The Los Angeles Spread

Whenever I had to do work in Los Angeles in my prior job,  I often elected to drive (from Northern California) instead of booking a flight and flying into LAX.

My rationale was by the time I drove to the airport, parked, shuttled, waited, flew, picked up a rental car, I am really only gaining 1 1/2 to 2 hours of travel time.  I didn’t mind the easy drive, and liked the alone time and being in my own space.

Los Angeles from above web

Downtown L.A. buildings visible from this shot…

On the way to see my sisters in the East Coast last fall, my flight had a layover in LAX and I took these photos.

The view from above gave me a good perspective of the size of the greater Los Angeles area, and an appreciation for why it was easy to feel disoriented in such a big city.

LA Spread web

Higher up, L.A.’s downtown high rises blend into the wider landscape

Population wise, L.A. is the second largest metropolitan area in the U.S., after New York.

With over 13 million people, Los Angeles has the distinction of being the most populous city in California.  The Greater Los Angeles area has over 18 million people, making it the most populous county in the United States.

Cities similar in size to Los Angeles are London, Buenos Aires, and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Southern California coast Leaving LAX

Leaving LAX – Southern California coastline

Post for the weekly WordPress Photo Challenge theme from Michelle W,  “On the Way”:

For this week’s photo challenge, stop and photograph the metaphorical roses (or the literal tulips). Share a shot of something you saw, did, or experienced on the way: a photo not of your destination, but of an interesting thing along the way. Show us something stunning others might have missed, or find some unexpected beauty in a mundane moment. Maybe we can all start looking at the in-betweens a bit differently!

So while my destination was the East Coast, I appreciated seeing Los Angeles. this time…from above.

Broken down barracks of Fort Ord in the Monterey Bay

Starting in 1917 and up to the 1990’s, almost 1,500,000 military troops trained at Fort Ord.  It was a major army post here in the Monterey Bay, in California’s central coast.

Although the post closed in 1994, many of the old buildings remain.

Because I was in the military, there is a part of me that is nostalgic about these buildings…and having lived at military bases, they are familiar to me.Fort Ord off Imjin Eucalyptus side barracks

In addition to its role as a major training base for the army, Fort Ord was also a staging and deployment area for troops that fought in World War II, as well as the Vietnam war.

Word War II is known as the most violent and largest armed conflict in history, and troops who trained here were involved in battles in the Philippines — my home country — after the Japanese conquered the Philippines in 1942.

Many of the old buildings at Fort Ord have already been torn down, and eventually, these will too, to be replaced with new housing communities, office and service facilities, and new shopping centers.

Fort Ord off Imjin barracks 6a

I’ve wanted to photograph some of these old buildings before they are gone forever, and glad that I finally had a chance to do so this month.

I was in the Air Force, and our living quarters were called “dormitories”.  But in the army and other armed forces, buildings that house soldiers are called “barracks”.  Definition below:

The English word comes via French from an old Catalan word “barraca” (hut), originally referring to temporary shelters or huts for various people and animals, but today barracks, are usually permanent buildings for military accommodation.

…The main object of barracks is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training, and esprit de corps.

Fort Ord off Imjin barracks 2

These barracks photos are much different from my previous post for The Changing Season photo challenge (the beautiful scenery at Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf).

Fort Ord off Imjin exit side table

Still…I think it is worth posting, and preserving these images, especially as the landscape transitions to something else.

I imagined this place once filled with many soldiers, and the bugle sounds of the morning reveille — the wake up call (short sound clip below).

Over 20 years after the post closure, the abandoned barracks stand, wounded by vandals, and awaiting their end.

Most of the buildings have broken windows…

Doors removed, stairs missing or overtaken by iceplants…

Fort Ord off Imjin no more stairs

Debris around some of the buildings…

What remains at the Imjin exit side of Fort Ord are mature eucalyptus trees, and the ever-present and invasive ice plants — planted there to contain the sand and for erosion control.

Fort Ord off Imjin Eucalyptus trees

Across the street from these barracks, a wellness center and a shopping center is in place, and beyond these new buildings are brand new housing communities.

Future of Fort Ord land 1

The Ford Ord land also houses facilities used by California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB).  With plenty of land available to construct new buildings, CSUMB is predicted to eventually be the largest in the California State University system.

Fort Ord off Imjin Exit

It’s not all going to be developed though…

Thankfully, three years ago, a large part of the Fort Ord area became a national monument, and is federally protected from further development — a great thing for the Monterey Bay area!

In addition to the interior part of the Fort Ord land, beaches in this area are also part of the national monument, and land set aside for the public.

And so the Fort Ord land that started as an artillery training field almost 100 years ago, and was a major post for the military from World War I to 1994 now continues its transition, with much of the land going back to public use.

Are there military base closures where you live?  How has the government and community transformed the land after closing the military facility?

Related link: President Barack Obama Proclamation – Establishment of the Fort Ord National Monument

…The protection of the Fort Ord area will maintain its historical and cultural significance, attract tourists and recreationalists from near and far, and enhance its unique natural resources, for the enjoyment of all Americans.

Broken little hearts at Dennis the Menace Playground

There is a popular playground in Monterey’s El Estero Park called Dennis the Menace Playground — named after the comic strip character.

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The creator of Dennis the Menace, cartoonist Hank Ketchum was a local and lived in Pebble Beach, California until his death in 2001, at 81 years old.

More about this park on the graphic below from the Monterey city website…

Story of Dennis the Menace Park

Part of the park’s attraction is a real train steam engine, located at the playground entrance.

My grandchildren have always called this park the “choo choo train” park, and love to climb inside and play around the train steam engine.

We always kept a close eye on them, and when they were smaller, accompanied them up the steps and around the structure.

These days, this is what you will see if you visit the train steam engine…

Boy looking at fenced off train web

…a fenced off area, and one disappointed little kid after another staring at the train.

The city’s explanation for the closure is below…

Steam Engine train closedBoy leaving fenced off steam engine webIf they have never played inside of it, it probably does not matter, they are just curious.  But if the kids are accustomed to playing inside (like my grandchildren), then they’ll be a bit brokenhearted after learning of the closure.

Despite the train steam engine area closure, there is a lot do in the wonderful playground, so it is still definitely worth a visit.

The playground is next to a lake (and an easy walk to the beach), and there are also paddle boats if you want to spend time on the lake itself.  More information here.

The climbing structure next to the train is a good place for kids to expend energy and get exercise.

I spent many years in the insurance industry so I understand liability issues and the reason for fencing off the steam engine area…but that does not make it easier to explain when my grandchildren ask “why did they close it, Lola…why can’t we go inside… like before?”

Train Stem Engine at playground

Do you think we are overprotective of children in our modern society?

If you have children or grandchildren, would you allow them to play in this train steam engine, within the confines of a park playground?

The Iceberg in Monterey County’s field of greens

Iceberg Lettuce

Head of Iceberg lettuce growing in the field

A few months after immigrating to the U.S. with my mother and younger sister, I had my first job — and it included cutting into plenty of iceberg lettuce heads.

I was 16 years old and my job was a waitress at a chain of family style restaurants in Portland, Maine. Part of my work was to do simple food preparation, and to restock the salad bar.

The kitchen manager showed me how she wanted the Iceberg prepared… “Cut it this way, and include the core — people like to eat that” she said.

The iceberg lettuce was what you started with, the base of what you piled everything else on to, at the restaurant’s salad bar.

Because it was 1979, the salad bar consisted of potato “salad”, macaroni “salad”, 3-bean “salad” and other items like sliced beets (from the can), tomatoes, croutons, crackers, eggs and a variety of dressing.  It is nothing like what you would see today at buffet restaurant salad bars, where there are always more than one lettuce option — and at least some spinach leaves!

At 16, I didn’t give much thought to where the Icebergs (or really any vegetables) were grown.  But I’m pretty sure the Iceberg lettuce I was cutting into — especially since it was the start of winter in Maine — likely came from the Salinas Valley in Monterey County, California.

Field of Greens

I’ve lived in a few places in the U.S. (and Germany) since we left Maine many years ago, and now live in Monterey County.

Besides the beautiful coast of central California, a prominent feature of the landscape here are the farm fields.

Salinas Valley Fields web

Monterey County is an agricultural powerhouse and the only county in the United States with more than $1 Billion in annual vegetable sales.

As you can imagine, growing this much of anything means this place is enveloped in farm fields.

Field of Greens 2

There are farm fields next to schools, near shopping centers, neighborhoods, and on both sides of Highway 101 heading south of the county, if you are driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

There are also farm fields surprisingly close to the ocean, where expanses of sandy soil — some of which were once wetland areas — were turned into farm fields.

Sand Dunes across field of iceberg Lettuce

The most valuable crops grown here are lettuce leaves (for bag salads or packages of mix greens) and lettuce heads.

Lettuce grows well in sandy soil, and cool, mild weather…and yes, indeed, we have lots of sandy soil, and very mild weather here, perfect conditions to grow lettuce.

Although the potential of the land in this area as fertile farmland was discovered in the 1860’s, commercial farming did not take off until the expansion of the Southern Pacific railroad lines.

Starting in 1875, Chinese laborers who came with the railroad expansion worked to drain lakes and swamps in the valley, creating 500 acres of arable farmland in and around Salinas.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge (under management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).  To get to the refuge, you have to drive on a dirt road that ends at the refuge parking lot, facing the Pacific Ocean.

Both sides of the dirt road have farm fields.  Since I’m always curious about what grows in farm fields, I pulled over to take a look…

Field of iceberg Lettuce 2

The fields were filled with rows upon rows of Iceberg lettuce.  I didn’t think people still ate Icebergs, especially now that there are so many more salad greens available in the market.

When my daughter was young, I opted to buy romaine or other types of lettuce after I learned that icebergs were composed mostly of water, and had the least amount of vitamins compared to other lettuce varieties.

Truck with boxes of produce

Truck loaded with boxes of lettuce

But it turns out that Americans still love their Icebergs!

Through writing this post, I learned that of the 35 pounds of lettuce that a typical American eats per year, most of it (about 22 pounds) is the Iceberg variety.

A press release from Salinas based produce company Tanimura and Antle had these interesting Iceberg lettuce facts:

  • The Iceberg was also called “crisphead lettuce” because of its ability to stay fresher longer than leaf lettuces
  • The name “Iceberg” comes from the way the lettuce was packed and transported on ice, making the heads look like icebergs.
  • Records indicate that the first carlot shipment of Iceberg was made in 1919 and took 21 days to reach New York from California.
  •  By 1931, 20,000 railcars were shipped annually. In 1950, over 11.5 million crates of Iceberg was grown, packed and shipped in Monterey County, California
  • California produces approximately 72% of the Iceberg lettuce grown in the U.S, and the Iceberg variety accounts for 70% of the lettuce raised in California
  • Depending on the time of year Iceberg is planted, it takes anywhere from 70 to 130 days from planting to harvest.

So…although the Iceberg’s popularity is dropping, it is still more popular than the Romaine type lettuce (a favorite for those who like “Caesar” salads — like my daughter) and other salad greens.

I suppose because it is a  mild tasting lettuce (not bitter), and stays fresh longer than other varieties, it is understandable why it is still a favorite for many salad eaters.

Field of Greens 1

You never have to tell my grandson Gabriel to eat his salad — he is known in the family as the salad lover.  He is only 8, but as long as I can remember, he will usually ask for a second serving of salad, which made me think that my grandsons’ had palates from another planet.

Do you still eat Iceberg lettuce?  If not, what type of lettuce typically makes it to your lunch plate or dinner table?

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NOTE: This post is part of learning about, and understanding the soil where I live (2015 is the International Year of Soils — designated by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) See this post from  http://justanothernatureenthusiast.org/2015/04/19/unless-earth-friendly-friday-soil/ for more information.  I’m also learning more about what remains of the wetlands in the area, as I read that 90% of the area’s wetlands were drained for commercial farming purposes.

Related: If you would rather grow than buy your lettuce, visit the University of Illinois “Watch your Garden Grow” website for tips about growing lettuce, best varieties for your region, and recipes.

The Australian Shepherd and his Baba Bear

Our Australian shepherd is the smartest (and craziest) dog we have ever had.

A funny thing about him is his love of toys.  We started to call his stuffed toys  “baba bear”, so if you say to him, “Go get your baba bear”…he’ll run off and fetch one, and bring it over to you.

Tuks and his baba bear 1

A few times, I’ve seen him nap with one, as captured on this photo — my entry for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme of Enveloped.

Despite their name, Australian shepherds (also known as “Aussies”) were bred and developed in the Western U.S.  There are different variations in their color, and I think our guy is called a “blue merle”.  He has one blue eye, and one brown eye, which I think adds to his crazy and sweet personality.  Crazy ol’ blue eye!

He is turning 15 this year, so has slowed down a lot. Considering that dogs similar in size to Aussies live from 11 to 13 years, we are happy that ours is still here for us to love.

A little about the Aussie’s history:

The Australian Shepherd’s history is vague, as is the reason for its misleading name. It is believed by some that the breed has Basque origins in Spain and was used there by shepherds. Those shepherds might, then, have emigrated to the West Coast of the United States via Australia.  However, scientific evidence has shown that the breed has lineage from American dogs that originally came over the Bering Land Bridge. What is known is that it developed in western North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Head above the clouds

Despite the drought, and our meager rainfall so far this year in California, we actually did have storms earlier this year, significant enough to produce some scary looking clouds here in the Monterey Bay area (photos captured with my phone camera)…

Storm Clouds over Salinas Valley

Storm clouds over highway

Sun through the dark clouds

I don’t normally think about photographing clouds, but I do like to take sunset photos which can sometimes produce interesting cloud photos.

I did not think much about this sunset shot below because of the lack of color, but on second look, I actually like the grays and the cloud formation.

Gray Clouds Sunset

So it turns out I have more cloud pictures than I realized, and now, these photos have a “home” in my blog because of this week’s prompt by Brie Anne Demkiw with the theme Forces of Nature:

Whether it’s the towering white clouds on the beaches of Thailand, the massive waterfalls at Yosemite, or the fast-moving fog in San Francisco Bay, it seems everywhere we go, nature is putting on a show for us.

This week, share a force of nature from your corner of the world. It can be something as large as the Grand Canyon, or as small as the tiny seedling steadily breaking is way through the concrete in your driveway.

Nature does put on a show for us every single day, if only we remember to take the time to notice…

Sunset and clouds

Since this post is all about clouds, have you heard of, or used the term “head above the clouds”?

What does the term mean to you?  Is it a good thing, because you can think more clearly above it all, or bad, perhaps because you have lost contact with the ground?

Going above the clouds

WPC Motion 2: Always in motion

Kids seem to be always in motion…

Always in motion

Ball in motion

Photos from the box…scanned and now digitized :).  A favorite set of photos from when my daughter was around 8, and now she has 2 sons, one of whom is now also 8 years old!

I like that the photo captured the joy of just being a kid and running around the backyard, and the ball in motion, of course…

Post for the weekly WordPress Photo Challenge theme of Motion.

WPC: Vernal pond wildlife in motion

There is something about watching wildlife that can totally put one at ease…even if it is a quick visit to a local vernal pond to see common birds like mallard ducks or American coots…

Mallard Duck in motion 2

American Coot in motion

I recently started to take bird photographs.

Since I don’t have the right camera or lens for long distance shots, I am limited to the types of birds that are familiar with humans — the ones that don’t mind me being nearby with a camera — like the types that live at local ponds.

I like the colors of the birds and the water reflection, captured for these photographs.  The movement of birds and the rippling water conveys motion, the theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge.

Mallard Duck in motion 1

These ducks came right up to me looking for food when I arrived at the pond’s edge, so obviously, they are used to people giving them food.

I did not have any food for them, and after a few minutes, they went away and most went back in the water.

More about this pond at the Locke Paddon Community Wetland Park, Marina, California posted on the WordPress Photo Challenge Challenge Blur) .

Mr and Mrs Mallard Ducks in motion

Mallard Duck in motion

Birds at Locke Paddon Vernal Pond

Do you think people should feed ducks and other wildlife that live in our parks and local ponds?  Is it allowed where you live, or should feeding ducks (or pigeons, etc.) be banned?

WPC: Early Bird – Sunrise and Philippine pandan leaf sellers

My favorite time of the day is right after sunset — the twilight (“takip-silim” in the Philippine Tagalog language, takip meaning to cover, and silim means dusk). I am definitely not a morning person.

Earlier this year, I did see some amazing sunrises.  Luckily, I was awake and aware enough to appreciate the moment and snap some photos on my phone camera, with pine trees in silhouette…

Monterey Bay Area (California) Sunrise Photos

Sunrise 1

Sunrise 4

Philippine Pandan Leaf Sellers Sunrise Photos

Though I am not a morning person, one has to wake up pretty early if you want to buy leaves at the market where Philippine pandan leaves — called “romblon” in our region — are sold.

Here are a few of my photos of pandan leaf sellers unloading their banka (outrigger) boats and bringing in bundles of leaves to sell at the weekly market.  They usually pull in from surrounding islands right before sunrise.

Early Bird Photo Challenge

Early Bird Photo Challenge 3

Early Bird Photo Challenge 2

More versions of my pandan leaf seller photos arriving for market day are posted on the Native Leaf website, here (posted for the Golden Hour photo challenge).

Romblon Leaf "Bayongs" (Market Totes Bags)

Romblon Leaf “Bayongs” (Market Totes Bags)

And if you are curious about what products can be made from the  leaves of the pandan plant, in addition to its use in Asian and Pacific islands for cooking and food flavoring, see this LolaKo.com post: Philippine Romblon (Pandanus) plant or click on the market totes – Philippine bayong photo.

To participate in this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge (WPC) theme of “Early Bird” or to see entries for this challenge, click here.

Early Bird Challenge theme guidelines, from

Whether it’s an unforgettable sunrise, that warm glow that only comes from early morning light, or just the lack of other people walking through your shot, early birding can pay real dividends in your photographs.

This week (and especially if you’re among those who find the early bird concept cringe-worthy), I encourage you to set your alarm for the early hours, grab your first (several) cups of coffee, and challenge yourself to capture an outstanding photograph in the early morning light.

WPC2: San Francisco “Afloat” at Sunset

My second entry for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme is “Afloat”.

I took this photo with my phone camera (then an HTC Evo 3D) from Treasure Island — a man-made island in the San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco night shot from Treasure Island web

It was a unique evening and sunset, with light that seemed to glow from behind the city of San Francisco, giving it a floating kind of feel.  I wish I had a camera aside from my phone camera that night, as there surely would have been some fantastic images from that evening.

Still….I’m happy I have this one, even if the image quality is lacking.

And a tip to photographer visitors to San Francisco, going across the Bay Bridge and taking the Treasure Island exit will give you some great shots of this beautiful “City by the Bay”.  You can see the Bay Bridge (lit at left on the photograph) and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge from Treasure Island.

WPC: Paddles and Spirit Afloat

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Afloat” — a theme that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways (as is usually the case for these challenges, and what makes it so fun to participate).

An obvious choice from my photo collection were kayaking shots.  I remembered my photograph of this group of stand-up paddlers heading out from Moss Landing in Monterey County, California…

Stand Up Paddlers web

I also had photographs of Jeff kayaking at nearby Elkhorn Slough.  One time, I asked when he thought he would get done, so that our grandchildren and I could meet him at the launch area.

web Jeff with the ever present Western Greebe 1

We spotted him from where he launched at Kirby Park…along with a grebe — a type of migrating water bird that also makes its home on the Pacific coast.

What is funny is the grebe seemed to always be near him, even as he paddled close to shore.

web Jeff and the ever present Western Greebe 1

web Jeff and the ever present Western Greebe

web Jeff and the ever present Western Greebe 2

What I like about these photos is that it captured a state of being happy…maybe feeling afloat, in the moment and free of any other distractions.

web Spirit Afloat with grandchildren 2

These photos to me reflect a literal “afloat” because of the kayak in the image, but more important is the spirit being afloat, of his joy at seeing our grandchildren after the kayak ride on the slough.

More about Elkhorn Slough on the post for the photo challenge theme “Depth” about the California King Tides Project (sea level rise).

WPC 2 – Blur of Baile Folklorico dresses (community performance for Cesar Chavez Day)

P1180592aA second entry for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme blur from Michelle W:

This week, share a photo that’s a blur. You could keep your camera out of focus to achieve a blurry photo, or take a photo of something in motion. Or go in a different direction — capture an image of an experience that would otherwise be a blur, or of something in a state of flux.

I first saw this Baile Folklorico group perform 2 years ago for Cinco de Mayo, and again last month for a community performance the week before — and in honor of — Cesar Chavez Day (March 31st).

The day is a commemorative holiday that celebrates the legacy of civil rights and labor movement activist Cesar Chavez, and to promote community service.

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From Wikipedia…Baile folklórico, literally “folkloric dance” in Spanish, is a collective term for traditional Latin American dances that emphasize local folk culture with ballet characteristics – pointed toes, exaggerated movements, highly choreographed.  Each region in Mexico, the Southwestern United States and Central American countries is known for a handful of locally characteristic dances.

Baile Folklorico US Southwest Style costume

Dancer costumes depend on the region represented, and mostly reflect traditional Spanish influence, but denims and western style shirts representative of the Southwest United States are also worn.

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The bright colors of the dresses, and matching ribbons braided into the hair were a treat to see…

According to the Wikipedia article, “in the folk dances of Northern Mexico, men generally wear black Pants with Galas on each side of the leg, accented with a red tie and belt and a black wide-brimmed hat”.

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There are no blurs on the photo of the two young girls below, but they were just too adorable and I am including in this post.

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Did you know that March 31st was Cesar Chavez Day?  Are there Baile Folklorico dance groups in your region of the United States (or Mexico / Central America)?

WPC: Blur of wildlife and reeds at Locke-Paddon Wetland Community Park

I was waiting for a phone call from my younger sister and decided to walk around Locke-Paddon park in Marina (Monterey County, California). Waiting…waiting…and little camera in hand, I walked near the pond’s edge to photograph birds.

Mallard Duck

Locke-Paddon is a community park and one of the area’s “vernal” (seasonal) ponds.  The water level fluctuates but never dries out completely. The city library is located in this park, and the pond area is an easy destination for bird viewing.

There are many mallard ducks and American coot (below) that live in the pond, as well as birds who visit to drink and bathe.

What I found interesting in the series of photographs were the blur of reeds and vegetation against the water — perfect for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme from Michelle W:

This week, share a photo that’s a blur. You could keep your camera out of focus to achieve a blurry photo, or take a photo of something in motion. Or go in a different direction — capture an image of an experience that would otherwise be a blur, or of something in a state of flux.

Reed Blur 2

Reed Blur 5

The blur of colors could be interpreted as a painting, don’t you think?

For more information about the park, visit the Locke-Paddon page at the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District website, here.

I never did get the phone call…so I went home, only to find out my ringer was off, and I missed her calls.  I laughed and called her right back…and was happy to have interesting photos in my collection, all while “waiting”.

WPC: Fresh flowers and plants for the 1st day of Spring

Today is the first day of spring in our part of the world — my favorite season!  It is also Friday and WordPress photo challenge time.

California Poppy oldtown Monterey

Bright orange California poppies — a symbol of spring. Photo taken near Colton Hall downtown historic Monterey last week.

The theme this week is “Fresh”.  From Jen H…

In the Northern Hemisphere, spring is beginning to slowly appear, and many of us whose creativity was dampened by the cold and drear of winter days are beginning to reawaken. The freshness of spring is a powerful catalyst to get shutterbugs outdoors and get
shooting.

For this week’s photo challenge, share with us a photo that expresses something fresh

The “freshness of spring” is exactly the reason for these photos.

From oak trees sprouting new leaves…

Fresh new leaves on oak

And new sprouts on eucalyptus and pines…

Fresh grass and more…

And flowers abundantly expressing the freshness of spring…

Spring Blue Scrub Jay

I don’t have the right camera to take bird photos, but this “California” Coastal Western scrub jay didn’t seem to mind being close so I snapped these photos too.  Easy enough since the Western jays live in many suburban gardens.

Fresh plants and hearing so many birds chirping outdoors is a wonderful sign of spring.

Spring Blue Scrub Jay 1

To participate in the challenge, click here.  And I wish you a most happy spring season!

WPC Walls 2: National Steinbeck Center Walls from Exhibit “Filipino Voices”

My second entry for the WordPress Photo Challenge theme…WALL (first entry, here).

Ever since I posted photos of John Steinbeck’s hometown for the WordPress Photo Challenge topic “Reward”, it seems he has been ever-present on my mind.

Steinbeck Exhibit Wall 4

I remember now that I never posted photos on my blog from an exhibit at the Steinbeck Center, focused on the communities that defined the Salinas Valley, including my own — the Filipino Community.

Steinbeck Exhibit Entrance

Although I did not grow up in this area (I grew up in the Philippines), I enjoyed participating in the process, and making new friends — all while learning about the deep roots of Filipinos in the Salinas Valley.

Steinbeck Exhibit Wall 2

I also learned so much more about the history of Filipino immigrants to the U.S., and Filipino-American farm workers’ brave fight for rights along with Cesar Chavez and the UFW.  (Also see Delano Grape Strike article here, or about the film by Marissa Aroy – Delano Manongs Facebook page.  Note: this film was shown at the 2015 Seattle Asian American Film Festival – Social Justice Shorts)

Maybe it was too busy then, or that I was not too crazy about the photos I took (I’ve learned so much more about photography since then, and got rid of the awful pocket camera I had).

But thanks to these WordPress Photo challenge prompts, and for my family history…I now add these photos to my blog of the walls, at the Filipino Voices Exhibit at the National Steinbeck Center.

The exhibit occurred during the spring / summer of 2012.

Steinbeck Exhibit Wall 8

To see entries for this weekly photo challenge, click here, and to participate, consider…

…walls you’ve erected and decorated, the halls you walk down each day, or the exteriors you’ve ignored or neglected. What do these walls reveal about a place, people, or you?

WPC Wall: Cherished personal artwork on our walls

This week, the WordPress Photo Challenge theme from Cheri Lucas Rowlands is WALL…

From the interior walls of our home, to our book club’s Facebook wall, to the community bulletin board at the local market, walls are the canvases of our lives: where stories are read, voices are heard, ideas are shared. Much can be revealed from the items on a wall, from old postcards to long-forgotten flyers.

Items on the walls in our home that reflect something personal, something that a loved one made is what I cherish the most.

From the artwork of our grandsons…

Wall of art

to our daughter’s drawing…

Wall of daughter art web

a gift to her father for Christmas, in 2009…

Wall art from daughter web

To see entries for this weekly photo challenge, click here, and to participate, consider…

…the walls you’ve erected and decorated, the halls you walk down each day, or the exteriors you’ve ignored or neglected. What do these walls reveal about a place, people, or you?

It will be fun to look for interesting walls outside our home, with this prompt.

WPC Orange 2: California’s First Brick House

Californias 1st brick building Monterey State Historic ParkCalifornia’s first “fired brick” house —  part of the Monterey State Historic Park’s buildings in downtown old Monterey — also fits right in the WordPress Photo Challenge theme of orange.

The house was built in 1847.  Before construction of this brick structure, most homes in the area were made from adobe — blocks of sun-dried mud.

Californias 1st brick house 7

From the HistoricMonterey.org website:

All Monterey’s early structures were built of adobe (sun-dried mud) blocks. Walls as thick as three feet were needed to support second story floors.

Adobe buildings required plastering on exterior surfaces to keep out damaging winter rains, otherwise the walls were likely to crumble.

 In 1847, Gallant Dickerson arrived in Monterey to introduce a new building technique to California: the art of fired clay brickmaking. Fired brick’s increased strength allowed multiple-storied buildings with standard wall widths; fired brick was also water-resistant and required little or no surface treatment.

Californias 1st brick house 3

Dickerson fired thousands of clay blocks into rock-hard bricks, and with them built one of the first fired-brick buildings in California. He completed only the portion of First Brick House that stands today before moving his family to the Sierra Nevadas in search of gold.

To see other entries and interpretations on the photo theme orange, click here.

WPC: What’s not to love about the color ORANGE?

The theme for the WordPress Photo Challenge this week is orange

From Michelle W…

What’s not to love about orange? It’s vibrant. It’s cheerful. It makes a statement. It’s the perfect punctuation for a punchy photo.

This week, share a group of photos where orange is either the dominant color, or provides a bold highlight. Shoot for at least three photos, and look for different shades — bright neons, deep rusts, delicate peaches.

I didn’t realize how many photos I had with orange colors until this theme…and some with no “home”, so for this challenge, I’m going for orange-themed collages.

I’ll start with turban squash and pumpkin photos, including my little ninja costumed grandsons (playing the part) by their Halloween pumpkins…

Orange hues from the Moss Landing Antique Fair, where you will find anything from Bakelite (an early form of plastic) bracelets to Pez candy dispensers…

And it’s always easy to spot orange hues at the Farmers Market, and I’m so happy when fall comes and crunchy Fuyu persimmons are in season…

My grandsons ran their first 3K race at the Just Run program, the day before the International Big Sur Marathon last year, and there were a LOT of orange there!

Here they are with their teachers at the Pacific Grove starting / ending points.  Their teachers coordinated the program for their school last year…

Orange seems to be a big theme in my grandsons’ clothing, especially when I want to keep track of them at crowded places, like during visits to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (included in this collage is an orange hued sea anemone at the aquarium)…

At an annual Labor Day parade, my grandsons’ Taekwondo school marched near the Monterey Korean Community contingent, where there were plenty of orange found in the costumes.  The last photo is of then “orange belt” Gabriel waiting for instruction before demonstrating a board break at a festival, after the parade…

I posted these jellyfish photos for the Earth-Friendly Friday challenge on severe weather and wildlife well being (about jellyfish blooms)

And finally, the last batch of this orange-fest are some of my orange hued sunset photos, starting with a sunset with the Golden Gate Bridge at the background, to one taken from home…

Whew!  That is a lot of orange themes, and a whole lot more than what Michelle suggested…but somehow I feel better at posting photos from my digital library that otherwise may have been forgotten.

To see other entries and interpretations on the photo theme orange, click here.

WPC Reward: The longevity of author John Steinbeck – photos from his hometown

Yesterday. February 27, was the author John Steinbeck’s birthday (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) — a good occasion to post my Oldtown Salinas photos and submit my 2nd WordPress Photo Challenge on the theme of Reward, for the reward of longevity.

Longevity: long life – the fact of living for many years – length of life – the length of time that something or someone lasts or continues (Definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary)

Story of the whole valley web

Steinbeck’s words carved into stone at entrance of National Steinbeck Center

Among the rewards for a life well-lived is physical longevity and what is left, well after death.

John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, Monterey County, California.  He wrote 27 books and won both a Pulitzer and the National Book Award for his novel, The Grapes of Wrath.  He also won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962 (controversial at the time) for “the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”  and “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception”.

Salinas is the largest city in Monterey County, and the county seat.  It has a population of 155,000 and is located 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

The mild weather and rich valley soil is why the area is called “the salad bowl of the world”.  It is the only county in the United States that produces more than $1 billion annually in vegetable sales.

Salinas Valley Fields web

This was taken last week…really! The weather is so mild here, that there is something growing in the fields most of the time.

 

Much of Steinbeck’s writing is set in Southern and Central California, particularly the Salinas Valley and the Central California Coast.

The photos below are from “Old Town” Salinas, location of the National Steinbeck Center.  The house where John Steinbeck was born is a few blocks away from Oldtown. 

Steinbeck Center

Buildings in the Victorian style of architecture dot the old town Salinas downtown area.

Here are some examples of the buildings, walking out from the National Steinbeck Center…

Old Salinas buildings 5 web

Some of the building details in Oldtown…

And some interesting tile work on a few of the entryways…

And finally, some scenes from  the stores and restaurants in Oldtown…

Steinbeck Statue at Salinas Library web

 

The old town Salinas library is a few blocks away and is named after John Steinbeck.

There is another of the rock (like the one in front of the Steinbeck Center) carved with his quote, outside the library…

 

Books Best Friend Quote web

In addition to tips learned on the WordPress Photo Challenges, these series of photos were also inspired by Cardinal Guzman’s new photo challenge The Changing Seasons “to train your eye”.

This is my first attempt at taking a series of photos of one place, and it certainly made me look up/down and check out details, which I think in general makes me a better observer of what is around me…of life.

I’m inspired by photography that captures a sense of place and people, especially vibrant photos from The Third Eye Mom (see Lesson in Street Photography), and intricate nature photos, and great landscape photography from Just Another Nature Enthusiast (see the EcoRegion series).

In our digital era and through our blogs, we all have the opportunity for the “reward” of longevity — since our words and photos will be around long after we are gone, right?

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To see interpretations from the WordPress blogging community or to join in the Weekly Photo Challenge, click here.

To participate in the new monthly photo challenge, The Changing Seasons, hosted by Cardinal Guzman, click here.  NOTE: I’m also including these photos as my first attempt and as practice :) for this monthly challenge (though late, and more photos than suggested) since I like the idea of capturing sets of photos for different seasons — plus these photos are not archived, or published elsewhere, but taken last week. 

Seeing amazing photos from the WordPress blogging community is always inspiring, and tips are always appreciated from seasoned and professional photographers.

WPC – Martial Arts Black Belt Reward

The theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge from Krista is Reward.

Reward is filthy with possibility: it could be your third grader’s beaming smile after reading her first chapter book, a steaming mug of chicken soup after a long run in the cold, a photo of your brand-new baby — your reward for patience during nine months of construction, or your extended family gathered around the dinner table.

Jun White BeltJun, my oldest grandson, started taking Taekwondo – a martial art that originated in Korea over 2,000 years ago and an Olympics sport  — when he was 5 years old.

In the span of time that he has taken Taekwondo classes, I probably have thousands of photos of him…and the one at right was taken for his first day of class, as a “white belt”.

Over the years, I’ve watched him learn and memorize his poomsaes (the forms learned for each belt level), learn advancing degrees of self-defense techniques, sparring, and grow from a shy to a more confident young man.

So the reward for his dedication and our  family’s support of his martial arts lessons?

Last summer, shortly before his 10th birthday, he received his black belt.

Black Belt Ceremony

Above and below, part of the invitation to the Black Belt Graduation Ceremony…Invite TKD GraduationBlack Belt Ceremony.jpg 1Black Belt Ceremony 2

Black Belt Ceremony 3

Jun at TKD Competition

The black belt itself is a reward for sticking with martial arts training, and to understand that practice and dedication makes you better.

My hope is that my grandson will continue to learn that anything you put your effort and focus in, over time, will have its own rewards….beyond a belt color.

Can you tell how proud I am of this young person?

To see interpretation for this WordPress blogging community weekly photo challenge, click here.

WPC: Rule of Thirds – The frog and a sand dollar

This little frog (about the size of a thumb) is a Sierran Treefrog (Pseudacris sierra), formerly called Pacific Treefrog or Pacific Chorus Frog and was not living in a tree, but at the time, an unused spa in our backyard.

Sierran Tree Frog focus on eyes web

It was in a crevice so I did not really have much of a choice but to shoot through the slit near the heating element area, making the photo naturally follow the rule of third, and a little of the “bokeh” that Jen discusses for the challenge .

I did not have to crop the frog photo above, and slightly cropped the one below.

Sierran Tree Frog

And here is one with my grandson Jun showing me a sand dollar that washed up during a beach visit.   I think I could have adjusted the shot slightly for more of the 1/3 rule here…

Jun holding sand dollar

The rule of 3rd is something basic that I do think about now when composing photographs.  And as far as the “bokeh” shots I’ll definitely look to improve and experiment with…so thank you WP Photo Challenges!

So, I think these photos capture the WordPress Photo Challenge this week…what do you think?

A note on frogs from my earlier post:

You may have heard that frogs are considered indicator species, or animal sentinels, and a sort of planetary canary.

Frogs have thin skins that are permeable to water, and lay their eggs in bodies of water.  Perhaps because of this,  they are sensitive to pollutants and other problems with the environment.

It is comforting to know the little frogs survive in our backyard, despite the large presence of big business agriculture in our county (Monterey is the only county in the United States with more than 1 BILLION in annual vegetable sales).

Though these frogs are not endangered, frog populations can decline quite quickly.

For more, please visit California Herps – A Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of California

To see amazing interpretations and beautiful photography showcasing the rule of thirds and the “bokeh” concept, click here.

WPC: Symmetry in nature and rice fields

This week, the theme for the WordPress Photo Challenge is…

Symmetry (noun): the quality of something that has two sides or halves that are the same or very close in size, shape, and position; the quality of having symmetrical parts.

…For this challenge, share an image of symmetry. Don’t limit yourself to architecture — you can bend this theme in any way you’d like.  A portrait of your twins? A window grille? The yellow lines of a busy road? A row of sharp points along a metal fence? Let the world inspire you.

It is easy to find symmetry in nature…

Symetry Plant Leaf web

Symetry in nature web

And in how we create our fields and plant our food, from rice fields in the Philippines…

Rice Field Symetry web

To lettuce fields in Monterey County, California…

Monterey County Fields

And in how we construct our spaces indoors…

Restaurant BW web

Image of carved wood entryway at a local Vietnamese restaurant…

To see submissions for this theme from the WordPress blogging community click here.