My muse: The ocean and two little men

This week, the WordPress Photo Challenge theme is “Muse”.

Sometimes, these photo challenges (like on refraction) are indeed, a challenge.  But this is an easier one for me and I bet it will be for many bloggers who join in this weekly photo challenge.

There are definitely certain themes to my photographs that I can identify as inspiration: the ocean and my two grandsons.

So for this week, my entry is a collage of ocean and beach related photos of the two little men, many of which have been woven into articles posted on my blog, or for past WordPress Photo Challenges.

Frisbee and no frost here

Silhouette photo of our grandsons enjoying the late afternoon warm weather at the beach with their Frisbee, for post on California Drought last year.

The little men taking turns to bury the other in the sand, and posted for the photo challenge “Thankful”

These photos were taken in Pacifica, near San Francisco 3 year 1/2 years ago, and some posted for the Photo Challenge theme “Blue”.

I posted hotos for this series for the theme “An unusual POV”

Telescopes outside the Monterey Bay Aquarium, near their tide pool…

Photos of a driftwood shelter used for the theme “Angular”

Most of all… I always treasure photos by the ocean and nearing sunset, even if all I have for the moment is my smart phone camera.

With the ocean nearby, and a nice collection of photos with two little men I adore ♥  it will probably be a while until I come across a photo challenge as fun and easy as this one.  Whatever the theme, the challenges are always a great opportunity to learn more about photography.

For more about this week’s theme, and to see host Brie Anne Demkiw’s amazing photos (and the WordPress blogging community submissions), click here.

Roy G. Biv – A post for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge are photos with colors in a rainbow.  From Michelle W:

“Roy G. Biv” is an acronym made of the first letters of the seven colors of the rainbow, to help you remember: Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet.

We are to share a photo gallery with one image for each color…

Or… “share an image that contains all the colors of the rainbow (or an actual rainbow)”.

I don’t have a good photo of an actual rainbow yet, but I do have one of my grandson, Gabriel, wearing something that has all the colors of the rainbow, and preparing to do artwork, where most likely, he will use all the colors of the rainbow.

Rainbow Art

And so, my entry is a take on both!  Happy Friday! :)

Should you buy those seashells sold by the seashore? On beach walks, seahorses and collecting sea shells

Kelp on beachesI love seashells.  I am a collector of little shells and interesting objects I find while walking on the beach.

While some beaches are known for their variety of seashells and for beach combing (like those in Florida, Hawaii and Gulf states), at the beaches here in  Monterey Bay, you will likely run into seaweed or giant kelp that have lost their tether and left their undersea home, rather than shells.  It is not a beach you visit to collect seashells.

Kelp on the beach web

My grandson, Gabriel, having fun with kelp that washed up on the beach.

But…you will see sand dollars, broken clam or mussel shells (perhaps remnants from many sea otter lunches), a lot of driftwood, and depending on the beach, pretty little stones, or smooth glass pieces.

Lining up sand dollars with barnacles web

The boys lining up their find of sand dollars… At this beach walk, each of the sand dollars they found (oddly) had barnacles growing on top.

The few shells that do end up on the beach are usually clean, because the animal that lived inside was already eaten by other creatures, shore birds and beach scavengers…or have rotted away before the tide and waves pushed them onto the beach.

My grandsons have picked up my little beach object collecting habit, and we have come back from beach walks with bits of shells, a pretty rock or tiny driftwood.

I started to put  their treasures in glass jars, not because they are colorful or striking like those found at other beaches, but because they liked it and picked it up, and it was a little treasure to them.

Beach combing shells

Some of the little shells and rocks my grandsons collected are in this glass jar.

Although Monterey Bay beaches are not known for pretty seashells, tourist stores — especially those at the Fisherman’s Wharf — do sell colorful sea shells from different parts of the world.

Just as people enjoy eating seafood when visiting seaside towns, people also like buying shells and related products as souvenirs.  I’m sure stores that sell seashells and dried up starfish and other marine animals can be be found in just about any seaside community that caters to tourists.

seashell-store-california

A few years ago, during the off-season for tourists, I stopped by a store off of Highway 1 that sold shells and seashell products.

Their sign indicated “Sea Shells from Around the World”… but really, the majority of the shells are from a certain part of the world, and that is the Philippines.  In fact, when I went inside to browse, about 90% of the shells were marked as being from the Philippines.

Why is this?  First, the Philippines has a rich and diverse ocean life (cited as “the center of the center” of biodiversity by researchers at the California Academy of Sciences) with an amazing array of seashells — many of which are prized by collectors.

Second, the Philippines is a poor country…so those in the shell trade could easily exploit locals with low pay to collect these shells for export to tourist shops.

Sea shell shop off season

Sea shell shop Monterey Bay “Off-season”

Growing up in the Philippines, I was accustomed to seeing seashell products fashioned into jewelry, necklaces and decorative items, or dried marine animals like starfish, seahorses glued onto frames and home decor items.

Because they were so common, I always thought that these seashells and marine animals were picked up by beach combing… as in, the creatures are already dead and washed ashore.

After a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seahorse Exhibit, I learned otherwise.  From my blog post about the exhibit…

This is not the case, and much of these animals are collected ALIVE and dried to make these souvenirs.

I am saddened at how uninformed I was  about this practice! Family and friends, please do not buy these souvenirs.

With everything else happening to our oceans, we all have to do our part to stop this. And please spread the word about protecting these fragile and fascinating creatures.  In the process, we also protect and  preserve their homes —and our home. More here

This poster from the Aquarium says it best…

Seahorse 1 rd

In support of World Oceans Day and as part of a series for the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge, I am again posting this information.

If I made this incorrect assumption about the shells and dried starfish or seahorses sold at tourist shops, then there are probably others who do not know this information.  More from a shell article in Wikipedia:

…the majority of seashells which are offered for sale commercially have been collected alive (often in bulk) and then killed and cleaned, specifically for the commercial trade.  This type of large-scale exploitation can sometimes have a strong negative impact on local ecosystems, and sometimes can significantly reduce the distribution of rare species.

I am also re-posting this video from the California Academy of Sciences, on the dramatic decline of seahorses all over the world.  Excerpt from my post about seahorses:

…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.  See full post here… including a link about the sea dragons (and seahorses) supply chain and market.

Have you heard of, or used products with dried seahorses?

I can’t help but think that we are doing the same thing to our ocean and its resources, as we did with our forests.  Are we going to look back 25 years from now and find out we unknowingly wiped out certain species of marine life because of unsustainable fishing… and what seems like an innocuous shell collecting hobby?

Can we stop and first find out how these shells are harvested?  If it is done sustainably, or if these creatures are collected beach comb style, then we can happily collect to our heart’s content.  But if not, then we need to find ways to educate the public so we can make responsible choices about the shells we buy.  I don’t want my grandchildren to ask why our generation let the same thing happen to our oceans, as we did to our forests in the Philippines.

Are you  a seashell collector?  If you buy seashells from seaside tourist shops, should the shops let consumers know if the shells were collected from the shore, or sustainably harvested?

================================

To participate in the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ blogging challenges hosted by Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast or to see other submissions for the theme “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet” click here.

Visiting Monterey, California Off-Season

Monterey Transit CenterThough tourist visit Monterey throughout the year, there is a distinct tourist season, and visiting off-season (between November and April) has its rewards.

If you like to visit historic buildings and heritage gardens, springtime is a great time to visit Monterey, and to learn about the beginnings of California’s statehood.

In addition to being the first capital of California (under both Spain and Mexico), Monterey’s other “firsts” include:

  • California’s first theater
  • California’s first brick house
  • California’s first public building and library
  • California’s first publicly funded school
  • and California’s first printing press and newspaper

The photos for this post were taken during the off-season months of March / April this year, and as you will see, there are not very many visitors…yet.

The gardens are fresh with new growth, and with many benches around town, it is easy to stop, sit and take in the beauty of the area.

Oldtown Monterey Gardens

A springtime visit will reward you with gardens fresh with new growth, and a variety of flowers emerging and expressing new life, and the beauty of the season…

A popular destination in Monterey is Fisherman’s Wharf, and off-season or springtime visits mean there is plenty of room to take a leisurely stroll, stop and watch seals (or people watch), and when you are ready to eat, wharf restaurants will have plenty of seating.

Monterey Fishermans Wharf back 2

The average temperature in Monterey is 57 degrees and oddly (like San Francisco) the summer is often foggy and cold.

We moved to the Monterey Bay area during the middle of summer 9 years ago, and had the heater on pretty much all summer long!  We felt very wimpy for doing so, but it really is cold during summer.  Thankfully, we are now accustomed to the weather and do not need heaters until winter.

In addition to spring, the fall is also a great time to visit, and for me, the best weather, with many clear and sunny days.

Climate Information Monterey

Chart of Monterey Climate via Wikipedia commons

For more Monterey related post and photographs on LolaKo.com, click here.

This post is my entry for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme “Off-Season”, hosted by Krista:

This week, we challenge you to show us what off-season means to you. It could be the shuttered ice-cream stand in the Southern Hemisphere where winter is drawing near. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere it might your snowmobile peeking out from beneath its tarp, or your Christmas decorations arranged neatly in the attic. Feel free to interpret this theme loosely — consider objects at rest and unmoved, places that are stagnant or abandoned.

See other entries for this theme from the WordPress blogging community here.

Banig mat patterns plus a vivid parrot

The theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is vivid.

The bright colors and striking patterns of Philippine banig (traditional sleeping mats) came to mind.  Natural plant fibers are used for these handwoven mats, and the photos below are examples of a type made from a grass called “tikog”

Here are 3 pattern examples…

Banig Pattern 1 web

Banig Pattern web

Banig Pattern 2 web

Tikog grass grows near rice fields.  It is a thin grass, so as you can imagine, it takes a lot of work to create a sleeping mat big enough for two adults.

It also takes a lot of planning and an artistic spirit to create the beautiful geometric patterns of banigs for sale at markets in the Philippines.

================================

Two years ago, I accompanied my grandsons Jun and Gabriel to a summer camp field trip to the San Francisco Zoo.

Both my grandsons like to take photographs, and Jun captured this photo of a parrot in the tropical bird house.  He was 8, and took many photographs while we were there.  This is one of my favorites of his photos for the zoo trip.

Parrot tropical room SF Zoo

Purple flowers for Cee’s Photo Challenge — and they are invasive in this part of California

I’ve seen this plant with beautiful, spiky purple flowers growing around Monterey Bay for many years.  I took photos a few months ago when they were in full bloom.

P1180902

The flower photo above is from a shrub growing in the wild, near the Salinas river, where the river merges with the Pacific Ocean.  I spotted it while taking photographs for a post about my watershed.

I’ve always found these flowers attractive — and also photographed some in bloom at the entrance of Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.

Monterey Fishermans Wharf yellows and pink 1

I read on one of the blogs I follow that Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge theme this week was purple, and remembered these flowers.  I have wanted to take part for a while, and thought the flowers were perfect to post for the theme.

Not knowing the name, I did an image search and learned that they are called Pride of Maidera (Echium candicans).  It is a perennial shrub native to the island of Maidera in Portugal, much loved by bees and butterflies for its nectar.  It is drought tolerant, and a popular ornamental plant in coastal California.

Great to know!  Except… it is also an invasive plant species, and now being removed in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park National Recreation Area so that the native habitat can be restored.  Sigh :(

And so… I’m also linking this post to Just Another Nature Enthusiast’s challenge — Earth-Friendly Chroniclers #9 — focused on invasive plants.

Here is another beautiful purple flower from a plant that I know is not native to California.  Right  now, it is growing all over our landscape, from fields, to the side of the roads and embankments.

Do you know what it is?

Wild Radish flowers purple

The flowers are from a wild radish.  Most wild radish have white flowers, but sometimes, they also have purple flowers.

From the CalFlora website:

Wild Radish California

I pulled out one of the plants and sure enough, I get that it is a wild radish… It is tiny, but the root smells like, and looks like a radish.  A miniature of the “daikon” types I see at Asian stores.

Wild Radish  roots

Wild Radish notes

Some more purple flowers for the theme… and I’m pretty certain these are not invasive here in my little part of the world.

My favorite purple flower shot thus far are the wisteria at the Pacific House Memory Garden, posted for the changing season photo challenge.

Memory Garden Wisteria

Click on the photo for more garden images, taken at the historic Monterey downtown area.

And lastly, a non-flower related (but these young girls are pretty as flowers!) photo of Baile Folklorico dance group members, performing for a community celebration on the occasion of Cesar Chavez Day.

P1180870

Click on the photo to see more dance photos, for the commemorative holiday that celebrates the legacy of civil rights and labor movement activist Cesar Chavez (promoting community service).

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, located 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  / California State Park system, 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.

P1080030

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?

==========================================

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.

Radio eport at NPR on food waste and “Landfill of Lettuce” (What happens to salad past its prime)

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.

P1180579a

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.

P1180807

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”.

P1180846

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.

P1180870

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.