Chameleons? Why Filipinos live & work in just about every country in the world

The words “why are Filipinos like chameleons” showed up on my blog’s search engine terms recently.

Chameleon definition

Mixed-Up-Chameleon by Eric CarleI did not write an article (until now) that connected the two words — Filipino and chameleon — but I do write often about Filipinos and the Philippines, wildlife, and about a particular chameleon, as in the Eric Carle book that I read to my grandchildren, The Mixed-Up Chameleon.

Initially I thought the search words were funny.  Chameleons — a special kind of lizard — are not native to the Philippines.  And then I wondered what information was sought…was this inquiry and the string of words derogatory?

And are Filipinos like chameleons? We Filipinos do tend to blend in, don’t we?   We all speak English (very well — and most with a clear American accent) and since English is one of the most popular language in the world, all that much easier to blend in, right?

Aside from language, is it also because most Filipinos are Christians?  A Pew Research demographics study on global religion found that Christians are the most evenly dispersed around the world and represent the largest percentage among the world’s religion  (2.2 billion or 32% of the world’s majority religion) .

20_religionCountryMap from Pew Research

Graphic on majority religions by country from Pew Research. The Philippine archipelago has the most Christians among countries in Southeast Asia,

I am pretty sure that Filipinos live and work in just about every country in the world — around 10% of the total population, and 2.2 million contract or Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) — according to Philippine government data.

  • When I lived in Germany in the mid 1980′s, one of the first things our landlord, Klaus, wanted to do was to introduce me to the Filipina married to a local German, in our town of Dudeldorf.
  • When we first immigrated to the United States and living in Portland, Maine (of all places, right, and not exactly a hotbed for Filipinos in America) my mother quickly found another Filipina living nearby who befriended us.

So,  super chameleons?  Able to survive in any environment, no matter where on the globe?  Or rather, is it more because we don’t stick out?  The Philippines was a Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898, so most Filipinos have Spanish last names.  Is this another way we blend, since our names are not so unusual?

A friend theorized that because the Philippines is a nation of islands (over 7,000 in case you did not know), Filipinos are accustomed to traveling beyond their own island to the next…and the next, so what is another 5,000 more miles?  It’s in our DNA!  Hmmmn, interesting, and maybe!

Are Filipinos everywhere because they like adventure, because Filipinos like to travel? Is it by necessity, for survival? Because we must…as a sacrifice to contribute financially for the greater good of the family?

In 1980, the Philippines scored higher than China, Thailand and Brazil on the United Nations (UN) Human Development Indicators (HDI). The most recent UN HDI report show these three countries now have higher HDI scores than the Philippines.  And after World War II, the only other country in Asia richer than the Philippines was Japan.

So what happened?  Could it be because the Philippine population has more than DOUBLED in the last 3 decades?.

The Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world, and according to United Nations GDP / per capita income data, over 40% of Filipinos live on less than $2 per day.

These days, I think Filipinos are everywhere primarily because of over population and because the economy cannot support the population…so by necessity.

Every year, millions of Filipinos have no choice but to leave their homeland to find work elsewhere.  Many work in the shipping industries (notice that when cruise lines, or container ships are in the news, often, there are Filipino crew members?)

The Philippines export nurses all over the world.  And most recently, our teachers, too.

It is easier to understand Filipino communities in neighboring countries like Australia, New Zealand, and especially Japan.  But Zambia?  ICELAND, The Isle of Mann?

Tropical Philippines web

Photo of banka (traditional Philippine outrigger boat) Lolako.com. From lush green tropics to….Scandinavia?

And how is it that Filipinos manage to survive, and even thrive in countries with climates and cultures so different from their homes?  And do we — the chameleons –  blend in no matter where we are  because it’s safer if others like us, accept us, include us in their, and what then becomes OUR community?  In Sweden alone, there are over 20 Filipino communities! (see Fincomlas Sweden)

I admire Filipino characteristics — our friendly, caring nature, resilience, our sense of humor, and strong commitment to family  — and yes, maybe the chameleon qualities in a positive sense.  But I do hope that in my lifetime, the majority of Filipinos who live and work overseas will be because of their own choice to do so, and not because they have no other choice.

This post was inspired by a search query on my blog, and turned emotional when I thought of families torn apart and separated for many years due to the economic needs of Filipinos.  I’ll continue to explore more on this topic, and of course to celebrate and remember our food and culture.

In the meantime, if you are a Filipino in a faraway place, please share your experience, or your family’s experience.  Do you think Filipinos are like chameleons?  If so, is this positive or a negative?

Related Lolako.com posts:

Biggest and Smallest Shark

I’ve posted several articles about sharks on my blog — originally because of my irrational fear of sharks.  When I think of sharks, I usually think of BIG sharks…like the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

Q A book about Sharks by Ann McGovernMy older grandson read the Scholastic book Questions and Answers about SHARKS by Ann McGovern, and we learned more!  Note: The book is great for readers in Grade 3 to Grade 5.

So…we knew that there were over 370 different types of sharks and about the whale shark — which at 60 feet long is the biggest shark, and the biggest fish in the world.

We didn’t know about the a tiny shark that fits in the palm of your hand.  Except:

The Japanese named it tsuranagakobitozame.  The word means “the dwarf shark with a long face.”

At about 5 inches long, the tsuranagakobitozame is one tiny shark (with a very long name)!

To learn more about whale sharks (which are listed as Vulnerable” on the IUCN Redlist. because of pressures from unregulated fisheries in China, India and the Philippines), please visit the Georgia Aquarium’s FAQ page, here.  The Georgia Aquarium and the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Japan, are places to see whale sharks on exhibit.

Also visit the The Florida Museum of Natural History’s Ichthyology Department for a great FAQ page on shark basics, here…and if you are curious to know if sharks sleep, if sharks have bones, or how long sharks live.

Did you know….fossil records show that the ancestors of modern sharks swam in our oceans over 400 million years ago?  That makes them older than dinosaurs!  Turns out that sharks have changed very little over time.

Click here to view Lolako.com’s shark related posts

A raft of sea otters

Sea Otter Group Moss Landing

Raft of sea otters at Moss Landing Harbor area, photo by Jun-Yong Brown

“Is this natural?” asked the tourist from Israel as he stood next to me and my grandsons, amazed at what he was seeing.

“I mean, are they wild–is this their natural habitat or some preserve?” he added.  I replied “Yes, they are wild, and this is where they live.”

Raft of sea  otters rd

Photo by Jun-Yong Brown

We were at the Moss Landing State Beach earlier in the day, and my grandsons were excited to see  two sea otters swim past us, very close to the shoreline.

Then on the way home, we stopped to look across the inlet area facing Elkhorn Slough and were delighted to see a congregation of otters…much more excitement!

About 5 minutes after watching the raft of otters…they all swam away.  The conference over perhaps….or maybe it was time to forage for food.

Seeing the raft of otters was a nice way to end to our day at the beach, and I am again so happy to live in the Monterey Bay area, with so many opportunities to see wildlife.

White Face Sea Otter rd

Photo by Jun-Yong Brown

During the early part of the 1700′s, the California sea otter population was estimated to number 150,000.

From the mid 1700′s until the early part of 1900, these otters were almost hunted to extinction for their fur.

Today, California sea otters remain endangered with a population of  less than 3,000.

Boys at Moss Landing beach rd

Earlier in the day, my grandsons spotted 2 sea otters swimming close to the shore at Moss Landing State Beach

Sea-otter-in-kelp-anchor-eye-open-close-up

Photo by Jeff Roth

For more on sea otters, visit related Lolako.com Post: The sea otter’s one-eyed peak  

Adorable Sea Otter video – on the rocks by Monterey Bay wildlife photographer Efren B. Adalem

and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium website page Sea Otters as Risk

For more on Elkhorn Slough, visit  the Elkhorn Slough.org website here.  Excerpt:

Dunes and broad stretches of open sandy beach characterize the inner curve of Monterey Bay. The expansive beaches are interrupted only by the outlets of the Pajaro and Salinas Rivers, and the entrance to Elkhorn Slough and Moss Landing Harbor. The protected waters of the slough and its associated mudflats, wetlands, and nearby dunes provide a haven for a wide variety of birds, fish and unusual marine life. This remarkable variety of habitats provides visitors a rare opportunity to explore and discover nature’s secrets.

What grows in the rich soils of Monterey County

Note:  This is a follow-up to my earlier post, Monterey, Melons and more (that Monterey County is the only county in the United States with more than $1 BILLION annually in vegetable sales).

Sunset Seaside Monterey County California rd

Seaside Sunset in Monterey County, Central Coast of California – photo LolaKo.com

The coast, the beautiful landscape, the Monterey Jazz Festival, John Steinbeck country, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row and Fisherman’s wharf, Pebble Beach (among the top Golf destinations in the world) and the spectacular Big Sur Coast are among what makes the Monterey County area well-known worldwide as a tourism spot.

Big_Sur Wiki Photo by Calilover

Big Sur Coast, Monterey County, California photo via wiki commons by Calilover

Steinbeck Mural Salinas California

John Steinbeck mural, downtown old Salinas — Steinbeck was a native of Monterey County Photo: Lolako.com

From an economic standpoint though — tourism dollars aside — the Monterey County agricultural industry is what amazes me.

basket of heriloom tomatoesI wanted to know more.  What exactly do we grow here that produce such high dollar values?

The  website for the Monterey County Office of the Agricultural Commissioner and their Annual Crop Report provided exactly the information I was interested to know.

Here are the most recent numbers…

  • Leaf lettuce is in the number one spot with a value of $777.4 million
  • Strawberries accounted for  $713.9 million
  • Head lettuce was at $454.2 million
  • Broccoli at $297.3 million
  • Nursery production at $260.7 million

So there it is…lettuce is the top crop.

Makes sense…the weather is so mild here, and lettuce can be grown and harvested in such a short time!

Plus, companies in this region of California are pioneers in lettuce production and sales, having originated the ready to go salad — washed, bagged and ready to eat lettuce we now are accustomed to buying at the grocery store.

Nursery Field of Begonia Monterey County rd

Begonias growing in sandy, well draining fields of Marina, Monterey County, California – Photo LolaKo.com

What was also interesting, is that the 4th largest agriculture commodity in Monterey County is nursery production.

I knew about the orchid growing facilities here, but there are also many more types of flowers grown here!  From the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner website on nursery production…

…The local climate creates ideal conditions for raising a large variety of nursery stock including bedding and potted plants, cut flowers, poinsettias, vegetable transplants, woody ornamentals, propagative materials, turf and orchids.

Monterey County field of Yarrow flowers

Yarrow field — flowers growing in Monterey County, California – Photo LolaKo.com

It turns out, along with lots of spring greens, lettuce greens and heads of lettuce, Monterey County grows a lot of flowers like gerbera daisies, Asiatic lily, carnation, tulips and roses.

And so…Monterey County’s total crop values in the year 2011? A whopping  $3,853,004,200.  Again, Wow!

Here are related links:

body_2006_Oliver_hand-laborWebsite for the Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner and Latest Monterey County Crop Report — living and working in Steinbeck Country (the 2012 report should be out soon)

nursery begonia field marina californiaBlog Begonias in the Mist – “We’re planting begonia seeds again.   We’ll drop over 2 million little begonia seeds and hope for the best….”

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Monterey County field of Lavenders

 

Creekside Farms in south Monterey County – grows flowers and makes gorgeous fresh and dried wreaths (see LolaKo post here, for more on Creekside Farms.

 

Lavender-Fields-creekside farms

Lavender Fields at Creekside Farms. Photo LolaKo.com

From USA Today, 25 years of “eureka” moments - #10 is Lettuce in a bag…

…Americans discovered there’s more to salad than iceberg lettuce drowning in bottled dressing after the rollout of mixed lettuce greens in a bag.  Fresh Express in Salinas, Calif., made that possible by inventing a high-tech plastic bag introduced nationwide in 1989. That helped ignite a whole consumer category of portion-controlled foods, such as bagged baby carrots.

Fresh Express productFeatureSalinas, Monterey County, California based Fresh Express Company - Fresh Express created the very first ready-to-eat packaged Garden Salad available in grocery stores nationwide in 1989.

Monterey, melons and more…

Did you know that Monterey County is the only county in the United States with more than $1 billion — yes, that is BILLION — in annual vegetable sales?  Wow!

Monterey County Fields

Monterey County, California farm field, near the Hwy 1 freeway. Photo www.Lolako.com

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) most recent Census of Agriculture for the category of vegetables, potatoes and melons, the top five counties were:

  • Monterey County, California
  • Fresno County, California
  • Yuma County, Arizona
  • Palm Beach County, Florida
  • Kern County, California

Summer and Globe Squash Monterey County

Monterey County grew almost twice the sales value of the next largest county, Fresno… and produced almost 9% of total U.S. value of vegetable production.  Another, wow….and it is true that the Salinas Valley is the salad bowl capital of the U.S. (and the world?).
Monterey county artichokes
Most of what I see driving around Monterey County and neighboring counties are a whole lot salad green fields, and a lot of strawberry farms.  Not so much melons or potato fields.  This billion dollar number must mean mostly salad greens and artichokes, since strawberries are under another category for berries and tree nuts — an even bigger agriculture industry in California.
Textured MelonsIt is nearing summer time, and I am thinking of cherries and melons and luscious fruits to enjoy this summer, and places to take our grandchildren like “U-Pick” types of farms.    The melons pictured on this post are the Casaba melons, which originated from Kasaba, Turkey, and are in the “winter melon” group that includes honey dew melons.  “Winter” meaning they are hardy melons, since these melons are actually available in summer and fall.
Casaba Melons
I looked at the California Agricultural Tourism Directory website, clicked on the “U-Pick” category, and was surprised to find out there was only one listed for Monterey (The Farm – in the Salinas Valley). Surely there are more U-Pick farms in Monterey County? If you know of others, please comment.  Thank you!

May the Fourth Be With You – the staying power of Star Wars

So this month, there is the Cinco de Mayo celebration, Mother’s Day on Sunday, the 12th, and oh yes…Star Wars Day, celebrated by Star Wars fans on May 4th.

What…..Star Wars Day? There’s a Star Wars Day…as in Happy Star Wars Day?

star-wars-may-the-4th-be-with-you-HallmarkApparently, as Hallmark has official cards (conventional and e-cards) available for sale, with your favorite Star Wars character and just the right sentiment .

Star Wars Episode IV was released in the U.S. on May 25, 1977.  I saw the movie when I was a teenager living in the Philippines, and up to that point, it was different from any movie I’d seen.

The second installment, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, was released in U.S. theaters on May 21, 1980, and it was among the first movies  I saw in an American theater.

Ever wonder where George Lucas got the inspiration for Star Wars?  Here is an excerpt from Star Wars Wookieepedia…

Lucas had already written two drafts of Star Wars when he rediscovered Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces in 1975 (having read it years before in college). This blueprint for “The Hero’s Journey” gave Lucas the focus he needed to draw his sprawling imaginary universe into a single story. Campbell demonstrates in his book that all stories are expressions of the same story-pattern, which he named the Hero’s Journey or the monomyth.

Lucas has often cited The Lord of the Rings series as a major influence on Star Wars. Lucas learned from Tolkien how to handle the delicate stuff of myth. Tolkien wrote that myth and fairytale seem to be the best way to communicate morality – hints for choosing between right and wrong – and in fact that may be their primary purpose. Lucas has also acknowleged in interviews that the Gandalf and the Witch-king characters in the Lord of the Rings influenced the Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader characters respectively.

Over 30 years later, the Star Wars franchise lives on and is today relevant to my  grandsons, age 8 and 6.  They love all things Star Wars (now brilliantly marketed in partnership with Lego products) and of course, there is the animated Star Wars – Clone Wars series.

Yoda May the Fourth be with you s

This Yoda — equipped with lightsaber came to us via a box of a Nintendo DS Lego game.

And so here’s to Star Wars Day…and from our household Yoda (he came in a box with a Nintendo DS Lego game), May the Force — or the Fourth — Be With You!

Did you know…Star Wars is the third highest-grossing film series of all time, after James Bond and Harry Potter?

If you are a grandparent — or grandparent age —  how many movies do you remember from our teen years that are now part of modern popular culture?  Certainly not many that we can enjoy with our grandchildren…not a remake, but in its original format.

Related Links:

2013 Salinas Asian Festival

 

Lola Jane and her apos (tagalog for grandchildren) at the Salinas Asian Festival, near the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) booth.

Thank you to Elmer Dolera for the photo, posted via the Asian American Community of the Monterey Bay Area Facebook page.

And for more on FANHS, visit their new blog / website, here.

Whalefest at Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey

The Whalefest at Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey — Whale Watching Capital of the World — continues today, starting with a 10:00AM Beach Clean Up with The Wahine Project.

Today, the Museum of Monterey (MoM) theater is the venue for lectures and documentaries from the 2012 BLUE Ocean Film Festival, beginning with a collection of shorts (Fish Tale: My Secret Life as a Plankton, Ocean Oases, Sea Jellies: A summer Swarm in Monterey, Oceans at the Tipping Point and Ocean Giants), and the film Planet Ocean at 2:30PM.

Looking over the lighthouse exhibit at Museum of Monterey

Yesterday, my grandsons and I watched the inspiring film Ocean Frontiers at the Museum of Monterey.

Learning and blogging about environmental issues often becomes DEPRESSING because there is so much going wrong and the problems seem overwhelming, and insurmountable.

The movie Ocean Frontiers focused on positive work that promotes better health for our oceans.  By working together, farmers from Iowa can directly impact the health of the Gulf waters by creating wetlands and reducing fertilizer use. Endangered whales are saved when a variety of organizations combine research and teamwork to re-route shipping traffic at a busy Boston Port.

A contingent of local environmental organizations and businesses lined the path from the Customs House Plaza to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf.  We visited a few booths yesterday.

The Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) booth, showing Jun and Gabriel shark teeth.

Exhibiting a shark fin at the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) booth.

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Booth

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Booth

American Cetacean Society Booth

American Cetacean Society Booth

American Cetacean Society Booth — great poster that shows different whale sizes… man at the bottom right by the elephant

What does whale baleen feel like?

Like a brush! Jun also compared it to his bristly polar bear Christmas ornament from Eco Carmel, made of buri palm.

Squid for Kids booth from the Hopkins Marine Station was a popular stop

Squid dissected – at the Squid for Kids booth, Hopkins Marine Station

For more on squid — see an earlier post, jumbo Humboldt squid washing up on central California beaches (and one trapped in the Monterey Aquarium’s tide pool).

Squid for Kids painting and stamping station — sometimes they use real squid ink!

Chalk Art during Whalefest at the Old Fisherman’s Wharf – Monterey

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Booth

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve Booth – making ocean creatures

Among my grandsons favorite activity was the United States Coast Guard area, as they  were allowed to board their inflatable Search and Rescue Coast Guard motor life boat.

And of course, as much as this was learning all about the ocean and conservation, you cannot go home without first getting a specialty lollipop from the candy store at Old Fisherman’s Wharf.

The boys had a blast and yes, we plan to go again today.

Jumbo Humboldt squid washing up on central California beaches (and one trapped at the Monterey Bay Aquarium tide pool)

Photo of Humboldt squid by Monikichi, via Wikipedia.  Caught off Viña del Mar, Chile.

This past Saturday, my daughter and grandson Gabriel found Humboldt squid stranded at the Moss Landing & Salinas River State Beach, and over the weekend, there were reports of hundreds of stranded and dead Humboldt squid in areas along the Central California coast.

Also known as jumbo squid, the Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) are predatory and can grow up to 5 feet long.

Think squid for calamari steaks, and not the small  “market” squid — the calamari rings that many of us eat for appetizers.

Market squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) only grow to about 11 (28cm) inches long.

Named after the Humboldt Current (and the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt) these squid are normally found at depths of 660 to 2,300 ft (200 to 700 m) — and in the Sea of Cortez, in Baja, Mexico.

On Sunday, we were at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where we watched a Humboldt squid swimming in the aquarium’s tide pool.

According to a Monterey Bay Aquarium staff member, the Humboldt squid was trapped in their tide pool after high tide.  Apparently, this has not happened in 28 years at the Aquarium.  I checked the opening year of the Aquarium — 1984 — which means this has never happened before…

The Monterey Bay Aquarium building sits on the edge of Monterey Bay.  Photo above of outdoor deck and the tide pool behind the Monterey Bay Aquarium building.  Photo LolaKo.com

The Great Tide Pool at Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Photo Lolako.com

It was a rare opportunity to see a Humboldt squid swimming in an enclosed area…and all from the comfort and safety of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s deck overlooking the tide pool.

We found out that squid swim backwards by pumping water through valves near their heads.  It was odd to see the squid moving about with its tentacles and head behind, instead of in front of the movement.

A baby Humboldt squid trapped after high tide in the Monterey Bay Aquarium tide pool. Leaning over the deck area, we watched — and I photographed with my phone camera — the squid swimming around the tide pool.  Coral and cream color creatures to the left of the squid are starfish that live in the tide pool.

What a lucky day to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Really….how often do you get to watch a Humboldt squid swimming without having to actually be in the water?  It is probably one of those days my grandsons will remember.

Interesting information from Wikipedia on the Humboldt squid:

El Niño factors

Although Humboldt squid are generally found in the warm Pacific waters off of the Mexican coast, recent years have shown an increase in northern migration. The large 1997-98 El Niño event triggered the first sightings of Humboldt squid in Monterey Bay..

Then, during the minor El Niño event of 2002, they returned to Monterey Bay in higher numbers and have been seen there year-round since then. Similar trends have been shown off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and even Alaska, although there are no year-round Humboldt squid populations in these locations.

This change in migration is suggested to be due to warming waters during El Niño events, but other factors, such as a decrease in upper trophic level predators that would compete with the squid for food, could be impacting the migration shift, as well.

Ocean Acidification

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that by the end of this century, ocean acidification will lower the Humboldt squid’s metabolic rate by 31% and activity levels by 45%. This will lead the squid to have to retreat to shallower waters, where they can take up oxygen at higher levels.

Here is a video from local news reports…did these baby Humboldt squid eat toxic algae?

Related Links:

Illustration by Rena Ekmanis (www.renaekmanis.com)

From UCSC Science Notes 2012: The Sea Longs for Red Devils

Article by Daniela Hernandez dives into a giant marine mystery — and why the elusive Humboldt squid has abandoned a Mexican fishery in need.  With illustrations by Rena Ekmanis.

Image of market squid from www.fishwatch.gov

California Market Squid – from NOAA, FISH WATCH U.S. Seafood Facts

…California’s market squid fishery is unique for several reasons. Fishermen usually fish for market squid at night directly (more here)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful for Sand, Sunset and Silliness

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is an easy one…

From Sara Rosso, the theme is Thankful. In the United States, yesterday was Thanksgiving, a holiday where people spend time with family and friends and remember the things they’re thankful for.

 I think the idea of being thankful and reflecting back on good things in your life is something that naturally happens towards the end of a calendar year…more here

Almost everyday (almost because some days, I forget), I am thankful that we live in an area of the United States abundant with open space and natural beauty.

I am especially thankful that the weather here is so mild that we can take our grandchildren to the beach with their short sleeve shirts in November,  and they can play in the sand  well into sunset.

I took these photos earlier this week, the day before Thanksgiving…

Older brother gets to “bury” little brother in the sand…

And now it is little brother’s turn to “bury” big brother in the sand…

It takes some work to focus on being thankful and to focus on the positive — at least for me.

I’m so thankful for these silly little men — my sweet grandsons — who give us a great excuse to stop and to just be.  Here are some other favorite silly pics, when they were younger…

Jun’s first moustache, seaweed!

This one makes me smile because Gabriel loved his little toy “motorcycle” and was so serious about riding it

I’m outa here, don’t even think of following me! :)  Scoot, scoot, scoot, scoot…

There really is so much to be thankful for…I’m thankful for being here to enjoy the beauty of our landscape…and of course, thankful for my family.

And hopefully, when the little guys are grown men, they are always thankful to have one another, and look back and be thankful for the childhood moments they shared.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit

This week’s photo challenge — Free Spirit — is guest hosted by Strauss Louw. 

I chose this as the topic for this week’s photo challenge as it lends itself to so many possibilities for subject matter and composition….click here to view post

Most of us have known free spirits — or maybe we were once free spirits.  Somehow, as adults, I feel we don’t let this spirit of freedom “out” anymore, for fear of looking odd or silly.  And sometimes, we even say goodbye to this spirit, and we let it leave us.

It is another thing with  children though….they seem to all embody this free spirit.  Here are photographs of my grandsons, Jun and Gabriel, which I think capture this theme.  I hope they  keep this spirit of freedom and lightness well into old age.

A stick, sunshine,and sand in between your toes…what else do you need for a happy, free spirit day?

At first, my grandchildren try to outrun the waves, but later, give in to to enjoy the water — even though the water in our part o the Pacific ocean is rather cold.

Which cutting board is best, wood or plastic?

Ever wonder which cutting board is safest — traditional wood boards, those new bamboo cutting boards, plastic, or even glass boards?

Jeff’s freshly baked breads ready to slice, on top of bamboo cutting board

For the answer, check out this article from Ask Umbra (Green Living Questions) at Grist.org…  Excerpt:

In fact, this question of bacteria helps answer your question about plastic vs. wood. Plastic gained favor for a while because it is non-porous and dishwasher-safe, two qualities that made it seem like a healthier, cleaner choice. But it seems this was just another PR coup by the plastics industry.

According to research, including a study at the UC-Davis Food Safety Laboratory, wood wins the bacteria battle.

While bacteria such as salmonella and listeria are easy to clean off brand-new plastic boards, these boards become, say the researchers, “impossible to clean and disinfect manually” once damaged by knives. In other words, the sneaky little bacteria hide out in the cracks and crevices. Wood cutting boards provide a home for bacteria too, but only for a short time, and the little critters actually scoot down under the surface and die.

Click here to read the full article…

Related Links:

UC Davis Research: Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards

Rodale’s This or That? Wooden vs. Plastic Cutting Boards

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth (gardens and grandsons)

This theme for last week’s photo challenge and blogging experiment at the Daily Post is GROWTH.   And nothing can convey growth to a grandmother, like me, as much as seeing how quickly my grandsons grow.

As most grandparents will tell you, having grandchildren is a whole lot different from raising your own children.  For one thing, our age — and being on the finish line side of the aging spectrum — makes you focus on what is really important.  Plus, life’s experiences makes me more relaxed about, well… life in general.

It’s not that I am less busy…I am not yet retired, and am also growing a small business. It is more that I filter out — at least I try to — things that will not bring joy and value to my time.  And the time that I value the most, is time with loved ones, and most especially my young grandsons.

Here are some of my favorite garden and growth related photos of my two favorite little men.  They are now 5 and 7, but still little, for now…

Gabriel helping his Lola water plants

More water please, Lola!

Gabriel then shorter than the potted tomato plant

Jun among daisy flowers

This last photo I took at Elkhorn Slough – and is among my favorite photograph of the two little men.

“I am spending delightful afternoons in my garden, watching everything living around me.  As I grow older, I feel everything departing, and I love everything with more passion”  French writer Emile Zola (1840 – 1902)

Who is Rachel Carson? And the MBARI Open House on July 21st…

On a foggy day last week, Jeff and I walked from the Potrero Rd. entrance to the Moss Landing beach, past the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and towards Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery.

Rather large driftwood — drift LOGS, really, at Moss Landing Beach

On the way back, we decided to take the road and frontage trail, instead of walking back on the beach.  On Sandholdt Road, we noticed this ship, the Rachel Carson, at the Moss Landing Harbor.

We wondered….who is Rachel Carson?

Note: The photo does not do justice to the rather new, shiny ship.

I did not think anymore about the Rachel Carson ship — and these set of photos — until reading the “Your Town” section of today’s Monterey County Herald.  Excerpt:

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute will hold an open house from noon to 5PM Saturday at 7700 Sandholdt Road.

At 12:45PM, aquarium executive director Julie Packard will christen the institute’s newest ship, the R/V Rachel Carson.

Other activities include talks about the expeditions to the Gulf of California and Sargasso Sea, a tour of the labs, a look at ships and undersea robots used in the deep-sea excursions, and workshops where children can build their own remotely operated vehicles.

According to the MBARI website, the R/V Rachel Carson “will serve as a replacement for both the R/V Zephyr and R/V Point Lobos, and will be able to launch both ROVs and AUVs, as well as conduct multi-day expeditions”.

The new research vessel was named Rachel Carson in honor of the American marine biologist and conservationist.  Click here to view a better image for the R/V Rachel Carson, on the MBARI Press Room page.

We learned that Rachel Carson wrote the book Silent Spring and is credited with advancing the global environmental movement.  Excerpt from Wikipedia…

Late in the 1950s Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially environmental problems she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was Silent Spring (1962), which brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people.

Although Silent Spring met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.

The open house also celebrates MBARI’s 25th anniversary.  The presentation schedule is as follows:

  • In the PACIFIC FORUM: Extending MBARI’s reach
    12:00 Volcanoes of the Gulf of California ~ Jenny Paduan
    12:30 Video ~ no speaker during christening of R/V Rachel Carson
    01:00 Volcanoes of the Gulf of California (repeat) ~ Jenny Paduan
    01:30 Monterey Bay: A window to the world ~ Chris Scholin
    02:00 Secrets of the Sargasso Sea ~ Alana Sherman
    02:30 ESP around the world ~ Jim Birch
    03:00 Secrets of the Sargasso Sea (repeat) ~ Alana Sherman
    03:30 ESP around the world (repeat) ~ Jim Birch
    04:00 Exploring the Gulf of California ~ Steve Haddock
    04:30 Exploring the Gulf of California (repeat) ~ Steve Haddock
  • PRESENTATIONS in the VIDEO TENT:
    12:15 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    01:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    01:30 Deep-sea video
    02:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    02:30 Deep-sea video
    03:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    03:30 Deep-sea video
    04:00 Mysteries of the Deep (live presentation)
    04:30 Deep-sea video

For further details, please visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) website.

Our trail walk back towards Potrero Road…

Foggy Moss Landing Harbor

Beach Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala) is the most common, California native plant, found around sand dunes. This one is encircled by non-native — and aggressive — iceplants, which do not provide food or shelter to native wildlife.

Reward for lost scientific instrument!

Fish & Wildlife Service employee photo, via wikipedia

Link to Wikipedia article on Rachel Louise Carson (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964)

Carson began her career as a biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her widely praised 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her a U.S. National Book Award,[1] recognition as a gifted writer, and financial security. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the reissued version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. That so-called sea trilogy explores the whole of ocean life from the shores to the surface to the depths.

Rest in Peace Marion Cunningham

Marion Cunningham, cook, author, and advocate for home cooking, died on Wednesday, at the age of 90.

For many years, Marion Cunningham wrote a column for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times, and contributed articles to Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Gourmet magazines.  She lived in Walnut Creek, in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I remember reading some of her articles in the Contra Costa Times, or articles about her when we lived in the Bay Area.

Until I heard about her death, I didn’t know that she was already 50 years old when she started her career path towards the cooking world.  She was proof that it is never too late to take up a new career, when you are doing something you love.

Marion Cunningham’s book, Good Eating

We own a few cookbooks, and among them is Marion Cunningham’s Good Eating, which is actually two books in one (The Breakfast Book and The Supper Book).  I’ve used it more often than our other cookbooks.  The recipes are solid, and most are simple, no-fuss to make, meaning they are also kid-friendly.

Some of our cookbooks (Jeff likes to cook!)

The recipe (and LolaKo post) Best Buttermilk Pancakes Ever, is adapted from her recipe.  I’ve also made other pancakes — buckwheat,cornmeal — and waffles, using recipes from The Breakfast Book.

When my grandson Jun (an enthusiastic pancake eater) was home sick from school and I was looking after him, I decided to try another of Marion Cunningham’s pancake recipe.  I settled on Lemon Pancakes, since we had lemons and cottage cheese on hand.

Jun sat at the kitchen counter, and watched.  It was different from our “usual” pancakes — both in the process of making it, and in appearance.

I slipped the first pancake on a plate, swirled syrup on top, and presented it to Jun, who was about 6 years old at the time.  He took a bite, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, smiled, and uttered, “ummmmm…Lola!”.

You can imagine how happy I was at his reaction — and he got better rather quickly too!

I don’t normally make these pancakes as cottage cheese is not an item we keep on hand.  But…it is tasty, and well worth making if you want to make a special treat for your enthusiastic pancake eaters…even if they are not sick.

In honor of Marion Cunningham, here is her recipe.

From The Breakfast Book -  Lemon Pancakes

These pancakes make you sit up and take notice.  Serve them with fresh raspberries or raspberry syrup and you will have a summer morning special.

  • 3 eggs (separated)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.  In another bowl, stir together the egg yolks, flour, cottage cheese, butter, sugar, salt, and lemon zest until well mixed (I use the rotary egg beater I used for beating the egg whites).

With a large spoon or a spatula, fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.  Gently stir until there are no yellow or white streaks.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Grease lightly and spoon out about 3 large tablespoons of batter for each pancake.  Cook slowly for about 1 1/2 minutes, then turn the pancake over and cook about 30 seconds.  Keep the pancakes warm in a 250 degree oven until ready to serve.

Related Links:

San Francisco Chronicle SF Gate article, with Marion Cunningham’s recipe for raised waffles.

New York Times article on Marion Cunningham’s death, with her recipe for coffee cake

Lola Jane’s Best Buttermilk Pancakes Ever

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Movement in Tae Kwon Do class

If you have read my blog over the last year, you know that topics close to my heart are related to the environment and conservation, as well as poverty and the Philippines (where I am originally from).  I can’t help it…I’m a grandmother deeply concerned about the state of the planet and what we are leaving behind for our grandchildren.  I feel compelled to learn about, and post articles on these topics.

These posts can often be depressing…which is why I look forward to the WordPress Photo Challenge from the Daily Post.  It gives me an opportunity to think about and share photos which I would not normally think to post on my blog.

This week, the theme is “movement”.  I thought about the photos I have from my grandsons’ Tae Kwon Do classes, and how frustrating it is — for me at least — to have a good “movement” or as I interpret this theme, an “action” type shot.

I have probably spent hundreds of hours taking my grandsons to Tae Kwon Do practice, often with camera in hand.  Though I love taking photos — and have taken photographs since I was a teenager, I am still a beginner.

Soon, I will elevate my photography to the next level…meaning, get a more professional camera and actually read the technical manual!

For now though, here is my submission for the “movement” photo challenge – with the theme Tae Kwon Do.

Here are some captures to give a feel for the classes:

Practicing “Poomse” movements at Tae Kwon Do class

Youngest Tae Kwon Do classes for 3 1/2 to 5 years old. My younger grandson is the little guy at the end with a white belt, looking at his Lola (grandmother) Jane, instead of listening to Master Lee.

Students enjoy playing dodge ball, after Tae Kwon Do class.  You can see the ball at the lower right hand side.

Board breaking at Tae Kwon Do belt promotion test

Sparring during Tae Kwon Do promotion test

So….despite the countless photos I have taken at Tae Kwon Do practice…I don’t have a  good photo of my grandchildren, breaking a board for promotion test, etc.

I did capture shots I liked…not of the grandsons, but of one of the instructors, Mr. Yates, doing a demonstration, at a promotion test.

Setting up concrete blocks

Alas! Captured a good “movement” shot

And as far as the best “movement” shots of my grandchildren at Tae Kwon Do….well, that is left to Monterey Bay professional photographer Ricky Cabalza.  Here are his photographs of my grandsons.

Photos by Ricky Cabalza – www.out2focus.com

Photo by Ricky Cabalza – www.out2focus.com

Professional photographers like Ricky Cabalza can coax and capture a fierce look, even from 4 and 7-year-old little guys.

If I had asked my grandsons to pose for something similar to the photo below, they would most likely make goofy faces at me, and probably stick their tongues out as I clicked the camera button.

Photos by Ricky Cabalza – www.out2focus.com

My other weekly photo challenge submissions are “Surfer-in-Training”, and the Philippine transportation method for the theme fleeting moment on the street — the “put-put” on NativeLeaf.info last week, as well as weaving hands on a prior photo challenge theme, also at NativeLeaf.info’s blog section.

Did you know that Tae Kwon Do is the national sport of South Korea?  It is also considered the most popular martial arts based on the number of practitioners world-wide (estimated at over 70 million in 190 countries),  and has been an Olympic event since 2000. 

Severn Cullis-Suzuki Revisits Historic ’92 Speech, Fights for Next Generation’s Survival

From Democracy Now –  a daily, independent global news hour, with Amy Goodman & Juan González:

In 1992, 12-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki became known as “the girl who silenced the world for six minutes” after she addressed delegates in Rio de Janeiro during the summit’s plenary session. We air Cullis-Suzuki’s historic address and speak to her from the Rio+20 summit, which she comes back to now as a veteran international environmental campaigner and mother of two. “Twenty years later, the world is still talking about a speech, a six-minute speech that a 12-year-old gave to world leaders,” Cullis-Suzuki says. “Why? It is because the world is hungry to hear the truth, and it is nowhere articulated as well as from the mouths of those with everything at stake, which is youth.”

“I’m only a child, yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong—in fact, 30 million species strong. And borders and governments will never change that. I’m only a child, yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.  In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid of telling the world how I feel… click here to view the video transcript.

Will your children and grandchildren also inherit your e-books?

Essay from Amanda Katz

…What happens to our books when we die? Many books disappear before we do, of course; they fall apart, or we put them out on the stoop for scavengers. 

…Whenever serious readers die, their heirs face the task of dispersing their books. But few of us like to think about what will happen to our own libraries. Will our children value our books (and will they have shelf space for them)? Will they be bought by a serious research library, or draw bids at Christie’s? Not unless we are famous, or they are first editions. Perhaps they will re-enter circulation at a used bookstore, sold for pennies and resold for a few dollars: it’s pleasant to imagine them released back into the sea of books, to be caught afresh by a new reader.

Link to read essay, here

Rocket scientist Robert Goddard’s Uncle Spud gave him this copy of The War of the Worlds in 1898. More than a hundred years later, it passed into the hands of essayist Amanda Katz

Not crazy for cactus…yet

I’ve planted and grown many plants over the years, but I can remember having only two cactus plants.

One was a gift from my friend, David, who gave me specific instructions to put it in my office, by the computer.  It died about 3 years later.  I am sentimental with gifts, and feel bad that I killed a slow-growing, easy-care plant, that can live for over 100 years.

And then there’s the second cactus, a saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)…which, amazingly, I still have.  This cactus is special to me — even if once in a while I get a poked by its needles — because my daughter planted it from seed.

My 17-year-old saguaro cactus, grown from seed.

Years ago, I went to Phoenix for a business trip.  At the Phoenix airport,  I purchased a package of saguaro seeds as part of my pasalubong items for my daughter.

Saguaro cactus are found in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and Mexico.  It can grow up to 70 feet, and live for over 150 years.

My cactus is about 17 years old, and just over 14 inches tall.  Talk about slow-growing!  At this stage (without “arms”) it is called a spear.  It will eventually grow an arm, after about 75 years.

So, if I manage not to kill it, and if my grandsons want it, they may see it grow an arm in their lifetime.

When I gave the seed packet to my daughter, she placed the seeds in a little pot with dirt, watered it, and we quickly had about 20 little seedlings.  One particular seedling took charge of the space, and all the other seedlings died.  We did not pick a particular seedling, nor thin them out.  It’s as if they all knew which seedling was boss, and simply died to allow the boss seed to grow in the space.

I’ve re-potted the saguaro just once.  Honestly, I am surprised that it is still alive.  It does have a brownish area in the bottom, so I don’t know how much longer I will have it.  Maybe it is time for a bigger container.

The silhouette of a large saguaro stands at sunset in Saguaro National Park on the east side of Tucson, Arizona. Photo via wikepedia files.

As much as I love  plants, I am not exactly crazy about cactus.

Maybe it’s the needles, and the poke factor.  I don’t like plants that can puncture my skin and make me bleed.  I do make an exception for old fashioned roses, since in return, I get to inhale one of the loveliest scents in existence.

A visit to Jardines de San Juan, a Mexican restaurant located in the historic mission town of San Juan Bautista, California, inspired me to learn more about my saguaro cactus.

The Jardines garden has an abundance of cactus, some of which I photographed using my phone camera.  Many were sporting beautiful flowers.  Below are a few of the shots…

Jardines De San Juan, back patio area June 2012

Learning more about my saguaro has given me a whole new appreciation for cacti, and may get me to bring another in our home.  For now though,  I must first get some heavy-duty gloves and re-pot the one I have.

Which cactus camp are you in….crazy for cactus?  Or…keep those spiky plants away from me!

And if you are curious to know how long cactus seeds keep (or are viable)…check out the comment section on Lolako.com’s “Contact” page, here.   Can you guess?

  • over 20 years?
  • over 200 years?
  • or for over 2,000 years?

Environment tipping point…are we living in an age of irresponsibility?

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently published their 5th Global Environment Outlook – a 525 page report analyzing the world’s environmental situation.

And… it is no surprise that the situation does not look good.  Excerpt from the report by Jenny Barchfield (AP) via SFGate, UN report warns environment at tipping point:

…In a 525-page report on the health of the planet, the agency paints a grim picture: The melting of the polar ice caps, desertification in Africa, deforestation of tropical jungles, spiraling use of chemicals and the emptying out of the world’s seas are just some of myriad environmental catastrophes posing a threat to life as we know it.

“As human pressures on the earth … accelerate, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded,” the report says. “Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur, with significant adverse implications for human well-being.”

Such adverse implications include rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and the collapse of fisheries, said the report, which compiles the work of the past three years by a team of 300 researchers.

The bad news doesn’t end there. The report says about 20 percent of vertebrate species are under threat of extinction, coral reefs have declined by 38 percent since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions could double over the next 50 years, and 90 percent of water and fish samples from aquatic environments are contaminated by pesticides.  Click here to read the entire article.

I don’t know about other print newspapers, but ours (The Monterey County Herald) had this news on Page 7, on June 7, 2012.

If our home –  the beautiful planet, Earth — is “being pushed towards their biophysical limits”, then this news deserves more attention.

If indeed, catastrophic changes are looming, then should this news be on the FRONT PAGE?

Our home is on the verge of major disaster, and we put the news on page 7???

We do not want to think about this, so do we just ignore this information…to our own peril?  It’s time to wake up everyone.  This is the collective problem of all inhabitants of our fragile planet!

Is it possible to CHANGE the health of our planet and to stop and reverse these distressing environmental trends?

From UNEP executive director Achim Steiner:  “This is an indictment.  We live in an age of irresponsibility that is also testified and documented in this report.

“In 1992 (when the first of the agency’s five reports was released) we talked about the future that was likely to occur. This report 20 years later speaks to the fact that a number of the things that we talked about in the future tense in 1992 have arrived,” Steiner said. “Once the tipping point occurs, you don’t wake up the next morning and say, `This is terrible, can we change it?’ That is the whole essence of these thresholds. We are condemning people to not having the choice anymore.”

Steiner called for immediate action to prevent continued environmental degradation, with its ever-worsening consequences.

“Change is possible,” he said, adding that the report includes an analysis of a host of environmental preservation projects that have worked. “Given what we know, we can move in another direction.”  Click here to read entire article.

Here is the newspaper article about the UN report, on page 7 of our  Monterey County Herald.

Are you thinking what I am thinking…is this all there is?  Come on, Monterey Herald!

Does the placement of this article speak to how we all feel about the environmental problems we collectively face?  To bury the already tiny mention, in the middle of the newspaper?

If you care at all about the state of the world we leave behind for our children and grandchildren, then we have no choice but to take responsibility for the problems we have caused, and act now…before we reach the tipping point.

Do you think there should be more coverage about this report?  Who is responsible for addressing these  environmental threats?