My Etsy Shop

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ghee Whiz, or It Ain't Easy Being Vata-Kapha

I planned to meet my friend Lisa at noon Friday on the steps of City Hall to check out Slow Food Nation. I got there early and watched as 2 separate same-sex wedding parties exited City Hall and got into their respective limos. They had these two globes on either side of the steps. One depicts Tidal Energy and the other Wind Energy.

Ghee is a food product made from butter that is used in Indian cooking. I bought this jar (and the dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes) at the farmer's market. I didn't realize that one got a free diagnosis with purchase. The interesting man behind the counter told us that he was an Ayurvedic practitioner and told us (me, Lisa and this other woman) that ghee was ok for us, but he wouldn't sell it to Oprah Winfrey, because she was the wrong type for it. He pronounced Lisa and the other woman to be Vata. He told me that I am a very rare combination of Vata-Kapha and told me to Google it. (I did, and I have to admit that it was remarkably "on.") These tomatoes were bursting with flavor.

I roasted the baby potatoes whole that night with whole cloves of garlic, olive oil and rosemary from the garden. They were crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. We scarfed them right down. I wish I had bought more now.

Lisa and I checked out the farmer's market booths and the garden and then perused the prepared food stands. During this brief run-through, we came across Alice Waters and Rick Bayless walking around, part of the crowd. Alice is pretty short. I got the impression that I was gazing down at the top of her head, and I'm not tall.

These little fuzzy green jobbies are green garbanzo beans in their shells. Who knew? We tasted them and they taste a lot like green beans. They didn't have that nutty flavor that a dried, cooked garbanzo bean has.

These gorgeous tuberoses were behind the counter at one farmer's display.

Steve met us for lunch. It was unusually hot downtown that day. Everyone was looking for a spot in the shade.

As part of the festival, they planted a Victory Garden in front of City Hall. My friend Diane was one of the volunteers who worked on it. They did a beautiful job. There were several displays, like this one of CA native flowers.

After the festival, the food from the garden will be harvested and given to the San Francisco Food Bank, to be distributed to low-income residents.

Before leaving, I had to stop and watch the performance by these native dancers. I missed the introduction, and they weren't listed on the schedule, so I don't know who they are. Loved the headdresses and the dances were very interesting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Twain Harte

We made our annual pilgrimage up to the cabin at Twain Harte for a long weekend. I finished up a big presentation I'd been working slavishly on for weeks Wednesday afternoon and sent it off. Then I made the mistake of letting my guard down for a little bit and by that evening I had a definite sore throat and a cold coming on. This is the second time in a row that I've been sick on our trip up there, and it's gettin' old.

Less swimming time meant I had more time to do something else. I did a couple of watercolor sketches. The top one is of Twain Harte Lake and "The Rock." I usually enjoy swimming out to the rock, but this time I just paddled over on my noodle, being careful to keep my head out of the water. It was still nice to be out in the middle of the lake looking up at the clear blue sky and pines overhead.

I had planned to bring some art supplies, but I was not feelin' so great while we were packing and said, "The heck with it." But then I got up there and went shopping at my favorite store, Twain Harte Pharmacy. They have everything. It's sort of like an old Woolworth's, but with a clothes and giftware section too. They have every type of craft supply known to woman: glitter, pipe cleaners, fabrics, etc. It's pretty cool to browse around there. I found some nice watercolor blocks on sale and purchased a nice (expensive, naturally...) box of watercolors. I figure I can haul them on other trips.

The other thing I like to do up there is hang out on the deck and read and look at birds. This tree, which I think is a cypress, must have been struck by lightning. I counted 23 nest holes in just one of the dead snags. The birds love it. The acorn woodpeckers are starting to use it as a granary. There are at least 6 acorn woodpeckers in this group.

It was quite "birdy" up there this time. The Steller's jays were zipping around squaking and making their presence known. There were several fledgling jays in the group, similar to the Scrub jay babies we've had in our yard. Their crests were sort of underdeveloped and grey instead of black. They had short wing feathers and were often flapping their wings and begging the adults for food.

Other birds seen on this trip included: tons of Turkey vultures, Red-breasted nuthatches, White-breasted nuthatches, Brown creepers, Warbling vireos, Dark-eyed juncoes, Spotted towhees, Anna's hummingbirds, Western tanagers, White-headed woodpeckers, Northern flickers and Mourning doves.

The nuthatches and creepers are fun to watch as they scour the crevices of the tree trunks for tasty morsels. The Red-breasted nuthatches have a very funny call that sounds like a toy tin horn. I hear them calling almost constantly at the cabin.

I read a couple of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith over the weekend. I love this series. If you haven't read any of them, I think you should check them out. I just read Blue Shoes and Happiness and In the Company of Cheerful Ladies. The books make me want to go to Botswana. Apparently I'm not the only one. I read somewhere that these books have given a boost to the tourism industry there.

Although it's still nice and warm and sunny up there in the foothills of the Sierra during the day, you can sense a bit of a nippy feeling in the breeze. The days are definitely getting shorter. And autumn migration has started here in SF.

Labor Day weekend is coming up and we're going to be checking out the Slow Food Nation, which is holding their first big conference in the US here in San Francisco. I'll try to get some nice photos for you, ok?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Waning Summer

On Sunday we met at a place called Jelly's, down by the ballpark, for a birthday brunch. Marie, the birthday girl, is the one in the center. It was in a sort of industrial setting on a pier near some tugboats, but the food was good. It was also out of the fog.

After brunch, I took Steve over to a nearby park I know from birding called Huffaker Park. It is along Mission Creek and there are these cool funky houseboats. In winter, there is often a rare warbler in that tiny park. It's a little strip of green amidst a very urban area.

Steve took pictures of some of the wildlife there.

These flowers are called "Naked Ladies." The leaves die back and the flowers pop up out of the ground as if from nowhere. They are harbingers of summer's end.

My friend Deb emailed me the other day that she harvested 75 tomatoes from a raised bed she had planted in a friend's yard. Here's my tomato harvest:

Besides the varmints devouring the tomatoes before they can even start to get ripe, my plants are getting their wilt.

I was watering and surveying the damage this afternoon. This chestnut backed chickadee came in to swipe a black oil sunflower seed from the feeder about 4 feet from where I was sitting.

Ms. E. was giving me this baleful look from her perch, so I was persuaded to bring her out for an airing in the eddying swirls of fog.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dagan's Visit

Our nephew, Dagan, made an unexpected visit to San Francisco Sunday. We got a call at 10:00 am that he was at Lake Tahoe and was stopping in SF en route back to LA. Dagan works as a PA (Production Assistant) on a reality tv show called The Hills. We dont' get this channel, so we've never seen the show.

That afternoon we made contact again and found out that he and his buddies wanted to go to the Ferry Building for lunch. So we got on MUNI Metro and headed down there to meet them.

After lunch, half of the entourage needed to head out. Dagan and two friends wanted to go for a walk, so we ambled over to AT & T Park.

Right away we encountered a wedding party. The bride looked very young and did not appear to be in a very good mood. I snapped this shot of the bridesmaids wearing Giants colors, orange and black. I did not notice the rude hand gesture that the middle bridesmaid was making until I downloaded the picture. On closer inspection, she is looking at someone other than me, so I don't mind.

We were like fish swimming upstream, as a Giants/Dodgers game was letting out. Dagan checked his iphone and found out that the Giants had won 5-4. There was the usual bantering between Giants and Dodger fans after the game. "Beat LA!" "Go home, you bums!" etc. The rivalry is still alive and well.

The guys went into the stadium and took a few photos on the cable car before being unceremoniously booted out by one of the ushers.

Here's Steve and Dagan at the Seal statue:

The local baseball team used to be the San Francisco Seals and they played at Seal Stadium before the New York Giants moved here to SF in 1958.

We had a nice visit. They are a fun bunch of nice young people. In some ways they sort of reminded me of the newly-fledged scrub jays in my yard. They are trying out their wings after graduating from college. I wish them all good luck as they start out in their fledgling careers.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


I created this illustration many years ago for a textbook. My brother used to crew on racing sailboats in Marblehead. A photo of him racing got into a sailing magazine, so I used it as reference for this illustration. Marblehead is a small town in Massachusetts which is very big on sailing.

The best ever vacation we ever went on was when we chartered a sailboat and sailed around the Virgin Islands with my brother. It was so incredible to anchor and just jump off the boat and go snorkeling. It was also just so nice to sleep in a little cabin with the boat gently rocking you. We became "as mellow as seaweed."

Steve & I went to the Rrazz Room last Sunday to see Mason Williams. He's the guy who wrote the song "Classical Gas" which was a big hit in the 60s.

It was a fun concert. Mason Williams had a guy in his band, John Doan, who played harp guitar, a very cool instrument which sounds like a guitar and a string section at the same time.

Mason used to be on the Smothers Brothers Show on tv. Tommy Smothers was in the audience and came up onstage and recited a poem called, "Who Do I Have to Hate for You to Like Me?" Still being a rabble-rouser, which was akward but sort of refeshing.

Anyhow, after the show we were chatting with MW and I asked him about my favorite singer from that show, John Hartford. I hadn't heard anything about him for a long time. He wrote the song "Gentle On My Mind," which became a big hit for Glenn Campbell.

MW told me that John Hartford died of cancer. I was pretty sad to hear that. I have an album of his that has a song on it I really loved called, "The Sailboat Song." See...I was getting around to how it relates. Here are the lyrics, from memory...

The Sailboat Song
by John Hartford

Faint pictures of my childhood lie floundering in your wake
The worries of tomorow at your bow
Your spinnaker a white balloon, your mainsail proud and tall
To me you are the very soul of now

I’m dizzy on your teakwood deck, my arms around your mast
Insane inside your cabin soft and warm
Then drifting off to sleep your fingers loose along my face
In contented disbelief of early morn

To me you are the moment, the present breath of life
As together we are slicing through the spray
The second buried deep within the mystery of your love
Not shades of things to come or yesterday

Faint pictures of my childhood lie floundering in your wake
The worries of tomorow at your bow
Your spinnaker a white balloon, your mainsail proud and tall
To me you are the very soul of now

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Western Scrub Jays

Summer is a dull time bird-wise here in San Francisco. We have a wider variety of birds here in winter, as some species winter here at the coast and then move up to higher elevations for the summer. One of our year-round birds is the Western Scrub Jay. These birds are closely related to the more familiar Blue Jay east of the Rockies.

One pair of scrub jays nested two yards over in our neighbor Denny's impenetrable thicket. They visit my feeders on a daily basis and boss the smaller birds around. Jays are smart birds. They figured out how to feed from the suet basket, which is designed for smaller clinging birds like chickadees. It's funny to see these large blue birds hanging upside down pecking away at the suet cakes.

Now there are four. The scrub jays have been bringing their babies over to the yard this week. They are not the only ones...lots of birds are coming back with the latest crop of fledges. It's hard to tell the juvenile scrub jays from the parents. They are the same size now. The babies have the greyer heads and some of their feathers aren't grown in all the way. They are a bit fluffier looking and occasionally they will start begging one of the parent birds for food. They open their bills and rapidly flap their wings in front of one of the parent birds. They also act a little goofier.

Here's a baby on the bird bath.

Here's one of the parent birds on the alpine strawberry pot. Right after I snapped this shot, the bird gobbled one of my tiny strawberries.

Some people don't like jays. I think they are handsome bold birds and I enjoy their antics.

I can't believe it's August already. Soon it will be fall migration time and then these jays will be joined by our returning winter birds. The seasons are much more subtle here, but it's rewarding to take notice of the little changes.

On a different note's definitely TOURIST season here in San Francisco. The lines for the cable cars snake around and all the way up to the next block. Sales of Alcatraz Swim Team sweatshirts are brisk, along with the cold damp winds. I have to say I can't remember when I have seen so many of them here. Steve's hotel is booked 100%. It seems like every other person downtown is consulting a map. Good for our economy, I guess. Many of them are speaking different languages. We are the "bargain basement" for European tourists these days.