ginamos) from the Philippines to the United States…

A story about old school  ironing “Hot iron for your undies” connected a person from France who rented his flat from the same family — and the “Oma” (grandmother) who took such great care of my then baby daughter, Dominique — when we were stationed near the town of Dudeldorf, Germany.

The funny part for me….are people landing on the blog by typing the words lola+undies, who, I imagine, may be very, very disappointed when they find out “Lola” means grandmother in Tagalog (Filipino), not some hottie “Lola” from a European country.  And that the article is about the uber sexy topic of…. IRONING!  Ha, serves them right.

The most popular search term bringing people to this blog last year has been….very oddly….the term “walis ting ting”.  This is all because I mentioned Filipino ting-ting and tambo brooms in an article about how products got their names, including the Procter and Gamble product, the Swiffer!

Though this year, the terms “plastic problem Philippines” and Philippine eagle and Philippine national symbols are quickly catching up.

And though this is not a food blog, I do love cooking for my grandchildren, so I include favorite recipes, now and then.

Two food related posts often visited are:

Whole egg leche flan with coconut milk.…turns out I was not the only person wondering if I really have to separate all those egg yolk and egg whites to make flan!

A story about “Banana leaves and sweets” on suman and puto, after my grandson Jun-Jun bit into a banana leaf and asked if he could eat it.

My penchant for charts and graphs (something I carry over from my past work presenting accident statistics) continues, but this time covering conservation, and human development topics.  I created a new category “Lola’s Pies” for this collection.

As of today, I’ve posted 125 articles, some short, some long.  For me, a blog is about exploring topics I feel are important and having my own little place — in this big but more connected world of ours — to collect, contain and share information important to me, and in the process (I hope) interesting and helpful for others too!

My goals the 2nd year:

As always, thank you for visiting!

San Francisco Arboretum

Americans eating less meat

My friend Jean (The Local Nomad) started a semi-vegetarian diet.  She is eating meat only twice a week, and going ovo-lacto vegetarian for the other five days of the week.

And it turns out she is part of a growing trend of Americans eating less meat.  According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans are now eating about 10% less meat, compared to 8 years ago.  In 2004, Americans consumed 184 pounds (83kg) of meat per person/per year.  Year 2012 projections are down to 168 pounds of meat per person/per year.

Highlights from a report from Janet Larsen of the Earth Policy Institute:

  • U.S. meat consumption has peaked — and for a society that lives high on the food chain, this new trend could signal the end of meat’s mealtime dominance.
  • Higher prices combined with a weak economy led people to put less meat in their grocery carts.
  • Corn, the primary livestock feed, has been in high demand by fuel ethanol producers  Increases in corn prices affects the cost of producing meat, milk, and eggs.
  • Cultural factors and attitudes about meat are changing. Rather than considering meat requisite at every dinner or an indication of wealth, many people are deliberately choosing to eat less meat than before, often citing concerns about health, the environment, and the ethics of industrial meat production.
  • Given livestock’s large climate and resource footprints, this “peak” in meat-eating is good news.

To read the full report and view more data charts, visit the Earth Policy Institute (EPI) website or click on the EPI banner below.

Also, here is a link to an article by Mark Bittman of the NY Times – We’re Eating Less Meat. Why?

World’s Top 10 Merchandise Trade Countries

Okay, this is the last data chart  — at least for a while —- from the Bureau of Transportation Statistic’s report on America’s Container Ports: Linking Markets at Home and Abroad.   So, is it obvious yet, that I find this sort of data interesting?

Container ship passing the city of San Francisco on a rainy day in late March, 2012. Photo: Lolako.com


The U.S., China, Germany and Japan lead the pack respectively, and 10th is Belgium…hmmm, Belgium?  Section report notes:

  • Looking ahead, the volume of containers that U.S. seaports will handle in the coming years will be determined mainly by how much the United States continues to rely on imported manufactured goods, which countries it trades with the most, and which products it imports rather than produces domestically.
  •  Globally, the United States ranked second in container traffic in 2009, a position it has held since China took over the lead position in 1998.
  • Nonetheless, the United States remains the world’s leading trading nation, accounting for 11 percent of total world merchandise trade in 2009 (figure 5 above).
  • U.S. total imports ranked first, account­ing for over 13 percent of global imports in 2009. With 9 percent of total global exports, however, the United States lags both China, the new leading world exporter, and Germany (WTO 2010). 
  • n 2009, China became the top world exporter, with 10 percent of the value of traded merchandise. Overall, though, the United States remained the world’s largest economy, accounting for 24 percent of world GDP in 2009 (see table below).

 Notes for above table

  • (a) World 2009 GDP is an estimate that includes projections by the International Monetary Fund for some countries.
  • KEY: TEU = twenty-foot equivalent unit. One 20-foot container equals one TEU, and one 40-foot container equals two TEUs.
  • SOURCES: TEUs, world estimates, 1995–1999: Containerisation International Yearbook (London: Informa Group, Inc., 1997–2001); 2000–2009: U.S. Department of Transportation,Maritime Administration, based on Containerisation International Online, www.ci-online.co.uk, as of Oct. 5, 2010. TEUs, U.S. estimates, 1995–2009: American Association of Port Authorities, Industry Statistics; 1995–2009, www.aapa-ports.org/Industry, as of Sept. 16, 2010.
  • GDP: World estimates from International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2010/01/weodata/index.aspx, as of Sept. 16, 2010; U.S. estimates from U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, www.bea.gov/national, as of Sept. 16, 2010.

Here is a link to the full 52 page report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (http://www.bts.gov/publications/americas_container_ports/2011/pdf/entire.pdf)

Spring forward again – it’s Daylight Saving Time (DST)

It’s that time again, when we observe Daylight Saving Time (DST) and move an hour of daylight from morning to evening, by turning our clocks forward an hour.

More daylight to enjoy sight-seeing (photo of picturesque Pacific Grove, California)

I posted an article about DST in November last year — click here to view “The Story of Daylight Saving Time”.

The site WebExhibits is a good place to learn more about DST and has this interesting spelling and grammar article:

The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Because of this, it would be more accurate to refer to DST as daylight-saving time. Similar examples would be a mind-expanding book or a man-eating tiger. Saving is used in the same way as saving a ball game, rather than as a savings account.

Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with an ‘s’) flows more mellifluously off the tongue. Daylight Savings Time is also in common usage, and can be found in dictionaries.

Adding to the confusion is that the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, and Daylight Time Shifting more accurate, but neither is politically desirable.

How many clocks do you have to change today?  Just smile and remember, DST is all about saving energy.

Picturesque Pacific Grove, California

Are we drowning in data…and can Cowbird connect us?

Founded by Jonathan Harris, Cowbird is a new form of storytelling and participatory journalism, on a multi-media platform.
We live with simply too much information these days…and we are overloaded with data.

At the same time, communication is getting shorter and shorter.  Is it because we have so much to communicate? And with so many  modern tools…are we connecting in a more meaningful way?

We have gone from crafting long, hand-written letters, to phone calls…to emails….to text and now, to tweets. Is another level of compressing our communication waiting to emerge, even shorter than tweets?  And if so, what will it look like?  Are we going to just use mono-syllabic words and just grunt at each other?

The comedian Jim Gaffigan has a comic bit about this, related to how we order fast food meals.  He jokes that since we have it down to uttering a number to get a meal…”#1″ or “#2″…will this next evolve (or in this case, is it devolve) to just grunts when ordering at the drive-up window?

I heard Jonathan Harris talk about Cowbird on the radio program To the best of our knowledge recently.   He is betting that we have compressed our communication so much that we need to go another direction to create something with more meaning, and a way of connecting our stories (and he believes that technology has not yet touched on connecting these stories).

And his project, Cowbird is a place on the Internet for just that…a place to connect and express ourselves in a deeper, more lasting, meaningful way.

It really is communication PLUS, because your personal story may be part of a larger “saga” and organized in a way that will touch millions, as a part of shaping and recording the human experience.

It is also a means to connect the stories behind and perhaps beyond the news events.

For example — here is the link to stories related to the Occupy Movement.  At the time of this post, there were almost 500 in this category.

Neat site — and a great idea by Jonathan Harris   What do you think?  Have you participated in Cowbird, or plan to?

 “Of all our truest hopes and desires for our work is that, what we find, we ourselves never knew. It came as a shock. It came as a surprise. It was new. We could never have known what we were going to do before we did it, and in that sense, we discover too. Here is what I’ve got to say to you: there are things in your life you will see; there are stories you will hear; if you don’t write them down, if you don’t make the picture, they won’t get seen, they won’t get told.” Emmet Gowin

International Women’s Day 2012

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Some countries celebrate IWD as a national holiday, including China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria.

Here in the U.S., the month of March is designated as Women’s History Month.

To learn more about International Women’s Day — which celebrated its 100th year in 2011 — click here to visit the website, www.InternationalWomensDay.com.

Locally, the Monterey Bay Chapter of the United Nations Association is hosting an International Women’s Day potluck dinner on Friday, March 9th.  Details below and on the UNA Monterey Bay Chapter website.

Topic is “What would the world be like with more women leaders?”

Location: Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula, 490 Aguajito Road, Carmel, from 6:00 to 9:00 pm

The speaker is Ms. Rebecca Costa – Author of “The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction”

Everyone is encouraged to bring an international dish to share, and to wear international or ethnic clothing.  Admission is free!

Click on here to join the BIG INEQUALITY DEBATE

Most of us have not heard of International Women’s Day….and may ask, is this really necessary?

Yes it is!

With the recent tirade by Rush Limbaugh (why are people listening to this VILE person?) after law student Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on contraception….with the violence and atrocities against women that we continue to hear about in war-torn areas of Africa…..and the inequities that women STILL endure in many parts of the world…yes, this attention is necessary.

And though it is now 2012, unfortunately, there is still much work and understanding needed to make women truly equal to men, in our modern world.

12 Minutes

Bag Photo from Save Our Shores

Twelve minutes is the average use time of a plastic bag…and by now, most of us know that these lightweight bags — even when placed in trash cans — can be blown into gutters and end up in creeks and storm drains, and eventually into the bay and our ocean.

So it is great to hear about city after city in California, continuing to ban the use of single-use plastic bags!

Bans at Bay Area cities will help keep plastic bags from ending up in our bay.

The plastic bag ban for the city of San José — largest city in the Bay Area and third largest in California — took effect on January, 1, 2012.

Kristin Giammona pulls out her reusable bag to pack her groceries at the Lunardi's market in San José, Calif. on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012. Helping her at right is cashier, Chris Silva. San José's ban on the use of plastic bags goes into affect beginning on 2012. (Gary Reyes/ Mercury News)

San Jose residents are getting use to bringing their reusable bags for grocery shopping (and grumbling when they forget and have to pay for paper bags).

There are exemptions…and the San José plastic bag ban does not apply to restaurants, so you will still get plastic bags and Styrofoam containers when getting take out or food to go.

Which means, it is up to us – the individual consumers  — to change our habits to further cut plastic bag and Styrofoam box use.

Despite the exemptions, some restaurant owners are taking it upon themselves to use environment friendly food packaging.  If you are interested in ideas for a restaurant environmental policy, please view my post on California’s foam packaging ban and click on the link to Gayles Bakery & Rosticceria.

The city of Monterey’s plastic bag ban takes effect in June, 2012.

The challenge — for all of us really — is remembering to bring our reusable bags with us when shopping.

In Monterey, we spotted these signs at the Whole Foods parking lot at the Del Monte Center center last year.

More recently, we saw the same reminder signs now up at the Pharmaca / Trader Joe’s parking lot, in downtown, Old Monterey.

With the work that environment and conservation groups around the Bay Area — and beyond — are doing to clean up our shores and oceans, photos of wildlife entangled in plastic bags or other plastic material, will hopefully be a rare thing, or even better, forever in the past.Additional Plastic Pollution Resources and Related Links:

Save Our Shores website – Plastic Bag Ban Fact Sheet Over the last 30 years, Save Our Shores has been responsible for key accomplishments such as preventing offshore oil drilling in Central Coast waters, helping to establish the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, preventing local cruise ship pollution, and bringing together diverse stakeholders to find common solutions to ocean issues

Earth Resource FoundationI AM THE PROBLEM, I AM THE SOLUTION” – Founded in 1999, Earth Resource Foundation (ERF) is an environmental educational non-profit organization developed to empower the general public with the resources to make environmentally  sustainable choices and changes.

Save The Bay (San Francisco) is the largest regional organization working to protect, restore and celebrate San Francisco Bay.  Save the Bay was founded in 1961, as “Save San Francisco Bay Association” by three East Bay women who were watching the Bay disappear before their eyes.  Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin and Esther Gulick set out to stop the City of Berkeley’s plan to double in size by filling in the shallow Bay off-shore. They mobilized thousands to stop the project, and their resounding victory was repeated on Bay fill projects around the region.

Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF) Charles Moore founded AMRF in 1994 to focus on the “coastal ocean”, specifically on the restoration of disappearing giant kelp forests and the improvement of water quality through the preservation and re-construction of wetlands along the California coast.

The U.S. National Ocean and Atmospheric Association (NOAA’s) Marine Debris Program Marine debris is everyone’s problem. It is a global problem affecting everything from the environment to the economy; from fishing and navigation to human health and safety; from the tiniest coral polyps to giant blue whales.

Marine debris also comes in many forms, from a cigarette butt to a 4,000-pound derelict fishing net.

World Watch Institute – Vision for a Sustainable WorldWorldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society.

The Plastic Pollution Coalition is a global alliance of individuals, organizations and businesses working together to stop plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on humans, animals and the environment.  With its work, Plastic Pollution seeks to put plastic pollution at the forefront of global social, environmental and political discourse.

Keep Monterey Clean – Litter is a problem in our community.  Monterey County is one of the most beautiful spots in California yet a trip on area roadways can reveal medians, roadsides, and parking lots strewn with litter. Litter is not only an eyesore, it poses health risks, impacts our coastal waters and is costly to cleanup.   The Monterey Regional Waste Management District has created this website to help solve the problem and to recognize the great work many businesses and civic groups are doing to help keep Monterey County clean.

One woman’s beach clean-up

The beaches around our area are, in general, nice and clean.  Still though, you will occasionally see food packaging trash and plastic items, or other small objects, as you walk on the beach.

Yesterday’s walk was a little odd.  I saw several oranges, a few mangoes, and an apple — half-eaten by a seagull nearby.   Did someone throw their fruit bowl overboard?

It was low tide, and some of the fruit were wrapped up in sea grasses.

Orange washed up with sea weed Moss Landing Beach

I must say, this is the first time I’ve encountered washed-up fruit during a beach walk.  Mangoes at the Moss Landing beach?

Mangoes washed up on Moss Landing Beach

Fruit of the Sea?

At the parking lot, and prior to my walk, I saw a woman talking on her cell phone, and at the same time, she was pulling open a plastic bag — the long type we get with our newspaper delivery, during damp Central coast mornings.

I saw her again later… jogging towards me, and noticed that the newspaper plastic bag was now full of trash.  Though she is there to exercise, she specifically brought the bag to pick-up trash that she spots while running on the beach.  That is definitely one way to take personal action for a cleaner environment!

Then I felt bad — why didn’t I think to do this?   Earlier, I had seen some plastic trash — a soaked, sandy sandwich bag and a plastic syringe, near the entrance to the beach.  I just started my walk and did not have a place to put them, especially with camera in hand.  I made a mental note to pick those items up on the way back.

When the woman ran by me — tiny trash bag in hand — I thanked her for her efforts.  I mentioned the syringe and plastic bag near the beach entrance.  She told me not to worry, and she would pick those up too!

Her actions touched me — that she would do this on her own since she was at beach anyway.  Not because there was a community-scheduled beach clean up day —- nope, all just on her own.

I wondered how often she goes there…and for how long?  How much stuff has she picked up?  What if we all did this, even at every other walk or visit to the beach…

It does serve as a reminder for me to put a bag in my pocket too  — especially that I get those same newspaper delivery plastic bags.  And to pick up little items that would be harmful to a wildlife that may try to eat it, or so it does not get pulled into the ocean.

Who knows where this stuff ends up?  Oh right, well actually, we do know.  Far, far, away sometimes — as my previous blog post tells us (Message from the Gyre).

The woman is one of my everyday heroines — and I wish I got her name, and her picture  (aside from the picture I took of her continuing on with her run)!  Who knows….she may be a regular runner in the area, and if I see her again, I will have to give her another big THANK YOU.

Sea shell in seaweed near Moss Landing / Salinas River State Beach

And to those who do this — people on their exercise run or walk, and cleaning up the beach at the same time — a big THANK YOU, to you too, for keeping the beaches and our oceans clean!

Message from the Gyre

Our plastics pollution affects birds living on the Midway coral islands, even though these islands are 2,000 miles from the nearest continent.

These poignant and disturbing images are from the Seattle-based, internationally acclaimed photographer, artist, and cultural activist Chris Jordan, aptly named “Message from the Gyre”.

Photo by Chris Jordan

Introduction from Chris Jordan’s Midway photographs:

On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.

For me, kneeling over their carcasses is like looking into a macabre mirror. These birds reflect back an appallingly emblematic result of the collective trance of our consumerism and runaway industrial growth. Like the albatross, we first-world humans find ourselves lacking the ability to discern anymore what is nourishing from what is toxic to our lives and our spirits. Choked to death on our waste, the mythical albatross calls upon us to recognize that our greatest challenge lies not out there, but in here.

Photo by Chris Jordan

Photo by Chris Jordan

More on Chris Jordan’s work here, or click on the photo below from his latest book Ushirikiano: Building a Sustainable Future in Kenya’s Northern Rangelands
(teNeues Publishing Group, 2011)

Philippine plastic garbage problem

If this photograph from Joshua Mark Dalupang, published with the Guardian’s article “Tide of plastic bags that started wave of revulsion”  does not convince you about the plastics problems in the Philippines….well, I don’t know what else will.

Plastic pollution in Manila Bay, the Philippines. Other countries including South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and China have introduced bans on single-use plastic bags. Photograph: Joshua Mark Dalupang / EPA

It truly is sad — and at the same time revolting — to see this anywhere, let alone my dearly loved Philippines, especially that plastic bags are a preventable type of pollution.

Are there programs in place to address this…or at least projects in the works?  If you live in the Philippines, in Manila or other large cities with this problem (and solutions), please comment — and especially if you live in a city that has banned plastic bags.

Note: Plastics never fully biodegrade: the estimates above refer to the time it takes for plastics to break down into smaller pieces. Graphic from www.saveourshores.org

We really have to ask ourselves — is the convenience of single use plastic bags worthwhile, when we know the resulting pollution it creates?   We already know that it does not biodegrade fully — and as you can see from the above photo, rarely recycled.

What do you think happens to these plastic bags?   Where does the plastic end up?  In an ocean environment, these bags

  • will break down into smaller and smaller pieces
  • absorb other toxic substances
  • is ingested by wildlife and creatures living in our oceans (sea turtles mistake these bags as jellyfish and accidentally ingest the bags)
  • then enters the ocean wildlife food chain — including OUR food chain when we eat seafood

I posted an article titled Plastic Rich / Plastic Poor, after reading Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story.  The book is about the history of plastic and our love of plastic products, and delves into — among other fascinating topics — the problem of plastic bags and plastic waste.

Related posts:

September 30, 2014 – California the first U.S. state to ban single-use plastic bags

Francis-Malasig-photo-philippine plastic trash problem

Click on the photo for more on the Philippine trash problems —  River of trash photo by Francis Malasig via 5Gyres

Also See on the “burden of civilization’s excess” for more on Philippine plastic trash problems, and on those now ubiquitous plastic stacking chairs adding to trash in the Philippines (or click on Francis Malasig’s photo above)

Resources and information on plastic bag bans at the end of my post “12 Minutes” (twelve minutes is the average use time of a plastic bag).

Link to article about Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story and photographs of plastic packaging at a typical seaside market in the Philippines

Trash and plastics vortex now the size of Texas (about the North Pacific trash gyre)

Seahorses – Magical Fish

More on the magical seahorse on this video from the California Academy of Science, with Healy Hamilton discussing the dramatic decline of seahorses all over the world.

The huge economic boom in China means even more trouble for seahorse populations, as seahorses are highly sought after for use in traditional Chinese medicines.

US Customs at the San Francisco airport recently confiscated a shipment of at least 1,000 seahorses, and the US Fish and Wildlife turned over the dried seahorses to the California Academy of Sciences to help determine their source.

All species of seahorses are internationally protected and no one is supposed to be harvesting seahorses…but the problem of course…..is enforcement.

INTRODUCTION: The destruction of coral reefs, trawling and the use of seahorses in Chinese medicine is leading to their decline. How do we stop this near-mythical sea creature from becoming extinct? “Wired” interviews Academy researcher, Healy Hamilton, to discuss this unique fish and the dangers that threaten them.

Also…here again is the link to Alex Pronove’s blog and his informative post on sea dragons (and seahorses) and the supply chain and market.  Click  here – or click on his photo below.

Photo by: Alex Pronove http://retirednoway.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/seadragon-hunter/

Don’t forget…the Seahorse Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium will be closing this summer. Click here for more information.

Top 7 container ports in the U.S.

This is a follow-up and related to my earlier post, “What’s in the box?” (about what is in all those container boxes on trucks or on rail cars, on container ships we see as we drive over the bridges around the Bay Area, or even by freeways near the rather huge, and very busy Port of Oakland).

Port of Oakland, San Francisco Bay, California – Photo source U.S. NOAA: Photograper – Rich Bourgerie, Oceanographer, CO-OPS, NOS, NOAA

First, some definitions (adapted from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technologies Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, available at www.bts.gov/dictionary)

  • Container: A large standard-size metal box into which cargo is packed for shipment aboard specially configured oceangoing container ships. It is designed to be moved with common handling equipment to enable high-speed intermodal transfers in economically large units between ships, rail cars, truck chassis, and barges using a minimum of labor. Therefore, the container rather than the cargo in it serves as the transfer unit.
  • Container Ship:  A cargo vessel designed and constructed to transport, within specifically designed cells, portable tanks, and freight containers, which are lifted on and off with their contents intact.
  • Container Port: A harbor with marine terminal facilities for transferring cargo between container ships.

Seattle, WA Port – Photograph Source: US NOAA

The top 7 ports in the US, based on the latest data and report from the Bureau of Transportation Statics, are:

  1. Los Angeles, California
  2. New York/New Jersey (not sure why they combine these)
  3. Long Beach, California
  4. Savannah, Georgia
  5. Houston, Texas
  6. Oakland, California
  7. Norfolk, Virginia

Wow — three of the top 7 ports are located in the state of California.  The report states

  • West coast ports as a region grew the fastest of any port region between the mid-1980s and 2009, but since 2007 the region has experienced the sharpest decline in container traffic.
  • Between 2007 and 2009, total TEUs  (20-foot equivalent units—a measure for counting containers) handled by west coast ports declined 22 percent, compared with 13 percent decline for east coast ports and less than 1 percent increase for gulf coast ports.

#9 Port – Port of Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Rich Bourgerie, Oceanographer, CO-OPS, NOS, NOAA

And here are the rest — the TOP 20

 U.S. Waterborne Foreign Containerized Trade Handled at

Leading U.S. Container Ports: 2008–2009

(By thousands of metric tons)

RANK in 2009

U.S. Customs Port

Year 2008

Year 2009

Percent Change 2008-2009


Los Angeles, CA





New York/New Jersey, NY/NJ





Long Beach, CA





Savannah, GA





Houston, TX





Oakland, CA





Norfolk, VA





Seattle, WA





Charleston, SC





Tacoma, WA





Miami, FL





Baltimore, MD





Port Everglades, FL





New Orleans, LA





San Juan, PR





Philadelphia, PA





Jacksonville, FL





Wilmington, NC





Portland, OR





Wilmington, DE




Interested in the nitty-gritty details?  Here is a link to the full (52 pages) report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (http://www.bts.gov/publications/americas_container_ports/2011/pdf/entire.pdf), where I learned…

  • The majority of container ship calls to the United States are made to a relative few ports.
  • The top 10 U.S. container ports accounted for more than three quarters (77 percent) of container ship calls.